Christmas Stocking 2015


Every year my sister and I exchange Christmas stockings and also give one to our mother.

It began years ago when she and I decided, as teenagers, to give our parents gifts from Santa as a surprise.  I can’t recall what we gave them, other than some gardening gloves for my dad.  They were completely blown away by it.

I used to buy things over the course of the year to give as gifts and stocking stuffers but the busier I got at work, the less prepared I was for Christmas – which isn’t all that bad a thing these days thanks to the awesome power of the internet and brick-and-mortar places like the Container Store and World Market.

This is what my sis gave me in my stocking this year!

Bountiful treaure!

Bountiful treaure!

Fun packaging tape; fancy soaps in wrapping too lovely to rip open; a reusable sleeve for my occassional coffeehouse splurges; tubes of lip balm cuz I’m addicted to it; pretty gift tags which I will put safely away with the rest of the Christmas wrapping paper and yet not find next year when I need them…

Mmmm, peppermint!

Mmmm, peppermint!


garbage disposal freshener marbles which I am pretty sure is not a comment on my kitchen – pretty sure, anyway; cheap-and-gaudy-and-fun earrings cuz I lovelovelove earrings; a magnet clip for the fridge – she finds the cutest ones – here’s one she gave me years ago before I ever lived on the Delta…

I'm lucky alright!

I’m lucky alright!

A tripley-regifted package of Starbucks Peppermint Mocha which has finally found its forever home and excuse me while I go fix me a cuppa; an aqua flower with bristles – is it a bath scrubby? A kitchen scrubby?

Scrubby for an as-yet- unknown purpose

Scrubby for an as-yet- unknown purpose

and a perfect little cloth bag with a pattern of beachy huts and palm trees which I suspect she might have made as she is talented that way.

Oh, and here is the stocking all this bounty came in!  One of a trio of baskets she picked up at an estate sale for ten bucks!

The middle one...

The middle one…

Every year she outdoes herself!

Every year I look forward to opening the stocking and seeing all the fun items.  My sister is a gifted giver of gifts.  In fact, she is a terrific sister in all possible ways.

I hope you have someone in your life who loves you like my sister loves me.  And I hope you love someone like that,

too 😉


3-D print me some dinner, C-3PO


Do you like to cook?  Generally, I don’t.

My hubby enjoys cooking breakfast (and chocolate cake).  Sausage, omelets, pancakes, French toast, eggs, toast, oatmeal, he’s good with all of it.

I’m too cranky in the morning to cook, it takes me awhile to get used to being awake again, I guess.  It’s not like I have to wake up early to a blaring alarm clock, either.  Mostly, I wake up whenever I want to – anytime between 6 to 8:30 am, but usually around 7’ish, I’d say.

I’m very skeptical when I read in some book that the hero pops up in the morning wide awake and ready to take on bad guys.

Mornings, I AM the bad guy.

So, cooking…

One morning, Christmas morning, I cooked a marvelous egg/hashbrown dish.  I thought it was marvelous.  My family hated it, HATED IT!  Turns out they don’t like onion, except in extreme moderation.

I didn’t realize just how similar (as in identical) sliced onions and hashbrowns can look.  All the kids saw was onion, onion everywhere in every possible bite.  So that was a go-down-in-flames-and-talk-about-it-forever cooking fiasco.


See what I mean?

Nowadays, when a recipe calls for onion, I make sure the slices are big so they can be picked out – and that they don’t look like another ingredient in the dish.  >sigh<

Back to cooking…

Every night around dinnertime, I’m astonished to find I have to cook dinner again.  Really?  Again?  How does that happen?

When I wasn’t working fulltime, it was easier to think of and plan for meals, and you could even almost say I enjoyed cooking back then, at least a little bit.  Now?  It’s mostly a chore I forget about every day.  EVERY day, every single stinkin’ day, I’ll look at the clock and see that its 6pm and I have no idea what’s for dinner.  Poop…no that’s not what’s for dinner, that’s what I’m thinking.

