Tuesday, November 13, 2007

GAIA LUNA: Grounds for the Ground


Very few people get excited about the potential of rotting organic matter, but I'm one of them.

I'd heard that Starbucks gives away their spent coffee grounds to gardeners just for the asking. So this morning at about 10:30, after exercising, I stopped in and got the morning's grounds for my garden. When I asked, the girl behind the counter didn't hesitate for a moment. She added the filters from the machines into a large bag already full of grounds and cheerfully double bagged the whole lot for me to take. I walked away with about 20 lbs of grounds, which I added directly to the soil in Gaia Luna.

According to several sources (see below) coffee grounds are a good source of nitrogen for building the soil. The food I grow and consume gets its nutrients from the ground in which it grows. I'm intent on making my garden soil as rich and healthy as I possibly can, improving it each year.

Last June, I snapped a picture of my compost bins.

At the time there were mostly filled with straw mulch recently removed from the strawberry patch, fresh spring grass clippings and kitchen scraps.

Now they hold the remnants of tomato, squash, and bean plants gone by, chopped up sunflower stalks, frost-killed cosmos and nasturtiums, a large bucket load of fallen apples from beside the driveway, plus several months more kitchen scraps from daily cooking and summer preserving. They're a little short on brown, carbon rich material right now, so when I get a chance I'll rake up some fallen leaves and pine needles to add.

I'll also rake decayed leaves from last fall to add directly to the garden beds, to balance out the nitrogen rich coffee grounds.

I'm not an expert composter by any stretch of the imagination. I just dump stuff in and stir it around every so often with a shovel or pitch fork. It does it's thing, breaking down plant material and egg shells into a rich crumbly brown earthy material that grows better vegetables.

It doesn't stink unless I add too many kitchen scraps and leave them too close to the surface without piling dry leaves and things on top.

To me, it's the ultimate in recycling: today's potato peelings and coffee grounds become next summer's green bean salad.

Here's some more info on composting:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

SACRED SHARDS: Organized & Spontaneous

I’ve been happily busy this past week or so getting my pottery inventory organized and finishing up designing the photo sheets to submit to additional shows (once I've got enough inventory built up).

I will be participating in the artisan show in Nov and Dec at the art gallery in town. When I took my application and photo sheets down to the gallery manager, she hardly looked at them. She had seen my work before. :-) Had bought one of my necklaces at an outdoor show this summer. (I'd hadn't remembered who she was at first, when she made the purchase.)

Though I needn't have worried so much and the sheets weren't important in this case, I'm glad it served as a motivation to get this piece of promotional material in order.

As an extension of this, I also came up with and executed a workable idea for organizing all the various pottery things I've been making to sell.

I bought a bunch of comic book storage boxes (expensive but just the right size) and affixed stick-on plastic pockets to the outside of each. Then I cut up my photo sheets and glued one picture each to the blank side of a bunch of 3x5 cards. The 3x5 cards slip into the plastic pockets to show what's in each box. Works really well.

Now I can see at a glance what's stored where AND how many of each I've got. I put a post-it note on each card with the quantity in each box. As I sit in my work area I can see what I need to make. The back of each 3x5 card can be used to record in-flow and out-flow of goods, to track what's selling, when and where, and how long things have been on the shelf. Spreadsheets just don't do it for me.

Now I finally feel like I have a handle on all this stuff I've been making and selling, not a huge volume so far, but the potential seems to be there to do much better with a more organized approach. Now I can make more, have a place to store it and find it again when I need it. The 3x5 cards can be moved around if I discover I need to reorganize the goods in a different way.

Because labels weren't stuck permanently to the boxes, I didn't feel I had to do it perfectly the first time or figure out in advance any possible change I might want to make in the future. The flexibility to just get it done and see how it works got me past the procrastination and inertia that often accompanies a project like this.

This preparation has freed me to be more spontaneous with my clay play. I spent 3 hours yesterday up at my work table upstairs, making things. First time in about 2 months. Part of the time was production of 13 "spiral drop" pendants, like the one shown one of my previous posts in this blog. (I'd only made two of those at the time, to test how well they'd sell, and they both did.)

Then I played and made a primitive serving spoon with shell impressions on the handle to go with a confused and lonely serving dish I'd made about a year ago, but hadn't used or sold. Now it has a companion to give it purpose and meaning. :-)

The spoon was another off-shoot of organizing my inventory.

In the process of cleaning up upstairs, I went through a pile of magazine and catalog clippings I'd been saving and taped them onto loose sheets in a binder. Each little scrap of paper represents an idea for a shape, pattern, theme, etc. that can become the jumping off point for creative play. The binder has dividers made out of file folders, cut up and 3-hole punched, so I can organize the ideas into categories. Sometimes I'll scribble notes around the pictures in pencil to remind myself what my original intention was when I saved them.

Though my "Ideas Binder" already contains enough scraps of inspiration to last a lifetime, I continue to gather clippings that catch my fancy. These pile up in a pocket folder until I get the chance to sit down with tape and scissors, and stick them into the binder.

