Gift #996: Arbor Day

Happy Arbor Day!  I did not realize until an hour or so ago that today was Arbor Day.  In fact, I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even remember we had a day to celebrate trees.  But loving trees as I do, I think it’s a wonderful idea.  Had I been more on top of this, I would have helped plant a tree or hugged a tree or something, but since it was already after dark by the time I learned of this, it didn’t happen.  I did go through my photos and pulled out a few favorite tree snapshots taken through the course of the last year.  Each of these photos is taken from a special place that is dear to my heart.

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Winter at Spring Mill Park.  This is my favorite park in Indy of the ones I’ve visited so far.  I actually haven’t made it to very many state parks as every time I have a weekend to travel to one, I end up back at Spring Mill.  It’s a sanctuary and haven – a restful beautiful place that is home to the oldest trees in the state.  Here is where I fell in love with Indiana.  It is beautiful year-round, but there’s a quiet reflective quality about the park in winter that is unique.  Time stands still and it’s just you and the trees.

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Spring crabapple blossoms in the front yard.  I adore the weeping crabapple that sits near the front door.  I’d never seen a weeping variety before moving to Indy.  Our family had planted crabapples at our home in Denver, and it was a kindness of God to provide one here too.  I took lots of pictures of her this season which I’ll share later, but I liked this shot taken at sunset where it’s just her and the sky.  She always blooms around my birthday and that makes me happy.

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Summer in the Rockies.  My favorite tree on earth is quaking aspen.  This lovely scene is a ubiquitous sight throughout the foothills.  When I looked back at these pictures, they took my breath away – I was immediately transported back to my beloved mountains, feeling the breeze and warm sunshine, smelling the fragrance of pine needles and cold streams, and listening to the aspens dance.  This my friends is what heaven looks like.   And every time I see it, I lose my heart again.  I love you Colorado.

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And finally, fall.  This scene was captured during a late fall hike at Eagle Creek.  Just a short drive from home, this is a frequent weekend destination.  Fall is my favorite season and I spend just about every single weekend out in the woods somewhere soaking in the glories of falling leaves and acorns.  In fact, my obsessive love of autumn leads me to an awkward confession:  the trees have just started to leaf out here and already I’m envisioning them turning to gold.  It’s kind of a sickness, but sometimes I think I love spring just because that means autumn will be coming again.

And so in a few photos, we’ve roamed the year in search of trees.  Ever comforting and ever beautiful, trees fill our lives and hearts with their strength and weave us into the landscape.  Their branched arms wave in the breezes, beckoning us to join with them in the great dance.  Thank you God for filling our earth with trees.   Now go hug a tree tomorrow!  I will!!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #995: Ferns revisited and other spring tidbits

I’ve already done a post on the “We’re All Ears” challenge for April, but I wanted to share one more pair I made.  When rummaging around in my stamping supplies, I found a set of dies with floral/leafy designs.  One of them would work perfectly for a pair of earrings.  I needed to order materials to try my hand at them and they didn’t come in time to make them for the April 15th deadline.  However I did still want to try my idea and I worked with my metalsmithing instructor on the finer points of jewel setting.  Here they are:

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I sized down the diecut and hand-sawed the design out of silver.  And then things got a bit complicated.  I wanted to make these post earrings, so I soldered a bit of half-hard sterling wire for the back and the tiny cups for the jewels.  Then my instructor helped with setting the emerald-colored stones.  I believe these are lab-created crystals because I didn’t want to buy real ones while I’m still learning.  I’m pleased to say that they match my vision pretty well.  I’m going to tumble them tomorrow at class to harden up the silver a bit and make them more durable.  I hope that doesn’t damage them.  Fingers crossed.

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With all these ferny earring projects going on in the evenings, I’ve been wanting to hike and enjoy more of spring.  A few weekends ago when the weather started to warm up my mom and I went to Eagle Creek.  We saw lots of wildflowers and relished the beauty of early spring in the woods.  Most of the interest was down on ground level as it was still too early for the trees to be leafing out.

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We saw bluebells, trillium, Dutchman’s breeches, wild violets, and …. mayapples!  This is one of my favorite times of the year because the forest is right at the point where mosses, ferns, and early wildflowers take the stage.  Green is still enough of a rarity to be a treasure, but it’s creeping into the lifeblood of the plants more and more.  Abundant sunlight still reaches the forest floor and turns the little flowers to sparking jewels.

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How blessed we are to share the world with wildflowers!
Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #994: Spring Joys

One of the most beautiful events of spring here in the Midwest is the blooming of our tulip trees.  These are actually in the magnolia family and are called tulip trees because of the shape of their blossoms.  They’re not to be confused with tulip poplars, our state trees, which have green/yellow flowers that open later in spring.  The tulip trees are one of the first heralds of spring and lead the parade of flowering trees into their glorious display.

