GLOW: Nature at Night

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In October I had the privilege of creating an art installation for one of my favorite places in the world: Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm in Dayton. The event was GLOW: Nature at Night and I created a display called Tree of Light.

Aullwood holds a special place in my heart. I first visited Aullwood when I was 12, as part of a field trip for Science Olympiad to study birds. After that first visit, I was hooked. I went to Aullwood  throughout junior high and high school, first to learn about birds and later to study trees. My mom and I took a spring ornithology class twice, complete with overnight field trips to birding locations throughout the state. My sister and I did the same with a summer tree identification class. During my senior year in high school, I went on a canoeing trip hosted by Aullwood to Michigan. This was the first trip I had ever taken that wasn’t school related and didn’t have my parents, sister or friends joining me. We canoed the gorgeous Au Sable river and went birdwatching. I learned a lot about myself on that trip, mainly that I can be independent and that I love canoeing.

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After graduating high school, but before going to Ohio University, I interned at Aullwood for three glorious months. I spent the summer teaching Summer Earth Adventures camp, working on the farm, and getting to know three amazing women who interned with me. Going to college that fall was rough, not only was I leaving home, but I was also leaving my second home, Aullwood.

Fortunately, I was able to continue my relationship with Aullwood throughout college. I volunteered as an animal character for Enchanted Forest and Breakfast with Woodland Santa (to date I’ve been a big brown bat, centipede, scarlet tanager and a southern flying squirrel) and for a few summers, I came back to teach Summer Earth Adventures.

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My sister, Brittney, was my camp assistant for several camps so we drove down to Aullwood together, listening to our favorite soundtracks (Chicago and Sweeney Todd). I actually adopted Olivia with Brittney after we finished teaching one afternoon. We stopped at the Miami County Animal Shelter, and after I fell in love with my little tuxedo girl, Brittney helped me dig up enough dollars and change to pay the $40 adoption fee. We didn’t check with my parents before getting a kitten (lucky for us Lou was as adorable as she was, my parents were only upset with us for a while). Brittney was very literally, my partner in crime, that summer and Aullwood was the backdrop of our adventures.

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After getting my Mom and sister involved with Aullwood, I convinced my high school sweetheart, Kenneth, to volunteer too. Kenneth was an assistant for Summer Earth Adventures and when I volunteered as an animal character he helped lead visitors on Aullwood’s wooded trails by lamplight.

Aullwood played such a big role in my life growing up, that Kenneth and I could think of no other place to hold our ceremony and reception when we got married after graduating from Ohio University.

On August 14th, 2010, we were married in a beautiful ceremony in a beautiful place. It did rain that day (I’ve heard it’s good luck!), so we were married indoors, but the rain stopped in time for taking pictures outside. It was a wonderful day and not only were we surrounded by family and friends (quite a few who work at Aullwood) but we were also in a gorgeous setting, surrounded by nature.

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While Kenneth and I lived in Columbus and the Cincinnati area, we didn’t make it to Aullwood as often as we wanted to. But since we’ve moved back home, we’ve both signed up again as volunteers. This summer we were animal whisperers, working with ducks and goats on the farm to make them more comfortable around people so they can be good ambassadors for their breed.

When Aullwood’s volunteer coordinator asked me if I would be interested in creating an art display for Aullwood’s new fall event, GLOW, I gave her an enthusiastic “yes!” I love volunteering at Aullwood and I especially love the challenge of creating art from recycled materials.

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Because Aullwood has had such an impact on my life, and because this past year after moving back home has brought on so many memories, I made that the focus of my installation. Memory, emotion, and dreams portrayed as light became my theme.

My artist statement below describes my vision for my display.

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My dad helped me take a large branch from an apple tree in my parent’s yard and turn it into the centerpiece of my display. This apple tree, which has long stopped producing apples, was one of my favorite trees to climb when I was a kid. It has one branch that is perfect for swinging a leg onto to help pull oneself into the tree. The tree is so big that you have to really look for the bare spot we left when we removed a large branch.

We attached the large tree branch to a shipping pallet to give it a sturdy base. While my dad worked on securing the tree to the pallet, I went to town trimming branches and shaping the tree to my liking.

