A Good Home, Arts, Libraries, Myrtle The Purple Turtle, Spirit of the Hills - Arts Group

A Busy Week and Purple Fingernails

Accepting a blogger friend’s challenge, I painted my nails purple to attend the Festival of the Arts in Cobourg, Ontario last weekend.

Blog Photo - Myrtle Purple Nails

Of course, my friend won the challenge hands-down (hands-up?) because in this picture below, she’s also wearing a purple shirt! 

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Mandy and Purple Nails


I’m a volunteer with the Festival and it was a great success! Painters, photographers, authors, actors, musicians and others shared their talents with enthusiastic audiences.

Blog Photo - Festival Marie-Lynn playing guitar

Blog Photo - Pat Calder Stall at Festival

Blog Photo - Festival Mandy Bing paintings

Blog Photo - Festival Book Fair

Blog Photo - Festival Sharon Ramsay Curtis

Blog Photo - Festival Kim aubrey reading

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival Performers

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival gifts for Chairs
Above 6 photos by Hamlin Grange


In the photo just above, publisher Jennifer Bogart(right) and I are presenting gifts to Felicity Sidnell Reid (left) and Susan Statham (2nd from right), the hard-working co-chairs of the Festival’s organizing committee.  


It’s also been a great ‘Myrtle week’.  I dropped into A Different Booklist  – one of Toronto’s best-known book stores. Owners Itah and Miguel introduced me to customers Shay Lin (holding a copy of Myrtle), an international student from China, and Qing, her mother.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Friends at A Different Booklist


Earlier, CBC Radio interviewed daughter Lauren and me about Myrtle. Metro Morning host Matt Galloway and his team were terrific. They pre-interviewed us, and, when we arrived, made us welcome. Then they talked us through the journey the interview would take.

Blog Photo - Myrtle Interview by Matt Galloway

They were so kind, I suspected that someone in the team must have read An Honest House, which describes my struggles with PTSD, cognitive difficulties and pain following a car accident. So I asked producer Morgan Passi.

Imagine my delight to discover that this is just the way they operate!

Blog Photo - Myrtle interview by Wei Chen

Next, Lauren and I were skilfully interviewed by the wonderful host of Ontario Morning, Wei Chen. She greeted us warmly, made us feel entirely at home and the interview began. 

Bravo, CBC Radio!


A few days ago, Seattle’s Allen J. Mears posted on Facebook a photo of his daughters, Megan, 8, and Hailey, 6, with Myrtle. I loved it! Thanks to the Mears family for allowing me to share it here.

Blog Photo - Myrtle with Megan and Hailey

I love  photos of children reading Myrtle, courtesy of kind parents and grandparents.

Blog Photo - Myrtle being read to 2 daughters

In these photos, Ashly Dixon in Wisconsin is reading Myrtle to her daughters Denali, 9, Anika, 6, and son Vincent, 2, while their father Damien takes the photos. 

Blog Photo - Myrtle being read to children by Ashly

Ashly says they all love the book, including the brilliant illustrations and Myrtle’s “message of acceptance and knowing one’s self-worth” .

Thanks, Dixon family. 

And don’t you just love the pyjamas?


Carl Randall, a veteran marathon runner, did something unusual to spread the word about Myrtle.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Carl at Brunswick County PL

He and his wife Jackie have brought Myrtle to libraries in various cities — including New York, where he recently ran the marathon.

Blog Photo - Myrtle held by Carl at NYPL 2

Thanks, Carl and Jackie! 


Finally, Kev Cooper – blogger, book reviewer, author and musician — has made Myrtle “Book of the Month” on his website, Books & Music.  Wow, Kev! Thank you!

A Good Home, Couples Farming, Musicians

At Home at Salmon Brook Farms

Have you visited the blog for Salmon Brook Farms, home of Lavinia and Rick Ross?

Blog photo Lavinia and Rick story Daffodils

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story Rick in Vineyard house in BGBlog Photo Lavinia and Rick Vineyard

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Rick preparing tomatoes for canning

They grow grapes, flowers, fruit, berries, vegetables and other produce.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Rose

They love cats.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Cats

Their Subaru, Seabisquit, has driven nearly 435, 000 miles.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story Seabisquit the Subaru

They are musicians who encourage their readers to support other local musicians.

