This year for Christmas, I had so much fun making little stuffed animals for kids in the family. The above owl, monster, and elephant went to my cousin's kids, and today, the oldest girl called and thanked me for her owl. Then she asked, "Did you make Jake a monster?" I told her that yes, I had made a monster. She then yelled, "It is a monster!" And then I heard Jake going, "Rhaa! Rhaa! Rhaa!" in the background. When I asked what he was doing, she said, "That's his monster noise!" My cousin (their mom) then got on the phone and told me she was a bit jealous and wasn't sure which one she liked best.
I made this sock monkey for little Elliot, my friend's little boy. We always joke that he's a little monkey, and he dressed as an adorable one for Halloween. Plus, he has sock monkeys on his curtains, so it seemed like a good fit. I bought these tights at the Bins over a year ago and finally got around to making them. Here's Brian's niece posing with her owl, pretending to be one herself.
I still have more Christmas presents I want to make for people! I wonder if I'll turn into one of those dreaded grandmas or great-aunts who always gives homemade gifts rather than the cool store bought stuff. Like the aunt who made Ralphy the pink bunny pajamas in the BB gun movie! Ha!


tramping through the snow, oregon-wisconsin

Last week, Brian, Claire, and I went snowshoeing up on Mt. Hood. We found a small winding road that meandered up a hill, and we tromped up that until we saw a patch of amazingly bright sunlight. We followed it to this incredible view of Mt. Jefferson. Breathtaking.
Then we snowshoed across Trillium Lake, with the ice shifting below us and people watching us critically from the shore. But Ice Boy (aka the Minnesotan) said he'd stake his life on the security of the ice (wasn't he?), so I snapped pictures, enjoyed the view, and kept my distance from other 135 lb. or plus creatures.
It was an amazing walk. I've never snowshoed before Thanksgiving, and now, I've gone three times this year. The third time was yesterday, in Wisconsin. Brian and his climbing buddy did some ice climbing on the cliff behind their amazing home where he farms ice. Meanwhile, the non-ice-climbing girls snowshoed across the field and down to a train bed that runs along the St. Croix River.
Eventually, we found the boys on their ice trails.
Then we turned around and walked back along the trail and up the hill, back to the road.
Above is the cliff edge down which the boys went for their climb. And here they are, finishing their adventure.
We went inside and ate delicious homemade Indian food, rice and beans and spices and pickled veggies. It was amazing and inspiring, as was our snowshoe walk through the quiet Wisconsin fields and woods.


from lunar eclipse to winter solstice

Tonight, I am hosting a solstice celebration with a few close friends, food, drinks, fire, and candlelight to celebrate the longest night of the year. Yesterday, I cleaned and sewed, cleaned and sewed, like an elf trying to get everything ready for Christmas time. It won't be, I believe. I have a keen sense that most of my packages will be arriving after the Dec. 25th date, perhaps on the third or fourth day of Christmas?

I am eager to post photos of my little creations, but that must wait until presents and packages have been opened. Until then, I must snip and sew and wrap and mail and shop and cook.

Pictured above is a black orchid, part of the Catasetum family that grows in South America, grown by my uncle Jim Pluskota.

Have a wonderful solstice today. Eat dinner by candlelight with friends. Feast on winter foods and cider and wine. Sit by a roaring fire. Enjoy the darkness and the light.


december swimming

Last weekend, we rented a yurt at Cape Lookout on the Coast. The wind howled and the rain fell most of the weekend. We went out on the beach and pretended we were human kites in the wind until we were soaked through, and then we went back to the yurt and watched movies (we set up the projector on the top bunk and hung a white bed sheet from the wall) and cooked food. On Sunday, I put on a borrowed wetsuit with hood, booties, and gloves, and I waddled out to the beach like a penguin. I was dreading getting into the water, but I had to try it out. Skeptical of the ability of this wetsuit to keep me warm, I walked gingerly into the waves. The wind was still fierce and the rain was sideways. The water on the Oregon coast is horribly cold. I'm used to body boarding for hours at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I've never gone swimming here. Until Sunday. As soon as I stepped into the water, I realized: I want a wetsuit!!!! I jumped in the waves and frolicked and played while Brian laughed at me from the surf. He warned me that I would want one, and he's right; I do, I do, I do!


wintering bees

I checked on my bees today, and their population looks healthy. More than I would have expected for early December. I am considering insulating the hive a bit. One reason for that is the fact that I did not move the false back forward.

