Dry Brush Watercolor Tips

This post is part of a series on the “In a Large Room” Retreat

I gave a brief demonstration of the Dry Brush Technique as used for nature notebooking in a Charlotte Mason education (or just for a rich and full life of any person, not necessarily a student).

Here are the tips I shared:

  • Use very little water: avoid puddling in your paints and have a paper towel or cloth nearby to blot excess water from your brush.
  • Keep a lovely point on your brush and only gently stroke your paintbrush in one direction (no scrubbing back-and-forth with the brush).
  • Paint exactly what you see: life-sized, include damaged parts, just like a colored photograph of your specimen.
  • Place your specimen on the opposite page in your notebook to give it a white background and make the shadow easier to see.
  • Never use the green in a store-bought palette; always mix your own from yellow and cyan.
  • Test your color on a scrap of watercolor paper to make sure you have the right color.
  • Do not sketch an outline with a pencil or paint. Instead, paint a solid undercoat (filled-in, not an outline). Painting or drawing an outline makes a harsh edge which does not look realistic.
  • After the undercoat is dry (which shouldn’t take more than a few seconds because you used very little water), then go back and add in all the details like veins, shadows, etc..
  • It’s not really about art, it’s about building skills of observation and appreciation for God’s creation.
  • It can be helpful to make a map of your watercolor palette showing each color full strength all the way to the palest version when diluted with water (see photo below).





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A Retreat for Moms

So, I had this crazy idea to host a retreat for homeschooling moms. Then I dismissed it because: 1. I have literally no experience homeschooling (we just started), 2. I have no time for something like this (I have three kids, two in diapers and two non-walkers – my plate is really full, you know?), and 3. well, it just seemed like a crazy idea. But, the idea didn’t go away, and I thought it might be coming from the Holy Spirit. Well, I won’t say no to God!!! My friend was coming to visit for a few days from California and she said she would be blessed by it, so I picked a day while she was going to be here. I figured nobody else would want to come, and if it ended up just being the two of us, it would still be great.

I decided to go for it just two weeks before the actual event. Yikes! I figured out a schedule and sent out invitations via evite. Many moms said they were really interested but they weren’t available on that particular day.

Yesterday, I had TWELVE! delightful ladies (and about 14 kids!) in my home for a whole day of encouragement and discussion of Charlotte Mason’s methods. It was really really wonderful!

Here’s our schedule:


Here are some snippets of our retreat:

I decorated with some quotes on the walls for inspiration. And Adele helped. =)



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I was up until 1am the night before – getting everything ready. I know there is no way the books and name tags would have looked this good if Cristina hadn’t been here to help me [do most of the work]. Thank you so much, Cristina!!!



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One of my goals for the retreat was for each attendee to begin keeping her own notebooks (commonplace book, Book of Centuries, and nature notebook at least). Thus, I thought a personalized commonplace book would be the perfect conference gift.


By the way, I didn’t make mine gold because I wanted mine to be different. I started with mine for practice and the gold ink was extremely difficult to write with on this particular paper, so I switched for the others. I used the gold on the name tags too, but if I did it again, I’d use black because the gold was too fussy. IMG_2749

A couple of moms arrived late and we took longer than I anticipated on the garden tour, so the nature painting was a bit rushed. I had everything set up beforehand, but I think I should have given one hour for the painting part of the day.

A couple of families stayed for dinner (wood-fired pizza) and we had some really great fellowship.

Today, I was happy to have a quiet day at home, but I was also really sad that the retreat was over. Adele asked me if we could have another retreat in a couple of weeks. I said no, but maybe next year. So, you heard it here first – this was the First (of perhaps many) ANNUAL In a Large Room Retreat.

Finally, here are just some practical things in case others are contemplating doing the same thing.

  • I spent a lot of money on babysitting. I paid one teenager $80 and a second teenager $45 (he only stayed half the day), for a grand total of $125. But we had more little people than adults and I know that most of the attendees would not have been able to attend if we hadn’t had babysitting. Worth it IMHO.
  • I spent $60 on an hour of mentoring with Nancy Kelly. I thought it might be a waste because I didn’t think she would be able to help me much with only a week before the retreat, but she was REALLY helpful!!
  • I paid $53 for the notebooks, plus the time to paint and calligraphy the lettering (I already had all the paint and ink).
  • I paid about $30 for additional watercolor supplies because I knew that most people didn’t already have their own. In fact, I wish I had bought a few more paint sets and waterbrushes because people still had to share.
  • We had kids standing at the long desk in the schooling room and moms and kids crowded around the dining room table (extended with three leaves), but I wish I had set up a folding table in the schooling room to give people a bit more space for nature notebook painting.
  • I wanted to make my own croissants for lunch, but I just didn’t have the time, so those came from the store.

I’ll be posting some notes from the individual talks over the next couple of days for those of you who weren’t able to attend. You can find them all HERE.

Garden & Perone Hive Update 6.10.15 (and Mom’s nature notebook too)

OK, so these next three shots could be connected to give you the big picture, but I don’t know how to do that fancy photo stuff. You’ll have to photoshop it in your mind.


