Have Blog, Will Travel: Meeting the Marvelous Marlene

How do you measure the success of a trip?

Is it the time you spent laughing?

Laughing out loud at Fabric Depot. We don’t have anything like this at home. It’s an acre of fabric and sewing notions

Posing with Marlene in her lovely home with Pauline King’s original art work in the background

Trying to find our good side.

Perhaps it’s the wonderful meals you’ve shared?

Breakfast at Bob’s (see Marlene behind the piano player)

Can you define success by the unexpected moments (for instance going out for breakfast, only to discover you’re at a birthday party for Bob Moore)?

Bob Moore, CEO of Bob’s Red Mill on his 89th birthday

Maybe it’s the “eye candy” spotted along the way?

BBB = Big Beautiful Building for lease. I love the colors and shapes

Plants of Portland

As I write this I’m reminded that some of the best moments aren’t captured on a camera chip, but stored in one’s heart.

I’ve been following Marlene’s blog In Search of it All for nearly six years. We’ve followed each other around the blogosphere, too, gathering like-minded friends along the way.

The stars aligned on Valentine’s day and I got to meet the marvelous Marlene in person. I boarded a plane from San Jose to Portland, and finally delivered on that promised squishy hug.

Portland bound: San Jose Airport, Valentine’s Day, 2018

We recognized each other immediately. Steps after leaving the gate, I wrapped Marlene in a long embrace and I don’t think either one of us wanted to let go.

We spent our time together talking about family history. Marlene has a rich and interesting past, much of which she’s shared on her blog. What you get in person, though, are the rich details that deepen understanding and expand friendships. Who doesn’t love the give and take of a good conversation?

If you follow Marlene’s blog, you know that she has a devoted younger sister and a loving daughter and son. They’re always checking in by phone or text, looking out for one another in an endearing way. Marlene is a mama extraordinaire.

Marlene’s sister drove us to downtown Portland for an afternoon. We spent over an hour at Powell’s City of Books, which is like saying you spent an hour at the Louvre.  Powell’s City of Books occupies an entire city block. It’s the largest independent book store in the world! Powell’s has three floors with color-coded sections to help you find what you’re looking for on the map. Yes folks, if you’re looking for a book on crafting or art or…well, anything, you’ll need the store map. It’s the kind of bookstore that requires lots of time and a pair of comfortable shoes. Be still my heart. I can’t wait to go back.

Powell’s City of Books: a multi-story, new and used bookstore. It’s so big you need a color-coded map.

Marlene’s sister lives in Washington, but drove down for the day. She treated us to lunch at her friend Sheryl’s restaurant, then drove us around to some of the sites. It was cold and damp so we didn’t venture too far, but I’ve been making mental lists for future visits.

Marlene and her sister refer to this as the “mushroom house”.

Mushroom house windows

A spectacular view from the hills of Portland

I met Marlene’s lovely daughter Saturday. Marlene made us breakfast, and then we spent the day hanging out at home and doing a few organizing projects before my all-too-quick visit ended.

Together we moved this bookshelf into Marlene’s craft room. Check out her gorgeous button collection on the top shelf

Marlene also blogged about our time together. You can read her post here. I’m almost embarrassed to share it as to hear her tell it, I walk on water. My ego may never deflate. (Oh wait…I still live with a teenager. I’ll be back on the ground in no time.)

Thank you, Marlene for your generous hospitality including rides to and from the airport, the satisfying, home-cooked (vegetarian) meals and for all those shared cups of tea.

Have you met a blogging friend? Are you planning a gathering in the near future?

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Unless The Camera is in Another Room

hummingbird on top of fountain

From the archives: Anna’s Hummingbird perched on the fountain, September, 2016

You’ve probably heard the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I looked up the origin of the cliché this morning as I watched a hummingbird splashing about in the bubbler atop our fountain. The concept isn’t new, but the expression is only about one hundred years old.

BB (Before Blogging) I would have enjoyed the hummingbird experience for what it was: a gem of a moment that I might have missed if I hadn’t looked out the window at just the right time. Ten minutes earlier, as I watered the indoor plants, I mused that I really should get out there with the hose and top up the fountain.

Instead, the receding water slowed the fountain pump allowing the tiny bird a chance to sit in the bubbler and spin in a circle while splashing its wings. Pure joy!

AB (After Blogging) I’ve realized that I want to share these special moments with you. Our global blogging community fits neatly into another cliché; “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

On the subject of gifts, I’m traveling to Oregon next week to spend time with blogger Marlene from In Search Of It All. We’ve connected for years through our blogs, then graduated to emailing, Facebook, phone calls, texts and finally our first face-to-face.  I can hardly wait to give and receive the in-person hug we’ve been trading virtually for years.

In March I’ll be traveling again, a trip two years in the making: I’m off to New Zealand, where my friend Pauline of The Contented Crafter and her two daughters will host three blogger-turned-friends from Canada and the US. It’s a trip of a lifetime.  I still can’t quite believe we’ve pulled it off.

While I hope to capture photos worth a thousand words, I know I’ll be gathering incredible memories with special women. I’m looking forward to sharing more of them with you.

 

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