Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Change of Address for This Blog

I've moved my blog over to http://ginahyams.com/blog/, so that it can live within my website. Please join me there. Thanks, blogspot, for everything.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In Honor of Father's Day

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Spring Radish Spread

Radishes, radishes, radishes. I've been enjoying them the French way lately, sprinkled with sea salt on a sweet-buttered baguette. Today I'm going to try this recipe that I picked up at the local farmers' market.

Grammar note: I spell farmers' market with an apostrophe at the end, but the below is how the referenced cookbook and this particular market seem to spell it. Any copy editors care to weigh in?

Spring Radish Spread

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 - 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, drained
4 cleaned radish leaves
1 teaspoon dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 - 2 bunches red radishes
crackers, tortilla chips, or French bread

Mix all ingredients except crackers in medium bowl or food processor to desired consistency. Cover and refigerate 1/2 hour. Serve with crackers, chips, or crusty French bread. Makes 2 - 3 cups.

P.S. We don't have a food processor, so I'm going to shred the radishes.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Frida Kahlo's Meatballs

For his birthday dinner last month, Dave requested that I make Frida's meatballs from Frida's Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle. It's a lovely book in the tradition of Monet's Table. Does anybody remember that book? Somebody gave it to us as a wedding present in 1991 and I've been obsessed with yellow and blue kitchens ever since. Our kitchen in New England is pale straw and sky blue and the one in Mexico has a lemon yellow polished-cement floor and a cobalt tile pattern of sort-of daises on the countertops.

Anyway, we discovered the Frida cookbook in 1997 while living in Pátzcuaro, where going to the butcher to buy the pork and beef for these meatballs was a knee-buckling thrill. Shopping for meat at Guido's isn't so exciting, except for when I find myself in line with this guy

When I tweeted that I was making this dish, many people requested the recipe. I apologize for taking so long to post it. Here you go:

Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce
(8 servings)

1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 eggs
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Salt and pepper

Chipotle Sauce
6 chipotle chiles, pickled or in marinade
6 medium tomatoes, roasted and peeled
1 cup chicken broth
2 garlic cloves
3 cumin seeds
1 tablespoon drived oregano
2 tablespoons lard (the butcher at Guido's looked at me like I had lost my mind when I asked if she had any)
Salt and pepper

Combine the pork, beef, ground cumin, garlic, eggs, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Shape the mixture into medium-sized meatballs. Cook the meatballs in the Chipotle Sauce for about 25 minutes. 

To make the Chipotle Sauce, puree the chiles, tomatoes, broth, garlic, cumin seeds, and oregano. Strain. Sauté the puree in hot lard (or oil, as the case may be) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.

¡Buen provecho!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Twitter 101 in San Miguel de Allende: August 20

Hello! Lucky's custom letterpress Twitter icon.

I'm heading down to San Miguel de Allende to visit my mom and will offer a "Twitter 101: They Don't Call It Social Media for Nothing" how-to/why-to/what-to workshop on Thursday, August 20, 10am to noon, at our house in Colonia Guadalupe. I will cut through the Twitter hype with clarity, a rockin' tutorial handout, and excellent snacks.

US$25 or peso equivalent. To reserve a spot, please send me an email at ginahyams@gmail.com.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Berkshire International Film Festival Party Photo

Me and Goose's friend Loki's mom, Hope Sullivan, who runs IS183 and who walks/runs/chats-about-writing with me at dawn now and then, and her artist friend, Dan Mahoney, at the Berkshire International Film Festival opening night party at Pearl's in Great Barrington. Photo by Seth Rogovoy.

My head is still spinning from the incredible weekend of films. I don't have time for a full report just now, but hope to debrief soon.

Monday, May 11, 2009

2009 Berkshire International Film Festival

The Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF) opens this Thursday night in Great Barrington, MA. I will be tweeting live through the festivities at www.twitter.com/BIFFMA. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Goose in Spring

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

FarmHouse Fresh Sweet Cream Body Milk: A Mother-Daughter Conversation

Here's a conversation Annalena, age 14, and I just had about FarmHouse Fresh Sweet Cream Body Milk .

Gina: What do you think this stuff smells like?

