The half-eaten frosted Pop-Tart with sprinkles sat on a napkin on the cashier's stool.
I was second in line at the fish market and when I stepped forward, the Pop-Tart popped into my line of sight.
It was undeniable ... the shape, the color, the size ... it was a Pop-Tart.
"It's been a long time since I've had a Pop-Tart," I said to the cashier.
"Me too," she said. "It was gifted to me by a friend."
We both laughed.
"Is it from a bakery?" I asked.
"No, it's real," she said.
And we laughed again.
I asked if it was real because there are bakeries that recreate nostalgic favorites ... like the Ring Ding A Ling at one of my favorite local bakeries. Ring Dings were a rare, favorite treat when I was a kid ... especially when they were wrapped in foil.
Tomorrow is Comfort Food Day and while a Pop-Tart might not be my first choice ... and guessing from the cashier's laughter, unlikely to be hers either, we both enjoyed the nostalgia it generated.
What are your comfort food favorites?
Seems I've got a hankering for a Ring Ding ... foil or no foil.
It was on the menu ... the adult menu, not the children's menu.
And I wanted it.
French toast with a schmear of peanut butter, topped with sliced bananas, maple syrup, and whipped cream.
It was what I wanted, but it seemed so decadent, childish even, for a young woman having brunch with her new in-laws to order something like that.
An omelet, or even pancakes it seemed, would make a better impression, be more mature. But the omelets, the pancakes, the over-easy eggs, even the crispy home fries couldn't hold my attention.
So I ordered it.
French toast with a schmear of peanut butter, topped with sliced bananas, maple syrup, and whipped cream.
It was delicious.
A layered sugar bomb sweetened with my father-in-law's delight ... at the thought of it when I placed my order, and the sight of it when it came to the table.
I sometimes wonder if he, too, wanted to order the French toast with a schmear of peanut butter, topped with sliced bananas, maple syrup, and whipped cream, decided not to ... but was pleased someone else did.
Glad it was me.
Tomorrow is National French Toast Day ... how do you like yours?
We once went apple picking and needed a map to find the place. Days later, I drew a simple one, this is how it started.
Maps (and geography) came up again this week with the question of where one state was situated within the United States.
We weren't sure.
So the challenge was presented ... how many states on a blank map of the United States could you place? We challenged one another.
I was certain I'd get most of them. He wasn't convinced he (nor I could place them).
Turns out he was right.
Living in the Northeast, I was able to identify all the states around Maine ... and along the east coast and west coast.
A few others like, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Idaho I got because I remembered them by their unique shape. Buy Idaho potatoes and chances are, there's an image of the state on the bag. Same here in Maine.
It was in the middle of the country where things got muddled.
It's Geography Awareness Week ... so how do you think you'd do identifying each state?
I created a printable blank map you can download. It's a two-page PDF ... page one has all the states, but is blank, page two identifies each state. Try not to look at that until you've tried filling in the blanks.
And if you need help, engage someone and start a conversation ... after all, it's Better Conversation Week. Or, send a map to a friend and challenge them, too.
In the spirit of National Game and Puzzle Week, use the map to create other challenges ... identify all the states you've lived in or traveled through, or see if you can list the capitol of each ... or quote the state slogan, or identify the state flower or bird.
Years ago I landed a job to design a button and produce 150 copies. I can't remember what the buttons were for or what they said, but when I did my research, purchasing a hand-press button machine (with 1,000 blanks) wasn't much more expensive than ordering custom buttons from a vendor.
I thought ... wow, I can make my own buttons.
What's the saying ... the more you buy the more you save? Hmmm.
The top button, Girls Rule! is my favorite. It was from a button-making afternoon with some tweens ... a gift from one of the participants.
The vote buttons are from a set of four that represent amendments to the Constitution related to voting. I created and gave them away before the 2008 election ... and still hear from people on election day saying they wore their button to the polls. Well done.
The small buttons are ones I've purchased, found, or picked up in giveaways.
All part of a collection.
Thursday is National Button Day ... not so much for button pins, but buttons for clothes.
And there's a collection of those, too.
It's a utilitarian thing ... can't throw away a perfectly good button even if I'm not sure when, or if, I'll ever use it.
Occasionally I dump the button jar to see what's in there and spot the yellow sunburst buttons I cut from the wrap skirt I wore that summer after high school.