The bees built a large amount of comb, but they built it crooked, making it impossible for me to go in there. So my game plan is to perhaps add some external insulation around the top and to pray they survive to spring. Then, in late February/early March, I'm going in there with a bread knife. I am going to cut all crooked comb, clean comb off of the bottom, harvest all over-wintered honey, and let the survivors start fresh in spring.
It was due to the crooked comb that I didn't harvest any fall honey. Let them keep it all for winter, and then if they don't make it, I won't have to feel bad about stealing their winter supplies. Plus, I was terrified that if I did try to cut and harvest comb and honey, I would destroy a bunch. So, they have their world as they created it until spring.
Here are the bees in the front of the hive behind the observation window. Still quite a few. They look healthy to me, and I could see no signs of mites. There were a couple of ants in the hive, but I've never heard of that being too much of a problem.


Santa Baby

Dear Santa,

When we talked on the phone on Thanksgiving, I promised you that I would post my Christmas list. Well, Santa, here it is. Read on, have a few chuckles, and enjoy!
Of course, beautiful prints from the QiQiGallery on Etsy would be much loved.

However,  a gift card to Sock Dreams would be dynomite! Especially as I'm still thinking about these gorgeous crocheted tights.
Then there are these sick boots from The Frye Company to wear with the tights.
A girl can dream, can't she?
Of course, snowshoes would be well worn and well loved as well, especially in the magical forests on Mt. Hood.

 I will leave you to ponder this also, Santa: Helping out financially with plane tickets home for bridal shower and wedding would be much appreciated. Any of these gifts would be loved, but are not necessary.

Much love,


Pride and Prejudice vs. Pride and Prejudice

The other night, I watched for the second time only, the 2005 version of "Pride and Prejudice," which is lusty and romantic.
 Sometimes too lusty and romantic. Sometimes the characters seem too wild. They're made to do things that seem alien to the time in order to fit into the romantic mood the movie tries so desperately to establish.
However, the film is so gorgeously shot that despite the moments when it seems like the story moves in fast-forward or when Lizzie's best lines are chopped from the screenplay or Darcy has lines that are foreign and new, the film is still a lovely thing to watch.
But I must say, for character and pacing, I still love, love, love the BBC version.
This look alone has made hundreds of girls become fans of Jane Austen. For my sister and I, my mother made us watch this movie with her, and from that point on, there was no turning back. Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park...I became fans of them all.
And yes, Dame Judi Dench is wonderful (and surprisingly sexy--but then, as I said, the movie is lusty) as Lady Catherine de Bourg, but I love the subtle wit and emphasized stupidity of both Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine in the BBC version.
So for wind-swept, soap operatic romance, go for the 2005 version with Kira.
Otherwise, it is, it is, it is the BBC version all the way.

this was all before thanksgiving, oh my!

