Saturday, 8 May 2021

Forest Ramble

The York Regional Forest trails are coming to life after a long winter. We walked part of Holledge Tract.... mostly flat, just a couple of small slopes. The woodland flowers are blooming.

Sessile Bellwort uvularia sessifolia also known as Merrybells or Wild Oats

Wood Anemone  anemone memorosa

Bulbous Buttercup ranunculous bulbosus  also known as St Anthony's Turnip!

Trout Lily erythronium americanum  also known as Adder's Tongue or Dogtooth Violet.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Star Wars and Sign Wars

 Do you know what day it is today? It's Star Wars Day...... May the 4th be with you!

I'll let you to celebrate this special Star Wars Day with whichever of the Star Wars films is your favourite.  Meanwhile.... in my small town just north of the big city, a bitter war of words is breaking out. A word of warning..... this could be rather punny.

And it's not over yet! We won't see the white flag waving for quite a while.

Note: Photos have been "borrowed" from the local facebook page. Not my camera work.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Spring is Sprung

Most of Spring is finally Sprung.... leaves are starting to appear on the bare trees and the April showers have boosted the brownish dead-looking winter grass to be a vivid green, and of course now dotted with pretty golden dandelions. 

The little garden in front of the train station is blooming with tulips, glowing in the sunshine.

The daffodils that were planted around the pond two years ago have started to multiply. The weather has been perfect for them... cool and rather damp, so the blooms last a long time. They wilt when it's hot weather in early spring... and so do I.

Meet Larry, Curly and Moe.  They look very happy sunning them selves on this flat rock at the edge of the pond, but sadly when I walked past a day later, someone had removed the rock.... so now where were the turtles going to bask in the sun? I hope someone will provide another rock for them.

As soon as they heard the click of the camera, all three sploshed back into the water, double quick. Obviously camera shy. 

Update: The rain raised the water level and I couldn't see the rock.... of course it's still there. Who would want to nick a rock? Sometimes I can be so dense.

Friday, 23 April 2021

Keeping it Clean

Not all heroes wear capes, as we know, and Roger is definitely a local hero. He'll often be seen patrolling the streets and the hiking trails around town with his dog Bosco, and his grabber stick and his trash bucket in his hand.

Photo: Steve Somerville / Metroland, (Stouffville Sun- Tribune)
Roger has been picking up garbage from the trails on his walks twice a day for the past four years. The main problem used to be discarded water bottles, paper coffee cups, and candy wrappers. But more and more the current collection of garbage seems to be discarded PPE and the ever present dog poo bags.
Roger estimates that he has collected over 5000 disposable face masks since the pandemic began in March 2020. Some have been dropped by accident, but many have been deliberately discarded, like the four or five that were wrapped into a ball and tied in a knot. Why? 
And there seem to be a large number of pet owners who aren't sure what to do with a dog poop bag once it's in use, so the bag is left on the path, or hung on a nearby branch. In just one day Roger found 17 poop bags along a forest trail. If you have the energy to bend over and scoop the poop, surely you have enough energy to take it home or to the nearest bin. Hard to understand.
Photo: Steve Somerville / Metroland   (Stouffville Sun-Tribune)
Roger has picked up thousands of cigarette butts on his trailwalking. Very nasty. I can't imagine what this smells like. Come on smokers... dispose of your butts safely, not throwing them on the ground.
In 2019 Roger was acclaimed the Citizen of the Year for his work. Let's help him by keeping our trails, our town, our country.... CLEAN!

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Earth Day 2021

 My painting for Earth Day.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Dare Mighty Things

I got up early this morning so I could tune in to NASA TV and watch the Mars helicopter drone, called Ingenuity, take it's first flight. It was airborne for less than a minute, and rose about 3m above the surface before swivelling and then landing, the first powered controlled flight by an aircraft on another world. And that world is an incredible 178 million miles away.

Ingenuity will be commanded to fly higher and further as NASA engineers test the limits of this amazing technology. One of the project leaders compared the success to the first flight by Orville and Wilbur Wright, at Kitty Hawk in 1903, and in fact, Ingenuity carried a tiny piece of fabric from one of the wings of the aircraft that made that historic flight more than 117 years ago.

