Wednesday, June 23, 2010

the joys of buying handmade


clockwise from top right:

:: vintage spaniel swap playing cards from: OnlineVintage ::
:: mini Z Is For Zebra bunting flags from: prettylittlestudio ::
:: travel clutch from: owlsay ::
:: small initial heart sterling silver necklace from: moncadeau ::
:: Wizard of Oz everyday wallet from MishmashDesigns ::

I've formed a new habit: when I need something, like a new wallet, a gift, or something cute to bring a smile to my face, I head straight over to etsy . Today I was contemplating whether or not to buy that adorable (and very practical! see the details inside here )travel clutch with the airplanes on it. I have been eyeing it for a while, but the $25 price tag plus $5 shipping had me hesitating. Then I made a funny decision; I decided I would read the seller's profile, and if I liked what I read, I would buy it! When you read it , you will see why I chose, with a very happy heart, to support this seller.

It made me very aware of just how special etsy is. I am so grateful to this platform for stay-at-home-moms, college students, retirees, artists and artisans of all walks of life. It's such a fantastic feeling to not only find cute, handmade or vintage items, but to know your money is going directly into the hands of a talented individual who is appreciative of each and every sale. 

It has made large companies and corporations feel cold and impersonal, and I hope to buy as many of my future belongings through etsy as possible. 


I bought this stroller blanket for my sister-in-law, who gave birth to her second son last week.
:: chenille and cotton blanket Funky Monkey stroller blanket from BubblesandSqueaks ::

So next time you are looking for something, be sure to stop by etsy before heading to a chain store. You will find so many wonderful things there. Your hard-earned money will be appreciated by the sellers, and you will experience a very gratifying shopping spree.

Just a little reminder to consider handmade.

yours, xoxo country girl


Today, one year ago: Rainy Day Baking 


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

let virtue blossom

"Let every virtue in you blossom. Let every hidden good quality in you shine forth."
-Gurumayi Chidvilasananda


When I read these words the other day, I was immediately uplifted, and felt an intense longing to be my best self. I wanted to find any hidden good qualities within myself and be sure to live them every day. 


Those words have stayed with me and I look at them and think of them all the time. I cherish these words, because they have a very real effect on me. They seem to shake me awake, and peel away any negativity I have been harbouring. 

I shared them here, hoping they would speak to your heart, as well!


I gathered up a little nature table this morning:




1. Elderberry blossom 2. European Columbine 3. Hatched chrysalis 4. Hollowed out walnut shell 
5. Autumn-y cherry leaves 6. Four-leaf clover 7. Lady's Mantel 8. Wild Privet

It's a funny thing: on exactly this same day last year I found (and blogged about) autumn-y leaves that I had discovered. It seems the cherry trees send down a few colourful leaves while their fruits are ripening. This is one of the things I love about blogging: you keep a record of the goings-on in nature and actually find a very prominent rhythm. And I love learning about nature's patterns. 

That sweet little squirrel stopped by again:




So cute! I really should give him a name. Any suggestions? I know Gladys Taber named her frequent visitor Tiny Tim after the Beatrix Potter character.


Wishing you a lovely day. 


And may every virtue in you blossom, and every hidden good quality in you shine forth!




xoxo country girl




Today, one year ago: Pieces of Autumn in June 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Drying Wild Herbs (and a surprise visiter!)

Early summer bursts with abundance, and I've been lucky enough to discover some really fabulous, fragrant wild herbs right here in the fields accross from my home. My most recent findings were wild thyme, oregano, and mint. All of which are tasty and smell amazing, and can be used either fresh or dried. 


I found these three herbs after a long period of rain. The farmer who owns the land had just mown the tall grass, but left islands of grass (and herbs) in-tact. 




Thyme grows very close to the ground in clusters, with wild strawberries right close by. They like the same kind of soil. 




Oregano grows in wetter areas, near mint, who also likes it moist. 




Wild mint smells absolutely amazing. It has a soft feel to it, like lamb's ear, and the leaves have a silvery underside. I found fistfuls of this delicious herb, which I add fresh to cold drinks and yogurt dressing for cucumber salad, and use dry in tea.


