I'd love it if you joined my readers. It's nice to know I'm not just typing into a black hole.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

True Love and A Glow Pen

If you only knew how much I love you too...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lanterns! More Patio Garden Play

My patio garden is evolving...

Look what I found on freecycle!  

A rustic plant stand which also serves as storage for spare pillows.

I've lugged this metal wall art around for years.  It's never been my favorite piece but I'm trying it out in the garden.  
Sometimes I have to sit with something for a few days before I know if I love it or not.

I found this hanging gas-lantern (on the right) at a garage sale for $2.00!

And everyone's favorite addition...
These fabulous chinese lantern string lights which I found on freecycle.  They turn the garden into a mystical place at night.

Two questions for my fellow gardeners:
  1. My hydrangeas seem to be losing their color.  What might be causing this?Have the blooms just lived out their days?
  2. My tomato plants are small and have shriveled and sometimes dead leaves.  I've harvested a lot of little tomatoes from them but the plants don't look healthy.  What should I do?

Happy digging!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Scraps and Tacks; Another Super Cool Art Project!

Having worked for some time in a design shop, I have acquired a surplus of discontinued high-end fabric and leather samples.  I always cringed at the idea of throwing them in a landfill, so I boxed them up and stashed them away while I waited for creative inspiration.  Of course, space is at a premium in my jewel box, so I have been weeding out my favorites.  I plan to Freecycle the rest.

So what does one do with a pile of mismatched fabric samples?  A while back, the kids and I made wristbands out of the leather.  We cut strips and put snaps in them.  That freed up a whole centimeter of space.

Entering my third trimester of pregnancy has jet-fueled my nesting mode.  The Biscuit is coming and there is A LOT of feathering yet to be done!  It is intensely frustrating to be in this frame of mind and lack the funds to make it happen.  HOWEVER!  I am a big believer in using what you have.  I have contact paper, old frames, half a roll of wallpaper, etc., and... fabric samples!
I started by sorting out the pieces that might work in my room.  Then I laid them out across my bed as an offering to the creativity gods.  Hands to the air, "Now what?!"

I considered making a quilt for my bed (which needs some stylizing).  But, I don't want to add too much to the weight of my down comforter - it's bordering sweat lodge status as it is.  

I repeated the above process over a period of weeks but, at last,  I have finally DONE something!  I decided to create another wall art project to replace my would-be headboard.  I don't have room for a headboard so have been considering alternative options for months.  

Step One:  Find distraction for 10 year old boys to prevent mommy melt-down during the creative process.  I chose to set a pile of the rejected fabrics in front of them along with a few threaded needles.  Bailey made me a purse!

Step Two:  Arrange fabrics to create the desired look.  This can be time consuming - like putting a puzzle together.  I enjoy the process though.  Watching it come together is very satisfying. 

Step Three:  Take a few photos of the arrangement, as you will have to disassemble the project in order to reassemble it on the wall.  A photo is very helpful to use as reference for what goes where.

Step Four:  Pin the top row of fabrics together to make the initial application to the wall much smoother.

Step Five:  Measure from the ceiling down to the top of where you want the art project to hang on the wall.  I measured down 37 1/2 inches.  Then pencil incremental markers running the length of the project in order to apply it in a straight line.

Step 6:  Using decorative tacks, apply the first row of fabrics to the wall.  Just tack the top of the fabrics, allowing them to dangle so that the following rows can be applied and adjusted.  I used generic tacks where they wouldn't be seen, to hold the underlapping fabrics in place.  Continue to apply the remaining fabrics to the wall.
This was my final result sans pillows.  

Some of my fabric samples had metal grommets in them for hanging, so I opted to thread ribbon through them and tie bows for an added decorative element.  

This is the bed in it's current state.  
As you can see, the bedding needs work, but I'll get to that.  I plan to keep the duvet cover simple.  I also kept several of the coordinating samples out to possibly make a small quilt for Biscuit.

So, once again, as I had all of the supplies for this project, it was FREEEEEEEE!!  

Monday, July 19, 2010

More Tid Bits of Possibly Useless Information

On Sunday I decided to take myself out on the town.  I drove up to Walnut Creek which is only about 25 minutes away but an entirely different atmosphere.

 **When we first moved to the Bay area we lived in Poet's Corner on the boarder of Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek.  I loved it.  After the first year, I reluctantly agreed to move to a newer townhome in Dublin.  It was nice to live in a more efficient home, but I really miss living among the trees and culture of Walnut Creek.**

Anyway, the town was buzzing, as I expected on a sunny weekend.  Parking was scarce so I had to park on the roof of a parking structure.  I appreciate that WC still offers free parking structures - a rarity these days.  I really didn't mind parking up there because I've been needing exercise.  I'm proud to say I used the stairs both down and back up!  The wheezing and moaning didn't seem to attract too much attention.

