Blog a la Cart

Month: January, 2014

Currently Gawking

Oh man, PG has gone and done it again. Someone must have put onions under my desk – THE TEARS!

I’m not bothered that these videos (remember this one from 2012?) focus on moms and leave out dads. Given all the invisible work that mothers have done for centuries, I’m grateful for the public acknowledgement and truly beautiful representation of what motherhood looks and feels like (that vicarious joy and hurt and triumph from one’s children is so very real). I am bothered, however, that it is all white mothers and their white children. The video still tugs at my core, but I do wish for a more diverse representation of my fellow moms.


Last night, James and I did something wildly out of character. We went on a date. Just me and him, him and me, some food (burritos), a movie (American Hustle), some holding of hands and rubbing of thumbs. No dependents in sight.

I don’t know when aliens took over our bodies and prompted this spontaneous act of marital bonding, but we needed it. I forget every year how hard reading season is. On our sleep. On our schedule. On parenting our children. But mostly on our marriage. We become like ships in the night, passing one another briefly throughout the day, our interactions restricted to household duties and parental responsibilities. There’s no time for anything more than necessity.

After five days away, followed by our Volvo breaking down for the second time in three weeks (and the tow trucks and repair shops and carpool coordination madness that ensued), and a visit to an orthopedic vet for Hanna (the outcome of which suggested a $3,500 surgery to repair her completely messed up knees. (We really really love our pets. Our bank accounts are clear evidence of this fact)), James and I needed a time out from the stresses of adulthood and parenting and the resulting financial shit storm to be reminded of why we put up with all this chaos in the first place. It was by no means a thrilling or revolutionary evening. But it was exactly the reboot we both needed to wake up this morning and confront the many looming decisions we must face. (New car with ensuing monthly payments or paid-off old car with constant yet unpredictable breakdowns? Crazy expensive knee surgery or a lame and injured pet? Expensive yet beautiful, nurturing private day school or poor, but affordable and small public school for Sunny’s kindergarten?). Decision #1 was hire a personal financial planner so that an unbiased middle (wo)man can help us more smoothly navigate our ever complicated finances and priorities.

Whew. Being a grown up is hard.

Which is why I’m so thrilled that James and I will get a 48 hour vacation in April to head back to Austin and celebrate our friends’ marriage in a city that is such a special and fascinating place. I look forward to sharing it with James, and mostly to being guaranteed two uninterrupted nights of sleep next to the person that makes managing adulthood so very worthwhile.


If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I fell hard for Austin. Such a wonderful, weird, wacky city. So much character. So much charm. So much delicious food and live music and culture and spirit. I insist that you visit. I really do. I love love LOVED it.


I glimpsed the “I love you so much” wall graffiti and the “Greetings from Austin” wall (both pictured above). I am looking forward to staging a silly photo shoot with James at the “You’re My Butter Half” mural in April. (Here’s more info about must-see Austin street art). Also, we’re staying in a vintage airstream, on the property of fellow chicken slash potbelly pig owners in April. Hooray for Airbnb and kindred spirits!


Admittedly, the weather when I arrived was atrocious. Forty degrees and raining which is my own personal Seventh Circle. My luggage was lost, so I spent my first day bundled up in my Vermont winter gear, in day old spandex, determined to explore the city despite the lack of clean clothing and clear skies.

I managed a 9 mile loop, opting to walk south down 1st street, failing at a visit to The Cathedral of Junk, and then back up South Congress (where I purchased the hot pink high tops and captured the view of the Congress building above). Somewhere along this journey, I fell in love. It’s hard not to soak in the charm and quirk and Southwestern spirit of this city. The street art. The food trucks. The rows upon rows of cowboy boots and vintage shops. All to the soundtrack of live music played along the streets and in the bars and restaurants.

Here are my recommendations from my far too brief visit. I am very much looking forward to April and the blue bells everyone mentioned when I’d comment on my future trip. Oh and some two-stepping with James at The Broken Spoke. Mostly that.

Definitely visit the Blanton (UT Austin’s art museum). We held an event at the museum Friday evening, and had the good fortune of a private tour of the collection thanks to the head curator (who doubles as an Eph). This piece in particular by Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles blew me away. James and I are hoping to check out the LBJ library this spring.




