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November 29, 2008


My mom entertains her friends with stories of my dogs' capers. Now she can show off her granddogs. I used that old standby toy from childhood, Shrinky Dinks, to make some oh-so-fashionable earrings by tracing a photo of my dog in colored pencils. Took a couple trys to figure out the right scale, but it made for a great tounge-in-cheek present!

One Christmas I made an ornament out of Shrinky Dinks for everyone on one side of my family. My grandfather had his own soda bottling company in rural Illinois from the 1930s until about the 1950s, printed in red on a clear glass bottle. I took our family logo off the label and traced it onto the Shrinky Dink. When finished, it looked like a piece of glass! The ornament hangs on my mom and dad's tree today.

Here's how to get shrinky dinks, if you can't find them at your local craft store:

What classic toys are favorites from your childhood?

Find a Farmers Market, Any Day of the Week

Here's a great list of farmer's markets all around Los Angeles, listed by day, thanks to the LA Times.,1,5715921.htmlstory

Last year, I brought a special treat home for the holidays--pineapple tamales from the Burbank Saturday farmers market. We made my grandma's fudge sauce to pour over them. Mmmm....I'm getting hungry thinking about it. I went to post the recipe below, and found four different versions, all attributed to grandma, in our box! No wonder we loved it--it was probably different each time we had it. So, I'll stick with the memory for now.

What's your favorite produce to find at a farmers market? Leave a comment below.

November 28, 2008

Scaled to Fit

I've approached my tiny bungalow guest house as a miniature version of the type of home I grew up in. As such, I've had to make an adjustment in scale. Excluding the bed, my bedroom furniture is actually nursery furniture: I found child-scale fits perfectly, allowing me to have a tall shelf as a bedside stand for my radio, clock, and reading lamp while leaving room for a child's toy chest at the foot of the bed as a bench. My dresser was conceived as a dining room sideboard, but the many compartments serve me well for necessities, with the two main dish cabinets holding bulky sweaters and jeans. And what used to be my twelve inch-deep sofa table has now become my kitchen counter, giving me more room to make a cup of tea near the microwave, or an extra narrow surface for mixing cookie dough.

But by far the best spatial economy in my apartment is my four place-setting countertop dishwasher, actually made for boats or other tight spaces. It screws onto my kitchen tap when in use, and drains into the sink.

helped me compare different options on brands and models, and listed prices including shipping costs. The one I ended up with includes an extra hot SaniCycle for sterilization.

Do you have any design tips for compact spaces? Let me know in a comment.

Design Your Own: Return Address Labels

The most fun I had related to my move was the opportunity to make new mailing labels. Googling "free mailing labels" yielded plenty of options, but eventually I stumbled upon Vista Print at

Their design wizard allowed me to use my own image. It was so easy that I did one "from" each dog.

They cost me about four bucks apiece, including the shipping, and I did a third with one of their stock free designs to use on bills and other business mail. My out-of-state parents love receiving mail from their granddogs.

***Bonus hint: I've used these to mark all kinds of handy items besides my mail, like my digital camera, the battery and the charger for it, handles of tools that frequently get loaned out, stuck to luggage tags....

What to Give for Christmas? Pt. 2

Here goes--I'm going to give away the secret of what I'm getting you for Christmas this year.

My big present is actually a gift of time. For most of my family, this year I'll be giving a disc with a bunch of family memorabilia that I've collected and scanned. The biggest part of this has been scanning old family cookbooks into pdf documents. I'm also going to include photos already on my computer, as well as newspaper clippings, wedding announcements, and obituaries that I'd already scanned for myself. And, I can include it in my regular card mailing, which saves me a lot on shipping. I've had years where the shipping has cost more than the gifts themselves, but no more.

All my friends had babies seemingly in unison this year, so a lot of my good friends are getting a nifty photo memento: a company I discovered will take any digital photo and make it into a personalized (dog) tag, with or without an inscription, for under ten bucks.

Check them out at

Yes, I know my friend's children are not dogs, but these tags do make great keychains or necklaces for the adoring parents and grandparents. And they're wonderfully affordable! I actually wear one with my kids' (that are actually dogs) picture to show off at work.

What's the best gift that you've ever given or received? Let me know in the comments below.

November 27, 2008

Events & Community Fairs: Marina Del Rey Holiday Boat Parade

I love to find arts and craft fairs, cultural fairs, farmers markets, what I call "excursions" all year long.

The Marina Del Rey Holiday Boat Parade is what instigated this post. It'll be on Saturday Dec. 13th at 6PM this year, so put it on your calendar! It's always a highlight of my holiday season. I also try to search out local church bazaars just for the spirit of community at the holidays.

This summer, I was sad to find that the Tofu Festival in downtown Los Angeles was cancelled. I used to make a day of enjoying Little Tokyo and Chinatown along with the culinary feasts of the fair itself.

Use the comments section to tell: what events are favorites of yours, and what ones are upcoming?

It's Christmastime! What to Give? Pt 1

The holiday season feels important to me this year, amidst a rough economic climate and in a year where I'm on my own for much of it, traveling to be with family just a couple days before Christmas eve.

In my quest to simplify many areas of my life this year, I've noticed a growing movement of people who want to refocus on the time spent with loved ones over the material side of gift giving. I came across a great site that helps one subtly suggest this to anyone with whom you'd traditionally exchange gifts.

Check out the homepage here, which explains the concept, and also their page that helps you to request a charitable gift:

What holidays do you celebrate in your home, and how do you keep the focus on the true meaning of them? Comment below!

P.S. Left-Right that's my dad, my late uncle Dick, my uncle Ted, my aunt Ann, and my late Grandma circa 1957 or '58

My Favorite Garden Sites

My garden has been split in two: a flower section, and a large herb garden with a couple tomato plants, berries, and grape vines.

I grow a lot of bulbs in my flower garden. Whenever I plant seeds, I tend to pull them up as soon as they've sprouted, mistaking them for weeds. Bulbs are unmistakable, and produce beautiful fragrant blooms.

This is the first year I've really tried to grow vegetables, but I'm having fun experimenting.

Check out these sites. They're some of my favorite to order from when planning my garden, and most offer free catalogs:

Swan Island Dahlias

Brent & Becky's Bulbs

McClure & Zimmerman

Van Engelen, Inc.

John Scheepers, Inc.

Totally Tomatoes (obviously, that's what they sell--tons of heirloom varieties)

and of course, Burpee's
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