ScrapHappy Cards: Stress-Busters

Stress is the enemy, and crafting is the cure…or something like that. I’ve had a lot of stress in my life this past month, so I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my card-making distraction.

I cut several paper scraps into half-inch strips and tossed them in a box. Rhythm is great for reducing stress.

Time permitting, I then sorted the strips by color. Some of my scraps are printed on both sides, offering lots of variety. Still no actual cards at this point, but sorting by color is cheering.

From there, I looked up some simple quilt designs for inspiration. Who doesn’t like looking at beautiful art and quilts?

At the suggestion of my friend Dawn, I bought an embossing folder that imprints a quilt-like texture on paper. A little retail therapy for the win.

I love the embossing folder. It feels like a bit of magic each time the folder imprints on the card. Here’s a closeup:

After assembling a few cards, my colored strips were in disarray. So I cut a few wax seed envelopes in half and taped the open side. Now the strips are contained but still easy to see.

Wax seed bag, before cutting it in half
One bag makes two

Here’s my collection of cards:

I’ve made cards using this simple pattern before. I enjoy the blending of color, pattern, and texture.

Here’s a similar card, but using the strips of paper at different angles.

Two solids and two patterned papers

I enjoyed using one solid and one pattern on this card. The sentiment is printed on the reverse side of the fan-shaped paper.

This card loosely follows the colors of the rainbow. The dark purple is too saturated in color for this combo, but it’s all about using scraps so there you go. It’s the only solid purple scrap I had.

This might have been the last card of the day before the Tessa interlude. I used 18 different paper scraps. It reminds me of some of the heritage quilts I’ve seen over the years assembled from old clothing pieces. I’ve always admired the history and beauty of those quilts.

18-Patterned pieces
Tessa loves paper, too.

This pattern primarily exists in my imagination. I call it the tea party. The light pink along the bottom represents the table; the gingham is the tablecloth and above that is the tea service. The fourth layer represents flowers outside the window. Along the sides are lace doilies draped on the back of the blue chairs. Still don’t see it? Try switching from tea to wine.

Tea Party Card

This last card is for a special friend who suffered an unimaginable loss. I made this card by laying down half-inch strips in a simple square pattern before cutting a heart from the center. Next I raised the heart with small pieces of foam tape, then replaced it in the heart-shaped opening. The raised heart adds some interest and texture, though it’s hard to see in this photo.

That look on Tessa’s face put an end to my crafting for the day, but that’s okay. Kitty’s are great stress-busters, too.

Tessa always has an opinion.

Thank you for hosting these monthly ScrapHappy Days, Kate.

I learned something new in the Block Editor today. I saved the list of ScrapHappy bloggers as a reusable block. Now I drop it into my post without the need to cut and paste each month. Welcome, Jule, our newest ScrapHappy Day blogger.

Kate, our hostGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChris,
KerryClaireJeanJon, HayleyDawn,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Noreen,
Bear, Carol, PreetiEdith, Debbierose, and Jule

Celebrating Pauline King

I miss Pauline. Our clever, artistic, kind, and generous friend should be celebrating another birthday this week.

So many of us got to know Pauline King when she joined the blogging community. In my case, our online friendship blossomed into in-person meetups, first on this side of the world and later in beautiful New Zealand. In between those visits, we made do with video chats.

Our final day in Wanaka, New Zealand: Kelly, Alys, Danella, Pauline, Steve, Laurie, Jo, and Mike

Pauline slipped away on her birthday last year, but she left a remarkable gift: a warm and deepening friendship with her daughters Danella and Jo.

Today I want to offer you a gift to honor and celebrate Pauline’s extraordinary life, but first an explanation.

Pauline’s June, 2019 post Vivid Colours, features several pieces of her original work. As always, wonderful conversations in the comments section followed. I fell in love with one of her cards featuring her cat Orlando. I suggested:

The Orlando card got me thinking, too. If you’re ever inspired, you could move the text down along the books to narrow the design and print bookmarks. I would buy 100 of them for my LFL. Just a thought.

