Watercolor Journal: And the Tree Was Happy

Photo Mar 02, 10 19 08 AM2.jpg

This tree drifted onto Moonstone Beach at some point.  As I tried to get to know it, I wondered what it’s story was.  If driftwood could talk…  Where did it come from?  Did kids climb in it’s branches?  What animals lived in it?  Was it near the edge of a bluff, hanging on until a big storm finally eroded it’s grip?  Where was that?   Not even sure, what kind of tree it is, but now it is nicely wedged in the sand, and makes a nice place to sit.  Someone has carved initials and a heart on it. 

My name was carved alongside my husband’s on the trunk of our Buckeye tree, by Gary long ago.  It shaded our house and front yard for many years.  It held the special “mist heads” which kept the ferns cool during the hot summers.  Of course, someday that tree will die, or be cut down to make room for something else.  Then it will be useful for firewood, mulch, or a stump to sit on.

At home (19).JPG

I relate to the driftwood in my painting.  I used to be Gary’s wife for a long time.  There were a million things to do in that role, and I loved it.  Now I have new things to do, and I enjoy them too.  Maybe you’ve read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  Sometimes I see myself as the “tree,” wanting to be useful in new ways, and sometimes I’m the “boy,” looking for a comfortable place to sit, and enjoy the view. 

From "The Giving Tree"

"I wish that I could give you something... but I have nothing left. I am an old stump. I am sorry..."
"I don't need very much now," said the boy, "just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired."
"Well," said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could,
"well, an old stump is a good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest."
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy.”

At home (5).JPG

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”  Philippians 4:4

A Tribute to the Artist (well sort of)

1966 approx Dads painting B.jpg

This Sunday, my dad, Bill Ransom, would have been 100.  It seems like a good time for a tribute.  Well, sort of…I’ll let you decide if it’s a tribute or not. 

You’ll need a bit of background to understand.

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My mom was an artist.  She painted, and her main subjects were landscapes. 

She was really good.







Dad was a photographer.  It started as a hobby when he was a teenager, then continued as an adult.  My dad, had a career as a designer in the aerospace industry, but photography was always a part of his life and a side business.

He was a great photographer.


My parents were each other’s biggest fans. 

But one day, in 1966, (I was 13), Dad came home from work early, with a big canvas, paint brushes and an artist’s beret.  To the best of my memory, it went something like this:

Mom (surprised): “What is THIS?”

Dad (grinning): “You’re not the only one in this family who can paint.”

Mom (with skeptical tone): “Are you sure about that?”

Dad (confidently): “I have my scene already picked out, and I’m ready to start.” 

Mom (laughing, rolling eyes): “Ok, you do your best.” 

Mom, Paul, and Laurie: (laughing and more laughing)

So for several weeks, when Dad came home from work each day, he went to work on his painting.  (It was a view of the Grand Teton Mt. range with the Snake River in the foreground.)  This did not go on without mocking and playful teasing from my mom, (and my brother and I too).  Dad dished it right back with confident talk, and a flourish of the brush! 

1966 approx Dads painting A.jpg

As the painting progressed, we all realized it was actually turning out good, but following mom’s lead, we never let on to Dad.  When dad finished his painting, he framed it and hung it over their bed.  It moved with them to three other homes, and was placed above their headboard for 48 years.  With every move, Mom made comments about there "not being room" for it at the new house, but it always ended up in its "place of honor" in the master bedroom. 

And for 48 years, it was the source of MANY private jokes, and bantering.  Dad smiled and teased back every time and we NEVER did tell him that we in truth liked the painting and admired his talent.  It was his one and only painting and quite amazing actually.  I had always hoped to tell him some day that I really did like it (though I’m sure he knew).  I never told him, but maybe that’s more fitting anyway. 

I miss my parents.  I miss their love of the beauty of God’s creation, and desire to capture it on canvas and film.  I miss the “inside” family jokes, the hilarious things that happened on some of our vacations.  I miss their adventurous spirits.  I miss their devotion to each other.  But I DON’T miss dad’s painting, because it is hanging above the headboard in my guest bedroom.  When I see it a smile forms in my heart. 

Good job, Dad!

A Little Gem in Stepney

On Sunday, June 19, my daughter, son-in-law, and I were in London, mid-way through a trip of a life-time.  We were traveling with a group from their church through 5 countries looking specifically at the Reformation period of Church History.  I have SO much to say about this trip, and am getting ready to share photos and thoughts with you, but you know how it is when there’s something that just won’t keep?  I have been chomping at the bit to share one particular memory with you.  It was not a part of the scheduled tour, but it was a thrill for me personally and I was inspired to paint as soon as I got home.

St. Dunstan's Church, Stepney

Sunday, June 19, 2016

One of many descents into the Tube.

One of many descents into the Tube.

My eyes filled with grateful tears, when descending the escalator to the London “Tube.”  With our very busy tour schedule, and the remoteness of this little church, I was so happy that things were working out.  It would take about an hour of underground (the London “subway” or Tube) , bus and walking.  I’m not sure I could have found it on my own, but thankfully, Jon and April joined me for free-time that day.  I will always be grateful to Jon for making it possible. 

