Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Cravings

Andy Williams was right.  It really is the most wonderful time of the year.  There are so many little things that combine to make that true - and for each one of us the list is different.  Here is my list of Christmas Cravings - the little sights, sounds, smells, tastes and happenings that warm my heart and say "Christmas" like nothing else:

The tiny ring-ring of the Salvation Army bells
(please give)

 Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks

Vince Guaraldi on the piano on a late December afternoon, playing something Charlie Brown-ish

The convoy of SUV's and minivans rolling out of the mountains with fresh Christmas trees strapped on top.  One afternoon I counted 36 coming toward me in a 15-mile stretch.

 Any Christmas song sung by Dean Martin

My friend Mickie's Peanut Brittle - the best in the world

A simple evergreen wreath with a red bow on a handsome front door.

Fresh orange peel

Spices - in hot wassail, scented candles, warm breads and cookies

Woodsmoke drifting from a chimney

The clip-clop of horses hooves.  Our little town offers starlight carriage rides through the village during the month of December.

And speaking of stars twinkling in an inky blue night sky...

Moravian Cookies and Sugar Cake, baked just up the road in Winston-Salem

A live Nativity

A choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus

Sleigh bells

My annual movie favorites:

Christmas Vacation
"The little lights aren't twinkling, Clark"
Home Alone, Lost in New York
"Kevin's not here...Kevin's not here...Kevin's not here..."
White Christmas
Rosemary Clooney in that black dress...

 My favorites might not be the same as yours, but whatever it is that makes Christmas magical and special for you, I wish you the biggest dose possible this year.  If you are struggling with less than perfect circumstances, or know someone who is, may you take comfort and courage in the sights and sounds of the season - and above all - in the very Reason that we celebrate to begin with.

Though this isn't a Christmas song, it came to my mind as I was composing this post.  It holds just as true at Christmas - maybe even more so at this time of year.  I had plenty of youtube versions to choose from, but this one brought me to my feet with tears in my eyes.

Have a Very Merry and Very Blessed Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December Sunshine

Sometimes the very simple, brief moments in life are worth savoring.  Yesterday afternoon I happened to walk through the living room just as the afternoon sun was slanting through the window and hitting the ornaments on my tree at a really pretty angle.  In the few minutes it took to get the camera and take the photo, the picture was already changing.  

With camera still in hand, I turned to see Joe and our grandson, Miller, sitting on the sofa - laughing and playing.  Yeah - it's a thinly disguised way to work a picture of my grandson into the mix.  But really - isn't he adorable?  And how lucky was I to catch this brief moment as well?
In the blink of an eye, this little guy will be walking, talking, starting to school.  I have always loved the quote "Life isn't measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."  

Most of the time, those moments are tiny and quiet.  If we're busy - rushing through the day amid noise and distraction - they come and go and we never even know there was a gift we just missed.

December is halfway over.  Celebrate, yes - but make the time to savor and enjoy it as well.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making Spirits Bright

The studio is Christmas Central these days - in more ways than one.  By an odd quirk of scheduling fate, I'm actually working on a new Christmas collection!  Most of the time, Christmas artwork is on the board in the dog days of summer.  (Try creating jingle-bell-magic when all you really want to do is go pick a fresh tomato off the vine for a BLT.)

But as I write this, Nat King Cole is serenading me.  "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...".  Sing it, brother.  I'm sipping a Peppermint Cappuccino, there is a fire crackling in the fireplace, and all sorts of new visions of sugarplums are dancing in my head.

I love this job. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Big News

Beth Yarbrough Designs

With a profoundly grateful heart, I am overjoyed to announce the creation of Beth Yarbrough Designs.  The new entity will serve as the home of my artwork with the added component of in-house licensing and marketing services, all under one roof.

