My Paris Birthday, Part One and a Half

Beautiful Surprise


Sometimes when you have your mind set on one thing (Notre Dame) you are surprised and moved by a different thing discovered along the way…..maybe not as grand or as  monumental as the thing you were seeking, not as polished and elegant, a little bit more weathered and worn around the edges, but certainly worthy of a visit. So you walk in. It is then that you understand the value of never passing up the chance to investigate and perhaps be rewarded for your effort with an unforgettable experience.

Just a short block or so up in the square, a five minute walk, from our Hotel des Continents located at 25, Rue Jacob in the Saint Germain district of Paris we found the well worn little lady of a church named Saint-Germain-des-Pres – astoundingly the oldest church in Paris! Construction on its Bell Tower was begun in 990 making it the oldest one in Paris plus a belfry dating from the 12th century. It is considered quite a prestigious site for the Romanesque style of art and architecture and people have been attending services there for fifteen centuries. It was a Benedictine Abbey with a major intellectual influence over the course of all that time. From the outside it is rather unimpressive, but the gorgeously colorful interior takes your breath away. Reds! Blues! Patterned columns carved with Romanesque capitals that are among the very first of the Romanesque period line the passageways on the sides of the church. There is some much needed renovation going on. Paint is peeling off and colors are fading but it is all being restored to its rightful splendor as we speak.

I was astounded at the beauty of this church and visited again several times while in Paris for several reasons – it seemed to be the center of our familiar little neighborhood with wonderful shops down every street from the church. Also one of our favorite cafes, Les Deux Magots was just across the street from the church and we ate there several times and did some serious people watching. The Saint Germain district is a perfectly positioned area in which to stay, on the Left Bank and just a couple blocks from the Seine. Everything we wanted to see was easily accessible by walking or cab if it was raining. A pastry tray was offered to me at Les Deux Magots that raised the French pastry bar by several notches. I limited myself to just one since they were all the size of melons.


We  could hear the church bells ringing from that centuries old Bell Tower from our hotel room and the church had an outdoor Christmas bazaar happening every evening with rows of cute little wooden houses with red trim that we loved to frequent for food and gifts. Last but not least I loved this church because I am just a total fool for cathedrals and churches. They indicate so much about the people who lived centuries ago and that has everything to do with my art history courses at CU in Boulder, my own artistic gift and the ways I like to be inspired to paint and create, and then of course my sentimental longing to pay my respects to places of worship that have been so significant in the history of humankind. One of the rainy days when I visited the church a man was taking refuge there.

IMG_1977   IMG_2085

On a freezing cold night with strong wind stinging any exposed skin, we bundled up and braved the situation to have our dinner standing up outside at a counter at one of the Christmas booths at the church – Raclette at its finest! Gooey melted cheese, scraped dripping, bubbling and hot off a huge cheese wheel then combined with thin sausage slices, slathered onto a French baguette cut lengthwise. Oh! And with a side dish of the best scalloped potatoes I have EVER had being constantly stirred in an enormous wok-like pan on a burner. I asked her what the recipe was for those potatoes and she told me in English with a lovely French accent – of course heavy cream played the biggest role in that yummy concoction. It was honestly one of the best meals we had in Paris and it was well under 15 Euros, and we had to brace ourselves against the wind as we wolfed it down.

One night it actually snowed which is a rare and wonderful freak of nature in Paris and we also happened to be in the square next to the church. Well, absolute crazy chaos ensued at the sight of snow coming down in flakes the size of cottonballs! Car horns honking! Sophisticated French folks yelling and laughing and catching snowflakes in their mouths! I wanted to invite them all to visit me in Colorado. (see photo of the church in snow above) We can show you some snow!

Days before I ever saw Notre Dame in Paris, which left me breathless and teary, I found this sweet little church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, and I am forever grateful for that. It reminded me of a lesson I already knew – beauty comes from within and is undiminished by age.

Please stay tuned for Part Two of My Birthday in Paris! Your response to this series has been quite amazing and much appreciated. I am also posting photos on Instagram under Jo Ann Brown-Scott,  The Creative Epiphany


The Witches Hat Experience

IMG_4753   IMG_4737   IMG_4735

IMG_4758   IMG_4736   IMG_4742

When I was an art student at U. of Colorado decades – many decades – ago, I was introduced to Meininger’s Art Supply in Denver, established in 1881 by Emil Meininger. It was already an institution then and by now it is a monument; family owned and dedicated to the passionate pursuit of creative arts. It is a supply destination with a beating heart. My own artistic soul found every tool, book, easel, paper and paint that it needed there and still does. A trip to Meininger’s, be it the Denver location on South Broadway, the Boulder location on The Hill or the Colorado Springs location is like discovering the art Mecca. You can learn more in this link:

In 1922, Emil’s daughter-in-law, Josephine, bought a cabin in the Insmont area of Bailey, Colorado,  on top of a hill overlooking the picturesque South Platte River about 45 miles southwest of Denver. They named the cabin Blue Jay Bunk after the Stellar’s Jays in the area and Josephine and their four children, including Henry (“Cap”) Meininger, spent summers there without inside water or electricity for many years, while her husband, the elder Henry “The Chief” Meininger, worked at the store Monday through Friday. He took the Denver train to Bailey on the weekends, and the cabin became a popular place where he and Josephine entertained family and friends.

