Amy Artisan

Family | Travel | Craft | Life | Books

Month: December 2015


Ah, DECEMBER…a month of advent and Christmas celebration…enjoying the glow of the Christmas decorations at home and out and about…in PA, a much warmer month…in GA, a much much soggier month…the end of 2015 (how can the year be over?!?) … in the midst of it all, these are the things that filled my days…

Christmas glow

Christmas glow

Reading…once again, daily Advent passages from Watch for the Light…after the Thanksgiving fiction binge, not too much other reading early in this month…although a few Christmas takes were just right leading up to the 25th…ah, the stack of books from under the tree is being consumed…

The addition of the sheep dog to my nativity scene brings a smile

The addition of the sheep dog to my nativity scene brings a smile

Watching (TV)…the end of this season of Fargo…the return of Luther on BBC America…

Watching (Christmas)…a Charlie Brown Christmas…Love Actually…oh Hallmark Channel, you can easily suck me in with the non-stop Christmas movies (downloading these fun Hallmark Christmas Bingo cards for next Christmas movie season – thanks, Addie!)…assorted family favorites while home (It’s a Wonderful Life, The Christmas Card, Christmas in Connecticut, Mame)…

A festive brew discovery, even better when enjoyed with a friend

A festive brew discovery, even better when enjoyed with a friend

Watching (Sports edition)…while it is a frustrating Packers season, it was great fun to watch the Packers-Lions game and the crazy Hail Mary victory with a good friend who was in town for work…

The perfect wrapping paper for hand knit gifts!

The perfect wrapping paper for hand knit gifts!

Crafting…blocking the gift knits…6 complete gifts…having to re-knit the 7th Christmas gift when something decided to snack on it in the months between it coming off the needles & me blocking everything – this is the first time I’ve ever wrapped a ball of yarn & needles to put under the tree…

"The" Christmas shirt

“The” Christmas shirt

Wearing…my Christmas blouse for the office holiday luncheon…each year it is paired with a different cardigan & always finished off with Grandma’s Christmas tree pin…

The local fire company bringing Santa through the neighborhoods in the township on a Saturday morning

The local fire company bringing Santa through the neighborhoods in the township on a Saturday morning

Listening (Tunes)…all the Christmas tunes, of course…in frequent rotation: The Band of Merrymakers (Welcome to our Christmas Party) and Rend Collective (Campfire Christmas, Vol 1)…the Pink Martini “Joy to the World: A Holiday Spectacular” streaming from NPR…

A tasty smoothie experiment!

A tasty smoothie experiment!

Listening (Podcasts)…the return of Serial looks to be interesting…as this season of Fargo ended, I discovered the “Aw Jeez” podcast on the show from Minnesota Public Radio – I think this might be even better listening to it after the whole season has unfolded and listening to their “blind predictions” about things and knowing what actually happened…

Ran into a reindeer while finishing Christmas shopping on a Saturday

Ran into a reindeer while finishing Christmas shopping on a Saturday

Facetime-ing…opening Christmas gifts with the WI-family – due to schedules, the boys had to endure my box unopened in their house for a week before we connected – who knew an Old Spice gift set could spark so much excitement in a 14 year old?…on Christmas morning, a visit with my Texas girls (all wearing their gift-knit cowls)…

Mushrooms & shallots sauteing for my "famous" mushroom dip

Mushrooms & shallots sauteing for my “famous” mushroom dip

Kitchen-ing…A simple meal of roasted chicken with a rainbow of veggie delivered to a friend recovering from surgery…A big batch of Mushroom Caviar for a holiday gathering with friends (as requested by the host)…Spinach-Artichoke dip for Christmas Eve…a simple smoothie of fresh cranberries + spinach + apple cider was perfect this month…

Christmas coffee in a new mug from our excellent family camp adventure

Christmas coffee in a new mug from our excellent family camp adventure

Sipping…all the peppermint…Candy Cane Coffee to start the days (this is my fave)…decaf Candy Cane Green Tea to end the days…enjoying both options in a mug or over ice…

Traveling…home to the ‘Ville for Christmas – lucky to be home for 12 days with the family…lots of low-key hang out time in the midst of plenty of Christmas fun…

CHRISTMASing…oh so many moments & memories with friends and family in the ‘Ville…

Sharing the Christmas Story in Clarkston

Sharing the Christmas Story in Clarkston

…sharing the Christmas story through carols and treats and a simple Christmas pageant with refugee families in Clarkston with our church…

A fun evening driving around the county looking at Christmas lights...

