Category Archives: inspiration

Haiku: Winter Tree

winter-tree

Though branches are bare
there’s such beauty to be seen.
I love life’s details…

I hope you’re enjoying the season, dear readers.  And if you happen to live in an area that’s been walloped by ice, cold and snow this winter, hang in there!  Spring is just around the corner…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Have You Heard of The Life Organizer?

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I recently received a review copy of The Life Organizer from the folks at New World Library.  Created by Jennifer Louden, this is not a step-by-step guide on how to neatly organize your life and beat it into submission.  Rather, it’s a guide that focuses on self-kindness and self-care, and helps guide you to the discovery and implementation of that which will bring you happiness.  So much of our lives are “should” and “have to”, and this guide helps you to slow down and ask some questions of yourself that can effect positive change.

Given that the book guides you through 52 weeks of soul searching, and I just received it a few weeks ago, I haven’t had the chance to work through or read everything.  However, some things jumped out at me in the early chapters that may help give you a bit of a feel for The Life Organizer – these are pages whose corners I folded over.  :]

What Life Organizing Is (pg. 14)
Coming into the present
Asking for guidance, help, support
Listening, receiving, opening
Applying, taking the next step
Seeing if the path you are taking fits you, feels right, and aligns with your values
A structure for learning from your inner experience

What Life Organizing Is Not (pg. 10)
A rule
A should
A program
Something that must be done every day or done to make you good or right
About believing anything

Another little bit I liked, from page 18:
Life organizing doesn’t require you to be quiet, to be solemn, or to have a chunk of time.  It is to be used in the midst of all the insanity – that’s the point!

I compiled some of my life insights and my minimum requirements for self-care, as suggested by Ms. Louden, and am looking forward to working through the weekly questions and prompts in the coming year.  If any of this sounds intriguing, helpful, or otherwise sparks your curiosity, please take a moment to learn more about Jennifer Louden’s book The Life Organizer.  And happy reading!

Warm regards,
Melody

*I received one complimentary copy of The Life Organizer for review purposes, and will not receive any financial compensation for my participation in the book tour.  My opinions are my own.

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A Peek at My Newest Art Journal

Greetings!  I hope you’re having a great week thus far, dear readers.  Today I’m sharing a peek at my newest art journal – art journal number #16!  I just started it last week, and thought I’d show you how I customized it.

The Book Itself
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The journal is an 8 ½” x 11” book that started out with a blank white cover and blank white inside pages.  I love getting these Possibilities Blank Books from skybluepink.com.  The proprietress of skybluepink, Christina,  is a longtime supporter of my art journaling program for at-risk kids.  Hooray!  :]  I believe the style I order is the large portrait journal with 46 sheets…

Personalization
cover

I decorated the exterior of my journal by covering it with vintage wallpaper.  (Thanks for the wallpaper, Karan!)  The central image on the cover consists of an original black and white vintage photo that I mounted on black cardstock and a vintage label stamped with the word “sixteen”.  I also traced around the edge of the label and photo with a bronze metallic gel pen.  The exterior of the journal is treated with a clear sealer in order to protect it from spills and muck.

The Spine
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I customized the spine of my journal with another number 16.  This helps me order and locate the journals quickly if I have them on a shelf.  The number was cut from a page of vintage ledger paper – I wanted to carry the vintage look throughout on the exterior…

Inside
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I always make sure to put my name and phone number inside my journal, in case it gets lost.  I also like to include the date I start and finish the journal.  Because I date virtually all the pages/entries in my journals I could also look at the first and last entries to figure this out, but I like having this quick reference in the front as well.

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On the right side of the inside spread I like to mount an envelope.  I use this envelope to hold odds and ends like movie tickets while I’m working in the journal.  In this particular case I’ve embellished the envelope with some washi tape and a butterfly that I die cut from fine wire mesh.  However, the envelope embellishment varies from journal to journal.

