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Books I loved: January

    If there's one think I love, its a good book. And let's be honest, its never just ONE book I've got on my bedside table or tucked in my purse....it's several!
    And because I love sharing about books I've enjoyed and love hearing about books from others, I thought maybe once a month I'd share some of my favorite books I've had my nose in....perhaps there's one you'll enjoy too?

 A Catholic Gardener's Spiritual Almanac by Margaret Rose Realy:
  If you're a gardener or just an appreciator of the natural world, this is such a fun and satisfying read! Set up like a Farmer's Almanac, the book is divided by months and is chock full of really neat information.
   Some of the highlights include different saints and their connection to gardening or nature, the traditional and religious inspired 'old names' of flowers, and certain feasts for each month.
   While those parts are interesting on their own, the author has also included short Biblical reflections and a theme for each month, so that you can really sit down and savor the season and what is going on in your garden right now, no matter the time of year.  Some monthly themes include 'preparing the soil', 'transformation and new life', 'harvesting' and 'dormancy and rest.' 
  Not only excellent ideas to dwell on for the garden, but the soul as well. I highly recommend this book as something you can sit down with for 5 minutes just to read a section or a chapter, or an afternoon read to feed that anticipation of the new year's garden.

   I first spied this book at my friend Patricia's house, as she has it displayed on the counter of her adorable cottage kitchen.
   Upon thumbing through I knew I had to find my own copy-- and I was able to find a used copy on Amazon.
  If you're looking for a cozy visual feast--- this is it! Its a slim volume and outlines the traditions and routines within a traditional English cottage through the year.
  Not only does it speak of bucolic afternoons with the breeze blowing through the open windows or an evening spent warming by a big hearth, it also has recipes if you're in the mood for a treat.
   The book is also beautifully illustrated by Angela Barrett, whose scenes are so packed full of old fashioned detail that you can spot something new each time you sit down with the book.
   This is another one great for just reading a little section when you can, or enjoying the whole thing at once. It's small, but packed full of goodness. Like a nice cottage kitchen should be!

by Gladys Taber
   I am a big fan of the writer Gladys Taber, whose work I found totally by accident at the library a few years ago. She writes about the cheerful day-to-day in her old house called "Stillmeadow" and was a successful magazine writer in the 50s and 60s.
   She has a large collection of books having to do with Stillmeadow, and later Cape Cod where she also had a little house. Her writing is very much like the blog of a really good friend whose a really fantastic writer. She can talk about the most mundane things in the most fascinating way! She is, I think, my go-to for comfort when the world just seems 'too much.'
   What's interesting about this specific book--- which was part of an amazing collection of Gladys Taber books I recently inherited from my husband's grandma-- is it talks about Taber's life before Stillmeadow.
   Her childhood moving from place to place, the loss of her older sibling's to sickness, her love for animals, her parents, and her college years. Taber went to college during WWI and her dormitory was riddled with the flu epidemic that swept through the world (remember your Downton Abbey, here!) Talk about a life changing college experience! She was bedridden in a common sickroom next to a friend that would later become 'Jill' in her books-- the friend whom she would buy Stillmeadow with!
   If you're a Taber fan, you will love this. I might read this after reading atleast one other Stillmeadow book to get your bearings, but if you're already familiar with Taber, you'll love getting 'the back story.'

BONUS! Kids Book:
   I am a sucker for a beautiful children's book, I enjoy these just as much as the 'grown up books.' Many of the children's books in our collection are bought, ehem, because Mama wanted this...
   My latest favorite is the book Home by Carson Ellis. This book is just spectacularly, beautifully done from start to finish!
   The text is simple, looking at various homes for various people--- whether they are real or not! A frenchwoman, a norse god, a moonian, a japanese business man, all their interesting homes are featured here.
   My kids and I love looking at all the rich details of the illustrations and deciding what houses we like best. My favorite is the house where the Babushka lives. Audrey likes the strange 'estate in space.' Robbie, well, he's undecided! But he likes it! You might too :D

Around the Studio...

