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.

Scrap Happy August

I’m joining Kate of Tall Tales from Chiconia  for another monthly scrap-happy blog post. The challenge is to use scraps from other projects to make something useful, beautiful or both. Several bloggers post once a month showcasing a project made entirely from scraps.

I’m sharing a couple of scrappy cards this month using a style I learned in a card-making class earlier this year. It’s called a z fold card because of the shape it makes when opened. The cards we made in class were too fussy for my taste, but I really liked the lines. Half the fun of learning something new, is coming home and making it in your own style.

The first card went to Anne who blogs at Anne Lawson Art. Anne is an amazing artist with a special love of feathers. She sells her work in her Etsy shop. If you aren’t already following Anne, go have a look around. Her work will take your breath away.

I started with a general idea, but Anne’s card evolved over time. Out of a pack of assorted paper I found a single page of white feathers on a gray background. Kismet! I had to set that one aside for Anne. Then I found a couple of feather ephemera in a box of scraps. I couldn’t believe my luck. I had a small scrap of paper with “friend” written in a variety of languages, and finally I had all I needed for Anne’s card.

feathered z-card

Feathers and friendships: A z-card for Anne

That said, you crafty types know that it’s not done till it’s done. The open card needed a little extra something. Knowing Anne’s love of nature, I decided to add a cut out of a nature scene from a book I brought home from Germany nearly thirty years ago. They published Holden’s Nature Notes posthumously in a book called The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. I loved the art and had hoped to brush up on my German at the time by reading the beautiful entries. All these years later, one of Holden’s pages made it in to Anne’s card.

feathered z card with holden art

Assorted scraps often make the best cards

A small strip of Washi tape and a bit of sparkle and the card was ready for the post.

opened feathered z card

The opened card forms a box

Thumbing through Edith Holden’s book inspired a second card. Her illustrations are gorgeous. I also love the old, parchment-colored paper. Time to take it off the shelf and give some of the pages a second life.

Edith Holden book cover

Edith Holden’s beautiful art

I used the same z-fold card format for my friend’s birthday card. Paper scraps formed the bottom of the card, while punched pages from my Holden book decorate the facade and the interior. I kept this design simple, letting the illustrations speak for themselves.

birthday z-card

A birthday card for a friend

opened z-card

Opened z-card

Edith Holden calendar page

One of Edith Holden’s calendar pages

Edith Holden illustrations

Edith Holden illustrations

Are you joining this month’s scrap-happy blog hop? Please post your link or comment below.

Thanks for inspiring us, Kate.

From Kate’s blog:

“ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? You can email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page. New members are welcome. No long-term commitment required. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.”

The Perennials of August

Those heady, early days of spring feel like a first date. Everything is new and full of promise. The perennials of August, however, are more like a comfortable relationship. They’re predictable, sure, but they’re easy, reliable, and strong.

When we removed the last of our lawn in 2015, we made way for a number of new perennials, most of them native to semi-arid California. From my back garden swing each day, I see bees, hummingbirds and butterflies moving between plants. They find nectar for sustenance, and pollinate as they go. They’re welcome visitors and a daily reminder of the benefits of “going native” in one’s community.

Won’t you come have a look?

garden from of house

Front garden: Yellow kangaroo paw stand tall, with swaying grasses and Salvia to the front of them.

This is the front garden, facing the house. It’s taken a few years, but the plants have matured and filled in the space nicely.

Here’s another perspective:

Magnolia tree and perennials

Pink, orange and yellow hues surround the Magnolia tree

And here are a few closeups of the plants surrounding the Magnolia:

Mouse the cat and little free library

I love this shot of Mouse the cat with the Little Free Library cat silhouette in the foreground. Tall native grasses, left, and pink Scabiosa in the curb garden.

Scabiosa, sometimes referred to as a pincushion plant, has lovely tufts of soft pink. I was in the process of dead-heading some of the plants this week, when I encountered a praying mantis. They’re otherworldly, always fascinating and good for the garden. They will, however, sometimes pray on hummingbirds, so I’m always of two minds when I see one.

