A FISH on the Fence


Pennridge FISH’s Earth Day Activity

Chirped by Tina

Much of the local Yarn Bloom has now been taken down, but only last week we finished a related project that continues to decorate the chain-link fence around the Menlo Park pool and aquatics center. One of the Earth Day activities in the park was an open invitation to the public to help fill in the outline of a fish as a way of bringing in donations to the local food pantry Pennridge FISH (Fellowship in Serving Humanity). In return for a canned good (or three!), Earth Day attendees could help the FISH volunteers tie strands of upcycled t-shirt yarn to the fence to bring their colorful mascot to life. It was a very easy, no-special-skills-required way to participate and they collected a bunch of food. But they bit off more than they could chew – they outlined TWO fish, and with all the other activities going on that day, only filled in one of them. Enter the Hilltown Haberdashers (our crafty team of friends that came together for the Yarn Bloom)!


After checking with the borough’s Event Coordinator, our group got permission to fill in that second, lonely fish outline, along with encouragement to once again invite the public to help out and bring food donations for the pantry. Being a bit of an obsessive compulsive personality when it comes to crafts, of course I had to go to the fence with a crew and take measurements so we could plan it out on graph paper first… and then transfer that design to a photo of the actual fish outline we were working with… and try out several ideas for how to tie on the t-shirt yarn to get the most “pop”, color-wise… We’d seen cross-stitch-type fence art on Pinterest that was kind of cool, but in real life lighting we didn’t think it would show up enough.


Bundles of short t-shirt yarn lengths

The great thing about the design we decided on was that it could make use of all the shorter strips of t-shirt yarn we’d ended up with after the Yarn Bloom was done. Not wanting to waste the upper parts of our donated tees, (we didn’t find the link above for minimizing your t-shirt waste until later), we’d cut the sleeves and area around the neck up into shorter strips for tassels or smaller projects, and still had lots of leftovers.

Perkasie has a website on which they promote borough events, so with their help and our own grass roots publicity by word of mouth, email and Facebook, we set to work. The red heart in the middle of our planned fish’s chest was reserved as a place to celebrate how many food items we gathered when the project was complete. Our own schedules dictated that we couldn’t pick weekend dates, and school was still in session when we first began, so we knew it would fall mostly to our team, some dedicated locals who could come out on their lunch breaks, and possibly the pre-school set coming to the park to play. That was ok by us given the complexity of the design – too many cooks at once might have spoiled the soup! (On the other hand, it didn’t really maximize donations.)

donation-jar.gifOn the first day of the installation we gathered at the fence with bundles of t-shirt yarn, a full color map of the fish design, paper templates of how we envisioned the scales would lay out (to tape behind the fence with masking tape), a cooler full of waters, sunscreen, hats, a donation jar, a folding table, and our own contributions to the food pantry. If you have small balls of t-shirt yarn, or 24″-30″ strips, you can either fill in each diamond-shaped fence opening by tying an overhand knot at the start and end of your zigzag, or “splice” them together using this nifty button-hole technique that minimizes loose ends and wasted length, so you can weave continuously from diamond to diamond for each colored scale.

For littler helpers, with short attention spans, we assigned one or two diamonds in the fish’s lower jaw, right at their eye level, with a parent or adult helper to tie them off.

Scale-PatternMore skilled crafters caught on to the splicing technique pretty easily, so we tucked a couple of good sewing scissors into the fence out of reach of the little ones for easy access when someone needed a new button hole. The paper templates helped folks keep track of which set of eight diamonds they were filling in, since we spaced our volunteers out to allow multiple helpers at once along the fence. Once our fish started to come together, they became less necessary.

We also set up an iPhone for a time-lapse video of our progress, because those are always fun!



To be honest, this design was a lot more labor intensive than we’d anticipated, plus the weather wasn’t always cooperative on our scheduled work days. But the end result turned out great! And the food pantry was delighted with all 148 pounds of food we dropped off after our second days’ work (137 individual items donated). Everyone that helped out brought at least one canned good or other non-perishable food item, sometimes multiple bags’ worth, so we didn’t end up needing the donation jar. (We figured if anyone happened along unprepared with food, we could solicit a small monetary contribution to FISH and invite them to adopt a scale.) All in all, it was a crafty, do-good way to spend a few mornings and afternoons of our summer.


Maybe you’ve got a boring chain-link fence in a prominent location in your area, and a worthy cause (especially one with a fun logo) in need of support? See if you can drum up your own version of this activity at the next scheduled town gathering. Just be prepared to help take it down when it starts to look faded and dirty. A charity benefit combined with community building, town beautification, upcycling and crafting – how could it get any more perfect?

-Tina (-:


April, May & June’s Cheep Trills

Chirped by Cass (and Tina)

This month’s favorites are a compilation from April, May and June since “life” got away from us and we are behind on posting our monthly highlights.  So let’s begin.