Concurrent with our debut, we are launching our new website and Gallery for the convenience of our industry clients at www.byarbrough.com.  Updated weekly with fresh offerings from the studio, our new Gallery will provide our manufacturing and retailing partners with up to the minute news on the latest collections.  The Gallery will also serve as a constant resource for viewing a selection of the portfolio of images we have available for licensing.

This has been a labor of love many months in the planning, and a tremendous amount of very rewarding hard work.  On any given day you likely would have found us with paint flying through the air while we held the phone on our shoulder and typed with our toes, trying to put the perfect finishing touches on the artwork, the website, the gallery, the new blog, and the pb&j sandwich we were having for lunch.  Well, maybe I exaggerate.  But you get my drift.

Many many thanks to my wonderful web designer, Holly Knott.  Please visit her at www.hollyknott.com and tell her I sent you!  She's the greatest.  As for me, I'm still going to be right here, doing what I love and counting myself the luckiest girl in the world.

Beth Yarbrough Designs
the home of happy art

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Making my way through the grocery store this morning, I looked around at the aisles upon aisles of food, the produce section stocked with mountains of fresh fruits and vegetables, the loaves of bread hot from the ovens, and the crush of people getting ready for their Thanksgiving dinners.  In the midst of it all, I stopped and said "Lord, we are a blessed people.  Thank you!"

Wishing everyone a wonderful, happy Thanksgiving holiday.  Stay tuned in the coming days for news from our studio.  We are very excited about major changes that have come our way during 2011 and cannot wait to share.
In the meantime, enjoy some turkey, hug your children and grandchildren, tell your parents how much you love them, share your blessings with those around you, and above all, give thanks to God for this and every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Autumn Evening

A warm supper on this rainy October evening took me back to my childhood and reminded me of my dad.  Today would have been his birthday.

He loved cheese and apparently it loved him, too.  He lived 91 years without even a hint of heart trouble.  Every year for his birthday, I would bake him a spice cake with as much caramel icing as I could lawfully load onto the layers without collapsing the whole thing.  Behind cheese and my mother, sugar was probably his third love.  

One of our favorite family stories involved one of his teenage birthdays and his mother's delicious apple-stack cake - baked just for him.  The story goes that his older brother waited for him to come home from school and then calmly went into the kitchen, brought the entire cake (on its stand) into the dining room, along with one fork.  He then sat down at the table and consumed the whole cake in one sitting, right in front of my dad.

I thought about him tonight, eating my little stoneware crock of potato-cheese soup.  He lived a good life and helped raise three good children.  He was a master cabinetmaker, a very graceful dancer, and an even better pantomime artist.  He loved life and he loved God.  And he loved cheese.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Year of Sweet Tea

Exactly a year ago tomorrow, I determined to devote each Friday on this blog to something meaningful, or funny, or beautiful, all in an effort to consider the subject of time and how it affects our lives.

Now - with that year behind me - I am stunned and humbled and full of enormous hope - all at once.  We have seen it all this past year - new life, death, laughter, tears, incredible beauty, and surprises around every corner.

The year began with an October sky full of dozens of hot air balloons
fond memories of brave young men who should have come home from Vietnam and didn't

A stolen sunrise on the beach
And the discovery of an Italian winery in the Appalachian Mountains.
Early December found us eating breakfast with Junior Johnson, who is just as adept at the helm of an iron skillet as he is behind the wheel of a car. 
Our Christmas was white,
as was a good portion of the entire winter.
And I decided to welcome spring by telling my favorite (true) Earnhardt story.
Life handed us a grandson in March, and we will never be the same.
In quick succession, our garden handed us lily of the valley,
 and baby bunnies in distress.
We planted a vegetable garden, savoring each sprig and leaf.
We hit the beach,
 and then an island
and then another island.
Back home, we made marinara and ended up making abstract art as well.
We laughed as we remembered the day we stumbled upon the President,
And cried tears that are still flowing as we said goodbye to our best friend.
A trip to Florida gently reminded us that life brings fresh inspiration every day, if you are willing to look for it.
Safely back home, our garden proved the point by delivering the month of June in September.
 And just yesterday, another of our best friends left us.  Fans of my work know how much I loved this beautiful cat.  His name was Tylenol, and he was my faithful companion, studio cat, garden supervisor, and territorial guard extraordinaire.  We will never forget him.
Now, with the year behind us, we stand with renewed respect for the fragile nature of life, a greater appreciation of the astounding beauty that lives right under our nose every day, and the hope that comes from knowing that God has been with us every step of the way - laughing with us, drying our tears, clapping his hands at our discoveries, and blessing us with every breath we take.

