Helen’s 10 Recycled Earth-Friendly, Pocket Book Friendly, Guilt Free Gift Giving Idea or How to Avoid “the Mall”



Yesterday we had to go to “the Mall”. No, not to shop for Christmas, but for some things that were needed from the pharmacy etc. I haven’t done Christmas shopping at a Mall for so long that I can’t remember when I did. The place was packed! The parking lot was packed. You know the scene.   Where you have to follow someone back to their car and lurk until they pull out, putting your indicator light on to let others know that this spot is TAKEN and grab their parking spot. It is rather aggressive. Then there are the line ups! OMG! I’m just so happy that I don’t work as a cashier. My back starts aching just thinking about it and all for minimum wage too.

But the worst part of it is the sheer consumerism of it. All that new stuff which will eventually be discarded as the wrong color or the wrong style or just not right somehow. The amount of goods going out is mind boggling, the amount of resources used, and the amount of money spent and a lot of it spent by people who really really can’t afford it. Well, what if there is an alternative? And of course there is…

In past years on this blog I’ve written about Abundance at Christmas and written about the fun we’ve had finding Decor and Music for Xmas all from second hand sources. I’ve shown my HUGE Santa collection, in the post, Revisiting my Santa Collection,  all also second hand for the most part.


So with that done, for 2011, I’d like to present some gift ideas that don’t require going to the Mall. Think of it as Helen’s Recycled Earth-Friendly, Pocket Book Friendly and Guilt Free List of Gift Giving Ideas. These ideas are tried and true. In fact, we have a rule and all our friends and close family also follow it in regard to presents for each other. The rule is the present must be second hand or hand made. It should be fun, lovely or useful and most of all it should be CHEAP! ** So no worries about how much to spend, no worries about the credit card maxing out and no worries about having to go to a Mall. Wow that’s a lot less worries eh?
(** Cheap is a subjective term. Inexpensive is different things to different people. Our rule is literal, no more than $10, less if possible. That said, my list offers a wide range of “inexpensive” according to your budget. )


OK here goes.
1• Go to the Used Book Store and look for books that are in nice shape, and would interest your friend, relative etc. This year we’ve found Cook Books galore. And believe me there is something for everyone. I even found a Weight Watchers one for a friend who goes there and a Diabetic one for another friend with Diabetes. Don’t forget about Decor books and Books about Crafting and Creative Arts.  There really isn’t any subject or interest that isn’t covered somewhere in a book.

2• Still at the Used Bookstore? Well, there are an awful lot of Kids books, Craft and Art books, and books about any possible interest that a friend could have. Actually, books are one of the things we look for at Garage sales all summer ( yes, I’m one of those people who are looking for gifts all year). You can get great deals. And if the book is already inscribed with a sentiment by the original gift giver, no matter… just add yours as well. Our friends have no worries about giving away a gift to someone else after they’ve read it and just adding another inscription. The more times given, the better, we all agree.

santajack3• Go to your local Thrift Stores. There is an absolute abundance of gifts here.
I’ll break it down by age and gender

Gifts for Little kids
Kids grow out of clothing so fast, that very often you can find almost new things of good quality too. In fact, some were gifts and never worn and still have the tags since Sally or Sam was already too big for the gift when it was given. So…. there it is in the Thrift shop ready to be a gift again.

Toys, there are just huge amounts of old toys ready to be played with by a new child. That sounds nice doesn’t it? Just check for broken parts, make sure it’s age appropriate and clean.

Gifts for Mother in Law or Moms are sometimes difficult to buy for. Well, see #1 and #2, books. But don’t forget things like vintage jewelry, or scarves. There’s so much out there in signed and artsy textiles and jewelry that you ‘ll be tempted to buy some for your self too.

Gifts for Guys of all ages; Guys are hard to buy for. Unless you look for interests. Like cooking, or sports or collections or gardening but more about that later. You can find T-shirts with great graphics on them. If you know how to silkscreen or can use a transfer go for it, on a used T and have some fun making some home made designs. Cooks can always use aprons. Collections are always a good bet too. Bill collects Elephants, Dave collected Buddhas for a while too. We kept finding them everywhere.

