“Baby Goes Hiking”

Baby Goes Hiking

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In my (other) job as an occupational therapist, I have incredible co-workers. I have mentioned this before. Not only do they give their all for our patients, they do some pretty fascinating things when they are not at work.

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One of our physical therapists, Mike, along with his wife Annie, runs marathons, competes in Ironman triathlons, and flies to places like Vermont for long weekends of bike-riding in the mountains. These two love to be active. Their dog Maple goes along whenever she can.

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So, several months ago, Mike and Annie casually announced they were going to have a baby. (Honestly, they do all their spectacular things quite casually.) Then they painted their spare room with fir trees and forest creatures and things from the great outdoors. And in that span between announcement and baby, I could think of no better idea for this pair than a blanket with a tree, a path, and a puppy, all just waiting for baby to join them.

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On the day we had planned to throw Mike a shower at work — with a good three-ish weeks before baby was due to arrive — Mike was instead over at the hospital encouraging Annie through the last part of a very long labor. And that evening they welcomed little Owen into their family.

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Congratulations to Mike and Annie on the birth of your son! Maple, get ready for your playmate. May you four enjoy many, many amazing adventures together ♥ .

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 “Baby Goes Hiking” (37″ x 39″)

This blanket already has a home.

 

 

“A Plaid Affair”

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I’ve been busy in my sunny sewing place, making up several things to be ready for fall. But I decided to take a quick break to make a post of an early, early blanket I made.

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This blanket nearly qualifies for the designation of “crazy quilt.” It’s such a mix of things:

lovely wool, “bad wool” (high synthetic content), heavy sweaters and thin ones, textures going every which direction, and colors that don’t really blend. I just threw it all in there. This experimentation taught me so much. [Nota bene: I don't buy bad wool anymore.]

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But in fact this blanket is saved from any “crazy” nomenclature by two things:

the uniformity of the squares and the powerful restraint of the plaid. I find it pretty amazing.

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Incidentally, we have used this blanket a ton for over five years and it is still holding up great. Those lacy patches in particular have surprised me with their durability.

All right, time for me to get back to the sewing machine :)

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“A Plaid Affair” (72″ x 74″)

This blanket already has a home.

Keeping up appearances, Part 2: The blog tour

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I’m a map-lover. I like to know where I am and where I am going. That’s why I’m conducting this little tour around my blog today. It’s all about navigation — what’s here and how to get to it. If you’re curious, come along!

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(Earlier this year, my husband and I took a trip to Italy to mark 30 years of marriage. I decided to use some photos from that trip in today’s post. After all, we DID take a lot of tours!)

All right. Is everybody here? First stop: the header menu.

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 The Header Menu

Across the top of the page is a green bar that has links with lots of useful information. I’ll describe each one:

HOME will always take you back to the most recent post, which will be followed by the next most recent post, etc., in one long scroll. HOME is the place you can return to if you get lost.

ABOUT provides background about me and my business, The Green Sheep. That’s self-explanatory, right? But check it out — you may learn something new!

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CUSTOM ORDER lets you know what to do to order a special blanket of your own or for a gift. A custom-made keepsake blanket makes a great one-of-a-kind gift for a special occasion…or for no occasion at all!

PRICES tells how to find the price of an item that’s available for sale. (As I build my current inventory of blankets available to buy, I also plan to open a shop on etsy.com to make sales transactions simpler.)

LEGACY BLANKETS — This new grouping showcases custom-ordered blankets that specially remember a loved one. This button in the menu bar takes you to a page describing what these blankets are. (For a list of these blankets, see “Legacy Blanket Collection” under “Blankets” via THE GOODS button.)

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CONTACT — This page has a new form for contacting me directly. Yea! It’s easier than ever before.

TESTIMONIALS I appreciate feedback on my business, and customers like to comment. I thought you might be interested too. In fact, if you are an owner or buyer of anything from The Green Sheep and have a testimonial sort of comment of your own, please contact me (see “Contact” section immediately above).

THE GOODS is an index to all Green Sheep items that have ever been posted on this blog. Categories will drop down as you hover over them with your cursor. For instance, you can find children’s blankets I’ve made by going under “Blankets” and then “Blankets for Children.”

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We’re halfway there! I know for a fact some of you don’t spend a lot of time online. So: is this making sense of things?

 

Next up: The Sidebar

Over in the right sidebar are a few more helpful tools I’d like to show you…

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SEARCH MY BLOG: Type in anything you want to look for on the blog. You know, like the birthday coat I wore everywhere last winter :).

