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Happy 89th, Dad

My dad, Gene Otter, in front of the farmhouse he grew up in on 7th Avenue and Missouri in Phoenix, AZ in 1933, on his 2nd birthday. Look closely and you can see nothing but farmland, orchards and mountains behind him to the north.

My dad’s 89th birthday was last Saturday. Just as Easter was strange and different, so was this celebration. It was a far cry from the big Speakeasy Birthday Party we threw him for his 80th birthday. The photo below with Marissa and her Papa, is one of my favorites from that day. Happily, I was able to find a way to make this year special with surprise guests.

My sister-in-law, Teresa, and her four sons all live in Idaho and Washington state. They moved there in the early 90’s, several years after she and my brother divorced. I arranged for all of them, along with Marissa and Jeff in Austin, to Zoom with my dad. His first experience with Zoom, was only the week before, on Easter Sunday when I brought him his food and he was able to see Marissa and Jeff. He was so happy and touched that everyone came together for this birthday, even if only virtually.

Since we still aren’t able to gather, I set up a social distancing dinner on his front patio. Connor and I brought the large swivel/rocker chairs from the back patio to the front and then we used a tape measurer to be sure that those two chairs, along with the loveseat and couch from the front were all more than 6-feet from one another.

I brought everything else from home, including the dishes, plastic drinkware, flatware, napkins, serving pieces, water pitcher, individual “tablecloths,” which were actually oversized napkins, and the vintage TV trays you see below. I scored those at Sweet Salvage several years ago. They are really quite hideous, but oh so nostalgic.

While the Zoom call was going on, Dave was picking up the birthday dinner I’d preordered from Beckett’s Table. It was the homestyle type of food my dad loves; Salad with Seasonal Vegetables, Meatloaf with buttery Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli, Dinner Rolls with whipped butter and Carrot Cake for dessert. I’m only sorry I didn’t get any photos of it, I was too busy eating! Although I was able to snag a photo from the restaurant’s Facebook page. My presentation was not up to this level!

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April 24, 2020   6 Comments

more projects

Thank you, Cheryl and Sloane, for your comments on the last post sharing what you’re doing to keep busy. Please send me a text with photos, I’d love to see and share your projects! In the meantime, I’ll continue telling you all about mine.

I was going to share how I not only cleaned out the refrigerator/freezer in the garage but also the two indoor refrigerators. And then I looked back a found that I have not shared with you that in early January, I purchased a new commercial refrigerator for Harmony Boards. Once I’d made the purchase, I needed to have it delivered. The store wanted $250 for delivery! Um, no!

So I came home, cleaned out and measured the space and called Cody Howard to see if he had time to pick it up for me. Of course, he said yes. (This was 10 days before his accident in Canada) Cody hooked up his work trailer and retrieved it. Connor came over to help us get it in the house. It was a tight fit all the way around; it barely fit down the hall and through the doorway into the office, and the top cleared the ceiling fan by less than an inch.

We prevailed and I could not be happier to have it.

It holds custom boards for grazing tables. And it holds up to 10 Harmony Board boxes ready for delivery on busy days. The kitchen refrigerator could only hold two of these boxes.

Which explains why I have so many huge ice chests in the garage and blue-ice packs in the garage freezer. I still need those for summer and large deliveries. But at least I don’t need to use them any longer on a daily basis to hold boards as I am creating them in the morning for afternoon deliveries.

The next project – polishing silver. Hate it but it has to be done.

I bought this egg cup set at Piccadilly Market at St James’s Church in London in 2007 when I took Marissa to Europe for the first time. I used the tarnished egg cups on their own to hold flowers for my Easter table. (the red arrow pointing to where one of the cups sits, shows how tarnished the set is)

I decided to polish the entire set before I put it away. One thing always leads to another and I ended up polishing all day long.

After all the effort, I treated myself to a fancy breakfast the next day. We all need to treat ourselves and use the nice stuff during this time. Really all the time!

Next up, actual home maintenance projects. Even though the entire exterior of my house was painted two years ago, it is already peeling in areas. I spoke to my friend, Jennifer, who lives in Illinois and owns Luxe Cabinet Finishes and she told me that the house wasn’t primed properly. Not by the most recent painter I had used, but by the one or ones before that. Great, that means it’s up to me to fix it. First, I peeled and then sanded off all the peeling paint.

