I Could Straighten Everything Out If People Would Only Let Me Be the Boss of Everybody.

Someone has to say it, so it might as well be me: Jeeze. I go away for a year and LOOK at the mess  the world gets itself into. So I’m very happy to be baaaaaaack: Voice of Reason, thy name is Vivian.

Thank you all, Dear Readers, for all your notes last week, welcoming me back to the inter webs.

As per your requests, I will be catching you all up on What I Did on My Year Off, starting today.

One of the things that kept me very, very aggravated busy in 2014 was writing and illustrating the Damn Garden Book. Although I am contractually forbidden from publishing any more than 10% of the content of what is, at this point, the paid-for intellectual property of BloomsburyUSA (YES — they put that in my contract!) I know I’m not flouting my legal obligations to show you these few pages of The Damn Garden Book.

This is Exhibit # 1:


This book, like my first two, is another  Traveler’s Journal, this one on the Meaning of Life and Gardens.  In it, I travel to thought-provoking gardens far and near; FAR — Rio de Janeiro, Marrakech, Edinburgh, London, Key West, and New Orleans. NEAR —  a Japanese folly garden and a dead poet’s orchard here on my own home turf in Great Gatsby territory on the Isle of Long.

But I start the garden tour in the city were  I have done some of the best gardening in my life. I mean , of course, Paris, The Gardening Capital of the World.

Exhibit #2  is a self portrait, which I call  This is how I do my best “gardening” in Paris:


Obviously, I’m “gardening” metaphorically. And it’s a rainy day.


Both Exhibit #1 and Exhibit #2 are rescues. If you look carefully at Exhibit #1 , you’ll see that the edges of the trees’ foliage casts a shadow. (You can scroll up now. I’ll be still be here when you get back.)

Here’s the story: My big idea for the Damn Garden Book was to immerse my Dear Readers  in the various garden experiences. In order to do that, I had to — cripes — paint full-page pictures, which I am not very good at. In fact, I stink.

I’m a miniaturist for DoG’s sake, but hey, why try to live an artful life if you’re just going to keep on doing what you’ve always been doing? So I tried something new, and painted a lot of full page-size pix, and was extremely impressed by my derring-do. I was much less impressed by the results.

About half of the pix turned out OK.  But the other half looked as if I’d  painted them blindfolded. Or drunk.  I wish!

Most times, I re-paint the pic until I get it right. But sometimes I don’t. Like with Exhibit #1.

Painting those background apartment buildings was sooooo tedious that there was no way I was going to re-paint all those dastardly Juliet balconies. So I just painted new trees on a separate sheet of paper, cut them out, and glued them right on top of the offending verdure. I know! It’s amazing what you can get away with!

Exhibit #2 is also a clever run-around. I compensated for my lack of painting-a-window-that-looks-like-a-window skill by cutting out the window panes of the cafe and pasting  in a separate illustration of a Paris street scene. ***That white goop on the right edge is hiding a mistake I made in painting my shadow.  Computer-machine magic will get rid of the noticeable surface texture when it goes in for production.

In Exhibit #3 we arrive at the gorgeous Paris garden that I think was worth writing 14 pages about:


Do you recognize it? Here’s a hint: the garden actually is in the shape of a triangle.

Yes, it’s the Square du Vert-Galant on the tip of the Ile de la  Cite!:



Changing subjects, please consider Exhibit #4, a photo I took on my last visit to the City of Light, in 2013:


Nice garden!

Here is something that I haven’t  told my editor yet but I’m telling you: I want to  include 6-8 watercolor prints that can be removed from the Damn Garden Book… in other words,  pages that are suitable for framing.  Like, as my gift to my Dear Readers.

One of the subjects I can envision as a suitable for framing is Exhibit #4.

I think the idea of rip-out-able pages is a good one, and I think that if I can pull off painting this charming scene (with enhanced greenery, artistic license, etc.) it could be a collector’s piece. Yes, I said it: Collector’s Piece.

Thoughts? (I enabled Comments!!)

Meanwhile, let’s move on to the Author Photo: As you’ve seen in my previous book jackets, I like to have fun with my Author Photo. No itty bitty postage-stamp size mug shot for me! I want to send a message with my Author Photo, mostly something about how I’m kind of cute.

