Monday, November 12, 2007

Kitty gets down from the tree

Ever notice how much cats enjoy looking down on you from above?

We don't let our cats roam, and this one tolerates a harness and leash well, so he gets to be outside the most. But we still have to check on him pretty often, and here's why:

Not a good idea, Kitty. . . .

Whew! He doesn't always make it this far!

Friday, November 2, 2007

November Raspberries

In the corner of the backyard of the little house we rent in South Minneapolis's Nokomis area, there is a little patch of raspberries that bore a pretty good crop back in June, but their real bounty has been this fall. It's not that they've yielded incredible amounts of rasperries, but I've been able to pick enough for my bowl of cereal on about two or three mornings a week from mid September until now, the second of November. I'm sure this is unprecedented, and it's such a treat.

On an average morning, I take the dog for a walk of from one half to one mile or so around the neighborhood, then when we come back I am quite warm, even on chilly mornings with temperatures in the 40s, so I fill my bowl with cereal and head out to the corner of the yard to add raspberries. I always pick a few extras and give them to the dog -- she is very dainty when she takes them from me, barely even touching my fingers. Then I pour the milk into my bowl and eat my cereal outdoors. Each morning that I do this I think it may be the last until spring, and that makes it even more delightful.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Learning to Detour

An interesting thing has happened here in Minneapolis since the bridge collapsed. Instead of worsened gridlock and rising tensions as people cope with finding their way around a major artery, most of us are actually rising to the challenge of having to switch out of automatic pilot and think through how to get where we need to go.

I had been thinking about this some recently when our local paper, the Star Tribune, published an article about this very phenomena, "Adaptable drivers avert expected gridlock."

Recently I headed out to run an errand to Northeast Minneapolis, a destination that would normally be a quick hop via 35W and over the ex-bridge; then remembered as I left the house that I wouldn't be able to take that route, and so started constructing maps in my head, recalling which roads connected to what, which ones had bridges over the river and so on. I realized even as I was doing this that I was making my brain work a whole lot more than it normally does when running simple errands. And I couldn't help but think, this has got to be a good thing, for a number of reasons:

• We're so much less likely to respond irrationally to inconvenience when the inconvenience is anticipated and planned for.
• When our brains are engaged in rational problem solving we aren't distracted by emotional stressors so much -- the bad kind of stress that raises blood pressure. I do experience a kind of stress when I am figuring out my route as I go, but it's more comparable to the stress of solving a puzzle or engaging in vigorous excercise -- it's stimulating in a way that feels good and beneficial.
• All this mental excercise has got to be good for our brain health -- I actually wonder if it will manifest years down the road in a reduced incidence of Alzheimer's! OK, that's a stretch, but it would probably be a good idea to alter our routes to familiar destinations anyway. My father used to tell me you should vary your route home from work because most accidents happen close to home because people become less attentive the more familiar their surroundings. By taking alternative routes to familiar destinations, we become more mindful of our surroundings and so more alert and likely to avoid accidents. I haven't read anything about whether the bridge collapse has had any effect on the number of auto accidents in Minneapolis, however.

In the Star Tribune article, they lead with the example of a woman who tested out various alternate routes to work, adjusted her work schedule, and generally demonstrated a very rational scientific approach to the new inconvenience. I just find it really encouraging to see evidence that human nature may actually be more rational than we sometimes think!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Mushrooms on a stick

After two months of a drought and a heat wave here in the Twin Cities (and elsewhere, I know), we got hit by rain, rain, and more rain in August. And suddenly all these mushrooms are sprouting up in people's yards everywhere. I often get mushrooms in my yard because I use a lot of woodchips for mulch and they must be filled with spores, but lately I've seen mushrooms everywhere, including in grassy lawns. I headed out yesterday morning with my camera to get some pictures, and it being a sunny, dry day, I didn't find very many mushrooms anymore, but then these funny-looking ones showed up on the strip of lawn between the sidewalk and the street (we call it the "boulevard" in Minneapolis).

After taking these pictures, I went to the library and got a mushroom field guide, and I also looked on the Web, but I haven't found anything that looks quite like these. Maybe they're a variation on something that usually has a more traditional dome-like cap. But I get such a kick out of these with their perfectly sperical balls on such a long stem.

