Those summer books… fiction

For some reason, I had the song from the movie Greece in my head.  You know, “Those Summer Nights?” Really, it’s “Ni-hights.” So I’ve changed it slightly to “those summer books.”  Flows right off the tongue right? Right?

The Courtesan: A Novel by Alexandra Curry

Alexandra Curry has such talent! I got a digital galley from Penguin Random House’s First to Read program (officially releasing in September).  I can hardly believe this is Curry’s first novel. Anyone who writes with such lyrical language, one that seems to carry itself forward with its own steady momentum, could write anything and I would read it. This is a story that grabbed my heart from the very beginning and wouldn’t let go.  I was taken in entirely, and that rarely happens for me.  It’s based on a true story of a young girl who had nobody and was sold to a brothel in the late 19th century.  She undergoes much change as she moves from one life situation to another, yet shows strength and an inner compass throughout.

Even if you are far less sentimental than I am, this novel backdrop of the Quin dynasty was educational and the novel shows an interesting transition time for Imperialist China as it must open to a relationship with the West.  I can hardly wait to see what Curry writes next!

The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George

Born 1973 in Bielefeld, Germany, Nina George is a prize-winning and bestselling author (“Das Lavendelzimmer” – “The Little Paris Bookshop”) and freelance journalist since 1992, who has published 26 books (novels, mysteries and non-fiction) as well as over hundred short stories and more than 600 columns

The lead character owns a floating book barge on the Seine called the “Literary Apothecary” because he can “prescribe” novels for any situation or broken heart.  He says, “I wanted to treat feelings that are not recognized as afflictions and are never diagnosed by doctors. All those little feelings and emotions no therapist is interested in, because they are apparently too minor and intangible. The feeling that washes over you when another summer nears its end. Or when you recognize that you haven’t got your whole life left to find out where you belong. Or the slight sense of grief when a friendship doesn’t develop as you thought, and you have to continue your search for a lifelong companion. Or those birthday morning blues. Nostalgia for the air of your childhood.”

He lost his great love and spends years mourning.  The book takes him on a journey down the rivers in France and toward his own healing.  It is excellent… highly recommend.  Poetic language, heartfelt words, and universal emotions.  I wish Nina George had more of her books translated into English.  I have so many beautiful highlighted passages! One more…

“Whenever Monsieur Perdu looked at a book, he did not see it purely in terms of a story, minimum retail price and an essential balm for the soul; he saw freedom on wings of paper.”

OK, another final one: “He had always felt that books created a force field around him. He had discovered the whole world on his barge—every emotion and place and era. He had never had to travel; his conversations with books had been sufficient…until finally he prized them more highly than people. They were less threatening.

Circling the Sun: A Novel by Paula McLain

“This valley was more than my home. It beat in me like the drum of my own heart.” 

McLain describes 1920s colonial Kenya and Beryl Markham’s African childhood there as the setting of her extraordinary adventures training horses and as a pilot.  McLain wrote one of my favorite books, The Paris Wife: A Novel (see my review here – can’t believe that was 4 years ago!), and I’ll read anything she writes.  She seems to be an expert at historical fictional memoir (The Paris Wife is about Hadley Hemmingway).

“You can’t run from any part of yourself, and it’s better that you can’t. Sometimes I’ve thought it’s only our challenges that sharpen us, and change us, too…”

And wow.  McLain succeeds in conveying the adventurous spirit of Beryl and all that she must overcome, especially as a woman at a time when women did not undertake half the adventure she was.  She had her own ideas and lived by them to the end.  After winning several horserace awards, she was the first person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic from Europe to America.  If you know Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa: and Shadows on the Grass, you know the Denys Finch-Hatton and Beryl Markham that McLain writes of.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Markham had actually written her own memoir, West with the Night, and there are several books available about her.  Highly recommend.

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Join me in these fall courses

Some of my favorite friends are those I’ve met in online classes.  Often, the supportive community of like-minded people is just as fantastic as the course content.  In fact, many of my blog readers have come from past e-courses, and many of you share the same addiction love of them! I’m excited about these upcoming classes so I thought I’d let you all know of them too in the odd chance you’d like to join me.

