A Merry Christmas to you!

I hope that you have a truly wonderful & blessed Christmas, as we celebrate together, & remember when our Savior came to earth! Christmas is such a special time of the year. It's one of my favorite times to indulge & eat wonderful homemade foods & candies, to fellowship with friends & family, & most importantly reflect upon God's Word & His gift to us! 

 Jesus is the greatest story, the ultimate gift, & the hope of all who believe! 


Below are some reflections & musing thoughts I typed on the eve of Christmas Eve -

Whewhwee! What a busy day. It's two days before Christmas, & I was out doing what nearly everyone else in our relatively "large" city of 100,000 was doing. Braving the bad roads, wind, & snow - Christmas shopping! 

Over the past couple days, we've gotten around 6-9 inches of snow. It's hard to tell just how much there is, because of the gale-force winds that are ever-present & blowing the snow around, creating drifts anywhere from 1-3 feet high. Under all this snow is a layer of ice on the backroads, making it take 3x longer to get from here, to there. 

Thankfully everything went well, other then getting suck in traffic & missing a few turns. Nearly ALL my shopping is done! Now to start wrapping! 

I can't believe Christmas is in two days! I'm so excited. Are you?  (I could literally jump up & down like Buddy the Elf did when he thought "Santa" was at Gimbels!)  

I'm excited for the special time our family has on Christmas morning, reading the Bible, giving gifts to each other. I simply LOVE giving people gifts, honestly, I prolly spend too much money shopping for people. But hey, the way I see it, Christmas only comes once a year, & it's such a special time of the year -  that I want to make a big deal about it! 

But ultimately, I always remember the true reason behind why we give gifts to friends, family & co-workers. We give gifts because the Magi presented fine gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh to Christ. We give gifts because God gave His only son to us! He sent Jesus down to earth, as a babe to grow in grace & eventually die on the cross for our sins. He became the Word made flesh and walked on this earth for 30something years! It's SO amazing to think about! 

Over the years, as I've grown older, I've truly realized that my "Christmas list" has gotten a lot smaller, simply because there really isn't that much out there that I want, & because the things I truly want for the holidays can't be bought. It's the gift of family, friends, traditions, & the amazing love & grace that God has for us. Things that are untangle; spending time in the company of friends, sharing a silly moment together, sitting silent & watching your dearly loved family interacting around you, reading our advent devotions together, or standing by the light of the moon in the snow, watching the stars twinkling in the heavens.  (<< Follow that link to the site of an AMAZING documentary that you need to order RIGHT NOW, it's only $9.75. If you haven't seen it already I encourage you - Please watch/buy it!) 

It's the simple moments like those, that are the greatest kinds of gifts. When there's a warm, comforting feeling of Jesus surrounding your heart: love, joy, thankfulness & peace. I simply close my eyes & smile. Let Jesus shine through your life! It's hard to put the feeling into words

It's the amazing feeling of God caring for us. He sees all & knows all. He's always there. God forgives, cares & loves His people. Even as a lifelong Christian, I sometimes struggle with doubts. But I always remind myself that God is always in control. As I reflect on a year nearly gone, I don't understand why things happen the way they do, or why there's so much violence & heartache in the world, or even within my own sinful heart. (Well, truthfully, I do understand why; sin is the root of all evil.) I don't have all the answers, but God does! I take such comfort in that. All that I need to do is truly trust in Him! He loves you & me so much! He has everything all planned out - everything is going to happen exactly the way he has preordained it to. Everything He has planned for you & me will bring glory to His name & bring us closer to Him. 

God loves us both more then we could ever imagine - He loves us so much that he sent His son to become like us, to live & die for us. He is our light & salvation, the strength of our life, why should we be afraid? (Ps. 27:1) 

Soften your heart, open it up wide & let Jesus let. Christmas it a time of forgiveness, healing & love! Let Christ shine brightly within your heart, let Him wrap His love & grace around you. Take comfort in Him. Let Him create a light in you, that shines to the world. 

