Courage, dear heart

For years I’ve taught students with little round watercolor palettes. They run smooth pale colors in wet streaks across highly absorbent  paper. I’ve told them that the colors will darken just slightly as the water evaporates when drying, but to leave white spaces if they wish for brightness.

As I venture into watercolors for myself, I have chosen to experiment with Windsor and Newton’s Cotman line. I need permanence as well as bright and vivid colors, so I’ve chosen a tube paint for my first project.  I also need some bolstering of the spirit as I’ve had one girlfriend after another show up with hearts heavy this week. They are dealing with loaded  plates, stuff like child and parent cancer, heart attacks, and a “no-cure on this side of the rainbow” response for ALS.

I gathered flower photos from my time last year at Butchart Gardens, more that I took in my girlfriend Sara’s garden, and some from my time in the Netherlands at my mother-in-laws.  These, along with C.S. Lewis’s quote “Courage, dear heart” is what I need now, in this wet and dark pacific northwest spring.

So here’s to courage, bright, sparkly pigments running from my brush, and memories of happy garden days behind and to come.

Party Lights

Anna is one of the girls who I mentored when she was in high school. She’s getting married now and I went over the other night to help her with her bouquets.  They are charming! I know that’s not a term widely used for flowers, but hers are not the usual wedding flowers.  We started with piles of vintage buttons and wire to create one of a kind flowers to make her unique bouquets.


I think they are adorable, but we were lamenting the need for more large yellow vintage buttons. It looks like she’ll need about 30 “flowers” per bouquet.

One of my girlfriends shuttled my kids to the same places her kids were going and I went out to breakfast with DH before he had an interview.  Luckily, we had to drive through Portland, so we went to Mother’s. DH had a scramble and I had the salmon hash with pork apple sausage. (I had to substitute out the eggs, I’m really not crazy about eggs.) There are old hitching rings all along the streets in downtown Portland. This is one across the street from the restaurant.


Anna’s brother just graduated from highschool and their father picked up these very cool lights for the backyard.


I looked around and found some more outdoor party lighting at Gamasonic, Mr. Light, OOga (look under their commercial lights).  Since I still have one more party to host this summer, I keep looking at outdoor spaces.  I’ve finally found the right combination of plants for the patio. (This is completely dependent upon what the deer will and won’t eat, mind you.) They don’t like my sage, thyme, peppermint, lavendar, or siberian iris bulbs, so that’s what I get to grow there. I know it’s a bit limiting on the color scheme, but I’m so about low maintainance and not spending money on plants that just get eaten.


It may be a little early, but I’m starting to brainstorm about the prize for the birthday post this August…

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After the many hours I put in last year making the birthday party season beautiful, I made an announcement. I would throw a party this year if everyone decided on one theme. One theme, multiple parties. (I don’t relish the idea of a whole passel of mini-munchkins AND a whole passel of larger munchkins at the same time, so I was okay with multiple parties.) So we threw this party more than once, and everyone was very happy.

We started with the invite (upper left) that the oldest munchkin designed in Photoshop.  The border on the envelope is adapted from a downloaded publisher or word envelope template.

Once the guests arrived, they visited the ticket booth to get their marble bags and ticket punch cards.  I thought about getting tickets but didn’t want to pay for a whole roll.  Also the thought of cleaning tickets out of my grass for the next three years was terribly unappealing.  So instead we went a greener path and simply gave everyone ONE ticket with 50 numbers on them.  As they played the carnival games, the ticket taker would mark one number off their tickets.











We had the guests guess how many gumballs were in a big glass candy jar and write it on the back of their tickets.  We kept count throughout the party how many gumballs were given out and at the end of the party we gave a prize to the guest with the closest count.

When the party lulled, we served corndogs and popcorn from a popcorn machine.  They could also use a ticket to get cotton candy, chips or Annie’s “healthy” goldfish or chocolate bunnies. It was an altogether unhealthy menu, being as it was a carnival. I didn’t, however, go overboard on the candy.

We ran a big bingo game when the other games slowed. When the games were all finished, they could choose to trade in the marbles they’d won at the games for prizes.  I knew that some of the kids would opt to keep their marbles, what I didn’t bet on was that the little kids would all LOVE the gumballs. (There were not any left over from the first party for the next.)  Last of all, we brought everyone inside for cake or pie. Every single guest left cheerful, so it was a rousing sucess!


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First day of Summer

I know that the first day of summer is a little ways off on your calendar.

I know that the rain is coming down in torrents outside my door.

I know that most kids in the Northern Hemisphere are still in school.

However, I have no more classes to teach, no more papers to critique, no more carpools to drive. Therefore, I am out for the summer!

My own art began in earnest today.  I shoveled my way to the desk, cleared a space and began to draw.  I’m really quite pleased that it really was no harder than that.  We’ll see how the regimen goes for the next 100 days or so, but I’m hopeful, very hopeful, that pen and paint will be set to paper around here.

