(I thought I’d go ahead and journal about this since I want to remember it.)

Back in January we started talking about day trips to the parks up in Orlando for spring. We have annual passes to Universal this year, so we knew we wanted to go there. Plus, we haven’t seen the newest Harry Potter addition (there’s two of them now), and Gracie is an obsessive Harry Potter fan (Hufflepuff! I’m also Hufflepuff, and Tom is Ravenclaw- we’ve been sorted by the sorting hat…) so we knew that’s the first place we would go.

We’re about four hours from Disney and Universal by car, and since it’s not the easiest thing to find a pet sitter for all our crew *plus* someone to tend the garden properly (it’s a bigger deal than it seems and one day of bad watering, or no watering, can cause tons of damage…) it’s easier to do day trips to the parks than plan vacations where we stay there.

Plus, honestly, after one full day in any park, you kinda just want to come home, crash in your own bed, and spend the next few days recovering. A full day in the park is not relaxing – it’s SUPER fun, and exciting, but not really relaxing. So getting to come home the night of a park day is really blissful. It’s like a mini-break.

Anyway, stuff came up all spring. Finally, around Easter, I set my mind to us finding a time to go. I watched the crowd calendars, and the weather, and after two weeks of rain, humid, hot weather, we hit a good day.

We woke Gracie up at 6am- I told her to get dressed, and she told me it was too early for school, and then I told her we were going to Universal and she flipped out. She got dressed (complete with her Hufflepuff school tie) and we hit the road.

Four or so hours later, with a few stops for gas and facilities, we were at the park.



I didn’t realize that the parks (there’s two of them at Universal- Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios) closed early that day- 6pm. So we didn’t have much time. But the park attendance was super light, so we knew if we skipped a leisurely lunch, we’d do fine.

To be honest, I like it SO much better when we don’t stop for lunch. I hate eating in the fast food restaurants in the parks except for a rare few exceptions. Imagine eating in a giant (kinda gross) warehouse with people crammed in all sides of you. While you eat, people push past, trying to find an empty table.

I can see why it’s necessary, especially larger families that need a break from the rides and need a cool place to sit and gather themselves for a while, but when it’s just a small family (two of which are vegetarians, one of which is an insanely picky eat [me], and one of which isn’t too interested in giant meals [Gracie]), it’s easier to not take the 45 minutes for the counter service and waiting for a table. We just pack sandwiches in a little cooler and purchase drinks and snacks all over the park. Find a shady place with a breeze and not many people and it’s the best quick meal you will have in a park.


Anyway. We started out in Islands of Adventure, so we could do the original Harry Potter part of the park, and then take the Harry Potter train (which is also a ride/attraction) over to Universal Studios and spend most of the day there.



We actually stopped and did the little People Mover thing in Suess Landing, which is a kid-friendly part of the park devoted to Dr. Suess. There’s lots of tiny rides in there, but Gracie is getting a little too big for them, and we were shorter on time than we’d like, so she was okay with just doing the Sky High Trolley Train Ride. It’s not a big deal, but if you like taking photos, or just want an overview of the parks, I really recommend it. I always like to start out on that ride for that reason.

After that, we headed back to Hogsmeade, which is the original Harry Potter park.




We poked around in the shops, Gracie bought some much-saved for and much desired Hufflepuff gear (headband, pin, emblems, stickers, etc.), and then we rode the two original Harry Potter rides. One, Forbidden Journey, is a full-blown attraction, and it’s amazing. The other is a medium-sized coaster, Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a little intense but very short. Good for older kids. Gracie does NOT like coasters, but she does enjoy the smaller ones.



While we were waiting to get on Forbidden Journey, a very sweet cast member (also a Hufflepuff- all the cast members in the harry Potter themed part of the parks are sorted into their houses and wear their house uniforms) told us a bit about the new Harry Potter ride, and suggested we also check out “The Mummy” ride when we were at the other side of the park. This will come up later on in our day…

After doing the Harry Potter stuff, Gracie got a glass of frozen Butterbeer (kind of like a butterscotch milkshake)- a lot of which I drank, to be honest. It’s REALLY good. Like, REALLY good. So good. (okay, enough…)


Then Gracie stopped to pick out another wand (she has Hermione’s, this time she chose Luna Lovegood’s) and we tried the new interactive features around the park. There’s several spots in the parks where you stand with your wand and incant a spell with certain motions, and interactive features will turn on in front of you.



Then we boarded the train at Hogsmeade station that takes you to the other park on Universal property- Universal Studios. That’s also where the new Diagon Alley is.




The train was excellent- it’s an actual train and in the area where the windows are, they show different Harry Potter adventures in 3-D. 15 minutes later, we were at the other park- themed for London, with a secret entrance to Diagon Alley tucked in.




I gotta say, they have done an AMAZING job with this part of the park. The London street face is lovely, and then Diagon Alley is *inside* of it, full of shops from the novels (Grace was especially wanting to see Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and was thrilled when we found it was there), and a lot of it is in the shade, which is fantastic when you’ve been in the sun all day. It’s a good place to spend time.







There’s also another amazing ride back there- Escape from Gringott’s. We rode that, and then got some Butterbeer flavored ice cream, which is basically soft, creamy vanilla fluffy ice cream with butterscotch swirled in. (Again, allow me to try and express just how GOOD Butterbeer-flavored anything is. And I don’t even love Butterscotch.)

After that, we headed back to the “real world” of Universal Studios and did a few things around the park.


Men In Black was a definite for us- it’s like Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, in that you board little cars and aim your blaster at various alien targets throughout the ride and try and score as many points as you can.


Then we went around to The Mummy. Gracie was a little nervous, but ready to try it. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that The Mummy is definitely an in-the-dark coaster. Like, full-on. I would compare it to Rock-n-Roller Coaster at Disney. It was Gracie’s first coaster besides Space Mountain (which she does not like) and it shook her up. I felt *so* bad. She was a little pissed off (quiet and irritated with us) for a few seconds but then we let her choose the next ride and she recovered. We went into the bathroom after the ride and she told me that she was going to go on school Monday and tell all her friends about it, so it became her own little personal legend. She’s proud of it, but she probably won’t ride it again.

For the next ride, Gracie chose “Disaster”, which is sort of this half-hour movie making experience. They basically walk you through making a movie, and at the end, they screen the movie and different audience members are in it. Lots of audience interaction and funny stuff. She loved it, we got chosen for the movie at the end, and it was really fun. Great way to end the day.

The park was closing as we finished Disaster, so we headed out. Gracie stopped to get a Gold Frog, which she regretted not buying when we were in the Potter part of the parks, but it turned out to be for the best since it’s a solid chocolate frog that would have melted if we’d carried it all day. Bonus was that she got Helga Hufflepuff’s card inside, and she was thrilled about that. She also tried a Churro for the first time, and loved it.


She’s normally not a big junk food eater (she’d easily choose water over soda, never finishes a serving of ice cream,  , so when she asks for treats at the parks, we don’t say no.

We got to the car, headed home, and by 11:30pm, we were all showered, unpacked, and in our beds.

Lovely day- I can’t wait to do it again!

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a ceiling in a shop at Diagon Alley (at Universal Studios)

a beautifully decorated ceiling in a shop at Diagon Alley (at Universal Studios)- I want this in my house!

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
Okay, the truth: Spring kicked my butt. Seriously.

It wasn’t any one thing in particular, it was just a whole lot of everything happening at once.

I have this thing I call “moving parts”- I usually use it to describe small tasks that don’t take a lot of time and/or effort, but that have a lot of different aspects to them so they aren’t simple and straightforward. These tasks tend to stress me out more than other things because there’s a lot of little things to keep track of. Like, for instance, laundry. Laundry isn’t much of a chore, and the time spent actually doing it isn’t a whole lot, but the whole process of laundry has got a lot of “moving parts”. There’s gathering laundry, sorting laundry, getting it into the washer, waiting for it to finish being washed, moving it into the dryer, waiting for it to dry, folding it, putting it away. I mostly hate the in between parts. And then it just piles up again. Same with cleaning the bird cages- it’s a task that literally takes about five minutes, but it feels like a lot more because there’s so many tiny little parts to it. It’s not, like, one smooth motion.

This spring felt like one big session of too many “moving parts”. Gracie stuff, Tom stuff, family stuff, health stuff, life stuff, home stuff. Every day, a zillion different little things popping up and it felt a little like Whack-A-Mole trying to keep up with things. Nothing HUGE, just lots of little things, all different times, different levels of importance. And things switching every day. I’m a total creature of routine. Also, we’re big on not overscheduling, and I work hard at keeping life very flexible because we often have stuff come up and I like to have time and space built into our schedules for that, but this spring was still busy.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, and people who know me will be surprised to hear me say this, but I am totally looking forward to summer. Seriously. The reason this is surprising is because I normally don’t like summer. It’s because of one thing- the weather.

I know everyone else is looking forward to a few months of warm weather and sunshine, but down here in the swamps of Florida, summer is basically one giant storm with brief periods of blazing hot sun in a hazy, grey sky. It’s almost like winter, just really hot and humid. Or life on another planet. I’m a blue-sky-and-a-breeze kinda girl. Nothing makes me happier than waking up in the morning and throwing open the doors and windows and letting the fresh air rush in. I spend a whole lot of time outside every day (gardening and swimming) so when the weather is not great, it really has an impact on how I feel.

So hurricane season is a long period of iffi-ness for me. When people complain about the long winters, I totally get it because that’s how I feel about summer.

But this year? I am just so excited to have some stuff off the schedule that I am actually looking forward to summer. I am looking forward to not having our time punctuated by a schedule of activities. There will still be things on the schedule, but the days will be a lot more flexible, which I know will be a relief.

I’m trying not to make any sort of grand plans or attach too many hopes onto the summer. I start thinking “oh, I’ll use it as a time to replenish and relax and catch up on stuff…” but then I feel myself just getting stressed at the thought of attaching any sort of expectation to it at all that I make myself shut down that train of thought.

Bottom line? I need to relax. Chill out. I don’t know what that looks like, but it has to happen. I say this constantly, but I’m hopeful sooner or later maybe I’ll figure out what it means.

My health is so glitchy right now, and I know that a lot of it is because I’m not taking care of myself like I should be. Every single time I shift things around and force myself to take better care of myself, something comes up and I’ll need to focus on that for a while, and then BANG, my body harshly reminds me to get back on the program. So, I need to force myself to put my health back as a huge priority. It’s been this cycle all spring.

I usually don’t have issues with myself as far as maintaining a baseline of self-care, so this is all a struggle for me. Honestly, it’s pissing me off. Part of it is that the demands of my health have really changed in the last year. I know a big part of that is that I’m now 40 years old, and things really do change as you get older. Everything from your skin getting dryer to aches and pains going from “I must have pulled something, whatever, no worries” to a genuine fear of “is this pain going to be something I deal with for the rest of my life? Oh my God, is it going to get worse?” I used to roll my eyes when my parents and grandparents talked about stiffness and frozen joints, but now I totally get it. Like, you pull a muscle, and suddenly it’s very likely the pain from it might not go away, but get worse. What *is* that?! It just sort of pisses me off, to be honest.

Usually I’m at peace with my health situation, but these last few months (pinched nerve stuff, some muscle weakness) it’s making me so frustrated. But then I get a reality check/dose of perspective and go back to understanding how it has to work. No room for temper tantrums, just do what you have to do and go forward.

I’m learning the new rules and figuring out the new “operating instructions” for my body at 40 years old. It’s tricky, so I’m trying to have compassion for myself. It definitely took me a long time in my 20’s to “get it” and learn how to take good care of myself. So I know in time, I’ll figure it out. It’s just that I got really, really good at knowing my body in its 30’s. Expert level. I knew what every twinge, ache, restless night was. So I guess I’m bummed that I have to start over again.

I feel like I’m a stranger to myself, in a way and I think it scares me a lot more than I will let myself truly recognize. I feel like my body at 40 is a puzzle and I’m a year into it and I haven’t really learned much at all.

Actually, I have learned one thing: I have to make more time to sleep. The whole six hours thing doesn’t work anymore. I definitely feel 100% better when I get more sleep. Which means I do more during the day, which means I rest better the next night, and it’s a good cycle to have in place. But then I ruin it by staying up ’til midnight one night because I didn’t get enough time to get anything done during that day, or by drinking too much caffeine in the afternoon and being up all night, and I break the cycle and have to force myself to start again.

I am also realizing I need more “down time”. Meaning, time when I am not with people or having to worry about house stuff or other people. It feels incredibly selfish, but it’s the truth and I’ve been avoiding it. I just don’t know how to solve this one. Whenever I needed more time in the past, I used to get up way earlier in the morning but now I can’t do that- I need the sleep. So it feels like my days have gotten shorter. And I don’t know how to make up for lost time.

Blargh. I guess you get the idea.

I think it’s a good thing, though, that I realize my health has changed, that the demands of life have changed, and that I need to figure out what’s required of me and then make the necessary adjustments. I’m annoyed about it, but I’m not kicking and screaming and resisting it. So maybe this summer I can work on that, and not feel like I’m scrambling around so much. I guess if you ask me what I’m going to do this summer, it’s that. Figure it out. Make necessary adjustments.


Outside my window…
Summer is here. It’s about 75 degrees when I wake up, and in the 90’s during the day. Storms are starting to roll in a lot more regularly. However, I don’t mind them- right now there’s a good balance of sun/rain and as long as the mornings are clear for swimming and gardening, I don’t mind the storms at all. In fact, it’s kinda nice to have a stormy evening/night. It feels cozy and comfortable to be tucked in, listening to the rain. And I love waking up to sunny skies after a night of rain, with the droplets of water in the grass and trees sort of twinkling (and less watering to do in the garden, which is always nice.)

In the garden…
Unfortunately, the glory days of good gardening weather are long gone, so the garden is sort of powering down for the summer. I lost a few plants in the last few weeks from the spike in temperatures, and now most of the geraniums, petunias, and other flowering plants are sort of barely growing and just staying put. Soon I’ll have to move the ones I want to keep for next season into the shade. I have to water pretty much every day to keep things alive. Another reason I am looking forward to summer- less watering.

There are some plants that are flourishing right now- the shrimp plant, the hibiscus, the passiflora, the plumeria, my orchids, and some of the plants in the shade. I think after several years of having this garden, I finally have a good balance of winter plants and summer plants, so there’s something going year round.

I put in an order for a few plants from Harvest Garden Supply last week to fill in some of the empty planters, so I’m looking forward to getting those. For some reason, I’m totally into Lantana right now, which I haven’t had growing in years. They introduced a variety that is smaller and has larger and more abundant flowers, so I ordered a few more of those just to fill in the gaps and add some color to the summer garden.

