For the past couple of weeks my daughter has been on holiday from her job. She planned a "stay-cation" but then suggested we go away somewhere. Since I couldn't get away for more than a few days, a big trip wasn't feasible.
Instead, we took a day last week and went shopping across the border in Washington. We had a great day but since we don't live that near each other, and I was doing the driving and had to drop her off before coming home, I didn't get home until after midnight. Long day!
However, we had so much fun that she talked me into going again, only this time staying overnight. On the first day we walked our feet to the bones at a big outlet mall but only bought a few things. I finally found the perfume that I love, Tommy Bahama St. Barts!
We drove out to Whidbey Island and spent the night in Oak Harbor.
We stayed at the Auld Holland Inn that I booked through Booking.com. (Disclaimer: I joined the Booking.com affiliate program because I love their service. I've got so many great deals there.)
The hotel was super cute with little character touches like the pretty front entrance with hanging baskets. It's so easy to add pretty touches with only a few changes. After checking out the shops in historic downtown Oak Harbor, we carried on to Coupeville, one of my favourite villages.
Coupeville could give lessons on how to do cute. This is one of my favourite stores, Collections. It was the setting inspiration for my short story, Brown Santa, in Sweet Christmas Love.
The owner, Cheryl Nunn, has done such a perfect job of making her shop (above) pretty, inside and out. Be sure to stop in next time you're in the neighbourhood.
Just up the street is Aqua Gifts, another example of over-the-top pretty. Oh, my goodness! Take a look inside. For a beach lover like me, this is a little bit of heaven.
I found lots of ways to pretty up my house in the room overlooking the water.
La Conner was the next stop on our cute town shop-a-thon. It was getting to be mid-afternoon by the time we stopped here and, given how late I'd arrived home the previous week, I didn't want to spend too long before the big drive ahead.
But really, folks, you can't take La Conner quickly. Its prettiness alone demands that you slow down and enjoy all the delightful touches.
This is just one example of how pretty this town is. I bought a couple of lovely cotton summer tops that I'd been looking for everywhere—and got them at half price!
Then to top off the day, it was time for rocky road ice cream which we shared, sitting in the sunshine and overlooking the channel. You can see the map of La Conner here, too.
The perfect ending to a perfect little getaway.
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Earlier this year, I went looking for a planner to use for my business, projects, and appointments. Because I'm a visual person attracted to fun images, the ordinary "strictly business" planners that you can buy at an office supply store just don't do it for me. They bore me so much that I don't look at them, forget to write things in them, and consequently find them no help at all.
Then I discovered the Happy Planner! This planner is like recess and art class rolled into one. And because it's so much fun, and the visuals are so eye-catching, I use it all the time, and have become much more organized as a result.
There is so much I can do with my planner. You can buy pads of stickers to decorate the pages, or to highlight important events. Naturally, I loaded up on those, and then some.
This week I had an idea (brilliant, of course). A few years ago, I had painted a series of miniature watercolours that I framed and made into fridge magnets. You can see the originals, above and below.
My idea was to create planner stickers from all these pretty mini watercolours. It takes a little while to re-size and tweak them in Photoshop so they're printable, but I've made an entire sheet of stickers that are now available in my shop. I started with the flowers series and created 20 different stickers from the original eight images.
I'm ever so pleased with how they turned out and can't wait to format the other categories for you: Container Gardens, Fruits, and Vegetables.
All you need is some sheets of sticker paper, your printer, and you're ready to go. You can use these pretty stickers for your scrapbooking projects, to make quick gift tags or cards, or to label things around the house. Click here to see more now.
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My shop on this site is slowly starting to take shape. Over the years I've created dozens of pieces of artwork and decided it was about time I shared some of them with others who love watercolours and pretty things.
It's clearly time to organize my original artworks. I keep them all in an antique chest with shallow drawers. It's perfect.
I was looking for my original for the Seashell designs that are now in the shop.
This painting has always been one of my favourites. I've re-created it with a beautiful message in the shop where you can download and print it instantly.
While I was sorting through my paintings, I found a few others that I'd kind of forgotten about. The amaryllis is part of a Christmas series and will appear in the shop and on other products in due time.
I'm so excited about all the new things and plans I have for my site and my art and writing. For now, though, please visit the shop and have a look around. For a limited time I've got FREE flag banners to create for Canada Day and US July 4th. Go download them right away. They won't last.
Be sure to have a look at how beautiful this painting is with its uplifting message. Print it, frame it, hang it, love it, or give as a gift.
For a limited time only, Canadian and US flag banner kits are FREE in the shop.
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I confess that I'm a fan of cuteness. (Like you didn't know.) I especially love cute towns and villages, shops, and streets. So when I go to the coast of Washington state, I always take a side trip to Seabrook Village. It's what I call a pop-up village because it didn't grow organically; it was conceived and created on purpose.
I don't know who was behind the concept, but they've done an exceptional job of creating a pretty village on a rise above the beach on the Pacific.
Every house is different from the ones next door and all are styled after coastal designs from days gone by and villages that have been around for a long time.
Seabrook Village was originally planned as a vibrant community but most houses have been purchased as vacation homes and many are available for rental.
We got lucky and the sun came out. As we visited prior to the Memorial Day weekend, and during the week, things were pretty quiet, but construction was marching on.
I enjoyed seeing the variety in architectural styles. Don't you love that line up of white rocking chairs on the veranda?
My ex-house painter husband couldn't help but mention the upkeep of all those window frames but I think they're so pretty.
This little beauty looks pure east coast but would be fun to stay in. I'm betting there is a view of the sea from the upstairs window.
Gravelled walkways meander through the village and flags flutter from covered porches. I told you it was sweet.
What's a good seaside house without a veranda? Okay without, but better with. Imagine soft summer evenings visiting with friends, a cool drink in your hand.
Every home has its own character. Look at all the windows climbing up that west-facing wall. You'd never be without a view of the ocean on your way up to bed.
This cute cottage looks like it was transported from Cape Cod—not that I've been there, but you know, I've seen pictures. The life preserver on the outside wall is a nice nautical touch.
And the picket fences...need I say more? I didn't think so.
Even when the styling is similar it's not the same. I love diversity, and red garage doors? Nailed it.
