New Year, Lots of Possibilities

I don't make New Year resolutions any more; I only break them and get frustrated. I do think of goals for the new year, though. Most of the time they come true with some resemblance of the original thought. This year I have a goal to get through this unusually cold and wet winter by making a table-top greenhouse out of old windows. I've wanted one for years. I already have the windows collecting cobwebs in the barn.
I plan to make it to fit into my little red wagon so I can wheel it into the sunshine on warm spring days, or back to the barn with plant lights and insulating blankets when days are cold and dreary. I started my garden seedlings a tad late last year, so this year I am happily going to start them in February and give them plenty of light and room in their new greenhouse. I hope.
For now, I'm waiting out the cold ice and snow reading all sorts of seed catalogs. Most of my seed has been saved from the heirlooms we grow, but I do love to see the pretty pictures and think of how our garden will look in a few short months. 
Yes, there are other goals, too, like more time actually spent in the garden, along with time for picnics and family visits and afternoons in our Christmas tree grove with a cold drink on warm summer days. ahhh...sounds good, doesn't it? Looks like my main goal for 2017 is to balance my work with pleasure a little more. If only my work wasn't so dog-gone enjoyable! I hope you have some goals that make 2017 a fun year to look forward to, also. Here's wishing you a...

Merry Christmas

Christmas in my home is usually delayed. My husband's relatives live in Indiana and California, so shopping, baking, wrapping and mailing gifts for them has to be done first so they have plenty of time to enjoy cookies and fudge tucked away in their boxes. They don't celebrate Christmas so I'm hoping it adds a little touch of cheer to their home. It's nice to give something to someone without anything expected in return.
Triple batch of my great-grandmother's "Merry Cookies"
getting ready to go to my in-laws
Meanwhile, it was hard to see everyone's trees lit up all around me while I still had pumpkins and dried leaves. A couple of days ago, though, our tree took its rightful place.
 The tree was decorated as the first snowflakes of winter fell. Then, it just kept snowing. It looks like it will be a snowy winter here in the Northwest. We're to have some snow on Christmas Eve, too! 

My parents adorned anything that didn't move with Christmas attire; the property was lit with twinkling lights, a toy train chugged around a snow village that grew in population each year and there was always a very fat, fresh fir tree filled with ornaments and stacks of presents underneath. Large family gatherings were (and still are) important and fun. The sights, smells and tastes around Christmas at our home were what carols are written about. My mom still continues to deck the halls from top to bottom and visits with as much family as possible, even though my dad is in heaven now.
This can be a very lonely time of year for many people. Expectations and longings for what Christmas was, or should be but isn't, leaves many empty inside. You don't have to live alone to be alone. But, thankfully there is the manger to help us realize that Christ wasn't born in a place that was decorated to the nines and filled with family and friends to celebrate the birth. He was not born into much of a warm, welcoming place at all. 
So, whether a chill has crept into your holiday or you're warmed with the company of loved ones around a glittering tree, may your heart be filled with a joy that can not be taken away by anyone or anything...the joy of the birth of our Christ.
I sincerely wish you all a very

Happy Thanksgiving

It's hard to believe that the holidays are upon us. There's been Christmas decor for sale in the shops for over a month and I'm just not ready to say goodbye to autumn! I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving, and don't want to rush my favorite holiday. 
Whether it's just a small gathering or with a lot of friends and family, we always fix the traditional dinner. Every year you can hear me say that most will get frozen as I survey the table laden with the feast, but it doesn't. The leftovers seem to disappear with football games, shopping, country walks and Scrabble marathons. 
I'm thankful for another year of plenty; not just in the garden, but in our home and hearts. It's a time to give thanks for so much!

Happy Halloween

Halloween is such a fun time. Cute trick-or-treaters, sweet treats, cozy fires and comfort food...what's not to like? 
And, I don't know about you, but this time of year I can't get enough pumpkin! If I'm not eating them, I'm decorating with them!

Warm and Cozy

Autumn has colorfully arrived, along with chilly rains. It's time for pumpkin spice lattes, fires in the wood stove and comfort food.

My husband made a delicious soup with our end-of-the-garden produce. This is somewhat how he made it...

Comforting Minestrone Soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 ½ cup green beans
1 medium zucchini, sliced
4 cups stewed tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 15 -ounce can low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup elbow pasta

Combine all ingredients, bring to a boil, then simmer about 20 minutes.

