Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Cozy Day!

I love Christmas. The anticipation, the warmth, the home-ness of it. I feel blessed to be spending a joyful cozy day with family. I only wish I could be with all of you, dear family and friends, sharing the delights of gift-giving and sharing food.

This year, all our gifts were handmade. We didn't make them all ourselves (though we made a pretty good crack at it). We supplemented with Etsy and the Portland Holiday Market. But I'm proud to have contributed very little to mass consumerism and the production of yet more plastic.

And still have given and received many lovely little love tokens. The pinecones above and felted rocks below were a few stocking stuffers I created. Something about felt expresses the hearth-feel of the season.

Happy day and love to you all!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Variation on a (Poofy) Theme

I love the crown and tutu combo! You remember Olive in her little woodland fairy version? Here's my sassy niece in her incarnation as Princess Bluebell. Apparently that's me talking. Funny how foreign one's voice always sounds.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Marigold Mystery

(Forgive the terrible cell phone photography!)

I like to walk along this deserted stretch of creosotey beach between my house and the St. Johns Bridge, where I've never seen anyone else except for occasionally one of the quiet hermity types who live in driftwood and tarp houses here and there. And about thirty feet of this beach is regularly strewn, at the high water mark, with flowers. At first it was always marigolds. I imagined Monsoon Wedding taking place on a raft drifting toward the Columbia. Thousands of marigolds, whirling saffron-colored silk, and yellow light from paper lanterns lighting up a September midnight.

Now it is October, and not one weekend walk has found this stretch without fading blossoms. Today it was mostly carnations.

Clearly, all possible explanations are romantic, strange, a little sad, and a testament to the tendency of the human heart toward quirk and beauty.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Water, water everywhere...

I need books. No, seriously.

It's been nine months since I taught my last college class. And let me reiterate: I feel really good about that. I'm loving what I'm doing and I don't miss the adjunct lifestyle in any way. But. Recently I've noticed that I go around proposing to my friends that we gather for movie nights. And read all the current criticism on said movies. And give presentations on said criticism. Maybe we could write some papers too... I'm missing shared reading.

And there's this: About a year ago, with the unfinished draft of Edwin Drood, I finished the final word of Dickens's writing. Austen succumbed long before, of course, and the Brontes. And George Elliot. What have I got left? I've been rereading, and god knows that's worthwhile, but I need something more. I can't spend the next fifty years rereading.

Tell me what to read.

Make me reading lists, dear friends and family. I don't care what's on them. I'm not necessarily looking for literary merit. And if I've already read them, no problem, then we can talk about them. Your five favorite books, or five books you think I'd like, or five books you would make everyone read if you had control of the human curriculum. Mom and Dad, you are not exempt from this. It's a few years since you've given me any homework.

Come on guys. It's only you between me and a lifetime of slipping further and further away from the 21st century. (Although, of course, if you have any recommendations from the 18th and 19th, I'm really stoked.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Refurbished Bins Find

I have a thing about footstools and ottomans. I don't really like to use them but I am always deeply charmed by them. I found this sweet but mangled piece at The Bins. For you non-Portlanders, The Bins are a place of pure chaos and potential, the Goodwill outlet stores. The myriad items rejected by Goodwill as simply too tatty or mysterious in function end up being sold at The Bins by the pound. Its name refers to the giant wheeled carts full of miscellany that are periodically brought up to the starting line where shoppers gather, ready to pounce. This guy cost $5. It took a few minutes to recover, and I'm pleased with the results.

The top? There's just something about ticking and doilies.

So now we have this lovely little ottoman to go with our wonderful couch (and cat).

PS: The corners are not really lumpy. It's a trick of the light. I swear. Here's proof.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Happy Anniversary

This day was two years ago. Remember everybody? We got married. You were there. It was everything I had imagined it would be, which is saying something.

For some reason I can no longer recall, I was absolutely terrified all the way up to the altar. Scott, too, I think. It seems so wildly brash to attempt this project together. Lifelong. That's saying something. But as soon as we were wed, all of my fear evaporated. It has felt absolutely right ever since. Not that it doesn't still take a certain amount of courage, this thing that is love.

