This heartbreaking video came into my Facebook feed buried in all the Black Friday Last Chance and Cyber Monday buy this silly crap ads. GIVING TUESDAY is coming and I wanted to share it.

Pray for Paradise “I See Fire” Ed Sheeran from Judy Abbott on Vimeo.


The Camp Fire is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. It’s also the deadliest wildfire in the United States since 1918.

Nearly 19,000 structures were destroyed, including more than 13,000 residences (with an average occupancy of 3 people per home).  Not 1,300 residences – 13,000. For many, their place of work also burned. Jobs in California are scarce – recovery will be slow and extremely difficult.

Folks not close to a disaster area may not be aware of the painstaking complexity of recovery.  The cleanup of toxic waste removal before any work can be done on any property took more than 6 months to complete after the 2015 Butte fire (that I was too near, so know a lot about) – and that was under 500 residences. All those batteries, tv’s and computers – stuff you’re not supposed to just trash – the burned waste is considered radioactive and very toxic. FEMA won’t put trailers on land that has not been toxic waste cleared; contractors cannot work there. A burned tree fell and killed a fire fighter in Yosemite this year – the dangerous tree removal also must take place to assure the safety of people working in the area. And all the infrastructure (for things like power) is burned.

The very few homes for sale near the area are all going for $50,000 to $100,000 over asking price and realtors report no rentals at all are left. 13,000 homes gone – it boggles the mind.

There is so much need.  Although, within a few days centers were buried in used items and pleaded for folks to stop sending such – even new items and toys had to be tuned away as space for people indoors is the first priority. Volunteer centers reported after 6,000 applications they had to stop taking applications. Word now is that volunteers may be needed in January and February, but not before. Money can do the most good, but for some reason people never want to do it – running off to buy things that they get angry  when their carload/trailer load of things can’t be accepted.

Local Support Non-Profits recommended in responsible media, most also have a Facebook page if you want to check them out further:

• North Valley Community Foundation:

• North Valley Animal Disaster Group:
• Caring Choices:

Larger Support Non-Profits
• American Red Cross:

• Salvation Army:

• United Way:

If you want to know more about the animals, visit the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital page or check out the KTVU news article how to help the animals affected by California’s wildfires.

Screenshot from ABC news showing Silicon Valley size versus the fire’s size.

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If you’re looking to give anything this season, know that money donated here will go to people who are in need.



Plant Journal – Summer

I’ve been remiss posting garden pictures and really prefer not to have  a physical paper garden journal, but to have my notes readily accessible online. So, I’ll be writing a bunch of posts with the name beginning with Plant Journal. Photos are more for my record than any “ooh, let’s frame this” kind of thing.  Until I catch up, they’ll be out of seasonal order (say next one might be Spring instead of Fall).Calamint Marvellette b
This is Calamint Marvelette Blue (Calamintha nepeta, aka Clinopodium nepeta aka lesser catmint aka dwarf catmint – take your pick). It’s a 2016 Gold Medal Fleuroselect winner. Ground cover Verbena’s flower and feathery leaves are visible on the right and upper right. Calamint is a dwarf  and technically a shrub. This is its first year from seed from Park Seed. It’s advertised as “offers much brighter blue blooms than the species, which is a pale lavender” but all my blooms have been a light lavender although the spot it is growing in gets shade after 2pm (so it’s not sun bleached).  I’m beginning to wonder if Park’s seed is Marvelette or somehow crossed with the species. At first I was disappointed as the blooms are teeny and mine has more of a progression of blooms up the stem than the all-at-once effect shown in Park’s photos. Supposed to only reach 8 inches high, some of my flowering stems are about 12 inches. But, it’s a very neat mound of a tiny shrub that I’m starting to think could be quite useful.  Next season I’ll see if some of it can handle my sunnier beds.

Calendula Fiesta z
Remy’s Sample Seed shop had included Calendula Fiesta Gitana, a Fleuroselect Bronze Medal winner, as an extra in my seed order and I’ve grown it for a few seasons now. Mine’s always the yellow (orange is also available). It stays compact (under 12 inches) and neat. The pollinators love it. But, it gets pretty heat stressed by early July in my dry sunny bed and starts to look  pathetic. I’ll be adding a note to my recurring Google calendar to just rip it out once it starts to look bad as it doesn’t really recover even with additional water. But, it’s easy from seed so I’ll treat it as a spring / early summer annual. 