Favorite Books of the Months

June-booksThe Dry by Jan Harper is a compelling murder mystery set in a fictional, drought-plagued, small Australian town that I read in a day and kept Tina busy on the flights to and from the Galapagos.  She finished it just in time for the “you may now unbuckle your seat belts” ding, and had the flight attendant grilling her about who dunnit?!

Painted Hands by Jennifer Zobair describes the friendship of some young Muslim American career women and all the different ways that cultural traditions, stereotypes, political climate and well-meaning aunties shape their decisions and feelings about love, commitment, family, and career choices. We always love a novel that gives us insight into a culture or time that we know little about, which also brings us to our last recommendation…

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross. This is a historical fiction based on the legends of a ninth century woman who disguised herself as a man and was ultimately elected Pope. Apparently there is significant evidence to suggest that it is based on a true story. It paints a vivid and wrenching picture of life and social restrictions for women living in the Dark Ages.

Felted-FrogAdventures in Felting!

Tina took a felting class at a local craft gallery and created a cute little frog. Something new for her crafting repertoire! First project took a lot of time and patience but it’s amazing what you can do with some wool and a barbed needle! Plus, she picked up some tips along the way that might speed up the process next time around. When can we start getting serious about making Christmas ornaments??

Medusa-zoomed-outBackyard Retreats

In late spring I get to start enjoying the overgrown wisteria, nicknamed “Medusa”, that blooms over our pergola.  The sound of bees, the birds nesting and the scent of the flowers are so relaxing.  In the summer, the wisteria provides shade from the hot sun.  I have my morning coffee, family dinners, and book club evenings sheltered beneath Medusa’s leafy tresses.  Definitely my favorite place in the backyard.

Reunions with Chicks!

Boys-HomeFor some of us newly-minted empty nesters, May and June mean our chicks come home for the summer.  Life may be a bit busier when they are around, but it makes the few months they are home special. And the pups are so pleased to have their pack members returning to the nest!


Red-footed Booby of the Galapagos

Family Vacations

When the whole flock is together, it’s great to squeeze in a summer adventure.  Tina’s family trip to the Galapagos was amazing – and she would highly recommend putting it on your bucket list.  To read more about the trip and see some amazing wildlife photos and videos, check out her recent post: Galapagos Getaway…


Easy Side Dishes

Spinach-CouscousOur favorite recipe for the month is a couscous spinach salad.  It’s quick and easy and would make a great side dish to any lackluster main course – though it’s also great as a light vegetarian option for a hot summer night. Takes about 8 minutes, total! We used Near East 5-minute Parmesan couscous, cooked according to the package instructions. In a separate sauté pan we quickly browned some sliced almonds and pre-minced garlic (comes in a jar from the grocery store, easy peasy!) in a little olive oil, tossed in a handful of craisins and a couple of tablespoons of water, then added a whole bag of fresh baby spinach. Cover and stir occasionally until spinach wilts, then spoon over couscous. Pretty and delicious!

Recipe-BookRecipe Organizers

If you like to cut out interesting recipes from magazines and newspapers and don’t know where to store all those pieces of paper… we have two solutions.  One is a Flip Stand Recipe Keeper  Tina found at a kitchen store.  It has plastic sleeves to hold those torn out pages and a fold-back cover that lets you prop up and view the recipes while you cook.  Another even simpler option is just recycling an old 3-ring binder, filling it with plastic sleeves, and adding tabs to organize all those promising dishes.

Simple Things

I am slowly going through my parents’ house, which is no easy task.  Not only is it sorting through all the stuff and deciding whether to keep, donate or sell it…you also bring up all the memories of your past as well as theirs.  Little things like Mom’s Collector’s Club Longaberger basket with all the years that she was a member tagged on it… the rotary phone that was in the kitchen with the long cord so we could talk privately by stretching the cord into the hall closet… all of Dad’s hand tools that we split up for the five grandkids to have as a set of tools for their own future projects.  Little, simple things that make us smile and remember those we love.

Doggie Playdates

Pups-at-RestOn a beautiful day, when we both have some time, we love to walk by the lake with our pooches.  Not only is it great exercise for the dogs and us, but it allows us to catch up on each others’ lives, soak in some vitamin D, and acclimate our two alpha males to hanging out together in peace and harmony!

Community Beautification Projects


10,000 Flowers – Perkasie

You might remember the giant flowers from our Yarn Blooming post being referred to as “teasers” for an upcoming mural in town? Well the first installment of the 10,000 Flowers Project mural is almost finished, with the help of community volunteers who pressure-washed a long retaining wall behind the borough hall and then colored in local artist Tim Gibson’s outlines of the first 85 of a planned ten thousand flowers to be “planted” in small towns all over the country. Tim is now completing the outlining, shading, and finishing touches before he moves on to the next location, with the goal of connecting communities through the shared art of one giant cross-country mural. Pretty awesome, and what a cheery addition to a boring old wall!

