Join Me In 2018: Together We’ll Make The New Year Our Most Fulfilling One Yet

Together We'll Make The New Year Our Most FulFilling One Yet

Almost 2 years ago, I tried hand lettering. I’d done calligraphy before, so I was confident that I’d really enjoy brush lettering. But I sucked… when I say that I sucked, I should take a moment to clarify that I’m not the sort of person who needs consoled with a popsicle. I’m not being down on myself, or having a comparison pity party… it was just ragged.

But that’s not shocking, because I’d never used a brush pen before. As it turns out, I didn’t have the muscle control to move it fluidly yet, and I was using the wrong paper, so I was tearing up my pen too. But, based on that one half-crap attempt, I decided that it was proof I just wasn’t cut out for brush lettering.

Makes sense right? I tried it, I stunk, case closed. Boy, am I glad my parents didn’t have that attitude about me when I was born! “Well, she tried to stand, and she fell….. what a failure!”

Well now you’re just being silly Amanda! Yup. Sure am… and I was being silly when I bailed on a potential new skill, because I wasn’t mind-blowing on my first attempt.

So at the beginning of this year, I chose 3 skills to learn through the year: Doodling, hand lettering, and watercoloring. Why 3? I just can’t handle only picking one skill… and 3 sounded like a good number.

Why limit myself at all? I could give you some very schmancy responses about how historically limitations have prompted some of the most long lasting things like Picasso’s blue period, or Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, which arose from a challenge to write a book in 50 words or less.

I “could” give you that answer, but honestly it’s because I suffer from a crippling condition… FOMO. Yes ladies, get well cards can be sent to me at… okay seriously though… Fear Of Missing Out. It kills me to miss out on things, and I want to take *flinging confetti* all-the-classes!!! So I limited myself to 3 areas, so that if I saw a class and I really wanted to take, I could analyze it in the scope of those 3 skills, and determine if the class was a good fit.

And it worked.

I started off the year by creating a Pinterest board for 2017, and I dumped anything I could find… books, YouTube tutorials, blog posts, tools, classes… just to get my brain going.

I chose these 3 things on a whim. My whims are few and far between, so I usually follow them when they come along. I’m not a capricious person by nature. But this was definitely a whim. And I ran with it as hard as I could. What I didn’t realize, is that it would change everything. *dunh dunh da dunhhhhhh*

Phillip would come home, to a bed covered in lettering drills. Because once I started learning how to properly do it, I loved it. And I would do page after page of drills… waves, swirls, v’s, m’s, n’s, circles… anything to learn the motions and build that muscle control.

Slowly, I added in watercolors, and to my surprise I fell in love with that too. You see, what all 3 things had in common, was that I’d previously tried them, and decided they must not be “my” thing. Lettering was rough looking, watercoloring was difficult to control (and I love control), and doodling was too whimsical for me.

But slowly, all of them grew on me. And as I learned them, my art became more unique, and more interesting. Meanwhile, my writing on my blog was getting harder and harder. I had a chat with a friend about it one evening, and she said “is it possible, that you’re struggling because you’re writing about what you think people want you to write about, instead of what really excites you?”

Uhm. Yes. More than possible.

So basically over the weekend, everything changed. I updated my domain, my graphics, and everything… I had one more hiccup… turns out not everyone knows what a curmudgeon is ;), but I rallied and here I am.

Here I am, and it’s one year since I made that decision… and now I’m doing it again. Last year, it was a secret… only a handful of people had any clue what I was doing… my own personal safety net in case I got bored. But this time, I’m going public with it for a very special reason.

I want you to join me.

Don’t worry, I’m not pointing my finger at you like Uncle Sam, and I won’t draft you, or voluntell you. This is completely up to you, but the things is… a drive by yourself is nice, but a road trip with friends is fun! Are you game? Awesome!

