I've been thinking hard about downsizing ~ again!  It's an ongoing topic for me, and an area where I really feel like God is teaching me.  I'm not always a willing learner, being a bit of a pack-rat.  Yet I crave calm, serene interiors; an almost monastic appearance.  Minimalist, but with a touch of comfort and warmth.  As part of this, I dream of one day retiring, selling the house, and setting off to see the country and the world with an RV or Tiny Home.  

As part of this process, I've been doing a lot of reading in addition to a lot of purging of belongings.  One of the books I've really liked has been; Let It Go, by Peter Walsh. As part of the process he recommends, he suggest thinking about the things we own that are most important to us.  I decided to write some essays on my items and do some watercolor sketches or photographs of them, and then I thought that some of you might find them interesting.

Sketch 1 in a series of items important to me.
1 - Bible

My Bible was given to me by my Mom and Dad upon my graduation from High School. Up until that time,  I used a small old black bible, which I later covered in fabric (playing with fabric and stitches even back then!).  I think I got that original Bible when I was in Elementary school.  Most of the kids had gotten theirs as part of the promotion from early elementary church school to 4th grade.  But I didn’t attend Sunday School with my peers, instead choosing to help out in Primary Church, which was Kindergarten through Second or Third graders.  Because I wasn't in Sunday school class with my peers, I never participated in any of these activities.  I think that my Mom had the church give me my copy at some point.  Later, once I was in school at the University of Denver, I gave my old Bible to my friend "J". She became a Christian while we were freshmen in college and didn’t have a Bible, so I gave her my old one.  Later she told me how much it had meant to her to read it and see the things I had underlined.  

When Mommy and Daddy gave me my new Bible; a Harper Study Bible, Revised Standard Version (which is what we used in church until shortly after that when the New International Version came out), I was a bit disappointed.  Most of my friends had received “big” gifts for graduation ~ cars, jewelry, trips, etc.  But at the same time, I was glad of it, as I had long wanted a good study Bible.  

In hindsight, the Bible was the far more lasting gift.  Any of the other things would have passed by the wayside, but my Bible still gets regular use.  At times, I use an English Standard Version, which has better pronoun usage (doesn’t use “He” for every time a person is implied) and it removed some of the archaic language with all the thee’s and thou’s, making it easier to read.  But I still go to my old RSV Harper Study Bible most of the time.  It has my notes, my underlinings, and I know where to find things in it.  

It’s one of the items that survived our fire.  The cover is stained as are the page edges.  At the time of the fire, I was in danger of falling away from my faith.  I was dabbling in things I had no business dabbling in.  After the fire, when we first went into the house, my Bible was one of the first things we took out and cleaned up.  Now, my fire stained Bible reminds me of the verses from 1Corinthians 3:13-15
“… - each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

God gave me a second chance ~ a chance to redeem myself, to renew my faith, to rebuild on the solid foundation of His word.  Every time I open my Bible, I am reminded of God’s grace to me and to our family.

This gift of a Bible, is also emblematic of the legacy of faith sent down from generations past.  From my parents and grandparents, and from the ancestors before them, many of whom came to this country seeking that freedom to worship.  It's something I cherish and am grateful to know that this faith has been passed down to my children and they are passing it on to their own children.  Truly a blessing.  There is none greater!  

Tea with Rosebud Cottage
2 - Rosebud Cottage Notebook

Ever since I was a young child, I’d been fascinated with houses and floor plans, often creating floor plans out of blocks, American Bricks, or Lego blocks.  When other people were playing with dolls, I was more interested in the houses they might live in. 

Why it never occurred to me to pursue a degree in architecture, I have no idea.  I wanted to take Drafting in High School, but could never fit it in my schedule between choir, and other classes that I wanted to take.  By the time I was in college, I was starting to put my house plan ideas on paper and my sketchbooks were filled with ideas for log cabins and English style cottages and their plans. 

