Monday, December 27, 2010

Sorry Guys

"Wait Mom, don't put us away just yet!"

"Sorry guys, Christmas is over and you are considered decorations. Decorations at this house go up fast and come down fast. We've had a lovely time together but too much familiarity often breeds contempt ( I think Shakespeare might have said that). And so I will put you away with your Moose brothers and sisters for another year."

"But I want to thank you for always giving us a lift and helping us to remember our child-like selves. Each time we take you out of your box, we snuggle up to you and remember when and where you were born ( or bought). So, thank you for that and we'll see you again next year sometime after Thanksgiving."

"In the meantime, sleep tight and stay warm."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Remains of the Day

All the food is put away and the cookie cans are closed. But there is this little bit of sangria with brandy-soaked fruit that cannot possibly go to waste. I am wondering how it would taste as a hot punch later on in the evening since it is such a cold, damp day here today. We had a wonderful Christmas meal of authentic Cuban food and authentic Cuban flan. LeeAnn, Maria, and friends were lovely guests and my favorite gift was an Epcot day with LeeAnn that I will cash in during the New Year. We have been taking turns being sick around here but I have learned through years of experience, that Christmas is only a day and that Christmas can come anytime you open your heart to it. Thanks girls, for a wonderful day yesterday--not only my girls who were physically here but also my girls that live away. Happy Holidays Everyone.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Unbelievable Likeness

While surfing the net prior to my trip to Cuba, I came across this picture entitled, "Street in Havana, Cuba". Now normally, there would be nothing unusual about a photograph such as this except that it looks exactly like my father. My father died in 2005 and had never been to Cuba although his mother was born there. I was stunned to see that his gene pool is still thriving in Havana. It's not just the face, because that is almost exact. It's the cap that he always wore that is identical to the one in the picture. It is the thin, tall body and the way his hands are resting on his lap. It is the way his clothes just hang on his body and it is the very fashionable shoes--always a wardrobe staple. It is the pronounced chin that I carry also as my profile. The only part of the picture that doesn't fit is the bicycle. My father never learned to ride a bicycle although it would have made his coffee deliveries a lot easier when he was a young teenager. If I ever doubted that I am part Cuban, this photograph would affirm my heritage. This is my father's clone. All he needs is a pair of reading glasses, a cup of Cuban coffee, and a well-made Cuban cigar.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Morning On The Farm

It is Sunday morning and Santa is standing in charge of the living room decorations. I think he looks an awful lot like Dumbledore from Harry Potter. Now, mind you, I have not seen any of the Harry Potter movies but this is what I think Dumbledore should look like in my own imagination. I don't know what to make of the penguins and children but I suppose I could conjure up a story with them also. Perhaps Dumbledore will cast a magic spell and create owls from penguins and sorcerers from children. Stranger things have happened at Hogwarts, you must admit.

Back to reality, it is a cloudy, dreary day outside. But I am sitting with a dog in my lap just having chopped all of the onions, garlic, and carrots for a large pot of split pea soup. There is flan in the oven and all is pretty much right with world right about now. Happy Sunday before Christmas.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Glass Collage

I have fallen in love with mosaics. Since taking a class at John C. Campbell Folk Art School last summer, I have begun gathering little bits of glass with which to create. I think of mosaics as collage in glass or ceramics. I love looking for just that right piece of colored china and then cutting it with my tile cutter to release just that perfect shape.
I found the set of pink plates pictured above in an antique mall for very little money. They cut like a dream and are the pieces I will use for my next creation. For me, it is like putting together a puzzle whose picture has not yet been determined. I have converted a portion of my garden shed into a studio because this is a little messy to do indoors, particularly when I grout. It is fine now in the cooler weather when I can just fling both doors open and listen to the birds while I work.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's Sunday

It's Sunday and we have begun to decorate for Christmas. I use the term "decorate" loosely because we have decided to be minimalists this year and not put up a tree. We have so many different kinds of items to decorate with that sometimes it's hard to decide what to use. For the past three years, our lighted moose has been relegated to a shelf in the shed. Today, we decided that he should come out to play for the holiday season. We typically don't fall for the lighted animal types of things but since Janet's alter ego is a moose, we couldn't resist this guy whose head moves back and forth when plugged in. We have placed him under the plum tree so that he is slightly obscured from the road but still visible. You would think that we live in a neighborhood with many passersby instead of out in the country. That's ok. At least we see it and the grand kids will see it when they visit.

We plan to use our collection of stuffed bears and moose for the inside of the house. This plan will keep it simple for us and yet give us some festive spirit for the guests we have invited for Christmas dinner. I was watching a TV show yesterday about decorating and saw an idea I would like to try. Plain branches in tall bottles with small ornaments hanging from each branch. I might give that a try just to do something different. It would fit with our "living in the country" and decorating with a lighted moose theme. What do you think?

