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Sea House Conservatory, in progress, February 2019

The removable Sea House Conservatory plexiglass and faux iron beam roof is assembled. It is supported by iron pillars and wood siding painted N-C16 Midnight Stroll by Clark+Kensington. I made new finials from wooden beads and toothpicks.

Brackets join and support the faux iron roof beams

Where the two corner beams met the center beam and roof ridge there was an inelegant gap, so I cut bolted iron brackets from two layers of black card stock, to reinforce both the roof structure and the illusion :)

Wheelie at the fireplace end of the Conservatory

The fireplace and hearth underwent yet another color change. I wanted something more working/utilitarian looking, less living-roomy. Picture the chaise draped in reference books and aprons and a seaweed drying rack hanging from the rafters.

Sea House Conservatory leaded window design, 3 of 11

Turning my attention now back to the many windows, cutting the original kit grid mullions out of the frames with a Dremel. Tedious. Then sanding, painting and fitting the cut leaded designs into the frames, front and back. Oh, and finishing (but not mitering) the outsides with 1/16-inch square trim. Ugh.

Pacifica sunset, between storm fronts, 15 February, 2019

We’ve been getting breaks between rain storms, glimpses of the sun, and some beauty clouds.

Ruby, 20 months, shopping in her sister’s vest for her mama’s birthday present

I spent a long weekend in Santa Cruz with my daughter and younger granddaughter Ruby, while her papa and older sister Maddie were in Lake Tahoe getting Xtremely snowed on. Ruby’s choice of outerwear was her sister’s vest. Ruby on the runway.

I like me. Print this out and hang on your refrigerator, lest you forget

Maddie, who turns six next month, is in Kindergarten. Her mother shared some pages of the journals the children keep. The first remarkable is that upper and lowercase writing is still being taught — yay! So for Maddie, already skillful in capital letters, this declaration represents challenge, learning, practice. And then the everything else: the sentiment, and the exuberant, joyful self-portrait. Perfect expression, I’d say.

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I can’t compete with polar vortexes or 37 feet of snow — nor do I wish to — but it’s a bit chilly, so I made a fire. Wheelie came out to approve the primal nature of warmth and goodness.

These are my <3 colors

There’s a storm blowing in.

Yes, the ocean loves me

Bolstered by a double cappuccino, I chanced a walk on the beach. Observe my chilly, stubborn fingers.

Of course I got rained on and walked super briskly back to my car, and blasted the heater.


Work on the Sea House Conservatory continues also briskly, yet slowly, thoughtfully. That’s a thing, right? This photo was mid-January, when I had finished a Kris Compas chaise lounge kit, in a fine cotton canvas trimmed in black and cream piping. And yes, that’s a Cynthia Howell Victorian birdcage and table, finished in multiple coats of flat black spray paint. Of course almost everything has changed, and I could not be happier.

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Sea House Conservatory leaded glass front doors, in process, 2018

2019?! For me this is beginning to require a lot of mathematics. For this I am very glad, because consider the options?
Above are the new Sea House Conservatory leaded glass front doors. The conservatory has more of a celestial, sun and planets design, whereas the Sea House Sea Rise Pavilion, below, is all about surf froth.

Sea House Sea Rise Pavilion greenhouse addition and remodel, 2018

I cannae help that I’m the same designer, and that all my structures are connected in long time, in location, history and circumstance. And that they’ve all been built using salvaged parts of the now venerated Sea House Pleasure Pier and Estate. Oh, what a time and place to be actually alive and doing something than whenever that was!

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I finished gluing the painted tiles to the pattern for the Sea House Conservatory main floor.

Stoic Albie helped keep them flat, as Stoics do.

I then spent a lot of time considering how best to make the floor fit the base and carry over to outside the walls in a way that pleased me. 

If I was a cat, this is how I might look pondering options.

As part of the solution, from quarter-inch birch ply I built a two-inch base and painted it medium grout gray. And — not because I want to relive the 1980s and feature wall faux finishes — I sea-sponged on a lighter warm gray. Mostly because I didn’t want to stare at a flat gray box. My building process involves a lot of staring.

Eventually, the weather/temperature/humidity cooperated and I was able to spray two good coats of matte sealer on the floor tiles prior to grouting.

Also got a few more coats of satin antique white on the fireplace. (Built from this Houseworks Deco fireplace.) Here it is curing in the late afternoon sun.

Gluing down the sealed tiles to the base. It will might make more sense in a few days when you see the whole idea. Are you really, really sick of seeing pictures of these tiles?

Then here’s Scarlett sitting next to me on the front deck yesterday, watching the sun go down (and grooming). (Her, not me. I was sipping a glass of delicious Double Brut IPA.)

This is my current design inspiration for conservatory decor. It is a Cycladic terra cotta vessel from 2000 BC — that’s a long time ago — found on Naxos. I’m smitten with everything about it: the spiral waters, fish, the sun, or maybe a full moon? (From Art of Crete, Mycenae and Greece by German Hafner, 1968, public library.) 

A last peek at the conservatory in the night studio, with the standing walls. For now.

