Archive for the ‘Arts and Crafts’ Category

It has been a long time since I shared my abundant life on this blog!  I dislike excuses, but sometimes we have reasons.  I guess my main one would be that, along with family and friends, I am besotted with hands-on pastimes many of which are pictured here.

I have loved making things for most of my life but making has become a passion.  I LOVE creating:  textured yarns on my spinning wheels, music on my piano, garments on knitting needles, amateur but infinitely satisfying water media art*, gardens indoors and out, soaps for face and body (we have not bought soap for our household since 1976!); and I may have omitted a passion (happy obsession?) or two—not to mention the ubiquitous books which line our shelves and floors.

However today I woke up inspired to share a personal story—actually the very reason I am enjoying an abundant life, so overflowing with excitement that I sometimes fight going to sleep at night and get up with anticipation most days because there is so much to make!  If you have read my story on this or one of my other blogs, I do hope you will read it again!

Back in 1971, I was a wife and mother of five children** ranging from ages 7 to 15.  Life was tremendously good in terms of family and circumstances—but not good inside my soul.  The world was spinning and changing too fast and some of my life props and idealisms had been pulled out from under me, like the magician’s trick of pulling a tablecloth off a table while the dishes remain intact.

Visibly, I was intact. The dishes were on the table.  But inwardly I was a mess!  For months I’d had a sense of aching emptiness, a void which all my daily joys could not fill.  The void consisted of a lack of meaning.  I desperately longed for inner peace.  What was wrong with me, that I had such desperation when my outward life seemed so good?

I’ve always looked for answers in books.  Our local library was within walking distance of home, and I walked there a lot—trying to make sense out of life and find peace for my hungry soul via the world’s philosophies and religions, especially the mystic Eastern religions which appeared to offer the thing I needed most:  peace.

And although I rarely let myself face reality, deep inside I knew I was desperately flawed inside my head and heart.  I was the problem.  I was the reason I lacked peace!

I avoided the old-fashioned word for my condition, but in rare moments of truth I acknowledged that word:  SIN.  I was a sinner.  After devouring many books I found the Eastern religions to be flimsy, lacking in a down-to-earth reality which could change me.

What was the answer?  Was there an answer?  On the third Saturday in January, 1971, I said to my husband, very emphatically, “Something is missing from my life!”  Once again, I trundled off to the library to look for answers.  Having exhausted many overly-wordy, allegedly “meaty” books in the spiritual and self-help sections of the library—I “just happened” to find a very slim little book, simply titled PEACE WITH GOD.

Maybe I thought, “Well why not?  I’ve read most everything else on these shelves.”  Or maybe I wasn’t even thinking.  But I checked out the tiny book, PEACE WITH GOD.  That evening, after the household had settled into a Saturday night routine, I read the book thoroughly, absorbing its contents.

In very simple, unpretentious language, and with Biblical references, PEACE WITH GOD presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  All of mankind is in bondage to sin.  God came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, to die on a cross at Calvary—for our sins, for my sin.  Jesus paid the penalty, and rose to defeat the power of sin and death.  He lives.  He is Eternal God, an all loving, all just, all righteous, all merciful God.  When we believe in Jesus and His finished work on our behalf, He forgives our sin.  We are washed clean with His blood, and He gives us His life—with His victory over the powers of darkness, His peace regardless of circumstances as we look to Him and abide in Him, growing in Him through His Word, The Bible.

The book explained how we could do nothing, absolutely nothing.  Yet when we believe in Jesus, we have the free gift of Eternal Life with Christ Who is God—and we can have His spiritual victory over sin, His abundant LIFE on earth, His new life in exchange for our old sinful life which died with Jesus on that cross!  I distinctly recall a sense of peace from reading the book, but it was a kind of sad and wistful peace.  I recall saying to myself, “Oh, if only that were true!”

The next day, Sunday, I surprised myself by suddenly arranging to go to a Bible Church in the neighborhood  I called a friend who attended that church, and she and her husband agreed to pick me up.  We entered a bit late, and the congregation was singing a Gospel hymn; I had never in my life heard such singing.  I recall thinking, “It’s as of they believe what they’re singing about.”

During the sermon that morning, God very clearly and simply picked me up and lifted me into His Kingdom—the Kingdom of Forgiveness and Love.  In retrospect I see that God used that Sunday worship service as a catalyst for my salvation.  Suddenly I knew that Jesus was real, and I needed His forgiveness, His Life—and that understanding landed me into Christ.