When I want to tickle my imagination, I can leaf through the binder to see what I might like to try that day.

In the case of yesterday‘s primitive pottery spoon, I stumbled upon a picture of several interestingly shaped spoons printed off another artist‘s website. That said, I never, ever copy another artist’s work directly. There would be no fun in that. Instead, my habit is to combine ideas from multiple sources, then allow each project to unfold in it's own unexpected directions.

Like the pockets and movable 3x5 photo-cards on my storage boxes, I use a 3-ring binder with loose-leaf sheets so I can organize and reorganize as the ideas shift and regroup in my mind.

All the materials in my “Ideas Binder” are cheap--scrap paper, clippings from discarded magazines and catalogs, photos printed off the internet, plain manila file-folders, and scotch tape--so my stingy side can't object and short-circuit the process.

I honor the muse by respecting her desire to collect and sort without demanding to know exactly why or what the outcome might be -- and inspiration usually follows.

I thought as I worked on the organizing and creating, that maybe some ideas would be useful to others. Let me know what you think. :-)

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

GAIA LUNA: By Design?

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Gaia Luna, my art garden, now has its own logo.

I constructed its elements from a scanned and altered image of one of my "Spiral Drop" pottery necklaces.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

During the summer I had designed new packaging for several new necklaces. The "Spiral Drop" is one of 8 new designs that grew from a whole new set of handmade pottery stamps I'd created this past winter.

The scan above was turned into the black and white graphic below using Photoshop.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

This simple image, in turn, became the germinal design element of the Gaia Luna logo. Each shape, each curve was derived from this basic form.

Stamps created just for fun lead to new necklaces, which lead to new packaging, which unfolded into the garden logo. I like the way it all interrelates and unfolds organically.

This logo combines symbols for the cycles of earth and moon, the cycles of the creative process, and our connection with these as co-creators of life. This image grew from many years of sun drenched of contemplation. It emerged as the culmination of a wonderful, peaceful, abundant summer just past.

The image grew more from a desire for artistic and spiritual expression than from necessity.

I envision painting it on a sign to hang at the garden entrance, printing it on canning labels for jams, relishes and pickles to give as gifts or sell along with my pottery and CDs, ... and who-knows-what else.

The idea is to create what seems right at the time then discover where it leads.

Gaia Luna is the reason I took the summer off from blogging. I've been too busy harvesting armloads of veggies and berries to spend much time at the computer.

I've been busy digging through cookbooks from the library, collecting recipes, and teaching myself to make jam and pickles, can, freeze, and dehydrate piles of produce. I've been busy weeding and composting, watering and petting the cats out in the summer sunshine.

I've been consumed with painting 25, 8-foot sections of purple picket fence to provide more substantial protection from animal intruders for the garden. We'll put up the fence early next spring as soon as the ground thaws. Plans also include an arbor.

I've taken lots of pictures of the garden this summer. I'll begin to post these once the flurry of gardening activity has subsided.

This is a celebration of summer's end, an anticipation of things to come as the seasons turn another time around.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Monday, July 02, 2007

BREAD: Bake and Learn

I've just taken my first loaf of sourdough bread out of the oven. Of course, had to try a piece while it was still hot.

The texture, taste and crust were good, but I'd made the mistake of sticking with the second rising time specified in the recipe. When I looked inside the proofing box at the appointed time I found a spongy pizza shaped disc. It had over leavened, bubbles burst so that it collapsed in on itself. Baked it anyway.

Will try again. Next time I want to try a technique I found for allowing it to develop more of the sourdough taste. And I'll check it sooner, trust my instincts.

Live and learn. Bake and learn.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing


Thought I'd report on my "creative" project of the weekend. Adventures in baking bread.

I got sourdough starter going for the first time, for making Italian sourdough bread!

Frothy colonies of happy Italian yeast and their symbiotic bacteria friends have been growing in quart canning jars on my kitchen counter-top, inside a homemade proofing box. Began with a powder I ordered from Sourdoughs International. This sourdough comes originally from a 300 year-old bakery on Ischia Island in the bay of Naples, a little piece of living history.

I initiated the process of activation on Friday. Woke up this morning at about 5:00 AM, thinking I could smell sourdough. When I looked in the kitchen, I had a Steve McQueen moment (lead actor in "The Blob" 1958). One of the jars of starter had grown so much that it overflowed (originally only half full) and poured out onto the heating pad keeping it at a steady 85-90F. That's exactly what's supposed to happen, sort of, after about 3-5 days of feeding, so I considered it a celebratory mess.

It's been a wonderfully earthy science experiment with potentially edible results.

Now there's a ball of dough sitting in a bowl in the proofing box, slowly rising for the next 5 hours. There'll be yummy bread by dinner time! The jars of starter are resting in the fridge where they'll go into a temporarily dormant state.