“The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon” by Alexander McCall Smith- I’m almost done re-reading the whole No. One Ladies’ Detective Agency series. I’m both happy and sad- happy to move on to other books, but sad because I get a lot of comfort when I’m in the midst of reading a series of books I really, really love.

at this very moment? The sound machine in the bedroom (always set to “rain”) and Tom coughing- he’s got a chest cold of some sort. Other than that, I am SO enjoying the silence. I can’t tell you how much of a difference in every-day-sounds it makes when tourist season ends.

Today I was getting ready to get in the pool and I just sat there and reveled in the silence for a few minutes. It was glorious. Just birds (a lot less of them, but you can really hear them now!) and the palm fronds rustling and that was it. It was amazing. No construction, no leaf blowers, no traffic. Just life.

It’s kind of magical, in a way, early summer… before the weather changes too much and right after the island empties out. I am learning to appreciate it more- despite the hectic nature of the end of the school year and wrapping down of season, there are these quiet moments, still sunny, that I really try to appreciate.

Since the last time I updated, we worked our way through several seasons of great TV: Better Call Saul (so good!), The Jinx, Bloodline…  I think there was something else in there I am forgetting.

Right now we’re working our way through “The Affair” on Showtime. It’s very compelling, but sometimes hard to watch. And there’s no humor in it, which I always look to in order to take the edge off the very dark dramas. But it’s a good enough show that it doesn’t need too much “fluff” to keep it interesting. We’re only on episode five, and I’m interested to see where it goes.

On my own, I’m watching “Outlander”. I didn’t read the books so it’s all new to me. Very refreshing after all the “Fifty Shades” nonsense from earlier this year (as you can tell, I’m *not* a fan. Today Gracie asked me what it was all about, which I had been dreading since the first TV commercials started showing. I am frankly surprised it took this long for her to see an ad for it. I hope I explained it in a way that made sense to her nine-year-old self and made her understood why I, personally, am not a fan. I know there are many, many people it appeals to. But as Amy Poehler so geniuse-ly says “Good for them, *not* for me.”)


A blanket for my dad. I finally finished Tom’s gray cotton blanket, which I had been working on since his birthday back in February. He loves it, and it was made to his specifications (long, narrow, and not “hole-y”, cotton yarn), so he’s super happy, and that makes me happy. Now I’m making one for my dad.


getting ready for bed, so just some decaf iced tea.

Hoping/looking forward to…

getting into bed with my book, hoping for a decent night’s sleep and a good tomorrow.


a trip to the movies (we still have not seen The Avengers, can you believe that? That’s how busy it has been) and hopefully another day trip to Universal Studios within the next two weeks.

Tom and I surprised Gracie with a day trip to Universal a week ago, and it was SO much fun. We decided right after Easter that we would go as soon as the crowds slowed and the weather was nice, so we just kept an eye on the crowd calendars and the weather for a while and we finally got a good day- clear skies, 0% rain, and temperatures in the low 80’s, and low park attendance.

We woke Gracie up at 6am, told her to get dressed because we were going to Universal, got in the car, and we just went. We were home by 11pm that night- we didn’t realize that the park closed at 6pm, so we only had about seven hours there, but it turned out to be the perfect time frame for a day at the park because it was enough time to do a lot of stuff, but not so much time that we were desperately exhausted when we got in the car for the four hour drive home. I’ll post a trip report soon, I think. I want to remember it.

It was so much fun and it was made 100% better because it was sort of spontaneous and loose and we didn’t plan it too much. No anxiety about it- just a day off from life. I want to do more of that, with everything.

As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you have an amazing week. <3

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around here…

21 Apr 2015
geranium in the garden

geranium in the garden

What’s going on around here:
I think this might be more of a brain-dump kinda post than my usual “Around Here” posts.

On Blogging/Online Journaling…
I really want to update this blog more, but I always sort of put it off because I feel like the posts have to follow a specific format, or be about *something* rather than me blathering about what’s going on or what I’m thinking about.

However, I recently read an article about the health benefits of journaling- not only for emotional health, but also for PHYSICAL health. Apparently, it has been shown to help alleviate stress, which helps relax the body, especially if there is muscle tension and nerve pain. My pain levels have gone up recently- it’s mostly due to a pinched nerve in my back that makes my arms and hands ache, especially in the middle of the night. I’m pretty good at tolerating pain, but stress definitely exacerbates it, so I have been hurting lately. Because of my spinal stuff (I was born with Spina Bifida, which is a neurological disease that effects the spine, as well as the nerves and muscles and bones throughout the body), whenever I tense up, it makes whatever aches and pains I have worse. If I can keep the stress and anxiety down, I can alleviate some of the pain.

So, if regular journaling can help, I want to give it a try. Which is great.

…but then I get weird about coming here and just letting off steam sometimes, because it feels super negative and usually those feelings pass after a good night’s sleep. But then I try and remember that this journal (which is what this website started out as- an online journal/diary I kept in graduate school, way back in 1997) is ultimately both a place to document my life – the ups and downs- and a place to work stuff out. So while it’s become a forum for art and creativity and quotes and whatever else, it’s still ultimately my outlet. And it’s okay to use it as that.

You may know we have three parrots – two tiny parrotlets (smaller than parakeets), and a “normal” sized parrot, a Caique named Winnie. Winnie is amazing and sweet and funny and very, very busy. She spends all day chattering and whistling and playing with pretty much anything and everything in her cage when we’re not around and when we are around, she’s interacting with us. She’s a big cuddler- she loves to sort of get into our hands and nestle against us and attempt to groom us and have us pet and scritch her.

Sunday evening we noticed she was being weird about her cage- instead of climbing all over as she usually does, hopping from her branches to her rope perches and everywhere in between, she was just sort of sticking to climbing up and down the side. I thought something in her cage was spooking her, and tried to figure it out, but couldn’t come up with anything. She was eating and talking and pooping and drinking water, so we just kept an eye on her.

Yesterday morning she was acting strange- just not eating or behaving right and she wouldn’t come to us. So Tom called our avian vet practice (which is in Miami, two plus hour away) and they said to bring her right over. So he got right in the car and drove her over there.

Her exam went well, and they took blood and stool samples, and everything looked okay. The doctor said she felt a bit warm and so he sent her home with some anti-biotics and instructions to keep an eye on her.

So the next few days, we’ll be doing that. After the last few years, with Delilah’s passing and Ginger’s back issues (she’s still in isolation in her own room because of her restricted diet and the fact the other cats stress her out) and Milo eating a string and being hospitalized for it… I was just really happy and relieved that Winnie was able to come back home yesterday and we’re able to keep an eye on her here. I just hope it clears up quickly and she feels better. My heart hurts when this stuff happens, even if it turns out to be no big deal. The pets are a really huge and important part of our life, definitely full-fledged members of our little family. When they get ill, and they can’t tell you what’s wrong and you have to depend on vets to interpret it and then give you good or bad news… well, it takes lot out of you.

But it also reminds you what’s really important. Whenever stuff like this happens, it definitely puts everything else into perspective, and all the “unnecessary” stuff  instantly falls away.


… which might be why I have been reconsidering The 100 Days Project.

I did the first two weeks of The 100 Days Project. I spent some time every day working on something related to watercolor, posted my snapshots on Instagram, etc.

This past week was so hectic, though, that I just didn’t *feel* like making myself do anything when Sunday rolled around. When I finally had a chance to get into the studio, which was early evening, I willingly gave myself the day off- when I started the project, one of my personal rules was that the 100 days would not be consecutive, because I knew it would be impossible.

I gotta tell you, that day off from the project felt exquisite. Just coming into my studio in the early evening and not having anything I *had* to do felt amazing. I decided to pull out Gracie’s scrapbook and work on that while I watched Outlander and drank a cup of Mambo tea and had a lovely hour or two just doing that- trimming photos, sticking stickers, looking at pretty paper, and watching my MacBook screen. It felt like a little vacation, almost. I realized I hadn’t felt that relaxed in weeks.

I also realized I want to feel more relaxed in my free time. I don’t want to spend my down time feeling tense, like there is a deadline looming every single day.

Another issue is that I really haven’t done anything creative *but* the 100 Days project in the last two weeks. So while I am super excited about being interested in watercolors again, and not having any hesitation in using them (if I go too long not using a certain medium/material, I sort of forget how to use them and get really hesitant to pull it out because it seems like it requires so much more energy than just taking out something – like acrylic paints – that I am sort of old hat with…) and have already discovered a bunch of new techniques and stuff just from the fourteen days of the project, watercolor isn’t the *only* creative thing I want to be doing.

I haven’t really painted on my canvas or done much of anything else (writing, scrapbooking, even reading blogs or going on Facebook or stuff like that) in the last two weeks. And that aspect of the project made me incredibly grumpy.

As I’ve said a thousand times, as I KNOW this to be true about myself : I am NOT a speedy artist. I take forever and a day to do something that might take another artist a few minutes.

A lot of it is probably due to fine motor control and coding issues – I have a few neurological things because of the Spina Bifida. I got assessed when I was younger and my handwriting wasn’t happening- the tests showed that I see things, process them immediately, but it takes a while for my body to respond to the messages my brain are sending out, such as “write the letter ‘A'”. So often something that might take someone a microsecond takes me a lot longer. Writing (by hand) takes an insanely long time for me. Painting, drawing, etc. So anything that I do with my hands is like it’s on a time-delay, which I am used to, but I’m starting to realize how it might effect the way I make art, and that “quick projects” don’t really ever happen for me.

Also, I am indecisive. I take a long time to make even the smallest decisions. I spend a lot of time considering things- composition, color, shapes, patterns… and that’s just how I am. So while normally this 100 days project stuff might take another artist fifteen minutes, it’s something that takes me an hour or two, even for really simple ideas and “play”.

Since I don’t have much free time to begin with, the fact that this project is taking all that time, plus time away from stuff outside of the art studio, makes it an issue.

I have been agonizing over it a bit, trying to figure out what to do. I want to see the challenge through, and I can see it through. In fact, it would be very easy to just put everything else aside (my acrylic painting, scrapbooking, writing, blogging, etc.) and just focus on that for the next 80 days. (Actually, this would be an excellent summer project. Seriously.) But I don’t want to do that right at this moment- I worked so hard to make acrylic painting a regular part of my life and it brings me a lot of joy. I know if I put it aside for 86 more days, it won’t be easy to start up again.

So I thought about making acrylic painting part of the 100 day project, but it didn’t feel right.

My goal with this project was to get comfortable using some of the supplies I filed away while I was taking Bloom True and then spending months doing acrylic painting on canvas. And that’s happened already, just in 14 days. I got permission to put aside my painting and grab my watercolors and play.

I also thought it would be neat to have a little journal full of smaller, watercolor and water-based art. And that’s started.

So both goals are pretty much in great shape, whether I participate in the project the way it’s designed to go, or not.

I think what I am going to do is this: make the goal to fill the journal (which has 80 total pages) by the end of the year. It will still be about 100 projects, and will take about 100 individual days. I just don’t have to do them consecutively. I can spend two afternoons a week on them, still paint and scrapbook and write. I can post to Instagram when I do a new project. At the end of the project, I will have spent 100 days working on filling that journal.

I think this is a good solution, and it feels really good, but I still kinda feel like a quitter. But feeling like a quitter is a lot less stressful than feeling like I’m running out of time and crushed with pressure. I don’t want art – or the free time I use making it- to feel like that.

The bottom line is that I’m super-excited that I’m using watercolors regularly again. I’m looking forward to learning more as I use them. I really think I need to take a class, so maybe that’s something I can do this summer.

Okay, that’s enough for one post. Hope you are having a good Tuesday. Thanks, as always, for checking in with me!

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Here’s my first week of “The 100 Day Project”. The “100 Day Project”  is basically a 100 day commitment to doing something every day, whether it’s try a new recipe, make a little piece of art (that’s what I am doing), write a little bit, take a photo, etc. Then you share a snap of the day’s progress on Instagram, with the tag “#the100dayproject”.

My project is about making small pieces of art (small enough to fit in an 8″x8″ Kona sketchbook) out of water-based media.

Overall, this first week was pretty amazing. I’m now working with watercolor (and other water-based media: this week it was my tube and pan watercolors, Finetec metallic watercolors, and Gelato watercolor crayons) every day and am feeling so much more comfortable pulling them out and getting them down on paper. For months I have been trying to find a reason and the courage to use them, and now it’s not a big deal at all. For that alone, this project is TOTALLY worthwhile.

The only issue is this: after creating two-three pieces of art the first three days, I now feel like I have to create at least three ATC sized pieces of art per day so that the journal page doesn’t look so barren.

On top of that, I’m spending a lot of time obsessing over every piece. That’s okay for the first week, but it did come at the expense of my painting, and doing a lot of other stuff in my art studio that I have worked hard to create time in my routine for.

So this coming week, I need to give myself permission to make just *one* piece of art per day, if that’s all the time I have. It seems to make the page barren, and doesn’t look as pretty in photographs (*sigh* yes, I care about that- I will admit it) BUT it’s important if I’m going to keep working on this project for the next 93 days.

Anyway, here’s my first week (copied from my Instagram feed, where I post a photo or two of the previous day’s project every morning, hence the hashtags…):

the 100 day project - day 1

the 100 day project – day 1

first day of #the100dayproject – playing with watercolor on some ATC cards with gold acrylic. I didn’t plan it, but I can definitely see the influence of Elspeth McLean’s stones as I look at them now. #100ofChel


the 100 day project - day 2

the 100 day project – day 2

second day of #the100dayproject – I decided to try out some Finetec metallic watercolors I had in my stash. I purchased a set of six a few months ago but never got around to using them. Just layered them on some watercolor ATC cards to see how they worked. (I LOVE THEM) #100ofchel


the 100 day project - day 3

the 100 day project – day 3

third day of #the100dayproject – a happy accident. Spent yesterday afternoon experimenting with using solvent/pigment inkpads as resist with watercolors, which totally did not work. I ended up with five ATC size paintings I really didn’t like, so I cut them up and made them into a collage I actually *do* like. Collage=addictive. #100ofchel


the 100 day project - day 4

the 100 day project – day 4

fourth day of #the100dayproject – After Wednesday’s bout with perfectionism, I decided that I need to force myself to keep it simple, and I did it by limiting the time I work on the project. So I only gave myself 30 minutes – total- to work on the project yesterday, which meant I didn’t have time to screw around and agonize over everything I was doing. I just needed to get my paints out and go for it. I wound up returning to my favorite motif- circles- and experimenting with watercolors, translucency, and layering. I made three tiny paintings on ATC cards. Very relaxing and definitely want to do more of these. #100ofchel


the 100 day project - day 5

the 100 day project – day 5

fifth day of #the100dayproject – I made a bunch of color swatches with Faber Castell Gelatos on watercolor paper (just rubbed the Gelato on paper and went over it with a water brush and moved it around) and wound up cutting them up into triangles and making a mosaic out of them. #100ofchel


the 100 day project - day 6

the 100 day project – day 6

sixth day of #the100dayproject – watercolor circles on ATC cards, with dots made from white acrylic paint … they remind me of sea urchins. #100ofchel


the 100 day project - day 6

the 100 day project – day 7

seventh day of #the100dayproject – The reflection of diffuse morning light on the surface of water. Painted with Gelatos on Strathmore watercolor paper (applied with a brush- so much more delicate and subtle than when directly applied to paper…) . #100ofchel

Thank you SO much for taking a look!

