Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A close one.

So Monday morning we are all sound asleep. Visions of a day of packing and playgroup were bouncing around in my head, a week of work and last minute moving details in the husbands and whatever Miranda dreams about in hers. Then screams and the fire alarm.

Apparently I jumped out of bed said "that's the fire alarm, we have to leave" I ran to the Peanut's room, collected her blanket wrapped body up, then back to our bedroom, pulled on the first robe that came to my hand and slipped on shoes. The husband in jammer bottoms put on his coat and we opened the door. Smoke.

I closed the door looked at the husband and then ducked down and made a dash for the stairs. The fire was across and one door down from us. The stairs right around the corner. we headed down the stairs and out the front door at a half run. Out onto the front lawn and then across the street, where I stood and watched a dull glow in our neighbors bedroom turn into leaping flames. Watched the glass crack and break and smoke and flames escape.

Thankfully we had police, fire and emergency services on the scene within minutes. by the time the glass was breaking from the heat, firetrucks and men were setting up hoses and taking aim. No one was hurt. Everyone in the building got out safely and quickly. No one stopped to grab anything but themselves and loved ones.

I remember at once the sound of the fire and that it all seemed to happen in silence with quick bursts of sounds. I was in a bubble with my baby in my arms safe, watching the possibility of losing everything else.

It's been a rough few days, waiting for details, waiting for the OK to go back in, waiting for the building manager to bring out a few things, waiting again for the OK to go in, waiting for the insurance adjuster to let us know what they'll do for us, waiting to see the doctor about the cough the husband, the Peanut and I have now. Waiting to see a councilor to help us deal with everything. Waiting for Grandma to come.

It's been a rough few days of phone calls. making them, taking them. Family wanting to know we are OK. Friends wanting to know what happened.

It's been a few days of feeling blessed that we are all together, that things weren't worse, that we got out so quickly. It's been a few days of reliving moments of shock, of picturing all the things described above. It's been a few days of gratitude for the kindness of friends and strangers. The fireman who gave the Peanut a stuffed dalmatian that morning. The second fireman who went into our home to bring out wallet, keys and glasses, who brought down the Peanut's stroller too. To the neighbor who gave us a pair of socks to put on the Peanut's bare feet. To the staff of the Fatburger who opened their doors to us, gave us coffee, toast and pancakes and juice. To our good friends who opened their house to us. To our friends at the Peanut's playgroup who were so happy to see us and hear we were OK, who gifted the Peanut with one of her favourite playgroup toys (a bean bag turtle) when they heard she had no comfort toys with her. The extra grocery store gift certificates gifted to us by our playgroup friends.

It's been a few days of planning for the future, our new place. Planning measures to keep us safe in the next place. fire extinguishers, roll-up ladders, emergency case with important documents. Planning ways to feel empowered rather than helpless.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

So I'm a bit of a geek

I may have mentioned my love for Depeche Mode in a post not too long ago. I'm so very very psyched and excited about the new album they have coming out in a few months. Now I don't consider myself their biggest fan, nor do I really consider myself a rabid fan of the group. I love love love the music, I think Martin Gore is a genius.

While packing up my daughters stuffed animals and toys this morning/afternoon I watched/listened to Germany's Echo awards show from start to almost finish in order to watch the world premier of their new single, Wrong.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The only things that keeps the peace these days

are painting and ddd's (DVD's) from the library. While we've tried discussing the move with the peanut she's less than enthusiastic about conversing. Her preferred tactic is to change the subject to what Kipper ze dog has been doing on automatic replay for the last week. So we know she's a little disconcerted about things disappearing into boxes and strange people walking into the apartment at random times but there's no reasoning with a two year old.

As I said Kipper is on auto-replay and the paints and art supplies have been left out to pacify our little Mussolini.

I think it's a little unfair that as a 36 year old, I must refrain from temper tantrums and meltdowns and pack instead.

I've always thought of myself as a little isolationist. I don't make friends easily, in fact the friends I do make usually make the first move to introduce themselves. And as one of my dear mommy friends pointed out the other day, I tend to make friends so that I don't have to make others. My circle stays pretty small that way. It's amazing how roots seem to set themselves down when you aren't looking.

I'm being transplanted and my roots are cringing at the thought of getting used to new soil. I'm going to miss the mountain, the ocean and my neighborhood. I'm going to miss running into friends on the street and all the pars and playgrounds we frequent. And while I know I'll have some of these things at the new place and will be close enough to come back to see the rest any time I want to, I want to whine about it and moan and basically be a big baby about it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

In case I haven't mentioned it

but of course I have. We're moving to a new place. That means packing packing and more packing. It also means that I'll be putting some of my blogging on hold until things are settled. 5 questions and a card a week are going to be affected by the move, but they'll return and with a vengeance once we're settled in the new place.

