A little more conversation, a little less action

Hopefully you get the reference from this blog post title - it’s a deliberate misquote of the lyrics from the Elvis Presley song, “A Little Less Conversation”, written by Mac Davis and Billy Strange. And my take on this is related to my exploration of the idea of hygge this month. One of the posts that got me thinking along these lines is this post, “What Hygge Really Looks Like”, written by Alex Beauchamp at the website, Hygge House. As she says in that article:

And that’s what real hygge is – a simple moment that feels so special, cosy, relaxing, loving or happy that you just need to call it out. It’s not about being fancy, or styled, or being in the best circumstances, or having the right things. It’s literally about being present enough to see how great a moment is, and give that moment a name – hygge.
One of my favorite people to have a conversation with — seen here at Mona Lisia, a favorite restaurant.

One of my favorite people to have a conversation with — seen here at Mona Lisia, a favorite restaurant.

Seen here in this photo of my sweet husband Morris: dinner, soft(ish) lighting, candle on the table, delicious food (mussels in red sauce—and if you get to Mona Lisia Restaurant in Williamstown, NJ, they are SO WORTH IT). And yes, I took this photo using my cell phone, but other than that, the phones were put away. And that is entirely intentional, so that we can focus on one another and on our conversation. It allows us to be in the moment with one another, and that, my friends, is what hygge is all about. If that sounds like some of the same sorts of advice you’ve heard on fostering relationships, or on intentional living, that’s no accident. And it’s no wonder that hygge help people to live happier lives.

Homemade soup as a form of hygge

If hygge is about comfort, coziness, and mindfulness, then homemade soup seems to me to be a hyggelig food. After all, it requires mindful chopping of ingredients, and its slow-cooked goodness provides lots of warmth and comfort, as well as whole-food nutrition.

My homemade minestrone

My homemade minestrone

I’m happy to share with you my own recipe for minestrone, which is really my take on vegetable soup. I patched it together a few years ago after referencing quite a number of recipes, and it is consistently good.

Minestrone/Vegetable Soup

  • 2 T. olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced

  • 2 stalks celery, cleaned and sliced

  • 1 small to medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and diced

  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut in 1/2” cubes

  • 1/2 small head of Savoy cabbage, cut into 1” strips

  • 1 can chick peas or cannellni beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 can diced tomatoes

  • 2 T. tomato paste

  • 8 c. liquid (low-sodium chicken or veggie broth, and/or water)

  • 3/4 c. tubettini or elbow pasta

  • 6 springs fresh thyme

  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/2 t. dried basil

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Then add carrots and celery and cook about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Stir in tomato paste, then add zucchini, tomatoes, potato, herb, and liquid. Bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes. Add cabbage and pasta, and simmer 10 minutes more. Stir in chick peas or beans, then heat about 2-3 minutes longer. Top with grated Parmesan cheese (if desired) and serve.

It’s especially good when served with bread and butter.

3 steps toward achieving hygge in your home

HYGGE (pronounced somewhere between HOO-guh and HEW-guh) is the Danish word for a sort of mindful coziness. Now, I’m a word geek who absolutely loves things like etymology (the history of words and their meanings), and the background of the current Danish word is fascinating. The word hygge derives from an old Norse word that is about comforting, and is related to the Old German word that came over into English as “hug”. Kind of fun to know, especially when you are trying to get a handle on the concept.

If you are interested in incorporating hygge into your life this year (as a way of slower, cozier living, even if it’s just during the winter), then here are three concrete tips that will help you to get started:

First, tidy up a bit. Maybe you have been binge-watching Marie Kondo’s “Tidying Up” on Netflix, or have read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in which case this idea may already be on your radar. Or perhaps you read my earlier blog posts about decluttering, including this one from the end of October entitled “Creating Space for Abundance.” I’m not telling you to get rid of your favorite things (those stay!) or to clear your bookcases (heaven forbid — though weeding out those books that you don’t like or that make you feel bad about not loving them is a great idea). But having a bit less stuff allows abundance into your life, and also allows you to relax so that you can feel a sense of hygge.

One tip that works super well, and that has helped some friends of mine as well, is to find one space in each room to keep clear and tidy, to give your eye a place to rest. It helps even if it is a small piece of furniture, but it’s super soothing if it’s the largest thing in the room. For instance, a made bed in a bedroom (without stuff piled all over it) gives your eye a place to rest. And as Navy Seal Admiral McRaven says in this speech (which has gone viral and also become a small book), it will give you a sense of purpose and achievement. If you can keep the dining table clear, the dining room will seem okay. Same goes for the island in your kitchen, or at least a stretch of countertop.

