Getting baaa-ack

One would think I’d be used to it by now, but I always feel sheepish when I write my first post after being MIA from my Sandblog for months.  Always.


But ya know what?  Updating this little lamb for this post made me happy.  Hopping in my Sandblog and playing around a little bit felt good (albeit a little sandy)!

So here’s to more hopping in and getting sandy!  Fingers crossed for semi-weekly-ish updates.

I’ll be baaa-ack :)

Amy Creates in the AM: Wallflowers

Hello, hello!  I’m here to share the first project I made as part of my new go-getter initiative: #AmyCreatesintheAM.

Wall flowers in progress

A morning project + morning sunlight = happiness.

It’s a decorative wall hanging that was made with some random fabric flowers that I had made for last October’s Art Nite.  The flowers enjoyed an encore appearance at this past September’s Art Nite.

Fabric Wallflowers

If these flowers look familiar, it’s because I actually shared them in my Sandblog last January.  The best part? In that post from months ago, I said (and I quote…): “I plan on attaching them to some burlap and either putting it all in an embroidery hoop or a shadow box.  Not sure which yet, but whenever I get around to it, I’ll be sure to share it here.”

Wallflowers - close up

I’m proud to say: “mission accomplished” friends! :)  Thank you for stopping by!

Rising and SHINING!

Hello friends!  Did you think I fell off the face of the planet?  Or better yet….went back to California?

Nope – I’m still here (although, I’d go back to California in a heartbeat!).  I’ve been wanting to blog….but I’ve been avoiding it because I can’t bring myself to finish my California series.  I only had 3 more spots to write about (Kings Canyon NP, Santa Cruz/Big Basin Redwood SP & Napa Valley)….but I just can’t.  I don’t have it in me.  You’ll just have to take my word that they were all amazing, but not more amazing than everything I’ve already shared – so don’t feel jipped :)

I’m back because I have some creative pieces/projects/concepts to share!  First on the list: #AmycreatesintheAM.  I had started reading a book on how getting up earlier can actually feel great & in turn make you a more successful person.  For those of you who don’t know me – I don’t quite “spring” out of bed.  In fact, it takes about a half hour of hitting the snooze button before I SLUMP out of bed. It is awful.

Early morning in my craft room

Rather – it WAS awful.  After reading 1/3 of the book, I realized that I needed something that would get me excited to get up in the morning.  The something?  Spending time in my craftroom everyday.  Crazy?  A little.  But, being creative is a WAY better motivator than going to work ever was.  Plus, it guarantees that I exercise my creative & artistic muscles everyday – whereas creativity is usually the first thing to fall off the priority list when I’m busy.

So – for about 3 weeks, I’ve been getting up early to create …and I love it!  It gets my creative juices flowing & fills me with the rewarding tingles of accomplishment before I even eat breakfast!

Get creative in the morningGet creative in the morning

Best of all, this early morning habit has lead to one of my favorite pieces yet.  I made a watercolor painting for one my elephant-loving friends, Janelle (this is the second handmade elephant I’ve given her :))

Watercolor elephant

I’m really happy with how this little guy turned out.  Not gonna lie, I was even a little tempted to keep him – but Janelle was so happy with him, it made it easier to part with.  I know he went to a good home :)

I’ve been sharing most of my projects on Instagram (under the hashtag #AmycreatesintheAM) but I’d like to share everything here.  I’ve also found that creating in the morning has also motivated me to make even MORE time for creativity in the evenings and on the weekends.  So, those projects will be shared here too.  Plus, I have some logos I’m working on for 2 people, and I CAN’T WAIT to share those here!!

I’m limited on time over the next couple of weeks, so I’m going to tryyyyyyy to just pop in, post some pics with a couple of words and keep it moving (a la my intended goal for my Sandblog this whole year).  We’ll see though.  I’ve attempted this before, but (…not to sound cliché…) the words get in the way :P  But I’ll try, because I miss my Sandblog!

