My birthday and RBG Kew

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I love the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. And you probably also know that it’s my birthday treat is to visit each year.

You would probably not be surprised to know that Kew is a riot of flowers and colours, and that, each year, the Kew world changes. One year there was the most beautiful Dale Chihuly installation here. Hundreds and hundreds of colourful glass sculptures stood in gardens, floating on ponds and lakes, were suspended from trees and ceilings. One year the focus was on vegetables and other edibles, and this year the focus was on comfort, protection, healing and medicinal plants from all around the world.

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Robert and I had a ton of unexpected traffic into London and came to RBG Kew later than we wanted but just in time for lunch.
We walked past the palm house, past the brilliant flower beds, to the Orangery cafe.

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And while the hot reds, purples and yellows were very much on view, exciting and wonderful, what I noticed most were the white flowers. Each time I came on a brilliant white blossom, my heart skipped a beat and I had to stop.

It may have been the sunshine, may have been the terrible traffic jam, but I felt that I needed the cool, clear, peaceful white flowers that day, and so, this year, Kew became the year of the white garden for me.

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We did the usual tour of the gardens between the palm house and the Orangery, but then decided to walk out into the arboretum to see the Thames.

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We walked and walked and eventually made our way back to the Orangery, and R decided he wanted a rest, so he found a shady tree while I went on to explore the walled gardens.

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I love Robert, but I loved my alone time.

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I held hands with the trees…

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I waved with the grasses…

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And I captured as much of the peace in my heart as I could.

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Eventually, I walked out of the walled gardens to the Princess of Wales conservatory and explored the alpines and cacti.

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And made friends with some gardeners working in the grasses.

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Found Robbie right where I left him…

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And we went on to explore some more. :D

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More from Kew tomorrow.

Here I am in England! At home.

Look what Robert had waiting for me!

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But that’s not all. Look what else was waiting for me!

This is my new car; it’s a vintage, 1970′s series 3 Land Rover.

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And it’s MINE! Robbie bought it for me and he and Jason fixed almost everything on it in time for me to get here.

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By the way, it’s been named DODO (as per the license plate)! So I’m introducing you to The Dodo. You’ll probably see a lot of it and my mini this summer, (which by the way has been named The Doctor because the license plate says DOC. I need a Dalek key chain for my mini…lol).

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What I thought when I got here was that I only had three tea bags left in the cupboard. How could I survive with only three tea bags? :( There just is no way! So I asked R to drive to the store so I could get some more tea.

Then we cleaned up the cupboard and found all this tea! :D

But he still drove to the store to get me some fresh tea bags.

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Ah…my hero!

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Now we’re at home. R is with our friend Alan trying to sort out a problem on Alan’s car and I’ve just picked this lovely, fat Nigella seed pod out of the garden…

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…and drew it on the page that says “English”.

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It’s good to be here. :D

Summer at home tour

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

It’s been an exciting few days of trying to figure out exactly what where home for the summer is.

I sat in my studio and started to paint and came up with this image: The impossibility of my West Coast chickadee on the same bird feeder as my British blue titmouse. Both the same species of birds, both hundreds of miles apart. And that best describes my life, my friends, because Canada may be my country, but Europe is my home town.

Most of you know that I was born in Prague and now live between Vancouver Canada and Oxfordshire UK, so this probably doesn’t come as a surprise.

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As far as I can remember life has always been like that…an adventure, and this site is a way for me to communicate that adventure with you.

This is where I live for 7 or so months of the year: a 1920 Craftsman cottage nine streets away from the Pacific ocean. Where I have a studio in the loft, with a rather large green and oak trunk, which holds C’s summer journals.

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Chloe has been keeping summer journals practically since she could write. I looked at the journals yesterday. I flipped thru the pages and remembered us in Geneva, in Vienna, in Prague, in Venice, in Paris and in England. Every summer, ever spring, every school holiday and sometimes when there was no holiday but we said, “Stuff that for a game of soldiers, let’s get out of here!” And we lived there. Really lived there. Rented an apartment, spoke the language, cooked the groceries we bought, entertained the friends we made, hiked the country, rented a car and ended up in Lichtenstein, got on the fast train to Prague and spent the night in Berlin (oops)…really lived.

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I’m so glad we glued C’s photo to the front of each journal as a reference to that year. These journals are put away now, safely, for her future, but each one is a treasure of summer memories.

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Right now I’m about five days away from switching city for country, pavement for meadow.

The quirky 1920′s cottage in Vancouver for an equally quirky 1950′s cottage in Oxfordshire with a name rather than an address, West Cottage, five fields away from the Thames, where my love is at the moment.

Switching my beautiful blue/green ocean…

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for my beautiful blue/green river.

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Where I always stop for tea and dream up new art, new techniques, new media…

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Like enamelled copper, pottery, stone carving and lino cuts.

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Where my vintage mini and land rover wait for me to join Robert’s one-of-a-kind cars and our friends at races and car shows.

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Where I hound car boot sales and come back with way too many treasures to cart back to Vancouver at once.

