Tag: flowers

New Christian Art

My new art series ~ “Faith”

This is an oil painting on canvas called “Kitchen Devotions”.

I have a new camera!!! My videos look much better now. Please watch, only a few seconds of your time – worth it, I promise!

NEW! Art prints available for any of the art you see on this site – art gallery quality Giclee prints. 8 x 10s are $20 … they look very nice for framing. Other sizes available, cost will go up or down accordingly. Natalie’s Etsy store will be officially open soon, but for now you can order directly from her. (:::waving at you::: hey, it’s me, just shoot me an email if you want to order a print: ArtistNatalie@aol.com ~  I saw them and they are very nice, high quality)

Nashville, Baby!

Nashville (1)THIS is what I was looking forward to from the first day when I realized that we were moving to Indiana by way of Ireland… NASHVILLE, baby! The appeal of living near the Indiana state border is that we can drive to several other states in two hours or less. Kentucky is just a stone’s throw away (perhaps literally, if standing in the Ohio river, where the border lies), and beyond Kentucky is Tennessee. It only takes 2.5 hours to drive to Nashville from our home in Newburgh, near Evansville, Indiana. We can also visit St. Louis, MO in about 2.5 hours’ drive. Southern Illinois is also an easy drive. If willing to add a bit more drive time… it’s about 3.5 to Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m absolutely thrilled to have so many interesting places to visit without having to travel far to get there – these are all inexpensive day trips! I’ll be photographing and blogging – come with me! 🙂

Today’s trip – NASHVILLE! This was a gorgeous sunny day on June 7. We’d had a highly stressful week and today was no exception. The air conditioning unit had stopped working, Brent found out that he didn’t get a job he’d interviewed for, and… well, I won’t share all the miserable details, but we had a choice to make. Do we sit at home and sulk, waiting for the A/C guy to call? Or do we make a different choice?

Well, I know what “Irish Natalie” would have done! I would have packed the family up for a trip to the coast. Now, we can’t do that here… the Celtic Sea may be calling me, but it’s too far away now. That doesn’t mean that we should resign ourselves to our former vacation-less adventure-less life of waiting, waiting, waiting, for permission to LIVE. I found plenty of free things to do in Nashville. All we needed was gas for the car.

Nashville (4)We crossed the Indiana state border within minutes… We were soon in Kentucky.

Nashville (5)WOOT! It didn’t take long to reach Tennessee! I couldn’t believe it! I’d never been to Nashville before. I’d been using the anticipation of this day as an incentive whenever I felt upset about leaving Ireland. I promised myself that we’d go to Nashville as soon as we could. Just because we were living Plan B, it doesn’t mean that everything I’d worked for was gone. My family was still together. What will we do with this time? Everyone had already gotten into a habit of squirreling away with their various gadgets – online talking to others while in the same house with the people we love. Lightning-fast Internet made that possible. Gone was the unreliable and worthlessly slow satellite connection we had in Ireland. In its place was fabulous speed to connect, connect, connect – with everyone but each other. Well, well… let’s unplug, shall we?

Irish Natalie is also a bit more… assertive…. passionate… and VOCAL than the old me. I had a proper meltdown and off we went. Some things are worth fighting for. As matriarch of the family I need to recognize when it’s time to get up in everyone’s grill. Oh, they were all smiles before we were even halfway into the trip. See? 🙂

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Nashville (7)Brent was feeling too tired… but look at him here, having fun already. He pushes himself to do work related things. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to do what’s even more important. Work and errands… who remembers what happens on a regular day? But when will we forget our first trip to Nashville? NEVER.

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Apparently we’ve reached “The Gateway to the New South”. Hmm, the more you know…

Nashville (9)It sure is a pretty drive through Tennessee!

Nashville (10)Almost there!

Nashville (15)WHEE! It’s NASHVILLE!!!! What a feeling, to see a place I’ve always heard about but have never been to. It’s like when I saw Tinkerbell at Disney World. Fairies DO exist! Wow.

Nashville (18)Oh yeah, it’s Nashville!

Nashville (19)We have arrived at our destination! It’s right up there… See the brown sign?

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Nashville (175)Nashville (176)There, you can see it now – Centennial Park… and YES, we are definitely seeing the Parthenon! This is supposedly the only real Parthenon in the world… (Why does it exist, and why is it in Nashville?) I’m excited about immersing myself in the beauty of this park. There are gardens to explore and the weather couldn’t be more gorgeous!

Nashville (21)First, let’s go on an adventure! The Parthenon awaits!

Nashville (23)Nashville (24)Nashville (25)Isn’t it magnificent? Let’s get closer, shall we?

