Tag Archives: Etsy

Thyme of Grace–Eating Local

You know me, I’m always late to the party (remember my post about my discovery of Greek yogurt, oh -about a year after everyone else was eating it?)  Yeah, I’m kinda behind on trendiness. 

I was MIA this week because of Craig’s vacation.  I decided that he shouldn’t have all the fun, so I quickly shirked my painting and writing responsibilities for the week and joined him in lounging around in the mornings, long dog walks in the afternoons and an occasional meal out. 

I am the absolute worst when it comes to picking a place to eat.  This is how our conversations usually go:

Craig:  So, where do you want to go?

Me:  Anywhere, really. 

Craig:  Do you have a taste for anything in particular?

Me:  No, not really.

Craig:  How about that Thai place across town?

Me: No, not there.

Craig:  Italian?

Me:  Meh.  That doesn’t sound very good either, for some reason. 

Craig:  Well, where would you like to go, then?

Me:  Anywhere you want to go. 

Yes, I can be THAT person.  I easily want to wring my own neck for that behavior.  Thank goodness I have a very patient husband.  I have found something out about myself, though.  If I can’t decide on a place to eat it’s usually because I’m tired of having to choose from the same places over and over again. Yes, we just had a Golden Corral and a Cheddar’s open nearby but combine those with other chain restaurants like Chili’s, TGI Fridays and The Olive Garden, it all starts feeling mind numbingly similar after a while.

Locally owned restaurants can be hard to come by if you’re not living in a major metropolitan area, and truthfully, easily forgotten about when the major chains have their billboards and commercials always there to remind you of where they think you should be eating.  I don’t know about you but it seems like the only flavors I’m ever exposed to whenever I go out are either an over abundance of salt or sugar.  There are so many spices and herbs I’ve never even tried, and for those of you who love to cook, you already know that cooking well is not just a skill – it’s an art; a true labor of love.  Local restaurants seem to get that concept, which is why Craig and I decided that if we ate out at all this week, it was going to be locally owned.

I started searching websites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Thyme of Grace on Urbanspoon for new and interesting local flare.  Ultimately, we ended up at this small café/bistro called Thyme of Grace in South Bend.  Michele, the owner has been open for over ten years (4 years at her new location) but Craig nor I had heard of this place.

Now, I generally don’t write reviews on restaurants on my blog but this post practically wrote itself.  There was no stopping it.  I mean, just look at this salad:


Spinach, apple slices, fresh grated cheese – and on top: bacon-wrapped dates.  And did you see the beautiful mum and herbs resting on that lovely kale leaf?  This looked too pretty to eat; somehow I managed, though.  Yep.  I powered through Winking smile  So delicious.

And here is my turkey sandwich (so, so yummy) with a carrot slaw that was out of this world, which says a lot since I’m not generally not a big carrot fan:

The entire restaurant was warm and inviting and had quite the eclectic, artistic vibe throughout.  What I found charming was that our table was completely unique and unlike any others thanks to the charming mismatched décor, right down to the silverware, plates and chairs.   Michele, the chef, was absolutely delightful and, as expected, she incorporated flavors that I couldn’t identify but blissfully brought out the goodness in each and every bite. This place literally blew me away.

I’ve always supported local businesses but now understand more than ever how important it is since opening my own art business.  It’s the customers who keep small business owners afloat.   Without you, wonderful establishments like Thyme of Grace wouldn’t exist.  My own livelihood – my joy of painting wouldn’t exist. 

So, even though I’m a bit late in writing my post for supporting Small Business Day this year, I want to encourage you to venture out in your own town to the local businesses that rely on your support all year long.  Who knows what you’ll uncover!

What’s your favorite local hangout, and what makes it so special?

Progress Report!

It’s been a while since I’ve given an update post on my physical health, so guess what?  Today is your unlucky LUCKY day!  Actually, I’ve been waiting to post about my health until I’ve had something good to report.  Recovery can be so incredibly slow, sometimes it feels like you’re not making any progress at all until one day you wake up, put on your jeans and find that HEY, today the zipper is going up while the swelling is going down!  Yay!!

Actually, more importantly than jeans fitting (I’m loving my yoga pants too much these days) is my stamina increasing.  This week I achieved a milestone and captured it on Instagram:


This is a photo of me wearing my giant Elton John-style sunglasses along with my hiking companions.  We just finished my longest walk/hike since surgery: 2.75 miles!  Brulee was particularly excited for me – can you tell? 

The best part?  Very little fatigue afterwards.  Translation:  no zonking out on the couch as soon as I walk back through the door.  Progress!! 

Here are a few more shots on the trail over the past week or so:



The above shot was taken earlier last week, before the rain from Hurricane Sandy sent the remaining leaves falling to the ground.  (By the way, if you’re on Instagram and like me to follow you, just leave your username in the comments section. If you’d like to follow me, my username is:  ellenbrennemanstudio)


All in all, I am happy to be feeling more like myself.  I still have to plan carefully, though.  I can’t seem to get to yoga class on the days that I hike; it’s simply too much.  I’m incorporating both back into my life, but alternating accordingly. 

Taking these long walks has been great for my mind as well as my health.  I think about new ideas for paintings, listen to music, and when I’m ready to focus on something else, I’ve been listening to Rob Lowe’s book, ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’.

Initially, I wasn’t really interested in this book. Despite the fact that he’s been around as long as I have, I just recently became a Rob Lowe fan thanks to Parks and Recreation.  The audiobook I wanted was checked out, so I grabbed this one instead.  I have to tell you, this book has been such a great read.  Narrated by Rob, he is a master storyteller, and he leaves no stone unturned.   Even if you aren’t a fan, I think you’d enjoy it.  I just finished it today and was sorry that it ended – a sure sign that you’re reading a great book!

My plans for the weekend are pretty much laid out for me.  I’ve been painting tiny three by three inch canvases and turning them into ornaments for Christmas by drilling a hole through the stretcher and stringing through ribbon.  I decided that I’m going to paint them until I no longer enjoy doing them; then that will be it.  I don’t know how some of these Etsy sellers can churn out identical wares over and over again.  I admire them, but I’d go mad working that way.  Anyway, this is the result of what my weekend will look like:

Anyone else have specific plans this weekend?  I hope you all have a good one!  See you back here next week Smile



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.