Happy New Year From What Makes Us Come Alive

 

I don't remember being particularly happy, in the past, to see a year go. But I am not going to miss 2020 and am looking forward to a better 2021 for all of us.

The one thing I have really have enjoyed in 2020 is this blog. We launched the first post on March 29th, in hope that we could find lots of things to lift us, and our readers up during these difficult times. In this year we have published 112 posts, have had 7 contributors, lots of book and movie reviews, some recipes and the return of my Top Ten Tips From My Favorite Magazines posts. We have taken virtual art tours and garden tours. And we have danced to lots of great music.

Thanks to all who have supported this effort, contributed and to the readers. I have received so many emails from readers who have thanked us and said that one post or another have lifted them up.

See you all in 2021.
Cynthia

Cynthia's Top Ten Tips From Her Favorite Magazines - January 2021

 

Lots of interesting and helpful things this month in my favorite magazines including decorating, inspiration, iPhone stuff, books, art and more.

Click here to read this month's top ten.

Washington National Gallery - Thousands of Origami Doves

 


Just before Christmas German artist Michael Pendry installed Les Colombes (The Doves) at the Washington National Gallery. The exhibit consists of thousands of origami doves as a message of hope for 2021.

The National Gallery is closed right now because of COVID. But you can register to receive an email announcement for when it is open again by clicking here.


Want to make your own origami hanging sculpture? Here is a PDF of artist Pendry's instructions. Pendry recommends that you write a message of hope on the paper before folding it. You then can hang it or give it to someone.

Keb' Mo' One More Year



Jane Goodall's New Podcast About Hope

 

Jane Goodall has started a podcast called "Hopecast." It is not been easy to have hope these past few years. But I promised my Mom right before she died that I would not lose hope

In this podcast Goodall talks about changing people by telling stories. I love that. She thinks it is the only thing that changes people's attitudes. 


Great Kitchen Idea


Are these not the greatest kitchen drawers? I love how they look like vintage file drawers. I would rather have a whole bunch of small drawers in my kitchen than a few large ones. 

You can find the card holder drawer pulls here.

Carboard Art - What To Do With All Those Amazon Boxes



 


So what do you do with all those cardboard boxes being delivered to your house? Did you know there was such a thing as cardboard art? I didn't and it's a pretty big thing. Who knew?


I think some of my favorite cardboard art pieces are Picasso like masks. This would be a great project to do with your kids. You can find instructions and inspiration at HandMakery.



This piece is from Doodlers Anonymous.


And I do love cardboard birds. This parrot is made by MaryMaking.

To see more great cardboard art google it...here.




And if you would rather just buy some artists' cardboard art rather than make your own, check out Studio Roof. They have some wonderful pieces.

The Last Christmas Movie


The Last Christmas is the best Christmas movie I have watched this year... and I have watched quite a few. It seems that the theme of most is Arrogant, workaholic man or woman from a city reluctantly spends Christmas in a rural town and finds the true meaning of Christmas, the true meaning of live and falls in love. Really Hollywood? The same theme over and over again?

Well The Last Christmas was actually different and worthwhile. The story was written by Emma Thompson with her husband Greg Wise and was based on George Michael's song with the same name.

It stars Emilia Clark as Kate and Harry Golding as Tom, with Thompson playing Kate's mother. Kate is an aspiring singer working in a dead-end job. She has an immigrant family who fled the old Yugoslavia and has lots of struggles and personality issues. 

I thought it was quite charming with an unexpected twist. I found it on Amazon Prime.

Kate is a big George Michael and Wham fan so the soundtrack is fun.

Gingerbread Houses

 

Last year, here in Ajijic, Mexico, I went to a Gingerbread House show at a local hotel. The three houses above were in the show.

I can't believe I have made it to my age and have never made a Gingerbread House. Next year I am going to do it for sure... maybe even make it a party.


If you need some inspiration, Pinterest is loaded with adorable Gingerbread Houses. This is one of my favorites.

If you need a recipe here is one from Bill Yosses, the former White House Pastry Chef. I thought this one looked particularly interesting because it has orange and lemon zest.




If you would like some additions for your house I thought this pickup truck with tree was adorable.


Or how cute would it be to add Christmas Lights to your Gingerbread House?

Okay. Next year for sure I am having a Gingerbread House making party.

Another Christmas Playlist




Cynthia's Top Ten Tips From Her Favorite Magazines - December

 


I found some wonderful tips and tricks from my favorite December magazines, including great Christmas ideas, a Netflix movie to watch, around the house ideas to make life easier and more.


Dad's Popcorn Balls


Mom did most of the work for Christmas. She had a job and after she got off work she would shop, clean, cook and wrap presents.


 

Dad was in charge of Christmas music, buying and setting up the Christmas tree, including making sure all of the silver "icicles" hung perfectly straight from the branches. My Dad's other contribution was making his famous popcorn balls.



