Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Hills Are Still Green

The last rain was almost a week ago, and since the day before yesterday it has significantly warmed up. Today we're expecting temperatures in the upper 80's. Hopes for more rain are quickly vanishing.

So how much longer will it be green like this? How much longer will we enjoy the sight of lush green hills?

I'm afraid those days are numbered. In some places I already see brown spots in the meadows, a sure sign that very soon we will have our "golden" (aka brown) hills back. You can guess what our "Golden State" is named for... gold? What gold?

At least we still have fences. Not even the drought can take them away.

And that's why I'm linking to Theresa's Good Fences at the Run-A-Round-Ranch.

New mini journals that remind of summer and the beach
are arriving in my Etsy shop.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spanish Lavender

Spanish Lavender was new to me when we moved to the States. I was familiar with many of the English and French Lavender, but not this particular kind. At first I wasn't even sure whether I liked it.

At our old home I had planted the "other" lavender - "Provence", "Hidcote" and "Grosso". And while I still have them here - and love them dearly - when we moved to this house and I started transforming our front yard, I decided to give the Spanish Lavender a try.

Am I glad I did! I planted three "Otto Quast" lavenders, and they have taken off! The three plants are quite big now and form one big bush that is loved by the bees and the ladybugs. It smells heavenly. When the sun is behind the plants, the color of the leaves at the top of the flower are almost glowing. It is absolutely beautiful - so beautiful, that recently I bought the pink "Madrid". I hope it will turn out equally beautiful.

Do you have lavender in your garden? If yes, what kind? Do you harvest the flowers? Dry them? Tell us in the comments.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Gratitude for Seventeen Years of Joy

Today's Sunday Gratitude post looks a bit different from the others - it's about my gratitude for just one "thing" - but it's a biggie.

This week Kaefer turned 17. Seventeen.

I'm not quite sure how this happened... I mean it's not that long ago that I held her in my arms as a baby, then a toddler, an elementary school kid, a pre-teen, a teenager...

Seventeen years. Seventeen years of joy.

Oh yes of course, it wasn't always joy and blissful moments. There were tantrums, tears, "attitude", sometimes lies though very seldom, grumpiness, moping, the occasional drama. A rather usual list of a mother to a daughter.

But all in all, it has been mainly joy to raise a daughter, to see a sweet toddler developing into a confident girl, a goofy teenager, and to witness her growing into a lovely young woman. A young woman who is very concerned about our planet and takes care of the earth. Someone who wants to do her part and become an environmental engineer. She takes school seriously without being an overachiever and has opted to take German classes every Saturday morning for one school year to be able to get her German Language Diploma. She loves history and science; she's not so fond of writing essays for her English class. She can be a giggling, goofy teenager and dead serious the next moment. She has a group of good friends with whom she would like to spend more time if there were more hours in a day. She is wonderful with small children (her little German cousins love her) and enjoys her volunteering work with them.

She drives a stick like a pro.

She likes Jennifer Lawrence and Downton Abbey. She is quite "artsy", draws and paints beautifully, loves to work with polymer clay and sometimes sews her own clothes, be it for the homecoming dance or Halloween. She is quite inventive with her hair style and during the summer it's either barefoot or her Teva sandals.

And sometimes - way too seldom - she turns into a little girl again for a moment, curling up next to me and telling me that she loves me.

Oh, do I love her back... as we said when she was little, to the moon and back.

I am so very thankful for this biggest gift and miracle in my life.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What Color is Your Rose?

When Kaefer and I heard that "Downton Abbey" has inspired a series of new roses, starting with "Anna's Promise", we were determined to get one (and we did - it resides now in the big planting box at my clothesline). However, before we went to our local nursery to get it, we thought about what the roses of the other female characters in this beloved TV series would look like.

Mary would be a rich, dark red with lots of thorns; Edith a soft orange. If there would be a blue rose, it belonged to Sybil. Cora's rose is white with a bit of a yellow shade. The Dowager? Purple, of course. Daisy would be a very soft yellow climbing rose whereas Mrs. Patmore would be an orange rambler! Mrs. Hughes' rose is soft pink with a few shades of red. Isobel probably would be a darker shade of pink. And Baxter's rose would be white as well with a soft red edge.

