Category Archives: hamster adventure

Hamstertown Ball

“You can think and you can fight, but the world’s always movin’, and if you wanna stay ahead you gotta dance.”
— Terry Pratchett

riley-school-turns-20Yesterday a number of us gathered at the local Irish Heritage Center to celebrate a very special birthday.  Our beloved Riley School of Irish Music turns 20 this year and to mark the occasion, we put on a ceili, which could be described as like a wedding, only without the happy couple.  There was music from our ceili band, much dancing, called and instructed by the one and only Éamonn  de Cógáin, lots of food and drink to be had, and all in all was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.
It is difficult to describe the place the Riley School has held in my life personally, and in the collective life of our family.  The music my kids (one more than the other) and I have learned and played over the years has changed us all for the better.  We have life long friendships now which we’d have never found without this school.  I began at the school as a mere parent accompanying my child to fiddle lessons – and I found my tunes and my tribe.  This music has taught me many things which apply to a life well lived and art well made.  I’ve learned to be less shy, to laugh more, to make mistakes and keep on playing.  My son has gone on to pursue music as a profession and my daughter can still pluck out a few tunes on the banjo.  (Party tricks do come in handy and one must always be ready to surprise people.)  We are better because of this little school which teaches what some might call a simple folk music.  Which I suppose it is.  But it’s complexity is to measured by the effect it has on the lives it touches.  dancers-learn-their-3s-and-7sMusicians play so that dancers might dance, at least in the Irish tradition.  It was lovely to have such intrepid souls out to dance this day, many mere beginners.

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But soon our caller Éamonn had everyone laughing and trying steps and smiling and dancing.

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With all of the malcontent the recent political happenings has dredged up, I have been thinking a lot about the place of music and artfull-ness, and dancing and laughing in the face of all of it.  I imagine that those who played Irish music over in Ireland during the troubles certainly must have played in spite of, or perhaps because of, difficult times.  And we do too, now, in these difficult times. To be fair, I suppose many voters do not think we are in difficult times with our new leadership choice.  Though I certainly do.

And so, it is more important than ever to dance.  To play our favorite tunes with vim and vigor.  To paint the brightest of pictures.  After all, we are all running along on the hamster-wheel of life.

I hear told that there was a similar dance, also with a band, in the town square of HamsterTown.  One wonders what tunes they danced to that day, and whether their caller could even hold a candle to our Éamonn.  I imagine, he’d have given him a run for his money…

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On the move (experiments)

A couple of weeks ago I took a short stop motion animation workshop through my local artist’s collective at the Kennedy Heights Art Center.  The instructor is Kate Ball whose work is interesting and hand crafted and which has just the right amount of surreal creep factor.  I loved it!  We had a ball working as a group and I knew I’d want to go home and try it myself.  Here are the early experimental results……

I have no idea if I will keep working in this medium as the paints are calling.  But I like that this is just another tool in my took kit in the art making realm.  I do enjoy it.  I hope you do too!!

 

Fair Winds, Following Seeds

Ginger begins her summer's  travels via raven lift and amidst a caravan besailed and ready for where the wind takes it.
Ginger begins her summer’s travels via raven lift and amidst a caravan besailed and ready for where the wind takes it.

Always a step ahead, is our inner muse, in whatever form it takes.  For me, it is often Ginger Small, so small yet so intrepid.  So willing to step in to the trust of adventure in spite of her perceived size, stature and strength.  After all, we are all only as big, powerful and strong as we believe we are.

And so we send these muses ahead of us to pave the way.  Ginger has left here (with a sliver of my own gypsy-traveling heart) to begin the trek out west to Taos where I will teach later next week.  It’s more work than a week should be and so I pack and prepare maybe more than most might for a normal work week.  I love this work.  This week is what I prepare for all the rest of the year.  This week of sharing my book-based process of sketching and keeping a visual diary with workshop participants.  I love it.   And during this week, I am always inspired to pursue my eventual studio work more fervently once back home.