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But this summer is a special summer. I’ll be going to Prague first. Back to the heart of my home, my spirit, my wandering Bohemian nature. I’m going where the light is pink and my grandparents sleep in the warm earth. Going to visit family and friends, to speak the language, to walk the streets, to touch the city and connect with my home.

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And then, then I’ll fly back to London, and Robert will pick me up and we’ll drive thru Oxford…

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and we’ll go home.

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And we’ll stay at home till the weather turns and the early autumn fogs start rolling over the meadows and all the wildflowers turn to seed…

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…and the wind will change direction and we’ll feel it and see it in the willows, and I will leave my river…

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…and return to my ocean.

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Do you remember a couple of posts back I said I would give away this image (below)? Well, I decided to give away both the chickadee/titmouse and the beginning of this post and this towhee image below, plus a few of my greeting cards, and any other silly and wonderful goodies I can think of, to two random generator numbers, so, if you like, please leave me a comment and I’ll draw the name on Monday morning and post it off PDQ before I leave on Tuesday, (so please leave me a way to get in touch to get your addy). Also, I’m off to visit with my daughter Kerstie and my three granddaughters for the weekend (and this requires hours of driving), so might not have a chance for replies till a bit later, but, since we’re probably all bloggers and you all feel the same thrill, am every so grateful for each and every comment and connection. :D

Also, sending out a great, big, THANK YOU to Kelly who invited me to take part in this lovely blog tour. Please pop over to her site. You’ll love her warm and gentle nature as much as I do.

Here is the updated blog tour list for everyone to visit these lovely gals.

Wednesday,  June 18th

 On Sutton Place

Stone Gable

My Soulful Home

Thursday,  June 19th

 Country Design Style

Cedar Hill Farmhouse

Lilacs & Longhorns

Friday,  June 20th

 Thistlewood Farms

At The Picket Fence

Jennifer Rizzo 

 

Saturday,  June 21st

Our Southern Home

Southern Hospitality

Debbie Doos

Veronica Roth

Finding Home

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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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Post Valentine’s loveliness plus a new page

Today’s rain and cold is making us want to stay at home.
Hibernate. Have a bit more winter.
But we were out of fruit and so decided on a morning trip to Whole Foods.

Every time I’m there I think of how much I love to live with whole, natural, organic goods.
Do you like beeswax candles and fresh, handmade soaps? I do.

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Some of my friends make their own candles and soap. I’ve made candles before but not soap. I’d like to try to one day.

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It’s lovely at home today. It’s warm and fragrant with flowers.

Yesterday I made another page in my personal journal and it was late when I finished constructing it. This afternoon I sliced up a blood orange, lit some candles and had a good look at the page.

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I love these little candles. They are peony scented, made by a small Cornish company called St. Eval Candle Company. Robert gave them to me for Christmas. They are just so delicious.

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I’ve decided that I really love this page.
The words I found there say: “The problem was not sufficient to keep the drive down.”
To me, this represents my drive to constantly create things, to get over my problems and limitation, you know, not let anything hold me down. The words reminded me of weeds…misunderstood flowers really, plants that belong.

Weeds which are so powerful that they push thru cement and grow and flower in any condition, with any limitations. I love weeds and draw, paint, carve and sculpt them a great deal. I used some vibrant tissue rectangles, which came form a wonderful New Year’s Eve years ago, and collaged the other words away, then painted with my acrylics and inks. I’ve run out of mat medium and so used gloss medium and really love the glossy look. Proves once again that there are no mistakes, just happy accidents. :D

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Now I’ve made myself a cup of tea and am reading the next page. So far the words “experimental genius” have captured my attention. (By the way, this next page is the last page with writing. Not sure how I’ll construct the photo pages.)

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Experimental genius reminds me of R! This Valentine’s we are in different countries and he sent me a little video called “look what I found”. It shows all the flood water running across the field paths and I was completely ready to see some squeaky little thing paddling its head off, and, instead, there was an “I” and a heart and a “U” made from bright pebbles under that cold, running water. And his hand was red from the frozen water!

R is such a keeper! :D

Hope your weekend is lovely and tranquil and you’re all basking in the Valentine’s love, which hopefully sticks around in your heart all year.

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Merry Christmas everyone!

Good morning, good afternoon and evening too, where ever you are my dear hearts, new friends, friends I haven’t met yet but know I’ll love. Did you have/are you having a lovely Christmas day?
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We have had a wonderful peaceful day with much love, texts and emails from friends and cuddles from Theo.
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Christmas here in England is all about the Christmas lunch and this means TURKEY, lots of it, just around 3pm, right after the Queen’s speech, so the turkey went in by 11am.
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Open wood and coal fire all day, open prezzies and happy moments.
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Theo could smell the turkey and knew there was a piece there for him, but had terrific trouble waiting.
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At last our Christmas lunch was ready.
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And Theo got up on his window ledge to wait for his share.
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When it was his turn, after we ate, (remember, ex pub cat with little discipline if he’s allowed), he gobbled up the turkey so fast I couldn’t get a clear photo of him. I guess it met with his approval…lol. (Don’t worry he got a huge bowl of turkey in the kitchen.)
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With our candles lit and a cheery fire, we watched the Doctor Who Christmas special. I’m afraid we sort of lost the plot. We ended up scratching our heads and asking each other where the heck was the story…and what was the story anyway? Anyone get it? Please let me know.
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It’s evening now in England and I’m thinking of what has now passed, what is to come, where we’re headed. Robert is rubbing Theo’s soft ears and Theo is out like a light beside him. What a beautiful night this is…this Christmas night. The fire is cracking and the candles are burning down. There’s a soft, warm glow in my heart.
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Togetherness is where it’s at this evening

It’s lovely for me when I get to spend the afternoon with both of us doing some art and work and talking out some issues in our lives.

