Family Christmas Traditions: A Recipe for Boiled Custard

December 19th, 2019

You gotta “chirr” it!

This isn’t art-related, but since it is December, I thought I’d share this family tradition we have. When I was growing up, my dad would make boiled custard using a recipe passed down from my great-grandmother. (I’m not sure why my dad made it since it came from my mom’s side of the family.) He still makes it even now. I think he finds the slow stirring process relaxing.

Here’s the recipe:

Mama Sadie’s Boiled Custard

Sadie Billingsley     

1 quart milk

1 scant cup sugar

3 whole eggs

1 tsp vanilla

Beat eggs really well

Add sugar

While beating eggs, begin warming milk in double boiler

When eggs and sugar are well-beaten, slowly add part of warm milk to egg mixture. Then add eggs/milk to larger pot of warm milk.

Stir continuously until it coats spoon (at least 30 minutes)

Add vanilla


The secret of having smooth custard is in the thorough beating of eggs and sugar.

To cook 1/2 gallon, put 1/2 inch water in big skillet. Put custard mixture in Dutch oven or other large pan set down in the water (this makes a large “double-boiler”). Keep water just below boiling point.

(Mama Sadie always made custard at Christmas, sometimes 2 or 3 batches. She always put some in refrigerator trays to almost freeze, then she would stir it until it was smooth again.  Following one of these occasions, Duke uttered the phrase, familiar to us all: “Mama Sadie, you should have chirred it some more!”)

We make this on a cold evening, then set the sauce pan out on the back porch to cool over night.

So that’s my family’s boiled custard recipe!

What holiday traditions or foods does your family like to do?

How I Built an Inspiring Netflix Queue

October 18th, 2018

I admit it: I’m something of a Netflix junkie. It’s so easy to fire it up after the kids go to bed. I try to be intentional about what I watch. If I’m going to consume TV for hours on end, I want it be inspiring. So I load my queue with things that feed my creativity, things that entertain me, and things that move me.

Creative Inspiration

Bob Ross: Beauty is Everywhere and Chill with Bob Ross are both relaxing and fun and I get a few ideas for how to talk about my work as well as ways to actually make the paintings happen. His style has little to do with my style but I love the way he exudes positivity, and I want to bring something of that into the world.

Abstract: The Art of Design – it’s always inspiring to see behind different design disciplines. I admit I haven’t finished it because I don’t want it to end.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – never saw this while he was alive. Such an interesting show.

Iris – (apparently it’s not on Netflix streaming anymore) It’s so inspiring to see this nonagenarian do her own thing. She made her own rules and ignored what “fashion” said to do, and the fashion world came to adore her for it. It proves that style is ultimately a personal thing and belongs to no era, and fashion is just trendy.


Voltron: Legendary Defender I’m an 80s kid. The reboot has been fun, and my kids love it, too. We will be sad when it ends later this year.

Queer Eye I think Netflix has absolutely nailed this reboot. It takes the best parts of the original and puts a great spin on things. Whereas the first version was more about breaking taboos I think this is more about breaking people out of what is holding them back.

Black Mirror This show blurs the line between science fiction and horror. It basically looks at the dark side of technology. The name comes from how so many digital devices these days are essentially black mirrors. The frightening thing is the horrible things depicted in the show are on the verge of happening in the next few years. (Well, maybe not, but it sure seems that way when you watch “Nosedive.”)

Alien Conspiracy Theories

I discovered Ancient Aliens on late night TV a few years ago and thought it was so much fun to watch. I don’t believe any of it but there are moments it’s convincing. (I have no doubt that the Biblical Flood wiped out some kind of technological advances we had.) No, I don’t really think there’s a secret society that lives on the moon. But I love the ideas of what if everything you believe is wrong.

What are you watching?

My wife and I just finished the second season of “The Good Place.” Have you seen it? What are you watching these days?

The last day of #ArtEveryDayMonth! (Day 30)

November 30th, 2014

Well, it finally happened! The last day of Art Every Day Month. Today I got up before the sun (and the kids, that’s the important part) again and got to work on this little canvas. I flipped it around a few times and gave it a dark lower half, bringing that mass up into a point around the center. It gives it something of a triangular composition.

It’s not quite finished yet, given what I have in mind. If I have time later today I’ll take a shot at it. I wanted to yesterday but I never got to it, so that may not happen today, either. Either way, I think it is coming along nicely. Maybe I can finish it tomorrow?

So here is a time lapse video of what I did today.

Can’t see the video? Well, surf on over to YouTube and watch it there.
Oh, and my hunch yesterday was right: the native Camera app on iOS does indeed make pretty much all time lapse videos 20-40 seconds no matter how long you actually record. This is kind of disappointing, yet it makes these daily videos perfectly “snackable.” Anybody can commit to watching a 30-second video, right?But I think going forward I am going to use a different app so I can end up with something that is a set percentage faster than it actually happened.

Anyway, here’s a shot of today’s progress. What do you think?

I hope to have a full assessment of Art Every Day Month 2014 in a few days, so stay tuned for that as we return to a weekly, rather than daily, blogging schedule.

Thanks for sticking around, and I hope you’ve had fun this month. I know I have!

What’s your rut?

April 3rd, 2013

You may have heard of the Alaska-Canada (Alcan) Highway, built during WWII to connect Alaska with “the lower forty-eight.” The whole thing is paved now, but for a long time, stretches of the road were pretty rough and muddy, which meant it had severe ruts. Back in the 1960s there was a sign upon entering Alaska that said:

“Choose your rut carefully — you will be in it for the next 200 miles.”
It can be difficult to get your tires out of a muddy rut. You can keep going forward (sometimes), but you won’t be able to turn to the left or the right. And if the rut goes off the road, well, so will your vehicle.

So, if it is the 1960s and you are driving to Alaska, you need to choose your rut carefully. Just a tip for all you time-travelers in Deloreans.

The same is true of artists and their work.

Sometimes ruts are good.

They give you structure and may actually make things easier. This usually comes out as a theme or a technique.

When you think of Monet’s paintings, what comes to mind? Probably his paintings of the Cathedral at Rouen, or the water lilies. His art was ostensibly an exploration of light and color, and by sticking to a handful of subjects he was able to really explore those things that interested him.

More examples of artist’s ruts

In the 20th Century we saw a number of artists emerge with some pretty regular themes: It’s pretty clear to me that these “ruts” gave structure to these artists’ careers. A framework, if you will. (They had philosophical frameworks, but that’s a different discussion.)

A social media example

On Instagram, you can see the “peak” themed photos Matthew Smith has been taking for some time now. The idea is a “peak” or a triangle with a base at the bottom of the frame and a peak at the center of the photo. For his 192nd peak, someone asked why he did so many, and he said he needed something consistent.

A Warning

Lori Woodward Simmons warned on Fine Art Views that sometimes your rut can get boring and you can lose your passion for the very thing that has made your career. It nearly destroyed Thomas Kinkade. Love him or hate him, we all know how well he did with his famous landscapes.


Looking back, I’m probably fortunate that my “Nashville365” paintings didn’t catch on. I got bored with them about 30 paintings in. I’ve also gotten away from the bridges I did constantly a few years back (though I did one last year), but I’m still exploring what to do next.

What about you?

What’s your rut? Do you have one? Are you trying to move out of one?