Sunday, May 31, 2015

Quick Dollar Tree Craft Cubby!

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right?

So, my birdie, Pistachio has been sick. She will be 17 years old in a couple of weeks, but her potential life span is nearly twice that. She is on antibiotics and many days she seems that she is getting better, but others, she seems to be winded. I had her downstairs here in the living room in her little travel cage when I first began giving her the medicine. I kept feeling like her symptoms were worse when she was upstairs where her regular cage is and I still feel that way. I don't know if she is actually allergic to something up there or not, but I got tired of trying to figure it out, so I have moved her regular cage down to the living room. I didn't really want it in here, but I've got it in a pretty good place and it works for now. She likes being down here where more of the action is anyway and it may be my imagination, but she seems to be improving.

So, then I had quite a bit more space on the landing upstairs where her cage was before. That space is right next to my desk; the whole area is my office area really. We had decided that the shoe shelves we had set by the back door actually took up more room in our wee, back entry than they were worth and they had been sitting in the upper hallway for a few weeks until we decided what to do with them.

Sorry for the poor quality of the photos. Despite the window, it's a rather dark part of the house and these are taken with my camera, as usual.



Then it occurred to me that I might be able to use these shelves to house my small yarn stash. Most of my yarn stash is leftovers from projects I have done or a handful of random - but great quality - skeins I scored at a Goodwill a number of years ago.

I honestly think it would make me uncomfortable to own a plethora of yarn. I know some people are comfortable with it, but it doesn't match my simple living tendencies. I don't want so much yarn that I may never knit with it in my lifetime. That said, I did think it would be nice to have it out from the bin under my bed.


I spent $10 at the Dollar tree for 8 bins, a package of labels, and twine and changed my shoe shelf into a "craft cubby" where I store my yarn (generally organized according to size), and some embroidery/cross stitch supplies.


The tins on top belonged to my granny. She has them filled with all the colors of the rainbow of embroidery floss. She was very much like I am now: she embroidered, knit, sewed, and painted. I wish I would have lived closer to her when I was growing up that she might have had the opportunity to teach me what she knew. As it is, I learned anyway and now use some of her supplies to embellish my own projects.





I moved two of my dolls into the space. The doll on the right is officially vintage, as I got him when I was two years old! The little girl doll on the left, I bought 5 or 6 years ago. I don't actually collect dolls (the few that I have were mostly from my childhood - one I bought replaced a favorite I lost when I was a little girl too), but I thought she was completely charming and I bought her. I rarely buy anything so frivolous, but I have loved dolls all my life and so bought her one year with some Christmas money. :)

So, now I happily have a little space dedicated to my fiber hobbies. To the right of this space, as I mentioned, is my desk where I'll also begin working on my index cards for ICAD - the Index Card a Day Challenge for 2015. There's still time to join up (for free and for FUN!), because it doesn't start until tomorrow! Oh, it's going to be a fun and crafty June!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Touchstones




I know you have things in your life that you return to time and again that make you feel like you.

touchstone: a test or criterion for the qualities of a thing - Dictionary.com

So, a touchstone reveals authenticity. If you are applying the definition to your life, I think you would have to consider those things you do that make you feel authentic. It takes time, sometimes, to come to these realizations. I know that when we are trying to figure out for ourselves or our children what it is we want to do for a living, we often are searching for those things that we are passionate about and see if we can incorporate some of them into our life's work. Of course, we don't have to attach a monetary value to our touchstones; it is simply that they are important.

I have learned that true touchstones are not likely to fade from my life, even when I have seasons in which I am not actively engaged with them.

This may be one of the last summers that I am not employed outside the home. We have two home school years left. I graduate from my library program in the spring and though I may go on to pursue my BA in history, I will begin looking to work in my field. So this summer I am being careful to tend to the things I love: knitting, gardening, reading, biking, cooking with whole foods. The list is not at all different, really, from many years past. But I am appreciating them greatly, knowing that there will be added responsibilities vying for attention in the years and summers to come.

A Fairy Garden Grows






My neighbor and dear friend, Kim, invited the girls over last week to help install a fairy garden in her back yard. Eve was up first and began the work. Her style is very nature driven and intricate. Notice the spiral staircase and the fern-leaf curtains!