By the early 1990’s I became fascinated with the idea of tiny little houses and started reading all the books I could find about little houses. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau became a favorite as did the Outermost House by Henry Beston.  When Country Living or Country Home magazine had an article on historic little houses, I clipped it out and saved it.  I became fascinated with vernacular housing ~ the houses that people built for themselves.  

Somewhere along the way, I read an article about someone who made a complete little house out of an ice fishing shack.  They could sleep, cook, stay warm, etc in this tiny 6’x8’ shack.  I became enamored with the idea of building a tiny little place, complete as could be.  Shortly after this, I found the book, Tiny Houses by Lester Walker.  I was off and running!  

In the early 1990s, realizing that we were headed toward divorce, I knew I needed to find a way to earn a living.  At first I wanted to become an interior designer, but the only school was too far away, so instead I settled for the Architectural program at Front Range Community College.  I never completed the degree, being shy a physics class, a math class and another computer drafting class.  But before I completed my studies, we had separated and I found a job doing structural drafting.  Doing floor and roof structure plans was a far cry from interior design, but I got to play with plans, not only for commercial buildings, but some for houses too! 

My interest in tiny houses continued and with my new knowledge of structures, my designs improved.  I became enamored of one design in particular, which I called Rosebud Cottage.  At a mere 192 square feet, it contained everything I thought I would need.  Then I added a small conservatory to it and it was perfect!  I would work all day drafting floor and roof structures and then in the evening, if not teaching childbirth classes, I would come home and work on Rosebud Cottage plans! 

By the end of 1997, I had it completely designed, down to what books were on the shelves, what dishes and cooking utensils were in the cupboard and what my wardrobe would contain. I even did a landscape plan complete with gardens, room for a pasture with a few sheep, a greenhouse to grow sweet violets in and garden space for growing sweet peas and roses as well as all my vegetables and herbs.  My kids were taken with Rosebud Cottage as well and for Christmas that year, my gifts were 2x4s and a tool belt to help me build it!  

I had other ideas too and they grew into Ivy Cottage, Oak Cottage and into many other designs.  All these ideas were housed in my little Rosebud Cottage notebook.  After our fire, I was distraught about losing this notebook.  It was probably the hardest of all the losses other than the kitties.  My dreams were gone.  Oh what a joyful day when we moved a pile of unsalvageable, fire damaged items and underneath it found my Rosebud Cottage Notebook, though smoke stained, it was virtually unharmed!  I was able to put the pages into a new notebook, clean the smoke tinged pages and today it remains intact (and has been added to since then!). 

I guess that in some ways, Rosebud Cottage is the epitome of my dreams.  A tiny jewel box of a cottage set amongst lush gardens surrounded by woods.  Out in the quiet, away from the bustle of modern life.  It was/is my escape, a little haven.  It’s morphed over the years and now there are several slightly larger modifications of the design that perhaps might be more livable in the long run, but in reality, Rosebud Cottage holds everything I hold near and dear to me, except my family.  And for that, I designed a large all season lodge, complete with kitchen, lodging for all the family, and a large gathering room.  When the family isn’t there, it can be closed up, but when the family comes, it’s open for all.  

I still dream of building my Rosebud Cottage one day!

3 - Watercolor Sketchbooks

I’ve loved to sketch and draw as long as I can remember.  But it was while I was in late elementary school or Junior High that I became enamored of the watercolors of Beatrix Potter, Racey Helps and Jan Brett.  By the 9th grade or so, I was creating endless little paintings of mice and rabbits in dresses and britches and trying to create stories around them.  Truth is, I was a better painter than story teller!  

Eventually, I wanted to do better watercolors, so I copied many watercolors of Beatrix Potter.  I continued to sketch off and on, but without much direction and always felt a little frustrated that I wasn’t able to achieve with them, what I wanted to.  Then in the early 1990s I believe, Mommy gave me an article out of a painting/art magazine about dry brush watercolors.  It had a step-by-step lesson, which I did.  From that lesson, I went on to do a watercolor for my Dad for his birthday, which I know have.  It set in motion a whole new era of watercolor for me!  

