Observations from a year on the edge.

There’s a place I go at the end of the year. That suspended, ethereal place between Christmas and New Year’s, when Christmas isn’t but still is, the New Year here but not quite there.

The hours pass uniquely this week somehow, different from all the others; muffled soft and thick, like cold molasses poured through a sparkling, snowy glow.

I am not religious in the slightest (although I used to be: fanatically, in fact, but that is another story). I am an atheist who loves Christmas. One who loves trees and tinsel and lights, and to reflect on the passing year, pondering what was supposed to have been with what actually was.

Twenty Sixteen, you were not nice. An outlier, though, as most years of my life, in the grand scheme of things, have been if not good, then at least bearable. Which leads me to believe there was something important to learn from you. So here I go, relaying, in no particular order, observations from 2016 as related to favorite work consumed last year.

Early mental models are everything.

“The first thing I remember tasting and then wanting to taste again is the grayish-pink fizz my grandmother skimmed from a spitting kettle of strawberry jam. I suppose I was about four.” – M.F.K. Fisher, The Gastronomical Me.


Bria’s curls. Seattle, January, 2016.


Bria’s curls. Seattle, January 2016.

Dutch Babies are one of Bria’s favorite things for breakfast. On Sundays, we wake early and make them together, opening the oven to watch the fluffy air bubbles grow. Her other breakfast of choice is bread and oil and peanut butter banana shakes with Castelvetrano olives and a square of dark chocolate. Through cooking and eating together, developing a shared love of food is one of the legacies I want to leave with her (not to mention a love of snow). For what happens in the first five years of life stays forever.

Childhood mental models are the building blocks on which our entire worlds are formed. More and more research points to the importance of the developing brain in the first five years of life. Which is why we continue to invest time and money in early childhood education for Bria. Her entrance into this world was not under the best of circumstances, but hopefully, Will’s and my efforts at providing support and stability for her and Michaela will be felt for years to come. After a couple of years in daycare at Bright Horizons, she is now enrolled in the Alcuin School, a private preschool on Queen Anne where she is starting to read. This is money we could be saving for other things, but we have no regrets. Investing in Bria is one of the best investments we could ever make.

Business building is city building.

“A sense of place is built up, in the end, from many little things too, some so small people take them for granted, and yet the lack of them takes the flavor out of the city….” – Jane Jacobs

The soul of a city is made up of small businesses. My soul is nourished by building one. Bellflower Chocolate Company is steadily growing. We are not profitable yet, but now have our products in 12 locations across four states and our cargo bike Kickstarter was funded: our first mobile retail space, we anticipate launching the bike in Spring, 2017.

Will and Lucas at our Kickstarter Launch Party, September 2016.

More importantly, life as a small business owner introduces us to amazing people in Seattle and around the U.S. whom we otherwise would have never met. Like Lucas Rickerson, the young, passionate, talented barista we met through Instagram and La Marzocco. Jill Killen and Neil at Royal Drummer in Ballard, who helped us throw our inaugural coffee and chocolate pairing. Demian at Annie’s Art and Press, with whom I’m working on packaging for new limited edition bars. And Simran Sethi, the strong, amazing, feisty, opinionated writer of Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love. She was at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in November and I met her during the women-in-chocolate happy hour. I am oh so happy I did!

Growing old is hard.

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true, I was made for you. – Brandi Carlile, The Story

Selfie in the bathroom at the Queen Anne Starbucks. Seattle, Washington; November, 2016.

2016 marks the last year of my 40s. The past few years, more notably than ever, I’ve watched myself age and it is not fun. No. Not only is it not fun, it’s harder than I thought. But every time I find myself dwelling on youth lost via an increasing number of lines across my own face, creaks in my joints, cancers on my hands (I had a squamous cell carcinoma removed from my right hand this summer), and dimples on my thighs, I hum the lyrics above, buy another pair of designer high tops (I can still wear high heels, but not like I used to), and renew my vows to always strive for glamour anyway. Less fretting, more red lipstick, more doing as French women do. To grow old and lose my looks in the process is a privilege, I constantly remind myself. The only other option is to stay beautiful but die young.

Marriage is.

“In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people’s minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life maybe empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We have purposes larger than ourselves.” – Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

I always take my wedding rings off when baking or rowing. Hidden under my silver bands lies pale, emaciated, puckered skin, shrink-wrapped to my fourth finger bone. It looks odd and feels even odder. I am diminished with my wedding rings off, and immensely relieved to put them back on.

