ScrapHappy Cat Cushion

I’m joining Kate and a cadre of crafty makers this month for what Kate and her friend call ScrapHappy. Fellow bloggers create something functional or beautiful, perhaps even whimsical, made entirely from scraps.

My project this month is a small cushion for the cats. It’s designed to cover what’s left of a tattered cat condo. I merged two unlikely scraps: the former padding from an ironing board and a remnant of upholstery fabric that once graced our garden swing.

The padding is soft and easy to work with. Tessa came along to investigate.

We have what remains of a kitty perch sitting on the steps in the back garden. Unfortunately, the cat perch did not live up to its potential! The top-level broke after one of the cats jumped from the perch. I removed the top, leaving two levels, but the hardware poked through, making for what must have been an uncomfortable surface. I eventually moved it outside and removed the second level, placing the base on some pavers. This cushion hides the ugly surface and provides comfort for the four-legged royalty of the house.

I used two layers of the padding for the cushion, then shredded the rest to offer as nesting material to the squirrels.

I made a simple envelope style cover for easy washing. The cushion is more pleasing to the eye.

So far, the kitties aren’t impressed, but I enjoyed dusting off my sewing machine and using up some scraps. I had to resort to bribery to coax Mouse onto the cushion. He hasn’t been up there since.

Oh well.

The second make, also for the cats, is a hit. I used the last bit of green fabric to repair a beloved cat toy. The upholstery fabric is rugged enough for cat claws and teeth, and the fine stitching keeps the loose Nepeta contained.

It’s good to know I can still sew a couple of rectangles. (Ha!) Wait till you see what the other creative makers have been up to at the links below.

Interestingly, Kate’s scrappy project this month is for her four legged Mouse. Our Mouse is a feline and Kate’s Mouse is a pooch. Is anyone out there sewing for a real mouse?

Thank you, Kate! I hope you are feeling better soon.

Check out these creative blogs:

 KateGun,EvaSue, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys, ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera, NanetteAnn, Dawn 2,Bear, Carol, Preeti, EdithDebbierose and Viv    

Winter is Upon Us

I spent the solstice gathering a few cuttings from the garden and marveling at what survives both drought and early frost. Plants are resilient.

Winter Garden

I snipped three miniature roses, a handful of Salvia leucantha, and geranium foliage to make a small arrangement. There’s a sprig of something pink in there as well, but in the early hours, the name escapes me.

A Sleigh of Winter Blooms

My youngest son is home for the holidays this year, along with his sweet pup Juneau. I’m so happy to have them here for a few weeks, but Juneau’s boisterous presence puts out all three felines.

So, for now, our bedroom serves triple duty as Mike’s office and a feline hotel. Lindy is oblivious to the dog’s presence, but she has to share her favorite spot under the bed. Mouse wants to let the dog know he’s in charge, and Tessa is scared. Extra loving and treats help smooth things out, and of course, the situation is temporary.

I made several Christmas cards this year, but I’ve been slow to send them. Lifted Spirits hosted its first-ever “shop without your wallet” event for survivors of domestic violence. It was an enormous time commitment organizing clothing racks, scarves, and other goodies, but it all came together beautifully. My friend and fellow volunteer Mary organized refreshments and volunteers for the day. Our ED quietly got the word out.

Volunteers prior to event

I set up craft tables for the children in the center of the room, and a colleague donated an over-the-top Christmas tree, pictured below. Clothing and jewelry stations were arranged in a U-shape so the children could see their mother at all times and vice-versa.

Polar Bear-themed Christmas Tree

The success of this event has energized us. Our team hopes to do this again in the future. Throughout the event, we served 65 women and 35 children. Domestic violence has soared since the start of the pandemic. I needed to focus on our work instead of its reasons for my sanity.

Filling needs

December’s creative endeavors included my annual snow globe

Polymer snow from the teaching supply store
Snow globe

and a seasonal update to my miniature display. These projects are restorative and fun.

Miniature Winter Scene
Pine twig fencing and a cinnamon stick sleigh

Today I’m headed downtown for our pandemic-friendly Christmas celebration for women in need. After that, I’ll enjoy a week off with my family and the quiet unfolding of moments spent together.

Winter Wonderland

Merry Christmas!

ScrapHappy Snowflake Card

It’s December 15, or in Kate’s speak, time to gather lingering scraps and give them a new life.

