tending to others’ well being: a quiet strength

I have drawn this design three times, making subtle changes each time. The latest one, and the final one, is my favorite. I like the little flip of wave on the side and the vibrant colors.

Original pen-and-ink drawing available in my Etsy shop.

The saying “she flies with her own wings” has been the State of Oregon’s official motto since 1987. Although the Oregon Swallowtail is our state’s official insect, I chose the Silverspot to illustrate the motto because this butterfly raises its young in fields of early violets, the flowers drawn here, which grow best in grassy areas along the Oregon Coast.

Unfortunately, the ideal habitat for the violet is shrinking, which challenges the Silverspot population. The combination of strength, beauty, determination, and resilience seemed the right image for a card recognizing the efforts and contributions of people working to make this world a better place.

Although the saying suggests someone independent who needs no one but her own self, I see it like this: she perseveres, she keeps going, she tries to find a path forward no matter what the obstacle, only temporarily slowed down by sad news, and she keeps the way open for anyone else wanting to move forward toward a better world.

I initially had friends in mind who help me fly with my own wings when I drew the very first version of this design. It’s a way of thanking those who help us find our strength and explore our independence.

Whether the design gets mailed as a card to someone deserving some recognition, framed and hung in a spot to encourage you to keep going, used to celebrate a woman and her strength, or chosen for someone who does not identify as “she” but works to make our lives better, I hope this design captures and commemorates quiet strength, persistent effort, and all the actions we take to support our own and others’ well being.

If you’re thinking of gifts for Mother’s Day, I have a few stickers left, a fresh batch of cards, and the one original drawing available in my CarrotCondo Etsy shop.

Thank you, as always, for reading my news and following along my creative journey!


letting go and catching up: spring cleaning

Hello Carrot Condo friends–

It’s been a while since I’ve written a letter to all of you, and it feels like a good time to catch up. I’m doing some literal cleaning of Carrot Condo–my block-printing space is tidy and ready for the next project, and my shelf of supplies and files is waiting for its pruning and sprucing. I’m also doing more of a metaphorical, spiritual cleaning of Carrot Condo–letting go of ideas that seemed great at first but just didn’t feel fun or inspiring, like The 100 Day Project. I started:

but after a few days, it just didn’t feel right. I kept at it anyway, and that felt worse. Instead, I let go of all ambition and just sat for a bit, rather grumpily to be honest, and then I started in on whatever pulled me, which seems to be “going through stuff,” like: my journal, old essay drafts, files of original drawings and drafts, and just sifting, sorting, and reflecting.

As I stay open to whatever is next and sort through my work space, I have a few newsworthy things to share with you from the last few months.

Bacopa Literary Review published my essay about discovering an ancient and rather magical tree in the parking lot of my dad’s memory care center. For many months of the pandemic, the only way we could visit my dad was by standing outside his bedroom window, waving, smiling, and shouting through the two-inch opening then wondering if he was saying anything back to us. In this story, I’m holding what we thought was a pine cone when it starts to open up in the palm of my hand. This sends me on a journey to learn more about this tree, which ends up giving me comfort and resolve to endure the strange and difficult experience of my dad and Alzheimer’s.

Then, in December, the lovely online and print journal Farmer-ish published my story about meeting a woman from Denmark who had me absolutely captivated and mystified by the concept of “hygge.” I finally found it two decades later in my own living room.

Because I was accustomed to fluorescent lights splashing even the deepest corners of any room in cold yellow light, what she described seemed like a lot of darkness to me. Even so, her conviction captivated me. I’d never thought to notice the lighting. I was as practical as the design of the university—show up, do the work, earn the degree. What did light have to do with it?

Searching for Hygge,” Farmer-ish Volume 3: Issue 2 Winter Solstice 2022

In January, I had the opportunity to design the PNW CSA Share Fair’s artwork for their social media, brochure, and posters.

The final black-and-and white ink version.
The printed version as seen on my rather wrinkled copy of the brochure.

At the fair, two former customers stopped by to tell me how much they love their kitchen towels! That was deeply inspiring to me–one commented about how sturdy the towel is and how it stays bright and clean no matter how much it’s used. The other customer told me they think it’s too nice to use, so they keep it hanging up on display! It was sweet to know both families love theirs that much.

