Wednesday, November 30

Reading With Children

My mom and I were chatting this morning and after a while she said she had to leave to go listen to some kids read at the elementary school. I think it's cool she does that - she's the perfect "grandmotherly" type to sit and listen, and encourage children to read for pleasure and that wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes with reading.

In thinking about my own kids' reading habits (they're grown and gone now) I sometimes believe I never really had to encourage them to read. It just seemd like they naturally read all the time. But in reality, I did encourage them -- Mickey and Gabe read because I read. And because I read with them ... and because we had books around all the time, because our favorite (and cheap) places to go for entertainment were A) the Library and B) the bookstore where we spent hours sitting on the floors, reading, browsing, picking out piles of books to bring home (didn't bring books home from the bookstore that often.)

We read the Jeeves stories out loud to each other, laughing together as we "tried on" the characters' accents. At breakfast for a year, we took turns reading one chapter at a time from Brian Jacque's Redwall books, whose chapters were short enough to be read during a hastily gulped breakfast before school. Those books also gave us a great excuse for putting on many different accents since every character has a unique voice.

Mainly, I think we read alot and had books around alot because we didn't own a television for most of the time Mickey and Gabe were growing up. They used to get a kick out of telling their teachers they didn't have a tv at home (especially when there was a homework assignment that involved watching tv) and they gained a certain notoriety with their school mates for being the only kids who didn't have a tv.

So we were tv-less and book-rich ... until Tim moved up to Helena and became part of our family. He had a, ummm, he had a television. At first, I wouldn't let him bring the tv inside. It was banished to the garage. And of course, the garage was just for storage, so no one ever "watched" it out there ... then, after, oh maybe a year or two, the tv snuck into the house. The excuse was we occasionally wanted to watch a video. Okay okay. But it had to stay in the closet!

Another year goes by and next thing ya know, the tv is out of the closet .... sitting in the living room -- but only under a blanket or other suitable piece of cloth to disguise it and keep it out-of-sight-out-of-mind. . It's funny how sneakily that thing inserted itself into our lives. At least the kids were gone off to college by the time we started using it as an actual .... ohmigod... an actual television.

Eventually the tv won out and I gave in. Tim convinced me that he only wanted to watch PBS and the Jim Leherer News Hour and Bill MoyersNow on Friday nights ... hmmm, gradually it's become more and more a part of our lives. Tim, my incredible cabinet maker husband (I love you, Tim!) has yet to build an "entertainment center" to hide our tv so there it sits in the living room 24/7. Hmmm... at least it's not right smack dab in the center of the room.

Originally uploaded by skuz.

We are still book-rich (that's Gabe's photo of one of his hand-bound books in progress.) Mickey and Gabe still read alot, although maybe not as voraciously as they did growing up. And all of us have benefitted from lives immensely enriched by literature, poetry, non-fiction, periodicals, even (gasp!) newspapers. By writing, too: poems, song lyrics, letters, emails, journals, essays, term papers, musings, grocery lists and notes-to-self. Gabe is binding books and journals these days, teaching others to do the same ... and working on his own book this year.

Today, I realized I missed Children's Book Week, which was November 14 through 20th this year. Even though Book Week is officially over, it's never too late to encourage and inspire yourself and others (especially children) to read, read, read. Books are great - the internet is wonderful too, but in my mind, books are better. Here's a link to a series of educational activities and lesson plans on reading.

Tuesday, November 29

December Calendar for Downloading

It's the end of November, time to put up my calendar for next month. If you'd like to download and print this calendar, please feel free. To see the large-size calendar, just click on the photo, then if you'd like to download the image, right-click on the large size "save image" to your computer (no tricks, no viruses, no spybots or anything like that.... just want to make some cool stuff available to folks who read my blog.)

Thanks for visiting my blog! Leave me feedback and comments if you can. I always appreciate knowing who is following my photos and thoughts.

