Thursday, February 4, 2016

Book Review: "When God Made You"

    We recently got our hands on a 'hot off the press' copy of "When God Made You" by Jane G. Meyer and illustrated by Megan Elizabeth Gilbert. What a sweet little book!
   The premise of the books is the beautiful things God was thinking of when he was creating each and every person.
   The book explores the things used to make an array of children across the globe-- cheeriness, fireworks and pink fizzy candy trapped inside a purse to make Brigid, a golden chalice full of deep thoughts to make Hikaru, black silken hair from a desert horse's mane wound around a silver flute for Alia, and so on. 
   And as God breathes breath into each person, he commands what he wants them to do with their life-- "Dance!" "Speak!" "Sing!"

   Meyer's beautiful text and description of the things that go into making each child are so inventive, lovely and poignant. The reader cant help but ponder, "what wonderful things were used to make me?"

   The text is set off nicely by the winsome and colorful illustrations of Megan Elizabeth Gilbert, which use mixed media elements and bright colors to add to the description of each child.

   The book is published by Ancient Faith Publishing, an Orthodox Christian publishing house, yet is written and illustrated in a way that lends itself beautifully to many faith backgrounds.

   It is also captivating for a variety of ages--- my nearly 9 year old enjoyed reading the text herself, and letting the unique word combinations and names roll off her tongue.

  The toddler was more interested in the pictures, especially the front and back sleeves which depict all sorts of different people-- from saints to cowboys, to children doing handstands.

    "When God Made You" is now available through Ancient Faith Publishing and Also be sure to check out Jane's blog, which is such a fun and inspiring read, and great to share with any little budding authors that might live in your house!

    Now, off to read more great books!~

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Getting Creative for Candlemas

        When we first started exploring the liturgical year of the Christian church, one of my favorite things to learn about were the old holidays that you just dont hear about any more, with lovely lyrical names straight out of a Jane Austen novel. One of these lovely old holidays is today--- Candlemas!

  Candlemas-- "candlemus"-- in your best old English accent--- celebrates the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple and the purification of the Virgin Mary. As the story goes, St. Simeon and Anna recognize the infant as the longed for Messiah, the 'light of the world' in human form.

   Old tradition holds that this day is the day people would bring their candles to the church to be blessed by their priest. The candles, so special and blessed, were supposed to be able to ward of any ghosts or goblins which might be roaming the hillsides, and keep the little cottages safe and under God's protection. 

   There is no better sign of safety and warmth than a candle in the window, is there not? And in this time, as winter wanes but spring is not yet here, Candlemas ushers in the promise of Lent and later, Easter.

    If you've got little ones who you'd like to explore this old Holy Day with, a fun activity that is easy to do is create your own candles! This year I've partnered with the Anglican living blog The Homely Hours to offer this fun printable of The Blessed Mother presenting Jesus to Simeon, framed with snowdrops.

   The coloring page is available FREE to download HERE and you can print it out on sticker paper to adhere to a plain votive (which you can usually find at your local grocery store or dollar store) or if you'd rather, modge podge the finished image to the votive glass!

  Artist Bley Hack from Esther Bley has also offered up a beautiful ready-to-use Candlemas image that is so lovely and will look pretty displayed all year long. I just fell in love with her design!

  If you'd like more information on Anglican Candlemas, The Homely Hours has this great post.
For Candlemas information within other traditions you can visit Carrots for Michaelmas for a Roman Catholic perspective and The Greek Orthodox Diocese of America for the Orthodox Christian perspective. 

  All in all, its a lovely little day that I hope you enjoy as much as I do!~

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Feast of St. Brigid

   Good morning and happy Feast of St.Brigid! Brigid-- or Brigid of Ireland, Bride of Ireland or "Mary of the Gael'-- is one of my favorite saints. She was Irish, strong willed, inspiring, and giving. 
   The daughter of an Irish Chieftain and a slave woman, the story of Brigid is cloaked in legend, but one thing remains the same--- she was a strong woman of faith who created her own destiny from an early age.

Get my St. Brigid print HERE in my etsy shop

     It is said that Brigid converted to Christianity under the influence of none other than Saint Patrick himself. The daughter of a king and a slave, she was at once half princess, and half the lowliest of society. This made her compassionate and giving, and she was often in trouble for giving away the riches of her father!

   This painting of St. Brigid that I created a few years back was my very first saint portrait-- and what a fun saint to try to capture! To me, Brigid is spunky and brave, and beautiful in that her personality shines through her. Perhaps she had unruly red hair and freckles, but I'm sure her kindness made her simply lovely, and she had a way of drawing others to her and making things happen.

  So much so that she was able to convert many to her relatively new faith-- including her pagan father--- and is credited with founding the famous monastery of Kildare.

  She's a fun saint to get to know through her numerous legends, and share with children-- especially with girls who you want to inspire!

   Here are a few fun St. Brigid facts, projects and books from around the web for you to enjoy:

1. Make a St. Brigid's Cross from the instructions on THIS PAGE

2. Recipe for St. Bridig Irish Oaten Bread at Catholic Cuisine

3. In interesting video about the Celtic mythology of "Brigid" the Celtic goddess and the saint

4. Children's Book- The Cloak of St. Brigid

5. Children's eBook- The Life of St. Brigid

St. Brigid's Blessing:
May Brigid bless the house wherein we dwell.
Bless every fireside, every wall and door.
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof.
Bless every hand that toils to bring its joy.
Bless every foot that walks portals through.
May Brigid bless the house that shelters us.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Books I loved: January

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Around the Studio...

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Easter/Pascha Cards now in my etsy shop!

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

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

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