Remembering Holland Haus Gallery Night

While we don’t miss the snow and cold, we are missing our homeland of Wisconsin lately. Mostly the people with whom we developed close community.

We moved to Green Bay, WI fall of 2006 and lived there until 2011. We picked a lovely old Victorian home in Astor Park, the historical district of this sports crazy town. It was an awesome neighborhood to live in, as the neighbors were quite happy to participate in community, sharing resources, shoveling each others path, advice about gardening and sharing an occasional meal.

Holland HouseThe Hollands Haus was the perfect place for us share our gift of hospitality and creativity. The old Victorian had two levels and the downstairs held 5 separate spaces, including the  country kitchen. We held all sorts of gatherings in our home from musical jams, dinner parties, Settlers of Caatan nights, house concerts, spiritual gatherings, and our beloved Holland Haus Gallery Night.

Winters are long in Green Bay, WI, lasting sometimes until May and once football season is done, most folks start to go stir crazy. So it made since that Gallery Night was always in February, for one saturday night only, we would host 12-15 visual artists and a handful of singer/songwriters in our home. We would strip all of our artwork off of the walls throughout the whole downstairs and move most of the furniture to the back attic room. Each artist would drop off 3-7 pieces the night before the event and Craig and I would put the puzzle together. We’d arrange the pieces to not only to complement each other but also, thinking about the artist in each room and how they might interact with one another. Our hope was to build community, and so it was most important to us that the artists that participated or came, had an opportunity to continue relationship if they wanted.

The hanging process really suited us, with Craig being more on the logical side and me being ascetically sensitive, we complement each other well. The next morning, Craig and the kids would clean the house and set up the sound system for the musicians. Meanwhile, I along with a few girlfriends, would make food creations. Cheesecake was the highlight of the night (as the Galley night also doubled as my birthday) The house would buzz with energy and excitement as we waited for the guests to arrive at 7pm. They were always on time!

The first year we budgeted the event into our giving fund, paying for all of the food and wine but with 65 guests, it was to expensive continue. And, so our second year we asked for a $5 suggested donation. It was our lowest attended year, at 42. So our third and fourth years, we decided to ask guests to bring a bottle of wine/beer or a hunk of gourmet cheese. You have to specify the cheese in Wisconsin or you might end up with five pounds of cheese curds. None the less, that seemed to be the ticket, as the next two gallery nights would each host over 150 guests. All up, we hosted four in five years, taking a break after the third year, with our final year being the most epic.  

Natalie Vann ArtHow did we meet the artists you ask? Well, it started with one, Natalie Vann. I met Natalie on Myspace of all places. That was back when you could search zip codes and add criteria and then folks that fit that description came up. It was six months before we moved to Green Bay, and I was looking for friends, specially friends in the arts. Natalie was kind and welcomed me to Green Bay before I arrived. She introduced me to a few other artists as well. At the same time, we were apart of a spiritual small group and a few in our group were artist. Through conversations at those gatherings the idea to create an opportunity for artists both established and up and coming to show their work in a non-threating environment with no fees was birthed. The added bonus was inviting artists from all walks of like to commune, share resources and bring their extended communities together.

There is really nothing more exciting than seeing different world views, ideologies, income levels, ethnicities and creative styles come together in unity. That was what Gallery Night was for us. We were just the bridge. Our hope is that folks in the Green Bay area are continuing to see the value in creating and connecting with each other. I hope that we inspired those we met to be more hospitable. To reach out to those who are “visitors” and bring them into the fold.

We are grateful for our time there and although the bus offers a whole new way of community and connecting we will always remember Gallery Nights with such fondness. And, when we are feeling alone and uninspired we just look upon our walls, at the few pieces of work that we were gifted or purchased by some of our favorite Gallery Night artists and we remember.



Want to share a little love? Check out our friend Olivea Borden’s – Oli-Bo-Bolly, Buy a doll, Give a doll project.

Oli-Bo-Bolly Olivia is the eldest daughter of our dear friends, The Bordens. Now 15, Olivea as been sewing since she was 8 yrs old. She is a Colorado State Champion Seamstress and had her designs modeled in the Sustainable Living Fair’s fashion show in 2012 and 2013. Most recently, Olivea won the prestigious Global Leader Young Entrepreneur Competition.

Olivea has a gentle and creative spirit and during our December visit with them we really took note of her amazing work and humanitarian heart.

In 2013 the Bordens (all 7 of them) traveled to Nicaragua to volunteer and serve alongside other ministries for six months. It was a life changing experience for the family and especially Olivea who experience the poverty of a foreign country for the first time. She made note of the children’s lack of toys and dolls. As she met and got to know the children, her desire to be able to give them each a doll grew. In Nicaragua, the average family income is $2.00 a day and the purchase of a toy is rarely a priority. And so, when Olivea returned to the states she set out to do something about it.

