Friday, June 30, 2006


I planted a few dozen gladious bulbs around my garden years ago. I tend to forget that they're around except during the summer when their bright, long green leaves poke above ground couples with spears of flowers. I LOVE these bright spikes -- what surprises me most is that most of them are PINK!!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Red Geraniums

I CANNOT see terra cotta pots of red geraniums without thinking of Sicily! I found a photo of these and was instantly transported back there -- to warm days, bright sunshine, hills of wildflowers, terraces of geraniums, cafes and expressos, groves of olives and grapes ... I am homesick to return!

EDM 73 - A mailbox

I LOVE finding goodies in my mailbox!! And I find myself ordering books, CDs, food items, and the like just for the luxurious SURPRISE of finding something beside bills in my mailbox.

This is my DREAM mailbox! What I WISH my real mailbox looked like. I have a HUGE BLACK box that my dear husband painted our house numbers on -- and it sits on our gravel road collecting heat and dust ... the ground around it is compacted into granite and because it sits on the highest side of the drainage area that runs the length of our entire road, there isn't sufficient room to even THINK about a the luxury of a mailbox garden.

So this is what I WISH my mailbox looked like.

I have to admit, though, when the mailman dropped me a polite "Please get a Bigger BOX' letter to accommodate all my anticipated mailbox goodies, it took me five months to find one that would sit on its wooden post without falling over from the weight! LOL

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I was pretty tired this week -- the extreme heat, constant rain storms, working with my students in the mud -- all wore me out, so I wanted to sketch something (in keeping with my sketch a day commitment) that was fairly simple. I settled on garlic as a subject for several reasons ...

I LOVE garlic and use it in almost everything!
I 'thought' it would be fairly simple (HA!)
Italians believe it to cure almost everything!
It was used as a love charm with magical powers.

Could anything be more appealing??


This sunflower was done from a reference photo ... I didn't have too much trouble with the flower -- but mercy, that background was difficult!! Getting it to be multi-colored, dark and yet 'vague' took 2 days to finally get it to be somewhere near my attempt!!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Bee Balm

It's been raining all weekend -- a good thing actually since we've been in a drought for the last few years.

I spent the day working on the grandchildren's journals -- 13 pages in Taylors, three in Nick's, four in Emily's!! WHEW! I also cleaned out files on my comptuer, duplicated CDs filled with grandchildren's photographs, and other rainy day occupations.

C cooked lemon caper pork chops last night and served this over tortellini ... YUM!!! Today, he cooked steak -- hearty fare for my tired body and weary heart.

From the covered porch I noticed that the bee balm has just begun to bloom in the front beds. In between rain showers, I picked several stalks to sketch. My rudbeckias are also beginning to bloom ... SUMMERTIME!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A link to the Past - Castelvetrano

For years and years, I searched records upon records, quizzed elderly aunts and my poor mom to find out more about our family's history -- where my grandparents were born, where in Italy my great-grandparents were from. No one could tell me....those things were rarely talked about in my mother's generation, or if they were, they weren't recorded and thus, never remembered.

After more than 20 years studying anthropology, I decided to record my own family's history -- or as much of it as I could elicit from my parents (my grandparents on both sides died so very young and thus I didn't know them). So before my father passed away, I recorded many of his stories, interviews and the like, and continue to do the same with my mother. But getting past their generation to know my ancestors was exceedingly difficult.

I wrote to the Immigration Office two or three years ago requesting information about my maternal grandfather. Two years ago I received a letter from Homeland Security saying they had my request and I would hear from them. Another year passed and I thought my request was lost. Until yesterday ...

On the day I knew my cat was gone and I was mourning her loss, the mailman delivered a CD with EIGHT pages of immigration information about my grandfather! Talk about an emotional rollercoaster! I was OVERJOYED!!

Within all the legal documents was the city in which my Nonno was born: Castelvetrano, a city in the province of Trapani, Sicily, Italy. MY GOD! A most precious piece of ancestral information!

I called my mother, and needless to say, she was as thrilled as I was! And my sisters were incredulous to know that my request wasn't really lost after all this time and that they, too now had a most wonderful piece of information!

