Monday, November 29, 2010

Making a Holiday Card

Jacqueline of Art in My Heart asked how I created the snow effect in the new blog header. Here are my steps:

1. As this piece of art was created for the purpose of using it as a greeting card and I may change the greeting on the front, I opted to use Photoshop® to create the greeting rather than paint it in as I normally do:
Click to enlarge
To answer your specific question, Jacqueline, at this point the snow is either the paper left white or a Uniball Signo White Gel Pen—these things are pure magic! Available from and You can try other white gel pens, but there's NO others on the market (that I've found) that are as good as these pens!

2. Once I have it scanned and in Photoshop, I add my blog name rather than a holiday greeting:
Click to enlarge
3. Then I add "snow" to the top of the letters using the copy and paste feature in Photoshop. A long process to be sure. By the time I was done, I had over 100 layers in this document:
Click to enlarge
4. Once I was happy with the letters, I added an overall layer of snow. Again, this was done by copying and pasting various pieces of snow from the log, the top of the birds heads, etc. I would twist it in different directions or flip it upside down so that it didn't look the same:

Click to enlarge
And that's how I've created the new header! Because the art is untouched, I can add various sayings, ornaments or whatever my heart fancies rather than recreating each piece from scratch!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Festive Changes!

Time to spruce up the blog for the festive, holiday season! And who better to help than a few of my feathered friends?!

Oh, and now it's snowing! I hope your holiday season is off to a fabulous start. We had a wonderful 4 day weekend with family, food and lots of fun!

We're getting ready to pull our decorations down from the attic to adorn inside the house and out for the next 5 weeks. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe because it's a change from the usual or maybe because it's another opportunity to focus on the "good stuff", friends, food, frivolity, and the usual nuttiness that goes hand-in-hand with this time of year.

As you celebrate the season, I hope you find time to treat yourself to a few quiet moments with a warm beverage to reflect on the season, what it means to you, to count your blessings and to give thanks.

I know that I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams, and chief among them, is all the friendships I've made out here in the blogosphere and through the classes. Thanks to each of you for that precious gift!

'Tis the season! Let's get the celebratin' started!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Too Much Information (TMI)

Be warned! This may be far more information than you ever wanted to know about me....

I am not a housekeeper. Never have been, and I dare say, never will be. Despite a strong desire for a sparkling, pristine, clean house, I have little to no enthusiasm for housecleaning. I have far better things to do and can ignore housework like nobody's business. In fact, the house does a far better job of keeping me than I do it.

I also live with cats. Cats that drop fur everywhere they go like they're leaving a breadcrumb trail in case they need to find their way back to the bedroom again. As if they couldn't find it any other way. Sheesh.

And then there's the litter. We have two litter "trapping" mats; however, the cats are amazingly adept at stepping over or around them as they don't like how they feel on their little paws. And litter "decorates" the floor like seashells on the beach but with far less appeal.

So, now I have cat-hair-dust-bunny-thingies the size of chihuahuas hanging out under furniture and in the corners. Sometimes they brazenly sit out there in the middle of the room. Like they owned the place. I'm pretty sure I heard one growl at me when I attempted to get at it and its kin with the vacuum hose. The nerve! Oh, and they routinely hijack the vacuum cleaner and hold it hostage. They render it useless by wrapping themselves around the roller brush.

I think they must have gotten that idea from watching the "save-our-planet" channel and seeing tree huggers trying to save an endangered animal/tree's life by chaining themselves to the tree. It does the cat-hair-dust-bunny-thingies about as much good as the tree huggers.

It just slows down the inevitable.

The other reason I hate to the cats. They are terrified of the vacuum cleaner. You'd think, after 18 years with no harm befalling any cat in the household, they would figure it out. But every time the beast rolls out of the closet and roars to life, it is cause for instantaneous and complete panic! Fur flies, claws skittle and scrape across the hardwood floors as they try to find purchase so quivering, feline bodies can be propelled to safety in the nearest hidey hole.

And let's not forget the heart failure the cats give me when they burst forth from their hiding places like a startled covey of quail because the beast was getting too close! Paws and claws justaflyin' as they streak past me and the beast, me forgetting to breathe for a few seconds until I can sort out the racket and commotion.

Such fun, these creatures. Not.

After the beast has quieted and been escorted back to its "hole in the wall," one by one, they slink into the living room to see first hand the desecration of their homes.

Only....there is none.

