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.