Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Self Portrait

I probably shouldn't be writing right now. I have just consumed the better half of a very strong Gin and Tonic and I am very, very tired.  However, it seems whenever I am very, very tired is when I decid to take self portraits.

I don't know why I do it.  I'm sure it has something to do with Frida Kahlo and wanting to be a different person than who I am.   I don't think I am so interesting that everyone in the world will want to look at photographs of me--it's just that I love taking photographs of people, and I have been for a very long time on my own when the creative urge strikes.   Sometimes I am frightened to look at other's work because I don't want to be too derivative of my inspirations...but the urge is usually too great and I have to shoot.   I don't think I am very photogenic, I don't think I am very pretty--but something has been bringing me back to Self Portraits for so long.

So tonight, I have created a Flickr account dedicated strictly to my self portraiture.  I welcome any who read this to follow along with the uploads.  Here is the

Although I will put my name on everyone of my photos, I have obscured the path to my self portraits because honestly I am very shy about them and how they portray me.  Something keeps bringing me back to this art form--and I think its time I stop ignoring it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Learning to Vote

*Disclaimer: First and foremost I want to say I am writing this blog to help educate people who may not know where, when or how to register to vote.  Certainly there are aspects to my personal experience that would have been different if I had been aware of information sooner rather than later. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to educate themselves, but it doesn't mean we cannot help each other along the way.

I moved to Rochester, Minnesota 5 months ago.  Previously, I had been living in bordering state of Wisconsin.  I had lived in Wisconsin for almost ten years, and in that time I voted in two presidential elections, and a few local elections.  I had also been issued two Wisconsin State Drivers Licenses.

Now, on the eve of my third presidential election, I find myself living in a new state, with new and different laws.  I don't remember exactly when I registered to vote in Wisconsin-- most likely at the polls, and all I had to bring with me was a piece of mail with my name and address on it. Maybe it was a paycheck, or possibly a utility bill.  I'm sure I had a Wisconsin State Driver's License with me, but it wasn't required.

Living in Minnesota, a resident can register to vote without proof of residence by filling out a voter registration card up to 20 days before the election.  After that cut off point you have two options,  Option A) Register to vote late at the voting registration office and have a Late Registration Card sent to you that can be used as proof of residence, or Option B) Register at the polls on election day, with exceptions.

 I missed the 20 day cut-off for registering to vote. Ok, I thought, no big deal, I will just register at the polls.  Except, to register at the polls you DO need a Minnesota State ID to register, even though in this election cycle Voter ID requirements are on the ballot.

Ok, I thought, I need to get a driver's license, shouldn't be too hard, I need to get one anyway since I live in a new state, should be easy, it was easy in Wisconsin.


I got up at 7:00 AM today so I could be at the Drivers License Office at 8:00 AM when the office opened. Upon arrival, I fill out the application, and step into line.  When I am called up to the counter, I explain I need to apply for a MN Drivers License.  The man behind the counter tells me I will have to take a written exam but to do that I ALSO need a copy of my birth certificate or a passport--neither of which I have on hand.

So, I go back home, find the copy of my birth certificate (a photocopy of the original I have never owned. A photocopy that has been good enough for any other official use I have ever needed it for) read through the drivers manual online to brush up on everything I already know, and then drive back to the office.

The line is longer now, nearing 10:00 AM.  I step into line, and in a few minutes I am called back up to the counter and present my documentation.  And I am told once again this is not good enough. I need an actual CERTIFIED COPY of my Birth Certificate, which I don't have. I don't know if even my father has one.  I am told to call my parents and get an actual certified copy and then come back.

I was born in Ohio.  My father lives in Montana.  There is no way I am getting a certified copy of my birth certificate in time to take a written drivers test so I can get a receipt for a drivers license that will be my proof of residency in order for me to vote tomorrow.  *Remember, 20 days ago, I could have just registered without any of this trouble, without showing an id, without any proof that the address I put on the card is my actual address.

So now I am really upset. I feel like crap, I can't vote tomorrow. What the hell do I do now? The only thing I can do--call my friend in Wisconsin, who has taken me to vote an other occasions, and cry over the phone.  She talks me down so I can drive home.

Yet, I don't want to quit. I want to MAKE SURE I cannot use my Wisconsin State Drivers License as an ID tomorrow along with a utility bill.  So I call the number listed on the How To Vote in Olmsted County website  (its the 507 number listed to the left of the page) and a woman picks up. I tell her my situation and that I want to make sure I cannot use my out of state license to vote tomorrow, and you know what she tells me?

She tells me I CAN use my out of state license to vote. I clarify the question and ask again, and she gives me the same answer. Yes, I can use my Wisconsin state license in Minnesota to vote.  I thank her and end the call.

Something doesn't seem right. I just don't be believe it. It doesn't say anywhere on the websites I have been reading that you can use an out of state license.  I know that was my question and of course I want the answer to be in the affirmative, but I also know enough to double, and sometimes triple check sources.

So, I call the State Voter Outreach Hotline which can be found at the Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State website.   I used the 1-877 number, followed the prompts and was eventually led to a real person who I could ask the same question  "Can I use my out of state license to vote tomorrow"... and he told me, "unfortunately no" .  I then to tell him that my county voting registration office is giving the wrong information and I give him the phone number for the Olmsted Office here in Rochester.

I told him that I could not get a drivers license before tomorrow.  He suggested I get a neighbor to vouch for me. I off handedly mention that I have an expired Military Issued ID from when my father was in the NAVY, and he said that might work.  He puts me on hold, I get to listen to cool music for 30 seconds, and then he gets back on the line and tells me "YES", the expired military issued ID should work to register to vote tomorrow.

Yes, I can vote. Thank Goodness for Voter Outreach.  Thank Goodness I never throw away old ID Cards.

The moral of my story is: take time to find out what is going on in your state.  Even though I have been incredibly busy with my new job,  had I just spent a little time researching this stuff a 3 weeks ago, I wouldn't have had to go through all this right before the election.