So then they start looking sideways at me as if to say "Are you okay?" Tucker begins to hang close, giving me occasional, worried looks with a patina of pitying annoyance. He also feels it is necessary to escort me everywhere I go in the house lest I fall under the spell of the beast yet again as simpletons are wont to do.

With trauma of housekeeping being what it is, I have found only one way to truly get the house cleaned up, and I do mean clean, on an annual basis.

Invite people over for a holiday party.

Three days before said party I panic and turn into a manic cleaner, tossing things, hiding stuff that can't be tossed and cleaning anything I can reach. And wonder, the whole time I'm engaged in this cleaning marathon, why I do it. I'm not fooling anybody. These people are usually family. They know me. And they know I did not suddenly sprout a halo and turn into Miss Susie Homemaker.


I don't seem to be able to help myself nor stop the insanity. It's a compulsion. Am I afraid of being reported to the sanitation/health department for substandard conditions? That someone's going to run their white-gloved finger over the edge of the baseboard and give me a raised eyebrow? The only person likely to do that is my mother and she wouldn't bother as she already knows the sordid truth.

And did you know that no matter how well you've cleaned, dusted, vacuumed mopped and otherwise beat the house into submission that the cat-hair-dust-bunny-thingies are required to come casually rolling across the floor and gently land at the tip of a guests' shoe? It's a union contract thing. They have to do it or they could get kicked out of the union and lose their bennies.

Of course, they seem to be enjoy it just a little too much. It's as if they're taunting me as the saunter gleefully across the floor, pausing and pirouetting in oh, so, slow motion to make sure everyone will notice them. And I can tell you that when this happens, it will cause my mother to raise an eyebrow. As if to say, "Didn't I raise you better than that?"

To which I can say nothing and only hope that the stars and planets will align and transport me into some space vortex/black hole at that very second.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I still have things to hide, a cat or three to terrorize and a house to beat into submission before guests start arriving.

Whether you are in America and celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I hope your table is overflowing with good eats, good laughs and plenty of love!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Near Miss

NOLA Sketchbook
Watercolor on 140 lb. Arches CP
3.5 x 8.5 Inches
Click to enlarge
Though this says Garden District on it, in truth, Kathy and I spent very little time in the "proper" Garden District. It is amazingly easy to get turned around in NOLA. After comparing notes, we realized that we had passed through the Garden District but did not actually tour or spend time looking at the old mansions in the area. This is a fairly easy mistake to make considering the number of mansions in the area!

On a side note...we were warned about directions before we went from the various tour guide books we read. The Mississippi curls around the city in a smile or crescent shape. The majority of the crescent runs east to west, but most folks (like me) get it in their heads that it runs north to south. The mouth of the river, where it meets the Gulf is 5 hours away from the city via river travel. North, south, east and west swapped positions at various times during the day and were seldom at their appointed stations when I bothered to try and get my bearings!

I'm coming to the conclusion that despite being on the go for 5 days from daylight (or before) to dark (or after), we did not cover nearly as much of the city and its delights as I thought we did! That said, there's a LOT to see in NOLA! How we missed the Garden District, I have no idea!
Water Lily
NOLA Sketchbook
Watercolor on 140 lb. Arches CP
3.5 x 8.5 Inches
Click to enlarge
As to the sketch, this was a water garden outside of a home in the Uptown area (I think). We stumbled across these lovely blooms and buds on the first afternoon. They were in a large metal "kettle." I'm not sure if it was an old antique salt kettle, sugar boiler (that they use to make cane syrup in) or something similar, and no one was around to ask.

Let me first clarify that this is is a studio sketch, or maybe more aptly named, study. I spent about twice as long on this as I would have if I'd been on location and I did not time myself as I worked on it. The majority of the time went into the fléur-de-lis and lettering. The rest of it went fairly quickly.

Seeing this blossom and the way it seem to glow from within reinforced the thoughts that this was going to be a fabulous trip and that I needed to be paying attention to what was right in front of me!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Here's Your Sign...

...sometimes, I get overwhelmed and disoriented as I blaze a trail for this new life of mine. It seems the Universe knows and understands this about me. Quite often I receive directional clues. They come in a variety of forms, including fortune cookie fortunes, quotes from friends and on occasion, an actual sign. They help me get back on track, find my way and affirm that yes, I'm headed in the right direction. Sometimes they even illuminate the future!
Church sign in NOLA
Within 10 minutes of getting out and starting to explore New Orleans, Kathy pointed this sign out to me, and I have to admit it felt as though it were meant specifically for me. Along with the usual baggage, I had brought with me some heavy thoughts about decisions that would be facing me on my return back to Tampa.

