Thursday, December 31, 2015

fun

my wild new year party?  reading a nourishing book (elizabeth gilbert's "big magic:  creative living beyond fear") and eating warm, comforting vegetables (olive oil, onion, bok choy, zucchini, yellow squash, mushroom, tomato, cayenne pepper, fresh oregano).

what better way to celebrate than to type up some just plain fun things about the last year as i look forward to more whole-hearted living in 2016.  here's 20 things that i just really enjoyed:

1)  spice:  turmeric
2) place:  manhattan, new york
3) beauty supply:  coconut oil
4) practice:  asking store clerks, "how is your day?" and listening to their response
5) lifestyle:  4-on/3-off workweeks (revolutionary, i tell you!)
6) art tool:  white pigment pen
7) restaurant:  burrasca italian, portland
8) food:  mussels in saffron and garlic sauce
9) book/magazine:  "creative confidence" by tom & david kelly/"1859" (all about oregon)
10) sports: a three-way tie between bike commuting, kayaking and T@b trailer camping
11) winery:  domaine drouhin, dundee (or the one in france)
12) local store:  nw fresh seafood
13) gym:  first street yoga
14) event:  abbey music festival
15) movie:  "brooklyn"
16) painting:  corot's french village (pictured here) i just stood and stared at it in the getty museum
17) song:  "you matter to me" duet with sara bareilles and jason mraz from "the waitress" musical soundtrack
18) housewares:  le creuset pan (currently containing the aforementioned comforting vegetables)
19) spa:  salt therapy
20) quote:  "reading, the lifelong pursuit which made one more temperate as well as more loving and kind."--from nina george's "the little paris bookshop"

resolution?  to have even more fun next year (is that possible?!) i'm willing to give it a try...what are a few of your most enjoyable things?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

good reads

each year about this time i look forward to typing up my reading list!  this year, i did it online. 

goodreads.com also has a free app for smartphones, which means i can carry my list with me and have it handy when people at dinner or work or bookstores ask what i've been reading lately.  no more stammering around or forgetting authors when i'm at the library.

plus, you can easily connect to review and recommend books to each other.

drumroll, please...i read 86 books this year, which is over 21,000 pages. 

to see my list and/or create yours, you can visit:  http://www.goodreads.com

happy reading!

optimism: a bold kind of wonderful

aging is something, if we're fortunate, that we all have in common.  to do it well, i embarked on a quest to ask those at least twice my current age what were the bravest things they've done, how do they keep moving forward and what is the secret to their resilience?

here are my findings...

at 91, "R" lives in his own house, tends his flower garden and makes sure to stick to a routine.  three times a week he has lunch with young people and focuses on helping others find the opportunities amid challenges.  in his own words, "you tend to become like the people you spend time with, i feel that spending a lot of time with young people has kept me from aging as much as i might have otherwise."  

"L", 83, volunteers at a large-scale museum.  the bravest thing she has ever done?  "my husband likes to stay home and i like to travel, so bravest thing?  going to china without him, in a group...that was the bravest thing i've ever done."  she still drives in LA traffic.  at one point she lost what she calls her "car confidence".  "i just told myself, 'you will keep driving' and not stopping to think about my fears keeps my confidence going behind the wheel."  

a three-time breast cancer survivor, "J", age 80, said that her resilience comes from just continuing to move forward.  she doesn't dwell on the negative but embraces challenges with a smile.  "always just keep smiling, no matter what", she shared, "my last surgery?  i went in smiling and i was back to work the next day." 

of at least four others i talked with, i noticed that it's good habits, built up over the years, that come back to reward them.  the list includes, but is by no means limited to:  eating raw foods, meditation, yoga/zumba/gym, reading & book clubs, travel, and keeping up with the latest movies and music...all of which have most helped them to stay interested and curious.

dwelling on the positive has been shown to have these results at any age:

1) you're likely to feel optimistic
2) you could live longer
3) you may feel less physical pain
4) your relationships may feel more meaningful
5) you'll possibly catch fewer colds
6) you may even exercise more
7) your heart could grow stronger

so happy new year, everyone, and may you feel the bold kind of wonderful that comes with looking for good in 2016.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

12 days of christmas (teacher style)

on the twelfth day of christmas, my students gave to me...

12 kindergarten hugs
11 candy canes
10 hand-drawn pictures
9  paper snowflakes
8  sharpie markers
7  clementines
6  bags of peppermint bark
5  starbucks cards
4  christmas mugs
3  hand lotion bottles
2  hot chocolates
1  crafty elf hat


Saturday, December 12, 2015

all aglow

overheard in my kindergarten art class this week:

"and this is where i put in baby Jesus...and I drawed this...this tree and everything is yellow, here because Jesus is light and makes nature glow!"

Monday, December 7, 2015

baby, it's cold outside

and these are about that size--to fit a baby, that is.

i learned to make french embroidery knots today to decorate these ornaments (made out of felted wool sweaters).

as my grandmother used to say, "stay cozy, eh?"  and, i might add, stay cozy in style...

poem for advent

whole hearted

"look, look up at the stars, look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!"
--gerard manley hopkins

should you begin to hum
streams and creeks would
coax you on, timorous for
the thrill and thrum in time
with your own heart

          vulnerable

will you then let the song feel you
like a metal bowl rung round in cupped hands
wants to vibrate with your chords
as rivers pouring into seas?

          uncertain

and while you might pretend not
to be dancing, constellations pulse
eager witnesses overseeing all
that you have yet to be

          worthy

ls 12.6.15

the little paris bookshop

a great quote and word from my latest read by nina george (the whole thing is great, if i were to quote everything to you that i like, i would end up reading the entire book out loud)...that is to say, i give it five stars! 

