paintings

My niece, Andrea Spicer is a single mom, who is very dedicated to her son Topher. He is her world and she wants the very best for him. During the current, Covid-19 Pandemic, Andrea and Topher have been “sheltering in place” like most of the rest of the United States. Andrea is a chef at The Turnbuckle restaurant at the Best Western Hotel in Rawlins, Wyoming. Because she worked in a restaurant, and they have been closed down in the quarantine, she has been laid off and spending most of her time at home. My first thought about that was the question, “How is Andrea adjusting to being a homeschool teacher?” The answer was that she didn’t have to. Topher is in high school, and so the online classes set up by the schools were handled on his own. He is a good student, so there has been very little help needed by Andrea.

That fact could have left Andrea with nothing to do but sit at home. Nevertheless, she has decided to try her hand at a few new things instead. Andrea is a chef at work, but that is a different thing than being a baker. Now Andrea has discovered that she has a real talent for baking, and from what her mom, my sister, Caryl Reed, tells me, Andrea is a very successful baker too. Caryl sent me a couple of pictures of Andrea’s baked goods, and told me that they were absolutely yummy. I especially like the Apple Crumble Pie. The pictures she sent told me that they were also very pleasing to the eye. Both details important when it comes to food. It looks like her baked goods have passed the test in both of these areas. She might be the new baker at the Turnbuckle.

Andrea has also decided to try her hand at painting. I can tell you this, my own painting is best seen covering a wall, rather than hanging on one. I think my talents are best expressed elsewhere. Andrea likes abstracts, and she has put her interest on the canvas. I think they are great. They are very bright and they draw your imagination into the painting. Abstracts become different paintings to different people. That’s what makes them so special. If a painting can only be one thing, then that’s what it is, but an abstract can be many things. Sheltering in place can be boring and hard, but Andrea has found new ways to stay busy and engaged, and the time with her son has just added to her blessings. Today is Andrea’s birthday. Happy birthday Andrea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Esther Hein - 1955My husband, Bob’s aunt, Esther Hein has always lived far away from the rest of the family, and I find that a little bit sad, because it means that we don’t get to see her very often. Being far away makes it hard on Esther too, because if anything is going on, she feels like she is completely disconnected. We try to keep her informed, but there is nothing quite like distance to make a person feel disconnected from a situation. I suppose that the phone calls, help…especially when she can talk to the person she was so worried about, but I know from experience, it is easier on the family to be in the waiting room of the hospital than a thousand miles away. Whenever Esther would came to Casper for a visit, it was always a big deal. It may not have been an official family reunion, but those mini family reunions are really nice too. It has been a number of Esther Hein - 1946years since Esther has been able to come for a visit, because of health concerns she has had, but I hope that someday soon she will be able to come for a visit again, because it really has been far too long since we saw her last.

Years ago, when she was a child, Esther’s family lived in the country, and during the hard winter months, when the weather in Montana was as harsh and unpredictable as Wyoming’s weather seems to be this year, Esther was sent to stay with her big brother, Walt Schulenberg’s family during the school year, to ensure that she was able to make it to school each day. As a little girl, I suppose living in town with her scan0002brother’s family seemed as far away from her parents, as the distance she is away from family now seems…especially for a little girl. Nevertheless, I’m sure it also seemed a little bit like a great adventure to her.

Esther has always been a crafty person. She makes quilts, curtains, and other sewing crafts. She is also an artist, and has painted everything from canvas to saw blades. Her favorite things to paint are landscapes, and that is cool, because that is my favorite paintings too. And were it not for Esther, my husband’s hair would look awful most of the time, because it was Esther who showed me how to cut it right…thankfully!! Today is Esther’s 76th birthday. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

empty-frameIf you watch cop shows at all, you will know that if they are right, most crimes are solved…and in short order too. Of course, most of us realize that isn’t exactly the case. While I like to think most crimes are solved, there are still a great number of them that take years to solve and sometimes they remain unsolved indefinitely, if not forever. I suppose those would be the perfect crimes, but it is sad to think that a criminal gets away with a crime, no matter what it is. Such appears to be the case in the March 18, 1990 theft of 13 masterpieces worth $500 million from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The theft took place 26 years ago, and has never been solved, and the pieces are still missing.

