Friday, March 26, 2010

Gardening and Genealogy

This week has been about two things: Gardening and Geneaology.
For the latter, I began to get overwhelmed with documents and information. I needed a place to organize it all, somewhere that my family members, cousins and other surname hunters could find it all. This led me to start a second blog devoted just to the research of my family tree: The Great Ancestral Hunt
It has consumed most of my nights, researching by the dim light of the computer screen.

My days have been spent mostly working in the yard and garden. The weather has been beautiful this week despite a couple of days of rain. I've planted Plumeria, Passion Vine and Starflowers.The Marigolds and Bachelor buttons were planted out this week. Here I planted the Bachelor Buttons in a natural palm planter discarded by my Queen Palm.


I also planted Sweet Bell Pepper, two varieties of Jalapeno Pepper and Cayenne Pepper. However, it poured in the middle of the night and all the seed pots were soaked...the seeds have probably fallen down too far in the moist soil and may not germinate now.  When that happens, I just throw the dirt in the yard and let them sprout where they may. :) My Crookneck Squash has lots of flowers and veggies on it and is about two weeks away from the first harvest. 
This poor plant has had to be given such TLC...first it had a Vine Borer, then it had Squash Gnats, and finally it had the white powdery fungus.  And it's located inside my screened in patio! I can't imagine how much more work it would be to keep this baby safe if it was out growing in the yard!
Here is a look at one area of the Butterfly Garden:
The Almond Bush scents up the whole garden with the most amazing fragrance. I just love it. I would like to have another one in a pot on my patio. The sunflowers are growing so tall and strong and the Pipe Vine finally has the long pipes on it.  The Coontie (there were two, now just one) is barely surviving. It's a slow growing native Florida plant but it has come out of all these cold days a little worse for the wear. The Pentas also needs to be constantly cut back in order for the poor Coontie to get enough light. I may try planting one in the front yard this year, in a better spot with more sunshine. The tiny little hummingbird visited my garden yesterday and spent a lot of time at the Pentas and Porterweed...and he completely ignored the hummingbird feeder! Guess he would rather have the real thing! Another view with additional plants:

How the carrots got into the pot and into the ground I have no idea...I think I must have had some stuck on me after I had planed them into a pot on my patio. The carrots are growing great. I thinned them out this week and felt so bad pulling them out. I know it's a must in order to give them more room to grow and be healthy but it just pains me. :) The Passion Vine already has butterfly eggs on it thanks to a Gulf Frittilary and my Cassia tree was visited yesterday by a Large Orange Sulphur who spent quite a bit of time laying her tiny white oblong eggs.

The next time I'm blogging about the goings on in the garden, I'll probably be seeing caterpillars eating the leaves of their host plants and I, myself, should be eating freshly harvested squash! Til then, Mulch Love from:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Celebrating Another Year

The first day of Spring also means I'm another year older!  My birthday weekend was blessed with perfect Spring weather...the air was crisp, the sun was shining and the earth was blooming. It also was a Saturday, a Creative Saturday so Lita and I headed out to Naples for the day with cameras in tow. Our first stop was Tin City, a waterfront marketplace:

This fun and wonderful mural proved to be a great backdrop for shouting out to the world that it was my birthday!  I think I was yelling "Yay! I'm 45! so I could, you know, get behind the idea a bit quicker. :)

After a bit of shooting, we took a break to have lunch at one of the many restaurants along the waterfront.  We got a table next to the water and enjoyed watching the traffic leisurely going by.

Lovely Lita treated me to lunch for my birthday and she had a Salmon Salad and I had a Mahi Mahi Cuban sandwich with Sweet Potato fries which were so very delicious:

Our next stop after lunch was the downtown Historic District where, after parking, we found the most beautiful blooming tree which kindly invited us into it's branches:

We had so much fun exploring all the fun and eclectic shops and even found one that had some funky Happy Birthday glasses:

Here is Lita with a pair that make her look like some sort of Bat Girl from Gotham City:

I took on the character of a stern teacher with this pair:

We took a short break at Starbucks for some Iced Tea and snacks and then drove to the place I was most looking forward to going:  Nancy's Dollhouses and Miniature Store
I was like a kid in a candy store much to see and look at...and buy!  But, I limited myself to just a few things for my Lighthouse.  I also bought the cutest little Spider Web cake for my Witches Cottage and Greenhouse scene.  There were some amazing miniature scenes already done in the store but none captured our hearts quite like these cute little elves in Santa's Kitchen:

Lita and I as always, had a great day together filled with lots of laughs.  Thank you Lita for a terrific birthday!