But I was totally ready to be born into God’s Kingdom that Sunday morning.  I’d been prepared the night before, when I read a slim little book called PEACE WITH GOD, by Billy Graham.

As I left the church on that bitter cold January day in Wisconsin, the sun on the snowdrifts seemed nearly blinding.  At that point I knew nothing of Scripture, except that I was a new creation in Christ.  I was forgiven, and I was raised up with Him,  That night I picked up a childhood Bible which I had never read;  I’d tried a couple of times but it simply had not made sense to me.  But now I found myself in John 15, and it made all the good plain sense in the world.  “I am the vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing.”  And “This is my commandment, That ye love one another as I have loved you.”  And “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you . . . .”

(As a lover of the Old Bard, William Shakespeare. the King James Bible replete with “eth” and “ye” seemed natural to me, and still does!)

Meanwhile, back in 1971 my peace and joy were palpable—and I was so excited that I could not keep my mouth shut.  As the days progressed I told nearly everyone I knew about the Savior—even our vet as he was negotiating with our sick pet, either a cat or a dog; we had many of both.

Now, with many years of Scripture in my soul, I can witness that God has never failed me in anyway, and although I have sometimes failed to pay attention, or to obey my Lord.  Jesus Christ sustains me.  New LIFE.  Abundant LIFE!  Articulately and succinctly explained to me long ago, in a tiny gem of a book, PEACE WITH GOD, by the late Billy Graham.bedroom gardenchair

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20131211_184746_resized2013 Soap 2.JPGA Rock and a Hard Place.JPGCOMING Attractions.JPGMessy Palette


The Lord Jesus is the reason for my abundant, hands-on life.  And my blogging life, as well, when I blog. 🙂

*I have updated my art blog on occasion.  Just GOOGLE “Margaret Been’s MESSY PALETTE.”  Art is a language universal, and hits come from everywhere—including Afghanistan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia as well as all over Europe, Oriental countries, South America, and our neighbors to the North.

**We had one more child, in 1976—adding up to 4 girls and 2 boys.  They are Joe’s and my best friends.

Margaret L. Been — March 6th, 2018



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So beautiful . . . the crunch of wind-felled leaves, and chestnuts harvested from beneath their tree in the park, just a few feet from our front door.  No one else wants chestnuts, and the park lawn mower would destroy them if I didn’t get there first.

People stop and ask me what on earth I am doing.  When I offer chestnuts to them, they ask, “Can you eat them?”  Of course the answer is no—these are horse chestnuts, not real chestnuts as in “Chestnuts roasting o’er an open fire . . . .”

The next question is accompanied by dumbfounded looks.  “So what do you do with them?”  And my answer:  “I look at them, and hold them.  I have years and years of chestnuts all over our home.”

Now speech becomes abrupt, and the looks tend to get strained, as if the person who has paused in his or her stroll can’t get away fast enough.  “No thank you.”

I do share chestnuts with visitors, if I feel the gift will be welcome.  People who deliberately come to our home are not so apt to be freaked out by our lifestyle as those who whiz by on the park path.  Children invariably love chestnuts, just as I did when I was a kid sitting in our front-yard chestnut tree in Chilton WI.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m still a child.  I never even began to grow up, and I certainly don’t intend to start now!

As you scroll down the page, you will see a plate brimming with some of this Autumn’s chestnut gleanings—gleaming like gorgeous polished wood.  And you’ll see many other glimpses of life in Nashotah, at that season when we once again spend more time indoors.  You’ll see tea party bits, some art, knitting, and some of our fun and funky home décor.

Joe and I are celebrating the many textures of Autumn, indoors and out.

Autumn 1

Autumn 3


Royal Doulton

Special things


Season of mellow fruitfulness 1

Fall Arrangement

Fall KnittingIndian Village again

And, in my estimation, the most painterly Autumn poem of all in our beautiful English language:

Ode to Autumn

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease,

For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring?
Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies                         
                                                                  John Keats

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Treasure the Moment!

Leo 7 monthAlicia's wonderlandThree preciesrecent workIF

There is no room for naivité in today’s world.  All I can do in light of the barrage of news we receive is to go on preserving and treasuring the world I’ve always known.  Indeed, my insular world may last only a moment—so I treasure each moment as a gift from God.

Beyond a series of moments on earth lies an eternity of joy for the Christian believer.  Meanwhile my precarious earth moments are filled with prayers, family, friends, a corgi, music, paintbrushes, knitting needles and yarn, spinning wheels, gardens indoors and out, poetry, books/books/books, antiques, junk, never ending batches of soap from our kitchen, and a whole lot more.

