From my household to yours, we wish you Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and best wishes of the festive season to all. I hope you all have a wonderful time and have the opportunity to eat, drink, and make merry spending quality time with the special people in your lives.
I did not send holiday cards this year for a variety of reasons. Instead, I donated what I would have spent on cards and postage to the DNA Doe Project. I did, however, take the traditional “look how much they’ve grown” photo of our sons and the cats to share with family and friends near and far.
2020 was rough; 2021 was worse. We are very glad to be bidding farewell to 2021 but – I am sure like many folk – are trepidatious about the New Year. Maybe 2022 will undersell and overdeliver – in a good way – but only time can tell.
I will sign off with an outtake from our photoshoot.
I apologise for my absence during this last couple of months of 2020. Life is busy – as always – but not with anything that generates blog fodder. Nobody is clamouring to read about or see photos of me cooking and baking in my jammies, going for a donder around my neighborhood, or being tucked up on a sofa watching a movie. Now that the weather is colder and the pandemic is even worse than it has been, we Picts are in hibernation mode.
It is also the case that I am very burned out. In-person teaching during a pandemic is fatiguing on every level. Throw in supervising my own kids’ doing virtual learning on top of that and all of the usual business of daily family life and I am exhausted to my bones and crawling to the finish line of this year.
It seems ludicrous to state this during a year of “social distancing” but, now that I am on winter break, I am looking forward to a solid chunk of time in which I don’t have to deal with people. I need to not hear my voice say the word “mask” and I need a break from all the constant cleaning and sanitizing – and my skin really needs that break too.
So I am hoping to use this winter break to recharge my batteries and replenish myself through quality family time, lots of relaxation, and hopefully some art time – because my creative mojo has temporarily gone walkabout.
And so, as I sign off for now, I wish you all a wonderful festive season, happy celebrations to those who observe Christmas, and a safe and healthy new year.
Trigger Warning: This blog post contains photos of spiders and other bugs.
Happy New Year!
This brief blog post is a precis of the last Pict family escapades of 2019, what we got up to over winter break. We were not overly ambitious or adventurous, choosing to stick fairly close to home and keeping each outing brief, because our focus was on quality family time, enjoying each other’s company, and relaxing after what has been a stressful, chaotic, and busy few months.
The first family event of winter break was a cinema trip to see ‘Rise of Skywalker’. We are a family of Star Wars nerds. Mr Pict and I have loved it since we were kids and so we introduced it to each of the boys when they were babies. We, therefore, had to see the latest installment in the saga as soon as we possibly could.
Mr Pict and I took our youngest son into Philly to see the Christmas lights and wander around the market that sets up near city hall every holiday season. The light show that projects images onto the facade of city hall is well done, though the accompanying music could have been louder. I really detest crowds but at least the throngs were all people in good spirits and nobody was in a particular rush. It did, however, make me appreciate the relative peace and quiet of the adjacent garden space with its antler clad figures and twinkling fairy lights. We had a wander around the market stalls, just taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. We were not making any purchases so didn’t have to get involved with any jostling and thankfully we didn’t need any refreshments because the queues for food were astounding. The whole area of the city had a good buzz to it. I think maybe sparkling lights make everything feel better.
We had a lovely Christmas Day, full of fun and feasting. My personal highlight was receiving a Little Baby Yoda made for me by my 14 year old son.
Mr Pict took our 12 year old skiing in the Poconos. I have never had an interest in skiing but Mr Pict introduced all of the boys to the sport a few years ago. Our current 12 year old is the only one who took to it so a day of skiing has become an annual event for the two of them.
Finally, we had some tickets for the Insectarium so we took a trip there just before the new year. Our only previous visit there had been in our first winter in Pennsylvania, almost exactly six years ago. It was the subject of one of my early blog posts. Much of the Insectarium was the same but the building has also expanded so it includes a butterfly pavilion. We enjoyed wandering among the large butterflies, most of which were the same species. I cannot remember the name of them but they were large with brown patterned wings which opened up to reveal a stunning, shiny blue. They also seemed to be fond of eating oranges. The absolute highlight of our time there for my youngest son and me, however, was being permitted to hold a tarantula. We loved it. I was completely smitten.
That concludes my round up of the last embers of 2019. Let’s see what is in store for us in 2020.
Thank you for finding and reading my blog and interacting with me for another year. I shall not be sorry to say goodbye to 2019 – something I feel like I think every single year. Is that why we look forward to the new year, because every single year of adulthood is just mentally taxing and emotionally exhausting? Anyway, let’s see what 2020 has to offer.
From my family to yours, enjoy the festive season – whether or however you celebrate – I hope you dust off the cobwebs of 2019 and I wish you all the very best for 2020.
PS Is 2020 the year in which I become the shortest member of my family?
Apologies for my blog having gone so quiet lately. It has become a bit like a wee ghost town with tumbleweeds breezing through. Life has just become super busy but not with anything that would be a worthy subject of a blog post – even if I could find the time to blog. However, the festive season should help me reset and I should be able to get things back on track in the new year. I am putting my blogging on a brief break but will then return with more posts about slivers of family life, travel, trips, and art. Until then, however, I wanted to wish you all Happy Holidays and send you best wishes for 2019. The thing that keeps me motivated to blog is my interaction with all you readers and bloggers, either on my blogs or on yours, so please know that I appreciate each and every one of you and have so enjoyed our online chit-chats. I look forward to more of that in the coming year.
