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Wednesday
Sep142011

If you want a garden you have to water it.

A Garden Fairy, 9 x 9" acrylic framed

When I lived in St Louis, there was plenty of rain, and nearly everything I planted grew.  We had Japanese maple trees, flowering Dogwoods, hundreds of lilies, roses, herbs, and the list goes on. I loved my gardens. Planted by my husband and son, Justin they were simple in design and stunning when in bloom. It was more than difficult to leave the beautiful gardens behind.

I now reside in Colorado. I live in Arvada, a hilly city in the northwest outlying area of Denver. We are classified as high desert.  That means it doesn’t rain in significant amounts to grow anything unless you have an irrigation system.  I don’t .  My yard is a desolate wasteland of native stuff that grows in the open spaces. I brought a few of my lilies from our St Louis home and planted them along the side of my new home and thought they would be fine.  I don’t think I ever watered them in their previous location. Even with daily watering, I find a few less lilies come back each year.

 I’ve bought books about gardening in this region. I’ve gone to nurseries to look at various native plant materials. I’ve visited my local park to tour the “native planting” garden. I’ve even asked my son (the real gardener) to design a garden concept for me. What I currently have is rocks in all sizes, many bare patches, an apple tree that feeds all the birds in the vicinity, and a hill so steep we had to build a staircase. I live in fear that my neighbors are going to host a yard intervention on the home improvement channel.  What I need is a garden fairy to create a little magic in my yard.  If she could just tidy everything up and plant a few beds I would be forever grateful. Oh, and grass would be good – the soft green stuff of my dreams. She better bring water.  

Sunday
Sep112011

I’m looking for more stuff, because more is better. 

Floribunda, 8 x 8", acrylic framed  My sister-in-law, Lynn has stuff. She has less stuff now than she had five years ago, but make no mistake, she has stuff.  First and foremost, she loves to read so she has books.  They fill her house.  She has bookcases in her bedroom, guest bedroom, great room, office and of course, in her library. She also has boxes of books stored in her garage.

 Second, Lynn makes jewelry, so she has beads – lots of them, and jewelry making supplies like findings and wire, tumblers, polishers, special lamps, jewelers bench, and, Ha! - books on jewelry making . She uses all of this stuff to construct the fabulous jewelry we all buy and anticipate receiving on our birthdays and Christmas.

Third, Lynn sews. Well she used to sew, so she has two sewing machines, closets of fabric, patterns, and multitudes of sewing supplies like, scissors, pins, tape measures, weights, cutting boards, pressing arms, and ….other sewing stuff, like sewing books.

 Fourth, Lynn used to cook, and that required baking pans, mixing bowls, appliances, exotic ingredients, and cook books. Yep, more books. She also entertained a lot so she has all of her Grandmother’s crystal as well as a few items she has picked up over the years for her dinner parties. She doesn’t do a lot of that anymore, but that is no darn reason to purge!

 There’s more. She has a western film collection that would rival TNT. She has seasonal dishes. That’s what I said – seasonal! She switches her dishes every 4 months from Spring to Summer to Autumn to Christmas. Oh! Christmas! She has 3 Christmas trees.  One in the great room, one in the library, and one in her bedroom. She can look at Christmas 24/7 in her house.  So can you if you are a guest from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day.

 I know what you are thinking (hoarder) but you are wrong.  Lynn meticulously works her way through her collections and gives much away every year through donations, Craig’s List and “buy it for a dime” yard sales.  She delegates everything to an organized place in her home. This is no crazy “walking path only” house. Books are in book cases. Fabrics and notions are in labeled boxes, stacked neatly in a closet. Christmas is all properly labeled and stored in her ginormous garage.  All of her jewelry making materials are arranged in neatly stacked drawer units.  She has organized stuff!

 I say thank heaven for the likes of Lynn. She can produce nearly anything you think you might be hunting for.  I need a size 00 knitting needle in plastic. I need one of those ruffle wheel pastry cutters, I need a book about Victorian clothing….. I think you understand. It’s one thing to have it – somewhere, and it’s another thing to have it and know where it is. Lynn knows where it all is. It’s so impressive to walk in her home and see all that cataloging and organization. Her books and films are alphabetized. Her boxes are labeled. She could have been a librarian or better yet – a warehouse manager! She knows details about everything she has, like when she got it, who gave it to her or why she bought it. 