I spent most of yesterday, after making jam, touring Castelvetrano via the Internet and wondering what my grandfather's life must have been like there. I knew he was orphaned when he own parents died when he was a child. He was raised by an aunt (NO one knows her name, DRATS!!) on a farm (we think near Sciaca ... about 50 miles from Castelvetrano since my Godmother believed my grandfather came from Sciaca). When C and I visited Sicily last year, we toured Trapani and took the road not TEN MILES from Castelvetrano ...touring the hillsides (GORGEOUS), farms and olive groves in that area. We also toured Sciaca ... so we were actually in the area where my nonno was born and raised.

Yet to have this confirmed, just thrills me beyond measure! So I sketched Chiesa Madre de Castelvetrano (the Mother Church of Castelvetrano) in honor of my Nonni.

(I'm a bit hesitant to add watercolor to this since it took me HOURS to do this simple rendering.)

I have a list of additional relatives to submit to Homeland Security .... in hopes of finding additional links to my ancestors. Until that information is uncovered, if it can be, I will bask in this link to a place I fell in love with while I save my nickles and dimes to return there again armed with a bit more 'famiglia' than I brought with me last year.

Keeping Busy

Thank you, dear friends, for your kind, comforting words....

I wrapped myself in them, like the largest of hugs, and drew much solace from them. You are a blessing to me and I am grateful.

It's so strange, isn't it, how the good Lord provides meaningful comfort in difficult times -- friends, hugs, the gift of my grandfather (more about this later) ... and a bushel of peaches to keep me busy making jam ....

I spent a good amount of time in the kitchen yesterday making jam ... The heavenly scent of peaches, tastings of sweet jam, and the embrace of friends ...

Thank you ...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Missing Sunshine

She came into our lives unexpectedly – one day showing up at the door along with three other cats. Naturally, we fed them all, and kept feeding them until they became ‘ours.’ Sunny was ‘ours’ (as much as cats can be anyone’s) for over six years. She came to us as an adult, already trained to be outdoors, but behaving so well indoors, never even using the litter box we kept ‘just in case.’ She was affectionate, obedient, kind. Knew her name, came when called, went for walks with us – behaved in so many ways, like a puppy. She was my ‘baby’ when all my human babies were grown with babes of their own. I saw her for the last time last weekend. She spent a restless night on my bed last Friday – cuddling and cuddling, and keeping me awake. Little did I know it would be the last time. I gave her a bowlful of her beloved wet food Monday before I left for the week. I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d see her.

My husband called me Wednesday to say he hadn’t seen Sunny. She didn’t come for dinner, nor come for breakfast.

I got home Thursday night, and she was not there to greet me. She didn’t come when I called. She wasn’t anywhere on the property or at the neighbors. Now, three days later, in heat exceeding 95F with matching humidity, I fear the worst. I wake to find that:

* there’s no scratching at the screen to come indoors

* there’s no wee pleading face at the door looking for wet food
* there’s no kitty taking a walk with us
* there’s no kitty snuggling with me, sleeping on my chest, snuggling against my back
* there’s no kitty ‘meowing’ to go outdoors or asking for her dinner
* there’s no kitty being so patient as the grands ‘do nice kitty’ pettings
* there’s no ‘sunshine’ coming when her name is called
* there’s no kitty ‘sitting’ when told
* there’s no kitty watching all the birds.

There’s only bits of shed fur on the floors, an empty food bowl, and a big hole in my heart.

Wherever she’s gone, IF she is gone forever, I hope her passing was peaceful… but I wish I could have been there, holding her against me, one last time.

I miss you, Sunshine.

Lilies and Verbena

Although the kitchen garden is small, THIS year especially, the plants all seem to be thriving in the heat and humidity. I have to walk through the garden as I go to my office, and each morning, I take notice of different corners or vignettes suitable to sketching. This corner is just FILLED with ginger lilies, daylilies and verbena bonariensis! The students really did an outstanding job designing this corner -- the contrast of oranges, yellows, purple and greens is incredible!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

EDM 72

This challenge was to sketch somewhere new-- great challenge!! It was so horribly hot this week (even for me who LOVES the heat!! LOL), so I drove around town and parked on the street, remained in the air-conditioned car, and sketched the Neuse Outdoor Theatre stage. FUN!