4• Ok you’ve done Used Book store and Thrift stores, how about Garden Centres? Try to find a centre that locates it’s products from greener eco sources and you’ve got an earth friendly gift for sure. Potted plants for indoors that bloom are nice. An Amaryllis is always a good gift. I used to give one to my Mother in Law for a few years and we’d compete in a friendly fashion as to who got the most blooms. It’s easy to ship and there’s the fun of planting and waiting for the Gorgeous blooms too.

caroller5• Art Supply stores are a great source of prezzies. Not just for those artists on your list but for the ones you know really want to try something creative. There are lots of sketch books made with 100% recycled paper, acid free and archival quality. And if you do a bit of stealthy investigative interviewing of your giftee, you might even find that they would love to take a course in something or other. Most artists are like me and are quite happy to provide gift certificates to their courses.

6• Art Galleries. Ok I know a lot of people are intimidated by Art Galleries but go on, be brave, venture in. You’ll find a lot of interesting things there. Many public galleries have a Gift Shop full of wares made by local artists. And a lot of it is in very very affordable. Most galleries put on shows of smaller pieces at Christmas just to highlight all their artists and offer a start into collecting art. A lot of emerging artists be they young or old, have some amazing work for sale.

7• Art and Craft shows are usually in November, but there are still a few “last Minute shows” to be found showing local artists. Keep art and gift giving in mind in the summer too when many artists and artisans are showing their stuff in local Art and Craft shows. There you will find something for everyone, literally. They have food gifts, herbal makeup, prints, clothing and jewelry, sculpture, art work of all kinds. You will be spoilt for choice and supporting Local Artists as well. I collect their business cards too so that I can look up their web sites later for other gift ideas. A lot of them have Etsy stores or their own web sites. You would be amazed at how much artwork these days is made from recycled materials.

sledboy8• Another gift worth considering is materials for art works. My last birthday was perfect partly because two friends gave me discarded stained glass shards for a present knowing that I’d use them somehow in my mosaics or other artworks. Along that line, give used beads and necklaces to a someone who is into beading, used or scrap material to a quilter, or used dishes and tiles to a mosaic artist. There are so many hobbies and interests that your friends and relatives indulge in that the list of possibilities of materials is endless.

9• Look around your home for gifts. Yes, things you already own. Ornaments that you no longer enjoy may be loved by someone else. Maybe you have a collection that is too big and there are some pieces that you know would be welcomed by a friend. Along that line, have a gift exchange party and have everyone bring something that they no longer want but that would make a lovely gift for someone else. Swap or sell to each other. It’s a good excuse for a party and recycles too. You could even throw in a Cookie exchange which brings me to my next gift idea.


10• Get in the kitchen and start cooking or baking. I’ve been going to the library and picking up lots of books about Christmas cooking and baking. The library is a great free resource and one day I’m going to do a blog just about libraries. I take out tons of magazines every month. I figure I’m saving some trees and hey, I don’t have to store them. A lot of the December mags can’t be taken out but last years Christmas edition is there to peruse and get lots of ideas from. I love the ones that go all out with Christmas baking ideas. In fact, at garage sales I snatch those Xmas editions up really fast. Ok to get back to the kitchen…. Baking is always a great gift. I find lots of vintage tins at thrift stores  and garage sales all year and give presents of baking. Just line the tin with wax paper or other nice paper and fill to the brim with goodies. One of these years I’m going to learn how to make chocolates too. Another idea to give.

Which brings me to recycled wrapping paper. We save all the gift bags and wrapping paper and use it over again. I’ve also sewn gift bags that get passed around from year to year. This year I’m planning on finding some Chinese newspapers and using them to wrap presents with some lovely ribbon and maybe some lucky people will get one of the many used Xmas broaches I found at the Thrift store adorning their packages. But changing your gift wrap ideas is another way to stay out of the Mall. Maybe this should be # 11.

Hope my little list has given you some good last minute ideas. And with that, we wish you and yours a lovely, recycled, creative,artistic and mall-Free Christmas! That’s the best present yet.  BTW if you liked the little vintage Christmas Illustrations I’ve peppered throughout,  look for Vintage Christmas by Dover Publications for royalty free illustrations.  Which I found at the Library, of course.  But if you want to buy it, it’s a Green Planet Friendly publication.



Garage Sale Loot, A Russian Tall Ship and a Real Find – Paxton Chadwick’s Illustrations


Last Saturday, unlike my last entry, was the most perfect summer day ever, sunny, warm and just generally full of promise. A good day for garage sailing.

