lovely things

Some lovely things I’ve been enjoying:

::a good book::

A Man Called Ove, a Swedish novel about an unlovable, suicidal curmudgeon, and the people who make a difference in his life, past and present. I wept at the end of this book.

ove

::a pretty song (and video)::

This is old, but I listened to it on my way home from work and remembered how much I loved it and just put it on repeat for a little while.

::my porch::

I still have a lot of work to do on my porch this summer, we had some big winds this winter that blew stuff around and made a mess. Pots were broken and plants destroyed, but I’ve made this corner nice and comfortable and spend most evenings and weekends here. It’s perfect for knitting, spinning, reading, and just watching the birds. And hanging out with dogs, of course.

on the porch

fairy garden

fairy garden 1

I finally made my little fairy garden this weekend. I used a poorly constructed (by me) box from scraps of wood from an old, weathered fence that fell over a few years ago. And then I thought I’d practice with my nifty 50 lens and take some artistically dreamy photos.

fairy garden2

That might not have been the best idea, since I still don’t know what I’m doing or how to capture what I want.

fairy garden 3

Well, it is a fairy’s eye view I guess.  How about an iPhone photo of the whole thing?

9390297352_3777d77985_o

Well, bad photos aside, it was a lot of fun to collect small plants and garden accessories and design a garden for the imaginary wee folk. Winston wonders when they are going to show up, so he can eat them.

winston

succulent

succulentThis succulent (and other plants) gardening thing might become an addiction. Luckily, I think it’s a pretty healthy one. I decided to go big and brought home this lovely thing a few days ago – it’s about 10 inches across. I’m reading Succulents Simplified in an attempt to learn how to best care for all these plants I keep buying, and even attempting to remember the Latin names. I believe this guy is a Dudleya Pulverulenta (aka chalk lettuce). Like always, I have a whole board dedicated to just succulents.

I love the way succulents are like sculptures. I’m enjoying the creativity of putting plants together in little arrangements that are pleasing to start with, but with patience, eventually become something lusher and richer. I think this pot needs something to creep over the edge to finish it off, some kind of sedum, probably.

succulent

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go water some plants.

green-ish thumb

I think it’s pretty obvious that I like flowers. I also like vegetables, and I love the idea of a garden. I have tried a few times to turn the back corner of our property into a vegetable garden, without success. Despite the fact that this is Southern California, the elevation (4000 feet) at which we live makes for harsh conditions in the garden.

Our last frost date is Memorial Day, so that means there are few vegetables that I can plant outdoors before June. One year, I waited patiently for that last weekend in May, and then filled my 4′ x 8′ raised bed with just as many plants as I could. And then we have several frosty nights well into June, which reduced most everything to a black, shriveled mess.

Undeterred, the next year I tried again, although I was less ambitious, and didn’t plant quite as much. Each day I faithfully watered my little vegetables, and every day it seemed like there were fewer plants. The soil itself seemed undisturbed, but a plant that I swore had been there the day before was suddenly missing. A closer inspection revealed very faint animal tracks, probably a rabbit or squirrel. Whatever it was, it made tidy work of eating my tender plants right down to the ground and letting nothing go to waste. Whatever little beast it was, it eventually ate everything.

This year, I had to move the geese out to that back garden pen, because they were beating up on my chickens, so there will be no attempt at a vegetable garden this year. Instead I’ve decided to focus on container gardening, and so far, I am enjoying much better results.

container garden

So far there has been only one casualty. I originally had a purple and white lisianthus in the middle pot, above. The day after I repotted it, the whole thing just keeled over. I have no idea why. I thought I’d try to return it, so I removed it back to the pot it came in, and it perked up a little. I don’t know if it will recover completely, but I guess it liked it’s cramped plastic pot better than my pretty, roomy, distressed terra cotta pot. I replaced it with this geranium, and I actually like this whole arrangement so much better.

geranium

I love the tiny flowers, and the silvery grey-green foliage.

I know it’s all about the porch all the time around here, but I’m so happy with how it is coming together, and it is where I spend most of my time when I am home. All my pots of herbs and flowers and succulents are what make it feel so lush and special to me, and shockingly, nearly everything seems happy and is growing.

down the porch

I got really ambitious and even added a dwarf kumquat, which will move inside this fall. I am going to try really hard to keep it alive. And the Silver Falls hanging just above is one of my favorite things. It’s just in the ugly plastic pot it came it, so I need to find something pretty to put it in. Luckily, the plant covers most of the pot, so I hardly notice it.

