The face of an angel in the photo above belongs to my friend, artist Linda Bleck. She is floating in a pool of milk. When I asked Linda if she would submerge herself in milk for a photograph, she said, “Sure!” (Which, incidentally, is the same answer she gave her husband when he proposed marriage.)
Why a milk bath?
Linda suffers from chronic pain stemming from congenital biomechanical issues. She has endured two hip replacements and two spinal surgeries. Part of Linda’s survival strategy is to float. Read More
Did you know that first-time backpackers overpack? And do you know what they overpack? Their fears. They pack too much food, too many first aid supplies or extra rain gear.
I learned this truth while hanging out at a campsite for an evening of conversation with three women who, for the third year running, committed to backpacking a portion of the Appalachian Trail in September. I got to snap photos of their practice hike, which they did at Terry Andrae State Park up the road from Milwaukee. Read More
I've written a lot about accomplished women and I must confess that these posts flummox me. In this short space, I never know whether to draw your attention to the woman, her work, the story of her past, or the possibilities in her future.
To illustrate this quandary, let me introduce Cathy Fussell, a lifelong quilter who learned to handle a needle before she memorized her math tables. She remembers being four and pranking her father by sewing buttons onto his handkerchiefs when he wasn't looking. She has spent her entire life on the Chattahoochee-Flint-Apalachicola watershed in Georgia, and its terrain figures heavily in her topographic quilts. Her husband's paintings inspire her patterns. So do the words of William Faulkner. Cathy lectures on quilting, blogs about quilting, and leads quilting workshops. Two years ago, she was commissioned to create a quilt for First Lady Michelle Obama. She traveled to Washington D.C. to present the quilt to Mrs. Obama, who, by the way, was the fifth first lady that Cathy had the pleasure of meeting.
Last week I shared my friend Margaret Maggard's bright and happy bungalow filled with family history and vintage treasures. This week, I'm diving deep into Margaret's experience as an entrepreneur. It's been a few years since Margaret retired from her jewelry design business, but her transition from a stressed-out mom stringing beads for relaxation to a successful entrepreneur with a long list of customers including First Lady Michelle Obama is fascinating. Those of us who love watching "Shark Tank" or listening to "How I Built This" will find Margaret's story compelling and full of lessons. Read More
"Here I am, dahlings! I'll be right there!"
That's Joanne, calling out to us as she strides across the hangar, her scarf aflutter and her gorgeous bosom pointing towards the airplane like twin headlights on a classic Buick.
She sees the photographer. "Hello Renn!" she says. "I see you still aren't eating, you tiny thing. What's your monthly grocery bill -- $1.49?" Read More
This is the story that Glenda told me: it was a long ago day that Glenda sat cross-legged on the floor of a library in southern California, flipping through a magazine and dreaming girlish dreams. A photo of Jackie Kennedy flashed past and caught Glenda's eye. Jackie was sitting astride a horse, back straight as an arrow and ankles properly flexed, wearing a chic black riding habit that made her look athletic, patrician, and beautiful all at once.
In that moment, Glenda decided that adults shouldn’t get all the good clothes. Read More
I don't usually repeat myself on The Bubble Joy but the last post about Ellen struck a deep chord. In the nearly four years that I've been blogging consistently, this essay was by far the most read and most widely-shared. By my metrics, Ellen went viral.
I thought in light of that success, I'd share some behind-the-scenes moments. These are snaps caught with my iPhone. Read More
Which do you think is scarier: speaking to an auditorium full of high school students or running into a bear in the woods? My friend Ellen has done both.
She was in Virginia last week, backpacking the Appalachian Trail with her two hiking mates, Sandi and Rachel, when they came across a bear. The women clicked their trekking poles together and spoke to the bear in normal voices. It turned and walked away.
Later that day, a bobcat passed in front of Ellen on the trail. Read More
Here are a few fun outtakes from last week's photo shoot. I borrowed a plane, a hangar, some luggage, a few wardrobe items, and a wind machine, which you can see me holding in one pic. As usual, my hubbie helped out behind the scenes. It was a fabulous day with a model who loved the limelight. She and her daughter, my famous cousin Natalie, had us laughing so continuously, it was hard for Renn to hold the camera steady! Read More
This is my friend Ellen and her mom, Lynne. I've written about Ellen before. She throws great parties and serves fancy fizzy drinks in vintage glassware passed down by Lynne. Once, at a patio party, I was minding my own business when apropos of nothing, she hollered in my ear, "Mint green soup bowls!"
Ellen tosses out non-sequiturs faster than Yogi Berra behind home plate, but the woman is brilliant and I've learned that her odd thoughts always merit a follow-up. Read More
Today's post is a love letter to Linda McFadden, the elegant pirate in the photo above. She is the owner of Past Basket, an everything-you-could-possibly-want shop here in Milwaukee. Linda doesn't know this, but she formed my style. Those of you who have complimented my taste, who have purchased things from my shop, who like the way I set a table, let me just get this off my chest: all my best ideas are stolen from Linda.
