Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The Beauty of the Garden- Sugar Hill Farms

Valley Views

After hours and hours of driving we finally arrived, many come now as it has become a highly sought after vacation spot, but for me, I came to see my mom and my brother. When it all began, over 30 years ago, my brother had a dream to live in this valley. He would bring my mom here and convinced her to purchase some property with him. I remember that trip, full of excitement and anticipation. I wanted to also be a part of it, I wanted a piece of shangri-la for myself.

The roses garden at the Madrones

At that time the valley was much different than it is now. Truly an unspoiled country side, close to the coast and with a huge untamed element. I remember the stories of the Boyde brothers,who bullied the town and its people. The stories of a not to far away valley where wild horses still ran the hills. This valley, known as Andersen Valley, is in northern California. Rolling golden hills, sprinkled with oak trees and guarded by giant stands of Redwoods like soldiers on watch as people drive through to the coast and Mendocino. There were apple farms and some wineries as you drove through the valley. The main town, Booneville, was the larger of the two, it had a hotel, a fair grounds, a senior center, gas station, greasy spoon and a cafe. A large part of the town center or Main Street was empty old shops in need of much repair. The town was still famous for its own language of sorts called Boontling folk language...The next town over, Philo, was not quite as developed. It consisted of a general store, a farm supply, a lumber yard and the post office. The beautiful but short drive between the towns on the way to the coast were sprinkled with churches and homes, rolling green or gold hills dotted with grape vines and sheep. The oaks and redwoods which also lined the main two lane highway appeared to watch the visitors as they came and went, often feeling like something from a scary movie.

The reputation in the valley was also a bit eery. It was told, by the locals, to have been home to serial killers like Charles Manson and Charles Ng. Even this pristine environment  had some dark secrets. The attraction of being secluded in the country, away from the main stream of society, can sometimes draw in a darker element.

I remember that weekend, driving with my mom and brother, looking at property, listening to locals tell their stories and worrying about my mom living here. The property they convinced her to buy was a mountain top property that was part of a larger estate which had be subdivided into smaller parcels, around 160 acres each. Yes, you heard me right, 160 acre small parcels of rolling green hills and giant oak trees that overlooked the world. The views were 180 of amazement. Nothing has ever scared my mom. She has always been a strong women, supporting us and herself, reaching the top of her field of interior design without any formal education.  She had always lived in Southern California but my brother had convinced here to look up north where he now was trying to settle.  We looked at many properties that weekend and my brother ended up buying a 5 acre mixed use piece of property right on the main road. Unlike my moms property which was on top of the world, my brother's property was nestled in the valley floor, surrounded by rolling hills and in need of much work. The house was falling apart, since the foundation was failing it was leaning badly to one side. There also stood a large commercial warehouse type building on the property which was rented out to a plumber in the valley. The over-grown property was full of poison oak, wild blackberries, and broken down vehicles which looked like someone had driven them onto the property where they died and were just left to become part of the landscape, like lawn ornaments only there was no lawn. Yes, my brother had also been the recipient of my mom's spirit of adventure with no fear of the huge challenges that lay before him. 

Some of the tasting rooms at the Madrones

I remember those early years when we would come up to visit him and he had a small wood burning stove in the shape of a train that we would light to try to warm up the cold, damp air. The fireplace was boarded up because at night the family of bats that lived in the chimney would fly out and often they went out the wrong way, ending up in the living room with all of us screaming. So began the next 30 years of adventures, for my mom and my brother and us as occasional visitors. When my mom decided to move to northern California she stayed with Jim on his 5 acres as she contemplated how she would develop her large acreage. The more she went to the property the more she realized how hard that living on top of the world would be.

Her closest neighbors were also true pioneers in every sense of the word. They had built a fully sustainable home with solar panels and storage batteries, dug wells, grew all their own food and hunted. They were a wealth of information for my mom and years later they were the ones that modeled what her life would be like all alone on that mountain. I think that is when my mom decided that the winds on top of her mountain would make it too hard for her to landscape and live! LOL yes she had plans to landscape that acreage. 

