Saturday, December 7, 2013

Plain Jane Wreath Transformed

Today I purchased my holiday wreath from our local animal rescue group S.T.A.R.S. which holds an annual wreath fundraiser, selling not only wreaths, but lots of other goodies for our furry friends in their holiday boutique, with proceeds going to benefit the shelter animals. It's a yearly tradition for me to get my wreath here at the animal shelter.

I like to buy the bare-bones, bow-only wreath and add my own decorations for a personal touch. Here's how you too can go about decorating a plain-jane wreath and making it something special:

the original wreath as purchased, bow-only
I ventured out in my yard, seeking interesting-looking natural materials to decorate my wreath. I settled on some dried hydrangeas, dark-blue berries, and rose hips. See what you find in your own yard; it may be pine cones, winterberry, and yarrow. Whatever catches your interest will probably look good on your wreath! Get creative.

Here's a close-up of my chosen decorative materials:
hydrangeas blooms, berries and rose hips
The only tools I needed were some scissors and very fine florist's wire:
The first additions were the dried hydrangea blooms, each wired carefully:
addition of the dried hydrangeas
Next came the berry sprigs, attached in the same fashion:
berries added
And finally the rose hips (also wired):
Here is the wreath, ready to go outside -
 And finally, the finished wreath on the front door!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs . . .

I have of late become somewhat obsessed with chalk art. You can find me on any given day perusing the aisles of Whole Foods or Mrs. Green's, my attention glued to all the neat signage they employ to make their goods more enticing.  Half the time I forget what I went there to buy I'm so enthralled with all the pretty colors, the impeccably-rendered typefaces, and the shear excess of it all.

Chalk art is experiencing a boom right now; sometimes I wonder if it's somehow related to the popularity of tattoo art and all things hand-drawn, or a new appreciation of illustration art. Whatever it is, I'm liking it. 

So I've been trying my hand at this art form, and really enjoying it! I've always been a big fan of fonts (having cut my teeth in the printing business some years ago), and let me tell you - chalk art is full of fonts! The more the better . . .  mix and match, modern and vintage. Frilly flourishes and beautiful borders are another reason the signs seem so captivating.

I've been doing some sketching and practicing to hone my skills. With the holidays in full swing, they seem a natural subject (and of course, as usual my other two obsessions make it into the practice sessions):
So it must have been kismet today when Bill and I walked into our favorite local breakfast haunt, Mary & Beth's Metro Diner in Stratford Center, only to see a large, blank "Specials" Chalk Board staring me in the face. Itching to turn all that blank canvas into art, next thing you know,  I've got the gig!
The Finished "Specials" Sign At Metro Diner

I'm excited to see where my passion for chalk art takes me next; meanwhile, I'll keep an eye out for inspiration during the holidays (and if I accidentally ram you with my shopping cart, it's nothing personal. I probably was just mesmerized by some Trader Joe's sign tantalizing me from afar).

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Clean Up on Aisle 2 . . .

Today was cleaning day in the garden; one of many to come in the next few weeks. The vegetable garden was priority number one. Out with the elderly tomato plants, shriveled cucumber vines and nasturtium plants, which succumbed to a couple of frosty nights this past week. Remaining in the beds are the original kale and collard plants, now tall but still viable. Also still growing are some younger kale plants (started in late September), beets, as well as a lone garlic chive plant, which has thus far survived the cold snaps just fine.

In addition to the veggie garden, it was also time to pull up the dahlia bulbs, which will be stored once again in my basement until Spring. This year, they will be stored in a bed of shredded paper in a cardboard box. I used the same arrangement last year, which worked just fine. Previously, I had just placed the clumps in a cardboard box. But I read about the addition of shredded paper, and it did seem to insulate them nicely and keep them plump throughout the months in storage last year. So in to their fluffy bed they go!

