An Interview with Pamela Hubbard

Astolat Farm

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings.”  ~W.E. Johns




I am always excited when it is time for another interview post.  After receiving an award from Julie@Gardening Jules, I had promised to do several interviews of some amazing bloggers and share them with you.  It is such a pleasure talking at length with bloggers.  Getting to know online friends more intimately.


And for this next interview, I am driving (figuratively) south to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania to visit with Pamela Hubbard@Pam’s English Cottage Garden.  I have known Pam for about as long as I have been blogging.  And I am always inspired by her beautiful and creative gardens, especially the way she incorporates native plants into her cottage garden…a favorite garden style of mine.



pam's header




So let’s meet Pam……..


Pam Hubbard 1524BF


I was born in England. I taught first grade in the school that I, and my father before me, attended as children. In the sixties I married and had two children. I immigrated to America in 1978 where I met my second husband, Duane. We have four grandchildren: all boys. In this country I was an elementary school librarian for more than ten years, then an elementary school principal for twelve. I retired to garden in 2005 and then began studying to be a Penn State Master Gardener.



1. Pam, why did you start your blog?


I started my blog eight years ago for two main reasons: I wanted to share my passion for gardening with others and I wanted a record of my progress toward achieving my dream of creating an English cottage garden in the Poconos. I derive great pleasure from looking at my early postings and realizing I have attained this dream!




Cottage Garden

2. What a great dream and accomplishment, Pam.  I assume that your blog name comes from your love of English Cottage Gardens.  Tell us about this type of garden, and why you love it so much?


While I am very proud to be a naturalized citizen of the USA, like many expats I feel the need to maintain my heritage. My grandmother had a small cottage garden that I remember fondly. Creating something similar in the Pocono Mountains began in my dreams long before I retired. I love this style because it is quintessentially British. Ethne Clarke described an English cottage garden as,

“… above all things a place of uncontrived beauty, 

easily enjoyed, where labour is well rewarded 

and quiet pleasures satisfied.”

Ethne Clarke and Clay Perry
English Country Gardens

Ethne says it all.





3. I couldn’t agree more with Ethne.  Pam, I know you live on a farm.  That must be a wonderful experience.  Can you tell us more about it.  It’s history, etc.


Duane and I live in the circa 1850 house where Duane lived all his life, Astolat Farm. There were no gardens here as the property was a kennel where Duane’s mother raised Shetland sheepdogs. She was hailed as the world’s top Sheltie breeder in her day having twice won Best-of-Breed at Westminster Dog Show. Originally the place was called Astolat Kennels. My mother-in-law took the name, Astolat, from her favorite book, Idylls of the King, a Scottish legend by Alfred Lord Tennyson – very appropriate for a kennel with a Scottish breed of dogs.




Dude and Billy

4. What a fabulous heritage for your husband’s farm and family.  And you have some farm animals too; a miniature horse and pigmy goat.  How did you come by these unique creatures?  What are their names?


Dude and Billy are my gardening buddies. Dude is a tiny miniature horse and Billy is an overgrown pigmy goat. My mother bought Dude as my retirement gift when he was seven years old. My husband bought baby Billy as a companion for Dude because this is a small crop farm with no other animals. Dude and Billy are inseparable.




Kitchen Garden

5.  Oh Pam how special they are.  Besides English Cottage Gardening, do you have some other types of gardening you enjoy?


I enjoy many types of gardening. Besides my English cottage garden I have a shade garden, a woodland garden, a container garden and a kitchen garden. I also enjoy miniature gardening, a wonderful activity for children, so one of my grandsons, Jonathan, helped me make several fairy gardens that are situated around the property. I like to garden indoors during the winter and recently discovered the joys of making terrariums and dish gardens, other forms of miniature gardening.




Best of Show

6. Wow Pam that what a diverse number of gardens to keep you busy all year.  Recently you have been getting all kinds of honors for your gardens, including from your local fair.  Tell us more about that.


I enter vegetables and flowers in our local fair every year. I couldn’t do this without Jonathan’s help. He stays at our house for Fair Week, preparing all the specimen jars and choosing the best vegetables to show. On opening day he helps me set up displays. After the judging it is such fun to check our exhibits to see if we won any ribbons. We always seem to do well and last year I received my first Best in Show award. In addition, last year was special because the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society awarded my garden their blue ribbon. I felt very honored.




Miniature Garden

7. From all your pictures, Pam, I would say these honors are so well deserved.  Besides your garden, what are some other creative endeavors that bring you joy?


Writing brings me so much joy. Unlike you, however, I’m not a ‘creative’ writer. How I wish I could write poetry like yours, Donna. All my writings are research based, and of course, I’m talking about garden writing. I write a monthly article about ‘Gardening in the Poconos’ for our local newspaper, the Pocono Record. Also, my articles have appeared in various online sources. I’m currently writing an article for an English publication, The Cottage Gardener. I love garden photography, too, but feel I’m not very good at it. Every year I say I’m going to take more photography classes and I am happy to say I just signed up for some.




Entry Garden

8. Oh Pam, how wonderful to be published in so many publications.  And I can’t wait to hear more about the photography class.  What would you say is your creative process?