"reading, an endless journey that made one more temperate as well as more loving and kind."

"saudade:  a yearning for one's childhood, when the days would merge into one another and the passing of time was no consequence...it is the sense of being loved so completely...a unique experience of abandon.  it is everything that words cannot capture."


Friday, December 4, 2015

the nesting place

what's the book pile next to my christmas tree?  i'm glad you asked!

currently, my stack includes "the little paris bookshop" by nina george, "lisette's list" by susan vreeland, "etta, otto, russell and james" by emma hooper and "nesting place" by myquillyn smith.

the latter is actually a decorating book with the subtitle of "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful" and you can read more on her blog at:   the nesting place


Friday, November 27, 2015

brooklyn

this is a fabulous movie about an irish immigrant in the 1950's. "brooklyn" is based on the novel by colm toibin and does a remarkable job of showing the main character's gradual coming of age between her life in ireland and new york.

the director did a very good job of letting you feel her tension between countries and family loyalties without giving her ultimate choice away.

beautifully filmed, i highly recommend this movie and am going to add the book to my library list.

french connection

i didn't know...that we get the word "denim" from when the fabric was first manufactured in Nimes; de Nimes (of/from Nimes) and hence the word denim.

i also didn't know that the days of the week in french stood for planets:  lundi (moon), mardi (mars), mercredi (mercury), jeudi (jupiter), vendredi (venus) and samedi (saturn).  dimanche (sunday = Lord's day).

it makes sense when you think about it, but i had never made the french connection before!  i wonder what other historic meanings are beneath common words and phrases.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

fusing glass

with great excitement, i took my first glass fusing class last night! practically having the teacher all to ourselves, it was fun to be on the student side of the art instruction.  i listened to the differences in types of glass and the instructions before diving in to create my own piece.

glass is a fascinating medium; at once brittle and yet strong, able to be molten, opaque or letting the light through in nothing less than dazzling ways.

i learned about frit and temperatures and new ways to design virtually anything!  and i'd like to go back and do it again.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

stuffed

i'm already thinking about the stuffing mom makes for thanksgiving and christmas; that we eat and that she saves for me in a separate container because i rave about it so!

here it is:
1 cup butter
3/4 cup minced onion
1-1/2 cups chopped celery
1-1/2 tsp crushed sage leaf
1 tsp thyme
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
7 cups bread cubes
3 cups finely chopped apples
3/4 cup raisins

melt butter in a large skillet.  saute onion and celery until tender.  add seasonings.  add 3 cups of the bread crumbs and toss to coat evenly.  add rest of the bread cubes, chopped apples and raisins.  transfer to large casserole dish and bake for at least 30 minutes at 350.  savory goodness!

i love the art of cooking and trying new recipes.  next up?  mussels with fennel, orange and creme fraiche!

design thinking for your day: focus on what's working

i had the privilege of sharing aspects of "design thinking" at a workshop with our school staff this week.  the basic underlying premise being that creativity is a birthright for everyone, including but not limited to, those with artistic talent and skill.

one tenant of creative problem solving that i've gotten to practice lately is focusing on what's working.  i am naturally a person who sees the glass as half-full and is able to turn most everything into something good, but at the same time, i am human and have to practice (i don't have a big list of pet peeves, for example, but i will admit to being mildly vexed by the following:  lumps of baking soda in muffins, stepping in water after donning warm and fuzzy socks...oh, and when you just get over 300 children quietly settled for an assembly only to have the guest speaker think it'd be cool to get them riled up, "how are you today kids?  i can't hear you! i said how are you doing?!" until all hundreds of them feel suddenly invited to scream at the top of their lungs.  yes, mildly and humorously vexing, all.)

i'm pretty convinced that it's not the big things in life that test our character, it's the little things.  "never was there a philosopher who could patiently endure a toothache," as some have said. 

recently i hurt my knee and my finger.  neither injury too serious, but enough to slow me down.  it was tempting to focus on what i couldn't do because i really missed riding my bike.  the healing came faster, however, when i got more in touch with my body and listened to what was working.  i could, for example, walk UP the stairs.  i could do modified yoga poses.  i could stretch and take gentle walks.  i think because i'm used to everything working perfectly, i run the risk of taking things for granted or being a bad patient because i haven't had to suffer anything truly difficult health-wise.  how we focus on what's working with the little things will be a good indicator about how we face the big things.

(along this note, i know it's fairly popular to bash the health care system right now, but i just have to say how grateful i am for the doctors, nurses and pharmacists who helped me when i needed them.  thank you!)

so from the mild annoyances of the day to global concerns, let's tap into our collective design thinking and find what's working well and seek to make it even better.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

keep on singin'

i was also introduced to two new vocalists this week:  meg hutchinson (folk) and liz vice (gospel/pop).  liz was written up in the most recent edition of oregon's "1859" magazine.  following a kidney transplant in 2005, she sings now in what she calls her "bonus life" with a voice of confidence and clarity, celebrating what is good and elemental about life.

for a sample of meg hutchinson, go to full of light
liz's song "there's a light" can be listened to at portland soundcheck

darling distraction

i love beautiful papers.  i noticed a new local line called "darling distraction" that i thought i would share here.  karina lopez loves paper too, so a year ago she decided to open her own shop in portland.

her ideas grew from her not being able to find the just-right images and messages she wanted to send, so she made them herself!  a resourcefulness that is no less than a lovely addition to modern correspondence.

see more at darling distraction papers


city of light

as a lover of all things french, i'm pausing to honor paris and lift up their citizens...may they have light in the midst of darkness.  paix.