The rest of the garden is now showing it's past-peak color, but there are still plenty of sights to go around. The big Norway maple has blanketed the lawn with it's dirty-yellow leaves; next step will be to mow them, rather than rake (to provide added nourishment to the soil come spring). The Japanese maples are the among the last to shed their leaves; the leaves are still clinging on with their blood-red and deep purple hues, despite the 25 mph wind gusts which buffeted the garden this weekend.  There are still a few more days left to admire their beauty. The rose bushes are all but denuded, but their rose hips stand out brilliantly against the thorny branches.  A few chrysanthemums still appear sprightly; but they, too, will go into hibernation soon. And the ornamental grasses look regal as they sway in the wind. They will remain all winter, to provide added cover for birds and other small wildlife to weather the months ahead.

I just can't rid myself of the feeling that all of this Fall spectacle, this Autumn show of colors, is happening later and later each year. Whereas just over a decade ago, when we first moved to New England, raking leaves and snow flurries were taking place around the Columbus Day weekend in early October. As time has gone by, there is barely any color at all here at that time, and Thanksgiving weekend is still rife with Autumn clean-up activities in the garden. It's an uneasy feeling that something's definitely not quite right with the climate these days.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Summer's Over . . .

This is always a somewhat wistful time of year; we say goodbye to summer (at least in this part of the country) and try to welcome the fall season as best we can. For me, autumn gets a big smack on the lips. Missed you! Where have you been so long? As much as I love spring and summer, there is something comforting about the arrival of the cooler temps, and the first imperceptible, then more obvious, slowing of the growing season. I, for one, like the smug feeling of finally being able to tackle those out-of-control weeds in the far corners of the garden in one fell swoop. Kicked your ass, weeds! That felt good.

I will surely miss my vegetable garden though, with summer's bounty waning in the long shadows of autumn's last light. As in all years, there were successes and failures, new crops to try, and old standbys to cling to. The cucumber variety "Diva" once again proves her worth (I've planted it every year for the last four, and I can't bring myself to give up more raised bed real estate to another variety).

The Heirloom "Yellow Brandywine" however, proved a disappointment. A few measly flowers late in the season has in turn only yielded TWO (yes, on the whole plant!) tomatoes, which are still green as I write this. This is the first (and probably last) year I plant this one. Bye Bye!

 One of the new additions this year was "Odessa Market," a sweet pepper. It got swallowed up early by the over-reaching squash vines. When I finally uncovered it in August, I was lucky to find the beginnings of little peppers. They quickly grew into big peppers (this one's about six inches); now a lime green color, they should turn orange (and if time allows, red) before the first frost. This is one tough little pepper plant.
 Then there are the nasturtiums. They really shine this time of year, with their water lily-like foliage and bright orange blooms. They provide a welcome sight amidst the geriatric tomato plants and shriveled cucumber vines, let me tell you.

And finally, not in the veggie garden, but a sure harbinger of the fall season ahead is the goldenrod, which grows profusely throughout my semi-shaded side garden. Some years more than others I struggle with it overtaking the english ivy ground cover; this year it has behaved itself and has appeared in more manageable sound-bites of color. It has won me over.

So here we go again; another change of seasons. There's no fighting it; stop thinking ahead to winter. Enjoy what we have now. Autumn, I think of all the seasons, beckons us to live in the moment with it's timeless, Maxfield Parrish skies and crisp autumn air. Try not to rush it; it will be gone before you know it. But it too, will be back again.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Instant Bonsai's Gonna Get You

I went to a barn sale this past Friday and was lucky enough to come home with a few treasures. I didn't really go looking for them, but they found me - a couple of vintage metal bonsai sculptures. They are really quite beautiful, each in their own way.

One, with jade-like leaves, white glass flowers and a small bird's nest is charming. The other, made of twisted wire, is stark but striking in it's simplicity. I feel a collection coming on . . . 

What I was looking for and have been for some time now, is a good deal on a wooden garden bench for a section of yard I've cleared and would like to make into a sitting area. I feel like I have been literally everywhere looking for that elusive bench. Today, I ended up in Kmart (yes, they still exist), to see if they had any clearance outdoor furniture (and maybe a wooden bench tucked into the back corner of the garden center). Alas, no benches, but as usual, ever the sucker for all things green, I made my way out to the discount perennial section. What did I see? A cute little juniper, with a bit of a lean to it. Bonsai on the brain, and a little cash burning a hole in my pocket, the little three-dollar juniper comes home. A couple of snips later, pot it up, and instant bonsai!

