Colorado Postcards

We’ve just returned from a beautiful, restful and enjoyable trip to the state of Colorado. Our friend Claire remarried in a lovely outdoor ceremony 70 miles north of Denver in a place called Fraser (population 1,200) near Winter Park. Winter Park is a major destination for skiers during the winter months, but at this time of year the area is sparsely populated and peaceful. The population nearly triples during the winter. I’m not a skier, but I can appreciate the adventure and beauty that Winter Park has to offer.

We spent the morning of the wedding in the village at Winter Park, riding the gondola and enjoying the vistas before driving to nearby Fraser.

Winter Park Village, Winter Park, Colorado

Winter Park Village, Winter Park, Colorado

What a unique wedding! The ceremony took place outside with cool weather and a few thunderclaps but no rain. We sat on long wooden benches, covered with beautiful sections of old quilts.  Claire’s daughters walked her down the aisle.  I’ve known them since they were young girls and have enjoyed watching them grow into bright and warm young women.

The groom and several guests wore kilts in honor of Jame’s Scottish heritage. After the ceremony we enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres in a wonderful old barn, outfitted with more quilts and artifacts from the old west.  The reception followed in a nearby canopied field.

Fraser Wedding

Fraser Wedding

The drive to and from Winter Park took us through the breathtaking Rocky Mountains. We stopped mid-drive at the Continental Divide. The Divide extends along the Rocky Mountains. According to Wiki, “Drainage water west of the Continental Divide flows to the southwest via the Colorado River and the Green River into the Gulf of California.”

Colorado Rocky Mountains, Berthoud Pass Arapaho

Colorado Rocky Mountains, Berthoud Pass Arapaho

It was a treat getting out of San Jose’s hot, dry summer for several days. We enjoyed cooler temperatures, a few unexpected thunder claps, a light rain and warm sun. Perfection.

The day after the wedding we headed to Boulder, Colorado, a two hour’s drive away. Mike booked the most amazing room at a vintage hotel built in 1909. What a nice surprise! The hotel is full of old-world charm, with carved wooden banisters, original tile floors and a few artifacts from the day. Even better, it’s in the heart of downtown Boulder, walking distance to fun shops and unique restaurants.

Boulderado Hotel, Boulder, Colorado

Boulderado Hotel (with Mike)

Alys and Carmen collage

With my friend Carmen. Our high school yearbook photos, 1977 and in Boulder, Colorado, 2017

One of the highlights of our time in Boulder was the chance to see my friend Carmen. I haven’t seen her in 40 years! I posted about our trip on Facebook and she mentioned that she lived close by. She drove from Colorado Springs to meet us for brunch, followed by lots of catching up.  We had a wonderful time.

On our last day in Colorado, we drove to Denver and spent hours at the Denver Botanical Gardens. I’ve been to many botanical gardens over the years, and this is by far my favorite. If I lived locally, I would visit again and again. I took over 225 photos while we were there, and I barely scratched the surface.  We enjoyed cooler weather for most of the day and a bit of rain which I loved. We lunched outside under a tree while it rained, enjoying a hearty, vegetarian soup.

Denver Botanical Gardens

Denver Botanical Gardens

While it’s always great to travel, it’s good to be home.  The boys took care of the house and the kitties while we were away, a first for the two of them together.  It made traveling a breeze.

My youngest son starts his senior year next week, so we’re happy to have had this time before the onslaught of college applications and the like.

Wish you were here!

Hot August Melancholy

Hot August days invite a certain melancholy. As July comes to a close, an ancient grief rises to the surface and the more I swat it away, the more it demands my time. My nine-year-old self rises to the surface and reminds me of my terrible loss: the death of my father on an oppressively hot, early August day.

Dad was a horticulturist by trade, but his love of gardening came home with him as well. He built our Ontario garden from scratch, changing a mound of dirt into what felt like paradise.

