Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Definitely Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

This is our second round of snow here (Vancouver, BC), and this time it is really coming down.  The back yard is already blanketed, and there is no sign of stopping....  I guess I should go get some corn for popping....

I was delighted to be asked to play piano at the elementary school again this year, while the kids had their pancake "Breakfast with Santa".  So I played about 2 hours straight, while the kids came in and out, and stopped to sing songs for a while.  I've done it for many years now, often taking turns with my friend Shelley who is a piano teacher.  Me, this is really the only time of year I play much piano at all.  But it is some of my favourite music, especially when I have a chance to flip to my hymn book and the beloved Christmas carols.  This year, the kids kept arriving to sing, so I played mostly songs about Santa and reindeer and jingle bells.  Since I bang these out louder for the kids, my fingers were actually sore by the time I was done.  But it was lots of fun.

It was great to see other moms (and dads), and my friend Beth gave me these adorable gingerbread men:

I like the idea of the ziplock with the bow in it, so they will make it home safely!  Ha ha.  They look too adorable to eat.

We were fortunate that we had visitors a week ago, which forced us to get our tree, and decorate and clean up the house early.  So we are now in pretty good shape for more entertaining.  Here are photos of our tree, and a Christmas centerpiece I quickly assembled from the variegated cedar in our yard, and berries from our female Skimmia Japonica bushes.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Snowmen Fun Trailer

Wow, my neighbor Helen created this delightful movie.  Anyone who has been bit by the "collecting" bug (and who among us hasn't?) will laugh our hearts out at this movie, and take comfort that we are not the only one!!  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall "Flower" Arrangement

Although my parents live only 7 minutes away, they don't often come for dinner.  So when they do, it is reason for celebration, and a good excuse to cut something from my garden to create a centerpiece.  This was the one we enjoyed this weekend :
Here's a closeup:

The purple berries in the center are from my Callicarpa (beauty berry) bush.  They are accompanied by bright red rose hips from my wild rose bush, and the purple leaves from a purple Cotinus (smoke bush).  It seemed to be the only bush which didn't drop its leaves as I tried to cut a branch.  The leaves placed around the arrangement are from my Liquidambar (sweet gum) tree.  The little rings around the candleholders are not from the garden, they are a wood and silk set I received from my neighbor Helen a few years ago.  They matched the fall colours well.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rattie Fursuit Feet : Part 1

This weekend we worked on our rattie fursuit's feet.  My 14-year-old provided a pair of comfy (I would have preferred new) runners as a base, and we built the feet around them with foam.  We have yet to finalize the trimming/shaping, and then need to cover them over with the pink fleece.  Here are a few photos of this weekend's progress :
part one of rattie fursuit feet - foam on top of runners

first step of rattie fursuit foot paws - just foam on runners

rattie fursuit feet so far - just the foam on shoes
I've got to do something about my glue gun.  I have a large gun which doesn't work well (although I forgot what the issue is), and a small gun which works well, but the trigger is really hard to push.  So even half an hour after finishing with the gluing, my fingers are still red and sore.  Last time, when we were working on a paw, my fingertips were numb for a couple of days afterward.  That's not good, since we have lots more gluing remaining - when we create the head.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Garden Treats and Treasures

One of the many things I love about my garden is how it surprises me with treats - such as the few remaining Fall Gold raspberries which I enjoyed today.  And the wild strawberries which are still bearing fruit.  And then this cheerful Michaelmas Daisy which sprung out of our outdoor chess board :
It was perfect gardening weather today, so I spent about 2 hours in the garden, cutting down old flower stalks, and pulling weeds.  I was surprised to find a persimmon (the larger one in the photo below) lying face down in the lawn.  The lawn was cut a few weeks ago, so it had been dropped there since.  I suspect it is from the neighbour's persimmon tree, since although I also have one, it is not doing well, and has not borne any fruit yet.  I'm sure it was carried into my yard by a squirrel, and dropped on its way to find a hiding place for its little treasure.
The second persimmon was even more of a surprise.  I was flattening some mounds left by the mole in the lower yard.  It has been making a complete mess of the yard all summer, and I've been shoveling and carrying away the mounds of dirt and rocks (wondering how it could possibly push up SO much material, and what will happen to our yard when those tunnels and holes collapse).  Today, I decided just to flatten them, and scatter some grass seed on the soil.  One of the mounds contained the persimmon, nicely buried inside, like buried treasure.  Squirrels, for sure.  This time, it reached its hiding place.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fimo Mickey Mouse

I recently made an attempt at making a Mickey Mouse figurine from Fimo clay.  I am probably half way there, in terms of effort, but the results are already pretty good, I think :
You can read more about this, and other ceramics related adventures, on my new blog, Ceramics : It's Just Dirt.  I hope you can join me there.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thanksgiving Arrangement

We just celebrated Thanksgiving in Canada.  We had the big turkey dinner on Sunday, and were happy to get almost all of the extended family (14 of us) together.

