Thursday, December 30, 2010

The new decade ahead!

Today is Thursday, December 30, 2010!  With only a little over a day left in the year with us and moving forward to the new year, I have been thinking about all that has happened in the past 12 months.  It has been a good year for the most part, nothing too drastic has changed for me, my life is pretty ordinary.  I am not complaining as I rather enjoy the routine I follow most days.  I am up fairly early, Molly Cat insists on that and I am not one to argue with her.  Her joyful prancing about the bedroom makes me smile and moving on with the day seems a small matter when it brings the wee furry lady such happiness.  A fresh cup of kitty chow along with a bowl of treats and a fresh container of filtered water, and my little gal is happily crunching her way through a snack whilst watching with interest to see what I will do next.  Not that any one day is terribly different from another, but for a fur child, anything that moves is of interest.  Consequently, getting dressed involves a tussle over stockings, my chosen shirt may be found wiggling on the carpet with a tiny head peeking out of a sleeve, slyly trying to entice me into a game of chase.  Morning is Molly's favourite time of the day as is evident from her antics.

By early afternoon, I make my way to the computer to take care of e-mails, both sending and receiving messages, have a quick or not so quick look through Twitter, chuckling over tweets and responding before I head off to looking over the blogs that I follow.  This decade has proved beyond a doubt, to me at any rate, that living without a computer is not an option to be considered.  How do people live without a computer in their home?  I ponder this and think that this must have been the way my parents felt about having a telephone, television, and automatic washing machine added to their home.  Every decade brings about improvements in our lives and changes to our lifestyles.  Some changes are for the better, some questionably so, but in the end, we usually find the benefit of change.  And so we should, as trying to hold it back is pointless and would only be possible for a short while.  Change is inevitable, it will happen with or without our blessing.  The changes in our lives bring about more changes which often necessitate even more changes, and life goes on.

The point in all this is that we are about to embark on a new decade.  Do you remember all the hullabaloo about the new millennium and the dire predictions made about what might happen at the stroke of midnight as we moved into the year 2000?  I remember staffing being doubled in the building I worked in, for the shifts leading into the new year and for all shifts in the period of that January 01 and January 02.  I was to work the midnight shift, the first official shift of the new year, along with another co-worker in the department.  Our shift did not officially start until 12:30 a.m. and we both made sure we were in early to sit with the afternoon clerks to welcome the new year and possibly the impending chaos.  Just after the stroke of midnight, supervisors from different departments called in to check with us to see if anything had happened.  The power was still on, the computers operational and most definitely, the telephone system was functional.  The new year had arrived as had the new decade, the first of the new millennium, without a problem.

The decade brought with it many new and wonderful events as well as heart break that would put the world in mourning.  Medical advances were made in all areas but the loss of life in tragic world events gave the decade a somewhat sombre tone.  No one will forget this decade, the reasons indelibly etched in our memories, now and for the rest of our days.  We have had so much sadness in this decade, but, we need to believe that the new decade will bring the return of comfort, joy, and happiness to the world  as a whole.  I want to believe this, I truly do.  More so, I hope that you believe that this can and will happen.

I want to wish you all the happiness and joy possible in the year and decade to come.  Let us hope that the events of this new decade are remembered for all the right reasons, that there are joyful moments for all.  I know realistically, joy is balanced by sorrow, but it is my sincere hope that the sorrows of the decade never outweigh the joys for you and yours. 

Molly and I will continue to enjoy each other's company if that is what is in store for us.  I hope that you continue the journey with me that I started not so long ago in hopes of documenting artistic pursuits and the joy to be found in them.  Maybe, I will even be able to convince you to start an artistic journey of your own. 

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

P.S. I have put up three of the four paintings I did Wednesday evening.  Three more canvases have the backgrounds painted in, but nothing else of this point.  If yesterday is any indication, my painting is going to continue strongly into the new year.  With a fresh supply of canvases, I am ready to welcome the new year in my own way.  Here is hoping the flow of new work continues and that my journey brings about many new pieces of work in different areas of art!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The journey continues into 2011

 It is Sunday, December 26, 2010.

I sit back in my chair and look at the calendar, reflectively, thinking of the past year.  Whilst I feel that I have progressed quite a bit over the the twelve months, I still feel that I should have pushed myself a little harder.  I should have accomplished more in those months and I wonder why I did not.  I seem to have a way of getting so involved in whatever project is currently on tap that I lose track of everything else.  So, I would think with that kind of devotion to my artwork, that I could have accomplished more than I did.  I am not looking for excuses as to why I did not go as far as I had hoped to, but rather, I would like to know the reasons so that I do not repeat them again and again, setting myself up for disappointment and failure in the upcoming new year.

Please do not think that I am grumbling about what I did or did not accomplish.  This is something I do at the end of each year as a kind of post mortem on the year past, looking at what I did accomplish versus what I had hoped to accomplish.  I dissect each plan or idea that I had and see what notes I may have made whilst working on said project.  I look at the end result and compare it to my original concept of what I had thought the end result would resemble and then I decide whether I was able to convey my feelings through my piece of art.  Did I put my feelings "out there" for all to see or did I hold back and if so, why?  This type of analysis can be helpful or it can put me into a dark mood, one in which I wonder at the sanity of wanting to be an artist.  But, you know, after a time of reflection, I always come back with the answer - "Yes, I want to be an artist." I want to work with paint, pencil, paper, canvas, any and all materials related to mixed media.  I do like to, no, I love working with my hands, getting messy.  That does not bother me.  I try to keep my work area somewhat organized, but when your kitchen and your bedroom both serve as art studios, you really do not have sufficient room to organize and keep the areas pristine. 

Thinking about all this today, December 26, helps me to plan for the upcoming year.  What do I want to work on in addition to painting with my acrylics.  I now have a good supply of different sized canvases since I took advantage of a sale that I ran across.  Plus, I did receive some canvases and a gift card to an artist supply store that I particularly enjoy visiting.  Once the stores calm down from the after the holiday sales and the teenagers and young adults have all returned to school life, I will venture out to the art supply store to see what treasures I can find.  Somehow, I suspect that I will indulge in topping up my paint supply as well as pick up more drawing implements to add to my stash.  I have bins, rather like tool boxes for paint supplies, drawing supplies, and the last one, filled with coloured pencils.  I call these my grab and go kits.  I can grab the appropriate bin along with a sketch pad, canvas or even just a smaller book to draw in and take these with me to a coffee shop and sit, sipping a coffee and sketching to my heart's content.  For, it generally is the drawing kit that accompanies me.  I might even just pick a few well chosen pencils, erasers, rulers, along with the sketch pad and place these in a resealable plastic bag and drop it in my canvas shopping bag and head out for a few hours in hopes of finding inspiration along with that perfect cup of coffee. 

