Friday, December 30, 2011

I Wish I May, I Wish I Might...

...Have the wish I wish tonight. ♥

Outside, gazing up at the sky this New Year's Eve, Eve, I couldn't help but remember the childhood stargazing rhyme. But perhaps "wish" is too vague a word?

And "resolution" is so demanding and inflexible.

Maybe "intentions" are what need to make as we welcome the New Year - - and "reflections" as we look back on 2011.

There were challenges to be sure, both personal and professional, and there was uncertainty and insecurity in the face of a shaky economy and sometimes scary health issues.

But there were blessings too, and it's important to remember they far outweigh the challenges; a life shared with a loving family and dear friends old and new, a "job" I dearly love, five fabulous furkids and one fabulous real kid, the ability to connect with a community of artists and collectors right at my fingertips....And if you want to break it down to its most basic - four walls, a roof, warmth in the winter, and food in the pantry. So much for which to be thankful...more than most on this planet of ours.

Looking ahead to 2012, my vision is a year filled with art and experience, with travel and friendship. My intention for the year is improvement. To be a better wife, a better Mother, a better friend, a better artist and a better person. To let go of the negative, and embrace the positive.

I realize the difference between an intention and a resolution may seem like semantics, but to me, it's a mindset. An intention is about possibilities; it's the manifestation of our hopes and dreams. It looks forward.

And that's what New Years Eve is all about - looking forward.

So as we prepare to greet another New Year, I wish you appreciation for all the blessings life has to offer. I wish you a world of possibilities, and a year of new adventures. And I send much love from our home to yours. ♥

See you next year!

¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`• ~ Carolee

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Wintry Work in Progress

Just popping in to share a few in-progress pics on a wooden tea tray. It began with a good base coat of ivory acrylic paint, then a checkerboard border, blocking in the figures, and doing a bit of detail on the trees...

By this time, I was feeling the need for color, so began with some vibrant reds, then dressed the gnome, and gave the polar bear a face...

Finally, after lots more detail, and a bit of varnish, the finished piece...

If there's such a thing as a "zen" kind of piece, this was surely it. Such a blessing to paint, so relaxing, and took me back to childhood folk and fairy tales.

Look for it on Etsy very soon. :)

Until next time,
♥ Carolee

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Of Christmas and Dragons

It's been a bit of a whirlwind around here this year...

Oh, who am I kidding, the holidays are a whirlwind pretty much every year, right? But still magical, still joyous, still a delight.

The festivities began here with serious scarf knitting and cookie baking. You can take a peek at some of the cookies a couple of posts back, but I can't show you the knitting, as it hasn't been gifted yet. ;)

Christmas Eve found us visiting dear friends Jen and Kevin, where we girls indulged in gingerbread cookie martinis (photo courtesy Jen)...

I don't have a recipe, but basically one part vodka to a half part kahlua, a half part Baileys, some milk or melted ice cream and some gingerbread syrup. Unable to find said syrup, we improvised and used gingerbread coffee creamer instead. Oh - and if you want to get fancy, you can do crushed gingerbread cookies around the rim of the glass. Delicious, but not something you want to consume in mass quantities - a little rich, as we both discovered with tummy upset the next morning, lol.

Courtney arrived at the Lancaster train station Christmas Day morning, bearing cinnamon rolls from Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market - soooooo good (and saved me cooking breakfast, hehe). Next was the gift opening, and everyone really hit the mark this year - a new bass guitar for John, a working stereo for me (thanks, Courtney!) and a highly anticipated trip to my *happy place*, Barnes and Noble (couldn't you just go CRAZY in there?!)

We also presented Courtney with an in-person astrological reading by one of her favorite musical artists, singer/songwriter Francis Dunnery (of "Too Much Saturn and Not Enough Moon" fame).

In the Christmas Dinner department, it was great to have help in the kitchen this year, and Courtney completely nailed her first-ever Yorkshire pudding...

I forgot to take a photo of the roast, but it was your basic Dickensian feast - prime rib with all the trimmings, our annual nod to John's heritage. ;)

A friend of Courtney's drove up from DC to join us for dinner, and we had a wonderful time - great conversation, great food and great company. Doesn't get much better than that. Later, we settled in to watch one of my all time favorite Christmas movies "The Bell of St Mary's"...