Calibrachoa z
Like people, plants have dominant genes. Well, for Calibrachoa – the dominant appears to be pink. I’ve only ever purchased it in Terra Cotta but this is what I have growing now. It does beautifully in the bed with afternoon shade. This one’s a ground hugger, nice and low. Could be the voles, as it’s not handling the full sun bed by July.

Coreopsis Presto b
One of my new little gems that I LOVE is Coreopsis Presto (height < 8 inches).  First year grown from seed from Park Seed again. I’ve been searching out dwarf plants as I live in Northern California and fires can be a problem. Smaller plants with more space between them = less fuel = safer here. That’s a young variegated Liriope coming through it that I’ll move once cooler weather settles in. Coreopsis usually handle my full sun beds with brilliant vigor so I plan to purchase even more seed (it’s an F1 hybrid) to start additional plants this year. Hoping they can help me out in the ‘late summer chopped everything back’ horrid looking space I endure July through September here. This variety was awarded a Fleuroselect Gold Medal.

Echinacea b
I’ve plunked these in with the summer photos – but it’s early summer. Everything was chopped down to 8 inches in July and hasn’t rebloomed. Seed for the Pow Wow Echinacea was shared with me and I don’t know if that plant comes true from saved seed (most hybrids do not). Mine has stayed under 24 inches (good) and although the petals recurve it’s not as pronounced as the species (also good in my book). My main complaint is that it didn’t rebloom. Asked another Master Gardener here and she also finds the Echinacea don’t rebloom as well as say Rudbeckia or Coreopsis. I’ll leave it but won’t be propagating more. Its color does blend beautifully with the Lychnis coronaria (aka Silene coronaria) Rose Campion. Rose Campion is a prolific re-seeder, problematic in areas with easy growing conditions, tough enough to survive and flower here (a plus). Self seeding is reliable enough that I simply yanked out and composted the tall specimens in July, just banging the seedheads about.

Hibiscus syriacus lavender
This photo is more pink where my bloom is actually lavender. I’m thrilled with the light purple as I don’t want any more pink in the garden and have been searching out white and purples. Luck was with me as Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon, will often revert to pink from seed saved from many different color cultivars. When I grew this from seed, I had trouble finding any information about growth rate. Here it flowered this it’s second summer and grew about 2 1/2 foot tall. I’ll try some of these planted in the ground next season but also keep a few more protected in pots.

It turns out I’ll need at least one additional post to note what I want to capture regarding summer growing. The vegetable garden didn’t do as well as I’d like – my main note for next year regarding veggies  is to plant more Sungold cherry tomato as that one excelled. Off to write more posts, so stay tuned. 🙂 

Maggie’s Eva’s Shawl

Eva's Shawl blockedWith our horridly hot summers here, I like to knit or crochet in the afternoons. It’s just too hot to do anything that requires moving about or intense concentration even with a/c. To boot, California tends to stay blanketed in smoke from the many fires that plague us as summer moves on. Can’t do much outdoors. So, needlework it is.

Eva's shawl
If the item is larger, a TV tray table (breakfast in bed table) will keep the fabric off you while you knit. The added bonus of summertime needlework is that blocking anything is easy. It’s so dry that if you put something sopping wet on a towel on carpet – everything’d be bone dry the next day. I make a practice of washing and blocking any item that needs it during the summer (have I mentioned we’re dry here?).

Eva's Shawl 1
Picked Wool Ease Navy Sprinkles yarn (a discontinued colorway) out of my stash with thoughts for a shawl. I found a beautiful free pattern right here on WordPress: I love this pattern!

Eva's Shawl 2
Use markers and this is a joy to work. Very simple crochet stitches with easy repeats makes this a relaxing project you don’t have to concentrate on.

Eva's unblocked
Although Wool Eases is a predominantly acrylic yarn – you can see from the top photo (blocked) to the one above (unblocked) that blocking does make a difference. Unb
locked it almost looks like a ratty old thing – blocked, ahhh – so much better!

Eva's Shawl close up
Yes, it’s for lace but I had a pretty good idea of what it’d look like in worsted. This shawl isn’t fancy but it does go perfectly with jeans and living in the mountains – exactly what I’d wanted. The only change I’d made is that I like to add a single crochet all around the outside edge. I’ll be doing this pattern up again.

