appreciate the weird: be the kohlrabi

kohlrabi, pen and ink drawing –available with Produce Portraits in my shop

The kohlrabi is a weird vegetable. It looks weird, it grows in a weird way, and it’s a weird plant to cook.

Google “what is kohlrabi” and just about everyone describes it as “alien.” There it is, sticking up out of the ground, thrusting it’s long-stemmed leaves every which way, looking both disheveled and insistent, like, “I’m here! I’m here! I dunno why I’m here or what I’m supposed to do, but I’m here!”

The kohlrabi is not immediately lovable. It takes some muscle power to peel and chop, some taste-testing to decide if it can be raw, if it needs heat, if it should be roasted or shredded. You kind of have to wrangle your way through its leaves.

A carrot, on the other hand, is easy to love. It’s familiar and sweet. It has an adorable unruly bundle of greens on top, pretty orange, red, or yellow flesh beneath. It narrows into a little coil of root, adding flashes of vibrancy to whatever dish it’s in.

And yet, I’m drawn to the kohlrabi. It’s so fully itself even though it doesn’t fit in with any other vegetable. It’s a symbol of unconditional acceptance—of yourself, of others. Hopefully everyone has at least one friend like this—the friend who loves you exactly as you are, no matter how complex or contradictory.

Or, maybe the kohlrabi is telling us what kind of friend to be. To be the friend who shows up exactly as she is, no apologies for her wild hair or loud laugh. The friend that loves you even when she doesn’t understand you.

Maybe I put too much on the kohlrabi’s non-existent shoulders, but I don’t think so. It’s not just another vegetable. It’s the oddball who knows it’s odd and loves itself anyway.

After a few attempts at converting kohlrabi into a meal, I’ve found myself boasting about my recipes, feeling proud of my familiarity with this vegetable, like I’m an insider for once. But I’ve also found myself appreciating my oddball traits, accepting them rather than masking them.

Anyway, I guess my point is this: eat kohlrabi. It’s good for you. It’s fun and unusual. Be the kohlrabi: own your oddness, appreciate it in others. Stop trying so hard to be the carrot.

kohlrabi magnets available in my shop

eat well & be kind: beets aren’t so bad, neither are people

I mean the message on this sticker in the most earnest sort of way: eat well and be kind. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others, just slow down and give yourself and everyone else a break. It’s a harsh world out there sometimes, you know?

And eat “well” does not mean the same thing to everyone, but you can’t really disagree that vegetables, generally speaking, are good for you. Especially beets–which I used to haaaaaate.

The smell alone made me gag. The dark, red color looked more sinister than nutritious. And the taste, when I could be coerced into eating a bite, mixed dirt-flavor with sweet. The defiant texture took all my willpower to swallow.

I worked hard to love beets. It took me about three years of trying. There’s a lesson here about humanity and learning how to get along. I’m just not sure how it translates.

With beets, it started with knowledge. I started studying food to create a Food Studies course at the college where I taught. In that process, I learned about beets and why some people referred to them as a “super food.” My research also sparked a belief in me that you are what you eat, that improving the way I ate could improve the quality of my life.

I still believe this, and my faith in the nutritional magic of beets motivated me to learn to like them.

Maybe our belief in each other as basically good human beings can motivate us to learn to like people different than us? Maybe it’s harder with people. With beets, it started with my mother-in-law’s recipe and then moved to horseradish.

My mother-in-law visited us when I was first learning about beets, and she simmered some with orange juice. I’m sure there was more to it. Maybe raisins? Whatever she did–the beets didn’t smell bad, their texture was soft and juicy, and I didn’t gag.

Next, a colleague told me to roast them and then drizzle them (or maybe dip them?) in horseradish. I loved this idea. But, inexplicably, while I love wasabi, I find ANY form of the white horseradish unbearably, painfully hot. But I didn’t mind the roasted beets. Again, I didn’t gag.