Alys

The always-generous Pauline did just that, but instead of selling them to me, she sent me a PDF with the following note:

Original Art By Pauline King

In honor of Pauline’s birthday September 5th, I would like to send you one of her bookmarks. Please don’t worry about the cost of postage. I want to share her bookmarks around the world. This offer is open to anyone who appreciates her art. Please send me your mailing address using my Contact Form, and I will mail you a bookmark-sized slice of Pauline’s art.

If you followed Pauline, please share a favorite memory in the comments below.

Happy birthday, Pauline!

Pauline and Siddy, the apple of each other’s eye.

This post is dedicated to Pauline’s daughters, Jo and Danella, and to Pauline’s puppy Siddy and her marmalade cat Orlando who continue to live the good life with Danella.

Gardens and August Grief

My dad was a horticulturist by trade. He built our Canadian garden from a pile of dirt, transporting rock by rock to create a small brook that meandered through our back yard. By November most years, everything received a blanket of snow.

In the garden, August 2021

We moved to California in 1966, but Dad died of lung cancer three years later. As a result, he never got to realize his dream of a California garden. I carry Dad’s memory, along with the dirt under my nails and twigs in my hair, whenever I spend time gardening.

My dad died in August of 1969. His sister, and my namesake Aunt Alys, also died in August, but nearly 40 years later.

Dad on the middle horse, India, 1941
Aunt Alys, England 1930

I often feel lost this time of year, adrift in memories and full of melancholy. I’ve learned to let the feelings flow. Today a Google search revealed that a BBC radio show interviewed Aunt Alys’ neighbors shortly after her death. Unfortunately, John and Anne Matthews didn’t share this with me at the time, and now the program is archived and unavailable. So it goes. Somehow it brought about more loss, more tears.

If I could walk hand in hand with Dad on this warm August day, I would show him our garden, name the plants, and laugh about the botanical names that I can never keep straight. I would let him know that his little girl grew up and is now a mother to two incredible young men.

On my family’s porch with my sister Sharon and others in London, Ontario, Canada, early 1960s

He would be saddened to know that Sharon is struggling with MS and that the pandemic has been unkind. The loss of a daily swim has rendered her legs almost useless. Dad would comfort her, and love her, and then he would do something to make her laugh. I miss that, too.

Dad would love my husband Mike, a kind and clever man with a generous spirit and a loving heart.

Most of all, Dad would be tickled to know that I inherited his love of gardening. I would give him a hug and thank him for passing on his passion and his favorite color green to a daughter who loved him then, and who loves him now. I wish we could enjoy time in the garden together one more time.

As Projects Go

Back in April, I committed to two garden projects this season. I was enthusiastic at the time, as one often is when projects are simply ideas in your head.

Of course, the first project seemed like more fun: replace the long-in-the-tooth garden swing with a new glider. Done!

The second project involved repairing or replacing the top of my garden bench.

I started in the lumber aisle of our local big-box store, pretending that I wasn’t entirely out of my league. I looked at planks of wood and pre-cut surfaces but nothing seemed quite right. Further, the cost and availability of lumbar has been challenging due to COVID-related supply chain issues. Ok, so that’s another excuse for feeling overwhelmed by it all. I mean how expensive can it be to buy a small section of wood?

The existing garden bench boards are warped, but removing them further jeopardizes the sturdiness of the entire unit. I would need to replace the boards or attach something on top of them, followed by more sanding and paint. Neither of those projects worked out well the last time, so my reluctance is rooted in that experience.

In the end, I went in a completely different direction, and I’m pleased with the results. I ordered a plexiglass top from a local place called Tap Plastic. The acrylic is available in a variety of thicknesses, depending on need. I ordered a product called “green glass,” which mimics the real deal for a fraction of the cost. They created this custom-made acrylic top for less than a hundred dollars.

I made a pattern to include the surface and the small recessed area at the back. The new plexiglass top slides into the notched area, helping keep it in place.

You can see the rounded corners and the notched extension in the above photo.

I can change the look by swapping out table runners or placemats. The surface wipes clean with a damp cloth which is another plus over the wood surface. I hope it lasts for years.