BTW, the 'white' on the trees on the right, are crape myrtle flowers....

Another shot at Echinacea

Last week I sketched this purple cone flowers and wound up adding ink. I decided to try them again SANS ink. I think I like this one better.


Another member of Cathy Johnson's art classes offered a photo of a chipmunk she snapped when she caught him in her harden. I thought I'd give it a shot ... it took TWO times to get it sort of right.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


My hydrangeas are FINALLY in bloom! I tried to capture the dance of sunlight on the porch rails against the green and blue/purple of the flowers. SIGH!!!!

Sometimes, you just realize you need a lot more PRACTICE! LOL

I'd love some advice!

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I can't believe that it has been ONE YEAR since I picked up my pencil and decided that THIS TIME, I was REALLY going to learn how to sketch. It has been about six months since I began to SERIOUSLY work with watercolor.

I pulled out my first sketchbook this weekend -- a dollar store blank pad with text-weight paper. I flipped to the first pages -- those I was working through while reading "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain." Then I picked up the Raffine 100# paper, sprial sketchbook I am currently in love with and compared the sketch/watercolor I did yesterday. MY GOODNESS!

There is something to be said about that ol' "P" word -- PRACTICE. It certainly DOES pay off!

But then, I haven't done this alone -- far from it. I want to take a moment to thank YOU, my sketch-a-day friends who have been extraordinarily generous and kind with your 'TERRIFICs" and your "WAY TO GOs" and your "AtaGirls" ... you can't know how many times that WONDERFUL encouragement helped me pick up my pencil or brush and keep trying -- page after page, day after day.

So while I am celebrating this week, I will also be celebrating YOUR friendship and encouragement, and thanking you from the bottom of my heart.

You can truly see it has made a difference.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Purple Coneflowers

At the Arboretum this week, the purple coneflowers were blooming and attacted so many butteflies!! I'd walk through the kitchen garden and I'd be surrounded by butterflies of all kinds!

They cheered me immensely!

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Daylilies and lilies are abloom at the Arboretum! There was no time this week to sit outdoors and sketch, so I had to rely on photographs. But oh, they are just so pretty!

EDM 71 My Sport - Roller Dance Skating - A Romance

I met my husband rollering skate almost 15 years ago. Yes, I was skating as an adult.

I had roller skated all my life--loved it! And when I was a single parent in graduate school and stressed out from working a full-time job, raising a difficult teenager, and cerebrially burned out, I KNEW I needed some physical exercise. But what could a single parent, without funds and mentally exhausted, do with a teenager that would be enjoyable for both? ROLLER SKATE!

I took my son with me during an 'adult night.' The music was soft rock and beach and he quickly made friends with the other teens at the rink. I skated and met many of the 'older' folks who came for the music and the bit of social life skating each Thursday night afforded. During a 'couples' skate, this man asked me if I knew how to skate backwards. I replied, "of course," and we skated together. During the skate, we chatted, and afterwards, we shook hands, and went our merry ways.

There was a message posted on the bulletin board for skate lessons. There was a skate coach offering skating lessons for 'dance skating' and 'free style.' My son wanted to learn to jump and race, and I decided I'd like to skate on roller skates as they did on ice (yes, there are even competitions for this!). So I signed up for the one; signed up my son for the other.

On the first night of class, my son and I show up -- and who is the only OTHER person to show up--??? You guessed it -- my current husband! Since we were the only three taking lessons, the coach paired up Charles and me, and gave my son private free style lessons.

Charles and I took skate dance lessons for four years; Mike took lessons for one (teens have such a short attention span! LOL).

Needless to say, Charles and I literally "skated off into the sunset"....and the skate coach was Charles' best man. No, we didn't get married at the rink ... but the friends we made there were at the wedding!

So skating is not only my sport of choice ... it's also the story of how Charles and I met. Romance on wheels!