Through the rest of this Christmas season & throughout the coming year of 2014, I want to try to focus on the little things & precious moments, while living life day-by-day to the very fullest! I want to make big things happen. I want to focus on the grand adventure of life, focus on people, on sharing, on keeping the wonder; forever & always.  

Merry Christmas & have a blessed Twenty-fourteen! 

 "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6 

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8
PS. Here's something I wrote last year around Christmas time. 


Dinner rolls {the best ever}

Here is a recipe we used the other night - these rolls turned out AMAZING - perfect for Sunday dinner. The rolls were so good that I ate way too many. They were so good that wanted to share the recipe with you & everyone else who loves bread. 

Recipe & image via Mary Janes Farm  magazine  ~ 
    What you need: 

    • 3 cups white flour
    • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour 
    • 2 pkgs. active dry yeast 
    • 1/2 cup warm water 
    • 1/2 t sugar 
    • 1 cup buttermilk 
    • 1/2 cup honey 
    • 10 T butter, divided 
    • 1 1/2 t salt 
    • 2 eggs 

    1. In large bowl, combine white & wheat flours; set aside. 
    2. In another large bowl or stand mixer bowl, combine yeast, warm water & sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes, or until yeast is foamy. 
    3. Meanwhile in a small saucepan, combine buttermilk, 8 T butter, honey & salt. Heat over low, stirring frequently, until the honey is dissolved & butter begins to melt; remove from heat. 
    4. Test the milk to make sure it isn't too hot for the yeast— it shouldn't feel hot on the inside of your wrist. Pour the milk mixture into the yeast mixture; add eggs & about 2 cups of flour. Stir (or mix, using stand mixer) until combined. Slowly work in remaining flour. After all of the flour has been added, knead the dough for 8-10 minutes. 
    5. Form the dough into a ball & place it back into the large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, or until it is more then doubled in size. 
    6. Test the rise; poke the bread with your finger - if the indentation stays, it is ready, if the dough bounces back, let it rise a little longer. 
    7. Once the dough has risen, press it down completely. Melt remaining 2 T butter & lightly grease a cookie sheet. (Save the extra butter for brushing on top of the rolls.) 
    8. Divide the dough into 18 pieces & shape each into a ball. Place rolls on cookie sheet 1/2 inch apart, brush butter on top, cover loosely with plastic & refrigerate overnight. 
    9. An hour before serving remove from fridge, let them warm for about 30 min, preheat oven to 350'f  & bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown. Serve warm with butter. They melt in your mouth. Mmm.

    Enjoy & leave me a comment if you tried them!  I'd love to hear from you! 


    Teaching art: Patterns & Details

    As a part-time art teacher & artist, things are always busy for me! (Hence, the lack of regular blogging these past months.) Some days are fast & exciting, other days are more challenging, but it's always fun. I love what I do.  This post is on what I taught my Kindergarteners - 6th graders. Last week I found myself in a last-minute pull-off situation. Thankfully everything worked out really well, I had fun, students had fun, & everyone learned something. Here's what I taught—
    Prep work: Teachers! Go forging! Gather up leaves, pinecones, thorny wood, bark, driftwood, seashells & good-sized rocks; looking for textures or stripes. I arranged everything on the tables where students would be working. I made (& stressed) the rule "look with your eyes, not your hands" otherwise, the kids would have been all over everything. Here are some pics of things I used for drawing inspiration, in addition to everything I had. (Teaching art is the probably the only profession where you steal things from home & bring them to work!) I felt funny as I toated my huge canvas bag into the school - it probably weighed 30 pounds - all the rocks & wood.


    { photos of autumn }

    I love taking pictures… Now,  I'm totally not a "photographer" its just one of my hobbies…. I think photography is so much more then just 'taking pictures' - it's a way to preserve, remember, & capture tiny moments that can never be recreated. ever. What you capture on camera is captured forever.  Photos help us remember little things, long after we have forgotten the details. They are memory keepers. Photography is a way of seeing & discovering… It's a way of exploring the details in the world around you. Its perspective, its creative, & sometimes its hard work. I think that's why I like it so much…  Here's some favorite pics from this fall…

    Pumpkin vine. 

