The Walls of Lisbon

The first part of our holiday trip began in the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon, which is the oldest part of town (over 800 years old). This area is well known for its hilly streets as well as the close quarters (residences are side by-side, with buildings only several feet apart in some areas).


Exploring the nooks and crannies by foot is always our favorite travel activity and, in fact, we averaged walking about 8 miles a day…loving every minute of it.  Wherever we walked, it was Bill at the front with me at the rear, and Brook sandwiched in between.  It works out well for us that Bill is the navigator (he’s great with maps), and with Brook sandwiched at the center we can keep a close eye on her (so that she doesn’t wander off too far). And I’m usually at the end, happy with my camera at the ready.


It seemed that wherever we went, there were photo ops, such as this everyday scene of a pretty cloth hung out to dry.  It’s coming across these everyday things that stops me in my tracks – to me their casual, humble beauty is stunning.




What else was stunning were the gorgeous views at the tops of the hills.  We were so lucky to arrive at this sight when there was sunshine…oh how good it felt!  It was the perfect reward after a tough red-eye flight.


Here’s a shot of Bill and I fresh off the plane.


And here’s one of me and Brook.  After all the walking up the steep hills, we needed a little break so we leaned up against a huge castle wall.


Bill noticed that the walls were made with actual shells and coral, which fascinated him to no end.  And actually, everywhere we went Bill often stopped to inspect the walls.  I like how he enjoys looking deeply at things too – whenever Bill discovers interesting finds and shares it with us, we also get to benefit from the experience.  Having more eyes makes it more fun!  By the way, Brook has a good eye too and during our trip she turned us on to many sights that we might otherwise have overlooked.


Going slow gives us a chance to spot wonderful surprises like these lingering peacocks. They also chose to take a rest on the walls…


…so that they could enjoy this incredible view of the sun going down (Bill captured this glowing scene from atop a precarious wall with his phone camera while I was busy trying not to fall off the edge!)


And speaking of things going down, way beneath the castle (encountered during the next day’s walk) there was an abundance of graffiti everywhere.



I’m not so sure that I like all of this personal expression on public space.  It feels like an invasion of some sort and to me, it ruins the beauty of what’s underneath or next to it. I guess I don’t really get it.


However, I do get the one below.


And I got it even more after getting home.  I translated the message into English (thanks to Google Translate), and it reads “In doubt, tell the truth”.  This message speaks to me, in its simplicity and also in its complexity.

Another graffiti sight that stopped me in my tracks was the one below.  It’s minimal and not so in your face, but I liked it.  I liked the handwriting and I liked the color and composition…so simple yet direct.  And I had no idea what it said or meant…


…until I got home and did the Google Translate thing again.  It reads “There is light within you”…can you believe that?!  You can image how excited I felt when I first read those words!  The message is exactly what I believe.  And to see it with my own eyes that someone else sees it the same way…way across the ocean, in another land, and in another language.  I just love it.  I love that others know this light, that they feel this light, and that they believe that everyone has this light.  With all this light, the world can be an amazing place…and it is an amazing place.  How lucky we are to be in it together.

Shine on my friends and be bright!  And don’t forget to go slow so that you can take it all in.  Sometimes it’s literally written on the walls…it is everywhere.









Glowing and Dancing into the New Year

Bill, Brook and I just returned from a magical 10 day trip to Portugal and Spain. We experienced a wide range of tradition and culture during this trip. One of the highlights being that we were able to attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve in Seville.  The cathedral where the service was held was massive and well attended.  The air was filled with fragrant incense which mingled well with the European sounds (the entire service was conducted in Latin and Spanish, punctuated with organ music).


The next day for Christmas our family enjoyed a quiet dinner together at an ancient Moorish bathhouse that was converted into a rustic yet elegant restaurant. I remember feeling especially peaceful and content that evening…being in the company of my Bill and Brook in such a beautiful and amazing place.  My heart was warm with love, as my fingertips were warmed by the comforting glow of the candle on our table.  After our meal I felt full and satisfied in all ways.


In contrast to our quiet Christmas dinner together, on our last day in Seville we took in a lively flamenco show with soulful singing and guitar playing.  The flamenco dancing itself was incredible…so intense and full of emotion.  Brook was so moved by it all that afterwards she was literally speechless…I don’t remember this ever happening to her before.  I suppose that the passionate music and dancing awakened some part of her that she might not have known existed.


This trip was the perfect way to close 2013.  I’ll most likely share some more of my experiences in the next post (there was a lot of inspiration that I’m sure will influence future art projects).

Wishing you all good glow and lots of happy dancing into 2014!






Friendship and Beyond

I created this canvas for my beautiful friend Cheryl.


As I thought about our friendship, the words came rolling out…slowly and steadily, to the rhythm in my heart.


With this poem, I think I “nailed” it.  It says exactly how I feel…which is exactly what I wanted.


Friends may come and go, as we change and grow, but some things never change…such as the truth of how “friends love and lift”.


Below is my poem in its entirety, minus the artwork part which could be somewhat distracting from the words.

