July 31, 2013

Lazy Days of Summer?


Life's a BeachIt is hard to believe that August is upon us. Where did July go? What happened to the summer? Is it just me or is 2013 barreling by so fast you cannot catch your breath? Well, that lands me right smack in the middle of a "glitch in time" and my hypothesis that time has taken a giant leap these past couple of decades. Whether or not my oft expounded theory is correct, did you ever have a long, lazy summer? Seems like I remember those very early summers, perhaps when I was in elementary school that way, but neither long summers or the chance to be lazy endured. While I am not nearly as industrious as I might wish myself, summer always seems to be the busiest time of year except for perhaps around the holidays. From Hallowe'en, through Thanksgiving and Christmas, until we cross the finish line of the year on January 1st, there seems to be a tremendous lot of pressure to do too much, be too busy, and meet all sorts of unreachable expectations. Summer however, is not the subject of any such pressure. For me though, it always seems to be an intensively busy time. I am smiling as I say this because, of course, I am starting this post with a photo of the beach.

Water Baby
A happy me at the beach in 1950 something.
 We all got up early this morning and drove the 10 or twelve miles to meet my daughter and her family at the beach. My small granddaughter is falling in love with the sand and surf just as I did at her age, and it is a delight to watch her frolic in the waves. It lends a certain continuity to life that is reassuring when so much else has changed so greatly. Though I have lived much of my adult life in other places, I grew up here in Florida, and some of my earliest memories take place on the Atlantic shoreline. Strangely, though we moved back here from North Carolina this past fall, it took me till July to finally venture over to the beach. These have been odd, busy months, but I really can't explain to myself why it took so long to visit a place I have always loved.

Garden in a tub.
Caladiums and torenia thrive in a tub by the Garden House.
Surf and sand aside, hot weather and plentiful rain equal rampant growth. I have spent many hours clipping, pruning and pulling weeds, and I am barely keeping up with it. High summer in the garden lacks the fresh beauty of spring and early summer, but makes up for it in volume of plant matter. No matter where you live, it is the season of the "gardener", and the outdoor chore list is extensive. What with one thing and another, I didn't have the vegetable garden I hoped for this year, but I still have loads of peppers, some eggplant and cucumbers, and I am already lamenting the fading of the tomato plants. Homegrown tomatoes are one of life's sublime pleasures for me, and the pickings have become quite slim these last couple of weeks as the "dog days" settle over us. 

Zinnias
Zinnias bloom and thrive no matter how hot it gets.

We have several acres here at The House— a large yard surrounded by pasture on three sides. Keeping this cut and weed trimmed during this wet season is a time consuming and very hot job that cannot be delayed by any more than ten day intervals, and is better done weekly.  I love to stand back and admire the yard when it is freshly mowed and landscaped, but that is a fleeting joy. It only takes a few days for weeds to sprout and the grass to begin wildly growing and looking rough. It is a beautiful place though, whether newly manicured or slightly unkempt. I see it through eyes which remember many a former summer's splendor, but also with a "vision" of what it can be again with time and a good deal of work. We have watched this season's batch of turkey poults grow into gangly and amusing adolescents, feeding on seeds and insects in the pasture, and the cracked corn we provide them with. There are a myriad wild birds, hawks, and buzzards constantly providing an aerial ballet overhead. And at night, the deer, bane of my garden, come up to feed along with possums, raccoons and possibly armadillos. All of them leave their mark, marring the pristine beauty of our land, but providing interest nonetheless.

Farmer's Market Sweet Corn
Sweet Corn-- $10 a box at the Farmer's Market.
Of course, during gardening season, fruit and vegetables not available at other times, offer themselves in abundance. Whether from your own garden, a farmer's market or produce stand, or a friend or neighbor's yard, you need to preserve it if you are not going to use it right away. There was a time in my life when I not only kept a huge (over an acre) vegetable and herb garden, but canned, froze and otherwise preserved enough food for a family of four, and then some. I don't know how I found the Time. 