My husband and I had also wanted to be a part of the move to the valley. We had been looking at many pieces of property over the years and even had made offers but the one property we tried to get slipped through our fingers when the owner decided not to sell. Many years later, my mom, with all her charm and persistence, talked him into selling her that piece of property. That is where I am sitting today, on a 5 acre piece of property that we tried to by in the 80's and that my mom now owns.

The Carriage House

Once she purchased that property she sold her large acreage and began to draw up plans for a large estate to be built with a carriage house and storage units so she could bring all of her treasures that were in multiple storage locations to this one final home. A place where she could finally settle in and build her dream house and have her antiques again. The building restrictions for this area are crazy and as she started the building process the costs were exorbitant. It took years for the carriage house and storage unit underneath to get finished. She lived in the small unit upstairs and began to landscape her 5 acres of paradise with her large house always in mind. The acreage was also full of poison oak and redwood trees, wild turkey but she loved every inch of it. She would spend countless hours in the yard laying out flower beds and building cages in which everything had to be planted in order to protect the roots from the gophers and squirrels.  It was hard work, long hours and it was plagued with weather issues, large trees breaking, and wild animals. 
One of the hidden garden rooms at Sugar Hill Farms

My brother's property was also changing. The once derelict property was now beautiful. When my mom was living with my brother she helped him with his property. He had raised and leveled the foundation, kicked out all the wild residence that once occupied the house and drew up a remodel plan. He hired local people and started the remodel of his tiny house. It became a beautiful, 3 bedroom, open floor plan country farm estate and went from about 1400 square feet to 3000 sq ft of glorious room. They had found and salvaged old windows and doors but yet you would never know as the place was incredible and perfectly decorated.

The leaning house that was home to bats was now the envy of every interior home designer and magazine. I can't tell you how many times we all would arrive for holiday dinners to a roaring fire, gourmet meals with wonderful smells filling the air. The house was full of arrangements of berries and local greenery with bottles of local wines always flowing. The once uninhabitable house had been reborn, recreated and resurrected into a place of celebration!

The grounds took longer, a work in progress as are most gardens. My mom was actually working on both gardens and helping my brother in his very successful design business he was running from the redesigned commercial building. After years of hard work,  Jim decided to close down his design firm and reinvented his business into a bed and breakfast with tasting rooms and pizza ovens.

The newest project and property, the future home of treetop cottages for guests in the redwoods. They are calling it the Brambles
One of the guest suites at the Madrones

 He longed to stay closer to home, travel less and reduce his stress load. My mother needed the same too. So began a new chapter in my families life in the country. It has continued to change, as life does, always moving, evolving.

My mom, now 83, has settled into the bottom unit of the carriage house so she doesn't have to climb the stairs over and over during the day to water. She lives to be outside, pruning, planting and enjoying this paradise of hers. She has no need to have the gardens on tour, although people plead to come and see them. She is not boastful or showy, she has come to a place in her life where she is happiest alone, digging in the dirt, marveling in the blooms and fighting the weeds. Her routines have become as regular and constant as are the seasons.

Both my brother and my mom have created multiple wonderlands which we can all enjoy as a family. My brothers place is called the Madrones and is open to the public now. The host for my art retreats guests. Both properties have given us countless hours of walking the gardens, picking wild blackberries, talking about the plants, the varieties of roses, laughing about the pests and the struggles.

 It is a place where I love to lay on her bed and feel the breeze coming through her windows as we chat; a place that is already bigger than life and more branded with her identity than anywhere else. I treasure these days with my mom and my family.

It is the knowing that as the garden continues to change so goes life. These days together in her garden are fleeting and I don't want to take any for granted. I take every opportunity to visit her, to paint and sketch and journal in this beautiful place.

