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Sitting in a Tree


Muscle Memory

Just got this email from my cousin:

hey friends and family:

nick here. i signed up the girls and myself for a ripper of a ride on June 5 this year. i kinda swore to never return to the very poorly organized and heavily-trafficked mayhem that is the Ride for Heart in Toronto, but this year is different.

we lost our cousin Jake this past december, to a heart attack at just 25 years of age. he was healthy and generous and a great example of a human being. the planet is lesser without him. because jake had a big heart and is greatly missed, i am returning to the Ride for Heart to help raise funds in his name. typical filipino style – i’ve enlisted the participation of my entire family. i’m towing ruby for 50k, and julie is riding with jett or her big girl two-wheeler for 25k.

please feel free to peruse my donation page, or the donation pages for julie and jett. we are going big and then going home, and all assistance is greatly appreciated. greatly.

thank you again. here’s to jake and big hearts…


So, Family, Life | | Comments (15)

My Most Popular Work


Nothing I’ve ever done has garnered the attention that this photo has. At this writing, the photo has almost 6,000 views and has been added to multiple groups on Flickr.

And here’s the kicker

Its popularity is driven by the hair under Jes’ arm. Did you notice that? There are people who are extremely serious about how ‘sexy’ a look this is. I like that about the world. There are people who are driven to the point of excitement by the seemingly mundane. The Internet brings that to the surface in other humans and allows me to revel in them the way they revel in my wife’s armpits.


This past year, I started using Google Reader to follow random blogs. I never realized how such a practice can exponentially increase one’s time on and attention to virtual communities. I have followed and unfollowed innumerable blogs over the course of this year, trying to hone down on just what it is I am interested in. What I’ve found most interesting is which blogs I go to first. Specifically, food blogs and craft blogs. Then art blogs. Psychology and science blogs still have a special place in my heart, but only after I see what’s cooking and what’s getting created.

Sewing blogs are really catching my interest these days, particularly Grosgrain with her “Embellishknits” redone/repurposed sweaters and Casey’s Elegant Musings with her vintage style adventures.

I’ve also found BurdaStyle, which isn’t a blog, but is a community site that these blogs have often referenced. The cool part is that BurdaStyle has a trove of instructional posts and how-to’s which makes me feel like I can actually start knowing what I’m doing. I’ve been scanning the patterns over and over, trying to decide what I want to make. I downloaded one pattern so far, and will post on it after I give the gift for which I downloaded it (Philly Secret Santa post after this weekend!).

To top it off, I compulsively bought a book of patterns in Japanese from Etsy, called Drape Drape 2. Most of the patterns are really flowing and recommended for jersey knits, so I’ve been buying up old jersey sheet sets from thrift shops so I can start making oogobs of comfy clothes. I can only pray that Ian won’t get too upset with the mess I’m making in the back room. Well, that and pray that I don’t get as bad as my mom and sister are on Ravelry. ;)

So. Sew. Casey’s Elegant Musings is hosting a Sew-along, making a swing dress. I think I am going to give this a try. Not only does it show how to make a muslin version of a pattern first, which is a technique I think will help me make my own patterns later, I’d (hopefully) come out at the other end with a sweet set of swing threads. I have not done a complicated pattern in quite some time, and I am a little nervous. I feel like I still haven’t figured out the nuances of using my sewing machine competently. Now, I realize that I probably won’t keep pace with the schedule Casey’s set for her sew-along, but I’m hoping to start getting a better grasp of this hobby of mine. And as I’ve learned from Google Readership, these posts can exist almost in perpetuity.

Grief & Love

my brother Jacob and nephew Bo

My brother and nephew

On December 6th 2010, at 8:06am, we lost my brother Jacob. With a history of heart complications, we suspect he died of a heart attack.

I wanted this post to be an eloquent eulogy to Jacob, but find that stating the facts has left me drained and numb. Jacob died on Monday. Jacob is gone physically from our lives. He’s not coming back from the pizza shop to give me big hugs. He’s not laughing at all of us in our silly dramas and defenses. He’s not sharpening knives, growing (and killing) bonsai trees, eating candy like some people pop pills. He’s not at my sister’s watching our little nephew or teaching him his laughing samurai ways. He’s gone.

