Tuesday, November 15, 2016

While my Muse is on Vacation

Apparently it's been a month since my last blog post.  Perhaps you have all given up on me.  I thought I'd better pop in to let you know I'm still alive.

Recently I've been watching a series of videos by Koosje Koene on Art Therapy for the creative block she has been experiencing.  It had not occurred to me that I might be suffering from the same problem.  I used to write newspaper columns and really hated having a deadline.  I took up blogging so that I'd have a place to say what was on my mind without the pressure of having to force it. If you look back over my previous posts you'll see that I normally post about once a week. That's not because I sit down to do so, but because something pops into my head that I want to share.  That hasn't been happening lately.

Maybe I have been suffering from creative block and just didn't realize it.  Or perhaps my muse has just gone on vacation for a while. She certainly has not been whispering stories in my ear lately.  But I have not been as upset about it as Koosje. I don't like to force things.

Creative people have to create, however, and I've been doing that in other ways. I noticed poppies showing up all over Facebook right from the beginning of November.  It made me want to try to paint some of  my own. I had painted poppies in oils in the past but thought it might be fun to experiment a little. 
I've never painted with knives before and thought I'd give them a try.  This quick little acrylic was enough to let me know I will be using knives a lot more often in the future.
 The other thing I've been playing with a lot lately are alcohol inks. (When people hear me say that in person they frequently ask me what I'm doing with alcoholics!) I don't have much experience with the inks yet but I have learned that while I may have an intention, I do not have the control.  Actually, that's what makes them so much fun.  I'm enjoying the experience of being freed up by what the knives and ink produce just as blogging has set me free from deadlines.

This past weekend I was in Hull, Quebec for the 25th anniversary of Capital Conquest.  That's a major martial arts event with instructors from all over the world.  Though I was only there as a spectator while my hubby taught a seminar on self defense using a cane, I was invited to take part in a little calligraphy seminar going on in the hallway. I was introduced to several styles of pens and got to experiment with each one.  I can tell you now that I will be writing again soon, but it might be with a pen created from a pop can.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Inspired by Nature and Art

At this time of year there seems to be a lot of artist studio tours.  I usually manage to get to see  some new art while this opportunity is presenting itself.

Merrickville has an an artist studio tour the last weekend of September and the first weekend of October. The tours in Prince Edward County and  in Cornwall happen at the same time as the Merrickville one. I've been to the tour in Prince Edward County twice, and this year I finally made it to the Arts and Apples tour in Cornwall.

Merrickville becomes a very busy place during their tour, which is why they extended it to a two week event. The studios in the Cornwall area, by comparison, seemed almost deserted. Yet the artists were thrilled to have had as many as 75 people stop by. We only got to a few Cornwall area studios this year but found the artists there very friendly, and more than willing to explain their work. I will definitely go back another year, starting perhaps at the opposite end of the tour, so that we are more in the country. One of the things I love about such tours is exploring the back roads and seeing new sites.

I did, of course, check out at least 13 of the Merrickville artists on their final day, even without leaving town. It's always fun to see what the people I know have been up to, and how far they have come with their art over the past year.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend we went to one of my favorite tours, up in the hills beyond Perth. I've told you about this before, in 2013 and 2014. It's such a beautiful time of year to drive those roads, art, or no art. There is even an area called the Field Work Project, where artists do installations in the wild.  We made a point to stop by and see the Eyebox, which is actually a Camera Obscura created by Franc van Oort.  When you step inside, and close the door, the light coming though the lens in one of the walls of the box projects an upside down image of what it's facing on the opposite wall. You are, in effect, inside a giant camera. The whole thing is on a turn table and you are able to crank it in a complete circle and see the view from any angle.  I heard it might actually be moved to one of the locks near Burritts Rapids next year, if all goes according to plan. I do hope it does as I'd like to experience it again, and perhaps take my grandsons to give them some idea of just how a camera works.

Artist studio tours inspire me to try new things. I used to just look and see what I liked, but now I try to figure out how some things were done, and then go home and see if I can come up with that sort of effect. After the past couple of weeks, and several tours, I think I have enough ideas to keep me busy until springtime.

Friday, October 7, 2016

In a Blink of an Eye

Recently there was a story in the news about a little boy in a nearby town who managed to get out of the house unnoticed. The father left him watching television while he changed his clothes, fetched his keys and took the stroller outside, so he could take his son to collect his other children from school. When he came to get him, he was no longer there. After searching the house, and the yard, the father wisely called both his wife, and the police. The boy was quickly located about three blocks from home. It's any family's worst nightmare to have a child go missing, even for a few moments.

