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dispatches from Mr. Freckles . one

favorite flânerie . Inspiration at Memphis’ Brooks Museum

I love the word flânerie and its meaning. One definition of this curious French word is aimless idleness, the act of strolling or dawdling. What a poetic name given to something that we so often criticize. When I think of the word dawdle, sadly, the first thing that comes to my mind is an impulse to hurry up one of my children in whatever task we’re trying to do. The idea of giving any attention to being aimless, to taking our time, to meandering from one thing to the next – on purpose – is pretty foreign to today’s culture. In a world where we seem to value being “driven”, and learn to focus on productivity at every younger ages, the notion of simply wandering or intentionally spending time with no purpose as become rare. Over the last year, I’ve challenged myself to try and recapture the forgotten art of flânerie, to leave time to go unplanned, to indulge the impulse to pull off the main road, or to ignore the admonition that we don’t have enough time. To see what we see.

A museum is a perfect place to dawdle. On a recent trip to Memphis, we took a few refreshing minutes to wander through the Brooks Museum of Art in Overton Park, and take in some of the collection. We’ve visited Memphis countless times, and always seemed not to have “enough time” to visit Brooks. On the last day of this trip, I credit my mom with saying, “you’ve been wanting to see it; so we should see it.” Decision made.

It was about an hour and a half before closing when we arrived at the museum, and even the docent told us, with a sigh, that the collection normally takes several hours to see. Still, the kids and I decided to wander anyway through Eggleston photographs, the uniquely Southern but sometimes otherworldly paintings of Carroll Cloar, contemporary Memphis-inspired works, and a visiting exhibit of American still life works which includes examples from Andrew Wyeth and Georgia O’Keefe. The museum’s collection is an eclectic combination of styles, mediums, and historical references from contemporary and modern works to decorative arts, internationally renown artists, and uniquely Southern work.

In the Cloar gallery, I jotted down one of his quotes… “There is the joy, in the sense of belonging, of possessing and being possessed, by the land where you were born.” As I was looking through images of artwork taken on our trip, it struck me that there is also a sense of belonging in the places we wander. The places we allow ourselves to absorb uninhibited by what we ought to be seeing, what we ought to be doing, where we ought to be going. These pieces, the emotions they evoke, and the familiarity they call to mind, are entwined in my mind with the look of the galleries as my children wandered them. The light on their faces next to the artwork. The ones they liked. The times they ran on ahead to find their favorites. Which were invariably different from mine. In that sense, these works belong to us. As well as to the Brooks.

Works portrayed in photos from the museum:

“Christina’s Teapot” 1968 — Andrew Wyeth
“Where the Southern Cross the Yellow Dog” 1965 — Carroll Cloar
“Wedding Party” 1971 — Carroll Cloar
“Historic Encounter Between E.H. Crump and W.C. Handy on Beale Street” 1964 — Carroll Cloar
“Study for Homage to the Square: Young Voice” 1957 — Josef Albers
“The Gleaners” 1936 — Burton Callicott
“The Cat Man” 1986 — David Bates
“Memphis On My Mind” 2015 — Red Grooms
“Reading By The Brook” 1879 — Winslow Homer
“Still Life with Red Apples” ca. 1935 — Emil James Bisttram

 

maker’s dozen . Valentine’s Day Love

Kisses, flowers, hearts, glittery promises, and more! Happy Valentine’s Day from the Pond! I decided V-Day would be a good time to launch a new idea I’ve been noodling on for the Frog Kisser blog. I love surrounding myself with a weird collection of studio vernacular. It’s not so much clutter as an ever-changing hoard of inspiration gleaned from colorful objects, found items, and a trove a vintage papers, magazines and ephemera I tend to collect. I just love the quirky items I happen upon as I look through filing cabinets and cardboard drawers and storage bottles. I think about the stories behind these items, the times they represent, and what kind of new creation I might be able to make with them.

As I set about or store away all these slips of paper and artifacts, in my mind, I’m usually trying to categorize them in some way. I guess there’s an amateur archivist lurking around inside me. That’s where today’s post comes in. I’ve been toying with a new series or “column” called Maker’s Dozen, where I could curate a “baker’s dozen” of studio paraphernalia into a themed collection. Just an image of curiosities and random objects, pulled together for a closer look. Perhaps, in giving these items center stage, I’ll find some new inspiration for artwork or handmade pieces to share and sell in the shop. And, maybe you’ll be inspired too!

