Thursday, February 28, 2013

drum roll please...

tiny works of art. original and wearable.

An original painting. Not a print, not a copy, but the true touch of the artist. We are proud to hang original work in our houses, because every color, line, and texture represents the creative eye and hand of an actual human being.

Kerrie James is an artist who highly values original work, and has found a way for art-lovers to carry it with them everywhere. Her painting pendants are meticulously hand-painted, and exhibit her eye for New England landscapes. Each painting is framed in a way that displays the work with clarity and graces the person who wears it.

(that lovely description was written by my very own Brian James)


That's right folks. An etsy shop. Of my very own. 

A little backstory; I came up with the idea of creating tiny paintings of special places and making them into necklaces for my Moms, sisters and friends for Christmas. I made about 10 of these necklaces and really loved the process of painting these tiny works of art.  The recipients kept coming back to me saying how many comments they get on their one-of-a-kind pendants, so I started to think there might be something there. Thus, an etsy shop.

I am offering many pre-painted pendants, mostly of places in New England that I've photographed or sketched; I will also be taking custom orders. Have a special place that you'd like painted? Let's talk!

I guess I'm considering this my "soft" opening.  I'll see how things go for a few months and if I'm still enjoying myself and people are still interested, I'll try to vamp things up for the summer.

So go take a look around! 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

awake and asleep

This summer I painted my bedroom yellow and got inspired to totally redecorate. "Light, simple and airy" were the words I used, I believe. Who am I kidding? I don't think I own anything light and airy. Warm, deep, layered and cozy seems to be more my style.  I tried to live with the white duvet cover and keep everything modern and streamlined, but my affection for warmth (and the color RED) kept seeping in and eventually I gave in. Luckily, my sunny yellow paint goes just as well with red and maroons as with lights and whites.  I replaced the white duvet with my beloved warm Indian cloth and back went my mismatched red/maroon pillows. All of this to say, things have been in decorating limbo for a while, but I think I'm almost happy with where we're at.

Art for this room has always been a struggle for me, I've switched out pieces on either side of our bed at least 4 times. I was recently inspired and I think I've finally found some keepers. I love the prayer (from the Book of Common Prayer) that my sister and brother in law asked me to paint for their bedroom, so I created two images using those words and the same technique I used for Brian's valentine.

I chose a couple of abstract photos I took of light reflecting in the Detroit River, changed the image to black and white, added text in photoshop, then got my images printed at staples ("engineering print", 18x24, $1.79 each!).
The best part? I find myself reading the prayer whenever I enter the room and it's words are often on my mind as I fall asleep.

I'm totally getting addicted to these engineering prints. I do have one more frame to fill... :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2nd Annual Crafternoon - 2013 Edition

Sipping tea, eating treats galore and real crumpets (thank you, Rachel!), chatting with old and new friends, slowing down and using our hands to create beautiful things.. no better way to spend an afternoon on a cold day in February. Crafternoon 2013 was a smashing success (in my humble opinion) :)

Monday, February 25, 2013


Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

- God's promises; welcome, pardon, cleansing, relief
- a most restful and fun vacation week
- breakfast at the Wenham tea house and a visit to see the trains
- time to deep clean and make art
- a successful and smooth beginning to a painting; and Brian's painting project
- old friends at church and Brian "off" for the day
- a fun and successful crafternoon
- Shabbat dinner
- interest and submissions for ArtSpeak
- long Sunday lunch with our "scottish" friends
- Brian, his constant love and selflessness, his oscar night commentary, his love of grilling steak in the snow
- Levi; his styrofoam bowl hat and window reflection antics, when he's extra cuddly, his developing vocabulary, his charming personality, his wonder and excitement about the world..and model trains...

Thursday, February 21, 2013


 Busy enjoying February vacation bliss..back on Monday!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

diy portable mailbox

One last little valentine (or anytime) project - 

1. Punch a hole in the corner of a sport card protector sleeve (a regular hole-punch works).

2. Create some sort of "cover" for your mailbox. I did an ink and watercolor design with words from Browning's poem - "How do I love Thee? Let me count the ways". A quote, a verse, a drawing, an "address", a photograph..the sky is the limit. You can trace a playing card or baseball card to get the right dimensions. Then simply slide your design into the sleeve.

3. Slide the key ring into the hole and attach your finished mailbox to something your special someone takes with them to work or school.  Keys (this could be a little bulky), a briefcase, a purse or a backpack. Mine was given to Brian and is currently attached to his work bag.

