Life as I know It

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

Footsteps in the Sand

Canning jars filled with seawater.

Dear Friends,

Not such a long wait between posts this time. First, let me thank KJ for the card, article, and sweet thoughts. Your gardens DO look fabulous. Vicki Boster, your box of tasty delights arrived to great family fanfare. Thank you so much for everything. I don't know how you do all you do.

I just spent a few hours with our new caretaker, walking the gardens, showing him birdbaths, fountains, feeders, getting him into the swing of caring for this old house and my demanding (but worth it) gardens and container plantings.

As I write this, there are suitcases, computers, iPads, and more waiting by the door.

We leave for Maine in just a couple of hours. This won't be our normal long time, but it will be enough time to refill our depleted and tired spirits. Maine. Just saying the word makes me happy.

The perfect reading/bird watching/ dream spot on our little island in Maine.

Where do you turn when things worry you or you aren't feeling peaceful? I make soup, work in the garden, but mostly I walk, walk, walk. A few miles everyday helps to keep my soul happy and my brain receptive and creative. My favorite walks are on starry nights...

... or by day, a walk along the shore, bird watching, finding just the RIGHT rock or shell, or watching the Humpbacks breaching and spy-hopping inside the kelp beds.

This is a short walk with me. At the end of the walk, I am THRILLED to be able to offer a wonderful give-away from Josie Iselin, author, photographer, naturalist, and benefactor of nature. My first offering is the book An Ocean Garden

This Abrams book is gorgeous and full of information–a combo I adore. As I was purchasing this little gem, the other people in line were commenting on its beauty. The two clerks behind the counter also mentioned that it is exquisite. You'll love it, and it will change the way you look at seaweed.

My second give-away is another of Josie's fabulous books, but this is offered only to members of my Grimy Hands Girls' Club. You know who you are. Leave a comment, and you're eligible.

This is a coffee table sized book published by Chronicle Books, noted for their fine work. I love this one and you will too.

Won't you join me as I wander? And look what I'm doing with the treasures I found...

This is a By-the-wind-sailor, a mini jellyfish that has a sail (see shiny spot above). The beaches were filled with thousands of these.

Sometimes I am out on the beach for hours, but I don't walk more than a few feet. Why? I plop down and sift through the incredible rocks and shells. I pick up sand dollars, study feathers...

I feel like a child.

After I read Josie's book, I decided to try my hand at pressing seaweed. So, I grabbed one of my canning jars out of my trunk and wandered along the shore. Soon, I had a jar full of beauty.

Seaweed specimens

Mother Nature's lacework.

I walked along the beach until I found a tide pool full of water, which I collected in some canning jars. (See top photo). I dipped into the pools so as not to collect sand or debris in the water.

When I returned home, I poured the seawater into a long container and gently transferred the seaweeds from the jar to the container.

I toted my wildflower press out of "Sprig," my garden shed and set it outside near my potting bench, and I cut cardboard and thick, absorbent paper to fit inside my press.

I used a spatula to lift the seaweed out of the seawater, drain it, and spread it out on absorbent paper.

Then I used chopstick to gently fan out the seaweed. Note: I labeled where I found the seaweed, but at this point I didn't know WHAT I had found.

It has been a zillion years since I've worn nylons. So what better use for them than for the process of drying the seaweed? I cut these into small squares to stretch onto the top of the seaweed. When I press the seaweed, this will keep it from sticking onto the paper above it.

Seaweed under otherwise useless nylons.

Don't worry, I did smooth this out before pressing.

See the cardboard and paper on the right side? I put it into the press in layers.

This is the seaweed after two days. I change the paper daily to keep moisture away from the specimen. When I am finished with this, I'll mount it on fine rag paper and put it under glass, or maybe under the glass of a coffee table or my tea table. Isn't it elegant?

Ok, so enough of this puttering around and doing EVERYTHING EXCEPT the final touches on our garden and packing. 

I am happy to announce that the winner of the Glady Taber's Stillmeadow Cookbook is:
Donna O'Shaughnessy. Donna has a few active blogs. Check her out at 

Congratulations Donna! We will ship this out to you upon returning to California. Just in time for you to do some wonderful, old-fashioned autumn recipes.

Farewell to you all and love across the miles,


P.S. For those of you who live along the Central Coast of California (or the valley), please know that you are invited to my book launch party on November the 9th (Sunday) from 2 to 4 P.M. in the heirloom gardens of the old Dallidet Adobe on Toro Street in San Luis Obispo, California. All book sales will benefit the gardens of the Dallidet. It is my hope that we will earn enough money to reconstruct the once magnificent arbor leading up the front pathway to the porch. We'll have food, music by Simple Pleasures (Mary Anne and Ames Anderson), drink, joy, and a short, short talk about publishing and its many pitfalls and adventures. Come join me in celebration of my debut middle grade novel Running Out of Night (Delacorte Press, the literary imprint of Penguin-Random House). Hurrah!

This pathway deserves a new arbor to lead the way to the old adobe.