So you want a ukulele?

I’m so glad! The more the better. The ukulele is an amazing little instrument because in a matter of minutes you can be making music and singing with friends. Of course, like any instrument you can spend time and effort to become more proficient, but you’ll be having fun right away.

There are so many options… how do you choose? To me, it seems similar to any purchase you care about. You buy the best that you can afford. Set your budget ahead of time. If you know you can only spend $100, visit a music store (better with a friend who can already play a little) and strum a few. See which instruments sing to you. Sing back! See which ones you like to sing with. A caveat to that is–if you’ve got money to burn, you may want to hold back in the beginning and get a nice, affordable ukulele. When you feel more proficient, no matter what you bought first, you’re going to want another, and another. There are lots of varieties of ukes. Begin with a soprano or a concert. I really like the Cordoba CM 15. You can find it in a package for under $100 that includes a case and a tuner.

Even if you’re buying an instrument for a really young child, I recommend not buying a toy. For about fifty dollars, you can have a ukulele that is pleasant to play and will last a kid until they are good enough to want something better. Try the Makala a plywood uke made by Kala.

Like I said, you can go to a music store to try out ukes. You can also find a ukulele jam in your area. Try googling “ukulele jam” and the name of your town. In Juneau, the Jambusters meet on Sundays from 11-1 at the Prospector Hotel Restaurant. All are welcome. You get a chance to see a lot of different ukes at a jam, and most of the time, folks will let you hold and strum them too. It’s a great way to check out what you might want and hear what musicians have to say about them.

UPDATE: Do consider used ukuleles. Borrow one from a friend that might be collecting dust. Check Craigslist and garage sales. Instruments that are cared for get better with age. If you buy an old instrument, put new strings on it, and it might really shine.

If you have more questions, feel free to ask in the comments!

Monday Haiku


taps on my skylight
mist hangs on backlit feathers
does he want to come in?


It’s still National Poetry Month! I had to drop out of the 30/30 challenge, but I’m diving back in for the last few days because who doesn’t love a rush to the finish. There’s a rookery in the trees behind my house. I have a great view from the bathroom windows. Last spring they were so raucous that they would wake my son early in the mornings. Usually, I feel a bit like I’m spying on them, when I watch their movements and meanderings, but today, one of the crows turned the tables.

Here’s some crow on a skylight entertainment that I found on the Internet when I was looking for a photo to go along with this post:

Doing thing backwards, Music, and National Poetry Month Day 7

Jake and Roxy

Today my poetry prompt was to write a reverse acrostic. Acrostic is a type of poetry where usually the first letter of each line ends up spelling out a word or phrase. This prompt breaks the rules a little (I love breaking the rules) and puts the “secret” word or phrase at the end of each line. It’s harder for me to think of words that end in a given letter rather than begin with one. The challenge is fun, and Scrabble came to my rescue.

Tonight is the first night of the 40th Annual Alaska Folk Festival. Folk fest is a week jam packed with music, far-flung friends visiting, late night jams, dances and little sleep. I wonder how much poetry I’ll be writing in the next week. I know I’ll be getting some crocheting in while I sit and listen to music. That’s a good thing, I have a deadline for my Knitty column coming up soon.

What I have is really just an attempt rather than a finished poem, but in the spirit of the 30/30 Poetry Month challenge, I’ll share it here.

Music Tonight

Voice intermingles with voice and with
The sound of fingers on a
String. Heads together, lean in closer,
Listen to the strum,
And the sound of the piano,
Find the note that rings when
He sings. You fly.

National Poetry Month, Day 4. Trolling in my notebook.

We have this book called The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice. It’s like an almanac of poetry prompts. Today’s prompt asks you to dig through your journal or notebooks for inspiration. So I trolled through the little moleskine in my backpack and grabbed phrases I liked. Can you tell that most of the notes in this notebook are from writing workshops I’ve taken lately?


What I mean to say is,
Sentiment demands
A clear eye.

Unscripted moments.
The act of omission.

Lay your hand on the page,
and see what feels hot.
Seduce your subject.

If anyone asks you
to smoke with them,
say yes.

The mind’s a fine
and private place.
A map of misreading.

Writing is not a refuge.
I can see that you are.
You’re better than this.


Will National Poetry Month wake up this sleepy blog?

Is this thing on?

I know this has been a rather quiet blog over the past year or so. I’ve been wanting to blog, but not just about fiber stuff. My creative work has been focused a lot on writing, and I wasn’t sure this was the venue. But I also don’t really want to have a new blog. I like this one. So, I’m just going to let it be my place to write about whatever I feel like.

It’s national poetry month. I am not a poet, but I live with one. Selma writes and performs poetry, and I love what she writes. She challenged me to write a poem a day with her. I’m such a beginner at poetry that it’s liberating, I don’t worry about being successful. I just get to play with words. We’re on day three. It’s great to have a writing partner here in the house with me. I think Selma may post her poems too at some point. Here’s a round-up of what I’ve done so far.