And the metal buttons with the embossed swirls I cut from the wool sweater I wore until the elbows had holes and the yarn unraveled from the cuffs.
Maybe that's why we collect things.
It's like collecting memories.
It's Daylight Saving Time today ... and I'm reminded of my night in the house of clocks ...
When the cuckoo chimes
I once spent the night in a house that had a cuckoo clock and a grandfather clock ... and I didn't sleep a wink.
The cuckoo clock chirped every hour on the hour, and again every half hour.
The grandfather clock was set to strike four times an hour:
- every hour on the hour
- at a quarter past the hour
- at the half hour
- and once again at a quarter to the hour
I tossed and turned all night.
My mind reeling not so much from the different chimes, but from my inability to fix a pattern to the sounds of the cuckoo clock and the grandfather clock ... I didn’t know a grandfather clock sounds four(!) times an hour.
On one of our more recent walks, we scuffed through a walkway littered with pine cones. The kind of pine cones that hang from a cuckoo clock and make it tick.
My grandparents had a cuckoo clock with pine cone weights, and that cuckoo clock where I spent the night had them, too.
I’d always seen the weights and the clocks as one.
But when I saw so many pine cones scattered across the walkway, I saw them as the cuckoo-clock maker must have seen them, inspiration for the weights and keeping time.
If you like the cuckoo clock bird collage, grab the Hello Chickadee! printable stationery set. It includes the cuckoo clock image, a chickadee, and feathers, too.
When I decided to do a post about crows, I realized there were myths and stereotypes about crows I didn't understand.
I wondered ... Why do crows have such a bad rap?
Did the sight of my cut-out crow in the bush give you the shivers?
Is it because they're big and black and fly in large, boisterous groups.
Maybe it's the call of the crow.
When I made cut-out crow silhouettes for Halloween decorations I decided to do the research. Why are they symbols of this ghoulish holiday?
For one thing, they're scavengers. They eat dead things. Yes, that's creepy.
And the silhouette ... a crow in cemetery on a gravestone.
But really, they go to the cemetery to perch in the tall trees, and feed on insects where the grass is mowed ... easy pickings.
And bad optics ... gravestones and silhouettes.
Or maybe it's because they remember faces.
Oh, yes, do something nasty to a crow and it will remember you ... and tell its friends. No hiding from a crow.
So that's the rap. But it's not the whole story.
Sure, they'll hold a grudge if they are treated poorly, but likewise ... do something nice for a crow and it will remember that. But beware, I'm not sure a good deed will cancel the bad ... they remember.
They help one another, travel in family flocks, are loyal partners, and use tools like sticks to get things done.
Crows are smart. Really smart.
The question is ... are we smart enough to push aside the myth and bad optics to see them for what they are ... big beautiful birds.
The request is always the same. Birthday pie, not cake. And this year, apple pie. If I had to choose, I'd probably go with mincemeat (the dried fruit version).
I might choose mincemeat as my pie of choice to eat, but when it's comes to making pie ... blueberry, pumpkin, mincemeat, cherry, or key lime, it's the apple that gets my attention.
It's the one overflowing with ingredients that can't be measured.
The one that makes me think of my mum peeling ribbons of peel with each apple. And my grandmother ... whose voice neared a whisper when she told me she used only half the white sugar measure, instead balancing it with half brown sugar, despite what the recipe called for.
And when I make the crust I think of my friend who is a baker. She adds a splash a vinegar. And another, who shared her mother's recipe that includes an egg.
I'd never added an egg to my pie crust. Yesterday I decided to give it a try.
What a pie! It's delicious. My best ever, I think.
The crust is flaky and tender and the filling as sweet as ever. It's the perfect blend of ingredients ... some that can be measured and so many others that can't.
Recipes we love, remember, and share offer endless story ideas.
Share your experiences with traditional foods, comfort foods, that recipe your friend won't share, or that recipe fail ... we all have them.
Share your stories in a narrative poem, short essay, or a chapter in that book you want to write.
But before you go, how do you like your apple pie ... with a side of vanilla ice cream, or maybe like "M", with a few slices of sharp cheddar?
A picture book memoir of Agatha, nose-to-the-ground, scent sniffing basset hound who loved to walk ... and stop and sniff.
