Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In the Holiday Spirit . . . Really?

So I started my holiday decorating this past weekend; somewhat of a first for me to start so early . . . I usually let Dec. 1st mark the start of the season. I tell myself that I like to keep the holidays separate from one another, letting Halloween stretch into the first week of November, then Thanksgiving gets it's proper due well before Christmas gets going. But this separation is just a fallacy, as noted by the many Halloween-themed ornaments hung from our tree each year (I do love my Halloween)!

But this year's different. Trick or Treat was delayed to Nov. 10th due to Hurricane Sandy and an early snowstorm, so Halloween lost some of it's luster this year. Sad - I didn't even trot out the bewitching table display. Thanksgiving was very nice, spent with friends, but with Bill being a self-proclaimed Christmas-in-July person, I couldn't deny him his decorations a moment longer.

So here's a few snapshots of some of our decorations. I like to make little scenes from our assortment of vintage and other decorations;  in this case, size doesn't matter.  Tiny polar bears dwarfed by giant Christmas children mailing letters to Santa? Sure!  Mini elves astride a monstrous moose? Why not,  I say.

The elves are particularly disturbing, but fascinating at the same time. There seemed to have been a time (late fifites?) when plastic scary-faced elves ruled. They appear to be making a come back these days, what with elves on shelves, elves portrayed by Will Ferrell (I know what you're thinking, but this movie is now a classic in our house. Really,. OK, so it's no Lincoln, but we watch it every year. Of course, we watch Tod Browning's Freaks every year too, so you take your chances with our movie recommendations).  Anyway, elves in small doses can be a good thing.

 So, I hope to share more of our Christmas decorations in the coming weeks. Let the games begin! We're just getting started:-)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Greeting Cards Are Here!!!!

The first shipment of my original greeting cards have arrived - I'm so excited!!!! They feature both ink and pencil drawings of dogs and some of my digital art featuring flowers and autumn images of gourds and pumpkins.

I will be selling these greeting cards at the Stratford Fall Festival, held in Stratford, CT on the Paradise Green on Saturday, October 6th from 10:00am to 6:00pm. I will once again also be drawing pet portraits, and Bill will be doing his fabulous caricatures of people and pets at the event, which benefits S.T.A.R.S., the Stratford Animal Rescue Society. There will be tons of vendors, and lots of stuff for both pets and their owners to partake, including live music, costume contests,  a photo contest, etc. If you live in the area, and love animals, it's really an event not to be missed. Be sure to stop by our tent!

If you are not able to make the event, but would like to purchase any of these cards, they are available (as well as many other items, with new updates frequently) in our online store:


As always, thank for your support:-)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Groundhog Day All Over Again . . .

Speaking of pests in the garden, we have another new arrival this summer - a groundhog. Some weeks back, I went out to the garden to harvest some squash, only to find our Swiss chard looking like a lawn mower had run it over. It was eaten to the ground. Upon further inspection, the collards looked pretty pitiful too, chewed down to the stems. My first thought was deer. Granted, we live in a suburban neighborhood, but we are bordered by a large golf course, and patches of woods. I have seen deer within a block of our house, so I figured it's only a matter of time.
The next day, the squash itself was untouched, but their leaves were definitely nibbled upon. And the cherry tomatoes had been smacked around, dropping some to the ground, little teethmarks as evidence. This was no deer.
By the third day, Bill was keeping a lookout (with camera in-hand) to see if anything ventured out during the day. AHA! It didn't take long. In bright daylight, there he was. I answered the phone at work; it was Bill. "We have a beaver!" he excitedly tells me. There is a road about a mile away called Beaver Dam Road, so it is a possibility, I thought. "Look at his tail - is it furry or flat?" I tell  him. He tells me it's hard to tell, but he's got photographic evidence.
Only The Tomato Plants Are Hanging On . . .
That night, we review the picture, consult with a friend, and still can't ascertain for sure if it's a beaver or a groundhog. Whatever it is, it's HUGE. Further sightings over the next few days make us pretty certain it is a groundhog. A very happy groundhog, cavorting in the backyard at all hours, no doubt rejoicing at the all-you-can-eat-buffet he has stumbled upon. He's really cute, you know, so it's hard to hold a grudge. We tried fox urine granules, supposedly a sure-fire way to deter them. It appeared he never met a fox he didn't like, because he was back the very next day, chomping away. Only our appearance coming out the door deters him; he scampers away to wherever it is he lives and awaits his next chance to dine.
 Now a few weeks later, the squash is gone, the kale gone, the cucumber vines died as a result of his indiscriminate digging. Only the tomatoes are hanging in there.
Looks like a fence (complete with chicken wire and sunk into the ground) is on the drawing board for next year's garden project. I suppose we're lucky; we made it four years without any major pest damage. Hopefully we won't be re-living groundhog day again next summer.

