In Search of Miracles…


Gadora is back and readying for a monumental solo road trip across the South and up along the Appalachian Valley. I’m zigging and zagging 2,000+ miles towards Washington DC from Austin during the month of July. And though I’ve planned certain stops in uncertain towns, I look forward to the tiny divine (and monumental) discoveries, both inside of me and outside of my old cranky wagon.

I will talk to strangers – engaging townie folks who offer unsolicited advice on where to find the best coffee, dipping spots, up-cyclers, community do-gooders, etc. There’s a zillion ways to slice a road trip: in search of the best hamburger (tho- not in my case), roadside oddities, best hiking trails… etc. I aim to focus on “happy people doing their thing” – and if their thing happens to create some kind of art, or conversation, then I yearn to make their acquaintance.

Scott and Jen

Enter MNAE. Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata. An Austin roadside attraction, if you will, along the East side of town where the urban landscape is rapidly changing. I’d discovered their in-home museum whilst looking for local oddities (= genuine humans who unapologetically do their thing). A friend was in town so I thought this the perfect “tester” outing – there’s safety in numbers – a prep for grandeur on the open road. We arrived, as did a handful of other folks, to the lush surroundings of a welcoming couple (and museum’s curators): Scott and Jen. A few minutes early we were encouraged to mill about their outside garden and help ourselves to the early bloomers on the mammoth fig tree. Don’t mind if we do.

Jen w Wall

Once inside our host Jen jumped right into our welcome. No house rules (I mean, the museum is IN THEIR HOME). No formalities. Just a lovely welcome. While her children handed out our program, and a free postcard, Jen got busy showing us around. We started on The Celebrity Collection. There was one strand of Willie Nelson’s hair. George Bush Sr.’s Chocolate Eyeball. Marilyn Monroe’s Last Smoked Cigarette. And a few random items from famous folks I didn’t even know. Jen gave us a story about each of the artifacts. And paused for our processing.

Curiosity Wall

We moved from there to the Naturalia and Artificialia collection (only needed to pivot slightly to the right). The wallpaper alone was worth dissecting a while. This collection was the stuff of fairy tales. A Narwhal Tooth Replica (didn’t the Narwhal have a horn?), a raccoon penis bone, the Contraband Stalagmite from a Missouri Cave, a decaying vinyl leaf from Disneyland and a pink flamingo “rescued” from a dumpster outside of the Smithsonian. A real flamingo head, with a rod in his neck. I couldn’t stop staring at it.


A reflection of Penny and I in hallway just off main (and only) room…


The Urban Phantasmogoria wall was pretty r-a-d. A piece of melted glass from the first World’s Fair – London’s Crystal Palace Carte de Visite (and an informative story about it’s origins), Incubator Air and Infant Nightie from Coney Island’s Incubator Baby display, replicas of Siamese Twin Fruits, Barnum’s Organ Grinder Monkey Skull and so much more. The collection was varied, but Scott wove the pieces together. The curation is tight.

Below, a selfie in their black-lit bathroom. Complete with glow-in-the-dark space men and blow fish hanging from the ceiling.

Flourescent Bathroom

I got the sense – or at least strongly suspected – that much of what our Curators said stemmed from their fantastical imaginative reappropriation of items pulled from dumpsters, found in between the pages of random books, artifacts handed down from the museums originators Mercury Curie and Rasputin Zaplatynska (aka Rolls Joyce, Jr.), and so on. I chuckled through their stories bc I thought, wow, y’all are GOOD. On the way out, under the fig tree, we stopped to canoodle one of their cats. Jen approached and said she was once a famous hoop-jumping kitty, but has long since retired. Mmm-hm. Right. We’re certain this sleeping cat was all about that. 


It wasn’t until writing this post that I found the above pic. It put everything else into perspective.

MNAE Front

Thank you for opening your home, and our minds.


“The Museum was founded by Mercury Curie and Rasputin Zaplatynska (a.k.a. Rolls Joyce, Jr. ) in Tucson, AZ, on November 7th, 1921, in the early afternoon, during a monsoon storm, as winged ants took to the sky. Their goal was to explore histories and forms of collecting, with an emphasis on preserving endangered modes of collecting (saintly relics, wunderkammern, and dime museums in particular) — a sort of zoo for museums. Although the original curators passed away in the 1940s, the current curators, Scott and Jen Webel (Scott being Zaplatynska’s great grand nephew) reopened the museum in Tucscon in 1999 before moving to Austin, TX, in 2001. In Austin, we began curating community themed exhibitions to expand on our signature displays in the impermanent collection.”

