Monday, August 14, 2017

Postcards from the Lake: Art Camp

It happens every summer.

My friend Kate and I head north to the cottage. Our luggage consists of one wailing cat, several bottles of wine, really healthy food like crackers and veggies and cookies, and loads of paint!

It's Art Camp time! It is our own personal retreat to make art, count bunnies, catch up on all things lovely, take walks, and enjoy summer and all things creative.

Both of us had our projects. Kate is working on her third Birdiferous calendar which is sold every fall at galleries and our own Designing Women sale.

I was working on just being better at it all -- and on a few paintings for Jemma, including this one of one of her her wreaths.

It was a most productive time! For Kate, another month completed and more in the making.

For me, more Martha's Vineyard houses...

...a possible holiday card (still needs work)...

...and my cousin's cat, Woody.

Our neighbors had a wonderful arrangement of floaties on the lake. I loved the flamingo the most!

Although the floating tropical island was pretty cool!

For once, Lizzie was just a cat, not a model.

But I did take a crack at my first painting of Stimpy -- my very first cat. It's not quite right yet, but I think pretty close.

We took side trips to the farmer's market to stock up on fruit (and cookies). The last of the cherries and the early peaches which were some of the best Michigan peaches I've ever had!


And even diverged from watercolor to finish painting the window trim on the back of the cottage. The yellow is gone! Now I have to finish the rest, but this was a huge help and great cosmetic improvement!

Art camp fell during birthday week so Kate treated me to a wonderful dinner at Bennethums, a restaurant not far from the lake with the best menu in the north. (Certainly the best lemon buerre blanc sole!).

The wine pairing was terrific!. (I don't know if you might remember from this post last year, but I wrote that one of my favorite sites on my lake walks was seeing a dad pushing his stroller, walking with his dad and a their dog. This year, two babies in the strollers. Well, I learned this summer that he's the guy who has the restaurant! We gave them high praise when we saw them this time!)

The waitress heard Kate mention my birthday and brought us a complimentary strawberry shortcake. And it was made the way my grandma would have -- with a real biscuit!

The thing about art camp that really rocks is that there is no schedule. Oh, we might walk in the morning -- or in the early evening when the bunnies are out. On Wednesday or Saturday we'd hit the market. But it's pretty free form. We painted all day and as late as we could, enjoying the neighbor's next door who were great fun and also had the best playlist of music anywhere!

And it was relaxing. I've not been at my best with a nasty summer bug (and as I write this, bad enough laryngitis to sound like a broken squeaky toy.) But you look at the sunset, you feel the sand in your toes, you touch the paint. And all's right with the world.

I mean, with a sky like that, as little national news as possible and a floatie flotilla...

What could possibly be wrong?

Life is good.

Friday, August 11, 2017

On Birthdays and Modern Creative Life

As I write this, Rick is somewhere in Canada, pedaling his little legs off between Michigan and Quebec. When I meet up with him in Quebec CIty, we'll celebrate my birthday (a little late) but today I'm celebrating in a more timely fashion!

And looking back a bit. The first birthday I remember was when I was four. My friend Nancy lived next door and when she brought over presents, we both tore into it!

I would remember that gift even without the benefit of photos. It was a kitchen set -- a little dish drainer and pans and spoons. Who would know that 62 years after that day I would still be cooking and Nancy would be retired from her career as a dietician (and the school lunch lady!)

I don't remember turning five, but my mother made sure I'd have a visual memory of it -- neighbor kids and cousins, all together.

And when I was nine, I remember that party well. We went to see the movie "Bells are Ringing" with Dean Martin and Judy Holliday (one of my favorite actors) and then a party at home. I remember this green kangaroo (and not who it was from, regrettably) which was made to collect autographs. It's tough to get kids together for a summer birthday party. Maybe that's why I remember it so well!

(I'm sure I enjoyed the movie more than anyone there. When I was a kid and we'd play actor, I wanted to be Judy Holliday -- but no one else knew who she was.)

Like Nancy, a birthday celebration doesn't have to be mine to be fun. (See Rick's birthday post from last month!) For example, there was the year I surprised my friend Suzanne when she turned 50.

I can't remember how I slipped into Canada and showed up or was hidden -- I just remember it was loads of fun! Her husband gave us all "starter funds" for a trip to the casino in Niagara Falls. Of course I lost but I didn't care!


