30 November 2010

First Snow

 This past Saturday we had our first snow on the island.  The climate on Miles Island, by the way, defies logical categorization, but to simplify matters, parts of the island are arctic, parts are tropical, and parts are completely unpredictable.  More on island climate in later posts.

Anyhow, in this first snow, at first there were just a few flakes that fell silently.  Then it turned into a wonderful quiet blizzard... hooray for snow!  Soon the islanders will be skiing and sledding and skating and...

This photo, taken the day after Thanksgiving, was a magical moment in which the iced trees from the night before suddenly started to melt in unison.  It was as if it was raining, only the sun was shining.  The photo doesn't do the moment justice, so you'll just have to use your island imagination...

28 November 2010

Pet Millipede

 My friend Michelle has a pet millipede, which I think is pretty rad.  She brought it in for a sort of show-and-tell dinner a few weeks ago, and I think her 'thing' was the most impressive of the evening.  Apparently she keeps the millipede in a very livable and pleasant terrarium--the tupperware container is just the carrying container.  Surprisingly, her pet millipede still doesn't have a name, so if you've got any ideas, let us know!

24 November 2010


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Orange trees in the entryway

There's something wonderful about citrus trees, and who knew you could have them indoors as well as out!  via Wit + Delight.

Now, if only that cat was a little more like Hobbes!

(from The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes via here)

Music Tuesday: Laura Veirs

 Photo by David Belisle
 Today's artist is Laura Veirs, a Portland, Oregon-based singer/songwriter.  I am pretty new to her music, and first heard her live this fall in Madison in a small club called The Frequency.  Apparently the band had to drive along the highway rumble strip on the way to the show in order to lull Laura's baby to sleep, and they had a baby monitor on stage!  Needless to say, Laura is charming.  She put on such a good show and even though it didn't start until 11, my wife stayed up until the end!  (That's a real stretch for her, as I'm sure several of you know) 

Below is the video for one of our favorite songs, I Can See Your Tracks.   Katie and I learned this song and I've still got a ways to go on the guy's part. Maybe I was inspired by going deer hunting this weekend (I was a pacifist observer), but I sure do like looking at a living deer in a music video.

You can download several of her songs here (she's released 7 albums) and see vids of her in concert here. My favorites by her, in addition to the song above, include July Flame and Life is Good Blues.  Hope you enjoy!

22 November 2010

The Paddle

     Well.  Many of you may know that my Fall Project has been to build a paddle.  A long paddle, mind you.  It all started around the end of the summer, when I saw stand up paddle boarder on a lake in Madison and realized that it was a crime to live so close to 2 lakes and not be out enjoying them.   After looking at the prices for a real board and paddle ($1000 and $300, respectively), I decided I'd be a typical Mainer and try to make my own.  Duct tape anyone?  First the board--the easiest part, really.  Within a few hours of placing a want add on Craigslist, I was the proud owner of a 1980s era windsurf board for 50 bucks. Who knew if it would support my weight, but I didn't have time to fool around with the details--winter was on its way.
      Next, the paddle.  Luckily, my friend Rob from work is an expert paddle maker.  Or at least he's made a few.  He even built a wooden canoe with his wife.  He's the type who has every tool and wordworking device you'd imagine, from saws to sealant to 20 clamps--and yes, you need that many.  So my project had a mentor and a patient guide. 
      The first task was to select two cedar 2x4s (with as few knots as possible) from a local lumber yard.  Boy, did I feel grown up.  We cut one of the boards up into 8 or 9 strips and glued them together over a form board to make a composite shaft--stronger than a single piece of wood.  This is where the 20 clamps came in handy.  We used the other board to glue 6 or 7 strips to make the blade and a couple blocks to make a rough handle.  Basically I had a real blocky paddle-looking thing by the end of this process, and I told Rob that it looked good enough, I was ready to hit the water!  "Not so fast," he winked. 
 The next step involved lots and lots of carving, first using a draw knife (not pictured) and then using a spokeshave (pictured below).  The blade took the longest amount of time, and then after using a power sander for the handle, I used the spokeshave to make the square-edged shaft into a rounded handle that would actually feel comfortable in the hands. 
  I did a lot of work on our front porch.  It was pretty cool to see the curly wood shavings pile up on the steps--it felt like I was actually doing something useful for once.  I got a lot of curious stares from folks walking by, and some encouragement too as people began to see the shape of a paddle emerge. 

 Next I did a ton of sanding, moving from coarse to fine.  Below is what the paddle looked like after all the sanding.
 A few months later, after some epoxy to the blade and 3 coats of varnish, voila!  We had ourselves a stand up paddle!  It's a cool 78" of pure hand-carved elegance--what dreams are made of.    Well, it may be a bit asymmetrical, but at least it's functional! 
 I can't give enough credit to Rob for helping me through this project.  Without his expertise I'd be out there using my bare hands or getting splinters from a rough-edged waterlogged 2x4 cut in half.  But now, I'm out on the lake at sunrise and sunset, exploring a new world that has literally existed at my doorstep all along.  And let me just say, it felt so good to work with tools again (shop class was in 6th grade!), to work with my hands and see fruit start from a seed.  This is what island living is all about. 

17 November 2010

It's a Book - By Lane Smith

 It's a Book is by Lane Smith.  I first read about it in a newspaper.  (Newspaper?  Can you blog with it?  No.  It's a newspaper.)  I still haven't managed to read the hardcopy yet, but it's somewhere on this island.  I know it's a bit ironic to be blogging about this, but I couldn't resist the ape-reading monkey.  And continuing with the irony, check out the trailer for the book below.  Lane Smith also runs a pretty cool blog about 'recommended inappropriate books for kids'.

