Saturday, January 31, 2009

Red Roses

Got another bouquet for my kitchen tables today, and tossed the old mini-carnations that lasted about three weeks! How can I resist treating myself to a $3.49 bouquet of 6 deep, red roses? My paperwhites were flopping over , so I snipped them off and added them to the vase!

New bouquet

Speaking of Red Rose, I always buy Red Rose tea because of the free little porcelain figurine inside! Yes, it's kind of like getting a freebie in the cereal box! I added a little duck to my windowsill collection. I have quite a collection now.

Ducky-Newest Red Rose figurine

Even though I do enjoy a morning mug of tea, I inherited most of my Red Rose figurines from Esther Brooks, my longtime friend and mentor. She taught English at Chenango Valley Schools and took up painting after she retired. Her devotion, energy and spirit survive to this day. (She died several years ago in her mid-nineties).After I got my license, I used to drive over to her home on the edge of a woods, and she treated me like her dearest friend. She treated everyone that way.

For years, she hosted an informal art group, composed of mostly older women. She'd usher everyone downstairs where each would work on an oil painting. Esther would offer tips and comments. My Mom belonged to this very loose knit group of artistic friends, and it was great for her to let her guard down somewhat. If I was in town, I'd often accompany her, and I relished hearing the others talk and socialize so easily, discussing not only their paintings, but their families and health concerns, etc. Then, we'd go upstairs to have potluck lunches,(Wanda was famous for her crustless pies!) often accompanied by freshly made iced tea, with mint leaves from their garden. Esther's sister, Ruth, shared the home with Esther and her husband, Cliff. Ruth often played piano upstairs, while we were in the basement. It was wonderful!

Ruth was artistic, too. She created small, clay figurines, usually of birds or wildlife. She perfectly captured the essence of polar bears and penguins. I have an ox and a koala bear she did. Esther preferred watercolors, especially portraits. She wasn't shy about asking striking looking people to model for her. One of her best oil portraits featured an African American woman in a richly patterned, golden caftan and matching headscarf. Her portrait looked serene and proud, and it seemed life-sized in my memory. Esther loved people, birds, flowers, gardening and was always creating something! Whenever I visited, it was like show-and-tell, as she eagerly showed me recently done watercolors she'd been working on- of an old, weathered barn,or a stone aqueduct or blazing, red poppies.

Even when she moved into assisted living, she'd show me sketches of the van's driver, or relate amusing senior citizen stories, mimicking table manners of her dining room companions. I really miss Esther. I hadn't intended to write about her, but the Red Rose figurines along my windowsill loosened my memory. I think I also feel guilty that her obituary made no mention of her artistic influence on many in our community, and I didn't have the gumption at her memorial service to stand up and say how much she meant to me.(I've always regretted it) Although those who knew her, know what a great gal she was.

I finally broke down and bought a 50 pound bag of black, oil sunflower seeds for $20 at the local feed store. I was paying $4 for five pounds every two days. Our two feeders are busier than the local diner. (There are often 50-70 small birds in our yard at one time along with three sets of cardinals)

Train signals,drawing in progress

I've been plugging away at my train drawings; started another one this week. I'm also nearing completion of my quilt series, 20 wall hangings- each one featuring a dozen illustrations from my annual calendar. I can't remember when I got the idea to transfer all my illustrations onto muslin panels. I hope to have a show in the community room of the Sidney library. Maybe in March?

Critter critic in "my studio"


Monday, January 26, 2009


It's been a cold, cold weekend. Went to a bluegrass concert Saturday night at the Bainbridge Town Hall Theater and sat with a couple line dancing friends. Creek Bend warmed us up with some great traditional and original tunes. I especially enjoyed their original instrumental piece called Lake Effect. They hail from the Buffalo area, a must-see group if they ever perform near you (and no they didn't pay me to say that!).