Alright…well, we’re painting our bedroom this weekend, so off I go!  But I hope to be back soon :)

California Dreaming: Sequoia National Park

This is the fifth post in a series about our recent vacation/adventure to California. Feel free to read the first post about Calaveras Big Trees State Park, or check out the secondthird, and fourth posts about our 3 days in Yosemite National Park.

I’m back!  Today I’m going to share our first day spent in Sequoia National Park. Before I dive into all that, I want to share a sneak peak of an on-going project that was partially inspired by this part of our trip…

As I mentioned in my last post, we were staying in Three Rivers, California, which is right outside of Sequoia National Park. Compared to the 3 days we had just spent in the lush greenery of Yosemite, this area was quite different.  The hills were golden brown and dotted with dark green – a landscape similar to Calaveras’ wine country.
DSC07460Sequoia National Park sign

Considering the fact that the mountains of Sequoia National Park were just as green as Yosemite, it  was surprising how arid the lower elevations were.  There were even a couple of palm trees downtown!
Palm tree!Happy Cactus

The place we stayed at, The Buckeye Tree Lodge, had potted cacti all around the premises, and they have been sitting in my brain ever since. So, I finally answered the call of the cacti muse, and carved a couple of cacti stamp sets:

Handcarved cacti stamps

Handcarved cactus & flowerpot stamps

I actually have more to share (and more to make), but I’ll post about them after the California Dreaming series wraps up.

Let’s get back to today’s topic, shall we?

Our first day in Sequoia National Park included a loooong (and windy) drive into the park, with great views of the river valley and Moro Rock.

Kaweah River Valley

Kaweah River Valley. 

One of the first features we saw was Tunnel Rock.  The main road used to go beneath it, but they eventually had to close it as cars got larger.

Tunnel Rock & Moro Rock

Tunnel Rock with a Moro Rock in the distance.

Moro Rock

Moro Rock.  Notice the 3 lines near the middle of the picture, that is the road winding back and forth.

Eventually we entered The Giant Forest, and I was back in another Treehugger Heaven!!! This forest rivaled Calaveras Big Trees State Park in awesomeness!  After getting some good advice and buying a Giant Forest map from the Visitor Center, we decided to park at the General Sherman Tree parking lot and then hike 3ish miles south to Crescent Meadow (where we could then take the free shuttle back to our car).

Giant Sequoia's in Sequoia NP Giant Sequoia's in Sequoia NP

The first must-see of our hike was the General Sherman tree, which is “recognized as the as the world’s largest tree”.  I think the caveat is that it’s not necessarily by height or width (I think there are wider and taller trees), but by mass.  Nevertheless – it was still tough to get a picture of the giant.  But here is one from afar, up close, and also looking up from below it.

The General Sherman tree The General Sherman tree

The General Sherman tree

The General Sherman tree is one of the most popular trees in the park, and is surrounded by paved paths, so that area was pretty crowded – but once we got on the Congress Trail and continued on with our hike, it quickly became desolate.

Sequoia National Park

The fallen sequoias really refresh your perspective on how tall these trees are, as they span for yards through the woods.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Eventually we made our way to the McKinley Tree.  Perpendicular to the tree & the trail was a path that went up a small hill, and led you to this stunning view of this massive tree:

The McKinley Tree, Sequoia National Park

The McKinley Tree, Sequoia National Park.  Can you see me??

At one point the sunshine’s golden rays were pouring in between the trees and we came to my favorite grouping of trees: The Founders Group. It was perfect:

The Founders Group, Sequoia NP

Entering The Founders Group

The Founders Group, Sequoia NP

You’ll have to take my word for it: lots of Founders Trees were hugged.

Not far from here, the forest was broken up by wide areas of meadows that used to be for grazing (domestic) sheep in the early 1900s:

A meadow within the Giant Forest

As it turns out, some animals still like to graze here, because this is when we came across 3 bears!  Yes, BEARS!!  Eek!!!