I asked my Facebook friends if anyone had either had to search for one of their children, or had anyone search for them when they were young. Only one person admitted that one of her kids managed to escape the house, and she suggests all kids today need to be wearing a gps watch, and all doors opening to the outside should have an alarm buzzer installed.

I'm sure there were others who had stories to tell too, but they were likely afraid someone would find fault with their parenting. Some people, who have never lost a child, have no understanding of how quickly these things can happen.

As a young child, out shopping with my grandmother one day, I apparently disappeared. She found me sitting, eating ice cream, with some friendly police officer. Apparently when I saw her, I said, "Nana, you got losted." I was returned to her care, and all was well.

Then when I was about 12, I went for a bike ride with some friends. After our picnic, one of the girls discovered her tire had gone flat. It was about two miles home, and she was going to have to walk it, so one of the others went with her. Myself, and another girl decided to ride over the North Mountain from Kingston, NS, to the little fishing village of Margaretsville.  It was spring time, and the dirt roads were muddy, and we had to walk some sections of the road ourselves. When it was time to come home, we took better roads over a much longer route. When our parents noticed the other two girls were back, and we had not returned they went looking for us. Of course, in those days, we didn't have cell phones, or money with us to use a pay phone, even if we had thought to call in.  When we arrived back home, other kids came running to tell us everyone was out looking for us, even the police. Well, I knew I was in trouble for the first time that day, when I heard that. Though I was grounded for two weeks, it really wasn't necessary, as I worried so much about what would happen when my folks got home that I had already learned my lesson.

My mother lost my oldest son once too, about 45 years ago, while we were living with her. He liked to ride his tricycle and she lived on a crescent. Eventually he got bored just going back and forth, and she let him go around the block. Of course he got bored with that too, and one day he just kept going. 

I was waiting to be picked up at my doctor's office, and had no idea what was taking so long. Once again, there were no such thing as cell phones back then and I had already left the doctor's office, and was waiting out by the parking lot. My young son was spotted happily riding his trike down the edge of the highway, when one of the search cars needed to be refueled.  When asked where he was going, he said he was going to visit "Uncle Ron" (who later became his Dad). That would have been a 50km ride, and I have no doubt he knew the way.

A couple of years later, we lost the same kid again. This time it was at the Ottawa Ex.  There was a Children's Pavilion that year. They wouldn't let the parents in, but assured us that there was only one way out, and we were to wait for the kids there.  There was quite the obstacle course in there, and we saw him come down the slide at the end of it.  He saw us, but was having a grand time and wasn't ready to come out, so he doubled back and came down the slide again, a couple of times in fact, before disappearing.  Then Ron went in looking for him, whether he was supposed to or not. The child was nowhere to be found.  He had located a door that led to the washrooms, and apparently there was another door out of there, to the fair grounds.  He was loose, somewhere at the Ex, and my biggest worry was that he would leave the grounds if he couldn't find us, and head back to the car. He'd find it okay, if he made it across busy city streets. There was a tent for lost kids near the entrance, and two routes to get there, so we split up.  Moments later I went by a video arcade, and knew that if he had gone that way, he'd be in there. Sure enough, he was. I just got lucky, as the only security guard I found and reported the missing child to, seemed more ready to blame me than to look for him, and he never put out an alarm.

And this brings me to why I think I only got one story when I asked for it.  Today people are always so quick to place blame when something happens to a child. I believe we all do the best we can at any given time. No one wants anything to happen to their children, but sometimes kids just do what kid do.  These things happen. And I'm sure they happen a lot more often than I was being told while trying to get some stories.

Just like me, my son never had the sense that he was lost on these adventures. Often, only those left behind suffer the absence of a child. But I'd never wish it on anyone, even for a few minutes.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Gift of Garden Abundance

Once upon a time people used to deposit large zucchini at my door, and run.  That has not happened in a few years now, but this year I was asked if I wanted a few pumpkins.  I had planted pumpkins myself this year, and though I watered them every day, one day the plants all just decided to die. So yes, I said I'd be pleased to have some.

I did specify "I don't have freezer space for much pumpkin stuff, so don't get too generous. Think jack o lantern or other decor, and I'll cook up what I need from that." 

The pumpkins were dropped off at my hubby's place of employment, and he trotted them into the house and deposited them on the table, and just looked at me.   I'm glad I told his cousin not to be too generous!

Obviously there are far more than I can cook up, so I set about searching out ways to use them.  I was looking for ways to use them as autumn decorations, but mostly I found Halloween ideas, or how to cook them. I have always just boiled up peeled chunks of pumpkin and then drained and mashed it, much like I would potatoes. The cousin cuts them in half and bakes them, cut side down, in the oven. I discovered they could also be cooked in the microwave as well.  That sounded like the best energy saving option.

