December has always been a busy month, for various reasons at various times of my life.
Sometimes it was the pressure to get choir songs practiced, Sunday School crafts prepared or Cub/Scout public service events organized.
Other times it was an effort to keep ahead of the overwhelming snowfall, getting cattle and sheep fed in frightful temperatures, making sure the chickens didn't freeze to death (never mind the eggs) and dealing with whatever plague was making the rounds of the community.
These days, the busy-ness is a combination of trying to keep ahead of the chaos that is the newspaper business leavened with the quiet work at home that keeps me sane.
I've often made Christmas cards in past years, not so much lately. This year, I took possession of the dining room table right after Thanksgiving and set to making watercolour cards.
I've dabbled in painting off and on for years but never took any instruction that would have made the process more productive and enjoyable. The autumn before last, I took a 3 month course of instruction from Gail Shortt in Vernon. I tried to keep in practice but know full well that I'm a deadline-driven person - without a goal to work towards, I tend to lag even at things that I really enjoy. Even gardening has a deadline - the death of winter, the rebirth of spring.
Working two cards at a time and setting the task of three different scenes to focus on, I produced just over 30 cards. My easel is an adjustable wood bed tray I picked up at JYSK for $14. It's perfect!
I'm an impatient painter and so you'll often find my hair dryer close by. And yes, a glass of wine sometimes.
Never got bored by the repeating theme. I'm the same with weaving and quilting - I like to explore the endless possibilities of a self-imposed restriction of pattern, like variations of rose path weaving or nine-patch quilting.
My watercolour skill level is such that each repeat of the same theme can only be an improvement on the last effort! It's good discipline and practice.
We don't get too hung up on Christmas trees. There have been some stunning ones in our lives - our log house on the ranch up north had an 18 ft. open ceiling peak, so we often had 16 ft. trees. It took over 2000 lights to cover one of them. Other years, if we were traveling south to spend the holiday with family, we didn't bother with a tree at all.
These days, with no little ones around, I balk at a tree. Bryan decorated one outside at the end of the driveway, so I felt obligated to do some decorating. Why cut a tree and bring it inside when we already have a tree in the house?
Yes, it's a ficus tree, and it's a big 'un (it will have to be sold with the house on the day we have to move!) and currently sports 300 LED lights plus a few dozen of my antique glass balls and other special little ornaments - the branches are softer than a conifer so I didn't want to overload it.
My little pocket camera doesn't do night photos very well - or I'm an inept photographer - so in my efforts to take pictures of the yard lights (not good) I discovered a time lapse function that's provided endless entertainment.
This is the tree in motion:
The most important part of the holiday preparations is baking cookies. Some of the ones I bake aren't special because they're exotic or difficult to make, but simply because I only make them at Christmas ... on purpose.
One type I make every year are pinwheel cookies. I used to make them a lot when the kids were small but now they're mostly just a seasonal thing.
I'm not the best chocolatier but I can temper it well enough for this recipe.
The dough is split in half - one left white and the other blended with the melted chocolate. Then the layers are rolled out ...
... then rolled up, wrapped in the waxed paper and put in the deep freeze overnight. When it's time to bake them, the rolled are cut into 1.5 cm slices and baked on a cookie sheet.
Do you know what these mean?
Sugar cookies. A mini ice cream scoop make the job a snap.
A quick dip into the confetti balls.
Flatten them with a fork. These also work well in a cookie press but that's too fiddly for me.
The convection oven works great for multiple sheets.
Next up ... gingerbread men!