Saturday, November 27, 2010


As I reflect on this week of Thanksgiving and my time in Cuba, I am thankful that I have the freedom to travel. Many of the Cuban people, particularly professional people, are not allowed to travel outside of their country. We spoke to a physician who is not allowed to attend professional conferences outside of Cuba even with all expenses paid. Some of the tour guides are not allowed to visit family outside of Cuba because they are too valuable to the government and there is the chance that they will not return.

I am thankful that we no longer have rationed staples and supplies in our country. The Cuban people's rations only last about ten days even though they get them only once a month. If they have no access to tips, they cannot supplement their rations. I am thankful that I have enough soap. Actually, I have an obscene amount of soap. Soap is at a premium in Cuba for those people whose rations do not last an entire month. People on the street ask for soap. Our hotel soap was an important commodity to the people we met.

I am thankful for a comfortable home. Although everyone in Cuba has a home, the condition of the homes is often questionable. Some homes have no screens; some have only a concrete floor. Many are crumbling; many have rot from the salt air. Often, there is no hot water; the kitchens are minimal. However, in the countryside where there is extreme poverty, I noticed beautiful embroidery on the bed linens of the baby's bed. There is still a need for beauty in the midst of abject despair.

I am thankful that we were able to visit a local couple in their home. We were deeply touched by this eighty one year old man and woman who continue to be creative and industrious in spite of their meager income and daily challenges. Their generous spirits and sense of humor certainly inspired me to be more grateful for my daily life. I was moved to tears as Juana Maria hugged to her chest the bottle of 750 Ibuprofen we brought from California.

I am thankful that now I understand the strength of the Cuban customs in my family. I know now that my Spanish is the Spanish of Cuba. It is not the Spanish of Northern Spain as I once thought. I am not a Spaniard from the elite provinces. My language and heritage come from the Cuban farms and cigar factories of Tampa, patterned after the farms and factories of Havana. It took this trip for me to figure all of this out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Where To Begin

I have not begun to blog about my trip to Cuba because, honestly, I didn't know where to begin. I have been home one week today and feel that I must begin to say something. My trip was not really a vacation; it was not intended to be. This trip was a search for my roots, for the language of my family, for the customs I have taken on as my own. A trip to Cuba was number one on my Bucket List. It was a necessity for my life. Having heard about the beauty of Havana for all of my childhood, it was painful to see how it has deteriorated in the last fifty years. I never saw it in its splendor but heard from my many family members, how opulent a city Havana was. The beautiful buildings, many which had been family homes for the rich, were turned into tenements long, long ago. Although many of the buildings are being refurbished with the dollars from tourism, the process is slow and the salt water spray from the Malecon Promenade is taking its toll faster than the refurbishing can be done. As Shannon and I walked along the water, I could not help but notice the crumbling buildings across the street where my friend Iris had lived with her grandmother. Cuba is especially hard on the old people and it was difficult to see them struggle. Because we are fortunate to know Spanish, Shannon and I were able to talk to the people on the street and get their impressions of Cuba then and Cuba now. I will write more as I begin to sort out my feelings and impressions of the Cuban experience and the Cuban people. It will take me a while.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Last Minute Things To Do

I am sure that there is much more to do before leaving for Cuba on Sunday but these are the things I THINK I have left to do:

* Worry one more time that my suitcase weighs too much
* Count my money one more time to be sure I have enough
* Worry that the hurricane will go more easterly than expected
* Worry again about the airplane that crashed in Cuba this morning
* Stuff more little soaps in my suitcase to leave for the Cuban people
* Eat a lot because I don't think I'll eat that much in Cuba
* Make sure I take Janet's camera away from her so I can take it with me
* List one more thing on Etsy so I can worry that I'll sell a lot while I'm away and won't be home to ship it
* Feel proud that I finished reading The Cuba Diaries that Shannon instructed me to read
* Re-read my friend Iris' book that she wrote about her childhood in Cuba
* Listen to El Cuarto de Tula by the Buena Vista Social Club which I have been singing all day
* Listen to El Tiempo Pasa by Mercedes Sosa that I sang all day yesterday
* Look, one more time, on the computer for photographs of Cuba that I have not seen already
* Bleach my mustache so I look like an Americana (like that could happen)
* Speak Spanish in my head so I am ready when I land in Havana
* Print my boarding pass
* Stay awake all night Saturday like I do before any trip I take

