Monday, December 28, 2009

A week for painting!

The holidays are over, but I still have a week of vacation...and this week I'm planning to be in the studio as much as possible! Saturday and Sunday I continued working on my whimsical winter paintings. I'm not quite sure how I want to finish the above painting, so I'm letting it "sit" for a while.


Two others still in progress. I actually have more done on the painting above, but need to take more pictures.

These winter paintings are meant to be fun and colorful--a welcome break from the reality of what winter is truly like here in the frozen tundra. When I look out my window these days, I see white and more white. I miss color.

  I have lots I want to accomplish this week. I would like to finish this series and work on some others as well. Today I returned to working on my Womanspirit series. Very different subject matter and very different color palette. 

Who knows what I'll work on tomorrow!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Spicy Christmas Shortbread

Here's the recipe for my shortbread that I make every year---

2 sticks (1 cup)  butter or margarine (at room temperature)
(may I just say that don't try to be "good" here--use butter!)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange peel (optional)
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground gloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
pinch of granulated sugar

1. Heat oven to 325. Have two 8-9 inch round cake pans ready (no need to grease).
2. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar. Add orange peel, spices, and baking soda and mix until fluffy. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, beating until just blended.
3. Divide dough in half and press even over bottom of ungreased pans. Sprinkle dough with sugar.
4. Bake 25-30 minutes until tops look dry and slightly cracked. Don't overbake! Edges will be higher than centers. (It makes the house smell sooo good!)
5. Cool in pans. Cut while still warm. 

Tastes delicious warm or cool. When warm, melts in you mouth. Cool, it's delightfully crunchy.

It's not Christmas at our house without the shortbread. Usually I'm baking it several times from Thanksgiving till Christmas--but I just made my first batch yesterday! I was in a bit of a baking frenzy Christmas eve--I almost made over 6 dozen peanut butter bonbons! I think I'll make more cookies today!

Enjoy your holiday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

White Christmas

I couldn't resist posting these photos taken early this evening while Joel and I took a walk through our downtown area. Snow was starting to was a beautiful sight with all the lights. 






There's no doubt that this will be a White Christmas! 

Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to wish everyone that stops by here a happy holiday! Hopefully you're ready to sit back, relax and enjoy time with friends and family! 

I'm almost there...a little shopping at Target and then I'll become a wrapping fool! Actually, I'm a BIG fan of gift much easier! I still have some baking to do, but whatever I get done, I get done.

It will be a fairly simple holiday for us--just my kids and then Joel's kids this weekend. Our biggest complication looks to be the snowstorm (or should I say storms) that will be hitting us. Thankfully the only driving I'll be doing will be picking up my kids.

So I'm off to finish things up and enjoy time with my family. Hope you're doing the same!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In the Spirit of the Season--the painting!

After writing the earlier post, I headed to my studio to do a little painting. It wasn't too cold (by Minnesota standards--anything above 20 degrees is mild in December/January) and the fresh snow that had fallen overnight added to "it's almost Christmas" sort of feeling for the day. A nice feeling to take into the studio.

I threw in my James Taylor holiday CD and went to work. Remember these?

Can you match the one in the group photo to the final product pictured above? There's been a lot of changes along the way.




Adding all the details and working in these vibrant colors (which happen to match the colors of my studio, by the way) is such a spirit lifter. Really, I could work round the clock to finish this series. I wish that I had started (and finished) these earlier--because I think they would have made great holiday gifts (I dream of making a sale...LOL!) But I'll be ready next year!

The good news is with the next few weeks off, I will hopefully have the time to finish this series along with other paintings. I would rather paint than shop...but I need to do some of that still too!

I'll be posting more pics of the other paintings as they are finished. Stay tuned!


 In the Spirit of the Season
16x20 - acrylic on stretched canvas

In the spirit of the season

I was talking with a friend yesterday about "being in the holiday spirit".  It got me thinking...this is just another area where we sometimes set our standards too high. We expect a lot from ourselves. By "we" I mean all of us, but especially women: mothers, homemakers, wives. We expect of ourselves that we will bake the cookies, hang the garland, make (not buy) gifts--or if we are buying, that it will be the best gift ever. All that while also working, taking care of the children and all the other everyday stuff. It's a LOT to do.

