Making a garden transformation

2016-05-01 17.21.39There were several steps to our recent garden transformation.

  1. Create a mood board in pinterest for inspiration
  2. Share with our landscape person to get help with clean up and structure
  3. Add focal elements and features to match our taste
  4. Get plants, pots and trellises
  5. Acquire some additional garden sculpture
  6. Replace old chairs on our deck

Admittedly, we had some landscaping help with the beginning of the task. Weeds were cleared, weed barrier put in place, gravel and river rock added, and a rock or two were migrated from various parts of our property. All things that appeared beyond either our energy, or our collective ability to lift.

When we bought the house eleven years ago, there were many plants already in place. Some of those were to our taste, though others were not. We struggled with a rhododendron just inside the gate that failed to be lovely. Whatever wee beastie that was eating it made it look like it had mange. The fern next to the farm-style water spigot managed to hide it, but had gotten a little unwieldy, and grass seeds had propagated. A pile of gravel left over from another project had half migrated to the area, along with bulbs left by the squirrels. In its favor, the sweep of the path down to the lovely magnolia, provided a good structural element. However, none of that was helped by the state of disarray. Enter the landscaper.

Sadly, while good work was done in cleaning up and preparing the space, we failed to connect on the design having some variation of scale and a focal point. We wanted a suggestion of a river bed on the downward slope between the path and the fence, curving down to our fabulous tree. We did get some of that, however, all the scale was knee height or below. The space was crying out for some focus, some greenery, and some love. This brought us to this weekend.

2016-05-01 17.23.42 HDRDuring the week, I ordered a couple of garden sculptures online. A couple of metal cranes, some temple pagodas and a nice little cairn of rocks. We put those to one side and started moving around existing materials like pots of grasses, bamboo poles, a peaceful statue and some bricks and rocks. Turned out we really could move that stuff ourselves. One of the pots was too large, but round. When turned on its side, it rolled nicely. That let us get it into place without doing ourselves a mischief. It moved in front of an electrical outlet standing in the middle of the yard (it needed hidden). We placed some more pots to frame the statue, scattered a wandering path of black river rocks and headed for the craft store for inspiration.

2016-05-01 17.22.44 HDRBags of tumbled blue and clear glass followed the meandering path of black rocks, pooled in a couple of places and burbled down the hillside, catching the light as if it was water. Now we had our suggestion of a creek bed. It didn’t need to be exact.

That left us with an area on the other side of the courtyard that was now empty. We 2016-05-01 17.21.24cleaned up, sweeping up leaves and detritus. Making use of a couple concrete pavers, plus a couple of rocks, we built up a tumble of stones in the middle of that area. A peacock statue that was living in the entry foyer of the house migrated outside to sit upon the rocks. After a trip to the garden store, a maidenhair fern and a lacey green plant joined the peacock. A blue fescue moved alongside, together with a couple strands of solar powered lights.

We are looking forward to a lovely summer in our restful courtyard.

2016-05-01 17.20.55 HDR


Train to Portland for WDS

This weekend I set out on a terrific adventure to WDS, the World Domination Summit, in Portland. Here I am living in Seattle, with a bunch of options to get to the event. I can catch a plane, which is quick, but means standing around in airports. I could drive, but wouldn’t be able to read a book or write along the way. A train seemed like the best choice. It took only 4 hours, and is one of the best ways to see the water on the way down to Portland. The tracks are, in some places, only fifteen to twenty feet from the shore. I traveled business class to ensure I could plug in my laptop (a Surface Pro). There is a piece of fiction I’ve been working on, and the characters were calling for my attention.

On the train

On the train

Views on the way

Views on the way

Arriving at King Street Station, I stood in a modest line, only 5 people, to wait for the conductor. I had my e-ticket in hand. He let me know to go to the ticket office for seat assignment. Another short line, only two this time, later, I had a single seat and a coupon for a three dollar discount at the bistro car. All aboard carriage one, and quickly settled down to enjoy the experience. One of the most relaxing things about trains is the rocking rhythm, together with the speed. We had a few stops along the way to wait for freight trains, but none of them too long. We arrived at Union Station in Portland right on time. A quick ride later had me at the Hotel Modera, close to where the WDS events would be held. Close, I found in Portland, was a relative term. It was about nine blocks, and flat shoes were a good thing to have packed.

