Loose Leaf Noted

I like the idea of tea.
I like the slow, methodical process of tea-making.
I like the ritual of afternoon tea.

It’s just the tea part I don’t really love about tea.

So I did what any good bookstagrammer would do – I took to Instagram and asked for advice. And man!, did I get responses. You guys are SERIOUS about your tea!

I thought I’d share some of the repeated responses I received in case there’s anyone else out there looking for tea help (and I know there are because many of you commiserated with me about not particularly liking tea.) So maybe some of these hints will help you out too:

  • by far the most common thread was: GET RID OF THOSE TEA BAGS! -ha! I was promised over and over again that loose leaf tea is far superior to any tea bag
  • make sure to use the correct ratio of leaves to water: 1/2 tsp per 8 oz.
  • by high quality tea!
  • if you want to add milk, brew it in water first and then add milk or creamer to it
  • whipping cream is a necessary luxury
  • Earl Grey latte: earl grey tea, honey and frothed cream
  • no need for a fancy frother: brew you tea and cream in a Mason jar, put the lid on and shake it vigorously until frothy
  • (above tip came with the comment that it’s also a great workout at the same time!)
  • use coconut milk in your chai tea
  • advice from the UK (so you know it’s legit!): you can only use milk with black tea and don’t forget to pour boiling water over the tea. Let it stand for 7 minutes before pouring from the teapot.
  • if tea is made in a teapot, pour milk in the cup before pouring in the brewed tea and if brewing in a cup, add the milk into the cup after the tea has brewed.
  • heat your milk but not to a boiling point, stir in the chai powder or syrup – no water used at all.
  • David’s Tea is awesome loose leaf tea
  • loose leaf tea is not as intimidating as it sounds if you have a good tea infuser to make it super easy
  • the best teas to use with milk are ones that contain a nutty, buttery, caramel-like tea which are most black teas and rooibos tea

These are the rules, people! 

I don’t think I’ll ever be beyond the point of adding so much honey and cream to the cup that it really can’t even be called tea anymore. I suppose that’s how young coffee drinkers start out, right?

Do you have any additional tips for us Tea Wannabees? 

Currently Reading…

 

COURTING MR. LINCOLN by Louis Bayard will be coming out in paperback on February 4. Have you read it yet? I received this paperback copy from Algonguin Books this week and got straight to reading it. It’s going to go perfectly with my February read: LEADERSHIP: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

COURTING is a historical fiction based on historical records and original documents between Mary Todd, Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed (Lincoln’s roommate and confidante.) Bayard explores the relationship between Lincoln and Speed as well as the self-possessed debutante, Mary, who learned to discuss politics from her father. COURTING explores the ways in which all three lives intersect in Springfield, Illinois in 1840 and how the three formed the trajectory to the White House. What drew a strong-minded and opinionated woman to the understated Lincoln? What drew him to her? What was Lincoln’s relationship with Speed? Bayard explores this in detail in this fiction inspired by historical events.

“…thoroughly researched and thrillingly plotted. Filled with rich historical detail and compulsively readable. Fans of historical fiction will be up late into the night to uncover the next chapter of this fascinating time in history.” ~ NY Journal of Books

I’m anxious to delve deeply into the world of our 16th president.

Seasonal Affect Reorder

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

With over 3 million cases each year, winter depression is a recognized affliction that many people suffer from.

A helicopter crash that takes the future from young, ambitious lives does not help with the heavy feelings of dread.

I believe myself to be a fairly resilient person. Looking back over my life I see times that could have dragged me under, but through stubborn determination I stepped past the pain and into the future. I’ve found a certain amount of suppression is necessary in life.

But this helicopter crash is staying with me. In my mind. In my ready tears. I am not going to wax eloquently about my love for basketball or my love for Kobe Bryant because that wouldn’t be true. I nominally follow basketball and while I recognize Kobe as a tremendous basketball player, I don’t know much else about him.

My mind remains around his wife and other daughters. The spouses and family members of the other people killed in such a tragic way. But ultimately, the heaviness I feel is my own mortality. We all collectively feel it when something like this happens. The brevity of life. The delicate nature of relationships and how quickly they can vanish. What were our last words to them? Were we on good terms? Did I tell them I love them enough?