Of course you want your blue bicycle handy for tootling around the village. And nautical touches like loops of ropbe are perfectly fitting in this seaside town.
The village continues to grow and each phase seems like it's cuter than the last one. Some houses now perch on the very cliff overlooking the ocean. Huge sighs, here.
There is even a farm, plus this row of charming cottages where you can spend your vacation, or a month working on your novel.
Since we arrived early in the season, some of the shops were closed but it looked like more were scheduled to open soon. If there's one thing I love, it's darling gift shops.
Speaking of which, I'm in the process of creating my online shop on this site. Be sure to take a look and to drop back often as I'm planning to add lots of my artwork, and much more, in the days to come.
It took a while to materialize but taking a week off finally happened. May 22nd was a holiday here in Canada—Victoria Day, celebrating the Queen's birthday. I convinced my husband to use some of his vacation time for a short getaway.
Since we live close to the US-Canada border, we have often vacationed in Washington state. This time was no exception. We packed up the car and headed south. The first couple of nights, we stayed in Everett, which is on the north end of Seattle area. Our ultimate destination was Ocean Shores but first we (uh, I, actually) needed a shopping stop, hence the city stay.
Then we caught the Edmonds Ferry across Puget Sound to Kingston, which is on the Olympic Peninsula. If you're a travel fan like me, a map is always a necessity. I like to know where I am on the planet.
This will give you a better idea than if I try to describe it. The blue dotted lines indicate where the ferries sail.
Biny-man never leaves home without his trusty binoculars. You never know when you'll have to investigate a passing sailboat or an airplane.
We like to take the back roads and hardly ever get lost. We don't really care if we do, and we're not afraid to ask for directions, even my man!
But this is one of my favourite signs to find, wherever we are. The trail leads off through the beach dunes where black-tailed deer live and the wild strawberries were in bloom. It's going to be a good season for those tiny, succulent berries in not to long a time. I may have to make a return trip.
We stayed at a lovely hotel, the Morning Glory that I booked through Booking.com. (Full disclosure: I've become an affiliate for Booking.com because I love their prices and service.)
And then...there it is. The first glimpse of the wild Pacific Ocean.
I made it to the beach. And it was COLD! I'm wearing layers and my wind-proof jacket while my hair nearly blows off. Still, it's exhilarating just to be there and hear the pounding surf. It's spectacular and this beach seems endless—wide and miles long!
I know you probably wish you could be here too, and I wanted to bring back a little taste of the ocean for you. I couldn't get my videos to load here so I'll just post another photo of a day at the beach.
When we travel, we like to explore so in my next post, I'll take you on a little jaunt to Seabrook Village. You'll swoon.
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All artwork on this site is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
As a writer and artist, illustrated books are among my favourite things. I'm always on the look out for new ones, and new titles that come from artist authors I love and collect.
Below is a short list of my favourites, many which have been in my library for years and regularly come out so I can enjoy them all over again...and again. Picture books used to be only for children but no more. Beautifully illustrated books for adults are just as thrilling.
I've provided links for you to buy the books if you choose. I'm sure you'll drool over them as much as I do.
I wrote this poem several years ago for my mom for Mother's Day, and now that she has gone on to heaven, I found it while cleaning her house. I still feel the same.
I am blessed to have had Inez Dewar as my mother.
A Good Mother
Thank-you, Mom, for loving me
For encouraging all that I can be
Thank-you that I am able to see
You're a good mother
Never a mentor so profound
Who lifts me up when I am down
Could I be certain would be around
You're a good mother
I realize as the years go past
And children grow up so very fast
That yours is a love that will always last
You're a good mother
As now I'm approaching middle age
And time turns yet another page
I see with the wisdom of a sage
You're a good mother
When you've finished the course and run the race
And heaven's reserved you a special place
Tell the Lord, when you see Him face to face,
You're a good mother.
Copyright 2017 Wendy Dewar Hughes, All Rights Reserved
Sometimes I don’t want to do anything. I sit by the window and look out. The neighbour drives by in his little red car. I see a hummingbird zip past, stopping briefly to examine a leaf. The forsythia blossoms are finished, dear. It darts away.
Clouds tumble over the mountains. Will we get sun? It’s iffy, but the clouds today put on a show all their own.
I sit here knowing I should want to do the things on my list, but I don’t even want to want to. I want to do nothing, or at least nothing “important”. I am fine with reading a few chapters in a novel, or even turning on the television in the daytime (heaven forbid!), though I don’t. I don’t want to enough.
I heard on the radio that spring floods are ravishing neighbourhoods, sweeping away homes and filling basements with water. People have to evacuate for fear of being swept away with the rising water.
While natural disasters like this can be terrifying, being flooded by activity, obligations, and social pressures can catch us just as unawares.
“I’m so busy!”
That seems to be the cry of the modern working person—and even sometimes the retired person. As a culture, being busy has become like a badge of worth somehow.
I’m not going to belabour the point, but I think this is the wrong direction to go. For one thing, it sets you up for a fall. Running around like your shirttail is on fire leads to exhaustion sooner or later.
I know of what I speak having been in business for a decade and a half. Work can easily overwhelm a life, but so can other things, such as childcare, elder care, and extra-curricular activities, and especially if they all happen at once.
Lately, I’m feeling like it’s all been too much. Do you ever feel like that?
I went to the library a few days ago, and had no enthusiasm for books. (I know. Weird, right?) My lilac tree bloomed and was done before I could cut any blossoms and bring them inside. I went shopping briefly at one of my favourite stores, and left with nothing after wandering around for ten minutes.
Sometimes you just don’t want to do anything. It’s a sign. When you don’t want to do anything, perhaps that’s exactly what you should do.
And me? Right now, I’m going to go and sit by the window. The clouds are spectacular and looking at them is enough. And the sun came out.
Yesterday I cleaned out my piano bench. It was full of cassette tapes. We all know that cassettes have now gone the way of the 8-track and the video rental store so even though I still own a stereo unit that will play cassettes, I haven’t listened to most of them in years.
Time marches on. We adopt new technologies, try new ideas, and buy new things. It’s so easy to simply leave something on the shelf where it has always lived and close the door without dealing with it. We still own it but don’t really need or want to have it.
