Thursday, December 29, 2016

illustrate your favorite...

 ...poem!  i gave myself permission to just sit and draw yesterday; layer upon layer of colored my heart's content.

i decided to illustrate "pied beauty" by gerard manley hopkins, and so i have four more images to go! 

it starts with "glory be to God for dappled things--for skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow..."

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

my year in books

it's that time of year:  time to gather lists and genres of books read in 2016!  i read 73 books this year, for a total of 19, 791 pages. and am currently reading the 74th, "bread wine chocolate" by simran sethi about agricultural biodiversity.

to see a complete list of my titles and genres (plus a nifty visual collage courtesty of goodreads), you can click on: my year in books

happy reading now and into the new year!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

dance of the chef on sugarplums

 i never intended for this to become a food's just that i read so many great cookbooks and then get excited to try the combinations!  today was no exception.

it all started because i wanted to familiarize myself with vinegars and brines, so i tried pickling my own jalapenos with onions and radishes.

since i had pots and pans out, why not make both a mirepoix and sauce tomat leads well to the other (one more french sauce to go:  espagnole).

then, of course, i got curious about making a chickpea penne pasta, so while a pumpkin pie was in the oven i roasted a delicata squash and some hazelnuts and put it all together topped with wild greens and parmesan:  voila!  something i would definitely order in a restaurant.

then back to my oringinal intention of baking eight mini challah breads for holiday gifts.  when the oven's on, might as well use it, right? all this while subsisting nicely on homemade sugarplums from a friend...they are really tasty, by the way.

happy holiday cooking, sharing, and feasting to you and yours!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

an everlasting meal

i tend to read in the evenings, which means, in terms of this book, i am dreaming about what to cook for breakfast.  "an everlasting meal:  cooking with economy and grace" by tamar adler is a must-read! 

you wouldn't guess it by her laid-back tone and easy manner, but she has cooked for celebrated restaurants such as chez panisse and gabrielle hamilton's prune (in NY which i really, really want to eat at).  with an endorsement by alice waters, what more do you need?

adler's thesis is to use everything.  no more discarding tops to root vegetables, stems, or bones.  she is always thinking ahead to how she will use broth in the next meal or how to roast multiple items ahead for the week.

i love that, while she has amazing accolades in terms of her profession, she keeps it simple.  consider the following about wooden spoons, "i buy a wooden spoon whenever i see one i like because i may need to throw something, and a passerby might need one.  they're perfect, too, for checking doneness of certain ingredients.  there's nothing that does this with more certainty:  when a piece of onion, garlic, carrot, or celery can be easily broken with a wooden spoon, then, and exactly then, it is done."  i just asked my mom for a simple wooden spoon from her kitchen and she gave me two.  with all the fancy kitchen gadgets at our disposal, it's all i really wanted.

however, i will sing praise for my microplane.  because here's how i breakfasted this morning:  wake up, take stock of what i have on hand and what i feel like eating, warm olive oil in black cast iron pan, cube polenta and begin to brown, add creamy swiss cheese, two eggs, mango chutney, salt, pepper, and top with one small freshly microplaned turmeric bulb.  when left to blend together, this produces a winter comfort meal of epic proportions!  and don't forget to scrape the pan for the slightly carmelized sweet-savory and cheesy goodness.   what is your latest everlasting meal?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

do more of what makes you sparkle

imagine my joy when i put three brayers on my art table and they formed a christmas tree!  that's my kind of holiday greeing card.  i could lose all track of time given a printmaking studio, stack of fine paper and maybe a small letterpress (santa, are you following my blog?).  i would have to be reminded to eat, not to mention sleep.

speaking of food, a fine foray into our beloved portland yesterday fed both creative spirit and body.  i highly recommend "cup & bar" for affogato, followed by a stop into new surf shop *"cosube", all things handmade at "crafty wonderland", decorating haven at "home", followed by dinner at "taylor railworks".

to say their flavors married well is a huge understatement.  plus i love the nod to that up and coming part of east portland that used to be the railyard.  i will definitely be going back for ambience, drinks, and dessert.

*at first i thought the name was a deeply symbolic one, steeped in island heritage and tradition.  nope.  they made it up using the first letters of the words:  coffee, surfing, and beer.  clever.  and just one more reason i love this city!

paying attention in winter

boughs bare-round
and seeing: blue of jay streak
owled sound
both bird and perch
leaf-less but
to show the winged
joy of winter
heartily then, and 
with wholeness i will
answer, walking

12.11.16 ls

what she does is her, for that she came

first flakes fall
swirl-dance of delight
melting on memory's nose
and etching such patterns 
in the heart as
eternally returning

12.11.16 ls
in memory of colleen richmond (1953-2007)

professional mom, PhD, queen of russian tea cakes,
lover of all things christmas, student of life, and proud supporter of  bookstores around the world.  we miss you and won't ever let your light go out!  

Thursday, December 8, 2016


i never had just one answer to the question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?"  and now i know this by design.  but the realization came with no small amount of anxiety in a culture that says you must focus on and specialize in only one thing.

looking back, my life has always had a circuitous path.  unlike people who knew what they wanted to be, picked that as a major and subsequent job, my vocational trail more resembles an accident with an ink truck.  in high school i wanted to be an interior designer.  in college i majored in writing & literature with a french minor only to become a children's pastor.  trying to fit in by focusing on a career path, i went to seminary only to art teacher (which is kind of along the lines of interior designer, but messier.)

i have been everything from college professor and camp director to symphony violist and poet.  i am a trained lifeguard, know how to bring in a grape harvest, have taken fencing lessons, and tried my hand at welding.  i raise chickens, kayak, bike to work, am teaching myself french cooking techniques, and go on city architectural walks for fun. for my bucket list i have accomplished well over 88 of my 200+ goals including yodeling in the swiss alps, smashing plates at a greek restaurant, hot air ballooning, flying a plane, riding a motorcycle, learning hebrew, cycling the velodrome, going to france, completing the portland marathon, and climbing alaskan glaciers.  i have yet to surf, successfully roast chestnuts (this is harder than it looks and involves power tools), watch fireflies dance, grow the perfect tomato hybrid, fly fish, and keep an apiary. while i decide what's next, i'm walking the oregon coast trail.

so you see i still have trouble answering the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" it all makes for an interesting life, but only just now do i feel free to say i think i am a multipotentialite.  up until this point, i was a bit ashamed of my incessant curiosity and afraid i would be labeled "unfocused".  not only for myself, but as an educator (who could become a farmer or spiritual director at any moment), it was refreshing to come across the following TED talk on what the speaker calls "multipotentialites" in our society.  and that we need people who are able to synthesize ideas, learn quickly, and bridge interdisciplinary thought; becoming the creative problem-solvers our world so deeply needs.  if one of my students is supposed to specialize in a calling, then by all means i want to help them on that journey.  if they are a multipotentialite who may do many roles within their lifetime, then i want to set an example of inspiring them to follow their thread of curiosity wherever it may lead.

