Sunday, December 30, 2007

Home appreciation

Russell sat at the breakfast table munching banana bread and reading the Sunday Times.

I was treated to a view of the headline in the business section, one of those gloom-and-doom predictions about "home appreciation." The writer was predicting a slow year ahead, with home prices up for grabs.

"Home appreciation," I mused aloud. "Appreciating the comforts of our homes would be much more pleasant."

And I've been thinking about that off and on all day.

How blessed I am to have a warm and cosy home, the perfume of vegetable soup simmering atop the stove and a party in the works for tomorrow night. All the home comforts I treasure so. I could feel myself slipping into the nesting mode. Again.

So you can see how I couldn't resist the opportunity to make a batch of homemade marshmallows to float atop those dark chocolate cocoas we've been drinking for breakfast and midnight snacks lately.

Here's the recipe, in case you want to rejoice in domestic bliss for yourself. It's surprisingly failproof and easy, courtesy of

Homemade Marshmallows

Servings: Makes about 96 marshmallows.

about 1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water (about 115°F.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites*
1 teaspoon vanilla

*if egg safety is a problem in your area, substitute powdered egg whites reconstituted according to manufacturer's instructions
Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners' sugar.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F., about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. In a large bowl with cleaned beaters beat whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 cup confectioners― sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up 1 corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and let drop onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly 1-inch cubes. Sift remaining confectioners' sugar into a large bowl and add marshmallows in batches, tossing to evenly coat. Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

In Sharyn's studio...

If you were a little mouse in the corner, as my grandma used to say, you could find me burning the midnight oil in the studio these last few months! I even worked part of Christmas, can you believe that?

Well, it's true, and at moments like these I am so glad for an adorable and cosy workspace. A new friend I met through Victoria has asked if I'd post a few studio photos, and since I'm so wrapped in comforts here, I am glad to oblige.

I can't believe I'm showing you my oh-so-messy main work table. Notice the lamp overhead? It's the trumpet from an old victrola! My friend Tom, who owns the Brass Lamp in Snohomish, Washington, made all my light fixtures, and they are all sweetly funky. I feel I need another one! There is an old funnel made into another hanging lamp, and it still smells ever so faintly of machine oil, since it was used for tractor maintenance for many a year.

The shelves are a rotating seasonal display, and I change the delights there on a whim! You might find a wren's nest or some blooming violets or my grandma's old vase with some roses plucked from the doorway. Heirloom roses decorate the trellis just outside the front door, but of course they are sound asleep now.

And if you think the work surface is a mess now, just wait until this afternoon, when I need to make three Halloween hats for a new line of giftware coming out next year from Demdaco. Oh my, the snippets of ribbon and clouds of mica glitter! The bits of cut paper and tiny rivers of glue...

When my messiness overflows, the top of the big black filing cabinet is a great spot to catch the flotsam & jetsam. You'll usually find something drying on the big workspace by the door. If you walk through the door to the second room of the studio, you'll see the printing area, and the big old door that now serves as another work table.

The studio sits in the middle of the garden, which is oh-so-grand all summer long, with the foxgloves nodding by the windows and rose petals raining down over the front door. We nibble on raspberries between the house and the studio and munch a cherry or two from the tree just beside the french doors in back.

But for now, it's wintertime and we may see snow drifting gracefully past the window and settling gently on the sleeping perennials. Birds peck away at the suet feeders and my dear puppy snores at my feet.

Time for me to be up and doing Easter art for fabric, and then moving along to those Halloween hats. The studio is cosy in winter, and I am the busy bee.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas treasure

My name is Sharyn Sowell and I am a very proud mama.

Beside the tree is my very favorite Christmas treasure, a common sheet of paper worth a fortune to me. If my house was burning down it's one of the things I'd save first. I'm a mom, after all, and this was Brian's letter to Santa written in his inimitable childish scrawl.

"Dear Santa," he wrote, "I hope you will come to my house."

He wrote it when he was adorably five, a mug of cocoa at his elbow, tongue sticking out slightly with the effort of getting it just right.

