Monday, July 30, 2018

Caterpillars and Milkweed

When I think of the milkweed plant's flower, I think of a pink flower.  That's the sort of milkweed we always saw growing in ditches when we were growing up and that we have in the back yard garden.  A couple of years ago I discovered that milkweed can also have a white flower and immediately sought, found two, and planted them in my white flower garden.  Last year we had two monarch caterpillars, but they never got to the chrysalis stage much to our sorrow.

This year the milkweed flourished in both locations, and we have seen solitary monarchs flitting about so today we checked the white ones for caterpillars.  The first thing that caught my eye was this:

In the photo above, you can see the white flower of the milkweed and, if you looker lower down and slightly to the left, you may see a caterpillar.  It's not the monarch caterpillar, but it's quite stunning in its own right. The next photo is a close up of that caterpillar.  It's a Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar.  I think it's stunning!

And just in case you're wondering, D found two monarch caterpillars while I was busy oohing and ahhing over the amazing one I found.  Here are the monarch caterpillars:

There is one on either side of the picture; the one on the left obviously hatched before the one on the right.  I hope that since there aren't two very large caterpillars that may in some way protect them from (mostly insect) predators.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Love Affair with Zinnias

Earlier in this flowering season, I talked about my love of zinnias.  They can be counted on to perform under almost any conditions, give any garden a shout of color, last as cut flowers, and continue to bloom for a long time.  Their form is simple, and they are rugged.  Nor are they too picky about soil conditions or watering.  If one treats them well, they will reward one.

After yesterday's wind and heavy, heavy rain, the very tall zinnias were almost all lying on the ground so I went out and staked them all.  I also cut off almost all the blooms that hadn't already been deadheaded to encourage the plants to recover and put out new buds.  In the pictures you'll see some ragged and/or tired blooms from that storm, but they can still make one smile:

The zinnias above and below are in a very thick, large glass bowl.  Seen from the top in the photo above and seen through the glass below.  The second shot intrigues me as I think it has the appearance of a paperweight.

And this is a pretty standard shot of mostly zinnias (with a red coneflower to keep them company) in a vase.  Such a cheery sight first thing in the morning!

I'll finish with a bit of a palate cleanser.  This is the Casa Blanca lily that is fragrant and beautiful.  Another favorite that is planted in the fall.  I feel quite lucky that the critters allowed this one to live and flourish!

Gardens are good for the soul, don't you agree?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Second Lascaster, PA Painting

Once again I forgot to photograph the first day's work on the new painting, but I did take a photo  today after the second day of work.  It is another in what I hope will be a series (notice "series" with a small "s") from the trip to Lancaster.  And, it's worth noting that this one already has a name.

While on our trip through Amish country, we were fortunate enough to have lunch at the home of an Amish family.  Not only did we have the pleasure of eating foods made using their recipes, visit the barns, talk with members of the family, and purchase various food/household products, we also were able to take some photographs as long as none of the Amish were in them.  That did give me the opportunity to take pictures that I found fascinating - mostly in the barn, but also a few around the house.

We were there on what was a day that laundry was done.  They do use gas power so they have more modern washing machines, but I don't know if they use dryers or if, like many of us, they hand clothes to dry only on good days.  And this is the subject of the painting.

Here is the second day of work on "Washday":

There is quite a bit of work yet to be done, and it may only the first version as I'm not sure I like the dimensions of this paper for this subject.

Also, I had planned to paint the sky first and add the line of laundry afterwards but changed my mind because there are white items on the line as well as the dark.  That is one reason why the sky below the clothes line appears to be a mountain.  That really has to be changed!  Also, the building is larger than I am happy with.  

Some things to work on and maybe somethings that need a new size.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Barbara's Block

Well, the time has finally arrived when I can say that the crazy quilt block dedicated to my sister Barbara is finished.  Now all I have to do is write about it in my Crazy Quilt Journal as I have with the other blocks.


