BECAUSE I OVERDO EVERYTHING.

Case in point, how I paint.

It’s something I love and don’t take too seriously (let’s call that a WIN) because I paint primarily to stretch my brain. And because this is primarily my life philosophy:

pretty much

 

So I signed up for Mary Gilkerson’s Art+Life+Painting 5 Day Painting Challenge. I started with these difficult but ultimately liberating constraints:

  1. Limited paint palette.
  2. 4 x 6 gesso board, a new (crazy slick) surface for me.
  3. Palette knives (which my husband calls “spatula painting”) instead of brushes.
  4. Single theme: all are from photos of our beloved Black Mountains view.
  5. Finish in 20 minutes.
  6. Share the work, via Mary’s encouragement, on her wonderful blog. Pay attention to the paintings of other participants. Enjoy them! Learn from them! Cheer them on! YAY!

Everything about this challenge is difficult and scary. (See headline.) Thus, all the more reason to TAKE IT ON.

(Even so the world will never see my horrendous Day 1 painting.)

Here is Day 2. Better than the first but still seriously overworked.

 

That’s a lot of strokes and a lot of color for the goal to be SIMPLIFY.

 

Thank you, Mary Gilkerson, for the challenge and your fantastic instruction.

Thanks, Lila Anna Sauls, for being my accountability partner!

 

XXOO

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Day 26: For Love of The Crown

It has become the topic about which we talk, text and email most often, we dear friends, coworkers, digital contacts, casual acquaintances, people thrown together in the Publix checkout line. It’s rather a phenomenon, I would say, this coming together in light of deep division in our country. (So many opinions. So many binge-worthy options.) It’s nothing we planned or decided or even discussed up front, yet here we all are, parked in front of our televisions, the obsession having taken root so fastidiously it is impossible not to watch.

(This thing is so good we knitters put down our needles and Sit Up And Pay Attention, not wanting to miss a single smirk, or side glance, or eyebrow raise. And that, my friends, is saying something.)

Of course it’s The Crown I’m talking about, the little Netflix gem that’s taking the world (or U.S. and Great Britain) by storm and which is considered by many to be just about the finest television drama ever.

IT’S SO GOOD!!!

 

 

For starters, it’s the most expensive television series ever made, and this uncompromising commitment shows. Every scene comes to life in way that feels both remarkable and authentic. (I know that seems like a contradiction but I promise you it’s not.) You are in the midst of it whether in Buckingham Palace, Scotland’s Castle Mey, or the wilds of Kenya (cue the elephants!).

 

(I can’t help but think about washing all that crystal.)

 

There’s Clare Foy, the actress who plays Queen Elizabeth with such elegance and restraint you not only see the monarchy’s weight as it sits on her perfectly squared shoulders, you feel it heavy on your own. Oh the painful, gut-wrenching (not that she’d use that phrase) decisions that woman must make in the best interest of her country! And that’s not even considering her responsibilities (and forced loyalties) as head of the Church of England.

 

The Queen. And the Crown.

 

And those clothes. Oh, the clothes! Particularly Princess Margaret, who is without a doubt the most beautifully dressed woman in television history. (Vanessa Kirby sure does wear them well.)

There are a billion other reasons to covet this show. Can I really not mention:

  • John Lithgow as is Winston Churchill
  • The understated yet scene-stealing performance of Will Keen as the Queen’s dull but stuck-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place private secretary, Michael Adeane (Tim’s favorite character)
  • Season Two’s brilliant, transcendent Episode 4, “Beryl”
  • Foy’s performance opposite Lord Altrincham in Episode 5, “Marionettes” !!!!!

It is all so fascinating, so rich, so delicious.

And it’s the perfect, perfect binge for this glorious, cozy, joy-filled month of January.

(I am one happy girl.)

XXOO

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 25: the most civilized month of the year

How I love January.

I love it all, from the clean, frigid air, to the chance for fresh starts, to the soft blues and grays of the winter landscape.

I love bare trees, branches exposed, naked arms twisting, turning, reaching for light.

I love the chance for snow, and giggles when it flurries, and the crunch underfoot, and red noses and mittens and wet dripping boots.

I love the sparkling icicles that hang from big rocks and house eaves.

I love firewood stacked, and big stone hearths, and the dance of fire, full burn.
And I love that smell. Oh I love the smoke of the winter fire smell.