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This is a photo op if I ever saw one…

Nashville (30)Oh dear, my legs are whiter than the concrete. And ditto for Cassie’s legs… sitting on the right. Hey, we fit right in when we lived in Ireland. Now I’m back to blinding people.

Nashville (34)Ooh, there it is!

Nashville (36)The art on the building is just amazing!

Nashville (40)This really IS Nashville! Ran into a young hopeful staging a photo shoot at the Parthenon… She plans to shoot me her promo details so I can give her a plug (I invited her to). Sweet girl, and certainly beautiful – I wish her all the best!

Nashville (41)Ooh, now this appeals to me! I wonder how many movies have been filmed here…

Nashville (42)Look at the ceilings! This is still outside the building. There are (paid) tours of the interior, but we didn’t plan to do that, which is good because we’d arrived after it closed anyway.

Nashville (43)Beautiful! I love these colors together.

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Nashville (47)Aww, me with my best friend… husband Brent Thomas. Our 30th wedding anniversary is coming up in February 2018. I’m planning to throw myself a party. I expect him to come as my date. 🙂

Nashville (49)Another picture of me with my husband… Notice my necklace? Those are shells from Ireland. I picked them up at the beach in Dingle and near Cork. The earrings are a gift from my daughter Cassandra, I think from last Christmas. Thank you, Savannah for taking these wonderful photos of us parents!

Nashville (51)Meanwhile, our regular photographer can’t be bothered… Nicholas is busy taking pictures of…

Nashville (52)Well, of course… it makes sense that if you are in Nashville, Tennessee for the first time in your life, and standing directly across from a Parthenon, the most compelling thing to photograph extensively is the skid loader at the construction area. His comment? “It won’t be there tomorrow.” That kid fascinates me.

Nashville (54)My two girls…. Savannah and Cassandra

Nashville (59)I love this shot!!! I should frame it.

Nashville (178)Savannah, your smile always makes me happy!

Nashville (62)Oh there’s the boy… I guess he’s finally decided to visit the Parthenon!

I’m ready to see the gardens…

Nashville (69)Oooh, ahhh! The flowers reinvigorate my soul!

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Nashville (73)I want to drink it all in!

Nashville (72)Everything is so beautiful! I’m going nuts with my camera… I had to wade through hundreds of photos to pare them down to a reasonable stash for the blog!

Nashville (83)Do they pay the ducks to amuse the tourists?

Nashville (84)Pretty!!!

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Nashville (88)Cassie enjoying the beautiful Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville (89)Brent and Savannah looking at the water… we saw a variety of critters: turtles, ducks, pigeons, swans, fish

Nashville (90)Passing by the Parthenon from the other side

Nashville (91)Nashville (92)Brent and Savannah leaving waterside area… our day trip is ending… but we haven’t seen the gardens yet

Nashville (94)Ooh, swans! (pretty, but I’m glad they’re staying over THERE… me and swans have a history…)

Nashville (95)Glad to see he’s enjoying himself… Just after he took these shots he spent a great deal of time photographing a squirrel.

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I’m rather proud of that shot, with the bird perfectly framed inside the tree branch.

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I love how the sun has cast shafts of light in front of the bridge.

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Nashville (103)Back to the water front…

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Nashville (110)This bird wasn’t cooperating with me… I was trying to capture the shimmery colorful area on the back of his neck.

Nashville (111)It was so bright and beautiful… had to wear sunglasses most of the time, and even then it was hard to take it all in

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Nashville (115)Savannah shares my love for flowers… she can’t resist photographing them.

Nashville (116)Wow, she looks so much like me here.

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Nashville (118)Happiness is seeing a single delicate rose, perfect in every way… knowing how hostile the environment can be and how greatly the odds are stacked against it surviving… Shouldn’t it have a torn petal, a stripped stalk, or a pitted leaf? Yet there it is, a beauty for us to discover. This pink flower lives by rising above the thorns, reaching for the sun.

Ah… getting out for the day was a very good idea! What a difference perspective makes!

Nashville (121)Be the roses.

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Nashville (126)There’s my Cassie girl! She’s always loved a swing.

Nashville (127)Brent sneaking in a phone call… so busted.

Nashville (128)LOVE!!!!!! This beauty will get me through the whole rest of the month!

Nashville (130)OH MY! I’ve landed in Munchkinland! I’m half expecting adorable townspeople to come out and sing to me. Where’s my big lollipop?

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Nashville (133)OK, this is getting outrageous! So much color!

Nashville (143)LOVE

Nashville (146)A bird flying over a perfectly idyllic scene

Nashville (150)Well, it just lacked a little something before…. Why not add a butterfly?

Nashville (157)Don’t keep your eyes on the ground…. remember to look UP too. This beauty is in a tree.

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Can you tell that the sun is lower in the sky? We better wrap things up.

