Christmas with the Celts

Holiday, Inspiration, Review

To get into the holiday spirit, my family and I decided to attend a show brought to our local Arts Council: Christmas with the Celts.

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If given the opportunity, I would highly recommend attending this show, as it was a combination of lively energy, festive music and the perfect amount of Christmas that you are looking for during the holiday season!

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#Christmas with the #Celts! 👏🌲🍀🎻

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The performance even incorporated local Irish step dancers during a handful of songs and a local elementary school chorus joined in during the group’s rendition of John Lennon’s “So This is Christmas.”

With the tickets only costing $31.00 per person, I’m was very happy with the quality of the show! Seriously, how can you listen to Celtic music and not be happy?

Here’s to checking off that Christmas season checklist! 

P.S. Only 7 days until Christmas!

Reviewing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (No Spoilers!)

Inspiration, Pop Culture, Review

I’ve been so busy writing Christmas and Fall inspired posts that I haven’t had the chance to reflect upon Fantastic Beasts. Having seen the film two weeks ago, I’ve been itching to write down my thoughts on the film and share them with the creative and wizard-loving community.

The first thing I’m going to say is this: Go see the movie. If you have not yet seen it, but believe that you may possess even just the slightest interest in doing so, then stop reading this and go to the theater immediately.

Because my overall review is that Beasts was, truly, Fantastic. 

Clearly very different from the Harry Potter story, this film brought something new to the table: A plot line and experience of the wizarding world seen through the perspective of an adult, littered with maturity and the vibrancy of early-1900s New York City.

Though I could absolutely rant and rave about this film, I’ll keep it simple with my top three favorite things:

1. The Beasts. Anyone who reads this blog knows of my love of mythical and fantastical creatures. If you loved watching Harry fly over the lake with Buckbeack, or perhaps secretly wished for Norbert’s prolonged residence in Hargrid’s hut, then you will love the creatures brought to you in Beasts. While the niffler provides sufficient humor, the thunderbird emanates wonder and encourages imagination.

With so many other creatures also presented during the film, the beasts are a large part of what makes this film fantastic.

2. Character Development. Without a doubt, Eddie Redmayne makes this film. Socially awkward and enraptured by seemingly “dangerous” characters, Newt Scamander is a character for whom you find yourself rooting for.

Also captivating is our first muggle/no-maj main character, Jacob, who adds an immense amount of humor to the periodically dark storyline.

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Sisters Porpentina and Queenie also make for well-developed main characters, playing like-able, as well as complete and total opposites.

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3. Storyline. This storyline, while playing into Harry Potter, was also completely fresh. It was also a great balance of light-hearted humor and serious, symbolic themes. Although this was her first screenplay, J.K. Rowling has outdone herself once again.

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This year has been a big one for the wizarding world, bringing us the release of  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well as the beginning of this new Fantastic franchise. Ultimately much more pleased with this film than I was with the Cursed Child play book I look forward to seeing it one more time before it leaves theaters and ultimately encourage you to do the same.

Early Christmas gift perhaps?

Until then, so the fan art begins…

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Christmas Checklist: Finding Your Holiday Spirit

Festivity, Inspiration

It’s that time of year again! The most wonderful time of the year as a matter of fact, and everyone is abuzz with excitement and anticipation as Christmas day looms closer.

Though our culture tends to associate this season with gift-giving, most of us know that there is so much more to this holiday and that it is the traditions that make it special. While the Christmas season technically kicked off two weeks ago, there is still plenty of time to enjoy the activities and traditions that make this the most wonderful time of the year.

But perhaps you’re still in need of a little holiday spirit? Not a problem. Check out my Christmas to-do list for inspiration:

  1. Decorate the house and transform your home into a holiday wonderland.

2. Trim the tree, because it wouldn’t be Christmas without a grand and shining tree sparkling through your window.

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🌲❄️☃️

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3. Make a festive wreath to hang on your front door.