Flaxa Bay

Will looking out over Faxaflói Bay. Reykjavík, Iceland, March 2016.

licorice latte

Icelandic licorice latte in Reykjavík, Iceland. March 2016.

I’ve considered during significant moments in 2016 to take them off for good. Marriage is messy and hard and painful and binding and stressful because we are emotional humans, and sometimes I don’t want to do it anymore. I just want to run away to Paris and live unfettered, alone. But doing that would determine the arc of my story in ways that would leave the whole of me pale, emaciated, and puckered. I am still married because Will is a wonderful human to be married to and married is what I want to be.

Solutions can be elusive.

“An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.” ― Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

I don’t remember much about my mother, but I do remember a plaque she had hanging on her wall when I was little: “If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.” it said.

Bria’s father is a young black male. I am a middle-aged white female. Will is privileged and white. We have been in and out of the court system with Bria’s father since Bria was born and not a day goes by that I don’t consider the power dynamics of this relationship and how they rest in our favor due to our skin color. I straddle a very thin line between enabling and condemnation, empathy and hate. And while I very much want to end this paragraph on a note of resolution, I can’t. For now, I remain conflicted, reading to gain context, seeking first to understand, trying to find ways to be part of the solution by not looking away.

The kitchen is my studio.

“No yoga exercise, no meditation in a chapel filled with music will rid you of your blues better than the humble task of making your own bread.” ― M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

Olive oil gelato. December 2016.

My stainless steel bench is my palette; the spatula my brush; eggs, oil, and flour, my paint. 2016 was stressful for many, but to be culinary is to be calm and centered. I love to cook and take great pleasure in sharing things I’ve made to the sensual delight of other peoples’ mouths. Some of my most memorable culinary creations in 2016, according to Will: lentils with cream and pancetta. Farro salad with candied lemon and pistachio. Salted caramel, fried fish, dark chocolate and olive oil gelatos, numerous stone fruit galettes, sweet and savory crepes on the leafy back patio and the famous Momofuku birthday cake. And lastly, Bellflower’s candied cacao nibs. “Like crack!” people say.

We still have a long way to go, baby. A really long way.

“Introduction: Domestic violence (DV) continues to be a widespread societal problem with consequences both inside and outside the family. Once considered merely a symptom of other underlying individual problems such as poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, or a dysfunctional relationship, domestic violence now is understood to be a problem in and of itself that is found independent of or co-occurring with other individual, family, or community problems.” – Washington State Domestic Violence Manual for Judges, written by the Honorable Helen Halpert, the presiding judge over my daughter’s domestic violence child custody case.

Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to date assholes. If only it were that easy. They say that patterns follow families; almost every woman in my immediate family has experienced significant levels of domestic violence, including my mother in her first seemingly untouchable Ivy-league, privileged white marriage to an heir of the Bemis Bag Company. One of my deepest regrets as a parent was failing to prevent my own daughter from suffering this same fate: in 2016, we continued learning the intricacies of the Revised Code of Washington as it mandates family law and domestic violence policies, all resulting from a guy my daughter met as a freshman at Roosevelt High School, twelve long, painful, twisted years ago.

I don’t discuss this openly with that many people because not everyone understands nor cares to understand the dynamics of abusive relationships: this subject makes people very uncomfortable. The discomfort I can handle, but the ignorance I cannot. My responses are most likely to be filled with impatient flashes of indignant anger, and so…I say nothing.

I’m writing openly about it here, however, because this medium shields me from your discomfort: people don’t know what they don’t know, but should. Odds are highly likely that you know a woman who’s been a victim of domestic violence and if I could only help you understand three things, it would be these: misogyny is everyone’s poisonous problem; we must all, especially men, teach boys not to abuse; and most importantly, it is not her fault.

I will always love snow.

“The snow-covered world is an abstraction of the world that lies underneath: the details are smoothed over, the color is removed, all that is left is an essence of shape. These are the forms that one can work with. This is how the mathematician thinks. This is what she does, in her minds eye, to the world around her.” – Gregory Buck, The Wondrous Mathematics of Winter

I miss snowy winters. My earliest mental models consisted of a world that was white: of Austrian ski sweaters and the tips of six-foot icicles dripping down from building tops to meet impossible depths of snow. I love snow and realized this year while at the Methow Valley that I will be contrarian into very old age. I will retire one day to the snow and cold rather than sand and warm.

