Introducing…(fanfare please)…a brand new venue for my Useable Art!

I am so pleased to announce a whole new venue for my Useable Art, a new platform, heck, a new ideology!! See, an odd little set of events over the last few weeks led me to a company I had never heard of before: CustomMade.com. Somebody in their marketing division came across my Facebook page, and sent me the email equivalent of a cold call, which I confess I very nearly ignored as spam–so glad I rethought that!

I looked into it, discovered that it is an actual company, is listed with the Better Business Bureau, and exists solely to be a matchmaker (their word) between “Makers” and…well…Those Who Want Things Made, I guess.

In other words, it’s a platform for custom crafted goods. Nothing pre-made, each and every project unique, one of a kind, with buyers who are already on board with the custom mind set. Right. Up. My. Alley.

This opens up so many possibilities…really, the sky’s the limit! So while I love and am keeping my Etsy shop, I also now have a newly-launched Custom Made profile. Let the fun begin.

Here come the “twins!” Custom ordered footstools

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imageGot to ship these little cuties off this morning–the client and I have taken to calling them the “twins” (fraternal, of course).

This was SUCH a fun process, and completely collaborative with the client. Every little item on top of the stools represents what her grandkids like to do when they visit, what they might find when exploring, and the general theme of the “bunk room”  where they stay (I’m dying to see pictures of this room: train-berth-style bunk beds, a horse collar framing the mirror, cowboys and bandana print and red-and-white-check…completely charming, yes?). Even the flowers are ONLY species that grow locally–what would I do without the internet as a research tool??image

It’s kind of like a surfeit of riches when your client shares your esthetic, and is a genuinely creative person in their own right, and is both willing to let you as an artist stretch your imagination, and have terrific, on-point suggestions that truly improve the concept and design. Can’t really get better!image

So meet the twins–as the client said, they are “precious and while different…equally delightful!”imageimageimage

Holy Paintbrushes, Batman!

I’m kinda bursting with glee. Like, I’m wiggling around in my seat right now, can’t sit still, can’t quite keep the happy from sizzling and jiving from the ends of my bedhead hair right down to my toes and out into my ratty slippers…it’s really, really good that you can’t see me right now.

Remember last week I told you about delivering that pretty, switched-up trompe l’oeil chair?

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<—–You know, this one?

 

 

 

And here it is in its new home! Leah Chair 2 Leah Chair 3

Love this…don’t often get to see my pieces in their new context, so this is especially gratifying! And could you just die over the adorable lavender room??

 

Anyway, about two seconds after I passed the chair into the client’s waiting hands, she started asking about a handpainted kitchen table, and stools to go around it. I think I managed to contain the jolt of excitement and answer with calm, professional competence, but it’s good I was wearing sunglasses, ’cause my eyes may have looked a little crazy.

So we’ve been emailing back and forth. A LOT. Nailed down a design which is just going to be all kinds of awesome.

Pedastal and table top

 

<——one of these

 

 

 

Round scoop seat stool

 

 

<——with 4 of these

 

 

 

Soooooo….yesterday marked a new adventure for me in my paintiness, and a bunch of firsts all in one: first big sale, first repeat customer, first kitchen set, most ambitious, all-encompassing design. Don’t wanna give too much away about that yet, but think travel theme, iconic landmarks both local and international….yeah. So, so cool.

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My husband is happy about this for a wholly different reason: he finally has my buy-in and commitment to helping clean out the garage–which I would normally attempt to avoid by any means up to and including faking a seizure–just so I have the proper space to work on this piece. So I see an official, organized, dedicated workspace in my future that is NOT in my dining room. More happy sizzly wiggles. Bring it on, 2013, I like your style!

 

Even BUSIER!

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This month has been a time of learning, of reflection, of meditation….NOT!! This month has been running-full-tilt-into-gale-force-winds busy. I’m operating at Defcon 5. I think. Not really sure I have a firm grasp of the defcons.

Anyway, said insane busy-ness actually has caused a little reflection, nonetheless; sort of a by-product, an accidental side effect, like radiation sickness only without the hair loss. Like…I have discovered that I have far less free time than I thought, time when I can focus on something other than my children and their various needs, wants, activities, and nuclear meltdowns, time when I can be utterly absorbed in my painting. Far, FAAAAAAR less. This is good to know.

