Wednesday, December 24, 2014

December 24th

It's that day, the day little children dream of, yearn for, even ache for.  It's Christmas Eve!  I used to be all a-quiver on the 24th, from the instant I opened my eyes to the last conscious moment before giving myself over to sleep.  The sheer anticipation of the day was palatable.

Now, these many years later, I am not in such a state of excitement and anticipation, but still....this day is special to me and my family.  It's special to many people, many families.

No matter what your beliefs, no matter what your special holidays, please accept my wish for a happy and healthy 2015 for you and your family.  As the northern hemisphere moves, slowly, out of the long darkness marked by the Winter Solstice, and into the light, may that light fill us all, everyone, with peace, tolerance and understanding.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

500th Post!

I just happened to glance at the right place on the Blogger dashboard this afternoon and saw that I had already posted 499 times.  That's a lot, it seems to me, and the 500th, while not of much note to anyone but myself, needed to be mentioned.

Christmas is almost upon us and there are signs of it everywhere.  My little town on Puget Sound even has a Christmas trolley on the weekends.  I plan to ride on it tomorrow.  Not too sure why I feel compelled to do so, but I do and so I will.

I have been baking like crazy.  I made chocolate salami, a favorite of my friend John's.  

John and I met the other day for our monthly "show and tell."  We met in an round robin last year and discovered we have a love of art in common and we like to get together and talk about making art if we can't actually get together and make art.  

I used Waterlogue app to get this effect.

Nonie and I went to see A Christmas Story last week and they had this wonderful photo op bunny suit in the lobby.  Nonie couldn't resist.  I'm glad she didn't.  I can see that this snapshot is going to be one of my favorite photos of Christmas 2014.

In honor of my starting Spanish classes this past autumn I made Mexican butter cookies, decorated with sugar crystals in the colors of the Mexican flag.  They are delicious and will be a staple of my holiday baking from now on.

I hope your Holiday is gearing up to be wonderful.  I wish all of you the very best, now and for all of 2015.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Pears

When I was small, my parents and I always traveled to my maternal grandmother's house to spend Christmas with Nana and my Aunt Anne, Uncle Ed and my four cousins, who lived in the same small town as Nana.  Going to Nana's for Christmas was always the highlight of my year.  Way back then, long before the freeways of today, it was a very long drive to Mt. Vernon, in northern Washington state, from our house in a tiny little town near Tacoma.  We set out just after breakfast and drove and drove and drove.  It seemed to take years to get to Nana's big, white three story house.

The house was always beautifully decorated and the piece de resistance was the giant (at least to me!) Christmas tree in the high-ceiling living room, dripping with ornaments, lights and tinsel.  Delicious smells wafted from the big kitchen, so big it even had a comfy wicker armchair just by the door to the big cold pantry*.  There was always something cooking on the large old stove and dishes and silverware were set out in the butler's pantry that was situated between the kitchen and the formal dining room.  That kitchen seemed as big as my whole house.

My aunt and uncle and their four wonderfully rowdy children always came for dinner on Christmas Eve.  Sometimes my mother's younger brother and his family were there, too, all the way from Pennsylvania.  We would all sit at the round oak table in the dining room and be fed Nana's Christmas Eve feast.  Course after course, every mouthful delicious, would be presented.  We ate and ate and ate.  And then we all ate some more when the steamed "plum" pudding with hard sauce was brought to the table.  The pudding was actually a carrot pudding, I discovered many years later, but it was truly delectable and we looked forward to it all year long.

After the feast we repaired to the living room for the opening of our gifts.  It was controlled bedlam---loud, joyous, chaotic and magic.

 And late on Christmas Eve I would be given my stocking to hang on the fireplace and carted off to bed.  And once I was watered, tucked in, storied and kissed good night, I would tell myself I was going to listen really, really hard, no matter how long it took, so that this year I would hear Santa land on the roof and plummet the three stories to the hearth where he would stuff  my stocking full and leave a few gifts for me under the tree.  (And my Pennsylvania cousins, too, if they were there that year.)  And I always fell asleep within seconds of the light being turned off and the door closing.

Very early on Christmas morning I would wake up, creep mouse-like down the grand staircase, past the big Palladium window on the landing, and scurry into the living room to find my stocking.  And it never disappointed.  Santa would have been there and he was always very, very generous.  Lots of wonderful treats would be within.

I would carry (drag?) my stocking back up the stairs to the corner room with it's high double bed and old-fashioned (even then) chenille bedspread that was my traditional bedroom when visiting Nana, and I would look at each and every treasure, play with some, eat some, adore them all.

And then....the very best, the most special part of Christmas would happen!

The door to my room would quietly open a crack and my Daddy's head would appear around the door.  He's say, "Ready to come with me?"  And I'd leap off the bed, the stocking and the toys forgotten.  I'd jump into my clothes and shoes as fast as ever I could and race down to the kitchen, this time by the back stairs.  There Dad would be waiting in the wicker chair.  I'd skid to a stop in front of him and he'd slowly rise up and head to the cold pantry.  Once inside we would look over all of Nana's home canned fruits and pick the perfect quart jar of Bartlett pears.  It had to be stuffed with perfect pear halves.  It had to speak to us....

We would carry that quart of pears to the counter by the sink, open it up and eat every pear half, sweet and full of late summer goodness, with forks.  Dripping the syrup on the counter, and probably in my case, all down the front of my shirt, we'd eat them all.  Once the pears were finished, very bit, we'd take turns drinking all the syrup from the jar, until it, too, was empty.

