Thursday, May 27, 2010

Coming Home

Pioneer Woman asked for Coming Home shots, and I have this one of my dad's older brother returning from WWII, flanked by his bride and his mother (my grandmother sporting a rather spiffy hat.)

My Uncle Stuart was in the RAF. He flew as a navigator with the elite group of Pathfinders No. 7 Squadron, who lit the way for the bombers with flares. The mortality rate was very high, so the fact that he survived 43 operations was nothing short of miraculous.

He was 22 when he enlisted, the same age as my son, and he was 25 when he flew his first mission in 1944.

This is the day he came home after the war. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

"Flight Lieutenant Patchet has always displayed exceptional skill and coolness without consideration for personal safety, whereby he has set himself a high standard of efficiency. His unconquerable sense of duty, courage, endurance and initiative have set a magnificent example to the squadron and are worthy of the highest praise."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Is it just me?

Or do you relate to this too?

It's hot as Hades around here. Record high temps.

I am not a hot weather kind of gal. You?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Crazy busy week

And now it's Victoria Day Long Weekend, or as we sometimes refer to it here in the Great White North, the "May Two-Four" holiday.

For those of you who are not Canadian, a "two-four" is what we Canucks call a case of 24 beers. And this weekend is our official start of summer. And we celebrate by planting our gardens, opening up the summer cottage and sharing a two-four with friends over a barbeque. The stress of getting through another long, dark, cold Canadian winter is behind us and we're ready for sunshine and good times.

But first, we have to survive the blackflies. That's where the two-four comes in handy.

Happy Birthday Queen Victoria. I shall raise a cold brew in your honour!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mother's Day. It's all over but the shoutin'...

Well, the shoutin' and the photos.

Sure fresh flowers are bee-youtiful, but they quickly fade. But, I took some shots of the sweet little arrangement my girls picked up for me, and it's almost as good as having the real thing.


And now, I'm off to check on the cottage where we're doing a few renos. Last weekend, we stopped to say hello to Farmer C. who looks after the place when we're not there.

Apparently, according to Farmer C., there have been timber wolves out and about. As in, right in his back yard in full view of his farmhouse. And coyotes, which we knew about. Then Farmer C. told us how he and two neighbours went out on the frozen lake this winter to rescue a deer. There were three deer trying to cross the lake to get to the island. Two of them made it, but one fell on the ice, which was so glassy and smooth, every attempt to right itself ended up in failure, its legs splayed leaving the poor deer (no pun intended) close to exhaustion. So the three men went and lassoed the deer, who was at the end of its rope (no pun intended) then they pulled the deer to a rough patch so it could get back on its feet (no pun intended.)

But, most exciting of all (well, the timber wolves are pretty exciting) he saw a moose right on our property! I really hope I get a glimpse of one this year.

Okay, this post was clearly all over the map.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Knitting up a frenzy

Oh yes, it's a yarnapalooza around here. All kinds of knitting projects going down.

Not me. My daughter. She puts me to shame.

Since I have nothing to show you (nothing, people since the Cat Barf Incident) she gave me permission to share some of her recent projects.

To recap (no pun intended) here is the hat she made me for Christmas.

It fits me perfectly and I love, love, love the rich jewel tone colours.

Then I was browsing in our local consignment shop, and I found not one but TWO wooden hat forms that are both my size. One is mounted on a pole (above) and the other sits on its stump, neckless, like a victim of the French Revolution after someone rifled through the wicker basket under the guillotine. They keep my hats blocked and ready to wear and I was right chuffed to find them.

However, I have heard the rumblings of discontent from the peasants who dwell within my house. They complain about how it must look to outsiders who must walk past the dining room window in order to get to the front door, and how startling it must be for them to see a pair of heads on the table. I think they look perfectly fine, especially seeing as I also have a row of wooden foot forms along the sill.

But I digress.

Here is the other hat Youngest made for herself. It's in cashmere and silk. It looks a lot better on her than it does on this wooden form, but you'll have to take my word for it when I tell you that handling this hat is like running your hands through warm butter.
And the scarf underneath is an infinity scarf, all joined together in one long oval that you twist and put over your head. It comes out looking a bit grey in the above shot, but it's actually more like this shade of green:

Being an artist, she has a good eye for colour. I love green and rose colours together. You see it a lot in nature.
I guess Mother Nature knew what she was doing. Even if she does get a bit pissy every now and then and sends us SNOW in May.

