Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holy and Steadfast

Quote of the Day:  

Psalm 15

A psalm of David.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

Mary at the Medicine Wheel, in the Big Horn Mountains.
Sacred Ground

The Advent Photo A Day word for Dec. 10 was Holy. I had thought of skipping that one because Holy seems like a word to describe God or Heaven. I thought of church hymns like Holy, Holy, Holy. If you grew up in a Lutheran Church you might be singing that song in your head right now. Then, I thought of another song from the Psalm I quoted above with the line Who shall dwell on that holy mountain. That got me thinking about holy, or sacred, ground, and our bike trip last year to the Medicine Wheel. When the Biker Chef started the walk up and around the wheel, always to the left first, the wind swept up and over the mountain, blowing steadfastly over the sacred ground, carving the path, bringing fresh air. I thought of the people who have walked that path before us. I looked at the tokens they left behind. I felt the solemnity of their prayers, their grief, and their hope.

Hope is what keeps us steadfast in our journey to the Holy place. May your path blow with new life today.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Have you ever been to a place that felt holy, or sacred?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wisdom and Delight at the Minnesota History Center

Quote of the Day:  The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind. Khalil Gibran

For the Advent Photo A Day Project, the word for the day on Dec. 8 was wisdom. The Word for Dec. 9 was delight. I'll use both in this post, and I'll still be a day behind, but I'm catching up. Holy and steady/steadfast are for today and tomorrow. I might combine them as well, or skip one. What would a picture of Holy look like? Or, steadfast, for that matter? Well, that's a problem for another day. Today, I give you wisdom and delight at the Minnesota History Center.

Wheel on into the Minnesota History Center with us. 
Learn about bootleggers, speakeasy, prohibition, and women's suffrage.

Take a tour of the MN Historical Society Library and find a book about where you live, family genealogy, or anything related to life and history in Minnesota, and some surrounding states as well.

Krista, that book lover and promoter of words, was so excited to visit this library!

Totally a staged picture. This is how I might look if I were doing research.
Instead, we walked around the place giggling like school girls.
All those words and historical documents make a gal giddy.
(We're such geeks!)

I ran into my friend Maren Hinderlie as we were entering the center.
She invited us to see her presentation at the Prohibition display.
Looks like she's talked Krista into joining the crusade.

Not wanting to be left out, I grabbed a banner and sign.
Votes for women!

Maren, showing us the "interesting" wallpaper on the speakeasy powder room wall.


We also toured the history of a house in St. Paul, exploring the different families who lived there.

You can touch and sit on most of the display. The bed has a big surprise!

View of the State Capital from the History Center

After Krista got out of prison (see above photo), she found a job at the local drugstore, working at the soda fountain. I'll take a cherry coke, please.

You can't keep her off the phone!
At least there is a minute limit on this one!

This post has me pondering the difference between knowledge and wisdom. We gain knowledge by reading, researching, visiting museums and history centers, and going to school. Wisdom, however, comes from experience. When you think of someone who has wisdom on a life, you turn to someone older, or who has gone down the path ahead of you. We have gained some wisdom from those who tried to eliminate alcohol. Consumption was out of control. People, especially families, were suffering because of it. Did it work to make it illegal? No. It created an opportunity for criminals to have power and possession. Did it wake up the nation to the ills of alcoholism? Yes. Consumption dropped after the amendment was repealed, and maybe, some people got wiser about addictions.

It is with great delight that we learned from those who have gone before us and shared their wisdom. After that, we had dinner. Not sure how it might fit with the next words, holy and steadfast, but I'll share our culinary adventure with you soon!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Who do you turn to for their words of wisdom?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ready and already I'm behind!

Quote of the Day:  O, Christmas Tree, O, Christmas Tree, how lovely are your branches. a favorite holiday song

How's that for a winter wonderland!

I'm already three days behind in the Advent Photo A Day Project. Uff-da! I'll catch up a bit here today.

