being what you are

29 Jan 2015
teddy sunflower in my garden

teddy sunflower in my garden

From The Book of Awakening:

“There have been many times that I said yes when I meant no, afraid of displeasing others, and even more afraid of being viewed as selfish… But long enough on the journey, we come to realize that those who truly love us will never knowingly ask us to be other than we are.

The unwavering truth is that when we agree to any demand, request, or condition that is contrary to our soul’s nature, the cost is that precious life force is drained off our core.

Despite the seeming rewards of compliance, our souls grow weary by engaging in activities that are inherently against their nature. When we leave the crowded streets and watch any piece of nature doing what it does – tree, moose, snake, or lightning – it becomes clear that the very energy of life is the spirit released by things being what they are.

In effect, the cost of being who you are is that you can’t possibly meet everyone’s expectations, and so, there will, inevitably, be external conflict to deal with-the friction of being visible.

Still, the cost of not being who you are is that while you are busy pleasing everyone around you, a precious part of you is dying inside.- Mark Nepo


When I was a kid,  I was a COMPLETE chatterbox. I was the toddler who tried to make friends with everyone and anyone, the kid who always got told to shut up endlessly in class, etc. I wore my heart on my sleeve *and* on my tongue. I had no filter. Whatever I thought, it came out of my mouth. I had so much to say, it was almost like I couldn’t hold it in. “Talks too much” was a frequent comment on my report card in grade school.

Then things started to shift. In high school, I got a little quieter. I felt myself wanting to pull back a lot, but it was like I didn’t know how. I was “the talker”, right? So how could I not talk?

Of course, as with most sorta-sulky kids that age, it was assumed that the shift in my behavior was me being sulky and moody. Or depression. Etc. I went with that, because for my entire young life, I was always told that I was outgoing and cheerful. So I assumed that my desire for quiet and my need to jam my walkman headphones into my ears at any opportunity to drown out the “noise” of the world around me was something wrong with me and not anything a normal, happy person might want to do.

That became ingrained in me, in a way. Loud was good and happy, quiet was depressed and sad.

I think the big changing point was when I lived by myself during college and graduate school. It was the first time I wasn’t around people 24/7. At first, I was terrified of being alone. But after a day or so, I kind of loved it. I loved having time to myself. I loved the spaciousness of it. I loved that I didn’t have to talk first thing in the morning or as soon as I got back from class every day. It was a weird relief and freedom I never felt in my life.

The older I got, the more I relished the peace I found in the balance between being around people and being alone. It was always a work in progress, figuring out what was the right amount for both. I couldn’t be alone too much because it drove me a little stir crazy (I’m definitely not anti-social), but I couldn’t be around other people 24/7 because it would make me completely zapped.

I also started realizing that when I was around people, I immediately went into “on” mode. It was like some little machine inside me just clicked on and whirred into action.  I had no idea I was doing that, but it happened automatically. When I was alone, I was “off”. So I realized I needed as much time “off” as “on”.

I think the sense of needing to be “on” and engaging and interesting also comes from the desire to make people comfortable around me. When you have a disability, especially a physical one (I have Spina Bifida and have always limped), people sometimes have odd reactions and make judgements on you based only on what they see about you.

If you let them know immediately that you’re not a threat, then you soften the blow of their judgement, a little bit. So if I melted the ice, broke the tension, I diffused any weirdness. And therefore I saved myself from hurt feelings. Does that make sense?

Anyway, a few years ago, when I started getting interested in neuroscience and psychology, I came across the personality traits for shyness and general introverted type behavior. Seriously, I almost fell off the couch when I read the list, because it suit me to a TEE.

Me, shy?! Me, an introvert?! But I was a chatterbox! I was the big-mouth!

…Wasn’t I?…

No, I wasn’t. Maybe I was the outgoing, no-filter, chatterbox for a few years when I was a kid, but ever since then, especially as an adult, I have been very shy.

Why do these little labels that are attached to us while we are children – before we have a chance to develop our personalities and discover our preferences and learn who we are – stick with us for the rest of our life?

I started doing tons of research on different personality types, shyness, and the psychology and neuroscience behind it. It all fit my personality. I found explanations for a lot of what I thought was a life-long depression: anxiety, exhaustion, need for alone time, the general gut instinct to run away from a ringing phone or a cluster of people engaging in small-talk. Finally, FINALLY, it all made sense.

It was beyond a light-bulb moment, it was like the sun coming out from behind the clouds and illuminating everything. It was such a relief to know that I was not deeply depressed, I was not sulky, I was not under some dark dreary sense of malaise. Don’t get me wrong- I definitely suffer from depression and anxiety, but when I learned about my shyness and why I gravitated towards certain situations (quiet vs. social, etc.), it was like a door unlocked.  I finally got permission to be myself- the way I *wanted* to be, the way I was when I wasn’t feeling the need to be “on”.

Instead of challenging my introverted behavior, I began to embrace it. And that was SUCH a relief. For the first time in my life, I started to feel some peace with myself. Instead of trying to make things work for myself (book clubs, happy hour with the other moms, mom-and-kid playdates, meetups, etc.) I decided to follow the things that appealed to me- hanging out more with just my family, doing art classes (both online and through local continuing education programs), gardening, taking as much alone time as I needed, and most importantly- saying a whole lot of “no” to things I used to immediately say “yes” to.

And life changed so much! I feel like I’m still at the start of what this discovery holds for me, because I’m learning more about myself every day. But I feel so different now.

The one negative to all this? People’s reactions, especially people who have known me since I was a little kid.  Being true to myself means I’m not being the person people thought they knew so well- the chatty, bubbly, dramatic little girl. It was a drastic change and I know people who knew me *before* get confused about why I’m so quiet and introspective now. I think there’s a belief that wanting to be quiet or alone equals some sort of sadness, depression, or isolation, but that’s not the case. Not at all. 

I feel like when I’m being quiet or needing some space, I’m recalibrating my compass. It feels like I’m recharging my internal battery. Knowing that the opportunity to “refuel” myself exists and is available to me whenever I decide I need it has been a profound relief, and has contributed greatly to my overall well-being and happiness. It takes the edge off.  It brings me peace.

Don’t get me wrong-  I’m also guilty of asking people to be what they are not.

For example, when Gracie was a toddler, she was SO outgoing and made friends with everyone. There was one time when she was a baby and turned around and offered the contents of her bread plate to the couple dining behind us at a restaurant. That was regular behavior for her. The whole town knew her, and they still do (we live in a small town).

But as she got older, she became more reserved. When we’d see an adult she knew, and she’d hide a little behind us or get quiet, we’d ask her “why didn’t you say Hello to so-and-so?” and she’d say, “I’m shy.”

My response? I said “But you’re not shy!” to her. Argh! When I realized I was doing that… argh. So I get both sides of this. I try very hard not to do stuff like that anymore- when she tells me she’s something, as long as it’s not her being self-critical, I don’t try and change her mind.

My favorite part of the passage above? This line: “…the very energy of life is the spirit released by things being what they are.” When I am being what I am, I feel that “energy of life”. I totally get it. And I’m reminded of why it’s SO important to keep making these discoveries about myself and my life and the world around me and continue to honor them. And to model that for Gracie, as well. I hope she can grow strong and confident in exactly who she is, not what the world thinks she should be.

I wish that for all of us.

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hibiscus in the garden…

What’s going on around here:

Outside my window…
I’m still loving the winter weather and trying to enjoy every day since I know that spring (which is really summer part one) is coming soon.

It’s actually raining here- sort of a sunshower. When I woke up, the sun was shining brightly. But then it got very breezy and the temperature dropped and the rain came down. I know I complain about the rain in summer, but in winter, when the rain doesn’t last all day, when it cools things down, when there’s no lightning attached, I love the rain. I love a cloudy day. It makes me feel so cozy and snug inside, and it also makes me feel like the world is a little less expansive, if that makes any sense. Like I’m tucked into my own little nest.

Something odd going on behind my house: they are ripping up the seawall a few houses down and it’s a bit odd. To be honest, I don’t mind construction noise nearly as much as I mind vacation-renter-noise, but I do worry a lot about the impact the construction has on the native creatures that live in/near the area they are working, both on the ground and in the bay.

I think I am coming to terms with the fact that after the holidays, it’s FULL-ON here. Tourists, snowbirds, industry. There’s no quiet. But like I said, construction noise is easier for me than people-noise. I don’t know why that is.


In the art studio…
I’m painting. A lot. I was really intending on spreading out time between the four main creative projects I have going on this year (painting, art journal, scrapbooking, watercoloring) but I’ve felt really compelled to paint for the last week or so, so I’ve been letting myself do that.

I’m still following the Bloom True “arc”, but I’m a little more relaxed about it since I don’t feel like I have to keep up with the class schedule. I’m working on something, like, SEVEN canvases – usually one or two a day, just playing around with paint and mark-making. Having lots of fun.

I’m also playing with color palettes. In Bloom True it’s recommended not to start drilling down the color palette on the canvas until later layers, but I LOVE color palettes- I love making them, I love finding them, I love looking at them. And pretty much the whole point of Bloom True is deveoping your own style through trial and error, so I decided to embrace my obsession with color palettes and am experimenting with defining them earlier on in the painting process. I had a lot of fun this weekend with that- actually making little swatches for different paintings based on the colors I saw coming through in the early layers.

I think I mentioned before that one aspect of choosing “peace” as my word for 2015 is to relax, and that goes into my creative projects. Playing with the painting process is a good way to do that, I think.

I did work on my art journal yesterday afternoon, though, and it was fun. That was encouraging. I wasn’t feeling so great, so instead of pulling out my paints, I decided to pull out a few pieces of paper and images and make a little collage for the next quote, and it came together nicely. I was really, really happy about that.

Haven’t really watercolored or scrapbooked in a few weeks, but I’m okay with that. January is a slow month for notable events, so besides some photos of Gracie at school (I love that her teacher and staff at her school share so many photos of their daily life on the school [private] Facebook page!) and some garden photos, there’s not many pages for the scrapbook in January.


In the garden…
It rained this morning so maybe I don’t have to water today. I love working in the garden, but when I get a surprise day off and everything is FINE out there, it’s a little bonus.


I think Gracie has a playdate today but I’m not sure if she’ll have it here or go to her friend’s house so that will determine the afternoon. Hopefully there will be time for some painting or art journaling once the daily “stuff” of everyday life gets done.

Can I just say how much I love it that Gracie is at the age where playdates are now mostly kids-only, meaning that the moms/dads don’t have to stay with the kids at the host’s house? The kids come here or she goes there. That’s the way it ALWAYS was for me growing up and for Tom, too, but for some reason younger kids here have playdates with parents accompanying the kids the entire time.

It made it really hard for us to do playdates because of Tom’s work (he works from home and his schedule is very flexible, which means he can work at odd hours) and my swimming schedule and health stuff (and my general desire to spend the little free time I have in my art studio). Now Gracie can go play with her friends any time or they can come here, and I don’t have to worry about putting out a spread and not boring another adult to pieces OR spending the afternoon feeling like I’m invading someone else’s space. I know a lot of parents like the whole mom/dad/kid playdate thing because it’s a chance to get to know other people and spend time with friends, but it’s really hard for shy people or people who work at home and have to have conference/video calls, etc.


“Morality for Beautiful Girls” by Alexander McCall Smith. I’m re-reading the entire “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series and enjoying it.


I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately in my art studio, and also catching up on a lot of videos from different art classes I have signed up for in the last year. I found out that I enjoy watching art classes *while* I make art even if the two projects are NOT related. It’s a little weird because it’s like going to an art class and while the teacher is showing you technique, you’re sitting there working on a different project.

But my thing with art classes is not to create very specific projects, but to learn technique and new approaches to stuff I like doing. So it’s more observation and picking up information, which I can do while I paint or collage or scrapbook or whatever.

Right now I’m taking two classes for 2015- LifeBook and One Little Word. I signed up for One Little Word specifically for the writing prompts and NOT for the scrapbooking projects, even though that’s a big part of the class. I just know that if I add some sort of extra scrapbook project on right now I’ll get behind and get frustrated, so I’m not even considering it.

LifeBook is an art journaling class where you create one art journal page a week for the entire year of 2015. Every week there’s a new video from a different teacher showing you their techniques and project, step-by-step. I’m interested in a few of the specific projects and teachers, but I’m mainly interested in absorbing and exposing myself to more creative approaches and styles across the board. It’s a SUPER cool year-long project, but again, I know if I add on a project of that scope, it will mean having to give up a project that I’m already working on, and I’m not willing to do that. At least not now.

