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Just like Sam, my blog-partner, I also have been to a paint and sip event recently. And after painting this vase of flowers, I ventured further and went to a less-structured painting event you can see in the second half of this post.

My son and his girlfriend treated both of us moms to a fun Mother’s Day including brunch at Skillet and a paint and sip by Canvas! in Seattle (link is to our event. Robert and Rachel are the second photo!) Since I was just getting over a bad cold and don’t do alcohol anyway, I enjoyed sipping on my nice hot tea while following the instructions to create a Van-Gogh-inspired bouquet of flowers. 

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Unlike Sam in our previous post, I did not snap any meaningful pics of my painting as I went so I am filling my post with close ups of my favorite parts! Haha! I really had fun layering and mixing and brushing on the backgrounds and the vase.

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My son says, a few minutes in, “This is what I got an art degree for.” Ya never know, bud! Maybe one day you’ll be leading a room full of tipsy adults through a painting ;) 

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It was fun to see how each of us interpreted the instructions (admirably!) and then somewhat shocking to see how some people in the rest of the room carried them out. I am Quite Happy with my painting, especially the vase! It was also a great day Ubering around the city together and talking up a storm. 

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A couple weeks later, an artist friend of mine Facebook-invited me to a 6-hour painting party called “Fish and a Dish.” Curious, I went researching. A fun and encouraging artist named Brenda Boles holds a monthly painting party where you can choose from a variety of pre-sketched canvases of the month’s focus. Everyone also brings a treat of some sort to share, potluck-style. Hence, the fish and a dish title for June’s event.

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Thank you for the invite, Sandi! I’m so very glad I had this experience :) 

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I had my choice of about a dozen different fishes on different sized canvases, but this messy, highly textured angel fish really caught my attention. 

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I was quite intimidated at first, but each time I got done with one step, I asked her to tell me what to do next. When I started applying the crazy, messy, green paint streaks and spatters though, I was off and running! After all … acrylics. You can easily pull off do-overs if needed heh heh. I love love love the spatters. 

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The photocopy of the original painting I was using showed a blue-toned fish with no background (and a significantly less amount of the fun stuff.) So you see that I personalized it by PAINTING IT GREEN! If you’ve seen me on facebook, you know that my profile picture remains a neon sign saying “paint it green!” I love to paint things green :)  

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If you get a chance to paint and sip with friends, I encourage you to give it a try! 

Happy painting (and sipping), 


  • Diane Johnston - Nice work Gail, I’m not at all surprised that you have green in the flowers and a green fish. You have a lot in common with Kermit, the Frog. LOL07.02.2016 – 10:31amReplyCancel


Paint & Sips have become a thing.  And I love it!  I don’t think they are all created equal, so I was super happy that the one I got to participate in actually felt like we created… real art!

Because I am so NOT an artist, not in the draw/paint sort of way anyway.  I can draw a stick figure like nobody’s business.  And give me some drafting tools and I can probably draw you a sweet building… but nature?  Probably not… and people?  Well, I’ve already mentioned stick people are where it’s at for me.  ;)

So a few months ago I got to go out with some friends for a fun night of wine and painting at this amazing little shop in Gig Harbor, Mood.  And it was fantastic.  I took some cell phone snaps along the way, so here goes…

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Even seeing all the steps I don’t really see how those awkward looking white lines turned into a forest of autumn birch trees. But I’m so glad they did… because now it proudly hangs in my bedroom above my dresser!

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Especially because it holds a memory of a great night with friends… the first time all of us had escaped without our little babies (all born within three months of each other) together!  A great night off!

I’m looking forward to another one of these, probably with Mom, because she has a friend that leads some fantastic classes… of which she’ll show you an example in her next post!!