Then she added a fern shelf.









Maia arrived later and created about twice what Eve had done in about half the time! She is more quick and spontaneous with her work. Kim had collected little items over time to be used in the garden and she used those more than spending time making things out of plants. The two of them created something that Kim really enjoys and something that is so fun to discover when you visit her beautiful back garden.




A little fairy sits by a green pond:





To the right in this picture is a tiny, green, bowl that Eve made. A vase is on the table too with a tiny flower that my camera could not capture. This picture was taken the following day and some of the leaves were drying and becoming unfurled, but the overall effect was still lovely!
 

I am going to be experimenting with fermented foods this summer. I have made some various fermented pickles in the past: carrot, zucchini, cucumber, etc. and I plan to do those again. To these I am adding learning from my friend, Liz, how to make kombucha and also trying out my own sourdough bread.

I began the starter for the bread on Memorial Day. We should be able to try our first loaf this weekend!





Other plans for the summer are to do a little experimenting with natural dyes for some yarn. I have begun collecting onion skins (for yellow) and have asked friends and family to save me their avocado pits and skins (for pink). Kim is also going to share some of her sour cherries when they ripen in the fall.

 Most of the colors I have seen produced by natural dyes are not ones that I think I can wear well; they are often too light for my coloring. If I choose to use them for a garment, I may do a new pair of mittens. Otherwise, I may make a blanket. That, of course, would require a good bit of yarn, so we shall see!

In the meantime, I am working on a pair of socks using the Rivercat pattern.





And the blue in the background there is the blasted sweater I was trying to design for myself and finally ripped out! I have found another new pattern that I will be casting on for this week. You know how sometimes you try and try to not have to rip out and it makes you sad to think of all that work for naught? And then there are other times when you are just over it. That's me with this one. I am ready to move on!

In the world of reading, I am still finishing up Cry the Beloved Country. I'll have something new to share next week.

After days of rain we are promised sunny skies today! I'll be trying to pull up a few weeds that I know have loved the rain as much as the flowers have.

I am connecting with the Yarn Along again today. Check out all that's happening with others' projects and lives from around the world and have a lovely day!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Knitting Mojo Returns

Funny that.

It really is no coincidence that my knitting mojo has returned with the end of the school year. Somehow I imagined that school wouldn't get in the way of my knitting. I can't really say that it got in the way, but it did seem to squelch my desire to pick up the needles. It's not that I didn't have the time per se; it wasn't an out-of-the-ordinary, taxing year school-wise. But I think that when I had the time, I just felt too tired or unmotivated to cruise through my projects the way I have in the past.

For example, I give you Exhibit A:


These are socks - simple socks, using the Tin Can Knits "Rye" pattern - that I cast on in early October to finish for a Halloween knit along, hence the autumnal colors.

 I just finished them last week.

No, they weren't hard, but with any pattern you can make mistakes and I made a few with these. Normally this is not a big deal, but I found I just didn't want to think with my knitting. Not with teaching here at home and studying too. So, I only ended up working on these once-a-week when I went to the assisted living where I volunteer. But knitting there doesn't actually amount to much knitting for me; I spend a greater amount of time helping my ladies fix their mistakes, casting on or binding off for them, etc.

I had this sock pattern, another pair of socks, and my "(Taking) Forever Birthday Sweater" on the needles: all projects in fingering or sport weight yarn. So, in late January or early February I decided I needed a more instant-gratification project and so I used a gift certificate to purchase some bulky Spud & Chloe "Outer" yarn and cast on Lee Juvan's, "Shroom" hat.

It was wonderful to have something moving along at a nice clip and taking shape so quickly. Until. Until I did two extra repeats and then had to rip them out. Once I got that done, there were dropped stitches to find, stitches to move around and count and... yeah. Well, that project got put in time out, because I just didn't seem to have the brain cells to think about those things either.

School projects finished last week, I quickly made adjustments and finished this hat in under two hours on Saturday.




