A Beastly Sketch

Art

I’m always promoting the act of sketching. Not every drawing should be a finished piece and we should all learn to sketch out of habit as a way of learning, as a way of reflecting and as a way of observing the world around us.

The more we draw, the better we get at 99% of art forms. Period. Sketch for sketching sake.

That being said, I’m not always great at following my own advice. Do as I say, not as I do – yada, yada, yada.

I get it. If you’re like me, you want every sketch to lead to something grand. Something more than a fleeting thought. Ultimately, something more than a sketch!

But sketches are meant to be unfinished – that’s what makes them magical! Because documenting fleeting, unfinished thoughts on paper help us learn which direction we want to go in and can sometimes lead to the grandest ideas of all.

One of my resolutions for 2018 is to sketch more. Fearless sketching, totally unafraid of the prospect that some sketches will end up being nothing more than a few hasty scribbles on a piece of paper.

This weekend I held true to my resolution and flipped through my sketchbook pages rapidly, producing a number of very quick, very rough drawings. I drew ideas as fast as they came to me. And through this process, found some inspiration.

Portraiture. Faces. Taking a break from inanimate objects (which I do so love) and focusing back on the living and breathing.

Feeling inspired, I kept sketching. And actually did create a sketch I deemed worth sharing:

I love “Beauty and the Beast” and was drawn to capturing Beast’s half-human nature. (Admittedly, humanoid creatures have always been a fascination of mine.)

Because of this care-free sketch-session I’m feeling more inspired than I have weeks. Thank goodness I received a pile of sketchbooks for Christmas!

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Stitching Mythology: the White Stag

Art

I’m sure everyone can relate when I say that it’s always difficult to get back into the every-day routine post-holidays. With the close of the hustle and bustle also comes the inevitable energy crash.

It has definitely taken me some recovery time this year to get back to my normal routine, but I am happy to share that with this frigid don’t-leave-the-house-because-it’s-way-too-cold-outside weekend also came the time and energy to re-focus on my work.

My un-finished nutcracker embroidery is way too seasonal to work on in January, so I decided to put him away for the year, to be finished next December.

Looking to start something new, I drew inspiration from the -30 degree Fahrenheit weather outside and sketched the outline for a new fiber piece:

Now, before you start thinking that I’ve turned into a hunting-crazed Central New-Yorker, I’d like to clarify that what I have in mind for this piece is much more magical than a taxidermy deer head.

In fact, the white stag has a firm footing in mythology found in several cultures. It is often a symbol for purity and good fortune, and in Celtic myth is said to be a sign that the otherworld is near. The white hart is also a staple element in Arthurian legend.

I love the stories that accompany this seemingly ordinary animal and am looking forward to making this piece magical in subtle ways. There’s certainly more of a challenge in making a stag appear magical than there is in doing the same with a dragon.

Here’s to many cold New York nights ahead that will be spent working on this piece!

FOR THE LOVE OF SNOW

Art

Words cannot explain how excited I was to have a white Christmas this year! With all the Christmases of my childhood having been buried under several feet of snow, the green holidays we have experienced lately have left me feeling – ironically – a tad blue.

This year in New York, much to my excitement, we were surprised with a dusting Christmas Eve which continued through Christmas morning.

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Those of us who had the pleasure of growing up in chillier climates know that to a child, snow is just about one of the most wonderful things there is, especially around the holidays. Snow days, sledding, building snow people… the possibilities are truly endless!

Combining the everyday magic of the element with my excitement for this year’s beautifully white Christmas, I was inspired to create my most recent colored pencil drawing:

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Living in a seriously snowy region, a favorite pastime of the adults in my community is complaining about the winter weather. “It’s difficult to drive in,” “I hate shoveling,” “I’m freezing,” etc., etc. Another beautiful thing dissected and tarnished by the pessimistic eye of adulthood.

In this drawing, I was aiming to capture the love of snow that some of us (myself included) have managed to hold onto into adulthood and perhaps remind others that even as adults, we can still find magic in our everyday lives.

 

Tidings of Joy

Art

Combining my love of nutcrackers and their representation of good luck, I thought it only fitting that my last embroidery of 2017 be a nutcracker.

I’ll admit – I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to get this guy done in time for Christmas day! BUT that being said, I love how he’s looking thus far.

Just a little over a month ago he was nothing but a sketch…

Nutcrackers are also said to be messengers of good luck and good will, so from my family to yours, I’m sharing this nutcracker to wish you the merriest of holidays. May your heart and home be full of peace and love this Christmas day!

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P.S. Only 2 days until Christmas!

Ultimate Christmas Eve Cocktail

Food

Last weekend Andy and I enjoyed a night in, decorating the Christmas tree and sipping on festive beverages.

While you’ve probably had spiked eggnog before – rum i’m guessing? Andy and I discovered that nog + peppermint schnapps is a by-far superior combination.

The schnapps blends really well with the thickness of the eggnog, and cuts back on the drink’s sweetness while also adding a festive peppermint burst!

To make the treat yourself simply pour out the desired amount of eggnog (feel free to venture beyond the suggested serving size), drizzle in a splash of schnapps (again, feel free to be heavy handed), and top with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and nutmeg!

Have these ingredients on-hand for all Christmas get-togethers and celebrations!

P.S. Only 8 days until Christmas!

Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Food

I’m an avid fan of Food Network‘s Holiday Baking Competition and, as a result, have watched many-a-baker create Mexican hot chocolate inspired goodies. While I’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying Mexican hot chocolate, I’m a sure-fire (spicy reference intended) fan of chocolate and pepper combined and have been eager to try out this flavor profile during the holidays.

