Three-Hike Weekend

Tam from Gold Hill Grade

I got in three great hikes over the three-day weekend.  On Friday morning I went up Gold Hill Grade, behind Dominican University in San Rafael.


This dirt fire road climbs up (and up) to two communication towers on San Pedro Mountain. Looking at the view of Mount Tam with the city of San Rafael (top photo) in the foreground gave me the opportunity to catch my breath as hiked upwards.

Stump in the trail

The first part of the trail is lined with eucalyptus trees and plenty of poison oak. Later I recognized oak, madrone and bay laurels.

Finally, a glimpse of the first tower.

Glimpse of Tower thru fog

I made it!  Time for breakfast.

Made it.

Yogurt, cereal and fruit

The fog is starting to burn off.  You can see the marina by Andy’s Local Market on Point San Pedro Road.

Marina by Andy's Market

More views…

McNears Brickyard


Tower #2

Tower Two

Looking back at the first tower.

First Tower & Tam

Heading back down the hill I snapped a few pictures of poison oak.  It was all over the place.

Red and Green Poison Oak

And a selfie for the road.

Gold Hill Selfie

On Saturday I went to Fairfax and started a nice loop hike in Deer Park, parking by the Fairfax San Anselmo Children’s Center.  It was a good hike, not as strenuous as the one the day before.

Golden Hillside

Dry Grassy Hillside

Worn Springs Trail sign

The communication towers I hiked to on Friday are barely visible on the upper left in this picture (if you click on the picture, you can see an enlarged version which makes it a bit more clear)..

San Rafael Towers

The buildings in the lower left corner of the photo below, are the school where the Fairfax San Anselmo Children’s Center is located, the start of my hike.

View down to school

Purple Mountain Majesty

Old Oak Tree

Another (different kind of) selfie.

Me & My Shadow

Trail thru trees

Today, Sunday, I chose the easiest hike of the weekend.  I went out to Tennessee Valley Beach.  I haven’t taken this hike in years as dogs are not allowed and I usually hike with a dog.  But Molly is up at Sea Ranch with my mom.

Trail Sign to Tennessee Beach

When I left San Rafael it was in the upper 70’s.  When I got to the parking lot by the trail head, it was 58 and foggy.

Tennessee Beach Trail

The first view of the Pacific Ocean from the trail.

First View of Pacific

Lagoon before beach


Queen Ann's Lace

Sweet Peas

Just before going out on the beach, I climbed uphill to an overlook (I wanted to see some progress on my Fitbit).

View down to beach

Tennessee Valley Beach

My selfie for this hike.

Beach Selfie

Some critters I saw along the walk back up the trail.  I think this one is a Giant’s fan.

Black & Orange


windswept grasses

Interesting rock formation (just for Dayna).

Rock Formation

Fog Lifting

The fog was lifting a bit as I hiked back to my car and headed home.

Thanks for stopping by.





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Craft Catch Up

Kathleen's Card

Although I feel like I haven’t sat down at my craft desk for ages, it’s not the whole story. What I haven’t managed to do is carve out several hours to work on my art journal.  But I have made a few cards that I want to share here and I’ve also had some great crafting sessions with friends.

The birthday card, above, was one I made for my sister Kathleen, but when I sent it to her, I put the wrong street name on the envelope!  Her street is a “Court” and I put “Reach” which is what a lot of the streets are called at Sea Ranch.  I was really disappointed when she didn’t receive the card I’d made.

So…I made another.


It was similar but not exactly the same.  This one I hand-delivered.

Needless to say, the first card eventually made it back to me. I had used the definition of sister in the first card but put “sisterly” in the second one.  The first had a picture of a peacock.  A peacock-feather-patterned paper was in the second.  She might not have received a card on her birthday, but in the end, she got two cards.

Retirement Card

Here’s another card I created recently when my boss retired.  I had the idea of a gold watch and a kind of somber, old-fashioned exterior.