And so now I have two projects OFF the needles...just in time for spring! Oh well. I'll have some cozy goodness to look forward to this fall/winter. It feels incongruous to be poring energy into knitting in the summer instead of being able to hold and work with warm fibers in the cold months, but that's just the way it is right now, I guess. I'm just glad my knitting love hasn't left me for good; this may be the longest slump I've experienced since I began knitting. I think I'm just going to have to learn to plan differently in order to enjoy my knitting during the school year while I am a student. I am obviously going to need a lot of auto-pilot knitting. That should help me with pattern selections for the fall.


And since I'm linking up with Ginny's "Yarn Along" today, I'll share with you all that I am in the middle of a few books (surprise, surprise). What actually is a surprise to me though, is how much I am enjoying Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.


I am always nervous when I pick up a classic, because they often seem to fall into a "love" or "hate" category for me. When they fall into the "hate," I wonder why they are so lauded. Then I wonder if other readers know or understand something I do not and I don't like feeling that way. This is the way I feel about Ernest Hemingway's books, for example.

Also, Cry, the Beloved Country was an Oprah's Book Club pick. That's usually not great for me either.

Thankfully, though, I can say that despite its "classic" status and Oprah's nod, I am loving this book.

The book is in two parts and I am just beginning the second part and looking forward to it. That and other summer books and summer knitting!

Monday, May 18, 2015

May Garden: Week 2 - 2015

Clearly the bulbs have made a huge difference in the front flower bed this year!


Perennials are wonderful charmers, surprising us as the spread and fill out year after year. Then they let us divide them and share them with our neighbors, family and friends, so that our gardens become a story of sharing:


"Look, those are the violets and daisies from my sister-in-law, Lena. Here are the wild geraniums and hostas and phlox from my neighbor, Kim, and here are the lilies and coral bells from my dear friend, Laura. Oh yes, and those irises are from the lady from the credit union! She had these from her own garden as a gift for me when we closed on our house!"


Those are all true examples of the community that has helped to make my own garden grow.

 And yet...


One must be patient with those perennials. They are sturdy and hardy, but they, like us, often experience shock when they are transplanted. It takes time for them to establish their roots and begin to flourish.


In the meantime, they look scrappy and scraggly. That is pretty much what my flower garden has been for the past two summers. Things are still filling in and it was hard to see if there was any rhyme or reason to the plantings. Thus, I am so very glad I took the time to dig through the layers of rock that still make digging in this bed take two to three times as long as it would to plant in a normal bed, to plant tulips and narcissus last autumn.


They have provided filler and color and a sense of cohesion, despite the fact that its all still just a bit random! It's an odd bed because two-thirds of it is shady and a small, one-third gets more sun. This requires different flowers at either end of the bed! Thankfully, the bulbs grow in sun or shade and are in full flower before the trees are completely dressed in their leaves. I love looking out my window in the morning to peek at what new is happening just below me. I have said more than once that it looks to me like a wedding is going on out there!

I have a feeling more bulbs will find their way into the ground around my house this fall. :)

In the meantime, there are a couple other, new additions. I planted an upright fuchsia in the bed as well as this one with autumn-colored leaves in a pot on the front step. They are supposed to do well in the shade and overwinter inside. I usually love the fuchsia hanging baskets I see at garden centers, so I am eager to see what kind of flowers this one produces.


Last summer we transplanted two, baby lilacs. The one below is a white one and came from my sister-in-law's property. And the one below that is a shoot from my neighbor, Kim. It already has a teeny-tiny little lilac bloom for us! Some day they will provide a hidden walkway wall to our back yard. I wonder how many years it will take for that to happen? That is some of the joy of gardening: seeing if you are able to manifest the vision of the garden in your mind's eye.






This is a favorite task for the season: seeing how the vegetable garden grows and how the flowers around it will fare. As you can see, the strawberry patch is already full and overflowing into the grass around its box!

There are NEW flowers this year and I am having to wait for the color longer than I had to last year. Last year I purchased already-flowering geraniums at the store. I took them inside over the winter and have brought them back out. I trimmed them back, as they grew leggy reaching for the winter light and now we must wait and see!

There are only a few hollyhocks - three that I can see - that will be growing this year, but the ground is also littered with their seedlings. I have tried to be careful with them as I've added other things to the bed and hopefully I'll have another strong showing next year. I really thought I would have more than I do this year, but that's how it goes.

On the corner are the hydrangea that survived the winter. The one on the right is flourishing more than its sister, but she's still coming along slowly.