Fast forward... The son who wrote that note is in college now, and his brother just graduated. I could burst my buttons with love and pride.

It's Christmas, and I am aware once again how amazingly sweet it is to be a mom and to share the wonder and delight of children,whether little ones or those grown tall, and Santa and mugs of cocoa by the Christmas tree.

My name is Sharyn Sowell but I love it when I hear those familiar voices shout my other name. "Hey, Mom! Merry Christmas!"

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Light your heart for Christmas

Have you decorated and baked, shopped and wrapped, tucked things under the tree and still have a list longer than Santa's? That would just about describe me! And I've got a deadline calendar that makes me panic every time I even dare to peek at it.

But I've been thinking lately about a simple truth: even if I got it all done early, even if I did everything perfectly (which, of course, I can't) and even if I exceeded all expectations, it wouldn't really matter.

Because the important thing, the real thing, the deepest truth at the root of Christmas is this: that we light our hearts before we set a match to that first candle, that we ornament our conversation with kind words. That we give ourselves as the first, best gift, even if it's the only one.

I'm making my lists and checking them twice, making sure my own heart is the my sincerest gift this season, and it's remarkably freeing. The lights are lovely but a beautiful heart matters even more.

Merry me! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Penny comes home

They say hearts fly home at Christmas and I for one believe it.

Life doesn't guarantee happily-ever-after storybook magic but sometimes that's what you get, and when it happens at Christmastime it's particularly wonderful.

My daughter Jessamyn and I lost our hearts yesterday to a sweet-faced stray walking through the door of a pet store crammed with shoppers and rawhide bones, leashes and fishbowls.

And an hour later, we'd adopted a yellow lab with soft brown eyes and a dear pink nose. From the moment she stepped over the threshold Penny was at home. Now snoozing on a lap by the fireside, you can see it's Christmas and Penny's come home for good.

Jimmy Stewart was right, it's definitely a wonderful life, and never more than at Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I'm dreaming...

Yesterday was so festive! We decorated the tree and went through the ornament boxes one by one. Ever the sentimental mother, my favorites are the ratty ones the boys made with their grubby little hands... the windmill with its paper blades tipped to the right, the snowman whose cotton balls were glued on with more enthusiasm than strictly necessary, the angel fabricated from a paper plate that has seen brighter days. Priceless.

Best of all is the note to Santa, pencilled on a piece of parchment.

Dear Santa
Please cum to my hous.

I would not take a million dollars for it.

After the decorations were in place I tore myself away from the crackling fire and Steve Tyrell crooning out Christmas favorites. Caesar, the beloved beagle and I went running along the river bank. Snow kissed our faces and the wind refreshed us... there is nothing sweeter than those dear doggie smiles and the knowledge that when you return you'll be greeted with all the joys of Christmas and a pot of hot chili simmering on the back burner.

I'm dreaming of a family Christmas and wishing you joy in full measure, just as we have here in our own quiet but busy corner.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Nature decorates for the season

I've been digging through the Christmas decoration boxes, revelling in the colors and the memories... the Scandinavian candelabra and that bent-up old windmill ornament Brian made in kindergarten... vintage glass balls and the Nativity I inherited last year. Each one precious. I love decorating for Christmas!

And I'm not the only one who loves bringing out the goodies. On my daily run, I was captivated by the decorations as big as all outdoors.

Branches coated with silvery frost. Farmhouses and barns and the brilliant snowy glacier atop Mount Baker. Scarlet berries and glossy leaves. Horses fairly dancing across the meadow, and me with a pocketful of carrots. The spiky sculpture of dried roadside weeds (were they this elegant last summer when the blooms were waving in the wind?)

From my heart and home to yours, I am wishing you moments of gratitude and beauty and quiet times of refreshment and inspiration during this most special of all seasons.

Christmas blessings inside and out!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What's inspiring me today

"What inspires you?" she wanted to know.

A million things. Maybe a million in one. I can only tell you what inspires me today, right this very minute.

Today it's the whiskers on my dog, some fallen ginkgo leaves laying in a golden pile, and the trees that line the river.

