"January, month of empty pockets! . . . let us endure this evil month, anxious as a theatrical producer's forehead." -- Colette

Well -- the weekends seem to fly by 
at an even quicker rate than the weekdays do.  

But when you're running behind schedule,
everything seems to move at warp speed, doesn't it?

And distractions abound, of course!  

It probably wasn't very good timing for us to convert one of the upstairs bedrooms into a lovely TV room for two:  large comfy chairs, a big new television -- our first TV actually made in this century --

(Technology has arrived! and it has CABLE!
and the perfect lighting for enjoying Season Five of Perry Mason. 

(Update: Perry's gained a little weight since we started, but he's still smart as a whip.  I've also noticed that Della's hair seems to be growing at roughly the same rate as Perry's waistline.  But then I've got an eye for detail.)

Anyway, January in Minnesota is a great time for a dark TV room, a bushel of licorice and a bundle of distractions, and guess what?  We've almost hibernated our way through!  Although it's snowing to beat the band today, every month we can cross off the calendar brings us closer to a potential light at the end of the tunnel.  And even POTENTIAL light is better than no light at all!

All in all, it hasn't been my favorite winter so far.  My husband started a business last year, and if you like wild rides and haven't been able to get to the amusement park lately, I can tell you that starting a business will give you some great thrills (and even make you want to throw up sometimes, for a little extra roller-coaster reality!)

But we're enjoying the crazy ride together, as always, and can't wait to see where it goes next.  
And it's been great for keeping my mind off my other stresses.

Always look on the bright side.

The pics over at Magpie Tales haven't inspired me recently, but one in an old magazine did, so I'm going to give you a non-Magpie-Monday Tale today . . . a little poem that perfectly sums up how January 2011 has felt to me.

If you've spent some time here, you may know how I feel about flying (although a flight to Santa Fe always puts me in the mood to start packing!)

Well this January has felt like a  

And the destination is . . . 
FEBRUARY??!!  Hmmm.



Clear Air Turbulence

The lurch of  my stomach, the shudder
of the structure as it strikes
nothing, nothing I can see or put
my finger on -- the pilot isn't worried but
the masks have dropped and I
am trying to breathe
normally, assist those around me
while remaining calm, as if
this is just what was expected, another
trip from here to there, flying
blind as always, although sometimes
we hit the clouds
as if they were our imagination
sometimes we hit the blue
hard and thumping
side to side, up and down, weight shifting
in the overhead bins, careful to reach up
and hold everything in place, ready to grab
whatever may fall --
there will be a landing, it's a rule
what goes up will come down again
but let's hope it's just a touch
let's hope we have the gear in place, ready
to absorb the shock


Have a farewell-to-January poem you'd like to share?
How about a few fond words of welcome for February? 
I'd love to read it, and I'd be happy to post it here!  
A Small Works Poetry Workshop
may be just the thing we all need . . . 

Wishing you many Monday musings.


Finally Friday!

And not much to show for it, so far . . .

Not an idea in my head, truth be told.

Well, that's not COMPLETELY true, because for some reason I can't stop thinking about baked goods.  That's not terribly unusual for me, but my current obsession . . .

with MUFFINS has been a bit strange.

Specifically, the recipe I've recently developed for Snickerdoodle Muffins.

Lindsay walked into the house the other morning to have breakfast with her Dad before a day of skiing together, and after a long sniff she immediately said, "Snickerdoodles?  In the morning?"

So I guess they must actually smell 
as delicious as they taste! 

If you like Snickerdoodles (the cookies), but are too ashamed to eat them for breakfast, then try these:

Snickerdoodles (the muffins)

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
generous 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 cup milk
cinnamon/sugar for sprinkling

Heat oven to 350.  Grease muffin cups well.  Mix flour, b.p., salt and cinnamon and set aside.  Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl.  Add egg and vanilla and beat well.  Add flour mixture to egg mixture about 1/3 at a time, alternating with milk and ending with flour.  Mix just until blended.  Divide evenly among 12 muffin cups.  Sprinkle generously with cinnamon/sugar (I keep a large shaker of this on hand; if you need to make it, you can mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl to your liking and sprinkle it on with a spoon). 

