m wood pen

illustrator of books, cocktails, travel + more


how’s this for an idea? in hopes to shake off this silly long hot summer weather, i’ve popped my pandora to ‘doris day christmas’ and have whipped up a page to show off my new (and favorite) merry christmas, jolly holiday illustrations.

nearly time to crack open the flu, start a warming fire, and cozy up in wool!



with my weekend spent ‘at the beach’ (figuratively: new book pitch prompted me to sketch and watercolor some beachside imagery), i’m back in new york, paris and london. to set the sketch mood in the proper direction? pandora is blasting mel torme, steve & eydie, and the rest of their lot!


new post for a pretty new ‘studio’: https://mwoodpenblog.com/2013/09/05/work-mode/


i intended to write my new post about a neat article in the “spoon” blog:


but, as usual, my mind wandered and i got totally sidetracked.

here’s my new post: https://mwoodpenblog.com/2013/08/29/some-pig/


things are just flying along.


ma bell

new post: https://mwoodpenblog.com/2013/08/21/bell-telephone/


new post: https://mwoodpenblog.com/2013/08/14/new-orbit/


sort of lost track of time this summer…when up to my ears in creating, packing, traveling, reading, cooking and gardening, i am swept with fabulous ideas for writing.  then, by the time i laze back into my country house, another perfect seasonal & situational activity grabs me and i’m off in yet another direction.

i suppose this is why there are seasons, at least in climes like the one i live in.

best bet on autumn’s calm and quiet to tap away at these keys, yes?

in the meantime, i’m back to the frenzy of the day!


the merry summer sways it’s enticing song, music to me.  finding myself dashing about, from dorm shopping, apartment hunting, yummy grocery shopping, to reading, cozy tv nights and building a fence.  i’ve learned that each calendar page is going to come up and surprise me, so have learned, at last, to roll with the times, feast with the ease, chime in when the time is right, and soak up the sunny, stretching, leaping days.m wood country barn


i don’t even know what to say: can’t really remember a busier time in my entire life (and knowing my age, that says a lot!).

this summer has offered, thus far: 3 road trips, one wedding shower, one photo shoot, one time on the stage of the grand ole opry, one college orientation session, innumerable feasts out at great restaurants, countless hours happily designing and crafting decor for a rustic, gorgeous wedding, a mega-sleepover at my lodgey house chock-ful of zany college pals and more hilarity than i can count, two super birthday celebrations, two new dogs and stacks of great new projects.

i’m sure i’ve left something out, but it’s been a whirlwind of fun, travel, family, love and creativity.  rounding the corner to the wrap up of summer itself, i’ll hunker down to begin illustrations for my next 3 (wow, three!) new book projects…then toss in a few weeks of college dorm shopping/prep for my youngest lassie’s first year at university…and finally, as the weather & full-time mother-life hints at autumn, we’ll stuff the car with bags, boxes, & tots, aim north to set off yet another fabulous child on their solo course into the wide, wide world.


new post! https://mwoodpenblog.com/2013/07/11/cant-talk-right-now/


happy birthday to a country that i love.  new post:  https://mwoodpenblog.com/2013/07/04/oh-say-can-you-see/


time is a pirate and i am it’s captive!

here’s a new post: https://mwoodpenblog.com/2013/07/02/parachute-drop/


whirlwind week which included quick sketches, quick packing, and a quick drive down to nashville where bbq, the grand ole opry, hilarity and southern hospitality awaited. nothing like getting out of town and then coming home again to kick up the spirits and ignite my creativity.


i sure lucked out with this guy: happy father’s day!



happy friday.  here’s a new coffee-inspired post!


m wood drip coffee


summer is in full swing, and it’s feeling just fine:

new post https://mwoodpenblog.com/2013/06/12/summer-juggling-makes-me-feel-fine/

new page https://mwoodpenblog.com/portfolio/trader-joes-greeting-cards/

m wood nyc east river view bright


a new post! https://mwoodpenblog.com/2013/06/03/mason-jars/



hold the phone: youngest is graduating from high school and head is spinning: whoosh.


who’d a thunk it: a new post! https://mwoodpenblog.com/2013/05/28/dedication/

drafting table


oh happy day: the contracts arrived and have been signed for my next two book illustration projects! m wood postes france


in honor of a new bit of logo designing, which propelled me to impetuously order new business cards, labels and promotional postcards (damn this instant gratification internet!), today seemed like a perfect day to give my blog/site/whatever this is, a pretty little face lift.

no botox was used to add sun-kissed freshness to this face of m wood pen, rather the opposite.  i’m a believer in natural living, totally comfortable carrying a waving flag of the lovely lines, flaws and notches that tag along as i navigate this kookie life of mine.

granted, when i visit some websites, i weep in envy…but only momentarily.

i’d rather keep my fingers on the control dial, thus choose to stick with this wonderful wordpress template for the center of my creative digital universe.

ages ago, when i had to hire a very expensive website (to be designed and delivered over a weekend) in time for the airing of oprah’s favorite things episode back in 1999, the elves remained behind the curtain.  whatever switches they pulled, keys they pounded with furious other-language surety, the product was fine, but…man, the line was long to get things added, removed, revised or updated.  and did i mention the cost?

so thanks to progress, transparency and being clearly the most popular place on earth to hang, i’m happily going to grapple with choosing a new template, popping in some springy new colors, move some content around, and call it a day.

you can be sure, *just ask my children re: the frequency of my rearranging the furniture, et al* that this incarnation will last just a while, until the autumn crisp cool breeze comes flying through my doors, beckoning me to change it all, once more.


fresh ink: a smattering of what the warm breezes of summer make me long to sketch & see



thoughts turn to coleman, camping and all that.  read all about it in my new post:





running out of reasons to stall the obvious and unavoidable, i am embracing my need to deal with my huge garden plot.  my two oldest children are firmly planted in their fabulous city apartments year round as they wrap up their college years, so 2/3 of my summer garden elves labor force is out of service.  the remaining tot, a plucky 18 year old, has one foot out the door as she wraps up high school, babysits, dashes to the gym, and does whatever a happy go lucky soon to be college freshman may do: spend as much time out and about living life!

that means i’m left with a labor force of one.  and my back hurts.

the choices are here for the picking, and i have devised a plan to manage and enjoy the bounty:

take yoga to fix the aching back.

hire able and strong college boys to rototill the huge garden.

devote myself to the ‘fun’ of planting, designing and eventual weeding and crop gathering.

yes, i think that’s the new plan.  begrudgingly, i see the horizon looming one or two steps from where i sit this fine spring morning: the nest is nearly empty, without missing a beat, it’s wrapping itself up like a little pretty gift-wrapped memento…something to savor, memory-musings and floating effigies of life as it was.

after all, life’s just a big garden: seasons, harvest, planting, nourishing, enjoying…with each crop and season not quite the same as the one before.

well, i better get on with it then.  wish me luck: i’m new at this and may need a guiding hand.



hello may!

just added a new post: bountifully broadway bound!

all aboard for a dizzying week
all aboard for a dizzying week


might be the change of season, the thrill of birdsong.  french doors propped open ala under the tuscan sun to keep one foot in studio and one foot out deck, nature, pasture, trees, sun, leaves, earth all the livelong day long. whatever it is, my dreams have been conjuring up the most amazing and paradoxical adventures, plenty to muse and dwell over as i enjoy the audible, then fragrant, then flavor of my morning cup o joe.

work creation and imagination and dream-nation seem to be striding hand-in-hand for me this spring, cotton-wrapping my sheer existence in thematic movement, memory and motion.  is it a foot in reality and fiction?  i’m finding it hard to sort and sift the two, and perhaps i don’t even want to try.

