Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Livin' La Vida Local, no. 4: Boulevardia 2015

Known for its many fountains, a ridiculous number of barbecue restaurants, stellar live jazz and blues, and a well-established art scene, Kansas City, Missouri, provides plenty to experience. I thoroughly enjoy livin' la vida local in the Flyover Zone. Join me as I explore new finds and old faves in this big small town I call home.  

Welcome to Boulevardia! And can we talk about how many rompers we saw? What I want to know is how people use 
 Johnny-on-the-Spots while wearing them. Yikes!!
Boulevard Brewing Company's Can Bar. Yes, we can!
Boulevard Brewing Company hosted Boulevardia, a combination food, music and beer festival held in Kansas City's 12th Street Bridge Historic District (known as the West Bottoms by us locals), over Father's Day weekend. My friends Lora, Kate and I joined the throng on Saturday afternoon to celebrate Kate's birthday.

Upon entering Boulevardia, we found photo booths set up. If you know me, you know I love a photobooth:

Kate looks cute. Lora and I are being goofy. We all look cool and collected, though. No sweat yet.

Our Sassy Pantry offered samples of their wonderful jams. I especially enjoyed the bacon jam. 
How could I not!?

We enjoyed browsing through the Makers Market and the many shops selling antique and handmade items. We found delicious bacon jam, maple seeds beautifully set into rings, vintage-inspired printed tea towels, and much more.

I was so excited to see this place!
I bought a cute little vintage white and gold sun pin. It perfectly fits my style. Photos later.
As for the shops, I was especially excited to go into Bella Patina. I have been following them on Instagram for-ev-errr, but I had never been inside. It was fantastic! The displays were well-curated, and the mixture of handmade and vintage goods charmed me.

Gorgeous people. Gorgeous architecture. I love Kansas City.
Later, we people-watched and talked as we ate street tacos. We were not at all fond of the hot, sunny weather. However, we were appreciative of the (alas, warm) breeze that dried our sweat, which  cooled us down until we dried out. 

Unfortunately, Kate became overheated and felt sick after we had been walking around for a while. Her boyfriend Alex picked her up and took her home. I know she felt bad about leaving early, but you can't help getting sick. And getting overheated can be so dangerous. It is much better to get to a place where you can cool off than end up in the hospital. Luckily, the people running the First Aid tent were very kind. They helped cool Kate down and walk her to Alex's car.

Getting ready for Making Movies. Photo by Lora!
Lovelorn makes such haunting beautiful music.
After Kate went home, the weather grew milder. Lora and I listened to music - most notably local bands Making Movies and Lovelorn. We also ran into some friends and chatted with them for awhile.

We almost rode the Ferris Wheel...
We waffled back and forth about riding the Ferris Wheel, but ultimately decided $5.00 a ticket was too much for us. In retrospect, though, I would have loved to have seen that westward-facing view around sunset.

This was my favorite "seating area" at Boulevardia.
All in all, I had a good day, but I really wish Kate could have joined Lora and me for these end-of-the-day-looking-kind-of-greasy pics:

We weren't ready, but those expressions are just so me!
Yeah, we're adorable, if a little (a lot) sweaty.
What festivals have you been to this summer? Did I miss out on anything fun? Should I put any upcoming events on my calendar?

I'm so glad to be back,

Alison :)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Art Education and Artist's Statement

I studied art. I make art. I teach art. This semester, I enrolled in the newly founded art education program at the Kansas City Art Institute, in order to bring those interrelated disciplines together - in my life and in my mind.

So far, I am loving my first course - the theories, the history, the looking into myself and reflecting on what art and teaching art mean to me. Despite my enjoyment of being back in the classroom as a student, I have a lot less free time nowadays. Maybe that will help me become more organized, so I can keep track of everything I have going on?

We were recently assigned to bring our artist's statements to class. I revamped mine a bit before turning it in, and I would like to share it here:

                                                                                                                          Swoop and Stream, 2012. Digital photography.

“When we consider the movement of form in space over a certain time, we are entering the realm of geometry and mathematics in the same way as when we construct a machine.”
                                                                                                                                 -  Marcel Duchamp, concerning “Nude Descending a Staircase”

Time. Motion. Repetition. Addition.

