the poetry of detritus

by Justine on April 30, 2014

in flora,my photography

bottles and cherry

Sometimes my favorite part of design is the unexpected aftermath… Debris left by two works in flowers for Gardenista next week. Once lovely and full, now past their prime, or gone altogether. Haunting beautiful echoes.

bottles and cherry branch

beakers black and white

bird and crown


dying tulip


cottage, yellow and blue

by Justine on April 28, 2014

in flora,my photography,Our Cottage

grape hyacinth and daffodils

Cycles continue with the return to our cottage.
One year older (and, hopefully, wiser).
A new family member.
April flowers from across the street,
King’s Corner.
Gramma Sylvia lives on.

Solvi and Bunzo


grape hyacinth

Solvi cottage

grape hyacinths


playing with scented geraniums

by Justine on April 28, 2014

in flora,my photography

orange scented geranium blossom, gardenista

Last week I indulged in my new passion for scented geraniums, or pelargoniums as they are more accurately called, with a tour of the collection at the Lyman Estate Greenhouses and by baking a rose geranium, lemon cake. See more at Gardenista.

scented pelargoniums Lyman Estate

I was surprised to learn just how many different scented pelargoniums there are – close to 200 fragrances, ranging from citruses to spices, pine and oak scents, mints, apple, apricot, coconut, vanilla, chocolate and even French Lace. I also loved the textures and colors of their various leaf structures.

cintronella with bougainvillea
scented geraniums leaves
Rose Lemon Rose scented geranium standar, gardensita

floured-pan-rose-geranium-lemon-cake-Justine-Hand-GardenistaThe rose geranium leaves gave my Meyer lemon cake an added layer of subtle complexity.



hoppy easter

by Justine on April 20, 2014

in holiday,my photography

easter tree 4

Easter Egg tree 

easter tree 5

hand painted, antique decorations inherited from Great Aunt Dot

painted egg 2

painted egg

easter eggs 3

our eggs and a vintage chick

easter bunny 2

shameless use of our bunny to create cheesy Easter photo


calligraphy class with maybelle

by Justine on April 13, 2014

in my photography

Today Angela Liguori welcomed an intimate group of eight ladies for a calligraphy class taught by the very warm and talented Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls. Much like Maybelle herself, the artist’s approach to her work is informal and unprescribed. She embraces the Wabi-Sabi imperfections and variations that give her calligraphy an extemporaneous and expressive quality. (In fact, she is a bit horrified when people ask her what font she uses, because then she knows her work is too perfect.) In the 3-hour class, Maybelle encouraged her students to quickly move past the form, and experiment, with the ultimate goal of developing their own individual style. There is something quite meditative about calligraphy once you let go, and the whole experience was relaxing, convivial and fun. Truly great way to spend an afternoon.

the table, before

lovely ladies: Angela and Maybelle

We all got our own personal calligraphy kits complete with pen holders made by Maybelle’s husband.

Maybelle demonstrates the basics.

Maybelle teaching

The class try their hands at it.

my efforts

a fellow student

white ink on black demo

the aftermath of all our hard work

my efforts with white on black


object and light

by Justine on April 7, 2014

in furniture,lighting

I need to change the bi-line of this site to “a blog about seeing,” since clearly my interests have shifted from pure design to something more about how we take it the world around us. Which is not to say that I don’t still experience that visceral joy when confronted with something I love. Most bloggers call it “covet,” but I think it goes deeper. And so, back to design…

Recently I found my heart leaping at this table from Object and Light. I absolutely love the juxtaposition of the exquisitely delicate metal legs with the chunky, warm, wooden top. Love the sense of history.. But also the reasons this table speaks to me are personal. a) Family lore: growing up we enjoying epic meals, lively conversation, and heated card games around similar tables at Stephanie’s and the cabin in Maine. b) Professional education: my aunt Sheila, an architect, has been advocating for long, lean tables for years because they are not only architecturally dramatic, but also they seat many people while keeping the experience intimate. She had one made as a wedding present that measured a generous 8 feet by a mere 30 inches. c) my own experience: while photographing Fiona’s cottage in Maine, I admired the lithe proportions of her antique vintners table from France.