And now it's been two years of waking up together married. It is different from the five years of waking up together unmarried that came before. Better. Closer. I didn't know what it would mean, but I can feel it now, outside of words, in our bodies and in that other ineffable soul place.

I love working near Scott. I am constantly inspired and baffled by the breadth of his knowledge and interest. My artistic vision is wider than some, perhaps, but the varied nature of his is something altogether different. He gathers facts, images, buildings, words, and they are archived neatly in the spaces my different magpie habits leave. We are still, always, working on our project of a life together. It is one of my greatest joys to work in the next room from him, wondering through occasionally to discover how our projects overlap. We find beauty in such different places that together our dose is doubled.

One day we were brainstorming for a cityscape tattoo that has long been in the works. We were discussing what should be included, a bridge, a cathedral, a train... And then I got a little carried away suggesting raccoons painting in the alleys, giant dandelions breaking out through the windows, morning glory crushing the rooftops, swallows nesting in the debris, snippets of poetry spray-painted on each wall. "Well, that's the city you live in," he said. And then he began to dreamily describe the freeway he would include. My raccoon has been invited into his alleys, and my swallow onto his telephone wires, and they find more nooks to explore and love every day. We live in overlapping cities, my love, and I am privileged to see into and through yours.

Thank you for collaborating with me. And for bearing up under all the bits of thread. Let's make more!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Summer tastes like crocodiles,"

said a child in my care today. So we wrote some poems.

by a 4 year old girl

Summer is fun to me.
Summer smells like pickles.
Summer feels like pickles.
Summer sounds like pickles.
Summer looks like pickles.
I like pickles.
Blue and pink and purple pickles!
But not pickle ice cream.
Pickles only.
Pickles, pickles, pickles!

By a 4 year old girl

Summer smells like candy canes.
It tastes like chocolate.
It sounds like an airplane.
It looks like a castle.
It feels like hot wind.
Summertime feels like a sunburn.
I do like summertime.
And it feels like I have a sunburn.
And my body peels.

by a 3 year old girl

Summer feels like soccer camp.
It smells like jerseys.
It tastes like Gatorade.
It looks like cotton candy.
It smells like Strawberry Short Cake.
I only go to soccer camp at summertime.

by the alpha 4 year old boy in our class

I get to go swimming so much.
Hot hot like a hot hot oven
in the hot hot sun
with hot hot fire.
Summer smells like blooming flowers.
It looks like pink and red and purple flowers.
It sounds like hooooooooo.
It tastes like nectar of flowers.
And I get to go swimming!

by a 3 year old girl

I love when I go in my swimming pool,
and I love when I water my flowers,
and I love when my dad does that too.
I love when he waters the grass.

by a 3 year old boy who has spoken English for a short time.

Summertime makes the sun come out.
It sounds like the sun coming out.
It tastes like clouds going bye bye.
It looks like raining sometimes.
It smells like no fog.
It feels of not raining and the sun come out.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Some say the world will end in fire

It sure is crazy blistering world-endingly hot around here. Mint from my garden, ice, and watercolor-blue water. Trying to keep cool at school.
Good luck.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Convenience Cleaning

I know many of you are sufficiently virtuous to be immune to the Clorox wipe/Swiffer phenomenon, while others of you are insufficiency neurotic to be upset by it. Many of you, however, are like me: you love this stuff, but can't really get behind it. I go through periods of green kitchen obsession during which I just can't ignore the fact that they are toxic, non-biodegradable, gratuitously disposable, and just really excessive. Method does have a biodegradable version, but they're not as effective as they could be, and they're still, you know, a disposable product where none is needed.

I found many, many complex directions online for making your own disposable wipes. I finally decided, however, that mine needn't actually be disposable. I do like having something at the ready, no spray bottle necessary, pre-moistened and all. But I discovered that my scrap basket could furnish some delightful little cleansing cloths, trimmed with pinking shears to keep the fray down. I wet them with all purpose spray and keep them in a jar. I pull one out each morning, wipe down the bathroom, and toss it in the hamper. Or at least I do that during the weeks when I'm actually following my cleaning regime.
You can do the same general kind of thing with your Swiffer, using the Swiffer cloths as a pattern. Cut several rectangles from microfiber or terrycloth and store them wet in a jar, or just spritz the floor with all purpose spray as you run over it. Method also has its Omop, which is basically a swiffer but with a microfiber pad that velcros on and that you can rinse out in the sink and eventually throw in the washer.

