Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Year, Same Old World

The New Year looms ahead like a shiny new journal with all empty pages. Yet, even yesterday as I sat on my sofa enjoying time with my family, contemplating the peace and quiet of the next few days, planning a 21 day prayer journey for my business, and generally looking ahead to the coming year... there was a phone call from friends that their 38 year-old son/brother had passed away suddenly and tragically yesterday afternoon.

We quickly made our way to their home, and we tried to give as much comfort and encouragement as you can in a time like this.  This is a fallen, fallen place in which we reside.  The great, true joy of Christmas is balanced by the devastation of separation and death.

What comfort can we give in a time like this? The only real comfort is to be the hands and feet of Jesus. He knows the situation, He loves them all, He loved the one who died, He cares deeply for His children and offers to carry our burdens -- even the heaviest ones -- for us. So, we embrace them as He would, love them as He loves, bear this burden with them. He is Emmanuel even in this, guiding through the darkest night with His light and His hand.

(As always, you are free to use this graphic.)

There is so much I do not understand about this world.  But, I am just simple enough to trust God's promise that He will never leave or forsake me and His promise that HE is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.  Whatever this world sends my way, I am thankful for what I have today, now.  I choose to not live in the past (while being thankful for it) and not live in the future (while looking forward to eternity with the Lord and its reuniting with those I love). I am thankful for my family, for my friends -- even ones I have never met. I am thankful for home, for safety, for life, for love, for enough -- you know, the "this day our daily bread."  I know that we are not even promised one more breath, so I am choosing to thank God for now. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Art Show

Today is a day of LUXURY!  Why luxury, you ask?  I have the LUXURY of sitting on my couch and having time to visit and catch up with all my blog friends.  I cannot wait to catch up with what all of you have been doing over these past couple of weeks.  I plan to read and read and read...  (HUGE smiling, contented sigh)!

Here are a few photos from our two week art show... a wonderful time for our art association and so much beautiful art.  I am so proud of all the artists. 

The show was held in a wonderful retail space in a local mall that just happened to be empty. The space faced the main thoroughfare of the mall with a large window across the busiest part. The mall was happy to have us filling this space during the holiday season, and we were happy to have such a visible location for our art show.  We had over 70 artists of all kinds from extreme realism to abstract to whimsical and everything in between.  And it is all 2-dimensional art... no sculpture, no jewelry, no crafts... only paintings and drawings on traditional 2-d mediums.

We donated 10% of our sales to a local organization, Hand-in-Paw, which is an organization of therapy dogs.  There were a number of these amazing animals at our opening reception, a Schnauzer, a Great Dane, a Pekingese, a Spaniel, and many more. The photos are all from our opening reception, which could hardly have gone better.

 I am very thankful that on the year that I happened to be president, the show turned out this well.  I also did a few commissioned pieces over the holidays, one of them for a friend who was in our wedding 30 years ago, and one of them for someone who picked up my card at this show.  I will wait to post those here until I am sure they have been gifted.  For the the 8th year, I am thanking God for another wonderful year of allowing me to do something I love so much!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

All is calm, all is bright...

After a very busy month with the art show (which I will post more about in a later post), emergency wisdom tooth removal after the discovery of a 5th wisdom tooth (yes, this really is possible, and yes, you can still have to have your wisdom teeth out at 50+), and this week a lovely stomach bug (NOT!)...

today was such a WONDERFUL day beginning with celebrating our Lord at church this morning, then lunch with my mom and step-dad, then opening gifts with our children, and then more gifts with my mother- and father-in-law... then playing with gifts and enjoying one another's company.  And now we're sitting -- feet propped up -- watching Little Women.  All is calm and all is bright... peaceful and joyful deep down. 

Thankful for what Christmas really means... 
it means in spite of my nerves in a dentist's chair about wisdom teeth removal, 
or my nerves about painting live in a mall window with people watching me the entire time (for the first time), 
or my heart's ache for my step-father who lost his 43 year-old son this summer
(who left four beautiful boys 13 and under and a beautiful wife behind),
or the fact that the eldest of those four beautiful boys is battling cancer himself,
or the fact that my bout with a four day stomach virus or food poisoning fog these last five days has derailed my best laid plans for Christmas...