I used to have a bookshelf full of cookbooks.  I had this idea that one day I’d start channeling Martha Stewart and Julia Child and be able to read a recipe.

I am very bad with recipes.  I skip steps and forget ingredients.  My daughter-in-law, Andrea, reminds me to read the recipe all the way through before beginning and that does help, but this problem is why I can’t code.  Or sew.  Or do proofs for algebra.  Or tell jokes, for that matter.

The last time we moved, I tossed all the cookbooks except for my inherited Joy of Cooking, 5 Ingredient Cookbook and Cooking with Grits, which my sis-in-law gave me – I haven’t used it yet, but I will, I’m sure, cuz I love grits!  And there’s another cookbook in there that has a few recipes I’ve used but I can’t remember its name off the top of my head, Oh, I remember, its Betty Crocker.  Fun fact:  Betty Crocker has changed the image of their ‘Betty’ 8 times over the years, the most recent is a computer-generated composite of 75 women.   Betty Crocker portraits

Yeah, I gave away all those cookbooks – various church-lady cookbooks, Southern Cooking (which is wonderful), crockpot cooking, desserts, cooking with Campell’s soup, Cocktail recipes – about 20 of them, I guess.


So refreshing!

If I need a recipe now, I’ll go online to find it., Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, Food Network, etc.

I also use recipes from Pinterest.  I have a secret board named ‘food’ and I’ll pin all the food ideas that I might actually try – simplicity is the prerequisite for me to even consider the recipe.

I baked a 2-ingredient cookie the other day for Superbowl Sunday.  Mashed bananas and oatmeal plus cinnamon or choco-chips, nuts, whatever.  Supposed to be super-healthy and low-cal, right?  They were HORRIBLE.  My sis and I each took a bite and spit it out, that’s how bad.  Tossed the rest of them right into the trash.


How can these 3 ingredients combine to make something foul?

I’m going to make a cheesy Mexican enchilada dish tonight, which is to say I’ll make my version of that.

I’m really best at augmenting rather than cooking from scratch.  Cooking from scratch has too many opportunities for error.  Each step, every ingredient, every manipulation of those ingredients – whip until peaks keep their shape, cook on high until just before boiling(!), stir constantly, knead twice and roll out to desired thinness(!) – is simply another oops in the making.

Last night I took ready-made Italian sausage-stuffed tortellini and added sautéed mushrooms, onions (I love them, OK?) and grape tomatoes with pesto sauce (which was also ready-made).  It was delish!

I am good at meatloaf (except that I have to cook it twice as long as what the recipe says) and lasagna (except that I always double the recipe and always end up with exactly what I need for 1 pan – how can that be?).

Oh, and I make a pretty good sautéed corn dish, with cream and cream cheese and cayenne pepper.  Throw fresh or frozen sweet corn in the skillet with the cream and cream cheese and cook on medium til you have a nice thick sauce (add more cream if it’s too thick), then add pepper and cayenne to taste.  You can add other things, too, like tomato, celery, sweet peppers, garlic, whatever you want to add – maybe a little chopped up fresh spinach?

My hubby loves me and proves it by eating with enthusiasm and appreciation whatever concoction I place before him.

He loves me, but he picks out the onions 😉

Stocking your Man Cave for the Zombie Apocalypse


I was asked by the people at Man Crates to envision a Man Cave for my man and write up a blog about it.   It’s the first time someone has asked me to do this so I was pretty enthusiastic about it.  Maybe by the time the 100th company has asked me to endorse their  brand of air freshener, I’ll be tired of it all but their website was fun and their gift ideas were pretty cool and unusual –  ManCrates – plus I am ALWAYS looking for unique products and gifts so I embraced the idea wholeheartedly!

You might wonder why the wife is designing the Cave for the husband—particularly since my husband is an Architect and very well versed in designing various and sundry rooms.

Well, I’ve lived with the guy for many a year and feel I have a bit of a clue as to what he might like.

