The “Man-Servant” of Moonbeam Farm

The “Man-Servant” of Moonbeam Farm.

Another character from Moonbeam Farm has come to life!

Please allow me to introduce you to the “Man-Servant” who lives with his animal friends Odessa, Dewey, and Jaxon.

You may recall me introducing you to his friends this past week, beginning with a “just for fun” stab I took at painting Odessa the owl in watercolor at the urging of my blogging friend Carolyn at Nuggets of Gold, who is collaborating with Colin at A Dog’s Life on a children’s book.

Carolyn and Colin were so pleased with the painting of Odessa, they asked if it could be used as the cover photo for their first book, “The Odessa Chronicles.”  I am honored to do so, and I must admit quite flattered and thrilled!  I was then encouraged to paint Dewey and Jaxon, which they ended up loving too.

Then I needed to create the Man-Servant.  Unlike the others, which I created on a first-try, Man-Servant took four iterations before we all decided he was the one.  At first, I was a bit frustrated, but I grew to love creating this character.   The Man-Servant is a human in the senior years of his life, who actually believes he runs Moonbeam Farm.

It’s been fun bringing these characters to life.  I’m now going to venture into creating more to be included in the book.  It’s a fun journey, and I hope you’ll enjoy it with us.





Cheers & Hugs,

Child Gift-Giving: WANT, NEED, WEAR, READ

Becoming a first-time grandma recently, along with several of my besties, has caused me pause to consider child gift-giving.

It is sooooooo easy to get carried away and spoil – especially these first ones.

So I was thinking it is time to establish the “trend” for hopefully lots more grandie gifts.

I have read several places a good rule of thumb to simplify child gift-giving is to consider four categories:

  1. Want
  2. Need
  3. Wear
  4. Read

Consider gifts in the four categories – buying one of each:  One thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear, and one thing to read.

Well – let’s see if I can stick with this…

In the meantime, my bestie’s first grandchild turned one, so going with a fish theme (just because I thought it was fun), I made the above little T-shirt for him (to WEAR), bought him some bathtub fishing toys (I think he would WANT to play with), some socks (I’m sure his mama could say he NEEDs), and the Dr. Seuss Book “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” (to READ).

Happy Birthday Ben!  I hope the years don’t continue to go as fast as this first one did!

Cheers & Hugs,

Big Magic & Intracranial Jewelry-Making

abstract pink floral watercolor 10 x 14 Arches 300 lb cold press

abstract pink floral watercolor 10 x 14 Arches 300 lb cold press

I have been so inspired lately by a book I am listening to on Audible during those precious 30 minutes a day I spend on the elliptical or treadmill early in the morning at the gym.  Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) was recommended to me by Dawn, a blogging friend who shares her own beautiful creativity at Petals. Paper, Simple Thymes.  I am so glad I took her advice and got it!  And it is such a joy to listen to it read by author Elizabeth herself with all the passion and inflection she adds throughout.

I want to share an excerpt with you that hit a chord with me the other morning (and there are many of these!)  During this excerpt, Gilbert is sharing about a time she interviewed musician Tom Waits for GQ Magazine.  I loved everything he had to say to her and she wrote about him, but I want to share this little piece in particular:

“Over the years, Tom Waits finally found his sense of permission to deal with his creativity more lightly – without so much drama – without so much fear.  A lot of this lightness, Waits said, came from watching his children grow up and seeing their total freedom of creative expression.  He noticed that his children felt fully entitled to make up songs all the time, and when they were done with them, they would toss them out ‘like little origami things, or paper airplanes.’  Then they would sing the next song that came through the channel.  They never seemed to worry that the flow of ideas would dry up.   They never stressed about their creativity, and they never competed against themselves; they merely lived within their inspiration, comfortable and unquestioning.

Waits had once been the opposite of that as a creator.  He told me that he’d struggled deeply with his creativity in his youth because – like many serious young men – he wanted his work to be better than other people’s work.  He wanted to be complex and intense.  There was anguish, there was torment, there was drinking, there were dark nights of the soul.  He was lost in the cult of artistic suffering, but he called that suffering by another name: dedication.

