Finding Etsy Again

IMG_20171007_124737.jpgI was an early Etsy adopter, at least I think I was — as a new mom I was looking for ways to still take a few photos, and maybe even sell a few. Yes, photography is inherently difficult to sell; but it also provided a little time away, outside, as I figured out my new professional life and what that even meant. The challenge with Etsy, okay one challenge for me, was finding a way to market items and keep a stock of photos that were printed, matted, and ready-to-ship or sell at local shows — the investment alone was daunting. It became clear at my last craft show, when a lady with homemade pickles was selling more than I, that maybe this whole deal was not for me — a Property Brothers moment of realism with the sunshine rays radiating out from my head. I needed a plan, a direction, a different market than competing with the pickle lady (make no mistake, I do genuinely enjoy pickles).

Fast forward nearly seven years — still no real plan. But, Etsy has evolved like most technologies and today offers the option to sell digital downloads — yet another aha moment when I discovered this glory. After a chunk of time away, I’m back — and hopeful. The market for photography of any kind is brimming over with talented photographers — my few photos are just a blip on the screen. But this option, the digital world option, streamlines my own process — and that’s all I will be focused on; yes, there are more talented photographers, much the same as there are writers whose skills and talents surpass mine when it comes to both prose and teaching. My plan has evolved from trying to learn how to produce a supply chain, albeit sporadically which doesn’t lend itself to success, tp focusing simply on the photos I love myself and sharing them on the Etsy platform. If I simply brighten someone’s day with my colorful posts – super; if someone is moved to puchase and download a photo to keep that feeling alive, double super.

My shop name remains Northwest Flora as I lived in the Pacific Northwest when I began this photo journey in 2010. Visit me: for a dose of color in the coming days as we head to the darker part of the year.

Krumkake Victory!

IMG_20171012_095428.jpgBecause we currently live where Nordic treats do not abound, we must import. Or tackle solo, because no one knows what we’re talking about when we say, “Hey, where’s the best spot to pick-up lefse?” Let alone krumkake, sprtiz, fatigman or Snofrisk. The first year we lived in the South, I ordered spritz (and julekake) from our most favorite bakery, Larsen’s, in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood; alas, it appears they’ve cesased delivering what we consider to be lifesaving buttery, melt-in-your-mount cookies (although they do still have other, limited items for sale online). For my daughter’s recent birthday, she requested — deep breath, krummake, homemade, from me to her class. Now, this crispy rolled cookie is not one to be taken lightly if it looks like you’re going to be on your own, at home, in the middle of the day (not grading papers like you should be) with only the blue birds outside to hear your anguised cries when your fingers are burnt to a nubbins — as in no feeling left in your finger tips.

So the day before her birthday arrives, and while I’ve searched exhastively around the internet’s Scandia food related shops, and considered a trip to NYC to find krummake — I buckle down with my coffee, put the butter on the counter and plug in my double-wide iron. To note, my iron is non-stick; I do have the over-the-burner iron, but given that we have a glasstop stove currently, this could easily lead to burned hair and gutted kitchen from the butter drips in addition to the no-feeling-left fingers.

It takes just one whiff from the cardamom jar, and I am there — as in, anywhere but here. I’m at my grandmother’s house on her 1950s kitchen stool, itching to get my fingers in the batter; I’m in my great grandmother’s kitchen with her indoor wood stove (something like this) in her tiny Tacoma house — or I’m in our old Seattle condo, rain pelting the windows, with friends gathered for our annual krumkake bake. Wherever my head is, my nose led me there and I am about 3,000 miles from my current kitchen — this is indeed the moment where food and memory collide.

I mix up a double batch, because not only will curious kids be eating this for the first time, but it’s also a good idea to allow for “flubs” which must be eaten by the family (and me) for testing purposes. I dollop in my batter for the first two cookies, close the lid and wait…butter is slowly starting to expel from the press and coagulate in a tiny pool on the counter — clearly I need to grab a cookie sheet to catch this before the butter melts my contact-paper covered counters (yes, it’s a thing and yes it works when you have 1965 ugly yellow formica countertops). Cookie sheet in place, I slowly prop open the lid — to see two golden yellow embossed circles — carefully I extract these delicacies, one at a time from press to towel and begin to roll cookie number one. Hold in place. Let go and sproing! Cookie one is loose and unrolling fast, so I hastily spatula cookie number two out for rolling, fingers not crossed because I can’t, otherwise I’ll drop and shatter this cookie. Cookie two — yep, hold breath…holds; my thumb didn’t quite leave a print on its now round shape, but I’m getting the idea that doing this solo, requires a distinct combination of pressure — and stamina (because now I’m hot, as in sweat on forehead).

At the end of this more than 60 minute baking session standing over the steamy, buttery press — I am thrilled that I’ve learned at my advanced age, that indeed I can climb Mt. Krumkake myself and succeed. But I’m left with one question, “Is there every really enough cardamom?” Answer: no — we all need a little cardamom, or comfort, wherever we can get it — and for me, it’s somewhere contained in that little spice jar.

