Wednesday, June 20, 2012


When the thermometer hits 95F it is sensible to retreat to a relatively cool place with a good book and a tall glass of icy lemonade. The coolest place near my house is a creeks that crisscrosses the village, through alleys, side by side with thoroughfares and a a few rare instances, underneath dwellings built a couple of centuries ago. In my neighbourhood, it flows beneath beautifully sculpted limestone cliffs my to merge with the Potomac river. Along the way, the altitude of cliffs drop dramatically causing the creek to cascade, musically onto the flatter terrain. I think of the music of the waterfall as the voice of the village. In pre-Colombian days, it sang for Delaware warriors and their families. Later,in the Colonial Era, it accompanied the songs of European immigrants as they worked in any of the seventeen mills that made the village prosper. Today, after having been diverted so many times no one knows exactly what was its original course, it can barely be heard above the roar of traffic headed across the river, towards town with shopping malls and supermarkets. It is only at night, when all grows quiet, that it lifts its liquid lullaby rises above the occasional chatter of the owls and the rasping cough of foxes that live in our rapidly vanishing woods.

I have a deep emotional attachment to this village. For better or for worse, it has sheltered me for decades. I am passionately fond of the log house where I have been living for a quarter of a century and where I have struggled to make a garden on land that was once a grazing meadow for the village founder's cattle. A century later, it became the place where local people dumped their rubbish and very interesting rubbish it was. Often, when I dig in the garden after a rain, I come upon rose headed nails, fragments of Flow Blue dishes, slip ware, clay marbles and hand blown glass. I dream up dozens of stories about the people who owned the dishes, these glasses, these toys. Perhaps it was the gun maker who owned the fancy imported dishes. I see him at the head of the table, jovial and rubicund carving up a haunch of venison for his good friend, the owner of the grist mill. His apple cheeked play with the very clay marbles I hold in my hand. Meanwhile, his frail German bride, who suffers from a weak chest, delicately sips a tincture of sassafras this lavender glass bottle once held.In the kitchen, an indentured servant cries because she dropped the the redware platter she bought at the fair earlier in the day against the day when the shoemaker's apprentice will make her his wife. Now the platter lies in a dozen pieces among the roots of lilacs and rosebushes.

Broiling hot weather is a time to dream of other villagers who dipped their toes in this very creek that meanders behind my house. How did those who had no leisure endure the brutal heat? How did they plant, harvest, grind the wheat, bake bread? Perhaps they lived in thick walled houses such as mine where the temperature stays tolerable unless one opens the front door frequently. Perhaps they were hardier than I. They must have dreamt of coolness, all the same, of time spent in British glades or German forests, of icy streams and vast bowls of wine flavored with woodruff. As for me, I avoid exertion, read for hours and listen for the song of the waterfall.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Red-spotted purple butterfly.
Painted lady butterfly on Hesperis matronalis.
Cabbage white butterfly
Butterfly feeding station.

A red-spotted purple butterfly lay on the front step as  I opened the door for the first time today. Its teal speckled black dark blue wings--inexplicable hues for one so colorfully named--shimmered in the sunlight. It remained  nearly motionless long enough for me to grab one of the cameras I keep by the door.That was the moment my cat chosesto dart out of the house as the proverbial bat from hell. The butterfly took off, paused briefly  by one of the rose bushes and flew away. I saw  it once again a couple of hours later and again it vanished, leaving me with a number of unanswered questions--why hadn't I seen it in previous years? Why did it choose this spot ? Had I planted something new this year, something it found attractive? What did it eat? What could I do to make sure that it comes back?

Mine is not, strictly speaking, a butterfly garden. I plant with the wildlife in mind, but I do not single out a particular species.Trees in sadly depleted woods, surround my house, which nestles in a wedge of land between creek and river. My twenty-five years old garden is new, by local standards. My village, Tater Hollow, is a couple of centuries old. Last year, I lost a number of trees and perennials due  a misguided project initiate by  the local government, which is remarkably obtuse when it comes to the ecology of my neighborhood. I have only just begun to replant. Earlier in the season, I added fifty-one trees, a dozen rose bushes and many perennials to my half-acre lot. It will grow, or not, without the benefit of pesticides. Birds and butterflies respond to such environments, though it bears no resemblance to the neat and prim outdoor spaces featured in shelter magazines.