FIND THINGS HERE: Just like “The Goods” above, this index contains lists of categories on the blog. This one, however, lists every single post while “The Goods” lists only the items I’ve designed, blankets and all. They overlap some and are both helpful indexes. You would, for example, find this current post listed in the sidebar under “Miscellaneous.”

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FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL: Sign up here to receive an email notification from WordPress every time I post something new. This is in case you don’t want to miss out on anything.

GALLERY: Photos of Green Sheep art! If you click on an image, it will expand to a larger size against a beautiful black background. You can scroll through all the images from there. It’s pretty fun; I hope you give it a whirl.

ARCHIVES: This gives you access to the blog’s posts by date — all the way back to its inception in 2010.

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Almost finished! Now on to the conclusion of our tour:

Comments (and other bottom-of-the-page things)

O.K. This is going to get “techy” for a moment. I’d like to point out something about how most blogs work. When a viewer clicks on the title of the blog (like “The Green Sheep” in black type at the very top of this page), the programming behind the blog brings up a l-o-n-g scroll of consecutive posts, one right after the other, in reverse chronological order.

But! When a viewer clicks on the title of a post (like “Keeping up appearances, Part 2″ at the top of this page in red), the programming instead brings up that one single post. That’s it. No scroll directly onto other posts. With this option, the comments and the so-called sharing buttons appear for use at the end of the post.

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All this to say: Let loose and join in! Leave a comment! Share the post with other people who might enjoy it! Click a button or add your two cents. The fun is in being together.

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Well, that’s it. That’s the little tour. I hope you’ve done some exploring and have found it helpful. I’ve enjoyed introducing you to new features I’ve been working on. Also — I truly do appreciate feedback. Let me know if there’s something else that would make navigation more convenient. I’ll do my best to figure out how to get there!


Interested in Part 1? Check it out here: “Keeping up appearances, Part 1.”

 

 

Keeping up appearances, Part 1

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typewriterOriginal art: virginia kraljevic on etsy

As I am of a certain age, I have seen some changes in technology over my years. I mostly try to take it in stride, but actually I find it astonishing.

I first learned how to use a desktop computer at work in the early 1980s.

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Except it wasn’t actually a desktop; it was a Compaq portable computer, the size of my sewing machine, and it weighed 34 pounds. I could cover the screen with my hand. But so progressive! So exciting!

When we bought our own computer in the later ’80s, it looked something like this:

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In those days I would stick my head into our basement where my grad-student husband was working at his desk and find him bathed in an eerie green glow. Graphics? Of course it had graphics! Like this!

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Fast forward more than a decade. I clearly recall when my hubby and I walked into Best Buy and saw — for the first time — high-def, animated graphics on a regular home computer. We stopped like country bumpkins in front of those screens and stared. We were astonished.

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Photo: Disney Screencaps

I’ve been reflecting on technology recently because of a particular need to Keep Up. Five years ago I started this blog in response to requests to put photos of my blankets online. WordPress provided a great platform so I figured out the basics and let it go at that. But then! my WordPress theme, Chaotic Soul, was retired. Do you recall when my blog looked like this?

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But I didn’t like trying to read the old white-on-black anyway so I chose a new theme, Motif, and then had some catch-up to do. (WordPress has added many new features since I began blogging but I’ve been bad about keeping up with them.) With help from Wiley’s “Dummies” imprints, I learned some code, asked for help from the incredible WordPress volunteers, and did a tiny bit of my own web design. (Okay, I may be leaving out a few frustrated hours of struggling to conceptualize what I even needed to ask the volunteers!)

Honestly, I can hardly believe how amazing the internet is, and computing, and code, and the blogging world, and electronics…it’s mostly beyond me. But I am so grateful to be living now and taking part in all of this. How about you?


Please come back next week to see “Keeping up appearances, Part 2,” in which I give you a little tour around my blog!

 

 

 

“The Sand and the Sea”

The Sand and the Sea

Here is an all-time favorite sensation of mine, start to finish:

Spread a beach towel on warm summer sand, sit down on it and scrunch around until the sand underneath conforms to your body. Lay down. Drift into semi-consciousness to the sound of the surf sploshing onto the sand and being sucked backwards. If there’s a crowd, listen to their voices swell and swing different directions with the breeze. Fall asleep.

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I know, I know. You’re wincing because of the sunburn. I just didn’t know much better when I began this habit as a kid in California. So here’s the grown-up me: Avoid painful developments by employing advance planning and self-discipline, specifically with SPF 50 sunblock.

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I no longer live near an ocean. (In fact, we now live in a Midwestern town whose name ends in “Lake.” Not that I’m complaining! But it does help explain the bobbing boats in these photos.)