And here is me at my table:

At home, with my family in January, we started a ritual that’s been a good conversation starter and at times quite profound. Our friend gave us cute frames for fortune-cookie fortunes. I don’t know if she knew this, but we’ve saved every fortune from every time we’ve eaten somewhere that gives fortune cookies. We must have well over one-hundred fortunes squeezed into an Altoid tin.

So, thanks to the inspiration of these frames, every Sunday evening we take out the old fortune, talk about how it did or did not apply to the past week, then randomly choose the next week’s fortune. Here’s a recent one:

This one gave me a boost of confidence and focus that week. My fortune this week says something about witnessing a miracle, which has me rather nervous! Maybe it will be huge? Maybe I’ll miss it? And of course, my writer-brain is pondering all the ways “miracle” could be described–a first spring flower, the keys to a mansion, kindness between strangers, a great (free!) parking spot … ? You see how these little notes can get you thinking.

Well, as always, thank you for reading and following along. I’ll see you next month with a story about wings and strength.


farmers, food, & art: come see me February 26th

Stop by The Redd on SE Salmon on Saturday, February 26th between 10am-2pm for a fun experience: activities for kids, cooking demos for you, farmers showcasing their meats and produce, and … me!! I’ll be there with fresh Carrot Condo creations.

Here’s me last year, but I think this year I can smile directly at you without a mask. (Fingers crossed anyway.)

A CSA, or community-supported agriculture, is food you buy directly from the farmer. You pay for a season of produce, or a share of meat, or even a full year of products. I’ve had great luck with three types of CSAs:

—A weekly fall-winter share of produce that I picked up at a location near my home. I did this for two seasons and enjoyed staples like potatoes and carrots, but was also introduced to kohlrabi and celeriac root.
—Two dozen eggs that I pick up weekly at a location near my home and love so much I pay for the whole year at once.
—Chicken delivered to my porch once a month, one whole, one cut up. It took me a while to learn how to cook with bone-in, skin-on chicken, but I’m starting to get it, and the soups we’ve made have been 5-star-restaurant worthy!

The Redd Building is really cool–worth coming to the Share Fair just to be inside–and has a huge, beautiful kitchen. Cooking demonstrations will be happening all day. Here’s a glimpse:

And lastly, some new things of mine to see–none of which I’ve gotten into my Etsy shop. My local Portland friends have been getting first dibs on all my new stuff. After Share Fair, I plan to update my shop. Until then, what you can see in person on the 26th are Nasturtium kitchen towels. I’m sticking with a food theme for my towels–only designs of things you can eat. You might already know that Nasturtium flowers are edible, and so are the seed pods. My friend made me “poor man’s capers” out of the pods.

I’ll have strawberry towels and also a few strawberry cards with matching envelopes, all hand-printed.

And I should have a few veggie towels as well as *maybe* some printed re-usable produce bags. I have the bags, but they came out the wash super wrinkly, so I’m still working out how to print on them smoothly….

I’ll have a few other things as well, and I’ll hope to see you there!

And, as always, thank you for following my creative journey.

see you December 4: winter bazaar

Come see me on Sunday, December 4th, 9am-4pm at the Laurelhurst Winter Bazaar in Portland at NE 41st Avenue.

This is the only in-person event I’m doing this winter season, and I’m so excited to be a part of this particular bazaar. It’s always been my favorite one to shop. The cool old-school building is filled with creations by skilled craftspeople, and there’s usually a coffee cart outside. What more do we need?

If you Instagram, check @laurelhurst.school.bazaar to see some of the cool stuff. I’m particularly excited about @apceramicstudio who made my favorite mug that finally broke after daily use for a few years, and I’m eager to see @KateDopheide_Handweaver ‘s linens. Plus, there’s a lot of cool jewelry AND student vendors, and student art it always incredible.

I have so much more to share with you, but I’ve been doing a good job focusing on just one day, one step, at a time and avoiding “overwhelm.” So, that’s it for now. More news and stories after the December 4th bazaar.

Thank you, as always, for following along, and I hope to see some of you in a couple of weeks!

the only way out is through: my new website

I bought this book for a new friend of mine. She’s turning one, so I suppose this is more for her parents. It’s not really about hunting bears at all. It’s about dealing with the hard stuff in life. And it’s kind of harsh.

