Taking the Leap
Sketching ideas for the February Calendar of Days . . . lettering experiment (all I can see is the x created where the a and p intersect, that won't do), 29 days, 12 months . . . and a rabbit inspired by a collection of picture books I'm reading.
Seed Swap a Sweet Reminder
The ground is frozen and snow covered here in Maine and today is Seed Swap Day. It’s a reminder that the lush green landscape will return, the flowers will blossom and once again we can till the earth.
These flowers are from the summer garden, imagine.
This is a Calendar of Days post.
A Puzzle of Quilt Patterns
Ever since listening to The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, I’ve been drawn to quilts and quilt patterns. I’m not interested in sewing quilts, just the patterns. Not floral patterns, but geometric patterns. To satisfy my interest, I’ve borrowed lots of books from the library, and my favorite to date is the first one I selected: The Quilts of Gee’s Bend
The book chronicles the work of a community of African-American women in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and their more than two-hundred year tradition of quilt making. It was the first quilting book I looked at after finishing The Invention of Wings and it inspired the drawing below.
When I pulled the image above from the archives for today’s post (Puzzle Day), I considered using it to represent the concept in two ways:
1) The arrangement. It was a bit of a puzzle to position the utensils as they are, and
2) Putting together a collection can be puzzling, what belongs, what doesn’t?
This is a Calendar of Days post: National Puzzle Day
Finding the Light
January is nearly over, and there are subtle changes; it was nearly 5:00 yesterday afternoon when I noticed the light. The days are getting longer. I'm glad about that.
When talk of the weather comes up, I often say that I don't mind the cold of winter. Not usually. Though I'm no fan of a cold dreary day; the cold seeps in and seems to bother everyone when it's dreary outside. But when the sun shines, it takes away some of the chill. A lot of the chill.
Morning walks are my favorite. The air is fresh, there's a quiet only morning knows, and it gives me a chance to experience the seasons, each offering its own blend of sights and sounds.
Last week, just after coming inside from a bitterly cold morning walk, the phone rang. It was my brother down in Nashville. We talked about how cold it was—down there and up here. I mentioned my walk, and told him I noticed the birds were singing. I was surprised to hear the birds singing on such a cold January morning.
"They knew you were coming," he said.
It makes me smile every time I think of it and each time I talk about it. And I think he's right. Nature greets us when we take the time to see and hear what it has to offer.
Click on the image above to download and print the birds . . . it's a coloring page.
Bursting With Flavor
Or, Where's Your Sense of Adventure?
Guest Post by Lisa Parker, Cakes for All Seasons
It makes me sad when a bride contacts me to order a wedding cake and says she wants a white cake with white frosting. “Where’s your sense of adventure?” I want to ask her.
My favorite kind of cake to bake, fill, frost, and decorate is chocolate. It’s rich, moist, and delicious and goes with so many other flavors. What’s your favorite flavor to mix with chocolate?
There’s vanilla, of course, and coffee. What about nuts? Hazelnut, almond, pecan and walnut are all good. Do you like fruit with your chocolate? Raspberry is excellent, orange is good. Some people add chilis to their chocolate, think Mexican hot chocolate and those lovely gourmet chocolate bars with a kick. I’m partial to coconut with my chocolate . . . well, I like coconut with anything.
But have your ever tried root beer with chocolate?
I never had until I received a marvelous cookbook from my daughter for Christmas a few years ago, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. It holds a special place on my bookshelf. Their recipe for Root Beer Bundt Cake with Root Beer Fudge Frosting is a favorite around here.
I have fond memories of going to the A&W drive-in when I was a kid and for purely nostalgic reasons I use A&W root beer in their recipe (along with the schnapps!). I bet one of those new local, artisanal root beers would be marvelous, too.
This is a Calendar of Days post - today is Chocolate Cake Day!
A Project to Remember
It’s hard to say when or how we might be moved by something.
For Robert McKibben, it was Serge Klarsfeld’s book, French Children of the Holocaust. Klarsfeld’s book is a tribute to the children of World War II, more than 11,400 children, who were deported and sent to Auschwitz. Children who were lost to war, but remembered in photographs, letters, and documents.
When McKibben came across the book, “It moved me,” he said, “and I wanted to do something in response.” His response? More than 100 portraits of the children, each one juxtaposed with a number from the convoys that transported them from France to Germany.
Though McKibben admits it wasn’t an easy project, “It’s the work I am most proud of,” he says.
I discovered McKibben seated behind the counter at Carlson & Turner Books. We talked about books and art. A former teacher, McKibben is an artist and writer who as he says, has “a long engagement with reading—fiction, poetry, philosophy, and popular science.”
It was during our discussion that McKibben revealed his project. Leading me to a second-floor stairway, he waved one arm to the left and then to the right bringing my attention to the portraits that lined the walls. Hung side by side, stacked one above the other, the charcoal and chalk portraits, like Klarsfeld’s book, are a reminder. A reminder of the unaccountable tragedy of discrimination, hate, and fear. But they are also a reminder that compassion and courage exist—in our neighbors, our historians, our writers, and our artists.
Urging us to think, and to remember the children of France.
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Thank you to Robert McKibben for sharing his work.
Oh, I love mail, and I've had my eye on this gem for a while. It's the Letter Writers Alliance Pigeon Post, and it comes with everything needed to mail it. Yep, you can mail the pigeon (no box necessary)—fits into the blue mail box on the corner. I'm so excited I may send it to myself and then to someone else when it comes back. I'll keep you posted!
Are you a writer? Be a good one.
Don't Write, Read!
Don’t write, read . . . about how to write. While it’s true that practice makes perfect, practice alone won’t make your writing better.
These books are three of my favorites.
When I started writing my book Postmark, A Guide to Writing More Letters, Cards, and Notes, I re-read these books as I wrote. Just a chapter a day. As I read and wrote, I became more aware of structure, word choices, punctuation, tense, and rhythm.
Writing is a lot of rewriting. Tedious? Sometimes. But without it, readers will get confused and they won’t stay.
One way I like to practice writing is by writing letters. I start with a piece of scrap paper and draft my letter— scribbles, arrows, crossed-out words and sentences fill the sheet (it would be a terrible waste of stationery otherwise). When I’m ready to rewrite on better paper, stationery, or inside a blank card, I’m more confident that my writing is solid, easier to read, and more interesting.
Sure, write a letter to your mum and she’ll probably read every word. But if you’re writing a blog or a book, sloppy writing makes a poor impression. Make it the best it can be. Hone your skill by reading and studying the work of great writers, read books about how to write, then write, and rewrite.
Athletes have coaches and actors are guided by directors, why not you? Take a course, join a writing group, find an editor, or grab a how-to book at the library. It will make you a better writer.
If you're going to be a writer, be a good one.
What are you writing? How do you edit and review your work? How do you hone your skills? Got a tip? Share it with us, we want to know!
This is a Calendar of Days post - today is Opposite Day.