An Enthusiast in Life

Spring Floral Fantasy Watercolor 11×14

An Enthusiast in Life.

I LOVE this quote by Roald Dahl, and it sparked my enthusiasm to paint boldly and brightly and enthusiastically in watercolor recently.

“Listening to my father during those early years, I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good, either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald

I feel a bit out of practice as I’ve been doing other projects lately, but it was fun to splash watercolor again.

My daughter-in-law, Colleen and I are enthusiastically embracing a new project, which I’ll update you on as we go, but we are expanding our McKinneyX2Designs space at the local gift shop where we display our products, Berry Vine Gifts in Bradford Woods.

For today, however, I hope you will consider this quote, and enthusiastically embrace whatever YOU are passionate about!

Cheers & Hugs,



I Failed!

I failed…

I let people down.
I let myself get upset.
I got in over my head.
I took on more than I could handle – bit off more than I could chew.

And now…
I have to eat crow,
because I told everyone about it before I really carefully considered it,
before I really tried it,
before I realized the time and commitment involved.

You may recall I got all excited about some paintings I did for a sweet blogging friend, Carolyn, who is co-authoring a book with Colin.  Carolyn had challenged me to paint some characters in the book they are writing.  I did, with the full intention of gifting them to her, but when she fell in love with them (and Colin liked them too), they asked if I would be interested in illustrating their book.

In my enthusiasm, I eagerly accepted.

Then they sent me the first chapter to illustrate…

After three evenings’ attempts, my “illustration” didn’t even look good enough to turn in for a First Grade art project!

I grew frustrated and began to get nervous at how much time would be involved in creating 30 illustrations – likely through multiple iterations – and the time I had to do it in -considering I work full time (and then some), the time I love spending with my family, the time I enjoy on this blog, and the real creativity I enjoy.

What was I thinking??  I have no education or professional experience in this.  I am NOT an illustrator.  I love loose, expressive watercolor painting – painting flowers and birds and any ole’ thing that strikes my fancy.  I love turning them into cards and prints and sharing and selling them on my Daughter-in-Law’s and my little Etsy Shop.

But drawing and painting pictures and scenes….   Well – not only do I not (currently) have the talent  (I say that because I believe anyone can learn to do almost anything they want to do with enough time, practice, effort, and passion for it), but I honestly don’t have the time or the passion for it.

So I quickly told Carolyn and Colin this just wasn’t going to work for me.

It was HARD!

I do not like to fail…
I do not like to give up…
I do not like to break commitments…
I do not like to let people down.

But they were so understanding, and my four paintings were carefully packaged and mailed to Carolyn for her to always have as a small gift and remembrance from me.

And I have to admit a weight has been lifted from my shoulders,
and my heart is light and carefree again.
I failed, but I failed fast and am not beating myself up about.
I uncommitted quickly and decisively and before I got in too deep.

I painted this big red letter F.
I loosely painted a big red circle around it.

and I feel Free,
and I am Forgiving myself.
I am Focusing on what I love to do,
and I am having Fun…

at Life In Between.

Cheers & Hugs,

PS  Thank you Carolyn and Colin for your faith in me, for giving me this experience, for helping me realize where my heart is, and for forgiving me for letting you down.  I wish you the greatest success on your Moonbeam Farm books!  I know I’ll be purchasing and reading them – and admiring someone else’s illustrations! 🙂


A Giant Blue Feather

Blue Feather Large 16 x 20 Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 300 lb Cold Press

    Giant Blue Feather 17 x 22″ Watercolor – Fabriano Artistico 300 lb Cold Press

Some of my sweet “regulars” here at might remember a very similar painting I shared last month of a Blue Feather….

And even though this one looks about the same size as that first one here…..
in real life, it is hugely different!

The first one was 5 x 7″…

This one…. is 17 x 22″!

To try to give you a feel for the size, I took a photo of my son, Nick, holding it.  Nick is 6’3″ tall.

Nick holding Watercolor Blue Feather 17x22

Why?  You might be asking…. Did I paint such a large blue feather?!

It was actually a requested piece.

Someone who saw the blue feather cards on our McKinneyX2Designs ETSY page asked if she could have it in a large painting.

So I tore a full sheet of Fabriano Artistico 300 lb Cold Press in half and started splashing water and paint with abandon!

I am thrilled to report she loved it.

I am also thrilled to report what a joy it was to create.

What a joyous journey it is discovering my passion for creativity.

Are you finding joy in your journey?

Happy Friday my friends!

Cheers & Hugs,

Laugh, Smile, Giggle, Snort

giraffe naples zoo

Giraffe – Naples Zoo – Feb 2015

Laugh, smile, giggle, snort

This journey called life is much too short

To frown or grumble or sigh

Oh my

Let joy be your purpose, your passion, your port


In an effort to expand and evolve in my writing, I am participating in The WordPress Daily Post Writing 201 Two-Week Poetry Challenge.  Poetry is definitely a challenge for me.   Today’s assignment consists of three parts: 

  1. The word prompt is Journey:  Write a poem about anything that word evokes for you.
  2. The form is Limerick:  The traditional rhyming scheme of a limerick is a a b b a — the first two lines rhyme, then the next two, and the final verse rhymes with the first couplet.
  3. The device is Alliteration:  Using the same consonant multiple times in close proximity.

To me, the greatest journey of all is life and letting joy be our purpose and passion is the ultimate goal.  This is what inspired my limerick for today’s challenge.

Wishing you laughs and smiles and giggles and snorts!