When I got back home, Charlie had brought home dinner and a chocolate cake. Afterwards I got a 2 hour foot massage as I enjoyed my Teavana Tea, Vosges Chocolate and reading all my birthday wishes off of Facebook, opening all my cards and gifts.

Lita got me this book that I have wanted forever.  I always look at it when we go to Barnes and Noble but never buy it for myself, usually because I already have an armful of magazines and books.  But, Lita remembered and presented it to me for my birthday along with a Faerie drawing book I had longed for as well and she had them both tied up with colorful ribbons. Thank you Lita my present! I love you lots! I can't wait to be inspired by both of them!

Loran had gotten me the most amazing earrings from Maya, the Spirit Jeweler:
Loran designed them specially for me and everything means something. The cat represents my baby, my child, the recipient of my nurturing self, but the cat is on a path, or road which represents my journey of growth.  The butterflies are my free spirit, my exploring self. The aquamarine represents my birthstone and the peridot stands for inner truth, to always be true to my inner self.  On the back of the earrings Loran had these words inscribed "True friends can grow separately without growing apart":
It was such a beautiful and touching gift. Thank you Loran!! I love you!

My birthday weekend continued with Charlie taking me out to brunch on Sunday at Toojays;
And afterwards to the Coral Springs art fair where I purchased a hanging bird bath and some Plumeria for my garden.  And, where, unbelievably I met Maya, the Spirit Jeweler!  The very woman who had created my earrings that Loran designed.  I happened to be wearing them too and Maya squealed with delight in discovering I was the one Loran had the earrings made for.  She remembered everything about me that Loran had told her...about our treks and our friendship.  She told me Loran took a very long time designing the pieces and was very thoughtful on what to put on the back.  It makes me treasure them even that much more.
Of course I had to have a picture with this beautiful spirit of a woman so that I could send it to Loran as nothing in this world is ever by chance...everything is connected!
My birthday weekend was infused with joy, laughter, friendship, love, comfort and positive light.
My 45th year is starting out on a bright path with a soaring spirit!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My Great Ancestral Hunt

For the past week I have been researching my ancestry.  I had begun it back in 1999 and traced my mother's side of the family for a heritage book that I created and gifted to my grandmother. However, I only went a few generations back and also I had never done my birth father's side of the tree. I was motivated by the new NBC show produced by Lisa Kudrow called "Who Do You Think You Are?" which follows a different celebrity each week as they trace their family tree.  I decided to start with my dad's side and I must say that the last week has been full of interesting, shocking and even disheartening discoveries.

A family tree is like a blast of fireworks in the night sky.  Starting off with one single trail of light and you follow this trail and POW!  it suddenly has hundreds of other little trails of light and you don't know where to look or which one to follow.  The tree doubles with every line...there are new names to follow, new locations revealed and histories to be uncovered.  I'm just in the early stages but here is a sampling of what I have found to be the most illuminating:

My great-grandmother on my dad's father's side was named Glen Coe Roth.  Glen Coe is a glen in the Highlands of Scotland.  I trekked alongside the entrance to the glen, marked by Bauchaille Etive Mor which you can see in this picture I took of it back in April:

I'm terribly excited to find out if a Scottish ancestry will be revealed when I search the maternal side of my Great Grandmother Glen Coe. That will be for another day, and another blog entry but fingers are crossed!
Instead of researching Glen's maternal side I followed her Grandmother's line on her father's side which led me to discover I'm Pennsylvania Dutch!  My 8th Great Grandfather Gerret Dirckson Croesen was born in 1639 in Holland. His son, Dirck, my 7th Great Grandfather was part of the settlement of the Pennsylvania Dutch. One of the most interesting things is about the surname Croesen...almost all variants, which includes the surname Cruise are descendants of Gerret...hmmm...maybe Tom and I are related!

My trekking friend Ray often would refer to me as a "Nutter", a crazy nut who will get up repeatedly day after day and put on wet boots to walk 14 or so miles in pouring rain.  I even titled this picture "Nutters of the West Highland Way"

Well, wouldn't you know it...I am an actual Nutter!  My great great grandmother on my fathers mother's side was named Mary Nutter.  I followed this Nutter line and discovered that her father Isaac W. Nutter was one of the original pioneers who settled Hollenberg in Washington County, Kansas.  This is the same county that my husband's mother's parent's settled.  In fact, my mother-in-law remembers the Nutter's farm which was just up over the hill from her own homestead.

Isaacs Mother was Mary Starr and was my 4th Great Grandmother. I may get my adventurous side from her. Mary Starr married William Nutter and they settled in Reedy Creek,Virginia and raised their family.  When William died and left Mary a widow, she kept on farming and became an woman of independent means through her own energy.  One day when she was alone in the hills with the cattle, she was stalked by a panther.  Knowing she needed to do two things, scare the panther away and get out of the area as quickly as possible she decided to do both at once.  She grabbed and pulled the tail of a cow which freaked out and dragged her all the way back to the barn! My kind of relative!

Going even further back in the Nutter line, my 5th Great Grandfather, Matthew Nathan Nutter, along with his brothers built Nutter's Fort in West Virgina. Read about the brothers and the building of the fort here on Wikipedia:,_West_Virginia

and even deeper in the line, I've discovered I'm of English descent...deep down, I knew this all along because I'm so drawn to the country.  My 10th Great Grandfather, Richard Nutter was born in 1579 in Sabden Hall in Lancashire, England.  For now, my research on the Nutter line stops here but the English records go back even further so hopefully, I'll be able to continue on and in the meantime, I look forward to the pictures my friend Doug, who lives 45 minutes away from Sabden Hall has promised to take for me.
For now, here is a picture pulled from the web of Sabden Hall:

Another illuminating, although disheartening discovery was that my 4th Great Grandparent's on my father's mother's side were slave owners.  I was hoping not to come across something like this because the very being of who I am cannot fathom that any human being, even going back as far as the Romans and the Jews, would think it was okay to consider another human being as property to be owned. It makes me shudder to think about it. My 4th Great Grandparent's were Henry Burke and Elizabeth Bland.  They had a slave named Clara and when Henry died, Elizabeth sold Clara for $759 in order to pay the taxes on Henry's Estate.  I would like to try to discover what became of Clara and who her descendants are if she has any.

I've been captivated this week by the's like a treasure hunt full of golden nuggets.  But, I must set it aside for a couple of days and get all the chores done that I have neglected because of my fascination with the ancestral hunt.  It's so much more fun to find out who you are than to do laundry!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tennis Shoes & Tiaras

Marathon Weekend finally arrived!
Loran and I met in Orlando at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort on Friday, ready to run our first marathon, the Disney Princess Half Marathon.
After checking in, we headed to the Expo at Disney's Wide World of Sports. The place was packed full of tiara-wearing gals of all ages!

We picked up our race bib, tracking tag (which will record our official time) and our goody bag which contained a shirt, socks, instant camera and a power bar.

My race bib said "Princess Laura". :)
On the back it said "Team Double L".
And it was suppose to have Snow White on the front and instead it had Tiana, a princess I didn't pick and one I've never even heard of! I had to take Loran's bib which DID have Snow White on it and have the hotel make a copy, cut it and paste it on top of mine.  Weird request, but they did it for me and I was much happier to have my proper Princess on my race bib!

After the Expo we had dinner at Planet Hollywood and then headed back to the room to relax and just hang out with each other.  We hadn't seen each other since our trek last April so it was good to have some girlfriend time. Of course, we had to do some farming. :)  Here is Loran, in her beloved bunny robe I bought her some Christmases ago, harvesting her crops.

Saturday was a great girly day of shopping.  When I found out that race day was going to be 45 degrees and we were going to have to be up at 2:30am, my running gear of a Nike Skort and sports bra was not going to work. Luckily, I was able to find some great Nike running pants and a quick dry jacket at Sports Authority.  We did some shopping at Florida Mall and found some lovely Chamilia charms for our bracelets.  I got a Birds Nest and Loran got a spider dangling from a web.
Of course, what shopping day would be complete without a visit to the bookstore, where Loran got some travel guides for her upcoming trip to Provence and I purchased *another* Alice in Wonderland book and the new Somerset Gallery magazine.  After a day of shopping (and a trip to Starbucks) we had dinner at Mimi's Cafe.