Pulley is hanging out in my new seating area. I want to make a cover for the cushions on the love seat, and a new slipcover for the ottoman, so I’m not going to bore you with too many pictures of that area. I hope to have a really dramatic before and after post once I get that stuff done.

side table

I found that it really started looking homey out here when I added a few things to my bright yellow side table.

Despite giving up on the raised bed for now, we do have a few nice things happening elsewhere on our property. Mr. Heylucy has been planting trees every weekend, hoping to replace some of the shade we lost when our oak trees died. We discovered that a previously unknown bush is actually an elder berry shrub. It doesn’t seem to mind our climate, and has become enormous this last year. I don’t know why we never noticed that it had berries on it before. I may have to try making some elderberry syrup later this summer, and bottle it up to treat winter colds.

elderberries1I put in a few tomatoes by the chicken pen, and they are growing and starting to bloom, so I’m hopeful that we’ll get at least enough to enjoy in salads. Someday I want a giant tomato patch so I’ll have enough to can and make sauce to last all winter. I have two big pots near the back door. I stuck a few strawberries in one, and the two little dogs thought it would be great fun to jump in and dig it all up. I haven’t even had the heart to clean up the soil they spewed all over the walk way. Nobody got any treats that night, I can tell you.

fairy garden-to-beNext up: a fairy garden in a box! Pulley says, “yay, something else for me to play with on the porch!”

sir pulleyLook at that face! I love the little water droplets on his whiskers. His favorite thing to do is bring sticks on to the porch and then chew them up and leave all the little bits for me to sweep up. It is not my favorite thing.

 

 

 

 

the next phase

I am fully committed to my porch project, and making a lot of progress. Even though I have a lot more that I want to do, it’s now my favorite spot to hang out. I can eat out there, sit and knit, read, or even take a nap.

I finished two pillows and have a couple more pillow forms waiting for covers. I played with batik again, and again, it was a lot of fun. This time I went bright with pink and orange dye. I originally added the orange to the pink dye bath when I was finished with it, hoping for more of a coral color. Obviously, I should have added less orange for that to happen. I’m fine with the bright tangerine, though.

pillowsI just used a paint brush and beeswax on drop cloth fabric, like last time, but I think if I do this again, I’ll invest in this special tool to see if it gives me a little more control. I just keep calling this sort of imperfect outcome ‘organic,’ to legitimize all the gloppiness of it.

I love the texture of the drop cloth for these pillows, which will be outdoors much of the time. The cushion covers are simply two squares of the dyed fabric with an invisible zipper in the bottom seam, so they’ll be easy to remove and wash.

pink pillow

I know, I need to paint my rocking chair. It’s an old, cheap one from Wal-Mart that Mr. Heylucy surprised me with one day, years and years ago, so I can’t complain. Painting it is on the to-do list, but it’s at the bottom for now.

Completely unrelated to all this, I made a little rosemary wreath after work the other day, just for fun. I have two giant rosemary bushes in serious need of pruning, so I cut enough sprigs for this project. And you can’t even tell, the bushes are still spilling over the walkway. I could probably make a couple dozen wreaths from those monsters.

rosemary wreath

Here’s a quick how-to, in case you want to make one yourself (it’s super easy and fun!): cut lots and lots of rosemary sprigs. Strip the leaves from the bottom few inches, and bunch three or so together and wrap with floral wire (I have a paddle of very thin, green wire, so it’s easy to wrap). Don’t cut your wire. Gather together another bunch, again striping the leaves from the bottom, and overlap the first bunch, wrapping the two bunches together and continuing down the stems of the second bunch. Keep repeating with new bunches until you have a string of rosemary long enough to shape into a circle. Wrap the last bunch to the first bunch. If you have a lot of wire showing, you can just add more sprigs here and there with short bits of wire to cover it up. And that’s it! Hang up your wreath and admire your handiwork, and marvel that it just took a few minutes to make. If it’s a bit wonky, just call it ‘organic.’

And going back to the porch, here’s a gratuitous picture of Pulley, who likes hanging out there as well.

pulley on the porch

 

 

 

 

making things

My little studio is a disaster area right now. I have too much stuff. So I’m determined to either use what I have or get rid of it. The two quilts made a dent, but there are still four vintage quilt tops and a couple other in-progress quilts. I was happy that my batik project used materials I already had, except for a $3 box of dye that I had to buy. I’ve even done some more batiking (new word, I just made up), which I will share soon.