Despite all the stressors we deal with in our lives from day to day, we hope the last few months have given you some happy things to cheep about, too! (-:

– Cass and Tina

Galapagos Getaway

Chirped by Tina


Red-Footed Booby

The Galapagos Islands of Ecuador… site of Charles Darwin’s inspiration for his treatise On the Origin of Species. If you’ve been toying with the idea of adding them to your “World Travels Bucket List,” allow me to sing their praises and convince you that it might be worth prying a good-sized chip off your nest egg to make it happen! We decided to splurge on this amazing trip with our two boys while they still have some flexibility in their summer schedules. Soon enough they’ll be getting “real jobs” with little or no vacation time, and a wildlife-focused destination was something the whole family could get behind. We were not disappointed. Maybe you weren’t sure whether a bunch of finches with different beak shapes and Continue reading

Bloom Bounty

Chirped by Tina & Cass


Giant Flower Garden at Menlo Park Yarn Bloom, Earth Day, 2018 (see 10,000 Flowers Project)

In our original post about gearing up for the Menlo Park Yarn Bloom, we promised you pictures of the final installation, and it’s time to deliver! The park looked crazy, cheery and colorful for the Earth Day festivities in April. Kudos to the organizers of all the Earth Continue reading


Chirped by Cass and Tina


It’s been a few weeks since our last post. Like everyone else, sometimes “Life” catches up with us and we have to stop and just take a breath. At this stage in our Empty Nester lives, while some of us are happily welcoming home recently-fledged chicks for the summer, others are dealing with ailing parents or estranged family, family that can’t be with us for the wrong reasons, or even coping with the death of a loved one. Our parents, aunts, uncles, and if you’re lucky, even grandparents are aging. Disease and tragedy can strike unexpectedly at any age. Continue reading

Yarn Blooming

Vision-Board---Tina-center-hiliteChirped by Tina

“Share Your Gifts” and Create  These two inspirations, nestled in the center of my 2018 vision board, are perfectly embodied by volunteering for a yarn bomb!  Don’t worry, I didn’t know what a yarn bomb was either until a couple of months ago, but the nearby town of Perkasie is assembling an Earth Day “Yarn Bloom” (doesn’t have the negative connotations of a “bomb”) to temporarily adorn one of their parks. They’re wrapping trees, poles, benches, fences, etc. in yarn creations to be on display for a month. It will make for a colorful backdrop for their Earth Day celebration activities on April 21, as well as a teaser Continue reading

March’s Cheep Trills

Chirped by Cass and Tina

A new list of highlights from our month – things we’re happy about and/or would recommend!


  • Two Book Clubs, two books! A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, is the memoir that the movie Lion was based on –  the amazing story of a 5 year old boy who gets irretrievably lost in Calcutta, ends up being adopted by a family in Australia, and eventually finds his way back home to rural India as an adult using Google Earth!

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, is another true story, about how an unlikely  group of gritty Continue reading

The Feather Hoarder

Chirped by Cass (with chirpettes by Tina)

We all have somewhere in our home, a place that becomes a dumping ground of stuff.  Items that we don’t have time to put away properly, don’t have room to put them where they belong, or simply don’t have a place for at all.  A space where you put things when you’re cleaning up to have a party, or when you’re rearranging your piles and don’t know where to store them. If you’re lucky (and more organized) maybe it’s just a drawer Continue reading

Book Club in a Basket

Chirped by Cass and Tina


A book club is a great way to meet new people, share book discussions and experiences with a group of friends, and get you out of your overly quiet nest. Cass started her own book club in 2005, Tina has been in three different book clubs since 2001, for a while all at once! Our mutual book club participates in a fundraiser for childhood cancer. For one of their benefit events last spring, we put together a how-to “Book Club in a Basket” as a raffle prize. Maybe this post will inspire you to start up your own book club, give you some ideas for putting together your own great raffle basket for a cause you and your friends support, or add a little extra spice to your existing club’s next gathering!

Book Club in a Basket – A Starter Kit for Beginners 

So you want to start a book club? It doesn’t take much! Just a good book, a few friends who like to read, and your calendars. Next pick a venue, add some refreshments (or even some book-related props?), and you’ve got the makings Continue reading

Sharing Your Gifts

 Chirped by Tina


Free-TimeAh, free time… It can be a blessing – or a curse. That dreaded weekly meeting that got cancelled on an already over-scheduled day? Woohoo! Jackpot! But that hour frittered away perusing clickbait about Spite Houses and 50 Things to Throw Away Right Now? Mostly guilt and self-loathing because you should have been working on your blog post – er, wait, maybe that’s just me… The point is, if you find yourself with more free time than you actually feel good about, no matter what life or schedule change it might have hatched from, find something useful and satisfying to do with it. That can make all the difference in how you feel about Continue reading