This photo is part of the Last Light set on my flickr page. You can see the entire set here:


Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
Our 17 year old dog, Sam, accompanies me on every walk, and since he has really slowed down in his old age, I have time to stop often to shoot photos. He likes to sit next to me -- right up against me, leaning in, whenever I sit down to watch the beauty around us. I have always believed that animals, like us, actually do appreciate beauty -- I've watched him sit and face the sunrise or a distant view from the top of the mountain ... just as if he were taking it all in, quietly sharing the moment with me, his human. He will sit for long moments, as long as I stay watching ... his attention focused on something I can only imagine and hopefully share.

I like to sit on the cold ground with my arm around Sam's shoulders up on the hill above our town. In the evenings, when the cacaphony of daytime noise begins to settle out, begins to calm down ... then we two listen to the sounds of the city: traffic, dogs barking back and forth, children playing, ravens calling, crickets singing, geese honking on their southward journey. I know he sees and hears the wondrous beauty of his world. I know he loves these moments as much as I do. I know he is deeply glad to be alive. His enthusiasm for life inspires me, even when I'm feeling blue. He leans into my chest, as if letting me know he'll hold me up when it's his turn ... my dear companion, Sam.

We humans so often think we have an exclusive appreciation for art, beauty, poetry, emotion ... I believe we share this ability with all creatures ... or that we could share it if we would only allow that we are not the only ones to see!

This photo is also part of my set, Last Light.

Wednesday, November 23

Pond Bottom

I don't have a polarizing filter, but I can sometimes "fake" it with photoshop. I'll be posting a series of images (all the same photo) to show one of the ways I process a photo to make it more to my liking. . .

Photoshop experiment trying to make this look like an old daguerreotype or if not that, then at least like a historic. Taken at dusk near Spring Meadow Lake in Helena, Montana.

Western Decor for Winter Solstice

A few days ago, on one of my walks with Sam, I came across an old dumping grounds and some rolled up circlets of barbed wire. I brought one home with me - this is a photo of the pile -- thinking I will make it into a Solstice wreath for our front door. I have to come up with some ideas for a way to make it look festive with a Western motif. I'll post photos after I put it up.

Tuesday, November 22

How to Isolate Objects from Backgrounds

Yay! I finally learned a new technique for masking backgrounds and isolating objects without a background. Thanks to Corrie Haffley, an expert Photoshop-er and author of several useful articles at SitePoint , for her super-clear and easy tutorial. This is my first attempt. The background was complicated and multi-color, so it wasn't as easy as her example, but I think it came out okay.

Monday, November 21

The Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden This website is produced by Bowdoin College, specifically by Prof. Clifton Olds. Check out the page on "Elements" for more details on garden elements such as Stones, Bridges, Waterfalls and Sand. An educational site with a great overview about Japanese Gardens - their philosophy and history, and links to a couple dozen gardens in Japan, with photographs.

Sunday, November 20

Morning-After Dress: "That really wasn't all it's kicked up to be," she thought.

I just uploaded a series of images, mostly of retro-textiles, a few hats and men's ties ... I arranged them as a flickr photo set titled "The Closet Ladies." Getting into the whole many-senses place while working on these photos, I thought of using them to relate story segments, stories of the women who might have worn these dresses. Please check it out and if you would, tell me how you respond to these short stories ... I'd like to know how the thought-segments/memory-pieces affect others. This is the most "out-there" I have been with my photos so far.

Click here is you'd like to go straight to the slideshow of this album: View slideshow

What a strange tangle ...

I found this odd growth pattern on a hike up Davis Gulch. This is just one shrub about 12 feet high. It's growing like some fantastical Watts Towers sculpture. Some of the branches seem to twist and twine around 306 degrees until they grow back into themselves. At first I thought it was a "fort" made by kids, a hide-away place on the hill, but when I came close to it and examined it, I realized it has nothing to do with human machinations ... this was formed by nature, somehow. I'd love to know how this happened, why the shrub grew this way.

It reminds me of Mary Robinson's print, "Tangled Branches" -- she is on the faculty of the College of Art at the University of South Carolina, and teaches printmaking.