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Unfortunately we had late frosts that damaged most of the tulip blossoms so our enjoyment of the gorgeous blooms was cut short.  I managed to photograph this stand before the frost.  I was really disappointed about the loss of our lovely “tulips”.  There’s a small magnolia bush at home that has tried to bloom at least 7 times in the two years since being planted, and inevitably some freakish event of nature happens just as they’re about to open that damages them.  This year the sweet thing had put out over 30 buds that were just about to open when the frost hit.  Despite keeping her covered, the majority of them were frozen and turned brown and fell.  A few at the bottom survived and she’s put forth a couple more buds – so there’s some to enjoy, for which I’m thankful.  I dream of seeing her one day in all her splendor, covered with resplendent pink blossoms.

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In other spring news that I wanted to share with you – in the courtyard at work are a pair of hawks that have made their nest on the top floor of a wing of my building.  Over the past week I’ve delighted in watching the birds in the morning gather twigs from the nearby trees and fashion their nest.  Mrs. Hawk has been trying it on for size and Mr. Hawk has been obliging in finding just the right materials for her.  It was fun watching him break off twigs with his beak.  I do hope they’re comfortable with us and their new home.  It would be quite special to have a family of hawks raise their little ones so close.  I hope you have been enjoying springtime and relishing the warmer weather and return of life and color to the outdoors.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #993: Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone!  I hope you all get a chance to roll in the grass, daydream with the clouds, revel in the blue sky, and hunt for wildflowers.

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May you enjoy all the blessings of God’s creation this weekend and rejoice in every ordinary miracle you see.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #992: Greencastle Fiberfest

I’m prying myself away from my knitting needles long enough to write a blog post on one of my favorite events of the year – the Greencastle Fiberfest!  It’s two glorious days filled with all things yarn and fiber-related.  I usually take a vacation day from work and go on Friday.  Mom and I spent the entire day there yesterday – from open to close!  It was wonderful.

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We had a great time browsing the booths and visiting our favorite vendors.  There were a couple of companies that didn’t come this time and I missed them.  But we also had several new ones which were exciting to explore.  I hope they continue to come.  It’s so much fun to be surrounded by beautiful yarns and samples.  There’s also knitting notions, felting and weaving supplies, project bags, and much more!

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I didn’t have much of a shopping list this time, other than to see what was new at my favorite places and to look for some yarn for a shawl.  However, quite a few beautiful skeins managed to work their way into my car trunk.  And by “few” I politely mean “a lot more than I planned”.  I’m not sure what happened – it was all a blur of wool and alpaca in beguiling colors.  image

After a day saturated in yarn, I must confess to feeling a bit of yarn-withdrawal today.   Strong, insane desires to cast on 10 projects are getting difficult to keep under control.  I did allow myself to start one new project today while at Eagle Creek Park.  The new shawl is filled with the colors of spring and I’m looking forward to showing it to you soon.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying the yarn-induced euphoria and have been holding and petting the new skeins.  So much to knit… so little time!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #991: We’re all Ears April Reveal

This month’s theme for We’re All Ears Earring Challenge was one I was thrilled with – ferns!!  Here are a few of the pictures we were given to whet our appetite.

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It’s always an exciting part of spring to see the ferns green up and little fiddleheads make their appearance.  Slowly they unfurl tiny baby leaves into the warm air and grow and grow, carpeting the ground with lush beautiful leaves.

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Erin, who hosts the challenge, asked “Will it be the coiled fiddleheads, the feather leaves, or the bright spring color that inspires you?”  Yes, Erin, yes!!!  All of it inspires me!  I was giddy with all the possibilities ferns offered and how they could be interpreted into earrings.  For my first pair, I turned to my jewelers saw and some copper scraps to make fern leaves.  After some filing and oxidizing, I had delicate fronds that I attached to decorative rings and earwires.

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To give a bit of color, I added tiny green agate chips on curly lengths of wire to dangle amid the tiny leaves.  I’m really enchanted with the delicate feel of this pair of earrings and I like how it captures the warmth and shadows of a forest floor dotted with ferns.    I had another spectacular idea for earrings, but the materials I ordered for them haven’t delivered yet.  So I found some silver charms I had on hand that reminded me of ferns and made a couple more pairs of earrings.

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These round charms with organic leaf shapes look just like a walk in the forest.  I paired them with green and brown colors that define the woods in springtime.  These green glass beads have black veining in them which is quite striking.  Tiny silver spacers, wood bead, and black czech bead round out these earrings.

