Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Maine Getaway

After Julia graduated, she and I had a chance to visit our friend Sally at her home on an island in Maine. Unfortunately, The Farmer can't leave the farm and the animals but I take opportunities for trips whenever I can. It is a long ride Northeast, through Acadia, then down to the end of the peninsula to get to the ferry. After a 40 minute ferry ride, we ended up in my kind of heaven. Julia wasn't sure she wanted to leave home after the excitement of graduation but it turned out to be the perfect thing to do. It was a nice break and transition from the land of high school to the real world. We had a lovely time visiting with Sally and some other friends. The weather was rainy and foggy and chilly the first few days which is perfect Maine island weather. After a couple days, the sun broke through.

We ate pie that Sally made us. Sally is the most amazing baker of pies.

Sally's home and Sally herself have been very important to me in developing my own particular style. Sally is ten years older than me and has been in the textile, garment, and design world for her entire working life. I met her when I worked for Classic Elite Yarns. She designed sweaters for us - like this one, this one and this one. Sally is an amazing colorist as can be evidenced by those sweater designs I linked to. She runs her own company called Flatiron Workshop and sells blouses made in the USA to high end women's clothing boutiques.

Sally's aesthetic is one I aspire to and her influence has shaped my vision of what a house and home should be. I snapped a few photos of beautiful scenes from her home. Each little vignette is like a perfect curated still life. 

Every place your eyes set upon, there is a worthwhile thing or two or three to be inspired by.  

When I am visiting Sally, I feel so creative and inspired. I always bring my paints with me and it seems that I am always inspired by Sally's homes and collections. I began this painting of a "hexagon quilt design". I hope I get a chance to finish it before the inspiration fades. 

Over the years, Sally has introduced me to many things. Here are a few gems in the form of links that I would like to share with you today. 

Sally's friend Glyn Boyd Hart who I had the good fortune to meet before he passed away. He was an illustrator and artist who lived in London. 
Gaudy Welsh ceramics
Charleston - the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant - Sally and I visited there in the late 90's
Christopher Dresser
Gouda Pottery from Holland
The artist Sonia Delaunay
Friends Yola and George

On the last night we were in Maine, we were treated to the most remarkable sunset. It's good to be home but I cannot wait to return again to that beautiful island home in Maine.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Life, Webs Podcast + Creative Retreats Spaces Available

Thanks everyone for the lovely messages you sent to Julia for her graduation on this post. We loved them all. You all have been so supportive of me and my family since I started this blog in 2006. Hard to believe I've been writing here since then! ..... Over 11 years. I don't often celebrate blog anniversaries - mostly because I forget them. I so appreciate the kind notes and comments I have received over the years. The blog world has changed so much. Not too many people keep up personal blogs like this one but I find it rewarding and a way to keep in touch with many folks and to also document the seasons here at our farm. It seems that so many bloggers just post to Instagram or Facebook now. I understand that because it takes up a lot of time to write, format and photograph things for the blog. I appreciate you reading and commenting when you have the chance.

An update - I was on the Webs Yarn Podcast - you can listen to it here. On the podcast, I talk about the Creative Retreats I have been running here at our farm since 2009. 

If you are thinking of coming to a Creative Retreat this year, I would sign up soon. I'm down to only 3 and 4 spaces available for each retreat. You can learn more about them here

Small classes. Intimate setting. Sheep in the field outside. Lovely students and good food - Please come! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Loving Yellow and Some New Embroideries

I can't get enough yellow. I love it in its many shades - sunflower yellow, canary yellow, turmeric yellow, yellow squash, lemon yellow, daffodil yellow, egg yolk yellow. It is so bright and sunny and makes me happy. I've been seeing it being featured more and more in current interior design magazines. 

One of the most famous uses of yellow in interiors is at Giverny.

Love how the yellow room contrasts with Monet's blue kitchen. Heaven. 

And then there is of course Nancy Lancaster's Yellow Room. 

I know most people are rather colorphobic and don't have the nerve to paint an entire room yellow. Using yellow as an accent color is a great way to add some pops of fun color to any space. Like pillows or a bright chair.

I've been working on two new yellow embroidered pieces. They both began as plain yellow linen fabric. I printed the circle and oval designs on the linen with fabric paint and heat set them. These simple shapes are perfect for embellishing with embroidery. 

