Category Archives: Etsy

A woman’s place is in the Om

I officially finished my last yoga painting of the year several days ago; or, so I thought.  But then on Saturday something happened that is rare for me: I felt a strong urge to get out my acrylics, a large canvas and madly start painting.  Unusual, because I’ve been working exclusively in watercolors for months on end.

Early last year before I had my hysterectomy I was talking with Sue, my friend and yoga instructor.  I mentioned how much I would miss my practice and that I was concerned by how much time would pass before I’d be able to start doing even the simplest of stretches again.  She gave me a piece of advice: “Even if you can’t physically do yoga, it can be extremely beneficial to imagine yourself doing them in your mind.”  I didn’t realize exactly what she meant until after surgery when I could no longer lift to a sitting position without grimacing in pain. I started going through sun salutations in my head, and you know what?  It calmed me; I felt focused and more at peace with myself. Yoga after all, is just as much about mind as it is body, right?

Even though I’m back to my regular yoga routine I still envision myself working through poses; now though, it’s at night before I fall asleep.  It calms my mind by allowing me to focus on something slow and repetitive.  Lately, because I paint every day and always seem to have art on the brain, I picture myself doing these poses as though I’m within one of my paintings. Often, an added benefit to this is that new paintings sometimes emerge from this ritual – that is,  if I can still remember it the next morning!

This happened to me on Friday night.  Just as I was drifting off I kept envisioning myself surrounded by the brightest colors of teal, fuchsia and yellow swirling around in my head.  With it, the phrase: A woman’s place is in the Om.  Clever, right?  Apparently I thought so, because the following evening I was determined to replicate the image that came to me and worked nearly nonstop over the course of Saturday and Sunday while the snow and temperatures fell outside my studio window.

I did finish it and am quite proud, actually. I really pushed beyond my comfort zone with this one as I feel quite intimidated working on the human form.


In The Om

Ellen Brenneman Studio on Etsy


Very, very different from my usual style, but just as I try to force myself out of my comfort zone in life, so I must do elsewhere.  It’s easy to get comfortable and not want to challenge myself by switching mediums but I realize that if I don’t, just like with anything else – I’ll regress.  In this case I’m so happy that I used acrylics over watercolors because it would have been much more difficult to achieve the bold color I wanted.

This painting by the way, is dedicated to Every Woman who either practices yoga or has the desire to.  Why I have embraced it so, is because it truly is for every BODY.  It’s easy to get caught up in the physical aspect of yoga, believing that only contortionists and gymnastics enthusiasts can do it – but the truth is, it’s not about achieving the hard poses so we can impress others; it’s about the way it connects our body to our mind and spirit that makes it so uniquely special.  Since having strained my back several weeks ago (attempting a twist that I should have known was too difficult for me), I have committed this to mind: We’re meant to practice yoga, not perfect it.  That thought, along with my lesson to never share my mat with my ego, helps keep me humble and in check.

Have a great Monday.  xo

Surgeries and Paintings

How my husband took care of me for weeks after my hysterectomy without appearing the slightest bit tired is beyond me.  It’s only been a mere 31 hours since Craig’s surgery and I’m already exhausted.  The first full day is always the hardest, though.  Tomorrow we’ll have a better routine in place and things will run much more smoothly, I’m sure of it. 

Surgery didn’t go quite as planned.  Craig went in for a hernia repair and came out minus an appendix. 

No hernia in sight. 

The appendix wasn’t inflamed, but it wasn’t normal-looking either so out it came.  And right in front of the appendix was an adhesion – old scar tissue that usually generates from some form of trauma. The adhesion happened to be in the exact location of Craig’s pain. 

Okay, I asked.  So, he’ll be better now, right? 

Surgeon: I won’t be surprised if this doesn’t work.  Then again, I won’t be surprised if it does.  We’ll just have to wait and see. 

More waiting. 

The body is a very strange thing.  Nothing explains the constant nausea; the sharp pains 4-6 hours after eating; the dry-heaving after 5 minutes in a moving vehicle.  We just hope that whatever it was is now gone so Craig can resume a normal life. 


As for my life, it of course revolves around painting which continues to keep me focused and my hands busy with a paintbrush instead of holding another cookie or donut.  Ten pieces are heading to Indianapolis tomorrow; six are originals.  Here is my latest: 

While Craig is resting my plan is to get these listed on Etsy – by Friday.  That’s the plan, anyway. 


Thanks to all of you who have asked about Craig and sent good thoughts and wishes to us during this time.  I hope to never have to report again on this blog that his pain has returned.  From today we move forward hoping for the best. 