This led to another discovery, which is that I can have several projects going and children clean, fed, and where they need to be, OR a clean house. (If any of you show up at my door, I’m telling you right now I won’t be home. Even if I am. Or I’ve been eaten by monster dust bunnies. In which case I’m still not home.) I should add blogging as another “OR.” Also, excellent information to have, which leads to the inevitable conclusion that I need a housekeeper. Clearly. (note to self: figure out how to pitch this to spouse)

Happily, this forced reevaluation of my time management has led me to develop, quite unintentionally, an skill that had eluded me till now: the ability to drop my paintbrush, go break up a fight/put on a band aid/make dinner, come back and pick up the brush, and slip right back into that same head space. It’s like guerrilla creativity tactics. Love. It. This would be the up side of radiation sickness…?

But today, I’m taking a break. I’m blogging (you may have noticed). I’m NOT putting on my painting jeans–cute skinny jeans instead. I just had the rare treat of delivering one of my pieces in person (client #2, below)–which means I got to witness the First Look, wallowed in it, can now remember it & replay it for days & days & derive unending joy from it. Totally worth coming out of my hole for! I get to do that again over the weekend (client #1)…major, major up sides.

So…in this momentary lull, I thought I’d show you what I’ve been up to.

IMG_0365IMG_0458 IMG_0460 Client #1

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Client #2IMG_0469

Variation on the “Lulu”, with fewer ribbons, but added flowers and butterflies. Butterflies are super fun to paint! May have to incorporate more of these in the future.

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Client #3, work in progress! Customized to client’s color scheme, and with all sorts of locale-specific items making an appearance–stuff that will have meaning for her grandkids!

 

 

 

There’s a client #4 and #5 waiting in the wings, and another possible (even bigger) project with one of the above clients…very exciting stuff! I think today may be the only break I get in a while. And I’m rather okay with that.

Don’t forget to check me out on Etsy, and on Facebook!

Taking a breath…

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Golly gee, what a whirlwind!

I think I have an hour and a half to breathe here before I have to get back on the mommy train, so I’m carving out a little artistic catch up time.

So…hi! How ya been? Don’t know about you, but I’ve been pretty freakin busy.

In case you haven’t been keeping track, the RAW showcase was this last weekend–the culmination of my mad creative sprint of a painting frenzy. Frenzy over. Which makes me feel a little itchy, like I’m supposed to be painting in every spare second…hard to decompress!

Anyway, the local news article was released the day before the event–a day I spent driving around to every shopping center in the city (mostly) looking for copies, because I didn’t realize the Irvine World News no longer just magically shows up in my driveway. Huh. Never did find the mystical repository of newsprint, so I had to beg and borrow copies from friends–although there is the online version, which is pretty spiffy . Still, I wanted to hold it in my grubby little hands and gloat over it a little. There is something thrilling and visceral about opening up a newspaper and coming face to face with yourself. At least to me! I’ve really got to send that reporter a thank you box of chocolates or something, she made me sound kinda cool.

Thanks to those begged and borrowed copies, however, I did manage to frame a copy, to display at the showcase. So all’s well there.

The whole showcase thing…wow, what an experience. Loud, messy, crazy, fun, frantic…it had it all. Just a side note–nightclubs are kinda gross. And there’s a reason the lights are dim. Dimness does not mix well with displaying art, which meant lights were brought in and…well, ew. There was much handwashing going on. And I think some spraying of Febreze.

But still, cool venue, wide open space, pretty good traffic flow. I just wish I had paid better attention to the artwork already on the walls when I selected my space, and vetted it for suitability with children’s furniture. There was some very careful selective angling with the camera going on, to block out the two naked ladies on the wall, one of whom is apparently assisting the other with lactation, I surmise. This was located right behind the cute little Western rocking chair that I borrowed back from my very nice cousin for the evening. I promise I’ll disinfect it before I return it. Yeah, awesome.

You can just see their heads peeking over the top, because I scrunched down just enough. You’re welcome.

