life

Whew! That was a busy weekend!

SATURDAY

Saturday morning, my sweetheart and I drove up to Merchantville to check out the Mystical May Holistic Street Festival, where I was delighted to see vendor friends Dot Pakstis (Dorothy Claire Crystals) and Jody Thorpe (Mystical Blossoms) and to meet Jeannie Francis of Spirit to Sole Connection and do a bit of shopping at Aradia’s Treasure. And then we drove down Route 130 to head to Woodbury, which is where the wonderful creator space MADE Artisan Marketplace is located.

MADE Artisan Marketplace is in the process of moving into a renovated building at 65 N. Broad Street in Woodbury, between the Courthouse and Charlie Brown’s, if you know Woodbury at all. It will contain selling space for local artists, classroom space, gallery space, space for Say It With Clay, and spaces for artists in resident. PLUS there will be coffee—PAINTED BRIDGE Espresso Bar will be located in the space as well!

Below you can see my artwork set up on a couple of shelves. I will also be dropping off greeting cards, which will go elsewhere in the space. You can also see me with MADE’s indefatigable owner, Jamilah Damiani.

BUT WAIT! That isn’t all we did on Saturday. Because once Morris and I left MADE in the early afternoon, we drove down to Cape May, where our first stop was at Olde Pear Primitives. I had a great time catching up with owner Genevieve Lugo, and I dropped off some new stock. Below you can see a photo of Genevieve and I taken by Morris, and some pics of the products I made taken by Genevieve. (I didn’t make the cool metal tree, nor did I do that awesome painted woodturning image of the state of New Jersey, which was created by the talented Ashlesha of Henna by Ash.

I hope you noticed the super cute red, white & blue heart garlands that are on the tree and lined up in a box. I hand-painted those papers and drew every single star myself, then punched out and strung the hearts on baker’s twine. They look so charming on that metal tree!

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After we left Olde Pear, Morris and enjoyed a nice stroll over to Beach Avenue, where we walked along the sidewalk that skirts the dunes and looked out over the ocean. We eventually made our way down to the Rusty Nail, where we had adult beverages (a mojito for me, a bourbon-based drink for Morris) and a tasty dinner. Eventually we wandered back to our car and drove home, where I spent the next several hours packing and working on pricing for my event on Sunday.

SUNDAY

Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY! (I totally just said that aloud like the announcer for a local speedway, in case you wondered.) If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, then you may remember me mentioning Decompress South Jersey. You can read my last post, which was all about it and included photos of my kids when they were (extremely small and) at Will-Moor Gymnastics old location.

I really loved my setup at Will-Moor, which you can see from two different angles above. And it was great to catch up with other vendor friends, including April of Willow Moon Candles, Rita of Jularee, Aimee of Relics Revisited, Jody of Mystical Blossoms, and Margeaux of Proud Mary Designs. It was inspiring watching Alisha teach Zumba, Stacia doing aerial yoga, Cheryl leading Buti yoga, and oh, it was magical listening to Jody do a sound healing session with her singing bowls.

And that’s, to paraphrase Walter Cronkite (yes, I am old—he was an extraordinarily popular and famous newscaster when I was a kid), the weekend that was.

Olde Pear Primitives and more news

I am delighted to share the two images below, both of which were taken by Genevieve at Olde Pear Primitives in Cape May, New Jersey this week. The first one is a watercolor seascape that I painted, which is nestled with some jewelry, and the second is a watercolor sailboat, playing nicely with some soap and bath bombs.

I am tickled every day, knowing that my artwork is available in this marvelous shop in Cape May. And, of course, I have art tambourines available at Mystic Gingery Collective in Blackwood, NJ, and also at the Grand Galleria in Williamstown, NJ.

This weekend, I will be painting murals on the walls of the main studio at Peace Love Yoga in Glassboro. Pictures to follow—though I am really glad that I’ve been promised some helpers, because I’ve been having a few joint issues lately (thanks, rheumatoid arthritis!), so I can use the assistance.

Next weekend, I will be dropping off artwork at MADE. Artisan Marketplace in Woodbury, New Jersey, which will (hopefully) be open to the public starting in May. All while making art and planning what to take with me on May 19th, when I will be at the Decompress South Jersey event at Will-Moor School of Gymnastics up in Mount Laurel.

A 5” square heart collage in spring colors.

A 5” square heart collage in spring colors.

And now, to get dressed for tonight’s seder with family. Happy Passover! And to those of you celebrating the Christian holidays, Happy Easter!

Gee, but it's great to be back home

And yes, I am old enough that I am actually quoting from a Simon & Garfunkel song from 1970. The song is “Keep the Customer Satisfied”, and it’s off Bridge Over Troubled Water. Here’s the first stanza:

Gee but it’s great to be back home
Home is where I want to be.
I’ve been on the road so long my friend,
And if you came along
I know you couldn’t disagree.