Ginger Small, my little book character yet to be snatched up and published but yet ever so present in my imagination, has gone on ahead of me, as my imagination and muse-selves are wont to do.  I wish her “Fair Winds and Following Seeds” , a play on an old navy tradition of wishing one on a journey or a move ‘fair winds and following seas.”  For we are following the seeds of inspiration.  To see what feeds us.  What grows with a little planting, watering and weeding.

Whatever you are pursuing in your own artistic journey, Fair Winds and Following Seeds to you.  And let me know what comes of it.  For after all, we are on this journey alone, yes.  But also with one another

 

Settling in…

IMG_0092After a long day of travel, peppered with delays, cancelations and many, many hours of knitting, snoozing and sketching, I found myself at long last, arrived in theLand of Enchantment.  Ginger Small was as annoyed with the delay as I was at the way our day of travel had gone…

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…and for the second leg of the journey, opted rather for a hot air balloon ride.

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Last I heard, she may have tracked down her cliff dwelling friends further down the mountain, but that is a tale for another post.

Meanwhile, I arrived, very much alone.  I was greeted by moody skies, a darkening landscape and storms.

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It was all quite lovely really and I just got into my little car and drove, intent to make the most of the last of daylight, intent to eventually arrive in Taos.

Thunderbirds guided me up the mountain.

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After a day off to soak at the hot spring and nap and visit, yesterday finally found me truly landed and ready to get to work.  There are many supply gathering sort of errands to be handled, and meetings with the team of folks here in town and at Mabel’s who make this workshop possible.  But I did take a couple of hours yesterday to hike a well loved desert path.

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I met many new friends, who were in full plummage due to recent rains.

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IMG_5028I was able to sit for a few minutes with my sketchbook and do a quick rendering of a bit of the Rio Grande Gorge before I had to head back up the path to get back to town.  It was wonderful to sit in the quiet and witness Raven riding the thermals, and to feel the sun on my shoulders, and the breeze on my cheek.  The noise of town and traffic well behind me.   I need more open space in this life.

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It feels so precious to be back in this strange land, so very different than my own homeland.  By experiencing, exploring and cataloging new landscapes, we are surely discovering and perhaps even altering our own inner landscapes.  Every visit here reminds me I have much to glean here.  From myself, and from the land.IMG_5025

 

The trip has only just begun, and there are already so many tales to tell and drawings to be made.  I am grateful for this quirky place and it’s rugged landscape and beautiful people who are fortunate enough to live here full time.

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The Green Light

Ever wondered where intrepid hamsters head off to when they escape?  I think I may know….  Ginger Small seems to be in the mood to head to New Mexico again for some tea and piñon in the high mountain desert, and perhaps a little mystery as well….  I shall be joining her to teach my Illuminated Sketchbook workshop of course.  But I hope to follow Ginger’s desert adventures here and there as well, if she permits it.  I’ve heard there has been a lot of rain there this season, and things are exceptionally green, for the desert.

The partial story below was recently discovered and I hope to uncover more of it very soon. It’s rough writing… think of it more as a sketch….

Dear Readers,

A while ago, years perhaps, (or was it just last week?) I was curled up under some fresh shavings, about to enjoy a long awaited and delicately saved blueberry yoghurt treat when suddenly, a soft glow began to emanate from somewhere not too very far outside of my habitat.  This was no normal glow.  It was neither warm, nor cool.  It was just…  green.  In the way newly grown ferns are in the springtime, just prior to unfurling.  This green spoke of freshness and strangeness.  I had a sense this light was for me.  I do not know how I knew this.  Somethings, I guess we just know.  And so I quietly shuffled out from under the shavings to take a peek.

Ginger's mysterious green light

One might wonder why I did not stay hidden beneath my shavings.  I was, after all, quite sleepy, and I was so looking forward to my yoghurt treat.  It may have been simpler to remain hidden.  But I have found that often, the best adventures come on the heels of the moment we trust the small intuitive voice which tells us, though this may be a strange green light, it seems friendly enough.  