Here's what I've learned on this latest adventure: Sourdough starter supplies the yeast for making bread in place of store-bought commercial yeast. Starters are infinitely renewable, given feedings of flour and water. The combination of a special bacteria and yeast live together in a slightly acid environment, which keeps harmful organisms from growing. Different strains of yeast and bacteria have developed in different regions of the world, each with it's own unique flavor.

This is a piece of our human heritage that goes back to the beginnings of bread-making. I like the sense of connection it provides with the past. I like the self-sufficiency of being able to make bread without having to buy yeast.

Pretty cool in a hippy geeky sorta way.

I'll let your know how the bread turns out.

:-), Kay

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Quiet Return

It's been over two months since I've written here. I've been busily, calmly, happily living my quiet little life, not stopping to write about it beyond my own private pages.

I've spent very little time at the computer over the past two months, more outside planting, weeding, harvesting, ... or inside learning to make jam, baking and eating bread made from scratch for the first time, ... or in the barn working at the pottery wheel ... or planning, painting and beginning to build a new fence for Gaia Luna ... or reading piles of books.

I'm coming back to this blog space from a completely different place within myself, quieter, more centered, feeling happier to live a quiet little life, not quite so interested in telling the world about it.

So, why write here again?

I will write again because the joys of living a quiet little life, though well known to our great-grandparents, are never mentioned by today's mass-consumer culture advertising machine, barely recognized, if ever, by TV or radio or magazines, except to sell products (take Real Simple, for example).

I will write again because, maybe, if I share a few of the simple joys I'm finding, someone else will come upon a jumping off point for creating a quiet little life of her own. Or feel affirmed, or challenged, or inspired, or ... whatever. My life would not have taken the direction it has if not for the examples of so many others encountered by chance in my wonderings on-line.

I am not an expert, just another person quietly living her life, hoping to create depth and meaning in one small corner of the world through a mindful experience of the ordinary, hoping to extend this in a way that makes a difference for Good within my small sphere of influence.

This and love are happiness enough.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Saturday, April 21, 2007

INTERVIEW: Eric Maisel - Ten Zen Seconds (1)

Today, it is my honor to interview internationally known author, speaker and creativity coach Eric Maisel, Ph.D., as he tells us about his new book, Ten Zen Seconds. We will be discussing his new approach to mindfulness as it applies to creative people with busy lives.

Ten Zen Seconds is structured around 12 incantations (phrases, similar to affirmations, that do a particular kind of inner work). When combined with a specific kind of mindful deep breathing, these incantations are used in a variety of circumstances to promote a greater sense of calm, focus and inner strength. [For an overview of Ten Zen Seconds, click HERE to read an extended interview with Eric Maisel.]

Those of us who choose to make creativity an important part of our everyday lives, perhaps even a source of livelihood, experience the challenges of making meaningful work while responding to the demands of the marketplace and a daily domestic routine.

Here, Eric offers practical suggestions for using Ten Zen Seconds to address these challenges.

KP: Welcome, Eric. Thank you for stopping by the Quiet Little Life, today.

Your book Ten Zen Seconds includes many personal anecdotes from clients and test subjects describing the ways they have incorporated practices from the book into their daily lives. As a busy author and creativity coach how do you, personally, use the Ten Zen Seconds breathing and meditation techniques to bring added meaning and focus to your work?

EM: I like to create "islands of mindfulness" that are qualitatively "more mindful" than the rest of the day. Like everyone, I am doing one thing after another and trying to pay attention to details, do good work, and get tasks checked off my to-do list. Through all of this I am mindful, but situations arise where I want to be "more mindful" than ordinary, because the situation is more meaningful.

It might, for instance, be a scheduled phone conversation with an editor or literary agent in which the fate of some book is determined: before this "more meaningful" event in my daily routine I will use incantation 1, "I am completely stopping," and actually stop—not slow down, but stop—remember to expect nothing (incantation 2), and name as my work "Get clear on my agenda," "Make a good list of questions," etc. I use the TZS technique to demarcate my activities, adding "extra mindfulness" where and when I feel it’s needed.

KP: We live in a world of expectations. Our clients, families, bosses, community groups, even we, ourselves,expect that we will fulfill our responsibilities and produce reliable outcomes. Yet, in order to create original, meaningful work we often must release all expectations and mindfully create in the moment. This duality can lead to stress. Calling on your background in philosophy and psychology, how would you recommend that one resolve this apparent paradox when using Incantation 2 "I expect nothing"?

EM: It is easy enough to see how "unreasonable" expectations would produce stress. By why should we be so wary of holding "reasonable" expectations, for instance that our editor, who has loved everything of ours she’s seen, will love our next book, or that our next painting, in which we are demanding nothing new of ourselves, will turn out as well as our last paintings? One vital reason is that such expectations do not allow for changing circumstances and genuine process.

What if we are already "beyond" our current painting style and are just going through the motions with our current painting? Our growth process, which we naturally want to cultivate, is at odds with the life of this painting and what is likely to happen is that we will look at the painting, realize that we do not want to paint this sort of thing any longer, and move on.