If you have friends moving to a new state, take a few minutes to "mom" them about the requirements of registering to vote or getting a new drivers license if you happen to know the information.  Do what my Wisconsin friend did, and drive others to register.  Who or what you vote for is your business, but helping others learn how to vote is something we can all benefit from.

Get a copy of your Birth Certificate.   Most people don't seem to have this, but at some point in time it seems likely you will need it.  Save yourself the headache and get one before you actually need it.

I'm lucky I have an expired military issued ID so I can vote tomorrow, but most people don't--and even though we all have neighbors, I think many people would be too embarrassed to ask a neighbor, who in my situation are pretty much strangers, to vouch for me to vote...but it is still an option here in Minnesota, and if it is the only thing keeping you from voting, its time to swallow some pride and ask for help.

Mostly, I am just frustrated by the misinformation I was given to me by county office.  Always question, and double, triple check sources.

For the future, I am using this as a learning experience for when I may have to move to a new state.  Until today, I have never known what it felt like to essentially be told I cannot perform one of my given rights.  In the grand scheme, there are much worse things to be denied, but being on this end of it for even just a few hours was enough for me to make sure it never happens to me again, and to do my best to help someone else in a similar situation.

For future reference, the websites on voting in Minnesota and Wisconsin are listed below:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Must Not Fear

The post below I wrote two years ago--and the words are still as true now as the moment I wrote them. It's been two years to the day my love Ethan lost a friend and brother, and though the hole created by the loss has begun to heal, I know its still there--not just for Ethan, but for all the people who knew Chad.

Today, work on something creative, help someone who needs a friend, tell the people you care about you love them--and take a moment and think about how they truly fit into your life, because your friends are the most sacred gifts, and without them life is bare canvas pleading for color.


On Sunday Evening, the 12th of September a talented man was in a tragic motorcycle accident. On September 16th, his spirit passed on.

This talented man, was Chad Gregerson and his art and life was the artistry of tattoos. He co-owned and operated Tatu Royale, in Winona, Minnestoa. He was only 43 years old.

Chad was our friend.

Right now, the emotions I am feeling are very muddled. Grief, pain, and the desire the be strong for the people who knew him better than I.

I cannot boast Chad was my good friend, but he was the best of friends to my boyfriend Ethan. Chad fully supported Ethan's artwork by not only pushing Ethan to continue to paint and sculpt, but by also supporting Ethan installing his work to be displayed in the shop. The pride it gives Ethan to know his artwork is where so many people will admire it is something I will always be grateful for. Chad gave Ethan an outlet, and that outlet supported both us, both emotionally and financially.

Yet, Chad has done even more for the people who work with him on a daily basis. One of my best friends is also a tattoo artist who has done and he was very luck to have Chad as his mentor.  Chad took what he knew, and passed it on.

I watched this from a distance, admiring his artistry, his willingness to co-operate, his unyielding generosity.

Facial tattoos, piercings, leather jacket and a motorcycle gave him the allure of someone you wanted to know, but not someone you wanted to screw with. Despite his outward appearance, Chad was, in my most humble opinion and limited time spent with him, a very gentle person.

He was always so respectful to me when I was visiting his shop or getting tattooed in it. He would stop and admire his young protege's work, give a few words of advice and a little support. No matter what, if you were in his shop, he acknowledged you and made you feel important. Without him, people I love very, very much would not have had the same opportunities as they do now. He was the teacher, and after our time of grief has passed, the students will have to test everything he taught them.

Chad was not only generous with his heart and friendship, but also with his needles and ink. Every piece I have ever seen of his speaks volumes about his ability. His Facebook page has been flooded with heartfelt messages of gratitude for the work he has put on people

Having a large tattoo myself and having it done by one of my best friends, I think I can truly understand what it means to loose someone who has marked your life in such a visible way. Although I have never had a tattoo by Chad, people who I consider my family have, and in this way I share their loss.

Getting a tattoo, whether large or small, takes a bit of courage. For a larger one, it takes hours of sometimes intense pain to get the end results. To put your trust in an artist, to let them hurt you so you can come out the other side a decorated, often different person, is a relationship that cannot easily be forgotten. When this artist is your friend, or becomes your loose him or her is like the loss of much beloved celebrity, only this celebrity has truly changed you. You are different because of him. He has taught you not to fear.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Grandmother's Garden

A few weeks before my big move to Rochester, MN I received news my Grandma Daphene "Daffy" was having health problems. It seemed imperative I make the time to go and visit her because I wasn't sure when I would be able to get substantial time away from my new role at the Food Co-op as Deli Manager.  I had already postponed a trip to Montana to visit my father,  but my last day of work in La Crosse left me with about a week before the start of my new job--the perfect amount of time to spend with family in Washington State.

When I arrived Aunt Kim picked me up from SeaTac--I don't think either of us had slept at all the night before so our first stop was coffee at a really cute cafe near my Grandmother's house.  We sat and chatted and caught up in real time with all things that were going on in our lives.

Grams was still at church when we arrived home--the front of Gram's house looking like it always has--truly the front yard has changed very little since I was a baby.  I know this because of the pictures in all the albums my grandmother has collected over the years. Typically there are petunias, maybe irises, and the  sand-babies, smooth flat rocks that are round like bubbles caught, flattened and turned into stone.  This year, due to Grams' health issues, the petunias hadn't been put in yet and the flower boxes under the windows were empty.

The inside of my Grandmother's house has changed very little since I was a child as well.  Now being nearly thirty years old I realize why I have always loved being in her home.  Even though the very same paintings and photographs hang on the wall year after year, they have a sense of refinement and timelessness.  A photograph of a young woman holding a conch shell to her ear hangs near a photograph of two young women talking with a bicycle held between them.  A photograph of a rose, and painting of birch forests in winter also hang in the living room.   How many times have I wondered exactly how the ocean sounded in that conch shell, or what those two women were talking about when they were photographed?  How many times did I imagine what it was like to walk through those woods, white trunks towering around me?

