Gift #814: Hellebores

Those who were with me last spring will probably remember my multiple posts of hellebores and recall that I love them with a great passion.  So umm.. this year will pretty much be a repeat of my declaration of affection for the lovely lenten rose.  I was fairly panic-stricken when February came and went and there was no sign of life from the hellebores planted last year.  Friends urged me to be patient – and they were right.  A week or two before Easter tiny buds emerged on some of the plants and gradually turned into blossoms and leaves.

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I’m happy to report that nearly all of the hellebores survived the winter and are showing robust signs of life!

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Naturally though as soon as local stores got hellebores in stock, some new ones came home.  The ones that survived best are a variety called “pink frost” and they came from the local Krogers.  These are among the first varieties to appear each spring.  They feature soft pink/mauve/green flowers and their foliage is a lush frosty green.

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I say these are my favorites, but in reality, any hellebore I’m looking at is my favorite.  A new variety has also made its home in the garden.  This is “Merlin.”  It has deeper violet-streaked colored  blooms on the outside and creamy insides.  With the deep green foliage with rosy highlights, it is a stunner, let me tell you.  The bright green centers of the flowers really pop against the dark purples.

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Did you know that the purple petals of the hellebore are not really petals at all?  They are actually the sepals.  I know, you have to think back to high school biology for this one, but the technical flower is the ring in the center.  The flower is lost quickly, but the colored sepals last for months.  (Just a bit of hellebore trivia in case that’s a category on Jeopardy)

Another variety that I saw at the garden center is called “Love Bug”.  I love their names!  I haven’t bought any of this one yet, but the blooms are a creamy green color and quite a refreshing spring shade.

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Now that I’m looking at the photos again, I’m struggling to remember why I left it there.  Oh well, back to the garden center.  Maybe they’ll have a new shipment in too…

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #813: Earth Day

A Psalm for Earth Day

I praise you, Lord God,
    with all my heart.
You are glorious and majestic,
dressed in royal robes
    and surrounded by light.
You spread out the sky
    like a tent,
    and you built your home
    over the mighty ocean.
The clouds are your chariot
    with the wind as its wings.
The winds are your messengers,
    and flames of fire
    are your servants.

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You built foundations
for the earth, and it
    will never be shaken.
You covered the earth
with the ocean
  that rose above the mountains.
Then your voice thundered!
And the water flowed
    down the mountains
    and through the valleys
    to the place you prepared.
Now you have set boundaries,
    so that the water will never
    flood the earth again.

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10 You provide streams of water
    in the hills and valleys,
11 so that the donkeys
and other wild animals
    can satisfy their thirst.
12 Birds build their nests nearby
    and sing in the trees.
13 From your home above
you send rain on the hills
    and water the earth.
14 You let the earth produce
    grass for cattle,
    plants for our food,
15     wine to cheer us up,
    olive oil for our skin,
    and grain for our health.

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16 Our Lord, your trees
    always have water,
    and so do the cedars
    you planted in Lebanon.
17 Birds nest in those trees,
    and storks make their home
    in the fir trees.
18 Wild goats find a home
    in the tall mountains,
    and small animals can hide
    between the rocks.

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19 You created the moon
    to tell us the seasons.
The sun knows when to set,
20     and you made the darkness,
    so the animals in the forest
    could come out at night.
21 Lions roar as they hunt
    for the food you provide.
22 But when morning comes,
    they return to their dens,
23     then we go out to work
    until the end of day.

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24 Our Lord, by your wisdom
    you made so many things;
    the whole earth is covered
    with your living creatures.
25 But what about the ocean
    so big and wide?
    It is alive with creatures,
    large and small.
26 And there are the ships,
    as well as Leviathan,[a]
    the monster you created
    to splash in the sea.

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27 All of these depend on you
    to provide them with food,
28 and you feed each one
with your own hand,
    until they are full.
29 But when you turn away,
    they are terrified;
    when you end their life,
    they die and rot.
30 You created all of them
    by your Spirit,
    and you give new life
    to the earth.

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31 Our Lord, we pray
that your glory
    will last forever
and that you will be pleased
    with what you have done.
32 You look at the earth,
    and it trembles.
    You touch the mountains,
    and smoke goes up.
33 As long as I live,
    I will sing and praise you,
    the Lord God.

Psalm 104

My favorite psalm – perfect for celebrating Earth Day.  Spend time enjoying the outdoors today and give thanks for the miraculous, beautiful place we call home and for the One who gave it to us.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #812: Forest in spring light

The wooded area behind the neighborhood is leafing out finally.  We had lots of rain on Sunday and I swear it looked noticeably more green that afternoon as compared to that morning.  The understory plants have come back to life in a lush covering over the forest floor and some of the wildflowers are in bloom.