Annalena: It smells like peaches and cream.

Gina: The box says: "Our cows eat cookies." Does it smell like cookies?

Annalena: Not really. I think they just mean that it's sweet smelling. Like, it's really, really sweet.

Gina: Yes, I agree. It's too sweet for me. What about you?

Annalena: I like it a lot.

Gina: Do you think it's best for teens?

Annalena: No, it's not a youthful scent, but it smells yummy.

Gina: It says it has almond oil in it. Does it smell like almonds?

Annalena: Not really. There's a slight hint of it, but the tangy, milky scent over powers the almond.

Gina: What does it feel like?

Annalena: It's kind of a watery lotion. Not too oily. It's really nice. It makes your skin freakishly soft.

Gina: What do you think of the package?

Annalena: I like that it comes in a little pitcher. It's very elegant.

Gina: Does it look like vinaigrette?

Annalena: I don't know. Vinaigrette comes in lots of different packages.

Gina: Anything else?

Annalena: It's more cream than peach.

Gina: The copy on the box recommends using it with your favorite perfume.

Annalena: It's pretty strong. The scent is mild, but it lasts for a while. I don't know about mixing it with perfume.

Gina: It costs $26. Do you think it's worth it?

Annalena: Well, to me $26 is a lot to spend on any kind of beauty product, but it's a nice lotion. I don't think it's ridiculous except that spending that much on any beauty product is ridiculous. You're paying for the package, which is really pretty.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Attention: Antiques Roadshow

We found these vessels in the barn. Anybody guess as to their vintage and original uses?

Spring Green

My mother-in-law says it's still too early for pots, but the weather was so gorgeous this weekend, Dave couldn't resist putting a few out.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Second Guessing My Glasses

Glasses Under Consideration - View 1
Glasses Under Consideration - View 2
Current Glasses

I know there are more important things to worry about in the world, but what do you think of this other pair of glasses? I See GB let me bring them home to show Dave and he's not home yet. I brought a friend into the shop this afternoon for a second opinion and she said she liked my current pair better. She thought the other ones look the same only more boring. I still think they might be better, though -- less severe, more subtle in their charm. They are also on sale...just $99...but my new progressive lens prescription is expensive, so if you're not impressed with them, please speak up.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Movies About Journalists

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday

Last night I decided to channel my grief about the death of the newspaper industry into compiling a list of movies about journalists. I queried the Twitterverse and Google (which, interestingly, came up with different suggestions). Here's what I've found so far. Please add others in the comments section or email me and I'll add titles to the list.

Movies About Print Journalists:
A Mighty Heart (2007)
Absence of Malice (1981)
Ace In The Hole (1951)
Adaptation (2002)
All The President's Men (1976)
Almost Famous (2000)
The Bedford Incident (1965)
The Big Carnival (1951)
The Big Clock (1948)
The Blessed Event (1932)
Blood Diamond (2006)
Call Northside 777 (1948)
Capote (2005)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Continental Divide (1981)
Dan in Real Life (2007)
The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)
Deadline USA (1952)
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Die Hard (1988)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Fletch (1985)
Five Star Final (1931)
The Front Page (1931, 1974)
Hellraiser VII: Deader (2005)
His Girl Friday (1940)
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008)
Johnny Come Lately (1943)
It Happened One Night (1934)
The Killing Fields (1984)
I Love Trouble (1994)
The Mean Season (1985)
Meet John Doe (1941)
The Paper (1994)
The Parallax View (1974)
Park Row (1952)
The Pelican Brief (1994)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Quiet American (1958, 2002)
Reds (1981)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Salvador (1986)
Scandal Sheet (1940, 1952)
Sex and the City (2008)
The Soloist (2009)
Shattered Glass (2003)
State of Play (2009)
Superman (1978, 2006)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Under Fire (1983)
Wag the Dog (1997)
Woman of the Year (1942)
The Year of Living Dangerously (1983)
Zodiac (2007)

Movies About Television Journalists:
Broadcast News (1987)
The China Syndrome (1979)
Eyewitness (1981)
Frost/Nixon (2008)
Good Night and Good Luck (2005)
The Insider (1999)
Live from Baghdad (2002)
Mad City (1997)
Network (1976)
Street Smart (1987)
Switching Channels (1988)
To Die For (1995)
Up Close and Personal (1996)

