Round here

I can’t believe how fast the month of July has trickled thru my fingers!
Where did it go? I also can’t believe that a whole month has past here at West Cottage. Sometimes I wish I could make the time stand still.

Spoke to Chloe today on Skype. I miss that girl of ours so much, but isn’t it a wonderful world we live in that I can see her live whenever I want to? I also love that she’s finally (after I threatened to not renew her web space if she didn’t do something with it), keeping her blog. And, can I just say that her photography skills are so amazing now! She’s got my professional Canon in Van and has learned to use the tripod and timed shutter release and some of the photos are taken that way. But all are taken by her!

So lately I’ve been gardening weeding waging total war on weeds in some pretty impressive heat, while watching the beautiful Oxfordshire skies for approaching thunderstorms, and having silly fun; like raiding Catherine’s pebble drive and collecting odd pebbles and flints and designing prehistoric families. (My prehistoric man had an impressive cod piece for a while but Robbie waved the subtlety flag.) :D

in Oxfordshire

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This morning R had to run some chores just very close to Oxford and so I begged a ride into town. Thursday is the antique market in town and I was dying to visit the map seller. I usually buy a lot of damaged old maps form him that I can paint on.

Things worked out pretty well as R was going to be about an hour, and so we agreed to meet in 50 minutes and I hoofed it the last mile into town. Good thing I did too. The traffic was a morning grid lock and, despite the ridiculous number of students clogging the sidewalk, (for the summer months), I got to the market in ten minutes.

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OMG! So many beautiful things to see! I want to come back and buy some lovely blue and white plates for Kerstie’s collection, and this dress! If I were to get married I’d so chose a 1940s gold embroidered beauty like this rather than any new gown in the world. (Oh, and also have a couple ribs removed to fit into it! LOL)


But mustn’t get sidetracked by the shiny sparklies. (I swear I’m half magpie)

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Here is what I came for. This wonderful seller has a box of damaged maps. Just perfect for me and my art. I never want to use perfect old maps. I love the broken, ripped, drawn and written on ones. You know, the ones which have a history; which have been loved to pieces.

Unfortunately, before I got to the map bloke, I came past a tool bloke and got seduced by a sexy chisel. I did have £30 to spend, but, after my chisel I only had £24 left. I chose the maps I wanted and explained to the nice map man about how I couldn’t help myself with the chisel and he laughed and said, “Let’s see what you want and I’ll give you a deal.” Then he totalled up my maps, which came to £30, and said he’d take £20 for the lot! Wow! So I went to a used book stall and spent the last £4 on some more maps! Hooray! Now I have loads of maps to paint on. :D

So happy.

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Later this aft, I took a couple of hours to do some work on the blackbirds. I walked out to the fields and picked some fireweeds and drew them around my blackbirds and began painting them in. Lot’s more work to do still, but I like the way this little painting is coming along.


And, the village flower and veg show is coming up, so I might enter the blackbirds into the painting competition.

So tomorrow is August. Welcome August! I’m settling into the summer grove and loving life.

And speaking of love, I’m crazy in love with the beech forests right now and R has promised me a walk thru them. Can’t wait. But first we’ll go for a walk beside the Whomping Willow, (which is really a huge chestnut, but C called it that about 10 years ago). I love it there. We always see some deer. Actually, I surprised a muntjac deer yesterday evening. He walked out of some tall grass right in front of me, got scared, ran off and barked at me from the trees. Boy are those little creatures loud!

I think I might go for a walk this evening again to see if I can find him under that amazing sliver of a new moon out there. :D

Big hugs to everyone. Hope your last July day is a sunny and warm one filled with beautiful moments.

Taking a chance

Yesterday, C and I pointed the car west and began to climb out of the Okanagan valley up, up, and up the Coastal mountain range for what seemed like an awfully long time. Driving my large 4-wheel drive often means that open windows leave little room for conversation, however air conditioning leaves us dying for fresh air. So, when we were two hours driving, I spied a little turn off and a little dirt road which promised a lake.