Then there were two boxes of tiny yogurt bottles I had been saving for years, because: cute! Also, it was delicious yogurt, which Trader Joe’s no longer carries, so sad. They are the perfect size for tea lights and I’ve had this vision of an elaborate chandelier to hang on the porch to be all romantic and stuff. I decided to just whip something up with what I could find laying around. A bit of weathered branch from one of our dead oak trees served as the hanger for all the little jars, which I just strung together with some copper wire. It took all of about fifteen minutes, and viola! I have a chandelier.

tea light chandelier

I’ll be honest, I don’t LOVE it, but it looks pretty magical when it’s all lit up. It’s just a little too rustic, but we’ll just call it Organic, and let it be for now.

lit chandelier

I was, perhaps, too impatient, because then I went and did some Pinterest research, and found some inspiration for some lights that I like better. I have some chicken wire, and lots of scrap wood, so I’m going to think on what I can do with those materials, and maybe some day I’ll disassemble the whole thing and try again.

In other news, I had the best Sunday afternoon nap ever right out there on my little cot. It was cool and breezy and birds were tweeting in the lilacs.

tiny bits

Oh man, I was so hoping to get lots of pillows made and plants planted this week, and then I got knocked out by this ridiculous cold. No one wants a play-by-play of someone else’s minor illness, so suffice it to say that I was sick enough to stay home from work for two days, and even a week later I am a snot and cough machine. Blech.

Still, I couldn’t let the week pass without trying to make a few small improvements. I have lots of containers just begging to be filled with green, so I made a good start. I’ve had succulents in the past, and they seem to survive pretty well in our environment, which can be a little harsh. At least until they are subject to extreme neglect, which has happened before (i.e. oops, I forgot to water them for the whole winter, and left them out to freeze). So I’ve been collecting a few here and there.

olive oil

We buy olive oil by the can at a Middle Eastern/Eastern European/Russian market. I loved the color of this can, and it’s been sitting and waiting to be repurposed. So I filled it with some of the succulents.

I also discovered a nursery just up the road from us that sells all sorts of native and drought tolerant plants, so we are slowly adding some trees and shrubs to the yard, but it’s still too weedy to show off just yet. In the meantime, I picked up a couple of strawberry plants and this crazy bright geranium, which just had to go in this black pot I got on sale at Target a few months ago. I love the contrast of the flowers with the black. I have never been able to photograph bright reds and pinks, so this isn’t a perfect depiction of the color, but it’s a deep, deep fuchsia, with lots of blue undertones.

porch garden 2

Another mix of succulents.

succulents

I filled up my old birdcage with lots and lots of different sorts. I’m not sure how well this is going to work in the long run, but so far everything seems happy enough. I stuck a few of the dangly (that’s a word, right?) varieties in from the outside, and I’m hoping more will make their way through the bars of the cage.

birdcage

I finished up with three of these hanging pots along the front (from Ikea), I thought the green bean plant looked nice with the lacy edge. Maybe next I’ll learn the actual names of my plants.

green bean

 

I’ve got some more pots to fill with herbs and maybe some more flowers. But now I need another nap. Pixel agrees. Or maybe he just wants some of my blueberries in that bowl.

porch bed

the porch, so far

Porch sitting season is here, and I am doing some serious porch nesting right now. I love sitting on the porch and reading, and while the rocking chair is comfy, sometimes I just want to curl up with my book on a bed, but I don’t want to go inside. Ever since we moved here I imagined the perfect vintage French daybed, piled with pillows. The problem, of course, is finding such a thing and having it not cost hundreds of dollars. After all, it is going to be left outside. So I needed something that was maybe not quite so precious. I also didn’t want to have to build something and then find a mattress or some other sort of padding. And then I remembered seeing a cot on Martha Stewart or some place similar. I liked the idea of an old, wooden army cot, but frankly, they didn’t look all that comfortable. After a little searching, I found this nice, substantial-looking number. It folds up nice and small, so I can stash it indoors during the winter. With the addition of a down comforter on top of the pad that came with the cot, it’s super comfortable and roomy, which is good, because if I’m out there laying on it, there’s a pretty good chance that there will be a dog or two on it too. porch

Next up, I plan to add lots of pillows. I’ve got lots of inspiration to work from. I have pots to fill with plants and flowers, and a bird cage I filled with succulents (more on that in another post). This is just one corner of our porch, it continues all along the front and side of the house. I’ll be rearranging things, and sharing more soon.