Not content to sit back on her heels and rest, Youngest out-done-did herself and made socks. Handknit socks! Self taught! Seriously, she inherited some mighty powerful craft mojo from someone and coupled with an artist's eye, she is a force to be reckoned with.

Then the piece de resistance, as far as the rest of us were concerned. These little gloveless beauties made from something called cashmerino, a heady blend of merino wool, cashmere and some other fibre not worth mentioning in the same breath. Oh, baby. These are soft, and the colour of new grass in the spring. Youngest offered them up to me. Eldest then made a play for them, stating that her new office was freezing and it would make her so much more comfortable if she could wear them at work.

As the provider of All Things Edible, I made an impassioned pitch as to why I should get the gloves. My writer's fingers need the warmth to avoid the dreaded affliction which strikes down many a writer in his or her prime - Finger Cramp (stifled sob.) It would keep my finger muscles in top shape and thus, provide more victuals for the family. Why, I would be able to write and then say, knead some bread dough for some sweet cinnamon rolls, your decision, no pressure, take your time, you decide, I'm just saying, as a fer instance, no pressure, no guilt. Don't let the fact that I gave you life influence you one teensy bit.

Just look at these puppies and you tell me what you wouldn't do to own a pair:

That's what I'm saying. However, Youngest is a kind and generous soul and has decided to make another pair. That is, after she finishes the white cashmere hat she started yesterday.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beaver Sticks

Lottery Girl's post today reminded me of something I used to do with my kids when they were little. I was always looking for ways to occupy them at the cottage seeing as there were no computers, no internet, TV, or electronic entertainment of any kind, and the only games were card or board games which we saved for evenings or rainy afternoons. We spent the majority of time beside, in or on the lake. In the evenings, I read books aloud. We went through the entire Harry Potter series that way. As each was published, we'd head into town at midnight to buy it, and drive back in the wee hours through fog, dodging deer and porcupines on the country road. Then the kids, and sometimes my husband, would gather round and listen, hugging their knees at the exciting bits. They used to pour me a Bailey's on ice, but after they noticed I got sleepy too soon, they switched it to plain ice water. Tactical move, they said.

Anyway, because our cottage faces west, we usually get the wind blowing straight at us, and the water moves in that direction too, buffeting the dock and bringing with it all kinds of flotsam and jetsam. There has been wayward baseball caps, bait boxes, buoys, foam noodles and once, a floating water bicycle. It looked like THIS.

Now this was some cool flotsam. I figured the owner would show up for it eventually, but without any kind of identification, I could only tie it to the dock and wait. In the meantime, we had a houseful of kids who took turns trying it out and they had a blast with it. I was really sorry to see it go the next day when the owner finally did show up to claim it but he did say we could borrow it again if we wanted.

Mostly though, what washed up on our shore on a fairly regular basis were "beaver sticks" i.e., bits of stripped logs in all sizes with distinctively chewed ends from the beavers paddling around all over the lake.

So I cooked up a plan. I told the kids I needed the beaver sticks for a Special Project, and I would pay them 25 cents per stick but they had to fetch them all along our rocky shore, and bring them back to the dock. I set up my chair on the dock, along with a fat novel and a cold drink while the kids grabbed windsurfer boards, air mattresses, canoes, basically anything buoyant and set out to accumulate as many beaver sticks as they could manage before their arms gave out.

I figure it cost me a few bucks in exchange for some very peaceful afternoons.

I still have a big mound of beaver sticks under my porch. I have yet to begin my Special Project.

Speaking of amphibious bicycles, how about this one? Ya gotta love engineers!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Trailer for Linger and Shiver

Maggie Stiefvater is one of those highly creative people who can apparently do it all. She not only writes successful novels, but she composes music, plays many different instruments (and plays them beautifully) and if that ain't enough, she is also a talented artist.

So to launch her latest novel LINGER, she put together this stop motion film using over 400 photographs of her paper cutouts. I'm blown away by her talent.


"This is the story of a boy who used to be a wolf and a girl who was becoming one. Just a few months ago, it was Sam who was the mythical creature. But now it is spring. With the heat, the remaining wolves will soon be falling out of their wolf pelts and back into their human bodies..."