And then Daddy would take me by the hand and walk me the three blocks to the only cafe that was open in town on Christmas morning, and we'd order pancakes and Daddy would read the comics to me from his newspaper.

The real meal, though, was always the pears---Nana's home canned Bartlett pears.  Christmas in a jar.

Pears are now a memory made tangible.  If I pick up a pear I am immediately transported back in time, to Nana's kitchen, Christmas morning, with Daddy.

May your holiday be as sweet as my memories of Christmas pears.

*The cold pantry at Nana's was a room with a big, screened window that had no glass and let in the cold, crisp and mostly really damp air of a Washington winter.  In the cold pantry Nana stored her homemade preserves, pies, pantry items like flour and sugar and all sorts of wonderful foodstuffs.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

close up of my Johnson Bros. turkey platter

To all my family and friends in these United States, I wish you a most happy and delicious Thanksgiving 2014.

I am, truly, thankful for each of you.  Family and Friends....such simple words, so fraught with emotion.  I am blessed.  I have wonderful people in my life, both blood relatives and those I have chosen as family because they live in my heart.   I have love and happiness and health and fun.  I get to create with paint and paper, needle and thread, and I am always thrilled to cook and bake and preserve.  

I am grateful.  And I am awed by the bounty in my life.  Thank you, everyone, for these precious and bountiful blessings.

 Grace  by Mary Oliver

I don't want you to just sit down at the table.
I don't want you to just eat and be content.
I want you to walk out into the fields
Where the water is shining and the rice has risen.
I want you to stand there far from this white tablecloth.
I want you to fill your hands with mud, like a blessing.

last jar of last year's stash of spice cranberries....I have made the 2014 batches!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Candied Kumquats Anyone?

While I was shopping this afternoon for turkey parts to make stock ahead of cooking my turkey this upcoming weekend, I ran into the first of the fresh kumquats.  I love candied kumquats.  They are a surprising addition to pound cake and the syrup can beused to make an icing.  Kumquats are citrus-y and quite different from oranges and tangerines and add a delicious and  unexpected taste to winter baking.

It's an easy process to candy them and one I enjoy.  A nice way to spend a rainy and windy late November afternoon.

I got four half pints from a little over a pound of kumquats.  I'll take a jar to my daughter-in-law on Thursday when we celebrate Thanksgiving with our son and his family.  On Friday I'll buy a sale turkey and roast it up at the cabin, for sandwiches and soup for the freezer.  I really love Thanksgiving week.  It's full of good smells, anticipation and turkey!

I hope your Thanksgiving, if indeed you celebrate that special day, is full of family and friends, good feasting and most of all, thanks for all our blessings.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Visual Journal Pages In Progress

This spread was done in class and was created with a series of prompts that John gave us.
 I have been taking a mixed media class from my friend John Arbuckle.  I've been working on multiple spreads in a couple of different visual journals, and having so much fun!  John makes each week's class exciting and interesting, and he has shared so many techniques that I find I just have to experiment with different ideas.

I think the above spread is done.  But maybe not?  Not sure.

This one, below, is in my Like a Nomad journal that I started in a class I took from Orly Avineri last summer.  I thought it was done.  And then I kept working on it and adding little bits and pieces.  Never say never, I guess!

The spread below is not done.  It's a good start, but that's it.  Just a start.  It incorporates several techniques John had us don in our class.

This spread (above) keeps evolving.  I have no idea where it might end up.  Or if this is the end.  I am just letting the pages pull me along---no big plans, just letting things evolve.  It's very freeing to work this way and I am really enjoying myself.

I started this spread quite a while ago but just finished it (I think!) the other day.  It has actual "weaving" done with sari ribbon, cotton pearl thread, velvet ribbon and bias tape.  This is in my Like a Nomad journal.

I have just started on this spread, but so far I like the colors and the patterns.  I seem to be on a circle cycle, I have noticed.

And finally, this is a sign I spotted at a favorite local restaurant, FIVE.  I love it!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Having Fun with Visual Journaling and Collage

Cats have credit Jeanne McLam
 I took a one night, really fun class at the Schack with my friend Susan the other  night.  The class was called Playful Acrylics and Collage and was taught by Jean McLam.  This was not an evening of serious art creation but rather one of recharging the batteries and just playing....throwing some paint around, cutting/tearing out images from magazines and gluing them down.  I had a great time.

"work" in progress---photo credit Jeanne McLam

There were no beginners in this class, just a like-minded group of women who were looking for an evening of making art and playing with art supplies.  Jean was a most encouraging, supportive and very well organized instructor.  She provided ALL the supplies and gave us just enough instruction for us to go off and do our own thing.  A perfect evening.  There was even wine for those that wanted it!

class photo!---photo credit Jeanne McLam

Meanwhile, in another on-going mixed media class I am taking, brilliantly taught by John Arbuckle, I've been doing a little work in one of the visual journals I'm working in right now.  Nothing here is completed, just works in progress.  I am having such fun in this class, too.  I really needed to have this artistic outlet to balance the struggle I am having in my beginning Spanish class.  The old brain is slow and it's hard to learn a new language.   Trying to learn a little Spanish is very rewarding, but it's work.  Art is play.  Together they create a nice balance to my week.