27 December 2015

Merry Third Day of Christmas!


I just wanted to wish all of you in Blogland a very merry "Third Day of Christmas!" (Or "fourth" if you are in a later time zone.) For those of you familiar with the classic carol, an image of three French hens might seem more logical, but somehow a pomegranate felt like a fitting choice to accompany my holiday wishes & cheer. I have been finding the gorgeous red fruits & their sparkly seeds to be such a perfect festive symbol after the whiteness we surrounded ourselves with when welcoming the winter solstice earlier in the week.

My daughter & I have definitely migrated toward a preference for a low-key Christmas over the last few years; to me, celebrating the solstice (and the shift once again toward longer days) has begun to feel more in line with what I find to be a naturally introspective season. Yet there are always so many projects that entice me into the studio & kitchen as the holidays approach. Last week, when I mentioned how many things I still would like to do by the twenty-fifth, my daughter only had to say three magic words: "Twelve days of Christmas." For us, this simple phrase has become a reminder to make sure that all of our wonderful plans & wishes don't turn into some kind of impossible list. If you're anything like me, you can probably relate to facing a daily list that contains more like a week's-worth of to-do's. Twelve days certainly seems like a more realistic span of time for enjoying all of the holiday possibilities!

So, while it felt a bit strange that we didn't get around to unpacking the Christmas trunk or decorating our tree until just before the church bells marked the beginning of the twenty-fifth——and the decision to wait until the New Year to send out greetings to friends & family has slightly been nagging at me——I'm loving our leisurely way of wandering through the twelve days of Christmas.

Wherever you may be in your holiday celebrations——and whether you are just entering winter, or already in a summery frame of mind——here's hoping your days are filled with love, peace & joy!

17 December 2015

Magnolia leaf AKA golden green

My color for the ROY G BIV color challenge, which is blogger's choice this month, is a sort of natural/neutral goldish-green, inspired by the magnolia leaves that accompanied some pale roses I found at the plant market recently. It feels like the right balance of nature with a nudge toward quiet "celebration" (at least this is what I am in the mood for in these pre-solstice days). The image at the beginning of the post shows a few similarly-colored things I gathered from around the studio & the kitchen, and the next one shows the original bouquet... (Magnolia leaf closeups momentarily.)

Over the last several days, the vase has traveled between the adjacent living room & studio, and I have had plenty of time to study the beautiful shapes of the magnolia leaves & those running along the stems of eucalyptus. I have long been a fan of eucalyptus——for its scent...for the way the leaves can appear blue or green, depending on the light...for the blush of pinkish-purple that tinges the stems & the edges of the leaves.

But I don't think I ever realized just how gorgeous magnolia leaves are. They are so sturdy, and I love the contrast of the smooth, shiny texture on the top, with the comparatively rough, matte one on the underside. The variegation/patterns that develop over time are so appealing...and those edges——you can feel the tension & the strength of the gorgeous curves, and their thickness catches the light wonderfully.


I had some fun experimenting with the leaves yesterday..."blind" typing on them (the magnolia leaves took the impressions of the letters beautifully well), cutting them into book "pages," and translating the spines into the spine of a book. I love how the thick edges, with their slight waviness, will lend a lovely presence to the book's profile. The leaves stood up to quite a bit of handling, and now I am minimally pressing some to make a book using my newfound knowledge...

Next are a few more details of some of the other "golden-green" items seen in the first image of this post. The golden-green Zespri Gold kiwis will also likely be of a similar color inside; I'm looking forward to finding out when I slice them (it's my first time eating anything other than the more usual, rather obsequious, ones!). And I'm hoping the pears will be perfectly ripe for our Pear Tarte Tartin to celebrate the winter solstice...


Well, this officially concludes what I think may be a four-year run of ROY G BIV with Jennifer & Julie. It's been great fun, Ladies! I have appreciated the encouragement to be present in Blogland semi-regularly.

On that note, after a considerable absence on Blogger mid-year, I had every intention of spending more time here, but Instagram seems to be taking my online time lately. I hope you will visit me over there if you get a chance——and please let me know if you have an Instagram account as well. I will see the rest of you here next time... And happy holidays to each of you!

19 November 2015

Considering pink fondly

This month's color for the ROY G BIV photo challenge (details at the end of the post) is pink. It's not a color I am particularly drawn to ~ or especially fond of ~ but I can't tell you how happy I have been working with these cheerful, bright peony images. After that horrible night in Paris last week, pink & all its associated "innocence" suddenly feels quite welcome.

