Category Archives: Creativity

Wooden Acting

One thing Prague had a lot of was traditional wooden puppets. I must have seen a dozen puppet shops during our three days of walking around the old city center. The displays made me think of fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, although there were also up-to-the-minute puppets from Harry Potter.

We got so much into the puppet mood that some of us attended a puppet version of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. We were seduced in part by another of the classy Prague billboards:

The concept turned out to be more exciting than the reality, though, because the whole thing was in Italian (no subtitles) and none of us had thought to figure out the opera’s plot in advance. We spent a couple of hours listening to Mozart’s heavenly music and watching puppets fling themselves around the stage without having much idea at all of what was going on, except that various characters were quite upset with each other. The action only became clear when we looked up the plot on the Internet afterwards. Quick summary: Don Giovanni seduces too many of the wrong women, kills the wrong guy in a sword fight, and ends up getting dragged down to Hell. Thanks, Internet!

Begging with Style

Here’s a way of begging I had never seen before visiting Prague. The dark hoodie and the prayerful attitude give this man the look of a religious mendicant. Unlike the beggars around my neighborhood, he didn’t have a hand-lettered cardboard sign or stare piteously at the people walking by. His complete submission was the whole performance. Yet another way in which Prague outclassed my usual surroundings.

The Beauty is in the Details

I live just a few miles from San Francisco, which is on just about everyone’s list of the world’s most beautiful cities. There’s no shortage of natural beauty in my neighborhood across the bay, either. But the architectural style — not so much. When I look at the houses on my block, the words that come to mind are “humdrum,” “featureless,” and “bland.”

That’s why the old city of Prague in the Czech Republic was so exciting to visit, even though it was rainy and jammed with tourists. Central Prague has the greatest density of unique and beautiful architectural details of any city I have seen. There are little visual feasts everywhere you look. Just think, if you lived in Prague, you could have a front door that looks like one of these:

Or have a guy like one of these holding up the rain canopy outside your building:

Or look out a window like this:

Here’s the cover on the local water spigot:

A street lamp (admittedly, in a nice neighborhood near the palace):

The local clock tower. Wouldn’t this give an added zest to finding out the time?

Mysterious little sculptures are stuck into walls and over doorways everywhere:

The billboards in Prague had class:

Even the manhole covers were attractive:

And how about these signs for the men’s and women’s bathrooms in a basement restaurant?

I’m thinking about ways to add that kind of richness to my own nondescript California ranch house (unfortunately without having a royal sculptor, royal architect, or royal budget on call.)  Any suggestions?

Barn Dance

Last night we went to a dance held in the coolest blacksmith’s shop ever, along the train tracks in an industrial section of Berkeley. Everyone wore their best western or old-time clothes. Don’t these people look like they could have been photographed a hundred years ago? Except that the man on the right is holding a digital camera:

I love all the tools hanging on the shop walls.


The band was picturesque too, although hard to photograph under their halogen spotlights:


No rap music here! The order of the evening was waltzing:

And gabbing:

And of course, little boys throwing chunks of wood on the bonfire. Manly pyromania never goes out of style.


Graffiti, Feminine Style

I’d read about yarn street art recently, but this weekend is the first time I saw a real life example: a knitted sleeve on a sidewalk railing in Point Reyes Station, California:

This is my kind of graffiti: frilly, pretty, and detachable.

Firebird Stool

This wonderful stool was decorated by my daughter Sunny as my Christmas present. The theme is the Firebird, which is one of my favorite Russian fairy tales. The image has new resonance for me now because the firebird also represents the phoenix Fawkes from the Harry Potter series, which my children and I both love.

Here’s a view of the top:

Am I a lucky mother, or what?



Best Non-Birthday Present Ever

I’m a procrastinator, and my husband is not. In fact, he’s the opposite of a procrastinator–one of those people who can’t get a minute’s peace (or let anyone else have a minute’s peace) until a project is done and crossed off his checklist. Which makes the fact that his latest project, this beautiful dining table, took seven YEARS to finish all the more remarkable. He started it back when we lived in Berkeley, then got sidetracked by moving here and rebuilding our house, barn, and apartments, then reshaping our yard, building his road, helping his mom move into a retirement community, managing her finances, etc., etc.  Not to mention his REAL job.

After Christmas it finally reached the top of his punch list. He spent weeks achieving the mirror finish on the top, which is no mean feat in the dusty environment of our barn. He declared it complete on my birthday and delivered it to the kitchen in time for dinner, making it the best non-present I’ve gotten in years.

The table is made from solid figured maple, with a cherry base and legs. I especially like these blue glass tiles. Adding them was a last-minute decision that delayed the finish, but it was definitely worth the extra time:

Handmade Gone Bad, Christmas Edition

Something about Christmas brings out the Handmade Gone Bad spirit in a way I’ve never seen at any other season.  Maybe it’s because Christmas provides such a wealth of leftover materials to spark the creative imagination. Here are a few finds from our latest thrift store visit:

The Tinsel Tower of Terror:

Mr. Snowman and his wrapping-paper Christmas tree:

And these matching wreaths, which seem to be made from indoor/outdoor carpet:

Need something cute to do with all the crap you find on the floor after everyone opens their presents? Here’s an idea:

Handmade Gone Bad, Part 7

This lovely bottle tree sprouted a few weeks ago in a yard near our house, just in time for Christmas. Here’s how I imagine the creative process went:

“Hey, I’m like, really wasted.”

“Me too.”

“What are we going to do with all these empty bottles?”

“I dunno… put a big post in our front yard and and hang them upside down on dowels stuck in the post?”

“Great idea!”

(Also, note the paving stones made from wine corks.)

Hello, Autumn

My favorite season of the year, although the autumn we have here in the Bay Area is a mere whimper of brown dryness compared with the brilliant fall colors and crisp air of colder climates. But I have this shirt to remind me of what fall can really be. I used real leaves and acrylic paint to print it at family camp this summer, then embroidered around the edges of the shapes with my sewing machine.

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