I always have this little superstition that you must find something at the first sale or it won’t be a good day. OK I made up that superstition myself but it often proves true. Garage sailing, as I’m fond of saying is a lot like fishing, sometimes you catch something, and sometimes no luck at all. If we don’t find much I just pocket that weeks garage sale allotment and save it for the next week. The first stop yielded three big pots of plants for the garden at $1 a pot! Now that’s a good start. And we were off to find even more good loot.

And speaking of fishing we found these colorful lures, which will make a nice present for Eric and Scarlette, the avid fishers of the family. Personally, I just like the colors.


How do you like the Garage Sale sign at the top of today’s post? Oddly enough this sign was for a garage sale to raise funds for a group that rescues street cats. Anything to do with cats is something I’ll support and I found a lovely Cat bag and a book of Cats in Art cards. That’ll make a lovely gift for some cat lover don’t you think?


We found a garage sale given by a fellow who claimed that he “used to go garage sale-ing”. How is it possible to be a former garage sailor? I can’t imagine stopping. It’s hard enough to wait for spring and the season for it.

Like a true bargain hunter he had picked up these wooden rings from a friend who was closing up a shop. No idea what they were for… we all guessed for macramé. But they were so lovely that I had to take a couple of photos.



And also a pic of this ornament, which I suppose is supposed to be a Sword Fish. But just a pic, didn’t buy it. I’ve been trying to leave something for others, you know.


Then as we drove on to James Bay by way of the Harbour we spied sitting moored a HUGE three masted tall ship. So of course, we had to go and check it out. Turns out it was a Russian Training ship in port just for a few days. They were giving free tours to anyone who wanted to check it out. It was called the Pallada. I’ve left the cars in the photo just so you can get an idea of the size of this ship.

Pallado Russian Tall ship

In James Bay we found a few more treasures. This little arrangement of garage sale loot shows the vintage colored dominoes I found. We played Dominoes later that night and I must admit Bill won 4 times in a row. A rematch is imminent. Plus I found a glass cream and sugar set, which reminded me of my childhood for some reason. The birds were from the same sale as the dolphin pictured earlier and may feature someday in a mosaic. The cat card is from the book of Cats in Art cards found earlier. This is my fave card in the bunch.


Also found these cement pillars which will end up mosaic-ed soon, I hope and become rather nice plant pot stands.

To get an idea, here’s what happened to a chimney we did years ago.
And yet another little arrangement of treasures. The bedside table will I think get redone and painted, but I’ll leave the drawer which has the greatest texture. We had to snap up these vintage lamps and clock too. Bill is planning to rewire the clock. He loves these old clocks and this one has a most lovely shape.


In Fairfield, I had to snap these colorful buckets of flowers. This store has always been here, a spot I always slowed down to enjoy when walking home years ago when we lived in this area .


But now, for the best, which I have saved for last. For those of you who already know of Paxton Chadwick, this won’t be a surprise. You may enjoy reading a bit more about him, since not only was he a very talented illustrator but oddly enough a Communist in England. What I found out about him could only be found on Communist or Labour blogs.  I’d never heard of him before, but when I found this little beat up book illustrated by him I was enchanted. They have the look of printmaking to them, almost wood block. The detail is fantastic and the colors, well, just enjoy. Now I’ll have to find other books done by him for Penguin Books in England so many years ago. This book was published in 1952. So I leave you enjoy just a few of these fabulous illustrations. I did find a few more illustrations here on Google images. And all this enjoyment for only 50 cents!









Getting Ready for the Big One

We live on the West coast, on Vancouver Island. That said, as we watched the horrific video coming back from Japan last week, watched that black tsunami wave churning up buildings, cars and people in it’s path, we couldn’t help but see ourselves in that wave. As our hearts went out to those thousands of people washed away and those left, now wondering about the nuclear danger unfolding, a niggling thought pushed it’s way to the front of my mind.

Then at work, someone told me of Jim Berklands predictions for our coast. OK, sure, there are detractors, but it doesn’t take much to see that if the Ring of Fire was a dot to dot drawing we are #4 on that list. And I don’t really care if he’s got the dates right or not. I sincerely hope he’s wrong just as I wish we weren’t #4. But there it is. We do live here in paradise, I love it and I want it to always stay the way it is. But I must admit I’ve been living in denial… like many others. I’ve been thinking it’ll never happen, or maybe if it does it’ll be in 500 years. Oh sure I had a few gallons of water stored in the back porch, my little nod to the Big One. And I did look last summer at garage sales for a little stove for “The Kit”. But I never really got around to putting one together. All those warnings to get 72 Hours of provisions ready had been by and large ignored.  That niggling thought finally  grew into a need for action.

