from crayon box to powering my soul… color defines me

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The Spark is ReIgnited!

This past year had been a bit of a challenge for me, as it has for many of us. I see, for example, the last time I wrote on my blog was 2015 just after my brother passed away from complications of Type 1 Diabetes. Since then, I’ve focused on taking care of myself, because, really, who else is going to do that for me, better than I will? I had a knee replacement and have been doing water aerobics and swimming laps several times a week. What a joy it is to be back in the water (must be the Aquarian in me?)!

Along with improved health, I’ve lit a fire under my creative side and have been happily creating new mixed media projects, many of which you can see in my Etsy online shop: but, of course, I plan to share some with you right now – I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I enjoyed making them!


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Handmade is Heartfelt – Part 1, A Good Meal

My son made rouladen (German beef roll-ups) a couple of weeks ago for dinner as part of his Health Class assignment to cook something from a different culture than our own. Previously, we had the opportunity of going out to eat at a restaurant which served food from a different country that we had not yet tried. This was surprisingly a small number of countries as we love to try new tastes and traditions. Our options included: Epthiopian, African, Russian and Argentinan. We went with the Russian and had an amazing meal at Pomegranate in San Diego, CA. The salad sampler gave us the opportunity to try a variety of salads and the lamb in the Chakapuli was so flavorful that I can’t wait to go again! It is a quaint restaurant on El Cajon Blvd and people have written poetry or other inspirational thoughts on the walls with markers. It’s entertaining to read them as you wait for your meal.


Or as we called it as kids “Pickle in the Middle”

Back to tonight’s dinner, we took photos of each step while creating (and obviously, eating) my grandmother’s rouladen dish. Depending upon which area of Germany your family is from, you may put pickles in the middle of the beef roll-up or carrots. Zac’s grandmother on my father’s side, Ernestine Rech Brendel Bange, was the second of eight Rech children living on Bingen am Rhein; we use pickles. However, I think that what may be unique to Oma’s recipe in that we use sweet pickles while most others use dill pickles. As one of the eldest daughters in the family, Erna learned to cook and cook she did. However, my great aunt, Irmgard, the youngest of eight children, did not. Years after my grandmother passed away, I made Sauerbraten for Irma. It brought tears to her eyes and she weepily said it tasted just like her mother’s.  Of course it was, I explained that the receipe was handed down to Oma, then to my mom to cook for our father, and then to me when I was upgraded from salad chef to full dinner cook at the age of 14 as my mother had returned to work full-time.


Jeff Smith, PBS’s Television Cooking Show and Cookbook Author of numerous Frugal Gourmet Cookbooks including The Frugal Gourmet, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China – Greece – Rome, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, and the Whole Family Cookbook

I loved to cook and the variety of dishes my mother had in her recipe file box. I distinctly recall watching what I believe to be the predecessor of The Food Network… cooking shows on PBS. In particular, I rarely missed an episode of The Frugal Gourmet with Jeff Smith. He urged us to get with our grandparents, aunts and uncles and cook – write down their recipes, because when they are gone, their recipes may be lost, so preserve them today. He had so many little tips and tricks that I remember to this day. For example, “hot pan, cold oil, food won’t stick” or soaking anchovies in milk to reduce the salt. Cooking, and I include shortcuts which include using a prepared mix or jarred item in this category, is a distinct handmade activity, a gift for others that comes from the heart.

Back to my son’s assignment… Rouladen uses the liquid from the pickle jar and water in the sauce that cooks the beef. We needed more liquid than anticipated, as I often save the liquid from previous jars for just this purpose, so we had leftover sweet pickles (gherkins). I coarsely chopped these and the remaining 1/2 onion, put them in the food processor and decided to make pickle relish. Browsing the Internet for a recipe, I found only a few variations that start from an already pickled cucumber, so I created my own recipe. Here it is:

  • Sweet pickles (gherkins), chopped fine… about 8-10 made about 1 1/2 – 2 cups chopped pickle
  • Onions, chopped fine… about 1/2 a large onion
  • Fire roasted red pepper, chopped fine… one large jarred pepper, drained and chopped
  • Stone ground mustard, about 2 teaspoons
  • Celery salt, pepper, and turmeric… not as much as if you were going to pickle a cucumber so start with 1/2 teaspoon each and taste, adjusting as seasoning requires
  • Apple cider vinegar, about 2 Tablespoons, and agave syrup, about 1 Tablespoon
  • Water… not to cover but to cover at least two-thirds of the ingredients in the saucepan, probably about 1/2 – 3/4 cup

Place ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan; bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool and then store in a jar in the refrigerator. Bring on the hot dogs, deviled eggs, mega sandwiches, etc.

It being the holiday season, my hope is that you share a handmade meal or food gift with others and be very thankful to those who do the same with you in return.  Look for my next part of Handmade is Heartfelt, when I talk about gifts we make for others.