4. Write a note and slip it in the mailbox for the recipient to read later on in the day!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

the story of a valentine

A year before we started dating (we were 16 and 17), Brian wrote a song that we played together at church.  It was a beautiful song about seeing God's glory and purpose in the natural world; he sang and played guitar and I played flute.  What I didn't know at the time, was that he had written a secret verse to the song, a verse that I never heard until a couple of years later.    

That verse was and is so very precious to us.  It encapsulates a lot about our story; a love that began with music, friendship and praise, those sweet early years spent roaming the shores of the Atlantic, our insatiable desire to talk and be with each other, our knowing so very early on that we would, God-willing, grow old together.

Fast forward about 10 years. Valentines 2013 (our 10th together!) seemed like the perfect time to unearth the secret verse and give it new life. These words were never even written down. They lived in Brian's head and every once in a while I'd ask him to remind me of them and we would stop and remember the beautiful summer day when he finally sang them to me for the first time (and there are still butterflies when I hear them).

After some digging around, I found an old photo that I took at the park we frequented while dating and where Brian penned the song, it even showed the benches where he sat. The photo was scanned, I edited it to be black and white and then lightened the image to make it look more like a watermark. I played around with fonts, sizes and placement to create an interesting composition of words on the background image (you can download some amazing free fonts at dafont and Fonts for Peas). I saved the image with 3x4 dimensions since I planned to print it out as a 18x24 poster. 
Now, if you have a pinterest account, you've probably seen that you can make large poster-sized black and white photocopies (they are called engineering or draft prints) at Staples for just a few dollars. (let me give you a minute to process that!). I brought them a thumb drive with my saved image and they printed me an 18x24 sized print for just under $2. Sure, it's photocopy quality, but at that price, get another one when you need it. In a frame, it should last for quite a while.  Michaels was having a super-sale on frames (this happens frequently) and with their weekly 50% off coupon, I got a sleek white frame for about $12. 

Brian loved it and it's very special to have these meaningful words around to see and remember. It now happily lives in the upstairs landing on the wall next to our bedroom.

* some other ideas: blow up old black and white family photographs, create word art with a favorite Bible verse, song lyric, poem.  I also used these prints to create various posters for my art room this year.  

Monday, February 18, 2013


"Rest and be thankful."
- H. W. Longfellow
Thankful for,

- February vacation and more time to rest and be thankful
- Levi pointing out some letters
- a first ash Wednesday service
- safety for Levi after a scary fall
- a sweet Valentine's date; dinner at Finz, presents by the ocean, Nana and Grandpa's fabulous babysitting service
- finished and beautiful high school still lifes
- Levi in his valentine hat from the PEM
- a Shakespearean/Jamesean love sonnet
- new word/images for our home
- Jon and Sarah over for dinner and another night out.
- a friendly and helpful janitor at school
- when kitty comes to snuggle as soon as the baby goes down
 - a long and lazy Sunday
- waking up to another snow-laden Salem (and some blizzardly photos on the way to church)

Friday, February 15, 2013


just layin' down some sick beats with Uncle Chris...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

a blizzard painting and an art show

Thanks to the blizzard that kept me contained and my kind husband who busied the baby for hours on end, I was able to start and finish a small painting over the weekend. I rarely have that much uninterrupted time these days to make art, so it was quite a treat to be able to get into "the zone", as they say.

The piece is inspired by Luke 7:22 (see below) and will be used as the main image for the Lenten sermon series at church. The passage is all about restoration which just so happens to be the theme of the art show/silent auction that our arts ministry is hosting in March. I needed to create a piece for that event as well so I went ahead and killed two birds with one stone. Bam.

(more info about the art show should come. you could even come home with this here painting!) :)

* * * 

“..The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor." - Luke 7:22

6''x12", Acrylic on Canvas, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

it's not too late.. get your looove note on.
wee baskets labeled for each family member
(or mailboxes or whatever cute little containers you have lying around)
a pile of red and pink papers and some washi tape for sealing
a pink vase full of appropriately colored pencils
little notes of love to last all February long

Monday, February 11, 2013

Thanks - blizzard of '13 edition

Giving thanks,

-for safety, electricity, a nice warm Sea Kettle to be being stuck in for a couple of days.
- Brian grilling steaks in the middle of a blizzard
- a snowy walk to church with Levi, Ariel and Elsie; the beauty of a snow-laden Salem
- time to paint
- helpful advice
- 2 strong men to shovel us out
- a healthy dose of painterly chaos with kindergarten and 1st grade
- a fun night at the "servathon" kick-off night at New Hope
- pumpkin bread spread thick with honey apple butter
- a McKenna family party celebrating the (almost) end of Dad's treatments 
- visiting with some old friends
- Levi's charms
- skyping with Kimmie; Levi and Kimmie playing a form of "simon says"
- only a week 'til February vacation

Friday, February 8, 2013

snow days

Apparently there's snow a'comin our way. Like, a lot of snow. So much snow that pretty much everything is called off and Gov. Patrick says to stay inside.  Done, Govenor. You don't have to ask us twice. 