This time the afternoon turned into evening, (days are so short right now), and as the lights were turned on progressively, I felt pretty lucky to have C here right now and realised we’ve been at it for several hours and time just stood still.

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C is in the middle of two important projects. She is designing a campaign for shark fining awareness, which she hopes to present all over her campus and garner support to stop that gruesome practice and also is part of a team of researchers gathering info for a report on sexting and the ramifications in Vancouver high schools.

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C does big, bold designs and is brilliant at them. This will be the design for a T shirt to raise awareness. (I must get her to post some of these to her blog)

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I’ve decided it’s time for a new map. I love my map series and haven’t painted a new one since late August. So for this map I’m focusing on the Nuthatch. Sweet little bird. I love the way he descends trees and branches head first. I’ve done some preliminary studies and think this is going to be two nuthatches, one on a branch and one flying to the branch.

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The branch will follow a road right thru the centre of the map. I think the branch will touch the ground and there will be bluebells. Yes, I think there’ll be bluebells.

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A Saturday walk at the river (South arm of the Fraser, at Steveston)

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What a difference a couple of weeks have made at the river! The last time I was here the water was blue-black and solemn and dreary, and the grasses were just brown lumpy islands with water rivulets sparkling around them.

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Now look! The warmer temps have caused a melt and the rich sedimentary water has turned the river a slight violet shade. The grasses have greened and grown to hide periscoping Canada geese.

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Today was somewhat windy, but warm and bright, and the wind played on the water with those little gusts which you could watch sparkling along. You know the ones? The ones which look like a shoal of thousands of little silvery minnows?

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It feels so good to be at the river, to see the broom blooming, welcoming birds and bees, to see the gulls banking in the wind and moving from place to place just by spreading their wings and catching the breeze.
It felt good to look across to the eagles nest on the island and realise that an eagle just lifted from there.

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The only thing which spoiled this lovely, lovely day, was the startling discovery of twelve fresh shark fins for sale on one of the fishing boats at the fisherman’s dock and several vocal Chinese women fighting over them. Twelve harmless creatures, caught, mutilated and thrown back to die slowly of their injury, for prestigious soup, for showing off wealth, for pride…for nothing. Banned in Vancouver, but not here in the city of Richmond. But still, there is an election coming very soon and banning shark fin soup is a political platform.

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So we will try to put that in the back of our mind and sit here in the shady corner with the river behind us and concentrate on how good it feels to be here.

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Finally, a chance to get out in the garden

I just realised that I’ve been working in the garden for a couple of hours this afternoon and I’m actually showing you photos of my “Potting Bench”.

Oh well, I did work in the garden for a couple of hours but there’s not a lot to show for it. The garden really swallows up the work…don’t you think so?

So here is the the west wall of my garage. In it is a large and lovely window. Perfect for starting seeds. On the wall hangs my late aunt’s oil of irises; a flower that I love to pieces. (Before anyone starts yelling about beautiful oil paintings hanging in the garage, remember that there are so many artists in this family that…yes…big oils are hanging in the garage, and it gives me my beautiful space that I crave.)

Beside it is a green chalk board rescued years ago when Shaughnessy Hospital was rebuilt. On it is a chalk map of last year’s garden.

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I love the old letterpress drawer for sorting seeds. It used to hang in C’s room and held tiny fairytale glass things but then she grew up. :(

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This zinc tub was a thrift store find, (probably $5 or less…I’m a cheap date), and I just empty the seed starter mix into it, and a wire basket holds new tubers and bulbs.

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Right, time to get working. The cold frame is in place and the soil warmed, the sweet peas were started yesterday, (St. Patrick’s Day ritual), and now to plant the peas, beans, greens and the Nigella seeds I stole rescued from the gardener’s compost pile at Kew last year.

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Fog

It’s been one of those lovely Vancouver winter days where the whole morning harbour is shrouded in fog.

I know it’s advection fog (a left-over term from a geography course) and I love to watch it move in and settle on the water. There’s very little to be seen so I close my eyes and listen. Fog horns are sounding, the gulls are shrieking, metal rigs are clanking against boat masts. Somewhere in the harbour a sea plane’s engine starts to rumble and my breath swirls the white haze around me.

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Then, as the sun begins to rise and warm I can see the shore birds backlit by the weak sun.

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A few more minutes and more of the harbour comes into view.

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But the sun is determined and soon the magic begins to evaporate.

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Mornings like today I think on my favorite little poem, a Carl Sandburg poem; the first one my children learned to recite.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbour and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.