A night at the Belmont…

Gadora has a love-hate relationship with The Big D. Though Dallas was my home many years ago, and though I made the most of my time there, the list of things I generally don’t love about Dallas is long. Save the asphalt heat and maze of relentless traffic. With near proximity to family the ever-growing city boasts a few properties that keep me coming back.

My ole nabe, Oak Cliff, sits just South of downtown. That part of town—which was sketchy at best—has fared quite well over the years. Nearby Bishops Arts District has enjoyed a revitalization. Long ago I enjoyed tootling around the streets along the West side of town. There are pockets of Dallas where the architecture is quite special. This one old motor motel, dusty and dilapidated, overlooked the city scape, and I wished something grand could happen to it. That was then.

This is now.

Belmont exterior

My girls appeased me over the weekend when a roller derby trip afforded us a night at the Belmont. Since my Dallas departure, the place had been scooped up and was indeed shown some love. Turns out the hotel was a neglected gem from Charles Stevens Dilbeck who took his inspiration from successful California motor court hotels.

Belmont Hotel exterior, Fall 2012.

In 2005, “Local developer Monte Anderson assembled a new urbanist team of architects, designers and craftsmen to bring the wonderful though long-neglected hotel back to its glory days.” In 2008, the Belmont announced a partnership with THE Liz Lambert. You (should) know her of San Jose – THE Austin motor coach hotel with its own movie and el Cosmico fame. Again, what she touches is gold. And this weekend it was emerald-green, pumpkin orange and fire-red.

Sure, I’ve been to the Belmont before. Gadora covets her ‘inspiration’ snaps from the many visits. I’ve just never blogged about it. While the interior is smartly and sparsely appointed, it’s the exterior I relish most. The auto carports have all been transformed into common-area resting nooks.

A glass of vino?

Each one quietly different, they’re at once stark and inviting. Those that face the city’s sparkling skyline benefited this day from the mid-morning overcast sky rushing into each window.

Tea for two.

This car port was the only one to share a wooden wall with its neighbor.

The Other Side.

Room enough for a simple gathering, and bright enough for a good time.

Three’s a crowd.

Gadora doubts it’s an accident the round rug, Acapulco-esque chair and Tulip-inspired table were paired in the patio with the square window. Yeah, Liz is that good.

From the East.

Facing East, the portal’s rays illuminate the entire car port. I love the subtle shadows the chairs cast.

Cottage entrance…

The fuzzy and rambling courtyard makes a loop around the upper portion of the property. The car ports are only separated by themselves and the muted primary palette. A canopy of happy trees opened up to reveal this scenic entrance.

Belmont lobby.

Back inside: over the years, the hotel has revealed an ever-changing lobby. It’s moved from a stark existence to nod to the Mexican Hacienda to this colorful urban-lodge vibe. The black and white “rug”, the must-have in today’s interiors, is painted over the original bricks. The original spindled iron handrails (just out of view) feel right at home in their new surroundings.

The Dallas skyline

Through the lobby, and covered outside bar (no self-respecting Liz Lambert spot is complete without a place to enjoy a libation) I took in the killer Dallas view. While Dallas isn’t one of my favorite places, I give it major props for recognizing such a special, and historically relevant place. Good on ya’ Big D.

Te Amo Amigos…

There was a time long ago when I believed everything was perfect. Gadora (before I assumed the moniker Gadora) had taken an exciting editing gig in The Big Apple, moving there from The Big D. I hadn’t figured my new life would afford any friends, I was there for work… and fearing NYC was cold and soulless, assumed I’d simply work. I would simply only work. But sometimes life offers us a needed diversion, and when a friend from Dallas introduced me to some friends who also called the city home we quickly became a tight-knit group of independent women. We led our lives, each on a path of discovery and self-fulfillment, and came together as often as time would allow. It was a glorious, magical time. We enjoyed the shit out of one another. Then slowly the picture began to fade. We took chances on new opportunities, or fell out of love with our hurried, cramped city lives, and systematically began the exodus. Sometimes even with the most ardent plans laid out to the contrary pieces will fall into place. I swore I’d never—never ever—return to Texas. But in fact life would prove otherwise. I did, eventually. And luckily one of my NY lady-loves was already paving the way in Dallas, as if she knew I would eventually return. Our new lives would prove busy too, and though Dallas never felt like home… being in Penny’s presence did.