My work, whether designing a garden, writing about gardening, or teaching gardening classes, is completely research based. When I’m writing, I begin by reading, reading, and more reading. For material I go to the land-grant colleges – my favorite being Penn State Extension, of course, as I’m a Penn State master gardener. Research-based writing tends to make for some rather dry prose, so I liberally include personal stories from my own experience.


Research is very important , and I am so glad you remind us of it.  And I think those personal stories are also important so gardeners know you have such extensive experience.




Woodland Walk

9.  Let’s shift gears a bit.  I know you have traveled to many places, so where would you like to travel next?


 I just finished planning a summer vacation. Duane and I feel there is still so much for us to see in the USA, so this year we will explore some parts of New England we haven’t yet visited – via a few gardens, of course. I have a son and his family in Arizona, but would you believe I never visited the Grand Canyon? … Next year’s trip, maybe.

Oh The Grand Canyon is a must…lots of history and fabulous spots to visit in Arizona.  




Shade Garden

10.   Tell me what famous person or not so famous person would you like to meet?


I would like to meet Dame Judy Dench, one of the most celebrated actresses of my generation. Her work spans so many genres from Shakespeare to comedy, and I love all of it. I admire how she continues to devote herself to her craft despite being unable to read her scripts due to macular degeneration. The infirmities that come with aging (she recently had knee surgery) do not hold her back, and in this respect she is my role model.


She is an amazing actress, and person…and I agree a fabulous role model.




Arbor to Kitchen Garden

11.   If it is possible to pick a favorite book or song, what would you choose?


This is the most difficult question, Donna, because I have so many favorite books. I read at least one novel, usually historical, each week and often my favorite is the one I’m reading at the time. Right now it is The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. This is the second time I’ve read this book, as I wanted to refresh my knowledge of the story and characters before reading Grissom’s recently released sequel, Glory Over Everything. In the gardening genre, my favorite is The Cottage Garden by Christopher Lloyd. I nearly said ‘Christopher Lloyd’ in answer to your last question, but he passed away in 2006. I haven’t yet visited his garden, Great Dixter, and nearly gave that in answer to your travel question.


You know I would love to visit some of the great gardens of Great Britain, so maybe some day we can visit together!




Kitchen Garden Border

12. After several year of blogging, I am always fascinated to know what keeps someone blogging.  So Pam, what keeps you blogging?


As I’m sure you know, I am obsessed with gardening, and garden blogging is part of the passion. My garden continues to evolve, every year is different, and therefore I continue to have much to say about it. In addition, I made so many wonderful gardening friends who follow my blog and/or I follow theirs. I love belonging to this greater gardening community and it keeps me blogging.





13.  The blogging community is amazing.  Is there anything else you want to tell us about your life, and what might be next for you?


I have my first book in the works. It’s been on my desk for a long time, but I was forced to put it on hold through a couple of years of ill health. Now my health is at an optimum level and I’ve turned back to my book with great enthusiasm.

 Just want to end by saying how honored I feel that you asked me to participate, Donna. I enjoyed answering your questions enormously. Thank you, my friend.



Pam the pleasure has been mine, my friend!  As I said, I love these interviews as I get to know my fellow bloggers on a different, more personal level.  I hope one day soon to drop by and visit your lovely farm and gardens…and meet Dude and Billy in person.  And you continue to inspire me to keep expanding my creative horizons.  I hope you will keep us posted about the book project.


I hope you enjoyed getting to know Pam a bit more.  I know I certainly did!



pamPlease make sure you visit Pam in all the amazing places she hangs out.




All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Photos are the sole property of Pam@Pam’s English Cottage Garden, and their use in this post is by permission of the photographer.

An Interview with Catherine Drea@Foxglove Lane

Frost on the lane

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

~ Henry David Thoreau




It is time for another interview post.  I have been getting into a routine every couple of months now, interviewing amazing bloggers who have influenced me.  As you might remember, after receiving and award from Julie@Gardening Jules, I had promised to do several interviews of some amazing bloggers and share them with you.



I decided to nip across the pond for this visit.   I met this amazing blogger through, Vision and Verb, a wonderful website of talented women.  Although I think I knew her a bit before I wrote for V and V, my recollection is fuzzy.  I know I felt a kindred spirit for Catherine@Foxglove Lane immediately.  Perhaps because her photos are soul refreshing, and her words penetrate me to my core, bringing joy and understanding.  Or maybe it was because she lives in Waterford, Ireland.  I have only been to Ireland once, 7 years ago, but I fell in love with my ancestral home of Ireland immediately (I am half Irish).



foxglove lane header1




So let’s whiz across the Atlantic and meet Catherine……..





I’m Catherine Drea, a blogger, photographer and facilitator (  I studied art, psychotherapy, have a Masters in Business Studies but my current love is Contemplative Photography.

I founded a social organisation 20 years ago ( where I still work part-time.

I live down a long green lane in Ireland with my husband and I have three grown up sons.





 1. Catherine, why did you start blogging?


It was a typically Irish grey and wet Sunday about 5 years ago. I had just discovered the world of blogging. I guess I was suddenly inspired to have a go! I didn’t think about it or plan anything. I just sat down and figured out how to do it and in a couple of hours there it was……. my first blogpost!




The exuberance of summer is summed up in the buzzing and dancing of bees in foxgloves on the lane.

