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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Visiting Santa Rosa: Friendship and Memories

In what feels like a lifetime ago, I spent three consecutive summers in Santa Rosa, about 100 miles north of San Jose. I graduated from San Jose State in 1982 with a degree in Theatre Arts. Summer Repertory Theatre known as SRT hired professional designers and directors, but the actors and technical positions went to current or recently graduated students like me.
SRT bio alys 1983-002

We received a stipend of $900 for the entire summer, with $300 of that going to shared-housing. In the first four weeks, before all six shows opened, we worked ten and half hour days, six days a week with an hour off for lunch, and a two-hour break for dinner. The hours were long and grueling and emotions ran high as they usually do when artists surround you.

In short: I loved it!

I worked with talented costume designers all three summers, learning techniques in pattern making, costume building and diplomacy. I look back on those summers with a profound fondness. I met incredible people along the way. Those years were among the most memorable of my youth.

Several of us came from around the state each summer, but the rest lived in Santa Rosa. In my second year doing summer stock, I met Marcia Ford. She’s a talented pattern maker and kindred spirit. We kindled our friendship in 1983, and have stayed in touch through marriages and children. Her son is 31, an accomplished artist and linguist, living in Spain. He married a poet and scholar when they met in Egypt, and they’re now raising Marcia’s grandson in Madrid. I have a beloved snapshot of her son holding my son we he was three-months old. My boys are now 16 and 19.

I spent a couple of days with Marcia in Santa Rosa this week, helping her organize her sewing room and catching up on life. Marcia is recovering from a year spent abroad helping with her grandson, her father’s recent death and breast cancer.

Alys and Marcia

With Marcia this week

costume shope SRT 1984

In the SRT Costume, 1984 Marcia, back left, Alys, back right

She recently celebrated a milestone birthday, so I wanted to mark the occasion with a unique and special gift.

I made a set of greeting cards and a small folio using vintage seam binding and scrap-booking paper with a vintage sewing theme. Isn’t the paper fun?

I also purchased the most gorgeous sewing box from Lynn at Tialys. She sells ready-made sewing boxes in her Etsy shop or you can buy her pattern and make one yourself. I opted for the former and I’m so glad I did. Isn’t it stunning?

Tialys sewing box

Marcia poses with her new sewing box

The third part of the gift had us both in stitches (seamstress pun). About a year ago I shared a picture of a yarn bowl on Facebook and she commented that she would love one. I ordered it online via Darn Good Yarn. As it turns out, she ordered the same bowl herself.

I had such a good time. I miss Santa Rosa and all it represents. It’s a beautiful place. They average three times the rain that we do so things are lush and green. It’s less crowded with a slighter slower pace, and open spaces still prevail. I fell in love with it all over again.

Marcia’s sister Alice invited us to dinner at her home along with several of her life-long friends. We enjoyed a delicious vegetarian meal, laughter and an evening’s walk to a field of irises. Alice has a lush garden and, be still my heart, she keeps bees! What a treat it was to spend time in her garden. What a shame, too, that I was too busy enjoying myself to take a single photo while we were there.

Picture instead curving paths, verdant green plants, a majestic tree and a quiet corner with happy, humming bees.

Gardens and friendships remain my “drug” of choice.

On the subject of friendships, I’m just days away from reconnecting with Kelly from Kelly’s Korner and Boombeeadda, Laurie from Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things and Julia of Defeat Despair. We’ll also reconnect with Lisa of ArlingWords and Stacy, a street photographer and sometime blogger, who can be found on Instagram.  We’ll be missing Pauline of The Contented Crafter, but plans are under way to connect with her in New Zealand in 2018. We’re gathering in Virginia and Washington, DC for a few days, than Kelly and I head to New York. There we’ll meet two more bloggers for the first time, Joe at The Visual Chronicle and Patti at Nylon Daze.

I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl. Meanwhile my flight to Atlanta has been delayed three times due to weather. It’s not all fun and games. 😉

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A Happy Autumn Treasure From Across The Pond

The lovely Cathy at Words and Herbs just celebrated a special birthday. I’ve been following her blog for several years. She posts stunning pictures of her rock garden in Bavaria, and she also shares vegan recipes. She is currently publishing a series of recipes for World Vegan Month. Cathy also creates wonderful flower arrangements every Monday year round, in a feature called In a Vase on Monday. I’m always so impressed.