Then, when I was in nursing school in Iowa in the mid 2000s, I found a website called Wet Canvas.  It had forums on every kind of art imaginable.  I started oil painting again, and I started participating in their Artwork from Life forum.  Every 9 days, they posted a list of 28 items and we sketched and shared these drawings online.  It wasn’t long before my sketches went from pencil to pen and ink and then watercolor and ink.  With this regular work, I started filling small sketchbooks with sketches of things I would never had thought to sketch.  I learned to combine different items into a single sketch and to think creatively.  Around this same time I discovered the value of adding a border around my drawing.  For some reason, that border was a huge help in getting me to think creatively.  

Now, I carry my little watercolor kit every where I go (except to work) and have found that I love the little Moleskinne watercolor books to be my favorite.  I take them on my travels to record my impressions and I use them at home for when i work on sketches of my home or yard.  From time to time, when I’ve been in a slump artistically, I go back to the scavenger hunts and participate, even though I rarely post in the forum anymore.  I got started with the Scavenger Hunts when they were on list 7 or 8.  Now they are up into the mid hundreds!  I haven’t done all of them by a long shot, but they really made the biggest difference in my art!  

When we had the house fire, I had been working on some watercolors.  They were in a pale green tin about the size of a breadbox.  It was filled with sketchbooks and paintboxes and brushes and there were several drawings on the table.  I lost all of them.  It was a heartbreaking loss and so when my fellow childbirth educators wanted to do something special for me after the fire, they replaced my watercolors and provided me with new sketchbooks!  It was such a meaningful gift.  Now when I see these ladies, they always ask to see my latest work!  

Over the years, my watercolor sketches have included everything from the kitties, to my home, my vacations, the light across the view from my window, etc.  Sometimes it’s just a collection of found objects.  Of all the creative things I do, the watercolors provide the foundation and are the one thing that I hope to always do, even if some of the other things, such as stitching or spinning, fall by the wayside.  They are a record of my life, of the things that have captured my attention or played a role in my life ~ or sometimes, just the whimsical items that fulfill a scavenger hunt requirement! 

Sketch 2 - important objects in my life.
4 - Bedside Items

Beside my bed are three items.  It may seem a funny thing to have on my “Important to Me” list, and to warrant a place right near the top of the list, but these three things help me feel at home.  After the house fire, the biggest loss for me was my sense of place.  I had lost my nest.  It wasn’t the stuff so much, as I had lost the place where I felt safe, cozy and comfortable.  I learned pretty quickly that it really wasn’t the things that mattered so much - those were replaceable.  And I loved that I had an excuse to go antiquing and the opportunity to create a new nest.  But it took a long time to regain that sense of cozy comfort and safety.  

About a year before the fire, I had made a trip to Seattle for the wedding of a friend.  It was my first vacation since I had gotten divorced and my first real travel adventure without the kids. While in Seattle, I saw lots of the sights, but one of the most memorable days I spent wandering through the Washington Arboretum in a cool, misty, rain.  The snowdrops and hellebores were blooming as were  the witch hazel trees and camellias.  It was a magical day.  At the end of the day, I stopped in the little gift shop to buy a postcard.  There on a shelf was a little bronze rabbit with such a sweet face.   I couldn’t really afford him at the time, but that sweet face called to me and so after much debate over the cost, he came home with me.  He gladdened my heart then and continues to do so to this day. 

I wrapped the little bunny in heavy tissue paper and tucked it in my bag.  As I headed home at the end of a lovely week, as I was going through airport security, when all of a sudden the lights and alarms went off and they pulled me aside. I could not think what they had found.  I got a pat down while they searched my bag.  Then the little Asian security lady held up my bunny like a trophy and laughed with glee, calling out, "It's a bunny!" as she showed all that what had set off the alarm!  They made me promise to never put a metal object like that in my carryon  bag again before they let me go on my way!  

