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1. No Plastic...


After a week of recuperating from a fast paced Thanksgiving week, highlighted here, we got down to decorating our place and for the wreath, I needed something round and one thing we have a lot of in the sheds are bike tires.
Can't take the credit for the idea, its Daughter #2's  via pinterest.com, but really from...


I didn't have to go to town or to the dreaded Suckyoursoul-Mart to get anything. Literally took the front wheel off my allotted, hand me down mountain bike, rinsed the cobwebs and few spiders off of it, its not used much since I am the non mountain biker in a mountain biker family, I just take the photos...


The boughs? Just went out to our forest, though sadly, I was a little more careful this year on which trees I snipped from, since we lost so many of our trees in the fire two autumns ago...

                  


and my husband is a little protective of the remaining trees. But I took my shears and when he wasn't around to be emphatic, very selectively snipped the ends of various pinons branches and made a bicycle tire wreath. Unlike the REI version, I did use a whole bike tire, black rubber included. My husband should be happy about that, cause it would not be me, putting the tube back on the rim, thank you very much and I didn't take a tire off one of the more used and much more expense bikes. Can you imagine, discovering your wife absconded the front wheel off your Salsa bike, to use as a craft project?
So recycled bike tire, mine not his, boughs from our own trees and well wire that was probably about two decades old, from when just moving here, to the Four Corners, I thought I would make fresh wreaths to sell at the Christmas Bazaars,  something others in my family have done rather successfully at Christmas markets on the East side of the Continental Divide.
So made a few dozen wreaths, only to find that there was not a great market for fresh wreaths around here, being informed of this at my craft booth by countless ladies who were quite happy with their plastic wreaths and garland that they just took down from the closet shelf for the season...


In fact a lot of elderly ranch ladies went out of their way to come over to my table and tell me that! 
So check that idea off the list and so for years I had a whole lot of green wire and metal hoops, buying in bulk when the idea first hit.
Plastic foliage is very prevalent over here adorning people's doors, flower pots and cemeteries. 
Not where I grew up in Northern Colorado, where there's fresh wreaths and garland at Christmas time and fresh flowers inside and outside, especially come Memorial Day at the cemeteries.



 something I talk about here, a very long time ago.

Why not here?
Well, it seems to be a regional thing. Plastic affords bright colors and no needed of water or tending, plus it is a whole lot cheaper than the extravagance of fresh at the holidays, or so the locals here seem to think, something that is really starting to fascinate me, regional-ness- why people in a certain region do what they do and a great book to read on the subject is...


The author, Colin Woodard, doesn't get into fresh or plastic flowers and foliage, but he does get into the migration patterns of the different ethnic groups that first settled the US and here, in the Four Corners, where yes Native Americans and Hispanic cultures have a strong hold, but where the most prevalent white Europeans is Scots Irish and well it has been my personal observation, after twenty years of living, teaching and working here, such a heritage leans towards well, not fresh but plastic and practical. 








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2. Red and Green, Santa Fe Style...


After a fun Thanksgiving with family here in Colorado, where I got to use the squash from a friend's farm...


some of us, crossed the border to New Mexico and headed to Santa Fe...


Where the crowds for Black Friday were not bad at all....


and a couple hundred years of history surrounded us, like the old Santa Fe Library entrance...


On Saturday, to support #smallbusinesssaturday, we headed down to the newly renovated Railroad district and partook of local goods...


Of course chilies were everywhere, extra beautiful coming into this special season...


and never have I seen such a large tub of Chimayo chili, unique to Northern New Mexico, from the valley of Chimayo, where we had gone a few years back around New Years, read HERE  This gentleman and his buddy, called me over like they were selling something illegal. But once he lifted the lid, how could I not take a really good whiff of the sweetest red chilies ever. As I savored the smell, he told me how to heat it up in a skillet and make a sauce or add it to meat.I bought a half a kilo from him....


A few hours later I found the same thing, except this time, packaged up all nice for the out of town tourists in a kitchen store down at the plaza...


 and an eight of what I bought for twice as much.





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3. Getting Ready for a Long Winter's Nap...


It is a great comfort that no matter what is going on in our lives, the season move forward. In a time when the clouds, on occasion, dip down lower then the mesa, without us remembering to instruct it, the sun tilts sides way, the wind blows and the grass starts to turn brown. ...


and the evenings turn golden, just barely enough light for the deer to come into the lawn and pick the last of the apples on the almost leafless trees. 

More because the elements remind us, we humans do slip into our autumn activities. First Homecoming, where school is let out early and the students, parents and locals line Central ave for the parade, the cheerleaders riding restored fire trucks from up the mountain. 


Here the Homecoming royalty... 

aren't escorted in the backs of convertibles but pickup trucks and the homecoming dresses might have cowboy boots under them.


The other Fall activities- discussions of the weather, how cold and how much snow the mountains will have this winter and elk hunting. But it stayed too warm for the elk to come down low enough for a successful hunt this year. Warm enough to keep the windows cracked on the drive back down the mountain in Grandpa's old truck that carries the camper shell...







 Another activity that took much time this Fall...

Not riding horse, like you might think, but Daughter #2's involvement with the local high school's production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, set in the Wild Wild West. Someone leaving the borrowed boots on our porch yesterday, were so pretty in the tilting sun. 

The wind is still blowing down here on the canyon ridge, and the grass is still showing, though most of the leaves are now off the trees. 

Not so, farther up, where coming home from a weekend away on the other side of the mountains, we had to navigate this...


 and we meet these guys...

 who, looking for the grass, worked their way through a wire fence deciding the brown grass on the side or the road looked yummier. To hear them "churp" go HERE

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4. As Far as I could reach...


I haven't been active on this blog lately due to some big life changing events, like the ones I talked about HERE, a few weeks ago. The last big event I mentioned in that post has to do with the above picture, well actually book cover and I've been debating how to and in what order to tell everyone about it and the other part of the story. Way to much for one blog post, so first things first and that started over ten years ago, actually I think it could have been more like twelve, when, on Saturday, over in Utah, we hiked in between places like this...


 and along the river beds like  this...


 and along the rim of this...


and there would come a point where bribery would be necessary to get these two...


back to the truck!


 
The bribe would go something like, "Wow! When we get back to the town, what do you want...?" And the "want" usually was something sweet, ice cream or a fancy drink and a book at the old Arches Bookstore in Moab, where we would also indulge in dinner or a late lunch before heading back over the border to Colorado.
Arches is no longer there, consolidating with the bookstore across the street a few years back, but a decade ago, it had the best children's section tucked in the far corner of the tiny store and we would trade, Jon and I, one would get to browse and one would take up post near the girls while they debated with much excitement which book to buy.
It didn't take long, when it was my turn to let Jon browse, to discover that the section next to the children's was that of local history and the local history in Utah, is pretty focused on the land, Edward Abbey, the Uranium boom that supplied some of the atomic bomb and most of the Cold War and  Mormons and polygamy. Who knows what I would be writing about if we lived in Ohio?

But in Utah I picked this book...,

denoted  as used by a red dot on the spin, costing me $6 and the rest is history.

Since little girls are tired after all day hikes and the two hour car drive back home is quiet, I would read my book, look out the window at this....


and wonder about the zealous religious people that had the tenacity to hack out a life in this unforgiving land no one else dared even try in places like this,..


and like this...


And so over the years,  as the girls grew, a story grew in my head and then I started to write it down and  to seek out more history and more places to make it real as possible, a willing husband, who was glad to go  along for the drive with the promise of more hiking, backpacking or mountain biking...