Movies About Radio Journalists:
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

Documentaries About Journalists:
Citizen McCaw (2008)
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Goose and the First Pedicure of Spring

Yesterday I endured my annual mammogram. I share this as a public service announcement: chicas, take care of yourselves. The staff at Fairview Hospital make it as stress free as possible and nothing unusual showed up in the X-rays, but still, it's hardly pleasant. I craved a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream as a reward. Instead, I had a Skinny Cow Chocolate Truffle Bar and treated my feet to this pedicure. Cheers to spring and to health.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Berkshires Cat Molly Needs a New Home

If you know of anyone with room in their home and heart to care for a cat, please spread the word.

A note from Jeffrey Borak:

My wife and I are looking for a safe, loving, caring home for our 10-year-old neutered indoor cat, Molly. Because she has been bullied by three adult cats we have brought into the house, we have moved her into a comfortable room of her own, isolated from the others but this is not a good permanent solution.

She is loving and affectionate, once she has learned to trust the situation she is in. She also is easily spooked by loud, abrupt noises - thunder, strangers entering the house.

If you are interested or have questions, I can be reached via cell phone at 413.281.2475.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm Also The New Spokesmodel For These Shaker Piglets

Video by Ben Garver of the Berkshire Eagle.

Another new client is Hancock Shaker Village. The baby animals festival will run April 11 - May 3. I'm going to do special baby animals outreach to east coast mommy (and daddy) bloggers. Are you one or do you have any favorite parenting blogs I should know about? Thanks in advance for any tips.

My New Gig: Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF) Tweetmaker in Residence

Posting in a hurry as I've got lots to do today, but want to let you know about my fun new gig as Tweetmaker in Residence for the Berkshire International Film Festival. Leading up to the festival, I'll be tweeting about the films and filmmakers (this year's BIFF schedule includes 70 films from 13 countries) and then I'll be a live micro-blogging fool during the event itself, May 14 - 17 in Great Barrington, MA. To follow along and add to the conversation yourself, please see http://twitter.com/BIFFMA.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Three Generations of Hyams Women

San Miguel de Allende, February 2009
Photos by Judith "JJ" Anderson

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert: A different way to think about creative genius

I've not read Eat, Pray, Love and resisted watching Elizabeth Gilbert's much-touted TED talk, as I thought I'd dislike her out of envy, but she's smart and charming and this lecture is inspiring.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Solid Potato Salad - The Ross Sisters (1944)

Nothing says summer is on its way like potato salad. Thanks to Paul for the link.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's...

My new website: TA DA

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Details on My April 5 Berkshire Intro to Blogging, Twitter, and Facebook Workshop

“Blogging is…to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.” –Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic

Author and editor Gina Hyams (www.ginahyams.com) will teach a one-day Intro to Blogging, Twitter, and Facebook Workshop in Housatonic on Sunday, April 5, from 1pm to 4pm.

Topics: Nuts and bolts how-to with helpful hand-outs galore, savvy marketing/community-building tips, and oodles of creative inspiration to keep you fired up and cranking out compelling blog posts, tweets, and/or status updates. US$50. To sign up, send a note to ginahyams@gmail.com.

About Gina:

Gina Hyams is a writer and editor who specializes in travel, parenting, and the arts. Her books include the bestselling travel-design titles, In a Mexican Garden: Courtyards, Pools, and Open-Air Living Rooms and Mexicasa: The Enchanting Inns and Haciendas of Mexico, as well as Pacific Spas: Luxury Getaways on the West Coast, Day of the Dead Box, The Campfire Collection: Thrilling, Chilling Tales of Alien Encounters, and Incense: Rituals, Mystery, Lore – all published by Chronicle Books. She is also co-editor of the anthology, Searching for Mary Poppins: Women Write About the Relationship Between Mothers and Nannies (Hudson Street Press and Plume, divisions of Penguin U.S.A.).