If we were holding the "reasonable" expectation that the painting ought to turn out just fine, we would be disappointed and might not even be able to recognize the moment for what it is, the signal of a growth spurt. When we "expect nothing," then we can not only accept the "death" of this painting without pain but be equal to the moment and open up to our next work. It is exactly for such reasons that we want to "expect nothing."

KP: I have found the customizable Incantation 3 "I am doing my work" to be particularly enlightening. As I named the activities I was engaged in, at any given moment, I began to realize how often I found myself multitasking. How might this incantation be customized to reflect the necessity for occasional multitasking in the course of a busy creative person’s day?

EM: There are two kinds of multitasking, the kind where you are doing one thing, then a different thing, then yet a different thing, one right after the other; and the sort where you are actually doing two things at once, like talking on the phone while you’re checking your email.

For the first sort, the idea of "book-ending" each task, so as to set it off from the one before it and the one after it, can prove very useful. You use incantation 1, "I am completely stopping," and the name-your-work incantation, incantation 3, when you start the task, then you use incantation 3 again, this time to "put the task behind you"—for instance, "Done with that letter"—and incantation 12, "I return with strength," to ready yourself for the next, maybe completely different task. For that other kind of multi-tasking—well, we should all stop doing that, as it is the very opposite of "being present"!

KP: I often tell the singers I teach that awareness of breathing is foundational to building a healthy, powerful, flexible voice. How might a busy singer, with limited time to prepare, incorporate Ten Zen Seconds techniques into a regular practice routine, which already includes stretches, breathing and vocal exercises, plus preparation of repertoire?

EM: The first step is always to go through the twelve incantations, slowly and mindfully, and find the one or two that feel most useful and resonant. It is very difficult, verging on impossible, to incorporate all twelve in a regular way into your life, but it isn’t hard at all to incorporate one, two, or even three.

For a singer—for all performers—incantation 6, "I embrace this moment," is a very important and powerful one, because many performers are, because of performance anxiety, actually "wanting to be elsewhere" and wishing they were elsewhere, and incantation 6 helps remind them to surrender to the fact that they are where that they are and that they might even experience the moment as joyful!—especially if they add on incantation 9, "I am open to joy," to remind themselves of that possibility.

KP: Eric, thank you for your thoughtful answers. I appreciate the insights you've shared.
To read other bloggers interviews with Eric Maisel about "Ten Zen Seconds" CLICK HERE.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

INTERVIEW: Eric Maisel - Ten Zen Seconds (2)

Today, I host author and creativity coach, Eric Maisel, Ph.D., as he tells about his new book, "Ten Zen Seconds: Twelve Incantations for Purpose, Power and Calm."

Ten Zen Seconds is written in a straightforward, easily understood style. I chose to read it slowly over the course of about ten days, going through it in a way that allowed for reflection and experiential use of the ideas.

I used the techniques just as suggest, and the past two weeks have been very productive and calm. I look forward to seeing how this new way of framing mindfulness wears over time.
Here ERIC MAISEL answers additional questions TEN ZEN SECONDS.

KP: What is Ten Zen Seconds all about?

EM: It's actually a very simple but powerful technique for reducing your stress, getting yourself centered, and reminding yourself about how you want to live your life. It can even serve as a complete cognitive, emotional, and existential self-help program built on the single idea of dropping a useful thought into a deep breath.

You use a deep breath, five seconds on the inhale and five seconds on the exhale, as a container for important thoughts that aim you in the right direction in life I describe twelve of these thoughts in the book and you begin to employ this breathing-and-thinking technique that I call incanting as the primary way to keep yourself on track.

KP: Where did this idea come from?

EM: It comes from two primary sources, cognitive and positive psychology from the West and breath awareness and mindfulness techniques from the East. I'd been working with creative and performing artists for more than twenty years as a therapist and creativity coach and wanted to find a quick, simple technique that would help them deal with the challenges they regularly face resistance to creating, performance anxiety, negative self-talk about a lack of talent or a lack of connections, stress over a boring day job or competing in the art marketplace, and so on.

Because I have a background in both Western and Eastern ideas, it began to dawn on me that deep breathing, which is one of the best ways to reduce stress and alter thinking, could be used as a cognitive tool if I found just the right phrases to accompany the deep breathing. This started me on a hunt for the most effective phrases that I could find and eventually I landed on twelve of them that I called incantations, each of which serves a different and important purpose.

KP: What sort of hunt did you go on?

EM: First, I tried to figure out what are the most important tasks that we face as human beings, then I came up with what I hoped were resonant phrases, each of which needed to fit well into a deep breath, then, most importantly which moved this from the theoretical to the empirical I tested the phrases out on hundreds of folks who agreed to use them and report back on their experiences. That was great fun and eye-opening!

