The Rent Collector and Two Others


Nonsense  was hyped as a book for those, like me, who like Malcolm Gladwell’s writing so I was enticed. And it is like Gladwell’s books in that Jamie Holmes includes a lot of examples that draw the reader in and allow us to understand through stories, the concept he is conveying.

For example, “we all have an innate ability to form impressions based on limited information… Our urge for resolution is vital both for managing complexity and for learning.” Holmes uses examples to explain what he means; vodka doesn’t have much taste or smell and as a result is hard to hype. Add to that it’s from Sweden, not Russia. So how do you go about making a connection for people that will make them “get” and buy a Swedish vodka?  Absolut in 1979 was selling five thousand cases, after the ads ten years later, annual sales were at 2.5 million cases. Their ads with a touch of humor and a bit of a mystery to solve had turned sales around. Simple compelling ads featured the bottle as a person or a thing. “In ‘Absolut Perfection,’ the bottle was an angel (or a haloed rascal.) In ‘Absolut Elegance,’ the bottle was sporting a bow tie. ‘Absolut Profile’ showed the bottle turned ninety degrees to one side.”  Absolut advertisers treated the consumer as smart enough to figure out the riddle. And it worked. The viewer had a puzzle to solve using just two words and people were hooked. The consumer “got” the subtlety of the ads and as a result also bought the vodka.

Holmes explains that we can’t be confused unless we have at least a little knowledge. When Bill Cosby did his show, Kids Say the Darndest Things, it worked because there was humor in seeing the child with a bit of knowledge able to make sense of the world by extrapolating his limited knowledge onto the bigger more mysterious world, right or wrong:

Cosby:  “I have a cut. See it? What do you do for that?

Kemett: (without hesitation): You’ve got to put a little Neosporin on it. And then put a bandage over it. Then it’ll go away.

Cosby: Where does it go?

Kemett: It go, um, it go… down here (he points to his finger)… in your blood.

Cosby: And where does it go?

Kemett: Then it’ll go in another country.

Cosby: What country do you think mine is going to go to?

Kemett: Uh, China

This book is fascinating in its telling. There’s also Ducati’s humiliation which would eventually lead to the 2007 Grand Prix Championship title. Steve Jobs describes how prosperous companies can be ruined by their own success because the executives stop questioning, for example, why exactly a particular product was a huge hit and then their next product is a failure.

This is a readable enlightening book.




“The beginning is always a critical part of the story.”

Each month without fail the rent collector trudges over the mountains of smoldering, stinking, smothering trash at the worst garbage dump in the world to collect rent from the people who have set up tarp homes to live in and collect what little they can for recycling money. It’s awful in the reality of it and then to be charged rent for living on the smoldering stinking garbage seems preposterous.

Stung Meanchey is home to Sang Ly and her husband, Ki Lim along with their perpetually ill son, Nysan.

A small tattered and filthy book changes their lives forever. Sang Ly, her family, her teacher, the people at the dump are forever changed because of a single book.

“Sang Ly, we are literature- our lives, our hopes, our desires, our despairs, our passions, our strengths, our weaknesses. stories express our longing not only to make a difference today but to see what is possible for tomorrow. Literature has been called a handbook for the art of being human. So yes, it will do that.”

Although Camron Wright calls his book, The Rent Collector, a work of fiction, the photos in the back of the book allow the reader to know that there is reality in this work of fiction. It is sobering.



This is autobiography at its finest, first of all because it never ever seems like a plodding-through-the-years account and second of all because shortly into it it seems like a story of which you have to know the ending- what did become of this boy? Of course, we already know; Roald Dahl’s writing is some of the finest in children’s literature. But still you want to really know.
Boy: Tales of Childhood, tells you what shaped that great author.Surprisingly, or maybe not, it was in some ways shaped by great tragedies, the death of his young sister, the horrid treatment at English schools, the early death of his father. But he is also shaped by the constant love of his mother.We listened to this read by Dan Stevens; he does an excellent job. 71WXlW2GPiL


Laurel Burch Cat Art

This artist almost begs to be a kids’ art lesson; the colors, the detail, the subject are perfect.

Laurel Burch had a very sad stormy homelike and left at the age of 14 with a paper bag full of her worldly goods. She did housework to in exchange for a place to stay and food to eat. By the time she was 20, she was a divorced mother of two. She received welfare and made jewelry that she sold on the streets of San Francisco out of tackle box. Eventually a woman,  Shashi Singapuri, loved her work and took it with her to China where it was a huge hit.

In 1971 Laurel went to China and discovered cloisonné. She loved the design and the colors; it is evident in her art.

Caitlin’s family came for a visit and I promised an art class if they came during the summer; so I was on. I came up with a quick step-by-step for the cat.

The great thing is that the variety in renditions of the cat are what make it so great.

The great thing is that the variety in renditions of the cat are what make it so great.

