Planning for Fun with Echo Park

In The Studio

It’s time for another blog hop courtesy of Imagine, this time with an assist from Echo Park.


From the various collections I opted for the Creative Agenda kit and used a bit of this and that to put together this fun to-do list-inspired birthday card.


I used the Pennants die set to create a void in a piece of one of the patterned papers that was backed with some self-adhesive foam for dimension.


Then, on a sheet of white paper, I stamped the Circles acrylic stamp with Elderberry Memento ink, Dandelion Memento Luxe Ink, and the teal shade from the Tahiti Kaleidacolor ink pad applied randomly across the stamp with Ink Blushers.This became the background for the die cut sections in the front part of my card.


I decorated the card with stickers from the kit and a trimmed-out piece of a to-do list from one of the other Creative Agenda patterned papers. The list got a few check marks from the Creative Agenda Enamel Shapes and I did a fair amount of pen detailing with a Pitt Pen. I also sewed a bit of baker’s twine between the pennants to make it look more like a banner before matting the whole thing one a striped piece of patterned paper, also from the kit.


Once everything was secured, I filled in some of the circles in the background with StazOn Studio Glaze and Radiant Neon Amplify! to add a bit of dimension.


While this card is a lot busier than I usually would create, I think it’s loads of fun. And I’d be happy to check off those to-dos pretty much any day!

Here’s the full supply list used for this project:

Imagine: Memento Luxe (Dandelion), Memento (Elderberry), Kaleidacolor (Tahiti), InkBlushers, Radiant Neon Amplify! (Electric Coral, Electric Yellow), StazOn Studio Glaze (Cactus Green, Bahama Blue, Cotton White)

Echo Park: Creative Agenda Collection Kit, Enamel Shapes, Circles 4×6 Stamp, Pennants Die Set

Miscellaneous: Self-Adhesive Foam, Die Cutting Machine, Acrylic Block, White Cardstock, Black Pen, Baker’s Twine, Sewing Needle, Glue Stick

And now, if you’re hopping along from post to post, your next stop is Wendy Sue Anderson’s blog. But before you head out, don’t forget to leave a comment at each stop along the way. Both Imagine and Echo Park Paper will be giving away prizes to commenters!

Around the World in 40 Years

Just for Fun

How does it feel to be 40? A lot like it felt to be 39.


Age has never been a big deal to me, especially as I get older–I just don’t get hung up on the numbers. In fact, the one thing age does afford me is the knowledge that my perception of what counts as “old” really had no basis in reality.

Turning 40, though, that’s been kind of fun!

See, several years ago we were out with friends and it came to light that Lyssa thought I was already over 40 (for reasons of maturity, she assures me, lol). When I told her that was still several years off she was mortified. Again, I don’t stress about numbers, so I wasn’t offended, but it brought up the subject of birthdays and I said that I wanted a party for my 40th (looking at Todd) that I didn’t have to plan myself.

Shiny happy party-goers!

Shiny happy party-goers!


Lyssa took that and absolutely ran with it. She decided she was going to plan it and she really went above and beyond in celebrating my birthday this year and I’m really a bit humbled by her efforts.

The reason for my request goes back 10 years, to my 30th birthday. I was turning 30 on the 30th (only happens once, you know) and it fell on a Sunday so I insisted upon throwing a little party at my apartment. Now, I’m never one to assume that just because I want things a certain way that people are going to be willing to do it. And I had a very specific menu, etc. in mind so I did it all myself. And I enjoyed it–making the food, buying the party favors, having people over, all of it! The only down side is that while I was busy being hostess, my dual role as guest of honor got pushed to the side and I ended up the marginalized caterer of my own party.

Also, as milestone birthdays go, I haven’t exactly had much luck in that department.

  • Sweet 16? Spent it at a state Latin convention (though that part I didn’t mind) where there were issues with my friends and roommates (that wasn’t cool) plus the flowers Mom tried to send me got rerouted so many times I didn’t get them until I got home.
  • 21? Failed my driver’s license test and had to walk into dinner with the family a failure. In my defense, I failed because I popped the curb backing out of the parking spot while trying not to back into the big ass truck parked behind me. What I viewed as caution they, well, did not. Went back the next day and aced it, of course, and even made a joke about it to the dude evaluating me that “I hope it last longer than the last one.” (Insert “that’s what she said”)
  • 25? Don’t even remember this one…
  • And I already explained about 30.

