watercoloring with Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils

watercoloring with Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was going through a bit of a watercolor pencil phase at the moment. After using a set of Inktense I’ve had in my stash for several years and finding them a little frustrating, I wound up ordering a different set of watercolor pencils to try- Mondeluz, which I liked a lot and enjoyed using.

But I kept reading about two other watercolor pencil lines that were supposedly the creme de la creme- the Caran D’Ache Museum Aquarelle (which I immediately ruled out because they are insanely expensive, although I do want to try them eventually. Maybe as a Christmas gift?) and then the Faber Castell Albrecht Durer pencils.

After spending a few weeks REALLY wanting the Durers and looking at the prices, Utrecht suddenly had a crazy online sale and they *didn’t* exempt the Durers from it, so I splurged.

Needless to say, I love them. They are vibrant, easy to use and blend and wash and lift, come in a zillion colors that literally made me “ohhhh” and “ahhhh” as I made the color chart, and just make me want to use them all day. They are one of those art supplies that you get and enjoy not only having, but using. So much so you want to devote all your creative time to using them.

I will say this- the Durers are not leaps and bounds better than the Mondeluz.  I was kind of expecting a tremendous difference in the two pencils because of the cost difference, but I was impressed by both. However, there are some key quality issues that make the Durers the better pencil: Durers don’t dull when they dry, the pencils tips, no matter how sharp, don’t break when you put a lot of pressure on them, and the Durers come in a much larger range of colors.

But I gotta say, even though I have the Durers, I still think the Mondeluz are really great, especially for the price.

As usual with my art supplies, the first thing I did was reorder the pencils according to my own internal rainbow and swatch them all out. That took me almost a week because there are 120 colors. I knew that the different tones and shades of colors would trip me up, but I really got obsessive about it this time (which is crazy, but I still love doing this process.) Here’s a color chart, for those interested:

Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils color chart

Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils color chart

Then I used them to color a design from Color Me Calm, which I printed out on Fluid cold-press watercolor paper, which I did *not* like for watercolor pencils. I usually use Strathmore 400/500 watercolor paper, but I got a few pads of different papers a while back to see if I liked anything better, and this was my first time using the Fluid. I’ve never had a watercolor paper pill on me with just a few strokes of a pencil and a waterbrush, but the Fluid did. It also seemed to require me to really color very heavily with the pencils to get bright color, and I didn’t like the way the color moved on them. I swatched and tested the pencils on Strathmore and some Canson XL, so I knew it wasn’t the  pencils themselves that were being flaky, it was the paper.

I’m going to try the Fluid paper out with a few other supplies- I have a feeling it might be good for my Windsor and Newton watercolor markers. Thats’s one of my next projects. I got the W&N markers for my birthday and did a coloring project with them and hated it so much I threw it out. I need to figure them out. It’s on my list 😉

But first, I’m playing with my peerless watercolors again (you know, the ones that come as dry dye on paper backing?) I re-swatched them and am experimenting with them a little bit. I just want to do a full out coloring project with them before I pull out the W&N markers and work with them for a while.


Thanks, as always, for stopping by- I hope you are having an amazing week.

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planner pages

scrapbooking / documenting life in a planner

I didn’t scrapbook/Project Life/document anything all summer. I finished the Universal day-trip mini-album early in the summer and then just totally didn’t do anything. I took a few photos, but not really… and didn’t even download them off my phone. I guess I was burned out, and I was having a good time with watercolors and markers, so I let it go.

While I was blowing off scrapbooking, Gracie became super interested in decorating planners, which is sort of a sub-hobby of scrapbooking. Instead of doing scrapbooks or Project Life, some people have been buying paper planners and decorating them and using them as a way to document life. Gracie ordered herself a “Happy Planner” by Me and My Big Ideas with her saved allowance, and a bunch of things to get started with decorating her planner and went to town. For her, it’s like a really amazing sticker book (remember those we had as kids?) with color paper supplies. I got really inspired by that.

Before she got her planner, I was really not interested in that whole planner thing for one major reason: I don’t plan much ahead. I keep meticiulous to-do lists, and am very organized, but I don’t like planning specific things for specific days. Honestly, the idea of planning gives me tremendous anxiety. Because of the fact my health dictates a lot of what I do, I kind of have to be open to see what each day brings. After years of planning stuff I wound up feeling too crummy to follow through with (and following through anyway, because I didn’t want to screw up anyone else’s day) I realized that I really champion flexibility and freedom and the ability to determine what I do every day by honoring how my health is going. So the idea of keeping a really detailed planner is just not something that matched my particular situation.

But when Gracie’s planner arrived, I LOVED it. I loved the size, loved the different things inside. I started thinking about using a Happy Planner as a scrapbook. I found one that *I* loved and thought would work for me as a scrapbook/art journal/space for collage, splurged on it, and started working on it. I don’t use it to plan (at all), I simply use it as a pre-formatted scrapbook.

This is the planner I chose:

The structure of it (two pages for each week, plus a two-page month overview, and a page for “currently” lists) is what sort of sets me free- because there’s only two pages for each week, it’s very easy to keep current. Because it’s not a traditional scrapbook, I feel free to use images cut from magazines and quotes and random ephemera from life. Because there’s not a lot of space, I can mix photos from different things (one of Gracie, one of the garden, one of the cats, etc.) on the same page and not feel like it’s a jumbled mess.

I’ve been working on it for the last week and I *love* it. I’m still finding my groove with it after doing “traditional” layouts for several years, but it reminds me a lot of my old art journals/scrapbooks which were a hodge podge of ephemera and photos and anything else I felt like including.

And because it’s “pre-formatted” (with the grid lines and color splashes, etc.) it’s easier to start and work in- I just *add* to it, as opposed to creating it from scratch.

I got the planner in the third week of September, so I had to “backtrack” a tiny bit and fill in a few weeks so that ther weren’t an empty pages. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

planner pages

opening pages

The day I got the planner, I also got a package from New Zealand, so I cut the front of the envelope (with the super cool stamps and postmarks) and inserted it into the planner. One thing I invested in with the planner was the Levenger portable hole punch – it works perfectly with the Happy Planner and I know from experience that I love inserting things into the binding of whatever books I am using as a scrapbook, so after dithering on it, I just went ahead and got it.

planner pages

“hello, my name is…”

I was supposed to put my name here, but I put this Mary Oliver quote instead, which basically is what I want to use the planner for.

planner pages

back to school

The planner starts in July 2015, but I decided to remove all the earlier pages and just start it the week that Gracie went back to school. Clearly, I’m still in “traditional scrapbook design” mode with this page, but I wanted to document her graduation from her Montessori school and her start at her new school. I never got those graduation photos scrapbooked before summer, so I wanted to get them in here.

planner pages

party week

Two parties that week (Gracie’s BFFs birthday and my dad’s 80th) so I just made the week about celebrating and used a paper punh to cut little banners.

planner pages

misc. summer snaps

I used the “Currently” page from August to use as a place to put some photos from summer that I wanted in a scrapbook but never got done. So I covered the page design with some patterned paper and just stuck in the photos.

planner pages

adjusting to the new schedule

These two pages talk a little bit about the adjustment with Gracie’s new school schedule. Gracie is fine and is adapting perfectly- me, not so much (!). It was a really hard transition to go from the complete freedom of summer to this new school schedule. It’s a much longer day for Gracie because the school is off-island, and there’s a lot more homework and studying, so there’s a lot to help her keep track of. Instead of her having her afternoons fairly free, she really has to stick to a schedule.

As far as the images- there’s a photo that her teachers took of her in class, reading (which is Gracie’s favorite thing), plus some photos I took over the summer, a quote from a magazine, some ephemera, a butterfly sticker, and some washi tape.

planner pages

good for you

A little bit about the morning routine of the two boy cats (sleeping in the sun) and some garden photos I wanted to include. Plus ephemera, another quote from a magazine, etc.

planner pages

this week felt like fall

This is actually the pages for the week I got the planner. It rained – a lot – and I wanted to mention that so I used some punches to create that. I also wanted to talk about how fall was in the air, because it’s my favorite season.

One thing about documenting life week to week- it really has forced me to be super mindful about what’s happening *now*. Instead of compartmentalizing things into larger segments of time, into things that can be summarized by a scrapbook layout, I find myself REALLY paying attention to each day, because now I’m documenting days and weeks instead of subjects (does that make any sense?) I’m so glad I’m doing this, because for the past few years I have been noticing myself sort of “losing” fall because it went by too quickly and I didn’t pay enough attention.

planner pages

it’s OK

Finally, catching up to the “present” – this week I created as it happened, which I kind of like. Ginger had her big surgery, and it was okay, but I was just anxious and agitated and sad and feeling jumpy all week. I wanted to document that because it’s how I felt. The big “IT’S OK was a good reminder to calm down and take a deep breath. The “Happy Crafting” was from an order I placed for clear stamps (a new love of mine- I love floral images) and I also included a piece of a seed packet for Coleus, which I planted that week.

planner pages

so over the rain

It also rained – a lot- so that image of the woman gardening in the rain resonated so much. The “No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself” quote REALLY hit home. Then I just included some washi, a photo of Chester being cozy (he’s kind of my rock lately), and a piece of ephemera to finish the week.

In the middle of the pages I punched a Project Life card, journaled a bit about Ginger’s surgery and how I was feeling (note the “BLAH” spelled out with veneer letters) and inserted it into the book. That punch is really great.

planner pages

welcome to October!

Finally, I filled out the “Currently” page for the end of September, and decorated the “October” cover page with an image from Better Homes and Gardens, some washi tape, and some letter stickers.


I have to say, I love this scrapbook-in-a-planner thing. I love being able to use ephemera and collage again. I love the fact that I can mix up photos and stories within the same spread. I love how mindful I am because I am looking for things to document. I love that I can work on it throughout the week. I love collecting images and details and everyday things from life to include. I love that I can also use all the pretty paper stuff I have collected over the years. I haven’t felt this way about scrapbooking and documenting life in a long time. I hope the enthusiasm for this project continues.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading! I hope you have an amazing weekend!

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We just finished our fourth week of recording time lapse videos of the sky from our back lanai. All videos were taken with a GoPro Silver Hero 4.

These past two weeks were a little sporadic because of weather (Tropical Storm Erika!) and schedules. Hopefully we’ll get back to doing daily ones this week, weather permitting- some days there’s just empty blue skies, and some days it’s just a blanket of solid gray, so it looks like still images.

The videos look horrible unless they are viewed as HD, so here’s a graphic to help with that:



Anyway, thank you to everyone who watches and “thumbs up” and to anyone who has subscribed to the channel.

Without further ado, here are the videos from the past two weeks:


Hope you had an awesome long weekend! <3

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watercoloring with Mondeluz watercolor pencils

watercoloring with Mondeluz watercolor pencils

After using my Inktense pencils, and finding them frustrating, I decided to go ahead and look for another set of watercolor pencils for my collection.

After doing a bit of research, I found out about Mondeluz pencils, from Koh-I-Noor. They are kind of hard to find in the US (at least the 72 color set, which I wanted), but from what I read, they were incredible quality at a very low price.

I found a seller in Poland on eBay who had them at a very very fair price and shipping to US was FREE, so I went ahead and ordered a set. They came, like, TWO days later (!!) and I was really pleased with them.

The first thing I did was reorder the colors and swatch the pencils out, so I knew what the colors were. Here’s a color chart, for those interested:

Mondeluz Watercolor Pencil Color Chart

Mondeluz Watercolor Pencil Color Chart

Then I used them to color a design from the Paisley Designs Stained Glass Coloring Book.

paisley watercoloring with Mondeluz

paisley watercoloring with Mondeluz

I have to admit that this was probably my most favorite watercolor/coloring project I’ve ever done. I’m not sure if it was the pencils, or the design, or both, but working on it made me very happy and relaxed.