After the cat outline is on the paper, the more color and detail the better. We started out with colored pencil for cleanliness and because I own a truck load, but the color did not thrill; so we pulled out the markers.


Manilla Tag Art

I was sent 1000- that is one- THOUSAND! manila tags to review. (Here they are .04/each… but you do end up with one THOUSAND) Office supplies excite me. I am not even kidding, “My name is Terri and I am an office supply addict.” So it wasn’t painful or anything like that to imagine the many ways I might use these little tags.

Click to read my review and order a few thousand for yourself.

Click to read my review and order a few thousand for yourself.

I wanted to do our next grandchildren’s art project and use 5 or 6 of them. Weirdly wonderfully I clicked on a blog and up popped these clever creation. So I showed them the examples and we got to work. Who knew other people had this crazy manilla tag obsession too!
“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .””  ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves



Click on the photo to take you to the site.

Click on the photo to take you to the site.

Who knew other people had this crazy manilla tag abscission too! Click

Who knew other people had this crazy manilla tag abscission too! Click

Then I pulled out various magazines, printed papers, stickables, and after a little thought they got very creative.Here is a sample of my grandchildren’s manila tag art.


Colonial Williamsburg

Williamsburg proved to be a real hit.  An interactive village with activities to do, how could it not?




If she could only get a look at that sheep being shorn.



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Outside the tavern there was a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

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I think I was the most excited about the print shop where each of the kids got to print their own copy of the Declaration of Independence on a period printer.


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The man who helped them make their copies would then review the print with them to see how well they did, if they had inked the letters well- too little of too much.


Fox was wanting a copy of the Declaration of Independence so badly and as it turned out he got to print his own.


Because human life and “what’s your favorite color?” are both opinions

Aoife Muse

Aoife Muse- This is a baby

Artists and writers rock the world. Sure, ideas begin in academia but ultimately we are firmly shaped by the books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we see, the art we ponder- image, story, symbol.


Once long ago, my oldest daughter, now a mother of five, picked up our World magazine that was laying on the seat in the car. When we arrived home, she did not get out, she sat in the car crying and holding the magazine. She asked why would a person do that to a baby; she would take that baby, she said; she would love him. The magazine had dared to show an image of an aborted baby. A young girl could see the wrong in it.

So, how did it come to happen that we could  watch the Planned Parenthood videos discussing dismembering a baby, selling her parts for monetary gain,listen to how the “doctor” would carefully extract the thymus, the liver, the brain that would make them money?  If you were to watch and a tiny thought in your head made you a little squeamish about that  baby, that little girl, that little boy being killed, cut and sold BUT then you managed to get back to the mantra of “it’s a woman’s right to choose, who am I to say that’s wrong, I mean I wouldn’t do that but…,” if you were able to leave those videos back in that part of your brain labeled, “Values/Morals/Free Choice” then you have been schooled well. Because think about it; would a sane person, would a sane nation promote, fund and encourage killing, hacking apart, and selling a baby? Would a sane person, a sane nation call that baby a zygote, an embryo anything except baby just to relieve our conscience. Would sanity really relegate human life to “opinion/religion/morality?  Cowards.

When did we lose our sanity? When did we become so well schooled that to call a baby in her mother’s womb a baby, was to make a moral/value judgment callWhen did we buy this BS? We have been cut in  half. And somehow we believed we’d be the better for the carve up. We are not. 

Once upon a time, “scholars felt an obligation to find ways to harmonize the findings of science with the truths of theology.” (Saving Leonardo)  But pretty soon scientists/ academia realized they needed to switch things up a bit because  they began to realize that  knowing how and doing  should sometimes not go together. So scientists/academia argued for autonomy- your religion, your silly morals shouldn’t matter. They succeeded and we were rent in two- Values from Facts. Value free. The end of a kinder, gentler humanity. Think about it, engage your factual mind and your moral mind all at the same time and then watch the Planned Parenthood videos. Little babies are “specimens,” “intact specimens,” “2nd trimester specimens.” Specimens that just happen to produce things like a liver, a thymus, a brain, that you can buy for $75 a pop. After you’ve killed them.

Imagine a world where you could simply say, “That is murder because, life.”

Academia slowly, effectively, definitively redefined by dividing convictions and facts– and they completed the schooling by teaching that the two ought never connect. If you hold to the idea that theology and ethics are subjective- that’s your opinion- and that science is objective-  verifiable, absolute ascertainable  facts, you have believed the lie of dualism- that there is a divide between mind and matter, and that the one can be trusted and the other must be in subjection if not dismissed outright. If you tinker with the idea that a “religious” person needs to keep her ideas to herself, if you are that religious person who feels a little embarrassed to admit that you hold to certain convictions, you’ve been pistol whipped by society. Moral relativism- this divide between morals and facts- is in fact the most intolerant, haughty, condemning attitude there is. Try to disagree with any of the tenets, you will be destroyed.

I am pro-life, why aren’t you?









This is a baby.

This is a baby.




