Anthurium Christmasum

It’s not every day you receive a box on your doorstep from Volcano, Hawaii.

Squeal!!!

My friend Laura and family sent us a dozen Mini Anthuriums by way of Akatsuka Orchid Gardens in Hawaii. Aren’t they breathtaking?  It wasn’t until I looked at the website that I realized we had been there on our visit to the Big Island several years ago.  Goosebumps!

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Anthuriums, banana leaves and flax

The waxy stems traveled 2,352 miles (3,785 kilometers) to get here. They arrived wrapped in beautiful green paper, soft foam, a sheet of plastic and damp, shredded newspaper. The contents smelled like an evening on the shore.  I’m going to add it to my compost bin for a bit of Hawaiian flare.

damp shredded newspaper

Packaged in damp, shredded newspaper

In addition to the heart-shaped stems, they included several exotic greens, including banana leaves and flax. The greens, reds and golds light up the room. What an extraordinary gift.

Mini Anthuriums

Mini Anthuriums

anthuriums

Reds and corals

According to The Flower Expert:

The red, heart-shaped flower of Anthuriums is really a spathe or a waxy, modified leaf flaring out from the base of a fleshy spike (spadix) where the tiny real flowers grow. The anthurium flowers appear as a roughness on the spadix as compared to a smooth spadix. Most common colors of anthuriums are red and shades of red.

In Greek, the name Anthurium means tail flower. The plant’s stem lengths may grow to a height of 15-20 inches depending on the size of the spathe, i.e., the bigger the spathe, the longer the stem. Its leaves are usually simple, large, attractively colored and borne on long stalks. The flowering stalk is slender, ending in a fleshy column crowded with many unisexual flowers. They have leafy bracts which may be white, yellow, red, pink, orange or green.

glass bowl and flowers

This glass, lotus-shaped bowl was a wedding gift. I think it’s perfect for these blooms

Aloha

 

Garden Update: Frosty and Dry

Days of unseasonal frost have left my garden looking desolate. I raced past the dying tomato plant on my way to dump kitchen scraps.  I upended them into the compost bin, then raced back inside for warmth.

frozen tomato plant

Tomatoes last stand

Still no rain in sight, other than one brief storm last month. The days are cold and dry.

The leaves have been off the Pistache since mid-November, but the maple is just now turning color. It’s nice that they set color at different times. It gives us a chance to enjoy each one.

japanese maple

View from my living room window

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

Somewhat comically, I won’t need to refrigerate my bulbs this year.  Generally speaking, California isn’t cold enough so we have to tease the bulbs with a six-week chill.  They’re getting plenty of cold in the garage and should be ready to go soon. I’m not ready, but they are.

The hyacinth bulbs are popping up, happy with the autumn chill.  When they finally bloom, the smell is potent and intoxicating.  I can’t wait.  It evokes a happy childhood memory, so I look forward to breathing that in each year.

hyacinth

hyacinth

I’m off to the craft store to buy some ribbon for the finishing touches on a gift. One last seasonal trip to the post office tomorrow.

What’s happening in your corner of the world? I’m behind on my reading, but look forward to catching up with all your lovely comments, and blogs, soon.

 

Lawn Tree Traditions: Greening up the Neighborhood

mother and son

Mother and son

If you drop by this week, you’ll see Christmas trees up and down the block. Our neighborhood has an extensive and coordinated effort to display cut Christmas trees on our lawn each year. The trees go up the first week of December and come down New Year’s day. I’m the block captain for our street.

We try to make it a family affair, but now that our boys are teens, their interest wanes.  This year my older son did the heavy lifting along with his dad, dropping trees at each house while I drove the truck.  My youngest son asked if he could stay in bed!  So it goes.

the muscle

The Muscle

Our neighbor, Greg lends us his truck for deliveries.  I get to dust off my manual transmission driving skills once a year.  It keeps me in the game.

christmas tree bundles

Ready for delivery

The Bay Area is diverse.  Not all neighbors celebrate this tradition.  When I was a young, I wondered why one or two people wouldn’t want a tree in their yard.  Then I grew up and understood that the world is full of different religions and cultures and it all made sense.  We see Menorah in neighboring windows and understand others simply don’t embrace the ritual.  It’s a great time of year to pause and reflect on the richness of diversity.

We have an artificial tree indoors, and a cut tree on the lawn.  I wrote about the pros and cons of real vs fake last year.  You can read more about that here.

Do you celebrate Christmas?  Do you display a tree?  Real or fake…or both?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, below.