It's Minnesota State Fair time, and the fair is especially known for offering things on a stick (mostly food, but others have used the concept for marketing other things -- like the art institute handed out images of art from their collection, printed on cardstock and glued onto a flat stick, and called it art on a stick). So I just can't help but noticing how much these look like something you might see at the fair.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Minneapolis Bridges Still Standing

The historic Stone Arch Bridge, in the background of the first photo and shown again in the second, was built in 1883 and carried freight trains over the Mississippi in downtown Minneapolis for almost 100 years, until 1978. The late I-35W bridge that now litters the river was built just 40 years ago.

It seems to me that not only are the old-style bridges like these (Hennepin Ave., Central Ave. and Stone Arch) with their arches and/or suspension cables sturdier than the long slender unsupported span of the freeway bridge that was, but far more aesthetic as well. They just don't build bridges like they used to. Or maybe they just don't take care of them like they used to.

Many of us here in Minnesota are now in that angry after-event phase of looking around for someone to blame. It's tempting to point fingers at our no-new-taxes governor, Tim Pawlenty, for his stinginess when it comes to the state's infrastructure, as well as other things. But local blogger Rich Broderick makes a strong argument on the Twin Cities Daily Planet that the neglect of our infrastructure is a nationwide problem that goes back much further than that. Who wants to spend taxpayer money on boring things like taking care of bridges and highways when there are wars to be fought and tax cuts to dish out?

It reminds me of the time years ago when one of my girlfriends moved out to her own apartment for the first time and whined about having to spend her money on boring things like toothpaste. She, however, figured it out before she had to spend much more on even more boring things like dental work.

But the question remains, will American voters and the politicians who court us figure it out before another tragedy strikes?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sweet Lindens

While riding my bike in the neighborhood recently, I noticed a strong sweet perfume in the air and began to look around for the source. It was well past time for lilacs or flowering crab trees, so I was peering into the gardens nearby and finding nothing to explain the luscious fragrance that seemed to be everywhere around me. Then I noticed that I was on a street lined with linden trees, and they were blooming. Linden blossoms are wonderfully fragrant, and because they bloom in late June when the leaves are fully out, and they are somewhat small (less than a half inch across) and yellow, they tend to blend in with the leaves until you look right at them, so I always smell them before I see them.

In Minneapolis, the forestry department has adopted a plan of planting a given street all with one type of tree, but varying the trees from one street to the next. In this way they preserve the urban aesthetic of orderly symmetry and repetition while at the same time following the sound horticultural policy of diversity so we don't have all our trees wiped out by a single disease, as has happened in many places with Dutch elm disease.

The linden tree used in street planting is the European little-leaf linden, or Tilia cordata, a close relative of the American basswood, Tilia americana. At our previous house we had a basswood tree, and I discovered that it bloomed about one to two weeks later than T. cordata and, unfortunately, this particular basswood was somewhat shaded on its lower branches, so the flowers tended to be held up high in the tree where they were harder to see. I don't think they were as fragrant as T. cordata, either, but it may just have been because the blossoms were not as abundant or as close as the street trees.

This photo was taken just yesterday and the blossoms are a bit faded already. There were other branches with more flowers than this, but it has been so windy lately that it was hard to get a photo that wasn't blurry!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Home for My Tomatoes

When we moved last fall, I dug up a few shrubs that were likely to suffer from neglect with no one to care for them, and planted them as soon as I could upon moving. Getting those shrubs settled in where their roots could knit themselves into the ground took precedence over unpacking our many books and other things, such are the priorities of a gardener.

I also took careful measurements of the yard, drew up the outline, observed and noted as best I could where the overhanging tree branches would be casting their shadows come June, and set it all aside for one of my favorite winter pastimes: garden planning.

Except I never did the planning. It wasn’t really that I was too busy, though I told myself as much, it was more like I just wasn’t inspired to do it. The lay of the land, so to speak, wasn’t yet familiar to me.

