Friday, September 25, 2015


My mother-in-law died recently. She was 94 and had had a long, rich life full of travel and friends. She was not a collector of things as I am. When she moved into assisted living, we helped her clear out her possessions. We did a further sweeping away when she moved into skilled nursing. What was left in her room when she died were several small glass blue birds given to her for her volunteer work at the local hospital.

In the last couple of years of her life, she and I became closer than we ever had been before, enjoying the time we spent together. These birds, an accidental collection of hers, have taken on special meaning to me. They represent memories of Lillian.

Starting with my grandparents, I have kept a memento of each passing elder. The token brings back the person whenever I look at the object. My grandmother was the first to go, and the jade plant on our back porch is a cutting from the original jade plant that my mother brought home after my grandmother's death. My grandmother told me family history, taught me the 'proper' way to do things, and saved my favorite magazine so that I could cut out the paper dolls in the back. She had a small garden where iris, grapes, and calla lilies grew, which sparked my interest in gardening.

My mother sent me envelopes of autumn leaves each year. I've saved them in a box and added many more of my own. When I sift through them in September, I remember her and realize how often I use leaves as symbols and motifs in my artwork.

The most unusual memento, an electric can opener, represents my grandfather. Yes, a can opener, which was the only thing left in his apartment after my mother had packed away the things she treasured. The can opener continued its useful life for many years until it finally gave out. Now it sits in my workroom as a bookend. I have other objects that belonged to my grandfather now, but the can opener always brings a smile to my face in memory of the whimsical, fun-loving storyteller who was my grandfather.

Iris Apfel, who is 93 and still a designer, once said in a New York Times article:  "I think it's wonderful to have stuff and live with memories and things you enjoy."  If Iris can do that, so can I.

Friday, September 18, 2015


I  didn't jump out of the womb with a brush in hand. I came from a family of artists who encouraged us to express ourselves in creative ways. This old painting from high school reminds me that what talent I have comes from perseverance, lots of hard work, stacks of sketchbooks and paintings, portfolios of drawings, prints, and boxes of doodles. These have all led me forward to where I am today.

Some days I feel on top of the world and think I am "really good." But a brief glance at another artist's work will bring me quickly down to earth. Take a quick run through Pinterest and you will see what I mean. What I need to remember: I am having fun making art, I am not trying to be world-famous (well, maybe a little!), I am improving my skills, I am exploring all kinds of different media, and I have limitations, just like we all do. I can stand back and admire those people who continued through their lifetimes developing their skills. I am still trying to catch up.

What struck me about that old painting was its theme: horizons. I have shown you previously some paintings from a recent series I call Horizons.  I didn't realize that I was looking back to an earlier self as I created new paintings.

With two good friends, I visited the J.M.W. Turner exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco. We all marveled at his work. He has inspired me anew to continue with my Horizon series, now emphasizing the sky.

Since Turner was a master at clouds. I've been practicing clouds.

I tried masking some areas of white on this page by using masking fluid and a sponge. The sponge left marks that were too square, so I did some touch-up with the blues and violets to make the clouds more realistic.

Some of the same colors in this painting of mountains are the same colors I used in that old painting from high school. Life goes in circles, doesn't it?

Friday, September 11, 2015


Do you have a special place you like to go to unwind?

Many of my friends are traveling this month. We have plans too. We like to explore parts of California an hour or two away. We have been staying at some lovely inns in the last couple of years. Last weekend we spent some time at one of my favorites: the Mill Rose Inn in Half Moon Bay. HMB has pumpkin fields, beach paths, and good places to eat. A great place to go for a quick vacation.

The Mill Rose Inn was built in the 70s. Bradbury and Bradbury wallpapers, made by a company from Benicia (check out their papers at, cover the walls and ceilings. Plants and orchids fill every horizontal space. The inn serves delicious breakfasts in the dining room, which is sometimes used for wedding parties. After breakfast, we took our coffee out into the enclosed garden -- enclosed by tree roses that cover the trellises around the property. The birds splashed and called to each other in the fountain as we sat under an umbrella surrounded by roses, cosmos, and hydrangeas. We had a hard time leaving such a tranquil spot.

We finally wandered off, down the main street of HMB, walking by a good bookstore, Coastside Books,, several clothing shops, and handmade furniture stores until we turned around and headed to our car.

Winsor Newton paint kit which includes everything you need (except paper) to make art in a journal on the go.

We drove down to Bean Hallow Beach south of Pescadero, which is Bill's favorite in this area. I brought along my nifty Winsor Newton paint kit while Bill took photos of the beach, which is covered with small pebbles of every color.

