Wednesday, December 1, 2010

DOLLS of SPIRIT EMPOWERING WOMEN of EARTH

Kristin and I are making something new: enchanted Gypsy Art Dolls! Each is a one-of-a-kind, collectible, made from our stash of scavenged textile scraps, furs, jewels, charms, buttons, beads, feathers, twigs and stones. Kristin sculpts their faces from polymer clay, then paints them with acrylic paints.

Our affinity for the ancient Celts, Faeries, and Gypsies-all who practiced living in harmony with nature- inspired the creation of our fanciful new dolls. They are a glamorously eccentric mesh of colorful Gypsy, eco-Hippie, and mythical Faerie/Goddess.

I am giving our dolls a test run this weekend at the fabulous Holiday WEARABLE ART SHOW in Wisconsin Rapids. The show this year will be held on Friday (9am-6pm) and Saturday (9am-2pm) at The Golden Eagle Log Home Model, 4421 Plover Road (Hwy. 54 East), Wisconsin Rapids.  


Friday, November 19, 2010

TURKEY SERVED WITH A HEAP OF LOVE

I was young when I cooked my first turkey dinner-newly married and just a few months into my first teaching job. I had a class of seven severely mentally and physically handicapped, non-ambulatory, teenaged boys who had lived their entire lives at the residential treatment facility where I was working. I loved those boys. In a very short time, they had become more then my students. They had become my family.

I knew that they had probably never had a home cooked turkey dinner, so I decided I would cook my first Thanksgiving meal, complete with all the trimmings, for my boys.

I spent the entire day before Thanksgiving in the center’s kitchen cooking and baking. I had hauled in all my own pots, pans, utensils, foods, and spices with me that morning. Since I was on the clock and couldn’t leave, I had to carry on when I discovered I had forgotten several important ingredients (like eggs for the pumpkin pie, butter for the mashed potatoes, marshmallows for the baked yams, and sage for the stuffing). And, when I went to wash the turkey, I found the neck in its cavity and I had no idea what it was, and I did NOT want to touch it (like I said, I was young) so, I wrapped my hand in a towel and shoved that disgusting body part back into the bird!  I found out later that I had also cooked the bag of giblets inside the turkey.

To make a long story short, the dinner was not very good and I was feeling a bit embarrassed as I served it. I had invited my husband, sister and several aides to join us with promises of a gourmet feast and it is an understatement to say 'gourmet' it was not. But, my boys loved it! They gobbled it down with gusto, grinning all the while. They clapped and they cheered. They ate every last bite.  My boys thought it was the finest meal that they'd ever eaten and that I was the world's greatest chef.

Since that Thanksgiving dinner 38 years ago, I have learned to cook, and, Thanksgiving dinner has become my favorite meal to prepare. My children all come home and we revel in a royal feast.

And, every year, I think about my first Thanksgiving at CWC and the lesson I learned that day: When you prepare food with joy for people you care about, LOVE permeates the food. And, love really is all you need.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WINTER LOOMS

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns".- George Eliot
I do love the change of seasons in Wisconsin. Well, mostly. I love the spring, summer and fall...winter, not so much.  This dreary morning as I took a walk, I saw the signs of winter's approach all around: the birds are gone, flown away to the warm south; the squirrels are scurrying around hoarding nuts; the branches of trees and bushes are bare and lonely. Every living thing is preparing for the dormant season ahead when the earth rests and readies itself for another rebirth in spring. This is our circular journey of life. Still.... I hope winter holds off just a little longer.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

OOOHHH ORANGE!

I have always been drawn to the color ORANGE. Orange reflects many of my favorite things: The 1960's era, Autumn, October, sunsets, the first dress I ever made myself (crushed velvet-Homecoming, 1968.), the flowers in my wedding, the shag carpet in our little cabin, my son's hair, my new fall jacket.
Orange is warm and vivid. It has the ability to lift spirits. It's nostalgic. Positive.

Bittersweet. Persimmon. Tangerine. Pumpkin. Coral. Rust. Amber. Gamboge.
I just can't resist the many faces of orange!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

ECCENTRIC ECLECTIC GYPSY GLAMOUR


If  you have been following my blog for awhile, you know that my fashion guru is Simon Doonan. From his book, "Eccentric Glamour",  I learned that I have been sporting 'Gypsy Fashion' for quite some time, although I didn't know that there was an official name for wearing recycled vintage clothing. I just knew I liked the shabby chic look and the idea of being eco-savvy.
According to Simon, Gypsy Style is very much in vogue right now. Because the style is so compatible with the Green Movement, it makes perfect sense to me.