So this spring, when my husband asked where we were going to plant tomatoes and beans — the two vegetables we must plant every summer, if nothing else — I pointed without conviction to the corner of the backyard that I had figured would have the most sun, and we paced out the spots where a couple of raised postage-stamp beds (four-foot square) could go, and he said, OK, we’ll get the lumber on the weekend and I’ll make the frames.

But I wasn’t wholly at ease with the plan. The spot seemed aesthetically awkward — the two garden boxes couldn’t be tucked into the corner because that’s where raspberries grew — and I wasn’t sure it would really get enough sun, and it seemed to be just within reach of the dog when out on her leash.

It was a few days later that I had the aha! moment that got me over my gardening hump. I was standing in the backyard, appreciating the ample shade from the mature, sprawling Norway maple that had finally opened its leaves and covered most of the yard in its soothing shade, and facing the front yard as I pondered our gardening prospects.

And then I noticed the south side of the house awash in sunlight.

I eyed that space, and I realized that the declination of the summer sun, plus the modest height of our neighbor’s house to the south, plus reflected heat and light from the stucco walls of our house equaled the best conditions for heat-loving tomato plants that I’ve had in many years.

And suddenly I felt very much at home, knowing where I would plant my tomatoes.

(I wrote this for my editor’s column in my little journal, Minneapolis Observer Quarterly, or MOQ. To learn more about MOQ, including how to subscribe, please go here.)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A walk in the wildflower garden

My husband and I enjoyed a visit to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden on Saturday. They were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the garden, founded by botanist extraordinaire Eloise Butler back in 1907, right in Minneapolis's North Side, in the middle of Theodore Wirth Park.

We watched as a costumed interpreter portrayed famed botanist and plant namer Carl Linneaus, followed by a brief ritual tree planting by our mayor and some park board people. Then we skirted around the small crowd and went for a leisurely stroll through the garden, stopping to admire this beautiful blue hepatica as well as several other spring ephemeral wildflowers along the way. (For more wildflower photos, see my Flickr page)

We sat awhile on a bench in the shade (it was a very warm day), and listened to a cardinal calling repeatedly from on high; a little girl talking excitedly to her mother about something she had sited, "I have eagle eyes, I can see 'em"; the trill of a red-winged blackbird in a nearby wetland just outside the garden; the distant, faint hum of traffic, reminding us that we have not left the city; and two women talking, seemingly oblivious to the tranquility all around them -- one was nodding and murmuring in an understanding kind of way as the other said, "so I said, 'fine, do this other thing, I'll support you, but I don't think it's a party, it's hard.' " We also heard other bird sounds that I could not identify.

All in all, a lovely couple of hours.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Forsooth! Forsythia!

Pardon my typical Minnesotan obsession with the weather, especially when it's as lovely as this. And I'm so pleased my forsythia survived not only being transplanted last fall, but also an early April cold snap just as the buds had formed. I was afraid that it might have killed the blossoms, but as you can see, they are doing very well, thank you!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Of cabbages and eggs

eggs and red cabbage
I have tried using natural materials to dye Easter eggs in the past, but my kids recall better than I do that they didn't really turn out that well. They not only lacked the intense color of the artificial dyes, but they didn't have much color at all. However, I didn't feel like buying egg dye, and since my teenagers don't take much interest in doing these little holiday projects with me anyway, I figured I would just try again. Besides, I had already bought some red cabbage at the co-op, and I had a whole jar of turmeric, which I never use for anything.

So I got some directions from the Minnesota co-op Lakewinds Natural Foods and tried again. Noting that they recommend leaving the eggs in the dye in the fridge overnight, I did just that, limiting myself to two colors so I wouldn't have a fridge full of cups of spillable liquids. And I think they turned out pretty well!

eggs in turmeric
The first photo shows the eggs with red cabbage to produce a pretty robin's-egg blue, in the second photo they're sitting in water with about a tablespoon of turmeric powder. Both were mixed with boiling water and a tsp or so of white vinegar. I increased the amounts from the original recipe because I assumed it was for one egg in one cup of liquid.

