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Monday, May 27, 2013

Past Meets Future

It’s Memorial Day. Some people are remembering family members or friends who lost their lives while protecting our country. When you’ve grown up in America (as I have) it can be easy to take for granted our freedoms and rights since they are so much part of our everyday lives. But I want to take a moment to think about that liberty and to appreciate the bravery of those who died for American freedom. Today I’m not putting flags on relatives’ gravesites but our flag is flying out front and my mind is on those who have given so much to this country.

Our family gathered this weekend not to remember someone who had passed but to celebrate the future: a wonderful couple who soon will be married. It was the first time anyone on my side had met my sister’s fiance’s family. It was a lively group of people ranging in age from one to ninety. It was not only a blend of families but also a mix of cultures. Four generations were there. Two languages were spoken. The two people who were the reason for this group to meet are a terrific combination. They have things in common as well as differences, and their differences make them a great fit for each other. They make each other shine. All of us laughed and talked and played. We learned new traditions from other cultures and we blended really well as a group from different countries, backgrounds and histories, who share things in common, too. Among other things, we share a love for this special couple.

I’m sitting here on Memorial Day, right before sunset. My feet are a little tired and my voice is a little sore from all the talking last night. But my heart feels happier after last night’s celebration.

It’s coincidence that we all met on Memorial Day weekend: it was simply the best weekend for everyone. But I find some significance in the timing, too. Everyone there last night has a love for America for what it has given them: for me it’s freedoms I sometimes take for granted. For my almost-in-laws it was a chance for a safer, happier life for their families. Last night we were a motley bunch as well as a united group. The past is an important part of who we are but the future is a big focus, too. The flags dotting my neighborhood are a good reminder to honor the past. And the couple who brought us together last night is a symbol of how exciting the future will be.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Spring Fever Dress!

It's official: I have Spring Fever. I LOVE this season. All the plants and flowers are waking up and suddenly the neighborhood is a rainbow of blooming things. I’m one of those brightly-colored things, as usual. I’m outdoors more, enjoying the warmth, and I’m planting things at the community garden. I actually do wear dresses while I garden! And since it’s becoming a lot sunnier, I recommend using a parasol if you are fair-skinned like me. (A duck umbrella does the trick if you don’t have a parasol lying around.)

Would you like to know how this dress came into existence? I thought so. While I was in a fabric store recently, I came across this beautiful piece of yellowish-orange batik (on clearance!). I think I got the entire piece for $5. I knew it would make a fun dress and I set about making that happen. I already had a few pieces of blue and turquoise cotton in my sewing stash, and I used them for accents against the cheerful yellow. A few fabric yoyos at the neckline added to the playful feel I was after. As I’ve said before, grown-up clothes are often lacking in the fun factor, and I am not okay with that. Why should kids’ clothes corner the market on bright colors and happy polka dots and spirited details?

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish sewing my very pattern-ful purple dress. (But that’s a blog post for another day…)

Monday, May 13, 2013


Okay, I’m back. Specifically, I’m back to talk bees. Yes, I am still on a bee kick but I promise it won’t go on forever. I’ll go back to being obsessed with making stuff, observing random stuff, and pondering other stuff. But for now, I’m obsessed with bee stuff.

Over the weekend a mysterious someone made a bee box in our garden! I heard about it through an email but stopped by today to see for myself.

I love that our secret beekeeper made this at home. We community gardeners are Do It Yourselfers to the core, so the personally-made bee box appeals to me. I find it so charming that our bee box is not some ridiculously high-end version you’d find in those airplane catalogues, where everything is 3-5 times the cost it would be elsewhere. (Whoever puts out those catalogues must think our brains shut off at 35,000 feet. Seriously, do they really sell many pairs of slippers at $400/pair?)

Whoever made our bee box clearly did some research about what kind of home a colony of honeybees would like. The dimensions of a bee box need to be within a certain range, according to online instructions: not too big but also not too small. The entrance to the box must be a specific size, too. In summer the entrance needs to be .75 inches high (and half that height in winter). Bigger entrances allow for rodents to enter.
It is also important to keep the bee box off the ground. (Our box is propped on top of an upside-down pot.) This keeps the base of the box dry and helps insulate the hive. The top of our box is weighted down by a rock and the whole thing is held together with love (and duct tape). Yep, we gardeners are all about a fancy image! But really, why not? All we need in a bee box is to keep the bees happy and in one place. Someone took the time to make a bee box so that we didn’t have to dip into our limited community garden funds. I love the gusto of these gardeners…  
On a related note, one of the newer gardeners planted an herb called Borage. Its flowers are a beautiful shade of purplish-blue and they are edible. The bees certainly are drawn to them as the photo below shows:

It’s exciting to see the bees at work in the garden. These industrious little creatures buzz from plant to plant, from bed to bed, on a mission, always with an eye on their goal. They are tiny mascots for the garden, encouraging us with their example of hard work and team effort.