And, Gypsy Style is incredibly romantic. Just imagine yourself living in a tent or a....log cabin. Imagine how uninhibited and free you feel, swirling around the campfire in a flounced cheesecloth skirt and vintage Victorian bloomers you found at the flea market. What could be more dreamy?

If sustainability and fair trade, freedom and comfort, are important to you, you may want to adopt Gypsy Glamour as your look as well. But, do be mindful: just because a garment is made of organic cotton does not mean it has allure and sizzle. Remember, you still want to be glamorous in your green wear.  My advice: look for off the shoulder Carmen blouses, embroidered taffeta skirts, Victorian piano shawls, oversized silk scarves, men's hats, knee high suede boots and espadrilles. Mix and match. You will be hot and hip. (Not to mention you will feel good about helping to save our planet).


Likewise, decorating your tent, cabin, apartment, or house in Gypsy Style is similarly romantic and eclectic. And, oh, so easy. Hang some Indian saris on your walls. Add a couple of vintage saddles around the room. Dangle some dream catchers and sling a hammock or two across the living room. Place unusual trinkets from your travels here and there. Voila! Gorgeous, and virtually no maintenance.

What's not to like about Gypsy Style?!

Monday, September 27, 2010

THE ENCHANTED FOREST




Tom and I took a jaunt to the cabin this past weekend and discovered that autumn has officially arrived in Wisconsin's north woods! Everywhere deep scarlet, bright persimmon, and golden saffron surrounded us..and pungent pine, sugar maple and sweet fern filled the air. There is nothing quite as heady.

Monday, September 6, 2010

PONDERING NATURE'S MAGIC



I slipped outside to the pier at dusk and watched the blazing orange ball of a sun slip beneath the horizon. I listened to the wind whisper in the trees, and the waves lapping at the shoreline. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed a twinkling in the woods....and I wondered: was it merely moonlight dancing off the lone birch tree, or could it have been a shooting star? Perhaps it was the tree faeries having one last summer romp?


I made a wish and am certain it will come true, for where else can you be so sure of life's dreams then at the cabin in the woods?

Friday, August 27, 2010

LAZY, HAZY, CRAZY DAYS OF SUMMER

 "Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability".

Labor Day is approaching, and our carefree summer days are coming to an end. Personally, I plan to eek out every last ounce of 'doing nothing' before Autumn officially arrives. I will take a few more beach walks, finish a few more summer books, grill a few more weenies, toast a few more marshmellows, and take a few more hammock naps....oh, how I will miss these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

RUPERT THE FOX

While we were at the cabin this past weekend we had an unlikely visitor. A wily fox came trotting down our driveway. He came within ten feet of our front door and plunked himself down. He hardly flinched as Tom took him out some pieces of left over steak from our dinner. He ate them up and waited for more. So, Tom then took him out some chicken. We watched in fascination as he buried that in the nearby woods. He held his post near our front door for a couple hours, not at all skittish, as we came and went. As darkness fell, he fell asleep there in his 'spot'.

He brought to mind the passage about the fox from one of my favorite books, 'The Little Prince':


"It was then that the fox appeared.
"Good morning," said the fox.
"Good morning," the little prince responded politely, although when he turned around he saw nothing.
"I am right here," the voice said, "under the apple tree."
"Who are you?" asked the little prince, and added, "You are very pretty to look at."
"I am a fox," the fox said.
"Come and play with me," proposed the little prince. "I am so unhappy."
"I cannot play with you," the fox said. "I am not tamed."
"Ah! Please excuse me," said the little prince.
But, after some thought, he added:
"What does that mean--'tame'?"
"You do not live here," said the fox. "What is it that you are looking for?"
"I am looking for men," said the little prince. "What does that mean--'tame'?"
"Men," said the fox. "They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?"
"No," said the little prince. "I am looking for friends. What does that mean--'tame'?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. It means to establish ties."
"'To establish ties'?"
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . ."

