In the meantime, I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Martha Graham:
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
And another from Nelson Mandela:
Your staying small does not serve the world. Who are you not to be great?
And one last thought from a plaque in a gift shop:
She believed she could, so she did.
I share these now, because these are the reminders I need as I look inward for a bit. I thought I might not be the only one who might find them helpful. Be back soon.
I've never been one to make resolutions at the beginning of the new year. It just seems to be a vehicle to set myself up for failure. Grand ideas. Drastic changes. Immediate dismissal of all bad habits, to be replaced by a whole new set of better ones. Lose 40 pounds by Valentine's Day. Not a recipe for success for me.
On the other hand, I am a sucker for a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate. I love a blank canvas. And that's how I greet the new year. I leave the past year with gratitude for its lessons and experiences and opportunities, and turn to the new year, with all of its possibilities.
Anything seems possible. Anything is possible. There is magic in that, isn't there? And somehow, at the beginning of the year, when all is clean and new, it seems like a world of opportunity. Fruit ripe for the picking. All I have to do is reach out and take it. It's mine, mine, mine.
If I were to state a resolution for the year, I think it would be to hang on to that optimism for the whole year through. Now, that is an intention I can get behind.
In other news, I was thrilled when Jenny asked me to kick-off the new year as a Crescendoh guest curator. You'll find me over there all week long, sharing my story and providing links daily to other people and groups that inspire my creative journey. I hope you'll hang out over there with me this week, and join me back here, too. I'm working on some new paintings, playing in my journal, and avoiding resolutions. Who's in?
It's a tradition. Every Christmas. Baking a yule log. To be precise, baking Julia Child's Buche de Noel. Oui. Tres bien!!
I may have mentioned this before, but I'm a Franco-fanatic. It's French? Oui, je t'aime. I love it. Automatically.
It all started as a little girl. My mother was also a Francophile, studied the French language all through high school and college. When I was little, I'm talking four years old, Mom made me French flash cards. On a deck of blank index cards, she drew simple pictures of every day things like "cat", "dog", "house", "mother", colors, numbers, and so on. Then she printed the English word underneath the drawing. On the back, she printed the French word. I practiced with those cards for hours with her.
That's when my love affair began.
When I got a little older, I began watching The French Chef with her on PBS. Oh, how I loved Julia and her pearls and her jovial self. I loved the way Mom wrote down each recipe, with notes in the margins of her legal pad on tips Julia might have given to do this or that. I loved the way Mom laughed at Julia's little asides. I wanted to be just like Mom and Julia.
During one episode, Julia made her Buche de Noel. Mom and I were swooning. And that's when the tradition began. We made our first yule log when I was about eight-years-old, I think. We made it during the day on Christmas Eve, to eat by the Christmas tree that evening after dinner.
In the early days, I mostly sifted flour, licked bowls, and taste-tested. But as I grew older, I became more and more involved in the process. And every year, we made it together on Christmas Eve. When I came home from college, when I spent the holidays with my folks as an adult...Christmas Eve would find Mom and I in her kitchen, yule-logging. We'd have a bit of egg nog or a glass of champagne as we made meringue mushrooms and chocolate buttercream frosting. We would laugh and chat and sip. Julia would have loved being in the kitchen with us, I think.
When I lost my mom a few years ago, I made my first buche de noel in my own kitchen. It was terribly sad, and I thought I might not be able to do it anymore. But last year, I invited my 12-year-old niece to join me, and began to pass the tradition on to her. We had a wonderful time! And at Thanksgiving this year, she said, "You know, Aunt Tammy, I was in a bakery and saw a yule log the other day. It wasn't nearly as nice as ours!" I loved that.
We enjoyed our annual "A Very Gilley Christmas" gathering over the past weekend, and though scheduling didn't permit my niece to sous-chef for me - or would that be sous-yule-log? - I baked Mom and Julia's buche de noel for my family. When I walked into her house, my sister's eyes lit up and she squealed, "oh the yule log! I'm so happy to see it! I know it's a tradition and that it would be here, but it just makes me happy to see it!" Me, too, Sis.
What a thrill! In my mailbox was a bubble envelope. Heavy. Felt like a book. When I opened it, and pulled out two books, I did a little happy dance. Because, hello? Mary Engelbreit? Come on! And then, I thought, "hmmm...I wonder why these were in my mailbox..." I noticed a little note in the envelope, explaining that a recipe I'd submitted a reeeeaaaalllly long time ago...so long ago, I'd completely forgotten about it...was accepted and published in her new slow cooker cookbook. How.Fun.Is.That?
