Embracing Creativity, Uncategorized

Unique gifts for Christmas (or whatever you celebrate)!

If you’re like me, buying gifts can be great or torturous. Great if it’s for my mum — she likes everything from earrings to bath salts to wacky dishtowels. Torturous if it’s for my husband — he likes expensive watches that I can’t afford! So, I decided to put together a list of unconventional gift ideas. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!

For parents of young children

  • membership to the local children’s museum, zoo, or science center (check to see if they have reciprocal agreements, where one membership can get you in for free or half price to other museums)
  • yoga classes to exercise and de-stress!
  • for new dads, a subscription to The Rad Dad Box (started about two years ago by my friend Michelle and her husband after they had a baby) RadDad
  • specialty magazine subscription about something they love but wouldn’t spend money on (exotic cars, cottage living, teapot collecting, dollhouse furniture, miniature railroads, model planes, book reviews…)

For all grown-ups

  • creative writing lessons (a very good online course for beginners is www.writingclasses.co.uk)  ourdogbluexmaswhite2017jpg
  • membership to a local museum, especially if membership includes free tickets to events at the museum (such as movies, music shows, and special exhibitions)
  • beer or wine or spirits made locally
  • concert tickets for a group they love but haven’t seen for years (one year, I got my dad tickets to The Moody Blues, one of his all-time favorite groups)
  • car wash/detailing coupons (okay, kind of boring, but my husband likes this)
  • gifts from stores that support good causes, such as Kiva’s store, Ten Thousand Villages, and more listed on this site
  • something handmade and unique on etsy.com

For kids

  • a tent for camping in the back yard or in the living room (I’ve heard that Ace Hardware has affordable, easy-to-put-up ones!)
  • magazine subscription (some good ones are Ranger Rick, Highlights, Muse, OWL, Dig, chickaDee, and Upfront)
  • subscription to pixton.com, where they can make their own comic strips

Gift suggestions from my kids  Barbie with hand-made clothes

  • unlimited amounts of toys and candy
  • a toy train
  • a “secret box with a password to get in”
  • a “kit to make Barbie doll clothes”
  • kits to make monster trucks and race cars
  • a science kit “to make potions” and “experiments” and volcanos
  • a pretend dentist kit for kids “to fix someone’s teeth”
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Embracing Creativity, Uncategorized

Showdown at the Mountain Retreat

I had the opportunity to participate in a “Barbie Project Runway” challenge recently! I recommend it to adults and children alike as a great way to incorporate design, engineering, and sewing skills into your creative practice. Plus, it’s fun!

studiotempera

 

Preparations for the BRBs Runway Barbie Challenge

There were lots of trials before the showdown…and having Fiona as a competitor meant we had to censor Barbie’s attire to have a PG rating.

looking stylish!

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 Showdown!

DSCN0003 Raspberry Sorbet Barbie-layers of fabrics, patterns, flowers and topped with a pink sock hat-well done Fiona!

DSCN0002 Barbie on the bar-bee -Aussie Barbie sizzles in a saucy hat and cowboy boots getting ready to barbecue

Hail to the SHE Hail to the SHE- the first presidential Barbie dressed for her inaugural ball: this gal has a whole wardrobe ready for every occassion

DSCN0001 Tina-Sheena Barbie channeling the 80’s with highlights , tie dye top and animal print skirt..GRRRR!

DSCN0018 These boots for made for walking!Party Rock Barbie is in the building

DSCN0007 ‘Summer fun’ Barbie- classic and classy style but somehow has lost her shoes and is unable to stand up unaided

DSCN0006 Bo Ho Moma in psychedelic leggings and graphic print sock top with an unfortunate hand salute

DSCN0005 Blossom Barbie-better known as exhibitionist…

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Embracing Creativity, Travels

Freedom on Freemont Street

A couple of weeks ago I visited Las Vegas with my husband. It was my third or fourth trip, and I always approach the city with mixed feelings. On the one hand, you can’t beat the place for glitzy distraction — who can feel anxious or annoyed when watching strings of water shoot through the air in time to “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” at the fountain in front of the Bellagio Hotel? Who can’t feel a certain weird admiration at the giant slot machine on Freemont Street and its attached zip lines high above where people fly through the air like super heroes?

IMG_7745On the other hand, the discrepancy between the ridiculous wealth on “The Strip” and the bone-crushing poverty in other areas of the city, such as the streets surrounding Freemont (the “old” strip) is pretty hard to take. While tourists dine at the all-you-can-eat lobster buffet at Caesar’s Palace, Vietnam Veterans make roses out of palm leafs to sell for around $2. I felt really depressed as we drove down one downtown street, where abandoned motels stood gated and decrepit, their windows boarded with ply wood or painted black. Every now and then someone pushing a shopping cart full of clothes and blankets would appear at an intersection, waiting to cross the street. “You get the feeling that people really struggle in Vegas,” said my husband.