And besides, I smelled tea.  And desert sage.  And, could it be?…. a hint of burning piñon? !  

I decided to undertake dire action, and climbed out of my habitat to greet whatever – whomever – might be shining this light in my direction.

Sometimes we must investigate

 The instant I made this decision, to shed the boundaries of my normal habitat, things got very interesting.

Ginger heads up to meet the green light

I was suddenly surrounded by colors I’d never encountered and vistas which made my heart sing.  I was not sure where I was heading, but I had a feeling, it was going to be a wild ride….

Til next time,

G.

In which Ginger Small cavorts with the other-worldly 4x6

…And that was about all I could find of this particular adventure, though Ginger has hinted there is more to the story.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

 

One week down

10923582_10155022976295048_734283691227867210_nA week ago today I arrived in Taos here to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House to begin my long awaited residency.  It has, thus far, been a magical time filled with wonderful opportunities for inspiration around every bend.  I have had a chance to catch up with my Taos based community of friends over tea and the odd burger and beer.  I have had hours to walk and admire the natural beauty, even on the meltiest, most muddy of tracks.  I’ve been able to set up a bit of a routine which looks a bit like ‘up, write, coffee, check emails etc, write or draw some more, take a walk, have some lunch or a visit with a friend, walk some more, work some more, have some dinner, and then paint.’

I am so thrilled to have so much time and energy to myself.  While time is certainly passing as it is wont to do, each day feels nearly endless.

treesI love the idea of having enough energy at the end of the day to get a second wind and play with my oil paints. Here in Taos, where so much seems possible, I have been able to paint a bit in the evenings.  And to think I considered not packing my oil paints…..

cactiIt’s been an interesting transition into full time creative work on a daily basis.  When at home I am used to dividing my time between day job work, animal/household daily chores, cooking etc.  Just dealing with the day to day life of things which are part of my very rich and gratifying life.  I fit the art and writing in where I can.  gorge

However, here in New Mexico, everyday I stand at the edge of a great chasm of time and space which, I will admit, had me a little rattled upon arriving.  While I managed to step up to the drawing board and writing notebook a great deal each day to go about making the necessary work at hand, I spent my first few working days under the great weight of a sense of generalized anxiety, the likes of which I had not experienced in ages.  Not just nerves but the Utter Sense of Crushing Doom for which I am, sadly, somewhat hard wired.  The familiar elephant on my chest just wouldn’t let up.

So I walked, I wrote, I practiced my flute, I painted and drew picture postcards to place myself into the heart and mind of Ginger.  I just kept moving.  There is a lot of current writing and talking about creative work and how it can tend to go hand in hand with anxiety, what with all of the unknowns faced by those of us giving birth to new things and the vulnerability inherent to this work.  At least I’m in good company.

After some well timed conversations with friends who get this side of me, I began to visualize the elephant on my chest and decided to ask her why she might have taken up residence on my heart, disallowing this work I truly love so much.  And a word came to mind.  Play.  And then another. Relax.  So I opted to take an afternoon off of drawing and writing and took myself and my elephant for a hike.  Not just a walk for exercise, but a real hike a little out of town to a little bench I had heard might be waiting at the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge.

Elephant and I had a little chat.  I told her that while I can work when she’s snuggled so weighty upon me, it’s actually much easier to let ideas flow when I am not in a state of overwhelming anxiety.  She looked over at the gorge and asked me if she might ever be able to ride the wind in the way of the Eagle.  I told her anything is possible.

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And so, on the little bench at the edge of the Gorge, I helped elephant strap on a little harness which is linked to a very capable parachute, enabling her to safely ride the thermals.  To my knowledge, she is still out there.  But I’ve made her a little bed in the corner by the fire to lie in and have promised her a lollipop if she keeps to herself while I work once she decides to come back.