Now, if you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m all about recycling. But last weekend, I just wanted to get our Kit together. So while a lot of it is recycled like the blankets, dishes and pots and pans, the last a lucky garage sale find on Saturday, most of it is new. We had looked up quite a few Earthquake preparedness sites on the net and come up with a list of sorts. I found the bins at a good price and rapidly started to find the stuff on the List.
There was tinned food and granola bars for us and cat food for our cat, a can opener, some first aid supplies and a couple of odd things too. Like those cat treats for Sophie. And in one of those freezer bags are a couple of chocolate bars too. For shock, I told Bill, but for comfort, I said to myself. Also a deck of cards. We even managed to find a cheap but complete little 2 burner stove, for the power outages that may come. Gotta have my cup of tea.



We also found another of those great inventions, a flashlight that only requires shaking to power up, no batteries. We stocked up on the requisite number of liters of water in reusable jugs. We’re still looking for a radio that’s affordable.


Next came deciding where to store “The Kit”. If we had a big shake, what part of the house would be left standing? We figured the back porch, a rather flimsy construction, would probably fall off. So that left the area next to the basement door. I thought if we kept it close we might be able to get at it just by reaching in. Everything is together, right down to the crowbar. We’ve even got leather gloves in the kit, one of the things suggested in the earthquake lists, for digging out later.

Besides “The Kit”, just as was suggested in the earthquake sites, we’ve figured out where our home is in relation to tsunami and Victoria earthquake liquefaction maps. We’ve thought about where to go that’s high and safe if we are caught away from home, while at our jobs.

All of this has had the effect not only of making the whole thing more real and even more scary but oddly somewhat reassuring. Oh sure, I know that I really don’t have any real earthquake experience, the last one here only slightly rocked the fridge. But I do feel like I’ve tried to do something to take care of ourselves in the 72 hours until help can get to you. And now at least I’ve got “The Kit” started and can add to it.

I’ve sent out my “flurry” of emails to friends about the getting ready. But I know I can only do what I need to do for ourselves for now. And I admit, that in the back of my mind, I’m hoping that, like taking an umbrella to ward off a rain shower, “The Kit” will ward off the Big One. Oh, I know that’s stupid and silly, even as I write it.

And then, as I watch the tragedy in Japan that is still unfolding, my mind tries to wrap itself around the immenseness of the losses of life and homes. I see that with this “Kit”, I have, at least, come out of my personal denial that it can ever happen here. And that, while just a miniscule thing, on the scale of these earthquake disasters this last year, is something.


I’m Not Ready for Christmas! Not even close!


Ok, I don’t know what happened this year. I’m just way behind. It’s only 3 days til Christmas!

Now I have to tell you that I actually wrote this post 11 days ago, but due to problems with our internet provider doing some sort of change over, that caused some sort of technical mess (don’t ask me, I’m not techy at all) that made it impossible to load anything, which has taken this long to sort out, I am FINALLY able to post this.  And yes, I know that was a ridiculously long sentence.

So here it is 8 days later and to tell the truth not much has changed, I’m still way behind. I still don’t have the baking done, the tree is half decorated, and I’ve only just mailed out the Christmas cards PLUS  now I’ve got bursitis.

Last year I was sooooo ready. I had the Santas up the whole kit and caboodle of them. Check it out, the 25 Days of Christmas Santa collection. That’s the Grouchy Santas from my collection acting as the header for this post.

I had the  Christmas music, all of it pretty well second hand, nothing like recycling for creating an abundant Christmas. And even had time to write about it.
This year I’ve been working way too many hours and just haven’t had the time. Plus I decided to make some presents this year. Check out the scraps I’m using. Colorful and tropical enough? Yup, just my thing.

Here are a couple of the tea cozies I’ve made. Can’t show you the others yet. Gotta keep the surprise, just in case certain gift recipients are reading this blog.


But I’m not giving up. I’m obviously going to have to scale down my plans, do a bit less, not put up as many decorations, not bake as much (Bill and I could certainly do with less in the goodies department).   But I’ll figure it out. Christmas will come, ready or not. And I plan to enjoy it.  Anyway if nothing else I’ve got chocolates!  What else do we really really need??


