love spring

I haven’t seen a hummingbird yet,  April 29, which is late for me, but Spring is in full bloom here in South Jersey.DSC_0031Some of the Columbines are over 4 feet tall.  Sigh. I remember when Columbine was just a flower.DSC_0033Aren’t they pretty?

DSC_0037 (2)The bed by the front porch looks to have a promising year.DSC_0040 (2)The bed by the driveway looks pretty good, as well.DSC_0043The raised bed herb garden has some winter survivors as well as popsicle sticks promising good things to come.DSC_0045And here, my dears, is what my beloved party garden looks like on this very day. A sad, sad remnant of our glorious fall season together, as witnessed below.DSC_0006But, happily, my Sad Clematis has hung in there.DSC_0046Love Spring.

creativity 4 – know yourself

DSC_0009Do not adjust your screen; there IS no color in this quilt.  When my son saw how my daughter’s quilt birthday quilt looked, he let me know that he’d like a similar one some day.  So, here is my third big quilt, and the only other color I ever used was yellow. i am a quilter

All the quilts have been unplanned and random. I used what I had and only bought fabric as needed. The quilting on all three is straight (ish) line and close. I know this kind of monotony would drive some people nuts, but I like it. DSC_0016I also like silence when I’m at a difficult point. I can watch TV or listen to music when I am quilting the straight lines, but I prefer quiet when I am piecing the front of the quilt. I tend to be supply driven; what do I have and what can I make from it? I’d rather not follow patterns; I prefer to stumble along on my own. This results in lots of failures, but it’s what works for me.

What works for you?

 

 

the big reveal

After months of cleaning and painting and organizing, I am finally calling my new office/sewing room done.dsc_0008Here is my printing/cutting/mailing area.dsc_0010-1If you know what a Cricut is (my Christmas present from my family,) then you will know that I am spoiled, indeed.dsc_0013-1Here is my desk with my new computer system – a birthday gift from my family (I wasn’t kidding about the spoiled thing.) My geranium and begonia are struggling to hold out until spring.dsc_0022Here’s my sewing area – my focus was overcome by the cuteness of Brittney – a violently feral cat when she came to us pregnant – two years ago. My daughter spent a ton of time feeding her treats, one by one. Now, she’s a full-fledged people person. dsc_0018And here’s the area behind my desk – the wall I see from my sewing table. I am having a ton of fun, these days.

movin’ on down

I am so excited! I am moving my office/sewing room from the attic to the basement. I am still organizing and decorating, but it’s starting to come together.

Sewing Room Shelf

Sewing Room Storage Shelf

dsc_0023

This space is so much nicer: not as hot/cold as the attic – and I can actually see some of my bird feeders from my desk. I enjoy that. So does Brittney, the no-longer-feral cat. (Pictures of her in the future.)

winter lessons

lanternWinter has finally come to South Jersey. We had about 7 inches of snow over the weekend and it’s not going anywhere because it’s COLD!

titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

When I went out to feed the birds this morning, I noticed that they were much more tame than usual. Usually they scatter as soon as they see me coming. But today, they didn’t budge until I was about 3 feet away.

sparrow

White Throated Sparrow

I’m guessing the frigid temperatures and blanket of snow have made food such a priority that their usual skittishness is tempered.

nuthatch

Red Breasted Nuthatch

So, after I fed them, I grabbed my camera.  I took the above pictures in about 5 minutes, and then left them to the serious business of eating.

creativity 3 – make time

My niece made me a present years ago. It hangs in my office and makes me feel good every day.hurry

So, for her birthday, I wanted to make her something special. I was giving her money, since that’s what teenagers want, so I decided to make a little purse to put it in.

I didn’t start sewing until the morning of the party. My machine wasn’t sewing just right, but I didn’t take the time to fix it because I was in  a hurry. The stitches around the zipper were crooked, but I didn’t rip them out because I didn’t have time. Eventually, I showed up late to the party: unshowered, empty-handed, and full of apologies.

I know better. I need to make mistakes as I go and have the time to fix them. My best work happens when I can enjoy the process and not just hurry to the finish.hurry_0001

I made this sign for my sewing room as a reminder to take time for creativity, and to have patience with myself as I learn and grow and improve.

Oh, and Gillian got a little package in the mail a few days later – with two purses.

creativity 2 – make mistakes

I never know where I’m headed when I create. Whether it’s a meal, a quilt, a garden, or a blog post, I just have to jump in and see where it takes me.