I’m just approaching both classes as stress-free as possible. Great information, great content, fun stuff to watch while I’m in my studio, making art… why make it more complicated?


We saw WHIPLASH this weekend and LOVED it. I have obsessive tendencies and I get VERY passionate about things that matter to me, so that movie really resonated with me and made me think. I probably will write an entry about this soon, but I highly recommend it, if you haven’t seen it.

We’re still working our way through The Wire- we’re on season two- we can’t really watch it when Gracie is around, so we watch it when she’s over my parents’ for the night or at an activity. It’s super compelling.


I just finished a “pashmina” type scarf using Red Heart Unforgettable yarn in Dragonfly and I LOVED working with it. Probably one of my favorite yarns ever. I will have to post a photo of the scarf. I am not a technical crocheter (I know a few basic stitches and I’m pretty happy with that) but the coloring came out beautifully because of how the yarn is.

Now I’m working on a blanket or a throw or something with some Caron yarn I had in my stash. It’s really to keep me busy until some yarn I ordered arrives- I’m making Tom a cotton throw for his birthday in blue cotton yarn from Knit Picks. I made him a blanket in some cotton yarn way back when I started crocheting, but it’s basically a giant trapezoid full of holes because a) I had no idea what I was doing and b) I realized it’s super important to use cotton yarn with another fiber in it to give it a little bit of elasticity or else the fibers don’t bounce back as you stretch them over the crochet hook. So I’m giving it another go.


During the holidays, I got a gift certificate from Adagio from a friend and just went crazy restocking myself with all the black and oolong teas I loved. *swoon* I love tea. For a while, I was sort of “meh” about it, just working through my stash, but I realized that when I have a full drawer, tea drinking becomes a lot more fun and delicious. So now I’m back to total tea obsession. I am loving mixing different oolongs and different black teas right now. Every day a new happiness :)


Hoping/looking forward to…
There might be a trip to Universal Studios to see the new Harry Potter section in our future. Just a day trip, since the park is only three hours away and sometimes planning a longer-term vacation up there is more trouble than it’s worth. But since we have annual passes, I really want to try to get up there more often.

I mean, it’s an hour drive to get into Naples (the nearest town) to go to the movies or whatever, so why not just make the trip up to Orlando and go to the amusement parks every few weekends? If we go often enough, we won’t feel the need to try and jam everything into a single visit. I want to get back into the habit of going up there more frequently. I am also jonesing for Epcot and Magic Kingdom.


Thankful for…
a new week, creative mojo, my family, tea, the weather, the pool heater (especially on a blustery day like today!), my sweet pets, crochet, painting, mechanical pencils (random, yes, I know…), Mary J. Blige songs to listen to in the pool (I’m on a kick with her music), online classes, friends, windchimes, and seeds that sprout quickly.



Have a GREAT day!!

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I haven’t written about my garden in a long time, so I thought I’d share what’s going on out there. (I live in Southwest Florida, so it’s peak gardening season here.)

the back corner of the lanai

the back corner of the lanai

I don’t have a “traditional” garden because we don’t have a “traditional” yard- almost the entirety of our yard is covered by a screened in lanai that covers our pool and patio and deck, etc. We live on a canal/bay, and the home lots here are small, so our “backyard” is water.

But a few years ago I started a container garden on the back corner of our lanai, and it sort of exploded out on to the rest of the lanai- I now have something like 150 pots, planters, and containers all over the lanai. I have a little potting table out there, plus a hose, so it’s fairly easy to take care of everything.

Anyway, this is that “back corner” that I started it. It’s now sort of home base for my older and some of my larger plants.

the "ceiling" of the screened-in lanai with passiflora vine

the “ceiling” of the screened-in lanai with passiflora vine

A few years ago I moved one of my passiflora back there, and let the vine grow up the screened in lanai and then across part of the “ceiling” of the screened in lanai. It blooms in fall, and it’s pretty amazing to have huge flowers “dripping” down from the inside of the lanai, but I also like just the green vine. It’s like a little secret garden back there.

this year's tomatoes

this year’s tomatoes

As usual, we do a large container of tomatoes. This year we picked some from Lowe’s, but Tom (who eats the tomatoes), isn’t a huge fan. Next year I’ll probably go back to finding a good seed.



Basil is another edible we do every year. This is a plant that survived the summer (which never happens) so I decided to let it go again and it came back. I also have two others pots of basil- one a regular variety, and one an Italian big leaf variety.

tiny succulent garden

timy succulent garden

My little succulent garden. This year, I decided to keep the succulents in a shady area and it REALLY made a huge difference in their health. They get a blast of sun every day in the mid-day, and then dappled sunlight/shade. For some reason, they like it.

I want a little bench for them… like a little teak bench a foot or so off the ground. Maybe I can put my little bonsai on it, as well.

petunias down the side of the pool

petunias down the side of the pool

Petunias and geraniums down the side of the pool.



My hibiscus got hit HARD by mealybugs this summer. I had to continually cut them down to the trunk and remove all foliage this summer and fall. Finally, some of them came back, bug-free. And this was the first hibiscus bloom I had in months, so it made me REALLY happy. I hope they can all pull through- I miss them!

a new favorite - wishbone flower

a new favorite – wishbone flower

And a new favorite- wishbone flower. I used to get these from the local nursery in summer but they always had a short life. I decided to try from seed this year and I have them tucked in all over the place. I just love the way they look- very bright and clean.

I’m going to do a post just on the petunias soon (I’ve gotten obsessed!).

Thank you, as always, for stopping by :) I hope you are having an amazing Friday!

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paisley watercoloring project

paisley watercoloring project


I have a new passion- coloring with watercolors.

Last summer, I really got into watercolor paints. My parents got me a full set of Peerless watercolors, and then a wonderful friend got me a Jerry’s Artarama gift certificate for my birthday and I decided to invest in a set of good pan watercolors.

I wanted semi-moist pans, so I ordered two sets of St. Petersburg. And then I started supplementing the colors with tubes of QoR, ShinHan, Senellier, and DaVinci. I spent a lot of time creating a customized palette and organizing it and playing with the colors- it was so much fun. Someday soon I’ll take a photo of my palette and share it.

I also decided to get out my Twinkling H2o paints (I purchased a set a long time ago to try with beads) and play with those. Of course, I fell in love. Twinkling H2Os are amazing.

So I had all these beautiful watercolors but I couldn’t figure out what to do with them besides make endless color combinations and just drip them on paper and watch them mix. There are a zillion online watercolor classes and books, but for some reason, I didn’t want to learn a bunch of intricate techniques, I just really wanted to *play* with them. Just put them on paper and let them spread around and mix together. No mixed-media, no drawing with them- I just wanted to have fun with them.

Then I realized that I had a perfect use for them: coloring.

For a while now I have been collecting complex coloring books, like paisleys, Arabic Design, geometric designs, etc.. I mainly buy them for design inspiration and just because I like having them- they are a fun thing to collect. But I started thinking that I could scan the pages, print them out on watercolor paper, and watercolor them.

I could paint in the books, I suppose, but the paper in the coloring books can range from terrible to amazing, and I’d rather not mess up the books. Also, I’m picky about watercolor paper (has to be 140 lbs or heavier) because I do a lot of wet-on-wet techniques and lifting. So what I do is scan the books in chunks, edit the images into smaller “snapshots” in Photoshop, and then print them out on watercolor paper using my Epson printer.

Pepin Press Colouring Books

Pepin Press Colouring Books (photos from Pepin Press)

My favorite coloring books are from The Pepin Press. They are EXQUISITE- they are really large portfolios of lightly printed images on sheets of thick paper. *swoon*

I also love the “Just Add Color” series from Northport Press, especially the Lisa Congdon and Mid-Century Modern ones. I also like the Dover ones that feature paisley, mehndhi designs, and Tiffany stained glass windows. And Pomegranate Press has some great ones from art history.

This fall I started “coloring” with my watercolors, as well as my Tombow markers, which I sort of consider watercolors in pen form. I take the markers and “scrub” them on my palette and then use a paintbrush and water to pick up the color and mix it with other colors, etc.

I did the paisley above for my mom for Christmas. It took a few days, but it was SO MUCH FUN. It just was relaxing and meditative and something I did just for the sake of doing it and not being too worried the results.

If you’ve read this blog in the last few years, you know that’s something I have struggled with a lot- creating art just for the sake of creating and not thinking about if people would like the results. Coloring released me from that. I just find an image I love (which I did not create and therefore am not self-critical of), print it out, and go to town with my watercolors.

So one of my goals this year is to do some regular watercolor coloring. And also continue playing with the watercolors in my little Moleskine and pocket watercolor books. I’ll share what I make.

Thank you, as always, for reading! <3

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Tim's Vermeer

Tim’s Vermeer

I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie “Tim’s Vermeer” but if you didn’t, you should definitely make some time to watch it. It’s FASCINATING. It’s about this “regular guy” (ie absolutely not someone with any experience with art) who decides he wants to paint a Vermeer. He becomes convinced that Vermeer used some sort of optical device to help him paint, and after exploring the options, he builds his own device based on what he learns. It’s sort of this cool movie about art and technology and geeky stuff.

After I saw the movie, I did a few searches to see if a very simplified optical device (literally typed in “Tim’s Vermeer Device”) that is used in the film was available and couldn’t find anything. I figured someone would have grabbed the idea and mass produced it. Nope. But then…

Gracie got this “Crayola Sketch Wizard” thing for Christmas and – holy smokes- it’s the Tim’s Vermeer device! It uses mirrors and a lens to line up the image of your hand drawing with the image you are trying to duplicate.

Of course, it’s not exactly the same- it’s Crayola, it’s plastic, it’s meant to be a toy. But it really does work.

I only used it for a few minutes, but it’s very interesting how what you are *sure* you are seeing and drawing is not at all what you are drawing and seeing- you start making a mark with the pencil and even though you are watching yourself do it, the line winds up *completely* off by half an inch and the curve is wrong. It’s so strange! I remember there was a bunch of stuff about this in “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” but it was fascinating to actually have a demonstration of it. It takes a while to adjust yourself to drawing what is there.

I don’t know- this isn’t for serious artists, but if you are interested in the device used in Tim’s Vermeer, I would totally recommend trying the Crayola Sketch Wizard out, just for kicks. It does give you insight on how the eye/hand/brain thing works and doesn’t work when drawing.

Crayola Sketch Wizard

Crayola Sketch Wizard


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common miracles

“Most of us lead far more meaningful lives than we know. Often, finding meaning is not about doing things differently, it is about seeing familiar things in new ways.”
– Rachel Naomi Remen

I haven’t done a Common Miracles post in a *long* time, and so I thought I’d do one.

“Common Miracles” was a series of weekly posts on gratitude that I did a few years ago. The whole point of “Common Miracles” was for me to look at everyday life on a regular basis, and point out the little things that made me happy and all the regular, every day things that made me feel gratitude.

I’m not sure if this will become a weekly thing but I definitely want to do them more often.

Here’s my list for right now…

- Winter
Oh, winter. I am loving winter. I regularly wax poetic about autumn, but I am starting to realize that winter is ranking up there on the “favorite season” list.

Before you curse me for praising frigid, frosty, sub-zero, endless snow, etc. weather, know this: I live in Southwest Florida.

Winter, for us, is temperatures in the 60’s and low 70’s, with dips into the 40’s and 50’s. If it’s REALLY cold, we’ll get some 30-degree temperatures, but that happens once or twice a season.

I grew up in NY, and I remember checking the temperature every morning in winter, looking for 39 degrees, because if it was 39 degrees, it meant I didn’t need to lug my coat to school. 40 degrees was positively balmy back in NY. So for me to be thinking that 50/60 degrees is “cool weather” is kind of ironic. But for Southwest Florida, anything under 80 is a cold snap. 40 degrees is just like frozen tundra.

But as long as the pool heater is working, I’ll take any of it. Getting out of the water is a little chilly, especially in the 30/40 degree temperatures, but the melty, goosebump-y feeling that I get from jumping into a hot shower right after getting out of the pool into the cold air makes up for it.

And then there’s the beautiful fog, the quiet mornings, the overcast skies that don’t come with a storm attached. It just feels cozy. Perfection.

And I LOVE the shorter days. The sun sets around 5:30pm, which is perfect for me. In summer, the sun is up until after 9pm, if not later, and since you can’t go outside because it’s so hot and rainy, it feels like a crazy-long day and you feel trapped. At 8pm, you want the sun to go down, not emerge from the clouds.

In winter, it’s just a great balance. You can go out any time all day, be outside without getting exhausted or crispy, and then come in and feel the day winding down in the later afternoon/early evening.