A little church, in Stepney Green, at the East part of London, and just a few blocks from the Thames, was our destination.  From 1640 – 1646, Jeremiah Burroughs was preaching here, for the last 6 years of his life.  He was called “The Morningstar of Stepney” back then, and 350 years later, his most well-known work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, became one of my husband’s favorite books.  Burroughs was a faithful Puritan pastor and member of the Westminster Assembly, for more info, click HERE. or for more detail... HERE

But, back to my story…

It had been a very full day; church in the morning, a 2 hour walking tour in the St. Paul’s Cathedral area, the Tower of London, and a quick look into the British Library “Treasures” room before it closed.  Interspersed were meals, eaten on the run, and multiple Tube and taxi rides.  (Thankfully, all museums in London are free, so you can duck in and out, and not feel ripped off.)  Walked a few blocks to grab some dinner, which we ate on the run, now aware that the evening would soon be upon us, and we still had a ways to go to find St. Dunstan’s Church. 

With dinner in hand we discovered that the Underground route we needed was closed. We had to go a round-a-bout way, (still with dinner in hand), sharing the most crowded underground ride yet.  We were literally inches away from everyone, including a drunk guy who was nearly falling over on us as we stood holding on to the poles.  (no such thing as "personal space")  He was intent on telling us how we Americans should vote this fall.  So funny!  I felt relief when the doors opened at our stop.  Next, a bus ride, and then a walk of 5 blocks through a quiet, residential neighborhood.  I was so thankful to have Jon with us, as it was a bit lonely feeling. 

St. Dunstan's and All Saints Church, Stepney, London, England

St. Dunstan's and All Saints Church, Stepney, London, England

And then, rounding a corner, there it was.  St. Dunstan’s Church in the midst of a beautiful, churchyard of green grass, big trees, and old tombstones.   It was not crowded-in by high-rise office buildings, like so many of the churches we’d seen.  The gate was open, though the church door was locked.  There were some people walking their dogs and a few men sitting on a grave, talking with their friends.  It was a very quiet scene.  This church dates back to the 7th century, but most of the current building was built in the 15th century.  (some parts go back to 1200)  Amazingly, the building had survived the Blitz of WWII and with minimal changes over the last 500 years,  it is almost entirely the same building that Burroughs preached in, rag stone rubble, limestone trim, gargoyles, and all. (*more info at end of post) 

How Gary would have loved this place.  He would have enjoyed seeing where one of his heroes preached, and walking around looking at the gravestones.  But, of course, he's actually WITH Jeremiah, in the presence of the Savior they both love so I won't feel sorry for him.

I love looking over the notes Gary wrote to himself, to see what was important to him.  

I love looking over the notes Gary wrote to himself, to see what was important to him.  

I am grateful for Jeremiah Burroughs.  Gary, sat under his training, every time he returned to "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment." I believe Gary's peaceful acceptance of life's ups and downs was largely due to this book.  Gary did not particularly love reading, as it was not easy for him, and there were few books he read, but let me share a couple of things he underlined in the book.  Maybe you'll be blessed by them too.

"Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition."  J.B.

"Contentment is a sweet, inward heart-thing.  It is a work of the Spirit indoors." J.B.

"When you are in a ship at sea which has all it's sails spread with a full gale of wind, and is swiftly sailing, can you make it stand still by running up and down in the ship?  No more can you make the providence of God alter and change its course with your vexing and fretting; it will go on with power, do what you can.  Do but understand the power and efficacy of providence and it will be a mighty means helping you to learn the lesson of contentment." J.B.

"So this is the art of contentment: not to seek to add to our circumstances, but to subtract from our desires." Jeremiah Burroughs

"So this is the art of contentment: not to seek to add to our circumstances, but to subtract from our desires." Jeremiah Burroughs

I'm glad contentment was important to Gary.  He would be the first to say it did not come easy to him but he really wanted to trust the Lord in every area of life, especially the rough patches.  He prayed to have a trusting heart often and God answered that prayer by making the big trials in our life so much easier, and enriching.  The girls and I have read it too, and I'm going through it again, because I'm struggling with a greedy heart lately, and contentment in God's plan for me is the answer to greed!  

A few hours earlier on this day, I had stood in a very, very long line to see the extremely valuable, and highly guarded Crown Jewels, in the Tower of London. They were amazing.  The royal crowns and scepters, are decorated with HUGE and beautiful diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and more. British royalty are honored with the biggest and best gems in the world.  But Jeremiah Burroughs calls "Christian Contentment" the rare jewel.  Contentment, is so elusive yet we are called to it.  One day, in Glory, it will be mine.  Until then, I entrust myself to the Lord's training and like the apostle Paul,  am "learning" the secret of how to be content.  On this day I was able for a little while to walk in the steps of a faithful man who, though dead, still speaks.  Thank you Rev. Burroughs. 

This rose, if I'm not mistaken is a Newport Fairy Rose.  Gary grew these rambling pink roses at our Sunland home.  It was frosting on the cake to see these growing on the church grounds. 

This rose, if I'm not mistaken is a Newport Fairy Rose.  Gary grew these rambling pink roses at our Sunland home.  It was frosting on the cake to see these growing on the church grounds. 

"My brethren, the reason why you have not got contentment in the things of the world is not because you have not got enough of them - that is not the reason - but the reason is, because they are not things proportionable to that immortal soul of yours that is capable of God himself."  Jeremiah Burroughs

"My brethren, the reason why you have not got contentment in the things of the world is not because you have not got enough of them - that is not the reason - but the reason is, because they are not things proportionable to that immortal soul of yours that is capable of God himself."  Jeremiah Burroughs

"...I have learned, to be content, in whatever circumstances I am. 

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." 

Philippians 4:11-13

(FOR MORE STUDY, Pastor Mike Riccardi preaches about Biblical contentment; what it is, and how to learn it.  To listen, click HERE!)

