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.

My Orchid Blooms Again

Imagine my surprise when this orchid rebloomed.

Phalaenopsis

Phalaenopsis also is known as a moth plant

Sure, in theory, they re-bloom, but that’s not been my experience. I received this orchid as a gift in November 2016.  I’ve been lulled into purchasing one or two over the years, but they’re pricey and usually end the same way.

Orchids are gorgeous when in bloom, and they don’t require much fuss. Eventually, like all flowering plants, the blooms drop away. What’s left is a small set of shiny green leaves. They look nice for a while, but apparently, I neglect them and the leaves fall off one by one. I’m left with compost-filler and a small, empty pot.

Phalaenopsis

Light filtering through the Phalaenopsis bloom

I don’t mind admitting that its a bit guilt-inducing when you lose a house plant. I have my green thumb reputation to uphold! It was ridiculously validating to round the corner behind my couch last November and find my orchid in bloom, three years after the plant moved in. Furthermore, it continued to bloom well into February of this year. February!

Phalaenopsis

Phalaenopsis

Of course, I can’t take all the credit, but after some reading, I’ll let you know what I did right. I moved the orchid close to a window that receives filtered light. There are other plants in the corner, which help create humidity. I stopped watering with my watering can and let a few icecubes melt on the surface instead. Orchids need oxygen at the roots and they don’t like sitting in water.

Those small changes paid off in a big and beautiful way.

My next project will be trying to revive an African Violet. Our foster kitten sat on it. That said, Little Bit went to her permanent home in early January and the violet is still hanging on.

I remain hopeful.

Little Bit Foster Kitty

Little Bit lounging as one does

 

Memorydex meets Memorex: Archiving Cassette Tape Covers

Sisters

Sisters, 1980s

Readers of a certain age will remember the Rolodex. Danish engineer Hildaur Neilsen invented the rotating business contact holder for a stationery manufacturer in New York in 1958.

In 2015, American Craft designer Heide Swapp put her own spin on the Rolodex, and the crafting world went wild. She calls it a Memorydex. Instead of rotating boring contacts, you create, store, and rotate memories. Heide Swapp’s Memorydex is taller, and as luck would have it, about the same size as a cassette tape cover.

Packaging photo: copyright Heidi Swapp

You’ll also have to be a reader of a certain age to remember cassette tapes which peaked in the 1980s. My sister Sharon and I spent our twenties in that decade. Music cassette tapes were the thing. You could play them on a cassette player, in your car, or risk arrest by broadcasting your favorite artist on a Boombox.

Cassettes gave way to CD’s and now you can store your entire music collection on a computer hard drive or in the cloud. Nostalgia is another thing. Sharon stopped listening to her cassettes long ago, but the album art had meaning. When Sharon moved last year, she asked me to help her save all the covers.

I took it one step further and created a Memorydex cassette tape album cover archive. I’ve had so much fun. With a few tips from my friend Kelly, a crafter extraordinaire, I bought a punch

Memorydex Dies

and a pair of dies.

Memorydex Dies

I’m off my feet for six weeks after major foot surgery, so it’s been the perfect craft-from-the-couch project.

I created a gallery documenting the various steps. There are three styles of cassette covers including paper, cardboard, and multiple-fold. Here are the various steps (click on individual photos for details):

In addition to Sharon’s purchased music library, I included covers from various mix-tapes, her voice lessons, and a few random blank tapes. For a bit of added trivia, Sharon worked at Memorex in Santa Clara while attending college. There are one or two Memorex tapes in the mix as well. Sharon is thrilled with the results and I had a great time making this for her.

Memorydex

Sharon’s Cassette Tape Archive

More nostalgia at these links:

History of the cassette music tape

The invention of the Rolodex

Products, including Memorydex, Memorydex punch, and Memorydex dies available from:

Heidi Swapp

ScrapHappy December: Wrapping a Starfish

What’s a Scrap Happy 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.

Last month I helped put together a volunteer appreciation afternoon for Front Door Communities/Lifted Spirits. My friend Mary came up with the idea of a starfish keyring as a small thank you gift for our volunteers. The keyrings came packaged in a simple black box.

This is where my scraps come in. I had exactly two sheets of this autumn-themed paper, which I won at a scrapbooking event several years ago. I wanted to include “thank you” somewhere on the gift and came up with the idea of hand-stamping “thank you” and a couple of small stars on a band of paper. I needed 30 bands in all and had just enough to wrap 30 boxes, with enough left over for one bookmark!

Scrap-happy bookmark.

I assembled drawstring bags with the boxed keyring and the thank you band, then added small cinnamon-scented pine cones to help the box stand upright.

Gift bag and pine cones

Small bag, pine cones, black box and a strip of paper before stamping

This is what they looked like assembled on a tray.

Volunteer Appreciation gifts

Why starfish?  Here’s the story:

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “why are you doing this?  You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

She bent down, picked up another starfish, and tossed it into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one.”

Positive Promotions starfish key ring

Boxed starfish keyring with a parable

Our volunteers make a difference

These small crafty projects are about all I have time for of late, but they’re satisfying nonetheless.

If you would like to join us, please let Kate know.

Wishing you a happy, scrappy holiday!

Starfish Keyring: One Person Can Make a Difference

Starfish Keyring: One Person Can Make a Difference

Check out the links below on December 15th to see other scrap-happy posts.

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