When I learned it was Cathy’s 50th birthday, I asked for her address. She in turn asked for mine and before I could pop my little something in the mail, a charming box arrived at my door.

I’m in love!

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Crocheted pumpkin with wooden stem

She crocheted a pumpkin with soft orange and green yarn, then added a wooden stem. She even included “warts” made with straight pins for an authentic pumpkin detail.

If you’re not already following along, you can check in with Cathy here at Words and Herbs. Today she published her recipe for Vegan Chocolate Amarena Brownies. You might have to head straight to the market for all the ingredients. Yum!

crochet-pumpkin

Crocheted pumpkin with “warts” cleverly made with straight pins

Thank you, Cathy!

When Spider Webs Catch The Light and Friends Make a Fuss

A wonderful package arrived shortly before my birthday, all the way from New Zealand. Pauline of the Contented Crafter says it’s been in the making for a while.

paulines-gift-box

Beautiful package

She decorated the box with her own customized decorative tape which you can read more about here. Isn’t it cool? She created the art for the postcard as well using postage stamps from my dad’s collection. The original hangs on my wall. It’s quite special.

Now look at what she tucked inside:

pauline-king-spider-web

An enchanting spider web light catcher

This isn’t any old spider web. It’s a hand-crafted, bead-encrusted, gem of a birthday/Halloween gift from Pauline. I love it!

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Faceted glass spider

My special spider web arrived with an impressively sized, faceted spider with its own hook (but no fangs). You can move her around the web, then watch it catch the light.

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In the center of the web

Guess what else was in the box? A Halloween-themed light catcher. The charms include spiders, witches hats, cats and brooms.  Did I mention the pumpkins? There are several of those too.

The reflective nature of the faceted glass makes it difficult to photograph, so I took some video as well. It will give you an idea of the light and movement.

Mike installed hooks in the nook above the sink so I could hang the web near the light. Interestingly, the web is just as beautiful at night. The lower light mutes some of the colors, while the facets shine.

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Halloween-themed light catcher hanging in the kitchen window (Mouse the Cat looks on) Thank you, Pauline

 

Gathering friends with the years

birthday-and-sympathy-cards

The stunning sunflowers are a gift from Laurie, surrounded by birthday cards and condolences on losing Slinky. The sunflower painting was a gift from Kelly last year.

My mother never liked a fuss on her birthday, so I grew up following suit. A few close friends sent greetings through the mail or by phone which I loved, but I otherwise kept my birthday a secret.

I’ve come to realize that I like a bit of a fuss. Not a loud, brash, in your face fuss, but the warm greetings that arrive by post. I love receiving cards in the mail. Happy birthday wishes via Facebook and blogging are a delight as well. I  smile at the beautifully animated e-cards and the thoughtful friends who send them. My friend Carrielin calls me on my birthday every year and has since we were in college. Each greeting is a reminder of the richness of friends and family, relationships that have grown and deepened with the passing years. I feel loved beyond measure.

Thank you all for making a fuss.

pumpkin-with-paulines-spider

Did I mention the second spider?

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Sisterhood Quilt: Stitching Together Art and Friendship Around the Globe

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook is a collaborative effort, born from the seed of an idea between bloggers Anne Lawson and Kate Chiconi. It started when Anne offered (and mailed) sketchbooks made from experimental drawings or practiced watercolor washes. Anne offered them to blogging friends and sent about half a dozen around the world.

sisterhood Cover and map

Inside back cover: Foldout map (left) and original page art by Anne Lawson (right)

Kate added her own gorgeous drawings and some fluffy feathers to her version of the book, then sent it back to Anne.  You see where this is going, right?

Anne posted Kate’s drawings here, and then through this comment thread:

I think we need a larger sketchbook, and initiate a Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook ~Kate Chiconi

the project grew wings.

