Sweet spring mandarin blossoms

Blossom-laden citrus

I often wonder how a dwarf tree less than 4 feet tall can produce so much sweetness.

Laden with porcelain-white blossoms that fill the air with a sweetness beyond description, this little tree (in cooperation with many honeybees) will take the summer sun's warm rays and make even more sweetness.

When winter's chilly fog descends upon the garden, the orange orbs will almost be ready to harvest. By January when warm sunny days seem far away, summer will drip down our chins in juicy sweetness as we bite into each slice.

Fun facts:

  • Did you know that clementines (aka "Cuties") and tangerines are types of mandarins? 
  • Our mandarin tree is a Kinnow which is the most widely planted mandarin in Pakistan.
  • The mandarin is known for its thin "peelable" skin that even a child can handle.
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Artful Blogging

I've been published!

I was experiencing a particularly rough spell back in January, when out of the blue I received an email from the editor of Stampington/Somerset Studio's Artful Blogging magazine telling me they would like to feature my blog in an upcoming issue.

I felt it was a wonderful miracle sent to lift my spirits.

There have been many times that I've stood in the bookstore gently flipping through the pages of the latest issue of Artful Blogging soaking in the wonderful images. Having my blog featured there seemed like something totally unattainable--too lofty a dream to even hope for.

I don't know how the magazine's editor found my blog. I don't know what prompted her to want to feature my blog and reach out to me. But I do know that the timing was impeccable and perfect.

I went through the process of writing the article needed for the feature. Then I had to choose a selection of images that were my favorites as well as provide hi-res copies of images the editor had requested after seeing them on my blog. I had a deadline... it was in February. The Summer issue wouldn't be out until May.  That translates to two things I'm not good at: waiting and patience.

Earlier this week, I was having a particularly rough day after coming out of a fatigue episode that has lasted over a month. It has left me emotionally raw.  Lately, tears have come easily for seemingly minor reasons.

And then a little miracle arrived in the mail--my advance copy of the Summer issue of Artful Blogging. On top was a piece of paper that read:
Congratulations!
 You've been published in Artful Blogging
We would like to congratulate you on being published and hope you enjoy this complimentary copy that you can share with family and friends before it hits the newsstands! We wish you the best of luck with your artistic endeavors and hope you will continue to share your creations with us.
Despite feeling self-conscious, a bit numb and still in a state of disbelief, I'm doing what they suggest. I'm sharing with all of you--my family and friends.

P.S. The Summer issue will be available at bookstores and retailers May 1st.

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Personalized egg carton labels for great homegrown eggs



A couple of weeks ago, a very good friends of ours dropped by with a carton of homegrown eggs from their backyard hens. My friend chose the breeds of her hens so there would be a variety of egg colors--pale blue, pale pink and tan. We got to enjoy all three colors in one carton. One of the eggs was unusually large and when we cracked it open we were delighted to find it had a double yolk!

The carton the eggs had been transported in from their house to ours was a simple clear plastic egg carton from the store with the commercial label taken off. I thought it would be fun to design a label for the carton so we could return it to them with a very special touch.




Once I did and they had the carton back, I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if anyone with backyard chickens could make their own personalized egg carton labels?" I started ruminating on the idea to come up with a solution.

It turns out the solution was easier than I thought. The online printer I use for all my personalized stationery designs (zazzle) can print customizable bumper stickers that are the perfect size (3"x11")! What's even cooler is the stickers they produce are printed on vinyl and are fade- and water-resistant! Sweet!

So I set to work getting the design I had made for our friends set up for print-on-demand at Rosehaven Cottage Stationers. I set it up so the labels can be personalized easily in the text and font of the customer's choosing.

Now I'm wondering what other color combinations and designs backyard chicken wranglers would like to see. And what other versions of the little hen should I make and in what colors? What do you think? I'd love some suggestions to get the creative juices flowing.