Second, organize your stuff. If you have massive piles of books all over the place, consider obtaining a bookcase and corralling those books in one place. If you (like me) have Serious Paper Issues involving mail and articles that you intend to read but haven’t gotten to yet, figure out (a) where to keep them and (b) if there is an organizational device that would work for you. For some people, a set of mail bins is super helpful; others prefer a few folders; still others are fond of binder clips, or boxes, or a file system.

Quite seriously, I’m best with piling stuff in one place on my desk and scheduling time to go through it each week, then filing the stuff I need to keep and recycling everything else. And I would argue that forking out a lot of money on boxes, baskets, bins, and folders that just contribute to your stress and/or clutter level makes no sense (no matter how tempting those Container Store catalogs look, if you won’t actually use the things you buy, you will just end up with more stuff to manage).

A hyggelig moment in my living room.

A hyggelig moment in my living room.

Third, allow yourself to relax and enjoy your space. Introduce cozy elements such as lit candles, an afghan, or other comforts into your living space. Take time to enjoy and appreciate your space, and to enjoy and appreciate your day. Make your favorite tea or coffee or (if you’re an adult) open a favorite bottle of wine or beer. Spend a bit of time having an actual conversation, in person or by telephone. You can always use some of the suggestions from this post about celebrating the little things in life.

If you are starting to see a trend in these posts, I hope it is that these many suggestions about how to live a more positive life dovetail and overlap. Tidying up is good for creating comfort (hygge), but also it’s good feng shui, and it helps reduce stress (since you can find things when you want them and your things are no longer taunting you by being in disarray).


Hot toddies: such a cozy cold remedy

This month’s theme is hygge, which is all about feeling comfort and warmth (in the emotional sense, at least). I remain in the throes of rather nasty upper respiratory virus, which is apparently some sort of three-week cold that’s going around, and one of the things that helps to loosen the tightness in my chest and sooth my throat after coughing is a good, old-fashioned hot toddy.

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Ingredients:

  • honey

  • lemon

  • alcohol of your choice (if using): brandy, cognac, bourbon, whisky, or even rum

  • hot tea or boiling water

Here’s how to make this hyggelig drink:

Coat the bottom of your mug with honey. Add the juice of 1/4 of a lemon. Add 1-2 ounces of brandy, cognac, bourbon, whisky, or even rum (that’s 1-2 ounces of alcohol total—not of each!). Then fill the mug with hot black tea or hot water. Stir and sip.


This is a super soothing beverage on a chilly or damp day, and has actual medicinal properties if you are feeling under the weather. If you cannot have alcohol or are serving this to a child, just omit the spirits: the hot tea or water with lemon and honey is still soothing and tastes good.

Let me know if you try it!

This month is all about coziness

Or, to use the Danish term that better encompasses the precise idea of coziness that I’m referring to, this month is all about hygge. I’m defining hygge in brief as “a sense of cozy well-being; feeling present in this moment”.

My hyggelig work area at the dining room table. A favorite tablecloth, tea in a favorite mug, a candle, and a book.

It is a feeling, not an object. As a result, it’s something you create, not something you purchase. It can be as simple as mindfully enjoying a cup of tea or coffee in your favorite mug while focusing on the warmth it brings you. Or sitting down at your kitchen table with a lit candle and book.

It can be found in wearing a comfy sweater or pajamas or even a pair of “hyggebuksers”, defined in a December 2018 article in Country Living Magazine as “that pair of pants you'd never be caught dead wearing in public, but practically live in when you're at home on the weekends”. Again, it’s about the feeling of comfort, not so much the precise object you’re wearing. Note there’s no mention of it having to be “cute”, though many of the images you will find if you google hygge tend in that direction. (Think fireplaces, hot cocoa, a gathering of friends laughing and chatting.)

The Danes are consistently rated as among the happiest population on the planet, and hygge is part of the reason why. It is about comfort and connection with others, and there is much to commend it. So look for a few blog posts each week this month on the topic, and if you’re interested in getting the info delivered straight to your email, sign up for my email newsletter (no spam, just emails about living a positive life).

Scenes from my studio on New Year's Day

We are happy with our quiet start of 2019. I got a pretty awful upper respiratory virus last week, and spent all of Saturday in bed with a a miserable fever. I mean, I shouldn’t judge, I guess. But it made me feel miserable, so I assume its feelings won’t be hurt if I reference it that way.

Today is for doing just a bit of each of the things I’d like to enjoy and focus on this year. (You can read about that a bit in this prior post.) I’ve done my meditation this morning, and am going to sit down with Morris, my sweet husband, and engage in some “year in review” stuff once he gets home from his tai chi class. There will be time for cooking and laundry and a walk in the sun.

And I’ve already spent some time in my wonderful studio, which is something that didn’t even exist at this time last year. Here are some photos from this morning.

And yes, I noticed that these pictures strategically cropped out a bunch of mess. I was hoping you didn’t notice.

