Scrappy, Happy Valentines

Making and sending Valentines reminds me of my school days. The adult version of Valentine’s Day is a massive industry promoting over-priced roses, chocolates (though I wouldn’t say no) and other consumer goods. It’s more fun looking back fondly on a certain Valentine’s Day in grade 3.

Millbrae Elementary School, 1968

Millbrae Elementary School, Grade 3, 1968 I’m the only redhead in the class

Our teacher walked us into the cafeteria toward the end of the school day where we sat facing each other. She stood at the head of the row and handed out Valentines down the line from our fellow classmates. She called each name, and one by one passed the cards down the line. What fun! In those days, boys and girls gave everyone a Valentine. It was about sharing and caring, not romantic love. I adored that tradition.

I’ve had such a good time making Valentine’s Day cards this year as I reminiscence about that day in school so many years ago. Isn’t it funny what stays with you?

Valentines

Pretty pink paper from The Island

My card making goes something like this. I head to my favorite local paper store (The Island’s Creative Escape) and start crafting in my head. I plan and discard ideas, until inspiration strikes. Then I make my purchases and head home. Once home I start with the plan in my head, but quickly tire of the idea and move off into different directions.

Now that I have a handy-dandy, low-tech, die-cutting gadget called a Big Shot, I wanted to try some heart-shaped dies.

Sizzix Big Shot

Sizzix Big Shot die cutting machine

Lawn Fawn heart dies

Assorted Lawn Fawn heart dies

I bought two sets of heart dies, straight out of the box. They’re designed by a company called Lawn Fawn. The shipment had just arrived in the store but they let me grab a set before they put them out for display. They’re sold in a packet with three sizes. The ruffled edge is larger and meant to nest with the stitched-styled heart.

DIY Valentine's Day cards

Playing around with techniques including folder embossing, powder embossing, die cuts, and stick-on gems.

I came home with pink paper and the heart-shaped dies and proceeded to make all sorts of mistakes. I used the rubber stamp upside down. I double stamped an image rendering it useless, then I used the rubber stamp upside down (again), which made me utter, as I might have in grade 3: Oh brother! At this rate, no one would get a Valentine.

Eventually I hit my stride and started having fun. After initially using the supplies from The Island, I pulled out my red, pink and white scraps and punched a bunch of hearts. My friend Mary Ann gave me several paper sample booklets years ago, and I continue to put them to use. I tore out the samples in my preferred colors and die cut even more hearts.

I saved this beautiful, floral lining from a Papyrus greeting card last year. It was just the right size for the flip-it card. I’m not sure why I get such pleasure out of using scraps but I do.

envelope lining reused in card

Envelope lining reused in card

Here’s one more. I cut small strips from some of my tiniest scraps, then arranged them like a strip quilt. I’ve since used this technique on a few other cards. I’ll share them in a future post.

In addition to making cards for friends, I put together simple card-making kits for my Little Free Library.

Valentine's Day Card kit

I made the sign using scraps and a vintage playing card

A couple of weeks earlier, my sister Sharon gave me a packet of cellophane envelopes that she no longer wanted. They’re the perfect size for the card kits and they seal. Serendipity!

Card making kits for Valentine's Day

A dozen card kits, offered in our Little Free Library

I used the left-over paper and stickers to make a dozen card kits. It was fun watching them disappear one by one.  Someone else is enjoying card-making, too. A week or so later when I had a bit of spare time I put together another dozen kits. It was a terrific way to use my scraps, and fun to think of someone crafting their own Valentine from one of the kits. I’ll definitely offer them again next year.

Wishing you and your inner child a Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

When Six-Year-Old’s Decorate the Fairy Garden

Christmas Fairy Garden

Christmas Fairy Garden

The neighborhood kids were off from school last week, and a few of them came looking for the fairy garden. I moved my miniature garden to the back patio in December to make room for Christmas decor. I never moved it back.

My son helped me carry it back to the front deck and the little ones got to work.

fairy garden with azaleas

Aliens and Azaleas: The Magic of Being Six

fairy garden detail

Check out the detail work

finishing touches

Finishing touches

DSC_0042

When I was six, our street ended where a field began. A nursery operated on the other side, so we enjoyed an expansive view. Across the street was a vacant lot that filled with weeds after the rain.  With the freedom to roam that we had in those days, I remember gathering milk weed and clover and spending hours day dreaming while weaving creations with those glorious, green weeds.