The Japanese Shirt that Inspired a Little Flurry of Pillow Making


The thing with shopping at garage sales is that A. you never know what you will find and B. you never know where what you find will lead you.
I like to call it creative shopping.

This summer I snapped up a lovely pillow with a Japanese theme of a pagoda and a scooter. A few months later I found this shirt, full of lovely geishas.


Now it just so happens that I have a little collection of Japanese fans, that grace the mosaic I created of Birds and Geishas, that I posted about last year.



A few years ago I’d created another Japanese themed mosaic that also resides in our bedroom. I titled it my Marriage Mosaic. Just to quickly explain, it turned out that after I had put this little tableau together, I found out that, in Japan, the pair of geese or ducks are symbolic of a long marriage. And although I am nothing like the shy little bride on my mosaic, I love the idea that this little mosaic symbolized our long marriage.


Now it also just happened that, being someone who hardly ever throws anything out, I still had a few shirts stashed from our holiday in Hawaii that I’d found at garage sales there. All with Japanese themes and all just waiting to be recycled.


All that was needed was to play with the material and come up with some pieced fabric designs. Almost  like making a mosaic but with fabric. A little trick I like to use when making pillows from old shirts is to use the button front as part of the design. Much easier to undo buttons and insert the pillow than to have to sew in a zipper.



Also a good way to recycle most of the whole shirt, buttons and all. But just a word about my kind of sewing, it’s pretty fast and loose, I cut things out by eye, not one for measuring much. In fact, I just piece things together til I like the look and then cut it all to size.

Of course, I couldn’t stop at just one. This lovely shirt with its gorgeous picture of a Japanese fishing scene just had to become part of another little pillow.


And that’s it, pillow making is over for now. All the little scraps still left over will be saved for another day and another inspiration. But there’s nothing like creating something new to look at and enjoy.


Bridges of London and Budgerigars, a New Pique Assiette Mosaic

Bridges of London and Budgerigars Detail, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

the inspiration
I’d had this fantastic plate with the bridges of London all around the rim for ages. I’d had a few ideas for it but nothing that really inspired me into action. Nevertheless, I’d broken up the pieces and kept them together with masking tape for years. They were waiting for me, dust covered and dirty, on my studio shelf. And no, I don’t dust my studio much, there are just too many dishes and ornaments and I’d never get anything else done. Priorities you know.

Bridges of London and Budgerigars Detail, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

the ingredients
For some odd reason I’d always thought of the bridges with Budgies or Budgerigars as the Brits called them. For me they went to together. I just happened to also have a “loverly” set of salt and pepper shaker blue budgies. And I also just happened to have a plate covered in, what else, English Ivy.  Ah the joys of having lots of used plates and ornaments to recycle and transform into something fun.

And that “something fun” was a new mirror for over the sink, so I’d have something entertaining to look at while doing dishes. There are always so many dishes to wash aren’t there? And me, I’ve got a low boredom threshold.

But what shape could this take? What would tie it all together? Finally, inspiration struck. An English Mantel clock! Or at least the shape of one….yes that would work. And with that, all the other questions were answered. I needed another plate for the “shoulders”, easy to find, waiting there all along in my studio stash. And the final touch? Well, what are the Brits famous for? Their gardens of course! So out came the porcelain flowers. You know, those little bouquets your mum collected.

Bridges of London and Budgerigars Beginning, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

the finished piece
It took a while, but finally all the pieces were in place.  Well, almost, the budgie perches needed mosaic and the grouting needed doing.

Bridges of London and Budgerigars Detail, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

The only thing left to do was glue on the budgies and the flowers. With a bit of careful chiseling I freed some flowers and leaves from their little porcelain pots and glued them into place.

Bridges of London and Budgerigars Detail, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Now, I’ve got the Bridges and Budgerigars of London over my sink, surrounding a mirror that reflects the stained glass window we bought years ago, also from England. And I must say, I rather like it.

Bridges of London and Budgerigars,  Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com


Garage Sale Travels


Another Saturday morning of garage sailing has come and gone. We had a good morning, found a few things that will be useful for very little money. Things like a new wicker hamper for the bathroom, never used for $2. And some shelving perfect for drying and curing sculpture in the sculpture studio for just $4.  We love to find bargains but  we’re really out to enjoy ourselves too.  As we drive around looking for next sale, enjoying the sun, glimpsing lovely front gardens, we enjoy listening to whatever tape we’ve found at some garage sale.  Today we sang along with Cat Stevens and songs of the “Tea for the Tillerman”album.