Gina is a contributing editor to Berkshire Living. Her essays and articles have also appeared in Newsweek, San Francisco, Organic Style, Ideal Destinations, Healing Lifestyles & Spas, and Salon.com. She has contributed to Fodor's Travel Publications, National Public Radio, and numerous anthologies.

Her background also includes extensive experience in marketing and public relations on behalf of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Berkshire Theatre Festival, The Mount, Mother Jones magazine, HarperCollins Publishers, Victoria Kirby Public Relations, and San Francisco State University Poetry Center. She is co-founder and editorial director of the newly-launched marketing and publishing firm, Blue Wing Creative.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Oue Funky Cheese Shack Girls Take San Miguel de Allende

Annalena and Hannah at the mercado on our recent trip to Mexico.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

El Proyecto de Lavanda (The Lavender Project)

It's still brutal icy winter here in Massachusetts, but every morning shower brings a burst of Mexican sunshine via some wonderful soap that I picked up in the gift shop at San Miguel's botanical garden, El Charco del Ingenio. I'm generally not a fan of perfumed soaps, but the products made by The Lavender Project at Rancho la Colorada are heavenly. They seem to carry the smell of fresh lavender and desert air, along with the good karma of supporting a worthy cause.

From The Lavender Project website:

"In a pueblo in the central mountains of Mexico, the people can smell their independence. In a field surrounded by nopal cactus, each one looking like a collection of Mickey Mouse ears, are 2,000 fat lavender plants, which fill the country air with their famous aroma. This scent may be able to solve the problem that afflicts not just Rancho La Colorada (population 1,000), but so many pueblos across Mexico. The problem of the missing men and lost opportunities.

With almost all of the young and middle-aged men in town gone to the States looking for work (and maybe or maybe not sending money back), Rancho La Colorado feels like a women's commune. Until two years ago, these women and a few old men were supporting themselves mostly through subsistence farming. But now a U.S. non-profit called St. Anthony's Alliance is helping the pueblo become self-sufficient through lavender, with the idea that many of the townspeople can earn money through the cottage industries--soap-making, sewing sachet bags--associated with lavender. The hope is that many of the men now working in the States will eventually be able to afford to stay at home.

Now that the organic lavender plants are producing flowers, the town's co-operative has started to sell goods in the nearby tourist center of San Miguel de Allende."

--- Jeannie Ralston, author, The Unlikely Lavender Queen

Friday, February 27, 2009

Teen Self-Care in the Age of YouTube

Annalena mentioned last night that she's taken to watching this video every morning -- that if she watches Smokey Robinson and The Miracles sing The Tracks of My Tears, she has a good day. I think back to when she was a baby and discovered the comfort of her thumb to sooth herself through the night. I don't know how she found this video or what exactly about it she finds sustaining, but on a non-linear level, it makes all the sense in the world. The lyrics of the song transcend time, not to mention the suave dance moves. How wonderful that YouTube makes this wisdom of the ages accessible to teenagers in 2009.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Berkshire Living "Rest of the Story" Free Event About Healthy Eating

Well, don't I feel special...as it happens, the March Berkshire Living community event is also an off-shoot of an article I wrote. The press release follows below. This event is free and the two panel members are both super smart and lively. Hope to see you there!


Kripalu executive chef Deb Howard and Dr. Nina Molin, founder of Ananda Health Center for Integrative Medicine, will discuss strategies for health and wellness through healthy cooking and eating in "Eat Right," part of Berkshire Living's award-winning Rest of the Story series of free public forums, on Sunday, March 22, at 11 a.m., at the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington.

An outgrowth of the story "Kitchen Aid," by writer Gina Hyams -- who will also participate in the event – in the March-April special Food and Dining issue of Berkshire Living, the event, moderated by editor-in-chief Seth Rogovoy, will focus on nutrition, ingredients, food selection, and healthy preparation methods, and include a question and answer session.

Each month, Berkshire Living, a regional lifestyle and culture magazine, and the Triplex join forces to present "The Rest of the Story," free public forums based on an article running in the concurrent issue of the magazine. The series was awarded a Gold Medal for Community Service by the National City and Regional Magazine Association.

