Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Toymaker's Christmas

Friday I did a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Oceanside.

The Nutcracker from The Toymaker's Christmas. (Thanks to my awesome intern, Annie Ruygt for these fine toy photos.) 


 A splendid time being creative.


My artist buddy, the adorable Kim Dwinell drove me down and we met with the lovely Katie McDee who also is an amazing illustrator. We caught up on all the news over some delicious Thai food. and sauntered over to the book store where we made paper toys and simple stamps with both grownups and kids alike.

 Boys too.

We stamped patterns and then made envelopes.

 Also in the news, yesterday we bought our tree. In our family, Christmas tree acquiring is treated as a combination of the Indy 500 and the Olympic Pentathlon. We time how long it takes us to park, pick tree, pay, load and leave. We all are pretty much crowd averse so the whole concept of leisurely inspecting each tree, whilst sipping hot cocoa, humming carols and wearing mittens is completely lost on us as a family.

We were unable to beat last year's time of twelve minutes, due to going on a Saturday afternoon. Still, a lovely Nordman Fir is standing in our living room, smelling lovely and ready for decorating. And the Boy was so fierce in his tree carrying that one of the Home Depot guys offered him a job.

 How about you? How is your December unfolding? Do you have any quirky holiday traditions?

Warm thoughts,



Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal. ~ Lenore Hershey

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Make Simple Stamps

I was given a giant pack of sticky back foam sheets by a friend and thought I'd figure out a way to put them to good use.

To make simple stamps you will need a felt tip pen, a small block of wood or a bottle cap for a base, scissors, a pencil and a piece of sticky back foam. I used 4" Gingher embroidery scissors.

 Cut a small square of foam the size of your block of wood or plastic bottle cap.

On the backing of the square draw a simple shape, a star, leaf or letter of the alphabet.

Cut out your shape.

Peal off the backing and stick your shape on the base.


Color in your shape with a felt tip pen or use a stamp pad.


Use your stamp to make patterns. When the ink is dry you can add details with colored pencils. 

I still have 64 and a half pages of foam left. Any suggestions?


Imagination creates reality.
~ Richard Wagner

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Sunny Day

True friendship isn't being inseparable, 
it's being separated
and nothing changes. ~ Unknown

My bestie, Julie, was in town visiting her mother, so we grabbed breakfast and some coffee.

After breakfast we decided to go to the beach for a walk. I took a wrong turn and we ended up wandering around a small old cemetery on Signal Hill. Most of the graves were from the twenties and thirties. I was struck by how most of the people didn't live very long lives. It wasn't unusual for people to have died in their forties or fifties.

 It wasn't a particularly pretty place. It hasn't rained in months upon months.
You can see the oil pumps in the background... but it was quiet and peaceful.

 Someone had left food and presents on this little girl's grave for the Day of the Dead.... El Dia de los Muertos.

Some of the names were little children, with sayings like "Our Little Cowboy" and "Our Darling"
This one read simply, "Sister"

This stone was for a"woodman of the world". 
I'm thinking mine might have a pair of scissors.


Thank you, Munhollands, for the nice bench where we sat and talked for an hour, solving all the world's problems. I am so happy to be alive. 



“Look at everything as though you were seeing it 
either for the first or last time. 
Then your time on earth 
will be filled with glory.” 

~ Betty Smith

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Operation Salad Jar....

We're all about the manias here at Casa Del Aguas. Whether it's guitar building, costume making, painting, paper toys or cooking, we have a tendency to throw ourselves into new things with the wild abandon of Mister Toad.  Somehow, we all ended up with little inner voices that say, "I bet I could..."

So I when I saw this post on Pinterest on how to make Mason Jar Salads, I was transfixed.

It's a great tutorial. After reading it I wanted to try this with all the single minded demanding of Veruca Salt. I wanted salads in jars and I wanted it now.

So I bought five mason jars, washed them, bought a bunch of veg and started filling...

 The first couple jars I filled with balsamic vinaigrette, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, fresh basil, cucumber and lettuce.The dressing sits on the bottom of the jar until you are ready to eat, keeping the salad crisp. Then you can either shake the jar up and dig in or tip it into a bowl.

I filled two more jars with poppyseed dressing, grated carrot, red bell pepper, green peas, and lettuce.

So thank you for the tutorial, Karen at My Not So Simple Life.  Here they are, lined up like little happy greenhouses in the fridge. Next I want to try a cilantro dressing with chickpeas and roasted bell peppers. I was going to do a couple of bacon and spinach salads but someone ate all the bacon that I baked this morning. (Gives the Boy the stinkeye.)

