Friday, May 27, 2016

Summer Bucket List

Well, as of yesterday evening, with an incredible amount of help from my mom, my flowers are in the ground. Now it really feels like summer is almost here.

My flowers went from the Garden Center...

To the back of my mom's car...

To their forever (well... until it gets cold) home, outside of my little apartment :)

Time passes very weirdly in the summer. After Memorial Day weekend, even though it isn't technically summer, it absolutely feels like it. It's June. It's hot. Life seems to slow down, as the sun shines during the day and doesn't set until late into the evening. There's just something about those summer months that feel different and more carefree.

But, despite the seemingly slow and leisurely passing of the days, September always arrives in the blink of an eye. We wonder "Where did summer go??" and cannot believe it as the leaves start to change. I had this feeling last summer in particular, where it felt like the season completely slipped away. It rained almost every single day in June, which kind of set the stage for that feeling. While my flowers looked amazeballs, time spent outside was practically zero.

SO, in order to avoid that this summer, I am making a vow to live more slowly, enjoy the moments and the sunshine and the outside. And I am making a summer bucket list. Maybe you can make one too, or use this one!

Summer 2016 Bucket List:

1) Swim in a waterfall.
2) Have a picnic lunch in the park.
3) Hike someplace new.
4) See fireworks.
5) Relax at the pool at least once every week.
6) Go to a new festival (most likely the Food Truck Fest because YES).
7) Take a walk at night, find somewhere nice to sit, and look at the stars.
8) Take a spontaneous overnight trip somewhere.
9) Sit outside and paint rocks for my garden.
10) Find a four leaf clover.
11) Find a four leaf clover and give it to someone who could use some good luck.
12) Make a new terrarium.
13) Ride in some kind of boat somewhere, anywhere.
14) Take a photo of a hummingbird.
15) Touch a butterfly.
16) Go to an outdoor concert.
17) Watch the sun rise in a beautiful place.
18) Play in the rain.
19) Climb a tree or ten.
20) Swing on a swingset.

I could go on and on and on... But just thinking of those things right now makes me smile. This is the best part of summer. The pre-summer. The time when it is all still stretched out in front of us, full of possibilities, full of days that we can fill with memories :)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Art Journal Pages As of Lately

Well since I haven't blogged in about 7000 years up until the past week or so, I realized that there are many pages in my art journal that haven't been shared on here. I get lots of questions about my process when it comes to creating these pages, and people seem surprised to hear that I rarely work with a plan. It's a very therapeutic thing, kind of like my mind spilling out on paper. I glue, I doodle, I add in words and quotes and phrases that are in my head at the time. While creating away, I often work through issues, come to realizations, obtain clarity on things, and just let out my emotions in general. Pretty much my art journal is the only shrink I will ever need.

Hope everyone has had a beautiful weekend and has done something that makes you feel wonderful :)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sailing the Ocean Blue Part II

Day 8 of being home. Still halfway in denial. Finally answered (I think... I hope) all emails and issues that arose when I was away. One of my misconceptions before I started going on cruises was that all ships must have free wifi. Good lord was I mistaken.

People do go on cruises to unplug and I get that, I just can't really do it. My Etsy shop always stays open, and despite the fact that I put up messages and notifications and things in big red letters everywhere saying that I will be out of the country and shipping and communications will be delayed, it never fails that I get a person or three that sends me a passive aggressive email that says something along the lines of, "Would you mind telling me why my order hasn't shipped yet?" Unfortunately sometimes these messages are not seen until days after they are sent, further aggravating the situation. This year we did Carnival's "Social Media" package, so I was able to have access to Facebook and Facebook messenger (Instagram too) and keep in touch with people back at home. I also could see when I received a notification from Etsy, whether it be an order or a message, I just couldn't open it. No access to email unless you score some free wifi in a port (you can purchase internet packages with email, but they are more expensive).

It's one of the things I've learned about running my own little internet-based business. You never really disconnect with it, even when you are sitting on a beach in Aruba. It's always on my mind. In the beginning, I was honestly paranoid about mistakes, making people angry, bad reviews, mean emails. While they still do get to me, it is much easier now to let them roll off my back. I am human and do my best.

It is good to be back in my studio, as I have a laundry list of things to do and ideas to create, of quotes to use and magical things to bring to life. But, my heart is still in the Caribbean. It's on a giant ship full of happy people. It's eating breakfast tacos in the sun while drinking my third cup of coffee. It's floating in warm, turquoise salt water.

Anyway, I digress. Next stop was Willemstad, Curaçao. I love approaching this island in the Netherlands Antilles, because the views are just amazing and you have plenty of time to take them in while you sail around the island to get to its capital city.

curacao carnival cruise ship

The trade winds blow strong in this part of the world and standing up on deck 10 of a ship and looking over the side makes for an exhilarating experience - I just stand there and giggle while my hair goes absolutely wild and I try not to drop my camera in the water.

curacao harbor pilot

queen juliana bridge

willemstad curacao mega pier

willemstad curacao

Last year when we visited Willemstad, we took an excursion to the beach which lasted all day, ate on the ship, and by the time we went to explore the city, it was late and everything was closed. This year, we decided to go exploring on our own as soon as the ship was cleared.

