Because Cats Can’t Write

Me-I-ow will not scare tiny people who visit my hoomans.

Me-I-ow will not scare tiny people who visit my hoomans.

Me-I-ow will not scare tiny people who visit my hoomans.

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Me-I-ow will not scare tiny people who visit my hoomans.

Me-I-ow will not scare tiny people who visit my hoomans.

Me-I-ow will not scare tiny people who visit my hoomans.


Dear Little Girl,

 I am sorry I scared you when you came to my house to pee.  You were standing between me and the front door to FREEDOM.  I was just trying to escape.  It wasn’t about you.  It was about me.  My female hooman wanted me write a sentence lots of times to show you how sorry I am.  But cats can’t write.  So she wrote them for me.  And gave you a toy dog to play with.  I hope we can be friends anyway.


 Claire the Cat

Me-I-ow will not scare tiny people who visit my hoomans.

Me-I-ow will not scare tiny people who visit my hoomans.

Me-I-ow will not scare tiny people who visit my hoomans.

Me-I-ow will not scare tiny people who visit my hoomans.

Crying Baby Image Credit: Osborn


GARDENING · Southernisms

Rosemary and Soil Conditioning

A Repost about early soil conditioning challenges and changes to the front garden featured in the Rosemary Sketch.

Dear Mr. Garden Guy,

Why didn’t you stress the importance of soil conditioning?

When we moved into the new subdivision, its lovely laid lawns and planted shrubbery disguised a horrible truth.  The builders had stripped the land of its top soil and left only hard packed Georgia clay encased in rocks. Lots of rocks.   We had to drench the earth with water, dig down deep, remove a layer of rock.  Then more watering-in, more rock removal until finally we were ready to plant.  And that was just our mail box!

I wanted a flower garden in my front yard.   Could it be done without all this digging into rocks and clay?  I turned to you Mr. Garden Guy.  You said plant an above ground garden.  No digging needed.  Oh yeah I was all on that like white on rice!  Following your instruction, I carefully mapped out the flower bed, smothered the grass under heavy black plastic, and purchased bags of garden soil and rotted cow manure.  I enthusiastically piled layer upon layer of the most beautiful black soil ever!  Yet something seemed so WRONG about buying soil in an area known for its rich agriculture heritage.  That’s like living on an island and having to buy sand.  Sigh.   Nevertheless I was ready to plant.

It was then that you reminded me that plants are much like people – some like the sun, others prefer shade, some like to drink, others are teetotalers.  Armed with this knowledge, I joyfully set about planting a flower garden that became my pride and joy.

Thriving flower garden before soil depletion.  

But Mr. Garden Guy you didn’t tell me about caring for my soil’s needs.  As the years went by my perennials stopped thriving and my annuals weren’t lasting even a season.  Money was wasted buying more plants.  They simply died.  Even applying liquid fertilizer seemed futile.  Like a botanical sugar rush, it gave the plants a brief growth spurt.  But then nothing.  Stunted plants and devouring insects dotted my once lovely garden.  I worried: Could I be losing my “green thumb?”

One day I stooped down for a closer look.  Brushing away the mulch, I grabbed a handful of soil.   It was no longer the richly black, heavy soil I had laid.  Rather it had become an ashy grey, lifeless heap of dirt.  My soil was dead!  Augh!

I ran crying to you Mr. Garden Guy.  You explained that the plants got their nutrients from the soil.  But since I never “fed” the soil, it could no longer “feed” the plants.  My soil wasn’t dead.  It was simply malnourished.

I cleaned out the garden and began feeding the soil.  I fed it shovels-full of fresh top soil.  I fed it nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.


I fed it wood ash, used coffee grinds, diced banana peels and crushed eggshells.  I fed it earthworms.  Throughout the fall and winter, neighbors smiled nervously as they watch me till, turn and dig into the mound of dirt.  I didn’t care.  I was determined to nurse that depleted dirt back to life.   By spring planting,  the harmful insects who thrived in the once nutrient-starved soil were all but gone.  And when I saw a tiny black ant making its way home with a slither of eggshell, I smiled.  The soil was coming back to life again!

