Sunday, July 31, 2011

In the Middle of Urban DC!

by Carlo Uchello, c. 2011
Dear Imaginary Friends,

When it is hot as Hades in Washington, DC, that means it is time to trek on over with my husband to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Southeast DC.

And that is exactly what we did early this morning, before our hair melted onto our scalps. Kenilworth Gardens has acres of swampy land devoted to beautiful, incredible lotuses and water lily ponds. They go on and on! Such a shame that they only bloom in the hottest time of the summer.

Photographers are everywhere you turn, with their tripods and super duper lenses. This was a great opportunity for us to try out our newest toy, an SLR Digital camera. 

Another local place that you can view lotuses in bloom now is Greenspring Gardens in Alexandria's West End. A smaller garden, but more diverse, it offers many gardens and plants, not just aquatic species.

Your Friend, the flower lover,

Goodstone Inn

Wisteria Arbor Frames the View of the Pool
Dear Imaginary Friends,

Once again, I trekked all over the city limits, this time with my intrepid classy friends to Goodstone Inn in Middleburg for lunch. How pretty is the vista from this place's pool! The food is really good, as befits the setting. There is a chef's prix fixe lunch and also an a la carte menu.

The rooms at the Inn are so cute! Carved into space which was originally  horse stables, they are decorated with antiques, and are quite charming. OK, yes, I admit it; I looked in a window! 
The Former Stables That Now Houses Guests

There is a wine cellar downstairs beneath the restaurant which is a great place for rehearsal dinners and other special occasions.

The only problem with Goodstone is that it is located on Snake Hill Road!

The snakes were hiding from me, and I really am eternally grateful for that.

Your Imaginary Travelling Friend,

Are You a Lotus and Waterlilly Fanatic?

Hillwood Japanese Garden
Dear Imaginary Friends,

Howdy! Nothing beats a beautiful garden except for maybe a delicious meal, or a perfect painting, or a perfect cocktail... I digress!

This month, my intrepid and classy friend and I trekked over to Hillwood Gardens to see and be seen.

This garden was one of the many highlights. A famous Japanese landscaper designed this garden down the hill from Marjorie Merriweather Post's mansion. The mansion was built from the Post cereal fortune. It is not actually composed of cereal, but it might as well be. Also a big factor in building the Post fortune was Postum Coffee, which predates my existence. 

Marjorie was wealthy beyond my wildest dreams, and collected more Russian treasures, such as icons, Faberge eggs, Imperial china, and miniatures of the Russian Empire, such as portraits of Catherine the Great. Walk up the grand marble staircase and you will see portraits of Peter the Great, Catherine 's inspiration. One of Marjorie's many husbands was the Ambassador to Russia, hence the intense interest. It was right around the time of the Communist deacessioning of church treasures and all things that spoke to the previous Empire. Marjorie would visit thrift shops, where she would find bejeweled silver chalices, priests' vestments and antique icons piled in a heap. And so the heiress scooped them up.
I digress again!

In addition to being a loveletter to America's late, great wealthy lifestyle, the Hillwood mansion is an oasis of quiet with its own Adirondack cabin and a Russian dacha. Not to mention a formal French Garden with parterres and a channel pond.

If you haven't visited Hillwood, you really should. It is at its best in spring and summer when the gardens are thriving. In July, it is all about the hydrangeas and the water lillies.

You will definitely remember Marjorie's face by the time you leave: There are about 20 commissioned portraits of her!

Your Imaginary Friend,

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Solomon's Island, Finished, I Think!

Dear Imaginary Friend,

Can you believe it, I think that I have finished my new boat painting at last. The question always lingers, with shadowy doubts: Is this painting finished or does it need more tweaking?

It is really hard to put the brushes confidently away. It's not like a bell rings, telling you that you are finished. An artist is only finished once she is believes she is. Some days it looks finished, and other days I see problems that need addressing. The worrisome part is that whenever I fix one thing, I usually mess up another, creating more work for myself.