*INTERESTING TRIVIA:  St. Dunstan's was known as the "Church of the High Seas" and many sailors are buried here.  The naval ensign continues to fly from the bell tower.  There is a stained glass window dedicated to those sailors who lost their lives in the war.  It is built of Kent limestone.    Shortly after Burroughs died in 1648, the churchyard had been expanded to 7 acres to accommodate the massive number of deaths due to the Great Plague of London.  Today it is a park, open to all. 

St. Dunstan's Church, Stepney

St. Dunstan's Church, Stepney

I love to get your comments...either here or on Facebook.  Thanks for visiting! 

Watercolor Journal - Wind in the Pines

A family asked me to paint their beloved cabin in the mountains of New Mexico.  I’ve never been to that state, but as I painted the pine forest background I reflected on my childhood camping trips.  My parents took me camping from a very young age, mostly to the High Sierras in California. Mom and Dad loved back-packing and mom even made me a little down-filled sleeping bag.  If there was no rain, we didn’t pitch a tent, and I remember laying on a bed of pine needles, and looking up at the stars at night.  I listened to the crackling campfire and their voices nearby until I fell asleep.  Sometime later I’d wake up between them, with a cold face and warm body, secure in their love and happy to be a little girl, outside in the forest. 

The wind in the pine needles above, made it’s whooshing sound, and was familiar, because outside my bedroom in Southern California were three big pine trees.  But outside, in the forest, the sound of the wind was grander, and deeper.  There were many instruments in this beautiful symphony.  And here, as the dead pine needles were blown from the trees, they would not have to be raked off our driveway at home, so let the wind blow, and do it’s work, adding to the softness of the forest floor, preparing a little bed for the next sleepy-head to rest upon...look up...and listen. 

Three Things (Tidbits & Treasures)

#1  "Bon Voyage, Jessica!"

This is Jessica.  She has been so helpful to me for over a year and is moving away to a home near the ocean.  Because she took care of so many "business-type" aspects for me at Colors By Laurie, it really expanded my creative time.  I painted a sailboat for her because she loves them, and it represents her new adventures now that she is out of high school.  I will truly miss her, and thank God for her.  "Bon Voyage, thank you, Jess!"


(I will have more to say about this painting in a Watercolor Journal post and it may become a print available to purchase.)

#2  "Life Partners"

Ron/Julie Long, Don/Ann Sweetnam, Doug/Debi Wilson, Greg/Diane Roehr, Ric/Kathy Lebrecht, and our leaders, Ray/Barb Brown

Ron/Julie Long, Don/Ann Sweetnam, Doug/Debi Wilson, Greg/Diane Roehr, Ric/Kathy Lebrecht, and our leaders, Ray/Barb Brown

I have so much to say about Gary's memorial service, but for now, I couldn't wait to post these photos of some very dear friends.  This group from La Crescenta Baptist Church, was such a huge part of our life when we were first married and having our babies.  What a joy it was to see most of them together again. 


Roehrs, Don and Chris Carlson, Lebrechts

Roehrs, Don and Chris Carlson, Lebrechts

We were so involved with each other outside of Sunday mornings, working on each other's homes and gardens, making Christmas gifts, beach days, and play-dates for the kids.  There were so many spiritually significant times too, as we learned God's plan for our lives and helped each other root out sin and grow together.  I love this group of people and hope we can do a better job of staying in touch.  It meant so much to me that they were able to come. I love them all!

#3 Relaxing With My Friend


I'm still adjusting to being a widow, and there has been much to do.  Paperwork, and decisions have been the norm here, since Gary's service.  I had scheduled a get-a-way with my friend, Christy, months ago for a couple of days this week.  With all the busyness, it comes at a good time, and thankfully, we'll be going up to the Central Coast, where we had gone with our husbands back in 2004. 






We have had little time to talk over the last few years, and I'm so happy we have time to catch up.

I was just here 10 days ago with the family, and it seems so soon to be back, but my friend and I are having a wonderful time. 




It was so funny today, when going in shops how often I found myself saying, "Gary would have loved this (thing)."  I don't know anyone who could "out-shop" him. 

I love thinking about Gary in this place.  It will always be a precious memory for me. 

Truly Comforting...

"...the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore, comfort one another with these words." 

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18

Little Changes

I LOVE painting, and have many ideas for new watercolors.  I actually just finished another one last night.  I am so happy to have more time in my day to give to my creative side.  Because there's time to think while getting lost in the process, I'm able to think, and dream.  Then sometimes I write out my thoughts

I'd like to do a painting of our old home in Sunland to remind our family of all the great memories.  I'm really enjoying doing ocean/beach themes prompted by our trips to the Central Coast.  I have a few more baby animal paintings in mind too.

Life is Brief


Parents know this, and so do widows.  Before you know it, another year is gone, and opportunities are squandered or embraced.   As I mentioned in the last post, the freedom and time I have been given is precious.  In order to give my self more fully to family, ministry, painting and writing, I've decided to scale back on some parts of my Colors By Laurie artwork, and step away from the greeting cards. 

I will continue to offer commissioned paintings (home portraits, monograms, baby names), and prints for sale, but I'm phasing out the greeting cards.  The cards will be available for a limited time, so if you would like to purchase any, head on over to my shop soon.  There are some fun new sets of four and other good deals while they last.

Loosing Gary reminds me to value the time we've been given.  Hopefully I will spend my allotment well.

"So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom."  Psalm 90:12

"A short life is wisely spent."  Charles Spurgeon


What's in a Name?