This one was taken before the weird Austin-Powers-round-red-couch-of-love in the bottom left corner was dismantled and taken away to another corner of the room. Where later on I spotted at least four twenty-somethings sprawled out on it, tweeting or texting or something. I wouldn’t have touched that thing if you paid me, let alone permitted full-body contact.

Photo Here’s me at the event! With specially-purchased-for-the-evening bright red lipstick! And with one of the guest stars of the evening, the Tommy chair. Thanks to Tommy for letting me borrow it!

But anyway…I’d like to publicly thank my friends and family for coming, saying nice things about my pieces, and making me look like the hip, happening artist of the evening by virtue of the crowd around me. Nothing like generating a little buzz! I’m kinda glad they all left before the make-up/jewelry fashion show, which also featured whips, handcuffs, nun-chucks, and garter belts…because I just don’t think I could have handled those two worlds colliding like that.

I wouldn’t say I got tons of traffic–I was so very, very different from the other artists there, and I think casual glancers-my-way could not immediately figure out what they were seeing, based on the puzzled expressions. But by and large, the people who actually stopped and talked to me seemed genuinely interested. I had some conversations about potential future projects, some attentive price-writing-down…good stuff all around. And I got to schmooze and trade business cards with other aspiring artists and photographers, which is always fun, and who knows! And technically I made a sale that night–even though it’s to a close family friend, it still counts, right? Of course right.

And I swear, I am really starting to believe in this whole good-vibes-karma thing, because right in the middle of the event I happened to check my phone, and had a message from someone wishing to buy one of my Lulu, Tuffets n Bows, girly chairs (I haven’t totally settled on a name, can you tell?), which she did the next morning. And it had nothing, nothing to do with either the article or the showcase. What are the odds?? Seriously, spooky stuff.

So I actually DO have some projects to keep me busy, so all that frantic energy I had generated which would otherwise have no place to go and would drive me insane until it dissipated, won’t. Drive me crazy, I mean.

Oh, and in all that crazy, I totally neglected to properly introduce my newest piece, my current favorite (and the possible inspiration for a total redesign of my son’s room, if he has anything to say about it…mixed feelings about that, myself), my new Shipwreck Stepstool. Variation on a theme, here, but I really like the direction it took, and I feel like it’s an improvement on my under-the-sea designs (and if there’s now a Disney song running through your head, I’m sorry or your welcome, depending).  Needs a catchier name, though…any suggestions?

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Busy, busy, busy

I’m a painting fiend these days!! Just painted two stools simultaneously, and am about halfway done on my new girly surf chair–which was in desperate need of a name (come on, if all my pieces have a story, you KNOW they need a name) until I talked to my mom last night. O Chair, I christen thee….The Gidget.

(…and if you people don’t get the reference, I feel incredibly, irredeemably old)Gidget chair

p.s., don’t forget to get your tickets to the showcase! This will be there, all finished and shiny, and it’s bringing friends! Just click on my profile here!

Meet the artist!

That would be me. The artist, I mean.

Really, you can come meet me. Soon, in fact. I’m doing silent (and largely stationary) cartwheels over this. Which is hard to do, so feel free to be impressed. Go ahead.

Now you’re probably wondering why……

………………………….

You are, right?

Excellent! Allow me to explain!

So you know how you make those resolutions at the New Year, about all the things you’re going to do, be, embody, apply, improve, eliminate, eschew, reconsider, reconnoiter…etc, etc? Big spoiler here: someone’s listening when you do that. I KNOW. I was shocked too.

Here’s how I know: I made one. And it happened. Like, the very next day. One day into the new year, and a message appears in my Etsy inbox from someone at an organization called “RAW: natural born artists”, inviting me to participate in an artist’s showcase. Okay, so it’s not like I specifically said “I resolve to be be invited to an artist’s showcase within 24 hours,” I was vague and non-specific and more about putting woo-woo good vibes out into the universe about my little corner of it, specifically as pertains to my art and business and life. And there you go, flies into my lap. I’m a believer. Once I checked to make sure this was legit, not a scam, and something that would genuinely be a good decision for me. I did: it is, it isn’t, and I think it will be. In that order. THEN I was a believer. Are. Am. Whatever.

