Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Do the math

I woke up this morning ranting and raving.  There was a by-election in Victoria yesterday to replace a federal Member of Parliament who resigned for health reasons.  The result of the by-election was essentially no change.  The NDP MP resigned and the NDP candidate was re-elected.  So why am I so mad?

I'll tell you why.  The second in line was the Green Party candidate, with  34% of the vote.  He trailed by less than 3% of the popular vote.  I support the Green Party and everything they stand for.  I was happy that the Green Party candidate got such a good percentage of the vote.  Maybe in the next general election the Greens will even elect another candidate.

BUT-- this by-election drove home the fact that here in Canada we have one right-wing party, the Conservatives, who are now forming a majority government with less than 30% of the popular vote.  Why does this happen?

Because the left is splintered into three parties, the Liberals, the NDP and now the Greens.  This means that the left leaning voters have three choices and the right wing supporters have one.  Do the math!  No matter how good the Greens are, no matter how good the NDP or the Liberals are, unless  there is some kind of merger or coalition, the Conservatives with the Dictator Stephen Harper will continue to win elections.

In Victoria we did elect another NDP candidate and that's good.  He won with 37% of the voters, followed by the Greens with 34%.  The Conservative candidate got 14%--yet that's the party that is in complete control in Canada.  It has only 14% of the vote.  Well, 14% of those that cast a ballot.  In Victoria that was 43%.  So less than 7% of people in Victoria support the Harper Government.  That's disgusting.

Something's wrong with our system when this keeps happening again and again. Unless the Liberals and the NDP merge this travesty will continue. We need proportional representation in this country.  It just doesn't work with the left vote divided three ways.  Do the math.

Monday, November 26, 2012

One scarf, many views

This is "boiled cashmere" scarf belonging to my friend Heather.  It's hard to believe that one scarf can contain so much visual delight, but it does. I took over 100 photos of it as I intend to use some of them as a jumping off point for painting.  Thought you might enjoy seeing some of the views.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Meringue birdies

If you have egg whites left over from a recipe don't even think of throwing them out or giving them to the dog--make meringue kisses.  They're delicious, non-fat, and so easy to make.

The other day I was making an Italian dinner for a little party and the desert was to be chocolate gelato, which required four egg yolks. Gelato is another treat but more difficult to make and not today's subject.

In any case I thought that little meringue bites would go well with the gelato so I whipped up a batch from an online recipe.  There are lots of them online and they're pretty much the same. The only ingredients are egg whites and sugar and a cream of tartar--plus whatever flavouring you choose to add.  I used vanilla.  The trick is to beat the mixture with your electric beater for a long, long time.  Until it's shiny and thick.  I don't have a pastry bag or any fancy stuff so I just spooned the batter into a plastic bag and squeezed out little puffs on a baking sheet.

This method produces very unique shapes with lots of curls at the top.  Here you can see them baking in the oven.  I used parchment paper for most of the baking pans and it made it easy to lift them off when they were done.

I loved the different shapes.  To me they look like little birds, especially this one. You can see them gathered on the serving plate waiting to be chosen at the top of the page.

The other trick to meringues is to bake them very slowly on a low oven temperature with the oven door propped open so all the moisture escapes as the dry out.  These ones cooked for two hours and resulted in a crunchy bite that then melts in your mouth.  They were delicious and a big hit with the gelato.

 Good thing there's a festive season approaching so I can make them again.  Yummy--and low fat too.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Betty Soo and Doug Cox

The other night we went to a most fabulous concert by a Korean-American singer-songwriter from Austin, Texas (Betty Soo) and a British Columbia dobro player who accompanies her (Doug Cox).  We first encountered these two last summer at the Courtenay Music Festival.  And last weekend they were here in Victoria, a rare treat.

Betty Soo has a gorgeous soprano voice and she can nuance it to deep grittiness and sweet tenderness.  And the dobro played by Doug Cox is a fabulous counterpoint to her voice.  I just learned that the dobro is a special kind of acoustic guitar.  In addition to the fabulous music, these two have a stage presence that is so entertaining and cute.  If you ever get a chance to see them, go for it.

Here's a video of the song this duo did on Saturday night for their encore.  And here's another one of her singing a very groovy song called Boxcars. I hope you like them as much as I did.

Here in Victoria there's a new company called Three Sixty Entertainment that is bringing folk and roots music here.  Hooray!   If you live in Victoria, check them out for more fabulous performances in 2013.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Autumn colours

Just when the skies turn grey and clouds congregate and everything starts to become dull and depressing--that's when the leaves put on their finest colours.  

The muli-hued Liquid Ambar leaves paint mosaics on the grass....

Here's what they look like close up.  I love the way one leaf can display several colours.

Then there are the golden-toned beauties like these, their glow is set off by the fact they're sitting in a puddle on the driveway.

But perhaps my favourites are the combinations of russet, gold and mahogany, with the blue overtones like these ones.  I love the texture of the different layers of leaves and the way the colours work off each other.

Oh wait though, what about this chestnut leaf still showing some green with its beautiful veining and the fan shape and the holes in the leaves....?

.... or this coppery leaf with the pink stem through the middle and the water droplets?  They're all just such a beautiful contrast against the grayness of the season.

I hope you can find a moment to treasure the autumn colours in your part of the world.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Jackie's Memory Shrines

Sometimes we get stuck in the notion that art supplies are paint and canvas or paper, or clay or stone... but Jackie Saunders-Ritchie's memory boxes use a whole range of materials that are found or saved or even traded. Out of these simple materials she creates assemblages that speak volumes and touch the soul.  Here are some of her supplies...

