Monday, December 30, 2019

Happy 2020!

3 Generations in Art...

Read this then click here to see the slide show.
(Best to download and watch on a big screen)

I know I think of us
As three generations...
But perhaps I should admit
We are maybe five.

It started with our family's
Own Elizabeth the First...
My great-grandmother.
She was a typesetter
Originally from Cambridge
Transplanted to Calvert, Texas,
And married to a newspaperman.
All four of their daughters
Learned to set type.
Of course.
I have samples of some
Of their childhood efforts.
My grandmother, one of those
In that typesetting bevy, died after
Giving birth to my mum.
My mum, then, became
Our family's own Elizabeth the Second.

Reared by her typesetting grannie
And two of those typesetting aunties,
My mum eventually became an architect.
At a time when women seldom ventured
Out of their homemaking roles,
She designed houses and clinics and schools
In Dallas, Texas.
She took up painting after I married and
Released her from a myriad of mothering tasks.
I had taken up painting, in university
In San Antonio, Texas,
Where I had majored in Sculpture.
But it was graphic design, mostly for packaging,
That became my focus, with little forays
Into oils and acrylics...
And designing an actual home in Toronto.
Years and a couple of trans-Pacific moves later,
I had my own daughter.
She later attended
An arts high school in Toronto,
Where she, too, took up painting—and more—before
She ventured into the work of becoming
A full-fledged mathematician:
Dr. Kate, now with tenure!

On this month's calendar, I show you
Some of my mum's work,
Plus a couple of Kate's and mine.
My mum always said Kate would
Out-shine both of us... indeed
She continues to do just that.

I've made a slide show I'm calling
Elizabeth, Kate, & Me—3 Generations in Art.
Download it and have a look.

It shows you some more of my mum's paintings
As well as more of Kate's and my art...
Paintings and more. Kate's selection
Even includes some book covers
She's created, just for fun, for some books
She particularly enjoyed reading this past year.
My own packaging production design
Belongs to my clients, so I can't show you...
But if you've ever gone shopping for groceries
In Wal-Mart in the US or Latin America or Germany...
Or Sobey's or Metro stores in Canada...
You've seen some of my work.
All-in-all, then, we three generations
Have a history of making stuff.
We're such show-offs, eh?

I want to thank Steve-Paul Simms
For letting me use his song, Lillian's Girls,
In my slide show. Steve-Paul is a very talented
Singer & songwriter... and my friend
For two decades. Steve-Paul is himself
In the throes of creation: his new album,
Ingrid and the Messenger Boy
Is due out in March. His previous albums are
Wall of Illusion (1999), Open City (2005) and Palpable Hits (2006).
Those of us in Toronto can catch him next
At the Tranzac on Sunday, Jan 26th, from 5-7 pm.

Have a great 2020, my friends,
And let us all see any stuff you create this year.
Let's all make 2020
The Year of the Show-Offs
And fill the world with joy and excitement.

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

P.S. I've cut my hair. Look at my new profile pic.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Dec 2019

Ruminating about returns...

On the day of our birth every year
The Sun returns to the same place in the sky
That it held on our first earthly day ever.
We call these our solar returns. Indeed,
People utter celebratory, "Many happy returns!"
To encourage our perseverance and continuance.
So the Sun welcomes our new year
By retracing his annual path through the seasons.
It's a known path, but still filled with fresh discoveries...
As we ourselves revisit our pasts along
With new iterations and variations,
Fed with debris we've left behind...
Or have we?
Always old.
Always new.
Always a familiar
Handrail and steps to remind us
How precious it all has been
My own solar return was a couple of days ago. That means I've now been tap dancing for 70 years and chanting for 36 years—and I'm not out of breath yet, my friends. I thank Rich Fuller for this inspiring glimpse of his lush world,
taken on the Summit Path, Bukit Bendera (Penang Hill), Penang, Malaysia.
If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Nov 2019

Memories of Vatican bees...

I've told you before about how Kate kidnapped me (2015) and together with David took me to Italy to meet up with Peter and Lisl for my bucket-listed visit to Michelangelo's David in Florence. Here's a reminder.

At the Vatican Museums, David piloted a wheelchair for me, so I could see everything without stressing my back. Not only did that make it easier for me, but the wheelchair got us into the Sistine Chapel faster and right to the front. Of course, we gawked and grocked in wonder and awe. Then as we made our way back, we went through the Gallery of Maps. It was David, at his elevated height above the heads of crowded others, who noticed the bees. Lotsa bees there. He carefully rolled me near so I could snap pix of them all.