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Once the tree was completed, I had a lot of smaller projects to work on at home. I pulled items from my stash of crafting tools to make “memory bottles:” glass bottles filled with beads, thread, and other small mementos that remind me of different periods of my life. In high school, I was very interested in beading and jewelry making so a few jars were filled with beads. When I worked at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, I used the 3D printer in the MakerSpace to make a glow-in-the-dark gnome. I’ve loved gnomes for years (my best friend got me one as a graduation gift from high school – yes I am that nerdy ?) and the fact that this little gnome was made from glow-in-the-dark plastic made him perfect for my GLOW display.

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Other items that were created for my display included a glass owl recycled from a coffee pot and a broken pair of sunglasses, faux mercury glass jars lit with battery operated LED candles, glass mushrooms, metal spheres, white pumpkins, and lambs ear. The mercury glass jars I made with old glass jars my parents had saved for future canning projects (don’t worry – I didn’t take their whole supply!) which I lightly sprayed with a solution of water and white vinegar before spraying with a silver/mirror effect spray paint. It gave them a nice silvery, mottled look which looked great with the LED candles we borrowed from a family friend.

The glass mushrooms were made with thrifted glass vases and bowls. After I glued them together to make a mushroom shape, I spray painted them with the same silver/mirror paint. I really like how these turned out – they will be going into our garden this spring!

The metal spheres I bought at Expressions of the Home in Troy – one of my favorite eclectic shops downtown. The lambs ear were dug up from the landscaping at our new home. They are often included in plans for night gardens because of their silvery leaves.

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In addition to creating and installing my Tree of Light, I also took on the role of Big Brown Bat for some educational character interactions in Aullwood’s bank barn. I performed a skit with another volunteer who portrayed the Luna Moth.

I had a wonderful time getting to know the other volunteers in between our performances, and I even had a few minutes to sneak out and see how my GLOW display looked in the dark. On the second night of GLOW: Nature At Night, my mom dressed up as a Southern Flying Squirrel while she and my dad volunteered with some children’s activities.

I always enjoy time spent at Aullwood and this year’s GLOW event was no exception! Happy Smilies

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Lake Michigan – Photoblog

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One of the things I’m most enamored and in awe of in Michigan are the Great Lakes. When I was younger I just couldn’t wrap my head around the enormity of Lake Erie. How could it not be part of the ocean? It appeared to stretch on forever, making me feel small, insignificant and anxious.

Today, the lakes still baffle my senses, but I found them calming on our recent trip to Michigan last September. The waves were soothing, the endless expanse of freshwater inspiring.

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We were fortunate to have spectacular weather during our Michigan vacation. We missed the historic storm which slammed Glen Arbor in August, though the effects were still visible in mid-September. Reading about the storm after our trip makes me thankful that we weren’t in town at the time. Despite living in Ohio my entire life, I’ve never witnessed a tornado — and would like to keep it that way.

Glen Arbor was hit with winds of 100 miles per hour, leaving all roads into the town impassable the night after the storm. If you search for “Glen Arbor Storm 2015” or “Glen Arbor Tornado 2015” you’ll find some terrifying, yet gorgeous, photos of the storm clouds, as well as the damage.

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Everyone we spoke to in Glen Arbor and the surrounding area commented on the wonderful weather we had that week. Several locals mentioned that it was the first nice week of the summer, even though it was mid-September.

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Glen Arbor is an awesome town! It sits on the shore of Lake Michigan, just north of Glen Lake. It has the small town charm that I love, and because we visited after the summer rush, we were able to really take it all in. I’d love to go back and stay longer just to take advantage of the restaurants and shops being within walking distance of the cabin we rented. Plus, Glen Arbor is surrounded by Sleeping Bear Dunes, named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on Good Morning America.

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After enjoying dinner at Cherry Republic (check out my review of the most cherry-licious restaurant you’ll ever eat at here! Edible/Food Smilies), we took a short walk down to the shore of Lake Michigan to watch the sun set. I loved listening to the waves – so grounding and centering.

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From where we stood on the beach, we could see, far in the distance, the Manitou Islands. The North and South Manitou Islands are part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We did not visit the islands on this trip, but we did hear the story of how the islands came to be; a legend told by the Chippewa Native Americans.