I love hanging out in my art studio in the early evening, after the sun goes down. I feel focused and happy to be in there. I like watching the lights twinkle on across the neighborhood and out over the bay, imagining people getting their dinner ready, relaxing for the evening, tucked into their homes. It feels right.

– Podcasts

Towards the end of the fall session of “Bloom True” (online painting class), I started wanting to listen to something other than music while I painted. So I started listening to Serial. Ahhhhhh. So good! I’ve had a lot of podcasts that I’ve listened to sporadically, but when I realized I could paint/create and listen to podcasts without be distracted from either activity, it was like a whole new world opening up.

Of course, Serial is only 12 episodes, so there are others: Elise Gets Crafty, Professor Blastoff, After the Jump, The Lively Show, Adventures in Arting, etc. I keep trying to find new ones and adding them to my list.


- Apple Juice
I know this sounds weird, but there’s nothing more refreshing to me than an ice cold glass of Mott’s Apple juice. I don’t drink it often because it’s pretty unhealthy once you get to levels over 4 oz. (and 4 ounces of any beverage is never enough) but every so often we have it in the house snd I splurge a bit.

- The Wire
As a fan of serialized television (which is perfect for binge watching), The Wire has been on my “to watch” list forever. For some reason, one of the cable networks re-aired all sixty episodes right after Christmas, and our TiVo picked them all up.

What an amazing, engrossing show. We’re just about to wrap up season one, and I know the location of the show shifts every season, so I’m sort of bracing for it. But it’s a generous, thoughtful show- every episode is a full hour, and they don’t waste time on situations that don’t eventually add something to the story. Watching television can feel a little wasteful to me sometimes (especially when I’m watching a repeat of House Hunters), but shows like The Wire make me feel like my hour spent watching TV is time well spent. I work on my crochet and lose myself to the story.

Speaking of TV, there’s also The Great British Baking Show, which is awesome. So good! We watch Top Chef, and have watched different cooking shows periodically over the years, including many “dessert” ones, but this is the first show I have watched where I want to taste most everything. And it’s so fun and charming and funny, too. I look forward to it every week.

- Painting Again
I took a break from painting when preparation for the holidays kicked into high gear, and then spent some time after New Year getting everything in order and taking care of some other things that got sidelined in anticipation of Christmas. This week I started painting again. I didn’t go back to the canvas I had been working on this fall (the one with the circles)- instead, I went back to some canvases I started in October but didn’t get far on.

It feels really good to be back in the earlier layers, where all that matters is getting color and marks on the canvas. Because I’m not worried about composition or cohesion in the early layers of a painting, I can sort of space out and just PLAY. It’s fun. I think I’ll just stay in this “early layer” mode for a bit and if one of the canvases moves forward and I want to focus in, I will. But for now, I just want to have my paints out again, and I want to really enjoy using them.

And, of course…
My Family (and a very clean master bedroom closet…)
My dad for installing a new, pristine countertop for me in my art studio, my mom for taking Gracie to her allergy shot appointment this week (and for taking her to see Paddington this weekend!).

Gracie for generally being awesome and interesting and cheerful and for being an amazing person to share the art studio with. The dining room table used to be her center of operations, but the last few months she’s migrated in here for more than just craft projects. Now her laptop lives in here and when she’s working on homework or watching movies or playing Minecraft or working on a project or listening to music, she’s in here with me. It’s really nice having the company.

Much love and gratitude this week to Tom for giving up a Saturday afternoon and evening to help me clean out the huge master bedroom closet. It’s the biggest storage spot in our house, by far, so lots of stuff get toted away in there in my obsession with tidiness. It was a little insane, to be honest. And I always put off organizing it because it seemed like just *so* much.

But I finally got the bug to get in there, and Tom sacrificed one of his few days off to help me go through EVERY SINGLE THING in there and really organize the closet.

We got rid of about 90% of what was in there (no joke): years of clothing, odds and ends from when we lived in the condo, random baby stuff, tons of old craft stuff, bins and boxes of all sorts of random stuff that got annexed in there over the last eight years. I’ve been very minimalist and organized in the house in last five or so years, so I guess the closet was sort of the last hold-out. Whenever I couldn’t make a decision on whether or not to toss something because of sentimental reasons (or ye old “but I paid good money for this!” reason) I’d stow it in the closet. It felt so good to clear out all that stuff that I didn’t even remember was in there. I had to work quickly and make fast decisions, because I’d find something and think “oh, THAT!” and start getting attached again, so if I worked fast, I could sort of bypass the emotional aspect of it.

Also, the capsule wardrobe concept is new, but I’ve been sort of doing that for the last three years, just because I’m sort of lazy as far as clothes and it’s so hot here most of the time. I have a core group of v-neck t-shirts (all black), skirts, sundresses, shorts, and hoodies I wear and I RARELY deviate from them. I have about ten favorite bags.  My only shoes are two pairs of Nikes and some shoes for swimming/gardening. I just wanted to get rid (donate) the rest- sweaters, unworn/barely worn skirts and pants and shorts and tops and jackets and purses and sweaters… all stuff I loved but never ever wore or used.

It’s like I have a brand new closet- it’s so vast and empty and I love it. Such a huge weight off my shoulders that I didn’t even realize I was carrying around. It makes me wonder what else is like that – something that’s sort of weighing on me without me realizing it. Worth giving some thought to.

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art journal page

first page from my newest art journal…

“Simply be who you are, do what you do best, be where you are called by joy, and let life work its magic on your behalf.” – Alan Cohen

Sometime in December I realized that I REALLY missed keeping an art journal. I missed having a space to combine words and images and random odds and ends from my life. I missed the process of making the (simpler) pages. It was sort of mindful, in its own way.

But every time I thought about starting a new art journal, I immediately got turned off because of the mixed-media aspect of it. Since I’ve been painting on canvas and taking painting classes, my interest in creating mixed-media projects has been more or less zero. And art journaling has always entailed quite a bit of mixed-media for me.

Those mixed-media pages took a LONG time, and since I am so indecisive and agonize over small, silly details, it often took me days to complete the background of just one page. I’m trying to identify situations that throw me into indecisive tizzies, and then try and eliminate all the unnecessary ones, and “mixed-media backgrounds” seem to fall into that category. So, I would consider an art journal, and then talk myself out of it.

… and then consider it again …

I started looking back on some of my own art journals to see what grabbed my attention and if there was any part of the process that I could pick up and carry over to a new art journal practice that wasn’t fussy or complicated. I realized that some of my favorite pages to make *and* to look at were just the ones that were straight-forward collage with some words on it. No paint or dye to be found on the page, except for stamping.

So I started wondering, couldn’t I just do *that*? Just keep a clean, fairly straight-forward art journal? Just a collection of collages made of images and ephemera and quotes?

After thinking about it, I decided to create an illustrated, collaged journal of my favorite quotes using images that caught my eye. No paint, no gesso, no personal journaling (that took me an enormously long time, as well…).

Just images that spoke to me and quotes that are really meaningful to me. That’s it. A simple collection of images and words.

I headed to Pinterest to see if I could find examples of what I was imagining in my head. Of course, they were there in abundance. Looking at all those beautiful pages that others have made helped me realize that what I want to do *can* indeed be done.

So I decided to try it.

I’m not 100% happy with my first page (see above) but after my original irritation with it, and the whole “do I really want to do this project if it’s not turning out the way I want?”, I decided I really want to keep going with it, at least for a little while.

The truth is, I usually *strongly* dislike the first few pages/steps/layers/attempts of every project I start. It takes a while to get into the flow, and my litmus test is this: if there’s interest after the initial disappointment that comes with the start of a new project,  it’s usually worth investing more time and energy in. So I’ll try a few more pages.

As far as specifics: Once again I am using a 9×9″ AquaBee Super Deluxe Sketchbook- I bought two for watercolor, but they aren’t good for wet-on-wet painting techniques, so I wound up putting them on my shelf because I was a little baffled on how to use them. I LOVE the size, though- the Super Deluxe is large (60 sheets) and the spiral is large to hold bulky pages and the size is perfect- 9×9″.

When I decided to simplify both my scrapbooking and start art journaling again, I realized they were the perfect books/journals for both projects. So I have one as our family scrapbook, and one as my new art journal.

So, we’ll see how this goes and how it evolves. But for now, it feels good to be collecting images and ephemera again, knowing that it will end up in a journal.

Do you have any favorite quotes? If you want to leave a comment with them, please do! I would love to know what you might include in a collection of quotes, if you were going to create one.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by <3

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photo by Kathleen Brennan

photo by Kathleen Brennan

When Akiba was on his deathbed, he bemoaned to his rabbi that he felt he was a failure. His rabbi moved closer and asked why, and Akiba confessed that he had not lived a life like Moses. The poor man began to cry, admitting that he feared God’s judgment. At this, his rabbi leaned into his ear and whispered gently, “God will not judge Akiba for not being Moses. God will judge Akiba for not being Akiba.”- The Talmud

From the Book of Awakening:

We are born with only one obligation-to be completely who we are.

Yet how much of our time is spent comparing ourselves to others, dead and alive? This is encouraged as necessary in the pursuit of excellence.

We humans find ourselves always falling into the dream of another life. Or we secretly aspire to the fortune or fame of people we don’t really know. When feeling badly about ourselves, we often try on other skins rather than understand and care for our own.

Yet when we compare ourselves to others, we see neither ourselves nor those we look up to. We only experience the tension of comparing, as if there is only one ounce of being to feed all our hungers. But the Universe reveals its abundance most clearly when we can be who we are.

And compassion, sweet compassion, is the never-ending story of how we embrace each other and forgive ourselves for not accepting our beautifully particular place in the fabric of all there is.”  -Mark Nepo. 


Another Mark Nepo bit- I’m reading daily from “The Book of Awakening” and this one really made me think.

I like to think that I’m *aware* of the fact that I compare myself to others, both consciously and subconsciously. But it’s sort of a disease of being human, isn’t it? I don’t think it ever really stops.

I think I’m trying to get to a place where I feel very much at home being me. When I think back on how uncomfortable I was with myself when I was younger, it makes me cringe. It also makes me realize that I have come a LONG way, and it makes me so proud, in a way.

I think part of the “peace” mission for myself is finding not only contentment in my place in the world, but also finding contentment in myself, even when I’m not at my best- those days when I’m not getting much done, or feeling crummy, or not wanting to be “on”. Every year I get a little better at it.

I think a key to this is self-awareness. Knowing how you behave, react, respond, feel in certain situations that repeat themselves. And then adjusting accordingly.

For example, right now I’m in a bit of hibernation mode. Last year I realized that after the holidays, I get into a little bit of a mood where I don’t really want to go out into the world to do things (like movies or go out to dinner or go shopping or whatever), I just want to stay close to home and make art and take classes and hang out with my family and swim and tend to the garden and read. It’s winter, so that’s just a natural thing for a lot of creatures- hibernate. Rest. Gather energy. (I also know that when it starts warming up, I’ll go a little stir-crazy to get out more.)

But I feel kinda guilty about it. Like I need to shake things up… and not for any particular reason. Even though I feel perfectly okay being a little “hibernate-y” right now. I’m not yearning for anything, or feeling like I’m missing out, or craving something outside of what I am doing. Tom’s got lots of work on his plate and he’s crazy busy. Gracie is adjusting being back to school and regular soccer practices and Girl Scouts, and all her stuff, so when she’s home, she’s happily reading or making stuff with her creative Christmas gifts or whatever. She’s not asking me to take her somewhere.

But still, I feel like I maybe should pack us all into the car and go “out” because that’s what families should do on the weekend. Which is ridiculous, because none of us want it. So I basically have the urge to take us all from our little zones of quiet contentment in order to *seek* contentment? (See how this goes?)  There’s no right way for everyone. Everyone’s “perfect Sunday” is different. Everyone’s daily routine is different. Everyone’s everything is different.

So I have these little tug-of-wars in my head. But I’m aware of them. So I think that’s a start.

I’m trying to honor myself, my place in the universe. It’s hard work- maybe it’s the true life-work of all human beings: accepting and actually being okay with exactly who we are. And then continuing to accept and honor yourself every time you have to make a decision.

It’s not just a state of mind, this “peace” business- it’s a constant practice. I just realized that now, writing this. Something I need to remember.

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winter fog

winter fog

What’s going on around here:

Outside my window …
Okay, I love the winter weather. Seriously. I’m smitten. Usually December in Southwest Florida is rainy and gloomy, but this year it was really lovely- a few wet days, but mostly cool and a little overcast.