Corn- ready to be cut off of cob.
Ready to prepare for freezing.
 Putting up food is hard, time consuming work. I do not do nearly so much these days, but I still take a certain sense of satisfaction from what I do put up, and I really love making jellies and jams. I learned how to do these jobs as a teenager from my mother and grandmother, and continue to this day.  We lucked into some of the best sweet corn I have had in years this summer. I was just going to buy a dozen or two ears, have it on the cob for dinner and put the remainder in the freezer, but at $10.00 a box it was too good a buy to pass up. We ate it fresh, gave it away to family members and I still froze a half dozen bags for later. It was money and time well spent in my view.

Better Homes and Gardens CanningThough I have refrained for some time from buying magazines other than the couple I still have subscriptions to, I succumbed to temptation earlier this summer. The cover of this special Better Homes & Gardens Canning issue not only caught my eye, but beckoned me beyond my ability to resist. As I said, I love making jams and jellies, and I love finding new recipes for them.  My Mother and Stepfather, returning from a visit to their house in North Carolina, picked up a box of peaches on the way and gifted me with half of them. I made two batches of spiced jam out of them, and it was very good. On the same day, since I also was enjoying an overabundance of tomatoes at the time, I made a batch of tomato-basil jam from a recipe in the magazine. Quite good.

Peaches- about to be washed and peeled.
Time to wash the jars and sterilize  before prepping peaches.
Jelly Jars
Jars ready to be filled with hot Jam. This is second batch. Partial jar is from first.
All the Jam
Tomato-Basil Jam and Spiced Peach Jam cooling on the counter before being dated, labeled and put away.
I do seem to have spent a good deal of time in the kitchen of late. It seems that my Mom has an elderberry tree in her back yard. We had spoken of it earlier, wondering how elderberry jelly would be since neither of us had ever made it before.

They ripened a week or so ago. First, we had the adventure of trying to pick them without anything more than a stepladder and a rake to pull down branches. I am certain we, my Mom, my Son and I were a sight. It was at least ninety degrees out there, and the tree has a sprawling shrub growing beneath it which got in the way no matter how we approached it. I had on a white tank top and quickly discovered that if an elderberry lands on you, a purple spot immediately appears. We managed to get what I judged to be enough to make jelly out of, and as it turned out, there were enough of the labor intensive little jewels to make two batches of jelly. 
Elderberry juice for jelly.
Elderberry Juice-- Ready to make into jelly.

Was it worth the effort? Next year, I will bring a ladder. Why should the birds get so many of these tasty berries? The finished jelly is lovely to look at and already gaining a big fan base among family members who have gotten the chance to try it. It is reminiscent of tart wild blackberry jelly, and since I have no source for those at the moment, it makes the elderberry all the more worthwhile.

Elderberry Jelly
Elderberry Jelly-- The finished product.
I usually just use a sharpie to mark the date and flavor of the preserve on the top of the jar, but I found these round labels and wanted to try them out. I have always hated putting labels, no matter how pretty, on the jars, because I do not like having to scrape them off when it is time to reuse the jars. I have read that there are new ones out that dissolve, but I think I like labeling the lid better. On the kraft paper, I would make the fruit silhouette darker next time, but otherwise, I am quite pleased with these.

Spray Painting
Thrifted or recycled items being refurbished with a coat of paint.
Besides the yard, garden and kitchen, I manage to keep a fair number of other projects in the works also during these hot summer months. My progress on some fronts is negligible, but I keep plugging along. I pick up a fair number of items at thrift shops, as I have mentioned before, and I must say that our new venue includes many more shops to check out than we had in our small town North Carolina area. If only I had more time to explore them all. It has been pretty good pickings lately. I've found interesting baskets, tins, vintage Christmas decor, fabric, sewing accessories and other lovelies to bring home. Last week, on an outing with three of my children and two granddaughters (I am creating new generations of avid Thrifters.) I found a stash of lace that any self-respecting craft hoarder would be thrilled with.
Craft Room- Lace.
Still not sorted out. Lots of lace.

We were about to leave this particular shop, but everyone waited while I rifled through a box, searching for more frilly treasure. Unfortunately, I ran out of cash before I ran out of bags of lace. It was the end of the day and I was near my $ limit. However, for $6.00 or so, I estimate that I got at least 70 yards of assorted lace and ruffles. Not a bad haul. I still have not got it all sorted out. 

Even though we had just been to that particular shop a few days before, my youngest daughter and I swung back by while we were out a few days ago. I didn't find any more lace, but did get some very vintage sewing notions from that same box, a lovely Christmas tin with a music box attached to it, and a nostalgic wicker piece  that reminded me of unrequited childhood dreams.
Wicker doll bassinet
There it stood in the children's room of the Thrift Shop, with a price tag fluttering from beneath it. I am getting used to thrift stores that aren't so very thrifty anymore when pricing vintage merchandise, so I was expecting it to be more than I would or could pay for the piece. It was $3.00, and no matter its age, I feel that I got a very good deal. Needless to say, it followed me home, and will undoubtedly soon become a basket for yarn or other sundries (or a cat bed, if they get the chance). I have done a little research, but have yet to find a doll bassinet that is really comparable, though I have seen many that are vaguely similar.  It needs cleaned up yet. there is a great deal of dust build up in the weave. I suspect it has sat unloved or forgotten for some time. I will give it new life and purpose. 

I have enough projects lined up to take me through to next summer, no doubt, and perhaps beyond. When the weather starts to cool off this fall,
Bird houses being repainted and redecorated.
I want to get back to working on the Garden House. It needs painting, inside and out, and I have all sorts of ideas for it. In the meanwhile, my daughter and I are repainting and embellishing some of the many weathered, faded birdhouses that hung on an outside wall. We are going to hang them from the rafters inside after it is painted.

So many projects— so little time. Before I say goodbye today, I want to take a moment to thank Karen Valentine of  My Desert Cottage  again, for hosting Where Bloggers Create 2013 and for letting me participate. It was a blast. And thank all of my many visitors this past few weeks, for stopping by, and for all of the kind and supportive comments. It has been a joy. I have still not got around to nearly all of the other participants' blogs, but I am working on it. I have seen so many gorgeous web sites, and got to peak into the most fascinating  studios and workrooms. 

Hope your summer leaves a little time for lazy enjoyment. Blessings to you all.

July 11, 2013

Where Bloggers Create 2013

Where A Glitch in Time is created...

 

Studio-- androidography (created with android apps)

Studio-- shelves collage
 I am very excited to be participating in this blog party. At least, I hope I am part of it. I only just came across the announcement last night as I was perusing Pinterest. Somehow, I had remained oblivious until now. I am a long time fan of the beautiful magazine published by Stampington & Company-- Where Women Create. I have always loved being able to take a peek at the studios, offices and workrooms of creative people. I find inspiration, wonder and delight in these voyeuristic opportunities to visit other artists spaces.


Where Bloggers CreateAfter finding the link to My Desert Cottage blog and reading the particulars about this Blog Party, I took the time to explore some of last years participant's blogs. What an enjoyable time. I not only found a number of blogs to start following, but quickly realized that I have much in common with some of these bloggers. It is always so nice to encounter kindred spirits. In their lovely photos, I noted that many of us are drawn to collecting, acquiring and displaying the same sorts of things. So, often as I perused the photos last night, I noted that I had one of these or those, or didn't that look lovely in that setting.


Craft and Bead Supply collage.
A few of the things I've got stuffed into an antique hutch.

 I have worked feverishly this morning to get myself together to participate in this party. Ideally, I would have liked to take the time to get something really polished and prepared together, but that is not the case. Probably this suits my style these days better anyway. I am so busy, so unfocused and never really prepared for anything. Instead, I act and react when the situation calls for it, and that will have to do for the present.
Studio-- antique hutch for storing beads and supplies.
Antique Hutch-- One of my favorite storage pieces.

It has been a very eventful year for me, and I have not quite caught my breath yet. My little family moved down to Florida from North Carolina last fall to be near many other family members. In the interim I have, besides all the unpacking, getting settled and properly licensed, etc., that goes with a move, began this blog over the past winter.  I am still very new to this whole enterprise. Starting a blog was something I had felt I wanted to do for a long while, but the unreliability of our internet connection in rural North Carolina made it impossible. Like many other things in life these days, the blog has gone in directions I never expected or planned for, but I have taken the stance of waiting and letting it all sort itself out. After breaking my wrist (on my dominant left hand) and requiring surgery a few months ago, my crafting abilities became very limited. Though it is now fairly well healed, I still have quite a bit of residual pain as well as a metal plate, and do not know if I will ever recover the fine motor skills in this hand. So perhaps it is a case of reinventing myself once more, and approaching art, crafts and other activities with different expectations than in the past.

Bead rack on top of Hutch in studioIn the meanwhile, I am going to take you on a brief tour of my studio/workroom. It is very much in flux, even as I am, and decidedly untidy at the moment. While it is not what I want it to be, it is very much closer than just a few months ago.  My furnishings and appointments in the workroom are piecemeal and will never really match.  I had never thought much about what my style was, or even if I had one, but spending more time on the internet, on blogs, Pinterest and other social media have exposed me to classifications I didn't formerly even know existed. I guess "piecemeal" sums Me up. I have certainly got strong leanings toward Steampunk and Grunge styles, but I would be lying if I did not admit to a powerful attraction to all things Shabby Chic and some things Boho. These days I am totally enamored of anything with the word Brocante in it. Who new that France would be calling to me? It is the trash as treasure motif, I think.

I love antiques, and I have some lovely pieces in here. The hutch, pictured above, belonged to my Step-dad's mother and had been relegated to a storage closet before he gave it to me. I brought it home, cleaned it up, and it has been a much beloved piece for years now. There is a bit of dry-rot on the top of it and a broken edge on a back corner, but all in all it is quite sturdy and I have a huge amount of craft supplies, beads, wire, tools and all sorts of other brick-a-brac stored in it, and a large rack of seed beads sits on top.

Studio-- computer desk
A Glitch in Time Command Center
My computer desk is anything but an antique, and I look forward to the day when I can replace it with something else, but it serves its purpose and I am willing to wait till I find exactly what I want. In the meantime, I have everything I need here from my trusty printer to my Aunt Jemima Head pencil mug to my version of a mood board tacked on the wall in front of me. The clock above my desk was a thrift shop find which now displays sepia photos of my children and grandchildren. I spend a lot of hours in this chair every week between my blog, ongoing web page development and Photoshop, and I am quite happy here.

Antique oak dresser in studio-- androidography
Antique Oak Dresser-- Fabric Storage
I could say that I have the room arranged into zones or areas, but that is not really true. I do try to have things conveniently placed though, when possible, and this is the case with the antique oak dresser that sits near my sewing table. I use the dresser to store fabric, patterns and other sewing supplies. It was formerly in my daughter's room, but her grandmother gave her a lovely antique bedroom set as a welcome gift when we moved here, so I inherited it (Lucky, happy me!). I have a nice new Brother sewing machine that I use now, but the wooden case next to the dresser contains a refurbished antique Singer machine that I used for years and would never part with.

While I still need to get some overhead lighting installed in here, there is a lovely picture window on one end of the room. There were heavy blinds, but I recently took them  down and hung up lace panels that will filter the light in winter when it gets very bright in here, but can be pulled aside to enjoy the summer scenery outside right now. The glass is just slightly tinted and offers a startlingly clear view.

Studio-- room with a view

Eventually, the small sewing table will be replaced by a long worktable in the (presently) empty center of the room. If it works out, I have a wicker couch I'd like to place in front of the window. Then we come to the corners of my long, rectangular workroom. Those and the floor, are where I put all the things I either have not found a place for yet, need to be worked on, or are part of ongoing projects. Since I do not yet have a large work table, I often sit on the floor to sand, paint or glue things. Below, I am putting pictures of some of those corner and floor dwelling treasures.

Beads under glass
Beads displayed in glass case.

Glass case with buttons and bling
Buttons and Rhinestone bling in glass display case.
Studio-- projects on the floor
Projects started and projects waiting-- on the floor.
Yarn basket and old loom heddles leaning in the corner
Yarn corner
Across the room from the window is one more corner. In this one I have a bag and basket containing some of my yarn. Also I have a pair of heddles from an antique loom that was no longer salvageable. I plan on hanging them on the walls but just haven't got to it. Eventually, I guess. Not far from this corner sits what is probably my favorite piece of furniture in this room, and maybe in the whole house.

