Tag Archives: photography

the outdoors, northern new mexico and more pots

img_8062

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.

afterlight-3

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.

img_8064

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.

img_7941

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.

img_8030

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.)

img_8065

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.

afterlight-4

 

 

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under camping, ceramics, family, friends, great outdoors, inspiration, pottery, the great outdoors, Uncategorized

the california desert in full bloom

Since January, it’s rained a handful of times in the desert. I don’t know how many inches, but enough to make the mountains turn green and to feed the wildflowers so they blossom. It’s radiant here. The birds are singing, the owls are hooting, the lizards are basking in the sun, the flowers are open and full. The air is fresh and crisp. And I’m thankful that we’re experiencing this just as we’re getting ready to make some big life transitions.

DSC_8938

DSC_9005 DSC_9009 DSC_9029 DSC_9032 DSC_9082 DSC_9267 DSC_9271 DSC_9295

DSC_9315

8 Comments

Filed under photography

hey facebook, I’m over you

photo 1-14I’ve been on Facebook since 2006. Eight years. In that time, I went on several international trips — Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cost Rica, Tanzania, Iceland. I ran my second marathon. I landed a dream job. I fell in love, had a baby, got married, quit my job, moved cross-country and had another baby.

And through all of this, I can’t recall Facebook ever making me feel bad. Until this summer.

There have been several articles about how Facebook makes people feel lonely or envious. This happens when people, I think, see photos of something they want — but either don’t have or can’t get. When a friend was trying to get pregnant, and ultimately went through in-vitro, she couldn’t stand seeing photos of babies on Facebook.

What got to me this summer was seeing photos of people laughing with their friends, and amazing summer-time scenes.

Summer in Ridgecrest is harsh. It’s too hot to spend much time outside during the day. (I get my fresh air at dusk after the boys are asleep).

What’s more, I started working in the mornings, and I’m in front of a computer from 8-12, the time I used to socialize. So not only am I far away from dear friends who live all over the country, but I’ve also been feeling even more isolated in a quiet place.

When I feel bad, I tackle it. What will get me back on track to feeling great? Exercise? A trip to see friends? Stop working? For starters, I deleted Facebook off of my phone. Now, I look at it seldom. So seldom that Facebook has started sending me messages — “Hey, E., look at what you’re missing!”

The site, to me, is the strangest beast. It makes me feel (kind of) connected to former colleagues. It opens the door to reconnect with long-lost friends. Sometimes, I crowd source for good reads or travel suggestions. But overall, the insincerity of it and the boastfulness of it and the well, faux social connection, makes me question its benefit. And really, it’s a complete time suck in a time when it feels like every moment is precious. I’d much rather read for a 1/2 hour than scroll through photos of people doing awesome things in beautiful places and longing to be where they are, instead of appreciating where I am. Because where I am is pretty damn great.

So, for now, I’m staying off of it. I’m spending time with the littles, like this one, who just turned six months old. And I’m truly the happier for it.

photo-24

5 Comments

Filed under baby, desert

perspective. sometimes you have it. sometimes you don’t.

photo 2-14

It’s the dead of summer. Our swamp cooler went out yesterday, and I watched the thermometer tick up — 80 degrees in the house, hm. 85. 87. A drip of sweat on my back. Oh yes, time to call property management. CP was in his crib, crying, his hair matted to his head. I took him for a loop around the town with the car air conditioning blasting. A. opened the swamp cooler, and saw that the water pump wasn’t working. “Look,” he said, when I returned. “It’s really simple.”

The heating and cooling people didn’t call. A. drove to Home Depot and replaced the pump himself. “Twenty-eight dollars,” he said. “And the receipt flew out the window.”

We went on vacation to Michigan and North Carolina over the 4th and came back to the desert more exhausted than when we left. CP cried on the flights. CM had a few epic meltdowns. Schedules altered. A flight cancelled. Our car shined a warning light before we drove into Death Valley (false alarm). You know the drill. Travel, as much as I love it and seeing family, is draining.

At almost five months, CP is waking twice a night minimum. I’m running on empty.

We’ve been talking a lot about our next move when we leave the desert. It’s all up in the air, but even though it’s a year away, it increases our anxieties. Eventually we’ll end up back in the D.C. area.

“Let’s get a farm house,” I say. “Deep in Virginia.”

