Gift #1075: Orchid Fever

Hello everyone and welcome officially to spring.  Here in my neck of the woods, it’s spring in name only.  The outdoors hasn’t got the message.  Our blast of cooler weather continues and I walked outside today through the shredded, brown remains of what should have been our spring flowers.  I’m trying not to be bitter about this, but let’s just say my acceptance of the loss hasn’t been graceful.  I am grateful that it’s only been a few trees that had budded, so I hope that we’ll still have flowers later this spring.  Maybe even for my birthday next month!  Since I don’t have any spring pictures to show you, I’ve been reminiscing of the orchid exhibit – the bright colors and the warm greenhouses.  I’ll share some more photos of the beautiful plants they had to whet our desires for spring.

 

Earlier this week at work I went upstairs and found an orchid at home in a corner of the hallway.   I was so surprised to see one and delighted to find a friendly floral face.  That got me thinking about how it would be to have an orchid as a room-mate.  I think they would be pretty well-mannered, but I have my doubts as to how well they could tolerate without much sun.  Anyway, it was a pleasant thought to daydream of filling the house with them.  And how far I’ve come – from disliking the flowers to now wanting to own some.  Perhaps the great orchid fever still rages… (or it may just be a budding sinus infection, it’s hard to tell at this stage. Ha!)  Happy Spring all!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1074: Waiting

Well I’ve been a bit out of the blogging loop for a bit.  I guess it’s a case of writer’s block and being tired.  Half-formed ideas float around in my head – lots of them – but I’ve not been successful at having the energy to coalesce them into coherent thoughts and make proper posts of them.  It’s not for lack of material though.  These past weeks have been busy and full of exciting things.  After the visit to Spring Mill (I still have photos I’d like to share of that), I participated in a yarn crawl and visited several stores in the area.  During one of the road trips, my mom and I were able to visit an art gallery and see work from some of our favorite local artists.  I’ve also finished up a few knitting projects and started some new ones.  One of the shawls I completed was knit especially for the release of Beauty and the Beast and I wore it this afternoon to see the film.  I participated in a spring swap with an online group and made up a package that’s even now winging its way to the recipient in Canada.  I’ve been working on some jewelry designs inspired by spring and have just finished up an 8-week class on metal clay.

Hopefully I’ll be able to share more of these experiences on the blog soon.  Several of my recent activities have been spring-oriented.  Vernal equinox will be in just a few days.  For a while it looked like we would have an early spring.  We had a prolonged warm spell and many of the trees and flowers started budding.  Daffodils and crocuses lifted up their floral heads.  And (most dear to my heart) several of the magnolia trees grew fat buds that could no longer hold their beautiful blooms.  It seemed we would enter spring’s sweet dominion, but alas it was not to be.

Winter did not willingly relinquish its grip and we’re back in the throes of winter.  The fragile magnolia blooms are spoilt and brown and I’m so disappointed.  We lost them last year too.  Spring’s progress is arrested.  That doesn’t mean we’re without beauty – winter’s realm holds loveliness of its own.  If spring is beautiful for the return of color and life, winter is magnificent in its form and texture as if the world is frozen in sleep.

These are some photos I took at Spring Mill on our winter hikes.  Seed pods, spent flowers, acorns, moss, faded ferns… the forest has a share of winter treasures still to be admired.  And so, while we must wait for spring’s return, we can still find joy in the ordinary miracles at our feet.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1073: Hellebores Blooming

Happy March Everyone!  I’m delighted we’ve reached this milestone.  Usually January and February are very difficult months to get through.  However, this year the time has been passing so quickly it’s hard to believe the winter months are behind us.  Signs of spring are peeking out everywhere I look, and believe me, I’m looking.  I’m really excited for warmer days, sunshine, flowers, and being outdoors.  A few days ago I checked on the hellebores, and they are working their magic over the garden.

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And they are betwitching!  Some have already completely opened.  Others are still waiting to unfurl and the anticipation is more than I can take!  I’m ready to have the garden beds filled with their blooms.

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Most of the varieties in the garden are Pink Frost.  They are reliable and hardy and have done very well and they are the most commonly available.  However, there are a few special cultivars.  Ivory Prince was an acquisition last year and it is stunning.  When we bought it last year, it was already in bloom with cream flowers tinted lime green.  This is the first year we’ve seen new buds emerge and they are creamy with the edges gilded in magenta.

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I’m in love.  I’ve been watching the garden centers and our Krogers because they usually get a shipment of hellebores in late Feb/early March.  I’m pretty much of the opinion I’d like to have the entire yard devoted to hellebores.  Some might dream of retiring to run cattle on a ranch… I dream of growing hellebores on acres of woodlands.