As far as the pencils, they really are a steal, even at their list price (which I didn’t pay anything close to). They are super rich, very saturated and pigmented, and when you add water to them, they spread like a good-quality opaque watercolor paint.

Two things I don’t like about them are that the pencils are a bit brittle, so I was constantly breaking points (I like to keep my pencils razor sharp, so not many pencils can maintain that point- Mondeluz wanted to crumble). The other thing is that when the pencil + water dries, it dries very matte and a little dull. It actually looks like a well-blended color pencil, as opposed to watercolor. I don’t mind that, but it makes me think of these more as water-soluable pencils as opposed to watercolor pencils. They are like color pencils that you can blend with water, but not pencils that turn into watercolor paint.

I would highly recommend these pencils- I can’t believe they are as inexpensive as they are. I will admit that I like the Faber Castell Durers (which I just received and am in the process of making color charts for!) just a *bit* more, simply because they have a wider color range, and the pencils hold a very sharp point without breaking/crumbling. But I actually think the Modeluz are a higher level of pigment and dissolve better. They just dry a little bit dull, as I mentioned above.

If you are interested in the seller I purchased these from, check out Sklarek Family on Ebay. The pencils came SUPER quickly (just a couple of days) and they were in perfect condition. And the prices are great. I don’t know the seller or anything, just thought I would pass on the deal since it took me a few days to comparison shop and find the listing.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by!

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sunflower in my garden

sunflower in my garden

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
Back to School:
Oh, boy. After 7+ years at Island Montessori (which goes up to third grade), the switch to Gracie’s new school has been intense. Although they two schools have a lot in common, the two are also very different. Now I get what people talk about when they say “parent to a school-age child”- it’s just a lot of stuff going on.

First of all, the new school is off the island we live on, so that means a longer commute – 40 minutes or so each way. We’re part of a carpool, so that adds time, as well. The days are much longer- they start at 6am for Gracie and she doesn’t get home until 4:30-ish. At IMA, she woke up at 7:30am and got home just after 3pm. So that’s a big difference right off the bat.

Second is homework- it’s daily instead of weekly. Weekly homework is good in some ways because it means if there’s an overly chaotic day, then the homework can be done the next day, etc. But I like daily homework because it keeps the focus going after school. It’s nothing that Gracie can’t handle, but there’s 30 minutes of reading, plus some written homework, and then homework which sort of has her come home and incorporate the environment at home into what she is doing at school. The other day she had to go outside and measure leaves in the garden for a math project. Stuff like that. Yesterday was sort of chaotic after-school because a few things (non-school related) popped up that we all paid attention to, and so Gracie was still working on her homework at 8:30pm. And I heard this is sort of the beginning of what’s to come.

Third- she’s really tired at the end of the day. She used to come home from school and still have tons of energy left, but now she just zonks out really early. So we’ve gone from her sort of pushing her bedtime limits to as late as possible to her wanting to go to bed early, like at 8pm. By the time she has her shower, does homework, eats dinner, and does her reading, it’s beyond that. So it’s a busy time.

Fourth is the dress code, which hasn’t been too bad, but Gracie has been a little “spoiled” by a certain smitten grandmother (my mom) who never made her wear any kind of clothing that bothered her in the least bit. If you know kids, you know that EVERY kid has preferences and issues with clothes- seams on socks, t-shirts that tug, tags, the progression from stretch waists to clothes with snaps and zippers. My mom’s philosophy has always been “if it looks like it bothers her at all, don’t make her wear it.” Now it’s kind of a problem, because Gracie’s school clothes are not as comfy as the stuff she’s used to wearing, and so she’s slyly *not* wearing a lot of the clothes she chose before school started. So there’s a battle to get her to wear more than just her six pairs of khaki shorts and try skorts and pants and new shoes, etc.

And there’s a lot going on after school and on weekends, too. Before school even started this year, Grace had several school events to go to and invitations come in- meetings, a class party at someone’s house, etc. We’re trying to figure out if there is any time at all for after-school activities with all of it. She loves soccer, and I really really feel important that she does a team sport, but I’m torn between adding several hours a week to this new crazy schedule or waiting until winter soccer season when we have everything calmed down and are more used to this new schedule and letting her play on the island league.

There’s also a book club after school that she’s desperate to join (as well as cooking club, art club, volleyball, etc.) and I just don’t know how it will work. I can’t imagine her getting out of school at 5pm, not getting home until after 6pm, and then jamming everything into the few hours before bed. I’m NOT a fan of overscheduling- heck, I’m not a fan of *scheduling*. I truly believe one of the best things we can do for kids is provide them with ample time and space to explore and figure out what they want to do and figure out what they like doing. Kids don’t need to be entertained 24/7. I want her to have a little free time everyday to do what *she* likes. So this is all new territory for me.

It’s a lot. Everyday we’re figuring it out and trying new schedules and figuring out how to make the afternoons work. Oh well, we’ll figure it out.

All that matters is that Gracie still LOVES school, she loves going, and she loves learning. We just want to do what we can to keep it that way. If she has to spend around 8 hours in an environment of education, the least we can do is make that as positive as we can for her.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that our cat Ginger had been having some health issues with her glands for over a year, and we finally had been told that surgery was a good choice. We just had to wait until two infections passed, and so after a few weeks of antibiotics and frequent vet visits and care, she’s ready for the surgery to remove those. Now we have to meet with the surgeon and book the surgery.

I’m nervous, but hopeful. I want her better, once and for all, and I want her to be able to move around the whole house (she’s been in isolation in the back bedrooms to keep her stress levels down) and interact with the other cats and just have her regular life back. So I hope the surgeon can meet with us soon and do the surgery, and that it turns out well.

The surgery is fairly simple, but there’s one possible complication- there’s a nerve that runs by the glands near the tailbone that, if accidentally severed, would make her incontinent. No matter what the outcome of the surgery is, we adore her and we’re committed to her, but we are aware that’s an issue. So I’m anxious to get this process going, get her the surgery, and have her come home and recover.

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Erika:
Right now it’s in the Caribbean, and the forecasters aren’t sure if it’s going to strengthen into a hurricane and hit Florida or just fall apart. Argh. Seriously. I just want it to dissipate.

Outside my window…
Erika has brought us some weird weather- lots of storms and gloomy skies- so much so there’s nothing to GoPro- it’s all just a gray haze in the late afternoons and evenings.

Other than Erika’s rainy weather, the days have been mostly sunny and very hot, but almost every afternoon and evening we get an epic storm. Since I spend the mornings and early afternoons outside, this weather pattern suits me perfectly.

This summer has been such an anomaly, weather-wise. This is how summers *used* to be, about ten/fifteen years ago. Sunny days, with storms rolling in after 3 or 4pm. But then it shifted to summers being really soggy and dark and dreary from morning until night the last few years, which sorta broke my heart because I used to prefer spending spend summers down here when I was in college and graduate school, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. I realized earlier this year it was because the weather wasn’t like it has been. It was like a different climate back then.

I really, really hope that the last several years has been because some sort of “glitch” in the weather (like El Nino, etc.)- some shift in something that made the summer weather so terrible and wet.

Maybe now the weather is back to “normal”, or this is the new trend for the next several years. I really hope so. REALLY hope so. Of course, there’s still two months left in hurricane season/summer, so I know it’s still early. And the storms that roll in are REALLY crazy, like nothing I have seen in past years. They develop very quickly, and the lightning is phenomenal and scary. Definitely more intense.

In years past, mid-October is when things cool down, the sun gets lower in the sky, and the magic of autumn (by far my favorite season!) begins. So not long now…

In the art studio…
There hasn’t been much time for me to do many creative things with all the Gracie-school stuff, but when I do have little bits of time, I have been keeping up with my summer routine of mostly watercoloring, plus the little project of going through my older art supplies, organizing and re-evaluating them, trying them all out, and swatching them and making color charts. I find making color charts very soothing, and I’m rediscovering things I didn’t know I loved (watercolor pencils!), and also getting rid of other things that are either too old, or things I’m not interested in anymore. It feels good to know exactly where everything is, *what* everything is, that I love using it, and that I feel confident in using it. By swatching everything, and cycling through things, it keeps everything fresh.

(I would be lying if I said I wasn’t getting new stuff to try out, as well, and also getting a lot of clear stamps. I LOVE floral images, and there are so many beautiful ones out there. Now I just need to learn how to stamp properly- there is a definite art form to it, and lots of techniques. Maybe a project for fall/winter.)

I definitely want to keep doing coloring/swatching, but I also am starting to get the itch to paint in acrylic again, and get back to my canvases. I haven’t felt like painting in months, so it’s very interesting to me to witness my own cyclical nature of creating. The idea of spending long winter afternoons working on canvases with acrylics makes me feel really excited right now.

I don’t know if I’ll take Flora Bowley’s class again (I have for the previous two falls) or just pick the paintings back up on my own and work on them since I know her class by heart at this point. If I’m not painting by October, I probably will sign back up, because her class DEFINITELY has me painting.

One sort of weird drawback is that  her class is very immersive- at least for me- and I tend to abandon EVERYTHING else, creatively, to keep up with all the class stuff. I struggled with this the last few years (only painting when I also wanted to do other projects, but feeling guilty when I wasn’t at the canvas…) so I’m hesitant to do anything that might force me into a sort of creative rut. When I don’t regularly cycle through projects, I tend to keep doing whatever is comfortable. It just becomes way too easy to pull out the same colors of paint and the same brushes and the same canvas and keep noodling away, day after day, never finishing, always a little scared of moving on to another project.

In the garden…
Survival mode. Well, sorta. Every year since I started the garden, I’ve embraced native plants (tropicals and hearty annuals) more and more. So every summer, the garden in summer becomes less about trying to keep everything alive and more about actual gardening.

The geraniums I had left over from last winter are starting to get tired. I can usually keep a few going, but there’s always a bunch that just can’t last through the heat of summer, and so a few of mine, including my beloved Appleblossom, are on their last legs. I’m thinking about cutting off the live branches of it and trying to get those cuttings to root inside the house in a sunny spot. I’ll need to do it soon, though- the bottom of the plan near the soil has turned brown and I know it’s only a matter of time before the mush gets the rest of the plant.

On a positive note, I’ve been growing a bunch of sunflowers this summer and I’m learning the magic trick- keep them super-moist (they dry out so easily, even when it’s super rainy) and spray the flowers and leaves daily to keep small pests away. The leaves stay green and get bigger, and the plants do better. Also, plant about 4x more seed than plants I want to have, as most of the seedlings won’t make it in the heat. A few pull through, and the more seedlings there are, the more plants grow. Right now I have two planters of mature sunflowers in bloom, one in stalk mode, and one planter full of seedlings.

Also, can I say just how much I love Mandevilla? Why have I never grown this before? I have three and I love them.

Hoping/looking forward to…
Cooler weather. I can’t wait to throw open the windows and doors and let in the fresh air.

I’m also thinking about the fact that in just a few weeks we’ll be able to go back up to Universal/Disney for day trips! I don’t know why that excites me- maybe it’s the fact that Gracie can/wants to ride almost everything except the super scary roller coasters and she really enjoys the trips we take.

I have a lot of great memories of the handful of trips we took to theme parks when I was a kid (my parents came from NY to Marco Island to vacation annually, which is how we all ended up here, but there was usually a stop at Disney on the car ride coming from New York or on the way home…) It was like time stood still and everything was ultra-saturated and and fun and colorful. I just remember that feeling so well. Even the stuff that’s sort of an inconvenience to adults- the parking, the monorail to and from the parks, the waiting in line- it all seems part of it for kids. It was an escape from reality, which I appreciated because I had so much health stuff going on.

