Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 - 2010

For last year's words belong to last year's language.
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
- T.S. Eliot

Be warm, be safe, dance to "Blue Moon" at least once ...
and enjoy your celebration tonight.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Twelve Minutes of Christmas

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I'm trying not to be too discouraged or crabby about it, but my Etsy sales during November and December were absolutely dismal.  It was especially disheartening because I had been working on Christmas products almost continuously since September.  Not to mention that this stuff now threatens to crowd me out of house and home. So I created a separate sale section in my shop and hope that the reduced prices will clear out some or all of my inventory.  Stop by and take a look.

Typical of most of us in the new year, I'm going to re-evaluate and try and determine what I need to improve upon - or how. Is it the product? Marketing? Visibility on Etsy?  Once we get through this holiday season I may put together a questionnaire and have you help me make some decisions.  I love being able to do what I'm doing, but the secondary goal is to supplement my retirement income and that's the part that's not happening for me.

In the meantime, I'm still in holiday mode and hope this holiday season is bringing you much happiness, warmth and love!  I'll be in touch.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Health, Peace and Sweet Content be Yours.
- Wm. Shakespeare

Wishing you all the blessings of the season.

A deep thank you to all of you who have
supported me during the past year.
I appreciate it so so much!  See you in a few days.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Tradition – The Christmas Eve Vigil, or “Wigilia”

"The merry family gatherings -- The old, the very young, the strangely lovely way they harmonize in carols sung. For Christmas is tradition time -- traditions that recall the precious memories down the years, the sameness of them all."
-- Helen Lowrie Marshall

My grandparents came to this country as teenagers, alone, having left their families behind in Poland. Like most immigrants, they tended to gather together in neighborhoods with others like them and continued many of the traditions they themselves grew up with in “the old country.” My parents were born in the United States, but they – and we – grew up in a small town surrounded mostly by Polish people with long last names that usually contained more vowels than consonants!

When I was growing up, Christmas was filled with Polish traditions. Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day, was the important day, called “Wigilia” – the Christmas Eve Vigil - anticipating the birth of the Christ Child. We always gathered at my parent’s home on Christmas Eve, even long after we had left home and started our own lives and families. I have a large family, so that small house was crowded and noisy and when I remember it now … wonderful.

Before we sat down for dinner we observed my most favorite Christmas tradition - the exchanging of the Oplatek. As a Christmas custom, opÅ‚atek originated in Poland and was spread widely as far back as the 17th century. The oplatek is a sheet of unconsecrated communion wafer and is distributed in the churches in the Polish community in time for Christmas. Everyone takes a piece of the wafer and then we exchange a small piece of it with every family member, at the same time forgiving any hurts caused during the past year and offering special and personal good wishes to each other for the coming year. It’s important that you not miss anyone, or it superstitiously could be bad news for that person in the coming year. Some traditions we observed as children haven’t carried forward, but this one – the exchanging of the oplatek – is still observed at our annual family Christmas party.  There’s so many of us that we sometimes lose track: “did I get you yet?” “you already hit me, girl!” “help, I ran out of oplatek!” There’s lots of tears and laughter and kissing and hugging – I love it.

My parents adhered to the Catholic teachings of a meatless meal for the Vigil, so we ate mushroom soup (I make it every Christmas; my recipe follows below), fish and vegetables, pierogi (dumplings) with sour cream, sledzie (creamed herring), deviled eggs, and my Mom's homemade potato bread. For dessert we had coffee cake and kruschiki (angel wings).

There’s one meal tradition we still laugh about and whose origins were very mysterious. It was a soup called “kwasnia kasha” which translates literally to “sour oatmeal” and – yes – it was as bad as it sounds. My mother fixed it every year, and according to tradition, we had to eat a little of everything that was served to ensure blessings in the new year. We hated that soup, but we had to admit that after having been forced to eat a little bit every year we actually started to like it. (We never got the recipe from my mother so that’s one tradition that didn’t survive my parents.)

