I Keep Forgetting to Tell You…

Does this happen to you? I start telling a story in great detail, only to realize midway that I’ve told the story before. My friends are polite and would never interrupt. The “tell” is a patient look on their face, and I’m suddenly aware of my faux pas.

Conversely, I’ll assume I’ve shared a story, in the same great detail, only to have my friend say “this is the first I’ve heard this.” or “I had no idea.”

I’m a woman of a certain age, so I can chalk this up to the number of birthdays I have under my belt though I suspect I’ve been doing this my whole life.

Today’s post is about those little things I keep meaning to tell you, promises I made to “share in a future post” and just a couple of random things I would share if we could sit down together and share a cuppa.

Feel free to roll your eyes skyward if you’ve heard this one before. The magic of the internet is I’ll never know.

First up, my sister’s Halloween costume. Sharon based her costume last year on Pauline King’s gorgeous piece of art . I blogged about it last October.

Pauline King’s gift to my sister Sharon: The Wise Woman

I promised to share pictures of Sharon’s costume which turned out beautifully. We shared the same wig since we needed it on different days and she already had the hat and a simple black dress. I found the knotted walking stick (actually a cane) at a costume shop for $7 and had my husband saw off the hook. I bought her the cape, and as you see in the photo below, art imitates life which imitates art.

Halloween costume The Wise Woman

Sharon’s Halloween costume based on Pauline King’s art piece The Wise Woman

Next up is an unexpected blogging connection from my friends Dan and Rosie. After their older dog passed, my friends started looking at rescue organizations for another black Labrador retriever. Dan fell in love with black labs as a little boy when his dad snuck one into his room one night.

A few weeks into their search, Dan sent me a photo of them posing with a Golden Retriever named Ginger. (I’m pretty sure Ginger is also part horse). They missed having a dog so they expanded their search. I immediately recognized the bench they were sitting on because I’ve seen it often on Audrey’s blog.

That’s right; my friends adopted a dog from a rescue organization called Homeward Bound.  I’ve been followed Audrey’s blog for years. She’s a terrific writer and a good soul who helped revitalize the Memorial Garden featured in this photo and on her blog. You can follow along at Gardens For Goldens.

rescue dog

In the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden with Ginger

rescue dog

Meeting Ginger last summer. She’s a sweetie.

I’ve also been meaning to share photos of Mike sporting his beautifully woven scarves from fellow blogger Kerry at Love Those Hands at Home. Kerry and her husband took up weaving a few years ago, and now offer their wares on Etsy. She offered to make a couple of scarves for Mike so he could choose one, but he loved them both. The scarves drape beautifully, and are both soft and warm. Here’s Mike over a year ago wearing the two scarves sporting his before and after beard. We both had the flu, so shaving dropped off the list until he was well.

As I write this I’ve just finished a hot cup of Rooibos”tea“. We had multiple power outages throughout the night during a heavy storm but the power is back on and our fence is leaning but still standing. Lot’s of people are happy to replace the fence, but we can’t find a soul that will come and re-pour the improper footings. Twenty years ago we might have re-poured those fittings ourselves, but we’re not feeling it now.

Just one more share: Here’s  34 seconds of Tessa chirping at a flying insect near the window…

…and snuggling in to a pile of sheets on our bed.

Tessa snuggled in the sheets.

What would you share if we could sit down for a cuppa?

About Those Christmas Lights

The jokes abound about leaving up the outdoor Christmas lights well into January. It’s always more fun to put them up than to take them down (says the woman who does neither). The outdoor lights are my husband’s thing.

That said, I had a vested interest in their removal this year after noticing a small deposit of bird droppings at the corner of the front steps just before Christmas. I looked up hoping to see a bird’s nest but alas, no nest in sight.

I got a jug of warm soapy water, rinsed the steps and carried on with my day.

A few days later the droppings were back, but still no sign of my feathered neighbor.

As luck would have it, we drove up the driveway around 5 pm one evening and I got out of the car to fetch some packages. In the process I startled a small red-breasted bird who is apparently sleeping on the edge of the extension cord used to hang the Christmas lights.

