Lifted Spirits: Giving Tuesday Now

I’ve missed volunteering with our homeless clients these past few months. I spent February and March recovering from major foot surgery. Within a week of taking my first steps, Santa Clara County implemented a shelter in place due to COVID-19. As the weeks went on, the restrictions increased.

Though we believe our services are essential, we couldn’t put our volunteers at risk. The majority of the women who volunteer are 60 and up. Asking a group of women at higher risk if they contract COVID-19 to volunteer to serve other high-risk women is untenable.

These past few weeks, we’ve worked behind the scenes so that we can launch Lifted Spirits Lite. While it’s a far cry from our full program of providing a hot meal and respite, a clothing boutique, and other services, it gives us a chance to do something during this difficult time.

We’ve implemented numerous safety protocols to protect ourselves and others.

I sent out the following letter to our supporters today, and I’m sharing it with you, too..

With #GivingTuesdayNow underway, I’d like to tell you about our modified program: Lifted Spirits Lite. While our facilities must remain closed due to COVID-19, our volunteers have been working diligently behind the scenes so we can continue to serve vulnerable, unhoused women in downtown San Jose.

Starting this week, we will provide homeless women a boxed lunch, prepared in a professional kitchen, two days a week. We will also distribute clean socks, new underwear, clothing, and other essential hygiene items.

While Santa Clara County continues to shelter in place, a shelter for many of our clients is quite different: it means a series of tarps in a parking lot or behind some bushes out of view. Providing what we can from behind our gate is essential.

Your gift to Lifted Spirits has a direct impact on homeless women living in our community. Please join me in lifting their spirits with a donation today.

Warmest regards,

Alys Milner
Board Vice-Chair & Volunteer
Front Door Communities,
Home to Lifted Spirits
Front Door Communities, home to Lifted Spirits, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

49 N. Fourth Street, San Jose, California 95112
(408) 600-6654
www.fdcsj.org to donate

 

 

According to Santa Clara County’s Homeless Census and Survey, there are 9,700 residents without a home. 36% of the homeless population are women.

It’s good to get back to work.

Garden Swing Cushions: Version 3.0

Reworking the decorative cushions, along with the cover for our garden swing is now a seasonal tradition.

Let’s stay in bed fingertip towel

The swing sits below an umbrella and the shade of the orange tree but the fabric is still no match for the hot San Jose sun. The swing cover also needs regular reworking as it proves irresistible to the neighborhood squirrels. The cover often ends the season with chew-marks, big and small.

Chewed but still serviceable (former shower curtain)

I’ve reused the same retired bed pillow as a base for several years as it holds up surprisingly well. It’s easily washed and dried and ready for the next season.

I cut the old bed pillow in half and made two smaller cushions for decorative purposes and for impromptu napping.

One year I covered the two pillow halves with a thrift store pillow sham.  The color-coordinated cover is also a thrift store find: a cotton shower curtain pictured below. The squirrels enjoyed working them over as well.

A thrift store pillow sham remade it to cushion covers

The next iteration embraced our mischievous squirrel’s personalities.

I enlarged a couple of my squirrel photos and printed them on inkjet fabric sheets designed to pass through a standard printer. I bought a yard of heavy muslin, cut it in half, and made a simple envelope-style pillow cover. I attached the squirrel photo using fusible tape, then ran a piece of trim on either side.

Squirrel Pillow

My garden oasis (note basket of fabric and fluff as an offering in the nearby orange tree) This year’s cover: a bedsheet with some bias trim

The squirrel pillows lasted four years, but the bedsheet, above only lasted for two. Alas, those cute squirrel faces have faded badly. They look more tatty than vintage so off they go.

Now-faded squirrel print

Faded squirrel photo

The good news is that once again, I’m reusing the same bed pillow and I’ve also reused the muslin and trim. I bought a couple of fingertip towels with a clever play on words last year at a fabric store. I gave one as a gift but I saved the other two towels to once again refurbish the swing cushions.