A lovely little something to jump start your summer, Small Magazine, an on-line children’s zine, arrived in my mailbox today. (Just click on the link and you can read it too!)  Australia is not heading into summer, but there is a lovely new issue of Papier Mache out.  They’ve also just increased their publishing times to four editions a year. Yeah! I miss

Cookie magazine, but these go a little ways toward replacing them. (At least in my mind…)

There are some darling raised beds at Little Cotton Rabbits I wonder if her contraption would have protected my tomatoes from the horrid batch of hail we got the day after I’d planted the garden. (My plants did survive, but they were not happy and now have yellow leaves all around the base.)

What triggers your sweet childhood memories? For me it was these leaves, spotted at the zoo. I had not seen leaves like this since I was five. We lived in Pennsylvania then, and there was a wood at the back of our property.  I wandered through the wood and came to a little glade.  The glade was full of nothing but these leaves.  I was tiny and they grew up around my waist. I reached down and picked one. It was a perfect parasol on a bright sunny afternoon…

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Did you miss me?

I’ve missed me.  I sprained my ankle stepping out of a streetcar in downtown Portland, and then walked all over the zoo with the munchkins the next morning. Bad choice.  It retaliated by swelling up to an unwieldy size and refused to subject itself to any weight whatsoever.

At least I have photos of the animals!  I’ll be using them in my artwork this summer, so it was a much needed trip.  Here are a few of the ones that are good as stand alone photographs.  (The other photos are just for reference for my drawings and paintings.)  Several of the animals were very frisky and playful, including the otter and the walrus. We only saw half of the zoo this time as we had another appointment that afternoon, but it gives us an excuse to go back again once more.  The littlest munchkin was in the mood for sharks and squid, but we found that we would have to go to the aquarium at the coast for the warm water animals. (Not a bad idea for the summer months.)  There was a warm room for the penguins, however, and they were very active.


The animals below were mellow, so mellow in fact that one of them is asleep and another is dozing on his feet. Sometimes I feel like that, don’t you?


We also stopped by a few farms last week and picked up some farm fresh eggs and honey.  The munchkins were along and were given some quail eggs as well.



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Garden dreaming

Two more trees bloomed this week, both apples.  They all take their turns and I feel like I could call out their names from the conductors stand on the balcony.

I’ve just realized that all of my trees blossom white; cherries, apples and plums. However, at the front of Deer Haven, everything besides the daffodils blooms in various shades of purple.  Speaking of purple plants, if you have deer, take note that they really have turned up their noses at my Hyacinth, Hydrangeas, and Lavender.

While in Seattle last week near Pike’s Place, there was an international news and magazine stand. I was tickled to run across it and searched until I found just what I was looking for.  Marie Claire idees, spring 2010. This lovely French magazine jump started my thinkings about my garden in the most pleasant way possible.  The trick for Deer Haven is how to create small spaces out of large, flat, plain jane spaces.  I just love their cozy French patio room!

I’ve been thinking about “garden rooms”  in the landscaping meaning of the terms lately, due to the fact that I have three big outdoor parties to host in the next few months.

I have picked up furniture that lends itself to the shabby chic/garage sale special variety as well as a formal table.  What I don’t have is a green thumb or an already functioning landscaped estate.  What I found when I went looking for ideas was the concept of breaking up monotonous areas into “outdoor rooms”.  This could be created in so many different ways, but one that really appealed to me came with a set of downloadable plans!  Garden Structure’s website features a wonderful pergola and the design plan is all of

$25.   I also liked the idea of low walls in order to create a space without blocking a larger view.There are two on Sundance Landscaping’s website that would work for this.  One of them features low rectangular planters that would be just the right heighth to feed the deer. I mean, to grow vegetables. The other creates layers of walls, each higher than the last with plantings beyond the half height brick wall.

Next week I’ll show you a little chocolate shop I found in Seattle.

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Common Mother

It was only a five hour drive to another country last week.  We may even have gone up for the Olympics if I’d had realized how close it really was.  Nothing of those games remained besides the grumblings of the commuters about the shove of people on the mass transit while the games were there.

We got the benefit of coming after the games though in the hotel rates.  (They had a “spring special” on the website.)  We stayed at the Sutton Place Hotel and had two bedrooms as well as the pull out couch in the living room. The lobby was nice and the staff quite friendly, not at all stuffy about us being there with all the munchkins.

Our suite was much larger than I’d thought we were getting, and though a “bit” worn, perfect for us.  The munchkins took no time at all in turning the livingroom into a comfy space.

I’m really not much of a tourist, ever, at all.  However, I thought that we would like to experience a suspension bridge over a river and treetop bridges like ones in Myst, one of their favorite games.

We took the subway and the ferryboat to get there, which the munchkins just loved.

We only needed to stay for one night in B.C., to take care of some business there, so I hadn’t made plans for us to do too much.  It was very nice to just get a feel for the place in order to find out whether we wanted to come back.

I also found a little shop just down from the hotel, La Vie in Rose. Things were reasonably priced even though it was right on the main avenue.

