Thank You, Sweet Kitty...

Kitty and the Girls

Those of us who are animal lovers know how much our furry friends bring to our life. I’m down in the dumps today because my dear sweet Kitty has gone on to wait for me at the Rainbow Bridge. She was with us for seven years. Best we can tell, she was either poisoned or bitten by a snake. My DH had to break the news to me when I got home from Springtime Tallahassee late Saturday night. So I just wanted to take a minute here to thank her for all the joy she brought into my life. She was a “campus kitty” I adopted, one of a litter of cats born to one of our campus cats the maintenance guys took care of. She loved to play with the girls and would let them carry her around all they wanted to and take long naps with them when all three were finally worn out. At times, I think she thought she was a dog because she loved water. She’d take every opportunity to hop in the shower after I got out and roll around on the wet tile floor. She even jumped into the bathtub with me a couple times…batting at bubbles yet unfazed by the water swirling around her. She chased balls, she chased invisible pink elephants, she made biscuits on my tummy, and she'd carry on long conversations with me like we both completely understood what each other was saying. She never failed to make me smile. Thank you, sweet Kitty. I miss you, my little adventure cat.

The Rainbow Bridge...

There is a bridge connecting Heaven and earth. It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of its many colors. Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows, hills and valleys with lush green grass. When a beloved pet dies, she goes to this place. There is always food and water and warm spring weather. The old and frail are young again, and the ill are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. Her bright eyes are intent, and her eager body quivers. Her nose twitches, and her ears are up. Suddenly she begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, her legs carrying her faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion. Her happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress her beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated.

Author unknown...

Free Bling Friday Number 40!

It's Free Bling Friday time! And my, oh my, the challenges I've been through to post this! I've been in Tallahassee for meetings since Wednesday and am participating in the Springtime Tallahassee Arts Jubilee tomorrow. As luck would have it, my laptop proceeded to die on me yesterday afternoon, so I have thrown it out the hotel window. :-) Thankfully, with a little finagling, I've been able to make this work on the free computer in the hotel lobby! So, that said.... Congratulations to Free Bling Number 39 winner, Brenda S. from Sioux City, Iowa! Here's the next entry: I've been able to make a few of this pair and they've been very popular. Dime size crystal brilottes wrapped up with Swarovski crystal rondelles and sterling silver. These hang nearly 2" in length and are really fun to wear. To be eligible to win this pair, simply email me by midnight Thursday, April 10, with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from. The next winner will be drawn Friday, April 11. Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email reminders. Click here for the Happy Shack Designs website!

Natural Historie's Natural Beauties

Since I’ve been playing around with mixed media and collage, I’ve been fascinated with everything paper. I stumbled across Natural Historie’s shop somewhere and loved her illustrations done on paper. Such a lovely feel them, don’t you think? I checked out her blog and saw the artist’s name is Livy! My Livvie is named after my great Aunt Livy. All three are short for Olivia. This Livy is a student of Art History and History at the University of California-Los Angeles. From her profile, “Etsy is a wonderful way for me to keep sketching, painting, and creating. The paper goods here at Natural Historie feature my original artwork, drawn and painted the old fashioned way, by hand. Using Photoshop I alter, compile and design using scans of my artwork, arriving at a product that is truly unique. I keep my art prints simple - understated sketches and drawings on richly textured watercolor paper.” Check out her work here and her blog here. Show her some Happy Shack love!

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iCraft is Looking Great!


ICraft is a new online venue for selling handmade goods, and I think I’m going to like it! I loaded just a few items on to my iCraft page Friday and checked on some things late this afternoon. When I took a look at the "Browse Products" page, lo and behold, what did I see? My Mariposa bracelet featured! I had to do a screen shot to show you. Top picture is the home page; picture below is the Browse Products page. Pretty cool, huh? Hopefully that’s a good sign for my success on this site. It’s just getting started but there are currently 572 artists and fine craftsmen participating. And they picked my bracelet to go on the browse page out of 572 artists! Can you tell I’m a little excited!?!