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As the winter melts away into spring and the earth is reborn, these blooms hold all the promise of life and color and joy.  Welcome spring!!!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1072: Winter by the Lake

This weekend I went on a winter retreat to my favorite state park – Spring Mill.  My parents and I go down a couple of times a year to rest and remove from work and the rigors of daily living.  At the park during the winter we stay in the lodge, enjoy meals in the dining room, get toasty warm by the big fire in the open room, spend time knitting, and relish time outdoors.

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On this trip, we had some of the coldest days of the month and on Saturday it was too cold and windy for hiking.  Plus it was snowing.  So we spent most of yesterday driving around and getting out for quick stops.  Then the afternoon was spent knitting by the fire, which was luxurious.  The temps warmed up into the 40s today and it was sunny and not as windy, so we were able to hike.  One of my favorite hikes is around the lake.

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It’s a beautiful walk all year long, but I’m especially fond of it in late autumn and winter.  That’s when most of the foliage is fallen from the trees and the branches contrast elegantly against the slate blue water.  Seed pods stand as testament to the myriad of summer flowers that had graced this trail.  Although you can’t see it in these photos, signs of spring were all around.  I’ll share more pictures throughout the coming week.  In the meantime, enjoy these winter shots of the lake

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1071: Pets and Presidents

Today is President’s Day and it’s also National Pets Day!  I’m not sure how often those two coincide, as I’ve never heard of National Pet day before today.  I celebrated by observing both days simultaneously – watching a documentary on pets of the White House.  It’s a light-hearted look at the four-footed animals that have shared the most famous home in the country with their families.  The White House has hosted its fair share of unusual animals ranging from mules to alligators, elephants to guinea pigs, and a slew of dogs and cats.  Among my favorites are a flock of sheep that the Wilsons kept them as pets and as convenient lawn mowers.  They would also shear the sheep and send the wool to make the soldier’s uniforms during the war.   Another engaging pet was Rebecca the Racoon who was kept by Mrs. Coolidge.  They show a picture of her holding the raccoon in her arms.  You can tell the raccoon knows she’s got a sweet gig going.  Actually, she looks absolutely adorable and makes one want to try to hold the first raccoon one sees, which is not a good plan.

My favorite dogs are a tie – I’m very fond of Fallah, the Roosevelt’s little Scottie.  And Mrs. Beazley of the G.W. Bush (also a Scottie) is more cute than any dog has a right to be.  Apparently I have a soft spot for Scotties.  I love the way they trot along on little feet and the way their ears are so perky.

As I was thinking about pet day, it put me in mind of some cards I’d made a few months ago for Red Lead.  They had sent me some dog and cat stamps to make some cards for them.  I don’t usually make cards in this style, but it was fun to branch out and try something different.  I hope you enjoy these few in celebration of our furry companions that bring such joy to our lives.

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imageBlessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1070: Green shoots and white blooms

Behold, green shoot burst from the cold, hard earth!!

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Yes, our bulbs are starting to emerge which means that spring is not far away.  We haven’t had much of a winter – in fact today was near 70 – so I guess it’s not surprising that the plants are eager to leaf out.  I spent some time outside today tracking the signs of spring and the bulbs are getting taller, the hellebores are greening up and producing buds, some of the trees and bushes are budding, and the pussy willow is showing off white bits of fuzz.

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The dance of seasons never fails to enchant me.  It’s a carefully orchestrated display relying on complex chemical and environmental cues and a healthy dose of divine inspiration.  These days of anticipating spring are full of quiet joy.  As we wait for flowers to blossom, I’m looking back through the photos I took last week of the orchid exhibit.

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I was caught by the striking beauty of the white orchids this time and so here’s a selection of the beautiful flowers.  I think the absence of color makes you notice the delicate structure of the blossoms even more.

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Some of these were so fragrant that they perfumed the whole of the greenhouse.

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They’re quite different from their showy, bright-colored tropical cousins, but I love the simple elegance of these white beauties.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #1069: Happy Heart Day

I don’t typically do anything special for Valentine’s Day.  For example, today I came home from work, ate dinner, blocked a shawl, and dozed off on the couch listening to Pandora.  Sounds thrilling doesn’t it?   Once I finish writing this post I plan to knit for a while before going to bed.  I do really need a dog.  Anyway, the point is Valentines and all its associated heart imagery doesn’t do much for me.  So I was surprised to find myself liking a stamp set in the Stampin Up catalog called Sealed with Love.

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I think it was the envelope die cut and tiny notes that did it.  Maybe the arrows…but it was love at first sight.  My stamping demonstrator who organizes the stamping group I craft with was offering a class using this set and my mom and I attended.  We spent a few hours stamping and cooking up some Valentines cheer.  It’s been many, many years since I took a stamping class and it was a lot of fun.  By the end of the session we had made 4 cards and 4 treat holders.

