Monday, May 30, 2011

Exploring the Arts One Baby Step at a Time

One of the greatest things about my latest art teacher is that she introduces us to new things, and encourages us to try them.  While we are working on our own little projects, she sits quietly and works on something herself. I often like to check on what she's doing. One week she was tracing around the cut out shape of a cow, over and over again, so that they covered the paper and over lapped.  Then she coloured them in and that's not as easy as it sounds. The trick is to not have two the same touching.  I decided to try that with cats.

Then there was the week when one of the ladies was trying to draw faces, and the instructor thought that understanding the structure of the face would help her draw it better. So she brought in some Plasticine, and we all learned how to sculpt faces.  I tried that again a few days later with some sculpting clay I got at the dollar store, just to reinforce what I learned. Of course, I forgot a step or two, but still, it came out better than I would have expected a week earlier.

Another day she showed us some contour drawings that she had coloured in.  She likes bright colours and had turned these strange looking images into genuine works of art. I have to admit it took a bit more coaxing to get me to do that, and my results aren't worth sharing...yet.  I liked the outlines alright, but I didn't like the results after I coloured them in. I'll keep trying until I find a way to do it that pleases me.  So far I've tried coloured pencils, and watercolour pencils.   I like the watercolour pencil results better, but I think I'll try again using regular watercolours, or maybe just rouge the image with a bit of oil paint and see if I like that better. 

The watercolour pencils are also new to me, and we all worked on our first painting using them 2 weeks ago. Now, this is something I didn't expect to enjoy as much as I did. Actually, I'm hooked and have already gone out and bought a couple more pencils, and expect to get more and more over time.  They are easy to carry with you when you go somewhere, and you only need one brush and very little water.  I will always love to paint with watercolours, but working with these pencils is also very relaxing.

Today it was suggested that we take part in an upcoming event where we would work on our art outside, where people could see what we are doing.  Oh my goodness!  I went so far as to ask if she wasn't afraid we would embarrass her.  She didn't seem worried about that at all.  So, when I got home, I went outdoors and sat down and tried to capture a hosta with my watercolour pencils.  I got the shapes okay, I think, but I found that perhaps I didn't have the right colours, and I wasn't sure about shading.  It's not the same as working from a 2 dimensional photograph.  But it is another step forward.  I'll take this one in to show her, and see if she will tell me what needs fixing and how to go about it.  And whether or not I take part in that event, I will go outside and try this process again.....soon.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Blooming Good Time

I love social media.  It brings people together in many different ways.

Today I was on Facebook and a neighbour had posted a picture of Blooming Tea. I had never heard of it before, but the pretty flowers in her glass teapot looked so lovely, I wrote under the picture, "Oooooh. I have to get some of those!"

About a minute later, just as I located them on E-bay, the doorbell rang, and there she was, holding a package full of these little dried up balls of tea, and a glass teapot.  She handed me one of these balls, and told me she didn't know which one it was, so I was to take a picture for her so she could see.  That's when I understood that she was actually giving me one.  Not only was she giving me one of her tea balls, but she had also brought over her glass teapot, so I could watch it bloom. I was absolutely thrilled and I told her I was in the process of trying to figure out which E-bay dealer to order from.  There were so many choices! 

I narrowed it down to those that didn't charge shipping and then looked for someone with a good satisfaction record. My neighbour had told me how much it had cost her, but admitted that someone else had done the actual ordering for her.  In the end I got a better price than she did with someone who had made over 50 sales and had a 99.9% satisfaction rating.  Now I just have to wait as the package will probably take a month to get here.  It's coming from China, after all, and even things that come from the United States take 3 weeks to arrive.

I had never seen one of these tea balls open before, and decided I needed company to help celebrate this great event. I called a long time friend who I had not seen for quite a while and asked if she was busy. She wasn't, so I told her I had something to share, and wondered if she would come over. She was here with 15 minutes and I put the kettle on.  While that was boiling, I put some blueberry squares on plates, for us to enjoy with the tea. The glass teapot, with the little round tea ball sat in the middle of the table. I asked her if she knew what it was. She didn't.  Then I started to pour the water into the pot, and pretty soon the tea ball started to unfold and reveal it's treasures.  We watched in amazement. 