Still, I have memories of enough beach-naps to keep me happy for some time. Plus I have a brother and family in San Clemente, where crashing waves set the ambiance perfectly. And I have two daughters and a son-in-law on Michigan’s west coast, where dune sand creates gorgeous sleeping spots. No shortage of lovely beaches to visit, right in my family.

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Sandi, who custom-ordered this blanket, has beach memories tucked away as well, although she is currently a fellow-Midwesterner. But she will always love the beach and the way it makes her feel. (Her name IS Sandi, after all.)

When Sandi first wrote me, she said, “I am a beach lover! My favorite colors are ocean blues, sky blues and shades of turquoise blue-greens. Those colors simply make me feel better.” She now makes her home in the middle of Michigan and, part-time, allows her beach memories to inform her own creative design work with jewelry. The name of her business? Sandibeach Jewelry! (Her website is currently under construction.)

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In the mid-20th century, Anne Morrow Lindbergh spent some time by the sea and wrote a small book about thoughts it coaxed from her. In large part, she recorded reflections on her life at that stage as a wife and a mother of five. She called it Gift from the Sea. 

The thing I want to share here is her description of the effects of time near the sea. She expresses it far more beautifully than I did above:

“Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell, relaxes, stretches out prone. … Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”  

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Sandi, may this blanket — with its calm ocean blues, its hot-sand whites, and its sparkle of sun on the surf — carry you to that pleasant place where the beach can present to you its gifts and its wonders.

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“The Sand and the Sea” (70L x 55W)

This blanket was a custom order.

The one whom my soul loves

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Elsewhere I have mentioned what I like to call my day job (you can find little bits here and here and here) — as an occupational therapist in a busy outpatient neuro rehab clinic. But “busy” doesn’t quite capture the character of the place. 017a

We deal daily with people who have just gone through something generally sudden and traumatic — a stroke, an accident, cancer that has appeared in the brain — and life is often completely different than it was just an ordinary handful of weeks ago. This can make for a huge emotional component during the time we spend with a patient. I believe we try to reserve the best part of ourselves for this.

But on top of that, we muster the resources to cover a lot of other territory: writing documentation that is meaningful to doctors, insurance companies, other therapists; cleaning up equipment after treatment or organizing our ever-changing clinic space; consulting with our fantastically adept case managers on a particular insurance plan or an out-of-sorts family member; juggling last-minute schedule changes…

…and not least of all, trying to care for each other in the crumbs of time we might have left.

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One of us recently got married. The relationship was a happy surprise to both She and He, coming as it did after each had raised their children and spent many years alone. And in the midst of a harried, frenetic clinic day, one of my creative colleagues brought up a great idea with which to honor our marrying friend. Since it involved felted wool, she brought me in on it.

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The idea (which may have been influenced by something on Pinterest) was this: stitch up a table-runner/wall-hanging  with a pair of birds to play the parts of the bride and her groom, add a tender verse from Song of Solomon, and have the varied lot of us on staff fill out the rest with fanciful flowers of our creation.

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And we ARE varied…and colorful and complementary and sometimes cacophonous. All of these came out when we gathered one rare relaxed evening to complete the project — sharing scissors, fabric scraps, wine, and pizza.

We think the outcome illustrates the assortment of us pretty well ;).

Happy Ever After to Donna and Darrel! We love you both.

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Tuesday Treat – Warm Feet

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Today for a Tuesday Treat: Slippers!

This past winter for the heck of it I tested a few slipper patterns for felted wool. (I hold my breath as I say “past” since the last drift of snow in our yard disappeared only YESTERDAY.) I tried out three: Stephanie’s Sewn Felt Slippers  and another simply-named Felt Slippers at Martha Stewart.com, as well as Cosy Slippers by ThePrintPlace on Instructibles.com.

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Each of those test pairs has its pros and cons. (None of those made the photo shoot, incidentally. They were made of reject sweaters! the stuff I keep on hand for experimenting! The ones pictured here Stephanie’s pattern, which I later made as a quick gift for a friend.)

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For each one, I redrew the creator’s pattern with my own foot measurements. Stephanie’s was the simplest pattern to size in this way and also the quickest to sew up. Her moccasin-based slippers fit close like socks and feel snuggly warm because of that. The other “Felt Slippers” come farthest up the top of the foot of all three patterns and are really warm because of that. And ThePrintPlace’s pattern takes the most time to measure and draw, but yields a homey, traditional-looking slipper that says (don’t your slippers talk to you?) “Yea! you’re home!” when you walk in the door at the end of a long day. All of them benefit from the addition of a couple of suede or leather patches at the ball and heel of the foot so that the wearer doesn’t slip and the wool lasts longer. (I cut ovals from suede elbow patches I had removed from sweaters.)