And I get to make it all smell like peppermint with a little essential oil.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Loose on the Follow Through

It's the middle of July... So much for May being housekeeping month. My attitude toward cleaning was reflected in this project of mine; I have the best of intentions, but when I lose interest, I give it up altogether.

But I cleaned the kitchen today, and have had a renewal of enthusiasm; I'm back to it and would like to discuss cleaning products with you all. I'm on a constant search for the perfect products. My qualifications are as follows:

1. I'm not happy if I can't eat all the cleaning products in the house. I'm a total toxiphobe. It's really important to me that if the cats lick out the toilet after I'm done cleaning it, they won't foam at the mouth and die.

2. This happily corresponds with general greenness. I'd like my products to be low impact on the environment as well.

3. I can't smell much, but for some reason I can smell many cleansing products. So, since I'm having an olfactory experience, I want it to be positive.

4. It'd also be nice if they were effective.

I keep jars of scented baking soda in each quadrant of the house and use it for cleaning almost everything, from the dishwasher to the rugs to my hair. I'm pretty convinced all one really needs for cleaning is baking soda and a good all-purpose spray, with vinegar for serious disinfecting.

I would really like to make an all-purpose cleanser myself. That way I really know what's in it, can control the scent, and put it in a pretty container. Plus it's so empowering to permanently cross something off the "Stuff We Buy at Target" list. I have plenty of recipes, but honestly I have a real problem with the scent of vinegar. I'm in search of the perfect non-vinegar based all-purpose spray recipe, so if any of you have one, let me know. In the meantime, the photo above is of some scented vinegars curing...

And I'm still buying my spray at the store. I've done a lot of research on Method and Mrs. Meyers. They seem a little too good to be true, but everything I've found suggests they're actually quite environmentally sound and safe. And they sure do smell good. They produce a lot of unnecessary products with quite a bit of packaging, but if you are going to buy a counter-cleansing wipe, Method's are a lot sounder than Clorox's.

So please, dear friends, I know many of you are sounder cleaners than I. Anybody have the secret key to the perfect all-purpose spray?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baby Gifties

My sweet sister-in-law, Emily, lives on a farm in rural Alabama with horses, pigs, goats, chickens, moonshine, and antique tractors; the whole nine yards. And she's busy brewing a baby boy, to be born before fall. She pointed out some fabrics she liked a few months back when we were all visiting Spokane, and I snapped them up and just completed a little layette for nephew-to-be.
These onesies were very simple and satisfying; I cut the images out of the fabric Emily chose, glued them down with fabric glue to prevent excessive fraying, and when they dried I machine-sewed them for strength. I pick up second-hand onesies for a dollar at resale stores around here for this purpose, and made them in all different sizes, with different farm animals.
I used the same fabric for this, my favorite of these projects. It's a changing pad to stow in the diaper bag. Unrolled it looks like this:It's soft, cushy, waterproof, and rolls up little. I'm so pleased with the design!

These flannel receiving blankets edged with quilting cotton are one of my favorite easy baby gifts. In this case, it's three different John Deere prints. I actually keep yards and yards of flannel on hand to make these with. I buy five or ten yards whenever I end up with a coupon for a single cut.
And finally, I made three sweet little flannel burp cloths and a waterproof pouch to keep them in. I bought the waterproof fabric on etsy to line the changing pad with, and it's great. Very satisfyingly orange, and just seems like twill on the outside. I don't know what it's made out of. It was a cut somebody had lying around and decided to sell.

I'm pleased with these collection of gifts, and can't wait to try out variations. So gentle readers: have babies.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Back, With a Mustache

Yes, it's been a very long time. I've been traveling most recently, but really it's not excuse. I do mean to return to blogging. I've been encouraged by all you dear friends who have contacted me over email; I had no idea my readership was bigger than the five people who comment. I'm excited to find that it is.

The mustaches: totally ripped off from etsy. But awesome. I made them out of reinforced felt and glued popsicle sticks onto them. Real popsicle sticks. I made Scott eat a bunch of popsicles. They were a gift for Josh for his birthday. He does have a mustache of his own, mind you, but it seemed like options would be nice.