   Yesterday was so nice. I got to go into my quiet studio, sit down with my paints, listen to some OnBeing, and get a lot of work done in one sitting. I'm so happy with how the clean out and rearranging went-- we put up some curtains that used to hang in our bedroom, I mopped up the floors, dusted things off and set up a nice workspace for myself where I can paint and also email and do what I need to on the computer. It looks nice and neat for now...we'll see how long I can keep that up ;)

   This fresh start is good as I embark on new plans. One of the most exciting things on the horizon is a new book project, this one that I will be both writer and illustrator for!  I signed on with the publisher a few days ago, and I think its going to be a great fit. There's lots of work ahead, but I'm so excited about it!  

  Like all of these types of projects, its going to be a long term thing and the finished product is many months on down the line. But I am really looking forward to each and every step of the process and am ready to start this new journey!

  Of course I will still be doing stand alone paintings and doing prints and cards. One change, however, is that I think my ability to do commissioned works, at least for now, is very small. It's difficult to keep up with when I have a toddler underfoot. We will see how things go, and how much time I get to devote to art as these months go by.

   But anyhow....the studio is set up! The paints and brushes are ready! And I am more than ready! 2016 is getting off to a busy, amazing start!~


    Well, hello there! So nice of you to stop by!

   It's been a crazy few days....weeks? Months? Im sitting here, writing to you from my sunny quiet studio and finally taking a moment to breathe. 

  There has been a lot going on. And there are a lot of projects in the works that make my heart feel all warm and fuzzy, but there are also children and animals under foot and sometimes I feel a little crazy. It's always a little of both at once, isn't it?

  Even though I'd rather be sleeping, I've enjoyed some nice still moments in the morning before the circus of the day begins (and that's sometimes within two minutes of noticing a 'nice still moment' and then missing it when it's long gone!)

  In those moments, however, I'm happy to have a little curly headed snuggler beside me, the light coming in, and plans stirring. This year, 2016, is going to go on a little different course than past years. I feel like I'm finding myself on the path to being an illustrator, and writer, which is thrilling and fabulous because that's been my dream forever. Some unique opportunities have come my way and I am so excited to dive into them. I'll be able to share more and things become more concrete, but just know if I seem quiet....I'm still busy! Scheming and painting and exploring new things.

  Another change in my painting life has been a good, cathartic revamp of my workspace here in the studio. I've reclaimed it from kittens and declared it a 'mom sanctuary.' Yes, we're going to light candles! We're going to leave pencils and pens out in the open near the edges of tables! Paint will be allowed out! It's gonna get craaaazy! ;) It's gonna get fun and inspiring too.

  And I cant wait to share it with you :D which I will soon!~!

Easter/Pascha Cards now in my etsy shop!

    Easter is coming early this year, so I'm pretty proud of myself for being on the ball enough to actually get these cards ordered before its Holy Week and I think "Oh, I should have done that..."

   I am SO pleased with how these cards came out, most of these designs having been never before offered as a card! The set available consists of 8 cards--- two each of four different designs. The designs include my paintings "Home from Pascha," "Tea With Babushka", "Preparing the Easter Basket" and "The Easter Egg Tree." All of these pieces can be found as 8x10" prints as well in my etsy shop.

   So if you're looking for lovely and unique Easter cards, or pretty things to send out during the spring--- or even small prints you can frame and use in your home (the cards are all a very frameable 4x6" size) I'd love for you to consider these! There's a limited amount, so when they're gone, they're gone!~
Have a great week!~

In The Garden: January

       The garden in January is sleeping. The spring's bulbs have been planting and last year's flowers are brown and brittle, gone to seed. A few things keep a green tinge; the roses still have leaves, but they're darker. 
    The other day it was fairly warm, so Robbie and I went out and played with the kittens and gathered some seeds from some of last year's plants. Our kitten Teddy is becoming a very handsome young man! We've kept him and his sister Snowflake from the litter of kittens we fostered--- and their mama too. All the other kittens have officially been adopted through the local animal fostering group, and we are so glad! We had eight cats all together....they were everywhere!