The Art of Relieving Stress

If you go to Multnomah Falls make sure to leave enough time for a sit down meal in their restaurant.

If you go to Multnomah Falls make sure to leave enough time for a sit down meal in their restaurant.

I have received requests to review adult coloring books; so as we sat waiting for our lunch at Multnomah Falls, I was not surprised to see a grown woman pull out her colored pencils and coloring book and while away the wait for her meal. Coloring is being discovered as a great stress reliever; so next time the kids are coloring at the table, sit down and give it a try too.

“In simplest terms, coloring has a de-stressing effect because when we focus on a particular activity, we focus on it and not on our worries. But it also “brings out our imagination and takes us back to our childhood, a period in which we most certainly had a lot less stress.” This leads us immediately and unconsciously to welfare, exposes the specialist.” (Huffington Post). Art in general has a stress relieving affect.

Winston Churchill took up painting to escape the never ending worry and  responsibilities of his job. In 1915, Churchill was a member of the War Council, a position which allowed him to know everything and do nothing. “I had to watch the unhappy casting-away of great opportunities, and the feeble execution of plans which I had launched and in which I heartily believed… I was forced to remain a spectator of the tragedy, placed cruelly in a front seat.” (Painting as a Pastime)

This is when he had to find a hobby that would take his mind off of things of which he could do nothing. This is when he discovered painting.

“And then it was that the Muse of Painting came to my rescue- out of charity and out of chivalry, because after all she had nothing to do with me- and said, ‘Are these toys any good to you? They amuse some people.'” (Painting as a Pastime)

I know that feeling of becoming totally lost in the craft, of being able to stand at an easel an sloop up gobs of cerulean blue or cadmium orange, slather them on the canvas or sit before a beautiful thick sheet of cold water pressed rag paper and paint in watercolors that drift and mix depending on the amount of water laid down. It makes so much sense that coloring books for adults would become a pursuit in leisure.

His first day out was with a child’s paint-box the following day he’d committed to the pastime by buying oils. He had found the joy in painting and exclaimed, “Just to paint is great fun. The colors are lovely to look at and delicious to squeeze out… Try it if you have not done so- before you die.” (Painting as a Pastime)

Get lost in the colors, the design, the relaxation of coloring. Some of the books have frame worthy coloring pages.


Click on the photo to shop for colored pencils.

Click on the photo to shop for colored pencils.


Click on this to take you to Amazon for a selection of detailed coloring books.

Click on this to take you to Amazon for a selection of detailed coloring books.


…And Certain Women

Okay, I just loved the pink-ness of this poster and the little teapot, well, the sentiment too, actually.


 I wish there were a way to make this look like a more scintillating read, but alas, many Bible verses. Here’s the thing though, Jesus blasted onto the scene and unequivocally changed the way women were treated, their role in the church and society, and their status as equal to men. Did that make her a man? Course not, silly, but it did firmly remove her from under the thumb of a man and opened up a great big world to her. He placed her (again) next to man in equal standing before God- not under a husband nor father- in a pyramid scheme to her Savior.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus came and  was willing to speak with a strange woman in public, He was willing to heal a woman on the Sabbath,  He taught that a woman could be more than a wife and mother if she desired that, He believed women had the right to receive religious teaching and training and to be disciples, He taught that a mother too ought to be honored by her children,  He highly esteemed women’s testimony and witness,  He took the sign of the covenant- that until then had been restricted to men only- and offered it to females through baptism- a bloodless sign for male and female. Woman were now allowed the sign of the covenant.

For Jewish women in the first century A.D. their world was their home. “A woman’s sphere of influence or importance in the legal sense was confined to her connection to her family, her faithfulness to her husband, and her domestic responsibilities… One must bear in mind the extraordinary patria potestas a father had over his daughters and a husband over his wife… A woman was passed from a father to her husband’s sphere of authority usually without being consulted.” (Women in the Ministry of Jesus- Ben Witherington III) . Judaism restricted women’s participation in religious functions. Women could not make up the quorum in the synagogue nor could they receive the covenant sign. Jesus came and granted women together with men equal rights to participate fully.

He accepted women as His disciples and traveling companions.

*”Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmitie- Mary called Magdalene out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.”Luke 8:1-4

The women who made up this company were not all single; Joanna was married and yet was able to travel with Jesus. Single women and married women- both- were able to leave the home front and travel with Jesus and be His disciples.

*”Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much service and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.'”

Jesus answers Martha’s plea for help in the kitchen by telling her that was not the important work. He was gently teaching her to reorient her traditional role and focus on her faith.

“But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Martha and Mary were his disciples and that is the work He considered more important than doing the dishes- right then in real time- keeping house, making dinner was secondary to these women’s role as Jesus’ disciples.

*”At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works  and charitable deeds which she did.” Acts 9:36

These needs are included to show that, in fact, not all women were home cleaning the house, some women were out with the men hearing things preached:

* “Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.” Acts 17:2-4

*Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.  Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.Acts 17:10-12

* “However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” Acts 17:34

Women were prophetesses and teachers of men.