regardless, here’s a vintage greyhound bus, conjured up pen-wise for my recent uber-cool custom project (more about that later), which then, too, appeared in my dream last night, and to astound even me, in a new ad spotted on the telly last night in-between exciting installments of whatever program happened to be thrilling my daughter and i.

what’s with the synchronicity of this very same, brown and grey hued vintage bus appearing all of a sudden in my life? is it deja-vu or just one of those things?  more coffee to ponder on, but maybe then again i’ll just let the phantom question simmer somewhere on the back burner of the day, molding it untethered into its next flight of fancy. 



i feel like such a heel!  i just got a very touching, albeit brief, “happy anniversary” note from wordpress! damn my messy calendar and forgetful mind…i didn’t know!

i’d have sent flowers, or a nice card (after all, i design them as one of my little side shoots); prepared a lovely dinner; bought a new dress; dealt with my hair that is in sore need of highlights; remixed my barry white cassette tapes; booked tickets for a fabulous show; planned a night on the town; chilled the wine; and most of all, as anniversaries compel one to do: reflected with deep appreciation for a mutually-satisfying, reliable, colorful, constant, and true relationship.

might be the best one i’ve ever had, as i mull over this despite my deep embarrassment for not keeping track of the date! i mean, really. it costs nothing, it brings the world to my fingertips, it puts up with my occasional early-posting by saving my drafts, fills me with kudos by popping up orange stars to show me that somebody likes me!?

so thank you, wordpress: happy anniversary to darling you.  here’s to many, many, many more years of bliss!


an absolutely incredible day.  granted, most would take advantage of a quiet, sunny sunday by relaxing.

i, however, took the chance to do a few of my favorite things. strong, delicious coffee then a trek up the drive to fetch my sunday new york times. dove into that headfirst.  a new batch of doves, woodpeckers and some teeny furious birds flying about compelled me to return to the sunny outdoors to replenish their feeders, hang a new bird house, haul the now-dead christmas tree to the burn pile, haul a few felled branches to the same destination, re-stack a few dozen cuts of fine firewood that the devilish black squirrel and raccoons un-ended on their nightly quests to snatch discarded seeds along the wraparound deck.

enough of the outdoors, i headed back indoors to potentially lounge around couch-side with a book, or better yet, invent a marvelous spicy soup.  thanks goodness for trader joe’s (yes, as one of their greeting card designers, i’m biased) spicy kimchi rice: it’s my new staple and today i paired it with some invented clam chowder concoction that resulted in an epicurean feast for one.

that reminded me that i’d started a recipe blog when my kids headed into their first apartments. i don’t like the name, nor the look of the blog, so had been ignoring it for over a year.  suddenly inspired, i deleted old, and created new: all the while laughing over the clever new name: made from sketch!  throw a couple of hours into that fun little sidetrack, and i then found myself editing my about.me profile (when wordpress urges you to do something to spiff up your blog, it’s a good idea to listen to them).

in all of the fun, i sent 6 new cartoons (whipped up late last night after feeling inspired) to my people at trader joe’s, as they’ve beckoned for more greeting cards.  there’s one that makes me laugh out loud, every time i look at it, so my fingers are crossed that at least that one makes the cut and ends up in my favorite food store.

then, more inspiration hit (i swear, there must be creative lightning in my neck of the woods), and i sent yet another submission, or shall i say, creative product pitch, to an uber-cool pair of entrepreneurs who, yet again i cross my fingers, are seriously cool.

that might have just wrapped up my day, and as i turn to the couch, where i had planned to lounge on about 6 hours ago, i see a little sleeping cat who is, i’m sure, feeling totally ignored.  that’s that, then.  time to grab a book, scootch her over a bit, and settle in for some lazy bones jones weekend relaxing.


i’m grateful that i was able to live my first 40 or so years in a seemingly less frantic, desperate, divisive, cruel world. and i’m grateful, too, that that part of my earliest exposure filled me to the top, brimful of joy, sunny light, easy tunes, gentility, sweetness, pollyanna optimism and plucky resolve to make the best of it.

those tools sure come in handy these days.  i feel compelled to apologize to my three great kids for their having to cope and accept the way things are now.  as a parent, showing the right vs wrong in pretty much everything about life and our choices and our responsibilities, i’m embarrassed that the world and its current crop of people are such losers, so mean, so cruel, so angry.  can’t everyone just knock it off?

sure, i know what’s going on out there. i am sometimes unable to tear myself away from the tweets and updates that fling reports of sick, twisted, sad, unfathomable cruelty to throngs of shocked readers.  my heart breaks, over and over and over again with each loss.  i watch a political system that makes me think of our founding fathers (and mothers) shaking their heads in dismay.  i see a culture spinning out of control, and yes, if i chose to, i could choose to be immobilized by terror.

but, plucky and optimistic folks don’t give in, nor crumble, nor entertain that sort of heavy trap.  no, people like me see the good, envision the possible, yes, even the impossible.  i don’t give up, i believe and hope and choose the road that leads to good, because it still exists.

i feel it every moment of every day, despite the mess, distractions and calamities, i feel it soaring stronger with a fortitude and foundation that can’t be broken.

i’m not going to give in to the global terror nor to the local spite, nor am i going to encourage my children to embrace the stormy climate as their own: no, my job is to hand out umbrellas to shelter from the storm of fear, blast happy tunes to drive out the mean, cruel wind of evil, and fertilize the ground of our every day with pure, strong love to grow sweet, trusting, kind, loving humanity.



this morning, when i was trolling the internet for some appropriate fonts for a fast-paced thespian-themed project for a fabulous client, i was suddenly tossed back into the past.

read all about it on todays post: me and 23




to dream, or not to dream, new post.


gallons, buckets and floods of welcome spring rain kept me captive today, and, not sure of how to spend a few hours tucked into my cozy studio, my mind drifted to umbrellas.  then to london, where a ‘brolly’ is de riguer.  then, after that, i tripped the light fantastique of my wander-lustful imagination and took off for regions far afield from this midwest country abode.  all with a pen, some touches of color, and a suitably zippy pandora soundtrack.

since you’re already here, hop about this speedy yellow vespa and wander among my ‘travel style’ illustrations.

my pen is up to some fun: check out my travel style sketches


kismet is a mysterious little sweet, isn’t it?


a little stunned bird compelled me to stray outside this morning to survey the damage done to bird (false alarm) and to garden (departing winter never leaves a clean canvas).  as i wandered from one little inspection to the next, i succumbed to the call of spring: chores.

trimming branches with my hedge clippers, untangling the last strand of christmas lights from the log bannister, uprooting invasive weeds, filling bird feeders and untoppling decor, i soaked in the miraculous sun, kiss of warm wind, and peeping green tops of eager flowers and fern.

living among the land of four seasons, regardless of my declining love for freezing cold days, i do embrace the natural miracles that divide our year into distinctive quarters.  the moods shift, the music changes, the landscape colors and mutes, the life indoors becomes more cozy and prominent, then just as quickly, my living space moves outside.

country living is the way to go.  despite the terror of the little injured bird incident and my certainty that i didn’t have it in me to ‘put it out of its misery’, my 360 degree view is lush, remote, natural, beautiful and nurturing.  real chores demanding real elbow grease, a john deere, clippers, tools, vision and hunter boots keep the cycle whirling along.

i’m back inside for the moment, as duty calls me back to a bit of digital work, but i’ve tasted the first kiss of this new season of hope, bloom, picnics, dining al fresco, upturning dirt to plant seeds, dozing over an opened book poolside while a mason jar of sweet tea sits glistening on the arm of my chair.


damn facebook.

as is my “dawn of the new age” morning routine, i grab the buzzing, annoying iphone which, to the tune of ‘son of a preacher man’ attempts to wake me up and drag me out of bed, and pour for a minute or twenty, over all the news that’s fit to print on a teeny smartphone screen.

