On inspiration in art — 2015.2

I started creating with “jewelry and junk” after my Mom moved to an assisted living facility and weren’t sure what to do with her 27 drawers of jewelry — some of it of the costume variety but all of it special for one reason or another — mostly because it was hers.

Both Joan and I were looking for a way to celebrate our memories of which shell earrings she used to wear with which muumuu, the stunning pieces that she purchased on her travels — Mexican silver, a crown-shaped ring from Thailand, a seemingly endless supply of pins from cruiClock by Joanse-ships and state capitals and special events. We sifted through it all and separated out the “good stuff” between the three of us.

It wasn’t long before Joan was making bookmarks with beads (we sold these at Dark Horse Books), and treasures such as this lovely clock — which has been a beloved part of our home for a LONG time.

I started making frames and tins for friends, then tried my hand at more difficult pieces using all kinds of recycled bits. It didn’t matter whether it was a cap off a Bic pen or a spangly rhinestone earring — everything seemed to find a place somewhere (even if it rested a good long while in my collection of  “stuff.”) You can check out a lot of my work here and here, (this latter is one of three FB photo albums of my work).

Soon people were saving things for me; I’d be gone for an afternoon from the bookstore and might come back to find a box or baggie of jewelry, or odd-shaped bits of packaging, that some thoughtful person had brought in for me.

And then I started to hear Game Fish by Larry Fuenteabout “real artists” doing this kind of work. For example, “Game Fish” by Larry Fuente is at the Smithsonian Art Museum!

This giant piece is made of hundreds of pieces of kids stuff — toys, dominos, plastic figurines, even a baby-doll arm. Inspiration indeed.

And suddenly, in February, after years of doing my artwork, I have discovered many others who are working with found materials to create amazing pieces.

Check this out — by a British artist named Jane Perkins — a reproduction of one of my favorite VermeeJane Perkins Girl with a Pearl Earringr paintings but all done in  pieces!

She has created amazing canonical works — including Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” and portraits of Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe. She calls herself an “artist in found materials” — love that description.

I also recently learned that several of my cousins are making tins and other multi-media pieces, like these two made by my cousins Janie and Laura.

This was afJnJ_Janie_made_for_Margeter I had created “great women doodads” for all my girl cousins, and a tin for my Aunt Marge Rambo, which another cousin says sits on her kitchen. JnJ_Laura_made_for_Ally


I also really like these shoes, which a friend saya on Facebook and tagged for me. They’re of Swarovsky crystals, mostly…

I’m not sure how they get the beads to stay on them but they are certainly inspiring!

Sparkly shoes from FB

Which brings to my latest effort….

Last week, I donated this little book tin to Ollie-Fest, a fundraiser for the Eva Dahlgren/Dan Hundere family. It was given away in the raffle; not knowing the recipient, I found him on Facebook and send him a message, saying that I was hoping to chat with him about this unique piece.

book tin for Ollie FestHe wrote back that his daughters, four- and six-years old, “absolutely loved it. They filled it with all sorts of fun stuff and have carried it around the house the yard and collected shells and leaves from all over the yard.”

I’m so happy to know they are playing with it and enjoying it —  lots of good synergy there. The tin is from the Girl Scouts and the dominant color of green represents all things that are healthy and growing, as well as recycling, long a passion of Eva’s. This tin’s shape,  a “book,” is special because Ollie’s such a good reader — no surprise since Eva’s a librarian and was a long-time employee of ours at the bookstore.

All of this encourages me to work on yet another piece for a fundraiser, and to remember that inspiration comes from others’ joy in your work, from the examples one finds elsewhere, from sharing your ideas with others  — but mostly from within.



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Filed under Around the Valley, Cool causes, Fun art, Matters of the heart, other finds, Scrapbook, Sorting things out

Starting with appreciation — 2015.1

After writing so rarely over the last 14 months, since I started back to full-time work, over the holidays I committed to writing on my blog at least once a month in 2015. Here it is, January 31 — I better get on it!

What’s funny — ironic, really — is that I’m having such a hard time deciding on a topic.