And just a follow up to my Easter post below for those you of waiting anxiously to hear about the prize egg... After quite a bit of searching and digging (DH's cousin Chris buried the prize egg about 3 inches deep so it took a lot of "You're hot! You're on fire! The worms are burning!" kind of clues to find it), it was unearthed by DH's 11-year-old cousin Brian. He happily accepted his egg on the head for the $192 pot. Though Sarah was watching from the sidelines with me and Granddad by that point, Livvie was frantically digging with DH right next to Brian and three other kids. She almost had it but the bigger kid won out! Not to worry.....even if she had found it, DH would have taken the egg on the head for her. :-) I hate to admit that in the rush to get out the door this morning, I forgot my camera... Very bummed about that. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend with family.

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A Child's Look at Easter

This cartoon really cracked me up. I will admit it took me a minute to "get” it. Anyone else admit to that? Sarah and Olivia have been playing Easter all week. Last weekend we had to turn two Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets into Easter baskets for school; took a couple layers of paint to cover Col. Sanders, but the girls had fun. They had an Easter party and egg hunt at school yesterday. It’s been nice having them in a faith-based school because they’ve also been learning about the true meaning behind Easter all this week. Every night at dinner, I ask the girls about their favorite thing at school for the day. Most often, Livvie’s is “playing in centers”…you know, the art center, the book center, the science center… and she’ll tell me her favorite center of the day and what she did. The other night Sarah said her favorite thing that day was her nap. “Your nap?” I said, and she said, “Yes, Mommy, my nap! I had a dream!” I asked, “Who did you dream about?”, and then she frantically pointed straight up. So since they’ve been talking about Easter, I assumed she meant the Guy in the Sky, so I said, “You dreamed about Jesus?” And she enthusiastically shook her head yes. “Well, what was Jesus doing in your dream, Sarah?” “Mommy! He was helping me hunt Easter eggs!” Fun to see how a child can still connect the true meaning behind a religious holiday back to the fun of childhood.

DH’s extended family has a big Easter gathering down at their lake house in Keystone Heights every year, so we’re looking forward to that. Lots of food, fun, visiting with family, and a very large Easter egg hunt. The property sits on about 20 acres, and every family brings at least two dozen eggs to hide. We usually have about 30 kids participating, with an area of easier to find eggs roped off for the four-and-under bunch. We also do a "prize egg", which is raw and hidden in the big kids section. Everyone puts money in the prize egg pot, and whoever finds the prize egg gets all the money in the pot....right after they get the egg broken over their head! The Granddad (my dad) is even coming up from South Florida for the weekend and going with us! Enjoy your weekend with your families.

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Rock-a-Bye Billy and Quick Tip

I listed some new pieces on the website this week so go check them out! This, however, named Rock-a-Bye Billy, was not one of them. My customer and friend Shannon E. bought it before it even made it to the website. I just wanted to share it here because I liked it so much. Love that blue and aqua combination. Shannon also sent me a great tip for you Happy Shack jewelry fans. Shannon has several showstopper bracelets. Recently she was on a trip and remembered to bring her bracelets but forgot to bring any necklaces. She came up with a great solution! She hooked two bracelets together and wore them as a necklace, turning the bracelet with the proper color scheme to match her outfit to the front. Her hair hid the bracelet in back. What a great idea, Shannon!

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Dogs, Dogs Everywhere!--Krajewski and Ives

I discovered Ron Krajewski’s Dog Art Studio just before Christmas. I had drawn my step-brother’s name for gift-giving and he likes art and has a Viszla. Not easy finding Viszla art, but I finally found Ron on Ebay. Then a few weeks ago, one of my buddies in our North Florida Craft Revolution Etsy Team got a Chihuahua puppy and another member of our group sent her a link to a Chihuahua print on our Etsy conversation thread. You know how I love dog art, so I followed the link. It was by Ron Krajewski! On Etsy! So I took a look at his work again and came across this one. It's an 8 x 10 print that looks just like Isabelle so I had to have it...

