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.

ScrapHappy November: Wall Calendar Bookmarks

I’m joining Kate, of Tall Tales from Chiconia, for her monthly scrap-happy blog post. The challenge is to create something made entirely of scraps, or as Kate put it this month it’s “time to show stuff made from bits of other stuff!”

This month I converted pages from my old wall calendars into bookmarks for our Little Free Library. With a library at the curb, it’s a fun excuse to make several bookmarks at once.

Sample calendars

The Nature Conservancy calendar and bookmark: photograph Rick Flematti Nature Photography

Bird calendar page into bookmark: photograph Loic Poidevin

Being the animal lover that I am, I’m on mailing lists for the Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) and the Nature Conservancy. Their calendars are too beautiful to toss so I upcycle the pages into an assortment of things.

Time is short, so nothing fancy this month.

I perused my stash, set aside pictures that would work for the scale of a bookmark and then located the most strategic center.

Sweetness overload

A pair of puppy bookmarks

A trio of kitty calendar bookmarks

From our HSSV calendar (the book is a gift from my friend Kelly)

Will you look at those puppy-dog eyes?

More puppies

I cut a 6 x 6-inch focal point from the center of the calendar, then score at the two-inch mark on either side.  I fold it into thirds and glue the layers together. These gorgeous calendars get a second life.

It’s surprising how relaxing this simple craft can be. I enjoyed revisiting the beautiful nature photography, and I smiled at the notion of all those cats and dogs going to their forever home.

That’s it for this month. I’m off to see how the rest of the bloggers below are using their scraps.

Check out the links below on November 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.

Lauren

It’s impossible to reconcile the death of a child. It’s equally challenging not to sound trite when you say to her mother, who’s been cut to the quick, “I’m sorry for your loss.” The loss is unimaginable.

Lauren died from pulmonary edema just a few weeks shy of her 19th birthday. We’re all in shock.

We’ve known Lauren’s family for a decade. She attended our Halloween parties, hung out with my son at the park, and was an occasional passenger in the back seat of my van. No single event stands out as extraordinary, but instead a collection of ordinary memories that can be stored and retrieved and enjoyed.

Of course, I assumed there would be many more ordinary days because that’s the natural order of things.

Lauren had an easy-going nature and a lovely smile. I remember greeting her near the bus when they returned from 5th-grade science camp and I remember the day they all graduated from high school. She was a good friend to my son and a joy to have in our home. I can’t believe she’s gone.

My heart goes out to all who loved her, especially Kimmy, Amy, and Bill. xo

I Miss My Blog: A Haiku

I miss my dear blog
A yearning, hard to describe
Another sun sets.

Gardening Nirvana feels like a cozy little place on the internet. It’s not quite a room, or for that matter, a garden.

In internet lingo, it’s simply a URL. That said, it’s uniquely mine. I share through words and pictures. Kind strangers stop by from around the globe. Kindred spirits become friends. It’s magical.

Even in my absence, I feel the pull. It’s the strangest thing for a place that didn’t exist several years ago. Gardening Nirvana is my blogging home.

Since you’ve stopped in for a visit, I’ll briefly share what’s new.

In early October I turned 60. The lead up to what my friend Laura calls a “zero birthday” was strange. Sixty! Good grief that sounds old, yet here I am. It all amounted to a hill of beans. I have absolutely nothing unique to say about crossing into another decade. (I have plenty to say about the abysmal state of this country, but I’ll spare you that drama).

Our beautiful state caught fire once again. Autumn used to be a favorite time of year when temperatures finally cooled and the possibility of rain stirred the air. Instead, temperatures remain hot and dry, as fierce winds and low humidity whip into a frenzy. We just passed the one-year mark of the Camp Fire, the worst in our state’s history. It claimed 85 lives and destroyed a community.

This year, everyone has been on edge.

I get first-hand updates from my friend Laura who moved to Paradise six months before it burned. The Camp Fire destroyed her fence and several trees and left heat and soot damage throughout her home. Miraculously, the fire stopped there. Her home is one of the five percent to have been spared. Her friend, Christine wasn’t as lucky. She fled her home with four children and two dogs packed into the car, with forty-foot flames on both sides of the road. I’ll never forget the video she shared as they fled.

This season’s fires started later. We felt a collective relief. Then the predicted “wind events” came to pass, and just before I headed to bed, there was news of the Kincaide Fire. Several more followed, and once again it seemed our beautiful state burned.

We live in a bubble here in San Jose. We’re in a valley, so we avoid the heavy winds that swoop across the hills. We have friends up and down the state that lost power for days, endured forced evacuations and the worry of what they might return to. I should, of course, feel lucky, but instead, I feel dread. We desperately need rain.

On a brighter note, we flew to Mississauga, Ontario mid-month to attend a traditional Indian Wedding. The events were full of joy and laughter, beautiful color, dance, and wonderful food. Both families embraced us, helping us navigate the unknown and making us feel welcome. A local shop helped us select the proper attire for each event. We’re so honored to have been a part of the celebrations.

Haldi and Mendhi

Sangeet

Bride Baraat, Groom Baraat, and Pheras

An injured foot kept me off the dance floor. It’s also reduced my time in the garden.

 

A torn tendon kept me from dancing

A torn tendon kept me from dancing

Recent events remind me, however, that I’m lucky to be alive, and lucky to see another day. For this I’m grateful. If you’ve read this far, I’m grateful for you, too.