Sometimes you come across things that are a bit different, not always necessarily useful and you get a bit of history to go with your purchases.

Like the post cards we bought from a fellow with a couple of tables set up on the street corner in James Bay. The seller, an older man, told us they had been his late sister’s cards, who had traveled a lot in her day and collected post cards of the places she’d been or just whatever caught her fancy.
The odd ones at the top of today’s post, were a happy find, which we may use in a collage or even send to a friend for fun.

Or like the post cards of these colorful sunsets from Firenze in Italy..

Gazing over the seller’s shoulders we noticed this very bountiful community garden.


But what really drew our attention was this little softly-rounded straw bale shed  topped with a roof garden sprouting grasses and succulents.  We wandered over  to admire it and the roses…

Which brings me indirectly to my next photos. But first let me tell you about why I have been inspired to present the following photos as diptychs.

For the past many months, each week I have been waiting for the next installment of blog from Australia. Louise, a very talented photographer features another suburb in a colorful photo journal of the over 600 suburbs of Sydney. Her goal is to present 52 suburbs.  What makes her posts so special?  Why do so many followers check every week for her latest photo journals?   Well, I’d say it is her unique way of presenting photos in pairs, sometimes connected by color, sometimes by content or sometimes by similarities in curve or line. Go and see it, spend a little time, you don’t have to know Sydney to appreciate her amazing photos.  I’d hoped to introduce Louise’s blog by doing a little photo journal of my own neighbourhood.  But I found what Louise does much more difficult than it looks. So instead I’ve just taken a page from her diptychs and tried to emulate what she does.
So these next photos displays are my little tribute to Louise’s blog. My attempt at making those connections.
Like the Paint by Numbers of roses done by the next sellers Mom, now in her 80’s. And the roses in the community garden.

Or the colors in a pair of flamingos in a porch window (ok they do look a bit amourous) and the colors of a box of fishing lures at another sale.

Which brings me to my last little pairing of today’s bounty – an old kettle, soon to be a home for a trailing plant, some heirloom squash plants found at the Moss Street Market, the old muffin tin which I hope to make into planters for Hen and Chicks. But then I decided to clean up that old kettle, and somehow it’s just a bit too brilliant now. But I’ll leave it outside, and soon it’ll lose it’s shine and fit in nicely with the old grate in the herb garden.



And Now…..Featuring Another Recycling Artist – Leo Sewell


I’ve always been into recycling and have been creating my mosaics with old dishes and ornaments for years. So now more than ever, I like to discover other recyclers who are into creating art from recycled materials. And this morning while going through a Cloth Paper Scissors mag I found an artist I can really relate to.

So I got on the e-mail and sent him a request….could I feature his work on my blog and share his website? Well, Leo replied promptly, must have been taking a break from his sculpting and checking his mail. He said go ahead, use whatever shots you want. So without further ado, I’ll let you in on an artist who really knows his junk.


If you find the March/April 2010 issue of the mag, you’ll find a great interview by Cate Coulacos Prato who tells a bit about Leo’s background and how he’d started creating things with junk in the 70’s and some more photos of just a very few of the 4000 sculptures he has created.

But for now, here are a few photos to wet your appetite. Make sure to go to Leo’s website and don’t miss the 3D Duck! Prepare to take a bit of time, get a cup of tea or coffee and spend a while enjoying Leo’s found object artworks.






Looking for Plant Sales and Other Treasures


Saturday found us getting up late and dithering about whether or not the weather would hold out for garage sailing. But I found an ad for a plant sale or two so off we went. And you really couldn’t miss this sign.


And although I loved the way they’d planted things up in these lovely red cups, we didn’t find anything we really needed at this one. Although we did spend a few minutes trying to justify a couple of things.

But that’s not to say we didn’t find anything. I found these Cleome starts at a flea market later


and Bill found this Firetail at another sale. Ok it had a latin name on the tag too but I can’t make it out. The bloom is a sort of thistle like flower in magenta.


As you can see, Bill has been very efficient and planted his find already, right next to the Cardoon. I, on the other hand haven’t got around to quite a few things that need planting. But I will, I will…..


Couldn’t resist a photo of the seller’s cat sitting in the sunlight.

