Catching up

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I can’t believe how fast this year is going. We are already a week away from midterms. The Barrett-Jackson car show, the Phoenix Open, and the Arabian Horse Show have come and gone. It’s getting ready to be spring, and we’ve only just had our first rain of the year. Probably one of the more perfect times in our corner of the desert, and what people fall in love with when they come for a visit. Especially with the kind of winter everyone has been suffering through this year! Polar vortex indeed.

Chicago, I love you. But I’m so glad I’m not there right now.

It makes me glad to be here, but at the same time the snowbirds glory in our 80° February, what they don’t realize is that even for us, it’s unseasonably warm – and dry. It harkens to a tough year ahead for fire season, drought, habitat loss, and stress on wildlife. Not to mention a scorching May – September. I’m trying not to think of that now, and just revel in the glory of living someplace snow-and-windchill free.

salt margaritas

I feel a blog re-vamp coming on (again), so look for some changes coming up. While I have loved using, and having the customization freedom it offers, I am frustrated by the fact that when I read through some of my posts, half the time the pictures don’t show up (WTF?). And the whole hosting situation is a pain in the rear. So I’m looking to move the whole operation over to another web hosting site, hopefully with lots of improvements.

I’m taking Austin Kleon‘s advice from STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST, and stealing ideas for how to make this site better. Austin sends out occasional newsletters with a quick update on his projects, along with links to interesting things he’s found on the internet recently. Alex Yeske from Dreams + Jeans blogs beautiful pictures and product recommendations. I really like how both of these bloggers give a succinct post, paired with images, and suggestions from around the web, and hope to implement their best practices here. 

I’d also like to make to make this site better for YOU, my readers. Any comments? Suggestions on improvements? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.

Here are some recent photos:

My work wall before a re-do
my new workspace, ready for inspiration
a typography sketch
this is from my life drawing class.
I draw naked people.
one of the best things about Arizona: sunsets.
my chickens decided to lay their eggs in the compost pile.
more typography practice
another sunset :)
juniper, our new puppy, likes to hang out with Keira while she eats.
wax barbie molds I’m working on for a sculpture project.
me, posing in sculpture class – trying to figure out how to pose Barbie for my sculpture. Suffering for your art means sometimes exposing your true dorkiness.
barbie parts, a tree, and a desk…hmmm, what will it be? Stay tuned.
My #1 Monkey, winning a soccer game. Love the color combo.
I told him his Polish was showing :)
My #2 Monkey, hogging my spot. That’s ok. No matter how big they get, I still like to watch them sleep.
a birthday present for my sister-in-law. I’ve been really inspired by a uk artist found here:
My first non-school exhibition
pretty mama Chroicoragh ♡
A reader came to visit. She’d never seen Gypsy Horses in person, and we had a great time playing with the girls. Thanks, Jordan!



Foggy morning, December

We finally had a good soaking rain. It has been over 3 months since we had any precipitation, and the whole place – the house, the yard, the whole city for that matter, had been covered in layers of dry gritty dust. There was a lifeless pallor over everything, keeping the color and vitality of the desert hidden from view.

While everyone in the rest of the country gets hammered by storms, here’s us:

Not that I’m asking for a hurricane (my heart goes out to everyone affected by Sandy), but a few drops here and there would be nice. Below is a lovely photo of what we Phoenicians call “the brown cloud,” caused by ozone: “Ozone is an invisible gas created when other pollutants in the air – such as those created by combustion- are heated by the sun.” Just another day for us:

And then I’m sure this doesn’t help the dust situation – summer dust storms known as Haboobs. (Yes that really is what they are called, and yes, they really do look this big and freaky)

So when we hear we are getting rain after almost 4 months, we kinda freak out. All the weather people have their sleeves rolled up, the maps are flashing all over the place, and weather is the LEAD STORY.

before the storm

What is just an average storm in any other part of the country is an event for us. I mean, it didn’t just rain…it rained for two whole days!! 

I loved it.

Sat in my jammies drinking coffee all Saturday morning, then actually got my rain jacket out of the closet (yes, it had DUST on it!), and went out Christmas shopping.

In the rain!

It was kind of exciting. Everyone had jackets and/or hats, and some even had this fancy type of nylon water shield that they would hold over head. You see them a lot in British shows.

But the cool this was, everyone was in a good mood. And mellow. No grumpiness, obnoxious yapping or complaining…just cool, you know? The rainy day vibe.

The horses loved it, too. They stood out there, just soaking it in, and getting good and muddy.