Right now, I am also trying to set down some guidelines as to what I would like to accomplish artistically in 2011.  I know that I will paint with acrylics whittling down my supply of canvases gradually.  I am thinking that I would like to work on learning how to use watercolours effectively and see if perhaps this medium is better suited to some of the work that I do.  It is worth trying and I am always open to learning something new that might possibly come in handy down the line.  I would like to continue working on my drawing skills.  There is a great deal of room for improvement in this category.  I really cannot draw or at best, my drawing skills are on par with those of a very young person, maybe about 9 or 10 years of age.  So, this is something that I will work on for at least an hour each day and see if I can progress a bit, no, I want to progress quite a lot over the next 12 months.  Drawing is something that I feel will help in all aspects of the art I choose to do and so this is where my focus should be for the most part.
With respect to projects, I have two special ones in mind.  I have always been fascinated by people's hands.  They tell me so much about that person, whether they have had to work hard over the years or whether they worked, but not so much as to scar their hands with burns, deep cuts or callouses.  Some hands are just perfect, the nails are nicely shaped and it is evident that they have a manicure frequently.  The skin is soft, even coloured, no visible signs of trauma or excessive physical labour.  Then, there are the hands of children.  These make me smile.  A baby's hands are little chubby bits with fingers that are still trying to learn to be dexterous enough to allow the tot the capability to pick up a toy or a piece of paper off of the floor.  These are busy little hands and the best way to capture the look is to take a picture of them when the baby is fast asleep.  Teenage hands are also very busy, usually with callouses from tuning up the skateboard, bicycle or car.  Feminine teenage hands are taken care of almost as much as the young ladies' faces.  You can tell a lot about the way the fingernails are coloured and if there are faux jewels or tattoos affixed to certain or all nails.  These also make me smile.  I thoroughly enjoy looking at these hands.  Teenage hands are learning skills and want to be original as much as the owner of the hands.  As I have said before, a pair of hands can tell me a story.  I want to do portraits of hands over the next year just to see where this takes me and how many people I can convince to allow me to take a picture or two of their hands.  I will let you know how I progress on this and even more interesting, the reactions of those I ask if I could take a picture or two, just of their hands, just up to the wrists.
My next project is one that I know that I am going to love working on, but one that I expect that people, friends and others will not understand why I am so interested.  I would like to paint pictures of faeries and other creatures within their realm.  Ideally, I would like to have a faerie for each month, each season and one identified with other activities of life.  But, and this is a big but, I want the pictures to be of child faeries who are just learning their field of expertise.  Or, does a faerie change and do other tasks as they mature?  I am hoping to research all this and come up with some answers to these questions.  So, 2011, will be a year filled with faerie folk, the younger ones, and what task they do for centuries, in fact throughout infinity.  I am thinking that this will require a lot of research, but I am up for the challenge.  It is not like I have a lot of other things that I need to get done.  I know that my health takes priority over all of these ideas, but I am quite certain that I can balance artistic endeavours with my getting sufficient rest and not overdoing my physical capabilities and placing myself in danger of collapsing.  I know when I am approaching my physical limitations and promise to sit back, put my feet up and take a nap if need be when my physical store of energy is being depleted.  That is a priority and I have no intention of putting my health at risk in order to finish a painting by a certain deadline.
So, those are some of my artistic plans for my journey this year.  I am sure that I will add on to the list as the year progresses and I see something new that captures my attention.  My artistic journey will continue for many years and I see that at no time will I consider my journey completed.  There will always be new things to try out, different painting styles that I would like to try, just so many facets of artistry that I want to take a look at and try just so I can see what it is like to do that particular type of artwork. 
This is a journey where I never get bored.  There is always something new to try, to get involved with whether it is with a group of people with similar interests or just by myself because something appealed to me in the making of a piece of jewelry, whether it was the actual making of it or the history behind the piece itself.  I am always wanting to know the history of a piece of jewelry or the history of the style of jewelry.  There is just so much to know about the making of these pieces, that I know that I will never be able to make a dent in the learning the historical information about the process, let alone the piece of jewelry, that I will always be on a quest for information of some type.  That is what makes my journey so interesting.
 I hope you sit back and make some plans for your artistic ventures for the upcoming year.  Be realistic in what you write down on your list, but at the same time, make sure that you challenge yourself.  The feeling of satisfaction that comes from making something from start to finish and knowing plus understanding the history behind it, that will give you great satisfaction.  Even if it is something very simple to start with, but you take your time, research it and then make the piece, you will feel that you have climbed a major mountain and come down the other side grinning from ear to ear knowing that you have done a good job that will make you feel fantastic.  That too is part of this journey.
Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Friday, December 24, 2010

**The Message in the Snowflakes**

 It was late November.  The grey, overcast sky seemed appeared to be so low that a mere mortal might try to reach a hand up to the heavens.  The gloominess made the late autumnal day seem even more dismal than it already was.  The trees had lost their vibrant coloured leaves and now, the bare branches swayed in the fierce wind.  Mother Nature looked down upon the scene which reflected her mood so aptly.  It was she who was responsible for this grim view.  The sun hid behind a cloud to escape her wrath.  All animal life, feathered or furry, hid in their nests or other places where animal life will hide when it senses that all is not well.  Such was the truth, all was not well on this day.

Mother Nature, much like her four seasons, changes in appearance as one season leads into the next.  In spring, when new growth abounds, flowers tip their heads to an ever warming beam of sunshine, and the damp earthy smell in the air alludes to the new season, Mother Nature is a young woman, dressed in shades of green, just as this seasonal colour brings hope to all, that warmth, colour and fragrance will return to our starved senses, telling us that our hopes for a wonderful spring were not in vain.

As spring gives way to summer, Mother Nature changes her look and appears as a maturing woman, confident in her ability to make the days warm, the flowers plentiful and the forests inviting to all wildlife for it is there that so many make their homes and find food for their growing families.  Yes, summer is one of Mother Natures greatest seasons.  Although all four are magnificent, each in their own way, it is this one season that she seems to be most creative in making lush meadows, magnificent leafy trees and bountiful crops growing in the fields.  She dresses in yellows and golds, tinged with little accents of her spring time green.  She is the colour of happiness, laughter and joy and she shares these gifts with all as she is known for her generosity.  Summer is a season to be enjoyed, remembered and most of all, treasured.  It is the memories of this season that give us hope when we are battered by cold north winds that penetrate any crack or opening in our homes.  Summer is truly a wondrous season.

Autumn is Mother Natures favourite of all her seasons.  For, this is when she is splashing all shades of orange, rust, red, and gold with gay abandon.  She, herself dresses in these colours and although she would appear as a middle aged woman, she is spry and dances throughout her forests, meadows and all other places painting vibrant, happy days that give way to cooler nights.  The crops are being harvested at this magnificent time and many a farmer sends a nod of thanks to this glowing woman for her help with providing the wealth of foods that we see piled into baskets and spilling over onto the stands at the roadside markets.  This is a season of giving for this mother and she gives freely, sharing her visions of the perfect autumn day.

But, this particular autumn day, Mother Nature was not happy.  She appeared old, grey as the day and in a temper as shown by the gusty, cold winds.  She could not put a finger on what it was that was troubling her.  She pondered the events of the past few weeks when she had gone from being the happy, mature woman that she was in spirit, to the older, hardened woman she was at this moment.  Such was her rage that even the wee faerie folk feared her and would not approach her to see if she was in need of their help.  The faerie folk are gentle and kind, never ones to hold a grudge or to appear in a fit of temper no matter the situation.  They knew that Mother Nature was not her usual self and that days of this magnitude of greyness certainly were to be for some reason, even if this reason was not apparent to them.  It was one of the older, more experienced faeries that took it upon herself to approach the unhappy matriarch and question her about her great sadness, for surely this had to be the reason behind such a show of temper.

Mother Nature bowed her head to the wee faerie, Madeline.  Madeline was a motherly figure herself.  Her mature countenance invited one to confide in her for anyone could see and more importantly feel, that Madeline was one to be trusted.  She sat on a tree stump and consoled the unhappy woman, hoping that in finding comfort, she would once again return to her happy self and bring closure to the season and bring forth winter, the season of cold, frosty days and even colder nights that put the earth to sleep under a bed of white fluffy snow.  Only by having this time of rest would the earth be ready for the longer and warmer days of spring.  The two women talked quietly between themselves, each nodding to the other, understanding and feeling what the other said.  Mother Nature was unhappy because of the the humans.  As she watched, she saw that they were in such haste with their lives that they forgot to take pleasure in each and every day.  They rushed by their neighbours without a kind word to spare, no time to help another in need and unheeding to the appeals of their children to stop, read a story to them or to just spend time with them baking cookies, sharing memories of years past and hopes for the future.  This broke Mother Natures' heart and made her so unhappy that she despaired of being able to go forward and bring on the snowflakes that would be like a white dust falling gently from the sky.  She knew that the first snowflakes of the season brought such joy to so many and yet she was holding back, not wanting to share this special gift just yet.  This was the reason for the tempestuous day and her show of temper.

Madeline now understood why Mother Nature was feeling so unsettled.  More importantly, she had a plan to help the worried woman bring back the feelings of joy, peace and serenity.  Bringing back these feelings and sharing them with the humans would bring on the season of winter in all of its glory.  Frosted window panes for all to marvel at, big drifts of snow for the children to dive into and a crispness in the air that made the adult humans feel good to be alive would help Mother Nature see that not all was lost, that the humans still had within themselves the capability to feel compassion for their neighbours as well as wanting to share their memories with their children.  Memories would return of winters past, when they, as children had built snow people, had skated on frozen ponds and had sat before a blazing fire enjoying hot chocolate as their parents read them stories from much loved books.  Madeline assured Mother Nature that the plan the two of them had put together would bring back the feelings that the humans were so lacking.  It would take a little time and much planning, but the two women would put things right and winter would proceed as so it should and had for many centuries before.

