Northern Owls in a Hoar Frost Wonderland

Missing Minnesota…..

The PhotoNaturalist

When I left my house this morning (Dec 11th) I was a bit bummed as the skies were gray and the light flat. But when we started gaining elevation out of Duluth, a hoar frost wonderland began to appear. Every single bud, branch, needle and twig on every single tree was coated in a feathery frost. Spectacular! Now if we could only find some subjects! I was traveling with Dave Shaffer from Spooner, Wisconsin (one of the best Black Bear photographers in the country…see his images (all taken in the wild) at and we were after one thing…Owls!

Most birders and photographers who love boreal birds have heard of northern Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog. It is a Mecca for those searching out lifers or photos of northern birds such as Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, Pine Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, Evening Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, Hoary Redpoll and, of…

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Willow Tea Room Tour – part of Creative Mackintosh Month in Glasgow

Willow Tea Room Tour – part of Creative Mackintosh Month in Glasgow.

Willow Tea Room Tour – part of Creative Mackintosh Month in Glasgow

As part of Creative Mackintosh Month (October 2014), the Willow Tea Room offered tea and a tour,  hardly something that one could pass up – to both learn about Mackintosh and have a cup of tea in the same historical spot.  Ms. Sylvia Smith was a fountain of everything Mackintosh; a one-person archive of all things Cranston/Willow/MacK and MacD.

We started on the top floor, the billiard room where she told us the history of Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms as they were known back then.

our knowledgeable tour guide for all things Mackintosh, Cranston and Willow!

our knowledgeable tour guide for all things Mackintosh, Cranston and Willow!

The art work of Mackintosh often represented nature, often as translated by the Druids. Willow and Mistletoe were sacred in their religion; and “Sauchiehall” means Willow in Druid-speak. Mistletoe was represented in the doors.

Green mistletoe on the windows on the door

drawing of Miss Cranston's chandelier which sported individual flowers.

Drawing of Miss Cranston’s chandelier. Made of glass and crystal, it was unfortunately put into the tip when the building was sold.

Miss Cranston came from a family of prohibition activists…which at the end of the day might have been a benefit to Mackintosh as he fell under the influence of drink to his art’s demise. Miss Cranston had a keen eye for business and a kind heart. She often took young women into her care giving them careers as waitresses in the tearooms (she had four) and a place in her home as well.
Cranston had an artists eye as well; giving Mackintosh free rein inside and out; and bringing her own style to the internal design. The chandelier was designed as a flowers, from which she each day placed flowers from her own garden into each vase overhead.

Tulip Lanterns

Not original; but true to original design. Also matched the earrings I wore that day…..

My Mackintosh inspired earrings….

My Mackintosh inspired earrings….

On the second floor, a room only for the ladies was designed in pale lavender. It cost a penny extra to eat in this room; women could conducted their business unencumbered by the male of the element. Original Mackintosh window.

Sacred to the Druids.  This is an original door; encased in protective casing.

Sacred to the Druids. This is an original door; encased in protective casing.

reflection of the Ladies' Room.  No, not meaning the loo.

reflection of the Ladies’ Room. No, not meaning the loo.

Original Mirror

If you stop by the Tearoom you are likely to see Sylvia; she can tell you more. I would hate to spoil the entire story – but can leave you with more photos to entice you to come in.

One of Mackintosh’s legacies, it also contains the genius of his wife; Margaret Macdonald. Mackintosh was quoted saying that, “he had talent; but Margaret had genius“.

I might agree; her work is marvellous.  Earthy.  Grounded, but with mystic.



Mackintosh inside and out!

Mackintosh inside and out!

Garnethill Women’s History Walk – Creative Mackintosh Month

IMG_6513The day was glorious for weather;  were lucky to be on this particular walk as the other one was cancelled due to the weather. Weather is rather “iffy” at times here in Scotland.

This walk is researched and presented by members of the Glasgow Women’s Library, a 21 year old institution whose original location is part of this walk (below).  21 years on they have moved into a new location Original location of Glasgow Women's Libraryin the east of Glasgow which begins its remodel this month.  From humble beginnings…..

Chookie BirdThe “Chookie Burdies” inhabits the streetlights in the Garnethill neighbourhood; by sculptor artist Shona Kinloch.  There are 150 of these wee delights perching throughout the ‘hood.  Best of all, they won’t poo(p) on your head!  stepping stones inscriptions

Inscriptions in stone in the community park reflect memories of the neighbourhood’s past…poignant.  This was a real artist community at one time and the women whose lives were a foundation here were feisty; like the Glaswegian women I know today.  Their lives live on in these stones; the stories; the legacies they leave.  Unlike the men, whose fame is cast in stone to remember forever in huge statues and stone mausoleums at the Necropolis (also a history walk) women form a foundation of quieter, but perhaps more resilient threads to weave “community”.  High School

We finish our walk at the Glasgow School of Art; the building most identifiable with Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  It is undergoing rehabilitation after this May’s major fire, where much of the Library was destroyed.  Mackintosh’s wife, Margaret Macdonald was an amazing artist and contributed much to his success and stature in Glasgow; unfortunately much of it coming after their deaths.  Some of her works are in the Kelvingrove Museum, including the original that had been part of the Willow Tearoom on Sauchiehall.

A woman sits as Dean of the Art School now; one of the most successful Deans the school has had. School of Art

I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of the walk & talk; so I hope I have teased you into learning more on your own!

For more information, please email “ uk” or visit “”

Thank you, ladies!  I had an amazing day with you.

Model of School of Art School of Art

Now under reconstruction; the library and damage from the fire May 2014.

Now under reconstruction; the library and damage from the fire May 2014.