Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Things I'm NOT going to do at life class in 2011!

In my quest to improve my skills as an artist I will continue to go to life class in 2011 but changes are afoot...
    I am not going to say "I can't do this!"
    I am not going to huff and puff and tut when things don't go according to plan

I am not going to say "I can't draw feet/hands/faces"

I am not going to take different papers and not use them because I don't want to spoil them
I am not going to take different media and not use them because I think I will make a hash of it 

I am not going to scribble ideas in my life class books and then forget where they are!

I am also not going to compare myself to the other artists in the class such as Ric and Neil.

Wish me luck!  ;oD

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 24

Day 24 is upon us and our Advent-urous blogathon has drawn to a close.  It's been fun and good practice to post on a daily basis, I am very good at slacking off in the blog department so enforced daily posting has done me alot of good.  ;o)  I am planning to try and keep the momentum and blog on...

This evening Michael Nobbs' Get Your Important Work Done dropped into my Inbox.  In it he talks about looking back at your achievements for 2010 and I have found time inbetween Christmas Eve preparations to have a little think about what I have achieved this year.  I started off thinking "well, it hasn't been a rip roaringly successful year" but one thought led to another and I have something of a list now.  ;o)  I shall be blogging about it in more detail over the Christmas period but I would encourage you all to look back and celebrate your achievements, however big or small.  Big it up, people, we all rock!  ;o) 

Wishing you all a warm and peaceful Christmas!

See Rob and Ric's last Advent-urous Artists blog posts too.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 22 & 23

Oops, I did it again.... so, another double whammy for you!  ;o)

I have a love of cemeteries.  ;o)  I think it began when, in my late teens, I began researching my family history and investigations led me to a cemetery or two!  Even when they are in the centre of busy towns and cities they are still places of tranquility and havens of wildlife.  On holiday in Scotland earlier this year we came across a tiny remote village cemetery which had beautiful huge headstones but had suffered in storms with lots of trees coming down and breaking headstones and tombs.  None of the trees had been cleared at the time either.

On a completely different subject, books....

My library book shelf
I love to read, I love books.  ;o)  This year I have been trying to read more, particularly more fiction as I tend to read alot of biographies (nothing wrong with that but I just want to expand my literary horizons) and I wanted to beat my orevious best total of books read ~ a very poor 24!  I dip in and out of alot of books but I only include books that I've read (or listened to) cover to cover.  I just hit book 26 of 2010 and look set to get to 28 by the end of the year.  ;o)  It's not about racking up a huge number, it's just about feeding the well and keeping count is just something fun to do.  For the record, the 26 books to date are:
  • Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam by MC Beaton
  • Panic Snap by Laura Reese
  • The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
  • Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale
  • Topping from Below by Laura Reese
  • Confessions of a London Spank Daddy by Peter Smith
  • For One More Day by Mitch Albom
  • Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell by MC Beaton
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • All Balls and Glitter by Craig Revel Horwood
  • The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
  • Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff
  • Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Howard's End is on the Landing by Susan Hill
  • Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
  • Anything Goes by John Barrowman
  • Varjak Paw by SJ Said
  • Cocktail Time by PG Wodehouse
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  • Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
  • Last of the Few by Max Arthur
  • Predator's Gold by Philip Reeve
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
  • The To Do List by Mike Gayle
I recently read this blog post about reading a book a week and I read the last book on the list in 9 days by enjoying reading time first thing after breakfast every morning.  :o)  Very much looking forward to a good year of reading in 2011.  Feel free to give me some book recommendations to add to my "to read" list!  ;o)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 20 and 21

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that I didn't post yesterday so it's a double whammy today! 