Here is the first one - Printed with ovals and circles in green, hot pink, and red. My original idea was to fill the circles and ovals with lots of different stitches. When I finished outlining the shapes, I decided that the piece would stand on its own without any more stitching. Now to sew it into something. 

For the second piece, I printed several different sizes of circles in brown. Each circle was decorated with a variety of embroidery stitches in bright colors. This was a really fun project to work on and I'm kind of sorry it is done. 

Here are some close-ups of some of the circles. I used a variety of stitches. 

I may work up another pieces similar to this one. Crewel embroidery is so easy to pick up and put down when I am at the Farmers Market. I much prefer handstitching in the summer than knitting or crochet because of the heat factor. 

These two pieces are samples for my upcoming Fabric Printing and Crewel Embroidery Creative Retreat happening July 29th. There are still a few spaces available for that retreat. More info here

Thursday, June 15, 2017


It's been a few weeks since I last posted. I have felt the need to stay grounded in the day to day and not be distracted by on-line buzz. It has been a good break for me although if I had more business sense I would be promoting the heck out of my upcoming Creative Retreats here at the farm in July and September. (Info on One and Two Day Retreats here.) 

The milestone I mention is this one. 

Julia graduated from high school a couple weeks ago. I didn't realize what a flood of emotions I would have as the day approached. Julia has been taking part in the local school system since she was three years old because of her special needs due to congenital hydrocephalus - a brain injury which was present at birth. It has been a long journey that is now over. 

As I drove Julia back and forth to and from our farmhouse to the regional school what seemed like a million times for the pre-graduation practices and meetings, I thought back on all the people who have helped Julia (and her Dad and me) navigate the public school system. When she was an infant, therapists came to our home and worked with Julia on movement and cognitive development. When she transitioned to pre-school, the local school system stepped in with occupational and physical therapies. Julia had an in-class aide with her through 10th grade. Those women (yes all women) helped her navigate - both physically and mentally through the maze that is elementary, middle and high school. Jackie Glabach, Cheryl Baker, Leslie Anderson, Sara Cohen, Joyce Wilson, Claudia Christman, Chris Maguire, and Alison Whiteman 

The special ed coordinators and directors - Gordon Parker, Sharon Jones, Deb Lanou, Claire Brennan, and Chris Maguire - were there behind Julia - looking for the right opportunities and help that was available and what would benefit her the most. I have always felt that the Special Education Department had Julia's best interest at heart - and I want to thank them for all that they did for her and fought for her to get the best public education in our rural school district.

When Julia was 6 she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Then began her several times a day interaction and close relationships with the school nurses. Mary Lavalley, Vickie Rowe, Carla Simpson and substitute nurses Sharon Fontaine and Lonnie were all there for Julia as she learned to navigate her chronic illness. Through the finger sticks, to the low and high blood sugars, through learning to give herself injections, to the intense learning curve of insulin pump therapy, the school nurses helped and coached Julia through it all with kindness, cheerleading and mental support. 

Other people have been so kind and supportive along the way for Julia. Guidance counselor Matt Soycher has given her confidence that she can continue your education at the local community college. Athletic Director Gina Johnson has cheerleaded for Julia since she was an infant and offered her a modified personal fitness class which kept her safe from flying balls and fast moving kids. Para professional Colleen Kennedy has helped Julia with her confidence since she attended a Summer School Program at three and then again during middle and high school these past 6 years. Kevin Mortenson and Kim Godfrey helped her with her assignments in the Learning Center. Teacher Barb Killeen encouraged Julia to be the historian in the National Honor Society and was a great influence for her as she learned to work with little kids in the Child Development Class and Panther PreSchool. 

Mr. "P" became a favorite teacher these past couple years as she took Advanced Woodshop and made a beautiful pieced quilt design table, sheep cutting board, wood platter, a stool, striped platter and carved spoon. It is so great to see how proud Julia is of her projects that she made with her own hands, wood, and power equipment, along with help from Paraprofessionals Ruth Hanlon and Gail Streeter. 

Kathy Abbott, Business, Yearbook and Accounting Teacher nurtured Julia's special traits and gave her confidence and guidance. English Teach Amy Brown welcomed Julia into her classroom at lunch time for conversation. I am sure I missed some teachers that helped Julia get through and to all of you, we are very thankful for such great educators.