I have put away my gardening gloves and picked back up my fabrics and threads. These new kitchen curtains above I redid from a single curtain I made for our hobby room. Those were miserable curtains, despite the cheerful print. Just a single dull panel with a crooked cut. I cut them in half and turned them into two new curtains.
I have been working for well over a year now on a braided rug. Actually, I worked on it a bunch over a year ago, and then I didn't look at it again until recently when I spent the day watching "Pride and Prejudice" (the Colin Ferth version) and sewing the braids. Not finished yet, but here's a preview with Leno modeling.
 And here he wonders over Sock Monkey, still unfinished. Starting projects is such a joy. Finishing projects is also a joy. It's the middle part that's a wee bit of a slog.
We had a snow day last week, although in Portland, snow days are more like ice days. Here's what it looked like on my garden.
And for the fans of the chickens, here they are in their first ever bit of snow.
And here's what a snow day should look like (says the hardened former up-state New Yorker).
We drove up to Mt. Hood to hike and ski, but the snow was too fluffy and the air was too cold for me to do anything without snowshoes or cross country skis, so while Brian skinned up the mountain, I read Alice Walker short stories by the fire in the lodge.
Portland has no way of dealing with snow or ice. There are no snow plows, salt trucks, or sand trucks. Black ice is deemed the deadliest of threats, and when there's nothing more but some slick roads and a dusting of snow, schools are closed and we head to the mountain where the real powder is. We went for a lovely snowshoe tromp in the woods Thanksgiving weekend, but we used Amy's camera, so pictures must wait.
I love that I can just drive up to Mt. Hood for a snowshoe in the woods or to snowboard.



I'm thinking this second look might be my new look. Something super textured yet feminine with short bangs just like I love to wear mine. Haircut tomorrow! If I like it, I'll post a pic of how it turns out.


Buy Nothing Day

In protest of superficial materialism, thousands of people are participating in Buy Nothing Day. I am not a big shopper and plan on saving my shopping energy for Sunday's Give Handmade Sale, so I'll gladly participate. Here are some ideas of things to do on Black Friday other than shop.

Make something. Knit a scarf. Sew curtains. Paint. Collage Christmas cards. Be creative.
Have a potluck.
Go on a hike. Avoid the crowded malls and go to the forests/mountains/gorges/rivers/beaches.
Read a book. Read aloud to someone.
Make music. Or play music and dance.
Take photographs.
Sleep in.
Spend time with someone special.
Do yoga.

Have a wonderful Buy Nothing Day!

Give Handmade

On Sunday, I may head over to the Give Handmade Sale to get my holiday shopping on. I'll gladly hand over some of my cash to local artisans who have agreed to donate 10% to the Oregon Food Bank. This way I can purchase unique gifts for a good cause. Who wants to go with me?


dress your family in corduroy and denim

I have finally read a David Sedaris book. I believe I attempted to read this book several years ago, but it didn't catch my interest. Did I not get his wit? Perhaps. Here's how most of the chapters go: David acts like a selfish prick; David repents. Either that, or it's a strange encounter, often with members of his own family, like his brother whose dialog is unlike anything I've ever heard (with corny jokes such as: "This coffee's like making love on a canoe. It's f***ing near water") or his self-employed sister who tears the linoleum off of her kitchen floor and sells it. A lot of the stories are funny, but sometimes they're simultaneously sad as he addresses peoples' loneliness, insecurities, irrational and bullying behavior, bigotry, and other foibles.

It's the school year, so I spend a lot of time reading for work, including Ender's Game, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and student papers, so Sedaris is a great read during the school year. Intelligent without being taxing; amusingly sharp and witty; and each chapter is its own little story rather than a long, ornate plot to try to untangle after a day of being intellectually drained.


Tasting Italy 101

On Thursday night, my friend Steph and I made our way down to inner South East, where there appears to be nothing but warehouses, but inside of 107 SE Washington, a building has been revamped into chic industrial with an acupuncturist and massage therapists and wine bar and Red Slate Wine Company, where we met up with my friends Emily and Sarah and Sarah's boss Deb. Normally, Steph, Sarah, Emily, nor I would pay $20 for a wine tasting, but Deb hooked it up and we were able to go for free. Or, well, for the cost of the bottles that we ended up walking away with.

This tasting, in looks, was sophisticated and classy with olives, pecorino cheese, almonds, salami and squash roasted with onions and cranberries and herbs and funky glass pitchers of water and long tables elegantly set. But in feel, it was relaxed and with "no wine snobbery" allowed. We tried seven wines from single estates in Italy where the quality control is so high that one grape vine yields approximately one bottle of wine. Tom, one of the hosts, has a personal relationship with all of these makers, and so despite the quality and the rarity of the wine(some of these wines are only available in 3-4 states--including Washington--and only 200 cases of some were even made), prices ranged from only $14-$32 per bottle.