You might be looking at that picture and thinking, "my goodness, if I lived in a place that perfect, I could make something lovely, too."

Well, let me tell you, I took this picture as I ran up to Lowes to meet my husband and buy a dimmer switch for the dining room. It wasn't anything as ideal as you're imagining. Here is what was at my back when I snapped the photo above.

Beauty is where you find it. It's all around you. I am fond of saying we are surrounded by miracles, and it's absolutely true. Look for a miracle near you. Ignore the ugliness of the freeway, the cheap and ugly. Just dwell today on the everyday miracles and forget the rest.

Be inspired.

What's tickling my eyes and imagination? The memory of a parrot I saw in the tropics. The smell of muffins baking and the fire's gentle snap. Bare branches swaying. Rounded tummies of pregnant friends. Time to get the scissors out. I've got deadlines and an ever-flowing creative stream.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The blessing of being loved

Donna, it's all your fault. You started it Saturday. Calling me bright & early in the morning from the barn sale where you had your mitts on some fabulous old paper. Picking it up and mailing me a fat box of old books and calling cards and miscellaneous flotsam and jetsam... You made me feel so loved!

It must be a conspiracy of the very nicest sort because the very next evening, up to my doorstep tripped not just one or two but TEN of my dear friends, ready to help package five hundred dear prints for the Jan/Feb issue of everyone's favorite magazine- Victoria. How kind! We howled with laughter, reading the tiny scraps and telling stories. Fingers flew and the prints look wonderful... never mind the condition of the house when the party was over!

This is the season to stop & say thank you for the abundant gifts we've been given this year.

My surgeon, Dr. Eric Fassler, helped me back to vibrant health again. My licensing partners have made my work more rewarding than I'd have ever dreamed possible. My husband tells me how much he loves me over and over, my friends & family have made it plain. I am blessed beyond belief.

I made this crown from vintage paper, my dear old press and my overactive imagination. Today as I count my blessings I could just about sum it all up by wearing that crown. Being loved and cared for by so many people is my blessing this year.

If you're reading my blog, you're a part of the blessing. Thank you so much, whether you're a dearly loved friend or someone I've not met yet. I am thankful for you!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sneak Peek at Cheap Chic

Today I'm sharing a sneak peek at cheap chic (just try saying that quickly three times without stopping!)

This is a photo - granted a horrible one but let's be gracious and remember Yours Truly never pretended to be a photographer! - of a project from my upcoming book, Silhouette Decor.(Shameless self promotion: coming out from Lark Books in Spring '09) I am hard at work writing this, my second how to book, and while some may doubt it, writing a book is a project that resembles a black hole; it sucks up an incredible amount of time and energy. But hallelujah, when your book comes out it's like giving birth. You instantly fall in love and forget the pain.

But I digress.

This project is cheap decor with lots of flair. Simply put, you cover a piece of foamcore board with a piece of paper of your choice. I even used a sheet that was very fibrous and not quite big enough, but I patched a bit here and there and you'd never know it.

You choose an icon- in this case obviously I chose an armchair. In the book you can cheat and use the pattern I'll provide but if you simply can't wait you can just do as I did and cut out something fun. I then took a piece of bright contrasting paper (if you must know the truth this was something I found in the Daniel Smith sale bin for a mere quarter! That's how cheap I am.) Cut wild scallops or curves or florals, anything that suits you.

Now arrange it all on another slice of foamboard- here I used black foamboard, which I adore. Using a stiff glue, stick the paper on first and then the large icon which is dimensional.

Add a hanging device of your choice on the back. Now hang it on your wall, step back and admire the fruits of your labor, you gifted thing, you! Don't you feel clever?

Sometimes friendship looks like banana bread

Last night I heard a tap-tap on the front porch steps and then the doorbell gave a cheerful ring, which set the dogs tails wagging and joyful barks.

I opened the door to see Eileen's cheerful face.

"Here!" she cried. "Look what I've brought you!"

An adorable mug and matching little tray, spicy tea bags and a fragrant mini-loaf of banana bread.

