Monthly Archives: November 2013

With Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

You may remember seeing this page last spring when I posted some of my first Art Journal pictures. The background text is stamped on and not very easy to read is a traditional Gaelic blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

With gratitude: for my health, for the love of my family and friends, for my ability and freedom to create things and for this forum to share them, for you to view and read and respond to my posts.


Filed under Art Journal Pages, Crafts

The Collage Workbook: 5-Minute Collages

Six 5-Minute Collages

My friend Shook has been trying out collage as an art form, something she’s wanted to do for a long time.  I encouraged her and have enjoyed seeing her progress. As a thank you for the support, she gave me The Collage Workbook, a wonderful book by A Collage A Day artist, Randel Plowman.

The Collage Workbook

I’d already borrowed her copy and thumbed through it, and now I have my own book!  As the subtitle says, it shows you “How to get started and stay inspired.”

My long weekend stretched to include today (yay!) and I opened the book to the first of 50 “Project Prompts” which was to do 5 collages in 5 minutes each.  First you pull out images  that catch your eye from magazines as well as other bits and pieces of paper, then, when you’ve got the items trimmed and ready to paste, you set the timer and off you go.

5-Minute Collages

I confess that I didn’t stop when the timer rang, but managed to finish up within 15 to 20 seconds.  On one I was done before the 5 minute mark.

Here’s what I made:

Sugared Lime

Sugared Lime started with a scrap of a magazine page showing a giant leaf.  I like how the veins of the leaf echo the roads on the small pieces of maps.  The bits of map easily led to the bus schedule and a little seedling as a focal point.

The next one, Snap Fastners, includes a little bit of wrapping paper printed with a design from an old kimono, polka dot paper and printed vellum.

Snap Fasteners

For each small collage I had a pile of paper; pieces pulled from magazines, envelope liners, pages from old textbooks, and other ephemera.  I had more than I needed but I wanted to have enough material when the clock started ticking.

Pink and orange polka dot paper and molecules from a chemistry book are in Come! which includes a sketch of two different hand gestures, both with the same meaning.


Blue sky, blue water and a blue-patterned security envelope liner, layered with a piece of page from a dictionary and a swan are all components of A Stitch in Time.

A Stitch in Time

Purple/Bird has a blank sales receipt, scraps of purple craft paper and a bird printed on vellum.  It’s really just some purple plus a bird.


The last collage I completed today, Tweed, one more than the project prompt suggested, started with the black and white image cut from an ad, of a model dressed in tweed.  I picked bits and pieces of old paper in shares of grey for the background, including some math problems from an instructors math textbook, a bit of a page from a guide for farmer’s, and some nice stripes and dots.


A big thank you to Shook for this generous gift which I know will guide, encourage and challenge me. I look forward to more collage projects very soon.

And always, thank you for stopping by.

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Filed under Crafts

Autumn Leaves Art Journal

Fall Colors Mixed Media

With supper in the slow cooker, I wanted to spend some time with my art journal but wasn’t sure what to do.  I’ve still got a trip to the library to fit in this afternoon, so I decided on a page that wouldn’t take too long.

Using a dark walnut brown ink, I stamped a maple leaf on the page and then heat-set the ink. I colored each leaf using a combination of Portfolio oil pastel crayons, densely pigmented Neocolor crayons and Stampin’ Up! colored markers.  With some of them, I first dipped the crayon in water and other times I brushed the scribbles with a small, wet paint brush.  After this step, I again used the heat tool to dry the page.

I went back with colored markers to fill in any little uncolored pieces.  Although I forgot to include it in the photo, I used my air-spritzer tool with markers to add a fine spray of dots on a few of the leaves.

Stamped Leaf

Maybe when I get back from the library, I’ll have time for another page…

Autumn Leaves

Thanks for checking out this one.


Filed under Art Journal Pages

Retirement Party

We had the pleasure of attending a retirement party last night. I wanted to share two of the great ideas that were part of making this event special.  My friend and colleague, Nicole, planned and hosted the party for her sweetie, Bo.

Old photos are a wonderful addition to an event like a retirement party.  They are often arranged on several big boards and guests can cluster around and enjoy the display.  These clever photo centerpieces, made by our hostess, use photos printed onto vellum paper and mounted into picture frames.  Four frames around a battery-operated votive “candle” formed a kind of photo-lantern at each table.

