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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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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Alberta on my Mind

I’ve had an extraordinary ten days in Alberta. In typical holiday fashion, the time passed in a flash. It was full of highs and more highs. So it goes when you’re spending time with a treasured friend.

Jasper National Park Alberta

Good times at Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

I met Boomdee via WordPress, a wonderful forum for finding your people. There are days when I still can’t believe it.

Boomdeeadda

Boomdeeadda

Yet here we are, making the most of our time together, while making do with the time apart.

Boomdee lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She hosted me at her home in Edmonton. We also took a two-day excursion to the mountains, the world-famous Canadian Rockies, about a five-hour drive from Edmonton. Mr. B, as he’s affectionately known, drove the ten-hour round trip. The drive was breathtaking.

Japser National Park Alberta-034

The mostly two-lane highway passes magnificent forests of Alpine Larch, Spruce, Fir to name just a few. Meandering rivers are a glorious milky blue this time of year as the snow and glaciers melt. We stopped at two or three waterfalls on our journey. It’s difficult to describe the power of the water slowly carving out the mountains as the icy waters rush downstream. This video will give you a general idea.

The high point of the day, if you’ll forgive the pun, was time spent above the Columbia Glaciers. You walk along a cliff-edge walkway before arriving on a glass-floored observation platform 918 feet (280 metres) over glacier-formed valleys and rushing waterfalls. If you follow this link, you’ll see the full magnificence of the viewing platform, unobstructed by tourists like me. Boomdee preferred the solid footing of the cliff.  I ventured out with Mr. B, weak-kneed but excited to experience the incredible view.

That night, we stayed in her friend’s cabin just across the border in Valemount, British Columbia. It’s a small village of about 1,000 people. What a treat!

Valemount, British Columbia

Valemount, BC

On our way home, we enjoyed lunch at the historic Jasper Park Lodge, known locally as JPL.

Back in Edmonton we packed in more fun. We visited Fort Edmonton with Ben and Sherry, and enjoyed coffee and banana bread with her Aunty Kathleen. We visited Urban Scrapbook, The Duchess Bakery and Greenland Garden Centre and nursery. Boomdee recently replanted her boulevard, but saved a space for a plant that we bought together. Isn’t that the sweetest? We sat on her deck or patio, enjoying tea, coffee and toast.

When you get back from a trip, you often here “What was your favorite part?” In a word: Boomdee.

Together we giggle like school girls and seemingly travel on the same emotional plane.  We have similar loves and shared world views, which make our time together easy. She’s a gracious host, married to a lovely man and together they live with a pair of charming cats named Blossum and Petals.

I felt welcome and right at home. Do you have a friend like that?

FullSizeRender 34

We’re already planning our next trip, which makes the time apart seem more doable.

Come have a look at Boomdee’s post about our time together. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s still  dark, but actually very warm outside this morning. When I say morning, it’s very early, only 4:25AM.  The kitties followed me downstairs and did a drive-by snacking.  Now, I’m thinking they’ve gone back to bed because the house is very still and quiet.  It’s Alys’s last day here in Edmonton…[read more]

In case you missed it, here is my post documenting her creative process for Urban Scrapbook.

Ten Reasons to Visit Alberta (and BC)

Glacier Skywalk Experience

Trees of Alberta

Jasper National Park

Valemount, British Columbia

Fort Edmonton

Jasper Park Lodge

Edmonton Parks

Delicious Restaurants and Wonderful Service

Urban Scrapbook

Boomdeeadda

Reporting From the Boomroom

I’m visiting my dear friend Boomdee in Alberta, Canada. She works for The Urban Scrapbook, and is on deadline for her monthly page layout.

with petals and petals in the boom room

Working her magic in the Boomroom with Petals the cat looking on

Urban provides a kit each month, filled with patterned and solid-colored paper, ribbon, and other embellishments. She kindly brought home a second kit of papers, so that we could make coordinating pages together. The “Urban Girls” create a layout for the store once a month.

My intentions were good, but when you’re sitting across from your Boomdee Bestie, artistic crafter extraordinary, it’s intimidating. I opted instead to watch her work and to record the process.

