Thursday, November 25, 2021

Grateful in Difficult Times


To everybody who celebrates it, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

There is much that we can be grateful for. If we're sitting down today with family and/or friends to enjyoy a meal together, we already have everything - food, shelter, good company.

Not only today, but everyday I am grateful for my family - my husband who has been always at my side and who is my rock; my sweet daughter, while living far away has always a place in my heart and stays close to me. I am grateful for our home and the garden, that has kept me sane and grounded and is consistently feeding my soul. My friends are very important to me - I only have a handful of close friends, but those are dear to me and I wouldn't want to miss them. I am thankful that we have enough food, can pay the bills and even enjoy some extras. I love my work and am happy that I finally took the step to get rid of the job that didn't give me joy anymore. My life is full.

I mentioned "difficult times" in my title because I think we are living in difficult times. COVID certainly hasn't made life easier and brought a lot of sorrow and grief to many people. At the same time there is so much resistance to effectively fighting this pandemic and that makes me not only sad but also angry. When I see what is currently happening in our country, all the craziness, hate, greed and selfishness, it is easy to lose hope. I am deeply concerned about the future of our country.

But then I see so many signs of hope. People who volunteer in soup kitchens and food banks, who go to the homeless to give them blankets, food and an open heart. Young people who care for the environment. People all over the country who raise funds so that a little girl can get treatment for her excrutiating pain that her health insurance has denied. People who give their time to listen to those who don't have anybody, who deliver meals to seniors. Decent people who stand up against injustice, who don't look away. Daily courage.

I am so incredibly thankful for these people.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

T is for Tasting Wine


Last week I had to skip Elizabeth's T-party because it was so busy. This was not what I thought my life would look like after quitting my high school library job in the summer. I had dreamed of quiet afternoons spent in the garden tending to my plants or reading piles of books. There was this fantasy that I could take long hikes in the breath taking nature around us. And, of course, that I could write many many blogposts.

The reality looks quite different - I've been very busy with the German School since I had added another class that I was teaching in the evenings. That came to a close last week, but the regular class work still needs to be done (and I simply love teaching) and I also find myself planning which additional classes I could offer in the spring semester. The shop has been very busy, and since my bestseller (warm socks) is made to order I'm knitting every day. However, it does feel good that my items are wanted by people and I'm proud to offer good customer service.

But last weekend, the Geek and I finally went for some wine tasting again. We live in the midst of wine country and could choose to go to a different winery every weekend. However, we opted to go to one of our favorite ones where we are also members in the wine club. This winery doesn't have its own vineyards, but purchases the grapes instead and then make their own wine. Most of their wine is delicious. Lisa, one of the owners, is also a great and experimental cook and she always has food to pair the wine with (or vice versa) on the weekends. This time we got a six-course food pairing.

This was only for starters - afterwards I forgot to take pictures of the other food. Most of her food she cooks with one of their wines and she already inspired me a lot in the kitchen. She is one of those people that you like right from the start - I remember meeting her for the first time several years ago and she was so warm and welcoming. She is someone who laughs a lot and is full of energy. This welcoming feeling and warmth is something that defines this winery - they treat you like family.

It was such a lovely late autumn day, sunny and warm. We were sitting on the patio, having such a good time. It was relaxing and peaceful - and their selection of champagne sure helped as well!

You might notice that they use fabric napkins as well as real silverware and china serving plates. The plates and bowls were all made from compostable material - nothing went to waste here. Another reason why I like this winery and happily support them.

The last course was dessert - and they served Lisa's signature bownies - crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside and a saltted caramel sauce on top.

I'm so glad that I am able to participate in Elizabeth's T Tuesday this week. Thank you for hosting it, Elizabeth! To those of you who are in the US I wish you a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving. There is so much we can be grateful for.

Monday, November 8, 2021

T is for AbsTracT Landscape


After I had tried to create abstracts, I found a video about abstract landscapes on Laly Mille's blog. It was fascinating and I decided that I would try to create an abstract landscape myself. Laly Mille likes to work in series, but I thought for my first landscape working on just one would be more than enough.

I started small, with a 5 x 5 canvas. After having painted it in light blue and gray I covered the lower part with torn collage papers.

Then I put a layer of gesso on it, outlined my landscape with a black Stabilo and smudged the lines with regular gel matte.

I decided the sky needed some light pink, stencilled some white dots on random parts and splattered some watered down paynes grey all over the landscape. You will notice that in between I changed the horizon line a little bit and added more hills.

Finally, I painted a couple clouds in the sky and added some lace, ribbon and two buttons.

Here are a few close-ups:

I thoroughly enjoyed creating this landscape and I will definitely make some more, maybe even try a bigger size. 

Of course I didn't "dry work" here - I had my drink during all this painting and gluing and splattering and... It's coffee in one of my favorite mugs that my daughter once gave me as a gift. Isn't it fun?

This is my ticket to the T Tuesday party which Elizabeth so kindly hosts every Tuesday.

Happy T Day!

Friday, November 5, 2021

The Autumn Garden


"Autumn is a time of sweet disorder and permissible procrastination" - Allen Lacy

Often, autumn is seen as a time in the garden full of chores - raking the leaves, tidying up the perennial beds, cutting back annuals, planting bulbs for spring, taking care of the tools and putting everything away. In short, bringing the gardening year to an end.