Lastly, at the farmer’s market, I bumped into the chioggia beet. It looks like a giant peppermint candy. The vendor gave me a slice … RAW…!! Beets raw? I loved it instantly. No smell. No bad texture. Sweet and crunchy like a carrot.

Now, I eat deep, red beets and their dark, green leaves at least a couple of times a month. I find myself craving them. Maybe it’s an infusion of iron. Maybe it’s all in my imagination. But the feeling of wellness and strength is real and it powers my efforts to be a good human, even as I figure out what that means day by day.

I’m not saying you have to like beets. But if you don’t like them, I think you need to try them again. Maybe once a year. A different recipe each time. Just to see. Just to check in. Just to stay open. Open to changing your mind or kindly accepting your tastes just as they are.

Let what you think you loathe have a chance to show you a different side, so while you might reject one part (the smell of the beet or your neighbor’s politics) you might embrace another part (the beet’s greens or your neighbor’s generosity).

come as you are: emerging from pandemic life

It’s been more than a year of pandemic living, hunkered down here at home, and as the world starts to open up again, I find myself a tad hesitant to rejoin. I kind of figured out who I am during this smaller, quieter time. I wrote for Motherwell Magazine:

What if my goal, when I emerge from this cloistered time, is to stay exactly who I am? I hardly know what that means outside my little home, but I want to find out. I want to know how the world might respond to me, as me.

Post-Pandemic Life published at Motherwell Magazine

You can read the rest here if you’d like to commiserate. And, if you identify with being an introvert or a homebody like me, I made you a sticker:

This bespectacled feline will guard your quiet time, by politely staring down would-be intruders from the back of your e-reader, laptop, or the side of your insulated coffee mug. Because even we introverts like to go out to the coffee shop to be among others, we just don’t want to interact!

However, for my more adventurous friends, as you boldly step out into the world, I made these stickers.

As you know from a previous post, I think rollerskating and skateboarding are super cool and way too risky for me! So, this winged roller skate sticker is for my adventurous friends, to recognize the way they handle any obstacle by keeping it steady and keeping it going. (And eventually dragging their reluctant homebody friends along!!)

Even though I am emerging slowly, I am hopeful that this tumultuous pandemic time has made us kinder, more accepting, more inclusive and generous people.

Speaking of kindness and acceptance, my friend Robin lives and breathes these qualities, and I am so happy to tell you that we will be teaching our “Opening the Creative Mind” workshop at the virtual Compose Creative Writing Conference on Saturday, May 15th. If you’d like to register, I think the whole conference is free. Here is our workshop description:

If you are feeling stuck in your creative work, if you wish you could finish (or revive) a creative project, or if your creative process feels scattered or overactive, this workshop is for you. Opening the Creative Mind combines simple meditation techniques with writing prompts that have proven effective for breaking through creative blocks and finding new perspective. We create a cheerful and supportive atmosphere for you to overcome blocks, clear mental clutter, and silence self-doubt.

Maybe we’ll see you on screen, and we can breathe-stretch-write our way into post-pandemic life. As always, thank you for your interest in my creative work and for following along!


enjoy a feeling of accomplishment: write a letter

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month. It’s fun to receive a letter, but it’s also incredibly satisfying to write a letter.

color-it-yourself stationery available in my shop

Receiving a letter is fun because it’s rare these days to see something handwritten and personal in the mail. Handwriting adds meaning to the simplest of letters–it’s not uniform like a typed font is, it has variations in shape, darkness and lightness, and direction. (My aunt’s handwriting sloped extreme left, for example.) And the writing changes where the writer rushes or pauses to think. Like a fingerprint, a handwritten letter conveys the writer’s individual personality.

Writing a letter, however, holds just as much magic. I write letters to friends and family, but also to people I do not know and will never meet. I sell Customized Letter subscriptions in my Etsy shop. They are most often purchased as a gift. The buyer tells me a few things about the recipient, and I write and illustrate five letters just for that person and mail them over the course of a few months.

