30 January 2014

Insa's intense GIF-iti

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Summer Spectrum, 2011 // via //

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Make Your Own Way, 2013 // via //

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Insa: an artist or a collaboration? I don't know, really. Perhaps mainly one guy with some collabs along the way... Most articles refer to 'him' and the official site says 'artists,' but either way, I was instantly drawn to these images that I started to see going around the internet. 'GIF-iti,' if you will, by the UK-based artist(s). Full-fledged street art with the added dimension of the tech edge. And if tech could be kitsch, then I think, here ya go! And I mean kitsch is the best possible way. No matter how many write-ups I saw on this artist, I couldn't help being rather amazed at every image I scrolled to. Some are amusing. Some are technically inspring. And some are just plain rad. So it's well worth checking out the official site, because there's a lot more to Insa than just paintings on walls. There's a shop and everything. Worth a look, proooobably NSFW. ;)

Kate xx

29 January 2014

'Architectural Vandalism?'

As I was seated in the coffee shop this morning, I noticed a couple of interesting signs out on the sidewalk on the Royal Mile. One of them read 'Architectural Vandalism!' And the other implied something along the lines of 'fake old' buildings. A website was scrawled across the bottom. I was curious, so I looked into it and learned there was a hearing this morning, and a vote, on a long-contested architectural development in the Old Town portion of Edinburgh, which is generally refered to as 'Caltongate.'

Turns out it's going ahead. The vote was eight to six. Obviously I haven't been here over the last decade, during which this long and controversial plan has been making the rounds, but this has been in the news a bit lately. I thought it was interesting, since I've only just finished with a Scottish architectural history course so it's fresh in my mind. I'm not terribly political and I prefer not to get mixed up with petitions, etc. unless it's something I feel very strongly about one way or another. So here I'm just an observer, an outsider, obviously only learning of this on the day that the final decision was made.


But by virtue of the fact that this is the Old Town, distinctly separate from New Town (which is 19th century but still considerably newer-looking and blatantly commercial), I find it interesting that the city plans to build a modern commercial square, complete with hotel, residences and retail space. On the other hand, it's a derelict, vacant, unused space that used to be a bus station, demolished several years back. The picture above, which I took a few months ago, shows at the very bottom the land and some of the buildings that will be affected.

This area is nothing special right now with that big vacant plot there. That I completely understand. But I also feel the community's frustration when historic buildings must be demolished or overhauled in order to make way for some modern commercial venture. The building in the bottom right corner is apparently one of those that would be majorly affected; if not scheduled to meet the wrecking ball, it will be heavily modified. Below is a better picture of the entire site (via).

It's tough to say how I feel about this sort of thing. It's the same with cutting down trees or removing houses to build a highway. I know there are good reasons for doing it: jobs, tourism, land use, etc. But the art-and-architecture, heritage-and-preservation bit of me hates to see historic properties given the axe to make room for incongruous modern complexes in the middle of historic districts (let alone UNESCO World Heritage areas!). So here's to hoping they really do make an effort to preserve all they can and still create a successful use for that currently wasted space.

Again, I've only just come into this at the very moment when the battle has essentially ended. The city is going forward with the plans, and construction might already start this spring. We shall see...

How do you feel about big commercial developments? How important is the history of a building? Could you not care less? Is a modern, useful building preferable to a crumbling old building, no matter its history? Thoughts! ;)

Kate x

28 January 2014

Dear Diary,

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It's the last week of January already! I'm trying to figure out how that happened. One way I can tell that time is flying is that the photo above was taken after 5pm one night and there is still light behind those clouds. I know, not really a big deal, right? But when it looked like this at 3:30pm a few weeks ago, I wondered if I'd ever make it out of winter...

The first couple weeks of class were insane, the complete opposite of the way last term began. Where last fall began in a very relaxed manner, this time I was thrown into meetings, internship appointments and presentations without much time to prepare at all. Partly my fault for starting class the day after flying back from the States, but also a good indication of the way the rest of the term is going to go, I think. There's no lack of stuff to do, but a lot of it is finding rhythm in my schedule, figuring out what needs to be done, and then... doing it.