I fall victim to that thinking too. I run around ragged and tired, wanting to do more...and not enjoying what I've done. It's hard not to go there.

Last week was crazy, busy at work. It was "Holiday Store" week--the week we invite the families we serve to come in to the "store" we've set up and shop for their family. For some of our families, this is the only holiday "shopping" they will do. For the staff there's a lot of work to do: taking the money donated to the project and shopping at Target to stock "the store" (pretty awesome shopping trip: 16 carts full of toys, clothes, & household things! Thank you to all that donated!). Once the shopping is done, we set up the store. Then, over the course of 2 days, we bring some 60 families in to our center "to shop". It's busy, but fun! While families are waiting, we serve them cookies and other goodies. If the children have come along, we help to get them excited about the season. For the parents, we hope to help them feel a little better about this season that comes loaded with expectations. After they are done shopping, we load their bags (heavy duty trash bags so the kids can't see the goodies) onto our bus and take them home.

This year was a good year for the store. Despite the recession, donations were up. The past several years have been a little bleak. It can be disheartening those lean years--feeling you really aren't offering much Christmas to the families. But this year was joyous. We were fully stocked and every family had the opportunity to pick something out for every child and for themselves.

And even better, when we were all done, we packed up our "extras" and delivered them to Toys for Tots!

Now I'm off for two weeks. That in itself is glorious. I still have shopping to do--the search for that "best gift ever".  I still have baking to do. I still have a few more decorations to hang. But I do believe that this year I have the spirit.

And that is a glorious thing.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Painting Pink houses

Around Thanksgiving I started working on some "winter" paintings.  Winter is not my favorite season--in fact, it is probably my least favorite time of year. I was born and raised in Minnesota, where winter begins in November (or earlier) and extends into March (or later!). I can deal with these early months of winter. This year we had a late start (by our standards). Plus the holidays are a nice diversion. But once January rolls around, it seems cold, gray and dreary for days on end.

So while I may be painting winter-inspired paintings, they are not going to be gray or make you feel cold and dreary! 


After taking a break from the studio last weekend,  I returned to working on these canvases this week. I changed the color of the sky on the whole series. And then I decided to add more bright color. Who says houses and trees can't be pink?



Lots of work still to do on these paintings. I was feeling overly optimistic yesterday, thinking I might finish one or two. I always wish I was a faster painter. This weekend I was working on four different canvases. In the long run, it saves time and even paint...but sometimes I wish I could get things down on canvas as quickly as I can envision them in my mind.

But painting, like most things in life, is a process.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Home Tour

Hooray for the weekend! One more week of work and then I will be off work for 2 weeks! It's crazy busy at work, so I'm glad that this will be a quiet weekend to recharge. 

I started off the day with a wonderful morning to myself. My hubby was off helping care for his daughter. I slept in for a little bit and then put on some music and started putzing around our home--cleaning a bit, putting things away... I decided it was a good day to take a few pictures of our home. I thought I'd share a few. First, some pics taken looking out our windows. We had our first real snow this week. The river will soon be freezing and barge traffic will come to a halt till spring. But there were still some barges parked along our riverfront.

Here's a few shots of our main living area from different angles.


I love our brick walls, large windows that let in so much light and the open layout of our main living space.  Since our bedrooms are on the small size, we use one as our guest bedroom and the other as an office/workspace. We constructed our bedroom at the end of our open living space--we used a long set of bookcases to design our wall. This open concept wouldn't work for everyone, but we like it. This way the bedroom is much more spacious and open feeling. We can also look out at the river from our bedroom.

Our bedroom "wall" from the living room side.


 The sitting area at the opposite end of the bed. I still haven't decided what to hang between the pictures, above the desk. I feel like I want to paint a special piece for that area.

Those beautiful windows and another brick wall.

When Joel came home in the early afternoon, we ran around for a bit doing errands and then I headed to the studio. I enjoyed over 3 hours of very productive painting. I can't wait to get back over there tomorrow to keep working on the series of paintings I hope to finish soon. If things go well, I think I will finish a few tomorrow and then will post pics.