Life drawing by Richard Savage
Occasionally I stand in (although I much prefer sitting or reclining!) at life class when the models can't make it or are snowed in as was the case with last night!  It's a surreal experience at times...there I am, on the other side of the drawing board, in front of friends I know well, in the buff with just a wisp of fabric between me and my dignity... my thoughts, while modelling, range from "what's on my to do list for tomorrow?" to "why the fuck am I doing this?" and everything in between!  It all smacks of a serious split personality defect as I whack between feeling empowered and liberated to feeling fat, hideous and a waste of any ink/paint/pencil/pastel expended in drawing me!  Weird.  Overall, I enjoy it though and try to squash the negative, insecure shit swimming through my mind.

Moving on...lists!  I'm an inveterate list maker.  Some folk who know me will be surprised to hear that I used to put "organised" on my CV and job application forms.  Honestly, I did!  I don't when I became the rather less organised individual that I am now.  So, lists are important to me, very important.  I make lists on my phone, on scrap paper, envelopes, serviettes, in Word documents, in art journals, you name it I've probably made a list on it!  Does it help?  Well, yes, my head is so crammed full of stuff that I forget things all the time but if it's on a list it's out of my head and made real.  ;o)  The spiral bound journal you can see in the photo is a journal I began on my birthday earlier this year, all the lists in it have 44 items on them (I was 44 this year, go figure!) and are many and various, some useful, some thoughtful, some ridiculous.  The hand written list is my ongoing pre-Christmas to do list, it's nearing the end of it's useful life and will probably be replaced tomorrow with a brand spanking new version!  Lists in art journals are often work related or, as in the glimpse of the one above, self exploratory.  In addition I also love using mind maps, both on paper and with some software I have.  Life with lists.... ;o)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 19

Image by Ellie Savill

My daughter, Eleanor, is a talented young thing!  Yes, I'm completely biased and I make no apology for that!  Yesterday she performed with Noted, the St John Fisher Catholic High School Choir, alongside the Gildenburgh Choir at their Christmas concert at  St Andrews Church, Netherton, Peterborough.  This afternoon she was at dress rehearsal as techie for The Steph & Luci Christmas Spectacular at March Town Hall.  Tomorow we will be singing together with MADAOS at the Wisbech Christmas Market.  Ellie has decided to have a gap year after she finishes her A levels next summer and it will be excellent to have her at home for an extra year before she goes off to uni to follow her passion and study technical theatre.  The photo above was taken and manipulated by her.  She has many, many talents and, if you hadn't already realised, I am very proud of her and love her very much.  She is my shiny star!  And she's now probably thoroughly embarassed!  lol 

Check out Rob and Ric's blogs today.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 18

This is a close up shot of Rodin's John the Baptist sculpture which I took on holiday in Scotland earlier this year.  In a similar vein to yesterday's post, I hadn't looked at the photos I took while we were away for months and looking through them this evening prompted all sorts of memories, not just from that holiday but from previous holidays too, leading to thoughts of my childhood holidays with my parents and grandparents, onto family silliness with kazoos... to the conception of my daughter... to being in plaster and finally to menu planning!  lol  It's like visual word association!  Earlier this week I was thinking about word association as a vehicle for helping me brainstorm ideas for an exhibition I'm involved in during January and I'm now thinking a visual version is an excellent idea...

Check out what Ric and Rob are blogging about today...

Advent-urous Artists Day 17

Miss June 2011
Over on Ric's blog today he is talking about his experience of being on the "wrong" side of the camera for a charity calendar raising funds for the Chatteris Christmas Lights charity. I was also involved in the calendar and after reading his piece I went to look at my picture as it's a good while since I have seen it. The photo was taken in April 2009 shortly after I came out of hospital after my Achilles tendon/pulmonary embolism drama and looking at it with fresh eyes today after a long time evoked some strong memories for me. You can't see in the picture (thanks to Rob's left a bit, right a bit approach to positioning my arms!) but my stomach was a mass of purple bruises from the injections I had been having whilst in hospital. I was still wearing the hideously hampering surgical boot on my leg at this point and had to schlump into position and then remove it and squeeze into the more aesthetic shoes I'm wearing! Without making it sound too over dramatic, my brush with blood clots bobbing about my lungs forced me to face my mortality and it changed my life in alot of ways.  One of the changes I decided to make was to lose some weight to improve my health and since this photo was taken I have lost 4 stone but there are so many more invisible changes.  My month doesn't roll round until next June (it's an 18 month calendar and I'm last in line!) and although I love the photo, very much enjoyed taking part in the project and have absolutely no regrets about doing it, it is still strange to look at myself then and look at myself now and know that those two women are the same and yet very different.  Looking at that photo has reminded once more of how very transient life can be, how very powerful the effect that period of my life had on me, how life has to be embraced and lived out loud.  ;o) 