Bay Area House Finch

Possibly a house finch, common to the area, and probably male with the red breast

House finch under the eaves

House Finch under the eaves, December 28, 2018

My feathered guest leaves during the day, then returns at dusk for the night. He tucks his head toward the edge of the overhang, perched on the cord, and though it looks inhospitable to me, he’s clearly content. We replaced our Christmas lights several years ago with long-lasting, cool-to-the-touch LED’s so it’s not the heat that attracted him. Why he’s chosen this corner we’ll never know, but when the lights came down yesterday, the extension cord remained.

House finch under the eaves

Still visiting, January 2, 2019

It’s a lovely start to the new year and a softening of the inevitable melancholy that follows when both boys head back to university for another term. I’m immeasurably happy to see this little bird perched there each night, and hope he remains year round.

What’s new in your corner of the world?

Bay Area Birds

Merry Christmas from the Family Felines

It’s hard to time a holiday blog for two hemispheres. Further, not everyone celebrates Christmas.

If you’re celebrating today, or perhaps you’re reading this on Boxing Day, I hope your season is merry.

And if today is just a random Tuesday (or Wednesday), I hope your days are merry, too.

Tessa in a box near Mickey Mouse stocking

Tessa just took a nibble from Mickey’s ear which is part of my son’s Christmas stocking from many years ago.

Lindy sporting Santa hat

Lindy, 16, sporting the miniature Santa hat. She looks sullen, but mostly because I’m blocking the stream of sun keeping her warm.

Lindy the cat sunbathing

Another one of Lindy sunbathing

Mouse the cat on a jigsaw puzzle

We usually have a jigsaw puzzle going this time of year. It’s a popular place to nap as well. That’s Mouse.

Tessa smelling Christmas greens

Who’s misbehaving? Tessa jumped up on the kitchen counter to smell the fresh Christmas greens.

Tessa under the sheets

“…and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.” – Clement Clarke Moore

Wishing you all good things in the coming year.

Love, Alys and the family felines.

The New Abnormal

purple Mexican sage, succulents

Assorted succulents against a back drop of Salvia (Mexican Sage)

It’s been a trying time in our beautiful state.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in a Sunday press conference called the wildfires ravaging the state “the new abnormal,” warning environmental disasters will only “intensify” over the next two decades.

“Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they’re going to intensify,” he added.

I’ve been thinking back to my small efforts to bring my garden into alignment with the realities of living in our semi-arid state. They seem trivial now as we wait for rain, watching helplessly as forests burn, destroying homes and lives.

succulent with red tips

Succulents originate from dry, desert locations

red jelly bean succulent

Succulent comes from the Latin word “sucus”

My friend Laura moved to Paradise, California in June, looking forward to starting a slower-paced life away from Silicon Valley. She’s been fixing up their new home, installing a fence to contain their dog and choosing paint colors for the walls. Their contractor just finished a stairway to the deck.

Last Thursday, Laura’s family and others fled the small town of Paradise as one of the fastest moving and most destructive fires in California history tore through her town. Harrowing tales of fleeing down the highway with walls of flames on both sides are the norm. As of this writing, 138,000 acres burned, over 10,000 structures including homes have been destroyed  and the death toll today climbed to 56. 52,000 people have been evacuated.

peach toned succulent

Succulents thrive in sunlight and dry air

On Sunday, Laura learned that her home was one of the 5% that survived, but it’s small comfort. The fire is expecting to burn for another two weeks, and when it’s finally out, the infrastructure is gone. Without phone lines, cell towers or electricity, there isn’t much to go back to. She’s staying here in the Valley with her folks, desperate to return home and hoping her cat is okay.

Meanwhile, a second massive fire burns in Southern California.

assorted succulent

Cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti

Our beautiful planet must surely weep with the agony of her destruction.

I appreciate all my friends out of the area that have reached out in concern. We live in Silicon Valley, and though close to forested areas, we’re a safe distance from the flames. Smoke from the fires hangs over the Bay Area, creating unhealthy air quality for a week. Schools are keeping children indoors and local marathons and foot races cancelled till further notice.