The next garage sale was overlooking the ocean on Dallas Road and I had to catch a photo of the very ocean flavoured fence of driftwood. I might borrow this idea, I like it so much.


Then, as we made our way to another sale we passed Beacon Hill Park and practically screeched to a stop for this photo. Lovely, isn’t it?


Here’s a close up to see what produced this car stopping scene.


Then on to have lunch in front of this pond where we could enjoy not only the view of the pond with it’s geese but a glimpse of the ocean beyond.


The find for the day were these pillows, especially this one with the Japanese scene. Love it and I may even have to totally redo the decor in the living room to accommodate it. There was another good find but I’ll have to keep it secret for now, it’s going to be birthday present for Hart and I don’t want him to see it yet.



Earth Day – Optimism Required!


Earth Day has been on my mind a lot. My last post was about Earth Day from a Gardening Artist’s perspective. But today I realized that I’m not done with Earth Day yet.

Our sons are all grown up now, but I can remember a particularly black day back in the early 80’s when one our sons came home from elementary school very upset and very depressed. When we tried to find out what was the matter he finally answered.

He said, and I paraphrase here, but you’ll get the gist, “What is the use of anything? We are all going to die in a polluted stinking world, with no water, and food full of pesticides. The air is going to be unbreathable and there will be too many people to be able to feed them all. Why am I even going to school? What is the point of going on?”

To say that I was appalled and shocked, would be an understatement. I knew I had to think fast. This son of mine was truly in a state of deep despair and very very pessimistic for his future. The schools and the teachers, having finally latched onto ecology had pushed all the negatives way too hard. But they had forgotten to temper all that bad news with some good news. I had to suddenly come up with as many things as I could to convince him that all was not lost. I had to think of things where pollution had been turned around, like the fact that the Thames had been cleaned up from a stinking cesspool to a pretty respectable river. That people like Green Peace were out there fighting for the ecology and making a difference. That a lot of people were conserving water and not polluting in all sorts of ways. I won’t go into all the things I had to come up with that day but hopefully you get the point.

I know why he felt this way. I get pretty down about the future just watching Nature shows. In fact, no disrespect to David Suzuki, but I quit watching his shows years ago. I renamed those shows, Guilt with Suzuki. Each show made me feel so sad, hopeless, guilty and despairing. And that is what my son faced, complete despair. And with that was a sense that all was lost and why bother? Keep in mind that this exchange with my son happened in the early 80’s. There was a lot less going on out there to show that we could turn it all around.

That day I had to convince my son that there was hope for the future. Although I also had to tell him that while the future of the Earth might not be perfect, we could each of us make a difference by doing little things. And all those little things would in the end make a huge difference.

And I look around today and I see lots of little things to be positive about. Like the fact that we have Blue Boxes here as part of the municipal services. We even have a garden waste compost program for our municipality. Ok, these are actually, in my mind, BIG things.

We and lots of other people recycle. We carry our own bags to shop. Lots of people buy second hand like we do. We are not the only people who don’t flush for every use and turn off the tap when we brush our teeth. Ok, all little things but everything counts when more and more join in. We even spend a lot of time making sure our cast stone sculptures are as green as possible. So I’m not going to list all the little things we can do and try to do. Besides I like to keep my posts to around 500 words. It’s a blog after all, not a book or an essay.

Nowadays, I look for positive signs. I look for optimism for the future. I have not seen Al Gore’s movie, feeling that it will probably be more of the same old pessimism and will also not add to my sometimes tenuous feelings that there is actually hope for the earth. And with that, I’m not saying, put your head in the sand and forget about the bad things. If anything, my plea is to see the bad things but balance them with remembering and celebrating the good things we are doing for the Earth.

The point I want to make here is that by remembering the good things that we can do and have done, and by being optimistic, we redress the balance of hope and despair. Like my son back there in the 80’s, totally blown away by a black and polluted future, if we concentrate only on the bad and the negative, we will lose one of the most important things that we need for change and that is hope. And if we lose HOPE we will lose the most important thing of all, the WILL to make it better.

So this Earth Day I hope, there’s that hope word again, that you will tell your children or grandchildren (if you are a boomer like me) about all the little things that are making a big difference. And also think of and celebrate all those who have helped to make significant changes to our thinking about ecology. Ok I’m going to get off this soap box now. I’m going to end with two photos taken here in Victoria, my own personal symbols of Earth Day.

Happy and Hopeful Earth Day Everybody!