I have to say that the whole city gave us a flashback of being in Europe, because of the British influence.  It’s so lovely that it was just a few moments over the border.  We really enjoyed our time there, and are already thinking about when we can go again.  It was cold while we were there though!

The sketch of the children is from Marguerite de Angeli’s Mother Goose Book.  The city of Vancouver had quite a few of the older houses on the main streets outside the city proper, similar to the ones back in the Netherlands as well as many Victorian homes of early settlers from England.  We stopped in Seattle on the way home, and I’ll show you  some places there next week.

These cities are a far cry from where my mother’s family grew up in Appalachia.  The watercolor on the left is from a book named Appalachia, illustrated by Barry Moser.

I ordered a wooden Indian stamp from England after watching a video on how fabric is hand printed in India.  The stamp arrived this we
ek and we are going to try it out in our fabric books tomorrow.  I’ll show you my book when we finish the class in four weeks.  It’s the same class I was teaching last semester, and I have just continued working in the same fabric book.  See the earlier photos here.

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Easter Table

Everyone is in bed and the bunny has come.  You can have the first peek if you’re still up!  I love to decorate our table on this special night.

The flowers on my mini tree are miniature flowers made following the instructions for Martha’s dahlias.

These eggs are simply cut plastic, but I love the way they sparkle and after the number of dyed eggs the munchkins broke today, I’m glad they aren’t glass.

The first of the three photos below shows a box with a purple ribbon.  I picked this up when we were in Seattle this week.  It’s a chocolate egg from Fran’s chocolates and I was totally intrigued by it!  The egg itself has an embossed surface and inside are chocolate chicks. Soooo cute!  I can’t wait to see the munchkins’ reactions in the morning.



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This is what I want my whiskey barrel herb garden to look like.  (Photo from B&B link below) Last year, it did not. Last year, it attempted to breed mosquitoes, until I found them and turned the whole mess over.  (Sounds familiar doesn’t it.)  It seems, according to this blog, Backyard Farming, that all I needed was a few good holes.  Hmm. I’ll be trying again, without drowning my plants.  I found a bunch of great instructions about pot gardening that I hope to try this year at Baking and Books.

I am both amazed and excited that All of the munchkins have decided that

they can share a theme for their birthday parties this year.  I can not tell you how pleased I am.  Of course, dh says “Why do you need a theme? Make a cake and buy food.”  He does not think like me at all.  The littlest munchkin is dreaming of candy, candy, and more candy, so I know that dh is not far off the mark.  However, this does not deter me. This is an oportunity to decorate!  Naturally, details to follow…

Patty brought me this darling miniature basket from Africa.  She was on a survey trip with her husband and ran across these in one of her girlfriend’s homes there.  It’s full of the deepest scented beans I’ve smelled in a long time.  It’s customary to share a bean when your friends come to visit.  They chew them up and then spit out the bean when they’re done.  I’m keeping mine for the scent as a reminder of friendship and travel.

We are on to our next city in the art history class I’m teaching on Fridays.  I chose China and showed the kids this very cool clip from a documentary on China. This week I found a straight forward guide to making simple paper for their first time.  It’s by Denise Fleming and will be easy enough for them to do.  I took a papermaking workshop years ago and loved it.  This particular class of kids is very inquisitive so I think they will enjoy it too.



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The garden and a tea party



I was inspired this week by the artistic trailer of Tim Burton’s new Alice in Wonderland. (I haven’t seen the movie itself yet.) I just love films that have such an art center. Half the time I could simply turn the sound off and watch the art go by! (Shane Acker and Tim Burton’s “9”, case in point!)

Here is a link for a clip and photos from Alice at  I also found a few other blogs who enjoyed tea party themes, including carousel of crowns and afancifultwist by Vanessa Valencia on typepad.

I visited my yard and garden on purpose today, for the first time since our short winter began. I’ve come to the conclusion that we really didn’t have a true winter. We had only one day of snow. (All of the rest of the U.S. had it for us this year.)  I took pictures for you as I took stock of the landscape.  The Don Juan rose was too delicate to survive the winter (and my black thumb), so I now have the mystery of finding out what color of rose the original rootstock produces.  The original rootstock is alive, well, and taking over the pot vigorously.

I was attemping to grow mosquitos, quite by neglect of course, but derailed the project by flipping over the undrained pot.  Sage is taking over the pot with chives sprouting early, but the basil and rosemary couldn’t stand their ground.  Dh was kind enough to drill holes in my waterlogged whiskey barrels, so hopefully they will grow the rest of the herbs this year.



The poor rhodedendron and rhubarb have over wintered in pots and were begging to be properly planted.

The lovely potted lilies from last year surprised me by finding their way up to the surface without any help at all.  I had picked up some lily of the valleys, Siberian iris’, and gladiolus last week and when we opened them we found they were already sprouting inside their boxes.  They are all planted now. We will see whether the deer like them for lunch…



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