Loran checking out travel books on Provence

We *tried* to go to bed early, around 9:15pm because we had to get up at 2:30am but we both got very little sleep during the night, tossing and turning.  Okay, so why get up at 2:30am for a race that doesn't start until 6am?  You have to take the bus from the resort to Epcot and you have to allow 30 minutes to get to the bus, get on the bus and get to the actual park.  Everyone is required to be at Epcot by 4:30am, your bags checked by 5am and in your corral by 5:30am. We got to Epcot about 4:00am and then proceeded to stand around in the super cold temps until 6:20, our official start time.  Everyone was huddled together, who cared that they were strangers! We needed body heat.  Your standing there for all that time, with your muscles tense, teeth chattering and then...BAM! now go run 13.1 miles.
We were in corral D and with Fireworks going off, we counted down the previous corrals until if was finally our turn at 6:20am.  There were so many people that the start of the race was like running through an obstacle course of bodies.  Loran and I got into a good rhythm and kept a steady pace.  My neck muscles were hurting about mile 4 and lasted a couple of miles, at mile 8 I could feel a blister on the bottom of my left foot, at mile 11 Loran got a cramp but we never stopped to walk...we ran the entire way.  I thought we were only at mile marker 11 with 2.1 miles to go but when I got up to where I could read the sign it said 12 miles!  I looked over at Loran and said "I thought we were only on mile 11...I lost a mile somewhere." She replied "That's like a gift from God"! Mile 10-11 must have been an out of body experience because I really don't remember it!

There was a lot of encouragement on the course, Disney employees lined up cheering you on, DJ's and high school bands playing music, Disney Characters (there were lines of runners waiting for their pics to be taken with them...not us, we were serious about finishing in a good time) and other random people shouting positive words of motivation.

People were running in all kinds of outfits...princess costumes and tutu's seemed to be the main choice of clothing.  Some were wearing their tiara's and tons of women had their hair done in elaborate updo's with glitter and rhinestones as if they were going to a wedding instead of running a marathon. It was so much fun seeing all the different and interesting people running the race.  Even thought it's suppose to be for women, they can't discriminate against men so there were a few running the race.  Most were wearing tutus!  The best one I saw was a tall guy with spiky blond hair, naked from the waist up with a huge shark tattoo on his back.  He was wearing a light baby blue tutu. :)

The course started at Epcot and went to Magic Kingdom where we ran down Main Street, through Tomorrowland, Fantasy Land and Liberty Square before heading back down Main Street and along the road, over a couple of bridges and up a couple of hills before running into Epcot and across the finish line.

13,000 people started the race, a little under 12,000 finished and Loran and I finished in 2:28:31 (11.20 minute miles), a personal best for me and placed 4,400 overall and 558 in our division.  We ran the whole way and never stopped.  When I crossed over the finish line, I had a few tears and hugged the woman who put the medal around my neck.
I didn't see my face afterwards, but it sure looks from this picture that I had the classic "Tomato Face!"

Our medals are so and shiny with pretty rhinestones. Perfect for a couple of princesses like us!
After returning to the room to shower, I found I had blisters on top of blisters as well as a toenail that was coming off (what a surprise,lol).

Having not eaten anything except power bars before the run, we were starving and went to Denny's, (with our Tiara's and Medals showcased proudly) for a "big-ass breakfast".  Chocolate Chip and Blueberry pancakes, sausage (just me, Loran's a vegetarian), hash browns, eggs, toast and lots of coffee. Our celebration meal!

We weren't moving too well after the race...sore muscles, sore knees and it was painful to be walking around on my blisters.  We just wanted to sit for a while so we headed to the AMC theatre at Downtown Disney and took in the 3D showing of Alice in Wonderland.  It was amazing! We both loved it. I especially loved HBC as the Red Queen...she was hilariously perfect for that role.  All the theatre employees were wearing the most amazing Mad Hatter Hats...I so wanted one, so we decided to hit the stores at Downtown Disney to find one.  Unfortunately, they were all sold out.  But I got a great coffee mug featuring the Red Queen with the words "I don't do tea parties".