Here’s the deal with these folks: they’re all about artists, and helping them in any way they can. That’s it. Seriously. Again, I KNOW! How can this be true, you say? Check them out for yourselves, I say! Honestly, their whole mission is, in an indie, underground sort of way, to give as much support and as many tools as possible to artists of every ilk. Apparently I’m one of the ilk. I didn’t even know I had an ilk!

So I’ll be there. I’m painting my fingers off (well, not right this second, since I need them for typing, but as soon as I post this the fingers are coming back off) to try and get as many pieces ready as possible–did I mention it’s in a matter of weeks? WEEKS? (Hang on, need a paper bag to breathe into for a sec…stand by…’kay, I’m good) Yeah. Weeks. 5 of them. Okay, painting and breathing, that’s all I’ll be doing. Maybe some light snacking. A couple of breaks to watch Downton Abbey. But that’s IT.

Sooooo….you can come too! The skinny is that there are 40 artists in different categories–photography, fashion, music, my kind of stuff, other kind of stuff, many kinds of stuff–at a cool, hip venue called the Shark Club in Costa Mesa, you get to dress up, you get to listen to music and feel all cultured as you peruse the booths, one of which will be mine. Mine!!

Oh, oh, I almost forgot the other kharmic, divine, woo-woo element here: I’m 98% certain that the Shark Club is the same same exact building where my husband and I had our first date. After he cyber-stalked me and tracked me down and was somehow not an axe-murderer…I’ll tell you that story sometime. But…first date! First showcase! Same piece of architecture! Could that BE more woo-woo-y?? See???

So you’ll come, right? I’m slightly worried that I’m not quite cool enough for these people, and that they’ll figure it out…but if you’re there you can nudge me if I start to geek out or sound too mom-ish or fail to use the most current lingo, or something. The tickets are only $15 if you buy them ahead of time, $20 at the door–and did I mention that buying tickets through my profile directly helps reduce my costs? Just sayin.’Kay.

Click here to check out the event!

This is super-duper-mega exciting people!

Let’s all do silent stationary cartwheels together!!

A whole new direction–100% personalized chair

092 - Copy

I think I’ve just stumbled onto a brand new direction for my useable art. This feels like it could be kind of huge, and possibly fairly exciting. See, a few months ago, I was contacted through my Etsy shop (I do love me some Etsy) by the nicest lady, who loved what she saw on my site, but was looking for something a little different. Unique. Personal. I accepted the challenge.

You should have seen the lengthy emails flying back and forth between us, as we explored what kinds of elements she wanted on her chair–which evolved over time from initially including aspects of her career to being a direct reflection of her personal interests and loves–and how I could link all of those together into a cohesive whole. That was the real challenge for me, and made me realize a few things about myself.

I’m an actor, a singer, a writer, and an artist, and I found that all of these things need to come together for me in my art in order to truly express my vision. Ergo, I must tell a story, or set a scene. I may have one or two pieces I’ve painted over the years that don’t have one, but the vast majority have a whole backstory that doesn’t exist anywhere but in my head, yet provides the guiding context, the parameters within which my art functions. Which all sounds very brainy and thought out, but really isn’t. It’s just how I’m happiest working, and coincidentally where I feel I do my best work.

So back to this particular chair: my client had a bazillion ideas about what she’d like to see in her chair (she’d been looking for one for years, by the way), and that spawned a bazillion questions from me, narrowing down, coaxing out details (for instance, she’s a coffee drinker, and I then had to ask how she took it, as that would dictate the color of what’s in the cup), and stretching my brain to come up with the context in which as many of those details as possible would make sense. Everyone in her family is an avid Iowa State Cyclone fan….her daughter loves powdered donuts….she loves to read…she has a little black mini schnauzer…how was I going to make this all work?

It felt like a lightening stroke when it finally came together: her family has been sitting on the lawn at their beloved Iowa State University, watching their dog chase the famous swans (I am now highly knowledgeable about those swans and their provenance; go ahead, quiz me), with the equally famous campanile in the background. There on the grass is the blanket they were sitting on–in the school colors of cardinal and gold, of course–with two books left behind, a couple of nibbled-on donuts, and the necessary cup of coffee. The large tree on the left support has a heart carved in it, containing the names of my client and her husband, with each child’s name added below as they were born (I’m excluding a picture of this for privacy reasons). Nestled in the tangle of greenery at the foot of the tree is a little red cardinal–look closely, that’s Cy, the Iowa State mascot, and I like to think he looks like a bird you don’t wanna mess with. On the back of the chair, the daytime sky darkens into night, and the moon and stars make an appearance over the entrance of the Jack Trice Stadium, which is all lit up for the big game.