    The seeds I gathered were from dried zenia blooms, hollyhock, cock's comb, sage and basil. I just put them in ziplock bags that weren't sealed--- in case there's any moisture still in them, I dont want the seeds to mold. I'll let them finish drying out and then close the up to sow in the spring.
   We had the seeds in a basket, and you know how cats are...Teddy had to get right up in the middle of it! Cats always seem to know just what to get into....as do two year old boys!

   We planted Paper Whites in an old pot, and the bulbs were already sprouting in the bag! Paper Whites are fun because they'll start growing as soon as they get a little care--- they dont need a dormant period of cold like other bulbs do. I'm hoping these little guys will be ready to bloom by Easter, which is coming early this year.

  And so, this is what we're doing in the garden in January. It's quiet, but still some things going on. Some life still there, although its a little sleepy. Everything needs a little rest~

A Little Boy Quilt

   This weekend our baby turned two. TWO! He's officially a toddler, well on his way to 'kid.' He's been pretty much being 'two' for weeks now, but now that his birthday has come, it's totally official ;)

   Before Christmas I decided that I wanted to make Robbie a quilt for his birthday. There's only so many birthdays in a boy's life where a quilt is an acceptable gift, and I was going to take advantage! Using advice from my studio-mate Natasha, and advice from ye olde pinterest, I decided to make a very simple star design quilt, using some of the indigo dyed fabric we made this fall and some beautiful red linen I've been hoarding for years.
  While making this quilt, I think I made every mistake you can possibly make while quilting. Things sewn wrong, stitches crazy, fabric ripping, you name it...I messed it up ;)

  But-- it's done! And it stayed together in the wash! And it fits one little boy and his dog, and can be placed on the floor for cozy playing, warmth on cold January days in the car seat or stroller, a snuggle on the couch, or heck--- thrown at your sister. What more does a little boy need?

   I am already thinking about other quilt projects, just for fun. I LOVE quilts. And while I dont seem to have natural talent for making them, we'll just call it 'folk art quilting' and enjoy the process and the look of them. And when all else fails...I'll just keep putting quilts in my paintings!

   All I know is, the kid and the animals are enjoying it, and so I'll count it as a success!~

It's a New Year!~

   Hello and here we are, 2016! Can you believe it?! Welcome to the New Year. It's already been full of ups and downs, and what is it--- the 5th? Oh, it's Twelfth Night! Tomorrow is Epiphany! How special!

  Today was our first day back in a normal routine-- everyone back to school. It was a good day-- it went by really fast, mostly as I tried to get done all the things I needed to get done 'just me' for the first time in a couple of weeks.

  First I treated myself to a nice long walk at a local park- it was a nice, long COLD walk, and I'm still feeling it, but it was good. Good to get the new year going by getting some blood pumping, thinking about the coming future and being outdoors. Over Christmas we had flooding, then snow, so we were mostly homebound. Didn't help that everyone had a cough, either, so there was no romps in the snow thanks to this mean mama.

   And now that we are back to routine, I am enjoying some quiet time and trying to make progress on big plans for the coming months. I picked up THIS book the other day and love the idea of a spiritual retreat....although I love the idea, honestly, of going anywhere quiet ;)

   I'm also enjoying some nice cups of chai tea lately...and this year I want to use 'the good dishes' more often. Audrey got a dollhouse for Christmas, and we think when we have it finished we'll have a little tea party with some friends to inaugurate it ;)

  Well, the sunlight is almost gone for the day. And I need to think about dinner. There are messes to take care of, books to read, paintings to paint, kids to cuddle. We'll see what all gets done!~

  Thanks for coming here to see me this fresh new 2016! Come back again and we'll chat...