It’s not like I’ve always had horrible birthday luck, either. My favorite birthday hands-down forever and ever amen is the one Todd and I spent at the Jacksonville Zoo, largely because Todd did such an amazing job of making me feel special and loved. This weekend, though, it’s a very close second to that weekend, but as a milestone birthday it’s tops!

Beginning and ending: Guests picked up their passports here and later picked up dessert!

Beginning and ending: Guests picked up their passports here and later picked up dessert!

About 20 of us piled into Bacchus’ event room for a wine and cheese party using my theme of “Around the World in 40 Years.” If you saw My Art Week video then you know that I created some paintings for decoration. I also volunteered to make the party favors, which were little booklets inspired both by the sheets helpful wineries give you at tastings and the passports EPCOT hands out at the Food & Wine Festival. (The party theme actually is a spin-off of the ‘drink your way around the world’ idea of the World Showcase.)

The France station: Brie, Pinot Noir, and Duck Bread & Goat Cheese Flatbread

The France station: Brie, Pinot Noir, and Duck Bread & Goat Cheese Flatbread

Each of the four countries we settled on were represented by a wine, a cheese, and an appetizer, at least in broad strokes, and the passports (complete with a little golf pencil attached like an old-fashioned dance card) listed each of these and gave space for guests to make notes about what they liked in case they wanted to order it on another visit to Bacchus (like the Duck and Goat Cheese Flatbread… so good!) or pick up a bottle they really enjoyed. Even though I’m usually a fan of the reds, and our Pinot Noir and Malbec options were very tasty in their own way, I was loving the Unoaked Chardonnay and Reisling, both.

Angentina: Malbec, Provolone cheese, and Pao de Quiejo (cheese rolls)

Argentina: Malbec, Provolone cheese, and Pao de Quiejo (cheese rolls)

USA was represented by an Unoaked Chardonnay, White Cheddar cheese, and Cheddar-topped sliders

USA was represented by an Unoaked Chardonnay, White Cheddar cheese, and Cheddar-topped sliders

Germany: Reisling, Butterkase, and Mini-Brats

Germany: Reisling, Butterkase, and Mini-Brats

And we can’t forget the amazing cupcakes from Lucy & Leo’s–always amazing and I’m not blowing smoke up your skirt when I say their gluten-free cupcakes are better than the regular ones. They’re just that good.

And we didn't have to clean anything!

And we didn’t have to clean anything!

After Bacchus a few of us (those without graduation parties or ceremonies to get to, it was that weekend in Tallahassee) went up to George & Louie’s for a bit of a nosh to soak up some of the wine and just hang out a bit more.

An early party might not be everyone’s ideal type of celebration, but I think it was just about perfect. The mid-afternoon fete was very freeing, fornat-wise. It also allowed our guests to more easily fit it into a busy weekend. Plus, since all of the guests had to drive back down to Tallahassee, an earlier end is considerate in general. Finally, it allowed us to go home and veg out for the rest of the evening, something we were very happy to do for a number of reasons. One of which is another story for another post!

Updated to add, here’s the video!

Happy Birthday to Me!

Everyday Adventures

I know that many folks think after a certain age, birthdays don’t mean as much. And many women disavow all knowledge of age past a given year, but I don’t hold with that. I like celebrating my birthday as well as the birthdays of people I care about.

This morning started with some very curious monkeys wondering what was in the pink polka-dot bag sitting next to my pillow.

Monkey see?

Monkey see?

Inside was a very Star Trek-themed birthday assortment, including The Star Trek Craft Book with the most adorable Spock Monkey I’ve ever seen on the cover. (Okay, so it’s the only Spock Monkey I’ve ever seen, on the cover of a book or otherwise, but it’s still darn cute! Oh, dear, unintended sock pun!)

Phasers set to fun!

Phasers set to fun!

Of course, no birthday is quite complete without some sort of celebratory dessert, but with my recent shift to wheat-free, the usual avenues were out. Todd came up with the idea to do a gluten-free ice cream cake and I realized it really wouldn’t be too difficult to pull off.

Yummy and safe for my tummy!

Yummy and safe for my tummy!