I was in danger of missing the present opportunity because I was mired in worry about those decisions.

We walked past that sign every morning and most evenings. The reminder was powerful and effective. And since I didn't sleep all that well I took some of that time to ponder the meaning behind the words.

"Imagine" is such a key action in my life that I have the word displayed prominently in my studio. It reminds me to imagine what can be rather than get caught up in what is.

"Bold" was my "word of the year" last year, and I have found that it's still very much with me this year. It serves me well. When I want to play small or not step up and out of my comfort zone, "bold" is there to remind me that I can do it and to get it done!

Possibilities....oh, the magic of that word! Substitute words like beginnings, dreams or opportunities if possibilities doesn't excite you. Doors begin to open, stars align, birds sing, and all kinds of wonderful things begin to happen in support of those imagined possibilities!

However, the part that really gave me pause was "unleash your faith." This challenged me to think about what I had faith in....the Universe, God, other people, the economy, the government, the weather, or.....myself. Did I have faith? What did I believe?

Did I believe in a universe of abundance? Or one of lack? Did I have faith in myself? My abilities, intelligence, skills, and talents or not? I've been wrestling with this 700 lb. demon for a long while now. I'd like to tell you that I've won the day, but in truth, I've only won the occasional skirmish.

I believe to change this type of thought pattern takes near constant awareness and a willingness to challenge those pervasive thoughts whenever they arise. Evolution, not revolution.
NOLA Sketchbook
8.5 x 3.5 inches
Watercolor and Gold Ink
Because I found those words to be so powerful, I put them on the first page of my NOLA sketchbook with a slight change in the wording. To serve as a reminder to continue imagining as well as to have myself.

What BOLD possibilities are you imagining?!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Another View of New Orleans

There was So Much More to New Orleans than either I or Kathy were expecting to see/find. If you're interested in reading about Kathy's take on New Orleans, hop over to Catching Happiness, where she talks about our recent trip!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Thought I Knew....

Sketchbook from New Orleans Trip
Watercolor and Ink
8.5 x 3.5 inches
I thought I "knew" New Orleans. After all, we've all heard stories of drunken stupidity on Bourbon Street, right? And Mardi Gras is just another excuse for more drunken stupidity, right? I couldn't have been more wrong!

Kathy, of Catching Happiness, and I have just returned from the Crescent City and boy, did we have a ball!  This was a working trip for both of us though it almost seems an insult to call it work because it was so much fun! We were on our feet walking, seeing the sights and just taking it all in 10 to 12 hours each day we were there. And we just barely managed to scratch the surface of this complex, multi-layered gem.

Bourbon Street is just street. Walking just one block in either direction and we were in a totally different city. It was as if Bourbon Street didn't even exist. There is a genteel feel to the city mixed with a healthy dose of grit and moxie. In fact, we heard a complaint from a taxi driver about the city becoming too gentrified. However, I saw plenty of examples of the Bohemian streak that made New Orleans [im]famous to know that streak is still alive and well.

New Orleans has definitely changed since Katrina and there's no doubt the storm left a scar on the soul of the city. In fact, parts of the city still look more like the ravaged areas of a war-torn, third world country than a city in the US, but she's coming back and she's coming back stronger, wiser, and lovelier than before.

If you've read the blog very long, you know of my love/hate relationship with most commercially-made sketchbooks, and that I've started to make my own.....
Close up of Sketchbook Cover
Watercolor and Ink
8.5 x 3.5 inches
Click to Enlarge
....and the one above is the latest. I love, love, love the long format of the Handbook Watercolor Journal that I've been working in but not the paper. I decided to make my own for the trip. This book has 12 pages of 140 lb. Arches cold press watercolor paper with front and back covers made from mat board. I used eyelets on the front and back covers so they would be more durable and I chose the mat board so the inside pages would have more protection. It did reasonably well considering it tumbled around in my shoulder bag with camera lenses and other necessary paraphernalia.
Oversized jump rings can be used to "lock" the sketchbook
open or the elastic band works just as well.
A happy (accidental) finding was that the oversized jump rings (above left image) could be turned back towards the sketchbook and used as a locking system when I was sketching on the inside pages. To keep the pages securely shut when the book was in my bag, I used an elastic band (above image, right) with the watch face. The band runs through two eyelets in the back cover so it is permanently attached (and I don't have to worry about losing it!). In fact, this has worked so well that this style of sketchbook may become my favorite!