Bake about 20 minutes, or until springy to the touch in the center.  Tops will crack while baking (just like the cookies!) Cool 5 min. before removing from pan.


Add a little butter and honey for a 
sweet and sunny Saturday morning treat . . .

Hope your weekend is 
yummy as well.  

See you Monday!



Voila! (and it's about time.)

Do you remember ever getting 
tired of your friends when you were a kid --

say, after a sleepover or summer camp --

and just wanting them to go home so you could be alone and do what you want?

Well, that's how I felt last night when I finally finished 
 what seemed to be the incredible growing piece:

Mother Nature Tries Asking Nicely, 9.75 x 15", Susan M. Hinckley, 2011

So I quickly snapped a picture and sent her home.  And where's home?  

This cowboy boot box, of course.  It's where my pieces go to chill for awhile before being carted to the photographer, and eventually matted and framed.

My photographer still can't really believe that I show up with my work in a cowboy boot box, and ridicules me mercilessly.   But it's just the right size and so handy!

I'm not proud --

but come to think of it, shouldn't there be some cachet to carting your work around in a cowboy boot box? (Especially a Lucchese box -- c'mon!)

I'm also fond of wearing the boots to church -- highly unusual in my suburban corner of the world -- just to keep people on their toes. I'm sure this is a practice for which I'm also ridiculed mercilessly, but at least the church crowd has the decency to do it behind my back.

And the "eccentric artist" persona won't perpetuate itself, you know . . . I feel it's my duty.

Usually when the little details of finishing a piece have me feeling like 
I'm slogging through wool mud,

I offer myself a nice reward for finishing . . .

Unfortunately, my only reward this time 
is a pile of additional work. 

And the satisfaction 
of a job well done  
(or at least DONE),
of course.  

I never see what has been done; 
I only see what remains to be done.  

 -- Buddha 

The best punishment for procrastination is 
to work really hard to get ready for Baltimore. 

-- Susan  M. Hinckley



"Optimist: Day-dreamer more elegantly spelled." -- Mark Twain

Sure, it's already Time-Flies-Tuesday  . . .

and the piece that was supposed to be finished over the weekend is still slogging along.  Some pieces seem to keep growing as you work on them, and each time you near the finish line it's magically moved back 5 feet.

That's okay, because I feel this one is going to be worth it.  
And the next post should contain the big reveal.

Meanwhile, I was just reading a great article chock full o' tips for creative online marketers, kindly provided by Rachel (thanks, Rachel!) over at Rayela Art.  And of course the first thing I realized is that I consistently break almost every rule.

Using Blogger immediately exposes me as a rank amateur,  
for starters . . . 
but that's okay because my Amateur-Blogger-Blog then proceeds to break every other rule in the book 
(and I quote . . .)

"It's not about you.  So, unless you habitually fight dragons or have a gift for making the mundane hilariously funny or poignantly engaging, be careful how much you talk about yourself, your personal life and opinions.  (Save that for family and friends, who love you just for who you are.)"

Ouch.  Have I ever written about anything that wasn't about ME, with my hilariously funny and poignantly engaging personal life and opinions?  I guess that means that after I move to Wordpress, I also need to completely remake my content if I want to grow my brand.

That sounds like a lot of work for January, doesn't it? 
I mean, a complete personality overhaul on top of all the snow and cold and lack of sunlight and tight jeans and looming deadlines and piles of laundry and EVERYTHING ELSE GOING ON IN THE WORLD?

I'm going to have to think on it, of course.  
And in the meantime, quit writing uninteresting drivel about myself.

And I signed up for their free newsletter, 
because this is gonna' require some help.

So . . . what are you doing to survive January?  

Yesterday was actually (scientifically speaking) Blue Monday, the statistically most depressing day of the year.

And I didn't think it was so bad.    In fact, I find it quite hopeful to think that 2011 could actually bottom out by January 24 and we'd spend the rest of the year with things looking up.