People used these phrases to center themselves before a dental appointment or surgery, to get ready to have a difficult conversation with a teenage child, to bring joy back to their performing career, to carve out time for creative work in an over-busy day in hundreds of ways that I couldn't have anticipated. I think that's what makes the book rich and special: that, as useful as the method and the incantations are, hearing from real people about how they've used them seals the deal. I'm not much of a fan of self-help books that come entirely from the author's head; this one has been tested in the crucible of reality.

KP: Which phrases did you settle on?

EM: The following twelve. I think that folks will intuitively get the point of each one (though some of the incantations, like "I expect nothing," tend to need a little explaining). Naturally each incantation is explained in detail in the book and there are lots of personal reports, so readers get a good sense of how different people interpret and make use of the incantations.

Here are the twelve (the parentheses show how the phrase gets divided up between the inhale and the exhale:

1. (I am completely) (stopping)
2. (I expect) (nothing)
3. (I am) (doing my work)
4. (I trust) (my resources)
5. (I feel) (supported)
6. (I embrace) (this moment)
7. (I am free) (of the past)
8. (I make) (my meaning)
9. (I am open) (to joy)
10. (I am equal) (to this challenge)
11. (I am) (taking action)
12. (I return) (with strength)

A small note: the third incantation functions differently from the other eleven, in that you name something specific each time you use it, for example "I am writing my novel" or "I am paying the bills." This helps you bring mindful awareness to each of your activities throughout the day.

KP: Can you use the incantations and this method for any special purposes?

EM: As I mentioned, folks are coming up with all kinds of special uses. One that I especially like is the idea of "book-ending" a period of work, say your morning writing stint or painting stint, by using "I am completely stopping" to ready yourself, center yourself, and stop your mind chatter, and then using "I return with strength" when you're done so that you return to the rest of life with energy and power. Usually we aren't this mindful in demarcating our activities and life feels very different when we do.

KP: Is there a way to experience this process in real time?

EM: By trying it out! But my web master Ron Wheatley has also designed a slide show at the Ten Zen Seconds site (http://www.tenzenseconds.com ) that you can use to learn and experience the incantations. The slides that name the twelve incantations are beautiful images provided by the painter Ruth Yasharpour and each slide stays in place for ten seconds. So you can attune your breathing to the slide and really practice the method. The slide show is available at http://www.tenzenseconds.com/test_photo_slide.html

KP: How can people learn more about Ten Zen Seconds?

EM: The book is the best resource. You can ask for it at your local bookstore.

Or You can get it at Amazon by visiting: http://www.amazon.com/Ten-Zen-Seconds-Eric-Maisel/dp/1402208537/sr=1-25/qid=1167239458/ref=sr_1_25/102-5337867-2282549?ie=UTF8&s=books

The Ten Zen Seconds website is also an excellent resource: in addition to the slide show that I mentioned, there is a bulletin board where folks can chat, audio interviews that I've done discussing the Ten Zen Second techniques, and more. It's also quite a gorgeous site, so you may want to visit it just for the aesthetic experience! I would also recommend that folks check out my main site, http://www.ericmaisel.com , especially if they're interested in creativity coaching or the artist's life.

KP: What else are you up to?

EM: Plenty! I have a new book out called Creativity for Life, which is roughly my fifteenth book in the creativity field and which people seem to like a lot. I also have a third new book out, in addition to Ten Zen Seconds and Creativity for Life, called Everyday You, which is a beautiful coffee table book about maintaining daily mindfulness. I'm working on two books for 2008, one called A Writer's Space and a second called Creative Recovery, about using your innate creativity to help in recovering from addiction.

And I'm keep up with the many other things I do: my monthly column for Art Calendar Magazine, my regular segment for Art of the Song Creativity Radio, the trainings that I offer in creativity coaching, and my work with individual clients. I am happily busy! But my main focus for the year is on getting the word out about Ten Zen Seconds, because I really believe that it's something special. So I thank you for having me here today!

KP: Thank you, Eric, for sharing your insights and expertise. I look forward to reading your next book.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tiny Blackberry Tarts

Late night cravings are the fairy-godmothers of inventive cooking.

I went to the grocery store this evening in search of blackberry* something-or-other to bake and found nothing prefab in either the freezer or bakery sections. Here's what I came up with:

[preheat oven or toaster oven to 350F]

- 1 box frozen mini fillo shells
- 1 bag frozen blackberries
- 1 jar blackberry jam

1) Spoon a enough blackberry jam into each mini fillo shell to fill it about half way.

2) Nestle as many frozen blackberries as will fit (2-3) in each partially jam filled shell.

3) Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes, or until berries and jam are hot and bubbly.

No matter how tasty they look, it's best to let them cool slightly before taking a bite.

Right out of the oven, the juice in the tarts is very hot. It may burn your fingers or tongue if you get impatient and try to eat one too soon. Trust me, I know.

(*NOT the electronic device)

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Spring Peepers

I heard my first spring peepers (not to be confused with Peeps) of the season tonight when I went out to the grocery store at 9:30 PM to get ... well, something to bake. I was having a craving for boysenberry pie, which is nearly impossible to find in New England, but that's another story.

