Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Sundae Sunday

There were so many things available to do this past weekend but the weatherman was threatening rain again. We decided to choose an activity we wouldn't have to pay for, just in case. We spend the day in the country and were highly rewarded in the process.  We discovered something called Sundae Sunday. 

Two family farms, the Avonmore Berry Farm and Kemmatten Dairy Farm, opened their doors to the public this past weekend to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday and Canadian Agriculture.

Our first stop was at the berry farm. They are actually much more than that as they also have an apple orchard and fields full of a wide variety of different vegetables. Besides visiting their lovely shop where produce and baked goods are sold, on this day you could take a guided walking tour of the fields. There are play areas for the kids too, including a hay mow with ropes set up for them to swing and hang from. Great fun, I'm sure! The main event this day was the strawberry sundaes.  For just $5 you received a large bowl of ice cream covered with an equally generous portion of fresh strawberries grown right there on the property. 
 
While eating this heavenly treat we were entertained by two McDonald brothers. Hamish, the young fiddle player, is only 13 years old but already an accomplished musician. His brother, Alec, who didn't appear to be more than a couple of years older, had a surprisingly rich and mature voice. They said they were normally part of a four-member band called the County Lads, but they were fantastic all on their own and I  expect them to go far in the music business.

While they were playing some of the red-shirted volunteers for the day gathered in front and gave us a little demonstration of their Scottish dancing abilities. One girl, after some coaxing, proved the Irish can dance too. Once she got started she had a wonderful time.

When the musical entertainment was over we moved on to the dairy farm. Everyone was issued blue booties to prevent tracking disease into the barn. The cows were housed in a nice clean modern barn with mechanized back scratchers, manure scrapers and a hay pusher that travelled back and forth pushing the hay the cows scattered into the aisles back where they could reach it. 

Out back there was a large assortment of very large John Deere equipment, all nicely cleaned up for viewing. The milking parlour was unfortunately empty at the time we were there. But we were all treated to a pint of milk (chocolate, in my case) and a good serving of St Albert curds. Oh, they were so good! 

We had a lovely day that didn't cost anything except for the gas to get there and the $5 each for the sundaes. We also went home with a pad and some new pens, plus a couple of large shopping bags.  It was a great way to spend the day and we definitely got more than our money's worth. All the money raised from the sale of the sundaes went to the local 4-H, Junior Farmers and Lions Clubs.




Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mid Year Report

Happy Canada Day Everyone!

Here we are at mid-year and I have to wonder how you are all doing at keeping your New Year's resolutions. I called them New Beginnings this year and had three of them on my list. I'm not doing so well with the weight loss and tidying but I'm certainly having a great time keeping the third one. That's all about furthering my art.

I have gone out of my way to make sure I learn new things this year. As I've told you I took a course through Sketchbook Skool called Drawing Without Talent and really enjoyed it. I was so pleased to see a definite improvement in just a month's time.
Then I got involved with a group that met at our local library once a month. I was introduced to a lot of new mediums while we set about creating an art project for Canada's sesquicentennial. The work was all photographed and printed on shipping labels that were then stuck onto a map of Canada in a way that corresponded to the regions. The map was unveiled this past weekend with just some of us in attendance.

In the meantime, I took on a five-week course at Sketchbook Skool that, among other things, had me go sit in a public place and draw what was in front of me. I had never done that before and I thought it was great fun. It will be my new summer pastime. In fact, I just got invited to join a local group that would be doing just that each and every week throughout the summer months. A year ago I never would have considered accepting such an invitation but the Sketchbook Skool courses have given me the confidence to jump in with both feet.

I stopped by the Sketchbook Skool closed Facebook page to tell them about it. I was excited by this new opportunity and wanted to thank them.  They put out a weekly bulletin in video format for the students and they even mentioned me in that (from about the 1:20 to the 2-minute mark). While Dean of Students, Morgan Green, managed to put her own spin on things what she said rang truer after I actually experienced my first session with this group.

We met in a local park where there are all sorts of sights worth drawing. I expected everyone to gravitate toward something of interest to them, but they all clustered around two picnic tables. I stayed close to them but sat off to the side where I had a better view of a suitable subject.
I like to draw in pen and then apply a watercolour wash. I forgot my watercolours at home but did have my watercolour pencils with me, and a water brush, so I used those. One young gentleman was interested in this process so I showed him how it worked. Me! Not only was I exposing my scribbles to a known artist, but actually showing him how to do something! I'd certainly call that progress, wouldn't you?

