Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summertime = Ripe, Juicy Tomatoes.

As a kid, I never tasted a really ripe, juicy, sun-ripened tomato.  In the midwest, tomatoes came in a can.  In the northwest, tomatoes are available year round but they are usually underripe, hard and tasteless.  
I've never been a big fan of fresh tomatoes.  Until now.
Now, I grow my own in my little backyard garden.  I'm not an experieced gardener but I've managed to grow lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, chard and tomatoes.  I've learned along the way what works and what doesn't.  I've figured out that there are good years and bad years for some veggies.
This year has been very good tomato year!  I have a mix of juiciness to choose from this year's bumper crop.  From sweet, orange cherry tomatoes to huge, juicy beefsteaks.  
Recipe ideas abound, of course.  But my favorites are among the basics because they show off the purity and juicy flavor of a truly sun-ripened tomato. 
1.  BLT
What a classic.  Toasted whole grain bread, mayo, homegrown lettuce, thick sliced tomato from the garden and crisp, nitrate free bacon.  Yum!
2.  Fresh garden greens topped with ripe tomato slices and tossed with vinigrette.
3.  Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Salad
Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella.  Arrange on a bed of fresh basil leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil and top with salt and pepper.  Eat!

4.  Tomato Fritatta
Beat 4 eggs.  Add olive oil to a skillet, saute green onions and garlic.  Add eggs.  Arrange sliced tomatoes on top, sprinkle sliced black olives and mediterran spiced feta.  When bottom's done, broil the top under a broiler until the cheese is melted.  Serve with crusty bread!
5. Slice the ripe tomatoe, sprinkle with salt, pop in your mouth and close your eyes.

Now that's summer!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


​I'm sitting in a cool room on a sunny, summer day.  Wondering...why?

Why do such amazingly, talented people kill themselves? 

Why do smiling, healthy, loved mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers kill themselves?

Why, with all our technology and health miracles, can't we stop suicide?

I don't understand it.  I'm sad and mad and bewildered. 

And I know I'm not alone in how I feel and what I question.  This is a cross-cultural, multi-generational, human problem.  It happens everywhere around the globe since humans began. Many more eloquent writers have written about it than me.  Many of them provide insight and resources and personal experiences.

I don't have that.  I only have a question. 


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Talking To The Trees: Go around or through?

(This is the 8th from my collection of essays. To read the other 7 go here,  here  here and here and here and here and here Or click under Topics, Walking in nature) 

Jilly and I were walking through the woods enjoying the sweet sunshine and light breeze.  She was sniffing here and there.  I was watching the leaves shift and shimmer.  Meandering along familiar path, we were forced to stop, our route blocked by a large clump of fallen birch branches. 

Last week, the path was open and Jilly and I went our merry way.  This week, the path was blocked and Jilly and I could not go down the path to the big tree I call, Father Birch. 

I felt disappointed.  I don’t like not being able to go the way I want.  I considered how much time and strength it would take to clear away the branches, then I had a better idea.

Go around.

I remembered a path up the hill to my left, further ahead, that wound back into the woods by Father Birch.  Jilly and I turned and went that way.  Leaning my tired and tense left shoulder against Father Birches huge, multi branching trunk, I breathed in the fresh summer air and listened.   Here’s what I heard Father Birch say to me.

“You are strong. You don’t have to tense your shoulder, arm or wrist to protect yourself.  It’s strong enough, so are you.  Trust it.”

Tears welled up in my eyes as I took in the wise words.  I wasn’t protecting myself from future injury.  I was holding onto my old injury, weakness and pain that came when I broke my wrist 7 years ago.   I am healed.  I am strong.  And it’s time now, to let go of that old wound and trust my healed bones and muscles.

I walked up the slope and along the winding path from Father Birch to visit the other, smaller birch near the water I call, Mother Birch.  We stopped.  Blocked.  Again. 

This time, it was a pile of bare branches long and short, thin and thick from a variety of bushes and trees.  There was no other way to get to Mother Birch, because these branches were piled directly in front of her.  Again, I felt disappointed.  But this time, I was mad.   I looked down at the pile in front of me and made a decision.