Peepers are little nocturnal frogs I've never seen, only heard. The males' mating call can be heard for quite some distance. They sound like crickets on steroids.

The sound of the peepers is one of the first signs of Spring, arriving late here this year.

WARNING: Peepers and Peeps are not interchangeable. Peepers do not belong on graham crackers.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nuked Peeps S'mores

Ode to a Purple Peep
a poem by Kay Pere

A bland expression on its face,
Upon a paper plate,
A graham cracker beneath it
The peep awaits its fate.

It cannot run. It cannot beg.

Its belly bulge, a chocolate egg,
Like they do in Winnipeg,

The peep that I just ate.


Does this make me a one ode purple peep eater?

[Microwave approximately 20 seconds. Eat open-faced or cover with another graham cracker while still gooey for the full Peep S'mores experience.]

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Quote: Ears Filled with Oughts

"Much of the joy I always feel on the island lies precisely in being free of the nagging suspician I used to have that no matter what I was doing I might better be doing something else: if playing with my kids I should be working, if working I was neglecting my friends, if out with my friends I belonged home with my kids. How often I accused myself of reading when I should be writing, of writing when I ought to be reading, of staying indoors when I ought to be out in the streets ... filling my ears with oughts, but never knowing which ear the devil was whispering in."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fortune Cookie Says

The fortune cookie I got with last night's Chinese take-out told me:

"Your infinite capacity for patience will be rewarded sooner or later."

I want my infinite capacity for patience rewarded now!

Just kidding. Sorta.

How would you define "irony"?

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Monday, March 26, 2007

Library: Free Magazines

Because I try to live simply, I don't subscribe to magazines that aren't related to my profession (though I do occasionally bring one home from the grocery store check out counter).

As part of my creative process workshop the participants are asked to make a quick collage clipped from magazines, which I wouldn't ordinarily have on hand. So, today I visited our local public library where they set aside stacks of books and magazines, free for the taking.

I loaded my arms high with copies of Vogue, Gourmet, Women's Day, Better Homes and Gardens, Redbook, and Oprah magazines, happy to be able to pass along this abundance to those who will come to my workshop to learn about their own creative resources and the many sources of simple abundance available to them.

I find it amusing that even though these magazines are heavily supported by advertising of expensive luxury items, we will be ripping them apart on a treasure hunt for inspiring words, colors, images, and phrases to clip, arrange and glue.

Like children, in the midst of play we become less susceptible to advertising's attempts to activate our insecurities.

In those moments, we know intuitively that we are enough just as we are.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Saturday, March 24, 2007

stronger than memory

Healing is stronger than memory.

Spring is evidence of this truth.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Funnies

Reuse. Recycle. Renew.

As a child during the 60's and 70's I took this mantra to heart.

Birthday and Christmas gifts from my teenage hippy brothers were usually wrapped in the Sunday funnies, a choice made by economic necessity and the ideology of the time. They needed what little spending money they had to pay for dates and gas for their car, and the funnies wrapped around the presents they gave were also a form of rebellion against the "Establishment". They weren't about to buy into the commercialization of gift giving. Inside the colorful wrapping, the things I found were often handmade or second-hand.

None of my friends got gifts wrapped in newspaper. I envied them, but I also realized I was experiencing something kinda cool.

The lessons learned stuck with me:

- Store bought isn't necessarily better
- Ordinary things can be reused
- Self-sufficiency is respectable
- Special doesn't have a price tag
- You can do things your own way
- Everyday choices can be declarations of personal freedom

(c)2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vernal Equinox

The first day of Spring! The wheel of the year turns.

Wagon wheel pasta (rotelle) and sauce for dinner. Round green grapes on the side.

I went for a walk to the edge of the woods today, looking for signs of spring.

A flock of robins tap-danced across the field looking for the first stirrings of earthworms. They hopped up into the bare tree branches as I passed among them.

There were leaf buds on the blackberry vines I'd planted at the corner of Gaia Luna last summer. Maybe this year there will be more sunny days and the birds will leave some berries for me to eat. I have visions of blackberry jam on toast and blackberries in the freezer for my breakfast cereal on January mornings.

The deer fence around the garden didn't survive the winter. The winds and ice were too much for it. It hangs like a veil across the southern edge of the beds. This year we'll need to put in a more permanent solution, a real fence with heavier posts. Maybe even a garden gate with an arbor, if it wouldn't look too civilized.

Plant peas after St. Patricks Day, they say.

Our ground is still icy. There is snow in the shady places. Ice on the puddles.

I'm ready for green!

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mix it up!

Reuse. Recycle. Renew.

Old things with character and history appeal to me.

I would rather use our old avocado green hand mixer than anything new from the store. It has mixed cakes and brownies going back many decades. To hold it in my hand is to hold all those happy memories, though it's only been mine for a fraction of that time.

The color reminds me of an era when Alice on the "Brady Bunch" always had something ready for dinner when everyone arrived home.