This place, the Four Corners, what was cut by the Colorado River and all its tributaries, is known as the backwash of the country, to wild to be tamed and very much looked over in the rush to the more fertile land on the western edge of the country, has moved me since I laid eyes on it, first around Moab, thanks to friends who had been jeeping there for years and then on our own, hiking and backpacking...


Canyonlands, Arches, and far off places like Zion and  Escalante, many of which I have written about and sketched over the years...



But something else was happen about the same time, people were talking about Uranium and the Atomic age. There was a cost to mining the uranium that supplied the atomic bombs of the Cold War. It polluted the land and the people who live here and the government, about ten years ago decided to start cleaning it up. It was in the news and on our drives back to Colorado, we went past the reclamation, clean up sites.
And I started to talk to my dad, way up in Idaho, who as a boy, during World War 2, had to have a security pass to go to the grocery store because my grandfather worked on the antennas for the the atomic bombs in Oak Ridge Tennessee, a town that did not exist before the war and was created for the soul purpose of the Manhattan Project and reading up on my families history and part in such a monumental event in our country's history, I found Utah again, where a covert operation sent soldiers with geological and mining experiences back to find and mine the uranium for the bombs.
And these interesting bits of history melded in my brain, on the long drives home or while doing art and Moonflower came to be...

"Motherless and her father too busy with his three other wives,
 their children and leading a Fundamentalist religious group, 
young Luna has the freedom to wander around Cathedral Valley, 
Utah in the summer of 1942.With no one paying attention,
 she forges a friendship with Josh McCormick, a geologist secretly sent by
 the Army to find uranium for the atomic bomb. When he returns after the war
 to mine the uranium, Luna is seventeen and their renewed relationship could
 mean freedom from a life she does not want as a second wife
 or it could mean her and her families destruction."


 Getting it down on paper, is a whole other post as is why I picked the wild Utah flower, most consider a weed for the title of not only my story but as you all know the word that connects me to my art as well....oh! And I have a whole new website...still at moonflowerstudio.biz but now also at juliakelly.biz




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5. Up, Over and Back Down Again...


For my birthday, well a few days later, we drove up and over Lizard Head Pass to enjoy the changing colors of the aspens, which were every shade from green to yellow to orange to brown, the weather of rain, cold and snow and warmth, confusing them. You can see, above,  the line of Highway 145 to the left and then below, the old railroad grade to the right, the space in the middle is over 1,000 feet down, if you were wondering.

Right before that we had turned off the highyway to drive up around Trout Lake to get a closer view of part of the San Migels of the San Juans...


 Then at Alta Lake, we took the dirt again and drove up through pine and aspen to get to the high lake just at the edge of timberline, where on the other side of these rocks is the Telluride Ski Resort....



Even finding a fish, impervious to the cold, though he was swimming rather slowly...





 But I would be too if I had to swim at 10,000 ft above sea level, burr!...


Driving back down to the highway, while the sun thought about coming down in the sky...


we got to Telluride for a late afternoon lunch or early dinner, enjoying the last bit of warmth, before the crisp cold comes to southwest Colorado. The moon starting to come up....


as the sun came down, captured through the glass of the gondola that connects Telluride below with Mountain Village above...



Back at the truck there wasn't quite enough light to capture a herd of elk graving as we made our way back out to the highway....


Thankful that on the weekend the dreaded road construction crews were taking a break in their race to get as much of the road work done before the snow and the skiers come...

 As we went back over the pass to our own side of the mountains, the sun no longer illuminated the aspens for us, but  in the growing twilight, they were pretty just the same...




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6. Winning Awards and Butchering Meat...


Well, it is finally up and I can declare my illustration for David Sklar's "Sky Fishing" poem which was featured in the May/June 2013 Ladybug has won the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators 2014 award for magazines. Official announcement HERE.
I've known for awhile, but the circumstances of finding out illustrates how everything on this earth is so "relative", because the last few weeks, we, my husband and I have been dealing with the adjustments of taking on more of a caretaker role for one of  our parents, who will be 90 next spring and though amazing fit up until recently, now has health issues and can not drive.

Just getting off the phone in a string of phone cals taking care of said parent, I did not expect the person calling me would be a SCBWI board member announcing my first place win, which she promised came with a plaque. I think I laughed when I finally got off the phone with her. Not that I was and am not very much honored for the recognition, but because in that moment, with my head pounding for all I had to do, the lack of sleep we were suffering under since settling back into life after the racing to the hospital, two flight for lifes, the surgeries in distant cities, the home care, etc. winning an award felt like a far off thing with all the other things in front of it, the laundry, my dusty house, the lack of planned grocery trips instead of grab and goes, the dogs that were bouncing off the walls and on one occasion eating the wall from lack of attention. Don't ask me when I have changed the sheets on my bed, I couldn't tell you, maybe before the weeks end. I know there is art in my studio, I just have to excavate it, a project started that was just going to have my studio messy for a few days, well now, it is what it is.

Today? Today when everyone now  knows, I forgot about it. Only reminded because I received a gracious congratulatory email from the author of the poem. My today has been three trips to the larger town twenty five minutes away, twice for my kid, the third because I finally decided not to given up yoga...again. Another trip was needed in the opposite direction,  to take said parent to Senior Lunch. I'm averaging  an hour and a half at home to get something done between trips. Got twenty three more minutes to get this done and posted!

What else did I do today? Art? Nope. Write? Nope. Do my laundry? Nope. Butchered a deer....by myself. My daughter's first. The outside shed refrigerator is going out and thought we could keep the quarters in it  until the weekend when someone could get it to the processor, but no such luck and I was the only one with the time to do it. So, yep... trimmed out the the meat, I had cut from the bone last night, with my laptop set to watch "Copper" on Hulu on a plastic tablecloth, surrounded by freezer paper and masking tape.

And that isn't the first thing I have harvested this Fall, we are so isolated we have to travel far for specialized surgeries and such and so along home  with the patient from Albuquerque came a bushel of roasted chilies, that once have steamed in their burlap bag after roasting have to be peeled.  Got those  harvested and four crates of apples from our homestead have steadily been turned into cider by my husband, still plenty on the trees  for the other deer, I was watching out of my window as I was filleting the venison of their cousin in my kitchen. Plum rum, which grow wild on our property and makes a yummy fruity rum for the holidays are steeping in our pantry, with another case of just rum, since making the pear rum from our trees just ain't going to happen this year. Rum won't go bad, right?

What was this post about..... oh yes, I won an award and more exciting things are happening and if I had a week, I could get things situated and tell you about our big announcement... I hope this is the week, but it is Wednesday, isn't it and the week, like the last four has sort of slipped by, with this distant echo in my head that reminds me,
" I am an artist" then, " I am an awarding artist." The echo says, "I am a writer" then reminds me the words that I wanted to so get out to the world that will have to wait a little longer. Then the louder voice reminds me, " I am a wife and I am a mother by choice and the rest will have to wait a little bit longer."

And it will. because I have to spell check this thing, upload it and head back towards town...wonder if the construction is done on the highway or if I should go the back roads again. A real dinner or grab and go- that will be decided on the road, I think.




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7. It's Not About You...



"It's not about you.
It's not about you getting the love you deserve from someone else,
because I have loved you more than anyone else on this earth.
It's not about you demanding justice or forgiveness from anyone,
because I have shown you more mercy and forgiven you more than anyone else on this earth.
It's not about your future or your past.
It's about Mine.
Time is Mine.
The universe is Mine.
The earth is Mine.
The mountains and the sea are Mine.
The air is Mine,
and you are Mine, but.....
it's not about you....
it's about Me."

Jesus

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8. Since Spring Break...

