Wednesday, November 18, 2009


this is where i sit most days, alternating between sleeping baby and eating baby. if you've talked to me on the phone in the last month, i was likely sitting right here.

motherhood (and cute sleeping babies) takes a toll on getting out and about.

especially at -20F when even inter-species differences are erased in favor of a wood burning stove...

lucky for baby galen, people come here to visit. at 3 weeks, his Bimpy (maternal grandma), who came all the way from the east coast to oogle over him:

then, his auntie Malia, who taught him to smile:

and his Apa, who takes naps with him.

so lucky, this boy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

14 friends, 16 blocks of love

yesterday, kat asked me and Cob to meet her for lunch. there was a small group of folks who wanted to give us "something." i wasn't allowed to know what it was, or even who constituted the group. i dutifully showed up, snarfed down a pizza while knitter after knitter joined our group and Kat leaned casually against a large-ish box. all of these women are good friends of mine and had apparently been conspiring since May (since MAY, people!) to produce what has to be the most beautiful baby blanket ever made.

14 friends, 16 blocks of love. all individually knitted by women of amazing skill by themselves, much less joined in force to produce Baby's first blanket.

there is no way i could detail every square, but here is a sample of their collective handiwork.

by Maria, felted slipper knitter extraordinaire:

by Dorte Dissing, who's been knitting since she was a kid and (gasp!) can do it without a pattern:

by Kat, who i think i taught to knit about 8 years ago, and whom i now call when i have questions:

by Hope, who taught ME to knit 12 or 13 years ago (and whose method of teaching i still use when i teach now):

and the whole thing -- already doing its job keeping Baby warm and wrapped in stitched love.

a huge purple thanks to Cara, Dorte, Barton, Dea, Kat, Nicole, Maria, Theresa, Ruth, Normie, Charms, Kalin, Hope, and Lynn. i would say that such a project means more than i can say, but i'm guessing that each and every one of you know just EXACTLY what this means to me.

thank you.

Friday, July 31, 2009

here comes the sun

every year, i try to grow an experimental crop in the garden to see what i can nuture into this world. usually these experiments fail. Cob never misses an opportunity to remind me of the Okra Year, when i told myself that i could convince a plant that has never felt a cool dry summer to produce in sub-arctic Fairbanks. i admit that i fell short of my visions of cases upon cases of pickled okra, one of my favorite things in the world, but i consider it a success that my little plants produced one, very perfect okra. it was good.

this year, you might say i'm trying two experimentals - my sunflowers and you can figure the other one out from this picture.

but check out that sunflower! i'm 5'7" for reference - this thing is a behemoth and its siblings are no slouches either. here's the close-up:

can you imagine a thing of more beauty? it delights me to no end that this was a simple seed in my hand last April. now it greets me out the kitchen window every morning. oh, and the bumble bees like it too. growing sunflowers made me realize why bumblebees are colored the way they are.

some might say that growing sunflowers in the land of the midnight sun is hardly experimental, but it is for me. i don't think the point is to introduce an exotic (like okra?) so much as to do something new, even if it's only new to you.

fingers crossed that my other experimental turns out just as lovely, just as wondrous, just as surprising (but maybe a little less tall and attractive to bees)...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the other white meat

it's that time of year again...early summer in Fairbanks when the wild roses bloom,

...and the irises unfurl their delicate, ephemeral petals...

...and the pig gets roasted!

The Hollingsworths and friends host an annual pig roast in honor of Jamie's birthday (that's him on the left and that's his pig roaster in action) every mid-June to the delight of a fairly motley group, including me and Cob.

this is Teresa, nothing motley about her - oh no! wife of said birthday boy and hellcat extraordinaire. this belt buckle was actually made for her by one of her grad students - what kind of advisor do you have to be to get THIS as a gift???

the annual pig roast is a true Alaskan event with all the expected trimmings: large quantities of meat, potluck fare, outside with the mosquitoes, lots of kids, and of course, a blue tarp.

me and the birthday boy - with his new flaming suspenders. The Big Guy (what we like to call him) has more suspenders than you can shake a stick at - he even offered me some for when my pants start falling down in a few months! what a guy!