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We can’t see it all… We never even made it over to the art gallery, or to the other side of the park! We’ll have to come back again a different day.

Nashville (170)One last lingering look…

Nashville (173)Goodbye, Nashville, we love you! We’ll see you again soon!

Mallow and Grenagh

This is downtown Mallow, Ireland, a good sized town (or small city). It is located in Co. Cork.  I took these pictures in January and early February. This is the bank where I opened an Irish bank account after jumping through a few hoops. We’ve seen a lot of this building over the past couple of months. IMG_2560 IMG_25593Directly across from the bank are familiar golden arches (photo below). Yes, of course we had to try the Irish McDonald’s. It was quite good! It reminded me of McDonald’s in the 1980’s before the burgers became smaller and of questionable flavor/texture.  There are a few differences in the menu. For the holiday season they offered mince pie. But mostly, the Irish McDonald’s is the same fast food chain as the United States version. So, if we ever miss home too much, we can always go to McDonald’s and it’ll feel like we’ve never left… sort of. We’ll still have to pay in Euro and it’s a good thing that we’ve learned how to navigate the Irish accent. 🙂IMG_2558

Other shots of downtown Mallow:IMG_2557 IMG_2556My son Nicholas in the photo below, in downtown Mallow. He loves thrift shops and finds one in every town.

IMG_2756 IMG_2755 IMG_2754This church in Mallow is gorgeous (photo below). We walk by it every time we go to the bank.

IMG_2753 IMG_27524 5There are gates in front of the church. I wish I’d taken another photograph that shows the fence and gate. I’m sure I looked like a tourist taking these pictures, but I just had to share a picture of this beautiful church! The courtyard is so pretty… I’ll have to look later this spring to see if there are flowers in there.

IMG_2751 IMG_2750 IMG_2749 IMG_2748 IMG_2747I need to get a better photograph of this statue (in the photo below)… but it’s tricky to get a shot of it because it’s in the middle of a busy street.

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The Market Square (photo below) is on top of a hill. I forgot to take pictures that really show it off…. maybe next time! We enjoy that area. It’s a contemporary cobble stone type space with flower beds. There’s a coffee shop, a Dunnes Store (large department store + grocery), and a parking garage (we park there because parking is free – the street parking is paid parking and hard to squeeze into). We walk through the large stone gate and down to the city blocks below to do our banking and other errands. This is good exercise, especially when it’s time to go back UP.IMG_2745 IMG_2744 IMG_2743Here are some photos outside the village of Grenagh, in a rural area near our house:IMG_2543 IMG_2537 IMG_2536 IMG_2535 IMG_2534 IMG_2525 IMG_2524 IMG_2523IMG_2740 IMG_2739

My husband Brent in photo above… another rainbow in photo below. We see rainbows every week, double ones too!IMG_2738 IMG_2737 IMG_2736 IMG_2732 IMG_2730

Savannah likes to do rock art. She has an engraving pen that she uses to make designs on rocks. She was happy with some great finds on the boreen.IMG_2729 IMG_2728 IMG_2727 IMG_2726 IMG_2725 IMG_2723 IMG_2722 IMG_2721 IMG_2720 IMG_2719 IMG_2718
You never know when and where you’ll make friends here in Ireland. I was out taking pictures for oil painting inspiration and I ran into a couple of guys who are often working on the side of the road, clearing brush and cleaning up the area where one of them plans to build a house (currently there is an old shack on the land). They stopped me for a long chat. When Brent caught up to me, I turned the conversation over to them while I took the rest of my pictures. They were STILL talking about half an hour later!

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Brent and his new friends… The guy in the middle is Timmy. The other day Brent took Savannah out to find a newspaper (the reason why will come up in a future blog post). Timmy flagged Brent down to talk to him. Savannah timed their conversation to exactly 45 minutes. Good thing she thought that Timmy was hilarious. It made the wait to get home worth it. 🙂

2More pictures of the road near our house:

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I was trying to show you how tall these trees are.  To put this into scale, the weeds on the side of the road are almost as tall as I am.  This is the forest we live in. IMG_2680 IMG_2679 IMG_2678 IMG_2677 IMG_2676 IMG_2675 IMG_2674 IMG_2672 IMG_2671 IMG_2670 IMG_2669 IMG_2668

I was enchanted by flowers growing in the dead of winter!IMG_2667 IMG_2666 IMG_2665 IMG_2664 IMG_2663 IMG_2662 IMG_2661 IMG_2660 IMG_2659 IMG_2658 IMG_2657 IMG_2655

Seeing Butterflies

1 houseYesterday I was prepared to write a blog post about the 100+ year old house that we’re renting. The post would have been joyful, inspirational even. I was planning to include pictures of the butterfly garden near the front porch, like the ones you see here [taken a few days ago at our new-to-us house].