Seems all these bees have historical significance. I didn't have to dig very deep.

The noble Barberini dynasty was among Rome’s greatest patrons of the arts. The Barberini family first arrived from Florence in the late 16th century, where they went by the name Tafani (horsefly). They soon changed their name and out went the unattractive old insect and in flew the ancient royal symbol of a bee. The family reached the height of its power in the 17th century when Cardinal Maffeo Barberini became Pope Urban VIII. Under his commission, artists turned Rome into a showcase of Baroque. The family’s coat of arms is three bees in a V-formation, and they decorate buildings and paintings all over the city. Barberini bees appear throughout the Vatican Museums, in particular on frescoed walls of the Gallery of Maps like this one.

In 2011 the Pope became a beekeeper when Italy's largest farming association gifted him with 1/2 million bees in honour of the Day for the Protection of Creation.

Tis all fitting, eh?

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Monday, September 30, 2019

Oct 2019

Banking some green...

Yes, summer has extended herself where I live, with an expected 29°C expected for this day. But we all know October's balmy days will soon give way to frostier times and bring the bright colours of autumn we all love. I offer here some radiant greens to hold in our hearts after those reds and oranges and yellows give up their ghosts to winter's eventual crystalline charms.

This lush aeonium arboreum lives in a pot soaking up some rays along with the rain in my friend's Nanoose Bay garden on Vancouver Island, BC. Wikipedia tells me these succulents are also called tree houseleeks and Irish roses,
both easier to say eh?

It really helps that I have friends who know how to see such beauty in their worlds AND how to produce remarkable images to share with the rest of us.
Thank you, Terri, for letting me use this image—one of your many
that make us all envious of your western move.
If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Sept 2019

The promises of Yellow...

It's not just Winter's snowy silences, Summer has it's own promises to keep, too. First tulips and daffodils spring forth to announce the arrival of light, then dandelions pop up to shout about it and to give children the chance to participate in blowing its seeds asunder before the wind usurps. Finally, the glorious sunflower stands tall and unfolds to reveal it's own riches: seeds for topping our summer salads AND for planting to ensure next year's repeat performance.

Seems Mother Nature simply loves the bright yellows, n'est pas?

According to science, though, that was not always the case. Flower fossils reveal original flowers were almost universally just pale greens and some pale yellows. That's when bugs were the primary pollinators. As MN re-evaluated, she decided that winged pollinators would ensure a wider distribution of her flowers, so she invented ways to attract them.

Colours! But not really colours. Those very valued pollinators can't see most colours. So flowers developed surfaces that can reflect differing UV radiances back to pollinators like bees (yes!) and birds and guide them from on high—not just to a flower itself, but further, into her nectar-laden centre.

Go here to see some neat stuff about it, but mostly the one image that shows a yellow Carolina Jessamine flower as we see it and a bee might see it.

Seems reds and blues and yellows offer some of the highest reflective opportunities, and lo! We now have flowers of many colours. Today I'm obsessing about the yellow ones. According to its etymology, it seems the word yellow, itself, comes from the Old English geolu, geolwe, meaning "yellow, yellowish," devived from the Proto-Germanic word gelwaz "yellow." It has the same Indo-European base, ghel- as the words gold and yell; ghel- means both bright and gleaming, and to cry out.

So today I'm shouting about all the wondrous yellow hues in our paint box: Yellow Ochre, Indian Yellow, Naples Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Chrome Yellow, Zinc Yellow, Titanium Yellow, Gamboge, Orpiment (aka King's Yellow), and Hansa Yellow. And, of course, remembering Mellow Yellow, quite rightly.

I am happy to thank Fiona Phillips for this glorious show of the Power of Yellow.
 Fiona planted a bunch of Sunflower seeds in her Canterbury (yes, the one in England) garden and took this spectacular image about 8:30 on the morning of Aug 19th as this flower was the first of the bunch to announce its joy to the world. When not planting and taking pix, Fiona offers a free tarot class that explores cards through intuition and imagination, here.
As for me, I'm overjoyed to welcome this Sunflower and all his stunning siblings to my world.

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Aug 2019


Laze, haze, & daze... tis summer at last...