Simply put, visiting my Grandmother always makes me feel young.  Young in the sense  I don't have to worry about anything when I am with her. I can simply just sit and talk, drink a cup of coffee or eat a  our favorite chocolate chip mint ice cream from her jade colored desert dishes.  We can recline in the lazy-boy rocking chairs and watch Jeopardy and both know the answers to many of the questions, congratulating each other on our wins.

When Gram's got home from Church, I was so happy to see physically she hadn't changed so much from our last visit.  I was worried her stay in the hospital would have been really hard on her health, but she looked so well, very upright and sturdy.  She has never been shy about hugging and kissing me, and I have never been shy about receiving  love from her, or from my aunts or father.  I have often wished our family was much closer than we are, but I can say we do know how to show affection when we want to.

That evening Aunt Kim served us her always delicious Vegetarian Lasagna from the Laurel's Kitchen Cook Book.  Aunt Cathy, my cousin Marki and her boyfriend Zack joined us for dinner.  Marki is about ten years younger than me--and is now facing all the challenges and choices of being recently graduated from high school. Where to work, where to go to school, what to do with your life--I know these are all questions that follow us past our early twenties, but seeing her so poised and well spoken, I know what ever decisions she makes will be the right ones for her.

The next day, Grams, Kim and I picked Marki and Cathy up for an afternoon of one of our favorite activities: Thrift Store Shopping.  Washington has amazing thrift stores--and looking for vintage clothes, kitchenware and furniture has always been a pass time we could enjoy together.  I gravitated toward the used books, keeping my eye out for any early Caitlin R. Kiernan novels, but sadly did not find any, and we were all on the look out for shoes.  The women in my family have incredibly small feet, and I am learning as we get older it is even more difficult to find a pair of shoes that fit. More often than not we were looking in the children's section. We are tiny people, but fierce.

The next morning I took a run through Spanaway Woods.  Countless times as a child I wandered those little woods so close to my grandmother's house--they are the very same my father would play in, although smaller now due to the development of the area.  When I was about 12 years old, my father, sisters and I buried my childhood cat, Rambo, in those woods. Rambo was a white kitty with a green eye and a blue eye. He literally played in my crib with me as a baby, and I always thought of him as my little brother rather than a pet.  When we lived in Spanaway while my father was still in the NAVY, Rambo lived with my grandmother because we couldn't have pets in our rented house. I lived for the weekends we would stay with Gram's, going to church Sunday morning, and spending the afternoon snuggling my favorite kitty.  Rambo eventually got so sick that we did bring him home with us for the weekend, but after an rough evening of hiding behind the toilet making very sad sounds, we knew it was time to make the visit to the vet and have him put to sleep.

We took him the woods in a small cardboard box. My Dad dug a whole and placed him in, and then handed the shovel to me, saying we all had to put a little dirt on him. I did as I was told, and then passed the shovel to my sister, Rose, and then she on to Jessica. My father finished the job, and that was that--we didn't have anymore cats in our home until I moved out on my own. Now I live with two.

Walking down the dirt trails, giant ferns closing in on either side,  I thought about the hands of boys I had held in those woods.  Andrew, Russell, and most recently Ethan.  I thought about my nephew Cole and my father, who  several years ago, spent an afternoon exploring with me, skipping rocks in the streams and looking for turtles and picking blackberries.  I thought about how many more times I would have a reason to walk in those woods.

It was Memorial Day, so Kim, Grams and I stopped at Safeway and picked up flowers to take to Grandpa George's grave.  It has been nearly 10 years since Grandpa George passed away, and I don't think there is day his absence isn't felt.  Grandpa George was my grandmother's second husband, she and my paternal grandfather Carl having been divorced many years before I was born. So when we went to visit Grandma Daffy, it was always a visit with her, and not with a grandfather--until she and George married when I was in middle school.

For the first time I was able to see what it was like for my Grandmother to be in love. I witnessed their courtship, their marriage, and Grandpa George loving and taking care of my Grams, her children, and grandchildren.  How many people can say they witnessed all of that?  When George passed, I was already living in Wisconsin, making very little money, having almost nothing saved, so I was unable to visit for the funeral--but just earlier in the year I had been able to see him play his ukulele and hold my nephew at the family reunion I attended in Illinois for my Gram's side of the family.

We took the flowers to George's grave, he was laid next to his mother, Grandma Pauline.  We told him we loved him--and then I took a few of the flowers to the grave of another person I knew who is buried not too far from my grandfather---Theresa.  Theresa was a girl I knew in middle school who was a year older than me who had died while riding a moped. It looked like it had been awhile since anyone had visited her. I dusted her grave of the dried grass and put the flowers in the vase. I thought about the kid I was when I knew her, how silly and strange I was back then, the choices I was making.  I hoped her family might visit her soon and see the flowers I left and know they were not the only ones who remembered.

On the evening I was to go back to Kim's house in Olympia for the last few days of my visit, Kim, Grams and I looked through photographs and report cards from years before I was born.  My grandmother was a wonderful student, receiving mostly straight A's throughout high school and college.  There was the birth announcement given by the hospital for when my father was born.  There were school pictures of all my aunts and my dad throughout the years, first looking sweet as children, then awkward, and then unmistakably at the people they were becoming.

My grandmother gave me a photograph of her mother, my Great Grandmother Eula Coston, who married my great Grandfather Ben Coston when she was only 14 years old. My great grandfather was already in his 20's at the time of the marriage.  Gram's told me Grandma Eula went to live with Grandpa Ben's family and mother when they were first married, and because she was so young, she often felt like just a child instead of someone's wife.  Yet, Eula and Ben went on to have six children; five girls and one boy.  I never met my great grandmother Eula because she died a few days before I was born. My grandmother has often told me the day she laid her mother to rest was the saddest but also one of the happiest days because it was also the day she was given her first granddaughter, they day I was born. Shortly after the funeral, Gram's took a bus to come visit me.