Look at those inviting clouds showing the way. Can you blame us? :D

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About two km down the road and there it was. A perfect little lake in the middle of meadows set about with wild flowers.


We stopped the car, got out and decided we needed a walk around. How glorious and warm the day was.

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The crickets were chirping, the red-winged blackbirds singing, the swallows swooping above the water where a loon was diving, and, every so often, a lake trout jumped for a fly and landed with a gentle “glop” sound and perfectly circular ripples.

We walked and then we sat and took it all in for a long time.

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And then, we hit that interminable highway again.

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Sharing with Mary at Mosaic Monday

Hello from Sunday night

Otherwise known as the Midsummer Family Love-fest!

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Chloe and I got out of town to the Okanagan, 460 km out of Vancouver, to visit my daughter Kerstin and her family.

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And especially to meet this new little member: Zoe Iris Gray, (Ziggy…naturally), who is four weeks old. She is the baby sister to Ever, (Binky) 4 yrs old, and Isla, (Bunny) 2.

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The Okanagan is a beautiful, semi-arid part of BC, with an abundance of lakes, orchards and vineyards and since the weekend promised to be a hot one, we bundled up a picnic and the babies, and headed for the nearest lake.

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Everyone was very tired Saturday afternoon. The beach will do that. (Although Charlie and Mouse stayed at home, so I’ve no idea what their excuse is…lol)

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This morning Kerstie took us to the Sunday flea market. I just love flea markets, don’t you?

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Binky and Bunny stopped to inspect all the toys, but were just as happy to run around and blow dandelion clocks.

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I just have to show you the treasures I found. I’m especially in love with the sock monkey, which seems to be a very old, well loved one, but at some point in his sock monkey life, someone gave him some tragic glue-on googly eyes. I’ll soon fix that with some vintage buttons. Those tiny pictures are made with 1920′s postage stamps, and the camp stove toaster is headed to England with me so Robbie and I can take it camping.

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After the flea market and some lunch, we said goodbye to all our girls and headed back to town.

We stopped at a local orchard store for some yummies for our trip.

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We bought some handmade squeaky cheese curds, super salty and yummy…our favourite with some fresh basil and these couple huge tomatoes, which actually smell like fresh tomatoes, cherries, honey sticks, some organic bee pollen to keep us healthy, and, we were very bad, we bought that homemade peanut brittle and ate the whole thing on the drive home. (But we couldn’t help ourselves…it was sooo moreish!)

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Back at the car I picked up some tree dropped peaches. I wish there was a way to preserve their beautiful fresh green fuzzyness.

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And so we took our goodies and drove out of the Okanagan and began to climb the mountain passes for home.

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We stopped for some wild sage to make sage bundles and in the alpines for forget-me-nots and lupins, which are now at home, reminding us of our lovely weekend.


Thank you to everyone who left me a comment on my last post. I’m so grateful to you for visiting and for giving me the chance to meet you all. I’ll draw two names via random generator tomorrow morning 10am (Pacific time), and post the results here and on yesterday’s post. Good luck to everyone.

Big hugs XX

EDIT: Winner of the chickadee/bluetit painting is number 3 Patricia
and Winner of the towhee painting is number 37 Marion

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hello from Sunday night

It’s been a lovely weekend round here.

Our weekend actually started late Friday afternoon, when, after a seriously long day of appointments, C and I found ourselves out at the river delta in the late afternoon and decided to take a look around.

It wasn’t long before we found a beautiful little vintage shop in a little community.

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Where I found these incredible handmade Steampunk robots, and this ray gun!

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While C found a vintage Hudson’s Bay blanket in great shape.

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We didn’t get out of the shop empty handed…lol. I immediately bought the blanket for our collection and I also scooped three vintage Bowie records, (you know, true love lasts forever :D )

Then I remembered a little agricultural island with an organic farm nearby and so we found the rickety old turquoise bridge which led to it crossed over one arm of the Fraser River. (PS, I live way in that distance, just at the foot of those mountains!)


We found the farm.

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An organic nursery, with a little general store selling local handicrafts.

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Homemade jams, jellies and honey.

