Archive for the ‘Life’ Category


One of the things Mark and I did on our impromptu trip to San Francisco in October was go to a consultation for him to get a new tattoo. It was something he’d been talking about doing for years, but hadn’t found any artists nearby that made him want to do anything about it, so since we’d found ourselves in SF anyway with no definite plans for our time, I suggested we see if there was anyone there with a style he liked.

Which is how we ended up going for a consultation appointment with Michael at Black & Blue Tattoo. He didn’t have time to get started on it that day, since he hadn’t had time to work on a sketch or anything and what Mark wanted was fairly specific (and big), so Mark scheduled a time to come back in November to get the linework done, and then in December to do the color.

During all this, of course, Mark asked if I wanted to get one as well, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was over the aversion to doing anything permanent. In looking through the portfolios of the other artists at the shop, I found Sid‘s amazing fine-line work and realized he was someone who could actually turn temari designs into clear tattoos. I emailed him about it after we got home, including a bunch of reference photos and diagrams, and he was both enthusiastic and able to schedule me for the same day Mark was flying back to SF for his linework.

I waited until now to post about it so I would have a picture of Mark’s completed colors, too, but here’s what we ended up with:

Just look at how clear that swirl temari ended up! And the shading on the kiku and asa no ha ones!

Amusing notes from my tattoo experience:

The first thing Sid said to me (after the usual greeting stuff) was, “You have such good skin for tattoos!” I always knew being this pale had to be good for something.

Sid, who is from Brazil, had been talking to me during the tattoo about how he still doesn’t think his English is very perfect, but when the artist at the station next to his came over to check the progress on my design and said, “Sid, man, I don’t know how you do it!”, he immediately replied, “Well, you see, we use needles and ink…” Sarcasm is definitely a sign of fluency, so I don’t think he has anything to worry about.

Also from the guy at the next station, upon learning this was my first tattoo: “Wow, you decided to go big for your first one!” Which I guess is a matter of perspective? They couldn’t have been any smaller and still showed the right amount of detail, and compared to what Mark was getting, this felt pretty restrained. The inside of my left forearm is also an interestingly obvious-but-not placement, since I’m right-handed. The person who most often sees my tattoo is me.

Anyway, we’re both pleased with the results, and it was definitely worth having to fly back to CA to get them.

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Around Town

I realized it’d been a while since I posted any local photos, and it turns out to have been a good time for murals lately.


Butterfly in downtown Raleigh.


Refreshed mural at Ninth Street Dance in Durham.


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Last week was our annual week of teaching temari at the John C. Campbell Folk School. We’ve been having a fairly mild autumn this year, so the trees hadn’t quite turned, but here’s a little taste of autumn at the folk school.

(Those two dogs hang out on the deck outside the dining hall most of the day. They get a ride home from one of the staff after dinner.)

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In Which Dana and Mark Fail to Go to Canada

Speaking of weddings, astute long-time readers of this blog will know that the end of September marked our tenth wedding anniversary. Given that we usually celebrate our anniversary by forgetting about it entirely (including one year when we ended up on opposite sides of the globe and didn’t remember it had happened until a month later), we decided perhaps a policy of a larger celebration once a decade was more our speed. Hence, our decision to take a train tour of western Canada, from Vancouver to Banff and back again. Glorious! Fun! All decisions already made for us!

It was a good plan. Of course, the night before we were scheduled to leave, as we were finalizing our packing, we realized that perhaps Mark had not gotten all the reservation confirmations he should have… 45 minutes after the tour company’s offices had closed for the evening. We needed to get on the plane to Vancouver at 6:30 the next morning, long before they’d be open, too, so there was really no way to check with them before we left. (Apparently our real tradition is stress-testing our relationship every ten years. The night before our wedding we were plumbing the sink in our renovated-by-hand kitchen, after all.)

We called them from our layover in Seattle, and lo, they did not in fact have any reservations for us on the train, and furthermore, all seats on the train were booked for the entire rest of the year. So. We had about an hour and a half left of our layover. Options to consider: 1) Continue on to Vancouver, rent a car, drive the nine hours to Banff on our own. 2) Stay in Seattle and do PNW things. 3) Go home. 4) See if we could reroute the second leg of our flight to San Francisco instead and go to Yosemite, since we were already on the West Coast.

To my surprise and delight, Mark was actually in favor of option 4, so after lunch we flew off to San Francisco and rented a car to start our completely on-the-fly adventure!

Our first stop was in Palo Alto to have dinner with one of his former coworkers. (Former as of the day before; I’d always said if that company ever gave Mark more than three days’ notice on any of his business trips to SF, I’d go with him and we could go to Yosemite, and it never actually happened… until literally the day after he stopped working for them. Go figure.) After dinner, we drove on to Livermore to spend the night, just to be already part of the way to the park. (Side note: The rolling hills outside Livermore are all covered with wind turbines, and it is amazingly surreal. I wish I’d gotten a picture without weird car window reflections.)