Sometimes I make something great that doesn’t work.grilling-june-garden-hummingbird-009Despite heroic measures on my part, I was unable to overcome the effects of gravity; the plants kept falling out of the frame. So I gave up.

Sometimes I make something bad that works.dsc_0127I wanted to try free motion quilting, but I knew I wouldn’t be very good at it. I did it on the back side of my daughters bolsters – the side that goes against the back of the couch – so no one sees it.

And sometimes, I just have to keep trying until I get it right.grilling-june-garden-hummingbird-059BEFORE – Here’s a little seating arrangement under a cherry tree. After years of cleaning up petals, pits, and poop (the birds LOVE those cherries), I took out the seats.may-backyard-prom-003AFTER – I used the pavers to make a little wall, filled the area with soil and made a cute little garden instead. Now all of the cherry tree debris just disappears.

creativity 1 – limits

I pay attention to what helps and hinders my creativity. Surprisingly, limits seem to help me. So when my younger daughter asked for bolsters for her futon, I decided to try to use only the fabrics (in her chosen colors) that I already owned. My first problem was that none of the fabric was big enough. So I decided to piece them together to make the pillows.bolster 013

Isn’t this so cute? If I had just run out to the fabric store, I would have bought a print with blue, purple, and tan and that would have been it. But using what I had, I had to get creative. That lead to the stripes AND to the embroidery to make it seem cohesive.

Quilt close

It has happened before . . . My older daughter asked for a gray and white quilt, and instead of hating the limits of no color, I loved the result.

homemade wooden trellis

And this trellis? I didn’t have enough wood to make all the horizontal pieces go all the way across, so I got creative. Limits really bring out the best in me. Does anyone else feel like that?

too big for my britches

It started with a sad clematis.Sad

Then I noticed a lilac had taken over the party garden.

Lilac good days006

The lilac in happier times.

I decided to dig up the lilac and put the clematis in its spot, where it will get the sun it so desperately needs.

So I dug. And I pulled. And I snipped and clipped. And I dug.

DSC_0001 (2)

This is after day 4. Party garden disrupted. Wall collapsed. Tools strewn about. Lilac stump not even budging.

roots)

This is after day 9. Looks like you could just pluck it right out of there, doesn’t it? . . . Nope

Now

Finally, two weeks later, things are looking up. The clematis is still just a bitty thing on the trellis (right in front of the blue jungle gym). But we all have hopes for a better future.

i am a quilter

I made my first real quilt this spring at the request of my eldest.  birthday quiltQuilt

And I have been hooked ever since. My 1981 sewing machine did fine, but I needed more open space to shove all of that fabric through. After much soul searching and internet searching, I decided I wanted a better quilting machine.machine 006

Ta Da!! This work horse has been such a great addition to my sewing room. The yellow space above ( harp space)  is only about 1/4 inch higher  and a couple of inches wider than my old machine, but it makes a huge difference in the ease of sewing large projects. And it is  so powerful  and has such features . . .Date 017

My second quilt, for my brother’s 50th birthday, sports a fancy machine- embroidered date label.Quilt Back 021

The close stitching  that I love was way easier with the bigger harp space in my new machine.Quilt.16

And right after I finished this quilt, I started another. I am a quilter.

new neighbors

Even though food is abundant this time of year, I still feed the birds. I like to see who’s new to the neighborhood.July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 013

Mr. Chill is one of five young squirrels who keep me entertained. He spends most of his time flat on his belly in an overstuffed daze.June Backyard, wine bag, beach 006

This is a young red-bellied woodpecker. We’ve had  year-round residents for several years, and this is the second time that I’ve seen them with young.July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 036

And this little beauty is an indigo bunting. I’d only ever seen one in my life, and when my mom saw him in my very own backyard without me, I was a tad jealous. July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 026

Thankfully, he stuck around. I noticed that he ate the inexpensive seeds that I don’t usually buy – so I just keep feeding him that. He’s been here for weeks, but I am still excited to see him every time.

volunteers

I first noticed the gardening term “volunteers” while reading a novel. I immediately took it and made it my own. I pictured little seeds jumping up and down, raising their hand: “I’ll grow!  I’ll grow!”backyard, Dave's Quilt, Sea Isle 010

My lemon balm sends volunteers all over the yard, as does  my catnip. Sometimes I let them be, but usually I relocate them to a place that pleases me more.backyard, Dave's Quilt, Sea Isle 004

The native sedum that my brother planted in my mom’s yard (that I stole a piece of)  is spreading everywhere. Here I put a clump on an old stump. It’s happy as can be.crepe myrtle, spice jars 001

This crepe myrtle started a few years back beneath the mother tree. I transplanted it to fill up an empty corner.June Backyard 005

But this yucca is the best volunteer ever. It came from a neighbor’s yard, I suspect, because I have not seen one elsewhere. It flew over the street and plopped down in the perfect place in the corner of a street garden.

birthday quilt

My firstborn had one request for her 25th birthday – a gray and white quilt made by me. “Yes!” my heart said – but I wasn’t sure. My first qualm was the 1981 sewing machine I use. My second qualm was the TIME. My third qualm was gray and white – like NO colors? I had QUALMS.

