Monday, June 29

Loving my gray

I remember (way back) when I turned 34. It was so much more challenging than turning 30. Or 39. Or 40. Turning 34 meant I was no longer in my early thirties. I was officially in my MID-thirties.

So, with today as my 43rd birthday, I am happily celebrating my last year in my EARLY forties. Because next year, I will be turning 44, thus “officially’ entering my MID-forties.

But, for now, at least, I am STILL in my EARLY forties.

Having said all that, what is also true is that my forties have been THE best decade of my life so far.

So many of my women friends who are in their fifties say THAT is the best decade.

Which means I am on an upward trend. Clearly.

And sitting at a red light while driving the other day, I noticed several new gray hairs on the top of my head. I looked at them. Then again at the next light. Wow. That’s me, that’s MY reflection. Those are MY gray hairs. Mine.

I then had this wave of appreciation flow over me. For some reason, I just love my gray hairs. How funny.

Love shows up in strange places these days.

Sunday, June 28

Quote: Space made of light

"There is this space between the wall and the air that is made of light."

C.J. Volk
 Citron Paint






‘Fig and Wisteria’, by Stephen Yates

Friday, June 26

Progress on commissioned quilt for my friends in Holland


My sweet Dutch friends requested a colorway of dark blue and cream. Here is the fabric progression for the central pattern:


The finished size of the quilt will be 96” x 112” – a bit larger than a California King.

I am putting together a “Radiant Sunshine and Shadow” pattern. Here’s this week’s progress on the 640 (!) nine-patch blocks:DSC_0170

The finished size of these little nine-patch blocks is 3.5 x 3.5”:DSC_0172






Thursday, June 25

Night-Blooming Cereus, seriously!

Okay, it was worth waiting a few nights! Here are a few shots from last night – a small portion of the over FORTY blooms that opened all at once! What a stunning show! Each blossom blooms for only one night and is about 10 INCHES across!

Tripod, no flash, just the available light from the landscape up-lighting Ken installed at the base of the plant just a few hours earlier – what a super birthday-weekend gift for me!!




Wednesday, June 24

Ottoman redux, times two

The “Before” shot: torn orange vinyl cushion cover, chipped gray base. Procured via Craig’s List, $18, pounds, Kirby in the action, as always, paws visible behind ottoman.DSC_0103

Attempt #1 Matte black spray paint, reupholstered cushion in salmon-and-yellow windowpane check.


Attempt #2 Black was too dark. Satin white spray-paint much better. Ahhh…


Tuesday, June 23

Night light, night life


Unretouched, unedited photo of this amazing hanging vine. I don’t know the name of it – we call it the ‘waterfall vine’. Magically backlit by our new landscape lighting in the west courtyard. Photo taken after dark, about 9:30 PM.

Monday, June 22

Quote: Give Birth to a Dancing Star

"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”


M83 The Southern Pinwheel
Constellation Hydra

Photo by Kirby Benson, Las Cruces, NM

Saturday, June 20

Tiki a la Francaise?


TikiA few more satisfying additions to the ever-evolving west courtyard:

  1. Copper tiki torch, filled with mosquito-repelling cedar and citronella oil
  2. Low landscape lantern (wires hidden and all!)
  3. Two very sweet green wrought-iron chairs from the Paris Flea Market

Thursday, June 18

Queen of the Night

Our night-blooming cereus, or Dutchman’s Pipe Cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum), caught last night. Hopefully tonight a bloom will appear that is on the front of the cactus.



And here’s what it looks like in the daylight – it’s the tall cactus on the far left:DSC_0106

Monday, June 8

Quote: The years teach us…

“The years teach us much the days never knew.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson










“Gates Mills, Ohio”, by Lynne Neuman

Thursday, June 4

Expats-in-Waiting: Moving Towards a Retirement Dream in France

I have always felt that I would live abroad for an extended period at some point later in my life. I didn’t have any further inklings than that. Nothing concrete. No particular location in mind. It was just a body sense, an intuition. The thought did not live in my head.

Then along comes sweet Ken, whose dreams of living the expatriate life are old and dear. Since living for several years in Cyprus, he has always known he was expat-at-heart.

Over the years, and especially during his time as a travel writer for Rick Steves, Ken developed a deep love affair with Europe... and France in particular. Ever since I have known him, he has devoured every book he could get his hands on that has to do with French culture, life as an expat, moving internationally and all things related.

Well, since Ken is a keeper-among-keepers, not to mention pretty much the easiest guy to travel with AND live with -- I mean, who’s gonna argue with France? Not me, that’s for durn sure!

So, over the last 6 weeks, our original itinerary for our Europe trip this fall has morphed into a delicious reconnaissance mission to to France to explore and investigate where we might love to move when he retires in two to four years.

Our exhaustive research (thank you, Google!) has enabled us to narrow our search to the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, specifically the department of Herault. (Translation note: “department” is roughly equivalent to an American county or parish.)

Languedoc-Roussillon_mapLanguedoc -– which, get this (!) -- translates as “the language of yes” -- is located on the Mediterranean Sea, to the west of Provence and bordering Spain and the Pyrenees Mountains to the south. It is the “other south of France” – an unspoiled, uncrowded, less expensive version of Provence. Shhh… don’t tell anyone!

I have been doing what Ken calls “a deep delve” into research on our potential retirement spot. Though, to be more accurate, HE will be retiring. I, being 19 years younger than he is, will still be creating fun ways to generate income for a number of years yet! Hmmm… I wonder what I’ll create in France!