Friday, June 5, 2009


sometimes, you just have a good week, and no matter what else drags you down, stresses you out, or what have you. 3 excellent things came into my life this week, only one of which did i have anything to do with. regardless of what else is happening, it's important to stop and give these things their due. they are, after all, what makes life worth while.

first, i give you the most excellent pizza pie ever created by a 5 year old boy, my friend Owen. he and his mom, Theresa, came over for pizza the other night, and he showed us how it's done. a little pesto, a little red sauce, a circle of pepperoni, a smaller circle of black olives, finished with a mushroom in the middle.

second, a baby sweater for a friend who gave birth a few months ago. i was woefully behind on this...

...but i think it turned out ok. it is, after all, purple. a nice retro, off-center closure, sure to look dashing on the strawberry blond babe it's headed for.

and finally, after much waiting, my new niece, Marin. she came a little early but not without much fanfare and excitement. welcome, little thing - can't wait to meet you!

masterpieces, i think, all 3.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

purling on the porch

spring has been slow to come to the north land and as most of you know, i'm somewhat loathe to tempt the gods of warm weather when they first show their sunny faces. they seem like ground hogs sometimes, hiding again if you make too big a deal over their early appearances.

so it takes more than a few warm days around here to get me talking about spring. but today, i heard my first sandhill cranes and we hit about 50F at the height of the day, so i'm sure we can't turn back now.

to celebrate, Dea and i spent a chunk of the afternoon purling on the porch, enjoying the warm sun and melting snow.

who cares if the rest of the country has green grass and cheery flowers by now? we work hard for our spring in these parts and sitting on the deck knitting, while watching the snow recede from the yard as cranes fly overhead might just be the best way to spend an afternoon.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


it starts like this:

Scharfenberger chocolate and butter mixed with eggs, sugar, pecan flour, and vanilla. that's it.

after that's all baked and cooled, you pour a spreadable ganache (this time Scharfenberger chocolate, cream, and butter) over the cake to make a glaze.

a few chopped pecans pressed into the sides, a garnish of white chocolate designed with a toothpick, and a ring of fresh raspberries...

and you have a birthday cake! Happy Birthday Cara, and many, many more...

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I've been down for a week now with a nasty chest cold that has kept me on the couch with Kleenex and cough drops. but today, armored with a bit more energy and inspired by freshly falling snow, i ventured out for a short walk with Nuchie who has been patiently waiting for my recovery.

we started out on a foot trail near our house. I like these little trails where i don't have to worry about snow machines or 4-wheelers and where Nuch and i can romp without ruining ski tracks.

it was slow going. 5 solid days of hacking has left me feeling like someone was squeezing the bottom 2/3 of my lungs, leaving me with little breathing capacity for a hilly trail that really required snowshoes.

but going slow provides other opportunities. stopping to gasp gave me time to look around and see the trail i might have otherwise looked past.

a peeling birch. i mean, how cool is this tree? pretty and good fire starter, not to mention its importance to Athabascan cultures in making birch bark baskets.

the promise of summer in frozen high bush cranberries leftover from last year. these little guys grace many Fairbanks tables in the form of syrup, jelly, and wine every fall. they are part of the bounty we try to keep up with during our short summer months.

i finally made it back home, thanks to the unflagging support of Nuchie, my trusty bad dog. even though it was a short walk, it was good to get outside again and see some of the world's details.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

99 bottles of beer on the counter

i live with a beer brewer. he'd be the first person to say that he's not a "real" brewer (whatever that means), but then he'll break out the 'original gravity' and 'protein break'. if you're not a real brewer, you won't know what those things are. but i digress.

beer has been brewing in my house for the last 11 days. it's happened before and though i get the basics of yeast and grains from my bread-baking days, i don't get beer. it's a mystery to me.

so, for the uninitiated, i watched the process carefully and came up with these easy steps for making homebrew.

1. drink beer. (apparently, brewing begins with drinking. it seems like we're getting a little close to a chicken and egg dilemma, but this is what they did...oh! and you have to look reflective while you're doing this step. very important.)

2. next comes the malt. (I think some grains slipped into that pot while i wasn't looking, but no matter. malt provides the 'body of the beer' - still not sure what this means, but that's what they said...and food for the yeast to make alcohol. this is an important step.)

3. more malt. (because of the importance of this step, i got involved to make sure alcohol happened. you can't leave these things to chance, you know.)

4. drink more. (this actually happened a lot more than portrayed here, but i'm trying to keep these guys looking respectable.)

