Whimsday Bliss – Noriko

The highlight of my week was sharing art with my friend, Noriko. She arrived last week to meet her puppy, Kinta. The puppy is living with us while he waits for his health clearance to go home to Japan. (See Puppy Bliss)

You may recall from Puppies, Friends and Bliss, that Noriko is an artist. She has worked mostly in oils, and more recently in pencil and pastel.

Noriko at my desk, exploring watercolor. A beautiful friend and artist.

Noriko at my desk, exploring watercolor. A beautiful friend and artist.

She was curious about watercolor and we invited her to give it a try. We introduced her to the brushes and tools. In no time she was bringing life to a stunning image.

I think you’ll agree, sharing the art experience with friends is bliss.

Kinta by Noriko Akiyama

Her first watercolor. Isn’t it stunning? She captured Kinta perfectly. Kinta by Noriko Akiyama 2014 (c)

Puppy Bliss

Golden Retriever Puppy

Saturday Night Kintaro of Akiyama – Kinta helps me haul firewood.

Meet Saturday Night Kintaro of Akiyama. We call him Kinta. He will be a guest at our home for several months before he is able to join his family in Japan.

Japan is a rabies free country. Kinta was born in Montana, USA. The US is not a rabies free country. He comes from Saturday Night Golden Retrievers.

The procedure goes something like this, Kinta will receive a rabies vaccination as soon as he is old enough. Then he will receive a booster a month later. A month after that, his blood will be tested for rabies titers. If his titer level is high enough, he then must wait for six months before going home. Once in Japan, he will be observed for several hours prior to being released to his family. He will also undergo many other health certifications prior to getting a green light to breed. It is a lengthy process.

Golden Retriever Puppy

Kinta checks out the pond. He’ll be swimming in no time.

Our friends Noriko and Yoshi are very dear to us, so we are happy to assist them with a foster home for Kintaro. We have fostered two other pups for them, Sakurako and Jutaro. Noriko and Yoshi are dedicated breeders of competitive golden retrievers in Japan. They take care to select genetically sound parent stock.

Golden Retriever Puppy

Kinta enjoys some Northern California sunshine.

For the next 10 months or so, I will get to enjoy, train, and share the love of a good pup. His family will visit from time to time, we take care to be sure he knows them and knows their scent.

Golden Retriever Puppy

Handsome boy watches down the driveway… are those quail he sees?

Golden Retriever Puppy

Kinta on the move – this is his standard pose.

Here are a few shots and a quick watercolor sketch of Kintaro.

Golden Retriever Puppy

Saturday Night Kintaro of Akiyama – watercolor by MaryALivingston

Bliss Nicely Wrapped

The Nutcracker bliss present Christmas

Gazing in the gift shop at the nutcrackers and dancers following the performance of “The Nutcracker.”
© 2012 MaryALivingston
Photo reference provided by
Lightly Spiced Photography by A. Adams

The holiday season is upon us. Adults worldwide look for ways to gift and treat the children in their lives.

Last year, I witnessed a most precious Christmas gift. One of our granddaughters loves ballet. Since she could stand she has twirled. Don’t know from where this comes. No one in the family dances other than for casual fun. So, her Papa and Nana took her, her older sister and their mom to a ballet performance of “The Nutcracker.” Little brother was too young to attend and Daddy was deployed half a world away.

We, Grandma and Grandpa, arrived for our visit the night before the ballet. Papa let us know his plans ahead of time, so we also procured tickets for the event.

Our two young granddaughters, ages 4 & 7, were in lovely dresses and shiny shoes. Their hair hung in beautiful locks. They were clearly prepared to attend an elegant event.

Being of small stature, it was hard for the littlest to see over the heads in front of her. She climbed in my lap for a better view.

The curtains opened and when the first ballerina twirled on her toes, the little one in my lap quivered and proclaimed, “I can do that!”

There were a few looks and even a “Shhhhh.”

Doesn’t everyone know the ballet requires silence?

She paid the naysayers no heed, for they did not register through her eagerness. As the show progressed, “I can do that,” would sound every now and again interspersed with an, “I can SO do that.”

This child’s love of ballet was coming to life before our eyes. With every pas de chat and arabesque she became more engaged.

She will remember this forever. Nana, Papa, Mama, Grandpa and Grandma will as well.

During a season when many overindulge, what mattered most to these little girls was spending time with their family at an event they treasured. Papa and Nana hit a home run with this gift, I am thankful we were there to share in the joy.

