watermelons illustration, penelopedullaghan

Summertime means juicy, delicious watermelon! … sometimes. Other times they are like eating soggy cardboard nothingness. How do you choose a good one? I heard to choose ones with yellow belly buttons. Then I read in Vegetarian Times to choose heavy ones with dull rinds. I was talking about this with a couple of Colin’s cousins recently and no one knew for sure. Do you?

By |June 28th, 2016|illustration|0 Comments

on the subject of allowance

 veda perfume

Allowance for kids. Is this a touchy subject like most parenting concepts? I have no idea if I’m stepping into something sticky, but I’d love to have a little discussion about it if it’s approachable. And I’m going to work through the idea of allowance as I write, so bear with me. And please feel free to weigh in! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

* * * *

At the start of summer break, Colin and I started gathering seldom-used things in our house for a garage sale. And that got Veda thinking about having a lemonade stand at the same time to earn a little money of her own.

She then thought that she’d like one other thing to offer her customers, and she came up with the idea of homemade perfumes. Her first attempt was with a container of water, some beech nuts and a handful of mint from our garden. She steeped it for a few days, and it went south. On to Plan B.

Next up was essential oils. She saw my oils on the bathroom shelf and thought she could mix some scents together to form her all-natural perfumes. So we looked it up on Pinterest and found a recipe that looked simple to try.

Together we calculated the cost of materials – roller bottles, base oil and labels – to determine how much money we had to put in up front. Then we made the perfumes (the fun part!) and calculated how much she should sell them for to earn a little profit for her piggy bank.

She was WAY into it, pushing each step along and wanting to work at it a little every day. I thought about how it was a good tiny start to educating her on earning her own money. How it brought in math, measuring ingredients, going out to buy supplies, thinking about labels and signage, etc. And it was good for her to take ownership and feel good about her offering.

And so the subject of allowance came up in my mind. How in contrast, allowance feels to me like just handing over money for tasks done around the house that should be helped with anyway. We all dirty the dishes, bring dirt in on our shoes, messy our bed covers, etc. And therefore, in my mind, we all should pitch in to tidy up, sweep floors and make beds. And these everyday tasks aren’t done to earn money, they just need to be done regardless. Same goes for yard maintenance – sticks fall, leaves accumulate, and weeds pop up and they all need to be addressed as part of everyday life.

Teaching Veda to care for our home and to maintain things we have charge of is just part of her learning to be independent and self-sufficient for when she eventually has her own home.

So again, I’m working through this as I write it, but it looks like I think earning money should come from outside of everyday household tasks. I love the idea of Veda thinking about ways to earn money (when she wants to) by being creative and by offering something to others. I want her to have an entrepreneurial spirit and not think that things get handed to her just because she’s here doing what needs to be done anyway. That doesn’t happen (for most people) as adults. So why not help her learn how to do that as she’s young?

Watching her come up with the idea of the lemonade stand and essential oil perfumes inspired me. I saw her think deeply about what she could offer. I saw her work out the math on the kitchen chalkboard to determine her costs. I saw her attempt and fail at one idea and how that didn’t discourage her, but made her keep thinking of alternate options. I saw her take ownership of a self-directed project.

All that, in my view, is very valuable. Much more so than allowance for allowance sake. But I know I’m just scratching the surface of this idea. And I’m pretty new to this with a seven year old who’s just now starting to think about it. I certainly don’t want to be like the mom with a toddler who think she knows everything about teaching a teenager to drive. Other parents have been here, done that, and I’d love to hear about their experiences. What works in your household? And if you’re just getting started like us, where do you fall on this idea? I’m all ears!

By |June 23rd, 2016|mindful parenting|8 Comments


penelope dullaghan orlando flower illustration

Still sad and feeling quiet. Hold your people close. Teach tolerance. Love unconditionally.

By |June 17th, 2016|illustration|2 Comments

“A Letter to Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert

Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book “Big Magic”? When we did (‘we’ being me & SALT Project), we were floored. FLOORED! Spoke right to our creative souls. And we had to do something about it!