Last week I sat at breakfast with a darling friend who told me about what she called, “my injury”. This person went through a terrible ordeal and still suffers the consequences. My heart went out to her.
However, it struck me that she is not only dealing with the after-effects of the injury but still owns it as her own. She hasn’t let go of it and relegated it to the past as something that happened to her from which she can move on, rather than something that she still accepts as part of her. She still carries it around.
I spent last week cleaning out my mother’s house. Cupboards and closets were stuffed with items than I’m sure she’d forgotten about years ago. It’s different when clearing someone else’s effects than cleaning out your own closet skeletons, I get that, but boy, it has sure made me take a hard look at my own trailing clutter.
The cassette tapes all went out the door. With the piano bench empty, I had room for music books and sheet music. Then the ragged pages and coverless music books went in the recycling, and the good ones that I no longer want, go to the used bookstore. The stand where they’ve languished for more years than I care to count now goes too. (I never liked that thing.)
Possessions that I no longer want to own are moving out of my life to make more room for the objects that give me joy.
The incidents and events that have happened in my past are like those belongings in my house that are no longer necessary. They’ve made an impact and won’t be forgotten. But I don’t need them anymore so I no longer own them as mine. Yesterday’s stuff can stay in the past.
Today is a new day with new possibilities, new choices, and new chances for wonder and happiness. A light heart is not encumbered by yesterday’s burdens.
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I’ve never been on a football team, a hockey team or even a cheer leading team. But I did play a little basketball in high school. Our school was so small that you didn’t have to be tall or even very good to play basketball; you just had to show up.
During my stint as a basketball player I had two different coaches.
Coach Ann hollered a lot, often until she was had turned a dangerous-looking shade of purple, noticed every mistake the players made, and pointed out our errors in front of the rest of the team for the benefit of all.
Coach Jenn also shouted a lot, jumped up and down, and cheered when any of us made a great pass or a basket, and reinforced our successes while training us to do better.
Even when we lost, which was fairly often, she encouraged us by saying we had done a good job and that next time would be better.
Which coach to you suppose helped us win more games? Both, each in her own way, or you could say, neither, given our dismal record of wins.
But Coach Jenn made us want to play better and win more games than Coach Ann did. Coach Ann made us want to quit.
When one or the other of my daughters is having a down day, she sometimes calls and intones in a plaintive voice, “Mom, I need a pep talk.”
Since I’m a pretty positive person by nature it’s not too difficult to think of something uplifting when the need arises. Sometimes, it’s as simple as saying, “You can do this,” or “It will work out, you’ll see.”
An encouraging word from a friend can make all the difference in keeping going or giving up. Commiserating isn’t usually helpful.
If someone you know is miserable, what good will it do to become miserable with her? (Misery may love company but it doesn't help.)
To encourage means to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence. How we need those things sometimes!
My aim is to encourage us all to believe in ourselves more, to be inspired, to know we are not alone, or just to laugh.
I write to inspire you with courage, spirit and confidence. Whatever you want or need to do, know that you can have the courage required to do it.
You have the strength, the ability, or the inspiration to follow through.
I read somewhere that there is enough land in Australia for the entire population of the world to live, have a piece of land, and grow enough food to feed them.
I don’t know how true this is, but it does point to the obvious abundance that surrounds us all the time. The world has enough for everyone, even though the population keeps growing. We’re not running short.
There is enough sky for each of us to see; enough joy for anyone who wants more. My having more love doesn’t take it from anyone else. In fact, more love, kindness, and happiness increases it for everyone.
There is enough stuff. One day I was shopping in a mall near where I live and thought about how many stores there are in that mall, all filled with goods. It’s not a large mall but there are thousands of articles available to buy there.
In the next town there are more malls filled with things. Extrapolate that image to thousands of cities around the world and try to imagine how much stuff there is available to own.
My point isn’t that we should try to own a lot of it, rather that our choices and the available products are unlimited. If I buy a pair of shoes, it doesn’t mean that someone else goes without shoes. It means that the shoemakers manufacture more shoes. The more people who get shoes, the more shoes there are.
Think about the abundance of fruit that falls from trees every year. Down the street from my house there is a big old apple tree growing on an empty lot. It blossoms every year and brings forth masses of fruit, much of which falls to the ground and rots.
There is enough opportunity in the world for everyone. After all, you can create your own! Imagination is limitless; you just have to learn how to use it.
There is no shortage of goodness in the world, and plenty to go around. God is good and he is in the world with us. Goodness can never run out.
Our expectations colour how we see the world and our experiences in it. If you look for misery, you’re bound to find it because it does exist and is there for the taking.
However, joy, happiness, contentment, and ease are there for our enjoyment.
When you open yourself up to receive these good things, you will.
After all, you are loved.
March is my birthday month and I’ve taken to using my birthday as a reason to celebrate for the entire month. (I use other reasons in other months.)
On my actual birthday, I went to Vancouver to visit my daughters and my little granddaughter. Last weekend, as a birthday treat, my husband and I went to Washington state for a day trip.
We like to explore and take back roads, especially when it doesn’t matter if we get lost. I was blessed with a good sense of direction, perhaps from growing up on the prairies where it’s important, so I almost always know the direction we need to travel.
“Just keep heading in that direction,” I say. It generally gets us there even if we have to take detours.
We didn't let the rain and grey skies stop us from having a great day.
Our destination was the little historical town of La Conner, which is pretty, has lovely shops and a few restaurants, and is on a channel that leads out to the Pacific.
This winter has been a hard one for me. As you know, I’m not a winter fan and this year it never seemed to quit, and we've had lots of dark days. On top of that, my mom died. That’s not something you just get over quickly.
So, I’ve been feeling like I really need a break. I work at home, so to leave work, I have to leave home. If I don’t, invariably work sneaks into my “off” time.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the creative and inspiring work that I do. But in order to stay healthy, I know it’s important to take breaks. Going away is good for the soul.
Speaking of detours, it’s not unusual in life to set out in one direction then get diverted, often through no fault of our own, onto another path. Stuff happens, and we have to respond.
