Friday, May 27, 2022



Two long-time friends and I gathered for lunch. I'd asked them for some help in assembling a bouquet of paper flowers. I had a stack of black and white paper too pretty to throw away. Mindful of trying to find creative uses for recyclable ephemera, I had tried to come up with an easy project that would use this pretty paper. Since it is almost June, I thought of young brides trying to prepare for their weddings. I remember my mom and I fast at work on the morning of my wedding stuffing small pastry shells with savory fillings. I remember assembling flowers in vases for a niece's wedding. We didn't make the wedding bouquets from paper, but I have attended weddings where the centerpieces and gift bags included handmade items.

The reason for asking for help from my friends, besides making sure that this project was easy, was a large cardboard box full of toilet paper made from bamboo instead of from trees. Each roll came wrapped in black and white paper to keep out moisture. The outside paper becomes much more recyclable than the plastic that usually comes wrapped around toilet paper. The TP comes from an Australian company, Who Gives A Crap, that makes TP from either bamboo or recycled TP. With half the profits from each order, the company funds clean water and toilets through group partners such as Water for People and SPLASH. The company's toilet paper is now available in the U.S., and they claim they are carbon neutral.

Once my order arrived, I was surprised by the paper-wrapped toilet paper. What could I do with all that paper? I came up with flowers, a fitting tribute, I think, to people who are encouraging the reuse and composting of things we use and need. I like Who Gives A Crap's attempt to solve a worldwide problem, but I still wonder about the cardboard box the TP came in. No matter how hard we try or how inventive we are, we almost never completely become waste-free.

For this project, I used some old wooden skewers for the stems that I have had for a long time and never used, and employed some red washi tape to attach the wrapped paper to the stem.

Here's what I and my long-suffering friends did to make the flowers:

Smooth out the paper.

Cut the paper into five sections like this.

Take the two larger pieces and fold them in half lengthwise.

Insert the blunt end of the skewer inside the fold at one end. 
Use a piece of washi tape to secure the paper to the skewer.

Gather the paper around the skewer, pleating the paper as you go 
so the flower opens up at the other end.

When you have wrapped the paper completely, 
use washi tape to secure the flower to the skewer.

Place about a dozen paper flowers in a vase. 
Tie a red ribbon around the vase.
Voila! You have a bouquet.

You can find this toilet paper at:

Learn about SPLASH and Water for People here:

Friday, May 20, 2022



First time I've tried painting a cow. Not so easy.

Do you get a song stuck in your head sometimes?

Right now, "Cool, Clear Water," wanders into my head anytime I have a spare moment. That old cowboy song first crept in as we drove down Vasco Road towards Brentwood in California's Central Valley. We stopped for a herd of cattle as they crossed the road, cowboys on motorbikes, not horses, herding them along. I could almost hear them calling, "Yippee Yi Yo. Yippee Yi Yah."

"Cool Water" and Ghost Riders in the Sky" are the first two songs I remember hearing as a kid. The lyrics tell good, somewhat spooky stories which pricked my imagination. I could see the ghost riders thundering overhead and feel the dry, parched heat that caused hallucinations out on the trail as two cowboys searched for water.

After a week of cowboys wandering in my head, I heard the news that the singer Judy Henske died. I'm partial to male singers, but something about her voice and her choice of songs resonated with me. She sang the blues at about the same time as Janis Joplin and she had a crying, world-weary voice like Bessie Smith, Aretha Franklin, and Edith Piaf. As soon as I saw Henske's obit, my mind turned to "High Flying Bird" and "Till the Real Thing Comes Along" and stuck there for a couple of days.

Without too much trouble, I began to trove through other songs that grab my mind: "Memories" from Cats, "(can't you just see the plaintive eyes of Grizabella, the old cat, as she sings this song), "The City of New Orleans" sung by Arlo Gutherie, with a bush of white hair, strumming his guitar, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot and the storm he sings about, and "Me and Bobby McGee" from Janis Joplin with her raspy, whiskey-filled voice. As soon as I thought of the names of the songs, their tunes came back into my head, and have stayed there waiting for a quiet moment to catch my attention.

I used the app Halftone to make this pixelated version of my photo.

Are you singing a song right now? Since it so close to the first summer heat wave and just in case you forgot the lyrics to "Cool Water," here's a tidbit:

"Dan, can you see that big green tree

Where the water's running free

And it's waitin' there for you and me?

Water, cool, clear water."