I’ve found I can connect with just about anyone because I get curious about their interests and look at my own life differently. One of my favorite letters ended up being about a mysterious rock I found at the Oregon coast. I was pondering what to write in my 12th letter to a long-time subscriber when I found the rock. I got curious and consulted two self-proclaimed “rock experts” which led to a bit of a spat! When I returned to my letter, I saw on the recipient’s list of interests “rocks and minerals”!! I spun the experience into an adventurous tale. Until that letter, I’d never thought I had any interest in rocks at all.

Unlike a text or email, a handwritten letter has a limited space, a few pages that fit into an envelope that a 55-cent stamp can deliver. The slower pace of handwriting and the limited space crystalizes what you want to say, brings you to simple basics and essentials. A letter also has a finish line–after an hour, maybe, you’re done. You fold it and mail it, it has a place to go, a home to reside in, it’s “published” so to speak.

The USPS started the national month of letter writing in 2001 because “card and letter writing is timeless, personal, and immediately tangible.” I think the tactile quality of a handwritten letter is irreplaceable–it’s bulk and texture so different from mass-printed junk mail.

While there’s nothing wrong with email messages, and text messages have arrived from friends in the exact-right-moment to save my sanity more than once, it’s also nice NOT to get an immediate response. You write your letter, mail it off, and then…who knows? Maybe your person will reply. Maybe not. Maybe it will be six months later and all the more surprising. Handwritten letters are kind of selfless. They’re created for the recipient as a neat little gift in the mail. A letter can be savored and left out to admire or provide some cheer during busy days.

I know sometimes people worry about what to write about in a letter. The truth is, so much is conveyed in your handwriting and the look of the letter, that you don’t have to say anything profound to make it a great letter. Tell the person you’re writing to about your day or week–what keeps you busy? Describe your breakfast that morning, or describe your whole morning. Trust that whatever little snippet you have to share about your day-to-day life will be interesting to the person receiving your letter.

If you want help getting started, please check out my letter-writing booklet. I include prompts to help you start your letters as well as ideas for making your own letter-writing supplies.

Take some time this April to write a few letters and see how it feels. Try two letters a week. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, write one letter every day. Friends and family are good people to start with, but you can write to strangers too. I mailed a letter to a house I pass by regularly that always has flowers blooming in the yard, even in January. So, I wrote them a thank you letter, to let them know their yard cheers me up.

Once you get started, the magic and satisfaction of letter writing will keep you inspired, and your list of people to write to will continue to grow.

Happy letter writing!!

be what you might have been: learn to longboard

Acrylic roller-skate pin available in my Carrot Condo shop

A lot of people are roller skating right now. I see their extra-tall bodies lurching toward me from a few blocks away, the sudden flail of arms, the clomp-clomp-clomp of heavy skates recovering balance. Occasionally, someone glides by gracefully, totally in the zone.

It takes time to learn how to maneuver through the world with wheels laced to your feet.

When I turned 40, I decided to learn how to longboard. It just seemed so cool and badass. I borrowed a board from a colleague. She gave me a lesson and jogged reassuringly beside me as I practiced up and down her street.

Add this quotation, or one of your own favorites, to my original drawing here.

I took the board with me on vacation, scouting out smoothly paved streets for practice. And then, one day, I got it.

I sailed clean and fast on that board for at least fifty feet. Far enough to know it felt as freeing and badass as I’d imagined. Far enough to realize I didn’t know how to stop. Far enough to come to a crossroads.

If I wanted to get better at this, it was going to take time and energy to practice, and I was going to have to be okay with the risk of injury. I’d caught myself in enough falls to know how hard and fast a 40-year-old body can hit pavement, and I knew the Jedi-yoga skills that saved me from smashing my face wouldn’t last forever.

