Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Story of Toulouse

Back in 2001, I had just turned 26 and had been through a rough breakup. I owned a three-story townhouse and it felt very lonely and big.  Katrina had just occurred and I heard in the news that many Katrina animals had been evacuated to Denver. They were right down the street from my house at the Denver Dumb Friends League.  Even though I had always been more of a cat person, I decided I needed to adopt one of the Katrina dogs from Texas.  I went several days in a row to look at dogs and each day the dog I was most interested in got adopted right out from under me.  On the third day, I decided to look at cats as well.  As I walked by the wall of cats, I saw one tuxedo cat that looked completely at home and comfortable.  I have always had a weakness for tuxies and black cats. I asked to spend some time with "Slippers" and loved how comfortable and confident he seemed.  I adopted him immediately.

I renamed him Toulouse because Slippers seemed a bit undignified. Toulouse had lived with an elderly lady the first three years of his life.  When she moved into a nursing home, Toulouse had to be taken to the Dumb Friends League.  He adapted to his new life and name right away. He never answered to Slippers but he would always answer to Toulouse.

Toulouse did have some naughty kitty tendencies at first such as using my furniture as a scratching pad.  The vet suggested Soft Paws and he wore those for years. I used colored ones so I could tell when they fell off. Everyone always asked me why I painted my cat's nails.  I would never do such a thing!

Toulouse was an indoor only cat and loved spending time looking out the window and luxuriating by the fireplace.  I would often light fires just for him.

He got me through my wild years in Denver and was there when I met my husband Gary. 

When Gary visited me during a blizzard, we opened the back door and let Toulouse explore a little bit. He came right back inside.

Like many cats, he wanted to be right in the middle of whatever I was doing. I think he is yawning in this photo but I think he looks like he is smiling or laughing.

He was not excited when Noodlebug came along and pretty much ignored him the first few years. Toulouse was never much of a lap cat but, for some reason, he spent a lot of time purring on my belly when I was pregnant.

Towards the end of his life, he liked Noodlebug more and would sometimes sit on him.  That made me happy.  This is one of my favorite videos of all time that was taken when Noodle was about 1.5 years old.

I was so blessed to have Toulouse for 14 wonderful years.  He really wasn't himself anymore over the last year.  Gary and I did everything we could to save him and make him more comfortable but I couldn't watch my beloved kitty suffer anymore. We said goodbye yesterday.  My constant companion of 14 years is gone and I don't know what I will do without him.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Happy Friday!

Funny cats on Friday.You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Accountability Rings

We have been struggling in our little family with discipline and yelling. My husband has been failing in the patience department and I find myself struggling there as well. And not just with my son. Intellectually, I know that yelling accomplishes nothing. It isn't going to get my son or anyone else to do what I want. It is just such a hard habit to break and such an easy and comfortable pattern to fall into. 

I have gone back to reading some of my favorite parenting books including POSITIVE DISCIPLINE and I have been trying meditation classes at our local Buddhist center.  Anything to break me of this negative pattern I have fallen into!

Then, I came across this article.  The article talks about how a mom is using a set of rings to stop yelling. All five rings start on her right hand. When she has a setback such as yelling, she moves a ring to her left hand.  I liked this idea of a physical reminder to keep me accountable. 

Like the woman in the article, I am using this set of rings from Stella and Dot.  They are pretty affordable at $39 and I like how simple looking they are.

My sweet girlfriend knew I wanted to do this and she bought these for me.  I am so lucky to have such supportive friends!

I am not perfect. Far from it. But I am willing to do the work to get better. I want to be a better mom, a better wife, a better daughter, a better friend. I am hoping this is one step in that process.  I will let you know how it goes!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day with "A Room with a View"

One of my all-time favorite movies is "A Room with a View."  I credit (or blame) this film for shaping my romantic sensibilities.  I first saw it as a young teenager and was convinced I was going to go to Italy and meet my very own George Emerson. 

I headed to Europe at the tender age of 17 and did not find George Emerson. I didn't find him when I returned a year later either. Although my friend and I did enjoy re-enacting many of the scenes from the movie. It took me a long time to find my own George Emerson.  I was 29 when I finally found him.  We honeymooned in Italy and spent one night at the Hotel Degli Orafi where we had a room overlooking the Arno. I can't wait to go back in a few years with my son.  Quite unintentionally, I am raising him just like Cecil Vyse wanted to raise his own children:

“Do you know, mother, I shall have our children educated just like Lucy. Bring them up among honest country folks for freshness, send them to Italy for subtlety, and then—not till then—let them come to London."

 This Valentine's Day, I am going to make my husband watch the movie with me again. And I created this little image because I think it sums up our relationships quite nicely. Because great romances don't stand the test of time without a sense of humor.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Valentine's Day

Noodlebug and I used the long rainy weekend to work on valentines. We used the rocket valentine from FAMILY FUN magazine as our inspiration.