Molly named our 'tamed' fox Rupert.  We will be waiting for him on our next trip to the cabin.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

THE FOURTH MEANS FAMILY FUN

For me, the 'Fourth of July' is:
* Family Reunions
* Our little cabin on Presque Isle Lake
* Roasting hot dogs over a blazing campfire
* Frigid lake water
* Too many people for one tiny bathroom
* Slow sunset boat rides around the lake
* Pesky misquitos
* Sore Sunburns
* Sunbathing on the pier
* Trashy novels
* Eating too many s'mores
* Bull Frog Heaven
* Tom's AWESOME (and a bit too long) fireworks display
* Rainbow sparklers
* Serenade of the loons
* Big Mabel
* Fish fry at Birch Lake
* Back Woods Brew

 PARADISE. (:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A BIT OF LOVE FOR TOM ON FATHER'S DAY

Tom taught me the importance of family. Coming himself from a large, close-knit brood, his desire to have his own strong family bond was always a top priority. It was, and is, one of the things I admire most about him.


When each of our four children was born, we took a lock of their hair and buried it beneath a tree in our backyard (an old Native American custom) so that even as each sprouted wings and flew far away; we knew the roots held their spirit firmly in place so that they could always find their way back home.

It was, of course, a metaphor for how we raised them: we wanted them to learn to 'make their own way in the world', while at the same time keeping family and home something sacred.

Our children are all grown now, and we don't see them as frequently as we once did, but, Tom and I often marvel at how each one still holds our family bond fiercely close at heart.

It was one thing we did right. (:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO

"Don't tell me the sky is the limit,  For there are clearly footprints on the moon"

Austin graduated from The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse this past weekend. Britt, Chad, Kristin, and Molly all made the long trek back home for Austin's big day. Because we don't get that many opportunities to all be together anymore, this family time was special. We celebrated Austin's past accomplishments, and toasted his future.  Tom and I gave ourselves a huge pat on the back as well. Having all our children graduate from college was a goal we set and planned for as each of them was born. So, Austin's graduation was one of those magical milestones that, as parents, we have looked forward to for a long time. (Then it came and was over in a flash! How I wish we could go back and do it all over again to make the moment last.)

It was a grand weekend.
And, just the beginning of a succulent, rich, rare, wild, new adventure for us all.

Friday, May 7, 2010

THIS ONE'S FOR YOU, MOM

This Sunday is Mother's Day, and as I sit thinking about my Mom, I am pulling sweet memories from my heart.

Like...Mom sitting so patiently through all those summer 'show performances' Jim, Deb, Dan and I put on in our garage;  Mom cooking her special 'Wednesday Night Dinners' (chicken and handmade noodles was my favorite) on her only night off from work; Mom buying matching dresses for herself, Debbie and I;  Mom driving a petulant teenage me to a city an hour away to indulge my quest for the perfect prom dress; Mom driving two hours from her home to mine (and then right back again) to keep my new baby daughter overnight so that I might have an evening of rest (she did this often that year); Mom hauling out her old ruffled silk nighties and high heels so my young daughters might play dress-up; Mom spending all day on the lake fishing with my son; Mom caring so tenderly for my terminally ill brother, and showing such strength at his recent passing.

My Mom and I have had our disagreements over the years as I imagine most mothers and daughters do, but, even so, we have remained close. And, as I have grown older I have certainly come to realize how important my Mom has been, and still is, to my life. I am thankful for each day we have together.

I love you, Mom. Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

HONOR OUR EARTH


On this EARTH DAY I encourage you to take a moment to enjoy the riches of nature and consider what you can do to help preserve our Mother Earth. I thought it might be fun to share a passage from my book about cultivating a 'Fairy Garden' in hopes of sustaining a wee bit of wild life in your own back yard.

"I agree, as many gardeners do, with the legendary Pan: that leaving a patch of earth untilled, unplanted, and untouched will allow the magical flowers to grow as they please, and the insects, wildlife, and the fairies will claim it as their home. So many things that are out of place in the sophistication of a formal bed will thrive here to charm us with their blossoms, as well as their lore.
Shakespeare tells us of oxlips, roses, violets, woodbine, and eglantine, the lovely name for sweetbrier. Cuckooflowers, ground flax, harebells, mallow, and stitchwort are some of the lesser know wildings that also might be a part of this magical garden....
And, if you visit this sacred spot and a tiny green bug alights upon your shoulder, it just might be that diminutive elf we've talked about, come from another realm to whisper words of wisdom-a prayer for non-believers: Learn to work in harmony with our blessed planet, and it will sustain and nourish us..."
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*click the title of this post and it will take you to my book, "Creating Fairy Garden Fragrances", which is for sale in my etsy shop.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

