Saturday, December 26, 2009

Number 14 (now that Santa has come)

Remember when I bought that amazing book? (It was that glorious weekend I took Joe to Portland for his birthday and we stayed at this infamous and totally awesome hotel and saw Rick Huddle's one-man show Spent and stumbled upon a crowd of Santas like one has never seen before.)

And, of course, we went to Powell's, Portland's sprawling yet sultry book store.  And I found the book that gently led me one delicious step further than simple knitting...and into felting.

So I knit. And felted. And then, because I just can't leave well enough alone, some embroidery and beads and stuff too.  A fun little project that kept my fingers busy and will now (I assume) grace the Christmas trees of those I love the most.

Friday, December 25, 2009


The Christmas cards have been packaged and mailed (yes, it's true, I made all the envelopes this year. It's just so easy and free (!) when you have a roll of butcher paper and some other Christmas wrapping paper around and some nifty envelope templates in your stash of useful things); boxes of cheery Moroccan gifts and handmade ornaments (more on that tomorrow!) were mailed and have all arrived at their intended destinations; small bundles of homemade marshmallows were packaged and dropped about; and it's finally here.

Merry Christmas. And since my parents visited for Thanksgiving and Joe's parents visited after that, we're all alone this holiday, except, of course (!) for each other.  And one very-hairy yellow dog, who will be wearing a harness and paniers today. 

And that's because we're off to go alpine skiing near Mount Rainier. Hope your day is happy and holly-filled (but not too holly-filled, because that stuff is pricky!). And warm and hopeful. And Merry. And Bright. And stuff.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Number 26, recession style

Define gourmet. I mean, it's my list, so I get to say what's what. And I think that beautiful French-styled plates and pairings counts as gourmet, even if there's a $12 hamburger on the menu. Even if.

Big thanks to my in-laws, who visited for a late Thanksgiving and an early Christmas (okay, they just visited to visit, but we ate a lot of good food and put up a Christmas tree) and were feeling adventurous enough to take us to the brand-new Toulous Petit on Queen Anne, a New Orleanian-styled bistro extraordinaire.  And the result? YUM.

Beautifully ambianced, this little gem is flanked with candles (much like its sister restaurant, Pesos); the booths feature works of art in and of themselves:  tables decorated with gorgeous multi-toned inlaid wood designs and perched upon all on 40,000 glass tiles.  The floor is covered in an additional 85,000 Italian mosaic tiles that beg you to notice them in their austere monochromatic glory.  Huge windows will open wide to the sidewalk in the summer (I'll be back) and in the mean time, the 5,000 pounds of hand-tinted deliciously tactile pink and green plaster fringing the walls practically hugs you the moment you walk inside.

The menu changes daily and is something like 8 or 13 pages of amazing choices. It would all be too over the top except that it's the kind of place you won't worry about showing up in jeans to. And you wouldn't even mind just popping in for a Sazerac and that $12 burger. But I dare you to try the foie gras. Or the fresh local oysters. Or the fried alligator, assuming it's on today's menu. Just sayin. 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Number 17 | Last year's list

So. It finally happened. Leave it to world travel to make me actually complete something from last year's list (number 17).  I needed a skirt that was long enough to be modest in a country that really takes modesty seriously.  Really seriously.  And since I'm six feet tall, that's easier said than done.  I do love a tall section on a clothier's website, but sometimes you're just in need of a cute but long skirt, and you're pretty sure that you can make one all on your own.

Cut to a trip to Stitches, an amazing store on Capitol Hill, and I went home with one Amy Butler *swoon* Barcelona Skirt pattern, several yards of orange and brown floral fabric, a few yards of the softest off-white muslin, a bit of coordinating thread, and one zipper.  This skirt is great, but it's not designed to go to one's feet. So then began the process of creating additional panels for the skirt itself and its accompanying lining layer. It was a bit of a guess and fudge and then a bit of a wait and see type situation involving guess-worked butcher paper pattern piece supplements, but it all worked out in the end.

And then I wore it in Madrid, where we had a layover on our way to Morocco, which seemed all too apropos, given the name of the pattern. And, just to show its versatility (and reinforce the fact that we backpacked through Morocco and only brought four outfits each, here's a photo of the skirt in Ourzazate (the film capitol of Morocco--think Babel, Starwars, and Lawrence of Arabia) with my super cute orange babouche.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sweet Anika

I'm an aunt, again, and this time to a sweet little girl who came at 11:44 pm (Alaska Time) last night to my sister, her husband, and their sweet little boy.  Anika Estelle arrived right on time (= two weeks early) and I melted a little bit when I heard her squeaking in the background as I spoke to my sister this morning.