Linda and her husband Dave opened Past Basket in Kohler, Wisconsin, in 1991, and I would ditch my four squirrelly boys to drive up and drool. Then, in 2001, the McFaddens opened their flagship store about two miles from my house. For goodness sake, you can imagine what that meant. I could jog over in a pinch. Read More
In an essay written from her hospital bed on Valentine's Day, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal implored her readers to consider why "You May Want to Marry My Husband." She was in the final stages of a battle against ovarian cancer. "I'm facing a deadline," she wrote. Read More
Mr. Grant must be scowling at the news, and not because of the usual bumbling incompetence in the WJM-TV newsroom, but because his best hire ever, Mary Richards, has finally let him down.
Mary Tyler Moore passed away this week and right now, all I want to do is pull out a hide-a-bed, grab a box of kleenex and mourn Mary the way that she mourned Chuckles the Clown. Laughter and tears. Read More
Today’s post begins with Temple Grandin, the world’s most famous spokesperson for autism and ends with me trying to sell a cow. If you are new here, this is the pattern. I pick something in the shop and use it as a creative writing prompt. Often, the writing is humorous. But no promises on that score today because Temple Grandin is serious about her purpose. Like many autistics, she’s a black and white kind of gal.
For those who don’t know, Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She first made a name for herself as an inventor who designed more humane animal chutes that minimize livestock mistreatment and injury. She holds a phD in animal science, along with many honorary degrees, was named to the Time Magazine 100 list of most influential people, and has authored more than a dozen books, including The Loving Push, published this year. She gave a TED Talk which you can watch here. Or watch the HBO biopic with Clare Danes playing Temple Grandin. Read More
Have you seen the new movie Florence Foster Jenkins? It's a nice film about true-life soprano wannabe Florence Jenkins whose onstage gumption almost makes up for her mewing like a cornered tomcat. But what interested me more about the film was the underlying story of Jenkin's syphilis, which she unknowingly contracted on her wedding night. She was eighteen. The film's director, Stephen Frears, sprinkles gentle references to the disease throughout -- we see a doctor's bedside visit, a hairless head, a scarred hand. The film is mostly a sentimental feel-good vehicle for Streep, and honestly, what a waste. She would have relished the chance to go a little deeper into the story of an ugly disease that forced Florence into a shameful and frustrated celibacy and that wrecked her musical ear, her heart, and her psyche. Now that would have been dramatic. Read More
This photo appeared in Glamour Magazine on April 1, 1952. The eleven models clothed in varying shades of green strike poses of unstudied relaxation. Each woman is a separate entity but together, they create an impression of arrested action, like they are caught in a New York moment. In some ways, the set resembles a pre-war grande dame Upper East Side apartment stoop, complete with pigeons.
Before kids, I worked in fashion and we only ever shot one or two models at a time. It was never easy. So this photo floored me. Eleven models! Imagine trying to take test shots. And what about the complexity of the lighting? Every face is beautifully lit. And the details in the set amaze me. Look at the moss affixed to the door molding! Read More
Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at the age of 49. She introduced America to the concept of a television cooking show, "The French Chef" at the age of 51. By the time she died at 92, she had authored numerous books, cooked on camera for hundreds of television episodes, been dubbed "Our Lady of the Ladle" by Time Magazine, won the French Legion of Honor, three Emmys and a Peabody, and perhaps in her opinion best of all, she was the subject of parodies on Second City, Saturday Night Live, and The Cosby Show. Read More
I am back from Alt Summit, a conference for bloggers and creative entrepreneurs that takes place annually in Salt Lake City. In the photo above, I'm on the right, dancing in the dark with three new friends, who, you can see, could hardly take their eyes off of my Elaine Benes dance moves.
As business conferences go, this one rocks. Read More
Today’s post is about Amy Sedaris. Some of you may ask: who is Amy Sedaris? Well, pardon me as I aerate my lungs so I can scream, “SHE IS A LIVING LEGEND!” If this is the first time you are hearing about her, I am sad at your circumstance but glad to enlighten you.
Anyway, the fabulous Miss Amy Sedaris is a comic. Maybe you know her from Comedy Central’s Strangers with Candy. Maybe you know her big brother, David. He’s almost as funny. But his face isn't quite as elastic as hers. She's got play-doh features and eyebrows wired with fishline that enable her to transform herself into characters we recognize from that one time we went to Ho-Chunk Casino. Read More
I remember the first time I purchased a piece of art. I was walking home through the park where an art fair was taking place. The booth of a watercolorist caught my eye. He painted animals in a fairytale way. I asked how much for the one of the lions marching off to war with their teddybears. When he told me the price, I hurried home, counted out the necessary sum, and raced back to the fair to buy the watercolor. I was ten.
Buying art should always be that instinctive and straightforward. But mixing art and business is like asking a horse to dance. It is possible but it takes discipline, training and finesse. Read More