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So, anyway, that’s my little review. They were fun to try, and now I love having extra slippers at each door of the house. You never know just what they’ll say when you walk in at the end of a long day, but it’s always downright welcoming.

Under construction…

Bora Bora Blue: The Sea Beckons Her

If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, you might be wondering if you’re in the wrong place. But you’re not! Please stay and browse! The thing is, I’ve been wanting to make some changes here. But I found I’ve got some steep learning ahead as I try to rock with all the customizing capabilities WordPress has introduced since I first began this blog four years ago. So right now you catch me smack dab in the MIDDLE of re-construction. If you can be patient as I work my way through, I’d be really grateful!

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“Bora Bora Blue: The Sea Beckons Her”

Bora Bora Blue: The Sea Beckons Her

We recently drove downstate to a revered Italian restaurant in a tiny Illinois town (the town of my mom’s roots) to attend a surprise birthday party. The surprise had been in the making for MONTHS. (The family who held the secret together may swear off surprises completely, so difficult was it to keep all their white lies straight!)

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Susan (guest of honor) and her husband drove in to this well-loved home town from their current home in Colorado. Here, let me try to give you an idea of what Susan is like: Feisty! Red-head! Vivacious! Loves to dance! Tall and elegant! Loves people! Loves an adventure! Those words would be ineffective without their exclamation points. That’s just the way she is.

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Naturally, among the top contenders in my mind for a gift for her was a blanket. I chose a lap blanket for this occasion.

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For a starting point, I asked her husband, “What is her favorite color?” His answer: “Well, she doesn’t have just one. But she loves the color of the ocean. Bora Bora blue!”

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“Directions: Open mind, pour in bora-bora-blue color plus all listed adjectives. Stir thoughtfully and allow to settle.” With just a bit more work, “Bora Bora Blue: The Sea Beckons Her” was cooked up. The red-headed mermaid begged for inclusion and then took off for warmth and adventure…and some dance-able Tahitian tunes.

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Did we surprise Susan? Only she knows for sure. If the party itself didn’t surprise her, the sweep of people there did. We came from different parts and eras of her life. We came from eleven states and from coast to coast. The emotion most clearly evident on her face was: “Oh. my. gosh. All these people came?!!…for me!?!!”

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We did! [exclamation point] !

We came because we love you! [exclamation point] !

Happy birthday, Susan!

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“Bora Bora Blue: The Sea Beckons Her” (49″ x 40″)

(This blanket was a gift and is not available for sale.)

Happy birthday, Februarians!

The Birthday Coat

Note: I am not proud of the photos posted here. I did my best on a cloudy day. I’m even less proud of the dishcloth hanging on my faucet, now enjoying internet status. (Narrow photos don’t work well on this blogging template — thus the dishcloth inclusion.) Today I’m just sharing a bit of joy, so ignore all that other stuff :).

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Quick, before February is gone (although it is NOT going to be missed this time around!) I need to post one more thing. February is not a popular month to many, in spite of (and perhaps beCAUSE of) the presence of Valentine’s Day. But I happen to generally think very highly of it. February is my birthday month.

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And this year I had in mind a gift I wanted to make for myself. This sweater coat had actually been forming itself in my mind for several weeks. After all that mental cooking, I put it together in a weekend. I drew the pattern off a store-bought jacket I have, then just went from there. It’s not perfect, but it was so much fun to do.

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Happy birthday, fellow Februarians! We’ve got to hang together!

“The Twain Shall Meet”

The Twain Shall Meet

Marriage.  It doesn’t just bring two PEOPLE together. It brings two families together. Two histories. Two sets of memories. Two world views.

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It brings together two ways of being, which in their new consolidated form sit on a continuum somewhere between Extremely Similar and  Extremely Dissimilar. (Amen??)

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Today I introduce you to Lori and Steve, a Norwegian girl and an Irish boy who have 11 years of marriage and a son and a life together.

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Where do these two weigh in on the Similarity Scale? They love to be outdoors and to exercise. They share their faith in Christ and have similar values. They enjoy being busy. They are gracious, hospitable and gentle. And how are they dissimilar? From Lori: she is always cold and he is always hot. Steve likes spicy food and Lori, not so much. He likes gadgets, she could care less. She keeps things clean, he likes his piles.

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After considering having a blanket and a story of their own, Lori presented me with some sweaters — sweaters that hold memories for them but that they simply never wear. (This is the perfect project for The Green Sheep. I love solving this “problem”!)