To celebrate her imminent arrival, and because I'm a sucker for interesting projects, I knit up this super awesome bird mobile for her room.  An amazing stash-buster, this project uses eight different colors of yarn, and none of it has to be washable!  I enlisted my husband to trim and sand the dowels for me, and five birds, four twigs, and twenty-four leaves later, the cutest mobile ever is born. Seriously. So great.

Welcome to the world, Anika! You are already loved so much. And just you wait, little girl, because I'll be up there in Alaska soon enough to kiss your tiny toes. In the mean time, try not to wear your momma out too much.  She's worked so hard on your behalf already.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Morocco List Three: Love/Hate

(from my second day in Marrakech)

Things I love (so far):

  1. Fresh-squeezed orange juice from the Djemaa el Fna stands. And the cheeky salesmen who try to sell it to you.

  2. The men in the Fna who sell photos with monkeys, who, in their spare time, are sweet, affectionate, and tender with the adorable primates.

  3. Bright yellow babush on all the men in celebration of the new year (Eid al Fitr)

  4. The echos of the calls to prayer. [The main square of Marrakesh is outlined by five mosques that all have their own muezzins and stylized azans.  If you sit at one of the outdoor cafes on Djema el Fna and listen at prayer time, it's a delicious sound--five simultaneous but out-of-sync melodic chantings echo past and through one another weaving an audible tapestry of prayer.  In fact, one of the best parts of traveling around a Muslim country is to hear the vast varieties of azans from city to city and even mosque to mosque. Some are clearly recorded and replayed five times daily, while others are pure art.]

  5. Mint tea with extra sugar. [Mint tea is an ART in Morocco. The step by step of this is worthy of its own list.]

  6. Cafe au lait which is actually espresso (with two lumps).

  7. Tiny children prancing around the city in their fancy new year clothes (sharwal kameez mostly, but I've seen a few in perfectly tailored suits.)

  8. Free wi-fi (which they called wee fee) in the Cyberpark.

  9. Twisty-turny slim and windy alleys all around.

  10. The long heartfelt greetings friends give one another in the streets (made longer and sweeter by the celebration of the end of Ramadan).

  11. Hundreds of cats lounging, hiding, running about in the souks (and a few very hot, panting dogs).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Morocco List Two: Purchases

Things we have purchased so far:
  1. A gorgeous and expensive cactus silk and wool rug/throw for our bed [we later learned that we paid MUCH too much for this, but we still find it beautiful. And, even though the man promised us it was big enough for our queen sized bed, it is not.]

  2. Two pairs babouches.  Orange for me. Yellow for Joe. Camel leather soles and goat leather uppers. The orange coloring (we were told) comes from henna and the yellow from the roots of the saffron plant.

  3. One leather handbag. [okay, this wasn't actually purchased. it was thrown in as a "gift" by the rug salesman because he knew we were being robbed.  He actually threw in the babouches too. (see above.)]

  4. Three two-pack Halls throat drops. [I got a cold on the plane ride over, and it was compounded and made worse by the ever-present cigarette smoke, gas-oil fumes from motorbikes, and general dust in the air.]
  5. Much bottled water.

  6. Much mint tea.

  7. One cappachino and one double espresso.

  8. Two scoops pamplemousse glace. One scoop citron.

  9. Three glasses fresh-squeezed orange juice.

  10. Sticky, lucious dates, honey sesame glazed peanuts, salty roasted almonds.

  11. Two mixed kebab plates, two bowls of harira (soup), two bread circles, two cups mint tea (dinner).

  12. One faux guide tour of Mosque ruins. [This we paid what we decided was a fair price for the twenty minutes of a young college students' time. He argued with us and told us we hadn't given him enough money, so then we said that we wouldn't pay him at all. He took the offered funds.]

Things I did not want to buy, but did (sadly)
  1. Henna on my left hand (which I washed off, since it was the black henna that I had been warned by Lonely Planet might cause skin burns).
Things I did not buy, though I was told that I should
  1. One cartwheel by a small boy.

  2. One stupid (and probably fake) Gnaoua dance (with finger cymbols).

  3. Many (many) small packs of tissues from even smaller girls.

  4. The chance to hold a snake.

  5. The chance to hold a monkey.

  6. Another attempt to get henna on my hand before I realized what was happening.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Not Gladys' rolls

When I was growing up, my great-grandmother owned a cabin on a lake in Northern Minnesota. Since her family (two children and their spouses, eight grandchildren and their spouses, 16 great-grandchildren) all lived in the Twin Cities and my great-grandmother lived in Underwood, North Dakota, this was a terrific place to meet up and spend some quality old-fashioned northern Minnesota time.