After dinner we exchanged gifts, and the kids were everywhere, opening gifts and playing.

My Mom could be counted on to sit down at the piano to lead the Christmas carol singing. (Someone, probably one of my brothers, popped this bow on her head but she didn’t miss a beat!)

Once the little kids were settled down, most of us went to Midnight Mass. My Dad always stayed home to prepare the after-mass feast: Kielbasa and Polish ham with horseradish and potato bread, and yes, whiskey and Polish brandy for shots. When my siblings and I were older, our house became known to our friends as party central after Midnight Mass, and it often became an all-night affair.  I don’t know how the little kids slept through all that. (And, yes, we've settled down quite a bit since then ....!)

When we finally arose the next day, Dad would fix scrambled eggs with chopped kielbasa mixed in – his cure for a hangover. To this day I still have scrambled eggs and kielbasa on Christmas Day in memory of my Dad.

Now that my parents are gone and the family has grown and grown, it becomes more and more difficult to get us all together for Christmas. I hosted the party for many years until we out-grew my condo. Others have stepped up to host so far and we have managed to have a family party each year, still sharing the oplatek, and many of the same foods we had as children. Several of my great-nieces and nephews are musicians, so we are often treated to a mini-concert, a lovely new tradition. I deeply hope we can continue this once-a-year get-together.

This year, because of the way the family calendar falls, our party won’t be until January 2. I’ll be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day visiting with some of my siblings. Although Christmas is not the same as it was when I was a child and times inevitably change, I still look forward to it and I’m grateful that we carry forward at least some of the traditions of our childhood.

Christmas is the keeping-place for memories of our innocence.
~ Joan Mills


I would love to give credit for where I got this recipe, but I found it in a magazine about 30 years ago(!) I don’t even remember the name of the magazine but I do know it has been out of circulation for many years.

Makes 6-8 servings (about 8 cups)

½ cup unsalted butter
1 pound mushrooms, stems removed, coarsely chopped (about 5 cups) (I use button mushrooms)
3-4 drops fresh lemon juice
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
10 cups chicken stock or 5 cups chicken broth and 5 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground white pepper

1. Heat butter in large heavy stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. When foam subsides, add mushrooms and lemon juice, tossing well to coat mushrooms with butter; reduce heat to low. Cover mushrooms loosely with foil; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 25 minutes.
2. Remove stockpot from heat, stir in flour until well blended.* Stir in chicken stock; heat over medium heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until soup is thick, about 1-1/2 hours.**
3. Just before serving, stir in heavy cream, salt, and pepper to taste. Heat over low heat just until heated through; do not allow to boil. Serve immediately in warmed soup bowls.

*-I can’t seem to avoid flour lumps that way, so I stir in a roux using the liquid from the mushrooms.
**-If making soup ahead, stop at this point. Place buttered piece of waxed paper or foil directly on surface of soup to prevent skin from forming; let cool, then refrigerate. Reheat gently when ready to proceed with recipe. Note: I have very successfully frozen the soup at this point.

A Giveaway Winner!

Last week my friend Chris did an interview and giveaway with me on her blog:   The gift is one of my vintage blocks:

The winner is:  Dusty of Inverness Studios

One thing I love about the online community is discovering other artists and seeing the limitless creativity of artists and crafters. And that's the case with Dusty.  She says "I love to recycle, redesign, and relove" and her work proves that.  It's tough to pick my favorite from her shop, but the simplicity and perfection of this bookmark impressed me.  When you have a moment to breathe during these holidays, sit down and browse her shop. I think you'll like what you see!

Congratulations, Dusty! I'll be in touch. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

I won! I won! I won!

Well, this is a rare treat - I won one of the 12 Days of Christmas giveaways sponsored by the Design Style Guide team - the 8th Day to be exact!

My gift is a $20 gift certificate to ArtFromTheHeartbySue, a shop full of delightful handpainted designs on everything from canvas to tiles to glass.  I was immediately drawn to this set of pinecone handpainted tiles:

I have written about how much I love Christmas, and these are perfect for the season. Can't wait to get them!

