Pumpkin Crumble Cake

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Greetings, dear readers!  In honor of Autumn, and the commencement of the “all things pumpkin” season, I’m sharing a recipe for a pumpkin cake today.  No, this is not a cake in the traditional sense of the word – it’s kind of a mixture of a pumpkin pie and a crumble topping.  However, it’s yummy no matter what it’s called.

I found this recipe on livelaughrowe.com, and it’s called Pumpkin Dump Cake on Ms. Rowe’s site. However, that name didn’t sound super appetizing to me, so I’ve renamed this treat Pumpkin Crumble Cake.  It’s easy to make and is scrumptious, and is a great way to embrace the fall season.

pumpkin_cake1

Pumpkin Crumble Cake
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Ingredients

29 oz. can pumpkin
1 cup sugar
12 oz. can evaporated milk
3 eggs
4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup melted butter (next time I make this I’m going to try it with 1 cup instead)

 Instructions

1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, evaporated milk, eggs, pumpkin pie spice and salt
2. Beat well and pour into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan
3. Sprinkle cake mix over top, followed by the pecans
4. Pour melted butter over top
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes

Notes

Per livelaughrowe.com: Keep a close eye, burns easily or cover with foil after 30 minutes.
I followed her advice and covered the pan with foil after 30 minutes.  I baked the cake for 50 minutes total.

Serving Suggestions
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Okay, so I know the photo below looks a bit like stuffing, but it’s actually the Pumpkin Crumble Cake. Given that the pumpkin part on the bottom stays pretty soft, I figured that being able to plate a nice, tidy, clean-edged piece for a photo wasn’t going to happen.  So, I made a happy mound of pumkin-y, cakey, nutty goodness on the plate, and snapped away.  This is a great way to mix the flavors an textures anyway, and wouldn’t a bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream be spectacular on the top?  I think so, too.  :]

pumpkin_cake3
Happy Autumn, and Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

Posted in baking, life in general, recipes Tagged , , |

DIY Vintage Button Rings

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Greetings, everyone!  I hope all is well with you and yours.  Today I’m sharing some Vintage Button Rings I made, and hope you enjoy this peek at my latest crafting endeavor.

If you’ve been following my blog for some time now, you’re probably not a bit surprised to see me share this post.  After all, in years past, I’ve made Vintage Button Earrings, Vintage Button Bracelets, and Vintage Button Pendants.  It only seems natural that rings would be next, right?  I didn’t consider making rings until very recently, when nature forced my hand.  (No pun intended)

You see, I’ve got big, strong peasant hands. I get them (and much of my physical appearance) from my Dad’s side of the family.  My father’s hands were truly humongous, and my hands are in no way small and dainty.  Not only that, my fingers have a tendency to swell at times.  Rather than have pricier rings in “real metals” that may or may not fit me at any given time, I’ve decided to wear adjustable rings that I embellish myself.  Then I can resize the ring at will, based on which finger I’m wearing it on that day.  Woo hoo!

Not only is this more practical, given my somewhat challenging hands, I’m really happy about how creative I can be with these buttoned beauties.  They’re unique,  inexpensive, and are so fun to mix and match!  They’re super quick and easy to make, too, so grab your button box (or your Granny’s) and make some rings of your own.

three_rings

Materials
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Buttons – vintage or new
Ring blanks – I found mine on Etsy
Sand paper for leveling the back off the buttons
Wire cutters – for removing the shank from buttons (if applicable)
Epoxy (I like the 5-minute versions for nearly-instant gratification)

supplies

Instructions
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1. Remove the shank from the button (if applicable) by cutting it off with the wire cutters.
2. Sand the back of the button if there’s any protruding bits of shank left and it needs to be leveled out.
3. Place the button face down on a protected surface.
4. Dip the flat, round disk of the ring blank into a small puddle of epoxy, then place the round disk part of the ring onto the center of the back of the button.
5. Make sure the blank is centered on the back of the button, and let the epoxy set without moving the two pieces.
6. Wear and enjoy!

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This is how the button looked with the ring blank set on it for gluing – minus the epoxy.

My Process & Yield
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I sorted out buttons and set out the supplies to make these rings one night last week.  The sorting and choosing took a little while since I have (ahem) a fair amount of buttons.  However, once I was actually ready to assemble, it went quickly.