A fun evening driving around the county looking at Christmas lights…

…the annual drive around the county to look at Christmas lights – a bit of rain didn’t deter us…

Christmas Cookies!

…Christmas cookie baking in waves of our favorites: Swedish jam squares, Casserole Cookies from Grandma H., Thumbprint Cookies with Red Currant Jam from Grandma R., Nut Filled Crescents, Cardamom Cutouts using new cookie cutters I picked up in Switzerland…

Christmas Eve family fun!

Christmas Eve family fun!

…a Christmas Eve that included a beautiful candlelight service a church; favorite appetizers for our family supper; Christmas crackers & paper crowns; the annual watching of It’s a Wonderful Life…

…Dad having to wake me up on Christmas morning for the first time in ages (must’ve been because I was Santa arranging all the gifts under the tree the night before) and a lovely morning around the Christmas tree…

Christmas Day

Christmas Day

…Christmas dinner hosted by friends that are like family…the menu was expansive and we couldn’t even fit all the serving dishes on the dining room table…the 4 cousins were giddy & silly as they attempted to present a Christmas pageant to us…Sheila capturing the annual Christmas Day picture of the Artisan family…

…the 2nd annual gathering of high school friends (& families)…such a fun evening of connecting with them…

Christmas coloring book fun

Christmas coloring book fun

…coloring with Mom & Rebecca…fun Christmas coloring books with so many pictures to choose from…(the entire Artisan family received coloring books under the Christmas tree)

A rousing round of Spite & Malice during Family Game Night!

A rousing round of Spite & Malice during Family Game Night!

…a family game night of Spot-It Holiday Edition and Spite & Malice, our favorite card game…it had been quite a while since we had played Spite & Malice and much laughter ensued…

Looking Ahead… a new year filled with new possibilities…it has been a decade since I started this blog – planning for more activity around here…time to pick a new word for a new year & put it into practice…menu planning for healthier eating…and more

Linking up with Leigh’s monthly “What I’m Into” roundup. What are you into these days?

Beyond the 25th…

We’re “in the home stretch” leading up to Christmas day and many of us are in full hustle & bustle to get everything done before Christmas morning. On this Tuesday before Christmas, 10 things I’m looking forward to after the holiday rush.

New Christmas art captures a favorite word!

  1. Boxing Day = Reading Day – The family is planning to enjoy a low-key day on the 26th – lots of reading is on tap, probably some napping, easy menu plans have already been put in place (& ingredients purchased).
  2. Connecting with High School Friends – Sunday evening will be another fun evening of reconnecting with high school friends – we had such a fun time last year, we all were on board to do it again this year (& invite a few more to join us).
  3. Knitting a Christmas Gift (again) – While blocking Christmas gifts last week, I discovered that 1 of my gifts was a snack for something & there were un-recoverable holes. Replacement yarn was immediately ordered & shipped to Georgia – the skein dissolved into massive tangles when Mom went to wind it. So, there is no way the replacement will be completed and under the tree.
  4. Catching up on the Scoreboard Cowl – I’m lots of games behind…once number 3 is complete, this will become the priority knitting.
  5. Confirming my One Word for 2016 – after cultivating 2015, I’m working towards the word for 2016…more to come…
  6. Starting a Bullet Journal – For the new year, I’m going to give this method a try for my planner approach because recent years haven’t had something that has really stuck with me.
  7. Restarting the Kon Mari journey – It’s time to buckle down & continue to work through the house and only keep the joy sparking items.
  8. Making February travel plans – some fun items are on the calendar for the first and last weekends…now to make flight arrangements…
  9. Plant an amaryllis – planting a new bulb as the new year begins and watching it grow is such a visible way to see progress through the long (& dreary) winter slog…
  10. Menu Planning – I’m looking to do a modified Whole30 in January and while I’ve done some menu planning in the past, I want to focus on this more as this year starts – not just for these 30 days but to carry through the year.

While this may look like a lot…it’s actually a nice combination of items with a deadline/schedule and items that will just go with the flow.

What are you looking forward to once the holiday rush subsides?

Recently Read…December 2015

It is time for another round-up of recent reads. As I approached my Thanksgiving break at home in the ‘Ville, I was looking forward to some reading time and I definitely found it. This list could also be subtitled “The Thanksgiving Edition” because everything on this list “devoured” during my Thanksgiving break.