This weekend I made my first batch of Mexican hot chocolate cookies and it was truly love at first bite!

SO gooey, with a satisfying zip of spice from the cayenne pepper and chili powder. The recipe is also really easy which is another plus, especially this time of year!

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) butter
  • 4 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (you can also use bitter chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate together in the microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl) in 25-second increments, whisking between each interval. Cool the chocolate mixture to room temperature.
  3.  Beat the brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and eggs on low speed until well combined. Pour in the cooled chocolate and continue to mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate batter and mix on low speed until just combined.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
  6. Scoop the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie (they expand!).
  7. Bake the cookies for approximately 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. The cookies should be puffy and still fairly soft when removed from the oven.
  8. Immediately slide the cookies, still on the parchment paper, onto a wire cooling rack.
  9. Enjoy this recipe with friends, co-workers and loved ones this holiday season.

P.S. 13 days until Christmas!

Original recipe retrieved from http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/spicy-mexican-hot-chocolate-cookies-1962907#reviewsTop

Holiday Book Review: “Hiddensee: The Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker” by Gregory Maguire

Review

In the past, I’ve been pretty upfront about my love for nutcrackers. I love the story, their ties to folklore and the belief that they can be used to ward off evil and bringing good luck (I may be a tad superstitious).

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A fan of fantasy novels, you can only imagine how excited I was to hear that Gregory Maguire was taking on the story of the nutcracker in his most recent novel “Hiddensee: a Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker.”

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That being said, let me make one thing clear: Like most of Maguire’s novels, this book is absolutely not the story that you think you are getting when you pick it up. This story does not focus on the nutcracker, but rather, his maker, Heir Drosselmeir the toymaker.

Without giving too many spoilers away, I will say that the book follows Drosselmeir through life, beginning with his youth as a young boy named Dirk. While at first you suspect (and maybe hope) that Dirk will grow into the nutcracker, that theory is quickly dashed when his mentor dubs him Drosselmeir.

There’s no getting around it: this book is odd. It’s quirky, dark and at times requires your complete concentration. It is not a cheerful rendition of German children dancing around the Christmas tree, plagued by the wretched mouse king.

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It’s a highly symbolic journey into the human subconscious, with its theme for longing for childhood innocence making it relatable. It is, first and foremost, beautiful. I’m not sure I realized just how much I enjoyed this book until after I was done reading it.

Like all Maguire novels, this book makes you think. This is probably why I loved it so much. I’d recommend this read to nutcracker fans, literary nerds and fantasy enthusiasts alike. An absolute must-add for your holiday reading list!

P.S. 17 Days Until Christmas!

Holiday Wreaths

Crafts

If you’ve been following my Instagram, you’ll have noticed that as per usual, I’ve been kicking off the holiday season in full force! In our household, the Christmas season officially begins on black Friday.

I’ve brought out the nutcrackers…

Designed our Christmas cards…

And spent the last two Sundays making holiday wreaths.

After participating in a craft class three years ago at our local nature center, wreath-making has become a favorite family tradition and was a craft I was able to show a group of friends over a glass of wine and a cheese board.

Whether you’ve made a wreath before I not, I promise it’s a very simple, very rewarding project and encourage you to invite your friends and family over for a jolly-good, wreath-making time.

For full instructions on how to construct your first wreath, click here.

HOLIDAY NUTTINESS

Art

It’s the most amazing (and simultaneously most frantic) time of the year! With Thanksgiving tomorrow and Christmas on the horizon, words can’t express my excitement for this season. Food, drink, family and tradition, the holidays possess their own special form of magic.

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With so many recipe and craft posts ahead, I’m ringing in Thanksgiving 2017 with a whimsical colored pencil sketch of an acorn.

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Truthfully, I’ve always found acorns to be 1. adorable and 2. quite whimsical. I tend to imagine them as nature’s lockets, with secrets hidden underneath their quilt-patterned caps.

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As a matter of fact, this drawing isn’t the first time an acorn has appeared in my work. You can spy an unfinished embroidery piece in the photo below:

Part of the appeal of drawing this ‘corn was the color challenge. As I mentioned in my last art-post, featuring a fanciful cuppa coffee, I love finding all of the variations of brown in subject matter that most tend to view as monochromatic. Because when you learn to really look,  you find so many more colors than just brown in the shell of an acorn or within the depths of your whipped cream topping.

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I’ve also been spending time reading Gregory Maguire’s latest novel, “Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker” and believe that the book’s story subconsciously influenced my decision to spend time drawing a nut. (Or at least, that’s the rationale I’m going with.)

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Either way, this little acorn is a symbol of whimsy and a perfect mental transition for me between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Here’s to wishing everyone a simply splendid Thanksgiving! I can’t wait to celebrate this magical season ahead.

 

SHARING OUR ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS!

Inspiration, Review

This summer I had the supreme pleasure of announcing Andy and I’s engagement.

Between trying to sell our house and planning our wedding, the last few months have been a whirlwind. Having known that our engagement ultimately meant that all Hell was about to break loose in a chaotic frenzy of dress shopping, color-scheme planning and card-crafting galore, I also knew that I wanted to have this special time in our lives preserved.

When we first started planning for our wedding next October, an engagement photo shoot was on my list of top priorities. I knew it would be a time for us to have this special time captured in a setting much more casual than the actual wedding. Not to mention engagement photos are great content for save the dates!

Last month, we had these much-anticipated photos taken by local Korver Photography and I truly couldn’t be happier with the results! They provided us with absolutely stunning photographs that we will both cherish for many years to come.

Fast forward to the present and I’m really excited to share some of my personal favorites (below) and the full collection here.

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