Inside Retirement Card

The inside was more upbeat and cheerful with the greeting on little tags.  It was a card many people would be signing, and I wanted to leave lots of room, but still have the message stand out.  I think the tags did the trick.

Best Wishes Tag

I spent two afternoons with a friend who is recovering from a serious illness.  Although I didn’t work on any projects, I really enjoyed assisting her with a photo/scrap album.  It was real craft therapy.  We played around with layouts, photos, paper and colors.  On my second visit we shopped for some supplies at Joann’s and she completed the layout on the opening page of her album.

My “Craft and Flash” group had missed a few gatherings but got together on a recent Sunday afternoon.  We ended up working on several bead projects.

I showed the others how to make Beaded Braid Bracelets.  I had to look up my post from two summers ago to get the measurements.  If you haven’t tried one of these bracelets, you might consider it now.  It is a fun and easy project that can be completed in just a few hours at most.

I left my camera at home so a big thank you to Phoenicia for letting me use her cellphone for these pictures.


Not only did she loan me her phone, but as usual for our Craft & Flash gatherings, Phoenicia cooked up a storm.  She made delicious refried beans (with star anise in the seasoning), chicken with onions and peppers, a watermelon and jicama salad with fresh mint, and both homemade guacamole and salsa.

We made little soft tacos and tostadas and sipped lemonade made from scratch, of course, with the faintest hint of lavender in the simple syrup.  It was a warm afternoon and I scooped some strawberries into a cup  with the lavender lemonade in the afternoon for an even more delicious combination.

Strawberry Lavender Lemonade

The next project was crocheted bead necklaces. I’ve tried knitting and did some weaving in high school, but generally I’ve stayed away from any kind of precision-type of crafting using hooks or knitting needles and yarn where you need to count and pay attention to the stitches.  I was skeptical when Phoenicia and her sister, and our hostess, Victoria, insisted this was an easy project.

Beads Threaded on Yarn

However, they were right and it was pretty easy.  My fingers still took some time getting used to the rhythm of the chain stitch every time I picked it up.  On the one hand it was a great first project because it was a very manageable size.  On the other hand it was a bit tricky because I kept having to stop the crocheting to move a bead over and I was using a fairly small crochet hook.  But I did it and had fun too.

First I took the skein of crewel yarn.  It looks similar to embroidery thread but it is a twisted 2-ply yarn – I’m going to try it with Perle thread this weekend, also a 2-ply yarn but made of cotton instead of wool.  Back to the necklace – I wrapped the yarn around a spool for easier handling.  A piece of cardboard would have also worked.

Then I threaded 220 beads – I think these are 8/0 seed beads – with a beading needle onto the yarn.  Once all the beads were on the yarn, I removed the needle and start the crocheting.  You crochet three chains then pull one bead into place and crochet one chain to hold it then three more chains and another bead.  After each bead you crochet a total of four chains; one to hold the bead and three more.  To finish it, I put a heart bead on which also served to hide the knot.  I crocheted the ends back into the necklace.

Crocheted Necklaces

These are necklaces that Victoria and Phoenicia made.  Look closely to see the Buddha head beads that they used at the end.

Me with Crocheted Necklace

I’m really pleased to have learned to crochet, albeit a very basic crochet stitch.  I love the necklace I made.  It was a great afternoon of crafting, talking, eating and relaxing with friends.

My goal before this weekend is done is to spend some time on my own with my art journal and practice some art.

To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.  So do it.

Kurt Vonnegut

Thank you for the visit.















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My Little Fitbit

10,000 + Steps

My dad used to say “Horses sweat. Men perspire. Women glow.” If that’s true, I’ve been doing a heck of a lot of glowing in the last few days.

For a variety of reasons and after some unscientific research, I decided to get myself a Fitbit One activity tracker – a glorified pedometer to some people.  I’ve been unhappy with my current fitness and weight.  I decided that if I am brave enough to jump out of an airplane, then I am brave enough to face reality and start doing something about my health.  Like moving more and making better choices about what I eat.

