Monthly Archives: May 2014

Prettier Patio Part II

Pretty Patio

Last September I wrote about a mini-makeover of our apartment entry area in this Apartment Curb Appeal post. I wanted to find a table and chairs to put in the corner but I put it off for the winter.

It isn’t a very picturesque spot.  Up the cement stairs from the car port, a chain link fence separates you from the gravel roof.  It is just an area you walk past when you go in or out of the apartment.

Patio Before

With warm weather, I got back to the project to create a usable spot to sit on our shared patio.

My sister Sarah gave me this cute metal table and I stored it away until I could find chairs and an umbrella.

Green metal table

The table folds up, making it easy to store during the winter.  It has some nice little details, like the punched out design on top.  I like the green color and the scrapes and scratches that add character.

Design on table

During the Fall, Rem and I went to Urban Ore in Berkeley, a treasure trove of recycled goodies.  We found a pair of black metal chairs for the bargain price of $10. They needed some refurbishing and went into storage to await better weather.

I’d love to say that I fixed the seats of the recycled chairs, spray painted them turquoise and stitched up cute cushions and then tell you how you can DIY! But I didn’t, so I won’t.

Cushion Pattern

When we pulled the old chairs out and looked them over, we decided that even with repairs, they didn’t feel very comfy.  I wanted to start using the patio and knew we needed chairs that we could sit and relax in.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, I went shopping! I had seen these chairs at Cost Plus World Market another time but this time they were 30% off with a better choice of colors. Win.

Turquoise Chair

OSH had patio umbrellas on sale and they had one in turquoise.  Perfect.


The final touch: thick, comfy cushions from Bed, Bath & Beyond, with a discount coupon.

Blue Patterned Cushion

So, from this:

Corner of Patio Before

To this:

Table, Umbrella soft

I’m so pleased with how it all came together.

Coming soon – an update on the potted plants on the patio.

Thanks for your visit.


Filed under Life

Thinking About My Dad

Daddy Red Turtleneck

Saturday, May 24 will be two years from the day my dad died.  I’ve  been thinking about him.  The other day I saw something that made me smile and I immediately thought of telling  him about it.  A vendor at the Farmer’s Market was munching contentedly; a carrot in one hand, a bottle of hot sauce in the other. I imagined telling my dad the story and knew he’d think it was funny but in less time then it takes to read this sentence, I remembered he was gone.  With an ache in my chest, I knew I couldn’t tell him about it.

I haven’t been going to his grave as often as I did the first year after he died.  It’s been a few months at least, and it’s been on my mind to get down there.

This weekend I had the opportunity.  Rem and I were house-sitting for my mom and on Sunday morning, he needed an early-morning ride to the ferry.  He was heading into San Francisco to take photos at the annual Bay to Breakers footrace.  After dropping him off at 5:40 a.m., Molly and I went down to Fernwood.

The sky was just growing light.  A thin, grey comforter of fog was draped along the upper slopes of Mt. Tam.  Molly was delighted to be out of the car and went up the path ahead of me.

The hillside is covered with rattlesnake grass, wildflowers and eucalyptus trees.  Oh, and some poison oak too.

Hillside Fernwod

It is only as I got closer that the stone marker was visible.

Papa's Tree

Papa's Stone

Roses for Papa

I laid some flowers and cried some tears.  I told him that Caitlin was graduating at Chico and that was where Mom was.  I talked about how sick Beau has been but that we’re so relieved he’s improving.  I sang two songs and watched some hawks circling up high above the trees.

As I walked carefully back across the hillside to the path, I searched for feathers but didn’t see any.

Molly was full of energy and I had plenty of time to wander around the cemetery, something I kept thinking about doing and never taking the time in my many visits down there.  Molly romped ahead, sniffing around and happy as could be.  I was thinking about my dad and how much I miss him.  I thought about how many lives were represented by the stones around me.

One message caught my eye and made me smile.

It all comes out in the wash and a little chocolate never hurts

Comes Out in the Wash

I think I would have liked this woman!

The positive attitude that came up with those words lifted my spirits and made me try to re-frame my sadness. I focused on all the wonderful years I lived with my dad in my life instead of the last three; the year of struggling with cancer and the two years since he died.

It made me think that although these gravestones represented loss and grief they also represented peoples lives.  Many stones have a name and two dates and little else, yet whole lives are lived in the space between those two dates.

As I followed a trail, I found a section of older graves and stones that were cracked and broken.  Some gravestones only show one date or a very short span of days.  Others list the age of the deceased and many lived short lives.  The oldest year I noted was 1907.