 I love being a part of this magical garden that will forever bear witness of her love for this valley and us. A place where she has left her mark for all to enjoy. We call it Sugar Hill Farms.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Owl in the Family

My newest fabric line just made its debut at Quilt Market ! After months of work and planning I sent off my little projects for Quilting Treasures Booth. I didnt get my quilt finished but I managed to create an owl family. I am feeliing a bit like Dr. Frankenstein in my laboritory, sewing and stuffing these cute critters into life! They now sit on the bed in the guest room, waiting to go!

The first Family!

All together now waiting to go!

Placemats ready to go to market

Monday, May 18, 2015

Soaking up the Sun

Do you ever have those days when its just too beautiful to be cooped up in the house. The chores are calling your name but the day is calling to your very soul?

Those are the times when you need to take a few minutes to honor need. That need to take a step back and just soak it all in.
Chloe seems to understand too, lets just soak up some rays

I had that opportunity Sunday.

The sun was warm and the breeze was blowing. I grabbed my paints and ran outside to just paint the day. I was having enjoying the colors in the yard, the flowers blooming, I was so intrigued by the whole scene that my mind couldn't settle in on what I should paint. I ended up painting our dog Chloe, she did pose for a few minutes but was off chasing lizards most of the time. The rose arbor was a bit easier since it remained posed as I painted that last hour of light.

This arbor is so heavy with roses it actually broke this year and we are discussing our options for next year, I would hate to lose these roses. They look like giant ice cream cones of flowers that arch over the walkway! Have you captured a day in your yard recently? What new things did you discover ?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Another Giveaway!!! Don't miss this amazing DVD on Thermofax Screen Printing 101!

My dear friend Lyric Kinard who just released her amazing DVD called Thermofax 101, which is all about thermofax screen printing and mixed media. I watched it all the way through in one sitting, I loved it! So informative and helpful since I didn't know anything about Thermofax screens!

I took one of my paintings and had her make me a thermofax screen. I had painted a picture of a Boston Terrier, since we have one and I love them.

I followed Lyrics wonderful instructions on her website on how to take a photo am make it Thermofax ready and I emailed it to her. She created my wonderful screen from my painting! 
I then decided I needed to add some words and Jennifer decided she wanted Boston's Rock so I added the text!

When I got my screen I started to do practice screens and I have printed many now! 

I will be making some goodies for Jennifer, a bag to carry treats for Chloe and more. I will be making some more black and white prints for you! I will be giving away 3 of my screen prints for you to make into something fun for your dog lover!  Make sure you leave a comment below to be entered into Lyrics drawing for a FREE DVD!! I  free give away of Lyrics DVD but also I will be giving away some of my prints of my screen on fabric and paper for you to do what you please with! Here are links and the blogs to visit starting May 1st and check out the Thermofax 101- picture is a link to Amazon!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Seeing through an Artist's Eye- Mastering the Basics- REGISTRATION IS OPEN!

Join me for my 6 week class:

In this course we will not only be learning the secrets of how to draw almost anything we will be building a strong foundation for you to build your new artistic life.

We will be also going deeper and addressing some of the negative mindsets that often surround art and Artists.

  • Have you always wanted to draw, always wished you could express yourself creatively and openly. 
  • Let me help to build your confidence so you can learn to creatively begin your artistic journey. 
  • Learn how to really see like an Artist, how to notice the important things. 
  • Learn how to no longer be just a casual observer but an intimate partaker in the beauty that surrounds us! 
I would love for you to join us. Read more about the class here! Early Registration is now open, register before May 20 and get early bird pricing and my bonus E-book on Enhancing your Journaling experience.

Save your Seat Now!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Celebrating Sue Bleiweiss's new book - Colorful Fabric Collage with prizes for you!

I am honored to be one of the featured artists in Sue Bleiweiss's new book- Colorful Fabric Collage. This wonderful book is about appliqué and how varied and wonderful it can be. Sue has some amazing projects in the book and several guest artists so you can see different styles of work. Sue has done a great job of writing this book and sharing her love of appliqué. She not only gives you tons of ideas for creating, stitching and displaying your work she also has lots of fun projects in the book! I know you will enjoy this book! 

