#WorldNakedGardeningDay

For the record, Mary made me do it.

Also for the record, Mike was delighted to help.

Without further ado, pop on over to Twitter and follow the hashtag #WorldNakedGardeningDay

World Naked Gardening Day

The Weight of the World and a Mysterious Bead

Four years with a derelict president, the pandemic, and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine make it hard to get out of bed each day. If ever the cliché of carrying the world’s weight were true, it is now.

I’m grateful to have a bed, a roof over my head, a loving family, and relative safety. It’s impossible, however, to shed this grief and the daily worry of “what next?” as images of women and frightened children pepper the news. I feel hopeless and helpless in the face of a monster.

In late December, one of the unhoused women I serve showed me a weighty bead that rolled into her tent.

Heavy bead with gold and silver texture

She had no idea how it got there and made it clear she didn’t let anyone inside her tent. She thought it might be a map of Russia since it sported a small red star, but on further examination, it seemed abstract. Most of all, she was worried that it might be a bad omen.

I don’t believe in omens or superstitions, but she does, and that’s what matters. I offered to hold on to it for her, and she seemed relieved. She warned me to be careful if anything terrible started happening to me.

I didn’t see her in the intervening weeks, and the bead remained in a drawer downtown. I eventually brought it home and created a charm from my collection of buttons and ephemera.

Charmed with Affection

I made a small card to go with the charm and gave it to her when she returned.

You Are Awesome

I wrote:

Dear [ ],
I turned the beautiful bead you found in your tent into a charm. It’s infused with affection and hope. You deserve a life off of the streets. Carry this with you as a reminder that our Lifted Spirits volunteers want the best for you.

With affection, Alys

The clear button and the leaf from my stash represent water and earth, and her bead represents the global community. I turned an object of fear into a thing of beauty and hope. I wish I could do the same for our weary world.

I’m carrying my own heavy burdens closer to home. The sadness is mine, but the circumstances are not mine to share. Instead, I have a sorrow deep in my chest, reflecting it outward through my weary eyes. It invades my sleep.

I long for peace.

Mending a Treasure

I love a good mend. This formerly plush and well-loved treasure belongs to one of my clients. She entrusted him to my care when I offered to bring him back to whole.

I made sure she wasn’t concerned with historical preservation which is a whole different thing, but instead a simple mend to keep his chin up.

Isn’t he adorable?

After years of presumed hugging and loving, this plush leopard was in danger of losing his head.

Damaged neck
Neck surgery is in order

Notice the grey stuffing around the neck? Believe it or not I had two sections of grey insulation from a Christmas gift. The insulation, once covered in plastic, protected a shipment of gourmet ice cream. Yum!

I stored the insulation in the garage, thinking I would use it for packaging one day. Little did I know that a month later, I would be using it to mend a plush toy. The color and texture were the perfect material to replace the lost stuffing. Most new plushies are filled with white fiberfill. This plushie is padded with heavy, grey scraps. Kismet!

Once I had the stuffing sorted, I contemplated different options to support the neck. It’s unlikely to fall into a child’s hands given its fragile state, but I wanted the support to be child-friendly nonetheless. I settled on a cardboard spool from some twine.

With the support and the filling in place, I pulled out a spool of waxed thread and a curved needle and carefully stitched the opening back together. I had to get creative with my stitches as some of the fabric couldn’t support a taut stitch. Instead, I worked my needle through the stuffing and then the fabric, bringing the layers back together.

The stitches on the back of the neck are uneven, but they were the best I could do without risk of damaging the material. I managed more even stitches when I mended the side of the face and the tail.

Looking handsome with his new bow

I tied a bow around his neck made from vintage seam binding and I added a hand-made tag.

It’s nice to be entrusted with someone’s treasure. I hope I’ve done him proud.

If only he could talk!

Putting My Paper Scraps to Work

Once a month, bloggers world-wide are encouraged to share a project our two made entirely out of scraps. To learn more about this ScrapHappy venture, be sure to check out Kate’s blog.