The future is brown.

And don’t worry If you don’t approve when they criticize you
Just say
Only me
It’s me It’s me It’s me
It’s me
– Bomba Estéreo, “Soy Yo”

Bomba Estereo – Soy Yo from Torben Kjelstrup on Vimeo.

An “ode to little brown girls everywhere”, this is my favorite video of 2016. Bria, this one’s for you. The future is brown and we are not going back. Said Gloria Steinem in response to Trump’s election:

“When a woman is about to escape a violent household is the time when she is most likely to be beaten or murdered. She’s about to get outside of control. Just as we wouldn’t send a woman or child back to a violent household, we’re not going to go back. And maybe we’re about to be free.”

Let us fight for this freedom in 2017. With love, peace, and civil disobedience.


With cantaloupe, eat ice cream.

For those times when you’re pinching pennies:

    One ripe cantaloupe, transported from as far away as possible. Halved, seeds removed, pesticide residual remaining.
    Two scoops of Lucerne vanilla ice cream.

For those times when you’re not:

    One ripe cantaloupe, organic, local (no more than a 100-mile radius!). Halved, seeds removed.
    Two scoops of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream.*
*Garnish with three mint leaves and a side of prosciutto.

Carrageenan is the worst thing ever. But he didn’t care. Every Saturday morning, my red-headed brother emerged in jeans and a t-shirt, walking stocking-footed into the kitchen. My ginger-haired brother, old enough to be my dad which was good because, after my mother died, he practically was. He opened the freezer, crunching masculine knuckles past the frost, removing the rectangular cardboard carton of cheap vanilla ice cream, setting it on the counter. It wouldn’t take long to soften in the mile-high light of the New Mexican sun.

The cantaloupe sat next to the chipped, electric stove, grease dappled beneath splattered, dusty panel board. He opened the cupboard above it, taking out one of those bowls we’d earned by trading in our S&H stamps. Those bowls with chipped green borders and tiny blue flowers. There were five of us living on two hourly Safeway incomes. We took whatever we could get, as long as we could get it at Safeway.

He cut the cantaloupe open with a steak knife, scooping out the seeds and cutting off the rind, right on the counter: we didn’t do cutting boards. But he always cut it only in half, anyway, so damage to the formica was minimal.

Forgoing the bowl, he walked back to the ice cream, taking the mechanical scoop out of the drawer, avoiding pulling it out too far lest its flimsy construction result in what could only pass as a pathetic attempt at culinary tools, spilled all over the floor. He slid two vanilla bolls into the center of a cantaloupe half, grabbed a spoon, then headed to the couch. He lay down, back to the side and head propped up, comfortably sunken into the synthetic plaid, licking the creamy fringe of his mustache, excited for the game. The Broncos played the Cowboys, while my brother, with his vanilla ice cream and cantaloupe for breakfast, played my dad.


Top photo: My brother Seth and me at my sister-in-law’s funeral. Durango, CO, 2005. Seth and me at Alki Beach in Seattle, on his visit for my MFA graduation. June, 2006.

For the love of good farmers.

Apples, cherries, grapes, and hops. I am fascinated with agriculture.

Wonder worked its way down my spine while I looked out across the verdant Yakima River Valley from a rental RV, the fruits of some of Washington state’s almost 40,000 farmers on awesome display. Ice-edged mountain tops of the north Cascades evolve over 200 miles, melting into the undulating, sage-brushed hills of the Yakima River Valley, the oldest and largest AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Washington state. It is here that Washingtonians have immediate access to some of the most productive, diverse agricultural land on the planet:

“Washington ranks first in the U.S. for production of 11 commodities, including apples, sweet cherries, pears, hops and red raspberries. Growers’ production ranks second in the U.S. for an additional eight commodities, including potatoes, grapes and onions. Washington is also the second-largest producer of wine in the U.S. The state’s diverse agricultural economy includes aquaculture, farm forest products, cranberries, spearmint and peppermint oil and mink.” National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) 

