Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Road to Art

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, there are lots of arts and craft shows to attend, now that winter has supposedly disappeared.

Today we took in the Art Journey Show and Sale in Smiths Falls.  It's an annual event held at the Memorial Community Centre, and apparently this year they have several new artists.

There is a wide variety of talent presented at this show. We not only found paintings in many different styles and mediums, we also found photography, pottery, jewelry, wood carvings
and turnings, as well as folk art made from iron.  It's not a large show, but it was well attended.

It's interesting to see how Helen Nicholson seems to like to try to incorporate familiar faces such as Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Cash or Joan Rivers into her paintings of otherwise everyday scenes.

The artist who's work captured my attention today was Margaret Martin, who joined the group last fall. The works she showed today, were more interesting to me than the ones shown on the Art Journey webpage. I was especially taken with the one of a living room, complete with a bookcase full of books in the background.

If you missed this show this year, then perhaps you can catch some of the others around the area in the upcoming months. A few that I know of are:

1.  The 416 Art Kruze between Kemptville and Cardinal June 6 & 7.  We have never done this tour, but might try to combine it with a little geocaching along the way this year, if the weather is favorable.

2. Another one I've never been to, but am certainly looking forward to exploring this year is Artfest Kingston.  It's taking place between July 1 and 4 at the City Park in Kingston. This one seems to incorporate the art of music as well as the visual arts. You can even participate in workshops, or help paint a mural.  Even the kids can get involved! A sunset dinner cruise is also available in July 2.  

3.  The 17th Annual Rideau Lakes Studio and Garden Tour, July 4 &5 which basically goes from Portland to Chaffey Locks and beyond, through the back country.  It's a lovely drive, with many interesting stops along the way.  If you have never done a studio tour, this is a great one to start with.

4. And for those who don't like to drive all over to see the artist studios, you can find a lot of great art all together at the 5th annual Art in the Barn Show and Sale, at the Lombardy Fair Grounds 5 km south of Smiths Falls on Hwy 15. That will be held on July 10-12 this year. I understand they have expanded to take in a second building as well this year.  This show is always a favorite of ours, even if we don't get to go exploring to find the artists.  Don't miss it!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Are You Ready for the Worst?

This week I've been reading a book called The Jakarta Pandemic, by Steven Konkoly.   It is, of course,  about a world wide epidemic...a pandemic. A new, and very fast spreading flu bug is especially dangerous to normally healthy young adults. People are dying at an alarming rate, and others are avoiding their jobs and in some cases, other people entirely.  You can just imagine what that sudden shortage of workers would do to society. Fuel and food chains break down, and normally civilized people go on a rampage, out of sheer desperation. Coincidentally, I just discovered that this is actually Emergency Preparedness Week

We have all seen the articles about how to prepare for emergencies. There are lists of things you should have on hand, to get you through the tough times when disasters strike. They try not to mention the sort of panic that appears in this novel, but with today's media access it's hard to have missed news stories of looting and riots.

During the ice storm of 1997, we all had to make do with what we had on hand, and some of us had very little warning to stock up our pantries.  Luckily for me, we were only out of power here for five days and five nights, but I know some who had no power in the dead of winter for a good 28 days.  When I went to the store for the last minute stock up, I just brought home a few extras of things that we commonly use around here.  I remember my hubby asking, "Is that all you want?"  I told him I wanted to be sure to leave some for other people.  In this book, the few people who did get to the stores on time managed to wipe out the stock in no time. Others became desperate rather quickly, and that's when the trouble starts. The book is making me think about things that could happen if an emergency lasted a long time, or if the nature of the problem escalated into creating more and more problems.  I think I'd rather be better prepared and will now take a more serious look at the lists created by those who understand just how bad things could get.

What have you done to prepare yourself for a possible emergency situation?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Find Something New at a Farmer's Market

At long last spring seems to have finally arrived. The fat robins are pulling worms from the ground, birds are singing, or scolding me, depending on what I'm doing, and the fields are absolutely full of geese.  The crocuses bloomed and now it's daffodil time, and I even see the buds on the trilliums are developing nicely. Nothing says spring like being able to go outside to enjoy nature, without having to bundle up first.

Something else we have had to live with out all winter will also be back soon too.  In fact, I found one at what used to be Landsdowne Park in Ottawa  last weekend.  A Farmer's Market was open inside the Aberdeen Pavilion. That building is just about all I recognized from the old exhibition grounds. All kinds of new, modern buildings have sprung up recently.  I am so glad they didn't tear down the old Cattle Castle.