Muslin finger-tip towels: Let’s stay in bed and Talk dirt to me

Spring 2020: Shower curtain swing cover and reworked cushions

Muslin cushions made with finger-tip towels and recycled trim

My 2020 swing cover is a rerun from last summer: a retired cloth shower curtain. My garden-pun, finger-tip-towels turned cushions give it a fresh new look.

The first time I made a cover for my swing, I spent time and dollars buying beautiful garden-themed upholstery and contrasting trim. I made a bias trim for the peplum and covered cording for the edges. We were celebrating my husband’s birthday with a garden party that year and I wanted it to look nice.

My first swing cover made with outdoor upholstery fabric, contrasting bias trim, and covered cording.

Then a squirrel came along and chewed the entire corner to get access to the soft cotton cording inside. How did she know? I thought at first it would be a simple repair, but she returned to gnaw the bottom half of the swing. That squirrel had a super-soft nest that year.  In the end, the swing cover was a complete loss.

You can’t outsmart nature and you will *never* outsmart a squirrel. Instead, I find inexpensive ways to revive my little oasis from year to year.

Napping on the swing

Serendipity: Wish You Were Here

How’s this for serendipity: While visiting a vintage shop in San Jose, I stumbled across this postcard.

Mike Roberts iconic photograph of the San Francisco Bay Bridge

Postcard: Mike Roberts photograph of the iconic San Francisco Bay Bridge

The reverse side of postcard | Sunset, San Francisco Bay Bridge

To the average viewer, it’s unremarkable. The card is a reproduction of a photograph of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Photographer Mike Roberts photographed the bridge multiple times in order to capture this shot. He published the photo in September 1959, five days before I was born.

My family moved to the US in November 1966, and a year later my father painted this oil on canvas. Dad died in 1969.

My dad Eric Milner’s oil painting, painted in 1969, two years before he died

Stumbling across the postcard literally stopped me in my tracks. My heart did that strange flutter as I tried to make sense of the photo. I realized at that moment that a small piece of unknown history grazed my fingertips. The postcard photo had been my father’s muse. I never knew.

Returning home with my friend Kelly, we jumped online and looked up Roberts and his work. From there I discovered this book

book cover Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here: Mike Roberts | The Life and Times of America’s Postcard King | by Bob Roberts

Mike Roberts was working on a memoir when he died in 1989. According to his son, Bob:

…yellow Kodak boxes snoozed in my basement for twenty years. For reasons financial, literary, and personal it took twenty years to pull together the pieces of Wish You Were Here. The words and photos were rummaged from his early musings, classic transparencies, and drafts. The rest of the story springs from our family, his friends, media accounts, and those yellow boxes. Enjoy! – Bob Roberts, March 2015

A page from Robert’s book describing the photoshoot

Title page of Mike Roberts book purchased used online

Here’s one more bit of serendipity. While thumbing through my husband’s family photos, I came across this snapshot. Check out the art on the wall!

My husband Mike’s family gathered in front of a painting of the Bay Bridge, circa the 1960s | Mike is wearing the burgundy shirt, lower left

I’ve loved reading about Mike Roberts’ life and work. I appreciate his incredible artistry and his love of the humble postcard. Most of all, I’ll never tire of those serendipitous moments in time, when a daughter stumbles upon an old postcard, bringing forth a snapshot in time.

I wish you were here.

A Month into Spring

Time may be a social construct, but Spring arrives reliably year after year. Paper calendars are optional.

Welcome rain for a parched garden

The first bulbs emerge in February, a little pre-season treat. In our garden, that means hyacinth and once-upon-a-time, crocus. I haven’t noticed the crocus in recent years, but given their small size, they may simply be growing out of view.

Pink hyacinth

Soon the narcissus follows, bright and showy and strong.