Credit Where Credit is Due
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Many of the ways I customize my book (decorating and sealing the cover, envelope in the inside, numbering journals) were adopted from the supremely talented artist Janice Lowry – I was lucky enough to take a class from her several years ago.  She was a lifelong journal keeper, and her 100+ journals are now part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art.  Janice was an incredible artist and a lovely person, and I’m thankful to have had her for both a teacher and a friend.  :]

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick peek at my newest art journal.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Warm regards,
Melody

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Blog Post Flashback: Heart’s Desire

Hi there!  Today I’m revisiting a post I first shared a few years ago.  I love this project, and thought I’d share it again since the main “ingredient” in this project is a heart-shaped candy box.  With Valentine’s Day coming up, you may be gifted with a candy box – or may choose to treat yourself!  In either case you’ll have something great to do with the empty box, whether it’s heart shaped, square, or rectangular.  Not only is this Heart’s Desire Box fun to make, but it’s also a great goal setting exercise.  Oh, and I’m doing a mini happy dance because since I first shared this project I accomplished one of the goals I set. I published my book – woo hoo!

Enjoy…  :]

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Melody the Magpie?
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In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a bit of a scavenger.  Whether I’m up-cycling metal food cans or using cardboard packaging to make mobilesI’ve always got an eye out for cast-offs that can be used in a new way.  I enjoy making something wonderful from something simple.  Today’s “something wonderful” is essentially a box to hold your hopes and dreams – your goals.  How does that relate to chocolate box transformation?  Please read on…

Confession

I’m a sucker for heart-shaped Valentine’s chocolate boxes.  Bubble gum pink, lace, and silk roses aren’t in my usual rotation, but something gets me when it comes to those heart-shaped candy boxes.  Whether the box is a relatively plain gold or red, or is fully decked out with saccharine Valentine’s trim, I love them all.  Today’s project is how to turn one of these heart-shaped boxes into something that you can treasure – and put to good use – all year round.  So, if you (or a friend) are gifted with a heart-shaped box this year, don’t throw it away when it’s empty! (You can do this same project with a rectangular or square shaped box as well.)  Oh, and hopefully you can save the box’s liner, too.  It makes a great template!

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A Look Inside Your Heart…
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This project is called My Heart’s Desire because the outer box is intended to hold visual representations of your hopes, dreams, and goals.  Whether you gather small 3-D objects that represent what you hope to bring to fruition, or create paper “pages” that you embellish – like I have – I suggest you identify 5 to 10 things you’d like to work on in your life and include them in your box.  Here’s how I made my pages, including the materials I used.

Materials

Watercolor paper
Gesso
Paintbrushes
Glue Stick
Liquid Acrylic Inks or paint
Rubber Stamps
Black Ink Pad
Sticker & Seed Packet
Alphabet Stamps
Metallic Gel Pen
Rhinestones
Pen
Decorative Paper
Scissors
Walnut Ink
Double-Stick Tape
Heart Shaped Candy Box (you can actually use any shape you’d like)

How to Visually “Spell Out” Your Heart’s Desire
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1. Cut out one “page” for each of your heart’s desires.  Make your page by tracing the liner of your candy box, or by tracing the bottom of the box lid and then cutting just inside those lines.  If you’d like, you can add color to your page at this stage.  I brushed a mixture of acrylic inks and walnut ink onto watercolor paper. Alternately, you can use colored card stock instead.

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2. Note one desire on each “page”. (I chose “garden”, “travel”, “art program”, “nourish”, “get book published” and “run” and stamped the words on with alphabet stamps) It’s best to be as specific as possible when it comes to verbalizing goals though, so include as many details as you can.  You can write on the back of your pages, too.

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3. Add to these “pages” by drawing, painting, stamping, collaging, or otherwise embellishing your “pages”.  I’ve listed the materials I used, but you can use whatever materials or methods you’re partial to – there’s no wrong way to do it.  The pages can be a simple or as elaborate as you’d like them to be.

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Decorating Your Box’s Exterior
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There are a million ways you can decorate your box, if you choose to change it at all.  Whether you keep the box’s original look, or customize it to make it more “you”, is entirely up to you.

Here are a few décor ideas:

  • Paint your box
  • Decoupage your box
  • Cover your box with duct tape
  • Use some of the same materials you used on the “pages” to decorate the box’s exterior (which is what I did)

I opted to cover the red foil look of my box with a few coats of white gesso.  Next, I used some of the decorative metallic paper on the cover.  I stamped “My Heart’s Desire” on the box’s liner, stamped three flowers in the upper right, and glued a layer of tissue paper over the top to soften the text.  I accented the edge of the liner heart with metallic rub-ons and glued three rhinestones in the flower centers in the upper right of the heart.  Finally, I attached the letter-stamped liner piece to the box’s lid with a strong double-stick tape.

