Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Issaquah Valley Trolley

Here in Issaquah, we have the historic Issaquah Depot built in 1889. It was restored back to it's original  appearance in the 1980's and now it's a charming bit of Issaquah history housing a museum and a community gathering place. If you look in my gallery, you'll see a portrait of the depot that I painted.

This summer, I heard that the Issaquah Valley Trolley was up and running so I grabbed my camera and headed downtown to the depot. The trolley was on my "to do" list of historic Issaquah landmarks. It was a  perfect, sunny and warm Northwest day and the depot was lively with kids and their parents waiting to board the trolley.

 As stood taking photos and waiting for the trolley to depart, I felt as if I had walked back in time. The conductors in their spiffy uniforms chatted with passengers. A ragtime band was playing inside the depot. A young father ran with his preschooler in his arms for the trolley as the conductor hollered, "Aaaaaall Aboard!! 

Mr. Trolley Conductor

The trolley whistle blew, and off it rolled down the tracks and down the road with a car full of happy, bouncy passengers.

It only went down to the end of downtown Issaquah, about a quarter mile away and back making it about a 20 minute journey all in all. Just the right amount of time for the young, bouncy passengers inside!

I walked along the path that follows along Front Street, waiting for another shot of the trolley as it returned. The trolley runs during the weekends through the summer until the weather turns too cold and wet for an enjoyable ride down Front Street. As soon as the trolley is up and running again for the season, I'll be there with my grand kids to board the Issaquah Valley Trolley and a short journey to old-time Issaquah. 

Click HERE for more info about the Issaquah Valley Trolley! 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Here in the Pacific Northwest, the summers are beautiful, and this year is no exception! Blue skies and sunshine, clean air and it's not too hot either. It's juuuuust right, as Goldilocks would say. For my family, summertime has always been a great time to get out and visit some local spots. Here are some of my favorite summertime destinations in watercolor, pen and ink form...

Kelsey Creek Farm, Bellevue, WA

Kelsey Creek Farm is one of Bellevue's best kept secrets. (Oops! The secret's out now...) Tucked in an older residential neighborhood just a minute or two from the downtown area, I used to take my two kids here for some farm-time fun. With animals to pet, pony riding lessons, a creek to splash and play in, it's always been a favorite summertime destination. To find out how to get there, click on the link below:

Lake Hills Produce Stand, Bellevue, WA

Another favorite place in Bellevue is the Lake Hills Produce Stand. Fresh cut flowers and tasty, farm-fresh produce seem more fun to peruse and buy from this charming little barn, complete with it's own windmill.

Triple X Root Beer, Issaquah, WA

Thirsty? Triple X in Issaquah is a unique spot if you want burgers, fries and...oh yeah, root beer. 1950's memorabilia covers the walls and ceiling and an old fashioned Jukebox plays 50's tunes while you dine. Triple X regularly hosts vintage car on the link here for more info on this historic, iconic spot!

Mukilteo Lighthouse, Mukilteo, WA

I've always loved lighthouses, and Washington has quite a few. Right next to the ferry landing in Mukilteo which is just north of Seattle, is this tiny, extra-charming lighthouse... 

Alki Point Lighthouse, Seattle WA

and the Alki Point Lighthouse in west Seattle is a beautiful spot as well, especially at sunset with the Olympic Mountains in the distance. I'm planning on adding more lighthouse illustrations to my collection, so stay tuned for more! If you would like to see the original paintings that I've posted here, they are on display and for sale at the UP Front Gallery in downtown Issaquah.

Okay - I've given you some ideas for fun places to visit this summer. If you don't happen to live in this area, I encourage you to take some time this summer to get out and enjoy the beautiful places that are right in your own neighborhood. Bring your camera, the kids and a picnic lunch. I promise, you'll have a wonderful time!

Friday, July 5, 2013

A (Leftover) Firecracker of a Grandma

My Grandma would have been 123 years old today if she were still alive. A "leftover firecracker", as my mom used to call her. The day after Independence Day is when she is especially on my mind. Nearly 70 years older than me, Grandma passed away when I was seventeen. I had never lost a loved one up till then, so her passing was quite hard for me. I didn't just lose a grandma, I lost a buddy and lifelong friend. On the anniversary of her birthday today, I thought that it would be fitting to pay tribute to this wonderful woman and to share with you some of her stories.