I do not know what to do right now. There is nothing I can do to change anything, but I just want to kick and scream on a Rumpelstilskin level and crack the earth beneath my feet in frustration. I want to cry quietly in a corner somewhere. I want to hug all of my family all at once and never let go. I want to be with Jacob, bullshitting about the world, explaining ourselves away into contented understanding. We would always be laughing. Always thinking. Always interested in the world. I want to hear Ian and Jacob teasing each other and watching MacGyver. I want the chance to go back and savor each of these experiences all the more, and to make at least one more effort to spend time with him. To jump into snow with him in nothing more than our skivvies. To be closer to him. To be a better sister to him.

Operation SnowLove from Joseph Hansbrough on Vimeo.

I love you Jacob. You were a thoughtful, spacey, ardent, funny, insightful, and artistic man, who brought comfort and sanity to those around you. You were an easy-going, fun-loving, entertaining, energetic, enthusiastic boy who I will always remember taking care of and watching grow. I wish you had had more opportunities to embark on the adventures you wanted so much to enjoy. I wish you had been able to have all the things you wished for. I am so glad you were here. With us. Being you. You are amazing. And we are all better for having known you.

Love you.

Packing up and staying put.

For those of you not in the know, Ian has been freelance for the past two years. It was a welcome change from his previous employment and seemed to suit Ian’s work style and stress levels much better. It was great! Except for the fact that we only *just* couldn’t cover our costs of living. Albeit we have lived comfortably these two years and were able to pay all of our bills, we basically lived from paycheck to paycheck, with some measure of scrambling every month and some over-reliance on credit by the end.

So, as any self-respecting Americans will do when faced with financial adversity, we got ready to head West! Ian was sure he’d find more work in the Los Angeles area, and I had just learned about a loan repayment program for my line of work that would suit our move. My over-planning brain ran wild, and I started researching credentialing requirements and found some job leads in Arizona, New Mexico, and California. We even went so far as to visit LA and Arizona so we could get a feel for the areas and to follow up on some job opportunities. Friends were preparing to welcome us on the west coast with open arms, people were looking forward to working with me, and life seemed about to change by January.

Ian looking over LA from Runyon Canyon

Ian looking over LA from Runyon Canyon

I will be honest. I was excited. Though I am in a very good place in my life right now, I have a dash of wanderlust in me that has been itching for a while. I am thrilled that others can settle in the world and cultivate community and local identity, but I have not seen myself in this light for years. When I decided I wasn’t going to be able to be a hermit, I saw myself as becoming a worldly, cosmopolitan adventurer of the world. And Ian sounded ready, and the Southwest is an amazing place. I wanted some desert, some sunshine, and some mesas. I was ready to go.

Except. The credentialing process proved to be time-consuming and full of small, but game-changing, nuances as to whether I could get licensed or not. And each state has different requirements (yay state rights!), which made the process even longer and more confusing. Over six months later, I still have to get more paperwork and hours done before I can apply to ONE of these states in which I was looking to work. And the flourish of employers expressing interest had dropped down to a select few. And while I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out a bureaucratic confluence of paperwork, Ian interviewed for a job. In DC. Wait, what? But DC is on the East Coast!?! I thought we were going to slowly cook ourselves happy in the oven of Arizona? Surrounded by cacti and mesquite? Or explore all of the amazing Asian food options in California? I mean, as soon as this paperwork says we can, right?

When we started planning our move, it was with the understanding that it would happen if it was meant to happen. That if God agreed that the move was the best thing for us to do, we’d have minimal issues making it happen. So, though my sails were deflated, I had to read the signs in front of me. This job in DC was an excellent opportunity for Ian and he really wanted to get it. So, perhaps my frantic goal for heading west this year is misguided. Or just untimely maybe. Either way, I have to be able to let it go and stop the overplanning, darnit!
As things have worked out, Ian has gotten this new job and we’re staying put. He’s even made a video to help announce this exciting new chapter in his career.
As for me? The disappointment is there, sure, but I have to say that it feels a lot better not having to do all of that blasted paperwork.

Kung Fu Ponder

Tonight Jes and I are in New Freedom, PA. My mom is in the Lions Club and they are putting on an outdoor movie: Kung Fu Panda.

Neither of us have ever seen it and I thought would be fun if Jes and I put our preconceptions on record.

I’ll go first.

