December 20, 2014

A Curated Christmas

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Hang a Shining Star Upon the Highest Bough

Here's wishing everyone a very merry little Christmas in 2o14. Last year I took my visitors on a tour after Decking My Halls. Though much is different this year, many of the changes are subtle or in the detail rather than the bigger Picture. I have mentioned in the past that Christmas is my favorite holiday by far. There is a Magic to the Winter Solstice and the observation of the birth of the Son of Light that both lightens my heart and causes me to stop for reflection on the year almost passed. While it is on one hand, probably the busiest time of the year, it is also my time to get quiet within and hear the small still voice that is too often drowned out by life's activity. A paradox perhaps, but one I have long since learned to live with.

Baking Cookies

I have been trying to get to this, my final post of this year, for days now, but I am hosting a Christmas party for my children and grandchildren this weekend, so holiday baking and finishing off the decorating has taken the front seat. I have lost count of how many dozens of cookies I have baked— there are two kinds of fudge in tins on the kitchen counter— and I have done some of the prep work for our more savory Christmas goodies. Holiday baking is one of my traditions, something that I have done for so many years now that it is ingrained, part of the pattern that I live within.

These particular cookies have been a favorite for several years now. They are Martha Stewart's Lemon-Glazed Candied-Ginger Cookies and they are yummy. I make gingerbread too. My family loves the warm, spicy sweetness of ginger, and I think it adds a bit of digestive comfort to the rich fare of the season.

Looks like some of the old cards in my Mom's scrapbook from the 1940's

I have been thinking a lot about how our Christmas Holiday is influenced by the internet and social media.

My Pinterest account has been extremely busy this month. I have numerous Christmas and Holiday themed boards, and since this is my favorite season, there are images of holiday decor and art sprinkled on many of my other boards. Some links follow for anyone interested in taking a look.
Irregardless of the time of year, I have always had a goodly percentage of my Pins that are Christmas oriented. In fact, my most repinned image ever was from the holidays last year. So, as you can see, I have Christmas covered. It was not so long ago that the Holiday Season meant pouring through magazines, sifting through clippings and files of ideas for creativity and decorating. Now, it is on this mesmerizing screen, at our fingertips, and the influence on every aspect of our lives is  unmistakeable. Sites like Pinterest, Etsy, Tumblr and the many other personal collection and curation platforms that are cropping up, provide doorways into the maze that is the world of blogs and small businesses on the internet. I have discovered numerous cool and exciting shops and blogs that I would never have found on my own. Though it sometimes overwhelms, I have been inspired by the creativity, the ingenuity and the fashion savvy of my fellow voyagers through this ocean of blogs and social media. What follows are some peeks at what I and my Step-Mom have done with some of these inspirations...

Glass Baubles

A crystal bowl filled with thrift-store glass ornaments, some bead garland and icicles becomes a study in reflected light.

Glass Worlds

Tiny worlds caught up in glass. More thrift shop ornaments adorn a shelf.

Oh Deer, o deer!

My house is filled with glass bowls and jars containing snow, trees and tiny Deer. This provides more laughter as there is a running joke among several in our family concerning deer figurines and the phrase "Oh Deer". The fact that deer are an omnipresent ornament to this Christmas Season only serves to fuel this humor.

More Deer in the Kitchen

Look, there are more Deer in the Kitchen. Along with a couple more thrift shop jars with winter scenes, the Deer on the left is a vintage candle from a hoard of items from Christmas Past that my mother recently gave me.

Hot Chocolate Station

Another cup of Cocoa please!

Another new addition to the kitchen landscape this year is the Hot Chocolate Station. The consensus among my significant other and the kids seems to beWhy haven't we had one of these before? Apparently, having it organized and appealingly situated makes the cocoa all that more delicious. I just like the cuteness factor. Also, with the little shaker of cinnamon handy, I have taken to adding it to my coffee, a tasty touch that I love.

A Little St. Nick

Just one of my many Santas. This one graces the prim bench in the foyer.  He is not vintage, but I love the style. I have Santas that are 50 or 60 years old in my collection, but many of the newer ones are just as dear to me. I usually add one or two to my growing collection every year.

Santa Tree

While the tree in my foyer is festooned with handmade and prim style ornaments, many of them made by my children and even grandchildren over the years, the living room tree is my Santa Tree. It is indeed a living tree. We still do the traditional evergreen rather than giving in to the easy convenience of all artificial trees. Though I call it the Santa Tree, it would be more apt to name it the Santa, star, angel, and Star Trek tree. What can I say. We are a household of Geeks, and a collection of now becoming vintage Hallmark Star Trek ornaments are always on the tree. 

Tiny Tree

Aside from the two larger trees, I also have a couple of tiny trees around the house. This one is in my Workroom. Look, another deer. Apparently this one wanted to ride in the sleigh rather than pulling it. This little tree is simply decorated in white and displays some beaded ornaments I made several years ago.