Before we were married and we were both in college studying to become teachers, we used to dream of days like this. SNOW DAYS. We'd dream of what we'd do on these unexpected days off when you really just had to stay inside and you surely didn't need to get anything done, since you were supposed to be at work anyway. A freebie. A mini stay-cation. Through the years we've definitely tried to make the best of these days and we're still living the dream today. A baby makes it all the better; sure, we don't sleep in until noon, but getting up at 5:30 just makes the snow day longer, right? (at least that's what we try to tell ourselves!)

On the snow day(s) docket:

- early morning cuddles in Mama and Papa's bed, as long as we want or until the baby escapes (check!)
- big waffle breakfasts
- hot chocolate
- hanging and playing with Uncle Chris, who's riding out the storm with us here in the kettle
- mid-blizzard snow walk down to the wharf, possible probable snow fight
- lots of blankets, maybe an episode of "Curious George"
- lots of books
- look out the window, listen to Levi exclaim "snow! snow! snow!" over and over again
- fuzzy socks, cozy pants, hoodies
- pumpkin bread
- me, painting; Brian, guitar noodling
- a possible neighborhood highrockers get-together

..time to get to it!

Stay warm, safe and seize the (snow) day, friends!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

decorating for valentines - 15 minute edition

Usually I try to at least cut a few hearts or make a banner or even plan a date for every day in February (ok, that was ambitious), but this year I'm just trying to keep my head about water. Lesson plans, end of quarter evaluations, 3 paintings to start and finish, a big community art show/auction to help plan and execute, a husband to love, a toddler to chase...oh my! This year, a 15 minute pink and red treasure hunt around the kettle and a little rearranging had to suffice. Sweet and simple but it does the trick. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Levi loves helping out around the house. Emptying the dishwasher, putting his toys away, sweeping and vacuuming (his favorite).  I'm assuming this won't last forever, so I'm recording this information so I can dig it up when he's, oh I don't know..12.  :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

to remember - 18 months

Dear Levi,

There are so many things I want to remember about (almost) 18 month old you.

Like how friendly and out-going you are and your constant joyful energy. The way you love the older kids and follow them around giggling happily, trying to imitate everything they do. How you stop and dance whenever you hear music and how you sing when you play the piano or before you go to bed.  The way you get tickled when we pray and try your best to close your eyes and bow your head, the way you snuggle in bed with us every morning and insist on having a hand on both of us.  How you started calling your Papa "Paaaapy!" and how you giggle uncontrollably and run around the house not knowing what to do with yourself when he comes home. How you happily and easily go to and from your various care-givers and how you like to walk on my feet. The way you try your best to do what the adults are doing and how you try to insert yourself into adult social situations (nodding your head at the appropriate times and giving your two-cents) How when you cuddle you nestle in my neck or gently pat my head. Like how when I ask you "what are we doing tomorrow?" you always happily reply "church"! How you jog around the house pumping your arms up and down like a chicken. How you make the funniest expressions and have a great sense of humor - how you are so clearly your father's son. I love your sweet voice, your warm hugs, your sloppy kisses. Every bit of you.

Love you baby boy (I can't call you that much longer, now can I?)


Monday, February 4, 2013


“..all of life is a pure gift...the discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.” 
Celebrating with pure joy - 

- my boys, singing through the nursery rhyme book
- Dad, done with his first round of cancer treatments (a bit more chemo to come)
- an astounding piano recital; my talented friend, the beautiful view, my very enthusiastic and active-listener husband, filling my sketchbook to the lovliest of music 
- art projects coming out of my ears, in a good way
- "maama-y!" and "paaappy!"
- church online, when I'm home on Sunday morning with a coughing baby and a challenge
- an alone morning at Starbucks working on evaluations
- Nick's Roast Beef
- early morning family cuddle puddles
- a musical morning with the highrock playgroup
- dinner with my siblings (minus Kimmie), shepherd's pie, rollicking debates, strawberry shortcake and a game of "Wits and Wagers"
- Brian, home and warm after his polar plunge into the Atlantic (I can't even swim in the ocean in July!)
- Superbowl party at my sisters'; mostly cuddling Elsie, the puppy chow and Levi's dance to "Single Ladies"