The peony photos date to last May. I had taken them with this month's ROY in mind, but then completely forgot they existed until I stumbled across them a few weeks ago...a nice surprise in these ever-shorter days of fall. A miniature bouquet of peonies would have been perfect on the table with the dollhouse-sized china tea set (below), which we rediscovered when retrieving my daughter's dollhouse for my three-year-old niece recently. I must admit that I had an inordinate amount of fun arranging the furniture (as some of you may have seen on my Instagram page)...

Participants in the Corri La Vita run/walk event (devoted to raising awareness/money for breast cancer research & patients), wore a gorgeous, vibrant shade of pink this year...

And here are mockups for a few designs I've been working on in the studio...these were created with spring in mind. {The back-right one is also (hot) pink, but the color did not "translate" very well.}


My daughter's eighteenth birthday is tomorrow, and I have lots to do yet, but I will look forward to seeing everyone's pink over the weekend. Wishing you all happy pinkness in the meanwhile!

A few details in case you are not familiar with the
ROY G BIV  photo challenge ~ Artists Jennifer Coyne Qudeen 
& Julie Booth started this project a few years ago; each month
is devoted  to a different color of the rainbow. Since we have
already explored the seven "official" colors, we are spending the
rest of the year searching for some bonus colors. Everyone is
welcome to join in the search. Please visit Jennifer &
Julie's blogs for links to each month's participants.
 Guidelines are here.

15 October 2015

The color of frustration (!)

Don't get me wrong...I love a strong, slightly warm charcoal-y gray (sewing an entire wardrobe's-worth of clothes from a bolt of charcoal wool is a dream of mine)...but the gray skies & lack of light lately seem to be conspiring to drive me crazy when it comes to photo-taking. White becomes gray, warm whites come out cool, and the usual gorgeous, rich shadows are nowhere to be found; everything seems dull to me without the sunshine. And just when I finally started instagram-ing!

I could have simply pointed the camera at the sky at any given moment this week and ended up with a vast collection of images for this month's installation of the ROY G BIV photo challenge, but decided instead to take a journey through my photo archive. The first trio shows the light-play/shadows of glass tealight holders on a nicely textured paper...I liked how the resulting marks almost could have been created with a water-soluble pencil or paints.

The next trio features the Venetian lagoon on a sun-less day. The overcast sky created a distinctly gray effect/feeling; yet, compared with a "standard" gray, you can make out shades of blue, green & various neutrals mixed up in there. I suppose it's actually quite rare that a color is indeed pure, i.e. unaffected by the influence of its surroundings. And of course our different computer screens further impact how we interpret colors...

This last trio is of the paving stones in Piazza Pitti, just after a storm. There are few things more glorious (in my opinion) than the moment the sun emerges after a rainstorm, when shadows return and the city is clean & refreshed.

A few details in case you are not familiar with the
ROY G BIV  photo challenge ~ Artists Jennifer Coyne Qudeen 
& Julie Booth started this project a few years ago; each month
is devoted  to a different color of the rainbow. Since we have
already explored the seven "official" colors, we will spend the
rest of the some bonus colors. Everyone is welcome to join in
the search. Please visit Jennifer & Julie's blogs for links
to each month's participants. Guidelines are here.

09 October 2015

Morning into evening

As I first started putting together this post one day last week I quickly made a note to follow up on later: "the difference between morning & evening." The first image was taken early in the daya period when I normally do not even turn on my camera because there's no natural light in the apartment then—but the warm neutrals of the cappuccino & walnut toast on the wooden chopping board inspired me to record this peaceful moment of my morning.

Later in the day I photographed some plums in honor of a friend's birthday (below), and found the contrast between the morning/evening light & colors to be astonishing! I realized that the two snapshots did a good job capturing the difference between how I feel first thing versus later in the day. While my mornings tend to be quiet——more measured & contemplative——late afternoon & evening are when I seem to be in my element. I've actually always wondered if your favorite (or most "comfortable") part of the day is destined to be the time of your birth. Mine is recorded as 16:32, and I truly do feel most productive/inspired/hopeful/content around then (though, often, there's also a feeling of surprise that the hours have passed so quickly!).

This contrast-between-morning-&-evening concept feels particularly tangible to me at the moment, albeit on another level. As the minor injuries from a rather terrifying car accident I was in last week continue to heal, my mind keeps drifting to the "perfect" morning my parents & I were having as we made our way to their car on the outskirts of Florence. We managed to catch the bus before the public transportation strike began, stopped for a coffee at a lovely "bar," made a few purchases at the daily market in the piazza...