Once home, I put him on the desk beside my bed and he brightened my mornings!  I also had a little battery operated alarm clock there, with a dial rather than digital numbers.  I found the ticking to be soothing and liked that it didn’t glow into the room at night, but that I could pick it up and with the press of a button discover the time.  It was just an inexpensive little clock, nothing fancy at all.  When the alarm is set, it goes off with a pleasant beep-beep that doesn't "alarm" me when it goes off.  Waking gently, is something I value deeply!  It helps the day off to a better start.  Now, in part due to working nights, I find I rarely need to set the alarm, as I nearly always wake before it goes off.  I set it anyway as insurance!  

When we went through the house after the fire looking for things to salvage, there was my bronze bunny, none the worse for wear other than a coating of smoke that scrubbed off leaving him a bit darker than he’d been before.  Within a week or two of the fire, I was grateful to be able to find a replacement for my little alarm clock, which had not survived the fire due to the heat.  Once again, I had these two familiar items at my bedside.  They make me feel at home during a time when we had none.  

Since then, I’ve added another little item to my bedside; a tiny hand stitched pocket prayer that I made for my Mom when things were getting difficult with my Dad’s Alzheimer’s to remind her of my love for both of them when I wasn't there.   As my Dad lay dying in hospice, she kept in on the pillow next to his head as a symbol of our love for him.  After she passed away, I found it on her bedside table next to her bed.  Now it rests beside my bed and the bronze bunny often sits on it.  It serves as a reminder of my parents and the love we had for one another.  

As I said earlier, it may seem strange to consider this little trio of objects some of my important treasures, but it is a grouping of items that says "home" to me.  It reminds me of my family, of comfort, and of my joy in the little things.  


Marbling Class

One last post about my trip!  I didn't get to share much of my marbling class with you before as the papers I had created were rolled up tightly and not easy to photograph.  But after spending a few days weighted down, they've flattened nicely and I'd love to share more with you about them!  This batch was among some of the early papers that I marbled.  The third from the right is actually the first one, but then it was later over dyed!  I loved the way it turned out!  

Our instructor was Pat Thomas, and she was terrific!  She allowed me to take some process pictures along the way.  This is the tray filled with a solution of carrageenan, which allows the colors to float on top.  The color is added a drop at a time and more added randomly.  

Using a bamboo skewer, lines are drawn through the tray, drawing the color into patterns. 

Then the skewer is drawn across the tray in the opposite direction, creating yet a different pattern! It's like magic watching the change take place! 

Then, a comb created with pins is drawn through the pan creating the traditional marbling pattern!  

Next, a sheet of previously prepared paper is laid carefully on the surface of the tray and then lifted off revealing the "print"!  One of the things I learned is that what you see on the tray, may not be exactly what you will see on the paper as the color transparencies often impact the final result.  Also, what you see on the tray is the bottom side of the color, not the "top" side that will show on the paper. 

After Pat's demonstration, here is the tray I created. 

And the print that I got off of it!  I had expected the darks to be darker, but because they were on the back and layers over more transparent colors, it lightened the whole.   Still quite happy with how it turned out!  

Once we printed our papers, we clipped them up to dry.  It was cold enough, that they were freezing rather than drying, so we ended up having to bring them in the classroom overnight, otherwise, we'd have had to pack wet papers!  

When we emptied the carrageenan solution out of the trays, it formed a lovely pattern of color on the bottom of the trays from where the paint had dripped through.  Wish we could have printed this!  But the carrageenan keeps it from adhering to the paper, so a photo will have to do!  As most of you know, who read my blog regularly, I love green.  They joked several times about needing to take the green paint away from me.  But when all was said and done, I actually turned out quite a few papers with no green on them!  