But just like my driving excursions, if you keep heading in the direction you want to go, sooner or later you’ll get there. Just keep going.
When I was a teenager, my dad decided that it would be a good idea for the family to take up downhill skiing. The fact that we lived on the flat Saskatchewan prairie hundreds of miles from even a hill did not deter him.
We were duly outfitted with skis, boots, snowsuits, goggles, and special ski gloves, and off we went to the nearest ski hill. It was just a hill, situated in the Cypress Hills of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, several hours drive from home. The Saskatchewan side had one slope with a rope tow for getting back to the top of the hill—a good place to start for a bunch of novices.
Once we felt we’d mastered the single slope, which took mere minutes to descend, for our next excursion we moved on to the Alberta side where a ski resort of perhaps three runs stood in a park at Elkwater Lake.
By our second or third season as skiers, we branched out to the big time and drove over six hours to the Rocky Mountains at Banff to ski. Eye-popping, mogul-bashing slopes covered half a mountainside. And there were real chairlifts and a ski lodge complete with overpriced cafeteria food.
Somewhere along the line, it dawned on me that these ski excursions were a lot of work. Getting up in the cold, dark, wee hours of the morning, piling on loads of bulky gear, and dragging skis and heavy boots to the bottom of the hill wasn’t my idea of a really great time. (I'm the indoorsy type.)
Sure, the skiing had its fun moments, and for some members of the family, those moments far outweighed the exertion of getting there, and reversing the procedures, tired and hungry, when the winter sun sank below the nearest peaks.
After I left home as a young adult, I skied only a few more times. Usually, it was with friends from university, or when my family came to town for another skiing expedition. I even skied in the Swiss Alps, on the Matterhorn once. It was spectacular and I am forever grateful for having the experience.
We do things, sometimes for the sole reason that we do those things. It’s what our crowd does, or the family does, and we continue without questioning the value it conveys to our lives.
After I skied at the Matterhorn, quitting halfway through the afternoon to sit in the sun at the lodge, I realized that the cost of skiing, in terms of energy, effort, discomfort, and money, was simply too high compared to the pleasure and joy that I derived from the activity. I made the decision not to be a person who skis. I’ve never skied since that day more than thirty years ago.
Am I saying you shouldn’t ski? Of course not. If you love it and it’s worth it for you, by all means, have at it and enjoy yourself.
My point is whether the cost versus the return on your investment in terms of emotional commitment, time, energy, and money—if that even applies—is worth what you receive in return.
We are fortunate to have choices about how we want to spend our lives. In order simplify life, and therefore have more ease, we all need to look at what is costing more than it’s providing.
Wishing for more time, energy, or money for what you truly value is a great place to start, but without paring away those pursuits where the expenditure is greater than the payback, we’re destined to remain in that place I call hopeless hoping. We want things to be different, we wish they were, but we don’t know where to begin to change them.
(If you’re not clear on what you truly value, my program, The Wish Plan, can help you find that out.)
Instead of carrying on doing the same stuff you’ve always done, just because you’ve always done it, why not measure the out-go against the in-come? It might surprise you to discover that a lot of your daily joy is draining out of you because your simplicity balance sheet is out of whack.
By stepping back and viewing habits and activities in light of the impact they have on our lives, positive and negative, we can ascertain whether on not to continue to pursue them, or would dropping them make your life more meaningful.
I was talking with a friend from my little town last night while standing in line (for the ladies’ room) and she asked me, “Are you writing any new books? Are you doing more art? What are you doing these days?”
“Too many questions,” I answered. I gave her a brief overview as I headed for my turn in a cublicle. “Right now, I’m writing short fiction, doing more artwork, creating gorgeous letters…” or something along that line.
It might surprise you that my focus for this month is: Simplify. It’s not a concept I spend much time on. There are always far too many new things I want to try. It's just that recently I've had a reminder.
When I was working on cleaning my parent’s home a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but recall the number of times my mom had said, “Oh, yes, I’m going to get to that.”
“That” was sorting through storage and clearing out clutter. Too often, as we discovered, she never did get to it. All those closets and storage cupboards filled with projects and items that had long since lost their usefulness to her remained in the house, helping no one.
Looking through all these things she left behind when she moved on to heaven made me think more about simplifying my own surroundings. I’m not talking about simplicity per se, or minimalism. I like my stuff and enjoy visual activity. As a visual artist, I really like to be able to see the things I own. Minimalism usually comes across to me as bare and cold.
The same applies to activities. I had a short conversation with a friend this week about gardening. She had the impression that I’ve never set foot in a garden, which is completely false. When my children were younger, we had a big garden and grew vegetables, fruit, flowers, and shrubs.
However, there came a point in my business where extra-curricular activities had to be curtailed because I wanted to spend more time writing and painting. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy gardening; it is simply that I value my time spent in arts far more. For that to happen, something has to go. (I still have flower beds and containers, though.)
It’s all about the value you place on things in your life. If the value is high, keep it. If the value is low, consider eliminating it and simplify your life. This will leave you with more time and more space for what you really care about.
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Last week I travelled to the province of Saskatchewan to work on clearing nearly 60 years of living from my parents' house. My dad built the house, then a few years later added on to it, including a full basement. He was a good builder, as well as a farmer and cattleman, and built in storage wherever my mom asked for it.
She had a lot of interests and boy, did she fill up those cupboards, shelves, and closets. Amongst the articles discovered were lots of old letters and cards, some nearly 100 years old.
An old scrapbook contained beautiful little cards and handwritten notes from my mother's bridal shower and my parents' wedding. They would have been married 68 years this November so that gives you an idea of the ages of these delicate papers.
I don't know if printed cards where difficult to find in those days, or if people simply couldn't get somewhere to shop for them, but many greetings were hand-written on tiny slips of paper; some well-wishers even drew pictures on the folded sheets and created their own cards.
Among my mother's things, stored away at the back of cabinets in her sewing room, I found letter stationery in beautiful boxes, some never opened. Letter writing was common before email supplanted it as a means of communication and boxes of pretty stationery made lovely gifts.
I remember collecting such things when I was a teenager and had pen pals from different parts of the world. One year for Christmas my mom ordered monogrammed stationery for my sister and me. She was a classy lady.