Then we thought what color our own rose would be. Mine would be orange with shades of soft pink and Kaefer's would be orange as well with specks of red. My daughter...

What about you? What color is your rose?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Gratitude

"Every moment is a gift" - I just read this yesterday evening in a book, and I thought this is so true. When I look back at the past week I can see many moments that were a gift.

Our friend D, who has cancer and just finished her chemo, joined us for dinner one evening. We spent a wonderful time together, laughing a lot. I admire her attitude, she is so inspiring. Her surgery is in May and we all hope that things will look so much better for her afterward.

I spent a few hours with my friend K. We meet every Wednesday and just do some creative stuff together. She usually works on albums for one member in her family, and I brought my knitting this time. I'm currently knitting a summer sweater for Kaefer for her 17th birthday later this week. She chose the yellow sparkly yarn and I chose the pattern that I found on Ravelry. My "moment" was when I arrived at K's home and her dogs just stormed to the door to greet me. So heart warming!

When I came back home around 2:30pm that day I found a deer lounging in the shade below my kitchen window! That was a surprise. I am used to them coming into my garden and fill their bellies, but settling down for a siesta? That was a first. It then occurred to me that this actually meant I had achieved with my front garden what I wanted - a wildlife habitat!

The garden gives me many beautiful moments - butterflies twirling from flower to flower, scrub jays nesting, hummingbirds feeding on the nectar, orioles chatting, California towhees hopping through the plants, bees buzzing around the Spanish lavender. It provides many, many moments of gratitude.

And I'm happily planning my backyard. The past three years I mainly focused on the front garden, but now I will also work on my backyard. I want to change it into a beautiful garden as well, also a wildlife habitat where birds, bees, and butterflies find food, water and shelter. It will certainly take some years. At the moment it just has a dead lawn, some border beds, a few trees and raised beds. I love to spend lazy Sunday mornings searching Pinterest for ideas - so much inspiration to find there.

One morning I also managed to walk around my lake and I saw one of my beloved Black-crowned night herons. He was just a few feet away and thankfully stayed long enough for me to take a couple pictures before he took off. It was so beautiful to walk the trails around the lake. It always feeds my

So much to be grateful for. What about you?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hanging Out

Growing up in Germany we always dried our laundry on the line. The attic of our apartment building was a huge space where each family had an assigned area where we put up the clotheslines and hang our clothes to dry. On hot summer days it took only two hours for the laundry to dry; on cold and humid winter days it took at least a day.

As a child I loved to go up to the attic with my mom. I usually handed her the colorful clothespins while she was hanging one piece of clothes after the other. We always talked while doing this and I felt quite important as her helper.

Later, when clothes dryer were introduced they didn't find the popularity as here in the States. One reason was that our clothes weren't designed for dryers; the other was that clothes kept longer in good shape when they dried on the line. Apartment buildings usually have special laundry rooms where you can hang your wash on the line - either in the attic or in the basement. When Kaefer was born we had the laundry room in the basement and it worked out beautifully. Whenever possible I dried our clothes on a special clothesline rack on my balcony.

So when we moved to the States I was introduced to a dryer and I hated it from the very first moment. While I do see its convenience it lacks the fragrance and the freshness of clothes dried on a line. Lucky for me, our landlord came from China and there was a clothesline in the backyard. The only time I used the dryer was during the winter.

Then we moved to our home and had to leave the clothesline behind. I reluctantly threw my laundry in the dryer or I used the clothesline rack that I had brought from Germany (the one that I used on the balcony). Unfortunately that rack had become rather old and wasn't very stable anymore - it toppled over whenever there was a bit of wind, and it's quite windy where I live! It was frustrating but still better than using the dryer.

But finally I had enough! I asked the Geek whether he would built a clothesline for me. I had found some beautiful idea on Pinterest and showed him what exactly I was dreaming about.