The last morning, we choose one of our papers and created a booklet with it.  Here is the class working hard at getting them completed!  Ginny Moreland was the instructor for this portion of the class and Pat's class assistant for the marbling portion!  She's also a wonderful marbler!  

Then, before our last lunch at the school, we had show and tell and a small "graduation" ceremony!  We only had Friday evening, all day Saturday and Sunday morning together, but what a fun filled time of learning it was!  All the classes there turned out some lovely work ranging from making birdhouses, to spinning, to Morris Dancing, to making Italian Liquors and more.  So much fun and a wonderful mix of men and women attending the classes!  

Along with our certificate, we received these bumper stickers!  Do check the John C. Campbell Folk School out.  It was a lovely experience and I would gladly return at any time to learn something new or to hone a craft further!  

So here are the papers I created during the class.  This is about halfway through once I started getting the hang of it.  

By these papers, I was learning so much and having fun experimenting a little bit, both with color and with pattern.  

These were some of the last that I created.  I love the way the pink and black ones turned out!  

I definitely fell in love with marbling and by the end of the workshop was told that I had a knack for it!  If nothing else, I could spend hours playing with it just to see how the colors interact and to see what one could do with the patterns!

I was asked what I plan on doing with these lovely papers.  Well, at the moment I have no specific plans, but I have done a bit of book binding, and the traditional use is to use marbled paper for the insides of the cover, so I may use some of them for that purpose.  I may also use some of them to make note cards and possibly to make some small notebooks.  Other than that, time will tell!

The other question I received was about doing this process on fabric.  The answer is yes, you can, but it does involve a slightly different process and MUCH larger trays to accommodate the fabric!  One of these days, I may give it a go on a smaller scale, but for now, there are so many other projects that I need to finish up before I can even consider adding a new craft to my regular repertoire! 

While on my trip through the Great Smokies, I did take time to do a couple of small watercolor sketches.  This one of some of the cabins in Cade's Cove.  I loved how the dark woods contrasted against the lighter color of the woods behind them.  

The following day, I did this one of a meadow opening through the trees.  The skies lowering and a bit of snow on the ground, but not enough to obscure the lovely colors in the grass.  Both sketches are about 3"x 5". 

So that finishes up my 6 day trip to Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee!  I saw such a small portion of each state, but it whetted my appetite to see more!  


Winter to Spring

On my last day in the Great Smoky Mountains, I woke up to cold and snow!  It prevented me from taking the high road over the top, so instead I spent another day in Cade's Cove.  So different on this day and I found that my eye sought out different things.  

The herd of Whitetail Deer were much more subdued and focused on eating rather than on playing on this chilly morning.  

Details of the trees stood out against the grey skies.  So lovely and graceful when silhouetted against a lighter sky. 

The snow brought out the greens and golds of the fields and meadows.  

Along the roadsides, the orange of the deeper soils was much more apparent.  

The light dry leaves of the dogwood stood out even more like blossoms in the dim light.  

Still beautiful, despite the snow and the cold.  Throughout the day, the snow gradually melted away, returning now and again in slight showers.  The added moisture brought the green of the new grass to life.  

The grey mist through the trees made it easy to see why these mountains are named the Great Smoky Mountains.   The forest floor's layer of red leaves was more apparent with the damp. 

On the rocky faces, fern leaves that hung dry and limp the day before were now perking up and the green intensifying with every drop of moisture.  

The rock formations along the road are every bit as spectacular as those here in the west.  The mountains of the Smokies might be older and worn down with time, but they are mountains just the same!  

I saw two groups of wild turkeys, this one made up of Toms and the other made up of Hens.  

Seeing this coyote making his way across the field was a treat!  But that look in his eyes tells me he wasn't as happy to see me as I was to see him!  