for more you can listen to emilie wapnick's talk at:  more than one calling
and now, if you'll excuse me, i have sailing lessons to look into...

literary irony

word coincidences...that's all i can think of to call them.  have you ever had these little types of ironies happen?

for example, yesterday i was driving and listening to 89.9, our local classical music station, and my new car has a screen that tells me the song name and composer.  it was a piece about water (probably why i was drawn to it in the first place) by ravel and had the word "barque" in the title.  because it was translated from french to english, i learned that this is another name for "boat", as i had only been familiar with the french "bateau".  but later the same day i was looking up something completely different and "barque" showed up again?! it was nice to know what it meant, but twice in one day for a word i'd never known...

i could blame the snow for having more time on my hands than usual, but another word coincidence happened today.  perusing my bookshelves for good reads until i can get my novels from the library, i noticed i had shelved madeleine l'engle's book of poetry "the weather of the heart" next to a dylan thomas collection.  i've never really read a lot of thomas, so i dusted it off and opened it at random.  to, you guessed it, thomas' poem entitled, " a process in the weather of the heart".  alert readers, i am not making this up.

life is like an onion--endless skins of connections.  one can safely bet that l'engle would have known her thomas.  but i didn't know that until today and they had been next to each other on the shelf the entire time.

people could argue from a cerebral cortex perspective that we expect to see what we are looking for, just like with the gratitude principle, that if you think great things are going to happen, they probably will.  but what about these small ironies of the literary type?

kitchen, improv

a snow day!  i am curious as to what people do with unexpected free time.  for me, i took to the kitchen...what a perfect day to work on sauce #3 in my quest to complete the five mother sauces of french cuisine.  except. *i was all out of butter.  that's ok...

...once i was sure i was following the recipe, i felt free to diverge from it.  using cocount oil in place of butter (it's fat, right?) i added a little bit of sugar to the egg yolk, water and lemon juice.  a pinch of cayenne pepper and more whisking.  luckily i had another egg and some english muffins, so i toasted them up, poached the egg and poured sauce over top.

yum!  mine is definitely hollandaise, but with a decidedly sweet-savory blend; that kick of cayenne blended with a hint of lemon curd.  delicious.

so, what would you do with an unexpectedly free day?
*things not to tell julia child if she were still alive, may her well-slathered soul rest in peace

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

the year 2036

"twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  so throw off the bowlines.  sail away from the safe harbor.  catch the trade winds in your sails.  explore.  dream.  discover."

--h. jackson brown jr.

Monday, December 5, 2016

closer to the ground

it was with no small amount of *satisfaction that i both finished reading this book and took summer-sweet tomatoes out of the freezer.

i highly recommend "closer to the ground" to anyone who wants to be more intentional (not fanatical--it's ok to go to the grocery store) about growing or catching some of their own food.  i know the contented feeling of this sufficiency in part:  the pinnacle being when i only had to buy dairy items at the store, having organic ground beef from a friend, eggs from our chickens, fruits & vegetables from the garden, and bread from my own oven: pretty great eating!

as with most things, i prefer it when people take their skills and learning seriously without taking themselves too seriously and dylan strikes that balance in my opinion.

one of my favorite aspects of their rhythm of life as a family is:  would it be faster and often more efficient to do things without the kids?  sure, but it wouldn't be the best thing.  tomine has learned that the end result is important, but doesn't take precedence over the process which--like anything worthwhile--can indeed be frustrating, messy, and risky not to mention taking well over twice as long sometimes than if you just did something by yourself.

i love that he's taking time to show his kids how to do things.  after watching old family slideshows, i realize that i am who i am because of where i come from:  simple, hardworking, funny, nature-loving people.  they epitomized care for each other and the land.  coming from this long line of teachers, farmers, and pastors, i also realize that the things i love doing most were things that my parents did WITH me and instilled in me from a young age (thank you!).

things such as painting, planting seeds, hiking, biking, reading, fishing, cooking, swimming, bird-watching, camping, figuring things out, and enjoying outside adventures in general are just a few things that are the same today as back when i was a kid.  oh that all kids could have such a childhood!

i could go on, but it's time for lunch enjoyment of those garden tomatoes in my winter stew...

*i also thought this book was beautiful because of the paper-cut illustrations by nw artist nikki mcclure, a favorite for sure

Monday, November 28, 2016

here, here!

two books going right now, one slowly and one quickly.  the one that is due at the library first is important material, but hard to read.  the other, totally absorbing and reminiscient of the heritage i come from.

the one that is slower going is "a train in winter:  an extraordinary story of women, friendship, an resistance in occupied france" by caroline moorehead.  i say important because i truly like history as well as stories of human strength and courage.  it's so very very non-fiction; more facts and not so much about how the facts affected women's individual lives, connections and relationships as i'd hoped.

what i really WANT to dive into and can't stop reading (but has more renewals at the library than the aforementioned) is "closer to the ground:  an outdoor family's year on the water, in the woods and at the table" by dylan tomine and is published by patagonia books. so refreshing!

of life, my friend says, "eat the best orange first" so in this case it might mean staying up too late to read what i want to...either way, this quote is true!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


while holiday pies were in the oven, i took a moment to make sauce #2 of classical french cuisine:  veloute.  this is a basic roux but with chicken stock instead of milk.  the name means "velvety".  and i have to say, taste testing-wise, i'm very happy with it. 

it turned out smooth (i don't know if i would go as far as to say it's velvety) with good flavor.  i have no idea what to put it on, but it's thanksgiving, so i'm sure that won't be hard to figure out. 

i think bechamel and veloute are maybe the easiest of the five.  three more to go:  tomat, espagnole, and hollandaise...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


from REI and worth passing along:

"one year ago we did something different on black friday--we closed the co-op's doors and invited the nation to join us outside.  and 1,408,117 of you did just that.  you chose to skip the stampedes and celebrate life outdoors instead.  

this year we're closing again and our goal is for millions more to join us in our parks, on the trails, in the mountains and on the water.  but we need your help to make it happen.  so consider this your invitation.  

on november 25, REI will opt outside.  will you go out with us?"

Saturday, November 19, 2016

whisk vigorously!

sauce one of five:  complete!  a report on my first real bechamel sauce and it is delicious.  it's not difficult but does require attention to temperature and color.  a roux (3-1/2 T. flour + 6 T butter) followed by 2 cups of milk and, this made me laugh out loud, some vigorous whisking and voila--there you have it!

i prefer a little bit of salt and nutmeg in my sauce and now have the creative challenge of how to use it with what's in my pantry...i think a harvest pasta with fall squash will somehow be involved.  and now, on to veloute!  sidenote: a popular kitchen store is offering a class on "french sauces 101" this fall at the same time as i am trying mine solo & free (except for ingredients):  ala julia child.

