Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye, Faith. Hello, ??

It's New Year's Eve.  It's a beautiful day with sun, blue sky and very cold temperatures and I love it.  Sunshine and a frosty temperature is my favorite kind of weather.  Don't ask me why.  Because I really don't know.  It's just feels exhilarating and joyful.

With that in mind, ah and the use of the word,'s time to look at the word of the year from this year: Faith. 

As I've said off and on this year, I was uncomfortable with faith as the word of the year.  Mostly because for me, it has always had a huge weight attached to it associated with my Catholic upbringing.  It has always felt like something I had to have whether I wanted it or not.  More of a burden to carry than a dock on which to stand, supported above the ever changing waters of life.  I've written about the word and how it's changed for me many times this year.  Here are a few samples:  here, here, and here.

I've come to see faith as a friend, now.

Faith is the kind of friend that never fails to show up when you really need to know you're not alone.  When days are frustrating and disappointing, faith shows up at the end to sit with me.  And when out of the blue, something comes my way that I've wanted and needed, faith is there to pat me on the back and whisper, "I knew it would happen."

Faith has been, well, faithful this year.  Trudging through my days silently behind me in everything I do.  And I don't like goodbyes, but maybe, I don't have to really let it go.  Just let faith be there, maybe as it's always been...right beside me all along.  

It's been hard to choose a new word of the year for 2016.  But, perhaps, letting myself have last year's word, faith, beside me, it will all figure itself out in the end.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Holiday Treats.

One thing I really love about the holidays is baking.  As a young girl, my Scottish grandmother made a special trip to teach me how to make the family shortbread and scone recipes.  I loved having my hands in the dough, rolling and shaping and watching them puff up in the oven.  And of course, a buttery shortbread or warm scone with jam is truly delicious.

Every holiday, I get to bake up all of my favorites.  Shortbread.  Cherry Cake.  Chocolate  Kringles.  All the recipes for these treats come from my Grandmother Gallacher and my Gram Smith.

Both of these women were exceptional bakers.  I was honored to learn from them and go on to learn more in college nutrition and foods classes.  Cooking and baking is another way to be creative and I think both my grandmothers felt the same way.  My Gram was especially wonderful not just in the kitchen where her sauces were legend but in my life where she brought light and warmth and love.  When I get out the recipes that I copied from their files, or when I find one in Gram's own handwriting, I'm transported back to that time when I could look up and see her there smiling at me.

When I make her cheese sauce from scratch for pasta or a lamb chop with broccoli, baked potatoe and sour cream, I feel safe and comforted and loved. Everytime.  Baking her chocolate kringles with their snowy dusting of powdered sugar, I still remember her telling me not to over bake them or they'll get dry.  

She was right.  About so many things...she knew my boyfriend was going to be my husband before I did.  She told me he was a very kind man and she'd only just met him.  She loved seeing me wear bright colors and encouraged me to be bold.  She used to have me drive her around in her big Buick and had me use her apartment for a whole month so I'd see I could move out on my own and be ok.

Every holiday, it isn't just the baking I look forward to, it's the recipes and loving memories.

And that's a very special treat for the holidays.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Studio Confessions and Crock Pot Survival.

This month seems to have a theme: the holidays and the studio.  First, I needed to remind myself balance is dynamic not static and this is so true especially during the holidays.  Last week, I realized my creativity is actually enhanced by the holidays in more ways than one.  

This week, it's a confession: my studio work has slowed to a stop. And then, so did I.  

After the blur of holiday hunting and gathering, successfully get everyone's list checked off, having a few friends and clients over to my studio, I found myself napping in the middle of the day.  I don't nap.  Usually.  So this was, pardon the pun, a wake up call to get some rest.

It's hard for me to do this, because my mind is always playing an ongoing to do list.  And there are still holiday errands to run and baking to do.  Plus, I do have quite a few mugs, bowls and such that need under glazing in the studio.  

But, I was forced to listen to my body and instead of more holiday running, I did a little holiday resting.

Here's something, I just rediscovered, that helps me through the holidays: get out the crock pot.  

When I have dinner cooking itself by noon, I feel so much more relaxed.  Even if I'm stuck in traffic or in the studio or napping, I know dinner is already done.  So I thought I'd share two of my favorite crock pot recipes and hope that it brings you a more restful holiday even when you're out running around.

Pork Loin with Veggies and Gravy

Put into the crock pot:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove chopped
1/2 red onion sliced
2-2 1/2 pound pork loin roast, place it on top of the above.
Chop up 2-4 sweet potatoes and 1-2 apples, place around the roast.
In a one cup measuring cup:
3/4 cup spiced cider, 1/4 cup sherry and 4 tablespoons soy sauce
Pour over the roast.
Now for the seasons: 
Sprinkle the roast with salt, pepper, basil and thyme.