I'll try to pop in with a post from time to time during the next few weeks. If nothing else the odd post will help me keep my sanity.

Speaking of Purging

I'm a reader, I have books books and more books. I kept most of my text books from College and I have authors that I haunt the book store in order to read them. My favourite art history class at Emily Carr was one that compared literature to film. We had a reading list that looked like it belonged to an english major and we got to watch a film every week.

I have a fairly good selection of Canadian Literature including both Margarets and a number of signed books from contemporary writers visited and read at Red Deer College. I used to be an English Major and I had hopes of being published but not the discipline for self editing and rewriting.

My secret reading indulgence is fantasy. I blame Tolkein, I read The Hobbit for the first time at the age of 7. I've re-read it numerous times and I'll probably read many many many many many many more times yet. I have a number of fantasy novels that I have read and re-read. I've been packing them around with me for the last 15 years.

They say not to judge a book by it's cover but I buy my fantasy books based on the cover art. I can remember studying the cover art for The Hobbit, probably because I was still at an age where I liked picture books; and if a fantasy novel's cover isn't interesting to me I'll pass it by. I've probably missed out on any number of good reads this way but I've never been disapointed with the ones I have chosen. I also choose Miranda's books by the artwork. I guess I've never outgrown liking picture books.

As we were packing up our books for our most recent move I decided to let some of them go. On one hand it's a little sad, the stories have meant enough to me that I've revisited them more than a few times; on another it's kind of liberating to cull tehm from my library. So I have about 50 books that I'm looking for new homes for. I've emailed the library to see if they'll take them but haven't heard back yet. Selling them to a used book store is kind of sad. I've spent hundreds of dollars on these books and they have become a part who I am. Having a stranger rummage through them and then offer a monetary amount (which will inevitably be much less than I'd like to get for them) kind of feels a little strange.


So we moved into the place we are in right now, almost a year ago. This time last year I was doing the same thing I'm doing right now, packing packing and packing.

Even with starting over a month in advance we still had things being tossed into boxes at the last minute. Once I had to unpack them, I had no idea what to do with the stuff that had been left over at the end of last years packing. I just wanted to toss the bulk of the flotsam into the recycling, nearest Sally Ann or the trash. all that stuff were the bits and pieces from the junk pile that inevitably piles up on the one counter in the kitchen, stacks of random little things that I didn't want to throw away but really didn't want to keep.

I'm a pack rat. I hoard little things because I might want to use them or I might need them sometime; and then I go through a purge stage where I get rid of things and there's always one thing that I find myself looking for a few months later because I have a use for it but it's gone and the whole hoarding thing becomes justified because of that one little thing I could have used but threw out,recycled or gave away.

This time around I'm going through and finding homes for the flotsam and jetsam that sneak into the usual places and if it's not in a home when I start packing, It's going. That's what I'm telling myself any way.

So we're packing

and The shelves are down, the books are all gone into big boxes that we've been assured are the right size for boxes but there is no way that We'll be carrying that sucker down the stairs (thank what ever gods for movers) and I have a large Dishpack box open in the living/dining room area that is mocking me. I've got so much more to do and I'm contemplating putting everything else on hold until we're in the new place.

On top of it all our Peanut Butter is not feeling well. We had fevers last week and gobs and gobs of thick yellowish mucous flowing out of her nose. The combination of a head cold and a bunch of strange people traipsing in and out of our home to give us estimates on moving or to show the space to rent it out leaves us with one very out of sorts little girl. And by out of sorts I mean tantrums and night wakings and the new mantra of "I'm crying again" repeated over and over as I try to keep my cool.

Friday, February 6, 2009

5 Questions: Causing a kerfuffle

I have noticed that a lot of the time I tend towards liking artists and art that isn't what I make myself and or what I'd really like to make myself but is not my style. Try as I might I either don't feel comfortable with the process or I'm just not happy with the end result. This is most definitely not a bad thing as it just illustrates that I have my own creative voice. Knickertwists; a fellow Canadian Etsian (is that too many ian's in a row?) is one of those artists that makes things that I'd love to make myself but well....

Whether it's a view on background noise or an insight about the value of time, this week's feature is chock full of great insites and wonderful stuff.

When Nichola (the person behind knickertwists) was a little girl her mum used to say "Don't get your knickers in a twist!"

