Category Archives: Spirit

Northeast Kingdom, Ben & Jerry’s and Church Street

In hopes of seeing a Vermont sunrise, I set my alarm early… only to be greeted by grey skies and mist.  But, since we had a big day ahead of us heading North and West, getting an early start wasn’t so bad.

We headed up the Connecticut River Byway toward St. Johnsbury.  I took a lot more pictures along the way.  And YAY, today I was able to capture not only Witch Windows, but cool misty mountain photos.

The byway led us through more farmland than we had seen the previous day.  Along the way we found fields of Pumpkins, Brussel Sprouts, and my favorite, farm animals like the adorable (Scottish) Highland Cattle.

I’d never seen long haired cows before and made Jim turn the car around because I was udderly clueless what I had seen – were they huge sheep with horns?  Of course, Jim made fun of me just like the day before when I declared, “Boy they have big black birds here.” And he promptly corrected me that they had RAVENS.  Whatever, they were big, black and birds. 🙂

The City of Bradford was between all this farmland. As we came into town, I spotted a cool mill, but Jim quickly pulled into the parking lot because he spotted the waterfall that once fed the mill.


We kept on for St. Johnsbury, and I pulled out our handy Tourism Guide which led us to the Museum of Natural History and the Athenaeum.  The museum guide was friendly and we opted to visit at our own pace.  Filled with taxidermy from around the globe, and unique items across many cultures, it is definitely worth the visit.  They also have a planetarium, but we opted not to stay for that show.


Museum of Natural History, St. Johnsbury, Vermont


The only Moose we saw in Vermont.

We wandered into the Athenaeum, which is loosely translated into “a place to encourage learning”.  In St. Johnsbury, it hosts the Public Library as well as an incredible Gallery featuring many paintings, sculptures and original books from the 1700-1800s!  The docent there, Ewa, was passionate and steeped in knowledge about not just the Athenaeum, but fine art, architecture and history.  She was clearly excited to have visitors and give a tour. On our own we would have spent far less time, and had almost no appreciation for what the Athenaeum offered. Not to mention, having someone else tell the stories beats reading articles and museum signs any day!

After our tour, we headed toward our next major destination: Ben & Jerry’s.  Not too far away I spotted a sign for Cabot Creamery and made Jim follow the sign because I remembered reading that they had a factory tour.


We sampled many delicious cheeses, and learned about the industry, co-op and cheese-making process.  Did you know cheddar is lactose-free?

The tour wasn’t long, and we were back on the road heading to Montpelier, the state capitol. Being Saturday, the Vermont State House was closed, so we snapped a quick selfie and set our sights on ice cream.


Ben & Jerry’s isn’t too far away from Montpelier, and we pulled up to what could be mecca for many an ice cream lover, or hippie, or both!  The factory overlooks the town, so there is a winding ramp or stairs to take to get there. We went in and purchased tickets for the tour.  Although ice cream wasn’t being made on Saturday, our guide was quite comedic and did a good job explaining, or perhaps making stuff up, about the process.  We had samples at the end of the tour and mozied to the Flavor Graveyard before departing Waterbury.

Ironically, I grew up in Wisconsin, the Dairy State, and until our trip to Vermont, I had never experienced the cheese-making or ice-cream making processes.

It was late afternoon, and knowing we had a limited amount of time the next day to tour, we opted to travel onto Burlington for the evening.  We chose the fastest route in hopes of beating sunset, and found our way to the hometown of the University of Vermont. As with many college towns, Burlington is bustling with life, even after 5:30pm!  We stopped in a maker space, Generator, and took a tour and made our way to Church Street Marketplace on total accident.  My goal was to find the Burlington City Arts Gallery, and turns out it’s right in the middle of this awesome area that’s like the towns you see in the old Christmas Movies when folks are window shopping.  After visiting the Gallery, we strolled the three blocks, popped in a few shops and then decided to find a place to eat.  We ended up at The Scuffer, and were able to sit at the bar and eat, good food, nice bartenders.

Up Next: Last Day in Vermont – Manchester





Woodstock, Brattleboro & Bennington



Our first morning out was a bit damp and cool, but it didn’t stop us from making our trek.  We set out for Woodstock, and the nearby Sugarbush Farm.  Along the way we spotted our first Covered Bridge.  Vermont is home to over 100 covered bridges.  While covered bridges weren’t necessarily on our checklist, they are cool, and we stopped for several more during the trip.