Grandma, on her 82nd birthday - July 5th, 1972

Esther Victoria Herman came into the world in 1890, born in the farmhouse that her daddy built on the outskirts of the rural town of Chanute, Kansas. Esther was the third child and only daughter of Swedish immigrants and pioneers, Peter and Betty Herman. A family portrait taken just the day before her birth shows her parents standing in front of the homestead, just home from a 4th of July picnic. Her mother Betty is looking demure and huge with child, wearing a voluminous dark dress. Standing next to her all in black and looking quite solemn and stern is her Swedish mother, Bible clutched firmly in her hands. Grandma's grandma had just come over from the old country, perhaps to help out help with the children. She looked a bit frail to me for that, though. All I ever knew about her is that she would sit on the porch and shell peas. That's an important job, and probably a lot easier than chasing after little kids!

Peter and Betty, Arthur, Chester, Esther and
 Elmer Herman, circa 1895

Grandma would share glowing stories of her idyllic childhood in Chanute which sounded just like heaven on earth to me. Growing up on the Kansas prairie in the late 1800's, hearing her stories of adventure and misadventures with her brothers, the love of her family and a tragic loss, I came to realize later on in life that Grandma was my very own Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The house that Peter built, Chanute, Kansas

Though Grandma's little house on the Kansas prairie wasn't a log one but rather a charming Victorian farmhouse, she and Laura both both shared the blessing of having fathers that they adored, and Grandma always talked about her daddy, Peter.

Peter Herman

Peter Herman was a tailor, a farmer, a pillar of the community, and a hero in the eyes of his daughter. As he would plow his field behind his horse, little Esther was always close behind, following his big footsteps. Not surprisingly, there was hardly any man in her life, besides her husband, that could hold a candle to her daddy.

Elmer, Chester, Peter and Arthur Herman

Grandma and her brothers would play for hours outdoors, often getting into mischief and pulling pranks. Grandma would laugh as she told a story of how they buried an inedible cake in the yard that their aunt had given them, raving about how delicious it had been, to their aunt's delight.

Tragedy struck their family on a June day in 1905 when Elmer at age 11, drowned in a pond while attempting to save a drowning friend. Grandma often talked of her brother Elmer, her loss no less diminished 70 years later. Over the years, whenever looking at Elmer's picture, I wondered what he would have grown up to be. He was a handsome boy, with his father's strong jaw and a look of maturity for his young age. To give his life for a friend, he must have been a very special young man, indeed.

Esther Herman (far right)

Grandma had the distinction of being a passenger on one of the last voyages of the Lusitania, which sank in 1915. She would make occasional trips to Sweden with her family to visit relatives, travelling by ocean liner. Needless to say, I'm very thankful she avoided that disaster!

Grandma met and married my grandfather, Milton Christensen and in the 1920's they relocated to Los Angeles where they raised their two daughters, Virginia and Elaine (my mother). Grandma became a widow in the 1940's, raising her girls alone in their home in west LA. I have so many fond memories of her house there on Drexel Avenue. Sleepovers with Grandma were especially exciting when I would wake up in the morning to see her set of dentures smiling at me from the water glass beside the bed!

Virginia and Elaine, Los Angeles 1936

Grandma was in her glory when in the kitchen, cooking and baking for her family. I don't really ever recall her sitting down and actually eating a meal! She was continuously puttering in the kitchen, feeding her daughters and two granddaughters with her delicious home-cooking and homemade pies. I inherited my love of baking from Grandma (and also the gene that can sniff out the best deals on day-old cakes in the grocery store). 

Grandma in her new apartment
showing off her bread pudding ~ 1972

In 1974, my mom and I took Grandma on a train trip from Los Angeles to Kansas City. Grandma had often said to me, "Someday, I'll take you on a train to Chanute!" "Someday" came that summer when I was 16 and I finally got to see Grandma's beloved Chanute. We found the old homestead which looked very well cared for, and although the owners were not home, Grandma strolled around the yard, drinking in the memories of her happy, long ago youth. 

Staying with her cousin Annie in Kansas City, I fell in love with Annie's old house, the screened porch and my first sight of fireflies dancing in the dusk. Afternoon thunderstorms shook the old house, the smell of yesteryears in the faded quilt on the bed as I napped in the small guest room upstairs. Grandma and Annie talked and laughed like young girls again downstairs, catching up on the years. 

Grandma and Annie both passed away the following year. How thankful I am that we made that trip to Chanute. Grandma's childhood stories were my ticket on a time machine that would take me to a time and place that I longed to be a part of. Going there brought me closer to Grandma's past, and brought Grandma full-circle to the place she knew and loved her whole life long. 