On their website, Fernwood states the cemetery has existed since the late 1800’s.  Again, instead of thinking of all of those people dying, I walked around and thought of all those people living.

I saw this fragment of stone that just showed a single date.  I don’t know if Valentine’s Day was remembered as the birthday of a loved one, or the date someone lost a loved one.

February 14

Walking around, exploring the cemetery, was very peaceful.  I looked through the trees at the view of Richardson Bay.

View from Fernwood hillside

Looking down the hill I see the pyramid skylight on the Fernwood Funeral Home, reminding me of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Pyramid Skylight

Some things I had glimpsed while driving past and now I had I time for a closer look.

Like the Buddha statue in a tree.

Buddha in a Tree

A rustic gate open to a path curving around the hillside.

rustic gate

A beautifully carved wooden Buddha sits atop a rough base created from a tree stump. In spite of missing a finger, he was very serene.


Little talismans have been left in his hands: a bit of shell, a rhinestone rabbit  with a wreath of rhinestone flowers, and a sweet little green clay cat. with a pink neck scarf.

Rabbit & Cat

Dia de los Muertos figures dangle on a cord around his neck, holding a dried orchid in place.

Face of Buddha

Day of the Dead figures

Molly and I have had a nice hike and I was in much better emotional shape than when we’d arrived.

Time has softened the blow of losing my dad.  The grief and sadness aren’t gone but they aren’t here all the time either.

Our family will be gathering to celebrate my brother Beau’s birthday on Sunday.  I imagine there will be lots of good food and laughter. We’ll probably share stories about Papa, and catch up with each others lives.  If we think of something that he would have found funny, I believe it will honor his memory if we share it and enjoy a good laugh.

Dad 50th Anniversary

Here is a link to the post I wrote last year at this time.  That post includes links to other posts written about my dad.

Thank you for your visit.







Filed under Life

Corn Dog Mini Muffins

Cut Open Mini Muffin

Have you seen these on Pinterest?  I’ve been wanting to try them but it wasn’t until I bought two mini muffin pans that I found in the housewares section of T.J. Maxx that I made them.  They are simple to make and if you like corn dogs, I think you will enjoy these.

I don’t eat hot dogs very often but every once in awhile I crave a corn dog.  Here I am with a giant corn dog at a street fair a few years ago.

Big Bite of Giant Corn Dog

This monster was probably the biggest corn dog I’d every had.  It was ginormous!

Dipping the Dog

It was coated in a thick layer of cornmeal batter and deep fried to a deep, crispy brown.

Vat of Frying Corn Doggies

It was delicious, but not exactly a guilt-free treat.

So the idea of a miniature corn muffin with a bite of hot dog in the middle was very appealing to me.  Baked, not fried and small enough to have a few and still be ahead of the game (or at least as compared to eating one of those fried street fair corn dogs).

Corn Dog Muffin Ingredients

Corn Dog Mini Muffins

Yield: 21 to 24 mini muffins


1 8.5 oz box of corn muffin mix (makes 6 to 8 average-sized muffins)

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

3 or 4 jumbo hot dogs  (I used Hebrew National beef franks)

nonstick spray

mustard (to serve – optional)


Combine muffin mix with egg and milk as directed on package of muffin mix.

Muffin mix with egg and milk

Side note: Did you know that the President of Chelsea Milling Company, makers of Jiffy Baking mix, is named Howdy Holmes?

Howdy Holmes

I didn’t either.

Anyway, back to the recipe.  Stir just until dry mix is moistened.  There should be some small lumps.

Lumpy Muffin Mix

Spray the muffin pans with nonstick spray.  I used a paper towel to kind of spread it around in each cup.

With two spoons, drop about a rounded tablespoon of muffin batter into each muffin cup.  I made 21 muffins but could probably been a little more careful spooning it out and stretched it a bit.

Spooning Batter

Next cut a hot dog into pieces.  I tried cutting the first one into 6 pieces, not quite an inch each.  The hotdog was about 5.5 inches long.

6 pieces of hot dog

I wanted a high ratio of hot dog to corn muffin. But after baking the first pan, I realized I could make the pieces a little smaller and still achieve the results I wanted.

9 piece hot dog

I cut the next one into 9 pieces.  I think I could have cut each hot dog into 7 pieces to make it all even for 21 muffins, but if you stretch your batter to 24 muffins, you’ll want to cut each hot dog into 8 pieces.  Or use all four hot dogs in the package and cut each one into 6 pieces. Got that?

I experimented with the placement of the hot dog pieces in the batter.