I love thick books and warm fuzzy socks and good healthy pours of red wine.

I love hot soup–bubbling on the stove, steaming in a mug, dipped from  a bowl with a big giant spoon.

Flannel sheets, extra blankets, snuggly pajamas.

Down coats, fur hoods, thick knitted scarves.

Fat winter birds.

And I love the quiet. Of all the deep joy this civilized month brings, it is the quiet I cherish the most. It settles my soul, calms my heart, brings me back to me.

I love January.

 

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 24: Hope Against Hope (a post for Clemson and non-Clemson fans alike)

WE’VE JUST RETURNED from a weekend in New Orleans, a long haul trip we made to watch the college playoff Sugar Bowl between my beloved Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide. It was a high expectations matchup between the two contenders in last year’s high drama National Championship–suffice it to say there was a lot riding on this game. There was also a lot of time in the car (1300 miles) and a little bit of time on Bourbon Street (lunch+), which I have to say was quite the blast.

 

bourbon at bourbon on bourbon

 

It was just exactly as cold as it looks.

 

The game’s outcome, though? Not so much.

Still the experience was a powerful way to kick off a new year because it set my feet squarely on the ground, reconciling giddy, hopeful, the-world-in-bright-colors possibility with loss and disappointment and the sobering gray of acceptance; because sometimes your heart feels battered and beaten* and then something happens that fills it with the joy of an even more brilliant light.

(*Lest you think I am being overly dramatic I should tell you there was a fan in front of us who turned and taunted and insulted so obnoxiously officials ultimately removed him from the stands. Believe you me, my heart felt stomped on.)

 

BUT THEN THE JOY came, unexpected as it was, and it happened like this.

There was that awful late game moment when in a single play the hand wringing stops and your husband (the optimist) turns and says, “That’s it, baby. That’s the game.” And you know it’s true but still you can’t grasp it, still your hope holds on to hope in spite of every single visible odd.

The clock clicks on, and time expires, and a giant lump forms in your throat. It’s surprising because it’s not so much for the “L” but for every senior on that team, for every player of every age who has spent so much of the year–and years before that–doing the gut-wrenching physical, mental, and emotional work it takes to be a great competitor. It’s for the men on that field who just yesterday were boys and through commitment and grit and tenacity brought happiness and pride and a collective spirit of one to the greater Clemson family.

You stay on your feet. You watch them cross to midfield where, helmets tucked under arms, they meet the victors for good sportsmen handshakes and “good game” acknowledgements over and over and over. Then they turn back, facing their disappointed fans, and make the long, painful walk toward the locker room.

You can hardly take it. You want to wrap your arms around each and every one, hugging them tight, thanking them, remembering the season and the fun wrought purely from their hard work and dedication. Holding their tender hearts in your gentle, grateful hands.

And then they do this.

 

arms wrapped tight

 

That team, standing together in loss, swaying and singing the Clemson alma mater.

 

IF YOUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL loyalties lie elsewhere I hope you haven’t given up on this post, for I don’t mean it to be one about Clemson, per se. Fans of every team have experienced the same proverbial thrills and awful, dreadful defeats. It’s the stuff college football is made of, after all, this pendulum intent on proving we never know what will happen season to season, week to week, play to play. We ride the wave, we fans, and we hang our hopes–hang them high–on the backs of student athletes all across the country who game after game shoulder what must be a smothering burden.

And then they do something that demonstrates an understanding that the game itself is actually the least of it, that it’s showing up, and supporting each other, and being people of substance that matters. That winning feels fantastic and is glorious (believe me, I am NOT knocking winning, which I celebrate thoroughly) but that victory can also come through hard work, dignity, character, loyalty.

 

I WISH THE GAME had turned out differently. Of course I do. But as I make my way through this shiny new year filled with hope and promise, every time I face adversity or am forced to deal with disappointment I will remember the example set for me by the band of brothers on that field in the Superdome.

And I will raise my head and sing.

 

XXOO

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 23: Love, everlasting

It was December 26th before I noticed it, this little something something about our Christmas tree. No doubt this is because a bit of my attention was drawn to the slew of presents beneath it, the wonder and excitement of the promise held by each and every package.

They were so pretty. There were so many! Finally Christmas morning dawned, and dressed in our matching PJs with Hendel’s Messiah playing in the background, we commenced to opening.