Since the first time my grandmother has held me, I know her love for me has never failed--even through the difficult times, she has always been there, supporting me, telling me she is proud of me. That evening looking through those old photographs and papers of the past, Grams gave me a silver shawl she once wore to an Officers Gala with my Grandpa Carl.  Grams would sew all her own dresses for these events, having a clutch dyed to match. I don't know if the dresses still exist, but a few of the handbags do, and inside one we found a place tag, for finding one's seat at a table.  It is amazing how whole events, real people, dinners and dances can be reduced to a single card holding a person's name hidden inside the purse of someone's grandmother. Whole histories hide inside those pockets and drawers, entire worlds and universes where my aunts and father played, where they grew and learned and then grew apart, and in some instances grew back together. They are my Grandmother's garden.

I have been struggling for weeks to write about this trip. What did I want to say about a visit that meant so much to me where very little happened?  I realize the most important thing I took away from my visit is I do have a history, a family. It is easy to remember everything in black and white, to see only the flaws and the mistakes, the sadness. I think it takes a brave person to love the bad times as much as the good because that is what makes our history unique. Maybe it isn't always the one I wanted, maybe it isn't perfect, but it is mine, and for that I must be proud.
My Grandmother's Garden. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Shadows and Light

I have a theory about how a house becomes a home--I think it's when you receive your first big packages in the mail to your new address.  Of course, there are lots of other ideas about this topic:  a house becomes a home when there is love inside; when a wedding takes place there; a child is born in it. Since I have not been married nor do I have children, and I think the love one is just a give in, I am going to stand by my theory and say, yes, a house is a home when you receive packages to it.

Like I did today. Two packages.

First Package: My Cowboy Studio External Flash Transmitter and Receiver for my camera arrived today. Super Yay!

Second Package: My very own copy of Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle, featuring stories by Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger, and Joe Hill (who wrote the book Horns, which my friend Ross gave to me as a "moving from one house to another house" present--and it was a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it).

There are many other authors, and because, yes I just received this book less than 5 hours ago, I have not had a chance to read any of the stories--but I am telling you all, it is going to be good, and you really should consider a copy--Available at amazon, and those of you in La Crosse, order it from Pearl Street Books. Give those independent sellers some love.

So, I have new camera equipment and a new book. The next logical step is...a Photo-shoot!

Since my partner in crime is at work and I don't have any new friends in town yet, I had to use myself as a model, which means I rolled around in the grass, with mosquitoes and gnats buzzing in my face. The grass made me pretty itchy too, and it was fairly hot.  I did just finish working a very long day and I was feeling a little anxious about not getting enough exercise. Well, let me tell you, running out in front of your camera before the 10 second timer goes of, laying down, trying to look in some way decent, and then jumping back up, all without glasses on in 80 degree heat becomes quite a work out.  Derby Girls, think explosive squats over, and over, and over again. It is about the same thing.

My goal was to create something moody using my new light system, something that would of course create intense shadows, but would mainly showcase the book.  I had the good fortune to talk with Sam Weller about this book in March at the Gene Wolfe Gala, and I have been looking forward to its release ever since.

I saw a little while ago Sam was running a contest on his twitter for recipients of the book to showcase and promote it in a creative way--I hope others took up the challenge.  I had the idea for this photograph for couple of days ago knowing that both packages were arriving on the same day,  I thought "Genius! Photos of my new book with new camera equipment".

Now,  I know this photograph isn't is, if anything ok. What it is, is my first attempt  figuring out how to use this lighting system outside. Had I had a beautiful model/girlfriend/bestfriend/husband/wife/boyfriend to take photos of instead of myself, I think it would have come out even better...but here it is:

Pretty much what I look like after getting up to work at 6:00 am and working ten hours and then coming home to work on wedding photography.  All in all it was a pretty good day. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Opening Windows

We have been experiencing a heat wave here in the Midwest--but yesterday morning the temperatures finally dropped and Ethan and I were able to investigate how exactly to open our storm windows.  For this entire last month in our new house, only a few of the windows opened.  We knew the others had to, but with our busy schedules and then ensuing heat, we admittedly allowed ourselves to partake in our air conditioning--a luxury we have only ever used in the last year of our seven years together. Somewhere in between his working in a meat cooler with several layers on to keep warm even in the height of summer, and myself working in a kitchen with very poor humidity control--we decided we would use our air conditioning when the temperatures reached the mid nineties or higher.  Luckily, this only lasts a few days at the most.  Using the conditioning gives us headaches, and generally, I believe, keeps us from acclimating to the world in the ways we need to survive.

Last weekend was particularly bad in terms of temperature and my mood.  I had Monday free, so I was determined to find the yarn shop in Rochester and maybe someplace good to eat.  I set out on my adventure, and quickly began to sweat so profusely as well as simultaneously pelted by the moisture sucking wind,  I became pretty disoriented and eventually lost. I drove right past the shop without even noticing it.

I ended up coming home and with all the windows shut, and the majority without a known way to open  them--I began to feel claustrophobic.  The way I dealt with this was by writing, which helped a lot and calmed me down. It wasn't until yesterday, with the break in the heat that we discovered how to open the rest of the windows-and I am finally beginning to feel a little at home.

The wind can breath through my home, I can listen to the bugs and leaves outside of my creative writing space and magically I feel no longer a prisoner--but a girl who made a choice. A choice to live somewhere else, to learn new things, to try.

Just the simple act of opening windows brought me new life.  I felt excited about exploring my neighborhood, which has some amazing bike trails just blocks away from our front yard.

And because the world needs more photos of flowers, here are two of the images from our hike yesterday. It was really a good Saturday, filled with our first visit to the Rochester Farmers Market, exercise, and lots of communication with friends.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Raspberry Basil Scones

One thing I love about baking is pairing different flavors--sweets and savories. I enjoy coming up with odd couple ingredients and making them work.  A quick google search shows I am definitely not the first person to be inspired to try basil in a sweet bakery treat, but this is my first attempt.
Fresh Raspberries from Hoch's Orchard in La Crescent, MN and Basil from State Line Produce, IA.