There is a sense of collective grief, with everyone knowing someone that’s been affected by these fires.  We all want to help.

smoky skies

Grey skies from smoke

For now, we wait and hope.

Halloween Revisited and a Few Lasting Impressions

With my youngest son away at university our household Halloween mojo has been split in two, severed if you will, covered in cobwebs and devoid of life.

fall garden, pumpkins, ghost

Fall garden, pumpkins and obligatory ghost

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I knew Halloween would feel different this year. My youngest has enormous Halloween spirit, and that spirit has momentarily left the building.

I shook off my wistfulness and set about decorating in my abbreviated style. We didn’t set up the inflatables this year, and there are no teenagers at home to “build” a haunted house.

The light-catcher is up in the window, and my pumpkin collection adorns the table, now set with two places, not four. There are a few night lights lighting the way to the bathroom in the dark hours of the night. Both lights were gifts from friends.

We have pumpkins, of course. The squirrels planted a few seeds last fall, and most of the vines grew in the planting box.

My Halloween cards are also simple this year. I pulled out my Big Shot and a few watercolor postcards and made pumpkin leaf impressions. The transfers turned out really well with the extra moisture from the leaf absorbed into the paper. They have a nice, organic scent to them too, though I’m not sure it will last. Who doesn’t love the smell of chlorophyl?

The process is simple. While the leaves are freshly harvested, you sandwich the leaf against the water-color paper, then insert between folded scrap paper before running it through the Big Shot. The leaves have a lot of moisture, so the extra paper helps absorb it.

After drying, and pressing the cards between a hefty volume of Shakespeare, I hand-stamped a few images on the front and back of the card.

I found beautiful dragon postage stamps at our local post office in orange, purple, and gold. They’re the perfect finishing touch.

We attended one Halloween party this year, and as usual had a wonderful time. The theme this year: horror kitsch. We struggled with a concept, till one of the women at our favorite costume shop, Natasha’s Attic suggested the ghosts from the Haunted Mansion Disneyland ride. I love Natasha’s and the folks who work there. It’s a family owned business here in San Jose.  They’ve been around since 1977. It takes me back to my theatre roots whenever I’m there.

Natasha’s pulled together vintage pieces for us from their costume shop. We bought shoes from a charity thrift store, donned wigs and painted our faces a ghostly tint. My friend Isaac suggested seed lights to add to the ghostly effect. I sewed one strand under my skirt and another strand under Mike’s cravat.

Mike’s makeup is superior to mine *and* he did it all himself. He applied latex, then makeup, and even bought a pair of “rotten teeth” for full effect.

With the horrific news of this past week, Halloween gave us a welcome respite from the madness. If I haven’t said it lately, thank you for being here. My heart sings a little song with each comment and like.

Happy Halloween!

A Tale of Two Artists

Perhaps you’ve already met.

Just in case, allow me to introduce two of my favorite artists, Anne Lawson and Pauline King.

Sometimes you fall in love with an artist’s work, knowing little about the artist themselves. In this case I fell in love with the artists through blogging, then discovered their work.

Earlier this year, Anne shared one of her recent creations on Instagram: the gorgeous pumpkin you see below. It’s painted with watercolors, then over-stitched with a variety of threads. It’s stunning and it’s mine!  I framed the piece using a floating glass frame without a mat, so that I can enjoy the piece front and back.

I connected with Anne’s blog many years ago. She’s a botanical artist living in Australia, a retired teacher and a wonderful soul. I’ve enjoyed watching Anne’s work evolve. She’s always trying new things. As a life-long lover of botanical art, I’ve really enjoyed learning about Anne’s process.

Anne describes herself as “a Melbourne based artist, who is inspired by the natural world. [Her] small art works are available in [her] Etsy shop.”

Anne blogs at Anne Lawson Art. She also publishes a fortnightly newsletter which you can subscribe to here.

Here’s a photo of it framed and hanging on my home office/craft room wall.