When Sue asked me to do a small piece for the book I was thrilled and really thought about what I wanted to share with you. I decided that it had to be one of my favorite family's pets. I love to do these wonderfully lit, fun pieces that capture our furry best friends! This is Winston, he is my brothers Frenchie and he is a character. They live in northern CA where it gets cold, in the winter you won't find Winston far from the wall heater. In the Spring you will find him sunning himself in the garden! Make sure you check out Winston on page 57! And make sure you check out Sue's book for more wonderful examples of different methods to use  appliqué. 

If you leave a comment here today you will be entered to win all this;  prize package that includes a book, a stack of 10" squares of Sue's hand dyed fabric, some spools of Aurifil thread and a package of Mistyfuse.
Click on the book to see more, its an affiliate link to Amazon where you can get your copy! Below is a list of the contributing designers that will be doing the blog hop and offering free prizes!! Don't miss out!

May 4: Sue Bleiweiss: http://www.suebleiweiss.com/blog/
May 4: Jamie Fingal :http://www.jamiefingaldesigns.com/
May 5: Leslie Tucker Jenison: http://leslietuckerjenison.blogspot.com/
May 6: Terri Stegmiller : http://stegart.blogspot.com/
May 7: Deborah Boschert : http://deborahsjournal.blogspot.com/
May 8: Desiree Habicht : http://myclothesline.blogspot.com/
May 9: Kathy Sperino : http://finishinglinesbyksperino.blogspot.com/
May 10: Barb Forrister : http://www.barbforrister.com/blog/
May 11 Kathy York : http://www.aquamoonartquilts.blogspot.com/
May 12: Lyric Kinard : http://lyrickinard.com/lyric-kinard-blog/

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Quiltmakers 100 Blocks! All this from one inspired idea!

Its my turn to share with you my block and remind you to leave a comment here to be entered into a drawing for lots of great prizes!

This story is all about inspiration! I was working on a new Mug Rug pattern for my Mug Rug Club and I was babysitting my twin granddaughters. We were watching cartoons and a fish poked his head out of the water and my heart jumped and I knew I had my new pattern. While I was designing and making my new Mug Rug pattern I decided to make my block for Quiltmakers 100 block volume 11 magazine.

My first Fish Mug Rug
Then I had another idea

and another, all Mug Rug patterns then I went to the block

Here is my block that you have in your magazine with the pattern and templates! But I wasn't done yet, I was on a roll!

From the there my mind was still spinning and I decided that this would be a wonderful fabric line so I designed the small stripe after my Mug Rugs and block and sent it off to see if my fabric company, Quilting Treasures was interested in me developing the line, they were very excited and I started developing the whole line. 

This was the painting of my idea for fabric I sent to QT and I went on to develop the panel with all the characters and the coordination fabrics too. 

The Under the Sea Panel

But wait! Thats not all! I thought to myself that it was too cute to not make a baby with this idea, and so I designed this cute quilt that matches everything! 

Same idea, worked a bit differently. And just when you thought I was finished with this idea I thought that these adorable and now very popular fish would make a wonderful embroidery CD to go along with everything else and so Free in the Sea Embroidery was born!

All that from one afternoon watching a cartoon and being inspired enough to keep developing my idea! 

So if you are interested in anything you see here today you can find it on my website at www.desireesdesigns.com but you can get the block pattern now in the Quiltmakers 100 Blocks Vol 11 out now!! Leave a comment and be entered into a drawing to recieve a free magazine and gifts too! I will also be giving away a free panel to one lucky person who leaves a comment here! 

Monday, May 04, 2015

Right NOW!! Blog Hops with tons of giveaways!!!

