Winter floral arrangement

I attended another floral workshop this week for a winter outdoor arrangement. Our pots were already filled with dirt, and our greenery kit awaited us. We got to pick out two packets of adornment (everything from a natural look to full-on glitter, from sticks and pinecones to feathery balls and christmas faire). I went non-traditional in that I was the only person to select something glitter-free and purple (a type of dyed holly maybe?) rather than glittery golds, reds, whites, or blues, though I did add some bronze-y glittered pinecones. I thought it would look rather popping with my red house.

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The shopkeeps ran through a demo that made it look as easy as slicing butter. When it was my turn to begin, I looked at my sorted pile of greenery (from biggest and sturdiest to smallest and floppiest); I felt rather uncertain with what to do with it. I reminded myself that this happened to me last time, and at the end of that venture, I had what I felt was a pretty awesome arrangement so I kept making fresh stem cuts, kept scraping off the last few inches of each branch, and pushed them into my pot, waiting for the tide to turn into pleasant surprise. The shopkeeps came around every once in a while with tips and encouragement as we dined on snacks, drank wines, and pretended we knew what we were doing.

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To me, floral arrangements seem to be like tubing behind a boat. When you stay in the wake, it is pretty boring, so you fight and fight to pop out outside of the wake, and sometimes you are so tired you aren’t sure you can make it (my memories of this come from when I was a kid – I wonder how easily this actually might be now as an adult!). And then you do, and it’s rough waters, and you aren’t sure why you like spray in your face and bouncing around like a die in Yatzi any more than a relaxing ride behind a boat. So you pop back over to where calmer waters await and have a sense of happiness that you overcame that trial, and you are content.

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For me, this runs parallel to my two experiences of making a floral pot. Pushing things into dirt seems easy enough, then it becomes a jungle mess that you can’t appreciate so you keep plodding through wondering why you are even making the attempt, and eventually it begins to come together, and then you spruce it up, and voila! You have a beautiful arrangement. How did that happen?

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I’ve decided that I enjoy these workshops and will likely keep attending. I kind of wish there was one a month, though I obviously would not always have time for that. It was a nice little creative getaway for me, since I haven’t been able to do anything imaginative for quite some time now. Looking forward to next summer, I tell you what!

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Troweling around: archaeology trowel holster

As an archaeologist, I own a trowel. They begin as mortar trowels, but we sharpen them to cut through dirt. Ergo, you need an archaeology trowel holster. The ones you can buy are bulky and have a small amount of weight to them. I wanted something different. Enter Boy and his leather. I used a white pencil to trace around the trowel blade, some leather scissors to chop it up, a leather needle and sinew to sew along the sides, and a leather tong to make sure the holster stayed put once in my pack.

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archaeology trowel holster: trowel_holster

I am pleased with the results! I just got my pack last week and am currently in the field (for a total of eight plus if you can believe it!). So far, things seem to be working ok and I needn’t be concerned of my trowel damaging any other goods or the pack itself. Bravo me! Time will tell if the continued use will wear out the sinew. Fingers crossed!

backpacking Peru 2015


So, my world-touring brother lost his gear and “hired” me as a courier to bring him replacements. He didn’t have the decency to lose his stuff somewhere I hadn’t been to before, but that was quite alright because I loved Peru the first time and I was quite excited to go back! I have over 2,000 photos between the three of us (me, bro, and my Peruvian “big sister”, Daniella) so these are just a snapshot. I mean, really, just go there. Photos cannot do the vistas, the markets, the driving, the food, nor the people justice.

The plan: backpack from Lima to Iquitos in 20 days.


We stayed in a penthouse apartment with Daniella’s family in Lima until he was able to get his passport reissued. We road crowded buses, walked for miles, and ate my favorite Peruvian thing: chicken! Daniella’s family is beautiful (and her mother would love that I said that;) We were so well taken care of that it was sad to leave our host family and their puppies (Pucca, Jazz, and Soprano).

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Daniella’s mom, Ivogen, took us all to see Pachacamac – a site I saw back in 2007 but a lot of work has been done since so it was neat seeing the changes. Afterward, her sister Julissa’s family invited us to make pizza and hang out downstairs. I was relieved they all spoke English at least a bit – even little 3 year old Mika could count to seven! My brother was in charge of getting a group family photo, but I suppose we were always having too good of a time to think to stop for a formal pose.


Ivogen also took us to the restaurant on the pier – a site my friends and I could only dream of eight years ago. It did not dissapoint!


We took an overnight bus to Trujillo, and had second floor, front row seats for a perfect (if cold) journey. Bro set us up with an archaeological tour to Chan Chan. Go there. Then we had a short stop in Huanchaco, which is famous for its reed boats.


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Our tour guide suggested we see the Temple of the Moon, which he likes more than Chan Chan. Say what?! So, the following day we went there, and I see why! Though, I think I will forever hold in my heart a special place for Chan Chan.


We took another overnight bus to Chachapoyas, and along the way we were stuck an additional 6 hours because the rains had caused a mudslide on our highway.


From there, we went to Kuelap, a site that is not well-popularized yet but I imagine that is going to change rapidly, since the internet compares it to (and claims to supersede) Machu Picchu. Go there. We had another fantastic tour guide (who impressed us all by speaking Spanish, English, French, and even a tiny amount of German!).

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I got altitude sickness from the ups and downs of mountain roads, and was leery of getting into an eight-hour van ride without a bathroom the next morning, but I made it to Tarapoto without issue, thank the heavens! We did our laundry there, and I really enjoyed being in a city of just motorcycles (and not the loud obnoxious kind). I wouldn’t see roads filled with cars again until my return to Lima.



We vanned again to Yurimaguas, and I was not excited to be in the front middle seat without a seatbelt on (literally) dangerous mountain roads facing washouts and landslides, but hey, I survived. We looked forward to taking showers before getting on the boat for the next few days on our journey to Iquitos, but that didn’t happen. The hostel was a little sketchy for us all, I think. Bro would say it was magical.

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Then we got on the boat; Bruno, she is called. We waited hours for people to load her with product, and then we found out that there was more to come, so we could not leave until tomorrow. So our two night boat stay turned into three nights (and almost four actually but they worked super duper hard to get her loaded), but without cost to us so no worries. We stopped at a couple villages to get more (or drop off) products and people (sometimes canoes would just meet up in the middle of the river!).  And look, I brought a little crafty item with me! The boat was very peaceful actually. The Amazon is everything they say it is. Go there. It is currently under flood, and a lot of villages are affected. We were worried Iquitos had been hard hit, too.


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We finally made it to Iquitos, which is flooded in areas, though it wasn’t a problem for us tourists. But, we were not on schedule after all the hold-ups from the passport to the travel delays. I was to have several days there so I could do a jungle tour (two nights deep in the Amazon), but when all was said and done, I had only two full days to do anything. So, we went to Monkey Island! Now, I would say that was magical. It was flooded, too, so we had to take a canoe tour rather than walk around a bit. On my last day, we went to the Belen markets where there really was just everything imaginable, like in many of the markets we visited (and some exotic things that could not be named nor categorized as to what they even were).

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The trip was great, and I hope bro realizes why I might be secretly wishing he loses his stuff again…

And, I just have to share this photo with you – Daniella went to school for fashion design and knows a thing or two about clothing and sewing and – just would you look at this?! She hand embroidered it to the back of a jean jacket. It is amazing!


I owe a post about a bag I made for this trip. I really am very proud of how it turned out – it might be the first thing that I’ve ever gone around telling people “Look – I made this!”.

I will write a much more detailed account of this trip over at my anthropology site, so if you are interested, head over there sometime soon!