Some believe the expanse of lavish and numerous presents thrusts upon the little ones is a direct measure of love.  Quite the opposite. I never for a moment doubted the love of my grandparents. Yet, over the years, I received not even one wrapped gift for a birthday or holiday from these two people who represented clear and abundant love. This was not because of culture or religious belief. They were poor. They barely had provisions for food and shelter. Sometimes not even that. Their gift everyday was love. The kind of love that reaches to your core.  The kind of love that garners respect and delivers clear discipline.  The kind of love that has the power to stay in a heart through times of joy and sorrow.

In this season, when it is all too easy to overindulge, take the time to build memories of love your children will treasure. We will all remember the ballet with Nana and Papa.


You may also like:
By Candlelight
I Don’t Do Princess
Granddaughter’s Note
Grandma’s Morning Cup

By Candlelight

Power outage at our place. Happens every now and then, just a fact of life when living in a rural area. So out with the candles and lanterns. I just loved power outages as a kid, board games and ghost stories were sure to follow. But today, when the outage occurred I was painting a cover for a children’s picture book. The candles and lanterns did not cast enough light to paint, not a book cover anyway.

I decided to start a piece that’s been on my mind for a while. It was moving along nicely in the glow of the candlelight. Then it was time for fresh water. No water. We are on a well. No electricity = no water. I began plotting for water. Would it be decadent to paint with bottled water? Would the water in the pond be too muddy from the rains? Perhaps some water out of a downspout?

In the midst of plotting for a water source, Tim arrived and we discussed setting up the generator. He did get a little one out of our RV up for lights. Then voila…the power company had the main electricity back on. Isn’t that how it goes?

Work in progress being painted by candlelight.

Here is the ‘by candlelight’ work in progress. I may have to finish it by candlelight. For now, back to the book cover.

Wedded Bliss

I just stared at the wall. Painting upon painting. His wall was covered with art.

Some of the art on Tim’s wall 31 years ago. Check out his blog if you would like to see what he is up to today. Tim Livingston – The Forester Artist

I didn’t know this about him, that he was an artist. Apparently, I was the only one who didn’t know. Unlike me while in college, his artistic works were in the open, out there on display for friends and family to see.

About ten months earlier, we met on a blind date. (Don’t ask.) We had mutual friends and at some point, after this botched introduction and continually running into each other, we started dating.

I was already in danger of loosing my heart. The moment I saw he was an artist tipped me over the top.

Six months ago, over 31 years after seeing his wall of art, I picked up brushes and started to learn watercolor. No one was happier for me than Tim that I was learning to paint. Being married to my best friend is one of the greatest blessings in life. The fact that we also share many of the same passions is life’s icing.

You may wonder why it took me so long to pick up brushes. Oh, I toyed with it a few times, but I knew inevitably, people would compare us.

Our relationship is not about comparing.

Sitting in a blind one morning. Our version of dressing up for a date.

Well, we are comparing our WordPress blog world maps. Oh, then the time we took martial arts together and competed for trophies. And he did get the first buck this season. Mine was bigger. I found the biggest nugget on our claim. Although he holds the record for the biggest agate. However, my geode is near the size of a basketball. We both found nice septarian nodules…nonetheless, you get my point.

Asking a spouse or loved one to critique your work is risky. Tim says that asking him to critique my work is like asking him if my butt looks big or if my clothes make me look fat. There is no right answer.

So I joined an online illustrating course, Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks!, where I am able to learn, hone my skills and participate in critiques.

As for Tim, here are his most expert responses to my most ridiculous question:

Us with a few of our golden retrievers on vacation at Roaring Camp. It’s a great place to learn about gold mining.

Her: Does this make me look fat?
Him: I don’t think it does your body justice.
Him: I don’t think you would like the way it looks.

Yep, wedded bliss.

Happy Birthday Tim –

Beautiful Blogger Award

Humble thanks to The Forester Artist for nominating my blog for the Beautiful Blogger Award.  I am blessed with his continued support and friendship He has a wonderful blog about “Creating art on the big canvas and the small ones too.”
It took me a few days to accept the nomination. You see, Tim is family. More on that upcoming in my Nov. 4 post, so stay tuned.


1. Thank the person who nominated you

Thank you, Tim.

2. Post the award image to your page (see above)

3. Tell 7 facts about yourself

I met my husband (my best friend) on a blind date 32 years ago.

We have 2 wonderful sons, one of whom, along with his beautiful wife, have blessed us with 3 precious grandchildren.

I am a retired professional photographer.

I love dogs.

I enjoy creating.

