Thursday, February 27, 2014

12 days on my own

I know that many of my friends and blog buddies live alone so this is no big deal.  But my dear Harry has been away now for twelve days visiting friends in Mexico and I'm very happy that he's coming home tomorrow.

For the first week I totally enjoyed having the house to myself.  It's nice to be freed from the couple routine. I watched whatever I wanted on TV and spent some rather indulgent evenings with chocolate chip cookies. I had plans to go on a juice fast while Harry was away but that never came to pass. One night I had a sandwich for dinner.  Bliss!  But you wouldn't want to do that all the time.

I also finished about four books, cut my finger badly, had dinner and drinks with a few different friends, enjoyed overnight visits from a girlfriend and her daughter, brushed the heavy snow off all my shrubs resulting in a pulled muscle in my chest, and walked lots with Geordie.

But mainly I've been continuing the sorting and culling in preparation for our move in mid-April to our smaller home.  Just about every day I've taken at least two boxes out of the house and either donated or consigned them.  There's a huge pile of stuff in the garage that's ready to be taken to the dump.  Progress is being made.

Tonight I used up two containers of chicken and broth in the freezer to make a nice curried chicken stew to welcome my sweetheart home.  It will be nice to be a couple again.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

First blossoms

My friend Kath just sent me this photo taken today at Spanish Banks Beach in Vancouver.  It must be a very rare and early flowering of the red umbrella tree!  Don't you love it?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Snow days

We've had snow since Saturday and in this place of mild winters it's a big deal.  The snow when it comes is usually of the heavy, slushy variety.  It flattens all the shrubs, forcing us to head out with a broom to knock icy snow clumps off the rhodos. But that's about all I did except take the dog out briefly. He doesn't much like the snow either.  He'd rather stay inside with me and help me bake chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. 

I had another snow day yesterday with the companionship of a friend's daughter, who was reluctant to head out over the mountain in a snowstorm on Sunday or Monday.  We whiled away the day visiting and watching a movie.  We also had tea and cookies, cooked a nice dinner and drank wine by the fire. I think that's what one does on snow days, right?

Last night the warm air blew in and we awoke to blue skies and melting snow. Naomi headed off and now I'm heading out to catch up on tasks left undone during the snow days.

Before too long the snow will be a distant memory.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Emperor's Rhyme

One of the benefits of clearing out your house is the discovery of things you'd long forgotten.  Today I found an A. A. Milne book from my childhood called "Now We are Six.'  In case you don't know, he was the originator of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin.  I think this book is his absolute best.  It includes wonderful little rhymes and poems that have an elegance and sophistication that no Walt Disney Pooh Bear story can compete with.

For example, here's a clever little ditty called The Emperor's Rhyme.

TheKing of Peru
(Who was Emperor too)
Had a sort of a rhyme
Which was useful to know,
I he felt very shy
When a stranger came by,
Or they asked him the time
When his watch didn't go;

Or supposing he fell
(By mistake) down a well,
Or he tumbled when skating
And sat on his hat,
Or perhaps wasn't told,
Till his porridge was cold,
That his breakfast was waiting--
Or something like that;

Oh, whenever the Emperor
Got into a temper, or
Felt himself sulky or sad,
He would murmur and murmur,
Until he felt firmer,
This curious rhyme which he had.

Eight eights are eighty-one;
Multiply by seven.
If it's more,
Carry four,
And take away eleven.
Nine nines are sixty-four;
Multiply by three.
When it's done,
Carry one,
And then it's time for tea.

So whenever the Queen
Took his armour to clean,
And didn't remember
To use any starch;
Or his birthday (in May)
Was a horrible day,
Being wet as November
And windy as March;

Or if sitting in state
With the Wise and the Great
He just happened to Hiccup
While signing his name,
Or the Queen gave a cough,
When his crown tumbled off
As he bent to pick up
A pen for the same;

Oh, whenever the Emperor
Got into a temper, or
Felt himself awkward and shy,
He would whisper and whisper,
Until he felt crisper,
This odd little rhyme to the sky:

Eight eights are eighty-one;
Multiply by seven.
If it's more,
Carry four,
And take away eleven.
Nine nines are sixty-four;
Multiply by three.
When it's done,
Carry one,
And then it's time for tea.

I just can't tell you how much I love this poem.  It's full of wonderful rhymes and images.  And I think that I will memorize the ditty and use it whenever I feel awkward or shy.

If you haven't seen the illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard featured in this book, I urge you to check them out here. Shepard illustrated all of A. A. Milne's books plus the Wind in the Willows. He was amazing.  But no more amazing than the poetry of Milne.  How come nobody creates stuff like this any more?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

So many things have to go

Moving from our 2300 square-foot house to a 950 square-foot space creates many challenges.  I've spent the past month or so looking critically at every single thing in the deepest darkest recesses of the cupboards, the crawlspace and the closets. Even the dulcimer that my first husband gave me before we were married in 1969 has to go as there's just no room for it at Yukon Street.

This process of elimination is quite an emotional one.  For every thing in the closet there's a moment of remembering where it came from and when it came into my life.  Then there's the assessment of how much I want to keep it versus how much room it takes up. The most important question is where it would go in the smaller house. Since there's no attic or basement and very few closets, the decision is usually that it can't come with us.

Then there's a further choice:  do I give away to friends, donate it to charity, try to sell it... or throw it in the garbage. In the case of the dulcimer I took it into a music store to see how much it might be worth. I'm told that it needs about $80 worth of repairs but then I could sell it for about $200.  So is it worth it to make the repairs or do I just try to sell it as is. The questions just keep on coming.