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And they had freshly picked strawberries and this year’s first crop of new potatoes for sale. I was really excited about the potatoes and strawberries because I had invited 15 people for supper Saturday night.


Saturday morning C gave me a hand cleaning the house and we ran a few things to the Salvation Army. I had it in mind to make a fabulous Eton Mess for desert but only had six vintage, crystal finger bowls to serve it in and so we looked around for some similar pressed glass bowls to have enough for all our guests.

We found loads! At $.69 each!

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With so many people, I decided on a BBQ featuring pulled pork, baked ham, those lovely new potatoes with butter and parsley, and a huge green salad from my garden.

By the afternoon, the kitchen was clean and two heads of garden butter lettuce, some red lettuce and some herbs waiting…

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Bedrooms were clean and decorated with the new blanket…

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The James Bond bathroom…clean, with fragrant hand soaps at the ready, the stairs to my studio cleaned of papers, books and other detritus that naturally collects on stairs…


Wine glasses ready, wine bottles open…

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Dining room table prepared…

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Everything shiny and bright…but where are our guests?


Here they are!


the Eton Mess was absolutely delicious, and the youngins went to hang out in my studio and catch up.


We all had such a lovely time and talked and laughed into the evening.

Sunday I put away the cleaned silverware and my new glass bowls, figured out how to photo transfer onto glass, and spent some time in the silversmithing studio. (Evidence of creativity on Instagram)

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And big bonus for me: lovely memories, vases of fresh flowers and a clean house. :D

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My kind of Eton Mess:

One cut up angel food cake
About ten small macaroons (crushed into big chunks)
A ton of fresh berries
About 200 ml of whipping cream, whipped but not too stiffly
About 150 ml of crème fraîche

Put the cut up angel food cake on the bottom of a platter,
pour most of the berries on top, reserving a hand full for the very top
mix the whipped cream plus the crème fraîche together and pour over the cake/berries on the platter,
sprinkle the remaining berries and the crushed macaroons as a final layer.
Serve immediately so the macaroons stay crisp.

Yum city!

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Market morning

Chloe and I took the morning off.

I had an appointment downtown first thing this morning and, after it, we went for a little breakfast and a good mooch just over the water at the public market.

We walked around the stalls and I found some beautiful black/purple figs I really felt like having. Isn’t it wonderful to walk around so many yummy options and pick out exactly what you feel like eating? How often do we get a chance to do that? We all should once in a while; so good for the soul.


Let me show you some of our favourite finds at the market.

There is a little store at the market selling hand crafted, natural, local and organic soaps.

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C loved these ice lolly ones.

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And I loved this solid shampoo. The smell was wonderful. I wonder if it works. Anyone have experience with solid shampoos? I know Lush makes some.

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We walked across the street to find a busker singing You Are My Sunshine with the cutest little tyke holding a ukulele.

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Then we had a good mooch in one of our favourite stores Paper Ya.

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There is very little I love more than paper and pens and lovely stationery products. How about these writing pads for brilliant ideas and laundry lists! :D

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I love that people are making old fashioned paper weights again. This one with this little golden bird in a peacock hat is the one I’d have on my desk.

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C loved these crowned owls. Aren’t they great?

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We found a store which had tiled an entire wall with Sid Dickens tiles. Do you know these tiles? Maybe not. Sid Dickens is a Vancouver based artist and manufacturer of these 3D tiles. They’re just beautiful to look at. C has the horse tile.

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Just across from that store is Maiwa Handprints. I love this store because it’s full of fair trade, organic, cotton materials, hand blocked and dyed.

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They also sell some of the blocks.

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I was just thinking that a lovely design, which I could print from one of these blocks, might make a fantastic background design on a piece of paper for one of my lino cuts.

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Or maybe I could carve one to look like this funky cow/armadillo creature. :D

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The last store we went into is a new store called Hang Out, where we were invited to…er…hang out! Loved it! Loved these chair hammocks. The most comfy, wonderful way to relax in the world. Now were trying to figure out just where and how we can hang a couple. Lol.


Hello from Sunday night…which is turning into a Monday morning post again!