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In the days when Lori and Steve were dating, Steve had an opportunity to travel to Ireland with his parents. In retrospect it turned out to be a specially momentous trip because Steve’s father passed away later that same year.

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While in Ireland, Steve and his dad golfed on a beautiful course at Ballybunion. (You must click on that link if you are craving green and nature right about now!) Steve brought home a wool golf vest. The logo from that important day became a cornerstone of the blanket.

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He also brought home a thick, heavy, beautiful brown Irish wool sweater. But I mentioned he gets hot? So Steve’s brown sweater, too warm to wear but perfect for a blanket, builds the crossroads where these two have met. The leaf shapes scattered throughout are directly from the Irish crest for this couple’s family name.

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Lori also had a sweater from her pre-marriage days that she had been saving.  Hers was from Minnesota — but the black-with-red-and-white trim unfortunately kept throwing off the balance in the blanket.  So, as per Lori’s initial request, I stuck to coordinating with the couple’s bedroom colors instead, with the cream and the grey. If I couldn’t use her sweater, though, what could reflect Lori in the blanket?

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For her, there is the iconic Scandinavian metal button,

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a little extra bling, and, most importantly…

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…some proud Viking representation :). These horns make the blanket’s second cornerstone.

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It was a pleasure to create this for you two, Steve and Lori. I hope you enjoy it for many years to come. And, quite appropriately, Happy Valentine’s Day to you and to all!

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“The Twain Shall Meet” (74L x 60W)

This blanket was a custom order.

“A Pair for Notre Dame”

A Pair for Notre Dame

I have some trouble getting excited about football. Why is that? I’m guessing it’s my languishing competitive spirit. Or maybe the transient population I grew up with in Southern California (weak loyalties) or the fact that Los Angeles had NO football team in my entire young life. Or maybe my dad’s soft spot for baseball?

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I know. It’s a weakness of mine, especially here where I’m surrounded by Bears fans and Packers owners. BUT. I DO have a ton of enthusiasm about staying WARM in wind-whipped stands during those chilly football months.

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Judi, who knows a couple of die-hard Notre Dame football fans, came to me with an armful of sweaters and a question:  Would I make lap blankets for this Fighting Irish married pair? Ohmygoodness, what a great idea.

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So I came up with a his and a hers, not identical but certainly mates.

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His has the bold letters, gold edging, and inset striped blue/gray pieces (above).

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Hers has the shamrocks, green edging, and the blue/green basket-weave pieces.

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(I had a terrible time with the exposure, trying to photograph these in our early December snow. It did not do justice to the sumptuousness of these colors together!)

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Finally, I love this tidbit of sentimentality: the blankets contain a sweater from Judi’s brother’s own days at Notre Dame years ago (left side of the photo below, under the shamrock). Come fall, it’ll be taking its place in the stands once again, to cheer on the team and keep fans warm. Go, Notre Dame!

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A Pair for Notre Dame” (each lap blanket is 36″ by 48″)

This is a custom-made set of blankets.

“G is for Griffin” — and gondola too

"G" is for Griffin

In September, I received an email from Sandi out of the blue:

“I have had the luxury of napping with our grandson under one of your wonderful blankets.”  I’d be fibbing if I said that didn’t make my day.

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Sandi did some exploring about The Green Sheep and then she wrote me. She said she had a brand new grand nephew and was hoping for a similar blanket for him. And she surprised me by attaching a photo in that very first email of little Griffin’s bedroom.

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Okay. Now this little guy’s bedroom has some wonderful creativity behind it. Rising on the wall by the crib is a hand-painted mural of stunning tall, gray, snow-capped mountains. Fluffy white clouds hover above them. And strung between two peaks is a red gondola, ferrying people through this majestic scene. That gondola is irresistible.

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Then I heard the story of Griffin’s parents and how the great outdoors brought them together.

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His father is from California and his mother is from Wisconsin, and she moved out west after college. But the event that caused their paths to cross was a little random. She was on a rafting trip at Lake Tahoe with girlfriends. The women got stuck — but were happened upon by some young men who helped free them. Among that group of guys was … well, the rest is history for this particular couple.

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The gray and the blue in this little baby blanket were an easy match to Griffin’s bedroom. And as I pondered what style of monogram to add for his name, the red of that gondola stayed with me. The “g” of the typefont “Open-Dyslexic” by Abelardo Gonzalez adds a good-natured grin.

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Welcome to this beautiful, amazing world, Griffin. Welcome to an incredible place to explore, with parents who will probably teach you how. I can imagine that tantalizing gondola on your wall carrying your imagination to far-away places.

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“G is for Griffin” (38″ x 35″)

This is a custom-order blanket.