Go through.

I asked Jilly to stay and reached down to the first branch in front of me, picked it up and threw it into the brush beside the path.  One by one, I lifted each branch, big and small, and placed it beside the path to my right.  I slid the bigger branches down the slope to my left.  The last branch, the biggest, had to be lifted up and over my head, around the tree and pushed down the slope and finally came to rest next to a large fern.  I looked up at Mother Birch, down at the ground newly cleared in front of Jilly and me.
I walked forward, reached out and patted Mother Birch.  Then turned and leaned in.  I felt her kind, strong warmth supporting my back.  I sighed and listened.

Mother Birch said, “Yes.  He’s right about your strength, of course.  But there’s another thing you need to know.  You don’t always need to use it.  But, then, you just proved that, didn’t you?”

I wasn’t sure I’d proved anything.  I’d just taken a different path to Father Birch and cleared some old branches in front of her.  What did that have to do with being strong?

She said, “Knowing that you are strong, believing in your own strength gives you more choices.  You know you don’t need to run and hide.  And you know that you can fight, but you can choose not to.  You can choose another path, or you can clear the path.  It’s up to you.”

Suddenly, I saw what the wood was teaching me today.

First, the path to Father Birch was blocked.  It was big.  I felt it would take a long time for me to clear it on my own.  Then, I realized that I didn’t have to clear it.  I could take another path and still get where I wanted to go.  By going around.

The other path to Mother Birch was blocked, too.  It was a pretty big pile of branches.  I’d heard Father Birch’s words to trust my strength.  I did.  I decided to clear the path so I could get where I wanted to go.  By going through.

Life’s journey takes us down many paths.  Some are hard.  Some are easy.  Some are open.  Some are blocked.  When faced with the blocked paths, now, I realize I can believe in my own strength.  Trust it.  And with that strength and trust, I can make a choice.
Go around.  Or go through. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rooms to grow.

​Here's the update on the redecorating of my daughter's room.

This room has grown with her from little girl lavender and bunnies to teenage magenta, teal and music posters to a young adult room.  When she moved out for college, I redid it (for me) in chamois and red as a writing room.  She moved back in and so did a black platform bed.  

Here's what it looked like after she moved out again, emptied of the platform bed with the wicker chaise, chairs and desk.  It felt out of sync and a little empty.

Here's the new room under construction.  

Completion!  Rosy off white walls.   A white sofa bed that opens to a full bed.  Two new tables one black, one white with the legs switched to make Ikea more interesting.  A big, brand new desk (for me) with a shelf/storage unit beside it.  New pillows on the window seat.  New lamps.  

I realized the other day, that this is the first time in over 20 years that this bedroom has had completely new furniture!  It's a little amazing, wonderful and, ok, nostalgic.

Our homes are containers of our lives. 

They hold within their walls all those days and nights that will forever be frozen in our memories.  Good ones like our first romantic, couple bedroom(ok, glad the waterbed was a fad) and anniversary toasts, my children's first yawns in this world, Cinderella birthdays, Thomas the Tank Engine themed bedrooms, prom and wedding dresses, and all those Christmas trees and decorated cookies and non-turkey dinners.

All of these memories aren't just inside our heads, they're inside our rooms and closets and garages.  I don't know about you, but my home is like one big evolving scrapbook of my life and the lives of my husband, daughter and son.  

So redecorating is a bittersweet trip down memory lane along with a joy ride into the future.  

As I sit here on my new, pristine white sofa bed, I smile and sigh and know that this is yet another room that will grow more memories.

Friday, July 25, 2014

As The Wheel Turns: Selling out is a good thing.

I'm new to the world of ceramic sales.  So entirely empty shelves in my studio still astound me.  I'm amazed everytime it happens and, lately, it's been happening a lot more.
This is a good thing.  
I've been making, showing and selling my art for over 15 years.  I've been in gallery shows, art fairs, community and museum shows, books and magazines, and online galleries plus my own website.  I'm not a newbie to making or selling or marketing my art.   
But(you knew that was coming, right?)...selling primarily porcelain functional pieces is new.