After following the old winding roads that follow the river and lead to the farm, we arrived at the Sugarbush Farm.  The goats greeted us, one was eagerly trying to get us to spend money to give him food, but they had a huge bale of hay, so we didn’t feel bad.  We found our way into the cheese wrapping area and store where we sampled several delicious cheeses.  But more importantly, sampled REAL VERMONT MAPLE SYRUP!  Our hostess explained how the different grades occur, and told us about the sugarhouse, which was open to see how maple syrup is made.

img_6158After touring the sugarhouse, we made our way back to the byway and headed toward Brattleboro.  Driving the byways is both beautiful and educational.  There are many pockets of small populated areas, some are actual towns.  One of our checklist items was Witch Windows (aka Coffin Windows).  We saw only a couple during our drive the first day, and inevitably Jim would say, “There’s one.” and the car behind us would be too close for him to slow down or stop so I could take a picture.

We found our way to downtown Brattleboro and the Vermont Artisans Designs.  The gallery displays beautiful arts and crafts made by Vermont Artisans.  We spent quite a bit more time on the 2nd floor than I would have anticipated walking in.  There were many unique items and a wonderful gallerist, Greg Worden, who told us about some of the work as well as American Craft Week.  We wandered up the street to a local restaurant and had soup, New England Clam Chowder, and chili for lunch before heading out to find local Blacksmiths.

Our next destination was Grafton.  There is a blacksmith shop there, and the website advertised that the smith would be in on Friday.  We found a closed shop and stopped in the local gallery.  The gallerist there pointed us to Chester.  So we drove to Chester, most of the way GPS-free, because we entered a “No (cell) Service” zone in this part of the state. We found a small artisan outlet, though not exclusively Vermont artisans, but no Blacksmith.  Jim had looked up another smith before we left the hotel and we pulled up his information and headed to Saxtons River to see if Ian Eddy was in.  He was, and gracious to let us drop in, gave us a tour, Jim and Ian talked shop and tools while I admired his very fine work.



Ian said we needed to visit the Vermont Country Store img_6167which wasn’t too far up the road.  And that’s where I found Anti Monkey-Butt Powder!  Seriously, I had never heard of or seen it before – I know many of you have because you commented on my Facebook post.  I must admit, I’m not sure why it’s the VERMONT Country Store, I’d guess only about 10-20% of the store is stocked with local merchandise.  They do have a covered “kissing” bridge between the two parking lots.

Our final destination for the day was Bennington.  I did the driving on this leg, so no photos of any of the pockets of houses and towns we went through.  The drive was beautiful as it wound up, down and around the mountains.  One of the things I noticed is that the houses in Vermont are very colorful!  Sure, many white, cream and tan houses, but the houses in periwinkle, yellow, purple, pink, blue and rich greens easily outnumber them. The newer houses were generally double-wides, most with multiple additions.  Many are very close to the road, similar to old Europe. I’m sure this is mostly to minimize snow removal.

We drove past ski resorts and down into Bennington.  It’s not hard to find Bennington because the Bennington Battle Monument stands out.  It was dinner time when we arrived, and found that most of downtown Bennington was, well, closed on a Friday night at 5:30.  What made this more interesting to us is there was a lot of car traffic, and Standing Rock pipeline protestors on the main corner – but we’re not sure why since there really wasn’t anything to “do” as far as we could tell.  We shared a Cottage Pie (YUM!) and Chocolate Mouse Pie (also yum!)  at the Madison Brewing Company Pub before driving over to the monument.  I wish I had my SLR and a tripod, the monument was beautifully framed by the stars that night.

Then back on the road to White River Junction for a good night’s sleep.  Despite MOOSE signs on the interstate, we encountered none.  I guess that’s good, they’re pretty big.  By the way, the featured image at the top of this post is a flower pot in Brattleboro, I had never thought of planting cruciferous veggies as decoration, but why not?

Up Next: Northeast Kingdom, Ben & Jerry’s and Church Street

Vermont or Bust!


Stick Season – more leaves on the ground, and not as many in the trees

About a month ago I decided that Jim and I needed to get away and scope out what Vermont has to offer.  I went through Vermont as a teenager on the way from Boston to Montreal, and have fond memories of the drive.  Plus, my friend Gary Dulabaum hails from Vermont, and he’s pretty cool, even if he decided to move to a warmer climate. 🙂


Global warming allowed us to see quite a bit a foliage normally on the ground

Before leaving, I pulled up some fantastic tourism guides – Vermont is a state that really knows how to market itself!  I also read several bloggers and discovered some things that we would just have to watch for.