    Profile & flower. 

    The water sings. 
    The leaves fall.

    Tender hands.

    Catching the days last light; the warm smile of the sun slipping below the horizon.

    Under the water — 
    Our black lab, leaping into the cold river to fetch a decoy. 

    An Eastern Racer snake. 

       I love the abstract shapes the water creates.

    My little brother rescued a caterpillar from a would-be watery demise. 


    Sleepy mind. Cold feet.

    Its Saturday morning. Normally I sleep in on Saturdays, (I love sleeping in, I could sleep all day. Honestly I'm not a morning person..But when I do get up early I greatly enjoy it…) I rose early today for something, but last minute literally everything fell through.… I contemplated returning to bed, but I knew that sleep would evade me if I did.

    I went to bed at 2am (because I stayed up late eating brownies and playing cards with friends). I got up at 6:45 this morning, and woke up before the alarm starting screaming at me…  I should've been tired, but I wasn't. I was beyond tired, and when you feel like a sleep-deprived-running-on-sugar-wide-eyed insomniac, a 2nd wind kicks in and you feel like you are running on cruise control. But when late nights and early mornings are normal, the feeling is normal. heh…

    As the realization of everything was sinking in, I methodically grabbed my camera, put on my favorite oversized hoodie, mounded my messy hair on top of my head and put the hood up. In doing so it created a pointy-headed-gnome look - I went out wearing my pajamas, un-matching colored socks and crocks. Yes, those brightly colored ugly rubber shoes with holes…Don't ask.  Wonder who invented them, anyways?

    As I was taking pictures, squatting in the yard, scurrying around the bushes and dead flowers,  leaving a trail of melted frost footprints - standing with my camera and looking ridiculous - I thought to myself "wonder if the neighbors are looking"… hopefully they weren't. Have you ever watched your neighbors do strange things? I have. haha

    But with all the above said, in the paragraph directly below is what I really want to say. If you read through my discombobulated ramblings, I applaud you!

    It was about 28 degrees; the sun was just starting to peak over the horizon. There was a sparkling white layer of frost on everything… So cold and pristine! I love early mornings when it feels like the rest of the world is still asleep… It's just me and the sunrise.  There's no sound. No wind. Everything seems clear. All my problems seem distant. There's that beautiful feeling of life starting over again in the crispness of the fall… When everything is cold, bright and beautiful. I love this season. The smell of dead leaves, the beautiful "wintery" skies, the golds, grays, yellows & browns in the landscape… the heavy morning frosts that rest on the earth's floor in glittering perfection.

    Here's a couple pics I snapped- my favorites from the morning excursion.


    Teaching art: Drawing Fabric

    Today in art class students got their hands dirty! We were working with willow charcoal & drawing fabric. I brought in sheets, silks, stripy & patterned fabrics, & soft & fuzzy blankets - so that students could see how the light reflected off of each different texture. It was a fun lesson —

    - I ran a string across part of the room, & hung the fabrics over the string (like a clothesline). I turned off the lights in the room, & used natural light. (The classroom has an entire wall of windows, so there was plenty of light for us.) Using natural light, that sparked conversation of how important it is to always try and use natural light, or at least work from one main light source - when drawing from natural light, you have a 2hr time span before the earth has rotated so much that the light is completely different then when you started.

    I also talked about color - how light is essentially color. The light reflecting off of the fabrics, the colors of the fabrics, etc. If you want to read more on color please go here.

    Students endeavors — they all  did really good jobs! This is a mixtures of 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th graders work.


    small things matter

    My dearest little bother found a beautiful yellow river rock, that was flecked with brown spots. 
    The rock was tumbled perfectly smooth by the river. He gave it to me.

    When a child gives you a gift, even if it's a simple rock they just picked up, show genuine gratitude. It might be the only thing they have to give, & they chose to give it to you.

