Thursday, December 15, 2016

Little Things with Great Meaning

When I was a little girl (less than 10 years old) we lived in a small town near Madison, New Jersey.  The "we" was my mother and father, the brother closest in age to me, and for a while, my middle brother. 

My mother had a friend up the street from us whom she visited from time to time.  I accompanied her on the visits occasionally, and since Mother's friend was childless, she was kind to me.  When she discovered I enjoyed polishing silver, she always asked me to polish some of hers and made me feel I was doing very well at something extremely special and important for her.  Once she showed me three little carved wooden figures from the Black Forest region of Germany.  Oh, did I adore those figures and my mother's friend.

When my father died and we moved away, Mother's friend gave me those little figures both as a way to remember her and to help me through a difficult time.  I still have them, and when I told D about them and explained what they meant to me, he started looking for more of these folk art carvings.  Now in our living room there is a display of those figures . . . 

With one some additions including another very special, very meaningful addition.  Last year, my sister-in-law E sent a Christmas card that featured a copy of her painting of her parents village in Germany.  It's full of her love for her family and pride in her background.  That makes it special to me.  And to have those memories visible at this time of year makes them - well, almost glow with their own light.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Holiday Doings

Another day given over to holiday business.  D and I wrapped presents to take for mailing tomorrow.  I finished laundry that had been delayed due to earlier interruptions in the usual schedule.  And then there was the making of Christmas cards which, once printed, had to be signed and envelopes addressed.  

But this was fun because most of it had to do with enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday season.  One of the most enjoyable tasks was completed last night when D brought a very large box up from the basement which contained Christmas decorations.  We had gone through those decorations and passed on to our daughter or given away, but as you can imagine, there were still a lot left (more than I thought).  I found I had held on to decorations that I had purchased for use in school; they wound up either in the waste basket or in the box to go to charity.  After that we happily sorted and put up some of my Santa collection (some was relegated to charity for other families to enjoy).  Opening up a box that held D's collection of Christmas-themed Gurley candles, and here they are:

On the kitchen side of the pass through, there are five snowmen and one recent beeswax pine tree.  The winter lamps are new this year (couldn't resist something that could be used throughout the winter and was pretty!), and the holly which is lush this year is in two antique cruets and one Larkin Soap bottle (antique from Buffalo).

From the family room side, there are two Santas and two green pine trees and two glass white and gold trees.  You can also see that the Chinese warrior general is standing guard!

Some times sorting through "old stuff" can yield an hour or two of clearing out things that no longer make us happy and also give weeks of pleasure.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Another Day of Painting

Painting only one day a week is definitely not the best way to get better at it, but lately that's all I can manage (as many others coping with seasonal expectations or any other highly charged situation).  At least I did take the time to think about what I needed to do today.

First, here is the painting as it looked last week:

Now here is the same painting after today:

It's obvious that I have begun adding more dark clouds to the sky, but some of the other changes are possibly less noticeable  The trees on the left are more detailed.  There are now the beginnings of trees on the right (not a truck, I didn't want to hint at even one person being around), the building (not a church - an empty house) is more detailed though it may be hard to see.  The tower has been worked on.  

Oh, well, I guess you had to be there.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Helpful Hint/s

Along the lines of yesterday's posting, this one is for everyone out there who is up to her/his neck in holiday baking.  Or everyday baking for that matter.

Today, I started doing some baking, and yes, I know it's late for a "start", but well, if you've been reading this blog, you understand.  I need to make about 6 batches of biscotti (2 each of 3 different kinds), and if you've baked biscotti, you know they aren't difficult just time consuming.  Indeed, they are one of the most forgiving and easiest of holiday treats one can bake.  The time consuming part is the twice-baked part.

And this is where the helpful hint comes in.  Some of you will say,"Well, DUH!!!" because you've known this forever, but I didn't grow up in a family that made biscotti nor did I have a cookbook that was full of information regarding the baking of biscotti.  Until I purchased the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion.  