But when I visited Container Park, which is just down the road from Freemont, I felt a little bit more hopefull. Created from repurposed shipping containers and locally-made “Xtreme Cubes,” the shopping center is only about two years old. I went into “Art Box,” a store selling creations by local artists, and bought a Dr. Who-inspired necklace for my mum made by the owner’s wife (Kellie Kroplinski).

Outside Container Park is a metal heart covered with locks (likely inspired by the Paris bridge) by artist Nova May.

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And in front of Container Park is a giant praying mantis that can shoot fire:

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And in the surrounding streets, I discovered a bunch of really interesting murals. I haven’t been able to find out much about who painted them or why, but I believe they are part of the Las Vegas Centennial celebration of 2005, which invited public and private businesses to host murals throughout the city. Here are a few of my favorites…

Las Vegas mural     Las Vegas mural

Las Vegas mural     Las Vegas mural

These murals and Container Park really saved Vegas for me, adding another layer to an otherwise pretty obvious city. If Las Vegas can create art as beautiful and wacky as the murals and a place as unique as Art Box, it must have something pretty special going for it!

Embracing Creativity, Fiction

A short-short with no name!

I found this story scribbled on two sheets of paper while I was going through old notebooks, etc… I think it pretty clearly shows my state of mind during my graduate school creative writing classes! Not sure what to call it — any suggestions welcome!

All day, I couldn’t get the image of someone chopping down a tree out of my head. I was sitting at Servio’s Pizza with Mack, scribbling in my notebook while he lectured me on the proper way to write a cover letter. He thought I was taking notes; I was drawing a picture of Professor Wheeler wielding an axe, his sleeves rolled up past his elbows.

Tree split in two

“Are you listening?” Mack cocked his ear toward the door “That’s the sound of your career options floating out the window.”

“Oh, whatever.” I closed my notebook. “I’m going to be late for class. Better go face the music.”

Mack’s lips were pinched together. He patted my arm. “Good luck.”

“Thanks.”

Professor Wheeler sat in the square desk at the front of the room, while the rest of us faced him in a horseshoe formation. Faces were blank. My story was up.

“Harhum! Who wants to start?” Wheeler let his straight eye roam over each of us in turn, his wobbly eye rolling up toward the ceiling, as though trying to escape out of the socket. When he got to me, I looked down at my desk.

Lucretia raised her hand. She was a freshman with two jet-black braids that she purposely wore at each side of her head. At the end of each braid was a purple bow. She liked to wear black shiny shoes with little straps across the ankles.

Wheeler waited a few moments, letting his eye shift around the room before finally settling on Lucretia.

“Yes?” He never said her name unless he had to.

“I liked Janice’s story, her use of the strong male protagonist. I thought he was very believable in his weakness, his fears about writing. He was just like one of us.” She swept her arm around the room. “He wasn’t snobby or pretentious when it really came down to it. It was all an act.”

She stopped and looked at the manuscript on her desk. Wheeler waited. I clenched my hands in my lap.

“I disagree.” It was Benny; he always sat on the left side of the room, always wrote with a red pencil, sometimes combed his thick hair while others spoke.

“I didn’t like the narrator. I thought he was arrogant and overbearing.”

I bit my lip. Slowly, I raised my eyes to Wheeler. His cheeks were pink under the spokes of hair on his chin, and he was staring at Benny. Benny shrugged and began combing his hair.

Wheeler put both his hands flat on the desk, big pink fingers like rolls of unbaked dough. He looked at me suddenly, and I lowered my eyes quickly, studying the cartoon I’d scribbled at lunch.

Wheeler was smiling as he chopped down the tree, a big willow with graceful drooping branches that dripped around his shoulders and head. I’d drawn beads of sweat popping out of his forehead, surrounding his face like little flies.

“Well, come on. What does everyone else have to say about the story?”

Beatrice, an Ecuador woman with a kind smile, stared out of the window. Mike, a sports fanatic who wore his soccer cleats to class, sat looking straight ahead, a fake smile etched in place. I held my breath and prayed that I would suddenly wake up and find myself in bed in my small apartment. What had I been thinking, writing a story like that?

“I suppose I could add something to the conversation,” Wheeler said, cracking his knuckles. He rested his chin on his hand and tilted his head at me.

“A very unusual approach, Janice. I don’t think I’ve ever had a student do this before.”

I sucked in my breath, looking straight at him. In my drawing, my arms and limbs stretched into the sky, reaching out to the air as he crashed through me, toppling me over into the rough, dry grass.

“I applaud your honesty, your attention to detail.”

I blinked.

“Finally, you’re writing about what you know.” He tapped his forehead. “You’ve stopped writing clichés, plastic, polystyrene. Now you’re playing with fire. Now you have the power to inspire.” He stood up. “And to hurt.”

I covered my mouth with my hands as he walked out of the room.