I’m just hoping not to have been slandered and libeled everywhere I go. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click on through to YouTube and have a listen.

Dogwood from a rest area in North Carolina

Dogwood from a rest area in North Carolina

I am super happy to report that Dad is continuing to improve after his esophagectomy (esophageal cancer is no joke, yo, but he is likely to beat it as a result of the excellent treatment he has received at MUSC in Charleston, SC). His feeding tube came out on Tuesday (huzzah!) since he did such a good job tapering off of it. And he’s back on the golf course as I type this.

I am now back in New Jersey, where spring is still in its earlier stages—I feel somewhat lucky to have spent six weeks in the south and experienced mid- to late-spring in South Carolina, only to drive home again to where spring is just entering its middle phase. Of course, I literally drove through miles of “tree sex” in northern North Carolina yesterday on my way here, where the pollen was so thick it looked like a haze. Profligate trees!

Today I’m working on matting some of the smaller pieces I painted while in South Carolina. I think they are looking really great —these are in 8” square mats, with 4” square cutouts. The two on the left are chakra rainbows (which is why red is on the bottom). You may or may not have realized that the colors for the chakras from root to crown are the same as the seven colors of the rainbow, ROY G BIV: red orange yellow green blue indigo violet. But in a naturally occurring rainbow, red is on the top of the arc, and violet on the inside/bottom. I painted these the reflect the chakra alignment (though I guess you could flip the one that is just stripes to suit yourself). The pieces on the right are abstract landscapes.

The next step is packaging them in sleeves. Is it weird that I ran out of steam and just can’t even with that right now? Possibly. But it was a long drive home after a long time away, so I’m giving myself a break.

It's never too late to learn

My fifty-fifth birthday is coming up soon (and yikes, what’s with that?). And it reminds me that I started my journey making art a mere five years ago, just before I turned 50. I started with a course using colored pencils, drawing birds. (MASSIVE thanks to Val Webb for that course - she is amazing, and lovely, and good.) And eventually I started using acrylics by taking an online course called Paint Mojo with Tracy Verdugo, who is also amazing, lovely, and good. And then I took some online courses with Kelly Rae Roberts, back when she was still teaching painting online, in part because her first and middle name are the same as mine, as well as her initials, and in part because I really liked her work and her attitude. During those courses, I learned about colored pencils, acrylic paints, acrylic inks, charcoals, soft (chalk) pastels and oil pastels, oil paint sticks, some fine art markers, and more.

But I never used watercolors. Until this year, when I opened the package I bought myself from Prima Marketing, Inc., containing three tins of watercolors that they refer to as “confections”. Just below is the Vintage Pastels set just after I opened it, and a heart I made from the paints while “swatching” my set onto the little card you see in the left-hand photo.

I made about a dozen or so of those hearts, which went to some lucky customers who ordered Chakra Heart Garlands before Valentine’s Day. (You can still grab your garlands here!) And then I essentially put my watercolors away because I felt unsure of what to do.

So when it suddenly (and I mean that - it was just a day’s notice or so) came time to pack my bags for South Carolina, I decided to grab some art supplies to take along. I legit have no clue how long I will be down here to help my parents out as my dad recovers from cancer surgery (he had an esophagectomy, which means just what you probably think it does). In fact, it could be a month or more. Which is a long time to be away from my studio and all my supplies, so I brought some portable supplies with me. I have my watercolor sets and my oil pastels (not to play with together, though come to think of it, maybe I could) and a pad of watercolor paper with me.

Yesterday, I painted a bouquet (based on an actual one I’d brought home for my mom from the store—I know, grocery store flowers aren’t always optimal, but they were affordable and cheery, which is what was required). And today I took a shot at a shrub or tree in the neighbors yard, which is sending up dark green stalks with dark green leaves and pink flowers that we believe are camellias. Though I didn’t know they came in pink. But I digress. They were made in a state of creative exploration and happy, escapist meditation, and that’s pretty much the energy they carry with them. You can get a closer look at them by clicking on each. If you decide one of these two pieces below is your jam, please let me know and I’ll pack it up and send it to you for $10, shipping included.

Are these faithful representations of what I see? Nope. Are they a bit too tight? Yup. Is their composition good? Not really. But to me, these two pieces are huge successes, because I am figuring things out. How to mix colors. When to work wet-on-wet, when to use wet-on-dry. How much water to use in my brush. How the paint moves (or doesn’t).

All of these are important things to figure out. (I think?) And I am aware I can find a class (in person or online) or a YouTube video, or a SkillShare course, or or or . . . but for this weekend, I thought it would be fun to just play with my paints and see what came of it. This week may be for finding online lessons, now that I’m no longer nervous to use my supplies. Because it’s never too late to play, and it’s never too late to learn something new.