I put a lot of scraps to work this month.

First up, I made a birthday card for a friend’s Aunt Ramona. Kate’s aunt turns 102 in March, and she hopes to receive 102 cards to ring in her birthday. I used the tear-off cover of an appointment calendar to help her celebrate this milestone.

The paper is a lovely weight with pretty flowers, so it made up beautifully into a card. I used my embosser to add the quilted texture and a simple scrap of green to frame the happy birthday sentiment. Inside I added a small envelope trimmed with Washi tape to hold a pair of lottery scratchers.

After tidying my craft table, I sorted the pile of small scraps by color. Whenever I sort my paper, it lasts for about a year or two, and then I haul it out and sort it again.

All that sorting allowed me to create my second project, a purple Valentine for my sister. I cut four shades of purple paper into one-inch squares, then glued them to a scrap of paper in rows with half-inch offsets. I ran the purple squares through my Big Shot using a heart-shaped die; then I embossed the heart with a floral pattern.

Using the same die, I cut a heart from the front of a white card. I placed the purple heart into the negative space, then backed it with a scrap of vellum to hold it in place.

This month my final scrap-happy project pulled together paper scraps, leftover paper doilies, red rick-rack rescued from an unused box of fabric, and small coin envelopes once used by a church. They were part of the big clean-out when a developer purchased the church building that once housed Lifted Spirits. I added pink paper from last year’s projects and made a dozen crafting kits for our Little Free Library.

I gathered the assorted scraps into wax lunch bags. I folded the top with a tag and hole-punched the layers together, tying them with leftover twine.

Thanks as always, Kate. Be sure to checkout the creativity underway at the blogs listed below.

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChris,
ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen,
Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera,
NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol,
Preeti, EdithDebbierose 

Our LFL Gets a Cameo on Good Morning America

Megan Hanson, from the non-profit Little Free Library reached out to a number of LFL stewards in December, encouraging us to apply for a free book bundle. Stewards would also have a chance to have their LFL featured on Good Morning America.

El Codo Way Little Free Library

I didn’t win the book bundle, but she contacted me again last week and said I was one of 150 LFL stewards to be selected for the February book club. Megan wrote:

I’m reaching out because a few months ago you entered to win books through LFL’s partnership with Good Morning America. While you were not selected in January, you have been selected to win two copies of Good Morning America’s February Book Club Pick! Here’s what you can expect next: February 1 is the proposed air date for the Good Morning America segment. They will announce their February Book Club pick and share a map of the 150 Little Free Libraries that received copies of the book–including yours! They will encourage viewers to visit those libraries to find a copy of the book. They may even feature photos of select little libraries on air.

Good Morning America

A photo of our LFL appears in the segment! I feel like a twelve-year-old. It put such a bounce in my step to see our Little Free Library and Donna Pierre’s beautiful design featured on the morning TV show. It’s also an honor to place a copy of his book in our LFL.

Two copies of The Violin Conspiracy

Here is the link to the two-minute segment on Good Morning America, featuring Brendan Slocumb’s debut novel The Violin Conspiracy. Our LFL is pictured towards the end of the segment. Following is a blurb about his book:

Slocumb’s debut novel is a riveting page-turner about a Black classical musician’s desperate quest to recover his lost violin on the eve of the most prestigious musical competition in the world.

Good Morning America

Doesn’t this sound like a great read? I received two copies of Slocumb’s book. I placed one in the library on the designated day, and after reading the second copy, I’ll place it in a different LFL in the community. I can’t wait to get started.

The Violin Conspiracy
Posing with Slocumb’s book before putting in to ur LFL

Thank you Little Free Library for all you do in the community. Mr. Slocumb, I wish you great success with your novel.

Little Free Library new book
Placing The Violin Conspiracy in our Little Free Library

A Hike at Alum Rock

We spent a glorious Sunday afternoon hiking at Alum Rock Park in San Jose. We should be sheltering from the rain this time of year, but our drought continues. So instead, we enjoyed the dry, warm conditions and the chance to spend an afternoon outdoors.

