I have now been retired for two years. That in itself is something pretty amazing, but what follows amazes me even more. This past year has been a whirlwind of learning and growth, settling into my new life as a full-time artist.

It was only 18 months ago that I took my first drawing class – I wrote about it in Me? An Art Student?. I look back on those posts in this blog, and laugh at how awful I was at drawing. Today, my paintings are selling, and selling for a whole lot of money. If you had told me that I would be a successful artist at this time two years ago, I would have laughed in your face.

Any major life change provides an opportunity to grow and learn, as well as the dangers of stagnation. Retirement is no different. When I started this journey, I decided I wanted to explore something I have never done before. I chose learning how to draw and paint. Being good at it was irrelevant. The important thing was to try something new and perhaps find a passion that would carry me through the next chapter in my life. The cover photo is a pastel I did 2 weeks ago in drawing class. I never would have thought I could produce anything of the quality of that little pastel – especially not dashing it off in 3 hours during class.

One of the things I love best about the Holidays is the excuse to spoil my family and friends with freshly baked goodies. This recipe is one I created when our son was little, wanting to incorporate his two favorite sweet things – marzipan and strawberry jam – into one cookie. He’s 27 now, and these are still his favorite – hands down. I do half the batch with strawberry jam, and half with raspberry, but pretty much any jam that goes with almond flavoring would work well. These cookies are small bites of rich, buttery goodness that have become a main staple of my holiday baking. Friends and family start asking me in November if I’m planning on making those ‘awesome jam cookies’ in the next few weeks. They all love them, and I hope you enjoy as well.

A freak accident last week left me with the ring finger of my right hand in a splint, and strict instructions from the doctor to not use it for 4 weeks. Yeah. That’s fun. No showers, no washing my hair, no picking up sauté or grabbing onto anything with my right hand, no writing, typing, painting, no doing dishes, no cooking. Basically, no stress on that finger at all.

NO PAINTING OR COOKING? Cue the scream. Time to get creative.