Jesus has me right where He wants me.  He knows His plans for me, and He knows His plans for my step-father's family, and He knows His plans for my children, and He knows His plans for you, too.  I don't have to know HIS plan, I just have to trust HIS hand.

I wrote this in 2012 and it still applies even more today.  

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Hail the incarnate Deity! Jesus, our Emmanuel... Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the King of kings!" (This last line is how Wesley wrote it originally; it was later revised by George Whitfield.) As I look at the many blessings of life, including my precious family, I am struck that even as precious and wonderful as our family times are, and as much as I treasure EACH and EVERY memory we make… even family is not what Christmas is all about. It is about One thing and One thing only: Jesus desired so much to bring my sinful self back into relationship with Himself that He was willing to lay aside the glory of heaven and His right to stay there, to put on the flesh of a helpless babe and later walk as a man, and then to be the sacrifice necessary to pay the penalty for my sin. It is with wonder that I think about this and all it means. And because of His sacrifice, I receive all the benefits: peace that passes understanding in a world riddled with anxiety and fear, contentment in a world that would sell me dissatisfaction, joy in a world that offers great sadness, love in a world filled with hate… and on top of all that the promise of eternity with Him. Christmas is not feelings or faith or even family … Christmas is Emmanuel, the God Who is with us… and that is Everything.

Monday, December 5, 2016

'Tis the (busy) season...

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we have rapidly moved into busy season!  I have finally gotten all my inside decor up and am very thankful to have all the boxes back in the attic.  I have also been working on a two week art show for the association of which I am serving as president and have several commissioned pieces lined up.  So, I am really thankful to have the decorations up.  Although we have two trees, here is a peek at "my tree" as my children like to refer to it.  I am sharing this first photo because I loved the effect that the lights made. 

However, as I continued taking photos I realized after three or four tries with this same result that my lens was smudged. 😉 So, here is the entire tree without a smudged lens...

This is "my tree" for many reasons... one reason is that it was inspired by my grandmother ~ a beautiful gracious southern belle of a lady ~ who always had a special way of decorating her own tree by using only white, silver, crystal, and gold ornaments.  I have taken this tradition as my own and used only those items (with a couple of exceptions for ornaments with burgundy and red ribbon hangers) on it.  While I have used only those colors, the ornaments are not "designer ornaments" purchased from a store just for the purpose of decorating.  Rather, they are primarily either heirlooms or gifts from family and friends... like the beautiful Gorham angel on top of the tree that was a wedding gift.

The above photo captures several ornaments from my grandmother. The white fireplace and stockings at the bottom was a gift to hubby and me from her early in our marriage, the blown glass ornament top right, the small glass frosted pine cone at top left, and the crystal icicles are heirlooms from her very own tree after she passed on.

 The bottom left gold glass ball wishing us a frosted "Merry Christmas" was my husband's as a child.  The two Lenox snowflakes at the top, one crystal and one white, were gifts from precious friends.

The brass bear with a photo of my oldest son was a gift from my aunt when my son was a baby, and it sits beside a white glass ball with a Currier and Ives scene that was also an heirloom from my grandmother.

The two Precious Moments ornaments, the Little Drummer Boy and the bell, in the photo above were baby gifts from friends when my now adult sons were born.  There is another white glass ball with gold stars and the small frosted pine cone in the photo that were heirlooms from my grandmother's tree.

These two twin brass ornaments are also heirlooms... the one on the left belonged to my grandparents long before I ever thought of marrying and the one on the right belonged to my husband when he was a child.  I just love that.