To make my Raspberry Basil Scones you will need:
1 cup Fresh Raspberries
1/2 cup Fresh Basil, chopped
3 Cups of All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Natural, Unbleached Sugar
5 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3/4 Cup Cold Butter
1 Egg, gently beaten
1 cup Buttermilk
and for a little color and texture, 1/4 cup poppy seeds, but this ingredient is totally optional
Pre-heated oven at 400 Degrees F.

First, measure out all dry ingredients into a big bowl.
All Dry Ingredients purchased from the fabulous Bulk Room at People's Food Co-op Rochester

Mix by hand gently until all the dry ingredients are well incorporated. 

Then, take the cold butter and cut it into smallish pieces dropping them into the dry mix. Use a pastry knife, fork, or your hands to cut the butter into the dry mix until it is crumbly. 
For those of you with lactose intolerance, try using soy butter and almond milk in place of the above dairy ingredients.

Next,  Pour in your raspberries and basil, and mix gently. 

Crack your egg into a measuring cup or bowl, and then measure out the cup of buttermilk. Mix both of these wet ingredients together, until just slightly blended, but not overly whipped. 
Create a whole in the center of your dry mix and pour your wet ingredients into it, and then begin to combine the mix by hand, until the dry ingredients are just moistened.  You want the dough to be sticky, and not overly worked. 

At this point, I suggest putting the dough into the fridge for 15 minutes to help the butter hardened up again. This will help your pastry to be fluffy and flaky in all the right ways.

Once the dough has rested in the fridge for a bit, poor out the dough onto a slightly floured surface, and gently knead it to form a big circular dough round, about an inch thick. For a sturdier scone, knead more. I want mine fluffy, so I barely kneaded them at all. 

  Cut the round into eight wedges and place on a lined baking sheet, or in my case, a casserole dish, because I still cannot find my cookie sheets from the move.  I like to top the uncooked scones with a little more sugar to give them a nice sweet coating on the outside. 
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.   Mine have come out fluffy, just like I wanted. They didn't rise quite as much as normal scones, but I think this is because it is really warm in my house (baking on the first day of July will do some weird things) and I think I accidentally turned my oven off for a few minutes in the baking process.  This is the first baking project in my new home, so figuring out the oven is part of the adventure!  
I just took my first bite, and they are amazing!!!

* All Photos by Maura Henn,

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Life: A Study in Gratuitous Lens Flare

The last time I updated was from the living room of my Aunt's home in Olympia, WA. Since then I have started my new job and began settling into my home.  It has taken me a little while to begin to get comfortable here, with these different walls, and different sounds the walls make.  I haven't had much time to myself; the job requires me to be at the Co-op a lot, and now that I am a manager, my hours are longer with a lot more responsibility. Not exactly more stress, but  a different kind of stress. I find myself second guessing a lot of my actions right now, hoping they are the right ones.

A few things about the job I was not expecting:  First, I am experiencing a respect that I have yet to know before, sort of like being treated like an adult for the first time. My new co-op home is welcoming, and the people I am working with are really invested. Yet, I am finding I am always afraid  I will do the wrong thing and that someone is going to get mad at me--and not for big things either, but  little things, like typing too loudly or using the wrong highlighter.  No one has yelled at me, even for the mistakes I have made--and I didn't get yelled at all the time at my old job either--I just very much feel like a guest, and like a guest, I don't want to invade other people's space or ways of doing things.
Working On My Lens Flare Techniques

Also, for the first time in my adult working experience, I am responsible for interviewing and hiring. This has probably been the hardest thing for me thus far.  I have had a lot of experience training people,  integrating them into the existing group, learning their strengths and where they need improvement--but this has always been done as a trainer. The hiring has always been done by someone else--now I am doing it, and I find I am obsessing about it a lot.  I know it will get easier in time, and I am trying to follow my intuition while looking at the facts.

It has been really rewarding to bring new systems into the kitchen and begin to organize and streamline the way things are being done.  Already I feel like I am seeing improvements in productivity.  I am really excited for the future, and my role in the new store.  My life has changed pretty significantly in the last month, and for the better I know.

Yet, I really miss La Crosse.  I miss my friends so much, and the familiarity of a town I called my home for nearly a decade.  Rochester has a lot to offer, and I know when my schedule evens out I will discover some great things about this city--but the feeling I get when I have visited La Crosse the past several weeks for photography gigs, is that of coming home. Like the respect I am getting with my new job, it is a feeling I have never known before, until now.  To know a city's streets; to know what buildings will be around the corner on any given block; to see the perennials blooming in the yard of the Big White House on Cass Street and to smell the fragrance of bread coming from the Sarah Lee factory across from the Cameron Park--to know these things will be there and to acknowledge them as part of the regular landscape of the town-- it is what home must feel like, and I miss it so much.
Bunny in the Sun

In the last month I have photographed three weddings and one Roller Derby Bout--so I have a lot of photo editing to get through.  On the topic of photography, my friend Eliza and I are collaborating on a photography and writing project--using my images and her words.  We are very much in the planning, creative process of the collaboration, but what I can say is I need to create at least six more self portraits.    My new house has a finished basement and a very large backyard, so I am looking forward to creating some new work with the extra space.  In the next six months I hope to acquire some lighting equipment to help create a portable studio.

My greatest fear about taking on this new job for the Co-op was I would loose my access to photography and creativity. It is entirely my own responsibility to maintain my dedication to my craft--and it is one of the things I love so much about photography--there is always more to learn and to try.

As always, words and dreams are brewing in my mind--and I have some ideas for what could possibly be some short stories in the very near future.  I believe I found the perfect creative nexus in my home to help aid in the creation of both prose and photography.

Kahlo, always a star

So, this is what my life has been thus far. Days of long hours, unpacking boxes, hurried phone calls through shoddy cell service, with bright flashes of creativity and advancement.  I keep working, taking pictures, loving my friends--and trying to take a little time to come here and write--to get it all down before it burns out like a hot spot in a photograph.  The art is in finding the balance. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fast as You Can

One of my favorite people always talks about his life going a Million Miles an Hour, and this is how I have been feeling about my life as well.