Creek Bend on Sat night

Creek Bend fans

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Train of Thought

I'm so happy that President Obama is in charge of our nation's destiny now. This thing called HOPE is positively palpable and infectious. It's a joy to hear him speak. 

Before I do anymore drawing (which I'd rather do than a lot of things) I'm going to force myself to enter last year's receipts into a spreadsheet on the computer, so my husband can eventually  do our taxes, etc. But here are a couple things I've been working on.  A friend from the diner gave me the reference photo of the old Erie passenger engine to draw for my 2010 Train calendar, as well as the trestle photo with the Canadian Pacific engines on it. I'll finish the trestle drawing as a reward for getting my receipts logged.

Erie engine

Rte.235 trestle

Our home smells very sweet lately, thanks to the paper whites blooming in the coldest corner of our kitchen. Our cactus lets us daydream of hot, dry dessert climates. We can pretend, anyway. Temperatures reached forty degrees F yesterday, and the outdoors felt positively balmy. It's getting chillier again, but we enjoyed the brief respite.

Fragrant Paperwhites

Aloe aglow

Don't touch

Monday, January 19, 2009

After a Long Winter's Break

We just returned from taking our daughter back to college after a LONG Winter's break. We were caught off guard by slick road conditions and spent an unexpected night in a Day's Inn in Liberty. My youngest loved having the chance to see The Steelers win a football game on TV. It was an unplanned mini vacation. Route 17 E hadn't been plowed, nor were the other roads attended to yet. We kept thinking the snow would dissipate the further South we travelled, but it didn't.I asked one man near a grocery store when the snow was supposed to end, and he replied, "Two hours and 3 1/2 inches ago". The best road we encountered was the one over the mountain near New Paltz which had been plowed, although we noticed a plow spinning its wheels on the turnoff by the hairpin curve. We're glad to be home again.




Perhaps pedal power would've been a wiser alternative.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Garden Dreams Continued

The cold continues but is starting to lose its tight grip on our region. Stopped by the local variety store this morning and they had new seeds on display, too! (4 packs/$1.00) Bought radishes, cucumbers, spinach, nasturtiums, sunflowers (can't have too many sunflowers), cornflowers,sweet peas and cosmos. I also bought zucchini and zinnias last night at Kmart when looking for thermal pants for J. (Didn't find any in kids' sizes, but drifted past the seeds on my way out, and the 2 Z's yelled at me to grab them on the run). Received a new catalog in the mail from Fredericksburg, TX, called Wildseed Farms. It's very informative and has a nice layout. I look forward to looking through it and daydreaming some more!

Thinking Spring

J had his first basketball game this morning. It was nice that the whole family was there to see his first game ever. The opponents looked huge and won, (they must've been college kids!) but our guys had a good time trying, and they played with heart.

First game

Friday, January 16, 2009

Baby, It's COLD Outside!

The porch thermometer read twelve below this morning, and it's warmed to zero now (about 11 AM). Replenished the sunflower seeds for the birds and the feeder is a happening place.

Fly-in food

Window on the world

I just placed an order for 100 mixed glad bulbs, 25 mixed day lilies, 10 hardy, tall, mixed phlox and 25 Mary Washington asparagus.The first 800 number I reached wasn't the garden place and the man gave me the correct number, explaining the catalog showed a misprint. He seemed patient, but I'm sure he's been fielding dozens of calls lately. The woman I ordered from in Virginia Beach had a pleasant, southern accent. I'm sure VA is warmer today than upstate NY! I told her it's a good day to be dreaming of planting season!

I also purchased my first few seed packs at KMart last night, a sure sign that Spring will come! (Burpee seeds- 40% off!) My dream garden will have a mix of sunflowers, hollyhocks (have to wait two years to see them bloom), Heavenly Blue Morning Glories, and lettuce. That's just the start! I haven't had much luck with blue morning glories in the past couple years, but I continue to plant them with great expectations- that's what hope's all about.