Oh, and foggy mornings, which I LOVE. There’s something about a cool, foggy morning that makes me incredibly happy. It sort of makes me feel like I’m alone on a little nook at the edge of the world, and everything sparkles because the light is very bright, but diffuse. It muffles all the sounds, so it’s super quiet. It reminds me a lot of when the snow *just* started to fall back in New York (where I grew up). But it’s warmer and when the fog fades, it doesn’t leave yellow/gray dirty slush in its wake.

It’s funny, because I hate cloudy weather in summer, but in winter, I can’t get enough. Maybe because it doesn’t bring the violent storms, and doesn’t feel heavy because there’s not as much heat. It just feels cozy, not constricting.

I think winter is going to be added to my list of “favorite seasons worth celebrating” (along with autumn). I probably never considered it celebration-worthy before because of two things: it’s the start of tourist season, and *drumroll* … the holidays.

The holidays seems like a separate, fifth season all to itself. You get scooped out of the start of winter, thrown into the holidays, and then at the end of it you get deposited BACK into winter, just several weeks later, in a bit of a daze. So it’s like winter has two parts, and the second part doesn’t offer twinkle lights or a bunch of fun stuff to look forward to.

Second Winter [writing that makes me feel like a character from a JRR Tolkien book] is a weird season for me. The tourists have come back, it’s very loud (the island gets super busy during and after the holidays), and it seems like things are a little more exposed. Like, now the countdown to summer REALLY begins. (And summers are kind of brutal.)

In the months leading up to December, no one is here yet. So you get the beautiful weather and quiet and ability to move around the island quickly and go about your business. It’s pretty much heaven on earth. There’s a reason I make such a big deal about it. It just makes me so happy!

After the holidays, the island is buzzing, people jostling for space, things needing to get done. This morning I woke up to three leaf blowers, screaming and clanking from the construction site down the block, and the sound of cars zooming down the block. All before 7:15am.

I’m trying to remind myself that nothing has really changed in the natural world since late November- the weather and light is basically a mirror of what it was back then. There’s just a little more going on around me. I absorb a lot of that stuff even though I try very hard not to, so I think these next few months will be me trying to focus on the beauty of the season and not the chaos that surrounds it. It’s STILL winter, it’s still cool and breezy and bright. There’s still much to appreciate and feel. I just have to work on drowning the noise out a bit.

Yet another way a focus on “Peace” comes in handy this year…

I am thinking…

I’m still a little discombobulated from the Christmas break. I guess we all are. I’m slowly easing back into day-to-day life, but also trying hard to keep the whole “peace” thing in mind, and retrain myself to approach each day a little differently than I have been. I know everyone starts a new year hoping for the best and trying new things, but I *really* want to make little changes that make me less stressed and frazzled. So I have to re-invest in that process That needs to be the priority, rather than the accomplishments along the way, if that makes any sense.

I have this little thing lately, and I’m not sure it will last, but for 2015 my daily goal (along with bringing peace into my life with the choices I make) is to start something and finish something every day. It can be simple, like starting a blog entry or starting a new pot of seeds, or it can be complex like starting a new year-long project or whatever. And finishing is the same- finish a book, finish an email, finish something I have been putting off for months, etc.


I am thankful for…
a gorgeous sunny day, the windows WIDE open, and the giant mug of Darjeeling tea next to me.


From the art studio…
I haven’t painted in weeks. In the middle of December I put everything away, knowing that holiday preparation would be happening, and I’m working on getting back into the flow and regular routine.

I’m hoping that I can spend a few afternoons reviewing the materials from Bloom True while they are still fresh in my mind, and then pick up with painting again. I also have a few other creative projects I am wanting to try this year- an art journal specifically for quotes and some watercoloring- but painting is my priority. I’m just sort of working through the backlog of stuff I had to put aside to be present for the holidays. I’m making a million lists, which help me feel centered, and working through them. I’m definitely a list-maker. They really do help me.


From the garden…
It’s peak gardening season! I’m very excited about this. Every day I’m out there, watering, pruning, monitoring, seeing what’s new and exciting.

This year is all about petunias and geranium, plus I just planted a bunch of new coleus varieties and some new plants I have never tried before- hollyhocks and lisanthus.

Our eggplant and tomatoes are doing very well, so well that Tom and I are discussing getting a small dwarf avocado tree. I don’t like avocado (surprise, surprise- but I guess it’s well-known that I’m an insanely picky eater) but Tom does, so I’d be excited to try my hand at growing avocados. I also still want a citrus tree (clementine- again, for Tom) and I want to try different varieties of tomatoes since the ones we have are not very juicy (just some Romas we picked up at Home Depot).


I am reading…
I spent the last two or so months re-reading all ten books in Alexander McCall Smith’s “Sunday Philosophy Club”/Isabel Dalhousie series, and now I’m re-reading all the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency books. I like to re-read books every fall and winter. Last fall I re-read all of Elizabeth Berg’s books and then re-read both Happiness Project books in January.


I am hearing…
frickin’ Taylor Swift. Seriously. Her new album is on repeat around here- it’s really good. It’s very similar to Tegan & Sara’s Heartthrob (but even better). I would have never in a million years thought that I would be listening to Taylor Swift, but there you go. I’m also listening to Mary J. Blige’s new CD, which is FABULOUS. And some old Sinead O’Connor and Edie Brickell and Liz Phair. And Metallica, always.


I am watching…
Downton started last night and I’m SO excited to watch it (it’s sitting on the TiVo). We’ve also been working our way through The Paradise (both seasons) with Gracie. Tom and I watched the first episode of Black Mirror on Netflix, which was… odd. I’m really looking forward to the return of Broadchurch and The Fall.

And, oh, if you haven’t watched “Transparent”, go do that right now. SO good. But nine half-hour episodes does not a season of a show make. Hope they make more episodes soon.

As far as movies, recent films include Foxcatcher, Belle, The Hobbit part 3, Night at the Museum part 3, The Interview, Horrible Bosses 2, Hundred Foot Journey, and a bunch more. I definitely didn’t see as many as I hoped in the theater over the holidays, but we watched a ton of movies we missed this year at home.


I am going…
to get a haircut later today. I still have a pixie and I still love it. But it requires a lot of trims. I know I’ll feel awesome after my hair is cut, though.


Have a GREAT day!!

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Here are some scrapbook pages from fall and the holidays.

My goal was to get all the holiday photos scrapbooked before January 1st, because I know myself well enough to know that by January 1st, using anything holiday themed would just irritate me. Last year I was so busy with painting that I just stuck the fall and holiday photos onto some patterned paper and called it a day. And I didn’t want to do that this year.

I’m trying to be honest about why I do some of the ongoing projects I do to see if there’s anything that I’m doing strictly out of a sense of obligation or even comfort, but scrapbooking is one of those things that I know is important. Not only does Gracie regularly look through the scrapbooks and cheer me on when I do them, but the process of making them really makes a huge difference in how I see our lives- I get a second chance to reflect on days and time passing, and that changes everything.

Anyway, I got it done- I barely made my “end of January 1st” deadline, but I did it!

New scrapbook, too!  More on that under the photos:


finally autumn

Celebrating autumn, my favorite season. Sun rises, rainbows, and cooler weather. 48 degrees is VERY cool for Southwest Florida, so I decided to document the temperature by taking a screenshot of the weather app on my phone.



birthday girl

Gracie’s birthday celebration- a movie (“Alexander and the No Good…”) and dinner (burgers @ Counterburger). She turned nine. (9?! Holy smokes!!) We’re eventually going to Universal Studios for an official celebration this spring (and to check out the new Harry Potter stuff because Gracie is obsessed- she’s a LOYAl Hufflepuff), but we always do a little family thing on the weekend of her birthday.




General October photos- a selfie of Tom and me at dinner, Chester snuggled in his bed, some snapshots of the painting I was working on for Bloom True, the painting class that started in October.

[Note: the super cool thing about this particular sketchbook I am using as a scrapbook is that an old hole punch I had (Stampin’ Up notebook edge from YEARS ago) actually matches the spiral binding of this sketchbook. So I was able to take out my un-used Project Life cards and punch them and they fit PERFECTLY into the binding. I was so excited when I figured that out. I love having extra room for journaling and I also love the look of the little included pages. Total serendipity. And I get to use up all the Project Life cards I purchased when I did that project last year.]



mystery history day / halloween

Mystery History Day and Halloween. At scool, the kids dress up as a historical figure for Halloween and the other kids and teachers try to guess who they are by clues and costume. The more obscure, the better. Gracie dressed as “Grace O’Malley”, who was a female Irish pirate who ruled the Irish Coast back in the days of Queen Elizabeth I. O’Malley was so powerful that Queen Elizabeth met with her amicably to try and negotiate a trade route through Ireland- one of the first time in modern history that two female “rulers” met to work together. It was actually a fun research project. We weren’t expecting to find many female pirates, but there were quite a few.



school and soccer

Gracie started soccer this year and she loves it. She didn’t want to do it for years, but we finally just signed her up and asked her to try and lo and behold… Also documenting school days. This year is her last at Montessori (it only goes up to third grade :( ) and so next year she’ll be attending a new school. She got to shadow one of her friends at a local school for a day to see if she liked it, and she did. So we’ll be going through the admissions process this spring.



it’s starting to feel like winter

More cooler weather and the transition to late November. Lots of Chester the cat curled up and the start of foggy mornings, which is one of my FAVORITE weather things down here. Cool, foggy mornings- BLISS.




Our Thanksgiving tradition- on the day before Thanksgiving we go to a movie and out to eat dinner with my mom and dad. Gracie was in Harvest Fest at her school that morning, and then we went to see Mockingjay and had dinner at Bravo. Then Gracie went home with Nanny and Papa and spent Thanksgiving with them for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Tom and I are vegetarians, so the food-centric holidays feasts are not really our thing. I have become an insanely picky eater in the last five years, so that’s kind of a pain, too. I don’t impose my eating habits on other people if I can help it. Anyway, by doing it this way Gracie gets a fancy home-cooked meal, she gets to spend the holiday with my parents, and my mom doesn’t have to worry about making an extra thing for us. And it’s a lot more relaxing, too- Thanksgiving has become this nice, 2-day cozy holiday for all of us.



deck the halls

A few days after Thanksgiving we put up the tree- my parents came over and we got it up. We have three trees- one big one in the sunroom with a zillion lights, one tiny real one that Gracie decorates, and my little “twinkle” tree which we put up in the corner of the living room and has tiny temple bells, quartz chunks, and butterflies on it…



wreck the halls

“Wreck the Halls” because the day the twinkle tree went up, the boy cats promptly knocked it down. The photos make it seem like Chester was not involved, but he definitely was. Before the tree came down, both he and Milo were under it, and Chester was being very vocal, so I know he was involved. He’s so good at looking innocent, though.



calm and bright

A few moments of peace for the cats (and for us!)



dinner and a movie

Christmas break started for Gracie and we celebrated by going to see Night at the Museum and then going to dinner. We ate outside (which I love but no one else – but Gracie- ever wants to ;) ) and there was a big Christmas tree right near our table so I got lots of pictures of it and Gracie standing near it.




Random December shots- weather, the harvest from our garden (eggplants!), the succulent that bloomed out of nowhere, Gracie at school, etc.



december 23

Like Thanksgiving, we celebrate Christmas by shifting the days a little bit. We celebrate Christmas Eve by going out the day BEFORE Christmas Eve- December 23rd- to the movies (this year it was the third Hobbit film) and then to dinner at my parents’/Tom’s favorite restaurant.


scrapbook pages fall/winter 2014

christmas eve

Then on Christmas Eve, Gracie, Tom, and I hung out at home- we watched movies, then made molded chocolates (a new holiday tradition that was a total success for all three of us), and then opened a few gifts. My mom got an extra day to wrap gifts and cook for Christmas, which she appreciated.


merry christmas

merry christmas

Then on Christmas, my parents came over and we opened gifts together and hung out.

Gracie always makes gifts for Nanny and Papa and this year she made golf balls for my dad (had them printed at Cafe Press) and she knitted a scarf for my mom. The scarf took a LONG time, and she had to put in a lot of work and days. Hopefully that experience didn’t discourage her from doing handmade gifts in the future, because I know my mom really appreciated it.

Gracie went home with my parents for a big Christmas dinner, and Tom and I took a deep breath and collapsed in front of the TV with vegetarian hot dogs (so not kidding) and just RELAXED. No last minute anything to worry about! We were so excited and relieved that we got it all done.

So as far as my new scrapbook: after using American Crafts 8×8 albums for several scrapbooks, I decided I wanted to try something new.

aquabee super deluxe sketchbook

aquabee super deluxe sketchbook


A few months ago I bought a 9×9″ Aqua Bee Super Deluxe Sketchbook because it was supposed to be good for watercolor, but it’s not good for wet-on-wet watercolor, which is my favorite technique, so I really didn’t know what to do with it.

