Category Archives: nature

Morning Beauty

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Happy Weekend!  Just thought I’d pop in and share a few photos I took earlier in the week.  I’m trying to get back into a morning walk routine – not only for the exercise, but so I can also enjoy fresh air, birdsong and nature regularly. That said, rising earlier and getting out for a walk was particularly well-rewarded on Tuesday.  It was a foggy morning, and as I walked in a particular area I was treated to the sight of dozens of dew-laden spider webs. What a stunning sight!

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I also saw some thrill-seeking adrenaline-junkie snails climbing up these dried brush stems – a good four or five feet off the ground.  It made me giggle to see those daring snails.

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And yes, the California drought continues but (plant) life goes on.

I’ve been missing doing photography lately – particularly nature photography.  I hope to get back to this beloved pastime soon, and will be sure to share the best images here.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Marcelino’s Garden

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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…

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Tomato plant

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Amaryllis

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Cactus

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Passion Flower tendril

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Rosebud

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Tiny orange chile

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Dandelion

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Seedling

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Chile flower

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Calla lily leaf

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

Warm regards,
Melody

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Haiku: Winter Tree

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Though branches are bare
there’s such beauty to be seen.
I love life’s details…

I hope you’re enjoying the season, dear readers.  And if you happen to live in an area that’s been walloped by ice, cold and snow this winter, hang in there!  Spring is just around the corner…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Haiku: A Glorious Sight

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This glorious sight –
a perfect blend of colors!
Nature brings me joy…

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week thus far, and I hope you enjoy your weekend!

Warm regards,
Melody

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DIY: Cambria-Inspired Driftwood Necklace

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I love driftwood – pieces that have been stripped of their bark and worn smooth by the sea.  This necklace’s foundation consists of two such pieces of driftwood – pieces I gathered on the beach in Cambria.  Cambria is a town on California’s central coast, and its slogan is “Pines by the Sea.”  It’s a charming, small town that combines a unique mountainy feel with that of a beachside community and I love it.  It’s my home away from home.

Not only does Cambria have pines and lots of driftwood, it’s also home to many deer.  I’m always entranced when I catch sight of them, and some of the gift-related stores in town feature antlers in one form or another.  And while I love these antlers and love the town they bring to my mind, I don’t want to have a real rack of antlers hanging about since I couldn’t be sure if they were obtained in a Bambi-friendly way.  They also don’t quite go with the decor here at home in Southern California.  :]

So, I love this necklace for two reasons.  Not only does it remind me of Cambria because that’s where I plucked the driftwood from the beach, but also because these two pieces of wood look a bit like antlers to me.  This simple and inexpensive statement necklace is a fun and animal-friendly way to embrace Cambria and some of the town’s natural beauty.

I’ve opted to keep this necklace very simple and natural, but there are many ways you could enhance this DIY jewelry project.  Whether you paint or burn designs into the wood, add beads and charms to your design, or even add more pieces of wood, the sky’s the limit!  It’s all a matter of personal preference.

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Materials
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Driftwood – 2 small pieces
Fine sanding block or sand paper
Thick/sturdy pin, very thin nail, or something similar to poke holes into the wood
Epoxy (I used Devcon 5 Minute Epoxy)
Thin wire (I used 32 guage)
2 screw eyes: #216 – 1/2″
Silver chain (my chain measures 22″ long)
2 jump rings (optional)

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Instructions
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  1. Sand any rough, scratchy edges with a fine sanding block or sand paper
  2. Decide how you’d like your wood pieces to lay out and where you’ll join the two pieces
  3. Poke or drill a hole through the two pieces of driftwood – work slowly and carefully to avoid splitting the wood
  4. Apply epoxy to the appropriate spot of the bottom piece of wood, then insert the stick pin through the holes in both pieces of wood, to ensure they’re properly aligned while the epoxy sets
  5. Sand any extra epoxy from around the place where your two wood pieces are joined after the pieces have set
  6. Thread your wire down between the two pieces and out the bottom. Wrap the wire around the two pieces to bind them in a way that appeals you and twist the ends together at the back when you’re done.  Trim wire ends.
  7. Attach screw eyes to the back of the tops of the two wood pieces – one on either side.  (You may find it easier to first start each hole with a push pin, as I did)  You’ll need to screw them at an angle, so they lay flatter to the surface of the wood instead of being completely perpendicular
  8. Attach your chain of choice to the screw eyes with jump rings, or attach your chain directly to to the screw eye as I did – by opening the screw eye with pliers, slipping on the chain, and then closing up the screw eye.