And then I woke up Sunday morning, to


isn’t it time for breakfast?
over there. see? the hay?
look at those ear tips. she might be a vulcan.
talk about my ears, will you? hmph.
(there’s a foreshortening exercise for you art students)
no, seriously, where’s breakfast?
see? I told you! breakfast time!
umm nom nom nom….
mud? what mud? I don’t know what you’re talking about…nom nom nom
of course these two have to see what’s going on
what did you find, Butter?
her ears don’t work so well anymore, but her nose is juuust fine… :)

then I almost tripped over this…when you have boys, this is the kind of thing you find in your yard
and when you kneel down to take a picture of a baseball, your labs take the opportunity to climb all over you.

Let’s see what else we can find around the ol’ place…

I’m trying hard to keep my own fresh herbs

the lemons are getting more lemony. they look like limes until they begin to ripen.
this eucalyptus tree has to be over 50 years old. it’s HUGE.
looking up

ah, the challenges of living with taxidermy
this is what happens to the street in front of our house after two days of rain
this lady doesn’t want to splash her fancy schmancy car.
the fog is already starting to burn off. I knew it wouldn’t last long.
but it’s nice while it lasted
back inside…
back to the blog, and baking christmas cookies.

Thanks for hanging out with me on my foggy desert morning! I hope you are enjoying some crisp fresh air, wherever you are.

Online Art Gallery

This Labor Day, I was lucky enough to be invited up to my BFF’s family cabin for the weekend. It’s in a small mountain town, just far enough away from the heat and congestion of the city. AND host to an annual craft & artisan fair.

I love these fairs. There are so many beautiful things to see, and you have a chance to get to know the people who made them. My problem is, I can never afford anything there! So I figured if I can’t directly purchase some of the artwork I saw, the least I can do is help support local artists by telling everyone else about them. That whole “word of mouth blog” idea. :)

If I had my own art gallery, I’d be happy to have these pieces in my shop! Keep reading til the end to see my top picks of the weekend.

Heidi’s Online Art Gallery

If you love browsing through home decor magazines like me, you may have seen chairs like these adorning some high-end Aspen getaway:

Anita Cordes Willis makes them by hand and sells them here:

If Jewelry is more your speed, you might like these kiln-formed glass pieces handcrafted by Ray Balda:

These pendants have an optical illusion. Can you see the Celtic knot?
I love this piece. Somewhere between 60’s modern and Star Trek.
Ray Balda, glass artist

Check out Ray’s Facebook page: Kokopelli Art Glass (and click “Like!” – when I asked Ray if I could feature him on my blog, he said only if your readers Like my Facebook page!).  Thanks, Ray.

Judy Brooks makes these gorgeous pottery colanders, as useful as they are beautiful:

Jo Burke knits cute handbags and felts the wool in hot water to make them sturdy and long lasting:

Want more jewelry? Here’s some by Vickie “Bead” Smith:

Right next to the fair is a REAL art gallery, Myra’s Art Gallery & Studio. It has been a landmark of the Pine, Arizona main drag for many years. Myra is a lovely woman—an artist herself—and was kind enough to show us around her gallery. She is host to some of the most well known artists in the state, and can tell you all about each of them. She allowed me to photograph some to share with you:

detail of a piece by Myra Kraemer
turned wooden vases inlaid with turquoise
Hawaiian woman by Donn Morris
photo by Lynn Sankey
Western renaissance painting by William Ahrendt
Western renaissance painting by William Ahrendt
acrylic artist Rock Newcomb

Please visit Myra’s page to see more from these amazing artists and visit their own websites.

We went back to the fair and I got my mom some earrings for her birthday:

antique lace earrings and pendants
Here are my top three artists from the craft fair:

Nancy Koski:

Nancy is a potter and an artist. She makes original pieces of pottery, then paints beautiful pictures on them by hand.

Nancy Koski works on one of her bowls.


finished pieces
I love this bowl – it’s so mid-century modern

Nora E. Graf:

Nora’s art is truly one-of-a-kind. She carves and paints dried gourd vases. Simply amazing. I would love to have a few of her pieces in my home.

leaves, woven

Raymond Judge:

Raymond is a navajo artist who makes these tiny watercolors:

Raymond Judge and one of his pieces
a view of the Mittens

And he makes jewelry:

Navajo jewelry by Raymond Judge

And he sculpts. Check out this Pronghorn:

Pronghorn sculpture in progress

Please support these amazing artists by visiting their sites, telling your friends about them – and, hey, maybe buy a piece or two!