Happy Anniversary to Me! @moonflowermuse has been tweeting for a year, sending the first tweet out from Taos, New Mexico on  July 5th 2013, waiting in the rain for a table at Orlando's New Mexican Cafe...



If you have never been there, go, the wait  is worth it for their posole alone.  I also realized I haven't put up a post on Moonflower Musing in about two month and only looking back through my photos did I remember why, been kind of busy...
those would be orca whales in British Columbia. 

How did I get up there? Meandering, like I always do and to tell you the tale, I have to start way back at our Spring Break when we went wandering on the  west side of Lake Powell and hugging the Utah/Arizona border, did a little research for a project I'm working on  at Pipe Springs National Monument...

 a waystation, supply depot and polygamy hide out for the Mormon's living in Southern Utah...




Apparently, she acts all nice and sweet until she gets close enough to the wooden fence to whack it hard with her horns and watch the tourists "have a cow"!...
From Pipe Springs we headed to Springdale and explored the backside of Zion National Park, just for fun...





where, in a wash,  we saw desert sheep up close and personal, thanks to loud and obnoxious tourist above us...




Leaving Zion, we kept to the "back of things," leaving the pavement to drive a "seventy five" mile shortcut to Lake Powell and Hite's Crossing, the only bridge either direction for hundreds of miles, the ferry at Bull Frog broken down. Down through Water Pocket Fold we went...


weirdly the few cars that pasted us all from Washington State. When the tiny dirt road started to look more like wagons tracks, I got concerned, glad when we finally came to pavement again, Daughter #2 drove for a bit, in her permit year with literally, nothing to hit except for some sagebrush...

In  three days, we drove in a 900 mile circle and  never hit a interstate, getting about 30 minutes away when we were Springdale.  So what do you do after that, you come home and drop the husband off then take the kids, who are still on Springbreak to see Grandma, nine hours the other direction in Northern Colorado. Then you drive back home and picked up our new puppy...


Cause that is what you do when you have a crazy spring and summer...is get a puppy! Next up, Piper and The Bike Race.



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9. You Can Give A Kid A Diverse Book But You Can't Make Him Read It...



This weekend, everyone is  "twitterpated" on a viral campaign for #WENEEDDIVERSEBOOKS. It has been an on going discussion in Children's Publishing for some time now, but the issue is definitely "trending" due to the announced panel  of the Children's Book "Rock Star" authors  at BookCon this year will all  be white and male,  read about that HERE...
Yes! We need diverse books, but we also need children to be literate enough to read them!
I have taught Art, Reading and Writing Enrichment programs to  Native American and Hispanic kids for over a decade, I'm also a freelance writer and illustrator and it baffles me that this industry does not talk more about literacy then it does. Giving a kid who can't read or reads way below their grade level a book, does not teach him or her to read, it just frustrates them, forget about expanding their world!
Years ago,  an illustrator friend of mine and her publisher very generously donated a huge stack of  her new book to my kindergarten and first graders. The kids were hugging their books as they left to go home. A next day survey revealed that none of the parents had taken the time to sit down to read the book with them. One parent sending her daughter to tears for badgering her. Knowing the parent, I had to wonder if the refusal came from her own poor reading ability.


Why aren't we talking about this side of problem?

I teach at a charter school in the middle of nowhere, near the Four Corners of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, across the County Road is the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation. Down the road, is the start of the Navajo Reservation. Some years over half of our students are Navajo. The schools on the "Rez" so bad, their parents drive them forty five minutes to the nearest bus stop to get to our school, which is not great in comparison to the schools in the nearest town, thirty minutes the other direction and in comparison to the school my children go to in our district still another twenty minutes away,  it is down right bad.
Two years ago, word got out we were bringing a modular in to have a library. Reading the article in the local paper, people in the community assumed that meant we did not have books and started donating them. We had books, lots of books, the kids just didn't read them, unless forced too.
It is also a misnomer that these families are too poor to buy books. They aren't. This families might live in shacks and run down trailers, but they have enough money to buy cheap laptops, tablets and video games from Walmart and when it is free time at school, that is what they reach for, not books.
How do you get a kid to read a book? Yes, having characters and stories they can identify with is important. But not struggling over every word is more important.
How do you get reading to come easy? Well, you send home plastic baggies with little books, to practice every night with a reading  log. What do white, educated, middle class parents do? Sit down with their kids and read every night. What do Migrant families do? Make darn sure their kids are learning to read, write and speak English and do their homework, even if they can not understand it themselves.
Sadly, that does not happen in the families who have been in poverty and illiteracy for generations, whatever their skin color. Lack of education drowns  trailer trash white children as well as minorities.


What can we do about it?
If parents are not or can not help their kids practice reading at home, then the schools have to do it and one or two teachers can not practice with twenty some children everyday, so it is up to local volunteers to come into the schools. Who would that be?
Well, I go to the mid day yoga class and it is full of retirees, bored retirees who take yoga everyday and then go work at the Humane Society catching feral cats in town. Nothing against cats, but if those ladies would donate an hour or two of their time a week and read with kids that would make a world of difference and yes I have encouraged them to do so.
What can the Children's Book industry do? Stop thinking the solution is to give kids a book!
The ski industry of Colorado could teach us a few things. Telluride is over the mountain from where my own kids go to school and like most schools near a ski resort, we have a ski program. From a very young age and for a very small fee, the Telluride Ski Resort gladly buses our kids up the mountain a half a dozen time a season, provides equipment and lessons to .........Teach Our Kids To Ski!
Why do they do that? Well, because  full day lift tickets are around $80 dollars and season passes can be upwards of $1000. They are trying to get kids addicted to skiing and build the next generation of people who will keep them in business!

We need to get kids, all kids, addicted to reading and then we would not be having the discussion we are because Publishing is a business, it is not a charity and when publishers take a chance and publish a book for minorities and no one reads it, they have to look at the bottom line.
What else can be done? Send authors and illustrators into low income schools. But who is going to pay for that?  Right now, often a published children's author or illustrator gets a large percent of their income from school visits. What schools can afford to pay $1000s of dollars for fees and travel expenses in this day and age? The well off one, which by the way, those school's  parents ARE making sure their kids read those little baggies of take home books and ARE taking their kids out to see the world and into bookstores. Hum?
Besides the epidemic of illiteracy is not going to be fixed by one time school visits and  the kids in these schools are too uninformed to know to be impressed by a Newberry or Caldecott winner.
Actually, because Art so much better bridges gaps between cultures, we should be sending illustrators out first! Brooklyn Illustrator Sophie Blackall proved that, taking paper and markers to children in Rwanda, scarred with years of brutality...

read about it HERE


I've been part of that magic, with Native American kids, time and time again. Without a word, we start drawing together and their world opens up and mine too!
If each of us connected to the Children's Book Industry, made the commitment to adopt our very own classroom, locally or through technology like Skype, and had an ongoing relationship with those 20 kids for the school year, it would make a world of difference.
Say, once a month, a one hour Skype visit. Sending out writing challenges to the class connected to what we write and then giving them individual feed back and praise for their work. Heck, you could even have the same book and help kids learn to read over Skype. Join in with the classrooms book club discussion. The ideas are endless and no longer is distance or time an excuse.