It represents a time when simple was enough and things were built to last.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Sunday, March 18, 2007


~ journal excerpt

I want art and serenity in my life. I'm not interested in competitive jockeying.

If, after I've created what I want to create and taken it out into the world, if then it fits with the parameters of some competition, I will try. I'm not going to mold myself unrecognizably into something to fit an objective.

I think a lot about getting older and trying to find lasting meaning in life. There is a wealth of material for art and song there.

(c)2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Contest Win

Last month I entered a contest and won. This was a first for me, both the entering and the winning. In the process, I learned a lot about my own competitive nature. (More on that in another post.)

Nancy Mills, the founder of "The Spirited Woman" wrote a set of words and challenged others to set them to music. The theme of her organization is "Living in the Land of Enoughness". Through her workshops, newsletter and website, she encourages women to feel empowered by knowing that we are enough, just as we are.

You can listen to my rendition of "The Spirited Woman Song" HERE.

Nancy interviewed me over the phone following the announcement of the winners. You can read the interview HERE.

One of the fun things about this contest was that Nancy encouraged participants not to worry about their results, to just come up something fun and enter. Some "songs" were even called in to an 800 number she set up especially for the contest. Others, like mine, were sent by email as MP3s.

While some contestants made up their songs on the spot, for me, taking a song from concept to finished recording in 8-10 hours of work, and finishing by a deadline, was a major breakthough.

The 4 finalists were selected by a panel of judges. The order of winners was determined by popular vote.

A big happy "Thank you!" to everyone who emailed or called during the short 24-hour voting window.

My prize money will be going toward recording my next CD, hopefully coming out in Spring of 2008.

:-), Kay

Monday, March 12, 2007

Flow Around

Blocked momentum.

My energy and effort dammed up behind an obstruction, or channeled off in another direction without my consent, for someone else’s purposes.

I become a stream, curving around a stone.

Or the pressure builds. With enough force the stone may be pushed over or moved aside, or it may be destroyed in the process.

In that time, I am going nowhere. I must decide, is this a good use of my energy and effort? Is this the best way to get were I'm going, to do what I'm meant to do?

The stone has as much right to exert it's will upon me as I have to choose my own response.

I acknowledge obstruction.

Today, this time, I choose to flow around.

Perhaps, it will be smoothed and reshaped a little by my passing. Perhaps, I will learn something of determination by touching its steadfastness.

©2007 Kay Pere ~Effusive Muse Publishing

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Thrift Store Finds

A friend from Wales, Michael Nobbs, came up with the idea to do an Artist's Date to a thrift store, known in his corner of the world as a charity shop. [Join in HERE] He suggests that each person set a small budget and buy something to wear that we wouldn't ordinarily choose.

I chose a vividly colorful straw hat. Only $1.99 US. I bought it without trying it on because I'd come into the store just 15 minutes before closing.

Funny thing, when I got home and put it on to look in the mirror, it actually looks pretty good.

I think I'll leave the price tag dangling from the brim, a la Minnie Pearl (is she known outside the US?). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnie_Pearl.

Or here http://www.cmt.com/artists/az/pearl_minnie/bio.jhtml you can even see the $1.98 tag on her hat! :-) Nice semi-coincidence.

I looked at the sweater racks, too, and realized that the ones in the thrift store were nicer than the shabby old things in my dresser at home, which have been washed and worn a million times until they're pilly and full of holes, but I still wear them.

I love chenille, so imagine my joy when I found a treasure trove of chenille sweaters in my size (or close enough that a little roll of the sleaves will make the necessary adjustment). Got 3 for $1.00 each, 1 for $3.00 and 1 for $5.99. All very nice, soft and cozy. Lavender with subtle sparkles, deep red, black, coco brown, and periwinkle. They're spinning around in the washer right now rinsing out that thrift store smell, getting ready for wearing tomorrow (though not all at once).

Also for $1.99 each I got 2 VHS tapes: "The Princess Bride" and Disney's "The Aristocats". I'm a sap when it comes to movie choices.

I got a wooden dish drainer rack and a 2-quart glass water bottle to put in the fridge for a buck a piece. The dish drainer goes out to the barn to dry and store my bats (round masonite boards used on the pottery wheel). When the weather warms up, I think I'll use the bottle to brew some sun tea from herbs grown in my garden.

A lot of good shopping for just under $20, and in only 15 minutes. Woohoo!

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing


~ excerpts from today's journal writing

Deep breaths
Calm body
Still mind

Over the years, I've asked for advice and permission far more often than I really should. I need to give myself back the authority I've handed over to others.

My creative work is both hopeful and haunted. I have both strength and weakness and can hold these two, one in each hand, as I work. Passion and detachment. Independence and interconnection. The synthesis of opposites necessary for growth.

Life is filled with unresolvable contradictions. This is fertile ground for creative work.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Connect the DOTs

My theme for the next few months is "Connect the Dots". I tend to work on things in isolated islands of intense activity. One day one thing, the next another. I have so many areas of focus that it all becomes rather disjointed. Like dots on a page with only hints of a picture around the edges, and no numbers to tell how to connect them.