This striped cloth draped on the bench is a gift from my friend Rosie. She brought it home with her from a trip to Africa a few years ago. I searched for the proper term but gave up. I found many sources and suggestions, including Mud cloth, Kente cloth, Kantha cloth, and simply “head tie.” I don’t want to attribute it to something it’s not. The fabric is soft and vibrant with a lovely drape.

The gorgeous birdhouse is hand-crafted by my friend, Laura. She started her own business a few years ago, making one-of-a-kind ceramic birdhouses in Paradise, California. I don’t have the heart to hang it on a branch for fear of breaking it in a strong wind, so I have it on the bench instead. Both gifts are lovely reminders of dear friends.

The rest of the garden is doing okay, though some plants are showing stress from reduced watering and heat. Only one of the three tomato plants produced decent fruit. The other two plants are stunted, even though we planted them in rich soil. So it goes with gardening.

That said, I count myself lucky to have many established native plants. They thrive in this climate and won’t bothered by a lack of water.

Meanwhile, I’m dreaming of rain.

Sunday Snapshot: Finding the Light

I timed my photo-taking just right this evening, snapping several pictures at dusk. The light is perfect.

Dusk is my favorite time of day during the hot summer months. The brutal sun finally sets but the air is warm. I enjoy the sound of crickets and the familiar scent of garlic in the air from nearby Gilroy.

Fresh strawberries are another summer hallmark. The VegTrug is more densely planted this summer making it harder for critters to spot the red berries. I wouldn’t swear to that but it’s my working theory every time I harvest a delicious berry, unmolested by a rat, snail, or squirrel. These plants are six years old, so it’s the end of their run. Next summer I’ll plant even more.

Mike added acid-rich plant food to the hydrangea last year, hoping to bring back the shades of blue. Interestingly, the above two photos are from the same plant. I’m enjoying the variety.

Equally stunning is this bright red hibiscus. I have a pair growing in one of the lower beds, but they’ll eventually need transplanting. They can grow to eight feet tall! This one is only about 24 inches. I need to do more research to see if I can encourage the plants to stay small. They fit so nicely along the garden path.

The bougainvillea fills out this corner beautifully. It drapes nicely across the VegTrug, and it also looks pretty from our bedroom window. You can see one of the hibiscus flowers just beyond. I love the play of sun on the neighboring pine tree.

As garden chores go, I didn’t have as much to do this week. No rain means no extra weeds, except of course for the oxalis along the front garden path. I dead-headed the miniature roses and some salvia, and clipped away spent seed casings on the cornflowers. They’re looking pretty shabby but the birds love eating the seeds, so they’ll stay in the garden till they are completely spent. I used some rain barrel water to refresh the potted succulents and to rinse part of the deck.I finally found some cushions that I like for our settee and chairs online. They arrived last week. They’re twice as thick as the original cushions, so they’re really comfortable. We enjoyed spending time out there this week. The deck is also a favorite hummingbird spot, so it’s great for bird-watching as well. In addition to the two feeders, the hummers like the nectar of the kangaroo paw and the gladiolas.

I hope you’re finding light in your corner of the world.

Sunday Snapshot: Tripping Hazards and Mackerel Skies

It’s early Sunday evening here in San Jose. We’re holding our proverbial breath for the next 24 hours as a weather front passes through. We’re in a “severe drought” with fire conditions two months ahead of the norm. The last thing we need is the predicted round of dry lightening. Last year similar conditions started wildfires up and down the state with devastating results. The weather warnings make it hard to relax.

I hosted our book club this week for the first time in two years. We gathered in the garden for a catch-up and a light meal. I filled my tiered vintage basket with fresh lemons, and debuted my new tablecloth. It’s the little things, eh?

The following snapshots are from the garden this week. Our Bougainvillea is filling out beautifully, and the pink bracts frame the tiny white flower within. Mama finch

never returned to her nest, so after climbing on a ladder to be sure she didn’t leave eggs behind, I removed her nest so we could finally open the patio drapes. Our wisteria is in bloom for the second time this season. The flowers were more spectacular in the spring, but now lush green vines show-off the new color. The green and yellow Japanese forest grass reminds me a little of the character Cousin Itt from the 1960s TV show The Addam’s Family. The last photo is of Tessa wrapped between my feet, posing a tripping hazard. I managed to remain upright nonetheless.