the cat is annoyed with my coma-like pose (i’ve learned through several previous adored pets that one movement to them means that you are up and ready to play/feed/let them outside/rush around like a minion, so, again, i try to remain as immobile as possible as i scour my mobile for a taste of what to expect in my day ahead.

well, today i was compelled to throw the phone across the room as i read, or at a minimum, rewind time. in a state of sadness and shock, thanks to stupid facebook (which i do truly love and adore, i know, don’t shoot the messenger), i read some words that, immediately, i wanted to un-read, de-learn and un-know.

wally died.

now to you it’s just a name, but to me, it’s a vital chess piece in the board game of my childhood.

not unlike a 70s/80s/90s/00s reincarnation of bing crosby’s “high society’s” c.k. dexter-haven, wally was my particular favorite of the dads amongst our childhood social circles. without blinking, i can conjure up my own mind’s gif loop with his ever-present twinkle, smile, and pipe-smoking joviality.

in the heyday that was my idyllic childhood (not that i knew it at the time, i thought we were poor country urchins being raised by a kookie alcohol-swilling, cigarette-puffing, barn-looting, chore-idolizing, murder-playing bunch of lunatics), there was a foursquare sort of group which was the nucleus of our family’s social life.  insert summer swimming pool parties, round-robin tennis matches, countless games of turn-out-the-lights and play murder games, lobster dinners, rousing mix-and-match ping pong tournaments and literally hundreds of rounds of charades.

this was not a group that shuttled the children off to the ‘rec room’, basement or back yard.  my brothers and sisters and i, and the gaggle of kids that came along with these zany couples, were welcome, expected to converse, entertain, participate, engage and enjoy the never-ending fun.  granted, i did learn how to mix a mean manhattan or martini at a shockingly young age, but that was just so that my mom and her gal pals could stay focused on ‘life saving’ the dozens of kids kicking around our swimming pool.

in the scope of things, and recusing my own very sweet dad from the competition, in the trifecta of other suburban chicago dads who comprised of a good two decade’s worth of constant gatherings, wally was my favorite. hands down.

cool-under-fire, he was the one you’d want to partner with for a high-stakes ping pong match, as this sweet dad never lost his cool, threw his paddle, renounced you in front of the competition or grade-school-age audience!  the guy was fun, mellow, humble and left his ego at the door. and in the crush of spending so much time with this inseparable group of my parents friends and their armies of children (three out of the four couples were catholic, ‘nough said), i can still feel the uncertainty of my own hope to impress, belong, and at a minimum, feel comfortable beyond my innate social shyness.

the thing is, i’m just about done with my own version of raising children and hopefully guiding them into a way of life that shares good, kindness, hope, belief, charity, wisdom, humility, joy and laughter.  what i see so clearly this morning is how profoundly important the smallest of exchanges can and might be for a child, teen or young adult. like little tender sponges, rascals they all are, overflowing with vulnerabilities, earnest and innocent, gullibly trusting the retinue of adults and elders who share their same orbits.  one moment alone can imprint an impression for life.  without any of us realizing it at the time.

so, my strongest wally moment that’s kept tucked into my heart for forty years?

back to the intense table tennis match, no doubt leading to the final team to win that particular 4th of july tournament, i remember missing a slam, watching the little white ball plop smack into the green net, and bracing myself for shame.

wally’s response?  a tug on the pipe that was perennially dangling from his crackling smile, a pat on the back, a wink, and the feeling that no matter what, he’d always, always think and say, “you’re alright, kid. you’re alright.”

wally's pipe


happy birthday, doris day.

i’ve been chided over my life-long love of this fabulous gal, and i’ll defend my adoration to the death!  doris day is a whole lotta perky, kookie, optimistic, sunny, pretty, stylish, warm, lovely, endearing, talented, independent, modestly sexy and real.  a perfect recipe of the era that i love best, that i lived earliest in, and adore still.

summertime was spent largely in our swimming pool, but admittedly, glued, as well, to the television.  that’s where it began, this love affair of mine.  sunny blonde lady, singing a happy tune, watching men fall hopelessly in love with her as she navigated exciting, glamorous careers…how yummy was this technicolor life playing out before me?

couldn’t get enough.

admittedly, when i had children of my own, i tired very quickly of cartoons & barney, so introduced my tots at a very early age to the world of those seemingly innocent early 60s, incarnated by doris and her cavalcade of beaus: rock hudson, cary grant, james garner & rod taylor. the hi-jinx of glass bottom boats, “the cracks in the school yard”, radio-controlled hors d’oeuvres and a nerve-causing rash in romantic bermuda kept those young eyes delighted and riveted, and the torch was passed.

and tonight?  to toast this fabulous gal?

give me a bowl of popcorn, a smart matching set of p.j’s, fuzzy slippers and a doris day movie marathon, with a side of sunshine, any day.

“hello, i’m beverly boyer, and i’m a tramp.”

the thrill of it all, 1963

"hello, i'm beverly boyer, and i'm a tramp"


one book down, two more to go….!!!  stay tuned for more details as i cross off my dream list, one by one.



just barely time to unwind after wrapping up my exciting illustrations for first book project, during which i ran one million errands, sent a few packages, fed the cat, made stir fry, zipped in to chicago then back again for a bon voyage at the international terminal…my revolving door of always-changing creative collaborations continues.  this time, it’s all about new york, architecture, paris, writing, an imminent launch of what i think will be a mega-cool gadgety thing, and a foray into sharpening up my social media skills.

with this, that, and the other thing, i’ll soon happily wander up north a bit, a mini-break of sorts, to explore the future college land with my tot. googling as one just can’t help but do these days, i fell splat into an alternate universe, one that occupied years of my life when i had a plethora of hopes ripening in all of those streets whose names i’d forgotten.

funny how nostalgia just comes up and grabs you by the throat. spying once-familiar neighborhoods, restaurants, vistas and lakes, the monikers mentioned on the digital map of this modern machine flung me, almost physically, back to an earlier incarnation.  with trepidation, i decided to step in deeper, eventually swimming, oh, for a while, in that once bright blue balmy place of hope.

snapping to, i came back to my now, counted my blessings of before and after and onward i go, layering new life atop the pavements of my past.


terrifically busy day.  momentous occasion on all fronts.  living vicariously through #2 child who is jetting off to tuscany for a sun-vino-history-art-pasta-hilarity-italian-infused holiday with her fabulous chum, in residence.

in preparation, i’d given the dvd of ‘room with a view’ as a little introduction to both firenze and helena pre-bellatrix. the film lured me there ages ago, abruptly putting a stop to the planned trip to ireland, i pointed my compass south to the tuscan hills instead.

this parenting thing is cool: rather than a natural pinch of envy i might be feeling should a friend or cohort be off on this trek without me, i feel an extended loving arm reach right on to that plane, through customs, across the cobbled, vespa-filled stones, awed beneath the grandiose duomo, inspired and humbled within the sacred walls of santa croce.

this love grows and expands like a big happy balloon, and i’m amazed each and every day with it’s length, constancy and limitless boundaries.

so yep. i’m finishing some vital editing work courtesy of my nifty macbook, stretched out on my bed with my kitty-in-residence cuddling nearby.  my errand list will get me in a little orbit around my land later this morning, extending to a drop off at the international terminal at o’hare this afternoon.  by this evening and the next ten days?  you know where i’ll be: hovering just a step or two behind #2 gal as she explores tuscany in all of it’s glory.


i can’t decide what to do cartwheels of joy over, here are the contenders:

1. my daughter is off to spend spring break in florence, firenze, tuscany, italy, espresso, david, vino, history, italians!