From my family to you and yours, I wish you a wonderful festive season filled with joy, peace and love. I also want to thank you for reading my blog posts this year, for your lovely comments, and great conversation. I send you best wishes for 2018.
I participate in a Secret Santa holiday gift exchange with a group of friends. I gathered together a collection of gifts for my assigned friend with ease, as she is very easy to shop for, but I realised that I did not have an appropriate greetings card to send. A couple of years ago, we decided to stop sending holiday cards. We wanted to reduce our carbon footprint and more meaningfully invest the money that would have been spent on cards and postage (and international postage is expensive). We, therefore, donate the money to a charity every year instead. I wanted to send some kind of card or letter to my gift recipient, however, so I decided I would deploy my art skills to create a card. The time between being assigned a friend’s name and having to send the parcel was very tight so I decided to keep things simple with a quick mixed media painting. I have been transforming my preschool students into Elves so that gave me my inspiration: I decided to create a portrait of my friend as a festive Elf. Her favourite colours are red and hot pink and her eyes are green so that gave me a (coincidentally festive) colour palette to work with. I am not a portraitist but I actually managed to create a good likeness of my friend. She should be able to recognise herself. I hope it makes her giggle when she opens the parcel and finds this personalised greeting inside.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may have noticed that it has been quiet for a while. You may also have noted that – other than finishing off my extended Inktober challenge – I have not produced any art in weeks. The reason for both is that I was laid low by some mysterious nasty viral thing. It probably all started on Thanksgiving Day when I spent a large chunk of the day at Urgent Care. That illness then segued into what I thought was a sinus infection. I get sinus infections a couple of times every winter so I am used to just treating the symptoms and pushing through. But then I started to feel really cruddy. Seriously awful. What I assumed was a series of separate cruddy illnesses was, it appeared, probably all part of a bigger illness. A nurse friend diagnosed me with ‘flu from a distance but who really knows. I just know it was completely debilitating and was the most ill I have felt since I had ‘flu when my 8 year old was a newborn. During my entire working life, I have had seven sick days off work; three of them were this month. I had fevers, chills, aches, zero appetite, and a pounding headache that stretched from the backs of my eyes all the way down my neck. Thankfully my kids are all now old enough to largely fend for themselves and get themselves to and from school because I really was not functioning as a human being let alone as a parent. Since recovering, I have been very tired – perhaps with some sort of post-viral fatigue – so I have had almost zero free time because staying on top of regular work, chores, family life, and festive planning is taking me longer than usual. Still, worse things happen at sea and I am thankful to have my health generally. That, however, is why I have been absent from blogging and why I have not spent any time at my art table.
Still, I was desperate to do something arty because I don’t feel fully like myself unless I am doing something creative. I, therefore, picked up my Art Journal because it does not matter a jot if I complete the page or not or make a mess in my art journal. I looked at last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt which was to use a quotation. I am not one of those people who has inspirational quotations to hand so I was pondering what to write while overhearing my kids, who were decorating a gingerbread house in an adjacent room. They were listening to Christmas music so that gave me my inspiration. I have been thinking about practicing some brush lettering for a while so I thought that writing down some festive words using a brush dipped in watercolour paint would be an easy, fuss-free way to fill a journal page. My brush lettering still needs a great deal of work, especially since I have a tendency to be inconsistent and to lapse into just using my own handwriting, but it was fun to practice and it was therapeutic to sit down at my art table again and splash around in some paint.
For a fun festive activity, I bought some blank wooden nutcrackers for my sons to paint. I am actually not a huge fan of nutcrackers – I find them a little creepy – but my kids like them. I think they appeal to them for largely nostalgic reasons: my mother-in-law has a large collection of nutcrackers so the kids associate them with fun-filled Christmases spent at their grandparents’ house. Somehow, despite my mild aversion to nutcrackers, we now have a small collection of our own that appear every December. Now we have four more!
The nutcrackers were created by, from left to right, my 11, 13, 7, and 9 year olds.
Incredibly, this is our third Christmas in America. However, this year was our first Christmas in our new home since the first year we were in rental accommodation and last year we were vacationing in Florida. It has been fun properly decorating this house for the festive season for the first time, determining the logistics of where gifts should be left, where they should be opened, and cooking Christmas dinner in our kitchen for the first time. It is almost as if spending Christmas in our new home has cemented its status as “home”. When we left our home in Scotland, it was emotional because of all the memories and traditions connected to that house. Now we are making new memories and connecting the house to new traditions. Since it was just the six of us and no travel was involved, we also had the pleasure of a very relaxed and chilled Christmas Day. My bonus gift was that my husband took charge of Christmas dinner so I had a day off from cooking. He’s a pretty good cook so that was delicious treat as well as giving me time to just sit on the sofa and flick through some new books. Bliss.