A few weeks ago, my former boss passed away unexpectedly. He was a bright sunny person all the years I knew him. After I got past the initial shock, I knew I had to honor him by adding him to my wall. Now when I go outside, I see his smiling face and remember all the good he did while he was here. He will be missed but will also have a place on my wall and in my heart.
I used various types of tile here. His hair and eyes are black penny tiles from Lowes. His face, floor tile from Home Depot. His glasses were strips of glass tile which do not smash well. For those I had to drag my wet saw from the shed and carefully cut the glass in strips. All the white parts were donated tile from a friend who was cleaning her garage.
Overall, I think it looks enough like him to bring me joy when I see him up there.
I think it’s fitting that he rests by the California flag, the Coronavirus 2020, and the Hope Sunset heart.
I’m at a crossroads with my wall. The area I can see from my patio is full. I now have to stand to my left to see all of it where the corner of the house is. To the left of the wall is a tree I don’t want to tile behind. I could tile up the wall on the hill, or against the back wall but I’m worried about water from when I water the plants. At this point I think I’ve decided I’ll continue the wall even if it’s beside the house and I can’t get a picture of it all at once. That’s what video is for.
For today though, I’m posting about my take on the California flag with its symbolic bear. One thing I learned pretty quickly into this project is that drawing bears is hard. Here are the first few steps I took. As you can see I wasn’t off to a promising start.
With determination, this finally all came together. All told it took about two hours the first day, and about fifteen minutes the next day for the grouting. First picture is the end of day one with no grout. When the project was done, I used black grout paint to make the bear’s white of his eye smaller. I sprayed the whole thing with grout sealer the third day and hoped the paint would withstand the heavy rain (and even hail that looked like snow on the other side of town). It worked out fine. I used a variety of tiles this time, from Dollar Tree broken plates to donated tile from friends, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Habitat for Humanity markdowns.
Final pictures are of my trusty tile companion Granola. This was from another project but she’s always by my side and deserves a shout out.
A couple of weeks ago, we went to Ojai with some friends. These are the only friends we see since the quarantine, and generally we go to each other’s houses and cook or get takeout. Indoor dining has been closed for nearly year now with only a small break in between. The governor allowed limited indoor dining briefly but took it away just as quickly. Since it was a beautiful day we decided to take a Sunday trip somewhere besides our homes.
Ojai is beautiful and scenic and filled with cute shops and pretty parks. After a long time of walking (with our masks, of course) we stopped to get takeout food. We ended up at a trendy, cool place called The Nest. We stood in line for a bit before we realized we could order online. If you go there, order online and wait for food. The line is long and moves slowly. We brought our food to the park down the street.
Being a vegetarian surrounded by carnivores, I don’t always get the best food options out, but this place was FANTASTIC. There were so many choices on the menu for meat eaters and plant eaters that I couldn’t wait to try something. I decided on Avocado Polenta Toast. The website lists the ingredients as: jalapeño polenta toast, smashed avocado, kale, quinoa, crispy chickpeas, pepitas, hemp seeds, pomegranate seeds + almond garlic dressing. It was one of the best things I’ve eaten in years so I set out to replicate it at home but with ingredients that were handy, and in an appetizer, finger food format. Basically I changed all the ingredients so think of their menu item as inspiration for what I made. You can change any ingredients to taste more like theirs, or to your liking, but mine is a simple, quick recipe that was devoured in minutes, both times I made it. I have no doubt The Nest is making things from scratch, but I prefer easy and “Semi-homemade” wherever possible.
Without further ado, here is the recipe.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. I used my convection setting. If you use Bake, it may take a minute or two longer.
-Spring mix or any greens, You only need about 1/4 of a cup. Cut them in pieces with scissors or a knife.
-One large or a couple of smaller avocados, softened
Package of guacamole mix. Split in half. I used this brand but any basic one will do.
Lemon Juice. I use the bottle as it’s easier.
One egg and 1/3 cup milk per the Jiffy cornbread instructions. I used coconut milk because real milk makes me sneeze.
Make the cornbread as instructed, just the mix, one egg, and 1/3 cup milk. Mix together and add half a package of the guacamole mix. Spray a cookie sheet (I use a liner) and spread out to about 1/2 thick. Based at for 10 minutes or until the center bounces back when you touch it.
When they’re done and cooled, use a circle cookie cutter (I used a wine glass) to make as many circles as you can. Set them aside for later.
Mashed up the avocados and add a little lemon juice to keep from turning brown. Refrigerate until you need this.
Snip up the greens and mix in a small bowl with pumpkin seeds (and anything else that appeals to you). Set aside.
