Portrait Session… for a Stuffie

A good friend runs a lovely website called hello, Wonderful. I follow it on Facebook and find lots of interesting ideas that I never seem to find the time to act upon. Last week she linked to a blog that linked to a blog… well, you know how it goes. Eventually we get to Willowday and this awesome idea. The idea is that you will capture a beloved stuffie in a photo before life turns that stuffie into fabric parts.

We just did this project last weekend. Bear is a dear, pensive looking friend and my son and I both loved taking his picture.

bear portrait

I edited the photo to be black and white and had it printed at 12 x 12 at a professional photo printing lab (Dickerman Prints for those in SF). To frame up nicely, I cropped the photo tighter using their online tool. I had the largest Bear portrait printed at 12″ x 12″ mainly because we already had a frame that size. It was super useful as my original photo was not a standard print size.

I printed 4 photos. 2 of Bear and 2 of the boy. For now the framed photo is hanging over our fireplace. I had a lot of trouble getting a good photo of the final project (lots of reflections happening off the glass) but trust me that it looks great.

bear portrait


The others I had printed at 8″ x 10″. I think I have a couple of frames to use but I might hunt around a bit before committing. This is my favorite that I’m thinking of framing up next.

Bear and Boy

Mini-Break on the Russian River

So I think I’ve mentioned that work has been crushing my soul lately.  Not to whine about it too much, but, yeah, it’s sucked.  After two straight weeks of working every night and weekend, I took a long weekend to reconnect with the family. My plan was to go to Palm Springs and spend some time sitting by a pool with a book and a beer (I dream BIG).  But, that weekend was the same as Coachella.  This did not fit into my lazy weekend plans, although I’m sure there was beer drinking to be had.

Instead we rented a house on the Russian River in itsy-bitsy Duncan Mills.  The house had a fully enclosed yard so the boy could run around without any fear that he would be swept away down the river.  A tall white gate separated the yard from the riverbanks.

April can still be pretty cold under the redwoods.  The river was high and moving quickly so we limited all our kayaking to on land

or viewed from the beach.

The woman who was actually kayaking in that water was amazing.  Jenner is where the river hits the ocean, creating swirling waves in both directions.  The wind was strong and cold – you had to be a pro to be out on that water.  Clearly, she was.

We did a little hiking in Armstrong Woods.  It’s so great to be somewhere where the path is well defined and flat.  We could let the boy run and play without worrying that he would land off trail in a patch of poison oak.

It was wonderful to spend some time with my boys.

Beautiful light through the redwoods

You can hide in a tree.

I love this shot… this is life with a 3 year old. A blur of fascination.

Yogurt and Granola

Weekends have a new activity around here.  The little man is now big enough to help with cooking and our favorite thing to make is granola.  Most mornings we eat granola with yogurt for breakfast and, in my humble opinion, most grocery store granola is yucky.  We have been playing around with different recipes but for the last month or so have settled on this one.


1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 a stick)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup dried cranberries

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Mix first 4 ingredients in a big bowl. Melt the butter in the maple syrup.  Add salt and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir.  Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 20 min stirring and turning once in the middle.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Stir in cranberries.


Next up… the yogurt. This is based on instructions from Sunset Magazine (Jan 2012) with some adjustments provided by friends and family.  It’s hard to really call it a recipe since it’s 3 steps + time.  But, man, are the results delicious


1 pint whole milk
1 1/2 tbl. of yogurt you like

Special equipment – a candy thermometer or special magic MIL abilities

MIL way: Bring milk to a boil and remove from heat.  Let milk come down in temp.  If you are my mother in law you will magically know when the milk has reached the right temp (she is amazing).  Really, when I talked to her about this process these were the instructions she gave “Let it cool until it feels right. Just put your hand on the side of pan see if it’s the right temperature. Hmm… someday I should measure that but I’ve always done it this way”.  Like I said: magic. For those less talented in alchemy, I use a candy thermometer and waited until it hit around 110 degrees.

Friend’s way: Put milk in dutch oven and put the whole thing in a 200 degree oven until it comes up to 110 degrees.

Next, in a small bowl mix a tablespoon of a yogurt you like – I used half Strauss Farms, half Fage – and mix it with 1/4 cup of the milk, making a loose mixture.  Mix that back into the warm milk. Pour the whole thing into a container.  I used glass jars the first time and an empty plastic yogurt container the second time.  Glass jars are prettier. You need to keep the milk a little warm so the cultures can do their thing.

Friend and MIL way: Put the containers in the almost cool oven and let them sit overnight.  The oven will keep a little heat.

My (and Sunset’s) way: Put the containers in a themo lunchbag with a couple of jars of hot water.  8 hours later you have yogurt.

The tangy-ness of your yogurt is related to how long you leave it “growing”.  I don’t like my yogurt super tangy so I take mine out at a little after 8 hours.

Ok, I know it takes a lot of time but you don’t have do a lot in the middle.  Just let it sit and you get a super delicious breakfast:

“Hiking” Joaquin Miller Park

We have been trying to get out more this year and do more local hiking (can you tell)?  Now that we are out of the baby stage and the young man can walk on his own for at least a little bit it’s a lot more fun.  I picked up Best Hikes with Kids: San Francisco Bay Area at Books Inc.  We are slowly working our way through the East Bay section.  However, on this day, we didn’t get to the hike because the park itself was so cool.

There are fountains

and stairs

We did a little bit of off-roading looking for dinosaurs

See the nice husband holding my camera bag?  Love.  The view from the top was beautiful and hard earned – the boy stopped walking half way up and required “shoulders”.

Pumpkin patch

Last week the boy and I went to the pumpkin patch.  This was not your typical urban (or suburban) patch next to a mall with a big bouncey slide (although those are fun, too). This was Ardenwood Farm, a part of the east bay park system.  Ardenwood is a “19th-century country estate including a beautiful mansion and its elaborate Victorian Gardens. Today the Historic Farm exhibits agricultural practices from the 1870s to the present, demonstrating the transition from horse-powered to horsepower farming.”  They also have a kick-ass pumpkin patch.

Plenty of good pumpkins for sitting on.

Good wagons for pulling.

A very narrow hay maze, too big for momma to fit through with a backpack, camera bag and pumpkin.  I literally blocked the whole path.  Small children huffed at me because they couldn’t get around.  Yeah, embarrassing.

And the coolest hay pyramid you have ever seen.  The day we went was easily 85 degrees so we were both sweating and pink by the time we got to the top.  Totally worth it.

Victory is ours!


After our mid-October 85 degree outing, we indulged in burgers and milk shakes at In-N-Out.

I am never leaving California.


Last month we introduced the young man to camping.  Well, “camping”.  Fake camping.  What is fake camping, you ask? Fake camping is all the good parts of camping (nature, hiking, campfires) without the bad part (sleeping on the ground, being dirty).  Luckily a mere hour and a half from our house is Costanoa. Fake camping mecca.  We stayed in an adorable tent cabin with a real bed (and heating pad).

Went to the beach on a cold, cold summer’s day

found treasures

took lots and lots of pictures.  I love low fog and gray days.  I especially love it when using the Hipstamatic BlacKeys B+W film with the Helga Viking lens.

We played in the water until our toes got numb.

On the way back from the beach, we stopped at the Swanton Berry Farm U-Pick field and picked up our own dessert.

We hiked and played:


and enjoyed wifi… just like nature intended




blueberry pie