Monthly Archives: December 2015

New Year’s Eve Eve

The last time I wrote a blog post, it was Christmas Eve Eve and I was wondering how I would ever get all my Christmas wrapping done. Now it’s New Year’s Eve Eve and I can report that I did manage to wrap everything and still get some sleep on Christmas Eve. I’m pretty sure A Christmas Story was still on its first run-through when I crawled into bed, but I couldn’t swear to it. I was bleary-eyed by then. I hope I don’t cut it quite so close next year, but I’m glad I pulled it off one more time.

I even managed to keep up with the sketch-a-day challenge. My drawings are not fancy but I have done one every day in the month of December and that makes me happy. The first year I joined the challenge, it seemed crazy to add one more thing to my already overloaded schedule, but I took it on and it gave me a nice spot of relaxation in each December day. Now I can’t imagine December without it. When I’m drawing, I’m not thinking about schedules or shopping or wrapping or baking. I’m just thinking about that one little object I’ve chosen to draw and how to capture it on paper.

My left brain gets a rest and my right brain gets to have fun. I sketch the most ordinary things but they become unique and special as I get to know them well enough to draw them.

Banana

Banana


This isn’t just any banana. It’s the particular banana that was in my house December fifteenth, with it’s bits of green and little brown spots. And this is a specific green pepper that we bought so we could make chili for the family taffy pull on the nineteenth.
Green Pepper

Green Pepper


Peanut Butter Kiss

Peanut Butter Kiss


This is the taffy. I was exhausted that day, so it’s a simple pencil sketch and I just noticed that I dated it wrong. I drew it on the nineteenth, not the twentieth. On the twentieth, I drew a cookie.
Peppermint Swirl Cookie

Peppermint Swirl Cookie


I have been hoping the daily drawings would lead me gently back to painting. I still need to do forty plein air paintings before my next birthday and my next birthday is thirty-nine days away. I still intend to do it, but I know it’s going to be a crazy five weeks if I manage to make it happen. The drawings do help. They remind me that I always have trouble starting things but I’m pretty good at finishing them. They remind me that making art is a gift to myself. It gets me through tough times and it makes happy times happier.

It heals me. It doesn’t need to do anything else.

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Two More Sleeps

What, Wednesday again? Not only is it Wednesday, it’s Christmas Eve Eve. If you read last week’s post, you might be wondering how far I have progressed in my Christmas preparations. I would like to be able to say that everything is done and all I have to do now is sit around and drink eggnog, but that would be a big, fat lie. Not the eggnog part; I do have eggnog in the house, but I am not sitting around drinking it. I drank some earlier today as I was wrapping presents. I also drank some as I was baking cookies.

Don’t worry; the cookies are fine. I don’t like alcohol in my eggnog. I like calories, lots of calories. As you can imagine, I’m having a little trouble managing regular meals. I’m not sure how long one can live on cookies and eggnog, but I’m hoping it’s more than a couple of days. I just need to get through a couple more days.

My cookies are done and the ones that I made for folks outside my immediate family have been delivered. My tree is completely decorated and makes me feel happy every time I look at it. The family taffy pull was this past Saturday and the weather was perfect – sunny and cold with low humidity. Taffy making demands low humidity and we usually have to create it artificially by turning on the air conditioner, but not this year. This year there has been only one cold day in North Florida in December and it came exactly when we needed it.

If it weren’t for wrapping, I would be in great shape. Wrapping is what I should be doing now, instead of writing, but I’ve kept my Wednesday blog post commitment all year and I’m not going to let it slide the last half of December. I can still get up before dawn and wrap all day tomorrow, right?

I need to get back to wrapping.

I need to get back to wrapping.


Right. Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace, love and light to you. I’ll see you on the other side.

Another Wild Wednesday

Last week, I was pretty sure this week’s blog post would be easy. Last week I wrote about my lack of Christmas preparations. I had no tree. I hadn’t baked the first cookie. I hadn’t shopped for presents, which meant I hadn’t wrapped any presents. I was worried enough about it that I thought I would finally stop procrastinating and get something done. This week’s post would be all about my dozens of finished cookies, my beautifully decorated tree and my perfectly wrapped packages.

Well, there is a tree in my house now. My husband is putting lights on it as I type this. It’s evening, so that’s as far as we will get today. Once the lights are on, the next step is to put the burlap angel on top and that has to be done by a grandchild. No other decorations can go on the tree until we get a grandchild over here to put that angel on top. That’s a tradition, and we aren’t going to break it. Not this year.

Cookies? I have baked two kinds of cookies. That’s two down and ten to go. I do have dough for two more kinds of cookies in the refrigerator. I’m trying to decide whether I’m ahead of or behind last year’s cookie-baking schedule. This time last year (according to my morning pages) I had three kinds of cookies completely done but no extra dough in the refrigerator. I guess I’m ahead on the dough-mixing and behind on the baking. Being ahead on anything is not that much of an accomplishment. Last year was the most frantic last-minute Christmas of my life.