     I made the rock into a little pendant that I wear often. I always think of him when I do.


    Toads in a jar

    Two of many, many toads caught during the summer by my little brother.
    Did you know that a group of toads is called a "knot" and a group of frogs is called an "army"? 


    Dear August

    This is just a whimsical note to say that you have been truly wonderful; I have enjoyed every moment of you immensely. I should really address this post to "Summer" because my summer has been beautiful. However August, since you are my favorite month, I shall leave this addressed to you….

    If I were to pick my favorite part of you, or something I did with you, I couldn't… I simply have a favorite feeling; it feels like you, August. I love love love the heat & dryness of summer. Low or zero humidity, temperatures in the 90s. Perfect lazy days, days that where you could do anything. Days spent outside. Days spent beneath the summer sun. 
    There's a lot of beauty in the ordinary….

    It's the windows down, driving fast & silent back roads with blowing hair feeling. 
    It's when I can walk straight outside without pausing to fish out a jacket. 
    It is curtains dancing around my room because of the breeze that pushes against the fabric. 
    My arm hanging out the window, the air rush through my fingers. 
    Closing my eyes with the sun shining bright on my face.
    It is reading in the hammock.
    Butterflies fluttering through the air. 
    Heat waves far on the horizon. 
    Picking veggies in the garden.
    Kayacking down rivers. 
    Dusty bare feet. 
    When I smell the flowers before I see them.
    Warm breezes & dry heat.
    It is sunsets after dessert. 
    Running at dusk. 
    Soft grass & crickets chirping. 
    Riding my bike, chasing the sunset.
    The smell of moist dirt in the garden. 
    Lawnmowers & the sound of rain beating against the windows. 
    The purr of a cat, the river's roar in the distance. 
    The nighthawks flying fast & silent. 
    The motion of rocking chairs on the front porch.  
    When it starts to rain, just as the party is ending. 
    Clouds flowing over the face of the stars. 
    Pockets of shade & long walks along along the river. 
    Sunlight sparkling on deep water. 
    Thunder echoing in the mountains. 
    Golden wheat fields, rippling like water. 
    Late nights spent with friends. 

    I don't have a favorite moment, I have a favorite feeling. 


    F L O W E R S

    Isn't it funny how day by day 

    nothing changes, but when you look back 

    everything is different? 



    The garden in August

                     Eggplants: here's how I like to cook them!  

    Gardneing this year has been good, for the most part. Between thunderstorms & insainly strong wind, it has been very hot and dry. We've run the sprinklers regularly every night for the past 3 months. But I have actually been able to stay on top of things a bit more, then in years past. (Even then, there are many weeds.) It's been a constant battle: me vs. weeds.

    Here's what growing this summer:
    Eggplants, green beans, amazingly sweet corn, deliciously crunchy carrots, red onions, squash, zucchinis, watermelons, & several varieties of tomatoes & peppers. There are also lots of flowers in the garden & yard blooming.

    My back is sore from all the beans I've been picking!
    So far, I've picked over 70 pounds! We have canned 72 quarts of beans.
    (There's still some beans out there...)
    I had never canned anything before - but it's really not hard to do.
    It's just an all-day-stay-by-the-stove process.
    The kitchen gets hot. 

    Here's another post from last year; it has my favorite recipe for green beans. Check it out! 

    My garden.


    Art I Admire —

    Blue Canyon, by Edgar Payne (1883-1947)
    What I love about it: The feeling of great distance. The hugeness of the rocks. The beautiful rich colors- you can never have enough purple tones within a painting! The composition & subject matter are great too. And I really like his brush style.

    Cousins' Retreat, by Tyler Murphy. What I love about it: It's people, doing what they do! The highlights & contrasts are superb; it really captures that intense afternoon mountain sunlight. Just close your eyes are lay there... This painting is even more vivid, in person.