J. Robert Oppenheimer said:

"The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds.  The pessimist fears it is true." 

So how would he finish this sentence? 

"The optimist thinks January 24 
was the worst day of the year . . ."

He'd probably finish it with something like this line from Peter Ustinov:

"The point of living and being an optimist 
is to be foolish enough to believe 
the best is yet to come."


Here's to being a fool.  Cheers!




F-f-f-f-frozen . . . F-f-f-f-friday . . . .

So today I wouldn't be a true Minnesotan 
if I didn't say SOMETHING about the weather. 

After all, the weather people have been blab blab blabbing about it all day. 

International Falls, MN gets a chance to be a celebrity
about once a year, and I think we owe the people
who have the . . . whatever . . . to live there
the recognition they deserve.

A flat temperature of minus 46?!  



My husband, for the record, is at a Boy Scout Winter Overnight (I thought something that dumb deserved a proper title, so I added caps).  Even though I've had a feminist bent for virtually my entire life, this is yet another illustration of why I never felt I should fight to get girls admitted to the Boy Scouts.

During a phone chat the other day, Hannah told me it was in the 40's in Virginia (where she had just returned from a lovely outdoor run) and we immediately figured out that it was 50 degrees warmer where she was than where I was.  And we're not even very good at math.

If it's minus 46, btw, and you want to heat your house to 70 degrees, your furnace just about needs to turn on its broiler element because it has to warm your house up by 116 degrees.

That's a lot of hot air.

And so is this, I know.  Just couldn't let the day go by without marking it.  It's Minnesota's celebrity day.  Only no one criticizes what we wear, and there's no red carpet because if there were, it would be buried.

Snowman out.



For Wednesday, a few words on writing . . .

You may or may not know -- or care -- that I'm actually a frustrated writer stitching out my aggression in wool "stories", but the fact is I have an endless fascination with all things WORDS.  My specific passion is saying things in the most concise way possible.

I guess that's why I'm eternally drawn to poetry: the weight of every word. 
Each must earn its keep, not just in meaning but in shape and in sound.  Poetry is the ultimate word game, and a great poem is truly rare but when you find one, you know it.

That's why my ears perked up when I turned on NPR for a moment in the car the other day and heard a discussion (I do not know with whom, unfortunately) about What Makes a Great First Line.

My father has long had the habit of jotting down first lines: on restaurant napkins and placemats, on scratch paper, on grocery lists -- and he usually has at least one on his person any time of the day or night. (I've often hoped he'd go beyond the first line, but his first lines are so good, they'd make a fine read all by themselves.)

What the two guests on NPR said that excited me were:

1) guest one:  "The first sentence must know about all the other sentences that come after it."

Brilliant.  No wonder I had to run into the house to write that down IMMEDIATELY upon returning home, right?  And:

2) guest two:  "The first sentence leans forward.  The first sentence leans into the story."

I love smart people.  I'd like to have lunch with one or two of them every day for the rest of my life.  And this particular smart discussion went so well with the newspaper article I'd torn out the night before that was still sitting on my kitchen counter, it was pure serendipity. 

The headline said, 

"Wanted:  Six-Word Stories, With Art."

It told about a St. Paul ad copywriter and a Minneapolis graphic designer who gave themselves a 365 challenge in 2010 that was unbelievably difficult but intriguing:  One would write a six word story and the other would design/illustrate it every day in 2010.  They nicknamed it "The Hemingway Challenge."

The legend goes like this:  Ernest Hemingway once boasted that he could write a complete story in just six words. His finished masterpiece tells us that he was right . . .

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Took my breath away.  There's a reason he's Hemingway, and if you ever doubted it, you've just seen proof. Talk about one line knowing about every other line that would come after it.  Only in this case, it kept the knowledge to itself (even though it was fairly bursting with it).

Someone at a show once told me that my pieces reminded him of "twelve word stories". . .  I thought a twelve word story was impressive, until I met a few six word stories.