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The aqua card and the treat bag in the back are my favorites I think.  We got a great sampling of the stamp set and it’s quite versatile.  I’m hoping this might kick start me into making some Valentine cards in the future.  But the set has many elements that can be used year-round for a variety of occasions.  I’m really pleased to have taken the class and hope to join another one soon.  In the meantime, some close-ups

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The envelope is adorable!  I loved adding the glitter heart to seal it.

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Hope that you have a happy heart today.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1068: Transitions

At the art museum we had the opportunity and the fine weather to walk outside and enjoy what will soon be gardens in riots of color.  They are still subdued now, but ferns are greening up and trees are fattening their buds.  While I was rummaging around in the hedges looking for seed pods or signs of green, I found this clipping of dried hydrangea blossoms.  I think the dried blooms are just as beautiful as the fresh ones.

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I kept it and brought it home.  Here it graces my new shawl I’m working on.  The pattern is called “Winter is Coming” and seemed an appropriate backdrop for the delicate paper blooms.  It would be a lovely piece to convert into a shawl pin.  I wonder how that might be accomplished…   And while winter is fading into the landscape, spring is emerging.

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These crocuses were in full bloom as we walked to the orchid exhibit.  In spite of how much I have grown to appreciate orchids over the past year and how beautiful the exhibit was, I can still say without hesitation that these crocuses were far more lovely.  Welcome signs of spring.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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GIft #1067: Orchids

What a difference a year makes.  Last February when our art museum hosted an orchid exhibition, I went only because I was starved for flowers, not because I liked orchids.  This year it’s different.  I’ve been anticipating their return and counting down the days.  It opened this weekend and my mom and I went to see them today.

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In the span of a year I’ve gone from somewhat despising the orchid family to really liking them.  It’s required a lot of exposure and cultivation (pun intended) to learn to appreciate these flowers, but it’s finally happening.  This exhibit does such a wonderful job of displaying the orchids in a beautiful way, pairing colors and textures and filling in around the orchids with complementary plants and lots of moss and ferns.  And this centerpiece is breathtaking.

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It’s three whole rooms packed with orchids and I took lots of photos!  One of the things I’ve grown to appreciate about orchids is their incredible variety.  The shape, color, texture of the blossoms can be considerably different within subfamilies and these differences are primarily due to intense specification of the orchids for their environment.  One of the most unusual orchids on display was Darwin’s orchid.

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This specimen is dramatically different from the “typical” orchid.  It has elongated petals and sepals that give it more of the appearance of a star than an orchid.  Darwin hypothesized that this variety from Madagascar was uniquely specialized for its pollinator.  Because of its size, white color, night-scent, and long petals, he postulated that its pollinator was a night creature, most probably a moth.  Sure enough, decades later the pollinator was identified as being a moth with a foot-long proboscis!  These observations were foundational to the field of science as they focused on the relationships of species and established disciplines of ecology.  The more we understand that organisms are dependent on each other in complex interactions, the richer and more diverse our view of the earth becomes.

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Orchids reveal their variety in color as well as shape and its easy to appreciate their vibrant hues.  The displays were a riot of color ranging from white to bright orange, pale pink to deepest purple, solid or spotted.  Above are some lovely coral-colored orchids and they glisten like they are holding rubies inside.

imageThese ruffled beauties were breathtaking as well.  Again, the tones of color ranging across these flowers is amazing.  Pink centers lighten into white petals.  Dark purple flecks across the petals before pooling on the edges.  These below were a new variety I don’t recall seeing last year.  They’re heavily spotted with various shades of purple with lime green edging about the sepals.

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It was inspiring to spend time with the orchids today.   I came away with tons of color combinations darting through my thoughts and eager to try to mimic these lovely works of art in my own creations.  In the depths of winter, there’s nothing like a display of beautiful flowers to lift the soul and remind one of God’s creativity and love.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1066: Emerging

My beloved hellebores are have been busy putting out new growth during the past weeks.  I went to visit them a few days ago and was delighted to see many tiny buds peeking out from the leaves and brand new delicate leaves are gently starting to unfurl.

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For so many reasons I adore hellebores, but chief among them is their apparent contradiction.  They have such a delicate appearance but yet they emerge in the bitter depths of winter.   They bravely set out fragile leaves and buds when the rest of the world is still slumbering in frostiness.   It seems a rather foolhardy thing to do, but in this the hellebores show their strength.  They are made to bloom in the harsh conditions of winter.

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Their presence is a promise.  Their buds are the first in a series of intricate dance steps that waltz spring onto the stage.  Quiet, unassuming, these plants are easily overlooked.  But blest is the one who stops to see them and whose heart understands the story they tell.  They whisper of the paradoxes that fuel all of creation – that fragility is true strength, vulnerability leads to assurance, and that new life always emerges from a barren landscape.  Take encouragement and joy from the hellebores today.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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