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the 100 day project

09 Apr 2015
my first 100 days project

my first 100 days project

[I wrote this Tuesday and totally forgot to publish it.]

For several weeks, I have been thinking about a new creative project- something to do with watercolors and some of the water-based art supplies I have in my studio but I don’t have a chance to use that often since I’m so focused on larger-scale painting on canvas.

I just didn’t have a spare moment to sit down and make any definite plans- I kept *meaning* to, but then I’d come in my studio and only have an hour or something, and decide I wanted to use that time to work on my painting rather than hash out something on paper.

I just knew I wanted to use watercolors (and a bunch of other supplies related to watercolor – gelatos, inktense pencils and blocks, brusho, inks, stampes, etc.), and keep it small and simple. Use the tiny pieces of watercolor paper and little watercolor pads and journals I’ve collected over the years. I have a weakness for tiny sketchbooks, and when I was doing the whole print thing on Etsy, I bought a bunch of watercolor ATC cards for bookmarks.

So: watercolor/watercolor-esque supplies, small-scale. That’s all I really came up with.

Then yesterday I saw this:

the 100 day project

the 100 day project

I decided instantly that I would do it- the 100 day project. I would (try to) stick to water-based mediums, I would use all the little pieces of watercolor paper I’ve got on my shelf, and I would just *do it*.

Of course, later that afternoon when I finally got into my studio,  I started balking. I wanted to work on my painting and forget the whole idea of a project. But I also knew that this little project might be rewarding, so I made myself sit down, take out some watercolors and some ATC cards, and just mess around.

It was terribly uncomfortable. I had every intention of creating something, some finished piece of work, but realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to happen. I haven’t done anything in watercolor OR freeform in months. It felt very foreign to me. Everything I did I really didn’t like.

I kept going until I made something I was okay with, and once again, reconsidered doing the project. Wouldn’t the time be better spent working on the painting or working on the scrapbook or doing something I really felt confident about and comfortable with?

I was just about to throw the two little paintings I made in the trash and wash my hands of the whole project, but then I happened to look up at my wall in front of my desk and saw a quote I have scribbled up there on a piece of washi tape: “HONOR THE BEGINNING.” I sighed (literally) and followed that advice.

So I took the two little ATC cards, glued them into the 8×8″ Kona Classic sketchbook I recently got (it has lovely brown paper inside, made from recycled coffee beans or labels or something…), jotted down a few details of the process, and called it Day One.

At the end of the project, I’m hoping I’ll have a little book full of random pieces of art and maybe more comfort with some of the materials I don’t use that often. As much as I love watercolors, a the moment I won’t *choose* to use them because my comfort zone is working with acrylics on canvas. So to have something that sort of forces me to get the other supplies out is a good thing.

I think most of all, I want to play. Get comfortable with just sitting down and noodling around without having something really concrete to show for it when I’m done.

I think I’ll post my daily bits of work on Instagram, as per the challenge rules, and then post a once-a-week (or every few days) recap here on the blog. One bit of flexibility I am giving myself is that the 100 days don’t need to be super-consecutive, because I know that there are days when I just won’t be able to get in here and make something. Health stuff comes up, we do something as a family, things are chaotic and I need an afternoon to NOT make art, etc. I want to do 100 days, but my 100 days might take 120 days to complete, if that makes any sense. I don’t want this to become anything stressful.

But I did it. I started. I want to see this through, if possible. Just a chance to create freely, keep it simple, and see what I’m drawn to at the specific moment I sit down to create.

Wish me luck! (If you are doing the 100 days project, too, I’d love to hear about it!!)


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One of the seven (!) orchids in bloom in our kitchen

one of the five (!) orchids in bloom in our house


I know I haven’t updated in a week or so- I just didn’t have the time (or focus) to sit down and articulate any sort of coherent thought. When I had a few extra moments in the studio, which seemed few and far between this week, I mostly touched up my painting. Did a little bit of scrapbooking when I didn’t have time to paint.

It’s the beginning of April and I kind of want to re-focus my general to-do list and take a second look at a few projects and things that I’m spending energy and time on and just re-evaulate/*refresh* everything. I don’t want to spend the rest of spring in this mindset of just getting through each day, getting as much done as possible. I’m not a fan of being *too* busy, and it seems to be endemic to this particular spring. I know some people thrive on full schedules, but it just makes me lose track of time and lose track of life. I feel like a machine when it gets too busy, just sort of spinning around and checking things off a list but not really doing anything meaningful.

I’m trying to be a bit more mindful, especially when things get really busy.

You know when you find yourself in the midst of a bunch of stuff (usually chore-y stuff or paying bills or whatever) and you can’t help but think about all the stuff you PLANNED on doing but can’t get to until the task you’re working on is finished? And then you get into a bit of an tizzy about it? Well, maybe that last part is just me…

I took a class a few years ago called “Awakening Joy” and one woman told a story about how she was going about her nightly routine, cooking dinner, walking the dog, spending time doing her typical evening stuff, etc. and she kept asking herself “well, what am I going to get done tonight? When am I going to do it?”

She finally realized she WAS getting stuff done- lots of it- it just wasn’t what she expected to be spending her entire evening doing. She finally started telling herself “THIS is what I am doing tonight. THIS is what’s getting done tonight.”

I found that story incredibly helpful. It’s a form of mindfulness- be here now, in a way. Just do what you are doing, don’t worry about the next thing, or what you aren’t doing, or what you *should* be doing.

So, instead of worrying about rushing through morning stuff- laundry, feeding the pets, cleaning the bathroom, whatever…- to get into my studio to do what I *planned* on doing, I have stopped and told myself “well, THIS is what I’m doing this morning. This morning I am doing the laundry. This morning I am cleaning the bird cages. This morning I am _____ (insert task).”

I guess it sort of relaxes me because it takes the other stuff off the list, at least temporarily. I guess it’s like giving myself permission to just focus on the task at hand, and spend the time I need getting it done.

I know this can’t work for everything, but I find it super helpful when I get frustrated by small tasks that never seem to end. And I’ve been relying on it a lot.

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Milo headed into Gracie's new room

Milo headed into Gracie’s new room

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
I’m a little in shock that March is almost over. Where did it all go? How is it almost April? I know I said this *last* month, but the weeks are sort of flying by.

As far as the home improvement project, Gracie is now moved up into her new bedroom, so we can cross that off the list. *phew* She’s thrilled. I need to post some pictures.

The floors for the rest of the house are on hold because my dad is in the midst of two cataract surgeries- he had the first last week and will have the second next week. So no sawing floors and installing them with sawdust everywhere for him. In the meantime, Tom is moving himself into his new office (Gracie’s old bedroom), painting the walls, and figuring out the furniture situation.

So things, home-improvement wise, are a little less hectic for right now, but everything is still sort of out-of-place and a little out of sorts. Tom’s working off the dining room table, all the contents of his office are in the sunroom and bedroom closet, and other odds and ends (contents of Gracie’s old room she’s undecided on) are piled about.

I’m pretty tidy and organized, so the piles drive me a little batty. But only a little batty, which means I can stand them. They are mostly tucked away and in the corners. Tom did a great job with that, and I’m grateful for that, since it would have been easier for him to just put them all in one place. But he took the time to try and make it orderly for my benefit, and that was very sweet of him, especially with all he has going on. Every spare second for him counts at the moment.

I’m still a bit stressed out and feeling overwhelmed, but it’s definitely better than it was just a few weeks ago.

I’ve found it really helpful to devote entire afternoons to getting loose ends tied up. For example, last week I took two afternoons to tackle a bunch of things that shouldn’t (in theory) take long, but in reality always take quite a while. Ordering groceries online, signing Gracie up online for spring soccer, looking at school stuff for next year, looking over and paying the bills, clearing off some of the stuff on my desk, etc. Fussy stuff. Stuff that requires forms and routing numbers and running back and forth around the house to check on what we need.

Of course, I WANTED to be painting, but I just sort of surrendered to the stuff that was piling up and decided to give it the time I knew it needed (several hours), rather than the time I *wanted* it to take (15 minutes, which is totally unrealistic). Honestly, it felt so good to get it done and not have to rush through it or put it off some more.

So I want to do more of that, even thought I know I’ll be doing less creative work. I’m always afraid if I don’t paint or create everyday I’ll lose momentum, but I realized that I can skip a day or two and still be able to pick right back up. It’s when I take a long time from a project that it feels like I forgot how to do it. And then I get really hesitant to do it.

So I guess right now I’m focusing on the little things and not worrying about the big picture. One thing at a time.

Outside my window…
(cue the “I live in Southwest Florida” disclaimer here) It’s summer. The temperatures in the daytime are mid-80’s, the sun is very high in the sky- close to scorching, but not quite there yet, and the plants need water daily, which is rare for humid Southwest Florida. But this time of year, when it gets super hot and it’s still fairly dry outside, things get a little crispy and wilty. Including humans, if they stay outside too long.

Gracie has gone back to wearing shorts and t-shirts to school every day. That’s always a good indication of the weather, too. She gets cold pretty easily, so when she’s in t-shirts and shorts, it means it’s hot.

I know it’s technically spring, but since I grew up in NY, I measure the weather against what season it would be in NY. And if I were in NY, and we had this weather, it would be middle of summer. So it’s summer. We’ll have this until about June, and then Hurricane Season. And then… FALL!

But for right now, I am enjoying the sunny weather, the beautiful blue-sky mornings, and the fact that the garden is going crazy in bloom.

In the art studio…
I’ve actually turned a corner with my painting. Meaning, I can see that there might actually be a finishing point on the horizon. That’s pretty exciting for me, even though I think I’ll be working on it for at least another month. I only get to paint in two hour increments a few times a week, and I’m doing super detailed work with a zillion layers, so it is what it is.

I’m still really enjoying working on it, and I’m still taking my sweet time with it, but I have to admit, I’m excited to work with different colors since I’ve sort of locked into the color scheme of teal-aqua-midnight blue-green gold-crimson-white. For instance, orange. Orange thrills me, simply because I haven’t used any orange paint in weeks. The idea of painting something orange and leafy green and a bright sunny yellow… maybe with a splash of PINK, even.

I’m also feeling very drawn to watercolor again. It must be a seasonal thing. Usually when I swim, I contemplate my current painting and kind of work through ideas in my head. But lately, I have been thinking a lot about watercolor. Patterns and watercolor. Resist and watercolor. Abstract watercolor with acrylic painted details on top…. I have a feeling I’ll probably be pulling out my watercolors in the next few weeks (days?) and playing a bit.

Hoping/looking forward to…

Having less on my to-do list? That’s such a stinky, lame answer to that prompt. But right now it feels like I’m in the thick of it and the thing to focus on is just taking things as they come rather than looking ahead weeks in advance.

I’m also looking forward to opening two little boxes of art/craft supplies that are sitting on my desk, unopened. I placed two orders right after the CHA show (Craft and Hobby Association- every year they have a big convention where all the companies preview new art supplies and online stores take pre-orders for the products) back in January, and the products I ordered finally got released and shipped last week. I decided not to open the boxes until later this week after I get a few things done and can spend a few hours playing with the stuff, as sort of a little reward/incentive. I’m kinda psyched about it.

Honestly? I’m kind of looking forward to tourist season being over. Several of the houses on our street are vacation rentals (some illegally), so sometimes it’s a bit like living in the midst of someone else’s Spring Break, and every week it changes. One set of people leave, and the next come right in.

I will say that the vacation renters who have come in recently are nothing compared to the people that rented nearby a few summers ago. There was some serious drama going on with them and it all played out every day in their back yard, so the whole neighborhood was privy to it. Every morning at 10am, they’d bang out the back door and just start in on each other as they hung around the back yard. As the day went on, and they got more intoxicated, the volume would increase.

I’m not a fan of listening to other people talking (it kind of drives me crazy to hear other people’s conversations), so I tried to shut it out, but anyone within a five-house-radius couldn’t help but hear everything that was going on. The worst part was that one of them had a little girl, and I don’t think there was full custody because she wasn’t there all the time, but when she was, they would just carry on with the shouting at each other like she wasn’t..

At the end of the summer, they both disappeared and abandoned the house, and then there were a series of cleaners and repair people that came in afterwards that made no secret of the condition of the house. Then the house got sold for a song and the new owners fixed it up and now they rent off and on.

It was a little insane. Even when I lived in dorms at college, different apartments around Atlanta, and the condo here, I never had neighbors like that. It was like a reality TV show, every day. But you couldn’t turn it off. Even inside the house, you could hear it loud and clear.

Ever since that happened, anytime anyone new pulls up to that house, I get really nervous and cringe-y. I hear the back door slam in the morning and feel myself get anxious. I know it’s stupid, but I like quiet. Don’t get me wrong, my others neighbors definitely make noise (as we do- our cats are very vocal and we do have three parrots!), but I *know* their noise. There’s the Fox News channel guy who likes to talk on the phone outside, the Electric Light Orchestra guy with the boat, the Russian couple who have lots of their friends over and have loud, animated discussions in their native tongue, the people down the street with the dogs that bark at pretty much any moving thing. But those are familiar to me. And everyone keeps it in check, for the most part.

I like a little bit of privacy. I like living in a residential place. It’s just something I really value after years of living in apartments and condos. I feel uncomfortable being exposed to other people’s business, especially when it’s volatile but not quite at the level where anything can be done to make it better. It just makes you a little sad, in a way. Especially when that little girl was there- I really wanted to go through the bushes and just tell her to come and swim in our pool until things got quieter. I hope things are better for her.

Still re-reading my way through “Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency” series. I’m almost done with “Tea Time for the Traditionally Built.” This book is much better than the previous few I read in the series so I’m back to loving it all again. One weird thing, though- I changed the font on my Kindle app and for some reason that made the book a lot more enjoyable. I don’t know what *that’s* about, but … weird.

Also, all the new issues of Better Homes & Gardens, O, Islands, Sunset, and Coastal Living- the actual printed versions. I just can’t get on board with reading magazines on my iPad. I love getting fresh copies of magazines in the mailbox. I love the format, love the glossy paper, love the beautiful photos…  I just love magazines. I pretty much hunt Amazon and other magazine subscription sites, and as soon as the price drops on anything I’m interested in, I either start a new subscription or add to my ongoing one.