I started with a Betty Crocker gluten-free yellow cake mix baked in a false-bottom square pan (so I could easily remove the finished cake). Once it was cool enough, I split it in half and smooshed in a layer of Breyer’s Lactose-Free Vanilla ice cream, wrapped it up and stuck it in the freezer overnight to set up. Then I made a ganache of semi-sweet chocolate chips, lactose-free milk, vanilla, and a bit of coconut oil to help the ganache set up quickly. (Did you know chocolate + coconut oil is the magic formula to making your own magic shell-type ice cream topping?)

It was really tasty!

This birthday marked not only the end of a busy month but a busy year, overall. It’s been a very good year, no question, but this last month has been exceptionally packed. I’m looking forward to things normalizing for at least a month, but I know with the wedding coming up it’ll get more hectic as the year goes on.

Still, I’m going to do my best to enjoy a relaxing weekend before getting my back to the business as usual!

Nice Round Numbers

Site News
My celebratory gluten-free chocolate cupcake.

My celebratory gluten-free chocolate cupcake.

Something kind of important happened this weekend and I totally forgot until last night: turned 10 years old! Can you believe it?

On February 23, 2003, I registered my first domain. I still have my original sketches of what the site was going to be but never was, and I still remember how many ideas I had back then that, if I’d actually done them and stayed focused and all? Yeah, I’d totally be Internet Famous by now.

Instead, though, I was more or less content to just rattle around on my little MoveableType site (oh, yes, it was way back in the day) for the first couple of years before I heard about this new thing (I don’t even know that I knew it was called a platform back then) called WordPress that was supposed to be so much simpler to use, so I switched over in 2005 and I’ve never looked back. has always been self-hosted, and always been on DreamHost. We’ve had a few wobbles over the years (the weekend blackout of 2012 still gives me pangs) but all in all I’m happy I’ve stayed with them and still recommend them every chance I get.

According to my post counter I’ve got 1,093 posts logged on this platform (the MT stuff might be on an old harddrive, but I doubt it’s worth looking up), but 368 of them are Twitter logs, so the real number of posts is slightly less impressive: 725. I wasn’t really using this site much when my webcomic was updating regularly–it felt a little redundant–hence the use of the blog to log my microblogging. Once the comic backed off a bit and I got the idea to start blogging my way through the 64 Arts, though, then I was happy I still had my blog, here, to make use of.

Since starting the 64 Arts project I’ve blogged 160 posts on that subject since January, 2010, and we’re still just barely halfway through the list! (Don’t worry, I’ve got it worked out so we’ll get through #50 by the end of the year!).

I was curious as to how much I’ve posted across all my sites over the last 10 years (well, 8 in recorded history):

  • Scraps of Life 725
  • Sips & Shots 199
  • Nibbles ‘n Bites 230
  • Cocktail Hour 397
  • What to Feed Your Raiding Party 188
  • Random Acts Radio 11
  • Where the Geeks Are 167

Total = 1918 active updates!

Not bad for a decade, huh? (and I know I’ve left a few sites out–yes, there’s more… all in good time)


Most people consider round numbers to be those that end in 0, but I count the halves (those that end in 5s) as round, too. And just after Valentine’s Day I completed a project that put together the last 5 years of Todd and I into one custom-made album. You can check out the full tutorial of how I made a scrapbook to fit inside a chocolate tin over at my Gauche Alchemy Tutorial.

Have you looked back at your last 5 years lately? What about 10?

Celebration With Much Zoobilation!

Everyday Adventures

If you’ll indulge me as I stray from the 64 Arts, I’d like to share my wonderfully awesome birthday adventure with you! If you’re just here for the creativity and projects, check out the Arts So Far and the Projects pages and come back next Tuesday when we start the Art of Perfume.


Running Away Isn’t Always a Sign of Weakness

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all, to relax and unwind. Todd and I had been feeling that need more acutely than ever this year (usually we’ve done a convention or 2 by the end of April but I’m on “restrictions” until I finish the book so we’ve not gone anywhere or done anything except work–even the holidays were full of moving and unpacking and stuff).

Wanting to harness the childlike fun of birthdays (I really dislike the way we train kids to expect fun and celebration on young birthdays and then tell them it’s over at some point in their teens) I announced, one night as we were just going to sleep, that I wanted to go to the Zoo for my birthday and see the monkeys (I have a serious thing for monkeys).