But the last few weeks have also been an exercise in serious stress management. All I can really say is that sometimes things happen, or you learn things that are a shock the system. Sometimes a few of these things happen all at once. I know I'm being bout as vague as vague gets, but the essence of my point lies in the fact that after all was said and done, I started to evaluate myself and my path differently. What sort of choices do I make? Why do I do what I do, live where I live, know who I know? What matters more: people or place? Family or career? Why do I always want to do everything all on my own? Why do I most want what I cannot have? Are my monumental student loans going to control the next ten years of my life? Why do I always rail against everything the moment I decide to do it? Do I want to be a participant or an observer?

No, I haven't been thinking a lot or anything... ;) After a couple meetings with professors and tutors, it's clear that it's time to start thinking about what happens next in the ol' career/life, and that's exactly what I'm doing. Job prospects in the cultural sector are as dim as ever, but you just never know what might spring up, and from where. As far as the rest of this academic year, what do I want to get out of this experience? How do I want to use it? Do I go home, or do I move for a job? The next seven months are going to flyyy. Maybe it's time I start buying lottery tickets. It's terrifying no matter how I spin it. Luckily, I've got several papers and an internship to distract me, and a dissertation in the summer that will function like a full-time job. They expect 600 hours of work on that baby, but I think I just did a complete 180 on my choice of topic...

Anyway, I think this post just became a diary entry?

Alright, back to work!

Kate xx

25 January 2014

Final Days: The Kiss


Just a quick mention that Rodin's The Kiss, which has been at the National Gallery of Scotland since last February is only here for another week! If you happen to be in Edinburgh, you might just want to make sure you take advantage of getting to see one of the world's most famous sculptures--for free! It's on view through 2 February.

Kate xx

24 January 2014

To and fro

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Just a few snaps from my walk home the other day around Princes Street Gardens, where is the grass looking a little rough after they removed the Christmas tree maze! And it was a little rainy, but this little stretch near the National Gallery of Scotland is one of my favorites. There really are moments when I have to remind myself that stopping for a moment to take in the view, even though I see it almost every day, is worth every second.

The last couple of weeks have been insane with meetings, internship, classes and extra classwork. It was the opposite of last term, where everything got off to a very mild start. So much is happening this term that I'm trying to get a grasp of everything going on and everything that I have to do. I don't want to get so wrapped up in being busy that I can't enjoy being here!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! :)

Kate xx

23 January 2014

Final days: Man of the Year

Exhibition: Man of the Year: Henry Coombes and Carles Congost
On through 26, 2013 at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow

Still from Carles Congost, Paradigm, film, 2012 // via //

Clip from Carles Congost, Paradigm, 2012

One art exhibition that took me by surprise was one that I mentioned a few weeks ago when I took an afternoon gallery-hop visit to Glasgow, and one of our stops was the CCA. I mentioned then, and I'll say it again, that I've always been a little on the fence about the moving image when it comes to art exhibitions. I've been to countless museums and galleries, and almost always stop into the inevitable darkened room that sits on one end of the exhibition space. It's hard to resist seeing the source of the strange noises that echo through the galleries.

I think the moving image, film art, video art--whatever you want to call it--is an art form I've simply had a hard time wrapping my head around. I've only begun to seriously look at it. Call it personal preference, or lack of understanding. I might as well just be honest about that rather gaping void in my understanding of art and its history. But on the other hand, perhaps I just haven't seen things that 'spoke' to me. Perhaps I walked into too many gallery screening rooms at the wrong time, didn't stick around long enough, and left feeling more and more confused and disinterested. Like any other kind of art, film art can vary dramatically in style, length, presentation size, theme, etc. Sound becomes an essential element, and notable when there is none.

