December 06, 2014

Hair raising puppy raising.

Say hello to Lucy*, our almost 5 month old pup. She's a sweet, sweet gal and this week she taught me a little more about attentiveness.

Last Wednesday she was spayed and spent the night at the vet. When we went to pick her up we met with a new vet at the clinic who advised us to keep her quiet for the next two weeks. My response was visceral. As a thought bubble it read: Whaaaat? Are you kidding me? Do you know any terrier mix pups who are QUIET? She plays Attack the German Shepherd several times a day at home. 

The words from my mouth were a bit more exploratory and gracious: And how would you go about that? Shall we keep her in her crate? She's really good at running and playing most of the time. 

He went on to explain that she'd had major abdominal surgery and that healing comes through rest. Ah, that. I totally get it. I just haven't mastered the art of communicating that meaningfully to my pup. (Or any other pup I've owned.)

He provided a mild sedative. We brought her home and settled in for some attentive days. She was clearly in pain (even with pain meds) and didn't really wish to be more than a couple of inches from me or my Dear for most of her first day. In fact after trying to relieve pain by walking around, she finally settled in by falling asleep on her daddy's chest. Dads are awfully good for getting dogs and kids through a lot of what they go through. She's smart enough to have seen my girlie bury her head in her dad's big love. She followed along perfectly.

We had a shaky day or two, stopping her from attacking or responding to play advances from our 92 pound Max and attending to her whines in the night. We seemed to be managing. (Here's where it turns to a cautionary tale.)

This morning she was feeling much better, ready to romp in fact, so, after breakfast and her pain pill, we were working at laying low by hanging out in the kitchen. Quietly. Doors closed. Lights low. KUSC on the radio. Coffee brewing. Art beginning. When all of a sudden I heard a click. Something had fallen to the floor. I turned to see I'd absent-mindedly left the door open to the laundry room. (It was 5:45 am pre-java.) Lucy had found and dragged a liquid ant trap into the kitchen. Using my not-quiet-and-calm voice, I got my Dear to work calling poison control while I cleaned out her mouth, cleaned up the ribbon of dripping syrup and dead ants from the laundry room and kitchen and continued, panicking mildly. (After all that managing to keep the girl quiet, not jumping, stretching or licking -- I'd left the stupid door open.)

We started with a national Poison control number - they we fairly reassuring that the contents of the ant traps aren't a big danger to dogs. Then we contacted our local emergency vet who directed us to call ASPCA Poison Control - a much better place to call for pups than human poison control. After a thorough line of questions, we found she'll likely be fine. It turns out, these ant traps are made with some kind of sugar syrup and borax. Not so good for ants - deadly in fact, but less troublesome for pups. They provided a clear protocol and suggested keeping an eye on her. So far, so good. We also followed up with her vet when they opened and they concurred with the plan.

I think I learned a lesson - close the door. Or, maybe it's keep everything up off the floor when you have a puppy. Perhaps, just keep a watchful eye on the little ones. I suppose that makes the most sense. 

A last thought may be though, these wild creatures we love to share our lives with will keep us on our toes, upping our game at being attentive to the world around us. 

That's a good thing. 
I can do that. 

I can also keep the number for ASPCA Poison Control close at hand.

You can find it here. They're self funded and charge to do thorough casework. It's worth every penny.  

* Lucy is an American Sockhunter Terrier. Many ask if she's a mix, a mini-Golden Lab even part Chihuahua. But no, she demonstrates all the classic characteristics of the Sockhunter breed, finding, retrieving and perforating as many as 20 socks in a day.  

November 29, 2014

Turkey Stock - after 2 days - the real nectar of the gods

Our family Thanksgiving is full of traditions. There is always a whole fresh pumpkin pie stashed in the fridge for the day after Thanksgiving. Breakfast and leftovers wouldn't be the same without them. We also save a bag of rolls for cold turkey sandwiches. And, about 4 years ago we inaugurated Friendsgiving at out house. All traditions, entrenched.