When I laid out the pumpkins on my front step, to show you, I discovered one that was quiet rotten (it's not in the picture) and another that looked like it would go bad next if it wasn't used up.  I decided to try the microwave version of how to cook it.  Now, keep in mind that these are not huge pumpkins, but even so, I had a hard time fitting even one into my 2 quart casserole dish.  Eventually I peeled and cut up one section of it, just to get it into the dish in a way that allowed me to get the lid on.  I added a little bit of water to the bottom of the dish, covered it, and put it in the microwave on High, for 15 minutes.
I figured I'd have to leave it there longer, but would check it at that point, and then guess at  how much longer it would take to make it tender.  It was done perfectly in just 15 minutes! I also found it was extremely easy to scoop off the shell. This may be my new way to cook pumpkin from now on, though I think I'll give the  oven method a try too, just for comparison's sake.

I don't like to freeze cooked pumpkin. It's too easy for me to ignore.  So, the next order of business was to make some muffins.  Of course, I also roasted the pumpkin seeds while I had the oven on.  

Over the weekend one of my grandson's suggested we make some cookies. He's quite the baker, that one.  I got out all the ingredients, and found myself making the cookies on my own, while he artfully rearranged all my fridge magnets. Both the cookies and the muffins were very well received, and I still have enough pumpkin left to bake up something else.  

I notice one of the other pumpkins has a hole or two in the skin, so it will be the next one to be cooked.  My grandson pointed out one of the others, and laid claim to it. I believe he's planning to carve that one closer to Halloween. His little brother will be wanting in on that action too, with a pumpkin of his own, so I'm more and more sure we will find a use for this pile of pumpkins.  

As much as I love baking with zucchini, this year I'm glad I don't have to deal with the usual baseball bat sized one, and the pumpkins too.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Parc Omega Worth the Journey

This summer we finally made it to Parc Omega in Quebec, up near Montebello. We chose to drive on the Ontario side up toward Rockland, and then crossed by way of a ferry both coming and going. We took the Cumberland/Masson ferry over, and the smaller, cheaper cable Thurso/Rockland ferry back.

When we arrived at the park, we had a quick meal at the snack bar at the trading post, though we found there are various places where we could have had a picnic of our own.


As soon as you enter the park you are greeted by a welcoming committee looking for treats such as apples or carrots. If you didn't bring any from home, the carrots are also available at the trading post, at no more than they would cost you at the supermarket. They come from a local farmer and certainly taste better than what I have at home.

Our first stop was at the new First Nations Area.  There is a trail around a small trout lake. It's a beautiful, easy walk with Totems along the way representing the various tribes.

You might even run into some deer along the path.

And you can feed the trout too.

Most of the park is a drive through, and is much larger than I'd expect. Even so, you could drive though it several times if you wanted to, and see something different each time.

For instance, this fellow may have been on the road at some point, but it's really nice to see him relaxing in his natural habitat.

And perhaps we would not have been held captive by this buffalo who decided to stand in the middle of the road for 5 minutes and keep us from passing.  You are not allowed to feed the buffaloes and I suspect he was protesting. In the end he took a step forward, and my hubby inched the car past his hind end ever so slowly.  I'm still not sure that was a wise move, but we made it safely out of there.

We just caught the end of the bird show, but were in time to see them feed the wolves.  The wolves know that when we all show up, they are going to be fed, and they also seem to know we want to get pictures of them so they take turns posing on various stumps and rocks.

We followed a nice trail over to the farm area.

Where there were plenty of domesticated animals of all descriptions.

Throughout the park there were various places where you came across examples of some pretty amazing carving.  There was just so much to see, I'm sure we could benefit from a return trip.

There was one section of the park where the animals were kept at a safe distance from the vehicles.  That's where you found such things as the arctic wolves

and the bears.

 So, why am I telling you about our summertime trip now that fall has begun?  The country side up that way, and throughout the park land is so beautiful, during the summer, I'm sure it would be a spectacular place to visit once the leaves start to change colour.  Why don't you go see for yourself?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Evolving With The Times

I was first introduced to television in England in about 1951.  It wasn't even ours, but the neighbourhood gathered to watch it from time to time.  Everything was live back then, and that alone could make for some entertaining moments.

We came back to Canada in 1953 and within a couple of years we had a television of our own.  We were one of the first families in our area to get one, and just like in England, neighbours sometimes came over to watch with us.