I repeat. I make by employing repetitive processes, such as knotting, tearing, piling, picking, purging. Repetitive bodily gestures, actions and movements send me on an intimate tour of myself and my surroundings. These motions transport me beyond the confines of my own body. Or, rather, they redefine or extend its boundaries. I become fused with the materials within, on and around me.

Where does self end and other begin? What is mine to manipulate? I consciously explore the connection between bodily repetition and creation, motion and ecstasy/disengagement. I am fascinated by the genesis of intelligence. Abiding by specific rules can result in an entity that is more than the result of its instructions*.

My art acts as metaphor, not simply (simple) geometry. Through non-rational, or inexact, repetition (spiral not circular) people may rail against the discontinuous, nonsensical nature of existence.


People rarely see or have seen without some sort of additive implement (in other words, tool). Even the use of a pencil reshapes the human body, its desires, functions and ways of interacting with the self and other. Human interaction with machines, then, also re-purposes human boundaries – it alters the ways in which humans experience.

Sight remains impoverished without lights to see by. Tools light the night skies. Now machines have taken on new mutations. They can learn from humans and one another, act autonomously, read emotions, give the semblance of humanity and intelligence, and are otherwise self-evolving.

If a gaze could be based upon the simulation, mediation, connectivity and artifice these new machines exercise, then it would belong to a cyborg.

According to Donna J. Haraway, a cyborg is “a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality/lived experience as well as a creature of fiction.” (Haraway, Donna J. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. Print.) Humans possess a bionic gaze, which is a way of knowing the world through electronic, mechanical, digital and other enhancements.

Because of the technology we have invented and to which we have access, the bionic gaze is entirely plausible and definitely employed. So, we are hybrids of man and machine. We are synthetic communications systems; our bodies have become virtually re-crafted. We have been entranced by the exchange of intelligence.

Enhancement, though, does not mean we are privy to the right information – just different sets of information.

*Sometimes, it just makes a mess.

My goal is to set up an art/art education website. A personal website is LONG overdue. I will definitely report back when it is in working order and fit to be seen.

Alison :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Brach's, You Read My Mom's Mind & Cheated Her Out of Millions!

Dear Brach's,

Regarding your Corn 'N Nuts Mix: I can't decide whether I am seriously appalled my mom didn't get rich off this idea before you stole it from her, or if I'm ecstatic someone has started marketing one of the tastiest fall treats there is - candy corn and salted peanuts.

Thank you... I think.


Alison :)

P.S. Fair friends, have you tried this amazing mixture? If not, you must. You can either buy Brach's Corn 'N Nuts Mix, or you can do what I prefer to do - purchase Brach's candy corn and mix it with your favorite brand of peanuts.

P.P.S. If for some reason you do not love this divine coupling of peanuts and candy corn (which tastes akin to a Payday, by the way), what are your favorite must-have Fall treats? If you say Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, I'll forgive ya. ;) 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Surviving Brad - An Altered Existence

The siblings! Brad, Lisa and I during my senior year of college, 2003.

Some people create when they feel desperate, when life is hard. It's the only way they can survive the pain. I am not like that. When I am ill or under duress, I have a hard time making. Depression gets me nowhere artistically. I just want to hunker down with the people I love and watch movies, read, or play on Facebook. I escape from myself through mediated experiences. When I make, I turn into myself and become contemplative. I reflect upon my difficult experiences, but I can't create my way out of them. Instead, I nurture myself and rise up with the passing of time. Then, when I have enough distance, I can use that raw material as fodder.

I have been silent this year, at least in blog-time. In realtime, I've been many things, from eloquent to writhing in pain.

The most existence-altering experience I have been through this year is the death of my brother. My 27-year old brother Brad died in a car accident on May 19, a beautiful Sunday afternoon, while he was on his way to work along a straight road. In fact, the business he worked for was just yards away from the crash-site. For some unknown reason my brother's car crossed two lanes of traffic, traveled along the curb, knocked down a speed-limit sign, hopped the curb, and then crashed into a tree. After that, it caught on fire. The medical examiner and the investigating officer both think my brother probably had a medical emergency in the car (such as a stroke, heart attack or seizure), which prevented him from steering or braking, because there was no sign that he had attempted to do either.