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Art In The Window

We bought a new piece of art while in North Carolina. We haven't bought art in a really long time and hadn't intended to come home with anything this time. But we visited a beautiful gallery and once we were in there, this began to call our names. It was hanging in a very small window within the gallery and we just thought it needed to be liberated and shown in a larger space. So, even though we are trying to pare down our belongings, we decided that we were not dead yet and so bought the piece. We are so glad we did. However, just so you know, we left two of our belongings in North Carolina in order to make room for something new. That's our new philosophy.
We left our old gas grill next to the dumpster at the campground. And we donated a large back pillow (brand new but didn't work in the trailer) to a thrift store at the Crossnore School. More about this school in a future post. It is a wonderful residential school that is creating a place of safety for very needy, struggling children in the North Carolina mountains. In the meantime, we will garner joy from our stained glass each time we look at it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Soap Shed

The Soap Shed is a definite "destination location" we discovered during our mountain explorations. It is not on a main road and you cannot find it without doing some prior research. It's a left turn off the main road, past two houses on the right, and then a hard left up a sloped drive to the main house. Once there, we were surrounded by beautiful gardens frequented by many birds coming to the various feeders.
Once inside, we were treated to at least sixty different "flavors" of soap made by a former science professor using fresh goat's milk. You select your soap, write the name of the scent on a card, then place both in a small plastic bag for future reference when you get home. One of our friends will soon be undergoing chemotherapy so we bought a type of soap especially created for the skin problems that often accompany that treatment. Our intent was to see a soap-making demonstration. However, the weather did not cooperate so we will do that next time. This is a beautiful place with wonderful soaps both scented and unscented; a tiny turn off the main highway, but a great place with wonderful energy that will be a "come back" place for us.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Art on the Water

I am a fly fisherman. I consider it one of my art forms. I love to catch fish but the catching of fish is secondary to my love of casting on serene or moving waters in the mountains. When I am there, I don't worry about alligators or other Florida reptiles. I just enjoy the beauty of the spot, the birds that visit while I fish, and the rhythm of my casting, back and forth, back and forth. I believe that after so many years of practice, I have developed some satisfaction with my casting. My roll cast and side cast pleased me this trip, a rare thing. For me, fly fishing is like dancing; like a ballet on the water. I can stay planted in the same spot for hours because the water changes, even if my location doesn't. As the water laps against my legs and boots, I drop my fly gently on the water and wait for a fish to take it. The fish I caught were small but that's ok. I released them back into the river so they could grow a little larger for someone else to catch someday.
As I come out of the river, my wet boots gather some of the fallen leaves on the bank. I call this The Remains of the Day. I just love to fish.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Little Tiny Collage On A Tag

Just realized today that my tags are really mini-collages. So here are my latest. These are a combination of an antique weather journal from 1927, illustrations from a 1943 Life Magazine, vintage rick rack from the 1940's, and vintage buttons from my extensive collection.
These illustrations were to honor the work of women during the war effort of World War II. While the men were at war, the women took over many of their tasks. These tags are available for sale on my Etsy site.

Oh, and thank you Libby and Shannon for the tutorial on photography. As you can see, your advice worked for me.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Is It Just Me?

Is it just me or was there just a little tiny bit of autumn in the air this morning? I know I can smell it and feel it when nobody else can but I swear there was a little tinge of coolness in the air. I went out on the back step with my cup of coffee and watched many, many birds cavort at the feeders. My hair was almost rendered even shorter by two hummingbirds who came very, very close. I saw a warbler that has never been here before. My daughter Shannon says I am never satisfied with the weather. I think she is right. However, I am anxious for a little cool weather. So as far as I'm concerned, I think I felt a little autumn in the air this morning.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Agreement

While I was working and before I retired, Janet and I had an agreement. I would find everything she lost and she would do all my ironing. Now that I'm not working, I don't need much to be ironed. And so the agreement has changed. I still find everything Janet loses but now she just bakes for me. These cookies are by far my favorite. They are oatmeal, Special K, date, nut, raisin, and dried cranberry cookies. She tells me they are very healthy which takes care of all my guilt. I have eaten three so far but the night is quite young.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Not Exactly Sanitary

Now we know that this is not exactly sanitary nor would it pass inspection in a commercial food kitchen. However, for Cocoa, this is just what needs to happen after Janet mixes and packs Cocoa's food for the week. You see, Cocoa is a dog that is fed the Raw Meaty Bone diet or RMB for short. That means that she eats raw chicken every day along with raw mince mixed by Janet. The mince is a mixture of either ground turkey or beef, alfalfa, pumpkin or carrots, probiotics, and various other ingredients. Yes, we know that Cocoa is spoiled. But she is also one of the healthiest dogs we have ever had and has never needed to have her teeth cleaned. But I digress. After Janet mixes and packs the mince, Cocoa gets to lick the bowl. As you can see, she is very enthusiastic about this task, even putting her front feet into it!! I was allowed to lick the bowl from cake and custard when I was a little girl. But my mother never, ever allowed me to put my feet into the bowl.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday Morning

It is Saturday morning and already raining. We were awakened before 6am by the dog, who is afraid of thunder. It's a funny thing about rain. I really love it. However, I think I was trained at a very young age that one doesn't go out if its raining. I have always hesitated to leave the house on a rainy day and I find that, as I get older, rain is definitely a reason to postpone going out. Is that a Spanish tradition or something? To stay home in the rain?