And in case you’re wondering how I’m going to do this on top of everything else, I can tell you that I just don’t know.  :) Maybe if I add a Jazzercise class…

Brave Girls Univ

This first one is not specifically one class.  Brave Girl University opens on September 1. It’s by the beautiful Melody and Kathy from Brave Girls Club.  Having already enjoyed several of Melody’s soulful art classes, I’m very excited that she’s forming this new platform to offer hundreds of classes from some of my favorite people.  Here’s what their website says:

Specifically, I’m going to take Christine Mason Miller’s “Soulful, Practical, Possible.” I just love her! She describes the first chapter as a discussion of “a few of the first things that are always on my mind when I start to seriously considering diving into a wild idea:

  • Imagining my wildest, grandest vision and what the day-to-day of that might look like.
  • Considering what success means to ME.
  • Trusting that my dream will eventually show up for me, and then, together, we’ll head off on a wild adventure.”  

Christine will add new content every few weeks.  It will be via email, podcasts, and pdfs. Other teachers in BGU that I’m excited about are Tamara Laporte, Kelly Rae Roberts, Andrea Scher, Flora Bowley, Junelle Jacobsen, and Hannah Marcotti.  I’ve already taken and loved classes from each of them over the past few years.  And the possibility of discovering new artists excites me also.

Rise photographySeptember 14th–25: Rise with Henry and Catherine

I just completed a photography class with Henry Lohmeyer and I’ve admired Catherine Just for a long time.  I actually heard about Henry through one of her Instagram posts. They are offering in-person and online classes together.

All of the following is from their course description page:


Why? Because what you see and feel—what defines your internal landscape matters—you matter.

We’re often afraid that what we have to say isn’t good enough, that we don’t have the right camera, that we’re not talented, we’re measuring instead of creating.

Our internal landscape, as it is, is something to honor. We are called, not to be perfect, but to have a personal devotion to our work, our own expression and to ourselves.

With their two unique personal journeys and perspectives, Catherine Just and Henry Lohmeyer will guide you though a growing and safe place, together helping you find your own practice, your own devotion.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 2.48.05 PMSeptember 7 – October 4: Forging a Feminine Path: Women’s Sexuality and Spirituality via Viva Institute

This one looked totally different to anything else I’ve ever learned about.  I took Psychic Development from Leigh (and Echo Bodine) last year and enjoyed the format and content.  I’d say Leigh over-delivers, offering much more than I had expected.  The instruction is by Kimberly Johnson.  Check it out!

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Oh how I have missed you!

WoodsHello friends! I have missed you!!!

Today’s the first day of school! Today’s the first day of school!!! Oh, I’m so so glad. Summer has not really caused a change in schedule at our house (our little lady wakes up at 6am no matter what), but still I like the structure that the school year brings. I await the fall weather with excitement… I want to wear long sleeves and jeans so badly, walk in crunchy leaves, sit out on my backyard patio to watch the birds, and do all the activities that the season brings – pumpkins, flowers, long walks, being outside.  By mid-November, early-December, it’ll happen.

I also saw a hilarious post on Facebook from someone who showed a pic of her kids on the first day of school (because they say humiliation is an important part of childhood), followed by a pic of her and her friends an hour after dropoff, running and jumping off of a boat into a lake in huge celebration.  I am feeling that elation too, although instead of a boat, I’m heading right to a board meeting.


Let your heart tell story strait-001I may have taken a break from hitting “Publish,” but I have not taken a break from blogging.  I’ve been doing all sorts of great things over here and I can hardly wait to tell you about it all.  I have already written and scheduled 19 posts! (Perhaps I shouldn’t have stopped posting?) The solution: just for September, I’ll post three days a week, M/W/F.

You can tell that “summer” does not equal “relaxing” over here.  But… there’s good news.  I may not be slowing down, but I am getting more focused.  I see a big difference in that.  There’s still not enough time to do all that I want to do, but I’m narrowing it down to the top priorities.