The Heartbreak of Bagworms

 This has been a somewhat strange summer in the garden; hotter than usual, and it has brought it's share of pests not seen before. Back in July, one of my neighbor's beautiful arborvitae started to decline quite rapidly.  Around the same time, I noticed some very small pinecone-like objects hanging off said arborvitae, seemingly spinning in the wind, almost like little Christmas ornaments, made of the very leaves themselves. Knowing these trees don't generate pinecones, I did some research. Sure enough, a quick search of the internet revealed the problem - bagworms.
The little "bags" that I saw actually contain these caterpillars, hanging from the branches by their own silk threads. This pest can quickly decimate an arborvitae, as it has done here. This is the first time I've seen this pest. It can also affect junipers and pines. Often, it will concentrate on one plant, leaving others in close vicinity somewhat untouched.
In July I applied the organic, biological control BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) which is a bacteruim known to kill the caterpillars, but which is safe for birds, animals and other insects which are not caterpillars (be careful near known butterfly colonies, as it will kill them). It appeared most had died after the application (as the spinning I noticed earlier was not the wind, but their own wriggling - nasty!), but short of hand-picking all of the "ornaments" off the tree, there is still the threat of a new infestation next year. This is because when allowed to mature and drop to the ground, each of the bags can contain literally hundreds of offspring for next year's crop.

Here is a close-up of the bags themselves. The best time to spray BT is before they get larger than a half or three-quarter inches long (even better, in May - June, before they appear). These have matured to a length of almost two inches long. At this point (Aug/Sept), the only control is to hand-pick them off the trees.
The jury's out on whether this arborvitae will survive; the others adjacent to it only had small infestations, so they have a good chance, especially with an application of BT next spring before they are attacked again. So if you're out in your garden, and see these bags, start pulling them off. It's recommended that you burn them, but I'm not a big fan of fires in the garden(!). So I just dropped mine in a bucket of water laced with organic insecticidal soap. Good riddance, bagworms! Hope I don't see you next year!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The "Gang of Seven"

Here's the latest pet portrait I've had the pleasure to create; one of my most ambitious yet! It was a surprise birthday gift from a husband to his wife comprising of all the pets they've shared their lives with together. A few reasons why this one was so successful - I was given plenty of nice, clear source photos to work from, and given a background story of each of the pets, so I had an idea of their personality as I created the composition. It's so important when commissioning a portrait to provide a variety of pictures best representing your pet.  Of course, these guys were all so adorable, it's hard to go wrong:-)
I was also pleased to be able to draw so many cats; as I live in a kitty household myself, I don't get to draw them enough! The mediums used were ink and inktense color pencils, my favorite go-tos these days.  As you can see, pet portraits don't just have to represent one or two pets; what a lovely idea to combine all the pets you've owned in a lasting keepsake for years to come.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Zazzle Store Featuring Equus Tattoous!