You couldn't have looked at all these photos without noticing the round cross-stitched, gold and white Chrismon ornaments. (If you're not sure what a Chrismon is, it is an ornament that is a Christ Monogram... a symbol of Christ: and a little more info here: 

These Chrismons were lovingly made by my mother-in-law's mother.  She was a precious woman who was severely handicapped by rheumatoid arthritis. Rather than sulk in her suffering, she chose to be joyful and to be as productive as she could.  Though her hands were so bent by the disease that her fingers were permanently curled so that she could hardly hold a needle, she insisted that we should all have a set of these beautiful ornaments.  She tried her best to get a set for each grandchild and even great grandchild before she died.  She was a treasure, and I am so thankful for these ornaments but even more thankful that our children got to spend a great amount of time with her when they were small.   
I am thankful for all the ways these ornaments remind me of those who have loved me and my family well... so many have gone on to be with the Lord, and what a glorious reunion we'll have someday!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


We had both sets of parents along with my brother, his wife and new baby with us for Thanksgiving.  Here are a few photos.  I have been too busy to craft a really thoughtful post about Thanksgiving, as we are planning for a two week art show opening this Friday.  Here are a few photos from Thanksgiving...

The table...

The food (this is what comes from having four families making food for the day!) ... oven roasted turkey, smoked pork loin, smoked Boston butt, smoked turkey, cornbread dressing, gravy, squash casserole, creamed corn, collard greens, gourmet potatoes, green beans, purple hull peas, sweet potato casserole...

...lime jello salad, deviled eggs, Greek salad of broccoli & cauliflower with feta cheese, homemade cranberry relish, canned cranberry relish, pickled and olive assortments, French silk pies, pecan pie, and a homemade carrot cake. Abundance would be an understatement... but everyone had their favorite things!  And leftovers to go for one and all!

I am exceedingly thankful for all the wonderful blessings God has given me and at the top of the list is my family. Praying your Thanksgiving was warm, wonderful, and filled with loved ones.

Monday, November 21, 2016

It was hard keeping this a secret...

I have been waiting to post this one... such a fun super secret surprise piece. This was commissioned by a groom for his bride as a wedding gift because this was the spot where he proposed to her... under the big oak tree at Augusta National, the home of The Masters golf tournament. Congratulations to the bride and groom who are now Mr. and Mrs.!

"The Big Oak at Augusta National"
- 10" x 13" graphite

Friday, November 11, 2016

Thanksgiving is now less than two weeks away

How did this happen?  Time does march on.  With Thanksgiving in mind, I realize that I am thankful for so much -- I have SO MUCH for which I am thankful -- and yet I don't have EVERYTHING.   God continually shows me how much I need Him.  We are in the midst of one of the worst droughts in history where I live.  The lake that is our main source of water is so dry that people can walk across it.  We are at 54 days with no rain.  NO rain.  And the forecast for the next 10 days shows 0% chance of rain.

The conditions are so bad right where I live that the Water Works has issued a 400% fine on any who go over the allotted water amount for the month.  400%!  And that is the same whether you are a family of one or a family of ten.  We are a family of five adults and one fur baby.  But, we usually hover around the "fine-worthy" amount in our usage. So, we are finding creative ways to conserve even more than we normally do.  Yet, we are still praying, "Lord, please send the rain."  And, this continues to remind me that I am not in charge. 

As always with my scripture graphics, feel free to download and use this one!

Despite the recent election and the divide that we see in our country, we can be content in the circumstance and know that He is still God. So many feel that four years with our president-elect will doom our nation.  But, just as many felt that way four and eight years ago. And, here we are still plugging along. At the end of the day God calls us not to criticize those who don't vote or believe as we do. Rather, He calls us to love. Unconditionally.  Wholeheartedly. Even when it's hard. EVERY person has value to God. Including President Obama and including President-elect Trump. I pray that we can all get past this hate and division... and can find the contentment that He promises.

So much of life is beyond our control.  And so many of us are control freaks (anybody else, or is it just me and the people in my family?) When we have circumstances in our lives that are disappointing or challenging, they could be God's way of reminding us that no matter how much we try to control the variables in our lives, He is still ultimately in control.  And, I am at peace with that (well, most of the time.)  I try, with Paul the apostle, to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself.  And every time I go into my kitchen to get a glass of water, I am reminded of that.