Madeline hurried back to her home and met with the other faeries, sharing the plan she and Mother Nature had put together.  It would take all of the faeries to help in order for the plan to work, but they all agreed that it was a wonderful idea and they began their preparations in earnest.  Much work was done in a few weeks and even the youngest faeries were to help in bringing the joy and anticipation of a new season to the humans.  In fact, it would be the littlest faeries who would play the most important part in the plan.  They practised what they were to do and were eager for the day to come when they could do their part to help.  Their eagerness made Mother Nature smile and the following days became colder, frosty, but lacking in snowflakes to herald the season.  It would be well into the month of December before the first snowflakes would appear, but when they did, the impact on the humans would be such that it would be talked about for centuries to come.

The big day approached and the littlest faeries could hardly wait for the time that they were to take part in what was to be the most impressive show of their young lives.  Finally, wonderfully, December 21st arrived and it was the first day of the winter solstice, the first official day of winter and a few days after that it would be Christmas, a day much loved by all the humans and their children, but possibly for the wrong reasons.

By mid morning on December 21st, all the preparations were finished and Mother Nature, along with Madeline stood on a sturdy cloud high above the humans who were rushing about below, their children tagging along unhappily, trying to finish the last minute shopping and tasks to be completed before the holiday arrived.  It was at this point that Mother Nature gave the signal for the snowflakes to start.  But, these snowflakes were different from other years for this year, each snowflake was worn by a tiny young faerie.  As the first few faerie snowflakes started to drift to the earth, each little faerie twirling, dancing and pirouetting to make their little snowflake skirts billow out around their little bodies the humans stopped what they were doing to watch in amazement.  The numbers of little faerie snowflakes dancing to the ground increased until the air was full of the dancing little ones floating to the ground, only to leave their crystalline skirt behind and dash back to Mother Nature and Madeline to replace their first snowflake skirt with another.  The scene was magnificent and each tiny dancer revelled in their important task of bringing back the joy of winter.  And, as each little faerie snowflake made its way to earth, the tiny faerie would sing in their tiny voices as they fell past the humans, "Believe," "Rejoice," "Be happy."  Again and again the message was sung by hundreds, no, millions of little faeries until the ground was snow laden and the humans were smiling, mesmerized by the sight of so much happiness brought forth by each snowflake.

Mother Nature and Madeline watched the scene unfold below them and as they did, Mother Nature changed in appearance.  Gone was the grey, sad looking woman and in her place was an older woman clothed in pure white with silvery crystalline edges.  Her happiness was mirrored in the scene below.  The humans were smiling, laughing as their children danced about trying to catch  the snowflakes which had been abandoned by their wee faerie who had been only moments ago been wearing it as a little skirt.  It was a magical moment that lasted through the late morning until mid afternoon.  By this time, every home in all the villages had snow covered roofs and the ground was covered with enough snow for the children to make snow people or snow angels.  Yes, winter had arrived and with it, the message to the humans had been delivered.  "Believe," "Rejoice, and "Be happy" were the messages that reverberated throughout the towns and these messages brought comfort to all.  The humans returned to their normal gentle nature and helped their neighbours, read stories to their children and the scent of hot chocolate wafted from each little home as humans and their children sat before blazing fires remembering the winters before this magical one.

Although this story happened so many years ago, it still holds true today.  At the sight of the first snowflakes, mankind stops to watch and feels a certain joy as the messages from that special winter solstice are repeated.  If you listen very carefully when you see the snowflakes pirouette to the ground, as new generations of wee faerie children take on the tradition of heralding the winter season, you just might hear a tiny little voice whisper "Believe" or "Rejoice" or "Be happy."  Listen and pass the message on to a loved one, a neighbour, or even a stranger.  The joy you feel in your heart will only grow if it is shared with others.  Let us truly make this the season of joy amongst mankind.  The season is not about receiving gifts, it is about sharing our love and joy with others.  When you do, Mother Nature and Madeline nod to each other, acknowledging another job well done and the start of a winter wonderland courtesy of some wee faerie children who will return home after this important task to sit with their faerie parents, sip on hot chocolate  reminiscing about winters past.  This is as it should be and we have Mother Nature with the assistance of Madeline and all the faerie folk to thank for making us realize the importance of the winter season to all mankind.

I hope you enjoyed this little holiday story!  Take time over the next few days to enjoy the warmth and happiness of the season.  And, take time to sit back and enjoy a bit of a respite from all the chaos and frantic activity you have been part of for the past few weeks.  You have earned the time to escape and enjoy some "me" time and then some. 

Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas!

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

Thursday, December 23, 2010

That last minute holiday rush!

Good Thursday to All!

I hope you are surviving the last few days of frantic activity before you head into overdrive full force and at warp speed to prepare the holiday feast.  I know that I am exhausted and I am only baking and entertaining.  The actual holiday feast is a group effort with each of us bringing our special dish, one that we each know that we can make with our eyes half closed and it will turn out and be welcomed with rave reviews. 

For the past few nights, I have entertained friends that I may only see a few times during the year or possibly once a year due to their travel plans and distance away from where I am.  So, there has been a lot of tears (happy ones), reminiscing and stories that seem to grow from year to year in that the actual story has long since been exaggerated to the point where there is only a vague resemblance to the original story as it really unfolded.  That is the way the holiday visits should be when you are with old friends.  You know, the ones that you truly love and care about.  These are the ones who are there for you when you are feeling down, are ill and unable to go out and shop, or just seem to know when to show up, send an e-mail, or ring you up unexpectedly just to say that they care. 

All these attributes fit the three guests that were here last night.  Two gentlemen, each named Chris (just to be confusing I am certain!) and a lovely young lady, Jess.  Jess was the surprise visitor that none of us knew was coming.  She came along with the Chris's, but I somehow knew ahead of time that she would be here.
I have know this trio for over ten years and we all seem to be linked telepathically in that we know when one of the group is about to show up at one of our doors.  It is amazing how close you can become and how much you care about people like this.  This post is dedicated to Jess and the two Chris's, their spontaneity and love of life.  Oh, and did I mention, they really enjoy holiday sweets!

So, in their honour, I am posting two easy recipes that you are welcome to use to make those last minute batches of goodies to fill a tray to put out for guests.  They also make great little hostess gifts when packaged up in cellophane bags and tied up with a festive piece of ribbon.  Enjoy!  But, I will not take responsibility for the sugar high that follows indulging in these treats.  Moderation is key here, to over indulge will really have you flying across the room in a sugar induced frenzy only to crash land, hopefully not on the Christmas tree or in the cat's litter box.  LOL

Easy Busy Day Cookies

1 package any flavour cake mix
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or any other flavour that you enjoy
1 cup oatmeal
1/2  cup oil
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional but nice)

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, blending well.  Drop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons on a cookie sheet, about two inches apart.  The cookie sheets should be ungreased.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.  Cool for a minute or two before removing from the cookie sheets.  This will make about 30 cookies depending on how large you make them. 
Recipe courtesy of

Mum's Chocolate Fudge Cookies (really easy and quick!)

2 cups white sugar
6 tablespoons of a good quality cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
pinch of salt
Mix above ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot, place on burner and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from burner and add:
1 cup coconut
3 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon vanilla ( almond is a nice change)
Mix thoroughly, incorporating all the ingredients quickly while the chocolate mixture is still hot.  I have the coconut and oats mixed together in a bowl and ready to add into the pot when the time comes.  Add the vanilla first to the chocolate mixture and be prepared for the mixture to go into a molten frenzy.  Truly, it really bubbles up quickly, so do take the pot off of the burner before adding these last ingredients.  Drop tablespoons of the mixture onto waxed paper and allow to harden.  Watch out for cookie monsters grabbing these before they have cooled sufficiently.  This will make about 30 to 36 cookies. 
I am not sure where mum got this recipe from, but there seems to be a multitude of versions in every one's recipe trove!

This last recipe was such a hit that I will need to make another batch or two before the end of the holiday season!

Eagle Brand Butterscotch Squares

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup chopped nuts
1 can Regular or Low Fat Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk.

Using a wooden spoon, stir all ingredients together in a bowl.  Spread into an 8 inch square parchment paper lined pan.  Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 35 minutes.  Cool on cookie sheet and then cut into 2 inch squares.  Store at room temperature, well wrapped.
Recipe courtesy of Eagle Brand/Smucker Foods of Canada Corp. or its affiliates.

As you can see, my collection of recipes comes from all over. One being my mum's, the other two found on the internet when in idle moments I look for new recipes to try when friends drop by.  My criteria is that the recipe has to be quick, easy and allow for a quick clean up.  All of these three fit the criteria wonderfully.  I hope you get a chance to try one or all.  I highly recommend the Butterscotch Squares or should I say that one of the Chris's highly recommends them.  There's more coming Chris!  I am guessing I will see you early in the New Year and I promise to have a batch for nibbling on and one to go home with you.