Day One — I discovered Google Poetics and wrote that day’s “poem” accordingly.

the first thing I rememberI also discovered Stitchomancy and played around with that, but didn’t come up with a poem to share.

The next day, Day 2, I played with blackout poetry–creating  a poem by selecting words in a book and blacking out the remaining works. Christine Byl shared this technique in a poetry workshop I took from her in February.

Here’s the text of “Exit,” when you take it out of the book. Actually, that was fun too, because I got to play with the line breaks and punctuation.


Shut up and keep absolutely still.
Let it ring, frozen to the marrow
of my bones like the crack of doom.

Heels clicking, whispered hoarsely
In a mad rush, silent as memories
Rushed toward the second story.

At the first faint squeal
For the love, scarcely breathing.
Enough to arouse the dead.

Today is Day 3, and Selma challenged me to write a poem in the shape of something. She go the idea from a poetry prompt book we have. I’ll talk more about that another day. Here’s what I came up with. “Sky’s Excuse” is inspired by one of my favorite students.

Want to play too? Write a poem and post a link to it in the comments.

Inspiration in the Mail


New craft books are published every day. I love looking at them all, but the ones that really get my attention are stitch dictionaries. I use them for ideas when I’m designing, and I like just paging through them.


This one, Crochet Stitch Dictionary, new from Interweave, by Sarah Hazell has 200 stitches and combines color photos, charts, and written instructions.

It’s National Crochet Month!

Read to the end of the post for a special Coupon Code!

Thank you to Amy and Donna over at Crochetville for inviting me to be part of the amazing blog tour that she’s arranged in honor of National Crochet Month.

The tour is part crochet-evangelism and part promotion for our chosen charity. The bloggers participating chose Project Night Night to support and promote this month. Here’s what Amy had to say:

“As a group, the participating designers selected a very special charity to support this month: Project Night Night, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides over 25,000 Night Night Packages each year to homeless children. Each package consists of a new sturdy tote bag with a new security blanket, an age-appropriate children’s book, and a stuffed animal. These comfort objects help to reduce the trauma of homelessness for the children served by Project Night Night. Both the handmade blankets and stuffed animals provide the children with objects of love and security.”

I love the idea of sharing comfort through crochet to children in need.

I began crocheting when I was eight years old. My grandmother taught me basic stitches, and as soon as I learned to make a hat, I was hooked. Hats have always been my favorite things to make. They’re small, portable, easy and the design possibilities are endless. So today I wanted to highlight three FREE hat patterns (well, one is a headband) that I have available. Beyond hats, they’re connected because they all feature color work. Fair isle, tapestry or stranded crochet are some of my favorite techniques. I love seeing patterns appear in fabric, and I love how, if you know the techniques, you can even “doodle” and design as you go.

Here’s my first offering. The Happy Valentine’s Day Hat is worked in Tapestry Crochet–a technique I learned from Crochet Guru Carol Ventura.

In this tutorial I have a little you tube video that demonstrates my color-changing technique.

Next up is a little headband that I designed for my friend Angela. I actually have made this in knit and crochet, and I love both versions. It’s inspired by the colors of Northwest Coast and Alaska Native art.

Lastly, another nod to love in Sara’s Hat, which I designed as a gift for my sister-in-law and later published on Craft.

I hope you enjoy these free patterns and, if you visit my Ravelry Store between now and the end of the month you can get ONE FREE copy of any of my patterns with the purchase of any other pattern. Just use the coupon code: AOHCROMO. Happy National Crochet Month!


A Sweet Sweater, Rescued…

Thrifted Sweater

When I lived in Maryland, going to Value Village was one of my favorite pastimes. Of course, I preferred to go on SALE days, I mean even thrift store shoppers like me love the extra bargain. I never worried about stuff getting bought out from under my nose because I have pretty weird taste compared to what most folks were buying. I’m usually looking for the forlorn, lost, handmade sweater or pair of socks that someone, for some reason, has abandoned. They’re always there.

Juneau has two thrift stores. Out in “The Valley,” St. Vincent de Paul’s has a knitter on staff who identifies cool knits and makes sure they don’t sell for too cheap. They’re still a bargain. That’s where I found my favorite sweater from last year. The other day I was at our local Salvation Army on a tip that they had some cool quilted military issue snow-pant liners for a dollar. (I did score those, but that’s another story). Anyway, this particular thrift store doesn’t usually have much in the way of sweaters, but I took a quick look anyway, and found one.

This sweater is vintage–I’m guessing from the early 1960s. It’s handmade, but sold commercially. The little label says “100% wool. Made in Italy.” No brand name. It’s constructed in pieces, with raglan shaping and 3/4 length sleeves. The yarn is a bulky, soft two-ply in natural kind of oatmeal color. I’m tempted to dye it, but I don’t have another white cardigan, so maybe I won’t. The cool thing about the lace pattern is that it’s all done in reverse stockinette. The eyelets look much prettier that way. If I were to copy this sweater, I would certainly knit it in one piece from the neck down. I don’t think I will recreate it, but I may play with the stitch pattern in a hat or cowl.