The city is bright, colorful, and you can see the Dutch influence in much of the architecture. The port itself is also very active, which I loved, because I am fascinated by ships. We got to see a couple of huge container ships nudged out by tugs, and it was awesome.

container ship and tug

willemstad ferry

willemstad curacao

willemstad port

willemstad curacao

harbor legend ship leaving port

It was a very hot day, but the breeze made it bearable. At one point I had the best watermelon milkshake of my life from a little food truck thing by the floating bridge. We took our time wandering the streets, shopped, found an open-air market, and just enjoyed the experience of being in a foreign country.

carnival cruise curacao

colorful houses

netherlands antilles

carnival cruise willemstad

dutch style architecture

city streets

open air market

willemstad curacao map

dutch architecture willemstad

travel to curacao

We ended up wandering around for a few hours, got lots of sun, my hair somehow got even bigger and more out of control, I bought some ceramic kitties from the Delft store (because when you are a cat lady you always have to buy ceramic kitties - especially Dutch ceramic kitties), chased the pigeons, utilized Willemstad's free wifi to access my email and appease angry customers... it was a great day.

Another reason I love this port is because we don't leave until 11pm, so this year we opted for drinks and a pizza dinner in the Rife Fort area. I love seeing the crew members out at this time having fun and being able to get off the ship for a while. While I regret nothing in life (aside from a shady phone company my college roommate and I decided to try when we were 19), I secretly wish I had taken a couple of years after graduating from OSU to work on a ship rather than bartend in Ohio.


Because the only place I would ever drink a Blue Curaçao martini is in Curaçao. Followed by wine. Then a couple more vodka martinis. I treasure the moment that my mom (who is not a big drinker at all) picked up my vodka martini to give it a taste. Not too sure what she expected, but her face clearly said "DEAR GOD."

The views of the ship and of the city at night are spectacular. Please excuse my sub-par nighttime photography. It's something I am still trying for the life of me to figure out.

carnival conquest

willemstad curacao mega pier

in willemstad curacao

curacao cruise ship port

nighttime city lights

So that was Curaçao. The view of the city at night as you are pulling away is beautiful and peaceful. After a day of walking and baking in the sun, then a night of imbibing in various adult beverages, I slept hardcore. Sleeping on a cruise ship, when it is rocking gently but noticeably, is one of the most amazing things. There is no sleep like the sleep you get on a cruise. Your inner infant probably dances for joy then promptly passes out as your body remembers the comfort of that rocking motion.

Our last port was Oranjestad, Aruba, which I fell in love with last year. In Aruba it rains rarely. The water is a color that even Crayola would have a hard time naming. All beaches are public, meaning you can even walk up to the Hyatt and access their beach for free. They are out of the hurricane belt. The people are joyful, friendly, and charismatic. Many speak a multitude of languages and transition between them with ease. It was a place that I just felt connected to the moment we set foot there. I joke about moving there often, but it's only halfway a joke. (Don't worry, mom. I am way too broke for that right now.)

Oranjestad is just as colorful as Willemstad, if not more.

carnival conquest

city skyline

carnival cruise

We had an excursion booked for Aruba, to take a catamaran to a shallow reef to snorkel, then go to the 400 foot long wreck of the Antilla, a German ship that sank in 1940 when Germany invaded Holland (and the Netherlands Antilles) during WWII. Then we would get back on the catamaran, where an open bar would be ready to provide us with all of the rum punch we wanted. Then a BBQ lunch at Pelican Pier, a restaurant that sits over the water, then an hour of relaxing on the beach. If I could do this day over and over again, I would in a heartbeat.

netherlands antilles

catamaran palm beach

catamaran oranjestad aruba


pelican adventures

First snorkeling stop was a reef filled with fish. I won't even attempt to recall their names, but my favorite ones had black and yellow stripes. I made friends with one of the guides who found a starfish and another little fish for me to touch and hold, and at one point I realized he and I were swimming through a school of hundreds of fish!!

pelican adventures snorkeling

aruba pelican adventures

pelican adventures aruba

My underwater camera (a GoPro knockoff) is not the best, but it was only $42.00 on Amazon. If you are looking for a cheap alternative, this is the one I got.