4. Bake an abundance of Christmas cookies (because calories don’t count on the holidays).

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5. Watch a Christmas classic, such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” 

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6. Check out a Christmas show or performance, such as the “Nutcracker Ballet.”

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7. Attend a Christmas-craft class or do one on your own!

8. Read a winter or holiday-themed book.

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9. Sit back and enjoy the snow.

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10. Spend time with the ones you love most.

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It’s the little things in life that we remember, and the little things that count most. Be sure to make this holiday season count!

P.S. Only 18 days until Christmas!

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Capturing Everyday Magic: Snowflake Embroidery

Art, Inspiration

Most of us can remember making snowflakes when we were children, frantically cutting geometric shapes out of pieces of paper and hanging them throughout our childhood homes.

Still entranced by snowflakes as an adult, I decided to bring snowflake art to the next level, completing this freestyle hand embroidery inspired by the movie Frozen.

 

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This piece, while differing greatly from my usual subject matter with its focus on pattern, was very relaxing to work on. After drawing the outline in pen, I then worked very methodically: filling in one piece at a time, following with the corresponding sections in the other five points.

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As of late, I’ve been using my embroidery pieces to capture the idea of every day magic. Objects or occurrences that occur in nature (or perhaps they’re believable enough that they just might) that possess a fantastical or magical quality.

I was inspired by the Frozen snowflake in particular, as it is used as a symbol of Elsa’s powers and magical abilities.  The snowflake’s design represents the power of strong colors and geometric shapes, and their ability to transform something created by nature into something otherworldly and beautiful.

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Greatly pleased with the outcome, I plan on framing this piece and hanging it with the rest of my holiday decor this Christmas season.

Prepared for New Creations

Holiday, Inspiration

Although I firmly believe that Christmas is not about gifts, I will say that I do love giving gifts to other people. It is not only fun, but allows you to show the people in your life that you care about them and have been thinking of them and their happiness.

I think most of us would also sheepishly admit that receiving gifts can be fun. I was especially excited this Christmas because I received a lot of thoughtful gifts from multiple people that have provided me with new inspiration. That being said, I am writing this post as a thank you to my family members who took the time to think of me and provide me with new inspiration.

1.Books from Andy: Both of these books “The Art of Disney Frozen” and “Harry Potter: Magical Places from the Films” were on the top of my wish list. They are both beautifully illustrated production books that are full of awesome behind-the-scene information and artwork to two of my favorite franchises. 

  
2. Canvases and Sketchbook from Grammie: These are both essential items to artists and painters, but items that I don’t always like spending money on. Therefore I was very excited about having some new blank slates for creating over break.

3. Fabric and Markers from Mom: As a fiber artist I am always looking for new fabrics and strings. Gifted a variety of new fabrics, I am excited to start some new embroideries. And, as we know, I love markers. I am also thrilled that these markers are perfect for illustration. (More on that later.)     

4. Coloring Books from Matt: As I have mentioned before, coloring is awesome. I’m so excited that my brother has gifted me with enough coloring books to last a lifetime (or at least, until next Christmas).  

5. Nutcrackers from Dad and Sandy: After reading one of my recent posts and learning that I collect nutcrackers, my father’s wife Sandy went out of her way to find some awesome nutcrackers for my collection.

6. Pots and Pans from Andy’s family: Despite the fact that I cook multiple times a day, I did not own quality pots and pans prior to this Christmas. This was a wonderfully useful surprise. 

 
7. Game of Thrones Calendar from Andy’s Brother and Sister-in-Law: I love “Game of Thrones,” books and quotes. So this daily calendar will provide insta-daily-inspiration.

Thank you so much to all of these people and many more! I am greatly inspired and look forward to creating diligently during the remainder of my winter break!

Most Wonderful Day of the Year

Art, Holiday

I’ve decided to post this week’s usual Friday entry a day early because, as we know, tomorrow is Christmas Day.

