Calm.

Uncertainty is my life right now. One of my favorite ways of dealing with it is sinking into the tranquil moments of my routine: Get home from work. Put away my bag. Change into comfy clothes. Make the bed. Tidy up. And then my favorite part – dinner.

When I’m really feeling the stress of uncertainty, I like to make hearty and simple food. Today, it was Continue reading

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Soup: A humble, rainy day essential.

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Yesterday, between writing class assignments and running off to work, I squeezed in a little break  so that I could make some roasted poblano white bean soup. I’m kind of slow in the kitchen, so I wasn’t sure if I could finish everything in time, but it was so, so worth it. It’s spicy, comforting, and much lighter than what we had the other night.

P pointed out the only thing missing when he said, “Eating this makes me wish it was raining outside…”

Well guess what, folks? It’s raining this morning! Continue reading

Won’t You Come to Dinner?

25 December 1918

Yesterday, we had some friends over for a beginning-of-the-week dinner party. They live in the dorms on campus, so we like to cook “real food” for them (as opposed to cafeteria food). A few minutes into the meal, someone said, “It feels so good to be in a home.” I cannot express how it felt to hear those words! P and I have invested a lot of time and effort into cozy-fying our home, so that was a wonderful reward.

These dinners have been one of the really lovely parts of early married life. We have our little routine: P and I choose a recipe and cook dinner together, and then about a half hour before everyone arrives, while he’s putting the finishing touches on the meal, I set the table, light lots of candles, and put on some music (yesterday’s soundtrack was The Avett Brothers’ album “I and Love and You”). And sometimes we have to run around the apartment, frantically putting away sweaters, socks, homework, books, and, if I’m honest, more books. Continue reading

Making Waves

IMG_8803IMG_8800I love the feeling of yarn sliding through my fingers, of making intricate loops that become a scarf, or a hat, or a wall-hanging. Something about crocheting taps into this deep desire to make things with my hands.

My boyfriend (who is now my husband!) and I taught ourselves how to crochet about a year ago, sitting around in my room watching the same YouTube videos over and over until we could make things: he made a sock, and I made a hat. Never mind that we had to undo them almost completely because of some simple mistakes we made…

As a full-time grad student, I am often stuck inside my own head, pondering things that don’t have much relevance for day-to-day life, which is why I need to crochet. It gives me the chance to let my thoughts wander down rabbit holes while my hands loop something lovely.

And that is why I’m crocheting a whole pile of Christmas gifts this year. I will get to think about my family while I take a welcome break from academics, and explore what it means to be a maker! My first project is this cowl from LuzPatterns on Etsy. I’m making it for my sister, and I really hope she’ll like it as much as I do—it has such amazing texture, and I love how the waves are almost sculptural. I’m using Bernat Roving yarn in “putty,” which is this soft, single-ply yarn that is just the right shade of light grey.

I must say, I’m pretty excited about the next couple of months. I’ve got some fun projects lined up, and it will be a new experience to give things I’ve made with my own two hands to people I love.

Little Tokens: The Carabao

About a year and a half ago, I moved cross-country, only bringing with me what I could fit in half of my car (the other half was reserved for my road trip companion, but that’s a story for another time). It was difficult leaving behind things that were meaningful to me, so I compromised with myself and decided to bring a small collection of things smaller than my palm as tokens to remind me of what I was leaving behind. This series is about those tokens. 

It’s carved out of dark wood, with graceful lines and hints of a bony rump. I saw a real carabao once when my family and I were walking through the countryside near my grandma’s house in the Philippines. I was afraid that it would charge at me like a Spanish fighting bull because my shirt was a) sparkly, and b) bright, bright red.

The Philippines always held a certain mystique for me. It was where my mom grew up, and where my parents sent money and taped-up, packed-to-the-brim LBC boxes. I’d been there as an infant, but I didn’t remember anything from that trip. I was finally there again, but this time at the age of thirteen, with a hundred dollars’ worth of Christmas money in my pocket to spend as I wished. A dollar went farther in the Philippines, so I felt incredibly rich.

I don’t remember where or when I bought this carving of a carabao, but I know that I bought it for a shadowbox that I planned to make when I got back home. I took pictures, collected brochures, postcards, coins, and nicknacks with which to decorate the shadowbox. I had a feeling that it would be an important trip, and I wanted to commemorate it properly.

I was right; the trip was important. In the years after I visited the Philippines, the neighborhood where almost everyone in my extended family lived slowly lost its young people, with my cousins moving away to other parts of the world to find different opportunities. The Philippines that I met on that trip doesn’t exist anymore. It reminds me of the indelible marks that colonization and globalization have made on my family. My mother, and then her cousins and their children, moved away from the place that was their heart home because the opportunities were where the money was: in the U.S., in Canada, in Dubai and Singapore. I exist because my mom moved to the United States when she was 19 (even though she and my dad didn’t meet until a decade later). And sometimes I wonder if I’m missing a part of myself—the part that would have loved the afternoon downpours, the Coca-Cola sipped through a straw in a plastic bag, and the orchids that grew wild on the trees.

The carved carabao reminds me of the place that I glimpse from the corner of my heart’s eye. In many ways, it’s a place that doesn’t exist anymore, lost as it is to the tides of change, or maybe just the tides of time. Still, I want to return, to eat the fruit of the land that sometimes feels like it should have been my home. But at the same time, I am afraid to go back because I will never really belong there. This is what it means for me to be biracial and bicultural: I don’t get to inherit where I belong. Instead, I have to find a place—or choose one. Sometimes it feels like a blessing, and sometimes it feels like a curse. But most of the time I’m just proud of who I am and where I come from, and that is the better blessing.

Little Tokens: The Green Bottle

 

About a year and a half ago, I moved cross-country, only bringing with me what I could fit in half of my car (the other half was reserved for my road trip companion, but that’s a story for another time). It was difficult leaving behind things that were meaningful to me, so I compromised with myself and decided to bring a small collection of things smaller than my palm as tokens to remind me of what I was leaving behind. This series will be about those tokens. 

I’ve always pined over pretty things. As a six or seven-year-old, they helped me launch into elaborate sessions of playing pretend. I had a brown purse from a garage sale that looked like a treasure box, and in it, I kept a drawstring bag of plastic jewels; elaborate beaded necklaces I’d found with my mom at estate sales; a little brass teapot and matching, little brass goblet, among other knick knacks. Combined with a good cape, they could keep my imagination going for hours.

I got this little green bottle for Christmas from my favorite, most fabulous aunt, and it instantly had a special place in my treasure box. It contained healing potions and poisons, antidotes and draughts of anything I needed. It was forged by fairies, or smuggled by a thief. It shaped the stories I lived, and made everything just a little bit more magical.

I always feel this tug to play pretend when I find myself able to buy things that little me would have sold her hair to play with. I miss being able to build new realities so easily, like slipping in and out of a favorite dress. This bottle is a token that reminds me of that version of myself—the Kelsey who lived a thousand lives.

Now, the little green bottle sits on one of my shelves, next to a matryoshka doll and a print of “Fair at Valencia.” Its newest neighbor is an empty mini bottle of Patrón, because to this day, I can’t pass up a bottle that looks a little bit magical. I decided to keep the bottle as a nod to my past self, but it’s also more than that: it’s a small gesture of hope that the magic isn’t gone, after all.