An altogether wonderful Christmas - but the festivities aren't over yet! We're having a few friends over on New Year's Day too - no clue what we'll be making yet, probably a pot luck of sorts, and doubtful it will be anything traditional (to say we're not fans of pork or sauerkraut would be an understatement, hehe)...Maybe lasagna - that has to be good luck too, yes?

In the studio, I'm finishing a couple of winter pieces and very much looking forward to painting a Water Dragon - in honor of Chinese New Year!

And speaking of dragons, have you seen the trailer for next December's Hobbit movie? You don't actually see Smaug here, but one can imagine...

It's a year away and my head is already spinning with Middle Earth imagery and possibilities! I adore the shot of Gandalf smoking his pipe, of the Elves and Dwarves gathering and singing...First resolution of 2012: Must, must, MUST make time for Hobbit art! (More on Middle Earth and the Brothers Hildebrandt's inspiration in an upcoming post)....

Until then, it's back to work for me. As usual, too many irons in the fire and not enough time. It was glorious to have two days off, but now it's nose to the grindstone time. ;)

Wishing you all a very happy Third Day of Christmas, and will be back soon!

¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`• ~ Carolee

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Blessings

I write this as the First Day of Christmas winds down and all seems right with the world. It's just John and I this evening, Courtney and her friend having left a couple of hours ago. Dinner dishes are washed and dried, candles extinguished, gifts put away, and we're just about to settle in to an evening of watching Ingrid Bergman and Bing Crosby in "The Bells of St Mary's".

Like many of you, I've been preparing for weeks; making and wrapping gifts, addressing cards, baking cookies, tidying the house, shipping parcels far and wide - all the time wishing I had a few elves (many hands make light work, and all that). For all the preparation, the day sure speeds by, doesn't it?

It was a wonderful Christmas here, filled with family, friends, and a fabulous feast (how's that for alliteration, hehe?!) I'll post a few photos tomorrow, but in the meantime I'm putting my feet up, grabbing my knitting, and enjoying a quiet cup of tea.

I am truly blessed.

Wishing you and yours a holiday filled with magic and joy!

Until next time,
~ Carolee

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Happy and Blessed Midwinter's Eve!

Can you feel a little magic in the air tonight?

Yes, I know - the astronomical Solstice is actually in the wee hours tomorrow morning...But that still makes this Midwinter's Eve, and whatever our faith tradition, the perfect time to slow down and take time to honor our connection to the earth, to our ancestors, and to each other.

Although my own tradition has been more... well, I guess conventional would be as good a word as any to describe it, in recent years I've grown to appreciate the ancient festivals which celebrate the earth and her seasons. And while I'm sure there are those whose traditions are solidly one or the other who would disagree, I find there is more in these celebrations and observances that brings Christians and Pagans together than there is which divides us.

So after a bit of a kitchen disaster this morning (long story, and I'm over it, hehe) I decided to spend the day immersed in things which honored the day. The first order of business was to spend a bit of time outdoors, gathering holly and ivy for the table. After shaking off a touch of unseasonably warm winter rain, I placed a large bunch of it in a pottery crock our daughter made when she was in high school...

Sometimes the simplest things are the most beautiful, don't you think?

Next, I began a new painting - a midwinter painting of an arctic wolf and snowshoe rabbit, set against a background of evergreen trees, with the northern lights in the distance. I'll hold off on showing a photo until the painting progresses a bit further, but I'm so pleased with the concept, with its progress, and with the notion that it's infused with a little solstice energy. (Patience, patience - pics soon, I promise!)

But the sweetest task of the day (literally and figuratively) was making my Grandma Cline's Star Cookies. The recipe is actually published on page 141 of the Gooseberry Patch "Old Fashioned Country Cookies" cookbook, having been contributed by my Mom many years ago. The story is in there too, which goes like this: When we were very little, my Grandfather had my siblings and me convinced that he went out each night and hung the moon up in the sky, and that my Grandmother made the stars. These cookies are a remembrance of that, and of her. They taste like my childhood, and I can't let the season pass without making them.
They're wonderful cookies to make with children too - bowls of different colored icing, and assorted sugars and sprinkles covering the dining room table. They were a part of my childhood, my daughter's childhood, and I hope someday her children's as well.