Dec. 7th's word was Ready. We were busy getting ready for Zach's Birthday (the 7th) and Christmas this weekend. Our tradition has been to celebrate Zach's birthday, then put up the Christmas tree. I had an old plastic tree that lit up only halfway, which was a disappointment to the Biker Chef, so he said, "Let's go to a tree farm and cut our own tree." Well, Saturday's temps were well below zero with horrible wind. We got Zach a birthday present, went grocery shopping and stayed in. On Sunday, however, the temps creeped to just above zero, so we popped in the Nat King Cole cassette tape (Biker Chef still has his mom's!), and headed to Hebron Gardens Tree Farm.

Hey, kids, this is a cassette tape. It plays music.

The snow is not a photo prop. We've had plenty here in Minnesota!

Sizing up the tree and whacking off the snow.

Loading it up in the truck.

Then, the scenic drive home.

The joys and aggravations of putting up a real tree give us fond Christmas memories. After cutting the stem a couple times, repositioning it, and tightening the screws on the tree stand, it seems to be standing fairly straight in its new home in my living room. So far, our cat Leo hasn't tried to climb up and knock it over. It's only a matter of time, I'm sure.

The Advent word for Sunday was Wisdom. On our way to the tree farm, I lifted up the camera to take a shot and discovered that the battery was completely dead. In a moment of wisdom last Friday, I put the spare battery in my purse. (Patting myself on the back.) I'll have more on Wisdom in a future post. It has to do with our trip to St. Paul on our way to the Wizard of Oz.  Here's a sneak peak.

Can anyone guess where I am?

O, Christmas tree, O, Christmas Tree, your branches are indeed lovely, although a bit pokey. When it touches my skin, big welts break out on my hands and arms. Yikes! I'll be watering the tree with rubber gloves on and the boys will do all the decorating. Oh, the pricks and prickles of the holidays as the blend in with the joys and traditions. Here's to making new traditions and lasting memories! Cheers!
Happy 16th Birthday, Zach!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Do you put up a tree at Christmas? What winter holiday traditions do you have?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review of Wizard of Oz at The Ordway in St. Paul, MN

Quote of the Day:  Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. a favorite quote from The Wizard of Oz.

Krista, I've a feeling we're not in Minnesota anymore. In fact, we were transported to the merry old land of Oz at the Ordway Performing Arts Center, Friday night, Dec. 6, 2013. The magical winds of a fantastic theatrical production swept us out of the cold and away from our troubles that melted like lemon drops despite the subzero temperatures outside. 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz. Description: Company in The Land of Oz. Original Toronto Cast. Photo Credit: Cylla Von Tiedemann

Danielle Wade is a delightful Dorothy. When she sang, "Somewhere over the Rainbow," chills ran down by arms, and her final note of why, oh why can't I... floated up into the rafters and hung there until Christmas. I had tears in my eyes from the beauty and emotional electricity of the performance. The Wizard of Oz stage production gives us exactly what we came to see and hear - the beloved characters, the scary witch, flying monkeys, exciting dancers, heartfelt lines, the journey, the music, the visual effects. I could go on and on. With the use of scrims, film, technology and phenomenal actors, I felt like we were part of the show, blending the old movie into the new theatrical production. During the tornado scene the projection seemed to be in 3D as we were pulled into the whirlwind and landed with a flash of light in Oz. The little girls in front of me weren't the only ones to gasp and say, "Oh, look at that!" I found myself tapping Krista on the shoulder and whispering that I had goosebumps, sighing at the amazing music and theatrics to wondering how many times the dancers whacked each other the head while rehearsing the dance with the sticks. I loved that number, the rhythm and dancing set my heart racing.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz. Description: Jamie McKnight as Scarecrow. Original Toronto Cast. Photo Credit: Cylla Von Tiedemann

Watching this beloved film classic come to life on stage is a fantastical experience. It's like you could step inside the film itself and become part of the show. The way they used the projection and scrims created the effect of walking through the woods, twirling in the tornado, interacting with the story, and journeying along with Dorothy and her pals. 

The most impressive actor on stage was Toto. He got his own standing ovation. How does the trainer, William Berloni, get him to bark on cue, enter and exit, and be such a steady part of the show? I looked at his website, Theatrical Animals, and learned that he uses rescue dogs. For more information on him, his talented furry superstars, and his efforts to help rescue animals, check out his site.