The timing was right, as years before Olivea started Oli-Bo-Bolly, at the age of 11. Originally a project using recycled clothing to make new and creative wear and then just before the family trip to Nicaragua, Olivea made a doll for her art class. Little did she know that her first Oli-Bo-Bolly dollie would launch her into a whole new fantastic mission. She began to explore ways to facilitate the need she saw in Nicaragua and using the TOMS shoes model she began to share an opportunity for people to give. She asks for a modest $25 and for every doll ordered and she will make a second dolly for the children in Nicaragua. Her hope is that the gift of a doll will communicate to these children that they are loved, that they have value, and that someone knows they exist.

Her current connection is the Ameya Covenant Church and hopes to return to Nicaragua in May to hand delivering the first batch of dolls. She will also host a training for the women who currently participate in the sewing class at the vocational school, as well as others in the community who already have some sewing skills, and may be interested in making dolls too. Her mom, Diane will assist her on the journey.

Olivea’s motto is “Make art, not trash.” Knowing that over 90% of all clothing in our landfills is still wearable, she is committed to using as many recycled textiles as possible in the one of a kind dollies. Scientific studies have proven over time that natural textiles such as cotton, bamboo, & wool compost much quicker than synthetics like polyester, & so she will use as many natural materials as possible in the craftsmanship of the Oli-Bo-Bolly Dollies.

Olivea is currently taking orders and folks interested in participating in this fantastic project can e-mail Olivea directly at 

You’ll be able to choose your clothing color template, hair color, and skin tone.

Olivea says, “the dolls themselves are the What. And I, with your help, am endeavoring to be the How.”

Please consider supporting this grass-roots global local cause.

Oyster Creek Canvas

20130923-101242.jpgWe met Greg and his two children at our performance in Bellingham, WA. They arrived while we were setting up and we had a good hour of conversation. We learned that Greg owned a sewing shop across the street. Intrigued, we asked if we could come by and have a homeschool visit in the morning. He said yes.

The next morning, we made our way to the Oyster Creek Canvas Company. A full service canvas and industrial sewing shop specializing in marine canvas. As we made our way around the shop, Greg shared about his past experience as a deep-sea diver and purchasing his first sewing machine to work on personal projects. That turned into larger projects, an industrial machine, and a building with a large scale production shop. Add his welcoming smile and genuinely warm personality and you have a recipe for success.

As we make our way around this globe, it is encouraging to hear stories like Greg’s. He’s our global/local neighbor and if you ever get to Bellingham, stop in and say “Hi” from us Hollands! And, if you have canvas needs, Oyster Creek Canvas is the best in the bay!

ECM and Casa Shalom

IMG_8380In the center of the East Central neighborhoods of La Mesa and Trumbull there is a light that shine brightly. This highly transient, low-income neighborhood is vulnerable to devious activity but with a deep commitment to the ministry of reconciliation and a persevering spirit, East Central Ministries offers an alternate reality to one of Albuquerque’s most violent and poverty-stricken areas.

ECM was developed in the spring of 1999 by John Bulten as a inter-denominational missions ministry in Albuquerque.  John spent the first two years walking the streets, talking to our neighbors and the relationships that he built during that time continues to be the foundation of the ministry today. In the summer of 2001, ECM moved into a boarded up building that was being used as a drug house. They renovated the property and opened with two community programs, “Wings of Eagles” youth leadership program and the Community Food Co-op.

Over the past years ECM has evolved in several directions and has become a vital part of the community. However, ECM primary focuses continues to be to build long-term lasting relationships with their neighbors. This is a unique approach in a “social service” organization because they actually encourage people to participate in their programs/community on a regular, long-term basis.  They are committed to long-term development and economic projects within the community as well as providing community led classes and initiatives.

We met John when we arrived for our tour. His welcoming presence and enthusiasm for his work and neighborhood was apparent. We met Morgan who runs the Urban Farm, Becky and Katina who facilitates the community youth programs, Louise, Shirley and many others who live at the Housing cooperative, Casa Shalom. We also met Bob who manages Common Goods Thrift Store and the staff at the Community run health care clinic, One Hope, which is the primer work site for medical students at the University of New Mexico.

There was a lot going on at ECU! We observed vibrant life and a people with a commitment to continue to work out relationship struggles. That openness to seeing cracks, discord and seeking reconciliation was most encouraging to us. It’s one thing to care for the community around you, to have great programs but we believe to be a people willing to nurture and seek reconciliation in the most intimate relationships brings true life to the community around us. We know that commitment is what will sustain them through the years. We are blessed to have met these “Tillers” and look forward to more times of community with our new Albuquerque friends. We also encourage you to connect with them along your way. Visit for more info. Give them a call, they are your global/local neighbor.