It’s been years since I thought about that field, but it may explain my love of fairy gardening. Creating in miniature carries you back in time. It’s part wanderlust and a generous helping of nostalgia, but also a connection to a simpler time, of days spent belly down in a field of greens lost in thought until my mother called me home for supper.

ontario, canada

With my younger sister in our back yard, Ontario, Canada, early 1960’s

Pages: Fairy Garden Frivolity

Asparagus Fern: Keeping it Green Since 1988

plumosa asparagus fern and hydrangea

Hydrangea with a side of plumosa

Earlier this week I filled a vase with flowers in lovely shades of pink. I added sprigs of Asparagus Fern ‘plumosa’ for a light, feathery touch

In my apartment-dwelling days, I did most of my decorating with live plants, including these ferns. My Asparagus Plumosa started out as two, seventy-nine cent house plants. They lived on a lace-covered trunk next to my bed in Campbell, until they started to outgrow their pots. The plants came with me from Campbell to San Jose and eventually Fremont, then back to San Jose.

When we bought this house in 1996 my tiny ferns were in a pot too big to lift alone. By then the thorns were mighty fierce. It would be a challenge to transplant. I let it be for a few more years, but the sides of the large, plastic pot started to crack. Worried that the plant would die with so little leg room, Mike maneuvered the pot, split the sides and planted the fern where in now resides. The roots were happy to be free from that pot, and the fern lives on.

History of Ferns

History of Ferns

I wish I had pictures of my traveling fern in those early days. Do you ever wonder how we managed life before digital? Back when film was at a premium, and you had to pay to develop photographs, you chose your subject wisely. Digital photography is liberating.

plumosa asparagus fern

Plumosa growing strong since 1988

plumosa asparagus fern closeup

Lovely new growth

plumosa asparagus fern and lindy

Lindy-Lu under the fern.

Thank you, Boomdee for your July 15th comment. It inspired this post.

Living Scrapbook: My Little Side Yard Garden

This seems to be a banner year for my little side garden.  Virtually everything is in bloom or promises to in short order. The tiny plot is small and shady, but full of wonderful memories.

side yard garden

Side yard garden darlings: petal pink azalea, budding Jasmin, blue fescue, white and purple alyssum, pink azaleas camouflage the meter

When we bought the house 18 years ago, the narrow space between our house and the neighbors was in sad neglect.  A ragged shrub divided the property line, creating a dark, narrow opening between the garage and the gate to the back yard.  In short, it was a pass through

The side yard was low on the list of household projects since we didn’t spend any time there. Of course, if you garden, every bit of available soil eventually meets the wandering eye.  What if we…

So when the neighbor asked if the shrub could go, the answer was a resounding yes!  Between households, there were five children, all under the age of ten so I suggested a ‘children’s garden.’  It would be a place for them to play, plant and experiment. A small wooden bridge, once in the backyard, spanned the tiny space and unified the area.  I relocated my dinosaur topiary and Mike transplanted a pair of azaleas from the back yard. The kids loved it. At one point my six-year-old decided to dig a ‘hot tub’ in the middle of the garden.  Shavings of sidewalk chalk turned into magic dust, as long as you believed. I miss those days of wild imaginings.

planting the children's garden

Planting the children’s garden

digging in the dirt

Digging in the dirt

Within a few years, the neighbors moved away.  Our boys got older, the bridge began to rot, and the garden morphed again.

As it turned out, the little bridge proved to be an excellent hiding place for snails.  I’ve never seen so many of them congregated in one place. Out it went.

We planted sunflowers in front of the lemon tree, but it eventually took over.

I planted Alyssum from starters and a bag of wildflowers.  Just enough came up to fill the garden that summer, but just as quickly, they died off in late fall.  I added a few begonias, transplanted overgrown fescue from the fairy garden, and eventually the baby tears meandered over the exposed dirt and made themselves at home.  Our dwarf lemon tree moved in at the edge of the garden and agreed to stay.

sunflowers take off

Sunflowers take off

measuring the sunflowers

Measuring the sunflowers

Our little patch of garden makes me smile. It feels like a living scrapbook of our years in this home. It mirrors the ebb and flow of life.  It’s also a reminder of the joy to be found in a tiny patch of dirt.

view from the gate

View from the gate

view form the neighbors side

View from the neighbors side

Fescue, Alyssum, vinca, and the trunk of the lemon tree

Fescue, Alyssum, Vinca, and the trunk of the lemon tree

The Tale of Two Lemon Trees

Prologue

Yes, I know it’s three chapters, but they’re short, and sweet, like the blossom on a lemon tree.