...Because it will go so nicely with this dashing little beagle! He's a 10 x 10 original done in acrylics and oils. You see I really do have an addiction! I’ve been collecting Rebecca Ives’ ACEO’s for over a year now and every now and then she’ll post a larger original painting (what's an ACEO?). When this arrived at our door, DH asked when I had ever owned a Beagle, knowing the answer was never. So what, I had to have him anyway. DH and I have been planning on doing some redecorating for a while now…just as soon as we can agree on which couch we like and what color we are going to paint the walls (this discussion has been ongoing for three months now). So as soon as we solve that dilemma, I plan on having a dog art corner where all my lovely little two-dimensional furballs will live. It’s going to be marvelous!

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Thank You for Being a Friend...

Remember that old song? This post has been rattling around in my head for three days now, so I guess I better get it done so I can start sleeping again! I tend to suffer from the opposite of writer’s block…we’ll call it writer’s gush. I had a dream the other night about my dear friend Dennis. (This picture left to right is Susy, Dennis, Lisa and me at one of our state conferences.) The dream was about saying goodbye since he’ll soon be leaving the position he’s in, and we won’t be working together anymore; we’ve worked together for ten years and have become very close friends. It got me thinking about all the great friends I’ve made through my career and the importance of friendships in general. You’ve seen those emails come around, the ones about taking the time to connect with a friend? It really is true, and the older I get, the more important I realize it is.

I think it takes a particular type of person to truly be successful in the work that Dennis and I do. We have to be a little crazy, fairly outgoing, unafraid to get up in front of a large group of people yet still be a very effective counselor one-on-one, and be able to do it all while juggling eight different tasks at the same time…from serving as a shoulder to cry on for a student who’s just broken up with her boyfriend (or just had sex for the first time—I’ve had that conversation half a dozen times now) to explaining yet again to campus administration why you must break fire codes and leave the door to the weight room propped open for the sake of student safety. We are stand-in moms, dads, sisters, brothers, counselors, teachers, mentors, encouragers and rule enforcers all at once. The most successful of us do all that well, and because of our unique line of work, we tend to make some pretty tight bonds. I’ve often heard you make some of your closest, life-long friends in college because that’s a time of such tremendous growth, with new experiences and new responsibilities combined in many cases with being away from Mom and Dad for the first time. I do have several very close friends from college that I still talk to on a very regular basis, now nearly twenty years later. This group that I’ve grown to love from work is much like that….maybe because we were still in that college environment, but as staff rather than students.

There are six of us that became particularly close, and now with Dennis leaving for an entirely different field (he’s getting his doctorate in natural health), I am becoming the Last of the Mohicans. The first four scattered for various reasons….more money, pursuing a doctorate, children. (In this picture, that's me and Jim on the far right with a group of students at Coney Island in New York City.) I’ve shared here before that I’ve been considering a shift over to teaching full-time should the opportunity arise. This is part of the reason. Yes, for the most part, I truly love what I do. I spent Friday writing awards nominations for my students and was reminded why I do what I do; I have a really great group of students this year. Yet I can’t imagine doing this work without this particular group of friends. We’ve grown so much together and shared so much together. We’ve been the perfect sounding boards to share new ideas and vent about frustrations as we’ve all been in the same spot; we’ve helped each other through personal issues and the loss of parents; and we’ve cried together over the loss of a dear friend in a car accident. We’ve even had children about the same time. Like me, Dennis has a little girl who will start kindergarten this fall; Susy has twin boys, born just six months after Sarah and Olivia. Doug has a one-year-old baby girl. Jim’s kids are 9 and 12, and Lisa’s “kids” are all of the feline variety. And we have played together…my, how we have played together. Lots of summer out and abouts and many late night poker games. One night, the six of us were playing poker, and Susy, Lisa and I were all sitting on the couch. It took the guys a good hour to realize the three of us were sharing our cards so one of us could always come up with the best hand and take all their money. We called it “strateegery”. Not “strategy” but “strateegery”. Of course, the guys just called it cheating. I think they were just jealous they didn’t think of it first.