Cornville Mission and Food Bank

“If Food is Love, then the Sermon’s in the Soup!” Cornville Mission Motto

The Roeller's
The Roeller’s

Greg and Debby Roeller spent more than half their lives serving in the church. Burnt out and tired they resigned, moved to the country and started to seek a slower pace. They thought they would find little jobs at local gas stations and live out the rest of lives quietly in the small town of Cornville, AZ. However, God is faithful and the ultimate reviver, giving purpose and strength to those who have none left. A few years ago the Roeller’s found their slower pace by taking on the directorship of the Cornville Mission and Food Bank.

They are perfectly suited for this roll and it was encouraging to hear their story. They are open, eager, persaverant and think out of the box. These gifts allow them to see past the cultural standards and reach deeper into community. Not only do they have a heart to see the church involved and connected but they also work to build relationships with the local schools, their neighbors, the fire station across the street and the local winery’s at the end of the block. Faith has been showered upon them and they told stories of poverty and food/donations showing up right on time. And, of town’s folk protesting their efforts to care for the downtrodden and then later finding themselves serving right along side the Roeller’s.


They live in community with the residence’s in the Cornville Mission apartments, including one of the Greg and Debby’s daughters, son-in-law and grand children. We also, met Ben one of their kinfolk, a wandering soul from Flordia, practicing the Lakota way. Ben was a beautiful fella, and with the encouragement of the Roeller’s is settling in and trying his hand as making and selling art in his trading post, at the mission.  Then there was Jacque, a peculiar and fun older fella from Boston. Jacque is the grounds keeper and right hand man. He lives on site in his trailer in the back of the food bank. We met others briefly and could feel the family tie. We were delighted to be their neighbors if only for a moment and look forward to being with them again.

If you would like more information about how to support the Cornville Mission please visit

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Family, Wine and Cats

This weekend we were invited to perform at the Snus Hill Winery in Madrid, Iowa. Set in the rolling hills of Iowa’s farmland, the award-winning family owned winery is a welcoming property surrounded by the bright colors of the autumn leaves and red barns.

The land was originally purchased by Swedish Immigrants, Charles and Hanna Larson, in 1878 and the winery stands upon their original homestead. On the hill-top of moraine soils left from the receding glaciers, the vineyards of Snus Hill were started in 1999 when John & Diane Larson planted the first acre of Frontenac and Marechal Foch. Each year was followed with another acre planted of a different variety. In 2003 and 2004, the dream of a commercial vineyard became a reality when Snus Hill Vineyard sold grapes to Summerset Winery. In 2005 and 2006 more of the Larson family joined the venture including John’s sister, Linda Melin and Linda’s daughter Melissa, her husband Chris and their children.

Chris was our host along with employee’s Sasha and Clayton and they graciously toured us around the facility. We were inspired by the family history and especially by Chris’s story of “coming home.” Married to Melissa, educated and working in Tampa, FL. With a child on the way, the couple faced a crossroad to the future. They had to decide if they were going to further education towards a safe career or enter the mystery and live the adventure of the unknown by joining the family winery. They chose to move to Madrid, IA and from what we could tell, they made the right choice. Chris shared about the learning curve, quality of family life and a dream for the future. Community minded, the Larson’s also share their facility for training purposes, and are involved in many community events.

The Snus Hill Winery name is reflective of the family’s Swedish heritage and their love of cats. Snus is the name of John and Diane’s affectionate and beguiling tobacco brown Burmese cat. The cat got his name from an old Swedish chewing tobacco (Snus). The white cat on the labels was chosen to represent their platinum Burmese cat.

Our favorite Snus Hill wine was the Marechal Foch and was exactly as they described…

“Earthy dry red wine with aromas of anise and mocha over dark berry fruits. This is an acid-driven wine which makes it naturally food-friendly. This wine can pair well with lamb, steak, and certain spicy foods.” Although, it was quite pleasant to enjoy on its own.

We look forward to another round through Iowa come Spring and we’re happy to call these folks are our global/local neighbors. Visit them at




















Kara Counard’s “The Women Over 90” Project

Kara Counard is one of the most inspiring people you could ever meet. We met her in 2010 when she came to one of our concerts. She ended up coming to just about every show that summer. In fact, she had come so many times that when she didn’t make it, we really felt like something was missing. She gave us that sense of “home.”

