15-Minute Watercolor Masterpieces – review

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If there was ever a great time to learn about art, this is it. Not only is the internet full of videos and online class possibilities, but books are easier than ever to purchase and use. For art instruction I love Kindle books. On my iPad they have a built-in stand (I don’t have to fight with stubborn pages to keep the book open while I’m using it) and the illustrations can be enlarged with a couple of finger swipes. One book I downloaded some months ago is Anna Koliadych’s 15-Minute Watercolor Masterpieces. It is full of simple and fun watercolor projects.

The book begins with a section on watercolor techniques and exercises, and then is divided into chapters that name various categories: “Beautiful Landscapes,” “Dreamy Galaxies,” “Elegant Plants and Foliage,” “Flowers,” “Fruits and Sweets,” “Adorable Animals,” and “Fashion.” There are six to nine projects (paintings) in each chapter so lots of possibilities.

The paintings are explained step-by-step and include a list of materials, swatches of the painting’s colors, how to mix them, and illustrations of the project as it progresses.

The book ends with a list of supplies and a few hacks from the author in chapters titled “Supplies” and “Tips and Advice.”

This is a colorful, fun book. The instructions and illustrations are easy to follow. Though I wouldn’t call my projects “masterpieces” or art I would want to frame, they introduced me to a variety of techniques and subjects. They usually took me longer than 15 minutes because drying time was needed. But they were quick and a wonderful way to squeeze in a bit of art every day, even when I didn’t have much time for it.

Here are some of the projects I completed from Anna’s book.

“Mysterious Forest” and “Autumn in a Circle”  are projects from the “Beautiful Landscapes” chapter. “Leafy Branches with Berries” is from the “Elegant Plants and Foliage” chapter. “Wreath of Flowers” is from the “Flowers” chapter.

Author Anna Koliadych also teaches watercolor online offering courses on her website. She is @dearannart on Instagram and her feed is full of short instructional videos.

Shikataganai–It Can’t Be Helped (review)

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In years past we have attended the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) and visited the barns on the fair grounds. However, I will never view them with the same casual attitude I have till now, after reading Sumi Kinoshita’s book Shikataganai—It Can’t Be Helped. That’s because those barns at Hastings Park became the home of Canadians of Japanese descent  when they were forcibly evacuated from their homes along the B.C. coast after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Later they were moved to internment camps in the B.C. interior.

Sumi (Morisawa) Kinoshita was four at the time their family was loaded onto a train, forced to leave behind everything in Victoria except what fit into two suitcases each. Their first stop was Hastings Park where they lived for six months before being moved on to New Denver and other places in the Kootenays.

Sumi tells the story of her family’s experiences during the internment without self-pity or whining, sprinkling good memories and humour throughout. She typifies well the resignation of Japanese Canadians at this time, captured by two words, “shikataganai” (it can’t be helped) and “ganbaru” (to persevere). She explains her people’s attitude at this time:

”…the ‘shikataganai’ philosophy also gave them the impetus to go on, to cooperate with the government and ‘ganbaru’ (to persevere). Making the best of their circumstances by submitting to government policies, it helped to prove their loyalty as Canadian citizens” p. 35.

Memories of Sumi’s siblings follow her narrative, helping to tell the story from a variety of ages and perspectives.

Aspects of the book I found particularly moving:

  • The book’s cover image, a blown-up photo of the 1200 or so confiscated Japanese fishing boats.
  • The final chapter, “Afterthoughts,” where Sumi details the effect of the internment on her and how she came to peace about it:

“For years and years even after I was married, I felt too ashamed and humiliated to talk about the injustice and indignity of living in the animal stalls of Hastings Park and ensuing internment. Then one Christmas the story of Jesus being born in a manger came alive to me in a new way. Jesus, the King of Kings, was born in an animal stall and was also subjected to the shame and indignity of being placed in a smelly environment surrounded by animals. … He identified with me and others who experienced the same shame and understood what happened to us. Jesus forgave those who sinned against Him as He died on the cross and rose again. That thought gave me great comfort and healing” – pp. 134,135.

For those wanting to discover more about this regrettable chapter of B.C. and Canadian history, Shikataganai is a great choice.

Only a month from Valentine’s Day!

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Can you believe we’re already almost halfway through January?

Have you done any dreaming or planning for the year ahead?

I finally got to setting down some intentions and goals last weekend. I know many pooh-pooh this new year tradition. Not I! Even the roughest road map helps me feel more purposeful and confident that I’m heading in a direction to which I’ve given at least a little thought.