The third photo shows you how the colors turned out.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Looking for spring

The weather has been mild here for some weeks, but noticeable signs of spring have been few, until now. I suppose their seeming sudden appearance has something to do with our several days of rain, which kept me from wandering outdoors and poking around for these tell-tale signs, so now it seems of a sudden that there are green buds and tulip tips and such. I am participating in a swap on Swap-bot called "Extreme Close-up Photo ATCs," the idea being to take close-up photos and then crop them down to ATC size. The fun of this swap has been that it has given me a little extra push to get out and look for things to photograph, and not the grand vistas or stunning but cliche'd sunsets, but to get up close and personal with my surroundings. So here are some of the photos I have been taking in anticipation of this swap.

The first one shows the tips of emerging tulips, which I planted last fall shortly after we moved into this house.

The next one is of forsythia buds. I dug up the forsythia and moved it with me, so it is a great relief to see such robust evidence that it survived its late autumn transplanting.

The third photo is of some primula blossoms, which are actually on a houseplant that I set out by the back door about a week ago to get it used to the outdoor conditions so I can transplant it into my garden. It seems to be liking it just fine out there!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Metaphorically yours

I haven’t tended to give much thought to the words I use to close an e-mail message, I usually just put my name with no closing. But I have begun to feel that’s really a little too breezy, that a closing of some sort is better than just a name, and so I’ve been pondering and experimenting some with different ways to close my messages.

I’ve long since rejected “sincerely,” “very truly yours” and other standard closings as having been rendered meaningless by custom, like buzz words. Once I noticed someone using “best regards” or simply “regards,” and I kind of liked that for a while -- it was new to me, even though I now realize it’s an old standard too, every bit as much as “sincerely.” So now I’ve come to see “regards” as too much of a stock phrase and too impersonal. If I want to be impersonal, I can continue to just close with my name.

Some people close with “peace,” some “hugs,” the latter having become increasingly common so that I have gone from finding it rather sweet to more ordinary. To me, at least. I have a Navajo friend who closes with “Hozho,” a wonderful word full of meanings too complex to easily translate into English. But I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable co-opting an expression from another culture.

I think part of my problem with most closings is that they are one-size-fits-all, so no matter what it is, when people say it to everyone they correspond with, it becomes impersonal, generic. Wouldn’t it be much more personal if we actually selected a closing that was tailored to the particular person we were corresponding with and the nature of our relationship with that person?

Then I got an e-mail with a closing that just made my day, and now I’m really thinking about better ways to close my messages.

I had been corresponding with a local poet who had given me permission to use one of his poems in my quarterly journal, MOQ (see link at right). I had been very finicky about finding just the right poem, struggled to explain what I was looking for (our slogan is “exploring the bucolic city”), and so had gone back and forth with him over a period of several weeks. He was incredibly patient and supportive through it all, and in the end assured me that he was “thrilled” that we would be printing one of his poems (we ended up using two). This from a guy who has been published in national poetry magazines, much much more prestigious than our little local journal. And we can't afford to pay a cent for the works we use, only contributor copies.

After the issue was published, I was very late in mailing him his contributor copies. He sent me an e-mail and, rather than complain about it, offered to pick them up if that was more convenient, assured me that he had “no worries,” and closed with “yours, all yours,” followed by his name.

WELL! Isn’t that a lovely way to close an e-mail message?

Of course, it would not be even remotely appropriate in most correspondence (and I would hate to see it rendered meaningless by overuse), but in the context of the working relationship we had developed over the last several weeks, and the fact that he knows my husband more than me (and he is happily married himself), and that he is a poet, after all, it actually seemed appropriate while at the same time incredibly romantic. But in a chivalric kind of way. Like a pledge of fealty or something.

And now it’s really got me thinking about how that little closing, usually just one or two words, presents an opportunity to make someone smile.

So I’m giving myself the creative challenge to come up with adverbs to pair with “yours” in closing my messages. Too often, I can think of nothing that doesn’t seem contrived or inappropriate, so I still resort to the name-only closing. I’ve thought about compiling a list of really creative, fun closings, and then keeping it by the computer so I can look at it for ideas; but selecting from a list of closings runs the risk of still being impersonal. My motivation is to make my correspondence both more interesting and more genuinely personal, and I fear that selecting from a list can easily become as impersonal as using the same one over and over again.