I LOVED it though- it is large (60 sheets) and the spiral is large to hold bulky pages and the size is perfect- 9×9″. But the idea of priming 120 pages for watercolor was too much. So I just put it on my shelf and tried to figure out what I could use it for.

When it was time to start a new scrapbook, I started getting really interested in old-school scrapbooks and simpler page layouts and stuff. And NO page protectors. So I decided to try scrapbooking in the Aqua Bee.

It took a little getting used to – no page protectors, spiral binding- but now that I have done a few pages, I really like it. I love that I have a place to start on every new page because there is already a foundation for the pages (the white paper in the sketchbook). I can either add a background paper or just glue the photos down to the white sheet and embellish around them.

retired Stampin' Up Spiral punch

retired Stampin’ Up Spiral punch

And the big bonus was what I mentioned up above- the Stampin’ Up punch I got when I FIRST started scrapbooking back in 2005 punches out perfectly aligned notches in any paper and it slides and locks into the spiral binding. I originally took it out to see if I could *maybe* get the holes to line up, but when the Project Life card snapped into the binding of the sketchbook, it was like trumpets played. Now I have extra space for journaling and notes and extra photos, and I have a use for not only the punch, but all the Project Life cards I have.

So we’ll see how this new approach to scrapbooking works.

Thank you, as always, for stopping by <3

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winter sunset...

winter sunset…

I read this in Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening and thought I might share it:

Each person is born with an unencumbered spot – free of expectation and regret, free of ambition and embarrassment, free of fear and worry – an umbilical spot of grace that issues peace.

Psychologists call this spot the Psyche, theologians call it the Soul, Jung calls it the Seat of the Unconscious, Hindu masters call it Atman, Buddhists call it Dharma, Rilke calls it Inwardness, Sufis call it Qalb, and Jesus calls it the Center of our Love.

To know this spot … is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work or what we wear or how we like to be addressed, but by feeling our place in relation to the Infinite and by inhabiting it.

This is a hard lifelong task, for the nature of becoming is a constant filming over of where we begin, while the nature of being is a constant erosion of what is not essential. Each of us lives in the midst of this ongoing tension, growing tarnished or covered over, only to be worn back to that incorruptible spot of grace at our core.

When the film is worn through, we have moments of enlightenment, moments of wholeness, moments of satori, as the Zen sages term it, moments of clear living when inner meets outer, moments of full integrity of being, moments of complete Oneness.

And whether the film is a veil of culture, of memory, of mental or religious training, of trauma or sophistication, the removal of that film and the restoration of that timeless spot of grace is the goal of all therapy and education.

Regardless of subject matter, this is the only thing worth teaching: how to uncover that original center and how to live there once it is restored.”  (Mark Nepo. The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have (pp. 3-4). Kindle Edition.)

At the end of the chapter, Nepo suggests the following: “Consider two things you love doing, such as running, drawing, singing, bird-watching, gardening, or reading. Meditate on what it is in each of these that makes you feel alive.  Hold what they have in common before you, and breathing slowly, feel the spot of grace these dear things mirror within you.”

I think that’s a simple but powerful exercise- picking two things that you really love doing (notice it doesn’t say “being the best parent to ever walk the earth” or “working harder than anyone else in the company” or “getting excellent grades/performance reports” or anything that we do because we feel like that’s what we should really love… that stood out to me, although I know there are some people who truly do love those things) and figuring out what about them makes you love them and what they have in common. That’s a good way to start figuring out what *else* might make you feel the same.

I’m definitely going to try that, I think. I always assume the answer is “art” or “movies” or whatever, but maybe I can uncover some things. The other evening I was standing in the bathroom, brushing my teeth and thinking, and all the sudden a voice in my head said “You know, Chel, art is not the end-all-be-all of happiness.” That was a total a-ha moment for me- super scary, because it’s easy to just love making art and always return to that. BUT, it also felt like a sense of freedom to me- there ARE other things out there that I love to do and *do*, but I don’t give them the same investment of time and energy and thought as making art.

So maybe I need to start opening up my bits of free time, which I usually just devote to being in my studio, to other things. It scares me, because I worry “if I give some of that little bit of free time to other things, I won’t be creating much at all!” but maybe there needs to be a different balance in life, and I need to make room for other things. Just some food for thought.

Happy Sunday <3


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Most people think that once they've found their purpose and the power to practice it, they'll finally be at peace. Actually, though, it's only by starting in a place of peace that we find our purpose and power. Peace is the first step and the final lesson we all need to learn.

“Most people think that once they’ve found their purpose and the power to practice it, they’ll finally be at peace. Actually, though, it’s only by starting in a place of peace that we find our purpose and power. Peace is the first step and the final lesson we all need to learn.” – Martha Beck

I’ve been thinking about writing some sort of retrospective entry about 2014, or doing some sort of meme… but, I just don’t feel like it. Not that the year wasn’t worth reviewing, cause I think it was in a lot of ways. I just don’t have the energy to sit down and articulate it all. At least not right now. I just feel focused and ready to go with 2015.

I have been making little lists of creative projects in my notebook, though. I got derailed by the holidays (pretty normal around here) and as holiday responsibilities start to ease up, I’ve been feeling really discombobulated as far as getting back into the groove of my normal creative routine. So I started making lists, because they always help get me centered and focused.

As I wrote little lists for all the creative projects I’m working on – painting, scrapbooking, writing, classes, etc.- I started reflecting on 2014 a bit, and what I accomplished and what I didn’t accomplish and what felt right and what might need a little more attention this year.

I had a few different things that I hoped to work towards in 2014, and I accomplished quite a bit. But more important was the discovery that a lot of the things I thought I really wanted for myself  when I started 2014 were not really things I wanted at all. You think you want something very badly, but then you discover you don’t want it at all, and it’s like someone has handed you the key to a lock you didn’t even know was blocking you from a better life. It’s almost a sense of relief.

I think what I really wanted in 2014 was happiness. And, of course, I went about it a roundabout way. That’s what I tend to do.  But the older I get, the more I realize that the path to happiness is pretty straightforward. The truly complicated part about happiness is that it’s different for everyone, and it takes a LONG time to figure out that what makes someone else happy won’t make you happy, and that the things you might have been told about happiness from a zillion outside sources (the media, peers, family, etc.) are not necessarily valid for you.

For instance, for years and years I thought I wanted a REALLY successful, demanding creative career. I wanted to create a creative niche that I could thrive in, and devote my time to that, and then say “this is it, this is who I am and what I do.” I guess I felt if I created an amazing career for myself, I could define myself by that and then have that become my mission in life and follow that path and life would snap into place. It would be the thing that defined me, that gave me a feeling of value. It would allow me to find my place in the world. I think I believed that if I finally figured out an official “career”, then that would give me some feeling of relief and worth.

As time has gone on, I realize that the validation I’m looking for has to come from within.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t conditions, because there are. I know for a fact that I’m much happier when I’m working towards a goal, or at the very least the project I am working on is organized. Like for example, taking a painting class from start to finish. Working on the scrapbook. Those are things that are part of a larger whole, in a way, and there’s a way to go about them, so I feel like I have less decisions to make along the way and I can just *create.*

But for years my “condition” with creating things was “is this marketable? will people like it?, and those questions were pretty much ruining everything for me.

I think I realized this when I started taking painting classes (specifically Bloom True)- my only intention with that class was to start painting on canvas again. Not mixed media, not using paint as an inclusion in other projects, but PAINTING. And I had no intention of becoming a “painter” or trying to sell prints of my finished work or anything when I started that class. I just really missed painting a lot and needed a reason to start doing it again.

I painted a lot in high school- my high school had a little “Master’s program” AP Art thing which meant that some of us were given unrestricted access to the giant art studio and the materials inside it. And then I got to college, and there was NO art studio, and if you wanted to do any sort of visual art you had to take the dippy “Intro to Art” class held in the shack on the back of campus and bring all your own stuff for half an hour, once a week. I was in a tiny dorm room, and then a series of tiny apartments for almost all my college/grad school years, so finding a place to paint wasn’t an option. So I dropped it and picked up other creative pursuits, most specifically graphic design and web design back when the web was just coming together.

And then I got out of school and did web design and graphic design in a professional capacity, and then moved back to 2D art (jewelry design, mixed media, etc.). It’s funny because they whole time I was doing all that, a little voice inside me kept saying “I want to paint” and I kept answering back “okay, well, here’s some paint but we have to use it in a way that might be appealing to others.”

So I painted beads, I painted pages in art journals, etc. I painted everything but a canvas – I never *just* painted. And the voice kept saying “I want to paint.” Finally, I just signed up for Bloom True and on the VERY first day, the little “I want to paint” voice stopped, and was replaced with a sense of wonder I thought I lost when I was a kid. Wonder and peace. I felt like I was lost inside something beautiful and open-ended, like I was somehow being pulled through space and time (<— Yes, I know- that sounds completely ridiculous, but I can’t describe it any other way!) On the other hand, I felt deeply rooted and connected with myself- that self that spent so many hours in that art studio in high school, painting. It was like coming full circle.

Anyway, over the last year I’ve painted, but then lost my way, and then found it again. And it felt good, and I felt a deep sense of peace about it that I never felt when I was painting in other ways. I want more of that feeling.

I realized that there are many creative projects I enjoy and am interested in doing- painting, collage, scrapbooking, art journaling, etc. The key is to make sure that I’m doing them for whole-hearted reasons.

For example, there are many art supplies I have purchased over the years that I never really loved- they were new and exciting and trendy or whatever, and I purchased them. But then they sat on the shelf. And I’ve always felt guilty about not using them, so I would try and find projects that would incorporate them. I’m kinda over that. In the last few years I have really purged my studio down to the things I either use regularly and/or really love (for example, I don’t use ALL my patterned paper, but the collection I still have I REALLY love having. Same with wood-mounted stamps- I don’t stamp much, but I love my little shelves of these beautiful stamps.)

So I guess creatively my goal this year is to enjoy myself. To find projects that are meaningful for me to spend time on. To continue to let go of the belief that things that I create *must* be created for commerce (this is a big shift that is going to take a lot of time, so I need to remember to be patient with it.) To find joy in the process. To lose myself in the process. To continue to share what I’m working on just for the sake of saying “hey, look what I’m thinking about and working on.”

Honestly, I’d love to make the kind of art that people want prints of. Who wouldn’t? But I don’t want my process to be guided by that. That’s a bad road to go down.

I think *professionally* I have a few goals for this year- the first is to get a new website set up for Gingerblue Studios. I really just want one central gallery and archive of all my creative projects that I can continue adding to as I create. I want the website to be sort of a “what’s happening in the studio” and maybe have a Fine Art America or Society 6 page where I can post images. But as far as trying to make it a really dynamic site with its own blog and stuff… I just don’t have time. So I need to keep it realistically manageable.

I also have another online project – purely visual- that I have been thinking about for a few years. I’d love to organize and launch that, as well. We’ll see. I realize that any time I spend working on digital projects that are not purely creative is time I’m *not* spending with paints and photos and words (I’d like to write more this year, both here on the blog and the fiction piece I was working on several years ago), so I need to take time every time to see where my energy is and spend it wisely. I keep learning from experience that any time that I walk away from painting for more than a few days, I lose my rhythm and it’s really a challenge to find it again. So I need to maintain that creative process constantly, no matter what other projects I may be working on.

And sometimes that’s a hard balance- I’m NOT a full-time artist. I have no set time in my art studio. I have a family and I have health issues (Spina Bifida) and those demand a great deal of my time and energy every day. The health stuff alone is abut five hours of my day (swimming, self-care, stretching, etc., taking time to do everything right so tomorrow I’m not paying for stuff I neglected today, etc.)

So the time I have left after dealing with real life is the time that goes to being creative. Some days it’s three hours, and I’m feeling focused and energized and excited. Other days it’s little chunks of 15 minutes here and there that is constantly interrupted, and my energy is zero. I’m starting to learn how to work with that- some days I sit down and realize that NOTHING is going to be created because of the way the day is going, and I’m learning how to accept that instead of getting annoyed about it and trying to force a project to fit into those constaints.

Wow… okay, this is along entry. I guess I just wanted to articulate to myself what my creative goals for 2015 were. Paint, write, document, share, collect, curate, and most importantly- enjoy myself along the way. Peace and joy and purpose.

Here’s to a creative 2015!


