Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Naomi and Alex, still in looooooove...


"Can't you see we're enjoying  our 'alone' time?"

"No, we won't get a room. Buzz off!"
 And our friend Margaret took this nice pic of me and Ronna at the art sale on Saturday...

I stole it from Ronna's blog! :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Our art sale

My friends Holly and Ronna and I had our annual art sale on Saturday, and it was a blast. Ronna blogged about it, as did our friend Evlyn, and I stole a few of Ronna's photos to post here.

Richard took this picture of me, Ronna and Holly posing outside with the great signage Holly created! (Ronna's sweetie Richard took these.)

Here I am, channelling my inner "A."

We set up the show on Friday night. We have it down to a science now.

Ronna took a pic of me organizing my box of photo cards.

Here are some more of the felted wallhangings I did (quite small, about 5" x 7".) Once I take some better photos, I'm going to list in my Etsy shop the ones that didn't sell at the show. The cows I blogged about the other day both sold!

Beaker immortalized!

 Wee chickadee.

Gordon, Holly, Ronna and Richard had one last look around before the doors opened on Saturday.

Ronna made beautiful cupcakes!

Here is some of Ronna's hand-painted china.

And her folk art painting on wood, and hand-painted greeting cards!

Here's a shot of my table.

Richard and Gordon shooting the breeze.

David (Holly's hubby) and Gordon hard at work in the kitchen.

Our friends Evlyn (centre) and Barb have a look at my art.

Richard picked this one out for Ronna! I'm glad she's getting it. 

All in all, we had a great day and I'm looking forward to next year. Thanks Ronna and Holly, and everyone who came to see us!

Mouse invasion update: we were woken up at 12:30 am today by the sounds of three cats chasing a mouse around our bedroom. Gordon grunted some recognition of this fact. I switched on the light, took in the scene, then stumbled off to the bathroom. As I shuffled back to bed, Julius (immortalized in the art piece above) sauntered past me with said mouse clutched in his jaws. Putting in my ear plugs to tune out any more cat-and-mouse nonsense, I turned off the light and went back to sleep. I was wondering what had become of the mouse, until tonight, when I saw what I thought was a leaf on the carpeting upstairs. Feeling secure in the acuity of my vision, I prodded the leaf. The soggy, furry, TAILED leaf. My scream was loud enough to set Sophie off barking.

It would appear that Julius bolted down his furry snack, which then didn't quite agree with him. He regurgitated it on the carpet at some point, and I found it this evening, looking rather like an owl pellet. I picked it up with a Kleenex and flushed it down the toilet, septic system be damned!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bring Bats to Light

Here is the bat brochure I designed and illustrated for the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Stewardship Council. Gordon is on the council and this was his project. He wrote the text for the brochure, and his project involves installing bat houses at selected spots in our area. If you click on the images, they should enlarge enough to be readable!

The printed brochure has three folds, but that doesn't work so well in a blog post, so these are the front and back pages spread out instead of in panels.

If you want a better version of the brochure, you can email me at the address in my profile and I will send you a PDF. 

Bats need our help! 

Thursday, November 24, 2011



Here are a couple more creations for our Art Sale this Saturday. I haven't put the backing on yet, so they aren't lying as flat as they should. I also need to de-lint all my fibre art!

I wanted to try drawing some cows. I used photos from my birthday visit to a dairy farm as reference. 

I just slapped these on my scanner; I need to take some real photos before the show. 

THe cows were drawn on vellum with pen and ink, then I added colour with thinned acrylic paint. Then I re-inked some spots, and sewed the drawing to the backing with embroidery floss.

The backing is needle-felted wool roving on felt fabric. I sewed in some beads, too and the hanging loops are beads on fishing line.

Got the idea for this technique from an article in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. My friend Ronna introduced me to that mag, and I really enjoy it!

If you're in the area Saturday, come to our show from 1 pm to 4pm at the Dunvegan Recreation Hall, 19053 County Road 24, Dunvegan, Ontario. It's an hour east of Ottawa, an hour west of Montreal. My friends Ronna and Holly will be there with me, selling their beautiful art, and Holly's talented hubby is going to play classical guitar! Plus there will be goodies baked by us three artists. 