Reservations made for 3 nights at the Hampton Inn in downtown Jacksonville (on a 3 for 2 offer, hotel points +1), we knew Saturday (my actual birthday) would be spent at the Jacksonville Zoo with dinner plans flexible depending on how tired we were–as much as I love a nice dinner with wine, etc. I was totally cool with the idea of Chinese take-out in the hotel room if we were worn out–and no real plans for Sunday or Monday (we’d both gotten the day off) except to relax and hang out together as much as possible.

Pack Your Monkeys and Let’s Go!

We both managed to scoot out of work a little early on Friday to get a head start on traffic. Just before leaving Todd posed a rather difficult question:

Do you want your presents now or tomorrow?

Oh, what’s a girl to do?!

Turns out it wasn’t too tough, after all: there were 2 presents in play and I asked if I could have 1 now, and 1 on my birthday. The first present (the one that would stay home, he said) turned out to be a DVD of Up–probably our second favorite Disney movie (Meet the Robinsons coming in first, hands down).

Watch out World, Monkey at the Wheel!The birthday fun well-begun and the bags loaded in the car (Todd played chauffeur all weekend–it was wonderful having absolutely 0 responsibility!) we set out on I-10 East and, immediately, felt the ease of vacation settle upon the whole car.

And just as I wondered if it was just me, Todd pulls one of the Georges* from the back seat and gives him a turn at the wheel. (Don’t worry, the cruise control was on.) He got bored quickly, though, and left the rest of the 2.5 hour trip to Todd.

It’s almost unheard of for us to get to our destination with daylight left but this time we did (and a good thing–the construction going on might have made finding our destination in the dark a bit more challenging). After unpacking it was time to decide on dinner.

Being 2 foodies on vacation, grabbing fast food or a bland bite from a chain just wasn’t going to cut it–we wanted something local and good! So, with the help of jax-dining and yelp, we settled on a couple of possibilities on the same street (in case the first didn’t look as good as it sounded or had too much of a wait).

Of course, first we had to get the guys settled in for the night…

Chilling in the hotel room

They’re not going to get up to any trouble while we’re gone, are they? Of course not!

The back-up restaurant wasn’t necessary. We found European Street Cafe with no problem and had one of the best meals we’ve had in quite some time. (At least until the next night, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.) And thanks to their delectable bakery counter we knew where we could come for birthday cake the next night. (More food details available soon over on Nibbles n Bites)

Rueben from E Street Cafe

my Rueben from E Street Cafe


The Birthday Officially Begins

We hadn’t mean to, but we ended up awake past midnight and, just before falling asleep my curiosity got the best of me and I asked for my other present.

Sparkly Monkey Necklace

Isn’t it just the cutest sparkly monkey necklace ever? It’s a monkey… with BLING! I was tickled pink and it was the best way to start my official birthday-day. (It’s being modeled by one of the Georges, of course)

The next morning I was up before Todd (a rare occurrence, I assure you!), eager to get our day started (breakfast included in the reservation–more than just the usual continental, hotel points +2).

First things first, I wanted to start our day at the Jacksonville Zoo by finding another George to add to the collection. It was a tough choice–there were about 6 different monkeys to choose from but, after much deliberation, we settled on Mandy George, and headed out to the platform to catch the train that goes around the perimeter of the Zoo. Todd offered to buy more than 1 monkey that morning but I honestly didn’t want to take advantage of his generosity, at least not overmuch. (I had booked the hotel room for the long weekend away but Todd was covering meals and entertainment–I didn’t want it to be too unbalanced, does that make any sense?)

Our Newest Family Member

There’s something incredibly… freeing about letting your grown-up guard down and letting the inner child run loose for a day at the Zoo. Not only that, there was no conflict, no tension, no tears and perfect accord between Todd and I. Not that that’s rare with us, but it’s something I’m still so grateful for with him and it just made the day all the more sweet.

We made our way through each and every exhibit (even the creepy crawly ones), stopped for lunch at the Trout River Grille and made our way clear to other end of the Zoo just before 4pm (closing time was 5 and we started at 10–it’s a full-day attraction). I took far too many pictures to share them all here but I a lot of them over on Flickr for the curious. Of course our favorites were the monkeys, though the sleepy otters, gliding penguins and the goats in the kid’s area were quite fun to watch.

some of the sights

More Zoo Fun

The idea was to take the train back to the entrance, rather than walk, and while we waited we stopped into one last gift shop. And my intention not to take advantage of Todd’s generosity failed miserably when I saw dancing monkey pens. And more possible George’s. There was one little guy, up on the top shelf, with the perfectly coiffed fur and a somewhat sardonic smile–he had to come home with us.