Plenty of engaging activities in Teton Valley this weekend, and lots of wonderful friends having birthdays, but it’s kind of late to write about the former, and invasive to broadcast the latter (at least without permission.)

I know families who are facing health challenges — I mean terrible health challenges — but that’s too private a subject as well.

I have something like 50 posts in draft form, all worthy of development; my tiny travel journals contain pagefuls of scribbled ideas, too.

But there’s nothing burning I simply HAVE to write about, no one subject that keeps coming back into my head over and over and over, nothing that has been popping up when I’m in the shower, driving the car, or sitting in a meeting this week.

Rather, I face the “too-much-potential” problem: when one has a plethora of possibilities, it’s difficult to choose just one option.

Compare it to the comfortable lives most of us enjoy. We don’t have to worry about clean water, food, shelter, or power; we have access to health care and opportunity and political expression.

In too much of the world, survival on the most basic level means individuals don’t have the essentials we take for granted, let alone the many luxuries of technology and wealth.

I don’t always realize when I’m in a situation of saturation. Could it be that my angst of dissatisfaction, over something as silly as not easily selecting something brilliant and profound to write about,  arises from my overwhelming abundance?

Let me say right here: I am not complaining! Here I am, well-fed, sitting in my cozy and colorful home, with the woodstove blazing, a library of books to educate and entertain me, incredible support of friends and family, rewarding professional challenges, and more cherished memories of travel than I can count.

So, rather than find something to expound on, it seems like a perfect time to just be grateful.

Hopefully that’s enough.

Next month I intend to find a just-right subject.

For now, I’m following my friends from Peanuts, and …. hmmm, skating into February!

Goodbye January for blog



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Favorite books!

Going through some old files and found this one…. I might make some revisions as of this writing, but these really are “all-time favorites.”  Enjoy!

pic of big pile of books croppedPS on the image: not sure where this is; I discovered it when I was looking for something to illlustrate my last blog post, about my Giant Journal of Joy.

This is just one list of Jeanne’s 25 all-time best recommends for reading.

Note: I put this list together for a friend who hasn’t yet read all that much but wanted a good background in books, both contemporary and classic.

It was compiled Nov. 9, 2008 (in no particular order, but fiction first) along with a little commentary on each…with additions made Jan. 21, 2009 (when I realized I couldn’t leave out some of these!)

1. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner: a Pulitzer Prize winner that deserved the honor; based on a real woman and real place, with a contemporary character sure to make you think.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; though you might have read this in high school, it’s even better as a grown-up (and one of the few books ever turned into a movie that actually conveyed its authentic sense.)

3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; a must-read story if one wants to have an inkling of the cultural differences between Westerners and those who call the Middle East home.

4. The Way West by A.B. Guthrie; a thoughtful look at those who crossed the country on the Oregon Trail by a Montana writer who gave his state the notion of The Big Sky (forerunner to this book.)

5. Oh Pioneers by Willa Cather; Peter did his Master’s thesis on another book by this early 20th century writer—this one captures a sense of community like none other.

6. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck; after winning the Pulitzer for Grapes of Wrath (and the US joining World War II) Steinbeck went to work at the Propaganda Office—this is a short look at collaborators and resisters that was smuggled into many countries in Europe to provide inspiration to the latter.

7. The Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham; another short one, a lyrical lovely story of a painter who leaves his conventional life and eventually ends up in Tahiti (think Gauguin.)

8. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: brings post-WW2 Barcelona to life in vivid color: a little mystery, a little obsession, a little of the book world (and less well-known than many of the titles in this list.)

9. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry; another Western? Yes! But really a wonderful tale of adventure and two men who are friends to the end.

10. Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig; again, another Western? Yet another yes. This one’s a tale of adventure and two men who are friends but NOT to the end.

11. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway; if you’ve ever tried to reach a goal and thought you’d done it (only to find it had slipped from your grasp), well, this one’s for you. (Besides, I HAD to include at least one Hemingway.)

12. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; I like to think I can’t imagine a world without books—after reading this book, you can…

13. A Brother Cadfael mystery by Ellis Peters: I especially like A Morbid Taste for Bones or One Corpse Too Many—first and second in the set but any would do—the lack of widgets (they’re set in the 12th century Britain) and the deep understanding of human nature make this my favorite mystery series (oh, but what about Tony Hillerman, Steven Saylor and so many others? Mysteries make worthy reading, especially when you’re in the mood to be entertained.)

14. Night by Elie Wiesel: while Diary of Anne Frank may be more famous as Holocaust literature, I find this recollection of the author’s teen years in a concentration camp more horrifying (and insighful) by far.

15. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder; the story of Dr. Paul Farmer will give you inspiration about making a difference.

16. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson; more inspiration about one person’s ability to create miracles and the power of education.

17. Where Rivers Change Direction by Mark Spragg; Teton Valley’s 2007 One Book One Community choice, a remarkable memoir of growing up on Wyoming’s oldest dude ranch; An Unfinished Life is also worth reading (is’s a novel.)

18. Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams; one of the most beautifully written books ever, interweaving the saga of her mother’s death from breast cancer against the story of the flooding of the Great Salt Lake.

19. Any “big book” by Edward Rutherfurd: my go-to of his historical, multi-generational epics would be Sarum, which brings Stonehenge and England’s Salisbury plain vividly to life.

20. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller; the memoir of growing up in Africa by our friend, Bo Ross, of next door Jackson Hole, this was (deservedly) the BookSense Book of the Year in 2002.

21. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby; another very short book (I reread it several times a year) Bauby was the editor of Elle Magazine in Paris when he had a stroke, and ended up communicating by blinking an eyelid—an amazing reminder to live fully.

22. Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose; this book truly brings history to life. While the bulk of the story is about the adventures of the Corps of Discovery, it also illuminates Thomas Jefferson’s vision of America, his faith in his friend Meriwether Lewis and his wisdom in choosing William Clark as co-leader.

23. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin; another history lesson in a book. During the Union’s time of strife, Abraham Lincoln surrounded himself with people who disagreed with him, much to the country’s benefit.

24. Any history by David McCullough; I like the ones about particular events (i.e., the Johnstown Flood, the building of the Panama Canal) but the ones about particular historical figures (i.e., Teddy Roosevelt, Truman, John Adams) are also spectacular!

25. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien — completely different in tone, time-period and subject matter than any other title on this list, this writerly book seems to blur fact and fiction within its stories. While ostensibly about the Vietnam War, it is really about America and Americans, especially those, like O’Brien, who saw combat duty in Vietnam.

Note: Did not include co-authors’ names or sub-titles (mostly going from memory here!) Tried to assemble a variety of settings and styles of writing, but does seem to have an emphasis on Western Americana (what can I say? I live in Idaho!)

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I’m working on a book….

Yes, my friends — actually it’s another one (in addition to the in-process novel set on Easter Island and the ongoing Doors project)….you see, I simply don’t have quite enough to keep me busy these days — ha! The book that I’m working on now, however, will likely never see the light of day because it’s not written down and I’m creating it only at night.

I have always been a bit of an insomniac, and the slightest hint of a lupus flare can leave me tossing and turning. And I’ve always been the kind of person who jumps into whatever I’m involved in with both feet and with 121% of my energy — and inevitably, that extra 21% seems to try to make itself felt long after the sun has set. I need something more effective than internally yelling at myself to “Quit working!”

So, I’ve started a new book and it’s helping me tame the sleepless monster.

I call it Jeanne’s Giant Journal of Joy. Silly title, huh?

The sub-title is “The Chronicle of my Complex, (sometimes) Contradictory and (often) Crazy life.” Also silly.

It started out from a serious source. Not too long ago, I read Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel, a book about the Allied soldiers (museum curators, mostly) who, as Germany lost its grip on Europe in World War II, sought to keep remaining art treasures from the Nazis — and then these non-military types proceeded to find the plunder that had already been stolen. These art works include many that Peter and I have been lucky enough to see during our travels, including favorites like the Bruges Madonna and the Ghent Altarpiece.  You can read more about this important historical incident here.