As a design student she thought that if she were to ever start her own studio that she'd call it "Knickertwist's" because everyone around her seemed to be taking themselves far too seriously, a common problem in art school situations. As Nichola says in her Etsy shop profile, it wasn't that she was lackadaisical about her work, there just seemed to be far more important things to get worked up and bent out of shape over than whatever it was that other designers were fretting about. (I have to say I have always felt a sneaking bit of guilt at not being as politically aware as some of my art school compatriots, but hail fellow well met on that outlook)

So what is it that I love about her shop? It's magical and fun and I wish that I had been the mastermind behind it all. The next best thing is being able to share her creative genious with others. One of my favourite artists is Joseph Cornell and her assemblage pieces just remind me of the feeling I get by looking at a Cornell, but enough about me. You can read more about Nichola on her Blog Battilana, visit her beautiful website here and become her fan on facebook.
As for me I'll be adding her blog and website to my follow list and avidly catching up on everything I've missed so far.

What got you started?

For as long as I can remember I've been a maker. As a kid I would rather draw or build mud monsters than play tag. When I grew up I studied fine art and worked as a graphic designer and one day I had a kiddo of my own.

Being a mom kicked my creativity into high gear. You gain this whole new appreciation for time and it's worth after having a child. I started making and doing more with my time. When the house was quiet and everyone else asleep, I'd bring out the paint and start the making.

I maintain my day job as a designer but my real passion is for the things I make when the rest of the house is snoozing.

Do you listen to music when you create? If yes, what's on your play list right now and why?

Music is a big influence on my work and I pull a lot of inspiration from it. Right now Nick Cave, Nina Simone, Joy Division, and the Rizdales are on heavy rotation. That said, sometimes listening to music while creating has too much influence on the end result of my work.

Sooooo, my dirty little secret is that when I'm doing the actual making I turn on the tv. *gasp!*
I like background noise and the occasional visual distraction. I'll pop in a season Blackadder or My Man Godfrey... something fun and light.

Can you describe the palette you use to create with, what colours do you always reach for?
I'm always grabbing black, browns, ochers, rich reds, deep dark earthy tones. I know that to some people these colours are ominous or depressing but I find them rather comforting. I have an opposite palette of soft blue, whites and creams that I also use. It takes a lot of effort for me to be bold with vibrant colour but I am trying. I really admire people who use colour with vigor and courage.

What life or art lesson have you learned that has shaped your work?

An art instructor once shouted at me "Art is not fun!" Why would anyone chose to create art if they didn't get pleasure from it? Sadly, I've encountered loads of people of the same opinion. Tortured artists and snobby designers, we've never seen eye to eye.

And so, I maintain that my work is a reflection of happiness, not pain, suffering and misery. The more I apply myself to creating with positive enthusiasm, for the fun of it, the better my work becomes.

I made the decision to stop painting 'typical' art. No more still life studies for me! I'd embrace whatever piqued my fancy. What's wrong with painting a giant earthworm if the mood strikes? Nothing! And guess what? You soon discover that other people like giant earthworms too! The world is filled with the fantastic, wondrous, and fascinating.

Which Children's book character would you be and why?
I'm probably most like Ramona Quimby. Basically good, a wee bit cheeky, does silly things, gets herself into a mix or two. One day I hope to be more like the Paper Bag Princess. Why? Because she's a princess AND she kick's ass!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Observer vs Participant

As a photographer I find myself always in the position of observer and not an active participant in the moment. While looking back at the images I took during the holiday season I noticed that I had only taken a few photographs of gift openings and none of dinner. I made a conscious decision to leave the camera on the shelf and/or at home in order to step out of the observer role and just be in the moment with my husband, daughter and family.

Of course I wished a hundred, a thousand, a million times that I had the camera on hand, but at the same time I also enjoyed the lack of pressure to document. So which was stronger?

me as a participant (the reason I stick behind the camera)

Well I've been photographing my landscape as opposed to my daughter lately, so I guess that the call of the observer was a little more sweet to me.

On a related note things are getting very busy here. In the last week I had a portrait shoot with the baby upstairs. I participated in the Etsy Virtual Baby Shower and received 200+ new views and landed my first sale on PeanutButterPie. I also made my first sale in TMCPhoto on Etsy too. add in preliminary packing and organizing, a toddler with a cold, and two weekly features I'm finally feeling like I'm back in art school without the all night studio jams or the portfolio reviews.