I'm a grandma...a happy, proud, privileged grandma.  When our daughters were expecting each bundle of joy, and once a name had been chosen, I began designing a painting for each baby.  These very special, custom paintings are some of my favorite projects ever.  I would love to paint one for you too!  Most people are surprised at some of the details, so I'm going to introduce you to one of these paintings, up close and personal.

THE THEME:  This is the starting point. Because it's going to be displayed on the nursery wall, it should enhance the room decor such as Carnival, Western, Garden, Pirate, Woodland, etc.  THE NAME: The letters in the name are represented by objects which begin with each letter.  THE LITTLE ONE: A little boy or girl will be somewhere in the painting too.  THE MEANING OF THE NAME: I work the meaning of the name into the scene.  This is often the trickiest part because it must support the painting's theme.  THE BIRTH DATE: If the painting is given as a gift AFTER the baby is born, the birth date can also be included in the picture.

The Watercolorful Name paintings are the most complicated and thoughtful paintings I do as I am coordinating all these elements into a treasured family keepsake.  To learn more about ordering click HERE!

If you want to explore these paintings more, I'm having a TREASURE HUNT CONTEST on my Facebook page right now!  It ends Saturday at 6:00 pm.  The prize is 25% off of any item in my shop.  So, head on over to Facebook and look for Colors By Laurie to enter. 

Flowers in the Wilderness

One of the HUGE blessings of our Alzheimer's journey has been the refreshing, and fulfilling opportunity to be creative again.  It would be hard to explain how much it means to me to be able to paint my watercolors and share them with you.  Each painting is a little "vacation from my problems," to quote Bob Wiley.  It gives me time to reflect, and learn from life.  Once finished I get the privilege of bringing joy to you, my friends, through my art.  If Gary weren't sick, I would probably not have found my love of painting again. 

This little two minute video explains the "Why" behind Colors By Laurie.  Our friend, Jason made it for me.  He is the young man that lived with us for 6 months to help Gary.  (For more on that story see HERE.)  It is awkward and humbling to promote myself, but thankfully, this was Jason's idea and I couldn't be happier with the result. I've been surprised and blown away by the Facebook response already.   You may have seen it at my Colors By Laurie Facebook page, but if not, just click on the image below.  Then if you feel so inclined, please share, pin, post, email or whatever to your friends.  (to share the video, just click the little paper airplane in the upper right hand corner of the video.) 

Thank you for your love, care and prayers. 

To all my Valentines!

February is HERE, and I'm giving you your very special Valentine Gift NOW!  I love all of you so much and am greatly thankful for the care, support and love you always show me.  So, here it is...It's a desktop wallpaper for your computers, just for you! 

"But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

It's easy to set up and FREE!  The 2-step instructions are right below the pink flowers!

INSTRUCTIONS:  1. Click on image to open.  2. Right click and select "Set As Desktop Background."


1. Click on image to open.

2. Right click and select "Set As Desktop Background."

Click HERE to visit my shop! 

Christmas Cards Are Here!

My parents made their own Christmas Cards the majority of their 61 Christmases together.  I guess that’s one reason I’ve had so much fun painting these 4 wintery scenes, with the intent of making cards to share with all of you. 

Everyone loves Christmas, and for me it is a big celebration of my Savior’s birth!  I’m carrying on the tradition of sharing that encouraging news or a heartfelt greeting in a Christmas Card.

Click HERE to shop.

I have always wanted to paint cardinals.  Wish I could see one up close some day, but will have to travel to where they are!  Their red feathers seem to announce Christmas to everyone!

Click HERE to shop.

The snow covered tree is the one that grew at my parents’ home in Montana.  For the painting, I trimmed it with living ornaments.

Click HERE to shop

Lamp posts with candles seem so welcoming, and to me represent the warmth of gathering with friends and family.  While creating this painting, I recalled the two lanterns at the gate of our former home.  Gary converted some old light fixtures to gas and hopefully the flames flickered a warm “Welcome.”

Click HERE to shop

My grandchildren suggested the snowman to complete the set.  He makes me smile, as he silently shouts “Joy to the World.” 

Many of you have inquired about Christmas Cards this year, so it’s with great pleasure that I’m able to share these cards with you. 

Three ways to shop...right here on colorsbylaurie.com or my Etsy store, or my Facebook page.

Each card is available as a blank note card with no text on the front as well.  All card insides may be personalized if desired.

One of my parents' cards just for fun...

Designed and Silk Screened in 1957 by Bill and Louise Ransom

Designed and Silk Screened in 1957 by Bill and Louise Ransom

Watercolor Journal - Walking the Planks

Inspired by the boardwalk, the ocean and the many wildflowers.

Inspired by the boardwalk, the ocean and the many wildflowers.

Moonstone Beach at Cambria is on the California’s Central Coast.  A view of the ocean from my window, inspired this painting, and I painted most of it right there on my mini-retreat, alone, two weeks ago. Moonstone Beach Drive runs along the bluff with the view on one side and the hotels on the other.  Cambria is our best, “close” place to make us “feel” far away.  It is a 4 hour drive from home that seems much farther.  The only man made thing between the drive and the beach side is a boardwalk (see it?) that runs the length of the beach on the bluffs, amidst sage, wildflowers and pines.  I’m guessing it was originally built to encourage people to stay off the natural landscape, which it does, but there’s more to it's story…my story at least.

2005 - Things were fine then.

2005 - Things were fine then.