As always, candles burned and music played as these tasks were accomplished, punctuated by phone calls from dear friends who always make me smile. Altogether a perfect Midwinter's Day - or Midwinter's Eve Day.

As I write this, there's only an hour or so to go until astronomical Midwinter, and I have much to accomplish tomorrow (including that painting)...So I'll say goodnight, but not before sharing a favorite tune to mark the day. Give it a listen, I think you'll like it...

Wishing you a Happy and Blessed Midwinter's Eve!
♥ Carolee

Monday, December 19, 2011

La Befana Revisited

Popping in quickly between batches of cookies, to share the latest piece - another homage to La Befana...

She's just so fun to paint, and I so love the legend, I had to revisit her. This one (a very close companion to the recently painted plate) is on a birch wood box, and I think would be perfect for either treats or treasures. The Christmas star shines inside too...

She's listed on Etsy now, up for grabs on a first-come basis.

Thanks for taking a peek, and I promise I'll be back soon with pics of new work - and possibly cookies too!

♥ Carolee

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Bless All Creatures, Great and Small"

Just popping in to share the latest winter piece, one of two with a similar theme...

It was such a blessing to paint this one. It actually sold before completion, and will be on it's way to a new home tomorrow.

The second piece, now in progress, features an arctic wolf and snowshoe rabbit. I hope to share pics by mid week.

In the meantime, there's another La Befana piece on the work table, scads of Christmas cookies to bake, and our own creatures to tend to. ;)

Wishing you a joyous season!

Back very soon...
♥ Carolee

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion...

Popping in quickly to let you know there's still time to pick up personalized last minute holiday gifts in my Etsy shop. There are nine different welcome sign designs, each a hand painted original on solid pine, and with orders placed today and tomorrow, I can ship priority mail by Friday.

A personalized gift, signed by the artist, for under $30.

OK, end of shameless self promotion. ;-)

Back with a more newsy post very soon...

♥ Carolee

Monday, December 12, 2011

♪♫ Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree... ♪♫

A symbol of both Christmas and Yule, Christian and Pagan tradition, of what we hold dear throughout the year...a place to display treasured holiday memories - and like a snowflake, no two are exactly alike! Each year, the tree trimming tradition unfolds just a little differently, ornaments hung and garland strung in a new way; familiar, yet unique to that particular year...

Yesterday found us trimming our own tree. Lights...


And finally, beaded garland...

Unwrapping and hanging the ornaments always brings back memories, and at the same time feels a bit like a new discovery. The "Cup of Christmas Tea" ornament, a gift from my Mother one year, with the book of the same name...

The woodland gnomes (elves?) and the tiny wood burned stag ornament, a gift from an artist friend...

The mercury glass moons, found a few years back at Strawberry and Co, a favorite downtown Lancaster shop...

The sparkling bird's nest with gilded walnut "eggs", purchased at Sheldons, a gallery where I once worked weekends...

Courtney's kindergarten milk-carton ornament...

And my own very first ornament, purchased by my parents sometime in the early 1960s...

Yes, I know, the tree is artificial - something in younger days we swore we'd never do. And it's a bit smaller than in years past, more easily manageable. As we age, we find there's a lot to be said for convenience. ;)

But large or small, real or artificial, there's that moment when it's finished, when the boxes are put away, the cocoa is made, living room lights are turned off, Christmas carols are playing, and we just sit back and enjoy...Such a priceless moment...

How about you? Do you decorate a tree? Does it hold special meaning, invoke memories of Yuletides past? Or perhaps your tradition is Chanukah, or Kwanzaa, or Ramadan, which have their own treasured symbols and memories? Please do leave a comment and share...

And finally, Happy Holidays from our house to yours! I say Happy Holidays, knowing full well it rattles those who feel "Merry Christmas" has been lost. But I like "Happy Holidays" just fine - it says whatever holiday you observe, whatever beliefs and traditions you hold dear, I wish you a blessed and merry time of it!

Until next time,
♥ Carolee

Friday, December 9, 2011

La Befana

Legend has it that very long ago, the Three Wise Men, in search of the Christ child, lost their way. They came upon La Befana's house, and stopped to ask directions, inviting her to join them in their search. She invited them to stay, but declined to accompany them, being too busy with her housework.