Today seemed like a good day to begin, so I’ve shared my Maker’s Dozen inspired by LOVE. I hope you enjoy a glimpse at the objects. It includes an artisan-made princess finger puppet, a Game of Life promissory note, lips band-aids, and a few other oddities. You might like this one in particular… the Everlasting Kiss Card, produced by the Exhibit Supply Company of Chicago in 1942 — as best I can tell. This one is the height of do-it-yourself Valentines with a place to put an imprint of your lips (no doubt in ruby-red lipstick) and check the boxes to match the fervor of your love!

If you’re looking for love notes of the more traditional kind, I spent my sketch journaling time this morning lettering one of  my favorite verses from 1 Corinthians 13. You can see the process in my Facebook Live video below!

discover . Smoky Mountain Views

“Measureless mountain days… opening a thousand windows to show us God.” I love that quote from John Muir, the naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club who was so instrumental in advocating for the preservation of some of our nation’s most treasured natural lands. Last fall, we traveled back to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and this week, I’ve been enjoying inspiration from the images captured there. There is, indeed, so much about experiencing the mountains that seems measureless — the views, the heights, the colors, the distance. Our drive over the Newfound Gap Road from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina offered great views of the vastness and great roadside stops and climbs to discover the view up close, too. Read More →

Hello, February [printable February calendar]

February is here, and I can hardly believe the first month of 2018 is already gone! I have to admit that I have not gotten very far on some of the creative pursuits and ideas I set out to explore this year. January was busier than I expected with juggling new projects, new clients, kid activities, unexpected schedule changes, and more. I’m even a day late in sharing my monthly calendar! Still, I keep reminding myself that all the hustle and bustle of new work is just evidence and fallout from a ton of new blessings that have landed in our lap for 2018.

SO, as we enter a new month, I’ve decided to give myself a little extra measure of love and grace. Ideas have no expiration date, and sometimes they even get better with age. My days in 2018 may have been full, but I’ve spent them with the ones I love most, celebrating milestones, and honors, and snow days, and family date nights. The start of February is an encouragement to stick with it! Stick with what I love. Stick with who I love. Stick with moving forward. Stick with trying new things.

I included a little cutaway Valentine in this month’s printable calendar. You can download here or by clicking the image below. Enjoy!

go . Sights and Shops in Downtown Asheville
[part 2]

A few weeks ago, I shared part 1 of downtown views and shopping fun from my recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina. It was an inspiring trip getting to see this quirky city for the first time, and today, I thought I would share part 2. I was in town for a conference on school public relations, and I actually stayed in a different hotel from the one hosting the events. That gave me the chance to walk around a good bit and explore some of the heart of Downtown Asheville.

Walking around the downtown area, I couldn’t get enough of the colorful buildings, sidewalk art, and the unique shopping experiences – all with a distinctly Asheville flair. Churches spires and doorways, art deco building details and both public and impromptu art captured my attention on every jaunt between conference sessions. I always enjoy looking at buildings and signs – particularly hand painted signs – when I’m visiting places, so I took time to capture a few examples to bring home for inspiration.

On one afternoon walk, a familiar name caught my attention… Kress. The fabulous art deco Kress building in Downtown Memphis is one of our favorite landmarks. The old department store chain has been preserved in Downtown Asheville as well. In addition to Kress, the historic F. W. Woolworth and Company building on Haywood, down from the Basilica of Saint Lawrence and Malaprop’s Bookstore, pays tribute to the department store era. Plus, what fun to find a historic marker commemorating Meridian, Mississippi native, Jimmie Rogers’ music career in Asheville right outside the Woolworth entrance. A good sign to go inside! It was great to see that both the Kress and Woolworth buildings had been reclaimed in Downtown Asheville as venues for local and regional artisans, crafters and small businesses. I found some quirky Asheville-made pottery in the retail incubator spaces on the ground floor of Woolworth’s. The venue also boasts an old 1950s soda fountain, which is on my list for the next Asheville adventure!