So one night when I found myself awake, I was thinking of these artworks and all kinds of other “monuments” that have graced my life. I realized I’ve not just seen so many special things, I have experienced so many special things.

So I started cataloging them.

The first list I decided to come up with: “Monumental Moments of our Trips.” Let me tell you — no lack of ideas for memories to include there. I determined something resembling the top five; then I fell asleep.  The next couple of nights, I noodled with those some more in my head; yep, that list has remained somewhat constant. I’ve written about all of these, one place or another — mostly here in this blog — so won’t mention them here.

The next week, I thought I’d start figuring out what numbers six through ten would be — and I thought of at least 15 more absolutely incredible places and vignettes to include.  Once again, I feel asleep each night, without allowing any “to do” items to crowd out my enjoyment of this simple recall exercise. Assembling them in some sort of mental order, and deciding it was OK that the some really great ones had slipped to “honorable mention” — good for several more nights.

However, I soon realized that even if I expanded this concept to several chapters, monumental moments while traveling was just too limiting.

Thus began the germ of the idea for a “bigger” book.

I now have a whole list of other lists that I return to, or add to.  Something can be included in more (sometimes many more!) categories. Some happened in only once instance, other memories are more inclusive and were built up over time. There are absolutely no rules in this “game.”

big book on the shore croppedTo me, this photo represents it well — everyone knows a book wouldn’t float, but somehow these ideas surface on the beach of my mind…. get the drift?

I started by thinking of one theme per page. Then a theme might evolve into several individual ones. It’s fairly creative, actually. But most importantly, thinking about these wonderful memories turns off the noise in my head; seeking specific kinds of things in the file cabinet of my expereicne is a relaxing way to relive them — and to fall asleep.

For example, take “Historic Hikes and “Unforgettable Urban Walks” — lots and lots of those! Climbing Table Mountain the first time — going up the face trail in snow in early July — is one example of the former. For the latter, among many city-travel explorations, is a special one of the repetitious: when we lived half-way up Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, after dinner and washing dishes in our pint-sized kitchen, we would often head out to make about a four-mile circuit around the crest of the hill. Nothing particular unusual in that one, but we did it in the evenings, together, often going blocks and blocks either chatting nonstop or just enjoying the silence of a city evening.

Another easy-to-recall group is “Family Favorites.” You can read about some of these here.

They range from the ridiculous to the sublime. I’ve got a page about “Satisfactions,” with everything from being a good daughter-in-law and caring about my community to taking up knitting again and (still) liking to read. Another centers on Up With People experiences, from on the road four decades ago and through the years since. Some are embarassingly personal, like “Inside Jokes,” expressions that mean nothing to anyone but to Peter and to me, and “Faux Pas I Surprisingly Survived.”  Topping this one was the time I cut an apple with a Swiss Army knife while driving 80 miles an hour on the Interstate across Wyoming — and I did not slice off a finger!

Of course the book is jammed with people — Peter, family, friends from near and far, children I’m invested in;  “Angels” grace one whole list — loved ones I’ve lost who I like to think are smiling down on me from heaven.

The other evening, when I was thinking about writing this down here, I remembered a song that Irving Berlin wrote and Bing Crosby sang, in White Christmas. If you don’t know this short little ditty, it’s easy to learn, and the lyrics go like this:
               If you’re worried and you can’t sleep,
               just count your blessings instead of sleep….
               and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.

Yep, that pretty much sums up the whole idea behind my Giant Journal of Joy! Next time you can’t sleep, give your internal voice a break and take a walk down memory lane. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you, too…. :)

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Sappy (special) sayings

I’m not writing on my blog much these days, have you noticed? In the last month or so, my postings to FB have become less frequent as well. But when I do post there, I use a quote, photo,or graphic that means something to me at that very moment.

I find them on other people’s pages (and save them), I create them myself, I take a picture of greeting cards I particularly like — whatever.

Some people find them annoyingly cloying — while others, I’ve been told, welcome a little inspiration once in a while and appreciate the thought behind them.

Well, my friends, I don’t think this habit is going to stop anytime soon. It’s part and parcel of who I am; I’ve been saving quotes since I started to read, I think!