The end result is one of which I am pretty darn proud, and is a one-of-a-kind, intensely personal reflection of my client’s life. Every detail has meaning. It’s her story.

See what I mean? Game changer here. I want to paint more like this. What’s your story?

The Backstory

This morning I had (for once) nothing important I had to be doing, so I started rummaging through all my picture files stored on the computer. This is an exercise guaranteed to sidetrack even the most focused individual, and since I had no focus to begin with, an hour and a half has gone by. Seriously?? No wonder my tummy’s rumbling! It’s also an exercise guaranteed to surprise (and possibly frustrate), since at our house we don’t tend to bother with pesky things like folder names that mean anything–I think there are at least 4 that simply read “Camera Dump.” This is helpful. But just like shopping at outlet stores, if you’re not actually looking for anything in particular, little gems will drop into your lap.

Anyway…after I teared up and made various ooshy noises over long-forgotten pictures of my babies when they were, you know…babies…I found all sorts of pictures of past artistic projects. Given that these are what have gotten me to where I am today, artistically speaking, I found it sort of fascinating to look back. Some things I still think, “Hey, that’s pretty good!” Others…not so much. But it’s an evolution, isn’t it? Just seeing how much more confident and willing to try things I am now compared to when I was younger–well, I guess I’ve grown up as a person, so why not as an artist? It’s one of the perks of reaching maturity –I refuse to say “middle age” because I refuse to believe that is a term that will apply to me. Ever.

Since I find it interesting, and I have complete sovereign control over this blog, I have decided that you will too (oh, the power!!!). Please allow a disclaimer for photographic quality control, because there isn’t any! These are from who-knows how many different cameras with varying levels of expertise behind the lens (zero being a recurring theme), over a 20 year span, so…be forgiving, will you? Thanks.

Back when Mom let me paint on her furniture–this is her dining room table. She has a table leaf that I painted as well, so that the circular wreath becomes two arcs of vines and flowers in an oval shape.

 

 

Mom’s hatbox table (I think I mentioned these in Have we met?). The top is a picture frame that we put a piece of glass in, then sealed it with epoxy. The feet (which you can’t see, but are pretty fabulous) are cut crystal doorknobs. Gotta give consultant credit to Mom, we designed these together!

MY hatbox table. Don’t know why the frame top isn’t on it in this picture.

Mom’s stairwell. The urn was done using a stencil–wasn’t brave enough at that point to fly without a parachute!

 

 

 

My most ambitious undertaking at that point–I think this was in the early 90′s. Mom’s house again (wasn’t she nice to let me throw so much paint around?), these were big, blank closet doors (it’s the linen closet, actually) at the top of her stairs, that she had always hated; such a focal point, and nothing going on. So we collaborated and made them into a faux armoire, with  all our pets at the time, Buddy and Shadow (the mini doxies, now deceased), and my beloved kitty Cody (also deceased), plus my interpretation of my parents’ actual cake topper, and other things you might see if you actually opened the doors. This was the biggest scale I had ever worked on, and I sweated bullets over it!

A poster I designed for some employee competition when I worked at Macy’s. I didn’t win. They clearly had no appreciation for art. This was during my Flower Phase.

 

 

 

The whole table and chairs set I made for a very dear friend! Forgot I had pics of the whole thing!

 

 

In case you can’t read it, it says “The pour deux…moi et vous”. That there is French.

 

 

I have a thing for tufted cushions.

 

 

 

 

And gilt accents.

 

 

 

The doily is actually a stencil of an actual paper doily–a technique I’ve used a couple of times, and way easier than trying to recreate the lacy intricacy by hand!

 

 

Ta da! First piece of furniture for my OWN child! This is a small rocking chair–never been able to find this model again, which is a shame because it’s really sturdy, and has lots of surfaces on which to paint!

This is the front of the chair back (if that makes sense).

 

 

The back of the back.

 

 

 

Side view–there’s fish in that there water.

