Life as I know It

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What a Crazy Way to Earn a Living!

"Sharon, we HAVE TO GO NOW," Jeff said. We had a thousand mile drive ahead of us, but my plants needed some TLC, and I wasn't about to leave 'til I knew they were tended. Unusually warm spring days had spurred everything into new and exuberant growth. I had to finish my hand watering and wanted to top my containers with fresh worm castings.

An hour and a half later, we finished chores, packed props into the car for my television appearance, and Jeff handed me my "Girls," a "worm hotel" filled with red worms and some sliced potatoes to keep them happy. I tucked their black out fabric around them, settled them at my feet, and we took off.

Our first stop was the newly revitalized San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. I loved seeing what is new and what is old at the show, but I really loved connecting to my friends in garden design, architecture, growing, writing, blogging, and photography. Rebecca Sweet, YOU were one of the highlights for me.

This chicken tractor was beautiful and I have succumbed to total lust for the darned thing. I want one, but honestly, we have every inch of our yard planted, and there isn't a space left big enough to accommodate this wonderful contraption. Yes, there were chickens roosting inside. They'd been out during the day, but despite the bright lights and noise, they retired at their normal bedtime.

I loved the display gardens and find it hard to believe that designers can transport an entire world of a garden indoors.

The gorgeous succulent designs offered by Trish Ottens  were show-stoppers. I particularly liked the whimsical "Medusa" sculpture and the "wall tapestries."

Next year I intend to spend a couple of days at the Flower & Garden Show. Great speakers were featured this year. Imagine, for the price of admission you could tune into seed guru Renee Shepherd, California landscaping author Nan Sterman, succulent author Debra Lee Baldwin, edible landscaping queen Ros Creasey, Jean Ann Van Krevelen, Jeff Wyckoff, and so many more stellar gardeners and writers.

The day after the reception Jeff and I headed to Towne Center Books in beautiful Pleasanton, California. My talk and book signing were interactive and so much fun. I love having children in the audience. Judy Wheeler baked two of the cookie recipes from Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars. She told us that she hadn't believe the four ingredient cookies would work, but they DID, and I was vindicated. (Judy microwaved the bird nest cookies and didn't include the coconut).

More posting from the road when we have a few minutes to stop and work.

All joys to you. I LOVE your comments, your e-mails, and well wishes. I've made some great friends and so look forward to meeting all of you as I journey back and forth across the country. We're in the works for a fabulous workshop in Falmouth, Massachusetts, at historic Highfield Hall on June 24. I've already heard from two of my favorite bloggers who will not only post about the workshop, but also attend. Hurrah. For the $15.00 price of admission, attendees receive my new book, a wonderful "Celebrations" hand out I created and illustrated, and so much more.

Keep writing. I need your valued input,


P.S. The "Girls" are fine, but they were reluctant participants on television. I wonder what the hotel people thought when we trekked through the lobby with a "worm hotel" in our arms?

P.P.S. To check my upcoming appearances, click here. (It takes a while to download).

To see what's going on n my garden, visit Lowe's Garden Grow Along blog.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Meet Little Sprig

A playhouse, that is what I always wanted when I was a child. My own little house in which I could hide, dream, draw, and make entire worlds of my own. But, other than hide-outs in a guava tree and an old appliance box, I never had my own little room.
Last year Jeff and I haunted the local thrift stores and Habitat for Humanity ReStore. We were looking for old windows, doors, and anything else we could use in our soon-to-be-built potting shed. I was finally going to have the playhouse of my dreams.
Lucky us. We found two big windows, which Jeff used as bay windows to provide more space in my little playhouse. An old French door, the screen door from my old house in Cambria, recycled chicken feeders for tool storage, an old card display for seed packets, an old porch light from a junk store in Oklahoma, and lots of good gardeny-antiques from all around the country.

I call this little playhouse “My Sprig” because it is so tiny, just 7’ x 12,’ which was all the space we had available. I love “Sprig” and spend time inside her drying herbs, making bouquets, and mixing pot pourris.

Please visit Lowe’s Garden Grow Along blog for my new postings on the garden and also Eileen’s Little Acorn Learning for a wonderful interview about Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars. 
All joys to you, and look for me at Towne Center Books in Pleasanton, California, on March 25, Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River, Oregon, on March 28, and on Portland’s A.M. Northwest  on ABC's KATU on March 29.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Inspiration is NOT a Road Map

I turn to the wonderful Julia Child for INSPIRATION and a nod in the right direction, but not as a road map to a destination.

Here is a picture of the now deserted home in which Julia grew up in Pasadena. I think it should be a museum and or cooking school. Wouldn't that be great?