Daddy's Easel

Daddy’s easel, hung on the wall of my crafting area. Photos of his model of the Golden Hind, Dad with a dog on someone’s porch, the flower shop he once owned with my Mum in Seaforth, Canada

If he were with me today, I would place my hand in his and we would walk through my garden together.

bee on chocolate mint

A bee gathers pollen from the chocolate mint in bloom

I once captured bees in a jar to show my dad I was brave. He explained in his kind way why I should set them free. They’re good for the garden he said. I was six at the time but for some reason that memory remains sharp and clear. Perhaps when memories are scarce, we hang on to what we can.

bee on chocolate mint flower

A bee travels the garden

We had a shorter growing season in Canada, but Dad was able grow tomatoes each summer. What fun we had harvesting the fruit and bringing it through the back door for our lunch.

curb garden tomatoes

Three green tomatoes, coming along nicely in the curb garden

tomato plant flowers

Tomato plant in bloom

Dad didn’t grow pumpkins in our Ontario garden. It would be especially fun to show off my beautiful specimen and to smile about the squirrels that most likely planted them.

tree rat with birdseed

A tree rat helps himself to some bird food late one night

Dad loved all animals, once rescuing a mouse from a group of boys on the street in his home town of Oldham, England. I too rescue rats and mice and though most people cringe, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Mouse curb garden

Mouse surveying the curb garden

Daddy would surely get a kick out of a different kind of mouse: Mouse the Cat. Mouse is a rescue too, in his own way.

I descended from a long line of people who rescue strays. It’s a wonderful lineage.

These hot days will pass and my mood will lift, but for now I’m making room for that ancient loss and grief.

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Garden Tomatoes: An Uninspired Tale

I’m not sure what to think about this season’s garden tomatoes. The expression “failure to thrive” comes to mind. Sadly, the basil and the corn in this box aren’t doing so hot either.

VegTrug with corn, basil, tomatoes

VegTrug planted with basil, tomatoes and corn. They’ve all remained small

Generally speaking, tomatoes are fairly easy to grow. The plant is part of the nightshade family, so their poisonous leaves remain untouched. The small yellow flowers attract the bees and before you know it (usually!) you have a vine of ripening tomatoes. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the production as they fruit all at once. That has not been a problem this year.

I planted half a dozen bedding plants in the spring. Some years I start from seed, but I didn’t save any last year so I went the lazy route. I put several small tomato plants in my raised VegTrug and three more in my vegetable box.

native garden and veg trug

May, 2017. Everything looked healthy in May. The nasturtiums surrounded the tomatoes, until the heat set in

I had one more plant in need of a home, so I popped it into the curb garden where it would get plenty of sun in the company of the perennials.

It’s taken nearly four months for three of the plants to produce.

orange cherry tomatoes

The first of the tomatoes

orange tomatoes in planting box

The first of the tomatoes in the planting box. They’re small but delicious

The plant in the curb garden never grew more than a few inches tall and the same goes for the plants in the VegTrug.

curb garden tomatoes orange

Tomatoes growing on the left side of curb garden box…all five of them!

I amended the soil, and watered faithfully once the rain stopped. The plants aren’t drooping or diseased and there is no sign of garden pests. They’re just small and sad and completely unremarkable.

Poor soil could be the culprit though I amended the soil with coffee grounds which I got for free at our local Starbucks. I kept an eye on the water and I know they’re getting full sun.

Since I really wanted at least one healthy tomato plant, I bought a larger bedding plant in a different variety and planted it in the curb garden. It’s too late in the season to start over with a small plant or from seed. All the perennials are thriving in the box so I know the soil is robust. The new plant looks healthy so far, no thanks to my mad gardening skills.

tomato plant curb garden

Newly planted curb garden tomato plant

newly planted tomato

Flowers on the newly planted tomato

Time will tell.