I know Gracie really loves her time there, as well. It’s perfect for kids exactly her age (nine going on ten), and so I guess I want to spend time there with her so we can have these memories. Everything is still big and magical and adventurous to her in those places. And it’s all *for* her, especially the Harry Potter stuff. It’s a place designed for kids. I remember feeling that way about Disney when I was a kid- that it was one of the few places in the world that was designed to appeal to me. And their old policies made it an especially amazing place for disabled and sick kids, so that made it even more fun for me because a lot of the time I was in casts or recovering from whatever surgery I had, so going there felt good. It’s not like that anymore, unfortunately, because people abused the system. But back then, Disney was one of the only places on earth where being disabled was just not an issue. I have no idea what it’s like now- we haven’t been there in a few years and from what I read, the new system kinda sucks. I’m glad I got to experience it when it was still a well-oiled machine.

So, when the weather cools and the rain is less of an issue, we’ll go ahead and do a day trip or two a month. The good thing about going more frequently is that the pressure to see and do everything in one visit fades, because you know you’ll be back soon enough. So every visit is a little new and novel and you have the luxury of going a little slower and checking things out. And the good thing about ONLY going for a day is that you go home at the end of the day, so the exhaustion that sets in after just a few hours at the park isn’t so much an issue when you have the next day to recover. You don’t have to worry about summoning the energy for another three or four days at the parks.

“First Frost” by Sarah Addison Allen, which I have had on my Kindle for a while.


Mr. Robot, on USA, which is pretty much the best TV show, ever. Well, maybe not, but it’s INCREDIBLY good, and the pilot was astonishing. Wow, what a great show.

Sense8 which is… iffy. I really expected *me* to love it and Tom to be “meh” on it, since I’m all about the whole empath/intuition thing and Tom is so hard science. But it’s the complete opposite- I think the show, while interesting and compelling, is very awkward and silly, and often more cheesy than I can handle (the whole sing-along montage of “What’s Up” was so painful to watch!) Tom thinks it’s pretty great, though. I don’t know… I do have to say the last few episodes have been good. Less song montages and silliness, more about the characters relations to one another.

And then there’s Big Brother, which is sort of annual summer tradition around here. I’m glad the last two season have had casts that are open-minded, fair, and not terrible, racist people.  There was one season a few years back that we stopped watching almost immediately because the people they cast were really racist and generally terrible people. But the past two years, the casts have come acorss as generally okay people. However, the twins and Austin, while seemingly nice are, well… *blech*. If they send Johnny Mac home, we’ll all be super pissed around here (Haven’t watched last night’s episode yet…)

Okay, I’m signing off for now. If you got this far, thank you for reading! I hope you have an amazing weekend.

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Watercoloring with Inktense Watercolor Pencils

A few weeks back I watercolored a pattern from the “Just Add Color: Mid-Century Modern Patterns” with Inktense Watercolor Pencils.

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with the Inktense. I love their colors- they are probably the MOST intense watercolor pencils you can buy- but I think they are really frustrating to use. They do not “lift” easily, and that’s the whole point of a watercolor pencil- you lay down the color with the pencil, and lift and move it with a paintbrush and water. Moving color from the penciled area takes some hard scrubbing with the brush, which is not good for the brush OR the paper. Apparently this is because the composition of the pigment in the pencils is indeed like an ink, NOT a watercolor, so it just doesn’t lift and move and flow and dissolve as easily.

This project took much longer than it should have, simply because the Inktense pencils are frustrating to work with. I know a lot of people love these, but they aren’t my favorite. But I do enjoy working with colored pencils so much (even the Inktense) that I went ahead and got two other watercolor pencil sets to try: Mondeluz (which is highly rated but very inexpensive) and Faber Castell Albrecht Durers (which are expensive but come in an AMAZING color range). I’ll post more about those soon- but needless to say, I LOVE them both very much. The Durers are kind of blowing my mind.

Anyway, I’m glad I have the Inktense, I see using them to add vibrant pops of color to projects and doing smaller scale projects with them, but I wouldn’t classify them as watercolor pencils strictly speaking. Sort of like water-soluable ink in a pencil form.

Here’s a color chart, for those interested (you can click the image to make it larger and see the numbers, in case you are interested in the way I re-organized the colors):

Inktense Color Chart

Inktense Color Chart

As I mentioned a few posts ago, whenever I get any sort of art supply that involves colors, I ALWAYS re-order the colors according to my own visual rainbow.

<3 Thanks for checking in!

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We’re now finishing our second week of recording time lapse videos of the sky from our back lanai. All videos were taken with a GoPro Silver Hero 4.

I stopped posting them directly on Facebook because of two reasons: 1) they compress the heck out of the videos to take up the least amount of data on their servers as possible, making the videos very blurred, and 2) Facebook doesn’t really allow *any* published/recognizable music on videos that users upload to avoid any chance of litigation. YouTube allows users to watch videos in higher resolutions, and YouTube lets you use most songs, even commercial and popular music. If the artist/publisher of the song chooses, they can add banner ads to your video and profit off those ads in exchange for using the song. I don’t mind that- I’m just happy to be able to use my own music collection rather than have to scour the internet every night for an hour trying to find a song that works!

The videos look horrible unless they are viewed as HD, so here’s a graphic to help with that:



Anyway, thank you to everyone who watches and “thumbs up” and to anyone who has subscribed to the channel. I feel like I’m sort of bombarding everyone with these, but it’s really fun and it’s sort of become this family project- Tom does the filming, I do the editing and uploading, and now Gracie is going to start making *her* own version of the time lapse videos in addition to the ones I make- she’s going to take the raw time lapse videos we capture and edit them in iMovie with her own music and effects. I’m excited to see her take on them.

Without further ado, here are the videos from this week:


Hope you had an awesome weekend! <3

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mandala with Tombow markers and Irojiten pencils

mandala with Tombow markers and Irojiten pencils

A while back I watercolored a mandala from “Color Me Calm” with Tombow markers and finished the details with Irojiten color pencils.

It’s not my favorite project, by far, but it was fairly fun and quick to work on and I wasn’t too indecisive about what colors should go where (which is sort of my achilles heel when I do watercoloring…)

I love Tombow markers, as I have mentioned before. Several years ago, my parents got me an entire set for Christmas. I was kind of afraid of them for a long time, but then I started using them a little bit with stamps, and using them as watercolor, and I discovered they are just amazing and one of my favorite art supplies to use.

Here’s a color chart, for those interested (you can click the image to make it larger and see the numbers, in case you are interested in the marker color numbers):

Tombow Marker Palette

Tombow Marker Palette

Whenever I get any sort of art supply that involves colors, I ALWAYS break the set apart and re-order the colors according to the way I use and see them. The only exception to this has been the Irojiten pencils, which came in color families that, while they didn’t make sense as far as the rainbow, look so beautiful I couldn’t bear to rearrange them. (I tried. Twice. Both times I wound up putting them back into the color families…

Thanks, as always, for stopping by to see what I’m up to!

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If you’ve known me a while, you know that I have a thing about documenting sunsets and the sky- for years I would go outside and snap a photo of the sunset every night and I take a LOT of photos of the sky.

A few months ago, I started noticing time-lapse videos of the sky/sunset/weather on YouTube. Most of them were being taken with a camera called a “GoPro”, which is this rugged little video camera designed for extreme sports and adventurers to capture their different experiences. The camera isn’t cheap, but it comes with a waterproof case and does a bunch of different things.

It’s been years since I had a digital camera- ever since I got an iPhone, I’ve used that and been very happy with it for photos and videos. So I couldn’t justify the GoPro for just the time lapse project even though I REALLY wanted to do it. I mentioned it to Tom, and he was pretty excited about it- it turns out the camera is something that he could use as well- he’s an advanced brown belt in karate and needs to perfect his form/katas before his black belt test (GoPro has a slow-motion, he’s getting into kayaking and would like to be able to take a waterproof, compact camera with him on his trips, he regularly bikes and would like to capture some of his rides, etc.) Gracie also wanted a waterproof camera to use *in* the pool and when we told her about it, she got REALLY excited.

So as a 15th anniversary gift for Tom and I (instead of buying each other little things that sort of add up) we decided to get a GoPro Silver Hero 4. Since we got it, we’ve been doing daily time lapse captures of the sky and bay behind our house. It’s a neat project- Tom does the camera stuff, I do the editing (along with Gracie) and we all are involved so it’s become a family thing. Tom’s also used it to study his karate form at the dojo, and I think it’s a matter of time before Gracie brings it into the pool.

Here are the first week of videos we made, in case you wanted to check out our little project. Our basic settings are “Video Time-Lapse”, one photo every five seconds.

If you want to give them a thumbs-up and subscribe to the YouTube channel, that would be awesome!

I think we’re getting better at shooting and editing the videos. The hardest part, for me, is finding music for them- because YouTube and Facebook are monetized (supported by ads), you can’t use any music under the Fair Use policies. I found a great site for free music- Free Music Archive – but there’s *so* much that finding the right song is sometimes more challenging and time consuming that filming and editing the footage!

So there’s a little re-cap of our first few days of doing time lapse photography and documenting the sky behind our house.

Hope you are having an amazing weekend!

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Brusho Crystal Colors

Brusho Crystal Colors with stencil

A year ago (or maybe two?), I made an impulse purchase on Dick Blick- a set of 24 Brusho Color Crystals for $35 (now they are over $100 for the set- so glad I got them when I did!). I didn’t know what they were exactly, but I saw the sample artwork created with it, and had to have them.

It turned out that they were finely ground pigment powders, that when added to water burst into little blooms of color.

Brusho Color Chart

Brusho Color Chart

They came in these tiny sealed plastic tubs, and to be honest, I didn’t know the best way to use them. Because they are so vivid and pigmented, just a few crystals go a long way, so you can’t open the top of the tub and dump a bunch out- they sort of needed to be sifted but I wasn’t sure how to so that. I was hesitant to poke holes into the containers because I live in a humid environment and open containers of anything water soluble is never a great idea.

There weren’t really any instructions or videos other than “add to water”, so I put them on my shelf and figured I’d experiment with them when I had more time. Then I took Flora Bowley’s painting class and moved on to acrylics and forgot all about them.

Earlier this spring, videos started popping up on my YouTube feed of people using Brusho (most notable is Lindsay the Frugal Crafter’s video using stencils and water and her Brushos). I remembered I had them and got them out, but still wasn’t sure how to go about opening mine up. I finally just poked some holes in the tub with a pottery pick, and that was okay, but I knew I had to figure out a better long term storage/use solution.

Here’s the deal with the Brusho, and why I like them better than the Ken Oliver Color Burst: Brusho have a bunch of different color crystals mixed together in each container. When diluted and blended, the multiple colors create one solid color. But if you get them to dry before they dilute completely, or are very careful in how much water you use with them, you can get them to dry with a mottled, multi-colored look.

Here’s a color chart I made with them with the colors straight diluted. The colors are crazy vibrant and beautiful. They would make amazing watercolors.

brusho crystal colors

Brusho Crystal Colors swatches / color chart

But if you don’t let the colors dilute all the way, they stay “speckled”, which is pretty much the most amazing thing ever. There’s a bit of a learning curve to using them- how much water to use, how quickly to get them to dry, etc. But it’s so worth it.

I think I figured it out, but here’s what I created that first afternoon, just playing. THEY ARE AMAZING.