To fill in where the hollyhocks have left bare patches, I have spaced some foxglove (!!!!!). Oh, how I hope they will succeed! And reseed! I have long wished for, but have never had foxglove. Neighbor Kim says that she has not met with success with them in her (beautiful) garden, so I wonder how they will fare over here.
I also have some other new-to-me plants this year: bachelor buttons and lisianthus. Just today - and not in the picture - I plunked in two hyacinth that Maia and I picked up at Trader Joe's for our rooms before Easter. And a new, white peony anchors the other end of the bed by the gate there.

The veggie beds are clean and planted now too. As you can see, there is a bit of volunteer lettuce that has sprung up from last year. I always love those little surprises and leave them. The rest of that bare looking bed is planted with seed: two rows each of carrots, beets, spinach, and radishes. I don't think I have had any luck with these four types of vegetables yet. My veggie beds don't get as much sun as I would like them to, since there is that giant tree in the background there. There is one, large branch, in particular, that, if it were gone, would add a number of extra hours to my vegetables. But, since a recent estimate came in at $600 to remove said branch, we'll just have to hope for the best with the garden for a couple more years now. We have also purchased a CSA membership for summer and fall, so that should help too!




 I have more tomato plants than I'd planned for again this year. I planned on 6, but have nine, since the one plant that I had selected was supposed to come in a larger pot, but they only had smaller ones in sets of four. I suppose I could have given some away... But I had a pretty paltry tomato showing last year, so maybe having the nine will help out. We shall see!

I also have four basil plants out here, six kale of two varieties, two sweet, red peppers, and of course, the chives and oregano.

The flower boxes look a little funny too, with some overwintered geraniums planted with two basil each and one thyme in each box. Its a good thing we're not due to be in a magazine shoot any time soon!


 
And finally, the oldest geranium that my sister gave me as a house-warming present three years ago is still with us. I've got a new, small rosemary plant too that hopefully will be able to be kept year-round too.

 So, that's where we are right now. It's the beginning of the tale for the story that will be our garden this year! Are you growing a garden this year? Please tell me about it below and/or leave a link so that I can pay your garden a visit too! Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Declutter: Ready,Set,Go!



Ooo... what a delightful photo! :) No, this is not nearly as lovely a post as the previous one, but while things are all abloom outside, there is lots of action going on inside as well.

This past late winter/early spring, I have been thinking a lot about getting rid of even more things. I have been inspired, like so many others, by Marie Kondo's, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Over the past year and a half, I have also enjoyed Jennifer L. Scott's talks on her blog, The Daily Connoisseur, and in her book, Lessons From Madame Chic, about the 10-item Wardrobe. She even was invited to do a TedTalk on the topic. Additionally, I have read about Project 333 and like the ideas there as well.

I have just been waiting to get to summer break in order to really focus on my own project of this kind. Since I finished my last project last week, I have finally arrived and am excite to dig in...and dig out!

I won't be doing things exactly as all the aforementioned authors. I have been practicing voluntary simplicity in greater and lesser degrees since about 1992 when I read Wanda Urbanska and Frank Levering's book Simple Living: One Couple's Search for a Better Life. After reading that book, I was hooked!

As I mentioned in this post, I consider myself already a pretty organized person and have long practiced paring things down on a regular basis. So I didn't know how much I would glean from Kondo's book. However, I did learn some new things. Two, in particular, were most profound. One, is the one everyone mentions: if something doesn't bring you joy, you shouldn't keep it. The second was that you don't need to hang on to things just because someone gave them to you. If an item no longer brings you happiness and it is just sitting in a drawer or closet because you would feel bad giving it away, the item has already served its purpose. It brought you joy for a time as a token of generosity or remembrance or celebration. But if it no longer is being used or enjoyed, it no longer needs to live with you and can bring happiness to someone else.

Kondo does a one-time, big, sweeping purge of a home: a once-and-for-all clean that she claims you will never have to do again if you keep up with her system. I imagine she is absolutely right. For me, though, I do not want to take days entirely devoted to the project. I want to keep the majority of my house in tact while I work on this project over time. I will be going through rooms - exactly the way Kondo does NOT recommend, since she recommends going through your items by category and not by room.