It's not too late to enter for the remaining DSG giveaways until Christmas Day.  Go here to enter:

Thanks, Design Style Guide and Susan!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Treasury

My online friend, Stephanie of stefny68 creates the best treasuries and, not incidentally, she is kind enough to include me in several of them.  You'll remember that Stephanie and I did an interview and double giveaway here.  Stephanie does some absolutely beautiful floral paintings, so stop by her shop and take a look.  You'll see beauties like this:

My liquid purple 2 digital collage print is included in this pretty treasury.

Time for something other than red...
Created by: stefny68 Exp: 3 days


Saturday, December 19, 2009

New Etsy Treasury

I'm in a new treasury this morning featuring my Autumn Scented Wreath, which has been a "star."  This holiday wreath has been very popular so I'm surprised it hasn't sold yet. 

It was created by nasila8, a shop with lovely knitwear and jewelry.

...Scrumptious Pearberry...  Yummy all around.
Created by: nasila8 Exp: 3 days

Friday, December 18, 2009

Artist of the Month Feature

I'm honored to be featured as Artist of the Month on the cbcrafter blog.  I was interviewed by my friend Chris, who made me look awfully good!  She'll have a drawing for one of my vintage Christmas blocks like this one on December 23.  Pop on over to see the interview and post a comment to be entered in the drawing.

Chris is the creative and talented artist behind the cbcrafter blog and her Etsy shop, Memoriesinmosaics.  The work she does with mosaics is stunning.  A custom piece from her shop is on my wish list for Santa, so I'm hoping he comes through for me!  I think I would like a mosaic with a picture frame, but something like this will be hard to resist:

Thank you, Chris, for featuring me  - what a nice early Christmas present!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Treasury

I love this latest Treasury, because I'm very partial to Dickensian imagery at Christmas time.  My greeting card "Christmas Pony" is included. I have had this ornament for 25 years, I think, and I never tire of it.

The treasury was created by Gypsyharte - a fun shop with some very cute whimsical felted and clay items.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More Christmas Memories

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

As I mentioned before, my sisters and brothers wrote up some childhood memories of their siblings for my themed family calendars. Here's some of the Christmas memories.

When I was a teenager but my three younger sisters were quite small. For reasons lost to my memory, we always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve. So how to keep the Santa belief alive and get the presents under the tree? So we older sisters and brothers planned it out - I rushed my sisters into the back bedroom, telling them Santa was coming and they were supposed to be asleep. Then my brothers stomped up and down the stairs, ho-ho-ho-ing and jingling all the way while they brought the presents down from the attic hiding place. I still remember the excited squeals and big eyes on my little sisters' faces listening to that. I thought they were going to wet their pants. Priceless! - Felicia

What was funny and coincidental was how often my brothers and sisters, unbeknownst to each other, wrote about the same memories, like this:

I so remember S in the backyard, in the dead of winter, shivering cold, spraying cold water out of a cold hose in another attempt to create a hockey rink. Is there a hockey fan more devoted than S??  - Felicia

We managed to freeze the backyard for a hockey rink one year. One slap shot and we broke the kitchen window. We thought about running away because we thought Dad would kill us. - S

If somebody in my family says “C’mon over and let’s make wreaths,” beware:

Just before Christmas one year (1963, I believe), S and I went down to the basement with some branches from the Christmas tree. I intended to weave a homemade wreath for the front door. Shortly thereafter, TG arrived. He came down to help, saw the two cases of beer Dad had put there in preparation for the festivities, and suggested we test the beer to “make sure it was OK.” Needless to say, about an hour or two later there still was no wreath, but quite a few empty beer bottles. Henceforth, having a few beers came to be known as “making wreaths.” - B

And, finally, a special memory of mine:

It was Christmas time … walking with my sister on her way to her clarinet lessons … our collars clutched tight against the cold … the streets quiet, a light snow falling, Christmas lights twinkling … and “Silver Bells” playing in the distance somewhere … such a sense of peace I felt! I often take myself back to that moment in my mind especially during the Christmas holidays.
- Felicia

Wishing all of you a sense of peace throughout this holiday season...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Memories

There are three stages of a man’s life:
He believes in Santa Claus,
he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus,
he IS Santa Claus.
– Author unknown

I told you about doing a themed calendar ever year for my family here.  The two years that I had my siblings write childhood memories of each other was touching, sad, hilarous and "I didn't know that" all at once.  Here's a Christmas story one of my brothers wrote.

(Note: When my Dad was a young man, he somehow managed to break both of his little fingers but never had them treated. So both pinkies were permanently curved.)

One Christmas, Dad was apparently cajoled into dressing up and playing Santa Claus for us. As Santa was asking me what I wanted for Christmas, I noticed that his two little fingers were bent just like Dad’s. I told Santa that, to which he responded, “Really? I got mine from years of holding on to the reindeers’ reins,” holding his hands out in front of him as though he were doing just that. I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of that, but instead, doubted Santa’s authenticity. – B

Quick thinking, Dad!!

Some of my on-line artist friends were kind enough to share a special Christmas memory with me.

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

Chris from Memoriesinmosaics has a VERY special Christmas memory. This story got me a bit teary-eyed. How sweet is this?

My fondest memory was just before Christmas of 1988. My husband, Ralph and I were married on December 23rd that year. He was my son's "Big Brother" for over a year so my kids knew him so well and loved him and all of my family and his flew out to see us get married and to be there for that Christmas. My son was "best man" and my daughter was my "maid of honor". My youngest was our "ring bearer", so that will forever be my favorite Christmas memory. - Christine

You can find Chris at:

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:
the presence of a happy family all wrapped up
in each other.
- Burton Hillis

Dava of Treasuresfromhawaii has a more mischievous memory:

Every Christmas Eve my two younger brothers and I would all sleep in the same room and talk about what the past years had brought us, just catching up from our little "busy schedules" - with lots of giggles to boot!

We would, of course, get in trouble several times as mom and dad just wanted us to go to sleep so they could put all the gifts out and get a little sleep themselves...We'd always wake up in the middle of the night and go "check-out" what Santa brought us trying as hard as11, 9 and 4-year-olds can be to keep quiet...This one year, as we were whispering loudly, giggling and rejoicing at our "loot", we heard my dad getting up and, like a bunch of meerkats on "point" at the sound of a giant hawk, we all froze then ran back to our room...First my second-youngest brother, myself then, in my panic to dive under the covers and be "safe" I proceeded to slam the door in my 4-year-old brother's face...And, BAM - he ran right into it with a resounding thud! I knew we were caught for sure... Then, as my dad came in wondering what was going on, out of my little brother's mouth came, "I was going to the bathroom and forgot I shut the bedroom door"! My other brother and I let out our held breaths and started laughing so hard we were so relieved....Of course, my dad told me years later he knew what we had been doing, but let us off the hook! Oh, boy, the good ole' days! - Dava

You can find Dava at:*

Everyone has a Christmas or holiday memory that comes to mind again at this time of year. What's yours? Go ahead - share it with us!

New Treasury

This treasury was curated by Art2ArtColorado, a great artist friend. I love Cheri's digital art - it is so intriguing and gorgeous. She could have included this print in her own treasury. Isn't this lovely?! Visit her shop - I guarantee you'll love what you see.

What she did include is my Candle Light Digital Collage Print:

Thanks, Cheri!

Created by: Art2ArtColorado Exp: 2 days

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wanted: Facebook Fans

I finally created a fan page on Facebook. I'm not quite sure what I'm doing yet, so I'll take any help and advice.  And if you're on FB look for me:

New Treasury

I'm in a new Treasury today and this one is really special. It's a vintage 1950s collection and it features my vintage Christmas wooden blocks. I'm offering "buy two-get a third one free" on the blocks.  I have quite a few to sell but sales have been slow-to-non-existent for the past few weeks, so I'm hoping for some attention from this Treasury.