Photos appear in a gallery view. Click on individual pictures to enlarge.

I’m sending good vibes to our friends in Germany where the weather has been unkind. My heart goes out to you. Alys

So Many Scraps, So Little Time

I look forward to Kate’s monthly crafting challenge. Kate encourages the art of creating something beautiful or useful or both, made entirely out of scraps.

My volunteer work has kept me busy this month, so in addition to challenging myself to craft with scraps, I also challenged myself to find windows of time for creativity. I made a simple to-do list to go along with the lengthy one. The simple list says: Blog, garden, craft, repeat. It’s a reminder to take time for myself doing some of the things I love.

My favorite scrap-happy project this month is a thank-you card. I made the card for the recipient using the envelope from one of her cards. The colors are a calming blue and green, with a splash of orange.

Here’s the envelope with the flaps opened flat.

I cut a piece from the front that incorporated several of the colors, above.

I embossed the section with a flower pattern, then trimmed it to a clean rectangle.

Of course, having my name in the center of the card wouldn’t do. So, I took another piece of the envelope, embossed a scrap, and used it to hide my name.

I embossed a few more scraps to bring color and texture to other parts of the card.

I used a scrap of white card-stock to cut the word “thanks” and another scrap to make a white folding card.

Here is the finished card, above. I used the remaining scraps to create a label for the front of the mailing envelope and for a seal for the back. I wanted to include credit for the envelope art, so I put her name on the back of my card.

The scraps were too small to make a label, so I pieced them together, then cut with one of my dies.

Ironically, my next scrappy project is an envelope. Elizabeth loves horses, and spends her spare time on a ranch. She buys bags of carrots before she goes. I traced an envelope template onto carrot-patterned paper, leftover from an Easter pack. I cut a scrap of green card stock, used brown ink around the edges for a distressed look, then wrapped it with a scrap of leather from a pair of old bootlaces. I secured the edges of the leather with waxed thread that has been rolling around my sewing box since 1980!

My last and quirkiest entry this month is my nautical jewelry. I tied a piece of jute string around the neck of this tiny bottle. The bottle held a single-serving of hot sauce either at a restaurant or on a flight. I don’t remember. I rescued it from its likely destination (the trash) and used it once for a costume. It recently resurfaced, and I’ve pressed it into use as a necklace. I wrapped the bottle with nautical-themed Washi tape, and scrapped my way to an original piece of jewelry.

The necklace also doubles as a cat toy.

That’s a scrap (wrap)!

Do you have scraps laying around the place waiting for a new life? Come join us for future scrap-happy posts.

Thanks for hosting, Kate.

Be sure to check out the blogs listed below for other scrap-happy posts.

Kate, our hostGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
KerryClaireJeanJon, HayleyDawn,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Noreen,
Bear, Carol, PreetiEdith, Debbierose

An Instrument of Grace

We’re heading into another heatwave, though nothing as brutal as the recent Pacific Northwest. Gardening takes place in the morning, then after dinner till sunset.

The gladiolas are multiplying. They’re short-lived but spectacular.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a rare, unscheduled day, and I spent a good portion of it in the garden. I made an early trip to a garden center and hauled home eight bags of garden mulch. It helps retain moisture, and with drought conditions, we need to preserve every drop. I harvested some on our compost mulch as well. I’ll share more about that endeavor in a future post.

A thick layer of mulch

San Jose Water Company’s directive asks us to cut back lawn watering to two days a week. We replaced our lawn with native plants several years ago during the last major drought, so we’re now able to water with an efficient drip system just one day a week. Last week we checked the level of our rainwater tanks, and they’re at about 75% capacity.

One of three rainwater tanks and the filled watering bag, zipped across the top with an opening to pour

How bad is it? Our semi-arid climate averages 15 inches per year. This past season we got just over five inches.

It’s shameful to admit that when I’m in a rush (or if I choose to use that as an excuse), I go the lazy route and fill my watering cans from the hose bib at the front of the house. However, I recently bought a nifty watering bag to make it easier to transport water from the tanks in the back, side yard, then carry through the house to the deck to water the succulents.

