Our Little Free Library Becomes a Work of Art

Feast your eyes on our redesigned Little Free Library.

Thanks to the extraordinary talents of artist Donna Pierre, Our Little Free Library is now a work of art.

My friend Nick Timmerman built our library in January, 2014. He used reclaimed materials, then added a small light connected to our low voltage landscape lighting. What a gem!

Although the box remains structurally sound, it took a bit of a beating with the sun shining down on it day after day. This year’s rains exposed a small leak, and with that I knew it needed a bit of TLC.

Somehow, that “TLC” morphed into a magical, whimsical, fantastical library. (Click on individual photos for a closer look)

Our Little Free Library or LFL has been a joy from the start.  I love the whole concept of a book exchanges on sidewalks, country roads, inside coffee houses and in neighborhood parks. As of November 2016,

there are over 50,000 registered Little Free Library book exchanges in all 50 U.S. states and over 70 countries around the world. – source LittleFreeLibrary.org

How’s that for exciting?  The idea of linking people with books and communities with tiny libraries is both simple and profound. It’s such an honor to be a part of it.

In the early days of the library, I went searching for books. I asked friends and neighbors and occasionally searched our local thrift stores when children’s books were in short supply.

Then the magic happened.

  • Bloggers from around the world sent special books for the Little Free Library debut. Books arrived from Anne in Australia, Kelly in Canada and Julia from the state of Virginia. Pauline and Ann who are also artists, sent me a supply of bookmarks.
  • My friend Barbara bought three large bins of children’s books at a garage sale and donated them to our library.
  • When our neighbor Bernice moved house, she called and offered me several boxes of children’s books for a variety of ages.
  • A neighbor a few blocks over regularly stops by and tidies the library. She leaves bags of books on my doorstep from Friends of the Library sales.
  • My friend Kristi sent several books via Amazon in honor of our friendship and in memory of her Aunt Vicki.
  • And twice in recent months, a neighbor I’ve never met pulled up to the curb and offered me several bags of children books.
  • Just last week I received a box of books from Marlene at In Search of it All.

It’s also fun watching the books come and go organically. The Little Free Library motto is take a book, give a book and it works.

Here’s another gallery of photos showing Donna at work.

A big thank you to Donna for sharing her talents.  You can see more of her work here and here.

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How Many Bloggers Can You Fit In a Phone Booth?

That’s a trick question. Phone booths are largely a thing of the past.  Wouldn’t it be fun to try though?

Instead I did the next best thing. I packed my bags for Washington, D.C., Virginia and New York and met with bloggers everywhere I went.

After an extraordinary 48 hours in Atlanta visiting The Carter Center and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, I flew to Washington, D.C.

Another airport, another flight delay. No matter. I sustained myself with chocolate and a large bottle of water along with the knowledge that Laurie would be waiting at the airport.

Laurie behind the camera

Laurie is a women’s health practitioner, a biker, an extraordinary photographer and an all around wonderful person. She’s quick with a laugh, sharp and funny. I admire her involvement in her community of Radford, Virginia and all she does to improve the lives of others. If you’re not already following along, please check her out at Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things.

My sense of direction is abysmal, so though we made it to the hotel courtesy of Google maps, it took us another twenty minutes to sort out the maze known as Dupont Circle. I knew that our hotel was in the same building as Starbucks (it wasn’t) and I knew that we were so close. Good grief, it’s a wonder she’s still speaking to me. I find it uncomfortable being directionally challenged. Thanks to Laurie, we made it.

Kelly, who blogs at Boomdeeadda and Kelly’s Korner already had the wine chilled. She arrived from Canada earlier in the week to visit with Julia. Kelly and I became fast friends through our mutual blogs nearly five years ago. We’re kindred spirits who love to travel. This holiday marks our seventh visit, even though we live in different countries, hundreds of miles apart.

Kelly in Times Square (Kelly’s husband treated us to a Broadway play called Waitress)

Saturday we joined Julia of Defeat Despair, and her son Matt for lunch in Old Town Alexandria. Julia’s been through a difficult time this past year with the loss of her husband, Jeff after a long illness. He died  a few months after he retired. Kelly and I planned to visit Julia in the spring after things were more settled, but life continues for her on a difficult path. I’m glad we could see her.

Old Town, Alexandria: Laurie, Matt, Julia, Kelly and me

Arlington Cemetery with Julia and Kelly

On Tuesday,  Julia took us to see Jeff’s grave at Arlington Cemetery.  It was beautiful and sobering, and we all abandoned pretense and gave in to our tears.

Alexandria, Virginia: Lisa, Laurie, Kelly and Me draped in Pauline King’s Scarf design

Lisa of Arlingwords joined us for a glass of wine, dinner, and a romp through Old Town, a place filled with beauty and history. I love the brick buildings, some of them nearly 300 years old. What a testament to building practices of the time. Tulips were up everywhere.

Tulips in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

Lisa lives in Arlington and works for the State Department in DC. Lisa participates in the The Arlington Food Assistance Center’s (AFAC) Plot Against Hunger project. Some of the produce she grows helps supplement groceries for community members in need.