Boy oh boy what a glorious, heart-warming, soul affirming weekend I’ve had.

I must say that I’m on top of the world! :D

And wish to send out a great big THANK YOU to the almost 500 visitors to my garden.

After this weekend, each and every one of the 500 wonderful, gentle, garden and art loving souls I chatted with, my fellow artist assigned to show in my garden – the talented Jackie Miller, the incredibly talented musicians – The Land Of Deborah (Saturday) and Justin O’Donohue’s Jazz Trio (Sunday) – who entertained, the volunteers who sat curbside for five hours each day and explained the lay of the garden, my wonderful neighbours who not only showed up early to help me set up and lent me tables and chairs, but also came by both days to chat and support me, and of course, The North Vancouver Community Arts Council who judged my garden and then my art worthy of being seen, will stay in my heart for ever.

And an extremely warm and grateful THANK YOU to all the people who bought my paintings and my photo greeting cards. Thank you for claiming the paintings as your own thru heartfelt memories and experiences. I hope they continue to bring you joy and brighten your lives for many years, and I hope my greeting cards bring smiles to everyone they are sent to.

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My natural predisposition is to be nervous about my artistic talent and my mood spectrum is usually full of misty skies and churning seas, but having strangers…now friends…exploring the garden, marvelling at my crazy planting schemes, laughing at the corkscrew hazel branches as cat deterrent and seedling protectors, asking for eventual cuttings, taking hundreds of photographs, exploring my paintings, asking for painting technique related tips and how-tos, saying such lovely things about my art, stopping with cups of green tea and amaretto or coconut cookie in hand and, in one case, sitting cross legged on the brick circle under the saved apple tree and meditating for 30 minutes, was the greatest personal gift for my heart, which stayed sunny and warm all weekend.

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I met so many like-minded people. I was paired with two other artists, (one of whom couldn’t show at the last minute), so the weekend became a two woman show! But the lovely Jackie Miller, who I only just met but am sure to adore forever, brought a great amount of paintings and colourful flags to the show and we were just fine. I also feel in love with Deborah, who was slated to entertain on Saturday. I took a video of her performing Skyfall for me as a request. (Linking you up at the end of the post). You must have a listen to her soft, perfect voice, and she has some downloadable music on her website!!

Go grab it…I’ll wait.


You all know how lucky I am to have Chloe by now, but I have to tell you that that sweet child of mine stuck with me for the whole weekend, being cup washer and cookie plate refiller, banker, manager, supporter, promoter and, in two cases, publicity spokesperson for a taped interview and the local newspaper.

How much do we love her?

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She did get a second or two to smell the roses too.

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I couldn’t believe when I looked over the garden on Sunday morning and found a new saved iris had opened and it was completely different from the other five saved varieties. This one is pure, clear amethyst!

Oh, and I have to tell you that game after game of tic tac toe was played. That game board was a big hit.


Here’s C posing for the newspaper photographer.

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Sunday’s entertainer was Justin O’Donohue and his jazz trio. They were absolutely wonderful.


I found out that Morgan, while she loved being underfoot or stretching out in the garden, absolutely hates the sound of the big base. What’s up with that?

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But when the band took a break and went into the garden for some tea and cookies, Morgan skulked around the instruments and devised a plan to take back her patio!

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But finally she settled on the warm pebbles behind the chives and went to sleep.

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So then, by 8pm, after treating ourselves to a sushi supper and after washing the tea cups and tea pots, I walked into my silent garden, thanked all my plants, watered the poor, hardworking lawn, and cut a fragrant rose bloom for my bedside table.

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And Morgan curled up on the patio basket and went to sleep in the last of the evening sun.

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Here is a link to Deborah singing “Skyfall” for me, (which I was dying to hear again because I was engaged with some people when she sang it first). I put it on YouTube and Vimeo to make sure you there are plenty of options for you to hear her lovely voice:

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Catching up, checking in

I’m sitting in the dining room this evening going thru some photos and talking to C about her day. I was just thinking how nice the light is, so I took another photo and downloaded that one too.