How on earth do they do that.  The tea balls are apparently wrapped by hand, and I cannot imagine how it's done.  The results are stunning.  There was at least 3 different coloured flowers inside this particular ball.   I poured the tea, and it was surprisingly good.  The instructions told me I could add water 3 times, but not to drink the tea after it was 12 hours old.  It did say that the flowers could be kept in the water for 3 to 5 days, just for visual enjoyment though.  Since the teapot was borrowed, I found a clear glass vase, and transferred the flowers into it so I could wash and return the teapot. 

I had a lovely visit.  My friend really enjoyed the experience. She thought it was too bad her mother wasn't there to see that. I told her I'd have my own supply of these marvelous treasures in about a month, and she could come back and bring her mom and we'd do it again. 

Just from this one picture I saw on Facebook this morning, I got the gift of a tea ball, the loan of a teapot, a visit from an old friend, a great learning experience, a lovely cup of tea, a flower to enjoy for a few days, and I made my first ever purchase on E-Bay, using funds I had earned doing surveys.  That's quite a treat. I can hardly wait for my shipment to arrive. I intend to share each one with a special friend, and give at least one of them away, just as my lovely neighbour did. 

Without the social media of Facebook, I would not have had such a lovely day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Family Thread

Once upon a time, more than 40 years ago, I worked with a single lady who often talked about her cousin. It seems he used to come to Ottawa from time to time, and take her out on the town. I heard about him for close to 5 years, before I finally met him one evening when I happened to be at her place when he showed up. She had always referred to him as Cousin Ron, which amused me as I’d never heard anyone do that before.

Anyway, that evening, he had come for an evening out, and ended up with two females instead of one. From that point on, it was always me who got to go out with him when he wanted an evening out. We eventually married, and moved out of the city.

I had a dear old auntie in Ottawa, who I had a close relationship with. We always made a point of visiting with her when we went into the city. She eventually needed some in home care, and she liked the lady that was assigned that job. Time passed and stories were told, both to us, about her home care worker, and to the home care worker about us. Something clicked. It turned out the home care worker was another cousin of my husband’s. In a city full of people, we found that to be rather amazing.

Eventually my aunt needed to go into a nursing home, and I found her a spot in one within walking distance of my home. It came to pass that a nephew of hers, that I had never met, tried to phone her at her old apartment. When he found the phone had been disconnected, he worried that she may have died. He went through the Ottawa phone book, and called everyone who had my maiden name, trying to find out what had happened to this dear old aunt. Eventually he happened upon my brother, who told him our aunt was fine, and living out here near me. So, this cousin I’d never met before came out to visit me and I took him to see our aunt. This man quickly became my favourite cousin, and we had many visits back and forth over the next several years. I often referred to him as Cousin Bob, to differentiate him from all the many other Bobs I happen to know. The interesting thing though, was that he and my hubby had been in the army together. In other words, my husband has known him far longer than I have. I figure my hubby and I were definitely meant to be together, I guess, as this cousin connection thing just keeps happening over and over again.

Today one of my best friends showed me a photograph and I asked where it was taken. When she told me, I said I knew the place, but I’d never been to that side of the building. And then I mentioned that I am related, in some way, to the owners of that establishment. Apparently, so is she! It would be really cool if we turned out to be cousins too. I am now looking into that and trying to find the connection.

There seems to be a definite pattern here, as to who passes through my life.  This world is a lot smaller than I thought!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weighing In

I’ve been asked a few times lately how the 17 Day Diet is going. Well, I was really good at sticking to Cycle 1, and I did lose some weight rather quickly. Then Cycle 2 allowed me to have carbs on alternating days. Not a good idea since I’m definitely a carb addict, but it did confuse the body enough to allow me to lose a few more pounds. However, I never did get into the swing of the menu plan for the second cycle and was off the diet as often as I was on it.

There were lots of meals out, and they were special celebrations, so, no I wasn’t eating salads with a vinaigrette dressing on those occasions. I had a special birthday, quickly followed by Mother’s Day. Then I had 3 really great Red Hat functions to attend. The menus for those had already been decided on, before I started this diet, so I just tried to be good the rest of the week, when those events came along.