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The trees are just starting to leaf out – a vague sense of green can be observed among the trees, especially if one squints.  It’s a beautiful time.  Every day the woods look more and more like spring.

Every so often the afternoon sunshine hits the trees in a way that makes the woods look like they are glowing with internal light.  It’s a little hard to describe, but the light kind of shimmers around the trees and dances through the leaves, making them look crystalline.  The colors get more vibrant, the wood becomes warmer, and the whole effect is golden.  Such was the case this afternoon when the clouds broke and we had some glorious sunshine.

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The pictures don’t quite capture the way the light seems to come alive, but you can still see how spring is creeping into to the forest and up the trees.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #811: Almond Bush

Today I’ll introduce you to a favorite perennial in the garden – the almond bush.  Several gardening websites warn you not to confuse the bush with its second-cousin once removed, the almond tree.  Actually, I’m jesting about that second part, the bush and tree are not related.  The almond tree is conveniently called that because it produces almonds.  The almond bush does not produce almonds (this is one of the ways you can tell the difference between the bush and the tree).  However, it’s rumored that the blossoms smell like almonds and that explains the confusing jargon.  Alas, the blossoms smell nothing like almonds to me, but it’s still a lovely bush.

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A native of Argentina, the almond bush loves full sun and is fairly drought tolerant.  It’s slated as being hardy from zone 8-11, but we’re in zone 6 and our bushes have done very well, surviving brutally cold winters and being among the first to leaf out in early spring.   Flowers bud out pink and fade to white as they age.

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The sweetly scented blossoms attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  It’s a beautiful addition to any garden as well as a useful perennial for wildlife.  The doubled, frilly blossoms cover the branches in early spring.  They are so delicate and tiny that they look like little fairy blossoms.  The similarity is even more alluring when covered in dewdrops and spiderwebs.  They’ve been delightful additions in the garden – their sprays of blossoms are breathtaking in the spring and then silver-grey foliage dresses the bush for the long summer months.

image imageHope you are enjoying the spring flowers in your part of the world.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #810: Tulip trees

This is one of the times of year that I become hazardous on the road.  I’ll pass the blame and say it’s not my driving skills, but rather the immense distraction of my favorite trees in spring – tulip trees.  For most of the year our state trees look like normal, ordinary trees – they are beautiful – but they melt into the landscape and you don’t really notice.  But for a few weeks in April each year, they are the only thing you can notice.  They shine in their glorious crown of pink-white blossoms and quite frankly, there’s not another tree that can come close to their beauty.  (The other trees know this and conveniently delay their budding until after the tulip tree has had its day.  So in truth, the tulip trees have no competition because they are the first budding trees to flower here).  Seasons emerge slowly in my neck of the woods, with distinct stages.  I love this because you can savor every moment.  At this point hellebores and daffodils are in bloom, a few shrubs have leafed out and our flowering, and the spotlight is on the tulip trees.

About 2 weeks ago the tulip trees looked like this:

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As of last Thursday, they look like this:

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At their peak, their limbs are filled to the brim with large cup-like flowers.  Pink/mauve on the outside and creamy white on the inside, they are the most beautiful of flowers.  They are well-cultivated trees and plentiful all over the city and countryside, so it is a great delight to drive around and admire them.

In fact, this weekend I made a special trip to visit a couple of fine specimens in a nearby city.    Those trees had reached their peak and were already starting to lose their blooms.  I had lunch with my mom outside at a tea-house to celebrate my birthday, and we got to watch the petals gently fall about us like scented rain.

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It’s been a thrill to watch the tulip trees in their moment of glory.  It’s over all too soon, but while it lasts, there’s nothing like it.  And then you find yourself anxiously waiting till next year to see it all again.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #809: Fiber Fest

Today was one of the most anticipated days of the year – this weekend is our Fiber Fest.  This is a marvelous event where local spinners and dyers come to sell their yarn.  There are also raw fleeces, batts, and roving for those who enjoy spinning or felting.  Three large buildings and several outdoor stands are filled with all the yarny goodness and accoutrements you could imagine!  Pure bliss for all those who love to knit, crochet, spin, or otherwise keep their hands busy with fiber.

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There are favorite booths to visit, new vendors to become acquainted with, friends to chat with, and (this year, for a first) a corgi puppy to play with (courtesy of a kind fellow knitter who brought her pet).  The corgi was delightful – one of my favorite breeds – and left a lasting impression.  But so did the yarn, and I digress.

