Monday, November 15, 2021

Thoughts from a girl with a leaf rake

I raked leaves today.  The sound a leaf rake makes is characteristic of autumn to me.  A metallic scratchiness as I gathered cherry leaves that fell today onto our brick patio.  Quieter on the lawn as I raked a random collection of leaves into a pile. When I switched from my metal rake to a slim rake with plastic tines as I attempted to clear apple leaves that have begun falling into the raspberry bed, it was so quiet that I could hear other leaves falling in the yard and a few swirls of leaves as the breeze moved them along paths predetermined by physics.  No power needed to fuel my rake beyond a few calories I could easily spare.  No blast of noise to be heard a block away.   

I raked leaves today.  Not for the first time this season.  These leaves are destined to be mulched and added to our compost pile.  All that energy wasn't going into body bags headed into the landfill.  These leaves were my yearly "brown" treasure to balance the "green" contribution to compost. Yeah, there were some bags that went curbside last week when the compost bin seemed full.  But a week and a soaking rainstorm has settled it enough that I can see there's room for more.  These leaves will become a rich, dark, organic addition spread throughout the yard next spring.  Magically, these apparently dead leaves will be transformed into white peonies, pink roses, tender lettuce, tart cherry tomatoes and fried zucchini slices. I don't have to do anything but put them in a pile.  Worms and bacteria will do the rest. 

I raked leaves today.  They weren't as pretty as the glowing orange leaves from the sugar maple so lovely that I took reference photos of them for a future watercolor painting.  The simple forms of the yellow-gold cherry leaves couldn't compete with the huge heart-shaped leaves from the redbud.  But there was one oak leaf easily as large as my footprint that steadfastedly refused to be added to any pile.  It was a nondescript simple unlovely brown escapee that seemed destined to reside in its own world quite separate from the smaller hawthorn and apple leaves. I was good with that.  The simple truth is that there will be more leaves to be raked.  I will have other chances to get every. single. leaf.  But not yet.  My garden looks like autumn, leaves nestling in nooks between rocks that will be challenging to clear, a few late-blooming mums.  And roses! and petunias! and a purple alyssum seedling that chose November in which to bloom. An odd mix of spring, summer and fall jumbled together.  Maybe it's okay to be a little ragged and a tad unkempt and a bit out-of-step as we prepare ourselves for challenges ahead. Maybe it's supposed to be that way.

I raked leaves today.  I was cold enough to need my heather-blue knit vest indoors, but I was glowingly warm from a bit of exercise on a mild sunny day outdoors.  Better yet, I felt relaxed and happy.  Mother Nature and I were in harmony.  We'd collaborated.  She dropped the leaves so  I could rake them into piles.  She stopped the photosynthesis so I could enjoy the colors hidden in the leaves since springtime.  She offered lessons on change, on mindfulness, on responsibility and I absorbed them.  

I raked leaves today.  It was a good day.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Dolls and More Dolls, Episode 2

It is a truth universally acknowledged that one thing leads to another. (Yes, I'm a Jane Austen fan and especially fond of Pride and Prejudice!)

Michelle and the Rosebud live two states away from me and I was worried that the doll clothes I was eager to sew wouldn't fit properly.  So, of course, I needed a "model" to try on the clothes.  I chose a knock-off doll, inexpensive and available.  

Meet Annabelle Kate. She has the sweetest expression.  I just love her!

She's adorable dressed for Easter here, but looks can be deceiving. 

Her Yacht Club dress, those cute slingback sandals and the Easter basket filled with Peeps probably distracted you.

The horrid truth is that she has the worst hair in the world.  It would be impossible for any little girl to comb her trainwreck of a coiffure.  All I could do was braid the disparate lengths into two thick braids, add red ribbons and call it good.  Well, not good, but the best possible.  And she stayed that way for four long years.  

Until I discovered the infinite wonder of doll wigs on Etsy.  When it arrived, I cut Annabelle Kate's hair.  It was such an improvement that I should have given her a trim years ago!

She looks much happier now with her new, very brushable, silky hair. 

Annabelle Kate wasn't the last doll to arrive at Meadowsweet Cottage.  You knew that was coming, right?

When the Rosebud visited and we played with Annabelle Kate (pre-makeover) and Michelle, the difference between American Girl doll hair and the knockoff doll hair was sadly even more apparent. I've always loved the look of a shorter-haired American Girl doll. And sure enough, I found a great buy on eBay.  If you think she looks like Kit Kittredge, you'd be right.  She even came with some of Kit's meet outfit and her book, which was a bonus.

I renamed her Mabel Gabriella--Bree, for short. Although I admit I sometimes think of her as "Kit".  It just means that the dolls need to play together more so I get used to calling her Bree. 