Oh well, next time...

What salad combinations would you suggest?



PS If you want to follow me on Pinterest, here are my boards...


--> "If we all did the things we are capable of doing  we would literally astound ourselves." – Thomas Alva Edison

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sewing Party!

Getting ready for the Long Beach Comic Con.... The boy and his friend spent the evening sewing costumes. I'm so proud of them!

 They made three robes. They are going as Organization XIII from Kingdom Hearts.
 The Boy was assigned to ironing duty and needle threading.
 Sewing Shoulder pads.

I finished my brown jacket. Not half bad, if I do say so. Total cost = less than twenty bucks. I still need to learn so much about sewing. Next project is a tee-shirt.

Tomorrow I'll post picts of the gang dressed up.

Good times, people, good times. :-)


Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, 
                        What?! You too! Thought I was the only one.’  ~ C. S. Lewis

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sewing Mania Continues...

 Don't be afraid to attempt something new.

 Remember, it was amateurs who built the ark.

 It was professionals who built the Titanic. 

JoAnne Fabrics had a ninety nine cent sale on Simplicity Patterns so I snagged a couple of new patterns to try. I'm going to practice a bit more before attempting my Opera Coat design.

I'm going to attempt the jacket. It's a boxy kind of shape so I made a few modifications. I lengthened is a couple of inches (to cover my backside) and I'm going to add toggle buttons so I can close the front. I'm also going to add buttons on the 3/4 length sleeves. I bought the fabric at an upholstery warehouse, three yards times six bucks = 18 dollars... not too bad. I think the whole jacket will cost less than 25 bucks depending on what kind of buttons I buy. (Or maybe I could figure out how to make some buttons...)  It's really interesting fabric, a gold with a grey blue under weave. It should go great with jeans and a scarf. I may have just enough leftover to make a hat.

I'm curious to perhaps try the pants just to wear around the house. The pattern has a super simple basic elastic waist. I'm thinking they might be nice in a soft linen with a drawstring waste and maybe a slight flare to be more of a bootcut.

Here's a pict of me wearing my first sewing experiment at the Mission Viejo Reader's Festival. I ended up sewing the button holes by hand because I couldn't figure out how to do them on the machine. Oh well, one more thing to learn. :-)

So what new things are you learning this Fall? Any sewing tips most welcome.

Best thoughts,


PS If anyone missed my Opera Coat design on Facebook here's the sketch... it's based on a photo of a vintage pattern from I've redrawn it from the photo and now just need to get the file enlarged at Kinkos or Office Max. More later!

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~ Sylvia Plath

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall is finally coming! Time for Pumpkins and Sewing!

The wretched heat of September is finally gone. (I hope.) And Halloween is right around the corner. My mom was my adventure buddy today. We stopped by Tanaka Farms to pick up some veg. They have a giant corn maze and pumpkin patch. I love these fall colors...

 My mom is 81 and pretty much game for going anywhere. She is the most amiable travel companion you could possibly imagine. She art directed the photos.
 It was crazy packed with kids all running around feeding goats and jumping off hay bales.

Afterwards, we went and ate lunch at Ruby's over looking the lake in Woodbridge. Then we dropped in on my sister's place and gabbed for a bit.

We finished up with a trip to the fabric store. Joann's Fabric is having a 99 cent Simplicity pattern sale.  I went completely bonkers and bought five patterns.

I haven't sewn myself a piece of clothing in thirty five years and never very into it. I was more of a woodworker, quilter and embroiderer. But last week decided it was time to take up sewing clothes again. Right now I'm in the middle of sewing myself a black crepe jacket. Who knows how it will turn out?

I'm perfectly Hobbit shaped and finding clothes that I actually like is pretty much impossible. Most bigger sizes have huge ghastly prints, colors not found in nature, no shape other than boxy and unflattering necklines. Plus, women's sizes cost more than regular clothes. I shake my fist at you shopping mall! If you won't sell me a decent outfit for under a hundred bucks then I'll make it myself!

So, wish me luck with my new mania.

Here's what the black jacket is supposed to look like.... I've got a lot of Haunted Histories booksignings and presentations coming up and I'm hoping it will turn out nice enough to wear.

Next, I'd like to make something like this.... 

Or this... (fake fur would do just fine)

If you could make anything... what would you make?


"Take your pleasure seriously." ~ Charles Eames