Optional fresh toppings:
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Trying to Beat the Weather!

Tomatoes, and more tomatoes! We waited  (it seemed like forever) until we finally had some juicy heirloom tomatoes on the vines. But now the vines are drooping to the point of breaking with the large crop. We save seeds for the heirlooms each year, and the tomatoes grow larger each year. I wonder if it is due to saving the best seeds? Maybe because we use our compost for fertilizer? Who knows...I won't complain.
We needed to pick the San Marzanos this weekend so the rains wouldn't split them. That meant lots of canned tomato sauce! We also grow our own garlic, onions and peppers. 
Actually, there isn't much we don't grow.
We have almost 1/4 of an acre of garden. Most are raised beds. We have a north and south garden. Oh, I didn't even count the pumpkin patch!
But, back to the tomatoes. I encourage you to save your own seeds. However, they must be heirloom seeds (not hybrid) to come back as the same tomato each year.
To save your tomato seeds:
  1. Scoop some seeds from a very ripe, healthy, large tomato. (the seeds will have a gel-like substance on them)
  2. Place the largest seeds in a small container. (I use a teacup) Add room temperature tap water to just cover the seeds.
  3. Set in a semi-dark place, away from drafts, for about 5 days. (I set mine on a shelf in the dining room.)
  4. After about 5 days, a sheen of mold will form on top of the water. Carefully add fresh water and swish around, then drain water and mold off.
  5. Repeat step four about 3 to 5 times to clean and separate the seeds from any gel.
  6. Place damp seeds on paper towel. Allow to thoroughly dry. Place in a paper envelope and store in dry, dark place. These seeds can last up to 3 years if stored correctly.

Autumn is Falling

The sky sprinkled autumn today. The first rains of the season made everything sparkle like spring but with fall colors. Purple, orange, red and gold.
Painting in my autumn journal
The heavenly; that mixture of damp dirt, fresh air and over-ripe berries.
Our red maple steals the scene outside. Most leaves are just starting to turn, but Mr. Red wanted to party early.
"Look at me...look at me!"
To the chagrin of squirrels and jays in our neighborhood, I'm collecting acorns to make an autumn wreath. I do believe there are plenty for all of us this year, but the squirrels are scolding me none-the-less.
I've been painting overtime to get last minute art out the door for various products, but my favorite painting pastime is when I get a chance to add to my autumn journal while sipping a pumpkin spice latte while the cider-scented candle flickers. Of course, my schedule has to allow for pumpkin hunting and decorating all things with colorful berry vines and petite crabapple branches.

My Personal Road Map

"How can you know what you should do with your life? What’s your destiny? 
Your skill set—your ability—is your road map. It leads you to your destiny. Take note of your strengths. They are bread crumbs that will lead you to where God wants you to be, to the job and to the ministry he wants you to do." (Max Lucado)
Some of my handy "tools" I use almost daily
   I have wanted to be an artist for home decor since I can remember. I enjoyed engineering for over 25 years, but art and home decor was always foremost in my heart. Through various circumstances, I was thrilled at the opportunity to be a full time licensed artist about twelve years ago. 
A rainbow of markers I use for lettering
and some shading
Now, I'm happily painting for fabric, dishes, tapestry and other home and garden items. Best yet, I get to use my own creative license to add Biblical inspiration to some of my art. I've had many women email me because something in my art...a word, a feeling, a sentiment... has touched their life.
My watercolor pencils are great for on-the-go
or for fine shading to complete a painting
I have found my calling. I know, without a doubt, that I am where I should be and doing what God has planned for me at this time.
My very favorite tools which I use daily.
I'd be lost without my favorite paintbrush (the one with the worn blue handle)
which I use for 90% of my paintings.
I receive a very short, daily email from pastor, author and evangelical speaker, Max Lucado. His words start my day with a positive devotion. I felt that today's was written just for me.
"Remember, God loves you too much to give you a job and not the skills to do it. What you do for a living should conform to your design. One study stated that only 13 percent of all workers find their work truly meaningful. Imagine the impact this unhappiness has on health, family, and performance. Find something you like to do, and do it so well that people pay you to do it. That’s not just good advice; it’s godly design!" (Max Lucado)
You would think I collect colored markers if you saw my studio.