Do you remember the thrill of receiving a letter in the mail? I do. The words, "You have a letter," never failed cause excitement. Chores were finished faster so I could sneak away to savour those precious words from a friend.
When I was in high school, my sister went on an extended backpacking trip around Europe (these were the '70s) and wrote letters home on thin airmail paper detailing her travels and what she had seen and done.
I still love receiving letters in the mail, though it seem like now they are mostly stuffy, business-like things, such as bank statements. My mailbox is down the street from my house (here in Canada they're called community mailboxes, I think), so when I get a "real" letter, I can't wait to rush home and open it.
Letters tell us that someone cares, and that they are thinking of us. Even more exciting is receiving a package in the mail, especially when it contains a gift. Oooh, joy!
I've always loved writing and paper, and I know I'm not alone in my love a receiving delightful letters.
Just look at these adorable papers and cards. It takes so little to make life pretty — just a touch here and there, a small detail that brings joy, or a moment of silent reflection.
My mom was one of my most ardent supporters. She subscribed to everything I've created and insisted on paying me for anything that I had for sale. I wrote and painted always knowing that mom would be seeing what I created. I sure miss her.
Just when we thought it was over, winter showed up again. The snowdrops in my front flower bed were about to open their darling white blossoms but now are buried in snow.
It has snowed steadily for a day and a half, covering cars, causing bushes to bend under the weight, and forming icicles from eves. And it shows no signs of stopping any time soon. While the temperatures are not terribly cold, blasts of wind blow snow around into drifts and into faces. Here is the forecast for the week. Showers after snow...very messy.
How pretty this window is with its fringe of icicles. Notice the little snow hats on the shrub on the left. It's a sure sign that the temperature is not deep cold when icicles form. It has to be warm enough for ice to melt a little.
From a bedroom window, I saw this little Junco taking a break in the honeysuckle thatch. I love how these bird fluff their feathers up so they look like balls with beaks and tails.
The street was nearly empty except for a few hardy souls. Most rushed from one stop to the next, heads bent against the wind and blowing snow. In winter, you get to see the trees in different form than when they have leaves. They are quite beautiful both ways.
There is something melancholy about an empty park bench in winter. It's like it is waiting for spring all alone. Of course, you can sit on such a bench but you're likely to get a cold, and possibly wet, bottom from it.
My boots are short so I don't generally attempt walking in deep snow. But to cross the street to the park, I had to plunge through a drift. Yes, the snow went over the tops of my boots and left me with wet ankles. Don't you love my jazzy pants, though?
I bought this new parka to go to Saskatchewan for my mom's funeral in January. I thought I would wear it on the prairies then come home and hang it in the closet for the rest of the year. Alas, it has turned out to be more needful than I expected and I am glad to have it.
I read somewhere recently that winter is a time for the earth to rest. While I might differ on that idea, one of the best things to do when the snow keeps falling is stay inside and get cozy. I don't have a fireplace but I do have a thermostat and a warm wool throw to wrap up in.
My husband and I cuddle up on the sofa and watch travel videos or Netflix movies.
I could use a season of rest from the wheel of the mind, couldn't you?
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When I was little, growing up on the farm, I remember my grandfather saying, "If times get tough we can always survive on east wind and rabbit tracks." Thankfully, it never came to that because I'm not sure it would have worked out well.
Here are some rabbit tracks, or snowshoe hare tracks, to be more precise, along with paw prints from some other little visitors to the farm yard.
Last weekend, I travelled to Saskatchewan to put my mother's body to rest in the ground of the prairie land that she loved, the landscape where she had lived her entire life.
The prairies have a singular beauty that the uninitiated (those from elsewhere) often miss. The lack of obvious visual activity, such as mountains or trees, causes those unfamiliar with the landscape to miss the finer details of the setting. For example, it never fails that when I visit the prairies I see far more wildlife than in any other locale, including the Rocky Mountains.
This trip was no exception. More than once we spotted husky, well-fed, and well-furred, coyotes loping across the stubble fields. Last fall was not a good one for the farmers as constant rain prevented them from bringing in their crops, many of which still lay in the fields, now covered with snow. However, this situation is a boon for coyotes and foxes because mice and other small rodents can have a field day in the windrows, making for good eats for the predators.
We also saw several herds of deer, many in number, and when we stopped the car to gaze at them they leapt, with ease, over a nearby fence, and trotted away.
There is a reason that Saskatchewan's slogan is, Land of Living Skies. Nowhere compares to the show that the sky puts on every morning and evening. The photo above was taken just prior to sunrise when the light painted the thin clouds in hues of burnt sienna and bright yellow.
In January, mornings come late and evening descends early, but in between the sky is clear and bright most days. Because the landscape is flat, you can't help but notice the sky. It is a presence. At night, we were blessed with a full moon.
Looking west from the farmhouse in the morning, that same old moon hung in the sky like it was reluctant to leave. This sky was a delicate watercolour wash of pink into lavender blue.
If you've ever wondered what southern Alberta looks like, wonder no more.
This shot was taken from the car window, hence the funny reflection. It was far too cold out to open the window while driving so I had to snap this on the fly.
Being away from home, for whatever reason, gives me time to reflect on my life and what direction I'm going with it. Losing my mom, while a sad time, has also signalled the end of a chapter in my life. (Officially, I'm an orphan now as my father passed away about two years ago.)
We arrived home late on Sunday night. By Monday morning I was sick with a deep chest cough and a fever. It has clung to me all week, I'm sure a result of accumulation of grief, stress, and lack of sleep. I needed the rest, but I didn't need to be sick.
I have had something on my mind for several months now, an idea that won't go away and keeps popping up again and again. Until now, I've made that idea sit on the sidelines as I worked on my clients' books and other projects. But leaving it to the leftover time in my days (of which there is extremely little) has meant not moving forward with something I think people will love, and that I believe has value.
I have decided that now that we're in a new year, it's time to pay attention to what is truly important for me. In fact, though I don't always do this, I felt compelled to choose a word to keep me focussed this year. It is, attention.
Paying attention to too many things, plenty of which don't even matter that highly to me, means that I don't have the energy to give attention to the important ones. So this year, I'm giving attention to what matters most and am beginning to eliminate what doesn't. There is only so much time and energy to go around. I want it to go to the right things.