This means I've had a TV for at least 60 years now.

That is, until just recently.

EastLink Cable has decided that it is no longer cost effective to offer their service in our town as of September 1st. We briefly considered getting a satellite dish when we first heard this was going to happen, but didn't want to sign a contract. That meant we would have to pay a fee to have the dish installed.  We decided to just go without TV.

I tend to spend more time on the computer than with the TV anyway.  There isn't much on anymore, and what there is always seems to run like a serial, so no matter how good it is, if you miss a week or two, you don't know what's going on.  I've stopped watching a lot of things that I once enjoyed for that very reason. Anyway, now there is NetFlix, and things like that, if you really want to watch a series.  Funny thing is, I had access to Netflix for several months before all this took place, and only ever watched 4 episodes of one show, and never bothered with it again.

People have been asking how things are going here without TV.  I discovered I could watch the soap opera, (The Young and Restless) that has been part of my day for the past 40 years. Global puts it online one day later.  I can live with that, as I often watched parts of it on two different days anyway, as something (meal preparation) was always interrupting.  I was sad to think I wouldn't get to see the end of America's Got Talent. The contestants this year are truly amazing, and I have no idea who is going to win. I don't actually see the show, but I do get to see each and every act the next day too.  I've just watched some more of the finalists performances and then watched the rest of a documentary on Mona Lisa that I started yesterday.  I find watching what I want at my own convenience is very liberating.

I actually did not miss my TV at all until there was a storm on Saturday night.  I saw tornado warnings just before I unplugged the computer.  We went to the basement.  Normally we would leave the TV on the weather channel during bad storms, but of course there was no TV.  We turned on the radio to the local station, and heard the warnings again, but everything else on that station seemed to be prerecorded as  no announcer came on even to give the standard news and weather reports.  Maybe he was hiding in the basement too.

Anyway, if I didn't unplug the computer, I'd at least have had better updates on the storm.  Do I miss the TV?  No, I guess not. But I'd certainly miss my computer!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Carving Out a New Hobby

This week I learned a new skill, and had fun doing it.

Local artists Holly Dean and Laura Starkey are putting on a series of mini 2 hour workshops, and I decided I wanted to get in on one of them.

I became interested in multimedia art a while back and looked into purchasing some interesting stamps to add to what I was doing. I found the prices to be rather high, especially since I wouldn't want to use just one or two stamps in too many pieces.  That would become rather boring, I thought. I considered carving my own, and actually came home with a blank 4 x 6 inch carving block from DeSerres one day, but I never did anything with it. This mini workshop was just what I needed to give me a kickstart in that direction. Holly and Laura taught me how to design, and carve a stamp all by myself.

First we were introduced to our cutting tools, and got to make various marks on scraps left over from Larry Thompson's Lino cutting, just to get the feel of things.  Of course, being the klutz I am, the first time I tried to change a blade, the whole tool assembly fell apart, and I quickly pushed the pieces over to the instructors to be put back together.  After that Laura decided she should teach us how to fix our tools if that sort of thing happened again.

Upon looking into the cutting tools available, I found a set that includes a little wooden dowel. It seems that using the blades often pushes them more tightly into the handle, and instead of risking cutting yourself, or having the whole assembly fall apart like it did for me, all you need to do is shove the dowel up through the handle to help push the blade out.  That was a definite selling point for me as I didn't find the blades easy to change.

After our practice strokes we were all given a couple of feathers which we could use for inspiration to make our first stamp. That was fun, and I learned a few tricks along the way working out how to accomplish what I had in mind.

Then the moment of panic arrived. We were given a blank similar to the one I had purchased months previously, and told to trace it on a piece of paper, and draw what we wanted to cut our stamps to look like.  We could cut the blank into smaller pieces if we wanted.  I was tempted to do that as I was still feeling the need to practice, and making more than one stamp would give me time to improve my technique.  But what do you draw when you are surrounded by artists, and don't think you draw well?  A moment of panic set in until Laura walked by me and suggested I had several interesting patterns right on the shirt I was wearing.  As my mind has gone as blank as the block in front of me, I took a look at my shirt. The patterns all looked pretty complicated to me, and I tried to draw a few of them on the paper provided.  I knew time was limited, so I set out to reproduce the picture of a bird on the blank, and started to really get into the process.

While this is the first time I've cut stamps, I think they turned out rather well, and know I'll be using them. Already I'm starting to see all kinds of designs in my day to day world that are calling out to me to make them into stamps. I think I may have a new hobby.

Maybe you would be interested in some of the workshops these ladies provide. Check them out at Artsy Life Workshops.