Join me and @amandasuehowell in choosing 3 creative skills to grow in 2018! Click To Tweet

Here’s how this works… you’ll pick 3 things. I’m picking 3 for personal, and 3 for business… that doesn’t mean that the personal won’t end up in my business, but for now, these are just being learned and explored. Anyway, you’ll pick 3 things, and revolve your world around them. Let them create a laser focus for the classes you take next year, the tutorials you watch, your tax time splurges… all of it.

At the end of each month, I’ll do an update post, and I’ll share what I’ve been up to (although odds are, you’ll see glimpses on my Instagram, and possibly YouTube), and what classes I’ve been taking… what skill got the majority of my attention that month, and what my progress is.

I totally want to hear from you in the comments of those posts… link to your own update post if you choose to go that route! Share an Instagram photo that shows what you’ve created so far! Update us with what class you loved the most… invite us into your world.

Without further ado, here are my 3 personal focuses for 2018:

Acrylic painting – I explored watercolors this year, so next year I’m playing in a different medium.
Makeup – I have always adored makeup, and I’d love to really learn some new fun looks, and learn how to do them quickly… I’m just not a 4 hour contour kinda girl.
Music – Another longstanding interest of mine… I’ve been dying to learn how to play several instruments, and really sharpen up my singing.

Now it’s your turn! What focuses are you choosing for 2018? Will you be making a Pinterest board too?

Top 10 Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books

Top 10 Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books | When I was a kid, I was enchanted by the descriptions of Turkish Delight in "The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe"...

When I was a kid, I remember reading The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe and thinking that Turkish delight must be the most delectable thing in the whole wide world. I picked some up later from one of those stories that has an ever changing assortment of gourmet goodies, and I was distraught at it’s cloying perfuminess.

Don’t get me wrong… I knew that the original version has rosewater.. that wasn’t news to me. But I drink tea with rosehips, hibiscus, and other floral elements. This was awful though… chemically awful. Perhaps because it was store-bought. I’d love to get some made from a lovely Middle Eastern couple, along with some baklava in case the Turkish Delight still lets me down.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 delicious foods from books. (Fun fact, my 2 year old says “dee-wish-us” and it’s the cutest thing ever.)

1. Oooey Gooey Melty Cheese – Heidi

“When the kettle was boiling, the old man put a large piece of cheese on a long iron fork, and held it over the fire, turning it to and fro, till it was golden-brown on all sides.”

Upon some research, I discovered that many people believe this is referencing raclette. It’s a (usually) cows milk Swiss cheese, although likely his was made of goat’s milk. He browns it on all sides, which makes it soft and spreadable like butter, which they then spread on bread. Oh. My. Yes.

2. Roasted Eggs – The Secret Garden

“Dickon made the stimulating discovery that in the wood in the park outside the garden where Mary had first found him piping to the wild creatures there was a deep little hollow where you could build a sort of tiny oven with stones and roast potatoes and eggs in it.”

I’ve had eggs just about every which-way, but roasted. I’ve seen a lot of people mention that they are insanely delicious though, so I’ll have to give them a try sometime!

3. Lembas – Lord of the Rings

“Eat little at a time, and only at need. For these things are given to serve you when all else fails. The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf-wrappings, as we have brought them. One will keep a traveler on his feet for a day of long labour, even if he be one of the tall men of Minas Tirith.”

Lembas is an Elvish bread… delicious, nutritious, and stays fresh for months. Perfect! And a little goes a long way… unless you’re a hobbit (which probably applies to growing boys too).

4. Toffee/Toffee Dates – Chronicles of Narnia

“The fruit was delicious; not exactly like toffee – softer for one thing, and juicy – but like fruit which reminded one of toffee.”

Diggory and Polly bury a toffee candy in Narnia, and overnight it springs up into a tree bearing dates with a taste reminiscent of toffee. If I thought that it worked in our world, I would bury sooooo many toffees.