2. today marks the final day of creating illustrations for my first book ever, out in october, thanks harpercollins uk

3. a skype sesh last night with hilarious swiss inventor wrapping up launch plans for m wood sketch-splashed game-changer product hitting shelves in early summer

you see?  might have to just call it a ‘tie’ and toast to all three!


we interrupt our regularly scheduled program of sketching, designing, drafting and creating to share this brief announcement with you: all three of my children will be enrolled in college next fall, and the knights of that dastardly though greatly appreciated association known as FAFSA have come knocking again.

no matter how many times i sign on to that federal government student financial aid site (i don’t even know what FAFSA stands for anymore), my uniform of being a ‘creative’ one stands out loud and proud.

what are the secret sign in ‘pin’ numbers for each of my children, and for me?

i have absolutely no clue.

my notes are preposterously disorganized, and i’m like an archaeologist sifting through the layers of paper and time trying to decipher how the heck i can sign in and add the pertinent informations to this cool club that really, literally, truly, helps to get my children through college.

the myriad notes lead me, as if back in time, to clues…you’d think i’d take better notes, or fewer notes, or come up with a system as this is my fifth year of having to do this college paperwork, but…again, welcome to my world.  creative, chaotic, passionate, impetuous, big, bold and kookie.  none of those describe the attributes best possessed to deal with the world of numbers, accounting and accuracy.

wish me luck: i’m jumping in to see if i can keep my head above water!


topping off a fabulous week of feasts, fests, sushi, celebrations and merrymaking, i’ve managed to direct myself back to the tasks that beckon me into work mode, yes, even on a saturday!  actually, this marvelous work-at-home-studio life of mine is one that guarantees a sort of blotchy, whipper-will, catch as catch can sort of non-scheduled life, which falls happily into my plans of a creative sort of gal.

so today, despite it being saturday, despite the rest of the world (or at least everyone in chicago) reveling about a green river & pub crawls, i’m happily tucked into a cozy spot, spending the day sprucing up my little blog.  call it an ode to spring cleaning, as the days begin to stretch a bit longer into the eve, and the snow has vanished overnight, the urge to cast away clutter called to me.

now, as my reward, that best of the day feeling after toiling or making or doing or working, it’s time for a gigantic bowl of freshly popped popcorn and an old movie.




well the terriers will be returned to their mother’s arms tonight…but first, we’ll all dash to the city (well…not the dogs…they’ll stay here to terrorize the cat) to begin the roustabout, day in and day out, drum roll please, toasting the almost-18 year old of the family.  first stop: a festive sushi-infused feast featuring two fabulous college kids to spoil their little sister crazy.


word on the street is that my ‘baby’ is about to turn 18. this means several things.

1/i’m ancient

2/we’ll be eating a lot of sushi this week

3/the family-work juggling act will be revved up

4/all three of my children could get tattoos and i can’t stop them

5/gonna have to bake me a cake (or cleverly entice talented friend to bake one)

6/jazz up the place with some bright yellow tulips & festive decor: her signature color

7/charge up the camera battery to play mama paparazzi to vip bday gal

8/try as i might to include a surprise, not easy with this, my ‘need to know’ child!

9/here i go!


my good deed of the week has been to tend to a good friend’s little terriers while she makes pie in newtown and meets with a cool editor in nyc.  yes, i’m a good friend!

the situation has been tricky, as my son’s uber adorable young cat lives here as well, since his apartment mate is decidedly allergic to felines.  (certainly not females…oh to be young and in the city!).

so, young cat despises the two dogs.  one, german-born, who i have deduced is definitely part long-haired dachsund (i’d know that schnoz anywhere), has set up camp here as a sort of military general.  the other one, my particular favorite, is mexican-born, crossed the border without identification of any kind, and has set up camp here sleeping on the couch.  this, to the cat, is great news.

however, the little german general, acting true to both his genes and the fatherland, is decidedly curious about the fuzzy, ethereal creature who has chosen to hole-up in my bedroom for the duration of the visit.

this makes for tricky wickets here, as, big-hearted me, is now juggling to share affection and positive vibes with all three of the furry inhabitants of our little country house.  but, since we lost our dearest astro dog just two weeks ago, i’m finding this pickle a healing one beyond the juggling act required.

the mother of the terriers assured me before her departure to the big apple, that they loved to roam, and were accountable to always return to my door, so i was to feel free to let them run out and about on our 5 acres and the nature preserve that lays just across our pasture.  ever-vigilent, i suggested that we ‘tag up’ the terriers before any roaming commenced, so that i wasn’t going to lose either or both of them.

i take my dog-sitting duties seriously, mostly because i grew up on this land, and can count on all digits, many times over, the close-calls, and heartbreak of a dog gone missing.

for the first few days, we had a good gig going. the cat would perch on the window-sill, heart-beating, watching for signs from the invaders.  this kept her fit and not bored for a split second.

the critters, once harnessed up, would be let out of my big coach-house doors and leap about the property, gathering sticks, rolling in the snow, and digging to china.

the other day, i returned to my drafting table, as i’m on deadline to create dozens of illustrations for a book with my amazing people at harpercollins uk.  coffee steaming, music streaming, and terriers exploring the snow drifts around my house, i got happily lost in my work.

after a while, i heard the yap yap yap of herr general, and walked over to the door to let him in.

realizing it had been a while since i’d seen ‘fuzzy larue’, i grabbed my handy whistle (too old to yell loudly for visiting dogs, or dogs of any kind), and did my best captain von trapp imitation, urging her to hear my call and return to the casa.

well, no sign of her….

throwing on my daughter’s nifty green hunter boots (i’ll miss those, well, and her, when she sets off for college in the fall), i trudged about in the snow in search of the second member of team terrier.  after a few minutes, i admit, i was a bit worried.  i didn’t like the idea of losing this sweet dog, and felt the prickles of panic start to crawl up my neck when, out of the blue, my cellphone ‘pinged’ an incoming text.

digging into the deep pockets of my son’s snowboard jacket (these kids come in handy for many, many reasons), i read the missive,

“daisy is in a silver suv, returning to your house.”

cryptic, but straight to the point!

so, here’s what happened, and why we do love the modern world at times like this.

little mexico, fuzzy cuteness incarnate, happened to be sitting, SITTING, on the road.  a nice woman pulled her car over, urged the pooch into her huge car, read the tag, with an iowa address, called the number, with a california prefix, and spoke to the gal, who, that very moment, was teaching a pie class in newtown, ct for a gaggle of preschoolers.

and all of this happening while i was jamming and sketching to elvis costello!

soon enough, a gargantuan car pulled up to my driveway, and i spotted the grinch-like curly-haired pooch hugging this new friend!  the dog seemed to be more than happy to drive off into the sunset with the lady, but i had my obligation to keep her safe here with brother terrier until the return of their actual mother.

so, with apologies to both lady and dog, i pulled them apart from their emotional embrace, hooked daisy back up to the leash, and walked her back into my house.

the rest of the week?  well, let’s just say, i’m keeping fit as the dogs have LOST their free reign privileges and are now the impetuous to get me out and about in hearty, blood-pumping walks many, many times a day.

and how’s the cat in all of this?  still pacing her self-imposed jail cell, no doubt planning her own escape into a phantom, dog-free bright and shiny silver suv!


what a kick to find my ‘lazy icicle’ instagram photograph featured on cnn’s ireport!  seems that i don’t even have to leave my house and the world comes knockin’.

take a look:





blanketed with more snow that i know what to do with, i feel grateful that i can ease into my days with grace, rather than rush hours, traffic, road rage and the mind-boggling issue of deciding what to wear.

as it is, i’ve scanned a dozen illustrations to send to my book editors, dealt with that daily bit of social media self-promotion, walked two guest dogs in the deep ruts left in our driveway by my daughter’s morning trek to high school, enjoyed two very strong cups of coffee, sketched a few vignettes for yet another potential book project, flipped the laundry, fed the cat (who is hiding from the guest dogs), and edited dozens of my illustrations digitally.