2.  I love the name of your blog.  What is its significance?


I chose Foxglove Lane that first day. It is literally the name I have given to our boreen, so full of foxgloves in June. It is home, freedom, peace to me……





3.  It sounds like heaven to me.  Your blog seems to extend the heaven of your home and Ireland, and others have recognized its wonder through the Ireland Blog Awards you have won.  What do these awards mean to you, and what keeps you blogging?


As blogging has become so much more commercial and competitive I am always amazed that my blog, a labour of love (and not about fashion or beauty!) manages to win. I have very mixed feeling about competitions at the best of times, and yet I have benefitted from winning for sure.  

What actually keeps me blogging is probably more complex. It is a creative habit, a form of discipline in a way. It helps to keep my creative muscles fit. Without it where would I be, I live in the absolute middle of nowhere on a tiny island in the Atlantic? Through blogging I have been able to share my work, connect with others and create an online home where I can meet people….





4.  And this creative home seems one of the reason many of us keep blogging.  So how do you define creativity? What does creativity mean to you?


I was an Art teacher and I always felt that creativity was about much more than just artistic attainment. It is about a sense of self, a way of relating to the beautiful mysteries of the world, a way of engaging with your own potential. It is for each of us to find our own way to express that. Creativity for me is an essential part of everyday life……when I start humming I know I am in the zone!!





5.  Oh I love this idea of creativity as an essential part of everyday life.  Do you have a favorite space or spot that is sacred in or around your home where your creativity flows?


I am lucky to live in a beautiful and tranquil place in a wild and untamed couple of acres. I think my favourite spot is at the desk in my studio which looks out on it all. I am constantly distracted especially in winter by the birds, animals and wild weather changes rolling in from the Atlantic. Home is precious for humans,  enabling us to thrive and I feel so lucky to have a roof over my head and a room with a view.





6.  I have traveled to Ireland, and loved its beauty?  What makes your piece of this special island nirvana for you?


Ha! Nirvana it is definitely not! I say that because Ireland has been through an economic crash that has been a real struggle. There is nowhere on earth without it’s challenges and we have had so many. However, Irish people are essentially happy go lucky and can embrace the dark side without too much trouble. I remember John O Donoghue saying that if you ask an Irish person “How are you” they will shrug and say “Sure not too bad!” or “Pulling the divil by the tail” Light and dark are part of us……So I suppose the special magic  is in the resilience and good humour of Irish people.


There is no downside to the beauty of the land and sea, it is stunning….just keeping it in pristine condition for the next generation is our challenge….


That is what I experienced when I visited…the good nature and humor of the Irish people….




Patrick Ryan's

7.  Tell me what famous person or not so famous person you would like to meet?


Well if I wanted to swoon it would be Leonard Cohen, if I wanted to chat it would have to be Elizabeth Gilbert and I would love to have a coffee with a group bloggers including yourself Donna…..I think it might just happen some day…..




Coumenoule Cafe

8.  Oh I would love to have that meet up one day!  So let me shift topics a bit Catherine.  What is or would have been your dream career or job?


If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now I think I might have liked to run a seaside cafe in the South of France. Well who wouldn’t!! A lot of Irish people emigrate. It’s a big part of the culture. I was lucky in many ways to be able to stay in Ireland but if I had gone, it would have been to the Mediterranean and the sun! My amazing Grandmother ran a restaurant in a small town in Ireland, long before women had their own businesses. So I think cafe management could be in my genes!





9.  Oh that sounds like an amazing dream.  And emigrating to the Mediterranean sounds perfect.  I know you love to travel.  What are some favorite spots you love to travel to and why?


I have a fierce touch of wanderlust!! We can get a ferry across to mainland Europe from Ireland and after that we can drive anywhere to get off the beaten track. (A gift for island dwellers) I love France and last year followed 5 rivers cascading through a very traditional part of central France. Recently we spent a month in the Peleponese in the South of the mainland Greece. The small town of Kardamilli there is a blissful spot. New York where I worked as a student is a favourite city, as is  Stockholm where I have family. It can be short or long trip, in wild Ireland or further afield…..any change of scene is inspiration to me!




hares 2

10.  Photography is such a big part of your life.  You have an extensive portfolio on your blog where folks can purchase your photos. What is your creative process, and tell us a bit about contemplative photography?


I have always taken photographs. My Dad gave me a camera at the age of 10. I study the surroundings of where I live in minute detail and take every opportunity to learn. Contemplative photography is a more soulful approach. I find it is something a lot of women photographers relate to. Although I am committed to fairly complex day job I usually get time to follow some creative instinct every day. Then on my days off I delve deeper into projects. Working from home helps too. I don’t work well under pressure, for prestige, or for money!! It doesn’t suit my muse! As she is a mother earth sort of character I have to be true to myself and my roots or she will squirm about and fail utterly to co-operate.




IMG_1341 (1)

11.  I love that you are so connected to your muse and so true to her.  What are some words of wisdom you have for those of us who are still learning about photography?


Find and follow the joy in what you do. Linger in those moments because photography is endlessly fiddly and years later your taste will have totally changed and what you adore today you will shun later!! I have gone through a lot of glorious colourful phases and find myself longing to return to the simpler days of black and white….you just never know which way you will be drawn…..I think if you are not “feeling it” something is missing……





12.  Perfect words of wisdom my friend.  So what new form of arts or crafts would you like to learn now?  


I saw some incredible forest yarn bombing in the Basque country once and it remained with me. Crochet and knitting are huge again here and maybe that would be a way to that?




sunset 2

13.  Catherine you recently wrote a wonderful book, “Seek light, embrace shade, live colour”.  Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to write this book?  How does it fulfill part of your soul’s journey?


