Category Archives: camping

the outdoors, northern new mexico and more pots

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Last weekend, we drove up to Northern New Mexico, where one of A.’s coworkers owns 220 acres of land that’s been in his family for a century. He’s an Army guy who went to West Point and carries a gun on his hip (but I didn’t see it). It was the first time I’d chatted with his wife, and she was easy to talk to and had many qualities I admire (easy going and a problem solver).

We stayed in the house that’s been in the family for 100 years. It was built in 1898 and there are no hallways. The house feels like it’s out of the ’50s, with a TV from that era, a kitchen with a stove that has an opening to burn wood and a toilet that’s so low it was easy for my 4 year old and 2 year old to get on it.

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There were Readers Digest books from the ’40s on the shelves. The floral curtains and the smell — oh that smell — reminded me of my grandma’s and grandpa’s house in Flint, Mich.

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The next morning, we drove up to the land. Open, beautiful land where elk and bears roam at almost 9,000 feet. The leaves were starting to turn color. A. brought a newly crafted tire swing for the boys, and another guy made ribs on the slow cooker. I had decided to go home that night because L., at 2 1/2 months, is a bit young to camp — he’s already had two colds in his short life — and the temps got down to the 30s. But I enjoyed my morning/early afternoon out there and I know it was the right decision, even if I missed the ribs and the stars. Just being out in the fresh air and staying in what felt like a museum invigorated me.

Another thing that has invigorated me: I opened my Etsy shop (Erin Killian Pottery) more than a month ago and already have 15 sales and 9 good reviews. I was worried I’d be overwhelmed — you know, with three kids under 5 including a newborn — but I haven’t felt like that at all. It’s a fun challenge.

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The pace has been perfect — a sale every few days. With the two older boys in preschool three days a week, I’ve been able to get an hour in here and there to throw more.

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And I was pleased with my last firing. One of the potters at New Mexico Clay, where I do my firings, said, “They’re looking really good,” and she sounded surprised when she said, “You did all of this with a new baby?” Well, babies do sleep a lot and L. is particularly chill. (Besides a few days of gas, but gripe water helped with that.)

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I bought a book Mastering the Potter’s Wheel: Techniques, Tips, and Tricks for Potters, which has some important tips for me and is also inspiring. I keep waiting for my love of pottery to wear off and it hasn’t happened yet. So I’ll keep on throwing and keep on growing and keep on finding ways to feel invigorated. I’m sure the cool fall air will help with that, too, and getting ready for family to visit soon. Here’s to making the most of life and living in the moment. Hugs to you all.

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travels, another boy and the NYT cooking app

Our household has been a cesspool of germs for the last month — coughing, sneezing, runny noses. Once I gain my voice back, we should be (mostly) healthy (god, I hope). But despite the colds, I’ve been traveling, throwing pots and feeling like myself again after hibernating this winter during my first trimester.

I flew up to Seattle in February to see my best friend S., who is ready for a life change (and she already met an awesome man!). Before I left, I was the crazy mom who worried about getting in a plane crash. It was the first time I’d flown without my boys and I couldn’t help but think: How would my boys deal with that grief? A., who is awesome, would be a great single dad, but I think something like that would destroy my oldest. Needlessness to say, I’m OK. The flight was easy and relaxing. S. is staying in an airbnb in Capitol Hill. It was a beautiful space full of plants, personality and a view of the Cascades. (It inspired me to throw more potting pots for our house.) We cozied up in the rainy weather and talked for hours, and it refreshed my soul.

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And then A.’s parents arrived, and they gave A. and me a weekend away. We drove to Utah and camped in Canyonlands with our telescope. I had no idea Utah was so pretty? It was amazing to see the winter Milky Way and inhale the fresh air. In the middle of the night, I heard coyotes howling and we woke up to cows mooing.

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In the last month, we also found out that our third baby is healthy with big lips (ha). We’re having another boy. Three boys! I wasn’t surprised — there hasn’t been an girl born into A.’s dad’s side of the family since the ’40s. But in 10 years, I’ll need to plan a lot of girls’ weekends. A lot of them.

I’ve been throwing pots and writing more. My pottery skills are getting better and better — the progress is incredible. I’m considering trying to sell some pots once I can function again after the first 6 months or so of sleepless nights with my third. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Instagram lately looking at potters’ photos — what they make, the dimensions and how they developed a style.

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I’ve also been trying many new recipes I found on the NYT Cooking site — including my favorites (both easy to make), the Vaguely Vietnamese Slow Cooker Pork Tacos and the Red Lentil Soup with Lemon. And the Banana Oatmeal Almond Smoothie — yum.

And I harvested my first broccoli head and the beets and spinach are (finally) coming in. I’m excited to plant tomatoes and basil in May. Our backyard is blooming with tulips — it’s almost spring!