Herault is the area we are focusing on -- specifically the Orb River Valley – the villages of Roquebrun, Cessenon-sur-Orb, and St. Chinian are on the list, with Roquebrun occupying the top spot.

Here’s Roquebrun! Called ‘La Petit Nice’, this village of approximately 650 inhabitants is nestled up against the southern boundary of a national park. This nestled position enables a desirable microclimate, fairly protected from the legendary howling winds of southern France – the Tramontane and the Mistral.

Looking northwest:roquenbrun-g

Looking north:2Roque6

The sensuous Orb River winds through the village. Here’s a shot looking south:Orb Valley

An aerial view:2Roque1

From the River Orb, looking north up into the village. Check out the restaurant with the reddish awning in the left part of the photo:R.ORB%20AT%20ROQUEBRUN

Looking south:River Orb in Roquebrun2

Tres magnifique, non?! Swoon...

Here’s Cessenon-sur-Orb, population 1800: Cessenon



Here’s St. Chinian, population 1800:



So, instead of our trip being a whirlwind of many beds, we searched for just the perfect “gite” to rent for the entire stay—actually, we found two. This appeals deeply to my Cancerian homebody nature to have only three mattresses in two neighboring villages for the entire stay!  Especially to create a feeling of a true home base as we explore, and to “try on” living in a small village.

Week 1, we’ll stay here, Les Hirondelles, (“The Swallows”), right in the village of Roquebrun, next door to the baker(!), overlooking the Orb River:


Week 2, we’ll be here, Les Palmiers, (“The Palms”), in the village of Cessenon-sur-Orb, right on the market square.


Week 3, we’ll stay here, La Rive, (“The Shore”), just outside the village of Roquebrun, 5 minutes’ walk from the bakery, right on the Orb River:


We may just send for Roxy and our stuff and call it good!

We have enrolled in French lessons already at Pima Community College for the summer.  Everyone we have talked to about this move has stated quite strongly that the French have no tolerance for foreigners who do not at least TRY to speak the language. Having gotten straight “A’s” through 2 years of high school French 25 years ago – who knows if I retained even a single bit of grammar or vocabulary. Perhaps there are some old synapses that can be re-ignited with a bit of effort and intention!

It will be an interesting journey, being an expat. I have been in heaven imagining the possibilities. And anticipating the more sublime pace and the aesthetic sensibilities I resonate with there.

Wednesday, June 3

Sweet seersucker

What is it about seersucker that makes me swoon? It seriously has to be THE most comforting fabric of them all. (What?! Could polarfleece possibly be edged out?)




I just made this sweet pistachio-green-and-white curtain for the French door in our Master bathroom. I’ve had this piece of fabric for years, reluctant to cut into it because it is just soooo sweet. But finally, here is the perfect use for it! A darling foil for the intense east sun that heats up the bathroom in the morning, where it is held captive and stuffy the rest of the day. Seersucker to the rescue!

Tuesday, June 2

Quote: We don’t become undone

“One sign of health is that we don't become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message -- an invitation -- to stop struggling and look directly at what's threatening us, be with it, and listen to the message it brings."

Pema Chodron


Field, Summer by Susan Abbott

Monday, June 1


This weekend was great fun – we played some more in accessorizing our deck and continuing the transformation. Click here to see what it looked like before.

We added a romantic (AND functional, come monsoon season) mosquito netting. Also, a sweet little flagstone-topped side table. We found the metal frame for cheap at Connie’s Cellar Chic and had an extra piece of flagstone leftover from another project that we just laid on top of it – how easy was that?!




After the sculpture installation, we all felt we needed something under it to ground it, so Ken came up with the idea of adding a few boulders, stones and plants.  I think it came out great! Any suggestions on how to light it?



Since the hummingbirds are already happily sipping at the corner fountain, we thought we’d entice them even more with some sweet nectar.


Then, with Ken’s dad’s move to a smaller place, we inherited a lovely white iron table from his old place. Now we are on the hunt for a couple of old, mismatched Arizona sun-safe chairs. Yay… I’ll get another reason to make pillows! As if I needed one! I am thinking my true calling is that of pillow-maker. I wonder if there is a market for pillows at the Farmer’s Market or elsewhere? Hmmm…..

We also found this punched-tin chandelier for half-price at a big antique consignment place, Copper Country Antiques. With a coat of matte white spray paint and a plant hook prayerfully attached to the leaning sycamore tree, it looks ooh-la-la so French, non?!

This weekend perhaps our contractor will be clever enough to figure out how to safely electrify it so that it can add to the evening ambience out there. Right now, it is purely decorative.


Our first official use of the “new” table, graced by Ken’s outstanding pasta alitalia and a robust red from Beziers, France – one of our destinations on our October trip:DSC_0061

We found a $3 plaster column thingie that makes a lovely plant stand at Tucson’s Paris Flea Market -– a very sweet store. An $8 mirror from a thrift store completes the composition:


Yet another terra cotta pot – one perhaps cannot have too many.




And lastly, a shot taken a couple of minutes ago, capturing the dappled June Arizona morning sunlight that just stopped me in my tracks:


Made me think of the lyrics from that Indigo Girls song, World Falls:

“Everywhere I turn, all the beauty just keeps shaking me.”

Ahhhhhh… Can it get better than this? (I believe that it can! More pillows anyone?)