I've had the privilege to have had my artwork represented through many different avenues throughout the years (including t-shirt designs, sculpture exhibits, commissioned portraits etc).
I'm happy to say that you can now purchase my artwork directly through our new Zazzle store:


In addition to clothing, there are many other items available (mugs, mousepads, IPhone and IPad covers, etc). We will be adding new items/new artwork all the time, including that by my husband and fellow artist Bill (www.partycartoons.com) so please check back frequently.  Zazzle offers a huge variety of products, so if you'd like to purchase a design featured on a different product, please let us know.

 "Equus Tattoous" is the first in a series of designs that are an homage to old-school tattoo style, combined with my love of all things "horsey." It was created using acrylic paint and inktense pencil.

We will be featuring a variety of art, including illustration, photography, mixed media, and digital artwork. Check it out!!!!! More to come . . .

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Connecting With Pet Portraits

I recently created this pet portrait of two special little dogs; ink and watercolor pencils were the mediums I used. I was unable to deliver the final artwork to the owner; my husband graciously did in my place. He called me soon after presenting the portrait; the owner was so overjoyed he actually cried(!) It turns out one of the pups had recently passed away.  I was so glad to be able to create this special remembrance of his pets. They really do become part of the family, and we mourn their loss just as deeply.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Boothe Park Vintage Car Show - Is That a Hemi in There?

Today was Opening Day at Boothe Park in Stratford, CT: http://boothememorialpark.org/
In addition to the usual festivities, this year they included a fantastic car show. Hundreds of vintage autos filled the park. Here are a few of my favorite images. My interest in these cars was predicated by a recent Sunday afternoon spent vegetating in front of the TV, where I stumbled upon a channel devoted to (that day) vintage muscle cars.  That, and an episode of Antiques Roadshow where they featured beautiful, art-deco Lalique hood ornaments. Sweet. After about four hours of viewing My Classic Car: Mopar Muscle Cars, you too can become an expert on Hemi motors and the glory days of Mopar performance parts.

In addition to the expected, there were also some fun cars. This one was one of my favorites:
The lawn chairs were a nice touch. It also had a rotary phone, toaster and ash tray in the engine compartment - I kid you not. All of this prompted us to ask if our 1998 Ford Escort can qualify for the Early American License plate. If you saw it, you would agree, it looks pretty old - peeling paint, a couple of dents here and there. Sadly, we have 11 years to go before it can wear the badge.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Let us give nature a chance; she knows her business better than we do. --Michael Eyquen de Montaigne

I was very fortunate this Spring to receive a wonderful gift of three dwarf pear trees from my brother Jim and sister-in-law Ashlee in Atlanta. Bartlett, Anjou and Bosc are the varieties, and they arrived bare-root the first week of April. As I have limited room for any more trees in the lawn, I potted them up (the dwarfs are suited for container planting) and dutifully waited for them to leaf out. Slowly but surely, the Bartlett and Anjou started to sprout tiny leaves within the first two weeks. The Bosc? Nothing. I scratched the surface of the bark to check for signs of life; and sure enough, the Bosc was alive. Give it another week or so, I thought. Nothing. The other two trees continued to thrive, with new growth each week. Same planting conditions, soil, pot size - the Bosc? Nada.
Bartlett Pear Tree 5/16/2012
Anjou Pear Tree 5/16/2012
By the first week of May, I'm starting to give up on the Bosc. What to do? Google it, I thought - so I type "Why won't my pear tree leaf out?" Sure enough, other people have the same issue, albeit with other fruit trees too, like apples. My heart sinks as I read comment after comment, basically saying "If it's been that long, your tree is probably toast."  Again, I scratch to bark - it's still green underneath. Damn you pear tree - GROW! I vowed not to give up.