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box_detail

Hurray!  It’s Done!  NOW What?
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The purpose of this box is threefold.  One, to identify what you really want in life and to spell it out in a tangible way.  Two, to have fun creating that tangible, visual representation of what you want.  Three, to regularly refer back to the contents of your box to remind yourself of your goals and to verify you’re taking steps, however small they may be, towards those goals.  So keep this creation within arm’s reach, and let it be your guide…

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments, dear readers.  I’m always happy to hear from you!

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in An Altered Existence: Fictitious Stories About Faces from the Past, art, art supplies, life in general, writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Making Art: Four New Assemblages!

I love the creative process, and assemblage is one of my favorite artistic mediums.  It’s perfect for me, since I’m a gatherer and collector. Many of the drawers in our art studio (aka converted dining area) are stuffed with odds and ends I’ve found at flea markets, thrift stores, and antique stores.  And I have an entire drawer full of vintage photos!  I guess it’s a good thing I’m actually putting some of my treasures to use in these assemblages. :]

These first four assemblages will be followed by ten more since I have a total of fourteen little wooden houses.  Some will be made available for sale – like the Fishhook and Bereft assemblages below – and some will stay in my personal collection.  The dress in the Mending assemblage was handmade by my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Lillian, so I’ll be keeping that piece.

If you’re interested in purchasing an assemblage you may do so by visiting my Etsy store.  You may also see more photos of each piece – there are five photos of each assemblage…

Mending

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mending3

Fishhook

hook2

hook4

Bereft

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bereft4

Waltz of the Flowers

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ballet5

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at my artwork!  Please let me know if you have any questions regarding these four assemblages I’ve created.

Warm regards,
Melody

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The Adventures of a Sizzix Big Shot Newbie

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Every once in a while I stumble upon something that changes my creative life forever.  My most recent life-changing find?  A Sizzix Big Shot machine.  Yes, I know – personal die cutting & embossing machines have been around for some time.  I’m definitely on the late freight where this tool is concerned, and might’ve continued on as I was – unaware and missing out.  Luckily for me, I was hired to work at Ellison – the makers of Sizzix products.  Woo hoo!

Since late May I’ve been thoroughly immersed in the world of die cutting and embossing and I LOVE it.  And though I’ve gradually been learning the things Sizzix  machines can do and cut, I haven’t had the chance to do much crafting lately.  I’d been given a machine starter kit so I could get familiar with how everything worked back in May, but aside from a test run my first week I hadn’t had the chance to do much.  That changed this past weekend.

I pulled out an assortment of my art and crafting materials, and gave the machine a whirl.  I tried cutting an assortment of materials, and also did a quick DIY project.  I made some tags using a die, some chipboard, and Washi Tape, and will share that project on Tuesday – so stay tuned!

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Materials I Cut with My Big Shot and a Steel Rule Die:

Cardstock
Artist canvas
Watercolor paper
Sand paper
Metal embossing sheets
Fabric (cotton and lace)
Wire Mesh
Specialty paper (washi paper, etc.)
Felt
Photos
Mat board
Vintage ledger paper

Steel Rule Dies can also cut these materials:
Leather
Aluminum can
Magnet sheets
Cork
Crafting foam
– anything you can cut with scissors!

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Die Cutting Rocks!  Why?
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Dies cut perfectly.  No trying to follow your traced shape, over cutting, or under cutting.

You can cut multiple layers of materials at once depending on what you’re cutting.  For example, I can cut 6-8 layers of cardstock in one pass, depending on the paper.  I was also able to cut three layers of thin chipboard in one pass.  This is a huge time saver!

The creative possibilities are endless.  In addition to the machine and dies cutting a wide variety of materials, you can use the machine in oodles of creative endeavors.  Here are some projects you could use this kind of machine on – just off the top of my head:

Cards
Scrapbook pages
Collages
Garlands
Party Decorations
Invitations
Tags & other gift-wrapping elements
Journals
Enhancing bulletin boards
ATCs (Artist Trading Cards)
Food packaging (gifts)
Bookmarks
Banners
Mobiles
Jewelry (including pins & pendants)
Quilting
Wearable Art

tags-jpg

I was able to cut 18 tags at once by stacking 8 pieces of paper and running them through the Big Shot. Woo hoo! Quick and easy!