Logging 10,000 steps a day is my goal.  First I thought I would wear it for a week and see how I was doing and what my average was. Typically I work out three mornings at the gym, attend one evening Jazzercise class during the work week and walk or hike with my sister Kathleen every Saturday.  In the last few months my activity level hasn’t been as high as I would like and I only have myself to blame.

I jumped right in on Saturday and that day logged 10, 586 steps.  On Sunday I managed 12, 670.  Yesterday was just my third day and I was feeling kind of tired.  Like maybe I should have started out a bit more moderately and increased the steps over a few weeks.  On the other hand, I also wanted to get some new workout clothing and figured that walking around some stores after dinner would increase my step total.  I didn’t find plus-sized gear but I got those 10,835 steps in!  I was tired but proud of myself.

It would be cool to look at my “dashboard” on a smart phone and click through the data but I enjoy doing it after work on my laptop. I can also click a button on my little Fitbit One and check my step total, distance, etc.  When I’m active, a little flower grows taller and when I open my dashboard at the end of the evening, I get a big happy face and “hooray” when I achieve my goals (which I can change, by the way).  I’m finding all of this motivating.  But I’m also a bit footsore and still needed more workout wear.  I guess I’ll do some online shopping..but I can’t count steps for that.

At work I’m getting up from my desk more often and walking the long way to use the restroom.  When I walk to the mail room, I go the longest way I can think of. Parking further from the library gained me some steps the other day.  It is like putting a little bit of change into a jar and then counting it up and putting it in the bank and seeing it grow over time.

A friend says she holds a “soft” goal in her head of 7,500 steps and feels ok if she hits that and doesn’t make it to 10,000 every day.  I believe balance is good in my life and though I know that walking every day will help me to feel healthier, reduce both my waist and stress level, boost my energy and mood and decrease my risk for heart disease, there is no magic that happens at 10,000 steps. If I’m neglecting other things to reach my step goal, that isn’t the best result.

But, yes, I admit I walked around the block after Jazzercise tonight. 10,369. Hooray!

Thanks for stopping by.







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Plants in the Patio

Pots in the Patio

My patio project is, in reality, never going to be done.  I somehow manage to under-water or over-water my plants.  But it looks pretty nice these days so before I kill something else, I thought I’d share some photos.

This is a part three of my little patio makeover.  Last September was the first stage.  It was a great start and a huge improvement.  Just a few weeks ago I finally pulled together a table, umbrella, chairs and cushions for the second phase.  I’m really pleased by what a difference these items have made and I’m happy to see them every time I walk through the patio.

Rem listed the other chairs we decided we didn’t really like (not these ones) on Freecycle and found someone very happy to take them off our hands.

Table & hanging pots

The latest addition are the pots that hang on the fence.  I got them from my sister, Kathleen, and had them rattling around in my trunk for awhile.  I moved them into storage over the winter and finally got them planted and in place.

Pots on Fence close up

They are little metal baskets holding terracotta pots that hook onto the fence.  It doesn’t really hide or disguise the fence but the bright pops of color draw your eyes away from the gravel, cement and chain links around them.

one pot on fence

My idea is to change out the plants throughout the year.  Maybe mums in the fall and poinsettia’s at Christmas time.  Or, knowing me and my brown thumb, I can always just stack them back in the storage area.

For now they look nice in the corner with the new outdoor furniture.  As for the plants around our front door area, I added more succulents to replace some of the plants that were struggling.  A rosemary topiary is a little dried out but I think it’s going to be ok.

New pot of succulents

Big rosemary

Freezing weather took out the mint but it came back.  Then scorching weather flattened it but it came back again.

Mint in blue pot

Tripod stand

Another succulent in a small pot looks nice in this tripod stand we got at Urban Ore in Berkeley.