Anyway. I could go on forever about how art films have suddenly captivated me in a way I hardly know how to express, and strangely it is because of two films by two artists that I saw nearly two months ago at the same time. I saw both films twice, in quick succession, and perhaps, just maybe, this is why I have considered them so much since. It's unusual for me to continue coming back to artwork of any kind, trying to piece it apart and back together, to interpret it, to comprehend it in some way. (Unless I have to. I know this sounds weird, since that's what all this art history business is about, but that's that.) But, flipping over to movies, or a book, where there's a narrative and a moving image (if only in my own imagination), there are certain films and scenes from films that stick with me for some reason. I roll them over in my mind, sometimes disliking them at first and then finding that they challenge me in some unforeseen way, and after some time I come to really appreciate them. I think the same may go for film art. I need to really spend some time with it in order to learn how to appreciate it.

Above is a short clip from Paradigm. The other film in this exhibition, screened in the same room, on the same scale, and alternating back and forth with Paradigm, was Henry Coombes' Two Discs and a Zed. This is the one that initially weirded me out a little bit, with scenes of the Highlands and Coombes himself dressed as a Pictish man in a cave, chanting and then shown being wrapped in plaster and turned on a spit, interspersed with rather romantic scenes of a wolf running around the National Galleries of Scotland, picking meat off a heavily draped table. But it was also the one I wanted to see a second time in order to try to pick it apart myself. I've had a still photograph from a scene of the wolf, which was printed in the exhibition program, hanging in my room and I am still entranced by some of the imagery in this work. It doesn't seem that Two Discs and a Zed is available to view on his site as yet, but his other films and work are available there.

Image of wolf from Henry Coombes, Two Discs and a Zed, film. // via //

Paradigm has a highly produced soundtrack, and the figures in the film move in slow motion, sometimes singing along with the lyrics. At first I thought the highly-produced, strange music video-like quality of it was cheesy, but then on a second viewing it gave me pause to reconsider. One of the other students I was with referred to it seeming 'forced.' The concept of 'forced artwork' sort of jarred my brain. I started to wonder what it meant for an artist to 'force' work, or for a work to appear as such. Does the quality 'forced' even exist in art? And how? Is it a personal, subjective interpretation? I almost thought the same thing, if by 'forced' she meant 'highly produced.' Not what I think of when I think of video art -- grainy videos (think Andy Warhol or Fluxus). I wonder if the student hadn't criticized it that way, whatever her reason, I might not have thought so hard about it myself.

After a few weeks, I wish I could both again. I wanted to share these two videos again and offer some of my own thoughts on film art, using these two, or the Man of the Year exhibition, as something akin to a case study in my ever-evolving and growing understanding of art, especially of the contemporary kind.

Kate xx

22 January 2014

9 Tunes for youuu!

Time for another playlist! I've been scouring for a lot of new music lately, and I've been listening to, as usual, a very eclectic mix of mostly indie, but some poppy-pop as well. I've been on a huuuuuge kick with The National lately, but I've only included one song from their latest album. Videos are all below, in order! Enjoy! :D And, of course, you can follow my ever-changing playlists on Spotify here!


1. Young Galaxy - Pretty Boy

2. Avicii - Addicted to You

3. Conner Youngblood - The Warpath

4. Trails and Ways - Mtn Tune

5. Little Dragon - Twice

6. John Newman - Love Me Again

7. Arthur Beatrice - Grand Union

8. Andrew Belle - Dark Matter

9. The National - Pink Rabbits

Kate xx

21 January 2014

Just wanna burger

...and onion rings!
...and french fries!
...and a chocolate shake! Root beer! ROOT BEER FLOAT EVEN!!


Okay, but really. You know what, I'm not one of those people who goes abroad and starts looking for McDonald's. In fact, I never, ever look for McDonald's (okay, maybe once), but that's beside the point. Either traveling or living abroad, it's unbelievably hard to resist wanting to find any of the comforts from home to make being where you are seem more comfortable. I think this is only natural, so even though a previous version of myself might have scoffed at anyone who makes a beeline for KFC when they're in Paris or somewhere, I at least understand what's happening. Let me just say, though, that that trip to KFC on vacation should probably be limited to just that one time and then you should go find yourself a colossal eclair and some crepes and some espresso. Anyway.