Online Writing (and art inspiration) resources

I'm always looking for good writing resources, both online and in print. One of my favorites websites is Bartleby Reference. When you do a word or phrase search, you can search all of Bartleby, or narrow it down to dictionary, thesaurus, literature citations, verse, prose, symbols, synonyms, etc.

I also like the RhymeZone for poetry, poetic-prose writing stimulation and inspiration -- or, for that matter, you can also use the Rhyme Zone as a thesaurus. The Rhyme Zone also has a feature for searching for particular words in the works of Shakespeare (in case you're into that ...)

Today I stumbled upon the HyperDictionary, which seems pretty comprehensive - there is even a "Dream Dictionary" search to find associations for many words. Although I'm not one to "interpret" my dreams in the strict sense, I do like to consider my dreams, use them in therapy, use them in my creative life as inspiration or as jump-off points for my artwork or poetry. And the fact that this reference gives you a comprehensive list of the word's definition, along with the "dream dictionary" meanings, synonyms, related words, antonyms ... makes it an excellent resource for using your dreams as fodder for your writing, art, whatever ... Reading through the official definition of a word might spark a unique line of thought or inquiry when considering your dreams.

The diagram above is from one last reference site I have to mention, although you can only "try it" for a few times before they ask you to buy a subscription. Even so, the Visual Thesaurus is so fascinating it's worth checking out. It is an interactive visual (duh...) constellation of words and connections between words - a creativity and thought-stimulating interactive tool for exploring the relationship between thousands of words. It takes a bit to get used to it, and in some ways I think of it less like a direct tool for writing and more of a tool for getting my creative juices going. If you find it useful, and want to take more time to explore the Visual Thesaurus, a subscription (or buy it outright for your desktop) may be worth it.

Friday, November 18

Ready to fall, the leaves' veins looked like the back of her grandmother's hands. Steady, hardworking, nurturing hands. She thought there might be stories wrapped in that curled gesture. She pulled the tattered sweater closer around her shoulders and sat down to wait. For the telling.

Thursday, November 17

Keeping the GREEN in our Holidays

If you're tired of consumer-style holidays but still want to give someone you know a gift - first consider making your own, or giving a gift in your friend's name to a charity such as the Heifer Project. If you still want to purchase gifts, you might consider green gifts made entirely out of re-used and recycled materials.

Eco-Artware has a wide range of artsy fartsy stuff like these baskets of salvaged, used telephone wire. The baskets are made using traditional techniques (and nontraditional materials!) by the Zulu of South Africa.

They also offer other imbenge baskets such as baskets in the shape of plates, also made of salvaged PVC telephone wire.

Elsewhere in their online catalog, you can find bells made from used and discarded oxygen canisters (left on Mt. Everest and purchased from the Nepales people who collect them), ornaments made of recycled glass and painted tea bags!

There is lots of other cool stuff - check it out:
Footstools made from 100% used pulp egg cartons (fun design -- it can be used as either a footstool or the base for a coffee table)

Door Handles and Drawer/cabinet pulls made of fused, recycled glass

Business Card Cases of recycled computer motherboard pieces.

These tea light candle holders of salvaged bicycle gears from Resource Revival, are functional and beautiful:

Key rings made of discarded bicycle chains. The inexpensive ($4.50 each) key rings are manufactered by a company in Oregon called "Resource Revival" that was started by a bibyclist, Graham Bergh.

Here's an article about his inspiration for the company and how they operate in Portland now. Graham's own version of his story is here.

Wednesday, November 16


Ok, here's what I've come up with as a quickie invitation for Tim's woodworking exhibit. This is the front of the invitation ... it's going out as a 5x7 postcard to a select mailing list of Tim's customers. The back of the p-card has the exhibit information. I've designed it this way so we can also use the postcard as a take-home piece at the exhibit (for that I'll just change the text on the back of the postcard ... we might also use it as a mailer at some point.

The exhibit is a collection of fine furniture and other handcrafted woodworking by members of the Helena Woodworker's Guild. The furniture is being shown at the Myrna Loy Center for the Arts.