Spider Plant

The spider plant is thriving, the succulents look good and the rosemary…well, it’s not in the best shape.  But maybe it will survive.


The neighbors cat, Kitty, or as Rem has dubbed her, Kitty McNibblit, adds to the warm and welcoming feel of the patio.  She’s very friendly and when she’s outside she’ll greet anyone who walks by, rolling over and meowing for petting and treats.

Angled umbrella

Even though I don’t sit out here every day, it is attractive.  Sometimes when I walk through the patio on the way to work, just seeing this inviting spot makes me anticipate the end of the day or the weekend when I know I’ll spend some time under the umbrella, enjoying the flowers, the sunshine, a book and a snack.  In fact, I think I’ll go out there right now.

Thanks for the visit.





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Father’s Day. Ouch.

Father's Day Pennant Card

I’ve been wanting to write a little post about project ideas for Father’s Day.  But thinking about Father’s Day just made me feel sad and so I didn’t do it.  I’m trying to put the best spin on things and be really grateful for all the wonderful years I had with a great dad.  I’m a silver lining kind of person.

But Father’s Day still makes me sad.  I asked Rem if we could make plans for an outing today.  Both so we could have a nice day together and also so I could be busy and not think about it being Father’s Day.  We’re leaving soon to take a ferry into San Francisco to attend the North Beach Festival.

I’m sure we’ll have a great day, but I’m missing my dad and remembering making this card for him.  I also gave him this paper rosette.


Of course it made him laugh, which was good.  He said I was his favorite middle daughter.  I was his only middle daughter, but good to know I ranked as favorite, right?

Happy Father’s Day to all Dads.

To those of you missing your dad, I get it.  Hold on to the good memories.

Thanks for stopping by.


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Skydiving Video & FAQ’s

3 seconds into dive

Here is a link to the video from our skydiving adventure on Rem’s birthday.  Make it full-screen for the best viewing experience!

In the photo, above, you can just see the plane by the instructor’s head.

There is a little bit of strong language, so consider yourself warned.

Since we made our jump, I’ve answered a few questions about the event.  So here are a few Skydiving FAQ’s:

Q:  Did you jump from a plane?

A:  Yes.  A very small plane.

Q:  Does it feel like a roller coaster when you jump? 

A:  No.  Neither of us had that lose-your-stomach kind of feeling.

Q:  What does it feel like?

A:  When my chute opened, my harness became very uncomfortable.  Like getting a mammogram uncomfortable.  But I’m a plus-size woman and I’m sure that made it more uncomfortable for me.  Rem said his wasn’t uncomfortable.

At first, it is really noisy with wind and pressure and you don’t know what is going on.  It is a huge adrenalin rush.  After the chute opens, it is very gentle floating.  Except for the harness discomfort, it was really amazing.

Unfortunately, my goggles weren’t on snug enough and they were pushed up on my face and so I really could not open my eyes during the free fall.  I’m still not sure if that was a bad thing.

Q:  Are you crazy?

A:  No. Well, maybe, but I’m glad I did it.  I felt as if I would regret it more NOT doing it than doing it.

Q:  Have you always wanted to do this?

A:  Nope.  But Rem said he’s been wanting to for years and I just decided to go for it.  When I was in my 20’s I toyed with the idea but never acted on it and haven’t felt a pressing need to do it.

Thumbs up

Q:  Were you scared?

A:  YES!  Very scared.

Q: Was Rem scared?

A:  I don’t think so.  He really had a blast.

Q:  How high did you jump from?

A:  12,000 feet.

Q:  How long did the free-fall last?

A:  A little less than a minute.  But it seemed like a very long minute.

Q:  How long was the rest of the ride  (once the parachute was opened)?

A: About four or five minutes.  Rem’s instructor did some fancy loops and turns that took them down faster even though they jumped after me and my instructor.

Q:  How was your landing?

A:  Great.  Rem landed on his feet.  My instructor had us land on our rear ends and it was really gentle.  No sprains or broken bones, no scrapes, bumps or bruises.

