I needed a new journal, and I just couldn't quite swallow the selection at my local Barnes & Noble. Nothing against the mothership, but one can only spit creative thoughts - like used bubble gum - into a book with the cover "Dance," "Laugh," or "Inspire," (or even a badly hand-pressed paper collage). I knew I would write stinky, fungal things that would destroy the already decaying pages. It wouldn't be good. I'm not John Updike, or Arundhati Roy, but I do want to give my words a fighting chance for sagacity.

I was a breathless pilgrim at 1:20 pm - on an odyssey to journal mecca on 1st Avenue between Stewart & Virginia: Peter Miller Architecture & Design Books.

This is a sacred place: where architects and designers who have gone before both inspire and frighten me into soft whispers with their mantras of bauhaus typography. A white cathedral of shelves and minimalistic displays of inky pens shoot black liquid at me, a scared fish out of holy water.

Peter Miller is home to the epic tales of structural heroes and design masters: The Tom Kundigs and Jim Olsons of the Northwest, the masters of rooftop design in Hong Kong, photographers, landscape architects, travelers, graphic designers, urban planners, artists. This shrine deserves a candle, and a purchase.

The images take my breath away.

(Photo compliments of Behance)

(Images like this warm me like incense - photo compliments of Below the Clouds)

I said my prayers, paid my tithe, and signed the bill for my new Nova notebook. Thank you, God.


2 Hours for Peeps

I really can't believe I spent two hours yesterday trying to form the word "Peeps" out of tiny scraps of paper! Inspired by
Yulia Brodskaya (from my last post) and an Easter snack on the counter, this project was fantastically fun for some reason. It also provided the time to listen through quite a few of Esquire's Best New Songs in 2010.

Huge respect, Yulia, huge.


Yulia, Yulia

I have a new artist crush: Yulia Brodskaya. A brilliant craftsman who brings together typography, design, wit, and paper - a medium that seems ordinary and everyday, but become ribbons of visual delight in her hands.

I got out my supplies last night and tried my first curl. I think I'm gonna like this:



If there’s one thing that can pop up anywhere, it’s generosity.

I’m reading about it in Dostovesky’s first novel, Poor Folk. Two lovers are writing letters across the ghetto alleyway. He has forsaken the everyday luxury of tea to be able to send her geraniums.

Generosity is something I admire more than almost any other quality, and I am surrounded by friends and family who have it in droves.

I watched my mama give away a bag of groceries she just bought, simply because the other person needed it too.

I was fed a delicious dinner by a friend who doesn’t have a job.

Someone let me go before them in the checkout line because I am only buying one item.

I watched friends give an orphaned child a home.

(Witnessing the moment of a lifetime, Ethiopia, 2009)

I saw it at the dump in Phnom Penh when two boys – scrounging in fresh garbage for plastic bags or aluminum to sell for a fraction of a penny - shared their stickers.

(These boys were 13 and 14 years old, Cambodia, 2007)

(Right after a fresh truck of garbage dumped, Cambodia, 2007)

(A boy I fell in love with, Cambodia 2007)

Nature displayed it when a mother elephant moved to the back of the family line to protect her baby.

(Elephant crossing, Kenya 2010)

I heard Gary Haugen speak at an International Justice Mission dinner I attended last week on the topic of generosity. He phrased something in a way I’ve never heard before. He said we all rely on generosity to survive. From the moment we are born, we are dependant on at least one other human being’s kindness (a mother) for survival and care. He said, "generosity is an invitation to greatness - greatness of heart and the larger reality."

I admire the open-handed life, the one that receives good and gives good without reserve. They’re like these endless sources of geraniums.

A generous person is not afraid of lack, because they are connected to an endless supply.

A generous person has courage and believes the way they love is stronger than pain and loss.

I experience generosity every day, and I’m learning it’s more than about giving money. It’s giving a moment to let my heart be tugged, to stop and say, “Wow. You, and your hurts and needs, matter to ME. Let me care.”