I worked in batches.  First I cut the shanks off and prepped all the buttons, then moved onto gluing.  I had 20 buttons and blanks, and mixed up enough epoxy for approximately 7 rings at a time.  (Tip: I mix my epoxy on pieces of aluminum foil and mix it with a wooden toothpick)

It took me less than 30 minutes to make 20 rings once the buttons were selected – quick and easy!  And I LOVE the way they turned out.

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sparkly_rings

colored_rings

gold_rings

MORE!
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Yep, I’m making more.  One might think 20 button rings would be enough for one gal, but one would be wrong.  ;]  Somehow I missed sorting through my silver buttons before making my 20 rings.  This is totally ridiculous because silver’s what I wear the most!  Once I discovered this silly oversight, I knew I’d have to order some more ring blanks and make at least five more rings.  We’ll see how many I eventually end up with – I’m sure it will be more than 25.  I don’t feel bad for this particular excess though, since I already have a stash of buttons and it’s such a low-cost project.  After all, I could collect expensive shoes or purses, right? :]

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at my DIY Vintage Button Rings.  Until next time…

Warm regards,
Melody

Posted in crafts, DIY, vintage Tagged , , , , |

A New Assemblage & Etsy Shop Sale!

Mystery1

Hi everyone,

I hope you’ve been enjoying your summer.  It’s been pretty hot here in Southern California for the past few months, and I’m definitely ready for cooler temperatures.  I hope we have a cool fall and winter, and hope we get some much needed rain!

New Assemblage

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Today I’m sharing my most recent assemblage – a piece I’m calling Mystery.  The main image is comprised of two different vintage photos – one photo of a little girl on her First Communion day, and another photo that I believe was taken by my grandfather on Guam in the 1940s.  I’ve combined these images with decorative elements like three desert roses (gypsum), washi tape, metallic joss paper, rhinestones, and other decorative elements.  Mystery is now available for sale in my Etsy shop – and speaking of my Etsy shop…

Assemblages on Sale in My Etsy Shop!
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For the first time ever I’m offering a sale on the assemblages in my Etsy shop!  I currently have six assemblages available, and they’re all on sale at a significant savings.  The pieces are usually $140 – $160, and they’re all on sale for $95.  That’s a savings of $45 or more per piece!  So if you’d like to add a one-of-a-kind piece of art to your collection, or want to start a collection, now’s the time!  Hurry over to my Etsy shop, take a peek, and order your favorite today.  :]

I hope all is well with you and yours, dear readers.  Until next time…

Warm regards,
Melody

Posted in art, assemblage, vintage, vintage photo Tagged , , |

DIY Patio Railing Planters Part 2 – Herb Pots

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Greetings, dear readers!  I hope this blog post finds you well and happy.  Today I’m sharing the next installation in our DIY patio garden efforts.  In case you missed part one, this is what the patio looked like with the one row of larger planters (below).

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Once we’d gotten the main, large planters in (shared in this post here) hubby figured out a way to add another row of pots for me – smaller ones that I could put herbs in.  Woo hoo!  Again, the constraints were that nothing could be permanently attached to the building, he had to use simple tools on the patio, and couldn’t make much noise.

Materials

One 2″ x 4″ x 8″ board
Fourteen 6″ diameter plastic pots
Galvanized bolts, washers, and nuts (1 bolt, two washers, and one nut per pot)
Two L brackets
Screws
Electric drill

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Our patio is laid out in such a way that there was enough room to lay the new wooden board for the herbs inside the railing and have it supported on the sides by the building/patio walls.  (See far right of the photo above, and the photo below)  Hubby simply laid the board across and made the setup more secure by attaching L brackets to each end of the 2 x 4 – on the inside of the patio.  We wanted to make sure nothing would fall down since the bunnies spend time out on the patio during the day – weather permitting.

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Next, he drilled holes in the wooden board – one hole for each of the fourteen plastic pots that would fit across the board.  You can measure for exact spacing if you’d like, but I believe he chose the “lay the pots out on the board and then trace around them with a pencil” method.

driled_hole

Next hubby drilled a hole in the bottom center of each plastic pot and attached the hardware that would help attach them to the board.  He put the bolt in from the center of the pot going down out of the bottom, so the bolt would stick out of the bottom and slide into the pre-drilled holes.  This allows the pots to be rearranged, which is super helpful.  The hardware was layered this way: bolt, washer, plastic pot, washer, nut.  Once all the hardware was attached to the pots they were inserted into the board – ready to be filled with soil and plants, and easy to rearrange.