Muffins Different Ways

Next time I make them, I’ll  scoop out a little dollop of batter, put the slice of hot dog in and only partially cover it with batter.  I liked how the ones with a little hot dog peeking out of the baked muffin looked.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes.  Serve warm.

Baked Baby Corn Dogs

Here are some that I baked with the pieces of hot dog turned on the side rather than with the cut side up.

Each muffin is about two bites and they are really tasty with a  bit of mustard.  One small warning: the second bite of the mini muffin is a little precarious as the tender cornmeal crust tends to crumble as you bite into the more resilient hot dog.

I took some for lunch to work on Friday and they warmed up very nicely in the microwave.  A toaster oven would probably be even better.

The best part is they completely satisfy my corn dog craving!

Wiener Dumpling

Rem calls them Wiener Dumplings.

Thank you for visiting.





Filed under Cooking

Chalkboard Mother’s Day Card

Chalkboard Card w/Envelope

Happy Mother’s Day!  I usually manage to post something about Mother’s Day before the actual day but not this time.

I had several ideas for a Mother’s Day card. I’m not going to mention the other ones because I may use one next year.

Hope Chest 6x6 Paper

I found this pretty “Hope Chest” 6×6 paper pack by Josephine Kimberling and decided to go with the idea of a Chalkboard card and use this paper.  I really like the colors and designs.

Handwritten sentiments on chalkboard backgrounds have been a popular trend for a while.  I thought the black and white would balance the sweetness of the pretty paper collection.

All the White Pens

To start, I dug out various white pens, pencils, crayons and even water color and made a sample of each on black card stock.  My greeting would be the “chalkboard” part of the card.

Samples from White Pens

Then I looked through my rubber stamps and found a cute oval frame.  I stamped it on black paper using VersaMark ink followed by white embossing powder.  The rest is hand lettered.

I embellished the greeting with some flowers and flourishes and some ruled lines.  Most of the white is done with the uni-ball Signo pen and the DecoColor pen but I also used the white Prismacolor pencil.  Some details were filled in with colored Prismacolor pencils as well.

Card Elements

I glued the black card stock with the greeting onto a piece of printed turquoise paper and used wavy scissors to cut around the the edge.  Coral-rose card stock is the base card and I picked out some washi tape and a pink doily. I cut out flowers from the Hope Chest paper and was ready to assemble the card.

Washi tape

The inspiration for the card layout was right on the back cover of the 6×6 paper pack.  I didn’t have all the same elements, but a very similar finished product.  I started with strips of washi tape.


More washi for a border.  I know must of this was eventually covered up, but some of it still shows.

Then I started layering on the doily and the flowers.  The last ones were adhered with foam dots for some depth.  A stick-on pearl was the final embellishment.

Finished Card + Envelope

I’d cut out more flowers than would fit on the card, so used one on the envelope.

The inside of the card has less detail, but follows the same pattern with a chalkboard greeting, some washi tape and some flowers.

Happy Mother's Day card inside

As usual, I finished it off with my little combined “df” on the back and, in this case, a white embossed flower.


I think it is important to sign your creations.

Closer Card

I’m pleased with this Chalkboard Mother’s Day Card and I think you’ll see more chalkboard designs in the future.

I’m also really happy that at the age of 54, my mom still puts my artwork up on her fridge!

Fridge Art

Thanks, Mom! I love you.

Thanks you for stopping by.

1 Comment

Filed under Crafts

Chicken, Spinach, and Pasta with Creamy Feta Sauce

Bowl of Pasta

I wanted pasta for dinner the other night because I’m still eating a bit cautiously after oral surgery last week and the idea of tender pasta was appealing.  Actually, I love pasta and I’m happy to eat it even when my mouth is fine.

We had a rotisserie chicken in the fridge and a box of spinach in the freezer, so I did a quick search online for recipes using chicken, pasta and spinach and found this recipe on Healthy. Delicious.  Of course you could cook up a chicken breast or two and start with a big bag of fresh spinach but for me this recipe is about a yummy and easy dish with stuff I had on hand.

Chicken, Spinach and Pasta with Creamy Feta Sauce

Adapted from Healthy Delicious


8 ounces pasta – a big, chunky shape worked well

3 tablespoon butter, divided

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup half and half

1 1/2 cups milk – I used 2%  because that’s what we have in the fridge

4 ounces feta cheese

2 cups shredded chicken

1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach – thawed with moisture squeezed out

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

zest from one lemon

Pasta with Chicken and Spinach

I was rushing with the photos so I completely forgot to show the butter, milk and flour.  Or the oregano.  Oops.  I wanted to share this recipe here because it looked like a winner, but I also wanted to get dinner made and to sit down and eat it. The lemon zest I decided to add later, so I don’t feel bad that I didn’t take a picture of the lemon.  Sorry.