Brusho Crystal Colors

Brusho Crystal Colors

Brusho Crystal Colors

Brusho Crystal Colors

Brusho Crystal Colors with stencil

Brusho Crystal Colors with stencil

Brusho Crystal Colors

Brusho Crystal Colors with stencil

As far as storage, I think that the regular containers with the holes poked in the top are fine. Like little salt shakers. But if you live in a humid environment, you probably want to get something with a screw cap. I wound up getting little glass vials from Amazon with screw tops.

glass vial storage for Brusho

glass vial storage for Brusho

The vials are clear, so I can get a general idea of the color (plus, I labelled them), and the vial opening is small enough that not much will come out if gently tapped, and I can use the squeeze dropper thing as a bit of a wand to move the color around (DRY- don’t put a wet dropper back in the bottle!) I’m sure there are better ideas, but this is the one I chose.

Getthing the powders into the vials was a huge mess, I will admit. Filling them was one of the worst re-organizing art/craft projects I have undertaken- about three straight hours of powdery mess. I would just recommend leaving the Brusho in the little jars and poking holes in the top if you can.


Anyway, definitely going to play more with these and hoping for more (bright) colors. Thanks for stopping by! <3

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lantana from my garden

lantana from my garden

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
A bunch of stuff. First: BACK TO SCHOOL PREP.

My mom and dad are in North Carolina for the summer, but my mom came back to town for some appointments and to help get Gracie ready for school, so it’s been a very busy few weeks.

Gracie’s starting a new school in just a few weeks- her Montessori school only goes up to third grade, so she “graduated” in May. Because of the change in schools, we had a lot of school shopping to do this year. The new school has a dress code, but it’s a very flexible and relaxed dress code. The issue is that Gracie is picky about clothes because she’s petite  (especially pants), so finding stuff that fit the dress code and that were comfy and things she liked wearing and felt good in was a little bit of trial and error. At Montesorri, she wore t-shirts and yoga pants, but now she has to wear the school-logo polo shirt, khakis/shorts, and sneakers. We’re still on the hunt for pants that aren’t leggings. But she got shorts and skorts that she loves, and a bunch of solid hoodies and sweaters. And new shoes! She loves Converse and Toms.

The school supply list was extensive and very specific. We’ve never had to buy school supplies before because Montessori provided everything, so that was interesting. I love paper and office supplies, so I was excited to do that part before I got the list, but the kids aren’t allowed to have anything with too much variety so it was just basic yellow number-2 pencils and black/white composition books and pink cap erasers and a plain binder with filler paper, etc. Now we have a dining room table full of supplies for the year.

It’s been a busy few weeks. On Sunday, my mom flew back to North Carolina on Sunday, and Gracie went along with her to spend a few weeks with Nanny and Papa in the mountains before school starts. I can’t believe it’s almost back to school time, and that Gracie will be starting FOURTH GRADE. It’s a bit much, to be honest.

But it’s also sort of nice. I have to admit, every year that passes, Tom and I say to ourselves “*this* is the best age”. I know a lot of people are all about the baby/toddler stages, but Tom and I are more “kid” people, I think. I love being able to really TALK to Gracie and hang out with her. I love going with her to Disney and Universal and the movies and hanging out with her, and talking about books and things we find online and art projects and food and whatever. It’s amazing to have that connection with her. I love that she asks me really emotional and complex things about issues and topics that are not easy to deal with or provide immediate answers to. I like that challenge of parenthood- it’s bittersweet.

It just feels like we are this unit now, as opposed to two adults with a tiny kid. She has opinions and ideas and they matter.

As you might know, we have three cats: Milo (the perpetual kitten, who is now two years old), Chester (our big boy who has been with us over ten years), and Ginger (our sweet calico, who came home around the same time Gracie did, nine years ago.)

You also may know Ginger’s had some health problems the last year or so. The glands near her tail started being an issue about 18 months ago, and they got seriously infected. She had several surgeries to get them healing, and to help her recover. While she was recovering from the first infection, we consulted with two different vets, and both advised us to try and let the glands heal on their own and see if they would remain stable rather than go ahead and get them removed. There is surgery to remove the glands, the major risk of that is that she’d lose bowel function. So we decided to go that route- because we have the resources and time to take really intensive care of her (making the back bedroom into her personal space, being home a lot, etc.), we decided to follow the vets’ advice and see if she could recover and then stay healthy, even though recovery might take a while because of scar tissue and things like that.

So for the last 18 months, Ginger has been under very special care- she has her own room in our house, she gets special food, her own litterbox, and basically leads a very stress-free life. It took several months for the glands to cycle through infections, and then for her to be treated for the resulting issues from being on antibiotics for so long, and to heal, but they finally did.

She was doing great until a few weeks ago- she developed another infection out of nowhere. We caught it pretty much immediately (she was acting weird, and we got her right to the vet before it even opened) and she’s being treated for it. But now it’s clear she needs the surgery- the gland issue will be chronic for her. We feel *terrible*. On one hand, we tried to do the right thing- we held off on surgery because it is risky and not something to enter into lightly. And if the infections were just a weird thing that happened once and she recovered from, then the surgery would have been unnecessary. But on the other hand, I keep wondering if we just went ahead with the surgery, if she’d be all better now and not have had to deal with all this these past few months 🙁

The game plan now is to get her totally healed, and then get her in for the surgery as soon as it’s safe, and we’ll hope for the very best. No matter what happens, we’re here for her, and will care for her no matter what it takes. I just hope she can get the surgery very soon, it all goes very well, and she comes home pain-free and able to be part of the “main” part of the house again and interact with her brothers and be able to do normal cat things without worrying any stress might cause her medical problems.

Poor girl. I love her so much.


The new Florence and the Machine album has been on repeat on my iPod shuffle. At first I was a little crushed that it was so much more low-key than her previous stuff, but then it grew on me. It isn’t quite as dramatic and soaring as her previous stuff, but there are so many great *moments* in the new songs.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say her really BIG, epic songs aren’t my absolute favorites. There is *one* of those on the new album (“Which Witch”, which is supposedly a DEMO track. Florence Welch is *seriously* a genius…), and it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. Supposedly she created a whole concept album with that particular style of song and storyline and she scrapped it for How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, and the idea of losing a whole album of songs like “Which Witch” makes me want to cry a bit. Maybe she’ll release it in the future. I hope so.

She writes and performs music that makes me feel alive and young again, in a really vulnerable way. It’s almost like there’s some thing inside me that tends to get a little dusty and diminished as time passes, that thing that I felt strongly when I was young- the possibility of anything, the incredible emotion of life, the power of creativity and humanity… and when I hear some of her songs, the dust and grime of years gets blown off and that part of me comes alive again. The only other band that does that for me right now is M83. (Oh, and Metallica, but that’s been going on since I was 17, and Metallica soothes my anxiety more than anything else, besides maybe swimming.)

In the art studio…
Coloring with watercolor pencils that I forgot I had (more on that in a few days…).

Playing with Brusho (which is so messy and fun and so hard to use, more on that in a few days…)

Experimenting with resists and watercolor. I hate embossing powders (did it this weekend and it reminded me how much I hate it) and am determined to find an ink/liquid that provides a resist on watercolor paper. The search for a good liquid resist is sort of a never-ending experiment in the art studio. I have been trying things for years- glues, paints, waxes, solvents, resist mediums, etc. and have yet to find anything amazing- something that works with paintbrushes, stamps, dip pens, etc.

I feel a little aimless but trying to ride through summer, as far as creativity goes. I’m doing something creative everyday and trying lots of different stuff, so I’m actually doing a lot of work and that’s great. A lot of playing and experimenting and just seeing what I feel like doing and following through. I think the feeling of restlessness is just a summer thing. I think that everything I do should bring the intensity and focus and passion I feel when I’m painting with acrylics. I took a break from that because I was agonizing over the painting I have been working on since late 2014, and not able to finish it. I knew I needed a break because it was making me so unhappy.

Also, I felt really drawn to watercolors and water-based mediums, and missed the “looseness” of those mediums. So that’s what I’m doing. It seems to be a trend with me- in winter I paint with acrylics, and in summer I play with watercolors. I hope to mix the two as the year continues, because I just hate abandoning projects because I can’t figure out how to split my interests. I don’t have much free time, so when I start breaking it down into tiny chunks devoted to different projects, I wind up getting very little done.

Outside my window…
RAIN. Rain. All weekend. We’ve had a VERY mild summer, as far as Southwest Florida goes, and I’ve been very grateful for that. Morning storms have been minimal, and the afternoon storms haven’t brought excessive rain- excessive meaning enough to damage my garden. It’s just been hot and cloudy and the storms have come later in the day so I have had plenty of time in the mornings to garden and get my swims in without having to check the lightning tracker every two minutes.

But this weekend, some sort of weird tropical storm blew in, and the rain just fell from the sky in  what seemed like bucketfuls. Just torrential, hard rain, all weekend. It was so forceful that it pushed one of the top screens on our lanai out of the frame. Thankfully, there was very little thunder and lightning, so I was still able to go outside and swim and do my thing, it was just wet and steamy. Yesterday was kind of a pain because there was a little bit of lightning on the radar, so I had to keep getting out of my pool and waiting it out while I was trying to finish my swim. It took about five and a half hours to get my five miles in (it usually takes two and a half hours).

We now need a few good, dry days for everything to dry out and become less “squishy”. I’m hoping Mother Nature will bless us with a few days of sunshine, mild temperatures, a little bit of breeze, so the standing water can go away and the plants on the island can recuperate. Rain is good, but torrential rain does a job on the plants and trees all over the island.

In the garden…
See above. I’ll have to wait a few days to see what the results of all that rain will be. I just planted a few new plants, and I hope they pull through.

I’m a little freaked out about the mushrooms, which fascinate me but completely gross me out when they are in *my* garden. Some of them are really, really weird. We found an Elgant Stinkhorn Mushroom in one of my planters a week or so ago and I had to have Tom get rid of it for me. It was just *too* weird for me. It was about 6 inches long, pink, kinda foam-y, looked phallic, and it smelled disgusting. When Gracie saw it, she literally shrieked and ran across the lanai, which is NOT common for her. It was just weird and otherworldly. *shudders*

So fingers crossed for dry weather and sunshine.

“Day Four”, which is about a cruise ship that runs into issues and chaos (and creepy mysterious stuff) ensues. It’s very readable, but not particularly scary, so I’m just reading along, seeing what happens. I’ll let you know what I think of it. I just grabbed it (well, for my Kindle) because it was available and I read a review of it in Entertainment Weekly that made me curious. I like spooky, eerie stuff- not downright horror or gore, but eerie things that suggest creepy happenings. You know the movie “Mothman Prophecies” from about ten years ago? That’s my idea of good spooky stuff. (On that note, I like spooky stuff set in space even more. But all spooky space books tend to be more fantasy fiction, and I’m totally not into that.)

Thankful for…
– compassionate vets, their staffs, and strong medication to help Ginger through this health issue.
– Tom, for taking a major role in Ginger’s care these last 18 months.
– Gracie for being a superstar about all the new changes with school and for being brave and excited about everything new coming her way.
– my parents for helping out and for sharing their summers with Gracie every year in North Carolina.
– kind people in this community (particularly Andrea, who is on staff at our favorite movie theater and who has been incredibly lovely to us since the day we met her.)
– Milo and all his insane habits and quirks (and obsession with sliced carrots, running whenever the cabinet door is opened because one of us is either getting a piece of chocolate – which he likes to nibble- or getting him a brand new toy to play with, and having to be locked up at night because he’s learned to open doors by hurtling himself at them full force which is NOT a stress-less noise to hear at 3am.)
– Good TV shows, like Orphan Black (we binged Season Three last week- love Helena and her “science baby”). Now we’re starting season Two of Broadchurch.
– Watercolor pencils (a rediscovered passion.)
– Storms *without* lightning.