I’m currently holding off subscribing to Real Simple- I just can’t see myself paying $40 for two years. Every so often a $5 or $10 for a year offer pops up, but I haven’t seen one for Real Simple in a while…

As far as the travel magazines: I’m on this weird Island/Island living kick right now. I’ve always been interested in living by the water, but lately I am really feeling super-connected to my “island” roots, even though those two islands are Long Island and Marco Island and neither are in the Caribbean. Still- they are both real, official islands, and I’ve spent all but seven years of my life living on islands, so that’s 33+ years of island life. I don’t think I would be happy if I didn’t live close to the water.

I found this show on HGTV called “Caribbean Life” which features people house-hunting on all the different Caribbean Islands. Even though it drives me a little bonkers that the people never end up buying the houses they choose, the show fascinates me because it goes to each of the different Caribbean Islands and shows famous parks and beaches.

Turks & Caicos (photo from Fodor's)

Turks & Caicos (photo from Fodor’s)

The blue water in Turks & Caicos… just, wow. That gets me EVERY TIME. The other night poor Tom had to listen to me ask him over and over and over if he was as amazed as I was by it, even though we had already seen a bunch of episodes with the same exact video clips of the water there. The water is brighter than the sky down there. It almost overwhelms me how beautiful it looks. I don’t like to travel, and my health makes it difficult (ever try and sterilize a hotel shower? That’s always super fun.), but I might have to make an exception to go swim in that water. I mean, it’s only a quick plane ride away.

There’s also a show called “Island Life” which features the islands around the US, but that one is rarely on. I almost like that one better because I love seeing the variety of landscape and learning about the different weather around the US.

Last night we finished “The Wire”. What a great show. Very complex, and emotional, and definitely the kind of show you carry with you even when you’re not watching it.

Now it’s “House of Cards” and catching up on everything else we’ve been TiVo-ing while working our way through “The Wire”.

We haven’t been to the movies in ages. I feel kinda guilty about it, but it’s been crazy busy, there’s nothing great that we felt like we *had* to make the time to see, and because of tourist season traffic, it takes forever to get into Naples.

However, I want to see “Insurgent” so I hope we’ll be motivated to get to the movies soon. And the spring/summer movie season will start soon, and then it’s go time.


I have been cutting my usual tea with decaf in an effort to try and see if it helps my sleep, and it seems to be working. I’m actually sleeping in chunks that last a couple of hours instead of waking up every hour and struggling to get back to sleep.

I used to “de-caf” my tea, and I’m not sure why I stopped. I just get a flavorless decaf from Adagio (usually the decaf ceylon they have) and put a teaspoon of the decaf for every teaspoon of the fully caffeinated teas I drink. The flavors of the caffeinated teas come through just fine with most of the blends, and I feel less jittery.

I should probably do the same thing with my iced tea, and I mostly do, but after 6pm or whatever I should knock out all things caffeinated (well, except chocolate.) Work in progress, I suppose.

Thankful for…
blue skies.
birds outside.
blooming plants.
the sun rising a bit earlier every morning.
open-window mornings.
cats and birds and lizards (mine in particular, but I like all of them.)
my family.
cherry italian ices and jelly beans.
reading glasses.
really tiny paintbrushes and Lascaux gold paint.
sleeping in every so often.
good series of books.
happy mail.
pastel colors.


As always, thank you for reading all this! Hope you are having an excellent week!

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from the garden

a view of the end of the lanai…

Because the sun is direct and the weather is warm, the garden is very, very happy.

from the garden

white petunias

from the garden


The plants love the direct, hot sun and the ocassional rain. For some reason a good spring shower makes the plants happier than hose water. It’s like they haven’t been watered in 400 years, even though they get a good soaking every other day from the hose.  But after a spring rain? It’s something else. Of course, *too* much rain – that weird green fungus on top of the soil, which is definitely not good.

from the garden

chester, hoping for catnip

Chester also likes being out there. I have a lot of catnip growing so he loves that.

from the garden

chester, helping out

He also likes to hang out while I’m gardening, as long as the hose isn’t on. Then he runs away like crazy.

from the garden

white geraniums

The geranium seeds that I planted in fall have finally grown into full-sized plants and are blooming. The interesting thing is that I forgot which seeds I put in which planters (I’m so bad about using plant markers…) so every day I sort of run out there to see which geranium blossomed and what color it is.

from the garden

red geranium

I know red geraniums are, like, Gardening 101, but this is the first time I’ve gotten a red geranium from seed to seedling and then actually grow and bloom.

from the garden


from the garden


The coleus seedlings turned into plants and they are beautiful- I love the colors. The local nurseries carry coleus, but it’s always the same three varieties so this year I just ordered a bunch of seed varieties and hoped they would be as nice as the catalog photos. I really do love coleus… something about them. I just need to remember to keep them trimmed because when they get tall, they get like stalks with leaves only on the tops.

from the garden


Succulents in the shade. I kept them in the shade all winter and they seem to love it. I don’t understand that, but I think the cooler air might be drier, so they are less moist and that makes them happier than being in the bright sun but being damp all the time. It’s very humid here…

from the garden


from the garden

more petunias…

from the garden

even more petunias (love these blotched flowers…)

from the garden

petunias, again

from the garden

a lot of petunias

from the garden

purple petunia

Of course, there are the petunias…

from the garden


I just placed a few orders with Park, Burpbee, and Garden Harvest for a few new seeds. I got some teddy sunflowers for the summer and some odds and ends flower seeds- more petunia, of course.

I also ordered two different varieties of tomato seeds (Salsa and Juliet), since the tomato plants we got from Home Depot last fall barely produce and the tomatoes are not particularly good.

from the garden


I also ordered a few live plants, which I rarely do anymore. I rarely buy plants at all, to be honest. Anyway, I’m going to give a hydrangea another try, this time in the shade. I also got an Appleblossom Geranium, which I had a few years ago and LOVED LOVED LOVED but it got over-wet during the following summer and perished- now I know to bring them under the roofline as soon as the weather changes. I also got a Lantana (Peach Bandana, I think?) and something else which I can’t remember so I guess it will be a surprise when I get the box.

I’m excited for them to arrive, but as soon as they do I ned to get on my game and get them repotted and in their spots. So I need to get ready for that.

from the garden

double petunia (orchid mist)

Thank you for checking out my little garden :)


(This was cross-posted to Sprout, the little gardening blog that Misti and I run. We’ll be updating over there once a week, so please stop by and say “hey!”)

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a clean slate…

18 Mar 2015
buddha in my garden

buddha in my garden


“It was a snowy night, and Robert was recalling the time two springs ago when he was determined to paint the family room. Up early, he was out the door, to the hardware store gathering the gallons of red, the wooden mixing sticks, the drop cloths, and the … brushes. He mixed the paint outside and waddled to the door with a gallon in each hand, the drop cloth under his arm, and a wide brush in his mouth. He teetered there for minutes, trying to open the door, not wanting to put anything down.

He had the door almost open when he lost his grip, stumbled backward, and wound up on the ground, red gallons all over him.

Amazingly, we all do this, whether with groceries or paint or with the stories we feel determined to share. We do this with our love, with our sense of truth, even with our pain. It’s such a simple thing, but we refuse to put down what we carry in order to open the door. Time and time again, we are offered the chance to truly learn this: We cannot hold on to things and enter. We must put down what we carry, open the door, and then take up only what we need to bring inside.”

– Mark Nepo. The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have

So, it’s no secret I’ve been feeling stressed out these past few weeks, with the home renovation stuff and day-to-day stuff and life just being generally very busy at this time of year.

Because I have a habit of documenting my life (scrapbook, to-do lists, notes on my calendar and planner, journal entires, etc.), I start to notice patterns. This whole late-winter/early-spring crunch seems to come up every year- there’s always a lot going on at this time of year. The sleepy, hibernation mode I go into after the holidays passes and I feel sort of raw and exposed and antsy.

And every year I’ve been determined to outsmart it. To calm it (whatever “it” is) down, to FORCE everything to just stop and settle down. To somehow position myself in such a way that I have power over everything that goes on around me and therefore can somehow force it all into a more neat and organized way of being.

Clearly, that’s an effort in futility. As much as I would like everything to always be on-schedule and come in neat packages, one-thing-at-a-time, life just doesn’t happen that way.

So this year I’m trying to go about it differently. Partly because my previous approaches never work, and partially because I’m focused on the idea of “peace” this year…

Usually I try and adjust my schedule, try and not commit to anything, leave my schedule wide open for hiccups, etc. These little tweaks help, but they are kind of like a Band-Aid, in a way. They just provide a temporary fix. I need to figure out something else.

Today I was sort of obsessing over how stressed I am and I got this sudden feeling like I wanted to DROP EVERYTHING. Like, just say “no”. And just do what I want. (I know, it’s sort of ridiculous…)  And then I remembered the above story in Book of Awakening – one of the very first passages in the book- and it provided a bit of relief.

There’s a lot of cultural stuff about “let it go” and “let go”, but when you think about it, what the heck does it mean? If you’re a responsible adult, you can’t just let everything go. You can’t. Even if you could, most people have ethics that prevent them from doing that. And the emotional aspect of “letting go” is impossible, simply because very few people are able to dial down their emotions and just let stuff go.

But the idea of dropping things and then picking them back up, one by one, makes a lot of sense to me. Creating a clean slate and then deciding what goes on it.

It makes me think of my computer- I have an older MacBook that sometimes struggles when too many things are running at once. Occasionally it will slow to a crawl, then just stop working, and I have to force it to restart.

Basically what I do when that happens is force the computer to drop EVERYTHING, and start fresh. It restarts and I slowly begin re-opening apps and documents as I need them. Of course, it runs much better after I do this, and the screen isn’t clogged with 5000 windows (most unnecessary, just sort of forgotten…), and nothing is open and running that doesn’t need to be.

Life can be like that, I think. When things get to be too much, instead of trying to figure out what the heck is the thing that tips “just about enough” to “way too much”, sometimes it’s better to just drop everything (even for a moment, in your brain) and then add back things as they are necessary. Like I said, forcing a clean slate and then adding stuff to it, mindfully.

For instance, sleep, food, breathing… those are necessary (like the basic operating system of a computer, right?). Okay. My sleep could use some “tweaking”- right now it really feels like life is one LONG day and I punctuate it with a series of naps that happen to take place late at night. I never feel like I get a good night’s sleep or that the next morning is “a new day”.  That’s partly because of my health and partly because choices I make (caffeine, mainly… I drink a whole lot of tea…) I do know if my sleep improves, I will feel better. So that’s on the list, for sure.

I also need to be better about getting to bed. I get to bed fairly early, all things considered, but after we are done hanging out every night and Gracie goes to bed, I usually go back into my art studio and poke around online for a while. I keep the lights low, and I don’t do any projects (too tired, too late), so I wind up doing stuff like researching paint (ie window shopping at the Blick website) or looking at art and design blogs online. I really don’t need to be doing that. I would much rather be in bed, reading. But it always feel like I really NEED that time in my studio, at night. Like I have been doing busy stuff all day and just want some time to slack off. But it never feels good as I’m doing it or after. I just feel like I wasted a bunch of time procrastinating about going to bed.

Family… non-negotiable. Of course.

Health, hygiene, etc…. because I swim, I’m actually ahead of the game with this one. One of the benefits of being obsessed with swimming and having health problems. I need to re-commit to my strength exercises, but I do them *most* days. I just take off the strength part of swimming stuff (last 15 minutes) when I have too much going on. That needs to be non-negotiable, I think. It’s just important.

Stuff around here, activities, family life, etc. Things are a little hectic for all of us- Tom’s got a lot with work and karate and home renovation stuff, Gracie is busy with school and sports (she’s in both basketball and soccer as of next week, plus Girl Scouts, social stuff, twice-a-month allergy shots, and regular 9-year-old stuff.)  I always think I can somehow make our schedules all work together, but schedules for different activities are as they are, and the best I can do is be prepared for them and not stress over the activities that have nothing to do with me. And take care of my own responsibilities quickly and efficiently, which I feel like I already do.

Then adding in the extra stuff- like, gardening. That’s non-negotiable. It’s good for my health, not a terrible crunch on my schedule, and it makes me enormously happy. Same with reading- I only read a little bit every day, while I’m doing 15 minutes of stretching after I swim, and it makes me happy.

Painting and creativity… vital. But I am still trying to figure it all out. I don’t get much time to do it, and when I do, I usually choose to paint. I can’t decide if it’s because it makes me happiest or I’m just in painting mode at the moment (at this point it’s super easy to pull out my brushes and paints and get to work than it is to work on anything else in my studio) or both. I do love it, though. It fulfills me. The other projects I love, too. I enjoy them more. I want to find time for all of them, but not at the sacrifice of painting.

The thing about painting is this- for years I had this voice in my head that wanted to paint. Seriously. But I didn’t. I’d do things related to paint (makes and paint beads, do art journaling with mixed media, etc.) but not just paint. Now that I’m painting, I feel very focused and centered. I wanted to do it for so long and now that I am painting regularly, I don’t want to short change it. So it’s important, maybe the most important creative thing I do.

However, sometimes I get resentful of painting because it feels like it takes me away from other things I want to do. I don’t want to feel that way. So maybe an alternate day system, or painting only for an hour instead of two, and using the second hour to do a different project. It’s just so hard to switch gears creatively, you know? I sit down with my painting and my brushes and my little jars of paint and I never think “oh, I can’t wait until I can stop doing this and pick up the art journal”. Once I start painting, I don’t want to stop.

(This is all me thinking out loud, by the way…)


There’s not much time left for other things. And that’s where the stress comes in. I have my life very ordered to work with all our family stuff and my health stuff, etc., and it’s a lot, so when anything extra gets added to the pile, I get a little pissed off. I know that’s a weird reaction, but it’s honestly how I feel. It annoys me. It feels like a great intrusion.

That’s why I stopped contributing to other projects and sort of pulled away from Etsy and social media in general. I only have a tiny bit of time every day and I want to use that time to create and do the stuff I wasn’t doing six months ago.

Facebook, unfortunately, is sort of out these days. I check in once a day for about five minutes, if that, but then I push the computer aside and go to work. Facebook was my “main” social media/connection thing, but I just have no time for it, and no patience for it. It used to be when I logged on I saw a stream of status updates from my friends. I could read how they were, what was new, interact with them about it, and actually have a meaningful connection. Now, no matter how I adjust my settings, I have to really dig around to find people’s status messages. What Facebook shows me is a lot of linked and shared stories, which are interesting (and a time-suck) but I want to see status messages. How people are doing. What’s up in their world. (First world problem, I know.)