Some of the wines instantly reminded me of people. The Cesanese immediately reminded me of my friend Amy, and the Tom Langhe, a Barbera blended with Merlot instantly reminded me of my dad. The Marzemino was a complex wine that smelled sometimes briney and sometimes like slate but then was surprisingly gentle and ever-changing. The Montepulciano smelled like berries and chocolate with a delicious finish. In addition to walking out with some presents, I also bought the Fior d'Arancio Spumante for Thanksgiving. This sparkling desert wine that literally means "orange blossom" smelled like orange, pear, and subtle spices and tasted sweet yet not overpowering, as some desert wines can be. A delicate blend of citrus and oranges. We decided that this would be a classy substitute for mimosas at brunch.

So maybe instead of eating it with pie, I'll invite our Thanksgiving day host over for brunch and we'll share the bottle between the three of us before we get cooking!

Here are a few interesting things that I learned:
You can compartmentalize the nose, so when smelling wine, if you imagine that you're breathing in through the top part of the nostrils, this is where you will smell the berries or the fruit. The bottom part of the nostrils is where you will pick up on minerals/woods/earth.

In Italy, it is often considered insanity to drink without food. Wine is made to pair with food, so don't be afraid to take a few bites of cheese/olives/stew/whatever and then sip your wine and slosh them both around together to see what one does for the other.

When trying to pair wine with food, look up the primary ingredients from that region. If that region is known for tomato dishes or seafood or mushrooms and cheeses, those are the foods that will go with the wine.

The most famous wine regions were once under the sea. Shells have lots of calcium carbonate in them, and calcium carbonate give fortitude and structure to wine.

All of these wines are organically and sustainable produced, but are not labeled as such because, as one of the wine makers says to Tom, "It's 2000 years of common sense."


on a dark and rainy day...

...when one drives to work in the darkling rain and returns from work in the darkening rain, a girl wants, craves, needs art! Such as the above print by Timothy Karpinski.
Or perhaps some aurora borealis:

Or a reminder of the color pink.
Or maybe just a warm fire, a purring 10 pound gray tiger, no weeds to pull, and time to daydream.


light of the mind

My friend Avery is having an exhibit of her photos, and she asked some of her friends who have been or are writers to contribute a written piece for a photo of their choice. I love the photo selection which you can view here, but I chose this one because it reminded me of my role as an educator. Here's the poem that I sent off to her the other day (of course finding much fault with her a day later, but oh well, tis what it is).

The Light of the Mind

The teacher seeks to lead her students
out of the darkened room--
out of the closed spaces
that breed ignorance and beget fear—
into a world vast and surprising.

There is a key-hole,
a portal,
a chamber door into the sun
that even she seeks.

Sometimes, the darkness encloses her.
Sometimes, the sun warms her soul.
Sometimes she feels as though she's lost the key
or the magic spell.
Or that there is not just one, but many
riddles to unravel.

There are constants in this life.
Change. Oscillation. Growth.
Set backs. The fluttering of wings.
The constancy of learning
when the mind's doorway is open:

the constant journey
towards illumination
and enlightenment.


yes, please

On my long shopping list, in addition to a new school bag, I have socks and tights. Here are some that make me swoon.

I love these burgandy codori crochet tights. The olive and black are also cool, but the burgandy seems the most eye-catching.
These charcoal diamond rib knee highs look soft and warm.
Um, yeah, love these Phoebe Over The Knee in petrol. Love the color and the pattern and the quirkiness of them.
These Derra Over The Knee are also lovely.
As are these ruffle topped leg warmers that can be worn as arm warmers as well.
All images and socks are from Sock Dreams. I think that I'm going to have to play Santa for some people at this little store, and perhaps, treat myself to a pair of something adorable. Of course, having great socks necessitates having great skirts and boots, but that search will have to be come later.