I was excited to browse one of my favorite chain stores, Urban Outfitters.  UO and Anthropologie are sister stores which is obvious by their merchandising.  They have done a fabulous job of creating a genre all their own.  I like to linger in both shops just to soak up the atmosphere, although I like the music and scents in Anthropologie a tad more.  

UO is the more economical/youthful of the two.  I like to dig through their sale racks for treasures.  On this visit, I went specifically to check out their home decor.  I love their quilts.  The prices are reasonable, but still too much for me, so I have to wait for clearance.  Of course, I LOVE the duvet covers at Anthropolgie, but they are WAY out of my budget right now, so not even looking...

I did make one awesome purchase.  I found a fun top!  This pregnancy, my wardrobe has required a lot of 'out of the box' thinking.  I have managed to spend a grand total of $13 on maternity clothes thus far (thanks to generous friends, freecycle, and garage sales).  BUT, it felt really good to buy something NEW.  UO is great for maternity finds since they offer a variety of longer-than-average tops and tunics.  And with style! 

I attempted to take a self portrait to show the "belly fit" of my new top, but had trouble capturing it (arm not long enough for obtuse belly).  Of course, I didn't think of taking the pic till after I had washed my face for bed, so... it is what it is.

While still feeling proud of myself for the stair climbing, I chose to go with the healthy thing and make a nutritious dinner of potatoes, pea shoots, green beans and watermelon.  Yes, pea shoots.  I've never cooked with them before but my sister-in-law gave me a big bag of them so I gave it a shot.  Stir-fried them with a bit of salt and YUM!  Outside of the tough to chew element, they have earned a place in my vegetable heart.

So, I washed the dishes, watched an uninspiring TV movie, and made a desperate attempt to ignore the siren call of the salted caramel ice cream in the freezer (with oreo cookie).  FUTILITY, I tell you!!  BUT, I did make it a smaller portion than usual.  I get points for that, right??  

Oh well, it's a new day, new opportunity to resist one of the few sources of joy in my life temptation.

OH!  Before I sign off, I'd love your input.  I'm considering a hair cut.  As I've mentioned, this pregnancy (and possibly a few cheap bottles of hair dye) has done a number on the health of my locks.  They are VERY dry and need a trim.  I haven't wanted to cut my hair, but am thinking I might have to.  SO, I found this pic of a possible style.  I know I'm no Sandra Bullock, but use your imagination.  What do you think?  I'd love any suggestions you have.  Need to take action soon.

Ok, so that's a little bit of nothing for ya.  Have a great day.  Peace Out!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Nesting (With Super Cool Wall Art Project!)

So, in the spirit of jewel box living, I'm currently in the process of creating a nest for Biscuit.  It's a bit of a challenge as I'm attempting to blend it with the master bedroom.  Because of this, I'm not really going for the zoo animal/all star/transportation motifs.  Of course, he is a baby, so I'd like to add some whimsy.

It wouldn't be jewel box living if space wasn't an issue as well (this is a tiny room) so that affects my plans dramatically.  It took some research, but I'm very pleased to present my first purchase toward this project...  A mini crib!
I'm so thrilled with it.  It is a fraction of the size of a standard crib but has passed all the same safety tests.  It has four mattress level settings so it can accommodate a baby well into two years.  And... it's cute!  They sell mini cribs in a lot of the big stores but I actually found mine on craigslist which saved me about $200.00.  

Bedding is the main draw back.  They don't sell much at the major retailers.  I have found a few web sites which I might be able to order from, but I think I'll just pull out the old sewing machine for this one.  It doesn't need all the frills that we've grown accustomed to.  I think a few cute sheets and blankets will be perfect.  I really like this fabric.  It's called Topsy Turvy Toile.
But I may just go with something really simple.  Maybe polka dots or stars...

Today, I started the decorating of the nest.  I really like simple wall appliques like this one.  You can find quite a selection on line and they aren't too terribly expensive.  Of course my budget is more limited than some so I came up with an alternative.

I call it the "Contact High".  I've included instructions for those of you who might want a project.

Supplies:  Contact paper (can be found at Target, Walmart, etc. for about $7.00/roll), a pencil, and scissors.  

Step One:  Roughly sketch your design on the back of the contact paper.  It might help you to have a picture of what you're attempting to sketch in front of you.  Keep in mind that it will be the mirror image when applied.