It's called culture shock! And whether you've just arrived and you're stressed from your bazillion-hour flight or you've been in a foreign country for months, sometimes it's just nice to have something that reminds you of home--or tastes like home.

Even though Edinburgh is chock full of recognizable American fast food joints, I'm not a fast food person. So BK, Mickey D's, KFC go pretty much ignored. However, the truth of the matter is, sometimes I just really. want. a hamburger. And believe me, I've tried hamburgers here. I ordered a really lovely Angus burger at a pub the other day, for example, and while the burger itself was great, the bun was floury and they put unmelted shredded cheese on it. What is with the unmelted cheese on the burgers!!? Another time, I had a really tasty buffalo burger from a stand, with fried onions and some approximation of barbeque sauce. It was fine. The venison burger was sort of the same way... burger was fine, bun was dry, nothing else spectacular. Forget the cheese. I just don't understand the cheese.

BUT THEN. One of my classmates alerted us that there was an independently owned 'American fast food' cafe nearby, all made to order, and whoa. WANNABURGER. Not only do they serve burgers and hotdogs, but their products are all locally sourced. This isn't super hard in Scotland, since it's small, but it's a good feeling to know that you're getting food with a traceable history. And they melt the freaking cheese! They serve skinny fries, root beer floats and the kind of bacon cheeseburger that immediately says to me, 'You are going to crave one of these every day for the next month.'

Which is exactly what's happened.

So anyway. Musing on the little things... as much as I like the fish and chips takeaway places, the stellar Indian restaurants, the baguettes and sandwiches, the coffee shops, and so on... sometimes I just want an American hamburger, and yes: one with a fried egg, bacon, cheese, mayo, every goddamn thing, because you better believe I'm going all out!

Kate xx

19 January 2014

Wanna see something cute?

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One thing I got to see while I was at home, waiting for my wee nephew to be born, was my sister Ali's done-up baby room. She and her husband really went to town remodeling this room, adopting a portion of what had been part of the front porch, laying down hardwood floors, installing additional windows, and then decorating up a storm. My sister's crafty sensibilities are obviously inherited from our mother, who in a veritable frenzy of knitting and sewing, could hardly put down the needles. She hand-sewed a couple of bibs, and knit the little blanket that's draped over the side of the crib.

Ali is pretty talented at sewing as well, and always manages to make the coolest things from reused and up-cycled fabrics. This baby room is totally her style, and that little kid is going to rock the coolest jammies. And want to know a little secret? For all you thrifty DIYers: those "pictures" hanging on the wall? Those are thrifted frames that have been spraypainted white, and the pictures are actually cutouts of cute gift bags from Target that she was given at her baby shower! Talk about up-cycling. The window curtains were, believe it or not, an old shower curtain combined with complementary fabric so it would be large enough for the window. Almost all of the pillows were handmade by Ali, and the quilt on the couch, though turned backside-out, was handmade by one of her friends.

A lot of our favorite childhood books have found their way in updated format onto Junah's shelves. Ali and I, as little kids, really loved Taro Gomi's Bus Stops, and of course all of the Dr. Seuss and Harold and the Purple Crayon as we could handle! I can't wait to be able to read little Junah all these stories. Can you tell I've begun to get all mushy-auntie? ;)

I just wanted to share some photos of the adorable room. It's so cozy and homey, and with the sunlight streaming in warmly through the stained glass window, I imagine it could be hard to leave. Good thing she doesn't have to for a while! ;) I think mommy and daddy and baby should be very comfy here!

Kate xx

17 January 2014

Good morning, Edinburgh


The guy in the center of this photo was standing there drinking a cup of coffee, taking in one of the nicest little views in Old Town. This is one of the million reasons why this town is A-O.K.