Writing is my primary method of tapping into to my thoughts and intuitive voice, which is probably why I couldn’t stop writing blog posts in draft form.   I have a need to share my truth and when I shut it off, I’m also hiding my honesty and ideas.  From myself! It’s writing and also creating art when I can turn off that ego voice and do what feels good to me, getting inwardly organized and quiet.  My individuality resides there, so if I don’t tap into it, I lose my sense of what makes me… well, me.  Also, I lose my ability to find shades of grey in situations, moving to black/white thinking, which expresses itself in judgement, blunt expressions, and impatience.  Not so fun for those around me.

Art in progressLet’s see… here are the highlights and what you can look forward to hearing about:

  • Probably this goes without mentioning, but I have been reading A TON this summer.  There was a day there when I pondered starting a separate blog focused solely on books, but I’ve come to my senses.  I am going to do more frequent book reviews here though because my monthly summaries don’t allow me to tell you fully about the goodness of some of these treasures.  I have my summer reading divided into 3 posts: fiction, non-fiction, and spirituality, and also 2 posts about individual books I think you’ll like.  (BTW, let’s be friends on Goodreads!)
  • I’m going to be taking a couple of online classes beginning next month and I’d love to have you join along.  I’ll tell you about them on Wednesday.  They are offered by some of my favorite people.

Permission to play

  • I’ve gotten into Instagram again and I am in love.  I’ve made many soulful and delightful new friends.  I’ll be sharing photos from the two August prompt-a-day challenges I’ve been enjoying.
  • I took a quick 10-day photography course centered around the topic of vulnerability and it raised some ideas I’d like to share with you.
  • I also finally overcame my resistance to taking Kelly Rae Roberts’ Hello Soul Hello Mixed-Media Mantras class.  It was excellent and I learned some new techniques I’ll share.Making canvas
  • I’ve made time for getting my hands covered with paint and gel medium, creating cards and canvases and art for my house.  Of course I will show you.
  • I’ve lost 20 pounds on WW through sheer discipline and lots of chewing gum.

Mirror view

  • I took Carol Tuttle’s Dressing Your Truth course and have learned such a great deal about my own sense of balance, beauty, and aesthetics.  Knowing that I am energetically sensitive, I already deliberately create my own structure, which sometimes shows up as perfectionism and people-pleasing.
  • I’ve found a bunch of new-to-me clothing stores too and have been updating and organizing my closet.
  • I took some photos of some of my art, ordered mounted prints, and reopened my Etsy shop.

Great Falls

  • In addition to Energy Profiling, I’ve been learning about our body’s energy in general.  I believe I have some “leaks.” I’ve got some insight to share about where they come from (for me) and how I am creating boundaries to prevent draining my energy and allow myself more time for beauty and serenity.  (Key words: self-doubt, over-giving, suffering, naiveté, judgement, blame, self-worth, Truth) BIG stuff!
  • In my Mussar class, we have covered Honor, Simplicity, and Enthusiasm. I’ve got a great post about simplicity and moderation that I think you’ll like.
  • Finally, not written yet but forming in my mind are explorations on Abundance, Empowerment, and Self-Love.  Oh, and Perfectionism.

K, so that should carry us into 2016 right? Lol.  See you on Wednesday… I’m off to pretend to take a nap.  Please share in the comments how you have been and what you’ve been up to this summer.  :)


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Are you fighting your true nature?

DYT type 2 Pin revised
I am still on a blogging break, but thought you’d all love to know about this.  Carol’s course is on sale right now.

Your outer beauty and inner beauty are connected.  According to Carol Tuttle, there are 4 Types of energetic movement in the world. You are made up of all four, but primarily express one of them.  Carol started Dressing Your Truth®, a Beauty Profiling system that identifies those four main types of beauty that women (and men) express.  This is sort of like a personal fashion makeover from the inside out.

In the past month, I have gone through Carol’s course, identified myself as a Type 2SM (sensitive, soft, gentle), and begun a rather a huge shift.  It’s not just about appearance, though that’s part of owning your Type.  Knowing all about my Type and exploring the website’s many learning videos has given me permission to be myself.  I’ve got to share it with you so you can learn about this too!!!

Previously, I have spent a lot of time viewing myself (appearance and inner qualities) in terms of faults and flaws rather than strengths.   I’d also spent much much time trying to be something other people may have wanted of me, or at least I thought they did.  This has changed that.  This program’s goal is confidence and a much clearer understanding of who you are.  Then you can carry it forward to learn much more about the unique gifts and talents you bring to the world and authentically express them.