Organized at Heart

I’m posting a series of articles featuring organizing around the holidays this month on my blog Organized at Heart. If the subject interests you, please go take a peak. Today’s blog: Holiday Storage: The Case of the Shrinking House. 

Of note: Wikipedia has a wonderful and detailed article on the origins of the decorated Christmas tree.  I’m always learning something new on that site and must remember to make my annual donation accordingly.

Frosty San Jose

frosty inflatable

My son’s prized inflatable, pretend snowing in San Jose

Still no rain, and certainly no snow, but we did get some frost last night.  This isn’t a big deal for everyone, but it’s a rare occurrence around here.  It’s December 4th after all.  The tomato plant had to go eventually.

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I have lots of frozen peas (and I never stepped foot in the freezer aisle). They look plump and juicy and, well, frozen. Since it’s a winter crop, I’m not sure what to think.  The plant doesn’t seem to mind, but it may take a few days for any damage to appear.  I’ll let you know.

frozen pea

Frozen peas, available now in your neighborhood garden

Last week I *finally* planted some beats. I soaked the seeds at the same time I planted the peas, but originally planned to put them in the veggie garden out back.  The tomato plant hung on and on in one bed, and the strawberries in the other, so I didn’t have room.  I planted the beats in the curb garden with the carrots and peas.  I hope they’re equally successful, and that I didn’t plant them too late.

plump pea

Plump and ready

I started my broccoli seeds indoors and all was going well. Somewhat foolishly I started hardening them off, the process of acclimatizing the seeds to their new outdoor home. It would have been better to wait till the holidays were over. I simply forgot about them.  They came back inside for water and a rest.  Hopefully enough of them will recover so I can make a go of it.

Next up, spring bulbs. My back just hasn’t been up to the task this year, so bags of bulbs sit in the garage waiting for my next move.

I think I’ll go make myself a hot cup of tea while I give this more thought. I hope you’re enjoying your day.

Frosty paw prints

Frosty paw prints

Organized at Heart

I’m posting a series of articles featuring organizing around the holidays this week on my blog Organized at Heart. If the subject interests you, please go take a peak.  Today’s blog has a few filing tips (boring) along with beautiful file folders (sweet) to inspire this mundane task.

Green Friday: Repurposing in and out of the Garden

Re-purposing was common practice during the Depression era.  It’s still common in developing countries where nothing goes to waste.  I’m a huge fan of giving new life to items that might otherwise be discarded.  There is an entire movement afoot, people reusing items in clever and original ways.

So, in honor of Green Friday, check out these fun ideas.

Greenhouse-Made-from-Windows

Greenhouse Made from old windows
Between Naps on the Porch

sweet magnolia chair

Lovely old chair breathes new life
Sweet Magnolia Farm

umbrellabeantrellis upcycle

Umbrella Bean Trellis from Dirt du Jour

bird bath light fixture

Light fixture bird bath from Indulgy

I wish I had 100 hours a week to read all the fascinating blogs out there. Here’s a small sample:

Dishfunctional Designs: Creative Things To Make With Old (I love the clever title)

Indulgy.com: Light fixtures live again

Denim Do Over: giving new life to old denim

Pinterest: Set the timer or you’ll never get anything done.

Facebook: Re-purposed, Recycled, Reused, Reclaimed, Restored

I like to re-purpose my wall calendar each year.  I reuse the pages to make envelopes, bookmarks, gift tags, small stickers, gift-card holders and other small paper items.

Last year I made a wreath for our front door using scraps of tissue paper, candy wrappers (ahem) , a dry-cleaning bag and the plastic sleeve from the newspaper.

Katherine, over at Pillows a-la- Mode recently refashioned an old sweater into the most adorable teddy bear you’ve ever seen.

Diary of a Mad Woman uses a similar sweater to make Christmas stockings. 

I hope you have as much fun as I did, visiting all these fun sites.  Please share your own re-fashions, links or blogs in the comments below.

Garden Wreath Redux

Wonderful things happen when you write a blog. Here are my top three:

Community, community and community.

Last week I posted photos of my attempt at a garden wreath. The wreath had a lot going for it, but it lacked volume and charm.

Garden Wreath Version 1.0

Garden Wreath Version 1.0

I asked for suggestions and received a tremendous outpouring of support.

The Contented Crafter had this to say:  Just this very morning I was discussing my art work with a friend and related how something Jane Davenport once said made a big impression on me and changed the way I viewed my creations.

Jane said [and I paraphrase] ‘Every creation goes through an ugly stage. Do not be put off, do not throw it out, do not walk away. Keep working at it until it becomes beautiful again’.