But through watching his children create so freely, Waits had an epiphany: it wasn’t actually that big a deal.  He told me, ‘I realized as a songwriter, the only thing I really do is make jewelry for the inside of other people’s minds.’  Music is nothing more than decoration for the imagination.  That’s all it is.  That realization, Waits said, seemed to open things up for him.  Songwriting became less painful after that.

Intracranial jewelry-making!  What a cool job!”

Does that strike you like it does me?  So with this newfound creative freedom floating through my cranium, I splashed some paint around this weekend that resulted in this.  Here is some of my “intracranial jewelry” to share.

abstract pink floral watercolor 10 x 14 Arches 300 lb cold press matted and framed

abstract pink floral watercolor 10 x 14 Arches 300 lb cold press matted and framed to 19 x 23

Cheers & Hugs,

And the Mountains Echoed

mountains echo

I have begun reading a beautiful book….

It is called “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini.

It is a tale exploring the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.

The cover of the book is so beautiful, I decided to try a quick watercolor of it, so this is today’s #WorldWatercolorMonth Painting.

Has anyone else read it?

Cheers & Hugs,


A Special Cookbook from Mom

Nicks Cookbook from mom

I have one more special little homemade Christmas gift to share this week.  This is one I was excited to give to my son, Nick.

Nick had requested I put a cookbook together of his favorite recipes I make, and especially those that are EASY, so that he will have and be able to make wherever life takes him.

For the cover of this little book, I used a photo of our kitchen in the frenzy of pots boiling, cookies cooling, and flour and sugar and other ingredients out on the counter.  I am hoping as he takes this little book with him throughout his life, he will remember the smell and feel and love of our family kitchen.

For the intro page, I wrote Nick a short note:

Nicks cookbook from mom introduction page

Nick is a chicken lover, so I tried to remember all of his favorite chicken dishes.

nick cookbook chickfila chicken sandwiches

But remembering the “easy” part, I tried to include those simple things he always enjoyed.

Nicks Cookbook page

So – it’s not a masterpiece or an Amazon bestseller, but it is simple gesture of a Momma’s love that I hope Nick will treasure.

Cheers & Hugs,


Real can’t be ugly…

stuffed bunny watercolor card

How could I have missed this?

It is a classic novel.

It was made into a film, a musical, and a soundtrack.

It is a story that caused my heart to swell,
reminded me of the past,
gave me pause to consider the future.

It made me smile broadly.

It gave me a lump in my throat.

It caught me off guard and caused me to gasp.

Tears welled up, and then magic appeared.

The Velveteen Rabbit, illus. William Nicholson:

How could this be considered a “Children’s Novel” when it teaches such relevant adult life lessons?

“How about this old Bunny?” she asked.
“That?” said the doctor.  “Why, it’s a mass of germs!  Burn it at once.  What?  Nonsense!  Get him a new one.  He mustn’t have that any more!”
And so the little Rabbit was put into a sack with the old picture-books and a lot of rubbish, and carried out to the end of the garden behind the fowl-house.

How often does this happen in real life….
to real people….
whose hearts and souls are young,
but their bodies are aged, broken, weak, and have germs….?

How could I have missed this beautiful story that was never read to me as a child and that I never read to my children?

The Velveteen Rabbit.

Written almost 100 years ago, and I just bought my first copy this week…. via Amazon Prime….   for ages 3 – 7… and I am 52… and I LOVED it!

The life lessons are so deeply profound.
I so encourage you to read this… slowly – and at least twice:

The Gahan Girls: Thank you, Skin Horse. I couldn't have said it better myself.:

Thank you, Skin Horse, for your insightful wisdom.
I will try very hard to remember this every day.

Whether you have children or not, The Velveteen Rabbit is a MUST-READ!  It will be the best 10-15 minutes (depending on how long you linger over the beautiful illustrations) you’ve spent in a long time, and the best $7.49 you will spend this year.

A new, old, profound classic on our bookshelf!

It is waiting to be read to or by anyone who visits our home….   anyone who wants to know what it means to be REAL.

velveteen rabbit

Cheers & Hugs,


P.S.  I was so amazed by this story (which I discovered after a friend posted a quote on Facebook), that I had to draw a version of a stuffed bunny (a velveteen rabbit) late one night.  It came freely.   From a Google Search of stuffed bunnies, I saw a photo similar to this one I painted.  It came quickly and easily, and I was delightfully surprised when I saw how it turn out the next morning – when the paint had dried, and my eyes were clear, and it became “Real.”  And “Real can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

All the Light We Cannot See

all the light we cannot see

This past weekend, our “Best Book Club Ever” got together to discuss “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr.  This is one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time.

