Monthly Archives: September 2013

Apartment Curb Appeal


We live in a small apartment complex with a carport at street level, a flight of cement steps up to a common patio area and the doors to four apartments.  Metal stairs leads to the second floor and four more apartments.

The cement patio, with adjacent gravel roof over the carport,  inexpensive screen doors, an emergency ladder by our door and a chain link fence around the perimeter, is not the most welcoming space.

In the years we’ve lived here, neighbors have done what they could with plants in containers to soften the starkness.  I’m not much of a gardener and certainly a handful of pots on a paved courtyard don’t make much of a garden, but it does help to make the entry to our home more inviting and welcoming.

Lately I’ve become a little blind to the space that I walk through on the way to and my car, and it had gone from appealing to neglected.

Behind these pots, for example, was a mess of dried leaves, spiderwebs, cat hair and dead bugs.

Neglected Plants

The plants had seen better days.  Someone with more gardening skill (and patience) than I could probably have pruned the geranium and whipped it into shape.  I just see it, all leggy, and feel guilty.

There was a lovely collection of pots of dirt and one badly root-bound pot of spindly mint.

Pots of dirt

The larger boxes have bulbs in them and in the spring it is very pretty with daffodils blooming.  Now, not so much.  I’m still not sure what do do with them in the interim.

Then there was the dead rosemary plant.  I’d had two rosemary plants and the larger, healthier one had been mortally wounded when an upstairs neighbor dropped something over the railing as she was moving out.  It broke both the terracotta pot and the plant.  I gave it a dignified burial.

This one had gone from pathetic to pretty much a dried stick in a pot.

Dead Rosemary

Coming home from work and seeing that dried stick in a pot has been disheartening.

Finally – our door mat: the landlord layered a new one on top of the old one, and the combination didn’t offer much of a welcome.  Now both of them were worn out and ugly. It was time for me to give my garden some attention.

Not so Welcome Mat

A trip to the garden section of a hardware store got me started with a selection of succulents that were on sale.  From what I’ve read about succulents, they are a little more tolerant of some neglect.  I moved all the pots, swept the whole area and got to work potting succulents.

Hello, Aloe

Pieces of abalone shell look nice in between the plants.

Succulents with abalone shell

I love going out the front door for a pinch of rosemary so picked up two healthy new rosemary plants.  I  expanded my options and got thyme and mint as well.

Healthy Rosemary

Rosemary and Abalone

I like how the variegated ivy looked so I put it in the pot with the thyme.

Thyme and Ivy

I found a pot on sale at OSH in a pretty shape and color for the mint. An anonymous neighbor contributed something that might be cilantro that the local kitty is very interested in.  Maybe it’s fresh catnip.  I picked up a lantern and candle at IKEA.

Blue Square Pot

A lavender plant also caught my eye.


Over the course of several evenings after supper and some time on the weekend, it started to pull together.

Plant with driftwood and shells

A neighbor gave me some faux terracotta pots to use, I bought a few new ones and re-used ones I already had.  I put all the new plants into pots, and re-potted the healthier plants.

I was a bit more selective with the pieces of driftwood and abalone shells I’ve collected over the years.

Curvy Driftwood

I think the wood and shells make the patio surface look a little like a beach.

Wood & Shell

I love how the rosemary looks – so healthy!

Spider Plant

The rust on this stake is just the right color for this happy dachshund.


The finishing touch was at the top of the post: a new Welcome mat.

Angled Welcome

The view from the front door is so much better now.

Front Door View

More welcoming, don’t you think?

Kitty at the Door

A few days after pruning and re-potting, this plant has some tender new leaves.

New growth

I’m already thinking about getting a small table and chairs but I think I’ll wait until next spring.

Garden Gloves

Thank you for stopping by.


Filed under Life

Am I the Last to Learn This Cool Tomato Cutting Trick?

Grape Tomatoes

I love when I learn a way to do something more easily.  I saw this the other day on The Pioneer Woman and couldn’t wait to try it.

If you are cutting a bunch of cherry or grape tomatoes in half, it can be a little time consuming.  These little tomatoes, especially if you are lucky enough to have access to homegrown, are so sweet and delicious and tomato-y that I’m putting them into salads every few days.

So here’s the trick: take two flat plastic lids of equal size, I used lids from big tubs of yogurt.  Lay one on the counter face up and fill it with tomatoes.  Put the other lid, face down, on top of the tomatoes.