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What Do You Think?
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I’m thinking about adding a small piece of soft sea glass to the bottom of this piece.  It would hang off the end where the two pieces of wood are wrapped together with wire.  What do you think?  Should I add a piece of glass, or leave it as is?

I’m hoping this post will inspire you to create something with materials you’ve gathered from a favorite place.  Whether you use wood, stones, shells, or something else entirely, inspiration is all around! Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers.

Warm regards,
Melody

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Haiku: Floral Beauty

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Tiny bloom beckons,
intricate and colorful.
A heavenly sight…

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

Warm regards,
Melody

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The Gardener’s Apprentice: Braiding Daffodils

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I want a garden.  Bad.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived in apartments virtually all of my life.  I just love the idea of helping things to grow, and at this point I’m seriously craving some land to grow fruits, veggies, and flowers on.  The problem?  The staggering real estate costs here in Southern California.  I’ve lived in California all my life, but can’t afford property here.  (sigh)  We currently live in an apartment and our small (third story) patio is the daytime play area for our rabbits.  What’s a girl wanting to work in a garden to do?  Borrow someone else’s!

I’ve dubbed myself the Gardener’s Apprentice
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I found a listing on Craigslist that is helping me get my garden fix without having property myself.  A nice woman who lives about 20 minutes away has a large front and back yard, planted with both flowers and edibles.  She even has a small flock of seven chickens – something else I hope to have some day.  For her privacy, I’ll refer to this nice gardening lady as C.

C was in search of someone to help her with her yard – what luck for us both!  In exchange for helping her out, I’ll get to learn from an experienced gardener and plant enthusiast.  I’ll also reap some tangible rewards – goodies of C’s choosing that will come from her yard and/or chickens.

Starting Out
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I met C for the first time last week, and we started with a tour of the property.  I got to meet her hubby, two darling doggies, and the chickens (no rooster).  We got to work that very day!  We worked in a small section on the front edge of her yard.  While many of the plants in that section are flourishing and blooming, some bulbs were spent – like the daffodils and freesias.

The daffodil leaves are still green, but they’re laying flat and were a bit of a mess. Rather than cut the leaves back now, like we did with the freesias, C had me braid the stems of the daffodils.  (See photo at top) This way the leaves are tidy and out of the way while the bulb stores a bit more of their plant-y goodness in preparation for next year’s bloom.  Once the greens are dried out the braids can be cut off quickly and easily.

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We also dug up several small freesia bulbs that had multiplied and were taking over.  They were crowding out mini roses and other plants, so C and I used a trowel to loosen the dirt before digging through with our gloved fingers.  Geez – there were dozens!  We also pulled out some grasses and weeds that didn’t belong, and when we stopped working the section looked much tidier.  C let me take some of the bulbs we pulled out for my father-in-law.  He has quite a green thumb.
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She also gave me some Aztec Lily bulbs and six fresh eggs her chickens had laid.  Lucky me!  The eggs were beautiful, in a range of colors and sizes.  The egg yolks are much bigger and are a much deeper golden yellow than store bought eggs – even when compared to cage-free eggs.  The eggs were scrumptious, and I’m definitely a fan of C’s flock.  :]

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My Second Visit
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We focused on the front yard again during my second visit.  We started by trimming and thinning a thicket of wisteria that grows in a planter that divides C’s driveway from the property next door.  Sweet Pea vines also grow in the thicket, but we just wove those lovelies back into the mix.

The rest of our time was spent pulling the dried leaves off of bulb-based plants.  The plants in question surround two small trees that live in two earthen squares on their front sidewalk.  Day lilies reside in each of the four corners of the planters, and “Naked Ladies” fill in the rest.  These “Naked Lady” plants belonged to C’s grandmother back in the day, and have been transplanted onto her property.  I think that’s so sweet. I love the idea of plants being shared by multiple generations.  The plant blooms in July with no leaves on it – just the “naked” flower stem.  Thus the name…

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My special treat for helping C that day was a gorgeous bouquet of flowers that she cut fresh from her yard. The bouquet contains several types of roses (at least six different varieties), calla lilies, and Peruvian lilies. The photo below is a closeup of the bouquet taken a day after I brought it home.  The gorgeous red and white rose is known as a Betty Boop!