Perhaps my brain got a little warped over the holiday break or something, but it's clear that taking the 10 day trip home, in order to return refreshed, really did the trick. Or it's a trick of the light. Either way, it's good to back in Edinburgh. I've said it about fifty times, but I really am happy to be back to a routine of classes. Perhaps after working a regular full-time job for almost five years, I've become more accustomed to having to be somewhere most days at a certain time. Over the six or seven weeks that I was on break, even though I was 'busy writing a paper' and traveling a little, I felt aimless and sort of stupidly useless. But now! The sun is out, the temperature has been more than tolerable (crossing my fingers it stays that way), classes are off to a good start, and it's good to see everybody again. And I'm taken again, anew, with the beauty of this city.

This term, I'm taking two classes that are strongly related to curating. One is a history of Scottish Art since 1960, which is to say most of the artists we will be studying are still alive and working, so there's the added dimension of display and the process of the artist as well as the historical significance of their work. I'm also in a class called the Cultures and Politics of Display which will explore the theory, politics and types of exhibitions. This museum and gallery-geared work is much more up my alley than the heavy theory and methods-based approach last term, so I'm pretty stoked.

I'm betraying my art nerdiness here, forgive me. Like I said, the sun is out, so it might be a trick of the light. ;)

Kate xx

16 January 2014

Zaria Forman Pastels

Greenland #62, Soft Pastel on Paper, 2013, 47"x70"

Greenland #56, Soft Pastel on Paper, 2013, 40"x60"

Maldives #5, Soft Pastel on Paper, 2013, 45"x60"

Maldives #2, Soft Pastel on Paper, 2013, 41"x60"

I wouldn't say that I prefer a monochrome palette, at least as a rule, but when someone can pull off a series of iceberg or surf paintings, what it says to me is that they have immense control of color. Sometimes monochrome and sometimes not, depending on the conditions, snow and ice, the sea, large expanses of grass, etc. can be a challenge to fill a large canvas, especially with a limited palette. I think that's one reason I was drawn to Zaria Forman's large-scale pastel drawings, especially the more recent Arctic ice and sea paintings from a 2012 trip to Greenland (which she led, cool lady!). I also like the series of drawings of the Maldives, which, like the Greenland drawings, comment on climate change in two areas that are most obviously already affected and predicted to see some of the most intense impact.

I've always been, and will probably always be drawn to images of the sea. Wide expanses, reflections, horizons, frothy surf, breaking waves... Part of it is having an early connection to the Pacific coast, but my dad has also painted the ocean throughout his career as an artist. And the oceans, so vast yet delineated on every map, are still an incredibly mysterious and powerful force on our little planet.

Forman's handling of pastel is fantastic. I didn't even know it was pastel--I had automatically assumed oil. In this case, due to the scale and the material, I feel that these would absolutely be best appreciated in person, since pastel is such a challenging medium. Amusingly, some of her drawings are featured in the Netflix Original Series House of Cards, season 1. Check out Forman's exhibitions here with more screenshots of the work featured in the show.

I love the moody intensity. An iceberg sitting on a calm sea is almost too isolated, and knowing Forman is interested in climate change, it's hard not to imagine being able to hear hollow cracks, or waiting in suspense for the moment when the calm sea is disrupted by falling ice. Her surf paintings are cool and dramatic, capturing the same intensity in the brief splash of a wave or one about to break. Far from being "pictures of water," they are sensitive to the environment, to the light. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on her work from now on.