Living in Florida, I could stay home all summer if I adopted this practice. It rains almost everyday here between July and the end of August. Such a habit would never work in the world of work. "Yes, I'm calling in sick because it's raining." Wonder how long I would have kept a job doing something like that? I have plans to go to Tampa today to visit my elderly aunt. I haven't seen her in two or three months so it's important that I go. And so, if it is still raining at departure time, I think I will be a big girl, get my umbrella, and go anyway. Good thing I don't live in Seattle.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Girls Rock and Rule

One of two new tags listed today on Etsy. Created from an original photograph and embellished with antique lace. Isn't she a cutie?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Expenditure of Time

It has been interesting for the past month, to observe how I spend my time. Time is a funny thing to me because I always have felt the need to conserve it. But that was before; before I retired. Now I find that my attitude has changed and I am spending time rather profligately. I get up when I wake up and I go to sleep when I am tired. I am staying up much later than I ever did although I am still in bed by about eleven. My days don't feel rushed and I linger over my coffee much longer than I used to. If I don't get something done today that was on my list (yes, I still make a list), then I do it then next day or the day after that. Yesterday, I began my day with a Zumba session at the gym. Today, I went to yoga.

I have been lunching with friends and meeting for beer, which I will do again in about an hour this afternoon. I have a schedule but don't always keep it. And I don't feel the need to unless I have a time-bound project, a very rare thing these days. I am spending time doing my art--am almost finished with a mosaic that has really challenged me for the past week. I am making tags. I have had many more Etsy sales than normal but then, I am spending more time with my site than normal.

I go out and work in the yard when the sun decides to hide behind the clouds. When it comes back out, I come back into the house until its next game of hide and seek. Cocoa thinks that I am her permanent lap and that I am staying home for the express purpose of her comfort and pleasure. But that's as it should be for a dog who is such a good dog.

Janet and I are planning next month's Maiden Voyage of the travel trailer. We are excited. I will get to fish. I feel busier than I did when I was working, but in a different way. I have time to think. I don't feel stressed. I don't even know what day school starts. Now, that's something to celebrate!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Creations

This is a part of my new tag collection, created for sale on Etsy. I love using old photographs of people I don't know (or even some people I do know) and re-purposing the photographs for use in another way.
I embellish the tags with pieces of old lace, inscriptions from antique weather journals, vintage sheet music, or old stamps and postmarks.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do I Look Fat In This Outfit?

I don't know about you but every time I try on an outfit, I ask myself if I look fat in it. Is that just something that women do? Or do men do that also? Ever since I was a young girl, I was worried about my weight. Are my thighs too fat? What about my hips? Are they too wide? How many calories are in this? Should I eat it?

I think about food all the time. Not just that I want to eat; I think about the fact that I should not eat something. I am always worried about the number of calories in everything. Sometimes, I don't even enjoy what I'm eating because I am worried about the caloric content. My best days are when I'm really thin but then I worry that I won't stay that way and, sure enough, I don't.

I just love to eat. and I wish that one day, I wouldn't worry about what I eat and what I look like. I have always had a little dimple on my upper left thigh. I have had this little dimple as long as I can remember. No matter how thin I get, the dimple is always there and I have always hated it. When I was very young and a majorette, I worried that everyone was looking at this dimple. Now at an old age with cellulite that is crawling down toward my knees, I still worry about this dimple. And it's like, "who cares?". But I care. I will probably be 90 years old and wondering if everyone is looking at this dimple on my thigh.

So I guess it's all about perfection and imperfection. I believe that if I didn't have this little dimple, I would be perfect. Wow, that's really arrogant, don't you think? But, seriously, do you think I look fat in this outfit?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Sewing Lesson

This is the first of a series of stories about my childhood. I have written many of these stories for my children but thought it would be important (for me anyway) to have them on my blog. The picture above is a picture of me when I was twelve. I know I look older than that but I'm not. This story, The Sewing Lesson, took place at that time in my life.

If my children can remember the very stylish clothing I used to sew for them when they were little, they should thank their grandmother. Beginning at age 12, I was forced by my mother (yes, forced) to take sewing lessons every summer. My mother would drop me off at the Singer Sewing Machine store in downtown Tampa and there I would be with my classmates and teacher, Mrs. Lazzara. Mrs. Lazzara was an Italian woman with jet black, dyed hair. She was not a fun person, not a fun teacher, not a happy lady at all. When she explained laying out a pattern, I barely understood because of my spatial disability which I didn't know I had at the time. Then when it would be time to cut the garment, I would cut it smaller than it was supposed to be because I always wanted to be thinner than I was, which was not very thin at all.