More changes were in store for this flower bed.  I will share in a future “letter.”

Author’s Note: After the soil was properly amended, I began successfully growing vegetables among the flowers.  The rosemary took over half the bed!


Making Time for Art

“Mmm…I see you have a little arts and crafts corner.  Must be nice.”  Brother observed.

I’d been crocheting  granny squares while watching television in the living room.  Yarn, hooks and a growing afghan had engulfed my writing desk and were spilling over onto the coffee table.  I frowned at the mess in the living room – embarrassed and annoyed at my brother’s quip.

My Small Art Studio

Then I thought “Maybe he’s right.  Maybe I do have an “arts and crafts corner.” I’ve miss making art.  Especially drawing and painting.  The years of museum work, teaching and caregiving left very little time for me to do studio work.  Now I have an opportunity to return to my roots as a trained artist.  I embrace Brother’s quirky comment.

Yet I questioned the practicality of such a set up.  Until I read this post by Lori McNee – Creating Art in Small Studios.  Sorting though various art supplies I had on hand – ink, paints, pencils, charcoal, pastels, paper and small canvases – to stock a small studio in my living room.

If you’ve been following ArtReach at Home for sometime, you know that it was truly a personal blog that explored Southernisms.  As described in my old About page “Some stories are funny, others sad and some so crazy that you just can’t make this stuff up.”  I often wrote about family and my struggles to adjust to being a traditional housewife.

Please continue following this blog. I still have a quirky family and I’m still adjusting.  At times you’ll see posts about Claire the Cat, gardening or a fond family memory.  However the focus is now on art.  Its long overdue.

What is the passion you have put aside?  Are you ready to take it up again?

GARDENING · Southernisms

A Memory Garden

Dear Mr. Garden Guy,

Do you remember the day I had to hide Momma’s yard tools?

A few years earlier we had finally convinced my then 84 year old mother to stop cutting her own grass. “Convinced” is a nice way of saying my brother took her push mower away for servicing and never brought it back.  Over the next couple of years, I took over her yardwork.   Momma, not satisfied with my loose interpretation of hedge trimming would redo her bushes wielding the most dangerous looking pair of clippers you ever want to see in the hands of an unsteady octogenarian.

Thoughts of a horrid implement haunted family, friends and neighbors.

fi-clippers clippers

So I hid her tools.  An assortment of handheld clippers, hoes and rakes made their way to my house.  I told you about it Mr. Garden Guy.  We both felt sad that an avid gardener could no longer enjoy her work.

Then one day her neighbor pulled me to the side:

“Yo momma been outside cuttin’ them bushes again.”  She said in a concerned whisper.

“What?!  Bbbut I..I… took all her tools!”  I stammered in disbelief.

“Well she was.  An’ she had a pair of long, rusty lookin’ clippers.  I think they must have been yo daddy’s.”  The neighbor’s testimony rang true.

My stepdad had been dead for decades.  It never occurred to me that some of

fi-nate-brelsford Brelsford

Richard’s tools may still be around.  Momma never threw away anything.

It took me a while but finally – on the backporch, under the chaise, in a crate, inside a wooden box – a plethora of ancient handtools.  Found and removed.

Miss. Daisy was not pleased.

Today, age is beginning to slow me down.  One day someone will take away my tools.  And Mr. Garden Guy I’ll miss growing my veggies, canning my pears and cutting my grass.

Foreseeing such a time,  I’ve begun a “memory garden” afghan.

Rows of simple granny squares echo my gardening process.  Starting with brown and black squares symbolizing the composted soil. Then seed.  More colorful squares – reds, yellows, greens and even purples- flowering and fruiting.

The afghan’s rows repeat like the rhythm of the seasons. Its an ongoing project.  Finished only when it is big enough, warm enough to hold all my cherished gardening memories.

Vegetables Credit: & Christa Richert
CRITTERS ETC. · Southernisms

Sewing With Claire the Cat

This is Claire the Cat.

img_0053She is head of quality control at ArtReach.  A perfectionist, she can be overly critical of my sewing skills.  And remains unimpressed with my use of a vintage Singer machine.

