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That’s a word to describe how I feel when I’m happy and peaceful and alive right down to my toes: Toesey. (This photo is courtesy of Stacy Horn, who managed to capture her cat Finney at just the right moment in his own fit of toesey-ness. I discovered Stacy in 2003 with the publication of her first book, Waiting For My Cats to Die,  a smart, funny, touching memoir that is what Sex and the City could have been if Tina Fey had written it. It’s newly available for e-readers. She’s also written about the cold case squad at the NYPD and scientific investigation of supernatural phenomenon — her blog is at

It ‘s FRIDAY and it’s a beautiful Spring and I am happy that Winter is over and all good things are on the horizon. I know this mood can not last, so I’m doing everything I can to prolong it.

For one thing, I starting anew art journal! It’s a journal of one page illustrations of my 50 favorite books and poems.

My first favorite book is The Pillow Bookby Sei Shonagan, written in Japan in the 10th century and still read as a classic of Japanese literature. It’s the diary of a very cultured, artful, opinionated, determined woman who was a lady-in-waiting for the Japanese Empress. It was a lusty, cruel, deeply aesthetic time at the dawn of a distinctly Japanese culture that had previously borrowed much of its arts and language from China. It is said that The Pillow Book is the first book to be written in vernacular Japanese.

I got books on Japanese art from the library and searched old prints for scenes and moods and portraits that I could use for my illustration. Here’s what I ended up with:

And here is how I am arranging these images on my page:

(These are color copies of my watercolors, reduced 55% to fit in this setting. )

As you know, I like to leave a lot of white space on a page for text, which in this case is for about 100 words that will sum up this 600-page Pillow Book . Because the text is as much a desgin element as the pictures — never forget that.

I already have my next four books lined up:  Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, My Antonia by Willa Cather, Mary Poppins by Mary Travers, and The Silent Traveller in Endinburghby Chian Yee. Come to think of it, I don’t really like Steppenwolf at all, having recently re-read it for this journal, but I loved being 20 and living in Paris when I read it for the first time so that’s why this book is in this list.

This is just a reminder that I’m giving a talk about my new book, Le Road Trip, at the Writers Salon  at Hofstra University on Long Island this coming Monday night, April 2. For more information, visit, email or call 516-463-7200.

I’ll be doing a half-and-half at the Writers Salon: half shop talk to the writers in the room, with the other half being me taking advantage of a captive audience to give the world a piece of my mind that I’m calling The Three Biggest Lies and the Two Biggest Truths of Travel.

Stay toesy, everyone, and have a great weekend!

6 comments to O, Happy Days

  • Nadine

    “Toesy” is the perfect word for that feeling, and that’s a great photo. I will definitely look up Stacy Horn’s book.

    Only a week to go until I get my pre-ordered “Le Road Trip” books! The anticipation is making me almost toesy.

  • mary

    Is THAT a happy cat—-or WHAT?
    Once in a while they do the cutest things to show how happy they are.
    Usually, sleeping in a sun spot, stretched out, with a smile on their face is the cutest.

    I looked up Stacy Horn on Amazon. Her books are not kindled – yet.
    Very nice paintings, Vivian. Lots of luck at Hofstra.

  • Shelley

    Love the kitty pic – our two sleep that way all the time (but they are so fat they look like sea otters on their backs).

    I LOVE your paintings for the Pillow Book page – they are absolutely wonderful. I think your art journal book is a fabulous idea – hope you’ll keep sharing pages with us.

    What a lovely, toesy post from you today!

  • Sally

    Vivian, what a wonderful idea for an artist’s book–as a friend who looked at your blog said, a pictorial book report. But actually much more.

    Nice depictions of Japanese prints, both landscape and “floating world” courtesans!!

    The SIlent Traveller!! I hope you know he was an artist, too, and a calligrapher, and there’s a whole series of these books, though I’ve only read ST in Boston. I MUST read ST in Paris sometime. Thanks for push in that direction.

    Awaiting Le Road Trip, and have ordered one for friends, too.

  • Deborah

    I love your pillow book paintings, especially the cherry blossoms & moon (or is it the sun? celestial orb, at any rate). I can imagine how your favorite books book could let you experiment with different styles of painting. way cool.

    I had my Perfect Day/toesy day here last Tues. – perfect weather. Sunny, 67 degrees, and NO WIND. Spending the day in my garden allowed me to forget how it seems to be taking FOR-EV-ER to be April 10th (although Amazon is telling me the estimated date I’ll receive that damn France book is April 12th!).

  • AnneL

    Exciting week ahead…the long awaited Le Road Trip and baseball (which involves road trips of a different sort.) i can’t wait.

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