A beautifully illustrated book for dog-lovers of all ages.
"... We love everything about it. Dogs, nature, and phenomenally innovative art! Well done."
When things appear to be stacked against you, think again
Since the death this week of actor Angela Lansbury, there have been tributes, articles, and stories about her life. Not surprising, given her decades-long career that touched generations of loyal fans.
She was an award-winning movie, television, and theater actor, as well as the voice of Mrs. Potts, the talking tea pot in the animated film, "Beauty and the Beast."
In reading and listening to the tributes, I was struck at how often her looks were mentioned. ... by her and others.
One article stated, "She may have lacked the classic good looks and voice of her era, but ...."
And another quoted Lansbury: "I wasn't very good at being a starlet," she said. "I didn't want to pose for cheesecake photos and that kind of thing."
Works for me, I don't like cheesecake.
And evidently, it worked for her.
By all accounts she was a successful and respected actor. But she was also passed over for roles and awards she hoped to win.
But she didn't give up.
It can be so easy to judge ourselves against the expectations of others. What's beautiful, who's pretty. Who has won awards, who hasn't.
And to think or worry that it matters.
It's hard to know how Lansbury really felt about her looks and how she was judged. But in the end, as she said, "I was a primarily an actress and not a pretty face."
She was an actor who wanted to act.
And she did that by taking roles that came her way. By doing the work. Because you never know where it might lead ... and because it may, as Lansbury said, "turn out to be the thing that will lead you to the role which is sublime."
I found all the commentary about Lansbury's looks discouraging. But now I see that in her willingness to talk about her looks and how she was perceived, she taught us something.
Whether you yearn to act, paint, write, cook, sew, sing, hike, run, or swim, focus on doing just that.
Ignore the naysayers ... and the looks and success of others.
Do the thing you want to do ... it's the best way to get to where you want to be.
Meet Agatha ... otherwise known as Ag, Aggie, Agatha Goop 'n Slime, and my favorite, Thunderella, because ... let's just say she was never light on her feet.
Do you have a dog?
Does going for a walk sometimes feel like a chore?
That's how I felt sometimes ... especially when it came to walking a nose-to-the-ground, scent-sniffing basset hound. Agatha liked to walk, but more than that, she liked to sniff and smell ... ALL the smells.
And more often than not, it meant we did a whole lot of stopping and not a lot of walking.
It was frustrating ... until I started looking around and discovered all there was to see. It changed everything.
And that's why I wrote, Things I Notice When I Walk the Dog, available this Friday, October 7.
It's a picture book ... dedicated to Agatha, to dogs, walking, and nature.
A book for dog owners, people who like to walk (with or without a dog), and children and adults alike who whine and whimper when it's time to walk the dog.
Things I Notice When I Walk the Dog is a delightful picture book filled with inspiration and insight. Throughout the book, there are more than 25 things to notice ... how many will you spot?
And how many things will you notice the next time you go for a walk?
Sign-up for the Waystation Whistle newsletter and get an email when the book is available to order.
It's easy to forget how
much the light
how brisk the
greens and wax
beans get squashed
in the mashing of
buttercup, butternut ...
and blue hubbard, too
how apples and
pumpkins now vie
for the pie
and a warm bowl of
soup makes me slurp,
sip, and sigh
If you're struggling to write, try a short narrative poem like the one above. Short lines with lots of detail can help you put your thoughts into words.
Focus on word choice, and for fun, throw in some rhymes. If you're stuck, grab a thesaurus or a rhyming dictionary and see what comes up.
I'd been down that path before. It's a short trail through the woods that loops out to a field and back again.
Just weeks ago, the trail was upgraded and I found myself looking at the ground as we walked:
- at the downed tree branches repurposed as edging
- the new wooden bridge that carried us over that always-muddy section of the trail
- at the (so many) mushrooms that blossomed after the rain
- and the changing foliage ... reminding me autumn is a cool couple of weeks away
It was entirely captivating until the trail took a turn.
A hard left in the middle of nowhere
When we rounded the corner, I glanced back over my shoulder. I'd been down this path before, but I didn't remember such an abrupt turn.
But it was there, clear as could be when I looked back.
And then I saw the sun ... casting light high upon the tree trunks. And farther on, the mist ... hovering over the field.