THE FEATHER



A chorus of birdsong led me into the woods early this morning. Then, distracted by an irritating squawking between some territorial ducks and sand hill cranes, I followed the path to the pond. Prime nesting territory. I watched them for a bit, before the joyful croaking of the spring peepers drew me to another pond close by. I followed their chatter, winding through the low brambling branches sprouting fresh green buds.  Oh, how I love that sweet, pungent 'green' fragrance. And, all around me colorful new life was winking: celery green, lavender, golden yellow and the palest pink.... Aprils' pastels. As I began to slowly make my way out to the road, a young bald eagle swooped near! I grabbed my camera and got ready, but, I was too late. He had gone. A little disappointed, I continued to make my way out of the woods. Then, I caught a glimpse of something just barely hanging to a branch above me, shimmering in the warm breeze. A single, regal feather that spring warrior left behind.  A sweet gift.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

MY HIPPIE WEDDING DRESS

More then a few of you have asked where I got the lovely old lace-covered dress on my mannequin. It was my wedding dress. 1974. True vintage. As you know, I grew up in the juicy turbulent sixties and seventies. I was totally into the 'Flower Power' scene. Peace, love, and anti-establishment. My husband and I wanted a non-traditional, simple wedding. I went to a department store and bought my dress off the rack. It cost less then $100.00. A 'Gunne Sax' dress. (If you are over the age of 50 you might recognize Jessica McClintock's fashion line popular in the early 70's). I made a hood and attached it to the dress, wore sandals on my feet, and carried a bouquet of wild flowers. Tom wore beige slacks and a clotted-cream colored shirt. Our reception was a big picnic in the park. We roasted a pig, and drank champagne. If I had to do it all over again....I'd probably do it much the same way.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A SHABBY CHIC NECKLACE

I have been obsessed with making these fabric flower necklaces for a spring sale I have coming up. They are made completely of left over fabric pieces (that I have curled over fire to get the curled flower petal effect), lace, yarn, ribbon, tulle, bead, feather and button SCRAPS! Each one is unique and one-of-a-kind. Each one has a complimentary hand-dyed silk ribbon tie attached. They are inexpensive to make and so much fun to wear. I think they will be a hit.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

REMEMBERING JAMES


My brother, James, was a gentle man...easy going and carefree. Mostly. He did have a stubborn streak, and believe me, you didn't want to cross him if he made up his mind about something.
We were two years apart in age and as kids we were very close-in fact we were all close-Jim, Debbie, Dan and I-and often preferred to play together, just the four of us...building forts in our back yard, or putting on horse shows or circuses for the rest of the neighborhood kids.

In middle school Jim and I took private music lessons together. I played the accordian and Jim played guitar.  We always thought we would start our own band. (We never did.)

But, when we got to high school, we went our separate ways. I became fully ensconced in the social scene and Jim preferred to be alone in his room playing his guitar.

After high school I went off to college.  Jim graduated by the skin of his teeth and started working. He ventured into the entrepreneurial world and started a couple of businesses of his own.  Eventually, he settled into learning the Glass Glazing Trade and that is what he did for the past 20 years of his life, most recently working for the University of Wisconsin glazing the windows of buildings on the Madison campus and the the new University of Wisconsin Hospital (of which he was so very proud. He relished pointing out his beautiful work to me while we were there for his treatments last year. But, I am getting ahead of myself....)

I graduated, got married, and began raising a family. Our worlds were very different in those years and as a result we didn't see a lot of one another.

From almost the beginning of his early adult life, Jim took winter vacations to warmer climes.  At first he went to Florida for a week, then two. Then he ventured farther south to places like Jamaica for three weeks, and Costa Rica for four. It wasn't long before he had figured out a job-share where he worked for six months here during the spring and summer, and went to Central America to live for six months over the fall and winter.  He loved hot weather. He loved the ocean. He loved to fish, and snorkel and dive.  He told me recently that he always felt more at home there in his tropical paradise then he ever felt here. He said he had found the place where he belonged.

About 10 years ago, my husband, Tom and I took our family to Costa Rica over our spring break to visit Uncle Jim. We spent a week there together enjoying the magical place he so loved. We made some wonderful new memories and re-established our close bond. Our family liked Costa Rica so much, the next year Tom and I took the kids to nearby (relatively speaking) Belize over spring break. Then we convinced Jim to go there the following winter instead of Costa Rica. He did. He said he knew instantly that was where he would make his permanent winter home. We went to visit him there a couple years later. He taught Tom and my son, Austin, how to scuba dive. He took us deep sea fishing and snorkeling at his favorite haunts. We drank red wine and savored the island foods.  I will forever cherish those special days we spent together.

