I finished my sketchbook project!! You may remember me telling you in my January blog post that my friend gave me a special sketchbook destined for the Brooklyn Art Library. Well, it’s taken me a few months but I finished it! I feel really good about filling this sketchbook with illustrations all about simple joys!
Before I send it off, I wanted to share it with you through a short, little video. I took this video myself in my art studio in Portland, Oregon so it’s nothing fancy (anyone else have mommy maker hands with crazy dry skin from frequent washing during this pandemic?!) but I’m a big believer in celebrating even the smallest accomplishments. ;0)
I’m keeping this month’s blog post short but I hope you’ve all been okay during these difficult times. My hope is that you not only stay healthy but also find some joy in your daily lives while sheltering in place and that my “simple joys” illustrations bring a smile to your face.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments which one of the illustrations is your favorite. Which one speaks the most to you? Thank you for taking a peek and visiting me in this space!
Say yes to more joy and no to cluttered icons on your computer desktop!
Join my Simple Joys email community and you'll receive a beautiful, complimentary computer screen desktop organizer!
As I’m sitting here with the most beautiful fall sunset outside my window, I wanted to share with you a bit about a new art medium I’ve been exploring: alcohol inks. Last year, my friend allowed me to use some of her alcohol inks and it was so much fun! We completely lost track of time as we were pouring inks onto paper, letting the colors drip and swirl, and watching it do its magic!
I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. My art style used to be very photo-realistic. Eventually, I didn’t like working in this style as much anymore as it felt I wasn’t putting much of myself into my art and that taking a beautiful photograph was much quicker!
I started working on simplifying my illustrations over time, which to be honest, was also a result of being a new mom and having very little time for creative work.
Working with alcohol inks has added yet another dimension to my creative explorations. Its fluid nature is impossible to control so it’s a perfect medium if you want to loosen up your art.
These art prints are inspired by the beautiful nature here in the Pacific Northwest. Moving here from Holland, I was struck by the vast, open spaces in this area, the mountains, rivers so clear you could see right through to the rocks, as well as the many, many trees! If you’ve been following me on instagram where I post many of my nature photographs, you know I try to get outdoors with my family and enjoy nature as much as I can.
Working in alcohol inks will not be a year-around medium for me as I prefer to work with these materials outdoors. The fumes kind of get to me so since I live in the Pacific Northwest, this art medium will be one for summer only!
This summer, I created three alcohol ink paintings of which I made reproductions which are available in my etsy shop. If you like any of these art prints, please click on the image and you'll be able to check availability on that particular print. As always, thank you so much for your support of my art!
Do these art prints remind you of a favorite place you’ve visited in nature? What is your favorite nature area near where you live?
Would love to hear from you in the comments! Thanks!
Say yes to more joy and no to cluttered icons on your computer desktop!
Join my Simple Joys email community and you'll receive a beautiful, complimentary computer screen desktop organizer!
I’m not talking about doing push ups or squats. Or a bright red sunburn. Ouch! I’m not talking about the forest fires that are burning all over the West either, because they just make me really sad. No, I’m talking about something much happier! I somewhat accidentally discovered pyrography! What is pyrography you say? The dictionary explains it as “the art or technique of decorating wood or leather by burning a design on the surface with a heated metallic point.”
It started out with some wooden coasters I made for my husband’s birthday. At first, I was thinking of stamping some designs onto the wood but really wanted the images to come out looking sharp and permanent. I did some research which led to the idea of burning the designs onto the wood. I ordered a basic pyrography or wood burning tool and found it to work well with my simple designs. It was so much fun! When I gave the coasters to my husband, he really loved them and encouraged me to make some more items with this type of art. The feedback I received on my instagram post of the coasters was so positive and encouraging as well!
So, here I am, slightly obsessed with wood burning! It’s ironic, really. I’m not fearful of that many things but I would admit I’m a bit fearful around fire. So it’s probably good that even though the wood burning tool gets really hot, there are no actual flames or fire involved!
I have been drawing all my life so the transition from pencil to pyrography pen has been pretty straightforward. While my art used to be very photorealistic, I have been simplifying my illustrations and artwork for many years now, to communicate my ideas with minimalist, simple lines. This type of design lends itself really well to pyrography with a visual impact that Simon Easton in his book “Woodburning with Style” compares to wood tattoos.
