Category Archives: Art

Can’t…. Stop….

I decided to put the egg table up Sunday afternoon (since I had to skip Blevins due to continuing cough).  This just involves setting up the candle, cutting wax into teeny bits, lining up the kistkas that I’ll need for this year’s design and also making the dyes I’ll be using.   The actual set up takes less than an hour but there’s a 24-hour lag before I can start working on eggs.  The dyes need to be completely cooled and the eggs need to be room temperature.

Yesterday when I woke up at 5:30 (about the norm), it was all I could do to keep myself from going downstairs, firing up the kistkas and getting started.  I know myself well enough to know that the minute I start, I’ll be obsessed until I’m done.  Sitting in that chair for too many hours in a day just makes my back and shoulders hurt so starting at 6 a.m. is not a good idea. 

There are very few things that I get this obsessed about.  In card-making, I don’t have any problem putting things away at a good stopping point.  Jigsaw puzzles can keep me busy for quite some time but I do tend to run out of puzzle steam after 3-4 hours.  Reading is a passion, but except for the rare “I just have to finish this book right now” situation, I can stop when I need to.   (I do occasionally have to throw YA out of my room if I’m down to the last few chapters of something I’m really into and I was once late to work!)   But once I start the first egg, the decks need to be cleared because I want to keep going and going.  In prior years (before retirement) I used to take the egg week off from work because I’d end up sitting at the table until 2 and 3 in the morning.  Several years ago when I didn’t take the week off, I ended up pulling an all-nighter; that was ugly.

Waiting until 7:30 to go downstairs was a good idea.  I ate all my meals at the table today and except for an hour when there was a tradesman here measuring stuff, I worked straight through to 8:15 p.m.  Then I hobbled upstairs and headed straight to the ibuprofen bottle!  I figure, based on yesterday’s work, I’ll have four more days before I’m done. 

What do you obsess about?

Lobbying for a Hobby?

This is the last State Fair update, I swear.  Until next year anyway.

On opening day of the fair, I always go by myself.  I go where I want, do what I want and don’t have to give a moment’s thought.  This way I can spend as much time in the Fine Arts Building and the Education Building as I like.  Over the years I’ve discovered that most everyone else does not have enough  tolerance for how much time I can spend looking at dioramas made by 2nd graders, woodworking projects by junior high kids and robots built by high schoolers. 

I also spend a lot of time looking at the quilting projects.  I love looking at quilting – it is just fascinating to me.  Taking all those smaller pieces of fabric and imagining a bigger piece of art.  A little bit like crop art, now that I stop and think about it.  Every year I walk slowly through the entire quilting section; I particularly like the “Quilt on a Stick”.

Quilt on a Stick

Then I always spend the next hour thinking about taking up quilting as a hobby.  Where I could take some beginner classes, where I would put the frame, what kind of cabinet for fabric.  It takes about an hour before I shake it off.  I always have more than one time and space-swallowing hobby!  My paper crafting takes up an entire room my of house.  The number of kitchen toys I own (fancy-dancy pans, fondue pots, ramekins, apple peelers, salad spinners) necessitated a huge shelf in the basement.  My gardening stuff takes up the back wall of my garage.  I really do NOT need another hobby. 

Unfortunately this year YA wanted to do the Education Building on one of the days we went together, so I got to see the quilts twice.

Then I needed to talk myself off the ledge.  Again!

Any hobbies you’ve toyed with starting?

Mysteries of Life

When I was visiting my mom mid-August, we talked about the State Fair – more than once.  She wanted to know about all the things that I like to do, which is funny since Nonny would hate the State Fair.  In fact, it would be a toss-up as to which of my parents would hate the State Fair the most.  Probably my dad.  I’m not sure where my genetic pre-disposition to loving the fair came from… certainly not from either Nonny or JB.

The food, the things for sale, the animal barns and the pet pavilion are easy to explain.  Crop art was harder to explain and when I got around to the Butterheads, I was really at a loss.  I’m not sure it ever made sense to Nonny.  Truly when you think about it, how could it make sense to anyone who hasn’t seen it.