Hotel Modera view

Hotel Modera view

The summit was a melange of interesting people, great presentations on the main stage, and meetups that were put together by participants. Those were one of my favorite parts of the event, the people. I met folks from different countries, had a wonderful lunch of fresh seasonal foods, visited the farmer’s market. Best breakfast ever. Fresh biscuits with brown mushroom gravy and a fried egg. Delicious. And there was a bunch of walking. Portland is a city for pedestrians. There’s a lovely green belt on SW Park Street, that ribbons down, cooler than the surrounding streets, to Director Park. That was essential this weekend as the weather turned up the heat to the 90’s. Still, we kept hydrated, met loads of excited entrepreneurs, artists, writers and performers, all making the most of the weather and the chance to swap stories. I went to parties, acquired a temporary tattoo, and ate pie at Petunia’s Pies. On Saturday evening I celebrated the full moon with cocktails at the Nines, meeting some women with wonderful creative projects, and got to brainstorm book ideas with some great folks caring for animals.

Potatoes with beet salad

Potatoes with beet salad

The food in Portland is amazing. Fresh. Seasonal. Well prepared and delicious. Can’t wait to make another train trip with my sweetie to enjoy it again.

I am already planning to go to WDS next year, and am grateful to Lawrence and Sameer for recommending the experience. Also much gratitude to Chris and all the ambassadors for making it a memorable occasion. Thanks guys!

WDS has already been a success for me. I just finished the last 5,000 words of my novel and put it in the hands of my alpha reader today for feedback. Props to the summit for getting me unblocked. Don’t know how 5,000 words happened along with everything else, but am all fired up to continue on to the next book in the series. Now on to the next thing cousins. One step at a time.

Hope everyone else had a great time. I did. Will be reaching out to folks I met and chatted with over the next few days. There is at least one collaboration I’m excited about, and likely more.

Sydney from an insider

I have been reading a bunch of travel blogs lately, getting ready for some summer and fall travel. I thought it might be fun to share some thoughts on my home town, Sydney. Later, I’ll move on to a cruise and a train journey that are coming up soon.

Sydney Gardens
One of the best things about Sydney is the gardens with views of the water. The Botanical Gardens can be entered from the St James station end, across from the New South Wales Art Gallery, or from down near the Opera House. It is a lovely planned garden, with loads of interesting and brightly colored flowers, wandering Ibis, shelters and follies. You can see fabulous views of the water from the gardens. Other fantastic views are just around the curve of the walk. Locals wander the gardens too; it’s a favorite place for lunch in the middle of the city.


Beaches of course
No trip to Sydney would be complete without a visit to a beach or two. One of own pleasant memories is going over to Manly on the ferry (a passenger one, boarded via a plank, I kid you not), grabbing some fish and chips and eating them on Manly Beach. Take a train out to some of the Southern Beaches as well. If rivers are more to your liking, the National Parks are accessible by train as well, and you can rent a row boat for an easy afternoon on the water.


A trip to the zoo
It’s true that we have the wackiest animals on the planet. Among them are kangaroos and koalas. Locals who rescue roos will tell you that the little blighters do kick, as I learned when I was in high school. A friend rescued a wallaby, and when it had grown a bit, we got kicked if we got in its way. The cuddly looking koalas sport wicked claws too, all the better to climb the gum trees. Find both of these animals at Taronga Park Zoo. You can also get up close, though behind glass, from some of the worlds most poisonous critters, if that takes your fancy. Catch a view of the emu, the crocodile and the lyrebird with its fabulous plumage too.


Hyde Park – green belt through the city
Hyde ParkHyde Park is a great lunch spot in the middle of the city. Visit the Archibald Fountain, with its classic Greek figures Apollo, Diana, Pan and the Minotaur, right across from St Mary’s Cathedral near St James railway station. St Mary’s is a lovely spot, and interesting for being a north facing cathedral, instead of the usual east-facing architecture. Bit of a novelty. It even has a lady chapel all the way to the north, behind the main altar. Not something you’ll find on the tourist information.

WarMemorialThe War Memorial in Hyde Park has a figure of the fallen soldier, draped across his shield, and mothers carrying the fallen. The contemplation pool reflects all the moods of the Sydney sky. A walk across the street finds you at the Sydney Museum, and along the way, stop to enjoy the enormous Morton Bay fig trees.