aSHEville Museum on Wall Street (with its twinkling lights) near the flatiron building offers a crazy, eclectic collection of artsy merchandise in the museum store. (I bought the children some pirate and princess crocheted finger puppets!) Plus, through rotating exhibits, the museum pays homage to girl power and the talents and legacies of women with walk-thru displays of memorabilia, art, and more. I also enjoyed visiting Bee Charmer on Battery Park. Bee Charmer features all things honey and bee-related, but most notably, a honey bar with the opportunity to taste local and a variety of hand-crafted infused honey options that are available in the store. From food items to skin care to wearables, Bee Charmer is definitely a sweet stop!

I’ve been looking through the tons of other photographs from my visit to Asheville, and reading some of the books by locals that I bought there. I’m looking forward to sharing a few more posts about the arts and tastes I enjoyed there. Stay tuned!

Dreaming of Snow Days [printable January calendar]

Happy New Year! We are starting 2018 with cold toes and warm fires. Temperatures are in the teens, and the cold weather has all of us dreaming for snow days! I don’t think any flakes and flurries will make it to Mississippi, but a girl and her blessings can dream, right?

Along with dreams of snow days, we’ve been doing some home-keeping and home-making, as we refresh and prepare for a new year, a new semester at school, and rocking out new opportunities in the Pond. I’ve been thinking and dreaming and conjuring ideas through these last weeks of holiday vacation, and I can’t wait to get all that out through the pages of The Frog Kisser blog this year. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll have fun dreaming of mittens and flakes with this month’s printable calendar! Just click the image below to download – and stay tuned… I’m working on a new calendar format for February that I think will be fun!

collect . My Childhood Christmas in Vinyl

I don’t remember us having a record player at our house until I got the little green and blue kids version from Santa one year. He brought my eight-track cassette player with the removable speakers too, and my first stereo. The turntable took a back seat to the double cassette deck in that one. But as far as vinyl goes, Christmas music was synonymous with the big white record player at Grandmother’s house – and the small collection of classic Christmas albums we kept there. I can clearly remember lifting the cover of the record player, choosing the speed, moving the arm, and hearing the scratch of the needle, an experience practically lost to my children and their digital world. I’m slowly trying to pique their interest these days with our little orange Crosby.

We’ve been at Mom’s this week, making merry with an updated set of traditions. But, yesterday I pulled out the records from Grandmother’s and found so many of my favorite songs and memories staring back at me. In fact, some of my first memories of music center around this collection of Christmas records. Each year growing up, we spent about two weeks at Grandmother’s house on the farm, and the records served as the background score for a lot of holiday traditions and fun. They are an odd mix of unnamed choral singers, big band crooners, and old school country – with a little pop and folk thrown in, courtesy of Aunt Betty. Most are classics now. Some were already classics in the second release versions we had. And not only the music. The album covers! Like favorite book illustrations, they instantly send me back to childhood Christmases.

The Little Drummer Boy (late 60s?) and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1962) compilations — those illustrations! I don’t know the singers, but I’m pretty sure this is where I learned most of the Christmas carols I know.

No Christmas is complete without Elvis’ Christmas Album (1970 re-release of 1957 classic) and the classics, “Blue Christmas” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” in his one and only style. I think everyone in the family took a turn as background singer on this album each holiday season. I’m betting this album is also why I know my mom saw Elvis at the Tupelo Fair before he reached iconic status. Stories just seem to abound around old Christmas albums.

I attribute a lot of my love of show tunes, crooners and the big band sound to Saturday evenings at Grandmother’s watching “The Lawrence Welk Show” on E-TV… and to The Dean Martin Christmas Album (1966). For sure, it’s the reason why I sing ” Marshmallow World” every time we make hot chocolate! My grandmother loved the Perry Como (1961 reissue) and Bing Crosby (1973 reissue) albums, with their rich voices. My favorites were “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S” and Bing’s iconic rendition of “Adeste Fidelis”.