I keep reading my old morning pages to see how this year compares to last year. Yeah, I guess that’s what I’m doing when I could be baking cookies or shopping or decorating. I’m reading that I was even further behind on this date last year. I’m also reading direct messages from my 2014 self to my 2015 self, messages that say, “Don’t do this to yourself next year!”

For any normal person, that would be the takeaway from last year’s morning pages. I, however, am not just any normal person. I am a seasoned procrastinator. I read about what I went through last year and all I see is that I managed to pull it off. Somehow, the baking got done, the tree got decorated, and the presents ended up under the tree by Christmas morning. I did it last year and I can do it again, even if I end up doing it in another mad last-minute rush.

Lights

Lights


I’m afraid that might be my most cherished Christmas tradition.

Waiting for a Train

Wednesdays keep showing up, even in December. This is the second Wednesday in December and I still haven’t begun my Christmas preparations. My husband has put lights on the outside of the house, but we have done nothing to the inside of the house. We don’t have a tree. I haven’t baked any cookies. I haven’t done any serious shopping and all the wrapping supplies are still in the attic.

I’m starting to feel a bit worried that this is going to be another frantic, last-minute Christmas, but at least I’m keeping up with the sketch-a-day challenge. Every day, I pick up my sketchbook and my colored pencils and I take a little sketch break. So far, I’ve drawn a lot of leaves and a couple of fruits and a nut. That’s what we have around this time of year in Florida.

I took my daughter to the grocery store today and I finally remembered to pick up some small, round fruits while I was there. Soon I will be adding more drawings of fruit to my sketchbook. An unexpectedly magical thing happened on the way back from the grocery store. Our route crosses a railroad track and we saw as we approached it that the bars were down, though we couldn’t see a train yet.

The person in front of us decided it was time to turn around and choose a different route. We stayed, waiting to see if it would be a freight train or a passenger train. We listened for the whistle. When we heard it, we turned in that direction to see what kind of train was approaching.

“Hmmm…,” we said, “…not a freight. Must be an Amtrak.” That thought made us happy because an Amtrak goes by a whole lot faster than a freight. We waited. As the train got closer, we started to see that it was not an Amtrak. It was way cooler than that.

Circus Train

Circus Train


It was longer than an Amtrak but we didn’t mind.

December Drawings

I was at my chorale rehearsal the other night and one of my fellow altos asked me if I was still painting. I didn’t know what to say, because I want to be painting, but I haven’t painted anything since before my big trip out West in September. I don’t know why I’m not painting. I’m just not painting. I am now officially way behind on my blog goal. I set the goal of painting fifty plein air paintings before my next birthday. I had to clean up my painting gear to make my house pretty for the big Thanksgiving gathering and that gave me a chance to count my paintings.

I have done ten. Ten whole paintings, from February through November. That means I have to come up with forty between now and next February eighth. I haven’t counted the days between now and February eighth, but I know that a lot of them happen in December. So does Christmas. We are a family that celebrates Christmas, so I tend to be ridiculously busy in December. There’s the shopping and the baking and the decorating and the wrapping. There are chorale concerts, the ones I love the most and look forward to all year.

I am beginning to be afraid I will find myself trying to paint every day in January. January, even in Florida, is a cold month. I live in North Florida, so we get honest-to-goodness freezes in January. Some days will be balmy, but most will be cold or, at least, chilly. I knew this was a real possibility when I set the goal, but I hoped the possibility would motivate me to paint more often during the year.

I didn’t expect taking my paints outdoors to be so much more intimidating than painting in my dining room. The paints dry faster outdoors. Bugs fly into them. The wind might blow the canvas off the easel. I need to be able to choose pretty days for this, but I have procrastinated myself into a corner and now I will have to take whatever days come. Trial by fire. Trial by ice. I brought this upon myself and I will see it through, but there is one special thing this month that will help me work up to it.

Every December, my niece, Grace, invites me to participate in her Sketch-a-Day Challenge. When I think of forty plein air paintings by February, that seems daunting. One sketch each day in December seems much more manageable. It’s a commitment I have made for the past two years and I found that it gave me a nice little break, each day, from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. I do simple drawings so my inner critic stays quiet, and I give myself permission to do them badly.

Today is the second day of December, so I have done two drawings. These have reminded me that I love drawing and I love color. They give me hope that I will find my way back to painting.

Yellow leaf

Yellow leaf


Green leaf

Green leaf


Meanwhile, I need to go shopping for some round fruit. I’m going to get tired of drawing the leaves I find in my front yard.