Chapter One

When we first bought our house, there was an ancient lemon tree growing in the back yard.  The lemons were as big as small grapefruits, but alas never juicy. We enjoyed the tree for its beauty and used the lemons for other things.

The sweet smell of citrus blossoms is crisp and inviting.  A tree laden with bright yellow fruit brought cheer to the garden year round. One year I found a nest in the dense foliage of the tree which confirmed what a special tree it was.  There was, however, one challenge.  The trunk of the tree was low to the ground. At knee-height, the lemon tree forked into two large branches.  The weight of the fruit started pulling the branches apart.  After wrapping the tree with rope, we called an arborist.  They suggested keeping the fruit to a minimum to reduce the weight and to harvest as often as we could.

lemon tree party

Garden birthday party, 2003

It was all for not.  I arrived home one afternoon to find the tree split in two.  Part of it was standing, but the rest lay sprawled across the lawn.  I was so grateful that my children weren’t playing in the yard at the time.  Once I knew the cats were also safe I was able to relax. I knew they weren’t trapped under the limbs of the fallen tree.

The tree had to go.

With the tree gone, we realized how much we enjoyed the extra light and the space to plant sun-worshiping vegetables.  We bought a dwarf lemon instead and put it in a pot on the front deck.

Chapter Two

Dwarf lemon trees produce full-sized fruit on a smaller tree. My mom had good luck growing a potted lemon tree, so I reasoned we could too. For whatever reason our Myer lemon didn’t take off.

We moved our dwarf lemon to the front, side yard and hoped it would get plenty of sun.

lemon tree 2011

Dwarf Myer Lemon Newly transplanted, 2011

dwarf lemon in side yard

Dwarf Myer Lemon today April, 2014

That first year the tree doubled in size but didn’t produce any fruit.  It increased in size again but got hit with a hard frost and  decided to sit it out for another year.  Last year the tree sent out thorns.  Surely fruit would follow.  By early fall, a fungus or some kind of pest, deformed all the new growth, wrapping it in a light powder.

What is a gardener to do?  I pulled out the shears, and removed the damage, taking a little extra for good measure.  Winter came (sort of) followed in typical fashion by spring.

Chapter Three

It’s spring!  The birds are singing, the bulbs are popping and we finally got a bit of rain.  Could this be the banner year for our little lemon tree? A recent trip to the side yard renewed my hope.  A single flower bud, fresh from the rain sent out a cheerful welcome.  New growth covered the tree and not a single pest in sight.

lemon buds

Lemon tree buds

A couple of rainy days later and all was right with the world.  Tiny flower buds cover the tree. Sweet, pink, intoxicating, might-one-day-be-a-lemon buds.

lemon tree flowers

Lemon tree flower and buds

To be continued…

 Epilogue

When life gives you lemons…

  • Collect them in a large bowl for a pretty display. Your entire house will smell like citrus.
  • Lemon juice and salt are great for cleaning copper.
  • Grinding a chopped lemon with some ice freshens the sink and the garbage disposal.
  • Use lemon juice instead of bleach to remove stains. Soak your delicate clothing in a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda for at least half an hour before washing. We did this with costumes in my theater days, so we didn’t harm the delicate fabric.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Sewing

Major Barbara: San Jose State

Costume Design by Deborah Slate
I spent 40 hours sewing this costume

Wedding and birthday anniversaries are fun.  When it’s the anniversary of a death, clouds descend. My mom passed three days after Christmas in 2008, so in addition to my usual seasonal blahs, feelings of loss prevail.

This year, I spent the day sewing, something my mom taught me as a girl.  I remember the moment clearly, though I was only six.  It started at school.

During arts and crafts time, they gave us sewing cards, cardboard pictures punched with holes and a shoe lace. We were to thread the lace in and out of the holes to frame the picture. Though mesmerized, I was also annoyed that I had to take it apart when done.  I went home and asked my mom if I could sew.

She found the largest needle she had and an old sock.  I sat by her knee on the floor, cutting the sock into shapes and then sewing them together.  I completely lost myself in the activity.

I made a lot of my clothes in high school, and sewed for friends as well.  I attended community college where I got an associate degree in fashion merchandising, taking classes in fine sewing and design. From there I transferred to San Jose State where I studied costume design, graduating with a BS in theater.  I worked as a ‘stitcher’ at San Jose Repertory Theater, my first professional experience.  I also spent three summers doing summer stock in Santa Rosa, working as an assistant cutter and later cutter for summer shows.

summer stock theater

Summer Stock Theater

Making a living in the arts is hard work.  I admire my friends that stuck with it, many of them working in academia to make ends meet.  I drifted into different things, when the challenge of always looking for that next job, contract or summer gig started to wear on me.  I miss it.  You meet incredibly talented and creative people in theater, and you meet prima donnas and sociopaths as well.  Everyone’s welcome. No judgment.