So, I thought I’d give it a shot.  Here goes…oh, and the budget is the size of Hearst Castle, so let’s not scrimp on the cost, shall we…

First things first—a couch.  It just so happens that we are in the middle of a search for a couch right this very moment.  And having a darn good time of it, too.  And by ‘darn good time’ I mean exactly the opposite.  What he wants and what I want are practically at polar opposites.

This is what he wants, so he’s getting it now in his Man Cave!  Times two.

Theater seats

Theater seats

Secondly, a Man Cave needs a place to store the snack’ums and beverages.  Here is a beautiful antique pub back-bar where he can hoist a few with his buddies and sing bawdy pub songs ( well that’s what I’d be doing if I ever get my girlfriends down there!)

back bar

I’d also want a karaoke machine but somehow I think my husband would be vehemently opposed to such a thing…

Next comes lighting…gotta be able to read those car, boat and motorcycle magazines, right?  Rick’s into Art Deco so here’s a perfect antique ceiling fixture.


Can’t forget the big-screen TV above the fireplace!


The guys won’t be watching movies all the time—they’ll get tired of sitting on their duffs at some point, so here are some other ‘musts’ for the Man Cave.  Pool table, Foosball and pinball!

pool table

Walking-Dead-Pinball-200 foosball

On the walls will be pictures of places and things hubby loves.  Venice, sailing, Indian motorcycles, Art Deco design


The Pan-Pacific Theater was a marvelous example of Art Deco style


Ah, Venice


Indian Motorcycles have such a graceful style to them.


Rick loves to sail

More important stuff for the walls—I hope there’s enough wall space for all this!  Well, we can always make the room bigger!



And since a Man Cave might need to be defended from bad guys, we’ll add a rifle cabinet—a hidden one like this BUT no tacky knick-knacks!  OUR rifle cabinet will be hidden into the back of that gorgeous pub bar.  And it will hold important tools for defense such as an A-Salt-Rifle (kills insects with a burst of salt), an electrified tennis racket (for flying insects that got away from the A-Salt-Rifle), a pair of rubber band guns, a drone (for checking the outside perimeter from the safety of the Man Cave) and a pair of AirSoft pistols (for chasing squirrels and suchlike away from our fruit trees).

hidden rifle storage

asalt riflerubber band gun


airsoft pistols

And we mustn’t forget Man Crate’s superb Zombie Annihilation Crate—it has all the tools any manly man might possibly need in order to survive the Zombie Apocalypse.  It includes a machete, combo axe/knife and a folding shovel, Zombie Survival Guide and LED flashlight, fire starter, the best invention of the world—Duct Tape, a first aid kit and Spam.  What more could any survivor need?  Well, this survivor would want toilet paper.  Just sayin’…

Zombie Annihilation

This superb gift arrives in a crate (Man Crate, get it?) that must be opened using a crowbar!  There are no ribbons to cut and no paper to carefully save for your dresser drawers.  A man, a crate and a crowbar.  Now that’s a gift for a MAN!

So that’s it, my manly man’s Man Cave.

What would your Man Cave look like 😉

I have a fountain


Our house came with an atrium. In the middle of this atrium is a sad fountain and a bunch of rocks and pebbles.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

I’ve wanted a fountain for a long time. I guess I over-emphasized my desire for one because one of my kids started pointing out every fountain he saw with “THEY have a fountain!”. Hmmph. This is the same kid that gave me a desktop fountain for Christmas one year – which helped get me through my fountain-crush.

Most people with our floorplan have removed the atrium, turning it into the new kitchen space.
We, however, had once designed a house with an atrium in it, so naturally we embraced the idea wholeheartedly!

We weren’t sure what we wanted in a fountain. I’ve seen some mighty cool fountains where the water burbles up out of the vessel and gently spills over the brim.

Do you think its too big for the space?

Do you think its too big for the space?

Or perhaps we want the fountain to cascade from one vessel to another?

Umm, no.

Umm, no.

This kinda goes with the Tiku Hut theme, yes?

This kinda goes with the Tiku Hut theme, I think.