OK - you bonsai aficionados out there know that a few cuts do not a bonsai make. First off, after talking to the fine people of the Bonsai Society of Greater New Haven a week ago at an outdoor event (and my bonsai fever is all their fault), you really don't want to start with a dwarf plant (as this one is). And there are all sorts of special wiring, planting mediums, bonsai pots (pots? there's got to be a better bonsai-sounding word than that). Not to mention incredible patience. See? I have a lot to learn. And a place I just might visit next is: one of the nation's premier bonsai growers/importers. Nice - it's in the area (broadly speaking) and they have classes too.

But for now, my little juniper will satisfy my craving. Hmm . . . now where did I keep that garden wire and those pliers? Look out, little juniper. You are about to become my latest experiment.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

July Fourth Travels - You Never Know What You'll Find!

Athens? California? Newport? Think Again . . .

Itching to get out and explore somewhere different, we took the opportunity of a day off to take a little road trip on the Fourth of July.  Heading north on I-95 along the shoreline, it wasn't long before we hit major holiday traffic slow-downs. So we jumped off onto Route 1 and while the trip was longer, we had a nice ride through such scenic towns as Guilford, Madison, Old Saybrook, Old Lyme (to name a few).  In a nutshell, quintessential New England charm.

We passed a few state park entrances along the way (Hammonasset Beach, Rocky Neck), but no stopping there. No room at the inn on this Independence Day (parking lots were full).  But these were not our destinations anyhow - we had somewhere else in mind.

Late last October, we had stopped at another park on our way home from the Mystic/Stonington area (which is a whole blog post on it's own). It was near dusk, and the park was closing, but we were able to take a quick drive in and I got a few beautiful photos with the sun setting behind some silhouetted trees. I knew I would return one day - and this was that day.

Harkness Memorial State Park. There - the secret's out. This park is what the word "magnificent" was invented for. Located in Waterford, CT near the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, it is a little ways off the beaten path (not as many signs to this park as to the others; the parking lot was thankfully not full either).  A little bit Newport RI (think mansions), spectacular gardens (ala Frederick Law Olmsted, but instead by acclaimed garden architect Beatrix Farrand), with lawns that stretch forever down to a pristine shoreline, beaches, conservation areas (plovers nesting); we were practically speechless. All this for six bucks (the resident price after 4:00pm). Out of staters pay a bit more, but I am telling you - it is worth it.

Parking Camping Fees - CT State Parks

 The photos I took represent just a sampling of the sites you'll see. To top it off, the State of Connecticut is refurbishing the beautiful greenhouse on the property (the work looks to be nearing completion and it too should be amazing). Now that's taxpayer spending I can approve of. The recent budget cuts to the state parks are however sadly evident here too - parts of the gardens surrounding the Harkness mansion are quite overgrown with weeds / vines (it was all I could do to keep myself from jumping in and yanking them out)! But even that didn't diminish the sheer wonder at what we saw.

In total we spent about three hours rambling through the park with our jaws dropping. We vowed to return again this summer - but this time with blankets, coolers and some good friends to share the magnificent day.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Update on the Vegetable Garden . . .

I've had a few requests to post some recent pictures on how the vegetable garden is evolving, so here they are! I finally settled on staining the gate to match our deck. I used a really great non-toxic stain that uses natural mineral pigments instead of dyes and no formaldehyde or other toxic ingredients called DuroStain by Safecoat. Unfortunately, you can't find this at your local Home Depot; I found it at the Center for Green Building in Bridgeport CT:


I added a little decoration to the gate; a metal honey bee to pay homage to these most necessary workers in the garden. Plus, I like how it looks against the honeycomb pattern of the chicken wire:

The veggies are starting to really pop; some rain and then warm days following have finally caused the cucumber plants to take off in earnest. Baby squash are appearing; I picked the first sugar peas yesterday. By now, the kale is old hat (not that I'm complaining); it's been producing it's nutrient-rich leaves for about a month now.

