Saturday, June 30, 2012


This lovely rock used to belong to a dear friend of mine. She was an amazing lady and I only wish we'd known each other longer. She was a journalist for our local paper when I knew her but had lived a rich and creative life in all parts of the world long before we met . This rock used to sit outside her apartment and her daughter (also a dear friend) gave it to me both as a way to remember her mother and as a promise for my future.

The rock has been sitting in my bedroom for the last year and a half. I look at it every day - sometimes it fills me with energy and other times it mocks me a little. I think I'm trying to make myself worthy of having received such a gift.

The big creative projects that I'm currently working on are still works in progress and I'm not sure I've made much progress recently which can get discouraging so sometimes creativity needs a little instant gratification which explains my kitchen beautification project.

I'm not particularly fond of my kitchen cabinets. The cabinets themselves are plain and they are painted orange...the walls of the kitchen are painted orange too. Not that I'm not fond of orange...well, actually, I'm not. I know that it's some people's favorite color but it's not mine. Oh, it goes well with the green accents in the other parts of the house (I do like green) but there's just a little too much orange for me so I've decided to liven it up a bit without having to repaint the whole kitchen.

A few days ago I got the creative idea to stencil something onto the cabinets to work with the orange but also draw my attention away from it. I wish I could paint freehand but my art always looks like a 3 year old did it so that's out of the question. Stenciling, however, is something I can do. I once stenciled a rose border in our master bedroom in Virginia and it looked lovely. It had better have looked lovely, it took days to do and my arms were really sore plus I'm not really fond of ladders.

Of course that bedroom thing was almost 20 years ago (when I was 5) and stencils don't seem to be as popular now as they were then. I had a heck of a time finding something but finally good old Martha Stewart came to the rescue.

Projects are always more involved than you think they will be when you conceive the idea but at least this one only required some paint and a couple of sponge brushes. I decided to get fancy and use 2 different shades of green for the stem and leaves.

And here's the final result

Well, it's not the final final result because there's a whole lot more cabinet to paint and there are at least 10 more cabinet doors in the kitchen but this was my test run to see if I liked the idea on the cabinet as much as I did in my head and guess what - I do! I think it adds that extra something that the plain doors are missing while giving the kitchen that 1930s cottage look I love.

Today I made my rock proud.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Small steps in the right direction

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” ~Old Chinese Proverb

Sometimes I think it's possible to take many small steps before you even realize you're going in a particular direction. That's what happened to me recently.

A year ago I started a research project for no reason other than that it was a subject in which I'd always had an interest. Well, not always but at least for the last 15 years. I wanted to learn everything I could about a local architect, Hugh Comstock, who achieved minor fame by building cute little cottages that look like they stepped off the pages of a book of fairytales. The fairytale cottages were built in the 1920s. He went on to build other styles of houses and commercial buildings throughout the '30s and '40s but it's his storybook cottages that bring the tourists in these days and it could be argued that they've set the tone for the whole village.

Shortly after I started the research two big things happened - the local history library closed and Jasper died. It was hard to do specific research without the resources of the history library but I desperately needed the research to distract me so I turned to the only resource open to me in the main library - I started reading microfilm copies of the local newspaper. Comstock came to town in 1924 so I started reading the 1923 paper and just kept going. Pretty soon I found myself obsessed with the 1920s in Carmel. It was a period of much building and expansion of the business district, some amazing examples of Spanish-California Revival architecture

 and even a Comstock fairytale cottage that's been a restaurant since it opened in 1926 even though it was built to be an art shop.

The Tuck Box, the building that made me fall in love with Carmel 20 years ago
 After spending so much time in the 1920s the next small step just seemed obvious - start my own historic walking tour. Ok, maybe it wasn't an obvious step but the opportunity presented itself and I went for it. I came up with a business name, started a website, joined the chamber of commerce and put together a 90 minute, 1-mile tour of the business district with a slight detour up a really steep hill to see the fairytale cottages. The tour was easy to put together, my months of newspaper research had provided me with all the information that I needed including specific details that had previously been lost to time and legend. Now to be perfectly honest, while the tour came together easily, refining it took a bit of work. The first version of the tour lasted well over 2 hours and even I was cranky and bored by the end of it. Luckily the only other participant was T and with his suggestions I reworked the tour just in time to take my first customers around the town. They asked great questions and didn't run away screaming at the end so I think it was a success.

Like the beginnings of any business there are ups and downs. Competition that I didn't think would be an issue when I came up with the idea, has indeed become an issue. My ability to do adequate marketing is currently more restricted than I would like which limits my reach into the customer base. But inside every obstacle is an opportunity and recently I've reworked my business model and my historic focus so that I'm really meeting the interests of the typical visitor...which leads me right back to my favorite architect. That new focus is starting to lead me down an interesting new path that could change my business once again and spawn side projects.

Small steps in the right direction...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I've got to admit, this is the beginning of a hard month for me. It was exactly a year ago that the first signs of Jasper's illness started to show up. Oh, to be fair, there were signs there before - mostly weight loss - but he was still in the "healthy" weight range according to the vet so it was chalked up to a normal aging process. I guess that's true anyway, kidney failure is bound to happen at his age.

But a year ago today, he stopped eating his dog food. Flat out stopped. He'd become a picky eater for a few months (only of dog food, he ADORED all people food) so I'd been getting creative, adding more and more high calorie canned food to his kibble until we had a 80/20 ratio and that was working until last June.

It started off so innocently, he stopped eating dog food so we started making our own dog food. He went to the vet for a normal check up and we talked to him about how to do it. We took Jasper along with us that day when we went out to lunch and everything was so normal, he was complimented by the other diners on how beautiful he was and how well behaved. We had a fun time at lunch. It's a nice memory of the last normal day.

We came home that day, took him for an evening walk and he was sick. He continued to be sick over the weekend so we called the vet on Monday and he said it was to be expected when switching diets. I needed to go to Florida to celebrate my mom's birthday with her and was then going to stay out there for our 25th anniversary party. I flew away with misgivings because my boy was not feeling well but things seemed to be getting better (even though my initial thought when this all started was - this is not going to end well.)

I love being in Florida and so I flew out a couple of days before I was really scheduled to be there just to have a few precious moments to myself in a beloved place. The year before I had spent a few wonderful days by myself after my mom's birthday and they turned out to be the last carefree days I'd had in a year so I was desperately hoping to find that peace and happiness again.

Unfortunately it wasn't to be, I had one wonderful night of sleep, got up the next morning looking forward to a relaxing day by the pool until I got a phone call from T that he'd spent the night in the emergency vet, Jasper had kidney failure and was currently at our vet on IVs. I needed to come home immediately and even then it might be too late. And that was the beginning of the end. I flew back right away, didn't even get to see my mother and had to cancel our anniversary party. Jasper made it through the next couple of weeks but he wasn't the same dog I had left when I flew to Florida. His body was there but his spirit was already out of the door except for a couple of tantalizing flickers that were apparently designed to get our hopes up before crushing them forever.

There's something almost comforting about being able to think to yourself "this time last year we were together." Comforting until you get to this part, the part where your memories stop being sweet and start hurting, when you only have the bad parts to recall.

So I'm not looking forward to my memories for the next month. Luckily there are plenty of things going on to distract me, the ongoing (and emotionally draining) search for jobs, my mother's upcoming 90th birthday which has been its own roller coaster of drama, the Laura Ingalls Wilder conference I've been working on for the past year which is coming down to the wire and requires more of my time and attention than I actually have at my disposal.

Wow, when I look at that list, I desperately need something fun to look forward to. I'm going to have to work on that!