The tradition I look forward to for it's amazing fragrance over the Thanksgiving weekend, is the making of Turkey Stock on the stove. I gather the bones and cart them home when my sister has Thanksgiving. This year we combined friends and family and had the dinner party at our house. So just after the guests left and my Dear was on the 3rd load of dishes, the turkey popped into my La Creuset Doufeu, with yellow onions and carrots and just enough water to cover it. I had also reserved the turkey roasting pan drippings and side by side they spent the next day reducing into the most wonderful stocks. Of course the small version from the pan was done the first night. This morning I let the big pot finish and drained the nectar to these jars. (There are 3 of them.)

I'm quite happy to have this brilliant base for soup -- which we can use almost anytime -- and for sauces. Someone was suggesting a Turkey pot pie, too. And since I made the (amazing) Torrisi's Turkey Breast recipe I found at Food 52, (thank you!) we may have just enough turkey left for a pie. Turkey soup sounds good, but we're facing 75 degree weather right now. When the temperature changes, I'll pull the stock out of the freezer, hopefully in December, and make a beautiful pot with fat noodles.

I had a wonderful experience with Ina Garten's make ahead gravy this year. I had a jar of chicken stock for the base. The recipe calls for chopped red onion, butter and flour and seasoning. I added drippings and a crisp white wine when the turkey finished and it was so good. Next year, I may make a turkey around the beginning of fall and save that stock for the big day.

Thanksgiving with all its traditions is an evolving tableau. This year we added a wild rice dish and my son's new favorite, Mrs. Board's chopped sweet potatoes. (He fell in love with them, so those sweet potatoes in jackets just had to move over on the plate and give space to their bright orange goodness.)

Thanksgiving is such a creative and inspiring holiday for me. How about you?

November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving & Julia and Ina and me.

I'm often surprised by, well, the surprises my computer brings forth.

Today, prepping, cleaning, making leaf garlands for our Thanksgiving Day celebration I clicked on iTunes. I thought I'd listen to my pal Christine's Thanksgiving playlist -- amazing -- with Appalachian Spring and Natalie Cole all in one fabulous hour or so of music. But, iTunes started a fantastic podcast from July of 2009 on the Chef's Table. (I had no idea I had this podcast.) It focused on Julia Child and the movie, Julie and Julia. Lot's of people talk on this wonderful program -- as I listened I thought about Julia Child and her whole-hearted living. Fantastic. Wonderful. Amazing.

I also heard Nora Ephron talking about the script and her book and movie, Heartburn. And I felt that thing I love so much -- deep, quiet, almost spiritual connection. I cook all the time. I have since I was 13 years old. I try new things like when I was 13 and made a warm chicken salad -- flash cooked lettuce -- yup.

It made me so happy as I look at Thanksgiving in a couple of days. My turkey is in the fridge, wrapped, as Ina Garten suggested in plastic wrap, holding a brine, and getting ready for tomorrow. Every other week or so, I make Ina's Perfect Sunday Roast Chicken. I love making it. The scent of thyme and lemon and garlic floats through the house. We eat, slowly, chatting, enjoying and later I make a stock for the freezer.

I'll be using the same style of cooking for this year's turkey. Entirely undaunting and I think of the process as fun and joyful and exciting.

I love the thought of these women, connected over time by a love of preparing and enjoying food. And I'm equally glad to be sharing their workspace and history as I plan for the party this week.

I hope your Thanksgiving planning is bringing you joy too.

September 17, 2014

Happy Birthday Pop - Again

I'm reposting the post about my dad from 5 years ago.
It's his birthday and the loss is upon me.

I can hear him singing car songs in my head. And I hear him calling my girlie Roxy and Sahara, anything but her own name, as he plots for ice cream with her.