I've named the clusters of dots, like constellations, to help me make more sense of them:
  • Heart and Spiral - my songwriting, performing and recording activities
  • Sacred Shards - pottery work and sales
  • Effusive Muse Publishing - my writing project and workshop development
  • Sound Krayons Music - the teaching studio, vocal and songwriting workshops
  • Keys for a Cause - social activism (related to our non-profit LUNCH, Local United Network to Combat Hunger)
  • Gaia Luna - the garden that's more than a garden

Then there are the dots that are just splashes of me, that don't necessarily fit in anywhere.

Constellations, all, clusters of light in the sky over my head, for navigation, telling of meaning and stories, connected through imagination, through action. Right now, though, mostly just dots, disjointed fragments of accomplishment and infrastructure.

How about this? DOTs: Disjointed Organizational Tools

Sounds so corporate.

Sometimes, if I let myself become distracted by a troublesome person, I find I've connected with dots that don't belong to me.

In the past I would let these things hang in isolation in my mind, not allowing myself to see a pattern and it's impact on me. This takes it's toll. I'll never know how many hours, how many days I've lost with thoughtless words and actions reverberating in my head.

I've begun to see the ways I've allowed other people's dots to become part of my design. I've started to recognize where I've drawn lines connecting with their dots instead of my own.

Seeing this, I can choose when to use my eraser and make changes.

I hope I am better equipped to consciously choose to connect, or not, in the future.

My dots. Their dots.

My job in this life is to own my dots, to add some of my own choosing, to draw in the lines that transform dots into meaningful pictures, then use them to navigate toward my destination, whatever that turns out to be.

(c)2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Saturday, February 10, 2007

SACRED SHARDS: Fresh Slabs & New Directions

I went to the pottery studio late yesterday afternoon. It was the first time I'd gone in many weeks, because I'd been sick.

It's amazing how doing something you love can be so energizing. I dragged myself over there yesterday, feeling tired, but knowing that I'd feel even more disappointed and frustrated if another day went by without working on my pottery. I ended up working there for nearly an hour and a half, wedging and rolling out 5, 1/4 inch thick slabs, (3 white, 2 red) working slowly and methodically, enjoying the stillness of the studio and the company of another woman who'd come there to glaze her pieces.

Rather than using cardboard scraps to transport the slabs as I usually do (see photo above), this time I took several small 14x15 inch squares of drywall I'd prepared by ceiling the edges with thin strips of duct tape (very bad to get plaster in clay--it explodes in the kiln). Each slab was transferred from the SlabMats onto a square of drywall then slid into a 16x16 inch square zipper bag purchase from the Uline catalog. I've used some regular drywall, some waterproof, to see which will work best.

When I got home, I was re-energized enough to work for about 3 hours before calling it a night. I sat at the kitchen table, near the woodstove, playing and stamping designs using my most recently fired hand-carved stamps. This morning I have 13 new pendants and 11 new Christmas ornaments ready to go over to the studio for bisque firing, all from just one slab of white clay. These are designs I've not tried before.

Usually, I work almost exclusively in red clay. I like the natural, earthy look is gives. By experimenting with the white clay this time, I began to look at my designs differently, to feel free to try new ideas. I'm hoping to shake myself loose from the things I've already done, to build in new directions.

The pieces that have been selling well, the button box pendants, are things I began to develop nearly 2 years ago. Of course, I'll still continue to make these. They have a story that continues to resonate for me. At the same time, I'm ready to find an artistic direction that reflects who I am in the here and now. I'm excited to discover what that will be.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Most of my pottery work, to date, has involved hand building small objects. I've collected an unwieldy assortment of small sculpting tools. So, last year, as a birthday gift to myself, I made this tool roll from scraps of a canvas painter's drop cloth. The design is my own, customized from the features of other tool rolls I've seen in stores.

I personalized it with hand written phrases and mantras composed from my experiences working with clay. I wanted to capture in words the elemental magic I feel as I work.

"Simple tools of transformation . . . hands, mind, imagination."
©2007 Kay Pere - Effusive Muse Publishing

"Artifacts of the Spirit, uneartherd to tell their stories"
© 2007 Kay Pere - Effusive Muse Publishing

"Fire, Water, Wood, Stone / Earth, Air, Silver, Bone"
©2007 Kay Pere - Effusive Muse Publishing

It stands on it's own. The ties that secure the bundle when it's rolled up can be tied through a loop on the opposite edge to make it stand for easy access to the tools.

Pottery is a messy business. Before beginning to cut and sew, I machine washed the canvas in hot water and dried it on high to remove any shrinkage. The writing is permanent, done with a brown sharpie marker, tested on scraps for washability before beginning on the final piece. When the time comes that my tool roll is unrecognizably caked with clay, I can throw the whole thing in the washer, minus the tools of course.
©2007 Kay Pere - Effusive Muse Publishing