P.S. Because of county ordinances we can't have our own backyard chickens so I have to live vicariously through all of my fortunate local and blogging friends that do have them. I LOVE when you share photos and stories!!!
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I wonder what Spanish lavender honey tastes like

Honeybee on Spanish lavendar

Just outside my studio window sits a row of pots that I planted with mostly flowering annuals like the snapdragons I put in at the beginning of the winter so I could enjoy some color during the colder months. One pot, however, contains a perennial Spanish lavender that is in full bloom right now.

When I'm sitting at my computer working, I can look to my right toward the window. If I look past the plethora of pluck marks in the window screen courtesy of very naughty ginger tabby, I can see honeybees buzzing about the brilliant purple heads of lavender.

My container garden


When I need a break, I go out on the deck next to the pots of flowers and pull up a comfy thick-padded patio chair. I sink into the cushions, stretch out my legs and just watch the bees.

Today the honeybees were busy. A Valley carpenter bee joined them periodically, but was not as industrious as the busy girls that buzzed from bloom to bloom, their legs laden with bright yellow pollen.


Honeybee on Spanish lavendar

I don't know where the bees go with all that they collect. Where their hive is located remains a mystery.

But wouldn't it be wonderful to find it and take just a bit of the honey to see what lavender honey tastes like?
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Profusion of pink jasmine and not-so-profound ponderings

Profusion of pink jasmine

Like the hedge of pink jasmine that almost knocks me over with its heady scent when I get into its proximity, my thoughts lately are overpowering, full and somewhat tangled. I hope I'm not the only one that gets this way sometimes.

I would have thought by this time in my life I would not succumb to insecurity. But I do.

Is it just a "chick thing" to constantly battle with ridiculously superficial insecurities like...
"Do I photograph flowers too much? It seems that 'serious photographers' I run into in the world of social networking always apologize when they feature a flower shot. Am I showing my amateur underbelly by constantly taking and posting photos of flowers?"
And thoughts like...
"Am I following proper blog etiquette? Should I respond to every comment in the line of comments? Should I respond privately via email? Does it suffice to simply visit a commenter's blog and enjoy their space? Where is Emily Post when you need her?" [Yes, I realize there's a pun there... and I find it rather amusing that in this day and age we don't have an Emily Post for posting.]
Then...
"Maybe I should turn off commenting all together and save myself these mental gymnastics."
Or this is a "favorite"...
"If my blogging friends ever met me in person they would run the other way wishing they never had. I would be a huge disappointment to them if they ever met me and I'd be exposed as a big fat charlatan. And, heaven forbid, if they saw my house or my garden! Their ideal vision would be shattered because it's just a house in need of more repairs and a garden in need of constant weeding."
My poor Hubby (and sometimes family members) get to actually hear me as I try to work through these thoughts out loud. I feel so sorry for them. Like the profusion of pungent jasmine along the garden fence, I must be a tangle of overwhelming nonsense far too often.

I wish I could say that I was also like the annual-blooming jasmine and my own "insecurity bloom" happened only once a year.

Alas, I haven't figured out how to do that yet. Great! Another thing I can feel insecure about.
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Orchids and dragonflies


Orchids and dragonflies

There are many things I can grow in my garden, but one thing I can't grow is orchids.

However, my mom (who lives in a different micro-climate in the Bay Area) has the good fortune of having the perfect sheltered outdoor setting to grow cymbidium orchids where they are sheltered from frost in the winter and the hot rays of the sun in summer.

I was beyond delighted yesterday when she dropped by our cottage for a visit and brought me a sprig of yellow cymbidium orchid buds beginning to bloom!

Today, I took the opportunity to photograph them. In my mind, I could see the exact framing I wanted... the lighting... everything. It was just a matter of replicating what I saw in my head. Sometimes that's pretty difficult. Fortunately, this time the process of converting my mental image to a photograph wasn't too bad.

And once I got the photographing done, of course I had to "play" and create a digitally painted photo with it that I could use as the base for a new stationery design.

I wanted a sort of "zen" feel to the finished image... something restful with a strong sense of nature woven through it in a subtle way. As I worked on it, I decided that dragonflies were a must. I used a very old Japanese silk painting for reference and drew minimalist dragonflies to overlay faintly in the background. Little by little it took shape until I was seeing on the computer screen something similar to the image from my head. When I can successfully make that transition it makes all the painstaking effort worth it.

