Travel Stories: Texas Part I

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon in late April. I’m sitting on the front porch of my best friend’s home, swaying back and forth on a rocking chair relishing the quiet. This part of northeast Texas, in the prairie and lakes region, 20 miles south of the Oklahoma border, is beautiful. Patches of woodland are sprinkled throughout this grassland prairie. The land is gently rolling to hilly. This region is sometimes called “cross timbers” because the patches of treed areas cross strips of prairie grassland.

Farms and small communities dot the landscape and merge with the rolling hills and swaths of land covered with cottonwood, hickory, walnut and pecan trees. Bluebonnets, Indian Paint Brushes and Creeping Jenny wildflowers color the roadside like a Monet painting. Life here is simple. An hour south is the bustling metropolis of Dallas. And here, north of the big city, one only sees the wide open sky when they look up, not the mass of metal and glass skyscrapers.

I’m sitting on the porch listening in the quiet. One can sit in silence when in the country, but it’s never quiet. Here I enjoy the song of leaves as the wind bustles through – raising and lowering. A crescendo that never subsides. In this place of solace I relish in the chirping and warbling from birds. Cardinals with their brilliant red stand out amongst the hues of green from trees and vegetation. Doves, hummingbirds and bluebirds and the occasional woodpecker join the chorus.

My best friend lives on two acres outside of town with neighbors here and there. On this warm spring day, someone is mowing their lawn from a distance. An occasional vehicle drives by. Every evening we sit on the porch watching for the rabbits to frolic and do their mating dance on the front yard. We watch birds fly in and out of the majestic pecan tree grabbing for seeds in the bird feeder or picking up the ones fallen on the ground. Like clockwork, soon after dinnertime, water frogs start their evening song in the creek adjacent to the house. The June bug comes out of hiding. It’s a majestic symphony lasting well into the night. I sit here in quiet, listening.

I’m here for two weeks this time, not the usual 4-5 days as previous trips. During the day I work and in the evening sit on the porch. Many mornings we’ll come out with our coffee, shawls wrapped around our shoulders and socks on our feet. Still in our jammies we’ll sit in the rocking chairs and greet the morning. Waking up slowly and easing into the day in this part of Texas is a welcome respite from my usual routine in the city. There’s no rush to get anywhere but to the front porch to sit quietly and listen.



Taking a Tech Free Day

Okay, so you’re read­ing this blog right now — so you’re either on your mobile device, tablet or com­puter and obvi­ously on the Inter­net. (Thanks for read­ing by the way!). Have you ever taken a tech­nol­ogy free day? Not read any emails, only return impor­tant phone calls/texts, not scoured the internet?

Accord­ing to one of the many fun and inter­est­ing info­graph­ics on the web, in ONE minute (yes, only 60 seconds!):

- 216,000 pho­tos are posted

- 278,000 tweets are written

- 72 hours of videos are uploaded on YouTube

- 70 new domains (web­site addresses) are reg­is­tered and 572 web­sites are created

- 11,000 active users are on Pinterest

Yes, in ONE minute. Now I admit to being a heavy web user. For one, it’s part of my full-time pro­fes­sion; two, I man­age this blog; and three, I teach dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing to col­lege stu­dents. So you can imag­ine the time I spend star­ing at a com­puter screen. My eye doc­tor con­curs as I now have a stronger pre­scrip­tion for glasses, need read­ers to see small print and am forced to take breaks to give my eyes a rest. 

I started tak­ing a tech­nol­ogy free day this sum­mer. Dif­fi­cult at first, I now look for­ward to the one day a week (usu­ally a week­end day) where I don’t open my lap­top, only make calls that are nec­es­sary and don’t return texts unless they are an emer­gency. It was like break­ing an addic­tion — not as bad as my addic­tion to diet Dr. Pep­per or dark choco­late, but almost. 

What I’ve gained from my tech­nol­ogy free day is TIME. Time to do more cre­ative pur­suits, read more, relax, go out­side, spend time with friends (and the cell phone is IN my purse with the ringer OFF). I notice when my phone is put away and not placed right in front me, I’m much more engaged in con­ver­sa­tions and a bet­ter listener.

Tech­nol­ogy sur­rounds us and is every­where — its brought much good to the world, to our econ­omy, to our jobs. But there’s also a down­side. Tech­nol­ogy has direct affects on how we com­mu­ni­cate with each other, how we spend our time, how we learn. Ever seen an ele­va­tor open and all you see are the tops of heads because every­one is star­ing down at their cell phone? Ever seen some­one fall or trip on a side­walk because they were tex­ting and not watch­ing where they were walk­ing? Ever been to a meet­ing at work and out come the cell phones and lap­tops while some­one is mak­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion? We can say we multi-task but I doubt one can lis­ten and also read, com­pre­hend and/or write at the same time.