I have walked this boardwalk with Gary before, and at those times gave it little thought, but on this solo trip, the wooden walkway was an inescapable connection to my husband.  Memories of other days rolled over me like the nearby waves.  Gary and I had walked along the bluffs many times.  If the day was cold and misty, we had coffee in hand.  If clear and sunny, we had sunglasses and trail mix.  It was always refreshing or leisurely or inspiring, but whatever it felt like, it was shared.  The wooden planks are frequented by runners and walkers, lovers strolling, surfers checking out the waves, tourists with binoculars hoping to see an otter or sea lion, and underneath are ground squirrels hoping for a treat.

November 2011 - Middle stage dementia, but still enjoying the walk.

November 2011 - Middle stage dementia, but still enjoying the walk.

We have been coming up here for many years.  We love it here.  Our daughter, Sarah and her husband Ryan, came along with us 2 1/2 years ago to help me with Gary.  It would be the last time for Gary and I to be here together.   I remember that during that trip to Moonstone, Gary enjoyed walking on the sand without anyone guiding him and at dinner, how much he enjoyed his salmon dinner fed to him by Ryan from across the table, as I sat next to him at Robin's Restaurant.  It was a very special time. 

Right now, at this moment, the waves are breaking in rhythm.  Someone is walking hand in hand along the bluff.  I’m happy for them.  I’m happy for us. 

Moonstone Beach, Cambria, California - Walking with the Lord and very sweet memories.

Moonstone Beach, Cambria, California - Walking with the Lord and very sweet memories.









My Mini-Retreat (Caregiver Care)

This week I did something I have never done before.  I took myself on a mini-retreat in search of a breath of fresh air, time to think, remember, create, and rest.  Everyone is busy, not just caregivers, but there is a daily weariness that I experience that is hard to explain.  The idea of leaving Gary for a couple of days, was not appealing until recently.  A couple of years ago, he would have been confused about my absence, but now he is unaware of the passing of time, or who it is that is caring for him.  Things have been much harder in 2014 and my attention is diverted in many directions in addition to the sad decline in Gary.  So, for several weeks I've been planning to take a couple of days off, and let the Lord take care of me.  I packed a good book, my watercolors, and my Bible.


Sunday morning, Gary's caregivers arrived and I said good-bye.  It began with a beautiful drive.  I enjoy driving when there is no traffic, beautiful vistas and Keith Green's music playing.  Two of my favorite's are The Prodigal Suite, and Stained Glass.  I was surprised how many times I was reminded of former times, and in a way, Gary came along with me.  We were dating when we first heard Keith Green at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa.  His worship music was a big part of our early years, and still is. 




I arrived at 3:00 at Moonstone Beach in Cambria on the Central Coast.  Gary and I have stayed in several different hotels here, but The Fogcatcher Inn is our favorite. 




My adventures began with a brisk walk along the boardwalk along the bluff.  It was quite windy, and cool, but very refreshing.  How often I had walked hand in hand with Gary on the same boards.  But this time I was alone and it was ok. 




I took tons of photos.  Tried some "selfies," and shot scenes for painting reference and of course capturing the views to help my own memories.   

I walked along the beach too, scoping out a good location to paint the next day, and found a 3 pebbles to save.  Each time we went to Moonstone Beach, Gary and I would gather "theme" pebbles.  One year he'd look for jelly bean shapes and colors.  Another, it was all white, or all green or all brown.  They sit in jars in our sun room.  I must confess, it's not as fun gathering them, without someone to show your special "find" to. 

Painting reference

Painting reference

Back at the room, I worked on a sketch for the beach painting to be done the next day.  It is an amazing thing to have uninterrupted time.  Throughout my retreat, I kept thinking, "What?  It's ONLY 5:00?" instead of the typical "What?  It's 5:00 ALREADY?"  Here's a preview of the scene I was planning to paint "plein air" (outdoors). 

At dinner time I got a Tri-tip Sandwich to go at the Main Street Grill in Cambria and brought it to my room and saved half for lunch the next day. 

The evening's entertainment was the film, "Miss Potter" about Beatrix Potter starring Rene Zellweger.  I've seen it before, but somehow it seemed fitting for this occasion.  One of her comments as she was anticipating the publishing of her Peter Rabbit book was "We shall look upon it as an 'adventure'.  It is a very sweet story, and I related on many levels; especially her love of watercolors, and the outdoors and her losses. 


One of the reasons we love the Fogcatcher is the complementary breakfast!  It is not just danish rolls, mind you, it is the real deal, complete with sausage, eggs, waffles, and pastries.  Peets coffee and a tray to take it to your room if you want.  Now, about the room...Cozy, and facing the ocean, the view from here was better than the nicest restaurant. 

I had brought along "The Glory of Heaven" by our pastor, John MacArthur because I decided to focus my thoughts on Heaven this week.  I want to think about Gary's future (and mine).  A couple of thoughts on this...Since, as Christians, our "citizenship is in Heaven," (Phil. 3;20), we already belong there.  It's where we are going one day and we can benefit partially now, from all the bounty of Heaven.  Something else...To be "absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord!" So when we're in our earthly bodies, we are not at home with the Lord.  We are walking by faith not by sight.  One day, Gary will shut his eyes for the last time, and when he passes into eternal life, he will walk by sight, not by faith.  His faith will become sight! 

I spent the rest of the morning painting the view out my window.  I'm only including one tree because I'm allowed to do it however I want!  :) Here's the start of it.