We flew into Manchester, NH and drove to White River Junction, just on the state line, across from Dartmouth.  White River Junction seemed about 2 hours to everywhere in the state from what I could tell, and it turns out, that it pretty much is.  We stayed at the Fairfield and the night manager was great in helping us with restaurant options. img_6150

We ended up at Tip Top Cafe, which happens to be in a building housing (mostly) creative professionals.  The food was incredible, and after, Jim and I wandered the halls looking at the art and offerings before heading back to the hotel.

We set our alarms and called it a night.  Up next: Woodstock, Brattleboro and Bennington!



Waterfall I

Waterfall I

Waterfall I

It’s been about 2 weeks since I started on the Waterfall. I wish I had taken a photo before I painted so you could see what it looked like with just the fabric pieced in place. Pretty boring and abstract. In fact, it was a little hard to tackle until I decided to paint.

I’m very proud of this piece. I feel like I’ve grown a lot in working on it. First, it’s very realistic. Being close to the work, I don’t know that I would have said that, except that I’ve received some very strong feedback from people who have seen it in person. One even commented she could hear the water!

Secondly, I worked very hard to finish this in a highly professional manner, barring a frame. Well the frame is a story in “you get what you pay for”. I was so excited to find a frame for $8 (the plexiglass was broken). Low and behold, when I attempted to take out the plexi, which was factory glued in, ugh, the frame snapped in two corners and pieces went flying.

The upside, I determined the frame would have looked horrible and moved on. With encouragement that my gut was right, I finished the piece with rock edges rather than straightlines, and used a lot of interfacing to stabilize the material so it could float on a canvas.

The “canvas” is hidden under the piece, making it an odd size. 20×32. Do you know that they don’t make 20×32″ canvas? Nor do they make 32″ stretcher bars (they do, but they are special order). So I picked up 20 and 30 stretcherbars and made my own canvas for the piece to float on.

The full size of Waterfall I is 24″ x 36″. It is wired for hanging, and ready to go to the Omaha Artists Inc selection show tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

I’m going to take a break from 2 dimensional work and begin purses this week.  I have loads of great custom dyed and painted fabric begging to accessorize!  Until next time,

It is life, I think, to watch the water. A man can learn so many things.”
~ Nicholas Sparks



You’re amazed and surprised right?  Dori, painting?

It’s not what you think.  I self-distracted again, but it was necessary, it’s been needed since January.

Peeking into the studio

Peeking into the studio

I’ve been contemplating colors.  Julie from Feng Shui Omaha suggested a very light terracotta to warm up the studio.  I entertained that color for awhile, then, one day when I was in Lowe’s looking for paint for the gallery I stumbled across this gorgeous Sunflower Yellow.

Yes, you can come in!

Yes, you can come in!

I did add some orange to the space, some new cool Cubicles from Target, and now I’m on the hunt for a rug…

It feels a lot more like MY place now, not some cold office.

Better get back to the waterfall…  until next time,

🙂 Dori


Waterfall Magic

“If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in Water.” – Loren Eiseley

Waterfall at Lauritzen Gardens

Waterfall at Lauritzen Gardens

I started last week looking through my photos from a trip to Lauritzen Gardens a couple years ago. I came across this photo of a quiet, meditative spot along the main path.

I decided that I’d try my hand at creating a textile piece based on this photo.  Last week I laid out and pieced in the fabric, and then added some Inktense paints to highlight and give it more depth.

Today I started on the stitching, that which gives my textile paintings texture and brings them to life.  I worked primarily with darker threads today, and did a lot of heavy embroidery work. I am probably 2 more days away from being completed, depending on what comes up this week. This piece will be mounted into a 24×36 frame when it’s finished.

Waterfall after Painting

Waterfall after Painting

Waterfall after 1st day of stitching

Waterfall after 1st day of stitching

Muse under Pressure

Oh where or where has my little Muse gone… oh where or where can she be?

Maybe it’s the countdown to Christmas (Festivus looks better and better each year), or lack of Egg Nog, but I seem to have lost my Muse.  I wandered into the studio today and did what? Cleaning.  Yeah, what on earth is that about?  Granted it needed doing, but so did the planned Christmas presents.

Then, I looked at what I needed and decided that instead I should try to take some photos for a B&W ad.  Of course I discovered the camera was missing the memory card (later to be found in my purse, yeah seriously), so did a few sets with just the iPhone to see if it might work.