Jackie is an artist and a new friend of mine and I was lucky enough to spend some time with her in her studio this week.  Her most recent work is the creation of what she calls  Memory Shrines, assemblages of materials and images presented in small wooden boxes, each one honouring individuals and groups of people lost in the Holocaust.

Jackie's family experienced this terrible time; some never came back from concentration camps. And now all these years later she is exploring the layers of feeling around this by creating these vignettes.  

Here is part of her artist's statement:
These Memory Shrines, assembled with great caring and deep intuition, are an expression of the
stories my cells have stored, over time and despite layers of new data and recent memories, stuffed
into my body. They embrace my distant past, the stories and images of my ancestors, inherited
memories of the Holocaust.

The Memory Shrines are small, about the size of a sheet of letter paper, but I find them powerful, absorbing, and evocative. 

Here is Jackie with another one of her memory shrines.  Behind her on the wall of her studio you can see some of her other work including paintings, collages, and three dimensional work.

I also really like her paintings.  They're clear and vibrant and deep--just like Jackie.
Here's one from a series she calls Primordial Waters.

As for me, I'm finding my way back to creating some art of my own and I'm happy to have met Jackie as she is inspiring me to move forward with my painting.  Just yesterday I went out and bought a small supply of acrylic paints.  These are the first I've had since I gave mine away six years ago when we moved to Haliburton Road.

To see more of Jackie's work, visit her website here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

OK, it's silver now

A couple of years ago I blogged about my hair colour and my dilemma about whether to keep dyeing it or to let it go its natural colour.

Well this year I've made the shift to grey/silver.  And I'm liking it.   This is the old me with brown hair, looking pretty good after a month in Italy in June.

I was concerned that the grey hair would make me look like an old lady, but lucky for me the natural colour is quite silvery and I've been getting a lot of positive feedback.

It took about eight months for the silver to grow in.  Over the summer it bleached out quite blonde and I felt a bit like Anita Eckberg (but with wrinkles).  Now the blonde is pretty well chopped off and this is the new me.  The colour isn't as green(!) as it looks in this photo though.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sheep on the road in Abruzzo

Things are quiet here on the hill so I'm going to show you a few more images from our recent trip to Abruzzo.  It's an agricultural state, as you can see by this view across the hills.

It's also home to many flocks of sheep, which we would see on the hills as we drove around.  But just before we left we were treated to a close-up view of a flock.  Turning a corner on the road back to Valle this is what we saw ahead of us: two modern-day shepherds and their trusty black sheep dog driving a flock along the road.    

The man as the back has a long stick that he uses to taps the sheep to keep them going forward and the black dog runs back and forth at the rear of the flock to round up stragglers.

He has his job cut out for him as there are a lot of baby sheep wandering off each side of the road.  Below you can see that he has two large white dogs to help.  They are the guardian dogs though (looking remarkably like sheep when they walk with the herd) and they don't drive the sheep forward.

I was so excited that I got out of the car and ran up to the back of the flock.  After a while it was apparent that they were simply going to continue along the road.  We could see a car from the other side slowly driving through and the sheep simply moved aside to let it through.  

Finally we got our nerve up to creep along beside the sheep, getting a good look at the sweet little lambkins and their rougher coated ewes.   

This woman is just watching the passing parade.  It's all part of the country experience in Abruzzo, Italy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Finding allies

Now that I'm back from Italy and have withdrawn from my intense involvement with Citizen Canine, I'm finding time to get involved in something really important to me--the fight against oil tankers on British Columbia's north coast.

Just now I've downloaded a kit from The Dogwood Initiative that will help me go out and find allies in this fight.  There have been some protests here that were quite well attended but that's not enough to turn back the push from Alberta and the Canadian Government to pipe Alberta oil to our coast where tankers will take it to China.  British Columbia doesn't even benefit from this scheme and yet our coast is at risk.  I think it's a lunatic idea and I'm going to do what I can to help stop it.

I'm doing this for our rivers and streams, for the salmon, for all the beautiful islands up and down the coast and for our children's children.  To win this we have to get hundreds of thousands of people to say no to more tankers on our coast.  If you want to help, you can click on the link  to sign a petition and to find out more.

Seems to me this is a pretty worthwhile way to spend my time in the late fall of 2012 when the world is getting crazier by the minute.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

From porch decoration to soup

This year's Halloween pumpkin didn't end up rotting on my front porch.  No, it didn't even get composted. I made it into a delicious pumpkin coconut soup, thanks to instructions and recipes from the internet.

The pumpkin was peeled and chopped into pieces.  It was a good-sized pumpkin and made a lot of pieces--as you can see.

I roasted them in a 350 oven for about an hour along with a buttercup squash for additional flavour and colour, I pureed it in batches--ending up with about 16 cups of puree.  

I made half the puree into soup with chicken broth, coconut milk, onion, garlic, and curry and ginger.  It made a delicious gentle soup with a Thai hint to it.  I'm planning to bring it to my sister's for dinner early in the week.

And the best thing is, there's another batch in the freezer just waiting.  The soup is very easy and if you want the recipe, here's a link.

My pumpkin wasn't a pie pumpkin so it lacked a little bit in flavour.  I made up for this by adding more onions and spices.  Of course, if you don't have a pumpkin on your front porch you can use canned pumpkin.  That would make it a very simple soup.

Don't you love the way the internet can provide instructions and recipes for anything you want?  

Honestly, I don't know how we survived without it!