"Eat it nice and warm and give yourself plenty of butter."

And then she was gone. And I was left with a mug of tea and a loaf of warm, sweet friendship that looks curiously like homemade banana bread.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thank you so much

I have heard lately from so many wonderful people, and if I had a tail it would be wagging like nobody's business.

How can I say thank you enough? If you've stopped to look at my art or bought a product I've worked on I just want to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can't believe I get to do this for a job. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blissfully printing the day away...

This morning at oh dark hundred, I tiptoed out to the studio, printing plate in one hand and a cup of cocoa in the other. When I print, I dress in my oldest, comfiest clothes, a wide, silly grin spreading across my face as irresistible as sunrise coming over the horizon.

Soon the press was humming along, its rollicking rhythm intoxicating me, the scent of the ink and buttery feel of the paper giving me the usual thrill. Fingers fed the sheets one by one through the press. I could print forever!

And now you have a sneak peek at the beginnings of the sweet prints which will appear in the Jan / Feb issue of Victoria Magazine. Antique Harper's Magazines are being readied for the rolling vintage cutters, and it's coming together beautifully.

Woohoo! Happy times in the studio today!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Autumn gems

I remember being a tiny child on my mother's lap and hearing the phrase "from glory into glory" and being fascinated by the words. Even when very little I loved words and everything about them. I would spell out the words on a milk carton, sound out the letters on the street signs, try to write curly cursive in second grade.

My grandaddy had an enormous dictionary that weighed more than I did when he taught me the magic of looking up the letters that would string together to capture any meaning you wanted to convey, anything at all! Sonnets, business deals, comedies, all contained in that magic dictionary.

So naturally when I heard the phrase "from glory into glory" I repeated it over and over (likely driving my parents mad, but my mother was the very soul of encouragement and always encouraged curiosity no matter what.) I looked up the words in that enormous tome, and never forgot.

Glory: noun; Great honor, praise, or distinction accorded by common consent; Adoration, praise, and thanksgiving offered in worship.Majestic beauty and splendor; resplendence.

So today, while on a walk surrounded by the majestic beauty of autumn in this little valley, I found myself thanking God for such an overflow of inspiration and saying "this is amazing!"

Sunset over the fields. Glory. The jewels of produce in the barn. Glory. Maples glowing in the last afternoon rays. Oh, glory, glory, glory!

Everywhere you look around here, you move from glory into glory. It's autumn again. I am drowning in work but never to busy to fill my eyes with the miracles that are commonplace and gloriously everyday.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I love shapes

When I was little I loved my sister's set of Colorforms. Remember those chunky vinyl stickies in bright colors that would adhere to the shiny black background? You could make those shapes into almost anything.

Afternoons slipped into months and months became years. And here I am, all grown up, and still loving the way a triangle joins an oval and an oval overlaps a square.

Which might explain how it was that I found myself at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai yesterday afternoon, oohing and aahing over the shapes of the plants while the rest of the people in the garden were content to smell the flowers and admire the views.

Today I'm home again, and when I loaded my 840 favorite pictures of the trip, I realized that some of my favorite photos are those that show so clearly my passion for shapes.

I think I'm a little odd in some ways... I look at the world differently. I'm a grown-up, it's true, but in some ways I have never given up the Colorforms I loved as a kid. I see the world as shapes, shapes that are expressed in a rainbow of colors and textures and levels, but the bottom line for me, the most visually exciting stuff is all about the shape.

So today I wanted to share a bit of the botanical garden through my eyes. Can you feel the joy of abundant shapes?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Simply resting on the beach

Sometimes the nicest thing you can do, maybe even the most essential thing you can do, is just to lay down and do nothing.

Just rest.


Lay back and watch the clouds slide past.

I've spent more than a week now doing mostly that. I admit to working a bit, dancing a little, running on the beach and snorkeling when that sounded like fun. I've laughed and dodged some raindrops and clinked a toast to more happy years ahead. And squeezed in a little more work.

But mostly Hawaii has been all about rest.