Black bears in Sequoia National Park

I should mention, a couple years ago we went to Rocky Mountain, Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks.  There, you are strongly advised not to hike if you don’t have Bear Spray.  Yes, Bear Spray – that’s a real thing.  It’s super strong pepper spray that shoots about 10-20 feet away, so you can spray and then RUN LIKE HELL (at least, that’s what I would do).  That’s because those parks have Grizzly bears, which are large and (therefore) not scared of humans. Thankfully, we never had to use our Bear Spray.

California, on the other hand, has Black Bears (although, their fur ranges from blonde to cinnamon to brown and black) which are smaller and more likely to be scared of humans.  Don’t get me wrong – I was still pretty nervous when we saw them…but I still took the time to put the zoom lens on and snap some pics, from afar.

Black bear in Sequoia National ParkAfter we snapped some shots, Paul found some branches to bang together so we could make our presence known and not startle the bears.  Then, we went off trail to give the bears plenty of space.  We weren’t about to test the “they’re more scared of you than you are of them” theory.  From that point on, we picked up our pace and hoped we would see some people soon.

But, instead of people, we saw marmots, which was a little surprising.  Being in such a thick forest with very few overlooks, we forgot how high we actually were (about 6,500 feet).

Marmot, Sequoia NP

Marmot, Sequoia NP

And then, we saw ANOTHER bear. Thankfully this one was much further away, so it was less scary – but it still had us wondering (for the first time on our trip)…where are all the humans??

Bear, Sequoia NP

Again, we continued our expedited pace…but I’m glad Paul snapped this picture:

The Giant Forest in Sequoia NP

This Giant Forest is magical :)

We (finally) started to see some people as we neared Crescent Meadow, and before long, made it to the parking lot.  Since we had time to kill before the next shuttle, we decided to eat lunch at the picnic tables.  While we were eating, a family of 4 deer emerged from the woods, no more than 10 feet from us!  We were wildlife magnets!

The weather had become pretty overcast at this point, with a definite threat of rain.  After the shuttle brought us back to our car, we headed over to the post office and gift shop and killed some time before deciding what to do next.  We had planned on climbing up to the top of Moro Rock to see the sunset, but that didn’t look too promising.

So, we had decided to just head back to town, have a good dinner, and a nice relaxing night.  Evidently, Sequoia had different plans for us….

First, when we left the gift shop, we saw ANOTHER bear!  This time, I was thrilled to be within the confines of our car.

Bear, Sequoia NP

As we made our way back through the park, we started to see peeks of sunlight through the clouds.


At the last minute, we decided to get ourselves to the top of Moro Rock to try and catch the sunset.  By the time we parked, I was a little (okay, a lotta) frantic because I was sure that we were getting there too late & were going to miss it, so I practically ran the 350 steps to the top.

The path up to Moro Rock

I’m glad I had to stop periodically to catch my breath, because I would also snap some pictures.  The views, combined with the twilight lighting, were in-credible!

Climbing Moro Rock, Sequoia NP

Views from Moro Rock, Sequoia NP

See the lines to the left? That is the super windy road that I mentioned at the beginning of this [epic-length] post

Views from Moro Rock, Sequoia NP

Sunset from the top of Moro Rock

Although this hike was made a million times easier because of the steps – there were definitely some parts that made my palms sweat…

DSC07377 DSC07388

After we finally made it to the top, and the sun took a solid 20 minutes to actually set, so – all the rushing was for nothing.  At least I got a good workout.  Even better, we had plenty of time to take in all of this:

The top of Moro Rock, Sequoia NP

Sunset from the top of Moro Rock

I love how you can see precipitation in the distance to the right of this picture.

I am so (so, so, so) thankful we decided to get up to the top of Moro Rock.  This sunset was unforgettable.