When all the reads are on the kindle, there are limited photo ops for this post...

When all the reads are on the kindle, there are limited photo ops for this post…

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Upon first description, I wasn’t sure if I would like it – but it quickly became a favorite read of the year and I have recommended it to several friends. Set in the semi-near future, the “real” world has been reduced to chaos and people choose to live in a universal virtual reality game. Since the death of the virtual world creator, many are on a quest to unlock the keys the creator left behind so that they can obtain ownership of the world. The quest is filled with so much pop culture from the 70s-90s – including video games, movies, music and more.
    “That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”   
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – A cute read about a cranky bookseller – clever use of “his” book reviews to introduce each chapter. While not the key point, I enjoyed the “conflict” about printed books versus e-readers.
    “Remember, Maya: the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life.”   
  • The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay – The latest from a new favorite author – this time set in both Chicago and the UK. A young rare book seller, Lucy, is caught in a lie a looses many relationships dear to her in the process. Through helping the grandmother of her ex-boyfriend travel to London to “right a wrong,” Lucy undertakes her own journey through her past in order to move forward.
    “The room was only half-filled, but the air buzzed with excitement as if diners were munching on history and remembrance as well as fish and chips.”  
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – A quick children’s read, told from the perspective of a silverback gorilla that lives behind the glass in an aging roadside zoo/circus attraction.
    “Memories are precious,” Stella adds. “They help tell us who we are.”
  • The Butterfly and the Violin & A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron – The first two books in a series – each of these books could also be enjoyed as standalone stories. Both stories weave the tale of a modern gallery owner and searching for a piece from World War II – specifically tied to the concentration camps. In the search through history there is also the search through current self and history for the modern day characters.
    “The ability to perfectly time when to react and when to remain silent; it was an admirable quality in a friend.”   
  • Water from my Heart by Charles Martin – I’ve read several books from this author and have enjoyed each. This is the story of a wayward drug runner, tragedy and redemption.
    “Funny how there’s so little difference between “prodigy” and “prodigal.”  
  • Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann – I picked this one up on a Kindle deal. It was “meh” at best and felt like it was trying too hard. While I did finish it, really this is an example of where I should leave a book unfinished when I’m not enjoying it.

What have you been reading lately?

After all this fiction, I’m ready to focus more on the non-fiction list. (Although currently there has been a quick detour into some holiday-themed reads.) The Christmas wish list is filled with several books and the thought of Christmas break and uninterrupted reading time is quite lovely…

Linking up with Anne @ Modern Mrs. Darcy for the latest round of Quick Lit.

Ornamental Treasures…Painted Plaster

The Artisan family Christmas tree has always been a scrapbook of memories with the ornaments that adorn the tree. (And truthfully, there isn’t room on the tree for all the ornaments every year…)

Rebecca & I are lucky to have amassed quite the collection of “Artisan Dad” painted ornaments throughout the years. For many years, at the breakfast table on Black Friday we would find our newest ornaments at our placemat.

At home in the ‘Ville, I have a collection of panda pears that Dad painted over a series of years. Here on my tree, I have an eclectic mix of painted plaster from more recent years – filled with sentiment, moments in time, whimsy and most of all…love.

Maggie – A sweet portrait of my sweet kitty, Maggie. This kitty loved the Christmas tree – she loved to sit under the tree & just look up into the lights.

Patriotic Bells – In 2001, a timely choice in the aftermath of 9/11, Dad combined the spirit of Christmas with the patriotic spirit that was so prevalent.

1949 House – In 2002, I moved into my 2nd apartment in Chicago – in a vintage courtyard building that reminded the whole family of scenes in “While You Were Sleeping.” I only stayed in that place for one year but this cute house with that address on it always reminds me of that place.

Ball of Yarn – An appropriate ornament from when I really jumped back into my knitting.

Candy Cane Mouse – A simple and silly mouse that is a reminder to have some whimsy in the celebration.

Vintage Rudolph – While “new,” this cutie looks like it could have been on Dad’s tree when he was a boy. I chuckle when I see it as I recall at least one Christmas where Rudolph left presents under the tree for me & my sister – I remember unwrapping a slip with that gift tag on it.

Christmas Tree – Given our family enjoyment of the Christmas tree, this is a great addition to the collection to celebrate our trees. When we still went with a live tree every year, Dad & I were responsible for loading the tree with lights – our mantra was there was no such thing as too many lights on the tree.