Tomorrow night we board American's red eye flight for home. I am so thrilled to be going home to the usual chaotic work schedule. And isn't that the point of a good rest, after all? It's all about that delicate balance between working hard and playing hard, resting and exercise.

Boy, has this been a good rest. And now to real life again, full of inspiration and ideas, ready to tackle the challenges.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Hazards and happiness, or in the tropics with Mr. Right

Picture me, dear friend, in my new yellow bathing suit and movie-star sunglasses, toes painted a bright & sassy pink, iced tea in hand, reclining on a chaise lounge on a stereotypical beach in Hawaii. Sketching spring icons, all things Easter bunnyish and gardeny (rather an unlikely topic for a beachside sketching session, but I am working on spring giftware and a chocolate bunny fabric collection.) Sweet rounded tummies appeared in my sketch pad as I sat dreaming and planning out the basic elements for a pregnancy journal.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the gentle trade winds turned nasty, and my papers, stashed beneath a giant bottle of sunscreen and a rather large novel, were snatched up and flung willy nilly over the beach and tumbled down the lava rocks past the sandy shore. Instant disaster!

Thank goodness I married the sweetest man in the universe. Who else would scramble heroically after my missing papers? Who else would shout encouragement as I stretched my leg down between boulders, trying to retrieve a sketchpad trapped between boulders in the pounding surf using those pink toes with the polish barely dry?

Most of what we got back dry was blank paper. The rest was a soggy mass too blurry to use. Russell is a smart man as well as a kind one, so he mumbled sympathy as I dumped the dripping mess into the nearby garbage.

Much as I hate to start over, I have to admit that usually when I trash something, accidentally or otherwise, the next batch is usually better than the one I lost. So once I got past the frustration of throwing away so much work, I trotted out to the beach, with fins and mask and my for-sissies-only wet suit shirt, ready for another snorkeling adventure.

Tomorrow will find me exploring the botanical gardens in the morning, snapping photos galore. That will provide more creative fodder than I could exhaust in months. Then in the afternoon I plan to tackle those spring icons and the pregnant mommies again.

Picture me, dear friend, on the beach in that sweet yellow bathing suit, bright pink toes, iced tea in hand, reclining on a chaise lounge and making sure I anchor the next set of papers so securely that even a rogue wind can not possibly whip it away.

Drawing on the beach in Hawaii alongside my very own Mr. Right. Bliss. Pure bliss.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Perspective... it's a word we artists bandy about almost without thinking. Where are you as the viewer in relationship to the image? What changes in your picture when you take a different perspective? What would be the most effective perspective to convey your message? Thoughtful artists can spend hours considering this before they ever set brush to canvas or sledge to rock.

I've been pondering my own perspective on life lately. Having major surgery and taking some time off to recuperate gave me time to simply lay on the sofa and think.
I decided I need to change a few things, make adjustments, tweak my perspective on what really matters.

I decided to celebrate more, to live in the moment in a fuller sense than I've done until now, to savor the scents and tastes of the season. I want to laugh without self consciousness and cry without shame, not to care who sees me at either. I'm turning over a new leaf so to speak, and it feels so good. I'm relishing the joy of being thin again, feeling comfy in my clothes. Turning the electric heat pad on high to warm my tootsies when I climb into bed and savoring the pleasures of a steamy shower.

Perspective can be such a liberating thing, but only when you've got it right. It's great to enjoy the pleasures of life, but I'm also enjoying giving it away with a new fervor.

My husband & I wrote a check that was big enough to really sting the bank account and found that giving really is more fun than getting. I am learning that I do have the gift of being an honest encourager. And it's fun. Everywhere you look there's someone who needs a smile, a gentle word of hope, a whisper that says, "don't give up."

My surgery and recovery gave me time to adjust my perspective and it's been a good thing. Thank God for time away with him to get things straightened up a little bit where the lines had gotten just slightly blurry.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Running past autumn's miracles... and stopping

After dropping my package at Fed Ex today, I parked the car in the trail lot and zipped my windbreaker, ready for a run on the trails through the forest. This is always a challenge for me. It's one of my favorite places for the peculiar walk / run that is my daily exercise routine.