Put the lid on the crock pot.  Set it on H for 5-6 hours.

Take the pork and veggies out of the crock pot leaving the cooking liquid.
In a small shaker, mix flour and some of the liquid, add back into the crock pot and whisk to make gravy.  

Slice the pork, add the veggies and gravy and enjoy!

Split Pea Soup

Put into the crock pot:
1 ham bone(it's ok if it's frozen)
1 red onion chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
1-2 cups of small baby carrots cut into bite size pieces
1 pound of split green peas
2 cups of water
1 cup of chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Pepper, dried basil, thyme, tarragon  to taste

Cook on high 4-5 hours.  Serve with hot rolls.

Enjoy a restful holiday!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Studio and the Holidays: More Creativity.

Last week, I wrote about trying to balance the demands of the holidays with my studio days.  As I observed, life is a see saw balancing act each and every moment, not just during the holidays.  But, I missed something big here.

Creativity.  Being creative is more than just a living for me, it's as essential to my life as air.  I can't imagine a living a life without being creative.

I can see I've always been this way.  As a child, I made up stories as I roamed the woods and made mud villages.  I cut and sewed clothes for my troll dolls.  I re-purposed shoe boxes into mini troll homes.  

Now, I throw clay into vases, mugs, bowls and make masks.  I've made boxes with stories and screening spirits for the garden.  I still write about what I see on my walks in the woods.  And instead of decorating boxes for trolls, I decorate my home for my two and four footed family.

Here's what I realized: Instead of the holiday taking me away from my creative life, it gives me more art to make.  Walking in the woods to find a beautiful Grand Fir tree.  Imagining all stories my tree decorations would have to tell from all their years hanging on trees in my great room.  Remembering all the stories of curious little children waiting for Santa.

I get to set up mini Santa villages surrounded by some of my favorite books.  Mixing my functional art with my Christmas treasures is a real treat.  

Walking through the Zoolights at night with all the swirls of colors and animated animals swinging in trees.

I still need and want to create in my studio.  And, as I said last week, my clay can get cranky if it's not given the right attention at the right time.  I didn't throw this week, instead I trimmed and pulled handles.  And I imagined swirls of bright colors layered on my smooth, white porcelain pieces drying on my shelves as I looked from my studio to my big, colorful Christmas tree. 

Yes, it's still a balancing act between studio and holidays but it doesn't have to be a battle.  Because creativity for me isn't just about art making.  It's about making an artful life here on this planet, right now.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Holidays and Studio Days.

If there's one thing I've learned in my life on this planet so far it's this:  balance is a see saw not a balance beam. 

I really believe it because I see it all the time in my life but it's especially clear during the holiday season.  With all the loveliness of season to enjoy, I still yearn to get my hands in clay.  Throw.  Paint.  And carve away.  But my days can get easily eaten up with extra seasonal work outside the studio.  

I feel like I fight this every year as I try to balance my world between all the things I love. My desire to enjoy the season vs my desire to enjoy my studio. 

I love the season.  Putting out my snowflake trees.  Setting up my table with snowflake white tablecloth and red, felted runner and candles. Plumping up cozy pillows and throws for the sofa. Getting out the Santa pictures and picture books from my children's childhood. Filling the hutch with my Christmas Spode.  Cutting down a fresh Grand Fir tree and decorating it.  Baking cookies and shortbread.  I can really be a happy holiday maker around my home.

But.  You know there would be a but...I miss my clay.  It calls to me by day and whispers to me at night saying, "Play with me, paint me."  And sometimes, it shouts, "Trim me now or lose me and by the way, some of us need handles, ah, like, yesterday."  Ok, my clay can get very snarky sometimes.

I threw the other day and these pieces are drying but several bowls need trimming and the mugs I threw will need handles this week.  It's already do the math because I don't want to.  

But. Ah, yes, another one. I want to get that sweater someone wants before they're sold out and order that mobile, stocking and coffee maker, some of which by the way, were almost already gone.  And I couldn't find a few items, so I'll have to do more looking and that takes time away from my studio.

This is where I fall off the balance beam, every time.  I always thought or was taught that good planning and management and organization led to a smooth even ride but I see now that was not only not true but leads me feeling frustrated and unsuccessful.  

Ah. I see now, again and again, that life isn't a thing to be balanced but a ride to be lived.

The see saw ride of life. And I see that a see saw requires faith(that word of the year, again) that you will go down but you will also go up again.  

Now, who's going to have a talk with that snarky clay for me?