I ate my face off while in town. I think it’d be next to impossible to get a bad meal in this city. (Yes that is a bacon and maple syrup covered donut that you are witnessing above).

*Austin Java was a great place to grab breakfast and coffee. I recommend the breakfast quesadillas.
*Lambert’s for Barbecue
*Malverde for Tex Mex – Don’t miss their margaritas!
*Snack Bar for a lazy and delicious brunch – the migas were insanely good. And it’s all locally sourced food. Win win win! I got to make an IRL connection with a blogger I’d befriended last year – which is always a treat to meet someone in person and find that they are just as kind and fun and delightful as you’d gathered from your virtual connection. If you don’t know Melissa over at Shoestring Mag, you should remedy that. Immediately.

And oh man, the food trucks of Austin! DROOL DROOL DROOL! SWOON SWOON SWOON! As you wander the streets, you’ll stumble upon trailer parks of food-amazingness. It. Is. Awesome.

One of my favorite meals was at a random taco truck outside The White Horse (a hipster honkey tonk, I HIGHLY suggest you experience, if not for the live music and two-stepping than for the people watching). So don’t underestimate the power of totally spontaneous food truck stop. My personal favorites were on 1st street – Gourdough’s (get the Flying Pig donut and thank me later) and Torchy’s (the fried avocado taco accompanied by a Tapo Chico seltzer. You’re welcome!)

I enjoyed walking the downtown and South Congress neighborhoods to really get a feel for the city. The local public buses were also easy to navigate. Don’t miss stopping into Uncommon Objects and Allen’s Boots on Congress for some great “window” shopping.

I stayed at the W in downtown, and my first night, I enjoyed a mellow evening out at the Elephant Room down the street from the hotel which had a cool vibe and great live jazz.


Since the weather was so cold and questionable, I missed out on seeing the South Congress Bridge Bats and taking a stroll along the Colorado river to Lady Bird Lake. These are both on our list for April.

Thank you to everyone who sent suggestions and ideas. I’ll be seeing your fine city again soon!

Cathedral of Junk


I’m working on a post covering all my favorite Austin experiences, but this one deserves a post of its own.

One of the many wonderful suggestions I received from Austin-based readers was to visit the Cathedral of Junk. I was already out and about exploring the city when this suggestion hit my inbox, so I punched “Cathedral of Junk” into my phone and found myself in a completely residential area of South Congress. Of course, my phone died as I aimlessly wandered around, asking passersby to help direct me to this alleged Cathedral. I eventually found my way to a modest one-story home with “junk” crawling up the background of the fence, surrounded by completely average, residential homes on either side. Signage informed me that I had to make an appointment to experience the Cathedral and I was not to knock on the door under any circumstances. I turned away disappointed, but did indeed call and make an appointment for later in my visit once I was back in my hotel room with a fully charged phone.

On Saturday afternoon, a sunny, warm Texas-in-January day, I made the trek back to the Cathedral and experienced firsthand the bizarre yet playful, strange yet fascinating place that is Vince Hannemann’s life’s work. Thirty years of junk collection and compilation that’s created a wild world of whimsy and refuse in this man’s backyard. For more context about the Cathedral visit here. Here’s a taste of the weird yet wonderful experience.








^^I bought these shoes on South Congress the first day of my trip. I couldn’t resist. Who would have thought that they’d have them in my enormous size 12?! It was meant to be.^^




To visit the Cathedral:
Private home. By appt. (Call to verify)
Phone: 512-299-7413
Address: 4422 Lareina Dr., Austin, TX
Directions: On the south side of town. US 81/290 to the Hwy 71 (Ben White Blvd E.) exit. Hwy 71 west to the Congress Ave. exit. Head south a couple of blocks, turn right on St. Elmo Rd W., then take the second left onto Lareina.

Currently Reading

I’m getting back in the swing of things post-Texas. (I have fallen deeply in love with the city of Austin. More on that soon).