I enjoy the challenge of Kate’s ScrapHappy days. Even in December, with the holiday hustle in full swing, it’s nice setting aside some time to craft. I had a sewing project in mind this month, but it will have to wait.

Tis’ the season, so a Christmas card seemed the obvious choice. I used leftover aqua-colored paper strips, gluing them at an angle on scrap paper. After trimming the raw edges, I ran the piece through my paper embosser using a snowflake pattern. 

Assembling monochromatic hues of aqua, then embossing them with the snowflake pattern created an interesting texture for the card. I’ve made strip cards before, but I generally use complementary colors.

As luck would have it, I found a scrap of shiny silver paper to frame the card sentiment and the embossed background. This challenge has inspired me to make more monochromatic cards in the future. 

It should also inspire me to keep the door closed, but where is the fun in that? One of my embellishments went missing, later recovered and removed from the underbelly of a particular cat. I’ll leave it to you to sort the outcome of the Sticky Kitty Caper.

Kate, thanks for keeping us organized and engaged.

Kate, our hostGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChris,
KerryClaireJeanJon, HayleyDawn,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Noreen,
Bear, Carol, PreetiEdith, Debbierose, and Jule

Sunday Snapshot: Tripping Hazards and Mackerel Skies

It’s early Sunday evening here in San Jose. We’re holding our proverbial breath for the next 24 hours as a weather front passes through. We’re in a “severe drought” with fire conditions two months ahead of the norm. The last thing we need is the predicted round of dry lightening. Last year similar conditions started wildfires up and down the state with devastating results. The weather warnings make it hard to relax.

I hosted our book club this week for the first time in two years. We gathered in the garden for a catch-up and a light meal. I filled my tiered vintage basket with fresh lemons, and debuted my new tablecloth. It’s the little things, eh?

The following snapshots are from the garden this week. Our Bougainvillea is filling out beautifully, and the pink bracts frame the tiny white flower within. Mama finch

never returned to her nest, so after climbing on a ladder to be sure she didn’t leave eggs behind, I removed her nest so we could finally open the patio drapes. Our wisteria is in bloom for the second time this season. The flowers were more spectacular in the spring, but now lush green vines show-off the new color. The green and yellow Japanese forest grass reminds me a little of the character Cousin Itt from the 1960s TV show The Addam’s Family. The last photo is of Tessa wrapped between my feet, posing a tripping hazard. I managed to remain upright nonetheless.

Photos appear in a gallery view. Click on individual pictures to enlarge.

I’m sending good vibes to our friends in Germany where the weather has been unkind. My heart goes out to you. Alys

Autumn Days and Anniversaries

It’s the autumn equinox here in the northern hemisphere, or in simpler terms, the first day of fall. It’s also our wedding anniversary.

Today (September 23) sees the 2019 autumn equinox, the moment when the planet’s northern hemisphere swaps with the southern hemisphere to become the one furthest from the sun.

Autumn is a good time to reflect, especially in the garden. While the perennials remain robust year-round, summer annuals are closing up shop.

We had a second year of disappointing tomatoes. Despite my best efforts planting the EarthBoxes with fresh soil and fertilizer, moving them to a new location and ensuring they got full sun, production was blah. My garden mojo took a hit.

end of season tomato Don’t be fooled. It looks juicy, but the sweetness has gone.

This stripey variety took months to set fruit. While they look interesting, I didn’t care for the thicker texture. All in all, one plant produced half a dozen tomatoes. Sigh.

stripes tomatoes A trio of Stripey Tomatoes

This was also my first season without pumpkins. We’ve relied entirely on the squirrels to plant them each year, even if their planting methods are unconventional. By the time I fully noticed, it was too late to plant on my own.

I had brief hope. After amending the mix in a planting box with heavy, sandy soil, a few pumpkin plants appeared. It seemed unlikely that they would amount to much, but while I was traveling in July they took hold. Alas, they didn’t establish in time. Although the plants became vines and proffered a few blooms, there was no time for setting fruit.

spent pumpkin vines Spent pumpkin flowers and vines along with other pruning debris

On a brighter note, I received this gorgeous yellow calla lily in a pot last year. Mike transplanted it for me in the front garden and it’s spreading its proverbial wings.

Yellow Canna lily, a thank you gift from FDC

It’s flowered twice and is now showing off its interesting seed pods as the plant goes dormant.