It was joy upon joy upon joy. Something so thoughtful and meaningful from Eliza. A surprise chosen (with no suggestions from me) from Tim. Gifts and treasures from friends and family so perfect we paused between nearly every unwrapping for a photo or a text or a giggle.

And then came breakfast, and roasting the turkey, and an afternoon of straightening up.

 

our pretty tree, presents and all

 

By 3 the tree base was bare, and I spent a glorious Christmas night in that very room, sitting by the fire, a new (gifted) novel in my hands. Still it took until the morning of the 26th before I noticed it.

 

 

Now I cannot not see it.

 

 

Another Christmas miracle, I thought. There all the time, and yet it took the excitement of the day–and the stripping away of the packages and wrappings and ribbons and bows–for me to see it. For this little fir cross to come into my heart and remind me of the larger story: the joy, and the pain, and promise of love, everlasting.

XXOO

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 22: Big Little Things

When it’s the day after the day after Christmas, and the gas logs suddenly won’t light, and the HVAC compressor goes out, and downstairs sewage pump stops pumping.

 

 

And with absolutely no fanfare at all your thoughtful friend walks over and hands you a steaming cup of peppermint tea.

With honey.

 

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 21: The Time After

I woke up this December 26th thinking about the aftermath: the piles of boxes and torn wrapping paper, the dirty dishes, the no-holes-barred-celebratory calories quite literally encircling my waist.

Even my heart felt heavy, the realization coming fast: Today my girl heads back home, to Atlanta.

It’s come and gone too soon, I thought. All those weeks of planning and preparation, and now Christmas has gone too soon.

Then I remembered these words from writer and minister Winn Collier, who put it like this:

Good news to all who woke a bit blue this morning. Christmastide is here! Christmas is a season, not a day. Advent asked us for many days of watching and waiting. Now Christmas asks us for 12 days of joy. Party on. Take time and eat well. Enjoy the ones you love. See good movies. Take walks. Give the kids a little extra space. Pray for peace and goodwill the world over. Save a little gift for a surprise later. In all, thank God for all the joy.

 

 

Light has come.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

 

XXOO

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 20: Merriment and Awe

FIRST COLLEEN ARRIVED, our sweet New York friend here to spend the holidays with us.

Then we dashed through the soft rain to Lisa and Joe’s for some merriment and a house so beautifully decked the Biltmore would stand in awe.

I mean, this is their tree.

 

Yes, it is fifteen feet tall. (And about that wide.)

 

It was a glorious night filled with twinkling lights, cranberry champagne and friends who love each other so dearly laughter rides the air room to room, conversation to conversation, hearts touching in a communion so lovely it fills your soul to the very brim.

Or even overflowing.

 

Trying to corral this crowd.

 

How grateful I am for these bonds, for the love, for the joy of treasured, trusted friends.

 

Colleen and her loves: Ayden, Josie and Julian

 

This right here is all Joey P.

 

Success!

 

AND NOW HERE I AM, on this beautiful Christmas Eve morning, waiting for my dearest love, Eliza, and her sweet love, Preston, to arrive from Charlotte. I send you my heartfelt wishes that your day is filled with all the people you love most, and that this holy holiday brings you the deep peace that comes as we wait in wonder for the Christ child. I leave you with this photo I post every year–and the awe I experienced all those years ago as I made my way through the house turning out the lights late, late on Christmas Eve. I walked in to find our cat, Tiger, had somehow gotten up on the table and positioned himself among the animals at the manger.

 

A Christmas miracle, indeed.

 

30 Days of Joy

 

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Day 19: The Cranberries I Will Never Not Make For Christmas

I came upon this Stephanie Dietz recipe for Bourbon Cranberries back in 2011 and it was such a revelation I posted about it then.

But y’all.

It bears repeating.

Cranberries. With Bourbon.

Need I say more?

ROCKING (BOURBON) CRANBERRIES
4 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice

Preparation
Combine cranberries and both sugars in a cast-iron Dutch oven over medium heat on your stove. Mix well and often as the sugar starts to melt for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add other ingredients, stirring often, for about 20 minutes. Check the cranberries for doneness and cook until you reach the desired consistency.

Oh my goodness, give these a taste. There is a bit of a kick, which is just perfect with cranberries. Yummmmmmm.

And that, there, is some joy, my friends!

 

30 Days of Joy

 

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