So for the time being, I am

Searchingly yours,

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A little pagan mystery, perhaps

Spring is emerging here in the frozen north of Minnesota, and so on Friday I went for a little walk to enjoy the warming sunshine. We have some great natural areas along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, and this particular spot at E. 36th St. and the West River Road has a little parking lot and then a vast expanse of trails, woods, and little pockets of prairie. It's a favorite area for birders as well as nature lovers of all sorts.

I was walking around looking for things to photograph for a Swap-bot "extreme close-ups" photo ATC. I thought I might find some tree bark with interesting patterns, or a patch of moss or something (there's not much green around here just yet). As I was walking, a man came from the parking lot and was heading down one of the hilly slopes when a voice from atop the hill in front of me called out "Catch me if you can!" The man, in his 50s, I'd guess, and sporting a long scraggly beard and hair like an aging hippy, quickened his pace and hurried on up the hill in front of me, just as I saw a woman of about the same age scamper quickly over the top.

A few moments later, when I reached the top of this hill , I saw the man and woman sitting together amicably in the sunshine at the edge of a large clearing, on a spot overlooking the river (since nothing has leafed out yet, there is a fine view of the river through the brush). Not wanting to intrude, I just walked around for a bit to see if there might be anything emerging for me to photograph, when I spotted this curious construction that looked like it had been put together maybe last year. Not far from it were some blackened chunks of wood as though someone had enjoyed a little campfire there. I don't know what to make of it, but I like to think someone was overcome with a mix of artistic and pagan impulses and just had to make this rustic shrine.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Paper doll bride and groom

Our good friend, Tim, got married last weekend and I made them these paper dolls using photos of the bride and groom. We have had a longtime running joke with Tim about Tim the Enchanter in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so it was a no-brainer to use that theme for Tim's doll. But I hadn't met Kathy, so I figured the Queen of Hearts theme is a sure bet for a new bride!

They liked them, or at least Tim said they did (I hope the bride does too), although he thought they were puppets, which I suppose they could be.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Valentine from Mother Nature

I went out earlier this winter to photograph a hedge with interesting scraggy branches that had been revealed when the leaves fell away, and while standing there, chanced to look up and saw this heart in the tree branches overhanging the street. Isn't it sweet to get a message like that from our mother? When I took just a few steps from where I was standing the image was gone. It was a magical moment. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A belated happy Darwin Day

Charles Darwin's birthday is Feb. 12, and the international Darwin Day site would like to make a big deal of it, especially in a couple of years when it is (would be?) his 200th birthday, a year that is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species.. I think Darwin Day is a really cool idea but completely forgot about it this year. One year I was going to propose a homeschooler event, a Darwin Day potluck and science and art fair. I figured we could label the food we bring with the scientific names of the ingredients and also present art and science projects related to Darwin, biology, and/or evolution. But then I had this paranoia that some anti-Darwin types with an agenda would crash the party to present papers about creationism or whatever they call it now and decided I really didn't want to go there. So I wimped out. A completely unfounded fear, I might add, since my only experience of fellow homeschoolers at all ends of the political and religious spectrum has been one of mutual respect.

Anyway, here's a happy Darwin Day to you, just a little late. If you want to make some cool stickers of the image here, go to the Darwin has a Posse Web site at Swarthmore college. They even have a link to someone who is selling them readymade, so if you want a weather-resistant vinyl sticker for your car, you can buy one now!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Chamomile kitty

This is my cat Tres, so named because we already had two cats (still have them) when we got him, so he is cat number 3, or "tres" ("trace"). Here he is helping me with garden planning. He "helps" by pushing things off the table that he thinks I don't need, like pencils, for example.

Well, yesterday, Tres was not his usual pesky self. He slept all day (even more than usual for a cat!) and when Martin tried to pick him up Tres growled continuously; when Martin tried to sit and just offer him a lap, which he usually enjoys, Tres just continued to growl and grumble. Either he was hurting or he was very crabby.

