Happy New Year

Before starting my blog, I anticipated that I'd feel guilty if I didn't blog as regularly as I "should".   And I was correct, guilt has been gnawing away at me because I've not blogged, nor participated much with social media in the past couple of months.  My guilt is urging me to write the litany of excuses, but the simple fact is, I've been super busy, and to be honest, I'm just not very good at social media.  I think I'm pretty good at living life, but I'm not very good at documenting it.

I had a very profound moment a couple of months ago when I went to see Simple Minds in concert. Even though I was loaded with the cold, I was dancing up a storm and singing my heart out along with Jim Kerr and his crew.  Sadly it felt that I was one of only a few people losing themselves in the music.

When the first few notes of their mega hit, "Don't you forget about me" started, I was shocked at how stock-still the crowd was.  I actually panicked for a second, thinking something was wrong.  There was no excited, frenzied jumping up and down on hearing this iconic song live, instead the whole crowd stood so frozen as to prevent blurring their footage. Throughout the concert, it was a constant battle trying to see the stage over the sea of arms and smart phone screens.  

I felt sad watching so many people witnessing this amazing concert through their tiny screens and obsessing with their phones, rather than being in the moment and transported by the magic of a live concert.

This experience reminds me to give myself a "a get out of jail free card".  I may be justifying my lack of "social" communication, but as I write this, it's freeing for me to know that I spent so much time in the past two months being present and really enjoying my life.  I had an amazing time over the Holidays, celebrating with family and friends.  Suffice it to say, I partied, hosted, decorated, facilitated a fundraiser, made things, cooked, celebrated, and enjoyed it all tremendously.  

In between our celebrations, I'd been working hard on some new exciting artwork, preparing for my trip to the Atlanta Gift Show, from which I've just returned.  I am thrilled to share a few of the pictures I took of some of my new products whilst in Atlanta.  

I wish you all an amazing New Year filled with much love, joy and peace and have a happy guilt free day!

Much love,


Table Decorations
Paper Mache Candy Bowl with Hat Lid
I just love these cone shaped stripe candles that look like hats
Look at me proud as punch...

Just One Day

As I'm about to strip the Halloween ghouls and ghosts from the facade of our house, I find myself asking "Is it all worth it for just one day?" 

Ever since I was a wee girl, I've loved Halloween; it's up there with Christmas for me. As far back as I can remember I expended all my creative energy conjuring up fabulous costume ideas and spent even more hours bringing them to life. I never asked for help. In Scotland where I grew up, it wasn't a tradition to decorate houses. So you can imagine my delight when we bought our house in Harlem (after condo living in lower Manhattan), I could finally let my inner Halloween spirit, go nuts!

For the past two weeks I‘ve been sick with a horrible cold and had very low energy. And so this year on the run up to Halloween I was a little less spirited than usual.  I even thought about not participating.  It’s only one day for goodness sakes....

But alas I couldn't do that, so I mustered up as much energy as I could and with no dress rehearsals, I did manage to pull it all off.  I didn't do quite as much as I normally do, but I had a fabulous time anyway.  I'm particularly driven because I love Halloween and love to share that enthusiasm with my kids, but more so now because of my neighborhood.  

I have a friend who has lived in Harlem all her life, and she said when she grew up there was not a soul on the streets on Halloween; it was just way too dangerous. Over the past four years our block and four others has become quite the thing on Halloween.  We have trick or treaters coming from all over to our wee slice of Manhattan.  It makes me emotional every year to watch all these excited wee Harlemites climbing up our stoop, barely able to take their eyes off our freakish made up faces as they dip their terrified wee hands into our candy bowl for their treasure. What a treat it is for us. 

Ghouls and Ghosts on our house

Scary family
Scary family again...

So as we move forward into the season where life can get crazy, for one day in November and one day in December, I will remember the joy my creative efforts bring and be grateful.  But I will also remember like I did on Halloween “easy does itand only do what I can manage so that my delight doesn't get lost in the exhaustion of it all.

Much joy!


Easing In Gently

I don't know about you, but for me getting back into work after a vacation is excruciating. It's now well into the second week of being home and I'm struggling.

There's been lots of "stuff" to deal with as well as a long holiday weekend plopped in, but this is the second day I've come up to my studio with serious intent to put brush to paper and my skin is crawling.  I want to clean the fridge; sort the mail; have another snack only 10 minutes after the last one; check Facebook; watch the US Open; “check in” with my kids--anything, ANYTHING to prevent me from facing that terrifying blank page.

Yesterday, after enduring much heavy- handed judgment that just spouted into my head, that stern task master was finally overpowered by a wee voice that told me: I don't have to do this alone.  Relieved, I called a couple of amazing, loving, supportive friends; met another one for dinner and practiced some of the self care that I've come to know works and gives me faith.