She started with a series of papers spread in front of her, and decided on a featured photo. Aren’t we adorable?

at the valemount lodge

On the steps of a friend’s log cabin

Using a stencil, she added Gesso to her base page,

Gesso and stencil

White circles stenciled on to heart patterned paper with Gesso

then splattered bits of black acrylic paint for texture and interest. From there she built up paper layers, starting with black card stock, then adding pink and a third layer of patterned paper.

After adhering the three layers together, she did something unexpected: she went to her sewing machine and laid down three rows of black stitching using buttonhole weight thread.

sewing the pages

Sewing black thread for texture and interest

Using a die cut of the word bliss, she cut one from a sheet of pink paper, then using the same die, she cut part of the actual photo. I love the effect. Using double-sided tape, she created a border on a white piece of paper, then added pink glitter. She attached the photo to the glittered frame, then offset two pieces of patterned paper for a layered effect. Meanwhile, she used spray dyes to color a piece of off-white seam binding, then stitched down the middle with the same black thread.

almost finished page

Almost done

She gathered the seam binding into a small puddle of sorts, then added a heart-shaped chipboard to the top.

The layering continued, using chipboard, crystal dots, glitter, unfolded and dyed paper cording and finally tissue paper.

I’ve been writing this in real-time over the last four hours, punctuated by a late-night snack and a glass of something with bubbles. We’re having fun and I’ve learned so much more by observing then if I had attempted a page on my own.

urban scrapbook page layout

The Reveal

I’ll write more about my visit when I’m home next week. Mike and the boys are in San Jose keeping the cats fed and the birdbaths full. I miss them of course, but I’m having a wonderful time. As luck would have it, my hosts have a pair of cats of their own.

pair of black cats

Blossum and Petals

You can see more of Boomdee’s work at Boomdeeadda and The Urban Scrapbook where she writes a bi-monthly column, Kelly’s Korner.

Nuvo Crystal Drops

BoBunny paper line

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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.

Sweet Peas: Art, Friendship and Second Chances

When my boys were young, Sweet Pea was a favorite term of endearment. They’re teenagers now, so pet names are the kiss of death. I still think it in my head though, especially this time of year.

Sweet Friends

sweet pea seeds and gift bag

Sweet Pea seeds and the beautiful gift bag

Last year my kindred spirit sent me several packets of sweet pea seeds from up north. I planted them in a few places, to see what worked best. A few came up in the pots out back, but they died back quickly, challenging my garden mojo, They’re supposed to grow like wild flowers. We mused that perhaps they weren’t properly adapted for our hotter climate and chalked it up to experience.

Guess what? They’re back. They’re also bigger and brighter and happily growing in the garden. Don’t you love second chances?

sweet pea buds

These soft yellow buds opened to lavender flowers

sweet pea tendrils

Delicate but strong

sweet peas with dew drops

Flowers refreshed

This isn’t the first time I’ve planted seeds, that do so-so in the first year, then come on strong a year later. Look at them grow!

Artful Friends

Artist Nicole Meredith created The Flower Map as a way of fundraising for her own healing treatments. I met Nicole through a mutual friend and have followed her journey for several years. As her health improved, she launched The Flower Map. I purchased a handful of cards from her Etsy shop, to send and to give as gifts.

To my delight, Nicole sent me one of her original water colors as a gift. My cup overflows! I framed the sweet pea watercolor, both for its beauty and for the reminder that Nicole, too, is improving and getting her second chance at a healthy life. Her Etsy shop is currently ‘taking a break.’ Nicole, sending healing thoughts your way and thank you once again for this lovely gift.

nicole meredith the art map sweet peas

I’m not the only one who’s in love with sweet peas. Show some blogging love and have a look:

  • Silk and Threades writes beautifully about her own experiences. Check out The Tendrils of the Sweet Pea.
  • Take a look at Cathy’s beautiful vase and field of wild sweet peas (be still my heart) at Words and Herbs.
  • Bloom or Bust has a great idea for trailing sweet peas. She also used them in her wedding, which I think is the sweetest of all.

If you’re viewing this in ‘real time’, have a look at my Descending on D.C. widget to the right. Can you believe it? It’s counting down the hours, not days. I’m so excited.