I can see that if you really needed to get a handle on clutter in your home, Kondo's method would be terrific. But I already have a cleaning system in place that works really well for me. And, as I mentioned, I already have a habit of decluttering on a regular basis. That, coupled with the move we made (which was really a series of multiple moves!) in 2012, we have already let go of a number of things.

What I want to do this time, though, is to address some of those things that I could probably, for the rest of my life, just not even mess with. I am going to be digging deep in closets, purging drawers, looking through photos, linens, books... things you don't use regularly, but sometimes just have... just in case you want to reminisce or have for "special occasions"...that you often forget to actually use for special occasions, because they are buried in the sideboard under that bag of Christmas photos from friends over the years. I am going to make and take the time to address those things that I have put in places to deal with later.

Later has arrived.

Yes, this summer, I plan to make my way through my things and face everything. I can tell you that I am not looking forward to all of it. I am looking forward to the feeling I will have when I am done facing everything, but I am not looking forward to the entire process, that's for sure.

This is why doing a little at a time, I believe, will work well for me. I am definitely a little-at-a-time person. I am disciplined enough to stick to the goal, so unless there are unforseen circumstances that arise (such as my dad's hearing loss that needed to be dealt with last summer), I plan to dedicate a little time each day to this large task at hand.

Hopefully, at the end of this, I will be able to enjoy everything I own. I hope to be living only with things that, as Marie Kondo says, "spark joy."

I'm also trying to apply simplifying/minimalist principles to my digital experiences, skin care, transportation, etc. I'm sure this will be a recurring theme in my posts to come, especially throughout this summer.

All of this is not actually much of a departure from anything for me; my blog is named Golightly Place after all. I just feel a new surge of focus with the changing of the seasons and the opportunity that my summer break from school will provide.

So, we'll see. There is much out there online to keep me inspired and motivated toward achieving this goal. I look forward to seeing how it will all come out!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Beautiful Day, The Third


Hello, friends. Today we went on what is becoming an annual holiday for us. Today was our official Beautiful Day. I told the story of our first Beautiful Day last year in this post. The timing of this year's Beautiful Day was wonderful, because it was also National Public Gardens Day and participating gardens were free to attend. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum was a participating garden and so we chose to head over there for the morning and then picnic under the blooming crab apple trees for lunch!

Years ago, on the first Beautiful Day we were also at the Arboretum. As we were leaving, we drove on the Arboretum's 3-mile drive. The Arboretum covers more than 1,200 acres of land and the 3-mile drive is one way they display their various plant collections. There is the Shade Tree Collection, the Rhododendron Collection, the Maple Tree Collection, the Weeping Trees Collection and on and on it goes. Of course, they also have the Flowering Crab Apple Tree Collection. Under them, as we drove by years ago, there were people sitting on blankets having a picnic as the petals fell all around them. It was like something out of a dream. And a dream it became for me: to one day come back and have a picnic of our own under the Flowering Crab Apple Trees.

Well, today my dream came true. :) It was a bit cooler than I would have liked, but I really couldn't ask for more. The timing was so perfect. The odds of us having a day without other appointments and to have the weather cooperate and the trees to be blooming AND admission to be free were all pretty remarkable. So please indulge me as I share our morning with you in pictures and a couple of short videos!

Before we headed out to the gardens, we took in a few, amazing watercolors on display in the Visitor's Center. These had me thinking of getting out my own paints and pencils again this summer...






  Inside the garden we toured the Japanese Garden:












I just love the shapes given to the plants in Japanese gardens. It makes me want to learn about bonsai!







The tulips were stunning even with a cloudy sky.
 



Maia's favorite color has been yellow since she was a year old. She found her perfect yellow tulip!


There was a smaller section of flowering crab apple trees and lilac bushes all in bloom within the gardens. The smell was just heavenly and the entire effect was just dreamy. Please forgive the poor quality video; it is taken from my phone. But we were all just so enchanted with the falling petals and the beauty of it all, I had to try to get just a bit of it!















And finally, THIS is where we found our spot for lunch. Nearly every direction we looked, as far as the eye could see, were blooming crab apple trees. It was truly lovely and something I'll treasure and remember always ~ these beautiful days with my girls.



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