Photo Centerpiece

Each table had a different set of pictures and it was fun strolling around looking at pictures of the guest of honor through the years.  I think these photo centerpieces would make great gifts (baby photos for grandparents, anyone?) and would be lovely for a birthday celebration.

Here is a link to Martha Stewart’s version, though she uses three frames to form a triangle instead of the four frames shown here.

The other idea was small cards on the tables with pens, and guests were invited to write down ideas for the newly-retired honoree to add to his bucket list. This gave us an activity at the table before Bo arrived and was a great conversation-starter.

Bucket List Card

Sorry I don’t have a more-clear photo. I didn’t bring my camera and was lucky enough to borrow a friend’s iPhone.  I wrote:

Bo: For your bucket list:

A gondola ride, at night, w/Nicole, on the Grand Canal in Venice. (a great place for a proposal)

Visit (or revisit) Yosemite

Walk across the Golden Gate bridge and kiss in the middle (make this an annual event)

Get married!

Live happily ever after!


Yes, I’m a romantic. In conversation with other people as they wrote their suggestions to Bo for his bucket list, I heard people mention things that they wanted for their own bucket list. Or things they were interested in trying but hadn’t gotten up the nerve.  Maybe family or work commitments, health or financial restraints were keeping them from going skydiving or traveling to Hong Kong.

Italy was a favorite vacation for me and I’d love to go back.  I didn’t take a gondola ride by myself on that trip, though for awhile, gondola’s were plying the waters of Lake Merritt in Oakland and Rem and I enjoyed a very romantic moonlit ride for his birthday. Our recent first-time trip to Yosemite had an impact on me, and especially if you live as close as we do here in the Bay Area, you should go see it (it took me until I was 53 years old).  If you’ve been but it’s been a few years, it is so stunning, I think it would be worth a return trip.

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge, for me, another romantic destination.  Rem and I kiss every time we go over it.  We haven’t walked it for quite a few years, we need to put that back on our to-do list.  As for getting married?  Yes, that is also from my own list.  It’s no secret that I’d like to do that at some point.  In the meantime, I’ll encourage other couples.

Congratulations and all the very best to Bo on your retirement.  Kudos to Nicole for a fabulous celebration! Thanks to Melinda for the photos and blog post suggestion.  Thank you, reader, for stopping by.

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Filed under Crafts, Life

An Art Journaling Afternoon


My friend, Margaret, and I enjoyed an afternoon of Art Journaling on Monday.  It was low key and relaxing.

She’d been interested in trying her hand at crafting an Art Journal and wanted to do one in an altered book.  You can see more about some art journal basics here.

I got Margaret rolling on a spread with color as the theme.  She created these lovely pages on the color orange.

Color Orange

All the elements came together beautifully.  The rich fall colors in the pretty background picture are accented with a little blue that is repeated in the design on the dress fabric and the scrap of blue mulberry paper behind the woman.  The repetition of the fish scale pattern is echoed in the lines on the fabric.

Margaret said she felt like she was in kindergarten.  We should have had milk and cookies!

While she was working on her orange page, I put together this page.  I’d cut out the yellow bird a long time ago and had found the scrap that says “sing” and the two pieces have sat on my desk for months.  I was very happy to finally include them in a spread.

sing yellow bird

The ripped piece of paper in the middle is printed vellum.  When it is flat, you can see a bit more of the left part of the face.  I don’t really know why I combined these images, but I did.  Her face is tinted a deep shade of teal but that doesn’t really show in this photo.  I like how the yellow, rust-orange and turquoise work together.

We continued creating, with both of us starting another page.   Margaret wasn’t finished when I had to leave, but you can see she had a nice possible layout that she was working with.

Rosy Pink

I’m sorry I cut off part of the word “HOME”.  She did a beautiful job with the pink, black, white and green accented color scheme in all the elements.  You can see the doggie’s pink tongue and bits of pink and green  in the interior photos.

After my Halloween costume this year, it should be no surprise that I did a page with a peacock feather motif.

Peacock Page

I was nearly finished before I left, but I added a few doodles on the face tucked into the word “beauty” and some white ink finishing the shape of the bottom of the peacock feather later that evening. When I started it, I looked through magazine images I’ve previously picked and chose items for their color. There is a giant leaf, a hibiscus, some pretty glass bottles, a plate, some jewelry and even some shoes all collaged together.

craft table @ MM's

It was good spending time crafting with my friend, chatting and catching up as we colored and pasted, using our creative energy.