Here come the zucchini!!!
Oregon Sugar Pods - they taste amazing!
the kale is coming in strong as always . . .

Amongst the veggies, I planted a new variety of nasturtiums - "Alaska Variegated" to add a different look to the garden this year.  I'm excited to see these plants mature and their jewel-colored flowers appear:

In addition, we have a couple of tomato plants, collards (try wrapping a banana in a collard leaf - tasty and nutritious!), lettuce, garlic chives and cilantro. I'm planting some extra-dwarf pak choy this weekend. So the garden is well on it's way of providing us with some really good (organic) eating this summer.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Flippin' For Flea Markets!

Flea Market Flip Taping at One of the Vendor's Booths
It's hard to resist a good flea market on a late Spring day; we had the good fortune of perusing the wares at the Elephant's Trunk Flea Market in New Milford CT last weekend. In addition to all the usual antiques and collectables the vendors bring, they happened to be shooting a few episodes of HGTV's Flea Market Flip that day on the grounds. 

We watch the show, so it was kind of neat to see the process, and to see the host Lara Spencer (you may know her from Good Morning America, or the Oscars Red Carpet etc). Anyway, evidently she's a big flea market/antiques/yard sale buff (you may even remember her from Antiques Roadshow some years back), and she seems genuinely nice, down-to-earth in person. 

Host Lara Spencer Chats With Spectators . . .
But we don't go to flea markets for Hollywood excitement; we go for the goodies! These days, I'm usually shopping for outdoor items, gardening stuff and lately, illustration art for inspiration.  A few flea market rules - go early (gates open at 7am), wear comfy shoes and sunscreen, be prepared to get dusty, make a few passes (you always miss things the first time through) and most of all have fun! 

The Elephant's Trunk Flea has a bit of everything, from antiques to mid-century modern, kitschy collectables, weird and wonderful, plants and veggies, etc. You name it, you can probably find it there:

Among our finds were some very pretty original greeting card illustrations (we picked a few out of a virtual boxload). These appear to be done in gouache, and are small - they were done in actual size to fit on a greeting card:

 And I was able snag a couple of garden-related things too - a handmade birdhouse (one of a collection to go on top of my trellis), a wrought-iron plant hanger, and a hose holder (which was a steal at five bucks. I saw the exact same one new at Lowe's for $29.95 later that day).

 So it was a pretty good day all around.  The appeal of the Flea is hard to resist; we will definitely be back at least a few more times this season. Thanks to global warming (or so it appears), the Elephant's Trunk now runs every Sunday (weather-permitting) through the first week of December, so there's plenty more opportunities to search for hidden treasures at the Trunk!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Things That Go Bump In the Night

Last night I awoke at about 3:00 am, only to find Bill already awake. "I heard some noises outside, but I couldn't determine where they were coming from," he said.  Always up for a challenge (well, not really, but I was up  - that counts, right?) I decided to go investigate.

First stop - the bathroom. The window overlooks our deck, so it's always a good place to start. I close the door quietly, leave the light off, and gently pull the blinds up. AHA! Smack in the middle of my view is a youngish-looking raccoon, hurriedly rushing across the top of the railing. I don't think he knew he'd been caught yet, because he hopped down on the deck floor and headed towards me and the window.

"Bill - come see this!" I shout excitedly (maybe a little too loud) and he rushes in, iPad in hand (yes, it's still 3 am, by the way). I point to the window, but of course by now the raccoon has slipped from view, and Bill has come precariously close to dropping his iPad into the open toilet bowl. He catches it just in time - crisis averted! Not enough excitement to keep him occupied, however, he heads back to sleep, but not before saying we should do something to scare the raccoon away. 

I take up the gauntlet, head to the back door, and raccoon still milling about, I proceed to rattle the screen door as loudly as possible. This startles the raccoon greatly (and probably all my neighbors within a mile radius too) and it quickly scampers away down the steps and into oblivion.