We spent five days dividing our time between Arlington, Alexandria and D.C. before boarding a train for New York City. Joe is an incredible photographer. He blogs at The Visual Chronicle and Monochromia. He’s an all around nice guy, who welcomed us to New York, greeting us at Penn Station. Joe and his lovely wife Terry hired a cab to our hotel, then waited in the hotel bar while we settled in.

Grant Central Station, New York: Terry, Joe, me and Kelly. photo credit: Patricia Fogarty

The Rare Bar & Grill Murray Hill, Affinia Shelburne Hotel, New York, NY. Patricia, me, Kelly, Terry and Joe. Photo credit: Patricia Fogarty

Joe invited Patricia to join us, and join us she did. We wandered around Grand Central Station and enjoyed watching Joe and Patti, both photographers, compare cameras and snap pics.

Joe and Terry treated us to a round of drinks, then later took us to dinner at a fabulous place called Eataly (think Eatery + Italy). We dined on amazing pasta, browsed the shops and got to know each other over dinner.

We’ve all said it before and it’s worth saying  again: how about this big, beautiful world of blogging? My heart is full.

The Bloggers

Alys at Gardening Nirvana, California

Joe at The Visual Chronicle New York

Julia at Defeat Despair, Virginia

Kelly at Boomdeeadda and Kelly’s Korner, Edmonton, Canada

Laurie at Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things, Virginia

Lisa at Arlingwords, Virginia

Patricia (Patti) at Nylon Daze,  New York

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Art in the Mist: The CreARTfuldodger

You know how it goes. You follow a blogger who follows another blogger and before you know it, the three of you are walking on a beach in Victoria, BC.

Wilma and Boomdee, Victoria BC, August 17, 2014

Wilma and Boomdee, Victoria BC, August 17, 2014

Two years ago this month I met Wilma, the artist behind the blog creartfuldodger (CreArtful Dodger). When I returned to Victoria in June with Mike, Wilma drove into town to share a meal. She offered to pick us up at our hotel, and when I gave her the address she knew it well. Wilma’s daughter works at the same hotel. Serendipity!

Wilma with her art

Wilma with her art

Wilma is great company, a wonderful tour guide and an accomplished artist. Over dinner, she surprised me with the gift of this inspired bird collage.

Knowing my love of Nigella aka Love in a Mist, she used an original, 1900’s seed packet as the starting point. She incorporated airmail stickers and stamps, also my favorites and created a tag using a vintage book cover. It’s beautiful and thoughtful. She also included my initial on the gift bag, a charming addition.

Creartfuldodger

Creartfuldodger: Layered seed packet, postage stamp, mailing labels and other ephemera. The green image shows detail from the back of the tag

Wilma writes:

Love-in-a-mist,

It is truly hard to resist!

Perhaps Alys will remember, with pleasure, her stay,

And return again one fine day. – Wilma Millette, Creartfuldodger

With great pleasure, Wilma. Love and thanks.

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A Stitch in Time

Do you know the expression, “A stitch in time saves nine?” It’s a sewing metaphor, admonishing that if you don’t fix it now, you’ll have even more work down the line.

That’s no fun.

Instead I’m going with “A stitch in time is fine”…and lovely, and extraordinary and appreciated beyond measure. (Oh no, another sewing metaphor).

Check out  the lovely stitches from my dear friends Marlene and Marcia.

Marlene loves to sew and quilt. She’s also a master of machine embroidery. Look at this gorgeous piece.

Marlene's embroidery books and flowers

Embroidered Panel

I dropped a metaphorical stitch when I unwrapped it. Isn’t it lovely? She’s captured my passion for gardening and books, my love of color and flower-arranging and wrapped it all up with beautifully blended threads and the perfect quote:

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

I would add that if you have friends like Marlene, you are lucky indeed.

Marlene shares her generous talents far and wide. She quilts for a cause, makes beautiful gifts for friends and writes warm, caring and thoughtful comments throughout the blogosphere. If you haven’t had the pleasure, you can find her at In Search of it All.

This beautiful tea towel is also a gift from Marlene. When I was a girl, personalized items were all the rage, but I could never find anything with the name Alys. I still get a little boost from seeing my name embroidered on this towel.

Marlene's embroidery Alys' kitchen

Embroidered Tea Towel

This whimsical linen calendar is a gift from my friend, Marcia. We met over thirty years ago when we worked together in a costume shop in Santa Rosa. Marcia is a skilled pattern maker and a wonderful seamstress. Like Marlene, her hands are always busy sewing and crocheting lovely gifts. Last year she sent a hand-made apron, wrapped in a fabric remnant.

The linen calendar came wrapped in a pattern piece. Cool, eh?  She finished the top of the calendar  with seam-binding to allow for a dowel. The edges are a pretty zig-zag pattern. Again, all my favorite colors and themes: watering cans, flowers, birds and cats and the wonderful color palette.

The calendar is hanging in our guest room and it looks right at home.

All three of these pieces inspire me, and make me realize how much I miss sewing.

I’m going to turn Marlene’s embroidery into a cushion cover now, and will do the same with Marcia’s calendar when the year is over.

How about you? Have friends inspired you to creativity this year?