Solomon's Island, 10 x 8", Oil, c. Patricia Uchello
If you refer back to my blog entitled "Masterpiece du Jour", you will be able to compare and contrast.

OK, this time, it is really finished. 
I think!

Your Imaginary Friend,

Broken Ankle

Dear Imaginary Friends,

I painted this painting several years ago. My new friend told me she loved it, and to thank her for something big that she had helped me with,  I gave it to her. The shoe in the painting is actually the high heel that I wore on my wedding day, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. And, no, the dinosaurs were not wearing white four inch heels. Just us ladies.

A few months after I gave it to her, she trekked to Italy, and guess what happened? She broke her ankle! She asked me if the painting carried a curse.
Not that I know of.

Number One, I don't  throw curses or epithets, much less at my friends. Plus, even though I hail from New Orleans, where Voo Doo lurks, I am not interested in crossing to the dark side.

Voo Doo differs from Hoo Doo. Hoo Doo is the practice of sorcery wherein curses and spells are cast, whereas VooDoo is actually a religion.
But still, no thanks.

Your everyday, non-cursing imaginary friend,

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Llamas Always Smile

The Llamas are chilling at Homestead Gardens. They are exotic, adorable, furry, and funny.

Our family visited them at Homestead Gardens back in October 2010, during pumpkin season. We rode a hayride to their barn. 

Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, MD, has an excellent plant and decor selection.  You don't have to be a llama to like it there, but it helps.

Your Imaginary Friend,

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright

Fallingwater is a private home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, commissioned by a wealthy department store owner. I think it is FL Wright's greatest accomplishment because his design integrates into nature more than any of his other homes. The cantilevers mimic the falling of the waterfalls, cascading through and under the house.
Sadly, Wright was a heinous person who did not pay his assistants or workmen, always missed his deadlines, and was an altogether disagreeable human being.
This ingenious home in Pennsylvania sprang many leaks. One was made into a fountain, despite the fact that it is inside the home. The structural engineer told Wright that his design was wrong; it was not structurally supported sufficiently in the cantilevers. Wright stuck to his guns, and years later, the engineers' opinions came true and the owners had to constantly shore it up.

A work of art made by a piece of work.

Your Architecture fan,

This Milk Is Making Me Sleepy

Dear Imaginary Friends,
Parker finds milk to be a narcotic. It makes him go to sleep. Is it because it contains tryptophan?
His eyes are at half mast. 
To close.
Sweet dreams!
Your Imaginary Friend,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How I Spent Last Monday: Grace Gathering Shells

Grace Gathering Shells, 10 x 8", Oil
Dear Imaginary Readers,

Here is a painting that I have been working on for the last 2 weeks, of Grace, the little girl who offered Parker a shell from Lewes Beach.
I love that bathing suit!

Your Imaginary Friend,

Masterpiece du Jour ;)

Unfinished, 10 x 8", Oil
Dear Imaginary Readers,

Here is my newest "Masterpiece." I painted this last Monday, and tomorrow I am hoping to finish it.
And then I will probably spend forever refinishing it!
It has been fun to paint boats. These are on Solomon's Island, Maryland.

Your Imaginary Friend,

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cute Point Nine

Dear Imaginary Friends,
Who puts the cute in cuteness? Parker, here shown on the Lewes beach, shows off his hat. He is such a happy camper.
Your Imaginary Friend,

Daffodil Study

for sale, oil on canvas
The above Daffodil Study is now for sale at A Show of Hands on Mt. Vernon Avenue in Alexandria, along with six other oil paintings by yours truly.where to shop:

Your Imaginary Artist Friend,

Grisailles Don't Have to be Gray

Rob Liberace Doing a Figure Demo Grisailles  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Putt Putt: A Summer Must

DEra Imaginary FRiends,
Patsie Hits Hole in Two; Still Not Tigress Woods
There is a universal law of summer beach vacations: You must play Putt Putt at least once.
See above. Slavish rule follower that I am, I succumbed to a delightful game of Putt Putt with the fam, at Shell-We-Go, in Rehoboth. What is to like about it are the shade trees and the water features, refreshing compared to most Putt Putt deserts. Shells were everywhere, as well as tropical plantings, and tiki huts. Me likee.
What did me likee the best? Hitting a hole in one. 