So we figured Tres didn't feel well and decided to just leave him alone for a while. I felt his nose and it was cool and damp, so it didn't seem too worrysome. Then Nora checked him out (she once volunteered at a vet's office because she was going to be a vet). She said he must have an ear infection or something, one of his ears was quite hot, the other one was not.

That brought back memories of when my kids were little and we had to deal with earaches and the like, but instead of pumping them full of antibiotics and mess up their immune systems, I would study their symptoms and look it up on a chart in a book about homeopathy, give them the appropriate remedy, and they'd soon be on their merry way.

The "one hot ear, one cool ear" reminded me of the symptoms that would point to homeopathic chamomile -- only it would be one cheek red and hot, the other normal and cool. And the accompanying emotional symptom? Whiny crabbiness.

So I told Nora to give him chamomile tablets (little pellets), which she did, and later that evening he was pestering the other cats and making them mad. Aah, normalcy.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A "minizine"

I'm participating in a swap on Swap-bot of ATC-sized "minizines" (although I would call them pamphlets). I had been pondering what topic my "zine" should address, and most of my ideas were potentially a bit too involved, when I saw that someone else in the swap made a zine of "Squirrel Haiku," which I assumed were her own verse. So I thought, hey, I write a lot of short poems that could fit in a little pamphlet like this. Since my poems are generally nature-oriented and, naturally, seasonal, I thought I'd pick a few for the current season, pair them with some of my photos, and, well, here it is. The requirement was only to make 8 pages, including covers, so I decided not to tax myself by attempting to do more than that (plus, I could only come up with five poems that were winter-themed and, even in this limited distribution format, publishable).

But now that I have done this one, I plan to do three more for the other seasons.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Altered postcard art

I came across a mail art call "Send Me Flowers" linked to the Mail Art Forum and thought it would be a good excuse to alter this vintage postcard I picked up at a neighborhood antique shop quite a while ago. It appears that the man is standing in a field of dahlias, so I drew a dahlia on it with a brown fine point Stabilo pen, then added the green leaf color with a Pitt brush tip pen and colored the blossoms with Cretacolor pencils. The pen at first seemed not to take very well, so I deglossed the surface with fine sandpaper, which scratched it up a bit, but that looks OK to me.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Doodle ATCs

Now here are some ATCs I cut from that full-page doodle. I am hosting a Doodle ATC swap on Swap-bot, so if this looks like your sort of thing, come on over and sign up! If it's no longer in the list of new swaps, go to all swaps and select ATCs and you'll find it.

A page of doodles

Last fall I was inspired when my friend Jennifer Menken filled a large sheet of drawing paper with a complex doodle, then cut it up and made mini art books from it, which she was selling at the Book Arts Festival. So now I have filled a letter-sized sheet of cardstock with a doodle and cut it into ATCs. I allowed myself some leeway to select the best cuts and so made 8 ATCs, whereas a sheet of 8.5 x 11 inch cardstock can yield 10 of them (ATCs, artists trading cards, are 3.5 x 2.5 inches, same as standard trading cards).

So, here is my full-page doodle. I carried it around in my tote bag for several days and worked on it a little at a time, usually at coffee shops and such, or when I had to sit and wait for any reason. I really enjoyed doing it.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

12 Drummers Drumming

Here we are at the 12th day at last, and here are the drummers who not only first paid me a call on the ninth day, when I drew nine drummers and then later realized it was supposed to be nine ladies dancing, but who also may account for the 10 lords leaping right off the page, coming as they do with their booming taiko drums right behind the 11 bagpipers.

Even though I only have nine drummers here, you can see 12 drummers drumming in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area if you go to a Mu Daiko performance--they really do have 12 drummers! (So why aren't they giving a public performance on the 12th day of Christmas? Someone really should talk to them about that! In fact, their next scheduled performance isn't until June.)

I am going to back off on the daily posts here now and turn my attention to my business Web site for a while; that's the Minneapolis Observer, or, as we have now redubbed it to match our print publication: MOQ (add "quarterly" to the previous), pronounced em-oh-queue, in which we explore the bucolic city, which may include taiko drummers, even though their thunderous sounds may not strike a person as particularly "bucolic." But if it's about nature, art, or wordsmithing in an unplugged and locally urban sort of way, then it is likely to catch our fancy at some point and show up in the quarterly.