I have added five necklaces to my etsy shop with wood burned designs on the pendants. You can find out more when you click on the photographs in this blog post. The designs are inspired by nature and are very lightweight to wear. The necklaces don't have that factory made feel because each individual piece is handmade with love. No trees were cut down to make these necklaces - they were created out of a branch that had fallen down.
I’m planning on adding some ornaments soon because wouldn’t wooden ornaments look so pretty in the Christmas tree? Be sure to add your name to my email list in the sign-up box below if you don't want to miss out!
Anyways, I would absolutely love it if you check out my new, handmade art in my etsy shop! If you like these "inspired by nature" gifts, please let me know in the comments. Positive comments make my day! Please share this blog post with your nature lover friends.
Our family doesn’t watch tv (too many commercials!) but we do love to watch a good movie! Here is a quick list of family movies to inspire you in case you can’t think of any kid friendly shows to watch this weekend. They are not in any particular order. I included the content rating but you are the best judge of any topics that may be sensitive for your kids. Common Sense Media is a great website to help parents decide on which movies are best for their kids.
Which movie is your favorite on this list? Which ones have you not watched yet? Please share in the comments!
15 Great Family Movies
With school back in session and busy schedules during the week, it feels great to celebrate the weekend by relaxing and snuggling up with the kids to watch a movie. Even better with some popcorn!
Cozy family movie time is exactly what inspired me to draw my latest design: a simple illustration of a bucket of buttery popcorn like you eat at the movie theater. Here are a few products with my popcorn design but you can find the entire collection at my zazzle store.
Planning a Movie Themed Birthday Party
Gift Wrapping with Popcorn Theme
Organizing a Neighborhood Block Party - Popcorn Anyone?
Just Because You Love Popcorn!
Whether you are planning your kids birthday party, organizing your neighborhood block party, wrapping some fun gifts or decorating your home, I hope these products with fun, modern popcorn design inspired you. Enjoy your family movie night and let me know in the comments which movie you watched!
Thank you for sharing this blog post!
We have about two more weeks left before summer break starts but I know some parts of the country are already celebrating no homework and no school lunches. Good for you! Our daughter came out of school yesterday telling me that the kids were all hyped up because everyone is so ready for summer. Have I mentioned yet how much respect I have for teachers? You’re almost there, teachers!
During these hectic “end of the school year” days, we definitely look forward to the joys of summer: more time for creativity and art, sleeping in, swimming in lakes, hiking in the woods, unstructured play time and reading awesome books. What is better than laying on a soft picnic blanket under a big tree and “traveling” to whatever part of the world or time period your book takes you?
Whether or not your kid loves to read, reading during summer break is so important regardless. Most American kids get to enjoy being out of school for 2 1/2 months every summer which is a REALLY LONG time not to be practicing their reading skills. As a comparison, I grew up in the Netherlands where kids only get about 6 weeks of summer break. Their summer break really flies by!
So what are you to do when you don’t want your kid to show up back at school this fall feeling behind and frustrated because they are struggling to catch up after summer? I certainly don’t have any professional answers but I am a mom who is passionate about kids and helping them to love reading. That’s why I decided to create a program that would turn summer reading from a chore into a game where kids feel motivated and excited about the rewards they can earn. As a busy mom myself, I wanted to make sure to create a program that is easy to fit in with everything else. Win-win, right?
Want to know more about feeling less frustrated and more relaxed this summer about the whole summer reading thing? Then head on over to my etsy shop to check out this fun reading game and book log to keep track of favorite books. You can come up with your own rewards but to make it extra easy, I have included nine rewards that will make your kid happy and look cool with hand drawn illustrations. This summer reading kit even includes a word search game as a bonus. This is an instant download printable so your child can start playing it and reading right away. Also, you can print however many copies you need during the summer and give each child their own game board to visually keep track of their progress.
Instead of arguing and nagging your child to read this summer break, here are a few more tips to engage with your child in regards to their reading in a positive way:
I would love to hear any other tips you may have found to be helpful in enjoying summer reading with your child. Please share in the comments so we can all learn from each other!
P.S. I really hope you will enjoy the game I created and that it helps you to have a fun summer with your family. For less than a Starbucks latte, you can be their summer reading champion so that your kids won’t fall behind on reading this summer. Your kids’ teachers will thank you!
