Book List 2018

Last post I talked about my goal to tend the important things, and one of those runaway elements in my life has been reading. I really consider it part of my identity, so it hurt to reflect on 2017 and realize just how rarely I’d been able to focus my energy on a book. I know that prioritizing is up to me, so for the past two months I’ve been intentional about avoiding TV and Internet before bed and climbing in with a book instead. It hasn’t hurt that Miles is starting to sleep for longer periods (yay, dude!). Since I’m off to a good start, I want to nerd out a little and share some of my intended reading list - expanded from the stack I shared on Instagram (thanks for the recommendations!) - and also invite you guys to find me on Goodreads and swap books there.

Part of my goal is to splatter my list with things that have been ignored on my bookshelf for YEARS, as well as some nonfiction and things that I don’t necessarily have a predilection for. 

So you have some idea of where I’m coming from as a reader:

My favorite books are character driven and I’m a sucker for beautiful descriptive writing. I’m not tied to any particular genre, but the English teacher in me loves a coming-of-age novel or something with an interesting historical setting, interesting memoir, and I very regularly read fantasy (dragons, please). I know that makes for a crazy profile, but there you have it.

So far so good with January! I jumped right back in and I’ve been reunited with that familiar tugging in my mind throughout the day until I can get back to my book. I love it.

On to the list so far. The first 5 are the ones I’ve already read (marked with my Goodreads * rating), but after that they’re in no particular order. 

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks  - ****

A Separate Peace by John Knowles - ***

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote -*****

The Stranger by Albert Camus - * (I understand why this is beloved, but I’m guessing the reasons that it is are the same reasons that I disliked it)

The Wishsong of Shannara (Shannara #3) by Terry Brooks - current read - definitely needed this after 3 murderdeathkill books.

Fika – Art of the Swedish Coffee Break – this isn’t really a book just to read straight through, but I’m exploring it right now and really like how the recipes are woven with culture and history.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

300 Arguments – Sarah Manguso

Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck – (we just visited Monterey, so it seems like good timing)

Two Under the Indian Sun by Jon Godden

The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama

Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden

Show Boat by Edna Ferber

Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote – (really enjoyed the writing style of In Cold Blood, so I’m going to try another)

The Able Mclaughlins by Margaret Wilson

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Cheri by Colette

Willa: Life of Willa Cather by Phyllis C. Robinson

Hotel of the Saints by Ursula Hegi

So – there you have it. Please shoot me notes or find me on Goodreads so we can swap! 


Well, to say that blogging eluded me in 2017 is an understatement. After declaring my word of the year - INTENTION - I promptly disappeared. Whoops! Ha. Well, unless you’re judging my success by frequency of blog posts, I actually did fairly well with my word! I wanted to be more focused on very specific art goals, and I did that. I also wanted to be more intentional with my actions as a mom and I’m finding some routines that keep me from losing my mind and allow me to enjoy time with these fellas without always feeling like I should be cleaning or folding something. 

Onward to 2018! I’ve been puzzling over a word to choose for a few weeks, and while I could easily pick the same one (and will still keep it in mind), I want to give myself something fresh to think about, so (drumroll….) this year’s word is TEND. 

I like two definitions in particular: 

to go or move in a particular direction. “the road tends west around small mountains”


care for or look after; give one’s attention to.

I like it because it applies to maintaining all of the things I worked on in 2017 as well as the direction I want to take this year.  The word nerd in me also like the softness of it and the romantic images it evokes of tending a runaway garden. It’s nice to think of all of the pieces of my day as vines I can gently put back into place when they get a little tangled. 

One specific resolution I have is tending my relationships. It’s easy to get wrapped up in daily tasks with kids and not connect with friends and family - especially with so many distant ones - and before I know it huge swaths of time have passed in the blink of an eye. Being a better caretaker of those relationships is an important goal for me. 

My art world this last year was all about staying focused on process, which has been really calming. Just exploring without as much pressure is like taking a deep breath. Especially with acrylics, it was a needed breath, and I’m in a place that makes me feel so, so happy with them right now. In the words of my Ninjago-obsessed 3-year old - I am seeking “my full potential.”  Ha. Sensei Wu, Splinter, and Super Why will all agree that the learning process is the important part. Tending that process will mostly be a matter of discipline (again: ninja) and spending the time I need in the studio. 

As always, thanks for following along as I explore this painting life and I hope you all have a wonderful 2018. I’ll try to do better with blogging, but for constant updates Instagram is my favorite. If you’re choosing a word of your own, please share! I love to follow along with other people too. 

A Day at the Museum

The Exploration Space

I wanted to stop by and share a story and some pics about some recent inspiration. A few weeks ago Ren and I took a trip to the Joslyn Art Museum, which was really fun for both of us. We spent most of the morning in the Art Exploration area and checking out tunnels and water fountains, but after lunch we did a stroll through a few of the exhibits and I found myself really drawn to the large landscape paintings. 

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with tree lines and pines, but I’ve never really been excited by the Hudson River School style paintings until recently (check out the link to the left for some samples). In school I would have told you that I respected them, but that they just weren’t “my thing.” I thought they were too realistic, too precise… not the sort of images that got my attention. 

Just keep in mind, at that time coffee also wasn’t “my thing.” How times change. Ha. Years later, I see an entirely different type of magic in the immensity of the scenes and the constant play with light and shadow. When I taught American Literature we read “Rip Van Winkle” every year and these paintings take me back into stories like that - the harsh reality of colonists carving out a life in the mountains, but coupled with a playful fantasy of being in such an immense place and really having no idea what or who else is out there. It had to feel a little like landing on a new planet. Now when I look at these paintings I see all of that in addition to the paint and it’s just really exciting. And the shadows are incredible - that’s just something I’ll never get over. 

Left: “Citadel Rock” by Karl Bodmer, watercolor. Right: “Storm on the Matterhorn” by Albert Bierstadt, oil.

After a lot of browsing and all of the patience the average two-year old could muster, I stopped in the gift shop and picked up these two postcards. I have been staring at them on my table ever since. The week we went I was already having a lovefest with my indigo watercolor paint, so these two just drew me in. Obviously I’m not remotely looking to recreate scenes like this, but I’ve enjoyed thinking about the way they used light and shadow and trying to experiment with how I use fog and steam when I work through pine tree scenes.  

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