The garden is growing, changing slightly between each visit, as though I’d turned the end of a kaleidoscope just a degree or two, changing the big picture in subtle ways. There are beans and tomatoes popping out in my bed, corn and sunflowers growing tall in my neighbors’ beds. It’s been a year since we shoveled huge piles of dirt, dug irritation ditches, built beds and started this labor of love. I’m excited to see how the garden evolves in the next year. I helped change it from a triangle of dirt, but it has changed me for the better, too.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cheap Frills Tutorial: Trashion Earrings

As you know, I love Do It Yourself projects, and I get special happiness from making something unique for little or no cost. Sometimes the most creative results come from the challenge of making an accessory from something you already have. Recently I decided that my blog needs a tutorial section, with instructions and photos in case anyone wants to try some of the things that have brought me such fun. Many times I’ve heard people say they are not creative enough to make things to brighten their world. And they’re wrong! Anyone can make things to bring a more personalized look to their house, yard, clothes, or to their life.

Welcome to my new tutorials section: “Cheap Frills.”

At first I thought I’d call this feature “Cheap Thrills,” as it gives me a thrill to make something cool yet budget-friendly. But a few hours later I decided that “Cheap Frills” was an extra-fun play on words and conveyed my mission to create or revamp things very inexpensively for fabulously memorable results.

(In this case “frills” does not refer to miles of 1980s rose-printed fabric, gathered and bunched into puffy drapes. No, for my purposes, frills will refer to any embellishment that makes a house, garden, wall, clothing item, earring, mirror, shoes (ETC!) more fantastic.)

Let the frilling begin!

My first Cheap Frills Tutorial is a fun pair of DIY earrings. (You can’t have too many pairs of DIY earrings. It is not possible!)

This is a trashion project. Trashion is exactly what it sounds like: taking materials that some might consider trash or recycling and turning them into creative, wearable conversation-pieces. (I know. I’m excited, too!)

Supplies Needed:

·         Junk mail or other glossy pieces of paper (magazines, etc)

·         Scissors

·         Glue sticks

·         1 post-it (3” x 3”)

·         1 sheet of paper

·         Clear packing tape

·         Ear wires (craft stores like Michael’s carry them for less than $1/pair)

·         Needle-nosed pliers

·         Standard sewing needle and thread (color of your choice)

How to make your own fabulous junk mail earrings:

1.       Cut up your junk mail. (I keep only the pieces that have colors or patterns I like.)

2.       Choose pieces for your first pair of earrings. (I chose a rainbow theme this time but you could do absolutely anything that speaks to you. I like pieces with some text on them because it adds more visual texture. For fun, I sometimes use only part of a word (or turn it upside down).

3.       (This step involves a post-it, and can be skipped if you prefer to glue your junk mail directly to a piece of paper.) Stick your post it to a piece of paper. The post-it becomes the back of your earrings. (I used a turquoise post-it because I wanted my earrings to be colorful on the backside.)

4.       Glue pieces of your junk mail to the post-it (or directly to your piece of paper).

5.       When the post-it is covered with junk mail, peel it off the sheet of paper. Cut the post-it into two pieces. They can be exactly the same shape or slightly different shapes.


6.       Get your clear packing tape and cut a small piece (half an inch by one inch). Repeat.

7.       Fold one piece of packing tape over the top edge of your earring and secure to the back of the paper earring. This tape won’t be seen but it reinforces the top of the earring. Repeat for other paper earring.

8.     Get your ear wires. If the loop at the bottom of each wire is not completely closed, use needle-nosed pliers to close the loops. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, find a friend or neighbor who owns tools and who can help you. It will take a minute or less—literally!)

9.       Thread your needle and tie a small knot in the end of your thread. Starting from the back of your paper earring, push your needle through the top of your paper earring, where it is reinforced with tape. Pull it all the way through until the knot touches the back of your paper earring. Put your needle through the loop of your ear wire, and then back through the front of your paper earring. Pull the needle and thread until the ear wire is roughly 1/8 of an inch above the earring paper. Repeat several times until you think the ear wire and the paper earring are securely attached to each other. Tie a double knot in your thread and snip away extra thread. Repeat for the second earring.

10.   Wear your fabulous custom earrings out and be prepared for ooohs and ahhhs.


Trashion Earrings from Junk Mail. I already had ear wires, supplies and junk mail so my total cost: zero! Total fun: HUGE!

Have you Heard the Buzz?