Four years ago, my confirmed bachelor brother fell in love with a beautiful Belizean girl. He brought Daria home that spring and they had a simple wedding in our back yard.

Eighteen months after that, Jim was diagnosed with Stage IV Esophageal Cancer and the fight for his life began. For much of the past two years Jim was sick and/or incapacitated. But, he never complained. Not ever.

I spent many of those days with him. (As did my mom, who was such a source of strength to him. She literally put her life on hold to help care for Jim.) We spent time reliving childhood memories. And, we talked a lot about the future. He had such big plans.

On February 15, 2010, at his home in Belize with Daria by his side, Jim lost his battle.

I will miss him terribly.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

VALENTINE SUGAR COOKIES


For years I have been making these scrumptous sugar cookies for Valentines Day. The only other time I make them is at Christmas because they are a bit of work! But, they are by far the very BEST SUGAR COOKIES EVER! Crisp and flavorful.

This morning I made a big batch for my Valentine.
 I thought I'd share the recipe with you. Compliments of Martha Stewart. (:
Enjoy!

4 sticks of butter at room temperature
3 cups os sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 cups of all purpose flour (plus some for dusting)

Royal Icing (recipe to follow)

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla, and salt; mix on medium speed until combined. With mixer on low speed, add flour in two batches, mixing just until incorporated.

Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, wrap each half in plastic. Refrigerate for a couple hours (or up to one week).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line large cookie sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one of the halves of dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes. Transfer shapes to prepared sheets, placing about 2 inches apart. Chill in refrigerator or freezer until firm, about 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through until cookies are golden around the edges and slightly firm to the touch, about 15 minutes.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.  Decorate with Royal Icing.

Cookies can be kept in an airtight container, layered between sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper for up to three days.

Royal Icing:
1 pound of powered sugar
5 tablespoons meringue powder
Liquid or gel food coloring

Combine sugar, meringue powder, and about 1/2 cup of water. Mix together in mixing bowl with paddle attachment on low speed. Beat until mixture is fluffy, about 7-8 minutes.  To thin icing, add extra water, one teaspoon at a time. To add color, dip toothpick into food coloring and gradually mix into frosting until you get the desired shade.



Saturday, January 16, 2010

A RARE BIRD OF FASHION

Her style is irreverent, influential, and unflaggingly creative.
Iris Apfel is my fashion hero.

"A small entourage hangs on every one of 88-year-old Iris Apfel's delicious syllables as she strolls through the galleries at Peabody Essex Museum-galleries that are currently overrun with the contents of her Park Avenue closets.

Yes, this fashion trailblazer explains, those are insects floating in layers of resin and set into bracelets. That multicolored necklace is made of 1930's Bakelite chips that a salesman once used.

Designer names are dropped in rapid succession along with stories about incredible flea market finds, and close friendships that were formed over James Galano's evening wear and frantic rack digging at Loehmanns.

Iris Apfel is not a fashion designer. She is, however, a world-class shopper! She readily confesses that it is not about how much you spend, but what you dig up.  She has an uncanny skill for putting together a Nina Ricci dress with a tag sale brooch, or pairing African beads with a Bill Blass jacket and making it look perfectly fabulous.

She started mixing high end with low end decades before it was the norm. 'Her creation of her image is just as artistic as any of the individual haute couture pieces from her wardrobe' says Harold Koda, curator of the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 'It's art in the sense that her materials are from this incredible collection she has amassed, and she uses them the way a painter uses paint'."
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This article was taken from the Boston Globe. Click on the title of this post to read the entire amazing article.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I CHOOSE ABUNDANCE

My friend, Babs, likes to choose a theme for each New Year...last January as the year began, I decided to follow her lead. I choose 'Simplify' as my theme for 2009.  I had been thinking about just 'renewing that theme' this year! (I really did work at simplifying my life and work, and, honestly, I did make some grand steps toward the goal, but, still I have too many irons in the fire. I am a work in progress.) In the end, though, I have choosen 'ABUNDANCE' as my theme for 2010. The dictionary defines 'abundance' as "overflowing fullness; affluence; extremely plentiful".  I will work toward gaining abundance in every area of my life this year: abundant health, abundant wealth, abundant love and forgiveness, abundant adventures, abundant ideas, abundant fun and frivolity.....well, you get the idea (: