23 April 2016


Cacti, cholla skeleton, Senecio 'Spearhead,' and Crassula pellucida
 I hear that succulents are all the rage these days, and I think I get why now. Succulents can be tiny or huge; this gallery shows the incredible range of wild as well as cultivated species, and this guide identifies many used for household plantings. They're diverse, sometimes funky, and highly versatile. And they fit in diverse, sometimes funky containers, including a few I've had around for a while not knowing what to do with them. 

Below left is a little Navajo sandpainting pot my son gave me a few years ago, made by a local artist. It's pretty on its own, but with the Crassula pellucida and Senecio 'Spearhead' plantings it really stands out. Below right is a small clay folded pot I found at a central California coastal gift show 20 years ago; I've used it for dried flowers but the little Kalanchoe sprigs (taken from one of my big plants) fit in perfectly and bring it to life.
Kalanchoe, Sempervivum (I think), and Echeveria 'Haagai' in a discount store candle holder.


14 February 2016

Day of Hearts

Mosaic heart, Philadelphia, July 2010
Love from Maggie, 2012

Mosaic heart & me, Philadelphia, July 2010

Lover boys

Garden mural, Southwestern College, 2013

A winky Valentine from Maggie
Antique dish from Mom's family, mosaic by me from 2009 or so

12 February 2016

Second Home

Philadelphia skyline from Camden ferry
When I was 18, I returned from a year abroad not to my idyllic home in the woods but to near-Center City Philadelphia, in mid-July no less. It wasn't alien territory but it was a shock to be crammed into a 3-story vintage-1800s brick townhouse with almost no yard, ringed (swathed, surrounded) by concrete leading to more concrete. My parents had fled quiet suburbia for something a bit livelier, and I could not for the life of me understand why. I was likely a bit peevish about that (to say the least, and I came home a bit radicalized (Europe in the mid-1980s was going an opposite direction from Morning-in-America era US), and, I'll admit, a good 15-20 pounds heavier from all the Belgian chocolate and beer I'd enjoyed. Mom and I were having, shall we say, adjustment difficulties, and I think she'd gotten used to her new, unfeathered empty nest and lots of free time with my dad.

Local color, Queen Village section of Philadelphia
So I walked. A lot. Amidst the concrete were many trees and  lovely parks small and grand, and also lots of cool stores. This was way better than a mall or suburban plaza - it was funky and quirky and weird and new to me. I could walk to grand department stores and eat at food trucks (this was way before they were cool) or corner restaurants. I could keep walking with a nice view of the Delaware river, too, which made me want to walk more and, a good side benefit, fight less with Mom. A few months later I left for college, but finances drove me back home to Philly and I lived there another five years while working and finishing up college.And walking, always walking.
I love Philly now. If I lived there, I'd have to have a house with a big private back yard and lots of tall trees all around (and therefore also a fabulous job to fund such a luxury), and I know I'd never be bored. The kids might like it, too, though they didn't care much for the humidity. Ever wonder what life would be like if you'd taken a different path? We can't find out (in this lifetime, anyway), but it's nice to revisit an old home with new eyes and to introduce it to new people.

Chilling at 3 Bears Park, Society Hill area of Philadelphia

10 February 2016

The Green, Green Grass of Home

Childhood home, Arden, DE

Last May, I took myself and my kids back to my childhood home. It was a long time coming; I'd left 32 years (!!!) earlier and, aside from maybe two brief drive-bys in the 1980s and 1990s, I hadn't been back. I grew up at the edge of the woods, in a modest Craftsman-style home (long before they were fashionable) outside of Wilmington DE,  in the Philadelphia metro area. Northern Delaware is rolling green country, classic 1950s to 1970s suburbs, solid middle-class, still quite welcoming. The little town I grew up in, Arden, is its own green haven of "a different type of folk" as my grandfather used to put it - lots of hippies and free-thinkers in the 1960s when my parents moved there with my toddler brother and baby me. I can't imagine a better place to grow up: open green spaces, deep woods with a creek running through, small-town community life and lots of family events, a community swimming pool and arts program. 
A happy funky Arden abode

Connor and Maggie on the classic playground bobble-horse thingies

And, as you can see here, it has lots of natural beauty along with a splash of quirkiness here and there that has always made the town unique. The couple who bought my childhood home still live there and graciously walked me through it - the first time in 32 years (!!! again!!!) I set foot inside a place I thought I was leaving temporarily when I took my senior year abroad in Belgium - and it felt instantly familiar, thanks both the the "new" owners' care and preservation of the home's lovely, unique details. It was hard not to cry, honestly, especially when my kids exclaimed what I was thinking: "Mama, why on earth did you leave???" I could only reply that I didn't have much choice; I thought I'd be coming back home after a year in Belgium, but my parents moved to Philadelphia while I was gone.

The Arden Green, much the same as I remembered it, blessedly familiar
Even more poignant than walking the wooden floors and grass I'd walked as a child was rambling through the woods where I lived most of my daylight hours, summer and winter. The gentle creek with its hoppable boulders and tall trees and damp, cool quiet harbored me and my soul since my earliest years. Walking back into it I felt almost overcome with a longing and grief I've always known were there but have had to bury because I'd moved so far away. It is all still there. It still quiets my mind and calms me. My kids found it "pretty nice" but commented on the humidity and bugs, and asked when we were going back to my friend's house where we were staying. I accepted the moment of reconnection... and snuck back the next day on my own so I could really enjoy it, and weep without reserve.... and remember.

Naamans Creek, Arden, DE