 

Marcia's calendar

Linen Calendar

Something Old, Something New

You’ve heard the Olde English wedding rhyme “something old, something new”. How about “something new from something old”?

That’s exactly what arrived in the mail last week: a charmingly attired wire dress form, an unexpected gift from Marlene Herself.  The attached tag reads: “A Gift of Something New from Something Old” hand crafted from vintage linen by That’s My Sisters Donna and Colleen. I love it!

full apron in garden

Something new from something old

Marlene, who blogs at In Search Of It All, is a wonderful seamstress and quilter in her own right. She knows how much I like dressmaking forms; I bought one in my size for the first time last year. This little charmer is about a foot tall and arrived wearing a crisp apron, hand-crafted from vintage linen. It’s pictured here in my garden between a begonia and a geranium, but only to show it off. Begonia’s and geraniums have their own vintage vibe, too, don’t you think? The darling dress form holds court on my bedroom dresser below, but I never have much luck with indoor shots. You can see how pretty it looks against the blue wall, but I could only capture the details when I took photos in the garden.

vintage apron dress form details

Vintage Apron Details

Marlene said she made “two women happy” when she bought this gift, but I suspect she’s been making many of us happy for years.

Thank you, Marlene, for this treasure and for a daily reminder of your kindness and friendship.

apron bodice in garden

Bodice Detail

Word(s) of the Year

Serendipity was my 2014 word of the year. This year’s word is connections. Here’s a bit of both. I recently connected with Kerry through blogging. I followed a link to her Etsy shop and fell in love with one of her vintage, hand-embroidered linens. In the same week I ordered the beautiful tablecloth pictured below, Marlene’s delightful package arrived in the mail. Serendipitous worldly connections, I love you so, and I love your hand-embroidered linens, too. ♥ ♥ ♥

kerry can table cloth vintage

Vintage Linen from Kerry Can’s Etsy Shop

Vintage Tablecloth Detail

Vintage Tablecloth Detail

Books from Down Under

Anne Lawson is a talented botanical artist and blogger living in Australia.  She says she is:

fascinated by natural objects like seed pods, shells and leaves. But most especially feathers. I pick them up, admire them, draw them. I have a cupboard full of feathers that are my inspiration. (Lucky that they are as light as a ………!)

Lucky for me, Anne is also a lover of books with a generous heart. Anne mailed two beautifully illustrated children’s classics with the inscription “All the way from Australia” for our Little Free Library.

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

Possum Magic by Mem Fox happens to be one of my favorites. Ironically, we once owned an autographed copy when we met the author at a children’s bookstore. We gave our copy to a friend when my boys outgrew it. I’m delighted to add a new copy to the library.

I’m not familiar with the second book, To the Top End: Our Trip to Australia.The illustrations are fabulous, so I’m excited to dive in. I’ll enjoy reading it a few times before it makes its way to the curb. Children’s literature holds a special place in my heart.

To the Top End: Our Trip Across AustraliaDSC_0016

To the Top End: Our Trip Across Australia

Anne also sent several of her hand drawn and painted book marks. Aren’t they fun?

Anne Lawson bookmarks

Anne Lawson Design bookmarks

Thank you Anne, for your lovely gifts.

If you’re not already following along, you can read her blog and see her botanical art at Anne Lawson. Check our her Etsy shop too at Anne4bags.

little free library geo map

Little Free Library books from around the world

Craft if Forward: Garden Journal

This month’s craft it forward goes to Emma at Greenhousing.   Emma is a fellow gardener, helping things grow in her own special garden in the UK.

She started Greenhousing: Big Plans for a Small Garden with her husband to:

plan and keep a record of our hard and not-so-hard work.

Luckily we have been hoarding lots of plant pots of various sizes, seed and drip trays, pot trays, seeds, weed suppressant fabric, vegetable and tomato fertiliser, etc. so we can make big plans without having to spend a lot of money.

The garden is an odd shape at the back of the house, with fencing on three sides and a corner of a neighbour’s garage jutting into it.  The big plan is to work around any obstacles and grow some tasty food and lovely flowers and plants.

She hasn’t posted for a while, so I’m hoping life simply got busy and that all is okay.

Garden Memories

I started by gathering garden-inspired paper and embellishments.  Oh how I tax myself [wink-wink]). I assembled an 8 x 8 book/album, small enough to carry into the garden to record notes on garden progress.  It can also be used to save photos of her garden successes or remembrances of her first year with a lovely greenhouse.

Here are a few sample pages:

garden journal page 1 garden journal page 2 garden journal page 3 garden journal page 4 garden journal page 5 garden journal page 6 garden journal back cover

What is Craft it Forward?

Here’s how it works. The first five people to comment on the original post receive a handmade item with the gardening nirvana touch. In return, they agree to pay it forward, crafting their own unique item for the first five people on their list. Craft it Forward encourages community, creative spirit and camaraderie. It also encourages flexibility, so I expanded my list from five to seven based on interest in the project. Isn’t it fun making your own rules?

Further, in the era of the internet, who doesn’t like ‘real’ mail? If you haven’t started your own Craft it Forward, today is a good day to get going.