"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." - Philippians 4:11-13

Saturday, November 5, 2016

We need this right now...

So, I have always loved Steven Curtis Chapman's music, and so much of that is due to his rich lyrics.  He has written this song just recently in response to our upcoming election.  I would strongly encourage you to click the link or photo and listen.  It was just what I needed today, and I am afraid I may listen to it a zillion more times in the coming days. No matter what you're going through, God is on the throne...

It's not just applicable for us here in the States, but for all God's children... wherever we may be.  The lyrics are powerful, but even more so when you hear his heart as he sings them:

I hear everybody talking
on the right and on the left,
They're holding out their promises
while we all hold our breath,
and if I did not know better
I would be scared to death,
But God is on the throne.
I know that it all matters
and there's so much at stake
And I know we all need wisdom
for decisions we must make
But there's only one who's making promises that He won't break
And He is on the throne.

He is faithful and true,
everything He says He'll do,
And everything we go through,
He will go with us.
All the kingdoms of man
are in the palm of His hand
So I will not fear, I'll say it loud and clear, so my own heart can hear it
God is on the throne.

Well I've got my fears and worries
like everybody else
I love this country and it's broken
and in desperate need of help
So I'm praying to the one
who has the power to make us well
'Cause He is on the throne

Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall,
only one stands through it all
It's the kingdom of
the God of grace and love
And I'm not worried because I know
God is on the throne.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Thankful for amazing doctors

I am one who cannot imagine being a doctor or a nurse, so I can't imagine having the courage to operate on another person.  But, I am so very thankful that there are those who are brave enough to do just that, as today it saved my friend's life.  She had an aneurysm that was fairly large and very dangerously thin and bulging. The doctor felt it could have ruptured and put her life in jeopardy at any moment.

She found out about this aneurysm because she had what she thought was a migraine ... for over a month!  She went to her general practitioner who suggested she get an MRI "just in case" and today she had a very intricate surgery to repair the aneurysm.

This was a 7 hour surgery (she was actually in the operating room that long), with a couple hours prep and a few hours in recovery.  Very long day! The doctor came out and told us that it was much larger and more serious than they originally thought and that the location of it in her brain was a very tricky spot.  Yet, he was able to repair the aneurysm, and he was hopeful that she should recover fully.

We are praising the Lord and thanking Him that someone whom we had never met before was brave enough to learn to do this kind of thing, strong enough to stand there for 7 hours (or however long it might have taken), gifted enough to use his skill and knowledge to accomplish this, so that our friend (who is in her mid-40s and has a husband and two children) will be well again.  Thank You, Lord, for doctors and for being the Great Physician, whether through miraculous healing or through miraculous doctors.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Yummo Seafood and Sausage Gumbo

I have been making gumbo for years now, thanks to a Southern Living recipe collection that I subscribed to back in the 90s, with a few personal tweaks.  I thought I would share it... this is not the quick, throw it in a pot, and have it ready in 30 minutes kind of soup.  But it is so worth the effort!

Here are the ingredients:
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 large bell peppers, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 2 10 oz. packages frozen cut okra, thawed
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 Tbsp. Tony Chacheres Creole Seasoning (Zatarain's works, too)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. thyme
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 16 oz. Andouille or Conecuh Sausage, sliced
  • 2 lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined

Once you have gathered all the ingredients, the first place to start is dicing all the vegetables. You must do this first because there is no time to do it once you have started everything else.

Next, you'll make the roux.  Be brave... this is the fun part.  In a very large and thick bottomed stock pot, put the oil and flour in and turn on medium heat. (Photo at right is how it looks when you start.) You need a long-handled wooden spoon or long-handled sturdy whisk, as this gets extremely hot and there's no sense singing the hairs off your arm!  You will stir this continuously, so be sure you will not be distracted during this step.  Continue on medium heat until the roux is about the color of milk chocolate or a tarnished copper penny.  You'll be tempted to turn up the heat to speed the process... trust me, don't!  For me, on medium heat this takes around 20 minutes.  Yes, I stir just about the entire time.  Just think of it as working off the bowls of yumminess you'll be eating later.  The mixture begins to get grainy toward the end, and particularly then you must not stop stirring. (Photo below is how it looks when it's ready for the next step.)