Have a look at Rob and Ric's blog posts for today.  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 16

I was recently pointed in the direction of Blipfoto by my lovely friend, Elizabeth and have been posting my daily (well, ok, not quite daily but there are only a few days I've missed so far!) photo for a couple of weeks now.  It's a lovely place to waste a few hours of your life away and I love catching up with what folk are blipping about.  Today I blipped the above photo of a book I started reading this morning inspired by this blog post.  I love books and reading and of late have been trying to read a bit more but a book a week??  Wow!  I'm a Goodreads person too so if you knock about on there too, do come and find me, I'm sadly lacking in friends on there!  lol  I plan to read more in 2011 but whether I'll manage a book a week remains to be seen!  ;oD  

Check out Rob and Ric on their blogs today!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 15

What a thrilling image I hear you cry!  ;oD  Well, a shot of carpet may not be very interesting to the outside world but for me yesterday was a red letter day!  After twenty two years of marriage this is the first time we have bought brand new carpet!  It has been a long time coming and prior to the arrival of said carpet yesterday we have been living with floorboards for what seems like eons!  We are now snug and fluffy underfoot!  ;o)  And Floss is pretty happy about it too...

The carpet laying has led me once again to thoughts of new beginnings, progress, moving forward, there's lots to look forward to in 2011.  ;o)

Have a look at Rob and Ric's posts for today too.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 14

There's seventeen days left of 2010 (yep, I just counted!) but today my thoughts fell to next year.  A few years ago a friend pointed me in the direction of  Christine Kane's Resolution Revolution blog post.  Since then I've chosen a word at the beginning of each year as an alternative to making resolutions.  I've been idly pondering what I might choose as my word for 2011 over the last week or so but today I was thinking about what I want to achieve in 2011 and the perfect word popped into my head as it usually does when I go through this process.  FOCUS.  ;o)

See what Rob and Ric are posting about today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 13

I have no reason for posting this image of a statue atop a clock in Newcastle other than the fact that I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her!  I'd forgotten all about the photos I took on a weekend visit to the city earlier this year until I came across them while idling about looking through old albums searching for some inspiration for a blog post.  ;o)  I knew nothing about her so I've just had a little Googlette and discovered that the clocks and figures (there were two originally, I don't know if both still exist but I assume so) were commissioned by Northern Goldsmiths in 1932.  The figures are based on Venus and the outstretched arms symbolise progress.  One of the clocks (not sure if it's the one I snapped) was a popular place for servicemen and their sweethearts to meet during the Second World War.  I love her lines, she has a beautiful naked sweep, as Miranda Hart would say.  ;o)

Check out Rob and Ric's posts for today!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 12

No, I haven't taken up smoking, I just wanted to show you my groovy vintage cigarette machine!  ;o)  I'm sure you may have heard of Art-O-Mat, the US movement with over 90 converted cigarette vending machines which now vend original works of art.  ;o)  I totally adore the ethos of the project and have long wanted to do something similar.  I bagged this vintage machine on eBay a couple of years ago, it's for packs of ten cigarettes so smaller than the Art-O-Mat version but even so I still think it has potential.  It is currently mounted on the wall in my dining room operating as my daughter's Advent calendar.  ;o)  Unfortunately 24 boxes, divided between the three columns, only just peep above the windows so they aren't now visible.  I would love to see the whole machine filled to the brim and delivering artful joy in little boxes.  ;o) 
See what Rob and Ric are blogging about today.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 11