  • Diane Johnston - Nice work Sam. My daughter & granddaughter went to one of those classes in Colorado and came home with some nice paintings. Then they got interested in Bob Rossi style painting and bought all the supplies & video to try his way. He says anyone can paint. Bob Rossi classes are sometimes at Hobby Lobby and Michael’s. Or you can check out his TV classes on PBS stations.06.29.2016 – 2:44pmReplyCancel


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What a lucky lucky lady I was in January! My husband got sent to Australia to work for a month and I went along for three weeks. We lived in a small furnished apartment in the adorable historic town of Ipswich, about an hour from the Brisbane airport. That’s on the east coast — almost the easternmost point of the continent. 

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I only knew the shrimp plant as a house plant with pinkish blooms. What a surprise this gorgeous blooming shrub was outside the Ipswich Visitor Information Center at Queens Park. The bird in the first picture — have no idea what he is — was also wandering wild there. 

Having the days to myself (on foot) and the weekends with hubby and car meant two complete ways to explore. There will be an upcoming post (posts?) with some gorgeous architectural details and buildings from Ipswich as I explored near our living quarters, plus a couple more field trips. Today I am showing you a selection of my favorite photos from our field trips to Brisbane’s South Bank area and from the Ipswich Nature Center. 

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After leaving a gray western Washington January behind, these blasts of bright flowers and this gorgeous mosaic bench set were breathtaking at the Ipswich Nature Center in Queens Park. The upcoming photos up until you see some skyscrapers are all from the nature center.

I will ALWAYS snap pictures of interesting lines and shapes, of gorgeous views, of fascinating details, the unexpected, and colorful flowers … well, colorful almost-anything. I hope you enjoy! 

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A Lace Monitor Goana, 3-4 feet long. Really cool pattern! And then there were these wild lizards… each about a foot long. I swear all the captive and wild lizards this day were posing for me :) 

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So many trees were in bloom with so many different colors while we were here. It was stunning. January is the equivalent of the northern hemisphere’s July. Perfect change of weather, almost! The last half of my visit was monsoon-like, with heavy humidity and heat. 

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I know we have peacocks in North America, but who can resist that BLUE!? This photo was for myself, demonstrating that those awe-inspiring tails are pretty camouflaged when viewed from a prey-animal’s sight. Too gruesome? Well, I always have all the thoughts so welcome to my inner world LOL

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Here are the obligatory kangaroo and wallaby pics! Clockwise from bottom left: Swamp Wallabies — check out the one sitting on its behind like a person; Red Kangaroo, which is not the largest kind; Swamp Wallaby again. We also saw Red-bellied Pademelons and Red-legged Pademelons which are smaller wallabies. Although this is all I saw of kangaroos, my husband saw them almost daily at the rural site at which he was working. They were actually a hazard in the evening. 

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Look at the iridescence of this black and white pigeon! We saw dozens of amazing birds and ducks in the aviary, but it was mostly too dim under the trees to get good photos. And/or, the birds and ducks were the highly camouflaged varieties. Not like this White-headed Pigeon who almost let me get close enough to touch. This was not shot with a zoom lens! 

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Cool looking pattern from this tall palm tree. Also….

***WARNING — if you don’t like to look at spiders — WARNING *** there is a short, not-really-obvious spider photo tucked onto the bottom edge of the palm tree photo. Scroll right past and onto the bright pink flowers if you want to skip. It is not a special spider, it was just floating mid-air far from anything else and I thought it was good camera practice; then I really like the picture! 

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I wish I knew what these cool flowers that leave behind cute cups were!

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Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, deep in conversation.

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Such beautiful views throughout the Ipswich Nature Center. Strangely, I didn’t capture any of the many varieties of ducks nor the black swans in these pictures.

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Let’s talk BILBIES! I became a bilby concerned human after learning how this little mouse-like creature is endangered and how one Ipswich resident set up a huge protection area for them. No photos because: nocturnal! I brought (granddaughters) Abbi and Ella back the cutest stuffed bilby and a beautiful book, Bilby Moon, which we have enjoyed reading many times. Join me in celebrating Australian National Bilby Day on September 13th? 


On to our day in Brisbane, where we only explored the fun area of South Bank. This included wandering through a peaceful park, more like an arboretum, and riding the Wheel of Brisbane for some great city views (and the A/C inside the gondolas!) 