Now that I'm back home, in the land of mountains, forests, and farms, my attention is turning to 2017 and its possibilities and promises.
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In the fall, I decided that this would be a good year to stay home for Christmas. I invited my daughters and their families, but it was not to be. So we hung our stockings at my daughter's apartment and nodded off at a nearby hotel.
Christmas in the city is exciting and fun. We arrived on Christmas Eve, did a little shopping foray down the street and back. My younger daughter is "with child" and had a queasy stomach and her two year-old was running out of steam so the shopping trip was short and slow. Just perfect, in fact, as the sun decided to come out and hung low in the afternoon sky for a short while before disappearing below the horizon. Such is winter at this latitude.
I did have a chance to nip into the Indigo bookstore, which was crazy busy, and pick up a copy of Susan Branch's book, The Fairy Tale Girl. (I feel like Susan and I are kindred spirits, both artists and authors.)
The city is such a busy place, especially noticeable when you come from a quiet village. (That's my daughter turning to see if I got side-tracked by a jewelry story window. I sure did!)
Little tummies need constant filling with fruit and protein, and grown-ups need stops at Starbucks for hot chocolate for energy to keep shopping. The French says "prepared with love."
Small apartments require small trees, and though we decided this year (again) not to exchange gifts with each other, none of us ever seems to comply. As someone said, "There are a lot of presents under that tree for a family that isn't giving presents." Christmas day is also my son-in-law's birthday. The most popular person was, by far, my two year-old granddaughter.
On Christmas morning we woke up to SNOW! This is the view from our hotel room window, looking at hospitals and the alley. My husband was thrilled to watch a medivac helicopter lift off the roof of the hospital in the dark.
With temperatures hovering near zero, the streets were as slick as waxed floors. Going down this little hill could have ended in a crunch but we turned and drove the other way instead. The stop sign should have been farther up the hill.
On Boxing Day we visited with our "kids" some more then drove home through intermittent snow and rain. Where I live it doesn't snow often so most drivers here on the west coast are totally flummoxed by snowy weather and roads with even an inch of snow on them.
My husband and I both grew up on the Canadian prairies where winter lasts a long time and the weather conditions have to be pretty bad before you let them stop you from doing what you want. Driving here on the coast is a bit frustrating because of the other drivers. So a one and a half hour trip home took nearly three hours.
We learned to be prepared for anything and never leave home in the winter without the proper gear in the car. Once we are snug in our little house, the fat flakes can come down as much as they want to and we can enjoy how pretty it all is.
With snow falling outside, it's the perfect time to do a little painting. My Christmas cactus suffered this year and I don't know how to revive it. I'm hoping that it gets enough light but the days are short and grey here in this season. I thought I might as well use it as a sketching subject. I've been practising with waterbrushes, which are so much fun. I have some ideas for book projects that include illustrations...but more on that later.
Before I take my tree down and tuck away all the festive decorations for another year, I thought I would give you a quick tour of my house. The whole season seemed to come and go quickly this year, since I had lots of work to do all fall. My mom has been in hospital too, in precarious health, so that has been on my mind.
The Christmas village sits atop the piano. Oh dear, I see a tree has toppled and that policeman must be looking for someone to haul it away. The music is my husband's favourite so I bought the sheet music for him to learn. After one lesson, he quit, deciding it was much easier to let me play it for him.
My sparkly blue and white theme acts as a counterpoint for my olive wood crêche, hand made by an Israeli man with whom I used to work. It is one of my most treasured Christmas decorations because it reminds me of that night so long ago when a young lady and her husband trudged through a town looking for a place for their baby to be born.
For years I said, "One day I'll have a white tree." Then, one day I saw one on sale for such an excellent price that I snapped it up and decorated it with sparkly blue and green decorations. I still have my green tree and all the old-fashioned ornaments from over the years. Perhaps next year I will put it up, too.
Blues, white, sparkles, candles, and shells sit atop my antique writing desk. The sand in the jar is from Sanibel Island, Florida, and the painting is one that I did of the South of France, very near where I lived several years ago.
I clipped this silk magnolia blossom to the top of a lamp along with a sparkly bird. When the lamp is turned on the effect is quite striking, don't you think?
Christmas cards find a place in a cut glass dish on my silver chest (which has books in it) along with my piano lamp, which had to move to make room for the village. You can see the snow outside the window and the dried blossoms of my hydrangea bush, snoozing away until spring comes again.
Now it's snowing again. The year 2016 in nearly over and it's time to look forward to another new year, full of possibilities and opportunities.
I hope your year was a good one, that your Christmas holiday time was filled with love and friendship and remembrance of the real reason for the season, Jesus Christ's birth. As we look forward to a new year, I wish and pray for you, good health, great success, and dreams that come true.
I have lots of exciting plans and changes for my business and my website this year. I think you will love what is coming up. To be sure not to miss all the news and creative ideas, join my email list today HERE. I will let you know when each new blog post is up, plus all the other fun things that will be happening here.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
During this season of parties and events with friends and family, it's fun to enjoy the efforts of hosts in decorating their homes. Last week I had the pleasure of being a guest in the home of Wilf and Karen. We have been friends for many years and have spent many pleasant hours in this home that Wilf built. Karen's decorating style is "a little bit country", which suits its country location.
There's nothing quite like a warm hearth on a chilly winter day.
Karen has decorated the mantel with a collection of festive touches including a gold, mercury-style glass candle holder, red and gold berries in the swag, and red candles.
A vintage Christmas tree decoration box sits next to a crock and an antique oil lamp at the base of the fireplace.
Old-fashioned and whimsical tree ornaments appeal to all ages, but especially to Karen and Wilf's two young grandsons.
It doesn't take a lot to turn an antique trunk holding an old radio and a shabby chic lamp into a setting for a Christmas vignette. Add a cross-stitched picture and a fun moose snow globe complete the effect.
A true country Christmas corner features an antique tin wash tub on an old sled and a garland of wooden hearts.
A trio of Christmas characters guard a shelf with painted wood letters spelling JOY. The candle snuffer with a checkered handle waits to be put to work at the end of the evening.