Since I am posting the holiday treat recipes today, Thursday, December 23, I will hold off on the holiday story until tomorrow, Friday, December 24.  I think that this is appropriate as it is a holiday story, one to tell on Christmas Eve to all the little one's eagerly awaiting a certain visitor, dressed in red.  But, I think the young at heart will enjoy the story as well and maybe for a moment or two, remember what it was like to be so young and waiting impatiently for the holidays.

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

Sunday, December 19, 2010

And yet, life goes on!

Well, it is Sunday, December 19.  In another week, Christmas will be over for another year.  All the preparations you have made for making your holiday special will have met or exceeded your expectations.  Will you be feeling a bit of a let down at this point?  For the past month or two, you have been in full attack mode, ready to wrestle dust bunnies down to the floor, bake enough cookies, pies, cupcakes, fruit cakes (really?) to feed a small army.  You will have made a spectacular holiday meal on the big day, decorated your home so that it would have made Nigella or Martha proud and hunted for the perfect gift for each person on your list.  So, why is it that each year when December 26 rolls around, we feel somewhat  let down?  Is it a case of the seasonal affective disorder hitting us dead on or have we set the bar so high in terms of how our celebrations roll out, that there is not a chance that we can fulfill our expectations?

Personally, I think we set the bar too high, so high that there is not a chance in Hades that we will meet our goals.  So, what I am about to propose is maybe going to sound radical.  I propose that right now we take a moment to think about all our preparations.  Did any of these preparations take into account even the vaguest of notions that we should also enjoy the holiday to the fullest?  We are so gung ho on making Christmas or whatever holiday we personally celebrate perfect for our families and/or friends, that we neglect to take our own feelings or needs into account.  While that may sound very noble, maybe for once we need to take back the holiday and ensure that we feel the spirit of the season and celebrate it as well.

Over the next few days, during all our preparations, we need to think about how we feel about our way of celebrating the season and maybe cut ourselves a little slack.  We should be thinking about what it would take to make us feel as much a part of the special day as the others will feel when they sit around the dining room table, the Christmas tree or the blazing fireplace.  Maybe we need to give ourselves permission to ask for some help from the other members of our family or extended family.  No one person should have to feel compelled to cook a gargantuan meal rating no less than a five star review without a sous chef or two or three or more.  Asking for some help is not wrong, it is getting others involved in helping make a communal meal.  It is sharing the work load so that everyone has a role to play and by each family member or guest doing their share to help, they are also becoming a part of what makes the day a success.  Everyone, no matter how old or young they are, can do their part to make the celebration special and they need to take ownership of the task that they choose or are delegated.  The younger ones can certainly help set the table, clear up the clutter after the presents are opened or help with the table decor.  This is a way of making everyone feel that they are contributing to the overall success of the day.  Young adults can help supervise the younger guests, ensuring that no one sets anything on fire, that the family pet is kept out of the way of all the activity in the kitchen or whatever else requires a watchful eye.  Older members of the family or guests who will be attending the meal can contribute to its success by bringing their special dish to the celebration.  This makes for a diverse menu that will be memorable and leave the host and hostess from becoming overwhelmed.

Start your planning today.  If you have not done so already, finalize what you envision the meal to be.  Then, start enlisting help from those attending to bring with them a certain dish or something within a particular category.  Auntie can bring her much loved mince meat tarts.  Grandma can whip up a batch of her light as a feather dinner rolls that may or may not originate from a mix or a tin.  It is what she does to these ingredients that makes them special, and that might just be that she puts a lot of love into making them because she feels good about helping with the meal.  Uncle Ted might be just the person to whip up a spectacular salad.  Involve a few other guests to bring the makings of what will turn out to be the best dessert buffet, all contributing their specialty item(s) for the gathering of the clan.  Maybe this will lighten your load so that once you get the turkey, goose or meat of choice in the oven, that you just might get a chance to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea and a chat with a relative that you have not seen since the previous year.  Imagine that, the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the day!  Mind boggling is it not?

You see, despite all the flurry of preparations that take place in the upcoming days, day to day life continues.  Pets still need to be fed as do any others living in the family home.  However, if they are of an age where they can be safely put in charge of putting together a meal with a little supervision, let them help out by making an easy lasagna recipe or a shepherd's pie.  Maybe this is a good time for you and your son, daughter or both, to spend some quality time together learning how to make some of these recipes.  Making meals a family project not only makes the load a little lighter for yourself, but it also teaches the younger ones some life skills that will come in handy later on when they are out and living in their own first flat.  Believe it or not, that day will come around sooner than you will ever expect.  These little life lessons need not be only dealt with during the holidays, but year round.  That just might free up some time for you to take on some personal pursuits of an artistic nature.  You see, I always have an ulterior motive and that is to get you out of the kitchen and working on something that you have always wanted to do whether it is a paper craft, a sewing project, painting watercolours or knitting a sweater.  Use the time to your benefit, maybe even signing up for an evening or afternoon course in the craft of your choice.

But, back to the holiday meal.  With everyone contributing their special dish, you may just be raising the bar for future celebrations.  The diversity of contributions may bring dishes with origins in other countries.  That will be what makes the meal so special, each guest bringing their special dish and talking about why they chose that particular one and what role it played in their holiday celebrations in previous years.  This is what gets everyone talking, sharing and enjoying the meal.  The communal effort brings everyone that much closer.  What more could you ask for on this special day?

I hope whatever your holiday meal traditions are, that you, your family, and friends enjoy the warmth and congeniality of the season.  Take your time eating the meal, talk, share stories, make memories.  That is what family dinners are supposed to do.  It is not supposed to be a day you dread and find yourself up at 5 a.m. stuffing a turkey, peeling potatoes, making salads and preparing for the inevitable meltdown that you hope you can hold off until after everyone has left and you finally get around to soaking in a warm bath with the door locked so no one barges in to find you with mascara running down your cheeks.  Let this holiday be one where you celebrate with everyone else and the smile on your face is a genuine one, not one frozen into place so that you feel you are putting on a good show.  Be real, be yourself only better because this year you are not going to be stressed.  And remember, stressed is just dessert spelled backwards.  Seconds anyone?

Take care of yourself this week!  Thursday's post will be a special Christmas story that I am in the process of writing.  Yes, it is a children's story, but I think even an adult will enjoy and maybe take away a warm, fuzzy feeling after reading it.  I hope so as that is my intent as I work on it each day.  I cannot think of a better way to lead into a long holiday weekend.

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

P.S.  I have been working on some paintings all through the week between forays out into the shops to pick up the ingredients for the holiday treats I am baking over the next few days.  I will try to get some pictures and post them hopefully by Wednesday along with a description of what they are and how I am  packaging them up for visitors to take home with them.  If possible, I might even be able to provide a couple of recipes in case you want to whip up a batch for your own guests or to package up as last minute hostess gifts when you dash out to a dinner party or luncheon where you just want to take a little something for the hostess.

For now, I will post the finalized painting Winter Scene, still in the process of drying!  I hope to have it up on a wall somewhere in the flat within the next day or so, along with some others that need to be displayed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The journey takes a detour or How much can I get done this week?

It is Thursday, December 16!

Does that sentence cause you to feel great pleasure that the holidays are nearly upon us?  Or, does it make you shake your head, gulp down your tea, and get moving in order to get one more "must do" checked off of your list?  I am in the second group.  Admittedly, I have a smaller list due to the size of my family and extended family, but I still tend to leave the "must do list" sitting, waiting for me to kick into high gear and finally get things done.

I still have baking to do.  That is one thing that I do tend to leave until I absolutely have to get it done in order for my goodies to be as fresh as possible as they are destined to be placed in attractive tins and given to those who are much loved and not inclined to bake treats for themselves.  On the list for my Friday and Saturday baking extravaganza are spice cookies, some decadent squares that have a little of everything in them, some chocolate fudge cookies that I insist are healthy for you since they contain oatmeal and some chocolate truffles.  I know that I will likely some brownies, muffins and maybe a few other little treats since I know that people who drop by for a visit count on my having a tray of goodies for them to sample as well as having a doggie bag of treats for them to take home with them.  So, my artistic journey this week is mainly a culinary journey that I enjoy for the most part.  I do get a little stressed when I get making all these treats and start planning what to make next while one item is already in the oven.  Multi tasking is essential in the kitchen when I start my baking spree.  I have been known to be baking late at night, making the apartment fragrant with the scent of spices but more importantly, the aroma of chocolate is so intense that one visitor insists that he can smell my brownies as he approaches the building where I live.