I am posting remotely today as I'm in the great metropolis for the weekend.  ;o)  The last time I was in London I had a brief visit to the Natural History Museum where I took a few photos including the above one in the Earth Hall.  I have to say though that probably my most favourite museum is the Victoria and Albert.  I have spent many happy hours amongst the galleries gleaning inspiration, drawing and just soaking it all up.  ;o)  I particularly like the jewellery galleries but there is so much to enjoy. Museums so often get a bad press... borrrrrrring... but, honestly, even the worst museums I've visited over the years always provide a nugget of inspiration however small.  ;o)

Check out Rob and Ric's blogginess today!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 10

Tomorrow morning the Friends of March Station are putting on an event to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the opening of the platforms at the station.  As part of the celebrations the Fenland Visual Arts Collective is having a railway/train travel themed art exhibition in one of the rooms that's being restored on one of the disused platforms.  Although it's a small exhibition there is some lovely work, a nice variety on display.  As the event tomorrow is only for the morning we have arranged for the exhibition to go back on display at The Boathouse in Wisbech during January so that more folk can have a look at the work.  If you're local do pop along tomorrow, there's lots of other attractions at the event so there'll be plenty to see and do.  If you fancy an early morning, there's a steam train passing through the station at 7.50am!  ;o)
I've always loved train travel, as a child my family used to travel by train to visit my paternal grandparents and it was always carriages with compartments which I loved!  On our recent FenVAC art day to the Nene Valley Railway the trains in steam were pulling carriages with compartments "just like in Harry Potter" as my daughter pointed out!  ;o)  I always find railway stations fascinating places, not just some of the glorious architecture but also as fabulous places to people watch!

Have a look at Ric and Rob's blog posts for today!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 9

A Deeper Incision by Marian Savill
I had some exciting news yesterday!  ;o)  I have had a piece of work (see above) selected for an assemblage exhibition called Spare Parts at The Renaissance Center in Tennessee, USA in February 2011.  It's always fantastic to have work chosen for an exhibition, the validation I feel every time it happens is like an internal rosy glow.  ;o)

On the subject of rosy glows, see Ric's post today about his new woodburner and Rob's post about a personal project he completed recently.  ;o)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 8

Photo courtesy of Rob Morris

but with

her open heart
her soulful eyes

the way she moves
the smile she shares

her little kindnesses
her gentle touch

her beauty burns
and without

Catch up with today's posts from Rob and Ric.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 7

Don't you love those days that become special for the simplest of reasons?  This morning the world was a winter wonderland, the landscape was breathtakingly beautiful in places as I drove from March to Downham Market via a back route to avoid a road closure on  my usual route.  The trees were magnificent against the clear blue sky, dark trunks and frosted foliage.  As I drove alongside the bank that runs beside the Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust I noticed the barbed wire fence was all encrusted with frost too and I couldn't resist the opportunity to hop out the car with my camera, revelling in my mission to get an interesting pic for Blipfoto!  As I stood there taking a few shots the silence was wonderful, only broken by the muted honking of geese on the reserve.  It was a perfect moment.  ;o)  On my way home, I had just turned onto a bridge across the river when a pair of magnificent Whooper swans that had just taken off from the river flew in front of me about a car's length ahead and only about 10 feet off the ground, it was a beautiful sight.  Happy days!  ;o)

Have a look at Rob and Ric's posts for today.  ;o)  