Sunset from the top of Moro RockAfter the sun had completely set, we got our flashlights out and headed down to the car.  It took us about an hour to drive out of the park and get back to our lodge.  At that point, all the restaurants in town were closed.  So, we ate sandwiches that we had bought for the next day, I wrote out some postcards, we kept talking about the bears, and we ended up having that nice relaxing night.

I should be wrapping up this series in 3 more posts.  I hope you’re all still enjoying it!

California Dreaming: Saying Goodbye to Yosemite

This is the fourth post in a series about our recent vacation/adventure to California. Feel free to read the first post about Calaveras Big Trees State Park, or the second and third posts about our first 2 days in Yosemite National Park.

Hiiii friends!  Sorry I went MIA on you here.  Same story as usual: work.  We released a new product (click that link if you’d like to see some of my design handywork) which caused a restructuring of our product line & lots of changes on the website.  Oof.

So – if there were ever a time I wanted to do nothing but talk about & look at pictures from vacation – it’s now!  So let’s pick up right where we left off: day 4, our last day in Yosemite.

We knew we had a LOT to see on this day, before leaving the park and heading down to Three Rivers, California, which is about 130 miles south.  So, the agenda…

1. Soak up every last bit of Camp Curry:

Goodbye tent cabin 478

Goodbye tent cabin 478! And goodbye bear bin – thank you for protecting us & being the perfect lunch-making-surface!

Half  Dome from Camp Curry

Goodbye amazing view of Half Dome [from the parking lot]

2. Find the U.S. post office in Yosemite, to mail some more postcards:

Yosemite National Park, 95389

3. Get over to the meadow across from El Capitan to see the crazies climbers scaling the side:

Looking for climbers scaling El Capitan

Found some!  You could barely see them with your naked eye, and even through the binoculars & camera’s zoom lens, they looked like ants:

Climbers scaling El Capitan

4. Check out Bridal Veil Falls:

Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite NP

It was pretty breezy by the top of the falls, so we got to see the Falls in all their “bridal veil” glory.

Closeup: Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite NP

5. Finally see the most well-known view of Yosemite Valley, Tunnel View:

Tunnel View, Yosemite NPIf you’ve known anyone who’s been to Yosemite, and they showed you any pictures – I bet this was one of them.  It’s the quintessential view of Yosemite Valley, with spectacular views of Yosemite’s most famous landmarks: El Capitan (left), Half Dome (back, middle) and Bridal Veil Falls to the right.

To be honest – my brain could barely process the magnificence before me. Everything was just SO massive…and so still.  A lot of parts of this trip (the big trees, the massive granite walls) kept reminding me how tiny, and in turn insignificant, we humans really are.  This beauty would be here with or without us.  Although, I guess our contribution is to appreciate and find awe in it?  I don’t know… Alright – back to the agenda!

6. Drive Glacier Point Road to…Glacier Point!

But first we stopped at Washburn Point:

The view from Washburn Point

Wow – I’m so glad we stopped here.  First of all – this was the 5th perspective we got to see of Half Dome.  Secondly – see the waterfalls to the right?  Those are Vernal (bottom) and Nevada Falls – the same ones we hiked up to on our first day!  Ha – we thought we were up high when we were looking down at Vernal Falls on our way up to Clark Point – but this vantage point was spectacular!  And not too crowded either.

Then it was another couple of minutes through some windy roads to Glacier Point.  This (crowded) area had about 3 different spots connected by easy trails to take in different views.  The actual Glacier Point had great views of the lush Yosemite Valley floor.  We got to see another set of waterfalls from way up high: Yosemite Upper and Lower Falls (below, left) and yet another vantage point of Half Dome (below, right).

Upper & Lower Falls from Glacier Point Half Dome from Glacier Point

Glacier Point is directly above Curry Village, so it was really neat to look down and get a bird’s’ eye view of where we had just spent the last 2 days/3 nights:

Yosemite Valley from Glacier PointIt was neat to see how the Merced River snakes through the valley.

