Monday, September 16, 2013


Autumn Olive Berries

Last week I drafted an epic farewell post . . . but in the end, I've decided to leave you with handful of words and photos, a sincere thank you, and a fond farewell.

Picking Beans

My girls spent an afternoon in the garden today, picking beans.  Remember those magic beans from last fall?  

Four in a Canoe

As I sat on the edges of the garden, watching them and taking photos, I asked myself: what will happen when I'm not blogging any more?  Will I still remember our daily doings as well—and as fondly?  Will I take in these moments even more deeply?  Will the camera spend more time on a shelf?  Will I spend more time writing by hand, writing stories for my children?  Will I write as consistently as I hope to?  Will I miss coming here to share with you?  Will I loose touch with some dear friends?

Mrs. President

I have a lot of unanswered questions, but on one thing I have finally decided: this is going to be my last blog post on amabellen.  The time has come to close this online chapter and move on to other projects.  It is bittersweet, of course, because there is so much I love about writing here.  (And there's nothing mysterious going on behind the scenes, I assure you.  It's just me, feeling compelled to make space for other good work in my life.)  

Almost Autumn Light

But before I sign off, I want to thank you, really thank you, friends for visiting me here and for offering so many kind words over the years.  I've made many wonderful connections in this online world and kept in touch with many of you from my past, and I'm very grateful for this place of reflection and sharing.  


Thank you for listening to my writing voice as it has grown and shifted over the years . . . these wonderful years of mothering, gardening, new home searching, learning, making, working, experimenting . . . making life more complicated and then attempting to simplify and remember what is essential again and again.  

Queen Anne

Thank you for sharing in all the abundant light we've been blessed with here.  And a very fond farewell, friends!

Harry Leaping

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Pittsburgh Post

Carnegie Library, Oakland

Last month we went on a little trip to Pittsburgh.  I have a great affection for this city—the city of our first years of marriage, the city of Amabel's birth.  For me Pittsburgh will always be wrapped up with those years of newness and change and love.

We went back last month so Jeffrey could work and the girls and I could explore and visit friends.  (Although I later told Jeffrey that if we would have gone to Pittsburgh just to ride the bus, the girls would have been perfectly happy.  So much to see!  So many people to watch!  And no seat belts!  Jeffrey, the mass-transit lover that he is, was quite pleased.)  

Much has changed since we moved away seven years ago, but there remains an underlying feeling of greatness in Pittsburgh that is hard to put into words.  I felt it immediately as we entered the city on a humid night, just after a downpour.  After driving all day through miles of rolling forests and flat corn fields, we snaked our way down the hills to where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join, arriving amid the towering buildings and sidewalks steaming in the August air.  There at last, we opened all the car windows and let Pittsburgh seep in.

As the girls and I made our way through city on foot and by bus over the following days, I was reminded again and again of the greatness of this place.  But I couldn't quite put my finger on how to describe it until we were playing in front of the main branch of the Carnegie Library in Oakland where I read the inscription over the arched doorways:


And then it occurred to me: this is Pittsburgh.  All the rich history, magnificent architecture, beautiful churches, natural parks, diverse neighborhoods—all of it free for anyone to explore.  All you have to do is walk around and soak it up.

The Big Dino



Of course, we have our own history there too.  And that's what makes it particularly special for us to go back.  I loved walking with the girls through Mellon Park where I taught children how to knit at a summer art camp.  That summer I was hugely pregnant and every afternoon I would walk 14 blocks from our apartment up what seemed like an endlessly long, steep hill to the top of the park where classes were held.  

Going up that same path with Amabel and Ellen skipping along beside me, picking up handfuls of acorn tops, the hill didn't seem nearly as big as I'd remembered it!

Mellon Park

Mellon Fountain

But the very best part of the trip, for me, was spending time with my dear friend Jenny and watching our children play together.

My Jenny!

A & A

Eight years ago, Jenny and I met in a prenatal yoga class.  This yoga class had a unique component: our wonderful teacher, Sheila, told birth stories while we stretched.  After each woman in the class had given birth, she was invited to share her story over the phone with Sheila who would then recount it to the rest of us still-pregnant, soon-to-be mamas.  I remember clearly the night our teacher shared Jenny's birth story.  I think I knew then that she and I would become friends.


We did become friends.  And during our visit to the city last month, Jenny's four children (no longer babies!) and my two (no longer babies!) quickly became friends in the very same neighborhood where Jenny and I met.

Three Girls

After all, it's not just any friend who will clear her schedule for the better part of three days just to have time to talk . . . and then come to my hotel room and take rockin' photos of my girls (dressed up like nuns) jumping on the bed!

Photo by Jennifer Stein
Photo by Jennifer Stein
Photo by Jennifer Stein

Monday, September 2, 2013



August.  You were perfect.  Blueberries.  Flowers.  Family.  Friends.  Pittsburgh, PA.  Chautauqua, New York.  Niagara Falls.  Books.  Pickles.  Our first tiny egg.  And, of course, the beach.


Susie's Flowers

Sandwich 2013



This Day

Niagra Falls



The First Egg

We turn the calendar page, looking forward to the coming season and saying a fond farewell to an abundant August.

Finding Clay

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dune Jumping

Love this one!

I know I'm supposed to be on a blog-vacation, but I was so excited about our evening that I wanted to share a little peek into our dune jumping adventure on Pierce Stocking Drive tonight.  It was all Kim's idea to set up these photos . . . I just tagged along behind with my camera!

It's a Long Way Down

Ready . . .


Serious Air


The View


Friday, August 2, 2013

Summer Vacation

I have a project that needs a little extra attention this month, so I'm going to take a digital vacation for the rest of the summer.  And there is also the beach.  We have some very important work to do at the beach over the next few weeks.  See you back here in September, friends!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Good Morning, Garden

Anise Hyssop

We got off to a late start in the garden this spring.  There were plants I should have put in the ground sooner and seeds that didn't germinate and had to be sown again.  We had visions for a bigger landscape plan that haven't come to fruition yet.  And we've been talking a lot about what we want to do next year.  But when I'm thinking about what I should have done and feeling overwhelmed by how much we want to do, I am reminded of a passage from The One-Straw Revolution:

"But when trying to grasp the meaning of nature with a wide and far-reaching vision, he fails to notice the small things happening at his feet."


This year's magic beans that were so slow to get started have reached the top of their teepee.  

Flowering Bean

Carrots that I seeded and reseeded after they got trampled by dogs are growing vigorously and need to be thinned now.

Tiny Carrots

A volunteer, mystery squash/pumpkin/gourd is taking over half a garden bed and finally starting to fruit!

In the Jungle Garden

Borage is making its lovely little blue flowers on delicate, hairy stems.


Last year's parsley is happily going to seed.

Parsley Gone to Seed

Of the twenty-some seeds I planted, just three Calendula plants germinated . . . and yet look how many flowers are opening up to the light each morning!

Calendula, just opening up

Our broccoli crop is rather sad looking this year, but we've still enjoyed many delicious florets.

Unhappy Broccoli

The uncomplaining onions are thriving.


Kale keeps giving and giving (and I am reminded that last year we ate our final kale salad from the garden on Christmas day).

Kale & Cabbage

Tomatoes are still tiny and green; but they sure look beautiful suspended on the vine in the morning light.

Green Tomatoes

Basil doesn't like cold nights; but we've already made a few batches of pesto.


Czech black pepper flowers are absolutely exquisite.

Czech Black Pepper Plant

Time to make sauerkraut!


And the raspberries?  My little garden helpers have been filling their bowls and hands for weeks!

Handful of Raspberries