We discovered there was new parking below ground, just as you turn off Bank Street into this new Landowne project. There was lots of space and while it cost us $6, that isn't bad when you consider what the hospital parking lots in that city dare to charge.
I had discovered there was going to be a maple festival at that location on Sunday, and since we missed attending both the one in Delta and Perth this year due to other commitments, we decided to take this in.  As it turned out, it just meant that several of the vendors at the Farmer's Market were featuring their maple products.

While there I discovered an area tea company  that I never knew about before. DiversiTea has some interesting flavours.  The Salted Toffee one is calling to me. That would be like having dessert without the calories.

The Milkhouse Farm and Dairy from the Smiths Falls area was selling cheese, lamb and wool. Obviously the cheese also came from sheep. We also sampled some buffalo cheese from Canreg Station Farm & Pasture Dairy located in the Finch area. That was a new experience for me. Some of it was really good too. I especially liked the Elderberry Cheese.  I had intended to bring some home but got distracted by one of the most beautiful displays of baking I've ever seen. Savoury Pursuits had so many wonderful choices and well, one cannot go home without a treat of some sort, right? 

We made off with some Strawberry Brownie Cheesecake Squares.  These were the most impressive looking brownies you can imagine and would be perfect for serving to special company. 

As for other Farmer's Markets in the area, Brockville kicks off the season by opening this weekend, on May 2nd.  Carleton Place and Perth follow by opening on May 9th, Carp on May 10th,  Chesterville on May 23rd, Kemptville on May 24 and my favorite market, at North Gower, opens on May 30th.

Take the $10 Challenge this year by visiting your local Farmers Markets and buying from local producers.  It keeps the money in the area, which is good for our economy.  Explore what the vendors have to offer.  I'm sure you will find something special to bring home.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring Means Arts and Crafts Shows

On the weekend we went on one of our little rambles.

First we went to the Ernst & Young Centre in Ottawa for the annual Originals Craft Show. We used to go to this show all the time, but apparently we have not been in the past four years, since one of the venders told me they had been at that location that long.  I'm sure we had never experienced the show there before.  Another reason I'm sure I must not have been lately was that everything was new to me, other than one or two crafters and the Manitoulin gourmet food producers from Hawberry Farms, who make the jams and dips, etc. the only other person I recognized there was John Shae. He's one of my favorite area artists, and we seem to find him everywhere we go.  Of course, seeing all new (to me) vendors just made it an even better show as there was lots to explore and be tempted by. 

There was a man from the Gaspe region who creates marvelous boxes with little drawers, as well as the most fantastic bird houses I've ever seen. He does it all with driftwood he finds at the beach.  No two pieces are alike as the wood dictates what he does with it. Then there was the lady who sews purses, or bags, that are designed to carry your iPad as well as your usual purse stuff. I bought a purse big enough to do that last year, but these were made of denim and weighed next to nothing. That's a plus point right there!  Some of them had sayings embroidered on them in either English or French. They were totally washable too.  I was very impressed with her designs.  And nothing is as fascinating as Birchbark Mother Nature paints on bits of birch bark, found, preserved and framed by  Galyna Kovalenko, Elena Galiamova & Stalina Roubinova.

I'm always on the lookout for sauces that you can pour over ice cream or cake.  Hillshire Farms used to have them, but they don't anymore.  I found some wonderful ones at the Originals Craft Show containing maple syrup, butter and honey.  Some even had sea salt added, which seems to be the latest fad in foods.  I tasted a couple of varieties and picked one out. It was so good!  It is my usual method to tour the room and then go back and pick up what I decide to take home, so that I don't spend money at one booth, only to discover something I'd rather have further along.  I fully intended to go back for this marvelous concoction, but my hubby discovered some Verbena Blue Jam from the Tangled Garden  and didn't hesitate to pay for that then and there. I knew I was not going to leave without the Crab Mousse from the Little Shop of Lobsters. Since it was pretty pricey, I ended up leaving without the carmel sauce after all. 