Yakima Valley Wineries Map

Drought is Bearing Fruit for Washington Wineries

Chocolate and Wine Are More Similar Than You Think

The drive from Seattle to Prosser isn’t that long: four hours or so, over Snoqualmie Pass, through Ellensburg and Yakima, out of the Puget Sound rain shadows, straight into the eastern Washington desert. I’ve driven this road hundreds of times, mostly in the act of broken parenting, shuttling Seth and Michaela from Ellensburg to the Tri-Cities, from Mukilteo to Ellensburg, transferring them to and from weekends with their dad. The man who introduced me to this beautiful state in the first place, even though I hated him for it at the time. I’ll never forget that day in the fall of 1990 when, as a naive 22-year old who’d barely set foot outside the Four Corners region, we drove through a blizzard crossing from Oregon into Washington. A type of blizzard I’d never seen before: comprised of dirt instead of snow.

Wine country in the Yakima River Valley outside Prosser, Washington. July 28, 2016.

Wine country in the Yakima River Valley outside Prosser, Washington. July 28, 2016.

Wine country in the Yakima River Valley outside Prosser, Washington. July 28, 2016.

Wine country in the Yakima River Valley outside Prosser, Washington. July 28, 2016.

washington hops

Washington state produces 75% of the country’s hops. Outside Prosser, Washington. July 28, 2016.

A delicious cold corn soup at Wine O' Clock in Prosser, Washington. July 28, 2016.

A delicious cold corn soup at Wine O’ Clock in Prosser, Washington. July 28, 2016.


Laura’s birthday dinner in 100-degree heat under a delightful, man-made mist in Prosser, Washington. July 28, 2016.

Until I started making chocolate, I never really looked out the window at these freeway landscapes through this lens of wonder. I never thought much about the farmers and their fruits. The vintners and their wines. The ranchers and their milk.

“Washington’s combination of rich soils, diverse climates and large-scale irrigation make it one of the most productive growing regions in the world. The cool, moist valleys of Western Washington are ideal for raising milk cows, berries, nursery products, flowers and poultry. Eastern Washington, known for its desert-like climate, has both irrigated and dry land farms. Agricultural highlights include cattle ranching, dairy farms, wheat, apples, pears, cherries and other tree fruits, as well as varieties of grapes and vegetables.” National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) 

Comparing California, Washington wine

Now that I make chocolate, I look at everything through a lens of agricultural wonder. And I think about the farmers who grow our food. The farmers who, via indulging their passion for science, mechanics, and biology via the practice of agriculture, brave the blizzards and the bugs and the booms and the busts and heat and the dust to feed us. All of us. And I am grateful. So very, very grateful. You should be, too.


Wednesday, April 13. The shoes I wore to meet the architect.

Living in a trailer isn’t so bad. That’s what I like to tell myself, anyway. I moved into my first one in 1975, a year after my mother died and my brother saved me from foster care. A step up from the low-income apartments we lived in (all seven of us), it was a “14 x 70”; i.e., a single-wide designed to fit snugly in one highway lane, towed over Independence Pass by an experienced, weathered, snuff-chewing trucker, no doubt. One who knew how to traverse the Continental Divide without slipping over the edge.

Mine Water Poses Danger of a Toxic Gusher

Losing a mother early shapes a woman’s emotional terrain for life

Assessment of blood lead levels in children living in a historic mining and smelting community.

Ozzello explained the blood lead program Lake County had initiated and their successes in just the first few years. They were targeting areas where the danger was highest – the east side of town, Stringtown, and the Lake Fork Mobile Home Park. Blood lead levels were already dropping. At Lake Fork, the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels had dropped in half since 1993, and more than eighty homes had already had or agreed to have their soils tested.

Leadville, the Struggle to Revive an American Town, by Gillian Klucas.

It was parked at the foot of Mount Elbert, the highest peak in a state called Colorado and a town called Leadville and a neighborhood called Stringtown and a trailer park called Lake Fork. My “rich” friends lived in trailers, too. Around the corner in double-wides and man did I envy their extra girth. More bedrooms, bigger kitchens, nicer finishes. Depending on your vantage point, living in a double-wide constitutes either the lap of luxury or the depths of despair.

Lake Fork

The entrance to Lake Fork Trailer Park in Leadville, Colorado, where I lived as a child from 1975-1979.

So when I tell you that this visit to the architect was one of the most disheartening experiences of my life, I tell you in the context of having lived knowing far more fundamental, less privileged problems.