Or....is pushing publishers to produce Diverse books really only for those kids who can already read? Which according to several studies, collected HERE , is a shockingly low number of the US population. The US Adult Literacy rate is around 75%-90% , whether that is just addressing the ability to read labels on medicine bottles, for work, daily living, etc. Those who can read, read, the average for adults is around a 7th or 8th grade level.  15% of us are at the reading level of those in an undergraduate program and well, that would be Us- those in this industry and our children, my argument is what about the other 85%? Pleasure reading is a self motivating activity, surely we all remember that from days when we had to read something we did not want to. You can give a kid a Diverse Book, but you can't make him read it.
Which brings up my last point and I have debated including it, but here goes. Piggybacking more liberal idea like sexual orientation into the discussion is a mistake. The lack of representation in publishing of books by and about people of races other than White European is a huge problem and yes, too few of these are being made, but reading up on industry news, books about gender identity and sexual orientation have greatly increased over the past couple of years. That is all I am going to say about that, but let me illustrate my point with my own experience.
The Four Corner is Conservative in their politics to say the least and the Art Teacher before me, was fired because a parent walked in to see this...

Botticelli's Venus

Not that she was showing it  to the children, but it was the cover of one of her reference books, in her bag, behind the teacher's desk. They fired her. Well, she was also teaching the children to love and protect predators in cattle country....most of the children's families were ranchers.
When I got the job, I had a choice to make. Push my agenda on these kids, or teach them up to be educated people to make their own decisions about well nudity in art, environmental issues, etc. I have lasted at that school for over ten years, because I leave my personal political and social slantings at the door and work to give them the tools to form their own. 
We, as a nation, have a lot to answer for before bringing Native Americans or any other minority in line with our agendas. My bet is they are more concerned about saving and preserving their own cultures, literally what is left of them. We can help them by giving them the tools- literacy, education, a way out of poverty before we start trying to bring them in line with our own way of thinking.
















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10. Here Come the Illustrators...



Oh My!! Life has been crazy, but finally got a chance to look at the line up for this year's Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference....Wow~! Here is INFO from their site, but wow~did I say that?! The faculty includes very knowledgeable writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, a huge amount  of African American , Hispanic American and Asian Americans  this year- kudos! But, no Native Americans that I can see either writers or illustrators, but I am not going to go off on that, because I'm impressed in what SCBWI did accomplish. 
And the illustrators, well start off with Tomie dePaola...



who I always thought  was part Hispanic for the books he has illustrated for the last forty years or so, but, nope, he is Irish/Italian, just loves to study and bring forth other cultures. 
The Saturday Gala is celebrating his 80th birthday. I've been going to the summer SCBWI conference for seven years and this is the first time he will be there. 
Next up is Aaron Becker...


One of this years Caldecott 2014  Honors for his wordless picture book JOURNEY.

SCBWI did "pretty good" this year on the women illustrators I have to say, some years it' an all male review, out of editorial or fine art background for speakers,but.....well, again, I am not going to rant, because this year's line up looks great since a female, cat loving illustrator, Judy Schachner...


 is giving one of the keynote talks and a workshop on animal characters, which I am not good at, can illustrate them in their natural habit but not so well in overalls!

What is really exciting on the illustrator front is Monday's intensive, which started about 3-4 years ago and to be honest, the illustrator side did not sound very appealing to me, the first few years more on watching the "big namers" demo their process. Now don't get me wrong, that would be unbelievable fasninating to watch someone paint, I could do that for days, but don't know how helpful that would be be to me, a collage artist in furthering  my career.

But this year, it is all about  inspiration from the Masters, something every artist no matter what the medium we use or how experience we are can benefit from.  There is a option to send in an illustration inspired by a master.....hum, do I want the likes of dePaola or a 2014 Caldecott Honor commenting on my art, have not decided that and while the SCBWI assignment is probably for younger children's illustrations for picturebooks, I already am working on an illustration as a promo for book covers that is much inspired by Wood's American Gothic...

and the works of photographers during the Great Depression that I have been pouring over as of late, these are gorgeous....


I'll show you when I get done and we shall see if I do one for a younger audience for the SCBWI Intensive. But as an art teacher, I love studying the Master and am excited about this years line up of Illustrators for the LA conference, plus the whole conference  is a really great "mom" escape at the poolside bar with a mojito or two, since I just have to find my room, no driving involved.


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11. My time in Moab...


(click on picture to enlarge)

We were up in Moab, Utah this past weekend, most doing this...


I did a little bit of hiking, but with others to entertain my "mountain goat" family, I took the opportunity to get some serious sketching in...

(click picture to enlarge)

This, about half way up the trail to the Corona Arch, which I had sketched before... 


It was a real fun weekend, with old friends from college, their and our kids, not that much younger then when we first became friends, in the Campus Crusade group. Now we are the old ones and our kids are in college and getting married, yikes, but time doesn't stand still, though one old friend we haven't seen in over a decade, told our daughters we hadn't changed at all, while we were arguing about how to cook dinner in the campfire.
Of course we ended the weekend, grabbing really good food at Milt's, the parking lot full of like minded adventures- mountain bikes and Tulle carriers on top of SUVs and those waiting in line looking a little bit wind swept...

(click on picture to enlarge)

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12. Adding to my Bug Collection....in the March SPIDER MAGAZINE...


Have I told you I am bad at this self promotion thing? Well, it is almost the middle of March and I totally forgot to post that my above illustration is in the March issue of SPIDER MAGAZINE...


This is my third illustrations for the "Bug" magazines, but all with the wonderful Art Director Suzanne Beck. This project was to illustrate a recipe, a Welsh scone recipe and I had a lot of fun researching all things Welsh, like their amazing textile patterns...

 And their Gaudy pottery...
I'm not insulting the Welsh, it actually is called that.

I really wanted to find a way to get these gals, with their traditional top hats above lacy bonnets in, wondering...

how did that tradition evolve exactly?

Then it was a weekend of sketching...


and brainstorming on paper, moving things around in Photoshop and sending ideas to New York on a Sunday, when apparently me, in the Four Corners, Sue and her editor had nothing better to do then to email back and forth. Have I said how much I love the internet and what it does for me! 

 Really loved that pottery, though the poem is about having a picnic...


Oh, how many antique lunch boxes did I pin on pinterest.com?


Kept trying to get a spider, a bug or a mushroom in there, just wasn't working. Then Sue pulled me from my fixations and suggested the rainbow and the jam. Uhhh, don't even want to think how long it would have been before I thought of jam, my brain was still on getting old women with top hats in...

When everyone was happy with the sketch, I went to appliqueing and stitching and ta.....da....


The Guady pottey had to go, but I kept the Gaudy pattern for the tea towel in the pail. The design on the picnic cloth is from the textile above and was X stitched on actual X stitched fabric, though I did four X's per square. The jar was done with a sheer tulle type fabric and the jam on the scones are french knots. 
It was another fun and challenging project, did something better this time and of course still could point out things I will do differently next time. Let's see, I've collected a BABYBUG, a  LADYBUG and a SPIDER. But still need a CRICKET. 

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13. Stitch Therapy....


I stitched this weekend, well yesterday, on my bed, all afternoon long. I needed it. Since the beginning of the year, and since cutting back on teaching, I have been trying to adhere to a schedule, to treat my illustrating and writing like a real job. Monday, Tuesday and Fridays...writing all morning, do art in afternoon. Wednesdays....write social media-blogs and twitter and go to yoga. Afternoon....teach Art to kiddos. Thursday mornings...I cook for a soup kitchen and afternoon.....do art, take a nap.
I read others blogs and interact with Twitter in the morning. Problem is I get up 5 o'clock mountain time and the only illustrators up at that time are in the UK. But wow, have I found some wonderful artist and illustrators over there and have really enjoyed following them.
 I made a pact with myself not to work on my manuscript on the weekends, but to work on blog post, peruse Twitter and do art. Saturday, I didn't listen to myself.
Spent most of the day, here, in my office, the kitchen table and outlined a prequel to my work in progress that is in revisions. The idea sparked by my work on Friday basically building a family tree for the characters, to keep track of all their names. But in the process, a story started to come out and excited, I devoted my Saturday to getting it down.
I should have stuck to my pact because now everything is off kilter and  am writing this in the am on Monday and should be starting to work on my manuscript.
But stitching yesterday helped get things back in line. Too much grandiose thoughts can come when you are creating a world that does not exist and the brain hurts too much. I have to actively push words out of myself and onto the paper, with many fits and starts.
On the other hand, when all the design decisions are made, stitching is effortless, feeling the drag of the thread through the fabric I also can feel the release my tension with it and a balance to world. I stitch on my bed, while listening to a movie or the whole season of a television show I have seen before, so I don't have to look up at the screen so much to know what is going on.
One series I love and should  buy to watch when it  is no longer airing is PBS's CRAFTS IN AMERICA...