Was I missing the forest ... for the mushrooms?
While I was focused on the trail I discovered the mushrooms, signs of autumn in the leaves, and a squirrel sprinting across the path.
But when I looked up, I saw which direction the trail was headed, the light streaming through the trees, and the early morning mist.
And all of a sudden, I wasn't sure where to look, afraid I might miss something.
And it made me think the next edition of Tinplate: Birds & Birding.
The day before I was doubting everything about it. Wondering if I should toss it out and start over. Or forget the whole thing. I was deep in detail ... ruminating over homing pigeons, plumage, and migration. All the while, losing direction ... and all sense of why I started it to begin with.
Until the walk in the woods.
I realized I'd been looking down ... for too long. That it was time to look up, to review the project as a whole, check my bearings, and see where I was.
I started Waystation Whistle and Tinplate because I believe in the power of hobbies, passions, and distractions to help you (and me) tell a different story about your day.
I'm no birding expert, but by watching the birds I see in my neighborhood and doing a bit of research I'm learning more and more, and I'm hoping to encourage you to make a few discoveries of your own.
There's plenty of work to be done, but for now, maybe that's the answer for all of us: focus on the details to make whatever it is the best it can be, but remember to look up, too. To check in to see where we are and where we're going ... so we can spot the turn up ahead ... and the light streaming through the trees.
And maybe a bird or two.
The shape of things
After working on this collage bit for a while, I wondered how things were coming together, so I took a photograph. It helps me see things more objectively.
And I wonder, what do you see?
I hope you see the start of a great horned owl(?).
There's a perfectly imperfect element to collage that I like. How even small bits, like that crescent moon snip of yellow paper on the circle of black, can transform it into an eye ... one that looks like it's looking back.
When I set it in place, it changed everything.
Stopping to "smell" the flowers didn't prove as rewarding as I'd hoped, so for now, I'm back to collage, hoping this wise looking owl will prove more rewarding.
And it is ... seeing it come to life is a hoot!
Owl are you today?
Lifting more than a wicker basket
We woke before dawn to drive north in time to see the hot air balloons.
When we arrived, sleepy spectators and the fabric of balloons yet to be inflated stretched across the open field.
Moments later, the roar of the first burner pierced the air signalling things were about to get interesting.
One by one the balloons, like oversized quilts on a clothesline, puffed and billowed.
Moving from one to another, we marveled at how big they were and how much they grew and grew ... and grew.
I've since learned that what we call the "balloon" is referred to as the envelope(!). There may be a scientific reason for the name, but I like the idea that, like a paper envelope, it holds so much anticipation and possibility.
The way the fabric, laying as flat a paper envelope on the open field, conceals what will soon be revealed.
After a dozen teardrop balloons filled and took flight, we watch two others inflate. But these were not like the others. They had odd shapes filling and protruding from the envelope.
No, we were no longer in teardrop territory ... these were different.
At first all we could see were spike-like shapes protruding from the black fabric, and heard someone say, "it's a spider."
But then something that looked like a crown appeared.
And then a face ... is it a dog?
Not sure ... now it looks more like a bear?
It's a lion king(!) ... fully inflated, puffed up and tethered alongside a cartoon sloth.
It would be impossible to stuff these jolly characters in an envelope, but it reminds me how much mail matters.
How the sight of a paper envelope can, like the hot air that fills these balloons, lift spirits.
Knowing takes time
When I placed the order for materials to make paper flowers, I had to wait a week for delivery.
It was disappointing, but I did what I probably wouldn't have done had the materials arrived sooner ... read the book I borrowed from the library (the whole book, not just a chapter here or a passage there, the whole book), watched some videos (thank goodness), and found lots of examples of what's possible with paper flowers. Amazing.
And then the paper arrived.
I waited until the next day to get started, suddenly seized by doubt and overwhelm. The anticipation was over, now it was time to do the work.
It's hard being a beginner
Deep in crepe paper with sticky fingers, glue on my clothes, and scraps of snipped paper all over the place, I found myself mired doubt. This might be too much, I told myself.
And I pouted ... wondering if it really was all too much.
But, after multiple breaks to wash the glue from my fingers, a lot of deep breaths, and three hours of concentration, I had my first flower. A white cosmos.
The finished flower was such an accomplishment. It's given me the incentive to keep going. To keep trying.