Here is a view of the back garden at dusk. I’ve taken several pictures of this plant grouping but always struggle to capture the beauty. I wish you could see it in person. The sun warms the plants, releasing that wonderful sage-like scent. Most of the flowers are quite small, but beautiful closeup.

I never tire of watching the bees go about their day.

bee pollinating trichostema

Trichostema, commonly known as blue curls, visited by a bee

Trichostema trichostema

Small lizards like to sun themselves in the garden, but Tessa treats them like toys. I’ve placed over-turned saucers under several plants to offer shelter from her reaching paws.

garden swing

A nice place to read the paper on a Saturday morning

perennial plants back garden

Back garden near the swing planted with native perennial plants

I’ll always love Spring’s first blush of show-stopping bulbs and flirty annuals. They quicken the heart and remind us that we’re alive. Yet as we endure these hot, dry dog-days of summer, the August perennials are a lovely reminder of strength, endurance and love.

Moving Summer Along

Hello, hello!

It’s been awhile, eh?

I seem to have lost my blogging mojo this summer.

I’m jumping back in with a summer roundup, even though the first day of autumn in California is still weeks away. Part of me is willing it to be October, with cooler temps and that special crackle in the air. I’m emotionally done with summer, 2018.

On a national level, it feels like we’re on a reverse journey to the 1950s, and not in a good way. I wake up feeling a little off-center, wondering what fresh hell the US president has unleashed. It wears on me.

hazy skies in San Jose

Hazy skies in San Jose

To add to the summer gloom, California’s wildfire season started early, with dozens of wildfires up and down the state. The Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California is now the largest in California history.

Setting aside any of the absurdities you may have heard from a certain someone’s ill-advised Tweet, California has one of the most sophisticated fire-fighting agencies in the world. That said, here is what CAL FIRE has been up against. According to the Los Angeles Times,

Across California, the nighttime brought little relief, recording the highest minimum temperature statewide of any month since 1895, rising to 64.9.

California has been getting hotter for some time, but July was in a league of its own. The intense heat fueled fires across the state, from San Diego County to Redding, that have burned more than 1,000 homes and killed eight. It brought heat waves that overwhelmed electrical systems, leaving swaths of Los Angeles without power.

I check the nearby hills for fire activity every morning. Everyone is on edge, knowing that rainfall in this state won’t arrive till late October.

Graduating high school

On the home front, I’m mentally and emotionally preparing myself for my youngest son’s first year away at university. We’ll be dropping him off at college in Southern California in ten short days. Part of me is ready to get the initial separation over with. It’s time to pull off the mommy Band-Aid and let the tears fall where they may. The fine print of parenthood is that one day they really do leave home. Sure, sure, you know that on an intellectual level. It is still a bit of a stunner when they actually do. The part of raising them is over, but the emotional attachment lasts a life time.

Having said all that, I know that my 18-year-old son is bright, capable, kind and engaged. He is also socially astute. He’s ready to leave the nest and I know he’ll soar. I’m taking extra tissue with me anyway.

Lifted Spirits Boutique

Lifted Spirits Boutique

The bright spot this summer has been spending time volunteering at Lifted Spirits, a drop-in program for homeless women in San Jose. My organizing business slowed down at the start of the summer, freeing up time to spend with this wonderful organization. In addition to volunteering in the women’s clothing “boutique” for a couple of shifts a week,  I’ve been reorganizing the front office, the kitchen, the staff room and the boutique. My own spirits lift when I spend time there serving others. I’ve learned a lot about myself as well. I feel a tremendous camaraderie with my fellow volunteers and all who serve the homeless men and women in our community.

growing pumpkins

Pumpkin Crop, 2018

My beautiful garden hums along. The tomatoes are ripening slowly, but they’re delicious as we pluck them from the vine. The self-seeded pumpkin vines have produced five pumpkins so far. Two are small, about the size of a cantaloupe with two more suitable for carving. I had one pumpkin fully ripen, then almost immediately soften. More seeds for next year’s garden I guess.  Most of my pots are now planted with succulents. Unlike me, they tolerate hot, dry conditions. I learned a trick to better watering, too. I place ice cubes on the soil’s surface and let them melt, slowly watering the plants. This way I don’t have any runoff, since the plants dry out between watering. It’s working well.