I could go on and on how wonderful this series is. I won't know, cause I am thirteen minutes late for work, which working on that manuscript is, but I will leave you with the words for the title song, an old Shaker hymn that I want sung at my funeral, I love it so much, to see the YouTube video go HERE...
"Simple Gifts" written by Elder Joseph
(From Wikipedia page... "while he was at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine in 1848)

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right

from the Enfield Historical Society Webpage

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14. Belated Valentines...


Meant to post this on Friday. But, alas, it did not happen. Could have been that I was finishing up mailing 200 Valentines postcards out to Art Directors, or that I was hanging my charter school's art show at our local Art Center or that I had whooping cough and a fever, probably thanks to the little darlings. But I did save back a couple dozen of the valentine postcards to give to them, complete with a Kit Kat bar taped to it.
As they filed out of the art room, after their tables were clean on Wednesday, I "mom-ed" them and told them it was polite to appreciate the card and sentiment, before ripping off the candy.

But a late Happy Valentine's Day to you...

I shouldn't admit to this, but I will, cause well, that is what I do. The illustration is heavily Photoshopped because of changing my mind midway and well, not seeing some errors early enough.


I started on my 2014 Christmas card early in January, cause well, I have a hard time getting it done. This...


was actually my 2012 Christmas postcard, which just didn't happen and having the illustration from a year ago I still barely got out my 2013 postcard, which I sent out to 400 art directors at book publishers, magazines and ad agencies.
Promo is something that really slid when I was teaching three days, so now that is down to one and I'm in my studio four days, really trying hard to do it.
Where was I?
Oh, yes, so I started a very early attempt, still somewhat in the Christmas spirit of getting an image ready for next year, Card companies actually have a year lead time for Christmas illustrations. So started on collaging the illustrations, using a dark blue for the night sky, stitching the window, etc. Then...
I realized I am an illustrator not a fine artist and why was I illustrating pomegranates? And, Valentines was coming up and in my 400 postcards from Christmas, I had concentrated more on general markets and there was still many from the 2014  Children's Writers and Illustrators Market book, I had not sent a postcard to, so.....switched gears, kept the window, the snow scene outside, the cat, changed the holiday to Valentines and stuck a kid in it!
But I think moving on to make the collage, after all the planning is done, the fabric chosen, is kind of like finally getting in your car and heading out for a long road trip. It is when your mind relaxes and boom, you realize you forgot to turn off the iron or forgot your children, etc.
I was almost done when I realized there were some color problems. Here is the untouched original...


I'm sure many of you are thinking, "its wonderful," cause my readers are such nice people, but if you "squint" at it, you will have to admit that the girls overalls, her shirt And the chair behind her are ALL the same value!! The glue bottle is the same value as the table cloth and the scissor handle and her hand are the same value!! 
The same value as in squinting you can not differentiate between the two colors.
Plus on the other end, the night sky is so dark and the snow on the mountains is so white, well in digitizing that extreme in color value it gets..."whonky" and that is a technical term for " unsteady, shaky,awry or wrong"
Arghh...not like I went to Art School or anything!
But almost done and well, having as of late ripped apart too many illustration, I decided to use it as a practice in correcting in Photoshop, so finished the illustration and digitally did this...


The chair, shirt and overalls are still on the dark side, but they have contrast, as does the glue bottle and the green of the scissors handle, stands out from her hand. I did lighten the sky a little but too much messing can really effect the digital file, there is only so much you can do in Photoshop, well I can do in Photoshop.
I also realized too many of my illustrations are more of a landscape view and really need to more close up work, of faces and detail, so on the back of the postcard included him...


And am now, working on a whole gob of spot illustrations, which was hard to get started, but picked the Beach as a theme, cause it is February and the Blahhhhhs are setting in and my thought went here...



I'm collaging away at them and will post as I get them done. Kind of fun to have pretty much a one day project and am using a lot of my scrap fabric.
I have to give credit where it is due and a thank you to...


I just "snipped" his twitter header @pinocastellano  because his name is too hard to spell. It took me three days to pronounce it correctly at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference this summer in LA, where he gave several great workshops, real nuts and bolts stuff like...
1. Be on Twitter...check, you can find me at @moonflowermuse
2. Show process, sketches, line drawing....check
3. Throw out your neon colors......I'm trying!!
4. limit orange.....can't remember if he said it or someone else taking the workshop said it, but orange can get "whonky" in CMYK- what most books and magazine publishers are printing in, cause it is cheaper then what a fine art printer would use.
5. and no job is too little....which I totally agree with and would so love to get a bunch of little jobs!

Thus working on the spots and then am going to try and get some work in my portfolio for the educational market, as in "See Spot Run" sort of thing.

So get on twitter and let me know so I can follow you and follow Giuseppe for some good advice, he even does portfolio reviews on occasion.

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15. IF: Prehistoric


According to my husband , the Great Salt Lake and the Salt Flats around it,  is all that remains of a greater prehistoric fresh water lake called Bonneville that mostly evporated away. If you have been there, you know what I am talking about if not, read HERE...
I so have to put new art work up on my website, I have it, just needed to block out the week to updates things!

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16. Routines of Writers and Artists...But Who Does the Laundry?

Been reading a really interesting book by Mason Currey DAILY RITUALS: HOW ARTISTS WORK. . It is a fun quick read. You can just skim through the one to page descriptions of well know visual artists, composers, poets and writers. Of course I am most interested in the women, though there are few and are spread far between the men.

Jane Austen (1775-1817) ...

wrote her wonderful novels like...

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

at a tiny wobbly table facing the door, early in the morning, so that if anyone was coming in the room, she could hide them. She also helped oversee the household with her mother and sister. In Austen's case, many hands made light work.

Agatha Christie (1890-1976)...

 who wrote riveting mysteries like....

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

 always put "married woman" as her occupation, never "writer" and slipped away, after her other duties  were done, to write...

On the other extreme were artists like Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1996)...


who coming from a certain level of society and having a certain level of success, could stay in bed as long as she wished and paint as long as she wished, either on the East Coast or in her hide away in Abiqui New Mexico, because others were figuring everything else for her. No need to think about food, house hold duties or traveling itineraries. I know that from reading many of the letters between O'Keeffe and one of her assistants Marla Chabot,


who would get the artists homes in New Mexico ready for her through World War 2 and then cook and drive the artist around the high desert to paint scenes like this...



Having staff, an assistant, a spouse or a lover that pretty much took care of everything else was certainly a big perk for the artists featured in Currey's book and Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein's companion certainly has to take the cake for the most willing to support Greatness...




Wikipedia list Toklas' occupation as Avante Garde, didn't realize that paid so well. 