If I may continue this unabashed promotion for just a while longer, since MOQ is mostly a print publication (isn't that quaint? -- aren't you glad I didn't say "bucolic" again?), if you would like to get a free sample issue, please send a request to me,, and tell me that you know about this offer from my blog, and I'll put one in the mail to you (so, obviously, you must provide your snail mail address--not to worry, I can't afford to do mass marketing by mail, so you won't be added to any mailing list; nor to any e-mail list). Single issues are otherwise $4 each, and a one-year subscription is $15.

Oh, and MOQ was nominated for Best New Publication in the 2006 Utne Independent Press Awards. We didn't win, that honor went to an excellent publication that also has a local focus, New England Watershed, but we still feel very honored to be among the eight nominees.

We had noticed that the winner and one other nominee (Conveyer, which is based in Jersey City), plus MOQ, have a decidedly local focus. As the editors at Utne put it, "Place is an important part of how we construct our identities, which is why it's no surprise that three of our nominees in this category seek to explore it. " We hope this is a sign of an emerging trend--you know: local is the new global. Not that we favor parochialism, only that we advocate a thorough grounding in and exploration of one's own surroundings.

Look for something new both here and at the Minneapolis Observer about once per week. If you like. I don't mean to sound bossy. Have a nice day and thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, January 5, 2007

11 Pipers

Yes, this is only one piper, but that's because he got a little out in front of the other ten, who are following him. And making quite a din, which explains what caused the lords to leap so.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

10 Lords Leaping

Well, I have fallen behind by a day, and, as you see, the Lords have already lept, leaving only this jumble of shoes behind. (That scrap of paper on the right is the phone book listing for Lords, 10 of them--I numbered them, even.) What could have made them leap out of their shoes? Could it be the 11 pipers piping coming right up behind them?

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

9 Ladies Dancing

There are different interpretations of this song, as I have noted earlier, and I am sure that one of them at least has 9 drummers drumming. So I spent a fair amount of time today drawing drummers, then thought, wait a minute, that doesn't seem right. No, it is ladies dancing that is the more common version of this verse. Well, at least part of my motivation for doing this was to challenge myself to draw something every day. Since I already drew drummers, I figured I could move on to another art form.

I happen to like paper dolls, and especially paper doll chains, so I didn't mind starting over again. These dolls are 3.5 inches high and about 2 inches wide, so I cut a 3.5-inch strip from a sheet of 8.5 by 11-inch paper, allowing a half inch at either end to round off the hand of the first and last doll -- each strip made 5 dolls. I cut off the 10th one and used the poor thing as my guinea pig for drawing the face and such. I was going to paste them together to make one 9-dancing-doll chain, but decided it would be easier to photograph them in this arrangement.

Now that I have made this set, I am eager to modify the basic design. It's really rather fun. If I can figure out how to do it, I will make a template into a PDF to share. (Don't hold your breath! You might prefer to just figure it out yourself anyway.) If I made the face looking forward, instead of in profile, I could use rubber stamps of facial features, which would look rather cool, don't you think? The dolls would probably have to be a little bigger to be in proportion to the stamps, though.

After cutting them out, I decorated them with Sharpie pens, rubber stamps, and little plastic flowers.

Now is it 10 lords leaping or pipers piping next?

Monday, January 1, 2007

Eight Maids a-Milking

I am not up to drawing eight maids milking today, though I had some interesting ideas involving Rube Goldberg-like milking machines, maybe I will work on those for a future edition of the 12 Days of Christmas.

So, instead, I offer you an image of one maid milking. She lives in Kenya, and is the beneficiary of Heifer International, an organization devoted to providing people in need around the world with livestock and equipment to help them become self-sufficient.

To donate a heifer through this organization you need to give $500, or you can donate a "share" of a heifer for $50.

If that is a little beyond your budget, you may back up to the subject of the sixth day and donate a flock of geese for a mere $20.

It would not be a bad way to begin the year. Happy New Year.