The Wizard of Oz is on its North America Tour. Check to see if they'll be in your neighborhood. This is the best show I've ever seen, and what makes it even more amazing is how they could bring the classic film to life and give us even more of the magic as we journey to Oz and back with Dorothy and Toto. 

I have fun photos and more to tell you about our freezing cold day in our state's capital. I'll save that for a later post. Bring the kids to Wizard of Oz at the OrdwayDec. 4-29, 2013, or go with a great date. Thank you, Ordway, for bringing this fantastic show to St. Paul. Thank you, cast, crew, and creative team of this production. Your talents are "somewhere over the rainbow."

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What are your favorite lines, characters, or scenes from The Wizard of Oz?

Friday, December 6, 2013


Quote of the Day:  Today is life - the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto. Dale Carnegie

When you awake for breakfast, I have fresh bread and coffee waiting.

Awake! a great word for the Advent Photo A Day Project (click pic at the side for more info). Last night, I made sourdough bread with oats and molasses. It drove us crazy to smell it baking. We couldn't wait for morning, so the Chef and I had a slice before going to sleep. Mmm. Home-made fresh bread is a process, and certainly worth the wait. You keep the sourdough growing on the counter, or in the fridge. You must feed it and stir it to keep it alive. Then, when you're ready to bake, you take a scoop out of it, add more flour, yeast, and other yummy ingredients. Then, wait for it to rise. When it's risen, you punch it down, knead it, and let it rise again. Then, you work it over one more time, forming loaves, letting it rise, until finally, by the end of the day, you can bake it.

And, too, we pursue our dreams, waking and sleeping, working and kneading, adding ingredients, and waiting. When all that hard work finally meets opportunity, we will awake to a new day and taste the goodness of our creations. 

Today, as we awake to almost a foot of snow in Minnesota and temps well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, we carry on. We don't let the weather hinder our plans. Krista and I are driving to St. Paul to see The Wizard of Oz at the Ordway. We are awake to new opportunities, awake to more adventure, following the snow covered yellow brick road. I'm sure Oz is warmer than Minnesota!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Where do you think you'll go if you follow the red brick road? What have you waited for?

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Quote of the Day:  
But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father knows. The Arrival of the Son of Man will take place in times like Noah’s. Before the great flood everyone was carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ark. They knew nothing—until the flood hit and swept everything away. - Matthew 24:36-39

Flood?! I thought that was an odd choice for the Advent Photo A Day Project. The first image that jumped into my mind was the big flood of 1997 in the Red River Valley of the North. We were living in East Grand Forks at the time, had just sold our house, and I was staying in a ground floor apartment with Bobby, my oldest son, while my husband started living and working in another town. When the flood hit, I started packing. He came home, but by morning, the levees broke, and the flood waters spilled out. Once the water was set free, it flowed everywhere, covering miles and flooding every basement along the way. Somehow, the apartment buildings were spared and none of our possessions were lost. I had friends, though, who lost everything. Their entire houses were filled with flood water. A dirty, murky mess was left in its wake. I walked into one friend's home and said, "It doesn't even look like your place anymore." She said, "No, now it's a shithole."

That's how we left that community. It was the end of April. Many schools were damaged. Most people had flood damage in their homes. The school year ended. No final tests. No good-byes to my students. I saw a few as we came back to regroup and turn in grades. They had prom and graduation, but it was different.

from the MN public radio website
Grand Forks, ND, April 1997

Flood You can be flooded with emotion, flooded with paperwork, flooded with ideas. Flood, to me, means overwhelmed, suddenly, by outside forces beyond your control.

The verse above helps me understand, a little, why they chose this word. It's like the time before the flood, we lived one way, going about our daily activities without too much care. Once the flood hit, everything changed.

Whatever floods your life, may you find a life raft, piloted by a great friend, to help you navigate.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: When have you felt overwhelmed, flooded by outside forces? Who helped you through those times?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Time and IWSG December 2013

Quote of the Day:  Peace is when time doesn't matter as it passes by. Maria Schell

Time in a bottle Jim Croce "There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them." 