Eager to see how well I did, I took the paper flower up the street and nestled it in among the real ones growing on the corner lot.
I'm working on my second flower and feeling the same doubts ... is this worth it? Do I really want to pursue this? I'm not sure, but I do know what I need to do:
Give it time.
It would be easy to give up now. I'm frustrated and want quick results, but I know better.
It's a familiar feeling. The same feeling I get when I start writing ... this newsletter, a letter to a pen pal, and just every other writing project.
It's the feeling I got when I was painting room after room in the house these past few months. And so many other projects.
But I've learned: staying with it matters.
Is there something you're ready to bail on? Would it be better to hang in there a bit longer?
Sometimes, it is good to say, "Nah, I think I'm done." But other times, we just need to dig a little deeper, hang in a little longer.
After all, you never know how things might blossom ...
My second flower, the thistle, is a work in progress. The purple bits are too long, but I'm afraid to cut them. Afraid I'll cut too much and regret it. So I'm leaving it alone for a while. But I'm not giving up ... yet.
Flowers ... paper and otherwise
Last week I received a beautiful gift from a friend ... a handmade paper box with cut paper roses adorning the lid. In the note she sent along with the box, she talked of the Victorian meaning of flowers ... roses in particular. They hold meaning for love, honor, faith, beauty, balance, passion, wisdom, and intrigue.
My friend's flowers reminded me of the collage work I've done with flowers, much of it inspired by collage artist Mary Delany. Born in 1700, she started her collage work at age 72(!) where it's now exhibited at The British Museum.
Delany's work was especially striking with black backgrounds and vivid colors.
The floral arrangement above mimics Delany's style with the black background, but with natural materials. You can try it yourself by deconstructing and arranging just a few flowers (this arrangement is a lily, a daisy, some greens, and a small yellow flower I can no longer identify). Make your arrangement on black paper or some other background ... just be mindful of working outside and the breeze, it will wreak havoc with your petals (yes, that's the voice of experience).
If you remember, a few weeks ago, I talked about wanting to create larger work and I think I've found a new direction. Three-dimensional paper flowers. Big ones! I'm so excited.
But I must be patient. The supplies I need are not available locally, so I'm waiting for them to arrive in a few days and hope to have something to show next week.
And remember, it's not too late to start something new. Mary Delaney did at 72 and from what I've read about her, it changed her life.
Let's get going.
Making something from nothing
My mother used to make lampshades. Mostly hand-stitched silk shades with fringe. They're beautiful. She also did a turn with paper shades featuring cutouts as well as vintage florals, butterflies, and birds collaged on parchment papers.
She no longer makes shades but still has the vintage papers. When she and my sister were clearing things, they asked if I might be interested in them.
While I usually use painted sheet music in my collage work, I'm really enjoying the challenge and change of working with different materials.
I'm not sure if it's a fanciful flower or butterfly floral? Doesn't really matter, I can't stop.
Yesterday I created more. And in the process relished the satisfaction of making.
For well over an hour I sat snipping papers, switching one flower for another, digging deep into the pile of papers, tilting my head from left to right to analyze the layout before settling on the best possible arrangement, then gluing things in place.
It took most of the afternoon before I talked myself into sitting down at my desk to get started, and am so glad I finally got there.
Of course gluing papers in place may not be your idea of fun, but whatever it is, I encourage you to sit down, stand up, or do whatever it takes to get going. I think you'll be glad you did.
Not sure where this is going, but it was fun getting to where we are
All of my collage work is relatively small. I snip and cut some pieces of paper that, if they drop from my scissors, can be hard to find on the table.
Sometimes they're stuck to the scissors; other times my hand; ocassionally they stick to the glue itself, embedded in the top of the glue stick; and then there are those that seem to vanish ... lost forever.
For a while I've thought of making larger collage pieces, but how?
Cutting larger shapes from the sheet music I paint wasn't working. It's too thin and I couldn't make sense of it. But what about cutting the shapes from cardboard shipping and storage boxes?
Trying something different
The barred owl is about a foot tall. He's a bit long in the beak, and there are things I'd change, but overall, not bad for a first go.
When I took it outside for photographs, I thought ... anyone who sees me will think I'm crazy. And then I thought ... who gives a hoot?!