This isn’t a rumor. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. The bee situation at our community garden is growing. There are many hundreds of bees—maybe thousands! This morning I stopped by to see whether they’d moved from my garden bed. (Three days ago I’d heard that they were camping at my garden, ready to pollinate things and help me grow tomatoes the size of watermelons.) Today the group at my garden bed is about twice the size it was Tuesday and there’s another group at someone else’s bed. We both have wooden trellises and I guess the bees like them. They weren’t interested in me, and I was able to get a few feet away to capture some photos. While I’m not looking to be stung, I wanted to get a good view of the bees as I have never been so close to that many before.

Here’s the bee population at my bed today:

This is a close-up photo (in case Seinfeld makes a sequel to his Bee Movie and needs extras):
Here’s the population at the other bed:

It’s been a few hours since I went bee-gazing and apparently the situation has changed again. Employees at the store next to our garden told one of our community gardeners that a huge swarm of bees flew over the street and onto their next adventure. The bees at my bed are still hanging around, so this tale continues. I know—you’re at the edge of your seat. Don’t worry—I’ll keep ya posted!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I'd Rather Be...

As a general rule, I’m not a big fan of bumper stickers. Many are divisive, and I don’t care to be insulted by the person ahead of me at a stoplight or push my views onto whoever is behind me. But every once in a while I see a bumper sticker that I can get behind (no pun intended) and I had one of those moments yesterday. I passed a car parked in a lot and its bumper sticker spoke to me right away. In fact, I got my camera out and as the owner got out of her car I enthused about the sticker and asked if I could take a photo. She gave me the go-ahead and we exchanged a few thoughts on her sticker. Here it is:


The owner told me she’d gotten it in Seattle at a library event.

It’s no secret that reading is one of my favorite past times. Libraries don’t always get as much credit as they deserve. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a library-themed bumper sticker. So this was a charming nod to the wonder of libraries and books.

Oh, I know. You can’t please everyone. There might be people out there who would find that bumper sticker offensive, somehow. They might believe the sticker is telling them what to do, as most bumper stickers do. Okay, I can’t convince everyone to see that sticker the way I do. But I saw the sticker not as preaching but as passing along a tip about the joy of reading. The American library system is free and it’s a treasure trove! It gives everybody equal access to books, music, ideas, words. Words are one of the things that connect all of us, one of our most basic links to others. In so many ways, libraries bring people together. It was a happy surprise to see that bumper sticker yesterday.  

I get it, Seattle library lady. I’d rather be reading, too!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

An Unwitting Beekeeper

Gardens are full of surprises. Sometimes you’re surprised to discover that a hungry someone has chomped through the leaves of your plants during the night. Other times a flower has opened earlier than you expected. Sometimes tulips change colors. So I shouldn’t be surprised by the surprises. But I still am.

Today’s surprise happened at the community garden. Apparently bees like my garden bed. (Bees have excellent taste, in case you haven’t heard.) Hundreds of bees. Actually, they seem to like my trellis, the one that is holding up a small but complex network of sugar snap pea vines, twisted and knotted around one another like pale green macramé. I didn’t see the bees myself (and maybe that’s a good thing because I’m easily startled—I’m scared of my own shadow!). But someone from the garden emailed a photo so I am able to share this bee convention with you.

I love that the bees (social creatures by nature) landed in our community garden, a place created by many hands all working together. Just as bees labor together, we gardeners were team players last summer, building the beds together, taking turns shoveling dirt into the beds, sharing seeds, tools and advice. Bees do sting, that’s true, and so there is a more threatening edge to them than there is with more docile insects like butterflies and ladybugs. But bees and humans have a long history as friends. There’s the honey-making exchange, of course. But the relationship dates back to Ancient Near East and Aegean cultures, when bees were believed to be sacred. The Mycenaean culture designed their tombs with a dome, referencing the shape of beehives. Certain cultures see bees as messengers of the gods. Bees also symbolize industry, creativity, eloquence, wisdom and regal power.

So thank you, bees. Thanks for surprising us at the garden. Thanks for making honey and for pollinating our gardens. You do a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and we’re grateful. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to fly!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Think Pink

Did Mother Nature know I could use a lift today? My epiphyllum plant is blooming, which boosts my mood. It’s gorgeous and full of color. Or maybe nature just follows its own calendar and it’s time to bloom. One year and five days ago I posted photos of my happy epis in bloom. What’s fun, though, is that this year’s blooms make last year’s look like the dress rehearsal. Last year I posted photos of this Epi (named Padre) with a few blooms. This year, in one hanging pot, there are three giant blooms in full peacock strut, and another six about to open.

Since I can’t decide between two photos, I’m posting two. I like that the photo above shows sunlight through the petals. The next photo captures the delicate structures inside of the flower.

 Thanks, Nature. You put on quite a show.