Luckily, in this part of the country fall still fills the garden with a lot of life. After a couple light rain falls the garden seems to wake up after the summer heat, taking a deep breath and pushing all its glory that autumn is famous for.

"Roger's Red", a California native grape pictured above, displays brilliant shades of red, winding through our old windmill and being reflected in the water left from the rain in our fire pit. It is a stunning show that takes my breath away every time I look at it.

The last tomatoes need to be harvested. It wasn't a good tomato year for me and most of my tomatoes I ate right from the bush. The few sunflowers I had are gone, but I had cut off the seed heads and attached them to the now orphaned tomato cages for the birds to enjoy. 

Fall is our major planting season, when perennials, shrubs and trees are put in the ground so that they can get etsablished over the winter. Bulbs for spring flowering plants will go in the ground in December. I don't have many this year - just a few tulips and a big bag of daffodils. I hope that some of this year's tulips will come back next spring, but it is not a given because we don't have very cold winters and tulips need quite a chill. If we do get a lot of frosty nights chances are much better.

Most of my perennials were planted in the fall and many of them come back reliably year after year. Like these sages in the front - pineapple sage and Mexican bush sage - that make up one of my favorite color combinations, red and purple. They are joined by salvia "Indigo Spires" and in the background you can see the loaded Pendolino olive tree. All of these sages are cut back to the ground in the winter.

The yellow of the swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) is glowing for about two weeks in the autumn garden until it fades again. It's like a light that has been switched on. After our very dry spring and summer I was surprised how well it performed in October. The chrysanthemum is still flowering in all its beauty and such a delightful spot.

Almost two weeks ago we had torrential rain - much needed, but so much water came down that some areas were flooded (thankfully not in our corner). Within 24 hours we received almost 8 inches of rain. Since then it has rained on and off with sunny balmy days in between. While the rain did help the garden a lot, it unfortunately hasn't put a dent in the drought - for the drought to end we need a lot more rain and the prognosis for that is not very good. It's a La Niña year which means more rain for the Northern part and less rain for the Southern part. While officially being Northern, we're kind of in the middle when it comes to these weather patterns, and I hope we will get more of the rain that is supposed to fall in the North. Fingers crossed - we need it.

The most stunning plant in my garden at the moment - beside the "Roger's Red" vine - is the Chinese pistache that I planted seven or eight years ago. Every year its show is more brilliant than the year before - or perhaps this is only my imagination. I love love love this tree.

The leaves of the elderberry - Sambucus mexicana, a California native - are already gone, but the birds love the berries. They will be a good food source for them during the winter.

I shouldn't forget who actually rules the garden - it's these two. Somehow they have decided that this garden is the place where they like to be. They follow me around when I make my rounds through the garden and love to soak up the sun on the warm soil.

Monday, November 1, 2021

T is for Try an Abstract


Abstracts are something I have never felt drawn to and I certainly never imagined that I would try my hand on one much less four of them - but here I am today with four little abstracts. How did that happen?

While doing the Taster Lessons for Life Book 2022 I came upon Laly Mille whose pieces of art immediately spoke to me. Just shortly after the Taster Lessons she offered a free workshop "Abstract Color Challenge" which was open for just a week. We were asked to choose a color that we don't work with very often. It shouldn't be an intimidating color, but it should be challenging.

I chose green. Laly Mille likes to work in series and inspired us to do the same. So I cut my watercolor paper in four squares of 5 x 5 inches. Next I didn't find my masking tape and therefore had to use some washi tape to adhere my paper to a board - it did the job but was a bit distracting, especially since one of the washi tapes was green...

Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. I was adhering collage papers to my substrate with no rhyme or reason, hoping that eventually something would evolve. Then I put paint to it, green paint of course. I did not take any progress photos except the following one:

It just looks too green to me! 

Good thing there is gesso - I used it a lot to tone things down a bit. Slowly I could see where I was going.

This first one is my least favorite one. I noticed the word "story telling" and circled it with a black pencil. Otherwise I didn't really know what to do with this square - I made patterns with colored pencils and oil pastels and stamped it. I declared it finished simply because I didn't know what else to do and I didn't like it.

The second one was easier. I had found the picture of the sculpted head in a magazine and knew that I would like to use it on one of the four squares. A stamp in the background before adhering the picture and I was done with this one.

The third one is the only one that has an additional color - purple, a color that I don't use that often either. The same stamp in the background and some oil pastels before I glued down the picture of the Lauren's Grape poppies from a seed package. The seed company Renee's Garden uses these beautiful painted flowers on their seed packages and I always keep them. Yes, I bought these seeds just because of the packaging, but also because I love poppies and they made a beautiful appearance in my garden several years ago.

And now my favorite one. I only added the same background stamp and then adhered the photo. It's from a Gudrun Sjõdén catalogue, my favorite clothing company - their catalogues are filled with stunning photography. As a final touch I painted around the picture with a copper oil pastel and called it done.

Since this is a T post we need a drink. Mine is just water in this bottle my daughter gave me. During three of her four years at UC Davis she worked with Student Housing, a job she loved. A nice little benefit was that the students were able to get these bottles - they hold cold drinks cold and hot drinks really hot for a long time. Thank you, Elizabeth, for hosting again this week!