I absolutely love my crock pot, especially this time of year. It's wonderful to fill it up in the morning, go to work at the gallery, and come home to dinner. Love that! There are some deliciously tempting recipes in Mary's book, which I can't wait to try. In fact, I'm headed to the grocery store today to prepare one recipe for tomorrow. I've got my last art fair tomorrow, which goes until 5pm. It will be so nice to unload the car, get my comfies on, and cozy in for dinner. Great timing, Mary...thanks for the cookbook!
Err....I mean winner. I've drawn names from the comments submitted on Handmade Wednesday (thanks again, everyone, for joining in the fun), and the winners are:
So, girls, please email your mailing addresses to me, and I'll send you your lovely goodies! Fun, fun!! (You can click on the email link on my left sidebar, or email me here: good2btlg at comcast dot net.)
This is one of my favorite YouTube videos from a few years ago. Gets me right into the Christmas spirit. (Along with a plateful of cookies and a mug of hot buttered rum!)
Thanks for coming by yesterday for Handmade Wednesday! So fun to read all of your comments, thanks for those. I'll be drawing winners tonight for the prizes, and will announce here tomorrow.
See you then!
Are these fun, or what??!! Kissing Balls!! I know!! Sort of a funky and modern take on a traditional holiday decoration. I'm going to show you how to do it...and here's my secret...you know all of those skinny little strips you get after you've rotary cut stacks of fabrics for quilt blocks? These are the leftovers! The step-by-step project is on the left sidebar, under "Toot-toot-tutorials".
Since I work during the day, and I made my samples up at night earlier this week, I took my Kissing Balls to the gallery where I work, so I could photograph them in the daylight. This is our window there...we get such great light that I might have to schedule more photo shoots for the gallery. Even on a rainy day, the shots turned out well.
I don't know about you, but the holidays rev up my sweet tooth into a high-pitched warble! What is it about this time of year that makes me say, "oh, just one more...it's the holidays, after all." And before I know it, another chin is sneaking it's way in. Egads.
Well, these Egg Nog Sugar Cookies are a Gilley Family Favorite. I promised you a recipe for Handmade Wednesday, and this is the one. Super easy to whip up, super tasty going down.
Egg Nog Sugar Cookies
Makes 4 dozen (which is never enough, btw)
Mix butter, salt, lemon zest, nutmeg, sugar, eggs, and milk together with electric mixer. Add dry ingredients and mix thouroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
While cookies are cooling, mix together:
Beat until fluffy. When cookies are cool, frost with buttercream frosting and sprinkle with festive holiday cookie sprinkles. Pop one in your mouth...you know, to make sure they're okay for everyone else to eat. If uncertain, try a few more until you're satisfied. Have a glass of milk.
I've uploaded all of my new products to my Etsy shop. You'll find not only my original paintings, but fine art prints in two sizes, my Think Good Thoughts cards, boxed notecards, and Art Under Glass pendants. Anything purchased from my Etsy shop today is guaranteed to arrive at your doorstep in time for Christmas. You have my word. Oh, and something new for me: gift certificates. Not sure what to buy? A gift certificate is the perfect gift...let them select their favorite artwork from my shop. Easy peasy.
And, to give those gift certificates the right send off, I think I'll give one of them away. That's right, some lucky winner will receive a $25 gift certificate to my Etsy shop. Stay tuned, I'm going to tell you how you can win.
(Please use your best Oprah voice here) I'm also going to give away a box of notecards! Yes!! You will be championing the art of the handwritten note. No texting. No emailing. Actual pen to the paper, baby!
So, how do you win all these fabulous prizes? All you need to do is this: leave a comment here today, and tell us one of your favorite Christmas memories, or share a holiday anecdote, or tell us your favorite part of Handmade Wednesday and why you're here. Tomorrow I will randomly select the winners. And, it will be so much fun to read everyone's comments today! I know, right? I like to think of us all in one big room, eating Egg Nog Sugar Cookies and crafting little Kissing Balls, while listening to Andy Williams belt out "Happy Holidays". Happy, happy, holiday bliss.
Thanks so much for taking time out of your crazy holiday schedule to be here today. Can't think of a nicer way to spend a few minutes. Hope you'll find a little time to whip up some cookies and catch someone under the kissing ball. The merriest of merry and the happiest of happy to you! xo