I've only been throwing and glazing for 3 years. Half of that time, I was taking classes to learn to do what I'm doing now.  It's been a journey full of the ups and downs that go with learning something new.  It was a struggle to figure out wheel throwing but I was determined, this time, not to let fear of failure stop me.  (More about my clay journey in topic, clay, or, here)

At first, I donated my work and watched it sell. Then, I took a small step into selling with 6 pieces and sold 3.  Slowly, my inventory of finished clay pieces increased and so did the sales.  Now, I'm looking at empty shelves of finished pieces on one side, while on the other side, shelves are filling up with new work to be fired and glazed and fired again.  

Flow.  There's that word of the year cropping up again with more lessons for me to learn.  One - I understand my work is still evolving and growing in style and profiency. Two - understandably, my sales totals are still small but growing.  
​I am grateful, not just for the money, but the encouragement of the universe.  The simple flow of selling out makes me want to make more.  And that is a very good thing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sometimes life needs a little redecorating.

​Once again, my home is being redecorated.  As most of us know, home improvement is an ongoing process, a little like life, actually.

There's the better homes and gardens kind of redecorating of your home, rooms or yard. And there's the spiritual retreat kind of redecorating of thoughts, feelings or past events. Maybe one leads to the other. 

My son moved in and out again.  I'm happy to see him moving out into his own adult life.  I'm glad to be able to help him and give him shelter whenever he needs it but I miss him, too. Last time, I packed up his childhood toys.
This time, I'm packing away his teenage drum sticks and college graduation robe. Last time, we made it through the re-paint and re-carpet phase only.   This time, we have redecorated and created a new room in our home.  

Here's what it looked after the re-paint and re-carpet.

 Here are a few pictures of the before and during process this time around.

Here's what it looks like now.  It's still a guy room, but now it's my husband, not my son, who plays his computer games and watches his golf shows in there.

Now, the next room re-do is my daughter's room.  I redecorated it when she moved out the first time and packed away her childhood.  Then, she moved back in.  When she moved out again and got married, I did the re-paint and re-carpet but nothing else really changed much.  

This time, after seeing the re-creation of my son's room for my husband, I think, maybe my daughter's old room needs a little re-creation, too.  Especially, since my married daughter and her husband are now moving out of town into an exciting new phase of their lives but will be needing a room for two here at home to use over holidays.  So, the childhood twin bed made into a daybed last time, is going this time along with the small flip top desk, wicker table and chest of drawers.  

What will the room look like this time?  I'm not sure.  But I do know it's time for a change. 

Sometimes life needs a little redecorating.  Sometimes it needs a lot.  It can be an inside job or an outside one.  Sometimes it's both. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Flow: In and out and in and out.

As an artist, I'm used to working inside, alone, in my studio.  Sometimes, though, my work takes me outside, in crowds, with other artists.  

Last week was one of those weeks.  It was great to help the local food bank, chat with visitors and artists, and enjoy the festival atmosphere.  

This week, I'm back in my studio.  Working at the wheel or doing sgraffito with only the sound of birds and snoring dogs, I'm enjoying the quiet and slower atmosphere.

My word of the year is FLOW.  Defined as "the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully emersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity."  
I can't think of a better description of these two weeks.  Whether outside selling bowls or inside making bowls, I was full emersed, focused, involved and enjoying the activities.  There is the ying/yang, black/white, and contrast in each setting and activity, of course.  But that's not a bad thing.

I used to think, or maybe I was taught, that consistency was key to a good life.  That having a smooth road, good weather, even progress, and a well-planned routine added up to an even flow.  And so, I see that throughout my life, I've worked very hard to chart a consistent course.  Of course, that hasn't always worked so well.  In, fact it hasn't worked at all.  I either pushed and pushed to get down the road faster or cut off anything that got in the way of a smooth routine. 

Now I know this is not flow.  And while it may be a life, it's not really living.  Flow is not about controling, pushing or hiding.  Flow is emersing myself in life, with all it's noise and quiet, crowds and solitude, selling work and making it with energy, focus and most of all in joy.

My new mantra: In.  Out.  In.  Out.  Repeat.