Sunday, October 9, 2016

Breath of Fresh Air

A beautiful weekend.  Perhaps not as colorful as we have had in the past, but time in nature is time well spent.  Time with those you love, doing what you love, is a breath of fresh air in a far too busy life.

Each October we try to take a photo adventure of some sort, searching out the color and beauty of our  wonderful state.  Usually it is our anniversary weekend, and this year we were just a couple of weeks early.  But we celebrate our time together whether it is on a specific date, or not.

One thing we have noticed since we got the pup is that our photography has had to evolve.  No longer can we each take our time to set up shots, look for that perfect angle and have both hands free.  If we have Kaycee with us, she either has to wait in the car for us, or be part of the photo shoot!  The other option we also exercise, is one of us takes photos while the other walks the dog.  Or be her talent agent - as she draws so much attention wherever we go.  It is very good for her, as we are working on socialization skills and behavior, but it is almost a full-time job at tourist attractions!

                             Here are some highlights from our adventure North of the Bridge.  
                                                         At Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Cut River Bridge walk

Foliage and Fungi

Running Free at the Airport in Munising

Fall Decorations in Town

A Swim in Pete's Lake - gentle water with no waves.

No Swim in Lake Superior - too much action and noise!

Quiet, Off-the-Beaten-Path Finds

Photographer or Subject?  Both!

Au Train Falls

Whitefish Point Coast Guard Light Station

Memorial on the Beach to Lives Lost on Lake Superior

Beautiful Sunset as Peace Settles on the Soul

What are some of YOUR favorite locations?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Storytelling - One Stitch at a Time

A number of years ago I was drawn down a path I had never imagined I would walk.  The world of quilting.  Well, technically it's "sewing," and "creating," but my own product does not become a quilt until I take it to the magic-weaver.  The person who transforms my imagined product into the real-deal.  The quilter.  The person behind the machine.  And the woman I go to works true magic and turns my story into a work of art.
Valerie Reynolds...quilter extraordinaire!
Get comfortable - for here the story begins.

 My daughter is a fantastic fine arts teacher - middle school theatre arts, no less!  She opens the minds and hearts of these wonderfully energetic young people and shows them that drama is not always a bad thing!  She had moved schools a couple of times and worked her magic on many before deciding to explore the world of administration.  More power to her!  Not my gig, that is for sure.  The story begins with a collection of t-shirts she had from her years teaching, and the fact that I had previously made t-shirt quilts for both my children.
Made for my daughter from shirts collected from a variety of fine arts productions.
Made for my son from shirts collected in sporting, performing arts and other activities he was involved in.  Makes a great picnic blanket for the family!
Setting the scene:

The phone rings.

"Mom.  I love you so much!   Would you be willing to make me a t-shirt quilt out of all these old shirts I have around the house?  I'll never wear them again."


"Sure," I answer.  "But it will be a while because I'm working on something else right now.  Besides my day job.  Send them to me and we'll see what they look like."

"Thanks, Mom!"

And so the journey begins.  The box arrives.  T-shirts from 2 schools for sure, maybe 3.  I have a few minutes so start cutting them down to an approximate size.  Stacked and ready to craft into a quilt, I set them aside.

About a month later (timeline is a bit foggy because the focus changed a couple of times).

Phone rings.

"Hey mom - don't do anything with those shirts right away.  I am applying for an administrative position at my old school, and if I get it I will need some shirts back.  Wouldn't that be cool!? "

"Um....yes!  But it's too late.  Cutting done."

"Oh...okay.  Well don't sew until I know about the job.  We might do just one group of t-shirts."

And so she gets the job, and now I am tasked with designing something to display in an office!  No pressure!

It was a fun project, actually, and I found a really cute pattern I hadn't seen before.  So I got to work in earnest so she could have it done when school started.  For both of us!

First to figure out the fabric to use as borders around the shirts.  Then how to arrange the blocks into a pleasing design.
Then the struggle to find the right angle to cut so there was continuity across the whole quilt.
Then to sew them all together and take them to the quilter for her creative touch.  Ta da!

When the quilt came home from Valerie's, I sewed the binding around the edge - that finishing touch - and sewed a label on the back.  I did have a little too much help doing my finish work!

Off in the mail it went, with strict instructions on washing - and getting me a photo of the quilt hanging in it's place of honor in her new office.  Thankfully my daughter knows that this is a serious endeavor and she crafts a lovely finished product.
The new Assistant Principal, Ms. Wortham, in her office.
And every Assistant Principal needs a helper!  Miss Choe looks right at home here!

Well, just in time.  I begin work tomorrow and the rest of the semester is laid out ahead of me.  I am so glad this story-telling quilt has finally come together and is hanging "at home."  It brings me great joy to create something for someone else, whether it's a quilt, scarf, photograph or book.  And knowing my work is appreciated and loved back is all the reward I need.

(On a side note - apparently I could go into business doing quilts.  
Christine says the orders are piling up!)

