Trip to Bay Area, Participating in Art Show

On the heels of our painting trip to the Grand Canyon in early April, I was asked to show my work at the home gallery of Suzanne Elliott in beautiful Bonny Doon, Santa Cruz, California. The show was scheduled over Mothers’s Day weekend, and was a good impetus to finish and frame more recent work, including several of the plein air paintings from the Grand Canyon trip.

Two paintings were sold prior to the show, both done in Plein Air style:

Here’s the gallery set up. We shared the indoor space, and a jewelry artist joined us, setting up in the patio:

The weather was beautiful, and the trip gave me an opportunity to see a few Bay Area friends along the way.

Before the show opened on Sunday we had a nice walk along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, beautiful! I do miss being closer to the ocean!

A few of the take away “future projects” which are now on my art “to do” list: create a batch of very small plein air painting to offer unframed and at a lower price point than framed work, and produce new greeting cards of recent work. These small items are a way for potential customers to dip their toes in my work without a larger expenditure. I’ll definitely do this before the next showing opportunity! Thanks Suzanne for the ideas and encouragement.

See more of my artwork here :

Now that I’m home there are also pressing gardening projects to get busy with. I just finished harvesting the huge batch of snap peas which exploded in the last few weeks when the weather suddenly turned to hot. I trimmed, blanched and froze several batches. I also created a  tasty soup with snap peas, carrots and onions, blended smooth yum!

Here’s the recipe for Sugar Snap Pea and Carrot Soup from

Clearing the snap pea area in the raised bed for new plantings, and creating another new spot for planting nearby. Next up: zucchini, cucumber, more tomatoes and kale!

Painting on Location

We just returned from a magical trip to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, lucky to be included by a friend who travels regularly with a group of oil painters from Santa Cruz, CA. My friend Suzanne Elliott ( called me this past December and described the trip, and as the Grand Canyon has been on my “bucket list”, it didn’t take long say YES! I’m blessed with an amiable spouse who was happy to go along, see the sites and hang with a congenial art group from Santa Cruz Oil Painters (

Not a quick trip for us, a drive to the Sacramento airport, flight to Phoenix, picked up our rental car and detoured to Sedona for a late lunch at Pisa Lisa ( had a really great mushroom pizza, although we veered off our vegan diet to include some cheese on this trip! Sedona is beautiful, and I’d love to go back and stay a few days to paint at some later date. We drove on to the Yavapai Lodge inside the park, arriving a bit after 6pm — but the last hour of travel was in blowing snow!! Beautiful as it cleared that evening.


The next morning we met up with some of the other painters at Moran Point, about 26 miles from the Yavapai. Here was my first set up, and of course the view was stunning.


What is the lure of painting “en plein aire” as opposed to in the comfort of one’s studio? Spending time in nature, taking the time to soak in an area like the South Rim! We stayed at each painting location at least 2-1/2 to three hours — some did longer sessions. Tourists came and went, quickly running up to the vantage points, snapping photos (and endless selfies) and running back to their vehicles. Strange to be a painter out there on display as much as the scenery. All in all, I got a lot of nice complements on my work — although it’s distracting to get interrupted by strangers with questions. Some wanted to take my photo, which was strange to me, but maybe we were as much of a “sight” as the location for those who had never seen artists working?


Now I’m home, and working on finishing touches to these little 9 x 12″ paintings in the comfort (and quiet) of my studio. I’ll share a few in this space in a later blog. This trip also taught me about the process of traveling with my art supplies. For some tips on that check out Sue’s blog: It was so helpful that she and several others had driven in from California, and were generous in sharing their Gamsol! Otherwise, a stop at the art store in Phoenix would have been a must.

On Life’s Canvas…

Things here above the Oroville Dam are moving along as usual, although our favorite “back road to town” is now and for the foreseeable future unavailable due to the continuing spillway retrofitting. I do miss it, it was so much more picturesque than the highway route — and a bit quicker.

In the garden things are changing. I’ve harvested the last tail ends of my broccoli, which did marvelously well — and so gratifying for a first try at that vegetable. Next in that spot will be the summer tomatoes I think. The sugar snap peas, which are in the same raised bed, are getting ready to pod. This will be another first for me, not sure how that harvest will go as they’ve been battered by wind and rain off and on lately.

Yes, this is really MY broccoli, not stock photo!! Much greener than grocery store equivalent!

New plantings in the other raised bed of garlic, onions, lettuce, parsley and cilantro are all looking promising. And my many 5 gallon pots of potatoes are all leafing out nicely, should be a huge harvest eventually. What I’m particularly proud of are my tiny Fuji Apple seedlings — I need to get a photo — from seeds of an apple purchased and eaten last summer. It will be interested to see how they do… if I’m here long enough to see it!