The afternoon was spent browsing the gift shops and galleries in town.   This might seem odd, but it reminded me of Gary too.  He enjoyed looking in all the "cute little shops" as he called them.  We never came to the Central Coast without coming home with a new plant from a local nursery.  One favorite place in town, is an old house, complete with gardens in back, and each room in the house is a showroom.  The mud room is for gardening related gifts, and the kitchen is where they sell herbs, essential oils, and potpourri.  Out back there is a 'fairy' garden with cute displays.  This is where we first saw a Newport Fairy Rose bush.  It is an aggressive rose, and gets really big.  Gary bought one 15 years ago, at the same shoppe and planted it by out arbor out back.  in no time it covered the big arbor and was beautiful.  It was one of the things I hated to leave when we moved.  Seeing it again, made me miss Gary. 

In the late afternoon, the lighting was just right and the tide was low enough to go back and paint the outdoor scene.  I got set up in just the right spot, on the sand, and began the fun challenge of capturing the beauty and feeling of the place, while keeping up a pace to beat the encroaching waves and mist as the wind began to pick up.  I suppose I was out there for 90 minutes before snapping a couple more photos and calling it quits, planning to finish it up later. 

The day ended with another long walk and a good dinner.  This time, Asian Chicken Salad.


Breakfast. Reading about Heaven. Prayer. Painting.  Frequently I would start to think of doing something...such as going for a coffee refill and ask myself "Will Gary be ok if I go downstairs and get the coffee?"  "Oh, yea, he's not here.  Go ahead and get the coffee."  It's a big adjustment being 'on my own.'  One thing caught me really off guard and hit me hard.  I decided to wash the windows before heading out.  As I did, it reminded me how Gary loved to do that whenever we were getting ready to travel.  He took great pride in getting them streak free.  Silly, what makes you get emotional, but I really missed him right then, washing my car windows in the hotel parking lot. 

I stopped for one last long look at the ocean at the south end of the beach on my way out, and had a snack there.  I decided that I would like to do this again, maybe next year.  It would be nice to look forward to.  I was able to go to the same places Gary and I shared together, and enjoy myself.  It was a happy/sad time, but I know he would want me to be doing these things and that makes me feel bold about venturing out a little. 


Driving home, normal anticipation of being with my love again was clouded by the knowledge that he wouldn't be able to participate in my joy.  But in a weird way he does.  We are 'one flesh.'  My joy or sadness is his, and his is mine.  On the way home, I stopped for a late lunch in Solvang, which was OUR first stop on our honeymoon road trip 39 1/2 years ago.  I was facing more memories, and again, It was ok.   When I got home and greeted Gary I wish I could say he responded but he didn't.  I told him all about my time, away and maybe he caught some of it, but I couldn't tell.  I put the 3 pebbles in his hand, and helped him hold them for a minute.  Hopefully it brought back a good feeling for him like it did for me. 

"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  Psalm 23:6

Watercolor Journals - The Secret Place

"The Secret Place”

based on “The Secret Garden,” by F. H. Burnett

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles. In the robin’s nest there were Eggs and the robin’s mate sat upon them keeping them warm with her feathery little breast and careful wings. At first she was very nervous and the robin himself was indignantly watchful. Even Dickon did not go near the close-grown corner in those days, but waited until by the quiet working of some mysterious spell he seemed to have conveyed to the soul of the little pair that in the garden there was nothing which was not quite like themselves—nothing which did not understand the wonderfulness of what was happening to them—the immense, tender, terrible, heart-breaking beauty and solemnity of Eggs. If there had been one person in that garden who had not known through all his or her innermost being that if an Egg were taken away or hurt the whole world would whirl round and crash through space and come to an end—if there had been even one who did not feel it and act accordingly there could have been no happiness even in that golden springtime air. But they all knew it and felt it and the robin and his mate knew they knew it.”  From Chapter 25, The Secret Garden

Being pregnant with our first daughter, brought out the nesting instinct in me.  A hand-me-down crib required a coat of paint, bedding and a new mattress.  We chose yellow, because in those days, no one knew the gender until the baby arrived.  I made a Noah’s Ark mobile to hang above the crib. The cabinet received a new coat of varnish.  The drawers were lined with pieces of the green and yellow wallpaper and the shower gifts were placed inside.  Her room was warm, safe and ready. 21 years later she would leave her nest.  A few years later her sister would leave as well.  Now they have their own nests, and the cozy ritual goes on.  Getting ready for little ones is one of the greatest privileges in life.

Watercolor Journals - Behind the Wall

Since my robin note cards are making the rounds this Spring, I'm posting some of the musings these paintings have inspired in me.  I can't see a robin without thinking of the cheeky lil' beggar in The Secret Garden.  Enjoy!

Behind the Wall - original watercolor

Behind the Wall - original watercolor

“And delight reigned. They drew the chair under the plum-tree, which was snow-white with blossoms and musical with bees. It was like a king's canopy, a fairy king's. There were flowering cherry-trees near and apple-trees whose buds were pink and white, and here and there one had burst open wide. Between the blossoming branches of the canopy bits of blue sky looked down like wonderful eyes.

Mary and Dickon worked a litle here and there and Colin watched them. They brought him things to look at--buds which were opening, buds which were tight closed, bits of twig whose leaves were just showing green, the feather of a woodpecker which had dropped on the grass, the empty shell of some bird early hatched. Dickon pushed the chair slowly round and round the garden, stopping every other moment to let him look at wonders springing out of the earth or trailing down from trees. It was like being taken in state round the country of a magic king and queen and shown all the mysterious riches it contained.

"I wonder if we shall see the robin?" said Colin.”  (From Chapter 21 of The Secret Garden by F. H. Burnett)

Canada Geese in view.

Canada Geese in view.