Because this was a working trip, there was little time to sketch and paint on location. The cover sketch was done in the early hours one morning when I could not sleep. I started adding paint on the plane ride home and finished it this morning. It is a collage of some of the stronger impressions of the trip. With over 800 photos to use for inspiration, I'm sure the 12 pages will be filled in no time. Who knows, I may even have to make another sketchbook!

An enchanting city to be sure, and it has definitely cast a spell over me. I admire the determination of the residents and natives of the city to not only come back stronger than ever but to come back better than ever. That kind of strength I greatly admire and I'll be going back....wanna come?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Modifying A Palette

In my post about being a palette junkie, I mentioned that I modified my palettes and a number of folks inquired as to how I did that. As I started to write the post about modifying palettes, I came across a piece of info about the glue I use that gave me pause. I wrote to the company to get clarification. I'm going to go ahead with the post, but find it necessary to put in a caveat or two....

Modifying A Palette

Gather Your Tools
Click to enlarge
Gather all your tools before beginning: washed and (bone-dry) empty palette, a black fine tip marker or pencil, scissors (not your best pair) glue (I use Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive*); tweezers, ruler, and white plastic lid** of a Cool Whip® tub. I would add to this list (not in the photo) a couple of toothpicks, a wet paper towel and a dry paper towel. Be sure to protect your work surface. 

Filling the Gaps
Anywhere you see light shining into
the wells is an area for potential leaks
of the various pigments into
neighboring wells. 
Before I begin to modify the palette, I check for any areas where the light is shining underneath the walls and into the wells. This is a potential leak waiting to happen. Using the glue, I coat the areas with a bead of glue and allow to dry thoroughly. I also use it to "plug" any holes due to the way the palette is manufactured. Check your palette over carefully for any potential holes that need to be plugged. 

Before adding the walls, think about how you want to configure your palette...perhaps you have a few favorite colors and you'd like bigger wells for them or you may be like me and want as many pigments as possible. Build the palette to suit your painting style. 

Measure Twice, Cut Once
Measure depth of channel
Click to enlarge
Measure width of channel
Click to enlarge
Measure the depth of the area where you want to create extra wells. Measure the width as well. Note that the channel is seldom the same width at both ends if the palette is metal. If it is plastic it's usually  standardized. 

Mark the plastic with a black fine-tip marker. Pencil works too but can be hard to see.
Click to enlarge
Cut a long piece the depth of the palette first. You can also use a cutting mat and a knife.
Click to enlarge
Cut the smaller width piece and place it into the palette for size BEFORE putting glue on the piece!
It is often necessary to shave the edge
for the piece to fit.
Click to enlarge
After adjustments are made and the piece has been tested (again) for accurate fit, add glue to three sides of the plastic.
Click to enlarge
Using tweezers, place the new wall into place. I use tweezers for this because I find that no matter how careful I am, my fingers will knock another glued piece sideways. Sometimes I even manage to do it with the tweezers. Because you have a "window" of time before the glue sets, you can make adjustments as needed. Use toothpicks and a wet paper towel to clean up any glue messes that may occur or if you get glue in the wrong area.
Carefully place new "wall" in palette.
Click to enlarge
It doesn't really matter if you start on the end or in the middle. I tend to start where the newly cut piece fits best without being too loose or too tight. Continue adding walls until the palette is complete. Once the glue has set, check for any gaps and add more glue as necessary. Do not attempt to do this until after the glue has set or you'll likely wind up with a lot of crooked walls and glue everywhere.

Set the palette aside to dry thoroughly. I usually wait at least 24 hours or longer. Once the palette is dry, add the pigments of your choice and let the painting begin! 
Modified palette with pigments
Click to enlarge
*Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive and **white plastic lid of a Cool Whip® tub: The material used to make most plastic food containers is polystyrene. It is a slick plastic with little tooth to the surface so that the food does not stick to it. Well, if food won't stick to it, it is reasonable to question if glue will. According to 3M, the glue manufacturer, for this reason only, the glue is not recommended to be used with polystyrene.  