But I started cutting up my fabric and sewing it together and I pieced that baby together on the fly. It turned out great and my daughter loved it. And I loved it. And I love her. Happy birthday, baby girl.Quilt

Made with love in every stitch.

Quilt close

 

 

decorated hand towels

transitions

I like the changes in my life that come about naturally with the changes in the seasons. This time of year, as the garden fades into fall, I turn my thoughts and efforts indoors.

I gave the bathroom walls and ceilings a good scrubbing. After that, a little well-placed touch up paint worked wonders.curtainsI sewed some new curtains to freshen up the windows.

curtainsdecorated hand towelsLeftover fabric scraps pretty up the hand towels.

Now – on to the next room!

gardening with dog

Riley web 002This is Riley. She is 95 pounds of self-appointed yard protection. No bikers, joggers, walkers, or trash men are safe from her ire. She’ll race from one end of the yard to the other to get a good bark in.garden trampled by dogThis is the war path. Nothing can grow along the fences where Riley chases her prey: not even weeds. I’ve had to get creative in trying to mingle my love of the pretty with Riley’s habit of crushing everything in her way. brick and stone planter against fenceHere I built a little planter against the fence to reclaim a bit of earth.fence with purple runner bean growing on itI have lots of these three-foot fence pieces (thanks, mom!) I use them to trellis pretty vines and to “steer” Riley away from areas I am trying to protect. grouping garden elements to act as dog barrierGrouping works wonders. Here, the combination of the planter, birdbath, and hosta is just too much trouble. She’ll go around rather than through.raised bed gardenLastly, I’ve been able to train her to stay out of the vegetable garden. Unlike the rest of the yard, it’s an obviously defined space. The walls could never keep her out, but they do give her a visual boundary. So far, so good.

Cleome flower with bee

Seed Saving

My yard is always full of my family and friends. As I walk outside I am greeted by Woody Platt’s Sundrops, Grandma’s Tiger Lilies, and Mom’s Cleome. I take care with these special plants. To ensure that they stay with me, I save the seeds to plant next year.

Cleome flower with bee

Cleome Flower and Friend

Cleome seeds in the pod

Cleome seeds in the pod

This is the time of year when the seedpods are brittle and dry. That’s when you want to collect them. The Cleome seeds above are ready to be harvested. I’ll hold a large, clean, dry Tupperware container underneath and brush the seeds into the container.

Columbine Flowers

Columbine Flowers

Columbine seed pods ready to be harvested

Columbine seeds work the same way. Collect them when the pods are dry and brittle and look like the picture above.Seed collecting envelopeweb 003

I store my seeds in a labeled #10 envelope.  Seed Collection Envelope  Here’s a pdf to download to print your own envelopes. It is set up for my printer, which feeds envelopes vertically on the right. I can format it for different printers; just let me know.

Swinget turned into swing

Backyard Solutions

I’ve been living in my yard for a lot of years, and I’m learning what works for me.Swinget turned into swing

When our children outgrew the swing set my husband made, we pulled down the kid’s swings and replaced them with a swing everyone can use. I planted wisteria on one side and after just a few years we are getting nice shade.Bird bath made of recycled dish

I go through birdbaths like Snickers bars. I try to remember to empty them before a hard freeze, but the water containers always seem to leak after just a year or so.  I’ve learned that a big dish from Goodwill and a rock is all it takes to bring back the bathers.Gourd vine growing up a tree

My yard is a nice size, but gourds and cucumbers and all of those sprawling vines seem to take over everything. This year, I let the birdhouse gourds overtake the trellis and continue right up a nearby tree. The garden stayed neat, and this totally appeals to  my love of the quirky.Hummingbird silhouette

The hummingbird likes it, too.A squirrel peeking out of the the hole he gnawed in the trash can.

And the solution here? . . . Keep the birdseed in a metal container from now on.