5. Cox’s Orange Pippin – Danny the Champion of the World

“I’ve brought an apple for each of us,’ he added, fishing into one of his pockets.
‘A Cox’s Orange Pippin,’ I said, smiling. ‘Thank you very much.’
We sat there munching away.
‘One of the nice things about a Cox’s Orange Pippin’, my father said, ‘is that the pips rattle when it’s ripe. Shake it and you can hear them rattling.’ ”

Being in the States, I’d never heard of this varietal, so I was under the assumption that it was made up for the book. Imagine my delight as an adult, when I discovered it exists… but in the UK… womp womp. I’ve seen references to it having hints of cherry & anise flavors, so I’m totally intrigued!

6. Chocolate – Chocolat

“The air is hot and rich with the scent of chocolate. Quite unlike the white powdery chocolate I knew as a boy, this has a throaty richness like the perfumed beans from the coffee stall on the market, a redolence of amaretto and tiramisù, a smoky, burned flavor that enters my mouth somehow and makes it water. There is a silver jug of the stuff on the counter, from which a vapor rises. I recall that I have not breakfasted this morning.”

Full disclosure: I haven’t read the book yet, but I did see the movie. Her chocolates have a magical, medicinal quality, healing anything that ails you, and mending broken communities.

I’m not much for chocolate, but I’ve always heard that high quality chocolate is nothing like picking up a Hershey’s bar. When we were going to move to Asheville, I was looking forward to visiting the French Broad Chocolate. It’s a bean-to-bar venue, which means it would be like nothing I’ve ever tried.

I didn’t end up moving to Asheville, but I’m perhaps 5ish hours away? Or maybe there’s a chocolaterie here in Richmond. 🙂

7. Paprika Hendl – Dracula

“I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem. get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called “paprika hendl,” and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians.”

Chicken, pasta, paprika… I’m in. 🙂

8. Snow Candy – Little House in the Big Woods

“Grandma stood by the brass kettle and with a big wooden spoon she poured hot syrup on each plate of snow.  It cooled into a soft candy, and as fast as it cooled they ate it.”

I have a dream of someday visiting Vermont during maple season, and partaking in this experience… I kinda want a cabin in Vermont, or Connecticut, or New Hampshire anyway… this is just one of the many reasons why.

9. Marmalade – Paddington books

“Seagulls don’t know everything … I always keep a marmalade sandwich under my hat, just in case!”

I absolutely adored the Paddington books when I was a kid (and no I haven’t seen the movie, so don’t ask my opinion)… everything was so wonderfully described, from his wellingtons, to his duffle coat & toggles, to his yellow mackintosh.

But the obsession with orange marmalade always amused me. Bears were always depicted with honey, so the marmalade was a funny departure. I’ve had orange marmalade many a time, and every time I do, I think of a very polite spectacled bear.

10. Johnnycakes – Unknown

Alright. I can’t give a quote, because I don’t even remember what book I read about these in. Johnnycakes are kind of like pancakes, but with cornmeal… they’re really good with butter and a bit of molasses. I very clearly remember reading a book when I was a kid, talking about making Johnny cakes over a fire, but I’ll be darned if I can remember what book. I just remember that it left an impression on me, and I couldn’t wait to try them when I was an adult. (And they’re dee-wish-us.)

Alright what about you? What are your favorite edibles from literature?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

Inktober: Super Cute Octopus

Every year I look at Inktober, and every year I forget about it before it starts. But this year, Amanda Kammarada mentioned that she was thinking about doing it. So I messaged her, and said “hey! I’ve been eyeballing Inktober too… let’s do it!” She messaged me back, and an accountability partner was created!

Some participants are just following the basic premise of an ink drawing a day, but I decided to follow the prompts given. I knew following the prompts would push me to draw things I normally wouldn’t think of.

On the 4th, the prompt was Underwater. Now I’ll be darned, if I didn’t have a song from a bajillion seasons ago on America’s Next Top Model pop into my head. But that’s not drawable.

I wasn’t in the mood for fish, or coral…. sunken treasure wasn’t floating my boat… nor was a sunken ship (haha). Finally I settled on the idea of an octopus. To my own surprise, he turned out pretty freaking adorable.