Time (Why you punish me?) by Hootie and the Blowfish "Time without courage, And time without just wasted time."

Honey, time marches on, and suddenly you realize it is marching across your face. line by Truvy in Steel Magnolias. I played Truvy in a community theatre production in Alexandria, MN about 10 years ago. It is one of my favorite roles.

If you have to watch the clock, it might as well be artistic.

How do you mark time? For a short time, I had an email correspondence with a guy named Tim. I told him that every time I type his name it turns into Time. He wrote back a funny quip about time and how he marks it by how fast he empties the shampoo bottle! 

I am marking time today by noting that we're already at the first Wednesday of the month where we write about our insecurities with the Insecure Writer's Support Group, founded by the great ninja blogger, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Before I joined the Advent Photo-a-Day Project, I had planned to write about my word for the week, which was Accept. And, actually, I think Time and Accept work well together. We need to accept the time we have, accept the time of life we're in, accept our gifts and take the time to use them to make the world a better place. We need to be gentle with ourselves when we run out of time. We need to accept that we are busy people with many tasks to do and people to care for. And, sometimes, we need to claim our time to create and build our own careers while those around us need to accept that we have those needs.

When I told the Biker Chef the word for the day, he wondered about thyme. There he goes, spicin' it up for me again. He says that thyme can be used with almost anything. I sure enjoyed the thyme at Thanksgiving! (*grin)

I'll leave you with one more song about time/thyme, Scarborough Fair: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme, recorded by Simon & Garfunkel in 1966. The song itself has been around a long time. According to wikipedia, it is a ballad from Great Britain/Yorkshire and has been around since the middle ages.

When I wrote back to Tim about time, I said that I would like to be timeless, or at least have my creative work have the staying power of a song like Scarborough Fair, or a story we keep going back to like A Wrinkle in Time, or one of Shakespeare's great plays whose themes are timeless.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  How do you mark time?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Quote of the Day:  You cannot find peace by avoiding life. Virginia Woolf
Peace is the first thing the angels sang. John Keble
Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me. song by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson
Imagine by John Lennon

Woke up this morning to freshly fallen snow.
A snow covered Earth, neighbor helping neighbor.
A warm cup of coffee and snuggling under a blanket with a book, 
and a sweetheart = Peace.

The word for December 3rd is Peace. Someone once told me that a definition of peace is believing this statement: You are exactly where you are supposed to be.

When the snow falls softly in Minnesota, and you don't have to worry about driving on the slippery roads, it is so peaceful to sit tucked inside with family or friends. It's cozy. When the snow stops and all the neighbors go outside to shovel and fire up their snow blowers, it feels like peace in the neighborhood. Let us battle nature and not each other. Make peace with someone who has hurt you.

That new snow does feel kind of Christmasy.
And, I have peace of mind driving my shiny new Subaru.
It was made for Minnesota winters.
(This is NOT a paid advertisement. *grin*)

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Describe a peaceful moment or scene.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving to Advent, Go and Bound

Quote of the Day:  Advent: the coming or arrival of something extremely important. I decided to join the Advent Photo A Day Project. I like the photo challenge, and the word challenge. 

Dec. 1 is Go. I felt I already had "GO" down. It's part of my signature, after all. Go. Create. Inspire! And, GO, I did this past weekend with a show at the Guthrie on Friday night (see my review of Born Yesterday), and a trip back to the metro on Saturday for the Brainerd Warriors football championship game. They lost to Owatonna, a great team. And, I feel like I'm ready to GO, jump on the bus of life, and experience many things.

Photo for Dec. 1, GO!
We went to "Born Yesterday."

December second's word is "Bound." Hmm. It's a strange word. When you look at the definitions, one says to leap or move forward. Another definition is to be tied up and restricted. You can be out of bounds in a sport, or life. You can also bound up the stairs. You can be bound by the norms of society, or bound into a new adventure. Weird. I'm bound and determined to write a new play. So, how do you take a picture of that? Joy and I have a great slogan for our Primo Art Spa, In a world of creative constipation, we're here to get things moving. You can be bound up by the cheese of life. Ha!  I'm bound to get things moving in my creative life. I'll start by playing the piano. My new play is called Grace Notes: Piano Bench Confessions. That's bound to cause some dialogue.