The next day, after they departed, she had a change of heart, so she set out to look for the Wise Men and the Child. And to this day she wanders the earth, still searching, broom in hand, leaving presents and candy for all good children on the eve of Epiphany.

I love this old Italian tale (such vivid imagery) and of course, had to paint La Befana...

She's depicted here on a large wooden plate (14" in diameter), with a traditional Italian verse hand lettered around the edge...

La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col vestito alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!

The English translation is

The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long life to the Befana!

Look for her in my Etsy shop later tonight! (There are also quite a few welcome signs in the shop too - great last minute, personalized gifts for hard-to-buy-for friends and family!)

Next up - arctic animals: "Bless All Creatures Great and Small"

Back very soon!

♥ Carolee

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Waiting For Santa and La Befana

As we anticipate the arrival of our favorite seasonal characters, my head is spinning with inspiration...There's Santa of course, and all his variations (my favorite is Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost). There's La Befana (more on her in a minute), and of course, there are more-legged characters as well - The selfless cat from The Cat Carol, Charles Dickens' Cricket on the Hearth...and who could forget all those reindeer?

One of the first seasonal offerings this year is a Christmas Mouse, and I thought it would be fun to share a bit of his progress. It begins with a simple pencil sketch on canvas...

Next, colors are blocked in, and a bit of detail added. You'll notice the mouse in the painting is considerably larger than the one in the sketch - an adjustment made during the painting process, to keep the mouse more in proportion to the mouse-hole.

Finally, the finished piece. I had such fun with the tiny details like the stocking and mistletoe hung with pins, and the swiss cheese gift wrap. ;)

I've titled this one "Waiting for Santa", and the little guy will be up for grabs on the PFATT Marketplace, this Saturday morning at 10AM Pacific time (1PM EST).

The next piece on the studio table is another favorite of mine, La Befana, whose image will grace this large wooden plate. Right now, there's just this vibrant background...

The next step will be to hand letter a traditional Italian verse around the outer edge of the piece:

La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col vestito alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!

The English translation is:

The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long life to the Befana!

Lettering accomplished (hopefully later today), La Befana will make her appearance.

This one will probably list on Etsy sometime in the next day or two. :)

So many other creatures and characters are whirling around in my brain, wanting desperately to escape to canvas or wood panel, box or bowl. (All I need is another couple of months before Christmas and Yule - is that too much to ask?)...

How about you? Do you have a favorite creature or character this time of year? A favorite childhood story or legend? Please share a comment - I soooo love hearing about how these stories shape our holidays and celebrations!

Looking forward to hearing from you, and in the meantime, I'm off to accomplish a few mundane household chores so I can get to that lettering before noon.

Wishing you all the blessings of the season, and time to enjoy them!

♥ Carolee

Monday, December 5, 2011

When a Door Closes....

Somewhere, a window opens. ♥

I'm hanging on to that thought as I gaze at scores of hand painted "welcome" and "winter welcome" signs adorning our living room floor at the moment.

Operating under the assumption that these two recent craft shows would be every bit as crowded as they've been in years past, I went a little overboard stocking up on inventory...

OK, I went a LOT overboard, hehe.

The upshot is that there's still a large inventory left. I'll probably hold some back for next year, but in the meantime, two of every design is listed in my Etsy shop, at the discounted price of $29.95, which includes personalization.

John's comment this weekend (as we were discussing rising oil and heating costs) was, as he gazed wistfully at all these pine signs, was "Too bad the woodstove in the dining room isn't working." Haha....It helps to have a sense of humor about these things. :)

Now, of course, I'm scrambling to create a few holiday pieces in time for shipping and gift-giving! This canvas is one I've had in my head for a long time now, and can't wait to finish...

It's so much fun to paint things from a different perspective. :)

Look for a new La Befana piece as well, and one with arctic animals, titled "Bless All Creatures Great and Small".

In the meantime, there's a tree to decorate, gifts to be completed and baking to be done...Every year I say "next year I'll start earlier!", and of course, it never happens.

Wishing you a merry time of it whatever you're planning and whatever you're creating!

I'll be back very soon
♥ Carolee