The museum was closed, and the night watchman, Richard Abath was on duty. Boston’s Saint Patrick’s Day revelers were finishing their last drinks before going home to sleep it off. Two police officers showed up at the door of the museum and rang the buzzer at 1:24 am. When the watchman opened the door, they informed him that they were there about the disturbance. The night watchman had been trained to first call Boston police headquarters to confirm officers’ names and badge numbers, but 23 year old Abath, who was an aspiring rock musician, and had given his notice days earlier, pressed a button to let the pair inside. The uniformed men ordered Abath to summon his fellow guard, 25 year old Randy Hestand, to the lobby.

When one of the officers said that Abath looked like someone they had a warrant out on, he broke protocol a second time when he left the desk, where the only panic button was, and obeyed their command to show them some identification. They handcuffed him and the arriving Hestand, who was filling in for a sick colleague and working the night shift for the first time. When both men were handcuffed, the men in police uniforms informed the guards, “This is a robbery, gentlemen.” Using duct tape, the intruders wrapped the guards like mummies, even covering Abath’s shoulder length curly hair and left them in the basement where they handcuffed Hestand to a sink and Abath to a workbench 40 yards away.

Then the thieves ransacked the museum, which had been a gift to the people of Boston in 1903, given by philanthropist, Isabella Stewart Gardner. Had they gone in and strategically taken valuable items, the robbery might have made sense, I suppose, but while they took $500 million worth of art, they also destroyed so much. They smashed gilded painting frames onto marble floors and sliced canvasses from their wooden backings. The robbers left an empty frame on the office chair of the museum’s security director and removed the recording tape from security system’s camera before departing 81 minutes after their arrival in a dark colored hatchback that disappeared into the night.

The two night watchmen were found the next morning, but the 13 pieces of artwork worth $500 million were gone. The most expensive piece was a painting titled “The Concert,” by Johannes Vermeer…one of only 36 known paintings by the Dutch master. The robbers got away with a sketch and two paintings by Rembrandt, including his only known seascape, “Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” They also took a Govaert Flinck landscape, Edouard Manet’s “Chez Tortoni,” five watercolors and sketches by Edgar Degas, a finial eagle that sat atop a Napoleonic flag that the thieves could not unscrew from the wall and an ancient Chinese vase. Strangely, the robbers had left untouched the museum’s most valuable painting, Titian’s “The Rape of Europa,” but an unwound coat hanger found near the candy machine suggested that they had also taken chocolate bars. It is suspected that the rembrandts-1633-paintingmen were working off of a specific list of items contracted for in advance by a black market collector outside of the United States. Latin American drug cartels, Irish Republican Army militants and even Vatican operatives were floated as suspects. Suspicion also fell on notorious Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, but he was searching for whomever committed the audacious crime on his home “turf” as well so that he could exact a cut. The FBI investigation into Abath, who was the only person tracked by motion sensors in the gallery from which the Manet was swiped, did not yield any answers.

The case has grown cold, and unless some kind of new clues surface, it will likely remain unsolved. The frames that held the stolen paintings remain empty to this day, and still hang in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, in the same places they were then…waiting for their lost painting to hopefully be returned someday. Time will tell.

imageWherever there is snow, you can bet there will be a snowman. Maybe not in every yard, but in many of them. I’m not sure who first has the idea to make a snowman, but once it got started, it caught on quickly. Now it is simply a winter tradition, and if the littlest ones are too little, their parents will build it fir them or assist in building it if need be.

The building of the first snowman is unknown, but Bob Eckstein, author of The History of the Snowman documented snowmen back to medieval times. He researched paintings in European museums, art galleries, and libraries. The earliest documentation he found was a marginal illustration from a work titled Book of Hours from 1380, found in Koninklijke Bibliotheek, in The Hague. Who knew that snowmen went back that far.
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When it comes to the tallest snowman, we would have to clarify the 122 feet 1 inch snowman, was actually a snow woman. She was built in 2008 in Bethel, Maine, and was named in honor of Olympia Snowe, a United States Senator representing the state of Maine. In 2015, a man from the Wisconsin was noted for making a large snowman 22 feet tall and with a base 12 feet wide. Still, the average snowman stands between three and six feet tall, because that is the height that the average builder takes the time to do. There are several ways to build a snowman, and in fact the styles can be very creative, or total disasters, depending on the abilities of the builder. Some people are even snowman artists. Their snowmen look like actual sculptures.
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As kids, my sisters and I have built more snowmen than we can count. Some turned out great and others, not so much. I don’t recall seeing a lot of pictures of our snowmen, but we came across one of my sister, Cheryl Masterson building one that I’m sure our dad must have helped with. I suppose that milestones like building your first snowman didn’t exactly fall into place the same category as those first steps or high school graduation, but it is still a first. Unfortunately, like most of the lesser firsts, there isn’t usually as much documentation as the subsequent children come along. Or it could be that little firsts like snowmen just don’t seem all that important when you have multiple children. They are just another winter tradition.