There's something special about owning such a great doll.  I'm not knocking the knock-offs, but she's made so well. Her hair is so silky and easy to comb and style.  She sits and stands beautifully.  I kinda love her!



Sunday, May 02, 2021

Dolls and More Dolls, Episode 1

I like dolls.  

 Baby dolls, Raggedy Ann dolls, Amish dolls, Barbie dolls. Dolls from the store and home-crafted dolls. These two lovelies were made by my grandma in the 1960s.  She made them for all her grandchildren and we got to choose which one to keep.  At family reunions, the Raggedies come too! Can you tell two blondies picked these?  Mine just coincidentally happens to have brown hair and blue eyes.


But my current favorites have to be American Girl dolls.  I blame it on my grand-daughter.  We bought the Samantha doll at Costco for a decent price and that was her birthday present at five.  I don't think I'll ever forget her ecstatic reaction when she opened her gift!  Priceless!

I was aware of Pleasant Company and their product--dolls from various historical periods that came with appropriate clothing and accessories and a storybook of their adventures.  I didn't know that they eventually became part of Mattel. Or that there were knockoffs (which meant that little girls from less-advantaged families could enjoy imaginative doll play also.

But once Samantha, renamed Michelle, became part of the family, I wanted to sew for her--sort of a family tradition.  And I discovered doll patterns. That meant all those little scraps of cute fabrics that I couldn't bear to toss suddenly were the right size for my projects.  Do you know how dangerous it can be when literally any material can legitimately be saved?  A stash can expand exponentially!


For better or worse, I discovered Pixie Faire, an online shop with the cutest designs ever! Great designers like Liberty Jane, Eden Ave Couture, Forever 18, Miche Designs--I could go on and on. Basic American Girl clothes from tee shirts to mini-skirts.  Fun accessories like bunny slippers and Halloween costumes.  Furniture from bunkbeds to sofas. So I started getting their free patterns then ordering new ones.  Four years later I haven't stopped sewing and crafting for Samantha/Michelle! 

In Episode 2, one thing leads to another...

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Do You Have A Favorite Spring Perennial Combo?

Every year, these two buddies bloom at the same time--candytuft and bluebells.  They welcome folks as they approach our front door.  It's such a sweet combination, made even dearer as some of the bluebells have become lavender-violet bluebells.

I started with four candytuft plants from four-inch pots many years ago, and now they and their progeny grace our entire front yard.  The bluebells have been equally prolific and I've shared their tiny bulblets with anyone who wants them.  Especially since I've begun to rein these ebullient beauties back a bit.  I mean, it would be nice to find a vacant square inch where I could plant summer color, like petunias.

As the growing season progresses, more flowers will bloom here to welcome visitors.  Columbine, roses, sweet peas, violets, lilies, clematis--and a few annuals will make their appearance during the summer's heat.  I'm hoping to add zinnias to the usual petunias this summer.  

My new heated seed-starter mat is like a magic carpet when it comes to germination.  Our growing season in the high desert is so very short, that anything which will give me a head start is valuable.  It deserves its own blog post!  (Note to self!)

Monday, April 19, 2021

Dose Dos--Remember When

I never finished writing this post originally so I never published it.  I was gonna delete it, but then figured that this was a record of the change from a very challenging time to one filled with hope.  I wanted to keep this memory.  Sometimes a blog can be less of a communication tool and more of a personal journal.  This is one of those times.

March 29, 2021.  We got up this morning and headed off for our second Pfizer vaccination. I might have been a little anxious since I had a nightmare that involved a low-speed car crash right into a small tree.  But we were up in time, had no auto incidents on the way, and were at the pharmacy in plenty of time!

What a difference three weeks can make.  There was no hour-long queue to wait in while cringing away from other people who somehow, even after nine months of Covid19 warnings, still didn't know how to properly social distance.  Heck, there was no line at all.  We walked right up to the check-in desk, handed in our paperwork, had our temperatures taken, sat down waiting for our names to be called and had our shots in less than five minutes.  It took longer to sit in the waiting area afterward than it did to walk up and get our jabs!

Since then, we had Easter dinner with a vaccinated family and I got to hug my mom for the first time in a year. Last week I took her to one of our local nursery/gift shops just because we didn't feel totally vulnerable and at risk.  

We are still very cautious in public, knowing that there are no one hundred percent guarantees and cognizant of the new variants swirling around.  I won't be eating in a restaurant or enjoying a movie theater anytime soon.  But I'm gaining confidence outdoors and not totally freaking out when there are more people in one place than I'm used to.  We do masks and social distancing and keep tabs on family, friends and co-workers who are getting vaccinated so we know when we can relax and enjoy their company.