While I was visiting my daughter and we took various walks around her neighborhood with Taylor, I spotted so many oleanders. They reminded me of the shrubs between Mt. Pleasant and Sullivans Island in Charleston--they lined the Causeway. My daughter's neighbors had planted white and pink oleanders along their homefronts. I snapped a photo, and this week, while I didn't have much time to do a large painting, I sketched this small 'sketchy' image of the pink oleanders.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


OH MY -- do I LOVE cherries!! C brought me a huge bag for my 'welcome home' surprise -- and I just HAD to sketch them ....

The hardest part of this sketch beside the shadows was NOT eating my models!!

Heron and Blackberries

One of the students in Cathy Johnson's alumni group posted some wonderful bird photographs that we could use for our paintings. I sketched this heron from one of those luscious images.

The blackberries are just beginning to ripen here at home -- so I've posted that as well. While this sketch shows thorns, the ones we have are thornless and MUCH easier to pick!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Rebecca's Flowers

The husband of the B&B I frequent has been placed in a nursing home for his worsening Alzheimer's disease. Mercy, what a cruel, crippling disease. He was responsible for many of the flower bouquets Rebecca had around her home.

In an effort to continue his efforts, Rebecca put together a few vases of flowers -- like this one -- small, delicate, filled with memory. This one consists of yarrow, gardenia, eucalyptus and the daylilies that are now opening.

THE BIRDS -- The Birds!

I'm really enjoying this month's theme of birds for Cathy Johnson's former students. I didn't realize how much fun they are to sketch!

I've added watercolor to the hummingbird and the goose I sketched. My dh 'thinks' he saw the hummingbirds we usually have this time of year -- so after I post this, I'm heading to the kitchen to fix some sugar water to hopefully lure our colorful visitors.

I sketched the goose from a photograph -- I just didn't have time during my two days of work I had after returning from my daughter's. Our campus is FILLED with geese and this time of year, their goslings ... so cute to see on the PONDS -- but a true traffic hazzard to get around campus -- let alone WALK on the grass! LOL

I've also sketched and watercolored a cardinal. Our trees and feeders are filled with cardinals each year. Our shopping budget reflects the pounds of sunflower seeds we add to the feeders!

Thursday, June 08, 2006


The former students from Cathy Johnson's classes are working on birds this month. I've sketched this hummer while at work -- and will add watercolor this weekend.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Dark Values and EDM 70

There's been much discussion recently on the EDM list about values in painting and sketching. I too have always avoided trying my hand at the very dark colors and values. So in order to address my fears, I attempted these pots for EDM 70. While a lovely blue, I think I've overworked them to the point of losing all the subtleties I had originally put in them.

So, instead of continuing to wreck these pots further, I did this still life -- which I like better.

In all, I've learned that darker values take more time to build, don't respond well (at least the Payne's Gray I used) to repeated 'fussin' overs' ... and the subtleties within the values can easily get lost if you're not careful.

There goes the "P" word again -- PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Kitchen Garden

Each season, my students design and grow plants for the kitchen garden at the Arboretum I direct. This year, I've taken some photos and am trying to use them for learning perspective and additional sketching/watercolor skills.

Here's a portion of the garden with its rows of red and green lettuce, basil and chives.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Pears and Grapes

I carried a number of reference photos from WetCanvas that I could use during quiet times while visiting my daughter. I sketched these fruits and tried again to focus on achieving the multi-hues I saw in each piece of fruit.

While I think I've achieved my goal with the watercoloring and various hues, I MUST MUST MUST remember to be VERY careful when adding pencil to my watercolors when the paper is wet. This pear looks a bit 'bruised' where I got a bit ambitious with the pencil.


Friday, June 02, 2006

Back to some Pen, Ink and WC

Just to keep my hand in the pen, ink and watercolor work I love, I worked on a couple of morning glories between granddaughter feedings.

Kitty Kitty

While my previous attempts at cat faces have left a lot to be desired, this one, done yesterday, is closer to 'cat-ness' ... done with pencil and light watercolor washes.