This system has helped me feel amazing about being who I already am.  It’s validating in a huge way.  It goes far below the surface of clothes and makeup, venturing into discovering our beauty at the soul level.  Your natural beauty shows up everywhere—not just in your face or body, but also in your thought process, feelings, and personality.

Your Type shows up in your facial features, body language, behavior tendencies, thoughts, feelings, and personality.  You can then take this information about yourself and feel validated, comfortable, and true to being you.  AND, this influences how you set up your entire life! How you dress, wear your hair, interact with friends… it all fits into your profile.  Read on!

Beauty Profiling looks at what’s natural for you… expressions, posture, body features.  Are you a bright, animated Type 1? A subtle, soft Type 2? A rich, dynamic Type 3? Or a bold, striking Type 4?  Knowing this can be like a key that opens so many doors.  AND, once you know the different Types, you can better recognize where other people in your life fit into this system.

DYT new looks

Understanding My Type 2-ness

I am a Type 2.  I move fluidly.  I have a gift for detail.  I am easily able to connect others to their own heart and to others.  I have a fluid, flowing energy.  I offer a peace and calmness to the world. (You’re welcome!)

In her book, Dressing Your Truth, Discover Your Type of Beauty, which comes free as part of the course, Susan describes Type 2’s as: “naturally calming, inviting, subdued and sensitive. Your dominant shapes in physical features are elongated S curves, ovals and softened rectangles, which are visible in the eyes, the nose, the cheeks, the hairline, and overall body and facial shape. Type 2 energy moves inward, which is generally recognized as an introvert expression, moving in a subtle and connected flow to create in this world… Other keywords that describe the movement of this energy in a dominant Type 2 woman are: blended, soft, steady, relaxed, connected, comforting, subtle, tender, thoughtful, and detail-oriented.” 

I value comfort and softness in clothing, relationships, and surroundings.  It’s true! I am always touching things.  I value emotional connections.  Type 2’s often look down when speaking (which I totally do!) because they are connecting with their feelings.

Applying my Type to my closet

JewelryThe five elements of Dressing Your Truth are design line, texture, fabrication, pattern, and of course, chroma/color.  Now I’m going through all the video modules on the website and learning how to apply these gifts and challenges to my wardrobe, my actions, and my life in general.  It’s a pretty cool concept! Knowing who I naturally am, I can apply this to my physical appearance to better reflect my own personal style.  Looking in my closet, I saw that I already naturally tend toward soft, flowing lines and fabric. Anything stiff or uncomfortable doesn’t get worn very much.  Now I know why I like silver but not gold, round shoes but not pointed, curls and curves but not straight lines.

I have tended to wear bright colored tops in blocks.  I wear jeans or a solid skirt/short with a solid and vibrant tshirt.  Carol says that those bright colors (and especially black and white) may seem to others like you are trying to make up for your quiet temperament in your clothing.  Notice me!!! You end up looking washed out.  It may seem counterintuitive, but wearing soft, muted colors, flowing lines, even dangly earrings bring out a T2’s natural beauty much more.  Carol says, “When you dress true to your TYPE 2SM nature, people know what to expect from you: a calming, soft-spoken, detail-oriented person. But when you are not “Dressing Your Truth”, you send a message that conflicts with who you truly are.”

Clothes before and after

I’ve found absolutely gorgeous clothing in soft, rich colors on the online Dressing Your Truth shop (you can shop by Type!), at J.Jill, Sundance, LOFT, and in new-to-me places like Maurice’s and ModCloth.  There are Pinterest boards (here’s mine) and Facebook groups for each Type and they have been invaluable.  I’m having fun trying new colors, wearing makeup, jewelry, scarves, and flowing patterns.  I have said goodbye to LOTS of black.  And I never really knew how to put on eye makeup before watching the videos, but now I look much more awake!

Shoes and makeup

This transformation does not require spending lots of money.  There are many items that I already owned that I’m wearing now.  That said, it’s fun to get new things! In the last few months, I have lost 20 pounds (woo hoo!!!), so I need some new things anyway.  Perfect timing.  Here are a few more items that I have ordered.