You may have noticed that there are numerous "references" to flight, and if you noticed the uniform Barbara is wearing, you'll understand the reason why.  There are also references to sewing which won't surprise anyone since the entire crazy quilt is about women and stitchery of one kind or another.  The VW bus has its headlights, the little smocked dress is on its hangar, all seams have been covered, embellishments are stitched, and the caduceus is in place (in her time, one had to be a nurse to become a stewardess).  

There are many other details which all gave me great delight to design and execute, but I am looking forward to starting the next block which will be one of the four seasons to be used as the cornerstones for the quilt.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A Day for Bonsai

D asked me if I wanted to go to the Bonsai Club meeting today; it was a workshop with a visiting expert.  I really like the members so even if I wound up painting as I did the last time when it was primarily a meeting about the upcoming show, I said yes.

The workshop leader was a Korean woman who spoke very good English and was a terrific teacher.  Her specialty is accent plants.  At a bonsai show, people show their trees and often have very small accent plants that make a more complete display.  Young Choe gave us a lot of information about how to select the correct plant to go with tree.  It included things like they should represent the same season or they should complement each other physically (like leaning towards each other), or their colors should be harmonious, or that they grew in similar locales.  

I had never heard or thought about any of that!   Oh well, here is our teacher with her accent plant, a moss ball.

Then we all were to choose plants (as with many other arts odd numbers are preferable) that would harmonize with each other.  We didn't have bonsai trees with us so we didn't have to worry about that yet, but some members clearly had one in mind.  

I chose plants by height (small, medium, tall), color (red, light green, dark green), and leaf type (spear, round, jagged).  We were also warned to make sure that all plants were compatible as far as growing conditions.  I wound up with seven plants which I knew were too many for a tiny pot but thought I'd be able to eliminate some as I planted.

While I was doing all that, D was doing the same thing.  The big difference was he had purchased a super pot.  I didn't have one, but I was planning on making a "moss ball" in which I could plant my lovelies.  However, D had a better idea; he suggested we pool our plants and work on one grouping for his pot.  

We had a wonderful trying different arrangements using some of the plants we had both selected and came up with what I think is a really lovely result.  Other members also had lovelies to show.  

Here they are:  The first one is Dorothy's - it's a little difficult to see because of the plants in the background, but it is a lovely weed.

The next one is a beautiful, large collection of plants that live in wet areas.  Done by very good friends of ours I hope this will be in the upcoming bonsai show.

And here is ours. I waited to take the photograph until we got home where I could choose a neutral background.  This one is small as the pot is only about 3" in diameter.  Even so, it's hard to really pick out the different plants.  The background grasses are spiky, one low plant (ginger on the left) has a glossy, round leaf, and the other plant in the front has a more lobed leaf.  All soil has been covered with moss.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Lancaster PA Painting Finished

Well, I can't decide on the name of this one, but the painting is finished.  Sharon had a few suggestions, and I had a few areas on which I wanted to work.  By the end of class, we agreed that it was done.

This is what I had posted yesterday.  The painting appears darker in this photo than it does in the final version, but that was merely the vagaries of my editing.

This is the finished version.

Now, if I could only figure out the title!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Lancaster PA- Painting

Much to my dismay, it appears that I have taken only one photo of my current painting although I have spent three days on it. I thought this subject would soothe my amour propre (a fancy way of saying "pride") after my disappointment with Splash!  If you remember, that was not a success, and my confidence took a hit.  So I really wanted to work on something that had a chance of turning out well.

Success does help!

Today was my third day of work on this one and that's because one - two hours is my limit for three reasons.  One, I try to work all over the surface and lay down an undercolor of pale color for the entire subject.  Second, once that is done, the surface is damp to down right wet and has to dry.  Third, it provides me with the time to look the work with a critical lens and really think about what comes next or what should be changed.

And writing this blog is also helpful.  I've always found that for me writing requires concentrated thought which results in an exploration of how I really think or feel.

It also helps to see my painting in this way and see things that aren't as I thought they were.  For examples, wow, that barn is RED!   The tree on the left?  Boring!  

And, and, and . . . .

Monday, July 16, 2018

Garden in Fog

Heat, garden, crazy quilt, laundry - you name it, it has come between me and writing entries.