Dad's Popcorn Balls

More than a gallon of popped popcorn
½ cup of brown sugar
1 ½ cups of white sugar
1 ½ cups of water
½ tsp of salt
¾ cup of corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Combine in pan white sugar, brown sugar, water, salt, corn syrup and vanilla. Mix together and cook to 260 degrees or hard ball stage. Slowly pour over popcorn in open pan. Butter hands and form into balls. Will make 15 - 20 balls.

Fill Someone's Christmas Stocking who Never Gets One


My favorite Christmas traditions were always driving around to see the Christmas Lights, Grandma's cookies and my Christmas Stocking. I find that most often than not it's the women who fill Christmas stockings and often no one ever fills theirs. 

A few years ago my friend Joan gave me a Christmas stocking on Christmas Eve and it was so much fun. It was the first one I had ever gotten as an adult. The next year she gave me another and both stockings had my name on them. I treasure them. 

Mom always filled our stockings with "girly" stuff that I loved - barrettes, costume jewelry, nail polish... Is there a Mom, Sister or someone else who always fills everyone's stockings who would love one for herself?

Here are a few ideas for stuffing those stockings...


1.   Etsy has some great homemade and personalized stockings. Plus you would be supporting a small business person when I am sure they could use it.



2.   I love baggu reusable bags that fold down. They fit in a small purse and also in a Christmas Stocking.


3.   Mom always put barrettes in our stockings when we were little. Yes I still pull my hair back into a pony tail. Love this art nouveau hair clip.


4.   By the time we were teens my sister and my stockings usually had a tube of lipstick in it. If I was going to put a tube into a woman's stocking I would choose these Superstay Matte lipsticks from Maybelline. They are inexpensive, available in lots of colors and last all day long.


5.   I also would include Essie nail polish from L'Oreal.


6.   My friend Joan put my favorite pens Le Pen into both stockings. Best Stocking Stuffers ever!


7.  If I was going to put a book into a stocking, this is one I would buy. It's a great little book by Thich Nhat Hanh and slides easily into a stocking. And yes it is all about walking mindfully.


8.  Another sweet little book is Life by Paulo Coelho. It's full of inspiring quotations to get you through tough times.


9.   My friends and I have often exchanged Alex and Ani bangles with each other. I love this tree of life. Would love to find it in my stocking.

10.   Can't have too many bars of soap these days and these from Provence make washing your hands feel special. Lots of difference fragrances.

11.   I also ran across these velvet face masks in Dwell Magazine from Azazie.com. Might be nice for New Years.


12.  And if someone you are giving a stocking to is making more cocktails these days, here is The Mini Bar: 100 Essential Cocktail Recipes.

Christmas Dancing Playlist

 

Here are a few more Christmas songs that are fun to dance to.




Winter Light


I cherish this dark time of year. I relate to its mystery, its brooding stillness, and its foreboding, because behind it all, you can sense a faint hint of possibility. The early-darkening skies, the drizzle and rain, the cold breezes and threatening weather—are all oddly tantalizing. Intellectually, you know the solstice is coming and then the ever-so-gradual return of light will begin like every year, but our primal feelings are extra-sensory, and unrelated to our knowledge of the seasons. Instead, our internal clock begs for a reset, secretly desires dark solitude and melancholic scenery. 

We run from discomfort, run from uncertainty, avoid the dark and the unknown. But these are things we need, things we are supposed to brave and push through to achieve resolution, confirmation, light, and understanding. Given a choice between something easy or comfortable (with dubious potential to create growth) and something challenging that could transform our character, outlook, or living prospects, we choose the lazy path. And each time that we avoid the chance at re-alignment, at grounding, at entering the cave and letting the deep sleep take hold, we are poorer for it, are somehow conscious of having cheated ourselves out of a blessing or a new life perspective. 

Let’s avoid the rush to Christmas this year— let us all turn away from that beckoning behemoth of jollity that we are told we must feel or forever be branded a Scrooge and instead pledge to truly live the dark tunnel of December. Just once, can’t we all linger in the dark together and let the long night take its toll and bestow its wisdom without being dismissed as merely a conduit to some manufactured corporate “Joy” we’re supposed to long for? Can we let the gauntlet of uncertainty bring about the dark night of the soul with anticipation of the good it will do for us all?

I am in. I am going to dive headlong into a winter advent that will be allowed to bring its own resolution, that will devise its own organic denouement as it unfolds, and see what the spiritual outcome will be. Yes, I’ll still be providing the usual and expected music experiences for those who are happy with the prescribed seasonal offerings and pre-determined spiritual arrival, but my journey will be with the old ways. I’m going to let the Druidic season unfold in me and drink in its wonders with no expectations or predispositions! 

December, come and get me! Let’s walk into this winter forest and see where the elder path leads. . .

Grandma's Christmas Cookies



Every year growing up, Grandma's cookie package would arrive at our house a few weeks before Christmas. Inside would be shoe boxes full of pecan tarts, date swirls, cherry winks and my favorites Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls.

Mom would want to make sure that we still had some cookies left for Christmas Eve so would put them all in the freezer and take out a small plateful at a time. Grandma always packaged the Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls in a coffee can. 