Orange Lady

Thank you for your visit.


Filed under Art Journal Pages, Crafts

Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

Big Pan of Pasta

Two of my nieces mentioned “grown-up mac n cheese” on Facebook in the last few weeks and after the second mention, I wanted to know what it was.  I knew what it wasn’t: little elbow pasta with some milk, some butter and some orange powder.

They both wrote that it was put together with whatever looks good.  For example: Leah recently made it with aged Gouda and chanterelles.  Miriam mentioned Gruyere, smoked Gouda, Parmesan, broccoli, mushrooms and bacon.  Yum!

I decided on some guidelines for my own version: I would use an interesting shape of pasta, pick out some really good cheese (not the conveniently grated stuff – this is the time to grate your own), put in some vegetables and why not add some sausage?  I grocery shopped before I got Miriam’s recipe with bacon as an ingredient.  The only thing about that is that I think bacon can become soft in a casserole.  But maybe if I put the bacon on top I can get good bacon flavor and keep the bacon crispy. This time I made it with sausage.

In the meantime, this is the recipe I adapted from Miriam Faw who adapted it from Alton Brown.  Use it as a springboard to make your own version of Grown-Up Mac & Cheese. Or if your a purist who thinks adding anything much past macaroni and cheddar cheese to a pan of Mac & Cheese is wrong, call it “Baked Pasta”.  Because it’s really yummy and worth making.

Mac & Cheese Ingrediments

Miriam’s recipe called for 8 oz. of pasta but I decided to make a pound of pasta so that Rem and I could each have our own version (mine has cauliflower and mushrooms), so keep in mind my pictures show a larger batch of pasta.  I’m writing out the recipe for one 2-quart casserole.

Grown-Up Mac & Cheese


8 oz. pasta (I used campanelle pasta, little bells, that I think look like little trumpets, but how about rotelle or wagon wheels? Or try some cavatappi pasta – ridged, corkscrew shapes)

2-3 cups greens such as spinach, kale and/or chard, stems removed, coarsely chopped

1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage

1 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

6 oz. mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

1 large egg

12 ounces cheese, combination such as smoked Gouda, Jarlsberg, Gruyere, and Parmesan, shredded

1/2 teaspoon paprika

a pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Optional Topping:

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons melted butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.  When it is nearly done, drop the greens in with the pasta.  They just need a minute or two.  Drain the pasta with the greens.

Pasta with Greens

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pan, cook the sausage.

Browning Sausage

Remove when done, leave the grease in the pan and sauté onions a few minutes, then add cauliflower and sauté a few minutes more, then add mushrooms and garlic and saute until everything is tender and cauliflower is golden brown.

Sliced Mushrooms

(Note: I roasted the cauliflower in the oven because I intended to use half in this recipe and have half for snacking on.  If you want to go that route, put the cauliflower florets on an oiled backing sheet and bake in a 400 oven for about 25 minutes until it looks kind of toasty and is tender.  Another options is to drop the cauliflower into the boiling pasta pot a few minutes before the greens)
Roasted Cauliflower

Remove all veggies from the pan and set aside.

Wipe the pan with a paper towel and melt the butter in it, over medium-low heat.

Whisk in the flour and cook for about five minutes, stirring constantly.

Add Flour to Butter

Stir in the milk and seasonings. Simmer for ten minutes until thickened.

Whisk the egg in a small bowl or measuring cup and stir in some of the hot bechamel to temper it.  Stir this mixture into remaining sauce in pan.

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Add salt and pepper.

Grated Cheese

Cheese into Sauce

Fold the pasta into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Before baking

If desired, combine panko crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over casserole.

 Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Closer Mac & Cheese

The days are shorter and even though we’ve been having sunny weather, it is colder at night and this delicious pasta will provide all the warmth and comfort of the macaroni and cheese of your youth.

Pear Candles

I’ve heard that my other niece, Caitlin, also prepares an awesome mac and cheese, so maybe I’ll try her recipe another time.

Pasta and Salad

Speaking of awesome recipes, I’m so proud of Miriam!  She entered a cooking contest on The Sam Livecast which is a cross between a radio talk show and a TV cooking show, filmed in Sam’s home in San Diego.  The whole family was thrilled when she was picked to cook her recipe, Lamb and Feta Burgers, on the show.