And in honor of  Veteran’s Day today, I thought it befitting to share a bit about a beautifully written tale revolving around a subject so deplorable as war….  World War II in particular…. one of the darkest periods in our history.  Yet one that needs discussed….  and one I came to a deeper understanding of through this novel.

Our book club, which consists of 26 men and women, gave this book an average rating of 8.5 out of 10, which is one of the best ratings this eclectic group of ages and backgrounds has given a book.

Though you can certainly read a good summary of this Best Book of the Month on Amazon,  I thought I would help spread the word because I feel so passionately about this book.

The thing I especially loved,  for maybe the first time in reading a book I have to say – or at least in a long time, is the true beauty of the writing.

Doerr has a magical way of heightening our senses through the most gorgeous metaphors.  Maybe I am more aware now that I am trying to write a bit more myself, but this is a book that I didn’t want to rush through to finish as I often do because I am typically reading a book for the story – not the writing.

But this book was one I wanted to absorb into my pores.

I savored each word in each sentence.

The descriptive similes the author used, such as expressing the passing of time in a number of heartbeats, gave me a deeper appreciation for the most simple things in life.

It’s no wonder it took Doerr TEN YEARS to write this book!  When you create statements like this:

“And is it so hard to believe that souls might also travel those paths?  That her father and Etienne and Madame Manec and the German boy named Werner Pfenning might harry the sky in flocks, like egrets, like terns, like starlings?  That great shuttles of souls might fly about, faded but audible if you listen closely enough?  They flow above the chimneys, ride the sidewalks, slip through your jacket and shirt and breastbone and lungs, and pass out through the other side, the air a library and the record of every life lived, every sentence spoken, every word transmitted still reverberating within it.”

Are you gasping and sighing as I am even though I have read this many times?

It is such a good thing that Doerr created such short “chapters” that allow us the time to breathe and sigh and let the words sink in and absorb them into our souls.

Though confused a bit at first at how each “chapter” alternates between the tale of a blind French girl and a young German soldier during World War II, it slowly

and methodically

and heartbreakingly beautifully

comes together as the story goes on.

I loved the way Doerr heightened my own senses by expressing the most minute of details one becomes aware of when losing our sense of sight.

If you are a a reader, I hope you will consider this story that illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

And while we are on “the subject” of Veterans and Veteran’s Day, thank you to all of those that have served and are currently serving in our armed forces, and thank you to those whose lives we’ve lost in their pursuit of our freedom.

Cheers & Hugs,



She left BEAUTY wherever she went

All Abloom DSP She left beauty wherever she went

Another little treasure from our trip to Hobby Lobby last weekend was this this little stamp set Janet found in the clearance rack.  It “spoke” to both of us, and I had to have it.  It reminds me of so many amazing women in my life.  I wanted to list them – starting with Stella Star all the way through life, but I am afraid I would accidentally forget someone…

I wanted to show pictures, but again afraid I don’t have all that I would want to post and/or forget someone.

But I think this sentiment should really speak to ALL women.

Be your own kind of beautiful….

Know that there are many kinds of beauty…

Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and even senses….

Beauty can be visual or it can be something from the heart – the way someone makes you feel – maybe with the words they use – spoken or written…

Beauty can come from the way something or someone smells…  like flowers or freshly baked bread or cookies or a favorite perfume…

Beauty can be the way something feels – like a tight hug from a friend, your favorite slippers or comforter, your favorite sweater, or the warmth of a kiss.

Know that you have the potential to leave BEAUTY wherever you go!

Happy Friday!  We are off to “The Best Book Club Ever” tonight!  Woohoo!  “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks and lots of discussion and wine!  🙂

The layout of this card was designed from the Freshly Made Sketches Sketch #148:

FMS Final 148-001

Go out and be your own kind of beautiful!