Here's everyone looking a bit dodgy.

And Mary looking entirely sinister. It's amazing what the right facial hair will do.

I intend to make some more of these for the children on my Christmas list. Excellent stocking stuffers!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

My wonderful father is an explorer, a naturalist, a writer, an artist, a story teller, and one of the most creative people I know.

Scott and I walked through the house, photographing just a few of the lovely objects my father has created for us, like this table, destined eventually for the living room, currently holding a few little starts from my mother on the front porch. The sticks leaning against it are his doing too, left behind after a visit, the sort of interesting detritus he sheds.
The spoons he carved some years ago, during his spoon-carving phase. They are one of my favorite things. There is much power in knowing that the simplest objects of every day life were created by the hands of someone you love. My father taught me the magic in forming relationships to the things in our lives, and also in the little leap of faith it takes to attempt to create these things, practical things, ourselves. It is so meaningful to make a spoon, a bowl, something useful, something you can't really live without. This kind of simple self-sufficiency is so often forgotten, and enriches our human experience if we remember to develop it. I also learned from my father how to make a stew out of bees if I am lost in the wilderness. I prefer the spoon carving, though I haven't actually tried either.
And then there are the spirit-objects, which fall from his fingers like flowers in the fairy tales. These two masks were gifts to Scott a few years ago, and are among the most treasured belongings we have. A Pan-like dancing philosopher, and Scott's favorite, a wind-god.

To my chagrin I couldn't find any of his beautiful boxes in our house. One gets lost in their tiny mystical detail. Broken and lost objects come together to reveal their strange affinities, to show off the new hidden worlds created. I don't have any on hand. Because they are fragile, ephemera, with a tendency to last only so long. That is something my father taught me too: to value the making, the process, the risk of creation, to ignore practical concerns if they in any way confound creativity.

He taught me to be scrappy, inventive, tough, and resourceful, to believe in magic, and to be unafraid to create structurally unsound objects. To see the endless potential in the things other people overlook, to pull things out of dumpsters, that a few hours in the freezer purifies almost anything, to save the tiny bones of smashed creatures, and to climb over the fence at the zoo for the really good feathers. He taught me to ignore boundaries with deep sensitivity, and to see all the world as an invitation to create and to play. He gave me language which is for both of us the first and deepest and hardest medium, and he taught me also to never confine myself to the arts I succeed easily in.

When I asked him a month ago if he happened to have a round table top no more than three feet across that I could have, he magically produced one from the basement. That's the kind of dad he is. Thank you, Daddy, for all the building and the playing and most of all for the wisdom about living you have shared with me. And the endless love.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Letter To My BFF

Dear Mary (FMC),

I already have.


Once you told me that your extraordinary mother said that when she looked at you and your siblings she saw you simultaneously at all the ages you had been. When she spoke to you at thirty, she spoke also to a twelve year old you, and that seventeen year old and three year old, and perhaps a projected future you that she saw glimmerings of as well.

And so it is when I think of your hair. I see with equal clarity the surprising purity of your blond when we met fifteen years ago, blond all the way down your back to the abrupt edge that the man at the UFO museum said identified you as an East Coaster, blond, though you said the Portland water made it green, for years until after a ballgown-wearing party you cut it off and wore it like straw for awhile, and then intermediate years when the hemline of your hair dipped and withdrew gently, a quiet breathing, until you put on a red wig and met your future husband; then your hair turned red all of a sudden and stayed for years, and twisty hot curlers appeared in our lives for the first time; at your wedding the slant across your forehead; and then the lightening again, the paling of red toward blond; and I left you there, a little bit of bang cut when I saw you last I know, but the color, the length, a little indistinct.

So my dear friend, it happens that I'm not positive about the look of your hair. But let's say it is due to such sweet familiarity. And I'll bet you're not sure about mine either. How good it is to love.

Here you are, and Josh:
And here you are, pictured with a gigantic allergen:

And here, my artistic interpretation of you being bowled over by kitty allergies:
Love to you.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Blossom of Someone Else's Labor

Hello peonies! You all were right: the ant covered buds were peonies indeed. The most histrionic of flowers. They're so marvelously overblown, so slutty, really. I am enjoying them a great deal, in all their mauve splendor. I am finding that whoever planted the garden here really went for shades of pink and purple.