Nothing *yet*, but since fall is around the corner (I feel like every time I even think about that, confetti and balloons should drop from the ceiling because it IS that much of a deal to me!)

I’m starting to think more about cooler, dryer weather, and sunshine, and spending more time outside. The fall gardening season- nasturtiums, maybe, this year??

I’m also thinking and starting to plan for a few day trips to Universal and maybe even Disney in the fall- as soon as the rains slow and the temperature drops just a few degrees (September), we’ll get back into going again. Now that we have annual passes, and we all have such a good time, I want to make it a regular habit for us, especially the two Harry Potter parts of the parks.

Thanks, as always, for checking up on me and letting me share my life. Hope you are having an amazing summer. 🙂

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mandala with Tombow markers and Irojiten pencils

mandala with Tombow markers and Irojiten pencils

Last week I did a little watercoloring with my Tombow markers- it’s a mandala I printed from the book “Color Me Calm”. I actually just colored direct to paper, and then blended and washed out the color with a waterbrush, and then went over the edges with a little Irojiten colored pencil.

I love Tombow markers, probably more than anything else I’ve got in my art stash. If you are remotely interested in watercolor, or markers, or both, I can’t recommend the Tombows enough. You can use them direct as a marker or put them down on a palette and use them as watercolor paint. I would just go for the entire set- it’s a little expensive, but it’s a GOOD investment and you’ll never have to buy another watercolor, marker, or colored pen for years since the color range is so complete.

Here’s a color chart I made a few weeks ago:

Tombow markers color swatches

Tombow markers color swatches

Now that I am making so many color charts, I’m considering creating a journal just for them… or maybe a binder, with the color charts in page protectors. At some point, I’ll make sort of a master post with all my color charts that I’ll keep updating, and share it here. I know I REALLY rely on color charts when I am considering purchasing a product, and I use them constantly when I’m working with a product. Plus, making them is a GREAT way to figure out how the product works and get a chance to sort of “break them in”- then when I sit down to use them on a real project, I’m not afraid of doing anything that might ruin it. (I get weird about making marks on blank sheets of paper- so much so my art teacher in high school used to come around with his hands covered in charcoal and “mess up” my paper before I started a project so I wouldn’t get so caught up in it!)

Thanks for checking in! I hope you are having a great weekend.

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Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

I mentioned a few posts back that I was working on a little mini-scrapbook to document our day trips to Universal Studios this spring, and I finally finished the project.

I took a lot of photos, and I felt really conflicted about not using a lot of them, but if I used all the photos, it would take up half my regular scrapbook. So I decided to just make a little album specifically dedicated to any “out of the ordinary” adventures, and will add to it as we do more day trips and stuff like that. That way I can add as many photos from the day that I like without worrying that it’s taking up too much room.

Here’s what’s in it so far:

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Our second Day trip in May:

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook (Second Trip)

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

Universal Mini Scrapbook

The book I used was a 6×6 Kona field journal- it comes with the brown kraft pages.

I decided to use this because I liked the way the saturated photos popped against the brown pages, and for some reason, having a kraft background made me feel less pressured to over-do the pages. I wanted to keep this project super simple because every time I have done a mini-album for a specific event, I agonized over it for weeks. I didn’t want to do that- I wanted to get the photos in the album, get the stories noted, and add some simple embellishments.

For embellishments I used some patterned paper from 6×6 pads (I chose one pattern for each day trip for some continuity), stuff from the Freckled Fawn monthly paper crafting kits, wood veneer pieces, letter stickers, and I used my Dymo label printer to make some captions.

This is actually the only scrapbooking I have done this summer. I think it was kind of a good idea for me to take a break from my regular scrapbooking because I started getting overly obsessive about it in the spring- being too perfectionist about it.

After working on this little project, I think I may actually continue using a kraft paper journal/sketchbook as the “container” for my main scrapbook because I really liked the kraft paper. I didn’t feel the need to create a patterned paper background, which I can get obsessive about. The photos look great on the brown background and I can add layers if I want to, but I don’t *have* to. I also liked keeping it super simple and letting the focus be the photos.

I have an extra 9×9″ Big Black Bee brown kraft journal here that I could use. I currently use the same journal for my art journal and I love it, so I think that will be my next scrapbook project- starting to document the later spring and summer.

As always, thanks for checking in with me! <3

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Spectrum Aqua Markers

watercoloring with Spectrum Aqua Markers

Last week I played around with the Spectrum Aqua markers I got a few weeks back. There was a big sale on them so I grabbed them for a really great price.

They are a water-based dye ink marker (watercolor marker) from Spectrum, who also makes the Spectrum Noir alcohol ink markers. I have a set of the Spectrum Noir markers, which I got for Christmas, but I haven’t done much with them yet. Even though I am very familiar with alcohol inks and dyes from using them so many years on my beads, I’m a little nervous about using them in marker form. I think I just equate markers with paper, and paper with water. So the idea of not being able to use water with markers is a little weird for me.

Anyway, I got the Spectrum Aqua markers because the reviews I read said that they were really vibrant and full of ink, and played well with water. And the reviews were exactly right.

I am really, really impressed with the Spectrum Aquas- I think I like them more than I thought I would. And I wouldn’t have ordered them if I didn’t think I would love them, so that’s saying a lot.

The Spectrum Aquas are INCREDIBLY reactive to water, even after drying. They react immediately to any sort of moisture, and create the most beautiful marbelized kind of effects. They are also incredibly saturated, so if you use them with a paintbrush, they go on like watercolor paint as opposed to watered- down dye ink. They remind me so much of Distress inks, just a brighter range of colors.

I never got on the Distress marker bandwagon because even though I like the Distress inks (especially how they react with water), I have heard some not-so-great things about the markers, mostly that they are a little dry. I like REALLY juicy markers, so the idea of dy felt tip markers did nothing for me. I think one of my “sensory” pet peeves is when I feel the tip of something (pencil, pen, marker) tearing into the surface of a piece of paper. You can kinda feel the paper pill up under the tip as you do it. It’s like nails on a chalkboard for me.

Anyway, the Spectrum Aquas are great. They are so juicy, they just glide over paper.

Spectrum Aqua Markers color chart

Spectrum Aqua Markers color chart

The one thing I think could be improved is that there could be more colors in the range. There are 48 markers in the complete line, which is a lot, but there are no true reds or vibrant pinks, and I think they could use more blues. But whatever- if you are up for experimenting, you can mix most colors you need. It’s just hard to mix colors *on* paper with water-based inks, so you have to do it on a palette and bring the mixed color to the paper as opposed to using the markers directly. I tend to do watercolor with markers using a palette and a waterbrush anyway.

Spectrum Aqua Markers

using a palette to paint with Spectrum Aqua Markers

As far as the image, it’s actually a fold and crease diagram from an origami pattern. A while back I saw a virtual exhibit of someone who had done gorgeous paintings inspired by origami, so I looked up “origami crease patterns” on Goggle and found a ton of diagrams of what origami would look like unfolded. All of the patterns are beautiful geometric shapes, sort like mid-century-modern stained glass windows or something. I just think the simple shapes and straight lines are perfect for messing around with watercolor/markers.

When I finished coloring the image, I wasn’t thrilled and considered tossing it in the trash, but before I did,  I decided to cut it apart into individual color fields and “collage” it back together in my art journal, like a mosaic. I like it a lot better as a mosaic rather than a flat, colored piece.

Anyway, I recommend the Spectrum Aquas if you are looking to buy a set of watercolor/dye-based markers. They have sort of been overshadowed by the release of the Zig Clean Color Brush pens (which I also love), but the Spectrums are definitely worth the investment simply because of how vibrant and water-reactive they are. They are just amazing to work with- they make me feel like a little kid with a big, brand-new box of Crayolas, you know what I mean? Like the possibilities are endless.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by and seeing what I am up to. Have an awesome weekend! <3

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french poster for "Inside Out"

beautiful french poster for the movie “Inside Out”, which we just saw 🙂

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
First, and foremost: I’m super happy that Grace is done with her first round of camp.

Because the weather is so crummy here in the summer, camp is sort of necessary- it’s very easy for kids to just want to stay in and attached to a screen all day when it’s so crummy outside, and I can’t really say I blame them because it feels sorta cozy. And Gracie is great at entertaining herself- she mostly reads, writes (she writes and publishes tons of stories on a fiction website plus maintains her blog), and takes online art classes. She does watch TV shows and movies on Netflix, and plays the Wii, but fiction is sort of her thing, so that’s what her preference is.

But a kid can only do so much of that, and Gracie loves other kids, so camp is a good place for her to go and interact and do something besides write and draw and play Splatoon. She gets to run around and laugh and be silly.

But camp here is tough- there’s a few different camps for kids, but none of them are summer-long, general kind of day camp, which is what I had as a kid. It’s all special interest (dance camp, drama camp, football camp, bible camp, etc.) and most camps run only for five days, or for two weeks. There are long-term programs, but they are more like day-care for toddlers and super young kids with working parents. A lot of families go north for the summer (when I say the weather is crappy here in the summer, I *really* mean it!) so the offerings are kind of minimal for older kids.

After a few summers of her doing nothing in the summer and getting a little stir-crazy, we got her in a few camps this summer- a week of art camp at a local church, and two weeks of theater camp. The art camp was okay. It was more religious than we were told, and we aren’t a religious family, so Gracie was “meh” about it. But a lot of her friends were in it, and the teachers were nice, and she likes learning new stuff, so it wasn’t an issue for her. But she didn’t love it enough to feel sad when it ended.

Then she had two weeks of theater camp, which we thought she’d LOVE. She’s been in a bunch of little skits and performances throughout her years at Montessori, and she’s great at it. She likes to memorize lines, tell stories, sing, dance, learn things.

Low and behold, she HATED theater camp. HATED. Gracie is really easy-going, for the most part, so we were kinda shocked when she came home after the second day and asked us if she could stop going.

When we signed her up for the theater camp, we thought it was going to be two weeks of different performing arts kinds of activities in a camp-like environment. Singing, playing, doing skits, dancing, improvising, maybe learning how to create sets, all in a fun camp-like environment (ie focus on fun).

What it turned out to be was a theatrical performance of the musical “Mama Mia” with two weeks to learn all the lines, dance moves, songs, and staging. She got her script and songs the first day and for the next two weeks it was just full-on rehearsal.

Most in the girls in the camp were serious dancers and singers who have done the summer productions for years in addition to their regular round of dance stuff and singing lessons (like, the kinds of kids who likely already have agents and headshots…), so they were used to hours of rehearsal and practice and performances. Gracie has never been into that- she plays soccer and did a few years of Tae Kwan Do and Hip Hop Dance (but refused to do performances/recitals, and we accepted that). So she had to figure it out quickly and try and not let the yelling and demanding teachers freak her out, since she wasn’t used to that, either.

It was basically Mama Mia bootcamp. We persuaded her to stay and see it through for the two weeks and through the final performance. On one hand, I wanted to just say “forget it”- she hated it, she doesn’t often resist or get upset about stuff and it really wouldn’t change her life if she was in a performance of Mama Mia or not. Every day she came home so frustrated and my heart broke open and it felt like I was just making her do this miserable thing, so it was a pretty stressful two weeks of being a mom.

But on the other hand, she was a few days into it when she decided she hated it and asked to quit, she had a pretty big role in the play, and it would be a good experience for her to do something so challenging and outside her normal realm. So she did stick with it, but she disliked every minute of it. (But she was so great in the play!)

She did say she’d like to be in another play, maybe at her new school- she’s convinced the teachers won’t be so “Dance Mom” demanding, which I actually tend to think is the truth. I was in a few school/summer camp plays when I was a kid and it was nothing like what this camp was. Doing plays was always fun and interesting and sort of felt like a gift, to have a little role in a play and be a part of something like that.  I hope she gets the chance to experience *that*.