Celebrating fallow periods

As I mentioned briefly in my most recent newsletter, the gap between the holidays can feel like a weird no-man’s land of time. I even shared a funny cartoon on Facebook about how from the 1st through 26th of December, people are really into the holidays, and then from the 27th to 31st, then are full of cheese and unsure what day of the week it is. Funny, but it can also be disorienting.

I find it helpful to look at these sorts of times and spaces as fallow periods. Just as many farmers rest their land from time to time by plowing their fields under and leaving them unplanted (fallow), many people run into fallow periods in life. It’s super common among writers, who are between projects, or stymied and doing no writing. It applies to other creatives as well (actors, singers, artists, etc.).

Fallow periods are terrific times to engage in nurturing acts and self-care. These include things like rest, meditation, going to the movies, reading books, visiting a museum, getting out in nature, and so forth. It’s a great time to do things that fill your inner well or feed your spirit. All those things give you something to draw from and help to sustain you when it’s time to be creative again.

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So if you are off work or school this week, or somewhat at loose ends due to travel or houseguests, and you cannot stick with your “regular routine”, my suggestion is to treat this time period as a fallow period. Take a few deep breaths and a few minutes to figure out what acts of self-care will make you feel better. If you need some suggestions past what I listed above, you can check my post from earlier this month on six ways to celebrate the little things, since many of the small celebrations double as self-care or well-filling activities.

Celebrating the New Year

In just about a week, it will be New Year’s Eve. How will you celebrate?

This is not representative of what our neighbors will shoot off, but still . . .

This is not representative of what our neighbors will shoot off, but still . . .

There are several ways of celebrating that get lots of press and publicity: pay to attend a fancy party (or a not-so-fancy one), with food and a DJ and too many drinks and free hats; go out somewhere to stand in the streets with strangers and wait for balls to drop or fireworks to explode (some of our neighbors set them off nearby, so we don’t really have to go outside—though there have been a couple times we had to wake up for them); go to or host a party in your home and watch a TV countdown with friends. Maybe it involves banging pots and pans outside at midnight, or sparklers, or waking the neighbors with your fireworks.

Then there are the quieter celebrations: out to dinner with your spouse and maybe some friends, then home before it gets too late, or a nice, quiet evening at home. Possibly with some champagne or prosecco (the leftovers are great for mimosas on New Years Day).

But what about New Year’s Day?

Well, I have a bit of a superstition. This is not a long-held superstition, nor is it one passed down by generations of family members (unlike the "shoes on a table is bad luck" thing, which is TOTALLY the result of generations of my mother's family). It's one that I developed myself over the past ten years or so, and it is a simple concept:

I believe that what you do on January 1st sets the tone for the year. Therefore, if I want to be a person who writes and paints a lot, I need to make time to do some writing and painting on January 1st. If I want to cook more, I need to cook something. ("Something" on New Year's day used to mean a pork roast and sauerkraut, based on long-held and family-bred superstitions, again from my mother's family, but may switch to ribs, since my sweetheart doesn’t eat pork — unless it’s bacon or ribs.) If I want to read more, I need to read. If I want to be a decent housekeeper, my house has to be clean by then, and I need to do a wee bit of tidying on that day as well. If I want to maintain the morning routine/ritual I’m working to establish for myself, I for sure have to practice it on New Year’s Day. That means yoga, meditation, journaling, and the aforementioned reading. If I want to spend time with my husband, I need to do that, too.

It's all very simple in theory, and not necessarily difficult in practice, but it does take being really conscious of choices on January 1st. Basically, it can make for a busy day. And, I suppose, it means being really conscious of choices on the 2nd, and 3rd, and 4th as well, though these aren’t resolutions as much as intentions. Nevertheless, come next Tuesday, my house will be clean and relatively tidy, and I will be starting my day with my morning routine and moving on from there.

Of course, come February, there will be Chinese New Year to celebrate (Year of the Pig!), and then there’s the start of the US school year in September, and the start of the new year in Judaism (Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year”, if you didn’t know that), which comes at the end of September next year. And I’m pretty sure there are some other new years in there as well, depending on your belief system.

So tell me: What will you do to celebrate the new year?

As always, if you are interested in subscribing to my weekly newsletter, which is designed to share tips on things you can do to live a more positive life, you can do that here.

Celebrating the Solstice

It’s been a busy week here. Of course, that’s largely because we had contractors in the house on Tuesday, finishing up some work in our hall bath, and I needed to spend time at the Post Office, mailing things to relatives and friends at a distance. And I’ve been busy working on a commission as well as taking a new art class and working on some new ideas.

This is from an 1851 book called “A primary astronomy”: isn’t it marvelous?

This is from an 1851 book called “A primary astronomy”: isn’t it marvelous?