Here's the hint: after the first baking and the cooling period, BEFORE slicing the biscotti "log", spray that log with water using a clean spritzer (easy and inexpensive at a drug store Walmart type place), wait 5 minutes, and then slice the biscotti log. That spritz of water will soften the baked crust and keep it from crumbling when you start slicing the log.  

Use that little, easy hint, and you'll have neatly sliced biscotti that look professional.

But an even better hint?  If you love cookies like I do, but that cookbook,  King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December when one is on the Outs

Every year I promise that I will not over-book myself, and every year I do just that.  Yet, I don't know many people who manage to avoid the snare of over commitment.  There's sewing, knitting, baking, painting, decorating, socializing . . . oh wait, that's every month!

Actually, what threw me for a loop (small loop, small "l") today was the search for cinnamon chips.  You know, cinnamon chips for baking that are (usually) relatively common around the winter holidays.  Except for this year.  I had very helpful people directing me to the snack aisle (supposedly for cinnamon potato chips), the ice cream freezer (great ice cream idea), and the cookie aisle (chocolate chip cookies with cinnamon? sounds good!).  But no.  Even when I did a thorough check at a second more well-stocked grocery store, I found no cinnamon chips.

Once home, I researched on line to find a substitute and was directed to many sites for a how-to on making my own.  Not going to happen.  I also realized why the stores had none.  That more well-stocked store led me to the truth.

Cinnamon is not "in".  Caramel is.

I'm on the "outs".

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Update on Most Recent Painting

Today I was very eager to go to painting class so I could get back to work on my latest watercolor.  As I am sure I have made abundantly clear, I am having difficulties (as usual) balancing all of my various activities.  Because of that, painting has taken a back seat.

I may also have mentioned that this is a painting that is going where it wants to go.  Any ideas I may have had early on?  Well, forget them.  The painting is having none of it!  Just as a reminder, here are a few of my early studies starting with one sheet of four different skies:

Next is a set of sky and foreground studies:

Here is a study of what I thought would be the closest to the complete work:

And here's where it is today:

It is worth explaining that the painting is progressing in layers, and I am trying very hard not to get ahead of it.  I did add some darker clouds directly behind the building today but then turned my attention to the foreground to begin to lay down some colors.  Following that I returned to the building to bring it along.  As you can tell from all this, I'm trying to keep everything at the same point in the process.  That makes it much easier for me to know what needs to be done where and when.  Eventually there will be more dark clouds in the sky and the foreground will be more developed.

The extension of this building would have been on the far right, but I didn't feel it should be there.  It is a quite uninteresting addition to this old house and would add nothing to my version of the view. The possible need for the rest of the building occurred to me because I had chosen a much larger size paper for the final painting which also placed the tower almost smack in the middle - drat!  This time I will not cut off a portion of the right side; I don't want to lose any of that sky.

Now the painting is whispering that there should be a truck over on the right, but I don't know if I should listen to it or not!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Some Difficulties Writing Entries in December

I find December a difficult time to write entries.  Although I am involved in many different arts, crafts, and home-related activities, many of these are either standard-issue or top secret.  I could write about my current painting except no work has been done on that since last week.

So I will try to write on occasion about generic doings about the house and post photographs as they happen to coincide with what's going on.  

Today I am posting a photograph of our little artificial tree.  We had decided we no longer wanted the expense, work, and clean-up required by a real tree and that we were ready to try an artificial tree. Of course, initially I wanted one of the super fancy, all over lights, very large (and very expensive) faux trees. Fortunately, due to wiser heads than mine, that didn't happen, and I just happened to find this one when wandering though Home Depot looking for screws or bolts, or arrows, or sledge hammers, or who knows what all, when I saw this 42", perfect-for-a-table little poinsettia bedecked tree complete with lights and enough gold to make my bling-heart happy.

Tomorrow is painting day so I may have something to write about but I'm not promising anything.

Have a good week!