After a while we started to connect on a social basis in normal everyday circumstances, sharing lunch and dinner and we were even invited to a hula hoop party she hosted, where we learned to make hula hoops! And later, Grace and I were asked to take part in her 101 women photography project and it was then that we were introduced to the miracle of her gift. Yes, she can take pictures, but it’s more than that. She has this unassuming way of seeing life and her gentle spirit flows through all of her photos. She was able to capture us in a deep and meaningful way and I became a believer.

When it came time for our 2011 recording, “Ashes to Beauty,” we put the word out to several of our favorite artists and they all offered beautiful work, but when we saw what Kara whipped up we knew that we wanted her to be apart of the process. So, she not only did our CD artwork but she also took our photo’s and designed our limited edition t-shirts. It was an organic and pleasing process working with her.

Over the course of the last year we have kept in close contact as she has become our main link to our home, which never sold. She has lived in the upper and cared for the last of our past life with tenderness and respect. While we were in Australia I noticed an invite via Facebook regarding a new project Kara was working on. This one really caught my attention because it involved women over 90. That tapped right into my love and affection for the elderly and I was looking forward to seeing what Kara’s eye would capture.

I asked Kara a few questions about the project and these are some of her answers.

What is the heart and soul of this project?

I knew I wanted it to include were some kind of community involvement, some kind of focus on the stories of women, and a bridge or connection between groups of people who might not otherwise have met. So, the 5th grade girls at Chappell joined me as artists for this project. I went into their classroom to talk about photography, storytelling, light, composition, art, and interviewing. Meanwhile, I started photographing and interviewing women over 90.. and then far later in the project, the 5th graders actually took a field trip to Grancare.. where they split into small groups and interviewed and photographed 3 women for the project. Their photos and stories are alongside mine at the ARTgargage. I ended with 33 subjects from 89-100 years old.

How did working on this project impact you?

“I remember so many times when I was feeling uninspired or overwhelmed with all there was on my plate, I would go to a scheduled interview and leave with the biggest smile and lightness of heart. And I would drive by the places some of the women had talked about, where they grew up or had lived, and I would remember their stories. It all connected with my life in serendipitous ways. And I learned more about the foundation of this community that we live in. I share the stories of these women with so many people. I use them as examples in everyday life. And in that way they reach out and their beauty and lives spread. And, I learned so much from the 5th graders too! They are much braver than me with their cameras.. taking photos of ears and eyes and noses! “

My favorite capture was “Emerald,” who I happened to meet at the opening. What an honor to meet her. She was a sprite cat with a pleasant smile and lightness in her step. Add in the fact that she played the accordain and a great story teller. This is her story as told by Kara.

Emerald Conley- 92

“If my kids would allow me, I would go to the conventions, and I’d still be learning!” said the Bohemian Irish accordion player, who doesn’t play polkas!

Emerald Conley has always enjoyed a challenge. Her father owned Van’s Greenhouse. And when she was 3 1/2 years old, he showed her how to take a cutting and grow it. It initiated her love of a challenge which grew with her love and passion for music.

She began playing the accordion accidentally. Emerald first started playing the piano. For two years, she had lessons where she learned to read music well, and where correct fingering was stressed.. which came in handy! She had to quit lessons, because her parents couldn’t afford them during the depression. But in 1937, they offered accordion lessons to her sister, who starting on a 12 bass accordion, showed Emerald how to “pull two measures and push two measures.” Emerald caught on quickly, and she learned all the same lessons as her sister without any instruction. When her parents bought a 120 bass accordion for her sister, Emerald asked if she might take lessons too? She had to show the instructor that she could do all the lessons her sister could, and her sister quit the accordion shortly after, picking up another instrument.

Emerald grew up right next to Fort Howard Cemetery, and she would practice the accordion ‘til 10 or 11 at night, because there was no one to complain about her playing! 😉 When her teacher got his draft papers, he came by to tell her she would be taking over all his students. When she objected, he told her he had already told them she would.

After she was married, she traveled, following her husband who was in service in WWII. Her accordion went everywhere she did. Emerald spent years teaching and always perfecting her craft. She took lessons from the best of them.. and she can tell you all about making apple pie for the world’s greatest accordion player, Charles Magnante! She even got to play for him!

Emerald still practices daily, and she still gives lessons when time permits, saying, “I can’t take my knowledge with me!’

I didn’t get to make pie for Emerald but I did have the unique opportunity to “jam” with Emerald at a picnic that friend organized for us. The highlight of my day was strumming along on my guitar to one of Emerald’s Italian love songs while the living legend and stand up bass player, Ike Smith called out my cords. I’m sure I’ll be telling that story when I’m 90.


You can see more of Kara’s work at BLOOM PHOTOGRAPHY BY KARA.