Olly the Octopus - Had I not given Inktober a try, I'd never know that I have the ability to draw an octopus!

When I posted him on Instagram, someone in the comments said they wished they could draw like that. But here’s the thing…. *stage whisper* I didn’t know I could. If I’d never decided to do Inktober… if I’d never decided to push myself… if I never started asking myself “what if” or “how can I”… I wouldn’t know I could draw an octopus either.

Have you ever tried something new, and found out you really loved it? Tell me about it in the comments below!

We’re Turning Into Vampires

We're Turning Into Vampires

It’s a recurring theme in vampire lore… or any paranormal lore, really. Eventually the creature has been a monster for so long, that they’ve forgotten their humanity.

Time and tide wait for no man, and they wait even less for vampires and werewolves. The new vampires still have tinges of their personalities… they feel guilt over bloodshed, and struggle with who they’ve become. The elder vampires no longer bat an eye. What was once survival has become a game… or worse, apathy.

Congratulations people of the world… we’ve entered the era of apathy. Cold and calculating monsters behind our computer screens, we feel secure in our belief that there are no longer consequences for our actions or our words.

In the US especially you hear the cry of “freedom of speech”. True. Absolutely 100% true… we have the freedom of speech, not freedom of consequences. We saw this a few days ago, when in the middle of a national tragedy, the vice-president of CBS posted on social media that she wasn’t sorry for the victims because odds are (being a country music event) that they were Republicans anyway.

There was immediate backlash, and she was terminated by CBS. But in the midst of thousands of angry people, were several hundred voicing similar opinions, but with the caveat that she shouldn’t have said such a thing publicly.

Apparently, to “civilized people” it’s okay to say completely horrific things, so long as they’re in a private setting.  The problem is, what’s in your heart will eventually come to light.

I’ve seen women suggesting that another woman should be raped, because they disagree with her policies. There’s not an appropriate reason for anyone to be raped ever. Period. I don’t give one single damn how you spin it, it’s never okay.

I’ve seen people expressing horror that lynchings ever occurred, and immediately follow it up with “the only people who should be lynched are Trump voters”. No. No, no, no. Lynching is either okay, or it’s not. There’s no situation where you can justify lynching someone.

Do you know how many times a week I see someone write “f*&! off and die”? or “Just go kill yourself!” We mourn suicide when it’s an actor or singer we loved, but wield these ugly words because some stranger pissed us off in a comment thread.

The problem isn’t Trump.

The problem isn’t Obama.

The problem isn’t Hillary, or Romney, or Cruz, or McCain, or Russia, or GMOs, or gluten intolerance.

The problem, is that we’ve forgotten how to be humans. We’ve forgotten how to look out for our fellow man. We’ve forgotten that on the other side of that cold glass screen, is another living, breathing human being, who may be incredibly wounded by your flippant remark. Tomorrow, you won’t remember that you said they should be raped or killed. And maybe you won’t lose your job over it, because maybe your anonymity will protect you.

But it doesn’t protect your heart. It doesn’t protect their heart. It doesn’t fix the world your kids are growing up in. And it won’t make you a human again.

Top 10 Book Boyfriends

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It’s National Boyfriend Day, and The Broke & Bookish is celebrating with the Top Ten prompt “Top Ten Book Boyfriends”.

Though I was brief in my explanations, I thought long and hard about this list… it’s funny noting the ways that my taste has changed since I was a teen, and the ways it stayed the same. Growing up is weird dude.

1. Brian Belden

One of my earliest… he was so handsome, and mature, and responsible. Not to mention loyal, protective, and studying to be a doctor.

2. Laurie

Jo may have blown him off as merely a boy, but as a teenager, I was taken by his charm.

3. Johnny Tremaine

To this day, the crucible scene still pisses me off.

4. Calvin

Sweet Calvin is one of the first people to make Meg Murray feel beautiful. What girl doesn’t want that?