And, of course, the 21st was Solstice. The shortest day of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest for those south of the equator. It’s lovely to me to think of welcoming the long dark of night on Solstice, and to know that we are slowly turning our way back into the Sun even as the temperatures become colder. It’s also good to light the candles or lights as a way of keeping the dark at a distance. Though with the beautiful now-full moon in the sky, there is quite a lot of light right now, even at night.

How about you? Do you celebrating the turning of the year? Maybe with some hot tea, hot chocolate, or something else you consider warming, like whiskey or wine? Do you head to the kitchen to make slow food like stew or soup or chili, or to bake things you might not bother with in sunnier months? Light a fire in the fireplace or wood stove? Do you cozy up with a cat and a lap blanket? Curl up with a good book? Pick up your knitting, quilting or other handiwork? All of these are excellent ways to honor and celebrate the season without venturing out into the cold or the wet.

Here in New Jersey, I’ve been celebrating the turning of the season with most of the things listed above, with the exception of fires (no fireplace) and quilting. And my knitting has been a bit limited by painful joints in both thumbs, compliments of my rheumatoid arthritis. But it’s meant pleasant days and nights for me lately. And it hasn’t escaped my notice that a lot of what I’m describing is related to the Danish notion of hygge, which I referenced in passing in a post I wrote last December. Expect to hear a bit more about it as we move into January.

Celebrating with a Donation

This month, I’m focusing on celebrating. I know I’ve talked about how to celebrate the small things. And I think I’ve discussed the WHY of celebrating, at least a bit, but I want to talk about that a bit more.

Why celebrate?

Well, for one thing, it is a means of being mindful. If you remember to celebrate something—whether it’s something big like a wedding anniversary, or something small like finding your favorite brand of mustard is finally back in stock (yes, actual example from my life)—you are at that moment in the moment. And if all we have is now, and now is a celebration, well, that is a good thing.

For another, it’s a means of promoting gratitude. And as I posted back in November, gratitude helps to create abundance. And abundance may just give you more to celebrate, creating a wonderful circle of positive energy swirling about in your life, and isn’t a circle of positivity something to celebrate and be grateful for? Because just as we talk about people’s lives “spiraling out of control” or “on a downward spiral”, when they are living in chaos or negativity (which is negative energy), we can put ourselves into a happier spiral of positive energy. And it doesn’t mean you have to ignore or avoid any of the “bad” things in life; it just requires you to see and acknowledge and, yes, celebrate the good.

A Celebration Donation

This morning, I celebrated selling some art and wrote out a check to them for the Jersey Shore paintings that sold during The Most Wonderful Time event that I hosted back on December 2nd, bringing my total donations to the organization (so far) from art sales to $60. I still have two pieces left, including my favorite of the entire series, Jersey Shore #7 (I love the little penciled sandpiper footprints).

The two pieces you see above are all that remains of seven pieces I did in my Jersey Shore series. I created the series last fall after spending a lovely weekend at the shore with my husband, and in order to celebrate the creation of those pieces, I promised to donate 25% of the price to Clean Ocean Action, an organization dedicated to cleaning up the beaches in New Jersey and to protecting the shoreline by opposing offshore blasting and drilling, as well as working to reduce the amount of plastic put into the waterways in the first place.

I have to tell you that I had a happy little celebration here this morning. I smiled as I wrote out the check to Clean Ocean Action, grateful for the sales, grateful that there is money in my business’s checking account that allows me to write the check, and grateful that I am able to help such a worthy cause, even if it is a rather small donation. I smiled as I wrote a note in a pretty notecard, and sealed and addressed the envelope, and said a little “thank you” to the Universe for it all.

So yes, a donation to something you support is a form of celebration. I’m sure you make donations, whether it’s to a religious organization, a charitable organization, or a political one. And I’d encourage you to think of those as a form of celebration. And to feel the joy and gratitude of being privileged to write that check, hand over some cash, or send a donation online.

Ready to start something new

This was me in my studio the other day:

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After cleaning my studio for the event I had here back on December 2nd, I was slow getting back to work in there. But! I did make one new piece of art. Kind of. If by “new” you count “took an existing background and stamped a motto onto it as inspiration for 2019”. And since I count it, then I will go with the idea that I made a new piece of art. Here it is:

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My 2019 motto

I’m getting ready for the new year.

I posted this piece on Instagram last week and promptly sold two prints of it, plus received a request for permission to use my motto (seriously? GO FOR IT, if it speaks to you) and a request for a commissioned piece with the same motto and different colors. So now I know what my next thing is going to be. And today, the substrate for the piece arrived from Blick Art Supplies—it’s a 9”x12” basswood (aka linden) cradle board.


Is there anything as tantalizing as new art supplies?