What do YOU create that brings joy to yourself and/or someone else? 
 Living a creative life is very rewarding.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

One Fish, Two Fish....The Wit and Wisdom of Theodor Geisel

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
"I like nonsense.  It wakes up the brain cells.  Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.  It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, which is what I do.  And that enables you to laugh at life's realities." ~Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

And that sentiment is obvious when you revisit his books, or see the bronze statues depicting his famous characters.  I had the delightful pleasure of seeing 6 of these statues on display at Dow Gardens, in Midland, MI, and can't wait to re-read the books!  I happened to see the traveling exhibit advertised, grabbed a friend who would understand my child-like excitement, and hurried over, as it closes on September 1.

The Lorax
Stepping out of the visitor's lobby and into the garden, The Lorax started us on our journey.  Such a delight!  The detail in the sculpture was amazing, as was the story behind the character.  The Lorax is actually considered to be the beginning of the Green Movement, encouraging the preservation of natural resources.   It was also Seuss's favorite book.

I am The Lorax, I speak for the trees
I speak for the trees, 
for the trees have no tongue."

"UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better.  It's not." ~ Dr. Seuss

Familiar character #2 doesn't need much of an introduction.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Grinch is actually modeled after Geisel himself.  Apparently he looked in the mirror the day after Christmas and saw a Grinch-like face staring back.  "Something had gone awfully wrong with Christmas or maybe with me," he said.  Tired of the over-commercialization of the holiday, and the worry that the true meaning of Christmas was getting lost in all the trimmings, he sat down and wrote this timeless tale.

Moving on to the Children's Garden, we couldn't miss it's centerpiece.  

The Cat in the Hat
The Cat in the Hat was written after Houghton Mifflin challenged Geisel to "write and illustrate a child's primer using only 225 'new reader' vocabulary words."  I am sure I would have a difficult time with that challenge but it's obvious he was able to do so, with great success. 

My personal favorite is this next one, a story I have loved since I was a child.  But I never understood the significance of this story until I read the backstory on this visit to the gardens.


I just gave away my Yertle the Turtle book, and hope my grandchildren love it as much as I did. They are too young to know that this is actually an allegory on dictatorship and expansionism! In an interview Seuss is quoted as saying that Yertle was actually Hitler or Mussolini, but he took the mustache off his character before it went to press. The message?
"And the turtles, of course...
all the turtles are free as turtles 
and, maybe, all creatures should be."

Geisel used the word "maybe" purposefully, allowing children to think about what he was saying here, and come to the realization that there was no "maybe" about it.

Yertle the Turtle
After Yertle I was satisfied and thought I could have stopped there, but then there stood Sam with his Green Eggs and Ham!

Green Eggs and Ham
This particular story I am not familiar with, but after this experience I am planning on reading these stories with new eyes.  A National Education Association survey of children and teachers ranks Green Eggs and Ham as 3rd in their 100 most popular books.  It seems that Geisel loved a good wager, as this story was written after his publisher bet him $50.00 that he couldn't write a "cogent and entertaining book" using no more than 50 different words.  With this book he proved that wager wrong, and spent the rest of his life "complaining," good naturedly, that he never got his money.

And just when I thought I couldn't be delighted any more than I already was... there was Horton and friend, sitting tall above what looked like a mass of little Who's!

Horton Hears a Who
What a great sculpture, and setting!  A symbol of "loyalty, equality, and faithfulness",  this character came into being after Geisel visited some schools in Japan after WWII.  At that time individualism was a new philosophy and this informed his theme for Horton Sees a Who:

"A person's a person, 
no matter how small."

So much fun!  A lot of this information came from the placards near the statues, but there is also a very nice website with even more information, on the traveling exhibit as well as on Geisel and his other projects.  For instance, did you know he had an extensive hat collection?  He had so many that he turned his hobby into another book - The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

I highly recommend viewing these and other sculptures when you can, as well as visiting the website at  There is also a Facebook page titled The Art of Dr. Seuss, and another page dedicated to, and called, Dr. Seuss.

Fun Fact:  Ted Geisel said he wrote for adults, not children.  His wife said he really didn't like children very much!

There is something about tapping into that long-forgotten child within that is rejuvenating.  
Try it!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer Fest

Today's adventures included a trip to the Mint Festival!  It is fun to see the summer line-up - Potato Festival, Highland Festival, Mint Festival...every community has their specialty.

St. Johns is known for it's mint farms, and mint products.  So we spent the afternoon going through the arts and crafts show, visiting various vendors, eating fair food, watching kids games, rides, and demonstrations...and enjoying a beautiful summer day.  

It was the last day of the fair, so attendance was a little slim, but I don't personally mind smaller crowds.  We enjoyed a quilt show, as well as a photography competition, placing our votes for our favorites of each.  

And the cardio-drumming demonstration was amazing!  We particularly enjoyed watching it from our picnic table viewing spot!  

There were tasty treats for everyone....

Summer is waning, and fall will be upon us sooner than we want to admit.  But I'm intent on enjoying every minute of these last weeks of summer.  And it's particularly enjoyable sharing these days with good friends.

Another day comes to a close - another spectacular "good night."