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Summer In New England: The House of Seven Gables (+ giveaway!)

   Hello there! And welcome back! Are you ready to do some summer jaunting around New England? Of course you are! Let's meet up today....in Salem :)

   Do you recognize this house? Isnt it stunning? It was built in 1668 and is considered Jacobean/Post Medieval style.  It is a gem of an antique, in a picturesque location on the shores of Salem Harbor. But its best known as The House of Seven Gables, of Nathaniel Hawthorne fame! During the 19th century, this old Salem home was owned by Hawthorne's cousin, Susanna Ingersoll. It is said she told him many tales about things that happened in and around the home in its centuries of standing at the harbor shore, and he would visit her often as a young man when he worked at the Salem Custom House. Through his connections to the home through his cousin, it is said that he was inspired it to created one of his most well-known works, the novel The House of Seven Gables.

   We were able to visit the site, which is now a stunning museum, on a sunny summer day around noon--- as you can tell from the harsh light of the photos! When beginning the tour of the House of Seven Gables, you can choose to do just the garden tour or the garden and the home interior. As we happened to be traveling with a rather disgruntled toddler that day, we opted for just the garden tour--- and it was well worth the time we spent there!

   Just outside the house is a beautiful garden full of flowers and tables to sit at under masses of wisteria. There's a gift shop in an old house brought to the property. and Nathaniel Hawthorne's birth home has also been moved to the site (and can be toured as just part of the garden tour).

  One of the most amazing things about this site is its situation right on the Salem Harbor. You can walk to the end of the yard and look out over the beautiful sailboats bobbing in the waters. It was so lovely and such a special memory.

   Salem is one of my very favorite towns in New England. I've been lucky enough now to see it in both the autumn and the summer. And while without a doubt, autumn in Salem is amazing--- summer is fantastic too!

   It's not all witchy business in this Boston suburb, as they also have a storied maritime past. Salem was a port town, with wealthy sea captains and shipping magnates as citizens long after the witch trial frenzy was past. (However--- if you wanna see some beautiful photos of the Rebecca Nurse homestead, a victim of the Salem Witch Trials, see this post HERE. So many beautiful things, and I was able to photography inside!)

   An unexpected gem in the garden area is this sweet red salt box house--- the home where Nathaniel Hawthorne was born! The home wasn't originally in this location, but was moved to the Seven Gables site as part of the museum. I was able to go inside this home, which had many fantastic Hawthorne artifacts, including artwork and furniture. There was a living history interpreter upstairs working on some old timey crafts (I cant quite remember now, I think maybe making bobbin lace?) and she was so lovely to talk to. It's always nice when you meet someone passionate about the place they are interpreting at, and inspired me when I am volunteering at Hunter's Home (The Murrell House) here in Oklahoma.

   If you're interested in learning more about the House of Seven Gables, the museum has a fantastic website that includes a virtual tour and teacher resources. You can look at all that HERE. And if you're in Salem, it's a must-see historical site.

  And now....well, I had promised you some treats, hadn't I? How do you feel about artwork? Surely very nice?

   Yesterday I made this little painting of The House of Seven Gables and it is my wish to send it off to some far-flung place for one of you to enjoy. And so I will give it away! All you need to do? Is comment on this post! And if you're feeling sweet and lovely, share this post on your own social media and come back here to leave an additional comment-- increasing your own chances of winning!

  The winner will be chosen on WEDNESDAY AUGUST 1!

 Thanks again so much for visiting. I have missed blogging, and its my hope to get things active around here again. I've missed my friends and I've missed chatting with people about good things, shared interests, pretty art. There is too much friction and fighting in this world--- especially online. Its time we carve out for ourselves some positive spaces for ourselves. And you're always welcome here!