Hope packaged

About ten years ago, I had a showy display of Heavenly Blue Morning Glories against an old, rusted gate. My hollyhocks were beautiful, too, especially the apricot colored ones from Jane's garden and the almost black ones given to me by my dear, sweet Uncle Ed. (The 2006 flood destroyed that garden, but it's still blooming in memory) I'll find a great place for the new seeds to grow! Garden dreaming and birdwatching are excellent activities on these cold, beyond cold, days!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thinking of 2010 already!

I know 2009 has barely started, but I have to work ahead since I like to draw calendar pictures. I'm lucky if, I get two done a month, and I'm a bit behind schedule. I have quite a few great train reference photos to work from thanks to a rail fan who frequents the diner I do. So far, I've completed one drawing of a CP train near the old Jennison Plant in Bainbridge, NY. I'm currently working on a sketch of a D&H engine engineered by a friend's nephew. Our good friend, Jack, was also a D&H engineer, so if if do a whole train calendar, I'll do it in honor of Jack.

Finally finished with first drawing for 2010 calendar!

D&H engine drawing in progress

Monday, January 12, 2009

Saturday's project

Saturday's project

An idea came to me in the wee, dark hours of Saturday morning, while I was lying, awake, in bed to transform an old quilt top that my mother-in-law gave me two years ago into a window panel for our very cold window area in the dining/computer/piano room. I'm surprised that I actually remembered my idea the next day and lost no time making it into reality!   I added enough borders to fit the window area (top and bottom) and backed it with an old, flannel sheet. It seems to make the room look cozier, anyway!  Temperatures are expected to plummet by week's end.

New Window Panel to keep the cold at bay

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Another New Day

It's dreary outside, but the wood stove is warm, a good day to stay inside. I'll be working on a drawing of a D&H train engine for my 2010 calendar. I should be working on a commission, an anniversary drawing, but it can wait a day or two. Here's what I see out my window.

View outside my window

Pat Stone, the editor of GreenPrints, gave me the thumbs up on the three recent illustrations I did for the Spring, so I'm coasting a little. The assignments force me to do a little research. One story by Becky Rupp compared the current Wall Street crisis to the Dutch tulipmania in the 1600s. Did a nifty drawing for that, should I show a sneak peak? I also did a colored illustration for a poem, a parody Hamlet's famous "To be, or not to be..." This one is- "To garden or not to garden..." Color isn't my strength, but I had fun doing this (for one of GreenPrints' internet stories) First, had to read Hamlet enough to grasp the basic concepts,(what a tragic play, not very happy) before I could try to draw something that referred to it. I'll try to post some thumbnails of my sketches, as a plug for GreenPrints, a cool, gardening quarterly, full of gardening stories and illustrations.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Icy, Dicey Day

It's another "snow" day for D and J. J's watching the movie, Transformers. I hope to spend a good part of the day at the drawing board, working toward my 2010 calendar. My theme this year might be Trains, or perhaps it will be an eclectic mix of drawings I've done of images I like. Will probably postpone a much needed eye exam for R. My birthday tulips have dropped all their petals, but they live on in my photos and memory. Dropped into Price Chopper yesterday to pick out another bouquet of mini- carnations for the kitchen table.

Iced day

Flowers to admire

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy New Year!

My New year recently started on my early January birthday. D gave me a nice bouquet of tulips and a small watering can, J helped make me breakfast, R sang me a song, J gave me an iChat gizmo and the whole family went with me early to see one of my favorite bands perform at the Bainbridge Town Hall Theater. We were the first ones there, but the seats quickly filled.Live music, well done, is a total joy to experience.

I don't mind getting older: I try to find something to enjoy in each day, even if it's just a passing comment about the weather from a stranger, a ray of sun, streaming through the window on an otherwise gloomy day, or a sip of hot tea. I don't need a whiz bang celebration to make a day special. I've perfected the art of appreciating life's little pleasures.




Susquehanna String band