Here’s something I threw together for dinner the other night as I had almost a full jar of pasta sauce in the fridge…

Mushroom Pasta in Tomato Sauce

  • 2 C brown rice pasta (I used elbow), cooked separately
  • 8 oz white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 16 oz mini portabello mushrooms (or several large ones), cleaned and sliced
  • 2 C fresh baby spinach (slighly chopped)
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 1 t  Garlic powder
  • 1/2 t Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 t Dried Basil
  • 1/2 t Onion Powder
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:  Sauté mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil or vegetable broth until softened, add seasonings and spinach. Sauté on medium heat until spinach is limp, add tomato sauce — lower heat, stir to combine and heat sauce. Add cooked pasta and combine. Serve with Vegan Parmesan on top. You could also throw in any other bits of cooked vegetables you need to use up!

Here are a couple of small oil paintings I’ve recently worked on, they were started outside “Plein Air” style and finished up in the studio — the location is Kelly Ridge state land, right behind our house:





And a drawing (30 min study from  live model, pastel) from the portrait group I attend:


Vegan Above the Flood Plain

It has been an eventful week living here just outside Oroville, CA near the Oroville dam and spillway. Our little part of the world made national and international headlines this weekend when our damaged spillway, and untested emergency spillway started to look compromised to the officials monitoring the situation…

Here’s a bit of video I took today (2/16/2017) of the Feather River running near downtown Oroville:


The weather on Sunday Feb 12th 2017 was clear and sunny, a welcome change from the unrelenting rain and over cast skies of the past week. I drove down to Davis, CA to meet up with a friend for lunch and to see the new Manetti Shrem Art Museum on the U.C. Davis campus. I highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in the area, the museum is free and parking free on weekends.

I arrived back home to the hills above Oroville at 3:30pm, chatted with my husband, walked outside on the back deck — and then both our cell phones chimed, with a “Severe Alert” text message “Flash Flood Warning this area til 4:15 PM PST. Avoid flood areas.”

Was this a mistake we wondered? We aren’t in a flood zone… but we checked the news and saw that the Butte County Sheriff had announced an immediate mandatory evacuation for all of downtown and south Oroville, as well as much of the area I had just driven through on my way back from Davis. People were to leave immediately and seek higher ground, those in Oroville were directed towards the city of Chico to the north. The area we live in is above and behind the dam, so it was safe for us to stay put. As we watched the news, seeing lines of people driving out of town, we felt very grateful for our location. But the situation had us on edge and slightly unnerved.  Helicopters buzzed over head, both news and those working on the problem. The spillway had been damaged some days before, a large gouge of damage was growing, and with the lake exceeding the top of the emergency spillway, officials feared that untested area might fail leading to a huge release of water, mud and debris.

On Monday, reality sank in, we wondered if we had enough food on hand to last for a while. There was uncertainty about the duration of this event — and worst case scenarios might have us trapped up here for a week or more. My husband decided to venture down to the small local market & gas station near us. The place was mobbed — long lines, no gas available. Tim looked around and was surprised to find that the kind of food we were looking for – vegetables and fruit WAS available. He picked up some fresh and frozen veggies, tomatoes, apples and a few other things to tide us over. (Luckily we do have a well stocked pantry — a necessity when living a distance from town)  He noticed that the food isles in the center of the store — chips, soda and packaged quick foods were almost completely bare! Maybe, in times of scarcity, it pays to be vegan? : )

Thankfully the mandatory evacuation was lifted the next day, changed to a “warning” — people came back, businesses opened again. But the threat is still there, and we have FEMA, DWR, National Guard, local law enforcement and Cal Fire all camping out in the marina downhill. Helicopters continue to fly overhead dropping one-ton bags of boulders to shore up the hill under the emergency spillway. Things will not return to “normal” anytime soon.

Here’s quick and comforting soup recipe I tried during this stressful time, courtesy of  the “Fresh Princess” on YouTube, “1 Pot, 5 Ingredient Pasta con Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas). All these ingredients were in my pantry already!



From Diaries to Journals to Blogs…

I’m just going to ignore the dismal subject of politics for now and jump into a new subject, journal keeping! The topic of keeping diaries, journals or more modern blogs has been on my mind lately, and so I took the time to reflect on this a little. Realizing that journal keeping had been part of my ancestry, on both sides of the family gave me pause. Interesting! Both my material grandmother, her sister and their father kept journals quite regularly. And several years ago,  I was delighted and fascinated to learn my Great Great Grandfather on my father’s side had kept journals as well!