I was thinking that this photo, taken last September in my favorite cosmo patch along the Garden State Parkway, in New Jersey, near Atlantic City, might do:


My plan was to photoshop this pic heavily. Add many more cosmos to this field,  swap out my frizzy hair for the hair in this pic (below) (of me on a Good Hair Day):


But last week, I cut my hair:


I do not know why I had to show both hands in this selfie.

So back to the drawing table.

By the way, were you wondering, in that Good Hair Day photo,  What’s with the cocker spaniel?

Well, that’s my cocker spaniel, my very own, the one and only Boogie Girl:


Because another one of the things that I did in my year off that kept me on my toes and put a whammy on my love of sitting around and never leaving the house was I got a DoG. The DoG of my heart, the best damn DoG anyone ever had. She was really something.

Next week: all about the wonderfulness of the Boogie Girl and the havoc her ilk causes in a previously cat-only household.

And when I say “havoc”, I mean it in the most awesome sense of the word.



37 Comments, RSS

  1. janet b.

    where to begin? well, you have succeeded in making my friday mornings with coffee much happier by returning with your blog/treat for the eyes and brain! next, this gardener & lover of artwork vivian can’t wait for the damn garden book. your hair was, and with the new cut IS, beautiful. what made you cut it, as for me it’s usually a BIG decision? finally, and i hope i’m misreading your statement, you say boogie girl WAS really something. i hope nothing happened to that adorable furball of a doggie.

    • Vivian

      It didn’t feel like a big decision to me… I say that as a life-long avoider of short hair, except for that one time after a bad breakup in 1995 when I did something drastic. The long hair was getting to be too much work. I can’t get away with what i could get away with when I was in my 20s and 30s, even in my 40s. The long hair only looked good on me when it was perfectly blown out and that was a JOB. I can’t believe how fast it is to blow dry short hair — and I think the short stuff actually makes my jaw line look firmer. (I’m counting the days until a little tick is necessary.)

      About Boogie: her whole story will be told next week.

  2. Nina

    OH, happy happy. I checked your blog first thing this morning hoping that it was true,that Vivian was baaaaaack as my Friday morning “must”, and I was so happy to see you again! It’s true! You’re baaaaack! I hustled to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and settled in for our visit just like in the old days.
    I love the Paris rooftop garden picture and would love to see what you do with it in your painting. And now that you’ve given me a sneak peek at the Damn Garden book I wish it was in print so I could have ALL of it. Please don’t keep us waiting for long.
    DoG? DoG? I’ll be here at the crack of dawn next week to get the story of that holy-moly cute DoG.

  3. Bonjour!
    Now I am thinking maybe I should cut my hair.It’s as long as yours was.
    That cut is just right for you.

    I love the idea of being able to frame some pages..Génial!

    Love what I see..
    Does Boogie Girl appear in any gardens?

    Welcome back..
    All the very best Vivian!

    • Vivian

      Thanks, Monique — it was just my time to chop it all off.
      Painting gardens is NOT as easy as I thought it would be, just saying. I look at that pic of the Square de Vert-Galant and see a painful, and I mean tortuous,learning curve. I am not a “process” person. I like to get it right the first time, but the watercolors have a mind of their own. No, the Boogie isn’t in any gardens, but I did put her on my 2014 ChrisHanuKwanSolstice card — which I posted on the blog last month.

  4. Megan

    Welcome back, you’ve been missed. Love the new hairdo. All I can say about doggo is, oh my, how did the cats cope or how did she cope with the cats, can’t wait for the next post. The book looks great, I think lift out colour plates are a great idea.

    • Vivian

      Thanks, Megan! Of course the cats play a role in the Tale of the Boogie Girl. As they do in every aspect of our life. I don’t know how other people live, not having a herd of cats to tear up their furniture or dictate all travel plans. (Totally worth it, BTW.)

  5. Patricia

    Color me giddy with excitement and joy (or in reality, hacking and sneezing with a nasty cold). You bring sunshine to my cloudy rainy day. Am looking forward to many more happy Fridays.

  6. How envious I was this morning of all the folks on the east coast who got to see your blog before I got up. Fridays will be so much happier now!

    I love all the paintings but especially #3, which is so inviting that I want to just plop myself down there and stroll around the paths. Can’t wait for the book!!!

