Saturday, August 29, 2015

An Artistic Endevour

Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf states. Shortly afterwards lady I know went to New Orleans a help out. There was devastation everywhere. One morning she saw something that summed up her visit. In a tree she saw a large battered birds nest, and a magnolia bud. The magnolia bud promised hope and rebirth for the city while the nest, no longer in good shape, could be rebuilt. She took a photograph so that she would remember.

When she got home, and had the photo printed, what she had was the full tree, and it was hard to even pick out the two objects that had caught her eye. This past year she mentioned what she had seen to me, and said she was going to bring me the photo, to see if I could paint a clearer representation of what she had tried to capture.

Someone kindly cropped the picture for her, so that it showed just the nest and the bud in the tree, but she was still disappointed. Magnolias bloom before their leaves come out, but because there were other trees behind it that were fully leafed out, they created a rather cluttered background.  She brought me the cropped picture, and mentioned that maybe she might have had a better shot if she had taken the picture from the other side of the tree.

Now, I admit that I usually paint from a photograph, painting what I see.  It still amazes me that I actually agreed to see what I could do with this, when clearly I could not paint from the photo on this occasion. She assured me it was just the idea that she was after, and I took on the challenge.

First I did some searching on the internet for pictures of large nests and magnolia buds. I found several that looked like they would be of help to me. I set out to draw how I planned to fit things on the canvas. Originally I intended to do this painting in acrylic, as mistakes can be painted over, numerous times if necessary. I fully expected to need to do that.

In the beginning I still saw what was in the photograph, and pretty well laid the painting out the same way, though I exaggerated the size of the magnolia blossom.  I knew the painting would be pretty ugly if the magnolia blossom only took up a small portion of the canvas so I wasn't happy with that plan. Then I remembered her saying that she should have walked around to the other side of the tree.

In my mind, I started moving bit by bit, like I would if I were the one taking the photo. I didn't have to go to the other side of the tree. I just had to go far enough so that the magnolia was in front of nest.  Yes, that would work.  I had a new plan.  The magnolia bud was in a much better position to make the painting interesting.  The painting was no long horizontal with lots of unneeded space. I now had a vertical plan.

I tested the idea out in watercolour, just to see how it was going to look. Since I had a much clearer picture in my mind of what I wanted the finished painting to look like, I just kept going.

Today, ten years after the worst natural disaster in American history, they are still rebuilding. I thought it was the perfect time to deliver the painting to the kind lady who took the time to try to help out so many years ago.

Have you paid it forward lately?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rideau Ferry Regatta

Last weekend we attended the Rideau Ferry Regatta once again. This time we took our youngest son and his two boys with us, and planned on a picnic lunch.

There was such a large turnout that we thought we were parking a long way from where we wanted to be, and the guys didn't want to lug the chairs and food all that way. We ended up having the picnic in the car before heading down to the waterfront to watch the races.  Then we discovered that there was actually a shortcut between the car and where we wanted to sit, so they went back for the chairs after all. 

Meanwhile, as I stood waiting, two men called to me.  One was from our village. I've known him a long time and he actually gave my son his first job when he was a teenager. The other was his brother-in-law, and had gone to school with my hubby and his brothers.  We sat with them and had a nice visit.

We were not there in time to see the cardboard boat race, but I did locate the one decorated by the children from my village.  It was in far better shape than some of the others.

My youngest grandson decided it was time for a swim.

But he had to get out of the water when the races were underway.

We had to explain to him that it is possible for powerboats to lose control during the races and that it's much safer to watch from dry land.

Kids will only be amused by intermittent races for just so long and then you have to find something else to interest them. We went to see what else was going on at the site.

We discovered that teams of four could pay $120 and build a canoe on Saturday and race it on Sunday.  All materials and instructions are provided. Several teams were busy with the construction while we were there.

Better than that, as far as the kids were concerned, was that they were allowed to build and decorate a boat of their own, for free. There were three varieties of boats to choose from: a tugboat, a sailboat, and a race boat. Well, we were at a boat race, so they both chose race boats and happily set out to each deck theirs out in their own way, along with several other kids doing the same thing.

This kind of work takes great concentration.

Someone was really happy to have been able to make a boat that day.

I really enjoyed my day with family, and I always enjoy this event.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Apple Pie Tree

People laugh when I mention my apple pie tree.

Pies don't grow on trees, I'm told, but every year, this tree throws apples at me until I'm compelled to get busy creating pies and apple sauce for the coming winter.

Every morning I go out and pick up the windfalls. It used to be, if I didn't get out there quickly enough, the wasps, slugs, and ants would destroy them.  One year the crows got in on the action. They would peck at the apples in the tree, until they fell. Then instead of going down and working on their  harvest, they would just move over to another good apple and start pecking holes in that too.

This year, sadly, I have seen no wasps near the apples at all.  And no slugs either.  There have been a few ants, but not as many as I'd expect. Thankfully the crows have moved to another neighbourhood.  I think the squirrels have taken over the job of knocking the apples out of the tree.  I see scraping marks on the skin of many apples, like the skin was too slippery for their teeth to sink into.  Other apples are just chewed on one side, and sometimes even carried towards the trees that line the property.

