Wednesday, December 31, 2014

new year wisdom from t.s. eliot

in his poem "the love song of j alfred prufrock", t.s. eliot writes the line, "i have measured out my life in coffee spoons..." for me, that's a serious lot of java.  but really, i like this quote and i think it came to mind because what is a year but a series of small moments in the same direction?  consider each moment, no matter how ordinary, as being a part of your wild and precious life (mary oliver) right now.  this will be my 41st new year and i find myself appreciating each one more than the last.  thanks for following, dear readers, and happy 2015 xox

Saturday, December 27, 2014

so uncool they're cool again

instead of resolutions, i wanted to post my top ten list of things that, *during my lifetime thus far, have gone from hideous to hip.  *give or take a hundred years or so in some cases.

1) records  i had boxes of records ranging from chicago and george benson to loggins & messina and supertramp.  having already gotten rid of 8-tracks and walkmans i thought it only best to ditch my record player and boxes of vinyl.  now you can get a stylish little record player that comes in pastel colors and is defined as "minimalist elegant".

2) composting  c'mon, when i was little, this was just gross.  we separated the recycling from the garbage but then also set aside all natural materials for the garden.  we were trained never to toss anything that could be turned back into the earth.  now it's eco-friendly to have your own worm farm.

3) juicers  i had to plug my nose to get the mixture of apple and carrot juice down when i was in third grade.  now it costs $4.59 for an eighth of what our juicer would produce, and the greener the better.  juice bars all the rage, remember when wheat grass was just a field out there somewhere? 

4) handmade clothes  i was teased mercilessly for having homespun clothing.  i caved into pressure during the junior high years while secretly appreciating my mother's resourcefulness and talent.  now everyone wants to be able to make that linen tunic that goes for $230 in the downtown botique.

5)  pickling and canning  our kitchen would get so sticky and steamy with august peach juice and, while we never really wanted to learn or help, we were always happy to be eating fruit from the garage shelves in the winter. now i see so many pickled and canned things, things i didn't even know could go in a jar.

6)  moustache and beard wax did the pioneers have product for their facial hair?

7) beer  growlers and such have become all the rage in the northwest again, much like i imagine it to have been after prohibition was lifted.  my only deep thought here is grammatical:  if there's more than one is it beer or beers?

8)  chickens  i'm a sucker on this one, they're cute to me and the golden yolks from their eggs just so delicious, i can't go back to regular white grocery store eggs, i don't care what anyone says, i just can't.

9) homesteading  i really don't think the real version of this was all that fun.  imagine landing somewhere and having to go out and kill your dinner before it gets dark and then try to build a fire, you only have one bowl, etc. etc. etc. spending all your waking time with the business of staying alive.  it's much more fun to play at homesteading when none of it really matters one way or the other and you know you can always just drive to costco.

10) typewriters  having actually had to use these to write papers in highschool, complete with correction fluid and tape (ooh, options) i'll just say i really enjoy my laptop now.  i didn't even know to keep the thing and it's corona case (not to be confused with the aforementioned beer(s) which now, even with the h key that always stuck, would probably sell for a lot on eBay.

so that's my list.  what's on yours?  oh, and in the meantime, i'll be saving my landline phone for when anything that still has a cord becomes "vintage". 

run time approximately 220 minutes

i just watched the entire season two of portlandia, all episodes back to back.  this from a person who never watches tv, barely owns one (it fits and mostly stays in my closet) and has so many other things she wants to do with her time.  but i have to say, i laughed alot. (alot!) and that may be worth it.

this space i'm in--this one that's not mine--is about the same or less square footage than my cozy nest and sports not one but two big screen television sets.  after i got over the initial shock of that, i found that it was nice to have the holiday movie channel.  but that was after scrolling through i think 400+ channels (which is great if you want to watch the home jewelry shopping network in spanish, which i don't).  except for the occasional cooking show, and that neat screen shot of a blazing fire with christmas music in the background, i found myself coming up with alternate uses for a big screen tv.

1)  dry rack  for fabrics too delicate to go through the drier, the tv makes a perfect hanging place.

2) life map  big screens are an ideal surface for mapping your life's goals with post-it notes.  that way you can prioritize, rearrange and organize your top goals all in one convenient space.  this could also work well for budgets, reading lists and house projects.

3)  light reflector in small spaces, smart interior design is a must, so lining up candles or lights to reflect off of the television's surface can make your space seem larger and lighter during winter months leading to a boost in both mood and overall aesthetic.

this after spending, as the dvd stated, approximately 4 hours of my time on earth engrossed in watching an affectionate mockery of the city i hold so dear. 

recipe for rainy day resourcefulness

house sitting during the holidays puts you out of your usual routine and environment and into new pathways of adventure in all things, including cooking.  here's my post-holiday recipe for a rainy day between christmas and new years born out of necessity of being in someone else's place. you will need:  new flannel lounge wear, fuzzy socks, candles, an oversized mug for tea or hot chocolate plus any book from the maisie dobbs mystery series by jacqueline winspear. (i just finished book four, "messenger of truth").  put your laptop pandora station on "Sting" with added variety "holiday" and it's pretty much a perfect day.

as for the recipe...the nearest grocery store to me right now is a high-end one (the kind wherein i muse to myself, 'i could buy a small home OR i could purchase this wheel of french cheese'.  cheese invariably wins out, which is why, i suppose, i still rent). already purchased from said fancy store:  chicken broth and udon noodles.  so i said to myself, "self, time for some cozy soup...hmm". 

so, without a plan, here's what i did and how it turned out.  i grabbed seven or so fresh winter kale leaves from their raised beds, found and chopped an onion from the back of the fridge and started those in the skillet along with olive oil and salt (pretty much any good thing can be started with these two basic ingredients), broth and a good cup's worth of homemade salsa (that i received at yesterday's after-christmas party, perfect timing thankyouverymuch). because i can never get too much spice, i added a generous sprinkle of red chili peppers from a shaker i discovered at the back of a random kitchen cupboard (thankfully these never go bad because i have no idea how long they've been there).  then i shredded leftover turkey from dinner with mom and dad on the 24th and threw in the pre-cooked noodles:  hello healthy and delicious!  i love it as much as if i had made it via following a cook book or magazine. 

what's your favorite thing to do with leftovers this time of year no matter where you may find yourself?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

christmas eve

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God sent His only begotten son into the world so that we might live through Him."  

I John 4:7 & 8

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

get your stalking stuffers here (and other holiday bloopers)

coffee in hand, candle lit, and "white christmas" on tv, i've had just enough rest to retrieve my funny bone and i have to say the holidays have ample opportunties to bring that out in me. (*author's note, the tone of this post is meant to be sarcastic but kind and meant with no offense whatsoever to anyone or their holiday mail of choice.  i love mail, any and all of it and truly care about everyone and their lives!)

that said, i have time to reflect, set to bing crosby's crooning, remembering the year i drove by a certain establishment (which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) and the reader board boasted "get your stalking stuffers here" (scary.  reason #452 to pay attention in grammar class.  enough said).

then there's what to say when someone asks if you like their christmas sweater?  the trick here is to be honest without offending.  my favorite response in this category is "you know, it's really not that cold out this year."  but the holiday cards take the yule log, hold the egg nog.

for some reason, i think that letters have a tendency to fall into two, possibly two and a half categories, rather like mad-libs 1) my kid is an honor student at _________ (fill in name of school here) elementary 1-1/2) cute pictures of my dog doing ________ (insert canine activity here) and 2) i had my _________ (fill in part of body here) replaced this year.  with no offense to any parties, i've been thinking about creative alternatives to replace the pressure of having to remember how brilliant our children and pets are or what medications we may or may not be on.  so what if your three year old has not yet been recruited by NASA?  don't have any pets?  you still have your own internal organs and bones intact?  feeling like you can't compete and have nothing to say?

what if you tried...rewriting a classic Christmas song/poem/story?  making a top-12 list of beautiful things you saw/tried/made?  or putting your family news into a photo collage or short video set to music?  sending out a copy of a delicious dessert or traditional recipe?  typing up a favorite holiday memory from the older generation?  not that these things couldn't go equally and terribly wrong, but at least it would be fun trying, right?  rest assured, all 350 of my kids at school are rocket scientists, my cats just wrote a peace treaty for the UN and you'll be receiving a photo card of my latest dental x-rays (did i mention my dentist said i have perfect teeth? oh, and they're all mine).  in the meantime, happy hannakah! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

can you post attendance, please?

can you post attendance, please?