Hope to see you Saturday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

First taste of winter!

We had our first taste of winter today! At first, the ducks refused to come outside. But then little "Danger Duck" took the plunge. She launched herself into the snow, then started eating it. Consider it was the first time the ducklings have ever experienced the white stuff, it didn't take them too long to get used to it.

"What the hell is this stuff?" Cold and tasteless, just like a Kardashian!" (Oops, low blow!)

Warren the Upper Canada Village duck (with the whacky wing) hunkered down outside for a bit, then spent most of the day in the nice, dry barn.

 There was  initially a certain lack of enthusiasm about the weather!

But before long, everyone was outside as per usual.

I offered snack bowl of scratch feed in the barn, which proved very popular!

It's all supposed to melt tomorrow when the temps warm up, but you just know there's more of the white stuff to come.

Out. Of. CONTROL!!!

When Gordon went to use the gas grill the other evening, he opened the lid to discover this...

Needless to say, there was no barbecue that night. Deer-mouse burgers are not my favourite.

Perhaps this is a solution?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cats and chickens and our annual Art Sale!

Ronna, Holly and I are having our annual Art Sale this Saturday in lovely Dunvegan, Ontario (an hour east of Ottawa, an hour west of Montreal, or an hour up from the border at Cornwall!) Come join us for great art and tasty baking!

Here's a peak at what I've been up to...

It's my lovely chicken, Georgiana! I saw the idea for this technique in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. First I did a pencil sketch, which I then used as the basis for a pen-and-ink drawing on translucent vellum. When the ink was dry, I put on two coats of polymer medium, painted it with thinned acrylics, re-inked some spots, then sewed it to the backing with embroidery floss. The backing is needle-felted wool on felt fabric. I used glass beads for the hanging loops. This one measures about 5" x 5." I've had a lot of fun doing these! 

If you're in the area next Saturday, please drop by our sale. Do a little Christmas shopping and enjoy our home-baked offerings.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Secret Spy Diary, 1975

While tidying up some papers today, I found THIS:

CSIS, look out: it's my SECRET SPY DIARY from 1975! X-rated, apparently.

I was 11 at the time and had just finished reading Harriet the Spy. Utterly enamoured of Harriet and her exciting life in New York City, I spent a lot of time wishing I could find an egg cream in surburban Toronto. (Harriet was a fan of that soda-fountain specialty.) I wanted to be Harriet, and so I decided it was time to start spying.

After my parents split up, I spent a lot of time alone and in my head. An awful lot of crap going on at home that needed tuning out, so it was easy for me to slip into the fantasy life of a girl spy. I even had the dorky glasses! And there was much to watch.

In 1975, my single mother's newly-divorced friend Rachel came to live with us for a while. Rachel both fascinated and repelled me. I thought her beehive hair-do was amazing, but was appalled when she told me to call her by her first name instead of "Mrs." I was a very prim and proper kid in many ways, and I could not wrap my head around calling an adult "Rachel." Consequently, I avoided calling her anything!

When Rachel and her hubby split and she came to bunk with us, her ex kept custody of their son. Rachel was a wild and free swinging-70s single, and my mother was her partner in crime. It's too bad I didn't see fit to write about something more exciting than the contents of her Christmas cards, but for reasons known only to my 11-year-old self, that's what I decided was spy-worthy.

  I'm not sure if the spelling mistakes in the book are all mine or not. I know I had a handle on how to spell "Phyllis," (my mother) but many others didn't...

“March Fourth: Some woman phoned for Rachel. She sounds like a dick. Rachel's x-mas cards: Read: ‘Dear Rachel, How's Everything been? I imagine you have your own place now but since I don't know the adress I'm sending this care of Phyliss. Please drop a line if you get a chance. If your'e down for Christmas drop by for some Christmas cheer. Love Di & Vern.’”

I feel certain I didn't know the deeper anatomical meaning of the word "dick" when I wrote that passage.

THere were also cards from “Lorrie Joanne Gruhl” and the mysterious “Susan”, who apparently was also incapable of spelling my Mum's name correctly.

But even more spellbinding:

“Rachel has lots of fur hats.”

I also took my notebook to school with and kept watch over my classmates...