For more information, call Berkshire Living at 413-528-3600.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Berkshire Living Visionaries Breakfast Series: Annie Selke

February 27, 2009 UPDATE:
Here's a link to Charlie Deitz's WAMC report about this event.

The following event flows from (but is different than) my recent BBQ cover story about Annie Selke. This new lecture series is like our own little Berkshires TED conference...be there. Call soon, though, as seating is extremely limited.

BBQ: Berkshire Business Quarterly Events
The Visionaries Breakfast Series
A Quarterly Talk with the Region's Greatest Thinkers and Doers

Behind the Scenes with Pine Cone Hill's Design Visionary and Founder Annie Selke

Annie's Hard-Won Wisdom: "The Top Ten Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know"
A Breakfast discussion including A Private Tour of The Annie Selke
Companies New Headquarters

February 26, 2009
The Annie Selke Companies
125 Pecks Road
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Seating is Limited. Advance Reservations Required.

Buenos Dias from San Miguel

Greetings from Cafe Etc. where there is miraculous wireless Internet connection. A quick hello. The previous post refers to my mother having had a small stroke. The good news: Her prognosis is excellent and poco a poco she's getting better each day. Her doctor and neurologist make house calls. They think she'll be walking in about a month. A physical therapist now comes daily to the house, a speech therapist a few times a week, and massage therapist a couple of times a week, along with the maid and gardener, and two caretakers to periodically spell me to shop for groceries, go to a Nia dance class, and...oh, maybe try to get some work done...la, la, la: welcome to expat life.

As difficult as all of this is, really, my mom couldn't have been luckier and we've been having a good time together. On the scale of strokes, hers isn't so bad and San Miguel has extraordinary and affordable resources available to aid her recovery. There may not be state-of-the-art medicine here, but there is world-class loving care.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Started the day thinking about faith, for good reason it turned out.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More Sneak Peek Website Pages

Here are the other new page designs for my website. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sneak Peek at My New Website

After various stops and starts, I'm super happy to report that Heather Rose is nearly done redesigning my website. The above is what she did with those Mexican wrestler postage stamps I picked up in San Miguel. This is the contact info page (double click on the image and it'll enlarge). Each page of the site has a gorgeous Rothko-like collage of Mexican walls in the background and many of the pages are discreetly seeded with magic potions. This page has some "call clients" magic soap. Love, love, love it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

My buddy Susan Davis tagged me for this meme over on Facebook...and I do whatever she tells me, so:

Once you've been tagged (and please consider yourself tagged if you're reading this), you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you (please feel free post your list in the comments section if you don't blog yourself). At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged (if you want to). You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

1. Earl Gray tea and cilantro taste soapy to me.
2. My favorite song is “Please Mr. Postman.”
3. I didn’t rebel against my mother till my 30s. Fortunately for both of us, I’m over it now.
4. I have a lot of Jewish friends.
5. I have uncanny intuition.
6. I have profound respect and admiration for the person my 14 year-old-daughter is becoming.
7. I was not a dog person before Goose.
8. According to my husband, I don’t know how to properly make a bed.
9. I don’t like being around drunk people. Tipsy people are okay.
10. I’d be fine with canceling our cable TV package, but not DSL.
11. I love road trips and hotel toiletries.
12. I’m embarrassed that I’ve never been to Paris.
13. I’m tougher than I look.
14. I thrive on creative collaboration.
15. My favorite color is green.
16. My cooking is getting better.
17. I can’t believe it took me so long to discover Pilates.
18. I prefer to be blond.
19. I like handmade textures.
20. I wish I had nicer handwriting.
21. I’m a terrible speller.
22. I swear by Dr. Sarno’s The Mindbody Prescription.
23. I generally get what I want and when I don’t, it’s almost always for the best.
24. I have two, maybe three, dead brothers.
25. I’m an optimist.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Interview with Annie Brody

Rachael Ray visits Camp Unleashed in Becket, Massachusetts

Native New Yorker Annie Brody moved from the 22nd floor of a Manhattan apartment building to a cottage on a dirt road in northeast Columbia County, New York, six years ago, after she adopted her first dog. The relaxing effect that living in nature had on them both inspired her to create Camp Unleashed, a getaway for dogs to unwind and "unleash" their true canine spirits together with their human guardians.