In DAILY RITUALS:HOW ARTISTS WORK, Currey describes a ritual, that even if it is only half true is pretty crazy. Stein and Toklas,  would drive out into the country, after Toklas took care of the morning ritual of bathing their poodle and brushing its teeth, and find a cow, for Stein to gaze upon to be able to write. I am not, nor I think Currey is making this up. Toklas job was to herd said cow into the right position for inspiration to come and if it did not, to go find another cow. 

I asked Jon if he would go find me a cow to gaze upon....or bring me croissants, if he determined by how I was pacing in my studio I wanted another one, the ritual of bring scheduled food to writers mentioned several times in Currey's book....yeah, not happening. 

Are you a woman, are you laugh? Are you not surprised, that circumstances could slowly evolve where the wife/lover/housekeeper of these male writers would find themselves with strict instructions on the level of noise, visitors and eating times...

Pablo Picasso...

who was  a friend of Stein and painted her, in the Avante Garde years in Paris...


had a lover, Fernande, who waited around for him all day to come out of his studio for dinner and then he was grumpy when he did.

Yeah, that would not fly in this house. But I have been a wife and a mother for over twenty years and guess who has played the support staff around here all that time. It was not I who declared that my favorite hard pillow was not getting to my side of the bed on a regular basis the other day, with the expectation something would be done about that.
I am the one driving around and finding the cows...or driving back and forth from our little "village", where daughter #2 still goes to school and taking her to after school activities in the bigger town some distance away, where there is no coffee shop, no starbucks at all, that is open after 4 pm, so I go to the library and try and get some more work done, though really want to be in my studio that time of day. I am really only good at writing in the morning....yeah I know I used "good" incorrectly, but it's getting late in the day.
Yeah, finding cows. 
There is grocery shopping, laundry, proclamations of hair cuts and needs for dress shirts for court the morning of, there are fifteen togos needing to be made for costume for the High School One Acts and the nearest fabric store is a hour and a half away. 
I spent Saturday, figuring out how to watch the Super Bowl through our internet but viewed on our flat screen. With twist ties in hand, plus  a vacuum and a broom, I was also the one to organize all the cables that had been intertwined amongst the said TV, the Blueray, the Xbox and the Roku box. All covered in dog hair and dust in the corner behind the TV stand and I hate the sound of sports broadcast and we don't watch football and I don't want to talk about how I am from Colorado! But I was most definitely spent the weekend finding other peoples cows.
I really am not complaining, I think it is kind of  funny, that O'Keeffe or Stein needed to stay so far away from the reality of our world as women to create. 
I don't know what I would create if not finding cows, being a taxi service and a support staff and am eternally grateful to Jon, that over the past twenty years, he has worked so hard to allow me to stay home and make my art, write and most importantly be a mother to our girls.
I can find some cows for him, or make sure the pillow he likes is on his side of the bed.

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17. Musing on the Caldecotts and my favorites...


This Morning the ALA, the American Library Association announced the  winners and honors for 2013's best work in Juvenile  Literature. Amongst other awards the Newberry for the best writing went to Kate DiCamillo, who has to also get the award for getting the announcement up on her website the fastest...

FLORA & ULYSSES


and  the Caldecott, for the best of Illustration of a picture book went to Brian Floca's...

 LOCOMOTIVE

It's a big deal, this year with a live feed Monday morning, which I watched on my laptop, in my PJ's, in bed at 6:30 my time, while trying to keep up with the #alayma or #ala14yma on my tablet... yeah it is a bit much for someone with dsylexia.

For the Caldecott, I was rooting for David Wiesner's MR. WUFFLES...


An absolute hilarious depiction of tiny aliens invading our planet and becoming play things for a bored cat! The near wordless picture book did get a Caldecott Honor Silver award this year.

I have taken workshops from Wiesner, twice at the SCBWI LA Conference and this last August he treated us to the process of making MR. WUFFLES , from the pretty "loopy" spark of an idea that started with mini plastic soldiers in a sand box and then evolved to the hilarious first steps of the aliens on our plant and well, Mr. Wuffles, who is based of his cat. Wiesner following the poor cat around with a "kitty cam" on a stick! Go HERE for more delightful info on an ingenious book!

Wiesner is such a delight to learn from, for him everything goes back to craft and excellence,  and it is so nice to hear, amongst the ever present push of platforms, social media and well "hyping" up your book. Wiesner's books need no hyping up, proven by  his 2007 Caldecott wining book...

FLOTSAM
a gorgeously illustrated picture book with panels visually telling the story of a boy's discovery of a magical old camera on the beach and where it transports him to. 

Wiesner has actually won the Caldecott three times, also in 2002 for...

THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

and in 1992 for...
TUESDAY

I couldn't get my hands on a copy of MR. WUFFLES at the last conference, but did pick up another one of Wiesner's great books....

ART & MAX

and he was gracious enough to write a little note to my art students in it...


Well, I actually asked him to write "Miss Julia is right, draw all the time" but he corrected me and wrote correct.

I'm planning on using the picture book to teach an art unit this spring. The antics of Arthur and the hard to handle Max, who won't slow down. Wiesner's book of two lizards with the back drop of the Southwest experimenting with splashy painting  like Jackson Pollock and dots like George Seurat will be a wonderful connection for my Native American and rural ranch kids who live very far way from high cultural.

I'm exicited now for the 2014 Society of Childern's Book Writer and Illustrator Conference in August to see who will be coming... probably not Wiesner this year but who knows, maybe Brian Floca or Aaron Becker, who also won a Caldecott Honor for ....

JOURNEY
another gorgeously illustrated picture book. Maybe lush and detailed is coming back in?

The third Caldecott Honor goes to Molly Idle, yeah A girl!!! for...

FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO

So apparently Flora was a popular baby book name, for writers a few years ago!

All the news, so very exciting, as was cheering along with everybody else live this year. To read all about it go to NPR's coverage on their blog HERE

Oh and one more shot out for Holly Black's DOLL BONES, a Newberry Honor this year,  which I have not read, but have chatted with Black when she was at SCBWI LA a couple of years ago, so big Congrats! but have to say Eliza Wheeler's illustration is my favorite of all the book covers up for awards...


Is there an award for the best illustrated book cover?... there should be!





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18. A Moment...


A moment, from my week, loving my kindergartners "mixed media, mixed animals"
To see more bloggers "moments" go to SouleMamma

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19. Above Salt Lake...



I can't take credit for this amazing picture, taken above Salt Lake. My daughter took it at the top of one of Park City's ski runs, or I should say snowboard runs.
After two days humoring me and going along for the ride around Salt Lake City, see here, we headed up into the Wasatch Mountains, and in about forty minutes were in Park City...



Where much of the 2002 Winter Olympics took place and where in a few weeks the slopes and streets would be filled with actors and "beautiful people" for the Sundance Film Festival.
But a week ago, they were filled with my beautiful people, daughter #1 brushing up on her snow board "toe side" skills, whatever that means....


And Daughter #2 doing some Nordic and X Country skiing with her dad....


 After dropping everyone off on the mountain, I intended to "get some work done" for the afternoon, but ended up going back to the hotel and taking a nap, Holiday planning is exhausting for the mom. But after a few hours , everyone was ready for a break...



and  we warmed up at Atticus Coffee and Books.... 


Which has the coolest painted floor.

It was rather a long time before one daughter, I won't say which, admitted she had just realized the coffee shop was inspired by Atticus from TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD, this after I pointed out the dozen cut out black birds hanging from the ceiling and the Boo Radley peanut brittle and yes, both girls have read the book in school.... and seen the movie.

 Oh my, think the brain just gets shut off for the Christmas break.

Everyone warmed up,  some went back to the hotel for another nap, not saying who and some went back to the slopes, now lit up against the coming dusk...




And then a little while later, we met up again and drove back to Main Street, this time surrounded by colored lights against the snow... 