Is there anything as tantalizing as new art supplies?

Not only am I excited about the new cradle board, but I’m excited by some new papers I’ve collected and am ready to use as collage layers in the new piece. And I bought two 5”x7” cradle boards, thinking I might make some smaller motto pieces, so if you have one you want to commission, hit me up—otherwise, I’ll just roll with my own notions.

Six ways to celebrate the little things

Ideas for big occasions, like birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, b’nai mitzvot, graduations, and baby showers (major life events) are super well-known and well-documents. Throw a party (expected or surprise). Give gifts to the celebrants, make a toast, send a greeting card (thoughtful is best). Go out to dinner with family or friends. Make a video honoring the person or people who are being honored. Set up a powerpoint with photos. Hire a DJ or a clown. Have a barbecue or pool party.

But I’m a bit more interested in how to celebrate smaller events. And even what counts as “smaller” is a matter of interpretation. A promotion at work, or getting a new job. Making your first sale in your new business. Usually these things are marked with cheers, going out to dinner, and/or having a celebratory drink.

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What about those still smaller events? Meeting a deadline (even a self-imposed one); finishing a project — even if it’s an intermediate goal (like finishing writing a chapter in a manuscript); sending an email or letter that was difficult for you; actually going to the gym; doing that piece of adulting that you find difficult, whatever it might be.

Now that’s what I’m talking about.

It’s far more common for us all to just turn to the next thing on our list and push ahead without marking them at all. And at the end of the day, we feel tired and depleted. But there’s another way: a way where you take a few minutes to honor your accomplishment and celebrate it.

Here are six ways you can celebrate the small things:

  1. Get yourself a cup of tea, a nice cup of coffee, a cup of cocoa, or a good piece of chocolate, and take a few minutes to savor whatever your treat might be.

  2. Reward yourself with some self-care: take salt bath; take a short walk (preferably outside).

  3. Schedule some self-care that involves others, like a massage, a haircut, etc.

  4. Go see a movie or watch something you’ve been saving on Netflix.

  5. Journal about it, so you have something in your gratitude journal for the day.

  6. Buy yourself some flowers or some ice cream or a small cake on the way home.


This month, I want to talk about celebration

I realized this evening that I said a lot of things about celebration in the newsletter that I sent out yesterday. That’s because it’s the new theme for the emails I’ll be sending out this month. And then it occurred to me that a bunch of my blog readers might not be subscribed to my newsletter. (Which you can fix right here, if you want a weekly dose of positive living.) It’s something I wanted to share with you in the meantime.

Here’s a bit of what I said:

It's December. Hanukkah started on Sunday evening, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day and New Year's Eve are coming up. These can be the best or worst of times for many people. And I want to talk about celebration.

This has been a year, y'all. You know I mean it since I don't even say "y'all" all that often. I know I've mentioned my father having cancer, and we are moving out of 2018 hoping he's left that behind for good. That is something truly worth celebrating. But there have been other things, some of which aren't mine to tell, that linger on, and losses, like that of my husband's wonderful cousin. If you knew Selwyn, I'm pretty sure you liked and admired him, and if you didn't, then believe me when I say that you would have. It is easy to celebrate his life, even as losing him is no fun.

I want to talk about celebration as a thing we do, or maybe should do, daily, rather than on a grand scale. Ringing the bell to end chemo or radiation. Cheering for a kid whose team just won, or who competed in a debate, a recital or a concert. Raising a glass to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. Marking and honoring whatever small victory you may have experienced on any given day.

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This Friday, my sweetheart and I will be celebrating our second wedding anniversary (yes, we have an anniversary date “that will live in infamy”, since we got married on Pearl Harbor Day). And that’s one of the sorts of bigger events that folks tend to celebrate, but I’ve also been celebrating smaller things, like the success of our holiday shopping event this past weekend. Or the wee victory dance I did when I (or, uh, Morris, yeah, that’s what I meant) ordered a new pinafore apron for me as an anniversary gift.

So plan on some posts and thoughts about celebrations: what they are and can be, why we should have as many as we can, and even some ideas on how to celebrate things. Because celebration fits together really well with gratitude, and both of them lead to abundance, so if you think these things are all wrapped together, you’re right!

You guys! I just have to share the love!

I don’t want to bury the lede here, so I will come out and tell you straight away that I am giving you all a holiday present this week, and it’s kind of a big deal. (Some people might even call this “a sale”.) So if that’s what you are looking for, feel free to scroll on down to that straight away to get the details.