The problem is that there are so many fascinating diversions in the forest that it's hard to keep a fast pace. My eyes wander to the changing miracles. Today was no different than any other day, or shall I say it was delightfully different than it was only yesterday. The wonders I found then were not the same as those that caught my eye today.

Who can pass a sight like this pool without pausing to admire the trees and their lovely reflections, smooth as glass in spite of the wind? Or the tiny mystery of berries I can't identify?

Mosses and mushrooms, the last blackberries, a great blue heron rising in flight... Delights abounded at every turn. I ran along the path, stopped to admire, ran, stopped again, ran, stopped yet again.

By the time I returned to the van the sun was setting over the marshy bog on the eastern side of the woods. Tomorrow I will be snipping out cattails and herons. I am living with miracles and I can't help it. The amazement just kind of seeps out of me and into my work.

I am truly blessed.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

3am inspiration

The small, rustling sounds of pencil on paper, the scratching you can hardly notice during the day is magnified in the moonlit silence at 3am. I anticipate this and roll over ever so gently, avoiding waking my incredibly patient husband whose snuffling breaths rhythmic. I wish I were sleeping soundly as he is.

But I'm laying here, wide awake, dreaming up new designs. I reach for the pencil and tablet I keep on the bedside table for moments like this, and hold my breath, hoping I can write ever so gently, and avoid waking Russell.

This is my time of inspiration and often my best ideas come in the middle of the night like this.

Whether it's nostalgic fashion for a mug with a pincushion tucked in or chrysanthemums on a lamp or leaping bunnies for cards, my dreams seem to be peppered with ideas and I am awakened with a flash of inspiration which just has to be recorded with a scratchy-sounding pencil on my wee little tablet, so the plan won't vanish when daylight comes.

In the morning, my husband will find my chicken scratching on stray sheets of paper littering the bedroom floor. He will smile and shake his head.

"My creative wife," he'll mutter, "She's even drawing in the dark." We creative types are definitely hard to understand sometimes.

For now I reach for the pencil and note "mums overall... vary scale... plum on vellum..." I just love those middle of the night ideas and the pencil and paper laying by a good book. How lovely to make your passion your job.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Looking at the world through amber glasses

Most women love shoes. I understand the attraction but for myself, give me a new pair of glasses anytime. Today I could not resist a pair of very artsy frames, marked down to 70% off, probably due to their funky color and unusual shape. Evidently I am the only one to find the rather bold amber yellow frames irresistible.

"Are you sure?" asked the girl in the shop. "They can't possibly match with much."

"Funky, definitely funky," my husband said. "Those glasses look like your most artistic self."

"Buy them," he advised.

And I did, the moment I checked the price tag and quickly figured those gorgeous yellow frames were an unbelievable $30. (The only thing sweeter than a great pair of glasses is a great pair of glasses at a bargain price.)

Just one hour later I walked out clad in those amazingly quirky eyeglasses, grinning like a fool.

You see, I am definitely not like everyone else.

I love eyeglasses that are a bit odd. I have my father's old 60's aluminum and black frames, small enough to fit my face just perfectly. I have an idea the next pair will be authentic vintage.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Russell hauled in an enormous basket of beautiful organic apples and pears from the garden this afternoon, and I took a break from mocking up product to peel, slice and put on the stove a generous batch of homemade cranberry applesauce.

Now the whole house is redolent with the perfume of simmering apples. Is there any more delicious smell on earth?

Back to work now, I sniff the air. I don't care that I look exactly like Caesar, our beagle, when he's hot on the trail of some mysterious smell in the garden. It simply smells too good to miss.

I don't think anyone anywhere has a sweeter life than mine, full of the twin satisfactions of creative challenge and the simple joys of home and family. So much to be thankful for this autumn afternoon.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A new baby in the studio!

Yes, it's true! There's a new baby in the studio. No diaper changes or burping, and though you will find me murmuring to it at 3am, this is the only photo I've taken of my new darling.

