Blogging 101: Feature This

first day of spring 2015

First day of spring in the garden (photos at dusk)

It’s late in the day on the first day of spring, but I’m determined to finish out week three of Blogging 101. Day fifteen’s assignment: Create a New Posting Feature.

Why do this? The idea is:

to inspire loyalty is to publish regularly. And the best ways to make sure you publish regularly is with a recurring feature — it’s like making a pact with yourself and your audience.
Creating a regular feature means your readers have something specific to wait for at regular intervals — it gives your blog a hook.

We’re all creatures of habit, bloggers and readers. Adding a recurring feature — or simply planning posts at regular intervals — helps your writing stay sustainable. Even a purely personal blog of random musings benefits from a hint of structure.

I read the assignment last night and thought about it throughout the day. In my early blogging days I ran a feature called Blooming Thursday.  It did give me some focus for one day of the week, but I don’t think it captured the minds and hearts of…anyone.

I dug a little deeper if you’ll pardon the pun. I thought about the things that I know and love and eventually settled on organizing. Organizing people, places and things has been a passion my whole life. My mom said she found me in her room organizing a sock drawer at the age of two. I’m sure there’s been some embellishing to that story over the years, but it illustrates my interest from an early age.

I’m casting about for a proper name and this is where you come in. Will you please vote for one of these options, or simply let me know what you think in the comments below?

For those of you living in the northern hemisphere, happy vernal equinox. To my friends in the south, I’m sure you’re welcoming the approach of cooler weather. I love the turn of a season and all the promise it brings. How about you?

Blogging 101: Branding Your Image?

daffodil altered 2015Today’s blogging 101 task asks us to extend our brand with one of the following: a custom Blavatar, a custom image widget, or a fan page.

Since I already have a Gravatar and lacked the energy to create another Facebook page, I opted for the image widget.

It was fun playing round with my photo using a (mostly) free app called PicMonkey, but the idea of creating a brand is a bit lost on me.

You can see the image widget on the right side of my blog. Of all the lessons over the past few weeks, this was the most challenging, mostly because I just couldn’t see the point.

Have you used the image widget on your blog? How about PicMonkey?

Blogging 101: Weird Image Wednesday

Today’s Blogging 101 task is to pick a blogging community event and take part.

I couldn’t help myself.

I chose Weird Image Wednesday hosted by Karl Thibodeaux.

baby spiders on fern 4-18-2013 12-47-012

Hatching baby spiders

I blogged and shared this photo two years ago, but thought it was worth sharing again.

While cleaning debris under the orange tree I discovered recently hatched spiders leaving home. Within two days they were gone without a trace, so I’m glad I took this photo when I did.

You can read about my discovery at Itsy Bitsy Spider

Karl has several beautiful photographs on his site at Weird Image Wednesday. I think the frozen thorns are my current favorite. You might want to check it out.

If you want to join in the fun on future Wednesdays, be sure to include the tag in your post.

And In This Corner, A Garden Sampler

According to Aristotle, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” This small corner of my garden agrees.

Assorted garden volunteers

There are all sorts of gardening rules to insure your success:

  • Do not over plant or crowd your seedlings
  • Make sure your plant gets the proper amount of sunlight
  • Water appropriately to support healthy roots
  • and so on.

Then the usual suspects blow into town and make a mockery of it all. With some assist from the wind, a few birds and other garden foragers, this perfect little gem of a corner came together without any help from the gardener (that’s me).

None of these plants are garden strangers. They enjoyed their stay last season and decided to make a come back. Below my window, and along the patio’s edge, a sampler garden is born.

Garden Sampler

Four o’clock Mirabilis jalapa

This prolific annual grows quickly with a low, sprawling habit. The original plant grew at the front of the house in the Children’s Garden, producing lovely yellow blooms around four o’clock each day, hence the name. I saved lots of seeds, but honestly, I needn’t have bothered. Two months ago, several seedlings started to grow.

Cyclamen

Cyclamen grow from tubers. They die back each year, returning in the winter and early spring, preferring cooler temps. This lovely pink variety is flowering like mirrored twins.

Polka dot plant Hypoestes phyllostachya

This spotted pink darling self-seeded from a pot nearby. Late in the summer, tiny purple flowers appeared. It’s nice to have that splash of pink joining the others.