A little over a year ago, my husband and I moved away from our hometown. From family and friends. We had the opportunity to move to California and experience a new part of the country – so we took it. We have done our best to delve into all the adventures that surround us in this beautiful part of America. It has been renewing and filled with thrills and awe-inspiring views.

But it has also been isolating. Friends and family that I assumed were close when we lived in Kansas City are absent now from our lives. Unless I contact them first, our relationship would dwindle into nothing. And so I have chosen to allow it to do so in many cases. Not unlike a dating scenario, I have said to myself, “They’re just not that into you, Greta.” 

I have been deeply grateful for my father’s weekly phone calls. I call him or he calls me. We complain about politics and commiserate over this or that. He tells me about their latest adventure. I tell him about ours. It’s a two-way street. But most days, I just have the company of my husband to talk to. The occasional neighbor during the summer as we work in our yards. Thankfully Scott’s schedule has changed that will allow us to attend church more regularly and that will help build relationships.

But what to do with the relationships I considered solid when living in close proximity? Does one ever get used to letting those evaporate into the ether of time and location? How long is too long to pursue them? I don’t have those answers yet.

I am thankful we made a trip to our local garden center when we did. I excitedly brought home cut flower plants, dug deeply into the dirt of a raised flowerbed and watched as the rain washed them and soaked their tender roots.

After being mesmerized in front of the tv on Sunday, watching the horrific scenes and news unfold about the helicopter crash, I eventually turned it off and went outside. I cut a few snapdragon and ranunculus and anemone buds to watch them unfold inside the house as an attempt to reorder my affect. I harvested some lavender buds to enjoy their calming scent.

That evening I readily picked up the ringing phone to hear Dad’s voice. We talked about the Chiefs and the Impeachment Hearing and a trip Scott and I have planned this week. We talked about the beauty of a Madagascar boys choir that was featured on CBS Sunday Morning. We talked about the way celebrities can have such a strong influence on everyday people’s lives.

In a world of texting and social media comments and likes – there is nothing like hearing the voice of someone who is still actively pursuing a relationship with you. It doesn’t have to be a phone call every time. But reaching out and connecting with someone is a powerful way to say, ‘I’m still into you. I still care.’

———-

I am sincerely interested in your thoughts about adult relationships with family and friends. I’m interested in hearing about your experiences of moving away from everything and everyone – and how you started over again. Please comment below or send me an email. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

EVERYWHERE YOU DON’T BELONG by Gabriel Bump

(Book Release date: February 4, 2020)⠀
Thank you, Algonquin Books for the honor of reading this debut novel.

As a white Midwesterner, I must say I felt a little voyeuristic peering into the world of a South Side Chicago teen as he navigated his way through life. ⠀

As I read EVERYWHERE YOU DON’T BELONG, I was repeatedly struck with how much mental fortitude can be cemented at a very early age. For some, strength and bravery are developed through strong family encouragement and societal achievements. For others, it is forged from repeated loss and boldly overcoming overwhelming obstacles.⠀

Often the media portrays life on the South Side of Chicago as either gang warfare or Michelle Obama. But where is the in-between? The place most urban Americans live? Author, Gabriel Bump takes us on a journey through the eyes of an everyday urban family living in a challenging neighborhood. He wanted his South Side readers to recognize themselves in his fictional (but true to life) story.⠀

The tempo of EVERYWHERE YOU DON’T BELONG moves at a fast clip. It’s a reading style that takes a second to get used to. But once you’re in the rhythm, good luck putting the book down. There are abrupt but brief jumps to the future weaved throughout the telling of this story of one young black man who can’t quite find his place in the world. Death and abandonment are reoccurring themes in this generational story. The sheer determination to do better boils underneath all the chaos.⠀

The time-period is predominantly during the Obama administration (a proud moment for any Chicagoan.) Change is promised but does the everyday black American see it? The main character is searching for the place where he belongs. It isn’t the civil-rights activism of his grandmother’s time but it also doesn’t seem to be in a college classroom either. He calls to question all of our individual stories of belongingness.⠀

Mixed with humor and racial integrity, EVERYWHERE will make you think, will awaken you to societies and cultures vastly different than your own, and will ultimately ask you how you find your own place in our world.⠀

This is a strong debut novel written from a place of knowing, believing and surviving.⠀

Honest Abe

In December I met some friends at this coffeehouse – a first for all of us. The chai latte is good, but what drew me in was their clever play on the street on which the coffeehouse rests: Lincoln Street (in Roseville, California.)