Harbingers of spring: Yellow Daffodils

Freesias are my new favorite. They multiply year after year, adorning the garden with an assortment of color and an intoxicating scent. I planted one assorted packet several years ago, and have reaped the reward of purples, reds, pale yellows, and the prolific whites. They dazzle our passersby from the curb garden and along the curving ramp to our front door.

A trio of colored Freesia

Brilliant white Freesia

As the flashy bulbs finish for the season, perennials carry on with the show. Bright pinks, lavenders, and yellows contrast against the ever-present greens.

Dark pink azalea

Azalea close-up

Pale pink Azalea

Shiny new growth emerges on all the plants like a chick from an egg, small and tender at first, then vital and strong.

It’s not all fun and games. The weeds emerge, even with our meager rain, opportunistically growing beneath the established ground cover. They grow parallel to the lacy foliage of the California poppy, perhaps thinking I won’t notice.

They’re no match for this gardener.

As I hobbled to and from the car earlier this year, I would bend down and pluck one or two weeds. Now that I’m fairly mobile, I’m methodically clearing them from the garden.

The worst of the weeds gather near the curb, so I sat on the pavement there and got to work.

Over a few weeks, I worked my way down both sides of the drive, around the raised bed known as the curb garden, and then finally into the main garden.

Front Garden

Getting lost in thought as I pull weeds and tidy the beds is wonderfully therapeutic. It helps keep the worrying thoughts at bay. I hear bird song from the trees. I try to count bees, smiling to myself when I lose track. An abundance of bees is essential for our survival. My garden is content to do its part.

Garden Gallery:

Occasionally a lizard darts out of its hiding place and they always give me a start. They too are a gift to the garden, so as my nervous system relaxes, I count my many blessings and carry on with my day.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. – Audrey Hepburn

Scrap Happy April: Craft Kits at the Curb

Our Little Free Library, surplus children’s books, and craft kits, just off the sidewalk in front of our home.

What’s a ScrapHappy post?

It’s an opportunity or an excuse to make something entirely out of scraps. Our host, Kate, of Tall Tales from Chiconia, encourages the use of scraps to make something useful or beautiful or both.

If you would like to join us, please see the details at the end of this post.

I reorganized and tidied my paper crafting area last week and took a hard look at everything I had. I set aside items that have remained idle. I pulled together paper punches and acrylic stamps, ink pads, and paper, and created small craft kits. In other words, I used some of my scraps and materials so that others could make their own ScrapHappy® creation.

Kate, I hope this still counts.

With children forced out of school for the rest of the year, several Little Free Libraries are offering crafting material to help keep children engaged.

Our library is still open, and at least one grateful teacher has stopped by twice for books. She said she had to leave her classroom and couldn’t bring any of her teaching materials home with her.

In other crafting news, I made a few Easter cards last week.

Would I normally make Easter cards?

No.

Did I buy a packet of adorable paper in 2016 thinking it would be fun to make Easter cards?

Yes.

Card made from Authentique paper, vintage seam binding with inked edges

Now I have time on my hands.

The paper came in a kit, so not technically a scrap, however, all the solid paper, ribbons, and bows are legitimate scraps.

Easter Morn

I’m calling them ScrapHappy® cards in training.

Fingers crossed that I’m not drummed out of all this ScrapHappy® fun.

Here’s a gallery of the Easter cards using Authentique Collection’s Eastertime: (click on individual photos to enlarge)

Check out the links below on March 15, 2020, to see the other scrap-happy posts.

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sue L, Sunny and Kjerstin

National Bear Hunt and Other Community Treasures

Have you spotted any teddy bears on your keep-a-safe-distance walks?

Blueberry the Bear

I first heard about the #NationalBearHunt from a friend on Facebook. Carrie has a toddler at home whereas my boys are now 19 and 22. Without her post, I may have missed it. I’m trying to limit my news consumption.

The bear hunts are inspired by British author Michael Rosen’s children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”. Rosen’s 1989 book has never been out of print! I hope he knows what an inspiration he’s been to parents and children everywhere.