I like my eggs fresh, store eggs need not apply. (Same goes for tomatoes.)

I pray.

4. Nominate 15 other bloggers, and let them know about the nomination

I chose the following bloggers because of how they inspire me in their recognition of beauty in the world. They may hesitate to accept publicly…believe me, I understand.  Whether they accept or not, I want you to meet them, these people who live their gift and thereby bless the world with beauty.

Artistic Expression by Felicia Lilley

Illustration Junky

Laura Miller

Tanith Larking

Bright Spirit Studio


Susan Clement-Beveridge

Painting with Pencils

Pam Tanzey


Violet Gallery

Mike’s Look at Life

Anna Cull

Drawing and Painting Hobe Sound

Thistle Dew Mercantile

Congratulations and thank you for your contribution to the blogging community.

Our Littlest Heroes

I would like to introduce you to Horses for Heroes. This organization does wonderful work for those who serve; be they firefighters, police officers, military or other public service personnel putting their lives on the line for us.

The littlest heroes, the children of these men and women, also benefit from the healing and therapeutic power of horses.

© 2012 Mary Livingston
Photo reference provided by Lightly Spiced Photography by A. Adams

Fall Salmon Run is Here

Saturday was a busy day along our little one and a half lane, country road. More people work at the hatchery than live on this road. When the local salmon festival occurs, thousands visit in the span of 6 hours.

Although the people arrive in force to view the salmon, their numbers don’t come close to the population of turkey vultures filling the sky.  Like the people, the vultures also come for the salmon. The turkey vultures are drawn in with their keen sense of smell. This may also be why the visiting local tourists don’t linger for too long. If you think a spawning salmon looks gnarly, you should smell them.

The malodorous rot of spawning salmon surely does not evoke a sense of bliss.

Giving thanks today for the turkey vultures featured in Wings of Autumn post.

This illustration for a children’s book features Chinook salmon. The salmon begin dying and rotting once they leave the ocean. By the time they reach their spawning grounds they are in rough shape.

Becoming an Illustrator

Interesting how one thing leads to another. I was asked to participate in liturgical environment planning. Just for a season. Nothing official or formal. I think part of the plan was for me to learn a bit more about the faith I had awakened to as an adult. A little backdoor catechesis perhaps. Not sure at what point I became a regular team member. I spent many years that followed as a part of the liturgical design team in our local parish.

Liturgical environment planning involves reading sacred scripture for the applicable period and designing the way the surrounding environment will look. The key to designing sacred space for worship is presenting an environment that supports and enriches the written word without adding to or detracting from it.

Using brainstorming notes from the liturgy team, and the colors designated for the season, I would bounce ideas around and watch faces for the tell tale sign of ah ha.

Sometimes using imagery, sometimes just color and shape, but always the surrounding area is designed to invite into the story. A successful design will awaken the listeners to the fullness of sacred word spoken. An unsuccessful one will leave them perplexed.

I realize now, this was the first time I illustrated. It was also the first time I publicly presented art other than photography. A seed planted long ago was nurtured.

I imagine the process is the same, regardless of your faith tradition. People have been illustrating the sacred since before it was written word.

Should you have the chance to participate in such an endeavor in your personal faith tradition, I encourage you to do so. You may find it to be enriching, rewarding and enlightening. You may even come a bit closer to bliss.

Form and color practice to present to the liturgy team for review. I sneaked into my husband’s watercolors, this was this was the second time using watercolors since I was a child. (I have since remedied that dry spell.)

The final piece. The background is painted with dyes on cotton muslin. The wheat is painted with dyes on felt. For the last 9 years it occasionally appears during the late summer/autumn ordinary season. 6’x9′

Wings of Autumn

The signs of autumn are slowly appearing in the Battle Creek basin. Last week bid farewell the triple digit heat with a final day of 103F (39.4C) on Monday, October 1. This week opened with a high of 80F(26.6C).  The temperature drop and shorter days nudge a color shift in the trees.

Kettles of turkey vultures fill the sky. Here along the creek we have vultures year round. They even nest in our backyard. This time of year their numbers increase in the sky as they circle higher and higher on thermals.  Vultures gather here for a reason. The fall run of Chinook salmon is underway.

Reviled creatures, most people consider these carrion feeders gross and ugly. If you have ever smelled rotting salmon from the spawn, you may consider these turkey vultures the most beautiful of all. We welcome their presence to keep our little valley clean.

I appreciate these birds.

Turkey Vultures –
This is an illustration from a children’s book I am working on called “No Place for Ugly Birds.”