Super quick post here tonight to let you all know that I created an instant download printable for teacher appreciation week and teacher gifts for the end of the school year. It is available in my etsy shop.
The print has a sweet poem surrounded by a border of red roses to express you are thankful for the education and care teachers give the kids! Easy to print at home or at a local print shop for a meaningful gift. The simple, modern design is suitable and attractive for graduation from kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school or college. Busy mom? This is an instant download so perfect for last minute teacher appreciation week and end of school year gifts. Best part is you can print as many as you need so you can include the specials teachers, school counselor, music teacher, art teacher, ESL teacher, and assistant teachers as well!
If you have any stories about a special teacher, please share! Big time thanks to all you teachers!!
There is a little girl I want you to meet. Her name is Cecilia. She is about 6” tall, has a sweet smile and two sassy braids. The coolest thing about her? She is bilingual! I have been working on Cecilia for months and I’m so excited to finally introduce her to you!
Cecilia is a paper dress up doll that comes with a bunch of cute outfits for both winter and summer, all labeled in Spanish and English. I drew all the illustrations by hand before uploading them into a digital, instant download printable. Playing with Cecilia, your child can practice English and Spanish conversation skills talking about the clothing, the seasons or any other fun topic that comes up! Children can color the simple black and white illustrations with pencils, markers or any favorite art supply. Then, they can cut out the shapes and “dress up” the doll in a cute outfit.
Besides using this bilingual printable as a dress up doll activity and coloring page, your child can also cut out the labels for the clothing and see if they can match the label with the correct piece of clothing as a matching game. While kids of all ages may enjoy this activity, I think kids in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school would especially enjoy it.
Since the time my kids were very little, I have always been on the lookout for bilingual kids toys and books. With kids in Spanish immersion school, I wanted to support their education by providing them with fun activities in Spanish because I’m a big believer that learning should be fun and that kids can learn so much through play. The idea for Cecilia was born from my love for kids, language and bilingual education.
The idea for Cecilia was born from my love for kids, language and bilingual education. "
Cecilia, the paper dress up doll, is available as an instant download pdf file printable in my etsy shop so your child or students can play with this learning activity immediately. After purchase, you can print as many copies as you need for your personal use (or classroom use if you are a teacher). You can find more details about Cecilia by clicking here.
I know that we all get busy but would you leave me a comment to let me know what you think of Cecilia? It would make my day!
Thank you so much!
We all know that children love to explore and that exploring is important to their development. As adults, it is easy to get stuck in the routines of daily life and occupy ourselves with the same old activities, habits and chores. I personally love my routines but recognize that us grown-ups can certainly benefit from exploring too!
Exploring can open our minds to new ideas, gain a new perspective, clear our minds from stress and inspire us to seek knowledge of the world around us. Here are five easy ways to incorporate more exploration into our adult lives and helping our inner child to soar:
One of my favorite ways to explore is by going outdoors and into nature. I’m blessed to live in a beautiful place where within a hour’s drive I can be either at the coast or the mountains. The Pacific Northwest offers a variety of landscapes that make it fun to explore with the whole family. The seasons offer different activities to explore nature and many of them are free!
Our family loves to go hiking and pay attention to wildlife tracks on the trail. We study the native plants we see or try to figure out which bird is singing so pretty. In summer, we swim in mountain lakes and learn about newts. In fall, we hunt for edible mushrooms in the forest or go for “nature treasure hunts” in the city as we look for pretty acorns and chestnuts.
While the kids learn lots through these experiences, I have found myself learning as well. Exploring engages me with the natural world and encourages me to open up reference books to better understand what plant or animal track I’m looking at.
As an artist, I explore by trying out a new art supply or experimenting with a new medium. In my illustrations, I strive to communicate ideas with simple line drawings and push myself which lines are necessary to make the drawing as pleasing yet simple as possible. Last year, I received a rubber stamp making kit for Christmas. I had never tried my hand at making stamps but found that my simple designs work very well in making stamps.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, it can be so fun to doodle with some pencils, build something out of wood or create a bowl out of clay. Our modern smart phones are equipped with amazing cameras so you can literally be a photographer on your lunch break and receive instant feedback through posting on instagram!
Explore New Skills
If you feel stuck in your job or tired with daily chores, maybe it’s time to learn a new skill. Who knows what opportunities open up by learning a new skill! It may help you to work more efficiently or step up in your career. You may find a new hobby, for example by learning how to play a musical instrument.