These days I sew for myself once a year at Halloween.  It’s a wonderfully creative outlet.  Whenever I haul out my machine, I wonder why I don’t find the time to do it more often.

During my day of sewing, I repaired a dress for my sister. Sharon is also a good seamstress, but her MS makes sewing a challenge these days. I did a bit of mending for my son, then learned how to use the overlock stitch on my machine.  Oh happy day!

mending seams

Mended seams

Two summers ago I made a slip cover for my garden swing.  I piped most of the edges, but the two side panels were simply pinked (with my mom’s pinking shears).  The loose weave of the fabric didn’t hold up in the wash, unfortunately, so the pinked edges frayed.  I trimmed the edges even, then went to town with the over lock stitch.  Be still my heart: it worked!  I laundered the cover and put it away for the season.  For some reason that really made me happy.

overlocked seams

Over-locked seams

garden swing cover

Garden swing cover

Last on the list for my sewing day: a pillow.  My friend Melanie had a beloved canvas bag from her summer camp days.  Her well-loved bag sported torn seams and a few holes, but it had great sentimental value.  I offered to turn it into a pillow.

I found the perfect trim at my local craft store to add a bit of texture.  Within no time the bag transformed.

duffel bag pillow

Camp Seafarer pillow

The day was cathartic.  I sewed for myself, my family and my friends and I sewed for the memory of mom.  I used her pinking shears that day too, and believe it or not, a spool of black thread that once lived in her sewing box.

As I put all this into words, I wonder if I’ve hit upon an annual tradition.

What helps you get through a ‘loaded’ anniversary?

Throwback Thursday, Garden Style

Today is ‘Throwback Thursday’ on Facebook.  Friends post photos from the past, and we all wax nostalgic. So why not some nostalgic photos of my garden during a simpler time?

It surprised me to learn that ‘experts’ once considered nostalgia a mental disorder or illness. According to this New York Times article, What is Nostalgia Good For?:

In the 19th and 20th centuries nostalgia was variously classified as an “immigrant psychosis,” a form of “melancholia” and a “mentally repressive compulsive disorder” among other pathologies. But when Dr. Sedikides, Tim Wildschut and other psychologists at Southampton began studying nostalgia, they found it to be common around the world, including in children as young as 7 (who look back fondly on birthdays and vacations).

“The defining features of nostalgia in England are also the defining features in Africa and South America,” Dr. Wildschut says. The topics are universal — reminiscences about friends and family members, holidays, weddings, songs, sunsets, lakes The stories tend to feature the self as the protagonist surrounded by close friends.

Most people report experiencing nostalgia at least once a week, and nearly half experience it three or four times a week. These reported bouts are often touched off by negative events and feelings of loneliness, but people say the “nostalgizing” — researchers distinguish it from reminiscing — helps them feel better.

Wow!  Just reading that article made me feel better!

Campbell apartment garden with cat

Apartment C…is for Cat

Campbell Garden Patio

Garden Patio in Campbell, circa 1994

I lived in Campbell, California for five years before getting married. My tiny apartment, behind a larger house, boasted a long concrete driveway, a smaller, concrete parking strip and a concrete stoop leading into my 400 square foot apartment. I was happy to find this tiny place to call my own, and a landlord that allowed cats! I didn’t rent if for the greenery. Landscaping the place was always on the owner’s mind, but sadly, there it stayed. I surrounded myself with houseplants of course, but it seemed a shame to leave all that concrete unadorned. One by one, plant by plant, I created my own little potted garden. As a renter, you never know how long the deal will last, so I started small, assuming I could always take my potted plants with me. Eventually, I dug into the soil around the perimeter and before I knew it I had a tangle of vines, herbs, flowers and succulents. I bought a tiny settee, relocated the cat climbing tree, and eventually had my own little garden oasis.

Of course the thing about nostalgia is that we tend to remember the good times and leave the rest. When I look at these photos, I remember the happy little garden, but I also remember the colorful neighbor up above. She worked as a stripper at a local bar, arriving home at 2:00 am most days, blaring her TV and screaming expletives at her boyfriend. Good times!

Do you like waxing nostalgic?