Friends love
and lift…and
away we go…
up and out,
highest reaches
of the heart*

This poem is about friendship and love and how this lifts us…beyond our imagination and what we think our hearts are capable of.  I chose to use the blue sky to symbolize this feeling of height and light.

When a true friend is by your side, the sky is not even the limit…you can go “beyond”.





Grandma’s Joyful Holiday Cookies

Last weekend Bill, Brook and I baked some holiday cookies together.  I LOVE everything about these cookies…how few ingredients they require, how fun it is to roll the dough into balls, and best of all…how amazingly delicious they taste.

Here’s what they look like piled up on a pretty plate.  I think they look like cute little snowballs…so perfect for the winter holiday season. We probably could’ve added a heavier coating of confectioners sugar on the outside, but then it would’ve taken too much time away from the actual eating part.


Here’s a look at the inside where there are small pieces of pecans for some added crunch.


Baking and eating these cookies with my family gives me joy.   And then there’s even more joy to be had when we bake enough to share with others outside our household.  I think these cookies should be called double-joy cookies!  I love how sharing something so simple can double the joy for everyone.

In the sharing spirit, here’s the recipe for you to try – you won’t be disappointed!

Pecan Butter Cookies (Double the recipe for double the joy).

1 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans
2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar, add nuts, vanilla, flour and salt.  Knead mixture and shape into balls.  Bake in 325 oven for 30 minutes.  When coolish, roll in sifted confectioners sugar (we sometimes skip the sifting part and it all works out fine anyway).

Grandma Marion (Bill’s grandma) used to bake these cookies for their annual New Years Eve parties held in her home.  Bill’s grandfather was a business man whose occupation involved hosting lots of fancy parties for clients and colleagues.  Luckily, Grandma Marion was an elegant and thoughtful hostess.  She used to bake these cookies herself (which wasn’t easy considering the large amount she had to bake), and then she would serve them on a silver platter to each of her guests right after midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Bill, Brook and I usually celebrate Christmas and New Years in a much more quiet fashion.  We are very casual in our approach…pajamas and presents by the fire on Christmas morning.  And on New Years Eve it’s usually pajamas again, but at night while we’re watching the ball drop on tv. (Most of the time I don’t even make it to midnight since I’m an early to bed kind of person.)  Anyway, back to the cookies…these would be perfect on either Christmas morning with coffee or New Years Eve with champagne, whether quietly at home or out at a party.  Don’t you just love how joy can be done in so many different ways?!





Scrappy Denim Hearts

In the new issue of Somerset Studio Gallery you’ll see some hearts that I made using denim scraps and such (the article includes the how-to instructions).


Here’s a mini pillow that can be used as a Christmas tree ornament.


This heart has a sweet message of everlasting love.


And on the side of this heart I decided to repeatedly “tie the knot” all along the heart’s edge to represent marriage.


Below are two more hearts.


Here’s a close-up of another one in a pillow form.


This time the love message is handwritten.  And I chose to highlight the words by surrounding them with contrasting bits of light and dark elements…


…such as this pin holding shiny rounds of this n’ that.


Below is a look at a flat heart.


This time the message of love is more subtle.  I did this by adding hand stitched x’s and buttons for 0’s.


Lastly, here’s a hanging heart that I made using a scrap of denim mounted onto corrugated cardboard.


This piece celebrates our home…


…which is where the heart is.


Wishing you much love in your hearts and home.










Cheerful Holiday Necklaces

Awhile ago I received some wooden tags from ARTchix, but I didn’t get around to altering them until now. Sometimes the creative process requires waiting for the right time.

With the holidays season happening, I was inspired to use cheerful words of joy to make the necklaces below using the wooden tags from ARTchix.  Unfortunately, they no longer carry this item, but you can find similar ones at Jilly bean Kids (item WD2220, 8 mid-sized wooden tags for $3.99).


The tiny one below is my favorite (you know how much I LOVE tiny things).  I haven’t been able to find any more wooden tags this small in size (do any of you know where to buy some?)


Okay, moving on to more tags…here are some metal circle ones.  I made these using pendant trays from the Paper Studio.  To make, simply adhere your words typed onto paper (I chose to go with sing-songy, happy tunes) to the inside of the pendant and add a smear of glitter glue on top and let dry.  Then fill the pendant tray with diamond glaze and let dry.


Here are some rectangle ones that I made using rubber stamps for the words.  The photos didn’t come out too well (natural lighting is getting harder and harder to come by as the days grow shorter), but I think you can still get the gist of it.


As the days get colder and darkness becomes more common, I like to fill my mind with thoughts of lightness and delight.  When my mind is full of light, my heart is warmed as well.






Thanks Giving Leaves

A few weeks ago I collected these colorful leaves during one of my walks around the neighborhood.  I was enamored by the assortment of shapes and sizes and the beautiful shades ranging from rust to crimson with spots of sunshine – so warm and alive.


Holding this extra-large leaf made me feel somewhat small.  It was a good reminder that within this large world I am only a very small part…life is about so much more – outside of myself and my own little world.


Okay, on to making some leaves.  I began by splitting open a paper grocery bag, flattening it out and then I painted the inside part of the bag with shades of autumn.