*the answer to the bookworm trivia:  don quixote has sold an estimated 500 million copies to date.  however, as it was first published in 1605 and exact numbers do not exist, many lists put a tale of two cities, published 250 years later, at or near the top spot for fiction.

Friday, November 18, 2016

bookworm trivia

what is widely acknowledged to be the best-selling novel of all time?

a.  twilight by stephanie meyer
b. the scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne
c.  don quixote by miguiel de cervantes saavedra
d.  a tale of two cities by charles dickens

(feel free to guess and look for the answer in an upcoming post)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

mother sauces

over the course of the next few weeks, i am enrolling myself in my own kitchen experiments; undertaking the five classic sauces of french cuisine (it's cheaper than flying to french cooking school).

french chef marie antoine-careme organized the first four sauces, all based on roux (fat + flour) and auguste escoffier added one more, codifying it in le guide culinaire in 1903.

the five mother sauces:  bechamel (white sauce), veloute (light stock-based roux), espagnole (basic brown), sauc tomat, and hollandaise (egg-base instead of roux).

being orderly, of course i want to start with bechamel.  from my kitchen to yours, stay tuned...

Monday, November 7, 2016

fiat lux & poet laureates

my friend was reading in a book and came across this phrase, "fiat lux".  "do you know what that means?" she asked.  not only did i not recognize it, but my more shallow inclination toward liking shiny cars kicked in and i must admit my first thought was not at all deep, but more along the lines of a luxury fiat model car. 

in between daydreaming about cars and looking up this phrase, Latin in origin it turns out, the Poet Laureate of Oregon telephoned me at school.  being as it is not every day that this happens, i was momentarily stunned.  "seriously?!" i said to the secretary via intercom, "elizabeth woody is on the phone...for me?!"

after finishing this call, (she is a very nice woman, the Poet Laureate of our Beloved State) i resumed my quest of "fiat lux".  it means "let there be light".  but the translation i found refreshing was slightly different--derived from the hebrew and greek--"let light be made".

because words matter to me and i love how they sound, i rolled this around out loud a few times to myself.

i may never own a luxury car.
i may never be an esteemed poet of an entire region.
but maybe, just maybe i can let light be made in and through my life. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016


ever since i learned to talk, i've been pointing and saying, "look!"  i remember doing this with everything from ducks and dandelions to paint colors and animals when i was little.  even then, a thing of beauty was a joy to be shared.

and, "look!" is still one of my favorite declarations today.  in Greek, the word "Skopein" means "to look attentively".

here is a quote from kathleen dean moore, author of "pine island paradox", who writes, "i believe the most loving thing that you can say to a person is 'look'.  and the most loving stance is standing side by side looking out together on the world.  when people learn to look, they begin to see, really see.  when they begin to see, they begin to care.  and caring is the portal into the moral world."

poet gerard manley hopkins put it this way, "what is the world?  it is a poem of beauty.  i do not think i have ever seen anything more beautiful than the bluebell i have been looking at.  i know the beauty of our Lord by it."

scanning the acres today, our garden is harvested and dormant for winter.  the leaves are falling in gentle breezes.  mulch and moist mud settle in to work their magic come spring.  and i said to myself, breath catching in my throat at the sight of geese and hawks taking flight, "look!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

some days

Monday, October 17, 2016


"in all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous."

Saturday, October 8, 2016

attending irving street

attending irving street
for the homeless man who lived there until last weekend

i would tell your story if i knew it and so imagination will have to
fill in the gaps...the gaps between you having a mother and being
wrapped in a blanket similar to the only one you ended up owning
the gaps between your favorite color blue and pistachio icecream
and the girl you teased in fourth grade and your first job at a newsstand

i don't know any of this, of course, but i did notice the attendants who lifted
you into the waiting ambulance without flashing lights, which is how i
knew the soul had gone out of your eyes, too.  and so i colored inside and
outside the lines from your perspective there.  license plates and clicking
heels, leather boots, tires, and the sound of rain on pavement.  and the smells!

did you imagine your last meal from the nearby restaurant kitchen?  truffled
potatoes with eggs over easy, pastries melting onto your tongue like snowflakes
and dark rich coffee in a real mug to cradle in your cracked hands like a dream?
you are freed from people's false pity and the onlookers, "isn't it terrible?" they will
say.  but not half as terrible as not being noticed in the gaps, the gaps between.

you had the best view of the sky from there, brick buildings flanking the city scape
no power lines to crowd your sights of birds flying south or airplanes. such clouds...
perhaps last weekend you saw more than any of us because our heads were down
oh-so-busy with the day.  i hope a swathe of sky opened just for you so an
angel could pull down some mercy and whisper, "you belong."

ls 10.9.16

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

tell me a story...

how many times did i ask my parents, as they tucked me in at night, "tell me a story?"  and, whether it was read aloud or told from memory (and sometimes both!) i still remember them.

rudyard kipling said, "if history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."

the story of alexander hamilton has just been made into a broadway musical.  the final song line is, "who will tell your story?"

most great leaders teach in the form of poignant questions and relevant stories, both of which are memorable and relatable.  crafting something into a narrative that has a beginning, middle, and end also takes thought and care.

in what new ways might you tell your own story or maybe someone else's who isn't able to?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

poetry as prayer

my newest treasure?  "poetry as prayer" about the life and works of gerard manley hopkins by maria lichtmann.

i enjoy it not only for the word-based beauty, but am inspired to create a series of paintings around one of his poems, it's just a question of which one!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


the word of the day from an alert reader is:  halcyon.  i'd heard it before, but was so happy to have to look it up, it meant i was learning something new!   it means, "a period of time in the past that was idyllic, calm, peaceful, tranquil..."

and it took me back to sprawling on the sand in the sun with the soothing white noise of the ocean, the salty air and calls of seagulls...i think that's why it is most commonly used in the phrase, "halcyon days of summer..."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

seasonal (dis)comforts

as a culture, we are well-insulated. we have in-home heating and cooling so we don't really have to experience shifts in the seasons.  we also create a lot of distance between ourselves and anything remotely uncomfortable (ranging on the continuum from a tepid latte to death) thus not only lowering our skills in dealing with the adverse but also inadvertently numbing ourselves to the ability to experience joys both large and small (a tragic consequence of selective experience).

life is change.  and, since we tend to equate change with loss, i want to propose that change can be the art of difference; contrast, and therefore beautiful.