Advent Photo #2 Bound.
I hope the strings on my piano are bound tight!
I'm bound to get the creative energy flowing when I sit down to play, or teach.

I also want to mention that I'm thankful for Thanksgiving and all the people who came to my house, and the ones who had other plans, and especially for the Biker Chef who cooked the most delicious meal.

It was a double Weber Thanksgiving, with pork shoulder on the right, and turkey on the left.

Biker Chef and the bird.

Mr. Happy, at the center of attention, as usual.

Full plates

Full house
Full tummies

Full of fun

Full of ideas for Christmas
Full of Love
Full of Gratitude

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What are you thankful for?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Review of Born Yesterday at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis

Quote of the Day:  That's the problem, there are too many good people in this town! line by Paul Verrall, referring to Washington, D.C., from the play Born Yesterday, by Garson Kanin, directed by John Miller-Stephany, playing at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Nov. 23, 2013 - Jan. 5, 2014.

John Patrick Hayden (Paul Verrall) and Jeff Still (Harry Brock) in the Guthrie Theater's production of Born Yesterday by Garson Kanin. Directed by John Miller-Stephany, set design by Todd Rosenthal, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, and lighting design by Marcus Dilliard. November 23, 2013 - January 5, 2014 in the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Garson Kanin wrote Born Yesterday in the 1940's, during World War II, and it premiered on Broadway in 1946. He was bold in his criticism of the US government, politicians, and those who try to control them. In his play, Harry Brock is a thug, a mob boss of sorts, who has bullied his way to financial success and power. He has come to Washington, D.C. to buy himself a senator. While he has the wealth of a king, he has the mannerisms of schoolyard bully. He expects people to jump at his every command and barks orders at everyone from the bellhop to his girlfriend, Billie Dawn. Billie is no dummy, despite Harry Brock constantly telling her that she's stupid. Oh, no, she knows how to get what she wants. Although, Harry Brock wants to keep her in the dark, he's equally embarrassed that she comes off as a dumb broad in the high society of Washington, D.C. Enter, Paul Verrall, a writer with a bend towards truth and justice. Harry Brock thinks the writer is just the man to educate Billie. In the end, we see just who is educating whom.

Photo by T. Charles Erickson
John Patrick Hayden as Paul Verrall and Alexis Bronkovic as Billie Dawn
Sparks fly between the writer and the chorus girl.

Born Yesterday  is a comedy with serious undertones. The setting is a corrupt Washington, D.C. The main characters are using whatever means they can to survive and get ahead. The clash of cultures between the so-called civilized and the uneducated creates laughs. The characters, their actions and interactions, are titillating. Sometimes, we laugh because we're uncomfortable. Sometimes, we laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, and sometimes, we laugh because what seems like an exaggeration is most likely understatement.

While the set-up is funny and the characters delightful, at times even caricature, abuse is no laughing matter. I got nervous when Harry Brock verbally abused everyone around him. I felt sick when he carried through with his threats. That part is not meant to make light of abuse. It shows how dark some people are and to what means they will go to maintain power. It created enough tension to make me wonder if this play should really be billed as a comedy.

Born Yesterday is visually stunning with a gorgeous set, a swanky hotel in Washington, D.C., including a view of the capital outside the window, and costumes that you can't take your eyes off of. Billie Dawn keeps all eyes on her as she ascends the stairs to change out of her dressing gown. The show is so well cast, and all of the actors seemed to become their characters. Alexis Bronkovic earned her standing ovation. Peter Thomson who plays the senator reminded me of a character out of a 1950's television show, like Alan Brady in The Dick Van Dyke Show.

I attended this production with my friend Krista, her mom, sister, and niece. Before the show, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Level 5 Cafe at the Guthrie, served by a delightful waiter named Ray. (When you release your first film, we'll be in the front row, ready to write a stellar review!)

Photo by Krista Rolfzen Soukup.
Do you see a familiar face in the mirror?