Dairy Princess and her court having their heads carved into huge chunks of butter over the course of the fair?  Sounds clear enough, typed out like this, but it wasn’t that easy to explain to my mother.  I did send her the above photo a few days ago but she hasn’t responded yet.  She’s probably still shaking her head over how I “turned out” after she so carefully raised me!

What’s the latest mystery you’ve read?

Crop Art Budgers

One of the things that Steve and I had in common was our love of crop art.  I’m not dissin’ other kinds of art, but crop art is just amazing.  Seeing how crop artists can blend grains and seeds to make beautiful works wows me every year.

Normally I visit the crop art on one of my alone days at the Fair but this year YA consented to go with me.  For those of you who haven’t seen the crop art at the Minnesota State Fair, the exhibit is along the far wall of the farm crop room in the Agriculture building.  Because everyone likes to look at every piece of art on the wall and table, there is almost always a line.  If you squeeze through, you can stand behind everyone else as they peruse the art.  Unfortunately most of the folks who squeeze through then push their way to the front which makes the wait for those in line even longer.  Why people will stand in line politely (more or less) for a slice of pickle pizza or a pronto pup, but they can’t bring themselves to wait for crop art, I don’t know.  Maybe if we called is crop art on a stick…

I’ve waited in line every year and experienced this phenomena over and over again.  I don’t like it, but I can’t see that it’s something I can fix.  YA had no such compunction.  When she noticed people trying to bypass the line, she stepped next to me (instead of in front of me), blocking the bypass.  Then she turned her back to the oncoming traffic  – two folks actually tried to get around her – she was immovable.  I was considering that she was taking Minnesota passive/aggressive to new heights when she said, in a voice just loud enough “crop art budgers”.   I think she may have just taken the title “Queen of Passive/Aggressive” from my mom!  From now on whenever I see somebody cut in line, I’ll be thinking “crop art budger”!

Anyway, the header photo is a red ribbon winner this year but I know that Steve would think the same as I do… it’s a blue ribbon winner in our eyes.

Did you ever glue macaroni to construction paper as a kid?


About 20 years ago I worked with a young woman who had a tattoo across her wrist.  Turned out is said “I’ll always love” and was in memory of her mother who had passed away a few years earlier. 

Since then I have always thought that maybe somebody I would be a tattoo commemorating the big love of my life – YA.  I wanted flowers with YA’s name, preferably in her own handwriting.  I’ve mentioned this repeatedly over the years and I’m sure that YA was sick of hearing about it.  My questions the last year about who is reputable got next to nothing, although she did once mention Grand Avenue Tattoo over in St. Paul.  I wasn’t sure if YA was embarrassed that her old mother was even considering a tattoo or if she was convinced I would never act on this and she didn’t want to waste her time.

A few months ago I decided I would make this tattoo my retirement gift to myself.  I made my plan for while she was out of town; if she DID think I was pushing ahead, there might be lots and lots of questions and “in my face” stuff.  When I called the shop earlier in the week they said my idea was perfect for a “walk-in” appointment and that sometimes folks start lining up an hour before the shop opens.  I got there a bit after 11 with a book, an umbrella and my printed design, which included a couple of cards that YA has given me over the years that have her signature – I was the first one there and there was a bench!  By the time the shop opened, there were at least 12 folks in line behind me – including another baboon!!!

It didn’t hurt as much as I was expecting – although having your skin pierced is definitely noticeable, it was in fairly short bursts (4-5 second each) and about half way through, the area was getting a little numb and it didn’t hurt much at all. (In all fairness, I do have to say that for the next couple of hours, it stung quite a bit.)  And it didn’t take as long as I was expecting either – even with the different colors, it only took about 45 minutes. 

My artist was a young man named Tony.  He’s from the west coast and he has done art his whole life, including a lot of painting on his own; he started doing tattoo work a couple of years ago.  He has 7 siblings who are scattered, including one living in Thailand these days and he just did a tattoo for his oldest brother two weeks ago.  He was very pleasant and answered all my questions (and I had a lot).   He did a great job… it looks just like my design.  I knew going in that I didn’t want the design on the inside of my wrist and I let Tony guide me as to good placement – a little up on my air from the bend in my wrist.  I love it.