Fiber fest is a feast for the senses.  Even after all the years I’ve attended, it’s still overwhelming to see all the beautiful yarn and the knitted samples.  It takes a lot of self-restraint to not spiral into a yarn frenzy and want to knit everything you see.  I especially love looking at the samples and recording the patterns and what yarn was used, filing it away for future project ideas.  The smells are unique too –  the lanolin from the fleeces, vinegar and dies, animals, and scented soaps all collide in your nostrils.  When I was brand new to the festival (and knitting in general) I found the smells to be overpowering, but now it’s most comforting and welcoming.  On days when I’m stressed, I try to imagine this kaleidoscope smell of everything yarny to relax.   Obviously, it’s pure delight to pet and squish all the skeins of yarn; testing which is the softest, which has best drape, which is lofty and warm.  And all around you is the sound of knitters chatting about their passion, the spinning wheels whirring, shuttles flying across looms.  Here are some pictures from the fiber fest.

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One of my favorite vendors – Yarn Daze dyes yarn so expertly it looks like it glows.

image Beautiful shawls on display outside Fiber Optic booth

image Yarn goodness – this is like a candy shop for fiber enthusiasts.

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This was a new vendor and her hand-dyed yarns were my favorite find this year.  Both my mom and I bought several skeins from LunaBud Designs.  Lots of color, expertly applied, made each skein vibrant, but not oversaturated.  Each of her skeins looked like they told a story, as if an entire world was wrapped up in the twist of fiber.  I’ll show you closeups of the yarn I bought in a later post so you can better appreciate her artistry.  But for now I need to get back to my knitting!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #808: Spring wildflowers

There’s something so rejuvenating about being in the forest at the beginning of spring.  Of course, the woods are a wonderful place year-round, but it’s a special kind of atmosphere when the world around you is on the cusp of spring.

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There’s an air of expectation as life seeps back into the plants and spills over into new leaves and flowers.  Moss turns vibrant green and carpets the floor again, providing a soft cover for the new plants and tender flowers that sprout up.

 

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Finding the first wildflowers of the year is like a treasure and each tender blossom is a jewel glistening against the green of new leaves and the brown of spent ones.   These tiny pink flowers dotted the trails and forest floor with sparkling brilliance.

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The first of the trillium has come up to.  They haven’t bloomed yet, but wait with anticipation.  Sometimes spring is an exercise in patience; in savoring the process as well as the outcome.

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And sometimes you can find joy in the most ordinary of circumstances, and whimsy in the most unexpected of places…. like a tree trunk.  Is that a fairy door perhaps?

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #807: Inspired by art

It’s been a while since I’ve done an art update and I’ve been busy doing lots of crafting!  Since the beginning of the year I’ve enjoyed a resurgent interest in making jewelry again.  This has been aided by Art Bead Scene blog, which posts a piece of artwork each month to inspire our jewelry creations.  I participated in February and found I quite liked the challenge and directed creativity it provided.   I’ve decided to continue with it for a while and see how it goes.  I hadn’t shared the pieces I made for March, so I thought I’d do that today.

TotemThe painting for the month was “Haida Totems” by Emily Carr in 1912.  She was heavily influenced by the culture and landscape of the First Peoples living in British Columbia and Alaska.  This one had to grow on me for a while as I’m not a big fan of totems.  However I am a fan of lichen-covered cabins in the mountains.  Having lived for so many years in Colorado, this was a familiar and beloved scene.  And the subdued watercolors were tones that I naturally gravitate to.

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My first piece featured a clay pendant that I made from clay, embossing a wood grain pattern on the surface, and painting with greens and browns to emulate moss and lichen-covered wood.  It is layered with copper leaf chain to represent the foliage and a bird charm (as a nod to the totems because birds were a common image).  I strung the pendant with agate beads and silver spacers on knotted waxed linen ( a first for me).  I really enjoyed the organic feel of the linen cord.  I made sliding knots for the closure because I didn’t want to break up the design with a clasp.  The knots were a challenge, but after many tries I think I have the hang of it!  I’ve enjoyed these art challenges because I’ve been learning lots of new techniques.

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I also made matching earrings and bracelet from the leftover agate rounds and spacers.  Again, both feature waxed linen.   I love the agate – it looks like it came right from the mountains in the painting.  They are filled with brown, red, orange, and green and I’ve used them in 7 projects!

After I made this set I was playing around with some other supplies and found clay beads I had ordered over the past few months by bead artist Humblebeads.  I thought they would be perfect for this painting too.  This time, I choose to emphasize the purples and grey in the painting and created this necklace.  I used a stacked form to mimic the totem shape and added more of the copper chain at the base of the house.  It’s a simple design, but fluid and appealing.  I plan to make more like this.

image Here are the matching earrings.  I tinted clay to match the purple of the bird and made some little roundels.  I wrapped them with messy wire wraps, bead caps, and some silver spacers from the previous set.  And yep, more copper leaf chain – love it!  The dangling shape meshes well with the necklace design.