I really should show a better picture of Suzanne, since I'm seeing her in a few days and she'll kill me if that's how you'd remember her by! Here we go!


My mother was always good with cakes. I don't remember this one...


...but I do remember this (and have written about it here) -- the styrofoam birthday cake for my eighteenth! Looks gorgeous, doesn't it? The only thing edible was the frosting. (It was during one of my starvation periods. I think I was only eating yeast tablets or liquid protein or something exceedingly stupid. And yes, I was the girl who ate only lettuce when her date to the junior prom took her to dinner during my first Weight Watchers venture at the ripe old age of 16. But let's not talk about body image and the damaging things it can do to your psyche. And still does -- or else I'll get really depressed!)


I believe heartily (as so many of you suggested in Rick's birthday post) to celebrate hearty and for as long as possible. And no, this isn't a birthday that ends in a zero or five (those always seem to be the most traumatic), I am most grateful for each and every day I'm here. That's well worth making some noise about!


There was a time a few years back when I truly wasn't sure how long I'd be hanging around -- at least with any quality of life. And it was a very frightening time both physically and emotionally. I am more than aware that for any of us, each and every day is a gift. I panic when I think about those I love not being around anymore. (And I panic every single day Rick is on his bike trip, especially.) After our brush with death in March, I take nothing for granted. Not one single breath.

So, here is what I want for my birthday.


Promise me that no matter how challenging your life might be at a given moment -- whether it is a physical or emotional issue, one involving your family or best friend or your work or financial situation or health -- anything, that you will take just a few minutes today or tonight before you go to sleep (as I do) to make your gratitude list.

I am so grateful for my family, my friends, Sweet Lizzie, the lake. Grateful to have interests that keep me occupied, to have my sight so I can better read and my hearing so I can enjoy the birdsong (and the yapping cat). I'm grateful for basil and shrimp and Rick's bread; for my neighbor Rosie's garden. For Medicare and insurance. For a house that will be paid up in a few years. I'm grateful for PBS and especially Masterpiece and Mystery and for crisp fall days and warm summer nights. I'm grateful for how the water feels when I venture in to swim -- sometimes too cold, but always, in the end, just right. For the warm sand under my feet, bunnies, the sound of autumn leaves crunching under my feet and the first snowfall (not so much for the ones after that!) I'm grateful for the cottage and my house and resources to be able to do not all, but at least some of the things I want.

Grateful for life itself.

And, grateful, too, that I have become associated with the wonderful people who pull Modern Creative Life together with so many inspiring posts. My current one is titled "In Search of the Peanut Butter Power Bar" and I refer to a wonderful recipe of that title shared by Jenna of The Painted Apron right here. (My post, alas, is not a cooking post, so if you want the recipe, check out Jenna's page!). It refers to needing a power bar of inspiration sometimes when your creative juices aren't kicking in quite the way you'd like. Thanks, Jenna, for an inspiring title!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Postcards from the Lake: A Little Museum

When my mom and her sister were younger and spending their summers as teenaged girls and young women at the lake, they often would go to the Chatterbox Cafe. I remember mom telling me of how they'd go into town and just talk, chatting about who knows what. One summer, before it closed, my cousin Mutty and I went there too, talking about our moms, remembering.

So imagine my delight when I discovered a booth from the now long-gone Chatterbox at the Otsego County Historical Museum!

The menus, the jukebox, the neon, the booth itself with its log cabin wall -- all there!

Oh, that's just the best thing to see the first step into a little museum! Not quite as good as seeing the real Chatterbox and savoring a grilled cheese sandwich -- but pretty darned good!

The historical museum is quite small -- basically a storefront with a back room on Main Street, but it has a good deal to offer, covering the various small towns within the county.

Some of it was quite personal to me. For example, I remember hearing stories of how my grandfather would take the train up to the lake each weekend while my grandmother and their kids were summering at the lake. It was fun for me to discover a postcard of the train station where he would get off and walk to the cottage.

Then there were the seats from the movie theatre. We spent a lot of time there as kids!

I love displays that look like rooms with all the bits and pieces of daily life. So I was particularly fond of the kitchen scene.

I loved the stove.


And all the details!

And I can't resist a vintage sewing machine!

The school room was fun, too.

I wonder how many countries on that globe no longer exist or have new names?

Time to move on, but to those finding themselves with a rainy afternoon and wanting to get away from the lake, this one is definitely a good choice.

And then -- beach time!

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