Finally, a Real Gardening Day! Part 2

Dear Liza,

After lunch, I gathered up all my supplies. Gardening tools, several pounds of ground up egg shells, seeds, and lettuce seedlings I started in an egg carton all got piled in a box, and off I went.

The egg shells got worked into the soil for the tomatoes and sprinkled all around.

The delicate lettuce starts got planted while still in their cardboard cribs.

The five different organic cherry tomatoes got planted in their cages, in the sunniest part of the garden.

As I was working, a neighborhood cat (complete with collar and bell) came by to visit my catnip plant! She was very relaxed, like she was in her favorite pub. She barely even noticed me.

The ’shadier’ side of the garden, closest to the tall camellia bush, got sown with carrot, zucchini and radish seeds, so doesn’t look like much at the moment. I will keep you posted.

The dahlias got put between the sunflowers and the catnip, and boy, is that a full garden! Look at all that green! I am very pleased and will go back early tomorrow to make sure everything is okay. (I have learned not to be too optimistic!)


Grandma Judy

Finally, a Real Gardening Day! Part 1

Dear Liza,

Months ago, I decided to start my garden early this year. I thought I could outsmart the weather. I had squash and cucumber starts in my window in February!

Then came the wettest Spring on record, complete with an April 15th snowfall. My super-early transplants survived the snow but got eaten by wet-loving slugs and I ended up with nothing. Zip. Nada. Bupkis.

So much for rushing things.

But now it is mid-May, and weeks of mostly sunny weather are predicted. So, back to the nursery and we’ll try this again!

Fortunately, Portland Nursery is there for me. Auntie Bridgett drove me down and after getting side-tracked by cool sculptures and Fairy Moss, we picked out five different organic cherry tomato plants, a Delicata squash, some dahlias and a begonia.

We delivered them to the garden, went home for lunch, and back to the garden for the digging fun! More about that tomorrow.


Grandma Judy

Paper Mosaic Reprise

Dear Liza,

I have been bitten by the mosaic bug again, and I looked online for some inspiration. I found this is 1,600 years old mosaic, and I chose it because I love the eyes.

I know mosaics are labor intensive and wanted to start small, so I focused on just “the windows of the soul”, using a piece of backing paper about 5 x 8.

I sketched the basic shape in yellow pencil on dark paper about 5 by 8 inches. The dark background would mimic the grout usually used between tiles.

Since I loved the irregularity of the skin tones, I decided to paint a bunch to play with. Painting these swatches on heavy watercolor paper makes for bits that are easy to handle.

Then came the slow part, trimming and fitting and gluing. They should be small enough, but not too small, close enough, but not too close. It is intense work and I can only do it for about half an hour at a time.

There is a lot of second-guessing and talking to the bits as I work, lots of squinty work.

I was hoping to get this piece done today, because summer weather is predicted to start this weekend and I will (with any luck) be busy with planting and such.
But I didn’t. Here’s what have for now.


Grandma Judy

Ruthie’s Acrylic Skins

Dear Liza,

I have learned something absolutely new from my friend Ruth Inman. She has found a way to re-use acrylic paints that dry on the palette.

Back when I first started painting, I was dismayed to learn that acrylics, unlike watercolors, become plastic once they have dried. Adding more water doesn’t dissolve them back into paint. This means that once that acrylic is on the palette, you need to use it, or throw it out. For my frugal self, this was bad news. But Ruthie discovered a way to make use of this dried paint.

First, prepare a background for your piece with acrylic paints. Any color combination that is complementary to the colors on your palettes will be fine. Let that dry.

Next, choose a few plastic palettes with good layers of acrylics on them. I use plastic food lids, so they sit around a lot and get re-used. Give the palette a spray of water. Make it wet, even a bit puddly, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, until it starts to wrinkle.

Using your fingernail or palette knife, gently ease the edges of the paint layer up. If it is a nice thick layer, it should peel up in one “skin”. But even if it tears a bit, it is useful.

If the skin is too big for your purpose, use your fingers to tear the skin into smaller bits. Look at both sides of the skin; the prettiest may be on the bottom.

While the bits of skin are still sticky and wet, press them down onto the background. Press firmly, but don’t worry if the edges are not all flat. The raised frills add dimension. They will stick once they have dried.

The trick to this sort of art is not to get fixated on what you intend the picture to be. The leaves of red flower on the yellow background was going to be a bit of landscape, but looked more like leaves. I turned it ninety degrees and added the flower.

These flowers looked better apart, so got trimmed and put on cards.

The irregular and colorful nature of the skins lends itself to flowers and leaves, but could also work as feathers for birds or maybe even mountains and landscapes.

I am happy with the results and will keep experimenting.


Grandma Judy

New Murals!

Dear Liza,

We had a few lovely days of weather, which means the Portland artists are out, making warehouses beautiful with street art.

Down on SE 11th, the back and side walls of World Pac Auto Parts have been improved by a few new murals. This fellow reminds me of ”Old Fred” from the Peter Max and Beatles inspired Yellow Submarine.

This super-stylish (and stylized) rock llama just makes me chuckle. I love how the Portland Street Art Association encourages making our streets more fun.

Fun won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it can’t hurt, either.


Grandma Judy

A Paper Mosaic

Dear Liza,

You know I love mosaics. I am fascinated by how the tiny bits fit and flow together to create larger images. I have taken hundreds of pictures of mosaics over the years.

