Monthly Archives: December 2014

New Year’s Eve

It’s the last day of 2014 and WordPress apparently expects me to want to post a blog entry summarizing my year. They sent me year-end stats, but they aren’t very meaningful to me because I started my blog on my fifty-ninth birthday, so my blog year runs from February eighth to the following February seventh. If I have any summing up to do, that will come in February. I have a lot of painting to do before then.

My blog goal for this year is to complete fifty paintings. I have completed thirty. I’m going to be doing a lot of painting in the next five weeks. I will also be inventorying the tie-dye and getting all our paperwork ready for tax season. I don’t even want to think about that right now.

I do have a New Year’s Eve tradition. It’s based on my daughter’s tradition of spending New Year’s Eve alone with her husband. I help make that happen by hosting the other members of her household here. One part of our tradition is to do a puzzle. If we finish it by Midnight, we get good luck for the whole year. Everybody helps, but my son and I tend to do most of the work. We’re jigsaw puzzle people.

Puzzle time

Puzzle time

My grandsons hang up their stockings on New Year’s Eve. That’s a tradition that comes from my father’s family. It’s what my siblings and I did when we were young and I passed the tradition on to my children and grandchildren. I once asked them if they’d rather do it on Christmas Eve like their friends, but they said they liked our tradition. It stretches out the holiday.

It also stretches Santa’s budget, so it’s a win all the way around. We will stay up until midnight. We will finish our puzzle. We will turn on the TV and watch the ball drop in Times Square. Then my husband will go outside and shoot off some sort of (mostly legal) fireworks. No one will notice our little sparklers because the neighborhood sky will be full of fireworks, most of them clearly not legal in this state. It’s not a long drive from North Florida to South Carolina, where you can buy all kinds of fireworks in all kinds of crazy fireworks stores just across the border.

Not that we’ve ever done that or anything.

I can already hear some pretty big bangs out there. They’re starting early. It’s only seven o’clock. They will save plenty of big booms for midnight, I’m sure. Once they finish making all that noise, I will settle my young guests on air mattresses and we will all try to get some sleep before getting up to check those stockings and get ready for a lunch of black-eyed peas and collard greens. That’s for luck and prosperity in the new year. I tried to get my teen-aged grandson to eat some last year, but he declined. I tried to convince him to do it for luck, but he said he helped with the puzzle the night before, so he had all the luck he needed.

Maybe that works for him, but I intend to cover all my bases.


Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and it’s blog day. Somehow, I have done all the things I needed to do. I baked twelve kinds of cookies. I did all of my shopping – most of it in one day. The presents are wrapped and under the tree. I’m not sure how I pulled it off, but I do know that I am making a sincere pledge not to procrastinate next year.

It’s a difficult balance for me. I didn’t realize it until my children grew up and left home, but I actually enjoy a certain amount of hustle and bustle at Christmas time. When the kids were young and I was working full-time, the thing I always dreamed of was a Christmas Eve like the ones I saw on the Jeffersons. Those folks were always sitting around on Christmas Eve in a perfectly clean apartment, relaxing and sipping hot toddies while admiring their perfectly wrapped presents under their perfectly decorated tree. I longed for just one Christmas Eve that involved relaxing. Mine involved gatherings at my mother’s house and my in-laws house, followed by all-night present-wrapping sessions.

My kids would be knocking on the living room door at five or six o’clock in the morning, saying, “Can we come in now?” and I would be shouting, “Not yet!” because I needed to get everything wrapped before I let them start unwrapping. There was definitely no relaxing going on. I might have a hot toddy, but it would be sitting on the table at my side, at risk of being knocked over when I reached for the scissors or tape.

Those days are long gone. I don’t live in the same house as my children now and I have time to wrap things in advance. Some years, I actually do it. I have had a relaxing Christmas Eve, when I had everything done and all I needed to do was sit back and wait for bedtime, drinking hot beverages and admiring my carefully wrapped packages under my delightfully decorated tree. It was peaceful. It was quiet. It was … wrong. How could it feel like Christmas if I didn’t have anything left to do on Christmas Eve?

Going to bed and falling asleep to the endless loop of the “A Christmas Story” marathon just didn’t feel right after all those years of watching it while wrapping presents all night. I’m not a Jefferson. I’ve never moved on up and I can’t get used to a quiet Christmas Eve. I’m too old for those all-night wrapping sessions, but I don’t want to have everything done in advance. I’m still figuring out the balance. I definitely over-procrastinated this year. I love wrapping presents and it’s a lot more fun if I spread the sessions out over a week or so. I’ll try to remember that next year.

I’ll also try to remember that stuff happens. You may have enough time to get everything done, but if it’s just barely enough, what do you do when there is unexpected severe weather? Or when you can’t leave the grocery store parking lot because you parked near a Corvette which is being winched on to a wrecker just behind your car? These kinds of things are out of your hands. You have to be able to allow for unplanned incidents that impact your ability to keep to your schedule.

I’m only sixty. I still have time to learn. Right now, I need to publish this blog post and then go to the kitchen and put away my last batch of lemon cheese bars. Then I’ll be ready to go to bed. It’s past my normal bed time, but it’s nothing like those days when my children were young. Tonight, the presents are already under the tree, and I get to sleep.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

More Drawings

Wednesday is blog day. I just realized I have set myself up to be posting on Christmas Eve. I sure hope all the things I’ve been putting off will be done by then. We have a tree, but it’s not in the house yet. I’ve barely started my shopping and I’ve only baked three kinds of cookies, out of twelve I intend to bake.

On the upside, I’ve kept up with the December Daily Drawing Challenge. There have been more fruits and vegetables floating in space. There have been leaves. One ambitious day, I drew an entire potted plant. It was fun because I drew it last year, when it only had two leaves. Now it has ten and I managed to capture eight of them. I’m happy with this drawing.