Not that I’m calling your wreath ugly – it isn’t. It is actually really pretty, and while still in development, shows enormous potential – it just needs more.

Which brings me to my second great life lesson – if a little is good, a lot is better 🙂 Bling it up Alys, bling it up!

In summary, don’t be discouraged.  Add some bling. Borrow seeds from the squirrels.

flowes and seeds

Flowers and seeds

Boomdeeadda added:

I would say you’ve got a lot of beautiful dried flowers but need a sturdier base to build upon. I especially love the hair pin, it’s a pretty detail and unexpected 😀 I also like that you used a loose triangle in your design. The rule of three always works best for arranging flowers. It’s going to be so awesome and I bet it smells really wonderful too.

  • Do you have any thin gauge wire? Here’s what a florist might do.
  • Take everything off and sort.
  • Spray Hydrangea with a bit of hair spray to lessen shedding.
  • make three mixed posies with your remaining dried flowers by wrapping stems with a bit of wire. Vary the sizes (S, M, L). Leave a length of wire to make a small loop.
  • Now, stuff the entire wreath with green sheet moss. Available from gardening stores. Winding thin wire around the wreath as you go. You hardly see it with the moss.

After reading Boomdee’s professional advice, it was tempting to box it up and send it to her with a thank you note.  Instead I behaved myself and took notes.

I took apart the wreath, salvaging the lavender, the ribbon and the hair pin. The hydrangeas were toast so I tossed what remained in the compost bin.

I dragged myself to a craft store (hee!) and picked up a bag of Spanish moss, floral wire and a roll of dusty silver tulle.  I bought purple ribbon as well, but didn’t use it.

garden wreath collage

Starting from scratch

Cindy Knoke cheered me on as did Tami and Marlene, of In Search of it All. Marlene and LB both agreed that moss would give it some oomph.  Where the Journey Takes Me suggested the great and powerful Google for dried wreath inspiration.  Additional thanks to Sheryl at Flowery Prose.

Anne Lawson said: bling it up! When I paint there is often a point where I despair and think “it’s not working!” That’s the time to keep going, as many times it does come together.

I gathered lavender and sage in twice the quantities to allow for natural shrinkage when dried.  The hydrangeas were un-salvageable.  I used three of the flowers from a vase in my room.  I sprayed them first with hairspray to prevent shedding.  I added dried seeds from the Bachelor Buttons, and then stuffed all the gaps with moss.  The wire helped keep everything in place.

I dug out my Christmas ornaments early, remembering this cute set of watering cans, a gift from my sister-in-law many years ago.  The size and color worked well.  I added tulle to the original ribbon for a larger bow, placed dried lavender in the watering can and added the hair clip.

Garden Wreath Details

Garden Wreath Details

2nd wreath

Wreath Version 2.0

It’s still a bit lopsided, but overall I like it so much better. I’ve dubbed it the Village Wreath, as I couldn’t have done it without all of you.

XOX

Final Score: Pumpkins, 8, Squash Bugs, 2

Things got a bit dicey in the pumpkin patch last month.  Nearly a dozen pumpkins grew happily on the vine until disaster struck.  A rapidly producing colony of squash bugs moved in and things turned ugly.  If you have any doubt, take a look:

This pumpkin never had a chance

This pumpkin never stood a chance

Instead of leaving the orange pumpkins on the vine to harden, I harvested all but two and set them on the patio thinking I would wipe them off before bringing them indoors.  The next day, the squash bugs found the harvest!  Eek!

I brought the pumpkins inside one by one, wiping them down with the first thing I could get my hands on: my son’s lip balm. (Desperate times call for desperate measures).  I didn’t want to bring garden pests indoors, so I figured the coating would put an end to anything I missed.

polished pumpkins

Polished pumpkins

We’re big on pumpkins around here: we grow, harvest, decorate and carve them. It’s been a family tradition for a decade.  I also enjoy saving  seeds for the next season. This year I gave a few starters to friends, and passed on some seeds to an adorable pair of three-year-old twins that walk by the house with their dad. They planted the seeds and grew pumpkins of their own. I’m delighted.

The pumpkins hung out in the living room for several weeks, but as October approaches, it’s time to bring them center stage. I created a display on my iron bench combining an eclectic mix of drying lavender, three pumpkins and a refurbished fairy garden. Check back next week for the fall upgrade.
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I love October. It starts with my birthday, ends with Halloween with plenty of goodness in between.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, this Boo season brings a special visit from Boooooomdee. She told me to expect her on the whisper of a dandelion, but I think she was teasing. I’ll go to the airport to fetch her just in case.

Boo season, here we come!