Travel and Chocolate: When Books Inspire

Lately I’ve been devouring travel memoirs. And they’re fueling my wanderlust.

From a trip to Scotland last year. A very rare bird in Loch Lomond.

I love that about books. The ability to influence and inspire.

I was around eleven when I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The chocolate river. The candy (side note: twenty years later a made up story about a candy store would be my kids most requested bedtime story).

The story hooked me. Oh, and the chocolate bar that you could grab right out of your tv?

Magical. And I wanted some of that magic.

At the time we lived on a Coast Guard base in New Orleans and there was a tiny convenience store on the corner. They had candy bars.

I scraped together some money (sorry dad, I dipped into that change jar in your armoire).

And then, naturally, I sent my nine year old sister to get me the candy bar. I had a book to finish. (Thank you, B!)

I love that I can immerse in another world via a book, but it really does feel like magic when you nurture the opportunity to bring some of that story world into your real life.

And then those new memories inspire your own creative work…

And so on. Ad infinitum.

Bird is waving hello (there is a chocolate bar behind that other wing, I’m sure of it.

 

If you like travel memoirs, I enjoyed these:

At Home in the World, by Tsh Oxenreider

My Part-Time Paris Life by Lisa Anselmo

The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World by Torre DeRoche

Where I’m off to next: 

A cabin in the woods. For real. I’m doing a short–solo– writing, hiking trip. I’ll keep you posted! Follow me on Instagram for real(er) time updates.

Then this summer, we’re off to ALASKA. We’ll be stopping in all the usual places so if you have a favorite coffee shop, hike or food must eat, let me know!

Also, if you have a must read, perhaps one that  inspired you to action, I’d love to hear about it!

Happy Spring (and reading) friends!!

Happy Halloween!

Hey all!

Just popping in to wish you a Happy Halloween…

As is my tradition (um, starting today), I’m going with the something cute

and something scary Halloween greeting

Although I imagine seeing my post in your inbox probably startled you.

But had to be done, because I miss you guys!

Anyway here’s something cute

happy-halloween-ghost-dragon-coleen-patrick

Pencil, ink, gouache, digital color, and English breakfast tea (for me, not the art) 

Okay

now brace yourself

next up, something super chilling

a practical crime scene on my sliding glass door this month

spider-fly-macro-coleen-patrick

Nikon camera, 18-55 mm lens, and a rapid, and possibly a bit skippy, heartbeat

Yeah.

The circle of life

(wrapped around a fly).

I can’t sugar coat that for you

unless you show up at my door tonight in costume

(but only tonight)

So just in case here’s something to distract and soothe you

coleen-patrick-fall-leaves-illustration-2

Hopefully I’ve calmed you enough to share in the comments your favorite Halloween costume.

Here’s a witchy throwback (way back) of a costumed me.

witch coleen patrick

Happy Monday!

The (Hefty) Possibility of Summer

One of my favorite summer memories involves a garbage bag.

Classic summer, right? 😉

Okay so maybe not. But if you will, picture two large plastic bags on the grass, with a green garden hose coiled nearby.

And these two trouble makers problem solvers pursuers of possibility (who did not live near a pool at the time)

Summer memory fun

My sister B and me, Lake Michigan 

Then add water. Up to our chins. Until we are blowing bubbles across the surface of our

non-Olympic regulation size Hefty pools.

And we’re grinning.

Because we really, really wanted to go swimming.

And so we found a way. Mostly. Even if that meant we gripped the edges of our bags

to keep our personal pools intact.

Ah, summer and possibility. They go together like garbage bags and swimming.

Even now I feel there’s something about the sun popping up early and sticking around way after dinner that promotes more adventure.

two hummingbirds bird feeder“Hey, you wanna go swimming?” 

But this summer I keep thinking, do it for the process

Because it’s nice to swim (whatever your pool may be)

and blow bubbles on the surface

or go for a hike, or take photos of hummingbirds in your backyard

or write a story, draw a picture

just because

happy monday cute illustration girl

Sure I’m mostly still a problem solving, direction oriented, check off the box on my to do list kind of person…

Coleen Patrick illustration greeting cards Etsy Shop

Here are some of my drawings turned greeting cards in my new Etsy Shop

…but it’s really nice to let summer take over for a bit.

Do you have a favorite summer memory?

Happy Monday!

 

Bird Watching and My Scattered Thoughts

 

Last month I tried meditating.