On the way home we stopped at Manotick, for their Art Association's Brush With Art Spring Show and Sale. It was a little difficult to locate, but once there we viewed the work of 65 artists.  I enjoyed the works of Douglas Laing and Joseph Coban, both of whom were new to me, as well as many others. I could not leave without one of Bonnie McQuillan's delightful cat magnets. The are the size of a post card, so they are meant more for display than to hold things in place. This is now on my refrigerator, and makes me smile every time I enter the kitchen.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Easter Chocolate Adventures

I decided to have the family Easter gathering a little early this year, in order to make sure I got a turn with the grandchildren. I wanted to get them some treats, but decided that it would be more fun to let them make their own.  My grandsons are now 6 and 10 years old, and I figured they might enjoy filling some of my old chocolate molds themselves. 

The younger one put a few spoonfuls into the mold that made assorted bunny and chick shapes, and then wandered off to watch a movie. The older one loves doing anything involving food, so he stuck around and finished filling that tray. I popped it into the freezer, and proceeded to teach him how to make a  hollow egg.  While he was doing that, I made a hollow duck for his little brother.

I also had a mold that has a space for sucker sticks, but that mold makes 8 three inch rabbits, and that can be a lot of chocolate to eat all at once.  I added some Rice Krispies to the remaining chocolate, and we proceeded to create those together. He spooned the chocolate, and I inserted the sticks, banging the tray on the table from time to time to settle the chocolate more evenly into the molds. 

When things came out of the freezer, I had everyone's attention.  They liked the cute shapes the chocolate had made.  I divided up everything equally, and putting the treats into special bags I had picked up at Bulk Barn. They had different colours and patterns on them so there would be no arguments about who owned the one that had the most left in it later in the week.

When we were making the hollow stuff, I was busy instructing my grandson to turn the egg, to make sure he got the chocolate everywhere on both sides and to keep turning it so that none of the chocolate would settle in all one place inside.  I wasn't paying enough attention to the little duck I was making.  When we unmolded them, the little duck had weak spots, and broke.  Luckily the younger grandson was not at all disappointed. He quickly learned that you can eat mistakes and they taste just as good.

I hope everyone has a very Happy Easter.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My New Computer Washes Clothes

Recently my washing machine threw the breaker switch. This was a good thing as the motor had seized and when that happened to the previous machine, it caught fire. While I had been contemplating getting a new washer because the finish on the washing drum was wearing out, I was not expecting to have to go looking quite so soon, or without time to weigh my options.

We have always had a suds saver machine. That's one where the soapy water goes into one laundry tub, while the rinse water goes into the other one. The machine draws the soapy water back into the drum so that you can reuse it for another load.  That saves a lot of water. This has become even more important to me now that we are on a water meter and the rates have gone up so much that I tend to hold my breath as I open the bimonthly bills.

Apparently the manufacturers have stopped making the suds saving washing machines. To buy another top loader, with the usual agitator, would mean an instant increase in water consumption. I noticed that they now make some without agitators, but I don't understand the process, and am not comfortable with the idea of something so new and foreign to me without having time to look into it.  I had been told that front loaders use much less water so we started by look at those.

I was instantly confused by all the different models and options. In the past, I had gone in and asked the salesman for a suds saving model, and then bought the only one they had. Not only did I not have a specific feature to ask for now, I also had no idea what all these new computerized models were capable of doing. Nor did I have time to do a lot of research. I needed to make the purchase quickly.

I was delighted to discover that the store where I have always bought my appliances had a sale on. There was $250 off the Whirlpool machine.  That made it cheaper than the others in that store, and seemed to do more than I'd ever need it to do.  We went off to do some other shopping while we thought about what to do, or if we should look elsewhere for comparison's sake.

When we went back to find out how long that sale would be on, we found out it was just for the day.  Then the salesman pulled up a price comparison page, on his computer monitor, and found it for about $50 lower somewhere else. He immediately matched the price. No comparison shopping necessary, at least not in person these days, it seems. No matter how much time and thought and research I put into buying a new machine, I'd never feel sure I was choosing the best possible option out there. Manufacturers give us too many choices these days. We decided we'd probably be just as happy with this one as any, so the purchase was made.

The salesman said that the motor on my new washer is guaranteed for 10 full years. That might have been a great selling point, given our two past experiences but I almost laughed as this machine is practically a computer, and I expect the electronics will fail first.

Now I have to learn how to do laundry all over again. This is the first time I have ever had a washing machine that required programming.  I'm used to just twisting a dial to indicate the size of the load, the temperature of water I want to use, and occasionally setting the machine for a gentler cycle than usual.  This new one senses the water level needed, and while I can set it to take care of more heavily soiled or more delicate loads, that's done on a touch screen. 

