I hope my American friends all had a great Thanksgiving. Ours was perfect - filled with good friends, lots of cooking, delicious food and excellent conversation ... and, of course, plenty of leftovers.
And then came the official start of the Christmas season, which means an overabundance of ads and special offers in the mail and online. Every year around this time, I find myself wanting to run the opposite direction. Away from excessive shopping and toward a simpler life, handmade gifts and slowing down.
This has always been my favorite season - colder weather, shorter days, good food, baking cookies, crafting, gifting, end-of-year reflection, and planning for a fresh new year.
This year, that yearly pull toward more traditional living seems stronger and I find that I am leaning toward it in many ways - wanting to take more time cooking, baking and preserving good food, taking greater care to shop local and at small shops, caring for and taking pride in our nest, knitting more, sewing lots more, painting, writing more snail mail, and reading and reflecting.
I am drawn to doing things more thoughtfully and working more with my hands, being tuned in to the seasons and nature, and making things myself wherever I can.
In past years, I have felt that same pull but it always seemed like it would require too much change that I didn't think I had the time or energy for. But this year it feels like it's time. And I think it'll be a really good change, which I am sure you will read all about here on my blog...
In many ways it feels like my life is coming full circle going back to many values and skills I learned from my grandmother, including a love for cooking, baking, knitting and crocheting. She also did a lot of ironing and darning of clothes, which I have yet to develop a love for... But then I don't have to love everything, do I?!
Wishing you a peaceful and joy-filled beginning to the holiday season!
It's the first thing I always make for Thanksgiving dinner and it always feels like the official beginning of the holiday season to me.
I found this recipe in a 1994 issue of Bon Appetit and have made it ever since. I thought I'd share it with you.
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 12-oz package fresh cranberries (about 3 cups)
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon thin orange peel strips
Combine first 3 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Mix in cranberries, cinnamon stick and orange peel. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until berries burst, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool completely (sauce will thicken as it cools). Discard cinnamon stick. (Can be made up to 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.) Makes about 2 1/3 cups
Super easy. And so delicious. Enjoy!!
Change - it happens every moment of every day and it's definitely not always welcome in my life. Theoretically I like change just fine, but sometimes it's easier to like it in my mind than in my actual life.
But then I realized how many of the things I love to do aren't done unless I put them through a deliberate process of transformation. Like the felted slippers I make every year.
They go from being a ball of yarn to being knitted into giant socks. (Do you notice how Winslow isn't impressed in the photo below?!)
Then they go into the washing machine, which adds water and heat and friction...
... and when they come out: perfect!! (For anyone interested, this is the pattern I use, click on the link: Felted Slipper Socks. The $5 I paid for the pattern has been a very worthwhile investment!)
Another example of welcome change is baking. Yesterday I made bread and had a moment of marvel.
Add liquid to the dry ingredients and you get this:
Then add heat and the result is the most delicious bread! Again: perfect. Not lasting, but perfect at that moment.
It's really not much different from life, is it? Everything has to go through change in order to become more, different and a new version of "perfect in the moment." No matter how much I try to hold on sometimes, nothing ever stays the same. And really, when I think about my life and where it is now, that is perfect in itself. What I need to remember is that different does not automatically mean worse. In fact it can mean better and better and better!
Here are some beautiful flowers for you, gorgeous souls! Perfection in the moment!
This last September we had a bunch of work done on our house. One of the rooms being updated was my studio. First, Daniel and I painted it -- finally after nine years in the house! And then we had the old carpet taken out and laminate flooring put in. It changed the whole feel of the room!
The nook with the bed has become very cozy - although you can see I still have to arrange more books around it.
We also put shelving up on the wall and I brought all my German books and my art books into my studio. Can you tell we love books?
Daniel painted an unfinished door for me to use as a table between the bookshelves and I propped it up on two storage cubes, where I can hide some of my painting mess and keep a bunch of file folders out of sight!