Gratitude Photo Friday

You may remember reading about my recent altercation with a certain male duck who was trying to mate with a female while she was tending to her young. After that evening Mama and ducklings just disappeared – like, for days and days. I found myself worrying a bit;  then yesterday here they came, swimming downstream. I grabbed my camera and snapped a quick photo; my Gratitude Photo of the Week.

…the past three weeks have been a blur since Craig first came home from work with a tremendous pain in his side.  Since then we have seen countless doctors and he’s had numerous tests, only to show – nothing.  We’re both convinced that he has a hernia.  Convincing the surgeon our assumption without actually seeing it via ultrasound or feeling it is quite the hurdle.

Those who ask if Craig is feeling better might be starting to think I’m a bit off my rocker when I tell them that we’re keeping our fingers crossed for another major abdominal attack.  The truth is, while he was home he didn’t eat anything solid and he rested.  Symptoms eased up considerably.  As a result, what doctor is going to do something drastic like exploratory surgery when the patient is feeling a bit better?  so, as of Tuesday, Craig was told to head back to work and resume normal activity, which he did; and the last three days have been miserable.  Symptoms are returning. 

So, we continue to wait.  At least until his follow-up with the surgeon next week. 

…with Craig home I barely had time to paint.  I wanted to complete the second painting in a series of Seasons I’m doing that features the same tree.  Since Craig went back to work I was finally able to call it finished.  I’m sneaking this photo is as another gratitude photo – as in, ‘I’m so grateful that it’s done!’  lol

Title:  “Summer” Mixed Media.  Size:  16×20

Mixed Media, size 16x20 


This one was time consuming. Each leaf is made from paper.  I bent and glued each one by hand.  The butterflies are also papers that’s been delicately folded and glued to the canvas.  I’m grateful to feel like I’ve accomplished something this week. Next up in the series will be Autumn, and I will wait to work on that until mid-September, probably. 

My eating has been a bit challenging with Craig home.  Again, stress has taken a passenger seat right next to me and has been trying to control my every move.  I’ve been at this long enough to understand what’s happening:  I’m seeking food to quiet the stress/anxiety that’s been building up inside me, and food is ready to take on that responsibility.  Why can’t I crave carrots or celery when I’m under stress?  No, I have visions of lemon bars and homemade cookies always in my head.  I’ve been trying to curb those yearnings with my favorite dessert teas from David’s Tea but even David can’t contain this kind of anxiety.  So, I go outside and do yard work, walk the dogs and figure out my next painting.  Does it distract me?  Yes. Enough to quiet the cravings/reduce the stress? No.  But I’m trying and that’s all I can do.  Until we find out what’s up with Craig I’m just going to have to muddle through like I always do and remind myself that there will always be a crisis to overcome; if I relied on food to comfort me every time that happened I’d be right back where I started at 230+ pounds. 

Something I’d like to end with, just because it made me so incredibly happy to read – my friend Laurie who is also a Fleet Feet trainer (remember the interview I did with her?) recently finished a half marathon in Louisville, Kentucky.  When she last wrote to me she told me that she ran a mile for me.  For ME. I kind of choked up when I read that.  No one has ever done that for me before.  Thank you for that, Laurie. 

Have a good weekend, everyone. 


Book Giveaway Winner!

Hey there, everyone!  I know you don’t mind the chit-chat, but you’re probably wanting me to keep it to a minimum until I announce the winner of Karen’s book, so………

By use of a random number generator that I found in the ITunes App Store (here is where you’ll find the one I used in case you’d like one of your own) the winner of Karen Anderson’s book: After (the before and after) is Brandi!  Congratulations, Brandi.  Email me with your address and we’ll have your book out to you ASAP!


We are almost half-way through this month’s 31 Days of Gratitude.  I hope you’re all finding this year’s Challenge exercises helpful.  It’s certainly helpful to me knowing that I have such a supportive group of gals this year.  We’re already almost half-way through! 

Today my plan was to catch up on blog reading and reorganize my Etsy shop.  So far none of this has happened.   Yesterday, my husband and I returned home from our trip to Lilly’s Soap Kitchen and Artisan Market in Indianapolis where my note cards and over 40 original paintings are now awaiting new homes.  The last two weeks have literally been a blur as I’ve painted and polished up my pieces for the trip.

This was the last painting I finished:

I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to frame it, but then noticed THE perfect frame while out shopping and had to have it!

My apologies for the lousy photo, but the frame really does look like it was made for this painting.  I’m thinking that I may switch from trees to birds for a while.  They are so relaxing to paint, and this little guy was inspired by at least 10 cardinals that were hanging out in my backyard last week. 