Days have been busy and a bit long round here lately. You remember when I contemplated doing this art in the garden show and thinking that if I spend an hour/day till the show working on the garden, this would equal 70 hours and that should be enough? Well, turns out it isn’t enough…and it’s taking a monster amount of time to get the garden lovely. (hence, lack of postage)

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And of course, this leaves less time for art, (again, hence, lack of postage)

And, finally, this leads to lack of cuddle time for the cats…hence, interrupted art and gardening…hence, lack of postage. Lol.


But I am getting somewhere, and, generally, the art and garden parts are coming along on schedule…not that there is a schedule…just a firm idea of success or fail in my head.

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Days in the garden are long and days in the studio relatively short in comparison, but Chloe joins me as often as she can. The other day she bought a $2 tank from the thrift and sketched a lovely design on it for herself while I painted. I love it when she stays in the studio with me. I love those times.


And other times she tries to get my attention while I’m gardening…lol. I love those times too.

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But everything is coming along in the garden. The seeds are all a success and coming along, and I found some old iron fence panels to cage the raspberries with so people can actually walk down the garden path.


Have a look at these beauties. The irises in the lower right photo I bought with the house, but the other three are saved from construction sites in the ‘hood. Aren’t they lovely? Such a beautiful surprise, since I saved them before they bloomed.


Lately I’ve been thinking about how I garden, and that means indoor as well as outdoor. I’ve been after one of these plants for a year or so now and have found a fantastic specimen for very little money. It’s a rabbit’s foot fern. So called because its aerial roots look like fluffy rabbit’s feet.

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Another bunch of plants, which I’ve been noticing lately, have been air plants, so I decided to do some gardening with one.

What do you think?


It’s a sort of Wardian case, which came form a thrift shop (and originally held some bath products according to the label which I scrubbed off), planted with three charming Wade figurines: a fish, swimming in a bone fountain, a monkey grinning form some driftwood C gave me, and squirrel ready to hide his nut among the polished pebbles.


And a beautiful air plant…which doesn’t actually live on air as I found out.

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Not much to report form the silversmithing studio. I’m afraid that my efforts continue to look rather VERY homemade and organic. (How do people get the bezels so smooth and the edges so perfect?)…(sigh)

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There are these five new rings; three with beach glass and two with beach polished pebbles.

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Actually, I like this one very much. I might keep it and wear it for a while.

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Well, little more sunlight left out there, so I’m off to water the garden.

Missing regular posting, but happy that all the work is getting done.

Big hugs to you all. I’m trying to come around to everyone’s blogs, so just remind me and I’ll be right over to say hi. :D

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Home, lately

Today I realised that I only have two weeks left to the art in the garden show! Yikes!

So Chloe and I decided that the patio has dried out as much as it’s going to and are taking advantage of these next few sunny days to give it a new coat of paint.

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Quite possibly it wasn’t the wisest of things to do to pressure wash the old wood just before an open to the public garden show, and Robbie and I had a hell of a time replacing rotten timbers, but the patio is as good as it’s going to be this year, and so, even though it will need replacing next year or the year after, it’s looking good with a generous coat of Sherwin Williams thick and gloopy patio paint.

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I took a walk in the garden in the late afternoon sun to bring you the scoop.

The patio pots have all been planted with petunias, geraniums and snapdragons in pinks, purples and creamy yellows and are just waiting for the patio furniture to get back into place so they can live out their lives in the dappled sun of the maple trees.

It’s a good thing too because a load of weeds have come up on the back patio that I need to weed out of there.

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I love purples and bronzes with creamy yellows, don’t you? It seems that purple is a bit of a theme round here this year.


Speaking of purple to the max, these are the “saved from the construction site” irises that I had no idea what colour they were going to be when I saved them last year.

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Aren’t they the most heavenly shade? I’m so happy I saved them.

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Mostly my seedlings are doing really well in the veg garden. The tomatoes were checked a little after last week’s hail storm, but I think they’ll recover. The peas, sweet peas, garlic, cabbages, cauliflower and beans are just fine.

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The little begonias, on a shelf on the North side of the house, are growing and blooming their hears out. I’m hoping for a really spectacular display in the next two weeks.