My Aunt Betty loved records. She always brought new ones home. The old John Denver and Olivia Newton John LPs she handed down to me where my favorite childhood songs. I have most of her records now, but her love of classic country music didn’t really stick. I’m sure she’s responsible for the country and folk albums that were part of our Christmas collection… Tennessee Ernie Ford Christmas (1971), Glen Campbell’s That Christmas Feeling (1968), Christmas in My Hometown (1970) from Mississippi-native, Charley Pride, and Emmylou Harris’ beautiful Light of the Stable (1979). I love Tennessee Ernie’s version of the Negro Spiritual, “Children Go Where I Send Thee”, along with Charley Pride’s “They Stood in Silent Prayer” and Glen Campbell’s cover of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper”. I also remember thinking as a little girl how cool The Partridge Family Christmas Card (1971) was, since it was so obviously a younger sound. I felt like I was a girl in the know listening to it — even though it was really before my time!

Memories, memories! When I look through the issue dates on all these records, I realize what classics many of them already were before I ever heard them in my 70s childhood. I realize it every time one pops in my head in response to some family activity. It’s fun to think about what the sounds added to how we celebrated Christmas. I’m already humming them again!

December . Celebrating the Start of the Season [printable calendar]

It’s hard to believe December is here! This fall has been filled with lots of projects and activities, fun travels, precious times with my little ones, and the beginning of some new opportunities. Now, we’re ushering in the Christmas season. It’s been a little bit of a busy week, and I’m already feeling the impact of lots to do and days flying by. I found myself struggling to keep stress at bay. But, I’m determined to keep a baseline of peace through this season celebrating Christ’s birth, the source of our ultimate peace.

I feel like the holidays are in full swing now! We took the weekend after Thanksgiving to deck our halls for the holidays. We called it the Christmas Kickoff weekend, and filled it with as much holiday cheer as we could fit. Everyone is always excited to pull all the boxes of decorations down from the attic and look through the evidence of our memories and traditions. We usually spread our decorating over two weekends, but because of some of our travel schedule this year, we decided to pack it all into one. I was sore from climbing up and down ladders, but I’m so glad we have everything in place now, with the whole month to enjoy so many of the things we love about the holiday season. I can’t wait for a lot of family time together with these traditions as the backdrop!

With the start of the new month, I’ve put together a printable calendar and some cutaway art to celebrate the season. You can click below to download, and also get a glimpse of some of our holiday decorations to get your in the season. Enjoy, and happy December!

celebrate . Thanksgiving Tree on the Farm [printable]

The Thanksgiving Tree has become a farm tradition. We have a branch, old and dry now, that stay’s standing in a crockery pitcher in the corner, waiting to be set at center stage on the table during our Thanksgiving holiday week. Held up by rocks collected from the road, the “tree” started as my effort to sow some seeds of gratitude when my children were young. That first year, we set up our tree at home using a branch we had found on the farm during October. Baby Girl was only a couple of months old — too young to offer her contributions, and the boys were at a stage when it wasn’t hard to get them to look for sticks! The idea was to add paper leaves or shapes to the tree each days with little “Today I’m thankful for…” messages written on them. We never did it every day. We weren’t that disciplined. But, it gave us a chance to talk about gratitude at the dinner table, and make note of our blessings.

Since then, we’ve spent every Thanksgiving at the farm, and the Thanksgiving Tree has become something we do during our week there. The first year we stayed at Busy Bee for the holiday, we found a branch, and we’ve kept it since. Some years, we’ve cut out our own leaf shapes. And, several years, I’ve created a printable for us to use and also share the tradition with others. I was looking back at a few “leaves” from the years, and it was such a blessing to see each of our hearts revealed in those few words. The treasured places, possessions, and people. It was sweet to see my loves’ handwriting change over time as they’ve grown. And, neat to see that some of our gratitude hasn’t changed. Through all the changes in our lives, what a blessing to count our blessings!

I’ve shared some of our memories here, and I’ve included another printable for 2017. You can download here or click the image below if you’re celebrating with your own Thanksgiving Tree. I’m looking forward to pulling that crockery to the forefront again next week, and adding these tags to it.

As I wrote about that very first Thanksgiving Tree…

I’m convinced that gratitude is an antidote to worry and complaint, and it’s the catalyst for kindness and generosity. In times of joy, in times of hardship, I need it. We need it.

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