I may be safer, but I'm still keeping up on the latest science.  I won't be getting cocky anytime soon.  I've seen the statistics on B.1.1.7 and they are scary.  My neighbor had a scan recently and asked if they could include his lungs since they were "in the vicinity" and his radiologist agreed since he knew why he asked (he caught Covid19 during a chemo infusion). My neighbor's lungs are thakfully clear and healthy.  But the radiologist shared that he'd just seen the lungs of someone who had a mild case of the coronavirus and he called them coal miner lungs.  Why one guy and not the other? This virus can affect vital organs in ways that we are still learning about.   

There is no downside to getting the vaccine.  Still a happy camper here...ready for springtime, outdoor activities, visiting with neighbors (all of us vaccinated), and lots and lots of gardening!


Monday, April 12, 2021

Liberation Day (sort of, almost, kinda)

Today marks two weeks since we received our second dose of the Pfizer Covid19 vaccine. 

Theoretically, I had planned to go out and do something normal again for the first time in a year.  Like shopping for a decorative item that I could live without at T.J. Maxx.  Or browsing doll accessories at Target for Rosebud's birthday.  Or strolling through the SPCA thrift store in search of treasures like picture frames for my watercolors or a book by a favorite author. Or spending the last of my birthday money on some tubes of Winsor & Newton watercolors at our local fine arts store.

Instead, I've cleaned up my desk.  I have a wastebasket filled with paper, a to-do checklist for the spring and an organized deferred-project inventory.  Most importantly, I managed to unearth my Covid19 immunization card.  It's now photographed, uploaded to the cloud and pinned to my corkboard--I think I've made it impossible for me to misplace every again.  

Three reasons why I haven't gone out and celebrated wildly today.

First, we've been so careful and cautious for so very long (since mid-February 2020 when my intuition and a healthy dose of scientific reading told me that the new coronavirus was going to be a pandemic and inspired me to stock up on every necessity that I could think of and start to bunker down) that the realization that we can relax a bit now seems unlikely and unreal.  I guess it's going to take me more than two weeks to fully process our new reality and venture out willingly.  Isn't it strange that the new antibody minions running freely through my body are adjusting more quickly than I am?!

Second, some recent variants scare me with their increased infection and severity rate, which we are seeing in an uptick in cases locally.  I have friends who still have not been vaccinated, intentionally.  I really want herd immunity so we can stop those variants in their tracks.  I'm making sure I pass on the scientific news that should scare them into doing the right thing.  There is just no downside to getting the vaccine.  None.  

Third, we only have one car and the love of my life decided to use it to run work errands this afternoon.  What was he thinking?!   

The good news is that I'll be equally protected by the vaccine tomorrow and the day after and the week after.  So I'll get out there...masked, socially distanced and with my trusty hand sanitizer dangling from my purse.  Just not today.

I plan to take photos of Life Outside My House!


Saturday, April 03, 2021

Feeling Colorful

If you have water lilies, you know why I currently have colorful fingers.  

For anyone without, water lily roots and tubers look tan or white, but they have a hidden element that stains skin after dividing the plants.  And grabbing large unwieldy lilies that have essentially taken over the pond, wrestling them into submission and cutting them up is a very hands-on activity.  

So...purple fingers.

Worth it since the lilies obnoxiously left little-to-no room for overwintering fish and made it difficult to clean out the slimy, rotted leaves that escaped the autumn cleaning.  I now have the extra divisions potted up for sale once they've grown new leaves a bit later in the season.  Buyers will have to take their chances on whether they get a white or pink lily. Lilypad Pond is crystal clear and all the moving parts are moving and filtering water as they should.

In other colorful news, a family tradition is to color eggs the day before Easter.  Grass green, sky blue, sunny yellow, rosy pink.  So now I have fingertips that are even more colorful.  I really should learn how NOT to pick up dyed eggs.


I just accidentally found out that cleanser works on fingers as well as the sink after dumping out all the cups of dye.  For the win!

Something colorful which makes life a little more fun:  Bunny napkins ready to set out at our Easter table. 

Time to scour the yard for whatever is blooming so very early this Spring for a bouquet.  I know there are daffodils and forsythia.  I'm hoping that a couple hyacinths will be open so add a color other than yellow.  No tulips or lilacs or coral bells this year, but we'll enjoy what Mother Nature has given us. 

Okay, I might check Raleys for some tulips. Is it cheating if part of the Easter bouquet comes from the grocery store instead of solely from our garden?)

The very best part of Easter this year will be five happily vaccinated family members able to enjoy a holiday in one room.  What a blessing!  Thank you, science!

Happy Spring!  Happy Easter!