“Cap” Meininger died in 1991, and left Blue Jay Bunk to his children, including Henry pictured above on the left, with his son Judd Meininger. Henry lived in the cabin year-round throughout the 1970’s making improvements and cutting cords of firewood for the winter, while still commuting to work at Meininger’s in Denver.

“Next to Blue Jay Bunk are three houses running down the hill, all built about the same time as the cabin in the early 1900’s. All the old houses, having been built as summer cabins for fishing lodges and summer camps, have needed much restoration and upgrading to keep them from deteriorating. In 1985 Henry married Betsy Palin and together they bought the green house next to the cabin, and Henry’s sister bought the white house next to that. Henry eventually bought the house at the bottom of the hill that has always been called Witches Hat for its conical roof. Henry bought that house and had it restored just in time for his son, Judd, to be married there in 2011.”   excerpted from the brochure titled Meininger’s Insmont Retreat, Bailey, Colorado

Yesterday I was fortunate to find myself arriving at Witches Hat with my artist friend Peter Heineman who was participating in the Golden Triangle Museum District plein air paint out, an event hosted on Sunday by Henry, Betsy and Judd Meininger. Peter remembered the property well, having spent time there when it was owned by Larry Weckbaugh even before the Meininger’s purchased it. Good times were had under that roof, and another of Peter’s friends, Bill Fifield, was the woodworking artist who hand carved much of the interior detail surrounding doors and mirrors, plus adding his personal touch in other areas of the cabin.

The day was perfect with fall colors, Colorado’s deep blue sky, the S. Platte gurgling along across the back meadow, artists with easels sprinkled throughout the property and great stories from Henry and Judd about this legendary property. The whimsical Witches Hat house is like nothing you have ever seen, with old photos and funky art, a well-loved and hard-working kitchen, nooks and crannies, additions and secret places to explore, all arranged around that famous high-ceilinged cone. If those walls could talk! Betsy had a lovely lunch which we enjoyed outside on the deck, topped off with a cookie assortment and a tray of the fanciest, most chocolate-y pastries, contrasting nicely with the rustic rural setting. It was a day to be remembered…thanks to a family that has meant so much to Colorado artists and the history of art in this area. Who knew that some fine day, far into the future of one freshman fine art student at CU who knew to shop at Meininger’s, such a day would come. Life is never dull, is it? Many thanks to Henry, Betsy and Judd Meininger – a family I had always admired from afar – for making some grand memories for me.

Denver‘s Golden Triangle Museum District is home to art galleries, a first Friday artwalk, restaurants, bars and popular arts attractions like the Denver Art Museum …

See Peter’s artwork at

For more photos visit my Instagram account at joannbrownscott

See my art at and

Book – “The Creative Epiphany, Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations” by Jo Ann Brown-Scott and visit



The Creative Epiphany – Sunday Mornings in America

thSPERQ3JF    norman-rockwell-sunday-morning[1]    th1I04LHYV

Norman Rockwell’s (1894-1978) Paintings, titled TRIPLE SELF-PORTRAIT,  SUNDAY MORNING and ART CONNOISSEUR,


For many people I know Sunday mornings are special. Sundays mean various things to various people but without fail they are different than any other day of the week. It is not a religious thing to which I am referring, although certainly that is an important component of many people’s Sunday mornings, but for me Sunday mornings do seem very much a spiritual thing. A loosely structured ritual, worshiping a way of life. It is a renewal of sorts – a chance to catch up on a little sleep, a chance to linger in bed which is a treat in the coldness of a winter morning, listening to the quiet sounds outside your window. You might decide to turn on TV and watch SUNDAY MORNING with Charles Osgood, a lovely program that always feeds my soul with stories of art, literature, film, food, music and other uplifting information. It renews my appreciation of creativity and often I am inspired to paint the afternoon away after watching it, or go see a film that has been discussed.

Scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and jelly – or maybe blueberry pancakes and syrup – the kitchen comes alive and the smells are better than any other morning of the week. You allow yourself time to enjoy it, reading the paper, maybe you stay in your PJ’s until noon. Football! Ahhh – what will we have for snacks during the game? The Broncos come on at 2:25 against the Chiefs! Nachos? Burgers? A big hearty pot of chili with all the toppings? Brownies and ice cream for desert…who can we call to see if they want to come over and watch the game? We can have a pre-game football game out in the yard so tell them to get ready for that and dress warm. If it snows we’ll go sledding instead.

In my mind, since I speak the language of art, I always visualize Sundays as Norman Rockwell occasions. For me, that fine gentleman artist whose illustrations graced the covers of the  SATURDAY EVENING POST magazine captured the essence of how we live, what we do, what occupies our thoughts and what things warm our hearts. He was a true American artist who chronicled our lives in realistic, emotional images that will live forever. I have at times lived a Norman Rockwell kind of life – difficult to sustain but never the less do-able at certain moments in time. Memories are made of this, as the song goes. Sundays are for the best of friends and family. When I count life’s blessings, I will always remember Sunday mornings and the people I spent the best ones with. You all know who you are.

The Creative Epiphany – Thanksgiving is a Week Away


photo courtesy of


photo courtesy of

It is 13 degrees here in Denver tonight and Thanksgiving is a week away. The snow is coming down in  large cotton balls and people are in the holiday mood – planning menus, already buying gifts, decorating homes and usually shopping for turkeys right about now. I will never forget the time we were living in Great Falls, Montana at Thanksgiving time – it was about 42 degrees below zero ( not kidding) and after choosing the turkey at the grocery we put it in the trunk of the car and did some other errands. When we got home, I lifted the turkey out of the car and it was so heavy I lost my grip and dropped it on the garage floor concrete where it immediately shattered into several huge pieces, having gotten so cold that it was like a giant ice cube. We gathered up the fragments and roasted them all like turkey puzzle pieces in the roasting pan.

It isn’t difficult to find humor in turkeys. If you have ever visited a turkey farm, as I have, although for some strange reason I do not remember where that was  or why I was there, (I also saw pigs slaughtered one Saturday morning when I was a kid and immediately realized that my parents had used bad judgment in thinking I was old enough at age 8 to witness that murderous scene) you have probably heard all the jokes and true stories about what stupid fowls turkeys are. I guess  probably you have heard it all without even visiting a turkey farm and that would be the best route to take since my memories of the turkey farm are not the type of info I’d want to share with you. Not as gruesome as the pigs but still unpleasantly memorable, for an entire lifetime. They are humorous birds and yet they endure a lot of human-inflicted misery. Then they arrive at their final destination – a kitchen.

Cleaning a turkey for roasting is rather disgusting if you allow yourself to think clearly for just one minute about what you are really doing to an enormous bird that could no longer get his body off the ground to fly because it got so fat at the hands of its keeper (certainly through no fault of his own) and that he probably was no longer able support his weight even to walk at a brisk pace, and so he gobbled and  hobbled and sort of semi-strutted  around a pen with his feet constantly squishing through filth. No I am not on a crusade here – I am not speaking for PETA or some other turkey related “Save the Turkey” type of organization. I speak only from my own experience, purely as a turkey fixer at Thanksgiving.

Live turkeys are not what I would call a pretty sight either – except for turkey lovers – but I guess I would agree that they are fascinating in a squawky  kind of way.  But raw turkeys are much worse. That neck of theirs, once it is cut off and naked of feathers, is especially awful. To see the drumstick-legs brings to mind the bird feet that were attached to them and what they spent their lives stepping in. The heart, the liver, the gizzard – no thanks. Hopefully you got your bird from a place that cleaned it really well before you took it home, because through the years I have found some sloppy surprise remnants of turkey parts in with the edible stuff, so keep your eyes open and aware.

It is a great thing that Thanksgiving is the one holiday of the year that allows us to simply be thankful for friends, family, food, shelter and all the other blessings of life. It is the perfect day for finding comfort and pleasure in being at home with a home-cooked meal, or a place that feels like home and enfolds you. Usually there is enough going on,  with all the people you love the most arriving, that it takes your mind off what just happened in the kitchen, and most of the guests are happy to see only the finished product turkey as he is paraded out all browned and roasty and smelling of herbs and butter.

I am wishing all of you a truly wonderful Thanksgiving Day – one that warms your heart and reminds you of everything that is good about families and friends, and even total strangers who sometimes show up as “strays” as we call the them – invited by us to share the meal although we barely know them at all. It is a day for sharing the love as well as the meal.

Best Wishes and Thanks to all of you – my readers.

I am thankful that you care enough to follow what I have to say. I am blessed with your time and attention.