If possible, you MUST get a copy of this wonderful article in the March 2010 issue of DownEast magazine. I remember reading in Julia's book about her love of Maine, but this article really brought it home to me.

Jacques and Julia are a great team. I find their book a never ending source of ideas.

Her autograph??!! Hurrah! I treasure it.

And, here are the edible flowers and salad greens from the containers I planted a month ago. My dear friend Marilyn (from Maine) came over for dinner tonight, and she was stunned by the brilliant colors and fabulous tastes of these homegrown beauties.

Ahhhh, the simple pleasures of gardening and cooking (and entertaining friends).

Remember–––inspiration and then do it your own way.

All joys,


P.S. Be sure to check Monday, March 15th for my new gardening post on Lowe's Garden Grow Along. Please leave me a comment! I appreciate your input.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Marmalade Memories

"I am in love with this green earth."
Charles Lamb

Thank you dear friends for all your e-mails, letters, and gifts. Your words and appreciation are what keep me writing. You know who you are. Bonnie Jenuine, I love the petit point "tis a gift to be simple." That has always been one of my favorite Shaker sayings. Abel and Toni, thanks so much for the lighthouse book and all the information. Margie and Keri, your support is amazing. I appreciate you traveling to my book signings. Aunt Jenny, Jude, Nancy, Debra, Linda Finley, Sherry and Phil, Elizabeth, Marilyn, and so many more, you've enriched my life beyond words.

Step Into My Kitchen

My family recipes, lost for over 50 years, now reign over our kitchen. I mentioned a few months ago that we uncovered over 100 years of these treasures in a box in my mom's garage. Between the book, the supply of iron pans, and the charming green enamel coffee pot that once perced on my Grandmother Lovejoy's old Magic Chef–who could ask for more?

When I went on garden patrol yesterday morning, I stopped to talk to our navel orange. My conversation with this magnificent tree was one-sided, but it made up for its silence by sharing its cargo of indescribably delicious fruits.

I thumbed through the pages of our family recipes and found my Great Grandmother Abby Baker's secrets to the best marmalade. She developed this in Pasadena when she and other members of the Quaker faith moved from Chester Country, Pennsylvania, and settled into a colony of "friends."

According to her letters, the sight of oranges glowing against the dark foliage of the trees was "breathtaking"for someone used to the gray winters in Pennsylvania. But then, the sight is breathtaking for me too, and I grew up here.

Her recipe takes 3 days to prepare, but don't stop reading. They're 3 easy days with lots of resting in between the making of the jam and the final canning process.

Here is Great Gran's recipe as she wrote it. You won't find exact measurements, but I've never had a problem with the lack of them.

Three Day Marmalade

Day One

Gather 6 large navel oranges and 3 large lemons (ok, so buy them at the market)
Slice them fine, peels and all
Put them in a big pot and cover them with 6 quarts of water
Let stand for 24 hours

Day Two

Bring to a boil and boil gently until peel is tender
Let stand for 24 hours (cover pot with a dish towel)

Day Three

Measure out no more than 3 cups of pulp and juice into the kettle per batch (this is easiest way to do it)
Add an equal amount of sugar
Stir together
Boil hard and cook until it jells
Must come to a full rolling boil and must be able to drop off spoon
Pour into clean, sterilized jars and seal. Place upside down in hot water (I've never done this step)

Some people tell me that marmalade is an acquired taste. Well, luckily I acquired it when I was young, and I've never lost it. Is there anything better than popping open your own jar of marmalade and spreading it onto warm toast or a muffin? Sunshine captured in a jar. What could taste better?

Sending you all joys and PLEASE visit my new Lowe's garden blog and leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you here and there.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Grateful, but...

Oh yes, I am grateful for every minute of every day, but sometimes, just sometimes, I think about what is coming. Like MAINE. I miss it. The quiet, star-flecked night and the rare shimmering veils of the northern lights. Fireflies rising from the grass that skirts our driveway, winds whistling through our back screen door and then right out the front screen. Waves slapping the ledges or thundering up and down the coast. The scent of the fir trees, huge granite boulders patchworked with lichens, moss and miniature toadstools, faerie landscapes tucked under bushes and beside tiny spruce trees, slow and easy meals at the old round table in the screened porch, the chugging sound of lobster boats, a pocket full of mermaid's tears from a seaside adventure, holding hands with Jeff as we take our midnight "bat walk" with bats flying between us, crackling applewood in our stone fireplace, and morning sunlight streaming through the windows and lighting our rooms with a rose-colored glow.

Bear with me please and let me dream. I'll dip into some old Maine posts, and then you'll understand why this country-girl-trapped-in-a-city yearns for her beloved old seaside cottage.