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so there i was, staring at a bear…

So there I was Sunday evening in the woods near Mammoth Lake, my 2 1/2 year old near our car, my 3 month old sleeping in his car seat next to our tent, my eyes locked with a big black bear’s.

We were ready to camp for a third consecutive night on the route home from a camping/climbing adventure near South Lake Tahoe.

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Earlier that day, we got a flat at the ghost town in Bodie, Calif. (My theory is the Wild West bandit/drunk ghosts were angry because they heard me say I don’t believe in ghosts. So they popped our tire.) A. put on a spare while I nursed and we hatched a plan. It was after 5 p.m., so we decided to drive near the closest town — Mammoth — camp and then get a new tire in the morning.

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We turned onto a side road off of the Mammoth scenic route. “Think we can camp here?” A. asked. We looked around. Seemed OK. “It’s so gorgeous,” A. said. “I wonder why no one else is out here.”

We set up our tent on a bed of pine needles and laid out the sleeping bags. We sat in our camping chairs and ate tortillas with peanut butter, grapes and Hershey’s chocolate. We spotted a small bear in the distance that wasn’t interested in us. We brushed our teeth. CM and I were at the car to put on PJs, and A. had moved our bear canister with everything I could think of: my deodorant, our baby wipes, sunscreen.

And then I saw a big blur moving through the trees.

… “Babe?”

It was camouflaged.

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A. and I yelled a few times, but the noise didn’t phase the bear. It stared at us, its ears standing up. I pretended to charge it. It took a few steps backward, but then cocked its head and took a few steps forward. I picked up a stick and yelled loudly and ran toward that m’f’ing bear — wild and crazy — before it turned and fled, kicking up pine needles as it ran. My heart was pounding and A. said he’d seen lots of bears in the wild, but that was the most nervous he’s been. And then: “If I was a bear, I would have been afraid of you, too.”

We had already spent two nights at a beautiful campsite about a half hour from South Lake Tahoe: Fire! S’mores! Privacy! Stars! Trees!

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A. went trad climbing on Saturday, while I wandered Tahoe with another mom and her two kids. We ate breakfast burritos at the funky Keys Cafe, went on a mini hike at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center where we gawked at trout and blew dandelions and then we dipped our feet in the ice-cold water at Pope Beach.

We were happy and didn’t need another night sleeping on the ground. So, after a short discussion, we decided it was wise to pack up and drive home the three hours on a spare. We can put everything that smells like food in the bear canister, except for me and CP. I’m not a shrinky dink. And this nursing mom didn’t want a bear sniffing around our tent for milk in the middle of the night. [Shudder.]

As we got on 395 in the last minutes of soft evening sun, we laughed together as the boys slept in the backseat. “Are we wimps?” “Yeah, we’re wimps. But it’s the right call.”

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we scared off a bear in yosemite

I’ve had visions of what I would do to protect C. if our house flooded or if a fire blazed or if we were attacked by a mountain lion on a hike. I’ve even envisioned sacrificing my life for C.’s I’m sure I’m not the only mother to do this.

But when I looked up on Friday evening as we sat in our camping chairs with our jet boils making dinner in Yosemite on Lake Harden, this came out of my mouth, very quietly and calmly: “There’s a bear.”

It was walking toward our campsite, its head peeking over logs, sniffing our cous-cous. It looked small — at first I thought it was a baby. A. and I and our friends R. and R. looked at each other and said, “What should we do?” and then we remembered to make a racket to scare off a black bear. We started yelling, and the bear ran off, but at a safe distance it looked back at us.

All the while, I knew that C. was by my left side, but I didn’t know where, exactly, just close, and my eyes were fully focused on the bear. Our friend R. took A.’s walking stick and chased after it to ensure it wouldn’t come back (and it didn’t).

Here’s what surprised me: That I didn’t grab C. and hold him tight. But I also wasn’t scared – and I didn’t want to scare C. The bear was ambling along and it looked lumbering and curious, but not angry and certainly more frightened of us. Had it come closer, I most surely would have nabbed C.

A friend of mine said, “Good work” for scaring the bear away. I said I was more proud of myself for hiking three miles with 35 pounds of toddler on my back and sleeping two nights in a tent as dirty as can be with an equally dirty child.

I admit that I find back-country camping a bit stressful because of the wildlife, the physical strain, the lack of sleep, wondering if we packed enough food and being far away from any help if there is an accident.

But on this trip it was all worth it when I had one of the sweetest moments so far in C.’s 20 months, as we lay in our sleeping bags in the dark, looking at each other. He kept putting his hand near my mouth and I said, “If you put that near my mouth, I’m going to kiss it!” And he did and I lunged with puckered lips and he giggled like crazy, over and over. Then he rubbed my arm before taking my hand and closing his eyes and falling asleep in the woods.

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