There you have it.

What’s happening in your world this summer/winter of 2018?

Families Belong Together

KeepFamiliesTogether

Art: Sandie Sonke

#FamiliesBelongTogether

It’s such a clever hashtag, one that if you weren’t in the know might evoke thoughts of summer picnics, trips to the beach or as a way to tag your 4th of July, Independence Day photos.

Instead, Families Belong Together is a response to the current administration’s desire to stop immigrants from crossing our southern border. Instead of compelling Congress to act on a comprehensive immigration bill, the administration has implemented what’s known as a “zero-tolerance policy” of arresting anyone crossing the border without papers. Many of these border crossings are families seeking refuge from violence and political unrest. Some have traveled for up to a month with young children, looking for a better life.

This Administration’s response: Arrest the parents, then immediately separate *families* from their children.

Let that settle in.

Las Familias Merecen Estar Unidas

Spanish version of Families Belong Together

Authorities place parents in detention centers, immediately separating them from their infants and small children. Traumatized children are placed in a separate detention center, sometimes in another *state* with no understanding of why. Images of children sleeping on the floor covered in mylar blankets have evoked outrage. Footage of crying children, desperate for their mother have all but the hardest-hearts weeping along with them. Comparisons to Japanese interment camps and Nazi Germany abound.

I attended a Families Belong Together rally this past weekend and have found solace in numbers. There were over a thousand people at the San Jose rally on Saturday, a hot, windless, mid-day gathering. Throughout the country thousands of people rallied in over 700 locations. Rallies bring people together, spread the word, and offer resources for ways to help.

I’ve also been finding temporary respite from a steady hum of depression by volunteering at Lifted Spirits, a program for homeless women in San Jose. When I’m busy and engaged helping others, it helps me feel less overwhelmed. Spending time at Lifted Spirits allows me to positively impact someone else’s life without being swallowed whole by a situation I feel powerless to change. I’ll share more about their mission in a future post.

#FamiliesBelongTogether

FamiliesBelongTogether.org

If you’re also feeling overwhelmed, here are a few resources…

Colorlines published: How You Can Support Detainees with a number of helpful resources.

…and a few inspiring words from MoveOn.org:

“More than 180 partner organizations came together to pull this off, including MoveOn, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, the ACLU, faith groups such as Sojourners and the Presbyterian Church, Avaaz, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a range of labor unions, the YWCA, scores more tremendous allies and partners, and countless local groups in cities large and small, united across lines of ethnicity, race, national origin, and language.

When you feel alone, when it’s all too much, remember that what is possible when we come together. That there is power in our numbers.

In the decades to come, people will ask themselves and each other what they did to fight the darkness at this moment in history.

On Saturday, many of us summoned a piece of an answer. We were in the streets. And we won’t stop until we turn the darkness back.”

Here are a few pics from our San Jose Families Belong Together rally.

Sewing For My Sister

I’ve been doing a bit of sewing for my sister. She used to sew for herself (we both did), but as her MS (Multiple Sclerosis) has advanced, she’s no longer able to work her machine. Instead we have fun planning small projects together.

Sharon loves animal prints, specifically leopard and zebra, so we find ways to incorporate those when we can. She also loves purple and black.

I spotted this print (wink, wink) at a local fabric store and I knew Sharon would love it. The fabric is weighty with a nice drape, and blends leopard and cheetah-like spots with a hint of zebra thrown in. The fabric has a thin gold thread running through it to add a bit of sparkle.

leopard chetah zebra print dress

The Dress

My sister is small, but she wears several layers to keep warm, so we opted for a large-sized pattern to cover the bulky layers.  This left too much fabric along the yoke, though it was easily fixed with a row of gathering along the bodice.