Take a day and put your phone/tablet/computer away. Try it. You may find that the world doesn’t stop, you don’t miss much and you’re hav­ing a great time with your fam­ily and friends because YOU.ARE.PRESENT.

Writ­ten by Ms. Renee Vevea, admit­ted tech­nol­ogy addict in recov­ery.

Paintings - Color Studies

While I was in grad­u­ate school I often thought of what I would do after I fin­ished. Oh yes, I def­i­nitely was going to con­tinue work­ing full-time, but the time spent study­ing, for me, had to be replaced. Never one to sit quiet, I’m used to keep­ing myself busy. For the past 3 years or so, I looked for­ward to paint­ing. I’d never painted before and had no idea if I would like it — or even be good at it (still don’t know if I am). But it didn’t mat­ter. The thought of swirling col­ors on a palette, see­ing the vari­ance in hues and tones, and slather­ing wet paint on a white untouched can­vas seemed…well, liberating.

  “bulles d’air” — acrylic with mul­ti­ple com­pounds, 2013

“bulles d’air” — acrylic with mul­ti­ple com­pounds, 2013

Promptly after grad­u­at­ing I reg­is­tered for an acrylic paint­ing class at a local fine arts cen­ter. After pur­chas­ing the sup­plies — 3 brushes, 4 tubes of paint (is that all?), a can­vas and a roll of paper towel, I excit­edly waited for the first night of class. The instruc­tor has a MFA in paint­ing and is a kind and patient teacher. At our ini­tial class we painted our color palette with pri­mary col­ors (red, blue, yel­low) and then sec­ondary col­ors (green, orange, pur­ple). Oh I how loved twirling the col­ors together to form dif­fer­ent variations…and with only 3 tubes of pri­mary col­ors and a tube of white I was able to cre­ate almost every color I desired. Black, gray, brown and pur­ple became chal­leng­ing for me, but I fig­ured it out.

ast for­ward three years and I now belong to an artist coöper­a­tive, have had eight exhi­bi­tions (two were solo) and paint about twice a week (not enough!). Paint­ing has eas­ily replaced ‘study­ing’ and for me is a form of ther­apy. When I paint I let my mind go free, never know­ing what I will paint until the brush hits the canvas.

I guess I may be a bit uncon­ven­tional as I don’t paint from a still life or pho­to­graph. I have painted some pieces from my mem­o­ries of the beau­ti­ful Black Hills in the win­ter — snow­capped pine trees, softly lit pink skies. I admire the work of Cy Twombly, so have tried to paint my own type of flow­ers. And I’m try­ing my hand at abstract (the paint­ings below). Using pumice, mod­el­ing com­pounds, dif­fer­ent paint­ing imple­ments, and water has allowed the paint to express itself on the can­vas rather than me con­trol­ling the paint. Where it goes and where it stops is up to the paint, not the artist.

  “Groovy” — acrylic with mul­ti­ple com­pounds, 2013 ( SOLD )

“Groovy” — acrylic with mul­ti­ple com­pounds, 2013 (SOLD)

No, I don’t plan on ‘quit­ting my day job’ and becom­ing a full-time painter but I’m both thank­ful and for­tu­nate to por­tray my many inspi­ra­tions thru paint. There is so much more I want to paint — the sen­su­al­ity of a nude woman’s sil­hou­ette, the autumn evening sky…ideas churn around and inspire me for my next project.

“The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pic­tures that do?” ~  Pablo Picasso

 Writ­ten by Ms. Renee Vevea. Paint­ings by Renee Vevea.

Creative Bucket List

I recently com­pleted a phe­nom­e­nal grad­u­ate course in cre­ativ­ity and inno­va­tion. One of our last assign­ments was to list 150 cre­ative things we’d like to do. Yes, 150. The assign­ment, thank­fully, was bro­ken into two — 50 items first, 100 sec­ond. Com­ing up with the 50 items for my cre­ative bucket list #1 was easy, the addi­tional 100 took some deep think­ing. I thought I’d share a few items from the first list and yes, I’ve started on some. I don’t know if I’ll get thru the 50 or even the entire bucket list of 150, but it’s always there and wait­ing for me.

This was an inter­est­ing cre­ative exer­cise that incor­po­rated brain­storm­ing, free think­ing, let­ting go of lim­its, bound­aries and excuses. What would be on your cre­ative bucket list?

No judg­ing now! And yes, I mean it. (If you actu­ally do read the list, you’ll notice what I’ve started!).

1. Learn a new style of painting

2. Start a new blog about per­sonal styling for the curvy woman , Curvy­Gal­Fash­ion, com­ing soon!

3. Learn Arabic

4. Visit Lebanon

5. Start an Instra­gram account for vevelicious

6. Apply for more art exhi­bi­tions in a wider geo­graph­i­cal area

7. Watch more for­eign films

8. Learn how to make a video

9. Write my memoir

10. Learn how to use an elec­tric drill

11. Learn, or actu­ally relearn, French

12. Vol­un­teer internationally

13. Obtain a MFA in painting

14. Learn how to cook Greek food

15. Learn how to use a food processor

Writ­ten by Ms. Renee Vevea, who is always on a quest to fin­ish any list. 