I’ve been working on a landscaping project on the side of the house under the sunroom add-on. The soil is compacted and full of rubble, and I’ve been putting down cardboard to suppress what weeds do grow, and adding top soil, compost and worm castings. There’s next to no direct sun, so I’m transplanting hardier succulent cuttings to see what will survive. They get a little leggy reaching for the light, but they’re doing all right. A few months ago I noticed what looked like a wee tomato plant ?! at the back of the area, evidently self-started from the compost. When it put out flowers I was charmed; what hope and vigor this plant has! And then the other day I noticed it had made a tomato! A single heirloom. In December! It’s like a miracle :)

And finally, here’s one for your reference files. Look at the beautiful rust pattern and colors on this cast iron plancha, sadly left out in the rain next to the BBQ. (Left behind when our neighbors moved, it was already warped, but was still serviceable for outdoor cooking.) We’ll see if I can bear to scour it clean, or if it joins my collection of Things That Are Rusting.

Doesn’t everyone have one of those?

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I added more pattern sections to the tile floor template.


To facilitate a smooth transition between tile colors, when I began to run low on the first set I glued them randomly further out on the template to integrate with the as-yet-to-be-painted new batch of tiles.

Using the same paints as before, I splattered up a new sheet to cut into tiles.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a working idea for the back fireplace wall, so I can alternate experimenting on that with setting floor tiles.

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I painted a couple of sheets of 11 by 15-inch 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper with washes and splats of neutral gray, tan and yellow oxide acrylics, then pressed them flat between two drawing boards weighted with books.

The tile pattern and grout lines were refined through several test cuts and pasteups. I added a 3-point corner radius to the tiles to suggest age and wear.

After a few more test cuts, I loaded the painted watercolor paper and began cutting tiles. Because this paper requires three passes of the deep cut blade for each tile, I used masking tape on the edges to hold the thick paper to the cut mat to ensure adhesion. (Lessons learned through bitter informative experience.)

I’m gluing the individual tiles to prints of the pattern layout showing the grout lines. The process is far less tedious than I anticipated, a pleasant surprise. It *may be* that I won’t have to actually add grout after they’re all assembled and adhered to the subfloor. I plan to add one final light gray wash and some delicate speckling to the whole floor to unite the separate assemblies. And with pressing and a coat or two of matte varnish… we shall see.

The final tile floor won’t be put in place for some time — so much painting to do! — and the several ideas for its total design still floating need not be finalized at this point. Which is good, because I’m still kind of all over the place, design-influence-wise. Right now I’m trending from Art Deco back to Bauhaus, and how that might all fit in with the larger Sea House story, sea level rise, and a crow named Clary.

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There is so much to appreciate in this drawing, presented to me by 5-year-old Maddie. No hand turkeys for that girl; a peacock is more compelling. The avian’s boisterous tail, for one, is a breakthrough in both interpretation and technique. Vibrant life radiates in the rich purple, effortlessly confident strokes of the wings and body. Its feet hold firmly to the bottom of the page. Not least is the pathos of the bright pink worm; its expression reminds us that outward beauty is not a sure sign of good will. Be inspired.

I had my first opportunity to walk outside today (!), along (what remains of) the paved Manor Bluff trail, and even on some hard-packed sand atop the bluff. It was breezy with rain-moist air, and felt so good. Another milestone in my recovery, almost eight weeks post-op.

I’m still somewhat working from my bed top, but have made progress in cleaning the various surfaces in the studio proper. Sad and ridiculous, I know, but just what is. It’s like I’m growing up all over again.

The other half of the conservatory is in rickety dry fit, and I’ve decided on a layout and also that this will be the new (former) home of the small local business, Modern Miniature S___ & Sundries, est. 1921.

It of course had a different logo (and maybe name) back then. Backstory, in media res.

I’ve given a great deal of thought and research to the floor, and have arrived at this pattern. Still undecided between watercolor paper or egg carton for the pavers.

Here’s a closer approximation to the tonal contrasts. The interior walls will be a warmish white, probably with Art Deco-y botanical stencils on the lower panels.

Here’s the floor pattern with the top grid removed. I’m torn between simplifying the amount of work it will be to cut and lay the more intricate pattern with the simpler design.

Current thinking is to break the rigidity of the more complex pattern with setting “whole block” units randomly into the design. The amount of work required is not appreciably less, but the overall effect is more pleasing to my eye.

As always, your input and reactions are welcome, for yay or nay or… other. Lively discussion encouraged! (I’m still not getting out enough :)

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Seven weeks post op, and recovery continues. I’m walking without a walker or cane, going up and down stairs, and weaning off oxycodone use. The labs monitoring my blood supply making are coming back better than expected. Last week I was cleared for conditional driving, which means I can start swimming at the community pool very close to my home. Yay and go me.

I live just south of San Francisco, on the coast, and the smoke from the wild fire some 150 miles north has been very bad, with air quality advisories to remain indoors. This is the afternoon sun over the obscured horizon and ocean. My heart aches for the people and animals and the unimaginable losses they are enduring.