*”… Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.” Acts 21:9

Folks, we have not one, but four prophetesses in one little house. And a woman teaching a man too:

*”Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.  This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.  So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Acts 18:24-26

And Luke, as if to drive the point straight home, gives us examples  that for the Jews of that day, would have been better told using men but instead Luke refers to women as “the house of”:

* “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.  And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us.” Acts 16:13-15

“So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.” Acts 16:40

*“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them.  So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.” Acts 18:1-3

Another important role that women had in Jesus’ day was that of a valid witness:

* The Queen of the South on judgement day will appear in court as a key witness for the prosecution- and her witness will be accepted as decisive testimony.Rabbinic judaism of the day would not have accepted her testimony, but Jesus does. “The Queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.” Mtt. 12:42

* The woman at the well in John 4: 39-40,  “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word.”

And what an honor and a glory that  women were the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection,

*“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.  But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.  Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,  saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”

And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.” Luke 24:1-12

Understand, these women and the fact that they are even mentioned as doing anything other than keeping house is monumental given the time and place, a patriarchal set up that kept women down. You can still read stuff like that on blogs and you can still hear sermons like that at patriarchal churches. But now you know better. Jesus came and raised woman up.


Being friends trumps Patriarch/Servant wife any day of the week.

“Submitting to one another in the fear of God.”


A huge thanks for Ben Witherington III for his writings on women. You can check out his credentials here.

Then buy his book on women here.

Pre MIL Sparkle

“Human beings fail the way all complex systems fail: randomly and gradually. As engineers have long recognized, simple devices typically do not age. They function reliably until a critical component fails, and the whole thing dies in and instant. A windup toy, for example, works smoothly until a gear rusts or a spring breaks, and then it doesn’t work at all.” 

In the end, what makes life worth living?

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande is about growing old, about facing terminal illness and death, you know, uplifting stuff like that. Death is not pretty but perhaps it is possible that there are priorities beyond simply prolonging life at any cost.  Gawande took the time to find out what his patient’s biggest fears and concerns were, what goals were important right now, what trade-offs the patient was willing to make, and he began to see that sometimes the imminent, the day after next, is the most important.  One woman simply wanted to be alive long enough and be well enough to attend a wedding in a few days. That meant not performing the invasive surgery; it meant instead doing the minimal to make  being at the wedding in two days a possibility.  Sometimes it is possible to make life more comfortable without necessarily doing the herculean thing.

For the elderly what kept coming up time and again was the desire for independence and freedom.  “What level of being alive is tolerable for you?” One man answered, “If I’m able to eat chocolate ice-cream and watch football on TV, then I’m willing to stay alive. I’m willing to go through a lot of pain if I have a shot at that.”

The three plagues of nursing home existence  are: boredom, loneliness, and helplessness. Nursing homes that have discovered the  benefit of bringing in cats, dogs, birds, and live plants to stimulate and motivate the residents have found residents feel fulfilled, there were stimulating reasons to get up in the morning and patients did better.

 My mother-in-law is an outlier. She is the rare older person who doesn’t desire independence nor freedom. Her greatest desire is to be cared for and to sleep. Me being on call round-the-clock was taking its toll.

At the salon my stylist, told me things; she told me that my “sparkle” was gone. And she told me she saw it leave when my mother-in-law came to live with us and I began to care for her. She used the word “sparkle” and I was flattered that I  was once “sparkly,”  shocked to realize  the “sparkle” was gone. I wanted it back.  I was stunned. It was true; I was emotionally exhausted. I was burnt out. When I told Andrew that his mother was killing my sparkle, without hesitation, we knew that I needed to quit being primary caretaker. It took ten months but I was spent.

So now she is living a short drive away in assisted living. And I tried to feel guilty about the move but they have some fun stuff there like a 50’s style soda shop where residents can go to get a root beer float. And they have an in-house hair salon. And the dining hall is set up like a restaurant; the residents can order from about 7 choices on the menu each meal. And I keep her in-room fridge stocked with yogurts and fruit for between meals. And all of that, as it turns out, makes her feel like her life is worth living.

And now my life is my own again and figuring it out will take time.



The Old Becomes New


Paintings, paintings everywhere. I did a class recently and ended up with two of the same painting so I decided to paint over one of them. In the end, it was so much fun resurrecting old canvases into new paintings that I covered up the second one too.

lurking beneath this painting is the demo

And the painting progressed.

And soon I had transformed the canvas:

And ta da! A new painting to hide the old.

And ta da! A new painting to hide the old.

Both are currently for sale.

It was so much fun I did another!

Both are currently for sale. They measure 16″ X 20″ For Pinkpeppers readers they are $95/each. At Fine Art America they are $150/each.