Preheat the over to 400 again. These are best warm so do the step two part of the cooking shortly before you plan to eat them. They’re fine room temperature for a party or gathering but warm, straight from the oven are best.
Spray the cooked circles with cooking spray. I used Olive Oil spray, and sprinkle generously with ground sage. Cook for five minutes until they are crisp at the edges and get golden brown.
Spoon the avocado/guacamole mixture on top of each one, add another few drops of lemon juice, and top with the greens and seeds. Delicious!
I couldn’t let the year go by without acknowledging the two things that took over and altered everyone’s live in 2020: COVID-19 and Dr. Fauci.
When COVID-19 started to become a household word in March 2020, like many people, we watched the nightly TV broadcast of President Trump and Dr. Fauci. There were other speakers like Dr. Birx and generals and other health experts, but Dr. Fauci became the man our country turned to for the truth about the status of COVID-19.
All our lives were turned upside down, and as we’ve wrestled with one restriction after another, one loss after another, the root of it has been this darn virus. Since my wall is an homage to everything in my life (that I can relay in tile) plus some other things that are just fun, like the dolphin, I had to give it and Dr. Fauci a spot on my wall.
I made his glasses from a Christmas tree hook since they’re abundant in our house right now. I used from silver penny mosaic tiles, some glass sparkly strips Home Depot, and some broken plates from Dollar Tree. I also used some square green mosaic tile I bought last year.
I added his mask and glasses after I grouted as they were an extra layer. I need to go back and fix his arm. It’s a tiny figure and at the time I didn’t notice his elbow. Still though I think it’s a good depiction of the virus and it’s communicator, trapped in a frame that I hope means it will be contained.
I’m always looking for new things to add to the wall. I was watching The Last Tango in Halifax, the most recent season, and in one of the episodes someone painted a giraffe on the wall of a barn. So I figured why not put a giraffe on my wall.
I had a rough idea of what giraffes looked like, bright orange with brown spots. But when I looked at pictures online many of them were tan with brown spots. Since my art isn’t meant to match reality 100% I decided to do what i could with the tile and broken dishes I had on hand.
My daughter reminded me that giraffes have purple tongues (to prevent sunburn). Though I made the tongue light purple, it was hard to see until I grouted and added some black grout paint.
I left the sky around the trees bare for now. I want to make a spectacular sunset and maybe a word from tiles, like love or hope. In the close up picture it’s a little easier to see her purple tongue. She loves eating the leaves.
This was made from lots of broken tile, broken Dollar Tree plates, and by her feet a bag of tile stones I got from the Habitat for Humanity Re-store. The tree branches are pieces of floor tile that looks like wood. I generally don’t use this because it’s porous but it was just right for this and I’ve learned more about wiping grout off immediately that when I started.
The very hot, then very windy, then chilly weather kept me from my wall for a bit but I’m back on track. Look for more tile scenes soon.
We’ve lived in this house for six years. Over that time, the neighbors to our left have had several different family members and friends stay with them, and always a lot of activity. Though we have a six foot concrete wall, their yard is elevated on their side so it’s only three feet. This means that we have very little privacy, and over time the kids next door have made a habit of leaning on the wall, calling over to us, tossing things over the wall, etc.
About a year ago they bought a trampoline. The kids of varying ages use it almost constantly. Since the six-year-old boy is one of the biggest fans of our side of the fence, and continually wants to chat, and is always complimentary about the new items on the wall, I told him I’d put him and his cousin and the trampoline on the wall. We had a couple of weeks of very hot weather but once the heatwave broke, I began the project. First the sketch, then a couple of pictures of the project without grout. For the poles I used glass mosaic tile leftover from my kitchen project a few years ago. For the light blue, I used broken tile from Lowe’s. The little pieces were smashed plates from the Dollar Tree.
Finished project, which isn’t completely lifelike but certainly captures the essence.
I’ve started to fill in some of the empty spaces in the main block of where I’d intended to add art. I added two small birds which were inspired by something I saw on Pinterest or maybe Instagram. For these, I smashed up Dollar Tree plates and some clearance patterned tile from The Home Depot. They’re not all that exciting but filled in some gaps.
The next bird was bigger and a lot more involved. My daughter called and said she was rereading Jonathan Livingston Seagull so I was inspired to make him. He’s got a lot more gray than Jonathan but I think it turned out pretty well. When I was done, and it was grouted and dry, I added some pieces of seaglass and shells. I had planned to write something with broken tiles in the sky but instead made a heart-shaped sunset. This was made mostly with broken plates and ceramic tile.
The red and black birds left me with some small spaces to fill in. I added a smiley face and a little Tracy. I’m not that thin in real life but I may as well memorialize things with an idealistic slant.