'twas the week before Christmas
and all through the school
the teachers were missing
so kids checked the pools

from Palm Springs to Oahu
the students, they searched
but not one instructor was found
they were left in a lurch!

no homework?  no research?
no papers, no books?
they looked high and low
in all crannies, all nooks

attendance was taken
but the teachers weren't there
call in the clones, get the subs
where'd they go?  it's not fair!

what about parties?
and grades?  we need papers back!
boys and girls, they missed us
some picked up the slack

but we had all left
the hallways were bare
sorry for not posting,
i just wasn't there!

--miss smith (that would be me)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

fun, films and flurries

i just finished reading a whimsical novel called "the president's hat" by antoine laurain, the central premise being, "can a hat change your life?"  it's a fun read, the way laurain weaves his characters together, the hat giving them the courage they need to step up or make changes in their lives.  i also went to see the movie "wild" about cheryl strayed's adventures hiking the pacific crest trail, although i have yet to read the book.  it's the time of year for more reading, more cocoa & indoor projects...and more holiday movies!  what are some of your favorite winter flicks?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

the wreath recipe

i first discovered the elegant botanical work of alethea harampolis in kinfolk magazine.  on a recent trip to ashland, i picked up the sole copy of "the wreath recipe" in a bookstore because it was square, white and had a lovely image on the cover that caught my eye, having no idea it was her work!  it inspired me to go out into the yard during thanksgiving and make a gratefulness gathering of berries and brambles, bringing the outside in.  then, today while reading the latest copy of "sunset" magazine, guess which book was featured?!  "three times," i thought, "it's a sign."  a sign of what nature has to offer in each and every season.

sweet paul

when a friend of mine was in norway, she loved and bought books that are now hard to find here in the states.  in one such quest she ran across the work of paul lowe einlyng. she discovered he was born in oslo, norway and raised by his great aunt and grandmother who lovingly referred to him as "sweet paul".  so when the art retreat The Makerie that we attended sent a link for a free online subscription to the same magazine, we jumped at it!  you might like it, too:

the art of illuminating

it's advent, when i feel an extra compulsion to share all things filled with light and beauty.  one such concept is the Saint John's Bible project.  in 1996, the Queen of England's calligrapher and friend of the abbey, donald jackson, suggested the idea of rendering a visual copy of the Bible using parchment and quill.  the result was the first handwritten illumination of it's kind in 500 years.

i love that this project brought together artists, calligraphers, theologians, historians and scholars across the Atlantic.  a beautiful book highlighting the process is by susan sink (an oblate of the abbey, a lifestyle i would like to look into, being one not for the extremes of cloister life OR the traditional american dream, but that's another topic for another day). and i hear that a portion of the project is on display right here in newberg, at george fox university and the cultural center! 

for more, visit

exhibit: growth

disclaimer:  i have yet to be inside this actual exhibit...but i can attest to it's hipness by the sheer number of portlanders willing to wait in line for it despite the cold and rain!  and i have a friend who tried it and said, "move alot, you'll love it!"  the first time i was in line i waited as long as i could, inching ahead about a foot per 15 minutes, or until my parking meter ran out, whichever was first. (alas, it was the latter). when i came back later, the line was closed off for the evening. 

and yet, i'm fascinated by the idea of interactive art.  this exhibit was sponsored by umpqua bank to explore human potential and growth.  a geodesic dome houses this choreographed visual experience with motion-activated digital technology.  you missed it too?  not to worry, it's soon to be in seattle, san francisco, sacramento, eugene and spokane! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

the artisan soul

just a few of my favorite quotes so far from "the artisan soul:  crafting your life into a work of art" by erwin raphael mcmanus...

"with all things artisan, their ingredients are simple and pure; pure in their essence and everything goes in the direction of simplicity.  the process (not merely the product) defines what is crafted and created."

"great is about execution and achievement, good is about essence and ethos.  the artisan soul aspires to do great work but never neglects the importance of being inspired by all that is good and beautiful."

"this is the courage of the artisan--to know ourselves and be true to that knowlege.  the artisan rejects all that makes us false and takes the huge risk of being true.  to embrace our authentic selves and live in that raw expression of being fully human is our greatest risk and our richest reward."

happiness doubled

"i would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."  g.k. chesterton

Sunday, November 16, 2014

things that fall out of books

i think someone has already done this idea, making a book out of things that fall out of books, that me that's part of what gives novels another layer of life:  who owned them, how did they use them, what did they write in them and...what falls out if you give the spine a gentle shake and flutter?

my mother recently gave me a copy of "the garden encyclopedia" which is not just any gardening book because it belonged to my great-grandma, who i'm named after, nettie cole.  the physical pages are holding up quite well considering she really used it and it was published in 1936.

out fell two things:  1) a recipe for natural pesticides in my great-grandmother's writing and 2) part of a letter from a friend of hers.

it got me to wondering...did she grab the letter and tear off a part to take notes on before heading out to the yard?  what was her day like?  busy?  just another one?  special in some way?  i can have a tendency to glamorize history, but i know that she worked hard and had ordinary days just like i do.  i want to work hard like she did and leave a legacy.

i enjoyed thinking about these things as i winterized my garden yesterday.  pulling up stakes to wash and dry in the sun to store for next spring...digging up potatoes...pulling up tomatoes...remembering how beautiful and tall the sunflowers stood when i was in flip flops next to standing in a wool hat and boots, digging through the frosted ground and throwing leftover greens to the hens.  it was one of those crisp days where the blue sky shows off what yellow leaves remain and you can tell where the sun has been by the frozen patches of where it has not been.

thank you, garden.  thank you, nettie.

what interesting things have you found tucked in books?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

to serif or not to serif, that is the question

we got just enough freezing rain to cancel school today, so i'm in my own class...typography!  using the text "typography workbook:  a real-world guide to using type in graphic design" by timothy samara, i am learning more in-depth ways to play with words.

i downloaded the free graphics program "inkscape" so i can start to give myself assignments. 

i'm fascinated by people's answer to this question, indulge me here, "so if you woke up and had an unexpected free day, what would you do with your 24 hours?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

the art and flavor of feasting

i love EVOO (which stands for extra virgin olive oil) cooking school at cannon beach. last year on a whim, i entered their slogan contest and won, along with a few other fortunate souls, a gift certificate good for two dinner shows. i had summed up their dining experiences with six words, "the art and flavor of feasting" which ended up garnering an average of $43 per word (if only i could figure out a way to make this kind of money with my love of words every day!)

there's not really a price tag that my friend or i can put on what it was like to redeem the certificate this weekend. not only is everything fresh, local and delicious, but you learn so much about food preparation, pairings and flavor. (to see what's on the current menu, visit bob and lenore's website at

i feel so fortunate to live in a region where i can grow some of my own food, collect and share my own eggs and have a front row seat to seasonal changes. suffice it to say that while on saturday i feasted, my pantry is currently in need of a boost...but taking a pinch of resourcefulness and what i learned at EVOO, monday night i was able to gather in garden greens before the first frost and enjoy a meal that included pea shoots and indoor-ripened tomatoes. it felt good to use what i had on hand, like the small-refrigerator kitchens of europe where regular market trips and using leftovers are the rule, not the exception.

what's in your pantry for winter?

Monday, November 3, 2014

to those who see

i am the lucky beneficiary of the fact that a friend of mine's husband collects rare books. he recently gave me a copy of gwen frostic's "to those who see", a book of poems and block prints copyright 1965.  i had not heard of her before and learning more about gwen, discovered that she lived between april 26, 1906 and april 25, 2001.  not only was she a michigan women's hall of fame inductee, but she received five honorary doctorates during her lifetime.  her practice of nature blockprints led to the establishment of presscraft papers, a store of which is still in existence today.

i think i would have liked her.  so would mary oliver.  (who knows, maybe they crossed paths quite literally while out walking in the woods, both being such keen observers of beauty?)  turning the rich vellum-lined pages of her book, i read, " those who see miraculous sights and envision all of the wonders hidden from the eye, hear multitudinous sounds and listen to the symphonies that silence brings..."  