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

The last few years I have been iffy on the whole “one word” thing simply because things change so quickly and a life (and goals) can change so much in the course of a year. Plus, I kind of fear the power of assigning an entire year ONE word before the year even starts. I know that sounds silly, but there have been times when little things that popped up in my head became reality and it’s not always been pleasant.

But this year I think I may commit to one (or two, but more on that later…) word because I feel like it’s something I desperately want and need.

That word is: PEACE. 

The word “peace” has never really resonated with me, probably because I grew up in an era (the Reagan 1980’s) when “peace” had become sort of a brand-name for another era (the 1960’s). It was like the word “disco” defined the 1970’s- “peace” lost its meaning as a word, and became a term that symbolized a whole lot of stuff- bell bottoms, school buses at Woodstock, hippies, long strands of beads, drugs, Timothy Leary, etc.

It’s only in the last few years that I finally stopped seeing and thinking of “peace” as the catch-phrase of a generation and as an actual word that had meaning.

So when the word popped up in my head this fall, I was a little resistant. But it kept popping up in my head. And then it started popping up in books and songs and quotes so I paid attention.

Before I settled on “peace”, I was trying to find a word for a quiet happiness, because *that’s* what I most desperately felt that I needed to work towards.

Robin Williams’ suicide earlier this year made me understand just HOW important it is that we prioritize personal happiness and well-being in our lives. If someone like Robin Williams –  someone who made so many people happy, who had so much success, had created a legacy for himself, had resources beyond what most of us imagine- could not find happiness in THOSE things (the things we are sort of taught to seek out in our lifetimes for guaranteed happiness)… well, then, it was time to stop beating *myself* up for not having those things because clearly they are not the ticket to joy and personal okay-ness. It was time to take some time to figure out what happiness was for me, and make it something important, something worth striving for, every single day.

So I wanted to make happiness a goal, but sort of a quiet happiness, because that’s the kind that resonates with me. The kind of feeling you get early in the morning, holding a cup of warm tea in your hands and looking at the world wake up, appreciating the still quiet of it all. The kind of feeling you get when you’re looking out over the water on a sunny day, the kind of feeling you get when your cat bumps up your legs and purrs just because *seeing* you makes him happy enough to elicit a response. The kind of feeling you get when you lose yourself in a song or a book or a movie or a painting and you just feel like everything is okay.

The word that came up for that feeling was “peace”.

I’m not looking for the solution to all problems. I’m looking for the ability to know deep in my heart that I can recalibrate my inner compass at any time, in any situation, and come back to a place of “okay”.

I’m looking for the ability to recognize the beautiful and good. The opportunities.

I’m looking for a way to continue to honor myself for who I am and what I do, and finally let go of who I “thought” I should be and all the things I think I should be doing.

I am hoping to come to terms with Delilah’s death on a deeper level- I will be completely honest here and say that although she passed well over a year-and-a-half ago, I am still reeling from her death. I’m still NOT okay with it. I know that may be unusual for some (it’s even unusual for me- I have lost pets before…) but it’s the reality of the situation and so I’m putting it out there. I think it shook my faith in the foundation of life, and made me question a lot of things (faith, heaven, God, etc.) that I was content *not* questioning before it happened.

For instance, I could believe there was a heaven but I didn’t need to know for sure. But when Delilah passed, I felt myself NEEDING to know and the not knowing was hurting me. So I think there’s some exploring there that I need to do, but have been putting aside because I feared it might be super painful. I don’t know…

I think I am just hoping to create a solid foundation for my self, for my general well-being- a space inside myself I can return to over and over again, no matter where I am or what situation I am in. A place inside that will feel like home no matter what is going on outside of me.

So that’s why this quote sticks out to me, because it’s exactly the truth:


It does not mean to be in a place where there is
no noise,
no trouble,
or hard work.

It means to be in the midst of those things
and still be calm in your heart.”

Here’s to peace in 2015.

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Chester and Milo enjoying the little tree... (an hour later, they knocked it down.)

Chester and Milo enjoying the little tree… (an hour later, they knocked it down.)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m trying to simplify a little bit. An emotional sort of simplifying- being willing to let go of things I’m “meh” about in order to make space for the things that I REALLY love, the things that actually make me happy. This is harder than it sounds. But it’s sort of straightforward, too.

Also, I’m always working on letting go of the stuff I think I *should* do because it’s either social tradition or something that used to make me happy but doesn’t anymore. This is a big struggle for me. I’m sort of a people-pleaser at heart, and I’m super sensitive, so whenever I do or say something that isn’t exactly what other people (especially family) want, I sense their disappointment and it sort of crushes me. I’m getting MUCH better at this, but it’s still there, and I still struggle with it.

The thing is that I have to remember that I’m simplifying and working on all this so I have more time to do the stuff that I LOVE to do, or stuff that really appeals to me and that I want to try.

Like… Christmas cards. Oh, Christmas cards. When I was in school, I used to LOVE sending them because I had a lot of time (holiday break from college/grad school was quite long) and creative energy and needed an outlet for it. And it was a way to get into the spirit of the season, be creative (which I had NO time for in college), and just sit down and relax for a few afternoons making stuff and reconnecting.

But now that the holidays are about a certain kid (my daughter, Gracie) who I want to make happy memories with, and I have a ton of creative outlets during the entire year, the whole process of sending out cards in December makes me crazy. But it’s TRADITION, right? And it makes people happy. And people will send us cards, and might get their feelings hurt when there’s no card in return (let’s be honest- there is something very painful about realizing you’ve been cut from someone’s Christmas card list.)

However, I’m really over the holiday card thing. I don’t like designing or choosing the cards, I never know what to write so it sounds meaningful and personal but not too long (I’m clearly VERY verbose when it comes to writing!), and I feel like a heel if I don’t write or add any personal touched to the cards.

So it becomes a big project, rather than a simple way to send some love. And I just agonize over it. AND IT’S JUST A CARD! I have tried to simplify the process, but it doesn’t work. So maybe it’s time to just… stop.

I have to be honest- I’m sort of over the whole over-saturated “HOLY SMOKES AMAZEBALLS HOLIDAY FESTIVITIES” (yes, in all caps) thing, as well. Not that I don’t like the holidays, because I do. But for some reason, in the last ten years Christmas (and December in general) went from being my FAVORITE time of the year to something that I sort of dread.

When I realized how much my attitude changed about the holidays, it broke my heart a little. I think I’m not willing to give up on it completely, because I know there’s still something about this time of the year that I love.

So I’m slowly working on looking at things and habits and routines and rituals and figuring out what brings me/my family genuine joy (having a tree up with a zillion twinkle lights, watching “Elf” for the 400th time, playing Wii Party all the time, going to movies on Christmas Eve, going to a restaurant for our holiday celebrations, keeping things simple) and what does not (creating and writing out Christmas cards, big home cooked family dinners [I know this sounds sacreligious, but my mom is OVER cooking, and I never really enjoyed it- plus Tom & I are vegetarians and I’ve become this super picky eater so family dinners turn into the meal of 5,000 different plates which is so stressful for everyone], doing December Daily, going to a bunch of giant holiday parties, etc.)

Every year I learn a little more about what works and what doesn’t, what brings genuine joy and what we do simply because we feel we’re *supposed* to. And I have to admit, it’s working. Every year I love the holidays more and more. No, they aren’t the sparkly, magic, family-and-fun filled times that I loved so much as a kid, but they are beautiful in their own unique way. I want to honor that, and keep moving towards that.

So far, December has been stressful- more stressful than I would have liked. So right now I’m trying to finish up all the stuff that MUST get done (there are just some parts of the season that cannot be avoided), making my peace with the stuff that WILL NOT get done, and trying to clear out my schedule so I can approach the holiday season as more of an observer than a frenzied participant. I really want to make time for reflection, awareness, peace, quiet joy, etc. I know that if I can find those moments this year, I will remember them *next* year, and seek more of them.

Wish me luck :)

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various layers of my current painting…

As I mentioned the other day, I just finished taking Flora Bowley’s “Bloom True” class for the second time. It’s an online painting class that runs for five weeks. It’s fairly intensive if you do all the reading and journal in response, plus do the painting and watch all the videos (there’s literally HOURS of video…) and do the instagram prompts (I never have time for these…) and keep a sketchbook and everything she recommends.

Flora teaches by sharing different techniques in different layers, so as you paint along with her, your painting goes through a LOT of different looks. The image above is just three of the MANY layers my painting has gone through, and since I paint very slowly, and like to sort of noodle around a little, I suspect there will be many more layers to come. But I’m learning as I go, so I don’t feel too bad about all the time (and paint!) I am putting into one canvas, because the one canvas is like a classroom, or like a little time capsule.

When I took it for the first time last year, it was all about the painting. I devoured all the class materials, but I basically spent 90% of my time focusing on the painting. When I wasn’t painting, I was thinking about painting. When I read the class “lectures”, I was basically applying them to painting.

This year it was more about the life lessons that come *with* the painting. I spent just as much time reading and re-reading, and re-re-reading the class materials (and then journaling in response to them) as I did on painting. Maybe even more.

Last year it was all about being brave, and learning about my own painting style, and learning how to trust and paint from the gut. This year I was able to freely paint from the first stroke because I knew from having taken the class that all the first layers on the canvas will eventually get covered up (they are really just “practice”), and everything sort of comes together in a really magical way in the end. So this year I was able to just paint without obsessing over every little thing, which freed up a lot of time and energy.

As far as the life lessons, the big thing I got this year was about SIMPLIFYING. Flora has a lot of amazing information and little nuggets of wisdom that she shares throughout the class in her videos and interviews, but one thing she said struck me:

You have to be willing to sacrifice what you *like* in order to make room for what you love.

What she means is that when you are painting, it’s sort of a dangerous thing to get too “precious” about certain areas of the canvas because by  being careful to not “mess up” a part of the painting you sorta like, you are basically depriving yourself the opportunity to use that space to make something you really LOVE.

You can’t really have creative freedom if you are too busy guarding part of the canvas. You lose out on all that canvas *could* be.

As you can sort of tell from the images above, I am simplifying a lot as I paint. I really hate letting go of all that bright color, all those random marks from the early layers, but I am trying to be brave and just PAINT. Just let go of the stuff I merely find interesting so that I can make room for what wants to come through.

I think it’s very true of LIFE, too- sometimes you have to be willing to let go of what you think you like (routines, habits, “shoulds”, certain relationships, etc.) to make room for what you really LOVE.

It made me wonder about my everyday routines: how much of what I *think* I like is merely comfort, known, easy to do without too much thought or courage? It’s kind of scary to think of it like that, but it’s true.

On the other hand, I know that I’ve been fairly conscious of being honest with myself about happiness and what brings joy for the last few years, and I know that I’ve slowly made progress in moving my life towards things that I know are right for me and actually bring me happiness.

For example- the social thing. I’m shy. And social stuff makes me crazy. Not only while it happens, but especially *before* it happens. I’m fine around strangers, but when I go into a situation where I know I’ll have to make any sort of prolonged small talk (which means being “on”, which means it will totally drain my energy), I start feeling like a trapped animal. I’ve always felt this way, but it’s amplified a lot as I’ve gotten older.

For years I thought I needed to force myself to be social and it would eventually “click” and become easier, but it never did. When I realized that – duh!- I’m shy, and therefore socializing in large groups of people wasn’t necessarily in the cards for me, I decided to stop doing it for a while and see if it made me unhappy to not have it in my life.

And, you know what? It totally didn’t. Instead, it’s been a tremendous relief. Sometimes I get a little twinge of sadness when I see photos on Facebook of a big social gathering with local people, but in general, I know I’m just happy doing my own thing.

To be completely honest, I’d much rather hang out with my family at the movies than go to happy hour any day. Or stay home and take a painting class online. It sounds strange, I suppose, but it’s just who I am. And now that I am 40, I’m getting more and more comfortable with these things about myself, and less compelled to “go with the flow” of what’s normal for a person my age. I’m just not a social butterfly.

Anyway, back to simplifying and “what you like vs. what you love”: I know there’s quite a bit in life that I do because I feel obligated to it, in some weird way, and not because I *want* to do it. Or things that I used to really love to do that I no longer enjoy quite as much. I really want to be conscious of all of that and slowly edit things so that life is more about LOVE rather than “well, this is what I’ve always done…”

I’m *really* thinking about this a lot now that we’re in the holiday season. The last few years, I’ve been on this mission to simplify the holidays. And I will continue to do so this year. Not STRIPPING the holidays of joy and magic and sparkle, but just getting rid of the “should”s to make room for the “want to”s…

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Here are some pages from September (I’m almost done with October and November and will post those pages soon!):


Milo and his winning cover shot

Big month for Milo (one of our kitties)- he won a contest to be on the cover of a 2015 cat calendar for our local cat shelter [hey- if you are looking for a great way to help a charity this season, please consider buying one!] and in September the calendars came out. Because it was for charity, a photographer came by and take a few photos of him receiving his “prize”. (No that is totally NOT ME in that photo- there’s no way in hell I’m volunteering to have my photo in the newspaper!! I was in the pool when that happened.)