I wonder the same thing each morning as I open my blinds.  I wonder if I will see the robin, hopping about looking for worms, or the two Mallard ducks who sometimes work their way along the golf course looking for breakfast, or the five Canada Geese who flew in and landed on the ‘green,’ disrupting the putts of some ladies last week.  Right now, I can hear a symphony of animal life.  It is evening, and the crickets and tree frogs are singing in the ravine, interrupted only momentarily if someone is walking a dog nearby.  There is so much to see when we look expectantly outdoors.  I must keep those binoculars handy.

Tidbits & Treasures 02/18/14

I Peter 1:11

I Peter 1:11

Two words…

I was reading my Bible this week and ran across a note I’d written in the margin.   It says, “Cup & Glory.”    It’s from the book, “The Cup and The Glory” by Greg Harris.  The ‘cup’ of suffering is linked to the ‘glories’ to come, and this theme is traced through the Scriptures.  Dr. Harris was motivated to study this subject as a result of his own suffering.  I have jotted these two words multiple times over the years next to verses containing this theme.  Contrary to popular belief, it seems that the path to glory is laced with suffering, but the benefits are amazing.

He introduces his book like this.  “What follows are some of the lessons He (God) taught me from this, some of which I was most reluctant and slow to learn.  They are not necessarily for everyone, but rather are intended for those who are presently struggling with suffering in some area in their life, especially the painful perplexity of why God would allow them to experience such depths of misery, when we know He could remedy it whenever He wanted.  Hopefully, it will offer new insight into the graciousness of God as He lovingly uses suffering to draw us nearer to Him and to conform us closer to the image of Christ.”  Pg. 18

 “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10

"A Fine Romance"  Susan's diary of her visit to the English Countryside. 

"A Fine Romance"  Susan's diary of her visit to the English Countryside. 

Inspired by Susan

Let me introduce you to one of my artistic inspirations, Susan Branch.  We both share a love of being home, hand-crafted art, journaling, and watercolor painting.  We both came to the craft late (well, I came back after a lengthy break).  Maybe you’ll have fun exploring her website if you like creative ideas, and ways to make your home cozy and beautiful.  She has great, simple recipes too.  Her blog is loaded with great photos, illustrations, and vignettes of life on Martha’s Vineyard Island.  www.Susanbranch.com

A Sign

I’ve been reading about the Israelites’ great EXIT from Egypt.  Moses was hand-picked by God to lead His people out of their slavery and into the Promised Land.  He had his doubts and fears about this great task.  “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  Exodus 3:11

God answered, “But I will be with you, and this shall be a sign for you, that I have sent you…when you have brought the people out of Egypt you shall serve God on the mountain.” Exodus 3:12 

Moses had the assurance that he would encounter the presence of God, and THAT would be the sign that God had sent him.  After that, he was to lead the people in worship.  That’s all he needed to know…God would be with him and He was, leading, providing, and interacting with them all through the wilderness.  I want to live like that.  Believe, trust, obey, see God at work, and worship. 

Looking good...my twin bed on left, Gary's Hospital bed with special air mattress. on right.  The lump at the footboard is the pump.

Looking good...my twin bed on left, Gary's Hospital bed with special air mattress. on right.  The lump at the footboard is the pump.

Medical Air Mattress…a solution for dementia patients and their spouses.

3 years ago, when Gary began to be much more sedentary he developed some bed (pressure) sores on his heels.  At first I didn’t know what they were, but basically they looked like big blisters.  This happens when the body isn’t moving enough and one part is pressing down on the bed for too long.  The blood doesn’t circulate there, and a sore can develop.  It can happen really quickly.  It’s even worse when there’s weight loss and less padding on the bones, so the pressure is greater.  This can be a huge problem, and it is not uncommon for dementia patients to die from systemic infections, that start with a pressure sore.  So, I began setting my alarm at 2 hour intervals during the night so I could get up and roll him over.  As you can imagine, this was exhausting and I began to do research to see if there was a better way to keep him protected.  Well, I found the most amazing thing!  I know some of my readers are caring for a loved one and will want to know about this.  It’s a circulating air mattress.  It has 15 channels of air, and a small motor which deflates and inflates these channels in sequence.  You can set the timing and duration.  It’s a twin sized mattress that fits his hospital bed (in fact is designed for hospital use) but for the first 18 months, I had it next to my twin mattress on our King box springs.  You never would have known it was not a regular King sized bed.  Now I have my twin bed pushed up to Gary’s hospital bed.  But the mattress has been chugging along, pumping air, 24/7 giving us both a good night’s sleep for about 3 years.  Pretty cool, huh!  Now that Gary has lost so much weight we have begun to change his position again when in a recliner chair, but in bed, his mattress keeps his skin from getting damaged.  It was about $1500, but if you already HAVE the pressure sores I think Medicare will cover some or all of the cost with a Doctor’s order.  I got ours after the sores were healed, but it was a very good investment and I think it has really saved Gary much pain and misery.  There are lots of choices, but here’s the one we got:  http://www.medicalairmattress.com/mdt24supradps.html  Good Night Zzzzzzzz……

For more info on adapting your home to care for a loved one...click HERE

Watercolor Journal - Cherished Forever

Click on painting to enlarge.

"It will be cherished forever." That's what P.G. said when she received the painting last week.  It was a gift from her husband.  Hummingbirds and African Violets hold a special place in his wife's heart.  Why?  Her mother had loved them first.   Her mom is no longer here, but now, P.G. waters the same plants and treasures the glass hummingbird “sun-catchers” that hung in her mother’s window.  It was my privilege to create this painting, a gift from her thoughtful husband, to keep the memory of her mother fresh.