Laundry at the Beach

We cleansed our condo. One of those cleanings, the ones that leave your home a fresh sanctuary and palate for life.

I was struck by a memory of my hard-working mom saying, “There are a few things I can do: the cleaning, the laundry, and the driving.” A woman of many skills, she said this often, because at least 4 loads of dirty laundry piled up every single day! Every day, every day. With 5 kids, it was never over, but she did it because, for life in the family to keep working, it needed doing.

I am not so gracious; I quickly become a vexed experts at the daily chores of my life, a begrudging master of the ordinary.

I read from a monk this week who understood that much of our lives are spent getting tasks out of the way in order to get to real life: enjoyment and peace.

Scrub the toilet so you can finally sink into your couch with a cup of tea.

Do the dishes so you can run out the door for a cocktail. Get through! Get 'er done!

However, if I harshly and spastically scrub the toilet, how will I suddenly calm down and onto this sacred place on the couch? This revered monastic said we will never find peace in that cup of tea if we don’t also find it in the simple, mundane duties of the day.

What a refreshed idea: to soak into our chores because they can be a spiritual and useful practice - a place to connect - instead of rushing frantically through to the other side. The chores are our lives; the mopping, dishes, laundry, garbage duty and re-organizing. There is so much that is unknown, uncertain, but you know that when you start with a mop and bucket you will walk away from a sparkling floor. Satisfaction. Job well done.

After hearing my mom talk about her daily cycles of cleaning and laundry for years – chores that are never done – I decided to make at least one of them a bit more enjoyable for her. I took a seashell from her favorite beach, put her grainy laundry detergent in a blown glass gar, and offered for her to visit the beach every time she walked to the washer. Dipping her shell into the sands, she provided clean clothes for her five children, and made an ordinary task a moment to enjoy.

(Flying a kite at the beach I mentioned, Oregon Coast, 2008)

For me, it was buying a cute pair of green rubber gloves.

What will make your daily tasks more enjoyable? Why not slow down a bit and make them a conscious, satisfying, slow part of your day?


(Skylark Cafe & Club)

One of my favorite little luxuries is live music, especially unexpectedly talented live musicians.
I happened upon an artist's myspace account the other day, and was completely mesmerized by the melodies and lyrics coming from my computer.

I laid down on the couch and listened to the whole EP.

Digging a bit, I found he was actually coming to a dive bar near me a day later. So, this past Sunday night, The Non-Scotsman and I ventured out like trolls to Skylark Cafe under the West Seattle bridge to hear James Coates, a local of the avoidable Sumner, Washington.

(My dad always told me the Rainer "R" stood for my name, Rachel. I still believe it.)

We walked into the near-empty bar to find a thick, curly-headed giant belting his heart out on stage. Between rustic harmonica arrangements, folk guitar, and a bloody piano smash, he kept me on the edge of my frayed and plastic seat for the whole 30 minutes set. His voice cascaded between lyrical gentility and raw, painful force. I was most impressed by the fact that he let the emotion WIN the struggle over perfection. He let his voice waver to show sadness, let the keys slide to the wrong note as if in trouble. I adored it because he loved performing it. There's nothing better than watching someone lay it all out there, exposed to the drunken old man in his fedora in the front row. Real life for real life.

Give it up for James Coates, everyone.

(James Coates at the Skylark Cafe & Club, 2010)


Go for the Dough

Sometimes you just love part of something. Not the whole thing, not the whole experience. You just love one little thing about it, and that is enough to make you come back for more.
I have had two of those experiences in the last 2 days. One was music, one was pizza.

I will share the music part tomorrow.
Today, we will discuss the pizza.

I determined that, after all the hype, I needed to try Delancey, the pizzeria darling of Seattle these days. (Rachael Ray even included it on her list of best pizza joints in the nation, and she claims to know her pizza.) I have perused the owners' blog, Orangette, for years and have made their "Big Bad Banana Bread" a few delicious times. This restaurant is the baby of a creative couple in love with food; why not try it?