Well, after pricing fountains (eek), we decided to go with a simple waterfall – no separate water feature after all. The water goes from the pond to the pump, which sends the water to the other side of the atrium and up over the rock shelf into the pond.

Hauling out the fountain.

Hauling out the fountain.

The rocks can be reused so they are wheelbarrowed to the side of the house.

The rocks can be reused so they are wheelbarrowed to the side of the house.


Here's the pond before we added the plants.

You can see the water damage on the siding along the right side of the atrium

Rick installed metal flashing around the atrium below the window sill to minimize water damage. He also replaced the old window sills.

atrium before plants

Here is the atrium before the plants and then as of a few days ago.

That one canna lily off to the left is probably 7 feet tall!

That one canna lily off to the left is probably 7 feet tall! It is THE happiest plant in the atrium.

The rock in the middle of the pond is for the turtle. More on the turtle adventures in another post.

We planted 1 lily in the pond but it promptly died. Stupid lily. I also wanted horsetail but it also lacked courage.

I saw a lovely pond with these very tall lotus in it...I wanted to replicate that - to no avail.

I saw a lovely pond with these very tall lotus in it…I wanted to replicate that – to no avail.

After awhile the lily grew some new leaves underwater, then the leaves disappeared. I am going to hazard a guess that the turtle likes the lily the best? I have left the pot there just in case I get more leaves some day…just in case 😉

Our gorgeous deck!

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I must say that Coastal Lumber did a marvelous job!

Here is what the space looked like before…

ugly, isn't it...

ugly, isn’t it…

and after…

...and the guys who did the work...

…and the guys who did the work…

Here are some ‘during’ shots…

Its scary when a big 'ol truck has to maneuver around our little parking lot!

Its scary when a big ‘ol truck has to maneuver around our little parking lot!

Support posts for the deck.

Support posts for the deck.

Placing the boards on the deck frame.

Placing the boards on the deck frame.

Once it was done, I rolled on a water-resistant stain.  Painting is not my forte.  Not sure what is, exactly, but it definitely is NOT painting.  However, it needed to be done, so I did it.  It doesn’t look half bad.

Now we have added an inexpensive table and chairs and a gazebo for shade.  We spend many lunchtimes out there, sometimes have client meetings and even our clients will use it after meetings to continue their conversations.

Before photo

Before photo

Come and set a spell...

Come and set a spell…

That’s the definition of a well-designed space!  😉

Getting quotes for a deck

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Its strange that we have so much trouble getting quotes for a deck and fence. You would think that, being in the residential design industry that contractors would, if not falling all over them selves to get on our good side, at the very least try NOT to get on our bad side!

Oh, I wish that were true.

Location of future deck

Location of future deck

This shows where the deck will go. The BBQ will be on the deck and the trash cans will have their own little enclosure! The deck will be resting on the asphalt, which slopes, so one end of the deck has to be built up a bit with a step.

We were getting three quotes. 1 from the people who put in the fence on one side of our property Coastal Lumber, 1 from a company who did a gorgeous job with a fence and some gates for the property next to us (we’ll call them “Reuben”) and another from a company that called us out of the blue, Just Wood.

Just Wood came out on time, 2 guys. I was told when I made the appointment that “Alex” knew everything there was to know about fences and decks. I don’t remember which one was Alex but 1 of them was on his cellphone 1/2 the time, not paying any attention to our project. The other guy wanted to spend more time talking about his friends home remodel project than talk about our deck. They tossed off a quote for $12,000 (for a ground-level deck that’s 12×15) then said that there was a springtime sale of 20% off so the total would be $10,000.

$10,000! My mom’s deck cost $4800 and hers was more than 2x as big with stairs and railing and footings AND it’s made out of a more expensive product than what we were asking for. She used a Trex-like material and we’re using redwood.

They also said they’d follow up with a written quote – they finally called just now, 3 WEEKS later, to ask if we still wanted a quote! D’oh. I told them they were over a week too late, we’d hired someone else.