Today is Countdown Friday
 and the count isn't over.
We're just getting warmed up.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September Garden

Those of you who know me know that if I could take the perfect summer day and stretch it from January to December, I would.

Fortunately for us all, God did not endow me with that ability.  Ever the optimist, however, I do what I can.  Planting a brand new crop of zinnias in August is one way to get it done.  The result is a garden full of sunshine at the end of September - and they will bloom past Halloween if I close my eyes and click my heels together three times and channel my inner lovely-day-in-June.

And that's not ALL (says the lady in the infomercial).
Harvest those babies and bring them inside, grab a camera and shoot.  
I know.  They look good enough to eat, don't they?
Tomorrow is Countdown Friday

My blessings are as many and as varied as these flowers, multiplied thousands of times, and I thank God for every single one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Peck of Peppers

Peter Piper called.  He wants his peppers back.

Our September garden decided to grace us with green bell, banana, and giant jalapeno peppers - all at once.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  When it gives you a peck of peppers...

Stuffed Peppers 
Cut the tops off of 6 large bell peppers.  Remove the seeds and membrane.  Finely dice the usable parts of the tops and set aside.  Blanch the peppers in boiling water, then drain and set aside to cool.

Make the stuffing by placing a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter into a large skillet.  Add half a cup each of diced onion, diced celery, and the diced pepper.  Saute the vegetables for about 5 minutes until tender, then add a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, an 8oz can of tomato sauce, 1 crushed clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon of oregano, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine 1 lightly beaten egg with 1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef, 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice, 1 tablespoon Worchestershire Sauce, 1 cup of the sauce from the skillet, and salt and pepper to taste.

Place the peppers in a deep baking dish, stuff with the filling and then ladle the remaining sauce from the skillet over all.  Bake uncovered at 350 for an hour.  If you like, just before the peppers are done, top them with 1 cup of grated cheese of your choice and allow the cheese to melt before removing from oven.

So now what do I do with all those banana peppers and giant jalapenos?
I'm open to suggestions but make them quick.  These things aren't going to hang around forever.  


Friday, September 16, 2011

Celebrate the Apple

My friends at Highland Graphics have translated four of my happy images into tumbled stone coasters.  Visit them at www.highlandgraphics.com (and tell them Beth sent you).

Every September our little Main Street turns into a mass of 75,000 people, all gathered for one purpose - to celebrate the apple.
 The Lincoln County Apple Festival is a local tradition that coincides with our apple harvest.  We are one of North Carolina's largest apple producing regions.
Septembers here are still considered summertime, and most years we are are blessed with sunshine and temps in the high 80's/low 90's - except for the year that we had a hurricane bearing down on us and they canceled the whole festival - only to have the thing blow in another direction and festival day dawn bright and clear here - not a cloud in the sky.  Suffice it to say they haven't made that mistake again.  The festival goes on - rain or shine.
So, tomorrow our little downtown will be home to marching bands, local barbecue, balloons, quilt contests, politicians, families with babies in strollers and kids on dad's shoulders, funnel cakes, T-shirts, soap-box derbies, craft sales, 5K runners, the sound of "Hey, how y'all doin?" magnified 75,000 times - and enough apple pies, apple butter, candy apples, and Apple Queens to reach around the planet several times.

I love a good festival.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.