I was cheering loudly along with all the NASA engineers.

Ingenuity arrived on Mars in the Mars Rover Perseverance in February 2021. I love the fact that they are called Ginnie and Percy by the funloving NASA people.  You can read some of the technical stuff here.

Absolutely astonishing achievement.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Mr. Armstrong again

Back in 2015, a young tree was planted in front of my house. It was an Armstrong Maple, and was a replacement for an ash tree that had been killed by an infestation of the nasty Emerald Ash Borer. I was excited about my beautiful new tree. I called him Mr. Armstrong, and and wrote about him here.

But all is not well with Mr. Armstrong. For the last couple of years, I noticed that the main leader branch at the top of the tree had no buds or leaves. Last summer a tree specialist cut off the main spike, and the tree seemed to recover. However, the main trunk shows either insect damage or some kind of disease, and there's loads of grey and yellow lichen growing on the bark.

And further down I see a small shelf bracket fungus has started to grow, a sure sign of something that shouldn't be happening to a healthy tree.
Yet the branches are full of new spring growth and tiny delicate maple flowers.
It looks like Mr. Armstrong's in trouble.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Prince Philip


I saw Prince Philip and the Queen when I was about 10. It was 1956 (now I'm giving my age away!). Children from all around the area were loaded onto green double decker buses and taken to the nearby town of Barnstaple. We were standing on wobbly risers along the walls of the ancient Pannier Market, and everyone was given a Union Jack to wave. Not sure how we got them or where they came from. There was huge excitement.... we were going to see The Queen! It must have been deafening in there when she walked up the centre aisle with the local dignitaries, and Prince Philip just behind her, his hands behind his back, as usual. I remember she was wearing pale blue. I'm in this youtube video somewhere.... on the left hand side, indistinguishable from all the other excited flag wavers. Sorry, I don't know how to embed it.

R.I.P. Prince Philip.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Out and About

The spring weather has finally warmed up which means that I can go for longer walks without wishing I hadn't made such a foolish decision to leave the comfort of my fireplace! I strolled along the newest portion of the Rouge Urban Trail, from Reesor Road to Durham 30 and back. The trail is easy walking, and suitable for strollers and wheelchairs too, and of course bicycles. Lots of families out with their bikes enjoying the sun.

Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum - this is a dried flower head from last year, still spiky and sharp. Teasels are actually part of the honeysuckle family. The spiky heads were formerly widely used in textile processing, cleaning, aligning and raising the nap on fabrics.

Coltsfoot - Tussilago farfara - one of the first splashes of colour to appear along the trails after the snow melts. The leaves, which appear much later than the flowers, are supposed to resemble the shape of a colt's foot. Not a native plant, and was probably introduced from Europe with the first settlers.

Rows of a crop that may be Winter Wheat, but I'm not certain. I just liked the uniformity of the rows, and the first real green I have seen since winter left.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

April Update!

I seem to have been AWOL from the blogging world for a couple of weeks. Starting today, Saturday, the whole Province of Ontario has been ordered back into another Covid lockdown due to rising infection numbers and overwhelmed hospital ICU. The restrictions are not quite as rigid as the previous lockdown, but won't make much difference to me as I'm not going much further than the grocery store! I've been keeping busy at home. 

I have been making dark brown pumpernickel bread. I was interested to learn that the dark colour comes from molasses, a spoonful of instant coffee, and two spoonfuls of cocoa! Surprising. Tastes terrific, I'm going to make this again.

A field of sunflowers, acrylic on paper, the flowers created by dropping rubbing alcohol onto wet paint.... sounds weird but it works!

More weirdness. Is this outer space? Or under the sea? I've been experimenting with different techniques and shapes and colours, well, I have to keep busy and I haven't actually painted anything worthwhile for ages. 

I call this one "I can't start the #@&%$*! lawn mower!"

OlderSon has been tapping his maple trees. The weather was perfect for running the sap for a few days, warm sunny days and chilly nights, but the season is over. It takes 40 litres of sap to boil down to 1 litre of syrup. He got just over 2 litres of syrup. I hope he invites me for pancakes when all this Covid disruption is over.