A common thread connects the moments: BEAUTY.  I know I’m not alone in determining to pursue and celebrate Beauty—and to TREASURE THE MOMENT!

Margaret Been, February 2015

soap 6

Baby D again

Again Sweet Mia


Daane Boys




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Long ago there was a pop song with a first line of:  “When you come to the end of a perfect day . . . .”  As I recall, the song was rather goopy, or at least that’s the way it was sung.  A little over the top in corny sentimentality.

But there is such a thing as a perfect day.  I know, because I have a lot of them.  Yesterday was one, with the visiting Daane great-grandchildren: Olivia age 9, Brynn age 7, and Lucas age 5.

Since a picture sometimes is indeed worth a thousand words, here are some pictures along with words to fill in the gaps:  🙂

pd 0


↑Making beautiful silk scarf gifts with Sharpies® Markers.  All three Daanes were involved, but Olivia was the most stalwart at this phase of the day.  She stuck to the project the whole time.  The scarves are normally laid on freezer paper, shiny side up, with Styrofoam underneath the paper. But I’d forgotten the freezer paper at this point.  (The markers give off fumes.  Hence the face masks.)

After lots of marking, the scarves are bunched up and stick-pinned to the freezer paper (which I finally did add before the spray job).  They are sprayed liberally with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) from a spray bottle.

The alcohol causes the ink to bleed—a gorgeous sight to behold.  When the scarves are dry (this doesn’t take more than one to two hours or so, depending on the prevailing humidity) they are ironed with a HOT steam iron.  Voilà!  Lovely gifts, pictured below!  ↓


Other activities: ⇓





Then some music.  ⇓

pd piano

And LUNCH!  ⇓ Grandpa made wonderful peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Grandpa likes natural photos.  So he insisted on pictures with food in mouths.  How natural you can get?


Finally, Grandpa relaxed with his Cable Sports Channel.  ↓



NOTE:  Online sources for the scarf project:  plain white silk scarves—all sizes up to dancing veils (WOULDN’T THAT BE FUN!)–Dharma Trading Company; large pieces of Styrofoam—Michael’s (There may be other good sources, or you may have some in your garage); Sharpies Markers—big packs at Michael’s and JoAnn Fabrics. 

Make sure you get Sharpies Permanent Markers—size “Fine” which are not all that fine but they work “fine”.  Do not get the oil based markers.  Those are more for hard surfaces.  There are also “Brush Tip” Permanent Sharpies.  Those are great!

All of the above is available onlineGone are the days of tedious shopping excursions with limited results and poor selections.  The world is at our fingertips, with no driving and no battling the crowds.

But the alcohol and freezer paper are DUH—at your supermarket or Walmart.  The masks are DUH AGAIN—at Walmart or in any drug supply store.  You can get the markers at Walmart also, but the selection can be “iffy” there.  Online is better.  You probably have some stick-pins around your home.

Now all you need is a gift list.  Most everyone has that, about this time of the year!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, November 2014

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lovers at a ball

Here we are (or I should say “were“)—Joe and I, obviously smitten with each other—at one of my High School formal dances in 1950.  Back then ordinary dresses were called “frocks”, and formals were called “gowns”.  Our life was romantic in the mid 20th Century, and our romance will always flourish.  After 61 plus years of marriage and countless joys and challenges, we are still smitten with each other.  And although currently my closet is void of actual formal gowns, it abounds in frocks which I love to wear.

Dressing with a flair for romance does not have to mean spending a lot of bucks (although it can).  Nor does it even begin to include the “Hollywood Glammy” look, worn by today’s female “stars” with their body parts falling out of the garments.  (In the 1940s and 50s, Hollywood gowns were truly glamorous.  Whatever happened to good taste?)

To me, romantic dressing is simply a matter of what (the colors, styles, and accessories I enjoy) as well as how (with the confidence that I am doing the best I can with what God has given me).  My mother’s classic advice will always ring in my ears:  “Fix yourself up every day (regarding personal hygiene, arrangement of hair, facial cosmetics, a lovely perfume or cologne, and the wearing of apparel) as best as you can.  Then just forget about yourself and have a good time!”  Wise Mom!

Of course there have been times over the years of child raising, when the recipe for looking my best hit the fan.  There were times of mucking out a sheep shed where I was less than cosmetically interesting.  But hey Mom, I was still having a good time!