Every summer my parents would pack my sister and me into the back seat of the car (at first with Colorforms and Legos, later with Walkmans, books, and friends) and we'd drive the four hours to Park Rapids, where we'd turn off the paved road and into another world. This world was full of communal meals around a table buffeted by vinyl red bench seats, of swamping the canoe to swim in the center of the lake (where it was deep enough that the weeds couldn't strangle your feet), of adopting one of my grandfather's bait leeches to be my personal "pet" for the week (or a box turtle someone accidentally caught on a fishing hook), of mornings spent in rocking chairs around the fireplace, of late nights playing games around the kitchen table, of woodpeckers and woods and a funny old dog who hung around waiting for table scraps.  There was an old fashioned candy store in town, and an abandoned gravel pit down a nearby road where the hunt for agates often took place.

But the best part of the trip was when Great-Grandma would arrive. Grandma Gladys always, without fail, unpacked her things in the main bedroom off the kitchen (the rest of us slept in a lofted space filled wall to wall with beds of different sizes and mattress firmnesses which were accessed by one of those terrifically novel ladders that fold flat to the ceiling and squeak delightfully when you climb them), and then set immediately to making a double or triple recipe of her famous, amazing, caramel rolls.

She didn't use a recipe, she didn't measure the ingredients.  She did, however, have a completely captive audience of daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We'd sit at the table while she worked, chatting aimlessly to keep her company while she kneaded the dough, patted it out in a puffy rectangle that filled the entire (communal) kitchen table, and spread it full of an intoxicating mixture of evaporated milk, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon to roll into a beautiful spiral, which she'd slice using sewing thread.  Each roll would go, face down, into all the flat sided pans that could be found.  They'd rise again (three rises is torture for a kid, I'm telling you) and then finally go in the oven to fill the cabin with the smell of comfort: sweet, browned bread and sugar and butter.  And then, for the rest of the week, we'd feast on these enormous, sticky, incredible rolls. Sweet, doughy perfection.

So it's with this information that I have to tell you: these are not my great-grandmother Gladys' caramel rolls. My mother watched my great-grandmother make those rolls once desperately trying to get a fix on some kind of recipe (measuring things behind her back and estimating when she had to) and my sister and I have that recipe now--though it's my sweet Alaskan sister who makes them most often.  But I'm working on getting through my bread book, and these sweet little Miniature Chelsea Buns looked so festive and welcoming, I just had to try them out.

Don't get me wrong: they're really good. Flavored and sweetened with honey and brown sugar, and filled with dried fruit and orange peel, these rolls are sweet and sticky and perfectly tiny (you get to eat three!).  My husband Joe loved them. Moaned through each one with delight. Actually told me that he now expects that I'll make them once a month.  But I won't. And not just because they take all day, or we'd gain back all that weight we managed to shed in the Sahara.

It's because they're not Gladys' rolls. And though Joe met my great-grandmother, it wasn't until old age and too many strokes had rendered her confused and cranky.  He never went to the cabin; never put puzzles together on the porch or played Rook until three in the morning while fruitlessly trying to keep sticky caramel off the cards.  Never fished for sunnies and waited patiently for his dad to clean every tiny one so they could be rolled in breadcrumbs and pan fried to perfection.  So to him the Chelsea buns are fabulous. But to me they're yummy, but ultimately empty.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Number 4

Made it to foreign soil. Specifically, Spain and Morocco. (Spain was more of a drive-through destination, but made it there nevertheless. I have passport stamps and everything.)

Saw some beautiful places, met some beautiful people, and learned some hard lessons.

Being a tourist is easy--being a traveler is much harder. And while I knew this before I left, I didn't realize its full meaning until I was thrust again into the pull and sway of the intersection between my expectations and a foreign culture.

Navigating my way physically, logistically, and emotionally without losing my mind (or sense of self or the basic foundation upon which I had based my world view) turned out to be quite the trick.

Feeling too exhausted to sketch or write in my journal, I took to making lists about the journey.

The short, bulleted format of a list seemed much more doable--no poignant prose required. And so, today, I give to you a new list, created over my lunch break, while I looked through the 834 photos I personally took during the four-week journey, and whittled them down to a favorite eight.