Then I painted on the primer. This is the backside of the house, facing east.

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April 22, 2020   2 Comments

keeping busy

I would LOVE to know what you all are doing to keep busy while staying at home. On March 13, four days before I closed my business and ten days before our Arizona governor mandated a shutdown, I posted this on my personal Facebook page:

Now, when I said I’d wear face-masks all day, I didn’t mean or even imagine the ones we are now wearing when out in public. I meant the moisturizing type. I wasn’t as smart as it might seem when I predicted a run on face-masks. But I have been doing all those other things, including returning to this blog, obviously.

First on my “to-do list” – I took my time and spent 3 days cleaning out my garage.

The photo above is the before and the photo below is the after. You may not see a big difference, but trust me, the difference is huge!

When I pull my car in, I can actually get out on the driver’s side without tripping and squeezing around ladders, ice chests, storage bins and a bike.

I spent another day cleaning out the garage refrigerator/freezer. It was nearly impossible to take a before photo since things would fall out when the doors were opened. I brought bags and boxes of chocolates, baking candies and a dozen different variety of flours to my niece, Raina, the baking goddess. Now the bottom draw of the refrigerator holds plenty of flours, cornmeal and the like. The drawer above that holds chocolates, the next shelf has more flours and nuts and the remaining shelves hold additional baking items, water, sparkling water and beer. As for the freezer -you’ll find the usual items like meats and soups plus a whole bunch of Harmony Boards ice packs and loaves of bread that are used as props for grazing tables. The point is, it’s cleaned and organized, so YAY!

The next cleaning adventure was the Harmony Boards shed. Oh my! This should have been the first project because …. oh my! Above is before. Below is after.

The ability to open the door and actually walk in and be able to walk around the center island – well it makes me ecstatic. I am so grateful to have gotten this done before the temperatures rise.

Once my outside projects were done, it was time to focus on the inside. These cubbies hold wine and spirits. You’ll have to trust me when I say that I don’t have a problem. Anyhow, this area didn’t need to be organized much, but it desperately needed to be cleaned. It is a dust collector if there ever was one.

All of the bottles came out and were wiped down. The cubbies were wiped out and these great magnetic lights from Costco were put in before the bottles were replaced.

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April 21, 2020   5 Comments

Blursday the fortyteenth of Maprilay

Under normal circumstances, the title of this post would make no sense whatsoever. But these are not normal times so it makes perfect sense.

While I was looking through my photos to post my next recipe, I went down the rabbit hole of screenshots I’ve taken in the month since I shuttered my business and began staying home. I’m sure your cell phone camera reveals much of the same.

Some are hilarious, some are serious and others are thought-provoking.

There are so many moments in life that I reminisce about my children and when they were young. When I was a young mom and how beautifully hectic and crazy it all was. But I have to admit, I could not be more grateful that this crisis did not occur 15 years ago when I had kids at home. There are advantages to being an empty nester!

I am happy to report that I have not been in the “fear zone.” Probably because I live alone, otherwise, I may have been there every now and again. Currently, I go between the “learning zone” and the “growth zone” and places in between.

LOVE THIS because it is dangerously close to the truth. No, I love it because it is the truth!

As I type this, my name is Tomato Soup Sabercat. What is yours?

This HAS been my Quarantine Routine once or twice, although the hours are more like 5 am – 8 pm. Bedtime comes early around here!

Too many of these apply. I have Bingo several times over! You’ll see my completed Bingo card at the end of the post.

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April 16, 2020   1 Comment

homemade no-sew masks

After weeks of watching a few people in grocery stores with masks on and thinking to myself, “Come now people, settle down,” we are now being told to wear cloth face masks while in public. Who feels stupid now? Yeah, this girl! Imagine me rolling my eyes while shaking my head slowing back and forth. I know that “those in charge” didn’t want to create a run on masks like the run on toilet paper, but they could have told us to use homemade cloth masks from the get-go. So much I could say here but I’m going to keep my thoughts to myself.

I did find two 3-packs of N95 masks in my big 3-day garage cleanout that I unknowingly have had there for more than a year. When I bought a table saw for Harmony Boards, I guess I purchased the masks too. Although I never opened the packages. That is pretty much how I operate; buy something on a recommendation and then fail to use it. It paid off this time, I was able to drop them off at my local fire station, giving them to the people on the front lines who actually need them. I had no idea that the masks sold at the hardware store were N95’s.