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Under Claire’s watchfulness I’ve made a  variety of items including those microwavable heat therapy pillows everyone loves so much.  The slides feature material used to make a pillow inspired by van Gogh’s Starry Night.   My completed work met Claire’s approval. Yay!  I’m thinking of adding an “Inspected by Claire the Cat” Q.C. label.


How I Met Your Momma

Did your Momma ever tell you we knew each other when we were young?”  Papa, my dear father-in-law, had piqued my interest.

I first met Robert Massey shortly after becoming engaged to his eldest son.  He treated me kindly, as a cherished daughter.  So I called him Papa like everyone else.  Likewise Momma embraced Billy as a beloved son. Our union bridged the racial lines of two diverse southern families. And no one seemed to mind.

Fast forward 14 years later and Papa’s question hinted at a backstory that explained much.  He had met Momma when they were teenagers.

This is Papa’s story:

It was the 1940s.  Papa was a telegram delivery boy for Western Union. To shorten his long walk from the city outskirts to the downtown office, he often cut through an alley located in a Black section of town.  Each morning he would pass by a teenage girl who was also taking a short cut to work.

Momma age 17


“That girl was your Momma.  Every morning we would speak.  Yep.  Saw her every morning.  You should ask her about it.”  Papa advised.  So I did.

This is Momma’s story.

She worked as a maid for with a prominent banker who lived in a lovely antebellum home near town.  Momma, new to the area, found lodging at a boarding house.  To make her trek to work easier, she would leave by a back door that emptied into an alley.  Every morning this white boy would pass by…

 “We always spoke to each other.  He was so friendly.  But then he was nice to everyone.  He didn’t care if you were Black.  He was the white boy that always ate lunch at the colored folks diner.  Nobody minded.  Everybody liked him.”

Papa age 17

What I find so endearing about this story is that during the height of racial segregation in the Deep South, Papa saw people for their character, not their color.  I’m blessed that he passed this trait onto his sons.  Especially the one I married.

Thank you for the legacy Papa.  The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

Papa: September 15, 1928 – October 31, 2014


JUST FOR TODAY · Southernisms


“HOUSEWIFE: A married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework.” – Oxford Dictionary.

“Denise, do you work anywhere now?”  A neighbor asked, evidently curious about my constant presence at home.

“Yes.  Yes  I work very hard as a full-time Housewife.”

There was a pause.  A puzzled but pleasant smile.  Finally “Well good for you!” ended the brief conversation.  Other responses have been:

  • “Must be nice.”
  • “It can’t be THAT much work.”
  • “No.  I mean WORK.  You still WORK somewhere don’t you?”

Thanks to popular t.v. shows, the perception of the American Housewife has often been misguided.  Be it the shapely 1950’s mother who did all her housework effortlessly in high-heels.  Or the current “real” Housewives who pass the day in a glut of lush extravagance and bickering.  I am neither young, desperate or have a rich husband.  I can not afford to squander precious resources like time and common sense.

My past roles – Art Curator, Artist In Residence, Art Teacher, Caregiver –  needed little explaining and were often met with respect and empathy.  However the term Housewife is little understood and is sorely in need of rebranding.   To help clarify matters, here are a few personal Q & A.


  • When did you retire?

I didn’t retire.  I still work.  I work very hard as a full-time Housewife.

  • Do you work part-time?

No.   I work full-time as a Housewife.

  • O.K. But don’t you do things online?

Sure.  I have a blog and a couple of online shops.  But…

  • Oh!  You’re an Entrepreneur.  Right?

Not really.  Earning extra money for the family budget is just  part of my work as a Housewife. Everything I do from cooking from scratch to making our laundry products is part of my home management.   Similarly, gardening and canning supplements our food stuffs.  Learning to sew and crochet adds to our wardrobe.   Collecting kindling and burning firewood during the winter saves on heating.  Growing and using medicinal herbs in teas, tinctures and salves keeps our immune systems up and medical bills down….

  • Gardening.  Sewing.  Herbs.  Cooking.  You’re  a Homesteader!  Are y’all gonna get chickens?