Friday, November 13, 2015

letters as art

so close...i was so close to getting to take a workshop from celebrated calligraphy artist timothy botts!

as it turns out, there was one person ahead of me on the waiting list and i can't imagine anyone canceling on this opportunity.

second to donald jackson, the queen of england's calligrapher, timothy is someone i would like to learn from.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

a man called ove


 here are my two latest reads, both by frederik backman (a swedish blogger).  i don't know, but it seems to me that backman writes with a knowledge beyond his years, as if both books are based on stories from someone he knew.  how else could he create such laugh-out-loud humor and heartbreaking tenderness at once? maybe he's just that talented.

i liked the character ove immediately and, in fact, started to forget that he was fictional in favor of wishing he was real!  i couldn't wait to get back to my bookmark, thinking to myself, "i wonder what ove is up to!", having to remind myself that i couldn't just go round to the neighborhood, knock on his door and ask him myself.   the book gave me several belly laughs and i also shed a few little tears as i turned pages over a cup of tea.

backman's second novel is different, but just as unique in voice and characterization as the first.  he weaves together granny and elsa's secret language and fairy tales with reality in such innovative style...sweet without every being saccharine and realistic while still being hopeful.

i don't want to give too much away here, i think you may enjoy just reading them for yourself!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

hygge

here is a great word, just in from an alert reader, that can help prepare us for winter!  it's "hygge" and is danish for an overall sense of well-being.

more specifically, it has to do with a mindset of coziness, of being together.  danes are known as the happiest people on the planet and much of that comes with their collective practice of not rushing, of lighting candles and knowing how to really be together as friends and family.

hyggeligt can be an adjective or a noun, as in a place that is known for stopping and resting.  i don't know about you, but this word helps me look forward to the colder months!  what are some ways you can hygge and join the happiest country on earth?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

sesame + lilies

one of my favorite stores at cannon beach is sesame + lilies.  they have everything from french antiques and leather goods to fine perfumes and linens. 

the other day i happened upon a book of essays and opened it to discover that their store had the same name as some writings of john ruskin.  he wrote "sesame and lilies" about the treasuries of kings and beauty of queens.

ruskin (1819-1900), an english art critic during the victorian era, was a prolific author.  he wrote on a vast array of subjects including geology, architecture, botany and economics.  he himself was a patron of the arts as well as a watercolor artist and philanthropist. 

the owners of sesame + lilies were featured in a recent cannon beach travel magazine and so i emailed them about the connection between their store and john ruskin.  sure enough, the naming was as intentional as their merchandising choices and lovely home on the oregon coast.

to learn more about their store, you can visit sesame + lilies

Thursday, October 15, 2015

more design thinking for your day

while i do enjoy making things i have a certain level of skill in, i learn so much more when i create in a foreign medium!

like the time i took a welding lesson from a friend of mine who is a master.  every step was a huge learning curve for me.  he is a great teacher and even found good things to say about my "finished product" which was too kind for what i ended up with.

or the time i learned to drill candle-sized holes in wood for christmas gifts.  a different, but again very patient teacher.  he got an ice pack for me when i thought i had nearly cut my thumb off.  (turns out, i just badly bruised the nail).  

creative thinking says "take up an interest in something you know nothing about".  so in the spirit of that, i signed up for a glass fusing class.  i'll let you know how it goes!  

what is outside your realm of expertise that you've been wanting to try?  go for it and tell us the story...

Monday, October 12, 2015

another day

being human, we hold this tension:  being at once amazing one-of-a-kind creatures of inestimable value with flashes of eternity inside our bones AND living daily life shared with billions of others just like us on the planet.

we walk this line between living each moment and appreciating it as if it were our last AND the routine of living and knowing we'll probably keep right on eating, sleeping, shopping, driving, cleaning and cooking (and doing all those things that are never done and come back around again and again) for hopefully a very long and enjoyable time here.  i thought about all of this in early morning while pruning back the old raspberry canes for fall to make room for the new shoots.

for example, there was this amazing sunset last night and, when i was out and about, i looked over to see what i thought was a lady capturing it with her camera.  this gave a feeling of universal kinship with nature until, upon closer inspection, i noticed she was actually taking a selfie with her phone while smoking a cigarette in front of a thrift store.  it didn't make the sunset any less amazing, i just wish she would have noticed it because i think it might have made her feel happy and connected.

mary oliver, a living poet with whom i do feel a kinship with nature, writes, "Lord, when i sleep, i feel You near.  when i wake, and You are already wiping the stars away, i rise quickly, hoping to be like Your wild child the rose, the honey-maker the honey-vine; a bird shouting its joy as it floats through the gift you have given us:  another day."

and so i agree, thank you for the stuff of stars in our skin and breath, the holiness in our chores and the feathers in our plodding; the incredible lightness of being that comes with being tethered here awhile.  and so this wild child greets another day!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

flash fiction

if it's my lucky day, i run into one of my favorite college literature professors in the aisles of our local grocery store.  i start smiling when i see his signature bandana and wire-rimmed glasses seconds before he waves me over for a warm hug and eager book banter.

last time, in the dairy aisle as it happened, he told me about a genre that was new to me called "flash fiction" so i checked a book of it out from the library.