I miss my dad and all that we may have said.
September 18, 2009

Yesterday was my dad's birthday. He would have been 81, but he slipped through my hands in a hospital room a couple of years ago. Actually, he slipped through my hands when I was little and he left our backyard for greener pastures. My thoughts of him recently have been wide and wondering. I have thought about his deep rich voice and his love. I've thought about the unanswered questions that didn't go unanswered for lack of asking, but for the lack of clarity, depth and self-knowledge required. I have thought about his laughter and the way I often felt like he was in cahoots with me in some way of thinking or adventure.
A week or so ago, my friend John took us on a ride around the block. John is taking care of his brother's '63 VW Van (in perfect restoration). My eldest dug the backseat with the refrigerator and surfboard. And my youngest giggled with laughter, sitting in the front seat, being bumped as the very long stick shift shifted. The sound of the motor and the feel of the drive brought to mind the winter, turned spring then summer Dad restored my own VW. A '72 bright orange Superbeetle Convertible we'd bought for a song (well, actually, an aria) that went from wreck to vision in those long months. I thought about the anticipation, the updates, the long drive home when it was really mine and the music of the radio as well as the engine. I recalled the drives around the block to see how she was running and the thrill of knowing that this project would be mine.
Last night my daughter showed me the cover of her new journal, entitled "Dear Grampa." Without a word between us, she too has been thinking about him a lot lately. When she showed me the book, she explained that it's not for me to read. It is instead, a special place for her to share the things that grow in a young girls heart with the man who gave her five nicknames in five minutes, took her on her first nighttime swim and snuck candy to her from behind his back while I (kinda) wasn't looking.
So in this day my heart is full of gratitude, in the midst of oceanic loss, for the small things. And I realize with great relief, that small things drenched in the acting of love and held in our hearts, are sometimes the very big things in our lives.

August 27, 2014

Why didn't I think of that?

I walked out onto the vacation veranda to note these two ingenious girlies. Both were in full noodle float mode when I arrived on the scene.

Really, why didn't I think of that?

August 02, 2014

Paint the Pillows, Please.

I'm still very much in love with my Sketchbookery class.

These pillows were happily resting on my friend Joan's patio bench on her deck in Topanga Canyon. I believe she made them. A week or so ago, I spent a day there, soaking in the quiet. It was a little bit startling and fully wonderful.

Since we met 18 years ago, I've being at her home, but often wondered how working in LA balanced with the extra commuting time. This visit it all clicked. It was just she and her beautiful girlie and me, no party crowd. Quiet. At one point in the day, I actually sat in a chair with my head back and fell asleep in the canyon silence. Oh sure, there was the sound of a breeze off and on, but nothing like the sound of cars and people I get floating into my suburban quiet. It was so peaceful.
The pillow picture is a little remembrance of the day and the deck.

What I find myself loving about this sketchbookery way of coming at watercolor, is that I seem to be gaining some facility with the paints without the formality. I'll be so glad to go back later and get the ground-up detail of applying watercolor technique. But right now, Mary Ann Moss has encouraged me to just try to copy all I see. It's a brilliant way to become fearless! It seems that some of the detail is coming on its own.

I love the pillows, the friend who made them and the paint that got them onto the page.

What's making your summer special?

July 29, 2014

Susan, in Christ, remembered

It's time to share a bit about the struggle of losing my friend Susan a year ago. For a long while that struggle was at rest. Was. This past week though, was the anniversary of both her passing on and her memorial service. This past Sunday, her husband, Mike, spoke at five services at church. He shared the truth of God's faithfulness and the long, obedient, eternal view.

All the words, concepts, thoughts and feelings I hold around her struggle with a brain tumor and ultimately her passing, seemed to find their way into a rather long, trickling tear. For the twenty minutes or so that Mike spoke Sunday, and for these days following, that tear wells and rests in the corner of my eye.

I miss Susan. I long to finish the conversations we had going. There was so much more to say and to learn. Before the discovery of her brain tumor, we were planning a long, deep conversation, alone. Susan had some things she wanted to talk through. I'll always wish we'd had that dinner. It didn't happen because of timing. We were both busy moms and she just didn't like being away from her family at night so much. As I think about it, loving her husband and kiddos that way; with her presence, and taking the responsibility to be there for her then, young teens, just makes me love her all the more. She didn't want to compromise.

Susan was beautiful, especially in the ways she approached God and gave in - completely - to the truth of His grace-filled love for her (and for us). I'll say again, I miss her. She reminds me today that seeking after God and finding time alone with Him in His truth is sustenance for this journey. The struggle moves me forward. With great gratitude.

July 21, 2014

All I need is a good book.

Part of both art classes, Sketchbookery and also the Journey of Letting Go, is making an art journal with Coptic binding.

For my first attempt, I worked with Mary Ann Moss's version, a Coptic watercolor book with a chevron binding.

I'm very happy about the process and the outcome. This is the outside view, of course, made with three inner signatures of hot pressed watercolor paper, bound with bookbinding thread and utilizing a book with a perfect cover but expendable pages.