Moving forward- next week is a week of sailing camp, and then *maybe* jewelry camp, and then she’ll be spending some time with my parents up in North Carolina (where they go for the summers) before school starts second week of August. SECOND WEEK OF AUGUST. Holy crap!

Speaking of school, THAT’s been another adjustment. After years of Montessori, in which everything was provided by the school, and no dress code/restrictions, Gracie’s new school has a particular dress code (school logo polo-shirt and khakis/navy pants, shorts, or skirts with sneakers), a VERY long reading list for the summer and a lot of stuff to get ready.

The wardrobe might be tricky because Gracie is petite and has her own unique style. Luckily, she compares the new wardrobe to that worn by the Hogwarts (Harry Potter) students, so she’s kind of excited about it. I hope she still feels that way when she gets her stiff khakis and needs to wear them. I hated dress code at my schools. But ours were much stricter than hers, so hopefully it won’t be too bad.


Confession: I am totally and completely addicted to “TheTimTracker” on YouTube. I discovered the channel last week when I was listening to Disney theme park music (I love the queue music from Soarin’) and I have been watching it pretty constantly ever since.

“TheTimTracker” is a young couple in Orlando who vlog every day, and they go to the Disney/Universal parks at least once a week.  When they go to the parks, they take their little GoPro camera with them, and vlog all day from the park, on all the different rides and areas. Watching their channel is almost like a little day trip to the parks a couple of times a week, from their perspective.

Because they are at the parks all the time, they are able to spend time really exploring and appreciating the parks in a way that people who just pop in for a focused, time-constricted vacation can’t. They spend a lot of time doing things like stopping to enjoy the live bands, animal-watching (everything from the ducks in the lakes to the exotic animals at Animal Kingdom), looking at the plants and decorations, wandering around different areas of the parks that aren’t simply a way to get to another ride, etc.  They point out stuff that you might never see as a tourist.

And their “from home” vlogs are fun to watch, too.

I think what I like most about them is that even though they are fun, kind, and energetic, they aren’t, like, laser-focused on making a business of their adventures. So many bloggers and YouTubers seem focused on trying to make a career from their hobbies and interests, which is great if you can do it, but then it sometimes overwhelms them and starts driving their content.

Tim and Jenn just seem to be having a good time and enjoying whatever it is they are doing for the day. They get just as excited about staying home and watching an old movie as they do about going to one of the theme parks. That’s so unusual, it seems, in our culture- especially from anyone who is a “personality” in the online world. Like, if they go to Disney, it’s great day. If they stay home and clean out the yard or watch movies, it’s also a great day. If they go to work and come home and have dinner together and just hang out with their dogs, it’s also a genuinely great day.

I guess because I am so stressed and anxious about the “am I doing a productive, *useful* thing? Am I living a fulfilling life? Am I doing *enough*?” questions, and trying very, very hard to break away from that, I appreciate the fact they just go day-to-day, and enjoying what they enjoy without worrying about if they are doing “enough”. That’s just so refreshing to me.  Watching them kinda makes *me* appreciate my every-day, too.

Oh, besides YouTube, there are movies- we finally started catching up on summer movies! In the last few weeks we’ve seen Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland, Jurassic World, and Inside Out. I forgot how much I love going to the movies in the summer- it’s much less crowded in Naples and at the movies, the traffic is so much better, and it just feels so much more fun. Plus, you don’t have to buy tickets for the movies a week in advance- there are still lots of good seats available the morning of the movie. During tourist season, it’s not uncommon for tickets to sell out a few days before the movie actually plays. So it’s nice to be able to decide day-of that we want to see a movie that day, and know there are tickets available.


Outside my window…
Hazy, hot. So hot! I can’t get over how hot and tired I get from my usual swim- being in the sun for that long really does kinda zap me for the rest of the day. I have to really keep an eye on my hydration and try and get in the pool earlier to avoid the sun beating on me. Tom goes for his runs/bike rides early in the morning and he comes back feeling the same way. It’s such a lovely relief to come back inside and take a cool shower and spend some time relaxing after I swim. I don’t need as much time to recover in the winter as I do in the summer, so I’m trying to remember that and give myself the time that I need every day to bounce back.

June was actually an okay month, storm-wise. I am very very grateful for that. I only had one day where I had to sit around the pool all day, getting in laps when there was a break in the lightning. I hate that more than anything (five hours outside in a chlorine-soaked wet Speedo, alternately dripping wet and shivering and then damp and sweaty as the weather changes…) Now it’s July, and my fingers are crossed that the storms stick to the afternoons.

In the art studio…
In early June, I finally relented and got a new computer.  I say “relented” because for the past five years, I have doggedly used my old MacBook, refusing to update the OS because most of the applications and files I had on there wouldn’t work with any of the new Mac OS. But then I started to literally run out of disc space (I had about 2 gigs left), having to delete everything as soon as I was done with it, just so I had enough to allow the programs I use to have enough space to run. And then, a year or so ago, everything started becoming incompatible- Apple wasn’t releasing anymore iTunes or Safari updates for my OS, YouTube stopped working, Facebook went wonky. Pretty much anything online gave me the message “your browser is completely out of date!” But I knew if I updated, I’d have to spend a few weeks transferring data and re-entering endless settings and I couldn’t bear the idea of it.

Tom was incredulous, because he’s a software engineer. It was kind of like using a horse-drawn carriage after cars had been invented, or using a calculator to get on the internet. I think the final straw was when my bank updated their site (I pay bills online) and they directly made me use the iPhone site because of my crazy outdated OS, so I could only see a few lines of text on my screen at a time. It took me a few hours to figure out our bills and get them paid. I mean…

Anyway, my parents gave me some money for my birthday to put towards a new computer, so one afternoon in mid-June we just stopped at the Apple store on our way home from the movies, and I got an iMac.

Setting it up and getting all my stuff over to it, and get that stuff to the point where it was WORKING… that took weeks. I’m still working on it. Every day is something new.

But… NEW BIG SCREEN with ANTI-REFLECTIVE COATING! Wireless keyboard! Everything loads so fast! Everything looks so pretty and sounds so nice! The speakers blew on my MacBook about two years ago so it’s like having a stereo or something. I don’t know… I’ve had this computer for a few weeks now and I’m still really excited about it.

My computer lives in my art studio, so that’s been taking up a lot of time this month.

Besides that, I have been really into colored pencils and markers and watercolor, still. Coloring with markers and with colored pencils makes me happy right now, so I’m letting myself do that whenever I have a little bit of free time. Nothing amazing, just an excuse to use my supplies and try new things.

I do want to take a watercolor class over at Creative Bug, I just have to commit to it. I have to remind myself how much I love taking art classes online and just go for it. But whenever I sit down at my desk, I kind of go into auto-pilot a little bit- I pull out my latest coloring project and turn on an episode of “The 100” (I’m binge watching that this summer in my studio) and just relax a bit.


In the garden…
I’m finally back to gardening at the level I was before I got sick. It’s crazy out there- now that I have a lot of tropical plants that continue to grow throughout the summer, which is usually our “dormant” period , gardening is just as intense in the summer as it is in winter, which wasn’t always the case. I have to water like crazy because of the heat. So it’s a lot of stuff out there. I enjoy it a lot, but I won’t lie and say I’m not happy when I go out there and realize it rained the night before and there’s not quite as much watering. That’s kind of like an unexpected day off.

“Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty. I’m not quite the super fan of her writing as a lot of people are, but I’ve liked a few of the books she wrote so I grabbed this one from the e-book library. I have to admit, this book sort of baffles me. I know it’s leading up to a big reveal at the end, but I think other authors do a better job at it (especially after just finishing “Girl on a Train”).

The thing is, I keep wanting to pick this book up and read a little more, which is sort of key for me. Sometimes I feel like I just need to go ahead and read whatever keeps me reading, just so I don’t lose the whole “reading momentum”. There are times when I’ll sort of force myself to slog through a “good” or educational book just because it’s enriching my brain, but then I just stop picking it up one day and will go weeks without reading anything. So the key is to keep reading whatever it is that keeps me reading. (That’s a totally terrible sentence, but hopefully you get the idea…)

Iced tea with a dash of lemonade. So yummy and refreshing! It feels like the perfect summer drink.

– the smell of air conditioning (weird, I know… but something about that *ice* cold smell when you first come inside…)
– the sound of cicadas
– the juvenile cardinals and doves at the bird feeders- so cute!
– the baby dolphins that are swimming in the bay behind our house
– the tiny tiny baby lizards in the garden
– getting to bed earlier and waking up earlier
– my new desk cover (it’s the little things…)
– my Chester cat (I love all my pets so very much, but this guy has been with us for 10+ years now, and he’s truly like a big, fuzzy ball of mush with me. I adore him.)
– flower stamps and watercolor markers
– succulents and lantana in the garden, and the way the new sunset vine is growing like crazy!
– carrots in salads
– hanging out with my little family

Thank you, as always, for stopping by. Hope you are having an amazing, relaxing, fun summer! <3

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I don’t know if you remember, but several weeks ago I thought I was going to do The 100 Day Project, but after two weeks I realize it took ALL my creative time (which isn’t much) and I couldn’t keep it up and keep painting, taking classes, working on other creative projects, etc. so I had to give it up.

This past week I went through the journal I started for it (a Kona 8×8″ sketchbook) and removed the projects I really liked, and put them into a Bee Paper Brown 9×9″ journal. It’s the same kind of paper (dark brown kraft) but it’s a bit larger. I just like the way the brown paper looks underneath the bright white watercolor paper.

Anyway, I’ve decided to use this journal to keep all my watercolor painting, stamping, coloring, projects in one central location. So it’s not really a true “Art Journal”, it’s more of a journal filled with random little pieces of art I make. And as far as I can tell right now, my creative focus this summer is sort of coloring and playing with watercolors (maybe taking a class or two), and taking each day at a time.

Here’s a peak of the first few pages:


watercolor/coloring with Tombow markers

I actually completed this as a Christmas gift for my mom (which I printed out with archival inks and framed for her) but since I had the original just floating around in my scanner drawer, I decided to put it in the book. The paisley image is from a Dover coloring book (Paisley Stained Glass).


misc. watercolor and stamping

Just messing around with stamps and watercolors.


watercolor “bokeh” and circles

I tried the watercolor/ink “Bokeh” technique that has been floating around YouTube and some ATC-sized watercolor circle paintings.


playing with Gelatos

I watched some Gelatos on watercolor paper and decided to use the little squares of colors to make a geometric design.


Gelatos on stamp with Twinkling H2O dots

I tested stamped with Gelatos, and then using Twinkling H2Os to make some little dots on the image.


more circle watercolors

More circular watercolor paintings.


watercolor with Gelatos

Just playing with Gelatos again. They really are quite nice, even if some of the colors fade a bit after drying.


stamping/stenciling with watercolor

Again, just playing with stamps and watercolor paint. The bird image is from a Dina Wakely stencil.


coloring with Irojiten color pencils

My first colored pencil coloring project- I used my Irojitens to color an image from another Dover Stained Glass coloring book- I think it’s called Arabic Designs (Gracie took that one after I scanned it, so I don’t know the actual title. I scan all my coloring books, and print the images out on watercolor paper so that I can paint them without worrying about ruining the book or working with the coloring book paper, which usually isn’t made for anything but crayons/pencils.)


coloring with Zig Clean Color Real Brush pens

For my birthday, I got a set of the Zig Clean Color Real Brush pens, and they are awesome! I watched them and then tested them out by coloring in this image from the “Just Add Color Mid-Century Modern Patterns” book, which is one of my favorites.

new art journal pages

coloring with Lyra color pencils

This is the latest project I worked on- coloring in a mandala from “Prism Designs” with my Lyra colored pencils, which are oil-based and a little different than the Irojitens.