Hold the lid and tomatoes firmly down and use a serrated knife to cut through the tomatoes in the space between the two lids!

Reader, Juli, had the excellent suggestion that this trick will work for grapes too.  Grapes are a delicious addition to chicken salad.  Thanks, Juli!

In fact, I made a handy video so you could see it for yourself!

Check it out then go try it yourself.

Thanks for stopping by!


Filed under Cooking

Little Tag Cards

Angled Green Tag Card

I was putting together a birthday card for a good friend and for inspiration, I looked through the pages of a  calendar given to me by another friend.  The artwork in the calendar, by British artist, Sarah Lugg, had beautiful collages based on small tags full of fine little details.

With her images in mind, I started to pull out bits and pieces of paper, stickers, washi tape, and trim that were all or partially green, and layering them to create a series of tags.

6 Green Tags

For some of the tags, I traced the tag shape onto paper or card stock and cut it out.  For others, I layered the ephemera directly onto a tag.

Layered Green Tag

On this tag, for example, printed paper with a bird design is overlaid with a scrap of dictionary page and the definition of “celebrate”.  A tiny bit of sheet music is near the top and a gold-printed branch has been cut out and adhered in place.  I colored in a bit of the design with a green marker and stamped a small green clover with “good luck” to complete the tag.

The large card includes a small duck feather, little adhesive jewels, a bit of green twine, a postage stamp, a piece of a color swatch, a scrap of a map showing Yosemite, and one of my favorite little rubber stamped images of a tiny key.

As usual, I signed the back of the card with my lowercase initials and, in this case, added a small paper heart.


This Little Tag card was so fun to make that when my mom requested a birthday card to send to my brother, I did another one.

In this card, I chose to go with fall colors and oriented the tags horizontally. The background card looks almost black in this picture, but it is dark brown with a green envelope.

Brown Tag Card

With less time spent crafting the card, the tags don’t have quite as many details, but I’m still very pleased with the results.

A beautiful butterfly sticker from my Cavallini & Co. “Flora & Fauna Stickers.”

A bit of butterfly

The little acorn was trimmed from another old calendar that I’ve been saving (look for the pear on the first card – it was cut from the same source).  Orange-striped washi tape is along the bottom edge of this tag.


Rem’s ham radio hobby provides me with interesting postage stamps from around the world.  This one is Italian.  The background paper is wrapping paper printed with designs from Japanese kimonos.  A scrap of textured copper paper is on the upper edge.

Italian Stamp

I love creating these Little Tag cards and have already started another batch of tags.

6 Green Tags

Thanks for stopping by.


Filed under Crafts

Pops Concert


My mother has season tickets to the Marin Symphony and I was her guest for a wonderful event.  It was their first ever Waterfront Pops Concert on the Civic Center grounds, overlooking the lagoon. The music was classic John Williams movie soundtrack pieces, played live with an 80 piece symphony orchestra.

We got there about 4:15 to get a good spot on the lawn and sat and chatted and people-watched. There were lots of families with young kids. I remember going to Sunday afternoon concerts at Stern Grove when we were little.  An outdoor concert with a picnic is a great way to become better acquainted to classical music.

I had picked out some produce at the Farmer’s Market in the morning and we started supper with raw English peas, eaten out of the pod.  Rolled sandwiches and Greek salad came next – I used whole wheat pita bread, split open and spread with a combination of cream cheese and chutney.  Turkey and roast pork were layered on top of the cream cheese than some thinly sliced apples.  I tossed spinach and lettuce leaves with a lemony vinaigrette and piled that on before rolling it all up and cutting each roll in half.

The salad was Persian cucumbers, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, white beans, feta cheese and a little lemon juice and olive oil.  I’m afraid I didn’t get any pictures of our picnic.  We finished up with wedges of pluots and oatmeal cookies that my mom made.

I was amazed, however, when I noticed some folks at intermission who along with a clever folding table, had brought little desserts (maybe some kind of apple crumble, I couldn’t really tell) in crocks and vanilla ice cream that they dished out.

picnic dessert

Maybe next year we’ll remember to save a little treat for intermission!

The concert started at 6 PM with the Olympic Fanfare and Theme, written for the 1984 Summer Olympics.  Such familiar movie soundtrack music as Jaws, Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark followed.  I was choked up just a bit at the beginning, thinking about my dad and how I was lucky enough to go to many Marin Symphony concerts with my parents.