    North Country Morning, by Josh Elliott  What I love about it: This kind of impressionism! There's almost a sense of urgency to it, but it looks so bright & real too. 
    Glacial Carvings, by Josh Elliott   What I love it: Everything about this painting is EPIC. Bright colors & shadow tones. Mountains, snow in shadow, the bright sunlit colors… Mmm
    I am always moved by bold, colorful painterly landscapes. This style is frequently found among plein air painters. Those who paint to live in the open air. Big fan of Jill Carver

    Cheese! This piece of art was not titled, it's by Pecorino Ginepro. I have no idea how I found his website - But I really like all of his "cheesy" paintings, & have admired them for quite some time! They are really fun, he paints on wood, & always gets some nice textures. 
    Ponte San Giuseppe di Castello, by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
    There is NO getting around it. In my option, Sargent is the best ever watercolor artist! I simply LOVE his watercolors! He captures things beautifully. There are excellent complementary color uses; warm tones & cool. The composition is suburb, as is the placement of brush strokes... 

    New Song from Park City Music!

    Hey guys! Give it a spin! It's a cinematic song that my brother composed.


    Painting in the Mountains

    Recently I had the awesome privilege to be painted by three amazing artists: Daniel Keys, Tyler Murphy & Ryan Mellody. You should totally look them & their art up, if you don't know who they are. Here is Key's painting of me:

    The whole experience was a lot of fun! We drove to the top of a nearby mountain range, then trudged about 1/4 mile off the road, near some cliffs. They painted me while I held the pose for about 3 hours. (It's a lot harder to do then you think it is!) Then I got to do some painting of my own too. And a large herd of mountain goats decided to stop by. Got some really good pictures of them. This is my fav -
    Mountain goat next to Ryan's painting. 


    Kayacking the Yellowstone

    So recently I went on a kayacking adventure! 13 miles on the Yellowstone River… it took about  3hrs. The water was still up a little bit from snowmelt… But overall it was lowest it had been all summer. Even then the current was deep & fast. I loved kayacking - I took a few pictures when the water was calm. It looks pretty tame here - but there were numerous class 3 - bordering class 4 -  rapids that we had to go through! It was fun exciting & scary. 

    …Later in the day when we were pulling out, we found out that 2 people had drowned on the very stretch of river we had just came down.  Some ambulances & very distraught people were at the finish point. Pretty sobering. Both of the people who perished didn't have on life vests - one victim was a grown man, & the other was a small child. Both were separate incidents.  If you get out this summer - make sure you wear your life vest! They don't always save your life, but they sure can help!  


    New Song by Park City Music

    That's the latest cinematic song composed by my brother. Give it a listen! Leave a comment here, or on the song! I'd love to see what you think. I really like it; you can almost lose yourself in the sounds, just listen to all the different noises. Or you can chill & let it blend into the background. Either way, it's a fun song.


    Sugah Snaps

    I been pickin' sugah snap peas from da garden!
    (And taking pictures while doing so…;)) 

    Ah, can't you just taste the goodness? Sweet, crunchy, mouthwatering peas.


    Roots: are they bitter?

    If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25) 

    The other day I was working in the garden. (It's my grasshopper ravaged weed patch, really! Oh the irony!) It was so hot a day, that the mosquitoes were (thankfully) in hiding. While I was pulling weeds, I was thinking about roots. They are so interesting & complex! There are tap roots & fibrous roots, (among other kinds). Roots help anchor the tree or plant in the soil. As the roots penetrate deep into the soil in search of water & nutrients, the roots help to further secure the plant; anchoring it for the storms that will inevitably arise.

    Do you have roots in your life? Roots from your past, from your family, or places you have lived? Most people have roots; ties that link us to a place or someone. Some roots go back far, they can be sweet or bitter. Usually deep roots are good, but occasionally, they are the worst kind. 

    Take your average weed. It has deep roots & flourishing green leaves. It looks always looks healthy, but it is a weed. Weeds are always unwanted, just as sin is unwanted. Sin can & has unconsciously created deep roots within our hearts. We need to seek these weeds out & uproot them. However, it's a tricky business, because a weed can be mistaken for a real plant!