Calla lily seed pod Calla lily seed pod

Our garden is densely planted now, requiring careful thought when a new plant joins the mix. This calla lives in the shadow of the Magnolia tree, not far from the deck. I love the cheerful display.

Nepeta or catmint Nepeta going to seed

Nepeta, also known as catnip or catmint reseeds every year. It’s an herb, pleasing to cats, and humans alike. It produces a subtle scent in the garden unless of course, you’re a cat.

cat and nepeta Tessa enjoying the nepeta
white cat and nepeta Mouse the cat lounging on the nepeta

 

 

tuxedo cat in nepeta Lindy sleeping near the nepeta

Our cats become quite possessive of the plant near the patio, though Mouse likes to visit the plant in the side yard as well. We all have our favorites.

As for anniversaries, I married this wonderful man 24 years ago today.

Celebrating then and now (Went Brothers Winery, Livermore | Winchester Mystery House fundraiser, San Jose)

It was the first day of autumn that year as we wed on the grounds of Wente Brother’s winery in Livermore. The day went by in a blur, so I’m grateful for the photographs that help solidify the memories. I’m grateful for Mike every day and for our life together.

I’m grateful for you, too, dear reader, for continuing to show up and read my posts.

I Keep Forgetting to Tell You…

Does this happen to you? I start telling a story in great detail, only to realize midway that I’ve told the story before. My friends are polite and would never interrupt. The “tell” is a patient look on their face, and I’m suddenly aware of my faux pas.

Conversely, I’ll assume I’ve shared a story, in the same great detail, only to have my friend say “this is the first I’ve heard this.” or “I had no idea.”

I’m a woman of a certain age, so I can chalk this up to the number of birthdays I have under my belt though I suspect I’ve been doing this my whole life.

Today’s post is about those little things I keep meaning to tell you, promises I made to “share in a future post” and just a couple of random things I would share if we could sit down together and share a cuppa.

Feel free to roll your eyes skyward if you’ve heard this one before. The magic of the internet is I’ll never know.

First up, my sister’s Halloween costume. Sharon based her costume last year on Pauline King’s gorgeous piece of art . I blogged about it last October.

Pauline King’s gift to my sister Sharon: The Wise Woman

I promised to share pictures of Sharon’s costume which turned out beautifully. We shared the same wig since we needed it on different days and she already had the hat and a simple black dress. I found the knotted walking stick (actually a cane) at a costume shop for $7 and had my husband saw off the hook. I bought her the cape, and as you see in the photo below, art imitates life which imitates art.

Halloween costume The Wise Woman

Sharon’s Halloween costume based on Pauline King’s art piece The Wise Woman

Next up is an unexpected blogging connection from my friends Dan and Rosie. After their older dog passed, my friends started looking at rescue organizations for another black Labrador retriever. Dan fell in love with black labs as a little boy when his dad snuck one into his room one night.

A few weeks into their search, Dan sent me a photo of them posing with a Golden Retriever named Ginger. (I’m pretty sure Ginger is also part horse). They missed having a dog so they expanded their search. I immediately recognized the bench they were sitting on because I’ve seen it often on Audrey’s blog.

That’s right; my friends adopted a dog from a rescue organization called Homeward Bound.  I’ve been followed Audrey’s blog for years. She’s a terrific writer and a good soul who helped revitalize the Memorial Garden featured in this photo and on her blog. You can follow along at Gardens For Goldens.

rescue dog

In the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden with Ginger

rescue dog

Meeting Ginger last summer. She’s a sweetie.

I’ve also been meaning to share photos of Mike sporting his beautifully woven scarves from fellow blogger Kerry at Love Those Hands at Home. Kerry and her husband took up weaving a few years ago, and now offer their wares on Etsy. She offered to make a couple of scarves for Mike so he could choose one, but he loved them both. The scarves drape beautifully, and are both soft and warm. Here’s Mike over a year ago wearing the two scarves sporting his before and after beard. We both had the flu, so shaving dropped off the list until he was well.

As I write this I’ve just finished a hot cup of Rooibos”tea“. We had multiple power outages throughout the night during a heavy storm but the power is back on and our fence is leaning but still standing. Lot’s of people are happy to replace the fence, but we can’t find a soul that will come and re-pour the improper footings. Twenty years ago we might have re-poured those fittings ourselves, but we’re not feeling it now.