Esther Hein - 1955When I first met Bob’s Aunt Esther, we had not been married very long, and unfortunately for Bob, he had made the mistake of assuming that I knew how to cut hair. Well, in reality, I did, but there is a vast difference between cutting my sisters’ long, one length hair, and his short and in need of a tapered look hair. Needless to say, I cut his hair at one length most of the way around and a bit shorter above the ears and shorter still on his forehead, but still no tapering. It was kind of a disaster…and it was right before our wedding…Ugh!! Bob was a god sport about it…after the initial shock and argument over what in the world I had been thinking. I told him I didn’t know how, but he thought his mother would cut it too short, so he was left with me. His mistake, not mine…right!!
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That summer, we went up to Forsyth, Montana to visit Bob’s grandparents, Vina and Walt Hein, who are his Aunt Esther’s parents. Bob’s hair, unfortunately for him, is rather slow growing, and the summer still found his hair not looking too great. Since Esther was a cosmetologist, Bob decided to play it safe and have her cut his hair…still rubbing it in a bit that I had butchered it the last time he let me near it. The situation was quickly getting ready to turn into an argument, when Esther offered to teach me how to cut his hair. It was the best thing she could have done, because over the years, it has saved us untold amounts of money on haircuts for Bob…not to mention years of embarrassment about how awful it really looked.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know how bad his hair looked after I cut it, but rather it was the fact that there was 73nothing I could do about it, and every time he looked in the mirror to comb his hair, there it was…a constant reminder. It got easier as it got longer, but he wasn’t going to let me touch it. Esther taking the time to not only cut it well, but to show me how to cut it right, was a definite saving grace for me, because now I can cut it and do it right.

Of course, cutting hair isn’t the only thing Esther is talented at. She is a great seamstress, and makes amazing quilts as well. Her paintings have graced several homes that I know of, including mine. Esther is a woman of many talents, and I’m glad she has shared some of them with me. Today is Esther’s birthday. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Aunt RuthI have long admired this scanned picture I have of my Aunt Ruth, but until I went to visit my cousin, I didn’t know the whole story about it or about my aunt and uncle. The original for this picture was taken a long time ago, when my aunt was a young woman of 18 years, and there were no color pictures. That was a fact that hadn’t occurred to me until my cousin, Shirley told me that my Aunt Ruth had painted the color painting from the original black and white photo. I was shocked. It was so good. It really looked just like my aunt. I had no idea that she was so talented. Then to add to my surprise, Shirley told me that this was only one of many paintings my Aunt Ruth, her mother had painted. She told me that she never liked still life, like fruit bowls or vases of flowers, but preferred live subjects like wildlife, scenery, and people. I can see why that was. Still life would have been a horrible waste of a great talent. Shirley tells me that she painted a moose, a bear, an elk, and big horn sheep, as well as a painting of my Uncle Jim, that looked just like him. Unfortunately, in the years following my aunt’s death, their home was burned to the ground, and all the paintings, except this one that Shirley has, were lost. That is such a tragedy, because these paintings simply cried out to be seen.

Aunt Ruth’s talent didn’t stop at art, however. She could pick up any musical instrument and within a couple of minutes, she could play it like a pro. For anyone who couldn’t play an instrument, no matter how hard you tried, the idea of someone picking it up and just knowing how to play is beyond belief. Shirley told me that she almost felt jealous of her mother’s talent sometimes. I know how she feels, since I have the distinct talent of making an instrument sound like a sick duck, and that is about the extent of my musical ability concerning all musical instruments. They are best left to others.

And Aunt Ruth wasn’t the only one with artistic talent. My Uncle Jim used to make cabinets and cupboards that were Happy Timesbeautiful. He could make that wood just sing. He and Aunt Ruth would design them, to give each one its own special beauty. They made a matching set of beds for their boys, Larry and Terry, that were one of a kind. I’m sure that they were beautiful, and I wish I could have seen some of them, but unfortunately, any cabinets my uncle still had, like the paintings of my Aunt Ruth, were lost in the fire that took all of that beautiful artwork. It makes me sad to think that my aunt and uncle are gone from us now, not just because such artistic talent is gone, but because they were so much more than just the talents they possessed. Even if they hadn’t had one bit of artistic talent at all, they would still have been special to me…because I loved them both very much.

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