Have you planned a birthday with/for a 6 soon to be 7 year old lately? If you haven’t you don’t know what you are missing!  At our house it is customary to celebrate the kids birthday’s with a family cookout including: grandparents, great aunts, regular aunts, uncles, cousins and all of their dogs followed by a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday in the overly decorated dining room with presents, cake and ice cream.

My chandelier will never be the same. It’s had streamers, ribbons, little swirly plastic-y things, lego guys, Indiana Jones figures, spiders, bats… you name it… hanging from the crystals.  I have been known to go a bit overboard for the kids birthdays. There was the one year when we all met under the festival tent with tiki torches at the entrance wherein the kids were given passports, a compass and a list and then sent on a scavenger hunt. The evening culminated in the hay barn where they had to pass through an obstacle course complete with a pit with rubber snakes. It would have been a challenge even for the real Indiana Jones.

This year was the first time that we had a “party” off of the farm for one of the kids. Ryder (10 yr old no longer wanting to be referred to as “the Bean”) wanted a laser tag party for himself and 3 of his buddies. At our family party he didn’t want the chandelier decorated with anything. WHAAATT?!!! It was a bit shocking for me. I went along with it… the “no theme” party. Uggh. The humanity of it. A mother with the gift of hospitality… and no coordinating colors or plates. I know. The child has to grow up. It’s okay. I’ve really gotten over it. Truely. I CAN let go.

So today Lala and I went on her birthday party decorating spree.  A tiny bit of the licensed stuff and a whole lot of colors and bling. She is such a delight. Our party favors for the cousins include: bouncy balls, tiny rubics cubes, friendship bracelets and sticky hands… which I had to give the proper warning against. “No sticky hands stuck on the ceiling! They stain when they are stuck there too long!”. Not that I have ever had a sticky hand stuck to the ceiling for beyond its proper time. Its just that those ones from the dentist office are especially sticky, stainy or something.

We have pretty pink paper lanterns hanging from the chandelier this year. Yay! As an artist it’s not easy when your design background wants to overrule a Birthday Girl’s sensibilites. I mean we want to stay away from tacky, right. Self expression vs. tacky… a fine, adorable line for a 6 year old but visual chaos as they get older.

This leads me to the conclusion that my days decorating the chandelier for birthday parties are cherished and limited. However, if you are in the same boat or even if your children are grown… celebrate. Celebrate life’s simple moments and rites of passages however it makes your heart sing. Wear the red dress. Wear the tacky purple hat. I promise that I will continue to hang wacky things from my chandelier if you will.


The Cookout Menu

Southern Baked Beans

Steamed green beans

Herb Roasted Baby Potatoes

Cucumber Salad


Hawaiian Chicken Kabobs

Sauteed Snow Peas

And… Birthday Cake and Ice Cream  : )

New Scottie Holiday Design!

I think I have gotten Scottish Terriers out of my system… at least for a little while. They are so darling. This is my little Santa’s Helper- anxious to get going. The Greeting Cards will read on the inside: May all your holiday wishes come true.

Santa’s Helper will be available online in October on Linen Guest Towels and Holiday Cards.


Carmella- the Phantom Barn Cat


Resources for Vegetable Gardening

My reference library gets bigger every year. I’m a sucker for a good book… especially of the gardening kind. As much as I love trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, I am a nuts over growing vegetables and eating meals fresh from the garden. Here is my list of vegetable gardening books that I would highly recommend:

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible  by Edward C. Smith- All in one general reference book

Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew- Valuable for gardeners with small plots

Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza- No dig gardening. Love it.

Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte- How to make the most of companion planting.

1001 Garden Questions Answered by Alfred C. Mottes- An old reference book (published in 1939) that I love.

Grocery Gardening- Great growing tips as well as recipes from friends that I met on twitter.

Serving Up the Harvest- A “go to” book for seasonal cooking.

Storing the Harvest-Great info on how to save, put up and freeze your seasonal produce.

I’m sure I’ve missed a couple but I will update it as they come to me. Do you have a favorite book that you would like to recommend? Please do!



New Scottie Artwork

Hope you like the new Scottie in the Garden design! I “may” have gone overboard with all the pattern and Scottish references and let me just say that painting Tartan plaid has its challenges! There are four graphic references to Scottish culture… can you name them? A free set of cards to the first person who does!

I love the compact shape of these little dogs and all of the sharp angles in their profile. While playing around with the design above and after posting the Wordless Wednesday post of Oliver yesterday titled Play Ball? I came up with this little design below. Simple, silly and sweet- its just the way I roll. ; )

For ordering information click Here and select a design!            

Play Ball?

Harvesting Wheat

This weekend the wheat was ready. When the wheat, oats, corn or hay is ready everything else takes a back seat. It doesn’t matter what it is… it’s that simple. After 16 years of marriage I’m finally getting it.

I love this time of year when the wheat turns gold and the oats are that lovely blue-green. The strips of color in the fields always draw my eye. Every year the colors change due to the crop rotation to keep the soil healthy. I’ll never tire of painting and studying this place.

Farmboy enjoyed his day spent in the air-conditioned combine listening to the radio… long enough to hear the same songs start playing all over again. It must be a nice contrast to his 9 to 5 office job with computers.

The rows of straw left behind the combine will be baled this week and stored to make a soft bedding for the horses. Word has it I will be running the baler tomorrow. I hope that I won’t feel that magnetic pull towards another large object that I sometimes do while driving a tractor. Houses, barns and other tractors… beware.

The Potager in July

The view from the studio.

My how fast the summer is going… I can’t keep up. The potager is growing nicely this season although I have been rather inconsistent regarding watering. I can’t believe how parched the ground is. Let’s hear it for the sprinkler! I live on the gardening edge and water from ABOVE… gasp! Please don’t notify the gardening police, thank you.

I made a few planting changes this year. The entire back row of the design has been planted to asparagus and I’m looking forward to having a perennial section that will not need replanting next year. Thankfully this family loves fresh asparagus and I must admit that growing up I had never seen fresh asparagus. My only memories of the vegetable were once a year on Christmas Eve- a mushy, smelly substance out of a Campbell’s soup can.  Eegads. Imagine my delight at lightly seasoned blanched stems with lemon and butter. Ahhh.

Two sour cherry trees were planted this spring on either side of the bistro set. Farmboy loves a sour cherry pie and I FINALLY found two Dark Star cherries locally. They produced the most wonderful fruits this year. Maybe enough for a couple of pies but they never made it inside the house. Let’s just say between Farmboy, me and Gracie the dog (yes, Gracie) the pies didn’t stand a chance. Maybe next year…

Today I had our first tomato of the season in a tomato and basil sandwich. I should have photographed it… but I ate it instead. I believe the variety is Crimson Cushion. Delicious. Nice color, low acid and velvet-y flesh.

Hey, I did photograph it with today’s harvest! Broccoli anyone?

I think this post will get me over the blogging block that I have been experiencing. So much to see, do, paint, plant, cook and draw its hard to stay focused. Needless to say- lots to blog about- so come back, pour a glass of wine or iced tea and stay awhile with me and Toonces. Tell us what has been keeping you busy this summer!

Toonces doing his best to look sophisticated.


Hi, I'm Michelle. I am an artist/designer specializing in unique topiary themed illustrations for the Home & Gardener. I live on a farm in Upstate New York with my husband, aka Farmboy, my two children affectionately known as "La La" and "the Bean" and a small petting zoo of other family members.


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