I am going to shake up my routine a bit this week and actually try to get things done in a timely fashion so that I head off to bed at a sensible time.  That time is not engraved in stone and is usually dictated by Molly Cat who lets me know when enough is enough and to come climb under the covers so she can snuggle down into the crook of my arm.  Bossy little feline!  But, she is correct in making me set a limit to my culinary adventures.  I do think that she is a little miffed that she does not get to sample any of the treats so I do tend to be a little more generous with the kitty "cookies" that I purchase for her.  We can both get back to normal in January and ration out the treats keeping our respective figures in mind.   Truthfully, I do not indulge in very many of the sweets and tend to head for the savoury nibbles instead.

This year, visitors will find a selection of savoury as well as sweet treats to indulge in and hopefully enjoy.  A tray of fresh vegetables along with a hummus or other healthy dip will be center stage.  The plates of sweets will certainly be noticeable, but maybe not heaped quite as high.  I will fill the treat bags generously so that guests will be able to enjoy these goodies in subsequent days with their tea or indulge and eat as they make their way home from my flat.  In terms of libations, I always have a pot of tea ready, in fact I always have several types of tea available, chai being the favourite at this time of year.  I have one friend who visits that I never seem to have something that appeals to him in terms of a beverage.  He is not a tea drinker nor a coffee aficionado.  He really does not like fizzy soda beverages and so I am at a loss as to what to offer him that he might enjoy besides a glass of water.  So, this year, I will have on hand the ingredients to whip up a cup of hot chocolate and a pot of simmering apple beverage with some holiday spices to make it special.  I have a small crock pot that I can fill with the apple juice and spices about an hour before guests arrive so that the flat will be redolent with holiday fragrances of the culinary type.

As I type all this, thoughts race through my mind of things I need to add to my shopping list and I stop typing to jot down the entry on a scrap of paper that I will likely not be able to find in my pocket when I am out to shop.   My memory is wonderful, but sadly short term.  I suspect that I am better to be making my list in a small notebook which I can tuck into my handbag and refer to as I make my way out and about.  I will get myself somewhat organized and get everything done, hopefully in a timely fashion that allows me to make sure that I have time to tidy the flat, eradicate any dust bunnies and dust off the top of the refrigerator.  I am sufficiently height challenged so that I am unable to see the top of this appliance and so I can say truthfully that it does not get dusted as often as it should.  And so, I will make a special note to myself regarding this chore.  I am thinking a large note taped to the door of the refrigerator saying "DUST ME" just might get my attention before the arrival of the first guests.

All through these preparations, I have not neglected my true artistic journey, the one where I get to splash paint about on canvases and hope to come up with something to hang in my personal gallery as well as post in my online gallery (  I have managed to paint 7 small canvases to hang in the dining area of my flat.  I am still debating on where they will all be hung and if all will be hung in one grouping or split into two.  I have put up pictures of these paintings for you to see when you read this blog.  I have also included the final result of my triptych of holiday art from last weekend.  The three paintings have been mounted on plaid ribbon and hung on the inner door leading into my flat.  The wreath that had been hanging there hindered the door from opening fully and so has been relocated to another door within the flat.  I am not one to decorate for the holidays, decking the halls is done with moderation since Molly Cat is still kittenish enough to want to tackle any ornament left within easy reach for her.  Maybe next year I will see if it is possible to bring out the small holiday tree that I like to decorate in unusual colours.  Red and green just do not capture my spirit, I am more a blue, green, purple and silver type of gal.  Those colours sing out to me.  I am feeling my inner artist calling out to me to indulge in some creative painting before I call it a day.  There just might be some holiday paintings involving some interesting colour combinations in my next post.

So, that is how my artistic journey has progressed this week.  I hope yours has given you as much enjoyment as mine has provided for me.  The main importance of all that you strive to do or get done right now with regard to celebrating the holiday season, is that you get to enjoy the season without having a melt down while trying to be a super hero and do more than is necessary to make your family's and friends' enjoyment memorable.  Sit down with that cup of tea or hot chocolate and ask yourself, "Is everything on my to do list absolutely necessary?"  My guess is that there are a few items that could be stroked off and no one will be the wiser.  Much better to devote some time to personal creativity which will provide yourself with a sense of satisfaction.  That sounds like a sensible and reasonable way to enjoy the holidays.  Even better if you can persuade family and friends to join in with you on a creative venture.  You will not only be making some art, but maybe even more importantly, you will be making memories.

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Much ado about everything!

Happy Sunday to you all!

So, how has it been going for you? Are you getting frustrated trying to find those last few gifts?  Are the shops full of shoppers wandering around with that glazed look of panic in their eyes?  Yes, it is two weeks until the big day.  Christmas has become one of the most anxiety inspiring holidays that we celebrate.  But, I have a big secret to tell you.  You probably already know it, but put the thought aside because you do not want to consider and actually think about the implications of this little message.  The secret which is actually not so much a secret as a factual statement is - we do all this to ourselves. 

We stress ourselves to the point that we are quivering bodies looking for something, anything, to show the gift recipient how much we care/love them.  That is so wrong!  Why do we equate the quality, cost, social standing of a gift as a sign of caring let alone how much we love someone?  Some of the best gifts are the simplest ones, ones that are not expensive or difficult to find.  Ones that come straight from the heart.  The sooner that we learn this, the sooner we will stop dreading the holiday gift exchange.

I can think of so many simple things that one can buy for another that would be appropriate and not take a chunk of your hard earned money.  You do work hard for a living, correct?  Well in the hope of fiscal responsibility, let me share a few gift ideas with you.

How well do you know this person?  If the gift is for a work colleague, there is usually a set amount of money agreed upon by all as the maximum amount to be spent.  Please, do not go the route of the "gag" gift.  There is nothing more tacky than some of the holiday neck ware given to men at this time of year.  Also, nothing too personal for the ladies in your office.  That only embarrasses the recipient and/or starts the office gossip to run rampant with false comments.  You should have an idea of your co-worker's taste or interests.  Does he or she have a passion for reading?  Do you see them huddled over the latest novel at lunch break?  If you are not comfortable selecting a book, most bookshops are more than happy to sell a gift certificate in the amount that you would like to spend.  Just be sure to read the small print as to any conditions applying to the use of the certificate such as an expiry date.  You want to have a certificate that gives the recipient time to look over the latest titles and select one that they are longing to read.  The same  idea applies to the music aficionado in the office.  Heaven only knows how many versions of Pachelbel's Canon in D they might already own and you do not want to buy a version they already have.  A gift certificate will let you show your thoughtfulness and the recipient will feel like you really took the effort to find something special for them.  Just be sure to include a card saying how much you have enjoyed working with this person over the past year and that you are looking forward to another enjoyable year.  Or, just say very simply, "Wishing you happiness now and all through the year to come.  Please use this certificate to put toward another book/record for your collection."  No need to get overly flowery in the message, just say something nice and sign it.  I remember working with a lady who loved items with a ladybug motif.  I actually found a kitchen timer in the shape of a ladybug and my co-worker was delighted.  It is all a case of being observant and taking note of a co-worker's habits, what they talk about or what little personal items they have to have at their work station to feel comfortable. 

Other simple gifts are home baked cookies.  I think pretty much everyone enjoys this gift.  To make it that much more special, make sure the cookie tin is attractive and include the recipe for the type of cookies you made.  Top it off with a nice bow and you are all set.  Now, was that not easy?  Avoid the purchase of fragrances for men or ladies in your office.  First of all, it is too personal and second, you do not really know what type of fragrance they favour or if they are even able to use fragranced products.  Better to go the safe route and avoid this type of gift which would include bath gels, fizzing tablets to add to the tub or scented powders.  I remember breaking out in a rash and ending up at my physician's clinic after using one such product.  That was over 20 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday.  And, I definitely remember who it was that gave me that particular gift.  Not particularly good to be remembered for a reason such as that.

More ideas?  Unscented hand creams, a package of gourmet coffee beans for the coffee lover, a particular type of loose tea leaves for the tea drinker (that would be me!), or perhaps a collection of little jars of jams for the person who loves a leisurely breakfast on the weekend and enjoys a little jam on their toast.  These types of people are so easy to spot as they often bring in their own flask of coffee or tea because they only enjoy a certain type.  The jam lover is generally a person who talks about cooking and appears to be knowledgeable about different types of jams, jellies and other condiments with which to top their toast.