Back to the cloth masks. For decades, we had an annual 4th of July Pool BBQ Party. I knew that in the stash of RWB decor I owned at least 50 stars and stripes bandannas. You can see a small stack of them in the top right corner of the photo above. And I knew that they were buried in my second holiday shed. Yes, I have two holiday sheds. (Please don’t judge, I’m feeling more fragile than usual.) The large shed holds Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas and the smaller shed houses St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, Easter, Cinco de Mayo, 4th of July and miscellaneous large scale entertaining items, such as chafing dishes, extra-large baskets and galvanized buckets along with seasonal outdoor pillows, etc.

Saturday, I cleaned out that shed and found the bandannas. Victory is Mine! (Fragility is swiftly errased, so judge as you please.)

I ran them through the washing machine and started making homemade cloth masks for family and friends.

I ran out of hair ties but I was able to assemble 20 masks while I wait for my Amazon hair tie delivery. (Update: I checked on the Amazon order after writing this post and the new ship date was 4/29. Canceled that order and went to Target and found ties there. So I’m back in business.)

My BFF, Peggy, styling one of my masks

Here is one way to make a homemade cloth mask (there are many out there, especially if you know how to sew – I do not!):

For each mask you’ll need:

  • 1 bandanna (A bandanna or piece of breathable cloth that is around 21-inches-square works best.)
  • 2 hair ties
  • First, wash bandanna(s) and then be sure to wash each time you return home after using.
  • Wash those hands. “Happy Birthday to you…”
  • Lay the fabric on a clean disinfected surface.
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April 6, 2020   No Comments

My fabulous veteran contractor, Cody Howard

Happy Veteran’s Day to all the wonderful veterans who have served. I thank you for your service. I especially thank a veteran who is close to my heart, Cody Howard. Cody is the oldest son of my dear friend and colleague, Kim Howard. Former Marine Sergeant Cody Howard served from 2002 – 2006. His service took him to Fallujah, of all the frightening places in the world! Thank you, Cody, and thank you to the entire Howard family who sacrificed during those sleepless and anguish-filled years.

I promised an update on the new bathroom that Cody put in. The glass shower doors won’t be installed until later today or tomorrow, but since I want to honor Cody today, well, today is reveal day.

It’s amazing how whenever I go to take photos, the cats show up and want to be the stars!

I love it all, but one of my favorite features and a complete surprise is the shower floor drain. Isn’t it beautiful how the drain disappears into the tile? Thank you, Cody, for adding that extra-special unexpected touch!

The porcelain wood-like tile floor, shower wall tile and shower floor tile is from Floor & Decor. My son, Connor, helped me pick it out.

Cody’s wife, Chanté, turned me on to the fabulous mirror with a shelf from Target.

Chanté also suggested I look at Wayfair for pendant lights. I need to get myself to Home Depot and get Edison bulbs without the yellow tint though.

Speaking of Home Depot. That is where I found the vanity and the shower and sink fixtures.

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November 11, 2019   2 Comments

Halloween happenings! But…

The thing is, nothing Halloween related is happening over here. I have put up not one decoration because remodeling is happening instead. So not scary unless you consider dust on every surface scary… which, actually, it is. So, in fact, the only thing “Halloween” here is Halloween Harmony Boards.

Halloween Harmony Board

When I bought my home on November 10, 2017, I had about a dozen remodel projects in mind. Here they are in order of importance to me, which translates into the order of completion.

You can click on the links above to revisit past projects.

The current projects are the 3rd bathroom flip and the new countertops. The photo above shows the old counters. It also shows the door that leads to the bathroom that is being flipped. It is between the two bookshelves filled with cookbooks. If you look closely, you can just make out the opening and framing of the door.

Below are the “before” photos of the bathroom.

I honestly think the tiny sink was meant for a trailer. The shower never worked properly and the glass doors leaked. And of course, the entry door was off the breakfast room which was my biggest pet-peeve with it. Not to mention that it is basic and boring as hell.

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October 31, 2019   5 Comments

5 winners

Many thanks to all of you who played along with the 10th Blogiverary Contest!

Congratulations to our five winners. If you recall, to win you needed to follow Harmony Boards on Instagram and get two of your friends to also follow. So it seems appropriate to share the winners with you by showing their Instagram home page header.