On the east side of town, in Stringtown, and at the Lake Fork Trailer Park at the confluence of California Gulch and the Arkansas River the numbers reached 22 percent. The average blood level for the entire town was only 4.8 micrograms, and the highest blood lead hit just 16.7 micrograms. The EPA, ASARCO, and the town all claimed victory. Nine percent was much lower than the EPA’s original prediction and the state’s previous results, and Leadville felt vindicated.

Leadville, the Struggle to Revive an American Town, by Gillian Klucas.

I used to play in the Arkansas River at California Gulch. Wandered down as a lithe, trusting nine-year old, hair as rusty as the mineralized water, exploring alone on the metallic banks, passing away many a cold summer afternoon.

Their town wasn’t the diseased community the EPA and the national media made it out to be. “This is nothing compared to what you see in inner cities,” a Lake County Health Department employee told the USA Today in 1994. “Of course there’s no one to pay the bills there. The EPA sees a mining company with deep pockets here.”

Leadville, the Struggle to Revive an American Town, by Gillian Klucas.

Will got laid off three days before my birthday. Six days after I’d picked out the bathroom tile. One month before we were scheduled to start construction. One week after we’d written a $10,000 non-refundable check to the builder.

So the shoes I wore to meet the architect this time are the shoes I wore to table a dream. For now, this project is on hold. Again. But, to put it all in perspective, I lived in trailers off and on for the bulk of a motherless childhood and a chunk of a penniless first marriage. I’m sure I can handle life in an old, small house in one of the nicest neighborhoods in one of the nicest cities for a little bit longer.

And the drawings. The drawings are done and we will always have the drawings. I’ll be goddamned if I’m giving up on this house now.

Saturday, March 26th. The shoes I wore to meet the builder.

Numbers are scary. Numbers signifying your weight, your blood pressure, your bank account balance, your age. Numbers, as it turns out, more often than not highlight more of what you don’t have than what you do. Numbers, as is often the case, focus on what’s left out rather than what remains.

We received a significant set of numbers yesterday and went over them this afternoon at our long yellow table. These numbers in particular, list the costs associated with building our house. Five thousand dollars to demolish the garage, ten thousand to demolish the house. Fifty eight hundred for the French doors (WTF?!), but only eighteen hundred for the tub.

We chose Treebird Construction on the advice of our architects, Campie and Steve.

From Pantone’s 2016 Color of the Year: Rose Quartz and Serenity Color Pairings

We will watch these numbers like a hawk over the next year, sweating the details, looking for creative ways to keep them as low as possible. Will, in particular, will do most of the sweating.

I am too busy formulating the residential color palette.

color palette

For three hours, we sat with Ian, our builder, going through his spreadsheet, line by line (“How do you like working in Excel?” I, of course, couldn’t help but ask). Then we walked to that house on 2nd Avenue to show Ian the siding we like – what a coincidence! he built the kitchen in that house – and then to Top Pot.

Good! he said. Those blonde shelves aren’t too complicated. In fact, I will build them myself.

We feel really good about Ian. Our dogs love him; he’s a Colorado native, too; and he and his wife were married at the Rolling Huts, one of our favorite places in the world. mw|works also designed Ian’s house, which won a design award. Winning design awards isn’t that important to us, but if it happens, we won’t mind.

Reviewing the pricing spreadsheet with Ian, our builder.

Ian holding the permit drawings for the new 1934.

Ian holding the permit drawings for the new 1934.

The chickens will be fostered out. What about the chicken coop? Can we move it to the corner of the front yard? It’s heavy.

He looked at it.

Let’s just disassemble it. That thing will be a pain in the ass to move around.

We have the financing secured from Washington Federal, a loft lined up in Ballard, and an estimate from Door-to-Door for storing our stuff. If all goes as planned, this number will become a pivotal one: 05 15 2016. The date we tear this house down.

Second Sundays

A Second Sunday. A first month.

I didn’t know of Jim Haynes until I read about him this week in Leo Hollis’s Cities Are Good For You: The Genius of the Metropolis. He’s an American in Paris who, for almost 40 years, has held an “endless dinner party” in his apartment at 38 Rue de la Tombe Issoire in Paris, inviting anyone and everyone, a salon for the world.

There’s no prior screening, no invitations, “Mr. Haynes, 78, said. “I just say the first 60 or 75 that call can come and that’s the mix.

More about Jim Haynes: Sign up for his dinner!