People are very “helpful” and everyone told me that  I “should” Looking back I wasn’t ready at all to make a book and it was actually quite hard to deal with the attention it brought. I had a hunch that people who are not very active on line would finally get to share my world in an actual book…..and that proved to be the case….My soul’s journey is an everyday thing….if the truth be told putting myself “out there” always scares the pants off me!!!





14.  Oh I can relate to that and it “scares the pants off of me too”.  Can you tell us anything about the process that you went through in creating your book that was a great lesson or an aha moment…words of wisdom?


The process was simple and I loved making the book. Blurb is a very easy platform to learn and work on. I decided to use my Instagram Gallery as the book was square format and tiny 7×7. The writing part as usual were inspired by the images I selected. The great lesson was when the book went out there, the first edition had 12 spelling mistakes!! Living in rural Ireland with a wonky internet connection meant that the corrections didn’t always get saved. So when I thought I had fixed them, they remained unfixed. I nearly had a heart attack when I discovered on the day of the great launch and after a number of sales that I would have to replace the first books. Blurb were totally unsupportive and my aha moment came when I realised that they really have no back up if something goes wrong. Also Blurb don’t share the names of your  buyers so it is hard to give good customer service. A serious draw-back…….on the other hand once a book is done it is there forever and that’s a plus.




Buy this image by clicking on the small shopping cart symbol above and browsing prints and products.

15.  Very helpful information for those of us contemplating creating a book.  What new projects are you working on you’d like to share?  What are your inspirations for your work?


I would love to create an archive from my first photos aged 10 up to the present day. I might also include some great photos taken by other photographers in the family. I also want to concentrate on making more physical manifestation of my work, I’m not sure what that will be but I hope to pursue a year long woodland study and shoot some video.


My inspiration will always be the light and shade of the day. I watch weather and conditions all the time…..nature is she who must be obeyed, so you just need to be ready to heed her. I also love studying the work of other photographers, poets and artists.


I love the idea of a woodland shoot.  And there is that kindred spirit again …..nature.





16.  Is there anything else you want to tell us about your life, and what might be next for you?


Donna I will be 62 in 2016!!! How did I get here and where am I going to? One thing is sure, none of us is getting out of here alive!


I am not ambitious as such, more hopeful and steadfast. And I know that every moment counts!





My goodness you are still so young my friend, and I love your words of wisdom….every moment does count especially now as I am moving to the other side of middle age….59 for me this year.


It was such a delight talking with Catherine.  Learning about her philosophy, her spirit and her creative process.  It renews me as does her beautiful photography.  One of the reason I enjoy these interviews is the connections I make on such a deeper level with amazing, gifted, talented and inspirational folks.  I hope you enjoyed getting to know Catherine a bit more.  I know I certainly did!


cdrea-foxglove lane

Please make sure you visit Catherine in all the amazing places she hangs out.



All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Photos are the sole property of Catherine@Foxglove Lane and their use in this post is by permission of the photographer.

An Interview with Beth@PlantPostings


“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”  ~John Muir




It’s time to bring you another interview with an amazing person I have grown to know in the blogosphere.  As you might remember, after receiving and award from Julie@Gardening Jules, I had promised to do several interviews of some amazing bloggers and share them with you.



So for today’s interview, I am talking with Beth@PlantPostings.  I met Beth over 5 years ago when I started my garden blog.  We seem to connect so easily.  We both gardenlessonsgardened in Zone 5, and my weather was very similar to Beth’s in Wisconsin.  We both enjoyed native plants, and quickly started a shared seasonal meme…really Beth started hers first, Garden Lessons Learned, which inspired me to look at seasons differently.  And from there, Garden Lessons Learned spun off Seasonal Celebrations.  I love how both these seasonal memes have enriched my life.  And both will be starting for the new season around December 1st.



Beth is a wonderful writer, photographer and gardener…and she has other hidden talents too.  So let’s meet Beth……..



Hi, I’m Beth. I call Southern Wisconsin home, but I have a bit of wanderlust so I enjoy traveling when the budget and the calendar allow.


I’m a mom (of two wonderful young adults), a wife, and a communications consultant. I’m also a lifelong gardener, a Wisconsin Master Naturalist volunteer, and an amateur photographer.


I’m often distracted by wildflowers, pollinators, and scenic overlooks. My husband and I both enjoy hiking, so we spend many weekends on Wisconsin’s amazing trails.


I like to experiment with plants—pushing zones, playing with microclimates, and practicing companion planting. My garden is organic. For at least the past decade, we’ve found natural ways to keep garden pests, invasive plants, and plant diseases at bay. It’s actually a fun challenge!




1.I really love this picture of you Beth!  Let me start by asking, why did you start your blog?


It’s a very long story, but I’ll try to be brief. My career has always included writing and editing as part of my job description, and I’ve been a gardener and plant-lover my entire adult life. When my kids were young, I came across a software package that was an encyclopedia, of sorts, of plant life. So the interest has always been there. But I guess the turning point came when I realized how to merge the writing with the curiosity and love of plants. I started tracking all the plants in my garden and learning the details about them. I inquired about writing for an online gardening publication. The editor accepted some of my work and suggested I start a gardening blog. I haven’t looked back since.