We have one teddy bear in residence, the newly named Blueberry. My son didn’t name the bear when I made it for him out of soft fleece about a decade ago. At the time my son was more interested in the making of the bear then he was in having it. I made three bears during that time, but the other two went to a new home.

A startled Mouse the Cat discoveries Blueberry in the window

Blueberry is in the front window, visible from the curb and in view of our Little Free Library. I’ve left a small sign inviting folks to wave as they walk by.

A make-shift sign, Mouse the Cat, and Blueberry the Teddy Bear

It’s these small gestures that help keep us sane.

Here are a few others:

Anne Lawson in Australia posted this on her Instagram feed annelawson54:

“Another way to build community connections….a gallery in my own front yard. All exhibitors have to do is leave a drawing in my letterbox. Is this something you could do? (Until it rains, of course. Then I will have to be more inventive 😊)”

Jacinda Arden has a teddybear in her window in New Zealand as she shelters in place. The Guardian reports:

“the real-life Kiwi bear hunt has seen homes from Bluff to Auckland place teddy bears in their street-facing windows, allowing local children to “hunt” for bears in their neighbourhoods. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, confirmed she too had placed a teddy in the front window of Premier House in Wellington, where she is in lockdown with her fiancé, Clarke Gayford, and toddler, Neve.”

Little Free Libraries converted to food pantries, pre-packaged, sterilized books, a joke a day and more.

“Community engagement and sharing with others are at the heart of the Little Free Library movement. In just a few days, the spirit of sharing in Little Free Libraries has shifted to accommodate different and increased needs in communities all over the world.

By now you may have already seen stories and photos of stewards in cities near and far transforming their book-exchange boxes into “little free pantries,” offering items like canned goods, toilet paper, sanitizing products, and more while COVID-19 has changed day-to-day life drastically for everyone.

While some stewards have opted to close their little libraries completely to limit potential exposure to frequently-touched surfaces, others are swapping out books for household essentials to help out neighbors in need. And a number of stewards are offering both books and pantry items!”

Our LFL is a beloved community resource. Closing it down seems unthinkable, but keeping every book sanitized is impossible. I could sanitize the doorknobs, books, and shelves, only to have to start over after one visitor. Since visitors continue to stop by, I’ve taken all the back-stock of children’s books from our garage and placed them in an open bin.

Back-stock of children’s books in my garage

Adjunct bin of LFL children’s books

My hope is that books will be sanitized by the user. If the books remain untouched, they at least offer hope for the future.

What are you seeing in your community?

Two-Faced Tessa in the Garden

Tessa came to live with us in the most round-about way. She stowed her wee self into the battery compartment of Mike’s Tessla. We’ll never know how she got there, and it was a production getting her out, but after that ordeal, she was here to stay. We were not in the market for a third cat and certainly not a kitten, but as John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Tessa's portal

Tessa lounging in her kitty portal

Tessa turns three this May.  She’s affectionate when it suits her in the most endearing way. Our sweet tortie climbs on your chest and looks into your eyes, before tucking in her chin and producing a raspy, satisfied purr. We adore her!

Tessa near the rocks

Tessa near the rock wall

Tessa spends her time prowling the compost bin for rats, chasing squirrels and play-fighting with Mouse the Cat, aka, Bubba. He’s more than twice her age and close to double her weight, but they go at it like a pair of kittens.

Tessa in the garden

We call this “the look”

When Tessa first arrived, a steady stream of friends stopped by, intrigued by her unusual markings. Eventually, I created a Two-Faced Tessa The Cat Facebook Page and my son set up an account for her on Instagram as twofacedtessa.  My son attends university several hundred miles away so the updates naturally dwindled, but the pics he posted in the early years are delightful.

Tessa in the fruit tree

Tessa in the fruit tree

I hope her sweet face cheers you as you go about your day.