Here are the step by step photos of Zac’s meal with the recipe to follow:

Rouladen Recipe

Thinly sliced round steak, rump roast, breakfast steak, or meat for carne asada, sliced large enough to roll

sliced bacon             onion slices              salt      pepper         sweet pickles and juice       oil    toothpicks

Lay breakfast steaks on flat surface and salt and pepper. Form rouladen by placing a slice of bacon on top of each steak, trimming if too long. Place a couple of onion slices on top of each bacon piece. Place one sweet pickle on top of the onion and roll everything up. Secure with toothpicks. Brown in oil on all sides. Remove from pan and drain oil. Return to pan and cover with half of the pickle juice and additional water to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook 45-60 minutes depending on thickness of steaks, adding more juice if necessary.

Recipe from Erna Bange


With Gratitude

I’ve done training in the corporate world for years… harassment prevention, drug-free workplace, violence prevention, supervision training, conflict resolution, and I love it! I’ve taught Human Resources at SDSU College of Extended Studies Certification program, specifically Performance Management courses. But, when it comes to my creative work, I’ve invited co-workers to meet a couple of times and taught them what I’ve learned about creating mixed media canvases. Any donations they made towards supplies were added to my Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation fundraising efforts. As previously mentioned, I started dabbling with paint and texture about 2 years ago when I took my first ever online art workshop with Christy Tomlinson from

Most recently, I have officially been unemployed from my “day job” for 4 weeks now and I am surprised at how busy I have been… looking for a job truly is a full-time job. The last time I was unemployed was in 1999 and that change motivated me to leave Louisiana and return to San Diego, which turned out to be the best decision for my career and for my son. Within a few weeks, I found an amazing job in my field working as H.R. Director for a small-sized electronics manufacturing company, I bought a home locally, and sold my home in Shreveport. I always felt the change was meant to be. So, with this current situation I keep reminding myself that I will look back on this one day and say it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Meanwhile, I have a bit more time to focus on my art. Yesterday I taught my first “paid” gig centering around my canvas art. I have started a series of girl art canvas board classes that I teach at EverAfter Scrapbooks in Vista, CA.  These girls were inspired by my love of J. Ruth Gendler’s “The Book of Qualities” and the courage it took Ruth to get the book to it’s original printing by creating Turquoise Mountain Publications when other companies were not interested in publishing her work. Ruth lived in Omaha, Nebraska, where I grew up, and now lives and teaches art in Berkeley, CA. Read her Artist’s Statement to be inspired, too!

The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler

The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler presents over 70 qualities — including Pleasure, Anger, Terror, Beauty, and Change — as everyday characters who live among us. Both personal and impersonal, the Qualities convey a variety of human emotions in a simple and entertaining manner; readers are inspired to reflect on their own qualities and communicate their feelings with new clarity.

The Book of Qualities Original Cover, Turquoise Mountain Publications printing 1984

The Book of Qualities Original Cover, Turquoise Mountain Publications printing 1984

I, for one, am grateful that Ruth Gendler persevered to get the book’s original printing published. This book has been a favorite gift of mine for friends and I read a portion of “Joy” from the book at my son’s dedication, 22 years ago! The book has been set to life on stage and I remember years ago purchasing a calendar with 12 months of Qualities, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I found two additional books by Ruth and have ordered them at my local bookstore. I also learned that the Book of Qualities has been translated into German: Das Buch der Lebensgeister: 76 Qualitäten, die in uns wirken – sehr gut!

I do so love the underdog-type story that turns out even better in the end. Along similar lines, Mannheim Steamroller had difficulty getting a recording company to promote their music, thus creating American Gramophone and the rest of their story, including their Fresh Aire series, one of my favorites Classical Gas by Mason Williams, and amazing holiday music we all love to hear, is more Omaha history! Their website talks of new Christmas music.

Back to yesterday’s class, I thoroughly enjoyed working with my class participants and the new store owners, Sandy and Kyle Christie. Some of these people I know from our fundraising efforts at Survivor Crop and a couple were new acquaintances; all of whom were a delight to have in class. I was so enchanted with how everyone encouraged and complimented each others’ efforts… it was quite empowering! We took photos, of course, and delighted at how unique each completed canvas turned out.