Here is a little peak at my art in Moscow, Idaho; it’s still up if you’d like to go buy a piece; they are mostly small works,  at Bucer’s- 201 S Main St, Moscow, ID :


“Nothing Sacred”


Small flower on black


Grapes on cloth


Acrylic Painting- Summer Art #3



Mimosa and Masterpieces in the Morning

Perhaps you’ve heard of the classes that combine wine and a painting lesson. I was asked to teach such a class but the catch was that it began at 9:30 AM and unless you want to appear questionable in your drinking habits, wine seemed over the top. So we came up with “Mimosa and Masterpieces in the Morning.”  The ladies picked the flower painting and I walked them through it; each woman picked her own choices of color using just three colors- red, blue and yellow.


With red, blue and yellow (and white and black) they mixed every color under the sun.

With red, blue and yellow (and white and black) they mixed every color under the sun.

I supplied all the painting gear and the hostess supplied the mimosa and snacks.

This was the example I painted and they went from there.

This was the example I painted and they went from there.




Wassily Kandinsky- Week #2 Summer Art

Kandinsky- one of the first purely abstract artists has an intriguing style full of tension, interplay and color. You can see a lot more of his work here. He was our muse for art week #2 this summer. I’m sure you are familiar with his circles. They would be a ton of fun to paint on a larger canvas with acrylics:


 The circles were Fox’s inspiration. And the great thing about them is the less perfect they are, the better. I wanted the the other three to work on the ideas from the more complicated designs like this:



So with various found round objects- lids, tape rolls, etc and pencils, rulers and paper, they let their imaginations take over. When the objects in their design were looking a little too much like the real thing, I had them change it a bit and make it a little more abstract. Canon’s snake looked too much like a snake so we decided the head should be a triangle instead of oblong; Anwyn’s dragon should have trianble scales not perfectly formed rounded scales; Athan’s waves also needed more angles instead of roundedness.

They ended up spending a few hours on their designs (Excpet for Fox who, after penciling in the circles, opted for Legos and Picasso Tiles.


Gyotaku- First Art Class for the Summer

Gyotaku -Japanese 魚拓, from gyo “fish” + taku “rubbing”


Bascially the art of gyotaku involves a dead fish, ink and a sheet of paper or a piece of cloth. ” Credit is given to an emperor for having an image of a large red snapper made by first adding paint and then touching paper to it. He hung the art and ate the fish!” “Gyotaku came to America in the 1950s when a Japanese fish scientist (ichthyologist) Yoshio Hiyama,(also spelled with an “n”) shared his fish rubbings with American scientists. He presented them as scientific illustrations of Japanese fish species.” Link

We used acrylic paint because it is more vibrant than watercolor and cleans up with water. We used hand made Khadi 100% rag paper from India; because it is 100% rag, it gives and allowed us to mold it to the fish without tearing.  Simply paint the fish and then carefully, without moving the paper about, press every area firmly into the paper. When you are sure you’ve got it all, lift the paper and you have a monoprint of a fish. Ours is a blue gill.

But you don’t have to wait until you go fishing- and catch a fish- to do this; you can buy a rubbery fish that can be reused. Click on any of the photos to take you to a shopping source for your own Gyotaku fish.

Just click on the photo to purchase.

Just click on the photo to purchase a maleable fish.

Before the paint dries on the fish, you need to make the rubbing.

Before the paint dries on the fish, you need to make the rubbing.
















They all painted eye details and added grass and then used a wine cork for a stamping the fishes bubbles.


 And then the final touch was a fake Japanese signature that they painted on.

Uh, Do You Want to See Our Summer So Far? Oh, Wait, It’s Not Summer Yet

Our family is all over the map this summer. Allow me to share some links, photos and video.

Jarrett just got back from successful presentation at a glass research seminar where the finest glass engineers gathered. When he got home to Penn State he had a flying fox bat in his house.Click on this link:  This is 29 seconds of hilarity.  

Stunned by a pillow case.

Stunned by a pillow case.

Next up for him is Brazil. He was invited to attend conference with all expenses paid. The trick is getting the doggone visa. It’s like the DMV on steroids to maneuver that maze. In the end he’s required to #1. fly across the country from Pennsylvania to San Francisco for a scheduled appointment… or #2.  hire an expert, hand over all your original documents, pay a fee, and hope they come through for you.  He chose door #2.

This is Aileen’s photo:

First class to Hong Kong.

First class to Hong Kong.

Oh, Aileen is in Hong Kong presenting a paper to scientists from around the world on her PhD research. And then? Oh, off to Beijing for more heady stuff. And then what?? On to Puerto Rico for yet more enlightening of the colleagues.

Meghan? Meghan really thought it would be a fun thing to sell her perfectly appointed house and buy a mid-century modern untouched treasure that she could bring up to its former retro-glory. Eric is beginning to see the potential.

Erin? Just gutting and fixing about five places at once and running a B & B which was named one of the top 5 coolest in D.C. You can check it out here. (Hers is the Capitol Hill Rowhouse)

Taite? Landed a sweet internship at a laboratory. Following in her dad’s scientific nuclear steps.