On each page, the family faces an obstacle, and with each obstacle, they learn that they can’t avoid it. They can’t go around it or over it; they have to go through it.

Their obstacles are fun: mud, wind, forests. We nonfiction humans, however, face much worse obstacles: fear, anxiety, overwhelm, exhaustion, and so on.

And the thing is, we think something is going to be hard. We think it’s going to be a hassle. We assume we’re not up to the task. And, of course, all of these assumptions could be true…or NOT true…but thinking them definitely does not help.

And that brings me to my website. Depending on where you are reading this, most likely as a newsletter, you may not know: I HAVE A BRAND NEW WEBSITE!! –> carrotcondo.com <– However, it’s been months and months in the making, partly because I spent at least six weeks fretting about how much I did not know and how hard it was going to be to redesign.

I ran into a dozen dead ends because I was trying to go around the problem, under the problem, over the problem, any which way but through. In trying to avoid what I feared would be hard, discouraging, confusing, time-consuming, brain-taxing work, I stalled the whole project.

Tired of feeling so defeated and awful before even trying, I “played around” one day with the tiny bit of re-design functions I thought I knew and … *BOOM!* I totally messed up my entire website with absolutely no return.

My fear became irrelevant once I was thrown into the mess. Scared or not, I’m stuck in it now, so figure it out. And, I was right–it was hard, discouraging, confusing, time-consuming, and brain-taxing. However, it was also fun and interesting and deeply rewarding. When I finally figured out how to revive my blog, and it reappeared here on my homepage linked to the “news” button, I whooped for joy and skipped around the basement. That had been days of effort, and I did it!

What I had not thought to anticipate in all my dread is the feeling of achievement and pride I’d feel once I’d gone through one of the many obstacles. After I finished whooping and celebrating, I told myself to sit still for a few minutes and soak in that feeling of accomplishment for the next daunting task in life.

With each week of effort, I gained confidence in my ability to figure things out. This filtered into other parts of my creative work. While pondering a design idea, I felt myself shrug and then say aloud, “Meh, you’ll figure it out,” and then I started working on it.

I mean, it IS hard. And I was not up to the task–many people could have done this in a matter of hours. There’s a reason I was scared. And, failure is a real possibility. Remember my post a few months ago about fixing the washing machine? Well, I fixed it numerous more times, but by the fourth or fifth mini flood in our basement, I gave up and we bought a new one. Even researching the new one was hard–did you know new washing machines have WIFI?

Anyway, yes, failure is truly possible. It hurts. It sucks. I’m really scared of it. But the challenges only feel harder the more I try to avoid them. Plus, learning, growth, achievement, and accomplishment are all possibilities too.

There might also be nice surprises once you decide to go through your obstacle. My friend Mario, for example. He’s an artist and professional website designer. He heard about my challenge and offered to help me. Turns out, I messed things up so badly, I had to fix the website myself before he had time to work on it, but I’m absolutely sure that his generous offer of support bolstered my confidence.

So, you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, but you can go see it! Visit my new website at carrotcondo.com and tell me what you think! If it’s a criticism, break it to me gently. I’m still basking in contentment!

big thoughts: little steps

In June, I wrote about waking up early to ensure time for creative work, in addition to however many hours I could fit in during the day. I continued this pace until late July when I took two weeks off and very intentionally gave into summer–amusement parks, beaches, cold sweet treats, board games, movies, visits with friends, and snacks for dinner.

It was great! I did not, however, anticipate that it would take me more than two additional weeks to get back to creative work. I fit it in here and there, but not consistently until my third week back from vacation. I found this discouraging and was rather mad at myself, but I tried to be patient and keep wending my way back to early mornings and fitting my work into the weekly schedule.

I’m still not fully there, but two interesting things happened during this “off” time.

Not a sea star, but so cool to see the reclusive octopus!

First, while at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, I had a moment with some sea stars. They held to their rocks in a small exhibit, but their colors–orange sherbet, lavender, and mint green–silenced everything around me for a few powerful seconds as I felt a deep, clear longing to draw. Even if I’d had a sketchbook with me, I’m not sure I would have used it. What I loved was the definite feeling of longing. I missed doing art. I missed my mornings with pens and paper. I couldn’t wait to get back, even as I happily engaged with one more week of vacation. It felt great to know I missed art.