Have a look at her website where she is holding a contest and is giving away some cool stuff. I find her funny, sweet, intelligent and always interesting. I follow her regularly. Oh, and if you dig deeper on her blog, you'll see all the steps she followed to create her trailer. Fascinating stuff.

If you want to see the trailer for her book SHIVER, the first one in this series and another stop action masterpiece with haunting music she composed, it's below.

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Being a geek rules

I want to do some HDR photography, which stands for High Dynamic Range but first I have to sort out my computer/Adobe woes (I have a MAC but my CS3 is for a PC so I have to sort out what to do about that.)

HDR fascinates me. It allows you to relate, in an image, the same thing your eye actually sees when you're standing there. You can do this with your camera by taking, say, three shots of the same image - a dark one, a medium one and a light one - then process them by taking the best pixels from each image and using them to produce one photo. Or if there are moving subjects in the scene, you can take one RAW image and use "a cube of light" to get all the tones.

There's a lot of controversy surrounding HDR photos. Some people hate them, believing them to look too unreal. I love them. They look surreal, when in fact they are more real than what your camera interprets.

Trey Ratcliff over at his blog STUCK IN CUSTOMS is one of the best when it comes to taking HDR shots.

"If you can release what you know of as a photo, something new can enter your world." He describes an HDR photo as an experience, a feeling, what it felt like to be there. Here is a lecture he gave on HDR. It's long, but worth watching.

(In Trey's lecture, he references a scientist named Beau Lotto. I found Lotto's TED lecture and it will blow your mind as it busts apart everything you thought you knew about colour and how we see.)

Here is Beau Lotto's Ted Lecture, on how and why we see as we do.

"The light that falls onto your eye (sensory information) is meaningless because it could mean literally anything. And what's true for sensory information is true for information generally. There's no inherent meaning in information. It's what we do with that information that matters. So how do we see? We see by learning to see." Beau Lotto

And just to completely crack your nuts, there's this short video about the Golden Ratio, or why math is important when composing your shots, whether or not you're aware of it. Watch in in HD if you have that option.

I'm happy today because these three videos tickle my brain cells.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dandelions. What you don't know can't hurt you.

Youngest is employed as a full-time gardener this summer. It's convenient for her because it's on our street and it's convenient for me because I sometimes take photos of the garden, although I didn't take many last year and none so far this year.

I passed by today as she was digging up dandelions on the lawn. As in a bucket full. She told me one of our neighbours had passed by earlier, a particularly irritating gossipy one, who made a comment about "picking a salad" and if she didn't like that, she could "always make some homemade wine."

My daughter rolled her eyes but I said actually the woman was right. Dandelions are supposed to be good in salad, and tasty too. But I realized I'd never actually eaten one, so to test the theory, I reached in the bucket and took one of the leaves and popped it in my mouth. I knew Kathy, the owner of the garden, doesn't use pesticides or anything toxic on her lawn. As I chewed, I wondered if it was going to be bitter but it was actually quite sweet and tender. I understood why some people might want to use young dandelion greens in their salad. I reached in the bucket for another leaf.

"Uh, Mom," said Youngest. "I pulled these up from the curb. There are all kinds of dogs that pass by here."

Hadn't considered that.

Sweet Moose

No, not mousse, moose.

Not so long ago, on the way to our cottage, my husband and I came across two young moose jogging casually along our country road. I pulled up behind them, cursing myself for leaving my camera in the trunk, and cruised alongside them until they moved forward, right in front of the car, and kept up the slow pace for several minutes. They were all long limbs and bouncy gaits, gangly teenager moose looking for trouble.

Occasionally one or both would turn and have a look to see if we were still behind them, but they didn't seem particularly bothered that we were there. Eventually one sidled into the woods, then the other followed and just like that, they were gone. I've never seen any other moose up at the lake (deer, yes, they're everywhere and treat my garden like a salad bar) but I'm hoping I'll see moose there again some day.

Found this at iloveorange

Saturday, May 1, 2010

From the Ukraine

These clips have been making the rounds and a couple of people sent them to me via email. This woman won Ukraine's Got Talent.

Kseniya Simonova tells stories with sand painting.

Here's the performance that got her into the semi-finals.

She won with this performance. If you haven't seen it, set aside the few minutes it takes to watch it and be prepared to be blown away.

This is her interpretation of the story of Ukraine's invasion by Germany in WWII.