Fourscore Coffee House is filled with old desks and comfortable sofas, tables and chairs tucked in along the windows and beyond.

This is a misleading picture of Abe. It’s actually a large mural on the wall – no doubt for selfies galore.

Scott and I packed up our laptops and books and headed here last week to have a “Family Meeting” about our gardening projects and expectations for the Spring. People huddled together, conversations exploding all around us.

I laid out my case of what I wanted to accomplish and what projects I was hoping he could build for me. I had my gardening bible, complete with tabs and more tabs!

We talked and hashed out plans. We each compromised. We dreamed big. We talked logistically. Home projects are our jam. I love to dream big and Scott usually is able to deliver the dream right out of his workshop garage. (The perfect combination!)

As we got up to leave, I noticed a cool neon sign on the wall behind us and took a picture of it. It wasn’t until I was thumbing through my phone pictures later that I realized the awesomeness of the sign! Fourscore and flowers – exactly what we were there to discuss!

Kismet, no??!

Scott and I have dreamed some big dreams together in coffeeshops all over the United States. Our first date was in a coffeeshop in Columbia, Missouri where we sat together playing cards and getting to know each other. Many conversations have crossed small bistro tables and steaming cups of coffee. Many of the projects realized. Some of them dreamt just for fun.

On the way home we stopped by our favorite garden center, Green Acres Nursery and Supply. We bundled up against the bitingly cold wind and walked around their outdoor flowers and spring plants. Our beds aren’t ready for planting yet – but man oh man is it fun to dream about the season to come. Especially when it’s next to my very favorite partner in project dreaming!

Paradise and Growth

I broke down last week and bought a ‘California requirement’. Or at least it seems to be a requirement when living in California. But first a quick backstory.

When we lived in Kansas City I bought a Giant Bird of Paradise at our local Walmart. While ‘giant’ is in the name, this houseplant was not overly large. [As a sidenote: I try to go to places like Walmart or hardware stores very early in the Spring to buy houseplants or flowers. They’ve been recently delivered from the nurseries are in good shape and much less expensive than independent nurseries. However, once the plants have been there for more than a month, you’re inviting problems by shopping at ‘non-nursery’ stores for your plants. Garden centers are aware of each plant’s specific watering and light requirements as opposed to a Walmart employee standing with a watering hose, drowning every plant. Or setting a sensitive plant out in the sun to shrivel and die. The worst, is that these two specific conditions (incorrect watering and sun-exposure) open up the plant to disease and bugs. No disrespect to Walmart – they have sensibly-priced toilet paper and dishwashing pods. But Walmart employees are not well-versed in plant care. That’s a money-making side hustle for Walmart – not their primary purpose.] All of that sidenote said, I bought a beautiful houseplant for $25.

When we lived in our sun-drenched, tall-ceiling’ed loft downtown, my Bird of Paradise flourished. Oh man – I loved that plant!

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But we knew when we moved to California that we couldn’t take it with us so I gave her to my sister and it’s SO happy and content at her house. It’s tropical vibe is perfect.

My thought was that I would simply buy a new Paradise plant when we moved to our new home across country. What I didn’t know was that a $25 Giant Bird of Paradise doesn’t exist in California! Oh there are plenty around but the starting price is usually $100. So I’ve put off getting a new one, waiting for the perfect sale or situation.

Meantime…there are a plethora of the smaller versions of the Bird of Paradise plant. The smaller versions bloom and are most well-known to people. They’re exotic and tropical and…I’ve never really loved their blooms. [insert shock and awe] Florists love to use the blooms in arrangements and weddings have been saturated with Bird of Paradise blooms for years. To me, however, they look like inverted shrimp. You know when you bend your cooked shrimp backwards and all the legs pop up (…stomach turn…), that’s what these blooms have always looked like to me.

Here are some pictures from online:

bird of paradise

I know it’s a rather twisted way of looking at something others see as so delicately beautiful, but you know how it is when something gets stuck in your head.

