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This time last year, I had already settled into the fact that I wasn't going to find the right materials for my dream centerpieces - succulent dog topiaries! Our wedding theme consisted of our colors: Mint & Marigold, a little bit of Moroccan influence, succulents, and our two fur babies, Beatle and Nietszche. It would have been perfect to carry the dog motif from the invitations to the tabletops, but alas, no affordable dog topiary forms that fit my under-10k-for-the-whole-thing budget could be found. I had grown, collected and foraged for the succulents that would eventually be made into modern white and gold-sprayed centerpieces that worked and were beautiful.  




But last week on a trip down an aisle in Target's garden area, I found an end cap with these amazing wire dogs. There they were! The form for my dog topiary! Only a year late, but marked down from $40 to $12! So I had to get one and and make my little guy for the back yard.


 
 
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In March, Dominic's family got together and arranged an unbelievable fundraiser for his transplant fund. While we couldn't make the cross-country trek to enjoy everybody's company, I did want to help out in another way. I put up a pet portrait commission as a silent auction item, and finally got the time during summer vacation to finish the piece. What a cute guy! Can't wait to hear what the owners think.

 
 
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Coming back to LA after a 3 week journey cross-country is bittersweet. Not only because I already miss everyone I just left days ago, but the condition of my garden also fits the description.




On first glance I couldn't believe my eyes; probably 20 tomatoes the size of apples and grapefruits, vine-ripened to a glorious shade of sweet red. 

On closer inspection, many were sun scalded, or overripe to the point of bursting open and infested with tiny black bugs (beetles?)

I will be cutting off those busted areas and enjoying their sweet sweet goodness...
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Mid-July Harvest
All in all I've harvested 12 edible tomatoes, that were frankly the best I've ever grown, and maybe even eaten. (Although they do rival my brother's Rhode Island crop from several years back). I had to compost at least the same amount of tomatoes that were too burnt, dripping, eaten or just plain crisped by the sun. The sun also dried out my huge crop of zinnias and some marigolds. I deadheaded them for the seeds. By the time the season's over we will have thousands of zinnia seeds! Maybe a seed and art stall at spring farmer's market isn't such a bad idea?
 
 
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There's not many things that top teaching Elementary School Art. When you have a group of students that respond to art experiences with joy, humor, enthusiasm and openness, they soon become an easy favorite group to try out new projects with. That's exactly how I feel about my third graders this year. I loved them as second graders, and now, with the ability to be even more independent, every class with them is a no-stress, fun exchange of ideas and energy.

In my need to support their curriculum with the CA state VAPA standards, I'm always looking for inspiration in books and periodicals as a starting point to my own agenda. I found this really great lesson somewhere, gosh, now I'm not sure if it was SchoolArts magazine or Pinterest, or where, but here it is. Our Art Show and studio theme this year is COMMUNITY. Sharing Chagall's artwork about village life with these students made a great sample of the different types of communities as well as the people and things that contribute to a community's identity. The students really responded to the surreal qualities and concepts, and loved his frequent star- the rooster! After discussing the 4 categories of painting: realistic, representational, abstract and non-objective, we set out to create out own roosters in the style of Chagall with pastels on construction paper. We then designed patterned feathers with oil pastels, and cut and pasted these little gems on our rooster bodies. All in all, the lesson covered a bit on shadow and form with the rooster body, as well as shape and proportion, repetition, line, and variety.
 
 
The seeds have been going now for a few weeks with pretty good results. I put them outside 2 weeks ago to harden off, and Dominic did a great job keeping them watered and not letting these babies get scorched. I'm growing peas, daikon radish, cucumbers, marigolds, japanese eggplant, a couple of peppers, and beets. The egg carton seedlings are from my middle school students' class on focusing on one's inner hipster- basically home ec for today's "indie" students. They are growing a tiny edible garden!
 
 
Remember that post back in September when I was opening my being to a new studio space? Well, 5 months later the universe answered. Dominic had been really on top of looking for just the right space for us. Great light, roomy, clean, part of a community, and affordable. (well, that is actually the first criteria...but I digress...) And here she is! We split this space right down the middle, so these are just shots of my area. I move in fast. I anticipate it will be brutally hot in the summer, but once I tackle that problem it will truly be our little creative shangri-la.
 
 
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After a long winter, I'm back to my inspired self. When spring "springs", the promise of sunshine fuel and longer days calls me to start the seeds and plan the new beds. After spending a meaningful week in Massachusetts with friends and family, leaving is always bittersweet.  But I am always excited to get back to my backyard - a place worlds away from the hibernating northeast. I snapped this flowy shot on my way up Salisbury Street hill in Worcester at sunset.

 
 
The start of the school year is like a rebirth. While its still over 100 degrees here, everyone is thinking about the crispness of fall, and anticipating the rush of new, clean air that will elevate the funk and smog blanket sitting on this baking crust. Whatever is no longer useful, falls away. As a teacher, the breath of fresh air of a new school year is a crazy time that leaves your head spinning, and the last thing you want around you is clutter. To breathe in anything new, you have to clean out the old, and hot hot weather makes unneccessary junk around you feel all the more heavier.

So, I want MINIMAL. Ahh the Japanese, what an amazing sense of aesthetics. Things are considered as either evolving from or dissolving into nothingness. This 'nothingness' is not empty space. It is, rather, a space of potentiality. (says wikipedia, anyways). From space comes potentiality. I am inviting the opportunity for a large, empty space to call my studio to de-clutter my creative spirit.

 
 
 
As a toast to one of my favorite cultures, and my favorite mythical creature comes my dragon puppet craft. Yes, there are a few out there, but this one has been Deb-ified,which means drawing + painting + chopsticks+ using only one 12x18 sheet of paper for this doozy. The four of us;Lorri, Nolan, 1/2 sleeping Caleigh and myself, had lots of fun spending a lazy Sunday creating our dual-persona dragons that double as plant picks to scare away spider mites, mold and fungus
 
 
Another great weekend...my work was in a group show downtown at The Market Gallery, I helped Dom with his work, made a couple of great dinners, turned and added to the compost bin, added some new plants to the patio pots, and most importantly, tackled a big hands-on project that included lumber and drilling.  Eesh!  But seriously, I'm so proud of myself..the wood itself had 2 feet on me! Man, purchasing those gardening gloves really payed off!

Before & Compost

After

Since I had the fence, I saved some lumber and anchored my front bar to the fence, creating 3 raised beds.  I also moved a smaller, existant jade plant and potted it for the patio. Open, and ready for plotting!

My problem and need for adding an extra 6" of soil from the raised bed is this culprit... a buried portion of a snipped-off chainlink fence from the previous owners of our rental. Because of this, the gravel and the intermittent concrete from old poles, my alley garden came from nothing more than an oversized dog pen.  Even Beatle's glad its a garden now.

Now, where's the plants?

 
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    I'm Debra and this is a curated collection of my life's little projects and captured beauty.

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