It's lovely having a new work tool and I'm enjoying getting to know its finer features. A confirmed Mac-aholic, I am pleased as punch with the latest member of the studio family and could not resist sharing.

I am resisting the urge to brag on all its fine points and nobody knows if it's a boy or a girl, but I'm definitely in love with my new Mac.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

back in my favorite place

It's true, real life is definitely the best fairy tale. I am laughing, out in the studio again alone with the scissors and glue, surrounded by piles of paper spilling from the drawers and scattered across the floor. Which is the perfect scrap for this project?

I've finally got a hint of energy again and the first thing I want to do is cut out a wonderful Mary-and-Jesus Christmas image I've been dreaming of for weeks. It's not what I'm "supposed" to be doing right now but it's been percolating in my head and simply must be cut. Then on to a floral piece for my upcoming book, sample greeting cards, more fabric... Isn't this FUN???

So it's true! Our ordinary lives aren't ordinary at all. I felt horrible for weeks and now I am beginning to think about doing a dance around the studio, simply from joy at perking up again. Isn't that a miracle?

Real life is truly the best fairy tale, and we are so blessed to actually live it out from day to day. The blessing of healing and restoration is my real life fantasy come true today. I am thankful beyond measure, and tomorrow can only be sweeter than today.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

cosy days among the pillows

Here I've been, quietly tucked into the nest we call home, covers pulled up to my chin, resting.

The sun rises and sets, the clock ticks softly in the corner, and days pass gently.

I am recuperating.

Tenderly cosseted by those who love me, surrounded by the good wishes of friends, I marvel at the kindness shown me and each day gain just a bit more strength than the day before.

While I can hardly wait to resume normal life again, I'm also content to simply lay still, listening to the clock's tic-tic-tic and patting the dog on the head when he noses my hand as if to say, "everything okay?"

Soon I'll be strong again (I've got exciting projects stacked up like airliners at JFK) but for today it's enough that I can work an hour, sleep an hour, work an hour, sleep an hour, while the rest of the world bustles along as usual.

For today it's enough that the sun will rise and set, the clock will tick in the corner and the rhythm of my gentle day continues as I lay dreaming among the pillows, recuperating.

Friday, August 24, 2007


What a week of wonder and amazement! We spent our vacation week in the Eastern Sierras, hiking and fishing.

It has been a week of trout-flicked diamond droplets on a pristine lake, hikes along creeks lined with beaver lodges and aspen, and picnics where we found ourselves sitting in a meadow full of wild blueberry and strawberry.

Near Tioga Pass, we made our usual pilgrimage up past an abandoned silver mine, into the back country where Russell caught and released wild brook trout and I, on hands and knees, followed a tiny frog and captured with my camera butterflies and bees sucking nectar from wildflowers.

Silently we sat for almost two hours watching deer browsing on sage and drinking at the edge of the lake. Speckled twin fawns, a yearling buck with velvety little antlers, an elegant doe...

It has been a week of rest and joy.

Next week will be radically different. The whirlwind of a photo shoot for a magazine and the reality of major surgery await me.

Sometimes an island of peace is a precious thing, preparing us for the stresses of life ahead. For me this time apart has been a memory to savor, carrying me through the more dramatic adventures ahead.

Monday, August 13, 2007

cheerful barns

One of the best parts of rural living is the barns that dot the landscape. Every time I drive past one, I'm seized with a longing to snap a photo, an odd desire to eat a picnic in its shade or swing from the rafters and peer out the hayloft doors.

But usually I'm without the camera or in a hurry, and I haven't had a lazy afternoon in a barn since I was at Boydean and Astrid's farm years ago.

Early yesterday morning I found myself jogging along a country road not far from home and between nibbles of blackberries from the hedges that line the way, I could not help but admire this dear little well kept barn. Flowers form a welcome mat and trees line up like giant wooden soldiers as if in formal greeting.

Wouldn't you agree that barns are among the most charming amenities of the rural landscape? Even the falling down wreck just over our backyard fence boasts a certain rakish, devil-may-care attitude.