I don't know what will become of my larger collage work, or this owl friend of mine, but I do know it brought me immense pleasure just to make it.
And sometimes, that's all that matters.
The other day when I was feeling restless, not sure what to do with myself, I knew the best thing to do would be to do something.
Presenting myself with a new challenge meant I had to work with new materials, and endure some frustration and challenges. But it I'm glad I did it. I know more than I did and looking at the owl makes me smile.
What a hoot!
July is Anti-boredom Month and it seems the best cure for boredom is action.
Making, doing, and learning.
It's also inevitable. We're all bored at one time or another. The question is, what will you do to get un-bored?
Unsolicited but welcome advice from my neighbor, Charlie
It wasn't the first bit of advice from Charlie, but I remember it because I realized how much I had to learn.
"Them there are pole beans." he said, "You need to put a pole in the ground so they can climb."
We were standing in the backyard admiring (well, I was admiring) my first vegetable garden. Things had started to sprout and Charlie spotted the green beans.
While I was well aware they were green beans, I missed the "pole" part. He was right. They needed poles to climb.
I pushed three poles into the ground and watched them twist, turn, and reach new heights every week.
The next summer he got me with a bit of a joke.
It was this time of year, early July, when he came out back and said, "July fourth's come and gone, time to put the storm windows back on."
My eyes widened and his twinkled as he let loose a big smile and a chuckle.
It was a bit of an exaggeration, but there was some truth in what he said. Summer is fleeting. How do we make the most of it?
What are your must-have and want-to-do activities this summer?
How do you remember and squeeze in all the things you want to do?
Use Tinplate, the new activity journal.
Use Tinplate, to find inspiration, track, and record the best that summer has to offer. It's an activity journal filled with stories and prompts to boost your curiosity and encourage you to do more with the time you have between the things you have to do for the things you want to do.
It's available now!
I think you'll like it.
With the exception of the issue I bought a few months ago, the only time I read Highlights magazine was at the dentist's office when I was a kid. I loved the idea of stories and projects and puzzles in a magazine.
It was the same with the early editions of Martha Stewart's Living magazine ... a curated collection of ideas, inspiration ... and activities.
The transformative power of hobbies ...
When I was 14 years old, home alone and bored, I discovered the transformative power of activities. Of doing ... something.
That day it was making oatmeal cookies.
Since then I've had a go at sewing (definitely a good skill to have), fishing (not for me), ice skating (no camel spins or leaps, but I cut a fairly good figure eight), skiing (all set with that), snowshoeing (a keeper), gardening (which way to the farmers market?), hiking (I'll take a day hike, but there will be no Appalachian Trail for me), and lots of other things.
Some experiences (like letter writing, baking, and collage) became long-lasting efforts, others one-and-done.
But all along, what I've enjoyed most is how the doing makes me feel.
Be they long-lasting, short-lived, or complete failures, our hobbies, passions, and distractions leave us better informed, more confident, and happier for having tried.
And because of that, I believe it's in the doing, the learning, and exploring where we find our best selves.
What is Tinplate?
Tinplate, a 32-page activity book that feels like a long letter packed with ideas for things to do and try.
Ideas I think you'll like.
Why the name Tinplate?
Tinplate is a layer of tin applied to steel or other metal to protect against rust and corrosion. And that, I believe, is what our hobbies, passions, and distractions do for us. They are a layer of joy, distraction, and renewed curiosity between us and a sometimes hectic world.
I believe hobbies, passions, and distractions are the waystations of life. They offer the respite and opportunity we need to do the things we want to do ... in between the things we have to do.
July is Anti-boredom Month, the perfect time to launch Tinplate ... get your copy today!
It was so cold on our walk this morning, we weren't surprised to see five ducklings huddled together on the edge of the pond. They jostled and poked and climbed on one another until settling into mound of down ... fluffy, warm, and camouflaged.
Last week I mentioned my new project, Tinplate, No. 1, a summer activity book dedicated to hobbies, passions, and distractions. It's nearly ready, but before I can say it's done, I need to test some of the activities and take photographs. This morning I created natural mandalas from foraged materials on our walk.
This red maple mandala came about from the whirligigs (or helicopters if that's what you call them) that have littered the landscape for weeks. They've finally stopped falling and until today I'd only seen them as a nuisance.
Where words and paper come together