Tessa in the sun rear view

Tessa on her own terms

Here is a gallery of some of our favorite pics:

The Elephant in the Room

I’ll start with a bit of levity from a Facebook post shared by a friend:

I’m either coming out of this quarantine 20 pounds lighter, chakras balanced and a house full of completed craft projects or 20 pounds heavier with a drinking problem.” – Spiritual Thug

I’m signing up for the former. I’ve lost six of the ten pounds I gained during my couch-bound, post-surgery recovery, simply by moving again. No doubt my metabolism slowed to a crawl. The first time I put my fitness watch back on, it celebrated 1,000 steps. It’s all relative.

Now that I can sit with my feet on the floor, I’m also enjoying crafts. I’ve started by playing with some new watercolor markers, then on to a Washi tape card. I love playing with that tape. It’s oddly therapeutic.

Tail ends of Washi tape

Front of Washi tape card

Finished Washi tape card

Sometime last year I found vintage French seed packet labels, intending to make them into cards for a friend. I came up with corny quotes to match and that was as far as I got. This week I followed through to completion, not only making the cards but getting them packaged and mailed.

Seed packet labels

Authentique paper

Even the paper scrap has a French name

Cards made with vintage French seed packet labels

Seed packet cards

Inside cards: Cover-inspired puns printed on tracing paper

A trio of seed packet cards

Close-up of vintage seed packet label

My friend’s trip to her beloved Paris is canceled, so this is a little pick-me-up and a surprise.

After finishing the cards, I repurposed a page from an old gardening calendar. I save and reuse wall calendars for crafts. I had to piece it in a few places to get the size I needed. It’s such a gorgeous photograph of a flower and bee. I wish I could give the photographer a proper credit.

Pieced edges of calendar used to complete envelope

Finished cards tucked into garden calendar page envelope

The exterior of the completed envelope

Sealed with a paper key

There’s nothing new I can share here about the ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM except to say that I’m working hard to tamp down my anxiety on a daily basis. I’m stretching in the morning before I even get out of bed. I’m touching my toes, just because I can. I’m also pulling weeds in the garden until my foot screams at me to stop.

That’s my signal to retreat to the couch with an ice pack and Mouse the Cat pressed to my hip.

Mouse loves his couch time

I’m a hugger by nature, so if I could, and only if appropriate, I would gather you in a warm embrace and say that it’s all going to be okay. For now, (((((you)))))

Be well.

A Heart of Teal

teal postage stamp card

Teal postage stamps die-cut into a heart

Kate, as you know has a heart of teal.

Through her blog, Tall Tales From Chiconia, Kate unites bloggers around the world. She is also a champion for Ovarian Cancer Australia.

Kate designs teal quilts with a clever, tongue-in-cheek theme. My current favorite is Signed, Tealed and Delivered, a quilt featuring postage stamps, envelopes, letters, and notes, all cleverly sewn into quilting squares by talented artisans and crafters around the world. Kate gathers, assembles and then quilts the final product. The quilts are auctioned, with the proceeds benefiting Ovarian Cancer Australia.

Kate also co-hosts monthly scrap-happy posts where bloggers share what they’ve created that month made entirely of scraps. I frequently take part and really enjoy seeing the creativity of others.

I’ve wanted to make a card of appreciation for Kate for some time, but it took surgery to slow me down and reset a few priorities. Kate’s away on a long holiday, so I won’t publish this post until she returns and receives her card in person. It’s a paper quilt of sorts, using teal postage stamps, die-cut into a heart and placed on an embossed background. Teal stamps are not easy to come by. I found the Vintage Postage Shop on Etsy and asked her to send a packet of teal or close to teal, stamps. I added one from my Dad’s collection, the 1946 Ceylon stamp at the bottom of the heart. The stamps represent travel, gardening, flowers and, stating the obvious, teal.

Postage stamp card interior

Narrow heart border inside the card

I’m a wannabe quilter. I know how to sew, but I lack the precision and the patience to make a quilt. I’m a huge admirer though, of all that goes into making one and I thoroughly enjoy watching the process unfold. I’m impressed by the generosity and the talent of all of the women involved.