Which brings me to an important aspect of romantic living:  the zest for living.  For me, God’s Grace through faith in the Lord Jesus has augmented that joie de vivre which has been a common thread running through my family of origin and my parents’ and grandparents’ families as well.  Somewhere back in the Scottish Highlands and the Swiss Alps there must have been some Campbells and Longeneckers who were having a good time.  Maybe they were partially “high on life” because of their hilly or mountainous locales, but here I am—not tremendously higher than sea level, and still “having a good time”.

A zest for living the romantic life translates to daily happiness for me.  Barring horrific circumstances (and the world is full of those!) happiness is a choice.  My  desire to live each day romantically, with a mind to providing a setting which nourishes my soul and that of others around me, is indeed a choice.  But I cannot recall ever wanting to choose differently.

Creating beautiful and useful objects is a huge factor in my romantic lifestyle.  I often wake up feeling less than physically fabulous.  HOWEVER  knowing that I have a garment in process on the knitting needles or a watercolor drying on the work table—or soap curing in the kitchen—serves better than cannon shot to get me out of bed, and almost as effectively as caffeine to sort me out—gimpy body notwithstanding.

Romance can be audible:  from outdoor sounds—wind, rain, birds, insects, coyotes, etc. to the music of man’s God-given creativity.  On a rainy afternoon I love to immerse my head and heart in arias and overtures from Verdi’s passionate operas.  I frequently play romantic old tunes—“As Time Goes By”, “Deep Purple”, etc.—on my piano as well as favorite classics and the haunting ballads from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and other 20th Century musicals.

Joe and I recently attended a fine production of LES MISERABLES at a local dinner theatre.  Fantine’s solo, “I Dreamed a Dream” is among the most poignant vocal narratives I’ve ever experienced—a recital of a clandestine, heartbreaking love affair.  The incredibly tender melody keeps rolling in my head.  I play a simplified piano arrangement of it, while adding interpretive arpeggios and random chords.  Most unforgettable music—whether jubilant, poignant, or just plain sad—will always contain something of the romance factor:  expressing my love for God, for my country or a person—or some statement of the human condition, replete with a life-affirming quality of beauty.

Thus I celebrate romance.  The word “romance” has meant many things to me over many years:  the love which my husband and I have shared since 1950, a love for beauty to inspire the eyes and ears while stirring the soul—and an appreciation for the many aspects of life which add roundness, firmness, tenderness, strength of mind, zest for living, and depth of awareness.

These aspects of romance and thereby human LIFE, are enhanced and perfected by the knowledge that all good gifts—material and sensory as well as spiritual and eternal—come from the one and only Triune God.  Praise Him!

Margaret L. Been, November 2014

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winter spinning wheel yes

Lest yesterday’s poignant piece leads you to believe that we harbor sadness around here, please think again.  I experience the poignancy of change, but always with gladness and appreciation of the moment and season at hand.  Each has its beauty and meaning.  Each is accessible when we have layers of wool, and I do.  Each has its unique message, new every year.  And due to God’s faithfulness, each season will return.  So I will take you on a photo tour throughout our home, which we dearly love indoors and out.  Indoors is especially cozy and inviting.

Above you will see one of my two highly efficient fine spinning wheels on which I produce beautiful yarn for knitting.  For 18 years I raised my own spinners’ flock of quality wool sheep:  Border Leicester, Cotswold, Romney, Targhee, Corriedale, and Shetland—plus Angora goats for mohair.  I still have some of my Shetlands’ gorgeous brown wool.  But being a color freak, now I purchase dyed fleece and roving from suppliers of which their are loads—readily accessible online.  The green wool in the baskets pictured here is Merino—the world’s softest fiber with the exception of silk which I also order and spin.

In this spinning wheel scene you can see some of our eastern exposure winter garden.  Here the fussy, shade lovers reside.  When we moved to Nashotah in 2009, it didn’t take long for us to realize that our violets did not enjoy our new home as much we did.  Here we have natural gas heat, and alas there is a heat duct blowing down over both of our winter gardens.

The succulents featured in the next photo do not mind hot dry air a bit.  But African violets are really jungle plants.  They thrive on the moist ground in the humid section filled with tropical trees and lush undergrowth in Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Horticultural Domes.  Now, after 5 years of prematurely loosing violets, I have installed them in Wardian cases (one of which is visible behind the wheel)—attractive little greenhouses patterned after an invention by a 19th century English doctor (Dr. Ward) who built the house-like glassed in shelters to protect his plants in his London home.


winter garden again yes

Above is a glimpse of our southern facing indoor garden replete with succulents.  These plants, along with my Louis L’Amour novels provide a western fix for the Colorado and New Mexico aspect of my life.