Thank God I have such a gentle, loving, support system because I can be so unkind to myself.  After many years of creating art and design, I still get panicked by the blank page, especially after a long hiatus.  I've come to believe that creating is a spiritual experience, but unfortunately there are still many negative voices in my head that can run riot.  It's so easy to compare, or not feel good enough, or convince myself that I'll never come up with another great idea ever, ever again.   I need my support system to help me find that spiritual calm place to remind me again and again, in a gentle loving way that all I need to do it put one foot in front of the other and  have faith that all I'm asked to do is be myself and create what's inside of me.  Fear can dominate my whole being and paralyze me when I focus on the outcome so I need to be in the moment.  All I have to do is show up and take baby steps and eventually I'll hear what I need to do.

I'm sitting at my studio desk right now, so after I hit “publish” on this blog, I shall garner my faith and do all the steps I need to do that will create the space for me to hear what's next. And if I don't have any bright sparks unveiled to me or even fail to sit at my desk, then I can lovingly tell myself it's OK. Tomorrow is another day.

 Peace, love and gentleness to you all.


The Last Days of Spain

We're on the cusp of embracing our last week here in Spain.  As I sit here in my dark bedroom escaping the early evening heat streaming into our living room, I have sporadic surges of guilt running through my veins thinking of all the things I could be doing right now in Barcelona. Elliott and Eli are fulfilling their dream and at this moment basking in soccer heaven watching Barcelona demolish their opponents in their first game of the season at home. Jules being 10 years old, and knowing his limits, chose not to attend the soccer match and instead wanted to have "down time" with me at home.

This situation epitomizes our whole trip.  Traveling with kids is a completely different ball game.  If I were on my own, I'd be out and about, discovering and reveling in every new experience, knowing full well the limits of life and that this could well be my last visit to Catalonia, to Spain, to Europe....

I've had to make so many compromises on this trip and so have my husband and kids.  I've learned so much about myself and them:  I've learned that transitions are tough and we all need time to adjust to new surroundings; I've learned that we all need downtime and not just go, go, go; I've learned that no matter how much we love each other, we really need our own space too; I’ve learned that I greatly admire my kids' relationship with each other and how easy they move on and don't hold on to grudges with each other. I'm still trying to learn that we are all different and don't necessarily like the same things and to have patience with that; and I'm trying desperately to learn that fine line of where I do have control and where I need to let go -- the hardest lesson of all.

I’ve also learned that I've fallen madly in love with Spain and Catalonia.  When I was growing up in Scotland my opinions were tainted by the commercial brouhaha around places like Benidorm and Lloret de Mar.  This trip has been an education about the other side of Spain.  We have had the amazing opportunity to live like locals.  I love Madrid for its social spirit: the food, the people, the socializing that happens in the late evening in the amazing restaurants, bars and plazas.  I love the small Costa Brava towns and beaches for their raw natural beauty and history and I love Barcelona for its creativity, its independent spirit and for its art.  

Tomorrow Eli and Jules will attend another tennis camp for a week, giving Elliott and I the opportunity to work and sneak in a little extra Spanish culture, as we are fully aware that when their exhausted little bodies return to our apartment, they will no doubt prefer to have me cook barbecued chicken and watch a movie than go out to see a band play at the Festival Major de Gracia or discover another great Tapas restaurant.  So I will fully embrace these stolen moments, knowing that although my kids' preferences are not mine right now, that they are taking it all in and will be grateful one day for having been exposed to such an amazing country.

Enjoy your last days of summer...

Me and my boys, Monjuic Castle, Barcelona

Hola - From Spain

We just passed the halfway mark of our six-week trip to Spain -- time really does fly way too fast when you're having fun. And it has been fun! There have been a lot of challenges too, but like childbirth, hopefully as we look back, all we’ll remember is the amazing experience. 

The first fortnight of our trip was in Madrid and like most of the world those two weeks there was a heat wave and each day we dealt with 90 something degree weather.   Unlike New York, it's pretty cool in the mornings before the sun really gets going and after the sun says Adios in the evenings around 9:30 -- which is why Spanish culture is about socializing late at night. Restaurants, bars and every plaza is filled with young and old alike, gathering to hang out in the relief of the cool night air.
Everything is closed from 1-4pm, when Spaniards take long leisurely lunches and siestas.

This was our first big challenge because we were still on New York time and getting up around 11am. By the time we had breakfast and got our act together to get out the door, it was lunch and siesta time. Throughout our stay, it was easy to stay up late, but managing that middle part of the day was a conundrum.  We never totally figured it out as my kids haven't taken a nap since they were in diapers, so we just adapted and did the best we could.  

I feel like a broken record as I talk about how my life feels like one big balancing act at home; and here in Spain, it's exactly the same.  In Madrid we had to balance our collective agenda to adapt to five different people and three different generations: a high energy I don't like art galleries and museums 10-year-old boy; a sassy, moody, bored, excited, sarcastic, loving, hormonal teenager; a menopausal, hot flashing, trying to please everyone Mama; an exasperated Dad desperately trying to figure out how to work and party at the same time and a culture-seeking Grandma with more energy than us all.  