Succulents along the front of the deck (and a fairy teahouse made from a birdhouse gourd)
In serious need of repotting
Front garden viewed from deck

The sweetpeas don’t last past June in San Jose. It’s just too hot. So I let them go to seed and then pull them out, assuring a healthy crop next year.

The California poppies, nigella, and cornflowers went to seed as well, leaving some bare patches in their wake.

Last week I bought white verbena and five gorgeous Russian sage to fill the spot. They’re both drought tolerant. Since the in-ground drip system is in place, these plants won’t consume additional resources. I stopped buying summer annuals during the last drought, filling pots with succulents instead. Succulents get by on minimal water and prefer to dry out between watering unlike most plants.

Front garden viewed from street: Verbena, foreground and purple Russian sage

We’ve had success with two of our four tomato plants. One of the two plants in the EarthBox died almost immediately, but the second one thrived. It’s producing gorgeous cherry tomatoes daily.

They are as sweet as they look

The two tomatoes in the VegTrug are healthy, but the cherry tomato plant is the star. The basil is coming along nicely, so we’ll soon be enjoying that in our salads as well.

Cherry tomatoes and herbs in the VegTrug

May Sarton’s quote captures some of the essences of gardening. I’m more at peace after a day spent among the plants.

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” May Sarton

Crafting with Paper Scraps: A June Birthday

I’m joining our host Kate for another monthly crafting challenge. Kate, who blogs at Tall Tales From Chiconia, encourages bloggers to dust off their scraps and turn them into something new.

My dear friend has a birthday later this month, so she’s received instructions NOT to peak at this post.

I used what remained of a 12 x 12 scrap of paper to make gift wrap and a card.

We both love fairy gardening, and my friend is also partial to aqua and teal so the colors are spot on. I cut a 6 x 8 section of the paper and adhered it to an envelope. Used alone, the scrap isn’t big enough, but attached to the envelope it made the perfect wrap for this small book, a copy of Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem.

I used another section of the scrap to cut a circle to seal the back, stamping “hi” just above the bird.

It’s gratifying making something pretty from scraps. It challenges your creativity and your ability to work within certain parameters. I’m not sure why that floats my boat but it does.

I used the last little bit to mat the “happy birthday” sentiment on the face of the card.

Birthday Greetings
Wrapped book photographed in the garden
I wish I could capture the garden shadows in the photo and transfer them to the back of the envelope. It looks like the bird has a long set of tail feathers.

Do you have scraps laying around the place waiting for a new life? Come join us for future scrap-happy posts.

Thanks for hosting, Kate.

Be sure to check out the blogs listed below for other scrap-happy posts.

Kate, our hostGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
KerryClaireJeanJon, HayleyDawn,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Noreen,
Bear, Carol, Preeti and Edith

As Weeks Go

I thought we were immune.

So it goes in a country that celebrates gun ownership. Gun rights usurp human rights.

Last week, a disgruntled worker living with serious and untreated mental health issues, opened fire in the work place right here in San Jose. He had easy access to automatic weapons because I live in a country that thinks that’s ok. He shot and killed nine coworkers, before turning the gun on himself.

I feel sad and numb. I’m heartbroken for the loved ones whose lives shattered into a million pieces last week. All the talk about “healing” is meaningless. You don’t heal from gun violence. You don’t heal from the shock, the terror, the sadness. Women lost spouses, children lost their father, and several lost the family bread-winner.

Local and state politicians said all the things they always say at times like this. There have been many. California, thankfully, has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, but that is not enough. One in five people in my state owns a gun.

I’m tired of the platitudes. I’m exhausted by the pain and suffering of those around us. I feel powerless to bring about meaningful change beyond casting my vote at each election.

And the beat goes on.

Paul Delacruz Megia, 42

Taptejdeep Singh, 36

Adrian Balleza, 29

Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35

Timothy Michael Romo, 49

Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40

Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63

Alex Ward Fritch, 49

Lars Kepler Lane, 63 

May they rest in peace.