The Creative Epiphany – Wherever You Go, There You Are

fragile From Northern California back to Denver…..

On the fifth night in my new residence, dead tired from unpacking and lifting and climbing stairs and settling in, I woke in the night wondering where I was. It was as if I had been in a coma and regained consciousness, and had no idea of my location. Without moving a muscle I looked around. There was bright moonlight cutting through the deep purple darkness  in long narrow slices made by slatted blinds I swore I never bought.  I was wondering – which window was it? I don’t have a window like this one, do I? What room am I in? Where am I? Oh yes, I gradually realized. Someone had moved my bed across 3 states and put it down in a room that didn’t make any sense to me…yet.

When you change your residence you don’t have to be half asleep to wonder where you are. Moments of confusion come at unexpected times when you can’t comprehend how it all happened, although it was a 3 month process. You need something from the fridge and you open the pantry, you turn right headed for the bathroom and it takes you into the laundry room. If you get up at night for a drink of water you impact the wall where you thought there was a door with such force that you wonder if you broke your face.

Moving is not easy. But it is worth it, if you are fortunate enough to have done it for all the right reasons. In my previous blog post, titled SURFACING, I gave you enough info to know that this move of mine has been a wonderful leap, coming at a time in my life when recharging the batteries of my heart and soul was the right decision. Moving is always a major jolt and a chaotic endeavor, however, no matter how you plan it and attend to details. The members of my family do a lot of it. We are all gypsies who will leave point A and flash forward to point B for reasons of career opportunities, quality of life and being closer to those you love most. They said one night on Animal Planet that all the great migrations of the animal species are made for just 3 reasons – plentiful food, water and mating opportunities. Some things are just universal.

My brother and sister and I were born in Ohio and we have made our individual journeys to the West with relish and perseverance. Kind of like Sherman’s march to the sea. We burned some bridges behind us in the process but it was worth it and no one was injured. Then one of us moved back east again, but south. We Ping-Pong around.

It is an energizing event in life – the move. It wakes you up at your deepest core, at the very least. It requires a great, complicated  thought process to purge and pack. I have it down to a system, having moved about 25 times in my life. Each of those times, I learned more and refined my process. I have dozens of tricks and short-cuts up my sleeves by now, learned in the deep trenches of relocation suffering. My sister says I ought to write a book about it. But I am too busy doing other fun stuff.

I actually enjoy waking up in the night wondering where I am. I look around for clues and it comes to me eventually. And maybe some far off night when the clues in the darkness make no sense at all to me, and the familiar answers as to my location do not filter into my mind, well then… moving days will be over.


The Creative Epiphany – Your Place or Mine?

I have said it many times.

If you have a place where you can go to find peace, renewal, solace, healing, inspiration, joy, refuge, answers, enlightenment or comfort then consider yourself fortunate and blessed. It need not be an actual physical visit to a place. It could be a mind’s journey, a meditation, a visualization, a remembrance of a place. But being there – in this special place – whether in body or mind – provides you with what you require to proceed with your life, with your year, with your month , with your day, or with merely another hour. You gain courage, purpose and  desire just by being in the aura of this place that is so magnificent in its restorative powers that it brings chills to your arms and strength to your soul. It is a place, but for you it is also a shrine. You worship there, in any sense of that word that you desire.

This place need not be grand. It might be as humble as a bench under a tree. But to you it is a connection to the universe, as grand as any cathedral. You know things after you pay a visit there. Answers come to you, or the peace of knowing that it will be alright to live without them. When something happens, some thing that disturbs and confounds you, you get to your place. It might take some travel to get there – it might be a true pilgrimage getting there. You might be saving things up for when you will arrive, carrying an agenda of all the concerns and worries accumulated from days and weeks, so that as soon as you make it to your place you can place them before the universe and learn how to solve them or perhaps find the strength to continue to carry the burden of them until you are given greater insight as to how to lighten your load.

Or you might arrive at your place brimming with joy, running ahead, laughing and carrying only the need to express thanks for the many blessings you have received. That is the experience I had this week…being in one of my own favorite places where I could express my thanks to the universe for all that I have experienced in this life, this glorious, amazing life. I worshiped nature, I drank it up in big gulps, I was in awe at the beauty around me and as a humble artist I was vastly inspired and reminded of my own place in the greater scheme of things. I felt truly alive, every nerve ending at full attention. Sensory overload unabated.

Where did I run away to, from here in the midst of utter chaos, as I prepare to make my move to Denver? What extraordinary place could lure me away from my endless, compulsive schedule of packing and preparing to take my entire life to another location? Where did I feel it was most appropriate to say my fond goodbye to the incredible geographic diversity that is California?

I was in Yosemite Park of course – the place where magnificence was born.