Sunday, October 19, 2014



 "gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." william arthur ward

it makes me happier than you know
to see that you, too have found something to call your own
a berry, a still-bright bit of fruit amid the dripping october leaves
containing sun--like you!
in the fog of want
that says you are beheld
yes, fed
even from the very hand
of God

ls 10.18.14

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

weekend of beauty


i've been reserving monday nights for teaching myself typography (and/or sketching, illustrating a children's story and reading chapters from "aesthetics: a comprehensive anthology" about the philosophy of art). as you've probably noticed by now, i like to type in lowercase letters. this preference was confirmed when i learned about the various forms of typeface. "the lowercase letters are a development of the middle ages (476-1200 AD) and are generally attributed to the work of charlemagne's scribes. lowercase letters are more varied in shape and are distinguished from uppercase letters by ascenders and descenders; their differentiation allows them to be recognized more quickly." thank you, scribes!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


i knew enough to ride my bike to work as much as possible last take my students outside to host a party by the firepit...for, today: it rained. and i was grateful! i envisioned rivers being cleaned of their sledge and the greening of forest fire patches. so it's fitting to post a segment of local author brian doyle's "pitter and drench". he was asked by a prospective student's mother if it rained here in oregon. his response, in part:  

"does it rain here? look about you, woman. gaze long and lovingly on the lushness of the grass, and the vault of the trees, and the tangled insistence of the bushes, and the startling prevalence of moss, and the little swale near the chapel that is always moist no matter how hot and dry the weather, and tell me if you think that perhaps yes, a drop doth fall here and there, and then another, and then a thousand and million and uncountable zillions from november right through june, so that summer here is accounted from july to october, after which the rains begin and neither do they cease, day after day after day of mist and rain and fog and drizzle and patter and drench! 

gaze about you piercingly at the endless ranks and shades of green across the river, and tell me if you think the long thicketed flank of the tualatin mountains is perhaps the product of uncountable years of the steadiest rain you could ever imagine! gaze down upon the broad muscle of the river and consider whence came all that water, which does not cease though the sun be bright and almost doubles its serpentine girth in spring, when months of rain and weeks of snowmelt send a rush and roar of immense proportions to the sea, the water from which all things came, including, in a sense, us! does it rain? 

 madame, it does. but rather than groan and moan about it, let us consider it an extraordinary gift from the One: falling free and fresh from the sky every blessed day here on the bluff is clean water, untouched and untrammeled by the greedy hand of man; and so let us step inside the chapel, and thank that which once called itself I Am Who I Am, Who giveth us profligately the sweet and savory rain; and so amen."

Friday, October 10, 2014

on the cusp

i love nikki mcclure's artwork and find it relaxing to peruse the pages of *"collect raindrops: the seasons gathered" as we find ourselves on the cusp between summer and winter.  

"...we try to hold on to the last days of bare arms and legs. early caches of sunflower seeds stored by eager squirrels sprout a leggy forest hoping for just a little bit more. just a wee bit more. don't go. we only have sixty-four? eighty-seven? ninety-four summers if we are lucky. we hold on and take the last quick swim just to say that we did...last chance, last peach. last watermelon seed to spit. there is a quickness to everything now. first slippers, first sweater, first blankets wrapped around while reading. stop one hustle and start another kind of dance. scurry from tree to tree. fill your pockets, shirttails, wheelbarrow. ride around the block smelling for fallen fruit. night comes too early. houses glow with industry as all the food is inspected and stored away in mouths, in boxes, in baskets overflowing. wipe your feet. come inside..."

*and i may just offer a reward to the person who finds the two pages that are missing from this library book! i know it's a compliment to the artist in one way, but in another, it's not: buy her prints! especially since each paper takes her hours and hours to cut. i will confess to many things with library books (accidental coffee rings, occasional pencil corrections and some dog-earing) but blatantly tearing pages out is not one of them. ok, end of rant. on a more peacefully autumnal note, i'm excited to go to hood river tomorrow and get a bevy of apples to share!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

the story of we

my book pile was dangerously low...until i rediscovered our school library. my greed returned, as i piled more and more young adult titles into my hands to satisfy me until my items on hold have time to arrive from the public library domain. getting my middle school classes further into poetry and allegory this autumn, i thought more about story and how, while our own unique tales are important, they make the most beauty within the larger picture.

 helping my students move from "the story of me" to the "story of we" takes many forms, the least of which sometimes involves me drawing a circle on the board and saying "this is the universe" and, placing a mark in the middle, adding "this is not you or me." we get to put God in the center here, for which i am grateful, but i've been thinking about the larger context anyway: even the strangers' lives that intersect with ours. for example, when i ride my bike to work, depending on the time i start pedaling, i see a lady who bikes in the opposite direction. she has a crate bungee corded to the back of her bike and her cycle looks a bit small for her body frame, but she makes it work. then there's the older asian gentleman i pass. he walks down the same section of sidewalk in the morning light, hands clasped behind his back, strolling with intention and looking down as if in deep thought. i wonder about these people.

where are they going? what are they thinking about? we may never even speak, but somehow we are also part of the story of we. what context do you find your story in; what might your bigger picture be?

Friday, September 26, 2014

so you want to be a girl scout?

true confession, i never was a girl scout (the brief stint at being a 'bluebird' and all, plus some years in 4H) but lately i've been thinking that adults should get honorary badges. so i looked up the girl scout pledge:

 "on my honor i will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the girl scout law...i will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong and responsible for what i do and say and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place and be a sister to every girl scout"

that pretty much sums up their promise and law. then they have badges. since i've already given myself an honorary chicken badge, now comes the anti-brooding hen badge (how to get this hen to stop sitting on eggs that will never be chicks? mother nature is tough, i tell you) but the eggs are plentiful which leads to

1. the cook badge. so, wanting to mark the first day of fall, i spent the monetary equivalent of several desserts buying ingredients for one pear cake. the recipe said this cake could be made in the crock pot and i thought it sounded fun. chopping and toasting pecans, buttering the inside of the pot, slicing pears, dashing with nutmeg...and waiting. three hours later a mush emerged from the foil barely recognizable as cake and not something i was any too proud to share. which leads me to

2. the healthy living badge. because i only like to share food that turns out well, i started eating it myself and tried not to think that i had single-handedly consumed an entire stick of butter in a few days' time.

3. the outdoors badge. fortunately i had burned calories earlier in the week when my sister girl scout and i were last seen carrying two kayaks uphill from the muddy river bank at an ungodly angle, thankful for the platform and rope someone had kindly placed just beneath the bridge. from which point we had to carry them one at a time along the side of the road, through blackberry brambles, up and over the road divider to the car. this after five and a half hours of paddling (it was worth it) and finally

 4. the financial literacy badge. i needed a new cell phone because my favorite had broken internal parts. so i crossed the threshhold of fancy phone store (who shall remain nameless) and found that not only did the model of my phone no longer exist, but i was literally the only one on THAT side of the store (as opposed to the iPhone 6 side, ahem.) i will give the salesman credit for taking me seriously and helping me to get into a very inexpensive model that lets me talk and text and keep my low pre-paid monthly plan. but this was after sifting through his speech that went something like, "for the cost of the phone alone...your unlimited talk and text data package would be less than what you would pay before the mail-in cost with no out of pocket expenses today... minus retail pricing for monthly minute usage..." he was just doing his job but i ascertained the model he wanted to sell me cost several hundred dollars and tripled my monthly bill for things i didn't want or need. "i still write on cave walls and use smoke signals," i quipped, "so this model on the OTHER side of the store will be just fine" (walk with me...we're walking, away from the hoards of upgraders). badge!

so the way i figure it i have about 5 girl scout badges now, but no vest. it sounds like a great program. what would YOUR honorary badges be in? i look forward to hearing them and for now, if you'll excuse me, i think i hear my thin mints calling...