2. Beth I really enjoy my visits to your blog, and have always been intrigued by its name.  What is the significance of the title of your blog?


Thanks, Donna. This is the embarrassing part. Starting a gardening blog became a “must do” very quickly for me. I didn’t want to spend months or weeks analyzing it, because I was afraid I wouldn’t do it. So, I started researching names that were already claimed and those that were available. When I found out “” was available, I grabbed it (registered the URL web address)! I couldn’t believe no one had used that simple URL for a blog. Since then, I’ve always been a little sheepish about the simplicity of it, but someone at the Garden Bloggers’ Fling said the nicest thing to me—in effect, that she liked it, and that it was easy to remember. I shared plans to potentially change it, and she said she thought it was perfect the way it is. 🙂




January3. So what keeps you blogging?


I can’t think of any other thing I’ve done (besides being a mom) that has been more rewarding. The combination of gardening/botany with photography, writing, and making friendships with like-minded people around the world has truly changed my life. I occasionally need a break from it, but I always want to start back up almost as soon as I start taking a break. It’s not something I have to do; I don’t get paid for it. Instead, it’s a hobby … or maybe it’s better described as an avocation. Perhaps that’s what motivates me—I enjoy it, so I do it!




February4. I couldn’t agree more with you Beth.  I like your description of blogging….it does feel like an avocation.  What are some of your creative endeavors that make your heart sing?


I was going to pass on this question, and then I recalled situations—not really creative endeavors—that have happened through grace. These are the moments that fill my soul with joy. I think of them as gifts from God. When I happen to be in the right place at the right time to witness small miracles of light, of natural occurrences, of interactions with other species … those are pure moments of bliss. I get the feeling most gardeners experience these moments from time to time, because we’re so aware and appreciative of the world around us.





5. Beth, I really love how you expanded the question….yes creativity, nature, small miracles and bliss.  As you are immersed in the creativity around you, what is your creative process?


Ha! Well, I have about 10 blog post ideas rolling around in my head at any one time. Some of them come to me in those moments of grace mentioned in the previous answer. Others relate to other aspects of my life that seem to spill over into the blog. Finally, when I’ve tried a gardening technique or had experience with a particular plant, I like to share it just as I enjoy reading about other gardeners’ experiences. Some of the ideas stay in my head a very long time until I have the courage to share them. I may never muster the guts to post some of them, but then maybe that’s a good thing. 😉




April   6. Let’s stick with the creativity theme a bit longer, and explore what new form of arts or crafts you would like to learn?


Good question! I always like to try new things. But one thing I’ve always wanted to do is play the harp. I’ll probably never do it (too expensive), but I have this romantic notion of being a harpist in hotel lobbies, at weddings, and for other events. I like the idea of sort of being in the mix of activity—setting the tone and being on stage, while at the same time sort of being in the background.




May7. Oh I love the idea of you playing the harp, Beth.  You never know, you might find someone willing to give you a few lessons.

Let’s shift direction a bit.  I know you have traveled to many wonderful places, so where would you like to travel next?


My next trips will revolve mostly around family events in California and Arizona—both wonderful destinations and I’m thrilled to be able to attend. But, there’s also a very special trip on the radar for 2017! I hope it will materialize. I’ll keep you posted on the blog!




 8. I also have family in CA and AZ….beautiful spots to visit.  And I look forward to hearing about the special trip!!  OK, here’s a fun question….Tell me what famous person or not so famous person you would like to meet?


Another great question, and there are so many people! The current Pope is pretty awesome. I would have loved to have had a discussion with John Muir. I also find people like climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe fascinating. She’s brave enough to share her strong religious faith and at the same time her understanding of science and the impacts human activities have on our shared planet.


You brought back John Muir to me through your blog.  And I wanted to celebrate your appreciation for him, so I did include one of your favorite quotes at the top of the post.





  9. Beth, what is or would have been your dream career or job? 


I’m living the dream now. Making a living as a communications consultant and having a gardening blog on the side is pretty nifty. Maybe I can combine the two someday in a plant-related book. 😉


Now that would be wonderful!




August10. As gardening is a great passion of yours, what is your creative process when gardening?  Do you have a special type of gardening or garden style you love?


I’ve been blessed with some wonderful garden mentors who’ve practiced various styles of gardening. Regarding my own style and process: I try to start with the big picture. What ecosystem am I dealing with? What plants are here? Which plants will grow best in this location? How can I make it aesthetically pleasing with “curb appeal” and still keep it wildlife-friendly? My gardening projects vary with the seasons, my budget, and my curiosity.




September11. I really like your thought process Beth…we have a similar style.  I know you love native plants and wildlife.  Can you tell us how you came to learn about native plants and what about them inspires you?


I’ve always been fascinated by native plants and wildflowers. I love to hike and photograph the plants I see along the way. Also, a large section of our property is woodland. We’ve chosen not to develop it. As far as I know, it’s never been developed. It’s always exciting to see what plants pop up naturally every year. We do try to remove invasive species, but that job continues every season. We want to try to support the native plants that are naturally here because they best support the native pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. With that said, some sections of my garden include non-native plants, but they’re mostly located near the house.


