Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Peaceable Kingdom

When I was growing up, one of my favorite images was that of the Peaceable Kingdom..."and the lion shall lie down with the lamb," which is what inspired me to do this drawing. I guess my Quaker roots and the paintings of Edward Hicks were my main influence. Now, more than ever, the idea of a peaceable kingdom is always on my mind. What can I do to make this world a better place for the innocent children who are too often harmed by our grown-up religious or ethnic intolerances? Think kindness.

This year I opted out of the traditional holiday tree. Although I adore the scent of balsam or douglas fir, I wanted more simplicity and a tree that would live and produce for us for years to come.

So here is our wonderful espaliered apple tree. This tree has three different varieties of apples, the bottom two limbs are Dorsets, the center two are Gala, and the top two are Fuji, which are all fruits that thrive in this area. The day after Christmas, Jeff and I will plant this sweet tree in our herb courtyard where the thick walls will reflect the sun and help this tree flourish.

May the blessings of the holidays be showered on you and your loved ones,


Wednesday, December 3, 2008


The phone rang, and before I said hello, my friend Kary said, "Look out your window. I've got my cat in the kitty carrier and I'm ready to go. Flames are coming up over Terrace Hill." I ran to our front door and saw a line of smoke and flames licking up the ridge about a mile from our house. Fires were raging in Santa Barbara and Montecito, and it looked as though San Luis Obispo would be next.

Jeff and I gathered some boxes and began a short, very short, list of the things we would save if the wind changed and the fire headed our way. Funny, but I found that the only things that REALLY mattered were the very simplest things imaginable.

First, I grabbed a basket of photographs from the chest in front of our sofa. Instead of traditional scrapbooks, I keep the photos out and available to everyone and find that nobody can sit in the living room without pawing through the basket of memories. I'm no exception. I can't imagine losing the years of images of beloved people (and dogs) the basket contains.

Next, I took my Grandmother Lovejoy and Grandmother Clarke's framed recipe from the kitchen wall. They were both famous for their Heavenly Pie, and I feel so lucky to have their recipes written in their hands.

Great, Great Grandmother Mitchell's Pennsylvania sampler, Great Grandmother Baker's Pennsylvania sampler, my old teddy bear Patience and her side-kicks Acorn, Raggle-Taggle (the earless bear given to me by Beth Mather), and Tiny Tim, the fearless bunny followed.

Jeff, ever the practical and dependable, checked business records, computer files, and insurance papers off the list. I searched for my box of family recipes and pulled my orginal art work out of the storage cupboard as I reached for a stack of family letters from the late 1800s.

"No more THINGS," I said. Let's take photos so we can remember everything, but I can't handle any more stuff," I said as I closed a lid and tucked the four flaps inside. 

Within the hour, the 60 mph winds shifted, and the fire that raced down the hillsides did an abrupt turn and began to climb up the ridge. Borate bombers dropped chemical retardants and firemen from throughout the county fanned up the hill and fought it in a hand-to-hand combat style. 

We were lucky, much luckier than those who lost their life histories, but not their lives, in the fires that raged through our parched California landscape. The common refrain we heard was exactly what we said to each other, "as long as our family, friends, and animals are safe, we'll survive." In the end, what really matters are the intangible and immeasurable things in our precious and fragile lives.

Grandmother and Nonie's Award Winning (and delectable) Heavenly Pie

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 eggs (separated)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon peel finely grated
1 pint heavy cream

Sift together 1 cup of the sugar and add the cream of tartar. Beat the egg whites until stiffy, but not dry. Then, gradually add the sugar mixture, continuing to beat until thoroughly blended, use to line bottom and sides of a 9 or 10 inch greased pie pan being careful not to spread too close to the rim. Bake in slow oven at 275 degrees for 1 hour, then cool. Beat the egg yolks slightly, then stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, the lemon juice and peel.
Cook in a double boiler until very thick, about 10 or 15 minutes. Remove and cool. Whip the cream, combine half of it with the lemon and egg mixture and use to fill the shell.

Cover with remaining whipped cream. Chill in refrigerator about 24 hours. Serves 6 to 8.

Holiday blessings,