The story goes that a mother bear, Mishe Mokwa, and her two cubs tried to cross Lake Michigan from Wisconsin to escape a forest fire. The mother bear made it across the lake, but her cubs were too exhausted from the swim and didn’t make it. The mother bear waited for her cups on a steep bluff until she too passed away. The Great Spirit Manitou marked the mother bear’s resting place with the Sleeping Bear Dunes and covered her cubs with sand to form the two Manitou Islands. This beautiful, sad story is told in a book we read while exploring another small town, Northport. The book is The Legend of Sleeping Bear written by Kathy-Jo Wargin and illustrated by Gijsbert Van Frankenhuyzen.

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Later that evening we had a bonfire at the cabin, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Edible/Food Smilies We talked to my sister, Brittney, on the phone, telling her how awesome Michigan was and how if she lived in Ohio instead of Seattle, she maybe could have come with us. Silly Smilies

In the morning we had a home cooked breakfast (Dennings make egg-cellent breakfasts Winking), which we shared with our black squirrel neighbor. Animal Smilies Black squirrels are actually Eastern Gray Squirrels or Fox Squirrels. They have a mutation in their genes that causes their fur to be black. So while our little friend had black fur, she was probably an Eastern Gray Squirrel, just like the ones that we have here in Ohio.

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My dad and I put some almonds out for the squirrel, which she quickly devoured. I named her Emma, because any animal with black fur makes me think of our Emma.

We don’t see very many black squirrels in our area, but they’re really common in certain parts of the country, including Michigan. Their black fur helps them hold on to heat and hide well in the dense northern forests. Gray squirrels do better in warmer areas with more people. Their gray fur works better for hiding in residential and city areas.

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On our last day in Michigan I returned to the beach we visited on our first night. I wanted to gather some stones, in the hopes of someday making more of my love rocks.

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We had a really great trip to Michigan and I have many more blog posts coming your way. We tasted delicious hard ciders, climbed the sand dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes, visited an old fish town and ate lots of delicious local Michigan foods (so many cherries!).

I know Ohioans and Michiganders are supposed to be in a constant battle, just because of two certain football teams, but I don’t subscribe to that ideology. I have nothing but love, respect and admiration for our neighbor to the north! I’ll always be an Ohio lady, but I love to hang out in Michigan too.

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Photo Friday – October 16, 2015

Curiosities Collected – Part 3

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Happy Photo Friday! I’m officially back from my blog hiatus! We still have some packing and the actual move ahead of us, but I’ve gotten a lot of our apartment boxed up and ready to go.

I have more photos of my collection of vintage handkerchiefs to share. I hope you enjoy!

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All images contained within this blog are my own photos (unless otherwise noted). They may not be used for any commercial purpose, printed, or re-used in any form without my prior consent.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden – Photoblog

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Kenneth and I were both lucky enough to be off work on the same weekday earlier this week so we decided to spend our day at the Cincinnati Zoo! We both hate crowds and wanted as much time in the sunshine before it got too warm outside so we arrived at the zoo as soon as it opened.

Our early morning trek was rewarded with a very quiet and peaceful zoo experience! We fed the giraffes, who share something in common with our cats (Emma especially) in that they love to lick everything! I asked one of the zoo staff who helped us feed the giraffes about it and her response was that “giraffes are weird.” Pretty much the same conclusion we’ve come to regarding Emma. 🙂 She did tell us that the giraffes may get a small amount of minerals from what they lick or that they like the textures, but they aren’t positive.

You can see my favorite photos below, including one of the gorgeous fossa. This lovely creature held my gaze for what felt like an eternity, but was probably a couple of minutes. It was one of several cool and intense moments I shared with zoo animals that day, including when the orangutan sat right up against the glass picking at his food while Kenneth and I watched (he seems to prefer the Cheerios in his snack mix) and a gecko (a Madagascar Giant Day Gecko to be exact) who threw himself at the glass of his aquarium just as I lowered my face to have a closer look at him. His efforts to be seen (or elicit a shocked scream/gurgle) gets him the honored spot as the featured photo of this post.

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ohio-120x120The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Address: 3400 Vine St. Cincinnati, Ohio 45220

Phone Number: 513-281-4700

Hours: The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is open every day of the year, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Click here to view hours as they vary by month.

Admission: Children 2-12 and Seniors 62+ – $11. Ages 13 – 61 – $15.

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