Clothes ordered

What’s on the inside

Even better, I can be me without being embarrassed or feeling that I’m not enough of something.  I am the right size for me. I am the right sensitivity for me.

I can better know who my husband and daughter naturally are (Type 4 and Type 1) and value them and the strengths they each have and how they see the world.  Letting someone be naturally themselves is validating for them and brings out their gifts.

Carol says the purpose of her program is “to support you in recognizing the truth of who you are, as a woman, as a human being, and move forward in your life in greater confidence and awareness.”

When I was growing up, I never wanted to call attention to myself, but I felt misunderstood and wished I could speak up and tell people who I am.  I wanted to belong, but trying to be fun and outgoing was not natural to me.

Looking at my own gifts (ability to connect people, focus on planning and details) and challenges (sensitive nature means a tendency to absorb others’ emotions, over-attention to details) puts it all in perspective.  I can also see that a quiet steadiness is a huge strength.  Knowing my social tendencies, my emotional patterns, and how my energy affects other people leads me to feel my own inner power.

Carol also has a book called The Child Whisperer, The Ultimate Handbook for Raising Happy, Successful, and Cooperative Children, which is an amazing read (and online program too) about understanding our children’s true natures… “their natural quality of moving, thinking, feeling, and relating to the world. Your child’s true inner nature expresses itself outwardly in appearance, body language, tone of voice, and choice of words.” And all this happens way before you know their personality.  Tantrums, friendships, joys and struggles make FAR more sense once you know their type.  I’ll tell you more about this gem in a separate post.

I highly encourage you to sign up for the Dressing Your Truth course, learn your Type, and change your life.  What are you waiting for?

I look forward to catching up with you all once school starts again.  :)

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Do you trust your experiences?

Summer is often filled with travel or at least some extra reading time. I’ve been doing a ton of reading, mostly nonfiction, back and forth between a dozen titles on my kindle.  It’s been so fun! I’ll have reviews for you toward the end of the summer, but this one I MUST tell you guys about now, just in case you find some time to read and need a good recommendation.  I had a tough time selecting which quotations to include because there were so many profound ones.  :)

Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World by Leigh Ann Henion

Motherhood affects everything, but does it have to change everything about who I am and what I choose to pursue?” A fundamentally drained new mother undertakes several journeys of natural phenomena around the globe in at attempt toward emotional healing.  As she rekindles her sense of awe, she shares reflections on parenting, following your passions, and living fully.  In between time at home, she travels to Mexico to observe the tiny spot where Monarch butterflies migrate; Puerto Rico to experience the bioluminescent waters; to Catatumba, Venezuela to see the abundant lightning, to Hawaii and their volcanos, to Sweden and the beautiful northern lights, to Africa to experience the Great Migration, and to Australia, where she sees a total solar eclipse.

“A sense of wonder is, I think, what Einstein meant by a cosmic religious feeling.  And that is really what I’m seeking on this journey. It’s an admission of human frailty and the perfect magnificence of earth, the universe, time, in a way that removes the masks of humankind’s many religions to reveal their connectivity, the fact that we are—in the end—one.”

Modern science/culture dismisses events if they can’t be rationally explained.  Sometimes, though, the mystery can’t be physically explained.  The word phenomenal actually means direct observation, and it’s the essence of the philosophical discipline of phenomenology, the study of consciousness from the first-person field of view.

“’To form a culture like ours, a culture predicated on the avoidance of disarray,’ psychologist Kirk Schneider reasons, ‘we need to cultivate intricate defenses against mystery, and to acquire sophisticated strategies that enable us to skirt the complexities of being. Hence, much of our speech is geared not to acknowledge our humility before life, but our control, coordination, and management.’”

“’Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos, because he is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional unconscious identity with natural phenomena,’ Jung noted. Rationalism, he believed, has left us with a diminished capacity to respond to the numinous, or spiritual, symbols and ideas all around us. ‘Most of our difficulties come from losing contact with our instincts, the age-old forgotten wisdom stored up in us.’ He called this the 400,000-year-old that lives in all of us.”