flash fiction, or wei xing xiao shuo in chinese, is truncated short stories, anywhere from half a page to two pages maximum.  some would think it is easier to write.  i, however, think that it takes extreme skill and economy of language to craft a compelling tale in so little space.  here's what authors have to say:

"the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."  mark twain

"every sentence, every phrase, every word has to fight for its life."  crawford kilian

"the letter i have written today is longer than usual because i lacked the time to make it shorter."  blaise pascal

"the soul's distinct connection with immortality is best disclosed by danger or quick calamity--as lightning on a landscape exhibits sheets of place--not yet suspected, but for flash, and click and suddenness."  emily dickinson

if you think you don't have room in your busy schedule to read, pick up a book of short stories or flash fiction tales!  you'll have already read several in the time it takes you to warm up your coffee.

play

"after the rain"
adults:  take a lesson from the kids in your life and remember to play! 

(this week, for example, i let my art students have 45 minutes to design by arranging geometric blocks, puzzles and shape toys in order to help with their logo project).

realizing my own brain had been very adult and very efficient for several weeks and in need of rest, i decided play would be a good idea for me too.  so i got together with a friend yesterday to create just for fun and this was the result!

good things can happen when we don't take life too seriously...

Friday, October 9, 2015

design thinking for your day

creative thinkers know that it's not WHAT happens to us that matters as much as HOW we think about what happens.

and researchers know that our brains are flexible enough to move from fixed mindsets (that will never work...) to growth mindsets (i wonder how i might...)

routine elements + radical thinking = innovation

everything from your morning commute and cup of coffee to leftovers in the fridge and every day challenges are opportunities for creativity and invention.

just for today, take something that happened and reframe it.  for example, "there was a traffic accident on the way to work that slowed me down" into "it was nice to be able to have the time to look around and watch the sunrise."

you're still in touch with reality (the accident) but more likely to attach a positive emotion to the memory (the sunrise)!


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Saturday, October 3, 2015

what i do is me

i have to say i'm really savoring the results of my leap to work 4 days a week!  it was scary at first, filled with "shoulds" and "oughts" that have given way to "musts" and "enjoys".  counter-intuitively, by following my passions, i am actually making more income and have more time than before to devote to my values without having to sacrifice one important thing for another.

on paper i didn't think i could afford to work less.  my inner compulsion spoke truth to me, however, that i couldn't afford NOT to.  the difference being i wasn't willing to sacrifice precious time on the planet:  THIS IS YOUR LIFE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE kept speaking up until i listened and took action.

it was scary and took time.  my heart nearly pounded out of my chest when i approached my boss with the proposal last year.  and i haven't regretted it since.  in fact, i thought, "why didn't i do this sooner?"

for example, i have time to:  try a new yoga class, cook healthy colorful meals, meet people for coffee, sketch, see my family, kayak, play, write cards & letters, discover new markets, run my miniature household and budget efficiently, pray, read, write, think, create, rest AND work.  i find that not only am i more energetic at my day job, but i am more productive and creative, taking my whole self to work and home again without feeling splintered apart.

gerard manley hopkins said it first in poem form, "what i do IS me, for that i came", making no distinction between what we do flowing out of a whole sense of personhood.

the book pile that is currently contributing to better and more creative ways of thinking for me?  "the crossroads of should and must" by elle luna and "creative confidence" by tom and david kelley.

a just-for-fun read that i highly recommend:  "the jm barrie ladies' swimming society" by barbara j. zitwar who put a lot of herself into the novel for five years, basing it also on the author of peter pan.  she weaves the power of girlfriends, architecture and a love story together in such a gracious way i wanted to see it turned into a movie!

what "should" can you cross off your list to make room for a passionate "must" in your life & where might that sweet spot take you?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

pietra viva: living rock

pietra viva
isaiah 26:4

we circle, like swifts
dart
scattered at first
calling for our own
then gather in ever widening
swirls
faster
vortex before--initated
by one--we dive, spill
into the opening in the
rock
cling to the sides and

rest

ls 9.21.15

Saturday, September 19, 2015

portland timbre

where else but portland can you walk down the street with a marmalade and olive oil ice cream flavor named after the new orange light rail line?

and where else can you cross the street to find a group spontaneously singing only to find out they are your own local portland treble makers? (this is a photo of ian).

these guys are good!  i overheard them doing a sort of sidewalk audition for a local producer and a friend of theirs handed us a business card.

for more go to portland timbre

migration of the swift

added to my "list of things to do in portland" is the annual swift migration.  every year from september 1-30th since 1982 thousands of swifts make their way to chapman elementary school's chimney in nw portland to roost for the evening.

swifts, difficult to distinguish from swallows and bats, have unique tail "hooks" that enable them to roost vertically.  later in october they will start migrating south to mexico, guatemala and western honduras.

vaux swifts are named after william sansome vaux (1811-1882) an american mineralologist and friend of john kirk townsend, a noted orinthologist of the day.  townsend first described the vaux's swift for science and named it for his friend.  the scientific name is Chaetura vauxi.

and what an event!  people ate cheese and bread while children slid down the hill on cardboard, all anticipating the vortex of birds.  at first a few flitted by and then seemed to fly in large circles, gathering and gathering until they began to fly in a coordinated whorl.  the swifts circled until one finally took the lead down into the chimney.  they poured in to the cheers of all gathered.