Saturday, September 20, 2014


veraison means the onset of ripening. i saw this when i woke up this morning: sun streaming in on a variety of leaf colors just below the vineyards; this maturity of season with a richness of layers. i brought out my leather driving gloves, boots and sweaters...but also left my sandals, sun hat and spf handy: the in-between time when it is still 80 degrees but with a distinctive tinge in the morning air. if i had a photo essay of my morning it would be these three images: fresh eggs gathered in the time of waking where hot air balloons are best seen rising in the distance...a cup of warm milk to go with french press coffee, sipped slowly...and brunch made from garden-fresh produce. the sunflowers are starting to bend their backs in prayer, my tomatoes will split if i don't gather them at least every other day, and potato tops are withered. what's underneath, however, is at it's best: the ground is still warm enough and the second planting of fall vegetables flourishes. i will wait until the 23rd to have my annual pumpkin spice latte because it is still summer in my mind until midnight of the 22nd. in the spirit of an indian summer, however, the biking gear stays out and i plan to put off sock-wearing as long as possible.

accounting for taste

this week i was flipping through old magazines, tearing out pictures for an art activity and i couldn't help but notice our cultural shifts in style. these editions were from the late 80's and early 90's and featured women standing next to huge suburbans (the kind that are now for sale by the side of the road) with captions about "doing it all" and "for your sleek lifestyle". i mused to myself as i turned pages, seeing other ads for bulky furniture and laura ashley rose patterns, thankful that we've moved on. this morning, i treated myself to portland monthly and their special 2014 design issue, noticing the trend is definitely about less...smaller, stark, minimal and...a return to the 70's. bearded men in skinny jeans who are opening their own furniture cover businesses while making micro-brew on the room ensembles that i would call "the jetsons (globe lights) meet thoreau (tree stump tables)" and everything organic: harkening back to the days before things like canning and organic food were "hip" or expensive. i got to thinking about what my style would be called. i am admittedly straddling the pre and post-pet era like some bridging the gap between having preschoolers and older children know that small children a white couch do not mix (i saw that in an ad, actually--a little girl frolicking on a white sectional, and laughed out loud). i fantasize about the clean-line "kinfolk" typography...of linen...of dragging my feet along a new rug...flopping myself on the bed and not having to run a lint-roller over it first. i think, right now at least, my style would be best termed "bohemian country real", bohemian owing to the fact that not much matches, country because pollen and compost bins and the aforementioned muck boots are a part of my daily life, and real because the place is completely comfortable AND functional to me. i'm content. it doesn't mean, however, that i don't salivate over the day when my carpet stays perfect or when i can have a micro-fiber suede couch without claw marks on it: all things new and fresh. but stuff is just stuff. the patagonia principle comes back to me--use it and use it and use it some more. so i get out my sewing basket and mend those small holes, put my great grandmother's quilt with mis-matched pillows back on the bed, dust AGAIN, and sit back realizing that there is beauty in all things original. surround yourself with what you like. and that, i think, will never go out of style.

Friday, September 12, 2014

french culinary law

did you know that in france, only croissants made of 100% natural butter are baked without curves on the end? anything else must take a crescent shape. no matter what form it takes, however, it's still a fluffy, layered and delicious way to welcome in the morning with a steaming cup of coffee. translated from any language, any culture? "...ahhh"

Sunday, September 7, 2014

bridge the lacuna

to use my other new word in a sentence, i did not want there to be a lacuna between summer and autumn in terms of my reading. (lacuna--a gap, hole, abyss. which makes me curious as to barbara kingsolver's book of the same title, as i had always wrongly associated the word with something tropical like a lagoon or something exotic like a new mexican cooking technique). i just finished reading three books: "the firefly letters" by margarita engle (which we found because we thought it said 'madeleine l'engle' as in, 'why haven't i heard of this title by her before?--later--ohhh, that's why'...) "the child that books built" by francis spufford (as recommended in "the reading zone" by nancy atwell) and "delancey" by molly wizenburg about when her husband brandon opens a pizzaria in seattle (i sense a roadtrip!). molly is the author of "a homemade life" and has a lovely blog (only voted best food blog in the world by the london times!) called "orangette" (check out, *image credit in this entry is molly's). since it's been too hot to bake during the day, i stayed up to finish her book while zesting an orange and chopping figs, soaking pistachios in honey yogurt and cracking open our own eggs so that i would have delicious morning oatmeal bars when i woke to the coolness of a new sunday morning breezing through the window. i'm excited about my new pile of books as well: "the gardener of versailles: my life in the world's grandest garden" by alain baraton (gardener-in-chief at the palace of versailles), "frances and bernard" a book of letters by carlene bauer, and the second in the maisie dobbs mystery series, "birds of a feather" by jacqueline winspeare. that should keep me busy for at least a couple of days.

over the moon

so this summer my very smart and observant friend and i noticed something we hadn't known before. sometimes the moon sliver was facing one way, sometimes the other. (suddenly i was curious as to how it is most often depicted in children's books) it had different rising and setting patterns. so we started studying the moon. we knew the basics, like the moon revolves around the earth and the earth revolves around the sun, but that was about as far as 5th grade science carried into my adulthood (thank you, charity masterson, wherever you are, for helping me spray paint the styrofoam balls representing the solar system for our elementary school science fair). i learned waxing (sliver faces left) on the way to being full and waning (sliver faces right) on the way to a new moon. the handy dandy calendar of moonrise and set helped me understand the moon's influence over the tides as well. i'm sketching the moon every day for the month of september to document what i've noticed. my smart and observant friend is watching the moon, too. she just sent me a text with two new vocabulary words and up to the minute lunar information. it seems that this monday at 10:30 pm we will see a perigee moon, when it is closest to the earth, also called a "supermoon" (222,731 miles when it rises as compared to 252,205 later in the month on september 20). apogee is when it is furthest from the earth. to track your own celestial objects, check out and click on "sun & moon".

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

a second half of life take on peter rabbit

if you saw yesterday's entry, i did read "the tale of peter rabbit" to myself last night. stories change because we change! not only had i started off by identifying with mr. mcgregor since my gardening escapades, but i also saw the rest of the story through new eyes. we are, after all, a product of our life experiences blended together over time. my current letter to the author would go something like this, "dear beatrix, i have been a fan of your books since age 4 when i was just learning to read. more accurately, i memorized 'peter rabbit' long before i could actually read, thanks to the tireless hours of being read to by both my father and my mother to whom i give credit for my current love of books. perhaps you, too, were entering your second half of life when you wrote the stories (was it, originally for your nieces and nephews?) take page 10, for example, when mrs. rabbit fully discloses to her four small bunnies the reason that she is a single mother: their father was put in a pie by mrs. mcgregor. incidentally, this is the only mention of mrs. mcgregor and i suppose it is enough that we know she was a resourceful woman in the kitchen (or just a good cover for her husband's garden-rage). this brings up questions: how does mrs. rabbit know this? was she there? did her husband regularly venture into the garden but just got caught one too many times? did she narrowly escape herself or just hear the news from a crow? at any rate, this is first called 'an accident', as in 'your father had an accident in the garden' which is so euphemistic and metaphoric that in fact, i could imagine the bunnies growing up thinking that their father was still alive somewhere, being held prisoner inside a large and very ominous crust. you omitted the words 'eaten by' which i suppose was wise, though far from the truth. you and i and the adults reading the book know this to be true in the same way that my father saying my pet goose 'rejoined the flock' was as true as the fresh mound of dirt beneath our willow tree. we figure it out sooner or later. regardless, the bunnies aren't so afraid that they don't go out and play but i suppose the main idea was that it would keep them out of trouble. then, mrs. rabbit leaves them while she goes the opposite direction to the baker's. that's all fine and good unless you have abandonment issues, which i don't, but some might in a 21st century reading about kids being left in hot cars and such, something you likely did not have to deal with. i suppose there was the nasty issue of child chimney sweeps, however, but i digress. so we know the story: flopsy, mopsy and cottontail are the 'good bunnies' and peter is the 'bad bunny'. in the end he gets a cold and has camomile tea while his siblings have the aforementioned baked goods, the end. my four year old self would have taken this as a lesson not to talk to strangers, to stay inside the playground walls and do my chores (all good things) whereas my forty year old self thinks, just wait one minute here! ok, so peter got some sniffles, big deal, he had an ADVENTURE! he saw the world, was equipped to think on his feet, problem solve, escape danger and live to tell about it. (with all due respect, ms. potter, did you figure into the plot that his soul may have been somewhat diminished upon returning to his safe, but albeit small home?) out in the garden his furry life was enriched, not to mention that he got to eat REAL bunny food: his fill of lettuces, french beans, radishes and parsley--even if only once; a veritable portrait of a rabbit fully alive!--this is what real bunnies eat, after all, as opposed to currant rolls. (none of the bunnies in my yard are even the slightest bit tempted by currant rolls, a fact of which i know you are well aware and what brought all of this on yesterday with my gardening nonsense and whatnot in the first place.) which brings me somehow to peter's clothing. he sheds it to escape the nets and it occurred to me on a much deeper premise that you may or may not have intended: he breaks free of societal shackles and is made a spectacle of, but perhaps at great personal liberation. i mean you no offense whatsoever, the story just seemed to end rather abruptly with the 'goodness' of the three bunnies getting blackberries and such. i rather wanted to hear peter's version upon reflection, as it was quite a big day for him, a sort of mammal Bildungsroman if you will. perhaps later in life flopsy, mopsy and cottontail had regrets? but peter was able to identify with the person who is known for saying, 'in the end, i want to be known, not for being prim or proper, clutching my invitation safely, but for arriving at the party slightly ragged, breathless and full of tales!' thank you for your kind stories, i enjoyed each of them as a child and obviously still do. i would be interested to hear your take on how stories change with us over time, when they are good ones and true, as yours are, as well as if it is autobiographical in any sense? plus, if you would be so kind, your intentions as per moral life compass, etc. best regards, a fellow bunny who has been to the other side of the gate"