We had such a great time on our weekend away. We even got to load up a bag of used books at the library for 2 bucks!

I bought this book for the cover art

We had a great weekend.

this is what 3 moms look like after a few days of relaxation – no kids, no husbands, no make up, a couple bottles of wine, Bravo marathons, and fresh air. Why does my head look like an alien?


this wagon gave me some inspiration for my story – couldn’t you just see Chroicoragh pulling this? Maybe I should get myself some scarves and a crystal ball…

And this pretty Coues deer doe said goodbye to us as we left:

See you next time!

Thanks for reading! What original artwork have you seen lately?

Desert Rain – a picture post

We have FINALLY gotten some much needed rain down here in the desert. It is making for some very humid don’t-even-bother-straightening-your-hair days, but things have cooled off ever so slightly and the dust has been kept to a minimum.

There is a certain smell that springs from newly damp desert ground, but I suppose it smells just as good as any other place when long overdue rains arrive. I actually put it into the first chapter of my book. Here’s a peek:

The western sky was the kind of blue that comes after a cleansing summer rain, and the breeze still smelled of damp sage and pine. Leather reins lay slack in her fingers, resting on the saddlehorn in front of her. Closing her eyes, Ruby breathed in the beautiful day.

You’ll have to wait to read more, but I’ll try to pop in a few tidbits here and there. Until then, enjoy some recent photos of the girls (click images to enlarge):

Keira kicking up some dust before the storm

Eden the rescue kitty stops by
Is there anything happier than a Lab? Pepper will be 11 this year.
Vincas. These are the only flowers that survive the summer—at my house, anyway.

I thought this was a cool shot, also indicative of horse behavior. When you are standing by one horse, the other one has to come over to see what they are missing.
pretty girls.
Eden monitors my morning’s progress.
rain collected in Butter’s food dish, reflecting the sky.

For some more AMAZING Arizona photography, check out this local photographer’s page.

Thanks for reading,


Back to the Mountains – a picture post

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, first of all, THANK YOU!! :) and second of all, you’ll be glad to hear about a place familiar to us; our favorite spot in the beautiful White Mountains of eastern Arizona. This is where you first heard of it. Here’s the follow-up from last year where you see our lovely tree burned to the ground.

In celebration of quitting my job, the last hurrah before school started, and my husband having 3 days off, we headed back to the our favorite spot for a cool break from the 115° heat. Here are some AAaaaahhhh moments:

setting up camp
Aspens and fresh air
afternoon storms building over the lake
Butter and Pepper
my son’s friend got his first rabbit, and found an elk antler
chillin like a villain
we happened upon some unlucky trout who had a taste for Powerbait
the catch of the day (click for full image)
rain coming in from the east
the guys go on a hike, and see a coyote. he was hunting rabbits, too.
pretty pink flowers of some sort
The skeleton of our once beautiful Ponderosa Pine giant
this is what it looked like before lest year’s fire
we had a great time, relaxed, and enjoyed the best of eastern AZ

 …and then my battery died.

The nice thing to know is that the area is bouncing back nicely. Fire kills forests, but in the ashes come new life. Grass is growing thick, and our camp spot had the biggest surge of baby Aspens that we’ve seen since we’ve been coming here. The wildlife will feed on the fresh new growth, and the whole cycle will begin again.

Thanks for coming along with us, and I hope each of you has a chance to get out and enjoy a nice weekend with your family.

Take care!


Alternative Fashion Society

Last night I attended an event in downtown Phoenix. The Alternative Fashion Society showcased 15 up-and-coming Phoenix designers in a show called Madame Trapeze, and I was fortunate enough to have been invited. We were there to support my BFF’s nephew and daughter who were involved in the show, and hey, when your kids actually want you to show up to something, you go. Let me just say it’s been a loooong time since I’ve done anything this late, loud, and downtown.

Promoter Jen Deveroux along with Alekzander Shaw and Nelson Hawks produced a feast for the eyes, and DJ tricky t had the place thumping with a non-stop mix of fresh and vintage dance and alt tracks. The venue was well managed, clean and the crowd, cool. Onstage before and during the show, a handful of local artists worked on canvases, and an array of fine art stood as a backdrop. I was very impressed with all of the art exhibited, almost as impressed as seeing the works-in-progress develop right before my eyes, throughout the show.
Banding Hendrix, progressive artist and muralist.