I don’t think you can say I’m actually on the diet anymore, but I learned a few things along the way. I don’t eat as much bread or potatoes or pasta as I used to. At least not on a daily basis.

I’m down a total of 12 pounds and two holes on my belt, so I have to say, I still think this was a worth while experiment. I have not gained back any of what I’ve lost, even though I was at a Pizza Party this week, on the same day I had another big meal including apple strudel for dessert at the Red Hat Queen’s Council Luncheon. I’d definitely recommend the 17 Day Diet to anyone who wants to kick start a weight loss program.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Different Kind of Treasure Hunt...No GPS Needed.

Today was the day of the annual village wide yard sale in Merrickville. You could not have asked for better weather.

The streets become extremely busy as there are sales in every block. This year the traffic didn’t nearly as bad as people seemed to park their cars when they found a place, and then walk around the area to check out the loot, before moving on to another area a little further along the way..

I started my day by taking in the United Church Breakfast. For just $5 there was scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, baked beans and toast, juice, plus coffee and tea. There were also fresh raspberries, and an assortment of interesting toppings for your toast, if you wanted them.

After that, I certainly needed to walk, so I went up one street and down the next and picked up a couple of things along the way. I decided to take my purchases home, and get my bike as I needed to go across town to one of the schools. We hold our karate classes in that school and last night I had spotted something I wanted to purchase. I zipped over on my bike and picked it up and then proceeded to check out what I could find on that side of town. The bike became more of a nuisance as it kept me from getting close to some of the tables, so I went back home again, and got rid of it along with my second set of treasures.

There was still a whole section of town I had not been near, so I set off again on foot and yes, I found more things to bring home. Now, it sounds like I spent a lot, but I didn’t. I start days like this with usually $10 in my pocket, but I wasn’t sure how much the item I spotted at the school was going to cost me, and I did want it, so today I took $15 with me. I came home with change even though I also came home with 9 item.....and a bonus.

Here’s what I got.

9 items in total, plus the bonus I'll show you later.

Let’s take a closer look.

These vases are tiny.  The ring has an amathyst and diamond look, but of course, it isn't that.  But still, it's nice bling for when I go Red Hatting.

I do remember the year the gnomes went missing around here, but I had no idea there was a book about it.  There are lots of local references in this little children's book, and since I doubt there were a great many printed, I think this is quite a good treasure to have found.

I picked up this frame, not for the picture that was in it, though that's not bad either, but because it's a nice frame in good shape, and has a couple of useable mats in it as well.  I, as some of you may know, like to paint, and it's good if I don't have to go broke when it comes to framing the results.

 Now, I don't know what it is about wooden boxes, but without meaning to, I seem to be collecting them.  I just can't pass up a decent box if the price isn't something outragious.  This, I think, is number 14 in my "collection."

And here's where the bonus part comes in.  I was offered this box for the great big sum of 50 cents, contents included.

 Inside the box, at no extra charge, were 5 pairs of earrings. While I won’t likely wear them, I’m sure I can make some interesting necklaces out of a couple of pair of them.

Of course, after a day like this, I have to bring  home something to share with the hubby, right?
I'm sure he will enjoy this little treat.  They sure smell delicious!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Girls Just Want to Have Fun!

Last week the Red Hat Society celebrated it’s 13th anniversary. Locally 250 women, from various area chapters, gathered at the Villa Lucia on Carling Avenue, in Ottawa. There was an excellent meal, complete with a slice of anniversary cake. An Elvis impersonator from Gatineau was there to entertain us all.

Now, this fellow, Sylvain Simard didn’t really look like Elvis, though a photo he was giving out when he was younger and thinner showed that he used to have more of the look than he currently has. He spoke to us with a French accent and I didn’t think the show would be any good at all. He sang a lot of songs, not just by Elvis, but Engelbert Humperdink, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and I forgot to listen to see if he actually sounded like Elvis, as we, as Red Hatters, tend to make our own fun anyway. Many of us were actually up dancing during the show. He actually encouraged that, though it really didn’t take much encouragement if he launched into some old rock and roll type song. At one point I even got to jive with a total stranger, much to the delight of my chapter mates.

Fun is all in the attitude anyway. We went to enjoy ourselves, and we certainly did.