Now, with that said, because of the way I use the glue (on a cut edge which has sawtooth marks from the scissors—abrasions the glue can adhere too), I've not had any issues in the three years I've used the glue. If a wall were to come loose (and none have as of yet), I would simply re-glue it as I accept this as a non-permanent solution. 

I use this glue for three is acid-free, quick drying (but not as quick drying as super glue) and it is white when wet but dries clear. Because it is white it is easier to see where I've put it and if I have sufficiently closed any gaps. 

If you choose to use this method of modification for your palette but are hesitant about the glue, you can also use super glue. Check to see if it is acid-free and works with polystyrene. 

**If you choose to use a polystyrene food container make sure that it does NOT have any printing on the plastic you use. The inks are not acid-free nor permanent and could easily discolor the watercolor pigments. The plastic should also be flat rather than curved (like the wall of a bowl).

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mixed Media, Mixed Results

Watercolor on Tissue paper with Ink
Handbook Watercolor Journal
3.5" x 8.5"
I recently saw an article on using spray adhesive to attach a piece of tissue paper to the page, over a sketched subject, where you then watercolored on top of the tissue paper. In the example I saw, the color diffused and the wrinkles in the paper added texture to the page.....

I didn't get that! If you enlarge the image above you can see there's not much in the way of wrinkles and the texture is mostly from the blotchy application of the watercolor on the tissue. The wall beside these two windows was heavily textured and it seemed this would be a great way to introduce some of that texture. Not.

If I try this again, I would definitely crumple up my paper for more texture, I would probably try it on a larger area as well as heavier paper so the water and color could disperse a bit more and I'd probably swap the pen for graphite. If I were to try this again......

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Things I Love About Autumn

Handbook Watercolor Journal
8.5" x 3.5"
I love the Autumn season for the gifts it brings in the way of "fallen" treasures (leaves), glorious color and the cooler temperatures. I also love the way soup tastes once the weather cools off. My mom is the champion soup maker of all time (in my book)!!

One of my very favorite things is herbal teas. I get rather tired of drinking coffee all the time so I start mixing it up with various teas during the fall and winter. (Oddly, I don't care for tea in the spring and summer unless it's cool.) I don't particularly like strong coffee or tea. I think it's mostly for the warmth. And now it's also for the sketching possibilities!

I was looking around for something to put in my loooooong format sketchbook when my mother called to tell me she had some soup....if I wanted it. While on the phone with her, I started sketching the tea bag that I'd set aside. It proved to be rather fun and challenging. When I started sketching the bag, it was to kill time while on the phone. I didn't really intend to put it into the sketchbook, let alone paint it.

Since I'm sure I'll have plenty of "specimens" in the coming months, I see more of these on the pages to come!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time For A Fire!!

in Handbook Watercolor Journal
8.5" x 3.5"
And cool enough to enjoy it as well! This is our copper fire bowl that we use when the weather cooperates with cool temps and there's not a lot of wind. I sketched and painted this with the help of my 3 canine friends, one of which managed to get a good amount of pigment on her tongue. She decided the mixing area of the palette needed cleaning. Yuck!

It was dark by the time I finally got around to adding paint and I had no idea what it was going to look like when I finally brought into the light to see. I was quite surprised with the colors on the bowl itself. One dark pigment looks like another in low light! The night sky could be a little darker as could the ground, but it works. Instead, I think I'll just call it "dusk." It's was such a fun evening spent with my honey and this is the [im]perfect memory!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fabulous Here!!

Ink and Watercolor in
Handbook Watercolor Journal
3.5 x 8.5 inches
We've had rain (yay!!!! much needed!) for the last few days. Today, we awoke to gloriously blue skies, much cooler temperatures and wind! The leaves are coming down fast and furious. Don't think we're going to have much color this year. The piece above was done in about 30 minutes, start to finish.

It captures some of the joy and energy I feel with the sunshine and cooler temperatures (read that as low humidity too)!!! Now, I just need to harness that energy to get some work done and then I can go play—outside!!

Hope you're having a fabulous Fall and taking a moment to savor the season!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Confessions of a Color Lovin' Palette Junkie!

