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Friday, October 30, 2015

{explore} mural art in St Petersburg, Florida

If you are in the Tampa/St. Pete area, I encourage you to spend an afternoon touring downtown to enjoy all the mural and street art. St. Pete encourages and supports public mural art in a big way which makes the city vibrant and visitors lucky. The recent Shine festival helped add even more art to the walls. You can read more about the artists and get a tour map here

*And for refreshments, we love Bodega and Banyan Cafe.

Monday, October 26, 2015

{copy work} The Secret by Denise Levertov

The Secret

by Denise Levertov

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of

I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

found on Poets.Org

Saturday, October 24, 2015

{read} Hold Still by Sally Mann

Oh, how I loved this book.

A memoir that goes back over a hundred years into a fascinating family history, a deep meditation on one's bond to land, and a treatise on working creatively while raising a family (and more importantly - becoming collaborators within a family, this is essential reading for creative parents!

Mann's intimate photographs of her family, published in the book Immediate Family,  shot her to national prominence (and infamy) in the early 90's. She photographed her children injured, naked, and in awkward positions (as well as playing, thoughtful, and engaged in life). As photographs, they definitely elicit a response from the viewer. They are beautiful and powerful and darkly capture a side of life with children that is not often talked about or even recognized. As a parent, one wonders what would prompt her to make these photographs and publish them to the world. She writes at length about her process, the children's cooperation and collaboration, the secluded and nearly feral life they led at their river cabin. It all makes sense. I do wonder (as does she) how her art would have been received in the digital age.

Most interesting to me are the photographs she took of her children when they were hurt or danger is implied. Nothing serious: stitches, imprints of bite marks, legs cadaverishly caked with mud, a child sleeping that calls to mind a 19th century death portrait, a child next to a freshly hunted deer or holding roasted squirrels.

Writing about an image of her child Jessie with a swollen face after an insect bite, Mann shares:

"As strange as it sounds, I found something comforting about this disturbing picture. Looking at the still-damp contact print, and then looking at Jessie, completely recovered and twirling around the house in her pink tutu, I realized the image inoculated me to a possible reality that I might not henceforth have to suffer. Maybe this could be an escape from the manifold terrors of child rearing, an apotropaic protection: stare them straight in the face but at a remove - on paper, in a photograph. 

With a camera, I began to take on disease and accidents of every kind, magnifying common impetigo into leprosy, skin wrinkles into whip marks, simple bruises into hemorrhagic fever. Even when a scary situation turned out benign, I replayed it for the camera with the worst possible outcome, as if to put the quietus on its ever reoccurring." 

She uses her camera to explore the darkest themes of motherhood in ways that are recognizable to most parents. The camera becomes a looking glass into futures nightmares you hope to never endure and the images take you as close to the edge before tumbling over.

The book also offers deep histories of race in the south, the unchanging landscape, marriage and illness, and death. Full of photographs and copies of letters, memos and various ephemera, the book is delightful, engaging and at times challenging to read. I highly recommend it.

This is the book to gift your book club friends, art lovers, and wild mamas. They will thank you.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

We are just layer upon layer of stories, fables, myths and poems to each other

This weekend we stumbled upon an estate sale in gentrified Winter Park near Orlando. We love attending auctions, yard sales and estate sales but have taken a break as we declutter our house and move to smaller quarters. Saturday, I remembered what we have been missing.

The single story Roman villa we entered was worn but spectacular even in its denuded state. We saw: terrazzo floors, high, high ceilings painted with a Disney palette straight from the "It's a Small World" ride, a square iron tub, and an original push button stove from the late 50's, early 60's. Built in's, thick plush carpet and canopy beds hinted at the past elegance with which the previous owner imbued the property with.

As we wondered from room to room, we began to build the life story of the owner. He travelled. A lot. We later heard that he had been to over 150 countries. There were African marks, shell specimens, small, intricately carved and inlaid boxes, and many sweatshirts, robes, bottle openers and such emblazoned with the resorts and cruises he enjoyed. He had many mirrors that reached to the ceiling, small oil landscapes, iron sculptures of conquistadors and some ancient church thrones.

The library was a dream. Wall to floor wood bookshelves were filled with nature guides, books on art and psychology and an impressive collection of National Geographic Magazine going back to 1916. I became antsy as I scanned his stacks and wondered who he was and what his life was like.  Was he happy and content or chasing something elusive all over the world. There was no sign of a wife or children. Was he single, gay, or did his wife die years earlier and all traces of her were already wiped clean?

We found his makeshift office with an electric typewriter and filing cabinet tucked into a corner. His name was Arthur Blood. And he was a psychiatrist. I did a little research and found out that if he is still alive, he is 93 years old.

It was all interesting and made me think about the stories we invent about each other. And we do it all the time, don't we? I created a character while touring this house that was adventurous, mentally vibrant and connected to a community through his patients and the friends that he entertained. I felt better knowing this "type" of person existed in the world. And there were certain parts of his life I very much wanted to emulate.

But all of this could be completely false. He could have been a monster. A horrible traveller and small minded bigot.

Who knows? And in a way, who cares? Maybe we all exist as a roles in stories that others need us to fill in order to construct their own story. We are just layer upon layer of stories, fables, myths and poems to each other.

And when you realize that, and start listening closely to the text pour out all around you, life becomes complicated and more clear than ever. Try listening to the reading, writing and creating all around you. There are volumes of origami-ed pages strewn in your path.

And tell me. What would your end of life estate sale look like? How would people read the artifacts of your life? What story would you tell?

