Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tiny Worlds

Image "New York", artist whiterose243
Kitschy charm, simple cheer, dreamy wonder, even eerie beauty or dark humor - snow globes, my friends, do it all and I have no idea where to begin.
I always loved the initial frantic swirl that eventually settled into a gentle tumbling. My favorites had teeny, but complex, scenes- a sleepy town, Santa's workshop, a pond crowded with skaters. Later, I confess, a touch of glitter would catch my eye and now I am partial to a single, beautiful figure or object inside the glass.
There is something about a fixed moment that can come alive, become dynamic, with a simple shake. You can hold them, right there in your hand....tiny worlds.

Image "My World", artist PokinatchaChick

Image "100 percent chance of flurries", artist Sorcha-Reul

Image "Snow Globe Snowstorm", artist garlandcannon

For those of you who prefer your worlds a bit more cold and creepy, there are some amazing globes by artists Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz. The artists have a series of globe art entitled "Travelers". They combine reality and fantasy, explore fear and horror, address loneliness and beauty, tackle the dark and silly sides of humor, and all of this happens inside small orbs of glass.

Image "Traveler 156 at Night", artists Martin and Muñoz

The idea of creating personal snow globes, ones that capture a mood or an emotion for the individual, really interests me. I think it would be a great project for kids- to see how they would encapsulate happiness or anger or gratitude. This site has easy to follow instructions for creating homemade snow globes.

Right now I have a new very favorite. I figure I'll end with that. This is the world I'm getting lost in today.

Image "Traveler 78 at Night", artists Martin and Muñoz

Monday, April 27, 2009

I make bean-stalks, I'm / a builder, like yourself..."

image via: Sprouts on the Sidewalk (a really great blog on urban agriculture)

This past weekend on NPR's "The Splendid Table" Rosalind Creasy (she wrote "Recipes from the Garden") talked about the possibility and "why not?" of making front yards and lawns into vegetable gardens. Never mind the practically - there can be such new beauty in tomatoes instead of roses, lettuce instead of shrubs.

image via: The Blue Marble

I missed the Oprah episode, but other bloggers (like Lovely Little Things) talked about a family in California who did just that and turned their yard into an "Urban Homestead."
image via:

And, of course, with the White House digging up the South Lawn - is there really any excuse not to create and shape our own victory gardens? My front yard is a parking lot, but I think I'd like to give window sill gardening half a chance - fragrant herbs at my fingertips sounds like a very fine idea.

image also via: Sprouts on the Sidewalk
(also go here to read about victory gardens and see some great historical pictures and posters)

The Bean-Stalk
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Ho, Giant! This is I!
I have built me a bean-stalk into your sky!
La,—but it's lovely, up so high!

This is how I came,—I put
Here my knee, there my foot,
Up and up, from shoot to shoot—
And the blessed bean-stalk thinning
Like the mischief all the time,
Till it took me rocking, spinning,
In a dizzy, sunny circle,
Making angles with the root,
Far and out above the cackle
Of the city I was born in,
Till the little dirty city
In the light so sheer and sunny
Shone as dazzling bright and pretty
As the money that you find
In a dream of finding money—
What a wind! What a morning!—

Till the tiny, shiny city,
When I shot a glance below,
Shaken with a giddy laughter,
Sick and blissfully afraid,
Was a dew-drop on a blade,
And a pair of moments after
Was the whirling guess I made,—
And the wind was like a whip

Cracking past my icy ears,
And my hair stood out behind,
And my eyes were full of tears,
Wide-open and cold,
More tears than they could hold,
The wind was blowing so,
And my teeth were in a row,
Dry and grinning,
And I felt my foot slip,
And I scratched the wind and whined,
And I clutched the stalk and jabbered,
With my eyes shut blind,—
What a wind! What a wind!

Your broad sky, Giant,
Is the shelf of a cupboard;
I make bean-stalks, I'm
A builder, like yourself,
But bean-stalks is my trade,
I couldn't make a shelf,
Don't know how they're made,
Now, a bean-stalk is more pliant—
La, what a climb!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

'Night Bea.

I was sad to hear that Bea Arthur passed away this weekend. I was one of those kids who spent Saturday nights watching and loving "The Golden Girls." I thought it was so funny and silly despite the fact that, even now, I'm still unpacking the double entendres. "The Golden Girls" also reminds me of my grandmother who loved the loved the fashion of Easter egg pastels and silks and scarfs and (god bless 'em) shoulder pads on shoulder pads. So classic 80s, so retiree glamorous. (I found the below as a modern take on Dorothy's style. clara_bow80 really got Dorothy down - the oversized shirts, the chunky accessories, the big and bright purses).

Dorothy, The Golden Girls

And, yes, of all the girls, I loved Bea Arthur best. I loved her as Maude, the sassy protagonist of my favorite 70s show to watch when I was home sick in elementary school (again, not getting much other than - she is so brassy and funny). And I don't need a facebook quiz to tell me, but if I could be a Golden Girl I would want to be Bea's Ms. Zbornak and I would manipulate any questions to get that result. In any role, Bea Arthur was whip smart, observant, a killer of one liners, and a woman who took it as good as she gave it (just take a peek at The Bea Arthur Quote Shrine). She was one heck of a girl and I wish we had more like her.