if things were always the same, the sunshine or snow might mean less. my body knows the change in temperature before it registers with my mind (plus the phrase "barometric pressure" is hardly as poetic as "boston in the fall").  my joints want to do more yoga and i have a sudden urge to stock my pantry with ungodly amounts of nutmeg.  not only that,  i have to laugh, coming from canada, at how the pacific northwest retail world gets ready for fall:  heavy wool ponchos (it doesn't get that cold here) and all manner of suede boots (and hopefully enough waterproofing spray to go along with them?)

and then i wondered, "WWLACD?" (what would lewis and clark do?)  this is true seasonality.  what they would have given for a home depot or a wilco.  i can hear them now, "hey, lewis, there's a buy one get one free sale on carhartt jackets and there's two of us!" or "i have a coupon for as many plastic tarps as we can carry, clark!"  we don't have much room to complain in light of oh, early pioneers or arctic explorers. that's an extreme example, of course, but no one can claim they weren't in touch with their surroundings.

who doesn't want the sun on their face?  i also want to feel the wind and rain and snow on my face and to feel the seasons on my skin.  don't get me wrong, i appreciate comfort and the resources we have.  it's just that i don't want to choose comfort over experiencing life first-hand, like being cold at 3 am when i'm looking up at the milky way or the tears that come to my eyes when someone tells me about losing someone they loved.

in a numbing culture, i vastly resonate with the contrasting bulletin board i saw the other day. it shows people laughing and leaning out of a car window with the wind in their hair and reads, "i want to make memories, not just pass the time." sponsored by "be true to you".

being born wasn't designed to be comfortable or second-hand.  nor was growing.  or aging. and i wouldn't trade any of them for the wide world of joys and comforts that come along with them.  spring, summer, autumn, winter.  i want to live them all, uninsulated--literally and figuratively--in every season. 

bien fait rhymes with wait

good meals...good harvests...good clothes...all worth the time.  "bien fait" translates to well-made which, in my mind, often translates to "wait".

for example, when my friend and i dined french-style the other evening, the meal took longer to arrive at our table than americans are used to waiting.  fortunately we are not average americans and when it did arrive i noticed gratefully that there were no apologies for the chef's time in the kitchen. (why apologize for cooking your dinner from scratch!?)  we had enjoyed watching him cook and ate slowly, to savor the meal as an appreciative gesture.   it was refreshing, this slower speed.  and it was especially delicious!

have you noticed the difference between the taste of tomatoes from the grocery store in february as opposed to off the vine right now?  there is no comparison.  these taste like sunshine.  sure, i had to wait a few months for them to germinate and mature, but when i bite into one it is juicy and fresh, not contrived or mealy from being quick-ripened under artificial light.  again, better with more time.

i went back-to-school shopping and couldn't help noticing that many of the items i saw in department stores were also at the second hand and consignment shops.  i wonder if this is because the acrylic sweaters so popular at this time of year pill and lose their shape...and the artificial handbags just don't last like real leather ones do.  i remember how hard it was for me when i was little to wait for mom to finish sewing one of my dresses or for grandma to put that last knit-purl onto a sweater.  but they lasted!  and i'm hard on clothes.  these days, my garments have to be able to withstand going from henhouse to bike, kindergarten classroom to garden and back again.  i wasn't actually tempted by the foreign-made flimsy fabrics with sloppy hem strings (a far cry from the days of waiting for your personal tailor!)  i'd rather buy a few nice things that i can wear for decades than a lot of items that will wear out by this time next year.

the "maker movement" is popular right now, in everything from home canning and embroidery to leather and woodwork.  again, could this be because we've tired of cheap and fast in favor of well made and seasoned?  we've been "making" for centuries, maybe not with 3D printers and robots, but with raw materials.

everyone in the service industry it seems is trained to apologize to us for the wait.  just yesterday a young lady said, "sorry for the wait!" while bringing my coffee (which took less time to make than it did for me to decide what i wanted in the first place.)  plus i like waiting.  i have time to look around, notice things, observe people, and think.  waiting can be a privilege, time spent in anticipation of quality and of enjoying for years to come what our hands have made.

Friday, September 16, 2016

cannon beach cottage tour

photos from an idyllic day on the oregon coast, my 6th annual tour of cottages in my favorite beach town! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

failing well

in may i wrote about the art of staging in terms of photo essays, beauty and the spontaneous party.  i am continually drawn to environments with lots of white space (no surface abuse!) and books and magazines with minimalist, contemporary design.  and, while i love to share about successful recipes and hostessing, i realize that the social media world is appealing in one sense because we can edit ourselves toward whomever we want to appear to be to others.

i love colorful buntings and crisp blue and white linens, not to mention swooning over rugs from dash & albert, just to mention a few things...and, as i encourage my students to do, there is risk involved.  and real life.  and mess.  and with this comes the art of failure!

i would be remiss to only share the beauty and the hits without giving some time to the not-so-greats.  for example, last evening i did not consult "the flavor bible" and tried to wing a new dish on my own.  strong intuition is good, but i should have looked at the sauce pairings, because what i made was an epic fail of palate proportions.  (never, under any circumstances, mix smoked oysters with pineapple and tomatoes!)

i remember that for every fail there is a success, such as the chocolate cayenne pepper cake and the french mussels.  and the june brunch for well as the simple but hearty shared meal here with my friends from oahu. 

as for reality, right now i am covered in not only bike grease from my daily commute, but also dirt and the green of tomato vines.  a stray feather has found it's way into my nest from the chickens (of which we lost another...while i don't cry anymore, as a bonafide harbinger of country living, we did have a moment of silence in the coop for beloved rhoda.) 

the apples get holes in them.  but that doesn't stop me from a weekend of pie baking, of transforming what is into what could be...and the joy to be found along the way.

Monday, September 12, 2016

the flavor bible

i have learned so much from this book already, and i'm only on page 95 (of 380).  karen page and andrew dornenburg spent eight years creating this "essential guide to culinary creativity based on the wisdom of america's most imaginative chefs".

the basic perceptions of taste that i am not only memorizing but putting to practical use in my kitchen?  sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness and umami (savoriness). 

take, for example, my lesson from page 55 that we should always seek to balance the above tastes with richness (fat vs. relief of acidity or bitterness), temperatures (the range of hot to cold), and textures (creamy vs. crunchy).  "balance taste by adding it's opposite or its complement".

the formidable portion of the book is like a food dictionary, listing for all categories of food:  season, main taste profile, weight (density), volume (flavor "loudness"), techniques, botanical relatives, and flavor affinities (as well as what to avoid pairing it with). 

i was so excited after reading that saffron has a high flavor affinitiy with corn--now in season!--that i went out and bought .020 ounces for $5.99.  stay tuned for more adventures from this self-taught chef's flavor bible...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

summer, i love you

as we transition from summer to autumn, today's wisdom is brought to you by dr. seuss,  "don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened!" 