Make sure you check back tomorrow for the latest 5 questions feature. I'll be featuring one of my favourite Canadian Etsy sellers Knickertwists. She's got some great answers and even greater art works.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A card a week for a year: Card 4

One card a week for 52 weeks. Each card depicting a single word or phrase to be used in an affirmation deck at the end of the year. Once again; I'm willing to take any word or phrase suggestions that you all may have, leave a comment with your suggestion if you've got one.


• Strathmore ATC card
• Watercolour Pencils
• PearlEx Iridescent & Interference pigments
• Paint brush
• Water
• Winsor Newton Granulating Medium in a spray bottle
• Spray Picture Varnish
• Liquid Watercolour or liquid acrylic ink

The Process:
This week I did a simple card. A sick toddler and preparations for packing up to move played a part in wanting to keep it simple plus I've really been drawn to making snowflakes over the last few months. Or maybe it's the surfeit of snow we were blessed with through December and into January.

I mixed gold iridescent and blue interference pigments with water and brushed the thin mixtures randomly across the surface of the card. I then went in with a newly sharpened watercolour pencil and drew in some snowflakes.

Then I took the granulation medium in a Holbein spray bottle (this particular spray bottle can be used to spray vermouth into a martini glass for a nice dry martini too; not that I've ever tried it myself but a friend divulged this secret to me on the day that I bought two during an art supply spending bonanza during a lunch break) and sprayed the medium over the whole card, softening the drawing and adding a pleasing frost like pattern to the pigments.

Once the card had dried I then sprayed the card with spray varnish to fix the pigment down. PearlEx is a loose pigment that can be mixed into a paint to add colour and light reflecting qualities to the paint. Mixing these pigments with water allows them to be brushed onto a surface like paint but as there is no permanent medium included in this "paint" like Ox Gall and Gum Arabic that once dry help to trap pigments to a painting substrate, the interference and iridescent pigments I spread across the card can be lifted off the substrate it has been painted on, very much like a soft pastel painting. Using a fixative or as I have used a spray varnish on top of the pigment adds a layer of protection to the loose pigments.

To add this cards word I then went back in and wrote the word focus onto the bottom using a number 0 brush and cobalt blue ink.

During our last snowfall (last week) I held out my hand to catch snow flakes to look at the individual flakes. The snow was of the light and fluffy variety and I found myself needing to focus on the jumbled flakes in order to see the patterns. Not an easy task while playing with a busy toddler. Sometimes the most interesting images are taken close up, are heightened details, or the most simple moment in time.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Toddler Tuesday

Just what the title suggests, plus it's got that handy alliteration thing going for it.

So my daughter is a walking snot factory complete with "I'm not feeling very well" melt downs and random whines of "mommy mommy mommy". The only time she's not crying and telling me that she's crying or that she's not a happy girl anymore is when I've filled her dimpled hands with crayons and paint brushes and slapped a nice piece of paper down in front of her.

So as I'm watching yet another rivulet of mucus exit her now tender little nose (mommy I don't want to blow my nose, I don't like tissues) while she swirls a paintbrush around the lime green tempera block, I realize that I should make sure to hang this latest creation on the refrigerator and then it occurs to me that I should also share it with however many people stop in and read what I've been up to.

Right now Miranda is using the jumbo pencils and asking me if the drawing she is making is brilliant, true story.

Here's another drawing she made earlier today.

Monday, February 2, 2009


A few months ago we received the yearly notice of rent increase from the building manager and we decided that what with one thing (really expensive rent) and another (noisy neighborhood) we'd look for a new place.

On the one hand I love our neighborhood, we are within walking distance from groceries (not so much a full grocery store) now because of the roof collapsing at our preferred grocery store, but we still have a fish monger around the corner and a produce mart as well. There's a London Drugs within a block, book store, post office, community centres, play grounds, parks and a brand spanking new library all within a 20 block radius. Our apartment has a nice layout with loads of light and enough room that I can have a small area just for my studio (it's small, about the size of a table but it's mine) My daughter has her own room, and there's a window in the dining room. I like this place. Our Daughter came home to this building, she took her first steps, stood up, said her first word (tickle tickle) and had her first potty accident on the floor here. I'll be sad to pack up and leave.

On the other hand my husband has a nasty commute to and from work most days, the rent is high and the people below us have complained about our daughter's waking up at 6AM. We found a new place closer to my husbands work, and is not only in a house but is the top floor of a house. We'll share the house with the current down stairs tenant and with the exception of a dishwasher it has everything we like about this apartment. Hard wood floors, lots of light, the same amount of space. The only thing missing will be the friends that I've made since Miranda came along and shops and community centres within walking distance.

But, there's a yard....
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