Then I recently heard that the ‘bird’ aspect of the bloom is not what I expected either. I’ve always loosely seen the flower as a bird’s head with a plume of feathers on top and a big beak from the flowering shell. (You see that, right? I’m not crazy?) But in actuality, the shell part of the bloom has nothing to do with the ‘bird’ aspect. What I saw as the plume of feathers is actually the birds taking off for flight.

I can see that, too. And it made the bloom a lot prettier to me. A beautiful flock of birds getting ready to take flight in delicate ascension. Like a group of butterfly wings. (I feel like it’s similar to one of those trick posters at the mall: What do YOU see in this group of dots? Jesus? Or a pineapple?)

You get my point. I am seeing the bloom a little differently now.

white bird of paradise

So there we were in Home Depot last week. I was overlooking the blooming Bird of Paradise and concentrating on shrubs when Scott brought one over to me. “Hey!, this looks like our Bird of Paradise we had in KC. I’m buying it!!”

“Whoa, whoa, buddy. Wait a sec. That’s one of those shrimp-inverted Bird of Paradise.”

“I don’t care. It’s mine. I’m buying it.” (He gets that way sometimes.)

Furthermore, he put the one he was holding back down and picked up 2 or 3 other ones, inspecting them carefully. I mean…you gotta love a man that is that picky about plants, right?? Sure enough – he selected one with a newly unfolding leaf. AND, it’s a white flower, not the rather sharp orange color.

$19 for a new beginning. A flowering plant that is so prevalent it seems like a California requirement to own one. And so now we do. It may never bloom inside our home (and yes, I’m secretly okay with that) but the leaves are beauty enough. And if it does bloom, I will see it as a group of exquisitely gentle birds, breaking forth and taking flight.

Much like we did when we made this cross-country big move.

And that makes me love them all the more.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this pothos I started training to climb the side of this pantry. The below picture was taken right after I started it in August 2019. I used clear Command Strip hooks, mounted to the wall, then tucked the branch into the hook. I’ve tried to ‘tuck’ near a leaf so the the leaf kind of covers the plastic hook.

And then October 2019 is below. The branches are starting to reach the bell. The biggest thing for me is that the plant is still thriving at the base (keeping very full) and the leaves are still growing upward. You can see in the original picture that I have some ‘bald spots’ on a couple of the branches to the left which is why I decided to try it as a climber. When they’re climbing upward, all the branches are being exposed to more light as opposed to laying on top of each other, draping over the edge of a pot. So those bare spots will remain. No matter how you display your pothos (hanging or climbing) you need to watch for spaces between each leaf. If there is a large area of branch with no leaves on it, that means it’s not getting enough sunlight. If that happens, it’s a great place to cut it and propagate it (which I usually propagate them back into the original plant to make it fuller.)

That said, besides the original bald places, the branches have been growing with plenty of leaf growth in small sections indicating the plant is happy with the light it’s receiving.

Then I took another picture last week. First of all, I’m out of Command Strip hooks and need more because the branches are falling over themselves with nothing to hold onto the wall with. And secondly – can you believe it’s grown this much in about 5 months?! This has been a very fun project to experiment with. Pothos are forever patient with you so they were a good plant to play with for this project.

I’m starting to see many new leaves on a number of my plants around the house. It makes me anxious for Spring since they must sense it’s right around the corner! Every summer I wonder which plants are going to be the rockstars that year. Who will grow the tallest? Most times I turn around and suddenly realize they’ve outgrown their pots in what seems overnight. (Not too unlike a growing kid and their shoes! -ha!)

What big plans do you have for your garden this year? Flower beds? New houseplants? What’s on your Green Agenda??

My New Life as a Book Reviewer

During the last few months of 2019 I decided I wanted to get serious about reviewing books and working with publishing companies to do reviews for upcoming and newly-released books. I made it my goal toward the end of the year to research and find out as much as I could about the craft before the new year began.

And I have to tell you, I’m having a fantastic time! It’s a challenging project for me with the added benefit of free books!

The very first book I received to review was Diane Keaton’s new book, BROTHER AND SISTER. (I reviewed it here.) It is set to release on February 4, 2020. What a fun way to start this goal, right? With Diane Keaton!

