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Starting with the corners

Home photo by Chandler O'Leary

Slowly but surely, this place is beginning to look like home.

Tacoma photo by Chandler O'Leary

Good thing, because the days are absolutely flying by,

Studio photo by Chandler O'Leary

the weeks passing me in a blur of time.

Home photo by Chandler O'Leary

Neither the Tailor nor I could really take any time off from work for our move, so we can only settle in a little at a time. There are so many boxes to unpack, fixtures to mend, hidden spots to clean, surprises to deal with, infrastructure to set up—a million things to build and scrub and fix and dismantle and assemble and purchase and beautify and polish and rewire and dig up and plant and patch and strip and undo and restore and set up just so. Some parts of the house are perfect as they are; others need attention immediately; still others will just need to be lived with as-is for some years, until we can get around to tackling them. If I think about any of it too long, I go a little mad.

Home photos by Chandler O'Leary

So for now, we’re focusing on the corners. There isn’t a single room that’s done yet, but little corners here and there are starting to shape up nicely.

Steller's Jay photo by Chandler O'Leary

These images, then, are little glimpses of what my days have been like lately, of the moments that have alternately focused and fragmented my attention.

Home photo by Chandler O'LearyStudio photo by Chandler O'LearyConstellation illustrations by Chandler O'Leary

Through it all, work goes on, as close to uninterrupted as I can make it,

Home photo by Chandler O'Leary

while the hum of everyday life picks back up around me.

Home photo by Chandler O'Leary

I’ve gotten in the habit lately of keeping my camera on a shelf behind my work table. It’s a good reminder that while forward momentum is nice—

Home photo by Chandler O'Leary

—I need to remember to stop every now and again and take a good look at where I stand.

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Puzzling Puget Sound

WA State ferry puzzles photo by Chandler O'Leary

Our local ferry system is a major part of public transit around here. But unlike a bus or a train, the ferries provide plenty of room to spread out while you pass the time. So we have a little tradition that happens on nearly every vessel: communal puzzles.

WA State ferry puzzles photo by Chandler O'Leary

I think this is one of the most charming things about Washington.

WA State ferry puzzles photo by Chandler O'Leary

As a puzzle fan myself, I know how easy it is to get sucked in—but I love how it’s something that anybody can work on for awhile, and then leave (or dismantle) for the next person to come along (or come back to yourself on the return trip!).

WA State ferry puzzles photo by Chandler O'Leary

Once I got delayed on a ferry for almost two hours in the San Juan Islands, waiting for a dangerous bank of fog to clear. This guy was at his puzzle the entire time—I never saw him look up once. I wonder if he even noticed the time passing…

WA State ferry puzzles photo by Chandler O'Leary

Even Candace got sucked in when she was here.

Actually, I wonder if the ferries ever have trouble getting passengers to actually leave the vessels—just one more piece, and then we’ll go, I swear!

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She sells seashells…

Edmonds, WA pier sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I’m usually terrible about attending organized sketch crawls, but today I made an extra effort and joined the local Urban Sketchers group up north in Edmonds, WA. My friend Gabi Campanario (who founded the group) was there, and while most of the rest of the group camped out to sketch around the downtown core, we set out for the shoreline. There, Gabi let me in on the best sketching secret ever: that the best place to be was under the ferry landing.

Edmonds, WA pier sketch by Chandler O'Leary

You can only walk under there (without waders) when the tide is lower than normal; today we had a boatload of sheer dumb luck, as it happened to be an exceptionally extreme spring tide. Today was not only a full moon, but a so-called “supermoon,” where the moon is the closest to Earth that it will be for the next year. We arrived on the scene about an hour before low tide, and found the place absolutely teeming with marine life.

Edmonds, WA pier sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I’ve seen tide pools before, but nothing like this. There were literally hundreds of sea stars, crabs, anemones and clams in lurid colors. And I got to make a few discoveries—like just how bizarre an anemone looks when it’s completely exposed and left hanging from a rock like a gob of soupy ABC gum. Or that if you stand in place long enough, sooner or later a clam will squirt a jet of water at you from two feet away, and hit you with uncanny accuracy.

Edmonds, WA pier sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The place was also teeming with beachcombers, who provided a good exercise in speed-sketching an ever-changing crowd (as if the seriously challenging perspective of all those pilings weren’t enough…). Gabi, on the other hand, was super easy to draw: he plonked himself down on a rock to paint, and became almost as motionless as the sea stars clinging to his perch.

So thanks, Gabi, for a great sketch outing today. And a big shout-out to the moon, for providing the perfect opportunity!

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Postcard-perfect

Tacoma and Mt. Rainier photo by Chandler O'Leary

We’ve had just about the most perfect spring here this year—with weather so unseasonably sunny, for weeks on end, that it simply would be criminal not to get outside for every second one can. On days like this, work can wait awhile—and the camera moves to the front burner. When the sun is shining here, a perfect moment is never hard to find.

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Pristine waters

Browns Point photo by Chandler O'Leary

I fancied a drive around the Bay today—it seemed like just the thing to get the creative juices flowing.

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Hoist the Jolly Roger

Tacoma sailing photo by Chandler O'Leary

We had some guests visiting from Kansas last week, and when our friend Jeff heard about it, he invited us all onto his boat to give our visitors a taste of the ocean before they headed home.