                                    where we found food and drink at the Wasatch Brew Pub.


And then came Sunday and it was time to go home, so we drove back down the mountain, but timed it just right to hit Salt Lake City's  IN- N -OUT. Yup, they have one, the Salt Lake Basin must be only's a days drive from America's best burger and fries distribution centers. There are only three choices for burger combinations and fries, that is it on the menu, but yum....

Even though it was a little weird to have IN-N-OUT in the snow. Places we usually get it- Arizona, Nevada or California where you can spot the burger joint by the towering crossed palm trees....I don't think palm trees would grow in Salt Lake.

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20. A Gentile Weekend in Salt Lake...


Usually to ring in the New Year we go south into New Mexico and Indian Country...


 but this year we celebrated the coming of 2014 at home and then the next day drove north into Utah and Mormon Country.
Meandering  up through the familiar scenery around Moab...

 we finally reached 1-70 and took it west and then at Green River followed the railroad and old Highway 6 up north again past Price where we took a detour around the old town of Helper....





and I was amazed that such a little town had so many old hotels. Situated at the mouth of Price Canyon since the early 1880's, Helper is a railroad/ mining town named for the "helper" engines that were needed to get the coal trains over the steep grade leading up to Soldier Summit. I guess many railroad worker and miner needed a place to stay, but also wonder if Helper, situated a little bit more than half the way from Salt Lake City and the outlaying setttlements such as Moab, Monticello, Bluff and Blanding, catered also to the Mormon traveler on their way to the Salt Lake Temple.
Continuing our journey,over Soldier Summit and past the wind turbine farm below on the other side, we popped out at Spanish Forks, where we headed north between the Wasatch Mountains to the west...


and the Great Salt Lake and Flats to the East to downtown Salt Lake City...


Now you are probably wondering why "Gentiles" would want to spend a weekend in Salt Lake City, where up to a few years ago was so vastly Mormon it was hard to find coffee or tea in any form, let a lone a good micro brewery and everything, except Temple Square was shut down tight on Sundays, yes it is open all day Sunday.
I remember passing through, when the girls were little, Jon being highly motivated to find his morning coffee. We drove around and around  trying to find any place that had some caffeine and finally found a "Gentile" Auto Garage mechanic who shared his hot pot from behind the counter. Another time in the heat of the summer, I ordered ice tea off the fresh new menu and was told that the tea was actually coming, as in the whole set up of serving tea was coming but not there yet.
Guess what, things have changed, thanks hugely to the 2002 Winter Olympics that brought this city and the ski resorts above it to world wide attention and as of  the 2010 census, Salt Lake is over 50% Gentile.
And now there is some pretty cool revitalization downtown, complete with a tram...


The Gateway Mall, built up around the old Union Pacific Train Yard and just a  few blocks  from Temple Square hosts some fantastic shopping, nice hotels, a great Mega-Plex movie theater and a Starbucks in the Clock Tower.
But since its establishment in 1847, when Brigham Young, the LDS colonizer and second president, upon seeing the Great Salt Lake basin, declared"This is the place", Salt Lake City was intended to be the capitol of a new nation, Zion...


A stark contrast to another old capitol, where streets in Santa Fe, made a Spanish Capitol in 1610, are barely wide enough for two burro carts to pass...


Salt Lake City was from the beginning a planned community, with extra wide streets...


and "awe" inspiring monuments like the Eagle Gate, which you pass under on your way down from the Capitol Building on State Street, where if you turn onto  S Tempe you go past Brigham Young's grand residence, the Bee Hive House, which was being de-decorated while we were there, the holidays finally over...


and past the old Utah Hotel, now known as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building...


grand enough to be built in Washington D.C.

But in downtown Salt Lake the grandest of them all, is Temple Square. 
Mormon or not, anyone interested in architecture and the history of how "the West was won", has to be impressed by the tenacity that it took to build the Temple...


and the Assembly Hall, built in 1880 with the left over stone from constructing the Temple...




Another beautiful fascade, around the corner from Temple Square on Main St.  is the old  ZCMI building....



Created in 1866, the Zion Cooperative Mercantile Institution's  purpose was to either protect the Mormons from the price gouging of the Gentile merchants around them, or to drive out the competition that had come to make the Salt Lake basin their home as well. Which way it was is up to interpretation, but the original store still stands, an amazing example of Victorian architecture and has now been taken over by Macy's. 
And the Mormon church is not out of the mercantile business, investing millions if not billions in a downtown revitalization where across the street from the old ZCMI,  the new crowning jewel is the City Creek Center, upscale shopping complete with fountains and  a constructed creek...
.

But don't be fooled by Salt Lake's squeeky clean appearence, it still is a big city, with all the big city stuff, including almost getting my purse, cell phone and tablet ripped from my hands at the Gateway Mall, a  man, complete with hoodie over his head and dark glasses, who abruptly changed course right near my shoulder, when at the bottom of an escalator, a mall security guard just happened to walk by. The reason I was carrying my purse, loose in my hand is because running back to the car alone, well with a kid in tow,  I was also carrying  my husband's very valuable work laptop, as in the family's source of income, secure in a backpack, I usually do carry my purse diagonal across me and zipped. 
Well I spied the man, switched my purse to the other hand and then became a "Mamma" Bear and glared at him until he crossed over to the other side of the street. 
But the thing I have learned about Salt Lake and the Four Corners, is where the "rubber band" is too tightly wound one direction, eventually, the extreme opposite comes to exist as well. Parts of Salt Lake City have a "hipster" and alternative vibe to them, none more than the Sugar House neighborhood, where on 15th and 15th there is an Eisenstein Bagel, Starbucks, contemporary gallery, a cool bookstore with  a very contemporary and liberal clientele and surrounding the intersection, a neighborhood of renovated Arts and Craft style bungalows...




and an inordinate number of double entry "duplexes" or what we like to call "polygamy houses"...


  for such a neighborhood built in the 1920's and 30's. Seen throughout the Mormon communities in the Four Corners, double entry houses or duplexes were a convenient layout for those following "the Principle" set forth by Joseph Smith and practiced until the church began excommunicating  members for having more then one wife in the beginning of the 20th century. 

For many things in Salt Lake, I am too liberal and to the left, for some other "new" ideas I am too conservative, but again that is what brings me again and again back to Utah. A  place much like Jerusalem, The Salt Lake temple is aligned to the Holy City which was an inspiration to the founders the New Zion and like the Holy City, Salt Lake has always been and will always be city in conflict of culture and beliefs, in a place as inhospitable as the Holy Land.








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21. Season's Greetings.....

May you and yours have a Blessed Christmas! 

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22. IF:Spirit


The Illustration Friday prompt this week was Spirit. First words that came to mind when reading it was "...in the spirit of Christmas", the idea that something outside yourself inspires you. So in the spirit of Christmas, I'm posting a nativity scene I stitched a long time ago, back in 2009. Still love the idea, Mary resting and Joseph, as a new dad, holding and admiring the little baby, before....all the rest of the Christmas story and what was to come after.
The scene was also inspired by my own experiences, gladly handing over our daughters to their dad to close my eyes and try to get the room to stop spinning.
We had one of our daughters at the start of the Christmas season and so the verse in Luke 2...
"But Mary treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart (vs 19)"

is very special to me as is the memory of Jon, at every opportunity holding, loving and getting to know his daughters. Both went through daily crying fits. The oldest could only be soothed by her dad dancing with her in the living room to Micheal Martin Murphy's Christmas album...

one song in particularly was very fitting, Two Step Round the Christmas Tree.


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23. All the pretty lights...


