O Christmas Tree!

Relax and watch oil painting “Christmas Tree” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I finally finished my leftover project from before Christmas! Now you see why I was comparing having this painting on my easel in late January to taking down the Christmas tree late. It literally is a Christmas tree that, in canvas form, was sitting on my easel- which is in the kitchen of this small house- and staring at me every day! So, I thought by the time I got this done, I’d no longer care about it and neither would you, but the video is surprisingly cathartic to watch.

As I see the painting come alive in the magical time lapse fashion, it feels like a story. The music was rather random, but fit the emotion of the art perfectly- at least from the perspective I have at the moment. At first the music and the painting starts off as a pretty little thing, without much story to it. But then the music gets kind of odd and chaotic at the same time my video does too! What was happening during that part is that I was trying out my new tripod and my first attempt was a shambles. My head blocked a lot of the session. So, only parts of that session were usable (not a big deal, it wasn’t that important to skip ahead).

But it feels like the parts of Christmas that don’t live up to expectations, don’t go as planned, or maybe are a total disaster and are completely cut from the holiday. This year, we had plans to cook Cornish hens for Christmas dinner, but the refrigerator in the house we’re renting broke- completely dead. We had no refrigeration for weeks, as the process of getting management to send someone out, then having the repair guys say that it’s dead, and then getting approval for a new refrigerator, and then waiting for delivery people to bring it- well, it all takes time.

So for the entire Christmas week and all the way up to New Year’s, we had no place to thaw out the Cornish hens that were in our personally owned chest freezer we bought the LAST time the refrigerator went out (they repaired it that time but I knew it would simply die again later and I didn’t want to lose all our food again when it did!). The investment in the chest freezer was looking pretty wise, I must say! I froze everything I could, even raw eggs in baggies. Our food loss was very minimal.

We did buy a small refrigerator to get through this ordeal, otherwise we’d have had no refrigeration for the holidays (just the freezer). The mini fridge is too small for thawing Cornish hens, so that carefully laid plan for Christmas dinner fell apart. Because of this, I came up with Plan B, which was better than Plan A and will now be a regular thing, a new family tradition. I went with a Christmas morning breakfast that becomes a brunch as the morning turns into afternoon.

I had purchased a warming server to use over Thanksgiving and I realized it would be perfect for using on Christmas. So, here we have an example of how everything fell into place, but only after the frustration and stress of the broken refrigerator, which brought unpleasant emotions forward. I’m weary of living in a small rental house, but our life circumstances will keep us here for at least another Christmas, probably two.

I’ve had much worse cancellations of Christmas. It would take much more than a broken refrigerator to stop me from celebrating. There was the Christmas when Dad was terminally ill from cancer and I was dropped off at another family’s Christmas gathering while my parents were in the hospital for Dad’s chemo treatment.

I was fifteen years old and I remember feeling such awkwardness and humiliation to be the unexpected guest, sitting there while the family was exchanging presents (a large extended family gathering, most didn’t know who I was). The hosts (the only people I knew, friends of my parents) apparently felt compelled to wrap something up for me, and this was worse than if they didn’t. Or maybe not. That would have been horrible too, if sitting there overlooked and ignored. There was really no way to make things better. While strangers smiled at me while their eyes were filled with pity, I fumbled to unwrap whatever it is that they gave me as a token present. I don’t remember what it was.

Dad was hairless then and vomiting during meals. Mom wanted us to pretend we didn’t notice, so I was expected to eat normally even though vomiting noises were only a few feet away, as Dad was hurling into the kitchen sink while we ate. Nerves of steel, that’s what I had. Sometimes it makes me appear cold and detached, but that’s only how I get through a crisis.

We can never guarantee how we’d act in a situation, but in my own family- the one I’ve built as an adult- we are open and honest. I cannot imagine the dysfunction of expecting my children to eat normally while something that traumatic is happening. That’s just a snippet of course of what it was like to grow up while Dad was dying. Mom’s gone now. Otherwise I’d not feel comfortable saying even this much.

So, that’s Christmas for some of us. There are seasons of grief, dysfunction, anxiety, stress, and feeling alone even around others. I am always mindful of this when Christmas rolls around, and I try to help others see the beauty that I do- Christmas is a time marker. We are only asked to “be”. When we do this, we greet Christmas with the hope of the new year to come, regardless of whether or not the current year was good, bad, or in-between.

Back to the video… the music then changes to a calm, sentimental rhythm. And that’s how I feel about Christmas. As it unfolds, whatever stress and expectations we had start to ease up. When it does, we may feel depleted, depressed, tired, or simply relieved. We may feel content. The pace has shifted. The world is no longer running full speed ahead, pushing us to feel something, pushing us to honor our traditions, pushing us to take time off from our regular routine. Everything’s getting back to normal. It will soon be a new year, and an ordinary day.

It may be then that we truly feel Christmas for the first time, when we see it as a pretty picture, cozy and warm with memories of the past- comforted that the past is behind us and the present is here. There is a moment of reflection, and perhaps a recommitment to our faith . We want to be safe, protected, successful, and loved. We want the same for our loved ones. And that’s what we try to express with our Christmas trees and dessert coffees. The desire for Christmas doesn’t go away when Christmas ends.