Oh... almost forgot, I got the first dose of Pfizer vaccine two weeks ago, next dose booked in July! The first step to getting back to "normal". I am so thankful.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

March 25 Art

Using gelli prints made earlier this month as covers for some small sketchbooks, using some of my mother's embroidery thread to sew the pages. Coptic stitch looks complicated but really it's easy.

If life ever gets back to "normal"  these little books could be for sale at our annual Art Show.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Battle Stations!

 No need to describe the fun being had here.... new Nerf guns!

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

March 17 ART plus

 I've been using up pre-painted canvas boards and playing with paint again, with varied results.  None of my efforts are any where near anything I might like to frame and hang on the wall, but it keeps me sane and busy and otherwise out of trouble during the endless Covid days. Although the restrictions here are easing up quite a bit, there are still too many new infections reported, many of them attributed to the variants, and new deaths every day.

I've also completed the needlepoint project that I started sometime in the 1990s. It sat in a sewing bag in the basement for a long time before I retrieved it. Now I have to decide what to do with it. Perhaps a 12"x12" frame?

Now that the clocks have changed to the daylight savings, I was up early enough to see the sun coming up behind the trees. That doesn't happen often. I mean me seeing the sun, not the sun coming up. That seems to happen on a regular basis whether I'm there to see it or not.
And today is a big day for me.... the hair salons are finally open and I am going to get my first proper haircut since the middle of November. I can hardly wait!

Saturday, 13 March 2021

March 13 ART and the M Q

This is the latest result from playing around with acrylic paint, rubbing alcohol and plastic sandwich wrap. Up in the top left corner there's a bluish shine, which is an acrylic paint colour called "interference blue".  It looks very pale pink in the tube, looks white when its painted in, and then has that weird bluish glow. Strange stuff. I wonder what it's made of?

And the MQ (see the post title). The MQ is the Meghan Question. I watched most of the Harry and Meghan and Oprah interview last weekend (missed the first half hour), and I'd love to get some comments on what bloggers thought of it. In my opinion, it's all very sad. The idea of marrying a handsome Prince, and becoming a beautiful Princess didn't work out exactly as Meghan had planned.  It was obvious from the start that a divorced mixed race American TV actress wasn't going to fit into the Royal family easily. So now Harry's estranged from his father, and his brother and family, doesn't have a job, and is living far from home. A shame. But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

Thursday, 11 March 2021

My Dad.

Today, March 11, is my Dad's birthday.

Frank was born in 1882 in a village in North Devon, in England. Dad was the fourth child of a family of ten children, six boys and four girls. Times were hard back then. His father was a merchant seaman, absent for many months at a time, only coming home between voyages for short periods, just enough time to reacquaint himself with family life and start another new baby on the way. 

The children grew up living with aunts, uncles and grandparents, as the tiny cottage by the sea wasn't big enough to hold all the children. 

When my Dad was a young man, he would walk early in the morning to the nearby town, spend all day unloading the sailing ships that brought coal across the Bristol Channel from South Wales, load the ships with local strawberries for sale in the Welsh markets, and then walk the five miles home at night, perhaps catching a ride on a horse and cart, no cars back then, just to do it all again the following day. 

Later, he worked at a builders supply yard hauling lumber, concrete, bricks etc. All physical work. He was a strong man. During WW1 he went to Herefordshire and worked in a munitions factory. 

Dad married his sweetheart Rowena in 1908. But things didn't go smoothly. They had a child, but the child didn't live. I don't know if it was a girl or a boy, my Dad never mentioned it.  After the loss of the child, Rowena became ultra-religious and spent most of her time at the local church. I think that was a hard time for my Dad. She died in the 1930s. 

By this time, Dad had purchased a strip of land on a south facing slope overlooking the sea and had built a bungalow. He planted 3 acres of strawberries, which was to become his major source of income. And not only strawberries.... he grew all his own fruit and vegetables, including some extra that he sold, raised chickens and of course, there were always fresh eggs.