What was the last gift that you gave to yourself?

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

When we were working on Nonny’s library loan issue, YA discovered a shelf of jigsaw puzzles right next to the desk.  The St. Louis Library system loans out puzzles!  (I immediately chatted w/ someone at the Hennepin County Library to see if puzzles are in our system – sadly no.)  I love the idea of borrowing puzzles from the library.  I only like to do puzzles once so not only do I have to find another home for a finished puzzle, the cost starts to mount up.  YA and I could easily do a puzzle a week (except for the occasional killer puzzle like the polar bear last year). 

We looked through the puzzles and chose a tiger in repose in a jungle setting with lots of tropical flowers and a waterfall – and it was a glitter puzzle!  Since it was a rainy afternoon, YA and Nonny and I dived right in when we got back to the condo.

I learned puzzle-doing at Nonny’s knee so we do puzzles the same: edge pieces first and then tackling the inner part.  YA doesn’t care about getting the edges done first, so she just digs right in.  I tend to look for shapes that fit; YA looks for color/design.  Nonny and I worked on the border while YA started with the tropical flowers.

YA is intense when she is doing a puzzle.  She does NOT like to stop; we did the glitter tiger in 4 hours.  Nonny sat back and watched for awhile and when we got toward the end, I gave her one of the pieces so she could finish the puzzle.  She resisted at first, but then gave in.  A very satisfying afternoon.

Two of the friends that I usually swap puzzles with have moved so I think I need to start a new puzzle-sharing co-op or something!

Do you have a favorite tiger song or poem?

Under the Sea

“Life is so much better when you learn to have just a little bit of fun, or a lot bit of fun, because we all believe in magic at some point,” Maui says. “A lot of times, life can get pretty dull and boring. So why not just enjoy every aspect of it that you can?”

These words were spoken by Merman Maui.  Maui is part of a growing group of folks worldwide who have taken to the water as merfolk.  It’s called “mermaiding” and there are competitions, including a World Championship.  Even the scuba diving industry (PADI, SSI and NAUI) have gotten on board and now all offer mermaid courses.

A quick internet search comes up with dozens of sites that sell mermaid tails, from very inexpensive ($20) to a site which is so expensive that you have to email them for pricing (some second hand tails on their site are listed around $2,000). 

Merfolk report that they enjoy the feeling of refuge in the water, the quiet and even peace.  “When you put your mermaid tail on at the beach or pool, you become a superstar” says one mermaid who performs and teaches.

I tried often to do the mermaid kick as a child but definitely never mastered it.  Maybe if I had an actual mermaid tail and fins I would do better!

What magical creature would you like to exist? Or to be?

Retiring? Who Me?

Photo credit:  Aaron Burden

The announcement about my retirement has finally been made (took my boss and her boss about three weeks to try to talk me out of it).

One of my co-workers, in a very serious tone said “but what are you going to do with all your time”.  She wasn’t joking (although I had assumed she was).  How could she not know me after working in the same department for 20 years together.

Without even a thought I rattled off:

    • Reading
    • Gardening
    • Cooking/Baking
    • Crafting
    • Walking the dog
    • Volunteering
    • Home improvement projects
    • Travel
    • Hang with friends

I put an app on my phone that is counting down for me.  Kinda fun.  Right now as I’m typing it’s: 1 month, 18 days, 15 hours, 53 minutes and 32 seconds.

Anything I’m missing on my list?


My Un-Monty-Don-Esque Woods

Today’s post comes to us from Clyde.

Monty Don, of craggy face and deep rich voice and calm confident demeanor, is the BBC’s in-house gardening expert, worth knowing if you are a gardener. And worth knowing if you are into travel. In addition to his weekly garden show, he has done several series where he helps non-gardeners develop their small yards and, my favorite, when he gives tours of great gardens of different countries, such as France and Italy. Of those I love the French tour most, in part because he travels around in post-WWII era Citroen, one of the more visually memorable cars. The French gardens are the highly structured masterpieces of topiary and shaped hedges and large fountains and looping pathways. The Italian ones are about as structured but do not appear to be so, cultivated randomness.