I was tickled that we ended right on time, everyone completing their projects. I was also thrilled that many of the class members signed up for December’s Joy Girl canvas. The class will be at EverAfter Scrapbooks on Sunday December 8, 2013, from Noon to 4 p.m. Call the store to register… I would love to see you there! Here’s Joy Girl:

December Joy Girl Canvas Board Class

December Joy Girl Canvas Board Sample
Quote reads: “Joy is a girl who loves the scent of cinnamon and evergreen”

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Cut with Scissors Along the Dashed Line

My fascination with cutting things out started at a very young age. Long before the Internet, there were newspapers and magazines and contests to enter…. “free” no less! If a box had dashed lines around it and, better yet, an image of a pair of scissors indicating one should cut along the lines, I was immediately enthralled and in search of said scissors. I so loved the prospect of filling in my name and address on the form, writing out the mailing address and my return address on an envelope, adding a stamp and dropping it in the mailbox out front lifting the little red flag alongside to notify the postman of outgoing mail (yes, we called them postmen not postal carriers back in those days long before anyone worried about being PC).  I never won anything as I recalled, but it was the dream of the possibility that I just might win that kept me mailing off multiple entries. As I grew up and went out on my own, cutting coupons replaced entering contests, but the time spent to cut, organize, cull through and discard the expired ones, was most likely more costly than the intended savings and I eventually gave that practice up.

But, as I was checking out audio books on CD at the library that I had reserved online, I looked up and saw a poster about an Art Contest. Upon inquiring, the librarian brought the poster over for me to read. A contest – a challenge, what fun, oh my! The San Diego County Library is celebrating its Centennial with an Art Contest based on the theme 100 years of stories. I’ve always loved a contest, so…. I created this 11×14″ watercolor of a woman with some of the best first lines of novels written in the past 100 years throughout her hair. The line “Call me Ishmael” is the most popular first liner that comes to mind; so I googled others and ended up with this girl:

100 Best First Liners

100 Best First Liners

Imagine my surprise when playing back my answering machine messages this week to hear Sara from the library calling to inform me that my art won 2nd place in the Adult category! She asked whether my full name could be published with the art and I agreed. The entries will travel around San Diego County from one library to the next based on the schedule listed here, along with the other winners: Sara also mentioned that my prize would be available at the Poway branch within the week.

Prize? Prize? Who said anything about a prize? I had no idea. I’m just a sucker for a challenge and a contest 🙂 To be real honest, my hope was for a library version of the Get Out of Jail Free card in the Community Chest pile in Monopoly, where I could have late fees waived a couple times in the upcoming year… I always seem to have 3 or 4 chapters left to listen to on a book on CD when its due back and cannot be renewed because its been reserved by another patron, hence the late fees.  I’m assured, though, that it’s just a little prize.

Actually, I received a $50 gift card to Barnes ‘N Noble… no small gift there! I will love browsing B&N, deciding what to select, particularly if its a new book on creating art! The reference librarian who presented my prize told me about the Adult summer Reading Program. She said the Friends of the Library had really come through this summer and she had several gift cards for local retailers to present to lucky winners, so I signed right up. You only have to read 4 books between now and August 10th, and I will easily accomplish that. PLUS, the Read for a Reason program helps benefit shelter dogs – here’s how:  “For every extra hour you read beyond the goal, shelter dogs will receive one pound of dog food from Hill’s Science Diet, up to 5,000 pounds.” Since I am reading anyway, why not help the puppies out! They’re only at 625 pounds, so sign up and let’s all do some SUMMER READING!

The Four Agreements Collage

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My latest art project started one Saturday night after a day of creating art with 18 amazing women at Studio Crescendoh in Santa Ana. I was so inspired that day by Mixed Media Artist Christy Tomlinson (of “She Art” fame) and all of the other ladies that I returned to my hotel and developed the backgrouSinds for eight small canvases. I had a new product, Gelates dimensional paint from Art Anthology, I wanted to try… I love the thick whipped consistency of this paint and, of course, the glitter, shimmer and shine in the vibrant colors. I literally used my fingers at some points just dipping them directly into the bottle and rubbing the color onto my canvases!

These canvas backgrounds were created from 6×6 paper pads color-coordinated with the paints to create it’s own individual color theme, much like a rainbow of colors. After our 2-day workshop, I packed the mini canvases up in a Bath & Body Works gingham handle bag and put them in the color of my work area. Last weekend, I organized my work area and came across the bag of 8 and decided it was time to finish this project. The rainbow theme brought to mind a couple who had been begging, this had gone beyond subtle suggestions, for their own canvas art from me. With them in mind, and my recent re-reading of don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements, I went to work creating a piece to represent these four wonderful guidelines for life: Be impeccable with your word, Don’t take anything personally, Don’t make assumptions and Always do your best. Simple, straight-forward, yet they definitely take some work to follow consistently. I, personally, struggle with the second one: Don’t take anything personally. Working for a large defense company, it’s best to follow this guideline and remember you’re just another cog in the wheel, easily replaced and forgotten. The third agreement parallels one of my mantras – come from a point of inquiry. If we stop making assumptions, which are more often than not off base, and ask questions, we can prevent so many of the communication conflicts that occur in our relationships with others.

Here’s the final collage:

The Four Agreements Collage - eight various sized canvases working together

The Four Agreements Collage – eight various sized canvases working together

This gallery contains 21 photos