Friday, September 2, 2016

consider the fork

my latest read?  "consider the fork:  a history of how and why we eat" by bee wilson.  wilson shows an obvious passion for the science behind cooking.  if you had watched me read the book, my page turning was punctuated only by getting up to check on my own cooking tools.

in the chapter about knives, i got up to inspect the sharpness of my herb chopper and my new, smaller, red-handled slicing knife.  i realized i would like to learn how to better use my tools to julienne and dice.

instead of coveting every new kitchen tool from sur la table (which started, along with starbucks, as a booth at pike place market in seattle, circa 1970's) i came away satisfied that a few nice tools will suffice.  i do love my microplane for zesting, but can cut my own avacado without a gadget.  my silicone egg poachers make the perfect brunch, but i like to slice my own melons.

then in the chapter on cooking pots, i lined up my pans and realized i have a good combination of stainless steel and cast iron.  just for fun before returning to the book, i took time to season the latter and, satisfied, continued to read on about egg beaters.

a recipe for angel food cake written by my great grandmother nettie (for whom i'm named) says to "beat eggs until a frothy mountain" and i have no idea how she managed to do this without a mixer.  i tried with my french wire whisk, switching arms only to have a slush of egg in the bowl, nowhere near mountainous or frothy.  turns out, the history of egg beaters alone and the inventions in the name of souffles was countless indeed.

and what about "slow ovens"?  this also mystified me.  since we have removed our daily lives from cooking with open fires, except when camping, we rely on electricity or gas.  a slow oven is just a temperature between warm and broiling that has many interpretations.

somewhere in the midst of chapter ten, i realized i was hungry for warm bread and butter, so got up to make two loaves of homemade bread and finished reading the book while the dough was rising.  i thought that was a fitting conclusion to an excellent book!  meanwhile, i will be teaching myself the five sauces of classical french cooking...

Saturday, August 27, 2016


this word of the day from an alert reader who, when looking up places to kayak noted "oxbow park".  it turns out "oxbow" not only refers to a yoke for oxen, but is also a U-shaped bend in a river. in turn, an oxbow lake is created when such a U-shaped meander is formed from a wider meander being cut off to create a free-standing body of water.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

bachelors & bachelorettes

of the mountainous stacks of books i have from the library this month, two rise to the surface.  i watched the movie "babette's feast" back in college and immediately loved it, resonating with the main character.  but it was through richard rohr's reference of the story that i learned it was also a book.

the movie is adapted from a larger collection of destiny tales by isak dinesen (a pen name of karen blixen) who also wrote "out of africa".  babette, a world famous french chef, comes to reside in a small traditional village with two elderly bachelorettes.  after winning the french lottery, babette uses her wealth to return their hospitality by cooking the villagers an authentic french meal, teaching them by experience to transcend the confines of their legalistic lifestyle.

as moved on many levels as i am by dinesen's timeless tale, i laughed just as hard at bill richardson's "bachelor brothers' bed and breakfast".  in a true tale of  fraternal twin bachelors, hector and virgil, who open their childhood home as a bookish refuge for travelers, richardson has collected not only hilarious first-person anecdotes from the brothers, but also from the pages of their guest book.  complete with a cat named waffle and a foul-mouthed parrot mrs. rochester (nomenclature a reference to the crazy attic lady in "jane eyre" by charlotte bronte) this book delighted me no end.  their setting, use of language, and comedic ways had me laughing out loud in no uncertain literary terms.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

dear authors

dear authors,

first of all, thank you.  if not for you i could not continue with my habit, nay addiction, of book-eating.  writing is a solitary profession and i appreciate what you have sacrificed, learned, and evoked from yourself in putting things to paper.

i only realized, when voicing this to my equally bookish friend recently, that i have come--albeit unconsciously--to expect three main things from you.  call it reader-author trust if you will, namely:  1) structure 2) rhythm and 3) reference.  it's because of your mastery that, when done well, these serve the body of work rather than distract from it.

structure  i love it when i can tell you have something on which to hang your words. it matters not whether it comes to you beforehand or afterwards in your process, point being it's there.  it doesn't have to scream "structure" either because you know the tone you're going for.  you're teaching.  we're having coffee.  you want to make us laugh.  if you ramble it's because you had every intention of rambling and there's a reason for it.  even if the structure is the intention to have no structure at least that too was planned and i find that reassuring.  because, frankly, if it's not there i will make up a structure for it myself and then i've ceased to be blissfully immersed in your narrative and am instead grasping for scaffolding.  chapters, subtitles, story-within-a-story, part one/part two, short essay collections, flashbacks, les belles lettres, recipes, even characters who dream in poetry.  for anything that's a good clothes-on-hanger fit for what you have to say, you have my most humble thanks.

rhythm  a good book, as you know, has rhythm.  it could be unexpected genius like jazz  (see also brian doyle) or a more predictable two-step.  but only you can provide the cadence of your voice.  like a windmill, it's fitting to speed up or slow down according to the particular wind guiding your book's direction.  i read something recently that was going back and forth between concrete objects and philosophical connections to those objects. and it was going on with this great musical meter and the author and i were dancing until they, who shall remain nameless, tried to get way too "artsy" in what i can only call a spasmatic fit of hallucinogenic phraseology moves that left my eyebrows stuck in an upright position. what are they talking about?!  i said out loud.  i forgive them because this is a masterful author and i can only believe they meant to do this. maybe they meant to do the macarena.  and the waltz?  well, they were only kidding about that. but i was really into the waltz.  i just thought other readers might get lost too or perhaps i simply lack the dance skills to keep up.  believe me, i can make connections out of anything or nothing at all, but in this case i was completely lost.  it wasn't a good or necessary break in rhythm, at least for me.  i can tango if you ask me to.  charleston unexpectedly?  ok, i'll be flexible.  but it was more like suddenly being flung from the dance floor altogether.  some readers may like that.  again, just my opinion, but i trusted them not to lose me! (it was with a wary brow that i continued the next chapter.) so thank you for keeping time for us and for saying things simply if that's what the music calls for. *ockham's razor and all that...