One thing I know is a huge time suck and stressor for me: I spend too much time in indecision. Making choices. Deliberating one choice over the other. That’s a whole ‘nother issue, but I know it’s part of my personality and I try to both work on improving it (it wastes a LOT of time) and honoring it (I’ll never be the kind of person who can make instant decisions, so I need to accept that and build some time into my life for the whole indecision thing.)

I spent too much time in stressball mode these days. Enough is enough. So, the approach of “dropping everything” kinda comes in handy. I just need to remind myself that it’s not just a once-only practice,  but it’s worth doing every single day, just so I get a reminder of what’s important and what matters and what is just extra or not working on that particular point in time.

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passiflora from my garden

passiflora from my garden

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
Oooof! So many things right now.

The big thing is the home improvement project. We’re three weeks into replacing ALL the laminate floors and carpet in our house, plus swapping a few rooms around.

Tom and my dad got the upstairs floor and carpet on the stairs replaced with new laminate. It was a tough job, but it went fairly smoothly and it looks lovely. The floors just change the whole space. It’s so bright, but the light is diffuse because the floors aren’t super-shiny, so it’s just a nice effect. Airy, clean. And very lovely at night. The orange-tone bamboo laminates we have had in the rest of the house look worse and worse by the day. They are just so awful and dark and dingy.

Gracie’s moving from her little room downstairs to the upstairs bedroom/bathroom/loft space- she’ll get lots more room up there. After the floors were in that space and had time to set, my mom and dad and Tom started hauling Gracie’s stuff up there. Of course, I was no help with that because stair climbing without physical balance (which I don’t have much of) is very difficult, and if you have your hands full, it’s impossible.

There’s not much I can do to help this home improvement process, especially floors being installed or things being hauled up the stairs, so I feel like a total jerk just sort of working in my studio while my father and husband and my mom sweat and exhaust themselves to make our house better. I kinda feel terrible about it, to be honest. But I also know that they are really happy and excited to do it for Gracie, and she’s super happy and excited about it.

Hopefully, Gracie should be completely settled in her new space this weekend.

Next step: Tom needs to move his office into Gracie’s old bedroom (he’s currently set up on the dining room table) on the first floor and then Tom and my dad will work on replacing all the laminates on the first floor of the house.

I’m both excited and apprehensive.

It has been CRAZY busy chaotic here. I’ve always admitted that I am a creature of routine, so the flurry of activity has definitely made me feel completely discombobulated. And Gracie is at my parents’ house a bit more while they work, so our family routine is a little wonky, too.

I’m actually sort of torn whether I want to go ahead and continue replacing floors (we haven’t bought any of the floors for the rest of the house yet) or just admire the stairs and the upstairs, get Gracie all moved in to her new bedroom, get Tom moved into his new office, and call it a day. Excellent project completed in a series of three weekends. Gracie gets a new, shiny bedroom that she adores and Tom gets a little more room for his office. We can do the rest of the floors in fall or something. Just not now. My dad and Tom and my mom all get a rest.

Tom absolutely thinks we should keep going with the floors in the next few weeks, before it gets super hot outside and running out to cut things with the saw will be torture. And he’s the one doing the work. And I know he’s right. But … argh.

I really have new respect for people who take on home improvement projects on a regular basis, families that live and function in spaces that are being renovated, and/or people that live in houses while they personally repair them over long periods of time. You think you can kind of carve out room for life among it all, but it doesn’t work like that. You instead squeeze life in among the renovations.

Anyway, I’m just thinking out loud. The truth is, the new floors would be amazing. Especially since our old ones are about ready to give out. My strategy with this is to be flexible with schedule (family meals are kinda off the schedule while this goes on), grab whatever time whenever it pops up, and appreciate the non-work days. Today Tom worked all morning and went to karate this afternoon/evening, and Gracie is at my parents’, so it was a quiet day with no construction stuff or noise. I am totally trying to revel in it.

As far as Gracie and her new room, bathroom, and loft space- she’s over the moon about it, as you can imagine. She arranged all the furniture exactly the way she wants it and picked out new linens and pillows and odds and ends, etc. Her first night up there, she stayed up way later than she was supposed to just sort of futzing with things. I’m sure there’ll be lots more of that to come.

I know it’s sort of a huge turning point for her because when I was her age, my parents let me move into a bigger bedroom in our house. It was previously a sitting room, designed for TV watching. Wood paneling on every wall and rust orange carpet on the floor. My parents got me a new bedroom set and let me pick out new wallpaper for my bedroom (hey, it was the 80’s) and they re-crapeted and painted everything else in there a bright white. When it was done and I was moved in, it was SO incredible. I don’t know why getting that space and being able to choose the things in it meant so much, but it really did. I loved that room. I really did.

I’ll never forget the first morning I woke up in my new room- it was super early, but I woke up before the sun rose because I was so excited. I spent the morning arranging everything perfectly, giddy with joy over a space that was mine and so crisp and bright. I even remember placing my Jem dolls (remember those? “Truly outrageous”) in a place of honor on my shelf. It was *my* space. For me. For my things. For my life. It sort of made me ponder the possibilities of being an older kid, which was super exciting at the time.

So I’m thinking that maybe Gracie feels the same way. I’ll share some photos when it’s all finished, if she’s okay with that. As she gets older, she’s very aware of what I share about her online and I try and get her permission about (most of) it. Sometimes she says “no” to things I wouldn’t think twice about, but usually she’s okay with it. I think she’d be okay with me sharing her bedroom. Maybe I can get her to give a little tour.

That’s not the only big thing in Gracie’s world…

Thankful for…
In the last two weeks, Gracie went through the application process at a new school for next year. Her current school (Montessori here on the island) only goes to third grade, so we needed to make some decisions as far as what is next for her.

We do have public schools on the island, but the whole teaching for the state testing thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And the state of Florida is an odd place- politics can bleed into the classroom and we didn’t want Grace’s education (what’s included and what’s left out) dictated by the political leanings of whoever happens to be in power. Plus, classroom sizes are just too big here.

We’re lucky in that we have a few private schools nearby which are not affiliated with any particular institution or political leaning. Almost all these schools go from K to 12th grade.

There were two schools we were thinking about, but Gracie really wanted to go to one, specifically. A bunch of her friends from her current school continued on to this particular school, and we heard great things about it. The more we looked into it, the more we realized that it would be a good fit- it’s progressive, academically challenging, encourages independence and responsibility and creativity, but is community-centered (super small size), kid-friendly (meaning they aren’t trying to make the kids into mini adults) and has a really warm, familiar feeling about it. It’s large enough to offer diverse classes and opportunities, but small enough that everyone knows one another.

When we toured, we were just blown away. I’ve never seen anything like it. It is much smaller than the high school I attended (about 20-30 kids in each grade), but has so much more space dedicated to activities other than sports and academics. In addition to the academic stuff, each class has a garden, there’s a lot of outdoor space, there’s several art studios and music rooms, a big library, a computer lab, a marsh and pond on property for hands-on science. The halls and classrooms are decorated with all the kids’ projects.

The best part was that it didn’t look like some posh, tony, prestigious mini-college, it looked like a place where kids fully inhabit and enjoy. I loved that. The entire campus is full of kid-friendly stuff- it’s colorful and durable and modern and you don’t get the sense that anything is “breakable” or too pristine to use. You can run on the grass there. You can leave your backpack on a couch in the library while you run across campus to go to cooking club and no one will touch it or move it.

This is a place for kids of all ages to be kids, instead of being a campus full of mini-adults in suits and ties. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but as a parent of a 9-year-old, I’m in no rush for Gracie to grow up and emulate being a college student.

Like I said, I went to private school. But I didn’t enjoy it. It was amazing academically, but it was religious, and since I didn’t come from a religious family, it was always like “square peg, round hole” for me. I went into this new school with this “looking for red flags” caution, but by the middle of the tour, I turned to one of the teachers and asked if *I* could perhaps apply and attend. I meant it. Big stuff for me.

Anyway, after we toured, and formally applied, Gracie spent a second full day there (on her own) and did an interview and assessment, and then we waited to hear if they had a spot for her next year. A few days later, we heard that they have a spot for her in 4th grade for fall. Gracie literally went around the house yelling and whooping in happiness when I showed her the email.

I had such an iffy time with my own education that this is a really important thing for me. I was hoping so hard I could find a school that Gracie enjoyed AND would provide a really fully rounded academic program.

I want Gracie to have a GOOD life, and not just at home, you know? I know all parents feel this way, and it’s HARD. No parent wants their kid to struggle, or feel like they aren’t safe, or welcome. And sometimes those feelings and experiences are part of growing up. But if Tom and I can do what we can to find a school that she enjoys and actually likes attending, and make her going there a possibility, then I think that’s definitely something we *should* do. So we feel so relieved and excited and nervous. I can only imagine what Gracie is feeling…

Outside my window…
(Again, total disclaimer: I live in Southwest Florida, so we’re tropical and everything is relative.) It’s spring. Actually, early summer. It seemed to happen overnight. One day I checked the weather and instead of forecasts with the temperature from 40’s-65, it was 50-80’s. And being outside past 11am is completely different than it was just a few weeks ago – the sun is directly overhead, beating down. I had to start swimming an hour earlier so that I wouldn’t get the brunt of that.

So right now I am working on switching my morning schedule to accommodate the change in weather and sunlight. The early mornings here are lovely- the sun isn’t quite over the trees yet so it’s cool and not harsh. The post-11am sunlight can take a lot out of you. But when it’s morning, it’s dappled and shady and gentle. It’s a nice time to be out there, gardening and swimming.

With the time change, I’m now in the pool about two hours earlier than I was just a few weeks ago, and it makes a difference. I know my skin will thank me- despite the ultra-thick sunblock and UV rash guards I wear in the water, my skin still gets tan, and the older I get, the more that concerns me. No one really needs over three hours of direct sun exposure every day.

The only downside to getting out in the garden/pool earlier is that I lose my mornings, which is when I regularly write and take care of house stuff and do paper work and all that. So I need to find a pocket of time for that later in the day. The upside is that I’m in my art studio much earlier in the afternoon, so I have more time to paint and do other creative stuff that normally is squeezed in after I swim.

So we’ll see if I can figure stuff out.

In the art studio…
Painting. I’m also working on scrapbook pages for the last few weeks, but when I have a few minutes, I tend to pull out my paints and work on my canvas.

“Working” podcast by Slate. I can’t recommend it enough- the past few days I went through the entire first season, and I’m desperate for more. Some of the interview subjects are more interesting than others, but I’ve learned something from every single person on that show- from the cartoonist (my favorite) to the apple grower to the computer coder.

Still making my way through all the books in the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith- I’m just about to finish up “The Good Husband of Zebra Drive”. I have to admit, I’m getting a little antsy, and sort of wanting to switch books, but then I really don’t. I’m considering looking into audio books to listen to when I paint.

We haven’t been to the movies in ages (though I hope to take Gracie to see Cinderella in the next week) and we don’t have much TV time right now. When we do watch TV, it’s one of three things: the new season of Survivor, the new season of Amazing Race, and season 4 of “British Bake-Off”- after seeing the 5th season on PBS, we went ahead and got the previous season because we REALLY like it. And we’re not normally into cooking shows (besides maybe Top Chef). But we love British Bake-Off.

Still working on Tom’s gray cotton blanket- about 1/3rd of the way there. Not much time for crochet – I usually do it when we are watching TV, but there hasn’t been much of that, so not much crocheting at the moment.

I’m about to go into the kitchen and make a smoothie: one cup chocolate soy milk, half a banana, one scoop of Amazing Grass Green Superfood in chocolate, a pinch of instant decaf coffee powder, and a bunch of crushed ice. Plus I sometimes sneak in a squeeze of Dark Chocolate Hershey’s syrup. I’ve added the smoothie back to my rotation because I’m so bad at staying hydrated and for some reason, drinking a smoothie (I put in a ton of crushed ice) really does the trick and gets me hydrated. Plus, it’s good for my tummy. No one tells you how funky the workings of your tummy get as you get older, but they do. At least for me. Staying hydrated is, like, the KEY to EVERYTHING.


Okay, that’s SO much rambling. If you made it this far, thank you profusely! If you’re up north, I truly hope that you have some lovely spring-like weather this weekend. Regardless of where you are, and what the weather may be, I hope you have an amazing, fun, relaxing weekend.

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I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a *real* entry, but things are VERY busy around here (the home improvement project is in full swing!) and any spare moment I have had these past few weeks I use to work on my painting.

I also shifted my daily schedule so I’m getting out to the pool about two hours earlier in the morning, which means the time I used to take in the mornings to write posts is now gone. I need to figure this new schedule out, clearly… I have a little more painting time, but not time for anything else.

Anyway, here is quick post about something sorta silly, but something I love: Kokuyo notebooks.

Kokuyo Campus Smart Ring

Kokuyo Campus Smart Ring

I wrote about these notebooks before, but I’m doing it again because I really love them *so* much and they’ve pretty much become my go-to office supply.

Back in summer, I ordered a few things from JetPens and decided to try out one of these Kokuyo Campus Smart Ring notebooks I had heard about.

The notebooks are regular, slim, notebooks, but their spiral ring binding OPENS UP so you can move pages around.

I am an obsessive list writer, and an obsessive note-keeper, so to have a regular, slim notebook (NOT a binder) that could sit folded open on my desk and in which I could move, add, and remove pages was something I *really* wished for, but didn’t seem to exist.

Until these.

I now have three of these notebooks that I use regularly (and I mean several times a day) – one for “to-do” lists and planning, one for making notes about stuff (I write notes obsessively about everything from books I am reading to information I hear to cool quotes from Podcasts), and one for classes I am taking.

Tom saw me using them and got two for himself, and he’s *not* a notebook/paper guy. They are just super useful and cool.

There are a few sizes available but I like the B5 which is smaller than a regular notebook but larger than a pad. They honestly don’t hold much paper- maybe 50 sheets?- but since I leave mine open on my desk, I take the front cover off them and that gives the notebooks a lot more room.


I also purchased two other items in the line- the first was the B5 sized Campus Slide Binder for all my Bloom True notes- every time I take the class I start a fresh set of notes for it, so there got to be too many for the notebook sized Smart Rings.

Kokuyo Campus Slide Binder

Kokuyo Campus Slide Binder


Kokuyo Campus Slide Binder

Kokuyo Campus Slide Binder

They hold a lot more paper than the Notebooks, but the downside is that the covers don’t fold back onto itself so you can’t just leave them folded open on your desk or flip them open and write.

Despite the fact the cover doesn’t stay folded back, I LOVE these binder. They hold a lot of paper, and the binding opens and closes so easily. I’m seriously tempted to make a watercolor journal out of one of these, especially since I also purchased the Carl Neo Gauge 26 hole punch so I can make my own filler paper for these guys.