House of Cards, Season 1

Kate xx

15 January 2014

There and back again

When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence,
as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
Kahlil Gibran

Every instant of our lives is essentially irreplaceable:
you must know this in order to concentrate on life.
André Gide

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It's a Universal Travel Truth that layovers suck. They are like the face a baby makes when you let it taste a lemon. Or maybe that's just what my face looks like when I'm faced with a long layover. Either way, I consider anything longer than three hours to be long. Three hours tests my patience threshold, after which I resort to taking unnecessary trips to the bathroom just to do something other than sit in one spot, moping, staring at my computer, greatly appreciative of every single person who likes my incessant Facebook status updates. I'm generally not an airport shopper, and although I don't mind stopping to eat in a restaurant or grab a drink at a bar, I can only sit there for so long. Because I'm connecting to another flight, I'm constantly on edge about which gate it's going to be at, where all my stuff is, how much wi-fi costs and why I think it's just ridiculous that airports don't offer free wi-fi for more than twenty minutes.

I left for the airport around 10am on Sunday, leaving my family, and one of my sisters who was only 10 hours away from giving birth to my very first nephew (although at the time we didn't know boy or girl). I missed it! It was killing me. I think if I had had to board my 8-hr flight without knowing if the baby had been born yet, I would have completely fallen apart. But I did find out. And it was a boy, and his name is Junah, and he is gorgeous and perfect.

My visit home was all over the place. For the first few days it was calm and relaxing and amazing. Family and more family, and that was it. But things slid into weirdness (much of it good, but generally emotional and/or unexpected) as the week went on. Among other things, I had completely failed to get together with a friend I've known for a long time (and haven't seen as much the last couple years, but that's another blog post entirely) and felt guilty about it. I had also gone a little overboard with another unexpected get-together, pulling one of our (as part of a marginally larger, varying group) well-into-the-morning nights in the middle of the week. Those particular kinds of evenings go back a few years with other friends involved, so a '6am' is kind of nostalgic in itself. But oh, nostalgia, you complex monster.

I like nostalgia, but not when it's painful. Not when it makes you fuzzy-headed and emotional and feeling guilty for dwelling on things that will never exist that way again.

6am's usually were in the summer. They were never very frequent and always extremely spontaneous, at least for me, which was a certain part of their appeal. More often than not they involved indie band videos on YouTube (La Blogotheque Takeaway Shows), typewriter(s), poetry, records on the turntable, sometimes dancing, random food from the fridge around 3am, followed by strong coffee, a rotation of visitors amongst the 'regulars,' sometimes a backyard fire depending on the house, and always copious amounts of alcohol.

So, essentially, nostalgia laid siege to my relaxing week at home, with a multiplicity of mixed emotions about the past and uncertainty about the future. I was so happy to be back, then wrenched around when I became homesick for the first time since moving, when I arrived home, and not the other way around. I found myself trying to keep from drifting into 'coulda-woulda-shoulda' mode when the visit ended. I forgot how, by being away from home or any familiar place or people, your feelings about it/them sort of crystallize over time. Sometimes it's not easy to face changes, or things that may have become clearer in your absence.

So, perhaps the moral of the story is... traveling when there is some major family event going on, or when you're majorly stressed out for whatever reason, and having to deal with two 5+ hour layovers... not a good idea. I know sometimes it's unavoidable. The major problem is that I was alone, with nothing to do but think, in the already anxiety-laden atmosphere of several airport terminals over a stretch of time in which much more sleeping should have happened.

Despite all this, it's refreshing to be back in Edinburgh. Classes started this week, a routine revs up again, I've got great friends to hang out with, this city is gorgeous and calm again after the New Year (no more carnival noise, yippee!), all my stuff is here, and... my mobile phone works normally. There is something fresh about being back, as if I'm able to see it more clearly. Keeping focused on the present is the best thing here, and is probably best in any case. And I also was able to, in the feat of technological greatness known as Skype, to speak to four generations of my family all at the same time: My nana, my mom, my sister, and her new son. How amazing is that? I may not be there physically, but I could still, in some sense, meet my new nephew. Yes, everything really is alright. :)

Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks. ;) What's a blog if not a place to spill every once in a while, eh?

Cheers guys!
Kate xx

14 January 2014

Get back to work!