Sure, we can’t all afford the expense of the time to leave our lives and travel the world. But we can all relate to what Henion says about having experiences like this:

“To trust the senses—the mortal body—is to risk sounding crazy, especially, it seems, if you’re a woman. She’s seeing things. She’s hearing things. She’s so sensitive. Read: She’s irrational. And this I have internalized. Who am I to trust my body, my senses, my instincts? Who am I to know how to raise my child without consulting parenting books and up-to-date rearing studies? Who am I to try to find God outside of an institutionally approved, fully vetted doctrine? Who am I to think I can pursue impractical dreams? Who am I to be taken seriously? Who am I to think I’m capable or worthy? Who am I to . . . Who am I? The very language we use to talk about our most intimate desires makes it seem as if we’ve been having a collective identity crisis. We want to believe in ourselves. We want to have faith in ourselves. It’s as if we’ve begun—in a networked world that connects us to each other in ideas but not in body, in a culture that pushes individualism yet shames us out of navel gazing—to question our very existence.

Experiencing these natural marvels through Henion’s eyes was fascinating to me.  She glimpses an underlying universal wholeness many times and describes it eloquently.  If you’re into nature and the wonder it inspires, you will LOVE this book!

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Going from type-A to, um, type-A 1/2?

Afraid of the lightLots of activity this past month!! We have transitioned into summer, spending time at the pool and camp and lots of fun art projects, movies, etc.  My daughter and I are making friendship bracelets for each other.  I’m surprised that she’s gotten to the friendship bracelet-making age already!

You are one finalThere’s something developing within and I don’t even know if it’s something I can describe, but I’ll try.  It began with a feeling or intuition that we are all connected, meaning there is no separation between one person and another.  Probably this grew out of my study of Mussar, my increased faith, and my idealistic tendencies.  I started a bit of a reading binge… I can’t get enough information on consciousness, mysticism, spirituality, and the intersection (or impasse really) between materialist science and the spiritual world. As the neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles wrote, “we have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world.”

So that reading has led me to pay much more attention to my emotions, my dreams, and to pause more often to check in with myself, something I really don’t do much.  Full steam ahead, I usually say.  Type A for sure.

A conversation changed what I think of as my direction.  Maybe I will share more later, but I’ll just say that I’m not going to bow to fear any longer.  By that, I mean fear of success just as much, if not more, than fear of failure.  Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it isn’t meant to unfold, right? I want to combine all the inspiration I’m absorbing into mixed-media art.

Time to fly full sizeSo yes, I’m back in full swing ART mode! Perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t been creating much art lately.  It’s been about 10 months actually.  And that has bothered me and affected me more than I realized.  I feel pulled toward it more than ever and I have pages of ideas jotted down in a notebook.  I’ve been having a blast and it’s only been a few days so far.  The one above is my first canvas I’ve completed.

PermissionA major gift in all of this is that the inspiration only comes when I’m not in the driver’s seat.  I have to make an effort to sit still, to read or reflect or write or let art unfold.  It’s hard to sit still but I’m doing ok so far.  Taking other things off my plate has helped a great deal, the biggest of which was my own expectations of myself.

One thing I will do is take the month of July and part of August away from blogging, just as I’ve done in past years.  I may pop in every once in a while to say hello.  I plan to try to take myself off the rigid habit of scheduling every single task, and blogging takes up a lot of that.   Though I would say it’s my favorite of all the things I do, I still think a break is a good thing.

Many of you have decided to take social media breaks, something I admire.  I probably won’t do that.  In fact, I’ve gone the opposite direction and gotten on Periscope (the latest social media tool) and back on Instagram.  I found two classes through these: one is Kelly Rae Roberts’ mixed media class (which I kept saying I wasn’t going to take!) and the other is a 10-day photography course with Henry Lohmeyer called “wide open: photography and vulnerability” and it begins July 6.  “Each photo that I take is about what I’m processing, what I’m feeling, what I’m being. If you can concede to this notion and completely believe that each photo you take is about your own personal journey, what’s in you, then anything you see becomes a photo worth taking, a feeling worth expressing.” I’m looking forward to learning from Henry.

I’m reorganizing all my craft space.  There may be another tour coming soon.  Maybe I’ll do a Periscope video?

craft shelves

What are you up to? Enjoy your summer!

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