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!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

One Week In, Two To Go

It might be spring if yesterday was too chilly to be outdoors and today is balmy.  If yesterday was gray and dour, and today is blissfully sunshiny.  If yesterday felt like a good day to cocoon and hibernate and today is an outdoorsy invitation.         

My garden is in no doubt that spring has just about sprung.  The yearly parade of intensely purple mini iris, tete a tete daffodils and crocuses (croci?) by the hundreds has been flaunting their blossoms regardless of snow flurries or shivery breezes.  Thank heavens for bulbs and perennials like primroses that lift my spirits each year.  

My vast collection of bunnies are lurking behind an abundance of green clad leprechauns and shamrocks, waiting for their turn in the seasonal spotlight.  Can lambs and peonies be far behind?  

I know that changing out holiday decorations is just too much trouble for most people nowadays.  I can't help embracing the changing seasons though.  A changing gallery of holiday reminders is just a small delight that makes my life a tad richer.

Plus, I get bored easily.  Eye candy is nice.

Time is a funny thing.  It hardly seems like it was only a week ago that we received our first covid vaccine.  The second dose scheduled for the twenty-ninth seems like an eternity away.  

I'm mulling how to celebrate being (relatively) street legal again.  There are some errands and projects that have been on the back burner.  Things I want to accomplish but have not been willing to risk the possible exposure, like a trip to a big box store to have a gallon of paint mixed for the family room or BB&B for a digital kitchen scale. The idea of going out without weighing risk factors and deciding on discretion is going to take some getting used to.  We are fortunate to live in an area where most people are mask compliant.  Still, those new variants popping up are not only more transmissible but also cause more serious infections.  I'll dream about paint and scales, but till probably resist the temptation until more of our population has access to the vaccines.  Better safe than sorry!



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Thursday, March 11, 2021

I Spell Relief "V-A-C-C-I-N-E"

After the stress and difficulty of trying to find available vaccine and then trying to get an appointment, the relief I feel after receiving my first Covid19 shot is just off the charts.

I saw another blogger mention vaccinefinder.org site as a useful place to find one's local vaccine possibilities and it worked great for Nevada although I was less successful in helping family in Oregon.  I was able to choose a location, a time and even which vaccine I preferred.  

The pharmacy could have organized the wait line better, but the actual facility was well organized.  I know we spent less time filling out paperwork, getting our shot and waiting the requisite fifteen minutes of monitoring than we did waiting in a very unorganized and definitely not socially-distanced line. But it was worth it!

I could picture little yellow minions running up to the mRNA bits circulating in my arm, chattering to each other in alarm and then getting down to business dealing with the new invader.  I can hardly wait until they meet the enemy on the 29th when we are scheduled to receive our second dose!  

Our side effects?  So minimal that they are almost not worth mentioning!  The mild soreness at the injection site didn't stop me from completing my upper body weightlifting routine or interfere with a good night's sleep.  

I don't know how we'll feel after the second injection, but knowing that we are one step closer to visiting the grand-daughters and the great-grandson will be worth any discomfort.  

It's completely amazing to me that Pfizer and Moderna both completely prevented any deaths in the clinical trials.  And that hospitalizations due to severe symptoms were non-existent.  I have so much respect and admiration for the scientists who worked on vaccine research that I can't even put it into words.  

It feels like a whole new world of possibilities has opened up.  Visiting with elderly relatives maskless!  Eventually travelling to hug our favorite kidlets!  Buying groceries knowing that I won't die or require hospitalization.  Might even chance some retail therapy to buy something that I don't need, on a whim.

Thank heavens I've lived in a time when polio and smallpox were conquered, when my children were protected from whooping cough and chicken pox (we have an extensive family history of shingles that I'm thrilled they won't have to suffer), and now we are fortunate to be rescued from the novel coronavirus. A safe vaccine that was created in less than a year, thanks to previous experience with SARS and cancer therapies. 

So, if you are on the fence, jump off and join me!  The grass really IS greener on this side!

Stay safe and healthy, friends.  Be kind and be thoughtful.


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Be (Inspire)d #5


"A spirit of transformative generosity"

~Rebecca Solnit
 
A snippet of something I read yesterday that appealed to my inner wisdom.  What is such a thing?  What would it look like in daily life: Personally, locally, socially, universally?  Is "transformative generosity" just another way of saying "love"? Is it something more? 
 
For me this is a memorable phrase that will be guiding my future thoughts and actions, so I thought I'd share it.  I appreciate that there is something aspirational about it that speaks to a higher purpose. It rejects judgment, negativity, bias and embraces universal namaste.  What a world we would have if everyone could commit to "transformative generosity"!
 

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Be (Inspire)d #4



A seed neither fears neither light nor darkness, 
but uses both to grow.
 
~Matshona Dhliwayo

Friday, January 22, 2021

Be (Inspire)d #3

 

The Miracle of Morning

I thought I’d awaken to a world in mourning.
Heavy clouds crowding, a society storming.
But there’s something different on this golden morning.
Something magical in the sunlight, wide and warming.

I see a dad with a stroller taking a jog.
Across the street, a bright-eyed girl chases her dog.
A grandma on a porch fingers her rosaries.
She grins as her young neighbor brings her groceries.

