Pet Inspiration

After getting a cat, I am surprised to find myself getting attached to him, as he is to me. Buddy, my cat, was given to my husband by his mother. She would go into the nursing home if he would take the cat. It was a deal only my mother-in-law could broach, mafia-like he “couldn’t refuse,” ha. Now that Buddy has taken over my house and favorite chair, he has also become an art inspiration. Mind control??

pencil sketchcat hairsnow cat, March 5

Exteriors and Interiors: Part 2

IMG_2329Imrana Sayed and Wick O’Brien have made their beautiful house by building and decorating in and onto an existing house in Staten Island.   They bought their house many years ago but over time have changed it.  Wick is a skilled builder.  He redid the kitchen, tore off the roof, built stairs, and made the attic into a master bedroom with attached bath.  Imrana is skilled at sewing. She regularly sews clothes or makes toys (like stuffed bears) for children.  She sewed slip covers for couches and chairs as well as creating all the curtains. I think the couch they are sitting in is about to get a remake!  Imrana also did a lot of the less skilled work that required patience and persistence, like stripping layers of paint from the original wood and refinishing it. Then, she decorated the house with found objects and friends’ artwork.  I have experienced their hospitality in the house more times than I can count and it’s always like coming home.


Dining room. Painting by Mike Hamilton.  For more beautiful paintings go to his website  Disclosure: He’s the father of my children, too.  Makes beautiful kids and paintings!



Below is the dining room wall opposite Mike’s painting.  The cross in the corner was actually a wooden mould for metal pipes.


A corner of the living room.  My painting of a lamplit street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was done at night in winter, under a street light and wearing many layers of clothing.



I saw this whimsical, carved and painted fence when I was bicycling around the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore.  Although this is on the outside of the house, I consider gardens and fences to be part of the house so I included it in this part of the conversation.


Betsy Bennett is an actor, comedian, writerIMG_2485 and also my sister-in-law.  She decorated her apartment in an idiosyncratic way, with family heirlooms plus objects and artwork she found at thrift stores and flea markets.  I found it delightful to stay at her home when I went to visit.  In every nook there was a surprise!



For a taste of Betsy’s most recent comedy, “Assisted Living: The Musical” go to


Although I love traveling,  I am always happy to come home.





Snow.  It started late last night and continued ’til midday, piling up on streets, steps, trees, cars, and rooftops, bringing with it peaceful silence and a day of rest for many of us.  In the morning I shoveled all 14 feet of my sidewalk.  There is something nice about a narrow house on days like this!  Then I shoveled many of my neighbors’ sidewalks and steps since they also have about 14 feet and it just makes it too easy to do something nice for someone else.  Time to dig out the car.  Fortunately the snow was light and fluffy at this time and I was able to brush it off my car, all except the center of the top, since I am only 5 feet one inch and I couldn’t reach.  Neighbor John came by and offered to help me continue to dig out.  Then he noted that my car had a mohawk!  After he went on his way,  couldn’t resist making a face from the snow that I had piled up next to my car.  The face looks sort of like the father of my children without his glasses, when he was young and had a beard.  Okay, so a little more bug-eyed, but hey, we were sometimes like that.

Then I wandered back home and started making a snowman.  At least, I started with the idea of making a snowman.  Then it evolved into a snow-woman, an old snow woman with curly hair, long ears and a wide smile.  I was thinking of my wonderful grandmother, Nonne, and my mother who would be old now if she had lived, and my mother-in-law, Jane, down in Florida.  My heart ached.

Jamie from next door came out and happily, we had a snowball fight.  Haven’t done that since my kids were little.  She told me of a great idea she read about: Fill water ballons with water, add food coloring, and place outside.  Once they freeze, cut the ballon off and and you have colored balls of ice.  I hope to try it this winter, but right now I don’t have any food coloring in the house.  Time to get some anyway – Easter is on its way.  I might color eggs with my students.  It would be a nice treat when they walk in to see me.

Oh – I’m a speech-language pathologist by trade, which involves its own type of creativity and is lots of fun, at least when I’m in a well functioning school.  Thankfully, this school year has been the best in many years, to a great extent because I have marvelous principals.  Principals set the tone for their schools and a good one is worth his or her weight in gold.  I’m in two different middle schools and enjoying both of them.  For many years I worked in elementary schools but this has been a great change.  As one teacher put it, “Who needs T.V. when you have middle schoolers.”

After spending some time warming up inside, I wandered around the neighborhood with my friend, Barbara N.  We saw beautiful families and friends playing in the snow and some very artistic versions of snowmen.  One fellow, Brad, had potter’s tools that he was using to carve a face on his snowman.  He didn’t know what they really were, but somehow had them around.  He was also using a scraper that he had bought from the hardware store.  He also wasn’t quite sure what it was for, but bought it because he thought he might have a use for it one day.  When I asked if he was an artist he replied, “Oh no, it’s just something to do.  I got bored of watching T.V. indoors.”  In ‘real life’ he teaches business at Towson University.  Well, my friend, an artist is someone who does art ergo…

The muse goes where it wants.  It perches on our shoulders at the most unexpected times.  Sit awhile, have an unexpected lull in your life,ImageImageImageImage and it may snake its way between your legs like a cat or hit you over the head like a mugger.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage