Sunday, December 7, 2014

Holiday crafts:

     Last year at this time, I was up to my elbows in cookie ingredients, literally with flour all over. Our Water Aerobics group, the Water Wonders, decided to have a cookie exchange. Now I had occasionally made a batch or two of Christmas cookies but for this exchange I really did it up good. I made about 6 different kinds of cookies, including bourbon balls, lemon tarts, and cutouts which were very carefully decorated with frosting. Then of course in our cookie exchange I received several other kinds as well. These allowed me to make gift boxes of cookies for many friends and relatives. I had a lot of fun last year.
     This year I couldn't get into the cookie mood. In fact, I really shouldn't get into that mood. Nibbling on such goodies does my diabetes no good whatsoever. So I decided to utilize some of the many old Christmas cards that both I and some of my family members have collected. On one of our past cruises, on Oceania, Nautica, we had a resident artist who really was a crafter. She taught us several different paper crafts -- making luggage tags, bookmarks, handmade books, and even beads and other jewelry from paper and glue. I decided to use my colorful Christmas cards to make bookmarks. As of this date, I have completed 30 of these bookmarks. I plan to give one along with instructions showing how they were made to every member of my Water Wonders group at our yearly Holiday luncheon. I think these items turned out really well. Below are the instructions I made up and printed out to be distributed along with the colorful bookmarks.

Happy Holidays to everyone in our Water Wonders
   Here is a little remembrance from me to you. It is handmade with bright Holiday colors to help your celebrations and your quiet moments be perfect! Instructions for constructing these bookmarks follow. Start with a stack of colorful used Christmas or Chanukkah greeting cards, as shown below.


Cut these cards the longest way into narrow strips about ½ inch wide. It helps here if you have a flatbed paper trimmer as shown, but it is possible to draw lines on the cards and use scissors to cut all the strips. Be sure all strips are exactly ½ inch in width. Below you see a stack of cut strips laying on the flatbed trimmer and another card ready to be cut.

Below, these ½ inch strips are being arranged on 8.5 X 11 inch white paper. Any quality of paper may be used for this stage and color does not matter. But magazine or thin paper may buckle more with the gluing. I used printer paper. Use about 12 to 14 strips depending on how long you would like the bookmark to be.

Below you see the finished first gluing. Be sure that all edges are tightly glued. I used Elmer’s rubber cement, but it is also possible to use just Elmer’s white glue or even a glue stick. There may be some buckling with the white glue, and you may have to press the sheet under a book when dry. Below are the sheets that have undergone the first gluing.

 Below, the glued strip sheet is ready to be cut again in ½ inch strips. Cut at right angles to the glued strips.

  Below, the ½ inch strips from the second cutting are being laid out on 8.5 X 11 inch cardstock of a coordinating color (in this case, red). That cardstock will only be seen on the back of the bookmark. By staggering the vertical strips, you can see that the bookmark takes on a pixelated or woven appearance. The scenes of the cards are no longer recognizable. You may make the bookmarks 3 strips wide, or 5 strips wide. I also made some book marks 4 strips wide and then they become pleasantly asymetrical. Again use glue to securely fasten these strips to the cardstock.

Below you see bookmarks ready to be cut out of the purple cardstock that I chose for these strips

Above you can see some of the cutout bookmarks. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the top of the bookmark. Finishing is done by stringing several strands of coordinating thin ribbons through the hole. They then may be secured by tying a cord around them leaving the ends of the cord extending. If desired, beads or buttons may be knotted at the end of some of the thinner ribbons or on the cord.

Above is a finished bookmark that is 5 strips wide.This is the model bookmark that I had made on the Oceania ship, Nautica. I also took one extra step with my current bookmarks. I was concerned that some of the strips were not securely glued so I coated the entire front of the bookmarks with a layer of matte Modpodge. This acts as a glue and makes the bookmark more durable. Where there was metallic strips, I wiped the Modpodge off because it subdues the metallic effect.

. Below are examples of the many colored bookmarks I have made as little momento gifts for my Water Wonder friends.


      Enjoy your bookmarks. Maybe next year braided greeting card bookmarks or woven bookmarks.

Happy Crafting and Happy Holidays,

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall in My Garden

     I reviewed my title for this post and realized that it could have another meaning. After my painful muscle response to all my spring gardening this year, and now with fall cleanup underway, I could have actually taken a spill -- a fall -- in my garden and been unable to get up. Turning 70 has definitely produced more muscle aches and I noticed every time I tried to do more outdoor work, I paid for several days and even some times a week of achiness and stiffness. I even went to see a rheumatologist to check out if this could be my old polymyalgia rheumatica acting up. He thought not and just thought it was the effects of degenerative arthritis and aging. Thank you very much. He suggested Tylenol, the water aerobics and hot tub therapy that I am already doing, and better posture when I am sitting reading. That was it! Well, this retired physician is starting to identify with the opposite side of the check-in counter at my clinic.
     I have not gardened much since the intense work of weeding and planting in spring and early summer. I really let my garden do what it wanted this summer. There were some dry spells this year and that has ended my pretty potted plantings. But the fall flowers have done well for me this year. I include some photos of some of these beauties. I wish you a happy autumn and freedom from falls of the other kind.

     In my gardening, I often let volunteers grow even in my formal beds near the house. I have been watching these asters as baby plants for a couple of years, growing in the middle of my entry way bed near the house. This year they had multiple stems so I decided to pinch them as one does with chrysanthemums hoping that they would stay shorter and provide more bushy growth. Well they still grew very tall, but they did produce many blooms. My spouse told me I should pull out these weeds during the summer, but I ignored him, as I usually do, and look what this native North American plant produced.
     These volunteers no doubt seeded from my prairie areas near our front driveway. But here with better topsoil and occasional fertilizer for my bedding plants, they have thrived. The ones in my wild area usually have single stems. The colors vary from lavender, to deep cobalt blue, to purple and magenta rays, with yellow to orange centers.

Left and top: New England aster

      I once saw flowering kale or ornamental cabbage (Brassica oleracea) planted in tiny (3 by 3 feet) cutouts in the sidewalks or around trees while walking the pavement in New York City in the fall. I loved the effect. Since then I have been purchasing these plants even in the spring when very small. I plant them along my front walkway. During the summer and depending on the coolness of the weather, some bolt to flower and seed, but this year with our coolness, several formed very nice colorful kale plants. If they do bolt, in the late summer I just cut off the flower stems and sometimes interesting shapes result. Even bolted plants will brighten their color in the leaves with the fall season. And look how the pink ones complement the color of the nearby aster plant. Sometimes during mild winters, some of these plants will survive the winter, especially the flowering kale varieties, and you will get some growth the next year. However, getting a nice circular colorful head like this for two years in a row is unlikely.

     Dahlias can be the star of the fall garden. I have them planted among other June flowering plants in my beds. They come into their own in August and last until frost, a time when the garden needs some of their showiness. They are heavy feeders and my neglect of my garden this summer showed as I didn't get as many blooms. But I love their variety of gorgeous colors. Most of mine are low growing, but I have one 3 foot tall white spider dahlia that I place in the middle of the bed. After frost, I dig up the tubers, air dry them a couple days, and then store them in a paper bag in my wine cellar. Yes, you read that right -- the wine cellar is cooled and humidified -- perfect for the dahlia tubers. I replant directly in the ground in the spring, as soon as I can work the ground. I add some sort of fertilizer to the soil when I plant in the spring -- either bagged manure, or pellet fertilizer, or bone meal or a mixture of these substances. This year I just did not add liquid foliage fertilizer sprinklers during the summer and I think the dahlia's suffered for this.

One of those taller white spider Dahlia varieties.

A low growing dark burgundy dahlia growing next to "Carmel" Heuchera along the sidewalk. Actually I propagated this Heuchera from a cutting this spring. Next year it will be nice and large, I am sure.

Echinacea - purple coneflower with a mum coming into bloom.

Another volunteer from my prairie area, the brown eyed susan, native Eastern prairie plant.

Brown eyed susan, Rudabeckia triloba, with burgundy dahlia peaking through.

     For the first time in many years, this year I planted nasturtium seeds and sweet alyssum bedding plants in many tiny vacant spots along my walks in among my perennials. I am seeing the pleasant results now because both of these annuals planted in the ground are still going strong unlike those planted in my pots as you can see on the left. I used the variegated leaf form of the nasturtiums and really like the bright colors of yellow, orange, and dark reddish orange. Also in this photo in the foreground is the only foxglove plant that survived the past winter as a seedling. This whole area was filled with foxglove seedlings last fall. I covered them with lots of wood chips but all but one still succumbed.
     I am using small inexpensive solar lighting posts along my walks and am pleased with the night affect. These lights have continued working now for two winters.

     The grouping to the right contains a couple brown eyed susan volunteers, nasturtiums, white sweet alyssum, a heliotrope in bloom, and a single blossom of a "White Swan" variety of Echinacea.
     The heliotrope now is responsible for a name of a color which is this deep violet as shown in the photo on the right. Heliotropism is the ability of a plant or other organism to diurnally follow the path of the sun. Helio means sun. It is interesting to see this phenomenon. 

Purple and white alyssum with orange nasturtiums.
Fancy coral geranium with colorful brown and green leaves, with tansy to left.

Viburnum berries and Lambs' Ears, which come back as volunteers all over.


                                                                                              I always plant some snap dragons as some of my annuals. They are very colorful, and the tall "Rocket" variety gives excellent height to the garden. What I love most about them is that they tolerate the cold and continue to bloom prolifically into the late fall, unlike many other annuals. During mild winters, some of them may live through the winter and go on strong the next year. Also some self seed. However, I usually buy new bedding plants each year.

My red weigela produced a scant second bloom this summer.

Fall blooming clematis always produces prolific sweet smelling blossoms.

      Above is my oakleaf hydrangea. I have such a bush on each side of my front entrance. I have trouble with the deer eating the buds in the late winter so I have to remember to spray a deer repellent on the buds starting in February. I did remember this year, but still I had no flowering on either plant. I think the buds this year got nipped by the very cold winter that we suffered in Wisconsin. 

     Below is a nice calico aster. This is one of the several native asters growing wild in roadsides, pastures, and prairie remnants in the midwest of the country. It has very small daisy flowers up and down heavy stems that seem almost shrub like. It is fairly low growing but can form quite a nice show in the fall. That is why I leave them growing in beds. Also shown is a blue woodland aster, and a heath aster. These appear throughout my property along with the New England asters. Interestingly the species names have been changed for many asters. Many are now called Symphyotrichum, along with several other species names. They are all still in the family Asteracae.  I don't do anything to cultivate these plants, just avoid pulling them with the weeds. Now is the time of year when they shine. 

blue wood aster
heath aster
calico aster topped by brown eyed susan.
Fall golden leaves and slate grey sky, a great fall color combination in our backyard.

View across our backyard and across neighbor's backyard.

Peekaboo purple coneflower.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mystery Photo 26: Cape of Good Hope.

     Yes, indeed, these photos are of the Cape of Good Hope at the southwestern most point of Africa. One would think that the Cape would be at the southern most point but it is not. The southern most point of Africa is called Cape Agulhas. It is further east. But when sailors rounded the Cape of Good Hope which was just known as The Cape, they no longer kept sailing just south. They began to sail more east than south. Apparently that is why the Cape of Good Hope became more famous than Cape Agulhas. Cape Agulhas means "The Cape of Needles" due to the rock formations on its gradual incline. Currents in the area produce huge waves and the prevailing winds of the "Roaring 40s" (latitude) which we heard about with the recent disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 into that area of the globe, make shipping hazardous. Therefore that southern tip of Africa is more similar to Cape Horn, than is the Cape of Good Hope.

      Some geographers define a Cape as a point of land where one ocean meets another. In the vicinity of the Cape of Good Hope it would be the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. But it turns out that that exact point of the meeting of these two bodies of water can be figured out and it vacillates between the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Agulhas depending on ocean currents, temperatures, seasons, and other unknown factors.

Aerial photo of Cape Town in the foreground, Signal Mountain right foreground stretching into Lion's Head; Table Mountain in the middle ground, Devil's Peak to the left of Table Mountain, and the Cape Peninsula stretching toward the top and left of the photo ending in the far distance.
      Below is a map that shows the lay of the land at the southern tip of Africa. Variously they show the location of these two points of land (Cape Point and Cape Agulhas) and various jutting points in between.

Cape Peninsula on left with Cape Town north on the coast. False Bay to the right of the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Hangklip on the eastern side of False Bay. Then comes Danger Point, Quoin Point, and finally in the center of the map, Cape Agulhas.
The Cape of Good Hope National Park in South Africa, encompassing almost the entire Cape Peninsula,has several interesting stops to be enjoyed.

     First we drove to Cape Point. This is a jutting rocky promontory on the east side of the tip of the Cape Peninsula. There is a high large lighthouse and then further down the promontory, difficult to reach by foot, is a smaller white lighthouse that was visible in one of my original photos in the previous post. A parking lot is located below the promontory and we took a narrow gauge railway to the large lighthouse. The following photos are taken from around that large lighthouse.

Looking up from the parking lot to the lighthouse on top of Cape Point.

Railway to the top.

View of  Cape Point parking lot, and the road back up peninsula to Cape Town.

Some of the walkways around Cape Point offering wonderful views.

Large lighthouse on the Cape Point.

Signpost offering various distances.

Looking to the tip of Cape Point.

Small lighthouse on the tip of Cape Point.
Looking to the west across Diaz Beach to a lower ridge on the Cape of Good Hope.
Looking east across False Bay to Cape Hangklip, Danger Point, Quoin Point, and in the far distance perhaps Cape Agulhas.

An aerial view of the end of the Cape Peninsula, Cape Point in the center, and the Cape of Good Hope jutting to the left. It is possible to visit the Cape of Good Hope by driving back towards Cape Town and then taking another road down behind that ridge jutting to the left in the photo.
     Our next stop is at the actual Cape of Good Hope which is at sea level. We are on the west side of the ridge of rock that is the Cape of Good Hope. This viewpoint can not be seen from Cape Point because it is behind the Cape ridge of rock.

Looking from Cape of Good Hope, west and north up the peninsula coast.

Same as above, just a close up of the little unnamed bay here.

     There are several interesting inhabitants of Cape of Good Hope National Park and they are readily seen along the roads. In the following photos you will see several of those inhabitants.

Ostrich at Cape of Good Hope

The sign portends our next sighting.

A baboon troop along the road.

      Driving back up the Cape Peninsula, we stopped at Boulders Beach because another ubiquitous resident of the area can usually be seen there.

You can see why this is called Boulders Beach. These birds are cormorants.
But Boulders Beach is protected primarily for this inhabitant: the African penguin.
     Boulders Penguin Colony was established and protected in 1983. An estimate count of African penguins in the world in 1956 was 150,000 breeding pairs. By 2009, the estimate had fallen to 26,000 breeding pairs. This is an 80% drop in 50 years. This colony had 3100 breeding birds in 2005 but that number had fallen to 2500 breeding birds by 2011. Habitat loss, human activity, and probably many other unknown causes have led this bird to be extremely endangered. These birds do seem to be tolerant of human activity. But there are boardwalks to keep people from getting too close, and signs everywhere warn people about coming any closer to the birds. These are little penguins but as you can see, they are quite cute.

Another common African bird is the guinea fowl.

We have driven back to Cape Town. This is the northern end of Signal
Mountain which is called Lion's Head.
View north from Table Mountain, with the Lesser Swartberg Mountains in the distance.

Lion's Head from top of Table Mountain.

The Fynbos on top of Table Mountain.

       Well, I hope you have enjoyed my photos. My husband is my cameraman (except for the aerial views for which I credit Wikepedia.) I think you should have an idea of the lay of the land in the Cape in Africa. If you have a hankering to see some of Africa but not a lot of time, fly to Cape Town. See the environs of these photos. Enjoy the vegetation of the Cape area called the Fynbos (fine or little forest). Table Mountain alone has 2200 species of plants on and around it, (the UK has only 1200 species.) Then take a driving trip north out of Cape Town. You will be able to visit wineries, caves (Congo Caves), beautiful hills and countryside. Depending on how far inland you would like to drive, you can make it as far as the Great Karoo, an arid area created by the rain shadow of the southern African coastal mountains. This desert area has many succulents in its southern portion where ostrich are raised. In its northern portion there are sheep and goat farms. Again the flora is quite distinct and unusual. And if you would like to see some of the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and Cape buffalo) without having to take malaria prophylaxis, arrange to stay at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge in Oudtshoorn on the so-called Garden Route. There are elephants, hippos, rhinoceros, giraffe and Cape Buffalo and over 200 bird species. The lodging is in luxury permanent tents along a lovely lagoon. The food is marvelous. It is about a 5 hour drive from Cape Town through the areas I have just described. The land owned and operated by the Game Lodge is large enough to offer several hours of game drive safaris twice a day, and you will feel like you are almost in the Kalahari, even though it is in the lower inhabited Klein Karoo. Have I stimulated your travel itch?
A beautiful view of Cape Town from the top of Signal Mountain. Our hotel was right at the base of Signal Mountain. Lovely!