All told, 15 bloggers signed up to take part. One of the sisters set up a Word Press blog, another created an interactive map of the traveling sketchbook. Anne is adding photos to a page on her blog as each of us completes our entry and sends it on to the next sister.

sisterhood sketchbook inside

Opening page: Textile art by Kate Chiconi

I broke out in a cold sweat when the sketchbook arrived in the post. I’m crafty and creative in my way, but was a bit intimidated by the artistic abilities represented in the sketch book. I calmed down, let different ideas wash over me, and eventually decided on a paper quilt using images of the art and poetry that came before me.

My entry is The Sisterhood Quilt: Stitching Together Art and Friendship Around the Globe. I copied each of the traveling entries so far, and created a collage of squares. I printed the squares on watercolor paper, then double stitched them to a piece of onion skin typing paper. I included a square of the map, and a square of my recent squirrel pillow project. It’s called Four Loves: Animals, Sewing, Nature and Photography.

The poem in the upper right hand corner comes with a sad tale. Viv in France, part of the original sisterhood, died suddenly and unexpectedly while visiting her daughter in July. I found this poem on her blog, and hope her family will appreciate the posthumous entry on her behalf.

sisterhood quilt full page

Sisterhood Quilt: *Upper row* Kate, Chas, Chas and Viv *Middle row* Anne, Sandi, Sandra and Alys *Bottom row* Anne’s cover, book detail, map (copyrighted material belonging to original artist)

sisterhoood quilt

The threads that draw us together

Contributing Artists so Far:

Australia

Anne Lawson
Kate from Tall Tales from Chiconia
Sandra (Lady Red Specs) from Please Pass the Recipe
Megan (Chas) from Chas Spain
Sandi, who lives in Wandin East

sisterhood map of Australia

A corner of the map. All this fun started in Australia

The States

Alys from Gardening Nirvana (that’s me)
Sue From The Magpie’s Nest (the sketchbook is with Sue now)

Artists to Come:

Ushashree from Creative Crafts DIY

Europe

Marina in Greece, Athens Letters
Lyn, also in France, Tialys
Constanze is in Germany
Annett blogs at Knetty Craft
Jan is in Britain, The Snail of Happiness
Margaret, also from Britain, The Crafty Creek
Then back to Anne in Australia

It’s been a joyous experience taking part in this project*. I hope you’ll come visit our shared blog and get to know us a bit better.

A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.
Isadora James

*except when I freaked out at all the talent on the pages before me

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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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Friends Who Blog and an Enchanted Light-Catcher

Washington DC and Virginia

The Gathering of the Bloggers, Washington DC and Virginia, Spring, 2015

A year ago last spring, I spent an extraordinary week gathering with bloggers from around the world. It was an experience I’ll never forget. We traveled from Canada, parts of the US and as far away as New Zealand, gathering in Washington, D.C. and Virginia.

Laurie of Life on the Bike, and Julia of Defeat Despair, invited us to stay in their homes. They were excellent tour guides, showing us the sites and sharing stories about their community. Shelley, of Peak Perspective hosted several of us for an engaging afternoon atop a hill in Virginia. We enjoyed laughter and an amazing spread of food under the watchful, curious eyes of Haggis the dog.

Lisa of Arlingwoman provided local perspective as she guided us through the enormous Washington Mall. Her knowledge increased my enjoyment of the incredible history that resides there. We toured Lisa’s community garden and learned about her Plot Against Hunger.

We shared a meal with Lisa as well as Stacy of  Visual Venturing and Patti of Displaced Beachbums.

Rounding out this amazing journey: Kelly who blogs at Boomdeeadda and Kelly’s Korner  and Pauline of The Contented Crafter.

What started as “blogging friends” became “friends who blog.”

One of the visual reminders of our time together is my beautiful light-catcher. Pauline made one for each of us, selecting charms to reflect our interests and our lives.

You can see the amazing details in the short video below.

Five years and 940 posts later the most amazing statistic is this: there are nearly 16,000 comments on this blog. Comments become conversations, conversations lead to friendships and in this great big world of ours,  interesting, like-minded, bright, clever, talented, and wonderful people from around the world, log on and add sparkle to my day. I can’t thank you enough.