For some reason I could not sew straight and so the 5/8" seam was always crooked. Mrs. Lazzara would make us hand-baste all of the seams because it was against the rules to sew over pins. That was not allowed.

The first summer, we made a cotton jumper. It was the ugliest thing you ever saw. Mine was turquoise and I hated it. But my mother made me wear it a couple of times anyway. The second summer, I made an orange dress that I loved but could have never made by myself. I really think that Mrs. Lazzara constructed most of it because she felt sorry for me. The dress was sort of like a sundress with fabric that crossed in the front. It had a very tricky little seam which I would have never know how to sew. But I loved that dress and wore it a lot to junior high school even though one of my best friends had one just like it.

Mrs. Lazzara is most well-known for her pronunciation of "salvage edge". She used to pronounce it as if she had a mouth full of sandpaper. I didn't like her at all.

However, I did develop a liking for sewing and made some of my clothes during high school and college. The problem with me was that I always made my clothing to match the measurements I wished I had instead of the measurements I really had. Therefore, all my skirts had a 24 inch waist even though I actually had a 26 inch waist. And the hips...I would never make the hips the correct size so my clothes never really fit me right. I wonder when this body image thing began? So now, I'm a great fan of clothing that is not sized properly. I love buying a size six when it is really a size eight or ten. Takes me right back to my childhood.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Little Cottage on the Cape

The houses on Cape Cod are not all mansions; but this one was, and this is where the conference sessions were held last week. We had our "sessions" in the Mansion, our breakfasts and dinners in the Carriage House, and our lunches on the terrace overlooking the ocean. I felt as though someone had tapped my head with a magic wand and transported me to some place totally out of my own reality. Sometimes I don't know how to behave in places like this. The attire was stated as, "Cape Cod Casual". What does that mean, anyway? I really only just have "Ocala Casual" and so I didn't know what to take as a wardrobe.
I didn't take a bathing suit because I was not going swimming. So, instead, I packed two linen skirts and a couple of blouses. One of the skirts came from a consignment shop but was originally from Talbot's so that kind of fits with Cape Cod Casual. It is a floral print and I call it my Cuban skirt. I didn't call it that in Cape Cod.
I think I actually felt a little bit out of place in Cape Cod. I was the only person there who is retired. And I didn't have any friends with me like everyone else. So I mostly went around by myself except during the cocktail hour and lobster dinner when I mingled with everyone. I think it's important to mingle during a lobster dinner. I met some very nice people but I've already forgotten their names. I'm sure they've forgotten mine as well. I learned a lot about the Continuum of Literacy so I feel up to date on that topic. I just don't know what I'll do with all of this newly found knowledge. I learned that I don't want to spend time on Cape Cod in the summer because it's way too crowded. And I was really glad to get back to my little house in the country. It's wonderful to get away. It always makes me appreciate coming back home.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cape Cod

Tomorrow, I leave for a three day trip to Cape Cod. I am attending an educational summit even though I am no longer working. The opportunity for this all expense paid trip was too good to pass up and even though I was retiring, the conveners urged me to attend anyway. And so I am going. This summit is an inaugural summit for Fountas and Pennell, the two guided reading gurus in elementary school reading education. I have been reading and studying their books for the past seven years but have never had an opportunity to hear them in person. This week, I will have a chance to hear their latest research in the world of reading and Response to Intervention. While all of this may sound a bit esoteric, it is important for me to keep abreast in the field. I have a granddaughter who is developmentally delayed and I want to know all there is about reading and the elementary child. I also need to know the latest on Response to Intervention or RTI because it applies to children with disabilities and other struggling students. And so there are no pictures on this blog today. I will save those for when I return. In addition to soaking in all that is new in the world of elementary education, I will be attending a cocktail party, a clam bake, and making many new friends. Just in case you thought it would be all work.