I turn around and head towards the kitchen window to see if I can catch a fleeting glimpse of it (literally moments later); instead, there now sits our neighbor's cat in the driveway, totally relaxed and looking back at me, right in the path of where the raccoon just scampered! And I always thought that cat was shacking up with the groundhog; now it appears he's hanging out with the raccoons, too!

The scene of the crime the morning after . . .
 A few hours later in bright daylight heading out the door to work, I see the full effect of the night's events. Seems the raccoon had pulled down one of my birdhouses and proceeded to do terrible things (that explains all the ruckus Bill was hearing). So now, one of this weekend's chores will be to hang the birdhouse somewhere less raccoon-accessible.

We should be thankful it was just a raccoon; I had read an article that same night about how bears now number in the hundreds in Connecticut. That's all we need, a bear on the back porch! We've had about everything else, so it's probably only a matter of time. I can just see it now, Monty the Cat riding bareback on some grizzly through my vegetable garden. UGHHHH!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

YAY! The Fence is Done!!!!

The groundhog fence is up . . .
In the last few weeks, we finally finished installing the fence around our vegetable garden, finished adding the mowing strip pavers, and completed the mulch pathways which fill in the interior of the plot. There were a lot of stones encountered along the way; I have them piled up around the edges for now, but I think I may have other plans for them. Plus, installing these pavers was the equivalent of doing four hours' worth of chair-squats, so needless to say, I was walking a bit funny the week after they went in (ouch)!

We now have an awfully nice garden gate too, thanks to my husband Bill's fabulous handiwork. It is lined with chicken wire to keep out our little furry friends:
. . . and the gate is doing it's job!
And if you look closely to the picture above, you can see baby kale and collard plants in the raised bed - our first crop to christen the newly-upgraded garden!

I'm thinking of painting the gate and posts a dark green, mainly because we opted for non pressure-treated posts (due to possible chemical leaching into the ground). Going au naturale will for certain shorten the lifespan of these components. Painting them will afford a bit more protection than leaving them unfinished, and also make them blend in more with the surrounding fence and flora. Or maybe staining them, or maybe painting them a contrasting color . . . as you can see, I'm still on the fence (ha ha) with this decision.

In the end, this was a bigger project than I think either of us thought it would be. But we were fortunate in that we planned fairly well, measuring and buying just enough materials to complete our project (through sheer luck, the wire fence spool was literally the exact amount needed to completely enclose the plot).

And (of course), we haven't seen that groundhog since we first broke ground some weeks back. But I have no doubt that he will return the moment I forget to close the gate. So I suppose it was all worth it in the end . . . and I'm not talking about the chair squats, either!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Whole Fence Thing In Progress . . .

Another Sunday working on the vegetable garden. .  .
We finished digging out all the soil we planned (or, frankly, could physically take out. There comes a point where you just go, "I'm done with this," right)? We were able to get the fence up, in preliminary fashion. It's not all fastened yet; but at least we get a visual. I can tell you it's TALL.

A few changes to the original plan - we decided to go with pavers as a mowing edge around the fence. We're three-quarters of the way done with them. They aren't perfect, they're a little wonky, but HEY, we did them ourselves. I'm pretty sure Martha Stewart isn't out there laying pavers anymore.

We're still trying to figure out how to do a gate. I'm tentatively planning on building one myself (unless of course, I have another "I'm done with this" day and decide to go and find a ready-made one. I'm fighting the urge).

The other change is a big one. We're going to use mulch instead of stone for the interior paths. First off, stone is pretty darn expensive. And labor-intensive. And heavy (see the "I'm done" part above). Plus, I've been reading comments on the internets from people who totally regretted putting in stone, as once you commit to it, there is basically never the possibility of getting rid of it should you change your mind down the road (as in, hmm, I don't think I'm done here after all). Plus, they complain that the weeds still make there way into the paths, and they are even more difficult to pull. And while the pavers help with keeping the stone from migrating into the surrounding lawn, I happen to have a freakishly strong gravitational pull to my head, which seems to attract basketballs, baseballs and stray stones flying up while I mow the lawn. So you see, I just can't take the chance of putting an eye out. SO, mulch it is!!!!