Looking down from one of the many bridges in the park

Alum Rock is a treat for the senses. Sulfur springs still move through the hills, delivering the unmistakable aroma as you hike the trails. Further up, the paths are shaded and cool, with that rich mix of forest smells.

Grotto
Mineral springs flows beneath the grotto

Here is a bit of history of this iconic park:

Alum Rock Park was founded in 1872 and is one of California’s oldest municipal parks. Nestled within the Alum Rock Canyon in the foothills of the Diablo Range, the Park’s 720 acres of natural, rugged beauty, provide visitors with many leisure outdoor activities including hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, family and group picnicking, and of course just relaxing.

From 1890 to 1932 the park was a nationally known health spa with 27 mineral springs, an indoor swimming pool, tea garden, restaurant, and dance pavilion. At the time you could ride from downtown San Jose to the park on the Alum Rock Steam Railroad, a ride that cost a quarter. Today, remnants of the railroad bridges can be seen, some of the stone grottos that contain mineral springs are still accessible, but now the charms of the park focus on nature, wildlife, and hiking.

City of San Jose

I’m always intrigued by the rock formations. They’re quite beautiful and varied, composed of minerals dating back to the Jurassic age.

Mineral springs flow from the mountain side

Aren’t they something?

We meandered along the path, with my ever-patient husband willing to stop along the way so I could take photos.

Mike enjoying the day

I had fun crossing a few bridges, but I had to hold my breath crossing a short, narrow ledge. For the most part though, it was a gentle climb.

Arched stone bridge and stairs
Pedestrian truss bridge
Wildflowers above a stream

A few blooming wildflowers caught my eye, the yellow ones, above, and this white Oxalis.

Oxalis
A squirrel in the sun

There were no bobcats or rattlesnakes along the path, but I spotted this cute squirrel toward the end of our hike. From a distance he blended into the rocks.

With my sweetie, married 26 years

A few final photos of the day:

Hiking Alum Rock has been a highlight of the month. We’re so lucky to live just seven miles from this gem.

Scrap Happy, Cat Happy

Scrap Happy is that time of the month when our host Kate encourages us to bust out the scraps and give them a new life. It’s open to everyone.

Queen B on her lap pad

This is Queen B. She loves sitting on my sister’s lap, but her sharp claws go right though Sharon’s clothes. I thought it would be fun to make a lap pad that would be pleasing to them both, protecting Sharon’s legs while providing warmth.

The lap pad needed to be thick and warm, but I also wanted it to have some weight to keep it in place.

I used three disparate scraps to pull this together: Leftover Minka fabric from my sister’s shrug project,

Minka scrap

terrycloth cut-off from the bottom of a long robe,

and a linen calendar, a gift from my friend Marcia in 2018.

Linen cat calendar

I doubled up on the terry cloth, essentially making one piece out of two scraps. I sewed the layers together in a few places to stabilize. The outer layer uses the linen cat calendar and the Minka.

I tested the pad before delivering it and it is warm and cozy.

Sleepy kitty

Kate, thanks for keeping us organized and engaged. See more inspiration at the links below:

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, PreetiEdithDebbierose, and Jule

Winter is Upon Us

I spent the solstice gathering a few cuttings from the garden and marveling at what survives both drought and early frost. Plants are resilient.

Winter Garden

I snipped three miniature roses, a handful of Salvia leucantha, and geranium foliage to make a small arrangement. There’s a sprig of something pink in there as well, but in the early hours, the name escapes me.

A Sleigh of Winter Blooms

My youngest son is home for the holidays this year, along with his sweet pup Juneau. I’m so happy to have them here for a few weeks, but Juneau’s boisterous presence puts out all three felines.