Oh, Headband…

Last weekend, I took a road trip with my dear friend Charlotte, and to thank her for doing all the driving, I knit her a little headband, reverse-engineering from a photo she found on the Interwebs with some gorgeous, hefty, cable-spun merino. I knit on and off for the trip from Seattle to Bend, Oregon, finishing by headlamp just before we got to our destination. Charlotte promised me that she and Headband would have loads of adventures together and today I got my first pictorial report.


Alaskatarian: Dancing for Our Supper

The Ant and the Grasshopper

First published in The Cordova Times, 9/28/2012


We have a tough job here in the North during summer. It’s like we have to play both sides of Aesop’s fable of the grasshopper and the ant: we must play while the sun shines AND save enough food for winter. With a summer like the one we just had, it seems like the harvesting has been plentiful, but the play was lacking—the ant won. It’s a good thing we find ways to keep the grasshopper playing in the winter too.

Here in Juneau, there’s not an annual moose hunt the way there is in Cordova, and I’ve been watching the results of this year’s hunt in Cordova with interest. It’s great so see so many successful women hunters and their helpful teams of men and women putting up the meat that will feed many families for the winter. Last year, I was on the periphery of a moose butchering team when James helped harvest a moose that had been donated to a local food bank. I helped by keeping James and his buddies supplied with butcher paper, coffee, and snacks. It was amazing to watch that huge volume of food get processed in record time. Back in Cordova, I hear that moose fat can be rendered and used as a delicious replacement for shortening. Erica Thompson says it smells awful while it’s rendering, but tastes just great in baking once it’s done. (On hearing of Erica’s experiments, Becca Dodge mentioned that she and Mark once rendered bear fat that was a lovely shade of blue due to the bear’s generous blueberry diet.)

When you have delicious fresh roasts, back strap, and other choice cuts of moose, there’s really nothing fancy that you need to do to prepare it, is there? I just hope for leftovers so I can make one of my favorite childhood dishes: Imfarakat, which might just be Arabic for “let’s use whatever we have left to make something new.” I can’t find it in a dictionary, but it is fun to say. It sounded like “mmmfudakey” when Sitto, my grandmother, said it. Essentially, it’s moose hash. I sauté an onion, and add enough thinly sliced potatoes for whoever’s eating, frying until the potatoes are crispy and cooked through. Then I add chopped up leftover moose steak or roast and some steamed green beans. When everything is hot, I add one beaten egg per person and fry until the egg is cooked through. Salt and pepper are the only seasonings you’ll need, and it’s great for breakfast or dinner served with buttered toast and hot coffee.

Since I stopped eating meat in my early twenties, and didn’t come back to it until we had plentiful wild game and fish here in Alaska, I often look to my childhood, and my Syrian grandmother’s recipes for inspiration. When I was little, one of Sitto’s family meals wouldn’t be complete without kibbee—spiced ground meat mixed with cracked wheat, then served raw, baked, or fried.  I love my grandmother’s baked kibbee with it’s creamy, nutty filling. It tastes delicious made with ground moose.

To begin the kibbee, I rinse some fine cracked (bulgar) wheat, then let it soak in clear water for about ten minutes. Drain the water with a sieve, and squeeze out any excess liquid. Add two pounds of ground meat (minus a half cup set aside for the filling), a large onion diced fine, a teaspoon of salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. I divide the meat mixture in half, and press the first half into the bottom of a greased 9×13 glass baking dish. To make the filling, I brown the reserved meat and add a half cup of pine nuts (my grandmother disliked pine nuts and always used chopped pecans. I like it both ways). To the browned meat, I add a package of cream cheese or a cup of yogurt cheese (yogurt that’s been strained overnight through cheese cloth). I season the filling with dried mint, salt and pepper to taste. Spread the filling over the first layer of meat, then press the other half of the meat mixture gently on top of the filling layer. This is hands-on work, and I find that dipping your hands in water makes it easier to smooth the meat mixture without having it stick to your hands. I use a sharp knife to make diagonal cuts in perpendicular lines across the dish creating diamond shaped pieces of kibbee. Pour a half cup of melted butter over the top of the kibbee, then bake at 350F for about 15 minutes or until the meat is cooked through, and kibbee is browned. Kibbee is delicious hot from the oven, and makes a great cold lunch the next day.

This weekend, I was the grasshopper. I danced with friends at the fall’s first square dance and found on Sunday afternoon I had to scramble to pull something together for supper. While we had our quickly made dinner of bean and rice burritos we planned for next Sunday’s meal to be something warm and inviting. We’ll be ants this week, planning and foraging, and I’m guessing moose will be on the menu.


Baked Moose Kibbee Ingredients

2lbs ground moose meat (less 1/2 cup reserved for filling)
1 1/2 cups fine cracked (bulgar) wheat
1 large onion, diced fine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter



1/2 cup ground meat
1 package cream cheese or 1 cup yogurt cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 cup pine nuts or chopped pecans
Salt and pepper to taste