So the plan is to keep doing little projects as I can and add them to this journal. It feels like a good fit for what I’m interested in and have time for now.

Thank you, as always, for checking in and I hope you are having an awesome summer! <3

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coloring with Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

my first project using Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

In my last post, I mentioned that I got a set of Tombow Irojiten Colored Pencils for Mother’s Day. I used colored pencils quite a bit in school, but haven’t really used them in the last twenty years. I don’t know why, they just seem sort of … formal.

Even though I tend to gravitate towards paint and markers and inks, when I saw the color palette of the Irojitens, and the photos of them, I *had* to have them. I rarely buy an art supply on impulse without knowing how they work and feel in my hand but I went ahead and asked for them anyway. Just… those colors.

Here are some photos of the pencils from the manufacturer’s site:

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

Tom and Gracie got me the pencils and they are AMAZING. I’ve had them for over a month and I still really get excited every time I use them.

They are gorgeous, lush. Their packaging is so unique- they come in little books that have a little pencil holder bound into them. There are ninety pencils, ten pencils in each “volume” and each volume is organized by a color theme.

As gorgeous as the packaging is, I knew I would never use the pencils if I stored them in all the little volumes on the shelf. It kind of broke my heart, to be honest. After taking the pencils out of their packaging and then putting them back in a few times, I realized that while I was willing to remove the pencils from their little cases, I couldn’t bear to break the pencils out of their pre-arranged groups of nine color families. Normally whenever I get any sort of new art supply, I IMMEDIATELY take them all over and re-organize them all according to my version of the rainbow. But I couldn’t do it with these! They just look so pretty organized in mini-rainbows.

I moved them into an empty Tombow marker stand on my desk, but left them organized by color families.

After making a color reference chart (which is kind of my favorite thing in the world, making these charts…) and trying out a few colors, I went ahead and tried coloring an image with them, just to see how they worked.

coloring with Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

coloring with Tombow Irojiten Color Pencils

I used a scanned image from “Arabic Patterns Stained Glass Coloring Book” by Dover that I printed out on watercolor paper. I used both Gamsol and a Prismacolor blender pen to blend as I worked.

It took a few days (I’m super slow at anything requiring fine motor control because of my Spina Bifida) but it was fun. Very fun. And very calming.

So now I feel really interested colored pencils and coloring. I got a few sets of markers for my birthday (which was at the end of May), so I’m having fun with those, too. It’s mainly playing, but it feels relaxing. I just have to get over the whole inner critic…

Coloring is a tricky thing. It’s very creative and fun and intensive and takes time and effort, but it sort of makes me feel a little guilty because it doesn’t feel like “real art”, which is total nonsense. But a little voice inside of me says “it would be a lot better and authentic and honorable if you just drew something from scratch and made a completely original work of art.” But, screw it. This is *fun*. I need a little more fun, especially in the art studio. It’s nice to have something that doesn’t require 50 million decisions and has no room for the inner critic. The only choice I make is what color to use, and where to use it.

So, I’m kind of on a little bit of a coloring binge at the moment. And I think I might go with it.

Next up: coloring with the Zig Clean Color Brush markers I got for my birthday. More on that soon…


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ivy geranium from my garden

ivy geranium from my garden

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
I am enormously relieved that school is out, tourist season is over, and things are sort of calming down. Seriously.

This past week I have felt so many moments of profound relief, and they come out of nowhere. I’ll be putting on clothes after my shower or sitting down to a meal or getting out of the pool and all the sudden feel myself take big giant deep breaths and closing my eyes and feeling utter relief wash over me. I love it. I haven’t felt like this in a long time.

It seems like the first week of June, everything just stopped and got still. Not only did the daily stress go down, but the island itself just got quiet- all the snowbirds and tourists left at once. There’s still stuff like figuring out camp schedules and getting ready for Gracie’s new school and Tom’s new karate schedule and day-to-day stuff, but it seems manageable.

These last few months have been incredibly stressful. I don’t think I realized how completely overwhelmed I was until I started getting really, really sick in late April/early May. Not only regular body pain and stuff related to the Spina Bifida, but in early May, my teeth and jaw started to REALLY hurt. I have never experienced anything like it, and it was so severe that I voluntarily went to the dentist, ready for worst-case-scenario. They couldn’t find anything and mentioned it might be a sinus infection.

A few days later, it hit. I’m not sure if it was a sinus infection, but for a few weeks I had something flu-like going on- sore throat, stuffed up head, headache, a cough, exhaustion. The works.

Gracie was also sick- she had a head cold/flu thing that even involved her ears and eyes, which she’s finally over. Tom had it, too, in very early May.

Usually I either get sick just a *tiny* bit, or I avoid it altogether, but this thing stuck around for about three weeks. I’m just now getting over it, but I still get waves of the “yuck” (headaches, throat stuff, cough, etc.) from time to time. Right now I’m just feeling kinda weak and ache-y, but happy not to have the major symptoms.

Anyway, it was not fun to go through it, but I have to admit, it was a bit of a relief. Being so sick definitely gave me implicit permission to slow the heck down and hibernate for a few weeks, which I desperately needed (and wanted). I didn’t have to think about anything, or feel bad about not getting too much stuff done or saying “I absolutely cannot”, because I just *couldn’t*. No decision to make, it was decided for me. It was such a relief, which is terrible, right? Being sick should not make you feel relieved. But it did.

That in itself was a wake-up call, of course.

People are making summer lists and I love reading them, and making my own. And I started making a lofty summer list, too. But then I got sick, and I realized that unless I’m healthy and functioning, I can’t do *anything*, so health has to be the priority. Health and well-being.

I can talk a good game about “peace” (my one little word for 2015) and learning to chill out and relaxation and mindfulness and everything else in the whole “well-being” category, but unless I really work on those practices and make them part of my every single frickin’ day life, they don’t mean anything.

I think it’s just easier to operate on auto-pilot, even if the old behaviors don’t make any sense any more. I change my behavior and outlook for a few weeks, and then find myself slipping into old habits. The “habits” don’t seem very bad- drinking too much caffeinated tea, staying up too late, getting anxious about something I have no control over, etc. But they actually have a tremendous impact, if  I look at how they sort of spill over into the rest of my life.

For example- staying up at night. It was great in college, and in my 20’s, and when Gracie was a baby. But now, what’s the point? I don’t do anything fun after 10pm (I usually just watch YouTube videos or look up stuff on Wikipedia or IMDB), it makes me cranky, and the longer I stay up, the harder it is to go to bed. To be honest, I’d much rather be in bed, reading a good book. But for some reason, I never go to bed before 11/11:30pm. It’s like some weird struggle, even though I know it’s stupid. And the next day I feel like crap. (And I also post some weird Facebook status messages late at night that I have no recollection of posting when I see them the next morning…)

What is the deal? I mean, honestly. Just writing this makes me irritated at myself. Such a simple thing, but it’s this struggle, and it bleeds into the next day when I feel exhausted and cranky and then drag all day all because I chose to watch just *one* more YouTube video of some guy falling off his treadmill.

The problem is that changing habits take self-control, and mindfulness, and not just for a few weeks. So it also requires a lot of patience and time, which I think might be the issue. And it’s not always concrete action. I’m good at that kind of stuff- like with swimming, or gardening, or even when I decided to become vegetarian- those are physical, action-y things, with rules and boundaries and instructions. With deciding to go to bed, it’s just going to my room and getting in bed. For some reason, that requires 100000000% more of my energy and self-control than getting in the pool to swim five miles does.

You know what was also a big wake up call? We were watching the final episodes of Mad Men and in this one episode, Don Draper makes the comment that as you get older, it’s supposed to get better, it’s supposed to get easier. So why wasn’t it? And I sat there, wanting to tell Don Draper that the crap he got away with when he was younger was clearly no longer working for him, which was why he was so frickin’ stuck. That he needed to make different choices. Better choices. It was *that* simple.

Duh. Same for me.

I think I just need to figure out what exactly I need to focus the effort on. “Peace” is a lofty goal, as is relaxation, and good health, but all of those things are made up of tiny habits and actions and practices that happen throughout every single day, and if I want peace and happiness, the kind that STICKS, I need to figure out the tiny little shifts that need to happen to get to those goals. It’s like figuring out the ingredients for a recipe, in a way.

Outside my window…
Rain. Clouds. Rumbling. It’s summer. But as long as the storms stay away just long enough for me to get my swim in every morning, I don’t mind. It’s kind of cozy to be in the house while the rain is falling outside.

The only thing I don’t like is when it’s rainy and dark all day and then it clear up right before the sun sets, like morning-bright. It feels VERY strange to have the sun come out at 8pm, when you are getting settled in for the night. It makes you feel like you should be outside, playing, and not tucked in on the couch with your jammies and dinner. Almost guilty.

In the art studio…
I am spending almost all my creative time coloring. More on this in a post soon. But, briefly, for Mother’s Day, Tom and Gracie got me a beautiful set of Tombow Irotijen colored pencils. I’ve never been interested in colored pencils because they seem very formal and not “loose”, but for some reason I decided I wanted some colored pencils for Mother’s Day, so that’s what I got. (I’ll be honest- it was totally the color palette. I saw the colors that were available- colors I hadn’t seen in any other art products- and just HAD to have the pencils, even though I had no idea what I would use them for.)

Because I didn’t know what to do with them, I just looked up some YouTube videos on how to really use them and I started coloring some printed out pages from the different coloring books I have, just to play with them and see how they worked. And I enjoyed it a lot. I especially enjoy blending them- when I used colored pencils in school, we had to blend them using other pencils. Now people use solvents, so they blend almost like paint. It’s magic.

Anyway, I love just *playing* and coloring and now I am coloring with everything. Coloring and making sheets and sheets of color swatches. For my birthday, I asked for more stuff to color with- Zig Clean Color markers (*swoon*) and more colored pencils (a set of Lyras). My dear friend got me a gift certificate to Jerry’s Artarama and I immediately ordered a bunch of Watercolor Markers.

I’m swatching and making color charts for every medium I own- watercolors, markers, Pan Pastels, Twinkling H2Os, inks, colored pencils, stamp inks, oil pastels, Gelatos- you name it, I’m making a new color chart for it.

I kind of feel a little “off” about it because it’s sort of mindless and useless (well, maybe not- it’s incredibly useful to have all these color charts, and it definitely teaches me how the medium works…) but right now it’s all I feel like doing. So I do it. Whenever I have a few minutes or an hour, I come into my studio and pull out a sheet of paper and just scribble or paint. I think I like it because there’s very little decision-making involved. When I make color charts, I just go in rainbow order. When I color from a book, I just pick a shape on the page and then pick a color to put in it.

I’m also working on some scrapbook stuff, but that’s sort of on the backburner. I’ve got a little Universal Studios mini-book in the works, which I work on intermittently. I kind of took this week off from it and having been playing with the Windsor & Newton Watercolor Markers for the last several days.

In the garden…
While I was sick, Tom was amazing and awesome and took over the watering in the garden for me. I really needed to be off my feet, so he really stepped up. Our giant passiflora vine canopy finally gave in and fell over, and he had to spend half a day dealing with it. He could have just cut it down and threw it out, but he worked hard to save the plant, which was above and beyond. I am very grateful.

This past week, I’ve been getting back out in the garden a little bit at a time and it feels good. If I overdo it, I get tired, so I’m trying to be mindful of the heat and time.