If you have an art lover to buy for, do not get overwhelmed when you walk into the art supply store.  Hopefully you know if the intended recipient paints with acrylics, oils or watercolours.  If not, again a gift certificate is the way to go.  But, if you know a bit about the person and have seen some of their work, you may have noticed that they favour shades of blue, green, or perhaps purples. A good tube of acrylic paint will likely cover the amount of money you intend to spend and the recipient will appreciate that you took note of their favourite colours and bought a good brand in a colour that they will actually be able to use. Just to pad the gift out a bit, a small package of inexpensive paintbrushes added to it will make the gift look more substantial.

There are some people who shop all year 'round to fill up their "gift drawer."  These people are able to come up with a gift on a moment's notice without breaking into a sweat.  These are also the same people who have cards for all occasions on hand as well as gift bags or wrapping paper.  These are the truly organized people who are often the most difficult to have as your recipient.  Here's a hint - look at one of their cards, there is apt to be one on the office bulletin board or someone will surely have one tucked in their desk.  Take note of how the card was made. Did they hand stamp it or did they make a collage out of bits of coloured paper?  A trip to the art supply store will show a multitude of papers, stamps, ink pads, plastic folders and so on that any die hard card crafter would love to have.

The main thing in gift giving is to be sincere.  That can be difficult when you need to purchase a gift for someone that you are not particularly found of or just cannot be in the same room with for whatever reason.  If you cannot think of anything that this person is interested in, a simple journal accompanied by a nice pen would be appropriate.  They can jot down their thoughts, ideas or laundry list, the main thing is that you have covered that gift as best as possible.  If you feel this is not appropriate, then maybe a box of good chocolates may be the best gift possible given the circumstances.

I hope some of these ideas will help in your search for the perfect gift.  Sit down, make a list of the people you need to buy for and list a few possible gift items beside each name.  Then, head off to the shops early in the day before the crowds take over the streets, parking lots and mall concourses.  Hopefully, you will have your shopping done in good time to head home to wrap your treasures and have that cup of tea you are dying to have.  Enjoy it, you deserve it after a journey like that. 

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

P.S.  I have put up some pictures of two wreaths I made this week along with a triptych of paintings with a holiday theme.  This trio of paintings is going to be mounted on some wide plaid ribbon and hung on a wall to add a little holiday colour.  It is a quick way to add a festive touch to an area without breaking the bank.  You could easily do this with an assortment of little holiday ornaments, small grapevine wreaths that you have decorated or even a series of photographs of previous holiday celebrations.  The best thing to remember in decorating for the holidays is that too much is just that, too much.  A little glitter goes a long way in decorating although you can use it a little more liberally at this time of the year.  Stand back, admire your handiwork and head into the kitchen to ramp up the cookie production.  You can never have too many cookies on hand and they make great last minute hostess gifts.  Now, you are set for the holidays!

I would love to hear your ideas of the perfect gift, either to give or receive.  Click on the word "comment" at the bottom of this post and a window will open up for you to let me know what you are doing this holiday season.  I would love to hear about how you decorate your home, what cookies you have to have to make the holiday perfect or just how your shopping is progressing. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Painting my blues away

It has been a chilly, damp week. Despite copious quantities of tea, a furball of a kitten sleeping on my legs, I can't shake the coldness.  It just seems to crawl up my legs and then my arms, meeting in my midsection causing me to shiver uncontrollably.  Yes, it's December, I know it is supposed to be cold, but this coldness seems to pierce right through to my soul.  It is more than just the chill in the air, I think it is more than likely a case of pre-holiday blues come for their annual visit.  These blues are not melodious, there is no sassy saxophone wailing in the background, no Ella Fitzgerald or Billy Holiday heartfully crooning a tune or two.  No, this is a case of artistic blues, a certain kind of ennui every artist has to endure periodically.  But, for me, my blues come for a regular visit, just as if we planned it to happen each year.

I am not sure why December brings out the blues, but for some reason, I have never felt truly comfortable with all the frantic activity of the month.  The rushing around getting the flat tidy, baking for unexpected guests, trying to keep regular hours for sleep, painting, down time and making sure there is some time allotted for dreaming.  I think it is the last one that is nagging at me to give it a little more time.  I have been so busy taking care of life, that I have forgotten to set aside some time to dream.

Dreaming is not a priority for many people and some have told me how foolish it is to dream.  I understand that for them, dreaming is a waste of time, time that could be put to better use.  I could be reading a book on some technical aspects of painting or drawing.  I could be listening to a choral concert or a recording of an opera.  There are ever so many things that I could be doing instead of dreaming, but I truly feel that dreaming, for me, is an essential part of my day.  It is a time when I mentally work out what colours I want to use, what type of scenes I want to paint, what type of art is calling out to me and begging me to give it a try, just a few times to see if maybe I might find out that I really do have an affinity for it.  My dreams take me places and encourage me, push me a little, and just in general cajole me into a better mood, pushing the blues aside by replacing them with a sense of anticipation.  Dreaming, the way I do it, is not for the faint of heart.

The last time I really listened to my inner muse, I ended up with a totally repainted flat, the furniture had been rearranged and two closets had been transformed, for purposes that had never been intended for them.  When I dream and listen to my heart, a lot of things can and often do happen.  The end result being that any sense of the blues has been blown out of town by the frenzy of my actions.  Okay, truthfully, I do not move quickly, not in any sense.  I move sedately, quietly, cautiously.  Almost as if I fear to actually move from one place to another for fear of disturbing something or someone.  I suspect I fear that by initiating movement, I might find myself participating in something that I have really not thought through fully.  That terrifies me, I like to be in control at all times.  And when I am feeling blue, I feel that my life is out of control and that I need to return to normal quickly in order to prevent the blues from taking over my soul.  When I am blue, I feel like everything is just beyond my grasp, life is spinning out of control.  Did I mention that I am a bit of a control freak?  A tad compulsive, fairly predictable and definitely a control freak.  All qualities that come in handy some of the time, but not qualities that I am especially enamoured of or proud to have as part of my truest vision of myself.

So, what to do?  It is almost as if there is a loudspeaker in my head sounding "Warning!  December blues alert! December blues approaching rapidly."  Okay, so it is now official in my mind, I have a case of the December blues.  What am I going to do about them?  I have enough to deal with without having the blues camping out on my settee ready to join me for my morning cup of tea.  It seems when I am dealing with these blues, that my inner time clock gets out of sync with day and night still being opposite each other, but standing in the other's rightful place.  Best to deal with this problem right away.

I sit down, grab paper and pen and start making lists.  I find comfort in my lists.  I jot down things to do, books to read, recipes to look for and appointments to make.  I read over these lists and there is nothing in any of them that will drive the blues back from whence they came.  And so I grab my paints, some canvases and spread out over the diningroom table.  I make a few tentative stabs at the canvas using one colour and switching over to another every so often.  The chatter of the loudspeaker in my head is starting to abate.  That is a good sign.  I keep painting, turn on the radio, make some tea and keep painting.  I look around me and see five canvases propped up against the walls. Some large, some small, all in various stages of completeness or lack of completeness to be more accurate.  But this does not bother me.  The joy is in the creating process and by not fully completing a painting, I stretch out the enjoyment, those good feelings, just a while longer.  I like the sound the brush makes as it crosses the canvas.  I feel the difference between the less expensive pieces of canvas and the more expensive pieces that I bought on sale months ago.  I stocked up knowing that I would need them to coax me out of these predictable doldrums.   Working with the best I can afford is a necessity, just the same way that a chef wants to use the best ingredients in their signature dishes, in fact in any dish that they make. 

I still do not know why December blues hit me every year, but at least I know how to counter their attack victoriously.  I suspect that I might be doing a lot of painting over the next few weeks.  I hope any guests dropping by unexpectedly are prepared for a vast number of paintings, some related, most of then not, hanging throughout my little flat.  There is no shortage of art in my world, but their is a distinct shortage of available wall space with the exception of my bedroom/studio.  For some reason, I have not hung anything up on those walls with the exception of a clock.  I am not sure of the significance of this or what the underlying meaning might be.  It is an interesting thought, maybe one that I need to take some time to dream about.  But, for now, I have five canvases waiting for me to return to them.  I am going to post a few pictures to the side of this post so you can see what I have been up to in the past few days/hours.  I am hoping to finish these along with the others still waiting their turn patiently, propped up against the wall.  I would like to have all these hanging as completed pieces before the first holiday visitor rings my buzzer.  Time will tell whether I accomplish this task.  But, one thing I can tell you is that I am not feeling blue any longer.  I feel a sense of purpose, something is pulling me along, propelling me towards my paints, and I feel a huge sense of relief.  Painting my blues away is so satisfying that I will not dread my next encounter with them because I know that relief is only a few brush strokes away.