Q:  Will you do it again?

A:  Doubtful.  But I didn’t expect to do this at all.  So anything is possible.

Back on earth

In the video, just after our chute has opened, the instructor, Cliff, asks if I “had fun,” I was still in a state of mental chaos. My response is a squeak but what I said was “I think so.”

At about 1:07 on the video, you can see the little step or platform out the window of the plane.  This is where we put our feet just before jumping.  The door of the plane is opened, and we scooched into position sitting in the open doorway with our feet on that platform, I grabbed the straps of my harness and the pilot tipped the plane. Cliff, my instructor, pushes off as we drop away from the plane.  It wasn’t like “1-2-3-JUMP!”

By the way, when doing tandem jumps, the instructors have reserve parachutes should the main chute fail to deploy.  There is also a device that will activate the reserve chute if a certain altitude is reached without the main chute being opened.  Although I didn’t know this last Sunday, I’m comforted by the idea.

I also read that a person is more likely to die being hit by lightning than doing a tandem skydive.

Thank you for all the great responses to our adventure.  See more pictures and read the post about our jump here.

Credit to Cliff and Tyler of NorCal Skydiving for video and still footage.  Rem took a few stills used in the video.  A big thank you to Rem for editing it into one piece. ♥


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Rem’s Birthday Surprise? SKYDIVING!


I surprised Rem with the gift of a tandem skydive for his birthday today, something he’s been wanting to do for years. I surprised myself by jumping too.  I went first.

My instructor, Cliff from NorCal Skydiving in Cloverdale, California, is the one with blue hair.  He’s wearing a GoPro camera.  Thanks, Cliff, for the ride and the photos.

Harnesses on

Rem loves surprises and only learned about 10 minutes before we got to our destination what his present was.  I made reservations earlier in the week, which means I’ve had more time to be anxious about it.

Once we arrived at the airport, Rem was delighted when I told him I would be taking a tandem skydive too.

Sardines in a Can

The small plane is noisy and we fit inside like sardines.  The pilot is on the lower right, my instructor’s feet show on the lower left, Rem and I in the middle and his instructor, Tyler, is in the back.  Tyler also had a GoPro camera so thanks to Tyler for some of the photos.

Holding Hands

This is before my harness is attached to Cliff’s harness.


Now we’re attached and John, the pilot, has just reached across us to open the door.  Yikes!  After some awkward maneuvering of limbs both Cliff and I manage to get our legs out and our feet on the little platform outside the plane.  It is even noisier, cold and really scary with the wind buffeting us.



It really wasn’t a matter of jumping but just hanging on to the straps of the harness.  I closed my eyes.  John tilted the plane and we simply fall into the sky.  I said a bad word.

Free Fall


The view

Can't. Open. Eyes.

Good thing Cliff was taking pictures because I could NOT get my eyes open.  It could have been that the goggles slipped.  But at this point we were free-falling at 120 mph.  So maybe it was just fear.

Tandem Jump

Meanwhile, Rem was starting his dive.


Fly's through the air

Back with us, Cliff pulls the chord and the parachute slows our fall.  I’m able to open my eyes and even take off the goggles.

Thumbs Up

This relieved thumbs-up is just one minute after the picture at the top of the post.

Big thumbs up

Rem and Tyler in the distance

Cliff points out Rem and Tyler, the speck in the distance.  Tyler (with Rem’s approval) does some crazy, swooping turns.

Rem and Tyler's parachute opens

I’m quite happy that Cliff just guided us gently down.  The hotdogging gets Rem down faster and they land first.  Tyler was able to get pictures of Cliff and I coming in.

Almost back to earth

It was truly awesome and…I’m really glad to be back on the ground.  I’m proud of myself for doing it.

We made it!

Two Thumbs Up

Happy Birthday, Sweetie! I love you at all altitudes.

Thanks for stopping by.










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