The hydrangea:
The camelia:
The roses:

I am personally a red and orange kind of person, with a little blue. Poppies and bachelor's buttons! Begonia and lobelia! Geranium and lithadora!

However, when blessed with a harvest like this, I might come around.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back, In Miniature

It's been a long absence, I know. I've been sick. But I'm better now, and as evidence, here's my beloved and I enjoying ourselves in the sun.

I am very intimidated by paint. I just don't trust my abilities with a brush. But I fell in love with these little wooden people and decided everyone should have a set of dolls representing their family. I began with us. They absolutely crack me up. I can foresee becoming rather irritating to travel with, posing these guys like Amelie's gnome.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One More Bag

For Olive's Mama Mary.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bench Mondays

So it's, you know, a thing people are doing. People are posting pictures of themselves standing on benches on Mondays. I don't know. It's gone more general and now it's just kind of great pictures of feet on platforms. I rather like these ridiculous assignments. One learns when teaching that they loosen the artistic spirit because the fear of failure dissipates.

In this pic I'm about five feet up on some kind of piling-esque pole in the sick boat yard in Charleston. I climbed up a pallettey wall to get here. Adventures in Coos Bay.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Two-Post Day

Scott's new tattoo, done by the amazing Dan Gilsdorf at Atlas, to commemorate his mother. It's based on a statue she kept by her bed.

Poet Mouse

This is my Olive. I am blessed to be her Noona! She is featured here wearing her birthday crown and birthday tutu that I made for her. Making tutus is my favorite new trick. The crowns, I think, will become a tradition for me with the little ones in my life. A new one each year, to supplement the dress-up box...

And this is Frederick. The book of the same name by Leo Lionni is one of my favorite children's books. When the other field mice are busy storing up grain and so forth, Frederick tends to sit in the sun and daydream. The others consider him rather shiftless, but in the dark of winter, when they've grown bored and cold, he shares his own bounty: he tells them the colors, the sounds, the images, the stories, that sustain them. He is, in short, a poet, and the book is one of very few with the moral that we should respect daydreaming.

Olive just turned one. I was thinking of bequeathment, as one does as a godparent, and I thought of Frederick, and that I would like to help Olive understand the value in experiencing the world quietly, seeing, dreaming, and storing up stories for cold days. For her first birthday I made her this quilt:
So happy first year, walking, talking girl.
And here is a lovely color to store up for the colder months.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother Gifties

When I run out of bag-space in my closet, I make them for my mom. Here's her new traveling bag, with lots of interior pockets, a little clutchy pouch and a matching notebook. I may have to make matching notebooks for all future handbags. A cereal box, a fabric scrap, and some odds and ends of paper. Very satisfying.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Mama

Here she is, as I often think of her.  This photograph was taken before I was born, by the poet William Stafford.  He was good at seeing people, and though I didn't know her yet, this seems like one of the truest pictures I have of her.  Gentle, happy, big kind eyes full of intelligence, alert to all around her,  busy with her hands.
It was my grandma who taught me to sew, but my mama taught me to embroider and to pursue all the other sundry arts I have explored.  Here is some embroidery she laid aside years ago that I recently came across.  She bellydanced throughout my childhood, and created incredible dresses embroidered with mirrors.  The patience and artistry that went into those projects blows my mind.  I wish I had them on hand to photograph.
Her most recent art has been watercolor.  These beautiful cloud studies hang over our kitchen table.  I am amazed by her art, and how much she has learned in a couple of years since she took this up.  It's very brave to launch into an art form that you don't know much about; it scares me a great deal, actually, but she jumps in and learns.

Of course there are many many other things I admire about her.  She is the most brilliant person I know, and she taught me to be loving, and kind, and to be who I am in the world.  
And she also filled my life, and continues to fill it, with magic objects.  These little bits (chair the size of a quarter) are always passing from her hands to mine.  They are rich with family history, with beauty, with meaning.  She taught me to look for beauty and story in the objects that surround me, and I feel deeply blessed with this knowledge and with my love for her.