One of the main advantages of this electronic marvel is that I can put the load in during the day, when the electricity rates are at their highest, and ask it to start during the evening when the rates are at their lowest. In the past, I would think about doing a load at night, but then not want to go down to the cold basement after dark to do that. I ended up doing all my laundry on weekends, which used to be considered time off.  I just may wear out the timer before I wear out the washer, as I know that pre-set feature is going to get a lot of use. 

Now I have to remember to leave the door and dispenser open after the wash, to prevent mold, check under the rim for small object that might have fallen in there, and run a cleaning cycle once a month. That means I have to buy a special cleaner, as well, apparently a different kind of laundry formulation. It will be a learning experience. Each load will take longer to wash, but since I will no longer be washing two loads at once, and hopefully not spending my weekends doing laundry, that shouldn't be a problem.

While I have purchased the High Efficiency detergent now, I bought the liquid kind, like I normally use. The manual says that liquid detergent works best as the powdered stuff may not dissolve properly and could form clumps. It also tells me that for pre-set washes, I apparently need the powdered kind anyway, so it doesn't seep into the washer ahead of time, and gum up the works.  The new fangled capsules, on the other hand, are to be added to the drum before the laundry, and could likely be the answer for pre-loaded washes.  I'd love to hear from any of you who have detergent stories.

We've done two loads so far. The laundry came out soft and clean and was spun much dryer than usual. It wasn't tangled up either.  I left the door open afterwards, but forgot about the soap dispenser the first time. My hubby forgot to put the detergent in before starting the water the second time, and discovered the water shoots up through the dispenser if you open it while the machine is on. Like I said, it will be a learning experience.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Too Many Choices

Once upon a time you could go shopping for what you wanted without having to make a lot of decisions. If you wanted clean hair, you bought shampoo. If you wanted a skin cream you bought a moisturizer. If you wanted an appliance, you just asked for one that did what you wanted it to do, and the salesman showed you the right model. Things have changed.  Now we are faced with entire walls of shampoos and skin creams and when it comes to appliances, well, it's too confusing for words.

There are not only a multitude of shampoo brands to pick from, you have to narrow it down to whether you want to build body, control frizz, repair damage, protect colour or even enhance grey. There are shampoos that are organic, sulphate free, offer thermal protection, are fortifying, nourishing, hydrating or clarifying.  There are shampoos for children, oily hair, thin hair and some that prevents hair fall. There are dandruff shampoos, dry shampoos, pet shampoos, and 2 in 1 shampoos that combine the conditioning with the cleaning power.

I'm thrilled when I get samples and find something I like without having to face that wall of decisions and take a chance on spending money on something not right for me.  I just have to locate the one I want next time I go to the store, though even that isn't always easy.

For face care there are cleansers, exfoliators, toners, serums, gels and  moisturizers.  There are day creams, night creams, eye creams, and throat creams. There are things called BB creams and CC creams. There are products that protect, nourish, clarify, lift, rejuvenate, brighten, illuminate, and erase blemishes and dark spots. Oh and let's not forget the ones that promise to prevent or diminish wrinkles.

A friend called recently to ask what I use on my face. She admitted that she was never one to use moisturizers and such, and had come to the conclusion that it was time to try to do something about what nature does to us all over time. I've been using moisturizers of one sort or another since way back when I even washed my face with Noxzema in my early teens. She said when she looked at the wall of products available, she had no idea of where to start.  I'm not sure any of us do. 

Really, I believe that more is not necessarily better, and that comes to choices too.  I can't tell you how many times I have considered trying a new brand of makeup and found that I couldn't decide on what to pick because there were too many brands, with too many different lines, and too many shades in each. I found this site where you could match the shade you currently use with others available on the market. It didn't work for me though as I've been using Yves Rocher products for years and that brand is not listed.

I'm not sure why any one brand would make so many different lines of things that do so many different things. Sure that would create something for everyone, but  I would think that would also cost them more in development, production, packaging and advertising than if they just created a few good products and put them where we all could find them. I'm sure that added cost gets passed on to us, the consumer.

Once again, I'm glad that so many samples are offered online these days. I've discovered some marvelous products over the past few years that I likely never would have purchased, or even known about otherwise.  Facing that wall of decisions every time I need to make a purchase has, on occasion caused me to walk away with nothing. I know I'm not the only one that has reacted that way. The companies can't make any money that way.

Keep it simple, I say. The population is aging, and there are days when we don't want to have to read a million labels just to buy some every day product.