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.

Having Fun with a Paper Shopping Bag

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 inspiration this month is a paper shopping bag. Pretty scrappy, eh? I fell in love with the artwork, which is different on all four sides of the bag.

Anthropologie shopping bag
Reverse side and bottom of Anthropologie shopping bag

The bag is originally from a trendy store called Anthropologie. It arrived filled with donations where I volunteer. I couldn’t bring myself to recycle it, so I brought it home for a crafting project.

The paper is a nice weight, with a different design on the front and back and two additional designs along the sides. I fell in love with the black and green cat pattern, but all four sides are interesting.

I made a notecard using my last scrap of black paper, a border die, and the cat side of the shopping bag. I would have done a few things differently, but part of the challenge of using scraps is that you have a limited supply of materials.

Scrappy greeting card

I used another section of the cat paper to make a gift tag for my son’s birthday. He loves Chipotle, so I bought him a gift card and wrapped it with a scrap of green paper. I added a fussy cut paper cat. We all love cats around here.

Gift tag wrap

On the subject of cats, after completing the tag, I took a brief recess so that Tessa could finish her nap on the bag. She rules the roost around here. We adore her.

Tessa napping on the shopping bag
I’m doomed

After Tessa’s catnap, my crafting resumed.

I had a lot of leftover cat paper, so I papered an ugly postcard and stamped “delight in life” in black ink for some interest.


I recovered my ever-changing bookmark tin for the Little Free Library and used some of the smaller patterned sections of the bag to make two-sided bookmarks.

Covered bookmark tin
Bookmarks made from three of the four sides of the bag

The pattern on the opposing side of the bag didn’t interest me as much, so I used it to line the drawer in my laundry room. It’s been 17 years since I last relined it, so it was time for a refresh.

Laundry room drawer

The sides of the bag are narrower, so I had less paper for crafting. I love the snails, so I fashioned a few bookmarks, then stamped them with black ink. I made more bookmarks using the purple pattern on the opposing side.

The final make from the shopping bag is another card. I used a daisy die to cut the purple paper into the lacy flower pattern you see below. The purple lost some of its vibrancy, so I wanted to punch up the color. I used daubers and assorted ink and placed color on a scrap of paper below the punched surface.

Card-making process

I assembled the pieces into this finished card:

We all need a good hug

Thanks once again 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

Procrastination Tuesday

Do you ever procrastinate? There are several reasons why we put things off, and even a pithy saying that admonishes us:

“Don’t put off till tomorrow, what you can do today.”

I’m pretty good about getting things done, but the things I put off fit into one of these three categories:

I’m overwhelmed by the task, I’m anxious about completing the task, or I have task aversion, in my case, usually boredom.

This past Tuesday, knowing that I had an unscheduled day, I hauled out my “one-day” projects and evaluated them with a hard eye. I started with several easy tasks, then graduated to the area in my craft room where projects lurk. They haunt me, they taunt me, yet I’m the one that gives them power.

First, I started with simple tasks. My son is coming home from university in a week, so I needed to ready his room. I had a stack of my unread books on his nightstand, packaging I wanted to recycle, and bedding that needed washing.

Easy peasy. You can see the clean bedding in the corner. I’m hoping that the cats don’t notice.

Small successes can motivate you to keep going. My son’s room is ready to go.

My son took the photo of Tessa, and we made it into a poster

I had items to return, but I misplaced the receipt. I used Procrastination Tuesday to find the receipt, but then I needed to drive to the mall. Driving to a deserted mall to return two items is a bore, but it’s Procrastination Tuesday, so on the list it goes.

At the mall: small alcoves for photo-taking. Mike obliged

Now to the hard stuff, the things that overwhelm me and why. Three years ago, I bought some beautiful purple fabric for my sister Sharon. She wanted me to make a bolero-styled shrug. We found a used pattern online, I washed the yardage to remove the sizing, and then life got busy. Enter the pandemic when we all had time. Determined to get it done, I hauled out the pattern and prepared to cut and sew. The pattern pieces are too big for any of my surfaces, so I took them downtown, where I volunteer. None of those surfaces were large enough either, so I brought it back. I have three painful labrum tears across my right and left hip, making crawling around on the floor painful, so I gave up. I used to sew in high school. I also sewed in the theater department in college and beyond. The procrastination part of all this was feeling overwhelmed that I could no longer complete a once so simple task, coupled with a sense of sadness about all of it.

Purple Minka for Sharon’s shrug, purchased in Portland while visiting fellow blogger, Marlene

On Procrastination Tuesday, I drove to an alterations place, checked my ego at the door, and dropped off the fabric and the pattern with the purveyor. I’m providing income to a small, local business, and I will finally be able to deliver on that soft, purple shrug. I took along my sister’s beloved wool coat, which is now too long for her to wear. They’re going to shorten it so my sister can wear it while using her mobility chair. Relief!

Procrastination Tuesday continued with a Kiwi in the Koru pieced cushion kit. I bought the kit in Arrowtown, New Zealand in a moment of confidence and bliss. I call it holiday fever. I’ve never pieced a quilt before, but one cushion couldn’t be that hard. The colors are gorgeous. The finished cushion would be a nice reminder of a great trip.

Somehow, I couldn’t get started. I felt overwhelmed and out of my league. I procrastinated, thinking that I just needed to be in the right frame of mind to try again. As part of my Procrastination Tuesday, I made a plan. I’m going to offer the kit to someone that will enjoy the task and the finished product. It can be a stand-alone cushion or part of a larger quilt. I’m feeling good about letting it go.