325 Degrees?

IMG_20171102_063511.jpgIt’s 3:30 am, you can’t sleep, it’s pitch-black dark outside, the leaves are nearly ground-cover and your best early-morning alarm — the mad train driver with incessant pull on the horn is chugging past the ragged edge of the neighborhood; what’s your first thought? Mine today, was zuchini bread. In sort-of planning ahead for baking this at some point today, I’d printed out the recipe last night for morning prep. I did not however, note the temperature the author listed — at the moment of printing I was most concerned about ingredients and oil substitutions. I make certain assumptions with quick bread and muffin recipes, which considering how much we’re talking about first impressions at Girl Scout meetings, I should probably reconsider.

The problem with baking at 3:30 am, is that once you read the recipe — the details don’t always sink in. I managed to pull all the dry ingredients together, the slurry of zuchini, butter, honey and eggs — and even preheat the oven to the suggested 325 degrees. I fire up the Keurig, for my first cup of coffee and cream, then coat the bread pan with a flourish of spray and hooray, we’re in the oven about 4:30. Because our oven is so small (24″) and so old (1980) and the controls (all manual, including a pre-led clock), I’m forced to use the alarm on my phone as a timer for any sense of an accurate passge of time. Even as I sit down to read the mornings disturbances via the world of internet news, I am braced for the jangle of the power-alarm my phone dish-out; calling it a buzzer is too kind — it is a nerve jangling rat-tat-tat that picks up speeed and sounds more like our tornado alarm than our tornado alarm.

After I finally settle on looking at Etsy instead of the WaPo and my coffee has cooled to the tepid chalky flavor I’ve grown to love — the nerve jiggering alarm goes off and I slurp my way to the kitchen. It’s a small house (with a small oven), so it’s not as if this takes me more than 20 seconds…I open the tiny door, pull out the rack and insert a paring knife deep into the zucchini core and not suprisingly, goo is returned to me on both sides of my blade. Okay, no problem, how about 5 more minutes — good rise so far, starting on a nice color, but we don’t want to get too crazy. Retrace steps to chair, laptop and Etsy screen where I’m pretty sure I’ve located my grandmother’s original Nordic Ware dishes that I broke when I was 11. More nerve splitting beeping, 5 minutes has passed already…open oven, insert knife again, and yes — still some goo. Deep breath and set alarm yet again; it is at this point that I realize just how tired and sleep deprived I am — and how, there is no way I can keep this up — back and forth: chair, small oven, knife, back to chair, back to small oven, back to knife.

And then, I know what the problem is — 325 degrees must be the absolute dumbest temperature ever for baked goods. Why not 350 and just get the job done? I understand the science of a slow-bake — the beauty that transpires when gluten, butter, sugar, baking powder all gloriously come together for the perfect bread-sponge. But the difference of 25 degrees, on a 3:30 am morning — would’ve made a world of difference; limiting my barefoot shuffle-slurps across the floor to perhaps two, instead of four. Note to self, note on recipe: no more 325. Ever.

Result: the team enjoyed warm zuchini (walnut, raisin, applesauce) bread for breakfast. And lunch, and possibly dinner unless there is a nap somewhere, sometime today.


IMG_20171008_083800.jpgLast night, with my hands mushing through cheese-grated butter and fresh-from-the-fridge buttermilk, it struck me that this simple food — the biscuit — represents so much more than its basic ingredients. For at least a year, I’ve pondered what it means to gather at the table — a pastor I follow through his blogs, John Pavlovitz, recently published a book on the ideas around how we can grow our tables; while I’ve yet to read it, I have a pretty good idea of what the “table” of contents will reveal. I myself, think the table starts somewhere between flour and butter (constants of many cultures).

There are just about as many ways to make a biscuit as there are biscuit bakers. I favor self-rising flour because then I have no need to add a leavening agent — the rise is built into this favorite flour and it saves me about five seconds on the clock. Purists would most certainly scoff at my short-circuiting of more tried and true methods. Then there are the biscuit makers that rely on the “eye-ball” or “pinch” methods; others yet vary the type of butter (salted or not, sweet creme or not) — while others yet differ on their view of the buttermilk requirement. Complete die-hard kitchen gurus will favor a certain flour over another; I veer to King Arthur mostly due to the fact that it is readily available and harder to get organic flours in bulk in my current location. I rely on the closest clean drinking glass to shape my biscuits, but someone out there must be buying their biscuit cutters at Williams Sonoma (a set runs $16.95), otherwise WS wouldn’t be selling these. I cover my aged cookie sheet with parchment, followed by a quick bake on a high-temp; others speak with reverence of their 50 year-old cast iron skillet.

All of these factors aside, after about 10 or 15 minutes — you will be able to pull hot biscuits from the oven. Many routes, many flavor subtleties, one general result — simple, baked goodness. Adorn it with a crown of fresh jam or drizzled honey, maybe an egg and cheese and what do you have? Still a biscuit.