One day in May when he was working in the strawberry field (everything done by hand back then, no tractors or machinery), a woman called to him over the hedge asking the price of the strawberries. They chatted for a while, money and strawberries exchanged hands, and then my Dad invited this nice lady to come and have tea with him the following day. 

Kath must have liked the way he made the tea, or perhaps it was the strawberry jam and scones that tempted her. Six weeks later they were married. That was back in 1941. I arrived as quite a surprise to everyone four years later. 

I suppose my childhood was a little different from that of my friends, as my Dad was so much older than other dads, but he was a great dad to me. He played games with me, and he let me help him in the garden. His pet name for me as a child was Patsy.... I have no idea why. Dad lived a long and active life. The bungalow and the strawberry fields were sold in the early 1960s and we moved to the main street of the village, where Dad continued to raise all his own vegetables in the small back garden until his death in 1977, in his 96th year. He celebrated two Silver Wedding anniversaries.... one with each wife. Not many people can claim that! He gave me away at my wedding and got to meet one of his grandsons, happy events that he never thought he would live to see.

Happy Birthday to my Dad!

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

March 9 ART

More crazy experimentation. 

Both of these small 9"x12" canvas boards were the super cheap ones from Dollarama, made in China of course, and had already been painted on. But I don't want to experiment on good canvases until I know what I'm planning to do, so the paintings were covered up with a couple of coats of gesso, ready to start again. Not an ideal situation but it worked.

This first canvas board  had a couple of thin coats of burnt orange acrylic added, then sealed with matte medium, and then I sploshed it with a dark blue mixed with some retarder and scraped swirls and bends and organic shapes in the runny paint. Once it was dry, the background was filled with the lighter blue. My first attempt at this. Not overly impressive, but next time I'll have a better idea of what to do. Choose different colours for a start. And smoother swirls.

The second board had the same burnt orange and matte medium layers, and was covered with blue acrylic with a bit of retarder to keep the paint from drying too quickly. Some sprinkles of isopropyl rubbing alcohol reacts with the paint, creating lovely orange circles in the blue, and then I covered it all with crumpled plastic sandwich wrap to get some nice texture.
Drying overnight. Removing the plastic wrap reveals all sorts of interesting shapes. Then some circles painted in with leftover blue from the first project. Colours could be brighter in this photo, I think it needs some gloss to make the colours stand out more.

Fun to do. I might continue with this theme.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

March 6 ART

 Even though I haven't posted for a couple of days, I've been trying to keep the creative juices flowing. I spent much of yesterday wandering in the past.... a bit of genealogy research for a friend. Why oh why did our ancestors all use the same names? Far too many Georges, James's, Johns and Mary Annes. No imagination! I feel so happy when I come across a Claudius or a Lavinia, although the actual Claudius or Lavinia probably hated their names and wished they were unassuming John and Mary Anne.

I decided to play with some of the mistake paintings that weren't going anywhere.... already messed up so why not mess them up some more. It can be huge fun sploshing paint around.

That was fun! The colours are actually a lot brighter than these photos show. Perhaps I'll expand on this theme, there are more mistakes in storage that can be played with. Crazy stuff!

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

March 2 ART

 Well, I've made it to Day 2 of my personal March Art challenge....that's an achievement in itself. I watched a few "how to" You Tube art videos this morning, and then I was inspired to get the gelli plate out. These prints were made with maple leaves that I picked up last fall and pressed them in an old sketch book. Perhaps some of them can be used as covers for bookbinding. 

Monday, 1 March 2021

March 1 ART

I have been so uninspired and lazy during this current pandemic lockdown.... not going out anywhere except to the grocery store or the pharmacy, and not seeing friends and family. The Zoom meetings and the phone calls help, but it's just not the same. The Covid restrictions in my area were relaxed a little this week, so I have to smarten up and get on with life, no more excuses.

So I'm going to see how far I get with posting some art every day. No promises but I'll try. This is today's offering.... painted with cheap acrylic paint using plastic bags and cardboard stencils. Yep.... it's a weird mess, but at least it's MY weird mess.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Pancake Day

It's Shrove Tuesday today, the traditional feast day to use all the eggs and fats in the larder before the penitential season of Lent starts on the following day... Ash Wednesday.  Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter.