There's part of me that wishes I had recorded every thought I have had since then, especially in the first days following Brad's death. The first week, in particular, was surreal. It takes a lot of time and energy to plan a funeral. It doesn't help that what we were experiencing was primarily shock and disbelief, even while framing Brad's drawings and finding the right ammo box for his ashes to be buried in. 

On the other hand, those memories will remain with me. The physical pain, the feeling that I had lost an arm - an actual member - of my body, of my family - subsides with time. Now, it's been nearly 4 months since Brad died. I think of him every single day - multiple times. Sometimes, I'm happy. Sometimes, I'm sad and angry. At other times, I think of Brad as a matter of course and it hardly interrupts my mood or the day at all. It's still a surreal experience and one I wish upon no one. I have discovered since May 19 that many other people I care about, as well as complete strangers, have been through similar experiences. They have come out on the other side. That gives me strength, and helps me feel less alone in my and my family's grief.

I am sure I will write more about my brother. I am ready to share and translate my experiences into a new form, something outside of myself. Know that while no one ever moves on, I am moving along into the "new normal", as my family refers to life after losing Brad. 


Many thanks to those of you who loved Brad, the family and friends who have offered unfailing support to my family and me, and those generous strangers who I have bonded with over our losses. 

Much love goes out to those of you who have lost family members or other loved ones.

And, obviously, I owe everything to my family. I am glad I belong to you guys.

Alison :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

First Snow


I couldn't resist frolicking in the snow this afternoon!

Snow salted the sky today, giving us a little taste of winter. This is the kind of snow I like - pretty and it doesn't stick! I love the cold, and I can stand just about as much as any other Viking out there. Snow, however, makes me tremble. I hate to drive and, thus, slide through snow and the ice that is sure to accompany it. Since I was enjoying an afternoon off and had nowhere to go, I was able to appreciate the innocent flakes. I took the family dogs Maddie and Simon out to play in the first snow of the season with me, and we couldn't have had more fun!

Look at this silly dog! Maddie happily chomps a frisbee as snow gathers on her snout.

Even Simon, easily chilled, enjoyed roaming around as it snowed.

Dashing through the snow!

The dogs dragged me all over the yard. I was attached to Simon's leash, you see. Maddie is a true cold weather aficionado. She will sit happily in the middle of the yard during the coldest days. It is like pulling a chew toy away from her to get her inside. Simon, who is typically a dog much more prone to shivering than is Maddie, actually enjoyed being outside this afternoon. I was surprised, since he will usually huddle on the porch at any hint of a chill. I think my excitement rubbed off on the dogs, and we tramped around and tasted snowflakes until my hands grew numb and red.

Then, we went inside and curled up in blankets and watched Netflix. It was a beautiful afternoon!

Not quite a Winter Wonderland, but pretty nonetheless!

The sky was overcast and windy, but it made for interesting photographs.

Have you seen snow yet in your locale? I'm not sure if I can really count this since no evidence is even left of the snow... And what are you watching on Netflix? I could use some good recommendations.

Alison :)

Friday, November 23, 2012


My cousin Jennie Byrnes made these amazingly adorable and equally delicious Thanksgiving cookies. But don't be jealous. You can order your own special occasion cookies from her through her facebook page Custom Cookies by Jennie.

The past couple of years have been rough: my grandma died; I lost my job; my dad had a triple bypass; my Aunt Vickie died unexpectedly and definitely prematurely; and I have been dealing with pain related to a herniated disc in my spine. Despite all this, I usually feel thankful and even blessed. Since Thanksgiving is the traditional time to share one's blessings, I want to share mine with you.

Here is an incomplete list of what I am thankful for right now:

1. My Family - Where would I be without these guys? My parents, sister and brother provide stability, support and home-cooked meals whenever I need one. My sister hashes out ideas and problems with me and also helps me get organized. My mom listens to me without interruption and is usually right when she gives advice. My dad answers all my financial, political and historical questions. My brother helps me with tech-related problems and with anything regarding the dogs.

2. The Dogs - My parents' dog Maddie and my sister's dog Simon add so much fun, joy and physical exertion to my existence. They comfort and warm and annoy me like the younger siblings they are.

3. My (Much) Younger Cousins - Since my aunt died, we have definitely seen a lot more of my very busy cousins Robert, Michael and John. They tie me to my childhood school district, surprise me in so many ways, and make me feel like I'm still just one of the kids (even though I'm 20 years older than the youngest of them!).