In this case I've decided just to sell it as is.  And I put it on our local version of Craig's List. We'll see what happens.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Orientation of paintings

In my last post I mentioned that I didn't know which way is up in this painting.  With abstract art it can actually be quite a big deal.  And it doesn't necessarily apply that the orientation of your canvas as you're doing the painting will tell you how it's "meant to be" displayed.

In my case, I often work with the paper turned in different directions and without a horizon line or a roof or a head that's being referenced, the decision becomes purely aesthetic.  Here's the little square painting turned each possible way. And to me they don't all look the same.

1                                                                                  2

3                                                                                 4

To me, numbers 1 and 2 look more architectural.  One is like a building with a chimney and 2 is like a strong arch.  In number 3 my attention goes more to yellow stripe along the bottom and its echo above, and in number 4 I see more the the brown area in the centre.

Now here's another example and it gets even more complicated when you're working with two paintings.  These two are on panels sized 1 by 3 feet.  I painted them separately but used similar colours.  When I'd finished I realized that the two pieces actually can have a conversation between them. Although I'd painted them with a horizontal orientation, I decided to hang them vertically, and close enough together that they could be seen together and have some interaction.

Intuitively I placed the panels so the eye would travel across the grey at the top of the painting on the LHS to the same grey at the top of the painting on the RHS, and the white lines move across the centre of both pieces.

But when Bill Porteous looked at them together he had me turn the one on the right 180 degrees.
This is what they look like with this change.  I actually think he's right, that this orientation makes them visually more interesting.  What do you think?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Evolution of a painting

I find it interesting to see how this painting evolved.  I really didn't have a clue where this was going when I started. I  simply began working with some colours that appeal to me.  Particularly a green gold and quinacridone gold. 

I started with washes of these colours but then saw it was becoming too "landscape-ish" so I added the pale rectangle in the middle.  (This photo doesn't show the whole painting.)

 I wanted to integrate the rectangle with the background so    added some washes across both the rectangle and the background at the top and the bottom.  I also painted the red stripe across the left side, then covered it with more white and scratched through to create texture.

Still looking for something of significance I added the red rectangle within the larger one and connected it to the red horizontal line. More layers of washes and rubbing through revealed some colours and textures that pleased me.

Taking a look now I see that what is of most interest in the section within the rectangle and the red and green horizontal bar is distracting so this was painted out with a neutral tone.

To create more contrast between the rectangle and background, I darkened the background with some washes of transparent raw umber and neutral grey. I also brightened the yellow section within the rectangle.

This is a view of the piece in a vertical orientation.  I left it there for a while, a few months actually.

But then I made a major change.  I chopped all the background off and mounted on a square 10x10 inch cradle. Then I painted the sides two different colours--a red and green.  Now that it's mounted I'm unlikely to make any other changes.  Although I'm still trying to decide which way is up.

Here it is in its final incarnation.  Quite an evolution, really.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The leaf that thought it was a flower

Bought a bunch of tulips the other day and one of them had the most unusual leaf. It looks like it started out as a leaf but then decided it wanted to be a tulip.  Here are a few different views. Isn't nature amazing!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

50 years on

It's hard to accept but I have to admit that it's been 50 years since I graduated from high school.  In 1964 I attended a girls boarding school in Vancouver, Crofton House School.  I was sent there because my family lived in an isolated mining town where the high school ended at grade 10.  All the boys had quit school to work in the mine and all the girls were either pregnant or wanting to get married.  So for my grade 11 and 12 year I went to boarding school.

It was the best two school years I'd ever had. Released from the tyranny of trying to be popular, I was able to be myself and make friends with girls from a wide variety of backgrounds. Now, 50 years on I'm remembering with deep nostalgia some of those connections.

I've missed all the other reunions, the 30th, the 40th--but I'm determined not to miss this one. So I'm involved with another graduate in organizing our 1964 50-year reunion. From our graduating class of 35 it seems that there are 30 of us left alive. And around 20 of those have responded to our invitation to get together on the weekend of March 7th and 8th.

What a hoot this will be! I've been in touch by email with quite a few of my classmates. And they're coming from as far away as Chicago and Toronto to join us for a lunch and a dinner and whatever else we come up with. In fact I had a long conversation with a girl I hadn't seen since I stayed with her at her parents' farm in the summer of 1964.

Today I was reminded that 1964 was  the year the Beatles came to North America for the first time. I saw a Time Magazine retrospective at the grocery store check-out. We were so young then, just 17 years old--and now we're each a walking history. I'm so looking forward to meeting up with my classmates and finding out what life has dealt them.

We'll be attending the schools alumnae lunch and then going to a private function at the Vancouver Lawn and Tennis Club to nibble on food, mix and mingle, drink wine and reminisce. Now, I just have to figure out what to wear.

The photo above was taken in June of 1964. I have no idea what the occasion and why we were all dressed up. I think it must have been something to do with graduation.  I wonder if most of us will look that different.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Isn't this photograph of two ravens interacting just incredible!  This was taken by a friend of a friend who lives on Malcolm Island just off the north coast of Vancouver Island.  I don't even have her name but when I saw it posted on Facebook I just had to share it. 

I believe this is probably a juvenile and a parent and it captures the essence of these remarkable birds. Ravens are the tricksters in Native mythology and you can really see it in their expressions here.

They are like a very large crow, only way smarter, way cheekier and way more special. They have the most amazing repertoire of sounds, ranging from a harsh caw to a burbling warble. One of my most cherished memories is lying in the grass at the top of a mountain on a spring day and watching two ravens do an aerobatic mating dance across the sky and hearing them calling to each other.