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A beautiful city with a lot to offer. I wish I could spend a week just in Brisbane! 

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A story of Rainbow Lorikeets.

Our first evening in town, we went to eat in Ipswich about 6 blocks away. Walking back, we heard the loudest racket coming from the trees lining the city’s streets. It was too dark with too much street-level light to see up into the heavily leaved trees to see what kind of birds these could be.

The next night, we were eating on the patio of a different restaurant (this was one of my fave things about this trip — lots of restaurants!) and observed a noisy flock of birds going overhead. Again, being the late edge of dusk and underneath of them I could not see what they were. I asked our waitress, who had never really noticed them before but she came back with a young teenage boy who told us they were lorikeets and then proceeded to question us about all things American-restaurant.

After looking up lorikeets, I didn’t quite believe him, especially since I could see no color on these flocks I heard and saw almost every evening and often early morning if I was up in the middle of my night. I kept asking everyone and *no-one* knew what I was talking about! In my head — They: what birds? Me: how can you NOT NOTICE!?

On it went. Then, 2 weeks into the visit, we saw these Rainbow Lorikeets in the palms during the day here in Brisbane. I was 90% convinced at this point that Awkward Teenage Boy was right. But I kept asking and kept getting the same non-answer.

Then, on my last night in Ipswich we went to a very cool restaurant called Char’d (braised lamb — always gotta have it) and there in a spotlighted palm tree at their entrance, making the so-familiar racket, were dozens of spotlighted Rainbow Lorikeets.

Thank you, Australia, for not sending me home doubting.

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I don’t know what this bird really is, but there were a lot of them fulfilling the function of sparrows cleaning up the sidewalks and eating areas. They are about a foot tall at the body, so they’re a little more attention-getting than dull brown sparrows.

I also don’t know what these half-inch sized berries are, growing on the tree below, but I like to imagine there are coffee beans inside the red fruits. 

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GOOD CATCH, Nature! 

These people saved my life! Cooooofffffffeeeeeeee! We had a good conversation about American vs Australian coffee lingo and habits. After he flashed the peace sign, he asked with concern if that didn’t mean anything different/bad. Peace, love and coffee, bro!

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I was fascinated with the intricate carvings on The Nepal Peace Pagoda. So many patterns. Such ancient history to humans’ love for decoration. Inspiration for meditative pattern doodling. 

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Happy travels, wherever you may go!


  • Diane Johnston - Great pictures Gail. I love the architectural ones. And…lorikeets are so beautiful! I have two of the orange flowered plants you show in the 4th picture. They are called Ixora coccinea (also known as jungle geranium, flame of the woods or jungle flame). It is from India, I think. Mine bloomed like crazy last summer.

    My daughter visited Australia when her husband was on a business trip there last year. I can’t remember what city they were in. They had a wonderful time too.

    Looking forward to more posts.

    Hugs, Diane06.20.2016 – 11:01pmReplyCancel


Ella turns One!_0001

It’s been almost two months and I’m just now coming to terms with the fact that Ella is One!  What?!  How does time pass so quick!

This birthday theme sums up my wishes for both my sweet and spunky girls… even though the are little now I hope they always Dream Big!

And with that I’m going to leave you with a (mostly) wordless Wednesday post… filled with photos of our birthday celebration, spoiling, cake, and family.  :)

PS, aren’t those hot air balloons we created amazing?!  -Sam

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ONE Teaser photo of ONE little lady who just turned ONE!

(more photos and an update next week!)

with much love and cake, Sam

  • Diane Johnston - Gail, She is so cute! Love your party decorations. The balloons are so clever. I never would have thought to decorate balloons, but them I’m not very crafty/creative. I love that you can see your granddaughters so often. They grow up so fast. Mine were out of state and we only saw them once, maybe twice a year. Enjoy!06.15.2016 – 4:27pmReplyCancel

    • admin - Diane,
      You must also have seen Sam’s next post about the party! It was fun, and I do enjoy getting to see the grandgirls so often :) As for the hot air balloon decorations, Sam found the idea and supervised all the making of them as I hot glued them and she made Ella’s sparkly birthday tutu. We’re all about team efforts ;) –Gail06.15.2016 – 4:59pmReplyCancel

  • Diane Johnston - I did see Sam’s post as well. She takes such beautiful photos! The Team Efforts are definitely working well. :)06.15.2016 – 8:09pmReplyCancel


Menu Planning session Spring 2016 - Getting Started

It is time for my annual spring menu plan! I don’t know why I’m inspired to share a menu plan every spring, but it has been happening regularly. 