Monday, December 06, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 6

This evening I modelled for the regular life class I attend at Savage Studios and even though the heating was on my extremeties were a tad on the cold side!  My feet, people, my feet!  lol  As I sat there, with my toes slowly turning a delicate shade of blue, the conversation turned to food.  I love talking about food, some of you may know that I also have a (currently woefully neglected!) foodie blog and I do love to bake and try out new flavours and share my modest culinary adventures.  ;o)  Tonight we covered making real gravy, good roast potatoes, mincemeat and some less than favourable and memorable for the wrong reasons meals of the past!  I also got to thinking about one of my favourite new recipes from this summer ~ Baba Ghanoush.  I discovered a new passion for all things aubergine and this became one of my regular makes.  For those of you who are so inclined, the recipe is below.  It's warmed me up thinking of the warm summer days I spent eating Baba Ghanoush for lunch out in the garden.  ;o)

Check out what Rob and Ric are blogging about today too!  ;o)

Baba Ghanoush (smoked aubergine dip)

This creamy dip can be served as part of a selection of little dishes or a simple appetizer/starter. Normally the dish is made from vegetables that have been roasted whole and the flesh scooped out. In this version, they are peeled, then sliced and roasted, so the result is much more mellow.

2lbs aubergine
about 2/3 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tbsp tahini
freshly squeezed juice of 1 – 2 lemons or to taste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
1 tbsp sweet paprika
3 tbsp oilve oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
toasted pitta bread or other flatbread, to serve

Serves 4 - 6

Preheat over to 200C/Gas mark 6

Trim the aubergines, peel then slice thickly. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, until browning and soft, turning them once.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.Transfer to a food processor and add the garlic, tahini and the juice of 1 lemon. Process until creamy, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and more lemon juice.

Pour or spoon into a shallow dish. Mix the paprika with the 3 tbsp olive oil and trickle it over the top of the baba ghanoush. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with strips of toasted pitta bread for dipping.

Note: For a softer garlic flavour, roast the garlic cloves whole and unpeeled with the aubergines then squeeze the soft flesh out of the skins and blend with aubergines.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 5

I suppose I will have to relent and acknowledge that Christmas will soon be upon us!  ;o)  Anyone who knows me will know that I loathe the fact that Christmas, and all it's attendant trashy consumerism and gross commercialism, is thrust upon us before the summer has breathed it's last.  Some people seem to labour under the impression that I dislike Christmas which just isn't true, what I dislike is what Christmas has become.  ;o( 
I took the Christmas tree pic above is one I took last year when playing about with a photographic technique that I'm sure Rob would disapprove of!  ;oD  The basic idea is to press the shutter and then quickly throw the camera in the air (just a gentle throw not an Olympic javelin effort!) and catch it.  Hey presto, wacky shot!  ;o)  It was fun and I gleaned some quirky shots!  ;o)

Today, Rob is blogging about a great charity event his daughter is organising and Ric is blogging about what viewers of erotic art consider erotic, please do hop over and have a look.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 4

And Lovely is the Rose by Marian Savill
Photo by Rob Morris
Yesterday saw me selling my wares for the last time at Lakenheath Air Base.  I sold the piece pictured above while I was there.  Rob and I have been concessionaires on the base for a year now but our contracts aren't being renewed for next year.  It's certainly been an interesting experience!  It's always good to get out and about and meet folk, get their reactions and comments on my work.  Mostly I've met some lovely people who have been very complimentary and I've sold a fair bit of jewellery as well as some wall hanging assemblage pieces.  I'm glad I gave it a shot but I don't think it's the place for me.  I'm looking forward to moving forward looking for new venues to sell my work at.  Any suggestions welcome!  ;o)

Hop over to Rob's blog for some horsey talk and to Ric's blog for some audio book talk.  ;o)

