Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Makeshift Society

Have you guys heard about the Makeshift Society? Some coworkers and I took a little field trip there the other day--hosted by the lovely Victoria Smith of SF Girl By Bay, who is a founding member--and I fell a little bit in love with the place.

It's essentially a coworking space for creative professionals--of which a great many have cropped up in the city recently (I pass three, for instance, just on my walk to work each morning). But it has a radically different vibe from that being given off by such places. The whole space is ineffably cozy and chic--no less than you'd expect from Victoria and founder Rena Tom--and thinks of itself as a "clubhouse" rather than as some sort of corporate surrogate.

I am seriously considering a salon level membership for myself, for those days when I work from "home" (which, as any parent of a stay-at-home toddler will tell you, really means working from a coffee shop and asking numerous strangers throughout the day to watch your stuff while you run to the ladies).

Top photo by the talented Ms Lorraine Woodcheke (other two by me)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween, the Preamble

We were very occupied with Halloween preparations this weekend. It's the first year Mabel really gets what's going on and she is beyond excited about pumpkins, trick-or-treating, and costumes. A month or more ago she decisively determined that she wanted to be a robot for Halloween. But then a week or two back she added a wrinkle--yes, she still wanted to be a robot for actual trick-or-treating, but for the trip to the pumpkin patch the weekend prior she wanted to be a princess.

Now the hilarious part is that this kid really has no idea what a princess looks like--so she ended up with a big pink foofy skirt and a blue silk Chinese top that came on and off throughout the day, and was happy as a clam. In her view the most important parts of the costume were the crown and the wand. Princesses, according to my daughter, definitely have wands.

The next day she deployed this same decisive spirit to help with the pumpkin carving, serving in a capacity at which she excels: art direction. Should it have round eyes or triangle eyes or moon-shaped eyes? Moon-shaped. Should it have a triangle nose or a rectangle nose? Rectangle. And so forth. I drew as instructed and Bill carved. The above jack-o-lantern is therefore a fully collaborative effort between all three Watson Paynes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Celebrating Grandma's Retirement

Here is the promised Polaroid of Mabel and her Grandma celebrating with a kiss at the latter's retirement party a few weeks back. I really don't know what I can say about this photo except that I find it just wonderfully endearing and, indeed, moving. The ladies of my life and all the affection between them, captured.

Friday, October 26, 2012

At the de Young

I was out at the de Young Museum for a meeting the other day, and got to spend a pleasing half hour afterwards perusing the current exhibition The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism. Pieces in the show that I especially enjoyed included these by:






Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Poem Saga on the Subject of the Winter of 2005 Carries On

December 28, 2005
Much of the Christmas vacation was taken up with cooking

First there was the Sunday-before-Christmas dinner at Bill’s mom’s house in Raleigh
Though I personally did not actually participate in any cooking per se for that meal
I sorted and polished silver
counted and washed crystal
pulled out plates and set the table
and dug out trivets to rest all manner of casserole dishes upon
Also located gravy boats
Bill helped with the cooking
working on the non-oyster stuffing and the non-giblet gravy
He said it was the first year his mom has really trusted him to cook
Perhaps in another thirty-three years I will be allowed to touch the food as well
Though I loved being in charge of the utensils and cutlery really
I like to dig though other people’s cabinets and handle other people’s old things
The patinaed old silver and the dusty old glasses that wash up to a sparkle

Then upon our return from North Carolina we started on our own preparations
A scant two days before Christmas we went to Whole Foods
man I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite to equal it
It was in fact so insane there that it was almost kind of fun to just stand back and watch the chaos
the crowds four deep at the meat counter
the shoulder to shoulder row of people standing in front of the produce cooler
seeming to grab anything they could reach more or less at random
the deserted granola bar aisle where you can stop to check your list and kiss
the even more deserted express lane

We spent the whole day Saturday at mama’s house doing all the prep cooking
Brought all the spices and groceries and supplies in big brown paper bags
And inevitably forgot a few things
Bill had to both roll out and cut out
the rolls with a tall skinny water glass
We prepared cornbread stuffing with chestnuts
(which look like horrid brains when they come out of the can)
raisins, apples, celery, and a hell of a lot of other stuff
and the sweet potato casserole
(chopped up and roasted with whole shallots and pimento
I may never puree sweet potatoes again)
made Bill’s grandmother’s famous Frigidaire Rolls
crazy intense involving rising yeast dough
a pinched shape
and "half an egg"
and considered vastly intimidating by the whole Payne/Nooe clan
but they came out cute and sweet and lovely
even if Bill does say they could have been “lighter” and "less “chewy”
and the pie dough
and Padma Govindarajan's cranberry chutney
We also made a pan of Yummy not to eat but to take up to the aunts that afternoon