I hope you have had some time to devote to your artwork!  The worst thing you can do is to deny yourself this simple pleasure.  I have one friend who is now regularly heading off into her studio again. Yeah Cate!  I knew you would go back and start painting again.  Now, you and I need to push a few others into some action.  Claudia and Liza will surely help us tempt those who are unwilling to admit how much they miss playing "artist."  That is how some of my friends talk about my compulsion to paint, that I am role playing that I am an artist.  Well, we all know the truth, that we are not role playing, but rather we are artists and we are having a wonderful time working at our craft.  I include myself in this group of artists.

Have a wonderful weekend!  I know you will be busy with all the preparation for the many holidays coming up over the next three weeks.  Be kind when you are out shopping, no fighting for parking spaces, no hitting allowed.  Deck the halls, but not your fellow shopper!

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

P.S Just noticed The Paper Place in Toronto, Canada is running a Katazome contest with the prize being a package containing pieces of all the katazome paper they carry. Go to for details on contest and enter now! Contest ends December 12, so hurry.  While you're there, check out all the wonderful paper they carry and they ship through Canada, US and UK.  What more could you ask for?
I can personally vouch for the quality of the paper and the service provided by Judith and her sales people is second to none.  Lots of great info on their site and I guarantee you'll be wanting to try these papers to work with on some of your projects.  Isn't the internet wonderful?  You can find out about wonderful products available to you from all over the world.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What is on your list? A bucket list gone viral!

Okay, December through until mid January is considered to be the peak time of the year to be making lists of all sorts.  Lists of presents to be bought, holiday cards to send, savings to put aside for payment of credit card invoices that cover aforementioned presents and so on.  One of the most time honoured traditions is to make a list of New Year's Resolutions.  That, to me sounds like looking at life negatively, not starting off the year on a good note at all if you are already telling yourself that you have been doing things wrong and need to spiff up, pronto.  It would be like the resolution that I have oft made, not to punch out some one's headlights if they tell a certain story about me again.  Whilst that may initially sound positive, when one reflects on what I just said, they will sense a certain hostility.  Yes, point well taken grasshopper, you got my point.  New Year's Resolutions are generally and most often made from negative reflections of one's nature that need to be stopped, modified or shaken away from our fragile psyches. 

Oh, now doesn't that sound reflective, pseudo intelligent and perhaps as if I'm trying to upload some psycho babble/mumbo jumbo into my post in the hopes of improving human kind?  Yes, it does, and I will be the first one to "out" myself on this.  If you read only to this part of my post, that is surely what you must be thinking.  But, here is the deal, I do not subscribe to that line of thinking and I do not make resolutions at the start of a new year.  I make "conscious intentions" to try to make myself into a more well rounded person and I am not referring to my figure.  I make what is now the trendy thing, a bucket list.  What is on your list, your bucket list, that is?

Bucket lists are often lists of things one hopes to do or accomplish before they die or float off into their next life form.  That is doable, but these lists often include things that one is not likely to ever do, even if money were no problem and everything was actually capable of being accomplished.  You are making a list that will ultimately make you feel less than you really are, just like the New Year's Resolutions.  I read an article in the past week that said one of the most common items on bucket lists is the wish to learn how to fly, not so much as to pilot a plane, but to hang glide over amazing scenery, enjoying the feeling of floating freely through the air.  That may be something a few people really would like to do, but I am not one of them.  My feelings are that one's list should be made up of things you really would like to do and that you can reasonably hope to do in your lifetime.  Hang gliding just does not make it onto my list, not even in the top 100 things that I would really like to do.  Never has and never will.

So, what is on my list?  Well, my list is personal to me, my situation in life, how I live (quietly) and what has transpired in the past decade or two or three . . .   Everyone will have a different list compiled from their own memory of events, activities and/or dreams.  While some of my list may cross over onto your list, how we go about pursuing that "activity " will differ greatly and how seriously we each really want to put a check mark beside that entry on the list will determine our sincerity in achieving that check mark.

Really, what is on my bucket list?  Well, I want to actively pursue my dreams of writing and painting, but pursuing them on my terms, by devoting reasonable allotments of time to each activity, hopefully, on a daily basis.  That sounds doable and I believe that I can make reasonable strides forward in each of these.  I also want to push myself out more into the world and experience a lot of things that I have not taken the time to do over my lifetime.  That would include participating in some groups, possibly within the community.  But, again, pushing myself out within my comfort zone and not putting myself in fear of what I am actually doing.
That is very scary for me, but I also realize that it might be something that would be terribly good for me.  That is a novel idea, something good for me.  I had not really thought of it that way, that working my way through my list would actually be healthy for me.  Okay, even I am fully tuned in to what I am writing here.  Maybe, this really does make sense!

Let us proceed cautiously forward and peer at some of my other entries.  Learn to accept what I am not able to do graciously.  I may not be able to dance the rumba with anyone now or at any point in the near or far flung future, but that does not mean that I have to bemoan the fact that dancing is something that I am not physically capable of doing, safely at any rate.  Okay, I have been known in the past to play the part of the "office fool/secretary" and do a hootchie coo dance while photocopying documents for the managers.  And, I would do this in full view of both managers, who sitting in their respective offices, would view the scene unfolding just a stone's throw away from their desks with amused horror.  Anyone walking by our collective offices and looking in would be given a treat - a secretary who had jacked the tunes and was having a moment to destress or just have a little fun.  The truth is, I did it as much for the managers to destress and have some fun as I did it for my own amusement.  Life is too short not to dance, just be sure not to take out a hip while you are doing it.  Seriously, I look back on those times as providing some of my finest and most treasured memories.  While I am not able to do that dance and get the applause anymore, does not mean that I should not dance for my own amusement or health benefits.  A good laugh is better than a pain killer and you can quote me on that!

Now, you are thinking, this woman is absolutely mad, quite possibly, but you really do not know me well enough to make that judgement, so we will move on.  Graciously, did I mention that word previously?  Accept what you cannot do graciously and move on, get over, past it and around it.  Just move on and so I shall.

A few hours ago as I was making notes for this post, I had a thought about an entry that should go on my list.  This bumps a lot of others down in a major way because it inspires me to involve as many of you and people who follow me on Twitter (@rutheemac).  The formation of duh duh duh - the Angel Squad.  I see this "squad" as an ever growing group of people who will post on Twitter using the hash tag #AngelSquad, and say what they have done to help or make a difference within their community.  Post, using the hash tag every time you do something to help someone else without having been asked to help.  I will monitor the tweets that use #AngelSquad and report back in this blog periodically.  Just because this month is the time when we do more random acts of kindness, I expect that the squad will report more heavily and that's okay.  But, just to jog your memory, I will tweet every so often and mention this group here in my blog.

I'm writing this section a little after the original text.  I took a couple of hours to think about what I had written and while I feel strongly about what I have said, I do not want to make anyone uncomfortable with the hash tag or name #AngelSquad.  So, the alternate hash tag to use is #ElfSquad.  Someone called me an elf on Twitter on Saturday and that made me smile.  That person was @JulieAnneRhodes who writes a blog called Jewels from the Roving Stove, the link is to the right of my post.  So, the #ElfSquad is hereby christened by Julie Anne herself and she will be Elf #1 in honour of her contributions already made in bringing together such a diverse group of people, men and women to discuss issues in her blog.

Your "donation" of time should be unsolicited, but, it could be spurred on by what you see as being needed by the community or an individual.  At no time do you want to make the recipient feel that they owe you something back.  This should be something you do just because you want to do this and show that you really do care about others. 

