Traveling Begonias

Bringing the world to you one artifact at a time

September 2018

Get your hot bread!

HawaiiKate BegoniaComment

After a fun week with friends on Moloka’i, we got to experience a Friday night festival. This particular festival kicked off the beginning of the Na Wahine O Ke Kai race - an annual women’s paddling race from Moloka’i to Maui. Our hosts were sweet enough to let us tag along and experience a really fun time.

They also recommended an experience many locals know about: The late evening opening of the Kanemitsu Bakery window to get fresh from the oven Moloka’i bread. We headed over a little before opening (around 10pm) following a stream of people through back alleyways.

Following strangers down an alleyway…

Following strangers down an alleyway…

With visitors and locals alike we stood in line for about 45 minutes to get this local favorite. We met some of the paddlers in town for the race as well as regulars. If you’re in a hurry, don’t expect to get in and out of there - it’s a process and part of that process is waiting in line like everyone else.

You can smell the bread baking which only adds to the excitement. There were people walking away with multiple loaves at a time. It was crazy.


Once we got to the counter we got to see our bread made to order. They take the freshly-baked loaf, split it open, and add your choice of sweet fillings.

After spending close to an hour being intoxicated by the bready scents wafting throughout the Quonset hut, we were ready to dig into our cinnamon butter bread.

What can I say…warm bread with butter and cinnamon…there’s nothing not to like.

Mail a coconut? Only in Moloka'i.

HawaiiKate BegoniaComment

Moloka’i is a beautiful, quiet island and the only place you can send a coconut through U.S. Mail. This tradition came about in a unique way.

Hoolehua Post Office, Molokai - the only post office where you can mail your coconuts home.

Hoolehua Post Office, Molokai - the only post office where you can mail your coconuts home.

Back in the 1990s, a tourist went into the Hoolehua post office and asked if they could mail a coconut home. The postmaster gave it a shot and it worked! That visitor safely received his coconut in the mail and the quirky little Post-a-nut industry was born.


Go into that same post office today and you’ll see mail bins full of coconuts ready to be decorated and shipped. And of course, in the spirit of aloha, they’re free! What isn’t free is to ship them. And of course the heavier the coconut, the more it costs to ship.


There are rules around which coconuts are eligible for shipping. They can’t have any holes or obvious damage that might lead to sending a rotten or leaky coconut. You must use Sharpies or acrylic paints so the design doesn’t get messy and bleed in transit. They even supply Sharpies at the Hoolehua Post Office for you to use!


Dozens of completed coconuts line the walls of the post office.


And lots of pictures and paintings of people enjoying the process.

Our own experience was just as fun as all this looks. The caretaker of the house we stayed in found us appropriate coconuts to use and we decorated them using Sharpies at the house. Then we trekked out to the Hoolehua Post Office and met Reed, who weighed and stamped them for us.

And for a small fortune later, our ‘nuts were in the mail! I got home to find mine delivered safe and sound.


My kids were befuddled at the delivery but the look on my friend’s daughter’s face when she received her coconut in the mail is pretty priceless.


Like I said, Moloka’i is a sleepy, chill island so this is a fun thing to do while you’re relaxing. My only tip is to find the smallest coconut possible.

Got wood?

OregonKate BegoniaComment

Jennifer Urquhart is a naturally handy person who gets great satisfaction from building and creating. She knows her way around power tools and she’s done everything from interior home repairs, to painting entire homes (inside and out), to making her own light fixtures and furniture. She’s a regular Girl Friday.

She works with reclaimed wood - the scraps most people throw away. She’ll use the leftover teak or cedar from your new deck. She’ll snatch up the plywood from your treehouse project. 2x4s from an old fence - she’ll take them! As you can imagine, the ReBuilding Center is her favorite place to hang out.

Jennifer has a keen eye for lines and structure and her art is not only an extension of her handiness but also her minimalist sensibilities. When you see Jen’s work in person it’s a very visceral experience. Whether it’s a painting or sculpture, you want to touch them, to feel the weight, to study the grooves. It’s tactile and gripping and it's amazing how she sees the beauty in things that most people overlook. What appears in the real world to be a creepy, dilapidated warehouse is transformed by Jen into a serene painting of simple structures in muted tones with sweeping landscapes. It’s like she’s eliminating the chaos and pain from everyday life to reveal the simple under-pinnings we tend to take for granted.