Back at home, with shoulders burnt and speckled with new freckles from spending so much time gathering under the hot summer sun, I sort and organize the herbs. 




Clockwise, beginning at top right: yellow and pink rose petals, mint on a baking sheet, piles of mint, oregano, and thyme, yarrow blossoms and lemon balm.


To quickly dry herbs, for example when it's damp, raining, or humid, spread your herbs in an even, single layer on baking paper on a baking sheet. Set your oven to the lowest heat (which is 50°c/122°f on my oven), and slide the baking sheet in. Keep the oven door open a crack with a wooden spoon. It will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the herb, for it to completely dry. Herbs are sufficiently dry when they are crackly. Any softer and they may go mouldy in storage.


Let your herbs cool completely before storing them. Glass jars are beautiful, but this year, since it's so humid and damp, I've been storing my herbs in plastic freezer bags on the shelves of my kitchen island. 


To dry the thyme and oregano, which are used most frequently in my kitchen, I tied them into little bouquets with twine. They dry beautifully when hung from a hook.




As I write this, there is a dark grey little squirrel with a white belly eating oats from the bird feeder and inspecting our balcony. It is absolutely adorable. When I found that pantry moths had gotten into our walnut store, I put them out into the feeder. They were gone the next morning, and I suspected squirrels, because there was no way the birds alone could have eaten all those nuts. I am going to put out more nuts soon, and hope that this little guy will keep coming back. 


Look, I managed to get a picture!






It's one of the things that makes me sorry we are moving. I hope the next resident of this apartment will put out food for the wildlife.


Thank you all for your cheerful congratulations! It's been wonderful to paint every day. I won't be able to share many of my paintings with you, as they are going to be published. But just knowing you are all rooting for me is a fantastic feeling! Thank you!







love, xoxo, country girl

Thursday, June 17, 2010

baby swallows & great news



Here's a painting I worked on yesterday and today. Just look at those hungry little mouths! So cute. 


The great news is that I signed my publishing contract; it's official! My book, Kiki's First Year , will be a published e-book and audio book some time next year. Very exciting! I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity.


Those hungry little sparrow babies will be in the book. Along with the wild strawberry and so many other wonderful pieces of nature. All the more reason to get offline and get back to my paper and watercolors!


xoxo country girl




One Year Ago Today: i'm back! 



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

blueberry hunting & june's tiny nature table!



There are parts of the woods here that are carpeted with wild blueberry shrubs. I wasn't expecting to find many ripe berries this early in june, but apparantly this mixture of heat, humidity, and rain agrees with them. This weekend we'll take some containers with us into the forest and see if how many handfulls we can find. The challenge will be getting them home in the containers instead of our stomachs.


The woods are so beautiful right now; absolutely lush and rampant with blossoms and green. I hope you never tire of seeing photographs of this countryside, because I never tire of taking them.










It's been a while since I gathered up nature's goodies for a tiny nature table (those of you who are new can read about them and see past tiny nature tables here ). I guess it's because I am usually busy peering through my camera. But the other morning, after a wild summer storm wreaked havoc through the night, I found tiny unripe windfall cherries, and they were so cute that I stuffed them in my pocket. And that's when I decided I would keep looking and put together a nice tiny nature table for you.




1. oak 2. wild strawberry 3. brown knapweed 4. scentless mayweed 5. dropwort
6. windfall wild plums 7. wild thyme 8. rye 9. windfall wild apples
10. elderberry blossom 11. windfall wild cherries 12. wild rose 13. wild sweet pea

So many pretty things; all of them reasons to live in gratitude. After I took that picture, I put most of the tiny treasures into a vase for a little summer bouquet.




It's a rainy day; I wore my orange raincoat  on my outing to the post office, bank, and butcher. I'm happy about the weather. I feel cozy and creative, ready to completely immerse myself in painting. 

I hope you'll share a tiny nature table with us soon!