4. My Job - Although all jobs have their downsides, I am so thankful to be working in an environment where I am supported and valued and get to interact with people on a daily basis.

5. Artists - Especially ones I know. They inspire me, and sometimes they even want to work with me or get my opinion.

6. Friends, New and Old - These special people who I choose to have in my life challenge me, enrich my life, support my dreams and goals, and, overall, keep it real. 

7. My Body/Good Health - Goodness, if there is one thing all the pain I have experienced lately has taught me it is that we all take our bodies for granted when they are working well. It is only when they give us trouble that we really appreciate our health. Thank goodness for modern medicine and good doctors. Otherwise, I would probably be in incredible pain and perhaps bedridden right now. This experience has inspired me to treat my body better and really appreciate what it can do.

8. Being Creative - My apartment sometimes - well, oftentimes - looks like a volcano of stuff has erupted all over. Sometimes I wish I could just get rid of it all and lead a pristine existence. Then, I think of how boring my life would be. What would I do all evening if I didn't like to make stuff and wasn't inspired by random junk?

9. Being Able to Help Others - I am not rich, but I am thankful I was able to select an angel from the Angel Tree and purchase an Easy Bake Oven for a little girl named Ariana, who otherwise might not have a very merry Christmas. I am also grateful I just happened to find a soldier's id on the street last summer. She is stationed overseas, and I send her care packages just because I became aware of her existence. I am glad I can do that.

10. The Generosity of Strangers - For instance, today, a woman helped me pick up the pieces of the candle holder I dropped and broke all over the aisle at Target. I didn't even see her face, but she sure made my day. People make small gestures and engage in large efforts all the time, yet the goodness of strangers still surprises me.

11. Smart & Well-Informed Women* and the Irreverent Ones, too - From Michelle Obama to Chelsea Handler, from Rachel Maddow to Melissa McCarthy, I sure do admire all the brilliant, high-achieving, sass-mouthed women I know and know of.

12. Blogging - Having this space where I can share my thoughts with you and practice writing thrills me beyond words.

13. Pinterest - I know it sounds goofy, but isn't everyone allowed at least one goofy entry on her list of gratitude? Pinterest has introduced me to new blogs, artists I had never heard of, inspiring imagery, new ideas and recipes, something to bond with people over, etc. It has also given me some room to dream, design and plan. And everyone needs a space to let her imagination roam free.

After re-reading this list, I feel more thankful than I did when I started.

In addition to all that, I am one lucky goose. I attended not one, but two, Thanksgiving dinners this year. Feast your eyes:

Simply prepared natural/local foods with a lot of flavor: cranberry sauce, stuffing, boiled beets, candied sweet potatoes, roasted red potatoes, turkey, and a great big dinner roll. So I really like my starches!

The broccoli I noshed on while awaiting the "real" meal.

Dinner's ready!

On Tuesday, my friend Rebecca prepared and cooked an entire meal herself, excepting the pumpkin bread I contributed (made by my own two hands) and the rolls Chalanna and her friend Ingel brought. 

Chalanna and Ingel came for the meal and conversation, while I arrived early to play deejay and entertain the cook. Rebecca stuffed and cooked a turkey, candied sweet potatoes, boiled beets and mustard greens, roasted red potatoes with rosemary and thyme, fixed stuffing, and prepared custard with rice and raisins. All I had to do was sit there and watch. The meal was magnificent and inspiring in its simplicity. It made me think that someday I might be able to roast my own potatoes with good results. I was also impressed with Rebecca's sense of timing. All the dishes were ready at the same time.

This turkey was prepared to perfection! It was juicy and flavorful. Also, props to people who can take great photographs of Thanksgiving turkeys. It takes skill I obviously do not possess.

Boiled beets made better with nothing but butter.

And that is exactly when Chalanna and Ingel arrived. Those two were such a good addition to the party. Chalanna can make any topic of conversation seem exciting. She puts people at ease and is skilled at connecting people who may or may not have anything in common. I had a lovely time breaking bread and celebrating with my friends. 


My beautiful family. I am standing on the fireplace at the right. The end of the mantel was poking me in the back, and I was afraid I was going to topple off. That might explain the pained expression on my face.

My cousin Emily and my sister Lisa are excited to see each other. I was excited, too!

My dad John, my cousin Raymond, and my Uncle Curt enjoy catching up.