Weariness after the above activities - is responsibly for my negligence.

Okay, maybe I should just have said, "You name it, and I've used it as an excuse not to write"

Actually, all would be correct.  I have been working in the garden, there are several other activities that keep me busy, and by the end of the day, I have been tired. 

I have started a new painting - a scene of Lancaster from a photograph I took from the bus on the quilt trip to Intercourse, PA.   Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photograph of it after the first day of painting, but I will take one tomorrow and write about it at that time.

Today in late afternoon, we had a sudden downpour (which meant I didn't have to water D's bonsai!).  Shortly after it stopped, I went out the front door to see if the plants semi-sheltered by the porch roof had gotten any benefit from the rain (they didn't).  While out on the porch, I happened to glance up and saw fog rapidly rolling down the street.  It was really beautiful!  

Of course, I quickly went inside to get my camera but found that the fog could move faster than I did.  Still, I went around to check out the garden and found some possibilities for a painting.  Maybe someday . . .

I'm not sure which one is my favorite because each one has its own charm.  They each also have their own challenge for a painter.  I'll have to wait and see if I take the challenge!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Moon is Finished!

Yesterday's blog didn't get written because I waited too long and was too sleepy.  That disappointed me because I actually had something to show.  

It's taken a while but the moon on the rug I'm hooking is finally finished.  I say "finally" in that it took me quite a long time since I kept taking parts of it out.  The decision to make it a golden harvest moon didn't change, but I didn't want to make it flat - meaning all one color - because everything else has more detail.  I toyed with the idea of making a man in the moon face, but didn't want to turn the rug into a cartoon.  I actually tried hooking an "oh-so-subtle" face using the craters to plot the 'face".  It really didn't work so all that was taken out. 

Finally I decided simply to hook the moon by randomly using different wools in the right yellow range.  Here's where fate took a hand. about three quarters of the way through, I noticed that in the top right side of the moon there appeared to be an eye. With a few slight changes, it became a subtle eye. That meant I could remove the completed area on the left and replace it with the same shape and colors as on the right.  Of course, that meant that the area around the "eye" would have to undergo some color changes so the eye would be more easily noticed even though "subtle".

After completing that I thought I could finish it quickly, but then I started thinking again.  This time, I thought, if the moon has eyes, shouldn't it have a smile? or a smiling mouth?  But the crow was in that space . . .  I mused.  A mouth could stretch to either side of the crow especially if it had a wide smile . . .


Can you see the eyes and the mouth?

Now I  have to put the rug hooking aside and finish my sister's crazy quilt block - that was the deal I made with myself.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Another Quilt on the Finished Pile - Almost

When tidying my studio last fall - winter, I came across an almost finished quilt with hand-pieced blocks.  In keeping with my determination to finish projects, early this summer I decided to look for the fabrics I knew I had somewhere and make the quilt one of the finished.  

Fabrics were found, borders cut and sewn on, binding made, and a quilting appointment kept.  Saturday, I picked up the quilted piece and brought it home.  Sunday the sleeve was made, the binding was machine sewn on one side, and Monday attached on the other.  Now all that is left to do is hand sew the bottom edge of the sleeve to the back which I'll work on this evening.

Here is a photo:

You may notice that the colors chose for this one is a departure from my usual choices.  Instead of bright, dynamic colors, this quilt features tonal pinks, greens, and browns - in some instances so pale that the quilt didn't photograph well.

Clearly the one thing I did not pay attention to was checking that it was squared up before giving it to the quilter!  Ah well, I'll have to make a note to myself to take care of that step in the future.

At least it's - almost - finished!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

More Garden Shots - Daylilies

It is in July that daylilies come into their own.  We are fortunate enough to have a 20 - 25 foot border of these lovely though fleeting flowers where we can enjoy them from our kitchen window.  

Then there are those in our main garden in our back yard.  These bloom a little later because every year the beech tree (also in the back yard) gets taller and shades part of this garden more and more every year.  But they are really coming along now.