“Let’s build a tiny house,” A. says. I think he means it. “I don’t want a two-hour commute.”

D.C. friends came to visit last week. They’re journalists — one for National Geographic, the other for the Washington Post — and they have two girls who are the same ages as CM and CP. They rented a van for three weeks with a pull-down bed and a kitchen to tour around California. We made sweet potato and black bean tacos with an avocado pepita dip and the kids ran in the sprinklers.

“I’m really digging your life,” she said.

“We’re happy,” I said. “For now.”

photo 1-13

It was cloudy today, which put A. in a funk. It’s sunny 350 days of the year.

“I need a project,” he said.

We drove to Cottonwood Meadows this morning. The signs said it was bear country. We walked about 100 yards on the dusty trail before CM wanted to hang out on a log (“This used to be a tree, mama”). He didn’t want to hike anymore.

DSC_7218

So I wandered. And I found a tree with a hole in the trunk, covered in dried sap. And I snapped dozens of photos. Same square of the tree, different exposures, different angles. How each of us see the world. Some with golden hues, some black; some with smooth lines, some with dead bark.

When I returned to the log, it started to drizzle. CP was ready for his nap. CM had sand in his shoes. Two crying babies. Two parents, shaking their heads. Ready for the next laugh, sun and a bit of inspiration.

DSC_7259

DSC_7272

DSC_7250

4 Comments

Filed under desert, great outdoors, mountains, photography, the great outdoors, Uncategorized

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.

photo-17

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.

Image

photo 1-11

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.

Image

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!

Image

Image

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.”

Leave a comment

Filed under camping, Uncategorized

beauty in the Eastern Sierras

I took my best friend (who’s visiting from D.C.) and the boys into the mountains yesterday. We hiked among the pine trees. Tiny snowflakes swirled — the air was cool and fresh. We ate a picnic of veggie wraps, apricots, bananas and nuts and dried cranberries on a rock. A marmot peeked at us as we walked the trail, and CM lay in the dirt and tried to write his name with a stick. And then we stripped off our winter hats and fleeces, slipped on flip-flops, and drove on — through open land under blue skies — to Bishop while the boys slept. There we had coffee, soup and quiche at Black Sheep Coffee and saw climbers with chalk on their hands. It felt so good being on the road during the week.

On Sunday, A. and I went to Horseshoe Meadows in the Eastern Sierras. (Photos below.) We walked along a stream at 10,000 feet, searched for fish darting under the weeds and enjoyed the solitude.

My awe of the mountains is increasing every day I go into them. I said to A. as we wound our way down the mountainside: “It’s OK. You can say, ‘I told you so.'”

photo-13

photo 1-8

photo 2-10

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

an oasis recharges my mom battery

DSC_6422

Last Thursday, I sent A. an email.

“I’m giving my two weeks notice as of today. I think that’s sufficient time for you to find a replacement. Thank you and good day.”

Hitting send made me chuckle with glee and my agitation abated.

I was having a ragged day, where both boys were crying at the same time all day long. My two-year-old refused his nap but was whiny because he was overtired. I was exhausted from being up all night with CP. All I wanted was some rest. I drank three cups of coffee (yes, I’m nursing). By the time A. got home, I handed him the boys and sat on the back patio with a glass of wine and my Edwidge Danticat book and took a few deep breaths.

A. had the next day off, so we drove to LA to have lunch with friends at A.’s alma mater Caltech, see a pediatrician for CP’s umbilical hernia (we had a doctor crush), play in the sand at Venice Beach and eat salmon tacos and plantains with another friend. The day was GLORIOUS.

Then, on Sunday, we drove to Darwin Falls in Death Valley and hiked one mile to a stunning oasis. Ah, that oasis and those wildflowers! The boys slept in the car and were happy and I felt re-set and ready to battle the toddler/baby demanding duo.

And, what can I say, but that both boys are napping as I write this. I am the victor!

photo-9

Image

Image

Image

photo 2-8

Image

photo 3

photo 4-2

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

the glorious mountains

We hiked into the glorious Eastern Sierras yesterday. Onion Valley, north of Mt. Whitney, is only about an hour and a half drive from us, but it was my first time in the mountains since the fall. The smell of pine, the fresh air, the snow, the birds singing, the rush of a waterfall: I felt alive and rejuvenated. Happy Monday, all.