I have a nice corner for my easel and my new ikea storage cart makes it easy to have my supplies both at my drawing table or at the easel.
As you can probably see, I have no art up on the walls yet. That's very normal for me - some people like to finish all the decorating first. I like to just move in, have it feel good and then get to work with my art.
I'll probably take some time over the holidays to move in completely, but frankly with books and art supplies it's already close to perfect...
And when we have more guests than our guest room can hold, it's easy to break everything down and make this into a cozy bedroom. Well, once the extra books are off the bed...
With that said, I'm off to my studio to paint a little more. Now that our art show is over, I have all kinds of creative energy...
Today, I am participating in a creative challenge issued by the incredibly talented Veronica Roth. The topic is "calm," specifically chosen during these very tumultuous times in our beautiful world. It's hard to make sense of what's been happening lately!
One way I deal with the news as of late is to paint. And even though there's nothing really calm about my art, the act of creation itself is incredibly calming to my mind and soul. Both of these paintings are in the beginning stages, but I have started teasing a couple of animals from the colorful backgrounds. The top one is definitely easier to make out. Can you guess what the bottom one will be?
Another way I bring peace back into my heart is by creating cozy and beautiful spaces in our house. Don't you love that fabric bowl for my knitting my sister-in-law gave me? It makes me happy just to look at it! And speaking of knitting - it is balm for my soul and it always helps me calm my overactive mind. I always have a few knitting projects going - this one will be cute little baby hat.
And Elizabeth Gilbert's new book? It just arrived today and I cannot wait to start reading it!!
If you feel so inspired, head on over to Veronica's Blog for more inspiring and calming art.
As you know from my previous post, Daniel and I had a show of our artwork and the opening was last Friday. It was amazing! And absolutely so much fun!
And as I get time to reflect, I realize it was so much more than that. In one of the quieter moments, I told Daniel that since our wedding day, this was probably the most significant event in my adult life. I was surprised when I said it, but then realized it was true.
It was so much more than just showing my colorful art alongside Daniel’s exquisite watercolors. I spent the last six years following my soul’s urging to give it visual expression. When I finally decided to listen and stayed with it, I completed painting after painting, following my intuition and finally finding my own colorful voice.
Last Friday, I shared that with family, friends, students, some of Daniel’s fellow art professors, and the occasional stranger. And I felt not a hint of insecurity! I would say it was a miracle, had I not done a lot of inner work to stand strong in my own self.
Even with working on my sense of self worth, I wasn’t sure that I was up to public scrutiny of my art. Showing it online is very different for me than showing it all together in person. So it was a good thing I made a firm commitment when earlier this year Daniel and I planned to have a show together. That way I couldn’t bail at the last moment....
I called myself an artist before, but now I FEEL like one. 100 percent! And when several people told me how happy my art is and how it uplifted them, I knew that I am finally living my life purpose. Spreading joy and uplifting people has always been my wish, and even more so during these tumultuous times on our planet.
For over 40 years I have tried to find “my path.” I have had different careers, lived different places, had different interests, and nothing ever felt quite right. Or quite enough, I should say.
When I listened to the call to paint, I thought it was just another hobby I was going to try for a while. I never thought I’d find myself through color and paint.
Every painting I approach from a soul level. I never plan it, never do a sketch or figure out a composition first.
I pick a few colors and start dripping them into water on the canvas. When that dries, I try to look at it without judgment and wait for my intuition to guide me to the next step. Every painting is a new adventure!
I thought I could figure out my particular soul work with my mind, by reading books and thinking or writing about it, but that didn't work for me.
Painting the way I do helped me to get out of my head. I am a good thinker and analyzer, but my head was actually getting in the way of my heart and soul work. My art takes me into that space beyond words, which is where I found my path.
And last Friday, standing next to my extraordinary husband, I was brave enough to show it to everyone who attended our opening! And now my heart is filled with gratitude and so much love, especially for Daniel's unwavering support in my life's journey.