Karen's pride and joy is her porcelain Christmas village complete with glowing lights, busy characters, and snow.
Many thanks to Karen for allowing me to feature her charming home.
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Last week I had the pleasure of being a guest in the beautiful home and Maria and Yuri designed and built. Maria has what she calls "a knack" for decorating. And how!
Maria's Christmas decor with a silver and white theme, and touches of gold, that suited her home perfectly. Sparkle set off the neutral decor palette. See what I mean...
Tree decorations and ornaments in white, silver and gold. Here are some close ups of the individual touches.
Don't you love the little ram?
A frosty evergreen spray rests on a cream and gold brocade tree skirt.
Long glass teardrops and shimmering tassels hang from lower branches. A hurricane lamp chimney hold a collection of shiny gold balls.
Sparkle everywhere in gold and silver.
Sparkling sprays and sprigs intersperse with glittery ribbons.
On the top of the tree, a sequined star shimmers.
Maria placed this trio of trees before a tall mirror near the front door, doubling their dazzling effect.
Simple, silver-spangled twigs accent a resting reindeer in gold. (How do you like my alliteration?)
This elegant, old-world St. Nick carries a basket of glorious goodies on his back and stands guard next to the base of the tree.
Take a close look at this side-board collection and you'll find some simple ideas that I'm sure Maria wouldn't mind if you borrow. Tall, plain glass vases hold both black and silver twigs, hung with silver baubles. Cream candles on mercury glass holders and long-stemmed candle holders topped with silver balls sparkle in the light of a berry-festooned garland.
A collection of plain white candles sits on a silver charger, sprinkled around with various sized "gems".
A pair of pale gold reindeer camouflage a stereo speaker.
Coordinating wire trees grace each end of the fireplace mantle.
An alcove next to the fireplace gets its own Christmas treatment.
This pair of silver wire trees sits on the floor next to the fireplace, and opposite the Christmas tree. The perfect counterpoint.
Notice how Maria has balanced her decorations without having them be identical.
Wide windowsills avail themselves of glass snowflakes and silver and glass candle sleeves.
A festive centrepiece nestles amid silvered cane balls, sparkling gems, and sugary snow.
With a quick look at the living room sectional, festooned with elegant throw cushions, you can see how Maria's Christmas decorations tie in beautifully with the decor of the home.
Many thanks to Maria for allowing me to feature her home and decorations.
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It’s winter here now. A few days ago it snowed—a lot. Then the winds came. The sky cleared and the temperature dropped. And still the wind blows. A lot.
At this latitude, the sun gets over the mountains just before ten o’clock in the morning and disappears by 4:00. It’s dark a lot at this time of year.
Winter is hard. Yesterday I went grocery shopping. When I finally found a parking spot in the dark (at 4:30) and beat the wind into the store, there were no carts. I stood beside a mother with a toddler on her hip and looked at three carts chained and padlocked to a steel bar. You can only shake your head.
I trudged around the parking lot until I found a cart shed with some buggies in it and heaved two of them through the snow and ice into the store with me. Another mom, with one child on her hip and another at her knee, sagged with relief when I offered her my extra cart. I saw a car accident happen on my way home.
Once home again, I fought to bring my boxes of groceries in against a vicious wind that threatened to rip the front door off every time I opened it. Going back for another box, I fell on the ice and bruised a knee. Admittedly, I have a bleak view of winter. I don’t enjoy winter sports and though cozying up by the fire with a hot chocolate and a good book is a wonderful vision, it’s never the only thing you have to do.
A good friend of mine has cancer. A neighbour just lost his job. Someone I love is pregnant and feels sick all the time. Another is struggling with being physically able to do her job well. There is no money for health care and an older couple I know is feeling desperate. My mom is in hospital.
In life, stuff happens; stuff we don’t want to have happen. It’s like winter comes, it won’t leave, and there is no summer in sight. We cry out, “God, why is this happening to me?” Or, sometimes, “God, why are you doing this to me?”
Jesus said, “I have told you all this (what’s going to happen) so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart (and cheer up), because I have overcome the world.”
You mean it isn’t God who is doing this to me? Then who is?
In a metaphor using himself as a shepherd, us as sheep (the resemblance is not lost on me), and the force of evil (Satan) as a thief, Jesus says, “The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them (us, the sheep) a rich and satisfying life.”
For years, Jesus’ comment to take heart because he had overcome the world perplexed me. What about my problem that won’t seem to go away? What about when life is anything but rich and satisfying, when it’s actually poor and unsatisfying, or downright awful?
What exactly am I to do?
In another scripture, Jesus said this: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.”
It brings me to this question: How much of what we suffer is simply fear? When things don’t work out like I want them to, I have a choice. I can move into fear, or I can move into Jesus’ peace. When I trust that his goal for me is a rich and satisfying life and that he’s working against the force of evil that wants to take that away, I can have peace—his kind of peace.
I have learned that the more I believe in God’s plans to give me a rich and satisfying life, the more it happens that way. Things will still come along because we live in a world where evil also dwells, yet we can live in peace in the midst of it.
In the midst of winter there is a warm, safe place to be. At the same time, I can know that summer isn’t far away. Through whatever comes along, I can take heart and cheer up because the overcomer is on my side working always to make my life rich and satisfying.
Is this easy? Sometimes; sometimes not. Still, when I see that my only two choices are fear or peace, and I get to choose, I’ll take peace.
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For several years each spring I had the privilege of having a relative come for a visit. For her, this was an inexpensive getaway, and for me, a chance to spend lots of time with one of my dearest friends. I miss having more females in the house since my daughters left home, so having her come to visit provided the opportunity to compare clothes, do our hair, have afternoon tea, and watch chick flicks.
I am a reluctant hostess. I require lots of time alone to think and stay focused, and as a business owner with my operations centred in my home, having guests is a disruption I can seldom afford.
Usually, talk about acts of graciousness applies to the hosts, but little is spoken of regarding the gracious guest. Synonyms for graciousness include friendly, favourable, polite, kind, mild, gentle. I would add, with regard to being a guest - adaptable, accommodating, accepting, cheerful, thankful and helpful.