Well, thats it for now! Hope you are well! Looking forward to sharing more New England with you!~

Read more Summer in New England posts HERE

Summer in New England: The John Adams Homes

   Hello and good morning, friends!~
       As we head towards the second half of summer, I thought it would be fun to work on a little project--- one full of salt box houses, ocean breezes, history and beautiful corner's of our country's past.
   Last summer I was so fortunate to be able to embark on some fabulous New England travels, and I thought I'd share a bit of them here with you...I will also throw in a few treats along the way, and we'll end the whole thing in a month with a celebration of Tasha Tudor's birthday. Would you please join me?! I'd love to have you come along!

  For our first stop in New England, we will journey to Quincy, MA, to the homes of our nation's second president, John Adams...

    So come along with me today--- and we will see not one, not two, but three amazing historic homes in Ye Olde New England! :D

   Ever since I saw the HBO mini series "John Adams" I have wanted to visit the homes of John Adams. Lucky for us, THREE of his homes in his hometown of Quincy, MA still stand and are able for public viewing!

  My family and I were able to take a guided tour of all three homes thanks to The John Adams National Historical Park, which runs all three sites. We signed up for the tours in downtown Quincy and took a trolley with a guide to all the homes. Let me just say--- the price for these tours is fantastic. Kids are free and for adults its only $5. That includes admission to the three sites, transportation, and a guided tour at each location. Pretty fantastic. And if you're collecting Nation Park badges, you can pick one up here! My kids had a lot of fun collecting the badges, as many of the historic sites we visited were also national parks.

  The first stop on the tour leads to the two first John Adams homes--- as they were built right next to each other! Its a bit disorienting to see them, literally on an island of green in the middle of busy streets, in urban Quincy. The town has grown around the old farmsteads, but the houses still stand proudly.

  Unfortunately there was no photography allowed inside the homes, but I did manage to get some nice photos outside! The first house, with the dark wood shingles, is the home where the Adams' settled in 18th century Massachusetts, and its the home where John Adams was born. The Adams' could trace their roots back to the Puritans, and faith and community service were important to the family. John's father was a church deacon and a town councilman, with many conversations and town business being discussed in the home's kitchen. It is there, at his father's fireside listening to the men make important decisions, that its thought John first grew interested in studying law.

   Just across the yard, is the home where John and Abigail Adams raised their young family, and from here that John practiced law and set out for trials in nearby Boston. Later he would leave his young family here at the farm to attend the Continental Congress, and it was from here that Abigail and her children woke to the sound of cannon fire as the British and American soldiers battled in Boston Harbor.

  You can see from the photo above that the streets of Quincy are literally-- RIGHT THERE--- around these houses. Can you imagine growing up here, looking out your car window and John Adam's house is right beside you? Makes me giggle a bit. But I'm so so glad that this town had the sense to keep the houses standing and not tear them down for 'progress.' It is so inspiring to see the old and new together, side by side, history there within the present.

    Next, we all hopped on the trolley and went a little bit closer in time--- to the home of John and Abigail Adams after his presidency. The family had changed a great deal in the time between moving from the little farmstead to this house that John named "Peacefield" (isn't that just a lovely name?)

  It was, essentially, the home they came back to the US to retire to. It was actually chosen by Abigail, who had visited the house as a little girl and in her imagination it was extremely posh and spacious. The Adams bought it sight unseen, based on Abigail's fond memories. Yet when they got to the house...it didnt quite live up to her recollections. By that time, Abigail had seen the palaces of England and France, and so when she came to Peacefield, having been the first lady of the new nation, she was a bit disappointed in its provincial looks.

  So, a big building project began, and Abigail had her own lady's parlor built to her now more refined tastes. A gorgeous garden, with shades of European design, was also built and it was so lovely to see it in all its blooming glory in July.

   To John, however, it was his dream farm-- because he fancied himself a simple farmer, who had gone on some very interesting adventures...

   The home stayed in the Adams family after John and Abigail's passing, and was owned by their son John Quincy Adams--- you know, America's 6th president! The Adams descendants understood their unique place in history and all the amazing books and papers they collected were later housed in a stone library built beside the house.