We figured it would be like a “local interest” story buried in the back of the paper but he wound up making the front page of the paper and all the local news websites. He’s literally a bit of a local celebrity. In fact, after he appeared in the paper, when I called the salon to make appointments to get our hair cut, the receptionist and one other person asked me about him. It was sort of a big deal, very amusing and I made a scrapbook page documenting the whole thing. It’s our 15 minutes of fame, I suppose!

Project Life - September 2014

Project Life – September 2014


Project Life - September 2014

Project Life – September 2014

Gracie went into this phase of experimenting with her personal style in September- she started raiding my closet (yes, those are some of my clothes from way back when…) and accessorizing using what she had- some 3D glasses from the movies that she popped the lenses out of, a hat from Disney, etc.

One night I walked past her when she was sitting at the dining room table and did a double take because she looked just like Captain Steve Zissou from the Wes Anderson film, The Life Aquatic.

steve zissou

She’s gone back to her regular “style” but she still wears the glasses. I don’t know what happened to the overalls.


Project Life - September 2014

Project Life – September 2014

Just some etcetera stuff- movies we went to see, stuff going on around here, my little obsession with Twinkling H2O watercolors, and super-fresh caramels (fall candy of choice.)


Project Life - September 2014

Project Life – September 2014

This is a page about what third grade life is like for Gracie- I just included some random shots of her (two from school- they take snapshots all the time for the Facebook page!- and one from Tom) and listed all the stuff she does every week. Just a way for us to remember what she is busy with and what she is interested in right now.


Project Life - September 2014

Project Life – September 2014

Finally, a page about the garden and the weather. September was *seriously* rainy (I think it rained something like twenty-eight days in September) so it was all about trying to keep things dry in the garden. I took a photo of that very blue sky to remind me of what the sky looked like! (And it rained literally ten minutes after I snapped that photo…)

But one thing about stormy afternoons is that they usually bring about EPIC sunsets (if it clears up enough) since the clouds and bands make a setting sun do magical things. So, definitely a silver lining to a stormy September.

But I’m SO relieved we’re done with summer. Oh, the blue skies and cool weather! It’s so blissful after all that rain and heat and gray.

If you got this far, thank you so much for stopping by <3

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sunrise in November

sunrise in November

Ack, it’s been over two months since I last updated.

I do have an excellent excuse for my absence – on a whim, I decided to re-enroll in Flora Bowley’s “Bloom True” class for the second time. For those unfamiliar, it’s an online painting course consisting of five VERY FULL weeks of painting instruction, plus a lot of inspiration on general well-being and creativity as well. Both times I have taken the class, I devoted a significant time and energy into it, and both times there was so much content and information that it wound up filling at least six weeks of my life with painting and journaling and reading and different creative exercises. Classes ended over two weeks ago and I’m still working through the last week of videos and content.

As far as why I took the class again… back in September, I was kind of feeling like I was spinning my wheels. I wanted to start painting again, and wanted some sort of serious project to focus my time and energy on, but I was having trouble finding the right thing. And having trouble committing to anything. I didn’t feel like anything I wanted to do was a valid use of time (which is ridiculous, I know…)

Then one evening I sort of *toyed* with the idea of taking Bloom True again, simply as a way to kind of force myself to start painting again. I knew if I invested the money, and made sure everyone knew I WAS TAKING A LIVE CLASS (for some reason my family is good at giving me space when I’m taking a class), I would paint. And once I started considering taking the class again, I just couldn’t think of a good reason *not* to. So I signed up again, and I’m SO glad I did.

I wound up getting a TREMENDOUS amount from the class. Even though the material is exactly the same as it was last year, it was a completely different experience for me. I’ll talk more about that in another post…

So, the last two months have been mostly about Bloom True and painting and getting my hands on everything and anything related to acrylic painting.

In other news:

Gracie’s in third grade and has started playing soccer this year. She was doing swimming and choir last year, but swimming has always been tricky for her because of the weather- her asthma and lung problems make it really easy for her to catch a cold, and so whenever she’d go and swim at the YMCA with the team in the cooler weather (which we had a lot of last year), she’d get a little sick and then wind up missing a week or two of practice. This year we decided to try the local soccer club and so far (two practices and one game), she’s loving it. She even makes Tom take her to the park every weekend to practice.

I can’t believe HOW FAST fall has gone by. I have to admit, I’m a little melancholy that it’s almost December. Argh! Fall is by far my favorite season and I kinda feel like I missed a lot of it by spending so much time in my art studio, painting. Now that it’s a *bad* thing, but I think if I take Bloom True again (which I am planning on…) I might take it in the summer, when I need something to get obsessed with to keep my mind off the weather. I kinda miss going outside for sunsets and reading out there.

The garden is coming back to life. The summer is always the “down” time for the garden- it’s so hot and wet and dark that the plants basically stop growing and go into survival mode. Even though I’ve been gardening for a few years now, I’m always super surprised when autumn comes and the garden COMPLETELY changes from a few sticks with a few anemic, curled scraggly leaves on them to actual big, bushy, green PLANTS.

There’s a ton to do out there, and I’ve been trying to do it in little increments. And there’s always more to do… but that’s part of what I love about it.

The weather has been sort of crazy this autumn. Usually in Southwest Florida during the autumn, it’s high 70’s in the autumn pretty consistently, with a few days of cooler (or higher) temps and a few days of rain. This year the temperature has been more in the 60’s every day, even dipping as low as in the 40’s. And it’s been gloomy and raining. I think it’s going to be a cold(er) winter, and to be honest I’m fine with that. I like the cold- as long as the pool heater is working and I can swim, I’ll take cool weather any day.

One thing I’ve found myself bracing for is tourist season. I’m literally dreading it with every fiber of my being. I live on an island that’s actually a vacation destination, so from January to May, it’s like a zoo around here.

Normally I wouldn’t care because I live in a residential area, but the new owners of the house next door to me have made it into a cheap vacation rental (especially when compared to the hotels on the island), including a super loud stereo system in the backyard. Last spring it was crazy- large groups of people piling in and out every few days, and then the cleaners coming by to repair the damage. I’m so *bummed* about it. I didn’t realize how much I loved how quiet it was around here until that went away. Last spring was basically living next door to one giant house party that lasted months, just with different people coming in and out and playing different varieties of music and screaming about different things.

I’m praying that this season it’s better (maybe if it’s cold they won’t come!), that the tenants are respectful, that maybe there won’t be as many. Or that the new owner sells the house to a quiet couple or someone who only comes down and uses the house once or twice a year, like my other neighbors.

If that doesn’t work, I am getting my own outdoor speaker and just blasting white noise or ocean waves or bird chirping sounds. Seriously. If I have to listen to Miley Cyrus or bad hip-hop, they can listen to my nature sounds. I want my peace and quiet back, please… (rant over, sorry about that!)

– In happier news, I’m still reading a lot (review books plus re-reading all of Alexander McCall Scott’s Isabel Dalhousie series, which I *lovelovelove*- the reading has been very good this fall!), drinking a lot of excellent tea, swimming, and generally doing my thing.

I am also obsessed with two new magazines- “Sunset” and “Coastal Living”. I love magazines but I’m not in love with a ton of them, but these two magazines are *so* pretty to look at, and so interesting to read. I just love getting them.

- Um, I actually *really* like Taylor Swift’s new album. I listen to it while I swim. I’ve never listened to Taylor Swift before, but I am getting exposed to all this different music via Gracie. I’m also listening to David Gray’s new CD on repeat (since it came out) and Liz Phair and Laura Veirs and Neko Case and Sinead O’Connor and Edie Brickell, which makes an eclectic but fun mix when I paint.

We haven’t seen as many movies as we normally like because things are busy- Tom has stuff at work and karate  and I am still finishing Bloom True (the last week is really, like, FOUR weeks of content jammed into one week). I’m hoping we can catch up in December. We missed “Whiplash”, which was playing for only a week. That I was a little bummed about, after hearing about it for so long. And I didn’t get to see “Big Hero 6″ with Gracie and my parents because I was sick.

I *did* get to see Interstellar and it was amazing. I loved it.

But there’s still lots of great things to see- Birdman, MockingJay, The Theory of Everything, Exodus, Horrible Bosses 2, The Hobbit, Into the Woods, Unbroken, and a bunch of others. I gotta stop feeling like good movies are an obligation (I get antsy when there’s lot of good movies at the theater because ultimately I want to see ALL of them) and remember that it’s FUN and that I just need to go and see what appeals to us and what we have time for. The rest we can definitely catch on DVD.

I can’t even start thinking about the holidays. I’m not freaking out because we’ve been working on paring down the holidays a little bit every year, so I know it’s not some giant “holy crap! so much to do!” thing. But there’s still a bit of planning and preparation that goes into it. But I’m not quite ready to let go of fall yet. So I won’t. 

If you’re still here, you’re awesome. Thank you, as always, for reading :) More very soon!

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Here’s some Project Life/scrapbook pages for August.

Project Life - August 2014

Project Life – August 2014

I wanted to get a page that documented our summer ritual: a movie and lunch. Once a week, we’d go see a matinee at the movies and then go to Counterburger (their veggie burgers are SO GOOD) for lunch. Because it’s so rainy in the summer, it’s like the perfect thing to do in the middle of the week- it’s just something that gets us out of the house and something we all look forward to.

Tom and I do it by ourselves while Gracie is up in North Carolina (she spends a few weeks every summer with my parents- they are snowbirds who go to North Carolina for the summer and then spend the winters down here in Florida) and then when she comes home, we switch to family-friendly movies.

Project Life - August 2014

Project Life – August 2014

Gracie started third grade and I wanted to document that. I took a photo the first morning of school and then her teacher sent us a photo she took so I printed those out and put them on the page.

I decided to let Gracie do the journaling- I wanted to get her handwriting and her perspective. I wrote a few questions on an index card and she answered them on the layout in her own words.

The bicycle is because she just learned how to ride her bike before school started. It was kind of a big deal because she never got the training wheels thing and we live on a busy street so there haven’t been many opportunities for her to practice- when we tell her to go outside and play, 99% of the time it means the pool, not the front yard.

But this spring I read about an alternative way to teach a kid how to ride a bike (no training wheels): simply get them on the bike and let them scoot it around with their feet. As they push the bike forward, and gain speed and momentum, their feet come off the ground naturally, and they learn what it feels like for the bike to be balanced. Then, gradually, you are supposed to encourage them to start putting their feet on the petals and pedaling just a bit while the bike is moving forward, and eventually it all clicks.

It actually worked REALLY well- Gracie was riding without any assistance or training wheels after just an afternoon or two of scooting around on the bike. So she’s really into bike riding now, and she and Tom go on these epic (well, for a kid…) bike rides to the beach and to the park.

Project Life - August 2014

Project Life – August 2014

The boys. I always marvel over the fact that when Milo (our youngest cat, adopted last summer after Delilah passed) came into our lives, we suddenly turned into a male-centric household. We have six males (one human, two cats, two parrotlets, one gecko) and four girls (two humans, one cat, one Caique.) Delilah really ruled the roost, and she had a super-peaceful energy, and Milo brought in a lot of CRAZY, kitten energy, so it’s been a strange shift. But, I love my guys, and I sort of wanted to document that.

This is sort of an example of the weird stuff I think about sometimes.

Project Life - August 2014

Project Life – August 2014

Project Life - August 2014

Project Life – August 2014

Two pages about the garden and the backyard and the weather- I always tend to include at least one page about the garden every month. I like looking back on them- it reminds me what works and what doesn’t. I think I have become more aware of the seasons and nature and the passage of time simply by becoming a gardener than by any other thing I have ever done in my life. I’m really grateful for that- that simple connection with nature has made me completely aware of life on a whole different level.

Project Life - August 2014

Project Life – August 2014

Finally a page of random August stuff: my obsession with watercolors, snapshots from my Instagram feed, a movie poster for “Lucy” (which Tom and I ran out to see right after Gracie started school and before it left the theater!), and an insert from this SUPER COOL set of notebooks I ordered from JetPens.