5. Rhett

Not the healthiest example of masculinity, but he’s suave, knows how to dance, and treats Mammy better than almost anyone else in the book. And he’s just about the only person who can go toe to toe with Scarlett.

6. Maxon

Prince Mason from the Selection… a tortured soul, aiming to be better than his father.

7. Ze’ev/Wolf

I’m already a big fan of werewolf stories, and in typical Lunar Chronicles fashion this is an interesting twist.

8. Han Solo

Courtship of Princess Leia… that’s all I’m saying.

9. Riker

Imzadi… that’s all I’m saying.

10. Gilbert Blythe

Hilariously, I actually married. someone who’s very Gilbert-esque. Mischievous (sometimes taking it too far), hard-working, confident, and persistent.  

Who are your bookish crushes? I’d love to hear down in the comments! <3

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.




10 of My Favorite Lettering Artists On Instagram

Top 10 Favorite Lettering Artists On Instagram

I woke up this morning to the senseless tragedy of Las Vegas. That, unfortunately seemed to set the pace for my day. I read all of the updates, then I saw that someone had been fired for a crass response to the tragedy. I escaped by doing my Inktober doodle of the day, and the lettering for my challenge. I spent a quiet half hour lettering “Loki” and drawing his horns. But then I retuned to more hate and sorrow. So for today’s blog post, I just wanted to focus on the pretty. 🙂

Flourishing Script (Anyssa Holland)

Modest Designary (Rebecca Hsieh)

Calligraphy Nerd (Andrea Fowler)

Amanda Kammarada

Amanda Arneill

Kiley In Kentucky

Oh if you only knew. This post is different than my usual happy, colorful vibe because I'm participating in #theimperfectboss campaign by sharing something about myself that embarrasses me in this small biz world. I am embarrassed and slightly ashamed to admit that I literally do not look at any analytics. Not on any platform. It gives me LITERAL HIVES to think about opening up an analytics page. So I don't. I never ever do. Not on Facebook. Not on Instagram. Certainly not my newsletter---why on God's green Earth would I want to see who unsubbed from my weekly emails? I avert my eyes and try not to look, try not to care. I try to not concentrate on the number of followers I have because my memory is too good, and I'll know if I have 2 less Facebook page likes than yesterday. I guess what is most embarrassing is that my skin doesn't seem to want to toughen and also, why the heck do I care so much?! It makes me feel extremely self-centered and just icky to be honest. Lastly, I know I'm missing a ton of valuable information about my audience by avoiding all of the numbers, but until my outlook and attitude undergo a change, I guess I'll just be ignoring and averting my eyes forever. Please tell me I'm not the only one that takes something so trivial so personally?!

A post shared by Kiley Bennett (@kileyinkentucky) on

Designs By Ellen

Doris Fullgrabe

Should have seen him live when I had the chance. #rip #tompetty #oneofthegreats

A post shared by Lettering🖊Calligraphy🖋Murals🖌 (@dorisfullgrabe) on

Letters By Melissa

Ian Barnard

Through wind, rain and 24hrs of daylight, we (@stefankunz & @willpat) managed to produce this lettering piece on a beach, in the middle of this gloriously country called Iceland. Thanks to @cadevisualsfor his excellent work capturing this on film. There's also a behind the scenes video coming out soon. Big thank you to @skillshare who sponsored this crazy idea that we had and going along with it. Over the week we were discussing how many of the courses on Skillshare have impacted us in our careers and how much it's benefited our business, especially the lettering side. So don't miss out on the 2 months of free Skillshare access using the code IANLETTERS and clicking on the link in my bio. You will learn so much in just those 60 days! Roll on the next crazy #letteringadventure #skillshare #lettering #handlettering #typography #calligraphy #learning

A post shared by Ian Barnard (@ianbarnard) on

There are so many more amazing lettering artists out there, and I’d love to know… who are your favorites? Do you do lettering? Drop your Instagram handle below! I’d love to come check it out.