The evening before graduation, I watched senior after senior get academic, sports and assorted awards. I thought back on Julia's journey which has been so different from the other kids who were graduating as has our parental journey. She was given an award for students who have struggled with disabilities from the Owen Clarke Foundation. As she made her way back to her seat, I heard adults behind us snicker as Julia slowly descended the stairs with her cautious movement, taking the stairs I step at a time, catching the sleeve of her gown on the railing. I couldn't help but turn and leer at them. Did they realize how hard this kid had worked to get through high school - to face her problems that life has dealt her? Did they realize that not all kids are superstars, athletic stars, geniuses? This kid, my kid, deserved every award out there but that is not what our society rewards. I left the ceremony with lots to think about.

School has not been easy for Julia. Because of her disability, she hasn't fit in with the other kids. It really hasn't bothered her much. She has always preferred adults to kids and has always considered adults her friends. I thought back to my days in high school - to the fun I had being in the high school band, the plays, the overnight band trips, welcoming foreign exchange students into our home, learning to sew with Mrs. Airola, hanging out with my friends. Julia's school experience has been so different than most kids. It wasn't bad - just different. 

The next evening at the graduation ceremony, Julia was paired with the President of the National Honor Society to walk down the aisle. She got on the stage okay but why did they put her on the third level? Elizabeth Sweeney gave the Salutatorian speech and kindly mentioned Julia by name and why she would miss chatting with her as all the kids go their separate ways. As Julia waited to get her diploma, her dad and I held our breath hoping that she wouldn't fall down the stairs. Her name was called and it is all a blur to me. I yelled and cheered for her, successfully holding back my tears. Her classmates stood up and gave her a Standing Ovation which was very sweet.  

I am a first born child - number one of five. Like many first borns, I am Type A - achieving, producing, making, doing has always been part of my modus operandi. As I have navigated the waters of parenthood with a special needs child, it has not always been easy or natural for me. I have had to learn to slow down, have patience, see things differently and from other points of view, try to understand the physical, emotional, and educational needs of my child. I do not always do this well. I have to catch myself - bite my tongue and take a deep breath. I no longer see myself as Type A - I have changed because of Julia and because of living on a farm where there is no control over nature and what she throws at you. I have sat in many an IEP (individual education plan) meeting, only to leave in tears, hoping that my child was getting what she needed, realizing that she would not have the childhood or life I have had. My sister Laurie has always been my go-to for help as she too has a child with special needs. Her support over the years has been so helpful for our family and for that I will always be grateful and thankful. 

As we pass this very big milestone in Julia's life and our family's life, we are now onto the next great adventure of navigating what is next for her. It isn't going to be easy as all the support that we have known and that was available through the public school system is done. Support will be harder to find. Will she be able to hold down a job? Will she learn to drive a car? Will she be able to get through a college course? So many questions and possibilities. 

Photo by KLR Photography
As I look at the current political climate I fear greatly for Julia's future and for others with disabilities and health problems. I hope that there will still be help out there for people like Julia - that the politicians will continue to fund the programs for those who cannot take care of themselves without some kind of financial aid. Her Dad and I will not be around forever and our biggest goal now is to have her be able to support herself somehow, some way. It is a big task to ask of an 18 year old - even one without issues. 

We don't know what is next and the chapter will slowly unfold but for now, I am just so proud of Julia and what she has accomplished with what life has thrown at her. And so thankful for all of the educators who have helped her along the way.  

p.s. I'm not looking for pity by writing this - just sharing our experiences with a special needs child. Published with permission from Julia.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Thoughts, My Garden + A New Book I'm Loving

Things have been incredibly busy so far this spring with the sheep, the farmer's markets and life in general. New chicks have arrived and the hens are producing so many eggs we don't know what to do with them all. Julia is graduating from high school this weekend. It's hard to believe that is happening already. Three other cousins are graduating too - one from high school, one from university and one from nursing school. It is amazing to watch the kids grow up and move on with their lives and new adventures in life. 

I find graduations a bit tearful - all kinds of emotions well up. Just listening to the beginning bars of Pomp and Circumstance can make me cry. It reminds me of the places I have graduated from and moved on from and how much has happened since then. Jobs, friends, first apartments, buying our first house, buying our first four sheep, losing our loved parents, buying our farmhouse where we still live today and now our sweet Julia completing her days in the local public school system. I knew this day would come but it always seemed so far away. 