We snapped a couple more pics, and then hopped back in the car to go to a small pull out we had passed that is in between Washburn & Glacier Points.  We had the whole spot to ourselves, so we decided to have our standard lunch of PB&J and trail mix.  We set up the tripod and snapped a couple of shots:

Lunch with a view :)

Lunch with a view :)

We enjoyed our lunch & the spectacular view while watching the occasional hiker appear below us, emerging from the Panorama Trail.  It was perfect.  But, we had “more to see” and an over an hour of driving, so I had to do everything short of physically dragging Paul away from this spot so that we would have time for the last stop on our agenda:

7. See more giant sequoias in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove:

Mariposa Grove

While we definitely saw some magnificent trees, I was a little underwhelmed by Mariposa Grove.  I’m sure there were a lot of causes for this, the biggest one being that we were too spoiled by Calaveras Big Trees State Park.  There were a lot of trees here that you couldn’t get close to like you could in Calaveras.  We also saw a lot less sequoias then we did in Calaveras – but that could be because we only had enough time to do the Lower Grove – and the Upper Grove has MUCH more trees.  Plus, the weather quickly became overcast after we got there. Lastly, there was a LOT of fire damage.  And although forest fires are essential to the reproduction of Sequoias, we just found that there were large stretches of trail where you wouldn’t see any sequoias or any sequoias without fire scars.

BUT – they are closing Mariposa Grove for 2 years to move the parking lot (which is currently right next to the large trees in the picture above).  So, I’m glad we got to see it before it closes, and I hope that the 2 year hiatus will be a healthy break for the forest.

And again, despite everything I just said, we DID see some cool things:

Roots of a giant sequioa

Giant Sequoia, Mariposa Grove

Giant Sequoia, Mariposa Grove

Peek-a-boo! Can you see me?

This trip was very educational for us.  I mentioned above that forest fires are [surprisingly] essential for Sequoia reproduction.  This is because the heat helps open up Sequoia pinecone, which lets the seeds out so new Sequoias can grow.  Plus, they clear smaller trees and brush so Sequoias have the space & soil nutrients to grow.  Unfortunately, early settlers didn’t know any of this, so when lightening would strike and a fire would start, they would immediately try to put the fire out to save the forest.  Although well intentioned, this was detrimental to the Sequoia groves.  It wasn’t until the 1950s that scientists started to see the necessity of forest fires.

Many Sequoias live to be hundreds of years old, surviving numerous fires in their lifetime because they have special, fire-resistant tannins in their bark:

The magical bark of a SequoiaAnother thing we learned is that as the trunk of a fallen Sequoia breaks down, it becomes a sort of “planter box” for new plants to grow:

A natural planter boxI love that!

The highlight of Mariposa Grove was getting to see The Grizzly Giant, one of the world’s largest giant Sequoias:

The Grizzly Giant, Mariposa Grove

You had to stand this far back to fit it into the picture!  And – can you see me?  I’m the tiny green & black figure to the left of the picture.  To say this tree is massive feels like an understatement.  Also, note the large fire scar in the front of the tree, yet this giant still lives.  One thing that blew our minds was to realize that the limbs of a sequoia have the diameter of a regular tree trunk!  Incredible.

It was getting dark by the time we made it back to our car and left Mariposa Grove and, in turn, Yosemite.  Unfortunately, we had 134 mile trip to our lodge in Three Rivers California.  After stopping for dinner, we didn’t get there until midnight.  And, once again, all food and scented toiletries had to be removed from the car and brought into our room.  But at least this room had real walls and a real door.

By the time we found our room, unloaded the car, took showers (in our private bathroom!) and eagerly plugged in all of our electronics, it was about 2 AM.  That was rough – but worth it considering all of the amazing things we managed to squeeze in, in one day!

Next post: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (SeKi for those in the know :P)!  I hope you stay tuned :)