Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
-William Morris

I still love this quote despite its overuse (especially for his choice of the word "believe"). A few lovely Christmas gifts I received this year: menswear pajamas, tiffin lunchbox, enamelware set, mortar and pestle, vintage watch, and slippers.


I visited my folks in Missouri over the holiday, where I spent time baking pies and dancing with my nephew. It's nice to go back, but I'm always happy to return to Chicago. My smile starts as the Brown Line weaves through the skyscrapers in The Loop, and continues to widen as it continues north to my neighborhood, which sometimes feels so much like a small town. Then, I unlock my door, and my mailbox, and the next door, and there it is—the plants, the noisy radiators, the pieces here and there of journeys that have passed. It feels so good to be where I am.

Thanks to two of my best friends: Ally for a beautiful hand-painted card, and Molly for the amazing package (above). I wish they both lived next door.


Everything is covered in snow these days, but we visited the Chicago Botanic Gardens on a November weekend when things were brown and green and blue.



Sam and I headed to the coast after our time in the redwoods, looking to camp, but never finding a suitable spot. We rented a room at an old, retro motel instead, with poor amenities and a sliding door opening right to the beach—it was perfect. We ate seafood on the pier that night, listening to the sea lions howl, and I actually watched the sun slip below the horizon, folding under its surface. I would have drawn that sunset out a few more hours, if I was able, and that stay to a few weeks.

We had coffee in the morning and a chilly walk on the beach before we left, when most of these photos were taken.


Time in the redwoods, from the human perspective, can move so slowly that it seems to spread out until it has the quality of a vista. Placed against the backdrop of redwood time, a human lifetime shrinks into a compressed flicker, and the past, present, and future seem to run together and vanish.
-Richard Preston, The Wild Trees

We vanished for two afternoons and one black night, human time. Although the two photos didn't turn out particularly well, I couldn't help but post the diptych to give you an idea of human-forest scale—do you see us, just specks of people?


Grainy film, leaky light, and a hike that took us an entire day—but left my muscles sore for much longer—leaving in the morning and getting back in the dark. I wrote a little before about our trip to visit Molly and Steve (cousins of Sam's mom) in California, but just yesterday had my film developed.

We hiked a couple hours up a wooded path to get to the clearing and the lake seen in the third photo. I don't know if I actually stretched my arms out at its presence or if that only happened in my head. I couldn't believe there was something so flat after going up, up, up for such a time. It felt like a dream, sitting there, eating a packed lunch next to that still, elevated lake. I was elated—and we were only halfway.


I used to think of myself as a patient person; I was a patient person. I'm not so much anymore. My personality has changed a lot in the past couple of years, hardened, really, in many of my own ways. I'm usually very prompt now, fairly tight with my finances, and serious about my work. But these changes are welcome, and no one has ever ever accused me of being uptight. (Friends! Imagine? Sam scolded me just the other day for trying to sneak my glass of wine out on an evening walk. "Jessica only follows laws she agrees with." Exactly.)

I share all of this because it brings me to last night. Last night, after multiple failures at finding last year's stockings, I decided I needed to make a new pair—and I needed to make a new pair right then, because that's how I feel these days. Patience is lost, and creative impulse takes hold—and I'm not really talking stockings anymore. There's a certain intensity here, in me, that I've never owned before, something that scares me a little but makes me feel very capable.

Back to the photos: I used some ticking stripe linen I had lying around (seen here and here) and decided the fabric would be better suited to pouches than a sock shape. For a drawstring, then, I sewed in a length of canvas ribbon (from one of these). Also, it should be noted that this is only the second sewing project I've ever finished, and all of my skills—or lack thereof, at this point—come from YouTube tutorials. But, with a little problem solving, I spent no money and received the satisfaction of creating.


I was struck by a bowl of pomanders when I toured a historic home last week, by their smell and severe looks. So, with eagerness to participate in any sort of merry making, I came home lugging a bag of oranges.

A toothpick or skewer can be used to poke through the peel of the orange (in an effort to avoid sore thumbs) and then cloves placed in each wound, making whatever pattern you choose, and smelling the house of citrus and spice. The whole process is quite enjoyable.


I like the idea of these journey posts. So, here—the journey of my first live Christmas tree, everyone.

P.S. Yes, that's a vehicle. And, yes, that's ours. After over six years without one, Sam's parents—thank you, thank you, thank you—passed this truck down to us. I still bike or take public transit daily, but once a week or so this old guy gives us a lot of freedom.