reference assuming intelligence on the part of your readers is kind.  dropping in french or latin phrases, cool.  (*speaking of which, before i get too far i should reference my own aforementioned use of ockham's--sometimes also spelled occam's--razor as the premise that the simplest answer is probably right). somewhere, though, i want to know what you mean or at least where to find it because chances are i might have been sick the day they covered that in french class, plus i never took latin. i like new words and yes, i can look them up.  and every historic allusion has it's time.  you don't have to hold my hand parenthetically, but it is nice to know that somewhere at the bottom of the page or in the back i can look up said reference.  in bigger terms, honesty is appealing in terms of why you feel the need to share certain things with us.  not only how do you use references , but what is your reference point?  it may be to help yourself process a life event, to comfort, to create an escape, or because you are fascinated by something you learned and want to teach.  there are personal journals destined to be books (see also famous annes, as in frank and lindbergh).  and sometimes, honestly, i think there are books that should have just stayed personal journals.  (perhaps social media has clouded the filter of public vs. private consumption?)  at any rate, thank you for circling back to something if you take the time to draw special attention to it in the first place.

and of the writing gospel these three remain:  structure, rhythm and reference.
but the greatest of these is still love.

an alert and grateful reader

direction matters

as a lifetime learner, i find it so reassuring that you can live for a substantial period of time and still learn the simplest of new things.

for example, yesterday from the homes & gardens section of the paper, i learned that ceiling fans go in different directions for different seasons.  really!?  i got up from the couch and checked.  sure enough, there's a nifty little button on it that reverses the blade direction. whoa. (and yes, i'm easily entertained.)

the recommended setting is counterclockwise for summer (which cools and brings air down) and clockwise for winter (which takes air up and creates even circulation).  i had no idea.

setting my fan to the desired rotation for august (in my air current ignorance, i'd had it backwards) i stood underneath and really could tell the difference.  and to think all these years i've had it on the same setting all year long...

Friday, August 5, 2016

on country walks

no matter where i've lived, i always feel at home when i have a walking route.  my current one is by far my favorite and, when i head uphill to the vineyards, i always breathe a sigh of gratefulness for where i live.

because of this loop, my ears are trained to hear snakes in the grass and doves perched on telephone wires.  i know where the blackberries are and often stop to pick fresh plums on tip-toe.  once i saw a hummingbird resting on a branch not far from the now-familiar field of sweet peas.

if it is late morning, the boy with downs syndrome will often run along his side of the fence with a beach ball saying hello to me the entire way.  i look forward to saying hello back.  the killdeer lay their eggs among the river rocks by the stables and the jersey cow looks at me with her big brown eyes as if to say, "all will be well".

luxury cars speed past me on their way to and from wineries while riding lawnmowers stir up august dust.  somehow the queen anne's lace defy this dust, bobbing gently in the evening breeze--a nod to grace--and guiding my steps back home.

Monday, August 1, 2016

annie dillard made me do it

if you ask me about writing, i'd say we are what we read and that's been my preoccupation.  when i write, it's to condense in poetry, whereas novelists enlarge.  and why i don't write a novel is because of the problem of selection:  too many ideas, rather than too few, it seems.

but in reading a collection of annie dillard's writings in "the abundance" i couldn't NOT start writing.  it's as though her way of putting things forces you somehow into either being a writer or not being one.  and i am one, so i wrote more than just a poem for the first time in a while.  it's called "moon rise":

     I remember the day I realized the moon did not just rise at night. I remember thinking, “How could I not have noticed this before?” Sure, I had passed fifth grade science class and even done a little styrofoam model of the solar system with Charity Masterson for the science fair.

      But more than thirty years had gone by since our parents came to the gym to noddingly search out and approve our earnest research with accompanying poster boards. And ever since the moon had been nothing more to me than a snickerdoodle in the sky with a bite taken out, always on the left side, like a child's drawing.

      That the moon was a reflection of the sun, I remember. That it had its own orbit I had somehow missed. And that it both waxed and waned (with sometimes a bite out of the right side, gasp!) was an entire revelation.

      Sure enough, there it was at ten in the morning...high noon, sometimes after dinner making its trip across the sky. It made me want to return to my childhood and make drawings of both a sun and moon in the sky above a house with the proverbial chimney and row of flowers. (Come to think of it, as an art teacher, I have yet to see a child's drawing of a moon in the daytime, but I'll keep you posted.)

      How much I had seen and paid attention to the sun. How not so much to the secondary light. What now drew me to the less-bright, to the essential shadow of things? If the sun was knowledge and understanding the moon seemed to represent mystery and silence.

      Along with ts eliot, the “eyes of my eyes were seeing and the ears of my ears heard”. I suddenly noticed the moon all the time. What else had I glibly gone throughout my days not noticing or appreciating? Birdsong, tree buds, tides, direction of the wind...and what egocentricity was it that made it seem as though it had just begun since I had noticed?

      It made me want to know other things that had been going on the entire time. I wanted to see our land from the river's perspective instead of from the highway; to pause at the windmill on my country walk loop and notice its direction and to let the sea tell me when I would walk her shores at low tide.

      I wondered what would happen if I allowed the grace of nature to dictate my days; to inform, rather than me telling her, where and when I would go and what I would do. Could I trust her to not only feed me in season and provide beauty when I least expected it but also to remind me that there are no bad weather days, only days in which to venture out more than others? To sleep when it was dark and to wake when it was light? To become appropriately small in position to increase my perspective?

      This was a letting go, an enlargement; the glass of theology that shatters in the presence of Love.  Of putting down the crayon of certainty that colored the moon in the same way and allowed room in my mind for it to rise in the middle of the day as it had always done. And now, when I do see it in the more-expected night sky--even when it is barely a slice—we both seem fuller for it.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

at play with color

we wrap up this lovely month of july with paintings i did just for fun!  my assignment to myself?  use up four old canvases by working as quickly and joyfully as possible from memory about some of my favorite summer sights.  and this is the result.  a little about each piece...

"lavande" is french for lavender, which we have both here in oregon and in provence.  and--since there's nothing like my vineyard view here at home, round hay bales, and the sunflower fields in france--i combined them all.  (the texture is created using an icescraper!)
i love these bistro chairs; they come in everything from bright green to pink.  i wanted this painting to be in red, white and blue--the colors of the french flag.  in honor of their country's pride and solidarity, i titled this one "tricouleur".  it is my message of nationality for their bastille day.  nice, je t'aime!
there is an oil painting of bonfires in a gallery at the beach that i really love and can't afford.  so, while mine is not meant for a gallery, i decided to paint my own.  this sight makes me so happy, particularly from this vantage point in cannon beach, just south of haystack rock.  it's called "glow".
i wanted this painting to have a childlike matisse feel to it, with bright primary colors and chunky shapes.  it's entitled "encore" for the name on the kayaks we use to navigate local rivers and lakes.  this is an image of what it was like to float among yellow lily pad blossoms at trillium lake by mount hood recently.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

lost & found

i found the following in a frame at goodwill.  at first i thought it was just a piece of art (of the free church in central square, london) but then discovered it was a card.