I recently started taking ice skating lessons. If you would have told me last year that I would be taking ice skating lessons, I would have told you you’re crazy. However, my daughter started taking lessons and it looked so fun, I couldn’t resist! I grew up ice skating during the winter in Holland so it feels great to be back onto the ice. I have to be very careful because of my back issues but taking a basic skills class has been an exciting way to get back into it.
Explore through travel
Being an international family, we’re lucky we have family all over the world we can visit. We love to travel! Exploring through travel truly opens your mind and helps you to learn about other cultures, foods and ways of living. It widens our horizons…. quite literally.
If travel is not in your budget or you have physical challenges to make travel a reality, you can travel from your most comfortable chair right at home by reading books! I recently read “A State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett which allowed me to “travel” to the Amazon rainforest, a place where I have never been. Do you love to travel through books? If you have any good book recommendations for me, please leave them for me in the comments.
Explore your community
Talking about books, have you visited your local library recently? The library is not only a wonderful place to find books but also connect with your community. Our local library offers free events for all ages.
How can you explore your community? By visiting a park, by visiting a neighborhood coffee shop, by introducing yourself to a new neighbor, by supporting a local small business or getting involved as a volunteer? So many ways to explore your community!
Feeling inspired, I created a new design around this concept of exploring. The design has a triangular shape with colors that are attractive to men and women, boys and girls. The “explore” design is available on a wide variety of products including cards and apparel. By clicking on the images, you will be directed to zazzle which is the print-on-demand company which produces my designs into real life products and gifts. If you are interested in seeing the entire product line, please click here and select newest products.
If you believe in the benefits of exploring and enjoyed reading my post, I always appreciate it if you share via social media. Thank you!!
... you can make a difference for a sweet 7 year old girl in my family. You see, just a few months ago, Maddison’s days were filled with gymnastics, attending 2nd grade and playing with her sister and dogs. Then, on November 18th, Maddison was diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme Cancer. Glioblastoma is a very rare and difficult to treat cancer. While battling cancer is so extremely challenging already, the family has had to battle with the health insurance company to get coverage for the chemotherapy drugs Maddison’s oncologist has recommended.
Hearing her story really touched my heart. I wanted to help but live too far away to help in a direct way. Because I express my feelings through art, I created a drawing inspired by Maddison and her love for animals and the zoo.
I’m offering this drawing to you as a free printable that you can use as a coloring page for your kids or a decorative print to hang on the wall of your child’s bedroom or baby’s nursery. You can download the pdf file simply by clicking on the image below and print from your home computer or at local print shop.
However, if you choose to download the printable, I ask that you please consider making a donation to Maddison’s gofundme campaign. Maddison is so strong and brave but she could really use a miracle right now. The gofundme campaign will help pay for the overwhelming medical expenses. Any donation will be appreciated! Your donation will bring hope and make a difference.
Thank you so much!
If you love spending time at a lake cabin or mountain cabin, raise your hand! Nothing can rejuvenate us like spending time in the outdoors, connecting with nature and swimming in a lake. Spending time at a cozy cabin allows us to reconnect with our family, reading books and playing games. It is one of our family’s favorite ways to spend time! Since I enjoyed working on the bilingual memory game printables I recently launched in my new etsy shop, I was inspired to create a memory matching game that celebrates the simple joys of staying at a cabin with your family.
I started with creating little doodles of woodland animals and illustrations of things that remind me of cozy cabins. Living in the Pacific Northwest for so many years has given me plenty of inspiration! From staying at historic fire lookouts on stilts to rustic cabins without any modern amenities to warming up in a beautiful ski lodge or log cabin, cabins are the best for creating lasting memories! Working on these drawings would remind me of our special family memories and before I knew it, I had 24 unique designs!
I kept the designs as simple line drawings in black ink because I thought kids may like to color in the drawings themselves and have another fun activity to do besides playing the game. Plus, it makes it easy for us moms to print at home even if the color ink cartridge on your printer is out of ink!
Would love it if you check out my new “Cabin in the Woods" game printable as it has been a labor of love! Here is the link to my new etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/PresentsofLoveShop
Also, I would value your feedback on any other printable products you’d like me to create with a cabin theme. Bookmarks? Games for kids? Stationery? Please leave me a comment and share your thoughts! Thank you so much!