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the relationship between our tools and our values...

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“Instinct is not a destination, but a path…” ~ Tamar Adler

I knew a woman who divided her life between a sailboat and an rv.

When she and her husband ran out of money on their sailboat, they would choose the next spot on the map to move, return to the RV, and work long enough to save for the next adventure on the sailboat.

She is an amazing cook, mainly of coastal and world cuisine. I only ever saw her use one chopping board, 2 knives, and 3 pans. For everything. To observe her in the kitchen was a lesson in efficiency.

“Consider not filling your kitchen with tools, but becoming, rather, the kind of cook who doesn’t need them.”  ~ Tamar Adler

I think this might be said of every craft in which there are gadgets created to aid in accuracy and to save us time that might be spent in another way.

But there is a cost. What these supplementary gadgets offer us, is in trade for knowledge and skill building. They distance us from the thing we’re doing. When we take shortcuts, we miss what we might learn. 

One way is not better than another. They are different. Each asks something different from us, revealing our own preferences and abilities, our nature and true desire. 

Understanding the difference between what is necessary and what is convenient is part of the intelligence required for whatever it is you’re doing. It's how we can determine a healthy balance between all the moving parts of our daily living. 

I’ve developed a penchant for making solid hardwood boards. Wooed by their natural beauty and unexpected usefulness in various rooms around the house, I keep prepping them. They just happen to appear... It's perfect, in that they are boards Brian doesn't see working for him, but that's because they are quite obviously for something else.

Each has its own gravitas and character. Though I begin with a palm sander to release the first and roughest layer of bark, after this, I’ve developed a process that ends with a metal scraper – which doesn’t scratch the grain as sandpaper can. It brings it out cleanly and clearly, with an incredibly smooth finish.

It requires something even more than time. When I work with the scraper and the hardwood, they teach me something about technique, the species of wood, and my character. During this part of the process, I bump into all sorts of thoughts and physical fatigue - and in order to finish, I must adapt and figure out how to work differently. 

My reward is the beauty of the grain and the smoothness of the wood. To see it from the pile of reclaimed lumber to this... There is a wabi sabi quality that would not be there, had I chosen a different process that might have been quicker and easier. 

It's oddly comforting to find uses for these beautiful pieces around the house... they are only and utterly what they are. Entirely authentic.

This is a path worth walking... 

always in motion,


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  • In November I had both store bought and homemade madeleines, in France. In December, I decided to make them from scratch for the very first time for the holidays. I bought pans online. I found a recipe online. On Christmas Eve, I made the batter from scratch and did all of the prep work including freezing the pans. Then the oven wouldn’t light. The electronic igniter had burned out on Christmas Eve. My neighbors were away and I thought of two other houses with kitchens and stoves that I had purchased. My son, who had traveled with me to Paris and eaten at least half the madeleines was happy to oblige me and my baking experiment. I lined some tins with rose petals from our garden and others with lavender. They didn’t rise to make the nice bump and the texture was off. I ate two and my son enjoyed the rest of two dozen. Yesterday at Williams Sonoma, I saw madeleine mix on sale and was tempted to buy a box. Instead I read the label: my fresh ingredients were better, except baking powder. Since I have had the oven igniter replaced, I have decided to try again, this time adding the baking powder to my recipe.

    Greta on
  • Beautiful! I love the simplicity and the power of this message. We are being distanced from so many aspects of being alive- this is a gentle reminder to get closer to life! Thank you for sharing!

    Kate Schroeder on
  • The story of the cook who only has knives, pans, and a chopping board makes me want to give away my bread machine. I only use it for the kneading and first rise anyway. Why not just do it by hand and free up some shelf space? It feels good to feel dough. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Heather on
  • Thank You! I’m seeing all Creatives being bombarded with rainbows of “tools” regards of their particular craft. In Mixed Media its every sort of paint, mark making ‘sticks’, mediums, journal types, papers & etc etc etc … I have found myself getting lost in the acquisition of it all, and feeling very pressured to be creating the next new ‘thing’. Starting this year I have promised myself to use up what I have, buy nothing new and slow down and once again enjoy the Process instead of being consumed with the result. Remembering the best times are when my hands are full of paste,paint and papers … like when my Granddad used to give me scraps of wood, a small saw, nails and some paint and just let me be … and the happy day I got my first wood gouge and sandpaper!
    Thank you for reminding us all to stay connected with our hands to the craft we love.

    Dale Petrishe on
  • Thank you for expressing this thought so well. Making quilts is one of my passions. In the quilter’s world there are many options for tools, some of which I haven’t explored since they would remove me from the actual touching of the fabric at various points. For me, the slow ironing, folding, cutting and sewing are very zen activities. I use a sewing machine for piecing and quilting, and my hands are in contact with the fabric at all times. I recognize that I could get more polished looking results if I were to use one of the cutting machines or a long-arm quilting machine with programmed designs. I like, though, the challenge of learning to manipulate the fabric myself to get the desired outcomes. I enjoy the peace and tranquility that quilting has brought into my life… and also the excitement to create – the ideas that buzz through my head and leave me with so much to look forward to… and I am incredibly grateful for the space in my life to devote to pursuing my passion.

    Sarah on

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