Devers – A cute memorial for Rebecca’s kitty. He was a bit of a rascal & while he never did burrow into a stocking, this is just the sort of thing you could see him doing. He was a kitty that confirmed why the Christmas tree had the length of fishing line looped around the top of the tree & secured to the window frame each year.

Each year, as I look at my Christmas tree I see not just a celebration of the season – I see a celebration of life. Moments…memories…stories from so many chapters of my life. What stories does your tree tell through your ornaments?

After seeing Katie’s annual ornamental treasures writing last year, I decided that this will be a December tradition for me as well.  

Holiday Enjoyment

It’s that most wonderful time of the year…the holiday season that is filled with so much fun, excitement, joy, anticipation…sometimes it seems like busyness and stress can overtake the enjoyments of it all…today’s ten prompt is a good moment to pause: 10 Things I Really Enjoy About the Holidays – so in no particular order…

My favorite nativity

My favorite nativity

The nativity on the mantel – While I have several nativities that I’ve picked up over the years, the white clay scene on my mantel is by far my favorite. I started picking up pieces of it while on assignment in Wisconsin and chuckle that it is from a Georgia artist. Over the course of several years I picked up almost the whole set and last Christmas the WI family had a great “gotcha” of getting me the remaining pieces. As I said to a dear friend just last week, “who knew I’d have to go to Wisconsin to find a bit of Georgia home.”

Christmas lights – On trees (we subscribe to the “you can never have too many” mode)…on houses…simple candlesticks in the windows…big displays…not a huge fan of blinky lights…the glow of the lights in the living room is delightful this month…

Christmas tunes – From fond memories of Bing Crosby and the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas albums playing on my Fisher Price record player when I was laid up in my bedroom during 2nd grade Christmas to the eclectic mix of Christmas tunes in my iTunes these days, now is the time for all the music from kitschy to cherished.

A joyful addition to the tree this year...

A joyful addition to the tree this year…

The season of giving – I think I’m more excited as an adult with the anticipation of dear ones opening gifts than I was a child looking at the presents under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. Throughout the year, I jot notes and pick up things along the way and enjoy capturing personalities in the gifts I give.

Kids for my Kids – Several years ago I began the tradition of donating goats through Samaritan’s Purse in honor of the dear kids in my life. One year, I gave each of my kids a small wooden goat as a reminder for them about being able to help others. Nowadays, #GivingTuesday is when I make sure this order is placed…and I’m lucky that my company matches the gift to make the donations go even further.

Christmas movies –Our family enjoys a wide variety of the classics…Miracle on 34th Street…White Christmas…Christmas in Connecticut…Mame…It’s a Wonderful Life (only on Christmas Eve…and more. Love Actually is one of my favorites. And the Hallmark Channel movies seem to pull me in this time of year.

Simple family traditions – In recent years, some of our family traditions have morphed to match where we are currently. New favorite additions are an appetizer supper on Christmas Eve (complete with Christmas crackers and paper crowns) and Boxing Day becoming a reading day where we all stay in with our stacks of Christmas reads and the leftovers from the appetizer supper.

Christmas morning – We ease into Christmas – Mom is normally the first one up and gets coffee going; Dad & I are next; at some point we “finally” wake up my sister. We open our Christmas stockings and then pause for breakfast – normally scrambled eggs & Mom’s awesome orange rolls. After breakfast, coffee mugs are refilled and the present opening begins in earnest – gifts are handed out one-by-one so it takes us a long time to clear out the tree…even on the years we say we are cutting back…

A spectacular light display in the 'Ville

A spectacular light display in the ‘Ville

Looking at Christmas Lights – It’s not really Christmas until the family has piled in the car to go look at lights. Seating assignments have changed from years and years ago – I’m now the driver as we are in the Edge with coffee for each of us in the cup holders. In the ‘Ville, we have a bit of a meandering loop that takes us by several big displays that are done by neighbors for neighbors.

Peppermint – While I don’t fall down the “pumpkin spice everything” rabbit hole, I do really like peppermint. Candy Cane Coffee and Decaf Candy Cane Green Tea are in heavy rotation.

A Charlie Brown Christmas – In recent years I’ve decided that this is my favorite of the TV Christmas specials. When you get down to it, the reason for all the hustle and bustle and all the enjoyment is that story that Linus so simply tells…

What are the things that you really enjoy about the holidays?

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