Winter shawls yes

Back to the fiber thread (pardon the pun), here are some recent renderings from my yarn baskets and knitting needles.  (Unlike many folks, I knit all through the summer, even outside on the warmest days.  That is called “being a knit wit”.)

On the left is a shrug in process, knitted with my handspun yarn.  Next is a finished fringed shawl, also in handspun.  The almost center garment is a cape.  I make loads of these, because they are so much fun!  As well as adding buttons for decoration, I include buttons and button holes so that the garment will stay on the shoulders with comfort.  On the right is a HUGE poncho, probably good down to 20 degrees above zero over a big wool sweater.  The cape and poncho are made from commercial woolen yarns with a few funky synthetics thrown in for fun.

winter soap yes

And saponifying—that is, soap making—another year round delight.  These bars, made just yesterday, look good enough to eat. But I wouldn’t advise that!

winter painting yes

And art making, also enjoyed year around but really beefed up on winter nights!

winter tea yes

And winter tea parties.  Of course I continue my beloved iced tea all year (I didn’t think I had any Southern blood in me, but that’s what friends below the Mason Dixon line do).  However, when company comes, it’s hot tea and a chance to show off my English tea pots.  Guests may pick their pot, and cup and saucer of which there are MANY.

Winter Patio

Finally, here is a shot from last year.  It’s coming!  I’m thankful for all of the above, especially for my family and corgi, and of course for books bending multi shelves and stacked like leaning towers all over the home!

When the sun shines again (and it will) I’ll try to get some shots of glorious color.  That’s coming too—hopefully before the above pristine stuff!

©Margaret L. Been, October 2014

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blue and old pottery 2

Friends sometimes question me with concern when I haven’t posted for awhile on this site.  I’m always deeply touched when this happens.  One friend asked our daughter if I was okay, because she had not seen any fresh Northern Reflections for some time.

I’ve been aware that each of my five blogs has different readers, and many do not realize that the other blogs even exist.  You can check the Blog Roll for my other URLs and topics.  But in recent months, my art blog:  http://www.northernview.wordpress.com/ — i. e. “The Messy Palette . . . Growing through Art” has been most frequently updated.

I intend to continue this blog whenever and however.  But, after decades of words and writing for publication, NOW MY HEART IS IN THE ART.  If you wonder why I have not been posting new Northern Reflections, you might just check out the Northern View (Messy Palette) site and see how my world is viewed at present.

I have been reflecting on the language of the arts.  Through the “Likes” on my art site, I found a lady in Italy whose paintings thrill me to the core.  Truly a kindred soul!  Her bio is in Italian which is (metaphorically speaking) Greek to me.  I’m comfortable with reading French, but there my foreign language skills rest.  Yet this woman’s paintings speak volumes, and words are not necessary when I view her art.  Thus the centuries of art and music cross every culture and can potentially dissolve barriers between those who love creative expression.

Have you ever had the experience of feeling terribly embarrassed when trying to communicate with someone whose language you do not know—given the fact that the “someone” is out to sea with your language as well?  This has happened to me on numerous occasions.  There is a lot of apologetic head wagging and pasted-on smiles as we try to convey friendship and find some common ground.  You want to communicate to the other person that you like him or her and want to be a friend.  But the smiles and head wags can be borderline inane—like Bobble Heads in the back window of a car.

Try art.  Try music.  Although our worldview, moral and ethical values, and political leanings must articulate clearly in words, no verbal language is needed to build bridges to simple, every-day friendship—when a passion for the arts is the major motivator.  My love for Verdi has long given me insight and appreciation for the pulse beat and intensity of Italy.  Viewing Oriental art yields even more regard for Chinese culture than a plate of Egg Rolls (although food works too).  Beethoven and Bach are a part of my American family heritage, bringing me closer to my German speaking ancestors:  German, German Swiss, and Alsatian.  Like nothing else on earth, Celtic harp ballads stir my racial memory and resonate in my Celtic genes.

So through art and music, we can indeed be multi-lingual.  If so inclined, or if I don’t post again for sometime on this site, just visit my Messy Palette.      🙂

Margaret L. Been, September

NOTE:  I just updated the ekphrasis page.  With the onset of Autumn, I sense the poet is coming out of hibernation, rather than going in.  Check out my “Tatters of Time”. 

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