Dennis and I will stay in touch, there’s no question about that, just as all of us still do. (Dennis and Doug in this picture at one of our putt-putt tournaments in Destin.) Susy and I have been on vacation together with our families; I still have hour long phone conversations with both Lisa and Jim, and Doug and I email each other often. But those student government conferences just won’t be the same without Dennis, just as he and I have already been missing the rest of the gang these past two years. There’s an old poem that talks about people coming into your lives for various things…some for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. I truly hope these five are in that last category for me. We've gained so much from each other and have made some great memories. Now that our paths are moving in separate directions, I pray that our bond will be strong enough to create more great memories to come. Now go call all your old friends!

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The Ultimate Blog Party 2008

This is a "sticky post" and will stay at the top of the page this week. Scroll on down for regular Happy Shack News and Notes!

I heard about the Ultimate Blog Party 2008 over on Meg's Brassy Apple blog. Meg's the woman behind Flat Betty, who Happy Shack Designs has been sponsoring for the first quarter of 2008. The UBP looks like fun! Given that I'm a bit "partied" out after battling the winds at the Bartow Bloomin's Arts Festival this past weekend, not sure how big of a partier I'll be this week, but here's a big shout out and welcome to all those participating. Come on in, make yourself at home and do a little shopping while you are here!

So, a little about me for the new visitors....I'm a full-time working mom of twin four and a half year old girls...wonderful little blue-eyed red heads, so scroll down for pics of them! I am also the designer/owner of Happy Shack Designs, a jewelry and accessories design company in Jacksonville, Florida. I blog about great Etsy finds as well as the going's on around the Happy Shack and life with twins. And....I give away a free pair of earrings every other Friday, so be sure to scroll down to Free Bling Friday to enter this week's drawing while you are here!

The Ultimate Blog Party is sponsored by the 5 Minutes for Mom site, which is run by twin sisters Janice and Susan. I looked at the list of those participating and as of this moment, it's already up to 1,016 moms who blog. Yikes! Come join the party here! There are contest giveaways and all kinds of fun stuff going on over there. Go check it out!

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Free Bling Friday Number 39!

It's Free Bling Friday time! Congratulations to Free Bling Number 38 winner, Sue C. from Bradenton, Florida! Here's the next entry: I call these "Midas Touch". Yummy 22K gold vermeil (22K gold plated over sterling silver) and 14K gold filled accents combine with purple and gold swirled lampwork and lt Colorado topaz Swarvoski crystals for a truly royal pair. These hang approximately 1 1/4" from 14K gold filled French wires.

To be eligible to win this pair, simply email me by midnight Thursday, March 27, with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from. The next winner will be drawn Friday, March 28. Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email reminders. Click here for the Happy Shack Designs website!

Wuvin' these Wee Woods....

Say this fast ten times…Wee Wood Whittles Works of Art, Wee Wood Whittle Works of Art, Wee Wood Whittle Works of Art…very cute name and very cute little wee woods. Isn't this little guy the cutest? The Wee Wood artists are also very good writers, so here’s what they had to say about themselves!

Argentinian Mauro Torriggiani and Alabamian Lisa Tune began making wee woods when a small, discarded triangle of wood (an end-cut from a 1x4) called out to be rescued from a kindling bin. They felt it paired beautifully with a scruffy little square of pine - and the first "wee wood house" was born. Some of their wee wood materials were unwanted scraps salvaged from construction sites and their neighbor's kindling bin. Others were abandoned in backyards and along roadsides...but the most precious pieces of all are cast-offs from century (plus) old barns and homes. Giving these little scraps a second life makes them very happy.

Mauro and Lisa have been making art together practically since the day they met. Their first official play date, on a wildly rainy winter weekend, turned into an all-day mini art marathon...

"it was raining cats and dogs
and we didn't know what to do
so we stayed inside the whole day
and we drew...and drew...and drew!"