Cook the pasta as directed on the package.  While it is cooking, proceed with the sauce.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring for a few minutes, so it is a nice, toasty color.

Put the half and half and milk in a microwave safe bowl or large, glass measuring cup and heat.  My microwave isn’t super powerful and 1 minute was enough so the mixture was warmish.  It could have used another 20 seconds.  You don’t want it to boil, just to warm it up before adding to the butter/flour roux.

Add the warm milk mixture to the saucepan and cook for 5 minutes or until it has thickened a bit, stirring frequently.

The pasta, meanwhile, should be about done.  When pasta is done, drain in a colander, and return to the pot.  Toss with remaining tablespoon of butter.

Stir chicken and spinach into pot with pasta.

When sauce is cooked, remove from heat.  Stir in crumbled feta cheese, oregano, chili powder, black pepper and lemon zest.

Pour sauce into pot with pasta and stir to combine.



Creamy Feta-Sauced pasta

All the flavors and textures worked well together.  If I’d been a little more organized, I would have saved some of the lemon zest for garnish and made prettier pictures, but I wasn’t and I didn’t.  It was very good and something I’m sure I’ll make again.  I hope you give it a try.

Thanks for your visit.



1 Comment

Filed under Cooking

Folded Pages In My Art Journal

Folding Pages in Art Journal

I saw this technique in The Journal Junkies Workshop by Eric M. Scott and David R. Modler. a treasure I found on a sale rack at Once Around. It is an easy and effective way to create interesting journal pages.

This is a work-in-progress,  and I want to share it, even though I’m not done.  Last week was a very busy week at work and on Friday I had a cracked tooth extracted, which kind of knocked me out of most of the weekend.  I’ve been thinking about crafting more than actually doing it.

First I needed to clean up my craft desk.  Yes, those are Easter eggs on it as well as bits and pieces of several other projects.

Miss Messy Desk

Then I got out the supplies I would be using: glue stick, gesso, ink, water color paints, water color crayons and the assorted pens and brushes that live on top of the desk all the time.

Neater Desk

Next I prepped several pages – I usually use a glue stick to glue three pages together for sturdiness but for this technique I want the pages to fold easily, so I adhered only two pages together than gave them a coat of gesso.

If you use a blank journal, you would skip this step and go on to the next one.

Gesso'd pages

After preparing four pages, I fold the two middle pages so the outside edge came to the center crease.

First Fold

The page on the left side is folded in going to the right.

Second Fold

The page on the right is folded in going to the left, so the two outside edges of the page now meet in the middle.

Once you’ve creased the the folds, unfold the pages.  I’ve numbered the sections of the pages, but just for blogging purposes.

Number Sections with Washi

Next Numbered Set

The numbers are to show how you can now fold the pages into various configurations and see how they interact with each other.

Above, sections 1 and 2 are on the first page with no fold.  Then 3 and 4 are on one side of the first folded page. Turn the page and you see sections 5 and 6 are the other side of that same page.  Sections 7 and 8 are one side of the second folded page, etc.

Here you can see which sections are showing if I fold my two pages to the middle.

1, 4, 9, 12

For a better illustration, let me show you how it looks with some text.


On my first page, I wrote “Comfort” with the first three letters in section one and the rest of the word in section two.  I’m playing with different fonts for the various syllables.


I flipped a folded page over the second half of the word “Comfort” and finished the word “Community.”  I’ve also added lots of color and layers of shapes and collage to the pages.


When I open and turn the page on the left, “ity” is left from “Community” and I fill in the start of the word “Creativity.”


More folding and now I’ve got “Communicate.”


With both inside pages folded, I’ve made “Comedy.”

Now I have all these pages and words or themes to play with.   I’ll work on one page, then fold a section in or out to see how it interacts with the other pages.

Envelope lining

A bit of blue texture started with some pieces of torn envelope lining that I glued on a page.  Now I’m including that pattern in each page, mostly copying it by hand with a blue marker.

stamp and postmark

I’ve used washi tape, and international stamps that Rem saves for me from the ham radio contacts he makes

washi and stamps

I have one stencil and created another from the backing of a sheet of stickers, sponging ink over it then peeling it away leaving blue ink dots.

Comfort with extra text

I’m playing with circles and colors.


The only trick is to make sure the segments of the words you write fit into the sections, and that they will show when you fold or unfold the page.

I have lots of space to play with more shapes, colors and layers.  I’ll post an update when I finish these pages.

Thank you, as always, for your visit.











Filed under Art Journal Pages, Crafts