Object and Light happens to sell many other one-of-a-kind pieces that speak to me. I would love to own some of their vintage, industrial lamps, but right now I’m just grateful for the similar light that I bought for a mere $40 from Marnie.


experimenting with exposures

by Justine on April 7, 2014

in flora,my photography


Solvi picked a single snowdrop and placed it in the smallest vessel we had. Seemed the perfect opportunity to experiment with exposures.

under exposed

over exposed


spring babies

by Justine on April 7, 2014

in fauna,kids,my photography

An annual vernal tradition: checking out the new babies at Drumlin Farms.


important work

by Justine on April 3, 2014

in flora,life/family,my photography

My mother’s good friend Marnie, a creative inspiration in my life, loves to tell the following story of my little brother. When Jack was perhaps 6 or 7, he spent the day with “Aunt” Marnie making things – forts, crafts, recipes, etc. When he came home, our mother asked what he had been doing all day. He looked up at her with a very serious expression and pronounced, “Important work!”

How true. The act of playing and creating is the most important work a child can do. It means more to their cognitive development, mind-body awareness, and emerging sense of self than any Baby Einstein video or Kumon exercise. For it is in the act of creating that children truly learn to engage the world around them – to use their imaginations, to exercise their curiosity, to open themselves up to possibility and explore.

If there is one thing I wish to teach my children, it is this sense of connection to place, person, and to the task at hand. This is why I take my children out to find seeds in the woods (science), and why when we get home I suggest an activity of arranging them (art). These activities not only teach them to look at things in different ways, they help them to do the important work of engaging the world around them. (Oh and BTW, they also help me to stay engaged. It’s an on-going process.)

To me this word “engagement” is very important for it is the main component of what it means to be Creative with a capital “C”, literally “to create.” (A definition, you’ll note, that is not restricted to “the arts.”) When we create something, whether it be a garden, painting, novel or the theory of relativity, we cannot help but be completely focussed and engaged.

I don’t presume to know the secret of happiness, but I believe that being engaged is central. And the more we practice it through the important work of creating, the more we can exercise it in other aspects of our life: when we enjoy the sunset or read a book. There are those who seek a constant state of engagement. But for most of us, that is simply unrealistic. (And maybe too much work.) But I believe that the more moments of true engagement that we can string across the ups and downs of our hectic lives, the more we can knit it all together into something resembling a life well-lived.

My first seed collage with our more long-stemmed specimens involved laying them as they were when I gathered them in my hand, and simply photographing them that way.

When I removed the seeds from my pockets, I gathered them on one of Solvi’s school works sheets that happened to be on my desk. I liked the rather serendipitous juxtaposition, so again I wound up photographing them as they lay.

I also tried an arrangement into some sort of representational landscape, but I liked these results less. I think because the impetus for this was coming from the outside and not within.

Solvi works on her collage.

Note the intensity. :)

Purely abstract and, I think, uninfluenced by preconceived notions, Solvi’s landscape is more successful than mine. (But that’s ok, it’s all part of the process or work, and I learned something.)


nuts for seeds

by Justine on March 31, 2014

in flora,my photography

This weekend’s pursuit of pussy willows at the Arnold Arboretum led to a hunt of a different sort: seeds! With the snow finally gone and the grass not yet grown, turns out that now is the perfect time to forage for nuts, seeds, and other pods. Using the precise labeling at the Arboretum, the kids and I had a ball creating our own seed primer.

Solvi climbs a Dawn Redwood

a plethora of pods blanketed the ground beneath

Camo Boy, Olie scales a Stewartia Psuedocamellia tree

seeds of the Stewartia Psuedocamellia

Olie surveys a black pussy willow, Salix gracilistyla

a magnolia pod

more pussy willows

alder nuts

witch hazel in bloom

goldenrain pods

goldenrain seeds on the ground

lunch break

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