Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Family Time

My parents are here with me from England at the moment. My sister and her family arrive tomorrow, as do other family members from Vancouver, BC.....then my cousin's wedding is on Saturday.  So there is little time for blogging and even less time for creating right now.  Right now it is family time.

But I'll be back soon and I'll look forward to catching up then.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mondays with Marly - Stepping Stones - PART 1

By guest blogger Marly
Marly and Angie own Studio 28 in Waterloo, Ontario

I must admit I used to feel rather sheepish about my seeming lack of ability to focus on any particular art medium for any length of time. But the wonderful thing about seeing the decades go by, is that I've gained perspective. I am able to look back on the bigger picture, and I've realized how each shift in focus provided context and good insight for the next step (and art medium) in my life. Stepping stones... each experience building and informing the next.

In the 70's and early 80's, a college room mate taught me how to weave and I fell in love with creating tapestries and learning how to operate a loom. I even opened a weaving shop in the nearby tourist town of St. Jacobs.

I quickly learned that trying to pay the bills from weaving was an arduous task. Oh, I loved designing the first placemat and seeing the colors and patterns slowly emerge, but then to weave five more of exactly the same thing to make a set was absolutely painful. Boring. My little shop was in an old silo....no air conditioning in the summer and I felt like Rapunzel locked in her tower, literally sweating over my loom, watching the shuttle go back and forth and back and forth...Not exactly the perfect dream job I was hoping for. Although my loom sat in my living room for years, I finally admitted that my love of weaving had waned.  I sold my loom, and vowed that I would NEVER try to pay all the bills from my artistic endeavours again. Below you can see a picture of the Village Silos, where various artisans still sell their wares today, including the weaver that took over my store!

 A few years later, I became involved in a photography and picture framing studio and loved pursuing the craft of framing and purchasing Canadian art prints for the store. An acceptance letter to teacher's college sent me in a different direction for a while. I was fortunate to be given a teaching contract here in Waterloo, but I missed picture framing. I still knew my framing suppliers and contacts and they were happy to give me framing corners and mat samples to set up a little picture framing business in my newly acquired house.  So I was a teacher by day, and a picture framer evenings and weekends!  A welcome supplement to help with my mortgage payments! Although I had to give up my custom picture framing business a few years ago when a big framing manufacturer bought up the local company I dealt with, I still love cutting mat for artwork and find that the skills I learned come in handy for all kinds of art-making.

In the late eighties and early nineties, I had the opportunity to learn more about printmaking and joined a group of nine other artists to do group shows together at various local galleries. Those were wonderful years. Our group, called the Spiral Art Makers, seemed to have a similar approach and aesthetic to our print making and we learned a lot from our collaborations together.
 During this time, I realized how much I loved to piece things together in collage form. I would often take a print and cut it up, rearrange it,  and add odds and ends from other projects to create something new...a process that I still find totally addictive. I went through a phase of creating art pieces around earrings I no longer wore. An early introduction to the metal arts!


Ohhh, but watercolor was something I always wanted to try! In 2000,  two good friends, Rose, Jenny, and I decided to combine a camping trip with a watercolor course at the Haliburton School of the Arts. It was called Watercolor for Dummies. Perfect! Kind of took the pressure off!! And we learned a lot! For the next few years, Thursday night became the time for Rose, Jenny, and I to get together in my studio for some watercolor play time (accompanied by glasses of wine and good music.)  The artist that had the biggest influence on my watercolors during those years was Jeanne Carbonetti. I felt a deep connection to her abstract and spiritual approach to art making and poured over her beautiful books to learn more about her techniques.

O.K...that's enough reminiscing for today! It's off to the garden to plant some more flowers. Yes, the ones that have been patiently sitting there for two weeks! Stay tuned for Part Two of my art journey. The 2003-2010 period! Coming up in two weeks!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday's spotlight - Fathers' Day in the UK

This year Fathers' Day weekend - if that's not a contradiction in itself - was spent with my daughter Mary, Fin and the two boys.