Friday, October 16, 2015

{exploration lab} prosthetics

Our homeschool co-op is learning about bones this month and my week was devoted to prosthetics. I wanted as much as the class to be an open tinker time as possible, so I kept the lecture to a minimum.

In our co-op, the organizing parent shares resources with their kids before we meet. We post videos, animations, and other educational fodder on our group FB page. So the kids come to class already versed in the subject. I had also asked each of them to design a prosthetic in their journals.

Meticulous models are made while getting fitted for a prosthetic, so we started by making plaster of paris models of their fingers.We used alginate in paper dixie cups. Your finger has to stay in the agnate for 3-5 minutes, so while I had them all still, I attempted to give a brief history of fake arms and legs. Remarkably, for most of time, prosthetics were simple and made of wood, leather and metal. It is only in recent history that so many advancements are being made, including the ability to move prosthetics with your brain!

After our finger molds set, a volunteer removed them and filled them with plaster and let them set for the remainder of the class.

Each kid shared their drawings which were varied and interesting. And then we built. My family had been been working on articulate hands using strings and straws. We shared this technique and many decided to use it in some variation like articulated tails and head dresses.

My hope was that each kid learned one new technique for their builders toolbox. I can not wait to see how their new skills show up in their future work.

Materials and tools we used:
scissors and exacto knives
hot glue guns and duct tape

Oh! I made a pinterest page with a handful of resources. 

Share what you make in the Mama Scout Laboratory for Creative Living Facebook group.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

{copy work} Considering the Snail by Thom Gunn

For those of you who take my online labs, you know I am a fan of copy work. Copy work is an educational idea, used by many homeschoolers, that encourages one to copy quotes, well written and evocative passages and poetry into a journal. The ideas is that by copying, the writer slows down, absorbs the words and style of the writer and connects with the message on a different (deeper?) level. I find it can be as relaxing as a mini meditation. Here is a current favorite poem. Enjoy!

Considering the Snail
by Thom Gunn

The snail pushes through a green
night, for the grass is heavy
with water and meets over
the bright path he makes, where rain
has darkened the earth’s dark. He
moves in a wood of desire,

pale antlers barely stirring
as he hunts. I cannot tell
what power is at work, drenched there
with purpose, knowing nothing.
What is a snail’s fury? All
I think is that if later

I parted the blades above
the tunnel and saw the thin
trail of broken white across
litter, I would never have
imagined the slow passion
to that deliberate progress.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

to market, to market

This fall, my kids are participating in something new. Our midweek farmer's market has started a kids market. Kids are encourage to make and sell their creations. It is such a fabulous idea! 

Each week there are a handful of tables selling baked goods, artwork, duct tape creations, sculpty magnets and jewelry, sewn napkins, and more. My kids and their friends have fun thinking up projects to make, learning about marketing, pricing, customer service, and displays. They do all the work, from production to set up. I am there as back up and a resource but have fully handed the responsibility over to them. The motivation of making some cash has brought out their grit and entrepreneurship.

Honestly, it is a bit slow now because it is still so hot. But come cooler weather, I hope they are swimming in customers. 

Does your local farmer's market have something similar? If not, I have a feeling most would be receptive to the idea.

Monday, October 5, 2015

{project} stuffed memories

In the fall session of Journal Jam we have been drawing, painting and writing about our stuffed animals. This activity is the perfect project for a family art night.

Ask each kid (and adult) to bring a stuffed animal that they have had a long time and really treasure to the table. We drew ours with pencil, outlined with a Sharpie marker and then water colored. Kids can share their memories orally, dictate to an adult or write them down themselves.

Looking closely at sentimental objects slows down time and offers a restorative meditation to everyone at the table. And the finished product will be cherished and adored down the road.

Be sure to share a link in the comments if you do this. I would love to see your journal entries.

Friday, October 2, 2015


It seems like every October we study biology or something creepy with our homeschool co op. Last year we dissected sea creatures and buried (and a month later dug up!) fish.

This year we are studying bones. There are lots of cool bone decorations and one of the easiest things ever is to grab some skeletons from the dollar store - 3D or wall hanging and label them.

We watched this Crash Course video on the skeletal system by Hank Green, played a little Skeletons in the Closet, and then labeled these guys.

It was a fun review of the major bones of the body and we now have some creepy decorations to get us in the mood for Halloween!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

{challenge} october :: a month of memory

The wellness/creative challenge for October is..... to create a month of memory. In honor of Day of Dead which I am having fun exploring via Merrick Weaver and her awesome online lab, Decluttering for the Dead, I thought a month of writing down, sharing and digging into our memories could be really fun.

Here is how it will work: each day in the Mama Scout Laboratory for Creative Living FB group, I will post a simple prompt that you can take to your journal or use as a conversational starting point.

You can share your memories in the group as well as any interesting and fun ways you have come across to mark and memorialize the adventures of your life.

Are you in?

Just make sure you are in the Fb group, grab a journal and get ready to go (back).

(food) pumpkin smoothies

We can not get enough of the pumpkin smoothies we make every fall. They are healthy, filling and make everyone think they are getting a special treat, which they are!

Here is a sort of recipe for a big blenderful (you can freeze leftovers as popsicles):

2 bananas - the riper the better
big TBS of honey or maple syrup (adjust based on your sweetness needs)
a whole can of organic pumpkin puree
milk (cow, coconut, almond, rice...) to cover the blade (adjust for thickness)
ice to the top (or you can use frozen bananas for a thicker smoothie)
pumpin spice to your liking (we like a lot)

candied ginger
almond meal
chia seeds
unsweetened coconut
chocolate chips (why not?)

That's it! Experiment and come up with your favorite version!


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