The eight contestants were paired up and they did an episode with each pair.  I don’t know how many entries they had for the contest, “Cook Your Way to Kauai”, but Miriam got on and you can see the episode here!  At the end of all the rounds, the winner will earn a trip, along with a guest, to Kauai with the Sam Livecast team.

OK, you should still watch the episode, but she WON her first round and went to the semi-finals. In this round they had to feature eggs and Miriam only knew two days ahead of time.  She prepared giant ravioli (made from won ton wrappers), stuffed with a ricotta, herbed goat cheese, Parmesan and raw egg yolk (it cooks just enough while the pasta is cooking) with a brown butter, bacon and sage sauce. She practiced her recipe all of ONE TIME before cooking it ON CAMERA on the show.  Did I mention they have 30 minutes to fix their dish? Whew.  Watch her semi-final here.

Have you watched it yet?  Because she won that round too!  For the Grand Finale, still in only 30 minutes, they had to feature fish and pineapple, no shellfish and no stir fry.  Miriam prepared Goat Cheese Crusted Halibut and Pineapple-Cilantro Risotto. Watch the final here to see if she won.

I have not yet tried any of these delicious looking and sounding dishes, but here is a link with all the finalists recipes for you to try yourself.

Thank you for stopping by.


Filed under Cooking

Dia de los Muertos

Rem and I have made a custom of observing Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.  This Mexican holiday celebrates and honors deceased family members and friends.  Altars are arranged with photos of loved ones, favorite foods and beverages, memorabilia and items to represent things they enjoyed such as sports or cultural activities.  Candles, skulls, marigolds, and pastries shaped to represent bones are all part of traditional decorations.

Home Altar Sunshine

We set up an altar on the top of a dresser in the living room, hang up a ribbon of paper hearts, each one naming a loved one who has died.  We hang a banner of colorful papel picado (perforated paper) and arrange photos with candles, flowers and fresh produce.  A plate of pan de meurto (bread of the dead) sweet pastries is joined by some packaged chocolate candy and other items that remind of us of our loved ones or items that they enjoyed.

Papel Picado

I included a picture of my dad and my sister Sarah after a bike ride they completed years ago along with a program from an art exhibit in which he and I both had entries.  A few small feathers and one large one were part of the decorations because they’ve become a positive symbol linked to my father.


We attend a celebration at a nearby community center.  This year was the 25th anniversary of the event.  We have gone quite a few times over the years and have seen this event change and grow.  Although the roots of Dia de los Muertos are in Mexico, this is a multicultural community celebration.

One large room was lined with beautiful altars while another was full of tables for kids to create different art projects, including tissue paper flowers.  I was a little sad not to have a kid with me and an excuse to sit down and get my hands on the crafting supplies.

Tissue Paper Flower Table

Here are more pictures from the event:

Skeleton Couple poster


Happy Skellies

Purple Table

Butterfly Skull

Paper Mache Skeleton

Mary's Altar

My Bunny Died


We met up our friends Rico and Tom before the procession.  Tom is wearing a sweet miniature altar he made for his sister, Tracy, with sprigs of fresh herbs including rosemary for remembrance.

Rico & Tom

The procession went through the neighborhood, led by the Mizcoalt Aztec dancers, a large group of male and female dancers of all ages, wearing intricate costumes with elaborate feathered headdresses.  The dancers wore leg bands with ayoyote seeds that created a percussive rattle.  Drummers kept a steady beat as the performers danced the whole distance.  Residents came out to their balconies to watch.

Aztec Dancers

Back inside at the community center, a little girl was captivated by the sight of one of the Aztec dancers.

Aztec Dancer Indoors

More groups performed various dances including this dancer, Pamela Palacios, 13 years old, from Ballet Folklorico Netzahualcoyotl.

Green Dress Dancer

Panels of a mural, painted to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Dia de los Muertos San Rafael, were dedicated.

Sunshine Panel

Jaguar Dancer w/ Little Girl

Sugar Skull Seller

The celebration was still going strong when we left, with music and dancing.  The final performance we saw was a mariachi band,  Mariachi Femenil Orgullo Mexicano.  It is a Bay Area band that is usually all female but had a few guys filling in.


The following afternoon, I visited my father’s grave and arranged some of the vegetables, fruits and flowers from our altar.  It is still hard and I miss him but I celebrate and honor his life and memory and recognize death as part of the cycle and circle of life.

Marigold's for Papa

Thank you, Rem, for sharing your photos and thank you all for your visit.


Filed under Crafts, Life