Although I think he would have love the music, he would have also been annoyed with all the kids that were running wild.   I found them distracting sometimes, but I tried not to let it bother me.  Overall, it was a relaxed, happy audience, enjoying the event.

Pops audience

The sun started to set into a bank of fog and several times flocks of birds flying behind the stage added to the music.  Once it was a group of geese that swooped up and over the covered stage.  Other times large flocks of blackbirds seemed to move in time to the stirring music, swirling in beautiful patterns in the sky.

After intermission, the conductor, Alasdair Neale, invited Junior Conductors to gather on the grass in front of the stage to conduct, with glow sticks, The Stars and Stripes Forever.  Mom and I both noticed that most of the kids were keeping good time with the music.

Than it was back to John Williams and more familiar movie themes, including Superman, Flight to Neverland from Hook, the Theme from Schindler’s List and a Star Wars Medley.

Pops Concert

The moon was out and we had layered on sweatshirts and jackets.


Moths fluttered in the stage lights as the concert continued.  Some kids (and grown ups too) fell asleep, others ran around with glow sticks in hand.

As the concert was getting near the end, some people packed up and left.  I could have been happier with maybe one or two fewer pieces, but didn’t want to leave or we would have missed out on the fireworks that were set off during another Olympic piece, Summon the Heroes, which premiered at the Atlanta, GA Olympics in 1996.  It was a smashing and fitting finale to a wonderful concert.


Thank you for coming by.


Filed under Cooking, Life

Quick Bead Earrings

Earrings on Dishes

A few weeks ago I was shopping for beads for several bracelets and came home with a few extra beads to make a pair of earrings.   I found beads very similar to a favorite black pair that I wear often.

I’ve been meaning to put the earrings together but kept finding other things to do.

Bowl of Beads

This morning I decided those (as yet unmade) earrings would look perfect with the outfit I was wearing. So after breakfast with a few extra minutes before I had to get going, I grabbed my pliers to put them together.


It was coming along just fine, I had the first large bead on a pin for each earring and I started making the loop at the top to attach the top portion when one of the pins came right through the bead.  Dang!

A quick look at the clock and I dismantled the earrings and got a new pin for each large bead, adding a small bead at the end to keep the pin from coming through the hole.  I assembled the beads on the top section and attached the loops on the top and bottom sections.

I hadn’t remembered to purchase new ear wires, but I just pulled a pair off other earring in my jewelry box.  Next time I’m at a craft or bead store, I’ll buy a few pairs.

Earlobe  & Earring

Some pretty beads and the right tools, in this case the round-nose pliers for bending the pins into loops, and I’ve got a new pair of earrings.

Earrings, Necklace, Bracelets

Thank you for your visit.


Filed under Crafts

Quirky Art Journal Collage

Man on Egg

I made this collage in my Art Journal the other day.  I’ve been collecting images to use in crafting projects and I decided I needed to get beyond the gathering stage and move on to the creation stage.

This man looked so serious sitting there.  I wanted to include him, so I looked through my pictures to find something for him to sit on.  A giant egg seemed like just the thing.

Serious Man...with wings

What a face!  Since he’s sitting on an egg (or two), I figured, why not give him some wings, right?

I gathered some other bits for a background.  A color swatch.  Part of a map, a piece of dictionary page.  A little bit of an Asian newspaper ad.  A piece of a page from a Chemistry textbook.


I like the turquoise color with the eggs. I’ve seen some eggs that are a soft blue-green color.

I think sitting at my craft desk with my supplies and putting this together was as satisfying as the finished page.  Maybe more so.

An Open Book

I showed Rem and he said he didn’t understand it.  I don’t either.  I mean, I don’t really know what I was trying to say.  I just started putting it together.  And stopped when it seemed done.

Thanks for your visit today!  Come back again.


Filed under Crafts

Templates for Baby Clothes Cards

Plaid Dress & Denim Overalls Cards

I finally got the templates finished for these two cute cards!  You can see more versions of the Baby Dress Card here and the Baby Overalls Card here.

I saw lots of paper at JoAnn Fabric and Craft’s yesterday and couldn’t resist this denim blue and red plaid combo.  It is thinner paper than the card-stock I used when I made them the first time around, but it made two cute cards just fine.