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The clematis Montana, which is growing up the ancient apple tree, is in full bloom. It’s so spectacular right now that I can’t get enough of it. Yesterday I saved some plants from the construction site which used to be my neighbours to the West and I looked up at the ancient apple tree and the clematis Montana and thought, “holy smokes, my neighbours have the best view!” :D

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So here is Morgan reminding me that I still have two bags of potting soil to allocate to pots and then I can rest. She’s always so helpful…lol.


The good side of today is that the garden part of the art in the garden show is coming along wonderfully. The not so good side is the art part is a little on the slow side, but I’m getting there. A new painting was started yesterday plus three new canvases primed.

More from my beautiful saved garden and my art in the days to come; sorry to be so pedantic in my posts but it’s occupying most of my time right now. I did contemplate getting up into the studio for the rest of the evening, but I’m feeling pretty tired and so I think I’ll watch a finale and have a rest. Don’t you hate that all the best shows are ending? (OK, truth be told I only actually watch 4 or 5 shows… Person of Interest, The Blacklist, NCIS, Elementary and Agents of Shield.) But what am I going to watch after this week? Hope they bring back Warehouse 13 or Defiance for an other season. Hey, did anyone watch Resurrection and Bitten? What a load of enjoyable silliness. What do we think? :D Anyone have any recommendations? I hear 24 is really good. I watch the first season but couldn’t stand the daughter. Before I watch it again I sure hope she gets disappeared. (Oops…did that come out loud?) Big hugs to everyone from the land of the tired. I think Agents of Shield is winning out in my mind …silliness without the testosterone stress factor.

Ciao Ciao for now. X

EDIT: What? Warehouse 13 final series is already started? Nobody tells me anything!!! :D

of spider monkeys

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I used to climb years ago. I loved the stone and heights and sunshine and open spaces. No high tech walls with routes and coloured stones really existed then, (at least not in my neck of the woods). But then, in the heartbreak and brain fog that is divorce and custody, I found myself up a cliff wall with no support and no climbing partners. Above me was another 25 feet of rock and below me was the last hundred feet I climbed and some not so pleasant consequences.

I remember thinking in that moment that I really had too much to live for…especially my two babies Jonathan and Kerstin…so I finished the up climb and, shaking, walked out the long way around, and never climbed again. (Not serious rock faces anyway.)

What is that saying that children take after their parents?

Happily, Chloe is much more sensible about climbing and she belongs to a fabulous climbing gym called The Edge. She’s been bugging and bugging for us to have a go with her and finally we said yes.

We didn’t belay, we chose to boulder but we had so much fun. Fun to the max! We got hot and sweaty, were proud of our strong spider monkey girl and watched her complete routes with the smallest foot and hand holds, upside down, crossed arms, splayed toes gripping on to a wall edge, and, although we “old guys” only tried the easier routes, we had terrific fun.

I think we’ll do it again! :D

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A beach lunch to welcome May

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I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately. About what gives us moments of contentment and joy. I suppose I’ve come to today from a rather worn-down, divided too many ways, not enough sleep, too much stress place, and so am finding happiness all the more fleeting.

I know that we all work too hard and worry too much and have one too many plates to juggle, and we probably feel like we must carry on jugging because we understand that most of those plates are vital for our future happiness, aren’t they? Maybe you’re like me and sometimes there’s no energy left to focus on spotting a moment of contentment and joy.

Everywhere you look these days everyone is full of tips on finding happiness, finding a life balance, like it’s a thing lost, but I bet it never is lost. I bet the state of stress, of unhappiness, is an inability to adjust to change or to friction…to somehow get used to it, understand it, experience it and let it go. I feel that’s true for me.

It’s so important to make time for happy moments, to make room in my life for these moments to happen. To pack a picnic lunch and head for the beach for a couple of hours. To pluck starfish out of the ocean, to collect beach treasures, to splash around, to find a phoenix in the sky.

And it’s so important to revel in these happy moments. For me it is. To capture these moments and bring them back to my mind over the course of the week, no matter how stressy it gets.

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