Have a great Monday, everyone.  I am off to take a long, overdue nap!  Looking forward to seeing participants of the HL Challenge back here on Thursday to discuss our latest exercise Smile



Once, Twice, Three times upside the head

I know you’ve done it before, too.  You’re reading blogs and you come across one that seems as though it was written specifically for you.  That happened to me when I sat down to read my friend Kyra’s blog last night over at The Never ending Adventures.  This was a milestone post because she unveiled a painting that she’d been working on since April.  Yes, April.  A painstakingly intricate, detailed labor of love that is now, finally complete. 

Kyra and I have communicated about this painting and other goings on in our lives, with one of us always wishing that certain things would just ‘happen already!’  But we both know from experience that anything worth doing is worth doing right.  What struck a chord with me was this particular sentence:    

How many things in our lives are we not giving permission to ourselves to spend the proper time on?

I think if I had a secret decoder I could wave it over that sentence and find an underlying message that reads:  Ellen, you big Goofball, why are you constantly fighting yourself?  You’ve already been down this road once – have you learned nothing?  (although Kyra would find a much gentler way of telling me, I’m sure of it). 

I have been through this before.  I took the slow and steady route of losing weight. The many years it took to lose over 100 pounds was the correct way for me and my life and I haven’t regretted it once.  In fact, taking my time and doing it slowly and naturally has, in part, been what’s helped me keep it off for over 7 years. 

But, since my surgery?  Yeah, you’d never know that patiently devoted person ever existed.  I have been having internal battles with myself for the past 4 months.  I’ve been at war with my body to heal faster; anxious for my new business to pick up speed; desperate to find direction and get moving already!! 

I’ve been so caught up in the ‘want it NOW’ mentality that I haven’t been appreciating the slow and steady route I’ve been granted which, by the way, has always proven to be the better choice for me.  (Sometimes a good thwack across the head is the only thing that will reset the brain).  Any takers?  lol

This week I’ve learned that no matter how quickly we want results, it just isn’t likely going to happen on our schedule.  Whether it be the desire for business success, weight loss or in my case in particular right now: physical strength.  We do what we can and have to let time run its course because really, we have no other choice. 

I received doctor results from my visit last week regarding my extreme fatigue.  Surgical menopause patients (those who go through the process surgically rather than naturally) are hit with the usual symptoms all at once instead of easing into it the old fashioned way.  As a result, we can go through radical side effects.  My fatigue is a direct result of my hormones being shifted so quickly and dramatically.  The doctor has given me new medication and I am praying to the Estrogen Goddesses that I will see improvement within a few weeks.  In the meantime, it’s slow and steady – and that’s all there is to it.  I must be willing to look at the progresses I HAVE made instead of the ones that will come in due time.  And really, if I want to be completely honest with myself – if my art business was a raging success like I dream about in my mind, I’d be too fatigued to keep up with it all right now, wouldn’t I? 

Speaking of art, here is this week’s painting.  I have been posting progress photos on my Facebook Fan page because I’ve found that not only do people like to see the creative process behind the finished piece, but it’s good for me to see that it takes patience and hard work to evolve into a beautiful and worthwhile sense of completion.  I think we can all relate to that on some level. 



…and speaking of art:  My friend Laura, who is another weight loss maintainer and an amazing athlete is holding a giveaway on her blog beginning today, AND she is giving away one of my enhanced art prints!   Head on over there to check it out the details!  You can find her fabulous blog over at Laura Lives Life.


Have a great weekend, everyone.  I hope it’s slow and steady :)

Before I forget…

Oh my gosh, where has the summer gone?  It’s early September and already the weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing, and pumpkins are gracing the shelves in my local supermarkets.  Even though I’m not ready to perch a pumpkin on my porch, I did snap up this beast of a mango:

I love mangoes but the ones that I see year round cost so much yet offer so little they’re barely worth the price, so I haven’t been buying them.  But these babies are full of juicy, sweet goodness.  Look at all of the flesh I was able to cut off of one mango:

Craig and I were fighting over the last few bites.  I’m going to have to grab a few more from the store before they make another disappearance!


Not much has been happening this week.  Or, maybe something did and I just can’t remember.  As my doctor and I work on leveling out my hormones, I have been experiencing some strange occurrences – my memory has been terrible, and I’m definitely not as sharp as I was before surgery.  A fellow blogger called it Brain Fog and knew exactly what I was referring to.  She made me feel better by stating that it is a common symptom for peri-menopausal/menopausal women.  My husband was more than relieved to hear this and has since been spending time researching; yes, that’s how bad it’s been.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks certain that we have kleptomaniac night-gnomes living in our house.  Things that I use on a regular basis have come up missing, only to eventually find them resurfacing in closets, drawers that I rarely use and yes, even the freezer (*ahem* that’s where I found my spatula).  I long for the day when I no longer have to yell out, ‘Where on earth are my SHOES?!’