The Art of Painting

A quick post today.…my paint­ing class started again this week. I couldn’t get to the class quick enough! For a ‘warm-up’ I painted 5 small (3″ x 3″) paint­ings. Hav­ing fun play­ing with pumice, toi­let paper rolls (great for sten­cil­ing!), sides of card­board, and my con­tin­ued learn­ing of mix­ing colors. 

And…I started paint­ing a mere three years ago. It’s NEVER too late to start a hobby. 

What hobby do you have or want to start? Let us know!

Be veve­li­cious and live the sweet life!

Paint­ing by Ms. Renee Vevea, find­ing her flow in painting.

I Like Fridays

I like Fri­days. Actu­ally I love Fri­days. Fri­day is my favorite day of the week and always has been since I was a kid. Some peo­ple pre­fer Sat­ur­days or the week­ends. I don’t know any­one who picks Mon­day as their favorite day. I’ve even come up with nick­names for a few days of the week:

Wednes­day: affec­tion­ally called HUMP DAY

Thurs­day: is my FRIDAY EVE

Fri­day: my FAVORITE day of the week

Sat­ur­day & Sun­day: BONUS days!

Mon­day: Really, do I have to get out of bed and be some­where by 8am, really? NOT A FAV

Why else do I like Fri­days? Let’s see.…

1. It’s pay­day — gotta love money

2. It’s casual day at work — throw on jeans and I’m ready to go

3. I can stay up late on Fri­day night because I don’t set the alarm on Saturday!

4. There’s a perky song called Fri­day — give it a lis­ten (and when I say perky, I mean down­right obnox­iously perky)

5. What’s bet­ter than a movie called Fri­day — “a 1995 stoner comedy-drama-buddy film” — per­fect. Okay, so it got shitty reviews, but hey, it’s Friday.

6. You can eat at T.G.I.Fridays and fit in with the TGIF wait staff by wear­ing all types of ridicu­lous pins — I dare you.

7. Because of #1 above, I treat myself and go out to eat with friends.

8. And because of #2 above I don’t need to change to enjoy #7 — a two for one.

9. Adding #1, #2, #7 and #8 leads me to much more enjoy #3 It all adds up — Fri­days are the best!

What’s your favorite day of the week?

Writ­ten by Ms. Renee Vevea, who would like every day to be Fri­day — if only.

My Fav Sites

I get a lot of emails every day. I mean a lot — like hun­dreds. And I delete hun­dreds every day as well. But there are a few emails I keep — those from my favorite sites. I may not be able to read them each day but I keep them in my email box to read later — on one of those days when I can lazily go thru emails. And SURPRISE, they aren’t all ecom­merce, or retail, sites. Oh I love to shop online and do it more than I should ever admit, but the fol­low­ing sites (except one) are enter­tain­ing, edu­ca­tional and always have fresh con­tent. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.


Maria Popova, the founder of Brain Pick­ings, describes the site as “a human-powered dis­cov­ery engine for inter­est­ing­ness, a sub­jec­tive lens on what mat­ters in the world and why, bring­ing you things you didn’t know you were inter­ested in — until you are.” Sign up for the weekly email, yes WEEKLY (on Sun­days) for a burst of cre­ativ­ity and inter­est­ing top­ics. HIGHLY rec­om­mended.


OUR PURPOSE -It’s our hum­ble belief that by sur­round­ing our­selves with the
authentic, the unique and the curi­ous, our lives are more awe­some. We cel­e­brate the inde­pen­dent mak­ers by seek­ing out their inspired goods and crafted expe­ri­ences, pro­vid­ing mean­ing­ful ways for our users to con­nect for themselves. Scout­Mob is a fan­tas­tic site to find fun finds rang­ing from jew­elry, art, food & drink, home and finds for men & women. Sup­port the inde­pen­dent arti­san by vis­it­ing this lovely site.


swiss­miss is a design blog/studio run by Tina Roth Eisen­berg — a swiss designer that came to NYC. This daily email has such fas­ci­nat­ing links, quotes, design ideas and fun finds I was imme­di­ately hooked. Much more than “design blog”, you’ll be excited about the fun info on swissmiss.


Not just for the “cool mom”, Cool Mom Picks brings you five of their favorite finds each week for baby, kids, fam­ily, DIY, around the house and “ran­dom cool­ness”. A good adjec­tive for this site — chalk full of ran­dom coolness.

What are YOUR favorite sites? Share with us!

Writ­ten by Ms. Renee Vevea, always look­ing for fun websites.