Just one more share: Here’s  34 seconds of Tessa chirping at a flying insect near the window…

…and snuggling in to a pile of sheets on our bed.

Tessa snuggled in the sheets.

What would you share if we could sit down for a cuppa?

Puerto Vallarta: An Exquisite Time Away

We’ve just returned from a three-day getaway to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. What an exquisite place! Mike traveled there on business earlier in the week, and I followed Friday and stayed through the long weekend. We flew home late Monday night.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

View from the balcony of the Westin Hotel, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta sunset

Puerto Vallarta sunset the evening I arrived

After our protracted recovery from the flu, this trip was exactly what the proverbial doctor ordered.

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

We walked along the beach, read, took naps, and explored the grounds of the gorgeous resort hotel.

We enjoyed fruity drinks with our tortilla chips and guacamole in the casita facing the sea. San Jose has a heavy Mexican influence, but it was still fun to enjoy a dish that originated in Mexico.

 The name is derived from two Aztec Nahuatl words—ahuacatl (avocado) and molli (sauce).

Tropical cocktails with a plate of tortillas and guacamole

Tropical cocktails with a plate of tortillas and guacamole

I’m always intrigued by the local wildlife, like this clever black bird, called a Great-tailed Grackle. He seemed to know that he could swoop in for a chip, after they cleared the dishes.  He knew not to approach any of the tables with guests, but as soon as the dishes landed on a clearing tray, he made his move. Once he claimed the chip, he flew into the rafters, hopping and chirping from row to row.

On Saturday night, we ate a spectacular, five-course vegetarian meal at Café Des Artistes by Thierry Blouet. Their website describes it as

” French cuisine with Mexican inspiration. More than 25 years being the gourmet tradition in Puerto Vallarta.”

The Café Des Artistes is carved into the hillside and sits above Old Town, the heart of the city.  The main floor is a bar, with the upper two stories featuring open-air dining under the trees. They seated us on the third floor surrounded by towering bamboo and ancient trees. From there we could look down on the garden terrace.

I could go on and on about this place, but instead I’ll sum it up in one, long sentence: Dining in Puerto Vallarta with the man I love, sitting under a canopy of trees wearing a sleeveless dress with live music playing while enjoying a full-course vegetarian meal, served by a charming and devoted team of wait staff who delivered a story about each wine pairing left me breathless.  What a night!

After our meal, we walked along the strand in Old Town Puerto Vallarta before heading back to the hotel.

Three days passed quickly. We hope to return for a longer stay, to experience whale watching, snorkeling and other local activities when we have more time.

Our hotel was an easy walk to the harbor filled with boats and lovely vistas, and of course we couldn’t help but price the local real estate.  It never hurts to look, eh?

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of our trip highlights.

Turtles sunning themselves in a pond next to a Japanese restaurant.

The hotel cat name Mitzy

Some of the brilliant colors of Mexico

Con afecto, Alys.

 

 

 

Merry Christmas, Choo-choo!

Merry Christmas!

Choooooo…chooooo!

model train in Campbell

Model train in Campbell, CA

There is something nostalgic about miniature trains.  They harken back to a time when hobbyists tinkered with cars and rails, built sets and then sent scale versions of magnificent trains, happily around a track.

For at least a decade now, a local train enthusiast in nearby Campbell runs a set of model trains around the track…in his front yard. I haven’t had the courage to knock on his front door, but I would love to hear how he got started. I wonder if the family peaks out the window from time to time to see the joy they bring to others.

The Livingston home converts the front yard into a model train village. A massive platform fills the entire front yard, and stands about knee-high. There is a shorter platform circling the yard as well.  Three different trains run around the tracks, passing small villages, figurines and miniature versions of Christmas trees.

model train campbell Model train set

Some of the scenery has the vintage flavor of a train station in the 1940’s. Leaves drop from the massive tree above, lending a naturalized air.  Surprises include tiny figurines from the Pixar Car’s  movies, Star Wars and Mickey Mouse.

miniature train station

Mickey Mouse and Daisy wait at the train station

This year, there was an even bigger surprise: a delightful cat.