Each year on Thanksgiving Day, my family rotates the hosting duties among the cousins on my Grandma's (mom's mom) side. I always enjoy hanging out with my extended family members. They are amazing people, not counting the fact we are all related by either blood or marriage. My cousins also give me perspective on the history of my family. Each time we get together, we discover more traits we have in common with one another. Sometimes the resemblances are downright eerie. This year we drove out to the gorgeous home of my cousins Vicki and Raymond. We had a good turn out and tons of good food, as usual.

While Shelley roasted the turkey on her own, she needed a little coaching from my Uncle Bob to carve it.

A smorgasbord of deliciousness: mashed potatoes and gravy, deviled eggs, ham balls, ham roll, turkey and noodles, cabbage casserole, green beans, corn, a little ham and turkey, cranberry-apple salad, cranberry salad, and candied sweet potatoes. Yum!

Thanksgiving ham with a sweet glaze.

My cousin Shelley cooked the turkey. It was her first turkey ever, but you would not have guessed it from the results. The turkey was beautiful and tasty, too. With the turkey, we had ham, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry and cranbery-apple salads, cheesy potatoes, cabbage casserole, dinner rolls, deviled eggs, ham roll-ups, ham balls, turkey and noodles, a seven-layer salad, and I am sure I have forgotten something. 

We also had a counter-top covered with desserts. 

We never lack for desserts: pecan pies, pineapple, pumpkin pies, chocolate pie, iced cookies, fudgy-marshmallowy cake, pumpkin bread, and...

...Pumpkin pie croissants, which I thought were incredible - although two non-pumpkin fans mistook the pumpkin for peanut butter.  Oops, that was unfortunate! But wait...

...There's more! Gobble, gobble! And that's exactly what we did to these Reese's Peanut Butter Cup turkeys!

And you thought I was the one with a sweet tooth. In reality, we all enjoy a good dessert spread!

After eating, we spent a long afternoon catching up and playing games. I hung out and listened as my elders talked. Then, the younger women powwowed together for awhile. That was definitely my favorite part of the day. Yep, I liked it even better than my mom's pumpkin pie!

How did you celebrate Thanksgiving? And what are you thankful for at the moment?

Alison :)

* Remember when John Kerry ran for president and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry said women were smart and well-informed? I have loved that quote since she said it, and I reference the line often.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Texture of Fall

I know every blogger writes about their favorite aspect of Fall. And I am going to do it, too! I could talk about pumpkin anything, breathing the crisp air as I hurry to my car in the morning, setting out gourds, carving jack-o-lanterns, making Halloween costumes, screaming 'til I go hoarse at Kansas City's terrifying haunted houses, eating turkey and other yummy treats with my family on Thanksgiving, watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, going to the apple orchard, drinking cider and making s'mores around a campfire, sitting on scratchy bales during a bouncy hayride, watching leaves as they fade from green to gold, orange, crimson, purple and brown, making the first batch of chili or taking the first scalding bath of the season, switching from iced coffee to hot mochas with mint, or wearing well-cut jackets before it grows cold enough for a blankety coat. 

Instead, I am going to focus on the textures of Fall. The world crinkles in the Fall. The grasses crunch. The leaves rustle on trees. Bark grows coarse, as do hands. Acorns and pine cones pebble the earth. Squirrels grow fat and fluffy. Flocks of birds cascade across the sky as they travel south. Geese drown out city noises with their distinctive honks. Ladybugs hide indoors and bring luck with them. Deer roam in droves. Voices grow gravelly with colds and strep throat. Men cultivate beards both shapely and shaggy.

I enjoy taking walks as the world slows down in preparation for winter. I photograph matted grasses and roots buried by crispy leaves. I collect dry twigs and rough bark that have fallen from trees. I admire ragged remnants of nests and find a feather if I am lucky. I hike through bristly grasses on the hunt for perfect little bits of nature to bring home with me.

At home, I break out the small-wale corduroy and my warm nubby sweaters. I rub thick creams into my dry rough heels, elbows and hands, only to repeat my ritual daily until spring comes again. I wear a fuzzy hoodie every night before bed. I curl up beneath heavy handmade quilts when I lie down to sleep.

These are some of my favorite textures of Fall. What textures of Fall do you like the best? 

Alison :)