While the cot was all made up I took the opportunity to spread out the second quilt I’ve finished from my mother-in-law’s collection. I am feeling all accomplished and stuff. This one is a classic double wedding ring. It was pieced by hand, and like the first quilt I finished, it was nowhere near flat enough to be quilted, so I tied it too(Actually, my mom and sister did most of the tying some time ago, but I added some more ties and then a binding). Still, I’m enormously impressed with the amount of work and care that went into it. A double wedding ring is a hard pattern under any circumstances, but like the previous quilt, it’s all hand pieced.

wedding ring quiltIt’s full of so many different scrappy bits. I had a hard time picking a good fabric for the binding, but I think this tiny geometric worked well with a lot of the patterns and colors in the quilt.

wedding ring quiltPixel especially likes curling up with me on the cot, so he watched longingly from the window, while I was taking pictures. I love his short little haircut, he looks like a little boy fresh from the barber shop like this.

pixel

dogs in hats

 

I promise this isn’t going to become a pugs-in-clothes blog, but now and then I am going to be compelled to make things for Pulley to wear. I particularly have a thing for dogs in hats, as evidenced by several pins on my ‘best friends’ board (which I recommend that you peruse when you are stressed or sad, it is my cure when I’m having a bad day), also there is this board, which is not mine, but will also cheer you right up.

Back to Pulley. There is a certain sci-fi show which had a tragically short run, but if you are a knitter and watched the show, you will remember a very distinctive hat. Apparently, there are now licensing issues, so I won’t mention the name of the show or the character that wore this most excellent article of clothing. I will just let this photo of Pulley speak for itself.

pulley in a shiny hat

 

He wears it with such dignity. The pattern formula was courtesy of Stacy from Boondock Studios.

have a seat

This project didn’t actually make it to my undone list, because it was so close to being finished that I didn’t think it counted. Plus, I am going to blame the delay on the craft store stencil thieves. Can you believe there are actually people who want to stencils so badly that they are willing to risk jail time? There’s an ugly craft world underbelly out there. These are their stories (insert Law & Order sound effect).

stenciled chair

Bonus shot of Pixel scrounging for food in the background.

I was checking out the Martha Stewart paint aisle at Michael’s recently, and saw her line of stencils. They are much nicer than your typical craft store stencils, and I particularly liked this lace set. I’ve had this chippy chair sitting on the porch forever, and it wasn’t the nice kind of charming vintage chippy, it just looked bad. I had also recently pinned some painted and stenciled chairs, and so all this inspiration came together, and I bought my little stencil set and went happily on my way, blissfully unaware of the stencil drama to come (okay, I may be overstating this a bit, it wasn’t actually very dramatic, just inconvenient, really).

stenciled chair seat

I sanded and sanded my chair, and got a reasonable amount of the paint off. Then I just taped it off and painted a little over half of it with a couple coats of semi-gloss white paint. I eagerly applied the big lace stencil in bright pink and got ready to do the smaller lace stencil when I discovered that my package was missing one of the sheets. Armed with my receipt and incomplete (and now used) stencil package, I went back to Michael’s to exchange it for a complete set. When I went back to the aisle for a replacement I found only one other package of the same stencil pattern, only this time, not one but all three sheets were missing! I want to know how one smuggles a stencil out of the craft store. I wouldn’t think you’d want to fold them up, and these things are pretty big. Plus, they are just not that expensive and you can always get a 40% off coupon. Anyway, the manager was quite nice and called a nearby store for me. They had it in stock and had it sent over for me to pick up the next day. Just don’t be surprised if the stencil aisle now has video cameras monitoring you as you shop, and for goodness sake, check the package before you buy it to make sure they are all there!

stenciled chair with cushion

Back to my chair…I finished with the smaller lace pattern in blue and then sealed the whole thing with a wax finish, so it’s still a little chippy on the unpainted side, but it’s nice an smooth. I totally love it and now I want to stencil everything in sight. I will try to restrain myself.

Cushion is from Pier 1, but I don’t think it’s available any more.

back of stenciled chair

stenciled chair

One project down, seven (or more) to go.