Finally, the wall so far. I’ve run out of projects I’ve finished so the next one will be brand-new. The little kids next door are forever bouncing on their trampoline. I see their heads and bodies over the wall and they yell over and say hello. I told them I’ll put the trampoline and them on the wall next.
Friday we got a new puppy, Granola Barr, so I’m sure she will make her way up there soon enough too.
My boyfriend recently parted with his beloved 2003 Nissan Frontier. It was time as it had about 315,000 miles on it. It still ran well but he bought a newer version last year and didn’t need two trucks. It still had a lot of life left and he wanted someone else to be able to use it. It was only fitting that I memorialize it on the wall.
Around that time we were visiting our best friends, Mike and Jackie, and I noticed their RV in the yard. I took a photo and the next day I began planning to add that to the wall.
It was a lot of work, and in the end I decided that adding the diagonal stripes wouldn’t have the same flow as it does on the real RV.
You can see our friends above their RV. It’s been really fun to fill the wall with all the relevant things in my life, my mosaic time capsule.
For this I used penny tiles, broken plates, and some leftover pool tile that Mike (seen above in stick figure) gave me. I also used glass tile for the windows.
I found some shimmery blue tile at Lowe’s and thought it would be perfect to make a mermaid on the wall. This started off great. I also had some metallic bars, that to me looked like gold bars, and some penny tiles that looked like doubloons. Here was the original concept.
Because it was complex, I did a chalk outline on the wall first first.
Then I added in the tail. So far so good.
Even the ungrouted mermaid looked pretty good, I thought.
But thenI had a problem. The lavender tile was really hard to see in the surrounding blue sea. I made the unfortunate decision to paint the grout black. Lol, obviously this was a mistake. It looked like a black walrus with red hair.
So I had to go back and grout over it, with white grout. Eventually I repainted the joints in the arms so they were visible. I changed the eye color to blue and in retrospect I should have left them black. I noticed too that the treasure chest looked like a cardboard box.
The final result is below. I rounded the treasure chest, added more to the bottom, and did the best I could with the little mermaid.
I think it’s important to show how much you can mess things up in a project like this. When everything is seen together, you can get away with the small stuff.
Though I didn’t add the pets to the wall all at once, eventually they all made their way. The first one I attempted was my Mini Schnauzer, Anna. I was excited because as I made her likeness on the wall, I was looking at an old picture of her on my phone. When I finished though, she looked more like a raccoon than a Schnauzer. As I’ve filled in the areas around her, she’s starting to look more like a dog. As of today, she’s 15 1/2 years old and still just as wonderful as when I got her at 4 months old.
The next pet attempt was Sasha, my 21 1/2 year old Siamese cat. This was shortly after I discovered grout paint, so I colored her face in. Somehow the mosaic ended up huge, compared to everything else. Since this is a creative endeavor, merely to keep my brain busy and cover the gray concrete, I decided to enjoy the giant Sasha mosaic.
Next came Mabel, who came out just about how she looked in real life. We only had Mabel for a short time. Two years ago I went outside for a walk and saw a woman with her on a leash. The woman said she’d found her running in the street and thought someone may have dumped her. I estimated her to be about ten years old, which a chip later confirmed. She was a pretty dog, well behaved, and very itchy. I said I’d take her in until we could find her owners, since the woman was going to have to bring her to a shelter. The owners never appeared. Mabel loved the other pets and instantly took charge as the pack leader, guiding them along the way as herding dogs do. She had a big personality and we loved her very much for the time we had her. About a year in, she developed heart disease. Despite lots of vet visits and, by the end, twelve pills a day, plus allergy shots, eventually her heart gave out. I’m happy that I see her image every day on the wall.
Next came Lily, our Yorkie. Like Anna, Lily came with me from Massachusetts. She passed away about a month before Mabel, also from heart failure. Lily had health issues for many years but she was so sweet. Losing two dogs so quickly was heartbreaking and I’m glad I added them to the wall when they were still with us. She was about 8 1/2 when she passed away.
Scruffy was the last mammal entry. We got Scruffy about five years ago when we innocently went to PetSmart to get cat food. It was Pet Adoption Day and Scruffy was with her foster sisters, in a small area in the center of the store. She was ten months old when we got her and had been rescued from a kill shelter. She’s a great dog but has really been affected by the loss of Mabel and Lily.
Tortuga was my boyfriend’s turtle long before I was in the picture. I know the mosaic looks nothing like him but turtles are hard to make. Tortuga came from a street fair when he was about the size of a silver dollar. He’s about twenty-five years old and the oldest pet.
I hope you enjoy a glimpse into my life, and seeing my pets.