Friday, February 3, 2017

Inspired by Grethe Wittrock

Today, my new friend Mirena and I created a backdrop for the Artbarn Raising Artists fundraiser. We used a 9'x12' drop cloth from Home Depot, acrylic paint and miscellaneous round things to stamp out this circular pattern. 

It took us all day to plan and create. We started to rush near the end since we had to pick up kids from school.

I found the inspiration for the circle via Pinterest - the work of Danish artist Grethe Wittrock.  Wittrock uses sails as canvas that she treats with print, perforations and dye.

The next step is installing grommets. Then installing the wire it will hang from at the art studio. 

(That line down the middle? The drop sheet had a seam)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Artbarn School

Shogo Okada - sold!!
Silkscreen, 21 3/4" x 16 3/4", "Lovely Day"
Ian Mackay 
Oil on Canvas, 12"x10", "Coterie I", 2017
Marina Nazarova 
Oil painting on ceramic tile, 6"x6"
Mirena Lopez Corvetto 
Oil on Canvas, 16"x20", "Home"

Sean Galbraith 
Fine Art Photography, 24"x48", framed (without glass) "Farwell-Lightwell, Detroit"

Did I pull you in with new photos of art? I really love all these works and want to own every one!

A few months ago, I joined the board of the Artbarn school. It is a small not-for-profit art school in midtown Toronto (where I've taken a bunch of drawing classes - and I am taking a print class next!). We are having a fundraiser on February 9th called 'Raising Artists' and I wanted to get the word out.

The event is a night for anyone who likes art! We are holding a live auction of a large Ken Kirkby Inukshuk painting. We will be having an art challenge with three painters: Sandra Iafrate, Catherine Shea and Jim Thierry Bravo. You have a chance to win one of their paintings for $5! Plus the evening will mark the end of the online auction (open now!) and winners will take home their new art (or if not in attendance, make arrangements to come in and pick it up)

All of the artwork above are all listed in our auction. Sean Galbraith is the photographer of the large photo in our basement. I have wanted one of Ian Mackay's block paintings since the boys were in a double stroller.* I found Marina Nazarova on etsy and then saw her amazing oil paintings! I was recently introduced to Shogo Okada's artwork and bought two of his prints before Christmas. I met Mirena at the Artbarn - she is also on the fundraising committee. I probably shouldn't highlight her painting because I really really really want to 'buy it now!'

Thank you for giving me a few minutes to plug the Artbarn! If you place a bid, win, or stop by, please let me know!

*My boys are huge now, btw! Ian used to live in my neighborhood, and we were pleasantly surprised to find his booth at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. That was years ago, when I had both boys with me! Oh and Margot Austin has blogged about Ian Mackay, too!


Update: Shogo Okada's work sold during the first few hours! He will be showing works at the Artist Project in February, and a solo show at Will Kucey Gallery in March!

Update: We have an event website with some interesting tidbits about the artists and art in our auction!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A place for homework

It's been a while since I rearranged furniture! Today, I moved the Expedit shelves and black dresser to make room for a desk for the boys. Now I have to find a desk that works. I temporarily used the two long sides of a bookshelf on top of two Lack side tables. I like it but it's too low. I might keep the planks and find a couple of filing cabinets to go underneath.  I have a yellow and a white stokke chair to put with it.

ps yes I walked into those floating paper-mache balloons at least 1,000 times

Friday, November 6, 2015

Drawing a day

I've started a new hobby - a drawing a day. I would like to draw photo realistically, even though I lack patience and can't blend. I've got a long way to go.

Here are a few pages in my sketchbook so far. My first attempt at a light bulb was drawn from life and it is too heavy handed. For the second bulb (final photo), I followed along with a drawing video on Youtube.

I am not sure what else to say because I have a small and extra small person standing on each side of me, begging to play on the computer. I leave the pictures with you - enjoy.   

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


If you dropped by unexpected for coffee (no one ever does), this is what you would find: minions, hot wheels, discarded socks, books, ABCs, blue couch. Plus a mountain of clean tupperware that refuses to dry itself.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What will you do with all your free time?

This year, the kids are both at school full time, and I'm figuring out the new routine.

Everyday after I drop them off, I come upstairs to the office, and take care of my "administrative duties": fill out school forms, research products (my miele hermes vacuum bag coughed up debris again, killing the motor, I want to know why this keeps happening), shop online for the perfect Halloween costumes (race car driver and minion), print out recipes (focus on anti-inflammatory foods), book appointments with contractors and doctors, look at hundreds of bathrooms on pinterest, and update our calendar with book fairs, art shows, class schedules, and pizza lunches.