How special to have a woodland on your property.  I have always wanted to own woodland to preserve it.  




October12. Is there anything else you want to share with us?


The garden blogger community is such an inspiring group of people. I feel blessed to be part of a global community of individuals who, like me, love plants, and share a mission to make the world a better place.



Didn’t I tell you Beth is an amazing person….I hope you enjoyed her fabulous vision of life and creativity.  And yes, these are her incredible photos of her garden and surrounds.

Isn’t her love of wildlife, and passion for gardening contagious?  And she is just an all around really nice person; generous, caring and so helpful.  I count myself lucky to know her through this virtual world.  I hope one day we will meet up, and share some time in a garden setting maybe with a bit of harp music!



I leave you with another one of Beth’s favorite John Muir quotes:

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”  




Here is where you can find Beth….please make a point of visiting her.






All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Photos are the sole property of Beth@PlantPostings, and their use in this post is by permission of the photographer.

An Interview with Jen@The Light Laughed

Selfie in golden field

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”  ~Walt Disney 




This month I thought I would bring you another interview with an amazing person I have grown to know in the blogosphere.  As you might remember, after receiving and award from Julie@Gardening Jules, I had promised to do several interviews of some amazing bloggers and share them with you.



So for today’s interview, I am talking with Jen Vandervoort@The Light Laughed.  You might know Jen from her days blogging at Muddy Boot Dreams.  That’s where I met Jen, when she lived on the coast of British Columbia and created magic in her pictures and prose.  I think that was over 5 years ago now.  Since then Jen has been on many new paths, and I have enjoyed seeing her bloom and grow.  She is an inspiration for me in so many ways….her photography, her blogging style, the way she creates community through her blog and her willingness to keep creating new ideas.



So let’s meet Jen……..


Hi I’m Jen, chasing a laughing light through the Okanagan, camera in hand. Photographer by heart, blogger by day fan of Instagram, and Pinterest for their visual appeal. Weaving words among my images, sharing stories, and exploring the world of blogging with a focus on midlifers.

I believe in being our own personal best as bloggers no matter what level we aspire to.

I’m a co-founder of a FB group for bloggers who’d like to grow, share, and support each other through blogging, we’re always welcoming new members, and have been working on a few interesting changes to roll out in soon to make the group even better.




 1.  Jen it has been such a pleasure knowing you.  As I said I am inspired by your blog and your style of blogging.  So why did you start blogging?


I discovered blogging about at the same time digital cameras became affordable. I’d been sharing digital photos with friends, and on Flickr, so when I discovered blogging it just evolved. There is something in all of us that seeks affirmation for our creativity, and blogs allow us to share our lives so easily.

When I came across The Pioneer Woman’s blog it changed my life in so many ways, she introduced me to blogging, and Photoshop. I happily realized that I could start to build a community of amazing people to surround myself with who would share their work, and appreciate my work too.



Wet garden and cat

2.  I bet there is someone who we can say inspired all of us to blog.  What inspired you to recently change your blog?


I moved from Blogger to Word Press because I was feeling hemmed in, and had too many issues with being shut down without reason. I like my content, and images to belong to me, not to the whim of some computer nerd tucked away.

Word Press allows me to own my own content, it’s self hosted, and Blogger can no longer shut down, or remove my blog.




3.  I understand wanting to own your own content.  So Jen, what is the significance of the title of your blog?


The Light Laughed reflects who I am now as a blogger, and photographer. When I’m out there with my camera, I’m searching for the light, where does it come from, what is it doing? Have you ever watched the light drifting through the branches of trees.  It settles, flits, laughs….that’s how I got my blog name…wandering down the country road in my new life, camera in hand, watching the light laugh.

We’ve reached our Muddy Boot Dreams, it was a long journey of almost 12 years, and it’s wonderful to be here, but the name just didn’t fit anymore.



Bare branches at the side of the road

4.  I love what you say about the light.  I too found inspiration in that light.   What keeps you blogging?


My community of blogging friends, and an urge to share these small wonderful moments of everyday joy. The way you’d point out something interesting while you’re out with friends is how I want to blog. We all have a story to tell, to share, to read in the comments that my readers felt like they were there with me, that it touched their hearts…that’s what keeps me blogging.



Feathers and acrons

5.  I couldn’t agree more about the blogging community.  What are some of your creative endeavors that give you pleasure?


Photography is my most beloved create endeavor right now. I am also writing more, and exploring the exciting world of short videos.




6.  Your photography is incredible…more like art to me.  It speaks to my soul.  Do you have a favorite space or spot that is sacred in or around your home?


My garden is an organic, natural space, where wildlife and birds wander, and my heart lives there, it’s where I find my peace.



Bokah daisies

7.  Nature and gardens do that for us, don’t they?  I know you have moved to your dream spot.  What makes this place nirvana for you?


Each time we had to leave to go back to the coast I couldn’t help but cry during the drive back, an intense feeling of having left a piece of my heart behind. The day we moved up here it was as if I was given it back. It’s not just being surrounded by family and friends, it’s a homecoming.

It’s where we belong, and are flourishing.




8.  So let’s shift a bit.  Tell me what famous person or not so famous person you would like to meet?


Ansel Adams…The Group of Seven, Emily Carr, to all of them I would have liked to say, thank you for changing the way the world looks at art and photography.