This one has been a glory and a boon to my spirit for several years now and has an interesting history.  First, it was a gift from SiL A (actually both of the daylilies I am posting today are from her), and second, its name is Mary Todd.  That, which might have figured in the posts from previous years, is one daylily whose name I remember because Mary Todd Lincoln was an ancestress of my husband's (and, therefore, SiL A and SiL N).  It is a spectacular flower.

The second one, in deeper shade farther away from Mary Todd, is the first to flower of  those in that part of the garden.  I've been expecting those to bloom for over a week now - especially because of the brutally hot spell we just had - but they've kept us waiting.  This one has a softer color but a very beautiful form.

Before I took these photos, I cut many of our daylilies for bouquets in the house - enough for two tall vases.  While each flower lasts only one day, I cut stems that have several buds not yet open.  That way we continue to have new bud opening every day.  A veritable largesse of beauty!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

New Painting - Finished?

Today a painting that has frustrated me for at least two months is - as far as I am concerned - finished.  I think this is the 7th version of this subject I've attempted, and that should alert you to the fact that I found it a difficult one.  I also realize that when I take it in to my class, my teacher will have suggestions.  Before I tell you what I think she will say, here is "Splash!"

I know that my teacher will have something nice to say (maybe, "You finished it!" - that's a "tongue in chee" bit) before she tells me that it's overworked and then asks if I want to try it again.  She is very kind no matter what bad news she has to impart.  

Tomorrow I will go through my photos to a new subject.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


D won all kind of kudos for seeing the new wall hanging immediately when he walked into our bedroom. 

Then he garnered even more accolades when he stepped closer and saw the heart block (in the center) with the date of our wedding and our initials. 

He noticed the phrases on the fabric also. 

He was very pleased and even more so when I told him I had designed it to hang over our bed and not where it currently is (squooshed between a doorway and my dresser with mirror).  So I won kudos for not hanging there in the first place as I had promised not to hang items that require climbing on furniture or ladders (I have a reputation for falling off such things).

Definitely it made my week of frenzied work on the wall hanging more than merely "worthwhile".  It was a "labor of love" appreciated. What more can anyone ask for?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Garden Notes

Sometimes I feel that I really should bang my head against a wall because so often I overlook the obvious.  Last week I planned to sit down and write my "monthly" (meaning it isn't always done on a monthly basis) letter to my brothers.  As I do rather regularly, I dithered.

What should I write about?  I paint, I sew, I hook, I read, and at this time of year I play in the dirt.  What would my brothers find of interest in any of those activities?  Painting? No, to the best of my knowledge neither of them paint, draw, or sculpt. Sew?  No way!  I do hope they can sew on buttons if needed, but are they enthusiastic about sewing for any reason?  Again, no.  Rug hooking?  Equally ludicrous - not for males, but for the male members of my family.  Read?  Aha!  Now there's a real topic for letters that would engage both brothers.  Not the romantic suspense I enjoy; possibly not even the mysteries that are also a large part of my reading.  Non-fiction?  Quite possibly, but it isn't  the type of book I reach for often.  However, I know one brother enjoys historical fiction and both the science fiction and fantasy genres.  So there was my topic for him, at least.

Of course, once I had settled on that, you would think I would immediately take pen in hand and start writing immediately.  You would be wrong.  Since I had discovered a topic for one brother and had even come up with another topic for the other brother, I should have been able to get right to it.  Why not? you ask.  

What could I use for stationery?  I'm one of those who doesn't tear off a sheet of lined paper or grab a piece of computer paper for letters.  Stationery is important.  It sets the mood.  It lets the recipient know that this is a deliberate letter that took forethought (too much, in my case, of course) and that the recipient has been part of the particular paper, has been in the forefront of my mind.  

That's actually true, but honestly, a lot of the dithering was the result of procrastination, pure and simple.

Not finding anything I felt was worthy of this month's letter for either brother, I was about to pull out some paper that "would do".  Until . . . I thought of my garden photos.  Ta-dah!  Both brothers are or have been gardeners in their time, and both they and their wives might enjoy those photos.  

We now have a small collection of notepaper with pretty and cheerful garden photos.

Oh, yes, I did write the letters!