A few more from the article I loved:

Holes in her story and pantyhose.

He was allergic, the cat stayed.

-- and --

His mom dutifully shaved his back.

Now the duo has opened up their challenge to the world with a new goal:  they will post a new contributed story on www.sixwordstoryeveryday.com each day in 2011 (the complete 2010 collection is there to view, as well).

Any writer/designer act can contribute!

Are you thinking yet?  
You should be.

(Wait a minute . . . was that?!  Rats.  That was seven words . . .)

(ps. I'm a guest blogger over on TAFA today.  Check it out!)



It's Monday, and --

Mother Nature has finally 
come to the party . . . 

But now I'm going to have to 
sew like lightning!

This piece has to be finished by the end of the week in order for me to stay on schedule.  With the face stitched (whew!), hopefully the rest will come together easily.

The plan is to have 8 new pieces for Baltimore, and I haven't given up on the plan yet.  But that's only worrying about step one, the sewing . . . there's also going to be the little matter of  framing 8 pieces!

All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem
brings us face to face with another problem.

-- Martin Luther King Jr. 

Luckily, it's only Martin Luther King day and not Valentine's day, so I've still got plenty of time for blissful denial.  So now it's back to work . . .

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance 
and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

-- Martin Luther King Jr.

I realize I'm not necessarily "uplifting humanity" -- even though my work looms large in my own little life -- still, I do hope I can make someone else happy using my hands and the power of creative thinking. 

But  it's important to pause now and then and remember people 
who've done TRULY important work in the world:

M. L. King, Ulysses Davis, n.d.

Thanks, Dr. King, for your work and your words, from which we continue to benefit and for which we remain grateful . . . but also mindful of the importance of continuing down your enlightened path.

Peace in the Valley, O.W. "Pappy" Kitchens, 1977

We must use time creatively.
 -- Martin Luther King Jr.

Have a make-something-meaningful Monday.



It's Friday . . . and what's in a Face?

Look at those eyes! 
As close as the closest of friends . . .
Look at that nose! 
It starts where a good nose ends . . .

--Look at that Face, from The Roar of the Greasepaint

One of my favorite possessions, a small oil painting study from the 1920's, 
found UNDER SOMETHING ELSE(!) when I bought an old frame.

Today's the dreaded day I come to 
 -- in every piece  --

where I have to add the face.

You see, some just turn out so much BETTER than others.  Very often, they don't look anything like my drawing.  Very often, they don't communicate what I wanted the piece to say.

A man's face is his autobiography.  
A woman's face is her work of fiction.

-- Oscar Wilde

Occasionally, they're JUST RIGHT and then everybody's happy.  I wish I had a little more control, of course.  I'm not sure why I don't.

A few facts:

1) I find that I don't breathe while I'm stitching faces
(this could be part of the problem!)

2) The prices for my pieces are often directly connected to how much face work is involved (in case you ever wonder why artists price the way they do, that's one part of my formula:)



Lips + eyes = $$$

3) Even worse than trying to apply a face to one of my pieces is trying to take one off.  (The un-picking can take longer than stitching it on in the first place, and of course one must worry about scarring!)

I noticed that one of my favorite artists, Cathy Cullis, has started a personal 365 challenge that puts Small Works' Happy Thought to shame (in terms of level of difficulty). Check it out.  Every day she is sculpting a little face, and she is posting photos on her site.  I look forward to following her project.  And I can't wait to see the picture when they're all grouped together!

Are we to paint what's on the face, 
what's inside the face, or what's behind it?

-- Pablo Picasso

I guess Picasso hit it on the head -- or on the face -- with that line, because portraying what's behind the face is exactly what I'm after.  The face tells the story. 

For instance, as a kid you can tell a lot about what kind of day
it's going to be by the look on your mother's face.

God has given you a face, 
and you make yourself another.

-- William Shakespeare

All I know is, I wish I could ask a higher power to make TODAY'S face.   But either way, I'll let you know how it goes. Actually, you'll know just how it went when you see the look on the face.

(Happy Friday.)

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