Cheers & Hugs,

We Will be Known Forever by the Tracks we Leave – Couples Camp Weekend Shenanigans

Couples Camp Invitation cover 2014

What would life be like without great friends?  I sure don’t want to know, and am so fortunate to have some of the best of the best.  This weekend, Marty and I went away with some of our dearest – to our 1st Annual Couples Camp Weekend Retreat.

Hopefully the first of many.  No matter where we roam…

I went away for the weekend without my computer – but not without my camera! 🙂

I hope you will enjoy my little tribute to our wonderful weekend.

My BFF, Jill, was the head organizer of our shenanigans, and in her words:  “Todd, a member of the Chopped Chaps (and a.k.a.Rocco Scarfazzi) and I, a member of the Chopped Chicks (and a.k.a. Mama Rosa) highly recommend that all of our friends coordinate a Couple’s Camp weekend. Great fun. Lots of laughter. Many life stories shared. And the realization that life long friends and connections are priceless! So go make some memories!”

Here was our agenda (as prepared by Jill):

Couples Camp Invite Page 2 Activities

After a relaxing Friday evening, drinks and snacks and belly laughs until our cheeks hurt, we all trickled into the kitchen Saturday morning, fueled up with some coffee, and prepared to compete in a battle of “CHOPPED!”


I made aprons for the “Chopped Chaps”

chopped chaps

and the “Chopped Chicks”

chopped chicks

and prepared three basket rounds of competitive food fun.

Basket #1 was Breakfast Fare and the Chaps and Chicks were challenged to create a breakfast dish using the following basket ingredients:

Basket Round 1: Breakfast Fare

Link Sausage
Green Onions
Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Bacon Cheddar Potato Chips

Basket 1

Though the guys were “poo-pooing” us in the beginning, they rose to the challenge, and even admitted to having fun!

chap 1

The chicks were quite that strategists and competitors.

chicks 2b

They created a beautiful and delicious frittata for Round 1.

chicks 1

While the men created a scrumptious scramble.

chaps 1

that even contained the words “Hideaway” written in cheddar cheese….

hideaway chopped 1

in honor of the name of the resort we stayed at…

camp sign

a beautiful vacation home tucked in the wooded hills (I didn’t know there were such hills in Ohio!) near Columbus, Ohio compliments of Jill’s dear (and who we fondly refer to as a bit “crazy”) Aunt Alice and Uncle Eric, and cousins Maggie and Tom.  THANK YOU so much!


The chicks won Round 1 with their fabulous fritatta!

chicks win 1

On to Round 2 for Brunch Fare:

Basket Round 2: Brunch Fare

Pasta Sauce
Peppercorn Bacon
Cheese and Garlic Croutons

chopped 2

chicks 2

Mary thought a little red wine might “enhance” the sauce.

chicks 2a

chaps 2

but alas the Chaps won Round 2.  (Per Judge Marty keep in mind!)

chaps 2b

Round 3 brought on the Dessert Challenge:

Basket Round 3: Dessert

Whole Wheat Pop Cakes
Biscoff Spread
Vanilla Yogurt
Vanilla Cream Soda
Sour Patch Peaches

chopped 3

With one win for each side, the competition was getting fierce!

chopped 3 intensity

And both teams pulled out all the guns!  The chicks made these amazing parfaits.

chicks 3a

The chaps created these masterpieces.

chaps 3a

And the Chaps took the Gold!

chopped champs

Judge Marty could not resist eating the entire dessert, which was enhanced ever so “slightly” with Amaretto…

chopped judge

Even Jim impressed himself with the dessert the Chaps came through with!


The Chicks were so close behind.  We all enjoyed every morsel of every one of our three meals (all before noon!)

chopped chicks runners up





Then it was time to burn off some of those calories and get out in the beautiful Fall sunshine.  The guys decided to go for some quad/mule rides.


quad jim

quad todd

quad marty

mule glenn

And us Chicks took a walk.

road to camp

which way

walk 4

walk 2

chick walk

walk 5

After a few hours of sunshine and fresh air, we decided to do a “good deed” in honor of National “Make a Difference Day” by preparing some Thanksgiving holiday craft kits for the daycare students of SHIM (South Hills Interfaith Ministry), Aunt Alice’s favorite charity.


caring craft 2

caring craft 1

caring craft 3

A little Wine and Cheese Party seemed most appropriate to cap off a great afternoon.


Then it was time for dinner time shenanigans:  A Murder Mystery Dinner Party hosted by Mama Rosa (Jill), who fed us Italian zuppa and some chicken and traditional lasagna.  We were instructed to arrive as our pre-assigned characters to dinner for an evening of Pasta, Passion and Pistols…

You can see below from left to right:  The French guy, Bo Jalais (Glenn) who wanted to takeover the family winery; the tough young sister, Angel Roni (yours truly) who was caught up in the mob; the maid turned pregnant girlfriend (Mary), the twin brother (Todd) who came to America to touch base with his family, Father Al Fredo (Jim) who listened to everyone‘s confessions, Mama Rosa (Jill) the family Matriarch, Claire Voyant (Pam), the family’s psychic counsel; and Marco Roni (Marty), the soccer loving, knife wielding baby of the family.

cc 2014 group silly shot


jill bub



glenn pam

group shot

Yep – we ate some more, drank some more, laughed A LOT more, and solved the mystery.  It was great fun.

Thank you so much Aunt Alice, Eric, Maggie and Tom for allowing us to crash your little paradise in the woods for the weekend.

As the living room mantle so aptly puts it:  “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave…”

We hope we left some good ones.

tracks we leave

Cheers & Hugs,