Jack Black the panda is an outcast from the other pandas because of his unpandalike desire to be a Kung Fu master. He meets a master who sees potential in him and who trains him. Master’s old enemies are jealous of Jack Black panda’s skills and take the master. JBP must prove to himself that he has what it takes to save master. I also think there’s a girl panda interest too.
Basically Karate Kid with pandas.

Here is Jessica’s notion:

Panda is the Chosen One, sought out by powers that be to defeat the ultimate scourge. Panda is a schlub who doesn’t look like he can do the job. Powers that be train Panda in the range of styles, taught by the namesake animals. He looks like a failure until he finds some motivating and compelling reason to fight. He finds his inner Chosen One when his teachers and loved ones are at risk. He saves the day.

The movie is just beginning now.

Jes was far closer to the facts of the movie, something she attributes to seeing more of the movie trailers than I did. Incredibly imaginative film.


With the snow finally melted away and a week’s worth of gorgeous spring weather, I finally got my act together enough to go on a terrarium collecting walk. Inspired by Donna Smith‘s hermetic jar terrarium that she constructed during my Philly Secret Santa project night, I bought a similar jar in January with the hope of following her lead. To reign in my tendencies to spend way too much at plant nurseries, I aimed to make this strictly from found plants. Which, with feet of snow on the ground in February, became a little impractical.

terrarium jar Ian accompanied me on a walk around the neighborhood and down by the Stony Run Trail. It was fun to nerd out on all of the different kinds of moss and lichens around, and it really helped me slow down to enjoy my surroundings. I brought home one chunk of moss with an earthworm in it, because I couldn’t manage to coax it out. We also watched different colonies of ants in trees and dirt and taking wing to start new colonies. Like I said, it was fun to nerd out.

I went a tad overboard on my trek. Not only did I come home with stones that were too big, I came home with so many small samples of different plants, bark, and mosses that I couldn’t fit them all into the jar. Even when I made the arrangement in the jar sideways to get more planting space, I had far more samples than I had terrain.

I do not have any other large glass jars or dishes to make into terrariums right now, so I instead improvised with a casserole dish. temporary terrarium, finishedI intend on finding other more appropriate placements for these plants later, but I had been concerned about the mosses’ welfare out in plain air. While trying to find a way to keep the plants moist, Ian made the excellent suggestion of using the left over window plastic that we just took off our winterized windows. Following Ian’s thoughtful suggestions, I made a small tent of plastic with double-sided tape, plastic, and a found (and quite straight) stick in the middle of the temporary terrarium.

Depending on how well this temporary terrarium goes, I may decide to keep it or find a similar approach to setting up the more permanent fixture. Perhaps a glass bowl over a fun platter. Perhaps a compelling dish with the same tipi effect with plastic. In the meantime, I will be monitoring these mossy landscapes to see if they will survive my absentmindedness. I have been known to bite off more planting than I can chew during the spring months.

Busy Hands

When I worked as a caseworker, with 50+ hour workweeks and late nights in bad neighborhoods, I came to rely heavily on my teammates to just manage the burnout. One of these teammates, Vanessa, came all the way out to Baltimore from California to join us. After her time at Choice, she moved back to California. The rest of us from Choice have missed her a lot. She is a ball of energy, emotion, and generosity; things have been much duller with her return to the West Coast.

This week, Vanessa celebrates her birthday and those of us still in Baltimore had meant to meet up and make a care package. The meet-up fell through, but the package will get sent soon. I don’t know what everyone else is giving her but I thought I’d show off the gifts I made her (and others) in a rash of crafty, homemade art.


Origami paper rocks. Having bought a pack of origami paper at the local thrift store for $.50, I had a good set of ready-made squares to make snowflakes. I also ended up making small ones with left over candy cups/muffin paper. Since Vanessa is missing out on our record breaking snows here in Baltimore, I thought it appropriate to send her as much snow as I could. 30 snowflakes later, my thumbs were getting pins and needles.

I used the more lively origami paper to make a string of jewel-tone cranes for Vanessa too. I always associate origami cranes with her; she made me a few during our caseworker stint. Using beading wire and small glass beads, I emulated a string of cranes that Niff and Sutter have at their front door. All in all, I’m happy with the results. I just hope they ship well.