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Thinking Outside of the Box
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I still want a garden and chickens of my own, but am so glad I’ve met C and get to spend some time learning and helping her.  My next “gardening appointment” is set for Thursday, and I’ll happily be putting on sunblock, a wide-brimmed hat, and some gardening gloves – ready to learn by doing.

I have no idea how long my “garden apprenticeship” last.  I do know that while this arrangement is just scratching the surface in terms of what I’d like to learn and do, it is a start.  I’m glad I thought outside of the box instead of just moping about what I don’t have.  Taking chances and trying something – anything – can lead you to something unexpectedly wonderful.  Like braiding daffodils…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Haiku: Tiny Bloom

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Such a tiny bloom
About the size of a dime.
Your beauty awes me…

Have you spied any tiny treasures in nature recently, dear readers?  Do tell!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Joshua Tree National Park

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I recently took a trip out to Joshua Tree National Park for the day, and wow – what a sight! It was my first time there and I was gobsmacked.  My eyes and brain worked overtime to take it all in and process it.  I think I would describe it as a Salvador Dali-esque landscape because it looks kind of surreal.  What was so darn strange about it?  I mean it’s just a plain ol’ desert, right?  Wrong.  The trees and rocks are crazy!

The trees are (naturally) Joshua trees for the most part.  Twisted, “hairy”, and spiky, they were everywhere!  These crazy, odd-looking trees spread out across the landscape as far as my eye could see.  And while you might not think rock formations would boggle my mind, they did.  In direct contrast to the smooth, flowing rock formations I saw years ago in Zion National Park, these rocky wonders were spectacular in their own way.  Instead of a large formation comprised of a few larger pieces and some smaller pieces, many of the rocky formations looked as if thousands of rocks had been gathered and carelessly piled up.

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From macro shots of plant life to sweeping shots that drank in the horizon and the sky, I happily wandered, examined, and captured images.

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I’m generally not much of a desert girl – given that I wilt in the heat and burn after about 5 minutes in direct sunlight – but I loved my time at Joshua Tree National Park.  I hope to return, and will plan on staying longer next time.

Have you ever been to Joshua Tree National Park?  Are there any other National Parks you particularly love? I’d love to hear about your adventures and favorites…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Sketching at a Nursery

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Do you ever head to your local nursery to ogle the plants and drink in the amazing colors and textures, or is it just me?  I love to check out the plants and stop to smell the roses when I visit nurseries and gardens.  I find such places very inspiring artistically.

So, when I visited a nursery a few weeks ago, I took along some basic art supplies and made myself at home.  Not only did I take my iPhone to snap photos, I brought some sketching supplies: my art journal, micron pens, and watercolor pencils.  I passed on using water on site, and opted to blend the colors at home later in the day.

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There I was, plunked down next to some potted protea plants.  I was out of the walkway, so I took the liberty of spreading out my colored pencils for easier color selection.  I loved the colors and texture in the protea plant, and took some time to both sketch and color.

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I’m definitely not a natural when it comes to sketching and drawing, but I really enjoyed playing. Sketching requires slowing down.  Really looking.  Being in the moment.  And since all those requirements are positive, I consider the process a success and a worthwhile way to spend my time, regardless of how the resulting image turns out.  In this case, I think it turned out well.

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After I blended the color at home with water and a brush I added a bit of  silver metallic ink (gel pen) to really emphasize the silver/gray coloration near the tip of the protea bud.

Folks can be curious when they see something out of the ordinary, like someone sitting on the ground sketching a protea plant, but I don’t let that stop me.  So what if I look silly or get dirty?  I’m not shy when it comes to creating and going after what I want, and I hope you aren’t either.  If you love plants and nature as much as I do, I encourage you to get out there, get dirty, and enjoy the process!  Whether you’re sketching or taking photos, taking time to create out in nature is always worthwhile…

Warm regards,
Melody

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