an especially sweet fact about this event is that in 2001 the chapman school heating system was converted from oil to natural gas with a new chimney installed for the gas furnace which preserved the old chimney especially for the swifts.  the audobon society has been instrumental in educating chapman students and staff to better understand their avian neighbors who have chosen them as the largest swift roosting site in the nation.

pictures and progress

my brain loves connections.  especially the kind i could never come up with on my own!  i am compelled to tell you what i learned this week and, more importantly, how the sequence of events came together.

i was reading in "the rise:  creativity, the gift of failure and the search for mastery" by sarah lewis.  in the chapter about beauty, error and justice, she described frederick douglass and his efforts to abolish slavery.  along with abraham lincoln during civil war times, douglass sought justice.  rather than employ more violence, douglass believed in the power of an image to speak to people.  he elaborated on this idea in his 1863 speech "pictures and progress", saying that man is essentially the only picture-making creature and that artists, poets and reformers can use pictures to show what is in light of what ought to be, therefore inspiring people to bridge the gap between the two.  his examples were overcrowded slave ships and actual slaves, giving them names and faces.  lewis went on to talk about what happens to us when we are transfixed by such an image.

later in the evening, this very thing happened to me!  while online, i chanced to come across an image related to the work of photographer brian sokol entitled "the most important thing".  sokol has photographed modern-day refugees holding their most treasured item.  one woman's face imprinted on my mind and i sat tansfixed--as i had read about earlier in the day--by this image.

it is of 22 year-old dowla barik, a refugee from south sudan pictured with two of her six children.  her shoulder basket is her most important thing because it enabled her to carry all of her children in rotation when they became too tired to walk on their own. she carried them two at a time in such a way for ten days.
 
it reminded me of another poignantly symbolic image:  that of lady justice.  even though being forced to leave her home is unjust in the extreme, i see in dowla's posture and countenance a certain kind of strength and peace; happiness even at being able to save her children. the child to her right looks up at her adoringly, while the other gazes into the camera.

 i couldn't help but wonder what else the refugees behind the photos were thinking.  what if i had been born in dowla's place and she in mine?  what do you see in her face and how else might we use the power of pictures for common good?

Monday, September 14, 2015

literary arts

i just discovered oregon public broadcasting's literary arts archive project. i really enjoy listening to authors talk about their books and ideas, and the tickets are worth it, but when i can't otherwise afford to attend those events, this means i can listen to great authors speak for free!

"...the archive project features lectures by the world's most influential writers, artists and thinkers.  with over 250 original lectures by the most creative and articulate minds of our generation, these discussions offer special moments between world-famous authors and our local literary community."

three ways to listen:  1) tune in to opb radio wednesdays at 9:00 pm 2) listen online at literary-arts.org/archives 3) stream on iTunes by searching for "literary arts".

(if you listen to one and feel like commenting here on my blog, we could start an online literary discussion!)


tilikum crossing

portland has a new bridge!  tilikum crossing, a cable-stayed pedestrian and light rail bridge, opened saturday along with a new orange max line.  it's the first bridge in our city since 1973 at 180 feet tall and 1,720 feet long. 

the name tilikum is chinook for people, family or friend and honors the tribes who lived here as well as joining the west and east sides of the city in new ways. 

i went to the opening light show and the colors are timed to the river's temperature, speed and depth.

what an example of functional AND beautiful!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

autentica toscana and other galavanting episodes

and now i dare you to read this entry without drooling!  i took myself on a progressive italian evening and did as europeans do:  ate smaller quantities of high quality food slowly.  as much as i love to share experiences (and plan to return with friends!) it is also fun to dine alone because then focusing on the meal is your sole task.

i approached the door to burrasca just as the waiter was flipping the sign from chiuso (closed) to aperto (open).  i ordered a double espresso with milk at a corner table where i could watch the kitchen.  the gnocchi  was divine.  so heavenly in fact, that i took care with each of them as if they were the only one.  i cut them into quarters and twirled them in the sage butter like a holy ritual.  i took at least 20 minutes to eat seven of them in this fashion.

as i left, i found the chef (pictured here with my very meal) and told him, "this probably isn't my last meal on earth, but if it was, i would die a happy woman.  you know how to cook!"  at which he patted his heart and said, "ah, that means so much that you would say so!"

it was only fitting that i would drive a few blocks to another autentica toscana experience for dessert at pinolo gelateria whose owner is also italian.  pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate together in one place?  sigh.  yes, it's true.

it's fun to plan theme-based galavanting.  what do you most want to do and i'll plan it for you?!

beethoven meets baptiste

a musical duo i've just learned about brings fans of both beethoven and jay z together under one roof!

kevin sylvester and wil baptiste have performed together for over ten years.  in their act "black violin", the classically-trained violin and viola duo fuse elements of hip-hop and classical music along with rock, r & b, and bluegrass.

i dare you to watch the following video without dancing along!  black violin's "brandenburg" video

hey marseilles

i've found a great band i want to watch grow up:  hey marseilles.  a group of five guys from seattle, they interchange vocals, guitars, keyboard, viola and cello seemingly effortlessly and have a lot of fun in the process.

i heard them at mississippi studios and the opening band was a group from los angeles called wildling who also had some fun rhythms going on.  i would say as a crowd, we were a fairly clean-cut group of all ages, ranging from 20-somethings to retirees, which i found to be an interesting aspect of the event.

turns out the lead singer for hey marseilles is the cousin of a friend of mine, so that was a fun small-world connection too.

i think my favorite part of their music was the interchange of the strings.  i found myself mesmerized watching the cellist's fingers and identifying with the violist as he and his instrument danced together.

for more about them, see www.heymarseilles.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

black beauty

it's been fun to reread an old classic that i discovered as a girl:  black beauty by anna sewell. (most recently snatched from our school library in a book-less fit of desperation!)  i wish the back cover said more about the author.  it states only that she was, "...born in 1820 in norfolk, england.  black beauty:  the autobiography of a horse was published in 1877; sewell died in 1878.  *it was her only book."