Embossing, too?  Yes!
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My Big Shot also embosses, which allows me to customize papers in infinite combinations by mixing different embossing folders with different colors and types of paper.  Such fun and such variety. :]

embossed_paper-jpg

I Wish I’d Had One Sooner…
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Some of the DIY projects I’ve posted here on this blog over the past three years would’ve benefitted from using this machine.  They would’ve been quicker and easier – no doubt about it.  Here are a few of the projects I could’ve used my Big Shot on if I’d had one back then:

Aluminum Star Ornaments
Cards from Scrap

The Tip of the Iceberg
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I’m definitely a newbie when it comes to all the Big Shot can do, but I’ve seen enough to be impressed and excited by the possibilities.  I haven’t even mentioned chemically etched dies (like Thinlits & Framelits) stamp-to-cut, or embossing diffusers in this post.  Just wanted to share the bit I’ve learned and experimented with.  If you aren’t familiar with this kind of machine, and are a crafter or artist, you may want to check it out.

I hope you have a wonderful week!

Warm regards,
Melody

*Disclosure: I was given a Big Shot and some dies free of charge, but there was no request, suggestion or expectation – verbal or implied – that I do a blog post in exchange for the product.  I’ve created this post of my own accord because I’m excited about the possibilities. :]  The butterfly die I used in the post is one I purchased – it’s from the Tim Holtz Alterations line.  I also purchased two of the embossing folders above – the bubble wrap pattern, and the beehive pattern.

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Art Journal Shows for My 2012-2013 Students!

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I recently had the pleasure of attending Art Journal Shows for all three classrooms of students I taught and brought supplies to this school year.  The shows for my Ontario students took place on May 16th, and the show for my Santa Ana students took place on June 4th.  All three shows were fabulous!  I wish you could’ve been there at the shows with me, dear readers.  There’s almost nothing better than seeing proud students showing off their artwork – full of excitement, enthusiasm, and pride.

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As you may remember, these children are “at-risk” and often face a number of challenges in their lives. It’s my pleasure and mission to be able to bring a positive form of self-expression to them, and I hope that art journaling will be a tool they use for the rest of their lives.  On a more basic level, my program provides art materials and education that are lacking in many public schools, and it’s a thrill to see the children respond so positively to this creative medium.  The art journaling program gets them excited about their overall educational experience, and allows them to demonstrate their creativity and knowledge in wonderful ways.

Here are some of the pages that were created by my 2012-2013 students.  They were all 4th graders, and they did a fantastic job!  They never fail to impress me with the inventive ways they use the materials they receive. For example, one artist used a business envelope to create a house on her page (below) .  The envelope’s window is the house’s window, the girl in the house is behind the window, and the artist even added fabric pieces for curtains!  :]

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art_journal_page13

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THANK YOU!
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I offer my most sincere thanks to all of you who donated supplies, funds, or gift cards. I truly can’t do this without your help, and appreciate your enthusiasm and support for what I do.  The kids are always SO thankful for the supplies and for the chance to create, and I must pass on their thanks to you. Thank you – thank you – thank you!

The photo below features a journal page one of my Santa Ana students created to thank me – she included bits and pieces of many of the supplies included in her art supply bag.  However, she’s not just thanking me with that page – she’s thanking every person who donated – every person who helped spread the word about the art supply drive.  :]

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Exciting News – Expanding the Program!
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I visited with the principal at my Santa Ana school during the Art Journal Show, and he expressed interest in expanding the program during the next school year.  We laid tentative plans to add my art journaling program to three more classrooms at the school next year – to bring art journaling to ALL FOUR 4th GRADE CLASSES!  Obviously this will require more supplies, resources, supply kits prep time, etc., and it’ll be a challenge, but I’d love to make it happen and am excited by the prospect.  It made my heart SO happy that the principal sees the value, wants to expand, and is committed to bring the arts to more students.

I also hope to teach one or two classrooms of 4th graders at my Ontario school.  If I’m able to pull off a total of six classes between the two schools, over 200 at-risk children will benefit.  :] I’m crossing my fingers – please wish me luck!