(both moving and hysterical - one of my favorite Dorothy moments)


Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Knowing you're going to grow up to be a grownup is scary" -FPHeide

There are more than just a few things about this book that make it so darn charming. The collaboration of Heide and Feiffer presents not only the frightful scenarios of the runaway imagination ( "Thinking about a big bird with big teeth who might swoop down and carry you away is scary"), it captures the anxieties that take hold of children and adults alike ("Finding out your best friend has a best friend who isn't you is scary"). This book is a list really, not a story, and it is a wonderful way to address fears and doubts with an audience of children.

The immediacy and emotion in Feiffer's comical, exaggerated illustrations perfectly complement the text. The humor that surrounds both the absurd and the very real frights make all of them easier to talk about. The right hand side of this double page spread shows a little boy-tiny, wide-eyed, arms folded- waiting nervously at the far end of a playing field. Shadows of the members of two teams loom large in the foreground and a grassy expanse of negative space separates the boy from the groups....." Thinking you're not going to be picked for either side is scary". Feiffer illustrates that pit-of-your-stomach dread perfectly with a little pen and ink and a watercolor wash and it is just silly enough. This book is a great choice for the first day with students in a new class or really anytime you want to open up a discussion about what is frightening or worrisome, because some things are scary, but much less so when you can laugh about them.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Can someone cut this soda bottle in half for me?

terrarium madebymavis

Terrariums can be so elegant, so simple. Yet, there is also something so wonderfully geeky and elementary science project about them - watch what can grow and thrive with the right amount of water and warmth and sunlight! They also seem to be the perfect kind of greenery to have in your home if you lack a green thumb (this is not that hard) or have pets and babies who will eat anything they can get their hands (or paws) on. Beauty, brains, and an easygoing nature... it's the dorky science kid who's become a prince.

The madebymavis terrariums are quirky:

or a drop of simplicity:

I also love this set of hanging terrariums (more raindrops) via sfgirlbybay:

And these mix media pieces, by artist Thomas Doyle, are just haunting. I would love to have one tucked among a few traditional terrariums and then watch people stumble upon it (be sure to click on the links to see the pieces in greater detail).

(discovered via: boingboing)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How Peter got his wings.

Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan. The pirates, the pixie dust, the never growing up. I love the drama too, but I love the story of Peter before the play. J.M. Barrie's "Peter in Kensington Gardens" (1906) is a short work about how the part bird, part boy came to be and his adventures living "in the wild" of the famous London gardens. It's sweet and heartbreaking (and you can find it for free here and here).

A taste:

"The window was wide open, just as he knew it would be, and he fluttered, and there was his mother lying asleep. Peter alighted softly on the wooden rail at the foot of the bed and had a good look at her. She lay with her head on her hand, and the hollow in the pillow was like a nest lined with her brown wavy hair. He remembered, though he had long forgotten it, that she always gave her hair a holiday at night. How sweet the frills of her nightgown were! He was very glad she was such a pretty mother."

all images by photograper Jan von Holleben

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lily of the Valley

Photo courtesy of

It is an ideal, gentle scent to catch on the breeze, not too stifling or overwhelming. It smells , for lack of a fancier term, pretty....and it comes from tiny, delicate bell-shaped blossoms to boot.

When I was little I loved making miniature bouquets from the lilies of the valley that grew next to my house. There were white and lavender flowers scattered throughout the the giant, leafy carpet in the woods. I would present the flowers to my mum for her to display in a juice glass vase on the windowsill. I remember she was always appreciative, but also told me that if all the lilies were picked then there would nothing left outside to enjoy. ( This probably had something to do with my copycat siblings and their bouquets as well- we were clear cutting the field at an alarming rate!) Still, I loved seeing those tiny flowers dangling from their stems in our window.

This year I planted lily of the valley in my own yard. My family and I are still settling into our house, getting to know our yard, making this place our own. I definitely do not have a green thumb and , unfortunately, there are no fields of lilies nearby like the one from my childhood home, but if all goes well I'll be able to look out soon enough and enjoy a sea of those fragrant bells. So, I'm holding a place on my windowsill.... just in case.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Bluebird of Happiness.....

Maybe she isn't blue at all because these joyful tweeters are from all over the rainbow. Wouldn't they be the greatest thing for a nursery? The sweet fabric birds hovering about their homes are the perfect combination of beauty and whimsy. I can imagine an entire children's room built around Tamar Mogendorff's art, but I could also see the birds in a sunroom, classroom, entryway, or gardening space. Really, the possibilities are limitless - especially when you have wings.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reason to love rain (#2)

Spring in North Carolina means pine pollen. It coats everything: cars, outdoor cats, bikes left outside. If you open your windows (for that wonderful spring breeze) you'll soon discover - a fine yellow dusting on your books, window sills, and picture frames. It looks like someone banged out erases in the middle of your living room. And so I want it to rain. I'm ready for the big spring wash.

bee covered with pumpkin pollen (sometimes it feels like this!)
image via:

Spring Morning
by A.A. Milne

Where am I going? I don't quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow-
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.

