Tea for Two

IMG_8112IMG_8108I enjoy riffling through craft books, and the other day was riffling through Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts. At one point, my attention was riveted by a tiny, postage stamp-sized photo of a lovely little sampler. A rebus (a representation of words by pictures in a motto) was stitched upon it, and I knew instantly that I wanted to stitch one up. So I got out graph paper, a pencil, some cross stitch fabric, a needle, and began riffling again, this time through my bag of embroidery floss. By peering intently at the little picture, and straining my eyes to their utmost capacity, I was able to come up with a chart of the design, and soon I was stitching. By the way, the rebus says: Except the kettle boiling be, Filling the pot spoils the tea.

(As a side note: If you like this little sampler, there is a similar one at a blog called Stitches of Life. If you enjoy stitchery of all kinds, this is a nice blog, full of projects and interesting links.)

There are several nice things about this little sampler–it’s quick to make, and since it uses only three colors, it’s easy going. I have to admit, though, that I wasn’t totally sure what the saying meant! I can remember my grandmother talking about making tea. She used a tea pot, and poured boiling water into it first to warm it up. Then she spooned loose tea into the pot, one tea spoon per person, and one tea spoon for the pot. Then she poured boiling water into the pot, and let it steep. When pouring the tea into your cup, she placed a strainer over the cup to catch the tea leaves. When she was done pouring, the strainer was set onto its own little silver caddy. A tiny spoon scooped up a lump of sugar, if you requested it.

Tea strainer on its caddy.

Tea strainer on its caddy.

So-called "slops jar"

So-called “slops jar”

Something else I learned is that a so-called “slops jar,” was on the table. When you were done with your first cup of tea, you poured the cold dregs into the slops jar, and the hostess poured fresh tea into your cup. My grandmother also noted to only use boiling water to make the tea, and to never re-boil the water. Re-boiled water has all the air bubbles boiled out of it, and makes a flat-tasting tea.


Spoon for the sugar cubes.

So my guess is that the sampler is telling us to use boiling water to make the tea, and not to re-fill the pot with plain old hot water. That’s my guess!

SUPPLIES: cross stitch fabric (11 count), embroidery floss in brown, black, and blue, a needle and scissors.

I used 11 count cross stitch fabric. You could also use 10 count (the finished sampler would be a little larger), or 12 count (the finished sampler would be a little smaller. The stitched area of the sampler shown is 5 x 5″. It could be cute to use 14 or 18 count, for a tiny sampler, but it all depends on if your eyes are up to it.

The following graph is ok, but not wonderful, and if you would like a better copy, please send a SASE to Fran Manos, 920 South 2nd St., St. Charles IL 60174. ERRATA: The words “Spoils the” should start one line higher than shown. (After making this chart, I have new respect for anyone who creates cross stitch patterns!)



Start stitching the middle, which is three lines below “boiling,” between the “o” and “i.” It might almost be easier to use the following photo as your graph!


I tea dyed my sampler when it was finished to give it an old-fashioned air. I placed five tea bags into the bottom of a stainless steel bowl, and poured in one cup of boiling water. I let it steep, and then put in my sampler. I let it steep in the tea for about 15 minutes. I rinsed it lightly, and then smoothed it out on a folded towel. When it was damp-dry, I ironed it on the back. I will admire it for a few days, and then frame. It’s perfect for the kitchen!

The weather dealt us a cruel blow yesterday–we had a blizzard! The snow fell steadily for hours, and when I woke up my pansies were under two inches of snow. But spring blizzards are different from the real winter blizzards–they’re silly things–and most of the snow has already melted away. The little puschinkias (Puschkinia scilloides) are up . . .


the scilla are blooming . . .


and a goldfinch says hello! Namaste. Fran







Ruffled Feathers

I didn’t have to sit very long outside on our garden bench before a robin hopped up onto a fence post. An ordinary robin is actually a kind of surprising thing, with so many layers of feathers shining like grey silk. This small robin began preening himself, and I caught his beautiful fandango on camera.


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For Spring Wild Flowers, a Tin Can Craft

IMG_7946There’s something about a big tin can that always gets me thinking–how can I decorate it? (For the record, I usually think more interesting things than this, but when I see a big tin can, it’s a blank canvas that’s hard to ignore!) Since spring is coming (I hope), I decided to paint a 28-ounce tin can with flowers and have it ready for the first wild geraniums.

For inspiration, I had torn a page from a British edition of Country Living magazine–it showed a metal container painted in a beautiful milky green color, and then decorated with painted white daisies and blue hydrangeas. I really loved the color vibe.


British County Living plus stencil.

So I gathered two 28-ounce tin cans to paint, though you could use any size you want. Then I chose an array of Folk Art Enamel paints and some brushes, along with a small floral stencil. The original design was made using decorative painting techniques, but my skills are rusty, and I thought it might be easier for all of us to use a stencil. I had a small stencil motif with two flowers  and some leaves.