New Zealand Hair Sedge

Every garden needs some breezy grasses, right? It’s the perfect backdrop for the pinks in the foreground.

Tomato Plant nightshade Solanum lycopersicum

Rounding out this densely populated corner is a tomato plant. Just like last year, tomatoes are popping up all over the garden. The plant is doing fine now, but once the Acer fills out for the summer, the tomato won’t receive much light. I don’t have the heart to try to move it so it stays. There are no rules that say tomatoes have to bear fruit. It can enjoy the quiet solitude of the corner and do whatever it wants.

garden sampler

Blogging 100: Day Twelve

Our Blogging University assignment for today is to “Increase Your Commenting Confidence.” I’m pretty chatty around here. I drop comments all over the blogosphere and receive thoughtful and thought-provoking comments on my blog in turn. I followed the instructions, though to

“read six posts written in response to the same prompt, and leave comments on at least two of them.”

Fun!

Save

Save

Oh, The Places You’ll Blog*

*with humble apologies to Dr. Seuss.

It’s day eleven of Blogging University: Blogging 101. With two weeks down and one to go, I’ve learned a lot.

Today’s assignment is to

publish a post based on your own, personalized take on a blogging prompt.

The prompt is

Places: beach, mountain, forest, or somewhere else entirely?

Where Am I?

Where Am I?

When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
Love’s Labours Lost (5.2.900-4)

In 1989, single and unencumbered, I flew to Europe with a backpack and stayed for two months. I traveled mostly by train, but also by bus and boat. The best days were those spent on foot, exploring small towns, large cities and everything in between. I covered ten countries in all, including most of the British Aisles as well as France, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.

I traveled on a shoe string, working from a copy of Let’s Go Europe. Staying in youth hostels made the trip affordable and fun. I met travelers from around the world and in addition to their good company, I learned about other places to stop along the way.

It seems a life time ago, and of course in many ways it is. I’ve since married and had two boys, started a small organizing business and moved to San Jose. When I look at this photo, though, all the memories come back. Photographs, much like music or a certain smell, have a way of transporting you back in time. I remember buying the dress I’m wearing and the sweater to go with it. Those comfortable, ubiquitous sandals carried me everywhere. It was a thrill to step foot in this aging town and to learn more about its history.

A woman I met at one of the youth hostels snapped this photo on a warm, July day. Then we explored the sites together. We were still buying rolls of film in those days and developing them at a nearby drug store. It was here that I bought the first of many travel patches that I would later sew on my backpack.

Of course lots of the memories are lost with the years. Sometimes I want to peer outside of the photos edge, to see what might be there.  I remember arriving but not departing and I don’t remember any of the meals. I wonder if I’m really that close to the river’s edge or is it simply an artifact of the camera’s lens?

What I do know is this: Traveling alone on another continent was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. There were times when I was lonely, cranky and scared, but they were far outweighed by the interesting people I met along the way and the tremendous sense of independence that comes from finding your way in a distant land.  I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Can you guess where I am from these clues?

 

 

Garden Curiosities

My garden is full of curiosities. Come have a look.

This is the only snapdragon to survive the winter. I don’t know why this survived, but it sure is pretty.

yellow snap dragon in pot

Overwintered snapdragon

If you take a closer look though, the plant below the flowers looks terrible. Dots of black, sooty material coat the leaves, an as-yet to be determined garden pest. Curious.

snapdragon infestation

Snapdragon infestation

Our aging orange tree produces an impressive amount of fruit, but they’re not very sweet. The rats, however love them and lay waste to a half a dozen oranges a day. Somehow they overlooked the larger orange. It grew like the heart of the Grinch on Christmas day.

pair of oranges

The orange that ate New York

Since we live in California, we keep an up to date earthquake emergency kit, stored under my potting bench in the backyard. The lower bin holds water, blankets and a first aid kit, and the top bin stores canned goods and assorted items. The bins remain disguised but at the ready if we ever need them.

I use the top of the potting bench to stage some of my photos and in the summer it doubles as a buffet for outdoor meals.

Well.