When I was a girl, my dad's brother bought a small getaway next to a small New Mexico lake. I don't remember the name of the lake, but Uncle Dick referred to his cabin as a cabinet. I remember my parents laughing at his nomenclature—until we got there. It was a barren beachfront with about 30 tiny buildings sharing a clap-trap communal outhouse. TINY. It was indeed a cabinet. Plus no trees. People just parked their cars next to their own cabinets and it was so hot on the sand they drove the 20 yards to the outhouse. I don't remember anything else. OK: bugs. I remember bugs. The lake seemed murky and was not very inviting. From my today's mind, I'm guessing people must have had boats and gone out on the water to fish, but I certainly don't remember any of that. My memories are full of only the discomfort and the TINY-ness. I was about to start the third grade in Lubbock, Texas, at the time, so maybe you'll forgive my narrow focus.

Granted, in Texas, many people had cabins on one lake or another, but they were not common among my friends as I grew up in San Antonio... and those cabins were more often rustic one-room affairs, each situated on a small wooded lot with its own well and outhouse. That had always been my understanding of what a cabin was supposed to be.

Since coming to Toronto, I've been introduced to the tradition of cottages, cottage country, and cottage season. Cottage country is marked by many small lakes and lots of picturesque woodlands. The tradition is from before the days of working mums. On the first weekend as soon as school was out at the end of June, families would pack up bedding, pots and pans, linens, food, and water toys galore and drive several hours to their own cottage or one they'd rented for the summer. The dad would help them get settled in, then return to work Monday morning. Then every Friday the dad would return for the weekend, often indulging in boating and fishing and maybe even dock repairs—then rush back to his job in the city on Mondays. Of course, if the dad could arrange his work vacation to fall during this time he could stay a week or two. He and his friends might spend their time putting a new roof on the cottage. These days the tradition continues, but with adjustments for working mums and sometimes these arrangements involve nannies. The high-school version of Kate did a summer stint as a nanny at one such cottage.

Family cottages might be small or even rather large houses. They are never, ever cabinets. They may or may not have wells, but they always seem to have a way to bring water from whatever nearby lake is offering its presence as excuse for the season. Drinking water, then, is often carried from nearby springs. Septic tanks have made indoor plumbing possible for many. Many cottages these days have ALL the mod cons.  Larger families share their cottages generation after generation. Some families seem to pile in all at once like a hive and others work out their own time-share arrangements. But all the family cottagers share in the upkeep and the expectation of relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The view here is from Marje's family cottage. It's is on a very quiet small lake in the Muskoka region a few hours north of Toronto. I hear the black flies can carry one away. Monday night's storm blew these very chairs over, but not away. Stormy gusts are obviously less onerous than country insects. There's no denying the idyl of it all, though, is there? Haze, mist, and the myst-ery of calm solitude. Ah-h-h-h-h-h.
If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Monday, July 1, 2019

July 2019

Vibrant summer colours are here at last...

Teresa, my friend since the last century, has finally settled in Toronto again after many years roaming and working with UNICEF communities helping to uphold children's rights to happiness and education. My joy at her return is underscored by her moving to a place near my own home base, so we are able to hang out frequently... often indulging in nearby Mexican-style food. That's an essential for both of us; she is originally for Mexico City and I am from San Antonio, Texas.

This month's calendar is one of Teresita's paintings.Teresa had decided to pick up her interest in art by taking some lessons. And lo! She found a wonderful artist/teacher right in her own building: Nina Keogh.
If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Saturday, June 1, 2019

June 2019

There's probably a good reason Mother's Day is in May... right?

It's about welcoming Spring, eh? Salads on the balcony... and iced tea... and maybe even lemonade. But this Mother's Day found almost no green in my valley. 

Then these tulips arrived! Their job: to remind me just how much I have relished both motherhood and grandmotherhood—plus how much I was ready to bask in Spring sunshine! I was soooooo tired of grey days enveloping my world into a never-ending cloud.

So... I added some sweet pickle relish to my tuna and mango salad and bided my time, enjoying my the salad with the delish Mexican crackers that also arrived for my day. Enjoying the freshening colours,
 I relished my sweet memories of lotsa mothering... two kids and two grandkids... plus memories of my own mum and the stories about my grandmums. 

Obviously these tulips did their job. Now there is valley green. Many days we even have glorious real-life sunshine, like the sunshine I added to this image—to welcome your June. Enjoy your version of Spring wherever you are.
If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Friday, May 3, 2019

Luke Skywalker Day 2019

Drinks for your muy grande weekend...
and praps your Monday too...

Saturday, May the 4th: Get into the Sar Wars spirit with this green Yoda Soda or this green Yoda Cocoa. There are also some non-drink suggestions here and the Food Network has a whole Star Wars collection.