The Berkshires are off-leash dog heaven. Goose and I hike most weekends, often with Annie and her dogs, Rocky and Mandy. It's super fun.

Gina: Is that wonderful photo on your website you as a child? Where was the photo taken, how old were you, and is that a stuffed animal?

Annie: Yes, that's me with the only dog I had has a child. I named him Asta after the dog in The Thin Man television show. I think I was about five. He wasn't really a stuffed animal -- he was a rigid dog mannequin from a shoe store. My dad was the controller for a small chain of shoe stores and he brought it home for me because he knew how much I wanted a dog of my own. I recently found this old photo of me and realized that I just had to include it on the camp website -- I hadn't realized that the dog in my camp logo was a wire haired terrier, just like my little Asta!

Gina: When you adopted your first dog, did you have any inkling then that dogs would become so central to your life?

Annie: For as long as I can remember, I always loved dogs but couldn't have one because I lived in apartment rentals that didn't allow them. I also liked big dogs and didn't think it would be fair to have one if it didn't have any place to run. But then the NYC Parks Dept. opened a dog run in the park in my neighborhood...and one afternoon, as I walked away from petting someone else's golden retriever puppy, I realized that my mood had changed in just a few minutes from being kind of down and depressed to being elated and excited about life. And I knew at that moment that dogs had always had that effect on me and that I had always known that too, but had never taken action to actually bring a dog into my life.

Within two weeks I found myself at the NYC ASPCA where I found, much to my delight, a one-year-old scrawny looking Golden Retriever, who had recently been picked up from wandering in a parking lot in the Bronx, and he didn't have any identification tags! I was scared to death because I didn't really know anything about caring for a dog, but I just acted on impulse. I figured my life would have to change somewhat but I had NO idea that I would end up a) moving from the 22nd floor in Manhattan to a dirt road in Columbia County, NY and b) that I would end up wanting and creating a life of dogs 24/7.

Gina: I was nervous about off-leash hiking when Goose was a puppy, but of course he took right to it and now it's the activity that makes both him and me happiest. It's such a joyful experience to see him run and splash and scale boulders and romp with other dogs. Is it hard for the city dogs and their caretakers who experience off-leash freedom at camp to return to leashed life in the city?

Annie: Once people have the experience of seeing their dog free and independent at camp, yet connected to them, they just naturally want to create more opportunities like that. Although daily life in the city may require leashes, there are plenty of places to go for off leash hiking if one looks for them. My attitude is that dogs deserve vacations, too! And if you love your dog, it's central to his/her well-being to be allowed to be a dog every now and then, run free with the pack, and not have to live by the human rules 24/7.

Gina: Please tell me about the dog music book and CD. When I first heard about it, frankly I thought: My dog is a dog. He does not need spa music. But after he got freaked out in the thunder storm the other night, I did wonder if the music might help. What is the science behind it?

Annie: Through A Dog's Ear really works! The testimonials we get from people who were at their wits end before trying the music because their dogs' suffered so much -- particularly with thunder phobia, but really with any kind of noise phobia, are simply astounding! The music was psychoacoustically designed by composer/producer Joshua Leeds, author of The Power of Sound and clinically tested by veterinary neurologist Sue Wagner with 150 dogs in shelters, homes, and kennels. It's all based on the science of biology and sound waves -- there's a lot about their research and how to use the music to help de-stress dogs with various problem behaviors, injuries, etc. on their website. It's like aromatherapy, but this time the sense is through hearing -- something dogs are finely attuned to!

Gina: How did Rachael Ray hear about Camp Unleashed?

Annie: Her producers were researching canine nutrition for a Rachael Ray special on pets and food for The Food Network and they found two presentations we offer at Camp -- one from a holistic vet about how to feed your dog a healthy diet of high quality nutrition and a workshop on "Preparing A Raw Diet for Your Dog at Home" by local food advocate Gianni Ortiz. I'm a big believer that a high quality diet is essential to a dog's health, energy, and vitality and holistic health care is always a focus at at camp.

Gina: What’s up next for you?