Arrowhead Plant

Arrowhead Plant

I’m also happy with this onion.


It was a challenge because I was working with a small set of watercolor pencils. The only brown in the set is dark umber and that’s not very useful when drawing an onion. I had to blend yellows and oranges to get this done and I like the way it turned out.

Then there’s this lime.



A green fruit is a bit easier because there are three shades of green in my tin of twelve watercolor pencils. Three greens – an embarrassment of riches!

I don’t have a lot of words left in me today, so I’m going to wrap it up now. The Daily Drawing Challenge is not what’s keeping me from getting my Christmas shopping, decorating and baking done. That’s my own lethargy. The Daily Drawing Challenge is the good part of my day, the time when, against all odds, I actually get something done. Thanks again, Grace. I’m enjoying this!

Space Adventures

We had a family adventure last week. My husband had been looking forward to it ever since he learned that NASA planned to launch a rocket on his birthday. One of the things my husband and I have in common is that we’ve been fans of the space program since we were children. We didn’t know each other then, but we both watched the Mercury missions on television as children and we both went to Titusville to witness Saturn V launches as teenagers. After we got married and had children together, we took them down there to see Shuttle launches. We both have T-shirts that say, “First Flight, Columbia. I Was There.” We bought them the day the rocket didn’t go up, but they still count because we drove back down to Titusville the next day, when it did. We were definitely there.

Last week, we drove to Titusville on my husband’s birthday to see the launch of the new rocket which will eventually take people to Mars. This was just a four-hour test flight, but it was a good-sized rocket and it had been years since we’d seen a launch, so we were excited about the trip. We took our son, our older daughter and two of our grandsons. They spent Wednesday night at our house so we could all get up at 3:15 Thursday morning. The launch window opened at 7:05 and we had a 135-mile road trip ahead of us. We managed to get everyone up, dressed and out the door by 4:15.

My husband had done a little research and discovered that Titusville offered more than one place from which to watch a rocket launch. In our teenage years, we just parked by the side of the road, but this time we went to Space View Park. We still parked by the side of the road, because all of the official parking spaces for the park were taken, but then we walked across the road and enjoyed a lovely green space with a beautiful view of the launch site across the river. There were trees, benches, monuments to the space program and actual public restrooms.

I remember standing in long lines at gas stations when I was a teenager. When I walked into that park last week, all my memories came flooding back and brought tears to my eyes. My first trip to watch a Saturn V go up was the biggest adventure of my young life. Two of my brothers made a plan to drive down there in the older brother’s purple GMC van. Yes, it was a hippie van. The amazing thing was that I convinced them to let me go along. The even more amazing thing was that I convinced my parents to let me go with them. I was only fifteen at the time and I had never been on a road trip without my parents before. My brothers were older and my parents decided to trust us all to go to Titusville and back in that old purple van.

As I remember it, my brothers let me go along because I had a little of my allowance left and they were so broke, we took snacks and a big cooler jug of Kool-Aid just to get us through the trip. It was a good thing we did, because the van overheated in the middle of nowhere and we had to put the Kool-Aid in the radiator just to get it to a gas station, where we then flushed and refilled the radiator.

Ah, memories! There’s a monument to the original Mercury astronauts in Space View Park. I got to put my hands into the hand prints of my favorite astronaut, Alan Shepard.

Alan Shepard's hand prints!

Alan Shepard’s hand prints!

He was the first American in space, the only Mercury Seven astronaut to walk on the moon and the first person to hit a golf ball on the moon. Seriously, “cool” doesn’t begin to cover it.

Last week’s rocket did not go up on my husband’s birthday. Fortunately, he had taken the next day off, too. We drove back to Jacksonville on Thursday and everyone slept at my house again so we could get up at 3:15 Friday morning and drive back to Titusville. That day, the launch went off at 7:05 without a hitch. It was not as spectacular as a Saturn V, but it was still an amazing sight. I hope my grandsons remember it as long as I have remembered my first rocket launch.


I was so busy last week making pies and posting about making pies that I forgot to mention a couple of other things that happened between that post and the one before it. The first was that I won NaNoWriMo. I wrote fifty thousand words. They’re not very coherent words, but there are fifty thousand of them and I wrote them all myself, so they count.
The other was that I painted. If you were looking closely at the “before” picture of my table in last week’s post, you saw my painting. I still want to share it in close-up here so I can count it.

Gourd and Turban Squash

Gourd and Turban Squash

My friend, Sarah, of Full-Time Writer Mom, gave me the gourd and I picked up the turban squash on clearance because I thought the gourd needed a friend for support. Literally. The squash was a whole lot easier to paint than the gourd. I let all the little bumps intimidate me, so the basic shape is a bit off, but I still had a good time painting it and that’s what matters.

I’ve joined a new challenge for December. This one comes from my niece, Grace, and it’s a “sketch-a-day” challenge. I don’t think I’ll be sharing all of my daily sketches in my blog, but here are the first three so you can see how it’s going.

Turban Squash

Turban Squash

Goofy Gourd

Goofy Gourd



I made use of the turban squash for my first sketch and the gourd for my second. My third is of an apple from my refrigerator. So far, my theme appears to be “Fruits and Vegetables Floating in Space.” For me, the sketch-a-day challenge is not about creating great art, it’s about presence and commitment. Drawing something – anything – is a way to bring myself into the here and now. It improves my mood and makes my whole day a better day.

I’m looking forward to lots of good days in December. They will be crazy busy, of course, but if I manage a sketch every day, there will be a small oasis of peace in each one of those crazy busy days. I’m ready to show up for that.