I’m not kidding about the Jedi-yoga skills–in one amazing moment, I flew face forward as the board flew out behind me. My right leg was way up high in the air, my left hovered somewhere off the ground, and I could see the individual shapes of asphalt rushing up toward my nose. But then, my arms and legs realigned with my torso, and I landed standing up straight at the end of the block as if nothing had happened, but I felt like the entire planet had shifted a few degrees. This was going to take some getting used to, and those kinds of spastic near-falls would be part of the learning process.

When I came home from vacation, I returned the longboard to my colleague. It had been a fun experiment, but when deciding whether I had the time and the courage to keep practicing, I felt a tug in a different direction. I realized, if I was going to muster some bravery and make time in my life, I wanted it to be for art and writing–two life-long passions that never managed to get my full commitment.

It took trying something totally new for me to rediscover what I had wanted all along.

I’m glad I tried to longboard. I still feel pretty badass for having tried. But I’m even more grateful that it reawakened me to what I had always wanted and gave me the courage to stay with it. Whether you’ve got the stamina for roller skating or longboarding, or you feel the quiet pull of half-full journals waiting to capture your thoughts, I whole-heartedly believe what George Eliot says: it is never too late to be what you might have been.

Happy new year!

A Roller-Skate Family Portrait. This was a fun commission for a mom, two daughters, their brand-new skates, and the shared adventure that awaits.

gift ideas from my online shop

unique gifts for all occasions

My shop Carrot Condo is stocked with new work!

Roller-Skate pins for your backpack & stationery to color or colored for you.

Illustrated guide for crafting letters–what to say and how to say it.

Produce portraits to remind you of the simple things in life.

As well plenty of other things from cats and coloring books to monsters and butterflies.

Thank you for visiting my website and shop. I hope you find a few things for yourself and others that bring some cheer into your everyday life.

opening the creative mind May 16…

My friend Robin Vada and I will be teaching our Opening the Creative Mind Workshop Saturday, May 16th at the virtual Compose Creative Writing Conference.


In our workshop, we practice meditation techniques combined with writing prompts to break through creative blocks and find new perspective. It’s serious work with powerful results, but we end up laughing quite a lot too. Robin is a delight to teach with, and we always manage to find lightness and joy in our workshop.

The conference was supposed to be in-person, but the faculty boldly shifted it to online and made it free! Here is the link to register.

Kim Stafford, who recently concluded his tenure as Oregon Poet Laureate, will be giving the keynote. I can tell you from personal experience: he never disappoints, and it seems no matter what the subject or what state the world is in, you leave a conversation or reading with him feeling capable, uplifted, and full of a grounded, realistic hope.

I hope to see you there, in this digital space where we’ll come together from our individual homes or offices and connect, create, and compose.

Thanks for following my creative journey at Carrot Condo,


giving it a go: 2 hours and fear meets its match


It’s a new year, a new decade, and although I feel apprehensive about new year’s resolutions, I made a few for 2020.

For Carrot Condo, I’m committing to 2 hours of creative work Monday-Friday. It’s week three of this, and proving much harder than it sounds. I am sticking with it nevertheless.

I’m learning to push through resistance: yesterday’s sketches seemed to be going nowhere, but I was also nowhere near the end of two hours. I kept going, and by the end, three projects started to take shape.

I’m learning that two creative hours pushes all other work and obligations to different spaces in the week: admirably, I found myself prepping Tuesday’s dinner late Monday night, but that made room for some creative work (not two hours, but some) the next day.

I’m learning that two disciplined hours can accomplish more than I’d imagined, but: I have to ignore hunger pangs (pretty sure they’re just my brain trying to distract me), the compulsion to check my phone–when it dings but even when it’s silent and staying out of my way, and the weird pull of my mind to go do something else…anything else…brains fear creation for some reason. Or fear expression. Or discovery. I dunno. I guess it’s just fear. That brings me to another resolution:

Another resolution for my life in general that applies to creative work is about fear. I experience it in all kinds of variety: dread, hesitation, worry, anxiety, fret. Fear is so familiar to me that its absence is actually unsettling. I think, “Oh no, I feel great, that’s bad, something bad might happen and I won’t be ready.” As if worrying is at all the same thing as being “ready,” and as if one can ever be ready for the unknown.