When I was growing up in England, Mum always made pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day. I don't mean the thick fluffy flapjack style that are eaten in North America with bacon and sausage and maple syrup. When I first arrived in Canada, I always thought that particular taste combination was very strange, however I quite like it now. Perhaps I'm used to it.

The pancakes that Mum made were very thin and light and lacy, just a little bit crinkled and browned on both sides. Once on the plate, the pancake was sprinkled with caster sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and then rolled up, and always eaten in rolled slices. So good, I remember licking the plate!

The pancake has a very long history and featured in cookery books as far back as 1439. The tradition of tossing or flipping them is almost as old: “And every man and maide doe take their turne, And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne.” (Pasquil’s Palin, 1619).

In Britain, pancake races form an important part of the Shrove Tuesday celebrations – an opportunity for large numbers of people, often in fancy dress, to race down streets tossing pancakes. The object of the race is to get to the finishing line first, carrying a frying pan with a cooked pancake in it and flipping the pancake as you run. Possibly Mr. Covid will put a stop to the pancake races in 2021!

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Marmalade Season

At this time of year, I'm usually making a nuisance of myself by bothering the produce managers in the local grocery stores, looking for Seville Oranges.  Luckily, I found some for sale on my first visit to the big grocery store at the other end of town.... I don't usually shop there. They are small, wrinkled, bumpy, and very bitter oranges. Rather nasty looking. Why would anyone want them? Well.... they are absolutely essential to make lovely yummy home made Marmalade.

I bought 8 Sevilles (pretty pricey at $2:99 lb, oh well, I needed them) 2 lemons and 2 sweet navel oranges.  Squeeze out the juice and remove the pips and membranes, and slice the peel into thin strips.

For every cup of peel and juice, add 2.25 cups of water and soak overnight. Boil the pips and membranes in a separate container and strain out all the liquid... it's full of pectin to help the marmalade set.  Add the juice to the peel and then for every cup of fruit add 1 cup of sugar. Boil it up for 30 minutes or so. As I stirred it I could feel it get thicker and starting to set.
Stir for a while to cool it and to make sure the peel doesn't float, then it goes into jars that have been warming in the oven, pop the lids on, and let them cool. The jars all give a satisfying "pop" as the lids seal.

According to a Scottish legend, the creation of orange marmalade in Dundee occurred by accident. The legend tells of a ship carrying a cargo of oranges that broke down in the port, resulting in some ingenious locals making marmalade out of the cargo.

I could buy marmalade in the store, but it's always far too sweet, and doesn't have that tang that home made marmalade delivers. I'm looking forward to some on my toast at breakfast.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Winter Weekend

I was able to spend a few fun days with YoungerSon and family at their country property despite the Covid.... yes, it's February and it's COLD! Temperatures at night were around -17C, that's 1.4F, definitely chilly. And I was sleeping in the bunkie!

There's a small pond fed by a stream at the low point of the field, and the kids have been skating on the ice. They are missing their hockey at the moment due to the Covid lockdown. YoungerSon is out there at all hours smoothing the ice. We call him the Human Zamboni.

This is what the same pond looked like in the middle of July!

In the evening there was a fierce game of Monopoly.... I was doing really well at first, but I crashed when I rolled a double and landed on a very expensive hotel, then rolled again and scored a 2.... I had to pay up for a visit to the next very expensive hotel..... I never recovered.  Bankruptcy was inevitable. 
Advice: never trust the banker when she keeps dropping the money under the table. There's definitely something dodgy going on.
All three of my grandies have been teaching themselves to play the ukulele using a teaching CD and song book, and various YouTube videos. They were using two ukes, one was a Christmas gift to Emma, the other was a used one bought by Max from Kijiji. So I found a couple more for sale from a neighbour, both used, so now they have four, one for each ukulelist (what a great word!), and one for their Dad (who is playing and singing at the same time.... awesome!). 

I'm looking forward to the summer singalongs around the camp fire!