( I apologize for the green highlighting below- either I or Blogspot is having some difficulties and I can not "unhighlight" a few paragraph- so decided to go with it and write another post, instead of trying to "fick it" as my daughter said when she was two- and yes half the time it sounded like something else!)

Our farmer's market is continuing through the winter, thanks to the availability of some toasty warm greenhouse space at the nursery. Saturday morning, we moseyed on over there to buy our poinsettia, gets some fire oven baked pizza, from the chilled, brave and very pregnant vendor outside, think she was hoping the shock of cold might finally send her into labor, she is three days over due. Bought some locally made sausage and buffalo steak, some hot house tomatoes and kale.
Also went to a Christmas Arts and Craft show at the local brew pub where we got a few gifts and jewelry, along with some much unneeded but yummy handmade chocolate. It was a very pretty and festive day, with beautiful decorations, trees and well, prayer flags, lotus symbols along with ornaments for those who love Twitter and Facebook. What I did not see, though I didn't think about it until driving home, was a Creche or Nativity scene of Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus...


In fact, last year I remember also noticing the lack of the "Holy Family" amongst the decorations, I did see a Buddha themed Christmas tree though.

This isn't a post bemoaning  how we have taken Christ out of Christmas, because I'm not sure Christ has ever wanted to be the inspiration for winter time festival declared by the Catholic Church to give an alternative to the pagans who were celebrating the Winter Solstice...


God has always proclaimed his dislike for festivals, no matter how well, festive and pretty they are. In Isaiah...
 "I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, 
They have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them." 1:14

He has always warned against traditions, monuments and festivals. Why? Because as Paul says in 
Romans 1:25, it is too easy for us to exchange the Creator for the Created. 


Christmas is great, it comes in the dark of winter, when the grey skies are looming, the decorations, the lights, the music bringing good cheer. But for one, Christ wasn't even born in December. He was born during lambing season, so probably April, "the shepherds out tending their flock by night".

The other reality is that there is not much in the decorations of Christmas that actually do not have a pagan root to them, most especially the beloved Christmas tree. The tradition starting in Germany way, way, way before  Prince Albert brought it to Queen Victoria and the rest of Europe.


 It really isn't that much of a stretch, in the dead of winter, when everything else has lost it leaves between the white span of snow and grey skies, that the Evergreen would be a symbol of life, as is any light in the dead of winter...

My roots are in the far North, in Denmark and we still keep lights in the windows in the dead of winter. The light a beacon for travelers and to provide warmth and security in the darkness. It is the light, such a part of Christmas, the strings of lights surrounding our trees and framing our house that truly hearkens to Christ, the light of the world....
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming
 into the world. He was in the world, and though the world
 was made through him, the world did not recognize him. John 1:9-10

Even back in Isaiah, his coming was hearkened to with the symbolism of light...

The people walking in darkness  have seen a great light;on those living
in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9: 2


 I love Christmas, it is absolutely beautiful, a festive start to a long winter. A chance for families and friends to come together.There is so much history in the cultures that celebrate it. 

How much Christ is actually in this Winter Festival is our choice and it is certainly hard to keep the focus on him, I haven't even mentioned the horrid aspect of well what starts with "Black Friday" and doesn't end until "Boxing Day", whether that is packing up the old to make ready for the new or if that means a mad rush to the stores to buy even more then what was under the tree. 


But it is hard to keep the focus on him, any time of the year. Guess what, Easter is no better, the Christian, pagan and well commercial traditions in a great swirl. 

What is so important about Christmas, to quote Dr. Seuss...


"And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. 
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. 
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. 
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Sadly, that is as close as the festiveness of Christmas will allow the contemplation to go. The sentiment echoed in classic movies like...

It's A Wonderful Life

We like the residual-ness of what Christ brings, but it is safer on the edge of it, where we have the control. 
 PEACE ON EARTH

is declared from cards, banners and lights on the hillsides of towns. But rarely is the whole verse quoted..
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

That last bit of a downer- "on whom his favor rests". 

So why is Christmas important, if it has been so, well, adulterated? It is the time of year, if not the wrong time, that maybe, we will focus just for a moment on the story. The story of a young girl, who might have been as young as twelve years old, who God blessed and cursed with being the mother of the Messiah. God did not "clue in" everyone else, only visiting Joseph a few times in dreams. But Joseph did marry her and the Christmas story unfolded.
The Nativity scenes still needs to be set out, the scene of Mary and Joseph, with the Wise Man and the shepherds needs to hold its ground in this Winter Festival that all to easily starts to loose it's Light.

 





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24. A World Unlike My Own: An Introduction


I'm really bad about anniversaries, have a hard time remember my own, plus birthdays, well other than my daughters, cause I was kind of an active participant. I was curious and looking back, this blog has been running since June of 2006, that's over seven years, I think, I counted on my fingers.

Of all the people who follow it, I've only met one person that I did not know before, through Her blog..

Jill Bergman makes the most adorable colored linecut prints of cute dump trucks, adorable kids, birds and the scenery around her home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I got to met up with Jill and her husband while they were on a vacation in the Four Corners and love to see her at the annual SCBWI conference in LA, though she did not get there last year, entering the thrilling and exhausting world of motherhood!

Now, I see, she is back at posting fun things on her blog and finding time to make some art! Meeting her, after getting to know her through our blogs- commenting back and forth- was a real perk, but most of the people following this blog, live much, much farther away then a few hundred miles and have yet to invite me to lunch, but here is hoping!

I am still amazed I have blog followers from all over the world- Finland to Turkey, England to Australia and other then Jill and those I am related to, I have never met any of them. I hope they follow this blog, not to even out the score because I posted something on theirs, but because for the simple reason what I wrote, my photographs or art moved them, it is what artist hope for.


I have never asked why, I'm guessing. I just know it's the reason I read theirs, to see some amazing art and to see a bit of the world, that is so unlike mine.

It is also the reason I write a blog centered on the Four Corners, because this place, sitting on top of the Colorado Plateau, where the Colorado river and all its tributaries cut through the red rock to make canyons that go down is not where I grew up. I grew up farther north where canyons went up between hills and mountains.

I won't speak for others, but I am inspired to write this blog and make the art I do...


 because I am really a stranger in a strange land, amazed by the people and places around me. I just can't believe I have been writing Moonflower Musing for as long as seven years!

In the next few blogs, I intend to highlight some more of my favorite bloggers, who are all not artists by trade, but who have done a wonderful job bringing a bit of their world to us through blogging and tweeting, something new I have ventured into. What do these blogger and.....what do you call a person who tweets.... have in common, well, the worlds they have so graciously shared online, have moved me in some way, so I guess they actually are all artists.







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25. IF: Secret


This secret place is called Lost Park, off of Highway 285 cutting through the mountains, in the middle of Colorado, headed towards Denver. This isn't an actually representation of me and Jon, it is more a combination of memories, of when we lived up there while he went to grad school.
It's where, leaning against the back of his truck, he asked me to marry him and we took many a weekend drive to get away from the big city.
I remember one in particular, after circling South Park, actually the real one, which did  inspire the horrid comic series, which my daughters love, apparently  the authors of it grew up in Fairplay, a town nearby.
But the real one, is a great wind swept valley, with rounded hills in every direction encircling it and we had spent the day driving and driving, assuming we could pop out on the other side of the park and meet back up with the main road.
Rain came and it started to get dark and almost to the main road, we hit a gate, a gate with skulls and more then one spray painted "do not trespass" pictures of guns, we sat there a long time and debated- seeing the headlights in the distance marking Highway 285 in the distance.... then we turned around and in the dark, went back the way we had come, it was a long, long night getting back home!

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