I’ve received a handful of books since the Keaton book (with release dates throughout the spring.) Each time I hear the doorbell ring, I run to the door to see which book has arrived. Earlier this week a book was Fed Ex delivered. Expecting a different novel, I was completely surprised as I opened the envelope, slid out the book and suddenly, there was Rachel Maddow’s face looking straight at me. I immediately sent my sister and husband a text. “That’s your girl!”, my husband responded (knowing if Maddow ever showed up on our front steps he would be a thing of the past!) -ha! My sister (also a Maddow fan) was equally as excited. I can’t wait to dive into this book and learn more about this multifaceted news anchor.

The thing I’ve enjoyed THE MOST about this process is that it is challenging me to write. Reviewing books takes me back to my college days of writing in a concise but complete fashion. To help me hone the skill, I’ve been reading professional book reviews as examples on how best to captivate a reader’s attention and consolidate the book without giving too much away. This has become a challenge between myself and…myself. Pushing the limits and diving deeply. There are plenty of other book reviewers out there so it’s ridiculous to feel any competition with them. And I really don’t! I’m having way too much fun challenging and competing with myself. And what better 2020 goal could there be than self-improvement through an avenue I completely enjoy?!

I wish I’d paid more attention to my history professor who tried to teach us speed-reading, however. I am a slow reader. I devour too much. Underline too much. Stop and think about too much. But I’m learning!

I’ll celebrate my 55th birthday next month and I have a new (and beloved) hobby. I am convinced I’ll be saying that very same sentence when I’m 75 years old. I love the stimulation and endorphin rush of learning something new.

Rachel sits on my desk now, whispering empowering messages into my ear as we both push up our chunky glasses and get to work.

BROTHER AND SISTER by Diane Keaton

I am so very honored to have reviewed Diane Keaton’s new book, Brother and Sister. Thank you, Alfred A. Knopf for this gifted book.⠀

Diane Keaton book review from Botany and Bookends

We know her as spunky, eccentric, quirky and free-spirited. We love her fashion sense and decorating expertise and admire her longevity in film.⠀

Her newest book, BROTHER AND SISTER, gives a rare, inside look into the upbringing of Diane and her younger siblings, Randy, Robin and Dorrie. This book focuses on the complicated relationship with her brother, two years her junior. Diane and Randy were born in a typical 1950’s middle-class home to a doting mother and a hard-working father. As their family income increased, so did the size of their homes and their family unit.⠀

Randy is a deeply passionate poet (many of his beautiful works are woven within the book) and an artist with an equally complicated mind. Creative genius is often disguised as ‘disturbed’ or ‘peculiar’ and such was the life that Randy led. Succumbing to alcohol as a task-master, Randy’s familial relationships crumbled. ⠀

What is the responsibility of a family member when another continually pushes you away? This is a common question asked by all matters of families. As Keaton’s career began to rise, she shares of the extreme difficulties and loss she was experiencing in her family home. She wrote of specific movies (movies I have watched and loved) and what was simultaneously going on with her family. I see the movies in a completely different light now, imagining the difficulty she must have had while trying to work PLUS care for extended family members.

As so many of us are want to do, she asks herself if she did enough. Was I too closed-off? Should I have done more? Questions that haunt many of us while dealing with dysfunction of any kind.

I read this book in just a few sittings, but it is not an easy read. Keaton’s voice is heard within each story regaled. Her awkward optimism evident throughout. As a reader it is a bit jolting when we fully realize how ‘everyday’ our on-screen heroes are. This book shines a spotlight on that truth. ⠀

Perhaps this book will help you better understand that you are not alone. That family is not always easy and yet, as the years climb, our desire for understanding and our acceptance of reality reaches a more peaceful coexistence.⠀

I appreciate Keaton’s willingness to lift the veil on such a beautifully entangled area of her life. I am certain many will find a sense of commonality among her words.⠀

(book release in early February.)

WHISKEY WHEN WE’RE DRY by John Larison

UH-OH!! I think I’ve made a terrible mistake. I just finished reading Whiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison and it might be the best book I read in 2020 – and it’s only January 13!

This book was storytelling at its lyrical best. WHISKEY was a gripping read – Midwestern true grit with a southern lit style prose. Each description, painted magnificently on the big, open skies of the 1800’s Plains.⠀

Orphaned in 1885, Jessilyn finds herself alone. Having learned sharpshooting from her father on their cattle farm, she sets out to find the only other family member she knows, her older brother, Noah, who left home years before and was now an outlaw on the run. Knowing the limitations and boundaries she would encounter as a female, Jess cut her hair, bound her body and rode into the outside world under the guise of a young man.⠀

The adventures and circumstances that ensue develop Jess’s strong character and resolve but do very little to answer the questions about her past. Her mother died during Jessilyn’s birth and her stoic father died suddenly, just as she was becoming a young woman.

