Sharing one of the presents from each family member of this theme: the nature that I love and share with you all here, through my oil paintings and stories. The above video shows the gifts my husband and oldest daughter gave me for my garden and the images below show the bird and butterfly related gifts from my younger two kids.
It feels good when the people we love understand who we are and what makes us happy. I loved receiving presents to help me enjoy my garden and beloved birds and nature. It is a Merry Christmas indeed! God’s world is a gift for everyone. JOY TO THE WORLD!
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.
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.
This was one of the best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten!
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!
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!
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!
I painted these clover after I found them growing wild through the cracks in the patio, here in Georgia (USA). It reminded me of shamrocks. We saw a lot of wild clover/shamrocks while living in Ireland.
Yesterday’s blog post “LOL, Irishness” was about my experience making a type of Irish shortbread that is baked in a pan for about two hours. I promised an update, so here it is: AMAZING! Oh my! I love these little cookies so very much! But I’d really describe them more as a dessert that goes well with coffee or tea, even for breakfast, rather than what Americans think of as a cookie.
You can find this recipe called “Irish Shortbread” by Anissa Wolf at Food.com. If you try it, you may find that you have to bake it for even longer than the suggested time. It was gooey and obviously not done, and easy to tell it had firmed up enough to cut it when it was baked longer. It was suggested to cut the slim bars into 20 pieces while the shortbread is still hot. I used a heat resistant silicon spatula/scraper (the kind you can use to scrape batter in a bowl, or because it’s heat resistant also multi-purpose while cooking) to cut it with and that worked very well.
I was skeptical about such slim pieces lasting long in our house, but the shortbread is quite rich and satisfying to have just the one serving. So, I froze most of it into separate bags since it looks like this dessert is best fresh or fresh-from-frozen. I enjoyed a piece of shortbread this morning for breakfast. And knowing the rest of the batch is in the freezer, I’m happy we’ll have this again soon.
If you want to give this a try, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I’ve had a good day today, with a family member who is celebrating a birthday. I hope you had a good day too. Have a happy weekend!
This painting is of a peach pie, but today my firstborn daughter baked a pumpkin pie for tomorrow. I baked ahead the homemade macaroni and cheese. My youngest daughter made a green bean casserole. The two hot dishes will be on a heating & warming tray tomorrow. In the morning I’ll prepare and roast the turkey. We’ll have a flurry of activity in the kitchen when it’s time for making all of the other parts of the feast: stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, yams (I don’t count them as vegetables and I won’t eat any, I don’t like yams) and heating the french bread my husband baked. My son will open a can of cranberry sauce and slice it. I won’t eat that stuff either, but he sure will.
I put matching turkey and harvest themed tablecloths on the tables, finished making festive potholders, and washed the pretty new holiday apron my daughter gave me. I’m ready! I’ll be up very early to finish thawing the turkey, going outside to cut the fresh parsley and rosemary to stuff the turkey, as well as a lemon, orange, onion, and apple. This is a new variation I’m trying, based on tips I found online. I like to try new ways to prepare the turkey. Every year it seems to be “the best turkey ever!”
I wish you all a happy day tomorrow, and those of you who celebrate this holiday, may you have a joyous Thanksgiving!
I had a friend who rides horses whenever she wants to escape stress, relax, or just feel happy and free for a while. Since I’ve always felt intimidated sitting on top of a large animal, I can’t relate to this. I guess my “ride” would be a different type of escape. Perhaps my reigns are paintbrushes.
Do you want to ride with me? If you didn’t remember or see this before, I shareda complete 12 week FREE art class here on this site. Available any time, day or night! It’s a paint-with-me type of class if you want to, or you can just watch the videos for interest if you don’t want to do the art yourself. This “Wild Horses” painting is one of the ones that I did during the class. I also blogged about this horse painting in a post called “Wild or Roped?“.
I hope that you are enjoying your November so far, and are looking forward to enjoying relaxing activities as the holiday season is soon upon us. Be joyful, be free! Be inspired. God bless you and your families.
I last shared this puffin painting in a blog post called “Are you Worried?” Today, I’d like this funny little bird to wish you a happy Friday. I’m enjoying my evening and I hope you are too! A bit of an update: I am working on the longer project I mentioned earlier and the smell of heavy oil paint was getting to me, so it’s a good thing I’ve had a forced break this week due to weather. You might recall that I’ve said that artificial light is not as good as natural sunlight for seeing and filming my paintings. It’s been dreary and dark here in Georgia.
So, I’ve been working on Christmas sewing projects and other home related things. The art will be done in due time. In this way, I shall be like this puffin, a positive and quirky bird with many talents. He can swim, fly, and nest high on cliffs, but obviously he can do only one of those things at a time. He’s a social creature and above all, likes to be with his fellow birds. May we be like a puffin, embracing all of the amazing things we can do, but fine with not being able to do all things at all times, and enjoying the people we love to spend time with.