Then there was the debate over landscape fabric. The consensus is that it doesn't really prevent weeds from popping up, either. And it's not an approved material for an organic gardener; it's made from petroleum and can possibly leach into the soil when it breaks down after many years. So, I shall say no thank you to landscape fabric.

I did learn that newspaper is a certified-organic material to place as a weed barrier as or under mulch (only the black and white pages though - no glossy color ads, magazine pages or that god-awful USA Today color rag), so that's what I think I'll do. You do have to replace it yearly, along with replenishing some of the mulch which, as an organic material, will break down too. So that digital edition of the NYT you're reading will do you no good in the garden. Please support your local newspaper, if just for the composting:-)

So next weekend is the home stretch - a couple more posts to go up, set the rest of the pavers, a gate, and the mulch. THEN it will be time for the vegetables (I almost forgot about them)! How embarrassing. Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Speak of the Devil . . . er, Groundhog, That Is!

the construction begins for the new fence and stone path

It was an absolutely beautiful time to be outdoors today. With temps nearing 60 degrees, and the sun shining brightly, we broke ground today on our plans to outwit the groundhog who feasted upon our vegetable garden last summer (see my blog post from Aug. 2012). Reducing our harvest to next to nothing by the end of last year's growing season, it was a formidable foe, and we vowed to have a plan this Spring.

So we began the first step - digging out the sod around our existing raised beds. Bill and I worked on it for about three hours; backbreaking work for someone who's been somewhat sedentary this winter (that would be me). I'll probably pay for this tomorrow with sore muscles and the like. Or maybe not; come to think of it, I'm going to count all that snow-shoveling we did in February as preparation for this big dig. Anyway, we're almost done with the excavation. It doesn't look like much, but trust me - it was more wheelbarrow loads to the compost pile than I care to count.

Next will come the fence; nothing too elaborate - metal posts and chicken wire (with the wire extending out away from the fence underground to discourage any digging). Then leveling sand and finally a top layer of crushed stone to make it all "pretty." Like a page right out of Martha Stewart's playbook.

Exhausted from our progress so far, we put away our tools for the day and went inside. After a shower, we too were all pretty again, and we settled into the rest of the day's duties. But I couldn't resist one more peek out the window to admire our handiwork; the ground now dotted with robins, sparrows and other assorted birds hungrily gobbling up the insects we overturned.

Wait a minute - what's that over there by the bushes? That big round ball of fur that actually looks a lot like Jasper (one of our cats). Couldn't be him, because he's an indoor cat.

DAMN! It's none other than our friendly local groundhog, obviously out to admire our work as well, with visions of swiss chard, baby kale, and yummy collard greens dancing in his/her little head. And it was certainly not the emaciated creature I pictured first emerging from it's cave, after spending many months hibernating. Nope - it's as plump as ever (maybe even more so than last summer)? WTF??? OK, I don't want to even consider that it might be a pregnant groundhog (please, please, please, please Nooooooo).

Oh well - take a deep breath; it is the reason we're building this fence, after all . . . but somehow I have a sinking feeling it's not going to be that simple.  Stay tuned, as this saga is just beginning.
Oh, Lovely Spring!!!!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring Comes In . . . Like a Lamb

crocuses by the garage

This time last year, the lawn was green, the daffodils were in full force, and the cherry tree was bursting with flowerbuds ready to pop. This year, not so much. Spring is taking it's time to show it's colors. Not that I'm really complaining; this easing into the season suits me this year.  The crocuses are at their best right now; a few daffodils are just starting to bloom. The cherry tree's buds are still tiny, but they are there.

I always get a bit anxious when I start to check and see what made it through the winter in the garden. Tree peonies? Looking good (I actually trimmed off the dead wood last week). The brownish-red buds are beginning to emerge unscathed. Phew! Dodged another bullet. Honestly, most of the other perennials have still to make an appearance with the flush of new growth. They are still dormant; lying low. The warmer weather finally forecast for this weekend should jump-start things.