“What started the war, pa?”⠀
“Stories, Jess. Stories. We tell ourselves the wrong stories.”

It was not difficult to make the parallel to much of what we listen to on the nightly news. Or experience in our own relationships. What wrong stories are we repeating? What wrong stories are being passed down, generation to generation? Culture to culture?

Her father taught her many things during her young life, not the least of which was to shoot a gun with precision. There was no way of knowing how well that would serve her in the years to come.

For many years Jess maintained her male identity. She developed friendships with other guys but never revealed her true story. Confiding only one time to an old lady her true past: “It was such a relief to hear this in the air outside, rather than echoing endlessly within.”

This is a coming of age story as well as a story of familial reflection and connection common to us all. Thank you, Anne Bogel, for your recommendation. This expansively beautiful story will ride with me for a while.

SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM by Joan Didion

 

SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM is the third Joan Didion book I’ve read in as many years. Her relatable voice holds its own unique place in journalism. I am awed at her use of language and her ability to beautifully sculpt a story out of seemingly ordinary beginnings.

The title, taken from a Yeats poem, represents a collection of essays written by Didion during the 1960’s. The essays are mostly about California (adding a personal benefit for me as a new Californian.) She talks about things like having dinner with John Wayne, growing up in the Sacramento Valley, and specifically about her journalism (…we would now say she was ‘embedded’…) during the Haight- Ashbury days in San Francisco. Among the many stoned-out hippies she encounters during her San Francisco travels she meets Susan, a five-year-old on acid. Susan tells Didion she’s in High Kindergarten. She lives with her mother and some other people, just got over the measles, wants a bike for Christmas, and particularly likes Coca-Cola, ice cream, and the beach. For a year now her mother has given her both acid and peyote.⠀

The chapter I connected with the most was: On Keeping a Notebook. She describes the odd and random things she writes in her notebooks. Things that wouldn’t necessarily make sense to anyone but her. Quotes that aren’t necessarily about the words, but the feeling evoked when she heard them.⠀

“The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it… Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things. I sometimes delude myself about why I keep a notebook, imagine that some thrifty virtue derives from preserving everything observed.”⠀

Oh how I understand this sentiment. My children will someday find my notebooks of phrases and desultory thoughts and may very well give up looking through them and simply toss them away. My hope is that they don’t throw them away in youth, pre-50’s let’s say. They’ll find more use for them as they age. So much of what didn’t make sense before will eventually begin to weave together their history. Their shared story.⠀

SLOUCHING has been sitting on my shelf for over a year. I am so grateful to have read it for #theunreadshelfproject2020. Grateful that the words have now soaked into my marrow, the way all Didion writings do. This also checks off the #mmdchallenge to read something from the decade you were born (I’ll save you from looking it up: it’s the 60s. -ha!)

The book ended up heavily underlined by the time I was finished; ideas and phrases I want to be able to look back and remember. I’m so sorry I haven’t read this collection sooner. I thoroughly enjoyed it…proving that you don’t have to read the ‘latest’ books. This 1968 publication was just as relevant today. (Hoping this 1965’er can be as well!)

Artifact Uprising

Now that Christmas is over and all the gifts have been given, I wanted to share with you some albums I passed out as gifts this year.

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In May my extended family visited us in California. (Everyone except my daughter who was in the busiest time at work and couldn’t get off.) Scott and I showed them all around Northern California: San Francisco Bay, The Redwood Trees, Carmel-at-the-Sea, Napa Valley etc. A million pictures were taken that week and I wanted to capture the memories in a single, condensed form.

I’ve ordered pictures from Artifact Uprising many times in the past and am always overwhelmed with their quality. They take your pictures and create magazine-worthy products. Their signature matte finish brings it all together beautifully. So of course I went to them to create my trip keepsake.

After receiving my 50-page book in the mail I quickly realized I wanted to buy one for each family unit who came to visit us. I tweaked each book to have more pictures of their individual families in their unique book.