Now, if I could just do so well with the tidying and weight loss...... Maybe another new beginning is needed for the second half of this year.

What have you accomplished so far this year? Or do you need to begin again too?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Making My Mark

I don't seem to be painting much recently.  I'm busy learning how to draw. Or perhaps I'm learning I always could draw and I'm learning that perfection isn't that important.

I previously told you about a little course I took called Drawing Without Talent through Sketchbook Skool. I was delighted with the results and wanted to learn more.  Danny Gregory had taught me that drawing with a pen would make me commit to my lines and I would, therefore, be more careful about where I placed them.  But that little course did not teach me how to shade with a pen.

Sketchbook Skool offers a variety of multi-week courses that have as many different teachers as they have weeks. I enjoyed the Drawing without Talent class so much I wanted to learn more.  Just as I was struggling to choose which course to take next they came up with a brand new one called Exploring. They claim they will only offer it once. It's a five-week course with five different teachers, and the very first one was Danny Gregory, teaching hatching and cross hatching.  Just what I needed!



Shortly after I signed up for the course I noticed an old friend on the Sketchbook Skool Facebook page. I mentioned that I'd just signed up for Exploring and she told me she had taken a course through Sketchbook Skool once but was very disappointed. She said there was "too much teacher info and not enough teaching."

I quickly discovered she was right.  Danny didn't break down the hatching process into daily lessons as he had done with the previous course.  He showed a lot of his own work, did one little demo and then gave us homework. That was not at all what I expected, and I told them so when I was offered a chance to give feedback.  I made a similar complaint at the end of the second week.  But then something magical happened.

I really enjoyed doing the homework for the second class, which basically involved drawing outside. I'm now looking forward to doing a lot of that this summer. I made some major mistakes on that homework assignment, but I like the overall idea so much I'm planning to rework it and use the image on a t-shirt or something. The next teacher actually reinforced that idea and showed us images could look whimsical and unreal and still be effective.

The fourth instructor gave us homework that sent me into a tailspin as it was a long, involved process of creating a concertina style sketchbook and then filling it with a particular theme.  I turned to the Facebook page and confessed that I was procrastinating because the mission seemed impossible to me. The monkey had me firmly in his grip.

The monkey refers to the little voice inside your head that tells you that you can't do something, or if you do, it's just not good enough.  (Check  out Danny Gregory's book Shut Your Monkey).

The Facebook gang encouraged me, shot the monkey and told me to put pen to paper and get on with it.  I did and felt a great sense of accomplishment when I was done.  Once again I discovered I really enjoyed the process.  I'm learning I can draw for the sheer joy of it and it doesn't have to be perfect. When I draw with a
pen I may make a few mislines but they are not mistakes.  They are simply part of the process and I can find ways to incorporate them.  I've also discovered that a bit of colour goes a long way to distract the eye away from these spots otherwise previously thought of as errors.

So while the Exploring course was not at all what I was expecting, What I got out of it was far more valuable than techniques on how to draw well. I gained confidence and the ability to accept whatever I create as just part of the learning process. No matter how good you are at something, there is always more to learn. I learned to play and regained the joy of making marks on paper. I had that in my youth before some high school teacher found a way to spoil it for me. Somebody should have shot......er, shut that monkey!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Thanking my Lucky Stars!

Some people are lucky, and some people are not. I spent the majority of my life never winning anything. Well, that's not quite true as I did win a record album from a radio station once when I was a teenager. That got me all excited, but I never did get it. I expected it to arrive in the mail, but perhaps I was supposed to somehow make my way across the city to fetch it. No such luck. I ended up more disappointed than if I had never won it at all.

My youngest son won a Mickey Mouse phone from an Ottawa TV show when he was about 8, and he managed to win a couple of summer camp trips too. I thought he had way more luck than I'd ever had. Perhaps it had just skipped a generation or something.

Things changed for me about 5 years ago when I suddenly had a winning streak. I enter contests on line and was doing rather well.  Then it petered out again and I was actually having bad luck for a while.

This year has been extremely lucky for me so far, though I expect that luck just has to run out any day now.

In February I told you about winning a big basket of goods from the merchants of Almonte. Since then the BzzAgent people sent me an Oral B Genius 8000 electric toothbrush to test. The thing is amazing as it works with my phone's blue tooth and actually teaches me how to do a better job of brushing while it gets my teeth dentist clean. It was worth about $200 but all I had to do was write a review.