pot

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So, now we have three larger rectangle planters, two pots on either side of those planters (barley visible in the photo below), and fourteen small pots in front.  I hung my often-used tools within arms reach.  My trowel and misting water bottle hang on either end of the row of herbs.  I just used some metal hooks that screwed right into the wood.

garden1

I also added some decorative elements – fun!  I found some galvanized disk ornaments at Michaels and added flowers and a butterfly that I cut out with my Sizzix Big Shot and steel rule dies.  The die cut shapes can be changed out quickly and easily if I decide I want to change the look and feel.  I may change them seasonally – will have to see.

flower

And though I know what all I have in my little garden, and where everything is located, I made some simple garden markers from bamboo skewers and washi tape.  I may opt for something hardier and more elaborate in the coming weeks and months, but this super simple version is working well for now.

My plants are in varying stages right now.  Some plants were mini plants that were purchased on little flats at the nursery, and some were started from seed.  Some things I’m growing do better when started earlier or later (to avoid the heat), so this is all just experimental at this point.  I’m thrilled anything is alive given the heat we’ve had lately – it’s been in the high 80s or 90s since we got the garden going in early July.  I’ve been watering frequently, and am pleased that the residents of the garden are hanging in there.

The cilantro plants bolted soon after we got them, and sent up flowers.  Many gardeners would get rid of the plants and start new cilantro plants at this point, but since it’s my first time growing cilantro I opted to let them flower so they can go to seed.  Cilantro plants produce coriander seeds, which can be used as an herb in cooking.  It’s pretty cool that the one plant can be used in two different culinary ways. :]

coriander

Flowering cilantro against an overcast August sky…

These nasturtium plants were started from seed.  I love nasturtium plants and flowers, and though they’re pretty they’re also edible!  I’ll likely add some young leaves and flowers to our plates as the plants continue to grow and fill in.  I’ll feed some to the bunnies as well.  I’m happy that thus far our wee little garden is both pleasing to the eye and completely edible.

nasturtium

Please leave a comment if you’d like to recommend any veggies or herbs that might do well in our little patio planters.  I’m probably going to replace our cilantro and parsley with lettuce plants as soon as the lettuce seedlings I’m growing are a bit bigger, and am open to a few other tweaks here and there.

I hope you have a wonderful week, dear readers.  Until next time…

Warm regards,
Melody

Posted in food, gardening, life in general Tagged , , , , |

DIY Patio Railing Planters

patio_garden14A

Confession: I’ve had a platonic crush on gardens for some time now.  I love nature, and longed for space to grow things – including veggies.  However, given that I’ve lived in apartments virtually all my life, and that we have our bunnies on our patio during the day, growing veggies wasn’t in the cards.

All that changed with our recent move, though.  We moved in June and I was determined to have SOME sort of garden, even if it was small.  And though I wasn’t able to do a raised bed Square Foot Garden like I’d hoped, we do have a container garden growing on our tiny patio – thanks to my handy hubby.

Hubby made our Patio Railing Planters over the 4th of July weekend, and I snapped some pictures along the way so I could share them with you.  His task wasn’t an easy one, given that we can’t nail or drill into any part of the stucco patio, and had to have everything up off the ground to at least waist height because of the bunnies.  Oh, AND he had to do his work on the patio with limited tools and not disturb the neighbors.  No small feat! (Securing the planters to the building somehow was essential – we don’t want them to fall down from the third floor and hurt anyone below)

patio_garden1

Before:  The patio is 7 feet by 6.5 feet, beige stucco, and had all the charm of a prison.  Awesome, right?! ;]

patio_garden2

The railing is 7″ deep, which meant that the numerous railing planter boxes on the market wouldn’t work for us.  Phooey!

Hubby came up with a great solution though.  Here are some basic instructions and some photos to give you an idea of how the patio railing planters were assembled.

patio_garden3

Materials

3 plastic planter boxes (10″ deep x 10″ high x 24″ wide)
Galvanized bolts, washers & nuts (using galvanized hardware helps fight off rust)
Metal L brackets, that were sprayed to match the building’s paint color
One 4″ x 6′ x 3/4″ piece of wood
Rust-oleum spray paint

patio_garden4

The hardware, wood, and paint…

patio_garden5

Hubby started by putting the wood up on the railing, and marking the spots where the L brackets would be attached.  He alternated – one on the inside, one outside, one inside, one outside.  This first step was part of securing the board onto the patio railing.

patio_garden6

 Next, those marked holes were drilled…

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 Each hole got a bolt, two washers, and a nut.  The “sandwich”/order went bolt, washer, board, washer, nut.