Then somehow we lucked into getting our hands on a “crankie” (an old art form where illustrated scrolls are wound onto two spools and hand-cranked while a story is being told or sung)… and our own magic happened.

A big thank you to Elizabeth Gilbert for inspiring us to chose creativity over fear!

By |June 13th, 2016|video|5 Comments

penelopian pattern for your phone!

penelope dullaghan iphone wallpaper

Just to spread some penelopian pattern love, I thought it’d be fun to offer my latest floral pattern to you as a new background for your phone. Click here to download them and choose the one that works for your phone (5, 5s, 6 and 6 plus). Enjoy!

* * * Update: apparently some folks have had some problems with the link above. Try simply saving the jpg below to your camera roll. That should work! :)


By |June 9th, 2016|pattern|1 Comment

Last day of 1st grade!

penelope dullaghan apple

Today is Veda’s last day of 1st grade. I’m SO looking forward to summer with her – camping, swimming, popsicles (blend up some watermelon and freeze – so good!), gardening, reading, sidewalk chalking, being bored, exploring and all the other fun stuff that comes along with it! Yay!

By |June 8th, 2016|art with kids, illustration|1 Comment

Sketchbook Skool – starts June 10!

Sketchbook Skool - penelope dullaghan

Hello friends!

Sketchbook Skool’s Expressing klass will begin online for the second time on June 10th. For each of the six weeks of the kourse, you’ll get a new teacher (including me!) showing you how to take your creativity to the next level. I am teaching a bunch of techniques that I use everyday in my illustration work. I hope you’ll love seeing the step-by-step!

You can also join the Sketchbook Skool community of creative people just like us from all over the world. I think it’s really valuable to be able to show your work – and get feedback from – klassmates doing the assignments alongside you. It helps you see your work more objectively to grow more quickly.

To check out Expressing and meet the teachers, click here.

There’s still time to sign up for this kourse, so please join me! Click here to sign up for Expressing now!

By |May 31st, 2016|everyday things|Comments Off on Sketchbook Skool – starts June 10!

embracing her stories

penelope dullaghan - Hollins University Lee Smith

Hooray! I can finally share this new illustration with you! I made this for Hollins University to accompany an excerpt from alumni Lee Smith’s new book “Dimestore: A Writer’s Life”. The excerpt is about the author’s time at Hollins, and how she learned to embrace and tell her stories of her childhood in the mountains of Virginia.

The last lines are: “…the stories that present themselves to me as worth the telling are often those somehow connected to that place and those people. The mountains that used to imprison me have become my chosen stalking ground.”

It’s a great excerpt that you can read here: https://www.hollins.edu/magazine/?p=6771

By |May 26th, 2016|illustration|Comments Off on embracing her stories

edible ground cover

strawberries - edible ground cover

Two years ago I planted strawberries in our front yard as ground cover. I put in as many as my mom gave me from her garden, which was about 4 garbage can lids full. And it was enough because they spread and filled in beautifully. I actually have to beat them back – they’re very tenacious and like to take over when you’re not looking. (Hence why they’re good ground cover.)

And now Veda and the two girls we carpool with go on strawberry search parties every morning before school. I tell them they can pick as many as they want… they just have to find them before I do because they’re delicious and I can’t help but eat them right away. I mean, what’s better than a dew washed strawberry that’s warmed in the sun? Kinda nothing.

They also make for great art studies with Veda. :)

veda's strawberries painting

penelope dullaghan strawberries pattern

By |May 23rd, 2016|everyday things, illustration|Comments Off on edible ground cover

yurt dreamin’

First off: Thank you all for your kind comments on the special post about this blog. I honestly had no idea so many people were still reading. Hello!

* * *

How to start back in? I think the best idea to begin is to share what I’ve been dreaming about for some time now. I’m not exactly sure how long I’ve been thinking about and refining this idea, but it all started with a yurt.

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure

Yurts. Do most people even know what they are? I posted a note on Facebook last week that we were staying in one for the weekend, and Colin’s aunt said she’d better google what that was. Hmm.