Well, well, well... my second/final term of classes begins today! I arrived back in Edinburgh last night and slept for almost thirteen hours after (miraculously) unpacking and cleaning up a little. One should never underestimate the joy upon seeing a made-up bed when arriving home from a long flight. I'm so glad my mom taught me to make my bed (most of the time, but especially before trips)! I might be fighting a bit of jet lag and residual stress from all the goings-on during my visit home, and I feel like Monday sort of didn't exist at all, but all is well and I'm ready to jump back into a routine and whatever comes next. 

This week is busy, and they'll only get busier. I might not be as present here as I have been the last few weeks--I had so much more time! But I'll try to keep posting as much as possible. This blog and all of your lovely comments keep me grounded, and that's something I can't understate. It's surprised me a little bit how much blogging, even when I feel like I 'can't be bothered,' really helps me get through--whether it's just a long day, or a heavy school workload, or stressful times, or long layovers in airports--you name it. Even if it means posting a picture of a cute kitty or a bright blue sky to make myself feel better about this thing or that, the point is that I do feel better when I blog. And on the flipside, it's so amazing to blog about things I see and learn that I thoroughly enjoy -- being able to share it is just the coolest. And I love hearing from you all. :) So thanks!

Kate xx

(By the way, that's England through a very scruffy window yesterday morning!)

13 January 2014

I'm an auntie!


At 8:31 last night (that is, Central Time), literally minutes before I had to shut off my computer to board my long flight to the UK, I got a message that my sister had given birth to a healthy little boy! 7lbs. 14oz. and as yet I haven't been told whether a name has been settled on, but momma and baby are both healthy and doing just wonderfully. It was a long labor, spent at home with a midwife and family, but despite the length, everything went smoothly and just as it should. I'm sad that I couldn't delay my trip a couple of days so that I could say hi to the little fella before running back off to Scotland (more on this later perhaps), but I'm trying to tell myself that it's all the more reason going home the next time will be extra awesome.

Kate xx

11 January 2014

Last day, waiting...


Trying to stay warm!

Here it is, the last day of my visit to my home state, the old freezing Wisconsin. Midday tomorrow I'll be on another plane, first to Chicago, connecting to London, and then up to Edinburgh where I'll arrive sometime around dinnertime on Monday. It's going to be another loonnggg 24-ish hours of travel, but in every single way this trip home has exceeded my expectations. I mean that literally; some things I wasn't expecting at all.

First, there was the cold. Nothing like coming home to a polar vortex. I had no right to complain about it being cold in Edinburgh. Ever. I promise I will never do it again. (!!!)

Then, food. Seriously, I sometimes don't realize how much I take for granted the restaurants and availability of foods that I can't get elsewhere. Take Mexican food for example... there just aren't that many places to choose from in the UK, and even then, it's not what I'm used to. Not to mention the soul food restaurant I went to last night (where in the UK can I get hush puppies, cornbread, and BBQ chicken with lemon pepper fries and 'hell sauce'!? TELL ME.) And it should go without saying that my dad's homemade pies and second-to-none breakfasts are something I sorely miss at times.

Catching up with friends is always amazing. Since I'm home after the holidays, most of the people who now live out of town were already gone after visiting, so I didn't get to see a lot of people. That, and time was short, so there are many others I wish I could have seen and didn't. However, being able to connect with some close friends, even just one or two, after four months apart was just what I needed. There's really nothing like being around people who just 'get' you, friends and family both.

And of course, where family is concerned, this trip is epitomizing the emotional rollercoaster of welcoming a new family member! My younger sister, Ali, is gonna give us all a little bundle of joy sometime TODAY!! Her due date was tomorrow (the day I fly out -- I know, I know, ugh.) but we poked and prodded and whispered and wished for her little bun to arrive a little early and yayyyyy. It's her first, so labor is taking a long time, and we're as patient as we can be, but... how patient can I seriously be? I'm going to be auntie for the first time! Looking forward to my other sister arriving home from college for the weekend so we can all be here to meet the little gal or lad (even Ali doesn't know).