I have even made some! The side table we use everyday is made from upcycled plates, a big broken bowl, and floor tiles from a building that was torn down, years ago, in Salinas.

But mosaics made from tile or plates are very heavy, and tend to be large. Good for a garden, maybe. But that’s an idea for later.

But mosaics made of paper could be smaller and lighter. And since one of the things I like best about mosaics is using ’damaged goods’ to another purpose, why not recycle some of my less-than-successful pictures into one?

I also had scraps from trimming a large piece down for cards…

Maybe they could work together? Because of the hot orange, I started with a starburst idea.

Could it look even better with the blue and black? I tried. Oh, yeah.

Continuing with the blue and into the green, I like it better and better.

And though I can see ways I could have done it better, I like this a lot. I think I will be playing with this some more.


Grandma Judy

Friday in Mississippi

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett and I got to drive north to the Mississippi neighborhood on Friday. GiftyKitty, Clody Cates’ shop, had sold nearly all of Auntie Bridgett’s pins, and needed more!

Business is important. But first, of course, was lunch. We stopped at Broder, where we had some carrot cake months ago, to check out their lunch menu. It is very Scandanavian forward, with rye bread, pickled herring, and ableskivvers. Auntie Bridgett ordered the roasted mushrooms, which looked delicious. I ordered the Nord Bord, which is like a smorgasbord on a platter.

There was a hard boiled egg, two slices of rye bread, thinned sliced ham, two kinds of cheese, pickled onions, roast potatoes in a spicy mustard sauce, and even a tiny apple tart for dessert. It was amazing. We ate until we were stuffed.

Then to business! I love visiting GiftyKitty. Clody and her business partner Larry have done a wonderful job creating the whimsical space full of art, pillows, and all sorts of kitty themed goodies.

Bridgett and Clody talked business while Larry and I swapped life stories and chatted about the beautiful kitten art done by local artists like Amelia Opie, Melody Bush, and Alicia Justice.

When it was time to head off, we got distracted by the Pistils Nursery. It is housed in this building that looks like something out of an old Western movie, but was actually built in 2001 to look like a piece of history.

The inside of the building houses a charming collection of indoor plants and terrarium supplies.

In the small side yard, outdoor plants are policed by two small chickens who seem to enjoy the company (and maybe the bugs!)

By this time, the rain was starting, we were worn out, and it was time to head for home.


Grandma Judy

More Spring Color

Dear Liza,

I finally felt like going out for a walk after being sick for a week, and the spring flowers did not disappoint.

I did a short turn around the neighborhood as the sun dipped below the clouds on its way down. There were so many dogs out walking their people, I wished you were here to pet all of them.

The azaleas and irises are teaming up for a one-two punch of pink and purple.

Yep, it is mighty nice to be out in the world again.


Grandma Judy


Dear Liza,

I am finding new ways to make maps into art for my Art Journal. Since we have loved our travels in France and hope to return someday, I have been looking at maps of that wonderful chunk of Europe.

I am not the first to notice that the map of France resembles a hexagon. In fact, people have been using the nickname ”L’hexagon” since 1949 and French school children are taught to draw the map of their country by using a hexagon as the basic shape.

So I thought I would make my map of France out of an actual, geometric hexagon. First, I had to figure out how to make one without a zillion math calculations, which would mess with my art joy.

Fortunately, I found the youtube channels of both Jenny W. Chan and a fellow named Sam. They both taught me what I needed to know. I was able to fold a sheet, cut it to fit, and then sketch in the map. Than I used that map as a pattern for my real one.

Since this is a personal map, I wanted to show the places we have visited. But I also wanted to show the feel of the place, of the geography. The French understand about ’terroir’, the importance of a sense of place.

I decided that I wanted to show what was grown where, so cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens got inked in with the orchards and vineyards.

And that’s how it looks for now. I may add some shading in the mountains, but I’ll leave that for tomorrow.


Grandma Judy

Mother’s Day with the Family

Dear Liza,

Sunday was Mother’s Day, and also my first day out of the house since I’ve been sick. Rain was predicted for most of the day. This did not discourage your Auntie Katie, however.

She let me know she and the Cousins would be by to fetch me so we could have a picnic. She brought a beautiful bouquet from Amarette Gregor’s tiny Pup Tent flower shop, which operates out of Auntie Katie’s garage.

After the inevitable snags of closed bakeries and Mother’s Day crowds, we acquired lunch and desserts from Piccone’s Corner and Le Petit Province, and were on our way.

We drove up to The Grotto, also known as The Sanctuary of the Sorrowful Mother. We bought tokens for the elevator ride to the top and were not disappointed. The rain stopped just as we arrived, and had painted every leaf with sparkle and every path with shine.

We found a perfect dry spot just across from the statue of St. Francis.

Fittingly, we were visited by a dozen robins and junkoes as we ate bread, pate and wonderful cheeses. Beautiful desserts topped of the perfect meal for the perfect day.

It was one of those precious three-generation afternoons that just melts my heart.

Cousin Jasper usually doesn’t like his picture being taken, but agreed to pose with his mighty umbrella/sword.

We shared stories and tiramisu and were very silly.

When the food was mostly gone, we walked around a bit and got back to the car just as the rain started up again.

What a miraculous, loving, exhausting outing.

Grandma Judy