Tuesday Treat

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In January 2013, I accepted a challenge from a friend on Facebook. In the “Creative Pay-It-Forward Challenge,” the first 5 people to comment on my friend’s status would receive from her, sometime during the year, a GIFT! Those commenters agreed to re-post the status and thus pass a gift on to others. The idea tickled my fancy and I signed up.

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I had a few people indicate interest, but only one who carried through: my high school girlfriend, Cindy. Here we are on our flag team in high school — the mid-1970s in Southern California. Put a flag in my hand today and I’m SURE I can still work it. (Cindy’s on the front right; I’m on the far left.)

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Not only was Cindy a fellow flag twirler, she happened to have the distinction of being the first among my friends with a driver’s license. I was a frequent passenger in her sky-blue Pinto. 

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Since I haven’t seen Cindy in person for many years, I asked her what her interests are these days. What do you know: she likes to sew. I knew right then what I wanted to give her.

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Whenever I do handwork with needle and thread, I grab my old sewing pouch to bring my supplies to the sofa, where I can sew under a good light and in front of TV. But I curse that little pouch — it’s black (it’s hard to see and I always prick my fingers on the needles) and it’s got a zipper (which is forever eating thread ends and getting stuck).

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So for Cindy’s gift, I did some free-style sewing, piecing together the kind of little kit I’d love to have: places for a cutter, seam-ripper, ruler, thread, pins and needles, all out where I can find them easily.

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Of course you figured it out: the sky blue in this sewing book harks back to Cindy’s much-revered Pinto. I bet I still owe her gas money. Cindy, for you: I had fun making something new while thinking back on some great, great times!

Tour de Fall

Fall Art Tour 2013

Two years ago I made a delightful discovery: there is such a thing an “artist studio tour” and fall is the time for them around here.

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On a summer weekend with the family in 2011, we stopped in at the Brewery Pottery Studio in Mineral Point, WI, for two of the five of us to have a look-see. (Does this “conflict of interests” exist in your family too??)

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I bought a perfect, lacy mug (above) made by the owners, Diana and Tom Johnston, and picked up a flyer for the simply-named “Fall Art Tour” in southwestern Wisconsin. Artists in adjacent towns would open their studios and put their works on display for sale. The two of us who shopped that day made a pinky pledge to try to make the tour.

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The date didn’t work, but we were so enamored with the idea that in fall of 2012 we found another studio tour north of Milwaukee, and booked a room at The Stagecoach Inn in Cedarburg, an artist-haven sort of town. Our map led us to artists and their studios in old barns, in the lofts of old brick buildings, in their own unique homes, and in one power-plant-cum-architects’ studio. We talked and learned about each one’s art.

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That was just the beginning. We were hooked. Besides, it’s hard to go wrong with ANYTHING in the fall in the Midwest, what with deciduous leaves and all.

We changed it up a bit this year in order to include all three of us girls, and picked YET ANOTHER studio tour, this time south of Saugatuck, MI. (We can nearly drive blind-folded around the tip of Lake Michigan after a two decades of such trips. Well, we probably COULD, if it weren’t for the semis.)

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For fun, I checked VRBO.com for a place to stay. VRBO is “Vacation Rental by Owner”, and I highly recommend it. We found the tiny Saugatuck cottage, “The Nutshell”, bravely holding down its postage-stamp bit of land between Kalamazoo Lake and Lake Michigan. It was just right for three nuts.

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Okay, enough about us. Back to the ARTISTS. This weekend was called the Blue Coast Artists Studio and Farm Tour, as local artists and local farms (apple, pumpkin, fruit, cheese, etc.) got together to hold a giant open house. All are located along the Blue Coast Highway in western Michigan, each just a short drive from the next.

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The photo above is at Khnemu Studio, an 1890s farm-now-studio with solar panels enough to power artist Dawn Soltysiak’s electric kilns. (We had rain on the weekend, which did put a damper on photo-taking but not on our spirits! A deluge had passed through not 30 minutes prior to this set of shots.)

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That’s Dawn above, in the blue plaid. She has just removed a bowl from the kiln (left) and is applying a special technique to it in the straw fire. One of the barns contained work by several potters, and we bought a few pieces. Hidden until Christmas, they are!

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One fun part about this farm was the free-range birds, EVERYWHERE.

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The  fellow above was a beauty. The hen below got a notion in her head about our ankles. Time to be on our way.

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We stopped at Evergreen Lane Farm for a goat cheese sample — and ended up meeting the goats and Dash the horse, hearing the story of how Farmer Cathy started making cheese, buying two cheeses, and picking a half-dozen organic apples.