The other interesting thing is that I had time to think and daydream but no time to act. So, I was forced to sit with some ideas. And in that sitting time, they had a chance to grow, uninhibited by my insecurity, or a discouraging first attempt, or getting shrunken to a bullet point on my to-do list. Most of these thoughts dissolved back into my brain’s ether. But one stayed. I found it fun to think about, surprised myself by talking to a few people about it, and then, in the last few weeks, taking baby steps toward its fruition, accepting its slow pace but excited about its arrival.

It’s still too unformed to share…in fact, I’m realizing as I type this that I’m in the gray, unformed space of a few things right now. I can’t yet explain my idea to you, I have a few projects not yet ready to show you, some writing accepted by magazines but not yet on the page or in pixels to share. Technically, I’m being productive, but because I have nothing to show you, I feel unproductive.

That bright spot is a sun beam that landed on my desk right after I squeezed in 10 minutes of work. It felt like a sign telling me “good job!”

Even in other parts of my life I’m in this gray area…like with running, I’m slowly getting back to it after some injuries and physical therapy (Yay physical therapy! It hurts! It’s hard! It works!!) Just one gentle mile every other day or so. Baby steps.

But one day, on my walk home from a run, a tall woman with a thick, long ponytail jogged toward me wearing a t-shirt that said, “Oregon Dad.” I don’t know if she wore the t-shirt ironically–there’s no way she was old enough to be a parent of a college student, no matter how she might describe her gender–but I assumed she’d borrowed it to go for a jog.

It wasn’t branded or sweat-wicking or any other fancy thing we might think we need to run “right,” to look “good.” It was a blocky, bold-colored, cotton t-shirt that got her out the door to do her run. Her long, graceful stride and incongruous t-shirt sparked an epiphany in me: The beautiful path is one of acceptance. Acceptance of your home, your body, your situation, your current moment. And then, dressing that, attending that, as appreciatively as possible.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to hold onto this idea of accepting my life as it is, then attending to it as appreciatively as possible. The focus on appreciating transforms the simplest things–an old t-shirt, a haphazard stack of library books, a bowl of tomatoes from my neighbor–into beauty and gratitude and a reminder of well-being.

an hour a day: how art can fix your washing machine

I’ve started waking up early each morning to do creative work for one hour before allowing the rest of the day to make its demands on me. It sounds simple enough, but it’s been a profound experience. No matter how the rest of the day goes, I’ve spent one hour drawing or writing, which builds a foundation of satisfaction, pride, and joy that the rest of the day balances upon.

For example, one Tuesday morning I drew a scene for a book. I smiled all alone here in the basement because it’s so satisfying, and often surprising, to see the images transform when I add color. After an hour, I climbed the steps up to the kitchen, opened the door, and faced the day.

By 5:15pm that evening, after a day of commuting, traffic, aggravating news, and sixteen different household tasks demanding my attention, I am making dinner. I have to leave at 5:40pm, and not only is dinner not ready, smoke starts to pour out of the oven just as a drawer sticks and refuses to close so I keep slamming my leg into it, and a pot of pasta boils over adding sticky steam to the oily smoke.

In the past, this would have me UNDONE! I’d be swearing, stomping my feet (truly), and feeling very sorry for myself. I don’t like admitting this, but it’s true. For a few years now, that’s been my initial reaction. To my over-tasked, tired, stressed out mind, this problematic moment meant the world conspired against me, kept me from doing my art, pulled me away from anything I wanted to do creatively because by the time the day, the tasks, the needs, the demands were all done (and they are never done), I was too exhausted to draw or write.

But now, not only did I handle the steam-smoke-drawer with a smile on my face and only one pg-rated cuss word, I did not feel defeated. Instead of The Big Problem in the Kitchen Keeping Trista Away from Art, it felt like one more thing to manage…like one block stacked among all the other blocks of the day that already included creative work.

Or, believe it or not, just two days later, instead of spending two hours in the afternoon on creative work as planned, I came down to the basement to find water from the washing machine rapidly spreading and pooling all over the floor.