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August 26, 2019   1 Comment

10th Blogiversary

Ten years with 2,037 posts! That is nearly 204 posts per year – and yes, I know, that calculation required the most basic and easy math. But that adds up to a big bunch of typing, talking, thoughts, cooking, memories, recipes, stories and photographs. I believe this occasion is worthy of a contest! Before I share with you exactly what it is that you have a chance to win and how you can win it, how about a few fun facts from the last 10 years?

Although I’ve had my blog since August 16, 2009, the platform I have it on, WordPress, reset the statistics in April 2013. I’m not sure how or why that happened but I no longer have the stats from August 2009 through March 2013.

With that in mind, here are the stats I have for LesPetites Gourmettes.com:

The most visited post: February 3, 2014

The recipe in that post is for Homemade San Tung “Dry-Fried” Chicken Wings. These are the absolutely scrumptious and addicting wings from San Tung Restaurant which is in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco. That is where my darling daughter, Marissa, first lived in when she moved away after college.

  • Total comments: 5,782 comments left by you wonderful people. Thank you for each and every one! Comments are what keep me motivated to keep on blogging.
  • The most commented-on post: “Lost” from 2011 This post is about the death of my younger brother, Andy. Thank you for all the kindness, compassion and comfort you provided to me during not only that sad time but throughout the ups and downs of life that I’ve shared here.
  • The person who has commented the most: Marissa <3
  • The most visited year: 2015
  • The most visited month: March 2015

OK, enough with the stats, let’s get to what we’re all here for … CONTEST TIME!

PRIZE: Five (5) Lucky entrants will join me for a Harmony Board Class. You will learn all the tips and tricks on how a Harmony Board is made. Plus each winner will make a mini-board of her/his own to take home and share, or not share, this is a judgment-free zone!

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August 16, 2019   1 Comment

A “tail” to tell

Yes, I’ve used the word TAIL in place of TALE in my title for a reason that you will soon understand. I’m going to lay out the details of this tale in a way to make it easy to follow along, at least I hope it will be easier to follow along in this way.

First, let me show you the layout of the exterior of my home that is pertinent to the story. Here is the built-in grill from the backside. The two openings are there for any possible propane gasses that may leak, hopefully never, to safely escape and dissipate.

This is the front side of the grill with the access door to the underworkings of the grill propped opened. Make a mental note of the high-top round table on the far right end.

Here is the shed that houses all the items in my Miscellany Shed, a business that never really took off, but which still physically exists.

When the shed was built at my new home, the ground wasn’t quite level, so one end is propped up with bricks. So, yes, now there is a crawlspace or living area underneath for creatures of a certain size. Not ideal, but that’s the way it is.

This is the gate to my front courtyard. It has a Ring Doorbell that delivery people and guests are supposed to ring when they arrive, but at least 80% of the people, come in and ring the doorbell by the front door, making it nearly useless as a doorbell. But as a camera, it is very effective, sometimes too much so.

And sadly, yes, the sign I had made is 100% necessary. Even with it hanging there, delivery people (mostly FedEx) still leave packages sitting outside the gate for all to see, thereby leaving them at risk to be stolen. I don’t get it, but that’s another tale to be told.

OK, now that you have the lay of the land, I can tell you my story.  It was about 9:30 last Wednesday morning, May 22nd. I had the windows open because of this weather! Crazy cool and wonderful for late May, seriously wonderful! Anyhow, since the windows were open I could hear what sounded like an animal in distress. I couldn’t tell what type of animal but it was crying and it sounded as though the crying was coming from my backyard neighbor’s yard.  They are winter visitors, and had already left for the summer, silly them! I grabbed the stepstool from my pantry on my way out the back door to look over the fence into their yard.  I looked but saw nothing, then the crying started up again and it was coming from behind me, in my yard. I looked around and saw the tinniest sweetest orange kitten standing on its hind legs trying to get back into the holes in the backside of my grill.

I picked her up and went around the front side, figuring that if she wanted into the grill, she probably came from inside there. I opened the grill door, and sure enough, there were two more sweet little black and white kittens in there.

I put Miss Orange back in and then all three kittens ran away to the far side of the structure, around the corner to the round table part. Now I could not see them. Dang it!

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May 28, 2019   6 Comments