Grandma, Heidi and Vicki, 1962

I'll always remember the sweet and spunky, stubborn yet generous and giving lady she was. Despite her advanced years, she had eyes that were as clear and bright as a blue summer sky. The vigorous love pats on the arm, and the drawn out "Whhhhhhaaaatt!!!" exclamations of total disbelief. The fluffy hugs, the dollar bill tucked into my pocket each time I came for a visit. The cute way she had of mixing up words in her Midwestern way, calling the Del Amo shopping mall "The Alamo" and "Jesterdee" for yesterday. Grandma was a Swedish Baptist and loved the old hymns. She bought my sister and I a brand new piano so that we could learn to play hymns, because "every young girl needs to know how to sit down and play a hymn!"

Grandma had a way of making instant friends with total strangers, their arm in her tight grip as she told them proudly about her girls, whether they wanted to hear about it or not. Now that I'm a grandma with two grandkids of my own, it's my hope and dream to have the playful and loving relationship with them that I had with my own grandma. My childhood is hardly out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book, but I have a legacy of love to pass down to this new generation of my family as I have had the quintessential model of what a grandma should be. 

Happy Birthday, Grandma! 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Treasures in Miniature

Tonight I'll be attending the opening reception for the "Treasures in Miniature" art show on Mercer Island. I have three paintings in the show, so I thought I'd show them to you in case you can't make it to the gallery.

"Be my Valentine", 4 x 6,
 watercolor and colored pencil

This is my newest painting! On Valentine's Day, my husband, Keith brought home a huge bouquet that he picked up at Pike's Place Market in Seattle. They make the most amazing flower bouquets there, by the way! It was jam packed with tulips, pussy willows, statice and all sorts of beautiful greenery. I photographed it in the afternoon sun and was inspired to paint it. I loved the old-world, dramatic, dark against light effect it had.

The other two paintings I have at the MIVAL Gallery in Mercer Island are the teacup portraits I posted recently. These are also rendered in the same technique of watercolor on Arches watercolor board, with Lyra colored pencil on top.

"Nana's Teacup", 4 x 6

"Tea with Lemon", 4 x 6
If you live in the area and would like to go see the show, here are the details from the promotional post card:

Hope you can come! :o)

Monday, March 11, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Hedgehogs

Have you heard the old saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"? Well, I love lemonade as much as the next person, but when life has given me lemons, the thing that makes me feel better is not making lemonade. It's knitting. Knitting shawls, blankets and socks have given me much enjoyment over the years... but honestly. Nothing beats knitting hedgehogs. It's like making instant friends! It's hard to fall in love with a sock, no matter how hard I've worked on it. But it's impossible not to fall in love with a knitted hedgehog.

Here are three of them enjoying a rare, sunny Northwest day in March. I decided to let them out of my knitting bag to explore the yard a bit. Coming out of the darkness of the knitting bag, their tiny eyes were blinking and squinting in the bright sunlight. Just like the rest of us who haven't seen the sun for months!

These two were having quite a conversation about their new discoveries out in the big, wide world. 

Everything was new and amazing to them. Even a stick became quite the topic of conversation! 

Before I knew it, more hedgies were joining in to see what all of the excitement was about! 

Oh, my!! Where did they all come from?! Did I really knit this many hedgies?? Well...I suppose I did. Once you start, you can't really stop. And anyway, they have all been invited to a party, so they all need to have a nice afternoon of exploring before they go inside to participate in the festivities.

So, there you go. Lemonade is good while it lasts, but a hedgehog is a friend forever. :o) 

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Tale of Two Teacups

Those who know me well know that I have a "thing" for teacups. Teacups made in England are my particular favorites, but old or new, I love them all! Of course, I enjoy drinking tea out of them, too. 

"Nana's Teacup", 5 x 3.5, watercolor and colored pencil

I have about a dozen vintage teacups that belonged to my mother-in-law, Elinore. When she married Hank back in 1952, her mother gave her those teacups as a gift. Every teacup pattern is different, but remarkably, each and every one has a rose of some sort painted on it. Since Elinore was marrying a  Mr. Rose, this seems very appropriate, I think!

"Teacup with Lemon", 5 x 3.5, watercolor and colored pencil

These two portraits are fairly small, and I enjoyed the challenge of rendering the different textures of china, silver, lace and tea all in two tiny paintings. Light watercolor washes on Arches watercolor board went down first, then oil-based colored pencil on top of that.  It's a method that is quick and fun with very satisfying results. So, now I suppose I need to paint the other ten teacups, too!