I have not meant to leave this blog so quiet, but life really has been going as fast as it can for me. 

Currently, I am sitting in my Aunt Kim's home, writing on a borrowed computer, listening to the Beatle's White Album, but Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is my favorite and it is 45 years old today.  Where will I be when I am 45, or 64?

 I flew out to Washington State last week to visit my family. When I left, I lived in Wisconsin, and when I return I will live in Minnesota.  

But, what I really want to say is, in the last month and a half, I have seen the impossible happen. I have witnessed a magnificent musician achieve her goals. I have read in the library of my favorite author and assisted one of my photographic heros while he made amazing images of women who inspire me. 

And today, a friend of great distances has inquired about a collaboration of her words and my photographs. Magic happens, it is real. 

Life is fast, it is easy to fall behind--but try to keep up, go as fast as you can. 

"the sun is up, 
the sky is blue, 
it's beautiful 
and so are you"- John Lennon

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fighting the Feathers: The Making of Three Self Portraits.

I'm fighting feathers-they sting my skin and my heart--they come from me, always there, riding on my back or settling in my lungs. The feathers I shed may be be collected in pillows for heads dreaming of stories about girls with wings, but always more return. These feathers, this sadness-- tattooed on flesh or growing from bone-always there is more, to replace the ones I loose, or giveaway.

"A winged un-doing...a shedding...or a becoming..."-Eliza Bishop

My friend Eliza spoke of the third portrait as a "winged un-doing...a shedding...or a becoming..." for a woman who only spent a few hours with me on a train from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, she knows me so well. With photography, it is what I am. I can do it whenever I need to--it is there for me whenever I need it. I know I wrote I wanted to be a writer--and I am--what is this thing I am doing right now? Writing. Photography though--it is there, it is here, it is me.
The last few weeks I have been really sad--which is sort of an understatement. I have been doing everything I can think of to help battle this malaise--spend time with friends; get exercise; read; watch a lot of Doctor Who--but it is hard to fight the sad when it is determined to stay.

Last night, after a disappointing attempt at trying to finish a lace shawl I have been knitting for several months--I started looking at the photography of Katie West. She is a self portrait artist who also has a day job that really has not a lot to do with her photography. She is a beautiful subject, and knows how to be in front of a camera as well as behind it. I find her work to be something I often go back to when I am feeling inward, which is strange and wonderful to me because she creates mainly nude self-portraiture. When I find myself the subject of my own work, I tend to rely on external factors like props or costuming even though what I am trying to convey is something also inward. I am certainly no model; sometimes I just have no one to take photographs of, so it ends up being me. Even though Katie West's work is different from mine--looking at it inspired me to take some self portraits--I believe that is what art is supposed to do at times--so thank you, Katie West.

I came up with a few images last night I was mildly happy with. I put on my owl costume I made a couple of years ago. I have been reading a book that speaks a lot about hauntings and unnatural or supernatural things being in some very mundane places. I don't really want to say, I was feeling "this" so "this" is what the photograph "means". Suffice it to say, I have been sad, lonely and disoriented--I think those would be fitting photo tags.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bad Reputation: Rock Music and Roller Derby

"Sometimes I just need a little Punk Rock"--Saturday Night Tweet

I woke Saturday morning feeling melancholy. Every weekend in March was filled with travel and friends, roller derby bouts, music, all around interesting people I adore. Is it all coming to an end? Did I just have too much fun?, have too many good experiences? Now, April is here and changes are on the horizon, and I have a feeling March was a bookend to a part of my life that is finishing its last chapters. March was the month I cemented my Chicago Friendships; I met new people who have urged me to keep writing. March was warm and wonderful, could it really have gotten any better?

Yet, on the last day of the month, I woke up feeling blue. The sort of nothing is going right, I want to curl up in a ball and just not move feeling came into me--but I had plans with family and friends. I had a Roller Derby Bout to photograph and my best friend's birthday to celebrate--I couldn't just check out.

So, I loaded up my camera gear and got over to Castle Green Skull where Mississippi Valley Mayhem and Canada's Babes of Thunder were warming up. I arrived early so I could take the group photos before the chaos of the after-bout win--but because it was "one of those days" I forgot my camera battery in the charger at home--so I wandered about until the battery arrived with my boyfriend.

Hockey Mom(mvm) and Anne Starr(mvm) collide as Ref NLP watches.

A decent number of my knitting group friends arrived, and we set up on my favorite turn, where the ceiling lights really help with the pictures. We had a good cheering section, and I am pretty sure it aided in MVM's win over Ontario-final score 125 to 116.

As I screamed for my team in between taking photographs, I could feel the sad leaving my body. I played roller derby with MVM up until March of 2011--so it has officially been one year since I have played. I really miss it a lot. There is so much positive that comes from playing derby--but it is also a huge time, team, and community commitment. I really believe being on a team happens when it is supposed to--and when it was time for me to step back, I had to heed the call. Watching my former teammates last night, cheering at the top of my lungs-even though I wasn't out there, it was part of what I needed to feel good again, to return a little hope. I am thinking about my tweet of midnight--needing a little punk rock--derby is like being at punk rock show--the screaming, the sweating, the little bit of friendly brutality that comes with blocking and knocking a girl down--it is like a mosh pit on wheels. I miss that feeling.

MVM and Thunder Bay Race to get Lead Jammer

Mississippi Valley Mayhem and Thunder Babes Team Photo

After the bout, my friend Needles and I headed over to JB's Speakeasy to see our favorite local band, Thundersnake. Needles has been friends with all the guys in Thundersnake for many moons, and through the years I have become friends with them too. Even though Thundersnake's lyrics may be crass and the musical stylings masculine--it is the most "woman friendly" rock and roll show I have ever attended. Almost always there are more women in the crowd, yelling, screaming and singing along- and a little bit of friendly brutality can be practiced. There is something about screaming, jumping and dancing around--it is always cathartic.