Carl Neo Gauge 26 hole punch

Carl Neo Gauge 26 hole punch

I found a great deal on Amazon for this punch and decided to get it. The filler paper for these notebooks is readily available, but only in a limited range of styles and it’s pretty expensive. I wanted to use my favorite graph paper (good ol’ Ampad) to make my own filler paper for things like flow charts and project sketches, and also wanted to be able to add printouts to the notebooks, so I went ahead and got the punch. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but I think it will be worth it in the long run.

As far as pricing, the best prices I have found on Kokuyo stuff (notebooks, binders, refill paper, punches, etc.) are from various vendors on Amazon. However, quantities are always limited, colors aren’t available (I had to get all mine in a light powder blue), and most of the stuff has to ship from Japan or China so you won’t get it for weeks. So JetPens is the best place to go to get these *now*.

But every so often there’ll be a Prime deal on one of the products at a low price, so I tend to shop around and wait a bit before purchasing anything.


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Peerless Watercolor Storage

Peerless Watercolors

**I just realized I never hit “POST” on this, so I’m publishing it now before I forget again!**

For my birthday last summer, my parents got me something I had been curious about for a while- a complete set of Peerless Watercolor paints.

For those who don’t know, Peerless is a full-strength watercolor paint that’s embedded into paper. So to use it, you simply touch a wet brush to the paper, and it releases the paint into the brush.

Peerless Watercolor Storage

Peerless Watercolor Storage

I have to admit, I hesitated on getting them for a while because I wondered “how on earth is a piece of paper going to hold a decent amount of full-strength watercolor paint?” But then I saw a video from Jennifer McGuire demoing the paints and I wanted them SO badly. The color is INTENSE- completely vivid and luscious, but the pigment is completely translucent, so the results are just beautiful, vivid pools of color.

The issue is this: if you are working with a set of 60 watercolors that are on sheets of paper the size of index cards, and the the surfaces of those sheets of paper become very wet while in use how do you easily work with them? If you stack them up, the colors bleed off into the other colors stacked on top. If you lay them flat across your work surface, they will literally cover it.

There are a ton of suggestions on how to store the Peerless paints all over pinterest and YouTube, but I decided to do something different- something that would be lightweight and portable, easy to work with, be able to contain the whole range of colors in one pack, and wouldn’t lay flat when closed, giving any wet paper and paint a chance to dry back into the substrate.

Peerless Watercolor Storage

Peerless Watercolor Storage



Peerless Watercolor Storage

Peerless Watercolor Storage

The palette is one of those Tim Holtz alcohol ink palettes from Ranger. I bought a bunch of them when they were being clearanced by an online shop earlier this year, intending to use them not only for dye and ink but aslo water-based substrates. I decided to sacrifice one to the Peerless process and see if it might work.

I punched 1inch circles out of each of my sheets of Peerless and stuck the punched discs into the wells of the empty Tim Holtz palette.

It just so happens that the punch I used to cut the discs (one of those Fiskars squeeze punches) matched nicely up with the indents in the Tom Holtz palette. In fact, the punched Peerless discs were slightly larger than the indents for the wells, so I was able to nicely tuck each Peerless disc into a well and have it stay put.

I also like how the palettes indented “cups” create little areas for the color to pool in case I over-wet a color I’m working with. It gives the pigment a chance to soak back into the paper. And the white space all around the wells/indents is perfect for color mixing.

Since I had more colors than slots, and didn’t want to expand to two palettes, I simply adhered the extra color discs to the inside of the cover of the palette with a little tack it over again glue. I also created a tiny color palette with the paimts and watercolor paper to adhere to the inside of the box so I could easily recognize the colors.

Here’s the case closed:

Peerless Watercolor Storage

Peerless Watercolor Storage

Not the prettiest, but at less than 1/4th tall (when closed) and 8″ square, and NO colors touching in the palette when closed, this works for me. I reach for these ALL The time. And when one color disc is used up, I simply pop it out of the little well with a needle tool or tip of a pencil, and pop a new one in its place.

As far as the rest of the sheets of color, I decided to “file” them away in a 6×6 binder. It’s an American Crafts D-ring album and when all the colors are in, it looks like this when it’s closed.

Peerless Watercolor Storage

Peerless Watercolor Storage

On the inside of the binder I made a little pocket for the editions of Peerless (they are often releasing special editions) that I didn’t want to pull of from their packaging and make pages for.

Peerless Watercolor Storage

Peerless Watercolor Storage

The first page of the album is a sampling of some of the color packs I keep in the pocket.

Peerless Watercolor Storage

Peerless Watercolor Storage


And then it’s pages and pages of Peerless Watercolors. I attached each sheet of watercolor to a 5×7″ sheet of watercolor paper (using a Tiny Attacher, which is basiclly a mini-staple gum) and a painted swatch of the color on the upper right corner of the page.

Peerless Watercolor Storage

Peerless Watercolor Storage



Peerless Watercolor Storage

Peerless Watercolor Storage

I can basically flip through the book, find the color I need, remove it from the binder, and work with it.

So, there you have it- my solution to the whole “how do you store Peerless Watercolors?” question. It works great- so far. My only issue is that I feel like the little discs might not hold enough paint for a large project. But so far, that hasn’t happened.

This is an instagram of how compact the whole setup is.  The watercolor journal is a Moleskine, and the water brushes are both Pentel (my faves) and some new Derwents I am trying out.

peerless watercolor storage

peerless watercolor storage



Anyway, here are some links of interest:

the video from Jennifer MacGuire doing a demo of the paints
the Peerless website

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A couple of new pages in my “illustrated book of favorite quotes” art journal:

"illustrated quote" art journal pages

“illustrated quote” art journal pages

The quotes on both pages touch on the theme of embracing the little, beautiful details of daily life, which is what I talked about last week. How the “okay” of everyday life is actually quite meaningful and exciting for me.

I guess I’m starting to feel like spring- I was definitely drawn to spring like images and colors when making these pages.

"true religion" art journal page

“true religion” art journal page

“There are random moments – tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children’s rooms – when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead. Think of the way you sometimes see a tiny shaft of sunlight burst through a gap between rocks, the way it then expands to illuminate a much larger space –it’s like that. And it’s like quilting, a thread surfacing and then disappearing into the fabric of ordinary days. It’s not always visible, but it’s what holds everything together.” -Elizabeth Berg, The Art of Mending

I LOVE this passage from “The Art of Mending”. It was perfect for what I wanted to express- sometimes the simplest details hold the greatest magic.

"daily life" art journal page

“daily life” art journal page

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” – William Morris

I’ve always loved this quote, but lately it’s resonated quite a bit for me. I feel like I’m shaping my world more and more by deciding what matters (and what truly doesn’t) and the more I allow myself to dwell on the little things that are meaningful, the more content I feel. Wonder and magic can be found anywhere, not just in the “big and exciting” stuff.


One little supply note: I had some Amazon credit and was looking at different label makers so that I could print out some of the more detailed quotes for my journal pages (plus, it’s good to have a label maker for school projects and around the house). As far as the journal, sometimes individual letter stamps are too big for the space the quotes go in, and using individual letter stickers get fussy and costly- you can go through an entire sheet of individual letter stickers by spelling out one sentence. And it takes forever.

dymo plug n play label printer

dymo plug n play label printer

I ultimately decided to purchase a little DYMO USB label printer– it’s a tiny little printer (like the size of a burger) that plugs into your computer’s USB port and prints out 1/2 inch labels. The benefit of a label printer (as opposed to a standalone label maker machine) is that instead of being stuck with the fonts/formatting that the label makers come programmed with, you can use any font and/or graphic on your computer. It’s also much easier to type longer strings of type, at least for me- I hate those tiny little keyboards and little screens on standalone label printers. It’s like trying to type out a sentence on a digital alarm clock or something.

I know I could do this on a regular printer, and then cut the sheet into little strips, but they always look super wonky and I feel like I’m writing a ransom note with cutting up all the bits of paper and then trying to glue them down straight…  I just like the ease of having a custom sticker printed out for me, you know?

I really love this little DYMO Plug n Play – it eliminates the need for small letter/word stickers, which Is a supply I go through often. I just have to buy more label tape. And it’s SO easy to use. Gracie loves it, too.  Just thought I’d share it in case you are in the market for a label maker (or just want another cool supply to add to your art journal/scrapbooking/paper crafting arsenal!)

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detail of my most recent painting- definitely in progress!

painting – in progress

So, the other day I mentioned that I was sort of losing track of time a little bit. I mean, I know it’s the last week of February, that it’s winter (well, almost spring…) and it’s 2015. So I’m aware of time and date and all that.

What I mean is that I’m not really as obsessed with time as far as some sort of deadline. I don’t know if that makes any sense.

One thing that I am incredibly grateful for these past few months is perspective. I don’t know if it was turning 40, or if it was *finally* getting “it” after years and years of trying, or if something just finally clicked for me, but my attitude as far as creativity and goals and “life accomplishments” has changed completely over the last few months.

For years and years and years I mourned the fact that I never followed my dream to become a curator. If you’ve been reading my journal or know me for a while, you probably know this about me. At some point in the last few years, that changed for me, and I finally realized that the reality of the job of curator didn’t quite meet what I dreamed the job might be, and I was able to disengage with that regret and dream. I realized that my heart was really in the creation of art, and so I thought I should  try to develop a career around making art. Creative business, all that.

I don’t know why I felt like I needed permission – ie, a “formal career in creative business” -to make art. But I thought that if I made it into something “official”, then sitting down and making art wouldn’t feel so indulgent.  Also, it felt challenging and something approachable and sort of a nice goal to work towards.

But it was also frustrating. My goal was ultimately to achieve enough success that I could focus on creating art full time- maybe create something that could be printed/manufactured by outside agents and I could just focus on creating the art. Like, maybe I could create a design or painting that would sell a bunch of prints or something.

I knew the first steps to that was to set up shop on Etsy, and research and learn about small business, and promotion and etc and blah blah blah. I needed to create a foundation for what I wanted, then work towards goals realistically- do the work, get it going, and then it could move in the direction I hoped it would. So I did a lot of that, as much as I could.

But I didn’t enjoy it. Yes, there was a sense of accomplishment as I got things checked off my list and worked towards little goals, but it felt like a placeholder, and it also took up so much time that I couldn’t really make much art. I could have dropped the whole “creative business” stuff at any time and just made art, but I never felt okay doing that. I struggled with validation a lot. And when I did make art, I always did it with a sense of “make people happy with this!” hanging over me. I have talked about that before- I worked on shaking that feeling for years, every single time I sat down and created ANYTHING, even a scrapbook page, but I couldn’t stop feeling that way.

But suddenly, that all stopped.

detail of my most recent painting- definitely in progress!

detail of my most recent painting- definitely in progress!

Sometime in the last few months that loud chattering voice that kept saying “make something successful of your life!” and “you have to prove yourself as an artist!” and “making art is only worthwhile if it’s received well!” just shut up. I don’t even think it was a gradual thing, to be honest. Just one day, it wasn’t there anymore. The weird need to have some sort of successful creative endeavor disappeared completely. The need to validate myself in order to create art disappeared completely. The need to make art for other people disappeared completely.

It’s a little weird, I have to admit. After so many years of that tangle of stress and static kind of cycling inside of me, now it’s just quiet. I think instead about things like color and pattern and paintbrushes. I don’t look forward to finishing projects, I just look forward to working on them. It’s a much smaller approach to things.

I think there might have been two things that precipitated this.

The first was Robin Williams’ passing. I KNOW I talk about this constantly, but I can’t tell you the effect it had on my life. Out of everything I have read, absorbed, studied about well-being that drove home the message of “you are enough” and “success doesn’t always bring happiness” and “be where you are”, it was Robin Williams death that finally got it through to me. This guy was beloved, successful, widely loved and appreciated and lauded, he was a legend, he had a huge body of brilliant work, financial well-being, etc. and it was not enough.

I finally got it. Depression and anxiety are serious inside things, and no amount of creative business success (outside things) will make them go away. Happiness is NOT about success. Sure, success can bring happiness for lots of people, maybe even most people, but the thing I wanted more than anything was to create with a sense of inner peace, and I made the mistake of assuming I could only find that peace if someone gave me “permission” to create, meaning they validated my work by loving it so much that they placed enough of a financial value on it to invest money into it.

So what is happiness, then? What brings happiness? I had no idea, and I still am not 100% sure, but one thing I DID know was that shipping out Etsy stuff was not happiness. Not for me.

I had to start from scratch, in a way. I knew I loved to create. I knew I loved to learn. That was the bottom line. So what next?

Well, something else happened that changed my approach. My health changed.

My whole entire adult life has basically been about preventing health problems. I had a bone infection at age 18, contracted while I was in college, and when the infectious disease doctors who were treating that bone infection started dropping the word “amputation” in heated conversations about my foot, I suddenly got just how serious my Spina Bifida was. I spent 18 years trying to be normal, trying to “do it all” and it just wasn’t working. I had to come to terms with the fact I had a health problem, and instead of fighting against it, I had to become my own greatest advocate.

I only wound up losing half a toe (and had six months of IV antibiotics, surgery, and bed rest following), but after that experience my attitude about my health did a 180 degree turn and I became devoted to taking exquisite care of myself. It’s been exhausting (come on, let’s be honest) but the older I get, the more I realize it’s sort of like this weird privilege, in a way. Like I was entrusted the care and keeping of something a bit complicated and that required a lot of observation and thoughtfulness. I don’t know…

Anyway, the whole thing is why I swim two and a half hours a day (it keeps my spine strong, it makes up for the time I can’t spend on my feet and doing activities, it keeps my weight way down, which means I am putting less pressure on my feet and spine,  it helps with the pain, etc.) , and keep my bathroom sterile, and don’t travel, and a serious myriad of stuff that I NEVER discuss with anyone but my family. I put a lot out there, but not everything.

Anyway, I put my health first. I HAVE to. It’s pretty much my life.

Well, despite all the daily practices I already do for my health, in the fall I noticed a few things changing. Some muscles in my legs were getting weaker. My skin was changing and getting dryer which meant I was more at risk for potential wounds, etc.  Muscles were getting sore and tight. Flexibility was decreasing a bit. All part and parcel of getting older, but for me, it could mean huge problems if I didn’t take it all seriously.

I realized that once again I had to step up. I was kinda annoyed at first, because, I mean, come on… but then I just was okay with it. I made the changes I needed to make- more time in the pool, more time tending to myself OUT of the pool. I just realized what needed to be done and added them to my schedule.

And after all is said and done everyday, after doing required health stuff and family stuff, I realized that my schedule is FULL. My health is my full time job. Period. Yeah, I know there are some people with much worse problems than mine scaling mountains and traveling the world and pushing it to the limit, but I’m not that person. I’m also not the person who wants to fight against her body every day and suffer the consequences later.