My tree has not been sprayed in many years, so the apples are not the best. From each basket of usable apples

I get a big pile of peelings

and one pot of apples

that becomes one fabulous crustless apple pie.

While gathering that one basket of apples, I also pick up the rest of the unusable windfalls, which go to the local landfill compost site.

I have offered them to hunters for the deer, but it's too early yet.  Perhaps someone with horses would like them.

I have just baked the first pie of the season. Now I will begin my yearly ritual. I will be busy for an hour each day peeling and chopping another basket full. I will make pies to stack up in one corner of the freezer.

The apples are cooked in the pot until they are tender, but still holding their shape. If I leave them on the stove too long, then I have applesauce. That's fine too. 

One of the reasons I make crustless pies is that they take up so much less room in the freezer.  I just line the pie plate with plastic wrap, pour in the cooled filling, and secure the plastic over the top before popping it into the freezer.  Once frozen, the pies are removed from the pie plates and wrapped in foil. This allows me to keep them until the next crop arrives, if necessary.....which is a good thing since I seem to have a few leftover at this point.  I just put a crumble topping on and bake from the frozen state and they taste just like the fresh ones.

I could have, and probably should have been processing more apples instead of telling you about it.  I now have three baskets ahead of me, and still have not picked up the apples that dropped overnight. Most of the year this is just an apple tree. Right now, it's my apple pie tree, even if it does need some help from me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bookmark Canada

I had a chance encounter with a lady on the street this week. She saw me taking pictures and wondered if I would like one of myself with that background. I live here, but she is a visitor. In the city the conversation we had would probably never have happened. The friendliness of our village makes even visitors feel comfortable chatting with strangers.

It seems she is an executive member of something called Project Bookmark Canada. That's a national, charitable organization that seeks out, and marks, places that have been mentioned in Canadian literature with Bookmarks in the form of poster-sized ceramic plaques. There are currently at least 13 Bookmarks scattered across Canada, with a couple more in the works. This summer they have launched some themed contests. For example the most recent one Bookmark Summer Reads Campaign: Parks CanLit invited members of the public to read books by Canadian authors, and identify park land where literary scenes were set. Every two weeks they will announce a different theme.

Their supporters can also use their cameras and smartphones and share pictures of their favourite summer reading places on Twitter and Instagram using the #BookmarkSummerReads hashtag. For every picture shared, they get a chance to win a fun weekly prize.

Even if I don't become a supporter, I do think I'm going to keep track of what this group is up to.  I'll start by joining their Facebook page.

I notice they have a Bookmark in Ottawa.  Hunting that down will be much like going on another geocaching adventure, but I'll actually have an address to head for.  Any excuse to go exploring is fine with me.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Trouble Ahead for the Food Industry

In the last few of years I have cursed a number of hand held can openers. I have thrown several away and gone out an purchased new ones, and still I have trouble opening cans.  It doesn't matter whether you spend $20 for ones with the big plastic handles, or search out the cheaper, all metal variety, which are becoming harder and harder to find.  I have even tried the kind that cuts the entire top off the can below the rim.  They leave a very sharp edge, and I find that rather dangerous.  No matter how many can openers I have, I always seem to have to work my way through them to find one that will open the can.  I have heard that other people were having trouble too.

I have discovered, through trial and error, that perhaps I should not have thrown away some of the openers I disposed of. They might have opened a different can.  I now know I have one that will open any yellow labeled no-name product, but nothing else.  I suspect others will open some other types of cans, but will skip and sputter along the top of anything else.

Earlier this week I decided to make a bean salad consisting of kidney beans, chick peas and green beans, along with some green pepper and onions.  I set the three cans on the counter and proceeded to open them.  The first one opened easily, and without any trouble at all.  I couldn't help thinking I was lucky to have grabbed the right can opener for a change. The second can also opened, but it took a lot more effort on my part, to turn the key and cut the lid.  The by the time I got to the third can, I couldn't even dent the lid with that can opener, and had to try another one.  The second one moved about an eighth of an inch every time I turned the key a full turn. I would have tried another one, but it seemed to be stuck on the can so I just kept going.  It took a long time but least it wasn't skipping.  There is nothing worse than going all the way around the can and finding that the lid is still attached in more than one place, but depressed so that none of the opener blades can reach the metal to cut it.

I began to wonder if some of these products were canned in China or someplace so I read the labels.  Each and every one of them said they were produced in Canada, but they were all different brands and processed at different canning facilities.  That was a revelation to me.  The problem is not the openers, as I had always thought, but that the canning companies are each using their own can with apparently no standard rim size set by the industry.

This problem of getting a can open is fairly new, in the scheme of things.  We didn't use to have this problem.  I remember we could all open any can with whatever opener was available.

Standard can sizes have been around in the United States since the early1870's and I have no idea if the Americans are having the same kinds of problems as many of us here in Canada seem to be.  Perhaps the lids are being re-designed to have a shorter and thinner rim at the top. Maybe it even has something to do with metric sizes.  There is likely no universal standards for the can opener manufactures, and now it seems there is also no standards for the cans either. It's pure luck if you pick up the right opener for the right can the first time. If you fail, pick up another one, made by a different manufacturer, and try again.  It's not the can openers, it's the cans.