Enjoy this day,

xoxo country girl

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Photo to Painting: Wild Strawberry




I have so many things to blog about that it's overwhelming and I don't know where to start. But I sat down to paint this little wild strawberry which I found in the field, because I am trying to paint every day, and I thought I would share it with you. It's not the best painting I've ever made, but I mainly wanted to give an example of how I work: painting from photographs, mostly my own. I am amazed by painters who paint from memory or imagination!


I am sitting here with red glowing hot shoulders....I was out picking wild herbs in the strong noon sun. I found so many wonderful things (wild mint, thyme, and oregano) that I stayed out in the blaze a bit too long. The herbs are now sorted and drying...I'll be sharing the photos with you soon.


Hope you are having a lovely day!


xoxo country girl

Monday, June 14, 2010

fabulously bookish





Two things arrived this morning: an adorable rain coat from Lands' End , and a fabulously bookish handmade satchel from Wooly Bison on etsy. And don't they just look marvelous together? I did my best posing for you :)


I have so many things to share with you...nature abounds in June, and I have picked wild blueberries and strawberries, found wild thyme, watched the first haying of the year, and gathered a lovely collection together for my tiny nature table. You'll just have to be the slightest bit patient...I have other obligations today, but will blog again asap!


Sending love,


xoxo country girl


p.s. thank you all so much for your support and compliments, i have been doing my best to paint something every day.





Wednesday, June 9, 2010

halleluja, i can still paint!

(click to enlarge!)
My husband will be starting up a publishing company for ebooks and audio books some time next year with two business partners, and he promptly said to me: "You know what this means, right? You have to finish your book!"

I began a children's book, Kiki's First Year, an embarrassingly long time ago and pretty much stopped painting the pictures for it a while back. In fact, I haven't really painted in a long time. There's a few things stopping me: insecurity, fear, every-day distractions, and lazyness.


But since this is such a wonderful opportunity, and I have felt for a long time that this is something I need to do, I knew I would have to start painting again. Since I haven't painted in so long, I decided to start with something not related to Kiki's First Year. A very sweet and thoughtful friend sent me a wonderful gift of her inspiring books, and so I thought I would paint her a Thank You card.


I began very timidly, almost frightened...I really wasn't sure if it would turn out. I left it half finished yesterday evening and didn't like it very much at all. I didn't even show it to my husband for fear he might say, "Hmmm, remember when I said I would publish your book....? Wellllll....." 

But today I decided to work on the details, and I was so happy with the finished picture that I am sharing it with all of you! It was such a relief to see that I can still paint. I guess it's like riding a bicycle. 


So here's to hopping back on that bike! I am so happy to be wheelin' around again.


xoxo country girl

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

summer afternoon perfection

What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.  
-Gertrude Jekyll















Summer afternoon, summer afternoon....

All you want to do is be outdoors, in the fresh air, under the huge blue sky. It's baking hot. We seek shade or shelter at noon. My arms are browned, my face is freckled, my stomach is full of watermelon. Kiki swims every day now, and chases butterflies and moths on the freshly-mown soccor field. Seed pods float like tiny whisps of cotton on the breeze. This morning, when I awoke, there was a shaft of sunlight warming my face, and the sound of construction workers coming through the open window. I liked that sound...that busy hot sound of summer. Throughout the day you can hear the voice of the lifeguard at the nearby community pool, booming through a loudspeaker. Engines, birds, hammers, lawn mowers, children playing, tractors. Yes...the busy hot sounds of summer.

And then the sun begins to set and everything is soaked in gold. The grass is as tall as me, nods and waves....I like swiping up the pods from the thin stalks and sprinkling them around like I did as a child. There is plenty of yarrow to harvest for tea now, and I've spotted the first few wild strawberries. Ate three. The wild flower meadow is a thick jungle, fit to be cut. Any day now. 

xoxo country girl




Saturday, June 5, 2010

June Day on Anna Farm

My friend Gerit took me to a nearby village, Laab im Walde, where there is an organic farm called Anna Hof. We got there just in time to stock up on grass fed beef, raw milk cheese, organic bacon, and a couple of apples for the walk. The sun was blazing on the rain-soaked land; swallows were flying and dipping through the air. We had a glorious walk.
 