That being said, I’m going to keep this post short and to the point. To celebrate this wonderful holiday I have created a variety of different Christmas-themed sketches and drawings. As a last attempt to spread Christmas cheer I have decided to share them with you now.

The first is my re-creation of a scene we are all familiar with, rendered in colored pencil.

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The second is a simple poinsettia sketch drawn in colored pencil.

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I had Santa’s sleigh in mind when I sketched this elk…

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And finally, I create this more-complete drawing with colored pencil. A bright red bow for a bright holiday.

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I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and that your holiday is filled with traditions, family and simple joys.

Sketches from the Nutcracker

Art, Holiday

For whatever reason, I am fascinated with nutcrackers. They are one of my favorite Christmas themes and I have acquired several in the past year (the beginning of what I hope will one day be a large collection). Naturally, I also love the “Nutcracker Ballet.” It is a story that I loved as a child and continue to adore to this day.

Inspired by this time of year and this play, I recently drew some Nutcracker-themed sketches. So, in light of the holidays, I thought I would share these sketches with you and some insight on their creation.

The first sketch is my own personal rendition of the Mouse King. When I began this drawing I was not intending for it to be this well-known character, I simply wanted to draw a rodent. However, bored with my simple rodent I decided to give him a crown and scepter, making him my own (perhaps friendlier) version of this famous mouse villain.

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This drawing was done with an average, every-day pen on glossy sketchbook paper and probably only took about 15 minutes. These things considered, I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

The next drawing is of a nutcracker. After googling different kinds of nutcrackers, I started to piece this one together, drawing imagery from multiple sources and making the nutcracker my own. While he is drawn using ink and a nib pen, he is colored in using colored pencil.

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He is definitely very flat and cartoon-y, and posed as a nice break from creating realistic drawings. He is also (obviously) unfinished. But then again, most sketches are “unfinished work.” If I had had the time, I w0uld have loved to have made more of them and turned them into Christmas cards.

Making these two drawings was both fun and nostalgic, two characteristics true to Christmas. Whether you are drawing or partaking in some sort of Christmas event, it is difficult not to reminisce back on the magic you felt as a child. So whether you or not you find Christmas magic with pens and pencils, I just hope you find it.

I Finally Made Sugar Cookies

Food, Holiday

The semester is over!…Or at least it will be for me after Wednesday night. Only one more presentation and I can finally relax and enjoy Christmas break.

While I am clearly looking forward to this, I am also looking forward to the presentations because I will be bringing cookies to class. Because, ya know, ’tis the season.

While I had considered making tried-and-true recipes, I also thought it would be more fun to try something new. A friend recommended sugar cookies and, fairly confident in my baking abilities, I decided to go for it.

Although some people may think it odd I have never made sugar cookies before, it is honestly because I don’t much care for them. I am, however, in the minority and I know plenty of people adore them. My friend Rebecca does at least because she is the one who asked for them!

As it turns out, homemade sugar cookies are extremely simple. These cookies that I made turned out to be both crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. They were also made of ingredients I already had in the house (always a plus). If you are interested, this is the recipe that I used.

The only thing that I did differently from the recipe was that I doubled the amount of vanilla that it called for. (Truly, vanilla extract is one of the most important ingredients in most cookie recipes).

I baked a dozen cookies today as a test batch and will only have to make two dozen for my relatively small class. This  means I will have plenty of dough leftover for Christmas!

Only having to wait a few days (less than a week) to bake it, I am just keeping it in the refrigerator. Cookie dough typically stays fresh in the fridge up to a week. However, if it is going to be longer than a week than I would recommend freezing it to hold the freshness. Freezer bags are a cheap and convenient way of freezing dough.

As it turns out, I don’t hate sugar cookies! In fact, I would highly recommend this recipe to both sugar cookie lovers and skeptics alike. So don’t get stuck in a rut this baking season, try something new. You might be pleasantly surprised!