Sharing a quick cleaning tip

And if you are not an artist, this may sound like it doesn’t apply to your life, but stay with me for a minute.

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As mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve been working on some oil pastel paintings (and yes, that’s what it’s called when you cover an entire surface with oil pastels). In fact, here’s a closeup of one of my favorites:

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Wild poppies

One of my favorite new oil pastel paintings, which I made using Sennelier oil pastels and cold-pressed watercolor paper

Turns out I didn’t just cover watercolor paper with oil pastels, I also managed to get a decent amount on my fingers. And on the surface of my wooden work table. And also? I dropped a bit of the wrapper from one of the oil pastels on the floor, and stepped on it, and it left a big white smear. And Kismet, my helpful studio assistant, knocked bright yellow on the floor and it smeared like WHOA when I tried to wipe it up. And I was temporarily bemused (not amused, trust me).

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Lemon

So fresh, so happy

And then I remembered that I am a distributor for Young Living essential oils in possession of many oils, but most specifically, of LEMON essential oil, which is the go-to for removing things like “chewing gum from hair” and “label adhesive off of glasses” and such. So i put two small drops of lemon oil on a paper towel, and wiped, and lo! the oil pastels transferred onto the paper towel and off the floor (and table) and all was well.

In fact, it was a bit better than that, even, since it left my studio smelling lemony fresh.

So if you, fellow artist, manage to get oil pastels on your surfaces, reach for lemon oil. If it’s on a wood surface, remember to wipe in the direction of the grain of the wood.

And same goes for anyone else with a sticky or greasy sort of issue that needs tackling (like tree sap) or something sticky that you’d like to remove—like chewing gum from hair, or stickers from things, or temporary tattoos on skin. (If you don’t have a local supplier of lemon oil, you can get in touch and order Young Living lemon essential oil from me.)



Trying something new

Actually, I’m trying lots of new things these days. And getting rid of some old ones, as well.

Case in point: MY HAIR.

Me, feeling sassy as I left the salon.

Me, feeling sassy as I left the salon.

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Back in my studio

And still feeling sassy. Of course, now that I washed it, it’s back to curly.

What’s new about my haircut isn’t just that I had it cut, and then blown dry straight. It’s that I went to a new salon (literally new - it just had its grand opening last Saturday): Mystic Ginger Collective. And I treated myself to one of their special “full moon haircuts” that comes with a scalp massage of oils and extracts mixed by the owner, Kellie, and even a surprise take-home gift that brings me joy! I set an intention for my haircut, which was to get rid of all that no longer serves me. (And I didn’t just mean the tips of my hair.) And so it is. 💫✨

I’ve also been playing a bit more with creating oil pastel paintings, and I’m starting to get the hang of it, you guys. All of these are done on cold-pressed watercolor paper that is 9”x12” in size. The first one you see (left) is done using Prima Water Soluble Oil Pastels, and the other three are done using Sennelier Oil Pastels (so buttery, so creamy . . . happy sigh). I’m going to be making these guys (and any others I make tomorrow) available to my newsletter subscribers on Sunday, February 24th, for $45 each (US postage included) on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you see something you’d like to have in your house, you should probably subscribe!

My last, latest new thing is actually the decluttering of old things. Between watching Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up on Netflix (I love her so much!) and some other energy work I’ve been doing, I am back to decluttering, big-time. And my sweet Morris is on it, too. Between us, we’ve filled two of those ginormous 55-gallon trash bags, plus two smaller kitchen-sized bags, with clothing that we have thanked and decided to let go.

I can feel the energy flowing a bit more freely in the house, and I know that we are creating space for new energy and more abundance to come into our home. I’m already looking at what else is due for some decluttering, and it’s enough to keep me fairly busy for the next two weeks. It helps that we’ve been activating the qi in the house with clapping and music and light and incense, all of which are feng shui energy clearing tactics. And wow, I feel lighter. Both because of the haircut and because there is so much less stuff in my closet. Next up is accessories, followed by makeup and other face products. Wish me luck!

Loving Life

In general, I try to choose happiness every day. And yes, I’ve come to believe that it’s as much a choice as anything else. I’ve thought it for quite a while now, but here’s a way to think about it:
If you’ve spent time around young kids, you will occasionally see them decide to get upset about something. Sometimes it’s valid (based on something they find upsetting that is not super serious), and sometimes it’s just them choosing to be in a mood. You can often jostle them out of it through hugs or something funny, but a truly dedicated kid will insist on returning to their sulk. And you can see them making that choice.