 
 apple orchard and cloister

happy cows grazing on anna hof

kiki setting out on the sunny path


old farm machinery


i discovered a flower which we haven't been able to identify yet

bird song and heat

we ate our tart, crisp apples sitting in the shade of an oak tree and looked out over the land





xoxo and sweet june sunshine, country girl






p.s. 'evening' wasn't as wonderful as i had hoped




Friday, June 4, 2010

dreaming of autumn days




These are the boots and the rain coat I chose from Lands' End. Love them! Don't get upset with me, all you summer lovers; but these things have me dreaming of my favorite season, autumn. I'm already dreaming of slipping into those shiny boots, pulling on that cute rain coat, and heading into the colourful woods to wade through damp fallen leaves, smell woodsmoke and mushrooms, and listen to the crows complain.

The funny thing is that, looking back at last year's blog posts, I saw that I was craving autumn last June, too: A Piece of Autumn in June .

The rain has taken a pause and the sun is shining on glistening trees. The great outdoors are calling. I'm gonna grab my camera and wind around puddles with Kiki for a while before the sun sets. Then my friend Maria is coming over with a bag of m&ms. We're going to watch 'Evening ,' which takes place in New England...I'll let you all know if it's any good.



Yep...both of our men are out of town and we're in the mood for a sappy film and chocolate!

Wish you were here to snuggle in with us....


xoxo country girl

Thursday, June 3, 2010

stormy weather, cozy days



"I love going to the feed store and drinking coffee and talking about how much rain we need."
Thomas Haden Church


Rain. 

Rain, rain, RAIN.

It's been raining here for weeks now. 

Everthing is wet. 









Oatmeal with butter from grass-fed cows, Vermont maple syrup, and raw organic milk...



rainy day nourishment.




My husband is gone on business until Sunday...I got out my watercolors and hope to immerse myself in painting these next few days. When hubby is gone, I lock the front door twice and can't go to sleep. I end up watching the strangest things on television...and surfing the internet late into the night.

And I've been buying recklessly on etsy:


an orange plaid wool satchel by the fantastic Wooly Bison
(i've wanted one of her bags for over half a year now...and finally chose one; i love how it looks like autumn....i picture it filled with books, and gingerbread wrapped in wax paper....)



 a large cosmetic bag made with vintage fabric by Ivory Gray Designs


 and a charming pendant with one of my favorite words, 'home,' from Robbie Jenkins.



Somehow shopping feels like a good deed when you buy handmade

xoxo country girl







p.s. who can tell me a good place to order high-quality rain boots? my striped joules pair sprung leaks after just a few months! and i am in definite need of rain boots....






Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Discovered: Island of Rügen

My husband will be working on a television show this summer and will be shooting it for 2 weeks in coastal northern Germany. He told me that he was getting a vacation rental for both of us (and Kiki), and I was very happy to have been invited to join him. I had never heard of the area, so I decided to look online to get an idea of what it's like.


It's so funny, because I have always loved New England, and every year I dream about going on vacation there. And now, I've discovered a place that is so near, and so lovely, and it really reminded me that I need to open my mind to all the beautiful places on this earth, especially those closest to me!


The place is called Rügen, or Rugia. Read about it by clicking here. I am going to share photos I found on google images with you....but I really look forward to sharing my own pictures once I've been there myself! We will be travelling there end of July. I can hardly wait. 



Rügen is known for it's white chalky cliffs.





Aren't they magical?




There are old churches and cemetaries.







Lighthouses, of course. I just love lighthouses.


The classic northern Germany homes have reed roofs.


Of course, my favorite photographs were of Rügen in autumn...







You can imagine how much I am looking forward to this July.
If it's as wonderful as I hope, I think it will become a regular vacation spot. 
Especially in autumn.

This discovery made me very aware that there are so many beautiful places on this earth that I have never even heard of.
Doesn't it make you happy and sad all at once?
Here's to discovering as many places of peace and beauty as one lifetime can possibly allow...

Happy June,

xoxo country girl








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