How to Make a Wreath

DIY, Holiday

Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like a beautiful wreath hanging on your front door! But before you go out and spend what can be serious cash on a wreath or two why don’t you try making one instead? As I mentioned in my last post, I went to a wreath making workshop this past weekend at my local nature center with my mother and grandmother.

As it turns out, making wreaths is both easy and cheap!

Here is what you need if you want to try making one yourself:

  1. Floral wire
  2. Wire cutters
  3. A wire wreath frame (look for these at Walmart or your local dollar store)
  4. Pine branches (we used frasier fir, but any kind will do)
  5. Decorations (such as bells, ribbons, pine cones, etc.)

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Now that you have gathered your supplies, here is what you’re going to do:

  1. Cut your branches into 5” pieces.
  2. Make small bunches out of your branches (4 to 6 pieces per bunch).wreath bunches
  3. Attach your wire to your frame by wrapping it around the cross section. In other words, wrap the wire where a horizontal wire meets a vertical wire.
  4. Lay one of your bunches down and wrap it twice with wire. Pull the wire tight to ensure it is secure.wreath frame
  5. Place your next bunch so that it is slightly overlapping the first, covering the wire attaching the first bunch.
  6. Repeat this process until your bunches go all the way around the frame.
  7. Tie off your wire, wrapping it around the cross section like you did when you first attached it.
  8. Decorate!

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I wrapped a thick ribbon around my wreath to give it a little flare but you can also go for a very natural look, attaching only dried flowers, pine cones and other natural elements.

Wreath-making = incredibly simple.

I was truly amazed and impressed when I saw a room full of beautiful wreaths from people who had never made one before!

I would encourage anyone to try this holiday craft. After all, who wouldn’t want a beautiful wreath hanging on their front door during the holiday season?

How to Find Your Christmas Spirit

Decorating, Festivity, Holiday

It’s officially the Christmas season! This means the stores are decked out in Santa Clauses, the radio is blasting Christmas carols and the food industry is swamped with mint and gingerbread.

But what if, try as you might, you just aren’t feeling the holidays?

Well then, I have a solution! Below are a list of suggestions; tactics on how to become excited for the most wonderful time of the year.

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  1. Decorate. Personally, nothing puts me in the holiday mood more than decorating the house. Christmas lights especially send out serious holiday-mood vibes. I am also a huge fan of nutcrackers and enjoy displaying my collection this time of year.nutcrackers
  2. Attend a holiday production. This year Andy and I will be attending a production of A Christmas Story in Syracuse, NY as his younger brother will be playing Flick in the play. Most communities put on holiday-themed productions and religious ceremonies so be sure to check out what’s going on in your city! (Check out the show schedule if you live in the Syracuse area and are interested in seeing A Christmas Story).
  3. Do a Christmas craft. Tomorrow I will  be going to a wreath-making workshop with my mother and grandmother at the local nature center (more on this later). Check your local papers and Facebook accounts to see what holiday-themed events are happening in your neighborhood! Or perhaps do what I did below and spend time assembling a classy center-piece.christmas placesetting
  4. Read. Whether it is a Christmas craft book or a holiday romance, I find that seasonal books can not only give you that warm,fuzzy feeling but also help you embrace the season. Recommendation: Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog
  5. Watch a Christmas movie. Gather your family and friends and indulge in a Christmas movie. Classics, such as A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Grinch are always a win but some of the modern titles such as Four Christmases, Elf and Fred Claus are both hilarious and delightful. Make some popcorn and enjoy a night in.

It is only the 4th of December, which means you have plenty of time to get in the spirit and have a fun holiday season. It truly is a magical time of year, so be sure to enjoy it while it lasts! (Just don’t go sneaking for presents like our naughty dog).

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Feel free to comment below with other suggestions on how to create Christmas spirit!

(Photo credit for the last photo goes to Andrew Janitz)