But first, I’ma tell you why I’m giving you all a present, and it’s because I am so so grateful for all the love and support everyone has been giving my business. Yesterday was the open studio event I created, and you guys, it was totally appropriate that it was called “A Most Wonderful Time”. It was such a treat for me to have Erin from Clove & Cedar, Lisa from Natures Energy, and Rita from Jularee here yesterday, because they are super wonderful people. And also because supporting other small businesses, other makers, other women, other local businesses . . . that is super important to me. And while these wonderful women don’t fit in ANY box, they manage to tick off all those important boxes at the same time.

Rita from Jularee, Erin from Clove & Cedar, me, and Lisa from Natures Energy

Rita from Jularee, Erin from Clove & Cedar, me, and Lisa from Natures Energy

These women are seriously great. And we had so much fun, too!

My dining and living rooms were transformed to small shops, my studio was full of light and art, we have a kitchen full of snacks, the mulled cider was a huge hit (with or without spiced rum added in), and on top of that, we were joined by quite a number of lovely souls who came out on a grey drizzly day to support small, local woman-owned businesses. A massive thanks to EVERYONE who helped to make yesterday such a success, with a special thanks to my sweetheart, Morris, who kept an eye on the coffee pots and was super helpful all day. (He took that photo of the four of us, above.)

I know there were a lot of local folks who wanted to come, but had other things on their schedules for yesterday, just as I heard from lots of folks who don’t live anywhere near here, who wished they could make it.

So I have a gift for you all. I’m giving you 50% off all my collages and almost all of my paintings.

Starting today, and running until Thursday, December 5th, at midnight, all of my collages on my website are 50% off. In addition, nearly all my paintings are 50% off, so if you’ve been wanting one of them, now’s your chance to scoop them up at a serious discount! The only pieces on the Paintings page that are NOT on sale of the two remaining Jersey Shore pieces, which have always been value-priced at $48. Twenty-five percent of the price of each of the Jersey Shore pieces is donated to Clean Ocean Action, an organization dedicated to cleaning up the beaches in New Jersey—it’s my way of giving back to the shore, which inspired this series of seven original pieces.

I am just so thankful for all your love and support with my business, and this was the biggest present I could think of this year. No discount codes, coupons, or secret passwords needed . . . you get half off all my original collages and (most) paintings.

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Oh, one more thing!

A bonus gift for the first 10 customers.

The first 10 people to purchase online (whether it’s one greeting card or something more) will get one of my Christmas-themed greeting cards for free! “I saw three ships come sailing in” was inspired by a line from a Christmas carol. The original collage (available on the Collage page) features three ships, each bearing its own seasonal decoration: a wee Christmas tree, colorful shields, and a holly leaf flag.

Again, I just had to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you: those who read this blog, those who came to shop yesterday, those who wanted to be here but couldn’t, those who have been cheering my small business on as it starts to get off the ground and tries to take flight. I appreciate you all so very much, and I’m so grateful!

The Most Wonderful Time: a holiday shopping party

What: A holiday shopping event that combines an open studio for my artwork with stations set up by three other vendors: Clove & Cedar, Jularee Handcrafted Jewelry, and Natures Energy. Items for sale include original artwork and greeting cards, jewelry, macramé, and pottery. And I know for a fact all four of us work to imbue our items with positive energy. (And we all accept credit cards as well as cash, by the way.)

When: Sunday, December 2nd, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

Where: In my studio in Williamstown, NJ. Street address will be provided when you RSVP

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WHY

Because that’s the important part

Why: It’s super important to me as a female business owner to support other female-owned businesses. It’s important to me as a female maker to support other female makers. It’s important to me to shop local, to shop small, and to shop handmade. And it’s important to me to draw other female makers who are entrepreneurs together.

So when I had the idea to throw my studio open for local folks to stop by and see my artwork (and hopefully buy some stuff - let’s keep it all the way real here!), I started to calculate how many other vendors I could possibly fit inside our house without people tripping over one another, and I figured I could fit a maximum of three additional vendors inside. And with it being a December event, I didn’t want to set up my tent out back. (Though heads up: when it’s nice out, I’m totally planning on doing just that so I can have more woman-owned businesses here!)

I’m being joined by

  • my friend Rita, owner of Jularee, who makes hand-crafted chakra and gemstone jewelry (including birthstone pieces), using sterling silver, copper, and even gold-filled wire.

  • my new friend Lisa, owner of Natures Energy, who makes hand-thrown pottery pieces as well as jewelry pieces enhanced with handmade copper chain and other sustainably sourced items.

  • my new friend Erin, owned of Clove & Cedar, who makes macramé pieces that include feathers and sweet rainbows, plant hangers, and wall hangings (often incorporating natural wood elements).

We are planning on filling this space with positive energy and happy shoppers. And toward that end, we are also going to have SNACKS, because snacks are good for energy, am I right? There will be coffee, tea, and mulled cider along with the tasty nibbles. I really hope you will come. Because it’s going to be The Most Wonderful Time!