Life happens. Gadora would find happiness in Texas. It’s true—Austin IS awesome. And Penny found love. She and her Love moved to Salisbury, NC many moons ago, and it wasn’t until this past weekend that I’d see her again when we original five starlets ALL gathered to be with her as she married her Bride. She’d been busy planning her perfect wedding—sewing canvas butterfly boxes for each guest, crafting what looked like hundreds of Mexican paper flowers, and choosing a discerning menu. All I had to do was get there. This post isn’t about their wedding. Though it was one of the most personal and delightful small weddings I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. This post pays homage to the lovely home Penny and Laura have made for themselves. It’s filled with all the interesting bits the two have collected along their own life-journeys and now share together.

The Gathering Room

Theirs is a roomy mid-century Ranch on a sprawling leafy parcel of land. Much of the gathered family found their way to the kitchen, and spilled into where to spread was laid, natch! They were eager to show their space off, and where they weren’t… Gadora simply helped herself. The metal hanging lamp, originally purchased for the roomy pantry, was relocated to the dining room. And it was a perfect, perfect choice.

Curious curio cabinet.

Opposite the wall shown above was a lovely shabby chic cabinet with a collection of candelabras. It’s hard to spot in this shot, but get a load of the bigger-than-human hand-carved, French antique wood fork that rests beside the cabinet. A less nosy guest might have missed it. But Gadora went in close, even touched it.

Day of the Dead cups…

A pair of porcelain Day of the Dead cups, by American artist Michael Corney, glared back at me as appreciated the contents of the dining room’s nook. I. Love. Them.

Comfy quarters…

The dining room spilled into the cozy family room. Just last week the duo reworked the wall of mirrors, added a rug and brought in seating for their guests. Just outside the glowing wall of windows, the pair’s pups swirled in their spacious yard. The same robin’s egg blue from the dining room found it’s way in here. The effect is positively soothing.

Give ’em a hand…

Various collections of themed trinkets found their way to one another, and together made the prettiest vignettes. To know Penny and Laura is to understand their deep appreciation of ritual. Their collection of Buddha hands (in various gestures) dotted the warm brick mantle.  The winged sculpture was a show-stopper.

Love and lounge and lava.

Years ago Laura gifted Gadora a sweet “hand with heart” ceramic sculpture. Placed prominently above my stove, it gives me a smile each and every day. I’m not so sure, but I think this is Laura’s heart, and me thinks it’s from the same Dallas artist. Laura?

Fiber corner.

Opposite the family room the kitchen gave way to a converted carport. I imagine this is where Penny spent her hours crafting for her big day, and from the wicked, golden velvety couch we three freed from a landfill-fate long ago. It’s hard to make out, but the golden coil in the spindled lamp is a lighted Buddha figure. Clever girls.

Making music.

Towards the front of the room, Laura had her nest. A corner filled with musical instruments, and trinkets and things to please the soul.

Harmonica head.

Case in point. Any less-witty musician would simply have a harmonica. But Laura rests hers on this Mexican carved skull. At that very moment, I wished I could channel Big Mama Thornton. Oh Mama!

Lady Liberty.

A colorful homage to the State Laura grew up in, a decoupaged paper mache Lady Liberty, from folk artist George Dukov, beckons passers by to try her on. Gadora didn’t then, but knows there’s a story in there somewhere. Laura mentioned, “he started this whole mask creation with George Bush, Monica and Clinton, and then the lady liberty series.”

Peer into the yard…

A world of space separated the living and sleeping quarters in their home. A stroll between the two offered another glimpse into the early autumn yard. It’s so nice here, Gadora sighs. The neighbor’s hand-constructed 1-room barn sits just out of view.

A hole where her heart belongs…

Each spacious sleeping room was warmly appointed, just as the more trafficked rooms had been. Gadora toured them each with the same appreciation as the one before. This Joan of Arc sculpture is from closer to home, a duo of of San Marcus “Eye of the Dog” ~ Billy Ray and Beverly Mangham. Savoring pictures of their sleeping quarters without the aide of an iPhone, they each told a story of love, and life, and welcomeness.

Te Amo Lady Loves…

I saved the best for last. Life is about our journey, isn’t it. We find happiness, and we’re challenged with disaster, and it’s about how we navigate between the two. And in the end, it’s not the things that make our lives grande… but the people we fill it with. Penny and Laura have made a lovely home in Salisbury, and are making friends of their own. They’re all a talented bunch. Robert Crum and Cherie Turner, friends whom we can now address the same, painted a surprise wedding portrait of the two. It will soon find its place with the other sweet things Penny and Laura have filled their home with. A reminder of their big day, and that they are loved.