Anne Lawson Art: Mixed Media Pumpkin

Pauline King dabbles in a number of mediums. She’s a painter, a crafter and a mixed-media artist. Those who follow Pauline are familiar with her gorgeous light catchers, personalized to the receiver with colored beads, glass and charms. They’re bouncing light in homes across the globe. You can see more of Pauline’s work in The Contented Crafter’s shop.

The beautiful and ethereal piece you see below came from Pauline’s heart.

She created it for my sister whom she’s never met, but of course has been hearing about for years. When Sharon received the piece, she exclaimed “it’s as if she knows me!”  Sharon loves Halloween, witches, cats and purple so you can imagine her delight when she opened it.

Since she was redoing her floors, Sharon asked me to hold this for safe keeping, and of course I happily obliged.  Today I picked it up from the frame shop and will return it to my sister this week.

Pauline King’s gift to my sister Sharon: The Wise Woman

Sharon originally wanted to frame it in black, but when she read Pauline’s blog and saw the piece on a white tray, she decided to frame it in white instead.

Sharon also decided to base this year’s Halloween costume on The Wise Woman. Stay tuned for pics.

Meanwhile, here is a lovely quote from George Sand:

The artist vocation is to send light into the human heart.

Agreed!

A Journey Back to Blogging

I’ll write a blog post tomorrow, I thought, and then, and then, and then. Tomorrow becomes next week, then a month, while life serves up challenges big and small.

I miss blogging. My time on WordPress has yielded wonderful friendships, rich connections, and thoughtful and thought-provoking conversations. How could I be away for so long? In short, life is full.

My youngest son went away to college in August. This included helping him get ready, attempts at helping him get ready, a one-fell-swoop shopping trip and a day-long drive to Southern California.  Within a few weeks my oldest son went back to the dorms, and is now into his senior college year.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary (23 years on September 23rd)

after dinner Santana Row

After dinner at Santana Row

and ten days later I turned 59. Dear friends visited from Canada over my birthday week, including a few days in beautiful Carmel.

My volunteer work at Lifted Spirits kicked into full gear. If I wasn’t working with organizing clients, I spent time volunteering in the boutique. I work two shifts a week, and I’m often there on Thursdays organizing the boutique or other areas of the program. It feels like home.  The work is challenging and rewarding. It also allows me to serve women in need in my  community. I’m learning so much as I go. My favorite organizing project so far is the computer lab. We needed extra space for other programs, so I split the room in two using an abandoned old chalkboard and a fancy shower curtain found in a drawer. How’s that for using what you’ve got?

Mike and I are enjoying our evenings and weekends as a couple once again. In many ways, the empty-nest blahs seemed worse leading up to the boys respective departures. It eased once I knew my young men were and getting on with life.

This past weekend we planned to fly down to see our youngest son for parent weekend. I ended up going alone. I took Mike to urgent care the night before, where they referred us to the ER. They diagnosed Mike with a blood clot or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). It was a long, scary night, but he’s home and receiving good medical care. He’s not allowed to fly for at least three months so we’re adjusting to the idea of possible train travel.  Mike’s not in pain and he’s able to work, so those are both a plus.

Our felines continue to cozy up the place. As the weather cools into a California autumn, I hope to haul out my crochet once again.

Meanwhile, I’m on the committee for our Front Door Communities, Lifted Spirits fundraiser in early November. I’m putting together the program, a soup recipe book, preparing a raffle item and working with another volunteer assembling silent auction items.  It’s a busy time.

Oh, and the garden I used to blog about? It’s still here. The tomatoes were a complete bust this summer, with four huge plants producing about two dozen tomatoes in all.  I planted late-season cantaloupe, only to see them munched under cover of darkness.  I did manage five small pumpkins so all is not lost in the produce department. Overall though, I feel like I lost my gardening mojo. As that tired cliché goes, there’s always next year.

Here in the States we’re gearing up for mid-term elections in three weeks. Once again our garage will serve as a polling place. Change is in the air. I can feel it.

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you are doing well.