Matthias? When a kid doesn’t need to study for finals because, well, you know,  then what that guy needs is some serious hands on hard work. He’s heading back to the miles and miles of beautiful ranch land to work sunrise to sunset. Here are some shots from his last year adventure.

Hell's Canyon

Hell’s Canyon

Hell's Canyon

Hell’s Canyon

Caitlin?? Oh, just creating a NEW LIFE!! Yes! (And continuing to renovate her massive Victorian house, and keep up with the cattle on the ranch). Hurrah for grandchild #11!!!!

Andrew? Every two years the nuclear plant shuts down for a total check-over and clean-up. That means suiting up in protective gear and heading straight into near range of the beast. He lives for this.

A yellow "poop suit" goes on over everything.

A yellow “poop suit” goes on over everything.

Me? I am so excited to be a part of the Moscow ArtWalk again this year! Come to Bucer’s and say, “hello” the evening of June 12.

Small enough to be affordable!

Small enough to be affordable!



A few landscapes

A few landscapes


The Receiving End of Help

Too often we really don’t care until it touches us, our own heart, our own life. In some God-thing circuitous way, I was talking to Diane at Seattle Children’s Hospital; I don’t even know how the telephone-transfer-train delivered me to her phone because the point of my call was all about appointment details, but there she was on the other end telling me that there is help available to defray the costs at the hospital.

“Well, not for us, though,” I said, “I mean, we’re fine.”  I then  booked a hotel and began to  scout out restaurants in Seattle, slightly pitifully, trying to pretend we were heading towards a bit of a vacation when reality was, we’d  rather be at home mundanely  living  life. It kicked me in the gut like this sort of thing  does- it is way easier to be on the giving end than the receiving end of help. Way easier. I humbled myself and called Diane back. Hardship makes a person realize she isn’t the island she wishes she were.

I was, still am, overwhelmed by the generosity of people who purpose to give and make a difference in the lives of people they may never know or meet just because they care, and they can. As parents, we would sacrifice everything to provide all we can for our children. And then an angel enters your life and relieves the burden.

Two books resonate with me for honesty and simplicity, Clay, Water, Brick by Jessica Jackley and A Small Cup of Light by Ben Palpant.

Clay Water Brick is uplifting, about how sometimes lives can be changed forever with a hundred bucks. Have you been there? Do you believe that? With just a few hundred dollars, Katherine the fishmonger depended upon just $500 to substantially increase her business, Eunice Alupo needed a mere $300 to grow her used clothing business, Betty Obote needed $500 to buy cows and open a butcher shop…

By way of story, Jackley tells you how she was moved to do something, how she managed to elbow into some of the best situations and places that could give her advice about helping, how she did do something. And in the telling, you come to realize it isn’t rocket science, that you too could be that help that someone else needs. You have to care enough to go do it.

Then you get to read of Shona the Sculptor (and yes, I researched her after reading of her to see the amazing success that her company has become-  shonaquip), how her love for her own child’s wellbeing turned into help for thousands, for both employment opportunities in South Africa and help for disabled who need a better fitting posture support device.

A Small Cup of Light  is pure honesty.

I always knew it was okay to be honest with God, to tell Him where I really stand with what He’s thought to be for my best. I always knew bargaining with God was a foolish game- if you heal me, if you heal her, if you clear up this awful mess, if you make things blissful, I will work harder to serve you better.

Ben Palpant’s writing is crystal clear and it rings true because he has suffered, and come out on the other side, not necessarily the brighter side but rather the side of knowing more fully who God is, who we are, who He wants us to be. “God did not give me suffering so that I might only look beyond it to some happy vale of future delight. He gave me suffering as a gift to be held in the present moment, just as he has given me happiness as a gift of the here and now.” Because let’s just be honest, sometimes things don’t hit downward for a time and then end ‘happily ever after’ and then what? Who is your God then?

God wants for us much much more than our happiness, “He is after a sustaining joy and he will give us that joy by giving us himself, whether through the small gifts that bring us gladness or through the dark night of suffering.”

“For nearly three weeks after my mind caught fire, the dilemma that kept barking at the back door of my mind was this: A good God is fine when life is tropically blissful, but what when the hurricane comes? Where is the safe haven then? What are we to do when chaos bangs against the windows and when the roof of reliability is ripped off?”

And the hardest lesson, I think, is to realize that God doesn’t need us to work harder, be stronger, look happy no matter; He gave us suffering so that we would find “true freedom and wholeness only in the lap of God.”



Modesty Police, Halt!

So… it’s getting to be summer and you know what that mean, swimsuits! And you know what that means, the summer modesty police! Yes, you know, those posts that go up right around this time of year to tell you for the sake of the men- your sons, your brothers, your neighbor’s husbands- cover up, mind the cleavage! But here’s the problem, you can’t really head to every last beach in the entire world and demand that women cover up “for the sake of the men;” now can you? No, you can not. So, embrace the summer, give women a break; heaven knows every last woman beats herself up enough for not having the perfect body and then she  finally finds a swimsuit.