Monday, September 1, 2014

luxury, labor and the quest for muck boots

now i know why homesteaders didn't need to go to the gym. daily life WAS exercise. but let me back up. yesterday i allowed myself to read an entire novel ("the book thief" by markus zusak, which is excellent by the way) an act of complete luxury considering school starts tomorrow. (while i refuse to give up any of my favorite activities, realistically more time will just elapse between when i get to do them. not eclipsed, but delayed...slightly truncated if you will. sigh) so today it was laboring on labor day. the morning began with harvesting sunflowers, onions, tomatoes, carrots (4), and blackberries. then i washed the car. and then proceeded to learn how to clip chicken wing feathers so the birds can't fly away. while doing so, i sat right in chicken poop. second sigh. which led to an unexpected load of laundry. which also led to the quest for muck boots. you would think that boots for muck would be easy to find. they're not. and when i found them, they ranged anywhere from $17-$117. (i'm sorry, but for wading around in the aforementioned chicken poop? i did not buy them) but since i was already in wilco, this led me to discover "second season vegetables". fall, i learned, is a great time for certain plantings. (deer, gophers and bunnies have rendered my spring-planted vegetation stubby). i was going to give up when i remembered, "i'm the human here! i'm not giving up, i'm going to win, this is war!" (even if it's for a small salad. i'm an optimist). so for the promise of said salad, i dug up the ground and buried mesh wire to inhibit the gophers--(or gopher, he's really outdone himself this year, our yard looks like a minefield.) once that was down, i put the dirt back on top and then stretched a double thickness of chicken wire around the perimeter, weaving metal stakes through it like a needle before pounding them in. (ha ha bunnies! you're cute, but not that cute.) then i RE-planted spinach, lettuce, peas and kale before covering the entire garden with deer netting (brazen and unafraid of the dog that they are) and then watered myself (being thus a filthy faux homesteader) along with all the new seeds. while putting tools away of course i found an old pair of muck boots in the shed that fit me perfectly which led me to flexing my back and realizing why pioneers never went to 24-hour fitness. third sigh. the labor day sun already in the west, i think i'll settle in with "the tale of peter rabbit" since i identify much more with mr. mcgregor now than when i was a youngster (in size 3 muck boots).

Saturday, August 30, 2014


yesterday i drove by a church reader board that said, "what is the hashtag for your life?" and i said to myself in the car, "well, let's see now...starting with the fact that i don't know what a hashtag is, i'd have to say the jury's still out on that one..." fortunately, i was on my way to breakfast where my young hip college-age friend not only informed me about hashtags and the use thereof, but showed me examples on her computer. (#hashtags) and just in time, too, so that i can be a hip-but-without-trying-too-hard middle school teacher come tuesday.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

it's not over!

summer, my friends, is not over yet. there are--note!--25 more days of summer as we know it left to enjoy. take heart, comrades...and don't put away that outdoor gear just yet. lest we shortchange the season, summer lasts until the eve of september 22. get out and make the most of them!

Monday, August 18, 2014


enough i have decided busy will not be in my economy of language. occupied, maybe. (notice the difference?) dreams and dendrites of queen anne's lace against the sky have filled me to satiety, as have fresh eggs, coffee in the same speckled mug and the river's familiar, carved bank. more is not needed. i feel rich enough carrying today's still-warm loaf against my plaid work shirt and collecting a tumble of tomatoes, plenty to share. yes, i am full here upstream from need and free enough of want's snag where time flows in our favor because it is not already taken and space lives happily at my kitchen sink where we will peel stories washed down with wine and find our status in communion. ls 8.17.14

Sunday, August 17, 2014

happy country photo essay

the benefits of breathing in beach air and surfing

so it seems, via the new york times, that science is backing up my water craving! i have tried to describe it as "if too much time goes by without a visit to the ocean, i feel thirsty for it" or "i just have to be around water" and "a bathtub is a must in any home i live in" i smiled at the title of the article and the caption, "burning question: does the sea air have curative powers?" in the 18th and 19th centuries, ocean air was considered a cure-all. (pick up any novel authored during that time and some hero or heroine is being instructed by their physician to 'go to the seaside'). some data does exist to conclude that inhaling salty air can clear the lungs. one expert, thomas w. ferkel, says, "i'm not sure how much of the improvement is spiritual, metaphysical or physiological, but i suspect it's all...the sounds of the breeze and repetitive waves can relax you, which may result in better sleep..." he is quoted as saying he would love to be able to write a prescription for his patients to go to the beach. sick? go surfing! i like it...

the map of enough

here's to squeezing in one more book before in-service: "the map of enough: one woman's search for place" by molly caro may. i love the title and it's inspiring a poem in me (stay tuned) because so much of our culture is the search for more. lately i love it when i'm eating and i'm full...or i look around my home and there's nothing that i want or need. i get more than a small thrill out of making a meal out of things gathered from the yard (see also today's happy country photo essay). i spend a whole day playing-shopping-eating in the city and out of everything advertised i come home with just one pair of wool socks that will last with me another 15 years. i spend time with people i love. i am satisfied. contentment: it is enough. more than enough.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


eric and mindy comprise "heartroot" interchanging banjo, mandolin, violin and guitars; telling family stories while they tune. real, grounded, soulful, they represent the things they sing about and draw you naturally together as a community around their music. check them out at especially the song "you are not alone" which they, fittingly, invited us to sing along to...

Monday, August 11, 2014

all the light we cannot see

i've read a myriad of wonderful novels this month ("the house at tynneford" by natasha solomons,"bread alone" by judith hendricks, "goodnight june" by sarah jio) but none quite so riveting as anthony doerr's "all the light we cannot see". (the non-fiction book he wrote while on sabbatical to research this one is also great writing, see also "four seasons in rome" very funny and touching). set largely in france's walled citadel of saint-malo by the sea (now a popular tourist destination) "all the light we cannot see", a decade in the writing, is set in differing time periods in the 1930's and 40's, going forth and back in time until two main characters converge. i was so mesmerized by this book that i looked for excuses to read every single one of doerr's 530 pages. the perfect excuse came today when the august temperature soared, melting blackberries on the vine and everything else in it's summer rays. "gee, darn", i thought to myself, "i might just have to stay in where it's cool by the air conditioning and finish this book...wouldn't want to get heat stroke after all..." at some points i literally forgot to breathe, abandoning my bookmark and some meals, staying up too late at other times...falling asleep with it in my lap only to wake up in the morning and read, sometimes even before making coffee (that's a big deal, folks, i'm a person who makes coffee before she goes out to coffee, so that's saying something). no big surprise that it's wanted back at the library where a queue of people wait for me to return it...having no idea just what a thrilling ride they're in for!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