*personally, i think it's great that a woman in the 1800's published a book at all; i know i for one would be happy to author even one novel.  given that she lived 58 years, i hope she enjoyed knowledge and celebration of publication in her 57th year.

that the novel is from the perspective of the horse is part of what makes it classic to me.  black beauty narrates all manner of thing i've wondered about horses, including what it was like for horses in wars, something i've always cared about, wishing more credence was given to them in that regard.

sewell obviously understood horses and that comes through in her writing.  reading it for a second time made me want to know more about her and her equestrian skills...i also wish she wrote a sequel!  if you could pick one book from your childhood to reread, which one would you choose?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

nw nature

an interesting article came out in the paper recently about the northwest, nature and spirituality.

it was discussing the link between nature and experiencing spirituality, essentially, and people's patterns of church attendance who live in more lush, natural landscapes.

the author included a poem which i will reprint here, which uncannily echoed a poem i wrote a few months and several posts ago.

forgive me that i cannot kneel and worship in this pew,
for i have knelt in western dawns, when the stars were large and few,
and the only fonts God gave me were the deep leaves filled with dew
and so it is i worship best with only the soft air about me,
and the sun's warm gold upon my brow and hair;
for then my very heart and soul mount
upward in swift prayer.

--ella higginson

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

confessions of a book eater

my name is lanette and i eat books.  i don't know what it is, but the more i read, the faster i seem to go.  i'm not setting out to speed read and i have no need to go faster, it's just that books that used to last me a few days are now start-to-finish in an afternoon or less.

i've read 26 books since school let out, including 4 this week.  ("our endless numbered days" by claire fuller which i really did not care for:  alarmist father takes daughter to live in the woods telling her it's the end of the world and this is the only way they can survive. meh. "light of the world" a memoir by elizabeth alexander whose writing i found to be lovely. poetic.  "magonia" by maria headley:  a fantastical earth-sky young adult fiction read. imaginative. and "the sunlit night" by rebecca dinerstein about unlikely love on a remote norwegian island. cultural.)

yes, i taste and even devour books.  nestled between mismatched couch pillows, legs dangling...by fountains in between people-watching...on coffee shop porches measured by sips...in waiting rooms at dentist and medical offices...at car servicing lobbies...this is where my consumption occurs.  this is all mostly from the library, mind you, me gratefully chomping through titles almost faster than they can come in for free.  i even resell my own books in hopes of used bookstore credit for those few gems that simply must be owned, reread and loaned.

this is to say nothing of the morning i woke up, made my french press coffee as usual and opened a mystery thriller, thinking i'd just read a few chapters.  at 4:00 in the afternoon i was still in my favorite striped cotton pyjamas finishing compulsively "whodunnit", surrounded by cold coffee, an apple core and plates with crumbs i don't remember eating from; my own list of chores, exercise and daily tasks still undone. what were you thinking says the responsible adult within?!

guilt-assuaging book lover answers back:  remember when you would read like that as a young girl--legs propped up on a tree or bookshelf or on a sagging air mattress after a summer backyard campout--pouring through all of the nancy drew and hardy boys books in a row, begging your mom to take you back to the library until there weren't any more left in either series?  so yes, it's ok--at any age--to spend the better part of a day eating a good book.

Monday, August 10, 2015

bridge pedal


my friend and i, along with 18,000 other cyclists of all ages, rode 35 miles across portland's 11 bridges!

what was especially fun about pedaling it this year was being among the first to use the newest pedestrian and commuter bridge, Tilikum Crossing.

it only seemed fitting that we ended up parking our bikes in front of one of our favorite clothing retailers:  Title 9 women's athletic wear.


enormous smallness

this is a great children's book about poet and painter e.e. cummings.  i learned so much more about his life and that he had a charmed childhood--his father even built him a cabin and a tree house in which to write.

matthew burgess authored the book and amazing illustrations by kris di giamoco bring it to life.

after attending harvard, e.e. (edward estlin) drove an ambulance in france during world war I before settling in greenwhich village.

here is one of his poems i especially like:

love is a place
& through this place of 
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of 
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds.

 --1935

Friday, August 7, 2015

my cup overflows

got books?  that's an understatement around here.  i just finished reading "the lovesong of miss queenie hennessy" by rachel joyce and noticed several references to what could only have been to "the lovesong of j aflred prufrock" by ts eliot (which i reread and yes, was the literary allusion in question although she never directly spells that out--yet another way my undergraduate studies paid off).  it made my heart ache a bit, in an "unrequited love's journey to see true love before dying" sort of way and made me want to seize each day to the fullest while living!