Loom Knit Baby Blanket

Finishing up some charity projects lately. As much as I enjoy crocheting and knitting, I’m a tad slower than many (especially on the latter) and wanted to get these done quickly. Enter loom knit.

Those trusty plastic “even a child can do it” looms are actually great tools for doing all sorts of items. There are many beautiful wood looms and adjustable looms enabling loom knitters to also do projects from socks to intricate lace.

For me, I’m faster with fancier stitches on a crochet hook or knitting needles. I use the loom when I want a nice bulky looking (read warm) end knit. And speed, let’s not forget the speed of simple stitches on a loom.

The blanket is made quickly using an e-wrap stitch with worsted weight yarn held double. If you loom knit – you know that makes just the cuddliest, heavy warm fabric. You make wide strips that you then join together. This one is baby size at four blocks in a 2X2. I’m so in love with it that I’m planning a 9 block (3 X 3 blocks) for me cuddling in front of the TV.

IMG_4189I went for just a bit of texture, with blocks of stockinette e-wrap and purl. Did a block of 50 rows then took the fabric off the loom and placed it onto circular knitting needles, then place back on the loom reversed. This saved me from doing a bunch of purl stitches – which is not as fast as simple e-wrap.

Pattern for four block child size

I got 1 block of 50 rows per every 4 oz skein of acrylic worsted weight yarn (older skeins that didn’t have yardage – will update to yardage as I make more). The child’s blanket took 4 skeins.

IMG_4162-1Holding 2 strands of yarn cast on 36 pegs (all pegs on my green Knifty Knitter loom). For future blankets, I’ll be doing a loose chain cast on (crochet a chain and slip it on the peg). I did crochet cast on for this one and it was a mistake – didn’t find a cast off that matched it to my liking; luckily the single crochet edge masked that. You can see the difference in my crochet cast on (the loose edge) and the crochet cast off I decided to stick with after trying two other cast off methods above.

E-wrap 50 rows back and forth (do not make a circle).

Take circular crochet needles or blocking wire and gently take each stitch off the loom and onto the wires.

IMG_4161-1Place the strip back on the loom reversed.

E-wrap 50 rows going back and forth again.

Loose crochet cast off.

Make another strip.

Don’t cut yarn. I use this double strand for joining and crochet edge (although there did end up being knots joining to the remainder from the previous strip to finish the crochet edge).

IMG_4283I joined the strips with the flat slip stitch you see for joining granny blocks with a J hook. Here’s one tute from Craft Passion . I recommend pinning your centers to one another then pinning the sides as the edges (purl joined to stockinette) will look different and you want to keep your join even. I used stitch markers, safety pins through the loops would work. Doesn’t have to be tight, just enough that you can see you’re keeping your rows even.

IMG_4282At the end of the join, start your single crochet edge, doing 3 single crochets every time you reach a corner stitch. I used a K hook on the top and bottom and switched to the J hook for the sides. You want to crochet loosely, go up a hook if you need to. When you reach your starting point, do a slip stitch to the single crochet, pull your yarn through that loop and knot, weave in how you like.

I did find the joining strips to be a pain as I went slowly to stay even and had to pay attention in the crochet edge (again purl blocks to stockinette blocks edges look different). But, overall this is fast and easy and I just love the finished fabric.

Given that it’s 100°F and July, I’m holding my box of knits to mail at the end of September. Some places don’t have a lot of storage or they’re dusty, don’t want to mail too far in advance of when they can use it. Mailing charity knits is an exercise in math – I don’t doubt that if you could buy and ship 5 blankets from Walmart for the price of shipping your homemade one, most charities would rather get the 5 to keep more people warm. But, you can ship baby things, hats, scarves and such relatively reasonably so if there’s a non-local charity you want to support, for me this is the way to go. It always makes sense to try to accommodate local charities first for many reasons, mailing costs in the U.S. included.

This blanket and a few other items are slated to go to one of the poorest counties in the U.S. – that encompassing Native American reservations in South Dakota. My quid pro quo on that is California has a nasty habit of burning in the summer and fall. My donations may be re-directed locally should a need appear before I mail them.

I’m looking at putting together a post for hand knit / crochet donations and will link to that if you’d like more information on knitting for charity.