and i’m still, yes, dear reader, in my pajamas!

well, rather, i’m in my sons pajamas.  one of the many rewards of parenting is inheriting cool clothes left behind or outgrown by your children.  thus, a nifty cozy pair of plaid pj’s (which have a definite scottish clan look about them) have escorted me well into my work morning.  productive beyond words, and cozy down to my toes.  (in shearling slippers that i’ve swiped, oops, borrowed, from my daughter.)

the point of all of this, wait, do i have to have a point?  ;)

stress melts out of my reach thanks to the tempo of my world as it’s evolved to this place of creative combustion. all the while nestled into my wintry lodge, my view of frozen pines, deer tracks and stacked firewood continues to comfort, inspire and delight.

m wood tributaries


my universe swirls my pen between london & new york, gloriously, once more.


woah, is it the end of february already?  are you kidding me?  crazy fast time, but i guess that’s what deadlines do for the sweep of the clock: warped speed.

i’m deep in the midst of tearing through a huge, super incredible project, and find the focus terrific and invigorating.  to add further to my glee, it’s the middle of winter, the snow won’t stop falling, the windshield wiper transmission on my car snapped in half, and the fridge is stocked: all of this adds up to being in exactly the perfect spot for just this perfect creative moment.  hunkered down, no where to go and no way to get there, my pen flying across the page, i’ll be here in my happy place making for a very satisfying hibernation.

0 R


it’s oscar sunday, and i’m all a twitter over the red carpet splendor on this history-making night of golden statuettes.

but before i bake my korean tangy bbq rib tips, broil the escargot, boil the eggs to sprinkle on dabs of caviar and melba, and pop the prosecco, i’ve been sketching up a storm.  as always, my mind wanders as i sit and live and work and play.  so much of what i love is a passport and time travel away.  so here’s a nod to time & place, lands that i love, award-worthy living, dreaming, wandering and yearning. 



saturday chores, in-house photo-shoot, gobs of drawing to crush the looming deadline, sweet music, ridiculous cat (currently high on nip), and an evening reward of pre-oscar movie viewing=gratitude.


winter friday.

the eagles, dan fogelberg, loggins & messina, bread, james taylor: cheesy mellow music morning. snowfall, fresh footprints. new york times. scanning technical drawings while throwing a toy for my son’s kitten.  pouring more coffee.  feet are chilly, must find socks or stoke the fire in the wood-burning stove.  fantasizing about a free moment to treat myself by illustrating sumptuous, grand, glorious “barnsley house” – a gorgeous stone creation in england built in 1652 that calls calls calls to me.

and still more snow falls.


coffee makes my world go around, and imagination brings me all over the world.  on grey winter days like today, as i juggle work and home, laundry and dog, sketching and tossing the jingle bell ball to the cat, there’s a strong pull to roam far afield when the sun returns and the warm winds blow again.

so while i brew another strong, hot cup of java, and tend to the things that need tending to, my mind stretches to places that harken other ghosts, histories, languages, currencies, flavors, fragrances, traditions, accents and cultures, across land and sea.  places i’ve been, places i’ve imagined, places i’ve sketched and hope to, one day, adventure to.


a full quartet spent the day spoiling, cuddling, toasting, walking, feeding, indulging astro, our own little wonder dog.  the end is nigh, the memories deep, the love eternal.  hard days indeed.


thanks to the wunderkid of organizational apps, “wunderlist” has changed my life.

not meaning to sound so dramatic, but from a gal who’s peppered every desk top, counter top, glove compartment, end table, jacket pocket and bedside table with furiously scratched ‘to do’ notes, this has been a miracle addition to my life.

that, plus a once ‘nifty’ system employed once the internet joined my life: no longer will i rely on saving ‘inbox’ emails as a faux way to be organized.  soon as a tsunami of incoming mail comes, my reliable ‘lists’ are buried beneath the new electronic missives.

graphically, clean and tidy, thanks to german designers, this app lets me logically list the plethora of things that i have to do.  i pick categories. i set timers. i choose subcategories. it chimes. it whistles. it looks really cool.

so here i go, confident that this creative-brained artist can finally master the order of running her own show without gaffes, oops, and last minute, uh ohs.  that is, assuming i remember to make my wunderlist lists to begin with.


ok, cupid, do your thing.


and so another day begins, with the ice tundra making foraging difficult for my dear deer that parade past the window. along with the furtive, feasting birds who queue to snatch seeds from the feeder, wildlife inadvertently providing much needed entertainment for the curious cat who keeps leaping at the french doors.  huntress, indeed.

in other news, remind me never to read my twitter feed at bedtime.  who needs to know that those goofballs in n. korea have tested yet another nuclear bomb?  the size comparable to nagasaki’s own?  no wait, breaking, not the size to compare with hiroshima, but smaller.  but larger than the last test.  whose idea of fun is that?

spurned into a fervor over these hints of impending disaster, i fell right into the trap and further late night internet delving then lead me to read even more devious news, yes, the stuff of nightmares.  what dangers to the imagination lie in the easy gliding paths of link to link, from one sensational story to the next.

as i threw my smartphone across the bed, i reached, desperately, for my book.  downing a few chapters, i was able to wash away images of bombs approaching california by way of the pacific; pouty proud looking ‘leaders’ marching and pointing about to look big and scary; a country under attack; the naysayers who tout that the departure of the pope means something about the end of the world and we all need to be saved in order to live an eternal life: are you kidding me?

i’m really an optimistic, and sunny disposition is my way of life.  i love my zippy fast internet, but like a stiff cocktail or a passionate tryst, there’s a time and a place for it!  never again, late at night, will i meander through that dot to dot territory of hidden land mines of scary, disturbing negativity.

as i closed the book, my mind soothed and my nuclear-disaster palpitations subsided, i gave the paperback an earnest hug of gratitude.  no hidden spies, no path but page after page, a story, a world, safe to disappear into, to be soothed and inspired by, the perfect tuck-me-into-bed past time that has been, and will always be, my own good night indeed.


someone needs to invent a big mechanical device that we could check out of the library.  with the gadget comes a round luminescent calendar dial and a great big crank, topped off with a hand-stitched leather knob.

what would i do?  set the dial to, oh let’s say 1997.  then grab that knob and pull it with gusto.

time travel, my life is spinning in wacky light speed and one day, just one day, to tiptoe back into just one yesterday, as i don’t want to be greedy.  but what a day that would be.

three robust, cherubic little children, cuddled all up on the couch with me, blankets tucking in everyone like mexi-melts, a big salty bowl of fresh popcorn, the vhs machine humming and ready to go as i press the clicker to ‘play’, and then, magically, if only for two silly simple hours, we’d watch “old yeller”, in a time-capsuled winter afternoon.

m wood vintage mini bw2.5.13

me thinkst this mini should be splattered all over bedding, linens, upholstery and jammies….now to see about making it happen.  how better to sleep than wrapped in wanderlust?


procrastination, thy name is sunday.

m wood if you build it they will come2.2.13

my worlds converged on a snowy road.

m wood adventure boy2.1.13

there’s all this fuss about an upcoming super bowl.  there are hundreds of tweets and blogs talking, frantically, about impossibly-tiered, overly-handled, football-themed food goods to serve to your enthusiastic and clearly, soon-to-be-obese guests. i saw a stadium constructed entirely of sandwiches.  cupcakes akin to pom poms.  helmet-shaped relish sculptures. really, the way some of these hostesses go on and on, i have to think: was gloria steinem just a mirage?  didn’t we get past this?  is a sheet-cake smeared with treacly-colored sugar stripes really what the epitome of pleasing your man has come to?

call me anything, but mostly, a proud super bowl bore.

as we know, i’m clueless as to what makes this such an americana moment.  that’s what thanksgiving is for, right?  and the 4th of july?