I remember that coffee can in the freezer being so cold as I removed a couple to defrost. They looked so good I couldn't wait and bit into one that was frozen. Yummm. They were delicious.

I looked up and Mom was watching me. She could tell by the look on my face that freezing was no longer an option to save some Peanut Butter Balls for Christmas Eve. She reached into the cold coffee can and tried one for herself and smiled. Yup. Delicious - even frozen.

You can tell by the condition of the recipe card that we have made those cookies many times since Grandma died. The handwriting is my mom's.

Dancing Around The Christmas Tree

Every morning I dance around my kitchen and living room to lift up my mood. It always works. Here is a Christmas playlist that's perfect for 10 minutes of dancing around your tree.

1.  Louisiana Christmas Day by Aaron Neville


Smells Bringing Back Memories


So, memories you conjure with images are one thing, but memories that spring out of nowhere come easiest with smell. I picked up a bar of Ivory soap (it was on sale!) to wash my hands in our bathroom and suddenly I was transported back 50 years. . .

When I was a little tot, my grandparents would sometimes keep me when Mom and Dad had shopping to do or just let me stay overnight as a treat. My grandad would come in from farming and take a bath. Then he’d get in his long underwear bottoms and white tank top T-shirt and lay down in their bedroom right off the kitchen, with a low flame burning on the old gas logs in the flue and get me to lay down next to him with my head on his arm while he told me “stories.” He smelled like Ivory soap and Prell shampoo, and replaced the name of every little boy in every fairy tale he retold with my name  (Little Timbo, he called me). Little Timbo and the Beanstalk, Little Timbo Who Cried Wolf, Little Timbo and the Three Bears— the list was endless. He got the biggest kick out of telling me stories and pretending I had had these adventures in real life, asking me “Why’d you eat that little bear’s dinner?” “That old Daddy Bear is gonnna get you!” “What was Timbo thinking, trading that cow for a bunch of old beans?” “Where will his momma get milk now?” 

Sooner or later I’d drift off and I’d wake up tucked into 1000 blankets on the couch, or in between them in their bed. Inevitably, I’d dream of those stories Grandaddy Sammy had “made up” while we were talking. I’m positive that those stories grew my imagination, helped my creativity, and enhanced my make-believe playtime enjoyment. All my grandparents are gone now, but never far from my thoughts. I have a keen sense of their ever-present attention when I bring to mind their personalities and the ways they showed us all love. The scent of lavender or cornbread might bring back Mombo, my Mother’s mom. Dawn dishwashing liquid or Aquanet hair spray or crusty thanksgiving dressing brings back Granny, my Dad’s mom. Granddaddy Spud is shaving creme (Barbasol) or Old Spice aftershave (maybe Aqua Velma). Granddaddy Sammy is Ivory soap, Prell shampoo, English Leather aftershave with just a hint of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Living through smell is a part of me. I am overwhelmed by memories with every Autumn breeze and every waft of cattle or tobacco. Food does it too. I opened up a box of Aldi’s Lebkuchen and was transported back to the Nuremberg Christkindl Markt with all the toys, cakes, hot chocolate, and roasted nuts, the very first time I traveled to Germany in 1989!

This is the season, folks! Snow coming early next week and more smells and time travel! Burning wood. . . Evergreen boughs. . . Snow and . . .

Art Mobiles

 


I recently saw this mobile in an issue of House and Garden UK. It brought back a memory of my sister and brother-in-law making mobiles as Christmas gifts many years ago. They were made of drift wood that they collected on the beach.



In 1920 Surrealist artist Man Ray created what is considered to be the first mobile, an assembly of 29 coat hangers


The word "mobile" was first coined by artist Marcel Duchamp in 1931, to describe Alexander Calder's mechanical and floating sculptures. Calder's mobiles were inspired by the abstract work of Piet Mondrian and Joan Miro. 

In 1943 Albert Einstein visited an exhibit of Calder's mobiles and famously said, "I wish I had thought of that." I am trying to wrap my head around someone like Einstein being envious of someone else's ideas. 

In 1957 one of Calder's pieces, called Poisson Volant (Flying Fish) sold for $26 million at Christies in New York. 




Today mobiles are mainly found above baby cribs, but in the 1970s they were handmade and hung as pieces of art in living rooms. Thinking of making one of your own? Here are some links to inspire you and give you some times.

Marco Mahler is a contemporary mobile artist who has instructions about balancing mobiles on his web site. Click here.


You can purchase Clare Young's book with 35 projects here.



A more advanced book for making metal mobiles is by Bruce Cana Fox. This is for the serious artist. Click here to get on Amazon.

If you are searching for inspiration, Pinterest has lots of examples here.

Here are some serious mobile artists...




Here is a video on how to make origami mobiles.

If you don't want to make your own, but would like to have an art mobile, there are a lot for sale on Etsy


Or you can make a mobile with your photographs. This holder is on Amazon.


I would love to have a driftwood and seagrass mobile. There are a lot of hangings with seagrass, but I don't really consider them mobiles unless they require balancing. The one above is from The Rubbish Revival.