Finally, I made it back to “what do I need” and strolled through JoAnn’s, touching all the clearance areas, meandering in the aisles aimlessly.  I did find fabric that would work (did work, past tense, the project did get finished).

Wool Backpack, Houndstooth and Berry.

Wool Backpack, Houndstooth and Berry.

I also discovered some really great fabric that I had all I could do to leave behind, but time was of the essence, and then there was the magazine section…

So this got me thinking… If I’m going to find my Muse, I should probably be a little more proactive and not just sit around waiting for her to come back.

I’ve been sitting in on Xanadu Gallery‘s mentorship as a voyeur, and one of the activities Jason advocates is NOT starting the day out on the computer, but rather creating first.  Given how today landed, I’m certain that Jason’s suggestion is pure genius, and will be giving it a try starting Tuesday (that’d be tomorrow, but Tuesday sounded more official).

I’ll report back after my Muse returns.


When the Skies Open Up

IMG_0055There are times when I’m driving that I wish it was easier to catch a great photo.  Like the other day, I saw a crane departing one of the nearby lakes.  Of course, there were other cars on the road, so dead stopping to grab my camera wasn’t a choice.

Once in awhile, I get lucky enough to catch a glimpse when no one is around.  This photo is rather inspiring – there’s the natural landscape, the ploughed land, the clouds, and the focus of it all, the sunlight beaming down from heaven surrounded by the morning rains.

Enjoy those Kodak moments when they come!  Just like some of the best memories in life,  not every photo needs to be staged, in fact, the best ones aren’t.  Just sit back, take a look and grab your camera when you can!


Secrets.  We all got ’em. But when someone shares one, it’s really hard to keep hold of it, especially if it’s surrounded by great expectations.

It’s like the trip to San Francisco back in March, a couple of times I caught myself almost slipping when talking to Jim.  Somehow, JD, Erin and I kept it under wraps, despite the mounting excitement.

But now, the cat’s outta the bag.  I haven’t blogged about it, and will soon be sending news in my not-quite-monthly newsletter.  SMILING TURTLE.

smiling-turtle-logoSmiling Turtle Art Spot is my dream ’boutique’ turned art gallery & studios, and it’s real.  The lease is signed, we’ve done quite a bit of work. Ok, let me rephrase that, I’ve done a lot of cleaning, Funky Jim’s done a lot of WORK.  The gallery space is almost ready for (more) art, and we’re digging into the studio space now.

Bug guarding the Gallery

Bug guarding the Gallery

How did it start?  A few years back I really wanted to open a little boutique.  In fact, I had the perfect place picked out, and it came up for rent. (I envisioned painting it periwinkle and hanging big bright wooden Painted Daisies everywhere) boutiqueLike all of my major decisions (some day I’ll explain why I shouldn’t do this, especially with cars), I thought about it a lot, for too long.  The day Jim said, “why don’t you call?”, I did. And it was rented THAT DAY. Sniff.

But, I see opportunities where doors are closed.  This wasn’t the end of the dream, it was the start of digging deeper and watching things change.  I landed in the Hot Shops for a year.  And then, not long after leaving, I learned about Gallery 92 West in Fremont.  For me, Fremont isn’t a bad drive, 20 minutes.  But for my adoring fans (yeah, youz guyz), it can be a long haul, and I found that most of you didn’t want to drive all the way to Bennington or Fremont to take classes.

So I went looking for other locations that would be more convenient.  More closed doors.  Folks afraid of competition.  What’s a girl with a dream to do?

Smiling-Turtle-Facebook-ProfileMake it real!  And that’s when it went from dream to reality.  I started telling everyone what I wanted to do, I researched, met new folks, and even did something way out of my norm, I hired professionals to do stuff for me.  Gasp.  Yes, even a lawyer.  EEK.  Smiling Turtle LLC was born on April 24th.

Check out our new (in progress) website –, courtesy of co-founder, Rowena Yvette Valentine.  As soon as we start having regular hours, they’ll be listed there.  We’re also having a big all artists, all media show in August/September – the call for art is on the website too.

In the meantime, our Facebook page is active. Like us. Follow us. And when we’re at the Smiling Turtle Art Spot working, we post our hours.  Guests are always welcome to check out our space and progress!

Finding the Mojo!

I belong to several internet trading groups for fiber artists.  I hadn’t signed up for many swaps in awhile, so decided to jump back into the game.  Today I worked on a color swap, Turquoise and Orange, an open swap (create whatever you want), and a Coral Reef-Fish postcard swap.  Below are the results of finding my mojo!

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