Adjusting to life in Taos is exhilarating and challenging and different every time I visit, so those first few days feeling so weighty is no huge surprise.  Therefore, it is also no surprise that now the elephant has stepped away for the time being, I am finally feeling comfortable in my own skin again.  I am relaxing and playing and getting even more work done.  (Funny how that works, isn’t it?)

I’m taking my daily adventures and figuring out what Ginger Small has to think about it all.  She’s having a ball.  She has skied with her friends (utilizing the handy Raven Ski Lift Company who are ever so trustworthy as one cannot be too careful in the mountains when one is a mere Small Creature)photo

 

 

And Ginger managed to make friends with a field mouse on the Pueblo who taught her how to walk quietly among the buffalo and to gather the purple cacti that small creatures find so medicinal.  This adventure was exceptionally powerful.

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The Wonderings and Wanderings of a Small Creature in a Big World is coming together – bit by juicy little bit.   I am enjoying the work and am so grateful to have the opportunity to be here. You all continue to remind me how loved and supported I am while out here…

mailMail is a thrilling thing.  I’m excited to head into week 2 of conjuring the Adventuresome Correspondences of one Ginger Small.  

p.s. There’s been a fair amount of counting in a long lost language of rhyme in the Rabbits Who Herd Sheep department as well.

Do stop in over on facebook, instagram, twitter etc to keep up with our adventures.  And thank you, again, from the bottom of my thankfully lightened heart.

Readying a Retreat (and other exciting news)

In just over a month’s time, I have raised over 65% of my goal of $2500 which will offset costs for my upcoming writing/working retreat in New Mexico.  It’s been amazing to get checks in the mail and see paypal bits pop up in messages on the computer.  Thank you SO very much!!

Steampunk Thanks update

 

There are still two weeks left to contribute to my residency fund and every teensy bit helps.  I am busily preparing the cards and other rewards available for contributors as thank you gifts.  It’s wonderful to see Ginger’s adventures in print on cards and it feels like a sneak peak into what she will look like in book form, which of course has been a long time dream of mine…..

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I am humbled by all the support and praise of this little character I spend so much time with.  A dear and far-flung friend of mine said this about our Ginger…

“I love that she’s so fearless! Sailing, traveling, etc. I admire that. I think it strikes a chord with people.”

And it’s true.  She IS fearless.  Or at least, like most of us, she pretends to be.  And that affords her opportunities in the world she might never have dreamed possible!  There is much about Ginger’s story I do not yet know, and that the point of this residency in Taos.  To suss that story out.  There is a wonderful scene in the movie Miss Potter where Beatrix Potter is presenting a new painting to her publisher, friend and future fiancee, Norman Warne, about a rabbit’s Christmas party.  She says about the story of this legendary party…

“Now I know such a legend exists, because I made it up….  I know on this night, that they will eat and talk and laugh and dance, and roast apples on the fire, but I’m not certain how the party ends, because I haven’t made that part up yet.”

And that’s exactly how I feel about Ginger’s story.  There are things I know.  She is adventuresome and a bit of a fashionista, in spite of her shyness.  She loves to meet other animals who are equal parts like her and unlike her, and she loves to send postcards….

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The postcard angle is where Ginger got her true start and it continues to be a huge theme in her story.  Since I too love anything to do with hand-crafted correspondence, it is no surprise that I have been following the work of the Letter Writer’s Alliance for a number of years now.  With their tag line reading:

it’s no wonder I love the work they do, gifts they share and postal related products and activities they post!  You see that stamp on the post card above featuring the cardinal? That stamp is an example of what the LWA calls “fauxstage”.  Not true postage contributing to the delivery costs of the card, but rather a stamp-like image that adds to the postal allure of the card.  I adore letters and postcards that come with extra cool stamps, don’t you??  Well, it occurred to me that with Ginger’s love of all things postal, a wee partnership with the LWA might be in order.  So I contacted them to see if I might put together a Ginger themed stamp design of my own to offer as a free download on their site.  It would prove to be a fun exercise for me, and would be a gift to offer to others who adore sending well adorned envelopes and postcards through the mail.