When we as neighbors stop making biscuits and seeing each ingredient for its beauty and value to the biscuit, it is not so different than when we stop joining together at the table. When we forget the flour, butter, leavening agents — these are common ingredients used around the globe. What happens to our communities and our hearts? Fracture. We are no longer building together, we are isolated; isolation, that particularly heinous form of torture. Why would we inflict this upon ourselves and others?

Several weeks ago, on a cloudless yet temperate day, my family waited patiently in line at the St. James Armenian Food Festival — waiting for the delights that send wafting scents over a several block radius. Folding chairs, long tables and plenty of hosts covered the church lawn — and of course the lines that snakes into the neighborhood. Aromatics combined with char summoned guests like ourselves from the crowded sidewalks, encouraging everyone to pick-up the pace — no one wants to be last in line and miss out on the homemade kataif created with loving exactness by parishioners.

When you take a seat at one of these utilitarian tables, a sea of colorful and exuberant faces greets your gaze — all gathered together to savor the richness of flavors that is at once exotic, but after a moment on the pallet familiar and comforting — almost as if the message in the kataif seems into your pores through your taste buds. My own daughter’s first solid food was hummus – so her young receptors knows well botht the adventure and calm that spun chickpeas and warm pita can elicit.

Here, there is peace — many routes, many faces, many ingredients. The table here is the result of the quest, the respite our hearts seek in a disparate world that each day feels more rife with contempt. maye we all back a biscuit with a friend — learn their ways, their use of butter and flour and maybe even chickpeas — then sit together, at the table to savor.

Labor Day


It’s a rare Labor Day in the South when temperatures dip to less than roasting with that slight hint of fall in the air that drives you to throw open all the windows. Several things are certain once you do this — the incessant and steady squeaky hum of cicadas, the near and far train whistles and as daylight falls, barn owls calling out to their nighttime friends. When I was younger, I relished my nighttime drives as I escaped the radiant heat of the DC blacktop to head further South to the part-time comforts of Richmond. Sunroof open, ponytail, tank-top, a trunk full of laundry and a bottle of gin. I’d arrive at my sanctuary — my bff’s house — who has a way of making any house feel like a home; a skill I’ve yet to achieve. But that was all years ago now; now that I’ve lived here full-time, I’ve learned a few things that I only glimpsed the surface of during those languid drives and weekends. The South is all about perspective — it’s just as much beauty as ugly, or just as much ugly as beauty — and what either beauty or ugly belies, regardless of perspective — is pain. And it is applied equally to both human inhabitants and nature in this environment. Growing up in the West, we learn many words to describe both the gradations of rain and the many shades of grey during our nine-month slumber, or respite from the sun. Here, the rain falls as if God has emptied a fleet of frigate-sized buckets at once — it pounds the red clay soil to smithereens because it simply cannot absorb the force — quickly morphing into flooded streets and swollen rivers. There is no youth-restoring mist; scarred soil, symbolic of tortured souls — this punishing climate seeps into the ages, pores, roots and hearts leaving in its wake broken life.

Headed North


Blurry yellow buttercups, blue-green grass of early fall against white painted fence rails — all a blur as #96 picks up speed on its path north. Out of the South. A short pit-stop in Ashland, Hanover County, then our screech metal hubs begin their halting glide again. Antebellum white columns dot the county landscape; grand porches, slightly lowing swings, the occasional mare and rusty oil tanks. I know the stops by-heart on this run: Ashland, Fredericksburg, Quantico, Alexandria, DC for an engine change, New Carollton, BWI, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia — and then the City. The rail line out of the South is where past meets present — this week, no exception — the rumble of the diesel engine sways this line; the change-over to an electric engine in DC, symbolic. Sculptured lawns of Richmond give-way as a train saunters north through the Kudzu versus Virginia Creeper vine battles — a vain attempt on both parts to overtake or stake claim — which will win? Rail unites while it divides, bringing life and death together — human, nature, community, beauty. Our hopes rest on the rails — and maybe it delivers what we yearn for it to do — connect the disparity that is everyday life. Today #96 is ahead of schedule — but we must wait for our spot on the DC dock; what we gained on our trek thus far, we now lose to other forces. Tomorrow, without doubt, #85 headed south will surely be an hour late. For now, dirty windows offer a blurred moment — to study, to gaze, to float.

Crickets in the Morning

This is the post excerpt.


When you wake up to crickets in the morning, you know two things: rain is imminent and it is going to be pressure cooker hot by 10 am. Your home thermometer may read 72F, but your body will soon say, “I cannot move another inch…” because you know that soupy humidity paralysis will creep into every brick pore to infiltrate your home. There will be that momentary relief when the rain starts — you and your people will run outside to frolic. But once those ploppy, quarter-sized drops pick-up speed, the gutters will begin to spew back what they’ve just ingested. The it begins — the steam starts rising from the drenched pavement to meet the drops still falling from the sky — meeting somewhere around your knees. Steam and rain — the warm cloud you can touch. Refuge from this coolish swelter — that feverish feeling where you’re both hot and cold is to run back inside and sit — under the fan, AC on — until you need a sweater again.