The first band of the night was Punk Cover Band from La Crosse called Homodestructus--it was the first time I saw them play, but I will definitely make a point of getting to their other gigs. Somewhere near the end of their set, they played "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I remember being 15 and thinking this was my theme song--and now when I look at it through the lens of someone nearly double that age--it still is relevant, only for different reasons.

In a world where the wall between our online identities and real life reputations can be very transparent, there seems to be a persistent question of "How do I act online?" A world where future employers can make a snap judgement on your character based on what a google search of your name brings up, but also where sharing your opinions and thoughts with literally everyone is made so easy. How do you act in this world? If you are an artist, suppressing your emotions can be detrimental to your creative process--but if you are a working artist or writer, who relies on advancement in a day job to be able to continue your artistic pursuits--where does one place the line of what to share and what not share? Will the fact that I have played roller derby and enjoy punk rock music and have written about it online someday affect the choice of a future employer? It's a shame I even need to ask--but I guess the answer is screaming at the top of my already racked and wretched voice "I don't give a damn about my reputation"--because when it comes down to what will cure my melancholy--rock music and roller derby really does save my soul.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In the House of Magic-an Evening to Honor Gene Wolfe

A couple of months ago, my friend Valya invited me to an evening to honor the Chicago-area author Gene Wolfe with the very first Fuller Award. After reading the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame's website to learn more about the event, I was reluctant to go because I, for one, was not familiar with Gene Wolfe's work, and two, was not certain if I would be able to get the time away from the always present day job of the working artist. The stars must have aligned because two weeks before the event I had bought a ticket and checked out three of Wolfe's books from our local library.

The Fuller Award: photo by 8 Eyes Photography

The book I was most drawn to was the The Sorcerer's House. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the book and saw the dedication page was addressed to Neil Gaiman, the very author and longtime friend intended to present Gene Wolfe with the Fuller Award--coincidence or magic--after seeing the dedication page, I knew making the trip to Chicago would be a decision I would not soon forget.

I left La Crosse at 4am on Friday, March 16th to drive to Madison where I caught the Megabus. When I arrived at Union Station on Canal Street--I began to feel the cocktail of exhaustion and excitement set in. The 11:35 a.m. Northwestern Metra line took me to Valya's neighborhood and when the train arrived, not only were Valya and her husband Mark waiting for me at the station, but Trillian Stars and Kyle Cassidy as well. Nearly 3 years have passed since I first met Kyle and Trillian. Kyle invited me, a random girl on the internet, to join in celebrating their marriage. So I took a train from Wisconsin to Philadelphia and it was at this very wedding party I first met Valya, and here it seems the second bit of magic happened for me. This group of internet friends were together again.

After excited greetings, farewells were exchanged as Kyle and Trillian boarded a train going back downtown to explore Chicago. Then Valya, Mark and I went to the Sanfilippo Estate to check in with the catering crew of Wild Asparagus. I was so excited for a sneak peak! If walking into the Carousel Pavilion with tables half dressed and ceiling lights on was amazing, I couldn't imagine what the place would look like the next night.

Our initial tour complete, we made our way back to Valya's--where I took a nap and Valya continued to work--and though I couldn't forget, I must take a moment to point out Valya was responsible for organizing the Evening to Honor Gene Wolfe. Sure, others helped, but Valya was the mastermind--to see what I mean, read here account of the events.

After my nap, it was time for more reunions and for more work, but when friends are involved,the adage of "many hands" proves true. Wine, whiskey, and delicious Burundi coffee courtesy of Strange Brew, doesn't hurt either.
Busy Bees working on the Event Programs. photo by Valya.

People I had not seen in almost a year came over to Valya's to help sort and organize final details. It felt a lot like being in a high-school year book class, late at night--the smell of rubber cement, debating which font and size was most appropriate. Exacto knives and adhesive printing paper, may or may not have been involved. With the work finally completed, those of us staying with Valya went off to bed in order to appear somewhat rested for the next day's festivities.

Saturday morning, March 17th, 2012, found us all buzzing with excitement and eagerness. Somewhere in between making last minute phone calls and leaving to have her hair expertly braided, Valya found time to bake us croissants and make coffee. After breakfast we retreated to our rooms to get dressed--I did my best to channel Zoe Deschanel's hair, I'm not sure how well I succeeded. Kyle of course looked dashing without trying, but Trillian was breathtaking in her Heartless Revival ensemble. Valya, like the sorceress she is, looked completely transformed in her Kambriel. It was very exciting to see not one, but two independent designers represented in one hallway. I wore my silver dress I found last October at Goodwill--yet we all came out looking beautiful.
My Gracious Hosts, Mark and Valya. Photo by 8 Eyes Photography

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Kyle and Trillian looking lovely, as always. Photo by Carl Hertz

Dressed in Silver at the Sanfilippo Estaste: Photo by Madeline Matz

My dear friend M.C.Matz arrived to help transport us to an entertaining lunch at the Happy Buddha. Tofu and miso soup consumed, we finally arrived at the Sanfilippo Estate. After initial set up, Valya gave me the *Official Job* of asking all the special guests to sign the commemorative posters--which basically meant I had to politely corral authors and luminaries and give them felt tip pins to sign posters. Exciting, I know!

Me watching Valya and Neil go over a few notes in the story "The Solar Labyrinth". Peter Straub is right behind me! Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

However, because I had done my research on the authors I wasn't familiar with--I was able to recognize a few people I was looking forward to meeting--like Jennifer Stevenson, author of The Brass Bed, speed skating extraordinaire, a.k.a. Flash Hottie, formerly of the Windy City Roller Girls. With Roller Derby experience in common, Jennifer and I had plenty to talk about, so we made friends for the rest of the evening.

Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub and Michael Dirda Signing Posters: Photo by 8 Eyes photography

Posters signed and guests checked in, Jennifer and I took our seats for the award ceremony. Neil Gaiman gave a terrific speech and read one of Gene Wolfe's stories "The Solar Labyrinth" before presenting the award to Mr. Wolfe. During Neil's speech, the third piece of magic started happening for me--as I was listening to him speak, I realized I didn't just want to be a person who sits in an auditorium while her favorite author gives a speech. As I looked behind, even right next to me, at the writers and scholars joined together in support of Mr. Wolfe's contribution to literature, I began to realize I want more than just to be a fan.

Neil Reading "The Solar Labyrinth" Photo by 8 eyes photography.

After Neil's presentation of the Fuller Award- Gene gave a very humorous as well as touching speech.
Photo by 8 Eyes Photography

Then the theatrical group Terra Mysterium performed Gene Wolfe's "The Toy Theater" adapted for the stage by Lawrence Santoro, accompanined by R. Jelani Eddington on the Pipe Organ.
Photo by 8 Eyes Photography

After the play, we were all treated to Eddington's solo performance on the organ. Coin Operated Boy by The Dresden Dolls, Over the Rainbow and the Star Wars Anthem were just a few of the songs played.

When the performance was over, much mingling was happening in the foyer, but M.C.Matz, Jennifer and I were ready to make our way to the Circus Pavilion. As we walked down the drive I looked over to my left at a pond, home to seasonal geese and willow trees budding in the early warmth of March--I saw out over the pavilion clouds that looked like castles and krakens, and knew this evening was only going to get much, much cooler.

The Circus Pavilion was completely transformed. The catering crew were busily buzzing around, filling wine glasses and helping guests find their seats.
The Circus Pavilion Transformed. Photos by 8 Eyes Photography

M.C.Matz, Jennifer, and I were seated together at The Urth of the New Sun, each table having been named after one of Gene's books. Also at our table were Valya's friend Sean, our friends Angie and Drake--Sam Weller, and Leslie DuBay. When I saw Leslie, I knew her right away as the woman I had urged over on Kyle's Blog to travel from Minneapolis to come to this event. Kyle had once done same for me--and it was at his urging I was able to make so many new friends. I introduced Leslie to everyone at the table, and she fit right in, laughing and joking. Sam Weller sat next to me on my right, and Gods--what can I say about Sam? I knew he was a scholar and writer of Ray Bradbury--but I didn't realize he was also a professor at Columbia College in Chicago. Within moments, I was opening up to him about my aspirations and Sam was urging me to "make my writing dreams happen". Later in the evening, Sam introduced me to Audrey Niffenegger, and as I shook her hand I told her my local library had her books.

Leslie Dancing, photo by 8 Eyes Photography

During dinner, special guests gave speeches, punctuated by witty introductions by Peter Sagal, host of NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me! The dinner was delicious--a salad of poached pear, goat cheese and spring greens, and my vegetarian main course of Portabella mushroom, with brown rice, asparagus and other spring vegetables with a sweet and spicy sauce.

I rode the carousel with Angie and Drake--so much laughter, so many smiles.
Angie, Drake and I. New Friends on a Joy ride. Photo by 8 Eyes Photography
So Happy. Photo by 8 Eyes Photography

Furthest Left, Jennifer Stevenson Letting Her Cow-girl flag Fly. Next to her, dressed in Royal Purple, M.C.Matz looking beautiful and happy. Photo by 8 Eyes Photography
I tried talking with everyone I was excited to meet, and after getting a group photo with Valya, Trillian and Maria Dahvana Headley--I told Maria how I looked forward to reading her book, Queen of Kings, and how much I admired her tattoo of Egyptian God Horus, whose wings spanned almost her entire back. We chatted about tattoos and books trailers. She was so nice
Myself with three of the most lovely ladies in attendance: Maria, Valya and Trillian. Photo by 8 Eyes Photography

As the evening drew to a close, I was able to congratulate Gene Wolfe on his award, and tell him how much I enjoyed The Sorcerer's House. He seemed surprised in a happy way I had read the book--and although I had not known much about his writing until this event, I am so happy I made the trip to honor him.
Artist M.C.Matz, responsible for the design of the Fuller Award as well as the commemorative posters and programs, with Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe. Photo by 8 Eyes Photography

After departing the estate, M.C.Matz and I headed back Valya's where Peter Straub, Gary K. Wolfe, and Jennifer Stevenson were already mingling and relaxing with the other guests. It was amazing to see how friendly and inclusive this literary writing community is. Everyone was so nice and willing to talk about their work, any concerns I had about being nervous to meet them quickly dissipated. As the guests began to leave, it was just Valya, Mark, Kyle and I left downstairs. Valya, the spinner of this great web of magic began to doze on the sofa while Kyle and I talked about Roller Derby and books. After three years I was finally able to tell my favorite photographer how much I did end up liking A.S. Byatt's Possession--and I know that won't mean much of anything to almost anyone--but it was really important for me, so I have to include it.

Trillian and I talking about favorite authors or something else inspirational. Also, you can see the back of her awesome dress. Photo by 8 Eyes Photography
Are you still reading? Really? I'm impressed--because this is turning into some Amanda Palmer Blog writing.

There is so much more to share--but I think it will have to wait for another blog, another day. What I came away with from this experience is this: "I want to be a writer". This isn't really a new thought for me, because I think it is has always been there--but I am nothing but a little late to the party. This is the third bit of magic that happened--all of those people, laughing, red wine drinking, educated, lovely tattooed people. Those beautifully dressed people, those people who can take a photo, write or speak a few sentences and create a whole world--they made something that night--and I got to be part of it. You don't witness that sort of magic without coming away not wanting to make some of it yourself.
I am really glad I did NOT have to pin that boutonniere on Gene's Lapel.
Photo by 8 Eyes Photography

*Sincere Thanks to 8 Eyes Photography, Carl Hertz and Madeline McMatz for taking photos. It was really nice to be in front of the camera enjoying the evening rather than behind it--also, I am so lucky and grateful you four are my friends. Love, love love to you.