Meanwhile, fire season is upon us. Locally, we’ve seen three small fires, two in San Jose and one in nearby Saratoga. They were all extinguished within 24 hours. A fire in nearby Saratoga burned on the other side of the ridge from the camp where my son volunteers. That definitely gave me pause.  The emergency alert system sent out a text saying to shelter in place, but when I checked on my son he said all was fine. We learned the following day that the alert went out to everyone in the county!  I’m glad the system works, but the error unnecessarily alarmed a lot of people, including this worrywart of a mom.  The largest active fire is in Mariposa/Detwiler. It’s burned 76,000 acres so far, but crews have it 40% contained. My hat is off to these firefighters that work tirelessly under unimaginable conditions throughout the fire season.

2017 Detwiler Fire map

Source: Google Maps

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The Sketchbook in all its glory!

What a joy to be a part of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Sketchbook. The completed sketchbook returned home this month, to the welcoming hands of the artist and blogger who brought so many of us together on the journey. Here is Anne’s lovely post, with links to all the contributors. You’ll find sketches, recipes, crochet, free-form embroidery and more. Come have a look. Thank you, Anne!

Anne Lawson

The other day the Fella brought in a box left by the postie. Immediately I knew it was the Sketchbook. Normally I dive right into things, but this was one parcel I wanted to savour. I sat down with a cup of tea, marvelling at the journey it had made. Then I carefully opened the box, and again, just took my time to enjoy looking. There was a card from Trish that I opened and read.

Then it was time to slowly take the sketchbook out of the bubble wrap and hold it in my hands. Oh it felt good! Deliciously fat, full of all the creativity that the Sisters had put in.

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And more delights……Alys had attached some ladybird stickers, to be added next to each Sister’s address before sending on.

Jan had crocheted a pouch with Cambrian wool, “from the flocks of Wales”. The Sketchbook sat snuggly…

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Growing Pumpkins: A Seasonal Favorite

If you’ve been following along for a while, this will come as no surprise: I love pumpkins.

I love growing them, harvesting them and finding creative ways to show them off leading up to Halloween. Mike takes over from there, carving extraordinary Jack o’ lanterns for the front deck.

After growing pumpkins for a decade, I had two bad seasons in a row. Squash bugs infested my small patch the first year, claiming a few pumpkins entirely, forcing an early harvest of what remained. I relocated the pumpkin crop from the back garden to the front the following summer, but as soon as the plants fruited the squash bugs were back. Then the drought dragged on and I stopped planting them altogether.

The pumpkin growing hiatus did the trick and sent those dreaded squash bugs packing. Further, I’ve now had a couple of self-seeded pumpkin vines grow without a single drop of additional water, at least from me. All the reading I’ve done says that pumpkins like warm, moist soil and lots of water. I learned last summer, though, that they can hydrate from the morning dew using their straw-like stems. Don’t you just love nature’s resilience?

Late last year, after Halloween had come and gone, I did what any self-respecting gardener would do. I harvested the seeds, dried them and stored them for the winter.

Ha! I’m kidding!

Instead of saving the seeds, I sent a “written invitation” to the neighborhood squirrels. What exactly does that look like, you ask? The first invitation was subtle. I placed a pumpkin in the center of the garden and carried on with my day. I glanced out the window from time to time, and sure enough, this cautious squirrel showed up for a meal.

They don’t like the fruit or the skin, but there are plenty of other garden visitors to take care of that. It wasn’t long before it looked like pumpkin mush.

The second “invitation” landed on the back steps in view of the sliding glass door. I kept the camera nearby and sure enough another squirrel came along and helped him or herself to the seeds.

I love watching squirrels eat as they sit on their haunches keeping watch.

Fast-forward to this spring, and I’ve got pumpkins growing throughout the garden. There are a couple of large specimens growing along the side of the house. As an aside, I removed three large flowering vines last year so we could replace the dilapidated fence. I didn’t want to replant anything till the new fence went in. Long story short, it will be October before it’s replaced. Meanwhile, the pumpkins showed up and off they grew.

One of the pumpkin plants actually made it into a planter box and it’s also the first to produce fruit. It’s getting the best sunlight and moisture from a drip system so it’s doing well.

There are three smaller pumpkin vines, struggling to take hold but refusing to give up. I’m just letting them be for now.