This wonderful guy built it for me.

This is anything but a flimsy clothesline. This one is made of solid redwood (the same wood we built our fence with) and it has a height which is comfortable for me (I am not the tallest person). The Geek put clothesline tighteners up as well so that the lines are always tight. There is nothing loose here!

On one side he built a huge planting box with a trellis - those are leftovers he still had from building the rose trellis two years ago. By now there is a beautiful clematis in the box as well as a stunning rose. It looks wonderful (no photos yet).

On the other side he built a "seat" for the laundry basket (no more bending over!) that is strong enough for a person to sit on.

In this Etsy shop I found a hand sewn clothespin bag that now hangs on the line and holds almost all of my clothespins. This was the finishing touch to perfection!

I can't tell you how happy and thankful I am! Now I enjoy laundry again. Hanging the wash on the line is almost meditating. I can listen to the birds, feel the wind in my hair, smell the freshly mowed grass in my neighborhood. I am so very happy.

I do think I have the best husband in the world.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Poppy Fence

I probably had a post with the exact same title last year as well... oh well, that's what it is, a poppy fence. My poppy fence.

Last year I had a sea of poppies in my front garden. They re-seeded, but I pulled out a lot of them because they were crowding out other plants. However, there were still quite a lot left - until I found out that the deer came into my yard eating the poppies. Happy deer. Not so happy me.

Consequently there are way less poppies blooming this year than I had thought, and I'm still pulling them when I see what the deer have left. Obviously, poppies are a delicious specialty for them (ha, you wonder why...). But - those poppies that are left are real stunners and everybody seems to love them (beside the deer, I mean).

This year I have mostly red ones and these beautiful red and pink ones. I'm sure that there will be more poppy images on my blog in the next few weeks.

I am linking again with Theresa's Good Fences over at the Run-A-Round-Ranch.

It's less than a month until Mother's Day.
Why not send a handmade card this year?
Available in my Etsy store.


Monday, April 13, 2015

The Pink Wisteria

Whenever I drive along my street this spring, I see this amazing wisteria at a corner lot. Most of our wisteria here is purple, and I actually haven't seen a pink one before. I knew that they existed, and I was always curious to see one "for real"

Well, here it is. A couple days ago I walked past it with my camera in hand. This wisteria is trained into a tree and it has a lovely quirky shape. I wish I had something like that in my front garden. The bees loved it as well and were busily buzzing around.

The magenta color is beautiful. From further away the pink looks rather soft, but when you look closely you can see all the lovely detail of the beautiful blooms and the different shades of pink/magenta.

Isn't it amazing?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Gratitude

This was a bird and bloom week! Some of our migratory birds have returned - like the orioles. I saw a female one sitting on the feeder and dipping her beak in the nectar, so I knew it is time to put out the grape jelly. Shortly after that the male oriole appeared and fed on the jelly. Orioles go crazy over grape jelly. They are quite spectacular birds, always chatting when they're around - and yes, it does sound like chatting. I found a site where you can hear this specific chatter call - if you go to the bottom of that page and click the very last call (called "chatter call") you can hear it. Unfortunately these birds are rather shy and it's difficult to photograph them. Here's a photo of a female from two years ago.

I am so glad that they are back. They will stay around for the entire summer until they make their way south in early fall. That's when they hang around the feeder a lot, filling up for the journey.

I have also noticed that the red shouldered hawks are getting more active which often results in fights with the crows. There is a pair of hawks very close to our home and I hear and see them every day now. Sometimes, when they're in one of their crow fights, they fly very low over my backyard. Against the sun their wings look almost transparent. I love birds of prey, but the red shouldered hawks have a special place in my heart. Again, no new photo, but one from 2013.

Spring is a really exciting time in the world of birds. Our scrub jays were busy building a nest in the big bush in front of our office - while I sat at my computer I could see them diving into the bush with their beaks full of grasses and tiny twigs. They had a nest here last year as well. It is a very protected site.