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My last pair is more of a whimsical nod to ferns.  The dotted round charms reminded me of fern spores and the rectangular pieces feature an organic design that is reminiscent of fiddleheads.  I linked these together with black/green czech beads and wood spacer.  I love vibrant greens mixed with brown and black.  It’s a very earthy palette, heavily influenced by forests in midday when sunlight sets the green foliage glowing against the dark cool shadows.  I loved this challenge and the opportunity to create some jewelry inspired by the new life of spring in the woods.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #990: Orchids again

Last month I promised to show you more orchid pictures from the exhibit at the art museum that my mom and I attended.  I thought that would be a good post for today since I don’t have much in the way of my own spring flowers.  This oversight is due in part to fighting the sinus infection and also due to a mix-up in weather communications that have made it unclear what season we’re moving into.  Frost has damaged quite a few blooms and those that remain are confused and vulnerable… and quite frankly… spring has been put on hold here.  So we’re headed back to the greenhouse!

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This actually comes at a good time because my calendar art I’ve been making jewelry from for the month of March featured orchids and moths and seeing the orchid exhibit made me really want to work on the jewelry.  It has been fiddly and I just finished up the necklace yesterday.  I still need to make a pair of earrings – just as soon as I find my energy reserves.  And then I must be off into April’s challenge – because this month’s calendar print is full of bright colors and birds!!  Yay!  But back to orchids…

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I was really impressed with the selection of orchids on display.  Although not a favorite, you can’t help but be amazed by the variety that natural and selective adaptation.  For centuries, breeders have been drawing out infinitesimal little quirks in the orchids – and creating entire groups of plants as a result.  Even in natural environments, orchids are remarkable for their abilities to morph with their pollinators, drawing on cues of scent, pattern, and color, to draw pollinators to their blooms.  We saw moth orchids, which resemble the winged insects… and we saw ladyslipper orchids, a fascinating flower.  It would be a bucket-list event to see one in the wild!

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Admiring these flowers reminded me once again of how much God loves variety in His creation too.   What beautiful plants and animals He has filled the world with!  All are unique and all are filled with the ordinary miracles of life.. .just waiting to take our breath away with delight.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #989: Life Lessons

Otherwise entitled “Random musings from my mind because I’m too tired to write a coherent post, but feel compelled to write something”

  1.  Sinus infections stink.  I’ve been sick since Friday, am on my 2nd round of antibiotics, picked up a third med today, and have not into work until this afternoon.  However, I am deeply grateful for my doctors (old and new) who made time to see me on short notice and took my ear infections seriously.  I’m also very blessed to have a kind boss and great company that will allow me sick time without feeling guilty about it.  I came in for a bit this afternoon for an important meeting that had already been rescheduled once because of my sickness – my boss took one look at me and said “After this meeting I’m sending you back home”  I give thanks for him every day – he’ll be my best boss ever
  2. Knitting – I’ve not felt up to par to be knitting very much, but yesterday evening I made a decent shot of things and finished up a project that had been lingering on the needles since its start in October.  I think I was loving the leafy edging too much to want to finish it, but I did finally reach the last stitch and it’s awaiting blocking for another day when I have the energy to deal with it.  I’m very pleased.
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  4. Weather – in the words of Barry Manilow – “some kind of friend you turned out to be”.  After lulling us for weeks in March with mild gentle winds and above average temperatures, you convinced us that it was really spring.  You tempted the trees and bushes to put forth buds in anticipation of the joys you promised.  You waited till we were drunk in our expectation that we could plant annuals at the beginning of April… and then pow!!  We were easy prey in your hands!  You’ve turned belligerent; hurling hurricane-force gales across our land, stripping the trees of their delicate little buds, spitting sleet all over the grass, and now you’re threatening us with the “S” word in the forecast.  Let me be clear…. there will be no snow!  Do you understand?  Just pick up all your winter issues and be gone!!  And don’t you dare lay another finger against my magnolia bush!!!  I want to see her actually open her blooms this year.
  5. Babylon Bee – in moments of lucidness between many naps, this week I’ve found an awesome site called “The Bablyon Bee”.   It publishes  Christian satire in news-feed style and is hilarious.   It’s been a pleasant source of amusement while also being thought-provoking and convicting.  Titles such as “Holy Spirit Unable to Move through Congregation as Fog-Machine Breaks Down”  and “Worship Leader Caught in Infinite Loop between Chorus and Bridge”  make for great reading.  Too much laughing is not good for sinus headache though.
  6. Knitting Group – I’m unable to attend my weekly knit night this evening because of being sick.  I was really bummed about this yesterday and was messaging the group on Facebook to let them know.   My heart warmed up as several of them were online at the same time and we chatted together for a while.  It was a little thing, but it really lifted me up – I was lonely and sitting in the dark, not feeling good and kind of getting depressed, and then my knitting friends and I talked and it was lovely.  I was reminded once again that knitting brings us together, but we’ve learned far more than how to knit and purl in that room together.  We’ve had laughter, tears, frustration, celebration, annoyance, and comfort all wrapped up with each other and that’s the stuff that lives are woven of.
  7. It may not have been an easy week, but it’s been a blessed one and for that I’m thankful.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #988: I Write the Songs

Do you know what this is a picture of??