“Christmas Tree”

Watch Natalie paint this art in 2 minutes (time lapse)

“Christmas Tree” is part of the 2022 collection “Seasons” (of life and nature). Paintings in this collection celebrate seasons of life (metaphorical, representational, or inspired-by-real-life scenes about milestones, rites of passage, and shared human experiences of love, aging, family, and beyond) as well as seasons of nature (literal scenes depicting autumn, summer, fall, and winter). “Christmas Tree” is from the section called Celebrations and Holidays.

Oil painting “Christmas Tree” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Enjoy Natalie’s art on fun, creative, and classy gifts for you and your family!

Tip Natalie to fund art supplies to reach her lifetime goal of 1,000 finished oil paintings, a series of live events, and surprising opportunities!

The Day After

My “Yule Log” cake!

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired from all of the Christmas festivity. I stepped things up this year by trying new baking projects. In this cake I made on Christmas Eve, I used a yule log mold to make a modified gingerbread cake using Lebkuchen spices with Anise and Star Anise. I added a white chocolate frosting and shaped it to look like snow. I hand-painted food coloring using cake decorating paint brushes. So, I’m now painting on cakes as well! What a delicious canvas! As long as I don’t start thinking of my oil paints as something I’m tempted to lick off my brushes, I think there’s more cake painting in my future.

The yule log was moist, just the right amount of spice vs sweet, and quickly disappeared!
My Christmas Day doughnuts!

On Christmas morning I made special doughnuts. I learned how to bake using vanilla beans. My first attempt was to grate the bean, but I realized that I must be doing something wrong and I stopped. I looked it up and sure enough, this would have been a disaster. I was scraping the outside pod! 😀 So then I did it the right way, using a small sharp knife to cut the pod open and then scrape the soft black insides into my doughnut batter. That’s what makes the black vanilla specks. I rolled the finished doughnuts in powdered sugar and topped them with edible star-shaped gold glitter.

Edible star-shaped gold glitter
My husband and I enjoyed a Christmas breakfast doughnut before the kids woke up

This was one of the best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten!

Christmas morning doughnuts ready for the day to start! (they fit so nicely in my display stand after my husband and I ate a couple of them, and then our son came down and ate one)
Southern biscuits and sausage gravy

I also made a full Christmas breakfast buffet, that was kept warm with a glass warming tray. This way, the family could eat whenever they wanted to, and continue to graze throughout the brunch hour and beyond. The Southern biscuits (made with special White Lily flour, soft winter wheat: a Southern tradition since 1883) and gravy were DIVINE, but the family devoured all of these foods equally. They ate almost an entire bag of potatoes in a single day, which was quite an astonishing achievement for five people to consume!

Eggs, sausage gravy, fried red potatoes, Black Forest ham
Eggs and potatoes with sausage gravy

This Christmas breakfast buffet was versatile. The family could use the sausage gravy over biscuits, or over the other foods. The biscuits also worked well for egg and/or ham sandwiches. So, breakfast could turn into lunch without stopping our fun to cook something new. Maybe this idea could help those of you who are looking for ways to make something special without cooking during the big event? I was able to do all of this before the family got too antsy, and then I was off duty for cooking. It was very nice, and everyone enjoyed the buffet!

My plate after devouring my Christmas morning doughnut and leaving behind glitter stars!

I hope that you enjoyed a very happy Christmas. I have more stories to share, but I thought I’d start with the food, as it is something that we humans have in common- we love to eat! The Secret Santa chef game we played in the week before Christmas is a tradition we plan to continue. This is the first year we started a Christmas breakfast buffet and the family wants to make it a new tradition, including the doughnuts- but I’ll made a different kind of Christmas doughnuts each year, to be a surprise to see what I come up with!


O Holy Night

Singing “O Holy Night” with my daughters (I am the one in the middle)

This song is part of the 45 minute Christmas variety show featuring 2 oil paintings, singing, and dancing: 2021 CHRISTMAS SHOW. Please share with anyone who would enjoy a free joyful event to watch over these special days. It’s Christmas Eve, dear friends. I hope that you are tucked away with people you love and are ready to celebrate Christmas.

God bless you and your family, this day and always.


New Painting, Nativity Scene

See oil painting “Nativity Scene” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

This is the short time lapse version of one of the featured paintings in Christmas Show 2021 (the full 45 minute variety show with painting, singing and dancing is available on this site, YouTube, and BitChute). This nativity scene is larger than the one I’ve done in the past, as this one includes more than the central figures of Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. Added are the wise men, shepherds, animals (cow, donkey, sheep) and angel. The Christmas star is included in both paintings.

“Nativity Scene” oil painting by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

I hope that you are enjoying a peaceful time with your loved ones, as we reflect on what Christmas means to us as individuals, and as we participate in our family traditions. Speaking of traditions, old and new: Tonight was the last surprise meal for our Secret Santa game. I said yesterday that I’d talk with you about that, so here it is: our youngest daughter made chicken gnocchi, and it was DELICIOUS!