It's an arduous process for sure. Thankfully, I didn't hear the part about not making the book in one day until I was sewing the chevrons through that binding tape. It's probably best that way. Completion is it's own reward.

When I finished, I shared it with anyone who would look. My clan is supportive, with the greatest supporter, my dear husband, who would like to buy one from my store. (I have no store.)

Later, I kissed all my people goodnight as they peeled off to go to bed and when the last was gone, I went into my kitchen studio area (that would be the kitchen table) and put some paint into the book.

I worked from a picture on my iPad taken of my treasured Hebe plants and christened the first page. It's a working book, a place where I can learn.

Hebes & the Hebe Society

Hebes are beautiful. Mine are just about this color with this wonderful vibrant magenta, and some lighter pink flowers. My friend MaryEllen loves them, which made me notice them all over again. Noticing is good.

It was a rather happy day in my happy little art space.

How about you? What are you painting?

July 12, 2014

I'm a better cook because I letter

As I've mentioned quite a few times here, I'm enjoying a Sketchbookery class. This week, beyond making a sketchbook or two, we had demonstrations and lots of ideas around lettering. Pam Garrison showed some calligraphy methods. Here's a look at one of her fun designs:

Pam Garrison's wonderful art.
You can find more of her work around the net. But I say, start here.  

The lettering she demoed was similar to this style: 

To see the real lettering you're just going to have to take the class. Take the class!
It's a simple direction. Light on the upstroke, press down on the down stroke. Simple. And so confusing. Especially if you're trying to write in a lettering font style the same way you actually write. I find that I get ahead of myself and the simple instruction confuzzles me rather dramatically. 
So, I stopped. 
And looked at the video again and noticed that she was going slow. Slow. Enjoying the practice of getting the letters onto the paper. (For us to learn.)

I don't know if she goes slow when she's home alone in her art studio. But she demonstrated slow for us chimps in class and I had one of two rather brilliant AH HA! experiences today: Slow allows space for creating. It invites time to just be time which we can take to do what we truly love or want to learn or practice, etcetera, etcetera.

I slowed down and even decided to break the pattern of "trying" and zipping through. (Oh my gosh I know this so well. Why did I forget? When I was seriously working out violin passages all those days ago I went slow, slow, slow before I ever went fast. I know this in my bones.)

I made myself create the upstrokes and downstrokes separately -- breaking the writing pattern and they looked much closer to the demo.

Muscle memory is good. 
I remembered slow. 
And applied it. 
It was fun.

Then I returned to my comfortable artistic home, cooking, and made my kiddos their favorite Saturday Apple Dumplings. 
Taking time. 
Enjoying slow. 
And they really were more lovely than ever. 

July 11, 2014

A good morning indeed!

I've been too busy. 
A little work, time with my kiddos, my husband and my lovely, lovely Sketchbookery class. (The class starts again in December. Take it. Really. It's wonderful.) My doggie has needed attention and received it, but not the garden so much. So this morning I did what I used to do every morning. I took a little garden walk. 
See what I found? It's about the size of two baseballs. It was hiding beneath the strawberry leaves. And, there's another one too. 

After the garden stroll, I came in and looked back out the door to find my lovely companion and bestest pal, Max.

A good morning indeed.

July 10, 2014

Altoids Traveling Watercolor Paints!

Usually I go to the Art Store with my dear husband. He's happy to wander with me supporting my love of supplies. I'm happy to have him there and without saying a word, he's my Jiminy Cricket keeping me from potential overspending.

Well, I went by myself this week. During the day. Alone. And what happened? Well, I ended up with a follower, an artist guy looking for my expert opinion. I kept using the word novice and he kept asking questions. Before I meandered off without my paper he asked if I'd made an Altoids Travel pan. Well, no, I have a little travel set, but I heard him out. Upcycler that I am. Kinda.

Today curiosity got the very best of me and I found that unfinished box of Dark Chocolate Dipped Peppermints (ick - what were they thinking?)

Well, voila! The upcycled travel pan. I bet you could even add six more lids to the top and just close it when they dry. 

So, whadaya think?

What are you making?

I'm going back to my balloon page.