This was my mom's first time snorkeling and she jumped right off the side of the boat and everything. After a few minutes of looking down into the water, floating effortlessly hearing nothing but your own breathing... it's like being transported into another world.

pelican adventures oranjestad

pelican adventures oranjestad

Next up was the Antilla ship wreck. There really aren't words to describe what it felt like to see this. The ship is massive. It's laying on its port side, and when you get up to the bow which sits higher up in the water, you can come within just a few feet of touching it. It's absolutely eerie and covered with coral.

antilla shipwreck

oranjestad antilla

oranjestad aruba

oranjestad aruba palm beach

After that mind-blowing experience, we all got back on the catamaran and the boys cranked up the music and started pouring drinks like there was no tomorrow. We laughed, partied, enjoyed the spectacular views, basked in the sunshine and the wind, and, well, drank. At one point, "Turn Down For What" came on and all I could do was smile and ask myself, "Is this real life?"



palm beach oranjestad

Lunch at the Pelican's Nest at Pelican Pier was served as soon as we set foot in the place: a giant plate of BBQ and summery things, along with more rum punch of course, delivered by the wonderful crew of the catamaran.

oranjestad palm beach aruba

Yes yes, I was a big fan of the boys and their accents and their constant smiles and their multi-lingual abilities. The sun was hot, and we hit the water right after lunch.


Aruba's beaches are gorgeous mix of sugary sand and crystal-clear warm water. My mom and I met an older couple (mom - how long were they married?? 50+ years??) from Boston when we were in the water who we chatted and laughed with for quite a while. They were staying at a friend's timeshare right on the beach and offered to smuggle us in because we didn't want to leave.

Water sports are huge there and you are constantly seeing people windsurfing, kitesurfing, parasailing, tubing, boating, snorkeling, you name it. The entire atmosphere and vibe is just different. Yes, the beaches are always teeming with tourists who of course are content, but you mix that with the joyful vibe of the locals who call this paradise home and you really see why they call Aruba "One Happy Island."

The last port day is always kinda depressing, but we love this itinerary because there are two sea days at the end, so it's not so bad. After saying good bye to Aruba, we still had lots of time to relax, enjoy the ship, overeat, watch men in their 20's choreograph an amateur synchronized swimming routine in the Lido pool, try every drink on the menu, try not to faint when the captain made announcements in his dreamy Italian accent, and get MEGATAN. There's nothing like sea days.

carnival conquest

radar mast

lido deck

funnel whale tail

carnival cruise line

ccl fun ships

Then came the dreaded debarkation day. Stepping out the door, hearing your ship card "ping" for the last time, then walking back through the gangway into the even-more-dreaded customs building is not a good feeling. Waiting for your shuttle and having to see shuttles of lucky, excited people who are just arriving for their cruise and about to have the magical just-walked-onto-the-ship feeling is just mean. Taking one last look at the ship as you ride to the airport... very sad times.

We had a super long time at the airport before our flight. Good thing, because getting through security at FLL was a nightmare due to a TSA agent literally taking ten minutes to thoroughly search a woman of about 70 who was in front of me in line, much to the astonishment of dozens of gaping-mouthed people. This included lifting up the woman's shirt multiple times and the agent putting her hands inside of the woman's waistband. She kept looking at me with this helpless look, and I who had also been asked to step aside and wait for my own search (imagine my delight) could only mutter how ridiculous it was getting. The same agent then loudly announced to me, "I need to pat down your breast area - would you like a private room?" Cool. Bring it, girlfriend. Airports nowadays are a joy.

An actual good thing about the super long wait - there was an airshow going on over Fort Lauderdale Beach that we could see. Although I am afraid of flying, I am fascinated by planes. Everything about them. The planes flying were the Thunderbirds. They were loud and fast and amazing. And they gave me one more reason to be jealous of the people on the ship, because they had an up-close view of everything while they waited to sail away.

And then that was that. We were on a plane headed back home. I'm always very grumpy in the couple of weeks following a cruise. At night I have dreams about being back on the ship then wake up with a "dammit." But the truth of it is this feeling makes me want to work harder, so maybe this time it won't be as long between the just-stepped-onto-the-ship moments.

People who do not have a desire to travel are a conundrum to me. I've always wanted to see places, but I remember it was one evening when I was studying abroad in China (my first time in a foreign country - go big or go home right?) that the intense feeling of needing  to see the world overcame me. Our class was at the top of China's then-tallest building (I think - this was in 2005), watching the sun set over Shanghai.

the bund

jin mao tower

jin mao tower

shanghai china

This feeling is tricky to put into words. But looking out over this city of millions of people, the world felt both huge and small at the same time. There are places and things that exist in the world, but sometimes it's like they only exist in story books. There are people living in different countries speaking different languages and carrying on such deeply different cultures. And today, we have the ability to see them, visit them, experience them. We have ships and planes that can safely take us to these places in a matter of hours. In that moment I felt oddly connected to every person in the world, and was set ablaze with a burning desire to see as many places as I can while I am on this earth.

Hence a large amount of my artwork is inspired by travel. There's a whole big world out there that is small enough for us to explore. So many people think it's impossible. It's too expensive. But I promise you, if I can make it work as a ramen-noodle-devouring broke artist, you can too. Save change in a jar. Do the thing where you put every $5 bill you get aside. Where there's a will, there's a way. Go on an adventure :)

mixed media collage art
"By Land, Sea, or Air"