confessions of a word and water-lover

you think you know words fairly well until you happen to be strolling through a creamery sampling cheese and various sauces and you walk by a cookbook with a pretty cover and it happens to catch your eye because has a savory photo with what looks like basil or maybe mint on it and the title says, "cooking with cannibis" and you say in complete sincerity to the friend that you're with, "what's cannibis?" and they look at you and say, "you're kidding, right? you don't know what cannibis is?" and you say again in complete sincerity, "well, uh, no, is it a new herb i should know about for the kitchen or something?" and they laugh so loud you wonder what you missed and they say, "cannibis, my friend, is another name for marijuana." "ohhhhhh." you say and pause, "so...wait. i mean i know about the medical debates, but cooking? i'm confused." yes, my comrades in language, it's true. i didn't know what cannibis was. so here you go, it's a genus of flowering plants in latin cannibus visativa, cannibus indica, and cannibis ruderalis. these three taxa are indigenous to central and south asia. so now we know. and, just for the record, i won't be cooking or doing anything with it at all except maybe to throw out the word in casual conversation and see if, in fact, it's true that the general population knows it and i didn't. i also learned the word this summer for what i am: hydrophile. i am a water-lover. i guess people have divided hydrophilics into three categories: those who like to be submerged, wet, one with the ocean; those who like to be on or near water but not in it; and those who cover both categories. i am the latter--in it, on it, the more the better, i say! and i've just gotta say, throwing around my new-found phraseology, summer will transition well and more safely into fall if people keep the cannibis away from hydrophilics...

bridge the gap

today's entry, the first one for august, is brought to you by the title 9 women's clothing catalog. not only do they sport the most comfortable and chic active wear but they encourage moxie. i love what the founder wrote inside the front cover: "bridge the gap. whether in the classroom, on the playing field or in a conference room, i see it over and over: girls and women who hesitate to act on their expertise, because they aren't 100% sure they have the right answer, the perfect plan, the exact skill set. it amounts to what has been called a massive confidence gap. the gap between what women know and what we are willing to act on. it's that gap that inhibits us from making our voices heard. it's that gap that makes us turn away from risk. it's that gap that prohibits us from turning thought into action. and it's that confidence gap that keeps us from learning all the valuable lessons that can be gained from acting and failing and acting again. let's commit to filling that gap right now. let's fill it with encouragement for our daughters to act even as they waver. let's fill it with our strong voices as we quash our instinct to stay silent. let's fill it with action, even in the face of doubt and doubters. our daughters and our sons are watching. we owe it to them. we owe it to ourselves."--missy park

Thursday, July 31, 2014

bright wings

having visited a friend's family vineyard recently, i learned that they own over 400 acres, some of which have never been cultivated. this struck me as rare! i'd already been thinking about what i'll call the "people vs. nature wear factor" on our planet and was happily surprised that there still existed a parcel of farm land that was still mineral rich and untouched. i've had the privilege of venturing many places this summer, starting with oahu and the san juans, then cannon beach and silver creek falls. in each there is absolutely unspoiled beauty right next to the wear and tear of humans. i've watched people, myself among them, finding ATM machines in order to satiate their daily quest for food, water...then garbage cans,, souvenirs, coffee, or boat fuel...only to do it all over again. i'm happy to say it seems nature always wins. vines climb up again, water brought to mind one of my favorite poems by gerard manley hopkins who understood this very concept when he wrote in the late 1880's (well past lewis & clark's 1804 expedition west). in "God's Grandeur", he writes: the world is charged with the grandeur of God. it will flame out, like shining from shook foil; it gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil crushed. why do men then now not reck his rod? generations have trod, have trod, have trod; and all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; and wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod. and for all this, nature is never spent; there lives the dearest freshness deep down things; and though the last lights off the black west went oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs-- because the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. despite having memorized this poem in college, i still have to look up what "reck his rod" might mean and summaries seem to indicate the phrase, "why don't people respect and appreciate God's creation and take care of it?" the rest, i think, is fairly straight forward. and, while i know people debate the possibility of using up all of earth's natural resources, i still love the line that says, "and for all this nature is never spent". the next line is refreshing as well, "there lives the dearest freshness deep down things". it's like coming out of a crowded mall into a natural wetland; times of refreshing that come from the Creator into all things created.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

the law of focused flavor

ok, so it's not really a law, but the opposite is: the law of diminishing returns. i learned this while waiting for my cell phone to charge in the back of a bookstore. because i happened to grab "the french laundry" cookbook to pass the time i now know that the first bite of food is usually paramount, followed by "just ok" and down from there. most cooks, the author explained, counter this by adding too many flavors which only confuses the diner's tastebuds. to really wow the palate, he says, focus the flavor instead by using one entree and four different distinct sauces or a very distinct sweet or savory. this is so true in cooking, art and life. i am suspect, for example, when a restaurant menu tries to be not only breakfast-lunch-dinner but has way too many things going on in each category. how can they possibly specialize? in art, it never bodes well when i don't know when to stop--the best pieces come before things can turn muddy; when i resist the urge to "just add one more thing". and, in life, less is more time and time again. when you are tempted to get more, bigger or better to satisfy you in any area of life, you can come back to this simple law of focused flavor to win out over diminishing returns.

ms. grammar police loses at boggle

let's just say that i wasn't sad to see our game score paper used to start the campfire. for a word girl, i lost badly at the regular evening campground rounds of boggle. granted, i got better, but spent way too much of the precious timer trying to get a really long word instead of just making up smaller ones and adding an "s". there are only so many points you can get for "hand...hands...handy...handed" i wanted to go big: words like sycophant or dalliance; cherubim and regalia (use those 4 in a coherent sentence, i dare you!) and on the ferry float from bike camping around san juan island, i laughed out loud at anne fadiman's grammar policing chapter from her novel "ex libris". here are a few examples from the fadiman family's literary snobbery files. "the place we had dinner last week served p-e-a-k-i-n-g duck!" "einstein's theory of relativity led to the development of the Big Band Theory." "cakes frosted Happy Birthday's", "when i was only three and still named belle miriam silverman i sang my first aria in pubic." or consider the 1631 printing of the bible especially printed for king charles I, "thou shalt commit adultery". but it gets better. "...from the beginning camilla approved of charles' marrying diana while she remained his power mower." i would rather lose at boggle among friends than forever go down in history as the one who made the fast food restaurant sign read "get your stalking stuffers here."

the kind of person i want to be

one of my friends wrote a poem about the kind of person she wants to be...(i need to ask permission first, and if she agrees, i can post it here) but basically, one who still writes old fashioned letters with stamps on them and practices kindness, reads real books and sleeps in hammocks. there are two basic ways to become yourself: learn who you don't want to be and grow more into who you DO want to be. i want to be a very fun, slightly frivolous, reverently irreverent, frolicksome whoosh of stardust that also has substance. that if you poke me with your finger, i don't fall over. that i can be silly because you know i would take you seriously in a moment and could have a real conversation at any time of the day or night. the kind of person who is just at home with small children as well as sages and everyone in between. i want to remember to say thank you. to always identify with the salt of the earth type folks, knowing that being in touch with my simple roots and having expensive taste do not have to be mutually exclusive. i want to notice, care, ask, and listen. i want to have a relationship with the passing of time in such a way that i know when to "waste" it and when to seize it, knowing the thin line in between that always values it. and i want to put people first always. two quotes i read recently resonate with this, "i quit my job and i made this decision that i was only going to do things that i love to do." a harvard sociology study finds that the happiest people who find themselves in later life stages are those who, "...learn to speak a foreign language, play jazz piano, surf, act, write plays...what characterizes them all is the willingness to take risks, experience vulnerability and uncertainty, learn from experimentation and failure, seek guidance and counsel from younger generations and develop new relationships of support and intimacy." yes, that's the kind of person i want to be.

...and all that jazz!

grown up kids have to take naps, too! i've just woken from one such delicious summer respite and come inside from sharing a pint of blackberries with the chickens in celebration of their first eggs! (beautiful, brown and with the most yellow yolks) i've been going at full throttle with my own birthday celebrations, trips, experiences, colors, words, books, a sponge i took today just to soak it all in. i thought that, very much like rests in music give jazz their meaning, today could be what helps me absorb all the sheer goodness so that it becomes a part of me.