The books are clearly titled on the cover. I’m envisioning a shelf with many similar books lined up from other special daytrips we’ve taken in the years to come. I’m so excited about the possibilities!

Then in the fall, my daughter came out for a visit. Her trip was a completely different season and therefore a different experience. We visited Yosemite National Park – a first for us all – as well as the other special areas of northern California. Her photo book was very different than theirs – although I added some group shots in hers so we all had pictures of the family together.

The reaction to the books was more than I could have expected. Each family ooo’d and ahh’d over their photo books as they opened them at the same time.

I am so thankful for Artifact Uprising’s commitment to excellent work and timely delivery. I am a true fan (and not being paid in any way for this post.)  One of the best parts of the process is that the album can easily be put together from your phone on their app.

I’ve already started working on a daytrip Scott and I took to Bodega Bay recently. Here’s a look at it from their app…. looks like a good one, doesn’t it?! I’m so excited to get it finished and ordered and placed right next to my other photo book. May they increase in volume as we continue to travel and learn about our new home state of California.

Thank you again, Artifact Uprising! Please go check out their website. They offer many types of gifts as well as just photo prints, if you’d like. They make great gifts – even to oneself!

Low-key Organization

Okay, so California Closets it’s not. It’s not even a cool, interlinking IKEA closet. But for me, it’s exactly what I needed.

Not to be a pollyanna, but buying this many plastic tubs made me a little sick. And yes I know…your organization isn’t the problem, your STUFF is. Yes, yes. Joy sparked, etc. etc.

But the truth of the matter is that I have greatly culled my stuff. It’s an ongoing process (so don’t let anyone ever lead you to believe you’ll ‘get there’ someday.) But I am a creative being and with creativity comes stuff. Since moving to California in September 2018, I have had my creative life tucked into various closets and garage storage. I’ve been perfectly happy doing other things and keeping busy with all that life has been for us this past year. But for 2020 I have promised myself that I would get back to some artfully creative projects.

And thus – The Creative Closet Clean-up of 2020 (enter triumphant music.)

We dragged all the various boxes and bags out into the living room. I organized and threw away stuff while Scott built shelving in a back closet we aren’t usefully using.

I thought it would make me feel a little shameful – all the disparate supplies being left unused. But instead, it made me feel excited for 2020 and spending a little bit of time creating again.

All projects should include an old-school label maker. You can have the newly automated printing ones. A person’s hand should ache at the end of a labeling project. -hee

Yes, a box of broken dishes. As favorite dishes have broken over the years (…I swear it’s never my fault…), I have been tucking them away into a box for a mosaic piece someday.

Do you know how to mosaic??, you ask. Why no. No I don’t. But I’d really like to learn someday. And when I do, I’ll have some starter broken dishes with which to start!

I’ve used these IKEA storage tubs quite a bit in the past. I like that they’re modular and stack nicely. They’re very sturdy and easy to move around.

The fact that I put the label on the right side on my old bins and on the left side on my new bins is not something I’m ready to talk about yet.

(GULP! Why didn’t I double check?!)

Let it go… Let it go… (Someday I’ll re-label them on the same side. For now, I’m calling it done.)

Each bin is now labeled and containing alllll the creative things.

The shelves were built to accommodate two bins high plus the extra wiggle room to lift them. I have plenty of room on both sides of this closet for more goodies in the future.

(An interesting 21st century consideration: when we installed the lower shelf, I wanted to make sure the Roomba could get underneath it. -hahahaha!)

Sewing machine, odds and ends – it’s all now contained in one closet and easily marked so I can go straight to the project I’m looking for. Macrame’, weaving, painting, watercolors, yarn, cross-stitching, card-making…you name it. I’m ready for it!

(The IKEA containers also have the option of an insert that fits at the top. Very useful!)

This closet has ’70s-style sliding mirrored doors and I am so oooooookay with it.

Of course in the process of cleaning out one thing, six other clean-up projects pop up. It felt good to get rid of some things through donation or just plain ol’ trash. We’ve lived here a little over a year and it was time to clean out. I can’t imagine what living in one house for 50 years would be like. (aka: my parents!) There are a lot of ups and downs with moving – but gutting out unwanted/unused things is definitely a plus!

Hoping you are also nesting into 2020 in a big way.