Apparently some unknown critter had the same idea. Just under the top of the bench I found a mass of hollow snail shells. Do you think the snails hide there by day, providing a tasty buffet for a night dweller, or do you think the night dweller brings them there for his meal?

potting bench with ribbon

Potting bench, earthquake storage and a place where snails go to die

earthquake kit

Outdoor earthquake kit

snail wasteland

Snail evisceration

I was home alone one morning this week when I heard scratching on the living room window. Yikes. I screwed up the courage to investigate and saw a goldfinch repeatedly fluttering into the window. This went on for most of the afternoon and on into the second day.

We have ultraviolet decals on the windows to discourage flying accidents. Some birds will fly straight into the window thinking the reflection is more blue sky. The decal alerts the bird and prevents injury. But this was different. Over and over again, he would fly up to the window from his resting branch, and without injuring himself, flutter his wings on the glass.

I did a bit of reading and learned that the birds small brain thinks the reflection is a competitor. This exhausted little bird has been defending his territory for two days…against himself. I taped a large piece of red plastic to the glass and it broke the spell. Curious indeed.

window decal ultraviolet

Ultraviolet window decal, barely visible from indoors but highly visible to the birds

Here’s the view from the tree.

reflective window

Goldfinch nemesis: His own reflection

While cleaning up oranges from under the tree, I made the mistake of drawing back the branches of a fern. I wonder who’s living in that hole? I released the branches of the fern and backed away. I’m curious but, not that curious.

unearthed crevice under orange tree

Anybody home?

Finally, what’s more curious than a cat named Mouse licking dew drops from the edge of a daffodil while a little snail travels down the center of the bloom?

Mouse sips water from the flower, snail inside

Mouse, always curious

Blogging 101, Day Ten: Build and display your blog roll.

Please have a look at my sidebar and see if you find something of interest. Then click away. If you’ve been blogging for a while you know that comments and blogrolls are the spice of the blogging community. Belly up to the table and enjoy.

Color Me Green with Envy

green collageGreen is the prime color of the world and that from which its loveliness arises.
– Pedro Calderon de la Barca

No argument from me here. I’ve always loved green, which comes in handy when you’re a gardener. It’s pretty hard to grow a garden without it.

I see no reason to stop with the garden though. I liberally sprinkle green throughout my home.  Just last week I replaced the broken clock in the bathroom with a retro-inspired vintage green clock. It goes beautifully with the green tile. One of the walls in my home office is a muted green and I’m pretty sure half of my wardrobe is green too. It’s handy when you’re getting dressed, because everything goes together. I still tease my husband that when he came to pick me up on our first date in a green car he pretty much sealed the deal.

According to Color Matters:

Green is no longer just a color, but the symbol of ecology and a verb.

Since the beginning of time, green has signified growth, rebirth, and fertility. In pagan times, there was the “Green Man” – a symbol of fertility.  In Muslim countries, it is a holy color and in Ireland, a lucky color. It was the color of the heavens in the Ming Dynasty.

Have you ever thought about your favorite color and why it appeals to you? My sister’s favorite color is purple and my husband’s, blue. My dearest friend loves aqua so much that it feels like part of her personality.

When I was pregnant with my second son, my then-3-year old decided that his brother’s favorite color would be yellow. My oldest son loves orange, and the people around him loved blue, green and red, so he figured his brother would ‘inherit’ the color yellow. With his limited world experience, he figured only one favorite color per person. That still makes me smile.

My Sweet Tangled Bird curated a beautiful post this week entitled, Color Inspiration – Lucite Green. She’s pulled together exquisite examples of  Pantone’s Lucite Green, a trending color this spring. She included a gorgeous owl piece from artist Michelle Morin that had me returning to her post again and again. The art left me breathless.

Our blogging 101 assignment for today: write a post that builds on one of the comments we left the day before on a blog we’ve never followed. The idea behind this is to:

  • Your blog is shaped by your own thinking and by your interactions with others, and building on someone else’s post expands your own ideas.
  • If you thought the original post was worth commenting on, that means it struck a nerve — it’s a topic people are interested in reading about.
  • Responding and linking to other blogs adds to the fabric of the blogosphere, and actually helps other bloggers find you. – Source: Blogging 101

What’s your favorite color? Please tell us why.