  The library was built of stone to protect against fire, and is a gorgeous, gorgeous space filled with old books, artwork, and the writing desks and implements of the Adams men. After the tour was over, we returned in our own car to wander unhurried through the garden and around the house. The main house was undergoing some renovation at the time--- so you can see some scaffolding--- but it was such a wonderful place to visit, and I'm so glad I got to check it off my list.

   The tours were so quick and well done, we were all finished with half a day left to spend. So we hopped in our car and headed down the Mass Pike, with the idea that we wanted to have a real New England lobster roll for dinner (not the ones from McDonalds that we kept seeing signs for! Yikes!)

  We ended up driving down to Cape Cod--- us, a bunch of Okies so excited that we saw 'Cape Cod' on the highway signs and figured, "surely they've got lobster rolls!"

   That ended in such a lovely adventure....but one I will share another time :)

Thank you so much for your visit today! I appreciate you coming by :) Please come again soon as I post more about Summer in New England! I've got so many pretty things to share with you!

And lets also make a plan...for a big end of summer celebration, shall we? In honor of Tasha Tudor's birthday on August 28! We can have a big blog party and if you'd like-- write your own birthday blog and share it here!

Lets start hatching our plans.... :) meet back here soon!
Take Joy!

Read more Summer in New England posts HERE

The Shepherdess

Hello there!~
   It's been a while, I know. I've been trying to send you this blog post for the past two weeks, and I'm now just getting to it! It's that time of year, you know....the thick of summer! So much going on. But I've been so eager to share with you this latest painting called "The Shepherdess." Done in delicate tones of blue, cream, greens and whites, it depicts a shepherd girl holding a little lamb-- perhaps freeing it from bramble, while the mother sheep watches. In her apron pocket is a drop spindle, so she can make yarn while she watches the flock.

   The original painting has been sold, but I DO have prints of this piece as an 8x10" print in my etsy shop!

   This time of year makes me long for New England....where I could maybe even wear a sweater in the evenings! I miss my friends in Albany (waves north) and sitting at Patricia's kitchen table drinking my morning coffee with the windows open while a cool rain falls. Or maybe going back down to Cape Cod, where we had our first lobster rolls and walked on the sandy beaches, infinitely delighted with the coolness of the day--- which the Yankees thought was warm ;)

  Last summer we all went to Old Sturbridge Village to visit, and the sheep were out to pasture, looking so woolly and sweet. That photo above the sheep with the blue house....isnt it just a dream? It is located at the village. I love too that the animals are shorn and the wool made into yarn and then dyed. If I was an interpreter there, that would be my favorite thing. Although I imagine it would be fun to do most anything at OSV!
Beautiful bramble at a beach in Cape Cod

   Around here, I am putting the finishing touches on my calendar and hope to get a sample printed soon and then do pre-orders. So if you think you'd like a Sleightholm Folk Art 2019 Calendar...know that it is coming soon!

  I also did my second session of training for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and oh, that has me in a shepherdy mood too! Look what else I've been painting....

The Good Shepherd!

  This is the classic 'good shepherd' pose that we use in the catechesis program, and one that will become very special to the children that come to our atrium. I thought this would be great atrium art, and perhaps I could make it into something for the adults who run the atriums to use....so stay tuned for that :)

  And oh, I might not be in New England this summer, but I still have plenty of photos of it from last year's travels! I will share them here with you as well wait for autumn (that's what we're doing...right? Not just me?)

  Well, thank you so much for coming to see me here :) I appreciate it so much. Things have been a bit busy here as the kids' summer vacation winds down. Three weeks until students here in Oklahoma return to class. And then, for the first time in 4 and a half years...I will be back to being a full time artist. I am so looking forward to it, so eager to create on a more full time and reliable schedule. And Im so excited for the kids, who will both be starting new schools and hopefully making amazing friends and doing fun things.