Friends from Lincoln gave us a lift down to Mary's home in Croxley Green, taking with us all the luggage we "needed" (Pam's word, not mine) for our trip to the USA.

The Saturday was the day of the annual Croxley Green Revels, which is, I was told, the largest village fair in the country. I find it difficult to classify Croxley as a village but it certainly was a good fair.  We arrive in time to see the parade - mainly children - a few photos were taken.  I haven't downloaded the photos yet but, hopefully, I get that completed in time for Ruth to add them to the blog.

There were quite a number of stalls at the fair and we wandered around.  At one stall we won rather a nice floribunda rose which Mary planted in her garden and which, also managed to survive the exercises on the next day.

For the Sunday, Mary had arranged a barbecue in her garden.  Readers of last weeks blog will, doubtless, be disappointed to hear that no beer was poured on the meat and no flat large stones were laid across the fire! However, despite these shortcomings, the food was both good and plentiful.

Mary and Fin had invited three other families along to the celebrations. They also brought their children so a good crowd was present.

In typical Mad English fashion a football match was arranged between the men and the boys.  The men challenged the boys and a 75 year old grandfather was in goal for England.  The men lost 4 - 3 but we showed far more enthusiasm, skill and concentration than the English team showed during their first two games in The World Cup!  They've yet to play their 3rd - and possibly last - game as I write so perhaps pigs begin to fly after all and the English team managed to win.

Ruth and I are to go out together next month for a Fathers Day out.  I'll tell you about that in a future blog.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Quizzical Quentin

Quentin came into the house this morning and told me that he has decided that he wants to learn how to use a computer!  With the thought of new babies this summer, he wants to be able to pass on his skills to them too.....  So we started out by just looking at the keyboard:

He is in a very quizzical mood at the moment and wanted to jump right into his first lesson.

But we are starting from scratch - so I thought our first computer lesson would be learning the alphabet! You can see how well Quentin is doing - he has already found his favorite letter:

Any teachers out there who can offer a little quizzical Quentin Quail some advice or lesson plan?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Merry Go Round - What's on your plate?

It''s time for another ride on the merry-go-round! Jump on and join a group of 9 artists/crafts-women as they link around the world and tell you a little about their lives in art and craft.

This month's question that we will answer is: What's on your plate? - a healthy quick recipe that leaves us with plenty of time to get back to creating.

I've recently created a new fish cake recipe that I really like. It's simple, quick, healthy, gluten free, grain free, sugar free - and yummy!  The cakes are lovely and moist so don't need a sauce - but if you prefer a little something on the side, they go well with a Thai sweet chili sauce.  The recipe can also be spiced up a little to your preference by adding up to 1 tsp of diced red chili.

Thai Fish Cakes

Ingredients - Serves 4 people
1 lb (400g) boneless white fish chopped - I tend to use Basa - you want quite a firm fish
2 tsp organic Agave nectar/syrup
2 tsp Thai Fish Sauce
80g (1/2 cup) green beans - sliced
100g  (1/2 cup) red peppers - chopped
Olive oil
Place the first 5 ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.  Divide the mixture into 8 balls and flatten into patties.  Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry the fish cakes evenly on each side for about 4 minutes until golden and cooked through.

Serve with your favorite accompaniments. And enjoy!
With your mouth still watering - I hope you'll check out what fun recipes the other members of this Merry go round have selected from the links below.  Do let us know if you try any.  (Remember that we live on different time zones so some may post later than others.)
Alison at Tweed Delights - http://idreamoftweed.blogspot.com
Mitsy at ArtMind - http://artmind-etcetera.blogspot.com
Kim at Vilt a la Kim - http://viltalakim.blogspot.com
Sara at Crafts of Texture - http://sarastexturecrafts.blogspot.com  
                                                    Sara is away at a show this month so can't join in.  She'll be back next month.
Fabienne at Easterya Jewellery Creations - http://easterya.blogspot.com
Mariana at Florcita - http://www.florcita.eu/
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent - http://lebarduvent.blogspot.com
Lily at Lily Pang Art and Design - http://lilypangart.blogspot.com

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wedding cake flowers

I think I've mentioned in passing that my cousin is getting married here at Birdland on July 3rd.  She is from Vancouver, Canada so her family and friends are all coming down from there.  My parents arrived from England on Monday for a little holiday beforehand, and my sister and her family arrive  next week.  It's going to be a busy time!