Here’s the thing: we as adults often do the same thing. And if we can choose to be sad or upset or sulky or insistent on holding onto a grudge, we can also choose to be happy. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have or experience other emotions, including anger, sorrow, confusion and more, but it does (for me) mean finding the things I’m grateful for and celebrating them.

Here’s me on Tuesday, choosing to be happy during my regular IV treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Here’s me on Tuesday, choosing to be happy during my regular IV treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Lately, I’ve been super busy. I spent two weeks in North Carolina with family, and flew home on Friday in time to pack things up and go to an event on Saturday. The Valentine’s Pop-Up Market at Creek Mercantile in Rancocas Woods (Mount Laurel, NJ) was a huge success. And I loved seeing so many female-owned enterprises in one terrific space! I bought the small macramé piece you see in the top row from Erin at Clove & Cedar, got myself a candle (vanilla and sandalwood, with a citrine stone) from April of Willow Moon Candles, scored a blue tiger’s eye necklace from Dot of DorothyClaire Crystals, and bought some more elderberry syrup from Jody & Michaline of Mystical Blossoms. (You can’t say I didn’t do my part to support the event — LOL!)

Saturday evening, my husband and I joined his kung fu family in Philadelphia to celebrate Chinese New Year with the United Fellowship of Martial Artists (of which Morris is a member). As you might imagine, Sunday was for getting things in order, like laundry, and groceries, just in time for snowy Monday. Pretty sure you are largely caught up on things now, though I do have a few other things going on: commissions that I’m fixing, talks with some businesses, and more. I will fill you in when it’s allowed!

In the meantime, I’d like to thank any and all of you who came out on February 9th, or who have gotten in touch for cards, garlands, and more!

In memoriam Mary Oliver

The world lost an observer, a speaker of truth this week, when Mary Oliver left our realm. I am a published poet myself, and even in my wildest dreams cannot imagine achieving the popularity and success that she did. I don’t resent her for it, but am instead grateful that we had her for as long as we did, and that she left us so many books.

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I am spending a hyggelig day here, nestled on the couch reading some of her poems. The quote above is from her poem, “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long, Black Branches?”, which is from her collection entitled West Wind. If you haven’t read her work, or even if you have, I highly recommend the poem “Wild Geese”, which begins “You do not have to be good./ You do not have to walk on your knees/ for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. / You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Here’s a link to allow you to read the rest.

Tell me , what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
— Mary Oliver, "The Summer Day"

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).


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 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.

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!

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.

Fall Cleaning

My husband, Morris, and I spent hours together yesterday and today, cleaning out half of our garage. We have a two car garage that we keep our two cars in, along with TONS of other things stored around the edges. Our efforts resulted in giving away a five-foot tall IKEA wooden wine rack, putting an awful lot of tools and doodads away (so many loose screws, you guys — LOL), and throwing out a rather impressive amount of things. Including a dead squirrel, that apparently crawled under some shelving in our garage to die. (I am so sad for the poor wee thing—but it obviously had passed quite a long while ago.)

Earlier this week, I spent quite a lot of time cleaning half of my studio. Below is a shot of a still-needs-to-be-cleaned table, but I sort of fell in love with it anyhow.

Feathers, oils, a crystal point, a paint carousel, a music box, some silk sunflowers, . . .

Feathers, oils, a crystal point, a paint carousel, a music box, some silk sunflowers, . . .

I’ve been diffusing some lovely combinations here in the house lately. At this moment, the house smells of Cedarwood, Wintergreen, Orange, and Bergamot, since that’s what I added to the Epsom salts in the bath I ran for my sweetheart after so much hard work today. He literally powered through SO MUCH STUFF. I spent more time in a chair or advising than actually lifting and carrying and such, though I did do a decent amount of sweeping and sorting of hardware. It’s not something I focus on, but in case you are looking for high-quality essential oils, I do sell Young Living oils (in theory — I have my distributor listing, but haven’t signed anyone up or sold any to other people in the past five years). The post being, if you’d like some, hit me up.

On Monday of this week, I started taking a new online art course, which has kept me busy this week. But I’ve also almost finished up this piece, which features an Emily Dickinson poem and will be going in my shop early next week at $100. (Holler now if it’s yours):

Autumn—overlooked my Knitting—

Autumn—overlooked my Knitting—

Next week is for more art class, and for my IV infusion to treat my rheumatoid arthritis (hence the sitting and not lifting so much portion of fall cleaning), and for travel to South Carolina for most of October, where I hope to be of use as a chauffeur for my dad, who is doing radiation and chemotherapy for esophageal cancer. BUT! I have an event that I just got to list on my calendar for November, so that makes me happy. More in a bit, once it’s confirmed.

If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, you can do so at my home page. I just sent one out the other day, and the next will go out sometime in October. (Hint: it will have a special sale event for subscribers!)