(lyrics by Bob Nolan)

Or try listening to these:

Check out Elaine Page as Grizabella:

Bessie Smith from 1929:

Judy Henske:

Johnny Cash singing Ghost Riders in the Sky:

Friday, May 13, 2022


Part of the mural by Velia De Luliis, which is located in Duncan Arcade, Walnut Creek

After listening to the news this past week, or more truthfully, for the last six years, I needed a break. I headed to Walnut Creek, a larger town near us that has created history and art walks throughout its downtown area.

I enjoy learning about history, large and small. I like reading about people who have made a difference in our lives such as Benjamin Franklin, and also ordinary people who make up the towns around us. I want to know what came to a town before I did. Walnut Creek's historical society has posted placards near buildings and streets to show the changes that have come to the town. The signs remind me of the plaques in Paris that indicate where an author or artist lived or an event in French history happened. Standing near those markers made me feel more tuned into the history of the place.

Recently the Mel's Diner in Walnut Creek closed. I occasionally stopped there for some old-fashioned comfort food. The original Mel's was in San Francisco and appeared in the movie, "American Graffiti."  I knew a World Famous HotBoys planned to replace it, but I was startled as I walked by to see the huge mural on the wall next to the building. Bright and full of cartoon-like characters, the mural depicts some of the features of Walnut Creek including sculptures by Benny Bufano and Seyed Alavi.

Mural by Berk (@Berkvisuals) for HotBoys

Walnut Creek, like Oakland (HotBoys' original location) and many towns in our area, has invested in public art. The pieces scattered over the Walnut Creek downtown area are part of the art walk and encourage walkers to visit the stores in the neighborhood too. They provide bright spots, amusement, a place to sit and watch the reactions of passersby to the art, and finally a respite from our daily news.

The front of one of the pianos placed on the Walnut Creek streets invites you to play.

For more information about Walnut Creek's history and art walks:

For more information about Berk's mural for HotBoys:

Friday, May 6, 2022


Deer would love these blooms

Skulking in our front yard in the dark with my flashlight on, I capture another snail and wonder if our neighbors think I'm crazy, well, at least a little goofy. Last weekend I planted two six-packs of daisies and the snails found them immediately. This is Spring at our house. I like to garden and to have flowers, but they become an open invitation for all the wildlife in our neighborhood. The birds, snails, deer, and squirrels love our tender greens. My memory doesn't seem to last from one Spring to the next. I am outfoxed once again as my new plants start to disappear in a trail of slime.

Snails have an interesting relationship with humans in other ways besides the garden. Some people love escargot, some consider snail's mucus beneficial to our skin and include mucus in cosmetics. Many cultures include snails as part of their creation stories. Snails have long been symbols of fertility, perseverance, and laziness. In Ancient Greece, their presence indicated harvest time.

Writers, such as Charlotte Mendelson, Eudora Welty, and Beverley Nichols, spent time gardening and wrote about their travails with snails and other uninvited guests, as well as the traffic near their garden. Traffic includes vehicles and their exhaust fumes and people who help themselves to cuttings, which is not usually a problem unless the gardener has been nursing that plant along. Digging in the dirt and watching the slow process of growth gives these writers time to reflect on what they have learned about life while tending plants. 

I look at the peach tree in the backyard which is covered in small peaches that I know we will never get a chance to eat. The squirrels are ingenious at getting through our defenses and by the time the peaches are ripe, there are none to be had. Last fall I found a 2-foot seedling shooting up in another part of our yard. I knew that a squirrel had buried the seed in expectation of more fruit.

I almost trip over the life-like facsimile of a dead crow near the feeder. Last year the crows spent time in our trees mourning the dead bird and then flew away from our yard. This year, they don't seem to notice their counterfeit as they chase away other birds from the feeder.

Plants and flowers fill our backyard. I also placed a couple of outdoor umbrellas into the ground and pushed another into a large pot. They aren't there to provide shade for us, but for the new tender plants that wilt in the heat. And did I mention trees? Leaves, seeds, and pollen dust cover our yard all year long. We love the shade, but trees are a lot of work. With all the chores to do, I am glad when it is early evening and it is cool and I can sit under the trees after a hot day.

Gardeners are quirky people, aren't they?

Want to know more about snails? 

Read Leah Dearborn:

These books can be found at, which supports local booksellers with every purchase:

Charlene Mendelson: Rhapsody in Green: a Novelist, an Obsession, and a Laughably Small Excuse for a Vegetable Garden

Eudora Welty:  Tell Me About Night Flowers: Eudora Welty's Gardening Letters 

Beverley Nichols: Down the Garden Path

Jane Garmey: The Writer in the Garden

And don't miss:

Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, who has a poet's lyrical style.