Annie: In February Camp Unleashed is offering a Winter Wonderland Weekend which features cross country skiing and snowshoeing, a wine tasting and lodging at a quaint dog-friendly B&B in the Berkshires. Dogs, as well as humans apparently suffer from S.A.D. (seasonal affected disorder) and the best way to beat the cabin fever blues is to get out and enjoy the beautiful snow with them!

Photo by Trix Rosen

Friday, January 16, 2009

Obamicon Yourself

I'm posting altogether too many photos of myself lately, but I thought you, too, might wish to Obamicon your profile picture in honor of our new president's upcoming inauguration. Click here for Paste Magazine's nifty free application.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Year, New Glasses

First things first: Here's a photo of me in my new glasses. They were designed by Frenchman Cyril Dray of I See GB in Great Barrington and manufactured by Zip+Homme in Japan. I've been wearing them for a couple of weeks now and like them very much, even if they're not magic like my much-lamented former green pair.

My family didn't warm to them until we toured the Sol LeWitt wall drawing retrospective at MASS MoCA. We were taking in LeWitt's middle period work, the drawings with the softer geometry and vibrant, not yet screaming color, and Annalena turned to me and said, "You know Mom, your glasses are starting to grow on me." Dave looked around the gallery, "Yes, they make sense here."

They seem to be preaching to the choir of good glasses lovers glasses rather than ones that promote world peace by uniting all of humanity with their mystical rightness. So be it. I'm grateful that I can see and that my little New England town is home to such an excellent eyewear shop.

I'm in professional limbo at the moment, having recently drafted a proposal for a new publishing project and waiting to hear what my agent thinks of it. I hate waiting, but love being at a beginning again.

I want to keep the sense of uncharted territory and freshness going with this blog as it enters year two. The more people read my blog (8859 visitors in '08), the harder it becomes to stay loose with it, but that's the key.

And since this is my blog where nobody's the boss of me except me and, as many editors have noticed, I don't care much about formal transitions...

Dave and I met on January 3, 1989 at New Langton Arts in San Francisco and moved in together three weeks later. I remember telling a friend at the time that our blazing romance was "not trivial." Here we are 20 years down the road. It's a miracle and a mystery.

My heart goes out to Ericka Lutz, whose marriage in many ways seems to have mirrored my own. Her husband, Bill Sonnenschein, died unexpectedly over the holidays and she wrote this incredible blog post about it. I don't know how she found the strength and clarity to write it...except that I do...words are solace.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Leigh Hyams's New Book

I'm delighted to report that my mother's book, How Painting Holds Me on the Earth: Writings from a Maverick Painter and Teacher is now available via amazon. It says temporarily out of stock, but I'm quite sure that when one orders the book, Lulu.com prints a copy right up on demand.

Here's an excerpt:

by Leigh Hyams

Painter Philip Guston used to say “Frustration is one of the great things in art. Satisfaction is nothing.” That’s true, but not quite true, because satisfaction can be downright dangerous to a working artist. Glorious moments of ecstatic joy are permissible from time to time. Momentary relief comes in flashes of ‘knowing’ that this time your painting ‘works’—flashes that come with anxious pride and quiet joy but strands of doubt always linger under the surface. The pleasure seldom lasts overnight and by the next morning Dissatisfaction is operational again.

It’s really what keeps us going all our working lives, though. Each painting we make teaches us more about painting and more about what we DON’T know about painting. And this is lucky because facility for artists is a trap. Unless we take chances we die in art. Facility comes with the territory, whether we want it or not if we work hard enough and long enough, but it can get in the way of being truly creative.

Attitude is everything. We have to put away our half-baked ideas about what is acceptable, forget our previous experience or lack of it. Curiosity and fearlessness are the essential ingredients, plus a willingness to Do The Work—not just study it or talk about it. We must give ourselves permission to fly with paint, to work freely, openly, dangerously, to follow our hunches, act on irrational thoughts. And also to take time for quiet critical study of what we are doing. We become more adventurous and, at the same time, more discriminating, able to discern areas in our paintings that need clarification, color or shape changes in sections (usually background areas) where our attention wavered, where we were not wholly present.