instead, i’m always amazed at the advertising dollars spent, the ad-man creativity saved for, this particular day.  and each and every year, admittedly, as a fan of hollywood (who does consider the oscars worthy of this type of adoration and adulation), the only part that slightly, partially intrigues me are the bits when some mega-star performs at half time, and when iconic stars cut it up in some funny commercials.

and i can watch those, by bits and pieces, with the fine tooth comb known as youtube.

no, on super bowl day (with sincere apologies to my only son), the tv is either off or glued to my favorite sunday night line up, or off entirely so that i can savor some settled-in winter evening with a book and tasty dinner.  which, incidentally, is not mangled into the shape of something nfl-worthy.

m wood bw chicago marshall fields clock1.31.13

although i avoid math as often as possible, i can’t avoid staring at the fact that today marks the end of 1/12th of the 13th year of the 21st century.

what does this mean?

i have absolutely no idea.

this i do know: my darling cutest dog ever is ebbing his 14+ years in this earthly incarnation, as he snores gently by my side. maybe i’m more in-tuned to the passing of days, the count of the sweep of the hands on the clock, the flip of the digital clock that reports more time gained, more time passed, less time remaining, for our wonder dog, astro.

i’m not ready to wrap up my love for this loyal fellow into words just yet.  no, not yet.

astro and i have been hanging together for the past five weeks. literally, together.  diagnosed with a really bad thing, his years of leaping and hunting, guarding and dashing, are far gone.  his lovely, lazy, slumbering 98-in-human-years physique is mostly attracted to the couch, the bed, or the dog dish.

and who can blame him?

so the pickle for me is, now that the symptoms led to the numerous visits to the vet and old-timey surgeon, a diagnosis, prognosis and end-of-life plan, i have become his advanced age hospice care companion.  hoping each minute keeps him comfortable and capable, i know that one moment will come, when one of two things happen, and then, well, then i take the hellish final drive to his medical team.  a day i’m dreading and yet anticipate, all the while wrapping his every minute with the steady loving companionship he’s given to me nearly his whole life.

my job?  after everything he’s given me?  my children?  my family?  our dear friends?  his devoted facebook fans?

cuddle, feed, lift, scratch, massage, entertain, reassure, thank, hug, feed, feed, lift, cuddle and love him as i, sooner than i’d like, bid him his long, well-deserved sweet dreams.


what a great day, despite weirdest weather ever…(nearly impossible to choose the right outfit as seasonal climes are all whacked out!)  yesterday, i inadvertently stepped out for a super fun lunch dressed exactly like a polo player!

but since the majority of my work life is spent indoors, i can keep my eyes fixed on sketch paper, fresh pens & happy emails from enthusiastic clients clamoring for custom architectural illustrations, totally ignoring the obstacle of dealing with the elements outdoors and it’s unseasonal unpredictability.

funny how life works: i got my interior architecture/design degree as an emergency post-college effort to grab some “professional” skills which would help me to get a job.  a half a dozen years later, i stashed my triangles, scales and vellum away, and was suddenly living out of the city, with a baby, and the beginnings of a note card empire.  (hyperbole, it was more like a little province).

but the kookie bit that life shows us is that the boomerang effect is always in play: no sooner did i nearly forget that i owned a drafting table, did the throngs gather to put their ideas into the ring.  and so, happily as almost a little hobby, i spend a part of each day sketching buildings, bridges, towers and cottages.

they say, home is where the hearth is, and here, from my cozy house, steps from my blazing hearth, i sit, sketch and smile, all the while taking a visual trip from kansas city to nashville, a stop or two in nyc to capture a few more landmarks, glide up the new england cost to create a gorgeous portrait of a really cool house, zoom west to the coast, then buckle up to sketch a few more buildings in london. and that’s just this week.

frequent flying, right from my studio!

m wood brooklyn nets stadium color1.29.13

i have about zero interest in sports, although i do remember quite a bit of running around in athletic endeavors when i was younger.  it’s probably not a bad idea for me to pick up my tennis racquet, however, as with advanced age comes the pull of advanced gravity.

i was flipping through some recent illustrations just now and ran across this colored rendering of the “state of the art” new stadium for beyonce’s new basketball team, the brooklyn nets.  yes, yes, i know that beyonce is not really the owner (although in the case of joint marital property, hey, maybe she is): i just like saying outrageous things.

for instance, my number 1 son leapt into every single sport known to man during his youth, and would be confounded and exacerbated by my predictable, though enthusiastic comments as he suited up for each game, match or set: “you look so cute in that outfit”, i’d cry.  and the poor lad, each and every time would spit out me, “it’s called a uniform, mom”.


yesterday i fell into easy conversation with a friend, the topic being: what sport genre fellow is better to date.  football was her choice.  we both ruled out wrestling and gymnastics and basketball.  i tended to lean towards tennis and soccer.

as you can see, the conversation was absolutely aimless, pointless, and fruitless!  it’s not like i’m even sorting through a series of suitors (in, of course, their corresponding ‘outfits’), but that’s my point.  life doesn’t really have to have a point, for most of the time. for me, i just roll along, inane conversations, shared laughs, exchanges of texts from several households to chat along the hijinx on the tv show ‘the bachelor’…sharing quipping comments with like-minded people (including my three children with their razor-sharp minds & goofy senses of humor).

and to be clear, beyond wondering which sort of athlete category i’d rather date, i do appreciate the idea of sports in life. after all, i was just in london during the olympics so that has to count for something, right?

i’m just not keen on staring at the tv to watch it all play out, and you can blame my brothers.

it was a rare day when a family of 5 children would vote for a ‘boy’ tv show.  with three girls, we always trounced the vote and spent countless (i mean, countless) hours enjoying doris, cary, rock and bing, cindy, bobby, marcia and carol burnett. but on the bad days, rare as they were, when one or both of my sisters went off to some play day, leaving me alone with the boys, the vote went their way, and on came endless, horrible, ear-aching hours of jack brickhouse droning on and on and on while the camera fixed on a low, ivy-covered brick wall.

yes, years later, i recognize and adore the iconic imagery that is wrigley field. but back then, just please poke my eyes out with a pin: it was living hell!

right then and there, someone should have diagnosed me with “creative, dreamers complex” and saved me all the trouble of spending years finding myself.  apparently, i was there all along.

m wood view from a gondola


as my creative brain, not unlike the hard drive of a computer, gets all clogged up with the unfathomable facts of this long life, it seems harder than ever to recall many things. i tend to play my own version of that kevin bacon ‘six degrees of separation’ game, certain that one glimpsed memory will trigger the next, and next and next.

that’s why, on the auspicious day when my ex-husband turns 50, i’m finding myself tripping happily down a sort of memory lane, watching the time fly by from my inverse telescope, from all those years ago when we were young, before the haphazardly navigated days of aiming in different directions. oh what wonderful days!

he and i found ourselves in venice, just in time to celebrate his 24th birthday. what a magical, mysterious, lucky place to be, despite the scary alley cats and those creepy masks.  i remember, on our train pass jaunt through europe, that the plan was a joie de vive sort of strategy.  traveling in january and february, we had escaped the chill of london for the warmth and earthiness of italy, thanks to my falling in love with the just released, “room with a view” which finds judi dench, professor mcgonigal, bellatrix lastrange and the newest incarnation of abraham lincoln traipsing around the tuscan world.  our late january days in venice stretched by nature’s cue: each morning when we woke, if it was sunny, we stayed.

how’s that for a clock to live by?

for a time, our lives were the same and from that sprung three amazingly incredible children.  and to top off the 25th year after of our oh so optimistic european jaunt, our oldest two children shared a sibling bonding few days in, yes, venice.

