A Journey Back to Blogging

I’ll write a blog post tomorrow, I thought, and then, and then, and then. Tomorrow becomes next week, then a month, while life serves up challenges big and small.

I miss blogging. My time on WordPress has yielded wonderful friendships, rich connections, and thoughtful and thought-provoking conversations. How could I be away for so long? In short, life is full.

My youngest son went away to college in August. This included helping him get ready, attempts at helping him get ready, a one-fell-swoop shopping trip and a day-long drive to Southern California.  Within a few weeks my oldest son went back to the dorms, and is now into his senior college year.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary (23 years on September 23rd)

after dinner Santana Row

After dinner at Santana Row

and ten days later I turned 59. Dear friends visited from Canada over my birthday week, including a few days in beautiful Carmel.

My volunteer work at Lifted Spirits kicked into full gear. If I wasn’t working with organizing clients, I spent time volunteering in the boutique. I work two shifts a week, and I’m often there on Thursdays organizing the boutique or other areas of the program. It feels like home.  The work is challenging and rewarding. It also allows me to serve women in need in my  community. I’m learning so much as I go. My favorite organizing project so far is the computer lab. We needed extra space for other programs, so I split the room in two using an abandoned old chalkboard and a fancy shower curtain found in a drawer. How’s that for using what you’ve got?

Mike and I are enjoying our evenings and weekends as a couple once again. In many ways, the empty-nest blahs seemed worse leading up to the boys respective departures. It eased once I knew my young men were and getting on with life.

This past weekend we planned to fly down to see our youngest son for parent weekend. I ended up going alone. I took Mike to urgent care the night before, where they referred us to the ER. They diagnosed Mike with a blood clot or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). It was a long, scary night, but he’s home and receiving good medical care. He’s not allowed to fly for at least three months so we’re adjusting to the idea of possible train travel.  Mike’s not in pain and he’s able to work, so those are both a plus.

Our felines continue to cozy up the place. As the weather cools into a California autumn, I hope to haul out my crochet once again.

Meanwhile, I’m on the committee for our Front Door Communities, Lifted Spirits fundraiser in early November. I’m putting together the program, a soup recipe book, preparing a raffle item and working with another volunteer assembling silent auction items.  It’s a busy time.

Oh, and the garden I used to blog about? It’s still here. The tomatoes were a complete bust this summer, with four huge plants producing about two dozen tomatoes in all.  I planted late-season cantaloupe, only to see them munched under cover of darkness.  I did manage five small pumpkins so all is not lost in the produce department. Overall though, I feel like I lost my gardening mojo. As that tired cliché goes, there’s always next year.

Here in the States we’re gearing up for mid-term elections in three weeks. Once again our garage will serve as a polling place. Change is in the air. I can feel it.

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you are doing well.

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.

 

Featured on Wayfair: Planters You’ll Love

Sure, sure, I know a couple of things about potting plants, but no one would ever call me an expert. I’ve had my hands in the dirt since I was two, but there is always more to learn.

So imagine my delight when Brooke Magliozzi of Wayfair got in touch and asked me to answer a few questions for a blog post on planter types. The post features about a dozen garden bloggers who describe their favorite type of planter, and offer personal tips on choosing the right planter for your home.

According to their about page:

Wayfair offers a zillion things home. With one of the world’s largest online selections of furniture, home furnishings, décor and goods, including more than seven million products from over 7,000 suppliers, Wayfair helps people find the perfect product at the right price.

The Wayfair blog features my three-tiered, DIY clay planters, a project I shared on my blog back in 2013. If you want to read how I created the “flower-tower” you can head back in time to Flower Tower in (a Few) Hours.

If you click on over to Planters You’ll Love: Planter Tips From the Experts, you’ll see my entry about half way down the page.

Planter Types graphic courtesy of Wayfair. It was fun seeing my unique planter featured on their blog.

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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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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

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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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