I am a total spazz, a non athlete in every sense, yet playing Putt Putt affords me the random chance of looking good, when I accidentally hit a hole in one. Soothes me! It is my inner nerd's ego salve.

Your Imaginary Friend,

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fourth of July Boat Parade

The annual holiday boat parade
In Lewes, boats are decorated for the Fourth of July, and parade down the Lewes canal. The parade pulls a good crowd of families who cheer on their favorites. Very Mayberry!
Your Imaginary Tour Guide,

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Where to Eat??

Dear Imaginary Friends,

If you are thinking of going to Lewes, Delaware, you might want to consider dining at the following places. My whole family just went there and personally taste tested all thses recommendations.

The fave: Agave, Second Street, Nouvelle Mexican,. YUM and then some. I had the mango, crab, avocado salad.
The Buttery, Savannah Road, old fashioned Victorian mansion setting, high end food.
Two Dips, chocolate water ice; Oh, my! What waistline? We visited and partook daily.
The Provincial Bakery, for small pies built for two, homemade everything and local ingredients. I had a most unusual green tomato pie. MM.
Italian goodies: The Italian Deli on Savannah for great cookies, such as amaretti.
Annabelle's Italian restaurant for  Italian cooking, and for pizza, go to Mr. P's.
A great wine store is Teller Wines on Savannah Road. The wines are grouped in a most interesting manner, with "fruity and juicy" all together, and  " robust" all together, etc. There were many classifications. None of them were called "Iron Rust" nor "Swill."

Have a hair or nail "issue"? Visit Panda at Ocean Retreats, on Savannah Road. It is in a beautiful restored Victorian mansion.
Panda is a human, despite her name.

Lewes has its very own windpower windmill, which provides all the energy needs of the local University of Delaware branch. It is quite large.

Shop at Tanger Outlet Centers, which is on the way to Rehoboth on the main drag.
While you are heading to Rehoboth, dine at Blue Moon, but expect a raucous crowd in the bar. They are wild and crazy! The dining is high end and creative.

Most of these restaurants are very popular and require reservations unless it is off season. Except for Two Dips, with its long line, where you will be served if you have the stamina to wait.

Your Friend, the foodie,

Rehoboth Boardwalk

Ay, carumba!
Patsie and the fam take Parker to the Rehoboth, Delaware, boardwalk. 

Rehoboth is the beach town adjacent to Lewes, but it is directly on the Atlantic Ocean, with more people, more restaurants, and a lively boardwalk, pulsing with saltwater taffy vendors, greasy pizza, and ice cream stands.As you can tell by his expression, Parker is unsure how he feels about the teeming humanity streaming past him on the boardwalk. Dunes and sand, sure, but what about all these people playing Whack-A-Mole at Funland? Are they nuts, or what?

Amusement parks are a mixed bag, but I personally love playing Whack-A-Mole. It reminds me of my pesky cruitters around my home. And a great way to end that problem.

We have squirrels who love nothing better than to eat the jalapeno/habanero pepper-laced safflower seeds that we left out for our friendly cardinals. The squirrels were last seen sitting in the bird feeder, enjoying the peppery dinner, full throttle.
Must be Cajun squirrels.
I give up.