All Abloom DSP She left beauty wherever she went

Cheers & Hugs,



I call your “Bluff”

bluffWhat a wonderful weekend we had!  As it winds down this Sunday evening, I am relaxing and reflecting on it all.

It started early on Friday with a late afternoon trip to Conneaut for “THE BEST BOOK CLUB EVER.”

“Oh Rob,” as I affectionately like to refer to our gracious co-host (who happens to be our cousin and one of our BFFs,  along with his amazing wife and one of my personal heroes, Joyce) has begun a blog of his own, which I encourage you to read:  Reflections.  Rob has such an endearing and though-provoking reflective perspective on life that you just can’t help but smile to think about him.

rob bc

I  daresay… even if you don’t like to read, you might just do it to be part of this amazing group! (As Joyce and Rob can attest as they have evolved into making room in their home for 30 or more people at times.)

It is a diverse and fascinating group of women AND men of all ages, backgrounds, professions and political views that comes together every couple months to drink a little wine, nosh on yummy treats (like these amazing flat bread, goat cheese, fresh fig and balsamic vinaigrette appetizers provided by the Vacavi Café where we met this month), and talk about the book we read, share how it affected us, explain what it meant to us, and explore our diverse experiences.

fig close upThis month’s book was chosen by our friend Laurie because it was written and self-published by a somewhat local author, Lenore Skomal, who was willing to come to our BEST BOOK CLUB EVER meeting and talk to us about her book.

And WOW – I might have to say this was the BEST Book Club of the BEST BOOK CLUB EVER!

As you may have guessed since I have begun this blog and since my profession is in Corporate Communications, I have a bit of an affinity for writing.

The topic of this book was also something that hit close to home on so many levels for me.

So the opportunity to get to meet the author, and to have her be such an amazing, engaging, REAL woman, was a surprising treat.

Heck – she is the one that officially named us “THE BEST BOOK CLUB EVER,” and even rode across the lake in Ed and Laurie’s boat with us to Rob and Joyce’s place for a night cap and continued intimate discussion.

lenore boat bc

So the book – “Bluff” by Lenore Skomal  -was born out of the author’s real-life experience with her mother’s end days’ experience of comatase in the hospital where physicians and staff spoke about her mom in her mom’s presence as if she weren’t there and couldn’t hear.  It made Lenore uncomfortable wondering how much her Mom could hear and comprehend and how it made her feel.

I was thoroughly intrigued, albeit at first taken aback, by Skomal’s representation of the book’s central character’s imprisonment in that “in-between” space teetering on death yet clinging to life in order to save the life of her unborn child – a choice made by the Catholic hospital staff where she is kept alive by medical intervention.  It was startling when I first heard Jude speak and hear what she had to say.  I will never look at or think of a person in a coma the same way and will be that much more reverent in their presence.

Bluff is quite a page-turner as each character develops and shockingly unfolds and reveals their own secrets, deceptions, and relation to the central theme.  The end will shock and startle you.  It will answer some questions, but raise that many more.  At first, it really threw me and made me think it was too much of a diversion from the original central theme, until we discussed it as a group and with the author, and I looked at the entire scope of subjects more globally – the secrets, the deceptions, the “bluffs.”  (And then to learn Part 2 is in progress where these characters continue to develop is exciting!)

Bluff was a perfect book club selection for those willing to discuss, debate, and truly delve into the most intriguing questions that plague us about the value of human life, life support, organ donation, and the ongoing debate and questions (even within the medical community) surrounding the consciousness of those in a coma.

It truly took Marty and I back to several years ago when we had the privilege of being with and loving Marty’s dear sister, Maureen, across the divide of this life to the next (or whatever we believe to be beyond this life) as we held her hands, whispered “I love you’s” and played soft soothing music.  You see, the hospice nurses caring for Maureen to told us they believed the last sense to go is that of hearing, so we made sure that with every last breath she took, Maureen heard our love.

As a “writer wannabe,” I was fascinated to speak with Lenore and learn about what it takes, the research involved in authenticating content, but most of all what drives us to want to write, how it affects us, and how it impacts those that read it.

I am grateful for the experience, recommend the book, and hope I have a new friend in Lenore Skomal.

And how ironic is it that the topic of this book is about  … Life in Between…

Cheers and Hugs,