Unhappy Holidays


For some people, the holidays are full of happy events, pleasant family and great friends. For others, this is the first Christmas alone or the end of a year that seemed to go on forever. Painful is just not an adequate word to describe what these folks are going through.

Several years ago I was shopping during the holidays. My mind was occupied with thoughts of my parents and my mother’s journey into Alzheimer’s. I pushed my cart into the checkout line behind an older man to wait my turn. “You’d be pretty if you smiled!” he said boisterously. I couldn’t say a word, which was a good thing, because I was thinking, “You’d look better if I ran over your face a few times with my cart!” (“If you can’t say anything nice…”) This man’s insensitivity taught me the value of being kind to strangers.

For those of you who are hurting, I hope strangers show you kindness and your soul is blessed with peaceful moments. And you don’t have to smile.

The Wonder of Light

Nelchina Sunrise

Wonder seems to involve light; stars, moon, Northern Lights, sunrise, sunset, or the sparkle of sun on snow. This photo, taken in the early morning on the Glenn Highway between Nelchina and Glennallen, shows the sun illuminating a plume formed by an evaporating jet stream. This moment filled me with wonder and thankfulness for eyes to see and the joy of being alive.

What fills you with wonder?

Some of the lyrics to my favorite Christmas song by Chris Rice:

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

Link to listen to the whole song: Welcome to Our World

Bicycles Without Brakes…and Silk

Cactus Blossom Pillow

Painting on silk is similar to riding a bicycle without brakes. The dye races uncontrolled toward disaster unless you know what you are doing and most of the time, I don’t. Master silk painter, Kerry Cline, began to teach me how to paint on silk one summer when I visited Seward, Alaska with my husband. Take a look at her beautiful work here. Her business, Softly Silk, started in New Zealand years ago, but for now we are blessed to have her here.

Kerry would tell me, “Just paint blobs!” I excelled in making blobs.  Her blobs eventually would become gorgeous flowers, but mine stubbornly remained blobs. My husband and I sleep on silk pillowcases decorated with blobs that are beyond ugly, but in the dark we don’t notice and they feel wonderful.

Last week, I read that spraying silk with a mixture of starch and vodka would produce a surface more like watercolor paper. A friend suggested a mixture like that would be called a stiff drink. I placed a piece of plastic inside the case, then sprayed it with the cocktail until it was thoroughly wet, then allowed it to dry. I used a watercolor paintbrush and dye, set them with an iron, then washed out the cocktail, and ironed them again. The treated surface stops some of the wild flow of the dye so the blobs were more controlled. They turned out kind of old-fashioned and sweet. They are going to relatives living in Arizona who get to enjoy these blossoms in April.

A Soapy Christmas

Tuscan Rain

Most people bake cookies and make candy around Christmas. I find pleasure in making soap to give as gifts. I doubt that there will ever be a soap exchange in my neighborhood, although my soap making friends would love the idea.

The first soap I made was from rendered beef tallow and I’ve also made soap from bear and buffalo fat, but bubbling vats of fat aren’t a pleasant experience. Now I use olive oil, palm oil and coconut oil to make the bars, but the fun part is mixing the essential oils. Most perfumes give me terrible headaches, but for some reason, essential oils are soothing. It brings me great pleasure to mix them up and pour them in the saponifying mixture. One blend I call, “Glacier Rain” is a simple blend of Siberian fir and lavender. I asked friends who had traveled to Italy what fragrances I’d smell in the air and so was born “Tuscan Morning”, a blend of rosemary, peppermint and lemon. “Tuscan Breeze” is rosemary, orange and cedar and “Tuscan Rain” is bergamot, lavender and rosewood.

What gifts do you give that bring you pleasure?

An Accident of Stars


Winter Moon 3' x 5'

Here in Alaska, we are fighting the darkness with high beams, vitamin D and little Christmas lights.

I have been painting seasonal panels to decorate the side of our enormous shop. Last summer there were six huge flowers and in the autumn, fruits and vegetables. The snow started falling and my husband rolled them up (very large Fruit Roll-Ups). I had an idea for winter panels, but couldn’t seem to figure it out until last week. I wanted it back-lit, but didn’t know how to make it really glow. I stapled little white Christmas lights inside the perimeter and it looked OK, but it was too dim so I ran them across the back. I stepped back and actually gasped. What a fun accident! Where I thought there would be just more glow were stars and glittering snow. It was magical. There will be more panels, but I wanted to share this with you.

To make one of your own, take a wooden frame and cover it with muslin or any white fabric, using staples to stretch it tight. Use a design with simple shapes. You can use a stencil or decals if you like.  The moon is unpainted fabric, the sky is a thin coat of pale grey paint, and the trees are thick black. You could use any paint, even a white latex house paint if you like and the unpainted fabric will glow. Staple little Christmas lights on the back, particularly around the perimeter. Plug it in and enjoy your creation!

I’m happy to have you share this idea on Pinterest, Facebook and other sites, but please site my name and this blog if you do. Thanks!

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