She is the keeper of family history, not because she wanted to but because she knows it and has stuff to validate it.  Everyone should have a Lynn in their family. Lynn compensates for say…..a Susan like me, who consistently disposes of unused items. Lynn would keep twin bed sheets, sets of them, even though she doesn’t have a twin bed anymore. I would call Lynn and say I bought a twin bed for guest. Do you have some sheets to send? And she would because she saved them in case someone was going to need them.  And they are better than what I could buy now, arriving it all sorts of funky colors and patterns –and better yet –high thread count!

 She has Tupperware, weird 1940/s pottery and planters, 4 sets of Christmas dishes from casual to formal, obscure knitting and sewing patterns and notions, hammered aluminum in mass quantities, weird little plastic head elves for her Christmas trees and Betsy McCall with ice skates.

I’m entirely comfortable having almost nothing because Lynn has a lot of something if I need it. I don’t have to dust it or store it. I don’t have to look for it or catalog it. I just call Lynn and hope she can remember where she stored the stuff I’m looking for.  

 What kind of stuff are you hanging on too?

From left: Cookbooks - ranging from out of print titles to multiple editions of Better Homes & Gardens and Betty Crocker; jewelry making supplies - every drawer labeled in what appears to be color coordination; a library of jewelry design, gem history and wire work manuals that would rival any book store.

Check out Lynn's jewelry at   http://slinkylynnxchic.com/

 

Sunday
Sep042011

Art Made With Love

Made With Love, 8 x 8" acrylic, framed, 2011

Throughout my life, and just like many other women, I have dabbled in all sorts of creative adventures.

I have knitted, smocked, embroidered, crocheted, and worked needlepoint. I’ve sewn, quilted,  silk screened, and strung beads. I’ve painted in oil, watercolor and acrylic. I’ve baked cookies, made applesauce and put up preserves.  I could go on with my list.

 In the course of my creative journey I have made pajamas, bed covers, super hero capes, overalls and T-shirts for all three of my sons.  I’ve drawn haunted houses for them to decorate with cut out bats and monsters and made countless Halloween costumes requiring every art form I’ve ever dabbled in.  Smocked dresses for nieces and my friends’ daughters were an obsession of mine for more than two years, and my eyes are eternally grateful to have passed my Reed pleater on to my sister-in-law.  My mother-in-law gave me the entirety of her knitting needles, tools and patterns inspiring me to learn all I could on the subject. One year my knitting obsession spilled over into yarny gifts for my relatives. That was a little scary when they all lined up for a picture. Helping a friend complete a project is my comfort zone, finding both the excitement of uncharted art and an opportunity to support a friend very appealing to my senses. I can make that is my motto. My husband and children have endured years of my projects spilling over the dining room table into baskets, on chair backs and stashed in their closets. They do not know me any other way than she makes stuff.

 My drive to express myself in a meaningful way has defined me as a person. It has given me wonderful opportunities to take risk, build relationships, and satisfy my need for different experiences. I have found  it both exhilarating and soothing, and at times I have needed both in my life. Even though bouncing around from one material to the next prevented me from gaining a master’s level with any material, I gave all of it my best effort and learned a lot along the way. My expertise cannot compare to one who knows their subject inside and out from dedicated years of study, but I believe that I have accomplished a great deal.  I have left a legacy of handmade stuff, wanted or unwanted that will probably define me. Whether it is with sentiment or laughter, someone will pull out a dress or a sweater and say Susan made that for me.  I do not identify myself as a knitter, a quilter, a painter or a designer.  I am an artist.  I loved making all of it and it was all made with love.