I have seen photos of pumpkins used for flower arrangements a few times now, so decided I would try my hand at it.  I think the arrangement turned out pretty nicely, with branches and flowers from my garden :
Thanksgiving pumpkin flower arrangement
My sister had the idea of adding the fresh cranberries (on a bamboo skewer).  I think that was a nice touch.  I asked my husband to cut off the top, and we cleaned it out, scraping the insides until clean, not stringy (I managed to get 4 cups of cooked pumpkin, and a small tray of baked pumpkin seeds out of this part).  I didn't bother with an oasis, I just crossed the stems as I added them (a trick I learned from a professional flower arranger).

I hope you all had - or for our U.S. neighbours, will have - a great Thanksgiving.  We have so much to give thanks for, in this part of the world.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Dragon Lady

Well, actually, just the dragon gloves.  But I think they turned out pretty cool :

I wasn't really planning to make dragon gloves, I was shopping for fur for my 14-year-old's rattie suit, when I spotted this wonderful shiny "black snakeskin" fabric which I couldn't resist.  Since my character is a dragon, that would be my project, if I were to build a suit - which is not my plan, just the gloves!  I'm not much for machine sewing (I don't even have a sewing machine), but I am pretty good with a needle and thread.   I designed the gloves myself, copying roughly from a pair of fleece gloves, and then I created claws and spikes from fimo clay.   Here's an earlier photo, before the fimo additions.

Here's the first paw and tail of my kiddo's rattie suit.  We've now started on the second paw, but we have quite a way to go.  The grey fur is folded up and sitting on the piano, waiting for us to tackle that.  We are designing the suit ourselves as we go along, so it is a bit daunting if I think about all the work ahead of us.  Especially the head.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rattie Fursuit - First Paw and Tail

Now that my son and I have decided to build a rat fursuit, much of our "spare time" is consumed with shopping for and creating parts for his suit.  In the past couple of days, we have made good progress.  We now pretty much have the first paw :

It is built on a latex-dipped gardening glove, with foam to give it the oversized finger shape, and then effectively a pink fleece glove (hand-sewn) pulled over that.  Here is just the glove with foam, before covering with the fleece :

Yes, the two middle fingers are glued together, to achieve the rattie 4 fingered paw.

Now that we know how much work went into the first paw, it will be hard to convince ourselves to move onto the next one.  :-)

Today my son went to Grandma's house to use her sewing machine to sew the tail, and then stuffed it.  I think it turned out even better than I had expected.

Next (after the second paw, hopefully), we will tackle the feet.  Then we will likely switch over to the gray fur, and start working on the body.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The World of Furry and Other Outlets for Creativity

If anyone actually follows my blog, they might notice an absence of garden-related posts recently.  It's not for the lack of stories to tell, of the abundant Italian plum harvest  (I actually had so many I discovered the joy of drying plums), the gold raspberries which are still continuing, and other delights.  I even have some photos to post, but haven't made time for it.  My attention has been turned elsewhere, into the indoor world of the Creative.

My 14 year old and I attended BronyCAN in August.  It was a great experience, to meet a whole group of My Little Pony enthusiasts, many of them young men who relate to the story's messages of friendship and loyalty and magic.  Many of them who are otherwise quite introverted, but who, within the safety of a community of likeminded Bronies, found courage to join enthusiastically in karaoke and other activities.  It was really neat to be part of that.  I was happy to show off my Twilight Sparkle costume, and had a blast making costumes with my son (who was Fluttershy) :

While at the conference, we were exposed to the world of Furry.  I found out that some people choose to dress in fursuits, not just for some miserable (and hot!) job as a mascot at an event or character in an amusement park, but as a fun way of expressing themselves and their inner fursona, in the safety and perhaps anonymity of the suit.  There is apparently a strong fursuit community in the Vancouver area, with the VancouFur convention in the spring, and the smaller Howloween event in the Fall (this year it will be Nov 2).

My son and I were both impressed by this concept, and my son has chosen his character, a yet unnamed rat.  So we have been busily shopping for furs, and reading up on techniques for building a fursuit.  We found some really wonderful grey fur and pink fleece for the hands and feet and nose.  We started sculpting and creating one hand last night.