They discovered they liked many things in common, like drawing, inclement weather, play dates, little wooden houses...and much, much, much, much more (Kelly suspects a romance here….. :-). Lisa and Mauro and the Wee Wood shop are in Pescadero, a tiny coastal town an hour south of San Francisco, California. Check out their Wee Woods here. They are happy to do custom orders as well!

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Victoria Usova's Chest of Fairy Tales

I’ve always loved owls so these little guys caught my attention. They were painted by Victoria Usova. Victoria was born and raised in the Ukraine, but currently works and lives and New York City with her husband and two kids. She says, “I want a cat, a dog and some free time…”. I can relate to the free time part! Victoria really has a fun style to her artwork, which may be particularly appealing to those of you with little ones in your house or grandbabies in your life. Check our Victoria’s work here. It's all very affordable!

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Bracing for Bartow....

I’m off to the Bartow Bloomin’ Arts Festival today with my friend Patty Bodney. Just thought I’d show you the weather map as of 7:45am this morning. Looks great, huh! Bartow is at the bottom of that red box in the middle of the state. is not my friend today. Forecast calls for 80% chance of rain and 15 mph winds overnight tonight. Tomorrow the rain chance drops to 30%, but that comes with 25 mph sustained winds. Oh joy. I faced winds like this at my very first outdoor juried arts festival, the Springtime Tallahassee Arts Jubilee in 2005. Here's the rather humorous report I wrote about it. Patty and I will have to decide if we are going to set up tonight and run the risk of getting waterlogged overnight, or wait and set up in the morning during that 30% chance of rain and high winds. At least we have each other to help keep the hatches battened down. Fortunately, the organizing committee granted our request to be next door neighbors.

Thankfully, if we make it through Saturday, Sunday’s forecast looks much better. Just 8-10 mph winds, sunny and high of 62. A little chilly for my Florida born and bred bones, but at least we won’t be battling rain and high winds. Poor Patty...I’m sure she’ll have nightmares tonight. She had to purchase a new tent in November because her tent literally blew away, and I mean blew away tumbling across a parking lot, during the Ponte Vedra show last fall. Keep us in your prayers!

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Behind the Camera: Maybe Not?

Well I guess you’d have to say the girlies’ first fishing excursion Sunday morning was a success. While neither had any desire to actually touch a fish and only Sarah showed in any interest in actually reeling in a fish, they (DH won’t fess up as to which one) did actually catch a fish. Not sure the looks on their faces here portray excitement though…maybe a little more “eewwww….”. That’s my girls… Like this post? Click here to sign up for free weekly email reminders. Click here for the Happy Shack Designs website.

Mariposa, Mariposa

Here's another one of my new pieces, called Mariposa. I keep saying I'll get these on the website, but have yet to find the time. I think I'm procrastinating with the hopeful thought that I'll sell all my new pieces at the Bartow Bloomin' Arts Festival this weekend, so what's the sense in finding the time to list them all only to have to take them down next week, right? Let's hope. :-)

So, if you don't have little girlies, you may have no clue what Mariposa is. I have little girlies, but I didn't have a clue until last week. For two week's Livvie's been telling me, "Mama, we have to get Mariposa! We have to get Mariposa" and I reply, "What?" and she replies, "Mariposa, Mama! Like at Ms. Shirley's house!" Okay, so at this point, I'm thinking maybe Mariposa is some new flower or something that Shirley, our neighbor the Queen Mermaid, has. Then the other night as DH and I were unwinding with a little Animal Planet, there on the screen it appeared: the advertisement for Mariposa, the new Barbie Fairytopia movie coming out soon. The light came on and I said to DH, "So that's what Livvie's been talking about!" and he responds, "Um, duh. Where have you been?" Hate it when that happens. He's not supposed to know about that stuff...

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Elegant Snobbery

I have to admit what first drew me to this shop was the name...Elegant Snobbery. Too funny. And Marisa Hopkins' work reflects the name perfectly. Hailing from Austin, Texas, she has a lovely little collection of "illustrations, mixed media collages, and ACEOs...filled with bold and bright colored pencils, mixed with pen and ink sketches and vintage paper ephemera." I know one particular Happy Shack blog reader that will "love" this piece pictured, particularly if she goes to Marisa's store and reads the description for the piece. (That would be you, Whitney.) Check out Marisa's shop here. Her work is very affordable, so bring some fun "elegant" art into your world! And check out Marisa's "elegant bloggery" here.