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Those of you who have known me for a while know that butterfly gardens hold a special meaning for me—my husband Brent had planted one when we were blessed to have a hobby farm. Those were some of the happiest years of my life, when my children were little and we were living in a beautiful place.
My butterfly garden and my youngest child were the inspiration for my first oil painting, “Savannah Reading in the Butterfly Garden”. I submitted it to EASEL and the painting was accepted for a 14 month tour. It was the beginning of my career as an oil painter.
Becoming an artist changed my life. It was one of many transitions. Mom died, my dance school ended, we moved away from the hobby farm and my kids were no longer little. Some seasons move slowly, with no big changes from month to month. Others are a blur, with so much to process that it’s hard to keep my head above water. Eventually though, I accept my new normal. Life moves forward.
It has been over four years since I’ve enjoyed a butterfly garden. I was distracted when we first looked at this house and I didn’t realize that the flowers behind the white picket fence were the same varieties from “my” butterfly garden. Nor did I remember that I’d always wanted to live in an old house with a white picket fence. No, all I thought about was how desperate we were to find a rental that would allow us to sign a short term lease. Would anyone? Only one property was offered to us under those terms. Would we take it?
What choice did we have really—we sold our house! Did it really matter if I liked the house or not? It would only be for a few months. I could handle anything as long as I knew what I was in for; especially if I knew that it would be only for a short while.
But it does matter if I like living here or not. Every day matters. None of us knows how many days we have here on Earth—isn’t that a truth that I understand by now? When I finally gave myself permission to look at the flowers I understood that I’ve been given a piece of happiness back. Yesterday may be gone and tomorrow may feel uncertain, but I have today.
That’s when I looked for the butterflies, and I found them. I saw a gorgeous Monarch with a wingspan that took my breath away. I saw white butterflies and colorful ones. I enjoyed bumblebees too, from a safe distance. What a precious gift this was! Surely this was a sign that life was going our way.

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And then… well, then came today. It’s been a horrible day full of stress and bad news. Brent’s unemployment benefits are messed up. Somehow the government doesn’t have any record of his almost 19 years of employment. His account is going through an audit and there will be no payments until this is resolved—which will take at least a month, if not longer—and we don’t know if the result will be retroactive or if he simply won’t get any benefits for this first month of unemployment. We are living on a prayer.
I didn’t find out about this until the last few hours of an excruciatingly long day that I’d spent cleaning the house we’re closing on. I also found out, just when I felt that I couldn’t go on, that we have to be out sooner than I’d expected because the buyers want to do work on the house for two days, and they also want a final walk-through. That means that the house will be occupied for part of the day for the next three days before the closing. This is very short notice. I know that this is how things happen sometimes when selling a house, but the stress is getting to me.
I was blindsided by the abrupt change in plans. I felt kicked out of our own house, the house that we have paid to live in! We are temporarily paying for both this rental and the mortgage on the house. I also found out today that the dryer that doesn’t work at this rental requires a part (a fuse) that won’t come in until at least Friday. I’d planned on using the nice washer and dryer that we’d bought and paid for, in the house that we’ve paid to live in, up until the close. But now knowing that the house will be a hub of construction, I don’t want our laundry in progress. No, it’s time to move out completely even if it means that our laundry piles up. Well, I could go on here. The day really was THAT bad. I admit that I lost my cool more than once.
I thought about cancelling my blog post. I don’t have time for it anyway. Then I thought about how quickly my grateful “butterfly attitude” turned ugly. My new butterfly garden is shared with my now-teen baby girl, Savannah. Yesterday she was faster than I was to get out her camera and take pictures. And this same sweet girl was with me today at the house we’re closing on, cleaning at least as well as I can. She may be passing me by.
Isn’t it a test of my character if I can manage to deliver my happy post about the rental house and butterfly garden when it’s not easy to do so? Of course I can write a cheery post when I’m having a good day, but could I remain positive when I’m having a bad day? What kind of inspiration am I if I only post positive things when I’m feeling positive? Why do we need faith if every day is a butterfly day?
Isn’t faith about believing in good things to come even when everything is falling apart? Today I felt as if the world is against us. Today I felt as if nothing would ever change. I’d always be that sad little girl, no matter how hard I tried to rise about my circumstances. But yesterday I saw butterflies when I chose to look. I saw my life and the people I love—and I embraced the changes. Have I really forgotten that lesson already?
I was so certain. I knew that life was good. I knew that I was loved by God, and that I’m special. Nothing has changed between yesterday and today—nothing important. So, I’m sending you my beautiful pictures because life is good. God bless, and may every day be a butterfly day… whether you see one, or are peacefully waiting…

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