Just when I was cleaning up at the studio Joel called to tell me the "Holiday Train" was parked outside our house. I made my way back home and since I had my camera on me, went directly to the upper level of the parking lot across the street to take some pics of the train. It was pretty cool, especially if you were a kid. Even for adults, it was a good time. There was even a live band performing in one of the open cars.




Finally, a shot of the Tilsner (our building) from the parking lot.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter Wonderland


Winter arrived with a vengeance here in Minnesota today (and elsewhere as well I hear). We went from relatively mild temps and NO snow to near-blizzard conditions overnight. It is cold, cold, cold. Here in the metro area we got about 5-6" of snow, but just a bit further south there was much more snow. Tonight the snow is done falling, but the wind is blowing the white stuff around. Don't even talk about windchill. Brr. It was bound to happen I guess.

I'm a wimp when it comes to winter driving, so I took the bus to and from work.  I drudged through the nearby Christmas tree lot on the way home. After a quick bite to eat (a very late lunch), I headed to the studio to do a little "work" (more like play in my book). It was a welcome reward for getting through a tiring day. The weather outside inspired me to do some more work on my whimsical winter paintings. In fact I felt inspired to start a new bigger piece that hopefully I can finish for a "Winter Carnival"  inspired exhibition that will open next month.

Time for bed...tomorrow's just another day in this winter wonderland.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Birthday Bliss

The busy birthday weekend filled with holiday open houses and a small party is drawing to a close.

Friday night started out with an open house at my Jax studio--a Lowertown First Fridays event. I can't say it was very successful--very, very low numbers as far as visitor goes. It was a very busy weekend in the area, with lots of special events and I'm sure that had a lot to do with it. Disappointing just the same.

Hubby and I headed home after that open house to prepare for the open house at our home on Saturday. I was up till 1 a.m. baking cookies and cleaning.


No sleeping in on my birthday! I was up early to pick up artwork from my Jax studio and then hang it here at home. Having the open house gave us the incentive to get more projects around the house done and finish the holiday decorating. It was a busy Saturday morning! 


Saturday afternoon we had an open house for the public and for our Tilsner neighbors. Not a huge turnout, but it was a nice afternoon spent visiting with friends and baking more cookies. 

And then Saturday night I had friends from work over, plus a few folks that live down the hall. It was a joyous birthday evening filled with laughter, music, and food. I almost forgot that I'm a year older!

Today was a quiet day with my honey. We were both a little worn out. I picked the movie "Everybody's Fine" starring Robert De Niro and Drew Barrymore. I thought it was going to be a funny, feel-good movie. I enjoyed it a great deal, but spent more time crying than laughing! But I actually enjoyed going to a movie that was thoughtful and all about family and relationships...maybe there will be more about that in another post.

I'm taking tomorrow off from work to enjoy my birthday just a bit longer. Not sure yet what we'll be doing. More than anything I want to relax and recharge, so I'm ready for the next few busy weeks before the holidays. Finding time to paint and be creative will be difficult from now till Christmas is over. Every day at work will be brimming over with activity. I have nearly all of my holiday shopping still to do. And so much more baking...but creating all of that holiday cheer taps into my creative spirit and fills it up.

Here's hoping it's a joyful and creative holiday season for all!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Open House

Busy, busy picks up this time of year. Pipe leaking in our apartment (maintenance in for the second time fixing things), and planning two holiday open houses this weekend! And oh yeah, it's my birthday on Saturday. It's not a decade-turning birthday, but on the cusp of one. It feels like a huge number! (o.k. for those curious minds...I'm turning 49!)

So there's nothing to do but celebrate! With all the hullabaloo at work these past few months, I feel like being with friends. So if you're in the area, please stop by at one of my Holiday Open Houses:

Friday, December 4th at the Jax
253 E 4th Street Studio 300
6-9 pm

Saturday, December 5th at the Tilsner
300 Broadway Street Studio 507
12-4 pm

Stop by to enjoy holiday treats and music, along with lots of art!!! 

(And check back soon for a birthday giveaway announcement!)