List Number One: My favorite 8 photos

1. Women enter the souks through a main Bab; Marrakech

2. The derb (alleyway) outside our riad (guesthouse); Marrakech

3. Ali Ben Yousseff Medersa; Marrakech

4. Sunset over the Saharan desert; two days' walk outside of M'Hamid

5. one of our camels snacking on a acacia tree; one day's walk outside M'Hamid

6. A cat snoozes on rugs for sale in Essouaria

7. Legzira Beach; midway between Sidi Ifni and Mirleft

8. A donkey waits for his owner; somewhere along the southern Atlantic coast of Morocco

More lists to come.

Monday, August 24, 2009

And then we were 8

Happy Anniversary to us. It's been eight years since I strolled down a grassy walkway adorned with rose petals and daisy heads in my Birkenstock Gizeh sandals and linen dress to meet you in your linen suit, hold your hand, and tell you I won't let go.


And I still love you. And I'd do it again. Without question.

But this time let's pick a date in June or July so it's not so hot and humid. Just sayin.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why I ♥ Seattle (this week)

in three parts.

Part I: Ballard Corners Park. At which you will find an over sized concrete living room, complete with couch, arm chair, side table, and lamp.

And next to which, you will find the roundabout full of clocks hanging in the tree. Yes, clocks.

Part II: Almost Free Outdoor Movies. At which you are encouraged to wear costumes (I wore horns), and Bring Your Own Chair (BYOC), and donate $5, and where you get a pseudonym upon entrance. (I was Pluto. Joe was Scarface.) You also get to play trivia, take photobooth pictures with props, eat from your prepacked cooler, and chat with your fellow pseudonymed neighbors while waiting for the sun to set and the movie to commence. The movie: Peewee's Big Adventure.

Part III: Telephone poll art. Again. Still awesome.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

ich habe genug

Joe brought home Maira Kalman's book (which was made from her visual blog in the New York Times), The Principles of Uncertainty.

I was immediately smitten: by her deluxe descriptions of things, her jaunty paintings, her handwriting a mix of lower case and upper case and cursive and block print, her outlook, her in-look. She paints portraits of people's sinks, and photographs couches that have been abandoned on New York streets, and is the curator of several amazing collections: candy bars and sponges and suitcases and whistles.
Anyway, I thought you should know about her. Because I'm happier now that I do.

Also: She's got a new gig going at the Times, about our country's history. Check it here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Two (the age. not in the list.)

Brendan, my first (and only) nephew turns two today. That's only 730 days on earth, my friend. And that's not too many. But it is enough to learn how to sit, and stand, and walk, and run. And how to climb up on EVERYTHING and to say a few important words, like MaMa and DaDa and maybe even ThankYouHaveANiceDay.

In year number two, luckily, everything is still pretty awesome. Grass! Bees! Dogs! Firetrucks! Oatmeal! It's all great. Interesting. Worth grabbing and sticking your fingers into (and putting in your mouth). Worth screaming and dancing and shouting about. That kind of joy is hard not to join in on. And even though my sweet nephew is in Alaska, and I am not, I do hear him babbling in the background on my weekly phone calls with his mother (that would be my sister). And when I'm not holding the phone away from my ear to defend against the high-pitched shrieks, I'm smiling along in the joy and exuberance I can hear in his travels across the back yard (or living room).

My sister is busy baking him a little sister, a niece. And that will be exciting too. And in the mean time, he's going to have to grow into this sweater, which knit up a lot bigger than I thought it would. (Gauge? What's gauge?)

Happy Birthday, B. I know that once you're older, getting a sweater for your birthday will be lame. It's probably even lame now. But I have to get in the knitting before I become that crazy old aunt who always sends the itchy sweaters (for the record, this is knit in washable merino wool and is ANYthing but itchy). I hope you can forgive me that some day.

At the very least, you'll have cute photos of you in the sweaters to show your future girl/boyfriends when your mom gets the photo album out at dinner to embarrass you. So that interspersed among the inevitable naked bathtub photos will be some stills of sweater strutting, and you will thank me. Oh yes you will.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Oppy has some cool stuff going on over at the Scribble Project. The latest? A totem pole, where we all made a section for stackage. Good fun clean stuff.

Here's my section. Check out the whole line of over 100 totems here.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Finally. It's here. The February Lady Sweater, which I completed a few months ago but never got around to photographing. Until today.

It's about time. Amy is one of those amazing women you know who outshines even the shiniest nickel. That's because Amy has something I don't: patience. Infinite patience. (And mad artistic skills. And a proper cheese slicer on hand at ALL times.)