The stunning Rolfzen women.
Thanks for letting me hang with you!

Also playing at the Guthrie is their traditional A Christmas Carol. I missed attending the blogger event for that show because the Brainerd Warriors football team kept winning! We won the semi-finals on blogger night, and played in the championship game on Saturday night. It was a tough loss to the outstanding Owatonna team. My son Zach is a sophomore on the Warriors team, so, of course, we attended both games. The boys were disappointed that we missed our chance to attend A Christmas Carol for blogger night. They suggested we could go at a different time. It really is a great show for the family, minus the youngest ones because the ghosts can be scary. My sister Joy attended A Christmas Carol and said it was as great as last year, plus more dancing, which she loves. She went with her boyfriend who was there for the first time, and he loved it. They're both interested in seeing Born Yesterday which is a great show for teens and older, another way to have a great night on the town in Minneapolis. 

A Christmas Carol  is running through December 29, 2013.
Born Yesterday is running through January 5, 2014.
Go to The Guthrie Theater for tickets and showtimes.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What are some of your favorite comedies or holiday shows?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sibling Shenanigans

I'm not quite sure how my large blue yoga ball became involved with cleaning up from dinner that night. While clumps of mashed potatoes and random forks still lay strewn about our kitchen table, the yoga ball, followed by all five of my children, tore through the house with deafening speed.

How would it end? Tears? Probably. Something broken? Maybe. With five kids I've certainly patched my share of drywall.

Thwump. Thwump.

Two hefty winter squash slid off the counter and onto the floor, barely missing someone's toes. Hmmmmmm... NOT cool. But neither squash nor toes were broken so after shrugging off some minor irritation from their mother, they resumed their mirthful brawl.

Our high ceilings and mostly bare walls echoed with recklessness and high-pitched squeals.

Then, tears. In the kufuffle I couldn't see how Halle ended up flat on her back, but with her knack for drama it looked bad...for about 30 seconds.

Back to the chase.

It wasn't long before there were more tears and I was peeling away the outer layers of four older siblings from the yoga ball. Lyla was smushed between all of them and the baseboard. From the safety of my arms she narrowed her eyes, shook her finger, and gave her siblings a severe tongue-lashing.

(Some days my number one goal is for the youngest two to survive the oldest three.)

My tolerance for sibling shenanigans has gradually enjoyed a little more wiggle room over thirteen years of parenting.

As I see my children building strong, resilient sibling relationships- ones they can depend on, the occasional drywall repair seems less important.

A sense of humor...and some good spackle help, too.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fall Leaf Creatures

The inevitable email I get from the kindergarten teacher asking parents to send in empty toilet paper rolls turns my stomach every time. Quite frankly, my youngest ones haven't exactly gotten wiping down to a hygienic science yet and I'm pretty sure it's the same story with all their happy-go-lucky cohorts. So while I'm all for recycling-bin crafts, I'll pass on giving anything from my kids' bathroom a second life. Yuck.

Instead, we use empty paper towel rolls, trimmed to size, for our fall leaf creatures. It's a huge event for Halle. She spends weeks collecting nature's whatnots- twigs, tiny hemlock cones, and "helicopters."

"Look, Mom! Look at what I found for our leaf creatures this year!"

The outside world steadily trickles through our front door, sometimes left to break down into a sort of organic litter on my desk.

We wait for a dry windy day to blow down lots of leaves that aren't quite crispy and still have lots of color left.

"'s a pretty red one! Look, there's a whole bunch of them over here!"

We gather more than enough and head back inside. Fall scatters across our kitchen table.

We sort. We try this leaf and then that one. We glue.

This year Halle lined up all the creatures. She studied them, then looked around for how she could round out the scene. She added leaves, stood back, then started stacking rocks in the foreground.

I sat there silently, impressed with how she thought about her composition.

Her eyes narrowed; it was clear she wasn't quite satisfied.

"I know!"

She reached for the unused empty paper towel rolls and placed them carefully in the background, adding depth.

If Halle's intuitive sense of composition someday lands her a chapter in "America's 50 Greatest Artists,"  I can expect at least a paragraph on the leaf creatures she made every year with her mom.