I don’t kill Orchids….

My 1st Orchid

My father was a Professor of Horticulture, but I have a black thumb. My family jokes about my keen ability to kill plants, flowers, and sometimes shrubs. It always ends the same way with me saying: “I just don’t know what happened.”

The innocent plant was fine one day, and then suddenly it wasn’t.

Plants are not really all that complicated. They require water, and a certain amount of sunlight. Somehow, I mange to screw this up, either by over watering, or by under watering, or by allowing too much sun, or too little. So maybe for me, it is not so simple after all. I have had moderate success with a few cactus. But any houseplant unlucky enough, to come and live with me, does not do so for long.

I believe that the quality I lack, and that most plant lovers possess, is patience. You cannot hurry nature. Nature moves at it’s own pace.

A friend of mine grows Orchids. For years I had been in awe of her amazing green thumb, and certain that these exquisite, delicate flowers, were surely beyond the limited nurturing capability of someone like me. Then, a coworker, (who obviously did not know me well), gave me an Orchid as a gift.

I panicked! I tried to give it away, but there were no takers. Then, I read the instructions. I was careful. I treated the flower like the fragile thing I believed it to be. I was diligent. Attentive. Patient.

And it bloomed! Even better it remained in bloom for weeks. I could not believe how simple it was to care for.  I gave it ice cubes, not water. I let it sit in a sunny window. Sometimes, I forgot the ice cubes. This was wintertime, so sometimes the sun stayed away for days. Still, it bloomed! Such a remarkable plant, I thought, that blooms at random times of the year.

And then, one day, this happened:

 

One at a time, the flowers went limp and fell to the floor. I had murdered the beautiful foliage, after all.

I was saddened, but did not have the heart to throw it away. This once living thing had brought me such joy! I let it sit in a corner, on the windowsill. I dropped an ice cube into the pot whenever the spirit moved me. I went on to kill other plants, like Poinsettias, and Easter Lily’s.

Several months later, something miraculous happened. It bloomed! I had brought it back to life…or at least nature had. My new discovery: Orchids go dormant, and then they have a blooming phase. This cycle continues as long as you take care of the plant.

Do not let anyone fool you, if I can grow Orchids, anyone can!

Here are some great resources should you decide to grow an Orchid of your own:

How to Care for Orchids

How to Trigger Reblooming of Your Orchid

Thanks for reading, and keep writing!

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Artistic in the District: Part Seven, A Strong Second Act!

"Sunflowers" by Lisa Deiranieh

“Sunflowers” by Lisa Deiranieh

 

If you have ever dreamed of becoming an artist, it’s time to stop dreaming and start doing. Creating art is a wonderful hobby even if it never consumes your life, it can enhance your daily existence.

As a former account executive, turned stay-at-home mom, turned writer, I know all about second acts and third acts. Actually, I’m still juggling all three, but this is the female dilemma. We pick up new jobs but never put any down.

A woman with a gift for juggling:

As I often ‘struggle with the juggle’ and drop the pins more often than I care to admit, I am forever in awe of my girlfriends who make ‘doing it all’ look so effortless, like my dear friend, Lisa Deiranieh. Lisa, a native of Southern California often says “God put us on opposite sides of the country because he feared what would happen if we ever got together.” Well, God must have averted his eyes long enough for us to simultaneously end up in Naples, Italy, at least for a spell. We had some good times, struggling to speak Italian (only me!) and some amazing day trip adventures where we literally stuck a pin in the map and went off in search of what was there.

On the ferry to Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, Italy.

On the ferry to Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, Italy.

Heading home with heavy heart:

I caught Lisa in the process of packing out to leave Naples, but she was gracious enough to fit in a quick interview first. Lisa, a Senior Staff Sonographer at US Navy Hospital Naples, Italy and full-time wife and mother of two is also an artist. Three years ago, Lisa’s husband, Dave, gave her the gift of lifetime, painting lessons with “Gigi”, Luigi Wanvestraut, a well-known Neapolitan artist.

The lessons were only supposed to last a few weeks, but as we spoke, Lisa was fixing dinner and preparing to go paint at the studio, still under Gigi’s guidance. Over the past three years Lisa has painted almost a dozen paintings. Which is amazing considering each one takes between thirty and forty hours to create. She paints with oil, which requires a longer curing time and a process involving layers of paint often applied with a spatula. Planning out your design is necessary but the result is a three-dimensional work of art.