We got about six sheets of glitter scrapbook paper from Joann's along with some fat Valentine's Day straws. I believe I got those at Target.  We already had a bunch of regular straws on hand for crafting.  Using the template from FAMILY FUN, we glued our rockets together. The fat straws needed to be cut in half to get the proper length so you get two rocket valentines from each straw. We closed one end of the fat straws with tape and then used tape to secure the rocket to the straw.  I didn't trust glue to hold it together.  We then stuck a colored straw inside the fat straw and we now Valentine rockets that can shoot to the moon!  I was worried that the inner straws would get easily lost so we made another trip to Michael's for some cellophane treat bags. I whipped up a quick bag topper in WORD and we stapled the bag shut. This will also (hopefully) prevent the 1st graders from getting out the rockets during class and shooting them about the room!

I have also thought of Valentine's Day as a day to celebrate lover rather than lovers.  I not only give little treats to my husband and son but I give them to my friends as well.  I used this tutorial and printable as inspiration this year. 

(Image borrowed from and owned by Tatertots and Jello)
I found some burlap pouches in Target's discount bins that had a heart image on them. I filled them with nice chocolates and attached the wonderful printable.  It is a small gesture but I hope it will be a nice reminder to my friends of how much I love and appreciate them!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Recovering and Bruno Mars

I was in a car accident in early November that more or less derailed my life.  Still trying to recover as I negotiate the twists and turns of insurance. My son and husband had to do all the holiday decorating this year.  I feel frustrated that I cannot do the things I normally do and I'm struggling to find my holiday spirit. We'll get there.

In the meantime, my son has been fixated on Bruno Mars' new video with Mark Ronson. Have you heard "Uptown Funk" yet?

My son is a big fan of Bruno Mars and loves this video.  In the Spring, his school holds a Famous Person day where you are supposed to dress up as a famous person. He wanted to go as Bruno Mars last year but I sent him as John Lennon instead.  He asked again after seeing this video.

Just for fun, I grabbed my old pink GAP blazer and one of my husband's hats.  I dropped by Target on the way home from work and bought a cheap chain necklace and some cheap sunglasses.  We really need a white fedora and a black bandana but it's a start!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween 2014: Goonies Never Say Die!

My son loves "The Goonies." When he first saw it months ago, he immediately said, "I want to be Data for Halloween."  Hmmmm.

We started by finding a small authentic Army coat on eBay.  There are several sites with fans dedicated to authentically replicating Goonies costumes. One of them has identified all the patches on Data's jacket. While I couldn't find all of them, I did accumulate quite a few on eBay and spent a lot of time sewing them on.

I worried that a boxing glove with extender would be too heavy but I found a cheap plastic one at Cost Plus.  I bought some chattering teeth and attached them to a retracting ID card holder for the Pinchers of  Peril!  We grabbed two flashlights at the Dollar Store and I duct-taped them to a homemade belt for the lights.  These really came in handy!  I then bought a cheap red cap and yellow backpack online.  He used the backpack as his trick-or-treat bag.  I grabbed some screen images of the coin and map from the movie and printed them on a color printer and mounted them on foam core.  He carried these in his backpack. They never made an appearance on Halloween but will be fun for costume play.  I attached the Pinchers of Peril and the boxing glove to another homemade belt that I placed across his chest.  Data!!!

I went as Cyndi Lauper:

Found the wig at the costume store but I had everything else. I really wanted some studded belts but couldn't find any in plus size.

My husband went as Brand:

I got our Goonies tshirts on Etsy.

Not everyone recognized us but many people did!  I carried my iPhone around with us and had Lauper's "Goonies 'r' Good Enough" playing on repeat.

The costumes were fun and comfortable and my son was proud that no one else was wearing his costume. The same couldn't be said for the legions of Elsas and ninjas we saw on Halloween!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kidstir Review: October 2014
Recently, I mentioned how we just discovered a new subscription box about cooking for kids. Noodle has gotten interested in cooking every since he saw "Master Chef Jr."  There are few different boxes like this out there but I decided to try Kidstir because I liked the fact that they included little tools and extras in each box.

The theme for October was Spooky Celebration Kit!  Perfect timing!

This month, we made everything in the kit!  We hosted a "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" viewing and Noodlebug made the Yummy Mummies to share.

The kit came with the candy eyes.  Noodle needed some help with the frosting but did almost everything on his own with me as his sous chef.

We bought cider from Trader Joe's and added the Witch's Brew skull and crossbones for a "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" viewing.  Very easy to do and fun. The skull and crossbones didn't really float but the kids liked them.

Finally, we made the Scary-oli.  The kit came with a pasta press. Noodle was so proud of his finished product. And they tasted great!!!

I can't wait to see what November brings!  Here is a sneak preview for December:

If you subscribe now, you are guaranteed to get the December box.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Art is You 2014 Recap: Frida Kahlo-llage

Day Two!