Oh, and thank you art guy. Hope you found that paper for landscapes.

July 08, 2014


In my Sketchbookery class, we did a complete page. What fun! 
I'm reaching back into my pre-kiddos days when I used to lug a sketch pad on airplanes and draw whatever I saw: ice in glasses, table settings, food and when that was over, shoes and feet. 
I'd forgotten I'd even done that. 
My dear reminded me that I used to sit and contour draw on our apartment floor. 
And now there's color. 

Our teacher, Mary Ann Moss, did a fun strawberry study. I'm super grateful my boyo is so very into peaches. I had a whole box to choose from. 

And, surprisingly, all the colors were just, well, there. 

July 03, 2014

More watercolor exploring -- the napkin

Inspired by Mary Ann Moss from her blog post and the "just do it" concept, I grabbed my favorite Ralph Lauren napkin and painted it.

I noticed two things:
First, fear and perfection will stop you before you ever begin anything.
Second, I can see and feel improvement as I go. This is the joy of the novice learning curve.

I've had these napkins for 24 years. (Really?) My good friend Michelle Purcell and I share a penchant for cloth napkins. I decided only table linens I love will end up in the drawer. These look pretty happy on a white (or blue or beige linen) tablecloth. And I eagerly await spring and summer, when they grace the table often.

Now, they're a part of my sketchbook for this class. Front page.

Ralph Lauren has created some truly beautiful floral patterns. I realize now that I was drawn to his linens because of their artistic quality -- not because of the high end label.

My favorite part

Eons ago I fell in love with this black comforter cover RL designed.

I still own it, even though it's a queen and I live with a king*. There's some creative stitchery coming to make it a part of my duvet rotation. But in the days I first saw it, I was in Maine at the RL store when a fellow shopper explained why RL's fabrics are so superior. Apparently he goes to great lengths to design and properly dye threads, applying color several times.

This is why the colors are so true and rich and hold so long. This is also why they sell on eBay as very rare finds, commanding good $$. I took my own pillow covered in RL's Alison print both times I birthed my babies and I love looking at the beauty they added to our happy hospital rooms. 

I'm connecting more deeply to the why of my proclivity. 
More painting to follow. 
The fun begins!

*Hi Dear.

July 01, 2014

Christmas in July

Perhaps not the Christmas in July you were hoping for. Me neither. It seems one of my lovely Charlotte Watson's Cake Tins was hiding some Christmas treats. From last Christmas.

No, we're not eating them. 
And yes, I'm changing my kitchen storage ways. 

They were a lovely tin of treats at the time.

June 29, 2014

A little pretty for a Sunday morning.

Good morning.

I'm taking a class, very soon, with Mary Ann Moss. So, I've been scooting around her blog and eyeing her vision, when I came across a link to Yao Cheng's 5 tutorials. The link wasn't working, but I loved what Mary Ann shared, so I keep hunting. (Here's a link to Yao's beautiful blog. I think she just got married. Happy Married Life to you Yao!) I finally found the tutorials on the Alison Show website. Here's the first of the 5 Yao Cheng's watercolor tutorials.

Pretty inspiring.
So when I was doing some creative calisthenics this morning (thank you Dina Wakely). This little blossom popped up.

I'm still new and I'm learning about how I love layering. And round sable brushes. I'm also learning that watercolor paper is better than the tags I "work out" with, but practice is what it is and I love the tags for this! (I got my tags for about $32 on Ebay. That would be 3.2 cents each. 30 cents a day. Thank you very much.)

I'm loving this June gloom summer sweetness.
At the table.
With the colors.

June 27, 2014

Garden dreams

I want to walk out into my garden and find this.
Now, how to?

I'm leaving my creative subconscious to work on this for a bit and then, I'm doing it! My 80+ year old mom recently planted a sweet potato, and the vine is growing up an obelisk in her yard.
Move over Mama, here I come.
Stay tuned.

BTW, what's happening in your summer garden?

June 26, 2014

Occupational Hazard

I asked my son if he'd grab my coffee from the table. 
Guess where the difficulty began.

June 25, 2014

A Little Birdie

This little guy showed up on a page of my art journal. He makes a sweet writing companion. 

And now, I'm working to find this color. Don't you just want to jump into the page?