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The bolts were put in from the bottom, so the ends stuck up.  The L brackets were then removed and spray painted…

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Drainage holes were drilled into the bottoms of the planters, and holes were drilled into the boards for the bolts.  This part of the process was to secure the planters to the board, which was already braced/secured onto the railing. 

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When securing the planters to the board, we followed a similar pattern: bolt, washer, wooden board, planter box, washer, nut.  Each planter box is attached at each of its two ends…

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This shows all three empty boxes secured to the board.  

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You can see that the L brackets have been spray painted, and the brackets hold the board securely onto the railing. 

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Our first little plants included rosemary, parsley, mint, lettuce, kale, and cilantro.  I’ve since moved some plants around and added others, but this gives you an idea of what it looked like with some edibles in the planter boxes.  Big thanks to my hubby for figuring out how to overcome our limitations and get our mini garden growing!

Since these pictures were taken we’ve added another board that holds a row of plastic pots (mostly herbs). I’ll share those a little later on, along with photos of how things are progressing.  In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into our fledgling garden.  I also hope you’re enjoying your summer!

Warm regards,
Melody

Posted in gardening, life in general Tagged , , , , , |

Graham Cracker Toffee Bars Recipe

Toffee_Bars

Holy moly, these are good!  I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and had to give it a try.  I’m so glad I did.  Not only are these bars totally scrumptious, they’re quick and easy to make as well.  I love that combination in recipes.  :]

So far I’ve only made them with pecans, as called for in the recipe, but I’ll be making them with almonds next time.  And hmm, I wonder how they’d taste with some coconut in the mix – yummy, I’m sure!

Graham Cracker Toffee Bars Recipe
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Ingredients

  • Graham crackers (24 squares)
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans
  • optional 1 teaspoon of vanilla (I forgot to put this in – will have to try it next time)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet, then lay down the graham crackers so they cover the entire cookie sheet. I used a 16″ x 12″ baking sheet and was able to fit four graham cracker squares across on each row.
  3. Melt butter using medium high heat. Add the brown sugar.
  4. Stir brown sugar into butter until melted. Bring to slight rolling boil.
  5. Cook and stir for two minutes. Add the chopped pecans.
  6. Pour mixture over graham crackers.
  7. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  8. Cut while still warm.

Toffee_Bars2

This is what the pan of bars looked like when they were pulled from the oven – nice and bubbly.

If you give this recipe a try I hope you find it as easy and delicious as I did. Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

Posted in baking, food, life in general, recipes Tagged , , , , , |

Santa Ana Art Journal Show

collage

I visited my Santa Ana school last Friday, and attended art journal shows for all four of my fourth grade classes.  It was super exciting to have all 4th graders participate in art journaling this year, and feedback from the children and their teachers was incredible.  The kids had a blast creating art and expressing themselves, and were excited to share with me and the others in attendance at our shows.

The teachers had nothing but positive things to say as well.  Woo hoo!  They loved seeing the children so enthusiastically engaged and – given the current academic climate that’s so testing-focused – appreciated that their students had the opportunity to express themselves creatively in an unstructured way.

Again, thank you SO much to those of you who’ve helped me bring art journaling to my Santa Ana and Ontario schools this year and in years past.  I estimate that a little over 500 students have received art instruction and supplies since I started volunteer teaching back in 2003, which makes my heart happy. :] Thank you for your help and support!

Here’s a small sampling of the pages that were created by my Santa Ana students, since I can’t share art from all 14o of them.  They’re such wonderful artists!

dragon1

abigail

littlebrother

sunrise

turkey

waterbottle

colorful

beach

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at some of the art my students created.  I also hope you have a wonderful week!