    DOG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As a committed lifelong dachshund owner, I am ever so delighted that a DoG has chosen to live with you, and am looking forward to your forthcoming DoG Tales. Hurrah for Friday mornings!

  7. Such a thrill your blog is back.
    And your pup almost rivals Buster in charm and wonderfulness.
    So glad the book is moving along well.
    As soon as this dreadful cold dissipates we must get together and do something fun in NYC.
    So glad Carol is doing well in Paris.

  8. Anonymous

    Phooey — everyone above said what I was gonna say — about the yippee! realization that it’s Friday, which is blog day; and WOWZER! for that new ‘do. I remember when you got your hair cut before (shorter, but not short) and it looked nice, but this new ‘do is just stunning. I hate you (just a little bit).

    When I scrolled to the photo of you in the Cosmos, my first thought was it was a photo suitable for framing. It seems absolutely perfect for a Damn Garden book.

    You know how much I love dogs, but I think the photo of you hugging Boogie Girl is best save for that book you’re going to do on Cats & Dogs.
    Even though I’ve followed this blog long enough to know about cutting out the bad and/or pasting new stuff over it, it still shocks me when you point out where you’ve done it. I kind of like the textured look of the white stuff in the one picture. It looks like the restaurant has textured plaster on the walls.

    If you rule the world, I’d like to be in your cabinet, please. Something along the lines of Minister of Silly Walks, but having something to do with dogs would make the best use of my skills.

  9. YIPPEEEE SKIPPPPEEE – the return of my most favorite Friday read! I study everything so carefully, even though I am still thrilled that you taught me how to draw a cat. No watercolor painting skills here, but I love all the details you share. I’ve used your “paste over it “technique in my mixed media stuff – thanks!!
    And the hair – OY! I have hair that’s always having a party and you short ‘do looks like lots of fun. But your long hair was gorgeous! And lots of work, I know – I can barely take a couple of minutes to tame the front of mine – I let the back do it’s freaky thing.

    Welcome back – whoooeeeeee!

  10. Joan

    Fridays are again a day to look forward to now that you’re back to blogging. I can’t tell you how much you’ve been missed.

    Love the name Boogie and want to know how you came to get a dog, how you chose her name, yada, yada…I’m sure you’ll fill us in with all the hilarious and probably painful antics that have taken place since she came to live with you. Was she a wee pupper when you got her?

    Our first Golden retriever was a mere 5 weeks old when we got him. He chewed everything he could get those little needle teeth into, including my husband’s exotic leather boots, $200 in paper money, every cord in the house. It was crazy pants around here for months! But worth every second of havoc for the love and loyalty from that dog. He went to the Rainbow Bridge a couple of years ago at age 16…still miss him.

    Can’t wait for the Damn Garden book…

  11. Felicia


    The Voice of Reason looks stunning in the new do, and I agree the jaw looks great. I’m learning as we age we don’t need anything hanging below our jaw line.

    The pull-out pages are a fabulous idea…but why stop there? Get your merchandising hat on and sell us note cards, stationary, containers to put our tea in. I think they’d go like hot cakes, we’d all be thrilled to have a little more of you a little more often. I’m not talking about repainting, just repurposing like you did several years ago when you did the museum show and put your old paintings together in new ways…..just an idea.

    Oh and boo to your publisher for counting how many pictures you show us. Do they not understand pre-publicity, fanning the flames of desire?!!

  12. Vivian

    vivian here — I THOUGHT my replies would attach to the to individual Dear Readers to whom I was replying but Noooooooo, that would make too much sense. So I’m sorry this is such a mess.
    My website designer genius tells me that he’ll have a prototype ready for me to gander next week, and then we’ll can RID ourselves of this crappy WordPress.

  13. My head is spinning right now, Vivian. It bears a distinct resemblance to the kid in the Exorcist but with no pea soup! The illustrations are fabulous and I really appreciate your sharing the stories of the patch up and the challenges. You make us feel a teeny bit better about our own failings! And all the eye-candy, too!

    I think the idea of the pull outs is fabulous. It would certainly keep us from tearing apart our beloved books! I haven’t done it but I had serious thoughts related to the bread page in “Le Road Trip.” Really, it belongs on my kitchen wall. But I digress.

    The photos are terrific — with and without length. I’d suggest another trip to the cosmos field with your cute new hair — except I think your publisher will probably want it before June or July. Well, you ARE very good with the pasteover!