See? 2013, 2014 and another 2014. Last spring, 2015, all I could think about was newborn granddaughter Ella!

I have to confess, I have not been menu planning since Christmas. I also have barely done the cooking! Between 5 weeks of travel and health-related energy issues (not complaining, just sayin’ — I’m alive with all my senses; it’s good!) my hubby has been doing the cooking when we aren’t picking up ready-to-eat or going out. 

But my mother-in-law Pat is coming! I’m always inspired to cook for company. She is the LEAST person likely to judge anyone about anything, IMO, so that isn’t the reason I’m getting back on the cooking bandwagon. Last time she stayed with us, we went out a LOT. This time, with some new recipes in mind, I’m ready to cook and I know she’ll likely lend a hand and it will end up being good times together. 

Besides, hubby works evenings all week ;) hahaha

Once I gathered up all my menu planning needs (note: coffee, treat, magazines, my form) I followed my process. Place people’s schedules and the weather. Add recipes. Fill in the blanks. Make grocery list as I go. Why weather? Because of grilling outside. Which means hubby cooks by default ;) I have my ways. 

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I must have a crush on foodiecrush.com right now, because the first two recipes that popped to the top of my mental list were both from there. Yum. I didn’t even look in the magazines I’d rounded up! I did remember the mini lemon cakes from the April 2016 King Arthur Flour catalog. Probably on their website, too. If you go there, you’ll find a goldmine of recipes! 

Here are the foodiecrush website pics. Realize that it looks much more appetizing in person; not that pretty on your device seeing my picture of a computer showing her picture of the food. Wow. But still! Yum. 

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The chop salad will be tasty and easy to chomp. I’m adding some cheese tortellini into the marinade with the chickpeas (aka garbanzos.) I’ll probably skip the packaged salad topper product, but will toast some pine nuts to add instead. Always keep pine nuts in your freezer; they come in handy! So tender and mild and cute. 

As for the Turkey Meatballs with Polenta and Marinara … well, I’ve been daydreaming polenta the last couple weeks, so this will take care of that vague craving for a little while at least. I’ll get the meatballs made ahead and frozen; the rest will be a snap. I don’t use instant polenta, by the way. Using regular polenta gives you better flavor and texture. The flavor is much more delightful to me if I first toast the dry grain in a dry stainless steel pan until that roasty corn aroma floats up — mmmmm! The final dish doesn’t taste like raw cornmeal as some polenta (untoasted) has, at least to me, in the past. Hope mom-Pat likes it! 

Then there are the remaining halibut portions in our freezer from a half-halibut I picked up last year. Lotta fish. Love it, but of course we keep forgetting it and/or saving it for special. Time to use it and share it! And of course, no spring menu plan of mine would be complete without a shout-out to asparagus! Washington-grown asparagus! Support local!  I *heart* fresh asparagus! 

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And there we are, for this first part of MIL Pat’s visit. Maybe next week I’ll find something from my magazines :) 

It’s a short menu plan, but I feel so much more prepared. If you want a guideline to how I create a workable weekly menu, check out this post. Now, just to get the dusting done before she comes this time…  (and oops, that didn’t happen.)

Side note — if you want the smallest, cheapest, and easiest coffee brewer ever, check out my Coffee Brew Buddy, $3.74 on sale at Cost Plus World Market. It’s the thing on top of my mug in the top picture. Quick pour through, no filters, rinsable, and the size of a coaster. Plus it’s a net-like thing, so you could use it to catch your guppies of you can’t find the fish net. ;) 

Happy spring!