Monday, July 14, 2014

the late starters orchestra

love this book so far (authored by ari l. goldman) and in the front is the following quote, "i have three messages. one is we should never, ever give up. two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team."--diana nyad, 64, after completing the 110-mile swim from cuba to florida on her fifth attempt.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

40 mph

with just four days of my thirties left, i have to say just how excited i am to turn 40! there is no begrudging the years here. in fact, i even feel like honking when i pass a 40 mph feels good to be in my fortieth good! no cliches, no jokes, no platitudes, i'm just excited and i'm gonna eat some cake. because i can. the next decades? bring 'em on! light speed ahead...

Monday, July 7, 2014

july 4th photo essay

you've been...yarn bombed!

"you've been...what?!" i exclaimed, having never heard of the practice. walking through Astoria, i came face to face with the results of the most recent yarn bomb. from the postcard, and i quote, "Astoria invites you to create for our Yarn Bomb! (over) Attention all fiber artists: reduce your yarn stash and join us in Astoria, Oregon to create a yarn wonderland! (installation and reception dates) Sponsored by Astoria Visual Arts, Fiber Arts Academy." so, next time you don't know what to do with that leftover alpaca yarn, head north with your needles, my friends and join dozens of other hookers (pun but no offense intended) who are beautifying our city streets one stitch at a time.

st. john's bridge & cathedral park

my first experience with the St. John's Bridge was not an altogether aesthetic one. it served as a focal point and measurement of my 7 hour and 40 minute 26.2 mile walk during the portland marathon. i was, alas, too tired at the time to fully appreciate it's architectural structure. last week a friend and i kayaked to it from Kelly Point Park, near the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, and ate lunch at Cathedral Park. the St. John's Bridge is the only suspension bridge in the Willamette Valley and one of only three in Oregon. it was designed by internationally renown engineer David B. Steinman (1886-1960) and Holton D. Robinson. construction was begun one month before the Stock Market crash of 1929, thus giving jobs to many during the Great Depression. in the words of the designers, "...the challenge and opportunity was to create a structure of enduring beauty in the God-given wondrous background..." which they definitely accomplished!

more books, please...

as if stacks from the public library weren't enough, i also attended the friends of the library book sale at cannon beach. as a first-timer, i learned some tricks. 1) go early. you can get coffee later, this sale is not to be missed. if you just can't forego your morning java, there may only be books on breast feeding or barmitzvah's leftover, which is great if that's what you're looking for. to each his own...2) hit the fiction section. it's arranged alphabetically, at least until it turns into picked-over piles. there's some brand-new stuff there for $5 or under! 3) carry cash. the dear, sweet volunteers will gladly make change for you and 4) be kind. your bag will bump into people about 13.5 times on average while scooting between rows. balance that assertive reach of avarice with a modicum of gentility and all will be well. p.s. i just read annapurna potluri's first novel "the grammarian" and found it quite good. if you happen to check it out from the same library i did, sorry for the sand. hey, what can i say, it was a beautiful day for dune reading!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

being interruptable

the other evening a friend and i were going for a walk which took us by another friend's house. from the sidewalk, we could see her in her upstairs room, so we hollered up through the open window, "hey! want to come walking with us?" and she hollered back, "yeah, i'll be right down!" (imagine our honor when we learned she chose us over finishing her ironing). we had a fun visit and didn't have to try to "get it on the calendar". it reminded me that a very important aspect of community is the art of being interruptable, something i'll confess i'd like to be better at. i would like to incorporate more shades of this into my life, adding depth and variety to admittedly what are sometimes my two speeds: 1) on a mission and 2) hanging out (but when it's my idea). there are times, granted, not to be interruptable or we wouldn't get anything done. i would say that sometimes being able to stop what you're doing when it's not your idea is a close cousin to spontanaeity and, the more organized and efficient you are with your time, the more you can wing off on a moment's notice! i love this photo because it represents seizing the morning. i am so grateful for the 'interruptions of nature'. as the quote by pat clafford goes, "the work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won't wait while you finish the work."

Saturday, June 28, 2014


ok, i'm doing whatever i want. which, right now, because i can, is...reading. max watman is funny. his book "harvest: field notes from a far-flung pursuit of real food" chronicles his mishaps with hunting, raising beef (how to lose a steer in three easy steps), making cheese, keeping chickens (see also rage against racoons), gardening, fishing and pretty much everything that leaves him flummoxed in regards to sustainable eating. you've gotta respect the man's renaissance hands-on approach. he reminds me that i come from that long--and i would like to think effectual--line of teachers, pastors and farmers. and that each profession, having tried them all in my own small ways, have moments that make you wonder why it is, exactly, you do what you do? and moments--many more, i might add--of remembering why. gardening, like using watercolors, renders us a bit out of control. for a gal that likes her ducks in a row, i have to also admit that i do like not knowing exactly how things will turn out sometimes; for the same reason that i don't want a smart phone because i know that taking that wrong turn can actually end up finding a really great restaurant or being lost for a while can help you discover a great view you would otherwise have missed. so i paused after chapter five to go outside and survey the fruit of my own endeavors. farming, he says, is not a backyard picnic. he writes, for example, that you haven't really raised chickens until you've moved their lifeless body from the hen house with a vengeance for their predator. how could he have known that BEFORE i read that chapter, i had done the very same thing?! (although in our poor chicken's case it looked to be from natural causes. i made sure to double check that their coop door was tightly shut after sunset, though, just in case.) same with surveying my garden. after raising careful starts from seed in pods and transferring them to the ground, fussing over them for just the right balance of everything that makes carrots happy, i realize i have no idea what makes carrots happy. instead of three beautiful rows that i can share, i have three carrots. or, rather, three weird mounds of carrot-like things. this brings up the need to thin. thinning is the hard but necessary part of gardening shared only with the seeming brutuality of predator-prey in the wilderness that keeps species naturally balanced. while some rows show nothing where flourishing plants should be, in other places such as the sunflowers or cauliflower i have to pull up scores of perfectly good seedlings so they don't crowd out the others. ironic, also given that neglected compost can sprout volunteer plants healthy enough to rival jack's beanstalk while the expensive organic seeds sometimes don't come up at all. i get up and brush the dirt off my knees thinking it would be easier just to go to the farmer's market. but, like max writes, if i just went to the farmer's market, i wouldn't have dirt on my hands now would i and having dirt on my hands is and always has been a satisfying element of doing things myself since i was a little girl. i can't let someone else have all the fun of raising my food. it's, well, fulfilling. the tomatoes and spuds are doing fine, so i comfort myself with the fact that i will, at the very least, be able to cook and share those with people i love. which is why, i decided, i bother to do anything at all. pastoring? teaching? playing at being a farmer? because i love people. so yes, the rain falls and crops drown or dry up and some seeds take while others don't. maybe farmers are just reformed gamblers with seeds in hand instead of poker chips. there's no way to know and that's the beauty of the whole thing and the risk of what may come that's always worth it to me: harvest.

stack o' summer

it wouldn't be the season without a stack of materials from the library. as quoted to a friend, "when i'm in the library, i have three main sensations: an at-home feeling like anything is possible, excitement to learn and downright greed." here are some tomes i've just finished that you may want to look into: "snow" by maxenee fermine (lyric/fable), "maisie dobbs" by jacqueline winspear (detective fiction), "yellow eyes of crocodiles" by katherine pancol (fiction), "dinner: a love story" by jenny rosenstrach (cookbook), "a walk in the woods" by bill bryson (non-fiction), and "under the egg" by laura marx fitzgerald (young adult fiction). i also saw the movie "fault in our stars" based on the book i have yet to read by john green and it was very well rendered...tears at the beauty of it and only confirms the desire to live life 150%!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

POG and the kindness of strangers

wordnest girl became island girl during her first 12 days in oahu, hawaii! there being many things i could tell you about, ranging from marvel comic theme night at mormon family camp to making conversation with the AAA mechanic, real life and bliss collide into one perfect experience or, what bill bryson calls "low-level ecstacy, something we could all use a little more of in our lives." low-level, yes, because my heart is easily made glad, but also high-level, like my first view of kailua beach. i actually had to sit down and catch my breath. or my first time snorkeling which involved underwater beauty screams and no small amount of inhaled salt water. what really blew me away was the hospitality of my friend and her ohana, or hawaiian family. they drove me everywhere, 93 FM songs playing "new day" while we passed jack johnson's house, the dole plantation and famous surf beach pipeline. you don't have to be blood-related to be ohana and their first question before hanging out for hours to "talk story", or catch up on life, is always "have you eaten?" which of course they don't wait for you to answer. i'm a good eater, which i think they enjoyed by the way they ordered and bought me my first sweet pork and rice, POG (passion fruit, orange, guava juice), introduced me to taro, delicious poke (raw tuna), papaya, butter mochi (deep quote of the week, "butter mochi. it's really...buttery"), boiled peanuts, apple bananas, acai bowls and, believe it or not, spam. the eating tour of the island proved delicious: high-end, low-end, it didn't matter, it was GOOD. and then there was the kindness of strangers: take your time, do you need a ride to the beach?, have the rest of the time on my parking meter, i'll be your snorkel buddy, do you have dinner plans? on the flight home i had already consumed all my reading material, so the man in the seat next to me gave me his copy of bill bryson's "walk in the woods" and wrote their address in it, in case i was ever in australia. hospitality, food, books...speaking my universal language.