Again, in the past, this would have me feeling sad, defeated, and overwhelmed. And yes, the problem ate up my two hours of creative time and more, and no I did not know how to fix it, but having that foundation of morning creative work helped me be calm and feel almost capable. What I don’t understand is why. Why did creative work help fix the washer?

Fixing the problem didn’t involve pens or paper or drafting an essay, in fact, it included some brainstorming and muscle from my spouse, advice and supplies at the local hardware store, and some serious stamina and stick-to-it-ness from me. But for reasons I guess I can’t quite spell out here, I was able to do this–fix the washing machine!!–because of that morning hour of creative work.

You could say writing and drawing are forms of problem solving. I mean…you figure out how to go from blank page to story, or blank page to recognizable and pleasing image. But I’ve been writing and drawing my entire life, and also for my entire life, I have NOT been much of a fix-it-yourself kind of person. I’m really good at fretting. At catastrophizing. At what-if-ing. Of looking around for some other capable person to solve it. I’m practical and often brave, too, so if no one else shows up to handle things, then I do it. But I don’t think problem solving is what my morning hour gives me.

I think it has to do with recognizing my hopes and dreams and giving them some attention, nurturing them with one quiet, uninterrupted hour each day. Putting them first. Which sounds selfish. Just writing that short sentence, “Putting them first” is difficult. And yet, I think it helps me be a better person.

Maybe our hopes and dreams are our foundation, like the roots of a plant. You notice it looking droopy, you water it, and awhile later, it’s glowing. Giving myself one hour is like nourishing the roots. Whatever comes next, the heart of me is somewhat armored from all the other stuff gnawing at my energy and chipping away at my efforts to have a positive attitude.

There are far worse things than broken appliances. Sometimes life is a full barrage of heart ache. And yet, that one hour of art pushes back the wreckage, opens up a little space of light, and buoys hope. It lays the groundwork for things to get better.

growing pains: time to unfurl

It’s spring, and I am supposed to be excited about this, but I am slow to accept the lengthening days. I’ve become much more of a winter person, happy to stay inside on dark afternoons. Maybe that’s why the month of March was rather hard for me. However, when I looked through my notes and photos for a blog-post idea, I discovered that despite my curmudgeonly tendency, I did some fun things in March.

I saw the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. Although there are about three-dozen other things I could share with you from that exhibit, I chose this:

It’s my favorite of the self-portraits on display. Kahlo is bold and fierce, so strong to endure so much physical pain, so brave to express political ideals. This delicate rendering of lace really touched me. A symbol of tenderness and careful observation. I felt sort invited in and accepted by Kahlo in this painting.

A week later, on a cold, rainy morning, I invited myself to my friend Amy’s back patio; she is the artist behind Vivid Element. I brought cookies, and she made me tea. We sat under blankets, talking over the hammering rain, catching up about art and family, reconnecting after nearly two years of solitary pandemic living. It felt great to “talk shop,” at one point getting a bit geeky about gold paint, which motivated me to get started on an idea I’ve pondered for months. I roughed out this sketch yesterday:

I want to draw ornate gold frames around my produce portraits. To me, this is both funny and reverential. An ode to the power of vegetables, but also funny because I plan to wrap broccoli and kale in gilded frames traditionally reserved for portraits of wealthy landowners, influential leaders, kings, and titans of industry. All Hail King Broccoli!

Another friend made me brunch and strong coffee. She’s a talented chef and generous host, and I used to feel shy about eating too much–as if being dainty meant being polite. Now, I show up hungry and devour everything she sets before me! It’s such a treat to have someone else cook for me, to see it all arranged on handmade plates and mugs, and I don’t know when I last ate split pea soup! Delicious!!

I also had a great time at the Share Fair in February, selling my produce-themed artwork and connecting with farmers, seed cultivators, mushroom growers, a family-run salmon company, bakers, and deli owners. The day flew by for me. I sold out of hand-printed towels and all but two produce portraits, and came home with a notebook of ideas and new friends.

March ended with a trip to the Oregon coast to see family friends. I’m still discovering sand stuck in my shoes and pockets, and I’m glad, because it reminds me of long, deep conversations, coming in from the cold to eat cinnamon rolls straight out of the oven, and a restorative get away.