Easy Crochet Market Bag

Rainy day so I decided to just crochet a quick project. California has banned all free bags at checkout and I’m a thrifty sort. Had been carrying my own green bags before the ban and always have an assortment in the car (unpack, put the bag on the doorknob leading to garage, put it in the car on the next trip to garage). However, being home to too many cats, some plastic bags are necessary for basic cleanup of the indoor cat owner’s bane – the litter box. So, I’d been on a ‘sometimes use my green bags, sometimes take their bags’ pattern until the ban. Once you get your habits down, the bag ban is easy to adjust to and you can train yourself to never purchase a bag again. At the same time, you can never have too many market bags as it seems some don’t always make their way back to the car.

I chose the Crochet Market Bag by Tiffany Roan. I love this easy pattern and have made a few since this post 🙂 .

The pattern is easy to follow and should you add or delete a stitch by mistake – it doesn’t matter. No row or part of the pattern is stitch number dependent. Just keep going!

IMG_1862 (2)

For those who follow my blog, I am sorry for the absence. We all know that every living creature is born, will live and then the sun will set on them one last time and they will die. Unfortunately, there’d been a bit too much of that latter part in my life over the past year. I have continued to make things, grow things, bake and read voraciously. Just hadn’t taken that extra step to share here. Let’s see if I can get back into the swing of things.

This post is participating in Sundays in My City over at Unknown Mami, check out what others around the globe have been up to.


Christmas Stocking Tags

I haven’t blogged much about it, but just a wee bit ago I thought I would foster kittens. An opportunity arose to bottle feed the cutest four little cuddly meowers you’ve ever laid your eyes on – and I jumped in. I thought I’d keep two and put two up for adoption (cough, cough). Living rurally, there aren’t as many good homes and we may have more un-neutered cats than other areas and lack the resources for no-kill shelters. So, you guessed it, I’ve added four rowdy beasts – much to the chagrin of the existing two – to my family. Crazy cat lady status is full blown here.

I LOVE decorating with Christmas stockings. They’re just one of my favorite things and, on the practical side, take no room to store and require no heavy lifting at all. As much as I love, love, love living rurally – there are a few things – like curbside Christmas tree pickup – that just don’t happen here. Generally, you have to saw it up, pack it up and take it to the green recycle during that time in normal years where it’s raining (sawing is an outdoor activity). Not a fan, also not a fan of fake trees (well, except for some colorful tabletop versions). So, full trees are only here in years that I host Christmas eve or day.

This is not to say that decorations don’t abound – everywhere. And, stockings figure in prominently. I’d seen this concept of tags instead of stitching the name on the cuff – and loved it. I loosened up my hoop screws and just hooped a sandwich of the back fabric, cut away stabilizer (to keep them stiff once done – the sandwich didn’t really need stabilizer for any other reason), Warm n natural Batting and the top fabric. Edited text and put four tags in each hooping – moments later, name taggies 🙂 .


These are the easy fleece unlined stocking I’d written about here , here and here.


A few of the boys checking out their name tags, photographing items is always an exercise in holding back cats while balancing a camera.

Nasty Woman free cutting files


With a Brother Scan n Cut (or Silhouette or Cricut) cutting machine you can cut heat transfer vinyl (HTV) and iron it onto a shirt, sweatshirt or whatever. I created some files  and shirts for friends and family and I’m more than happy to share the files for free with anyone that wants to use them. The fonts I used are free for personal use. If you want to nab these files and sell something, see the info (for the shirt above the guy would just want $5 for commercial use of his font – the other font in that one is ok for commercial use). The files are .fcm (for brother Scan n Cut, file flipped for use on HTV) and .jpeg (the newer Silhouette and Cricut machines have ways to use jpgs). If I need to load them up as .SVG for you to use, just let me know.img_1432

The Bad Hombre is so cute on my adorable little 20 month old nephew 🙂 I prefer Siser Easy Weed HTV, although I’ve used others (you can pick some up at Joann, Michaels or the major craft stores – just make sure it’s heat transfer vinyl if you want it for cloth application, not regular sticky vinyl folks use for labels and such).


You can size the files however you like, right now they’re as pictured with the one above a small size placed near the hem on the shirts I’d made up.


The election is fraught with emotion on all sides, so I’ll take the files and pics down come mid-November (or whenever election results are finalized and accepted …).


I put the files in Google drive.

Go and make up some shirts folks!

Rainy Sunday, so fussing a bit more with fonts, images and vinyl – we’ll see what’s next 🙂 . To see what others around the world do on their Sundays, stop by Unknown Mami’s Sunday’s in My City.