"Let me tell you it is the most beautiful gift I have ever received. It is a beautiful compilation of so many meaningful elements. Thank you for making (my husband's) vision a reality. it will be cherished forever!!!  It is truly a magnificent piece of art! I only wish my Mom was here to see it...she would love it as well."  P.G.

Thoughts on my own treasured mom...

This project gave me pause to think about my own mother.  In the winter of her life she is as beautiful as ever.  Thankfully, my mom lives within walking distance of me, so I can still enjoy her smile, and kind heart.


My mom and I getting ready for Easter.  

My mom and I getting ready for Easter.


Let me conjure up some memories of my own.  My mother delights in so many things.  She’ll try anything and is the quintessential “good sport.”  She’d jump on our trampoline, teach the granddaughters how to cha-cha, and reads Uncle Remus with the perfect accent.  Her mobility may be limited, but her mind is active, serving my father, reading the Bible, and keeping track of her great-grandchildren’s birthdays.  She always wore a brightly colored hat for road-trip photos because it was “photogenic.”  When she puts scotch tape on a Christmas gift, the ends are folded down on themselves so there are “pull-tabs” to make it easy to open.  She made all our Halloween costumes from scratch, every year, and at age 90, just made herself a new apron with bluebird fabric to remind herself of the bluebirds that used to nest in their eaves.  I already think of my parents whenever I see a bluebird.

The real gift here, is not the painting, but the cherished mom, who inspired it and like my client, my mental treasuries are full, and I love my mom.


Watercolor Journal - Cute


Every minute I've spent with this little guy to capture his personality, aka cuteness, has been really fun.  I've been wondering what makes a baby owl SO cute?  I think it has to do with his big head and 'starey' eyes.  And fluff.  Lots of baby animals have similar "cuteness" and elicit a spontaneous awwww!"  But why do we humans love looking at baby animals so much?   Guess what?  The day after I finished this painting, I read that recently a study at Hiroshima University, found that looking at pictures of baby animals, increase productivity, focus and fine motor skills in adult employees One reason may be that watching babies of any kind encourage the caring/nurturing part of us, that requires  attentiveness to the needs of the little one.  If you wonder how researchers would come up with this type of a study, Japan is 'crazy' for "Kawaii" (Japanese for 'cute').  Remember Hello KittyPokemonAnime

Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty

Christmas morning 1977.  Sarah and Sniffy. 

Christmas morning 1977.  Sarah and Sniffy. 

So, I decided to display the little "owlet" painting near Gary for the time-being.  I'm hoping his focus, and concentration, can be enhanced by this small, feathered tutor.  In any case, this baby owl, will certainly exude cuteness, and that has to benefit Gary's sense of well-being.  It does mine, every time I walk by.  When Sarah was two years old Gary bought her a little bunny.  She named it "Sniffy" because...wait for it... it sniffed.  As you can see by the photo, it gave her a sense of well-being too. 

Watercolor Journal - Lil' Bandit

Furry, cute, and oh so sneaky!  A favorite lil' critter of mine is the raccoon.  I know they can be mean and you don't want to get cornered in a small space with them, but the little mask, striped tail, and the fact that they 'wash' their food makes them irresistible to my imagination. 


Everyone has a good raccoon story.  My favorite took place at our old house.  With the Koi pond, and it's shallow rock waterfall, raccoons and possums were around from time to time..  A  place to wash food, an occasional fish food pellet, ornamental grass which hosted grubs, and worms, to say nothing of the tempting fish.  Gary had built the patio over hanging the pond a little, so that the fish could hide from predators and most of the fish were too big for a raccoon to pull out, but all the other goodies in our garden were in abundant supply.  Anyway, we knew they were there, our dogs kept us informed of that in the night.  Being nocturnal, I always wondered where they went in the daytime.  Our tree trimmer found out one day, when pruning a palm tree.  Up on a very tall ladder, and deep into the thickest part of the palm fronds, he came face to face with a big raccoon.  It was right next to our pond, and had made a nest there.  Both of them were surprised, and Mike took a quick exit.  When he went back up, Mr. Raccoon was gone.



When we take Gary for a walk every morning, guess what we see?  Evidence!  We've got raccoons here too, and I love knowing that.  I saw muddy prints in our little garden right outside our living room window, so I know they are close by.  We criss-cross their paths as we walk through our little neighborhood.  I wonder where they go in the daytime?  What tree, or bush do they live in?  Are they curious about us too?  Seeing these little prints day after day, reminded me of our little ecosystem by the pond, and inspired me to paint Lil' Bandit.  Love the daily "brush" with critters, and capturing them with MY brush!

Makes me feel like we're back in Sunland!

Makes me feel like we're back in Sunland!

Do YOU have a good raccoon story of your own to share?   

We Have A Winner


As promised in the last post, the contest ended today! 

At 6:00 pm our oldest grandson and oldest granddaughter,

took the stage as unbiased participants,

and assisted with finding the winner.

A name was drawn out of the jar! 


That name was YOURS, RUTH PATTERSON!  So, Ruth, please contact me HERE before next Saturday, May 18th to claim your prize.  Let me know which Secret Garden print you would like me to send to you and where to send it, and I'll get it to you asap! 

The "Secret Garden" Collection

Four 8" X 10" fine art prints from my original watercolors

based on the book, by Francis Hodgson Burnett 

"Thank You" to everyone...

for all your great ideas for future paintings.  I've written them down in my idea book.  It means so much to me that you would take the time to share them.  I hope you all have a wonderful Mother's Day tomorrow.