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It’s several hundred people jam-packed in a sold out Barry Manilow concert!  Just in case you ever wondered what it looks like, here’s a photo for reference. He came rolling into our town last Wed on his farewell concert and my mom and I went downtown to see him.  In all truthfulness, I didn’t go to see him – I wanted to see his special guest, Dave Koz.  He’s an amazing jazz saxaphonist who I’ve loved for a number of years and I was giddy at the chance to see him live.  Mr. Manilow was just the icing on the cake.  In fact, because it was a week-night I had even entertained notions of leaving early!  But I’m so glad we stayed for the whole concert.  I really had no idea what to expect from Barry Manilow – but he was phenomenal!  He interacted well with the audience, came across as a gracious man without being arrogant, and he sang a great selection of songs.  Backdrops and lighting enhanced the songs, but weren’t gaudy.  I’ve never been to a concert where the audience so obviously loved the performer that much.  In fact, at several times, it seemed to take Mr. Manilow by grateful surprise too.

I had gone into the concert thinking I’d like 3-4 of his songs – those really big numbers you immediately think of.  But as he sang for us, I kept thinking “I forgot this was his song – I love this one!”  I liked everything he sang – except Copacabana – I’ve never appreciated that one.  He told interesting stories in between his selections and wove a magical web of music for us that night.  My favorite moment was when the stage went black, and then a TV clip from the 70s came on with Manilow singing “Mandy” as a very young man.  After the first verse, the spotlight shown on the stage, and there he was on the piano joining in with his taped-version from over 40 years ago.  He sang a duet with himself and it was just incredible.  His voice still sounds the same.  It’s incited a minor “Manilow obsession” manifested by locating all his CDs I own and playing them over and over… trying to get the feeling again (sorry, couldn’t resist that one!)  I did really have concert withdrawal over the next few days – I enjoyed the experience so much.  It was made all the more special by knowing it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a man who defined popular music for decades and inspired so many with his wonderful talent and love for music.  I didn’t know till I saw him come to the stage how much he had meant to my life, quietly singing in the background of my heart.  Mr. Manilow, thank you for singing the songs that make the whole world sing ..sing of love and happy things.  I’m grateful to have been a part of it, if only for a few hours.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #987: March ABS Challenge

Hello everyone and welcome to April!  Boy, is this year moving quickly!  We’re soundly entrenched in spring, trees are starting to bud, and we’re expecting freezing weather this weekend.  I do hope it doesn’t damage our emerging flowers.  I’d just finished up my pieces for March’s Art Bead Scene challenge and wanted to share those with you today.  The artwork was quintessentially spring:

It’s called, appropriately, “Still Life with Pussy Willows” and was painted by Taisia Afonina in 1964.  A member of the Leningrad Union of Soviet Artists, Taisia was a proficient master of landscapes and still life paintings in watercolors and oils.  I love still life paintings for their unique juxtaposition of objects.  They’re often a collection of eclectic objects that are unified by color or composition and can easily tell a story. This still life emanates with the fresh breath of spring.  And it’s a fascinating study in opposites.  Soft florals and fuzzy pussy willows contrast with the hard materials of silver, porcelain, and crystal place settings.  I liked also how the suffusion of chalky greys and blues plays against the dark browns and navy tones.  There’s lots of material here for inspiration.

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Here is my necklace.  “Tea and Willows” as I call it is a direct interpretation of the painting and I’ve included lots of my favorite aspects.  Earlier this year I had received the willow toggle in a bead bundle from my favorite bead artist, Heather Powers of Humblebeads.  I knew for sure I wanted to use this in my necklace and worked with it as a toggle for a while, but couldn’t get it to lay properly.  I decided to wire in a glass leaf and fasten the toggle permanently closed and use it as a pendant instead.  I used dark navy oval beads, silver spacers, and pearls for the body of the necklace to mirror the dominant colors in the painting.  I’ve included milky white flowers, a little teapot, and a hand-formed copper leaf as little nods to the objects in the still life.  I made a pair of matching earrings, but one of them has disappeared into the ether.  I’m starting to worry that there’s a Bermuda triangle over my couch.

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This piece, “Pussy Willow Spray”, was imagined in that time between sleep and wakefulness when I was thinking about balled copper wire and suddenly realized that it would look like pussy willows.  As soon as I had a chance, I balled several lengths of wire, patinated them with liver of sulfur, and painted the little protuberances with pearl white paint.  I fashioned them into a simple bundle and made it into a brooch.  I had originally wanted to use it in a necklace, but couldn’t think how to do that.  I’ll ponder on it.  In the meantime, I thought a spray of willows on a coat lapel was deliciously old-fashioned and elegant – just like the still life.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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