It’s also what I like to share — I look at posting on FB (or on this blog, for that matter) as something that I might have said to someone at the bookstore counter, or written in a letter, or laughed over with someone in person otherwise.

So if you like them, great. If you don’t — well, social media is meant to be ignored, as Peter often reminds me.

If you’d like to check out what’s already “in the public view,” my FB album called “Special Sayings” contains upward of 150 different images — from the ridiculous to the sublime.

And here are a few more: I pulled these from an archived collection called “inspiration” on my old laptop — they each strike a chord for me on this, the next-to-the-last day of June, 2014 — and perhaps they will do the same for you.

Until next time!

INspiring_shadows_dancing_couple inspiration_will_smith_tweet_about_everyone_struggling inspiration_whole_box_of_crayons Inspiration_whenever_one_person_stands_up_quote Inspiration_stars_loved_ones_are_happy inspiration_stay_creative inspiration_posters_from_One_Kings_Lane inspiration_positive_thought_shared_8_31-13 inspiration_goodbye_n_Hello Inspiration_hack_away_at_the_unessential inspiration_IAAW_swirly_words Inspiration_from_Kevin_walk_away_or_work_harder_quote inspiration_go_confidently_BnW_road inspiration_go_do inspiration_favorite_thing_go_where_never_been inspiration_everything_you_can_imagine inspiration_everything_will_be_OK inspiration_every_experience_elephant_P_Polacco inspiration_every_day_lake_n_book_Patricia_Polacco Inspiration_enjoy_the_Little_things_Deb_Little inspiration_dr_seuss_youer_than_you_quote

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Jenny’s Pumpkin Muffins

Haven’t written for a while — amazing how working fulltime absorbs the hours and focus of one’s life. This morning, Peter suggested I be sure and do something for myself, as I expect the afternoon to be stressful… so I decided to share a favorite new recipe from my neighbor Jenny.

These muffins are something quick and easy if you want to impress your friends and warm up their tummies!Pumpkin_Muffins It’s become my “go to” item over the last couple months, for when I want to whip up something for an early-morning meeting or feel the need for comfort food that’s not as caloric as macaroni or brownies.


Jenny’s pumpkin muffins

Spice cake mix
1 small can (15 oz. size)  pumpkin
A little vanilla (I use about a teaspoon)
1/2 cup water
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Mix the first four ingredients together well; the pumpkin will lose its briliant orange and become a more mellow color when well blended with the cake mix. Fold in the chocolate chips; the batter will be smooth and creamy but on the thick side. You can fill the muffin cups fairly full.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes. I have always had enough batter for 12 regular-size muffins and a small Pyrex bowl.

I’ve seen similar recipes online that don’t add the water; we may need the extra moister for our high altitude, I’m not sure. You could also start with a yellow cake mix and add spices — but golly, that makes it more work :)

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Filed under Food (glorious food), other finds

Super Souper Bowl — O/N it 13

One of my favorite annual events is the “Souper Bowl” hosted by the ceramics program of Teton Arts Council.  It happens in early-mid November each year and seems to symbolize the transition from autumn to winter.

It’s a clever and delightful twist on a giant potluck. First, many volunteers create delectable belly-warming concoctions, filling tables full of slow-cookers and crockpots containing soups with descriptions like “vegan curry rice” and “bean-free chili” and “lemon chicken ravioli.”

Then, volunteers fill the entire City Hall entry way with a veritable smorgasbord osouper-bowl picf locally made ceramic bowls of every size and description, from brightly-colored to square to serious-looking. Every person who attends can choose their favorite bowl to use for their choices of soup that night– and then can take it home.

We have a whole collection of bowls from the last four years. Last year, Peter made soup; this year, he’s in Philly this week, so I’m on task Thursday to cook and take admission money at the bowl table.

Prizes are given for the best soup; the local music is always entertaining, kids love it, and 460 Bread donates their wonderful rolls. As a fundraiser it’s both affordable and fun — my favorite kind of community evening.

It’ll be a fun night.  See you there!

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