Coastal Lumber came out on time, was professional and followed up with a written quote – which, incidentally, was half, HALF!, of what Just Wood quoted.

Fence that needs replacing.

Fence that needs replacing.

Reuben, ah, Reubon. Reuben’s employee, Jeffrey called me 45 minutes late, at 5:45pm and said he wasn’t going to be able to make it that day. He asked if he could reshedule to the next day, same time. Sure, I said.

Of course, he’s a no-show…and no-call.

I wait another day, thinking I got the day wrong…nope.

I call the company and they’re closed for the day, so I go on their website and, being the gracious, gentle soul that I am, ask them to please confirm when Jeffrey was coming out since I obviously got the time wrong.

A Reuben rep calls the next morning and says they don’t have us on their schedule – and , guess what, Jeffrey doesn’t make his appointments anyway. Oookaaay. No apology, nothing. Nothing about how Jeffrey just decided he wasn’t going to make it and didn’t bother to follow up with his people to make sure we got taken care of. No, nothing like that.

Now the rep is saying that there isn’t anything available until – not next week – the week after that. Fine, whatever, I make the appt for Tueday at 10am.

This bench is in the way.

This bench is in the way.

(We’ll relocate the bench but the plant might get crushed by the deck construction – hopefully it will grow back because it is a lush, colorful plant.)

In the meantime, we received a nice quote from Coastal Lumber and decided to go with them rather than wait another couple weeks for Reuben to get around to seeing us. They did a fine job on our fence – although the marketing guy modified our fence contract because he didn’t understand why we wanted the fence we wanted – he thought we should only want a 5′ high fence…why would he think he knew what we wanted? Fortunately, we caught the error as the first panel was being built. Lesson? DON”T BE GONE DURING CONSTRUCTION OR YOU MIGHT NOT WHAT YOU WANT!!!.

Isn't this a nice fence?

Isn’t this a nice fence?

I call Reuben to cancel the appt and…sure enough, they don’t have us for Tuesday at 10am, they have us for Tuesday at 6pm! They are a mess! I certainly don’t want to hire a company who can’t seem to get 1 appt scheduled properly.

Coastal Lumber starts Wednesday…I’ll keep you updated on what happens then 😉

Sherman-Williams’ new Chip-It! tool

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Choosing colors for your home can be exhausting.  And trying to match the colors of your favorite painting or quilt or flower (or the other way ‘around, matching a pillow to the color of your walls) usually means a run to all the different paint stores trying to find a match. Or, worse, carrying that pillow around with you – been there, done that.

Sherman-Williams just made that job easier!  They have a little bookmarklet you add to your toolbar and when you see a color you like online, you can click on the Chip It! tool, drag it to the picture and it will provide you with chips for the colors in that window!

Very cool – plus you can go to the Chip It! website and upload photos and the tool with provide color chips.

Its not perfect.  I uploaded some random photos I already had to see what it would do.

The tool chose the colors it wanted but not all the colors represented.  Chip It! gives you 5 chips regardless of the number of colors in the picture.  So your new-favorite color might not be one of those it chooses.



In the above photo, the tool completely missed the turquoise.

In the photo below, the tool decided no one in their right mind would paint a room all those different colors of brown, so it gave me a couple, plus a gray and then added the blue from the top left corner of the picture.


By the way, the above photo is a floor in the new Exploratorium in San Francisco.  The wood is from all over the world, very striking.  So many beautiful woodgrains and colors!

This photo below was the most disappointing.  It ignored the predominate green on the box!


Oh, well, I still think this tool is worth checking out.  It did a pretty good job on this photo.


But it didn’t give me the darker pink, only the lighter one.  And it added black, of which there was very little in this photo.  I thought that was a little strange.

I even uploaded this photo twice to see if some algorithm in the program might change and give me a different pallet of colors…no.

One you have an account on the Chip It! site, you’ll have access to all your colors from your tablet or smartphone.  You won’t have to carry all those chips around with you anymore.

Of course the color-matching is only as good as the color monitor you’re using, but you knew that, right?  😉

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