The kind where you sit in a quiet place and repeat a mantra.

bird head bowed meditation prayer

It didn’t go so well.

Maybe I was a little too desperate for it to work, or maybe it was because my brain likes to tell stories and refute mantras in quiet moments. Either way it was kind of like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach while watching and waiting for a pot of water to boil.

I felt more anxious.

bird head in bird feeder

In the past, I found yoga calming, but sometimes those “yoga clouds” were not in fact carrying away my thoughts, but sorting into my to do list.

flying seeds bird feeder

A black-capped chickadee slinging seeds (and perhaps thoughts).

And walking. I love walking. But I like to go over projects and stuff. Or whatever. I just like to break stuff down when I walk, not push it away.

Then last week I wanted to take some pics of the birds in our backyard. So I sat on my deck, about ten feet from the bird feeder. I had to sit still while holding my camera and somehow that stance forced me to keep an even breathing rhythm.

And so I watched the birds.

bird watching me

Or did they watch me?

I was still. Breathing nicely. And my thoughts were…I don’t know. Like scattered seeds on the ground? Because wherever they were they weren’t bothering me.

Do you meditate?

blue bird illustration

HAPPY WEEKEND! xo

We Bought a House! With an Inside Barn Door!

We bought a house!
It’s kind of in the country (or country-ish, as we’ve been saying).

So now we have a city and a country house. Not on purpose though. We actually need to sell the city house. Anyone looking for a big house in the capital city of Virginia?

It’s got refinished hardwood floors…

refinished hardwood floors

HGTV moment when we discovered we had hardwood under the vinyl in our foyer. #InstantCharacter
So in addition to the downsizing and the painting I mentioned last time I posted, we’ve been updating, renovating, cleaning, and moving.

And there’s been lots and lots of road trips, if you count driving 45 miles round trip between houses as a road trip (or the 60 miles round-trip to the large metro shopping area). Oh and if you count the many times I’ve accidentally passed our new exit. Because I’m not used to driving so many highway miles just to go home, I get in a zone, like I’m headed to Key West or something. And every time I do that, it’s a 12 mile mistake…with no beach or mojito.

birds in a snowstormWas probably thinking about Key West when I painted this canvas.

But our new house is cool. It’s smaller and has one less bathroom to clean, Yay!

Plus, IT HAS A BARN DOOR.

INSIDE!

barn door decorIt’s like my Pinterest boards came to life!

I’ve posted about my fascination with barns, I love them. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s like my main character Grace from my Chasing Normal series said:

There’s just something so stable about barns. 😉

So lately we’ve been living life like an episode of Property Brothers meets Fixer Upper. And it’s been fun and exciting, but a MAJOR change.

Dear hub likes to say, There’s no crying in moving/renovating. Oh but there’s been tears. Happy. Sad. All kinds. So much is different. After 20 years in the same house, we’re in a new one.
And get this, I have an outside mailbox.
Ok so most people probably do. But in our old house we had one of those mail slots in our front door, so basically I tripped over the mail every day.

Now I forget that I need to check the mail box.
Oh and I don’t know if this is a country-ish thing, but we have this spider that can play dead. And she’s living in our mailbox. She rolls onto her back when I open the mailbox. Of course I told her she can’t live in the mailbox and carefully prodded her with a leaf until she left.

But the next day I met her kids.
So I don’t get the mail if the sun has gone down.

sunset at homeSunset behind our new country-ish neighborhood.

And considering I broke a finger when I was 18 during a spider encounter, I’d say this is PROGRESS.
And progress is good.

So is having my kids home for the holidays.

kids at home

A Happy Thanksgiving photo op.

And planning a real road trip—we’re going to New York City in a couple of weeks to visit dear daughter and have some family fun.

Plus I’m making time to be creative. I’ve got a new book coming out soon and I’ve been doodling.

polar bear penguin dreidel spin smaller

A doodle for Hanukkah

And painting. And decorating. And baking. And button gluing (turns out this is meditation for me).

vintage button tree

I just like to make stuff.
That’s one thing that hasn’t changed at all.

What’s new with you?

Also, if you go outside to get your mail, are mailbox tenants something to be expected?

Happy Thursday!

xo

A View From My Heart: Sunrise and Snow Cones

 

 

On a trip to Virginia Beach last December, I got up early and watched the sun rise.

sunrise virginia beach

I still think about how cool it was to sit on the dark beach and watch the sun peek above the horizon.