I kind of see it this way: I’m the owner and operator of a franchise of Spina Bifida. And my job is to keep the franchise going strong. Some days are easier than others, but no matter what comes up, that’s what dictates my time and energy.

Anyway, I also realized something I had never admitted to myself before- I’m busy. My schedule is full. And it’s not just health stuff. It’s other stuff, too- like gardening, which takes up an hour of my day (and is great for my physical body- lots of needing to balance and do lifting and moving, etc- stuff that doesn’t happen in the pool). Swimming. Family time. Stuff around the house. I have very little free time and the new changes in my health thing meant even less.

So what would I spend my time on? What would go? When I sat down to think about it, the choice was clear- the creative business stuff was going to have to go, at least for now. Enough is enough. If it is a choice between actually making art and packaging old art up, new art wins. If it is a choice between spending hours tweaking Etsy shops and doing self-promotion (which I despise) or using that time to take a class and learn something new, the learning something new wins.

So, no, there is no legacy as Chel Micheline, the awesome artist with a successful creative business.

But there might be a legacy of Chel Micheline, the woman who LOVED art and dedicated the time she had to learning about it and making as much of it as possible and sharing it.

And maybe there might be some happiness to be found in that process, because the whole creative business set-up wasn’t doing it for me. I just felt like I was always striving, and as much as it brought lots of little moments of satisfaction (in a “cross that off my list!” way), it never completely fulfilled me the way spending hours working on a painting or really investing my time and effort into an art class does.

detail of my most recent painting- definitely in progress!

detail of my most recent painting- definitely in progress!

So the last few weeks, I have been painting. I took Flora Bowley’s Bloom True class (which was another game changer for me…) in the fall for the second time, started a bunch of canvases, took a break over the holidays, and then reviewed the class and returned to painting again in January. And it was really different. I just… painted. No ideas, no real worries about whether or not anyone would like what I was doing or if I was working quickly enough or whatever. It’s just all about playing with paint and translating something inside me to canvas, in a way.

After I’m done with all the health/family stuff every day, usually around 5 or 6pm (some days it doesn’t get done, and so some days there’s just no time in the studio – yesterday was one of these days), I sit down in my art studio and turn on a podcast or an art class video, pull out my paints, and just work on the painting until it’s time to get dinner going. We eat super late, so I get an hour or two of decent work in there if the day goes as planned.

Not much gets done- I’m a S-L-O-W painter. It’s ironic that a lot of Flora Bowley’s method is about letting go and just flowing through it, but after two years of the class, I finally realized that for me, being “intuitive” and “letting go” means being thoughtful and very contemplative in my approach. I like going slow, taking my time, looking at different options, trying different things out, refining, always changing things up, tinkering, etc. For me, there is no swashing paint all over – the early layers, absolutely (that’s all I do!) but after trying to force myself to do that in the final layers, it just doesn’t work. I LOVE the details. I love working small. I love creating tiny patterns and making different canvases within the canvas. I like messing with tiny dabs of paint.

So one painting might take me months. And I’m totally cool with that. Because for the first time in my life, I am painting not for anyone else, but because I really enjoy it. Not every day is fun- don’t get me wrong- I go through many evenings where I make little progress and it’s frustrating and a slog. If those days start to string together, that’s when I know it’s time to switch to another creative project (the art journal, the scrapbook, some writing, the watercolors…) for a day or two.

Also, if I don’t have much time in the studio because health/family stuff takes a lot more time than I imagined, then I work on something smaller in the little time I get- I sketch (I do this so much now, whereas before I never felt like there was ANY time or reason to do it!), I print out photos for the scrapbook, work in the art journal for a little bit, write a bit of a blog post, whatever. I just try and use whatever free time I get to do *something* that I enjoy.

So that’s where I am right now. And with the elimination of little milestones that comes from having a bigger, tangible goal (ie having a successful creative business), that weird sense of time that goes with it (ie to-do lists and deadlines) goes, too. So now I’m sort of in this in between space where the days sort of measure themselves.

It’s interesting and a little disquieting. I think for the first time in my life, I get what “be here, now” means. And it’s not exactly a comfortable thing in a culture where goal setting and deadlines are sort of prized as the way to operate. It’s just sort of fuzzy.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still goals- write two or three blog posts a week (which I am enjoying doing after not having the time for it for so long…), work consistently in the art journal, keep up with documenting Gracie’s life, keep up with art classes, etc. But I’m the only person who can really say whether those goals have been met, you know what I mean? There’s no reception for those things. No launching into the greater world and waiting for feedback or results. And it’s different. It’s weird, but also good. It’s quieter.

I do think I want to find a way to measure and celebrate the days individually, though. The blur of time is not for me. I know I should sort of just let it be and be mindful of the moment and zen, and I will definitely embrace that. But I also don’t want the days to all glom together. I want there to be some distinction.

But all in all, like I said, I’m really insanely grateful for this shift in perspective. It’s such a huge relief, in so many ways, to be finally free of the pressure of needing validation. It’s been such a huge thing to realize how busy my life is instead of trying to find more things to “fill” it with that might give it some sense of meaning and accomplishment. It really *is* enough. It always had been, I just hadn’t been in the right time or place of my life to actually get it.


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knuckles, my parents' cat

knuckles, my parents’ cat, who came to stay with us this past weekend

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
I can’t believe February is almost over. (!!!) I’m having a weird relationship with time lately. As I focus more on using my free time to do stuff I love (ie painting), time seems to slip away with me. I’m measuring my days in both how much progress I’ve made in my painting and what Gracie’s schedule is rather than “today is Friday, and it’s the end of the month…” etc. I can’t tell if that’s good or bad.

Hoping/looking forward to…

I’m getting a haircut later on, which I always put off, but is always a tremendous relief after it’s done. I have a pixie cut, so I don’t like it when my hair gets even a *little* bit long.

This weekend is also the start of a bit of a renovation/home-improvement project around here- we’re shifting some rooms around and re-doing the floors in the entire house.

Our house is basically one story, with a little loft/bedroom/bathroom space on the second floor. Tom’s office has been upstairs, but we’ve decided to let Gracie have the space. It’s pretty much the same size as her bedroom now, but she’ll have that little bathroom up there, an extra closet, and the loft space at the top of the stairs as a playroom/den area. Tom’s going to move his office downstairs into what’s currently Gracie’s bedroom. Basically- we’re swapping Tom’s office space and Gracie’s bedroom, but they are both on different floors, so that makes things a little more complicated.

Gracie has bad allergies, and the upstairs is carpeted, so before she moves up there we need to replace the carpet with laminate.

As far as the floors: When we built the house back in 2004, we picked out some very basic carpet and laminate. We’ve gotten a lot of the carpet pulled up in the last few years because of Gracie’s allergies (plus, carpet is gross after a while…) and the laminate we used for the house was a really poor quality, so the woodgrain “sticker” on the surface has basically worn away on a lot of the pieces, and the laminate is shifting apart.

Tom and my dad (who is a general contractor and carpenter) did some research, and they decided that they could handle putting in new laminate floors upstairs. Then we researched new floors and looked at our finances, and we realized that maybe Tom and my dad could do the entire house in the laminate we chose, since it was fairly inexpensive and there wouldn’t be charges for installation.

First, we are doing the upstairs as a test run- there’s just a bedroom, bathroom, and a little loft up there- that starts this weekend. Then they’ll do the stairs, and if it goes well, they’ll do the main floor of the house.

I am excited and apprehensive. SO excited to have new floors. Like, skipping and dancing excited. We went to Lumber Liquidators and picked up a really, really light wood laminate with a “handscraped” texture on it. It’s beautiful and bright and it will really lighten up the house. It’s very cottage-y.

I was going for a beachy/coastal thing when we built the house, but the “beachy” thing here is more Tommy Bahama/West Indies beachy (dark bamboos and cherry wood, ornate carvings, heavy furniture, fans made of rattan, etc.) and not New England Coastal Cottage, which is what I meant. So the laminates we ended up when we built the house are sort of a deep orange bamboo print. They are quite dark and just… not what I was going for. I had no idea how ORANGE they were going to be when I saw the little sample in the store! But, what can you do? I guess it’s lucky they didn’t hold up so well, because if they were still in good condition, there’d be no reason to change them.

I’m also glad that my dad and Tom are doing the work, because it means we won’t have to, like, move out while workers come in and do the rooms. They can do the work slowly (on weekends when Tom has off) and we can sort of shift around inside the house as they move from room to room.

But I know this is going to be a big thing that will take lots of time to complete, and I know it’s going to take a lot of my dad and Tom’s energy and time, so I am a little conflicted. But I think overall it’s a good thing. I’m not much on home improvement and decor and stuff, but I am obsessed with natural light and bright, clean spaces, so the idea of having a beautiful, bright floor makes me giddy.

Thankful for…

Knuckles, my parents’ cat (see picture above). My parents went on a trip this past weekend and Knuckles came to stay with us while they were out of town. He’s such a LOVE- he slept with me the whole time he was here, right at my head. And he’s a head bumper, which our cats are not. I love cats that head bump.

Outside my window…
Huge disclaimer- I live in the topics. Southwest Florida.

Today is in the 30’s. I know that’s balmy, beautiful weather for most of you (it was for me when I lived in New York- 40 degrees was the magical number that meant I could go to school without a coat/jacket), but for Southwest Florida? This is big COLD stuff. It rarely gets this low here.

But I love the “cold” weather, so I’m pretty happy. As long as the pool is warm and I get into a hot shower pretty quickly after getting out of the pool, I’m a happy camper. The sky is a beautiful blue, there’s a bit of a breeze… it’s lovely. I know the snowbirds who come here for the 80 degree winters are not thrilled- they are all walking around with big giant puffy jackets and scarves and gloves. But I think this is the new reality of weather- huge snowstorms up north, and cooler winters down south. I grew up in New York and then lived in Atlanta for seven years, and there was none of this severe weather. There were a handful of big storms in NY in my eighteen years there, and it only snowed once in Atlanta in my seven years there. Now it’s the norm for both. I think it’s only a matter of time before northern Florida starts getting a bit of snow, to be honest.

In the art studio…
Painting. Making slow but consistent progress on my painting. It’s a labor of love. I really enjoy coming in here every afternoon and getting out my brushes and turning on a podcast or an online art class (lately I have been catching up with “Studying Under the Masters”) and painting for an hour or two. I lose track of time. Again, I can’t tell if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’m trying to measure the days in how I feel at the end of the evening rather than whether I am aware of time. It’s just a different approach.

On Gracie’s side of the studio, she’s working through “Life Book”, which is great fun. I had her try one of the projects, and she enjoyed it. So she’s working through each week’s lessons. There’s a lot of collage and drawing, and she likes to do both. She’s also kind of excited that we have all the materials required for the classes already- she makes a list at the beginning of the lesson and then looks around the studio for what she needs. She’s making amazing stuff, she’s super proud of herself, and she’s learning a lot about different approaches and materials. Now she has her own supply of gel medium and paint, and this week I ordered her a set of really nice colored pencils since it’s her favorite supply and she’s used her Crayolas down to little nubs. I wonder if she’ll get excited about having new art supplies as I get. 😉
In the garden…
I’m a little concerned about how the plants will handle this cool weather, as some of them are tropicals. But it’s not a true freeze or frost, so I hope everything will be okay. (The lizards, too!) I had Tom bring in the orchids, just in case. They are all about to bloom anyway, so it’s an okay time for that.


“The Full Cupboard of Life” by Alexander McCall Smith – I’m just about done with it and ready to start the next book in the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which I’m re-reading. I like re-reading series of books that I enjoyed. It’s like putting on a comfy, soft, favorite sweater. Sometimes I just need familiarity in books.


It’s SO quiet right now. SO blissful. Even Milo, who is usually somewhere making lots of noise and chattering to himself, is being quiet today.

The construction seems to be done on the house across the bay- they built a new seawall. I’m waiting to see if they put a new dock in, as well. Their old dock stretched out across the bay, and until they pulled it down, I never realized how much it blocked the view of the water just beyond. Now the bay looks completely wide open and I LOVE it because I can see the bigger area beyond the curve of the houses, and often dolphins play back there. So I’m kinda hoping they don’t build a new dock. If they do, I truly hope it’s around the curve. I love seeing all that water.


Still working our way through The Wire. We don’t watch anything too violent/language-y when Gracie is around because she’s a bit of a lurker when it comes to TV. She’ll be in another room, facing the other way, plugged in to a movie on her computer or listening to a podcast, and then we’ll turn around and she’ll be behind us, watching whatever we are watching. She did that a few times when we were watching “48 Hours” (a documentary show on CBS). Or she’ll try and sneak in silently behind us and see how long it takes for us to notice. It’s sort of become a joke to her to see if she can sneak up on us, so now we’re sort of in a “absolutely no crazy TV when she’s home” thing.

We haven’t been to the movies in a while, which I kind of feel guilty about. I love going to the movies, but I’m still in my little hibernation mode. And, it’s crazy tourist/snowbird season here so getting into Naples and to the movies is over an hour drive, plus navigating once we are there… it just seems like more trouble than it’s worth. Just getting around the island to do regular day-to-day stuff is pretty time consuming. It feels like enough at the moment. Plus, I’m happy to be home, painting, hanging out with my family, and enjoying the weather and sunshine, so I think that’s okay. I know in a few weeks, when the weather shifts, I’ll be stir-crazy, and wanting to get out as much as I can. That’s always what happens in late spring, and definitely summer.


Working on a gray cotton blanket for Tom. I’m about 1/4th done. It’s a very soothing project- familiar stitch, so I just keep working on it whenever I get some time to sit down and watch TV.


A lot of hot tea.

As always, thank you for popping in and reading. I hope you have an amazing weekend! <3

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Because I’ve been painting pretty obsessively, I haven’t been working in my “illustrated book of quotes” art journal as much as I would have liked in the last few weeks. But I did get inspired to do two pages, based on some things I have been thinking about these past few weeks:

spirit art journal page

spirit art journal page

This page came together pretty quickly- it was a photo from my planner from last year (Sierra Club weekly agenda) plus a few layers of scrapbook paper. I added a strip of paper from the packaging sleeve from some beautiful paintbrushes Tom got me for Christmas,a bit of ephemera from a scrapbook collection, and a wood veneer.

I don’t love how the quote stamped out because the stamps “overstamp” but the quote is readable, so that’s what matters.

yourself art journal page

“Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.” – St. Francis de Sales

For this page, I found a postcard I bought years ago from the MFA in Boston. I have a little Iris bin full of different things I have collected over the years- images from magazines, calendar pages, snapshots, postcards from museums, bits of mail, etc. so for every journal page I have a good time digging through it and seeing what images resonate. I layered it with a page from a different old calendar, plus some patterned paper, and a flower from the Maggie Holmes flower ephemera pack (which I LOVE). Instead of stamping the quote, I used letter stickers.

yourself art journal page

yourself art journal page

I REALLY enjoyed making this page- it came together in about an hour, and the whole process from looking through my box of images to layering things and playing with different compositions was really relaxing.