Monday, July 12, 2010

French Cooking With A Mediterranean Flair

While at the Folk School, Dottie and I made friends with Jane and Betty, two women who were taking the French Cooking class. As their final project, they were to invite one person each to attend the dinner culminating all they had learned during the week, and Dottie and I were their invited guests. As you can tell by the menu, we had a wonderful meal of great variety. Neither of us had ever eaten lamb but decided to be adventuresome and give it a try. It was tender, juicy, and delicious.
The kitchen was transformed into what could have been someone's home in Italy. The tables were set with lovely china, silverware, and linen napkins. Each table was lighted with candles and we looked out over the back garden through the room's many windows.
We sampled many kinds of wine from red to white to a French version of Anissette, a liquer from Spain. Following our meal, we were serenaded by a duo playing guitar and harmonica. This was certainly different from eating in the dining hall. Bon Appetit!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

View From The Porch

Each evening at the Folk School, my friend Dottie and I would sit on the back porch of our residence, drink a Coke, and talk. As the sun was going down, the bunnies would come out of the woods and the fireflies would begin to twinkle. Dottie wanted a picture of our view so she could remember it when she was no longer there and, so, this is the view from our rocking chairs on the back porch of Log House.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Visit To The Folk School

I just returned from a week long trip to the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina where I learned to do mosaics. It was a wonderful week of art, food, and friendship as I created the mirror pictured above and met many new friends both in my class and in other parts of the school. This was my fourth trip to the folk school and it never disappoints me. I decided that on this trip, I would go "electronics free" so that I could concentrate on art, the natural world surrounding me, and the wonderful food prepared daily and served family style in the large dining room.

At first, it was odd not checking my cell phone every few minutes for the latest news, email, or Facebook posting. But after a few hours, I noticed that I was much more focused on my project, was much more conversational, and was able to enjoy every step of my class without wondering what was happening in my pocket.

My mosaics project was extremely fun to work on. We used a method called Pique Assiette which is the art of creating mosaics with broken dishes. Our instructor brought a lovely collection of dishes which we had the pleasure of breaking on the concrete pad outside the studio. We then spent many hours deciding on the placement of each color as we moved the glass around for just the right look.

I took my father's coffee cup with me and decided to break off the handle to use on the middle right hand side of the mirror. A knob from one of Aunt Minnie's tea pot lids is positioned on the bottom right. I found that my favorite part of creating mosaics is cleaning off the finished product. After applying the grout and allowing it to dry a bit, I loved wiping, cleaning, and picking off the grout with a dental tool. I spent over three hours on this task alone.

It was a beautiful week that I will post about for the next several days. I have learned a new art form which I love and so far, retirement is great!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On A New Track

This photograph was taken by my granddaughter, Isabella, a very talented teenager with a lens. It symbolizes the beginning of a new track for me because today is my first day of retirement. I have been anticipating this day for the last several months and you, my blog friends, have been extremely supportive in my endeavor. Well, here I am. I awakened at 5:55 am. Wow, I slept late!! I am usually up by 5:30. So I have hopes that my body clock will re-set at some point so that I can actually find out what my body really wants to do. I have always been an early riser so I doubt that will change. I am most productive in the early morning. So now, I will see what I am productive with? Is that proper grammar??

I have totally rearranged my art studio and am ready to begin work. I have a new art piece in my head that is both nostalgic and whimsical and I will have to give it life soon so it doesn't take up all my "think" time. I have made a commitment to walk everyday so let's see how that goes. For now, I'm still in my pajamas; I'm on my third cup of coffee; and I need to fill the bird feeders.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Very Quiet Morning

It is a very quiet morning here on the farm. Well, not really a farm....the country. I like to pretend it's a farm because when I was little, I lived on a farm and have wonderful memories of it. Well, not wonderful, but interesting. Like sitting on the fence watching the cows getting branded. And collecting cow horns and digging out the marrow and polishing them up to add to my collection. Stuff like that!! And playing in the dog pen until the fleas all gravitated to me instead of the dogs. And sitting to milk a cow while the cow next to it pooped on my back. Yeah, stuff like that.

Anyway, it is a very quiet and peaceful day today. Cocoa is asleep on the chair, the sun is shining brightly, and there are a few birds darting back and forth through the trees. Through my window, I just spotted a Swallow Tail Kite flying high across the yard. She must have a nest near by because I have seen her a lot this spring....or is it summer? Sure feels like summer.

The quiet of this weekend is but a preface to the next because next weekend, the daughters and the grandchildren will be here. I have dusted off the porch chairs and planned a Cuban lunch; we have assigned the beds and bedrooms because we always forget who goes where; I have charged up the Dremel because Paxton, the accompanying canine, gets his toenails done when he is here or when I am there. I have learned that the daughters and grandchildren really don't care about fancy preparations and for that, I am grateful. They just want to visit and laugh and tell stories. And maybe eat some Cuban bread.