If I were to count my blessings today, I'd have to include that cheerful barn, which sent me jogging down the road with a smile.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Small Miracles

My feet were pounding the trail as I huffed and puffed on my daily run yesterday, determined to get my daily run in as fast as I could, so I could get back in the studio to work on an overwhelming list labelled "Must Do Today!"

But it wasn't meant to be. My typical downfall is my eyes, and I fell victim to the eye candy fairly quickly. I was a goner, making several stops along the way to snap photos of irresistible beauties.

The bee on a thistle make me gasp. How do they walk around like that, their dainty feet avoiding the spikes of the thistle? Don't you wonder what thistle honey tastes like? Wild cherries hanging at the edge of the lush Northwest forest... is there anything lovelier than the sun shining through amazing red globes. Tiny yellow wildflowers, blackberries ripening along the trail...

And all this beauty immediately adjacent to the local airport, right alongside the county jogging trail. I have to drop off more packages at FedEx this afternoon, so another run on that magical trail awaits.

I put up a new series of glittered letters on the wall last week. It reads"Real Life is the Best Fairy Tale." Truer words were never spoken.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Sprucing up!

You peeked at the glitter on the windowsill last time I posted... Now I'm going to share a sneak peek at the shelf next to it!

My family laughs that I'm not even legal to operate a camera, so you just have to bear with my poor skills. I simply point and shoot willy-nilly.

But you must admit this is a rather sweet little vignette. I went wild with the glitter this week and attacked what was supposed to be an oversize Easter Egg. To me it wasn't necessarily Easter at all, since there are beautiful nests all over the garden and the sparrows have just hatched their third set of chicklings for the year.

You can't see them, but there are three dear tiny eggs in the nest atop the egg! and the mossy base, the ribbon of words, and the beautiful sparkly glass glitter make it charming, indeed. Nestled into a nook with books and photos, some old sheet music and my own test-tube-and-wire-from-the-hardware-store vases, I find the whole look very satisfying. Last January I bought a giant roll of giftwrap paper because the shade was just right, and it is turning into curtains and other embellishments for the studio... I had no idea what I'd do with it but along with a pale lime roll of the same stuff it's proving to be just the thing. I'm enjoying the fresh look enormously.

When Victoria Magazine's photographers arrive I hope they will think so, too.

Sprucing up can be such fun!

Friday, August 3, 2007


Don't you just love glitter? I am smitten, captivated and completely gone-over-the-top about glitter!

Here's a quick peek at a little squish of my current faves in the glitter department. Most delicious of all the sparkly confections are the glass glitters. Their clear jewel tones are irresistible in almost every hue. Glass glitters gladden the heart with undertones of complementary shades, and they take me back to childhood, when an ornament would crash into a million pieces and my mother could hardly keep me from picking up the shiny shards. The only competition glass glitters have for my heart is large flakes of natural mica, captivating in their earthiness and innocence.

I keep my glitter handy on the windowsill in adorable vintage containers, some of which even have sprinkle holes right on their tops, left over from the day some dear farm wife sprinkled cinnamon on her toast or nutmeg on a custard pie.

I think those glitters are calling to me even now... I will sign off and get out the glue... I feel a sprinkling sparkling afternoon coming on!

If you're a glitter diva like I am, send me an email and I'll share my source for the most dazzling glass glitters of all! Happy summer... Let yourself sparkle!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


They were standing near the split rail fence, eyeing me as I huffed and puffed my way down the country road, standing not too close, not to far apart. Just companionably munching their way across the pasture with an air of comfortable friendliness.

These two horses need no words to convey their friendship. I can tell they are buddies from the body language, the way they graze alongside one another day after day. It's a simple alliance that must lend comfort to both.

I've been walking through a difficult season lately and have come to appreciate those who have noticed and come alongside for a while with the same air of comfort these two horses offer one another.

What reassurance and strength those dependable, quiet friends bring to our lives. Whether man or beast, we all need the comfort of someone to stand nearby and lend a bit of companionship through thick or thin. I'll be forever grateful for the little gestures of kindness and encouragement, the unspoken confidence that says "I'll walk alongside you." It's a precious gift.