Christmas at my Dad and Step-Mom's House

I wanted to include this vignette of photos from my Dad and Step-Mom Sue's House as it is always a showplace at Christmas Time.  From the nine foot tall tree with winter village and toy train in the living room, to the slender tree festooned with coastal charm in the cozy fireplace room, the house is filled with seasonal delights for the eye. And yes, that is a Deer on the dining room table.

Pink poinsettias

I have rambled on longer than I planned already, but the Season is about the natural decor also, and what Florida Christmas would be complete without our outdoor beauty. Pink poinsettias line the wall before out front entrance. They began life in pots flanking the door a couple of years ago, then were transplanted in the spring to this spot. I learned the secret to getting the lush mounded blooms from my Mom. I cut them back in mid-August, and give them a good feeding. This is the lovely result.

Pink Christmas Cactus in a hanging basket

I have had this Christmas (sometimes Thanks giving or Easter) Cactus for several years. One of my photos of this one was among my most Pinned images last year, in fact. This year it actually split the difference, blooming between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I will be curious to see if it follows last year's pattern and blooms again in spring.

Blush Pink and White Christmas Cactus

Last, but certainly not least is a gorgeous combination blush-pink and white Christmas cactus that I picked up at the nursery down the road from us for 99 cents last year. It was in a two inch pot at the time. It has flourished, and the color still amazes me.

Well, this is goodbye for 2014. I wish you all a safe, happy and oh so Merry and Blessed Christmas and New Year.

December 9, 2014

Say Hello... Part II

Introducing Kaylah

River Watch

I am sure she will turn around in a minute. Kay spends a lot of her time either behind or in front of a camera. The first image in this post was from a local shoot she did last summer. She sends me quite a few photos, and doesn't mind if I use them in my work or otherwise have some fun with them. I actually like the post-production phase of photography even more than taking pictures. Kaylah loves to take pictures, so we just might have the makings of a team.

Kay with Glasses
This then, is my beautiful and talented Granddaughter Kaylah. Anyone who saw the last post introducing my beautiful, talented Daughter Gaia might notice that they appear to be close to the same age. Gaia is the eldest by a bit more than a year. Kaylah is however, taller by several inches and has been for much of their lives. While Kay is as outspoken as Gaia is introverted, both of them love clothes (though their styles are completely different), art, crafts, photography, animals (particularly cats) and my cooking. As of yet, neither of them seem inclined in any culinary directions, though Kaylah does work at a restaurant presently.

The Faces of Kay
The faces (and haircolors) of Kay
Kaylah is naturally a blonde, but quite willing to try something new occasionally. She plans on becoming a cosmetologist, and to specialize in make-up. She has been experimenting on her sisters as well as herself for years. I have been amazed again and again at the films and photographs she has been making since she was still in elementary school, using home-made props and her willing siblings to fuel her creative drive. Like Gaia, she has a genuine talent for drawing and sketching but is pulled in other directions of expression.

Kay-- Deer make-up

 Using her face as the canvas Kaylah is always pushing the limits, looking to explore different means of envisioning and making art. She is very contemporary but impossible to categorize. I laughingly describe her as a bohemian, rock-a-billy, new spiritual, millennial. That is a beginning perhaps, but she has depths I still would not even try to classify.
Oh Deer!

Here, posing in front of mine and Gaia's photo wall for the recent Halloween Barn Party is Kaylah's version of a Woodland Deer Princess.  I just loved the floral antlers.

The photo at left is another example of a collaboration between Kay and myself. She did an afternoon photo shoot of her younger sister and sent me several of the images. I did this version of Nat as a Little Angel in Photoshop.

Take a picture...

Behind the Camera
Kay may possibly be one of the pioneers of Selfies She was taking them and sending them to me long before that phrase was ever coined, or at least long before I'd heard it. Not only is she the Mistress of maneuvering a camera or smart phone around so as to get the best shot, but she mastered the use of the tripod and self-timer for photographs while still a child.
She is currently in love with vintage cameras, particularly Polaroids, and is the proud owner of several.

Another of Kaylah's favorite pastimes is Thrifting and shopping at vintage stores. Her eye for spotting a collectible bargain is just as good as her photographer's eye. She has surrounded herself with all sorts of kitschy and very fashionable goodies that she has found on these shopping expedtions.

Kaylah Up Close

I look forward to working with Kaylah in the year to come, both in the Etsy Shop we plan on opening and in doing the art and design for the website I want to create along with the shop. No matter what direction this endeavor takes us, I know that we can only expect new and amazing things from Kaylah in the years to come.

I hope to do one more post before Christmas, but just in case...
Happy and Blessed Holidays to all

December 2, 2014

Say Hello to My Co-Conspirators in Creativity

Part One... Introducing Gaia

Gaia Graduating by Gaia R.
Yes, it is December. Christmas is looming much closer than I am actually comfortable with under the circumstances. Those circumstances being that, as always, I have too much to do and not enough Time or energy to get it all done. I have, however, nearly finished with my Christmas shopping. This is unprecedented. I am a procrastinator of the highest caliber, and I have never before completed fulfilling my gift list much before the holiday itself. Though I have undoubtedly overlooked someone or something yet, I take heart that I have at least accomplished this. The Christmas boxes have been retrieved from the attic and the house is about 30 percent decorated.