Then I used the real leaves that I collected as templates by tracing around each leaf and cutting out the shapes with scissors. After this I crumpled the leaves up and then flattened them back out to create a more natural texture.  Here’s what they look like placed along my mantle.


I like how this bright spot of red pops amongst the the other items on the mantle.


I also like how the colors of the leaves compliment the star artwork (I made these awhile ago with string and tacks on painted canvas).


Here’s a close-up of the crumpled up texture.  With so much color, I didn’t want to add busy embellishments.


But a week later I changed my mind and added just a touch to one of the leaves.


These words came to me while I was thinking about the Thanksgiving holiday and what it means to me.  It’s a simple thought, but it can be deep and wide…as I sit in silence and focus on each and every blessing. Then I can feel my throat tighten and an urge to swallow the lumps…as I take it all in.  The power of gratitude is immense…


…it makes me want to give, what I have already received…and then some.  I like how “thanks” goes hand in hand with “giving”, making it complete.  “Thanksgiving” is not only my favorite holiday, it’s also one of my favorite words.










Repurposed Bird Stamp

A couple of months ago I received a letter from my Mom, who lives in Hong Kong.  And on the envelope I was delighted to see some bird stamps. I used one of them to make this tiny tree.


This blue birdie went out on a limb, which is something I’ve been thinking about doing more of these days.


On the other limb I placed a single feather (representing hope) and a dangling pearl (representing purity and honesty).  I also like how the feather is leaf shaped (so perfect for this season of shedding leaves).  Sometimes you have to let go of the old to allow space for the new.


For me, trying new things is challenging because I like the familiar and routine.  I find comfort in knowing what to expect.   However, staying in this safe zone all the time can be very limiting.  And I like the idea of living a limitless life.


If you’ve been thinking of going out on the limb more often, I’d be happy to send this tree (shown above) to you as a little visual reminder.  The first one who replies (just leave a comment to this post letting me know) can have it.

Thanks and I hope you have fun trying something new this weekend!









HandCrafted Memories and Decor

What a delightful surprise to see my necklaces on the cover of HandCrafted!  Seeing this made me smile all over because the shells that I used were collected during a family trip to Nantucket.  Whenever I look at (or wear) these necklaces I think of my Bill and Brook.


Here’s a closer look at the necklaces.  For obvious reasons I chose “joy” to express what family togetherness brings me.  And “be” serves as a reminder to self…to “be in the moment”, which happens to be the gateway to joy.


Within this issue of HandCrafted you’ll also see another project of mine which uses more of my Nantucket beach finds.  These pouches could be used as holiday ornaments (once again, to preserve the happy memories).


Also within this issue you’ll see some more necklaces that I created, this time using some old sewing supplies that I found (used to hang the necklace charms) during a family trip to Geneva.


If you don’t have access to bits like the above, you could use some wire (20 gauge) instead. Or maybe you have some wool scraps laying around.  I used some of my old sweaters (after felting them in the wash) to make the necklaces below, which are also in this same issue of HandCrafted.


And while you have the felted wool out, why not make some rustic stars and stockings?  Working with wool feels cozy and right this time of year, and I’ve been itching to make some colorful mini-stockings to snuggle some goodies into for holiday gift giving.


I’ve provided the specific how-to instructions for all five projects within this issue of HandCrafted (Volume 9).  However, if you need help or have any questions beyond what I’ve included, please feel free to contact me.

P.S. Sorry the photos for this post didn’t come out so well.  These past couple days have been dark and rainy  and the sun’s been hiding out.  I think this weekend’s supposed to be brighter though…I have a good feeling about this.










Cups of Love and Joy

I’m not quite ready for Winter to begin yet, but I LOVE the peaceful and frosty-looking, Wintry artwork by Kim Henkel on the cover of the new issue of Somerset Studio (Nov/Dec).


Inside this issue you’ll also see my cup collages.  Here’s a look at the blue one.


Just a touch of floral mesh fabric and hand stitched knots gives the tabletop some dimension and a lady-like feel.


Doesn’t the word “savor” just make you want to slow down?  I like taking it slow and easy and prefer not to rush.


Here’s a look at a cup that I drew and painted in faint lines and very soft colors.



Here’s a better view of the “love” message on the side.  Behind this message you can see a spot of my next cup collage…


…here’s a better view of it.  This piece is about “drinking in the joy”, and to me the color of joy is yellow…sunny yellow, which is why I chose to use this cheerful color as the base for my cup.


And here’s a closeup of the area where I used more floral mesh fabric along with some melted beeswax for texture and subtle dimension.  By the way, the floral mesh fabric is from an old curtain that used to hang in Brook’s room (a good example of why I like to save things!)


Again, I added a message…something that always seems to happen during the process.  I’m not sure why, but the words always just seem come.


I suppose that when the words are good-natured and optimistic, I’m happy to let them just flow.  Sending more loving and joyful thoughts into the world is perfectly fine with me.


If you’d like to learn how to create these cups, I’ve included the specific how-to instructions within my article.  Here’s a link to the Somerset Studio issue again.

I hope you all have a beautiful weekend and see you again next week…and thanks for stopping by!