The treasury was curated by kittykent, an artist from the UK. She is "based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in the scenic Cotswolds which was once the centre of the British Arts & Crafts movement." That sounds very romantic and artsy to me!  She creates some lovely fabric work. Take a look.
1950s Christmas - Christingling!
chosen by  kittykent

Friday, December 11, 2009


We have a winner in my December Charades contest!  The winner is:

Christine Burgess

Congratulations, Christine! You will be receiving my framed artwork of four of the Christmas ACEOs.  And Jodi will receive a special surprise from me for guessing all of those Charades clues in no time at all!

Thanks to all of you for playing the Charades contest.  I hope you enjoy playing the game as much as I enjoy preparing it for you.
 And I hope you're all sailing happily through your holiday planning and shopping!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm in another Treasury and I think this one is especially pretty!  It features my sky blue wreath:

Created by: Fynorrahs Exp: 2 days

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Christmas Tradition – My memory wreath and ornaments

I’ll say it again and again, I love Christmas. It just brings me such warm fuzzies – the decorations, the songs, the giving of gifts, the comforts of home and family.

I usually decorate my home over the Thanksgiving weekend. I like to change things up every year, so I rotate my tree baubles and ribbons and trim for a different theme each year. This year, the tree is all crystal, white and silver with just a touch of blue-green ribbon.

But then, what to do with all those ornaments collected over the years or given to me, or that I create for my family each year (more on that below). Many years ago I started a 3' diameter wreath to hold all those ornaments and mementos. I call it my “Memory Wreath” because just about everything on this heavily trimmed wreath brings a memory - whether funny, sweet, or poignant.

I love putting it up and reminiscing …

I made the stockings for my family the first Christmas after my Mom died and my Dad was already slipping into Alzheimer's. The wooden horse was part of my Godmother's collection that I acquired after she passed away.

I can't believe I made this embroidered ornament 40 years ago, the first year I was married. The ornament has lasted 38 years longer than my marriage did! LOL!  I gave the angels ornament to all my friends and family who nursed me after my first major back surgery in 2000.

 My sister carried this painted egg all the way back from Poland  - don't ask me how it survived the trip! The Texas ornament is from a San Antonio vacation we five sisters took once.

These might be my favorites (and the most fragile). When I look at these I get teary-eyed, and then I laugh!  When I was hosting our family Christmas party, I always tried to come up with some special treat to keep the younger kids occupied until it was time to open presents. These were cookies I baked and iced with Royal Icing, and the kids could draw on them with food safe magic markers and take a supply of cookies home. After everyone left, I went to clean up and found about a dozen cookies like this. That makes me teary. What makes me laugh is that apparently some mice got into my storage and managed to chomp on the cookies.  These slightly chewed cookies are the only two left. I'm happy I was able to not only keep the kids happy but the mice as well!

 I hosted my family’s Christmas party for about 15 years – the one time that we would all get together during the holidays. I finally had to give up hosting duties because the family just grew and grew and grew and my condo seemed to get smaller and smaller and smaller. I so miss hosting; that party gave me the excuse to go crazy with decorating and baking and cooking. That was also when I started making an ornament memento for every family member at the party. It's a tradition I have continued ever since.

I have to admit that since I have to make so many I sometimes take the easy way out by hitting the after-Christmas sales and buying unfinished ornaments for the next year. That’s what I did this year; these wooden stockings and trains are painted with Gallery Glass paint along with glitter paint. I had the glass paint left over from another project, and I liked the thick glossy but transparent effect it gave on the wood.  And ... I'm trying to use up older supplies because I'm running out of storage space!

Everywhere I look in my home brings sweet memories and thoughts of people still in my life or loved ones long gone, but not forgotten.
Here's a few more of my favorites that bring sweet memories.

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