One would think, that our country would require a standard can, with a standard rim, that could be easily opened by young and old alike.  I'm getting too old to fight with cans.  Maybe that will end up being good for my health as I'll be forced to eat fresh food, or go back to doing my own canning.  Maybe all the other baby boomers will feel the same way.  I'm sure other age groups are becoming frustrated too. Canned food could end up sitting on store shelves until the expiry date just because we are tired of fighting to get it opened.  Food processors had better get their act in gear or they could find themselves out of business. We, the people, have that kind of power.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Zip Line Rescue Operations

Are you adventurous enough to try a zip line adventure?  I always thought it looked like good fun.  You get all harnessed up and safely zip from one end of the line to the other, and enjoy the view along the way. I wouldn't have hesitated to try it, if given the chance.


Recently, on vacation, we stopped at Grand Falls in New Brunswick. I noticed two zip lines across the waterway there.  One went from the bridge well below the falls, to the opposite side of the river. The second one went back across the river, right over some of the most turbulent waters. 

We spotted a group of young people out for a day's adventure. 

A couple of them got a little more than they bargained for when they found themselves dangling over the falls.
This one almost made it to the end of the line before the momentum came to a halt.

The other one was stuck in a more precarious spot.

How would you like it if you were zipping along and suddenly stopped dead, hanging over all that dangerous water?

It didn't take long before one of the attendants put on a harness and went to the rescue.

The first one was quickly brought to safety.  You could see the relief on the face of the person dangling further out when he knew it was his turn next.

Help is on the way.

Almost there.....


The rescuer wraps his legs around the stranded person and begins the long trip back.

Safe at last.
It's nice to know that the attendants do know how to get you back to solid ground if something causes you to stop sliding, but I'm no longer so sure I'd want to ride the zip line.  At least not over a wild waterfall.
It was more than enough adventure for me just watching this rescue!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tall Tales and Weather Predictions

Years ago there was a weatherman at CJOH in Ottawa who would forecast wonderful weekend weather, time and time again, only for us to experience wet rainy conditions. Many of us got to the point where we actually didn't trust his weekend weather reports, and some openly called him a liar.  Eventually he admitted that he didn't want to tell us when it was going to rain on a weekend, as he didn't want to spoil our fun. Of course, going where we planned to go and getting rained on also spoiled our fun, but I guess he didn't see it that way.

Technology has changed so much since those days that we don't even need to tune into the TV weather forecasts if we don't want to.  I can check my local weather on my computer, and I have a Weather Network app on my tablet.  If I want to, I can not only see the current forecast but also what's expected to happen over the next two weeks, or even hour by hour for the next 36 hours.  I don't have to even limit myself to where I am. If I am going somewhere, or planning a vacation, I can look at where I'm headed and see how things will be when I'm there.

Actually, I did that last year. We were planning to go to Nova Scotia for our holiday.  The weather was not all that great here, so I looked where we were going to see if it was going to affect us there, and if postponing a couple of days would be a good idea, so that we could follow the weather there, instead of it following us.  What I saw was that they seemed to be expecting rain every day for the entire two weeks we had available for travel. Since everything we like to do is outside, we decided not to go, and enjoyed a Staycation here, with day trips around the area. It was very enjoyable, but when it was over, I got plenty of reports from people who were in the maritimes during our vacation time who told me the weather had been wonderful.  I'm wondering if perhaps the forecasts I saw showed a 40% probability, but the graphics definitely showed raindrops each and every day.

This spring I discovered that Kingston was going to host an Artfest in a big city park and I have been looking forward to it more than any other event this year. We had planned to go for Canada Day, but once again the weather got in the way.  Or maybe it was just the weather forecast.

It was definitely not the nicest day here, and I was not even tempted to wander downtown to even see if the usual Canada Day festivities were taking place.  I checked the Kingston weather, and found that the only difference was that we were expecting possible thunderstorms here, but they were just expecting rain.  Either way, the weather put a damper on any plans I had for the day.  I just stayed in and read all day, and surfed the internet.

While online I discovered that we could get tickets to an adaptation of Pirates of Penzance at the 1000 Island Playhouse in Gananoque at a greatly reduced rate for that one night only. We jumped on this deal, and enjoyed an evening out. The rich costumes of the usual Gilbert and Sullivan production were nowhere in evidence in this adaptation. The troupe brought the story forward to 1926 and set it among the Thousand Islands.  The pirates in this story became rum runners on the Saint Lawrence River.  There was a great deal of talent on stage, and lots of giggles and outright belly laughs going on in the audience. My Canada Day may not have been what I had planned, but it turned out just fine in the end.

The following day I was once again online and saw lots of photos of the first day of the Kingston Artfest.  The sun appeared to be shining in those pictures. Lots of people were there, and lots of tents held a wide variety of artwork. I could have been there after all.

A little research shows me that weather forecasts are usually quite accurate within a three day time frame. I really have to stop looking at the weather forecasts when I'm making plans, because apparently all weather men lie, just in case what happens might spoil your day.