 
Of course I managed to score a box of goodies from Sample Source too. That also takes luck and timing. I always count myself lucky when I manage to get one.

Then recently I went to the Shop Local Showcase in Kemptville and, as usual, filled out slips for various draws I found there. I was present when I won one of the hourly prizes. I got a $25 gift card for Hard Stones Grill. Later in the week I got a phone call and found out I had also another basket full of stuff from the Royal LePage realestate booth.  That's almost embarrassing as that's the booth I went to first, when I was trying to discover who had called my name. And before I could even get into Kemptville to pick that up, a new friend, Gary Blake,  presented me with a lovely painting he had done out of appreciation for some little thing that required no reward. Lucky is one thing, but who can believe there would ever be so much of it all at once! It's been an amazing week!

I picked up the basket this past weekend, and it contained two bottles of Wayne Gretsky wine (one red, one white), four jars of Mrs McGarrigle's mustard, a $50 gift card for Heather's Healthy Harvest, another $50 gift certificate for the Brigadoon, and also one for a car wash. The rest of the stuff in the basket had to do with rolling your own sushi. That's not something that is likely to happen in this house, but I'll find someone who will appreciate it.  Maybe it's even you, if you tell me a story about how you do such things at your house or what on earth got you started.  I've had such great luck lately, I think it's time I gave something away.  You deserve a reward for reading this far, or for answering my question on Facebook. Only a couple of my facebook friends have done that so far, so this is your chance to see how I actually win things. I pick contests like this, where the odds are really good as there won't be a huge number entering. I'll pick the winner on June 5, 2017.  I'm sorry, but you will have to be living in Canada to win though I'd love to hear stories from the rest of you too..




Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Be Careful What You Ask For

For the second time this weekend someone has asked for my opinion and then likely not been pleased when they got it.

Are you one of those people who, when asked how you like someone's new outfit or hairstyle, tell them it looks great while internally you are cringing and wondering what on earth they were thinking when they spent that money?  Well, I'm not.  I assume that if you ask me such a question you really want to know.  Why would you go fishing for compliments? Getting them that way would always leave you wondering if you were getting a truthful answer.  After all you've just put someone on the spot and some people would feel it was impolite the tell the truth and possibly hurt your feelings. I, on the other hand figure you wouldn't ask if you didn't want to know. I'm doing you a service by giving you an honest answer.  You do have to keep in mind that it's just my opinion, and opinions vary from one person to another.  Mine is in no way special other than that you specifically asked for it.

I do a lot of surveys and reviews for new products. This not only makes me a bit of spending money but is also a safe, healthy way for me to express my opinions.  I even have it listed on one of those sites that if you ask for my opinion, you will get it.

Please, do be careful not to ask me how old I think you are, as someone did this weekend.  Before answering, I did say that it was a rather embarrassing question since I might get the answer wrong. I qualified my answer by first stating my own age, and then saying that I figured she was maybe just a couple of years older.  "Older?" she shrieked, as her hands flew to her face in shock.  I knew immediately that she was probably at least 5 years younger to be as upset as that.  But hey, I was faced with a lady selling skin care products that were supposedly anti-aging, and she thought they worked miracles. I thought she looked good for the age I gave her. On the other hand, if she's younger than I am, I have no use for those products as she had a lot more wrinkles than I do. Let's just say it's a good thing I'm not writing a review on that product line.  I was treading carefully by the time she asked if I'd be interested in purchasing any of them. I just told her I had a large supply of creams and gels at home and quickly wandered off.  I do hope she has at least learned not to ask that age question ever again......or any of the other ones she might not be happy with answers to.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Learn to Play the Game of Life

There is something called the game of life. I'm sure you've heard of it. Most of you play it well without actually thinking about it. But what is it?

Like any other game, it has rules. You have to follow certain rules to play any game, especially if you are playing with other people. If you don't they will tell you that you cheat. If you play by your own rules you are just messing things up and the game won't go well. Either way, others won't want to play with you anymore.

Society has set up rules of etiquette which are meant to make people comfortable with one another and other rules called laws, to keep people safe. People who get caught breaking the laws are punished for doing so. People who don't follow the rules of etiquette are simply not pleasant to be around and are often shunned.

Some people don't do well in life and wonder why. They simply have not learned to play the game. If for instance, you hate your job, not because you don't like what you do, but more because you think your boss is stupid, then you have not learned that it does not matter if the boss is wrong. It only matters that you do the job he or she expects you to, in the manner they request. Your job is, in effect, to make your boss happy. That's called playing the game. If you cannot, in good conscience, do what is asked of you, find another job, or do that one so well that you get promoted to being the boss yourself.  A little warning here. There will always be another boss over you unless you own the business. Even then you have to follow the rules set out by the government or the business society. There is always a game to play. Only the players and the rules change.