Where am I going? The clouds sail by,
Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.
Where am I going? The shadows pass,
Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.

If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,
You'd sail on water as blue as air,
And you'd see me here in the fields and say:
"Doesn't the sky look green today?"

Where am I going? The high rooks call:
"It's awful fun to be born at all."
Where am I going? The ring-doves coo:
"We do have beautiful things to do."

If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You'd say to the wind when it took you away:
"That's where I wanted to go today!"

Where am I going? I don't quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.

Also, a look at what spring rain can do... (thanks to artist Jeff Scher's sweet little animated film, "Welcome Back").

via The New York Times:

"The oldest books are still only just out to those who have not read them." - Samuel Butler

If you call the Boston area home or are just passing through, there is one spot you can not miss. At most, a bibliophile's dream come true and at the least, the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon, the New England Mobile Book Fair ( is the most extensive and unique bookstore around. It is a discount bookseller's warehouse filled with everything from current bestsellers to out-of-print treasures. The maze of a space is organized by publisher and navigating can be a challenge, but the wandering is the best part. It is the perfect place to outfit a library or classroom, find that unusual gift, or pick up your book club's latest selection. I'm partial to rooting through the children's remainder titles- there is nothing like holding your favorite picture book from the second grade again. Located in the Boston-neighboring city of Newton, the Book Fair offers titles for a minimum of 20% off of the retail price, but more smells like your childhood library. Breathe it in.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Collage and Cornell

This sweet collage by cabin + cub made me run through my collection of Joseph Cornell images. I love how Cornell, and this artist, both use found pieces (old children's books, illustrations) and familiar images (birds, the moon) in their assemblages.

Secret Toy
by Charles Simic

You make unknown the child’s sleeping face, his half-open eyes
and mouth.
Everything in his world is a secret, and the games are still
the game of love, the game of hide-and-seek, and the chilly
game of solitude.
In a secret room in a secret house his secret toy sits
listening to its own stillness.
Crows fly over that city. The ghosts of his and our dreams
come together at night like window dressers and their man-
nequins on a street of dark, abandoned buildings and white

poem from: Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell

yellows, reds, birds, boys (both present and absent):

some very serious owls:

bright blue flight:

cabin + cub's etsy shop:

Cornell images via:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Snarky Chicks

I have loved Sloane Tanen's clever and wry chicks since I got "Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same" two Easters ago from a friend with a wicked sense of humor, but I had no idea that she also made sweet little versions for children like "C is for Coco" and "Coco all Year Round." Wouldn't these make great books for a child's Easter basket?


Also, I found a great interview with Tanen on balancing her work with motherhood via mommy track'd:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"let the wild rumpus start!"

Even though it's not slated to be released until October, I'm really excited to see Spike Jonze's life action version of "Where the Wild Things Are." The trailer is incredible and, with the aid of an Arcade Fire song, it will choke you up. I have heard that the movie studio demanded re-shoots to make Max more likable, but I hope they didn't make him too likable - Sendak's Max is a dark and complicated little guy and I won't want to see washed clean of any complexity for the sake of box office.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Polish Easter

I won't be able to go home for Easter this year. I'm going to miss making up the Easter basket - the sugar lamb, bit of horseradish, the piece of kielbasa and babka, the brightly colored eggs (and a wooden one or two as well). A traditional Easter basket is just so pretty.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"...and Owl tried to sleep."

I recently came across Pat Hutchin's picture book, "Good-Night, Owl" (1972) about an owl who just can't get a wink of sleep because of all the racket those other birds make during the day. I know Hutchin's "Rosie's Walk," but I have never read seen this book before and it was a joy to discover. I love the rich royal blue and gold on the hardcover edition, but don't the books illustrations seem to be influenced by the patterns as well as colors (the oranges and yellows) of traditional Russian folk art? Maybe just a little.

Oh, to be more like Anne...

This past weekend there was an essay in the New York Times, "Got Poetry?" by Jim Holt, that makes a very convincing case for memorizing poetry. Yes, there are the "it's good for you" reasons, but I liked how he argued for the pure pleasure of it.
And if you need more evidence - look no further than Anne (the Anne, of "Green Gables" fame) performing "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes (in the 1985 PBS movie). Isn't the look on Gilbert Blythe's face enough to convince you to run out and commit something to memory??


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Reason to love rain (#1)

One of the prettiest films I've ever seen is the French musical "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1964) directed by Jacques Demy (I just the other day made the connection that Demy was married to Agnès Varda). Rich with yellow and pinks and constant rain. Is there anything more romantic?

"Selecting A Reader"
First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.

A sampling of "Umbrella" posters:

I like these as a pair. Because of the blue and musical notes.

Hello yellow. Notice how 3 of these posters are of the exact same image? Her umbrella, his arm.
I love the vertical lines, as rain, in these two.

And why not make it a double feature with that other soggy, but vibrant musical - "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)?


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