As a guest it is important to consider the feelings, habits and schedules of your hosts and adapt yourself to them as much as possible. Seek to please wherever and whenever you can. Offer to help, mean it, and do a good job of it.
During one of my guest’s visits, I experienced a particularly busy and stressful season in my business. She asked how she could help me the most. I replied that if she could take over some of the meal planning and preparation it would be a huge relief to me. Though she readily confesses that she is no cook, she cheerfully took on the task without complaint and we accepted her efforts gratefully. She also made sure to give us time alone and with each other. I thank her to this day for her willingness to adapt herself to our needs.
Another important aspect of being the gracious guest is in thankfully accepting what is offered. Your standards at home may differ greatly from those of your hosts, but remember that they have honoured you by inviting you to spend time with them in their home. To criticize, pass judgement, or “turn up your nose” about how they live is the utmost in bad manners.
By accepting what you are offered with grace and charm you eliminate the possibility of hurt feelings, and you will succeed in preserving a valuable friendship. Keep your moods and opinions to yourself unless they are cheerful. No one wants to spend time under the same roof with a disagreeable person.
The best part of being a gracious guest is that you will always be invited back for another visit. Because of her graciousness, kindness, and lovely disposition, my guest is welcome in our home any time. In fact, we hope she comes again soon to brighten our lives.
Do you ever wonder how some people can do so much, get so much done, or go so far? It’s as if there is some super-human secret to accomplishment that no one told you.
Well, it’s not super-human and it’s not a secret.
Here is how it works:
Decide what you want to do.
Write it down. Make a list of everything that you want to do from now on in your life.
List those items that you want to do this year.
Decide which ones you want to start on right now. Be sure to keep it doable. Don’t put thirty-two items on your list and try to work on all of them. You will get discouraged and quit. Pick the most important and/or the easiest to get done.
Plan your steps.
Let’s say you want to learn to paint, or to play an instrument. What is the first step you need to take to begin to accomplish your desire? Do you need to find a class or a teacher? Take that step. Then take the next step.
Say you want to clean the garage, plant a tree, do a craft, and learn photography. Each item on your list has steps to accomplishment. Figure out what those steps are and get started today.
Once you make up your mind to do something, don’t go back on that decision. Being wishy-washy guarantees that you won’t follow through. If you’re on today, and off tomorrow, your motivation will go out the window. Stick with your program.
Celebrate your success.
When you have accomplished what you set out to do, give yourself a pat on the back, or celebrate with something that makes you happy. In fact, you can build the reward in when you start.
A deferred treat for accomplishing your goal makes for good motivation to keep going when you start to run out of enthusiasm.
If you need help with any or all of these steps, you will love The Wish Plan. It takes you through a series of easy exercises to reveal what you love most, and helps you make a plan to bring more of those things into your life.
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I work with a lot of writers and I have taught art classes, led writing workshops, and tutored both artists and writers.
Sometimes people ask me if they should take a class or a course, either online or locally, in person. Here is my answer:
It depends what your goal is.
Yes, you should take a class, or some kind of instruction if you want to improve your work. This can be done in a myriad of ways. When I began exploring watercolours my first step was to borrow books from my local library and study what different artists recommended.
I learned early on that there are many different approaches even in this one medium. Since my goal was to increase my skill level, i.e. become more professional, I enrolled in a studio class that I continued to attend for a couple of years. In that class I learned many techniques how to use the medium to produce work that reflected my own style.
(Coincidentally, in the studio next door, another class leader taught all the students to copy the style of the instructor.)
During that same period I also decided I wanted to develop my writing skills. I followed the same pattern. First, library books, and then writing classes. Both were beneficial.
All this took place before the advent of the Internet and online courses. Now, I’m a big fan of classes online. They are easy and quick to access and you can start almost immediately after you’ve made the decision. You can generally work at your own pace without leaving home.
Among the disadvantages of courses online is that you will likely be working alone and unless you’re self-motivated, you may find that life gets in the way of finishing what you started. However, a well-done course or leaders will usually also offer follow up, a forum, or Facebook group so you stay engaged and motivated until the end.
A local class or course offers the benefit of social contact but requires you to show up at a specific time. It is fun to get together with others who share your interest and to learn as a group. The downside can be heading out on a dark and stormy night may put you off getting to the class.
So, here is my question:
If you wanted to pursue either a writing course, or an art course, which would you prefer: online or in person?
Please leave your answer as a comment below as your choice will help me to develop some programs that I have in mind. Thanks.
“I might forgive but I’ll never forget.”
Forgiving someone who has wronged or hurt you is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make. This might surprise you, but you don’t have to forget. What you want to do is take the pain out of that memory. However, if you don’t forgive, you will be the one who keeps on suffering.
Someone has wronged you.
The important thing to remember is that forgiving doesn’t mean that you have not been wronged. On the contrary, if you believe that you have been wronged you are going to feel it. You will know if you feel hurt, insulted, or rejected. What that person did may have been entirely unintentional. Or it may not have.
Acknowledge to yourself that you believe you have been wronged. What that means is that you believe that someone owed you something and did not deliver. It can be that you are owed respect, but were treated disrespectfully. You may feel that you were owed kindness or understanding, and received cruelty or meanness instead.
The reasons for being wronged vary from the simple, such as a snippy comeback, to the horrific, such as physical or emotional abuse. It might surprise you to realize that it doesn’t matter the intensity or character of the wrong. What matters is your response to it.
Bitterness takes root.
Unforgiveness begins like a tiny seed that sprouts into anger, resentment, and offense. If allowed to grow it puts down roots and those roots are bitterness. When bitterness takes over your soul, it grows its friends, hostility, cynicism, scorn, contempt, and all manner of negative visitors. This is where the danger lies.
Science is only just beginning to admit what your grandma probably told you years ago—that negative emotions have a direct impact on your health and happiness. You see, not forgiving someone who has hurt you prolongs the pain for you long after the perpetrator has forgotten all about it. For the sake of your own health and peace you must forgive.
How do you let it go?
Try this method of forgiving:
(You understand that if someone has also broken the law, the appropriate action must be taken.)
The Bible says that vengeance belongs to God, not to us. By forgiving others, we free ourselves from the sentence of suffering for someone else’s wrongdoing.
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