Welcome Back

It's been a busy fall, and I can't believe it's Christmastime now! We just returned from a short but wonderful trip to the coast where I joyfully received inspiration for some new coastal art and lots of holiday ideas...I can't wait to start on these new collections!

I missed Cotton, who went to her doggie resort while we were away. She met a kindred spirit and didn't seem to miss us as much! Here's a picture of her (lower pooch) with her new buddy, Pilot.

I'll hopefully get a few blogs written next week...there's so much to share this time of year. Till then, happy holiday-ing!

Easiest Homemade Caramels

Apples; the taste of fall! 
Caramel Apples; the decadent, so-bad-but-so-good taste of fall!
I love to cook, but candy making can be a daunting task. So much depends on the humidity, how accurate your candy thermometer is, how accurate you measure and how fast you can work.

Well, friends, we're in luck. I have a homemade caramel recipe that uses a microwave with no thermometers or testing droplets in water...and it actually makes gift-worthy caramel! My microwave has 1250 watt cooking power, and on high this recipe made perfectly chewy caramels that weren't over or under done.
Recipe for Easy Homemade Caramels
makes about 24 caramels

1/4 cup butter (I use salted)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup (like Karo)
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/4 tsp. sea salt
8" square pan, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray (or use a silicone liner)
optional: wax paper for wrapping caramels

Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Microwave on high for 6 minutes, stirring vigorously to combine well every 2 minutes. Stir in the salt right before placing it in the pan, or sprinkle the salt over the caramel after placed in the pan. Place in the pan and let it cool in a dry place. Don't place it in the refrigerator (too damp.) Turn the caramel slab onto a cutting board and cut with a sharp knife into equal pieces. Wrap them individually in wax paper and keep in an airtight container.

Happy Birthday To You

My husband insists that, like his brother, he does not want to celebrate his birthday anymore. I still want to say...
Glen turns (I better not say) on October 6th
 So, out of respect for Glen’s wishes, there’ll be no party or cake or presents or card. But, you know me and celebrations; I just can’t let the day go by without at least giving my birthday wishes in some way!

Autumn Beauty at Dawn

As I sipped my first cup of coffee this morning, everything in the room turned to a coral hue. I looked out the sunroom window to find a perfect rainbow in the western sky.
I grabbed my tablet. Cotton and I scurried out the door to view the beauty that God sent us this autumn morning. 
Rainbows, sunrises and sunsets are all the more special because, like a flower, you have to enjoy them in the moment; the beauty doesn't last but through a couple of sighs. No photographs or words can do them justice.
As we turned away from the western sky, the sunrise in the east was just as spectacular. The small storm last night blossomed into a beautiful morning.
So, as Cotton and I walked the paths around our home, we marveled at the eastern sky...
and the western sky, sharing our secret joy of this early morning together.

Fall Already!

It's a cliche, but true none-the-less...time flies! One minute we're sowing the garden and, in what only seems a matter of days, it's time to preserve and then put it to bed. It's been a busy summer. It seems each year gets busier, and this is no exception. I'm working at warp speed to finish a 2017 calendar...yep, I said 2017! Most of my artwork doesn't show up in the shops until a year later. There needs to be time for revisions, manufacture, marketing and so much more. However, I couldn't let the first day of autumn come without a proper greeting.
My walk this morning made me realize that I should spend more time checking out the latest that nature has to offer and breathe in the fresh autumn air. It is good for the mind and body and so art-worthy!
I can't decide if summer or autumn is my favorite time of year; it's nice that they run into each other and share much of the glory. I especially like October, though. My husband has decided, along with his brother, that he doesn't want to celebrate any more of his birthdays, which is in the beginning of October. I, however, whose birthday is at the end of October, am always looking for a reason to celebrate. I want to celebrate every accomplishment, every victory, every birthday and holiday! This year I am looking forward to one of those milestone birthdays. I can't wait to celebrate it with my family; there's a fun shopping trip planned with new places to try out teas, pastries and all sorts of other goodies. It's nice to have celebrations to present us with pleasures we deprive ourselves of other times of the year. I don't believe calories go straight to the thighs when it is a worthy celebration, do you?
I really must upload some favorite fall recipes soon. I promise to do that, as soon as some art projects are sent to my licensees. Meanwhile, I hope that your first day of fall, and each day after, is filled with moments of awe and joy!

Patience, My Dear!