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Behind the Camera: I'm Gonna Miss This

Well, I have the house to myself for a couple hours this morning (or possibly only for 30 minutes depending on how this goes…). You see, DH and a friend have taken the girlies out for their first fishing trip, and I was not invited! Not sure how I feel about this. Yes, it’s great to have the house to myself for a couple hours, but the first fishing trip and I’m not invited!?!? I made DH take the camera. Granted, I hate to fish. I have no patience for it. If I don’t catch anything within five minutes of dropping the lure in the water, I’m done. Bored sick. Ready to crank up the motor and do something that requires a little more movement. I don’t think that’s why I wasn’t invited, though. I think it has more to do with the fact that if Mama is there, the girls are all up under Mama.

Now, this is not by Mama’s choice, mind you. This is just life in general here in the Happy Shack. If I am home, they are glued to my hip. Luckily this is getting a little easier to manage now that they are getting a little older. They have their own little bead stations set up next to me in my workshop now, and they’ve started making lovely little necklaces and bracelets for their teachers and friends at school. Of course, we are still only using large hole beads, but we have at least graduated from pipe cleaners to stretchy string. They also have a large family of Pez people who get married and then unmarried and then married to someone else. Wow…shockingly real life stuff going on here, unfortunately! Sleeping Beauty and Batman seem to have some staying power, though. Batman goes on trips and then comes home yelling, “Beauty! I’m home!” and then Beauty answers, “Oh, Batman, I’ve missed you so….” with an audible sigh. Geez. They are 4 ½! We don’t have a Prince Charming Pez, so Cinderella has shacked up with Yoda. I told Sarah that even though Yoda wasn’t nearly as handsome as Prince Charming, he was very wise and very dependable and would take great care of Cinderella. There’s something to be said for that, right!?!?

We have now also hit the stage in which they prefer to dress themselves. This, of course, is rarely suitable for hitting the mall. But I did let them dress themselves for the zoo yesterday, as you see here. DH was not pleased with the sparkly red shoes for the zoo, but what the heck, if you are going to wear your beach cover up over a long sleeve t-shirt and jeans (Livvie) or tights (Sarah), you simply must wear your sparkly red shoes. They were the hit of the zoo. There’s a new Trace Adkins song out that rings so true for me. I’m a Trace fan in general, primarily because I think he’s one of the sexiest men on the face on the planet, but I truly like his music too. But this new song really hit home. It’s called “You’re Gonna Miss This” and it’s basically about the little things in life that may drive us crazy about our kids now, but we’ll really miss later on down the road. Having had my girls a little later in life (I was 37 when they were born), I really do try to relish every second. They are such blessings. And as I’ve heard so many times, yes, they really do grow up so fast. It seems they’ve become little people overnight. Just yesterday they were tiny babies sleeping in Daddy’s hammock…and now they are out fishing, with their own fishing poles…I really am going to miss this.

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Coming Home to Roost--Beautifully Strange

As you well know since I share so many cool finds with you here, I am addicted to Etsy. It's truly a treasure trove of great art of all kinds. If I purchased one of everything I feature here, we'd have to take out a second mortgage on the house, so I try to refrain, but some finds I stumble across are so darn cute and so darn affordable I just have to indulge myself. So with this post, I'm starting a new post series, aptly titled "Coming Home to Roost". I'll do my best to figure out how to list posting categories in my right sidebar over there....

Now they won't all be birds, but they will all be coming to live here at the Shack. :-) Of course, now I'll have to go back through all my blog postings and fess up to what truly did come home to roost. This cute little guy is actually a card, one of four in a fun little bird set by Kathleen Hendrix of Beautifully Strange. Kathleen has all sorts of fun stuff, and she promised to post another set of these cards after I purchased mine last night so go check her out here!

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