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A sea of yellow sunshine

Pacific coast native iris

I had never heard of Pacific coast native iris until I ran across some at our local nursery a couple of years ago. I bought some, brought them home and planted them in a pot at the edge of the pond. Even though they were irrigated as part of the drip system they weren't really prolific bloomers. They always looked kind of spindly and rather sad like they were on the verge of kicking the bucket at any moment.

A year ago I transplanted them into the ground in a raised bed I'd formed from chunks of concrete left over from one of my demolition projects. I put a dripper at the base of each of the three plants and hoped for the best because they looked really pathetic.

They hobbled along all last summer but didn't look too great. "Oh well," I thought.

This year I didn't make it out into the garden very much in March when we had some rain (finally). So imagine my surprise when I wandered out in the garden a couple of days ago to find this...

Pacific coast native iris

The whole raised bed is packed with iris! It is a sea of yellow sunshine!

I guess it goes to show you that sometimes a lost cause isn't really a lost cause at all... it's just an opportunity waiting to take root in the right soil.
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Living the Lilac Principle

Lilac

Ahhhh... lilacs. My favorite flower. I'll bet some of you thought my favorite flower was the rose. Nope. Lilacs are my fave, hands down. But because they only bloom once a year, roses are a great second-best flower that blooms more often.

You know the old phrase, "Stop and smell the roses"? I think stopping to smell the lilacs is even more important since their luscious blooms only happen for a short time each year. I have to remember to jam my nose into their blooms (checking for bees first, of course) and drink up all their sweet fragrance often before it's gone.

As I walk by the lilac hedge that grows along one of the main pathways from the garden to the garage and the front of the house if the lilacs are in bloom I slow down... pause... drink in the lilac's fragrance and beauty... then try to let that fragrance and beauty soak into my core so I can hold it there for the whole year.

I'm learning at the ripe old age of 45, I need to adopt that same approach with other things in my life besides the lilacs.

I've decided to call it the Lilac Principle.

Lilac

My personality tendency is to find the fastest, most accurate, and most efficient way to accomplish anything (and I mean anything). But whether I like it or not my body has been forcing me to slow down. In the last few months I've discovered that I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. The two are often companion autoimmune issues particularly in women whose bodies have been hammered with the stress of advanced endometriosis. For me, the pain of the fibromyalgia is manageable with prescription medication (thank goodness) but the chronic fatigue apparently isn't. Chronic fatigue has to be managed with nutrition and lifestyle changes.

Lilac

For years I've operated like a racehorse. When I'm feeling good I pile on as many physical projects as I can and go-go-go until I reach the finish line. Then, like a racehorse that's been run hard, I'd collapse in exhaustion and say to myself, "It's a good thing I got all that done before I felt bad again."

I can't do that anymore.

Chronic fatigue can be treated by light exercise and reducing stress. More than one source has stated that it is important to not overdo it on days when one is feeling good or the rebound crash will make things worse.

So instead of allowing myself to be like a racehorse (like I naturally want to be), I have to learn to be more like a plow horse that plods along at a slow and steady pace getting a job done but doing it much slower than a racehorse would like.

That's hard.

But I'm learning it is possible if I apply the Lilac Principle. Slow down... pause... drink in the moment... let the peace of the moment soak in to my core... and repeat.

Does anyone else have a way that you deal with chronic fatigue?
I'd really appreciate your insights

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Send me no flowers... bring me garden gloves

Send me no flowers... bring me garden gloves

Yes, I am invoking the title of one of my favorite Doris Day and Rock Hudson flicks, but for good reason.

I was sitting working in the studio this evening, when Hubby came home. He had stopped at the store on the way home from work (he does the shopping and wanted to pick up a few things--yes, I'm married to Superman).

He stopped in the studio doorway to share some of the things from the bags and pulled forth lovely pink garden gloves.

I've said it before... he knows me so well.


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