"how to be a heroine:  or what i've learned from reading too much" by samantha ellis introduced me to new leading ladies of literature and also reminded me of old favorites such as jane austen's creation of lizzie bennett in "pride & prejudice" or l.m. montgomery's anne of green gables.  ellis relates them to her own coming of age and also provides insightful information about the author's lives and how much of their characters are autobiographical in nature.  all in all a good reminder to be the hero(ine) of one's own life.

in the just for fun while sipping french press category?  molly hatch's "a teacup collection:  paintings of porcelain treasures" which combines her love of ceramics, history and painting in a beautiful way. i met molly at the makerie in boulder, colorado so it's extra fun to follow her new work (her ceramics, pictured above). and then there's "tiny house living" by ryan mitchell which proves that living in 400 square feet or less can be lovely.

thriller?  "the girl on the train" by paula hawkins that i haven't started yet but that i've heard is hard to put down.  i'll keep you posted...plus, i have another pile coming from the library as we speak!

a $10 trip to france

want to visit france on $10?  simply drive up to domain drouhin winery.  in less than 20 minutes i had arrived, picnic basket and sketchbook in hand, to one of the most gorgeous hilltops in our area.  it's no surprise that their other vineyard is in burgundy (and they chose dundee hills for a second home!)

most of the other guests were from states like texas, maryland and massachusettes and i had only hopped in my car for a short distance.  not to take my backyard for granted, i happily perched, munched and drew, after wandering the vines a bit for photos. www.domainedrouhin.com






kid books


i've always loved children's books and have a small collection of ones i want to reread.  and something i love about summer is when i get to read books to or with kids! 

recently i spent a timeless swatch of a day going through an entire pile of nature books from the library with a young friend of mine.  they were all about birds of the wild, eagles mostly, but also owls...and one on mammals.  i think we looked at every single page, stopping to talk about the details of something we noticed or didn't know before.

my favorite souvenir from my most recent trip to new york (other than my strand bookstore bag) is a children's book called "next stop grand central" written & illustrated by maira kalman, whose whimsical work i have really come to enjoy.  it is a happy memory because i bought it at strand and it typifies big city life in all its wild variety.

another gorgeous addition to my collection came as a birthday gift.  "book" by david miles, illustrations by natalie hoopes is a dreamy read with collaged pieces of french stories overlaid onto fantastical drawings all centered around a love of stories set down with paper & ink.

what is your favorite kid book?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

on seeing: everyday beauty

i am a fan of blurb.com because the website makes it so easy to create and share your own books!  a few years ago i created "godlines" and just today i made a new one called "on seeing:  everyday beauty".

it was fun to scroll through my photos and organize them according to elements and principles of design.  to preview or order them, you can visit the "gift books" section of studio lark here on my blog or from the links below.
godlines

on seeing 


Saturday, August 1, 2015

lessons from the river

as a person who simply must be on, in, or around water, i have come to love kayaking more than i think any other sport or recreation.  the boat feels like an extension of your body and, without a motor, is quiet and joins rather than competes with nature.

where else can you see over ten bald eagles, dozens of herons, countless osprey, and couplets of deer?  river time is not like land time.  a day on the water can feel like three elsewhere.  it is amazing to me to have this resource in our backyard and to be able to perceive our cities and roads from the perspective of the waterway that was here first.

navigating takes skill.  you have to look ahead for shallow areas, rocks, currents and snags.  anticipating speed, space and angles is essential to maintaining your course and safety.  the river has a language of its own that is both beautiful and to be respected.  signs on the surface are clues as to the underwater topography.

there is a time to grip the paddle tightly with concentration and a time to relax and enjoy the current.  getting each of these at the proper time makes for an amazing float!

to further explore the beauty of the willamette, i would recommend www.willamettewatertrail.org

hospitality & culture


mount angel abbey just hosted their 44th annual bach festival.  we joined them for vespers, a pipe organ concert by gail archer, lawn picnic and a violin-cello duo of french canadian musicians antoine bareil and sebastien lepine.

two things stood out to me at this event. one being the hospitality of the monks.  the monastery is their home.  so in that sense, it is a large-scale house concert and we are invited to where they live.  i met the main host (pictured here) and he had a delightful sense of humor, wishing desperately--due to the heat-- to change orders just for the night in order to wear a white robe instead of black.  the breeze was blowing all of their robes around as they uncorked wine, laughed together and passed out picnic baskets brimming with delicious food to us on the hillside.

the second thing, aside from the classy and varietal music repertoire, was the reminder that monastic tradition is not just centered on being secluded away from the world, as some might think. on the contrary, it is these very orders that are responsible for having preserved art and culture for thousands of years. it struck me that, if not for them, i wouldn't even be aware of certain aspects of music, painting, or writing that i have come to know about and love.

for more information on the abbey and festival, see their site at  www.mountangelabbey.org/bach


the making of a carpenter

yesterday i read "hammer head: the making of a carpenter" by nina maclaughlin.  of course i immediately loved the courage she had in leaving her desk job to work with wood.

what i most enjoyed about this book was her balance between 1) teaching historic facts about carpentry 2) a sprinkling of breath-taking memoir and 3) the practical hilarities of learning something new.

an exerpt:  "it's true that writing and carpentry both require patience and practice, and both revolve arond the effort of making something right and good.  both involve getting it wrong over and over, and being able to stay with it until it is right.  in both, the best way of understanding something is often by taking it apart.  in both, small individual pieces combine and connect to make something larger, total, whole.  in both, we start with nothing and end with something."

each chapter title is a different tool that she relates to life.  and, i think in part because her desk job was writing, nina has done an expert job here of integrating herself by joining her cerebral and corporal skills into something inspiring.  she blogs at www.carpentrix.tumblr.com

Sunday, July 26, 2015

chef + the farmer

i just finished watching season one and two of OPB's "a chef's life" starring chef vivian howard.  vivian and her husband ben worked for some of the finest restaurants in new york city before her parents offered to help them start their own restaurant.  but the catch was it had to be where she grew up in north carolina.

