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Archive for live

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 →

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!

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!

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.

go . Sights and Shops in Downtown Asheville
[part 1]

Beautiful, quirky Asheville. There are places that grab you, that you immediately want to claim as your own. That’s how I felt about this vibrant, Southern mountain town. I had the opportunity to visit Downtown Asheville for a few days last month while attending a public relations conference, and I think it took my heart.

From Tuesday to Friday, I spent as much free time as possible wandering the downtown area, stopping in shops, poking my head down alleyways, and sampling the local cuisine. I found historic and colorful views, a love and commitment to all things Asheville-local, a penchant to spontaneous self expression, and an overwhelming sense of energy — really a “vibe.” Yes, there’s an unmistakable vibe, like something inspiring could happen at any moment. The jacket of a book I bought about the city described Asheville as “everywhere an easy gaiety.” That sums it up perfectly. The joy was so very easy.

The book, 27 Views of Asheville, came from Malaprop’s Bookstore on Haywood, along with the funky Only in Asheville tome. They were both on the recommended shelf of regional work, and kudos from the Malaprop’s staff carries good weight in indy bookstore circles. An iconic Asheville book seller and literary cafe since 1982, the store has a revolving door of events and author readings along with a stellar collection of bestsellers and unusual finds. After the public art, street musicians, and traffic bustle outside the door, the bookstore had its own buzz of book talk, event prep, and literary energy.

In Asheville wanderings, like in so many of the South’s urban centers, I found an inspiring mix of art deco ornament, historic structures, cobbled streets, sacred spaces, public parks, and the region’s overlapping colors of fall. What was even more inspiring was the obvious creative energy – community gardens outfitted with hand-made sculpture, outdoor artisan market areas, colorful facades, doors open with music outpouring, goods and wares pulled out into the sidewalks, and many shops proudly displaying not only a commitment to inclusion, but a list of wares available from fellow shops and artisans around the region. I walked back to my hotel each evening believing that each shop or restaurant or artisan I encountered knew they had something unique and wonderful to add to the world around them. Somehow Asheville seems to have created a place where those gifts are overwhelmingly welcomed and set on display for anyone to partake in the vibe.

On the last morning of my trip, I stopped by another Asheville shopping icon, the L.O.F.T., offering “lost objects and found treasures” since 1996. Squeezed into a vibrant street level and basement walk-down, I found quite a few treasures, indeed. Unusual books, ethnic memorabilia, gypsy-esque fabrics and decor, Asheville products, unique wall hangings, outdoor art and more. The color alone, displayed in every inch of the place, was enough to set my eyes in wonder.

Over the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to sharing some glimpses and thoughts from my morning visit to the beautiful Basilica of St. Lawrence, also on Haywood, the spectacular Grove Arcade on Page and Battery Park, a few favorite local restaurants, and some of the vibrance of the Flatiron area on Wall Street. So many memories that will stick with me! I think I love you, Asheville.

 

discover . Nine Farm Specimens

There was a time when my children wanted to create a museum. We were in the phase of hoarding rocks and other tiny objects in our pockets, and on a constant quest for outdoor things in cool shapes and colors. This was also the phase when playing with dirt was a priority and walking around outside was a continual pique of curiosity, not just getting from one place to the next.

I noticed in those special days that there was a clear scale for the best nature objects, a cool factor we seemed to consistently assign to the most highly prized finds. Anything heart-shaped was immediately brought to Mommy. Anything with petals. After all, giving Mommy flowers was the ultimate feel-good activity. Things shaped like letters or numbers were happy surprises. And, anything containing bones or teeth was the ultimate discovery. That’s what made the farm the center of museum curation. Walks on gravel roads, pasture trails, and stream beds are places where bones and teeth tend to show up. Along with seed pods and oddly-shaped earth clumps, and the occasional rusted tool.

The museum was to be located in the barn at Busy Bee and serve as a showcase of our most exciting discoveries. Really, a showcase of every single little thing that any one of us thought was precious enough to tuck in our pockets or throw in the wagon. The barn was the perfect location because it already contains its own collection of old jars and cans, and rusted tools and horse bridles and such. We dreamed of little displays of countless “heart rocks”, the bones of cows and coyotes, dried flowers and berries, and the remnants of withered mushrooms and acorn tops.