Primrose in post and birds nest

9.  I would love to meet and just observe Ansel Adams.  And I can see why he inspires you through your photography.  What is or would have been your dream career or job?


I think I’m living it now. But if I had to choose, a small shop, selling stationary, beautiful flowers, books, and gifts, tea and scones…that would be my dream.




10.  And I would love to frequent that shop especially for a cup of tea and to read a special book.  If it is possible to pick a favorite book, what would you choose?


I love to read, and of each good book I’ve read the latest would be one of my favorites. Being immersed in the pages, reading the words, the tactile dragging of fingers over good quality paper while turning the page.

Visually stunning photographs that transport me into others worlds, where I get to walk among the characters, sit on chairs in beautifully decorated rooms, smell the flowers in the gardens…



Old bus in yard[6]

11.  What are some spots you love to travel to and why?


New Zealand is on my list for a repeat visit…it captured my heart, if I didn’t live here, I would try to live there.




12.  Photography is such a big part of your life. What is your creative process?


Creativity’s an intense feeling in my heart…[ I know I talk about hearts a lot ] …but it’s that feeling inside that drives me to create. When something is evolving creatively in me it’s almost as if it takes over and won’t be silenced until it’s made. You just have to go with it.



Echinacea pink

13.  The pictures here are all incredible creations of Jen’s.  Aren’t they just stunning?  Jen, what are some words of wisdom you have for those of us who are still learning about photography?


The most important thing you can do is practice, everyone improves that way. Learn the basics of composition, and technique, challenge yourself to move beyond the Auto button. Constantly compare, not to others but to your own older work, so you can see how much you are learning and how your style is evolving. That’s what is going to inspire you the most.




14.  Ah yes that Auto button.  I am still working on moving beyond it.  Someday soon I think…..What new form of arts or craft would you like to learn?


I would love to learn to create encaustic art with found items and my photos. Something about working with bee’s wax makes me think it would be very interesting.



Spring mockup

15.  Well that is a new one for me, encaustic painting.  It sounds fascinating.  Is there anything else you want to tell us about your life, and what might be next for you?


I’m eager to explore more about designing websites, creating digital goods, and video, that’s where my heart seems to be headed lately. I think the journey has just started…and it’s going to be interesting.



Fence and cloudy sky

Jen, I know I will be anxiously awaiting your next creative steps…..


I hope you enjoyed this little talk with Jen Vandervoort.  I love learning a bit more about the creative people who touch my soul, and inspire me to move beyond my limits.  Jen you are definitely one of these inspirational people.  Please make sure you visit Jen in all the wonderful places she hangs out.


Here are her most popular links…Although Jen is on Twitter and G+, she says she doesn’t really visit there too much.







All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Photos are the sole property of Jen@The LightLaughed and their use in this post is by permission of the photographer.

An Interview with Susan Troccolo (and a Giveaway)


“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~George Bernard Shaw




A while back, I was given the distinct honor of being awarded recognition for this blog by a reader, Julie@Gardening Jules.  And I promised that I would do a few interviews in recognition of the honor.  Finally, I am getting around to the first interview, and it is indeed a special interview with author and blogger, Susan Troccolo.



I met Susan Troccolo in this wonderful blogging world almost 3 years ago when Susan found my garden blog, Gardens Eye View.  Somehow we both found our way to writing for the wonderful website, Vision and Verb, which is no longer online.  When I heard she was writing a new book, I decided I had to interview Susan.



Susan has been on this journey of writing a book for a while now, and I am learning so much from her.  She has just released her first ebook, , which consists of 4 essays.  As Susan says this will be ‘a taste of what’s to come’.  Eventually these four stories will be among the twenty or so included in her next collection, and I can’t wait for that collection.  So sit back, relax and enjoy this wonderful conversation with an amazing woman and author…..




Screen shot 2015-07-21 at 1.16.09 PM


1.  Susan I am so glad to have found you online through blogging.  I always find it interesting how folks get into blogging.  Why did you start your blog?

I started my blog because I knew that I had another book in me and I wanted to connect with more readers, the kind of readers that I thought might like my stories. You know, it’s funny, even traditional New York based publishers are advising their authors to start up a blog. This is not just for the Indies anymore. All book promotion is basically done by the author herself. I also was hoping, really hoping, that I could create something beautiful and fun and make new online friends. It has worked out that way!



2. Susan I really enjoy my visits to your blog, and have always been intrigued by its name.  What is the significance of the title of your blog?

Well, at first, it was purely a funny thought that came into my mind. It was me poking fun (in a tongue-in-cheek way) at all the three word titles out there now. My humor is a little quirky. Also, my blog covers so many topics that I needed to find something that would embrace a lot of life using the metaphor of the garden. It was: Life (with a big L), Change (our own aging process,) and Compost, (the mess it all makes in the process!) Gradually other people started providing other ideas that had significance for them regarding the significance of compost. They saw it as the gradual breaking down of all the elements of life into something rich, and nurturing for new growth. It became a metaphor that had more than one meaning and I like that: readers can make of it what they want. I always try to give readers an opportunity to make something I write their own.



HD-28 #1


3.  The creative spirit seems so much a part of you.  What are some of your creative endeavors that make your heart sing?