Sunday was a beautiful, hot day by May standards. Sun shining, I peruse the pears. Out of habit, I approach the Bosc, expecting the same result as usual. Miracle of Miracles! Are those tiny leaf buds I see? Yes indeed - the Bosc has emerged from hibernation!!!!
IT'S ALIVE!!!!!!
Bosc Pear Tree 5/16/2012
Bosc Pear Tree - Close-Up of Leaf Buds 5/16/2012
 Once again, nature never ceases to amaze me. I still don't quite know why this tree took so long to leaf out compared to the others. And when did I become such a fruit gardener anyway? Figs, blueberries, now pears? Somehow I think I may have a tough road ahead, maintaining my organic standards, as fruits are notoriously prone to pests (hear that, Mr. Rabbit?). I'm up for the challenge, however.  Bring it on! Meanwhile - the lesson here? You can't believe everything you read on the internet:-)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fig Tree Revisited

If you happen to remember my post from February, I had a dilemma about what to do with my potted fig tree overwintering in the basement. It had started to sprout in earnest late February; by late March it had huge chartreuse sprouts, some over a foot long. My alarm stemmed from how I was going to get this ever-expanding plant (which weighs about 50 lbs in the pot) up my basement stairs and through two normal-size doorways. The other problem was that this could not happen until I was fairly certain the possibility of frost had passed.

In April, I visited the garden center I purchased it from; they actually still had a similar fig that they overwintered in their greenhouse. In a normal winter, they wouldn't have expected their fig to survive; but this was no normal winter. To their surprise, it too had started to sprout (not as much as my over-achiever, however). They instructed me to cut off these huge shoots (the horror!) and not bring it back out until mid-end April at the earliest (and be prepared to cover it on any frosty nights).
So I took the plunge and hacked off those tender shoots. it suffered no ill effects, and bought me some more time into April. Plus, I could now get it through the doorway.

So here we are in mid-May; the fig is on the deck and appears to be happy as a clam. The new shoots are a much darker, healthier green; obviously those neon shoots while in the basement were not going to make it anyway.  Moral of the story - I think I'm getting braver at this tough love for plants; sometimes (to quote Nick Lowe) it's better to be "cruel to be kind" even in the plant world. But maybe I need to lay off the pruners for awhile; I broke my Felcos today pruning some junipers . . .oh well.

Happy Mother's Day 2012!

The weather here was beautiful this weekend after a rain-filled week; highs near 80 degrees and plenty of sun. This iris was still a tight bud yesterday; today however it unfurled in spectacular bloom.  Hope you were able to enjoy some time in your own garden.  I'm looking forward to visiting some of the public gardens in my area in the coming weeks, to watch spring unfold and then ease into the summer months. . .

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Another One Bites the Dust . . .

This is the time of year in New England where the American Robin migrates back to our area to raise it's young and spend the summer months among us.  In fact, they are the state bird of Connecticut, being so plentiful here.  I'm not so sure they are the best representative of our fair state, however.

Don't get me wrong, they are among the most colorful of our backyard birds. With their orangey-red breast feathers they are easily recognizable as they search for worms and grubs in the spring lawn. The trouble starts when they decide to wander out into the street. Frankly, they don't seem to have evolved in the there's-a-car-coming-so-I-need-to-get-out-of-the-way department.  That appears to have been the fate of this poor bird, found on my front lawn by the road's edge. I have seen too many robins meet their fate on local roadsides, much more than other bird species, that it makes me wonder how they stack up in the bird-intelligence hierarchy.  Not so high, I'm thinking. Bird banders have found that only 25% of young Robins survive the first year. Maybe this is why?

To date, I have not directly been involved in the untimely death of a robin, but I have come very close, more times than I care to remember. They truly seem to have no clue of the impending danger as cars come hurtling towards them. Are they so engrossed is guessing where their next worm will come from that they have no time to consider their own safety?  I once watched, in horror, as a robin strolled across a local back road as a car came straight toward it. The driver slowed down, noting the bird, and I'm absolutely sure she thought that robin was going to fly out of harm's way at the last moment. It didn't. I will forever remember the look of horror on that woman's face as her car and the robin became one on that little piece of asphalt that day. Not a pretty sight.