I did receive two plant orders- there were some end-of-season sales and some empty planters in the garden, so I got some tropicals (another shrimp plant, Hawaiian Sunset Vine, Mandevilla- which I have never grown before, even though it’s a Florida staple- and Lantana.) The past few days Tom’s been dumping old planters/soil and I have been putting in the new plants. I hope they do well. I’m excited to see how new plants grow and do. Something to look forward to.

I *finally* finished my Alexander McCall Smith marathon, and started “The Girl on the Train” which has totally and completely sucked me in. Rachel is such a hot mess that I almost couldn’t stand to read at first, but the story is so compelling that I kept going, and I’m glad I did.


Okay, if you haven’t watched “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix, just shut your computer and go watch the entire series right now. Seriously.

We blazed through that and now we’re working our way through the four seasons of Veep. It’s a comedy on HBO that has sort of flown under the radar. But it’s very amusing.

We finished Mad Men, which was bittersweet.

Tom and I tried watching season two of The Fall, but it’s just not that good. I think because Jamie Dornan is so huge they switched the focus of the show to his character, and after two episodes, I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I guess we’ll finish it at some point, but neither of us chooses it when it’s time to pick what to watch.

As a family, we are watching Amazing Race Australia, Season Three, which I found online. We LOVE Amazing race, so I was thrilled to find seasons from other countries. There are several versions from around the world, several seasons of each. The Australian version is excellent.

We have not been to the movies since Avengers since we’ve all been sick, but hopefully we’ll be going to see Pitch Perfect, Jurassic Park, and a few others soon. I know we won’t be able to completely catch up on all the great movies that have come out, but the whole point is to go and have fun, so that’s the plan.

A blanket for my dad. Still. I got a little side-tracked when I got sick, so I din’t think it will be ready for Father’s Day, but onward.

Nothing. And that’s just perfect 🙂

Thank you so much for reading. Have a GREAT day!!

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[Forgot to post this, too!]

A final batch of pages from the winter/spring scrapbook:


This is a photo I found on Gracie’s Instagram feed (I monitor all her accounts, but I like her to be able to document her life because I wish *I* had more of my own photos and scraps and accounts of life when I was her age!) This is a photo of Gracie and my parents’ cat, Knuckles, who is her favorite pet in our family. Knuckles pretty much decided Gracie was the Best Thing Ever the minute she came home (he shares that in common with my parents!) and has become her best friend. When she’s at my parents’ house (they live nearby and she’s over there several times a week), he’s with her. She adores him, he adores her.

I love that Gracie’s so into our pets and animals, and that she’s kind of chosen her own path with which animals she really bonds with. She loves them all, but has special favorites. Knuckles is the oldest cat in our family (he’s about 16/17 now…) and you’d think Milo The Eternal Kitten would be her favorite, but Gracie loves Knuckles. He *is* a GREAT cat.


As you can probably tell by now, I have a thing for both the weather and the sky. Both things really have a *MAJOR* influence on my mood. I am a big fan of sunny skies, foggy weather, and colorful sunsets. I’m not crazy about heat, and I generally hate storms (especially in the morning, but anytime after 4pm is fine, because I’m done with gardening and swimming and most major outdoor stuff.)


I have about ten orchids now (Tom and Gracie have started buying me one for every occasion) and every spring a bunch of them bloom at the same time. We bring them in from the lanai and put them on the kitchen counter so we can enjoy them for the two-three months they are blooming. These are some photos of this year’s bloom.


Two pages about Gracie’s late-spring activities- school, basketball, her yogurt obsession, sleepovers, Girl Scouts, etc. It was a very busy spring for her. I’m not a fan of overscheduling (but it sort of happened because she developed an interest in sports this year and they offer a bunch of community programs. So she was playing soccer and basketball, doing things with school and friends, Girl Scouts, plus stuff with Nanny and Papa. It was a busy spring.
563aMilo celebrated his 2nd birthday. He still acts like he’s about 3 months old- he’s into EVERYTHING. I’ve never had a cat like him- he’s super friendly and fun and outgoing and plays super hard (fetch is a favorite- he always brings me little toys when I am sitting in my studio to throw for him to retrieve). He has a weird obsession with carrots. I could write a book about him, and I intended to do a lot of journaling on this page, but since I did all these pages in one big batch, I was starting to get burned out on writing!



Some photos of the garden and the lanai… I like to document the changing seasons. I also like to look back at photos of the garden every year to see how it change because even though it doesn’t feel like it changes very much, it really does.


A page about Gracie’s Girl Scout troop volunteering at the cat shelter.


I documented a few of the art projects I was working on. Once again, I was intending to do a lot of journaling for this one, but I was ONE PAGE away from the very end of this particular scrapbook and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, so I wound up just jotting down a few words on a label and called it done.


And this page has ZERO writing on it. It was the last page of the book and I was ready to be done. So I added the word “meow”, a few enamel hearts, and called it DONE.

I’m excited to start a new scrapbook- I’m going to use the same thing (a 9×9″ Bee Super Deluxe sketcbook) as the base. I wound up re-binding the book with a huge spiral binding a month or so ago. For Mother’s Day, Tom and Gracie got me a Cinch binding machine, so I am thrilled to try that out and make my own sketchbooks, journals, and mini-books with it. Right now I’m trying to figure out whether I want all the Universal pictures to go in the mail scrapbook (makes sense, but will take up half the book…) or in a mini-book. *shrug* I’ll figure it out! [note: I decided on a mini-book, and it’s about halfway done…]

Thank you, again, for looking at these pages- I appreciate it!

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So, last time we were at Universal Studios for a day trip (just a few weeks ago, on May 1st, 2015), we promised Gracie we’d try to get there one last time before summer. Summer is a no-go because of three things: the weather is INSANELY hot,  the crowds surge the parks, and our annual passes has blackout days.

We watched the weather and the crowd calendars, and on the 21st, we got up super early and made the drive up to Orlando for the day, this time with my mom and dad, as well.

It was a good day- a little hot, a little crowded, some ride closures due to the weather (quick lightning storm in the middle of the day, but enough to shut down the outdoor rides for the rain and then to be re-cycled back into being open again…) But we had a full day of rides and Butterbeer and hanging out as a family, celebrating Gracie’s graduation from IMA and my birthday a week early.



My mom and dad got annual passes when we started out, so that we can come back in the fall. The parks are about four hours away from us, each way, so it’s okay for a day trip every few weeks. My parents like to stay locally when they go so they don’t have to do the big drive home after a long day at the park and can do the parks for a few days. I always prefer to just come home- one day at the park usually wears me out, and with the pets and garden finding someone to keep an eye on everything gets complicated. Plus, nothing feels quite as amazing as sliding into your own bed after a long day at the parks.


The weather was hot (in the 90’s) but beautiful blue skies. It got a little cloudy and rainy as the day went on, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some days we have had at Disney when we’d be jammed into the corner of some tiny store for hours, waiting out the rain, along with hundreds of other people. So I was very thankful for that. One quick downpour, 15 minutes tucked into a building, and we were able to go back out and enjoy the parks.


As usual, we started on the little train ride in Seuss Landing. Quick, cool, easy way to start the day.


Then we began the walk back to all the Harry Potter stuff, passing through a few different “lands” on our way there. There’s just a stunt show, a talking fountain, and a restaurant between Seuss Landing and Hogsmeade.


We did the main Harry Potter ride back there, and just as we were about to do the Gryffindoor, which is an outdoor roller coaster, thunder started, so everything outdoors (pretty much everything else in Hogsmeade) shut down. Gracie wanted to do some spell stuff outside with her new wand (this time she got Cedric Diggory, another Hufflepuff- Gracie’s loyal to her house!) and Tom and I wanted to do the Double Dragon coaster, but with the rainy conditions, both were impossible.

We waited a bit to see if the weather might clear and the ride might open, but after a while we decided to just go ahead and get the train from Hogsmeade to London (Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios – the other park) and do the indoor rides over there.





Luckily, by the time we got off the train, the bad weather passed and we were back to blue skies. We went back into Diagon Alley, did the Escape from Gringott’s ride (awesome, as always) and got some Butterbeer, Gracie did a bit more shopping (Hufflepuff socks!) and we went back out into Universal Studios.



We went to the Men in Black ride and rode it twice in a row (Gracie’s favorite) and then Gracie wanted to ride “Disaster” (which is a movie-making interactive show) and Tom and I wanted to do the “Mummy” coaster, so my parents went with Gracie and Tom and I quickly rode the Mummy.

After that, Tom and I had time to kill since Disaster takes half an hour, so we decided to go and explore the back of the park, which we had never been to. There’s a huge Simpsons land back there, as well as another small land for kids.


(Fun fact: Tom’s last name *was* Duff, but he changed it to mine when we got married [I wasn’t changing mine and we wanted the same name]- so it was sort of funny for him to pose with the Duff Beer guy…)

The Simpsons stuff is super-fun. I don’t watch the TV show (*gasp*, I know…) but if you are a fan, you should really check it out. We went on the big ride back there and it was very entertaining. There were a few people on the ride who were clearly Simpsons fans and they were LOSING it with laughter from the minute the pre-show started.

Gracie never wants to go back there even though it’s very kid-friendly. I think she rode the Simpsons motion-simulator ride once when she was very young and it was a little too much for her, so she’s decided she doesn’t like it and doesn’t need to ever ride it again. Next time we go, we’ll take her back there and talk her into riding it again- I think now she’s older, she’ll get a kick out of it and it won’t seem so overwhelming and scary.




On our way back to meet Gracie and my parents, Tom and I found this beautiful part of the park that was themed after Central Park in New York and it was SO beautiful- a big, cool canopy of trees. I could stay there all day- it was beautiful and shady and green. I really, really miss big, shady trees!

After we met my parents, we walked around for a bit, and Gracie wanted to go on the Shrek ride. While they did that, Tom and I debated going on the Rip Ride Rockit coaster, but neither of us could bring ourselves to do it.

I LOVE coasters but the only ones I have been on are the ones at Disney, and so I think I need a few more times on the Double Dragons before Rip Ride Rockit because Rip Ride Rockit looks scary as hell.

Here’s a video of Jimmy Fallon and Kevin Hart riding it- it’s hysterical, even if you don’t like coasters!

The thing that always draws me to that coaster is that you can pick a song that plays while you ride it, and they have a couple of Metallica songs on there, and the idea of listening to Metallica while on a fast, steep coaster REALLY appeals to me. But I still couldn’t do it- that first drop (and the fact that there are no shoulder harnesses, just lap restraints) spooked me. Someday. Tom was fine with skipping it it- he likes coasters less than I do, so he could pass on it forever and not miss it.


So Tom and I sat and talked and people-watched for a while, getting ready to make the trip home. Gracie and my parents emerged from Shrek a half an hour later, and we got some drinks and last minute snacks, took some last minute photos, and headed back to the cars, then home.
Good day was had by all, and we’re all looking forward to going back as soon as the weather gets cooler and the crowds go down, maybe some time in September?

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

I'm an artist, graduate student (Buddhist Studies), writer, gardener, art historian, long-distance swimmer, crochet-er, movie watcher, animal lover, and avid reader.

Random facts: I have an eleven year old daughter named Gracie and a husband named Tom. I grew up in New York (Long Island, to be specific), went to college/grad school in Atlanta (Emory University) in the 1990's, and now I live in Southwest Florida. I'm incredibly shy but I adore my friends and family. I've been a vegetarian for almost 30 years and I love animals of all kinds- we have four rescue cats, three parrots, and an elderly gecko and we raise butterflies. I swim five miles every day- rain, shine, storm, or travel. I was born with Spina Bifida, and swimming keeps me healthy and sane. When I'm not in the pool, I'm in my art studio, with a hot cup of tea.

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