Otherwise, I'm just trying to stay warm, get a few school things taken care of before my second and final term starts this week, and my oh my... life just keeps on keeping on.

Happy weekend!

Kate xx

10 January 2014

Back to KC&T

Make.Do at Kaukauna Coffee and Tea Kaukauna Coffee and Tea Make.Do at Kaukauna Coffee and Tea Kaukauna Coffee and Tea

You'll have to excuse yet another coffee shop musing/sentiment. This one is close to home, literally. It's Kaukauna Coffee and Tea. It's my sister's coffee shop in our hometown, one that has been open since we were teenagers. She's owned it for about five years, having taken it over from the original owner. When we were just lil' youngsters, we used to have friend-dates at the coffee shop all the time. Coffee shops were still kind of novel then; I think we mayyybe had one Starbucks in town, and that has multiplied to at least half a dozen in the area now. We're not a big town, but Kaukauna Coffee & Tea, now simply called kc&t, is certainly a home base for me.

Since, back in the day, I even lived in the 1960s apartment above the shop, it was kind of like a really awesome living room for me, complete with Alterra (now Colectivo) coffee and a pastry case featuring local bakery. The other day I took my laptop up there in the afternoon when it would be quiet (a huge relief after having to deal with crowds all of the time in every Edinburgh coffee shop). It's a funky, eclectic sort of place, and Ali has put a sort of lighthearted retro spin on the place. My mom's yarn and fiber supplies shop, Make.Do is still built in and every other Thursday there is a well-attended knit night, my dad's paintings hang on the wall and his art gallery and studio are still upstairs. It's a real family business.

Perhaps what I miss most about it, due in large part to it being so much a part of my family, is that on any given day I can stop in and see someone I know, or who is a regular there, and knows my name. And a small-town perk! It's a joy to walk in, in the morning, and the daily 'coffee klatch' is sitting up by the front window giving a chorus of hellos to everyone who walks in. Some of the customers have definitely moved beyond 'regular' status to 'fixture' status. The local librarian, teachers, students, moms, you name it. It's a place for everybody, and it's one of a kind. It's one of the things I truly miss when I'm away from home.

And they make a damn good latte!

Kate xx

Kaukauna Coffee and Tea

09 January 2014

Kate MccGwire

I think Kate MccGwire might be so high on my list of favorite contemporary artists that... she might be on top. And there she's among good company. ;) I love her work, and I've been following her for a couple of years now. The first image I ever saw of her work was this one:

Slick, 2010, Mixed media with magpie and crow feathers 
and antique fire basket, 50 x 250 x 250cm

Retch, 2007, Mixed media with pigeon feathers, 200 x 120 x 70cm approx.

Vex, 2008, Mixed media with pigeon feathers
in an antique museum cabinet, 183 x 110 x 83cm

FINE (Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional), 2012, 
Mixed media with crow feathers in antique cabinet, 158 x 155 x 57cm

Shroud, 2013, Mixed media with mallard feathers and quills 
in antique dome, 35 x 35 x 30cm

Call me enthralled. Her work just puts me in a different place. From her large installations to her more recent smaller works, there's something so mysterious about her forms. Using natural materials, mostly feathers, and putting them into antique display cases and glass domes gives them a sort of natural history museum or curiosity cabinet feel. And although the feathers appear soft and the colors understatedly beautiful, the shapes take on a menacing quality, like a coiled-up snake. The quills add a sharpness as if there's something alive and hidden inside those feathers, that if you got too close it would be unleashed. I love the juxtaposition of beauty and gentleness with the uncertainty of a possible threat or sharpness. Her large installations are creepy and beautiful at the same time, where the luxurious iridescent luster of the feathers only momentarily distracts from the way the unknown shape seems to slither out of the fireplace.

Lately her scale has become a bit smaller, but I'm really interested to see how she continues to explore scale and materials as she moves forward.

All images via katemccgwire.com - please, please go check out her fantastic site!

Kate xx