Warm regards,
Melody

Posted in art, art journaling, art supplies Tagged , |

Picking Up a Needle & Thread

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I’ve never been much of a sewer or a stitcher. I consider this a bit of a deficiency in my creative skill set, particularly since my grandmother was such a talented seamstress. She started when she was young, and passed her sewing knowledge on to my mom. The buck stopped there, however. The sum total of my sewing experience includes making a pencil-shaped pillow in seventh grade home economics, and doing a wee bit of embroidery as a teen. My adult sewing adventures are limited to sewing an apron (with the help of a teacher for the afternoon) and sewing buttons onto some art and craft projects. Oh, and I did embellish this tote with reverse appliqué and embroidery when I attended Craftcation in April.  I think it’s super cute.  :]

reverse_applique_tote1

I’ve been wanting to further develop my skills with needle, thread and sewing machine for a while now. I’ve actually had an embroidery sampler (above) and a book on embroidery (below) awaiting my attention for about three years (!).  So, after a small delay (cough), I’m kicking off my adventure into the land of fabric and thread now. I’ll start with my trusty book and this embroidery sampler, and will go on from there. I’m not sure if I’ll stick to artsy applications of sewing and stitchery – embellishing accessories, making pieces to add to assemblages, and making mini art quilts – or if I’ll get into making utilitarian things as well. I’ll be interested to see where this road leads, and how far I’ll go. :]

embroiderer's_handbook

What about you, dear readers? Do you embroider? Sew by hand or with a machine? Do you crochet? (That’s something else I’d like to learn) Have any of you learned to sew from a DVD or online class that you might recommend?  I hope to hear from you about your adventures in sewing and stitching…

Warm regards,
Melody

Posted in books, crafts Tagged , , , , , |

Ontario Art Journal Show & Program Update

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I recently visited the school in Ontario where I have two classrooms of 4th grade art journaling students. It was the day of our art journaling shows, and a great time was had by all! I loved seeing the amazing pages my young students had created. They were excited to share, and naturally I had to take some pictures of their work to share with all of you.

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I think their journals and pages are charming and inventive, and I’m thrilled that 70-ish kids at this school received art instruction and enrichment. Art seems like it should be a given in schools, but sadly it’s NOT – so huge thanks to all of you who supported my art journaling program this year and in years past. We’ve made a difference in the lives of many! Stay tuned for pictures from the art journal shows that are coming up at my Santa Ana school, where I have four classrooms of 4th graders participating in the art journaling program. The photos should be posted in early to mid June.

Program Update
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During this coming school year I’ll be teaching one classroom of students, in my aunt’s classroom in Ontario. Given that I won’t have dedicated art supply storage space in a garage after our upcoming move, and that I’ve been giving up much of my vacation time to volunteer teaching for the past four years, I’m going to be putting my program on hold. Changes in life circumstance and fewer donations have given me cause to evaluate the trajectory of this program, and it seems that this is a good time to pause. I’ll let you know if/when I restart.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the kindness, generosity, and enthusiasm many of you have shown over the years.  Together we’ve brought art supplies and instruction to over 500 at-risk children!  Hurray!

Warm regards,
Melody

Posted in art, art journaling, art supplies, helping others Tagged , |

Marcelino’s Garden

rose

In my mind the word “art” encompasses so much more than mediums like drawing and painting.  I think artful endeavors also include things like cooking, working with textiles, making music and so on.  Some of us have green thumbs and bring beauty to the word via plant life.  My father-in-law, Marcelino, is one of those people – gardening is his art.

I’ve been a fan of my father-in-law’s garden since I first started dating my husband nearly 18 years ago.  I’ve enjoyed countless visits to my husband’s childhood home over the years, where his parents still reside, and during each visit I take time to admire my father-in-law’s “living canvas”.  His garden is a bit different each time I visit, and I always enjoy the arrangement, the colors, the scents, and the textures.

He moves some of his plants around, includes a variety of both ornamental and edible plants, and cultivates a playful feeling in his garden.  Chile plants and tomatoes help to nourish loved ones – beauties like roses, calla lilies and geraniums give our eyes something to feast on.  And while the contents of Marcelino’s garden are primarily plants accented with garden sculpture, you may also find a chandelier hanging from an avocado tree or see an old plastic toy lizard left over from my hubby’s childhood glowering menacingly at you from the crook of a tree.  Those whimsical touches are among my favorites.

The photos in this post were taken over Easter weekend.  I used a macro lens on my iPhone to capture these “up close and personal” images of some of the plants that my father-in-law nurtures and tends to.  I hope you enjoy them, and I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Marcelino’s favorite way to make art…

tomato

Tomato plant

amaryllis

Amaryllis

cactus

Cactus

tendril

Passion Flower tendril

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Rosebud

orange_chile

Tiny orange chile

dandelion

Dandelion

seedling

Seedling

chile_flower

Chile flower

calla_leaf

Calla lily leaf

I hope you’re all having a great week thus far…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Posted in art, family, gardening, nature, photography Tagged , |