Painting by Lisa Deiranieh

Painting by Lisa Deiranieh

 

“I want to learn the physical properties of how to make something look real,” Lisa says. Although very different from her day job, Lisa’s background working with patients in the hospital and sonographic imagery may help her to see things differently and in way that she is able to translate beautifully onto the canvas.

Image From: printsofgrace.blogspot.com

 

“I think…how can I do this?” she says. Learning Gigi’s painting technique, Lisa studies how objects appear in space as circles or squares as well as the spaces around them. “It begins with a sketch and then you layer in, dark and light and then hone in on your subject,” she says.

Inspiration:

As if living in Italy is not inspiration enough! Next to painting, Lisa, Dave and their two children have traveled as much and as often as possible throughout Europe and the Middle East. Inspired by a poster she saw in Ronda, Spain, Lisa created this painting of a bull and bullfighter.

Painting by Lisa Deiranieh

Painting by Lisa Deiranieh

 

She especially admires artists from the 1930’s and the work of the Italian masters seen at the Capodimonte Museum. Lisa’s other passions are cooking and wine! She has taken cooking classes in Tuscany with friends on multiple occasions and loves to share what she has learned.

"Stefania with Wine Glass" by Lisa Deiranieh

“Stefania with Wine Glass” by Lisa Deiranieh

 

Together we enjoyed many meals and glasses of exceptional Italian wine. I look forward to the return of family Deiranieh, when we will at least be on the same continent and in a slightly nearer timezone.

At present Lisa’s artwork is not for sale, but she is considering selling prints or giclées, a process of digitally scanning original paintings and printing them onto canvas. “I can’t sell them. I’m too attached to them,” Lisa says. “They’re my babies!”

I thank you for reading and wish you all the best of luck in discovering your own second acts!

Links: Capodimonte Museum

 

Photo Blogs Speak a Thousand Words

I was reading a post by Om Malik about the preference for long verses short posts.  It started me thinking about what catches my eye when scrolling my blog reader.  Sometimes it’s completely random and based on mood. Sometimes I’m captured by a good title.  But, usually, it’s a great photo that draws me in.  Which makes me wonder, why am I so lazy about adding photo’s to my own posts?

It’s not for a lack of photos, I have thousands; including some terrific shots of Europe. But then, there’s so much that’s photo worthy in Europe, it’s almost impossible to take a bad picture.  I’m dropping a few of my favorites in here…see what you think.

Boats in Ischia, Italy www.eileenslovak.com

Boats in Ischia, Italy
http://www.eileenslovak.com

So…what makes a photo interesting or intriguing?  Is it the mood or feeling it inspires?

Does it invoke curiosity or introspection?

Band playing for runners in Paris www.eileenslovak.com

Band playing for runners in Paris
http://www.eileenslovak.com

Is it unique, artful, skillful or comical?

Self Portrait, Paris, France www.eileenslovak.com

Self Portrait, Paris, France
http://www.eileenslovak.com

The rhyme or reason of my photo ‘likes’ is tricky to define:

I do favor flower photos, not in a Georgia O’Keeffe sort of way, just vibrant close-ups, with the amazing detail nature provides.

I admire animals, but I’m getting bored with cats and dogs anything else is infinitely more interesting, even farm animals.  That might seem common to some.  But for me, they provide a sense of peace in a pastoral setting.

Foal, Matera, Italy www.eileenslovak.com

Foal, Matera, Italy
http://www.eileenslovak.com

Anything shot in black and white gets me every time.

I’m also wild about awesome landscapes, trees, the moon, water and certain insects.  Like I said, it’s hard to narrow it down.  The fascination of a photo may lie in the viewers desire to imagine what the photographer was thinking when he/she took a particular shot and whether or not that translates through the photograph.

Oh and of course…there’s the incredible edibles!

Shop Window in Modena www.eileenslovak.com

Shop Window in Modena
http://www.eileenslovak.com

With so many excellent photo blogs out there, I began to wonder why I’m stingy with the like button?  Can’t I like as many blogs or photos as I would like to?

My new favorites are the nicely paired poem and photo combo, as in these two blogs:  The Source of Inspiration and The Wanderer, check them out if you get a chance.

 

 

You might just want to stop and sit awhile with some photo blogs:

Café in Cetona, Italy www.eileenslovak.com

Café in Cetona, Italy
http://www.eileenslovak.com

Or put on a sweater…

In the very least if an image makes the viewer smile;  that should be enough, now shouldn’t it?

Locks of Love Salerno, Italy www.eileenslovak.com

Locks of Love
Salerno, Italy
http://www.eileenslovak.com