One of my intentions this year is to be more regular with blogging. I’m going to try for one post a week, alternating posts about art and writing. We’ll start this week with art.

A month from today is Valentine’s Day! Since I’ve opened my shop, I’m very conscious about upcoming celebrations—all the more because orders need to be placed in good time to allow for shipping (and I’m not Amazon!). And so I’ve spent my art hours this week making valentines (with accompanying memories of elementary school).

A Valentine trend this year, according to Etsy, is for vintage designs. I had fun trying to figure out and duplicate that look. Here are some of the cards you’ll find at Violet Nesdoly Art. (Several of them can be personalized.) What do you think, did I capture the vintage vibe in some of them?

How have you spent these first weeks of January 2021?

Eye of the Storm – review

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Eye of the Storm by Janice L. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Eye of the Storm, Book Two in Janice L. Dick’s Storm Series, takes us through the tumultuous years of 1917 to 1919 in Russia and Crimea. The Czar’s rule is in shambles. All over the countryside poor Russian peasants are agitating for land. Mennonite settlements, like the villages in the Molotschna Colony, are frequent targets as Russian neighbours, emboldened to take over land they feel is really theirs, steal, kidnap, raid, and light fires. The troubles soon spill over to Crimea and reach the Succoth Estate—the home of Heinrich Hildebrandt, his family, and Johann Suderman, the tutor Heinrich has hired for his younger children.

In the city, Paul Tekanin, the Russian friend of Johann in his youth, joins the Bolsheviks. Through him we experience the roller-coaster-ride of political developments in Russia at this time.

The characters we met in Book One continue to throb with life as they feel the increasing pressure to defend themselves (in defiance of the pacifism which is a foundational tenet of their faith) against vandalism, looting, and threats to life. At the Succoth Estate Heinrich and his family do their best to placate the populace with generosity and service. However, the anarchy in the countryside only grows worse. As their lifestyle of peace and plenty is turned upside down and lives are lost, they face the dilemma of whether they can live by another teaching of Jesus and forgive their enemies.

Dick keeps the action moving as she segues us from one scene to another through the viewpoints of various characters. These people are realistic and sympathetic. The setting is described with confidence and in vivid detail. Not only was this a captivating read, but educational as well. I am looking forward to the release of Book Three, the final one in the series, this summer.






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The Freedom of Dependency (review)

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Patricia Mussolum’s little book the Freedom of Dependency packs a big punch as it riffs on an apparent contradiction—how dependency on Jesus leads to a life of freedom.

Part testimony, part teaching, part a dare to greater faith and obedience, Mussolum covers a lot of territory. In fourteen brief chapters with intriguing names like “The Sorting Room,” “Friendship or Formality,” and “Getting Dressed,” she delves, in a personal and easy-to-understand way, into deep subjects like a Christian’s relationship to the sin nature (“The Sorting Room”), the place of the Bible in a Christian’s life (“Friendship or Formality”), and spiritual clothing options (“Getting Dressed”), and much more.

For a read that will lift, instruct, encourage, and challenge, The Freedom of Dependency won’t disappoint

Introducing my art shop

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It’s hard to believe that it’s already November 26th. Just think… a month from today is Boxing Day. Christmas 2020 will be past!

And the pandemic continues. Have you stayed healthy and well—in body and spirit? How have you spent your time? Have you tackled projects that you might not otherwise have done?

Welcome to my art shop

One thing I’ve been busy with since the beginning of October is setting up my own little art shop – Violet Nesdoly Art.

Now along with the rest of the world, I’m having a SALE! Starting today and for three days only (Nov. 26, 27, 28) everything in the shop is 30% off.

Shipping is free for all orders that ship within Canada and free to the U.S. for orders totalling $35+ US

Examples of what you’ll find at Violet Nesdoly Art:

Printed Notecards. Multiples of these are available as individual cards:
Regular price $5.00
30% off is $3.50
Buy 4 of any printed design and I’ll ship you a 5th card free (your choice of design).

Original Watercolour paintings.
Only one of each available – in various sizes and price points.
For example, the pictured ones are 9×12 inches
Regular price: $125
30% off: $87.50 (paintings only, no mats or frames included).
(The blackberry painting- bottom right- is no longer available)

Free Under the Cloud download

Also on November 26 – 28 only get a free download of the Kindle edition of my latest novel Under the Cloud at your Amazon store:

Under the Cloud at Amazon.ca

Under the Cloud at Amazon.com

Under the Cloud is also available in paperback. I’ll send you a signed paperback copy for only $20 (free shipping) for books ordered between November 26 and Dec. 11, 2020.