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My Upcoming Art Supply Drive
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Historically my annual art supply drive has been in September or October, but this year I’m going to move it up in hopes that some of my wonderful and generous donors will take advantage of back-to-school sales.  Basics like crayons, glue sticks and pencils are often priced super low during these back-to-school sales, so I’ll be switching my art supply drive to August and September.  Please keep my students in mind if you hit these types of sales – we’d so appreciate your support!  And please remember that I happily accept donations year-round, so if you’d like to donate now you’re more than welcome to.  :]

Warm regards and many thanks,
Melody

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DIY: Cambria-Inspired Driftwood Necklace

necklace

I love driftwood – pieces that have been stripped of their bark and worn smooth by the sea.  This necklace’s foundation consists of two such pieces of driftwood – pieces I gathered on the beach in Cambria.  Cambria is a town on California’s central coast, and its slogan is “Pines by the Sea.”  It’s a charming, small town that combines a unique mountainy feel with that of a beachside community and I love it.  It’s my home away from home.

Not only does Cambria have pines and lots of driftwood, it’s also home to many deer.  I’m always entranced when I catch sight of them, and some of the gift-related stores in town feature antlers in one form or another.  And while I love these antlers and love the town they bring to my mind, I don’t want to have a real rack of antlers hanging about since I couldn’t be sure if they were obtained in a Bambi-friendly way.  They also don’t quite go with the decor here at home in Southern California.  :]

So, I love this necklace for two reasons.  Not only does it remind me of Cambria because that’s where I plucked the driftwood from the beach, but also because these two pieces of wood look a bit like antlers to me.  This simple and inexpensive statement necklace is a fun and animal-friendly way to embrace Cambria and some of the town’s natural beauty.

I’ve opted to keep this necklace very simple and natural, but there are many ways you could enhance this DIY jewelry project.  Whether you paint or burn designs into the wood, add beads and charms to your design, or even add more pieces of wood, the sky’s the limit!  It’s all a matter of personal preference.

wood

Materials
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Driftwood – 2 small pieces
Fine sanding block or sand paper
Thick/sturdy pin, very thin nail, or something similar to poke holes into the wood
Epoxy (I used Devcon 5 Minute Epoxy)
Thin wire (I used 32 guage)
2 screw eyes: #216 – 1/2″
Silver chain (my chain measures 22″ long)
2 jump rings (optional)

screw_eye1

Instructions
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  1. Sand any rough, scratchy edges with a fine sanding block or sand paper
  2. Decide how you’d like your wood pieces to lay out and where you’ll join the two pieces
  3. Poke or drill a hole through the two pieces of driftwood – work slowly and carefully to avoid splitting the wood
  4. Apply epoxy to the appropriate spot of the bottom piece of wood, then insert the stick pin through the holes in both pieces of wood, to ensure they’re properly aligned while the epoxy sets
  5. Sand any extra epoxy from around the place where your two wood pieces are joined after the pieces have set
  6. Thread your wire down between the two pieces and out the bottom. Wrap the wire around the two pieces to bind them in a way that appeals you and twist the ends together at the back when you’re done.  Trim wire ends.
  7. Attach screw eyes to the back of the tops of the two wood pieces – one on either side.  (You may find it easier to first start each hole with a push pin, as I did)  You’ll need to screw them at an angle, so they lay flatter to the surface of the wood instead of being completely perpendicular
  8. Attach your chain of choice to the screw eyes with jump rings, or attach your chain directly to to the screw eye as I did – by opening the screw eye with pliers, slipping on the chain, and then closing up the screw eye.

necklace_close

What Do You Think?
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I’m thinking about adding a small piece of soft sea glass to the bottom of this piece.  It would hang off the end where the two pieces of wood are wrapped together with wire.  What do you think?  Should I add a piece of glass, or leave it as is?

I’m hoping this post will inspire you to create something with materials you’ve gathered from a favorite place.  Whether you use wood, stones, shells, or something else entirely, inspiration is all around! Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers.

Warm regards,
Melody

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Haiku: Floral Beauty

heavenly

Tiny bloom beckons,
intricate and colorful.
A heavenly sight…

I hope you’re all having a great week thus far!

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in art, haiku, life in general, nature, photography, poetry, writing | Tagged | 6 Comments

Making Your Creative Mark: Giveaway Winner!

cover  cover  cover

Congratulations, Oksana!  You’ve won a copy of Eric Maisel’s book – Making Your Creative Mark!  Please provide your mailing address.  I’ll send your book out soon, and hope you enjoy reading it.

Thank you to all those who entered the giveaway. I enjoyed reading about your creative pursuits!

Warm regards,
Melody

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