How do I know? Because this yarn is not just any yarn. This is yarn that Amy retrieved by unraveling a thrift store sweater. Once unraveled, she washed and hung the yarn to dry (to un-kink it) and then wound it into these beautiful skeins fresh for the knitting.

(You can do this too. Just google it. Instructions abound. Send skeins to your less patient friends. They will love you forever.)

This yarn had been sitting in my stash for...I'd say a good few years. Like, for example, enough years for Amy to have TWO children, and thus not as much time for such tedious (but thrifty, eco-friendly, and AWESOME) projects. So it's been awhile. Which is why I finally put it on the list. Enough, already, Cupcake. Make a FREE sweater out of your free yarn.

And this sweater was born. The Lady Sweater rocks. If you are on ravelry (and you should be if you knit or crochet), you can see that the rest of the world agrees with the rocking-ness of this sweater. In fact, 6,449 other knitters have made this sweater and posted their completed projects on ravelry. Another 9,346 have it in the queue.

Maybe it's becuase the lace is so awesome. Or the pattern doesn't require ANY seaming (which I hate) or that it's just an awesome mid-weather cardigan with 3/4 sleeves that works almost all year on the west coast.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Time = abundance

Big ups to Jess Gonacha for posting my lastest digital drawing on her FABulous blog, peacannoot. Jess is an artist and a visionary for the Internets...pop on over to peacannoot and see for yourself.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I've been...
  • wearing out that old dawg (above)
  • to the west-most, north-most part of the contiguous united states
  • eating fresh-from-the-smoker salmon
  • sailing in the Mississippi
  • eating my husband's hand rolled meatballs over a campfire
  • getting my swim on--in Bass Lake, Lake Peppin, Crescent Lake, the Pacific Ocean, and Puget Sound
  • celebrating fathers and lots of years on this earth
  • slurping the best local ice cream (birthday cake? how about balsamic strawberry?)
  • tide pooling
  • quite a few statues
  • visiting old friends
  • planning the next big trip
  • drinking sexy bitches (an award-winning cocktail) with the neighbors
  • learning to be more present in the moment(s) by taking fewer photos

Monday, May 25, 2009

Shop update!

New stuff available in the shop, including (back by popular demand) changing pads AND a healthy assortment of other baby goodies. Also, please note, there are things in my shop now that feature...wait for it...cupcakes. Oh yes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

focaccia is the easiest yeast bread that there is

Once upon a time there was a woman named Eileen. I met Eileen through my MFA program in Anchorage, and was privileged to work with her for a year on my research assistanceship through the college. Eileen graduated after my first year in the program, and to celebrate, she hosted a party at her house--the kind of casual potluck that has an open grill onto which you put your own meat (or tempeh, as the case may be) and the hostess provides wine and plates and salad.

Here's what I remember about Eileen: she has three daughters (which she was doing a bang up job raising) all while attending grad school and working part time. Here's what else. Eileen baked five loaves of fresh focaccia for the party.

I can remember gasping (in her glowing kitchen, brightly lit by the almost all-day Alaskan pre-summer sun) at her ability to be such a super woman, having made BREAD for a party at her own house. (Parties at your own house mean that you also had to clean said house before people arrived. That's extra work, folks, and if you didn't make bread, I think, people would understand.)

I remember Eileen laughing at me and saying, No, no. Focaccia is the EASIEST yeast bread there is.

I tucked that memo into the recesses of my brain, and it appeared just the other day (about eight years later), board from laying around and reading (and reading some more) and wanting to do something creative that didn't take all my mental and (short bursts of) physical energy, I googled focaccia recipes and set to work.

I picked the first one that came up. It said it was the easiest, so there. I did, however, read the comments that said the recipe was blah so I added salt to the dough as well as minced fresh garlic and rosemary (god bless you, Seattle, for being the perfect place for rosemary to grow all year long) from the newly awakening garden. I added the garlic and rosemary while kneading the dough--you only knead for ONE minute.

Focaccia is practically paint-by-numbers for bread makers: one minute of kneading, only one rise (and 30 minutes at that!), it's truly a "what are we having for dinner" kind of bread (assuming you work at home). I can't even tell you how good this bread was. I oohed and aahed my way through it. We ate all but two pizza-shaped wedges that night, warm from the oven.

And then, the next morning, my sweet husband toasted the remaining triangles, added cream, eggs, and fresh Parmesan, and threw our tiny casserole dishes under the broiler for a remarkable savory bread pudding.