 

 

 

 

Other side of water!

 

 

 

 

And there’s my blurry little guy seeing it for the first time. He was much less blurry in real life, if I recall correctly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And his rocking horse–aka “Colin’s Colt.”

While I had a lot of fun painting it, it’s an adorable design, and I can’t bear to get rid of it yet (even though he hasn’t ridden it in about 5 years), this model (purchased online and put together with difficulty and swear words) struck terror into my heart every time he was on it. It was sort of top heavy, and inclined to rock right over if a grown up wasn’t hovering over it every second.

This is a little bitty piece of wood right down at floor level, in the kids’ doorway. I painted this when I was all glowy with my first pregnancy, imagining that I was giving my as-yet-unborn child something to gaze at with rapt fascination, right down at his level. He’s 7 now, and I honestly don’t know if he even knows it’s there. <sigh>

Hallie has had her picture taken in this chair every birthday (she just turned 5)–I think we might have one more year, maybe two before she looks like a giant sitting in it!

See what I mean about the cushions and gilt?

 

 

The properly princessy back.

 

 

 

 

And the train I painted in a frenzy the day before Colin’s 4th birthday–I literally painted all night to get it done in time, so the rest of the events of that day are a bit fuzzy in my memory.

He was excited about it, I swear!

 

 

I painted it on a thin piece of wood–doorskin, or whatever you call that, hardwood but very thin–and then had my hubby bolt it to the wall. That way we could take it with us if we ever move, or take it down when he grows out of trains (here’s a secret: I’m pretty positive he’s already grown out of them, but he doesn’t want to hurt my feelings and ask me to take it down and paint him a giant dinosaur skeleton instead…he does love his Mommy!).

So there you go…Lara Eve Designs, the Retrospective! Eager to see where this train goes next (get it? get it??)!

Paisley’s Round-up–custom painted child’s table and chairs

I got to do something rather wonderful yesterday: hand deliver a commissioned piece to a family friend, and then watch it be admired by a roomful of people. A glowy sort of moment. See, my friend Courtney is the daughter of a friend of my mom’s, whose mother was best friends with my grandmother…let’s just say our families are pretty well intertwined, for a few generations. Courtney also has a seriously adorable baby girl named Paisley Blue, who just turned one.

Courtney ALSO happens to have a fabulous little child-sized table and chair set that was made for her by her maternal grandfather, a talented finish carpenter. It’s a sturdy, lovely little set, that harbors many cherished memories for Courtney of tea parties, Play-Doh masterpieces, and crayon fests. Of course, all that love and serious attention to playtime is bound to leave some wear and tear, and the little table was in need of a little facelift before it could get passed down to Paisley. Courtney and her mom decided I was the one for the job (thank you, thank you, thank you, ladies!).

Now, inspiration for this piece was pretty easy to come by. There’s Paisley’s distinctive name, some special requests from Courtney, and of course the young family’s love of all things Western–you should see their gorgeous house, with chickens, goats, and the occasional horse lounging in the yard! So I knew a paisley print was going to turn up somewhere, pink was a given (you should see her room), Courtney loved my cowhide print from the sheriff stool and rocking chair designs, and blueberries. Courtney asked for blueberries. See, Paisley IS the little blueberry at their house–how cute is that?? Really, this table practically painted itself.

So the resulting story (my pieces always have a story…I’m a little obsessive that way) is a break taken at the end of a trail ride, on a breezy day that keeps the edges of the big pink bandana-print cloth fluttering–that’s why the worn leather hat is lying there, to keep the whole thing from flying clean away! The cowpoke has thoughtfully brought along a snack for the trusty old paint, and a healthy one, too–an apple and a handful of blueberries. The chairs are made just a little more comfortable for tired, saddle-sore posteriors with a nice piece of cowhide tacked down with brass rivets. And there’s no confusion about who sits where, either: one chair reads “Paisley Blue,” the other says “Paisley’s Pal.”

Then came the moment at Paisley’s cowgirl (of course) birthday party when I turned over the table set to Courtney’s mom, who presented it to Courtney…who cried. Really, could I ask for anything more? Maybe just one more thing…if I hear back through the grapevine that Paisley is trying to pick up those blueberries…that’s true success!