ginger stamp for blog

And so, here is the result of our partnership!!!  I took a winter/Solstice-time themed image I created last year in this post, and added some stamp-like things to spruce up its postability and to make it look official, and voila!! You can download this page at their website now, in a printable file version.  I think it turned out really sweet!  And it’s our gift, to you.

ginger stamps page

While we are thinking along the lines of stamps and post and holiday correspondences…. this image is also now available as a printed card that you can get at my Society6 page.

And so, amidst the busy-ness of this season, I am also preparing for my retreat from things in just over a month’s time, for that is when my best work is known to peek out of it’s shy nest hidden at the edge of the woods….

“Physically, the creature endowed with a sense of refuge, huddles up to itself, takes to cover, hides away, lies snug, concealed.  If we were to look among the wealth of our vocabulary for verbs that express the dynamics of retreat, we should find images based on animal movements of withdrawal, movements that are engraved in our muscles.”  ~Gaston Bachelard (from The Poetics of Space)

We’ve had a mad road trip to a cacophonous regional dance tournament and ill loved ones bravely facing down end of life visitations and decision-making.  There are concerts in which to participate and to attend… gifts to seek out and parties to plan for, bake for and to attend.  It is December, and somehow the Spirit of Waiting which our souls crave during this season of Advent and Solstice is harder and harder each year to achieve.  Yet I celebrate all of the gifts of gathering this season brings while I prepare for the calm at the end of the storm.

During those first few precious days of a New Year, I will retreat to work in Taos, at a place that never fails to stir my deepest creativity.  I’d love for you to be a part of this retreat; to follow the story of a small creature in a big world, who believes in the magic of a well drawn, hand-written postcard in the mail box.  I’d love for you to join a young rabbit, who in spite of being a rabbit is quite the shepherdess, as she counts her sheep in a long lost language of rhyme.  Pitch a coin into the little donation basket being offered by these creatures. Be a part of their burgeoning adventures.  I thank you kindly for all of your support.

Happy December to all….

 

 

 

 

Ginger’s winter preparations… a new post card from Ginger Small

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It is autumn time and despite some sneaky warmth in the weather, Ginger and her friends know that winter cannot be far on the heels of fall.

And so, between jumping into leaf piles, gathering pumpkin seeds, and building winter-worthy nests, Ginger has made some new friends in the forest and they have swapped preparatory skills.  The field mice, experts in softening up a home with fresh mosses and mushrooms show Ginger around the darker sides of the forest.  Squirrels, the quintessential gatherers, share that putting up food for a winter pantry is as simple as gathering nuts and canning berries.  Simple things, when the work is shared among friends.

In return, Ginger teaches her woodland friends how to knit eensy sweaters to keep the drafts at bay and how to brew a proper pot of tea, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

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Ginger loves to make new friends, and to keep up with her old friends via the post.  She is excited to send postcards to all of her dear ones when she is traveling later this season, ready to get to work on her memoir.

If you are interested in hearing more from Ginger Small, just look here, here and here.  Til, then, do stay warm, and keep a proper cup of tea on hand.

 

A Golden Opportunity and a Call to Action

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It is a blustery and quite rain-drenched day here in the Ohio Valley.  Indoors, Ginger Small and I are carefully weaving together our plan for the work that will be done in just a few month’s time back in our home-away-from home in Taos.

But we need your help in turning this plan into a successful reality.

As I have mentioned before, I have the honor and opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in Taos as the Writer-in-Residence at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.  I go there this upcoming January with a number of ideas and characters adrift in the watery depths of my imagination, two of which are almost firm enough to touch.  I have Ginger Small’s adventures in pictures, collected over the years, which could use some corralling into story.  And there is a nearly finished picture-book manuscript which needs it’s pictures to come to life.  This is a sleepy-time book about counting sheep, and the shepherdess is a young rabbit named Edith.  I won’t give away much more, as I am sure Edith’s story will change and grow, much like Ginger’s has.