On Living an Abundant Life

Does living an abundant life mean that you have great wealth? Does it mean you have nothing but good things in your life? What do you do when real life sends you something that isn’t exactly good? Just what does an abundant life look like?

I consider my current life to be an abundant one. No great wealth, not that I’m not open to that (hear that, Universe?). And I do have good things in my life: a place to live that has running water, working heat and air conditioning, a (small but) nice kitchen with working appliances, a sweet cat, an even sweeter husband (seriously, he’s such a good guy), two wonderful daughters out living their lives.

But it’s not all good stuff here. If you’re new around here, you probably don’t know that I’m disabled (two autoimmune issues that require lots of rest and have a tendency to flare up, not just when I’m stressed, but when the weather changes, or just for kicks). My family has been dealing with cancer issues this year, since my dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in July. My husband’s sweet and salty cousin Sel died on the 14th, not long after I posted my last blog post about choosing abundance.

Yet while we have been grieving for Sel, and I’ve been using more pain management stuff than usual (heat, salt baths, pain meds, and CBD oil on some spots), we’ve spent more time than usual with family. The funeral, shiva, and Thanksgiving found us with Sel’s wonderful family, and seriously, they are some terrific people. Also leading abundant lives, despite their own issues.

So I guess the answer to the question of what an abundant life looks like is that it looks like anyone’s life. Because the answer depends on you and your viewpoint. If you acknowledge and celebrate the good things in your life, chances are pretty good that you’re leading an abundant life. If you prefer to focus on the things you lack (whether they are objects, cash, or people), or on the things you dislike, chances are a bit higher that you’re not living in abundance.

It’s up to you to turn it around!

Karen Salmansohn knows what’s what.

Karen Salmansohn knows what’s what.

If you are interested in more about abundance or other energy work, I hope that you will sign up for my newsletter. It goes out roughly weekly with information related to living with more positivity in your life.


Before I go, I wanted to invite you to shift your energy just a bit this holiday season by coming out to THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME: a Holiday Shopping Party, which I am hosting here in Williamstown, NJ. I am opening my studio up on Sunday, December 2nd, from 12 noon to 4 p.m., and I’ve invited three other women I know who are makers and who own their own small businesses to join me and sell their things as well. And everyone accepts cash or credit cards. So if you come out, you will not only get snacks and mix with happy people, but you’ll be shopping local, supporting woman-owned small businesses, and shopping handmade. Win-win-win!

Below is a gallery—if you click on the image below, you can cycle through and see some of the items that will be available here:

Just a hint of what you might expect to find this Sunday! If you need the street address for my studio or directions, let me know!

Choosing an Abundance Mindset

When I talk about abundance, I think of this definition of it “plentifulness of the good things of life; prosperity.” Or sometimes, I think in terms of enough-ness. Having enough good things to be in a positive state. Which can actually mean not having mad amounts of money or luxury items. It can mean having a place to live, feeling relatively safe, having food on the table, and so forth.

As you may recall from last week, my younger daughter is in the Peace Corps in Lesotho. She has to fill a five-gallon bucket at a communal tap that’s nearly a quarter mile from her house, and carry it home. That’s used for cooking, bathing, washing up, etc. And she uses a ditch latrine. For her, and for the people she lives among, running water and an actual toilet are a luxury. Yet she manages to maintain a sense of enough-ness because she has water and a private rondavel in which to live, and she always has food and clothing. Early on in her time in Lesotho, she met a volunteer who focused on the things that she didn’t like; sure enough, that volunteer opted to go home rather than finish her assignment.

Which brings me to the salient point of today’s post:

chooseabundance.png

You get to create your reality; you get to decide whether you are living an abundant life or a life of lack. To borrow a cliché, you get to say whether the glass if half full, or half empty. Choose half full. When you focus on the positive, you are far more likely to attract positive things in your life.

Choose Abundance.

Creating Space for Abundance

Here in the United States, November is almost entirely overtaken by the preparation for and celebration of Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday of the month. Thanksgiving at its core is all about celebrating family and experiencing gratitude for having enough food to eat, though of course it has gotten a lot of other things added to it over the years — parades, football games, family squabbles, celebrations of friends, overeating and more. Usually I think of Thanksgiving as a day to recognize the abundance in our lives. And I’d like a lot more of that gratitude and abundance in my daily life.

A few months back, I shared a blog post that included Six Tips on Clearing Clutter, which you can find here. And I stand by all the things in that post, and have lots more to say about decluttering and/or downsizing, which I’ve decided to share with you because hey, who among us doesn’t have clutter that needs dealing with? (If you don’t have any clutter, please tell me how you achieved and maintain that status. Seriously.)