The museum never really materialized, although much curation happened on the farm table and on shelves in the house and baskets where we still gather our “collection.” The children have grown, of course, and their interest in saving rocks and plucking flowers sometimes wanes. But, they still notice them. They still say “Mommy, there’s a heart rock!” sometimes. And I mark it down in my soul. I saw it on our trip to the Smoky Mountains last month. The beauty and overwhelming curiosity of nature. The wonder of exploring it. It’s still there. For me and for them. Just masked sometimes by the pull of busyness and technology. And growing up, but resisting it.

It’s funny, though. When we go to Busy Bee, we slip right back in that curation mode. There, the rocks and blooms and curious finds seem to hold more fascination than anywhere else. There, we’ve made it our mission to find the fascination. To wander. To look up and look down. To touch what we see. And even sometimes to pick it up and put it in our pockets.

I found some still life photos of some of our farm collection. We all loved the 9-shaped twig in the one above – or is it a 6? I went with 9, and included nine views of the colors, shapes, and curiosities of dying things. All telling their own story of autumn on the farm. Enjoy! And, I hope they inspire you to look up and down, too.

collect . 13 Jack O Lanterns for the 13th

It’s Friday the 13th, and we’re almost in full spook here! The kids and I been having fun getting our house harvest-ready over the last couple of weeks. The mantle is decorated with turkeys and pumpkins. The Halloween and Thanksgiving books are gathered in our “book basket,” and the wreaths are up on the doors. This weekend, we’re planning to add our little family of scarecrows to the porch along with some pumpkins and colorful crotons, and the decorating will be complete. My kids have never really gotten into trick-or-treating that much. They’ve always been more interested in handing out candy at the door than walking around the neighborhood. But, that doesn’t mean we shy away from “Jack.” It’s not every year that Friday the 13th falls close to Halloween, so in honor of this so-called unlucky day, I wandered around the house and captured a lucky 13 from our jack-o-lantern collection – all ready to lend their toothy grins to the season’s festivities. Enjoy!

go . Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains

Tomorrow, my children are on Fall Break, and we are heading to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a few days. I have visited the Smoky Mountains many times, but last October, was the first time I’d taken the kids there.They decided right away they wanted to go back. We enjoyed a “town day” and a “Park day” on that last trip, and this time we’re adding one extra day to be sure we fit in all our favorites. As I’ve been gearing up for the trip his week, I’ve been looking back through some of the photographs I took on our last trip to the Smoky Mountains. I took some time to record my memories in watercolor – the first time I’ve painted this week.

Last year on our visit to the Smokies, we spent most of our “Park day” exploring Cades Cove. It’s a great driving loop with mountain views and a collection of preserved primitive structures – churches, houses, and barns. It also includes some of the last pasture lands still maintained in the National Park.

The historic churches in Cades Cove are quiet, moving experiences, each standing empty now with only echoes and strong light from the windows to highlight their sacred spaces. There are graves from pioneers and mountain folk who populated the area over the last few centuries. And, the houses and barns show a small glimpse of what life might have been like. It’s not unusual to see wildlife in Cades Cove (and throughout the Park). On our last visit, it was wild turkeys. Depending on the temperatures, the views are a display of oranges, maroons, yellows, browns, and a rainbow of green shades with that namesake gray-blue smoky haze over the upper elevations.

This year, I’m hoping we can drive over the mountains to visit Cherokee, North Carolina on our “Park day,” and I’m looking forward to new views in one of our favorite places. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these views of our trek through Cades Cove.

sojourn . Itta Bena, Mississippi

Back in May as our summer plans were just starting to materialize, I knew I wanted to take some opportunities to explore. We had already planned trips to the beach and Memphis, but I was determined that we would spend at least a few days on sojourns to Mississippi places we hadn’t seen before. I felt very blessed to have the children hanging out at home while school was out, and to have the flexibility in my freelance work to “schedule in” some unscheduled time.