i’m nostalgic to the core. in pretty much everything. blame my mother, not my dad who is known to tear out each day of the calendar as it’s ending.  his motto, “don’t look back”.  for me, i love every bit of the life i’ve lived so far, as patchwork-quilted as it’s turned out to be: all sums add up to the whole big adventure.

so, in honor of my children’s fathers 50th birthday, despite our living apart these many, many years, despite life rolling so far beyond the final shores where we parted, for this day, i’m eternally grateful.

happy birthday, brian.

m wood hollywood sign


winter might nag at some, but for me it’s stuff my dreams are made of: red carpets, hooray for hollywood, give me tinsel town, sunset boulevard, movie studios & a night of champagne, savories & the screen actors guild awards.

m wood 6 rue cherche du midi


the best thing about having a wildly vivid imagination is that today, when i’m working all the live-long day, barely taking time to make yet another semi-delicious latte from my newly repaired francis francis (last weekend came with joyous play time and a live-in barista)…before i leap back to sketch, draft, straight lines & flourishes, i won’t be here at all.

we creatives?  magically like samantha in “bewitched”, conjuring up worlds of our own is a common schtick.  cheap, easy, life-saving skill, so that today, among the work mode that calls to me,  really, in my mind, i’m one of the two lucky travelers in this sketch, sitting at that cafe table, balmy italian roasted winds warming the air as i sip a robust chianti, in some imagined faraway city.

m wood studio stamp orange logo


the phantom ‘procrastination’ has flown out the door, leaving me with a heaving stack of new office supplies, my little reward to kick off in real-time a very important project.  almost like the first day of school, i’m embracing a renewed sense of order and organization in the guise of three-ring binders, top-load 3 hole punched clear sleeves, alphabetical tabs, new crisp-tipped pens, vellum, circle templates and a few fresh pads of paper.

this coming from a gal who’s got no less than 3 antique trunks filled with shoe-boxed 4×6 photographs from life pre-digital age, dusted over and waiting, breathlessly for the day that i get my act together and line them all up in dozens and dozens of photo albums.

this from a doodler who has over 10 tidy cardboard photo boxes overflowing with original art, sketches, schematics, architectural drawings, cartoons, and illustrations.  and somewhere, tucked behind my desk is a lime green coach make up kit filled with those once-fancy gadgets known as jump drives, loaded to the gills with files of more of the same.

stacked just beneath those is a jazzy metal mesh cd rack.  stuffed into that?  cd after cd of even more illustrations: some labeled, the different handwriting a token to the layers of my past in my life of pen and ink, and worst of all, saddest of sad, is my crate&barrel saddle leather very first (and actually, only) briefcase.  shoved under my bed, without even leaning over to pull it out, i know just what is entombed: a rainbow of stacks of floppy discs.  oh how i loved buying those, a revolution in file storage!  a dozen illustrations stored on each one!

yep, the joke’s on me: i’ll never get those back, and gosh, i hope that i had the good sense to save those drawings on something “hipper” and actually accessible.  but i’ll never know.  if you haven’t guessed it yet, i’m the creative type, and the forced part of my personality is the one that envisions the strategic invasion of normandy, soldiers assembled in lines, ranks, rows and divisions.

so my little trip to the office store?  surely going against nature, but i’m going to give it a try: organize, label, tidy and true: create something very important, all told about 130 illustrations, that have a home-built and ready for them even before they’re born. the challenge? tuck each single one into its proper place the red-hot second it leaves my drawing board.

the concept makes so much sense, right?  yeah, well, so did the floppy discs…

m wood washington d.c. union station1.22.13

we took a zany family train trip from chicago to washington, d.c. a few years ago, arriving (despite our disheveled  appearances from a very long journey on amtrak) a temple to the glory days of transportation. i remember envisioning past generations of fedora & cloche donned americans crowding all aboard trains bound for washington d.c. and yesterday, with cnn broadcasting the inauguration, i remembered that grand union station as proud gateway to the nations capitol.

the whole inaugural weekend gives me goosebumps, as the combination of pomp, revelry, tradition, patriotism and celebration whirl past and present together amid the iconic and majestic backdrops of the capitol building, the washington monument, the mall, the white house.  the unchanging facades of that great white city stand firm, while styles, faces, dress lengths, tie widths and popular culture evolve.

while munching on homemade apple pie, somberly aware of the fact that yesterday was martin luther king, jr, day, i watched moments of the march towards the oath of office, a scene i’ve viewed on countless televisions my whole life long.  the gladness of spirit, the call to civic equality, the decades of history flying past us all as one man spoke and millions stood reverently where millions have stood before them.

i’m a sucker for pageantry, but also for humanity.  i like what i heard, my heart beat faster and my hope soared with pride as our country dusted itself off, once again, and put on the kind of show that, i’m certain, our forefathers would have been proud of.

travel m wood union jack1.16.13

woke up this morning with an offer to spend a month in london.  how uncanny is this universe when it zooms right at the bullseye of my wanderlust dreams!  mind is now racing, over copious cups of coffee and my itunes mix “london calling’, over how to juggle this, that and the other thing here in control central: have laptop, can work. no matter where, right?

and ironically, i’m working on illustrations for a book which is being published in the uk….and also have yet more illustrations to create for a children’s book set in london that i hope to pitch to thumbs up all around.  heretofore, relying on imagination, the internet and my own little collection of travel photographs has done the trick, a sort of out-of-body artist experience.

but what of this?  sketch pad in hand, jostled amongst the brits on that fabulous tube, off to sit and capture the stuff that dreams are made of….

m wood blender1.14.13

one for the record books for two reasons:

my parents are celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary today from their fabulous siesta key condominium, mere miles from their honeymoon destination of naples (traveled to via highway 41 with about 200.00 in their pocket for a 2 week trip) in 1956!

and auspiciously, as soon as i walk over to my drafting board, i will create the first of 80-plus illustrations for a book.  long on my own list of “in my dreams” projects, it’s official and i’m thrilled beyond my wildest imaginations.

clearly, for these happy occasions, i’d say that cocktails are in order.

m wood travel sketches


oh to travel. i know. the ink on my passport has barely dried, and yet…the winds of adventure beckon me once more.


i’ve just begun playing francoise hardy on my iphone to distract my piqued brain from the drip drip drip of the kitchen faucet, a sound totally distracting and yet i’m cozied up for work next to my ailing dog and don’t feel like disturbing him enough by getting up to shut off the sink!

call it winter, but the need to snuggle more often than not calls me constantly and the wool hudson bay blanket and thick socks are high on my list of comfort goods as i work in my laid back world.

yesterday found us in a wacky adventure, however, thanks to a car snafu which left us to rent a replacement to ferry us to a super fun rendezvous in milwaukee.

arriving at the budget or avis rental car joint (i was confused and confounded by the website, the place seemed to be operating under both monikers), we were greeted by an amiable elvis fan and jukebox restorer car agent.  my teen and i both greedily eyed the jazzy white mid-sized suv (snow was in the forecast and ever-vigilant, i wanted safety on the truck-bloated highway).

while our new friend chattered on about adam sandler’s restored jukebox now listed on ebay for 9,000, he pointed to the vehicle that we would call our own for the next few days.

mom-radar-mode kicked in as i watched my daughters face fall into a maligned look of suffering and shame and shock: behold the gargantuan ford flex that our fellow was escorting us towards! i could already read the lines of horror as this high school senior went through the possible scenarios where people she knew would see her in this monster car!

really, i wondered if there was going to be a scene: instead, she kept her total disgust at a safe distance as the nice fellow demonstrated the fancy keyless start button (hey, i was born in the 50s and am heretofore yet unspoiled by fancy cars) and other out of this world features boasted by the deep red behemoth.

i was sold!