    And I’m looking forward to hearing more of Boogie’s story although I’m getting a sneaking suspicion she may have found another home. Cats are VERY big on “I was here first.”

    Welcome back — again. How you make me smile!

  14. Gitana

    Tu es ravissante with long or short hair, but oh how you look TRES chic with it short. ~Ooh la la!~ Like the rest of the Vivian Fan Club, I welcome you back with delight. You have been much missed.

  15. Ann

    I found your book, when “When Travelers Cease to Roam” in the dollar store. What a lucky find! I recently bought your France book from Amazon. I love your blog, and I’m glad to see you’re back. As an electrical engineer, cat lover, oil painter with a French speaking husband who took me to France,I really love your stuff.
    Keep up the good work.

  16. bunny

    Great to see you back on the blog circuit! So glad your wit is still in tact, and I like the new look! Good to know, we will have you to explain what the heck is going on in the crazy world. Thanks for the “preview” of the new book, cant wait for it to hit the market.
    See you next week, I hope.

  17. Michele

    Hi Vivian,
    Ditto everything everyone before me said. I love your watercolours and your humour. You’re new hair is great and so easy for you to take care of however I really thought you’re old hair was great and really suited you too. I spent all day Friday checking back and forth for your post but alas nothing appeared, then it dawned, look down here, my Friday is your Thursday so I won’t fall for that again and will look forward to your posts on Saturday here. Dying to find out about Boogie, we are a one dog household with the neighbours cat dropping in, my girl loves everything including cats and one day will get one of her own but not quite yet.. She has the best temperament of any dog I have ever known.

  18. Catrina

    Hi Vivian – SO happy you are back (I read last week’s blog but didn’t reply)
    Love the new puppy – SOOO cute! Can’t wait to hear more about her and how she does with the cats and they with her. Your hair is beautiful no matter how you wear it 🙂 Yes, yes and YES please include tear-out pics in the Garden book. Can hardly wait! Have a great week!

  19. Gigi

    When a new blog of yours arrives, I am immediately torn by two impulses: To ignore everything around me and pour over the images and narrative, or to go get something comforting from the kitchen to prolong the anticipation and enjoyment (the latter, I learned, is a common reaction of your fans, with a cup of tea highly popular). Failing self-discipline, I do both – reading the blog twice before acknowledging quotidian demands.

    I have no trouble controlling my hair – all three strands – so I don’t understand your difficulty at all. With that off my chest (poorly put pun), I have to say I love your hair long or short, wild or tame, and especially set against a field of cosmos.

    I do look forward to the garden book, but mostly I am just so very delighted to be in your virtual presence once more. I adore the idea of pull out pages in the book. It might keep me from mistreating my Swift volumes by splaying favorite pages to hold the book open on the shelf. The single advantage of this approach is always having a dreamy image to calm or entertain me while on hold with Internet support. How lovely it would be to meditate on one special framed image. Each of the exhibits in this post is enchanting.

    Boogie Girl’s brown eyes and wavy-haired ears grabbed this dog lover and pulled her right in.

    Thank you for the January joy!

    • Vivian

      Gigi! Thank you for the vote of confidence. And you’ve set a pretty high bar for me — I happen to think I am fascinating, yes, but am I interesting enough for a two-read read? (I wouldn’t write three illustrated travel memoirs f I thought the answer was no, would I?)

  20. Laura

    I was wondering about the dog in your holiday card and suspected a new member of the brood. Onward with your new adventure in livestock management. It’s great to have you back.

  21. Judy Roberts Jennings

    I turn off the computer and your paintings are GONE. I close your books and put them away on the shelf and your paintings are GONE. Would I like to have your paintings on my wall so I can see them daily? You bet your sweet bippy I would.

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Judy, Catrina, Jeanie — and everyone! OK, it’s a done deal. I’m putting in special souvenir pages. Ha! You can’t do THAT on a Kindle!

  22. Yay!! So excited my favourite blogger is a back! Also, those full pages look awesome, I’d never be so brave, hah.

    I’m not usually a commenter, but I was super excited to see this post.. and plus, I have my own damn project I should be working on, so commenting online is a great way to spend my morning.

    Anyways, congrats on the new member of your family, I hope she’s fitting in comfortably with your existing felines.


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