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The boy goats (above) were too busy competing in King of the Hill to come meet us. The girl goats (below) were eager to see visitors and could barely hold still. We let them gum our fingers (no teeth on top!).

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Farmer and cheese-maker Cathy (on the right) graciously lent Grace and me farm boots to hike back to the organic apple orchard — I think I mentioned the rain?

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The fresh-picked apples and goat cheese staved off our late-afternoon hunger until we made it to our dinner destination in Fennville:

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The Salt of the Earth restaurant. Wow, were they worth the wait. They collaborate with local farms to serve fresh produce, dairy, and meats from this agriculturally abundant area. Listed in the menu’s sidebar of partners, we found Shady Side Farm, where fellow blogger and wool-lover Lona and her husband raise sheep and more! I visited Shady Side last winter for sheep-shearing time.

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The next morning, we made one last stop at the studio of Reverie Design & Craft, where Sandra and her husband are finishing construction of this cozy structure. Sandra makes beautiful and playful pieces of pottery. I bought a small “pot” for sewing tools in my work area. I love that it makes me think of artists in other places when I use it.

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And that’s my story of an artists’ studio tour. I can see how each tour has its own personality. Last year in eastern Wisconsin, for instance, we saw much more two-dimensional work: a large variety paintings, and drawings. This year, lots of ceramics — and farm products!

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Each artist’s story is unique and each path to and through their craft so full of thought, passion, unexpected turns of events, plans, and serendipitous associations. Very, very interesting and very fun.

So, YOUR TURN! Have you gone a-visiting like this? Do you have recommendations for intriguing places to go?

“Tiger Tracks”

Tiger Tracks

While the weather can’t make up its mind these days — a regular occurrence for northern Illinois — fall is definitely pressing in to push summer on.

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When I retrieved the newspaper this morning, I noticed the trees across the street turning mottled yellow-orange. It surprised me with all the heat we just had.

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On a recent evening walk, my husband and I saw geese overhead, soundless this time but for their wing strokes. And this weekend, we’re driving up to Wisconsin for a 30th anniversary gift to ourselves. I look forward to see the coming of autumn there too.

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While mother nature’s delivery of fall can lag and tease, there are two other things that escort this season DIRECTLY to us without messing around:

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SCHOOL

and

FOOTBALL.

Can I get an “Amen!”?

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So I’ve got a combo pack for you in today’s blanket. It was custom-ordered by a mom who was thinking of those two things when she imagined this gift for her son.

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Laura found The Green Sheep online. She asked me to design something for her son Bennett who was about to head off for his freshman year at University of Missouri. Her first child, going off to college! She wanted something special to send with him, something school-related, something sports-related.

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Here’s the Mom low-down: Bennett loves sports. He finished high school on the varsity baseball team. He loves hanging out with friends. He likes the sciences and is considering how he might use that in his future.

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Bennett also had his heart set on Mizzou and was eager to get there. So Mom Laura decided to go for the Mizzou theme and mascot: the Tigers. Then Laura decided to give me a jump-start on this blanket — she did the resale rummaging herself to find the right school colors: black and gold. She loved it!

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“Tiger Tracks” is a BIG blanket, big enough to be a bedspread for a dorm bed or to be available as a throw for a college-sized guy.

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For Bennett, I hope your freshman year is nothing less than GREAT! (For a perfect start, the Tigers football team is 2-0 so far!) For Laura, I saved a tiger paw to make you a potholder — a small tangible reminder of your son, who, though several hours away, is always in his mom’s heart :)

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“Tiger Tracks” (70″ x 93″)

This is a custom-order blanket.

“Fullness of Peonies”

Fullness of Peonies

It’s been my delight in recent weeks to create another “legacy blanket” from, as it happens, another beautiful Irish sweater.

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The pieces with the diamonds (above) and the chevron (below) — that’s the Irish one.

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Each time I work on one of these blankets (like hereherehere, and here) I am moved by the complexity, wonder, and organic force of legacy within a family.  I hear about these things when an individual brings a sweater and says, “My dad passed away, but I’d love to have his wool sweater put into a blanket for my mom. Will you do that?”

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Mary, one of six kids in her big, lively family, found my work online while exploring what to do with her late dad’s sweater. She emailed, asking if I could make a blanket for her mom, Barbara. I replied (“Of course!”) and asked, as I always do, if I could briefly interview her by phone about her parents.

This is one of my favorite parts of the process. It’s where ideas begin to germinate.

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Mary not only talked with me, she sent a couple photos of her parents’ den, a long-time favorite hang-out of the entire family. WOW. A picture and its thousand words cannot be beat. I particularly fell in love with a sepia-toned vintage map of Europe above the red couch, hung next to a classic print of a horse and rider.