June 24, 2014

Birds and Flowers

It might be time to step up and share the messing around. While studying, working, being a wife, mom, and GSD owner, keeps me busy and happy, so does cooking, writing and painting. For the last two or three years, the writing has been largely kept to the morning pages; three a day every morning in a spiral bound notebook. The cooking has been a bit on the fly and largely undocumented. And, this flirting with art has moved its way into my life. At first it was a gentle call, then tug, a pull, a shove. I feel like God is intervening for the sake of creating.

So it goes. I'm paying attention and taking a couple of online courses. Exciting! I love this one. And am fully dedicated to this one. Signed up for this one, too. Each of them offers a different focus and each is available for a full year or two so I can work as I go and take the space I need in my studio.

Which to many people looks like a kitchen.

I'm open. To being pushed. Pushing. Advancing this long awaited cause. I've collected art supplies and played around with paints, art journaling, etc. forever. So a big dollop of focus and a slug of intent gets poured into the cup and voila. Art. Emerging. Joy, too.

I'll gladly share that Janice MacLeod Lik and her wondrous book, (which you need to readPARIS LETTERS, provided some pretty big inspiration. Her book seemed to ignite something; combining the lingering influence of a post college Paris trip and all those revisiting references in literature and culinary studies. Once I put the book down, the colors and brushes came out.

Janice once shared that she's beholden to art supplies. Read the post, she might say she's crazy when it comes to art supplies. Her words were like permission. (Hilariously truthful permission.) So, off I went to snag the supplies needed for the block class. I learned all about Dick Blick (who, if we ever really meet, will be my favorite man in the world for a while. Diamonds? No thanks, I'll take art supplies.) and Jerry's Art-A-Rama and finally, the capitol of the world of art stores, Art Supply Warehouse, right here eight short miles from my home. They have everything. Everything. From the right block of beginner watercolor paper to the fanciest single block pans. Every Copic marker color and the paper it won't run through. Everything.
Janice would have a field day.

So now, all seems to be right in the world. I find myself a much happier girl and each day I want to wake up a little earlier to get something on paper before the world calls me into my next steps. I'm learning from words I've said to my lovey kiddos from their first days with color and paper: Art is an exploration.

I'm up for the exploring.

April 21, 2014

Counting Moments

Along the way, I read a book entitled something like, "The Last Time." It chronicled all the "lasts" moms go through. The last bottle, last book read before bed, last sitting on the lap, etc. Those things we don't really note, but we notice, especially as they're slipping or have slipped away. I can't tell you when I stopped cuddling each of my kiddos before they went to sleep. But I can tell you I miss it like crazy and it's just not on a high schooler's list of needs or wants.

Today I sat in awe and was completely aware that I may have been living a very sweet last. My youngest is well into her teens, and I was able to pull off a very fun surprise birthday scavenger hunt with a few friends for the whole day. I handed them clues and missions as we went. They performed their tasks loudly with great joy and gusto -- starting with pictures of each of them eating Swedish Fish in a candy store. They ran from place to place shooting pictures for me to clear before they could move on. Busy. Silly. Fun. They enjoyed each other tremendously through the process. I mostly, soaked up conversations and giggles (and every song they've ever loved) over the course of about 7 hours. The girlfriends did a wonderful job of making my doll the princess for a day -- running around main street USA and a favorite mall taking pictures of their wild (required) shenanigans.

It was lovely, sweet and the kind of fun you can have with a 15 year old who still needs you to drive and who doesn't really mind having her mama in and around all the girl business. It is a day I gave to her, which turned out to be a gift for my heart to hold forever. Perhaps a last. Perhaps not. But most certainly a true and beautiful allowance of a day to be treasured for the moment in time it is.

March 15, 2014

Words of a Proverb

"Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; hate less, love more; and all good things will be yours." ~Swedish Proverb

I'm not Swedish, but I do believe there's great, great value in considering and then adopting these thoughts.


Considering words

Yes. I want more of these in my life.

January 24, 2014

Andy Goldsworthy

Since I watched Rivers and Tides, I have loved the art of Scottish artist, Andy Goldsworthy.

See for yourself how wondrous his work is:


Or here.

Or here.

The movie is wonderful. And worthy of your time.

Happy New Year.


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