But barely ten minutes into our drive we entered a tunnel where a four-car crash injured eleven of us (some very seriously, though my parents & I were extremely fortunate). The sunshiny morning that began so well & easily, so full of plans, was instead spent in the darkness of the tunnel, waiting among the wreckage for ambulances that finally whisked us to an afternoon passed in the pronto soccorso. Not at all what we could have imagined or hoped for as we set out earlier. And yet, a complete 180 to the day seems so minor when you realize how lucky you are simply to be alive. It's amazing the "distance" that can be traveled from one end of the day to another, whether measured by sunshine or on a physical/emotional/mental level. Sometimes all of the above!

Wishing you all countless happy mornings & happy evenings...


It has been a while since I imported a post from
my original blog, but the return of plum seasonand
wool slipper "season"—made me think of an entry that
I wrote on the first day of October, way back in 2009.
Crazy how so many of the same little things repeat,
year in, year out, holding the years together.
{You can find it here.}

23 September 2015

Last-day-of-summer Coke bottles on the first day of fall

Fall arrived in Florence this morning (10:22 to be exact). And somehow the rain clouds must have known how aptly their presence would underscore the transition from one season to the next.

It was hard to imagine that my daughter & I were sipping ice-cold Cokes in the sunshine yesterday. Though tonic water is the only soda I usually drink, I do love those classic glass bottles with the irresistible "embossed" text, and buying a six-pack has become a bit of an annual tradition. Funny how just a few sips every once in a while can transport me back to the days of swing sets & bicycles...

When I spotted the empty bottles earlier today I was inspired to photograph this symbol of summer juxtaposed against the autumn-gray sky. And soafter an unexpectedly/unanticipatedly long absenceI return once again to Blogland.

As autumn routines resume, I hope to begin doing the rounds—saying hello & catching up on some of what I have missed these last several months. In the meanwhile, Happy Equinox to all of you :)

21 May 2015

Hydrangea Blues

Once again we have reached the third Thursday of the month, AKA time for the latest edition of the ROY G BIV photo challenge. May's color is blue, so it seemed like a perfect chance to get to know my blue hydrangea better. For years I've been writing about how I purchase one each spring, to place on the windowsill of our kitchen. But the current hydrangea in residence has also spent some time in the studio, where there's more light for photographing and space in which to explore & play a bit.

While blue is my "least favorite" color, I've come to realize that I do appreciate itimmenselyin nature...a sparkling blue sea, the thousand watercolor-like degrees of blue at twilight...and blue hydrangeas. I always marvel at just how many shades of blue the petals of a single hydrangea plant can display, especially as it "ages"...some blooms deepen to violet and ultimately they will take on a green tint. And in doing a little "dissecting" with the X-Acto knife, I realized how even the delicate stems that that support each four-petaled blossom are beautifully nuanced with blue & violet (you can see a smattering in the ceramic palette in the photo above).

I have also been working on a new collection of typography prints recently and thought I'd try out something inspired by blue (though I'm not sure that "hydrangea blue" is among the blue-tinged rainbow created by the colors I fixed at either end of my spectrum—it proved impossible to capture all of the blues that do exist!)...

On the note of varying shades of blue, by chance I came across the following quote in a book I was reading the other day. The observation was made after Earl Shorris drew a connection between a butterfly he had seen in the Mayan jungle a few months before coming across the entry for "blue" in a dictionary of the Maya language:

There are nine different words in Maya for the color blue in the comprehensive PorrĂșa Spanish-Maya dictionary but just three Spanish translations, leaving six butterflies that can be seen only by the Maya, proving beyond doubt that when a language dies six butterflies disappear from the consciousness of the earth.

 — Earl Shorris
"The Last Word"
Harper’s Magazine
August 2000


And now, back to the hydrangea... Here it is in the studio, where I have recently reorganized the studio tables to form a luxurious three meter-long working space (thickly covered, as you may be able to make out below)...

I also had fun taking apart some recycled organza tea bags from my stash and filling them with fresh hydrangea flowers...

And here are a few closeups... I especially like the layering of the edges of the petals—like sheets of wavy paper (Image 1), the effect of a flurry of "wings" (Image 3), and the way the overlapping of the petals seems to form extra petals between them when they're seen against the light (Image 4).

