Wednesday, April 27, 2011 which she looks up...

...and sees the splendors of the everyday sky, 
that ordinary miracle known as "today's weather."

 Have you noticed the varying shades of leaden gray on white, azure on indigo, blinding white and soft paleness?

 It's fascinating to notice how those clouds dwarf even the most towering of trees...

and decorate the barns and orchards, houses and parks.

See how the trees are waking up, the buds are bursting yellow in the fields. 
Weed or flower? What's your take on it?
It's hard to decide whether to look up or down with so much juicy gorgeousness above and below.

Mr. Wonderful has been ill, the scrambling in the studio has turned my brains to salad, and the stress level and "must do" list are both at epic proportions.

Which is why it's so consoling to tie one's shoelaces, grab the dog's leash, and fill my lungs with fresh air, to look up, look down, and savor the friends along the way.

Won't you come on by and visit?

You'll find me in the studio 
or at Surtex in New York, booth #616 on May 15-17, 
at Licensing Show in Las Vegas, booth #5711 on June 14-16.

Or join me huffing and puffing down a beautifully ordinary road in our wonderful little valley.  I'm the one with a leash in one hand and a camera in the other, sketchbook and pencil spilling from my pocket.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pies and more pies

I am on a pie baking streak.
A rather delectable habit.

Blueberry pies made from the last of summer's bounty, pulled from the freezer.

I baked a blackberry rhubarb topped with pecan streusel, using up my stash of precious blackberries (also from the freezer) and the first rhubarb of spring.

Last night it was a plain-but-oh-so-delicious strawberry pie which four of us devoured as if we were starving men marooned on an island.
I practically had them kissing the hem of my apron!

Just imagine my joy this morning when I discovered next summer's pies blossoming on our montmorency cherry trees in the garden.

Yesterday there were only buds, and in the pink light of Easter's dawn, this morning the cherries burst into bloom. I can hardly wait for the round red fruits, perfect to tuck into a flaky crust.

Here's a picture of last year's cherry crop for inspiration and dreaming!

Would you like a wonderful olive oil pie crust recipe to get you started?

Olive Oil Pie Crust
In a saucepan, warm 1/4 c water and 1/3 c olive oil until it begins to boil. This takes only a minute or two. Then stir in 1/8 t salt, 1 1/2 t baking powder, and 1 c flour. Blend with a fork until it forms a dough, then press with your fingertips into a pie pan and bake or fill and bake. 

It's a tender, flaky, simple-as-can-be piecrust I guaranteed you will love!

Will you try it and let me know what you baked? 
There is nothing sweeter than pie. Nothing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

More fresh color

Playing with color is so much fun!
What goodness can come from new artistic adventures, from stretching yourself creatively in ways you'd never dreamed of before.


Sometimes it's true.
The sunshine inside is more lasting and vibrant and warming than what's outside.

I've been playing with color and words and letterforms.
And it has brought the sunshine indoors.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tulip time

I give you fair warning. I am about to gush. 

Today was my annual day given over to wandering in the bulb fields and as usual I was completely intoxicated with color, the play of light and the overwhelming beauty of this precious valley I call home.

Jane Shasky, my talented friend (click here to see her work) and I spent the day in the fields. She was as bad as I, stopping to smell every hyacinth and laying down in the mud to get just the right shot for reference.

The glories of springtime were more amazing than ever.

It's almost impossible to choose a favorite bloom.
Will this year's favorite be pink?
Or a combination?

Barns and old wood fences complement the blossoms perfectly.

Tractors hum along with the bees. There are many places more sophisticated than the Skagit Valley, but none more beautiful.

And never better than in springtime.
Can this really be just a short bike ride from my driveway?

We trundle home satisfied and inspired. 
These brilliant colors are seeping into my work.
Peeks tomorrow.

Oh, what inspiration lies just around the bend.
Look for the magic. 
There are miracles in your neighborhood, too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Glorious days indoors and out

"Well," said the librarian, scanning the bar codes on my books, "you can check out all the gardening books you want, but with this much rain you can't even plant a single seed without it washing away."
I guess in a way, she was right.
But I'm a glass-half-full, look-on-the-bright-side kind of person.

Sure, we've had a fair bit of rain and gloom... 
everyone in the valley has been complaining.
But just look what you see when the sky clears and the sun comes out!

The old barns and cosy farmhouses, the plowed fields and acres of fallow land shine.

Sunshine streams through spring flowers and makes me want to sing!

I meet my friend and neighbor, Steve, walking past his farm. Steve is out with his Nikon, too, grinning because he's spotted a hummingbird. We talk about basil's finicky preferences for water and soil and whether or not my dill will flourish this year. Steve's produce is legendary. I am waiting eagerly for his farm stand to open. If you're in the Skagit Valley you can do no better than stop by Dunbar Gardens for veggies more gorgeous than any florist bouquet and pack them into the handcrafted willow baskets Katherine makes from her own willow.

We talk about how lovely the sky is in spring, how close the clouds seem, and once again I catch myself thinking that there is no such things as ordinary life.
Truly we are surrounded by miracles.

The willow itself makes a beautiful sight as I round the corner...

We greet familiar friends along the way
and stop to smell the fresh crisp air, to enjoy the everyday miracles that surround us.

I pause along the road again to marvel at that amazing green you only find in spring and then head for home.

There is something infinitely satisfying about spring and the new life it brings.
I am reminded of Easter coming on Sunday, and thank God again for the miracles in my so-called ordinary life.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Running... and running late!

Don't you hate it when you find yourself running like a chicken with your head cut off?
I've got to slow down and enjoy these ordinary moments.
I've had fits of the giggles with friends but working every available minute, too.

I did a photography class in Denver and got to spend time with artists Leslie Clarke and Jane Maday. It's a bit dangerous to turn three artists loose together. We whipped out our cameras for reference photos every two seconds!

I've painted and snipped and inked all day long and far into the night.

Even in the bathtub!

I'm on another prolific streak lately. I am enjoying the creative process, reaching in different directions for a fresh new look.

After working for hours it's always invigorating to snap a leash on one of the doggie pals and take a brisk jog down the road. 

And day of the week, any week of the year there is enough magic in this little valley to fuel the imagination and rest the eyes.

Hope is emerging in the gorgeous green stand of willow, and in my heart as well.

Ah, spring...