    As I was weeding the bean plants, I purposefully didn't pull a rather sickly looking young plant; I thought it was a bean plant. A few days later I came out & was astonished to see the little runt of a "bean plant" had risen up & choked out the real bean plant! It was a fast growing & deceitful weed. (I pulled the weed out, but the poor bean plant hasn't really survived.)

    There may be sin or bitterness growing in our lives, & we have deceived ourselves into thinking,"it's just a little sin, there's nothing wrong"or "this really isn't a problem - Or maybe the bitter weed has grown in your life so subtly that it is just plum unnoticed, save by those who are around you!

    Just as bad as the weed's taproot can be, a weak root system on the real bean plant can be deadly. The leaves are lush, green & growing - but roots, the part hidden from our eyes is dead & decaying. The plant has fooled you into thinking it's doing well, even flourishing, when it's truly dying of thirst & want of nourishment.


    Now ask yourself: Am I fooling others into thinking my life is good? Am I putting on a show, just to impress others? Our sinful hearts get satisfaction from the ego-boosts of accomplishing something in its own power. We will attempt to climb a high cliff, or take on extra responsibilities, or agonize through marathon - all for the satisfaction of conquering a challenge by the force of our own will & the stamina of our own body. (Doing those things isn't necessarily a bad thing; while doing these things, it's the attitude of our heart that matters.) It should always be God's grace that is the doer, inspiration & motivation for all our works. (1 Corinthians 15:10) 

    But being sinners, we are all self-centered doers, whether we think so or not. We both need to look deep into our own gardens & examine all the plants & desires that are growing. A works-orientated heart may also express its love of independence & self-achievement by rebelling against courtesy & the Lord. (Galatians 5:19–21). We need to wait upon the Lord for all things, to be sober minded, to have quite & gentle spirits. Every ounce of our strength comes from the Lord! (1 Peter 3:4, Isaiah 40:28-31) We should never forget that. 

    Be wary & diligently keep in step with the weeds that are growing in our lives. Just as we should keep in step with the Spirit that guides us. (Galatians 5:25) Let's evaluate our hearts. Is there sin growing under our very nose? Do we have hearts of "faith" or hearts of "works"? Are we angry or hardened because of what's happened in our lives? Sometimes the weed's taproot goes deep & it takes some pretty serious pulling to uproot it. 

    Weeds of the heart - Are they stealing the water & joy from our daily life? We can't live without water & nourishment, but we try to fool ourselves into thinking that we can. 

    Our souls are ever-thirsty for the true & living Water of Life. Turn to Jesus, let him love you. Let him feed your soul. Plant yourself in Him, grow deep roots in His Word.    

    "That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."  ~Ephesians 3:16-19 


    Summer Art Academy!

    The classroom I had, was on the 2nd floor of an old unair-conditioned building.
    I taught four 1.5 hour classes a day, I was also outside teaching too.
    This past week, has been a wonderful blur of excitement. God's blessings are so abundant! It was my second year of teaching for the Summer Art Academy. There were 75+ students at the camp, 26 of them were mine for the week! I taught Basic Drawing & Urban Art - A fun class that covered the challenging basics of drawing, while working indoors/outdoors, using various tools to achieve detailed, realistic & stylized sketches. Students used ink, pencil & charcoal for their drawing mediums. We explored the campus grounds, sketching buildings and landscapes. I focussed primarily on teaching composition: good vs. poor, shading & dramatization,  developing a critical eye, learning perspective, being selective & creative, while having fun! 

    I believe I had about as much fun as all the students did! Teaching to a group of kids aged 8-14 is fun & challenging. A lot of work too. I had a classroom to myself, were I did about 1/2 my teaching, the rest of the time I was outside on campus grounds teaching. It was truly amazing to be part of so many kid's lives, sharing the gift of art! 
    Students working hard, drawing what they see: buildings, statues, landscapes, etc. exploring the beautiful campus. 
    Talented young artists, sketching away! 
    Ps. Here be a link to last year's post on the Academy. :)