5. get hoppy. (hops are actually a flower that account for the aromatic bitterness of beer and help prevent it from spoiling. at one point, Cob exclaimed, '14.2% alpha acids, my ass!' which has something to do with the bitterness index of these particular hops. either way, i refer back to my point about not being a "real" brewer.)

6. fermentation in the carboy (notice the vodka bottle...brewing beer requires some obsessive sterilization procedures to avoid creating off-tastes in the beer. this is one that i think may just be to continue with the whole drinking theme. Here, Cob is "sterilizing" his mouth before creating a suction in the tube to the carboy.)

7. [10 days later] bottling. (this is the only part i really understand. beer goes in bottle. cap goes on bottle. clean up kitchen.)

8. naming the beer.

i give you Cold Snap Ale, an IPY IPA (for the non-Arctic types: International Polar Year India Pale Ale).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

triple word score

can you tell we're excited about Tuesday around here?

Saturday, January 10, 2009


knitters like to share their stuff. get a bunch of knitters in a room and people start pulling out their projects in various stages of completion, even projects that require a guided tour by the maker. knitters can take this leap of creative faith; they are used to things unfinished. imagining the finished product sometimes requires as much creativity of mind as nimbleness of fingers.

the frustration comes when you want to share widely and can't. you create a thing of cabled beauty, glorious even in its incompleteness, and it must remain hidden in the shadows lest its recipient see it.

this is my solution. just a glimpse, a brief and incomplete snap-shot, a fleeting tableau:

this is, by the way, a return to my cabled roots after a long hiatus in the crisp, precise land of scandinavian two-color knitting. let me just point out that it is reversible and the other side is just as pretty.

whew. i feel better now.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Day 11

cold snap.

warm soup.

Day 11 of this frigid, face-aching, square-tire misery, countered only by a good husband who fixes corn hominy chowder and serves it up with red wine.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dea rocks the lace

apparently, lace has nothing on Dea.

less than a year ago, Dea picked up knitting needles for the first time and hasn't looked back since. in all my time teaching, i've noticed that most knitters will fall into one of two camps: those who hesitate to knit a stitch without someone to help them looking over their shoulder and those who throw caution to the wind and knit with wild abandon, no matter the outcome. both paths will produce competent, independent knitters, but Dea definitely falls into the latter category.

it's a pattern in her life, i think:

during her last trip to the Mayo for her continued dialysis treatment, she picked up a lace scarf pattern at the local knitting shoppe. i like adventurous knitting choices and lace is nothing to sneeze at - especially if it's only your 3rd or 4th project.

there were a few bumps and fixes along the way, a few expletives, but Dea always picked the needles back up and climbed back on the proverbial horse.

she was rewarded with this:

dang! what couldn't you do in this world with a scarf like that wrapped around your neck?

Friday, January 2, 2009

new years, lost and found

New Year's has never been my favorite holiday to celebrate. the expectation, braving the roads full of crazy people, the need to stay up way past my bedtime. ugh. this year, we decided to go gently into that new year celebrating with a few friends, a nice potluck dinner, and some fireworks in our driveway.

it was cold on wednesday night, about -30F in the hills. we're in the middle of a cold snap and it had been cold all week with no end in sight yet.

that's why when a neighbor showed up at our door at 1 am looking for a relative visiting from the south that had been missing for an hour already, we were concerned. being outside for any length of time at those temps requires some preparation and lots of fur - things this woman surely did not have after a night of reveling.

the search continued until about 4 am and eventually involved the police and a canine unit, which was able to track her to the exact spot where she got into a car - an unknown car.

she is fine. some excellent police work revealed that she was disoriented and unable to direct the driver to where she lived, so s/he took her to a local hotel and paid for her room so that she would have a warm, safe place to be for the night.

so, on the first day of this brand new year, i was confronted with the best of humanity. people who care enough to stop and help someone, even if it's not convenient. people who mean no harm and only good. people who will make sure their neighbors are taken care of, even at cost to themselves.

someone i admire recently wrote that she always harbored a funny little belief that the way we transition into the new year sets the stage for how that year will go. i thought i was lucky to have spent a quiet, relaxing evening with a few friends, eating good food, which i was. but i was far luckier to witness real humanity from strangers, as one year passed into memory and a new one unfolded before us.

i will go into this new year remembering that there are far more good people in this world than bad people and that our capacity to care and to be human far exceeds the bad stuff going on around us, though that stuff is surely easier to focus on.

happy new year, all.