Nyla the High Pimptress (a.k.a. Myryka, my amazing former bellydance teacher) entertained the crowd pre- and during the show with sultry twists on the circular trapeze.

As for the fashion, what can I say – it’s definitely alternative. Most of it is some sort of bedroom wear/lingerie, and very sexy if you have the body to pull it off, which most of these girls (and guys) did. Though alternative boudoir and costume lines like Dolls R’nt Dead,  Missconstrued, and Hell on Heels definitely took center stage, there were a few exceptions. Notably, a street/skate line called Noble Savage, custom couture line Looks Good Anya, Robot Rowboat, HausofStardust, the much-talked-about Kelly Calabrese, and a line of latex fashion that I could see Katy Perry and Nikki Minaj (or maybe that girl in 50 Shades of Gray) fighting over, Vital Vein.
Here are some photos, click on one to see a slideshow.
vital vein
vital vein
vital vein 
vital vein
hell on heels couture
hell on heels couture 
this model (above) flipped me off with a flourish, which I thought was pretty cool,
and seemed in character for her since the back of her legs are tattooed
“Fuck” and “You”
I say stick to your guns,
consistency is admirable.
kelly calabrese
dolls r’nt dead
dolls r’nt dead
Robot Rowboat (model: Tiffany Brown)
looks good an-ya
looks good an-ya
noble savage
noble savage
noble savage
noble savage
noble savage, the designer

There were many more, 15 designers in all, which is way too much for a little suburban horse blogger like me to keep track of (although I did feel pretty badass in the press pit with my notebook and auto-focus camera). All I can say is, if you are looking for fun in Phoenix, don’t mind being out late, and are open-minded, check out an Alternative Fashion Society show. The last thing you will be is bored.

And how about these posters? Shout out to the graphic designer.
If you were a part of this event and would like me to add credits to any of the above photos, please comment below, I will be glad to accommodate.
Live an artful life.
The End
kelly calabrese

Desert in bloom

Living in the desert can be great…sometimes. We have absolutely beautiful winters here. While the rest of the country is freezing and shoveling snow, we* are playing golf and drinking freshly squeezed orange juice.
But summer.
Summer is creeping up on us. Last weekend we had our first round of 100+ temperatures. Like a little teaser, it only lasted a few days. Then we got the very welcome and much needed blessing of a brief rain shower.
In the desert you find yourself yearning for rain like a castaway scans the sea for ships on the horizon. It is a sign of life, sent from faraway.
We haven’t had nearly enough rain lately. Arizona’s yearly average for rain is about 7 inches. Last year, the Phoenix area totaled a little over four inches – for the whole year. This year so far we have not even reached .75 inches of rain.
Is a drought in the desert redundant?
All I know is, it’s dry. Too dry. And when it does rain, this is how I feel:
Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption, one of the best movies ever.

But in between winter and summer, we do get a little nibble of spring. It’s that sliver of time before all the non-native plants start turning brown from the heat.

You can tell it’s spring when the Palo Verde trees bloom.

The Palo Verde (“green stick”) is Arizona’s state tree, and gets its name from the green bark it wears.
In the spring, these trees burst into color, covered in yellow flowers, and virtually hum with the presence of bees, busily drinking the nectar and pollinating away.
When the blooms expire, they carpet the ground.
This yucca is about 25 feet tall.
oleanders (non-native), a hedge.
And since I am a midwesterner at heart, I have to have little bits of annual color on my front porch.
I wanted to get a picture of a Saguaro Blossom. Saguaros (pronounced sah-WAH-ro) are those huge cactuses (cacti) that you see in the stereotypical desert panorama:
The state flower of Arizona, the Saguaro blossom forms in clusters at the top of each arm of the cactus. They bloom April-June, and since they open at night, the main pollinators are nectar-drinking bats.
Did you ever wonder about the pleated structure of a cactus? Cacti are pleated to allow for the expansion that occurs when the plant is able to soak up large amounts of water, as it does in monsoon season. When the cactus dries out, the pleats deepen and become more pronounced. This has the added effect of being able to provide shade for itself from the heat of the sun.
Since you pretty much need a ladder to get a picture of the saguaro blossom, I thought I would just search for a good shot for you on the net. I have no idea how I’d get a ladder into my Civic.
Here you go:
And just for kicks, here are some new horse pictures:
As always, thanks for stopping by.
* and by “we,” I mean everyone else in Arizona. I don’t golf.
**But I do drink freshly squeezed orange juice…
mmmmmmmm it’s yummy.