Paints: Most are from FolkArt, and can be found at any craft store. Wicker White (#2001), Evergreen (#4036), Fresh Foliage (#4019), Burnt Umber (#4012), Hydrangea (#4024), Cerulean Blue (#4122), and Sunflower (#4018), and Baby Pink (#4003), plus a Mossy Green color from PLAID Enterprises. (If you don’t want to purchase all these paints, you could get by with light and dark green, white, blue, and yellow.) You could also use regular acrylic paints, if you have those on hand, and then coat with a glossy acrylic varnish.

Also needed: stencil of flower motif, stencil brush, a small paint brush, and paper towel for cleanup

IMG_7955Here are the step-by-step instructions:

(Before beginning, remind yourself that it’s only a tin can, and go ahead and have fun!)

1. Remove the paper label from a large tin can. I used 28-ounce crushed tomato cans. Remove any glue on the seam of the can. Wash and dry the can thoroughly.

2. Make a light green mixture, using a quarter-size glob of Wicker White (#4001) paint, and add Evergreen (#4036) paint until a light medium green color is reached. The proportion is approximately two parts green to one part white. Tip: Always add dark to light, not the other way around.

Shows cans upended onto bottles for ease of painting.

Shows cans upended onto bottles for ease of painting.

3. Place the clean dry can upside down on a tall bottle, like a catsup bottle. Paint the can with the light green mixture. Painting three light coats will create a smooth surface.

4. Take the stencil and position it on the can. Lightly tape it to the can. Stencil the flower centers with burnt umber and the petals with white. Stencil the leaves with fresh foliage, and highlight with yellow. Use a small paint brush to dab on hydrangea flowers as shown. With more of the white, dab on flower buds. Allow to dry, and if not dark enough, re-stencil.

Okay, now I have to mention that after stenciling, I had the bright idea of painting over the stencil using brush strokes. The stenciled colors provided a pattern to paint over. Try it! Without knowing anything about decorative painting, you can paint the flower bouquet. I added a little cerulean blue to some white, and dotted this among the hydrangea buds. I touched up the flower petals with some pink. And I added a bit more yellow to the leaves. At any rate, this is fun to try, but you absolutely could stick with the stencils, also for a pretty effect. The other can I kept simple, just painting a daisy chain around it.



You could paint your cans with other colors. You could take blue, red or yellow and cut by a third with white to create a milky, light color.

If you have enjoyed this tin can craft, I have two more you might like: Red & White Pantry Organizers (Feb. 1, 2013) and Blue & White Pantry Organizers (Jan 4, 2012).


Here are some sparrow photos I took the other day. I had seen the forsythia bushes across the alley trembling, but couldn’t see any birds. I came closer and aimed my camera at a little dark shape in the bushes, and these are the result. The camera could see through the protective coloration much better than I could! Hope your week is a good one. Namaste. Fran

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Mourning Cloak

I stepped a bit cautiously out onto the back porch this morning, but it appeared that yesterday’s bitter cold winds had stilled, and even the tiny snowflakes I had seen a few days ago didn’t dare reappear. I was gathering up horse chestnuts from the side garden when a mourning cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa) fluttered into the garden. All thoughts of gardening vanished as I trampled over Jim, who was soaking up the warm spring sun on the back porch. The butterfly was still there flexing its wings when I came back out with my camera. Later I learned that mourning cloaks overwinter in tree cavities and under loose tree bark, so they are often the first butterfly to be seen in the spring. Oh, joy!

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It flew down from the oak branch to the brick pathway, to bask in the sun.


IMG_7916Soaking up some rays.


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Also, this morning I took these photos of a cardinal up in our juniper tree.



Slightly mysterious looking.

Lastly, the maple trees are bursting into bud.

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Namaste. Fran

Goldfinches Turning Gold

IMG_7858A goldfinch couple appeared at the feeder yesterday, and I noticed that the vivid, chrome yellow feathers of the male are coming in, in patches. They both ate voraciously,

IMG_7856His black head feathers are coming in, too.

It looks like the female’s feathers are also becoming a bit more gold, though they won’t be anything as vivid as the male’s.





There is a quietness to goldfinch that I really like. They perch very peacefully, munching, unlike the black-capped chickadees . . .

who never stay in one spot much more than a second . . . like this one. All I caught was a blur of feathers and a vapor trail. I will keep trying!


Namaste. Fran

The Robins are Back

IMG_7807I’ve been hearing the robins before I saw them–that watery, lazy warble that I associate with dawn. This robin looks like he means business!

IMG_7808He preened himself  . . .

IMG_7809and scratched himself.

IMG_7814Apparently, he decided he needed a bath, and he hopped into the bird bath on the other side of Mrs. Ott’s fence. I heard lots of splashing, and then he emerged considerably smaller looking than when he went in.

Drying off involved lots of wing stretching, forward and back.


Looks as good as new!


IMG_7817Thinking, something I don’t think robins do too much of.

One last shake.


After a while, he was in full fluff again . . .


and singing.


If you are interested in following the spring migration of birds and butterflies, check out the Journey North site. My friend Joel tipped me off to it. You can not only see where various birds are, but can report your own sightings. They also have live bird cams, including an Osprey Cam. Robin maps note that waves of robins have come north, but that not much nesting has been seen yet. Well, they have to take their baths first, and it’s a big production. At any rate, it’s a fun site.

Very little greenery yet–this shows the buds on a maple tree in our garden. Namaste. Fran