Monday, February 28, 2022



In this worrisome time when we don't know whether our world will be set on fire by the will of one man, I find these three things helping me to find some calm and inner peace: nature, gardening and being creative. I had found one of Laly Mille's short workshops called "Wholehearted" and after watching it I decided to try my hand on it. The unfinished work was lying on my table for a few days until I was drawn to it this weekend - I felt so restless and agitated and thought some paint on my hands might be a good way to think about something else. And indeed it did!

There are several layers here. The start was writing down some thoughts on pieces of paper that I glued down as the basic layer. After covering it with gesso I outlined an slightly asymmetrical heart and filled that with torn pieces of scrapbook paper.

When I started this canvas I wasn't sure which color I would use, but after finishing the first part of the heart I knew that I had to fall back to one of my favorite colors - turquoise. It felt just right.

And then the real fun part started - stamping, stenciling, using alcohol inks, splatters, Posca pens... This is usually my favorite part and even if accidents happen (like a bottle of alcohol ink dropping on the painting), one can work on them. I like the freedom of it.

Here are a couple close-ups:

Since this is a T stands for Tuesday post, here is my drink - coffee, of course. I have had this mug forever, I simply love the happy colors of it. The cookie is a new Girl Scout cookie, called Adventureful. It's a mini brownie with caramel - delicious!

I just learned that the lovely sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine. This is in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Winter Lace


Walking through the Laguna in winter might seem to be bare and boring, but it is anything but. Sure, there is not much flowering or full of lush green leaves. The beauty is more subtle and no everybody may recognize or acknowledge it.

The common Queen Anne's lace - Daucus carota - is a plant that delights in summer with it's lacelike tiny flowers that attracts many insects. But in winter it looks very different.

It's just a "skeleton" that remains but that bare shape is still beautiful and can enchant the landscape. Even though it's gray and can blend into its environment, if you look closely you note its fine features. 

Isn't it beautiful?

Queen Anne's lace has many different names - wild carrot, bird's nest, bishop's lace - and not everybody loves this wildflower. In some US states like Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and Washington it is listed as a noxious weed. But here in the Laguna on a chilly winter day I am delighted by its subtle beauty.


As of early this morning local time, Russia has started invading Ukraine, a sovereign, independent, democratic country. Up to this morning I had hoped that this could have been prevented - hope dies last. I feel a wild mix of emotions - grief, fear, fury, worry. I look at Ukraine not as a US citizen but as a European who loves this beautiful continent and who is devastated about a war in the center of it.

Monday, February 21, 2022



Again, I am late writing about the books I read (or listened to) last year - but better late than never.

In 2021 I read 64 books, seven of them were audiobooks (so "read" is probably not the right term). As I do every year, I wrote all of the titles and authors down and used my very own star system for books I enjoyed more than others. Usually I give one star for a good read and two stars for a very good read, but last year for the very first time I had to introduce three stars - just once. Everything else without a star is an average read. I still need to figure out how to "star" exceptionally bad reads. Usually I don't finish those and note that in my list, but in 2021 I finished all the books. 

Most of the books I read on my Kindle Paperwhite. It's so easy to take it anywhere and wherever I am I have an entire library with me. I don't like to schlepp any books with me anymore like I used to do for most of my life.

But of course there are still "real" books I'm reading like "The Four Agreements" that I took home from work. That was at the beginning of the year, I had just processed all of the copies and was quite curious about this book. It ended up in the one-star category.

"A Stone in my Hand" was another book from the high school library that I enjoyed. It's written from the perspective of a pre-teen Palestinian girl who lives in Gaza. It was highly educational.

More one-star reads were "The Story of Arthur Truluv" by Elizabeth Berg (I have yet to read a book by her that I don't like), "The Moonlight Child" by Karen McQuestion, "The Light Through the Leaves" by Glendy Vanderah, "The Key" by Kathryn Hughes and "The Keeper of Lost Things" by Ruth Hogan that I listened to. "Nomadland" by Jessica Butler, "Freckled" by TW Neal (she usually writes mysteries as Toby Neal, but this one is about her childhood in Hawai'i), "Where the Forest Meets the Stars" by Glendy Vanderah, "Dovetail" by Karen McQuestion (audiobook), "The Paper Bracelet" by Rachael English (another eye-opener about a home for unwed mothers in the 1970s in the West of Ireland) and "The Midnight Library" by Matt Haig (audiobook, narrated by the wonderful Carey Mulligan) all received two stars,

One Saturday our German School had a book sale in the parking lot of our campus. I got a few German books that interest me - "Nordlicht" is another mystery that is set in the North of Germany. These kind of 'local' mysteries are quite popular (I read quite a bit of those on my Kindle). This was quite interesting since it was set in a small town on the German-Danish border and I learned quite a bit about this special area that I wasn't aware of before.

The book at the bottom is of special interest for me. It's about displaced Germans after WWII, mainly those who had to flee from the approaching Soviet Army in the Eastern regions of the country. This is what happened to both my parents and their families.

Two of my German students gave me books as well - one because I love to read mysteries, and one because he wanted to know my opinion about it.

"Northern Spy" is more than just a mystery, it's about how the IRA still operates 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement. I had no idea and this book was a hard-to-swallow lesson. "On Being German" with the subtitle "A Personal Journey Into the German Experience" mainly angered me. The only interesting part was the diary of the author's mother about the time when they had to flee from their home in East Prussia. But the rest was hair-raising and appaling. 