I wish I had have had this thought a few weeks ago and put up this post at that time to give us all time to work on what we choose to do.  But, we still have lots of time, the rest of our lives in fact.  While December is the peak time for people to help with charitable organizations, it is just one month of the year.  The Angel Squad/Elf Squad should be out and about helping throughout the year.  You are not limited to help you provide to organizations, holiday donations to a food bank or funding of your son's or daughter's holiday pageant.  Shovel the walkway for your neighbour, bake some cookies and spend some time with an elderly person who does not get out and about like they used to do.  The more personal you can make your activity, the better you will feel because you will see the difference you make by helping someone.  Even if you do not see a direct positive come out of what you did to help, that does not lessen the fact that you went out and did do something.  Sometimes, we do not see the end result right away, if ever, but do not doubt that you have made a difference if what you did was done sincerely because you wanted to "be there" for someone else.  Activities that do not qualify for posting are those that you do for yourself, like the purchase of fragrances, nights out on the town or indulging in decadent pieces of chocolate.  As good as all these may make you feel, I think that I can pretty much promise you that actively participating in the Angel Squad will make you feel even better.  You just might find a spark of life deep inside yourself that you did not know was the start of a glowing ember of future activities and add some wonderful inspiration to your bucket list.

What's on your list, your bucket list that is?  And even more important, how did you choose to make a difference?

Have a great week!  I'll be checking in on Twitter frequently to see how the #AngelSquad  or #ElfSquad is progressing in terms of numbers and activities.  David Sandum did his part in Norway to gather a group together to help raise funds for the children's library.  Artists participated from around the world.  What I am proposing is not limited to artists, everyone is able to participate with what they are doing going right back into their own community.  Even if you do not post on Twitter, let the rest of us know what you did by writing a comment within the blog about your activity.  Let us light up the world with the number of participating people typing in text onto glowing Ipads, computer screens and cell phones.  It will be one wicked power surge of activity, and something great might get added to some of your lists.

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

P.S.  Just to get you in the mood, take a look at this video and remember how a group of "artists" musical artists made a difference over 20 years ago, 26 in fact.  I remember this as if it were yesterday, it was such a huge undertaking.  Go to watch and bookmark it.  You're going to want to see it again and again, I know I have to each year as well as listen to the music on my CD player.  Just wonder if anyone was lip synching the chorus?  Just a thought!

P.P.S.  Also on my bucket list is the line reminding me to finish some started pieces of art.  I am working on this, but not at full speed.  There have been a few detours for personal reasons, read "I am feeling a tad on the rough side."  Not to worry, this time of year brings on a variety of cold virus like bugs that lay me up for a while, but life will return to normal.  Soon, I hope, very soon!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Can I still be an artist with the holidays so near?

Happy Thursday to All!

Can you feel it in the air?  All of a sudden there's a subtle change in our daily dynamics.  Instead of our usual routines, we're gearing ourselves up for the "holidays."  We run around, shopping, wrapping, dash to the post office to send off parcels, special greetings and such.  We're in a frenzy, baking, cleaning up our homes, decorating and making sure that everyone who enters our abode knows that we're in the holiday spirit.  Hogwash!  If we really told the truth, we'd tell each other how much we dread all this hoopla and putting on a special formal dinner for 12 to 16 of our dearest friends is the last thing we truly want to do.  Now, I do know of a few people who really do enjoy all the frantic activity, the cooking, baking, decorating and so on.  But, I wonder if the people who benefit from all this activity really understand how much work it is to undertake?  I wonder if it ever occurs to them that they might offer to help and share the work load?  Then, maybe the host and hostess might feel less pressured and enjoy the evening as well.

I had an e-mail earlier from someone who told  me she had finished making her holiday cards and was about to tidy up her studio since she wouldn't be back in it until after the new year.  That's a month from now at the very minimum before she will give herself permission to have some fun, do something artistic just for the joy of it.  That is so sad for me to think that someone who really enjoys being creative, won't find the time to do something that gives them so much pleasure.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  I do it too!  I fuss over people coming over for a holiday visit.  I clean the flat, wash the floors, try to put some type of order in the room that serves as both my bedroom and my studio.  Put books away in the bookcase.  Basically, what I'm doing, what we're all doing, is making our homes into what magazines and television shows tell us our homes should look like during the holidays.  I know my budget doesn't allow for lavish displays and I wouldn't want to put all that money into decorations that only get used for a brief time.  So much better to purchase paints, canvas, whatever it takes and make some of your own decor.  At least it will be personal and have some meaning for me.  Maybe that should be our challenge this month - paint or create a holiday display without breaking the bank.  Paint a new picture to put up in the diningroom or front sitting room.  Send me pictures of what you've done and I'll post them throughout the month to show everyone what a creative crew of people read this blog.  Create something from your dreams, something that's personal to the way you celebrate the holidays.  Make it a reflection of you and your home!

I don't know about you, but I'm not planning on letting preconceived ideas about the holidays take me hostage.  I'm going to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but that doesn't mean that I won't indulge in a cookie or two.  I'm not going to hide away the articles that define my life, like my paints, books, artwork or Molly Cat.  I'm going to put up as many paintings on my walls as I feel looks good, notice I said that from my perspective of what I think looks good.  My friends should be coming to visit with me, not do an inspection of the flat to see if I hoovered under the bed or if I washed the shelves in the medecine cabinet.  We should be getting together more regularly, not just during this one month of the year.  What a shame that we let ourselves get so caught up in day to day life that we forget to celebrate life every day, not just for a few special days during a certain month.  Life is something that we all take for granted until we get that dreaded diagnosis or hear of a loved one who might not be with us much longer.  Celebrate life every day!  Take chances, do things that you really have wanted to do for such a long time, but told yourself that this wasn't the right time.  None of us know when our final days are approaching.  I would rather know that I've pulled some all niters to get things done for some artwork I've been working on or even that I sat up very late to put together a post for this blog.  This journey that we call life can include so many different aspects and we each have the opportunity to personalize our lives to suit our interests.  Celebrate your life!  Not the life you see portrayed in all the glossy photo shoots in magazines, your own life where the tree is a little crooked or serve those pigs in a blanket that your kids love even if it would be ever so more chic to be serving a magnificent cheese tray.  Split the difference, have some nice cheeses along with things you know your family really would rather have.  In the end, isn't it really all about family and even extended family?

My personal journey is an artistic one.  I'm writing, painting, learning to cook healthy meals.  My journey is one of self discovery, learning about myself while I challenge myself to learn new artistic ways of expressing what my life is about.  What is your personal journey about?  What challenges are you willing to take on in order to further your interest in truly living?  Does this all have to come to an abrupt halt on December 01 because the holiday season is near and heaven forbid that the family and/or neighbours see what things we truly like to do?  I hope not or I'm in big trouble.  And as for anyone who dares make a comment to the effect of "isn't it cute, she thinks she's an artist," that person will be ushered to the door posthaste!  No cookies for them!

These past few days, I've been looking at some unfinished pieces of art scattered about the flat.  I grabbed two and finished one completely today.  I worked and reworked the piece.  I left it alone for a while and just walked by it periodically thinking what it needed in terms of colour, material, texture.  Finally, the paint brush took on a life of its own as it swept great and little swathes of colour over the canvas.  Just for comparison, I've included the original piece of Faerie Child Sleeping, a coloured pencil piece on black card stock for you to see.  I've also put up the work in progress piece of the same being done in acrylics.  And now, the third photo shows the tentatively completed piece.  I like this one much better.  The placement of the key figures is better, the texture is more apparent and the colours are brighter, crisper, much more true to myself.

I'm looking at this piece now and the thought of not doing anything artistic for a month saddens me.  But wait, it's not me who's going down that pathway.  I'm willing to keep the apartment a little tidier in case I get a call that someone is coming over, but I refuse to let the thought of someone's impending visit change my lifestyle.  I can bake and have things ready in case people drop by.  Maybe this year, I'll put out more healthy alternatives to nibble on along with a tray of cookies.  I'm tidying up my art supplies so that I can grab a plastic bin of paints and a canvas to work on without totally messing up the place.  But, there will still be books laying around that I'm reading or getting ideas from.  Molly's toys will still be very much in evidence as will her food dishes and water bowl.  Life doesn't have to come to a complete halt in order to celebrate the holidays with a showcase display in our homes.  Personally, I think it's so much better to welcome someone into my little flat and when they look around, my friends will smile and say to me "It's good to see you and we can see what you've been up to lately, judging from all the paintings on the walls.  By the way, which two can we take home, you promised we were going to get two."  Of course, these friends will nose dive into the brownies, cookies or whatever is up for grabs, but there's no doubt in my mind, they came to see me, not check out my flat and look for dust bunnies or kittens. :)  That's the kind of month I plan to have.  I hope you can make peace with yourself to forgo the insanity and try to really enjoy the month of December, but even better, to spread some of that joy into the other eleven months of the year.

Sincerely,  Rutheemac