Step Two:  Cut out your design.  Keep the design simple so the cutting doesn't get too detailed.  

Step Three:  Apply to wall.  I find it easiest to take off a little of the paper backing at a time to prevent the contact paper from sticking to itself.  The great thing about this is that contact paper is easy to peel off and reposition if you aren't thrilled with your first application.  

You can choose to mix colors if you like.  I wanted to keep it clean and understated.  I also had an old roll of marbled contact paper under my sink.  I figured, free is good, so I went with it.

You don't have to cut out the whole design at once. You can break it into more manageable segments and apply them in pieces.  Just be sure to choose a contact paper that will conceal your grafting lines.  A marbled pattern is great for that.

So this is the nest wall...
I think it's a good start.  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Making Peace With 'Less is More'

As I've mentioned before, I live in a small two bedroom house with my three kids, three dogs, and a guinea pig named Princess. It requires a great deal of medication creativity, but it's happening.

It hasn't always been like this.  A few years back I lived here:

Spent weekends here:

And drove these:

It was nice. I won't deny it. So far, from my experience, many aspects of life are easier with money.

BUT... The STUFF. That was a lot to manage. The book keeping, the cleaning, landscaping, furnishing; making enough of a living to keep up with it all and then managing that. I remember wishing I could find a way to simplify. 

I remember missing the single mortgage and no car payments. I loved that my kids were living such a comfortable life, but I was overwhelmed with it all. But knowing how to (0r wanting to) deconstruct what we'd worked so hard to build was beyond me.


What I didn't think I could do, the universe did for me (and for way too many others). It was a painful process. 

I remember the first thing I sold. It was a garden fountain. I couldn't even be there when the buyers took it away. I hid inside my bedroom until it was over. I sort of just went on auto pilot for the rest of the purge. Detached. Let it all go... 

I remember my load lightening even with the pain. A sense of loss mixed with acceptance. Of course, I'm not suggesting the transition was that simple. I still dream about my homes, that life. I still feel it all slipping away...

But I have been given something fantastic.  LESS.  I am constantly amazed at how little we need to be comfortable, functional and happy.  And it has been a wonderfully creative challenge to learn how to live well in a smaller space.  I refer to it as "Jewel Box Living".  It is liberating and can be very beautiful.

There is a whole movement of small space dwelling out there.  I have found countless blogs and websites providing tips for simplified living.  People are embracing this lifestyle for a variety of reasons.  Obviously, the economy has been a major unsolicited motivator for many; but there's a large number of people choosing to live with less for environmental reasons, or to escape their hectic jobs, or to simplify what they manage, or to afford living in a city that they love, or to free their funds up for experiences like travel, etc.  

I'm loving the decor/design inspirations I've been finding.  This is a great example of an eclectic living room from a small space design contest hosted by Apartment Therapy:

I also enjoy the blogs on patio and balcony gardening.  It's fun to explore the possibilities of these frequently neglected retreats.  The blog, Small Place Style, posted this sweet pic of string lights:

My mother was a single mom for many years.  She was also a born designer.  She created beauty where ever we lived.  I learned from her that financially challenged doesn't equal trash, it just fosters greater creativity (if you let it).  What a gift she gave me.

I am pouring my heart into my jewel box and finding healing in it.  I would love to spotlight your petite spaces as well if you care to share. Inspiration is a fabulous motivator.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Just Me and My Boys

Kinsey was gone visiting family this week so it was just me and the boys.  They get bored without their sister, but we managed to keep busy anyway.

They washed everything on the patio with Palm Olive and the garden hose... everything;

Built domino/matchbox car towers (complete with lego man topper);

Mastered puzzles;

I took them out for scooter rides (well, I waddled, they rode).  

My attempt to alleviate my guilt from all of the tasty baked goods which Biscuit has been demanding.  

The boys jump, spin, race, yell accusations of cheating, seek out every possible puddle in which to splash muddy water all over themselves.   

And how I love the trees... 

We took advantage of the cool evenings with a fire and some marshmallow roasting.  

Still having issues with billowing smoke but the gooey goodness was worth it.
It was a good week.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Independence Day

Independence Day.  

A time to celebrate freedom, bravery and the American legacy with hotdogs and semi-controlled explosives.  

In college I loved driving to watch the fireworks over the ocean in La Jolla, Ca.  It was so beautiful because there were always multiple shows glittering in the distance so it felt like the whole coast was celebrating together.  

For the past 13 years, I have spent the holiday dazzling my kids with sparklers, or taking them to community park celebrations, or driving them all over, chasing the various fireworks displays.  I have collected some very treasured memories.  

This year was different.  This year, it was just me.  