Inviting the World to Dinner

Jim Haynes: Godfather of the Supper Club

My goal for Second Sundays has been to create community around food like this, albeit with more structure. But structure, which can often be freeing in its application of constraints, can also be limiting, binding, onerous, and suffocating: perhaps it’s time for the structure to go, the strings to loosen, the lid lifted off. Perhaps it’s time to approach this dinner series like Jim does: Open. Trusting. Que sera, sera.

Q. How does your supper club operate?

A. We have a volunteer chef system. I have a Rolodex of 12 cooks. I just call them up and ask who’s ready for the next one. The food changes. The woman cooking this weekend is Russian; last weekend, the chef was Macedonian. The meals are almost always three courses, and there’s always a vegetarian option. There’s a suggested donation of 30 euros, but you give what you want. – Dinner? Paris? Invite Everyone!

John Locke said that ‘trust’ was at the heart of any society; and this notion of ‘trust’ has too often been ignored in the discussions of how to make a happy city. –Leo Hollis

Our last supper club was hosted at Andrew’s house in the Central District, including Andrew, me, Debra, Chris, and Aaron. Debra plans to host our next one (in April). But after that, I’m loosening, billowing, opening this supper club up to the world. Jim has the irresistible draw of hosting in an atelier in Paris and Seattle is no Paris, this is true. But Paris is no Seattle, either. There are beautiful, interesting people where ever you go.

Will you spread the word and cook for us?

Generalized trusters are ‘happier in thier own personal lives and believe that they are the masters of their own fate. They are tolerant of people who are different from themselves and believe that dealing with strangers opens up opportunities more than it entails risks. –Leo Hollis

Second Sundays

Andrew, Deborah, Aaron, and Chris. Sunday, January 10, 2016. Seattle.

Second Sundays.

Chris and Aaron. Sunday, January 10, Seattle’s Central District neighborhood.

Second Sundays

Hot buttered rum, compliments of Chris. Second Sundays, January 10, 2016.

Anne Tyng

On starchitects, domestic violence, and the Stockholm Syndrome.

Le Corbusier. Frank Lloyd Wright. Louis Kahn. Great architects. Lauded visionaries. Master womanizers and manipulators. The film “My Architect”, a documentary about the life of Louis Kahn, provides a disheartening case-in-point.

The film summarizes Kahn’s life: immigrating to the US from Estonia as a five-year old, he grew up poor in North Philadelphia, moving around a lot, but showing an early talent for art.

See also: 10 facts about infidelity 

Laurie Penny on the sex lives of powerful men 

Many Mansions: On the centenary of Louis Kahn’s birth, a look at his legacy. And his secret life.

He eventually earned a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied architecture. He opened a studio in Philadelphia, but didn’t gain notoriety until reaching his 50s. By that time, he also had three children, each by a different woman. The first to whom he remained married; the second whom he ditched for the third; the third whom he strung along until his death in 1974 ((Anne Tyng, a renowned architect in her own right and mother of his second child, pictured above).

The combination of “Stockholm Syndrome” and “cognitive dissonance” produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended. In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and placed “all their eggs in one basket”. The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.

The Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser


For me, the film unfolded under the dark shadow of male power and naïve female subservience. What is it about women who tolerate, make excuses for, and madly love abusive philanderers, regardless of their own well-being, or that of their children (I ask as a statistic myself, having ended abusive relationships, but never tolerating or excusing, let alone continuing to love the perpetrator)? Do they derive power, prestige, and pleasure from the dysfunctional relationship? Was their 15 minutes of fame in a beautifully-made documentary worth a lifetime of deceit and regret, never mind being portrayed as pathetic fools? All three of these women appeared sad and tragic, not a legacy I choose to leave. But which makes me wonder: is loving someone great inherently more passionate and invigorating than loving someone ordinary? Does greatness require willing recipients for acts of abuse? Surely not.

How do we as a society evolve to expectations of more egalitarian, functional relationships? How do we empower girls to reject these outdated, mysogynistic relationship models? How do we educate boys of the same?

How do girls gain confidence and self-esteem, thus empowering them to unapologetically reject any man who treats her less than a full equal? And though one might argue that infidelity alone doesn’t classify as domestic violence, I argue that it does fall under the domestic violence umbrella, on one end of a long and complicated spectrum.