Image Image ImageImageImageImage

2 Comments

Filed under mountains, photography, Uncategorized

taking a moment to be thankful

When A. and I were in New Jersey less than two weeks ago, A.’s best friend J. asked me if I was happy living in the desert.

“I’m pretty happy,” I replied. “Not extremely happy like this guy (I pointed to A., who was sitting on the carpet), but pretty happy.”

We joke that A. doesn’t need to be social — in fact, he likes being far away from people — whereas I miss long gab sessions with girlfriends over a glass of wine (and no kids around).

And then, about a week ago, I was walking the aisles of Albertsons while A. took C. to the playground (cause he has every other Friday off), and I admitted to S. on the phone that I said I was “pretty happy.” And that I was ashamed. Because, really?

I’m healthy. I’m in love with my husband. He’s healthy. We have a hilarious, loving 18-month-old who giggles constantly and says, “Mama, kiss?” and leans in with sparkling eyes. And he’s healthy and he takes three-hour naps and sleeps through the night. All of our parents are doing well. We live in a house full of light with a backyard full of fruit trees. We aren’t wealthy, but we aren’t penny pinching. And I’m “pretty happy?”

No, I’m really happy. I just wanted to take a moment and say that. I’m really happy. And I’m thankful. I’m thankful for this adventure and the ability to explore a different part of the country. I’m thankful I met A. I’m thankful we have C., who’s a crazy amazing kid. And I’m thankful we have our health. Sometimes, it’s nice to recalibrate and think a little bit harder about what comes out of our mouths. Because someday we will hurt, all of us. Me, A. and C. It’s part of life. And we’re not hurting at all right now. We’re exploring, relaxing and growing.

Here are a few things we’ve been up to this week.

1. Every morning, C. and I have been picking grapes off of our vines outside. As I open the back door, C. gets excited and shouts, “Gapes, gapes!”

Image

2. I’m finally, finally into a novel. I enjoyed Eowyn Ivey’s “The Snow Child,” which I read two months ago, but haven’t cracked anything intriguing until now. I’m reading, “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes, and I’m pretty sure I’ll finish it in three or four days.

3. This week, the sunsets (and the super moon) have been spectacular.

photo-50

Image

4. This little dude has been chasing me around the house with full belly laughs that can light up even the darkest day. And he’s been singing “Old MacDonald” quite clearly, which is a total joy.

photo-49

What about you?

13 Comments

Filed under family, happy, Uncategorized

apricot nirvana (or hell, whichever way you look at it)

After A. got home from work this evening, he went into the backyard, and then peeked his handsome face through the kitchen window screen.

“What happened?” he said. “You didn’t pick any?”

We had agreed I’d pick a bunch of apricots — that are just starting to ripen — before we head east tomorrow.

I had picked 60. Sixty apricots.

Image

And the tree still looks full.

C. helped me. I stood on a rickety chair in the 100-degree mid-morning shade and handed them to him one at a time — and he eagerly dropped them in the colander. Then he picked a handful of green ones from the low branches, very proud of himself.

“Apricot!” he said, beaming, and added to our collection. (Sadly, I had to toss those.)

I blanched and froze 40 of them. And then I made a honey-sweetened apricot butter infused with lavender that we got in our farm box yesterday.

Image

I canned two jars and tied ’em up all pretty.

Image

This evening, A. took bucket-loads of apricots to our neighbors, almost all of whom are retired. He stopped at five houses — and dished out 12 a house. One neighbor was especially grateful — said he’s been trying to eat more orange-colored fruit.

Now A. is at the stove making apricot preserves — without any sugar — out of 100 more apricots.

He picked all of them this evening.

And the tree still looks full.

photo-27
I’ve been eating a few apricots a day. Plus, I put them in my morning oatmeal. And we’re using them as ice cubes in our white wine.

Many apricots will be ready for the pickin’ while we’re visiting friends and celebrating a few weddings. So we’ve told a couple friends to come by and help themselves. And we’ve told the birds to have at it.

And honestly, I think it’s OK we’ll be gone for a bit.

‘Cause my skin is turning a slight orange: I’m a little afraid we’re about to turn into apricots.

5 Comments

Filed under food, Uncategorized