Scott E. is wierd (sic)”
“David T. smokes”
“What Scott E. thinks of T-Jay M.
is wierd
is a good pal
is way out
is cute”

“There are certain people in the class that I have to watch in the class.

(In the class. Just in case you didn't get that the first two times!)

“What Sonja H. thinks of Keith M.
is sweet
is handsome
is great...

(Who the hell names their kid “T-Jay”?!)

...is super
is stupendous
is sensuous 
is sexy.”

(I believe those last four adjectives were based not on reality but rather on my lifelong love for alliteration.)
“In Sonja's notebook it says ‘I love Keith M.’ Everybody thinks I love Stephen D. Well I don't. I hate his guts. I just like hate his stories and but he is good in plays.

Okay, for starters, that was a bald-faced lie. I was TOTALLY INFATUATED with Stephen D! I just didn't want anyone to know. He acted in school plays while I toiled behind the scenes, painting appliance-boxes to look like caves. I got to do this alone out in the school hallway, because I was a troubled creative brainiac, and the teachers were always looking for ways to keep me busy.
Fortunately, Stephen and I didn't grow up and marry each other. A couple of years ago, one of my oldest friends met up with Stephen at a high school reunion, where, despite being the married father of more than one child, he tried to pick her up!

Truth be told, I didn't have good taste in men until I was 25 and took up with Gordon.

“This movie, “Trilogy of Terror” is gonna be scary. I'm gonna play ‘guess what’”

Yeah, my mother let  11-year-old me watch a horror movie that involved sex, violence, and a woman who slept with her father, killed her mother, and was subsequently infested by a Zuni doll spirit. My Mum always treated me like I was 42.
 More entries from the Secret Spy Diary to follow!

Secret Spy at Busch Gardens, Florida, 1976

Friday, November 18, 2011

Not dead, just resting...

I am behind on blogging and on reading everyone else's blogs. Hope to catch up this weekend! This week has just been too busy, and I was blow-drying yet another godforsaken duck tonight. Don't ask. They are driving me nuts.

I am LOVING all the duck limericks, and owe you contributors a few comments. Stay tuned. The limericks are wonderful! :)

I managed to pickle some beets last week. I grew a lot of chioggia beets this year, and I also seemed to have a few albino beets but the whole mix was a tad paler than you might expect. A little pink!  I wasn't planning on growing albino beets this year, so I must have mixed up some seeds last year. I found the lack of colour unappealing. Oh well!  I did have some normal beets too...

Cooking up the beets and onions.

Filling up the Mason jars! I do think the colours were very pretty and jewel-like.

And into the hot-water bath. I wish I could have done more pickling this year. I need to schedule my time better.

Here's my favourite beet recipe, (the one I used here) from Bernardin:

Beet & Onion Pickles


Makes about 5 x 500 ml jars.

8 cups (2000 ml) prepared beets, about 4 lb (1.8 kg)

3 cups (750 ml) sliced onions, about 3 medium

2 -1/2 cups (625 ml) cider vinegar

2 cups (500 ml) granulated sugar

1 -1/2 cups (375 ml) water

1 tbsp (15 ml) mustard seed

1 tsp (5 ml) Each: salt, whole allspice and whole cloves

6 inch (15 cm) cinnamon stick

• Scrub beets and trim all but 2 inches (5 cm) off stems; do not cut off roots. Cook beets in boiling water, until tender, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from water and allow to cool slightly. Remove skins by easily slipping off beets. Cut into large chunks and measure 8 cups (2000 ml); set aside.

• Place 5 clean 500 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside; heat SNAP LID® sealing discs in hot water, not boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and sealing discs hot until ready to use.

• Combine onions, vinegar, sugar, water, mustard seed, salt, allspice, cloves and cinnamon sticks in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil; boil gently 5 minutes. Add beets and return to a full boil. Remove from heat. Discard cinnamon sticks.

• Pack beets into a hot jar to within 3/4 inch (2 cm) of top of jar. Add hot liquid to cover beets to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top of jar (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if required, by adding more beets and hot liquid. Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining beets and hot liquid.