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The blanket took its shape around what I learned of Mary’s family, her mom, her dad, and that welcoming den.

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Mary’s dad, a college professor, became a US Congressman in the ’60s and moved his family near Washington D.C. He and his wife not only raised their family and served their state and country together, they co-authored books! There’s a lot to admire there.

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Barbara is a capital-G Gardener, with related offshoot activities: she has led garden tours as a docent and helped launch (I believe — my notes grew sketchy here) a neighborhood garden club. I got the feeling she loves to be around both gardens and people.

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Confirming my suspicions, her daughter reported that Barbara adores having a house full of people :)

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And so it came together: the neutrals to match the masculine sensibilities in the den, the flowers to match the warm red furniture, the fullness of peonies to match this mom and her family full of generations, interests, activities, loves,…legacy. To Barbara, Mary, and the family: I hope this blanket represents your family well :)

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“Fullness of Peonies” (55″ x 70″)

This is a custom-order blanket.

What I’ve done so far on my summer vacation.

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I feel like I owe some explanation for my absence here for two-thirds of the summer — but I’m hoping that you have been too busy yourself to notice!

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I keep my trusty camera handy to preserve a bit of the beautiful, interesting stuff I see. Honestly, I feel surrounded by that stuff every single day.

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Or course, it’s not hard to feel surrounded by beauty in ALASKA, which is where we were for a one-week family celebration with two dozen relatives. Simply amazing!!

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These pictures, in random order, were taken in Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan.

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BELOW: Closer to home, we spent a weekend with my son-in-law’s parents, who inhabit a quiet spot in the Michigan woods. I had been longing for rest in a two-week battle with a cold; their great hospitality and this gorgeous setting did the trick.

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FINALLY: In my estimation, there’s never a shortage of loveliness on the home front either. For Mother’s Day, my family surprised me with a bright outdoor rug from Lulu & Georgia. A book, an iced coffee, a cushion on the chair — heavenly.

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This summer, in my work as an occupational therapist in a neuro outpatient clinic, we’ve been, um, “mastering” new electronic documentation. The difficulty of the task is compounded by the many audiences we must write for: the patient, other clinicians, doctors, insurance, and Medicare. Hoo boy. No wonder those deck chairs look good to me when I get home!

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This summer has also held the weddings of wonderful young people, the funeral of a precious friend, one daughter home from college, and my brother-in-law staying with us while he finds a house for his family to follow from out east (we’re delighted he’s accepted a job near here!).

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In the midst of all that, I’ve been working on several custom-ordered blankets which each have their own great story.

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Stay tuned, because I have two more of those to share very soon :)

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”                             –Philippians 4.8

What have YOU been up to this summer?

Pillowcases for a Princess

Pillows for a Princess

In January, I posted photos and related the story of Calliope’s Castle. My latest project is a companion piece: pillowcases of a sort. They are actually flange-less shams, meant for completing the scene more than cradling the head :)

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When I finished the queen-size blanket, there were so many great sweaters left to work with that this was simply the next logical thing to do.

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I laid out the fronts first, choosing some apricots and greens.

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I had to start with all fresh sweaters and wasn’t able to pull in anything but the teeniest of scraps left from creating the original blanket. I had used every bit of those earlier sweaters!

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Then four cream-colored cardigans of Calliope’s presented an idea  for the backs of the pillowcases — they could serve as the closures…

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…making the pillowcases fully reversible.

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And so the backs got a separate set of colors to tie them in: pinks, green, and creams.

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I was able to add in some meaningful little details from the sweaters themselves:

the ballet slippers,

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the painter’s palette,

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and the sweet neckline of Calliope’s own little-girl sweater.

Queen-size pillowcases (20″ by 30″ each)

This is a custom order.

“Sunshine and Happiness”

Sunshine and Happiness

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This blanket makes me think happiness! every time I look at it. The colors are fantastically WARM and luscious and gorgeous together.

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It’s like the wild California poppies in the empty lot next door to the house I grew up in.

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And the spring-green tumbleweeds across the red-dirt desert of northeast Arizona.

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It’s the jumble of marigolds and cosmos in my Midwest garden.

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And shopping in a Mexican market.

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It’s the hot sleepy feeling of lying on the beach in August.

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And chili-smothered pork, roasting in the oven, to be shredded and eaten with tortillas.

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It reminds me of just about anything with sun and heat involved.

How about you? What does it make you think of?

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Sunshine and Happiness (Size: 55″ x 68″)

This blanket is no longer available for sale.