it reads, "hi mrs carlson; i hope you like oregon.  burlingame misses you so do i.   i hope you like the poem i made up especially for you and mrs jackson it is my most sincere poem yet.  i'll always remember you as my friend, herbert gilbert"

and i can't help but wonder, what is the story here?

alert readers with any clues leading to the author or owner of this missive, please comment...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

by ee cummings

some good news?

i'll admit it, i'm a learned equalizer.  what i mean is, i have this deep drive to balance things.  for example, if someone is really complaining, i'll want to find a bright spot somewhere.  and, vice-versa, if i feel everything is too surface, i'll be the one most tempted to bring a reality check to the party.

honestly, i think this is sometimes because of my own discomfort with the strong emotions of myself and others.  but at least i'm aware of and in touch with that as a place to start.  awareness being key, i find i'm wanting to bring a LOT of bright spot to the news of the world around us right now. 

the gospel was originally meant to be good news.  God freely bringing himself to our personal, group and universal parties (see also "things hidden:  scripture as spirituality" by richard rohr) and, no matter how that has been interpreted, filtered by cultural biases, or maligned in the name of power/shame/guilt, i find myself drawn back time and time again to a story bigger than my own. the longer i am pursued by love, the more i find that experience (not knowledge alone) is what transforms.

i also find solace in the small things; the joyful signs of life right here, right now:  blackberries sweet on the vine (and the crisp my friend makes out of them), cloud-watching, colored pencils, the sound of water, ocean air, salted butter, real mail, and the deer in the backyard who have not yet learned to be afraid of me. 

what's the pattern here?  it's that wholeness resides in holding the tension between light and darkness, between joy and sorrow, and between good and evil.  it's in not having to know or understand it all and being ok with the unknown spaces, i.e. mystery. any expectation that is not communicated or agreed upon is just a wish, afterall.  so i guess you could say i have plenty of wishes for the world.  it might even be called prayer. or a question.  i don't know.  what i do know is the world can't have too much beauty. and that's something worth equalizing...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

gift from the sea, again

this photo captures my joie de vivre, especially during the month of july (untouched by obligations) where i am free and fortunate enough to spend endless days at the ocean.  i'm starting to think of it as a sabbatical month of sorts and the rhythm of the sea helps me mark time by walks and naps.

it was my wish to turn 42 here and, among other amazing forms of relaxation and enjoyment--including a crab dinner outside on the patio, i reread anne morrow lindbergh's "gift from the sea".

her writings spoke to me just as much--if not more deeply now--as they did when i first read them at age 20.  marveling at her wisdom (she really was ahead of her time writing in the 1950's) i am encouraged to continue to live life from a simple and authentic self.  i wonder what it will be like to read it yet again when i am in my 60's...

restaurante botin

this in from an alert reader traveling in spain:  the restuarante botin.  the oldest restaurant in the world, botin is just steps away from madrid's plaza mayor.

it was hemingway's favorite hangout, as he was friends with the owners who let him hang out upstairs to write before meeting friends for lunch--usually the roast pig special.

he loved the place so much he set his final scene of "the sun also rises" in the botin.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

colored pencil fun

i know coloring books are all the rage right now.  it's also fun to just break out the colored pencils and draw.  this is a recent sketch i did at the request of a friend.

just as delightful a process as when i was little, it's hard to believe i get paid to color!?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

did you know?

it's no secret that i love learning at least one new thing every day.  among other things, those seemingly random tidbits of information come in quite handy when making connections or conversing with a wide variety of people.

today's fact comes from "mason jar nation" by joann moser.  in this summer season when we think about canning and preserving food, did you know that the mason jar's history actually begins in europe?  nicholas appert, born in france in 1750, was a chef, baker and brewmaster.  in 1795, appert accepted napoleon's challenge to devise a means of preserving food for military consumption.

it would take 14 years (and further history with the mason, kerr, and ball families) for appert to perfect what we now call "canning" and win the emporer's 12,000 franc prize.

it's fun to look around the pantry (or your grandmother's pantry) and see the size and style of jars there.  some of them may have history and some not as much, but either way they are useful.  what will you store up for winter?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

the wave i ride

patagonia portland hosted a great event at their store featuring documentary "the wave i ride" about women's big wave surfer paige alms.  the free pizza and drinks were fun, as was the chance to look around at great outdoor gear, but what was really inspiring was the multi-dimensional life of this surfer.  not only that, but her perseverance through injury and rehabilitation to ride some of the biggest waves ever surfed! 

you can watch more at:  paige alms: the wave i ride

the glassblower of murano

the next thing crossed off on my summer list of adventures?  glassblowing.  before i went to the studio, it was fun to read the novel "the glassblower of murano" by marina fiorato.  it gave me insight into this italian world history and mastery of art medium that continues to fascinate...

Monday, June 27, 2016

help me, julia child!

today's stay-at-home vacation post brought to you by the wonderful world of french cooking.  only i'm doing it by myself. solo.  alone.  no teacher.  yikes!  i looked up some french cooking classes, but the one i wanted wasn't until july and so i decided to just go for it in my own kitchen.

the owner of northwest fresh seafood sold me two and a half pounds of fresh mussels rinsed and de-bearded (the strand mussels use to connect to other things in the ocean) and gave me this simple rule:  "closed before cooking:  good!  open after cooking:  good!" which i rehearsed...

...chopping the garlic, fennel, red onion, jalepeno, and basil...zesting the orange...putting the little still-alive bivalves into a towel-draped collander in the fridge to keep them happy...

...meanwhile i decided to make a chocolate cake.  this isn't just french, it's universal, except that i added in maybe a bit more dutch cocoa, espresso, and cayenne pepper than the recipe called for and made a coffee concentrate cream sauce topping just for fun. this satisfies the "sweet" portion of my "sweet & savory" french self-imposed guidelines.

today has been a mix of definitely most definitely following the important instructions of health & safety while going intuitive on the rest.  i would like to think that the spirit of julia child, who once dropped a chicken on the floor and kept on going, is with me--imperfections and all--that i'm trying and what more kitchen adventure could you ask for?  i'll let you know how it goes...