Last night I could have taken the time to unpack, do some laundry, catch up on emails, but instead rearranged the eternity of the girls’ bedrooms by completely swapping all their furniture, except for their beds. It was a dust shit storm of books and clothing and hair bows and stuffed animals. (So much for my resolution to be less impulsive!). I managed to get everything reorganized, but realize that that entire exercise was just a way to procrastinate unpacking. I guess I’ll tackle that task tonight. Ugh!

In the meantime, enjoy this hilarious and accurate Buzzfeed: 21 Things No One Tells You About Having a Baby. Can I get an AMEN to #18? Can’t we all just agree that it’s great babies are being fed by loving caregivers?




“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014.”

Sunny: We went to a local farm store to pick up meat and cheese this week (my recent read of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has strongly influenced our food habits) and the smell inside was overwhelming. Even my stomach lurched as we were hit by the air of raw meat and cheese production. Sunny instantly began to cry, “Mama, I don’t think that I am interested in this place. May I go outside, please?” That has to be the most polite way of stating, “Mom, it stinks in here!”
Kaki: “Don’t talk-a-me!” and “My do!” are this kid’s favorite phrases. Heaven forbid we try to tell her what to do or help her do anything. Ever.

More details about The 52 Project here. To view all the portraits in the series visit here.

I’m Pretty Lucky.

Howdy, folks. James here.

This time of year I’ve got a couple hundred pounds of college applications to read, synthesize, and condense into a paragraph or two. I enjoy it. I’m pretty lucky to have the responsibility and opportunity. But it means I often go to bed after 1am. Last night it was 2am. Ashley picks up some extra house/kids duties, breakfasts, dinners and baths so I can hide in the barn-cave and chug through files while listening to techno… or whatever doesn’t have words to distract me. But she’s two-steppin’ in Texas right now so it’s just me and the gaggling gals of Cartwheel – 1 pig, 4 chickens, 2 dogs, and 2 daughters. Whatevs – I handle this like a BOSS.

Then there was today.

Timestamp: 2:50am
Hanna, our super-mutt who hasn’t whined since 2001 (despite being born in 2009), was whining. She kept at it so we went downstairs and I let her out. She didn’t do anything, of course, other than give me this I-woke-you-up-because-I-LOVE-you-and-want-YOU-to-PLAY-with-ME! look. Puppy eyes are always endearing. I’m pretty lucky to have a dog that loves me that much… Bitch.

Hanna’s downstairs now, but this must upset Gladden because now she’s whining. The bitches want to play.

Courtland rises. Because, why not. It’s not like she’s slept past 6am for the last 4 weeks. No, of course not…wait.

Courtland has been talking and singing in her bed while I’ve been hiding under my covers. It gets quiet and then I hear her come into our room and start climbing into bed. This is a new thing of hers, to climb in and snuggle with us in the morning. She asks for tickles. She tells us it’s time to get up. She plays with our hair. She rubs our backs. She tells us “it O-tay, it O-tay, you get up when ur ready. ” It’s fucking adorable. I’m pretty lucky. So as the sheets start moving and she crawls in near my feet I start smiling, awaiting her arrival…her pungent arrival. “Daddy,” she whispers, “I pooped pants, daddy. I pooped my pants and my hands.”


Glad you’re in my bed. Playing with my hair.

Fecal deposit disposed and sanitization completed I retreat to the comfort of routine – no real thinking involved, just coaching through the regular motions. I load up the girls and Gladden who’s coming to the office today. I’m pretty lucky I get to bring a dog to the office.

We make it to school at the same time we normally do. We’re 95% dressed, better than expected. We get the prime parking spot closest to the entrance, which is not normal. I unbuckle Sunny and ask her to walk in front of the car and head inside, which is normal. I walk to Kaki’s side. She, of course, has shoved her mittens in crevices I didn’t know existed, crevices filled with moldy cheerios. We don’t buy cheerios… but this explains why Gladden has been trying to crawl under the seat. I fish them out and debate the benefits of mittens with her for 10 seconds (normal) before I give up. FINE! Don’t wear your mittens! It’s 5 degrees outside. FREEZE! She smirks, knowing it’s only 15 yards from the car to the door. She hops out of the car, we close the door and then… normal stops.