As promised, here is way too much information about my addiction to palettes (all photos are clickable). It's a long and littered road.....
Lipstick or Stealth Palette
Business card included for scale
Stealth Palette closed
This is the Stealth Palette, formerly a lipstick sampler from Trish McEvoy. I use this when I'm sketching out in public and don't particularly care for anyone to know. It is the size of a thick credit card. I spray painted the mirror area with white gloss enamel for a wash area.
Angora Palette
Business card included for scale
This little palette was given to me. The paints that came in it were like chalk so I tossed 'em and put in my preferred colors. Since it didn't have enough wells, I altered it by adding my own. The top was painted with white gloss enamel to make it easier to see the paint colors in a wash. If you look at the lower right hand corner, you'll notice the broken corner. That's one of the downsides to plastic palettes—they do break! (But it's still functional!)
Daler-Rowney Palette
Empty and Unaltered
Altered and filled!
Since my waterbrush would not fit in the palette and the space was going to waste, I decided it needed to have paint in it. So I created another nine wells. These are quarter pans—one half of a half pan size. This is a great palette for quick sketches on the go, but is limiting if you try to use it as a plein aire palette where big brushes and puddles of paint are important. 
Altered Quarter Pan Palette
Note the "legend" of paint names in the upper lefthand corner
This is the palette that appeared in this post. It is also a quarter pan palette that I altered to add more wells. The two middle rows were open space. Since the palette is only 2.25" x 3.25,"(about the size of a Sucrets or Altoids box) no self-respecting brush was going to, more paint wells. Unfortunately, this is a no-name palette. It is cheaply made as well. It is a knock-off of an old Winsor and Newton bijou box from well over 50 years ago. You will occasionally see one of the old WN's on eBay. (I've called the shop where I bought it and they currently do not have any in stock. Nor did they know what I was asking about. I'll check again in a month or so to see if they have received anymore.)
27 Half-Pan Palette
This is my favorite workhorse palette (for out on location) and it's about to undergo a change in colors and layout (swapping out some of the half pans for wholes). It was one of those palettes that used to have tubes in it. It had brackets spot welded into the bottom of it...until I decided they needed to leave. And what do you know—27 little half pans fit very nicely in there and there's still room for a brush! This is also a cheap knock-off, no name deal.

If you remember, I decided to use these smaller palettes as a way to use some of the exotic (and not so exotic) paints that I just had to have and then never get around to using. And for that purpose, I have to say these palettes are wonderful. Besides that, they just make me happy 'cause they're so darn cute!!

I have to stop now (even though I haven't exhausted my supply) as I've noticed a look of concern on my husband's face....he has no idea........hee.............

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Horse Feathers!

"You know what you get when you beat a horse, not just to death, but beyond recognition?" she asked. "Horse feathers!"

You know what you get when you paint a painting beyond recognition?! 

Overworked and muddy or said another way, "Horse feathers!!" (Loose translation of horse feathers is rubbish or nonsense.) It may not appear overworked or muddy in the scan, but yeah, it is. Rather humbling, too. I haven't made mud like that in a looooong time!

However, I have learned much (mostly how NOT to paint trees, and sometimes that's how we get to what we want. Edison failed over 10,000 times before he created a light bulb that worked!)

 I had fun and I enjoyed the process.  

I will try again. 

I will capture that elusive light in a sketch. 


Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Autumn!

Watercolor Sketch
from an Imaginary Visit Through Autumn 2010
5" x 5"
For some reason it always seems like Autumn starts in November. Perhaps it's because I live in Florida and that's usually when we begin to see a change in the weather. The humidity drops and a few trees begin to shed their leaves. Our big Maple trees are dropping their leaves early, without the usual color change. I think because of the drought we're in.

We had about a dozen trick-or-treaters last night. They're one of my highlights of the year as you never know what they'll say. One young gentleman was covered with "wounds"—gashes in his shirt and "blood" everywhere. When I commented that it look like he'd been beaten up, he informed me, "No, it's fake blood!"

Who knew?!! ;•)

Another young man (a psycho football player with an evil clown face) was quite pleased to see that I was going to drop a couple of Kit Kat bars in his bag. "Oooooooohhhhhh, I love Kit Kats!!!" he exclaimed. I heard him inform his Mom, "She gave me Kit Kats!!" Funny how something so simple can bring such pleasure.....a lesson in there for the rest of us?!

Two months to go before we close the books on 2010....I find myself looking at my goals, assessing the year, looking at whether I still have anything left that I need to focus in on and put some effort towards. How about you? Has your year shaped up as you envisioned in January?

Are you pleased with what you've accomplished and where you are, or are you like me and need to regroup and apply yourself to a couple of areas?

Now's the time!