A few details in case you are not familiar with the ROY G BIV photo challenge... Artists Jennifer Coyne Qudeen & Julie Booth started this project a few years ago. Each month is devoted  to a different color of the rainbow, and once we explore
all of these we will move on to other colors later in the year. Everyone is welcome to join in the search. Please visit Jennifer & Julie's blogs for links
to each month's participants. Guidelines are here.

16 April 2015


An impromptu photo session with these cicorino verde "blossoms" coincided well with this month's ROY G BIV color: green. Looking to try something fresh & spring-like, I had chosen them as part of my latest grocery delivery, but wasn't quite sure what form the greens would take since there are so many varieties. I was delighted by what I found; nestled together were more than a dozen green "roses"...so out came the camera, before I even thought about how we'd be eating them...

Now I'm curious to visit Florence's rose garden to see if the roses there have started blooming...with the above-twenty (Celsius) temps we've had lately, I wouldn't be surprised!

Wishing you all happy surprises in your kitchens & gardens...

A few details in case you are not familiar with the ROY G BIV photo challenge... Artists Jennifer Coyne Qudeen & Julie Booth started this project a few years ago. Each month is devoted  to a different color of the rainbow, and once we explore
all of these we will move on to other colors later in the year. Everyone is welcome to join in the search. Please visit Jennifer & Julie's blogs for links
to each month's participants. Guidelines are here.

01 April 2015

Orange tulip petal salad

As I began putting together this post last weekend it occurred to me that it might be fun to save it for April Fool's Day...the so-called "orange" tulips have certainly ignited the kind of lighthearted play that you might encounter on the first of April. To begin with, you may have noticed that the tulips throughout this post are not orange, as suggested by the title, but actually red.

When I brought them home from the plant market, however, the emergent flowers were distinctly orange. Over the next few days, though, as the tulips blossomed into a tumbling mass, the bright orange deepened to a rich red. But by the time we got some sun and I finally had a chance to photograph them, the petals were shamelessly falling from the stems. Even though my photographic plans to capture the vase of tulips didn't turn out how I'd hoped, I couldn't resist having a little fun with what remained of them.

Which is how the tulip petal "salad" shown in the first photo came about. The blouse-y petals were so luxurious and colorful that I couldn't resist framing them in our big yellow bowl——and then "serving" them up on a plate (which is how I presented them to my daughter as a joke one lunchtime).

But it turns out the joke is on me. I got to thinking...maybe tulip petals are actually edible? And, indeed, I discovered some very interesting notes on the history of tulip edibility at Eat the Weeds... And this article from The Guardian offers enough detail aimed at the modern cook that I might consider including a tulip petal salad on the menu some day.


Another good thing about the disintegration of the tulips was that it inspired me to examine the individual parts that make up a tulip. And my subsequent researching & experimenting led to a bit of a biology refresher... Some of you may remember that the anther + filament = the stamen (male reproductive organ)...and that the female equivalent, called the carpel, is composed of a stigma that's supported by a style, which also allows the pollen passage to the ovary. A few of these words still sound familiar to me, but the full "equations" have certainly become fuzzy since the last time I studied biology.

I also found some new ways of considering tulips, like the carpel bouquet below, which emerged once the petals had fallen... While at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the vase of full-blown tulips, I was equally drawn to the simplicity of what was left behind. And I discovered that one stem bore a combination leaf-petal (seen in the glass measuring container, below, as well as in the story strips toward the end of the post).


While studying the gorgeous, deeply purple stamens I was inspired to see what happened when I immersed a few in a scant amount of water: it didn't take long for the liquid to turn a lovely shade of violet (which reminded me of a purple-tinged indigo somehow). By the following day, instead of growing more intense, both the "ink" and the anthers/filaments themselves had lost much of their pigment, and the resulting wash was essentially a pale gray. This is one "experiment" I would like to repeat properly now that I know the color undergoes such an evolution...

Progression of "ink" color as it faded...

A few drops of water that fell on my sketch journal mixed with the stamen "dust"

You may be able to make out some of the stamens at the base of these petals

A few bits & pieces collected in glass tea light holders


It has been a while since I created some story strips, so I tried a double-page spread of stems & carpels (+ the combo leaf-petal), with the fuzzy yellow stigmas as punctuation. Unfortunately I've had to wait yet a few more days in order to photograph them with help from the sun, so the stems are on the verge of shriveling. The stamens would have also made a useful "component," but they are now beyond salvageable. Another future experiment perhaps...


To finish, here's one more shot of the tulip petal salad that brought me so much delight and led me on this playful path...

Happy April to everyone!

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