She wears the dress over a pair of black sweaters with her knee-high boots. She hates posing for pictures, unless she’s dressed for Halloween, so you’ll have to use your imagination. (She’s adorable)

leopard dress full length

Full length view

The next sewing project involved modifying a vest. Sharon uses a heating pad at work for warmth and back pain, but she had no way of keeping it in place. I came up with the idea of making a pocket (using a scrap of leopard print of course) that would hold the heating pad against her back without shifting. The pad proved too heavy to stay in place, so I modified the idea by adding a strip of velcro along the inside. She can remove and warm the heating pad, then tuck it back into the pocket. The vest keeps it close and cozy.

Next up, modifying a terry robe for the pool. Sharon swims at the YMCA seven days a week. When she gets out of the pool, she moves directly to her motorized scooter. Since she uses the scooter throughout the day, she needs the seat to stay dry. Their was also an issue with pool water possibly draining into the scooter’s battery compartment directly below the seat.

After looking at dozens of robes on-line, I learned that “short” is a standard size but far too long for this purpose. I couldn’t find any pretty terry cloth in town, surmising that it has somehow fallen out of favor. Everything we see is velour. Velour is soft and pretty but it’s not absorbent. I eventually found this gorgeous purple terry robe online, and altered it by cutting off the extra length and over-locking a hem to reduce bulk.

That extra length of terry will make it into a future cat bed.

altered purple terry robe

That’s Tessa in the lower, left corner

purple terry robe

Hemmed and ready to wear

We have one more project in the works. It’s also soft, warm and purple and flew home with me from my visit to Portland earlier this year. My friend, Marlene, took me to an enormous fabric store called Fabric Depot where I bought two yards of this lovely Minky chenille. Marlene even had a generous coupon. I’d never seen this pretty pattern before.

I was thinking “blanket” but Sharon requested a loose-fitting bolero. We found the perfect used pattern on-line, so as time allows I’ll be threading my Bernina with purple thread once again.

It’s been fun sewing for my sister.

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In a Vase on Monday: Scented Sweet Peas

assorted sweet peas

Sweet Peas in Assorted Glass Jars

I’m joiningThe Cathys” once again for their weekly feature, In a Vase on Monday.

My swoon-worthy sweet pea jungle has returned. It’s colorful and wonderfully scented. Sweet peas seem to remind every one of their grandmother’s garden. They evoke a wonderful nostalgia.

This year I’m seeing more variegated colors including lavender with white and pink with white. That’s new and fun.

sweet peas front garden

Sweet Pea Jungle

I save glass jars throughout the year, and sometimes supplement with a few jars from a local craft store. I found some this year on clearance for fifty cents.  I cut flowers for my Pilates classmates, a group who loves to chat about gardening, and for my neighbors and friends. Last week I cut some flowers for a woman walking her dog and she said I made her day. I got to pet the puppy and she went home with some sweet peas. It doesn’t get better than that this time of year.

assorted sweet peas in glass jars

Sweet Peas Arranged by Color on my Potting Bench

sweet peas and nigella

Sweet Peas with Some Nigella Sprigs

We’ve had a mild May so the flowers have lasted longer than usual as well. Sunday was the start of our first heat wave with temps in the mid-eighties or (30C). I’ve really enjoyed the cooler temps.

sweet peas near Little Free Library

Sweet Peas Growing Near the Little Free Library * Mouse the Cat on the Path

Click on over to see some of the other beautiful vases featured on In A Vase on Monday.

Anna at GreenTapestry

Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides

and more.

Thank you Cathy at Words and Herbs and Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for your ongoing inspiration.

I think I’ll celebrate my WordPress anniversary with some freshly cut sweet peas.

WordPress 7th anniversary

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