Paper cranes & toner

I added a couple of smaller less exciting wares to the package, but I’m not sure they’re worth mentioning in greater detail. However, I haven’t seen much of my Choice teammates this past year, so I have missed out on their birthday celebrations as well. For them, I made a range of homemade toner sprays. The spray bottles are left from our brand of deodorant, and I always keep them because they seem so full of potential uses. In the picture, from front to back, are my rosemary toner, my rosemary & lavender toner, and my mint tea toner. They’re pretty basic, made with a little alcohol, witch hazel, herbs, and water. I had added vitamin E to them as well, but that just clumped all the herbs together and didn’t really mix at all. I got to worrying about the likelihood that it’d clog the sprays too, so I didn’t add any more after straining them.

Happiest of birthdays, Vanessa! I hope you enjoy your gifts this week. They were sent with lots of love.

Philly Secret Santa 2009

Holidays are not finished until the Philly Secret Santa gift exchange is finished. That’s how I determine the holiday season-starts with Halloween, ends with Philly Secret Santa. I would venture to say that Ian would agree about the end, though I’m not sure about the beginning.

Skittles Vodka, flask terrariums, tea tray

Skittles Vodka, flask terrariums, tea tray

My Gifts

Though determining what to make under $30 and all by oneself can be stressful and time-consuming, I have found this gift exchange to be the most fun out of the entire season. I get to look forward to getting something creative and original, made just for me. In addition, the excitement of seeing what everyone else comes up with for gifts adds another layer of anticipation and enjoyment.

Having the actual event happen well after most other holiday events gives me a nice span of a week or two to really concentrate on and savor the creative experience. This year, as in past years, there was a point where I just wanted to keep on making things for my person.

Elfster drew Beth Connor for my Secret Santa, which left me scratching my head. I couldn’t figure out how to make a gift that would celebrate those traits I most appreciate about her: knowledge of the obscure (I was thinking about making a Magic Pony hook rug), celebration of the nerd inside, and a sardonic sense of humor. After some trial and error, and some vague answers from Beth on what she may like, I settled on terrariums in lab grade boiling flasks and a tea service tray with necktie handles. The terrariums were particularly fun, as it was like constructing a ship in a bottle, only it had dinosaurs and living plants involved. I really liked making up my own tools.

The gift that I received for Secret Santa was really amazing. Kevin Nocoins created a mini and a mega Ian head for me. “Because being a therapist can be stressful, but being married to Ian can be REALLY stressful.” I have been very impressed with how Kevin’s gifts have continued to become more and more complex with each passing year. It’s just proof that the challenge to create provides the opportunity to get only better, and in this case bigger (or smaller, depending on which part of the gift we’re talking about).

I also would like to point out, that I have found the Ian heads have proven quite helpful. A big pillow that looks like my husband makes the bed a little less empty when he’s off on shoots.

And now, I’m going to defer to Ian to review his own gifts.

CORRECTION: I will write about Ian’s gifts because it will mean this post gets put up faster.

Ian stress heads, neat-o milk crate stool

Ian stress heads, neat-o milk crate stool

Ian’s Gifts

Elfster drew Mickie Cathers for Ian’s Secret Santa. Ian had some ideas of what to make, but felt somewhat stumped. I had recently run into a post on how to make one’s own liqueurs, and had thought that this would be a cool option for Secret Santa. (That’s right, husband, I am claiming the idea as mine first. Teach you to procrastinate.) On reviewing the coffee liqueur recipe by which I had originally been enticed, I didn’t think we could afford to make as much of it as I’d want. Grappa tends to eat up much of the $30 limit and then we have fancy schmancy spices getting involved. Ian had a much more visually exciting and fascinating option: Skittles vodka. Soak candy in vodka, strain, and serve liquid rainbow. We found that the maple syrup bottles that we had were perfect flasks for the concoctions, too.

I will say that Ian came up with some other excellent gift ideas, but ran out of time. I’d describe them here, but I’m afraid that such good ideas may be stolen by Mickie’s 2010 Secret Santa. We don’t want any of that kind of idea exchange, here. They have to work for their ideas, or have their partner come up with it. Either one. I’m not picky.

Ian’s Secret Santa was Matt Sutter. Matt made Ian a stool out of a milk carton, crazy ’80s graphics fabric, and the legs of some perfectly good piece of already existing furniture (if one were to ask Niff). I’m not sure what inspired Matt to do so, but it may be the fact that we never have a second seat in Ian’s office. The new addition has been fitting in quite nicely with the rest of the office furnishings. No office drama, as far as I’ve heard. Unless it’s Ian cursing at the computer like it’s served him up some salty ham.