What's your heart's desire? Have you found a way to mold that desire into your work and daily life? For me, it looks like it came late in life. However, it came at the perfect time...God's time.

My palette at the end of the day. It gets cleaned and
refreshed each morning.

this link will direct you to a site to sign up for...Max Lucado's daily devotion.

In a Pickle

How do cucumbers grow so fast? Just yesterday they were babies. I made the same mistake I do each year of thinking that I had a couple of days before pickling time. But pickling cucumbers wait for no man. In one day the babies grew to pickle size and the rush was on! This morning I canned 13 jars of bread and butter pickles and 5 jars of spicy garlic dills before starting work.
I add a jalapeno pepper to each jar of dills along with a lot of garlic. You can smell them a block away!
It's a welcome coincidence that I was asked to paint some art with a "fresh from the garden" theme; a favorite subject of mine. It's going to be a good day!

A New Day

It's Monday morning; a new day and new work week. I have a clean palette for fresh paint and new art. It's invigorating. What shall I paint?
The flowers in the perennial garden are radiant from the beautiful summer weather we've been enjoying. I think a "Cottage Garden" collection is just what the season and my heart has ordered. Stay tuned for delphinium blue, penstemon coral, daisy white and all sorts of shades of green.

My Art on QVC!

I have enjoyed working with a company, Conimar/Counter Art, for quite a few years. They've manufactured many items with my artwork on them, and recently have made a large collection of products with my "Sunflowers in Bloom" artwork.

One of the products is called "Instant Counter." It's a multitasker which serves many uses in the kitchen; extra counter-top to cover stove coils or burners, serving tray, cutting board, counter-top saver...and the list can go on.
It's presented and sold on QVC and I'm honored to say that my "Sunflowers in Bloom" was one of the few designs chosen. Yes, I am excited and ever so pleased! It's fun to think of the different homes these products go into. 

Just click on this link...Instant Counter on QVC
and you can see the video of the presentation.

I'm very blessed to be able to call painting for home and garden decor my "work." 

That said, I still like a break from painting once in a while to get revitalized and inspired. Since this is the weekend we are celebrating our country's independence, I'll be setting the paint brushes aside and enjoying a nice, long weekend off. 

Welcome to Summer 2016

It's shaping up to be a beautiful summer. On this first day of summer, we around normal temperatures (low to mid 70's) with a few sprinkles now and then in the cool mornings. It keeps the flowers, and me, happy. Vacations are being planned and impromptu picnics enjoyed. You can find me in our flower garden some sunny afternoons, painting whatever bird or butterfly happens my way. No wonder summer is my favorite season!

Flag Day

During times of peace, content and celebration;
During times of war, political unrest and sadness...

There is no country more beloved.

Fly our flag with pride and honor this flag day.

Remember the Fallen

It looks like a beautiful weekend here in the Pacific Northwest. The rain showers on Saturday are to give way to sunshine and blossoms on Sunday and Monday; perfect for a barbecue!

While we have fun over this first unofficial weekend of summer, we must remember in reverence those who gave their lives serving in the armed forces and send up prayers for their loved ones left with heavy hearts.

A Day to Remember

Last Saturday was a picture perfect day in every way. Not only did I get to spend time with my sisters and mom, but they treated me on Saturday to one of the nicest nurseries I've been to. That's saying a lot since I have a habit of breaking for any nursery I see!
If you are in the Sacramento area, I highly recommend stopping by the High Hand Nursery. With relaxing music in the background, it is a treasure for all of the senses; beautiful sights, the smell of spring flowers, birds and music in harmony, and the touch of nature. But wait, you ask what about the sense of taste?
They have a nice restaurant in a large greenhouse that serves a wonderful brunch. A real treat is their homemade potato chips served with a lemon-artichoke dip.
High Hand was a packing plant, called "High Hand Fruit Packing," which was built in 1926. You can see old fruit label signs in their coffee area and throughout the nursery.
Old machinery and delivery trucks are scattered throughout the plants. 
I have enough inspiration to keep me painting for a long time to least until my next visit we're already planning!
Isn't this a cute little rock animal?

I feel very blessed to have such a close family. My mom and three sisters are my best friends. They are not only a lot of fun, but have been there for me throughout my husband's illness and problems these past couple of years. Although I love where I live, I wish that I could be nearer them to share more in their lives. The weekend went way too fast!