Once the mixture reaches the right color, it is time to add the diced veggies... peppers, onions, celery, and minced garlic.  Dump them in and stir, stir, stir for about 5 minutes.  At this point you're going to want to fumigate your house ...scented candles, fans, essential oils, whatever it takes.

Next add the 2 cans of tomatoes.  Then add the okra. 

Once you have added all that and stirred vigorously for a minute or two, it's time to add the 2 quarts of water.  You can add less if you like a thicker gumbo, or more if you like thinner.

 Next, add the Seasoning Mix, salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaves.  

Add the sausage, next, and simmer for  around an hour.
Once you have simmered and the sausage is done, add the shrimp and cook for an addition 20-30 minutes.  
You can cook white rice to go in the gumbo if you like it that way (most people do.) But, I like it without rice, like soup.  You can add Tobasco, Texas Pete's, Frank's RedHot, or any favorite hot sauce, if you want it hotter.

And last, but certainly not least, dip a bowl for yourself and dig in!

I would love to know if you actually make this and what you think!


Monday, October 31, 2016

I have a secret...

I am no good at decorating.  There, I've said it.  It's one of the reasons that I found blogging hard for so long.  All of the bloggers I visit seem to have this wonderful decorating gene.  I just don't have it.  I know what I like and am comfortable with, but when it comes to taking a room and seeing what it needs to really come to life ...well, I just keep staring.  Even with bloggers and Pinterest for inspiration, I am still stymied. This is where my amazing mother comes in.

Last year we wanted to redo our downstairs den so that our grown-still-living-at-home-children would have a nice place to escape.  The walls with NO windows were papered in a navy and burgundy giant striped wallpaper.  With a dark red brick fireplace and dark green carpet that needed to be removed, we had some challenges.

I know what you're thinking... the sofa completely clashes with the walls.  Yeah, I figured that one out all on my own. He he. The walls were that way when we moved in to the house, and this was the 2nd tier sofa and loveseat so they just ended up together.  Can't imagine why no one ever wanted to use this den!?!?

Well, we wanted to do something creative with the room, with a little bit of adventure thrown in.  My (adult) kids had some ideas of what they wanted to do, but weren't quite sure how to make it come together on a budget.  So, I called my wonderfully gifted and creative -- especially when it comes to decorating -- mother.  She immediately said, "Oh, what you're wanting is a British colonial look with a hint of jungle."  OK, but still how to accomplish it?

She began to brainstorm, and then she started to search the web and pin things to Pinterest for us. We thought about function (for the kids to be able to camp out down there and even bunk down if they wanted to). We thought about light (because there are no windows). We thought about furniture (because we knew those old sofas were going to have to go).  We thought about flooring (because we knew that awful green carpet had to go).  We thought about what we could do with the dark brick fireplace.  We thought about the "adventure" theme that the kids were wanting... and suddenly a plan began to come together.

First, (after priming the wallpaper) we painted the walls a creamy, almost-yellow, off-white color so that we would have a neutral backdrop and open the space.  Next, we chose a chocolate brown color for painting the cement (which also had to be stripped of all the glued down strips of carpet tacks and primed...  yuck!)  Once the floor had been painted and had time to dry, we came up with the idea of stenciling something around the edges because there were many rough spots where the carpet tack strips had been pulled up (you can see these in the top left part of the photo).  Keeping in mind our adventure theme, I came up with a rope trim and made a stencil from a plastic file folder.  We also wanted to add bits of intrigue and so my son made up an East India Trading Co. logo for stenciling also.   The result of all this is the photo at left.  I loved the way the stenciling turned out.  We painted the rope in the light tan of the baseboard trim color, and then stippled back over it in the darker brown for an antiqued flair.