Many years ago i started a flower border border by my front door. Today it is a tangle of vinca gone out of control, several Heirloom rose bushes, hollyhocks, lilies, peonies, blue  salvia and other deer-resistant perennials.  A row of pots filled with miniature roses, columbines,  lilies, dwarf buddleia, hosta and Casablanca lilies flanks the walkway. Beyond that, the grass, which foamed with white clover blossoms three days ago, has been   be tidied into into  a  green, flowerless space. According to  information gleaned from several websites, adult red-spotted purples do like flowers, but their preferred food is overripe fruit. That explains why this is the first time in twenty five years that I have seen this butterfly in my garden. Early  spring, I  prepared a butterfly feeding station with  water, salt and overripe fruit. I expected to see the usual  cabbage whites, monarchs, sulfurs and zebra swallowtails. Until this morning, cabbages whites had been ubiquitous and monarchs elusive. In May, when the sweet rocket, Hesperis matronalis was in bloom,  a painted lady butterfly  came by. Neither monarchs and swallowtails joined the winged host. Then, literally out of the blue,  this  jewel appeared on my doorstep, attracted , perhaps by the overripe mango I had set out at the feeding station. I know of no greater reward for such a small effort.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


There are some expression that enter the language in order  reduce an entire group of people to nonentities.  Granny pants is one of them. Inoffensive as it seems, it is meant to garner laughs at the expense of older women. The subtext is that women who have viable eggs are ridiculous. The irony of viable eggs as the supreme marker of attractiveness, charm, with, competence, and the ability to contribute to the socio-economic complex, is stunning. This  standard a dichotomy between women such as   Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian and Meryl Streep,  Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Ruth Ginsburg. That is, between women who do not qualify chronologically for granny pants, and women who do. One can subdivide them into endless categories just as one can simply say that  some of them are  old enough to wear granny pants and that the others,  if they are lucky enough, will grow old enough to do so. Whichever way one looks at it, they are, irreducibly female.
Sexism and ageism often seem to be both sides of the same coin. They show how much easier it is to see lump people into categories that rob them of their individuality. If I understand this failed jest correctly, women who wear granny pants also sit in rocking chairs crocheting granny squares or staring vacantly into space until such a time as when
they are called to meet their maker.Just how close to reality is the image of the crocheting granny? I If one takes into consideration the gender-pay gap in  United State where women's earnings  are 77.4  percent of men's--these are 2010 figures--chances are that only a small number of  women past childbearing age are to busy trying to survive to indulge in  infinite leisure. The popular perception is a distortion based on age-gender bias. It accounts for the popular notion  that older men look distinguished while older women look extinguished. Again, maybe this perception seems to be linked to sexuality. Most  elderly man can father a child, most older woman, cannot. If worth is reduced to the ability to reproduce, what of the men women who are unable to do so? To equate human worth with the viability to the viability of eggs and sperm is as intelligent as saying that rabbits are superior to elephants.
I  find it utterly discouraging to think of humanity as nothing but a blob rushing to reproduce, but that is the message I get from labels meant to diminish older women. What is the explanation for the pervasiveness of age-gender stereotypes in a so-called civilised  nation? What are parents teaching their children, that grandma is a doddering old fool in funny  pants? How do families who would not countenance racist jokes allow their offspring to think of older women as objects of derision?  I wish I knew the answer to these questions as much as I wish I knew what sort of underpants  Streep, Morrison, Angelou, Ginsburg, Steinem  and Clinton wear.  I just turned sixty five and I would like a similar pair.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

                          Flower vase gets a new look with rubber bands and silver spray paint.
Tin upcycled with spray paint and water slide sticker can be used as a flower or plant container. 
Button stamp fail.

A simpler way to reuse wine cork is to make them into plant markers. 

In theory, making a stamp from a wine cork and a button, is a simple 
way to upcycle corks and save money.  It probably works if the button used has a carved surface that allows stamp ink to adhere to it.  My own experiment with this was a failure, as the photo above shows. I glued a heart-shaped button to a champagne cork and once the glue dried, I inked the button and applied it to paper. Since the surface of the button was too slick to collect ink. The image did not transfer t the paper. I might try again with a different type of button, but I find that wine corks work better as the plant marker shown above.
Spray painting a homely glass vase with Rustoleum Silver Bright was a more successful venture. I wrapped four rubber bands around the vase in order to mask the areas I wanted to leave unpainted. I think this turned out well and it is a good match for my mercury glass candlesticks.
I have posted photos of repurposed, painted tins before, but for my latest  project I used a  water slide sticker of heirloom roses. I will use the tin as a planter. I might attach to the tin a wire handle that will make it easy to to hang it well above the seven feet vertical space the deer in the resident herd can reach.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, February 10, 2012


Chalkboard before it was repainted to correct flaws on the edges.The other side, seen below, was covered with thrifted wallpaper. The frame  was trimmed with velvet and silk ribbons.  