Thank you, Kate.

Teal postage stamps heart shaped card

Floral-embossed teal background

T.E.A.L.® stands for both Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer Louisa M. McGregor Ovarian Cancer Foundation and for Teal, the color that symbolizes ovarian cancer. Founded in 2009 by two sisters from Brooklyn, NY to draw attention to ovarian cancer, T.E.A.L.® has grown to become a national movement. Our goal is to decrease mortality rates by helping women identify signs and symptoms and urging them to seek medical help at the earliest possible stages. We believe that by equipping women with knowledge about the disease and its signs and encouraging them to listen to their bodies, we can save lives.

Note: Kate’s card had an interesting journey thanks to an outdated address (my bad) and the uncertainly in the time of Covid-19. She’s written a post about the card and about letter-writing in general and it’s resonation with a lot of her readers. You can read it in full here.: Neither Snow Nor Rain

More Projects from the Couch

I have another project in the works for my sister Sharon.

I’m using my surgery recovery time to carefully remove hundreds of postage stamps from one of our dad’s stamp collections. When I’m fully mobile again, I’ll move on to phase two: a stamp-covered table.

postage stamps Antigua

Antigua Half Penny Postage Stamp 1916-18

Our dad had many hobbies, but the one we remember the most is stamp-collecting. Mom kept his albums for years after he died.  She eventually sold a few and gave each of us the money toward college. It wasn’t much, but it was important for her to turn his collection into something more tangible for our future. Thankfully she hung on to a few albums.

Ascension red postage stampl

Ascension Postage and Revenue 1935

Dad died when we were 8 and 9 respectively, a short time after immigrating to the United States. Dad started life in Oldham, England, moved to India, twice, immigrated to Canada where he met our mother, and then ended life in California at the age of 54 from lung cancer.

His albums took on a certain status. They were our connection to our beloved father. I don’t remember looking at them individually, but more as a collection and a representation of what to us seemed like an exotic life.

warm stamp Ceylon postage

Ceylon Postage and Revenue, over-stamped with War Stamp

Assorted colors postage stamps Chamba State India

Multi-colored India Postage embossed/stamped with Chamba State, 1907

I wrote about the emotions around his stamps back in March of 2015. Here is an excerpt:

Last August, on the anniversary of my father’s death, I was finally able to re-frame my feelings about his stamp collection. I once viewed his stamp albums as life interrupted. They reminded me of my loss instead of the joyful hours he spent pursuing this hobby. The stamp albums sat in a cupboard, revered. Now I see them as a gift to be shared, and as a way to celebrate my father’s kind and curious nature. I hosted a blog giveaway and sent many of Dad’s stamps to friends and acquaintances around the world. It was an extraordinary exercise in letting go. If you would like to read the post in its entirety, you’ll find it here: Vintage Postage: A Daughter’s Love Letter and a Blogging Giveaway.

Five years ago I made a round accent table using postage from my album. I created a few cards using his stamps, and then mailed extras to bloggers around the world. Pauline King turned several of them into a wonderful piece of art. It’s a treasure!

Sharon loves my table and asked if I would make one for her using stamps from her album. So here we are.

I’ve removed about 400 stamps so far, each meticulously mounted in the album with gummed labels. If those stamps could talk. I’m sorting by color as I go, with a special pile of multi-colored stamps that I plan to use along the table’s border. I’m thinking a lot about my dad as I go and about my sister too. We’re both excited about the table.

Here are a few more pages from his album.

Trans-Tasmanian New Zealand postage stamps

India postage stamps imprinted C.E.F.

India Special Issue China Expeditionary Force or C.E.F., 1882 to 1900

Here is a gallery of Pauline King’s art made incorporating some of Dad’s stamps, along with my postage stamp table, and a few greeting cards.

I’ll let you know how it goes.