The whole time we were in the east bay
the little nine pound organic turnkey
was back home in our fridge
brining in our biggest stock pot into which it just barely fit
Which was entirely gross actually
as when it was done brining the water was all pink and bloody and disgusting
Truly vile
But the turkey came out awesome
we also followed another piece of Cook’s Illustrated advise
and let it air dry uncovered overnight in the fridge for crispy skin
This also worked out well
I can only imagine that had we flipped it over in the middle of cooking as requested
it would have sprouted angel wings and flown right up to heaven there and then
to go hang out with the little baby jesus
it would have been so perfect
But we were not up for the hassle of trying to flip over
an ungainly slippery hot big piece of meat with our potholders
We draw the line somewhere

So on Sunday morning we got up
had our little Christmas morning with presents and stockings and date nut bread
and then immediately launched back into the cooking
Bill made the pies
(cherry with a lattice and chocolate chess)
and I made the mashed potatoes and the salad
set the table with all the fun new china and glasses and whatnot
And then it was just a question of getting everything in and out of the oven
turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls
all at the right times

Then everyone showed up
with wine and mama’s amazing creamy brussels sprouts with caramelized onions
and all was right with the world

Then everyone left
and we were exhausted
and collapsed onto the bed making groaning noises
and vowing that my mother can do Christmas next year
But we were probably lying

image source is here

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Beyond Excited

I've mentioned before how much I love Instagram, right? And surely I've mentioned how much I love making books? Which will make it easy to understand why I am over-the-moon excited to be editing a book of Instagrams--crowd-sourced from Instagram users the world over! Yep, that's right, your photos could be in this book. So could mine, for that matter. All you have to do is capture that magic little moment that makes your day, and submit it here. You can read more about it here. I'm going to stop talking now so you can get out there and start shooting! And will just leave you with a few favorite images from some of my more Instagram obsessed coworkers, to get you inspired:

From top to bottom: Lorraine Woodcheke, Genny McAuley (x2), Tina Hardisan, and Kate Woodrow

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Here are a few of the things that have been inspiring me lately, from some of the sites currently on heavy rotation in my reading list. Above a photo by Rune Guneriussen, as seen on The Jealous Curator

 Painting by Samantha Groenestyn of The Duchess

Katie Stratton-Blair of Katie's Pencil Box

From Elsie and Emma of A Beautiful Mess

Photo from Tuula, as seen on Wear Color

Photo (photographer unknown) found on The Ash Heap Millionairess

Photo by Vanessa Beecroft, as seen at Pier 24

Maggie Mason of Mighty Girl is photographing every library in San Francisco

Photo by Emily Gregory of The Daily Smudge

Monday, October 22, 2012

Out and About

Yep, this is how we dress--in our legwarmers and wooly sweaters--in August in San Francisco. Then we bust our our sundresses in October. I've been thinking about writing a children's book about the California seasons. When I was small I really believed that the seasons as they were presented in picture books were the same as Alice or Eeyore or Lowly Worm: the stuff of fiction. When I read such books to Mabel I try and remember to insert the phrase "on the East Coast" after each explanation of how the leaves change color in autumn or the snow comes in the winter or the rain falls down in the springtime. We go to great lengths to expose our children to books that will accurately reflect their emotional and sociological realities. But what of their meteorological realities, huh? Huh? What about that?

Friday, October 19, 2012

This and That

Went downtown to Gallery Wendi Norris to say hi the other day, and got to see three great shows they had up there--Dana Harel, Howie Tsui, and a Surrealist show. And we also had the ever-popular annual Employee Art Show at the fine publisher for which I work--where all kinds of creative folks come out of the woodwork of the office and show off the amazing things they make. Do I wish I could locate a photo of this event other than the one below which prominently features my own posterior? Yes. But what the heck. We do what we can.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Latest Installment in the Ongoing Poem Series About the Winter of 2005

December 27, 2005
Christmas presents

Fern gave me bangles from India
They’re gold and multicolored
and made of glass
and tinkle as I move my arm

Mama gave me a leaf-green duffle coat
snuggly and soft
Today is cold and gray and dark
so a bright warm coat is the just right thing

Bill gave me a truly beautiful cutting board
long and thin with a handle with a hole in it
made of some unusual wood
that is somehow both blonde and dark

image source is here

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Books on the Table

The other day on SF Girl by Bay I spotted this photo from Lonny Magazine of the "Manhattan atelier apartment" of painter Mary Nelson Sinclair. At our house, we've been engaged in a huge and ongoing book-weeding project lately (about which you will hear more anon, no doubt). We have a lot, and I do mean a lot, of books. Even when we are done with the current Big Weed, we will still have a ton of books. And I therefore found this photo so encouraging. Here's why: there are stacks off books all over a surface, and it looks charming, rather than crazy or cluttered or overwhelming. I always think I want to have at least a few of my many art books out where we, or other people, can look at them. But I worry that it can pretty quickly verge into mounded-up, junk-shop, I-can't-find-anywhere-to-put-down-my-glass territory. But as this photo demonstrates, clearly it can be done. Look to see this treatment worked into the new Watson Payne book arrangement before too long.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