   I hope your summer is going well!~ Let me know how you are! And if you're up in New England, sigh, you lucky little thing!~!

Til next time,

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Garden Morsels

Come in! Sit down. I'll put on some Edith Piaf, and we can talk! I just came in from the back garden. Let's chop up some basil for the pizza. Let's also gather some pineapple sage, stir it into a pitcher of water. Let's have summer dinner.

   Food is helping me get through summer, the roughest part of the year for me. Because while it is so hot, and the bugs are so bad, the garden is also going crazy--- and its a paradise of whatever you'd like to eat. It's all ready and all fresh. Pass the olive oil!

   Since I confided to you last week about my weakness for French living, music, food and all that lovely Frenchy stuff (especially inspired by this blog and its accompanying podcast), I've been trying to be more mindful about life and food and my day.

  My granny asked me the other day if I loved to cook. I supposed I like it, if I'm in the mood--- but what I really love is eating. And since this winter I've been trying to be smarter about what I'm eating-- eating fresh real things, and reaping the health benefits from that (since the end of january, I'm hovering around about a 30 pound weight loss, and I think I'm the better for it in many aspects of my life)

  However, my favorite times to cook seem to be during the colder months, when things feel cozy. In the summer, I seem to lose all inspiration. But the books I've been reading-- especially In A French Kitchen--- have really inspired me to try new things and to realize that cooking amazing things doesnt have to be complicated. The dish above is a few chicken breasts with green beans, red bell pepper, asparagus, a jar of olive mix from World Market (the Italian blend, don't tell the French!) and a good drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.

  Then I made a small amount of paste with a mix of pesto (also from World Market...I am currently pretty obsessed with that place), heated a baguette in the oven and voila, dinner!

  The interesting thing about this dinner is....you could basically do the same thing every night, but it would always be a different meal depending on the meat and veggies you chose. That is the beauty of old fashioned cooking--- even the medieval pottage soup that people would eat for each meal in the 'really old, olden days.' They just literally through in what was growing, butchered or available at the time, and it constantly changed due to what they had on hand. So while the method of cooking remained the same, the contents of the meal was always changing. Perhaps we modern folks forget that we also have that option--- and that we dont have to eat the same old standard meals with the same ingredients every month, all year.

    So that is what is on my mind a lot these days ;) Trying to look for simple, good things. Even when the world seems hard and dark and out of control, I have learned that there are some things I can control....and things I can do for my family to bring them a little bit of joy. Sometimes I have to protect my heart and mind, and a favorite way to do that is a walk through the garden...

   Look at the little faces of the zenias, peek in at the squash that are about ready to come in and be eaten, being pleasantly surprised by the little humming bird that didnt even notice me standing there, and sampled all the flowers around me.

  I will soak this in, and bring it out again through painting, and pass it on to you. Sometimes it seems silly that a paint brush, or a nice dinner, might do any good in this world. But its one step in many, I think. If I take care of myself, I am able to go out into the world and be more kind and compassionate. If I make things that make feel people feel rested, inspired or closer to their faith, I think that is very good too.

  So lets go out-- and spread joy one little smile or painting or morsel at a time. Please remember to take care of yourself, too. If you are not nurtured, you have nothing with which you can nurture others.

Ah, and one more thing! A little gift I promised, right? Last post I shared that I would select a giveaway winner for my print, The Bee Keeper's Garden! The winner for this giveaway is....


Who entered by replying through my newsletter. Congrats to you, Lucy! Hope you love your new little print :D

And in closing, I remind you---
Take Joy.

Til next time,

Summer Flowers & Busy Bees + a GIVEAWAY!

   Greetings from the steamy prairie! If these photos look slightly ghostly, its because my camera kept steaming up as I tried to take photos. It is hot and it is swampy out there! But the garden sure looks good, doesn't it? In that 'about to turn into a jungle' sort of way....