The types of behaviour associated with coercion or control may or may not constitute a criminal offence in their own right. It is important to remember that the presence of controlling or coercive behaviour does not mean that no other offence has been committed or cannot be charged. However, the perpetrator may limit space for action and exhibit a story of ownership and entitlement over the victim.

– In 2016, the UK expanded its legal definitions of domestic violence.

Being a hero of any discipline does not give license to abuse. While I may appreciate the design philosophies of Louis Kahn, he will never be one of my design heroes. His forms, while noble in theory, are ugly; his lack of personal ethics, reprehensible.


Friday, December 11. The shoes I wore to meet the architect.

I like wood. Concrete. Tile. Marble. Steel. Mullioned glass. I especially like concrete formed to look like wood. Will likes wood, wood, and more wood. And canvas. Concrete, too (although that took some convincing). Copper metals. Granite. Silver. Tile.

“Perfect. It’ll just be a kick-off of interiors thoughts to make sure we’re headed in the right direction. See you then. Campie”

How materials in architecture can form a city’s visual identity.

Also, check this out: Light transmitting concrete.

We spoke of materials today. To inform those we shall use tomorrow.

Boden metallic t-straps

Friday, November 6th. The shoes I wore to meet the architect.

You learn a lot about things you didn’t know you didn’t know when designing a house. Like shear walls.

Soon after that shaking begins, the electrical grid will fail, likely everywhere west of the Cascades and possibly well beyond. If it happens at night, the ensuing catastrophe will unfold in darkness. In theory, those who are at home when it hits should be safest; it is easy and relatively inexpensive to seismically safeguard a private dwelling.The Really Big One, The New Yorker

We are grandfathered in to a house of cards.

A shear wall is a strategically-placed wall designed to transmit lateral forces caused by, say, an earthquake, into the ground. The city of Seattle requires seismic code compliance for residential architecture. Our current house, built in 1900, has no shear walls, let alone the required added redundancy for earthquake protection; we are grandfathered in to a house of cards.

But, lulled into nonchalance by their seemingly benign environment, most people in the Pacific Northwest have not done so. That nonchalance will shatter instantly. So will everything made of glass. Anything indoors and unsecured will lurch across the floor or come crashing down: bookshelves, lamps, computers, cannisters of flour in the pantry. Refrigerators will walk out of kitchens, unplugging themselves and toppling over. Water heaters will fall and smash interior gas lines. Houses that are not bolted to their foundations will slide off—or, rather, they will stay put, obeying inertia, while the foundations, together with the rest of the Northwest, jolt westward. Unmoored on the undulating ground, the homes will begin to collapse.

Our new house, though, will be much safer. In addition to seismic building code compliance, we’re embracing post-modern design, with a focus on classic, symmetrical proportions, which are preferred for earthquake retrofitting. That and we’re embracing the constraints.

The architect should be prepared to accept structural forms or assemblies (such as increased size of columns and beams) that may modify the design character, and should be prepared to exploit these as part of the aesthetic language of the design rather than resisting them.

The architect and engineer should both employ ingenuity and imagination of their respective disciplines to reduce the effect of irregularities, or to achieve desired aesthetic qualities without compromising structural integrity. – Seismic Issues in Architectural Design, Fema.gov



A Second Sunday. An Eleventh Month.

Butter yellow formica isn’t a material you see everyday. Unless you’re at my house. Our dining room table is butter yellow formica, with metal trim and dark wood legs. We bought it at an architectural salvage store in Baltimore for $60. We love that table, and have had many a great conversation and hearty laugh around it. Here’s to many more.

A beautiful, related essay: The Families We Choose.

These days, tables have come to represent a surface where sustenance and creation come together – a place to wonder and to solve problems, to probe and to redefine our roles. It stands as a symbol of our connectedness with each other and with ourselves: We come to eat, we stay to dine. In this way, the table has become a site where our lives play out and where we draw ideas and narratives into existence. How we set the table, how we spend time at the table and who we choose to share the table with directly reflects the way we live away from the table – change one, and you’ll inevitably change the other. – Kinfolk, Issue 18: The Family Issue

Second Sundays, November 2015: Ann, Erika, Olga, Alex, Stacey, Jay, Aaron, Andrew, and Callie, Will, Oslo and Mies (Hosts). Video below also from Kinfolk, Issue 18: The Family Issue.