The "bloom part", of course, is very exciting, too. Unfortunately I have a nightly visitor who digs up my garden both front and back. I have no idea what animal it is; I suspect it is a skunk looking for grubs. To be honest, it is quite annoying to see the holes in the morning, soil thrown everywhere and unfortunately, some flowers uprooted as well. Since I can't really do anything about it (except for waiting all night and then shooting the animal - which is totally NOT my style) I try to see the positive - s/he loosens the soil and s/he is eating the grubs before they develop into nasty Japanese beetles.

Apart from that the garden is beautiful. The poppies are blooming, the French lilac is already past its prime, the California poppies are everywhere and the Spanish lavender is THE bee magnet. Two kinds of bees are buzzing around it all the time.

Jo and I went to some nurseries on Friday. This is always so inspiring! I was looking for some clematis - I love these climbing vines, they're cheerful and add amazing color to the garden. At one of the nurseries I saw this beauty and knew at once that I want it. It's called "Ville de Lyon" - my French friend lives in Lyon, what a lovely connection!

Isn't it amazing?

I will go out now and plant some more flowers as long as it is still cool out there. There is also a rose waiting to get into the huge planting box. Oh, I love gardening!

Have a lovely week and look at the small things in life.

Friday, April 10, 2015

What the Dickens!

When season 5 of "Downton Abbey" was airing on PBS here in the States, it was followed by the British series "Grantchester". We were quite intrigued by the preview and decided to watch the first episode, only to get hooked on the series. In case you don't know it - it's about a young, unmarried Anglican vicar named Sidney Chambers in the parish of Grantchester near Cambridge in the early 1950s. However, every now and then he gets involved in solving crimes, working together with Inspector Geordie Keating. The two of them make a great team - heart and head. As a rather important sideline, Sidney is torn between two women, his friend Amanda Kendall who is engaged to someone else, and Hildegard Staunton, a German widow (keep in mind that this is shortly after the war).

We enjoyed the series, the English humor, the pub scenes - and the housekeeper of the vicarage, Mrs Maguire, who always lets out the expression "What the Dickens!". When the first season ended we were sad to see it go and not knowing which of the two women Sidney will eventually marry (it has to be one of the two).

So when I went into our local bookstore I was delighted to find a copy of "Grantchester" on the shelves, written by James Runcie, the head of literature at the Southbank Centre in London. It is not a big surprise that the book is a bit - a big bit - different from the TV series.

It is even better.

The writing is extremely well and a pure joy. The characters are very well worked out, and while reading the stories - every case is a story - I could hear the voices of the actors and picture them which I liked. However, the cases themselves are different from the film, Hildegard only appears in the first story (but don't worry, she will turn up again in book 2 - yes, there are more books to come and I've heard that season 2 is already in the making) and the entire plots are deeper and more satisfying. The reader wrestles with Sidney in his question why God allows so much suffering, feels his desperation and exhaustion - in short, sympathizes and identifies with him. He is not a perfect man of God, he has his doubts, his mistakes, his questions, and exactly that makes him so human and well loved. Keating, the inspector, has his own battles to fight and does not believe in God, and Mrs Maguire (the housekeeper) is rather amusing - what the Dickens!

A wonderful read. My Friday Find for this week.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rusty Laguna Fence

In the Laguna I saw some barbed wire fences, and many of them were quite rusty - or at least their posts were.

This one looks pretty good - no rust as far as I can see -, but I think that was the only one.

Lichen took over this post - and what is the barbed wire doing anyway? 

The rust here has such a deep color - I really like it.

However, I like the close-ups of the barbed wire best - like this "vegetarian" one.

I'm linking with Theresa's Good Fences - thank you for hosting every week, Theresa!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Roses From A Friend

On Easter a friend came by and brought these roses from her garden. I wish we had Google-Nose or something like that so you could smell their lovely fragrance. It's such a delight.

I love the popping color before the black backdrop. Perfect for Texture Tuesday. I processed it with Kim's texture "Magic Scripted" in blending mode screen at 100%. I love the outcome.

Of course there had to be a bird in the picture,,,