Towards the end of the day, we bought some salads and headed back to the room to just relax, read and watch the Academy Awards. However, since we had been up since 2:30am, we didn't make it through the entire ceremony and were fast asleep by 10pm.  It was hard to say goodbye to Loran the next day.  But I know we'll have another adventure together someday soon. For now, we both are enjoying our accomplishment of reaching another goal and thankful to have our wonderful friendship.
Proud Finishers of the Disney Princess Half Marathon!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Creative Groove

Wow.  What a busy week it's been!

Lita and I made a "Creative Commitment" at the beginning of the year, a commitment to stay daily in our creative groove.  Since then, I have been rockin' that groove and have been loving every minute of it.  It started with a luncheon with my Flickr friend Rachelle where I introduced her to Somerset Studios "Artful Blogger" magazine.  She later sent me a text saying that she was inspired by our conversation at lunch about making a commitment to fit creativity into her life. Inspiring other people is what I hope I'm able to do with my art and my love for all things creative. I'm inspired by Rachelle's Photography which always tells a story and is intimate, allowing the viewer to feel a connection to the image.

The week continued with a "Creative Friday" at Lita's place where we both worked on Digital Painting Tutorials.  I'm still working on mine which is a digital painting of a Phoenix.  Unfortunately, it couldn't be finished in a day and I'm still working on the details but here it is in process:

I still have work to do on the feathers and I will be adding flames to the background.  It was more painstaking than I thought it was going to be when I first picked out this particular tutorial. Lita worked on painting a Self Portrait which I think turned out beautifully!  We both had frustrations following the tutorials as well as joy in learning new things.  And, of course we had a lot of laughs as we usually do whenever the two of us get together.

The next day I was with Daniel and his best friend Andrew for a fun day of "Gangsters and a Gal" shoot.  The boys are both 9 years old and were hilariously fun to be around.  Daniel, ever the actor, stayed in his "gangster" character throughout the shoot.  When I asked him how he knew all the mob speak and the dialect to go with it, he replied in a Cagney-esque voice "I don't like Dames who ask a lot of questions". :)
Here is my favorite outtake from the session:

On Sunday, after my 10 mile run (with no stopping...finished in 1:58, the Marathon is next weekend!) I continued to feed my creative spirit by working on the images from the Gangster shoot.  The main idea I had in my head when I set it up was this:

For this creation I used a Newspaper background from DeviantArt and added in my own news worthy items from 1929.  I ran a Sepia filter over it and added texture.  Some punchy light added to the center image completed the look.  At one point during the shoot, I told the boys to just relax while I checked the camera settings.  They were sitting on the trunk, shoulders relaxed just talking to each other but yet they still had their eyes fixed on the camera.  I quickly snapped a shot and it was the inspiration for "The Little Rascals":

For this image, I started with my own background of train tracks on the Kansan plains.  The building and windmill in the background were stock added from DeviantArt as was the train which was warped to seem like it was coming around a bend.  Bird and smoke brushes and a couple of textures were added to give the other worldy look.  I added the clock for symbolism.  It speaks about a time gone by and also about how short time is.  These "Little Rascals" won't be little for too much longer.

On Monday, the new Spring 2010 issue of Somerset Digital Studio arrived at bookstores and my copy arrived in the mailbox!  I'm so honored and proud to be included amongst such talented and inspiring artists.  I have two pages in the Gallery section showcasing two of my digital creations. It was a thrilling day!

Today I finally found a Photography iPhone app that I actually love.  Most cell phone pics disappoint me because I'm so used to the high quality RAW images of my DSLR.  But, I'm in love with this new photography app for the iPhone called "Hipstamatic" which mimics vintage cameras.  You can change the lens, film and flash.  I adore the John S lens with Ina's 1969 film.  I used it to snap some shots around the house and it made everything look like it was taken in dim French lighting in a antique shop in Paris...well, that's what it looks like to me anyways.  Here are a few:

I'm glad I had this week of creative mojo because the next week is going to be busy in a different sort of way.
I hope I can steal a creative moment here and there to keep this creative groove going!