I will leave you with Bill's amazing photos to enjoy!

Half Moon Bay has become another interesting food destination in the Bay Area. Here are a few of our favorites:

Pasta Moon

It's Italia


Good food, a good walk, and some sunshine -- what better ways to spend your days!

Other good inns near us that we have tried:

Seven Gables Inn, Pacific Grove

Honor Mansion, Healdsburg

Napa River Inn at the old Napa Mill, Napa

Tamales Bay Resort, Inverness

Do you have a favorite place to stay within an hour or two of your home?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Autumn is in the Air

The slight chill in the air tonight made me swap my sundress for sweatpants and a sweater. The air reminded me of the first week in September in Paris, the time the Parisians call 'Rentree' (with an accent on the first 'e'), when everyone returned to the City from their August vacations. When school reconvened and the streets became busy again with shoppers, I knew that autumn had arrived. The air was cooler than the previous week and the sun set much earlier than the 10 p.m. we had enjoyed all summer.

A good friend, planning a trip to Paris, asked for ideas about where to stay, which flooded me with memories of our once-in-a-lifetime apartment in the 16th Arrondissement.

We were lucky to find the flat on rue de Lasteyrie. Colleagues from Bill's work arranged to transfer their apartment to us since they were returning to the United States. Not only was the apartment beautiful, but we could move right in. When Parisians say an apartment is unfurnished, they mean that only the sinks and toilets are already installed. We didn't have to install kitchen and bathroom cabinets, stoves, refrigerators, washer/dryers, and light fixtures which is common practice in Paris.  Tenants build in everything else because most people who live in Paris stay permanently. Our neighbor in the flat below us lived in her apartment for 60 years. As expats, we knew we had a very short time (2 years) to create a livable space.

The view from our windows

When one thinks of old Parisian apartments, one thinks of high ceilings, elaborate moldings, large French windows, balconies, and charming elevators. In our building we had all that. The charming elevator, though, was the bane of our days. No more than three feet square, our elevator just barely held 2 adults and 1 kid -- and that was before dinner. To get into the elevator, we had to pass through two sets of doors. We pulled the heavy metal and glass outer door open towards us, and then backed into the elevator because the second set were two swinging doors that opened towards the inside. Getting in wasn't too bad. Once we reached our floor, we opened the swinging doors towards us again. We had to hold them open just right with elbows, feet or fanny, as we pushed against the heavy metal outer door to get out. Otherwise, we'd get a bang on the head, a bang on our rear, or usually both as the doors swung back. Trying to get in and out with packages or the shopping cart was even more difficult. I can see the cartoon my dad would have made our machinations as we tried to exit the elevator in one piece.

The view from our dining room

The 150-year building that housed our apartment had its quirks. We lost our hot water in the kitchen for a week when the gas company arrived unannounced to replace the gas meter, even though we had had no problems with it. At the end of the week, the fixit man came to bring us hot water again. In a matter of minutes, by fiddling here and there, he brought our instant hot water back again (each sink/shower/bath had its own small water heater). Hot water is such a luxury!

Our guest bedroom where many friends stayed

We blew the fuses many times. Once the clothes dryer went out and blew everything else in the front part of the house; another time Bill connected a U.S. plug without a transformer. Each time an electrician came. As usual whenever we called an electrician (in Paris or home in California), the electricity quickly came back on because he knew which simple button to push.  All of these events sound normal for those of us who own houses, except that there the repairmen only spoke French. We got by with lots of sign language, laughter at my expense, and calls to the translator at the relocation company who helped us move in.

The flower shop around the corner

Our first September in Paris turned into a rainy month. The old-timers said that was unusual. The days without rain were blissful with bright blue skies and just-right temperature. We spent Saturday mornings people-watching at the local patisserie, where waiters smiled at our fractured French, and served us anyway. At first I tried to identify what a French person looked like, but I concluded that the French are as varied in appearance as Americans, perhaps the result of all those armies and bands of people passing through their country for centuries. The Parisians we encountered reminded me of the Japanese people whom we met while we were living in Tokyo: formal, polite, soft-spoken, and full of life. The French expression, joie de vivre, seems to fit.

The French use small gestures to call attention. A slight flick of the fingers is enough to attract a bus or a waiter. When they realize that you come in their shop frequently, they accept you and greet you with warmth. A smile or a laugh about yourself will get over many hurdles.

Outside our apartment on rue de Lasteyrie

If you are going to Paris anytime soon, email me at  I have a great list of Paris sites and activities that I can share with you.

A bientôt!