So when the hub and I went to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach last weekend

back bay national wildlife refuge

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

I realized I had the opportunity to see the sunrise at the beach again.

So I set my alarm, but when I woke up there was no yellow streaked sky. No fiery sun.

Just a whole lot of clouds.

And I was puzzled.

Sure I’ve seen lots of overcast days, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that there could be clouds blocking the horizon at sunrise.

I don’t know why. Maybe because it was so spectacular last December, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

But there it was, a hazy, muted sky.

It was just different. And for a moment, kind of empty without the sun all up in my face.

And as I stood there I started to identify with that bit of emptiness, that difference.

Some days it’s really strange  to realize that in one year both of my kids left for school (the con of having 2 kids fifteen months apart), but then it’s not so strange, because while it’s oh so bittersweet to move on from that really great part of my life,

there’s still so much life as usual,

the work and the fun

and I’m learning a new routine, a new focus

and climbing mountains with my husband

humpback rock view_opt

 My view from Humpback Rock in the Blue Ridge mountains

And finding my heart can be in more than one place

fossil beach york river state park_opt

Fossil Beach at York River State Park 

And planning visits to see our kids in NYC and Colonial Williamsburg

family hike

And getting to see things from their point of view

And tasting new and surprising things

sno to go snowcones_opt

Snow cone + soft serve = Sno To G0 (in Williamsburg, VA)

(and realizing that in some situations you can eat the yellow snow.)

But most of all, I’m seeing that a different sunrise, can still be a pretty awesome view.

hazy sunrise virginia beach

A hazy, beautiful Virginia Beach morning

What view are you enjoying?

Happy Friday!

 

Summer at a Snail’s Pace

Snails Crabtree Falls

Meet my new guru!

 

 Virginia waterfall hikes

We met last weekend at Crabtree Falls in George Washington National Forest.

 

Just in time, because tomorrow marks the summer solstice here in the Northern hemisphere.

For me, June has always meant it’s time to slow down a bit. Maybe because the majority of my years have been defined by school and summer break. I realized today, that there’s only been a handful of summers that were not sandwiched between school years (either for me or my kids).

Anyway, it’s summer, and I’m back in snail mode.

snail cllose up photo macro

 

Snail mode is not really a physical pace (although it can be). Here it’s more of a mind-set.

 

brain out to lunch tweet

 

I’m going to be less concerned with the overwhelming, the never-ending measuring stick, and more in tune with

family

nature

road trips

reading

summer book crush Collage

The Art of Chasing Normal and dozens of great reads are only .99 this weekend! Just click on the image to get to the Summer Book Crush site. 

 

snail reading doodle

doodling

joy

intuition

Oh and forget perfectionism. I’ve got more important passengers.

watermelon passenger

So yummy pretty.

 

And I’m taking a deep breath of gratitude for where I am right now.

snail macro photo

What does summer (or the change of seasons) mean to you?

Happy Weekend!

 

 

 

 

Photo Essay: Friendly Roads and Sunny Faces

may the road rise to meet you

May the road rise up to meet you.

hats williamsburg

May the wind be always at your back.

light in window

May the sun shine warm upon your face…

tree and clouds

the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,

light through doorway

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

 

**All photos taken at Shirley Plantation in Charles City, Virginia and Colonial Williamsburg.

 

Historical tidbit I learned at Shirley Plantation: Did you know that it wasn’t uncommon for portrait painters (and their entire family) to move in with their subjects?

Real Portrait Painters of the Thirteen Colonies. Would you watch that reality show?

I imagine the experience hastened the invention of photography. 🙂

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Let the Light In (or Dance Like a Mystic)

 ice cracking_opt

Is it spring yet?

Okay, maybe not. But after historically cold temperatures for the last two weeks here in central Virginia (and six and 1/3 snow days that shut down the city cancelled school), I got a tad excited when I saw the ice melting on the ponds at Byrd Park.

 

 

 Byrd Park birds on ice_opt

Pond gulls

(probably not their scientific name)

 

Amy Tan writing quote

 

…the stuff I brought home on my shoes. 

 

Bird watching Richmond VA

 

Or, if there are TONS of birds, feel free to dance like a mystic.

 

Spring is coming (eventually)!

 

What inspiring things are happening in your neighborhood? Also, do you think birds’ feet get cold on that ice? ( This last question is from my husband.) We’d love to know what you think. 🙂

 

HAPPY TUESDAY!

 

Coleen xo

 

 

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