So I ask that you be extra vigilant, now that the robins are back, so you don't unwittingly become party to the passing of one of these little birds. As for the bird in the photo, I will use the few images I took of his impressive feathers for reference in a project I'm working on. So in a way, he donated his little bird body to art.  Maybe I should have given it to science, however, so they could study his little bird brain to figure out why they don't seem so smart when it comes to cars.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today my garden gnome is masquerading as a leprechaun. Gnomes, elfs, leprechauns - they're all sprites, right???
And everyone's Irish on March seventeenth :-) So have a great holiday!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Over-Wintering A Fig Tree in the Basement

Last October, I purchased a fig tree for $20 at an end-of-season sale at a local garden center. I have never grown figs here in the Northeast; my last foray into figs was when I lived in Florida. But at twenty bucks, I figured the pot alone was worth probably double that, so I took the plunge.

After squeezing it into the backseat of the Ford Escort with my fingers crossed it would survive the trip home without breaking it's tender branches (wouldn't you know my husband had the bigger car that day), I made it home OK and kept it on the deck for another month or so, until the first few frosts hit.

Next move - to get it into the basement to over-winter. Figs are not hardy to stay outdoors all winter here (although my new zone 7a classification may now change this). Anyway, it was a 2-person job to get this baby in the basement. But Bill and I managed to get it down the stairs with the help of a hand-truck. We deposited it in a dark corner where it sat for over a month, until I remembered it was down there (!) and probably after an expletive or two, I went down to water it. As I said before, I make a lot of this gardening stuff up as I go. . . . but it seemed fine. So I left it another month, and watered it again, giving it a good soaking. I figured I was simulating the non-existent snowfall we should have had this year.

So, much to my surprise, this weekend I go down to take a peek (I actually remembered the poor thing was down there this time) and to my surprise/delight, it is starting to sprout little fig leaves from some of it's branches! Here is the photographic evidence:

While I'm cautiously optimistic we will have figs this summer, I now have to figure out when it's safe to move it back outdoors.  I don't want to jeopardize the current progress being made. Any suggestions from my gardening friends???

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A New Project In the Works . . .

Here's a little teaser of a new project I might be doing in the coming months; more details to come!!!

Moving Up in the World . . .

While we have admittedly had a mild winter here in the Northeast, I don't quite know how to take the news that my garden has now moved into the USDA plant hardiness Zone 7a. I'm assuming this is due to global warming; so I am conflicted over being disturbed at this news and excited at the same time (maybe I can finally plant some crape myrtles)!!!! Anyway, they have revised the zones, so  maybe it's time to do a little experimentation with new plants. Check to see if your zone has changed here:

I am starting to get cabin fever; I miss working in my garden. I am curious to see what Spring brings after this unusually warm winter. The crocuses are already blooming; the daffodils are poking their leaves through the mulch. The Dutch irises have had their greenery above ground since the fall; it didn't seem to bother them last year as they made it through the Winter from Hell, with all it's snow piled high, so I have high hopes they will make it through this time as well. Some new additions planted last Autumn in the garden include oriental poppies and blue baptisia.

I can't help but think of my peonies at the first mention of Spring; while I will have to wait until May to see them bloom, it's never to early to eagerly await the first bud swells and the promise of things to come. Here are a few photos of my tree peony blooms from years past:

One of the best places I have found to purchase tree peonies and learn about these beautiful plants is right here in Connecticut, called Cricket Hill Garden:


It's an awesome place to visit; the tiered peony gardens are a sight to behold in Spring and early Summer. Plus they ship as well . . .
Time to go - the garden catalogues are calling; I think it's time to check out those crape myrtles after all!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Year, New Art!

Happy New Year,  readers! Things are settling in after the holidays, and I'm looking forward to a 2012 filled with lots more artwork, photos, gardening exploits etc. I'm planning some nice projects for the spring - more about that to come in the next few months. I may have to expand this blog to include remodeling forays as well; there's always a lot to be done in an old house!

Here's a pet portrait I created last month for a client who commissioned it to give to her friend as a Christmas present; it's a portrait of his beloved standard poodle, Duke. Pastels were the medium I used this time around; I felt they would best represent the texture of Duke's fluffy poodle fur. I had a blast creating it. Hope you like it!