Although there are signs that autumn is trying to enter our part of the country early, I say,
"Have patience, my dear!"
Yes, the spring and summer houses scattered throughout our property are vacant;
the renters are enjoying the last of lazy summer days, fluttering among the pines and feasting on sunflowers.
The honey bees have chosen to enjoy the sweet nectar of summer a little longer, too.
The showers have made the "johnies" jump up in the oddest places,
but they can mingle with the summer blossoms until it is their time for the spotlight in a few short weeks! 
Meanwhile there are tomatoes to savor and
the never-ending summer squash and cucumbers. Yep, those are apples in the corner...a few are ready to pick, but I am going to wait at least another week for them to sweeten even more.
Meanwhile, maybe there will be time for one more (maybe two if I'm lucky) lazy afternoons to dream and read and sketch and enjoy the last days of summer 2015!


Tis the end of summer and the season for plump...
a 10' high sunflower in Glen's garden

plump, juicy peaches ready to devour

One of the dozens of tomatoes in Glen's garden that take almost 2 hands to hold!

Cotton's soon-to-be Halloween pumpkin is growing about an inch a day

 I'm a fan of chubbiness...aren't you?

Autumn's Calling Card

This morning autumn left a calling card. There was a bright orange and yellow leaf right outside our front door! 
Autumn didn't stay for a visit, though; only long enough to let us know it will be back soon. Today is to get very warm and there are still more rosebuds that insist they get their due time in the sun. 
But, from a glimpse of the maple trees between towering pines, it's clear autumn is coming back soon. Shadows are long in the morning and evenings are crisp. 
We just harvested pears and soon the home will smell of fresh apple pies compliments of the Granny Smith tree. 
For now, Cotton, Glen and I intend to savor every last moment of summer with a planned adventure Cotton's favorite swimming hole.
We hope that you enjoy the waning days of summer 2015, too. Autumn is sure to be knocking at the door soon!

Lavender in Bloom

The lavender is just starting to blossom. I picked 5 large bunches off of just one plant to hang in the sunroom. This plant is four years old.

I cut handfuls, then place a rubber band around the stems, trim the stems all to an even, tidy length, and then hang them on hooks, cabinet knobs, etc. The house smells so nice!
I made this wreath for the garden shed out of last year's lavender bunches and some of our herbs.
Lavender can get very "leggy" and needs sheering to keep bushy and give lots of flowers; just don't prune or cut below the green stems. Sometimes, if conditions are just right, I even get a second flush of blooms in the late summer.
Our herb garden (garden house is in the background)

Happy Flag Day

I love to see the many American flags that line our little town of Newberg on Flag Day. 
We have a very patriotic town; a giant flag always greets us as we enter the quaint old part of town. 
Don't you love to see festive bunting? 
Here's some fun flag trivia...

Reproducing the American Flag
  • According to the U.S. Department of State, the names of the flag's official colors are old glory red, white, and old glory blue. Their HTML codes and Pantone equivalents can be found on the Department of State's style guide. 
I love to see decorated bikes displayed in yards or in a parade!
  • There are federal regulations governing the handling and display of the flag (the U.S. Flag Code), including restrictions on using the flag's likeness for advertising, or printing it on anything intended "for temporary use or discard," like cocktail napkins or paper plates. Under the Flag Protection Act of 1989, there are also federal laws that call for criminal penalties for certain forms of flag desecration, although the Supreme Court found this act to be unconstitutional under the First Amendment in 1990. It is my hope that some day we can move back that court decision to protect our flag pre-1990! 
  • Old Glory was actually the nickname of a specific U.S. Flag owned by sea captain William Driver. He was previously given the flag by the women in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, but he only named it Old Glory when he saw it flying on his ship's mast in 1831. The name later went on to become synonymous with any American flag. I love the name "Old Glory" for our flag, don't you?
  • Despite the harsh temperatures and conditions of the moon's atmosphere, five of the six flags that were planted during the Apollo missions are still standing. According to Buzz Aldrin, the one that fell was blown over by the exhaust from Apollo 11 during its liftoff from the moon's surface.
Won't you join me in proudly flying our American flag this flag day? (Sunday, June 14th) Wouldn't it be a spectacular site to see every home and business fly our flag? That would speak volumes to other countries!

Everything's Coming Up Roses

June is the month for the end of a school year, filling the wading pool, picnics, weddings... and roses!
We live about an hour from the "City of Roses," as Portland is called. The Parade of Roses was just this Saturday, and the Rose festival goes on for weeks in Portland.

Roses grow in our area without much attention, which is a good thing since at last count we had over 35 rose bushes.

We have shrub roses that line our driveway; they've never received supplemental water, fertilizer or been sprayed, yet they are prolific bloomers all summer. Their only drawback is the abundant thorns. These would make a good fence, as nobody would want to get caught up in these brambles!
The roses near our barn are extra hearty, too. Most of our roses are heirlooms, and I'm very partial to David Austin roses. 
The long blossom life and cupped shape along with an intoxicating fragrance made the initial expense well worth it, for these roses will be living here longer than we will.

Here's just a few more pretty blossoms in their full glory today...

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”