Occasionally we paint beyond our understanding and work comes out of us that’s different from anything we’ve done before. It may or may not be opening a door to a new way of working, but we must not automatically ‘judge’ it with the same set of parameters we’ve been using until then. Note its strangeness, its unfamiliarity and see what’s there to learn from it. We have to trust the creative process, knowing that with each drawing or painting we make with our whole hearts, our understanding of the richness and profundity of visual language—non verbal language—will deepen.

Enrique Martinez Celaya says “The meaning of art is embodied in the way it is made. It must pass your test of authenticity, of being real. There must be nothing that looks false in a painting. The difference between a good painting and a bad painting is that level of conviction which a painter can bring to a canvas.” It’s easy to drip or scribble or get a painting of a watermelon to look like a watermelon, but it’s really hard to do it in a way that means anything.

It’s impossible, of course, to make a drawing or a painting without using visual language—space, color, line, texture and value—but it is the rightness of their relationships on the canvas that makes a work of art in any era, any style or media successful, that gives the images involved the strength to move us.

Many people, however, while studying a painting are only decoding the symbolism of the images, experiencing nostalgia, or personal memories and associations, unaware of the passion and complexity of the visual language which forms the painting. There are museum visitors who look for ten seconds at Rembrandt’s portrait of himself as an old man and think “That looks like my grandfather”, and then pass on to the next painting on the wall. They are telling themselves stories, experiencing memories, nostalgia, not experiencing art—non language reality.

If you genuinely, deeply look at a real flower the reality of it is a non-language reality. It is simply, uniquely what it is, and can’t be described in any language. When a botanist tells us the species it belongs to that’s not the flower, it’s only information.

The large flower images in my paintings are not flowers. They are paintings. They exist as works of art but they are also a vehicle that can point beyond art work. It’s true that some of the shapes can be named—that’s the stem, there’s the stamen—but if you are open and keep looking at the images themselves, words stop having any meaning.

A painting of worth is far more than a surface to be seen on a wall. (Think about that Rembrandt.) It deals with another kind of reality. The true experience of a painting can’t be represented. It’s not visible in the painting itself, yet it is there. It’s FELT. The experience itself exists somewhere in the space between the canvas and ourselves. It doesn’t take place on the canvas. It becomes visible only when we understand that it’s not there on the canvas. Once I saw a man staring at one of my paintings on a museum wall. He didn’t move when I came up to him but said, with his eyes still on the canvas, “Will that painting ever let me go?”

Artists make drawings and paintings and they make us. If we are working from a clean true need to paint, not trying to get rich and famous or get into the Museum of Modern Art, there’s a kind of focus in the process that forces us to be honest. Drawing, for instance can sear you, strip away everything that’s not essential to you. The process changes us, affects choices we make in the way we live our lives, makes us try to live with the same excitement, awareness and integrity our work demands.

But week after week, year after year, many of the images on canvas or paper which carried our passion, skill and sensitivity when we made them, eventually lose much of their personal significance for us. The power they held during the making has transferred itself into us, has become part of who we are as artists and human beings. But the power itself remains intact in the paintings, the good ones, and can enter and affect attentive viewers for centuries after they are made. Consider the frescoes at Pompei, the cave paintings at Lescaux, Mayan murals at Bonampak, canvasses by Agnes Martin, Anselm Keifer, Picasso—not to mention the Benin bronzes, the Elgin Marbles, Mancha Pichu, the Unicorn tapestries, and centuries of vital art-making from the entire continent of Africa.

The Celtic people in northern Scotland and Ireland believed, and probably still believe, that there is an exact moment each day when twilight ends and night begins when there is an opening between the worlds for a split second that one can slip through and enter the “other” world. Many artists search for a way to create this kind of opening in their work—an entrance that viewers can slip through into a non-verbal private internal experience, a jolt of awareness that wakes them up, takes them out of an everyday state of being, a reminder, perhaps, that right now they are actually breathing and alive and part of an immense mysterious universe.

It takes courage, fierce honesty and a little madness for artists to make paintings that are alive and meaningful irrespective of subject matter, style or media. And irrespective of the commercial art world—the lure of money and fame. A life in art is a journey not a destination, and painting, far from being a commodity, is a necessity of life.