So, on a Wednesday in the middle of June, we picked up breakfast donuts and headed west on Highway 82. It was the first day trip in our new car, which made for excitement with the kids in checking out all the bells and whistles, and I had heard that the B.B. King Museum in Indianola was pretty cool. Even though I was born and raised in Mississippi, I really haven’t spent a lot of time in the Delta, and the kids had never been to that part of the state. I was eager to take time without an itinerary, to soak up my little ones on the journey, and to explore some of that storied part of my home state.

There’s something mesmerizing about the sudden flatness of the land as you move out of the “hills” region of Mississippi. The sprawling farm fields, the succession of small towns popping up along the way, and so many broken down structures out of time. My children have tagged along on enough adventures to know my tendency to wander down side roads and stop on various Main Streets to capture photos of historic buildings, hand painted signs, and the curious sights of the small town South. This day trip had its share of those kinds of stops!

After pizza and visiting Indianola’s homage to Riley B. King, the kids indulged me in the short right turn onto Mississippi Highway 7 in Leflore County, down to Itta Bena. We wound past fields and water towers to a small square of a downtown with a city park surrounded by half cobblestone streets and nearly vacant storefonts – no evidence of the fast food spots and quaint downtown shops found in some of the other Delta towns we saw. It was late in the day and not many businesses were open. Not many businesses were there. We saw cars gathered around a few storefronts including a small convenience store, and a few folks were gathered on benches near the park. We drove around the square several times, across the railroad tracks and through the surrounding streets, stopping to capture the “place” of the place through my camera lens, and trying not to look too conspicuous.

Itta Bena seems to share part claim to Mississippi Valley State University with its neighboring county seat, Greenwood, just twelve miles East. The community also stakes claim to the birthplace of B.B. King, technically in Berclair, three miles to the West. I learned that Itta Bena comes from a Choctaw phrase, “iti bina,” meaning “forest camp,” and was named by a state senator who relocated his plantation there and built a home in the mid 1800s. He called it “Home in the Woods.”

We didn’t see much “woods.” We’ll seek that out for the next trip, but I enjoyed the glimpses into shops and businesses gone by and what I most often seek out on these adventures – the haunting and beautiful blight common in so many rural Mississippi towns. The gutted gas station. The vacant lunch counter featuring “Southern Cuisine”. The old structures you find give a hint to entrepreneurs and business folk who once made downtowns like these thrive. So that what you see is indelibly tied to what you imagine you would have seen twenty or fifty years ago. And sometimes the make and model of parked cars blur the difference.

The bricked pavement. The railroad tracks. There always seem to be railroad tracks. Military cannons and statues in the park memorializing one conflict or another. Buildings bear the remnants of their last use, sometimes overcome by weather and decay, but still vibrant with color. Sometimes the structures are just a shell with no roof remaining, and their own rural garden of weeds growing where countertops and store shelves used to be. Mom and pop restaurants, corner convenience stores and beauty salons are often the last hold-outs of downtown commerce, displaying store windows with the current price of a six-pack or posters of the latest beauty inspiration. Churches and public buildings are well-kept, but the interesting finds are those structures with a tell-tale hodgepodge of styles revealing their changes through the years. The boarded up remnants of stained glass windows and worn plaster ornament.

And, I love the signs. In addition to the faded out brands – logos that have since been updated to meet today’s visual appeal – small towns often show great examples of hand painted signs and repurposed banners showcasing a business owner’s pride. Somebody’s initials. Somebody’s name. Somebody’s stamp on the world. The local Big Star grocery became Big Star Tobacco, and even that has since gone defunct. Warehouses and old train cars usually provide an overlapping series of letters as the sun fades one generation of signage into the one before. The past, present and a citizen’s ingenuity.

Those glimpses of a small town – like the ones we captured in Itta Bena – are interesting and layered and sad and curious and indicative of how time passes. And sometimes passes by. Looking back through the images of our drive made me wonder what I keep trying to capture. When I seek out these broken and aged views of the small, worn South. I think maybe they are a glimpse of the greater challenges we have in our state. The wrestling of past and present, of sustaining opportunity, of growing and overcoming, of how we clean up our messes. Of capturing the moment in time. Or letting it go. All told, we spent less than an hour on our drive down to Itta Bena. That’s not enough time to know the place. Not enough to see what’s really gone and what remains. Not enough to see what might be emerging.

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