My Favorite Things

I made my annual trip to the mall yesterday. I’m not much of a shopper, and I avoid the mall as much as possible. If I can buy all my Christmas presents at local stores or online, I consider it a personal achievement. However, there are always a few gifts that force an excursion to the mall. (Cue: feeling of impending doom.)

We had been there for about two hours when I turned to my husband and said, “If I die and go to Hell— ”

“—which you know you are,” he said.

“Yes, well…Hell will be all this.” I nodded my head towards the crowds of people around us: the slow walkers, the slouching teenagers, the screaming children, the angry mom with the baby carriage steamrolling straight towards us, “It will be a mall just filled with humanity.”

Needless to say, I’m not big on crowds. And I was not feeling the holiday spirit in that moment, nor was I feeling very creative.

It is difficult to feel creative this time of year. There aren’t enough hours in the day. You’ve probably set aside your creative projects to take care of the cooking, baking, shopping, and wrapping.

If you’re feeling drained creatively, it is important to remember that an important phase of creativity is observation. It is watching and listening. It is remembering and reflecting.

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So, in my own effort to connect and breathe, please allow me to share my favorite observations and memories. Here are a few of my favorite things:

  • The sound of ice skates swooshing around an outdoor skating rink.
  • White lights wrapped around every tree in sight.
  • Tapping our toes to Christmas music.
  • The scent of pine, cinnamon, and vanilla.
  • Christmas carolers.
  • Mittens.
  • Hot chocolate.
  • A purple sky and the crisp smell of a pending snowfall.
  • A frozen tree shimmering in the moonlight.
  • A quiet night of snowfall. Is it is so quiet, I can hear snowflakes land.
  • Listening to Holy Night at a Christmas concert. Holding my husband’s hand.
  • Candles lit in church.
  • Sitting with my family around the fireplace. Sipping coffee, talking, sharing, and laughing.
  • Walking into my grandparents’ home and seeing them at the top of the stairs, ready with a warm hug.
  • Pans of lasagna.
  • Pizzelles.
  • Tea in treasured teacups.
  • Seeing my nieces and nephew discovering lifelong friendships in their cousins.
  • Walking with my family through the woods on the day after Christmas. Snow crunching under our boots. Our dog running ahead…happy trot. Exploring.

I hope you will take time to reflect on your own favorite moments.

Take a step back.

Take it all in.

Observe and breathe.

A Christmas Craft

Confession: I have bags of Christmas-inspired projects stowed away in dark corners of my house. I’m hoping my husband doesn’t find them.

I might need a Christmas Craft Intervention.

These projects always seem easy. I start off thinking that certainly I can spare three hours (three hours tops!) to tackle whatever project is on my mind. I buy the stamps, glue, beads, paper, cookie cutters, stencils, etc.…and then shopping, cooking, baking, and life take over; and I promise myself to sit leisurely with the project when life is a little less stressful—maybe in March? The supplies are placed carefully in a bag or drawer, only to be unearthed again in December of the following year.

But here we are in December 2016, and I had decided this was the year of no more excuses…so it was time to make some ornaments.

Supplies

  • Cookie cutter                     $2
  • Polymer clay (lb.)             $12
  • Ribbon                                  $3
  • Beads                                    $6
  • You will also need parchment paper, a cookie sheet, a rolling pin, and a hot glue gun. I got 12 ornaments out of one pound of clay.

I chose a peace dove cookie cutter and white polymer clay. Of course, you can choose any cookie cutter and clay color you want. There are tons of creative possibilities with this project.

To get started, I put a sheet of parchment paper on the counter, placed half of the clay block in the center, and I added another sheet of parchment paper on top (to protect the rolling pin).

I had never worked with polymer clay before, and I thought it would roll out easily.

So…I was wrong! The block was like a brick. Five minutes into the project, I was searching How to Soften Polymer Clay. According to some sources, I should’ve bought clay softener. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to leave the house, so I needed an alternative.

The next option, according to these sources, was to hammer the clay with a mallet and/or chop the clay into tiny (very tiny!) pieces, then mash it together, hand roll it, and repeat three times.

Hmm…was it going to take me an hour to roll out the clay? My little peace project was suddenly not feeling very peaceful.

I regrouped, took a few deep, slow breaths, and then cut the clay into smaller chunks and rolled them by hand. I gazed out the window and watched the birds while I worked the clay…After about 15 minutes, I had a small amount of clay I could roll. I decided to work one ornament at a time.

I found that if I rolled the clay to ¼ inch thickness, it separated easily from the cookie cutter. The clay held its shape as I transferred it to the cookie sheet (protected with parchment paper).

The clay baked in less than 15 minutes, and the ornaments maintained their white color without burning.

Once they cooled, I used a hot-glue gun to add ribbon to the back of each ornament. I added a button bead to cover the glue. You could also glue decorations to the front of the ornament at this point.

I love how they turned out.

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This project was as fun as baking cookies but not as messy. (Hooray! No bowls to wash!)

I also love that you can use these ornaments on your own tree or give them as a gift that will last for years.

Nourish Your Creative Soul

Whenever I need to connect with a creative community, I listen to Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m currently catching up on season two, which was released in July 2016.

Magic Lessons is the ultimate creative conversation!

For each session, Gilbert talks with an artist who is trying to solve a challenge— often involving how to take their creativity to the next level.

Gilbert helps the artist set goals, and she gives them assignments. She also discusses the artist’s challenges with an expert in the field.

Whether she’s interviewing a writer, dancer, comedian, photographer, or songwriter, it is interesting to hear the common themes of creativity…and humanity too.

Listening to Magic Lessons reminds me of my younger days— running lines with friends for an audition, rehearsing dance steps in the hallway, practicing a song until it was just right, crazy backstage costume changes, and all-night talks about hopes and dreams.

…and if you only have 20 minutes, watch Gilbert’s Ted Talk Your Elusive Creative Genius. It is pure, inspirational brilliance.

Next up for me: I finally picked up her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I know I’ll be taking notes and highlighting my favorite passages. More on that later…

Here’s to nourishing our creative souls. Cheers!