On Saturday we had the honor of helping out with my mother's retirement party. After a stint as a high school teacher back in Illinois, and then several years as a stay-at-home mom with me when I was little, she then proceeded to teach seventh and eighth grade language arts and history at the same school (which I also happened to attend) for twenty-eight years. Quite an impressive run. Needless to say, old alums, colleagues, and parents turned out in droves to wish her well in the festively decorated church hall. It was fun for me to get to see so many faces from the old days; Mabel had a great time playing with balloons; and I'm hopeful my mom caught a glimmer of how much her warmth and instruction have meant to many, many kids over the years.

In all the hullabaloo I just managed to take a single digital photo, at top, and grab one from my dad, at bottom (source is here). The only shot I got that actually includes my dear mother is an adorable Polaroid which will be reveled here in due course, but not today.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Meeting A New Baby Friend

In which Mabel meets the latest edition to our circle, new pal Baby Orion (as she refers to him--and she refers to him a lot), when he was just a tiny adorable three-day-old lump of sweetness.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Art Gallery Week

Had a grand time with the husband and the daughter last night, checking out the Geary Street installment of San Francisco Art Gallery Week. Here is what we saw:

Charles Arnoldi (above) and Jonathon Keats (below) at Modernism Gallery

Don Voisine at Gregory Lind Gallery

Charles Burchfield and Ralph Eugene Meatyard at Fraenkel Gallery

Ala Ebtekar (above) and Nayland Blake (below) at Gallery Paule Anglim

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Continuing Poem Saga About the Winter of 2005 Goes On Like This

December 16, 2005
There is a tiny shiny red piano

in a shop window
on the other side of the street

the side we walk down
when we go
to the farmer’s market
on a Saturday morning

A child’s toy
the color of a candy apple
and perfectly shrunken down
with a dozen big black and white keys

I don’t covet it
but do deeply admire

Now each day I remember
I peer across the road as I go by
and am pleased
by its bright and shiny aspect

Things I do covet
a long wooden cutting board
a set of black and white plates
cake stands

image source is here

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Goings On About Town

There's nothing like Litquake to make you wish there were more hours in the day. As anyone engaged in the famous/infamous work/motherhood balancing act (or, really, just the work/life balancing act for that matter) knows: weeknight evenings are short, sacred, and tend to fill up fast. Most nights I'm home with the Mabel by six and we have a couple of hours to play and eat and bathe and put her down, then an hour or so to get things done, and then another hour or so to crash with a book or a movie, and then bed. But October is a busy time in this town and I was out late at an art-related event one night last week, will be doing the same again two nights this week, and once again next week. All of which means I won't be making it to two delightful sounding panels relating to The Book. One was last night at City Lights about West Coast book reviewing, and the other is next week at Zinc Details, sponsored by Anthology and featuring my pal and colleague Kate Woodrow, on the lately always very lively subject of print publishing. Sometimes cultural life around here really can feel like the classic kid-in-the-candystore dilemma: too many goodies and not enough time. That said, I love my evenings with my family, and I must admit I wouldn't trade them in for any amount of publishing brain stimulation. Sorry, publishing, it's not you, it's me.

Image source for City Lights photo is here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dreaming of Snow

One day last week, when it was already hot as hell, even in the dark of the six a.m. breakfast table, in the book I was reading, The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell, I read this:

"If something could happen right now that is not likely to or impossible but that would really cheer you up if it did, just light you up like a child again, what would it be?"

And I surprised myself with an immediate and certain mental answer:

A snow day.

(With the caveat that I would have to be aware that the snow was a magical wish-fulfillment type occurrence, because if I was not aware of that fact then I'd just get all freaked out about global warming and that would certainly take all the fun out of it).

(But Powell's book--which purports to be a novel but is really just an endless series of amusing and intriguing questions, but which nevertheless I do recommend--is full of caveats and loopholes and niceties like that, so I felt well within my rights to insert one into my answer).

And all of this gave me the chance to present the above image, from one of my current very favorite tumblrs, The Ash Heap Millionairess.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Haircut Ritual

Though I realize, of course, that a great many people do manage it, the thought of tying to wrangle long curly hair on a squiggly bouncy two-year old gives me, personally, the heebie-jeebies. Not to mention, short-haired girls are adorable. Hence, we have a short-haired child, and hence we have an every-few-months haircut routine, complete with a chair and a towel and wet comb and scissors. Mabel is astonishingly good for this ritual, the actual hair-cutting is surprisingly easy (curly hair being almost infinitely forgiving), and the end result is pleasing as heck.