 My mum had the task of making some decorations for the wedding cake - and then the worry of transporting them on the plane over from England.  Luckily when she unpacked them last night, she found they were all intact.

I just love them.  They are made of gelatin.  She formed the petal and leaf outlines with fine wire, then dipped each into colored gelatin, let them dry and then wired them together.

I've decided I want the one in the photo below for a corsage for the wedding, as I'm wearing a lemon colored dress!

Don't you think they'd make good jewelry too!!  Great job mum!

I'll try and remember to post a photo of the final adorned cake!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Two new residents at Birdland

We've had two new residents move into Birdland. Here are the proud owners of a new construction :

We are planning on taking round a little gift for them later and hopefully get to know them a little bit.  We don't even know their names yet - maybe you can help?  Do you know them?

The lady of the house seems very proud of her new home.  I think I overheard her talking of a few different colors she wants to paint it.

Always good to get new neighbors.  No kids on the scene it seems....but the summer has only just started...so I'll let you know.......

Oh yes - and don't forget to let me know their names if you've met them already!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Outstanding in her field!

I'd like  you to meet Curdle the Cow.  She really is an amazing cow and loves hanging out in her field.  Just about everyday you can see Curdle out standing in her field!!!!

And yes - she is very good at it - so I guess you could say she is outstanding at out standing in her field!!

She also likes to hang out on a chain and then makes the perfect gift for someone who has made a great achievement and could be considered outstanding in her field!!  Maybe a graduate or someone just promoted or....

What an outstanding Curdle! Hope you like her.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday's Millinery Musings - Goofball Photography

By guest blogger Jennifer
Jennifer's Etsy Store

Look what Ruth has given me to play with! Cool, huh? Don't you want one?

Oh what is it?

This is a light box that is going to make my life easier. With some coaxing it will pretend to lie flat only to spring back in my face menacingly. Other than that it is a nice pet. I can drape an antique linen sheet inside and take "studio" style photos of my hats and accessories. As you can see, now that it's summer I have moved my operation outdoors to a temporary work space under the arbor. In the winter I'll set this up in the dining room and shine opposing light sources into the box. It will look like a dog box with aluminum earmuffs.

I'm having a big laugh about my abilities as a photographer. You would too if you could see some of the goofy get-ups, props and make-shift lighting I've been forced to in the name of learning to take photos for my Etsy shop. Etsy is an on-line artist's marketplace and every item listed in the shop requires FIVE, not one, photos. This can be a challenge for the photographically impaired.

In an odd way I feel somewhat successful in this pursuit. So far, I can use my dinky, pocket-sized digital Konica Minolta (formerly used for hiking trips) on the automatic setting. If there is one technique, it's that I crawl all over the subject and shoot it from as many angles as possible: here and there, near and far, this way and that.

With the help of my geriatric Mac and woefully outdated iPhoto software I can operate 2 magical buttons to great advantage: CROP and ENHANCE.

When a decent photo accidentally appears I am crazy with happiness.

It seems to me that we all have so many gifts within us.  Often just a good play day can give a strong glimpse into what we are capable of doing on our own.  For me, it has happened around photography. I surprise myself at times and that is a beautiful thing.

At the end of the day, we always know so much more than we think we do. 

It's June 21, and the first day of summer. Have you surprised yourself lately?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday's Spotlight - More hot days!

By guest blogger Pete

Last week's blog - based on the sunny summer weather we are enjoying at present - made me think of other warm occasions.