Kaki and I are walking toward the door, and while I’m shoving the stale, oat covered mittens in my pocket Kaki asks “What Sunny doin’?”

“She’s going inside, where it’s not 5 degrees out. See, she’s right there… with her…tongue… on… that pole…”

And in a total of 0.2 seconds I went through the most complicated parental reaction I’ve ever had: shock to horror to smile to laugh to frown, so as to stifle laughter which comes out in some audible nasal exhale vaguely reminiscent of kitten sneezing … and finally regain enough control to feign parental concern…aaand continue walking. It was an emotional strobe light of confusion.

Sunny’s tongue was frozen to the stair hand railing. I mean Dumb and Dumber style, stretching like Gumby, frozen solid. She was a champ, crying for less than 5 seconds and then stood (like a BOSS) for the 4 minutes it took without a whimper or whine. Let me assure you that of the 60 children who attend our day care, 55 of them and their parents arrived in that two-minute stretch. The other 5 were home sick.

I couldn’t just forget Kaki while I tended to Sunny so I had her standing in between us as I rubbed Sunny’s back and told her it was going to be ok…. and restrained myself from taking pictures. Of course, Kaki, who after about 1 minute of debating whether she should copy sister, is now over it and realizes her mitten-less hands are cold. SO cold that she needs to tantrum. Now. And this toddler is so worked up that her words aren’t quite in order and so “hands cold. hands hurt, daddy” quickly becomes “Daddy. Hurts Hands… DADDY HURTS. MY HANDS. DADDY HURTS MY HANDS!!”, which of course she repeats at the top of her lungs, scream-crying, hailing the heavens to save her from finger numbing, soul crunching pain….IF ONL Y WE HAD SOME MITTENS!!!!!!!!!

As I hug them both with one declaring I’m abusive and the other – ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY FROZEN TO A STEEL BAR BY HER TONGUE, I’m ignorant and yet acutely aware of the judgement parade behind me. Parents, thousands of them, not watching where they’re going, tripping over themselves, their faces processing some version of horror/humor/shock/sympathy/constipation/relief-it’s-not-theirs… I’m sure they felt super awkward. How tough for them. I’m pretty lucky I’m not them…

Of course, I’m also wondering what they’d think if I asked them to take a picture? Would I be a horrible person to whip out the phone and IG this? — “Smile for the camera, Sunny!”, she responds “I Cawnt”. #HighSchoolYearbookPhoto

One of Sunny’s friend’s mothers came to the rescue, actually two of them – and my deepest thanks to them both. The first mom grabbing a warm wet towel to help unfreeze, and then offering to take the Little Mighty inside so I could stay with Sunny. The towel wasn’t quite enough so the second mother brought a cup of water and we were done. Sunny had recovered before we even got her off the bar, like I said – BOSS – and headed inside like nothing happened.

I stuck around for a while to make sure everything was ok, but finally as I exited the school I could feel myself calming down. Sunny’s calmness calmed me, and Kaki had transitioned into her regular school mindset without me even present. In their eyes it was a just another day livin’ the life and they didn’t feel any worse off for it – and they were right. I needed to let the embarrassment of my lackluster parenting slip away – life is good, the kids are safe, nothing beyond my ego was really hurt, and that’s a great thing. A wonderful thing. Looking up as I slid into the car I thought “Actually, I’m  pretty lucky.”

And then I felt the dog pee on my seat soak through my pants. Thank you, Gladden. Bitch.

I tell the story to a coworker whose first response after laughing is “did you take a picture?” – DAMN IT. I SO SHOULD HAVE TAKEN A PICTURE!

Turns out Gladden is lactose intolerant. Sniper nabbed a cheese-stick and barfed chunks o’ kibble in the office. Awesome. She desperately wanted to eat it. Again. No one is surprised. My office smells like a chemical mix of dog vomit, lemon carpet cleaner, and car air-freshner. You’re welcome to visit anytime.