Elsie (on left), and Mae


My maternal grandmother Elsie Winter Sproul and her sister Mae Winter both kept journals, I’m not sure how consistent they were, but the journals I have in my possession date back to the 1950s. They both “repurposed” daily calendars, small leather bound promotional calendars given out by insurance firms, some had been made into five year journals. Mae lived with Elsie during these years, as her health was quite bad due to the after effects of a bad car accident which ended her career as a school Principal in the Midwest. Typical content from both women ranged  from noting visitors to the house, recently send correspondence,


Elsie and Mae’s Yearbook Diaries


recent cultural activities they had attended, special meals and gatherings and always a note of the weather.

Diary entry
My birth, briefly noted in my maternal Grandmother’s diary

My own birth is noted in my grandmother’s journal — briefly as was her custom, but it was fun to find it there. I was born two years after her beloved sister died, and hope my presence brought her new focus and comfort after such a loss.

F.W.Winter Memoranum 1977-78
F.W. Winter’s “Memorandum” from 1877-78 and photo as a young man.

Mae and Elsie’s father, my Great Grandfather Frederick W. Winter was an avid journal or “Memorandum” keeper. He was also a homeopathic doctor in Nebraska and Wyoming.  I have one early diary/scrapbook he kept from around 1877, and several from the end of his life in the 1930’s. Frederick read and wrote English and German, and was very interested in literature and music, religion, modern culture and medical advancements. It’s hard to make out the writing, and I need to spend more time trying to decipher the content of both of these journals.

F.W.Winter's journal
F.W.Winter’s journal from 1935, written in a physician’s appointment book.

The notebook from 1935 does start with an entry about attending the Pasadena Rose Parade in Southern California with my Grandparents who he was living with at the time.

My own mother, on the other hand, was a spotty journal writer. She kept a diary in her junior high years, but it was very superficial, probably because she feared her mother would look at it!

She did keep a journal off and on when I was young, and more consistently after my Dad died in 1999, which I found and kept after she left us in 2010. It is hard to read, raw and wrenching, but it does show her path of accomplishment as she tackles the tasks my father used to handle, specifically financial management and car maintenance! It was good to see her growing pride at handling tasks that she hadn’t had to deal with before. She also mentions friends, politics, books, music and travel — but throughout, her loss looms large and never abates.

Family photo
My Great Great Grandfather William Gardner, taken when he was in his 60’s.

Another family journalist, and most recent “find” was my Great Great Grandfather on my father’s side, William Gardner. Through the magic of, a small Gardner side family reunion was gathered several years ago, and I learned of his journals. My cousin let me borrow the two she had (we suspect many had been lost through the years), and I photographed the pages to keep before returning them to her. William was born and married in Hudson, New Hampshire, then began to move his family west, farming for a time in Utica, Indiana and Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and eventually settling in San Jose California around 1872. In San Jose he owned a grocery store, owned land and help settle people into downtown San Jose, and was instrumental in starting a new school district for the children of people moving into the area — the Gardner District still bears his name. His son George W. Gardner was an fruit grower, his daughter, my grandmother Dorette grew up on a ranch to the west of Bird Avenue in Willow Glen.

family journal
Advice to my children… W. Gardner

One of the last pages of the journal from his later years says “Advice to my children, never to leave Cal. on any condition or under any circumstances…” It was “the best place in the world to live or die” (not a dramatic bone in his body!). He did say this with some authority, for he had traveled extensively throughout the U.S., British Columbia, even visiting the “Sandwich Islands” and undergoing the onerous overland crossing through Panama before the canal was built. One interesting note for me, as I now live in Oroville, CA, in Butte County — he once camped at the foot of the Sutter Buttes which I can see from this area on a clear day!

My own journal habit was first inspired by reading the “Harriet the Spy” books, and I admit at first they were definitely “spy notebooks”. They evolved over the years to be more of a personal diary, and probably took the place of years of therapy! Much less expensive, but definitely a place to pore out thoughts and feeling, fears and hopes. I’ve always kept to the format of a notebook, preferring a large capacity spiral notebook like students use (or used to before tablets and laptops).

Pile of notebooks
My pile of journals, dating back to the early 1970’s! Not as elegant as my ancestors…

Looking forward, I’ve been interested in the new form of journaling called “bullet journals”, which are part journal, part “to do” list, and part long term goal setting. I love how the need to document our thoughts and reflect on our lives, grows and evolves with each new generation.