For the rest of the day, I might read, workout, walk somewhere, buy groceries, comb my hair, open all of the windows and close them again, sniff things to find out where that smell is coming from and blast the stink with vinegar or baking soda, collect half empty cups (mostly mine) and do dishes, change garbage bags, fold laundry, windex fingerprints, water plants, mow the ratty clover, put away toys, wash floors, cook, meet a friend or thrift for books.

I would like to do more than play secretary, keep house and feed my family. I want to use some of my energy beyond our circle of four people. Things will hold together, even if I spend time at class, lectures, volunteering or free events.

I've booked a continuing education class at University of Toronto and enrolled in a follow up drawing class (which starts today!). I've considered applying for a degree program, and decided that the time, stress, and scheduling conflicts are not worth a second diploma. If I already knew what second career to pursue, I would use school as a stepping stone. Self study for now - I think I can guide my learning better than an institution!

I'm looking for opportunities to volunteer in Toronto. I've searched the listings on but haven't connected with anything. I don't have a sense for how the volunteer market works (common positions, where people are most needed) or where I fit in. Selfishly, my goal is to enjoy the time I spend helping out. I'm interested in environmental causes - perhaps cleaning up or planting. Two organizations that caught my eye are and I would volunteer to rake leaves (shovel sidewalks) for seniors, if such a cause existed. I put my name forward to help at my children's school.

So that's what I'm doing, what I want to be doing, and what I am doing about it.  From the moment I told my former employer I was stepping out of the workforce, I've expected this day, but never made a plan. Now a month in, I'm still grasping for the right answer. I want to establish a routine now that lasts until the children take their independence, then I can dive deeper into whatever not-for-profit cause, hobby, or learning path.       

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Last to know

Vonnegut and Zinsser, authors I've stayed up late into the night with, both urged me to read E.B. White. From Vonnegut,
"White is, of course, one of the most admirable literary stylists this country has so far produced. You should realize, too, that no one would care how well or badly Mr. White expressed himself, if he did not have perfectly enchanting things to say."1
and Zinsser,
"White was the writer who had most influenced me. His was the style—seemingly casual but urbane and wise—that I had long taken as my own model."2
I've read Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, of course, but was oblivious to White's acclaimed non-fiction work. I wasn't even sure I had the right guy.

I picked up a copy of "E.B. White Writings From the New Yorker 1925-1976" from the Toronto library. A blue hardcover book with 159 short pieces of writing. White wrote about life, current events, window displays, nature, whatever was on his mind. He wrote in a way that was fun for the reader, and made you care. Immediately, I realized, this is what blogs could be (realized I was doing it all wrong.)  I've heard blog advice about branding (confuses me), finding your voice (write until you start to sound like yourself), content calendars (tell your future self what they should say), inspiration (stealing ideas), and Didion. Six years I've spent tapping on my keyboard, and only now uncover the main point of the blog/personal essay: be interesting!

Give me more essays.

I didn't know that the "personal essay" existed. High school never hinted that the essay could break loose from the five paragraph structure. I avoid articles in magazines with large blocks of text and no pictures. If I accidentally read something interesting, I would call it nonfiction a fluke and turn back to novels and short stories. Now that my blind spot has been revealed I have work to do. I put "The Best American Essays", by Joyce Carol Oates & Robery Atwan, on hold at the Library. The library has only two copies of the book, and there are 15 holds placed. While I am waiting I have second book, "Essays of E.B.White" to finish, and the free essays available here.
Here is a taste of the writing that got me to come back, a line or two from pieces in the blue book:3
Dressing Up: "One of the male sparrows in Turtle Bay garden made a wonderful discovery at quarter past nine the other morning..." 4/20/46

Dismal: "The most startling news in the paper on February 13 was the weather forecast. It was "Rainy and dismal.". When we read the word "dismal" in the Times, we knew that the era of pure science was drawing to a close and the day of philosophical science was at hand. (Probably in the nick of time.)" 2/25/50

Unwritten: "Sometimes we regret our failure to write about things that really interest us. The reason we fail is probably that to write about them would prove embarrassing. The things that interested us during the last week, for example, and that we were unable or unwilling to write about (things that stand out clear as pictures in our head) were: ..."4/26/30

Seeing things: "The new reptile hall was officially opened a few days ago in the Museum of Natural History and we visited it amidst a group of youngsters who kept crying "Good night!" and their mothers who kept murmuring "Mercy!" The place is like that." 2/18/28

Tadpoles and Telephones: "There was a large bowl of tadpoles in the window of the Telephone Building as we came wandering along, lonely as a cloud. We stopped of course - we stop for anything in windows, particularly tadpoles." 6/2/28