But it is the old English gardens which impress and irritate me. Garden on the English tour means large expanses of hundreds of acres where every tree, pathway, line of sight and folly has been developed to look ancient and natural, when it is not. The long lines of sight built into the landscape are masterpieces of faux natural. The beauty impresses me, but the bending of will to man irritates me, done by genius such as Capability Brown (1716-1783), original name Lancelot Brown. (Marketing was an art even in the 18th Century.) Brown’s face is shaped much like Monty Don’s, by the way.

Then there are the woods 20 feet off my patio, owned, except for the first 5-6 feet, by the city. Capability would rub his hands in glee on how he could change that abhorrent disarray. Not that I do not have a similar impulse, having been raised on a farm where the woods were managed as graze and woodlot. Our roads through the 85 acres still appear in my dreams.

My woods here is as wild and uncontrolled as woods in a city could be, mostly because of the ravine. Various parts of both Mankato and North Mankato are designated as Upper and Lower, meaning on top of the bluffs or below them where the ancient river Warren carved out a deep and wide valley in a matter of a few days.

The header photo shows the tangle at its worst or most glorious. They are the end of the woods where they point out into a small field of corn or soybeans, a la Ben. Those trees are not shaped that way by the wind, in fact they are bent right into the prevailing wind. I assume their need for sunlight made them arch out and away from the tall trees. It is a favorite place for deer to bed down. But even they struggle to navigate through my woods. There are several tall trees reaching their full maturity, about which there is a mystery I will not delve into. But when the leaves are gone (I took these pictures in April.) you can see the tangle of fallen and rotting trees down the sides of the raven, which gets deep very quickly, or up among the standing trees. Or you can see my corkscrew trees, as I call them, species unknown to me. They reach up like a middle finger in the face of Capability.

Trees are in all stages of life and decay.

Many visitors live or walk through the woods or the apartment building’s strip of grass.

Just three days ago I realized that at the base of one of the mystery trees a pair of squirrels have raised almost to maturity a litter of, I think, five kits. I caught them venturing out to explore, but only on their tree so far, and took this photo through the window above my computer.

I have sketched several parts of my woods. These two trees now are mush on the ground.

This spring a thick branch on one of the mystery trees broke in the high winds and got caught as a squirrel beltway. The next day the squirrels tested carefully before venturing out on this wonderful shortcut across an open space in the upper trees. Now it is their jousting ground and a trysting place, observation deck, escape route and attack route.

I could show and tell more, but I have overstayed my welcome.

Thoreau said he had traveled much in Concord. In what small area have you traveled much?

Virtual Chicago

YA took a long weekend trip to Chicago the past three days.  I dropped her off early on Friday at the airport.   I was really looking forward to having a long weekend all to myself.  You all know that I adore YA but since I haven’t traveled for work since March of 2020, we haven’t really had a break from each other for quite a while now.

She didn’t ask me for any input on her trip, except for two questions, one about her Real ID and one about security at the airport.  When I asked her if she needed a packing list printed out (I have it on my pc), she said no.  (I did see that she had created and printed out her own packing list when I took a couple of things into her room yesterday!)  As the parent of a young adult, I was not expecting to hear from much if at all until her pick-up (noon today).

It was a nice surprise on Friday afternoon when I got a photo text of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat with a question about whether this was my favorite painting (I had mentioned my favorite painting was hanging in the Chicago Art Institute – this isn’t it). 

Later on Friday I got a quick text about an “ok impossible burger” but no photo to enshrine the meal.

Then on Saturday morning this photo came.

I didn’t realize right away that it was taxidermy – The Natural History Museum.   A bit later, a photo of Sue, the famous tyrannosaurus rex, showed up (header photo).  No texts about dinner.

Yesterday, there was a photo of a breakfast taco and smoothie and then, some real polar bears at the Chicago Zoo

This was followed by a picture of a lovely flower – the Botanical Gardens.  I didn’t even remember that this was on her schedule. 

No photo of the pizza dinner last night.  Her flight arrives at noon today so no more photos will be coming. But I definitely feel like I had a trip to Chicago even though I barely left the house over the weekend!

If you could get a virtual tour of someplace, where would that be?