Email me to order.

Newsletter signup

Subscribe to my email Newsletter and get the first crack at specials on art and books. New subscribers get a 10% off coupon for the Violet Nesdoly Art shop on sign-up.

Sign up HERE

Fresh Joy – review

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Fresh Joy: Finding Joy in the Midst of Loss, Hardship and Suffering by Heidi McLaughlin


My rating: 5 of 5 stars


When the sudden and unexpected death of a partner hit Heidi McLaughlin for the second time, it would not have been surprising if she’d have become bitter and joyless. But she was determined not to end up that way. Fresh Joy is her story—the first-person account of a woman who goes from a trauma-shattered state of shock to an expansive place of joy.

Along the way she takes us past milestones of unanswered prayers, regrets and “if onlys,” accepting a season of loneliness, appreciating God’s refining process, and more. McLaughlin skillfully weaves details from her story with the spiritual principles she teaches. Each chapter also contains many practical ways to deepen joy.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on hearing from God. McLaughlin writes,

“I never before thought to ask God a question and then, with pen poised, wait for his answers. This discipline of listening for God’s voice and writing down his answers opened up a whole new God dimension for me” (Chapter 12).

McLaughlin goes on to suggest several doable ways we can nurture our relationship with God by listening and so enhance our joy.

McLaughlin’s style is an easy mix of storytelling, teaching, and challenging her readers. The topical nature of each chapter, along with the concluding sum-up neatly contained in the acronym STOP would make this book great for study and discussion groups. This book would be especially helpful for those who are newly grieving the loss of loved ones—and the rest of us, who have no idea what challenges to joy lie ahead.

I received a copy of Fresh Joy as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

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Behind Her Name – review

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Behind Her Name by Eunice Cooper-Matchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


You would never know from the confident look of the woman sitting at the bookstore table signing books for her fans, that Sage Bush was still trapped in her traumatic childhood. But she was. In Behind Her Name, author Eunice Cooper-Matchett explores, with wonderful story telling, the secretive world of bullying and its devastating effects.

The familiar Canadian setting (small town Alberta), a cast of complex and interesting characters, combined with the author’s exploration of serious themes like bullying, forgiveness, trust, and how to answer the age-old question, why does God allow evil in our lives, are aspects of this well-written book that make it more than just another entertaining tale. Oh, and I loved the unique way the author had Sage handle times of stress and overwhelm—with poetry!

Fans of Christian contemporary romance won’t want to miss this special offering!




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Discover Your Hidden Self – review

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Discover Your Hidden Self: Opening the Door to Who You Really Are! by John Murray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It is for a time when crisis hits that John Murray has penned the helpful volume Discover Your Hidden Self: Opening the Door to Who You Really Are! In it he uncovers problem areas that may hinder us as we face life-altering challenges of health, relationships, and unpredictable turns of events that are inevitable. The goal is to help us gain calmness and serenity whatever comes our way.

In twelve chapters Murray tackles relevant subjects like grappling with suffering and unfairness, harnessing the power of thoughts and attitudes, extending forgiveness, finding significance and contentment, and being neighbourly. Throughout he sprinkles stories of people who have faced these issues and achieved success at overcoming them.

A penultimate chapter on life’s spiritual side lifts the reader from looking for help only within themselves to establishing a relationship with God—the God of the Bible–for wisdom, courage, strength, and support through life’s perplexities. Here’s a favourite quote from this section:

“Someone once said, ‘Adversity introduces a man to himself,’ which has an element of truth to it, but I think it should read, ‘Adversity introduces a man to his faith.’ In our adversity, in the midst of our emotional turmoil, our faith becomes real or it proves non-existent” – page 82 (Kindle edition).

Murray’s insights are wise and his tone is warm, sympathetic, and encouraging.

This book would be a great read for when you’re in the middle of a trial, or before, to be prepared for when that next challenge comes your way

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Under the Cloud (free Kindle Edition)

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I’m looking forward to today and attending my first-ever virtual writing conference (Inscribe Fall Conference)!

In gratitude for all the writers and writing mentors (from Inscribe and other writing groups) that have helped and encouraged me through the years, I’ve arranged a free download of my latest novel, Under the Cloud – Kindle edition.

GET IT FREE – September 25 and 26th…