Independence Day.

I spent several hours in my car.  My radio options melted down to blended variations of spanish/christian/country with a consistent you're-not-quite-in-range-for-this-station buzz.  So I traded that noise for the hum of my car and the thoughts in my head.

Thoughts of my kids.  My life.  That new mystery sound coming from my engine which I can now hear since I turned the radio off... 

Thoughts of Independence.  

This year I visited a precious friend in rehab.  Fighting for his freedom from addiction.  His independence from misery.  I met the others and heard their stories.  Saw their loved ones.  Felt the hope.  Considered my own steps.

Independence is rarely painless.  It almost always requires bravery.  It requires a willingness to think differently, behave differently, risk being misunderstood or rejected.  Risk comfort, safety, companionship, change.  

It's the pivotal cliff.  For whatever reason, life has culminated at this ledge.  The choice is to either regress or step forward and hope to grow wings before hitting the rocks.

I made it back home by 7:00.  Fed the dogs.  Ate left-over casserole and chocolate chip cookies.  Climbed into bed around 9:00.  As I was drifting, I heard the pops and crackles.  It was a good day.

I spent Independence Day celebrating the process of progress.  Contemplating the fire of change which makes way for the brilliance of what will be.  Because, it seems, some of us are the phoenix.  We don't find our wings until after we've been reduced to ashes.  Scary.  Painful.  

But then... 
                       We SOAR...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

High-Carb, Preservative-Loaded, Straight-To-Your-Ass, Best Cultic Casserole You've Ever Tasted

It's Saturday night. The kids are with their dad. You know what they say, "when the cat's away, the mouse will... bake a casserole?" Among other enviable activities.

But this isn't just any casserole. This is a dish drawn directly from my religious potluck heritage (a religion best known for it's "Health Message").   A 9X13 masterpiece craved, beloved, and understood by the children of that world; and... not-so-much by the potluck-deprived.

I've decided to post this recipe. Maybe as a gift. Maybe as a challenge. Maybe because it's Saturday night and I'm home with my three dogs and have used up all of my exciting evening plans and it's only 7:00.

Go ahead, try it. Let me know if your life is forever changed.

Tater Tot Casserole
(High-Carb, Preservative-Loaded, Straight-To-Your-Ass, Best Cultic Casserole You've Ever Tasted)

1 32 oz Package Tater Tots
1 Package Frozen Peas (Optional)
1 Can Fry Chick (This will be a foreign substance to most of you. Just insert your meat of choice or nothing at all.)
1 16 oz Container Sour Cream
1 Can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (A basic in about 90% of all cultic recipes.)
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese (Also a basic.)
1 6 oz Can of French Fried Onions

Directions (Complete with pictures!):
Step 1: Preheat oven to 350* F. Grease a 9X13 baking dish.

Step 2: Arrange Tater Tots (along with Fry Chick or meat of choice) in the baking dish.

Step 3: Add package of frozen peas as shown.

Step 4: Mix sour cream, mushroom soup and cheese in separate mixing bowl and then spread evenly over the Tater Tot layered concoction. 

Step 5: Sprinkle top with French Fried Onions and place in the oven to bake for one hour.

One hour can feel like a long time to wait for your dish. That is why I like to participate in other fun Saturday night activities to pass the time.

This particular evening I took the opportunity to fill the beater with oil (mindfully replacing the cap) to prevent another pesky engine fire. 

With that task completed, I still had plenty of time to perform a root touch-up and conditioning treatment to the few hairs still clinging to my scalp. (Note to self: if a product intended to alter your personal chemistry is $4.99, question it.)

And, after a nice, cleansing shower, and some mirror affirmations, I was able to leisurely make my way back to the kitchen in time for the ding of the oven timer.

The masterpiece.
Complete and ready to comfort.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Penises, Jelly Fish and Smidgen of Denial

My chicks are gathered, fed and bathed.  All the doors and windows are locked.  All bandaids have been applied.  The clock is ticking the sweet rhythm of bed time.  Ahhhh....

If you have kids, you know the sacredness of this holy hour.  Especially if you have boys.

I've mentioned my boys' energy level before.  They have three modes: breaking things, cheating death and sonic boom.

I love them so much it hurts, but there is nothing like that moment, at the end of the day, when I know they are safely contained... Exhale.

When I initially learned of biscuit's impending arrival, I have to admit, I threw myself prostrate before the gods and begged slightly favored the idea of a girl.

You know, to balance the snails and jelly fish with some sugar and... you get the idea.

Anyway, what do you think, ANY chance this could be a girl???
XX Crossing my fingers XX  
(she hums in denial.)

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