If someone is indeed interested in a "personal journey into the German experience" I recommend this book:

I have this book in both German and English (Nora Krug wrote both of them herself, no translator) and this is my three-star read. Nora Krug is 17 years younger than I am, but her experience, her way of coming to terms with German history, the guilt and how to define "Heimat" (home or homeland - there really is no equivalent English word for it) is very similar to my own experience, even though I grew up in a refugee family while her family came from and had lived in the Southwest of Germany (these are two very different conditions that you are mainly aware of when you belong to the refugee side). So much sounded familiar. This is not a "regular" book - all is "hand printed" with the author's own illustrations, historic photographs and documents. Here's an example:

I owe it to my German friend B. who told me about this book.

You do know that reading makes thirsty, right? And since this is a T Tuesday post I'm showing a drink at my favorite place to read - in the garden with a glass of rosé. Life can be good.

Monday, February 14, 2022

No Blank Page Left


Oh the feel of an almost full art journal! I love when the pages bend and bulge because there are so many layers on them. It is very satisfying.

I bought this Strathmore art journal a few years ago and it was sitting empty on a shelf for a long time. I started working in it almost three years ago, but only for a short period of time. Finally this summer I pulled it out again. After having quit my job I thought it was a good time to start filling its pages again.

While it is still not complete, I can now say that not a single blank page is left. At least some kind of background is on each page and I know that eventually they will be turned into something that is not just a background.

Some pages I started out purposefully with journaling that I then covered up.

The first sentence often was a question or quote I heard or read somewhere. I journal in both German and English, depending how I feel at the moment, and often it's a mix of both languages. The page with the birds was written in German whereas the text on the page in the picture above is written in English. What I specifically love about art journals is that they are not accomplished art but opprotunities to try things out. The flowers above were painted with Derwent Inktense ink pencils that I had never worked with before and that I came to love for their brilliant colors. 

For the page above I used watercolors. I had never really dared to work with watercolors and was never "serious" about it. However, I found out that they make wonderful backgrounds and I enjoy mixing colors to create diffferent shades. In this page I also tore up papers that I had made with the Gelli plate, got the inspiration for the frame from some online workshop (I forgot which one) and used one of my all-time favorite stamps, "Silhouette Script" by Dina Wakley.

As you can tell, I really like this stamp.

Oh, and I love to work with stencils. They can add such fun elements to a page.

Sometimes I just create a page about something I love ("Sunsource" by Stampington & Company is another favorite stamp).

One Sunday morning not even two months after I had quit my high school job I felt so thankful that I didn't have to go to work the following day that I spontaneously created a page about the carefree Sunday mornings that I finally had back. I love our Sunday mornings - they are slow with a late breakfast and usually I spend them in my studio either writing or playing with mixed media. It has a very different quality from all the other days.

The last page I want to show you is my currently favorite page because it is the most meaningful to me.

I do my best work in the morning. Is it because of the coffee?

This elephant mug is my ticket for T Tuesday hosted by Elizabeth at Altered Book Lover. We also used to have a red one, but it broke several years ago.

The little "Trust" bird was made by Kelly Thiel, the little owl was a gift from my friend Jo when she moved to Portland, OR, and the dromedary I bought in Egypt many many years ago. These three things are very special to me.

Friday, February 11, 2022

The Winter Forest


Here in coastal Northern California just an hour North of San Francisco our forests are not covered with snow in the winter. What you see is a forest of mostly deciduous trees that let the sun through. This is more than welcome in the winter, but in summer they give lovely cool shade.

Our neighboring town to the North is bordered by a lovely regional park that offers a lot of that kind of forest. Lovely trails meander through the forest and up the sometimes rather steep hills. In the photo above you can also spot a fence in the distance. This is to fence in the goats and sheep that come in to graze and thus cut down all the undergrowth. Perfect wildfire prevention.

The park was closed for quite some time because of the Kincade Fire that raced through it in the fall of 2019. Scars of that wildfire are still visible.

At the same time we saw a lot of new growth. It never stops to amaze me how nature bounces back after natural disasters.

I'm not sure what this wildflower is (if you recognize it, please let me know), but the one below is a Pacific Hound's Tongue (Cynoglossum grande). I often wonder who gives the names to plants...

Many of the trees - mostly oaks - are quite crooked and create great shadows.

We climbed up to one of the highest points of the park which was unpleasantly steep. We had to go down the same way and my knees weren't happy about it. But the view from the top was fantastic.

Over to the Coastal Range...

... and to Mount St. Helena in the Mayacamas Mountains. Mount St. Helena is one of the peaks that is covered in snow when we have those really cold (for our area) days and nights.

The park also has several canyons which is highly loved by wildfires because they can race through it fueled by wind with little chance to stop it quickly. We walked down one of those canyons along a less traveled trail from where we could see the charred trees.

But we also noticed the renewal of these trees. How very amazing!

I simply love the texture of the "fresh" tree trunks after the charred bark is gone.

We finally arrived at one of the three ponds that are creatively named after the first letters of the alphabet. This is pond B.

There's a lovely loop around the pond. On our way back to the parking lot we passed pond A where we stopped and enjoyed the quietness.

This was a lovely outing with a beautiful hike. The weather has been warm and spring like. Even for this area these temperatures are unseasonally warm and we do worry about another dry year. There is no rain in the forecast. I'm grateful that we had some decent rainfall in the fall, but it is by far not enough to get us out of the drought. I'm hoping for March which usually is a wetter month - fingers crossed!