All I can say is thank goodness I don’t have to concentrate while I paint.  My mind goes on autopilot when I pull out the paintbrushes and I go by instinct which is great for my creative side; my business side however – oh, boy.  This is one of those times when I wish I had someone to do all of my marketing, networking and paperwork and leave me to just paint.  I think most creative types are that way, though. 

Anyway, here is this week’s Etsy painting:

The photo that inspired this painting was taken while visiting the Center for Birds of Prey outside of Charleston, South Carolina earlier this year where this Great Horned Owl was rehabilitating from an injury. To see such a magnificent bird that close and personal was a rare and amazing experience.  I simply had to get a close-up of the talons on this guy.  Check them out:



I am planning on taking a break from blogging and from my Etsy shop for most of next week.  My husband is on vacation and it feels like ages since we’ve spent any quality time together.  I will however, be working on a post that I’m beyond excited to share with you.  I was able to snag an interview with an exceptionally interesting and very kind woman that I met while on vacation in May of this year.  Her name is Laurie and she’s the kind of person who radiates when talking about something she’s passionate about.  One of Laurie’s passions is running.  So much so, that she coaches a Couch to 5K program (as in, if you’ve never ran in your life, you can become a runner) as well as a 10K training program.  Now as you all know, I am not a runner; but hearing Laurie talk about the program she’s involved in really ignited a spark within me.  She made me re-think the possibility of running again – maybe even signing up for one of these training programs to help get me back into the shape I was in before surgery!  I’m very excited to have this opportunity to share Laurie’s story and information about this program that might just be waiting for you in your town!  Stay tuned!

Have a great weekend, everyone. 




Beyond Meat

I have been saving the most exciting news for you all week long.  Ready?  Hang on to your hats folks, because I vacuumed all of my carpets this week!  Woo-hoo! 

I know that sounds kind of crazy, doesn’t it? However, to me it means that my inner stitches are finally healing!  Whew.  Noticeable progress.  I’ll take it! I still don’t feel like I did prior to surgery, nor do I expect to for a while.  This I have learned to accept.  I’m just grateful for the good days and know that eventually, the bad days will be fewer and further between.  Until then however, be on the lookout for some wicked menopausal posts because I recently had my first hot flash.  Can I just say that it feels strange to be going through menopause at 42?  I know that many of you brave gals had hysterectomies in your twenties and thirties so I’ll try not to complain too awful much about it.  Promise! 

In other news, I am approaching the end of my first week of self-employment.  I have to admit, it feels so good to be useful.  Wonderfully, fantastically good.  I’m finding that I’m putting forth the same nurturing attention into my art that I did while caregiving.  While preparing my wares to be shipped off to the three lovely ladies who made purchases from me this week I packed up a bit of pride, a lot of gratitude and much love.  The same goes out to each of you who have generated traffic for me on Etsy and Facebook.  The simple act of you spreading the word is extremely appreciated. 

  Anyway, here is what I’ve been working on this week:


I’m finding that I need to develop a schedule just like I had when I worked outside of my home. Having my studio so close to the kitchen is NOT a good thing. Allowing blocks of time for exercise, painting, tending to business, blogging and eating will make this transition much easier. This I need to work on.


Speaking of food……


Although I am not a vegetarian, I just don’t find myself eating meat as much as I used to.  Oh, I love me a good, juicy hamburger once in a while.  The sloppier the better, too.  But most days I lean towards eating meat-free products like Boca, Morningstar, Gardenburger;  even tofu if it’s prepared for me.  I don’t have enough experience to know how to make it taste good from home but willingly order it at restaurants.  My husband on the other hand, loves his meat.  If he didn’t have 3 kidney stones taking up space in his body right now he’d probably be on the Atkins Diet for the rest of his life. 

We have a rule at our house – if you didn’t cook it, you don’t complain about it.  Since I’m doing most of the cooking now that I’m home, I thought I’d try something new that I saw at the store: 

These were on sale and I bought three of them.   Gardein has an entire line of meatless foods and you could easily have one every night of the week without eating the same thing twice.  The one you don’t see in the photo is the one I prepared.  It was sautéed beefless tips and I thought I’d prepare them with a big bowl of spinach, various lettuces, tomatoes and cucumber.  Sounds good, right?  Well, it smelled fantastic.  When Craig came home from work I had just finished heating them on the stove and tossed the tips in with the salad.  He hadn’t had lunch and was pretty hungry. 