You might remember when I shared this painting previously here on the blog, I asked the question “What do people say about you?” It was one of my longer blog posts, about why we shouldn’t let criticism or praise influence us too much, that we can be distracted from our purpose and our own voice. Today, I was reminded of this painting because it is autumn and the painting is about the fun of jumping into a pile of leaves.
Most people reach an age when it’s not physically fun anymore to jump into a pile of leaves. It still looks fun when we see children doing it, doesn’t it? We may be willing to rake leaves into a big pile just to see children jump into it, laughing, and playing.
But, we probably don’t want to do much jumping into piles of leaves ourselves. So what DO we think is fun? What is fun? According to the online dictionary Merriam-Webster, “fun” is a verb: to indulge in banter or play, and “fun” is also an adjective: providing entertainment, amusement, or enjoyment. We might describe this as “what makes us laugh”.
We may not laugh while running and jumping into leaves, but we’ll laugh when someone else does it. We’ll laugh when we hear a funny joke, or when caught by surprise by witnessing something silly. A milder form of fun may be entertaining, like doing a project we enjoy, or listening to our favorite music.
Maybe we have fun dancing, cooking, and visiting with family or friends. Maybe we feel so positive after a job well done that we actually think that work is fun, especially the kind of work that benefits us personally, such as renovating a home or organizing our living space. Perhaps we love how it feels to surprise others with a generous or kind act, and we think that giving our time, energy, or money to others is “fun”.
Fun is the carefree, wild playfulness of a child jumping into leaves- a type of energy that creates a strong, healthy, happy life. May we find ways to have fun. Joyful living elevates ourselves and all those around us.
When we were children and someone asked us, “Do you want a cookie?” we’d probably have said yes without hesitation (unless it was a type of cookie we didn’t like, or we were allergic to the ingredients in it). But as adults, the simple yes or no decision about whether or not we want a cookie is more complicated.
Beyond any allergies or dislike for the cookie, we might also consider the calories, any ingredients that don’t fit into our diet plan, who made the cookie and how fresh it is, if the conditions of the cookie look hygienic or if the cookie has been touched by many people before being offered, if the cookie has hard decorations that could hurt our teeth, if the cookie is sloppy and will be messy to eat, if the cookie comes with a paper napkin or plate, if the cookie has a political statement written on it, if the cookie is sold by an organization whose politics we don’t agree with, if the cookie is offered free or at a cost, if we are expected to eat a cookie right before singing or speaking in public, if accepting the cookie means that someone else can’t have one (not enough to go around), if not accepting the cookie will hurt someone’s feelings, and probably other considerations I didn’t think of.
Every decision we make as an adult is more complicated than our decision making process we had when we were children. And though it may be tempting to wish for those days back, the truth is that most of us prefer to be adults. For if we still made decisions in a childlike way, we’d be as vulnerable as children. Rash impulsive decisions based on immediate rewards sometimes leads to dire consequences that hurt ourselves and others. There’s a good reason for humans to grow up and learn to make mature, fully thought out decisions.
But every now and then… if offered a cookie (assuming that a single cookie won’t ruin your fitness plan), why not just say “YES, please!” and enjoy every sweet morsel of it? Life is complicated, so it’s a happy thing when we take a break from the seriousness of this world. Sometimes a pretty little cookie really is just a pretty little cookie that tastes delicious and gives us a few minutes of joy. And we can say “YES, I want a cookie!”
This oil painting is a self-portrait; me, through my father’s eyes, from behind a camera lens. The painting was inspired by a photo he took for a class assignment for a photography class. If you’ve not been a subscriber for long, you may not be aware that Dad died as a young man (age 37), so any connection to him is precious.
Notice I said that this is me, not “me when I was a child”. We are all the same person inside, from start to finish and beyond. Our true selves operate on intuition, emotion, spiritual energy, and a raw desire to pursue happiness. When we are children we have an easier time with this, but we don’t change into different people when we grow up. The core of us is always there.
Often our childlike unabashed wish to be loved, to be happy, and to be special is hidden deeply within us, as we’ve suffered from rejection, disappointment, and disillusionment. The things we used to want don’t roll smoothly from our hearts anymore, because we don’t want to get hurt again. We “grow up”. Or do we? Don’t we really just GIVE up, instead of grow up?
Life isn’t fair and we all get hurt. Pretending that we don’t want the same things we wanted all along isn’t going to protect us. Why not allow ourselves to be raw, vulnerable, and openly wistful; unashamed of what we want, and believing that we are special?