Last weekend, I took a trip to the Nichols area of Trumbull, and stopped in at the Trumbull Historical Society grounds. I'm embarrassed to say, I've lived in this area 12+ years, and just discovered this hidden gem a few miles from my home.

snowdrops on a lovely hillside . . .

It's park-like setting make it an ideal place to stop and have a picnic, or read in solitude under a tree. I hiked up a hill where, to my surprise, I found a beautiful apple orchard, well-tended; the trees standing like sentinels in a row.

At the bottom of the hill were a few outbuildings and a fantastic old greenhouse. It's interior was overgrown with ivy, making it look like some ancient, abandoned relic from days gone by, but charming just the same.

Across the street from the Historical Society is the Nichols Community Center. On the corner stands a really beautiful fountain. It's the Peet Bunny Fountain, a gift from the Peet family to the residents of Nichols in 1895, but I just call it the Bunny Fountain. Restored in 1992, it's a nice example of turn of the century sculpture (reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts movement and Tiffany-age ironwork).

The Bunny Fountain in all it's glory 

So with this image, I'll leave you to your Easter weekend pursuits, and hope they bring you out into your garden to enjoy the fresh air and the inevitability of warmer days ahead.
Happy Gardening!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New Life for a Vintage Poppy Brooch

 In a cute antique store in Deep River CT (while I was out shaking off the winter blues this past weekend), I stumbled upon this adorable vintage Oriental poppy brooch. The colors are fantastic, all fiery, orangy-reds and bright greens contrasted with the black seeds. JUST THE THING to get me in a Spring frame of mind. The price was right, so home it went with me. Now, what to do with it?
Nothing against brooches, but they do have a bit of an image problem these days, reminding some of their grandmothers' stodgy fashion statements of days gone by (that is, if you have/had a stodgy grandmother. I happen to know many grandmothers who are amazingly stylish and cutting edge).  Plus, "brooch" - what a strange, funny word. What's up with that?
 I really felt this beauty needed a little updating however, something to bring it out of the past, but still acknowledge it's timelessness. So I ripped apart an old charm bracelet that had seen better days itself,  and with a few adjustments and the addition of a chain, I now have a really great necklace.
Now I'm inspired - time to raid the jewelry box and see what else I can re-purpose! And most importantly, no brooches were harmed in this process. It can still be worn the "old-fashioned" way (but the same can't be said for the charm bracelet, unfortunately(!)

Blizzards and Creativity (or Lack Thereof)

It's been about a week and a half since the Great Blizzard of 2013. Thirty-six inches later, the remnants remain; great mounds of snow in parking lots (that no doubt may still be there in April, I shudder to think); lawns still hidden from sight beneath great white blankets.  My ancient azalea shrub brought to it's knees under the weight of the drifts. There is hope however; alternating freeze and thaw cycles have melted a good amount (at least on the relatively flat surfaces).
House-bound for four days last week, unable to go to work for two days due to un-plowed streets, you would have thought it would have been a creative bonanza; a free-for-all with paintings and illustrations and photos flying off the drawing table and computer screen. Not so much. Blizzard paralysis set in. Well, that and alternating hours of shoveling, and shoveling again, and did I mention shoveling? You get the idea.
So I am trying my best to get motivated  to ignite that creative spark. This past weekend, we visited the Winter Carnivale in quaint Chester CT, which featured ice sculptures and chili cook-offs, art galleries and a tractor parade(!). It was below freezing all day, with biting winds, but you know what? We had fun. They know how to do it there in Chester:
There is something to be said for embracing the cold; enough of hibernating and playing a waiting game with the weather. The cliche of "life's too short" is begrudgingly true; Spring and another year closer to death (just making sure you're paying attention) will be here before you know it. Oh yeah, and with Spring comes new projects, like building that fence around the vegetable garden to keep out our favorite little buddy Mr. Groundhog.  Can't wait. No, really. I'm not kidding.