In one area, there was much yellow flagging and these signs alerting visitors to bear activity in the area.  The ranger said that there was a huge tree fall in the winter den area and so a mother bear had woken from hibernation early and was active with her cubs in this area, so they closed it off to protect her and the cubs as well as the visitors.  

I must have driven past this stump a couple of times the day before and not "seen" it.  But with the cold, suddenly its top of frizzy hair caught my attention and made me smile! 

The woodland roads still beautiful in the light snow.  

The soft delicate needles of the Eastern Hemlock.  I really fell in love with these trees.  Just beautiful!  And they have the loveliest tiny cones on them! 

There were a lot of these pines as well.  Southern White Pine, I believe, though I may be wrong.  One of the things I miss when I'm not able to drive my car from home, is having to leave behind all my nature guides!  

Isn't this a magnificent tree?  Here in Colorado, there are so few hardwood trees ~ on the plains it's mostly cottonwood and some willow.  In the mountains it is Ponderosa Pine, Douglass Fir and Engelmann Spruce ~ all so different from the eastern woodlands.  Getting to see these beautiful trees here in their native setting is such a gift!  So beautiful!  

Today I could see the buds forming on the Rhododendrons.  They should be spectacular in a month or two!  

My last photo as I left the park for the last time.  A lovely winter stream canopied in Rhododendron.  

The next morning I left Townsend before dark and made my way south back towards Atlanta and the airport.  I had hoped to go back via the road over the Great Smoky Mountains, but it was still closed due to the snow.  Instead I made my way across eastern Tennessee and into northern Georgia to Gibbs Gardens.  On my way north, I had seen signs on the highway advertising 2,000,000 daffodils!  

When I arrived, I was greeted by an enormous flock of Cedar Waxwings!  They are only seen rarely in Colorado and I've never seen them so closely as I was able to see these!  Gorgeous!  

The entry was lovely, with huge underplanting of mostly yellow and some purple pansies.  

It was a super chilly morning, only about 28 degrees when I arrived!  I was grateful for my winter jacket and gloves!  It didn't stop the forsythia from blooming though!  

Normally at this time of year, this hillside would be filled with those millions of daffodil blossoms, but due to early unseasonably warm temperatures, the daffodils were nearly finished blooming.  It was still a lovely walk down the hill on broad grassy paths through the woods.  All around were blooming shrubs.  

Pearly white spirea blooms.  They sparkled in the landscape! 

Though most of the daffodils were done, there were still plenty to see!  

I love these white ones with orange centers!  

And this one with a pinkish cup.  My sister and I have both planted "pink" varieties throughout the years and been terribly disappointed.  What fun to see that here they actually are rather pink and not just an ugly shade of dirty yellow as they usually turn out for us.  

At the bottom of the hill lies the full garden, complete with numerous ponds, many paths and loveliness everywhere one looked.  I had the gardens virtually to myself due to the cold.  But it warmed up enough to be a lovely walk.  

I was finally able to get a good photo of the magenta samaras on the trees!  I found myself wondering if the color of the samara is an indication of the fall color of the leaves.  

Everywhere were thick fat buds of leaves on the verge of bursting forth.  Nearly as beautiful as flowers in my humble opinion!  

Along the streams were more plantings of daffodils and pansies. 

A tori gate at the entrance to the Japanese style garden. 

The colors in the woods here were magnificent!  

The weeping willows in the Japanese garden were already cloaked with green!  So graceful above the ponds!

I loved the assortment of Japanese stone lanterns throughout the garden.  Each pond had a different style.  How glorious will this pond be once the iris' start to bloom?  

Just lovely!  It was a perfect quiet morning spent in a beautiful setting, before spending the end of the day in a noisy airport and packed plane ride home to Colorado!  

It truly was a lovely trip.  Far too short as usual!  One of these days, I'll sell my little home with it's too big yard and head off with an RV to spend time exploring the lovely places in the country!  How grand it will be to decide to stay in a place and watch the seasons change.  It's what I dream of anyway!