A very yarny Christmas

 

Wednesday
Aug312011

White shoes after Labor Day are tacky

First at the You Pick, 8 x 8" acrylic, framed, 2011

Women wear white shoes year round, but we all know that Memorial Day to Labor Day is the true season for them.  I feel the same way about strawberries. I can buy them year round in the market. They are grown and flown in from all over the world so that we will not be denied what we think we want. And as I bite into a tasteless, oversized, winter strawberry  I am craving those little bitty juicy and sweet strawberries that are available in an equally little bitty season somewhere around Mother’s day or Memorial Day.  My mother-in-law’s cousin  called when her strawberries were ready to pick, and we would plan our weekend accordingly.  We always picked a couple of flats so that we had strawberries to eat and strawberries to freeze.  We picked in the morning and as soon as we got home we washed, sugared, and froze all the strawberries we didn’t think we could eat right away.  For the next week we ate strawberry blintzes, strawberry shortcake, and strawberry everything.  Later in the year when strawberries were out of season, we had our frozen stash. We were a lot more thoughtful with those berries making sure we didn’t run out too soon before we could pick them again.  If you think the taste of a small ripe strawberry, sun warmed and right off the vine is like no other, then you probably agree with me that wearing white shoes in the winter is just tacky.

 My mother-in-law and her cousin demonstrate the proper method of picking just one more berry.

Strawberry Blintzes

Years ago, one of my sisters gave me this wonderful recipe for dessert blintzes. I thought it was a clever use of white bread.  I have no idea what the calorie count is, but you can substitute healthier ingredients and still make a pretty good support for your strawberries. I’ve done it many times.

  Cut the crust from an inexpensive loaf of white bread and flatten with a rolling pin. Mix together the following ingrediants and spread on flatten bread and roll up 

A box of softened cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1 beaten egg

Melt a stick of butter and place in a dipping pan. Mix equal parts white sugar, brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon and place in another dipping pan. Dip the roll in the butter and then coat with sugar mixture.  Arrange the blintzes on a cookie sheet so that sides don’t touch. Put the pan in the freezer. Once the blintzes are frozen you can store them in a freezer container and take out what you need.  Bake in a 350o oven.  Serve one or two, or all with a scoop of sugared strawberries and the juice.

Sunday
Aug282011

I'll bring the jello

 

My mother-in-law, Jane, had a passion for flowers. I always thought it was interesting that her love of all things flower did not inspire her to garden.  She had 2 big pots of geraniums on her front porch.  On summer evenings, she could admire them while she sat outside on her porch listening to Cardinal baseball on the radio and chatting about life with her neighbor.  Throughout the years that I knew her,  geraniums were the sum total of her gardening. However, she was not so limited in her wardrobe selection.  Jane wore the garden.  In all the years I knew her, I cannot recall more than a handful of times she was not dressed in a garden of flowers. Her signature style was made up of white eyelet summer shirts with brightly flowered skirts, and flower patterned blouses with all of her business suits in shades of peach, rose and aqua. She had drawers overflowing with flowered pins, necklaces, and earrings to compliment her garden wear.  All of that added up to a woman with style. With striking white hair and Avon’s Mocha Rose lipstick, everyone took notice of Jane.

 Regardless of her fashion flair, what my children loved about her was California Sunshine Salad. Every Sunday Jane came to our home for dinner.  Throughout the summer she had a repertoire of dishes we could count on: shell salad, potato salad, cookies, and California Sunshine Salad. She brought it in her yellow Tupperware bowl, ready to serve. The yellow bowl was the presentation and we just passed it around the table and scooped it out until it was gone.  We all miss Jane very much.  We remember her warmly with a smile, dressed in a garden of flowers, and bringing Jello.

Really? Some of you don’t actually have this recipe? Well here it is if you are in the mood for Jello tonight. 

1 cup boiling water
1 package 3 ounce orange flavored gelatin
½ cup cold water
1 can 8 oz crushed pineapple
½ cup shredded carrots

Pour boiling water over gelatin and stir until dissolved. Stir in cold water and crushed pineapple with syrup from can. Chill until slightly thickened. Stir in the carrots. Pour in a yellow Tupperware container, snap on the lid and chill until dinner with grandchildren. Enjoy.