4th Annual Fantastic Fall Fangirl Frolic

I have always wanted to host a group of 12 or more in this house to see if it could be done. This year’s Fangirl’s weekend was the first time I ever pulled it off, and it couldnt have been better!

I'm the tall one. Bailey the Leonberger on the right

The weather cooperated beautifully and allowed for luches on the deck, a bonfire circle, great riverside dog walks and plein aire painting.

Team Cook and Team Cleanup did an amazing job keeping everyone well fed and watered all weekend. The final count was 12 overnighters, two day trippers, four dogs and one cat. We only needed 2 air mattresses!

Ari the Italian Hound of Love and her human

What did we do? Laugh, hug, tell stories, gossip, share creative ideas, write, draw, cook, wash dishes, sweep, play with pets, walk in the splendid fall weather, laugh more, hug more, dance around the fire, eat marshmallows toasted to charcoal perfection.

fanartists hard at work

It couldn’t have been better. Thank you everyone for making this event truly the Fantastic Fall Fangirl’s Frolic.Save the Date: October 19-21, 2012

Getting Ready for Creative Camp!

I am expecting a few friends for the weekend. Twelve, to be exact. Why would I volunteer to have 12 houseguests, you ask?

Well, imagine a weekend pajama party with the most creative, intelligent, generous friends, all met via internet, all willing to travel to my home in the Swamp Forest and put up with me and my pets.

We’ll share our art and writing, play outside (hike by the river, backyard bonfire), cook and eat delicious, healthy food, sing, laugh and laugh some more.

It’s the 4th Annual Fangirl’s Retreat, back by popular demand. What started with a few local Harry Potter fans in 2008 has grown to include fans of  not just Harry Potter but Sherlock Holmes (all versions), British dramas, and numerous TV series and movies. Folks are coming from all over the east coast.

Several of us are signed up for NaNoWriMo, and there will be more artists this year. Stay tuned for creativity unbound!

Today in the Garden – Surprising Rewards

Every time I visit the garden, I am rewarded, even when I dread what I might find.

I’ve been neglecting my garden. There, I’ve said it, and can heave a sigh of relief. The end of summer was terribly disappointing, as my tomato crop failed due to an aggressive wilt. Then we had a month of deluging rains. I confess I fall into a despondent state, don’t even want to look at my failure as a farmer. And it’s easy to avoid since it’s at the community garden, not at home.

Well, imagine my surprise when I came home with a heavy bag of food from yesterday’s visit! And not only that; this striking creature, the Argiope or common garden spider, who I had noticed in August, is still on duty, only she’s grown enormously. I’ve scaled the photo to about the accurate size — I’ve never seen one so big!

You may know that I have life-long arachnophobia, and I have worked diligently to educate myself about these useful and amazing creatures. I’m proud that in recent years I see them and feel admiration more than terror. I can really enjoy this wild thing who’s home is in my garden. She’s spun her web from a jalapeno plant to the stalk of a deceased tomato, and there she will stay until her work is done.

I recently learned that the signature zig-zag in her web is made by the much smaller male. I wondered… it’s an interesting and artful addition to the weaver’s art.

So last night I feasted on a salad rich with red leaf lettuce, arugula, yellow beans, radishes, the last red tomato and scallions. The stir fry was purple potatoes with sweet and hot peppers, onions and mushrooms. Only the mushrooms came from the store.

After harvesting, I cleared the old bean vines from half of one bed in preparation for garlic planting next month. All in all, a very satisfying visit.

Goldfinch and sunflower

Here’s a painting recently completed for my neighbors, to celebrate their 1st Anniversary.

The painting was purchased and a fundraising auction earlier this year, and I worked with them to create a bird painting that had special meaning.

Both K and her husband S live in close contact with the natural world. They keep chickens, raise award winning garlic, grow most of their own produce. S teaches organic gardening. They plant these flowers especially for the goldfinches and enjoy watching them from their porch.

Both of them love to watch the goldfinches, especially in late summer when the flowerheads on sunflower, coneflower and rudbekia are ripe for the snacking. The goldfinch is at its brightest plumage, too. Now that the air is cooler, the finches have lost their brilliant colour and are greying down for winter.

It was a pleasure to make a painting like this while watching these birds each day in the garden. I hope K & S enjoy it in their home as much as I did making it for them.

art from Mountain Retreat


My week on the Rapidan River allowed much time for contemplation via drawing and painting.

One notable feature of the landscape there is the many dead hemlock trees. The area we stayed was formerly a grove of massive Hemlocks which were all killed in the 90s by an invasive insect.  Now you will see the skeletons of these trees standing ghostly, or mostly fallen giants. The standing trees are like white bleached bones, while the fallen trunks have a warm sienna colour.

Fallen Hemlock - brush pen
Rapidan riffle - brush, pen and watercolour
Rapidan rocks and logs
Mill Prong stream - H2O soluble graphite


Glee on a rock - watercolour
The Source - watercolour


OIL ON PANEL – unfinished

Rapidan River - plein-aire oil on canvas panel