Friday, June 6, 2014

artist's journal workshop...

...creating your life in words and pictures (by cathy johnson) is as essential to summer as drink rimmer and spf! i love that the author makes a distinction between artist journals and art journals. there is a lot of material out there about art journals: altered books, calligraphy, steam punk, stamps, scraps, etc. but an artist journal, "a personal journal kept by the creative person that is you. you are an artist and a fully rounded, creative human being with plans, questions, answers, needs and goals, both ordinary and sublime. you explore, you respond, you worry, you delight in the moment--you run out of tea or eggs or need to remember a phone number or what happened at the meeting you attended--into the journal it goes! did you know that the word 'journal' originally was meant to describe a trip, a day-to-day record of travels, outward or inward?"

all the more tender

every time i'm in the kitchen lately for some reason this phrase keeps going through my mind, "things keep cooking long after they're heated". as far as i can tell it's nothing i read or even consciously was thinking about. it's just there when i'm stirring or simmering, reminding me that less is more. when i'm in a hurry, i forget this and put something back in the oven hurriedly or zap it again in the microwave. it tends to dry out or become overdone. but when i'm patient, i simply remove food from the heat source and put a lid on it for a while, allowing time for it to finish cooking from the inside-out. it turns out perfectly! it's no surprise that the most tender meats, for example, are marinated for a minimum of 24 hours and baked slowly at a lower temperature. i remember the best Thanksgiving turkey i ever had was my cousin Gloria's. she's from south america and knows how to take her time. the meat was perfectly basted with olive oil, rosemary, sage, and thyme; moist and tender like i've never tasted before. it's like that with any meaningful practice in our lives, too. i find myself grateful that God is patient enough with me to take things deeply and slowly--as He does with things that really matter--baking me and you, if you will, in His love mercifully at a lower temperature so we can handle it and for often a longer time than we might have thought of. but, once you taste the dish there's no going back, you never want to rush the process again! even 10 minutes a day of mindful awareness/breath prayers is known to change brain chemistry for the better, calm the body and bring perspective. just 10 minutes!? worries dissipate, gratitude comes to the surface, the heart stays soft and seasoned in spite of or even because of the challenging opportunities of the day. things that used to dry me out or overdo me fall away and i am left all the more tender. because things keep cooking long after they're heated.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

the liturgists

these guys are worth taking a listen to: particularly "vapor", as it is very perspective-giving!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

ann b. davis

(another moment of silence please for the funniest brady bunch housekeeper...ever!) yes, folks, wordnest has digressed to this...but you've got to admit it beats following the kardashians. maybe i need some stronger cold medicine.

under the tuscan sun

sometimes you just have to watch "under the tuscan sun" again. (see also woman who never intended to buy a run-down tuscan villa). thank you, frances mayes, for putting ideas into my head...they go nicely with the books i'm reading, "blood, bones & butter: the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef" by gabrielle hamilton (i never intended to open a restaurant) and "breathless: an american girl in paris" by nancy miller (how did a nice jewish girl end up here?). so, along those lines, would it surprise you to know that i discovered artist residencies everywhere from italy to oregon that will feed, house and pay you to write and draw?! or that there really is a chateau for sale in the south of france right now. a gorgeous, once-in-a-lifetime fully designed and operative yoga retreat center. no kidding, you can look it up right now. funny, they don't list the price. guess i'll have to go check it out in person...

Saturday, May 31, 2014

adult conversation, please...

i am, no exaggeration, starved for adult conversation. being a teacher K-6 plus middle school means that for 8 hours a day 5 days a week i am surrounded by monosyllabic grunting, bad lighting, screaming, lunch garbage, thuds of unknown origin, repeated locker pounding followed closely by slamming and screaming that sounds like it's coming from a girl but could just as easily be from a 6th grade boy, and the occasionally recognizable words ending in 'aguuughaha'. (love them dearly but i've gotta say i'm glad there's only 5 more days.) at the end of the day i have sensory overload and have put out a lot of energy but i personally have not had much, if any, meaningful interaction at my level and not much life-giving energy has come to me unless i have the energy to initiate and make it happen. so i have taken up talking to myself. a scary amount. what's scarier is the conversations make sense and are getting longer and longer. they're somewhat interesting, even, if i do say so myself. art, philosophy, goals, contemplative prayer, biking, egg farming, dreams & passions, music, books and culture. like today, for example, while i was talking to myself i dictated a random list of things for myself to write down that i want to do and places i want to go. things i want to make: wood coring for candles, painted canvas in beach colors, clothespin trivet (ala scandinavian style), encaustics, glass fusing and shrinky dink jewelry! (remember shrinky dinks?!)and support my pottery friend's work at Solabee's (shameless promotion here). i want to eat at the Joel Palmer House in McMinnville (known for their black truffle oil), try Buvette restaurant in NYC, and Beach Plum at Martha's Vineyard. i want to sit out under the patio lights at Babica Hen while the sun goes down while sipping sweet red wine under a string of lights surrounded by candles. i want to learn to build a small house. and decorate a vacation cabin with those clean-looking natural rugs you can drag your bare feet on while surrounded by white linen and turkish towels. from magazines i learned that you can eat the pea shoot part of the plants too (and recipes for doing so), that putting kale in a dehydrator better preserves the nutritional value of said vegetable, and how to make a balsamic glaze reduction to pour over strawberry icecream. i want to make candied lemon and orange peels and buy a ridiculously expensive red Le Creuset pan that i can use for life. i want to open my home and property every Sunday night from 3-6 for parties where other grown ups come and have smart, interesting and meaningful conversational soirees until the stars and desserts come out because no one is in a rush and no one wants to go home. this is all if i were queen of the world, you see...

au naturelle

all things natural. it's time to be barefoot, i say, and feel the ground beneath your feet; look around and see what nature has to offer; listen...taste and see...i am barefoot right now and i'm appreciating that in less than an 11-mile radius i can both grow and buy fresh produce, wine, olive oil, and farm fresh cheese. natural. i love that, instead of medicine when i have a cold, i can eat all the fruit and vegetables i want as my own prescription and draw a bath with salts and a rosemary/lavendar herb mixture picked from outside my door. (i'm chasing my cough away with a ginger, honey, lime & sriracha drink as i type...i think it will kill my germs if it doesn't kill me first...but it was free--as opposed to the lotus vegan places sporting names like "the green goddess" who would charge $12 for such a concoction...but i digress. it's the end of the teaching marathon, i get at least one blogging digression per entry) anyway, it's seriously beautiful out. while not feeling 100%, my sleep pattern has become ridiculously early to bed and up before dawn, which i quite like. the other early, early morning i had the sharp clear thoughts that you can only really have at 3:00 am and i wanted to write them down before they slipped away with the clamor of the day. at around 4:00 am i noticed the bird-song outside the window just going wild which reminded me a lot of faith: feeling the light and singing before you can see it. i would like this kind of faith. again, it seems natural. i can walk out into the yard and check on my garden, give it a little to the chickens while i let them out to forage, eat lettuce straight from the raised beds. this is where the springs run clear and the stars come out freely, where i think my best thoughts and soak up rich silence like an oasis for the calm passion and wise action that life requires. naturally, from the inside out and back again.