Monday, November 14

feeling lavender ... made of blue & red with a bit of whiteout tossed in.

Thursday, November 10

Tim's almost finished with this most outrageous (beyond gorgeous) rocking chair. I thought I'd take a few more in-progress shots. I'm still playing around with the camera settings, trying to learn to use my digital camera in the "program" mode.

a few photos from the set.:

Here he is trying it out -- sitting in his almost finished rocker -- a Satisfied Man!

If you're interested in seeing more photos of this rocker and Tim's other woodworking (photos I've taken of his work in progress and some completed works) please check out my photo sets on Flickr, called Ode to a Rocker or Tim's Artistry

Commentary: Mommy as a Role Model? Get Real

With nods to Kim Carney, who turned me on to this commentary from National Public Radio. Kim posted this today at her always-interesting blog, Something to Say ... and I couldn't resist posting this piece especially for all of my sisters and sisters-in-law. I hope you all get a chuckle out of this. I did! Click here: "Listen"

The commentary is by

Tuesday, November 8

Self Portrait Tuesday

obviously not one of my better moods ...

Election Day in many US Cities and Towns

The first thing I did this morning was get my "bite" adjusted at my dentist's clinic. The whole left side of my head was throbbing with pain from a temporary crown on 4(!) teeth in a row... I'm still not sure the adjustment is working, but I'm going to give it another day before I head back to the his clinic.

My visit to the dentist was crucial.

But I did something else today that was way more important. That was the second thing I did this morning -- I voted. It was the easiest ballot I've ever voted on. Mayor (choose between an okay incumbent who is actually very experienced in politics and not a bad guy ... and a 26 year old who has never held office -- that was the hardest choice I had to make today) ... Choose between 4 candidates for city commisioner (we got to pick our 2 favs) and decide yes or no on an initiative to allow voters to decide the fate of our historic downtown. Oh, and we got to vote for 4 (out of 8 candidates) members of our town citizens' council (which only acts as an advisory body)

I was done in about 10 seconds. With local elections like the one we had today in Helena, Montana -- I know for a fact that my vote really does count. Voter turnout was typically light. Lots of people don't even bother to vote anymore. That's discouraging to me. So I can only do my part. I voted. And it feels good.

I am part of the mechanism of change.

Sunday, November 6

No Foolin

Tim has two restrooms in his woodworking shop. Since it's just two guys working there ... I decided years ago that one of the toilets should be reserved for women and customers only (guess why ...) This is the sign on the women's restroom door. This one hardly ever gets "visitors" but at least it's always clean.

Saturday, November 5

Dark Skies in Montana ... huh???

Today's weather was ominous, it had a threatening feeling and all day I couldn't shake my weird mood. I took this two days ago when the sky was bright and blue.... played around with it tonight to try to recreate the feeling of today's strange weather.

This is the final rocking chair. I grabbed a few shots in less-than-desirable lighting conditions (no overhead lights -- just the daylight coming from a window.) Lots of distracting stuff in the background. I might use this one for the invitations we send out for the show even though we are sending it off soon. I think this rocker is one of the most beautiful pieces Tim has made-- if not the most beautiful.

He has these pieces, below, in the show: a drafting stool and a coffee table. The coffee table is quilted birch, walnut and brass. The stool is cherry, quilted birch with purple heart accents. That's my drafting stool (I'm a lucky woman with a talented sweetheart!)

Thursday, November 3

How to Start as an Illustrator

I just found (like I discovered it, yeah, right) the website of Penelope (the 'g' is silent) Dullaghan. She is an illustrator/artist who runs the Illustration Friday project. So I guess I came on Penelope through Kim (Something-toSay) Carney, another artist. I like the design, the style and content at Penelope's site and I love the idea of illustration friday. I've been enjoying all of Kim's illustrations she posts for that project and finally took the time to look further to find out what it's all about. Penelope has a list of links, one of which is this one How to Start as an Illustrator, by Keri Smith. Check it out if you're even remotely interested in being an illustrator ... there are good ideas in the article for any artist as well.