With all that said, between the five of us, we saw Flamenco, went to an amusement park, visited the ancient towns of Toledo and Segovia, explored the whole city of Madrid on foot (didn't take the subway once), spent a day visiting the beautiful Retiro Park, played tennis, visited the Royal Palace of Madrid, several museums, monuments and art galleries. Admittedly Grandma was the only one who managed to get to the Prado.  The kids had checked out at that point and a visit to a water park outside of Madrid was much needed for those young spirits.

Without a doubt the highlight of our trip was eating the most amazing food -- we basically ate our way through Madrid and it was the one thing we ALL loved doing together.  

Eli and Jules in Crystal Palace, Retiro Park
Playing Charades in Retiro Park

Flamenco shoes for all sizes
The amazing Aquaduct in Segovia
Another yummy meal

Beautiful, passionate, intense flamenco dancer

Beautiful old buildings in Segovia

Roasted Garlic and baked Camembert with rosemary - delicious

Very tired after a long hot day walking around Toledo

We're now in Figueres, a small city famous for being the birthplace of Salvador Dali. Our schedule has been turned upside down yet again since we’re now getting up at 7:30am to get the kids to tennis camp. Elliott and I are both working when they're gone which is not an easy task when we’re itching to plunge in the clear Mediterranean sea in the spectacular Costa Brava beaches down the road, visit the Dali museums and sites and meander around ancient hilltop towns nearby.  We just had our first weekend here and managed to do some of that, but more in my next blog, as time is ticking and my Spain tennis Mom duties are about to begin.

I hope you're all having a fabulous summer so far and managing to tolerate this intense heat.

Much love,


Summer travels.....creating great memories

In a little over a week, me and my boys will be flying out to spend 6 weeks in Spain.  After reading another school report card that showed a lot of struggle with Spanish, I had the bright idea of "Wouldn't it be a great experience for the kids (and us) to live in Spain for the summer."  Wanting to live like locals, and not to mention it being a lot cheaper, I arranged to exchange houses with some families in different parts of Spain.  When I made the plans 6 months ago it all sounded ever so fabulous, but now as my head is spinning with all the planning and prepping, I'm beginning to think what the heck was I thinking???

Over 25 years ago when I was in my second year at art college, my 3 girlfriends and I decided to live in France for 6 weeks during the summer semester.  At that time, packing up was dumping my few belongings at my Mum's house, throwing a couple of bikinis in a back pack and catching a train.  We didn't even know where we were heading, where we'd sleep, we had barely enough money to last a week and I was the designated interpretor, using my meager skills from 4 years of shirking my French vocabulary at school.  

All we cared about was getting away from the dreary UK climate and having fun. After a few days of traveling through France, we set up our temporary home in a tiny wee town in the Southern coast, where we somehow managed to buy a second hand tent and fell into some jobs.  There was no picking grapes or waitressing for me, I ended up earning my Francs as "La Femme Serpent" -  working with a couple of pythons in a traveling fairground that had set up in town for the summer.  So desperate was I to be a bronzed beach bum and not return home to yet another rainy Scottish summer, I deeply buried my terror of snakes (and drank quite a few glasses of the local vino on my first few nights on the job).  Naivety is a marvelous thing sometimes!

Me trying to be a very mysterious snake charmer
Wearing some of the earrings I made and
was selling on the beach
This was Frederic, one of the two pythons I worked with

Beach bums in our tent.  Yes that's me with the very big 80's hair
So as I find my head in a whirlwind, stressing about buying train tickets from one city to another, organizing tennis camps for my kids, who'll water my garden when I'm gone, how much sun block should I bring, the list goes on and on......, I want to remind myself of my summer in France.  I had the most fabulous time, met some amazing interesting people, my French truly did improve and we made a lot of mistakes too, but all in all it was a tremendous life experience.  Traveling is a great adventure, it's not as simple traveling now as it was for me then, but it has enriched my life in such a valuable way, as I hope it will my children.   So with all this in mind, I'm going to try and chill out as much as I can in this coming week and know that I don't have to plan everything perfectly.   I'm sure we'll make a lot of mistakes, but that's all part of the journey, and ultimately I know we'll create a lot of great memories, 

So stay tuned, I've got my instagram all set up and raring to go.

Happy Summer and happy travels to you all!


Here comes summer

One of the things I really look forward to in the summertime is barbecues and farmers markets.   I bought these gorgeous looking carrots for one of the two barbecues we hosted this weekend.  Not only were they delicious, (I'm having the left overs now for lunch as I type) but I thought they looked so beautiful, I used the green leaves of the carrots to mix with the flowers I picked from my garden for the dining room table.

Here's to many more barbecues and tasty farm fresh food ahead of us this summer!

Carrots from our local Farmers Market
Todays leftovers, barbecued carrots

Flowers from my garden and carrot greens