Your Imaginary Friend,

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Summer Love, Happens So Fa-ast"

From Grace, to Grease!
Dear Imaginary Friend,

One more time, let us review the budding romance of Parker and Grace, his friend from Lewes, Delaware, who is pictured here offering Parker a shell from the beach. It reminds me of the song from the movie "Grease", starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. In one of the opening scenes, the love struck couple, who have met during the summer, sing the duet "Summer Love". And that is the soundtrack in my head, as I gaze upon this cute twosome.

"Those sum-umme-mer ni-ights! So, Grace, isn't he a little young for you? Don't wear high heels on your date, is all I am saying.

Your Imaginary Friend,

Friday, July 15, 2011

Today's Blend of Humor and Instruction, and, You're Welcome!

A forward from my beloved Uncle Jerry:

"I had to look up "paraprosdokian".  Here is the definition:

"Figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently used in a humorous situation."

"Where there's a will, I want to be in it," is a type of paraprosdokian.
OK, so now enjoy!

1.  Do not argue with an idiot.  He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
2.  The last thing I want to do is hurt you.  But it's still on my list.
3.  Light travels faster than sound.  This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
4.  If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
5.  We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
6.  War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
7.  Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
8.  Evening news is where they begin with 'Good Evening,' and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.
9.  To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism.  To steal from many is research.
10. A bus station is where a bus stops.  A train station is where a train stops.  On my desk, I have a work station.
11. I thought I wanted a career.  Turns out I just wanted paychecks.
12. Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, 'In case of emergency, notify:' I put 'DOCTOR.'
13. I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
14. Behind every successful man is his woman.  Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
15. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
16. I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
17. You do not need a parachute to skydive.  You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
18. Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
19. There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.
20. I used to be indecisive.  Now I'm not so sure.
21. You're never too old to learn something stupid.
22. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
23. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
24. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
25. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  26. Hospitality is making your guests feel at home even when you wish they were.
  27. When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Second Street in Historic Lewes, Delaware

Dear Imaginary Friend,

Here we have another charming old home with a quirky, fun paint job in the seashore town of Lewes, Delaware. When one sees this combination of colors, it begs the question as to whom might live there.
Someone original, no doubt!

Your Imaginary Friend,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Grace Makes Parker an Offer

Virginia, Parker and a new friend, Grace
At Cape Shores, a fellow visitor offers Parker a shell she has gathered from the beach. She is a two year old named Grace. She has learned the important virtue of sharing. She hands Parker the sea shell and then he takes it, considers it, and offers her one in exchange.
Sweet! Young love.
Sharing is good.

Your Imaginary Friend,

Sunset in Lewes over the Delaware Bay

Dear Imaginary Friends,
If only one could spend the waning hours of every day gazing out on the water at the beautiful beach sunsets...
Wish you were here,

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Love it
Dear Imaginary Friends,
What is small, red, white, blue and cranky? Crabby Couture Parker! Actually, he was not crabby, but his bum looked that way in this Fourth of July outfit.
Patriotic, yet with an edge.
Your Imaginary Friend,

Zip Lining in Costa Rica

Dear Imaginary Friends,

I have been away so that I could create new adventure memories to share with you. But in the meantime, I look back to one of my more exciting times in the past, when my daughter Virginia and I went zip lining through the tree canopy of the mountains in Costa Rica. Virginia is shown here wearing aqua pants, and mine are purple.

I know, what am I doing wearing purple pants? Well, I figured that if I fell off the zip line, died, and bled all over the place, who would care that I had on purple pants? Plus the blood would not show as badly.

Your thoughtful dresser,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why Art?

Great Falls, Oil, 12 x 12", 2011

Art gives us a view of ourselves and the world in which we live. It inspires us, and takes us to a higher place. What remains from ancient civilizations that is most cherished? The art and architecture. It expresses what really matters to that society at that time and place. In my case, I am interpreting  the beauty of nature: it ranges from the faraway Grand Canal of Venice to my daily view on the GW Parkway, which I drive past on my way to Old Town, Alexandria. I love both the large and the small: flowers and fruit and oceans and mountain ranges.