Sunday, May the 5th: Try a special Cinco de Mayo Lavender-Lemon Margarita. While you're there be sure to check the whole Muy Bueno Cookbook site for inspiration for a full-on Cinco feast.

Monday, May the 5th:
The experts deem tomato juice to be one of the favoured solutions to a morning-after. Try a Virgin Mary in case you overdid your muy bueno Cinco evening.

However you decide to celebrate this weekend,
I invite you to enjoy Chavela Vargas in the background. My all-time fave is the first one.
If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Monday, April 29, 2019

May 2019

A glorious pink sunrise... with snowflakes in the afternoon!

Yes, we know it's officially Spring, but In Canada. Gardeners are always told never to plant until the May 24th weekend just to avoid the risk of freezing. I guess we shouldn't be surprised, then, to see scudding snowflakes, especially in the higher altitudes where I live. But still! it was 6°C! ... sighs.

How green is my valley? Not at all. Of course, this sunrise was reflected in the skyline buildings (because my balcony faces west), but the sun had not risen high enough to show you. My valley is in shadow like this every morning, and as the sun gets higher and higher, he reveals more and more of my valley. Maybe my valley will develop some lush greens this month. Greens would go nicely with pinks, but by the time the sun uncovers my valley, the pinks will have always given up their drama to blues. Of course, blues bring their own drama ... smiles.

This is still, pretty tho, eh? If you'd asked me I'd say I'm not fond the colour pink. Guess it's that traditional blue-is-for-boys and pink-is-for-girls thing. But Nature does pink soooooo well. And I often seem to find myself in her pink thrall: 

Other people seem to have a more embracing relationship with pink. There are even oodles of images with quotes about pink.

Who knew? 

And now there's this from Pantone: In Pursuit of the Perfect Pink!

PS: I've put my May Day Basket file here. Grab it fast and have some May Day fun!

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

April 2019

TO's March was a regular slumgullion
of lions & lambs...

So many lions! So many lambs! The pic for this month is from one of the more lion-y days. My balcony was in a cloud and even my balcony buddha couldn't see a thing. I had to shoot this through the window because the wind was so strong I couldn't even open the balcony door. Other, more lamb-y days meant nice walks on ice-free sidewalks and wearing only a jacket and no boots, hat, or gloves!

Looking at this picture and thinking about the goulash/ragout of this March's weather stew had me searching for a word that started with a nice lion/lamb-y alliterative L. But no! Instead, I found one of my dad's favourite words: slumgullion. I always thought he had made it up. When I was a girl, he always brought me to giggles saying it. I knew it was a mixture of a bunch of stuff thrown together without rhyme or reason. I knew that because that's what he told me, but I still thought he had made up the definition along with the silly word.Guess my funny daddy wasn't quite so original as I had thought. Seems "slumgullion" has a history mostly referring to stew-type foods enjoyed by the poor. Here I'm enjoying using it more like Good Old Fred Forester might have done.

And that made me think of Good Old Fred's favourite word for an undefinable colour: "muckle-dee dun." So I looked that up, too! Seems it's a real colour used in various forms to describe tan horses. My daddy was a farm boy, so my guess he knew that. And he was just having fun with the word... and my giggly reaction to it.

I managed to make it through all the lions and all the lambs and now I'm lollygagging—and giggling.
If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Monday, March 11, 2019

Happy Pi Day 2019

You know you want to celebrate...

Bet you didn't know this though: Pi is represented by the lower case Greek letter, π, because it is the first letter of the Greek word περίμετρος, meaning perimeter. You pronounce it "per-REEM-eh-tos." Go here to hear it pronounced.

Some math nerds at MIT have a way to start big. HERE

Here are some other PI celebration ideas for the rest of us.

1. Curate your own Pi Playlist. Here's mine. Contents (OK you already know how old I am):

2. Crack some PI jokes:
  • 3.14% of the sailors around the world are “Pi”rates.
  • Divide the circumference of the sun by its diameter and you will get a Pi in the sky.
  • I tell you, do not talk to Pi. He never stops.
 3. Watch some PI movies:
4. Eat some circular PI foods:
  • Pies, sweet and savoury
  • Cookies
  • Pizzas
  • Sliced Pineapples (they've gotta be sliced to be circles!)
5. Click HERE below for a higher resolution of this Pi Day graphic to decorate your desktop for the day! 

How ever you decide to slice it, have a great day honouring how math is always looking for ways to explain nature.