at first, vivian wanted the farmers to grow fennel, jerusalem artichokes and other ingredients she had been used to cooking with in the big city.  eventually, however, she let the farm produce and seasons dictate what they served at chef + the farmer.

what i enjoyed about this series was how real it was: there is no sugar-coating the pressures and arguments involved in restaurant life (add to that the fact that they have twins, are building a new house, had a kitchen fire and want to start an oyster bar!)  honestly, as someone who automatically absorbs her environment, i had to take breaks from the vicarious stress at times.  i enjoy cooking and hospitality but definitely have no desire to run a food business!

when it comes to "farm to table", the howards really do know their locals; everyone from the pig guys and collard green farmers to the dairy men and grape growers.  you learn how to make recipes, too, that look amazing and have what she calls the balance of acidity, sweet and herbacious.

a chef's life is going to have a place at my table, especially when fall rolls around!

Friday, July 24, 2015

a willing partnership

i went horseback riding this week and learned to think of it as an exercise in willing partnership.  first of all, let the horse come to you.  horses have been coming up to me most of my life; usually when i'm out walking and stop to say hello or just quietly lock eyes with them.  i had a favorite back in junior high that i would visit down the country lane from my childhood home.  i also had a shelf devoted to horses growing up--those plastic action figures of the animal world--and would spend hours drawing them.

this week, i started with ground work.  just getting to know the animal by observing the hows and whys of their movement; learning their language. i learned not to invade their space and also not to let them invade mine, imagining boundary lines around our respective bodies.  i also observed that--like us--they move away from pressure, so that is how to guide them as well, and it doesn't take much.  with a well-trained horse, the slightest shift in body weight or turn of wrist will tell them where you want to go.  and, as pack animals, they want to be led.

they can tell if you aren't comfortable leading and will test you to see if you know what you're doing.  mean what you say.  do one command at a time.  don't give them mixed messages.  don't over correct.  do hold the reigns loosely but firmly.  and when they do what you want them to do, release the pressure immediately.  saying something over and over causes it to lose meaning.  and no amount of pushing, prodding, coaxing or yelling (which are not my style anyway) will move a two-ton animal, in fact, quite the opposite. 

horses and humans have such affinity for one another and are so much alike.  when they are afraid or anxious, there's a reason. they seem to internalize their surroundings, so this is not the time to layer on more commands, but rather to focus on removing them from the stress in order to soothe them. the perfect storm is when their fear sparks yours or vice-versa and ignites a frenzy.  a calm horse, however, is once again ready to listen and will go anywhere with and for you.   

this willing partnership revealed a lot to me about fear, trust, potential, and power.  their strength under control makes for a truly amazing, insightful and enjoyable ride.  oh, and it doesn't hurt to take a bunch of carrots along with you, either. 

titles r us

some writers get inspiration for the title first and write from there, others i've heard come up with it after the book is formed.  either way, like naming a child, the pressure's on. 

i have to laugh every once in a while because, just like trends with kid names, book titles seem to go through phases.  right now, i feel that some words and phrases are very overused when it comes to novels.  *disclaimer, some of them are favorite reads of mine.

here are the words i think could use a rest from titles:  paris, wife, beekeeper, apprentice, art, thief, french, tale, journey, forger. 

there's more, but i think it would be funny to come up with some combination of these just for fun, say, "the stung tale of the french beekeeper's wife" or "art theives forge in paris" or "journey of the apprentice."

what's in a title?  a book by any other name would smell as sweet.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

love, Motivation

dear Excuses,

you have served well, all of you.  thank you for your protection when it was needed, but i've got this and your services will no longer be required.  remember when i started giving you longer and longer break times and even shoved one of you aside that day on my way in?  well, that's because i can hear Trust's voice over yours now.

when Trust starts singing that catchy little tune of hers, it's time to give you notice.  you are stalwart guards and do an incredible job.  i mean, your work is kind of misunderstood.  to give you credit, you're strong and kind of like bouncers at the door of people's greatest needs.  you're not all bad; you're good guys who are designed to do temp work.  TEMP work, get it?  but yes, we all need you around sometimes because you're really good at showing us what needs attention.  your distant cousin, Priority, made sure to point that out to me recently. of course i told her i know that because we've all worked together before.

so back to my point, if you stay any longer, certain parts won't get air, so i'm just going to walk past you and bring them out into the light of day, ok?  you can stay and watch if you want, but only for a few minutes. don't worry, i touched base with Talk and they built up your paycheck and had it sent over to Action for your severance check. i'm not really sure if you'll be called on again here, so enjoy a nice long vacation somewhere and let me know when your retirement party is. i'll be the one in the active wear.

love, Motivation

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

a love story and a riddle

a package arrived for me today containing a gifted and signed copy of my friend robin's book, "a love story and a riddle:  the life and letters of helen hunter dixon evans".

after perusing it, i made some tea and became quickly and completely absorbed.  finding myself all of a sudden at page 80, i realized this is a profoundly layered work that she has done here, collecting her mother's letters that span two continents during the years between 1929 (when her parents first meet and also the stock market crash that sparked the great depression) to 1944 (her mother's death when robin was 5). 

robin's life began between these two continents, on a ship from the united states bound for south africa.  a professor of english literature, she and her husband emigrated back to the states in 1973 where she taught at linfield college for 25 years, raised two sons and grew grapes together for their winery.

to learn more about robin myfanwy lawton and order copies of her book, please visit
www.robinmlawton.com