So, for now, our bedroom serves triple duty as Mike’s office and a feline hotel. Lindy is oblivious to the dog’s presence, but she has to share her favorite spot under the bed. Mouse wants to let the dog know he’s in charge, and Tessa is scared. Extra loving and treats help smooth things out, and of course, the situation is temporary.

I made several Christmas cards this year, but I’ve been slow to send them. Lifted Spirits hosted its first-ever “shop without your wallet” event for survivors of domestic violence. It was an enormous time commitment organizing clothing racks, scarves, and other goodies, but it all came together beautifully. My friend and fellow volunteer Mary organized refreshments and volunteers for the day. Our ED quietly got the word out.

Volunteers prior to event

I set up craft tables for the children in the center of the room, and a colleague donated an over-the-top Christmas tree, pictured below. Clothing and jewelry stations were arranged in a U-shape so the children could see their mother at all times and vice-versa.

Polar Bear-themed Christmas Tree

The success of this event has energized us. Our team hopes to do this again in the future. Throughout the event, we served 65 women and 35 children. Domestic violence has soared since the start of the pandemic. I needed to focus on our work instead of its reasons for my sanity.

Filling needs

December’s creative endeavors included my annual snow globe

Polymer snow from the teaching supply store
Snow globe

and a seasonal update to my miniature display. These projects are restorative and fun.

Miniature Winter Scene
Pine twig fencing and a cinnamon stick sleigh

Today I’m headed downtown for our pandemic-friendly Christmas celebration for women in need. After that, I’ll enjoy a week off with my family and the quiet unfolding of moments spent together.

Winter Wonderland

Merry Christmas!

ScrapHappy Snowflake Card

It’s December 15, or in Kate’s speak, time to gather lingering scraps and give them a new life.

I enjoy the challenge of Kate’s ScrapHappy days. Even in December, with the holiday hustle in full swing, it’s nice setting aside some time to craft. I had a sewing project in mind this month, but it will have to wait.

Tis’ the season, so a Christmas card seemed the obvious choice. I used leftover aqua-colored paper strips, gluing them at an angle on scrap paper. After trimming the raw edges, I ran the piece through my paper embosser using a snowflake pattern. 

Assembling monochromatic hues of aqua, then embossing them with the snowflake pattern created an interesting texture for the card. I’ve made strip cards before, but I generally use complementary colors.

As luck would have it, I found a scrap of shiny silver paper to frame the card sentiment and the embossed background. This challenge has inspired me to make more monochromatic cards in the future. 

It should also inspire me to keep the door closed, but where is the fun in that? One of my embellishments went missing, later recovered and removed from the underbelly of a particular cat. I’ll leave it to you to sort the outcome of the Sticky Kitty Caper.

Kate, thanks for keeping us organized and engaged.

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

A Week of Flowering Cheer: White

I’m joining Cathy, who blogs at Words and Herbs for her Week of Flowers, 2021. Bloggers are sharing a bit of color/colour to brighten our days.

White isn’t technically a color, but a shade. When I studied theater lighting back in the day, I learned that white light comprises all colors on the spectrum. Conversely, if you throw together all pigments on a piece of paper, you get black. Color or not, white is beautiful in the garden. White is crisp and reflective, providing a nice contrast to the shades of green around it.

Camellia

This gorgeous Camellia grows along the side of the house in our front garden. They are as messy as they are beautiful. They flower and quickly dump petals daily. I don’t mind. I think they’re spectacular, and who wants a well-behaved garden anyway? I like a little drama.

On the subject of drama, these freesias give the Camellia a run for their money. They refuse to remain in one place, preferring to populate throughout the garden. They’re not concerned that a certain gardener might trip over them when they grow between narrow openings in the walkway. They sure are cheering, though, with their waxy petals and brilliant yellow centers.

White to pink sweet pea

Once a year, magical sweet peas dominate the garden. They grow in various colors, and in this beautiful shade of white. The only thing surpassing their beauty is their intoxicating scent. You can’t help but linger in their presence, marveling at nature’s extraordinary gifts.