The circle is just the beginning.
If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Mar 2019

Smelling the roses is just the beginning...

I first read of David Reynold's Constructive Living concepts in a magazine article around 1984. His exercises reminded me of some work I had done in university (20 years before) in Paul Baker's theatre class called "Integration of Abilities." Part of the work in the class involved developing an ever-widening vocabulary to describe our every-day experiences. The result is not only more subtlety of expression but NOTICING MORE! I saw this over time with myself and my classmates, then later with Susan, a high school student where I was the substitute teacher for one of her classes. Susan had a remarkable capacity for observation plus a vast vocabulary to describe her nuanced world. Turns out that as a young child she had been a part of Paul Baker's Children's Theater and had done many of the same exercises I had done. We happily shared our excitement about our every-day observations... and I consider myself still in Baker's class.

That's why I was inspired by the Constructive Living exercises to learn more. And... that's when the first iterations of my own Slow & Behold! exercises began. At first, they were simply typed on little slips of paper and folded and put into a round goldfish bowl for a daily random choice. Over the years I refined the set to include noticing things we see, things we hear, things we feel, things we feel, and things we taste. Yes, all 5 senses.

Research shows that most of us consciously experience only 1 or 2 of our senses. The others become also-rans or simply fall by the wayside. We experience them... we just don't notice them. AND we don't develop a vocabulary to enhance our experiences of them. Leonardo, himself, had noticed this and he also gave himself exercises to inhabit all 5 of his senses. Guess I'm in good company, eh?

Anyhow about 2006, I developed Slow & Behold! into a deck of 60 cards and had them printed. Kate recently reminded me that I still have some of that inventory left, all nicely shrinkwrapped. She's been bugging me to open an Etsy shop and offer them to the public. I have now done that—plus I've made a Slow & Behold! journal to go with the cards. Explore my Etsy shop here. There are a number of other things I've made over the years and I thought it would be fun to share them all in one place.

In the meantime, I invite you to try a Slow & Behold! sample across the bottom of this month's calendar. Try it for a week and see what you think. I'm also offering you a free sample of the PDF journal here. It includes directions.

I'm quite happy with my Etsy shop header. I used a newly developed font for the shop name. It's called Sans Forgetta and it was designed to help you remember what you read. The idea is for students to use it for studying digital notes that they take in class for studying later. Here's the Sans Forgeta story. I love the name! You can download it here for free for both Mac and PC.

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Feb 2019

Canada Post is making me smile...

As is its wont, Canada Post has issued its annual stamp marking Chinese New Year. Their offering this year is adding lots of joyous smiles to my face—and my heart. Guess that's because St. Valentine's Day is conjoined, eh?

Beginning Feb 4th we're entering the Year of the Earth Pig. According to Chinese astrology, that means this is a great year to make money and a good year to invest! This year is going to be full of joy, a year of friendship and love for all the zodiac signs—an auspicious year because the Pig attracts success into all the spheres of life.

I found this little piggy pop-up card on a wikihow page.

Seems particularly appropriate for this month’s celebration, don't you think? They’ve included a file download for this white piggy, but I’ve adapted it to match my calendar’s red and patterned piggy.
Go grab my happy file (along with the instructions) from my DropBox here.

Be sure to send me a pic when you've made your own piggy pop-up card.

En-JOY, y'all!

If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Jan 2019

A fresh new start... with fresh new perspectives!

Sometimes I sit and I think:
What if I were to sit over there
And think a different think?
After all,
Isn't that what we're all doing
All the time?
What if...
I just think about the think?
And notice the focus?
The frame?
And see how I can change
All that
With just a slight shift
Of me.
Of my place.
Of my view.

The New Year
Gives us all a chance
To re-new,
To re-think
And to re-sit...
And even
To think a new think
Every day.

This new year,
I invite you
To enjoy your fresh views,
To relish your old thinks
Along with your new thinks
And to discover
How to weave all
Your thinks together.

Last month, Chatanooga had dots. This month, Toronto's got squares. The image for this month's calendar is from a lovely New Year's Eve visit to Bjarke Ingels'  Unzipped, the Serpentine Pavilion in Toronto (just east of Portland St. at 533 King St. West.) Be sure to click on the link above and watch the film! You can walk through Unzipped as well as around it and each glance offers all new perspectives. Here's another perspective... yes, that's me lost in the shadows and looking out!


If this isn't nice, what is?

              ~ Kurt Vonnegut, of course