Campbell model train platform

The train platform occupies the entire front yard. (Can you see the cat)

I didn’t see the kitty at first. What an unexpected surprise.  Just before taking the last of my pictures I caught a glimpse of his fur.

kitty by the model train track

Look at this handsome face

Kitty stretched and yawned, then marched across the train tracks for a closer view of me. Far from being skittish, he was happy for a bit of TLC.

kitty near the water tower

Kitty near the water tower

cat yawning

Big yawn

He rubbed up against my hand, then jumped down for a pet.

When it was time to go, I carried him back to his spot. I didn’t want him to follow me into the street, and although he looks a bit cranky, he was entirely unmoved by the experience.

alys with cat

Returning kitty to his spot

I couldn’t help but drive by a week later to see if I could spot him once again. Sure enough he was sound asleep in the same spot. I think I smiled the rest of the way home.

The miniature train runs during the month of December on McBain Drive in Campbell, CA.

Merry Christmas! May your day be filled with your version of miniature trains, nostalgic treats and whatever makes you smile.

Loving Cats, Real and Imagined

I’ve always loved cats. I like their grace and intelligence, their independence and there warm and affectionate ways. I love all animals, but I grew up with cats and they’ve remained a constant in my life. When you have a soft, mushy heart, one cat often turns into two…or three or a number you’re embarrassed to say out loud. No one wants to be labeled the “crazy cat lady.”

So perhaps it’s not a surprise that this beautiful bit of green moss growing in the garden looks just like a cat.

rock-wall-with-moss

Look closely at the garden wall

moss-like-cat

Mossy cat bending over for a drink

I adore the bright green spongy texture of moss. It reminds me of romantic period movies, pixies and garden fairies. I’ve never seen a mossy cat though, so I’m feeling quite special. The green goddess of gardens has graced my garden wall.

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Saying Goodbye to Slinky Malinki

slinky-december-15hWhen you love unconditionally, you permanently wear your heart on your sleeve. When you love a cat, you turn a blind eye to the fact that you will most likely outlive them.

I knew Slinky was at the end of her life, and I somehow thought I could prepare myself for what was to come. I know better.

Still.

Slinky died at home Monday night, resting on a soft blanket on the heated tile floor. I was with her off and on most of the day, but she took her last breath in the ten minutes I was gone to pick up my son. Mike stepped into the garage to let me know when we returned. She quietly slipped away. I sobbed.

Back inside, I held her frail little body, wracked with grief. Her eyes were a giveaway that she was no longer there, but it was hard to let go.

Slinky Malinki captured my heart, not because of her sweet disposition and loving ways but in spite of them. She showed up as a stray on the steps of our front deck about six years ago. We had a bowl of dry food out for another cat we were feeding at the time and she helped herself. I mistook her confidence for friendliness, and she took a swing at me with open claws and then left.

She returned every few days, and gradually spent more time with us on the deck. She wrapped herself around our legs, but if you reached down to pet her, out came the claws, or worse. One afternoon I was sitting on the steps and she sunk her teeth into the back of my arm. Hard.

Then one day, out of the blue, my oldest son bent down, picked her up, and carried her into the house. She froze in fear, but I was so happy to know we could catch her and get her to the vet. A week later I took her in for a checkup. They confirmed that she was already spayed and she checked out for all the scary things.

We tried to make her an indoor cat, but she wanted no part of it. I did the next best thing and made a little “apartment” in our sheltered side yard. She had an elevated bed, enclosed on four sides, with a roof and an umbrella to keep her dry. She had her meals outside for a year.

Once again, it was time for an annual check up, so I brought her indoors over night, then spirited her off the next day. It was after that second visit, and nearly a year and a half that she decided to move in. She claimed a spot under my desk, then moved to the back of the desk and life got better from there. I gained her trust, not all at once, but slowly over months and months. She hated being picked up, and I did so on an as-needed basis but also to let her know it was okay. Slinky had no interest in lap sitting either. Yet she would come to the front of the desk, give me gentle head butts, and gradually we became trusted friends.

Then an amazing thing happened. I had foot surgery last November, requiring me to be off my feet for six weeks. Slinky started climbing up on the couch, then settled herself on the blankets around my injured foot.  What a gift! At a time when I was in pain and feeling fragile, Slinky stayed close by. There is perhaps no better medicine than a warm, purring cat.

slinky-on-my-foot

Slinky resting next to my healing foot

slinky-next-to-copy-of-book

Slinky stretched out across my legs. That’s the corner of my laptop with a photo of the Slinky Malinki children’s book for which she’s named.

I miss her sweet, little soul.