Purchased at The Stitching Post, Arrowtown, NZ

As I continued with the “one-day” projects, I unearthed my crochet tote. Remembering how relaxing it is to move the soft yarn around a hook, I placed the bag near the couch. I’m a beginner, so I won’t crochet anything complex, but it will be nice to pick it up again. I also have this gorgeous case hand-crafted by Kate to keep me motivated. Isn’t it stunning?

Gorgeous color and texture

Two more items in the stash took less than five minutes of research! So it goes with procrastinating. The length of time needed to complete a task is only a tiny part of why we put things off.

Tomorrow you’ll see the outcome of one last item from the stash. I brought home an oversized paper shopping bag from a trendy store called Anthropologie. We received a donation of clothes in the bag for our program downtown, and even and even with a torn handle, I couldn’t bring myself to toss it.

Anthropologie shopping bag

My small reward at the end of Procrastination Tuesday included some time at my crafting desk. The biggest prize, of course, is making decisions and getting things done. It felt great dropping off the packaging material for reuse at the UPS store, returning bras at the mall, making decisions about all my sewing projects, and seeing all that space under the desk.

Look at all that space!

Do you procrastinate? Where do you find the motivation to move ahead?

House Finch Happenings

The House Finch pair are back. I’m so excited.

Not the best photo, but here they are together on the curtain rail

The female of the pair started a nest on our deck last month. You can catch up here. Mama finch had been building the nest for a while before we noticed. Once we noticed, she disappeared. I’ve since learned that house finches build several nests before deciding where to lay their eggs.

Friday morning, I looked out the kitchen window, and there she was. She had a mouthful of tree twig, which she deposited on the nest before immediately taking flight. Her red-breasted mate remained close. Together they flew to our Magnolia, then back to the neighbor’s tree for more twigs.

Mated pair of house finches in the Magnolia

I captured a few photos from a safe distance, not wanting to disturb the process. Eventually, I had to head downtown.

They’re singing to each other in the afternoons, so I’m hopeful this is a good sign that they’ll stay. If not, it has still been a pleasure watching this simple act play out.

Male House Finch, the object of her affection
A well-protected nest on top of the stacked curtains
Closeup shows how cleverly she’s hidden her nest

In other potential nesting news, I finally saw a bit of stuffing pulled from my squirrel offering cushion. I somewhat belatedly realized that a bird might also dip down for some fluff so I’ve moved the nesting material to the nearby orange tree instead.

I nervously watched a hummingbird either teasing Tessa or warning her off. Tessa likes lounging under the patio table A hummingbird flew from a nearby shrub, dipped toward her, and then flew away. I held my breath through that transaction.

Tessa lounging under the table

Life in the back garden is a balancing act. Squirrels and birds visit by day. At night we see opossums and the occasional raccoon. The kitties come in at dusk and stay inside until 8 or 9 in the morning. At 18, Lindy spends most of her time at rest. Mouse, the cat, is overweight, despite our best efforts, so he’s not much of a threat. I worry about Tessa, though. I want to keep all the garden visitors safe.

Thirty Days in the Garden: Spider Plants and Bloggers

Once upon a time, I hung three spider plants in baskets under the eaves of the house. Our boys were young, so I needed something low-maintenance and green. I enjoyed watching the spider plant flower, then send out off-spring like runners on a strawberry plant.

Mourning Doves
Nesting Mourning Dove

One spring, a mourning dove took up residence and built a nest in one of the plants. We couldn’t believe our luck! We could watch nesting activity from our living room window without disturbing the occupants.

Within two weeks, I noticed that mama dove sat higher on the nest. Shortly after, a pair of young ones fledged.

Mourning doves spend a lot of time on the ground, which is nerve-wracking when you have cats. When the fledglings first left the nest, they spent time in the back garden. Not realizing they were spending time in the garden, we sat outside to eat lunch on a warm day. A distressed mama kept flying low and away, low and away. She didn’t want us there. We eventually spotted the young ones and went inside.

Spider plant camouflaging the back-end of a squirrel

A few months later, we started a long-planned remodel on the back of the house. All three pots had to come down. They limped along for a while, but the house remodel dragged on for nine months. At some point, I unceremoniously dumped one out of the containers in an area I refer to as the back 40. It’s sink or swim back there, where sadly some plants go to die. Not the spider plants.

Spider plants don’t mind all those pine needles
One becomes many

They swam! One spider plant became many. The first plant set roots on the spot, then propagated under the tree and along the fence. They’ve filled the garden beds with a lush and lovely shade of green. They feel like an old friend.

Spider plants and blogging have a lot in common. You start with one, but you quickly follow many. In the early days, you’re happy that anyone wants to read your posts. You follow bloggers, they follow you, and before you know it, you’ve found a community. You find yourself moving from “don’t trust anyone on the internet!” to “I’m flying to New Zealand for two weeks to spend time with my blogging tribe.” It’s extraordinary.

I’ve missed this blogging space. Last month I embarked on a thirty-day journey back to blogging. I posted every day for thirty days in a series I called Thirty Days in the Garden. Today I’m publishing my thirtieth post.

Thank you for reading and commenting on WordPress or through Facebook. Thank you to the readers who lurk. I know you’re out there, and I hope that one day you’ll leave that comment that’s rattling around in your head. It will be good to hear from you, too.