(page shots from Lane Smith's blog)

16 November 2010

Music Tuesday: Glasser

Glasser is the brainchild orchestra of Cameron Mesirow.  I love what the record label says about her new album Ring: "It moves like the wake of a small boat in a still lake: each song its own, but leading to, and becoming, the next."   I've only heard a few songs of hers, but whenever I hear her voice and rich tapestry of instruments backing her, it feel like I'm in the middle of a lake at sunrise.  Kind of like this morning on my paddleboard.  Enjoy these videos (including one where the power goes out on her!) and check out her myspace for more songs, including a remix by one of my recent favorites, Delorean.

Where They Create

 Photos by Paul Barbera
Paul Barbera is a photographer who describes himself as someone drawn to artists, creatives and their interiors.  His website Where They Create is a favorite of mine, and I'm often inspired to imagine what it'd be like to design studios and inspiring spaces to work in.  Perhaps on Miles Island...   I love how he is able to capture the creative environments that people work in.  Is the environment the product of the artist, or vice versa?  Probably a bit of both.  Visit his blog for his visual diary, and keep an eye out for his book Where They Create which will come out September 2011, and will be published by the same group that publishes Frame (the great indoors), Mark, and Elephant magazines.   Where do you create?

These photos are taken from where Paul Davies, a Sydney-based artist, creates...
 Photos by Paul Barbera
 Photos by Paul Barbera
 Photos by Paul Barbera

13 November 2010

Happy Weekend!

Fromage on Rue Cler, Paris

12 November 2010

OLive OLove

We were recently in Gloucester, walking along Good Harbor Beach.  This lovely lady approached us and started talking about what a wonderful day it was, so blue, so perfect!  She told us it was her 89th birthday that very morning, and that we had so much to look forward to in life.  "Always be open to whatever comes your way," she said with a smile. "This is how I sign my name," she said suddenly.  She drew an O with the word "live" in the middle.  "But when I was 60, I signed it this way."  Chuckling to herself, she wrote "love" inside of the O.

 O Live
 O Love
Here's to you, Olive/Olove--may you have many more birthdays and walks on the beach!  Thank you for making our morning extra special!


Photo by Steve Double

Stereolab's 12th album comes out November 16th.  You can stream the full album right now over at NPR's First Listen.  French pop electro doesn't get much better than this.  Dig it!

And here's some vintage Stereolab live on Jools Holland, just for kicks...

10 November 2010

The Native Trees of Canada

 Here on the island, many of our trees resemble those of Canada.  We've also got a tropical side of the island, but I'll talk about that at another time.  These wonderful paintings by Leanne Shapton from her book Native Trees of Canada depict the simplicity and lushness of our forests.  She recently had a short piece in the New York Times Sunday Book Review in which she pairs her paintings with some favorite passages from her bookshelf that include trees--worth checking out.  I just love the colors in her work.  Now for a walk in the woods!

Music Tuesday: Junior Senior

Junior Senior is a musical group that you can't help but grin at.  You also can't help but dance to their beatz.  I first found out about them at a party where we danced to 'Move Your Feet' on repeat for at least a half hour.  My wife (whose reputation as a dancer often precedes her) even vouches for this band and brought home their double album from a record store in Baltimore.  That's when I decided to marry her.  So here are some clips from these Danish dudes, and you can also check out their myspace.  Unfortunately this group is now "R.I.P." but don't let that stop the fun.

Instructions for enjoyment : 1) put on dance shoes 2) hit play 3) repeat

09 November 2010

Bicycling among flowers

Photo by Mikael Colville-Andersen
 If there are ever any billboards on Miles Islands, there will only be a few, and they will look like this.  Hooray for biking among flowers!  It's getting colder these days on the island, but that doesn't mean you can't bundle up and get out on two wheels, as evidenced by the woman in the last photo here.  All pictures found on Copenhagen Cycle Chic
 Photo by Mikael Colville-Andersen
Photo by Mikael Colville-Andersen

08 November 2010

Welcome Back!

Happy Monday everyone!  This video was forwarded to us by a wonderful friend named Lin, who's recent surprise birthday was kind of like this, only we were in a restaurant and not an airport, and we were singing Happy Birthday and not a greatest hits soundtrack.  (skip the last 5 seconds if you want to avoid the commercialness of the clip)  In any case, this a video to start the week off right, and it is how visitors and islanders alike are welcomed to Miles Island.

05 November 2010

Happy Weekend!

Street art in Spain


Micmacs is a wildly creative film from the imagination of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (director of Amélie).  The film's website is pretty fun to explore too...

Rototiller Car

We heard this wonderful creature puttering up the road way before we saw it... talk about another use for a rototiller!  (pic taken in rural Sicily)

The Whale by Philip Hoare

This book by Philip Hoare should be coming in the mail soon, and I thought I'd just share the cover with you...Allison Saltzman designed the cover for 'The Whale' and Leo Nickolls designed the cover for the UK edition entitled 'Leviathan'.  I love judging books by their covers!  I used to work in a book store and I developed a bit of a fixation on book covers and the way pages and covers feel.  I can tell already, this book promises to be excellent.  Here's a cool website archiving book covers.  What are your favorite book cover designs?