For my second class, I decided to really stretch myself by taking a class with Andrea Matus deMeng.  I have been a huge fan of Frida Kahlo since I was thirteen years old so I was immediately attracted by the subject matter of her class. Andrea taught us to collage on a large scale using Frida Kahlo as inspiration. Here is an example of Andrea's work:

(photo borrowed from and owned by Andrea Matus deMeng)

So gorgeous! And it is big!!  We were asked to bring a 20 inch by 36 inch unstretched canvas.  I ended up bringing a 24x36 stretched canvas.

My work table is in the foreground.  Although I dearly love Frida, I have been disappointed at how popular and mainstream she has become over the years. I already have plenty of Frida items in my house. I decided to use my grandmother's face in my piece.

Our first task was to cover the canvas with a variety of papers for the background:

I am a big fan of straight edges and right angles and it has taken me years to feel comfortable with randomly tearing and gluing down paper. I'm pretty fast now!!!  I tried to include a few special items that referenced my grandmother even though they probably wouldn't show.  The writing that looks a bit Arabic is actually shorthand. My grandmother went to business school as a young woman and was very good at shorthand.

Next, we started laying out our image. Andrea called it "auditioning."  We took the time to cut out images and shapes and lay them out with our face images:

This was REALLY hard for me! I got blocked and needed Andrea's help.  I had so many botanical images but it really needed some architectural elements.  Luckily, a classmate had brought a pile of postcards to share and many were of buildings from around the world!  I used an Indian palace in the headdress and Arabic doorways for the shoulders. Andrea gave me the idea of hanging butterfly wings down over the forehead for a pop of color.

The next frustrating part was the body:

I just couldn't get it to look the way I wanted!!!

Next, we had to sweep aside our "audition" to create a color wash on the canvas:

I don't think I made good choices with my color selection.  My images ended up fading into the background as you will see later.

Then, it was time to start collaging down the elements:

You can see I added onto the body but it still isn't right.  I need something to flesh it out and unify it.  You can also see how the top of the headdress is fading into the background.  I then darkened the upper and lower background color.

In a last minute attempt to unify the torso and emulate with Andrea did with her Frida piece, I tried dripping a dark blue paint along the bottom. It wouldn't drip.  I ended up wiping most of it off.

It did make a nice splash of color on the bottom and I like how it change the color of the hip pieces. The canvas still looked really empty so I added some diamond pieces going down the sides.  AND THEN WE RAN OUT OF TIME!!!

I still need to figure out how to handle the torso.  I am planning on using some pastels to define the outline of both the main image and the diamonds.  I think if I smudge some black around them, the images will pop more. I also need to define the edges of the canvas. And it needs something in the top center!!! I have an idea but we'll see if I can execute it!

I learned a lot from Andrea.  It was intimidating to try something this big. I still struggle with scale and trying to figure out how to the fill the canvas.  I would definitely take another class with Andrea, though!

Attending ART IS YOU Petaluma:

Next year's ART IS YOU will be April 22-26, 2015.  You can join the mailing list now so that you will know when registration opens. I STRONGLY suggest you attend at least two days.  This event is kind of like summer camp for artsy-craftsy types. Most people come and take classes for four or five days.  A lot of bonding occurs.  If you only come for one day, you really miss out on plugging into all of that energy and camaraderie.  I can't wait for next year!!!

Monday, September 29, 2014

ART IS YOU 2014 Recap #1: Tins Charming with Liesel Lund

This years was my FOURTH Art is You Mixed Media Retreat!  I feel so blessed and lucky to have this event in my own backyard!  Each year, I try to take classes that will teach me new skills and push me out of my comfort zone. I also keep coming back for this reason:

Sallianne and Ellen do an amazing job and they do it with humor, grace, and style!

Ellen always makes these wonderful (and collectible!) nametags that I look forward to getting every year. I'm getting quite a collection!

The first class I chose this year was "Tins Charming" with  Liesel Lund. Liesel deconstructs tin containers to upcycle them into the most amazing jewelry and mobiles!


It took most of the day just to deconstruct the tin and learn the techniques so I didn't quite finish.  I brought a few old cookie tins to the class.  I was surprised at all the tools we needed for the project!


 The gloves were especially important.  The raw edges of the tin could be quite sharp!  Liesel showed us how to deconstruct the tin.

Some of the ladies brought amazing vintage tin with great patterns. Mine were all pretty boring.  It wasn't until I took the class that I had good idea of what to look for.  The bright red tin drove my vision. It immediately brought to mind poinsettias.  I decided to make a holiday necklace for my mother.

This is as far as I got:

The leaves are made out of a Trader Joe's Peppermint Hot Chocolate tin. I thought that was very apropos.  The base of the necklace is now done but it needs A LOT of embellishment. As you can see from the above photo of the front of the class instruction booklet, Liesel does an amazing job of embellishing with beads and charms and other doodads.  I hope to fill in space with beads and possibly thread some gold wire through the center of the poinsettias and add some yellow beading.  We learned how to twist wire to make bead drops in the class so I know what to do! A trip to the local bead store is definitely in order!  After this class, I will be on the lookout for interesting tin to use in the future!