The templates are on 8.5 x 11 inch paper.  Print out the template at 100% size, on regular copy paper, cut out the pieces than put them down on the paper you want to use for your card.  Trace around each piece.

Trace Template

Here is the Baby Dress Card Template, and here is the Baby Overalls Card Template.

For some versions of the dress I used scallop-edge scissors for the hemline.  For this plaid version, I just cut it out plain and simple.

When I cut out, I cut just inside the tracing lines.  When you trace the overalls, use a pencil to firmly draw in the details of the pockets and waistband.  Later, you’ll go back with a marker to color in those details.

Fold the dress at the shoulder line (on the template I show that as a dotted line) and align the front and back.  It may not be perfect, so just trim where one side overlaps a bit.

Trim uneven edge

Cut out all the pieces, than glue on the pockets.

Glue On Pockets

The back of the overalls have one little place to fold: the straps that come over the shoulder from back to front. Fold where the dotted line is shown on the template.

Fold the t-shirt, lining it up carefully and trimming if the edges are a little uneven.

To construct the Baby Overalls Card, have all the pieces cut out, with pockets glued in place.  You can see where I’ve traced the front pocket and waistband seam details.

Overall Pieces

Put the back overall piece down with the inside facing up.  Put adhesive on the top part, including the ends of the straps, but only down as far as the waistband.

Glue on Overall Back

Carefully set the folded t-shirt piece in place, lining it up so the straps come up over the shoulder.  Back of t-shirt should be attached to back piece of overalls.

Gluing T-Shirt

Now put glue on the inside of the front piece bib area, down to the waistline. Line the legs up together.  Carefully set in place and adhere to front of t-shirt.

Closeup Front of Overalls

I used a fine-point dark blue marker to add stitching lines and a gold pen for the buttons and buckles.  A fine-point black pen adds a little detail to the buttons and buckles.

A folded bit of patterned paper makes a bandana for the back pocket.

Back of Overalls

The dress and apron are a little more straight forward because the dress forms the whole card with the apron or pinafore being added as embellishment to the outside.

I didn’t include straps for the pinafore or apron on the template.  Cut narrow strips of matching paper and glue to either side of apron or pinafore and glue separate strips to the back of the dress.  You can also use ribbon for all or part of the apron strings.

As with the Overall Card, I used a narrow dark-blue pen to add stitching lines, and gold and black pens for the buttons.

Close Up Pinafore

In the  earlier Baby Dress Cards, I used a white gel pen for some of the little details.

Front and Back

For the denim and plaid pair, I left the insides of the cards plain.

Inside of Cards

You can also use the Overall template to create a onesie.


For the petticoat in the Baby Dress Card I traced the dress and cut a slightly smaller version, omitting the sleeves.

Inside Purple

I’d love to see your creations if you use either of these templates to make your own versions.  Send me a photo and I’ll add it to my Reader’s Gallery.

From the back…

Back of the Cards

or the front, these are both really cute cards!

Front of Cards

Thanks for coming by and reading my post.


Filed under Crafts, Readers' Gallery

Latest Art Journal Pages

Sound Bite

I was so glad to have the day off today.  A tenacious summer cold has sapped my energy and I needed a down day.

After lunch I spent about 20 minutes cleaning off (most of) my craft desk so I could sit down with my Art Journal.  Actually, first I paged through a pile of magazines ripping out headlines and words in large fonts.  I tore and layered the bits of paper so that most of the words were unreadable.  I named this creation “Sound Bite”.

I don’t have a television and when I do occasionally spend some time watching TV, it feels kind of how this page looks.  I’m overwhelmed by all the words and noise and information that changes so rapidly.  The camera moves quickly and snippets of information flash by.

For the other pair of pages, I first painted a sheet of watercolor paper in big swaths of color, tipping the paper every which way to drip the paints through each other.  I also used watercolor crayons on the wet paper.

Dripped Paint

After the paint dried, I added some rubber-stamped patterns.

Paint + Stamping


Next I cut this page into pieces.

Cut Up

Finally, I rearranged the pieces and glued them into my journal.


There’s something about this that makes me think of tornadoes and storm clouds, albeit more colorful than what you might see in nature.  I’m going to call this “Patchwork Color Storm.”

I hope your weekend was just what you needed.  Thanks for the visit.


Filed under Crafts