During dinner we talked about the usual day’s events.  I was grateful to contribute to the conversation for a change without once including words like surgery, pain or swelling and we chatted about this and that without really ever discussing what we were eating.  I didn’t want to say anything about the faux-beef tips, hoping that instead Craig would say, ‘Wow!  These are outstanding!’

But, he didn’t.  Neither did I. 

In all honesty – and no offense to Gardein – but, they were awful. 

But, Craig being the kind of guy he is, ate every bite of his dinner and didn’t mention the ole’ food switcheroo that had taken place.  Finally, I said something.

“So, what did you think of dinner?” 

“Well,” he said.  “It was, um – interesting.” 

We both agreed that it was the texture that we couldn’t get over.  It looked like meat; it smelled heavenly.  But as soon as you bit into it, the texture was very spongy.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the other two packages.  I’m not going to let them go to waste but I’ll definitely be hiding them at the bottom of a bowl with a bunch of other foods piled on top. 

I do have a point to this post, actually.  Craig listens to NPR regularly and heard a news story about a meatless food that actually tastes like meat.   Chicken, specifically.  It’s called  Beyond Meat and has done tremendously well in blind taste tests.  If you go to the webpage and look at the photo, the texture actually looks like chicken and according to those who’ve eaten it, it breaks apart in your mouth the same way chicken does.  That’s the great news.  The less fortunate news (at least for now) is that it’s only available in the Pacific Northwest Whole Foods prepared section of foods.  Check here to see if it’s in your area. 

The stats are pretty impressive.  Three ounces of Beyond Meat is 100 calories.  Here, for those who are interested, is the ingredients list:

Water, Soy Protein Isolate, Pea Protein Isolate, Amaranth, Natural Vegan Chicken Flavor (Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Natural Flavoring), Soy Fiber, Carrot Fiber, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Dipotassium Phosphate, Titanium Dioxide, White Vinegar

Has anyone tried or heard of this product?  If so, I’d love to know what you think.  For those of you who haven’t, would you consider trying something like this? 

Have a good weekend, everyone.  Thanks for reading today :)


Ellen on Etsy and Everything in Between

I have this repetitive saying going off in my mind.  It’s been there all day:  Scary but Necessary.  Scary but Necessary.  The word vulnerable keeps popping up, too. 

If you’ve been reading this blog for very long then you know I am a creature of habit.  I tend to eat the same things over and over.  I like routine.  In other words, I like the idea of controlling this little world of mine.  But the past couple of months have forced me to look at my life differently.  I can’t always dig in my heels whenever something goes awry or something different happens.  Sometimes I need to go with the flow and just stay the heck out of life’s way as it takes care of business.  This of course, is easier said than done. 

Making the decision to do the article in Woman’s Day Magazine was not an easy one.  At first I thought, Well, it’s not much different than when someone reads one of my blog posts, is it?    Well, yes and no.  First of all, I didn’t write this article whereas I write what’s on my blog.   When I agreed to the article I was asked a series of questions and I answered them; then someone else built the story of my life and declared it worthy of space in the magazine.  Honestly, you and I will be reading it for the first time together.   Letting go and trusting that things will work out is something that I continue to struggle with, but if I say no to everything that’s different or not within my comfort zone, how will I ever know what I’m capable of?   

Which leads me to the second thing that I’m feeling vulnerable about.  This morning I officially went Live with my Etsy shop.  In a way, it felt like giving my ‘baby’ away for someone else to hold.  For over a month I’ve been painting, snapping photos, writing, and learning about how NOT to fail when running a business.  Running a business.  Talk about vulnerability!  How do you explain to your mother that you are not going to look for another job right away, instead trying to support yourself from home?  The answer? Steer her question away from you with another question, like ‘So, how did you sleep last night?  Feeling good today?’  For now, that seems to be working but for how long, I don’t know. 

Honestly, I probably could have opened up shop  before now, but I kept putting it off.  Mainly, because I was scared to death to put myself out there; to try something new.  Even if that something might end up being a good thing.   Have you ever felt like that?

In the end though, I did it.  And by the way – as you’re reading this, know that you are participating in my virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony.  Thank you for being here for it.   If you’d like to visit, click on the mini-store link at the top left side of my blog or click over from here:  Pieces Designs on Etsy 

It’s been a difficult year, but sometimes even pretty things can grow in the most stressful environments.


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
           Leonard Cohen


Thanks for reading today.