I found a really sweet piece, well, yes, a swimsuit but also a piece  written by Sarah Condon on getting over the legalism of swimsuits. She did it in such a kind way and still lets you know that, no, it really isn’t your place to put her in her place about her swimwear- or any wear. (Click on quote to read the entire post.)

I’m ready to enjoy the summers I’ve been blessed with and just shut up about swimwear. If you’ve got some rules in your head then might I suggest yelling/praying them away in a Kohl’s department store. Run from the rules. Tell them to go sit on a tack. Better yet, lay them at the feet of Jesus. I promise he’ll give you something more interesting and life-giving to think about.

May we all be given the grace to pick out something that just makes us feel nice (for me, that means polka dots), and jump off the diving board. Happy Summer, everyone.


Imagine modesty policing every last person here!



Glamorous Camping?

Andrew was working 12 hour shifts all weekend and Matthias was sick; so Taite and I abandoned them for Mother’s Day weekend.

If you have not heard of “Glamping” it is “glamorous camping.” Oh, no, Taite and I didn’t do that but Caitlin’s in-laws have the most amazing glamping location you could ever dream up. Set on the edge of Hell’s Canyon you can rent a teepee and wake up to the awe. They also have 2 indoor places to rent, but now, that wouldn’t really be glamping now would it? We took a little trip from Caitlin and Zac’s up to see the set up going on for the upcoming season. Zac and his brother, Jordan were putting up the teepees.

After a little picnic, Caitlin, Taite, Jude and I headed back to town with frequent stops to hunt for morels. Success was small- just six. Jude promised to hold on to them and even when he fell asleep, he did not release his grip.



Caitlin inside the very roomy teepee. They come with futons so you can sleep in luxury.


Occasionally they have performances out here under the majesty. This day we used it for a picnic spot.

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Branding at HiLo Ranch

So in between tearing out carpet and scraping wallpaper glue, we also have a ranch to run.

My husband and I started cattle ranching just over a year ago and it’s been an adventure of a lifetime. We run our 200 head in a very rough part of the country, Imnaha Canyon, and do it all the old fashioned way. Rarely do you hear the buzz of a four wheeler on our canyon walls- it’s all horse back riding and lasso roping, and dog chasing, when it’s time to move our heard. As I trailed behind the new mothers and their adorable offspring of wet-nosed black-hide babies, I can’t believe I am here. It’s always that way. How did I, never-even-own-anything-more-than-a-cat-afraid-of-horses Caitlin come to be sitting on the back of my own brown quarter horse (named “Merl”), yipping and yelling to a whole herd of bovine as we slowing move past the Imnaha tavern and turn the corner to the branding location. I still don’t know. But I love those moments. And I love that God saw fit to show me how one of my favorite things in the world would be moving cattle on horseback.

Branding is an event. It means neighbors, family and friends gather to generously give their time and talents for a day in exchange for a good meal and a day of fun, hard work. It means all those beautiful little calves are vaccinated, protected against worms and pests, and branded and ear tagged as part of the heard. It means home made chili- lime and cilantro and cheese on top,  corn bread and Danny’s biscuits, laughing kids, and playful dogs, and inevitably a few bruises and soar muscles. And so, take a look a our first branding at HiLo Ranch:















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We got rained out on Saturday, so everyone showed extra dedication in showing up for a second day of calf tossing. Thankfully, I had tripled my Aunt Doris’s chili recipe, my brother-in-law’s father’s famous biscuits were gone so I and whipped up a double batch of my favorite cornbread the next day, and had enough to feed the crew again. Everyone ‘s compliments confirmed my opinion: Best chili recipe ever, just don’t go easy on the bacon. Go ahead and double it if you want.







After two days of being camp cook, giving vaccines, making sure children don’t get kicked by an animal or just ride off into the sunset on one (Freyja would!), setting up, cleaning up, washing up, and then being photographer in the minutes in between, I was tired. I haven’t been that tired in a while. But what a beautiful sight, when it was just  Zac, my father in law, and I at the very end of the day, watching that last little cow-calf pair climb the hill to fresh grass. Sun setting,  our work done, animals cared for and happy, we could rest well that night.

A Good Wife Always Knows Her Place

Available June 30th

Available June 30th

“When you live overseas, it becomes easy to mythologize your native life: all the things you imagine you’d be doing if you weren’t an expat in a foreign land, all the ways you could be thriving.” Tracy Slater, although not exactly qualified, agreed to travel to Kobe to teach Korean and Japanese executives English and the intricacies of American business. After a few days of being these men’s teacher she is asked, “Could you… talk more… quietly? Perhaps? Show less confidence? You know. Be more shy. Like women are supposed to. Like the students are used to.”