I’ve been a guitar player since I was seven. Teaching guitar was my first job at fifteen, through the Parks & Recreation Department where I lived. I love bluegrass—I used to be a pretty mean flat-picker, and I love blues. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed arthritis in my hands and so a lot of that skill is lost. But I’ll always play the guitar, I just love it. I also love speaking Italian. The sound is like singing.  And I get to use my hands to make a point-:)





4.  And what is your creative process?

That’s a tough one. I have to work really hard not to sabotage myself with thinking that my creative work needs to be  good coming out of the gate. I think it was Anne Lamott who said: Write shitty first drafts! Those were her words exactly. For example, if I just scratch things out when I’m in a vulnerable and open space and write in a plain, lined, school-type notebook, then I’m less concerned with expecting great things from the writing at first. (There will be plenty of drafts and editing to follow!) I guess I’d have to say my creative process is trying to get free. Also, my best stories have come to me in the middle of the night. I have woken up laughing; honestly it’s happened three times with pieces I’ve sold to online magazines.  Usually it’s something that makes me laugh or makes me cry.



5.  What new form of arts or craft would you like to learn?

I’d like to get better at cooking. I’m the one that always brings the salads to the Pot Luck Dinners! They are pretty good salads, but I get tired of making them.





6.  Do you have a favorite space or spot that is sacred in or around your home?

Two places really. My office and the garden. My office has a Tibetan Thanka on the wall and I meditate there. In the spring, summer, and fall,  I like nothing more than to take my coffee outside in my jammies and putter in the garden.



7.  I know you have traveled to many places in the world, so where would you like to travel next?

I’ve never been to Scotland and I’ve never seen Alaska, the inland passage. I’d also love to rent a cottage in the Cotswolds and just relax after the year I’ve had! So many losses.



Delphiniums & Dalhias watermarked


8.  Oh I would love a cottage in the Cotswolds.  Let’s shift gears now.  Tell me what famous person or not so famous person would you like to meet?

I’d love to meet Michelle Obama and her mother. What a mother she must have! I’d also like to meet Anne Lamott and the Jungian writer James Hillman. Oh, and Michael Pollen—what a thoroughly enjoyable writer he is!



9.  Now that is an interesting collection of people.  Susan, what is or would have been your dream career or job?

I wish I could have made it as a Country Western Singer in the old days, not now though, when everything is so over-produced. I know that sounds silly; but what a hoot! Unfortunately, my singing isn’t up to snuff. I play guitar better than I can sing.


Here’s a little treat.  Susan singing and playing the guitar.  I think she would have made a fine entertainer….




10.   If it is possible to pick a favorite book, what would you choose?

Two very different ones come to mind: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard  and the most exciting adventure story I know:  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. Oh, and anything by MFK Fisher.  Oh, and A Passage to India by E.M. Forster.





11.  You just finished writing the ebook, , and are writing a bigger collection of stories.  Can you tell us a bit about why you wanted to write this collection?  How does it fulfill part of your soul’s journey?

I want to write about aging to help myself understand it. I have found that the garden is the perfect metaphor for the process of life and death, the seasons of our lives. I also know that because of the cancers that I’ve had and recovered from, I still hold fear in my body. I want to learn to release that fear. I’m hoping the book—as much work as it is—will give me some peace at heart.

The larger print book will come out in early 2016.



Susie&Fly at the Beach


12.  Can you tell us anything about the process that you went through in creating your book that was a great lesson or an aha moment…words of wisdom?

I really push myself too hard. And my body always pays the price. I would never think of someone like Clint Eastwood as being a model of aging (!?!), but I read the other day that he said: “if you just relax, it can be fun.” Good old Clint. Imagine that. But I liked what he said. In that moment I got it. Just kick off your shoes, and relax. There is nothing to prove.  Also I have a note in one of my garden journals that reads: Dreamt I was Clint Eastwood. Woke up. I AM Clint Eastwood! It cracked me up. That’s the post-menopausal woman for you—we are forces of nature.



13.  Is there anything else you want to tell us about your life, and what might be next for you?

Right now I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all I need to learn to put forth my best work. Whether you go traditional , or indie, writing a book is hard work. The social media piece alone is daunting. I pray to be able to do it with joy…in fact I have a note on my computer from Jennifer Richardson that says: “As easy joy about it all.” That’s all I want. But I can tell you that the people who have shown up on my blog have really helped me in ways I wouldn’t have expected. These readers and other bloggers keep me writing. They make me want to tell my truth and to keep putting it out there. I couldn’t be more grateful. Beyond that, it really is day by day.



Well I really enjoyed this time with Susan.  Like I said, I always learn so much when I talk with Susan.  Please make sure you visit Susan Troccolo in all the wonderful places she hangs out:

Facebook Author Page

Amazon Author Page






If you would like a free copy of Susan’s new ebook, just subscribe to her blog, Life-Change-Compost.  You can also .  If you have any problems downloading the ebook, please email Susan at at



Susan will have a print copy of The Beet Goes On for purchase from Amazon soon.  If you would like to win a print copy of The Beet Goes On, leave a comment here, and LIKE Susan’s Facebook author page.  Then your name will be placed in a hat for the chance to win this wonderful book.  I will choose a name at noon on August 2nd, and email the winner.



All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Photos are the sole property of Susan Troccolo and their use in this post is by permission of the photographer.