It is an antique oak roll top desk. I do not know how old it is. Some fine day when I have time and think about it, I will attempt to research it. It was my Dad's and he asked me if I minded him leaving it in the house when we moved in. I guess I didn't mind much. I spent hours cleaning it, applying citrus oil and buffing it out. It was lovely to start with, and even lovelier after. I plan to do a post someday with pictures of all the cute and

Antique oak rolltop desk
interesting cubbies, drawers and nooks it contains. Today, I've got such a mess of paperwork, beads and beadwork I have been sorting and other miscallaneous on it that I was ashamed to roll up the top. Also, the cats like to lay right in the middle, so it is lovely to be able to roll it down.  The chair was one of a pair that I found in the barn and cleaned up. Though I keep the desk closed most of the time, there is still space on top for a few treasures and the television for watching old movies while I work.
Oak desk top with collectibles
I am going to conclude this tour. I hope you enjoy looking as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I look forward to checking out the blogs of all the other participants. If I have waited too late, and do not make this year's listing, it has been a wonderful exercise of my blogging muscles anyway, and I will be certain to be back next year.

Till next time-- thanks for stopping by.
Blessings to you all,
Gwen

July 8, 2013

A New Day



Chicken and fence welcome sign-- wood and metal.
Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning 
Praise for the springing fresh from the word 

(Sung by Cat Stevens. Lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon. See more at: http://www.allspirit.co.uk/morning.html

 Very often as I hurtle through these busy summer days, always rushing it seems, and always falling a bit further behind with each day, I find myself humming one old tune or another. There was a time in my life when through meditation and contemplation, and a bit more self-discipline than is seemingly my lot just now, I could successfully quiet the nagging and pesky inner dialogue which is so often a part of the human condition. It seems to have crept back in over the course of several years, and now be intent on running my life. It is back with a vengeance, and the only way I keep it at bay is to let the music, that lives also in my busy mind, play. So I often hum as I go about my daily business. Over the course of several decades, I have acquired a rather immense library of familiar and dearly loved tunes. This is not something I think about. Songs, some I have not heard in many years, are just there. Sometimes it is the full experience— lyrics, tune and even the approximate year and the band who recorded it. Other times a tune will worry around my mind, and I am unable to let it go till I remember the words that go along with it. At times like that, Google is a wonderful tool. Mostly though, the music just serves as a backdrop to my activities, and sometimes something I see or hear brings a particular piece of music to mind. At times like those, I often fancy that the music, the particular song I am hearing in my head, is a message. I think that Spirit has to find other means of speaking to us when we get so busy and involved that we ignore or under-nurture our spiritual sides. 

Morning has broken.
Eastern Sky at Daybreak
Such seemed to be the case as I gazed out the window early one morning a week or so ago while I waited for the coffee to brew. The sky was, simply put, beautiful. Mornings are often lovely here, but that day was magnificent. As an old Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) song I had not heard in years began to wind softly through my consciousness, I shook off my morning torpor and ran to get my camera. How exhilarating it is to venture out early and greet the day. In the days since, this tune has often been in my mind. So, is there a message there? I think maybe the answer is yes. Morning has broken— that could just be an archaic way of saying that it is past dawn. Or, it could be a more personal communication to a woman whose favorite time of day was once morning. Now, I get up grudgingly, wincing at the aches and pains the night seems to inevitably leave me with. I do not even court wakefulness once I am up, as all that accomplishes is to remind me of an endless list of tasks that need to be attended to. So, I cling to my grogginess and more often than not miss the beauty of the early day. While I will say that I am doing ever so much better than just a few months ago, I still have a very long way to go. I exist these days in a sort of busy void, neither particularly happy or unhappy, but preoccupied and rather unfocused a good deal of the time. Once again I am quite certain that I am being nudged though, to wake back up to a greater reality, to See and to Breathe in Life rather than just getting through it. "Praise for the singing, praise for the morning. Praise for the springing fresh from the word." 