   The roses are totally done....the cabbage and kale are monsters, the lettuce has literally gone to seed. But the zenias are up and looking marvelous, as are the sunflowers. The birdhouse gourds are thriving and climbing up the little chapel, and I've got squash and eggplant going, almost ready to pick. This is summer!

  The bees are very busy too, and I love to go out and watch them work (they're the only ones motivated to work in this dripping heat!) There are big bumble bees that love the sun flowers, but I love seeing all the little bees flying around too, and I hope that some of them belong to my neighbor's hive. I need to remember to take my spoonful of honey a day to help allergies, because what's more local than honey made from blooms in your own yard? I'd say nothin!

   The sunflowers are going crazy too, and I love seeing their sunny little (and big) faces reaching for the sky. There is something so wild and magnificent about sunflowers, bobbing in the breeze and following the light of the sun. I'll have to save some of these seeds and feed the birdies the rest. I must always have the sunflowers, since they're my mama's favorite flowers--- and the bees too, of course!

   And now that we've turned the calendar page over to the month of July there is no escaping it-- it is SUMMER. And since I'm always game for a treat, I thought it would be fun to do something special-- something garden and something bee inspired!

  So--- I'm going to have a little giveaway here on my blog! All you have to do is comment on this post and you can win an 8x10" copy of my painting "The Bee Keeper's Garden", shown below:

   This piece was so fun to make, and inspired by a brambly, riotous cottage garden--- and my love of bees! There's a wonderful article just out in the latest issue of British Country Living (June issue, but we Americans are just getting it here) all about bees and how important they are to our ecosystem. They do so much, and they're little powerhouses! Humans have been enjoying honey for many centures as well, and they do such good for our gardens and environment.

   Over the last few years, I've been trying to be a 'bee friendly' gardener and planting flowers they'll like and providing shelter and water. We've got a terribly overgrown patch in our yard but I'm going to say 'oh, that's bee shelter!' lol! They can take refuge there. We dont spray our yard and have let the lawn go wild with what we'll call 'native flora.' We also have a 'bug house', which is a little wooden structure we have attached to the siding of the studio and it has little places where a variety of (good) insects can live, including mason bees.

   Mason bees are unique because they like to lay their eggs and take refuge in holes they find-- they arent able to make them themselves. So This little house has rows of pieces of bamboo. The mother mason bee lays and egg, leaves it some food, and then plasters the 'cell' closed with mud. She'll do it again and again until she fill the length of the tube. When the babies hatch, they'll eat the food their mama left them, then burrow our. They are some of the first pollinators of spring as well, and so important for our spring blooming fruit trees. There are even sites out there where you can order a hive of mason bees to go in your mason bee house! So you have ready pollinators when the growing season comes, how fancy is that?

   However, as much as I love the bees, I dont want to touch the bees, so I am happy to buy honey from my neighbor up the street. On Saturday he had a booth set up at our town Famer's Market and I was so happy to buy from him (you can see his honey bear in the pic above!) Some other neighbors were also selling lavender products and I bought a nice little bouquet I've got hanging in my kitchen window, and I also got a jar full of dried organic Bay Leaves.

   Bay leaves are always called for in some of the old homey recipes for soups and stews and baking and I always think "where in the world am I gonna get a bay leaf?" well now, I have a whole jar! They also make me think of Tasha Tudor and her famous Bay tree that she was so proud of...and I was able to see when I toured her home 3 years ago!

  Well, I should sign off for now, but please dont forget to enter the print contest! If you'd like your own pretty little bee keeper, this is your chance! :D And if you're a bit like me with no patience, please know that I have prints in my etsy shop read to go out!

  I am also putting the finishing touches on my newsletter and would love to send it to you as well. It is mostly a homey little letter that I send to you, my kindred spirits, about once a month-- usually with a treat enclosed. You can sign up for the newsletter HERE and please know your information is always private and never shared. And I love being able to send you a little something extra!

  Well, have a wonderful day! I hope your world is full of loveliness and bloom. And may you always--

Take Joy,