We live 3 miles from work and daycare (pretty lucky) but it now takes 45 minutes to get home because getting the kids out of school and into the car requires a Herculean effort of self-composure and usually creative bribery. But today no big deal, we’re not in a hurry. I hang out at a kids’ table, coloring with crayons — inside the lines (I’m so much better than any of them). After a few minutes I notice more smiles and nods from parents than usual. For some reason I’m getting more “hellos” and eye contact… and I’ll give you a hint: it’s not because my My Little Pony was colored in better than anyone else’s. It takes me a minute but it finally clicks.  I am now the dad of that poor girl, that girl whose father wasn’t watching her, or more succinctly:  “the guy who’s definitely a worse parent than me” and people I’ve seen several days a week for the last year who’ve never said more than 5 words to me, now want to start a hearty conversation. It’s always easier to talk to someone when you know you’re better than them.

Awesome! I’m single handedly raising the parental confidence level of daycare, and of our community, by leaps and bounds! My parental shortcomings are improving the world. One frozen tongue at a time.

30 minutes later we’re in the car to head home. As we pull into the house I’m planning the easiest dinner possible – our standard parental punt: Mac ‘n cheese with a movie. But nope. There’s a tree on fire. Because, why not?

Burning Tree

Yep. Burning tree. At our house. Though, it’s not my house on fire, so I guess I’m pretty lucky for that, right?

The burning tree was collateral damage from a nearby brush fire the neighbors had started. Apparently that’s an acceptable way to landscape in VT: burn shit down. Technically it was their property and they knew about it so I left to care for the 9 dependents. The rest of the evening  is a sleep deprived blur. There’s something with the chickens, and me chasing Penny back into her pig house. I have visions of toothpaste on the mirror and ceiling, and cough medicine in the toilet…maybe bath time? But what I do remember is the two girls in PJs getting ready for story time. Sunny helped Courtland into the bed, and they both had their bitty-baby dolls tucked right next to them as I came in from the bathroom. Gladden was curled up at the foot of the bed in a rare moment of calm, and the girls were just smiling and calmly giggling at one another, so proud that they were both ready.

Sunny beamed, “Look daddy, we’re ready for bed! Under the covers nice and cozy,” and Kaki repeated “yea, nice and cozy” as the two of them each patted their dolls. I smiled, picked up the story book and sat down next to Sunny.

“We’re pretty lucky, huh, daddy?”

“Yes, kiddo. Yes, we are.”

And as the scene fades to black, we group hug and kiss before gazing out the window at a rising crescent moon… And a burning tree.

Snowy Sunday III

Last one from this series. I love the way the snow dances around her.


View larger and more clearly here.

Cardigan Nation


Once again, my girls are benefiting from the talents of my dear friends. Ann Mae gifted the girls these gorgeous hand knit cardigans this Christmas, and they love them so. Namely, because of the EXCELLENT button choices.


^^LADY BUGS for Kaki!^^


^^Wild Jungle animals for Sunny.^^


^^They are showing you what a Lion looks like when she ROARS!!!^^



^^I love the detail under the arm for the sides of the sweaters. What a wonderful pattern. You can find it here if you’d like to give it a try.^^


Pattern: “In Threes: A Baby Cardigan” 

Snowy Sunday II

A snow shower of light.


View larger and more clearly here



I’ve admired Marimekko’s fabric selection for some time now. I’ve particularly swooned for this amazing cow fabric (alas, no walls in our home are tall enough for it!). I’m fortunate that the one and only Marimekko outlet is located just 40 minutes north of my home. I was in Manchester during the winter break and was thrilled to find this Rooster print for sale in the outlet. Feeling empowered after making Elias’ quilt and Momar’s quilt, I scooped up Charles (allegedly the name of said rooster) and brought him home to make a wall quilt. It was a straightforward project, but still time consuming, as is the way with quilting. I used Martha Stewart’s velcro suggestion for mounting the piece on our wall (her tutorial here). I’m quite pleased with the warmth and color it adds to our stairwell. My first quilting project for our family!


^^CHARLES! Perhaps the only rooster that will survive life on Cartwheel Farm.^^


^^Our itty bitty stairwell makes it difficult to photograph the piece straight on. Thank goodness for wide angle lenses!^^


^^Charles is becoming acquainted with The Blue Fairy (a painting I purchased for Kimmy when we lived in Southern California at a street fair and that we’re holding for her until she has a home suitable for her magic).^^