For me, that is indeed something, so I will take a little break from being overwhelmed to acquaint you with my Girls. My daughter Gaia, and in a post to follow in a week (or 2 at most) my granddaughter Kaylah will be introduced. For the record, my life is pretty much overfilled with female relatives— aside from my Mother, Step-Mother, and several aunts, I have three sisters, three daughters (and one son), and at last count four granddaughters.  Each and every one of them is beautiful, remarkable and special to me, but Gaia and Kaylah share my love of photography, arts, crafts and other creative pursuits. Both of them are talented, and far more gifted each in her own way than I ever will be. They are also a delight to spend time with, and have both taken an interest in starting a creative business with me.

Gaia tending succulents in the Garden House

 As this year is quickly drawing to a close, I am setting my sights on getting our new enterprise up and running early in the New Year. It is long in coming, but perhaps as with all things, I have to accept that it will happen when, if and as it is supposed to.
Gaia-- Summerluv

Gaia is the youngest of my three daughters at 20, and Kay the eldest of the granddaughters at 19. Gaia is Kaylah's Aunt, but they were great friends as children and remain complete opposites in most every way.

Gaia and Kaylah growing up
Gaia on the Left and Kaylah to Right!

 Gaia is quiet, studious and a perfectionist. Kaylah is very verbal, spontaneous and inquisitive. While Gaia spends her time sewing, playing video games, reading and working in the house and garden, Kay enjoys photography, fashion, travel, decorating her space and visiting friends. They both love the beach and the casual Florida lifestyle. At present, neither has any interest in settling down or having children of their own. Both of them hope to pursue their creative talents and perhaps make at least part of their living doing things they are passionate about.

Gaia Collage

Gaia has long been one of my favorite (victims :-) photographic subjects. As I struggled to learn more about Photoshop and image manipulation, she was always a handy model. She is a lifelong fan of Anime, and has been interested in cos-play since High School. She was both determined enough and lucky enough to get to attend a pilot Early College High School when we lived in North Carolina. It was a great experience for her. Her fellow students were motivated, unique and more accepting than the teenagers you usually find in mainstream schools. They bonded on a deep level, and their interests covered a range that usually can only be found in much larger institutions. She graduated right after her eighteenth birthday with not only a high school diploma but an Associate of Arts Degree. She is still not certain what she ultimately wants to do, so for the present she is devoting herself to her creative endeavors.

Gaia as the Mad Hatter
 As you might guess, Gaia loves it when we put together one of our Celebrations here at the House. Not only is she an indispensable help to me but she never lets an opportunity to dress up pass her by. She was the Mad Hatter at last spring's Alice-in-Wonderland Birthday Party, an Oriental Princess at our last All-Hallows Barn Party, a Terry Pratchett character and Mad Scientist on previous years. She has dressed for school plays, for my crazy photo shoots and just about any time there is an excuse.

She collects, among other things, hats. I do not know how many there are of them— everything from bowlers to stovepipe, berets to bonnets, chullos to coonskin— she has fedoras, at least three witch hats, various baseball and patrol style caps, a tricorne, santa hats, kitty ears on a knit cap and more. Thus, she is always ready for the next adventure with the proper millinery.

Gaia's imagination is as vast as her hat collection. She began sitting in on craft classes at the shop I owned when she was eight or nine years old. Bead-work did not really interest her, but she was quite taken with polymer clay and even sold some of the tiny fantasy creature figures she created. Though she enjoyed working with the clay, she was more fascinated by sewing and various forms of needlework, and with a bit of help from the constant flow of creative adults she was around at the store, she began hand stitching small dolls and other figures.
Gaia's Creation

She loves to draw as well, and her creations are influenced by her love and admiration of popular Japanese art forms like manga and anime. She has collected, studied and played the Pokemon games since she was small. She sketches equally well with pencil or stylus, enjoys doing pixel pictures and is exploring the use of shading in contour and shape.

Meanwhile, her sewing has progressed from the small, completely hand-stitched dolls made from craft felt, to the greatly expanded options the use of a sewing machine allows. She draws her own patterns and is currently working on a new line of dolls with moveable arms and legs, beautifully expressive embroidered faces and custom designed clothing. I can't wait to see what comes next.

Gaia's Children

She calls her line of dolls, some of them fashioned after nature, others purely sprung from her mind and imagination— Gaia's Children. Since she was named for that ancient goddess that is embodied by our own Mother Earth, it seems only fitting that she should be the creative mother to these small folk that populate her world.

This is just a peak into Gaia's creative life. She will have a lot more to show you in the year to come. It is my hope that she will help with the blog writing chores, that she will perhaps share some of her patterns and ideas, and help you with some of your own.

Till next time...

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