This week is a crazy week of blog hops for me but that makes for a great week for you and it all starts Today!! Make sure you check back often in the next week and a half and leave a comment for chances to win some amazing prizes from magazines and authors and other creatives!! This is going to be a killer week for everyone!! I am so excited you will be joining me!! First we have the Quiltmaker Blog Hop Tour featuring the 100 Blocks Magazine that is available now!!

Check out the designers that are featured today and leave comments on their blogs for chances to win some great prizes! I will be on Thursday so come back and leave a comment here too!!!

Today also starts my good friend, Sue Bleiweiss's Blog Tour to celebrate her newest book called Colorful Fabric Collage! Friday the 8th is my day! I am honored to be one of the featured artists in the book and I will be talking about my little quilt I made for the book and if you leave a comment on that day you will have the chance to win all this prize package that includes a book, a stack of 10" squares of my hand dyed fabric, some spools of Aurifil thread and a package of Mistyfuse.
Click on the book to see more, its a link to Amazon where you can get your copy! Below is a list of the contributing designers that will be doing the blog hop and offering free prizes!! Don't miss out!

May 4: Sue Bleiweiss: http://www.suebleiweiss.com/blog/
May 4: Jamie Fingal :http://www.jamiefingaldesigns.com/
May 5: Leslie Tucker Jenison: http://leslietuckerjenison.blogspot.com/
May 6: Terri Stegmiller : http://stegart.blogspot.com/
May 7: Deborah Boschert : http://deborahsjournal.blogspot.com/
May 8: Desiree Habicht : http://myclothesline.blogspot.com/
May 9: Kathy Sperino : http://finishinglinesbyksperino.blogspot.com/
May 10: Barb Forrister : http://www.barbforrister.com/blog/
May 11 Kathy York : http://www.aquamoonartquilts.blogspot.com/
May 12: Lyric Kinard : http://lyrickinard.com/lyric-kinard-blog/

Then on to my dear friend Lyric Kinard who just released her amazing DVD called Thermofax 101, which is all about thermofax screen printing and mixed media. I took one of my paintings and had her make me a thermofax screen and I will be showing off my project and offering not only a free give away of Lyrics DVD but also I will be giving away some of my prints of my screen on fabric and paper for you to do what you please with! More on May 12 here on my blog. Here are links and the blogs to visit starting May 1st and check out the Thermofax 101 picture is a link to Amazon!

May 1- Elizabeth and Sue Gibson-http://pgfiber2art.blogspot.com/
May 2- Judy Coates Perez http://www.judycoatesperez.com
May 4- Linda Stokes  www.lindastokes-textileartist.com
May 6-Jane Davia http://janedavila.blogspot.com
May 7- Liz Kettle http://www.textileevolution.com/index.php/our-journey
May 8- Carol Sloan  http://carolbsloan.blogspot.com
May 9 - Kathy York- http://aquamoonartquilts.blogspot.com
May 11- Susan Brubaker Knapp http://wwwbluemoonriver.blogspot.com
May 12- Desiree Habicht- http://myclothesline.blogspot.com
May 13-Jamie Fingal-http://JamieFingalDesigns.blogspot.com/
May 14- Deborah Boschert- http://deborahsjournal.blogspot.com
May 15- Sarah Ann Smith-sarahannsmith.com/weblog

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Big Tree Painting

Today, Jennifer and I went to a community art project called The Big Tree Painting with Jeff Soto, a local artist. Participants were able to paint wood blocks that make up the Big Tree in Jeff's signature edgy style.

All the paintings will then be assembled and exhibited this summer at the museum. It was so much fun to see the community come together and just paint whatever they wanted on their blocks. I will be excited to see the exhibit when they all come together. Jenn worked on smaller blocks and gave them to the boys. As we were walking away from the painting tables we were immediately distracted by the flying antics of lots of some birds, as we looked up we spotted the mud nests of swallows. It was fun to watch them but I am glad I don't have eaves on my house anymore.

 It was back to the house for a day outside with the boys! Counting my blessing today!

Cuddling with Aunt Jen Jen

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