Friday, December 03, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 3

Our lovely new logo, designed by Richard Savage
I am Vice Chair of the Fenland Visual Arts Collective.  ;o)  We have been in existence since 2004 and I have been involved for three years now.  You can read about our aims on our (work in progress!) website but briefly, we work to give artists across Fenland opportunities to exhibit their work, meet socially, venture out on art days and more!  We have been involved in a wide range of exhibitions over the years, have permanent exhibiting venues and work hard to promote the visual arts in the Fens and beyond.  I enjoy being Vice Chair and think I give alot to the Collective, it can be hard work and is sometimes disappointing when events are poorly supported or participated in but I still think it's hugely worthwhile.  ;o)  I'm very excited at the moment as, in conjunction with the Fenland Arts Association, we hosting our first open art exhibition in January which I hope will be a fantastic event for everyone.  If you are local(ish) and fancy submitting some work email me for a submission form!  Before all that though is our one day exhibition tomorrow to coincide with the Chatteris Christmas Lights Switch On event.  If you're in the vivinity of Chatteris Museum tomorrow do pop in and see us!  And the artwork of course!  lol

More FenVAC talk on Rob and Ric's blogs today.  ;o)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 2

Sewn by Marian Savill
Am I the only person in the northern hemisphere who is sick to death of hearing about the UK being in the grip of this "terrible weather"???  It's winter, it's cold, you get snow!  It's just weather, not good weather or bad weather, just weather!  We grind to a halt because we do not have the resources to put measures in place like countries which are more used to regular snowfall in winter.  If we used money to to do that no doubt the people moaning about how terribly unprepared we are would then moan about how much money we have wasted on equipment which stands idle for 99% of the year!  Stop whining, build a snowman, make yourself a hot chocolate with marshmallows and CHILL OUT!  ;oD  See above picture for an antidote to all the snow scenes!  Fiery, bright reds and oranges, that's more like it!  ;o)

Check out my fellow bloggers much less ranting posts for day 2, here for Rob and here for Ric!  Enjoy!   ;o)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Advent-urous Artists Day 1

Fire buckets on the platform at Wansford Station, Nene Valley Railway by Marian Savill

Welcome to the first post of this new collaborative blog project!  Along with fellow artists and friends, Richard Savage and Rob Morris, I am going to blog on a daily basis every day leading up to Christmas.  Why?  All three of us have blogs and would like to use them more to show our work, share news of forthcoming events, exhibitions and what we're up to, views, opinions, rants, raise our online profiles and indulge in some, frankly, blatant self promotion!  ;oD 

For those of you who don't know us, some short intros....
Marian Savill:  I am a professional mixed media artist based at my studio in Cambridgeshire, UK. I work mainly with used materials and found objects to create my unique assemblage pieces and jewellery. I am excited by the discarded, the unloved, the unwanted. The textures, colours, patina and condition of the materials inspire me to passionately transform the life worn objects into distinctive individual artwork. These materials hold a fascination for me; they have an aged beauty which I try to enhance and celebrate in my work.  My work can be raw and passionate, quirky and lighthearted, deeply personal and ethically challenging but at the heart of it lies my passion to show that art and beauty exist in the found, the throwaway, the everyday and the long forgotten.  More of my work can be seen on my website.

Rob Morris:  I am a freelance photographer based in East Anglia.  I have 30 years of experience and am a Licentiate of The Royal Photographic Society and a member of The Society of Wedding & Portrait Photographers and The Society of International Media & Press Photographers. I work locally, nationally and internationally providing a wide range of images for a variety of clients.  More of my work can be seen on my website.

Richard Savage:  I am a fine artist, illustrator and writer. In the last twenty years as a fine artist I have covered a wide variety of subjects such as figurative, wildlife and aviation. As an illustrator, my work has been equally diverse and has included 50 book covers, magazine illustrations, a series of line drawings, fantasy art and pictures for children's stories. I am comfortable working in a variety of media; oils, acrylics, pastels, line and wash, watercolour and mixed media. My inspiration comes from a great number of sources the world around, but also classical art, and the styles of the contemporary artists Boris Vallejo and Jack Vettriano.  More of my work can be seen on my website.
Every day we will all share a picture (or pictures) each, with accompanying text, on a multitude of subjects! I hope you'll all visit us regularly on our pre-Christmas blog Advent-ure. ;o)