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I’m pleasantly surprised with how the pieces turned out and was pleased to be able to create jewelry that has lots of elements from the painting but retains a style I’m comfortable wearing.  I’m also happy that I was able to use similar components in each set so that they’re cohesive together.

Thanks for spending time in the world of art today.  If you enjoy making jewelry, I encourage you to hop by Art Bead Scene and maybe participate in the challenges too.  There are some fabulous bead and jewelry designers that do stunning work.  Or if you just enjoy art, it’s a great place to be inspired and deepen your appreciation for beauty in all its forms.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #806: Spring walk in the woods

Yesterday I went on my first official spring hike of the season!  We finally had a weekend that was sunny and moderate temperatures, so I packed a lunch, put on my walking shoes, and headed out with my mom to enjoy the forest for a few hours.  We went to Eagle Creek, my favorite near-by park to see how spring was clothing the woodlands.

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Spring is taking its time to come this year.  No riotous abandon of color and growth; this season is a slow, savoring type of spring.  Each day brings something new to delight in, but changes are small and you have to be watching to see them.  Our garden plants are making good progress, but in the woods spring was just starting to take form.  Most of the trees are still bare, but green is starting to seep through in the undergrowth.  It’s fascinating to me how spring always occurs from the ground up.

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These delightful fairy umbrellas are called mayapples.  They are one of my great favorites of early spring and they cover the forest floors in our region.  They may have their own post in the near future.  I was thrilled to see they were starting to emerge.

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It’s lovely to watch the forest slowly painted green again.  I hope that you’ve also been able to enjoy the miracle of life and appreciate green things this weekend.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #805: Day of Caring

Today I participated in “Day of Caring” ,sponsored by United Way, for the first time.  Last month I officially became a United Way Ambassador for my department at work.  Lilly Pharmaceuticals has a long association with United Way; and more than any thing else I am proud of my company’s fierce dedication to philanthropy.  Philanthropy is defined as “good will towards the human race” or “active efforts to promote human welfare.”  My company encourages its employees to have this mindset when we are at work and in our personal time.  So as our kick-off activity, Lilly invited their United Way Ambassador teams serve in Day of Caring today.  My team went to an early education center downtown that provides day-long enrichment programs for infants-preK.  We had a tour of the facility and then were ushered out back where we were armed with shovels and rakes and set to work spreading two mountains of crushed rock over an empty lot.  A liquor store had been razed and the empty lot will serve as the daycare’s new parking lot.  This was phase 1 of preparation.

I do not exaggerate when I say those piles of rock were at least as tall as I am and proved a daunting challenge for the 20 of us with only shovels and rakes.  We went at it and a couple of people went to procure wheelbarrows to help with transporting the rocks.  It was grueling, back-breaking work, and a few hours in we still hadn’t spread half of it.  We were cheered on by our own encouragement to each other and the honking of cars that passed (In Indiana, this is the way drivers celebrate something they like as they pass by).  A random guy from the neighborhood stopped by to see what we were doing and then went on his way.  We continued to slave away at the rock pile.  Then the harsh sound of an engine was heard on the premises and the man who had stopped by earlier had returned with a bobcat because, as he put it, he wanted to help too.  He proceeded to spread the rock for us and we followed behind, raking and spreading it evenly.  I can’t tell you how much his help meant.  We would still be there if he hadn’t come by and decided to spend his morning helping us.    I’m so grateful for his help and his heart.

The irony of this is that we were there to help this community and to share our time with them.  In reality, this man from the neighborhood embodied a “day of caring” more than we ever could.  He noticed us, was interested in what we were doing, saw a need, and found a way to participate too.  We had gone there to help them, but he helped us.  A man who, truth be told, I would probably be afraid to meet on the street, laid aside his plans for the day and joined with us to serve.  And I’ll keep this moment in my heart.  The day a stranger became a friend.  The morning when a community was forged, even if just for a few hours.  This is was “Day of Caring” in the flesh.  I had heard someone just a few days ago say that service was not an end in itself, but a means to foster community.  I’ve pondered hard on the truth in that statement.   Isn’t this all what we experience when we give of ourselves?  We think we’re doing the other person a great favor by meeting a need, but in reality, they are the ones that end up blessing us.  True service isn’t a one-way street, it’s a joining of hands to attain a common goal.  At the end of the day what matters isn’t what we accomplish, but the strength of the relationships we form while working.  It’s not the magnitude of the work, but how many we take with us.  This morning showed that truth in action and it’s a lesson I won’t forget.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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