Re: the notebooks…

Kokuyo Campus Smart Ring

Kokuyo Campus Smart Ring

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

Kokuyo Campus Smart Ring

Kokuyo Campus Smart Ring

I am an obsessive list writer, and an obsessive note-keeper, so to have a regular, slim notebook (NOT a binder) that could sit 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. Then I found these notebooks and got two- one for lists and project notes, and one for note-taking. I keep them both on my desk all the time and I’m constantly re-arranging the pages. They are amazing! I wish they had them in sketchbook form, with good watercolor paper. THAT would be a dream sketchbook for me…

Okay, enough of that. If you made it this far, THANK YOU for looking at my pages and for reading my rambling! <3


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petunias in the garden…

“…maybe I’m just tired
of thinking that there was one way, only one way out
I was hoping by now,
that maybe I’d have found
Answers to the questions that are keeping me down

Take my life and start it somewhere else
I breathe in the change
The only way is up again…”
– Clean Bandit “Up Again”

It’s September. September means autumn. Autumn is BY FAR my favoritefavoritefavorite time of year, so I get pretty excited when the calendar starts listing the “-ber” months.

It’s not fall yet. Here in Southwest Florida, we still have about a month or so of hurricane season, which means a lot of heat and humidity, and a lot of rain.

But things are shifting- the sunlight is a lot less intense, and is no longer washing everything out, including the blue of the sky. In the mid-summer, even if it’s a perfectly clear day, the sun tends to turn the sky pretty gray. But as we move into autumn, the sun shifts from being directly overhead to being more on the horizon, so it becomes dappled and golden as it’s filtered through the leaves on the trees.

The days are shorter, which I am *so* grateful for. I’m the kind of person who likes the evening to feel like evening- I almost feel like a weird sense of relief when the sun goes down everyday, like “I did it, I go through the afternoon!”  Afternoons have always been tough for me- I get into a weird fun between lunch and around 7pm, and I always have. I remember coming home from school and just feeling “blah” as a kid, and I also remember getting a little stir crazy in college and grad school and just needing to get out of my apartment in the afternoons to escape the heavy feeling. I don’t know what it is- I suppose it’s a facet of my personality. maybe it’s because I swim in the mornings, and after lunch my body is pretty much done for the day.

Whatever it is, the afternoon funk just *is*. So instead of fighting it, I’m trying to approach it as an opportunity to find interesting things to do. A stretch of time that I can do something fun or creative or happy. And if that doesn’t work- because sometimes it does seem like creativity takes just TOO much energy- and it’s a true “how the hell am I going to get through this entire afternoon?” kind-of-day, I just do little tasks on my to-do list until it’s over. Nothing creative or fun, just things that have a set start and end and a set way of going about them (paying bills, editing photos, ordering our dry groceries from Amazon, doing non-creative tasks in my art studio, etc.) so I don’t have to think about it too much.

So, yeah. I LOVE when Daylight Savings Time ends. Just two more months! I don’t love that the sun is brighter earlier in the day (living in Florida, I have to be super conscious about how much dun I get when I am outside gardening and swimming) but I love that the sun sets around 6pm and the day feels like it’s naturally transitioning. For some reason, it’s so much easier to do things in my art studio when it’s dark outside. Maybe I don’t feel that pull to get outside as much when it feels like it’s officially nighttime. When it’s bright and sunny outside, I get super antsy and feel this weird desire to get out there, even if it’s hot and it’s 7pm and I’m in my PJs and not remotely interested in BEING outside. Does that make any sense?

Other autumn things: Gracie went back to school. She’s in third grade now, her last year at the school she’s been in since she was 18 months old. She LOVES it there. I can’t stress this enough- she’s known the same teachers, the same kids since she was just a little toddler, so it’s her home. Going to school is as natural to her as waking up and brushing her teeth. It’s definitely a part of our routine. We’re starting to think ahead for next year, and what school she will attend, and the idea of her not going to the same school (which ends at grade three) is bittersweet. But we still have an entire school year at this current school.

I have to admit, I was kinda hoping that when Gracie went back to school and the calendar turned to September, things would go “back to normal”. When that didn’t happen, I was a little perturbed.

But then I realized there is no normal. What is normal? What was/am I hoping for? I think that’s why those lyrics up top make so much sense to me right now: I’m really tired of thinking there’s just one good way to do stuff, one right way to live, one single answer to all the questions I have going through my mind all the time.

I’m a creature of routine, so I guess I was hoping we’d easily get back into our regular routines. Wake up, school/work/etc., home from school, dinner and family time, sleep. Weekends for adventures. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But it’s been hectic. We’ve been figuring out what activities Gracie might do this year- there’s no afterschool programs at her school this year, which is a BIG change. My parents are still at their summer place, so there’s no Nanny and Papa time for Gracie, which she misses.

And then Tom’s karate schedule shifted (AGAIN). And then he crashed on his bike, and white wasn’t as serious as it could have been- thank God- there’s been a week of him recovering from that.

Gracie appears to have picked up her first bug from school, so I’m holding my breath and hoping she doesn’t get sick.

And I’ve been put on new thyroid meds which are making me more high strung than usual. I have anxiety to begin with, so anything that adds to that is a no-no for me. But I’m taking my doctor’s advice and taking them loyally, and keeping my fingers crossed that it all evens out.

Besides that, I’m kinda all over the place. Besides my regular routine of gardening/swimming/health stuff/home stuff every day, I have no idea what I’m doing right now.

Of course, my “thing” is art. It’s my passion. I still love it.

The issue is that I have totally changed my focus on creativity. For the longest time it was about creative business, about making a “career” from creativity. Becoming “legit”. Validating my interests and my art supply addiction. Figuring out what it took to get a zillion Etsy sales and a million Facebook likes. Blah blah blah.

Whenever I lost my path before, I’d throw myself into rebuilding the Etsy store, finding new things to make, launching stuff. Making big plans.

Now that my attitude has shifted (success is not the only aspect of happiness) I’m sort of spinning my wheels.

I know I want to paint. Right now I’m obsessed with watercolors, and I still want to do the intutive painting I did in the Flora Bowley class last year. I kinda want to combine both. I lovelovelove abstract painting and designing unique abstract patterns.

I’m also really interested in learning botanical illustration, probably as a result of my addiction to gardening. The good news is that a lot of botanical illustration is done with watercolor. The bad news is the whole crux of botanical illustration, at least the kind that appeals to me, is that it’s all about realism. Which ultimately does not interest me.

But the shape of a flower, the curve of a leaf, the colors of a petal and stamen- those seem very “otherworld”-ly to me. And that’s why I am drawn to plants so much.

Anyway, I keep saying “oh, no… I’m all about abstract and I spent all the time learning acrylics and have a bunch of empty canvases and I bought a bunch of classes about mixed media and acrylic and line drawing…” but then I keep finding myself obsessing about botanical illustration and watercolor and studying different botanical art work and picking up different books on different techniques for painting flowers in watercolor and stocking up on watercolor paints in all colors, not just the brights I usually gravitate towards.

I think what I am going to do is go ahead and study it. Take a class (I got one a year or so ago but never actually sat down and took it since it seemed too much of a shift from the Flora Bowley class), and do a series of botanical illustrations. At the very least, I will learn a lot about watercolor, which is something I want to do so that I can go ahead and incorporate it into the painting I have been doing this last year. One of the mixed media classes I took this summer was all about the layering of acrylic and watercolor and it fascinated me. So it can be done. I just feel like I’m a little unsure of myself when it comes to the technical aspects of watercolor.

It’s just that all the art I get the inspiration to do- botanical illustration, line drawing, paisley/arabic design, zentangles, abrstract watercolor, collage, oil pastel… when I finally get the time to sit down and do it, it never seems like a valid way to spend my time.

I try and remember that I felt this way when I started painting. For some reason, committing to the Flora Bowley class made it valid. Then it turned into something that brought me so much joy that the joy alone made it completely valid. And the joy also made it something others respected- my parents were even very interested in my painting progress and what I might paint next. It’s the most we have ever talked about my art, and it meant a lot.

It seems like it’s such a stupid, trivial thing, but when I flip open my little moleskine and open my box of watercolors, I get paralyzed by indecision, by fear. I find other things to do that seem more “valid”. I guess the apprehension to try something new is a total fear of failure, a fear of change. And a whole lot of “why can’t you just stick with ONE thing? You are such a flake!”

But I keep trying to remind myself it’s about creativity, and about joy. And about learning and growing. That’s all that matters at the end of the day. So what is the risk in painting a flower? It might be a game-changer. It might now.

But I think painting a flower is a decent way to spend an autumn afternoon, right?

(Here’s a video of the song I quoted from above- I LOVE this song. I love the whole album, actually.

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I thought I might share something I have been working on fairly regularly throughout the year- my Project Life album.

(Click on the image above – arrows should appear on the right and left to navigate through the photos…)

Since there were thirty pages in this album, I made them into a little slideshow so you don’t have a massive post full of photos to scan through.

I started this particular album (my 11th) in April. It’s close to being full- I think I might try and get another month in it, just for the sake of shelf space!

Some thoughts on the process, in no particular order:

– I’m still using the 8×8″ albums by American Crafts. I do sometimes get a hankering for a larger base page (12×12″ is the traditional scrapbook size) to work on, but in general, I feel REALLY comfortable with the 8×8 page. I know exactly what size photos work on it (mostly 3×4, 4×4, and 4×6) and how many photos I can fit on one page.

And as much as I LOVE “white space” (or unused space) in other people’s layouts, I just can’t seem to let myself leave a lot of empty space on a page. I always wind up filling it up, and then sort of hating all the junk that ends up on my pages. So by staying 8×8″, I don’t leave myself a lot of empty space to be indecisive about. Also, it’s so much easier to work on (takes much less space on my desk when the album is open and I’m working on a page outside of it!)

– I started out this year switching over to the Project Life pocket-style scrapbooking (and buying a lot of page protectors and Project Life-style cards for that format!), but as the year went on, I found myself gravitating back towards using full-size pages. I did a few “full-size” pages after doing a bunch of “pocket” pages and they were SO much more fun to put together. I just found that composing six separate pockets was a lot more time consuming and fussy than composing one whole page. However, I do jump back to pockets when I have a few distinct and vertically-oriented photos to share.

– I dropped my kit club subscription – I was with Cocoa Dasiy (and I can’t recommend them enough!) but a few months ago I decided that I wanted to just buy what I really liked and spend my scrapbooking budget on a box full of stuff that I loved every piece of. So if a line comes out that I like, I’ll pick the pieces I like and buy that. I buy a lot of 12×12″ paper pads (mostly American Crafts, Studio Calico, and Pink Paislee) because I use a lot of that size paper and I like having an assortment to pick from. I have stopped buying 6×6″ pads, for the most part.

– I also buy a lot of wood veneers (use them all the time, every page), enamel dots (ditto), letter stickers (mostly Thickers- again, I use on every page), and recently started buying little assortments of sequins (finding my way with them…) and flair badges. All of these things are fairly inexpensive, but I use them ALL THE TIME.

– I have more or less given up on the goal of making my Project Life/scrapbook “artsy”. As much as I like the idea of combining different interests in one place, I just never felt comfortable throwing in an “artsy” page in the middle of a bunch of pages of Gracie riding her bike, the cats sleeping in the sun, photos of the garden, and movie posters. I’ve also sort of given up trying to force myself to write my emotions/feelings on the pages. As much as I want those things recorded, I find it’s SO much easier to just make the album a scrapbook and not a journal. (More on art journaling in another entry, I think…)

– My process: I take photos all the time with my iPhone, print them out every few days, and keep the stack in a little box on my desk. I keep all ephemera that comes through here- dated receipts, little images, stamps from the mail, movie tickets, etc. I just spend most of the month gathering stuff. And then at the end of the month, I take a few days and spend them putting the pages together. I just find that I get into this “flow” with Project Life and it’s easier to dedicate a few days to doing the pages and leaving the supplies on my desk and then be done for the month, and put it all away and start collecting photos and stories and ephemera for the next month. I don’t know if this will be my system going forward forever, but for right now, it really works for me NOT to work on Project Life on a day-by-day or even week-by-week basis.

But I definitely don’t limit how many pages I make at the end of the month, either. Some months are only two pages, and other months are A LOT more. Whatever. I just want to get the basic story of the month down, have our life documented, and have a good time doing it. Gracie does flip through the albums, and I’m always REALLY surprised and happy when *I* flip through them because I have recorded stuff I completely forgot about, and I’m so happy those little memories are there.

So this Project Life book, which I guess is more like a traditional scrapbook, sort of covers my desire to document our day-to-day life, and lets me use paper products (patterned paper, washi tape, letter stickers, etc.) that I really love.

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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).

If you'd like to know more, click here

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