Blog Photo Lavinia playing guitar

I follow their blog, primarily maintained by Lavinia, and email back and forth with her, but realized recently that I knew little about her as a musician and writer.

So I listened to her CD. Lavinia sings folk music and plays the guitar beautifully.   My husband and I played it repeatedly on a drive in the countryside.

“Where did your love of music come from?” I asked Lavinia later.

I grew up hearing everything, from the Appalachian mountain and assorted older folk music that my parents enjoyed to the current folk and rock & roll from the 60s and 70s that my brothers were listening to.  I would sit on the swings and sing & swing away when I was very young. 

Blog Photo Lavinia at age 5

I remember when I was about 5 or 6 years old trying to mimic the sound of the trumpet in “Trumpeter’s Prayer” by making air buzz through my teeth.  I can’t remember how to do that now.   I simply enjoy creating, and expressing it.  It is part of me. 

Lavinia has performed at various events, garnering recognition along the way.

My “lifetime achievement” award came from a young child.  When my first (and only, so far) CD came out, my old friend Margaret suggested that I send a copy to her friend Ruth, whom I had never met.  Ruth played it for her granddaughter who remarked, “That must be God’s mother singing!”   

Blog Photo Lavinia

 Margaret promptly reported that comment back to me, and I was stunned.  Children, especially the younger ones, are in general brutally honest.  To me, this child’s comment is the most meaningful endorsement I have ever received on my music, and will be difficult for anyone to top.

Rick and Lavinia, though coming from different musical genres, have also performed together. It’s helped their working relationship on their farm in Linn County, Oregon.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story Rick performing
Photo of Rick by Nat Kennedy, Connecticut

I  was exposed to the blues through listening to Rick, and had to learn to do a bit of that myself, as we often played for audiences who had come to hear him play blues and were not so interested in quiet folk music.   I had to stretch myself. 

As for the farm, like the music we have some things we work on together, but still maintain our own departments for which we are mainly responsible.There is still give and take, different points of view, and some bickering, but most importantly now, the shared vision of making our farm a beautiful, productive and peaceful place in our retirement years.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Pinot Noir

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick tomatoes

And the cats?

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story The Indoor crew

The cats are definitely characters in their own right, and are more like living with eccentric roommates than pets.   Friends for a short time, remembered for a lifetime.   Wise old souls and teachers, comforters in hard times, playful little elvish creatures who help us see the lighter side of life. 

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Miss Nod

They teach us how to be better people.  Their lives, and all the memories they leave behind after they depart, are all woven into the fabric of our own, becoming part of the legends and history of this place we call home.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story cats Marcus and Lucio

Four years ago, their home life changed drastically. Earlier than planned, they became caregivers to Rick’s mother.

A friend who took care of her elderly mother with Parkinson’s described her own experience as “the quicksand years”, and I understand now what she meant.  We rebuilt the house to accommodate Gladys, and had to move twice in one year. 

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Gladys' room

Although we loved Gladys very much, the experience stretched our coping ability with her, ourselves and each other to the limit of what we were capable of handling, even with help from Hospice in the last 3 months and additional caregivers coming in to help.  Physically and emotionally, it took a serious toll on my health, and I wanted little to do with anyone for some time after she died.  I needed peace, quiet and downtime from responsibility, which can be difficult for friends and relatives to comprehend. 

We are not the same people we were previous to caring for Gladys.  We survived the experience and I think have come out the better as individuals and as partners for it.

Lavinia’s blog is beautifully written.  So I ask: “I know you’re not performing at present, but are you writing?”

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story old apple tree and tunnel

Although I am taking a break from performing, I am still playing music for myself, working on songs as well as working on a collection of essays, pictures drawn in words of things I remember from my life.  I am finding that reconnection to earlier parts of my life an enjoyable exploration.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Rainbow over SBF

Writing is the thread that sews the remnants of life and soul together.   

Photos from Salmon Brook Farms Website.