When I was in South Carolina for most of the month of October, I noticed two things about my mom and dad’s house: (1) That the public areas (great room with living space and dining areas) are largely tidy and clutter-free and (2) that clutter hides inside closets and drawers at their house (sorry mom & dad, but I peeked in the closet and drawers in the room I was sleeping in). I decided that when I got home, I wanted to focus on clearing clutter so we’d have a more zen space to live in, and also because decluttering is good feng shui.*

*Feng shui (pronounced fung shway) is the ancient Chinese art (some would say it’s a science) of balancing yin and yang energies within a space, with the aim of achieving “good feng shui” or energy flow to improve health, happiness, and abundance. It’s something I’ve studied and tried to practice in my own life and home for the past 13 years or so. One of the precepts is that you have to create space in your life and home in order to make room for abundance (in all forms) to join you.

As Jayme Barrett says in her book, Feng Shui Your Life, "Instead of focusing on what you are getting rid of, concentrate on moving towards your dream and goals." And the idea of clearing clutter in order to make space for abundance turns up in any book about the universal Law of Attraction as well. If you want to manifest abundance, you need to live an abundant life, which includes appreciating the things you have and not treating them poorly by allowing clutter to overtake everything. For instance, Denise Duffield-Thomas, who is a sort of mentor of mine, is dedicated to helping women find financial success. In her book, Get Rich, Lucky Bitch, she say that step one to manifesting anything is “declutter everything in your life”. (Your house, your car, your wardrobe, your email . . . everything.)

It's really helpful, as I start to slog through the everyday parts of clearing out spaces and assessing items in my house this week, to lift my head up now and then and remember why I'm doing it. The drudgery of working can sometimes obscure the happy goal I'm working toward, if I don't remind myself. Perhaps I need to put on the soundtrack to Disney’s Ever After and sing a “happy working song.” (No vermin need come to my aid. Seriously.)

Jayme Barrett’s book reminds me to keep "only those objects that encourage and inspire you", and to get rid of objects that affect thoughts and emotions in a negative way (things that are about sad subject matter, whether written or visual, or failed projects) and things that sap your energy (her examples include "photos of people who disapprove of you, gifts from a past relationship, and inherited furniture you've kept out of guilt"). 

I also really like and approve of Jayme Barrett’s rationale for getting rid of items you've been keeping "just in case":

Each item you keep "just in case" further roots you in fear and lack. Be confident that you will have everything you need and want to lead to a happy life. An effective way to start a cycle of abundance is by giving away items that no longer serve you. As you give, you receive. Create a vacuum for new and wonderful things to enter your home.


I find that when I keep these ideas in mind - that I am freeing up space for the qi energy to flow, giving to others who need something, and creating room for new and wonderful things, it is much easier and almost refreshing to let things go. (Almost. I mean, it’s still a bit of a struggle.) This of course applies to those things that are actual things, and not trash or recycling.

Getting rid of items in order to create space, whether it’s to improve abundance or get ready for a move, is good feng shui. Isn't that great? And since this blog is as much about art as it is about words, here is a painting I did entitled “Abundance”. It started with just that word painted on the canvas:

“Abundance” 24”x36” on canvas.

“Abundance” 24”x36” on canvas.

Here’s hoping that this post supports you if you are cleaning/clearing space this month, and that the tips on how to reduce clutter help as well. And here’s to abundance! If you’d like more tips on things from reducing clutter to how to hang art to discounts on my work, I hope you will subscribe to my newsletter.

It's finally starting to feel like fall!

Probably moreso at my home in New Jersey than here in Summerville, South Carolina where I’ve been spending the last couple weeks in order to help transport my dad to his weekly chemo appointments, though even here there’s been a chill in the air for a couple nights, with more cool weather to come next week. I mean, it’s still in the 80s during the day, and I actually made it to the beach for the first time this year.

Here’s a shot of my feet on Folly Beach last Friday.

Here’s a shot of my feet on Folly Beach last Friday.

One of my favorite poems from college was “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot, and towards the end you’ll find these lines:

I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Perhaps a little too apt, right? Here’s some of the rest

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

Here’s hoping that Eliot is wrong and that a mermaid choir shows up after all. Meanwhile, here are four pieces I still have available from my Jersey Shore series. Each of these is approximately 4”x6” in size, and is matted and ready to pop into an 8”x10” frame. They cost $48 each, plus shipping, and 25% of the purchase price goes to Clean Ocean Action, an organization dedicated to keeping the beaches and the waters off of New York and New Jersey clean.

Jersey Shore 2 and 3 are on the top row, Jersey Shore 4 and 7 are on the bottom.

Please let me know if you are interested in one of the above pieces, or in chatting about T.S. Eliot (also author of the poems that became they lyrics to most of the songs in the musical CATS). And if you are interested in signing up for my newsletter (which only goes out once every few weeks), you can do that here.