The biggest surprise showed up in the last couple of weeks under our home office window. After freshening up the front garden after the sweet-peas went to seed, we replanted the area under the window with a gardenia and a few sunflowers.  A week or so later, in the blazing heat I might add, I brought home 36 bags of redwood mulch and covered every bit of exposed dirt. We upped the watering to twice a week to help establish the new plants, and with that several more pumpkin plants arrived on the scene.

I love checking on the vines each day, following the traditional progress of male flowers, then the female flowers and with good pollination, wonderful fruit. If our luck holds, and the rats, opossums and squirrels let them be, we’ll have carving pumpkins once again.

Fingers crossed.

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Red, White and a Little Blue

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the United States, commonly referred to as the 4th of July. Americans celebrate in a number of ways, and we’ve probably participated in most of them: fireworks shows, classical concerts ending with the 1812 overture, block parties and the like.

This year we’re going with a quieter approach. Our boys have outgrown the neighborhood block party and frankly its a bit of a relief. I’ve always preferred smaller, quieter gatherings. Small talk wears me down and the heat of the day leaves me exhausted. The work involved setting up and tearing down tables and chairs, canopies, etc. is something I’m happy to leave in the past.

Although fireworks are illegal in Santa Clara County, we’re hearing the percussive boom of mortars going off nearby. It’s a huge strain on the cats, who’ve retreated under beds or in closets. It’s hard seeing them frightened knowing there is nothing we can do but wait it out.  Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come.

As America celebrates its hard-won independence from the British Monarchy,I hope people will stop and reflect. What is the true meaning of democracy; why is freedom of the press so important? Our sitting president is making a mockery of what this country stands for.

Here is a brief excerpt from the Declaration of Independence. Source: Wikipedia

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This has been called “one of the best-known sentences in the English language”,[8] containing “the most potent and consequential words in American history”.[9] The passage came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should strive. This view was notably promoted by Abraham Lincoln, who considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy, and argued that the Declaration is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.[10]

On the eve of what should be a great celebration, it’s hard not to feel a little blue.

Little Free Library and bookmarks

Red, white and blue books in the Little Free Library and an assortment of bookmarks for the taking

 

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Lonely Crochet Hooks and a Gorgeous Tool Roll

I started teaching myself how to crochet earlier in the year as a way to relax. I follow quite a few crafty bloggers, and several of them excel at crochet. Was I missing out on all that fun? These clever crocheters seem to pick it up and put it down as casually as a grocery list. I’ll even venture to guess that a few of  you have a hook dancing in your lap as you read this.

I learned to sew at the age of six and our mom taught us the basics of knitting a few years later, but crocheting wasn’t part of her repertoire. I learned how to make a chain, and my skill set ended there.

It’s been slow going, but crocheting is as relaxing as I knew it would be, after I mastered a few knots.  The book-learning bores me to tears, but once I get the hang of a stitch, my shoulders drop and the soothing rhythm I craved takes over.

During a comment conversation on Tall Tales From Chiconia, I offered to send Kate a couple of large crochet hooks in a size she couldn’t find at home. Kate graciously offered to make me something in return.  I know she’s pleased to have a pair of plastic crochet hooks in sizes N and Q, but I’m over the moon at what she offered in return: this gorgeous, handcrafted tool roll in all my favorite colors!

 

 

As I cast my eyes on this lovely thing, I keep reminding myself that it’s a tool roll, not a museum for lonely crochet hooks.  The heat will pass, our busy kitten will mellow and I will sign up for a class to further my skills so that I can continue with this relaxing craft, turning out something I don’t mind bringing out into the light of day.

That said, and in the spirit of Jan’s garden post, here are the meager beginnings of what I hope to call craft one day.

 

 

Thank you once again, Kate, for this beautiful, thoughtful gift.

cat with yarn and crochet

Lindy likes my new hobby

cat in lap with crochet

Mouse is fine with the hobby, as long as he still fits in my lap.

Tessa in hands

Tessa insists that she’s my new hobby

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