Friends and I didn't go there for banana bread, though. We went for pizza - and pizza we had. Three of them.
I don't remember their names; something with mushrooms, something with house-made sausage, and something with pepperoni. I don't remember their names because none of the pizzas were unforgettable (which means they were forgettable, so I forgot). The sweetness of the tomato sauce on each did make me dream of summer, though.

What did strike me, with every bite, was the dough. Sensational dough! (I think the old advertising word, "sensational," needs a comeback, don't you?)

It was somehow crunchy and stretchy and light and dense all at the same time.
It retained it's texture from the outer regions to the center of its universe.

You know a restaurant by its basics, and if pizzas were to have a "basic" I think we can all agree it would be the dough. Delancey has that complex "basic" down pat. It is memorable, like a run-in with Lauryn Hill on the street is memorable.

So, you may not go here for the meats, the exquisite herbs or pungent cheeses, but go for the dough.

*On a side note, who can't help but love a restaurant that serves beverages in tiny bottles?


The Oxford Comma

I asked a friend to recommend a book, any book. I laughed out loud when I saw the title: Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation!

I’ve never met an author so passionate, so mischievously marvelous, about the laws of punctuation. She admits to sabotaging signs with a can of spray paint to reme

dy their erroneous markings, raising high her rousing cry, “Sticklers unite!”

A former editor, author Lynne Truss dares to tell us, in her sarcastic and very British manner, that it is time we understood the severity of the situation: punctuation is going to die a horrific death on the internet if we don’t pay attention. Relying on “Spell checks” and “Grammar checks” that don’t know the rules of the sentence, we are losing the power that a well-placed semicolon can impart.

The main message I took from this book is that punctuation has evolved over the years; many “rules” have changed over the years and vary between the Motherland and the New World. The original point of it all, however, was to inform an orator how to speak to his audience in order to make his point perfectly. Punctuation tells people to stop. To go! To wait: to wait: and to wait for it. It insinuates and asks for drama! Does your punctuation simply follow rules (I confess I am still learning them), or does it convey to your reader exactly the meaning and emotions you intend?

For example:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Which woman are you?

A final note: when using a comma to separate multiple descriptors, either of the following two versions are acceptable:

The American Comma: The flag is red, white and blue.

The Oxford Comma: The flag is red, white, and blue.


Keep the Fire Burnin'!

The show I was hoping to go to canceled last night, so The Non-Scotsman and I found ourselves burrowing under the Alaska viaduct at The Highway 99 Blues Club.

(The Hwy 99 Blues Club, 2010)

I had no idea we were in for a private blues concert. Seriously, we were the only people in the joint except for two lonely guys at the bar and a married couple dancing off to the side of the stage. The Non-Scotsman and I sat directly in front of the stage – front and center.

(The empty club)

The Jimmy Holden Band was all ours.

(The Jimmy Holden Band, 2010)

The 3 musicians immediately let us know that although there were only six of us in the room, we were the most beautiful and interesting six people in Seattle - and we were in the right place.

The website claims the band as one of “the mainstays of the Seattle R&B scene” and I believe it simply because of their age and comfort on stage. They played a mix of Neo-Soul, funk, blues, and R&B and weren’t afraid to tell the woman behind the bar how "smokin’ hot" she was.

(Bandmates on a break, 2010)

The best part of the night was when the candle on our table went out. The Non-Scotsman reached over to the adjacent table to replace it, causing Jimmy himself to look up inquisitively from his keyboard. Eyebrows raised, he silently demanded an explanation for the movement from the table. The Non-Scotsman saw the question, and explained that “our candle went out. Just grabbin’ another.”

(The Non-Scotsman, 2010)

Jimmy grinned from ear to ear, tipped his head back, and half-sung, half-yelled, “Don’t let that fire go out!”

Suddenly the whole band had picked it up. Steve, the drummer, started yelling out “Keep the fire burnin’! Keep the fire burnin’!” Jimmy was preaching over him, “Don’t you dare let that flame go out!”

I was in tears from laughing after about 2 minutes of this. For a $5.00 cover we got a private show – and the best marriage advice in years.