What a view

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When my husband and I first moved to the Berkshires from California in 2001, some people would ask us in disbelief, “Why would you want to live here?” Granted there are parts of the Berkshires that are not that pretty and it has a fair amount of people who live in poverty and don’t go beyond a mile from where they live, but only if they did just get on bus or go for a walk in less than a mile from anyplace you live in the Berkshires you can see such amazing scenery.  I painted one of my favorite views which is on the way to a quaint town called Stockbridge, about a twenty minute drive from my house.  The field is a sea of cornstalk stubble and the three pines remind me of some in California.  The sky had a beautiful purple streak across it that day and the hills were a majestic purple. Funny enough, this view reminds me of another reason we love to live here.  The property is close by High Lawn Farm, a farm http://www.highlawnfarm.com that raises Jersey cows and doesn’t give the cows hormones or antibiotics. The farm has been in continuous operation since the 1800s. The milk from these Jersey cows is amazing and it naturally contains more calcium and protein than other milks. We have enjoyed this milk for the entire time we have lived here and my children have grown up drinking it.  The milk is only available here and over the years it has become available in other places in Massachusetts.  You can be sure High Lawn Farm milk will be a part of our Thanksgiving dinner.  Scenery and farms are just two of the many reasons we love to live here and thankful that we call the Berkshires home.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Fall has been just spectacular in the Berkshires. In the leaf-peeping industry, bus tours to the New England area always try to come during the two traditional peak weeks (second and third week in October), when most of the trees have turned their vibrant colors and the trees are still full with leaves.   This year, the entire month of October was peak viewing!  The moderate temperatures kept the leaves in the yellow-orange color spectrum with an occasional fire red tree tossed in for a surprise.  Week after week, the leaves refused to fall off and I kept on taking picture after picture of beautiful trees.  I selected a variety of leaves for my art class to use when we did leaf rubbings with crayons and then the children filled each leaf in with watercolors.  My son collected (ok I collected most of them!) over ten black and rust brown woolie bears for a school project, created a habitat, and faithfully fed them apples and dandelion leaves and soaked white cotton balls with water so that they could drink. In this spirit of fall, I created my second treasure box from a recycled cigar box.  I kept it simple at first with a golden orange maple leaf on the top with a dark brown border.  If you look closely, you will see a woolie bear on the front right of the box.  Inside, I continued the fall colors with four more leaves in a pile. I imagine someone using this treasure box to keep those mementos that help us remember the passing of the seasons.

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Tufted Titmouse

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When I first heard this name, it struck me as sort of odd or a bit funny. My sister Jeanette mentioned this bird when I just finished my Chickadee painting last year. She said, “You should paint a Tufted Titmouse; they are so cute.” To be honest, I don’t think I have ever seen this bird in the wild -have any of you?  I looked up a picture and these birds are indeed adorable with their tuft of hair at the top of their head and their chubby body – similar to the Chickadee which they are related to. Well, I kept this suggestion in mind and recently felt inspired to paint the Tufted Titmouse, the second bird in my bird series. (See the Chickadee at http://www.mjnicole.com).  I learned that the Tufted Titmouse has a call that sounds like “Peter, Peter” and I painted the words on my painting.  I again selected one of the many past holiday cards I have kept over the years and used it to make a few of the wild red berries capped with snow, a tail feather, and also parts of the arched branch. When you see this painting up close, I like how the card paper gives the scene depth. I hope this winter, I will see one in my backyard and call “Peter, Peter” to it.