Her process often begins with photographic inspiration. Sometimes pictures she has taken herself, other times magazine clippings, color swatches she’s loving in the moment, objects in nature, or work by other artists.

She then selects an interesting piece of plywood that will capture the essence she wants to convey through the natural grain and she cuts the piece to the proper size. Sometimes the size is dictated by a client (commissioned pieces) and other times by Jen’s imagination. Either way, she gets to use a bunch of power tools and a big saw.

She sketches her design directly onto the wood.

For paint, she uses interior acrylic house paint or hobby paints which she waters down to the right tone for the piece.

Jennifer’s color swatches

Jennifer’s color swatches

She sands the entire surface after the first coat of paint, then applies another coat. Then she sands again. Depending upon the saturation level she wants to see, she may continue that technique over the entire piece or just the areas she wants more subdued.


Once the painting and sanding cycle is completed, the final step is carving the areas she wants to highlight on the painting. In this case it was where the pasture meets the sky.

That final carved element gets a special sanding treatment using a small piece of sandpaper that she works into the grooves she’s just carved. Once that is smoothed out, guess what she does? SHE SANDS THE WHOLE THING AGAIN!

So it’s done now, right? Wood selected, sketch done, painting done, sanding done, carving done. Check, check, check, check, check. Nope, not done. Because she also makes a custom frame for every piece.

Now it’s done.

Jen has a lot of work in development and she hopes to do more furniture and lighting in the future. Her idea walls in her studio are overflowing with concepts and plans.

I met Jen about 8 years ago when our boys were in kindergarten and watching her blossom into this incredible artist has been so inspiring. Jen’s work is becoming more widely recognized and she was recently featured prominently in Emily Henderson’s Portland Project. She shows her work all around Portland and you might see her at First Thursday. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram to keep apprised of upcoming shows and check out her website for ordering options. She will be showing at West Elm's Collaborations event in the Pearl on October 27, 2018 with some of her newest work.

What it means to be Authentic in Alaska

AlaskaKate BegoniaComment

I met Carol and Steven Shade at the Saturday market in Homer, Alaska. Steven is an Alaskan Native silversmith and master carver and Carol specializes in bead work. Together they sell their creations at their shop, Creative Native Gifts. They live near Ninilchik, a fishing village about 40 miles north of Homer.


Legitimate Alaskan native handicrafts have strict rules that need to be followed in order to earn the Authentic Alaska Native Art from Alaska seal. As the label says, "This symbol guarantees that the item is original, authentic Alaska Native art created or crafted in Alaska by an enrolled member of an Alaska Native Tribe." Steven is part of the Curyung tribe.

Steven's work takes many forms. From jewelry, to ulus, to cribbage boards, sculptures, and more. He carves antlers, bone, walrus ivory, and baleen.

Now, I know you just did a double take on the ivory. And I know the word elicits strong reactions. But I learned from Carol and Steven that there are very strict laws in Alaska regarding walrus hunting. They can only be hunted by Alaska Native tribe members and they can only be hunted for subsistence purposes. And they may only hunt what they and their village can reasonably utilize. The Eskimo Walrus Commission is devoted to managing and conserving the walrus herds in Alaska and they hold an annual meeting to disseminate the number each tribe is allowed to hunt. This is a way of life for these peoples and they take the conservation of the walrus quite seriously. I'm glad there are these checks and balances in place.

Only Native Alaskans can harvest, buy, and carve raw ivory. Non-Natives can only possess it after it has been made into a craft. The exception is fossilized ivory that is found on the beach. Non-Natives can keep their find as long as they report it within 30 days so it can be tagged by the Fish & Wildlife Commission.

I purchased a lovely fossilized ivory necklace and a bone-handled ulu from Steven. If you're interested in seeing more of his work, follow his Facebook page. And if you've never seen an ulu in action, check out the fastest woman with an ulu!