So today, I will mostly much as possible for someone with Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity. Excuse me now. I think the bird feeders need filling.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


I took my weekly trip to my favorite thrift store today and got lucky again. After sifting through bins after bin of sewing notions, I came across a bag that contained these three vintage packages of rick rack and bias trim. I did a little research and found out that they were sold by JC Penney in the 1930's. Also in the bag were three brand new pieces of tailor's chalk which we still use around here because we are old and learned how to sew about a million years ago. I haven't decided yet what I'll do with these three lovelies. I may use the labels for collage or I may simply sell these in my Etsy Vintage Shop.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Accidental Meadow

I have an accidental meadow at the entrance to my house. The coreopsis flowers that have begun to bloom in the past week began as plants that looked like weeds in early spring. I have learned each year that if I wait long enough and leave them alone (a very hard thing for me), they will bloom in great profusion as summer begins.
This year, I have an abundance of coreopsis in the Entry Garden. I didn't plant them; they planted themselves as they sowed their seeds across the property into every nook and cranny of the yard. The butterflies, moths, and dragonflies love this little meadow. I love it too. It makes me smile every time I enter the front gate. It's like a little gift of tiny yellow kisses.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Worth Mentioning

How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterwards.

This framed sampler was a gift from one of my friends in celebration of my impending retirement. I am not normally of fan of things like this but I loved this the moment I saw it. Doesn't it almost sound like something Winnie the Pooh would say? I don't really plan or expect to be doing nothing. However, I do like to rest a lot, especially after a long bit of work in the yard or after an intense art session. We are planning to hang this little treasure in the travel trailer, where we will be doing a lot of resting and ruminating.

I also got very lucky at my favorite thrift store today. I have been searching for an old Scrabble game for a very long time because I want to use some of the tiles in my art and on some of my vintage tags. Two weeks ago, when I took my soldering class, I found out that Scrabble tiles are very good to use for solder practice as their edges are just about the perfect size. And so today, I just took a stroll to the game section, like I do EVERY time I'm in the thrift store. Except this time, my game was there. I am so pumped!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Take A Walk

Come and take a walk with me through the garden gate and into the back garden. I want to show you what's happening back there.
The roses are all in bloom, cream-colored, old fashioned, David Austin roses that I love. This bush has grown very large and wild. I like it that way, untamed, three and four blooms on each branch. I cut it back maybe once a year but otherwise let it do what it wants as it reaches over the garden fence and winds its way down to touch the ground.
And then there are the beans....soon ready for picking. The bean patch is thick with bean plants. I didn't thin them this year; just let them grow together and compete for space. They are slowly climbing the bamboo support poles that share the space with them. I will probably pick a few tomorrow and cook them just to know what they taste like.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Memory of My Mother

This is a photograph I had never seen until last Sunday when rummaging through old memorabilia at my Aunt Rosie's house. I'm guessing, because of the advertising on the car window, that this car was my father's car when he owned a coffee shop. I love this picture of my mother and on this Mother's Day, I have a few memories to share. My mother was a lover of language and taught me all I know about grammar and spelling. She insisted that I go to college even though all I wanted to do was to get married. She knew much better than I because the college diploma lasted much longer than the marriage. When she became very old and lost her lucidity, she would still toss out words like "Leviticus", "Medulla Oblongata", the Environmental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT), and Stan DeFrietas (author of Florida gardening books.) I would be in awe that she could remember these things when she could not remember what had happened the day prior.

My mother died two years ago. I was thinking today of her funeral and how our dog had to be in attendance because we live in another city and my mother's funeral was in Tampa. The dog was in a crate back in the choir loft. She never made a sound, even when my daughter Shannon sang the Lord's Prayer. We memorialized my mother while the dog rested in her crate. I think it is the humor of the moment that allows us to get through the serious passages in our lives. My mother would have probably asked the dog, "When are you leaving?", a question she often asked me the moment I arrived to visit her.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


These two cards from the wedding of my aunt and uncle are but a few of the treasures I brought home yesterday after spending the day in Tampa with my cousin and favorite aunt. We found ephemera from the births, weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays of many members of our family. I plan to use much of it for my art projects but will also share it on the blog from time to time.
It was so interesting to notice the formality with which each card was signed, even by siblings. But I need to remember that these events took place in the thirties and forties, during a time when formality was the norm and familiarity was unheard of except behind closed doors. I found precious letters written by my mother to her youngest sister on the birth of her first son and Western Union telegrams of congratulations on first anniversaries. Yesterday, I brought home a box of history.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In A Beach State of Mind

As I sit here drinking my coffee this morning, listening to the bluebirds chirp right outside my window, I am wishing I was at the beach. Even though it is forty-four degrees outside and barely feels like spring, I could enjoy being at the beach. As I wind down my work days with just ten weeks to go, I am having a great deal of trouble remaining focused on work . My brain wants to run and play and draw and paste. I may have an art day this Saturday just to give myself a preview of my new life. It is hard to contain anticipation.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Exhibit 1: The Story Project

"Only Misty Joys"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dress Rehearsal