Edith and Ginger need my undivided attention and care to come to life in this world; to take shape enough that they may knock on the doors of publishers and printers. This residency offers me this chance to tighten up these stories and get them out into the world.

How can you help? 

I am aiming to raise $2500 between now and mid December which will assist with the following costs:

~airline ticket

~car rental for part of my time in Taos

~food and sundries

~$ to cover my time off of my day job

 

In exchange for your donation to this project, I will be offering some rewards:

$15 level – hand-printed, single color, lino-style thank you card sent to you in the mail

$25 level – A copy of the Eco-Chic Retreat DVD set (I am proud to be a part of this amazing film project. This reward was kindly donated by film-maker Jody McNicholas of Walk-in Productions.  Only 1 available!) (Update – this reward has been claimed and is no longer available!  Thanks!!)

$40 level – set of 3 Ginger Small note cards featuring a variety of images from Ginger’s best known adventures. OR sheep/rabbit images, your choice!

$75 level – A postcard from Taos! New Taos Themed Ginger Small images will be happening for this trip. We will have them professionally reproduced and then send you a handwritten greeting from our little cottage at Mabel’s.  (approx. 5″x7″, these will be sent as a post card, through the USPS and so will have the look and feel of the original postcards that started us on this adventure in the first place.)

$150 level – All of the above!!!!

$500 level –  Your choice of a one of a kind felted Edith (similar to 3dG and approximately the same size, about 4″ tall) OR an original sheep-themed watercolor, 8″x10″

Most of these rewards will be received by you, with my gratitude, during the month of January 2015.  The Taos postcards will be posted from Taos- to you while I’m at my residency Jan 5-19.  Felted Edith and original watercolors will be slightly longer in coming as they will be made to order.

Many thanks to you in advance for any support you have to lend.  Financial support is of course wonderful, but do not discount how meaningful it is to receive comments on the blog here and over on my facebook page as well.  I picture all of you in the stands waving colorful flags, and tossing handfuls of glitter and confetti into the breeze to keep things whimsical.  The world needs whimsy, and imaginary animals who go on the adventures we dream up.  Thanks so much for your help and encouragement!

~AHB  (and GS & EE, too!!)

(Click this image or the one just like it over in the sidebar to the right to get started!  Thanks!!!!)

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*A note on crowd~funding: As this is, in the grand scheme, a small scale fund raising project, I opted to keep it grassroots.  It is small enough for me to manage here and I decided not to engage Kickstarter or Indiegogo, as I might very well need to go that route to get these stories published into physical books one day soon.  But we shall cross that bridge when we come to it.  I plan to shop them around in old-school style a bit before opting to self-publish. Thanks again for your support!

 

“If only I hold very, very still”

n9i_xwhrPXa7OOAXkyDsGtbtwxF9NpYyjsnlolkkqWM3dG and I went visiting last week.  We found ourselves at the home of our friend and fellow artist Vanessa Sorensen for a quick bite of lunch and eventually, some photographs of shy little felted Ginger.

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There has been a great deal of origami going on over at their household lately as they prepare for an event to honor Martha, the last passenger pigeon who died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo.  There will be a flock of thousands on the lawn of Xavier University eventually.  Ginger was intrigued by their stoic silence and felt like she might be able to make a friend or two…. if she held very still and to hear the story of their downfall.

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It was quite cold and rainy on this particular day and so Ginger donned her magical cozy shawl to keep warm and dry.  We both love this time of year.

 

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Ginger enjoyed pretending she had on a long and autumnal ball gown.  Though she worried about getting tripped up in all of the crinoline.

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Many thanks to Vanessa for these wonderful snapshots.  It was fun to see what friends Ginger might make if she ventured outside…