Do you journal? What is your format and how do you use it in your life?

Favorite Vegan Recipes of 2016

Happy New Year! It’s actually 2017! Can hardly believe it, and we’ve been “retired” for three and a half years now! (we “escaped Silicon Valley” in July of 2013). In June of 2016 I “went vegan” following the whole food plant based diet, and Tim followed soon after. With a few slip ups (yes, he had some ham at Xmas dinner with the neighbors) and a bit of mayo on my Portabello burger in a restaurant here and there — we’ve been pretty “good”. We’ve both lost weight and kept it off, and feel our digestion is much better overall.

Here are some of our favorite new recipes and go to food choices from the last six months, in no particular order:

  • Black Bean & Potato Seitan Roast with Vegan Mushroom gravy Seitan Roast Recipe
  • Creamy Vegan Mushroom Fettuccine Alfredo — I add fresh steamed broccoli.  Recipe here

    Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo
  • Stuffed Acorn Squash with cranberry sauce — I served this at our Thanksgiving Recipe here
  • Vegan Parmesan — I used all cashews which worked fine, this stuff is MAGIC!! Recipe here
  • Cauliflower Tacos (from the Thug Kitchen cookbook)
  • Homemade Pinto “refried” beans / bean & rice burritos or enchiladas
  • Vegetable miso soup — start with onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, cabbage. Veg stock and some Miso after veggies are tender to taste. You can add any veggies you have on hand that you enjoy.
  • Breakfast muffins, my recipe — 1 C whole wheat flour, 1 C rolled oats or muesli, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 T flaxseed meal mixed with 6 T water (set this aside to thicken while you gather the other ingredients). 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 to 1 C apple sauce (or grated fresh peeled apple, or pumpkin puree), chopped walnuts (1/2 cup or a bit more), Plant milk to muffin consistency (start with a half cup, add enough to get a sticky but not sloppy batter).  Add several chopped (pitted) dates for sweetness as needed. Bake at 400 for 25 min (makes 12 muffins).
  • Morning Porridge — we have a mix of Muesli and rolled oats, berries, cacao nibs, shredded coconut and flax seed meal (sometimes Chia seeds). Cooked on the stove with water. Tim adds Hemp protein powder and I add a tablespoon of Almond Butter and Molasses. We really look forward to this and have it almost every morning now.
  • The “Big Ass Salad” — everything fresh, great for the summer when you have fresh garden tomatoes and other things — add what you like to fill a dinner plate or huge bowl.
  • Portabello Burgers with oven fries – –
    Portabello Burger

    removed dark gills from underside and stem, clean and marinate in vinegrette, bake or saute. Serve on bun with fresh lettuce, tomato and avocado — make oven fries with fresh russet potatoes.

So, I’m still struggling with WordPress and pressed “publish” instead of “preview” — but wishing you and yours and very happy and peaceful 2017!

The Fine Art of Distraction

Will 2016 be our new Annus Horribilis? I’ve had a hard time coming back to blogging after this U.S. Presidential election.  Not a fan of our new “President Elect”, I’ve been filled with disbelief that such a man could have gone as far as he did, and what that means in terms of reflection on the character of our country and commentary on our world today.

During the last month of the election, as a way of distracting myself from all the negativity, I decided to do a “30 paintings in 30 days” painting challenge. I started in October and finished just after the election. Every day I posted something to my personal Facebook page — plein air, still life, interior study or a portrait from the drawing group I attend twice a month (pastel). It was a great way to loosen up the brush, so to speak. To approach painting more like sketching, quickly and less over worked. I’ll post a few of them here…

Acorn squash
Kelly Ridge

Thanksgiving came and went as well, we had our first Vegan “ThanksLiving” and invited our neighbor friends to join us — they were open to the idea, and seemed to enjoy the faire. On the menu — Stuffed Acorn Squash (I followed the “Hot For Food” recipe with some modifications —, maple glazed carrots, green beans with slivered almonds, smashed red potatoes with fresh parsley, apple and pumpkin pies, rolls and veggie/hummus appetizers that our guest brought. Yum!

As a new vegan, I’m also faced with challenges this holiday season — I’ve been invited to a luncheon where a main dish will be served that has meat in it. I offered to bring an entree to share, and was shut down with “the menu has already been decided on” — guess I’ll fill up on salad and bread? What do you do in these situations if you are Vegan or Vegetarian? Does it get easier? Somehow I feel that because I’ve only been at this for the last 6 months, I shouldn’t “make a big deal about it” and just eat meat if it’s there…. but that feels wrong now. Any feedback?

Tea Cup