Dean George and Todd

So we had TWO monkey’s to introduce to the two at the hotel.

The Meeting of the Monkey Minds

After a day like this, what kind of dinner can top it?

Surprisingly enough we weren’t absolutely exhausted (so no Chinese take-out in the hotel) and we’d been given some restaurant recommendations from a local webcomics friend so we weren’t quite so aimless as the night before (even though–kudos  to us–E Street was one of the recommendations so we blundered into a local fave then, too!).

After looking through the suggestions, comparing menus, reviews (and ruling out a fun-sounding hookah bar on account of my lungs needing to stay smoke-free), we settled on 13 Gypsies, a tapas and more restaurant on Stockton Street that’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.

Now, we didn’t have a reservation–we didn’t know we needed one–and would have happily taken the one free table on the sidewalk but, due to a group calling in a different number for that night we were granted a corner table, as long as we’d be done in 90 minutes. About an hour later, as we were finishing up, the couple at the next table asked if we were enjoying our dinner as much as they were–turns out they’d been trying to get a reservation for MONTHS (13G is a rather small place–intimate!–something like 10 tables, tops)! Birthday luck on our side, I suppose.

And it was delicious–we ordered half a dozen items from their tapas menu and everything was amazing. I’m so glad we didn’t just order entrees as it would have been a shame to miss out on the variety the tapas menu afforded.

Quixote Style Beef from 13 Gypsies

Just one of the lovely dinner bites: Quixote Style Beef

The day had been so wonderful–not just because of the multitude of monkeys or being spoiled and indulged by Todd–it was the feeling of utter and complete contentment, like we hadn’t a care in the world except to spend the hours as together as possible and nothing more. I felt loved, cared for, cherished. And I told Todd this, holding hands across the table, there were even tears in my eyes from sheer joy–then my hand cramped and we dissolved into giggles. I swear, I can’t do the white romantic stuff for very long at all.

Happily full, we declined dessert and headed back towards our downtown home.

But what about the birthday cake?

Oh, we didn’t forget. We both had our sights set on the Chocolate Beast cake we saw in the case at E Street. Back we went for two large slices to enjoy in the hotel room, later, in pajamas. And, yes, Todd (and the monkeys) serenaded me. Todd doesn’t very often, but it was the best Happy Birthday I’d ever heard.

Chocolate Beast from E Street

And then there was the rest of the weekend.

Saturday being so full and focused, we kinda dilly-dallied Sunday morning, getting up with just enough time to throw on some clothes and head downstairs for breakfast, then slow-poking through showers and such. Then it was off to St Augustine to tour the Castillo de San Marcos (a place I hadn’t been I was a toddler), sticking our noses into various shops in the Old City and heading up to San Sebastian Winery for our second wine tasting of the day. Monday morning ran the same way–a slow start, a late breakfast, and taking our time packing up to leave (noon check-out, hotel points +10)–and we didn’t even mind going home.

One things really stands out to me about the weekend. Well, one thing that isn’t birthday-related, that is. We never once needed to read before bed to wind down. We read for fun whenever the mood strikes, of course, but at night both Todd and I read before bed as a way to relax, to unwind from the day, from staring at screens and worrying about work. The entire weekend we were away? No books before bed. We were completely unwound the whole time and it was glorious.

Another thing? The weird worries that plague me in the moments between waking and sleep? Nonexistent. I didn’t even notice they were gone until we were home and they came back! I’m working on ways to keep them at bay, too.

We’ve decided we need more of these sorts of weekends. Maybe not a long weekend out of town–our budgets aren’t really built for that–but at least one day a month we’re going to blow off everything else and spend the day in a vacation-state: find a local festival or take a drive somewhere, tour a museum, something!

Because that was the best part of any birthday or any other day: being together, no strings, no worries.


*Monkey notes: All of our monkeys are named George; it’s like the George-Borg. On this trip we started out with Curious George (CG for short) and Pillow George (likewise known as PG–yes, I have a pillow pet, he was an anniversary gift, he stays on our bed and frequently causes us to giggle just before going to sleep), most of them stayed home to guard the house, though.