Fortunate to be safely indoors, I am beginning to feel curious and coherent enough to make stuff again. Here is an exploration around scaling the paper succulents up to 1:6 (on the left, nope). The middle example is what would be 1:9 scale (uh, maybe) and on the right is the existing 1:12 scale (magic). It was a good exercise to get thinking again.

I played a few iterations with a wet molding technique on the leaves, seen here with a 1:9 scale succulent, and learned a bit about the nature of cardstock. Again, nope.

Scarlett found her soulmate in my husband’s studio.

And then the factory second conservatory kit(s) arrived. Even though I have no room.

Scarlett at least approves.

The front half in dry fit. (Keli helped solve a critical assumption error I had made on the roof.) I have spent the last two weeks or so happily researching, ideating, sketching and going through my considerably disorganized collections of accessories, materials and building components. My biggest challenge now is to get some work surfaces clear in the studio so I don’t have to work on my bed any more.

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What happened was not anyone’s fault. It was not because of what the surgery team, or the hospital — or I — did or did not do. It was more just a clusterfuck of normal, acceptable and carefully calculated risks gone awry. Two weeks post-surgery, I ended up back in the hospital, via the emergency room.

I got some new bracelets and a gown, a mid-century scratch print in pale blue, gray and teal. I’m pretty sure we had the same fabric as curtains in our house in Santa Clara when I was a kid.

Here I was earlier in the day, patiently healing away, legs elevated to combat the cartoon-like swelling in my feet and legs, memory foam pillow held over my stomach with just the right amount of pressure to ease the mild, persistent nausea, likewise, ice pack on brow to numb the headache.

Unfortunately, inside my body was bleeding inappropriately and I was feeling inexplicably and increasingly crummy. Fortunately, my daughter, a nurse practitioner, was with me that day and recognized that something was seriously wrong. She coordinated with my doctors and we hied ourselves to the ER.

I wound up losing half of my blood volume and developed severe anemia (though it took eight hours of testing in the ER and two more days of various hospital tests to arrive at this diagnosis.)

I was sad and frightened and angry and very uncomfortable that long first night, and Wheelie came out to keep me company. Also the hospital had shitty wifi.

After ruling out no embolisms, transfusing two units of blood, determining the internal bleeding had likely stopped, that my shortness of breath was getting longer, that there had been no damage done to my heart when it was trying to maintain me with half a blood supply, and that all other systems were, um, regular, I was released back out into the world.

I don’t think home has ever looked so welcome.

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Greetings from the other side! All the things went, and are going, very well! I took this silly hair picture to make Maddie laugh, and to feel connected. It’s a big ol’ dose of reality. I’m sharing it here to illustrate the relief I feel, and also because I think I look a bit like a vampire. Between the old reconstruction surgery scar on one side of my semi-smile, and the mildly different set of the recent tooth implant on the other side, there could totally be fangs in there. I am also taking a lot of prescribed medications, as you might expect after getting both of one’s hips replaced. And the reflections in my glasses is very 2001, yes?

The photo order is going backwards in time, and there will be NO medically graphic images or details. There may even be no order in the photos at all, because it doesn’t even really matter. Everyone skims. And I only spent two nights in the hospital anyway (!)

Downstairs in Surgery Waiting Lounge (Pre- PreOp). The first bracelet and assimilation codes. And a hair tie to fiddle with endlessly.

The curtains of Bay 32 in PreOp. There were very many conversations going on in all directions and dimensions. I had a good long while to study these curtains, trying not to hear the very many conversations and the wheelings of things.

I got a new gown in a muted foulard, and more bracelets. Then came the long afternoon of surgery. Everyone on the team was witty, attractive and kind. Some of the best moments came toward the end, waking from the anesthesia (spinal epidural) in an ecstatic dream. Brian and I were in our house, only there were no floors, just expanses of bright clouds and blue skies. Because of the no floors, we had to fly everywhere. And we did, flitting and soaring like birds, holding hands, and you know how great it is to fly in your dreams! The feeling has stayed with me.

The hospital is on a hill in already hilly San Francisco; I had a private corner room with lots of windows and views of the Bay and a eucalyptus grove. There was also this pole — a cross between a mechanical droid and a bird feeder — that held mobile machines, miles (kilometers) of tubes, and bags and canisters of fluids and secret spices, to which I was kept very attached.

Comfortable and accommodating as it was, I was so stoked to qualify for early release from the hospital. I had to pass a series of suitability tests, including fitness, stamina, answering odd questions, and spelling “world” backwards. Everyone was proud and congratulatory. And then Brian got me the hell out of there.

I set up my well-stocked MedBay in and around the Modern Miniature Succulents + Sundries set — this is not all of the potions — mostly because it is amusing.

First breakfast at home with my new hips.

Of course because all pets are strictly and for very good reasons forbidden from being on or near the Recuperator’s bed, they are constantly skulking up here.

You can probably guess who the most egregious is.

But she is also far lighter in weight than Albie, so… I don’t know. Just that I’m very happy be home, with a clear path and help for recovery. The road has risen with me :)

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