Acrylic stones glued to clear pins.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, February 9, 2012


These are these are the latest sachets with embroidered felt and lavender. All the  embroidery is done freehand with obvious asymmetry.


For all their  good intentions,  upcyclists can enlarge their footprint in  the process of repurposing an object normally consigned to to the trash bin. Take my plan to reuse tomato tins, for example. I can cover them in fabric, which is biodegradable, but which must be treated in order to remain clean. That seems  to be, ecologically, the lesser of evils.  Then there is spray painting, which releases fluorocarbons into the atmophere and  leaves  leaves behind an unusable container. It is with that in mind that I will not repeat this project once I use up the blue and green chalkboard spray paint I purchased.  I have found a recipe for homemade   chalkboard paint  and that is what I will use next time along with I will buy  paint packaged in a reusable container. For the moment, this is what I am doing with the material on hand. 

Repurposed cookie tins. 

upcycled tins
Upcycled tomato tins.
NOte: I am having trouble with Blogger's editing function. The text was not meant to be in caps, but after having had an entry disappear twice, this will have to do. Sorry.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Left--Envelope with stamped and hand tinted image pasted on paper doily layered over  yellow  paint chip. 
Right--Card made with stamped and hand tinted  image of tea pot pasted on cupcake wrapper.
A used manila envelope cut into fourths and layered with cupcake wrapper and lacy paper doily
 makes great  mailers for garden seeds and small trinkets.
Valentine card and envelope made with paint chips, stamped image and paper doily.

An unexpected snowfall  calls for a well provided wood box, a pot of soup, a loaf of crisp bread. I had the latter on hand, after a productive day in the kitchen.  The latter required a trip to the wood pile where my invaluable wood guy had left me a cord of seasoned  cherry logs. That is when I found out that my efficient Scandinavian   wood latest batch of Valentines I intend to send to distant friends early next week.
The first Valentine I made this year was a sachet filled with lavender from my garden. I designed it for  someone whose vision and seriously impaired , which is why it was important to place  texture and fragrance above elements with great visual appeal. I created a little felt heart   embroidered with  French knots, clear seed beads and a cotton fabric applique that combines  a satisfyingly tactile quality and the rich scent of lavender blossom. This was such fun to make that I decided to add a similar sachet to the cards I am sending out.

 I like all  Valentines  though I deplore the commercialization of the holiday. Rather than buying mass produced cards I prefer to make my own. I use card stock base layered with  stamped, hand tinted images, paint chips, paper doilies,  cupcake wrappers and recycled  paint chips, lunaria (money plant) discs  from my garden  and candy wrappers. am particularly happy with  the You Are My Cup of Tea cards shown  in today and yesterday's posts.   I am equally happy with my oatmeal variation on the  cast iron bread recipe from Kinfolks Magazine   I read about in Alice Paulson's blog 

Oat bread baked in cast iron Dutch oven.

Chicken soup with egg noodles.
Orange curd--4 eggs beaten with half a cup of sugar, half a teaspoon cinnamon, half a teaspoon vanilla, three quarters of a cup of orange juice. Cook at medium temperature for approximately ten minutes or until it begins to thicken. 
Homemade hot chocolate mix.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, February 3, 2012


Envelope embellished with doily, stamped French script and printed hand coloured clip art.
My Cup of Tea card. 

Bookmark made with origami paper and recycled envelope.
Above: Envelope embellished with paper doily, lunaria and glue on crystal.
Below: Card made with origami paper hearts and hand tinted stamped image and tiny fan made from recycled gold chocolate wrapper.

                           Card and envelope made with paper doilies and stamped images.
Handmade mini notebook covered in burlap and decorated with plastic snowflake button and felt heart.

Mini notebook has endpapers made with from origami print.

Material used  to make bookmark and matchbook.
These are some of my Valentine's Day projects.More at the EVERYTHING PAPYREAN page.

Enhanced by Zemanta