• • •

Some of Laura’s other faves (some how I missed snapping a pic of their wares on the tour):

Mary Fischer – above the ledge where I snapped the lounging figure and bright red heart, stood a mini village of buildings (all white with black tracings). Laura adds, “They are my VERY favorite top loves….”

Putting a lil spice in the kitchen…

On April 16th, Gadora embarked on an epic food journey whereby I eliminated ALL foods—through Kim Love’s Love Life Method—that were potentially responsible for my puffy eyes, stomach issues and sleepless nights. Cold turkey I removed cheese, citrus, sugar, soy, gluten, caffeine and beer, and other unmentionables. The first two weeks were agonizing. Though years ago I cleansed my palate of red meat, poultry and any other foods derived from four-legged animals, I discovered the devil is in the details. I became obsessed with what I ingest. Now, two and a half months later, I’ve tuned into my body’s aversion to citrus, dairy and gluten. The down side? Eating out has become a chore. I’m totally Sally in that scene with Harry where she orders a meticulous meal. The plus side? I feel like a million bucks.

The new me is cooking meals that complement my vessel, and I’ve finally discovered the bulk spice aisle at my local grocers. I’m one with flavoring black beans, salmon, bok choy, quinoa/carrot veggie burgers, and roasted brussels sprouts. Variety is the spice of life and I grab new baggies each time I’m at the store… I’ll make something delicious with this I am positively sure. Currently, my storage system is a hot mess, and I’m determined to go all Martha on my baggies and organize so they’re easy to reach.

Gadora’s been thinking about asking the more than many recent new Mom’s around the office for their baby food jars. I love the idea of re-purposing something that would otherwise be discarded. A Cozy Kitchen posted a how-to paint the tops with chalkboard paint… and you KNOW I LOVE that idea!!! These jars are available at Container Store.

DIY chalkboard paint by A Cozy Kitchen

While these, originally offered at Crate & Barrel, are the prettiest (me thinks) I’d have a hard time navigating around the dangling tags and I’m not so sure these jars would stack. How To Have It All shows you how to make your own.

Dried Herbs in Jars
Crate & Barrel spice jars from

Simple, easy to discern, labels are key for this project. And stackable jars are a must for my pantry. Been thinking about borrowing the office label maker and printing out my labels (mine could have looked like these…), but, that’d be boring, wouldn’t it? Drift Here shows a snappy tagging system with parts they found at Collage.

Drift Here’s storage system…

DIY labels from Lane Robbins. Lovely jars, Gadora will probably opt for labels on the jars rather than the lids, for easy reading while cooking. But if you love them, print your own labels here.

DIY labels from Lane Robbins.

Gadora could go the route of hanging spices so they’re really easy to reach. But let’s face it, my kitchen is teensy and I fancy having most everything hidden—including my spices. BluKatKraft offers an easy DIY if you are so inclined.

DIY hanging spice rack from

Lots to tinker over, and not a lot of space to make the magic happen. But I’ll be crafty, that’s for sure.
Stay tuned.

Honorable mentions:

Gigabiting ~ shows a plethora of spices in a nifty wooden display case.

The Great Pantry Raid ~ a great resource for finding just the right jar: tin vs. glass, screw top vs. push on/pull off.

HomeMakerChic ~ darling! lil jars, but anything I have to prep a funnel for beforehand, I’ll pass.

Specialty Bottle ~ a cornucopia of bottles for your spicy whims… and they’re super reasonable.

From rags to riches: recycling magazines

Mustered a bit of spring cleaning recently and rounded up a large load of magazines. There was a time when they simply arrived. I must have filled out some survey, somewhere, and soon there weren’t enough hours in a day to peruse my glossys. So, they accumulate. Upon any visit, a guest may find an assortment on the coffee table, a special pile of Dwell’s in my room (of which I’ll never disassemble), a stash in the bath and this catch-all pile in the office.

Stack o mags.

Mostly home magazines, Gadora can’t bear to part with them. Sifting through my stash — sadly, some are still confined to their plastic sheaths — I’ve ripped out some pages for projects I want to emulate, cut up fonts and images for decoupage, and pulled a few sheets for my inspiration board. The rest remain in an ever-growing pile that I refuse to discard.

What to do?

Continue reading “From rags to riches: recycling magazines”