There’s no getting rid of fear, it’s kind of who I am. But I can give it a counterbalance. So, when fear shows up in one of its many forms, I balance it out with an openness to opportunity.

It’s simple, and kind of a mind trick, but it makes room in my brain for imagining how things might work out well, even great. It broadens my perspective.

So, when my sketches weren’t going well, I stayed with it because my two hours weren’t up, but I also gave myself a pep-talk, telling myself it was good to be at the desk giving it a go, and maybe these sketches aren’t what I expected but what else might they be? That was enough openness to other possibility that I changed one sketch in a way I liked, in a way that surprised me. Whether I do more with it, I don’t know yet, but it resulted in one more possibility for a theme I’m working on, and it felt kind of exciting.

I’m back at it today. So, at least for 2020, I’ll stick with these two resolutions and see how they play out.

I hope the new year is starting out well for you, whether you made resolutions or not. I have much more planned for you to see eventually. Until then, thank you for your support of my creative endeavors!


selling all the stuff!

UPDATE:  last show for 2019 is Jolabokaflod. It’s in a beautiful building, there will be live music, good food, and an impressive array of books, books, books with the authors and illustrators right there to sign copies. See you there!

Saturday, December 28th
PDX Jolabokaflod (Yule Book Flood: Cozy, literary, Icelandic tradition brought to Portland.) Visit the link to read organizer Margaret Pinard’s lovely description.

2:00pm to 5:00pm
Nordia House
8800 SW Oleson Road
Portland, OR
– – – – – – –

If you live in the Portland area, please come by and see me at one of these five shows!

I’ll be doing the super-cool “Jolabokaflod”–a cozy, book-lover’s celebration of the new year brought to Portland from Iceland. I’m also doing The Procrastinator’s Market for the first time. It’s organized by the farmers market, so I’m assuming that means: produce and jams and salsas along with the handmade creations.

Stop by one of these sales if you can. I’d love to see you!


Thank you, as always, for your support of my creative life. Knowing you’re out there in the world, following along and cheering me along, motivates me to keep plodding along and creating “all the stuff”!
Saturday, November 2nd
All Saint’s Holiday Bazaar
3847 NE Glisan Street
Portland, OR
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Llewellyn Holiday Market
6301 SE 14th Avenue
Portland, OR
Saturday, December 7th
Lewis Holiday Bazaar and Tree Sale

4401 SW Evergreen
Portland, OR
Saturday, December 14th
The Procrastinator’s Market
Clackamas High School main building:
14486 SE 122nd Avenue
Clackamas, OR 97015.
Organized by Happy Valley Farmers Market

domestic artifacts: appreciating you and your hard work

In spite of all the excitement of summer ending and school starting, I’m proud to say that creative work marched, crawled, and occasionally raced along. I’ve got new creations in my shop. The one that surprised me the most is a coloring book.


My Domestic Artifacts coloring book is a collection of line drawings revealing the beauty, function, and even stature of everyday household objects.

close up of one page

As I collected the drawings into pages and then a book, a story started to write itself. First, it was notes on the margins of my sketches. But then, as I inked the final pages, my permanent marker landed itself on a fresh page of paper and wrote.

I’d been thinking a lot about the quotations and the story that ended up coming out in this book, but I had not planned on sharing it with anyone. I’m glad my creative mind took over and added words. The book feels complete, even before it’s colored.


The story is about finding my sense of self as a homemaker away from “the world” and a career, and discovering the powerful role a home plays in creating resilient, positive people.

More pictures and details available here.

I also have more cat creations coming!! An enamel pin and a sticker sized for water bottles are in the works. I should be able to show you those next month.

In November and December, I’ll be selling my work in person at some winter craft shows in Portland. I’ll share details soon. Until then, I hope you enjoy the fall, and thank you — as always — for your support of my creative life.