This week, while on spring break, I practiced for retirement. I guess you could say I engaged in a dress rehearsal. I use the term "dress" loosely because I spent most of the week in my old yard pants, a scruffy t-shirt, and my blacksmithing shoes. When I did leave the house, my attire was somewhat better although not remarkable. I was busy everyday and certainly don't feel ready to go back to work on Monday. I have planted my vegetable garden and the little seedlings have popped their little heads up in only five days; I have weeded for hours preparing the yard for spring; I helped Janet mow; I took the dog to the vet for her yearly shots; I had my own eyes examined for a new pair of glasses because I can't see a doggone thing; I shopped at the local thrift stores and found some exceptional vintage linens; I caught up on my blogging; I created a fantastic piece of art which I will blog about at a later time; I entertained some friends and one of my children; I talked on Facebook with my teenage granddaughter; I met with my insurance man in preparation for my Medicare supplemental medical policy; I'm sure I did a lot more because I am really tired but can't remember what else I squeezed into this week. I was not bored; I did not feel without purpose; I did not think about work; I think I'm ready for the main event.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Papa's Azaleas

When the time came, seven years ago, for me to move my parents out of their home, I agonized as to what plants I should dig up to bring with me. My father was a dedicated gardener and all of his plants were his prized possessions. His azaleas, however, were the plants he loved the most. And so, it was that I decided to bring at least two or three of his most babied plants to my home here in the country.

Because I had so many things to think about when closing up their home, I was not particular as to how I potted and transported these plants. They had been in the ground for over forty years so their root system was very well established. I guess you could compare their roots to those of my parents and neither the plants nor my parents moved easily.

I planted the azalea bushes in the woods near the little glen where our wild azaleas are planted. We pay very little attention to theses plants because they are away from the main house and we often forget they are there. This winter, though, it rained a lot; more than it has rained in many a winter here in Florida. So when we took our spring walk to see what was budding, we happened upon my father's white, forty-something year old Formosa azalea in full bloom. Were he still alive and in his home, he would be taking me outside, we would be walking around the yard, and he would be pointing out this plant to me as an indication of his skill as a gardener. I am thrilled that it is thriving.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Camp Jeannette

Yesterday, I spent the day visiting my friend Jeannette who lives on Lake Santa Fe in Melrose. I visit her about once a year because even though she only lives about an hour away, she rarely has a weekend at home due to the travel involved with her job. When I visit, I bring my art supplies and when I arrive, she takes out her paints and brushes and we have a day together at what I call, "Camp Jeannette". We talk non-stop and problem-solve all day whether the topics relate to our work, our families, our leisure time, or our creative ideas. This problem-solving is very often accompanied by several Mimosas garnished with strawberries and peach schnapps. Sometimes we forget to eat lunch but when we remember, lunch often looks like the spinach, strawberry, and feta salad pictured above that Jeannette "threw" together yesterday.
We sometimes sit at the bar in the kitchen (and if you turn around, this is what you see); or we sit on the porch shown in this photo, swing on the swing, and look out at the lake. Yesterday, we sat at the dining room table, did a lot of sketching, and tried out several new tubes of watercolors.. The hours slip away without my knowing they have gone. Before I realize it, I am back in the car on the highway headed home, taking with me many new ideas, a stronger forged bond of friendship, a newly painted picture and a bag of fresh strawberries. What a beautiful way to begin Spring Break.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Very Important Day

Today is a very, very important day for me. I have decided to retire at the end of this school year and today is the day I sign my retirement papers. This is my second retirement so one would think it is a slam dunk. However, it is always a bit disconcerting to quit working when it has been one of my identities for the past forty years. Ten years ago, when retiring for the first time, I got so nervous at the signing that I had to go home and try again on another day. I laugh now at that recollection. And even though the photograph on this post is one of relaxation and solitude, I really don't plan to be relaxing that much.

I have several projects running around in my head that need to take wing. Yes, we bought a new little travel trailer but I see it as the vehicle that will allow us to give life to our creative endeavors. We have a story project that includes art pieces I want to create; I have a photography project I want to work on; I want to rev up my Etsy store and fill it with more vintage items; I want to become more comfortable with my Canon Rebel; I am planning a new blog with stories of my childhood; I have registered for a soldering class and also a mosaics class; I want to study Spanish, the language of my childhood, so that I am able to carry on a conversation that is more than basic; I want to visit new places; I want to launch myself into the artistic part of my life.

I am sixty six years old; I will be sixty seven in July. I have a lot to do. I work best with a focus and a deadline. I always need to have a goal. I know I will need to structure my days so that I am productive. To be non- productive is not ok; that's the way I was raised. The reason I went back to work after my first retirement is because I did not feel productive. I know now that a schedule is important, even or especially when working at home.

And so today begins the next part of my journey. I will sign my papers today and work until 6pm on June 30. And then the next leg of the trip will start. And I will write about it here. So come along, my friends, and join me on this adventure. I expect that it will be an interesting one as life and art reveal themselves to me.