Photo courtesy of Gusjer

At one time we lived in the tropics at a place called Walvis Bay - then in South West Africa but now in Namibia.  Walvis Bay's weather was anything but tropical.  The Benguela Current, originating from the Antarctic, swept along the Namib Desert coastline near Walvis Bay causing the temperature to be very English style without the rain.  It rained only once in the three years we were there and then the main roads - made of compressed salt - were washed away.  When it did rain the whole population of Walvis Bay abandoned what they were doing and just went and stood outside in the rain.  15 miles inland from Walvis and you knew you were in the tropics.

Photo courtesy of Lawmurray

I once took a group of seamen off to visit an oasis in the Namib Desert - the oasis was called Goanikontes.  To get there you just drove off the road opposite a mountain called Rossing - a few years ago Uranium was discovered there (which accounts for the green glow that it displays in the dark) - turn right at a red oil drum and head off into the desert.  There were no roads to Rossing; you just followed the oil drums that were placed from time to time in the desert (stony desert here).  Anyway, on our way to Goanikontes, and unrealised by us, the fog came down and hid Rossing from view.  We had no compass and without Rossing we had no bearings.  Thus we had to stop and stay until the fog lifted and we could make our way back to the road.  We never found it that day but Goanikontes was a lovely cool place with trees in abundance - plus they also sold the coldest tastiest lager I've ever tasted.

 Photo courtesy of MistressF

We often had a braifleis (barbecue) in the desert.  Braifleis is the Afrikaans word for "burnt meat".  One of the coasters that called quite regularly into Walvis Bay had as their chief engineer, a man weighing something like 20 stone.  How he managed in the engine room I just don't know.  It was he who showed us how to barbecue meat.
1.  Light fire.
2.  Find large flat stone (no difficulty in parts of the Namib Desert) and place it over the fire (not on the fire!)
3.  Put meat on stone.  Turn meat fairly often.
4. Regularly moisten meat with cold beer.

When next you have a barbecue, try this method.  It results in great cooked meat (no raw or burnt parts).  I'll leave it to you to find the large flat stone.

Happy Fathers Day

Hope it's a great one dad.

Can't wait to see you both tomorrow. Have a safe flight.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Almond Milk Yoghurt/Yogurt

I tried making almond milk yogurt for the first time today.

The recipe I followed started with making my own almond milk and then adding the bugs and fermenting for 8 hours.

Photo by Jenny Downing

It tastes pretty good but I don't like the texture of it as it is quite grainy.  The recipe didn't include straining the almond milk through a cheescloth which I normally do - so I think that was what attributed to the graininess.  I think I'll use this batch in cooking as I don't really like it on it's own with the graininess - but I'm going to give it another try tomorrow after straining the milk.

I like experimenting with new foods - just need to get some more almonds tomorrow for my second attempt.

Photo courtesy of Aunt Owwee

CA is a big almond tree production area - and as photographing Yoghurt/yogurt isn't that inspiring - I thought the blossom on the trees might be better.

Anyhow else tried making non dairy yogurt?  any hints or tips?

Friday, June 18, 2010

One flower is not enough!

I decided to add some more flowers to the bracelet I showed you yesterday! One just didn't seem enough.

So I added two smaller flowers on the other side - so whether you are the wearer or the observer - you will see some flowers!

The small flowers also spin - so it makes it "toy" like - and fun to play with as you wear it!  Always good to have entertaining jewelry - don't you think?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Luscious Lime Purple

It seems that the only thing in my head at the moment is flowers (please don't tell the birds!!). I think it's because we have a family wedding coming up at the beginning of July here at our home and so I keep thinking about whether the flowers are peaking too early and can they just hang on a few weeks longer.....

And so I want to create everlasting flowers!

Here's my latest in my favorite color lime with a little splash of purple. Yes - a little different for me - no silver!!! And how is it that purple is such a difficult color to photograph? It rarely comes out as it is.....

Happy flower time!