Next, we had to tackle the fireplace.  We decided to paint it, too, as it desperately needed to lighten up.  I wasn't sure how this would go, but we took a deep breath and plunged in.  We were going for a sort of faux stone look, so I Googled how to do that and found that cutting a sponge with large holes to the same size as the bricks, and using a couple of shades darker paint, while leaving the grout the color we painted it, would imprint a stone look onto the bricks.

We painted it first in the same color as the walls (above). And we came back in lightly with the sponge adding the darker color onto the bricks.   At this point we could see that we were actually getting somewhere, and we were ready to start adding some furniture.

We knew we had just enough money for a couple of key purchases, so we chose an affordable futon so that there would be something to sleep on down there.  I had a wicker rocker that had been in our first nursery that would work.  We found some great throw pillows -- some were given and some were purchased.  We found a "rattan" chair that was a floor model and was very reduced in price.  We found a throw rug that virtually matches the floor.  We even found a couple of other accent blankets and things.  We were also given an old trunk that really goes well with the decor.  We found a great mirror that functions much like a window for the room.  And here is the result:

We love how it turned out, and best of all the kids have gotten a tremendous amount of use out of it.  Amazing how far a little inspiration can go with someone as creatively wired as my mother is.  I am blown away by her gift for this because while I did get some creative genes, I certainly didn't get this one!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Just sent off the latest commissioned piece...

I just shipped out my latest commissioned piece -- the one I mentioned that the groom is giving to his bride for a wedding present.  I can't wait to share it with you, as it was such fun!  But since it is a super secret surprise, it will have to wait until after the lovely bride has laid eyes on it...

I wanted to give you a little peek into my drawing room and table. I have a few commissioned pieces that I could share since I last posted about them on this blog, but here is one that was a pleasure to do.  It is on our local historical register and the current owners purchased the home in the 1970s.  This house turned 100 years old in 2015.

I thought I would share the process for this one.  It is pretty much how I work on all my commissioned pieces.  Here is the original photo that I was sent by the person who commissioned the drawing.

Original photo:

This is the first step (below) in how I work, lightly laying in the beginning sketch.  This is really the crucial point of the drawing and sometimes the longest step, as I must get the perspective right, the house straight, all the angles relating to the horizon correctly, etc.  There is a lot of sketching and erasing happening in this step! ;)

Once I am satisfied that the house looks correct from all angles (and doesn't look like it's falling over to one side or the other) and is proportionally correct (the porch isn't too large for the house, the steps are proportional to the door, the windows aren't too large or small, etc.) I can begin to fill in details.  This is where the fun takes over. 

Filling in details is about texture, shading, and all the architectural nuances that make a house a house... the boards on the wall next to the windows, the stonework on the porch, the little architectural details under the eaves, etc. When filling in, I work as much as possible from left to right and top to bottom, as the graphite will smear while I am working (right-handed) and rubbing back and forth over the areas.  I also use a piece of parchment to cover areas that I have already filled in, so that they are protected from my (very active) hand and arm.

Some of the most challenging details about some houses are the windows, especially if the surrounding trim and wood is white, as the ones on either side of the front door here.  It is difficult to get the panes all uniform and straight lines without distorting the white trim around them because the white part is the negative space.  It's much easier if the trim is darker than the panes.

I loved doing this house because there were so many different textures and features. It is really amazing to me how much this makes me appreciate what architects do.  To think this beautiful thing was designed and built in 1915 and is still so beautifully standing and giving shelter to this family today just amazes me.

With all of the house finished except the roof, I get to thinking about the landscape.  I have to be sure that the house is covered with parchment during this step because this when my fingers fly.  Shrubs and grasses and trees and flowers are a lot of fun.  As you have probably gathered by now, I really enjoy doing these.  I am thankful that people continue to ask me to do them, and each one is unique and special.  And so we've made our way back to where this post started, the finished product...


One thing that I do while I draw is pray for the families who are represented by the homes... those who live there, those who have lived there and have moved on, those who are giving the gift to the ones who live or lived there.  It is a privilege to be able to touch a family in this way. This is just a little taste of my commissioned work, but I also still love to paint and take the opportunity to "play with color" in between my commissioned drawings.

Wednesday blessings,