So, I suppose this blog post has taught me that maybe March felt difficult because I left my house–I stepped out into the lengthening days and began exploring a slightly less pandemic-y world. I stretched myself in the gentlest of ways, yet I still felt the pull to stay in, stay safe, stay nestled underground for awhile longer.

I wonder if this is how plants feel, like the tulips that burst forth in our front yard seemingly overnight. I don’t even remember planting them, and yet there they are, stopping total strangers who linger and admire. Did they also stay hunkered down until some drive to grow finally pushed the first leaves up through the soil and into the light? I feel like I’ve got one leaf extended, and the rest of me is coiled and clinging to the stem, trying to fold myself back into the bulb.

Time to unfurl.

In case you’re feeling like me, wanting reasons to continue to stay inside and enjoy a quiet day, April is National Letter Writing Month. Consider writing a few letters to friends, family, or maybe even strangers. You can start your letter by describing the weather, or telling a joke, or listing what you’ve made for dinner the last few days. Writing, and receiving, letters is magical, and it’s a way to connect with others while staying cocooned inside.

My letter writing booklet available here for $5.50 or $8.50 if bundled with stationery and cards.

CSA share fair: get matched with the perfect produce (and art) for you

I am going to be showing some of my Carrot Condo work at the CSA Share Fair on Sunday, February 27th from 10am-3pm in Portland.

Farmers from the PNW will show off produce, meat, dairy, eggs, and fruit they sell as part of their Community Supported Agriculture shares. You can shop around for the perfect CSA share for you, attend cooking demonstrations by chefs from Nostrana and Grand Central Bakery, win prizes, and come see me at my table.

I’ll have hand-printed kitchen towels for sale as well as hand-drawn produce portraits, and a few other things from my Carrot Condo shop.

The CSA Share Fair will be held at The Redd on 831 SE Salmon Street. It’s a big, open space, and the organizers are very mindful about all pandemic-related safety and precaution measures.

The best place for more information is Pacific Northwest CSA’s instagram account: @PNWCSA . Their website is http://www.pnwcsa.org/csasharefair . Or just ask me!

I hope to see you there!

Ugly Squash. Plus: gift packs wrapped & shipped for you.

I grew an ugly squash—small, odd shaped, with rough warty-looking scabs.

I picked it anyway, a kabocha, a pumpkin-like squash that’s dark green on the outside and deep orange inside.

“Upcycled” gift wrapping for a few orders of kitchen towels.

The skin was so tough I wondered if I’d need a hatchet to slice it in half. I managed to cleave it in two pieces, set it in a roasting pan with some water, and bake it. Without much expectation, I scraped out the cooked insides. It seemed dry.

A few days later, I used half of the scooped-out squash to make pumpkin pie.

Lesson learned: Things are not always as they appear.

My hardscrabble, underdeveloped squash made a stupendous pie. My family and I grunted appreciatively like contented piglets as we devoured giant slices.

Same old recipe. Same old simple crust. But our homegrown, scarred kabocha yielded rich, creamy, hearty pie filling. Each triangle slice held up tall and firm, even as forks sliced easily through the silky orange pudding.

Some things look awful on the outside but hold vibrant gems on the inside.

Actually, maybe I was wrong about the squash looking awful. Maybe that’s just the nature of home-grown squash. Maybe I shouldn’t have expected grocery-store perfection. Maybe I could have seen my squash as more interesting and approached it with curiosity, rather than seeing it—and my gardening efforts—as so flawed and inferior.

I guess that’s the lesson learned: change my expectations.

Anyway—this isn’t exactly the perfect pivot, but: I have gift packs for sale if you’re shopping for the winter holidays. (Though I’m so late posting this that Hanukkah is half-way through. There’s still host/hostess gifts, Christmas, New Year, winter solstice…)

The gift packs are wrapped in my “upcycled” style, not nearly as gnarly as my squash but unique for sure, and I ship them for you, gift note included if you’d like.
You can find them all here in my Etsy shop, Carrot Condo.

Roller-Skate Gift Pack

Here’s to approaching squash, art, and people with curiosity and interest rather than staying stuck in our narrow expectations and judgement. Hm, I think this sparks a new year resolution … more on that later.