Barn and Crepe Myrtle.
 Have I made any progress toward these lofty goals I espouse in this blog? I suppose that depends upon ones' definition of progress. I am still thinking about doing yoga and meditating. But since I already "think" far too much, all this accomplishes seemingly is to add to my already overtaxed synaptic activity, and to make me feel mildly guilty that thinking about these important things is all I am doing. I keep telling myself that there is no shortage of exercise or activity in my life. It is summer— the yard and the weeds practically grow right before my eyes. I have spent many hot, sweaty hours outdoors of late, and expect that I shall keep right on doing so in the foreseeable future. However, I am avoiding. Exercise is not at the crux of this particular dilemma, though being healthier, in better shape and more active are desirable attainments. It has got a lot more to do with the approach I am currently taking to my life, and that is piecemeal and rather frantic. Meanwhile, the household chores are still there, a myriad tasks constantly vying for my attention, and quite frankly, I am engaged in my usual overload of Projects. I only wish my list of accomplishments were commensurate with the amount of effort I seem to be expending. Do you ever feel like Don Quixote, tilting at metaphorical windmills? So often lately, I feel that trying to be equal to the task that is life is just such a futile act. Intellectually, I can see that I have created of my life the giant, or monster in this case, and that I am taking it all far too seriously, but the heart still insists on despairing.

I spoke before of quieting the "inner dialogue", that running conversation we all carry on with ourselves in order to assure that we are we, that reason and consciousness are firmly in control. What a load of bull our egos insist on feeding us. I long for that quiet place inside, for truth and the opportunity to experience what I truly am. I think that what I need to cultivate while I wait until I am able to undertake the Path toward Enlightenment I sometimes See so clearly before me, is openness and acceptance. Until I can embrace this mass of contradictions which has become me just now, I cannot move forward. I cannot be what I truly am until I accept myself and forgive myself right now. In earlier times, this Spiritual progress came no easier or quicker, but having already run this particular course, I am afraid that my impatience is showing. During that long ago spiritual quest, it took me months of meditation before I one day realized that I had finally achieved that long sought inner silence, and as soon as I realized it, it of course ended quite abruptly. (The need to "think" about what I had accomplished defeated it completely.) But I kept at it, the intervals of peace grew more common and lasted longer, and I found out that what fills the silence is ever so much better than that which we manufacture to hide from it. In silence, we learn to speak with, rather than at, God.

White Roses
The White Rose-- Spirtual Purity
Lest I forget also, quelling the inner dialogue and achieving silence was only the first step in a long process. I spent the next years learning, healing, releasing the past, and evolving through a series of internal initiations which difficulty I only vaguely remember now, though I thought I suffered greatly through this at the time. Then what? I suppose I might have opted out, taken my Enlightenment and left this vale of tears— that option was set forth. Only it never was an option, because I knew that I had a Purpose with a capital P to fulfill in this world, that I had went through all that had come before expressly so I could Serve that Purpose. And as I went through those next difficult years, I felt myself slipping. I felt my great Spiritual accomplishments eroding away. I held on as best I could, but I was forgetting so much, becoming unable to access states of consciousness that had been like breathing to me just a short while before. Memory has never totally deserted me though. There have been times when I have questioned my own sanity certainly, and ashamed as I am, times when I have been bitter and angry at what I have been through. Too often, I have questioned whether I have it in me to take that same road again.

Click your Heels together three times...
There's no place like home!
 I hope that the answer is yes. Would I do anything differently if I could reel in the years and start again? Quite simply— No. I may sometimes wish returning to that exalted and ecstatic state that is variously called Nirvana, Transcendence, Samādhi or Enlightenment was easy as clicking my heels together and being transported home, but anything worth doing once is no doubt even more rewarding the second time around. For me, ultimately, though I may kick and scream as I go, there is only God's Will, the Path that Spirit has set for me. In the meanwhile, I will just let the music keep playing in my head. There are so many songs that mean so much, so many that speak to me on levels I cannot reach otherwise just now. Time after Time.



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