• When canner is filled, ensure that all jars are covered by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of water. Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. At altitudes up to 1000 ft (305 m), process –boil filled jars – 30 minutes.*

• When processing time is complete, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours; DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands.

• After cooling check jar seals. Sealed discs curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use home canned foods within one year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mouse 1, Cats 0

We've had quite the influx of mice lately. They prefer the warmth of our house to the icy outdoors as winter approaches. For the most part, we have a warm-and-fuzzy, bleeding-heart liberal approach to mice. While we do NOT want them in our house (good luck keeping mice out of a draughty century-home surrounded by grain-filled fields!), neither do we want to use sticky- or snap-traps. Poison is out too. I don't want it in my house, for starters, and the last thing I want to see is a cat ingesting a dying, poisoned mouse. My crusty farmer friend Eugene mocks me for all of this, but not quite as much as he mocks me for bathing and blow-drying poultry in the house!

Anyway, as an alternative we use a "Tin Cat" mouse trap, which is great because it catches several mice at a time without gore or death. Every morning, Gordon gathers up the trap and drives the inmates a few kilometres down the road, depositing them near a nice stand of trees (but not near anyone else's farmhouse!), where they no doubt survive for three seconds before being eaten by an owl, a hawk, roving barn cat or any number of wild creatures with a taste for rodent. But at least this way the blood isn't on our hands, and we can live with our fantasy about cute little mice living cozily in a tree stump in the forest, sipping little cups of mousy tea and reading scary kitty-cat bedtime stories to their children.

Back when Gordon was still working in Ottawa, he would take the mice with him as he left for work in the morning. Occasionally he would completely forget about the trap, and the mice would get a nice day trip to Ottawa and back! Once, Gordon remembered them just as he arrived at the parking garage in his office building. He decided it would be okay to release his furry prisoners anyway, and he sidled up to a nearby high-rise condo building. Deciding that the manicured courtyard would be the perfect place for the furry freeloaders to set up residence, Gordon casually flipped the top on the trap. Out leapt the mice, promptly disappearing. What Gordon didn't consider was the fact that he was surrounded by tall buildings. I often wonder how many bored government workers looked down that morning and wondered just what the hell the bearded man in the raincoat was doing down there with a tin box!

Which brings us to the present day. This seems to be a banner fall for mice taking up residence inside, and cats have been waking us up at night as they chase squeaking victims up and down the stairs and all around the house. Alex had a uniquely noisy three-legged gait. Once I woke up to find blood smears all over the downstairs bathroom floor and baseboards, but no sign of an injured or deceased animal. We'll never quite know what happened in there in the dark of night, but Julius wasn't particularly hungry for breakfast that morning.

Our overfed cats have moments of exquisite USELESSNESS when mousing. Naomi's favourite trick is to catch a mouse upstairs, carry it down to the kitchen, drop it, and watch it run under the stove...

Then one, two or three cats will spend an hour watching intently. Amazingly, the mouse is often stupid enough to run right into the thicket of cats.

"I can see it! Can you see it, Alex?"

Despite having only three legs, Alex is a proficient killing machine when he feels so inclined.

"How long do you want to wait, Alex?"
"I dunno, Naomi. Kibble is easier!"

Meanwhile, up in the bathroom (walls stripped, waiting for plasterer, and I dream of a new floor and a husband who remembers to close toilet seats so dogs don't drink out of the bowl)...

The orange cat is staring intently while his cohort get restless. Is he looking at the bird magazine?


Despite a long period of intense staring, Julius (who used to kill mice instantly with a whap of his paw) just sat and watched as Naomi predictably caught the mouse, ran past me, and deposited it...

...in the kitchen. Where, you guessed it, the mouse ran under the stove. Occasionally they spice things up and run under the fridge too.

I've written about mice a LOT on this blog. There was the time three cats cornered a mouse on a lamp. And who can forget the lazy-ass cats who can't be bothered to do their job?  There were gifts left for me on the family-room floor. And just last weekend, Gordon found this in the basement as we were cleaning up the firewood-storage area:

Yep, that's a mouse skeleton. Interestingly, the skull is missing, which perhaps can be explained by my discovery, some time ago, of a severed mouse head laid carefully in front of my washing machine.

It's going to be a long winter.