My fursona would be a dragon.  Probably a very shiny, sparkly green and purple one, with large wings, and which can breathe puffs of black smoke.  But I have no plans to build a dragon suit, at least not at this time.  It will be more than enough to learn and help my son build a rat suit, since we are both perfectionists, and will surely spend many hours on the project.  Then I will need to be driver and assistant for him when he goes to conventions and hopefully other events.  Not to mention, I spend much of my non-working hours thinking about and reading about ceramics, looking for inspiration and collecting up anything which I can use as stampers or shapers of clay.

But while we were shopping for fabrics, I accidentally ran into some "black snakeskin" fabric which was irresistible.  So I ended up bringing it home, and spending a number of hours creating a pattern (using a simple fleece glove as an example), and sewing my dragon gloves.  Here is the first one, partly done :
The photo doesn't do the fabric justice.  It has wonderful iridescent reflections of green and purple and other colors, in a stretchy fabric which has a pretty close feel to a smooth cool snakeskin.   Anyhow, where it is now pinned along the back of the hand and arm, I have decided to put in a row of spikes.  I plan to buy and create them from purple fimo clay.  Also matching claws.  I think it will turn out pretty cool, and I will be happy to wear them to the furry conventions, but still have my hands relatively free to assist my ratty son and take photos and other neat stuff.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park, BC

Our family just returned yesterday from one week in the Cathedral Lakes Park, near Keremeos, BC.  It is part of the Cascades Mountain Range which extends from southern BC, through Washington state, Oregon and California, and includes many of the mountains we have visited and loved, including Mount Baker, Mount Rainier and Mount Hood.  The Cathedral Lakes Park is closed to vehicles (other than the transport vehicles used by the private operators of the Lodge and associated cabins), bicycles, and pets.  So it remains rugged wilderness, and a great location for some pretty serious hiking.

Of the 5 full days we were there, the first 3 we hiked 5 or 6 hours per day, typically climbing about 250 meters of elevation, to visit the many lakes and ridges in the area.  Then we rested one day, followed by a 10.5 hour hike, climbing about 500 meters that day.  It was pretty challenging for me, so I was proud of myself for just surviving that journey.  Hopefully my photos will portray some of the beauty of that area, and its flora and fauna.

First, some landscape and hiking spots :
In this hike, we had originally planned to take it easy and hike to Scout Lake, a mere 75 meter elevation above our cabin, which was at about 2000 meter above sea level.  But we accidentally started on a path which was marked in ribbons (not the park's standard wooden signs), and ended up climbing up the side of Scout Mountain, coming out about 200 meters above the lake.  See the patch of snow just below where I am standing for the photo?  Then we hiked down to the lake, and back to our cabin.

These are some more photos from the top of that ridge.  I love the green and black lichen on the rocks up there, and in many of the areas we visited.

There were a total of 6 lakes in the area within reasonable hiking distance which we visited.  This is Glacier Lake.

This is Quiniscoe Lake, which is where the lodge and cabins are located.

The scenery was an  interesting mix of lush green wildflowers and young healthy trees, and large dead trees (apparently wiped out by an infestation of spruce beetle).

Did I mention we were hiking?  I found the long hikes quite challenging, but the scenery was really quite beautiful.

As you see, I may not have had a big backpack, but I was carrying a lot of weight.  :-)

Getting up close with some of the local wildlife - mule deer and mountain goats, was fun.  On this hike past Glacier Lake to the Rim Trail, a family group of mountain goats passed us on the way up....

...and came to rest on a big patch of snow.  We continued to climb the mountain, above them.  (Although I would have preferred to join them on the patch of snow.  I think they had the right idea.)
If that encounter wasn't close enough for us, then passing them on the trail at the camp was even closer.  They seemed quite comfortable to wander about, passing beside our cabin and next to the tents at the nearby campsites.

The mule deer were equally bold, passing very close to us on the trails.

The kids spotted this healthy looking bunny during one of our hikes.

Being the northern (Canadian) part of the Cascades mountains, the wild flowers reminded me a lot of those at Mount Baker and Mount Rainier.

What hiking trip would be complete without wild berries?  I was amused by these huckleberry bushes, which were only a few inches high, but the berries were amazingly sweet (albeit tart).

The grouse seemed to think so, too, and we found a family (mother with 3 chicks) enjoying huckleberries beside the hiking path.

A few more floral scenes :

A black lichen "heart" which made me think of Clytie at Random Hearts.  I had to take a photo of it, for her :

And finally, one of my favorite locations in Cathedral Lake Park - a big granite rock next to our cabin, which was perfect for relaxing in the sun, when not on one of our hikes.
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