While we might feel small, separate, and all alone,
Our people have never been more closely tethered.
The question isn’t if we can weather this unknown,
But how we will weather this unknown together.

So on this meaningful morn, we mourn and we mend.
Like light, we can’t be broken, even when we bend.

As one, we will defeat both despair and disease.
We stand with healthcare heroes and all employees;
With families, libraries, waiters, schools, artists;
Businesses, restaurants, and hospitals hit hardest.

We ignite not in the light, but in lack thereof,
For it is in loss that we truly learn to love.
In this chaos, we will discover clarity.
In suffering, we must find solidarity.

For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,
Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.
So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain:
Do not ignore the pain. Give it purpose. Use it.

Read children’s books, dance alone to DJ music.
Know that this distance will make our hearts grow fonder.
From these waves of woes our world will emerge stronger.

We’ll observe how the burdens braved by humankind
Are also the moments that make us humans kind;
Let each morning find us courageous, brought closer;
Heeding the light before the fight is over.
When this ends, we’ll smile sweetly, finally seeing
In testing times, we became the best of beings.

~Amanda Gorman


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

My Frustration With Pinterest

I forgot my password to my Pinterest account!  

I had a Pin It button on my old PC, so pinning was automatic and easy.  Then I upgraded to a new laptop and after automatically logging in for so many years, I'd forgotten my password and no possibility that I tried worked.

No big deal, right?  Just ask to reset my long-forgotten password and, voila, back in business.

I wish!  I've tried numerous times over several months to reset my account without success.  They email me an autolink to reset my password and instead it asks me to log in.  

Seriously, Pinterest?  

If I could log in, I wouldn't have asked to reset my password.  Duh.

Yeah, I've tried to contact them for help.  Pretty useless.  No reply.  (It makes me wonder if there are actual people working there.)  It's pretty frustrating, mostly because it seems like it should be simple. Heck, asking to reset a password is probably the one thing most of us have in common!

I've even been willing to give up the effort I've put into my pins over the years and sign up for a new account.  I'm willing to start over.   There are so many images that I'd love to save for future inspiration. Foxes, felt animals, watercolor cows, doll clothes, marble shower stalls, trellises, wood mantels, rock retaining walls... But, no-ooo, trying to initiate a new account just takes me back into the "log in" rabbit hole.

Without logging in, I not only can't access my boards, I also can't browse freely through the wonderful ideas that others have pinned.

Enough is enough.  I've officially given up on Pinterest and their horrendous customer service.  Or should I say, disservice?

I've discovered that there are other options that are similar.  I'm pretty sure I'll find something that makes me forget Pinterest ever existed. Maybe I'll even be able to recommend something new for others to try!

The internet hasn't beaten me yet.  At least I'm coming closer to a new photo editor (maybe even a way to keep using Picasa 3).  I can't wait until I can install a new Meadowsweet Cottage banner!



Be (Inspire)d #2

 
There is no must in art 
because art is free.
~ Wassily Kandinsky

Thursday, January 07, 2021

What Word is 2021?

Meadowsweet Cottage

I like having a thought that can inspire me for the year ahead.  Even better if it's a single word that encapsulates goal and ambitions.

I really thought Vision was perfect way back last January given that 20/20 is a solid benchmark at one's optometrist. And maybe it was a good thought, although it didn't work out quite the way any of us thought. It's too bad there wasn't more vision utilized as challenges appeared.  Too bad that people didn't look ahead and think.

This year?  I'm afraid to hope.  Well, not entirely true.  I'm wary and afraid to hope too much. So I don't want a word with too much optimism for fear that I might jinx myself.

 Currently I'm thinking that Choice may be a good reminder for 2021. It's a stand-back-and-think-about-it kind of word.  It's a word for being proactive rather than reacting thoughtlessly.  It's goal-oriented.

I think that our choices reflect our inner person.  Who we truly are deep down in our individual core. They reflect our principles, our lines in the sand as well as what we are willing to trade for what we want.

Oh sure, some decisions are trivial and mundane.  Or we think they are and then find that even those add up eventually.

Others can be life changing.

Our choices define us.  They define our future.  They shepherd us toward a goal.

I truly hope that having Choice as my touchstone might make me think a bit harder, reflect a bit deeper, examine closely.  

We all are going to have a lot of choices this year that are going to shape society and influence the way history looks back on us.  Reconciliation?  Consequences?  Responsibility?  Independence? 

Choice is never about the past, but rather the continuing saga of our lives. Choice moves us forward, or sideways or spins us around dizzily.  Choice can be risky or cautious.  We can be unsure as we choose and trust that things will work out.  We can choose to change our minds if our original choice proves unwise.

Anyone else choose a word this year?

p.s.  I wrote this on January 1, intending to edit it, thinking that perhaps a different word would emerge.  But after yesterday's shameful events in our nation's capital, I think that perhaps Choice was the perfect word and my thoughts need no editing.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Be (Inspire)d #1


The future belongs to those who believe in the  beauty of their dreams.   

~Eleanor Roosevelt

Yes, it's Meadowsweet Cottage.  Wondering where the blog title is?  Me too! 

I'm reworking the header and realized I need to edit the image of the truck to include the blog name.  Silly me! It's been awhile since I played the blogging game so bear with me while I figure this out with a new photo editor.  I miss Picasa3!