So just to save you the time of googling, a yurt is basically a circular living structure first utilized by nomadic Mongolian herdsmen who needed to pick up and move their dwelling with the seasons. The original yurts were basically big tents with accordion lattice walls, radial rafters leading up to a central opening at the top (to let smoke from the fire escape) and covered with felt or animal skins. Today yurts are a lot more sophisticated in design and materials and, here in the states, are usually set up on a pretty permanent deck structure with lots of options depending on your application (permanent home versus camp ground offering, for example) – in some cases they even have wood or drywalled walls, shingled or metal roofs, double doors, etc. They can be really well made and beautiful.

And like I said, I’ve been dreaming about them for a long time.

So what is this dream? Well, you probably already guessed it, but I’d really like to live in a yurt. When the time is right to sell our lovely stone house in mid-town and buy a large country property. I envision this homestead being somewhere close to Indianapolis because we love Indy and our families are close, but far enough out where sirens and traffic noise are replaced by crickets and the call of red-winged black birds. I’d love to be surrounded by hilly groves of trees and wild grasses instead of mowed lawns and paved lots.

My dream includes one big yurt for my family to live and work in surrounded by a wooden deck, chairs for lounging and a pretty fire ring. And a couple of smaller yurts tucked into the property to offer as quiet retreat spaces for artists, writers or peace seekers. (Because passive income is always a plus, and because I really think other people would love the opportunity to unwind and take a break from the hustle and bustle in order to hear their own thoughts.)

There are two big reasons why yurt living is appealing to me. The main reason is that they are affordable – really affordable. I love the idea of having a house that is paid off – no longer being tied to a 30 year mortgage. That would free us up so much – especially to travel as we’d love to do. A while back we decided to ditch the car payment by getting a much cheaper car and paying it off. Then we pared down even more by selling our second car and just living with one. It’s made a big difference in our finances, and there have only been two times where having two cars would’ve made life easier (but we got by). I picture not having a mortgage a lot like that but a million times better.

And the second reason is simplicity. Yurts are small, so there’s only so much stuff you can put in them. I love that idea of only having a few beautiful dishes that I love using. Only having a tiny selection of clothing that I wear and repair. A few beloved books. The necessary shoes (hiking shoes, comfy sandals and maybe one pair of dress shoes). etc. Only having what we truly need. It would feel so good to not have so much stuff to care for and clean and store.

So that’s my big dream. It’s fun to think about as it evolves and becomes more clear with time. Last weekend we stayed in a yurt for a few nights to see what it was like – and we loved it. It felt kind of like camping because you sense your connection to the outdoors more, but it had every luxury like indoor plumbing and electric lights and a full kitchen. So it felt like a home, too.

There are a few hang ups to this dream, of course. The biggest being Veda’s schooling. We *love* the school she’s in right now. It’s really the perfect educational fit for her, and she’s surrounded by a close classroom community, which we think is super important especially because she’s an only child. And I don’t know how well I’d do at homeschooling. I love my work and worry that I’d not have as much time to devote to it as I’d like. And, let’s be honest, I’m not the most patient person on the planet and have a hunch that after two weeks of homeschooling I’d be done with it. So there’s that.

So we wait. For something to inevitably shift. I think there will come a time when the circumstances line up a bit better. And things fall into place to make it possible. That’s not to say I’m sitting idly, wishing. I’m deep in the process of research and we’re talking about starting the (probably) long search for the right property. I’m also selling a lot of our stuff and paring down possessions, which feels good even if this dream is to remain a dream. We shall see.

Here is a picture of the yurt we stayed in last weekend. This is the view from the front door when you walk in and look up:

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure - looking up

And my sketchbook view from the front deck overlooking the mountainside:

penelope dullaghan - sketchbook yurt deck

The surrounding area – Natural Bridge State Park, in Kentucky – is just lovely. Miles of trails. Woods. Mountains. We took the ski lift up to the top of the natural bridge and hiked our way back down. Veda led the way – she was so proud of herself for finding the best paths and helping guide our footing.

Here’s Veda and Colin crossing the Natural Bridge:

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure natural bridge

View from the top:

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure natural bridge

And the hike back down:

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure hike

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure

By |May 21st, 2016|everyday things|4 Comments