She falls in love with Toru, though he can barely speak English and she speaks no Japanese, and she has to decide if she can live in Japan, become, as her marriage certificate labels her, a shufu- a housewife.

The Good Shufu, is Tracy Slater’s real life story. It is very well written, the nuances of the cultures are clear in her eyes because as she travels back and forth between Boston and Osaka, she sees over and over again with new eyes the differing cultures. She has left her teaching job as a college professor; she has left her teaching job to inmates; she has left her newly formed group; Four Stories, she has left her home of forever, Boston. And she wonders if it is worth the sacrifice to become a good shufu.

And then a rabbit trail led me to this little gem of an article from Housekeeping Monthly May 13, 1955.  60 years ago, this is the advice you could read for wives in the USA. (Actually I could refer you to a current day book that offers this same advice but, well)  If you can’t read the fine print, allow me:


*Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

*Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

*Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

*Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.

*Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper etc and then run a dust cloth over the tables.

*Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

*Prepare the children. take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimise all noise. At the time of his arrival eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.

*Be happy to see him.

*Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

*Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first- remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

*Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.

*Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

*Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

*Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

*Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

*Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing, pleasant voice.

*Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

*A good wife always knows her place.

My Secret Life with Emu Oil

Don't you be extracting my oils!

Don’t you be extracting my oils!

Emus give off oil?! And where? I wondered. I mean, do they secrete it from some awful and obscure gland? Emu Oil, for dry skin?  I had to do a little research. And then I discovered that, “Unadulterated emu oil can vary widely in color and viscosity anywhere from an off-white creamy texture to a thin yellow liquid, depending on the diet of the emu.”  And, “Emu oil is oil derived from adipose tissue harvested from certain subspecies of the emu.” Add to that,  my sample was a little on the cringe-like yellow end of the spectrum. Be sure to shake well before use and then slather all over your body!

Some might not know that I have a secret on-line life of reviewing stuff for Amazon, gobs of stuff, so much stuff that I haul some of it to Goodwill. The most often asked question is,  “How do you get people to send you gobs of free stuff?”

I don’t; they kindly request me. About a year ago I quit ingesting stuff for review; those requests get deleted now because seriously, how many fish oil pills, Coq10, muscle milk, organic all natural vitamins, protein powder would you be willing to consume? Okay, I take that back, I just forced bacon/cheese spaghetti sauce on my family. Oh, and freeze dried apple slices (they were surprisingly good.) And chocolate biscuit sticks (very tasty.) So, okay, just nothing overtly healthy. The other thing I simply delete are the countless self-published books with awful cartoonish cover art. I am certain that you can judge a book by its cover.

The other question I am asked is, “What is the best item you’ve ever been sent?” I don’t think I have a best, well, maybe it has been the little two seat mustard yellow Mustang, but besides that I am glad to have been introduced to quite a few things that I would never have thought to buy on my own.

For starters, here are the  best toiletries:

If you are in the market for make-up brushes, these are a great deal. Twenty at a great price. Okay, I may have taken them up to my painting studio and used them for painting too.

You want just one big monster brush? This is it. Check out the review.

Perfume. My all time favorites are Chanel #5, First, and Opium and I figured three signatures was enough, but I’ve added Obsession to the line-up. It is a sophisticated powdery with a touch of vanilla,  mandarin and  bergamot.

Dry skin and want to feel really pampered? Well for heaven’s sake, don’t make it Emu oil. Try L’Occitane Shea Ultra Rich Comforting Cream

And good old organic coconut oil, which seriously, when it’s 100% organic coconut oil, why does the jar say, “Do not ingest?” Oh, and, “Do not use on chickens or animals.”

For the face, I have liked this Vitamin C serum. I am especially happy that it is made in the USA because things we ingest and things we smear on our skin should be extra safe; I don’t trust China for that.

But my ultimate top-of-the-line favorite is L’Occitane Immortelle Divine Cream. I liked it so well that I was reluctant to throw out the empty jar hoping to get one more little dab from it.

Jouer makes a nice moisture tint. I am really happy that it is SPF 20 especially be very light-skinned and coming late to the idea that I should protect it.

A suspicious sort of product that I’ve tested a few times is Micellar Water.  A little research on this makes me think it’s the new snake oil elixir- buy it and believe!

Most amazing mouth wash in the world? This stuff is it, it’s not the minty covering your sins sort of stuff this actually works so well that you wake up without “morning breath.” True.

And while you’re at it, if you want a toothbrush that doesn’t cost a hundred bucks and sits boldly all over your bathroom counter, if you want a cleaner, sleek look in your bathroom AND a toothbrush that works, this one will do the trick. Also made by Sonicare, this one takes AA batteries.

If you have not yet discovered Moroccan Argan Oil for hair, you should. It is made of Moroccan argan oil, macadamia oil, shea oil, jojoba oil.  A little dab’ll do ya so it will last a long time and make your hair feel softer, less dried out.

My favorite shampoo and conditioner for testing has been Fekkai. It is formulated to be kind to color treated hair.