It’s interesting to see how this project, my reading of Mark Nepo’s “Book of Awakening” (which is a book of brief daily readings on things such as serenity and peace and well-being and mindfulness, etc.), and the whole “Peace” being my word for 2015, is all sort of tying together.

As I focus on the theme/word of “peace” I’ll get inspired by an aspect of it, and then that idea turns up in “Book of Awakening” (or somewhere else in life), and then I’ll go and find some quotes about it and feel compelled to spend some time thinking about the idea, which then inspires a journal page.

For example, the last few weeks I have been really thinking long and hard about authenticity and honoring who you are (my whole introvert thing) and how truly honoring who you are and following that path can actually bring a lot of peace to life, AND the lives of those around you, etc.

I’ve also been reflecting on how there’s a misconception that if we’re following our own north star, we’re somehow neglecting the world around us or being selfish or whatever, even though it’s not the truth. I mean, how many of us have REALLY lived 100% true to ourselves for long enough to see what happens if we followed through on being 100% ourselves? Everyone I knew gets siderailed by things creeping in and pushing things off course and the endless cycle of feeling obligation to other things.

So these two pages definitely reflect my desire to live authentically and see it through. I can be a bit of a people-pleaser/do-whatever-it-takes-to-make-people-comfortable-and-at-ease, so these quotes are really important reminders to me.

I know that some people get caught up on the word “perfectly” in the Francis se Sales quote, but to me, the quote seems like permission to be 100% yourself – meaning, if you are true to yourself and your true nature, *that’s* perfection, right there. No one else can be you, perfectly.

I love the idea of being Chel, and being that one thing perfectly. It makes me ask “well, who is Chel?” which then leads me to think a bit about my nature and my preferences and then work on honoring those things in daily life. Letting those values guide my decisions.

The thing is that my true nature really values family, community, and compassion, ALONG with independence and quiet and creativity etc., so “being Chel, perfectly” forces me to learn a balance between things that come naturally to me (quiet, creativity, family) and things that are a bit more challenging (community) but really important to me.

Okay, enough babbling. Off to swim. Thank you, as always, for checking in. Hope you are having an amazing day :)

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Villa di Marlia - The Balustrade by John Singer Sargent

Villa di Marlia – The Balustrade by John Singer Sargent

“Most of our searching is looking for ways to discover who we already are. Thus, we continually run into mountains and rivers, run to the farthest sea, and into the arms of strangers, all to be shaken into remembering…

We have been trained to think that being particular about what we want is indicative of good taste, and that not being satisfied unless our preferences are met is a sign of worldliness and sophistication. Often, this kind of discernment is seen as having high standards, when in actuality it is only a means of isolating ourselves from being touched by life.

Still, we are taught to develop preferences as signs of importance and position. In fact, those who have no preferences, those who are accepting of whatever is placed before them, are often seen as simpletons or bumpkins. However, there is a profound innocence in the fact that sages and children alike are easily pleased with what each day gifts them.

The further I wake into this life, the more I realize that God is everywhere and the extraordinary is waiting quietly beneath the skin of all that is ordinary. Light is in both the broken bottle and the diamond, and music is in both the flowing violin and the water dripping from the drainage pipe. Yes, God is under the porch as well as on top of the mountain, and joy is in both the front row and the bleachers, if we are willing to be where we are.” – Mark Nepo. The Book of Awakening


This passage came at EXACTLY the right time.

I’ve been fretting a little bit about my tendency to hibernate a little in winter (even though I totally get why I do it, and it makes total sense) and my general homebody habits and preferences. Should I be “out there” more? I already know the answer to this and it’s always “no”. But yet I sort of worry that I’m not living up to some sort of weird standard that includes afternoons at Starbucks and happy hour and world travel (three random things I don’t do…)

I’m not ecstatically happy right now or anything, but when I am in my daily routine, I am OKAY. Sometimes more than okay.

I find lots of little moments of joy in the regular, everyday stuff- the cool, sunny mornings, the little surprises in the garden every day, the warmth of the pool water when I first get in, the pretty scent of flower-scented soap in the shower, the big deep breath when I’m all done swimming and can relax for the rest of the afternoon, the way the inside of house lights up in the winter afternoons, the softness of a well-washed t-shirt, the little afternoon routines and rituals we all have, sitting down with a giant mug of tea after lunch in my art studio and pulling out my paints, the clicking of the keys as I write something, sitting down to share dinner with my family, the feeling of sliding in between the sheets at night and closing my eyes after a long day. I could go on and on.

I truly notice and savor all those moments, plus a million more, every day.

No, none of them are EXCITING or ecstatic. They don’t involve scaling the globe or huge groups of new people or learning an exotic skill. There’s no big adrenaline surge as a result of the things I enjoy. I don’t have to summon a tremendous amount of courage to do a lot of them (although living day to day requires tremendous courage, I believe.) But they make me feel okay.

But there’s a concern that I should be seeking so much more- that life should be a big high, constantly full of amazing moments. However, the older I get, the more I realize that’s not the truth, at least not for me. I know there are people out there that thrive off adventure, who love to travel the world from end to end, who grow and evolve with each new brave thing they do.

I have realized that I am not one of those people.

I had a fairly turbulent childhood with my health stuff. Because my health was so unpredictable, I found happiness and comfort in the bits of life that WERE safe and predictable. In everyday routines, and in my family, and in being *okay*. That hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s become even more true. Some people get bored when they aren’t moving, shifting, exploring, “out there”.  The opposite is true for me- when things are unpredictable and shifting, I get edgy and anxious. I crave simplicity. And returning to that makes me feel a zillion percent better.

Maybe that quality makes *me* a boring person, but *I’m* not bored. Does that make sense?

Like I said, I may not be ecstatic or wooping it up with joy, or going on adventures every day, but I am okay. And I think okay is excellent. Because when I was 15, or 20, I remember a lot of days when I wasn’t okay. I was unhappy and stressed and unsure and overwhelmed. I was depressed and crushed. I was terrified. All sorts of big emotions.

The idea of finding a level of “okay” (even boring okay) would have been a dream come true for me.

Then I think of Robin Williams. I think of him a lot- his death TRULY has changed my perspective on so many things. He had a great career and made a lot of people happy and wealth and success- all the things that are supposed to bring on “happiness”, but he did not seem to have “okay”.

So why is okay not enough, when it clearly IS enough?

I’m all for happiness, and for finding joy, but I think that our society, some of the wise teachers out there have defined “happiness” all wrong. It’s not always about big smiles and whoops of excitement.

Sometimes happy really is a soft t-shirt, or a favorite color of paint, or a new flower in the garden, or a hot shower, or a shared moment with family. Sometimes that’s more than enough. And I’m trying to remember that every single day. Okay is enough, okay is amazing.

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I barely took any photos in January (I guess after the holiday blitz, it didn’t feel necessary) so it was fairly simple to document the month in the scrapbook.

It took two evenings last week to pick the photos, print them, and put the pages together, which is very quick for this process, at least for me. It was actually really fun and stress-free, which made me wonder if I shouldn’t be doing smaller batches throughout every month, especially if the month is photo-heavy. I guess I’ll just see how February and March shape up.

Anyway, here are some pages from January, 2015:

scrapbook january 2015

around here in January

Just a little bit about January- the beautiful weather (since that’s been a huge source of happiness for me, I thought I would include snapshot of the weather app on my iPhone), a photo of Milo, and a shot of a hibiscus from the garden.

scrapbook january 2015

a new garden at school

One of the (many) amazing things that Gracie’s current school does is take tons of photos of the kids throughout the day and post them on a private Facebook page. So I grab the photos from the page and print them out and include them in the scrapbook.

This page is about the new garden at school and I had Gracie do the journaling. I am trying to get her to write more and more in the scrapbook – I love getting her perspective on things and I think it’s good to ducment her changing handwriting, too.

scrapbook january 2015

in the garden (overview)

scrapbook january 2015

in the garden (close-up)

A double page spread about the garden. I haven’t done garden pages in the scrapbook in a while, so I let myself go a little crazy.

I just wanted to document how much I love the garden in January knowing that it might inspire me next year when I get a little iffy about fall being over. Maybe now I’ll remember that January is a beautiful month, weather-wise, and that’s something to look forward to after the holidays.

Every year I learn a little bit about myself (my preferences, what makes me happy, etc.) by what I choose to document. For example, lat year I did a page in the scrapbook about how we were kind of “hibernating” a little bit in January and February and how there was a lot going on after the holidays and we were a little low-energy, so we stayed close to home whenever we had some down time and it made things less stressful.

This year, when January rolled around, I knew from documenting last year that the month might get a little crazy and we might consider laying low and close to home as a way to not get overwhelmed. I can honestly say *knowing* that about our family made the month of January a lot more enjoyable because I wasn’t trying to make myself stick to our regular routine of going to the movies all the time and running a zillion errands and having little adventures.

(note: I use a 9×9″ Aqua Bee Super Deluxe Sketchbook for the base of my scrapbook. After years of using traditional albums and page protectors and supplies, I am really enjoying how simple it is to pull out this book and create everything right on the pages. The downside: it’s getting too bulky for the binding. I might have to find a larger spiral and re-bind the book when it’s done, but I’m not too worried about it and I’ll figure that out when the time comes.)

Thank you, as always, for stopping by <3 .

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monk and orchid on our kitchen counter...

monk and orchid on our kitchen counter…


“Botswana had been a special country, and still was, but it had been more special in the days when everybody—or almost everybody—observed the old Botswana ways.

The modern world was selfish, and full of cold and rude people. Botswana had never been like that, and Mma Ramotswe was determined that her small corner of Botswana, which was the house on Zebra Drive, and the office that the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors shared, would always remain part of the old Botswana, where people greeted one another politely and listened to what others had to say, and did not shout or think just of themselves. That would never happen in that little part of Botswana, ever.”
– McCall Smith, Alexander : The Full Cupboard of Life

When I read this passage in the book I am reading, it stood out to me because it really reminded me of the  quote I used when I chose “peace” as my word for 2015:

“peace. it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” – unknown

I lovelovelove Alexander McCall Smith’s suggestion that physical, personal spaces are actual zones in which we can create conditions that encourage well-being and happiness. 

That idea is very empowering to me- that idea that no matter what’s going on out there in the world that is crazy and discouraging and imposing and out of our control, we can create little pockets of okay-ness in the spaces that we *do* control. Even if that space is small- just a room in our house, or a few quiet moments in an afternoon- it’s a place where things are okay, even good. And we can return to those places and find what we need.

When I read the lines above, and took a few minutes to think about it, I imagined people creating little corners of the world where goodness prevails- little spaces of well-being and calm and happiness sort of blinking to life on a map. Then I imagined watching the little lights blink on across the globe and the light getting brighter and brighter. The darkness may be overwhelming, but the light can get brighter.

If more of us did this- really take control of our spaces and impose conditions for well-being- we get more well-being across the board. You know what I mean?

I have to admit that this kinda helped me to understand what people mean when they say we can “create” the world we live in. That’s always seemed a little abstract to me, maybe a little “the Secret”-ish, but now I get it a little more.

This is what I want to do in February (and continually in the future)- I want to be determined that MY small corner of the world is a place where peace, creativity, kindness, compassion, etc. prevails. And then continually do what it takes to create the conditions so those things can flourish. I need to take the time to sit down and think about what this might entail, and follow through on it.

Bottom line: I may not be able to do much about the rest of the world, but I can shape this tiny little chunk of space and time that I inhabit. And that’s worth something.

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petunia love

06 Feb 2015
Carpet Buttercream

Carpet Buttercream

A few years ago, I ordered some Petunia seeds on a lark- I wanted an easy-care flower for the garden, and I had seen petunias in local garden centers year-round, so I decided to give it a go. Needless to say, I wound up becoming obsessed with them.

Daddy Blue

Daddy Blue

I have a large container garden (I’d say it’s about 150+ plants in a variety of containers, planters, and pots) on the back lanai of my house. It gets moderate sunshine, not too much both with pests (it’s screened in) and I have a potting bench and hose back there.

I’ve tried all sorts of flowering plants back there, but the Petunias just seem to flourish. They handle all sorts of weather, from the very HOT, intense, wet summers to the cool, dry winters, they are self-cleaning (which means they shed old leaves and spent blooms), and they tend to last for a LONG time- season after season, as long as I repot them with they start to get a little leggy. I just make the root ball compact with a little trimming, pot them in fresh soil in the same pot, and after a few weeks they are ready to go again.

African Sunset

African Sunset

Every few weeks I trim them down fairly severely and they just explode in response- they are basically big puffs of flowers over the top of the pots I have them in.

Aladdin Nautical

Aladdin Nautical

Even the snails don’t make much a dent in them- there’s always a few snails doing their thing around the Petunia planters/pots and I know there’s several large ones who *live* inside each pot, but the Petunias don’t seem to mind. I just have to watch it with the seedlings.

Dolcissima Flambe

Dolcissima Flambe

The seeds take a while to spout and bloom, and some of them definitely go through the whole growth-to-bloom phase quicker than others. But within a few months, they are flowering freely.

Wave Burgundy Star

Wave Crimson Star

Confession: I would love to double my collection, but I don’t have the room. There’s so many amazing varieties. I just tried the Double Cascade and I LOVE them, even though they easily “flop” when exposed to too much water and sun. But they are beautiful.

Double Cascade Orchid Mist

Double Cascade Orchid Mist

For a Southwest Florida container garden with my particular circumstances, I think Petunias are awesome. They ring a tremendous amount of color and detail to the garden, don’t require fussy care (they require a lot of water, pruning, but not much else), and hold up to the elements. Maybe a “simple” garden choice, but I really love them, especially since I LOVE flowers.

Daddy Pink

Daddy Pink

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I'm Chel (pronounced "shell", short for "Michele").

I'm a painter, writer, gardener, art historian, long-distance swimmer, crochet addict, movie watcher, animal lover, and avid reader.

Random facts: I grew up in New York (Long Island, to be specific), went to college and grad school in Atlanta, and now I live in Southwest Florida. I'm incredibly shy but I can be very chatty. I've been a vegetarian for 25 years. I swim five miles every day. I have an eight year old daughter and a 40-something year old husband. I'd rather eat kalamata olives than most anything, and I'm an AVID tea drinker. I exist with the steady background noise of meows (three cats), chirps and whistles (three parrots), and silence (an elderly gecko).

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bloom true

Bloom True is the painting class with Flora Bowley that I talk about in a lot of my posts :)

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