..(the next day) they were delicious!  definitely worth it and not as scary or hard to prepare as i thought.  if you make these, get a baguette to soak up all the extra sauce. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

summer market breakfast

what a great way to welcome summer...with a backyard breakfast!  i had just as much fun shopping and cooking for it as i did hosting a feast for 10.

gathering eggs and herbs from our yard , supporting local farmers and using only real milk, butter and creme fraiche (for which julia child would be proud!) i set to work.

the menu:  cold-brew coffee, citrus-mint water, linden flower wine, market potatoes with bacon & rosemary, three berry compote w/chia cream pudding, cinnamon & sugar challah bread, blueberry scones, and lentil & tomato basil salad.

i made conversation cards such as "if i could pass along one summer tradition from my childhood, it would be..." but people didn't need them!  a wide-range of ages, old friends connected and people made new friends, moving from the sun to the shade to continue their conversations.

a just-right morning of sun in the upper 70's when the earth and flowers are still fresh...i would definitely host this again!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

book detritus

i think a book's already been compiled about the stuff that people leave in novels?  if not, it would be highly entertaining.  consider what came tumbling out of my most recent library book:

a grocery list consisting of "max passes, milk, your milk, your cereal, dog food, bread (white), bleach (pink bottle)" and a post-it note which reads, "mild winters and long rainy spring is the perfect weather for growing pinot noir."

you don't have to be sherlock holmes to notice it's two completely different sets of handwriting.  the question remains, is it from the same household?  considering the clues, and the fact it was written on a Lakota Sioux Culture notepad, we can make the assumption that we have a carless, possibly lactose intolerant native american dog owner with a dream of grape growing on our hands here.

i could be wrong, but it's a distinct possibility.  (oh, i should mention it tumbled out of "oregon wine pioneers" by cila warncke, which seeing as i live in the dundee viticultural area, increases the chances that i am looking at a neighbor's shopping list.) people are so interesting.

this reminds me that one time i found a post-it in a book and i actually recognized not only the person's handwriting but also the name and number of the people they had written down to get together with, all friends of mine.  imagine their surprise when i asked them not only how they liked the book but how their coffee date had gone.

just call me watson.  what's the most interesting thing you've ever found in a book?

Monday, June 20, 2016

self-guided tour

i planned a local bike tour for myself through wine country today!  biking is a great speed for covering more distance than walking while being able to observe more than driving.  riding in the sharrow, i discovered two parks, a boat launch, and a new loop by the golf course.

stopping for lunch, i tried eastern european food for the first time served by an authentic russian woman and her daughter.  in addition to learning about white coffee beans, even though i've never been to russia, i feel like the dough stuffed with beef, jalapeno & ginger "sy sy" sauce and side of cabbage, tomatoes and cucumber gave me a genuine taste of what it would be like to eat there.

seafood market friends helped me with the price-per-pound of mussels (stay tuned for my french cooking day) before i biked on to more shops downtown.  while resting in an oak barrel chair with a fresh baguette sticking out of my panier, a local farmer walked by me and handed me a fresh bunch of lavender!  i felt like i was in a postcard as i pedaled home.

our natural world

there are great rewards waiting if we will only still our bodies and minds, take the focus off of ourselves and just sit...preferably outside.  i did this yesterday and, granted, i have a pretty special "backyard" acreage, but any green space will work.

in one sitting i saw:  hummingbird, baby chipmunks, dragonflies, bumble bees, large yellow butterfly, chickadees and a deer.  being father's day, i took my dad to the national wildlife refuge in tualatin where he first heard and correctly identified a nest of baby birds before we even saw them.  we spent the day noticing, listening and honing our observation skills.

we noted that animals have many of the same concerns that people do:  food, shelter, family, safety, communication. and we also realized you can walk the trail loud and uncuriously or quiet and receptively.  like robert frost's two paths diverging in the woods, we took the quiet way and received so much. tuning our senses in to the natural world is sheer gift.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


1859:  the year oregon became a state, the magazine of the same title, and also a time when a great poet walked the earth noticing things and writing them down.

that would be gerard.  gerard manley hopkins.  i've mentioned him before.  i'm pretty sure we would have been nature-loving friends.  i doubt he wondered too much if someone (me) would be reading what he wrote about the weather and how the clouds looked one particular day as she also looked out the window at her own particular cloud view.  he has something to "say" in response to the world around me that, in some ways, is still the same as it was in 1859.

my heart sank a week ago when neighbors were felling trees.  (i was relieved to find out that they were merely topping them to avoid breakage and that they would sprout from the trunk and grow again.) either way,  i couldn't imagine that section of driveway sky without the shimmering leaves in the breeze.  hopkins wrote a poem called "binsley poplars, felled 1879" in which he too laments, "O if we but knew what we do when we delve or hew--hack and rack the growing green! after-comers cannot guess the beauty been, rural scene, sweet especial rural scene."

when i find garbage on my morning loop or at the coast, lately the line that has been going through my mind is also from hopkins, this one from "God's grandeur" and somewhat more hopeful in the second part:  "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!"

the near-full moon was shining in my window early this morning when i woke up to birdsong (4:37 am to be exact) and the sky was just tipping it's hat from star-brimmed to firstlight.  "look at the stars!  look, look up at the skies!  O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!" ("the starlight night").

157 years might technically separate us, but according to nature, i can't help but feel we're having timeless conversation.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

adventurer or thrill-seeker?

i would venture to say, as a species, we humans are fairly adaptable when it comes to stimulus.  too much and we seek solace, too little and we amp it up.  each individual has their own optimum range and things they do to keep them in the zone above "bored" but below "stressed" that varies from person to person. 

two basic camps beyond that emerge, that of adventuring vs. thrill-seeking.  i would consider myself an adventurer.  i love to get out and try new things; learn, taste, make and do but am also content to read at home for a couple of days without requiring outside people or events to entertain me.  i'm pretty internally-motivated when it comes to planning things to do and find a contented rhythm between going out and coming in, between socializing and solitude. 

thrill-seeking seems to me about adrenaline, chance and risk.  tempting fate, pushing the odds...i wonder where you find yourself on this scale...

-you find yourself with no plans for a couple of days.  do you panic or putter?
-would you rather kayak an unexplored lake or white-water raft a class V rapid river?
-for your birthday would you prefer to go sky diving or have a few friends over for a new cake recipe?
-your ideal weekend consists of rushing between ten small events you just heard about in rapid succession or savoring a couple of longer outings you've never done before?
-you're happy with a waterfall hike or you'd rather go bungee jumping?

of course, this is just my made up list, but are you more thrill-seeker or adventurer?

ten happy summer things

1.  east-facing light shining through the curtains
2. the feel of clean floorboards beneath bare feet
3.  berries straight from the bush
4.  time to get lost in an adventure story
5.  dutch baby pancakes with lingonberry sauce
6.  working in the garden first thing in the morning
7.  lowest tides at the beach
8.  farmer's market
9.  cold-brew coffee
10. spontaneous gatherings

Thursday, June 16, 2016


midsommar (midsummer) is celebrated in many parts of the world as the longest day of the year.  in northern parts of sweden, as i learned on my most recent trip to IKEA, the sun actually never sets and there is daylight both night and day.

the eve of this festival is an eating and drinking fest, usually featuring herring, sour cream with fresh chives and broiled fresh potatoes with dill. 

as we approach summer solstice june 21 and the first day of summer, what midsommar celebration ideas do you have?