Marriage is another game. You have to work together to make it work. The rules require that you do not insist on putting yourself first all the time. As in most situations, the happier you make the other person, the happier they are willing to make you.

These days a lot of technology has come into our lives and suddenly we are forced to learn new games. I don't mean video games here. All sorts of things we used to do every day are now done with this technology. Simple things like banking, check-out counters in some stores, and paying at the gas pumps have all become computerized. Some people aren't comfortable with these new technologies and refuse to play those games. They insist on doing things the old way. That can complicate life somewhat as time goes by and they fall further behind in what has now become standard technology.

The government has been trying to get us all to do our taxes online for several years, and since some of us don't want to play that game they have now made it harder to find the correct address to mail our forms to. They are also insisting that they should be able to automatically deposit all payments from them, rather than send out individual cheques. They are busy changing the rules we have grown up with. Not everyone is willing to accept these bullying techniques, and some people, can you imagine, are just not equipped for this sort of technology. Of course, that would make it more difficult to play that sort of game without actually hiring someone to do your taxes, etc.

But I digress.

If things are not going well for you, stop and consider just what area of life you are having trouble with. A life lived by one's own rules very seldom goes smoothly. Stop trying to play the game by your own rules and many of your problems will disappear. What are others doing that makes that life work well for them? Take time to learn some rules that will make your life easier to live and enjoy. Life is just a game. Learn to play it well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Adventures in Flooring

When a man has time on his hands and you aren't watching him, he will create a project that you are not necessarily ready for. That's basically what happened here.

We have lived in this house for forty years now, and the old carpet had seen better days. Actually, it had some sun faded spots when we moved in, but those were only noticeable if you moved the furniture. Underneath it, the carpet was as good as new.  A year or so ago, the carpet decided to buckle, but only during certain kinds of weather. We knew we were going to have to do something soon. Then last fall it developed a hole. Just a
small one, but a hole just the same.  I turned my back and the carpet was torn out.

We've been living with plywood in the living room ever since. Normally one decides what they are replacing a carpet with before removing it. One of the main problems was that the existing coat cupboard had been added after the carpet had been laid, and was built right on top of it. How does one get a new carpet to fit under there?  We did look at carpeting but eventually decided to go with a hardwood floor instead. When we were in the market for a house, I knew only that I didn't want any wall to wall carpeting and I didn't want a dining room. Well, I have no dining room, and only the living room had the carpet. Now, after forty years, I get the house I went shopping for.

But what did we know about wood floors? Did we want hardwood, engineered hardwood, or laminate?  While we had already decided that my office will someday have laminate flooring, I didn't really think it was suitable for the living room. Apparently, it's been greatly improved over the years though, and we did consider it for a while. We had no idea what engineered hardwood was and had to look into that too. Hubby probably drove our flooring guy a little crazy with all his questions. Me, I was only interested in the colour. I grew up in houses with hardwood floors and wanted it to have the look I  was accustomed to. I understand hardwood is a lot easier to care for these days, which is good, considering I'm now too old to be down on my hands and knees waxing floors like my mother used to.

The question we were frequently asked was what kind of wood do you want. But I don't know anything about woods real or fabricated. We were presented with a few samples, which were not what I had in mind. They were either too light in colour, too textured, or too dull. We decided to take ourselves to the supplier and look at what was available. There were certainly a lot of choices, but my hubby and I both went immediately to the same one. That made it an easy choice. Red Oak. Of course, it came in three different grades, but if I'm going to invest in a hardwood floor, I want the best.  The rustic stuff would have been pretty, but not in my living room. The other one had boards with too much variance in colour and when we had a sample of that, it almost looked like stripes in places. We picked the top grade because it had a more even tone. Watching it being laid, I knew we made the right choice.

But first, we had to clear all but the three large piece of furniture out of that room. That certainly made a mess out of two other rooms for a day or so. The job got done, and we are pleased with the results. I may get an area rug, just to anchor the furniture. My 43-year-old tables will be replaced too. You know the kind.....boxy with cupboard doors....  I want something smaller, that I can just dust mop underneath.  

My hubby caused this project to happen, so now he will have to put up with a bit of redecorating.  That's only fair, eh.