I haven't had an inch of time to tend to my garden. I haven't even done any spring cleaning or last year's leaves. I'm hoping they will turn to mulch so I don't have to pick them up! With all the rain we have been getting, maybe they will. Things are growing that always grow. By that I mean, flowering shrubs spring perennials and bulbs. It has been incredibly wet and rainy and cold so it has been easy to ignore it all. And more rain is on the horizon for next week. Considering last year we were in a serious drought, we can't complain. I've been doing some deep cleaning of my house in prep for family visiting but that is done now so I hope I can move outside soon and get the place in shape. No photo shoots this year so I don't feel as much crazy pressure. I do have my upcoming retreats in July which I am looking forward to. 

In the garden, my first peonies are blooming. This is some kind of single variety and it blooms two weeks earlier than all the rest of the varieties I have. 

The ladies mantle and the lambs ears are looking beautiful and full of wooly textures. 

I've been meaning to share a book I recently ordered from Floret Flower Farm. It is the first book of Erin Benzakein who has been on my radar for a few years now. She was a Martha Stewart Made in America winner a few years back. Chronicle published this book and I have been waiting to read it. I ordered it directly from Floret and received a signed copy along with a couple packages of seeds and a beautiful postcard. Erin has over 430,000 followers on Instagram and I think her book is in its 4th printing already. Evidently I'm not the only one interested in growing flowers! 

I grow a lot of flowers - mostly for my own enjoyment. I have a large garden on the south side of our house that is mostly annual flowers with a few veggies. I don't sell the flowers anywhere but sometimes I supply a local bride with flowers for them to arrange. I don't know much about flowers - only what I have learned by experimentation, from my mom or from my sister Laurie who is a fabulous gardener. At the Tuesday Farmers Market, my booth is right next to Old Friends Farm who does a big business in cut flowers. It is such a joy to see people pick up bundles of flowers that Missy and her crew grow and smile as they walk away. 

I have been curious for years about how to grow zinnias with longer stems, how to get peonies (or any flower) to last longer in a vase, when to cut the blossoms in their growing cycle.... on and on my questions remain unanswered because by the time I get in the house I forget what I want to google. 

I was hoping that Erin's new book The Cut Flower Garden would answer my questions and it has. Besides being produced in an exceptionally beautiful way, the book is packed with information. I know I will be reaching for this book frequently. 

It is arranged into different sections - an intro, basic information, and then each season is tackled. Already I have learned the proper way to determine when a peony is at the perfect stage to pick. I've learned about flower netting that if I decide to use it, it will keep my zinnias growing tall without flopping over and the stems will be longer for vases. 

It is printed on a matte paper and it is 308 pages long. It is also available on Kindle. 

If you are a gardener who loves flowers, I think you will enjoy The Cut Flower Garden too. If you are a librarian looking for a new book to add to your house and home section, I think your patrons would really enjoy this one. 

Here are some photos from the book to give you a preview. Have a great weekend everyone. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Brimfield Sightings and Best of Flea Market Style Feature

A couple weeks ago, I went to the Brimfield Flea Market which is only about an hour from our farm. I have been going to this flea market for years and I look forward to it. I go by myself so I can shop as fast or slow as I like. I usually go on Friday because that is the day the J&J Show opens. This show used to be the high end field of all the different fields that open during the week. Unfortunately it has gone a bit down hill and the quality isn't as great. But it is still a fun and inspiring day. After I run through J & J, I head over to a few of the other fields that opened earlier in the week but still have vendors present.

Here are some photos I snapped of things I liked - but didn't buy. Do you see a theme? I do - pattern, ceramics, and sheep. It's what I am into at this moment in time. 

When I got home that afternoon, I found the newest copy of Best of Flea Market Style Magazine in my mailbox. 

And you guessed it - there was our house! 

This is a publication by Meredith and is a twice yearly magazine that is only available at newstands or at Barnes and Noble, possibly Walmart and Target and places they sell magazines. The pictures were taken by Rikki Snyder for Country Home but since Meredith owns Country Home and owns the photos outright, they could write another article about our farmhouse. 

I'd say this house is getting a bit too much exposure! Oh well - I guess I'll take it and be thankful for it. Here is the end page of the magazine with a photo of our porch with my oil paintings. I like the quote from Thomas Edison

"To invent you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."

The next Brimfield Antique Show/Flea Market is July 11 to 16. Information here. People travel from all over the world to visit this show. I'm so lucky to live close. 

Hope you all are having a good week.