off she cantered to the ‘vintage’ volvo (taking an alternate route to not be seen, even in a separate vehicle, anywhere near this carton on wheels) to meet me back at home as i reveled in the space-ship quality of my own drive back.  listening to some loud rap song, i recalled the three kids playing the ‘instant party starter’ tune to me over christmas break. i wasn’t sure i wanted to have the disturbing melody escort me home, but i had zero clue how to either change the station or turn down the volume!

the morning came, the college girl returned, and our little drive to milwaukee was upon us. once settled into the reality of this being our mode of transportation, teen daughter approached the car with trepid doom. never one to play second fiddle, high school gal chose the front seat, in either a show of control or defiance: she was going to own this beast one way or another and show it who was boss.

hitting the road, i was instantly surrounded in an able-handed co-pilot who not only mastered the radio controls (hello, are you serious, sirius?), but handled important things such as heat, mirrors, seat warmers, navigation and snack distribution.  (this last was provided by us, not ford!).

nicknamed ‘the box’, she spent the day decrying the flex, but college gal and i were sold: hook, line and sinker…even posing for a ‘kookie’ photo in front of it after a sublime nashville-infused lunch at the smoke-shack in milwaukee’s historic 3rd district. (remind me to go back there this summer: major cool little ‘hood too sweet to not savor when the weather was more welcoming!).

zooming now straight down to chicago, we tore through the edens in our leather-wrapped universe. owning the road, parking with ease, tearing past taxicabs and city drivers, we deposited college girl at her apartment and then swung over to deliver some packages to college boy.  as he walked out of his apartment and over to us, he uttered only one phrase, “god, what an ugly car.”

i’m not in the market for a new car…at the moment, two of my three children are college students, and the third is already packing for her fall freshman year in a bit over half a year.  for now, i’ll make due with the wheels that are firmly positioned in our world: the kinds that use keys, buttons and more hands-on participation by the driver and passengers.

but, just for fun, before bedtime, we did zip online to the ford website and built our own flex.  yes, the high school gal and i, the one who could earlier be found nearly spitting on this hellish ride.  mastering the site easily, we built what looked like the love child of a range rover and a mini-cooper, with some sweet accessories and best of all, a cherry red body and a pearl white top.

what’s not to love about that?

so, the surprise of course, was that we’d all been lured easily and permanently into a new family fantasy: yes, one day, one day, one day ahead, the behemoth box of horror would, if things work out, ours to have and to hold forever and a day.


here we go…


here we go, time to say your goodbyes….


it’s as if i’m clambering along a felled tree, a precarious bridge from one side to the other: stepping out of holiday mode which puts most creativity at a standstill in lieu of decor, baking, wrapping, shopping and feasting, and into the mode of work, draw, conjure up, task master extraordinaire.  with one more day to go, i’m biting at the bit.  ready to bid one season adieu, grabbing hold tightly to the next race around the track in a new year.


christmas has been and the new year awaits. plenty of inspiration crashing into my mind…one of those cataclysmic creative fiendishly fun moments where i can’t decide what to begin first.  lists always make sense, that plus some great honduran coffee and a perfectly themed soundtrack to my studio sessions.  here i go.


merry all the way, after a sobering week with more to come. as i wrap up the pretty and don the festive, i know that there’s a shift in the grinch’s heart. or at least i hope so.  last night, musing after watching cheesy christmas movies with one of my daughters, i fell asleep missing the world that mayberry offered. more kindness. more right from wrong. more sweet simple gatherings. fewer showoffs. less stuff. more meaning. less wanting. less hurt. more love.

that’s really what i wish i could wrap in my jolly pinecone wrapping paper and send a package of it to every hearth on earth. will just start, one person at a time, and live my mayberry life, sending cheer, hope and love all around.


somehow, somewhere, the soft voices are rising to be heard among the din, singing joy, love, hope for all.



i recently read a syndicated article by rick steves, that amiable travel show fellow.  the content of this piece was a sorting through the british vernacular so that silly old americans like me can cut through the ‘code’ words and communicate in a clear way.  this is especially important to me for two reasons: i am a diagnosed anglophile and soak up all culture originated in the british isles…and, i’m collaborating on a wonderful project for 2013 with a fabulous london team.

not sure if it’s the horse or the cart, but this last year i’ve profoundly aimed the dial of my compass in the direction of merry olde england, both in actual and virtual travel: a great trip of a lifetime, and a fat stack of sketches that keep the essence alive right here on my studio desk.

so, i’ve clipped the article.  never know when some jaunty lingo will come to good use in the months ahead.



an indulgent day doing what i love best: drawing some commissioned illustrations and watching christmas movies!


what a fabulous birthday: kicking off my new year in perfection, humor and glad tidings.  with christmas prep now in full swing, i’m happily shipping off cityscapes & cocktail blueprints to merry elves and happy customers, sketching madly some great commissioned orders, and managing to enjoy every minute.

on top of that, it’s a friday!


bring it on.


last day of being 52. what a year! if the sages are right, and it only gets better, then i’m one lucky gal.


getting closer…rounding the corner to the adieu 52 and hiya 53.  great week: gobs of custom illustrations galore, a house gaily decorated for the holidays, fabulously cool kids, groovy best friends, adorable dog & cat, hearth-rug warm family and pretty much everything i could ever ask for.  pretty darn wonderful!


birthday week kicks off with a fabulous outfit…and a fabulous morning cup o joe.


it’s december, and that is always good news.  my absolutely favorite month.  the world gets mostly magical, twinkle lights and merry jolly jingle bells infuse the nights with joy to the world.  besides that, it’s my birthday month, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with cramming all personal celebrations into one festive season each year.

thanks to the rhythm of the gift-giving culture, i’m always incredibly busy, which adds a pressure-cooker dimension to the gaiety: a stack of custom illustrations lie scattered across my desktop.  my drafting board is covered with reams of tracing paper as i conjure up made to order personal cocktail blueprints for some clever clients.  i’ll be traveling the world, via photos and google maps, in sketching some architectural gems that will eventually be shipped, framed, wrapped and placed beneath trees far and wide.

what’s not to like? it’s revving up time, christmas tunes cranked, and the merriest season of all is smack dab pulling me along for the ride.


well, since the wanderlust offspring have jetted off to a medical brigade in honduras (gal) and a travel writing course in morocco (boy), things have settled down here in control (pack/get immunizations/where is my passport/time to leave for o’hare) central…i’m getting back to work.

not that work really ever leaves my mind, evidenced by scratch notes, cryptic jottings and emails-sent-to-self reminders while i navigate the wonders of motherhood…but now comes a bit of time with an open canvas of hours and days to focus.

as my cocktail blueprint & cityscapes leave the merry land of crate&barrel (the 8th wonder of the world, if you ask me) and land squarely in my studio, i can happily report that they are flying off the shelves.  emails arrive daily from shore to shore in earnest pleas to purchase the goods.

now, i’m thrilled always really to get personal with customers and their inquiries, but this flood of interest reminds of those dizzying days of selling oprah’s favorite note cards and as i’m only human, and in charge of lots of things including a demanding cat and a needy dog, it makes sense to conjure up a more reliable system of sales.  yes, i’m back in the game.

today a morning meeting with a guru of shopping carts (yes, i already know how to build a website and do all of that rigamarole, but i’m tired and would rather create than connect wires!) who will whip up something fabulous for m. wood pen: shopping with a click of a button.  cityscapes, get ’em while they’re hot, and those super cool retro blueprint cocktails prints!

now, don’t get me wrong…i’m always happy to hear from any and all (well, not the internet trolls, of course) who’d like to talk shop: illustration, custom projects, architecture near and dear to your hearts, personalized cocktail blueprints….my little pop up shop of known goodies will always welcome some new creative conjuring.

so, a bit more coffee, imagining my daughter on her trek to a medical clinic in honduras, my son boarding a flight in paris to arrive today in rabat, the youngest one navigating the halls of high school with hilarious attitude…and to the drawing board i go.

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