Tacoma sailing photo by Chandler O'Leary

As a landlubber myself, I think it might have been an even bigger treat for me.

Tacoma photo by Chandler O'Leary

The best part, though, was seeing my town from a whole new perspective.

Tacoma sailing photo by Chandler O'Leary

If that’s not the perfect way to spend a summer day, I don’t know what is.

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Blue ribbon morning

Poulsbo photo by Chandler O'Leary

Judging by the chilly rain that’s suddenly arrived, the rapidly diminishing daylight and the maples that are already starting to turn, summer is officially over. But maybe it’s all those years I spent going to the Minnesota State Fair, because the end of summer has always got me dreaming of still-hot days and fried food on a stick—and I find myself handing out metaphorical blue and red ribbons to the winners of nonexistent competitions.

Poulsbo photo by Chandler O'Leary

Take, for example, yesterday morning, when I had to return some library books to the Kitsap Regional Library. Since I could visit any library in the system to do it, I picked a branch in a town I had never yet visited: Poulsbo (pronounced “Paul’s Boh”).

To kill a few minutes before the library opened, I parked the car next to a waterfront park, and took a stroll along the boardwalk that extended toward the center of town. I have no idea what I was expecting to find at the end of the boardwalk—

Poulsbo photo by Chandler O'Leary

but it certainly wasn’t anything quite this adorable.

Poulsbo photo by Chandler O'Leary

Tucked away on a fjordy arm of the Sound, Poulsbo was settled in the 1880s by Scandinavian immigrants (the ones who didn’t stay in Minnesota to start up the State Fair, that is).

Poulsbo photo by Chandler O'Leary

And it’s been a little piece of Norway ever since. In fact, Norwegian was the primary language here until World War II; and even yesterday, I swear on my own grave that I overheard a conversation in Norwegian. Hey, I didn’t live in both Minnesota and North Dakota for nothing—my friend Bridget would be proud of me for picking out all the “jeg“s and “er“s and “av“s she taught me long ago.

Poulsbo photo by Chandler O'Leary

So Poulsbo gets a blue ribbon for charm and gratuitous outdoor use of Norsk.

Poulsbo photo by Chandler O'Leary

Eventually I remembered what I was there for in the first place—and then, when I laid eyes on the carved pillars and intricate paneling, I had to make sure I had written down the correct address. I think it’s safe to say that Poulsbo has also netted the Most Beautiful Library ribbon—

Poulsbo photo by Chandler O'Leary

aaaand another blue for Cutest-as-a-Button church steeple.

Poulsbo photo by Chandler O'Leary

Before I headed for home, I walked the rest of Front Street—and stopped dead when I saw this sign. I don’t have a drop of Norwegian blood in my veins, but I do know my way around a Norse bakery.

Poulsbo photo by Chandler O'Leary

Lefse wasn’t on the menu that day, but I did find the perfect treat for my State Fair state of mind. Oh, yes. Another blue ribbon.

What can I say? Poulsbo knows the ways to my heart.

Poulsbo photo by Chandler O'Leary

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Summer finally got the memo

Seattle ferry photo by Chandler O'Leary

Well, if this isn’t a case of “be careful what you wish for,” I don’t know what is. Though for the record, I’m pretty sure I was the only person in the entire Pacific Northwest who wasn’t doing any wishing. (I like the cold.) Monday it was a sweater-perfect 65 degrees; today it scorched out at 93. As I’ve said before, as we so rarely have hot weather and air conditioning is therefore scarce (and totally unnecessary 99 percent of the time)—well, if you want to cool off, you’ve gotta get creative.

In this, my third summer here, a certain set of cooling-off routines are quickly becoming a tradition. Here, then, are my top-5 favorite heat-beating tips, Northwest style:

1. Grab a friend and get on a boat. Namely, the Bainbridge Island ferry. Since it’s always at least twenty degrees cooler on the Sound, the passage kicks up a deliciously cold breeze that puts every air conditioner in Phoenix to shame.

Gull photo by Chandler O'Leary

2. Take a cue from the seagulls and head for the prow. The breeze is stronger up there—the birds sure love it.

Ice cream photo by Chandler O'Leary

3. When you arrive on Bainbridge, stroll down to Mora for a cone. I’m a believer in Dessert First.

Ice cream photo by Chandler O'Leary

(Use a spoon as necessary to stay ahead of the melting.)

Seattle photo by Chandler O'Leary

4. When you get back to the mainland, duck into an air-conditioned restaurant and follow up that dessert with a light, cold dinner and an icy drink. Do this European style, and take your sweet time.

Mt. Rainier photo by Chandler O'Leary

5. When you finally finish dinner, take a walk in the evening air and watch the sun do spectacular things on its way out. That’s the best part, and the most solemn promise of hot-hot days in this neck of the woods.

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Low tide

Low tide photo by Chandler O'Leary

For the most part, Puget Sound is extremely deep, and lined with narrow, rocky beaches, with steep drop-offs and underwater cliffs. But Dash Point is one place where, at low tide, you can walk a long, long way out on a pristine sandbar. I love the feeling of standing out in the middle of a drained basin, just steps away from the familiar but suddenly in a whole different world.

NOTE: the shop is currently closed; I am taking a break to do some traveling, prepare for some events and reorganize my inventory. All orders placed between now and May 20 will ship on Tuesday, May 23, 2017. I apologize for the inconvenience!