Days 2-6: Yosemite! One of the only major national parks I hadn’t been to yet, a situation I’ve been trying to rectify for years. Our first full day at the park, we decided to do the full Mirror Lake loop hike, which is slightly under 5 miles. Mirror Lake itself, one mile in, has no water at this time of year, so there were no reflection pictures to be had, but that was okay! The temperatures were nice and we were just happy to be hiking. Most of the other Mirror Lake hikers returned back to the bus stop and we continued along the loop. Another half-mile or so in, it started to rain. We did the whole loop anyway. Sure, we were soaked by the end, but we had fun.



We went back to the hotel, had hot chocolate, and watched ridiculous blacksmithing competitions on the History Channel for the rest of the night. (Remember life before constant internet access? Wild.)

The next day’s goal was to drive up to Glacier Point, since I was willing to be kind and not subject Mark to the 6-8 hours Four-Mile Hike is supposed to take to get up there by foot. It wasn’t actively raining this day, but, well, have you ever wondered what it’d be like to get to the edge of the map in a video game, where everything you’re not allowed to see yet is just mist? That’s what being at Glacier Point when it’s literally inside a cloud is like.



Where’s Half Dome? Yosemite Valley? Oh, you know. Over there. Somewhere.

We stopped at Tunnel View on the way back down to try getting some shots from a slightly lower elevation after the clouds started to break a little, but Half Dome remained stubbornly shrouded.


Our third full day in the park though! Totally sunny! We ended up hiking 11 miles over the course of the day, most of them on purpose!

First we went back up to Glacier Point, this time earlier in the morning just to make sure we’d catch it with the haze burned off as much as possible for the day.




On the way back down, we stopped first to hike out to Taft Point for a different dizzying view of the valley. (This time with a rock you’re allowed to go out on.)



Then we stopped at Tunnel View again and got the full valley view:


At the bottom of the drive, we stopped at Bridalveil Falls, though I’m going to skip posting a picture of that, because, like Mirror Lake, it wasn’t exactly at its most impressive during this season. (You can actually see it in the cloudy Tunnel View picture, though it’s kind of hidden in a shadow in the sunny one.)

After lunch, we decided to do the Valley Loop trail, which the book of hikes we’d picked up on the first day claimed would be under 5 miles, but ended up being more like 7, due to differences in where we started, which made our goal of hitting Sentinel Bridge for sunset pictures kind of challenge. (Our last mile was less of a pleasant saunter and more of a double-time march.)



On our way out of the park, we passed by the base of El Capitan again, this time in the dark, and we could see all the lights of various hanging tents of people in the middle of climbing the face, which was pretty amazing. (And definitely not a thing I ever want to do.)

The next day we said goodbye to the park and drove back to San Francisco. When we had stopped in Palo Alto the first night, I suddenly realized how close we were to where my college roommate and her husband (who was one of Mark’s suitemates the year I was in Japan) now live, so we’d arranged to meet with them for dinner when we were coming back into the city. They took us to a great diner, and we had an excellent time. And now I have finally met Ann and Erik’s cats in person! And I can tell them apart!

Despite having left Yosemite behind, we weren’t quite done with the hiking part of our trip. We spent most of our first full day in San Francisco across the bridge visiting Muir Woods and the Marin Headlands. (The Headlands stop was just supposed to be a quick thing for a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but apparently everyone in all of San Francisco had the same idea and traffic into the park was insane, so we made the most of actually making it in and took some short hikes there as well.)



On our last day, we went to visit SFMOMA, since it was all of half a block from our hotel, where I particularly enjoyed the Ellsworth Kelly and Alexander Calder exhibits. (Remember that vibrant blue piece at NCMA that I always like whenever they pick it to use for Art in Bloom (2015, 2018)? Turns out that’s Blue Panel by Ellsworth Kelly, and I’m very consistent in artists whose work I enjoy.)



All in all, an excellent accidentally adventurous vacation! So glad we decided to roll with it instead of going home, because we definitely had fun, and we even came out of it still married.



Here’s to the next ten years!

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A Challenge Accepted

Remember Mark’s friend Gene from high school, the one I went to Japan and Hong Kong with a few years ago? Well, it turns out he got married… and forgot to tell anyone about it for five months. (A situation, I might add, that I predicted while on that trip, but I totally meant it as a joke, not a suggestion.) Anyway, Gene and his wife did decide to have a second “for show” wedding last month, only ten months after the first one, and we went up to Michigan for it.

And we went in style.

For context, this was on the invitation:


I can only imagine Gene forgot who he was friends with for a minute there.


(Since we already had the outfits with us, we all went to the Renaissance Festival that weekend as well.)

Bonus: Renaissance Festival hair.


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Just to prove that it really has been nearly a full year since I was anything like regular about posting here, it’s once again time for Art in Bloom pictures! It opened this year on my birthday, so Mark and I took the afternoon off to go. Here were some of the better photos I managed this time. (Click for bigger individual views and captions.)

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The Official 2018 Birthday Card

It’s that time of year again! I have once again successfully made it around the sun. This year’s birthday card from my talented aunt and uncle has an Austen theme. Isn’t it lovely?


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