Split Personalities: "The voices of radio and television are the voices of quick-change artists; they move rapidly from selling to telling and back to selling again. They are losing their sharpness because they have divided their allegiance." 2/19/55

Making Do: "A female friend of ours recently moved into a small apartment so full of defects as to be really quite charming." 8/11/45

Walking to Work: "From our home in the cinder belt to this Forty-third Street pent-up house where we work is a distance of some nine blocks - in a southwesterly direction. It has sometimes occurred to us that we take an unconscionably long time walking it, the time ranging from fifteen minutes to two hours and a half. Three-quarters of an hour is about par." 2/13/37

1. Source: How to Write With Style by Kurt Vonnegut  
2. Source: The American "Visions and Revisions",Writing On Writing Well and keeping it up-to-date for 35 years By William Zinsser March 1, 2009
3. Source: Writings from the New Yorker 1925-1976, E.B. White, Edited by Rebecca M. Dale. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What ever happened to...

Take a look at my front yard! It is overrun with crab grass, wild flowers, broad leaf weeds, dandelions, and many more of the wrong kind of weed. It's impossible to keep the clover alive.

It's green, and pretty in a way. If only it looked the same as the first summer it was planted:

It's over. 

I will mow it bi-weekly to keep it short, and eventually rip it up and try something new. 

RIP clover.

ps. I've written about how great it looked initiallycrab grass taking overmuddy in the spring,  accidentally adding dwarf seedsa source for seeds, and my denial that the yard was doomed.

pps Changed the post title from "Clover yard looks awful" to "What ever happened to..." because I am a softy

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Forget anything I've said or even thought about pillows. Now that I have pillows-I-love, I love pillows! I found ten bright, cheery, incredibly preppy pillows for the outdoor sectional at Indigo.

Here's the scoop:
- citron, blue and orange
- indoor pillows with down inserts (we bring them inside when not in use)
- 50% off right now, between $19.95 - $27cdn

I thought I wanted bohemian/southern Californian deck accessories: a sectional that stepped out of the urban outfitters look-book, or even better, a deck that was styled by Morgan Satterfield. I pictured loads of kilims in many sizes, with rugs and brass and hanging plants. Still, I was reluctant to buy ten or more kilim pillows because as soon as I do, someone will sound a gong and declare them dead. Also, kilims are scratchy.

Next, I would like to cover the seats with something that isn't white. White does not mix with kids. Bad idea. Even Sunbrella fabric, with two incredibly filthy little boys, is not good. Sure you can wash it, but it gets dirty again within 30 minutes, and some stains do not lift*. I am on the hunt for a reasonably-priced chartreuse overdyed rug or two, or killer blue shibori cloths. Both would lend that boho vibe. (I know I can mix boho and preppy, because I searched on pinterest and it is a thing)

If you have used indoor pillows outside before, please raise your hand!

ps. Not sponsored
pps. The 16x16 sunbrella pillows that came with the sectional are not comfy, and squirrels ate half of them. 
ppps. One of my river birch behind the deck doesn't get as much light as the other. We had the large maples trimmed (just this morning) to allow more light to filter in.   
pppps. Indigo has everything in these colours, tea towels, dishes, throws...etc...and check out Anthropologie's Lemlem collection, too. Pretty close, but not.

*Knowing all this, I still buy white pillows!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Getaway Car

Ann Patchett, "This is the Story of a Happy Marriage".

The big library close to our house has four racks of books near the entrance, to tempt you, or encourage you to explore. I give them a glance to see what I'm missing. What's this? Shouldn't I know Ann Patchett? Ombre - and look at the back cover! Who poses for a cover photo swamped by a thousand books?! I think I've found my new favorite person!

The second short story in the book, "The Getaway Car, A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life" is the best thing I've read this year. I had to hurry up and finish so I could push it onto three* people I know who have to read it too (three is a lot - I really don't know that many people). She tells you how she accomplished success as a writer (spoiler: hard work). She talks about the doubt involved in taking an idea out of her head and turning it into words. She explains why she doesn't believe in writers' block. Plus, she clears this up for me: why books from our teen years stay with us, and now, books that are equally impressive, are forgotten a month later. "I think that what influences us in literature comes less from what we love and more from what we happen to pick up in moments when we are especially open." 

Read this if you want to write, if you want to create, or nourish any hobby outside of your day job.  Consider it an assignment, one I know you'll enjoy!

ps. Bel Canto next
pps. I can't find a decent link to the essay. It was published standalone in 2011, but is no longer available on Amazon, you might have to get the book. 
ppps. if you ever day dreamed about writing a novel, this essay is for YOU! YOU! YOU!

The Getaway Car Quotes:

*make that four