We start with the nitrogen-fixing Autumn Olive on the left of the garage (above) and the Russian Pomegranate in the alcove on the right of the garage. I have comfrey and yarrow in with the pomegranate to feed the fruit tree. The alcove used to have a stacked stone retaining wall, but I didn’t have any more and I wanted it to match the one I added on the right, so I replaced it with brick (leftover from the palette we bought for the herb spiral). It sort of matches the brick stairs (OK, not really, but what can I do?).



And here’s the rest of the front yard (above) with the herb spiral, cherry tree, Adele’s garden, and a front border.

In case you can’t quite picture it, here’s a map I made for my nature notebook:


In the bed in front of the stairs, WAIT a minute – remember when we had boring, overgrown bushes here?


Now we have a stacked brick retaining wall (because our driveway used to get covered with mud after every rain), three blueberry bushes, a plum tree, a fig tree, a raspberry cane, and three tomato plants here – with the slippery elm that I heavily pruned to get more light for my blueberries.


About that border (below). Remember when I was building the herb spiral and my neighbor told me that they were widening the road? So I didn’t want to plant the peach tree along the road if they were going to widen it in a few months. So, based on the plans that he showed me, I planted the tree just inside my best guess of where the new edge of our yard will be. Then I mulched and made a border which ended with the existing crepe myrtle.


I edged the border bed with the stones I removed from the pomegranate alcove wall. Starting on the right, we have a lilac tree, peony, a perennial flower I can’t remember the name of, Flat Wonderful peach tree, another peony, and a few pots (tomatoes, peas, tomatoes), mini pansies (violas?), and then the crepe myrtle.

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This (above) is the whole front yard from the street. I have another grouping of potted veggies right up at the edge next to the street, because it gets the most sun.

Herb spiral: (starting in the middle and traveling clockwise) rosemary, lemongrass, thyme, lemon thyme, pineapple sage, horseradish, cilantro (from seed), oregano, parsley, then lettuces start in to the end, but there’s also basil, Thai basil, lavender, and tarragon.



Above you can see the bean teepee near the mailbox. We have watermelon, summer squash, and butternut squash there too.


And here’s Adele’s garden (above) with a bunch of stuff around in pots (clockwise: tomatoes at 2:00, strawberries, peas, more strawberries, more peas, lettuces, cucumbers, peppers). You can’t really tell in any of these pictures, but I planted nasturtiums in almost all of my veggie containers. They aren’t quite there yet, but the idea is for them to be spilling out with flowers (like the “spiller” in flower containers).



And here are five jasmine vines I planted at the front of our side fence (where there is the most sun).

Now for the backyard:

First an overview from my nature notebook:


Before we get started let’s remember what this backyard looked like for the first year we lived here (and don’t forget that all those vines are poison ivy, OK?).




Lots of activity outside the beehive!


And lots inside too! I’m thinking the light-colored comb is all new!


Below is some ruby bells coral bells I planted behind the beehive.


I planted some perennial shade-tolerant flowers back here along the fence (R to left: bee balm, helebores, bee balm, helebores, and another bee balm). P1060666

These little tiny green things probably don’t look like much to anyone but me,  but I dumped a ton of seed back there and it is just so amazing that it is actually growing!!!

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Above is a pic of the back corner of our property. The existing tree is (I think) a boxelder. I painted it in my nature notebook a few days ago.


Eleanor’s Quilt – finally DONE!

I can hardly believe it, but I really and truly finally finished Eleanor’s quilt. Ahhhhh!

For you quilt enthusiasts . . .

The fabrics are a mix of quilting cottons and linens and I really love each one! The back is pure linen background with various scraps (from this quilt) for the applique. I used wool batting. I got the idea for the applique from a Mini Boden T-shirt. I pieced the hexagons on the machine and I quilted by hand. I tried to keep the palette (for this quilt and also for her bedroom) very muted – a big change from Adele’s bold quilt and room decor. Since Eleanor is past the blanket stage of babyhood,  I made the quilt to fit her crib mattress with a five inch drop on three sides. Which means that she can use this in her crib and also as a comforter on a toddler bed – perhaps in Adele’s room – once she moves out of the crib.




Some close-up shots:



I tried to have a photo shoot of Eleanor with her new quilt, but she didn’t really understand the concept.

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Memorial Day Retreat 2015

On Friday, I drove the kids from Phoenix to Ramona, the site of my San Diego church’s Memorial Day Retreat. It took the same amount of time as flying and it was waaaaaaaaay easier than flying with them.  I loved seeing the changing desert scenery. I was listening to podcasts and the kids were happy in their seats. A win-win! I may just be a fan of road trips after all.


The retreat was just so wonderful for me. I saw lots of dear friends that I hadn’t seen since our wedding eight years ago.

Adele (clearly inspired by our gardening adventures at home) decided to make a garden in the middle of the sand volleyball court. She transplanted some desert plants from the nearby landscaping. I hope they were rescued before they died.


Adele with her friend A.


And, Eleanor was reunited with S, her roommate from the Living Education Retreat in Minnesota last August.


I was pretty busy taking care of the kids so I guess that’s why I didn’t take any pics. =( But it was really the most wonderful, nourishing time for me. I can’t wait to go again next year!