Our youngest daughter’s chicken gnocchi
She took a lot of care to slow cook the chicken, grate the carrots, finely chop the celery, and chop the fresh spinach and onion. She spent two hours preparing and cooking this dish.
Here it is, served up and ready for me to light the candles before we pray together and eat.

We had a wonderful Secret Santa exchange this year and now we have gourmet leftovers to help us through the busy day tomorrow. I hope our family has inspired you to give this idea a try sometime. The week leading up to Christmas is a good time for families to share the cooking and try new special dishes.

Tomorrow is already Christmas Eve! I wish all of you peace, love, and joy. God bless you and your families.


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My Turn!

Yesterday was my son’s turn for our Secret Santa game. And today was my turn. Both of us managed to pull off a surprise that no one guessed. First, the reveal of what my son served yesterday: He made ratatouille, inspired by the movie. 🙂 I really enjoyed this dish. It was the first time any of us had tried ratatouille and it was fun to sample something different.

My son’s ratatouille
He put so much time into this! He was proud of how the rows of vegetables turned out.

OK, now for my turn… I made chicken cordon blue and a side dish of egg noodles over buttered pea sprouts from my garden. First, the cordon blue: I used black forest ham and provolone cheese inside the butterfly cut chicken. The breading has an egg wash, Parmesan cheese, paprika, salt, and bread crumbs. Everyone loved it, said the chicken was moist and tender and gave me 5 stars. 🙂 My kids had never had chicken cordon blue before and it had been years since my husband and I had this dish, so this was very welcome and we enjoyed our dinner!

My chicken cordon blue!
My side dish: buttery pea sprouts cut from my garden over salted egg noodles

I was proud of my garden contribution. My son asked if I had fresh basil and parsley. Why, yes, I do! I was able to walk a few feet outside and cut the amount of herbs he needed for his recipe. The above picture is of my buttered pea sprouts mixed in salted egg noodles. It was very good! It’s fun to see my gardening starting to pay off. It makes me feel motivated to plant heavily this spring.

Tomorrow is my youngest daughter’s turn in the kitchen. I’ll tell you what happens. I have no idea what she’s planning. So far, all but my husband did a great job of keeping their meals secret. She has the last day, and our Secret Santa chef game will end for this Christmas. I’m already looking forward to next year!

Have a Laugh!

“O Come All Ye Faithful” Natalie (on drums) singing with daughters

You might remember this funny story I shared about a vagrant frog who took up residence in our garage, and my drum set? It was in blog post “LOL! What happened today“. The frog actually got more play time than I did. I finally got the chance to play my drums, but the intention was to only tap out a little rhythm. I was a bit too gleeful for the girls’ attempts to sing while standing right next to me (see the ending of this video especially). 🙂

Next, an update on our Secret Santa chef game. It was my oldest daughter’s turn and she made paninis. They were very good! We greatly enjoyed them and there were no leftovers.

You can see some of the ingredients here: fresh mushrooms, provolone cheese, fresh tomato, deli meat, and Irish butter pressed and melted on ciabatta bread squares

Today’s clip (video at the top of the blog) is from the 45 minute Christmas Show 2021. If you’ve not yet seen the show, I hope you can make time for it. I also hope that you are enjoying lighthearted moments and are making good memories this holiday season. Christmas is now only four days away!

Secret Santa!

Watch oil painting “I Believe in Santa” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

You might remember when I talked about my family’s Secret Santa game in blog post “Santa Claus is Coming to Town“? Our Christmas fun involves FOOD! I said this: “My family started a Secret Santa tradition that is a bit different from the usual. Instead of exchanging presents, the “secret” is a home-cooked meal. We don’t know what each other is planning to cook for us until it’s dinner time on their scheduled day to be the secret (chef) Santa.”

Yesterday it was my husband’s turn to be Chef Santa. He made from-scratch (even the dough!) Calzones.

Homemade calzone by my husband
some ingredients include: ricotta cheese, mushrooms, peppers
My plate

Today is our oldest daughter’s turn to be Secret Santa. Husband is on his way home from a late shift at work. I’ll report on the food surprise tomorrow.

Go Tell it on the Mountain

Singing with my daughters during the Christmas Show 2021

Christmas is now so very near! I hope you are all feeling happy about a special time with your loved ones. God bless you, this day and always!


New Painting

Watch oil painting “The Christmas Dance” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

This is one of the new paintings I finished last week for the taping of my 2021 Christmas Show, which features a longer version of this art, as well as a second new painting that I’ll share here soon, and variety show entertainment (singing and dancing). I told the story of this painting during the show. It was inspired by last year’s (Christmas Show 2020) show, when I was dancing with my husband in the final act.

 

There are moments in our lives that feel as if we’re marking something important, and we might not be able to fully name what that is, nor do we recognize what it means, but we know it is important, maybe special, or something that will be significant in the future. This was one of those defining moments, of sensing that life was changing. It was poignant and sadly beautiful. I believe, to some extent, we all share this feeling during these complicated days. May we see the joy through the pain and confusion. May we choose to dance.

 

God bless you and keep you, this day and always. As it is now the week before Christmas, please keep a candle lit inside your soul. Let it shine before others.

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