Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Hallowe'en!

Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels.
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.
In masks and gown we haunt the street
And knock on doors for trick or treat.
Tonight we are the king and queen,
For, oh tonight it's Hallowe'en!

(Jack Prelutsky)

(pumpkin bead by Jennifer Heynen)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Chunky Monkey

Beadfx now has my latest inspiration posted on their website. I call it "Chunky Monkey" because of the big stones. A few weeks ago, after I had been doing a lot of work with seed beads lately, I had an urge to work with bigger, chunkier pieces so I asked Dwyn to pick something out for me. Here's what she chose: six each of two different sizes of a stone they call "Turquoise Howlite Conglomerate" (!!)(a not very flattering name for some fabulous looking stones), six large nugget black opal stones, a bag of 9 mm copper jumprings, oval-shaped copper loops and some sweet little 4 loop clover shaped links.

I pulled out a roll of 20 gauge copper wire that I had in my stash and got to work wrapping the stones, then joined them all together with the jump rings, using the clover links for decoration here and there (I really like the way they look doubled up).

Of course, as usual, Dwyn's photos on the Beadfx website are much more flattering so I would urge you to follow the link below to take a peek.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Make Your Own Stamps

Last week's Creative Art Journal class involved making our own stamps out of the flat styrofoam trays that you find under your pork chops or chicken breasts - cleaned, of course! We cut the styrofoam into various shapes and glued them onto other, square pieces of styrofoam, painted them and played around with the results of stamping them on paper. We often found that the second or third use of the stamp was the best one, the first effort usually had too much paint loaded on - the images seem to work much better with less paint. We were using acrylic paint, watered down slightly.

Here's a picture of what the finished stamps look like:

and a design that one of my fellow students, Katherine, made with hers. She had the very clever idea to mark the pieces of styrofoam with squiggly lines by drawing on them with a pencil, to add texture to the stamp. I was so impressed, I immediately copied this idea!!

Then we took thicker pieces of styrofoam and carved designs into them, again with a pencil. We painted those pieces and pressed them onto paper. The results were equally intriguing - here's a picture of one of my designs:

This next photo shows our teacher, Toni, demonstrating the process, followed by a shot showing the different looks achieved from stamping the same design over and over without adding any more paint - you can see what I mean about the 2nd and 3rd images being the best, depending on the result you are looking for. The 4th image is very light but would also be good to use on an art journal page, as the design is very faint and could easily be embellished by adding layers over top of it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

TBS Fall Bead Fair

This weekend, the Toronto Bead Society is holding its fall bead fair. Yes, there will be lots of fabulous beads and jewellery making supplies there to peruse, touch and/or buy. It's a two day event. I'll be there on Saturday, volunteering at the TBS booth with my sister from 10 a.m. to 12 noon (under the watchful eye of the Volunteer Coordinator, Stephanie a.k.a. The Dixon Chick) and then I plan to shop until I drop. Well, okay maybe not, as I'm trying to make things with the bead stash I already have, rather than add to it, but we'll see how it goes. All our favourite vendors will be there, so I'm sure there will be some treasures available that I will find unable to resist.

The event is being held in a new location this time around - at the CNIB building at 1921 Bayview Avenue, just north of Eglinton. Check out the TBS website if you need directions or other information:

By the way, as I just discovered after checking out that link, did you know the clocks are turning back this weekend? Where did the time go? Doesn't it seem like we just finished turning them ahead? (those of you who never did figure out how to change the time on your VCR or dashboard clock - yes, you know who you are - can now take comfort in the fact that once again, you'll be back in the groove). It's already dark so early in the evening and in the morning when I wake up, I'm not looking forward to emphasizing that process by switching the clock but I suppose it is inevitable. Time waits for no one, as they say. Or, if you prefer, "time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." Thank you, Groucho Marx for that witty remark.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Winning the Lottery

I think I may have figured out why I haven't been successful winning the lottery just yet. It's because some guy in Calgary seems to have all the luck - he has won large jackpots FIVE times now! His latest prize is for $17 million dollars but apparently, now that he has won large amounts of money four times in the past five years, they're holding on to these funds while they investigate him a little more closely. His previous winnings include $1 million in 2004, $100,000 in 2006, $1 million and $50,000 in 2008. It seems hard to imagine that one person could be so lucky, considering the odds of winning the lottery are said to be something like 14 million to 1!!

What's this got to do with beading, you might ask? Nothing really, except did you notice the gentleman's last name is Ndabene? Made me think of the Ndebele herringbone beading stitch!!
Can you imagine how many beads you could buy with any one of those lottery prizes?? Or, as this cartoon, suggests, warm chocolate chip cookies - YUM!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Serafina Pendant

This past Friday night was Art a la Mode, a dinner and silent auction event to raise money for the Lindsay Art Gallery. This year, I donated the freeform bead embroidered pendant that I made after taking Sherry Serafini's class at the Bead & Button show in Milwaukee in June (which I finally finished last weekend!)

Here's are some photos of the pendant, which I call "Serafina" in Sherry's honour. Because, let's face it, it's her design, it's just my interpretation thereof. She put the kit together, picked all the beads, made the sample, included the photos for us to follow in the instruction booklet, all of which made it quite easy for me to give away this pendant. I quite like the design but it's not mine, so hopefully the new owner will enjoy wearing it as much as I enjoyed making it and together we raised some money for the gallery, so it's all good.

I've included some photos to show what the piece looked like after all the beads were sewn on, both front and back, before I cut it down to size and added the edging and the Ultrasuede backing. The last two photos show the finished pendant, strung on a spiral rope with a sterling silver clasp.

Speaking of Sherry, my friend Colleen is off to New York this week on a Beadventure tour with Sherry. It's sounds like it will be a great trip - 5 days of museums visits and shopping for beading supplies and workshop sessions to design a bead-embroidered cuff. Have fun, Colleen! Can't wait to hear all about it when you get back.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Michael David Sturlin - Day 2

I am feeling marginally less like a walking zombie tonight after day 2 of Michael Sturlin's workshop at Beadfx but still my brain feels pretty full of new information and ideas. I'm not a goldsmith and don't have a burning desire to work extensively or exclusively forming objects out of metal (no offense, Michael!) but I do find it interesting to know some of the basics and I especially like the idea that I can possible make my own clasps and findings, instead of buying the same ones that are available to everyone else. Today, we worked with silver wire and flat metal and there were handouts about working with a jeweller's saw, which I am sure will be very useful in the future.

I found taking a workshop from Michael to be especially interesting because of his work with mentoring other artists. As well as being a master goldsmith, I believe he also spends time working as a life coach, so in spending a couple of days with him, one is treated to several nuggets of advice and inspiration gently provided in a way to make you think about what you are interested in and what you might want to accomplish, both with your art and your life.

Here's a picture Rosemary took of our class group. I really like this picture because we're all laughing (I had just made a joke about how we're not supposed to call MDS "Mike"), although we had to take a couple more shots after this because hello! There is a lamp in front of my face in this shot! I am so going to have to call my agent, I should not have to put up with these conditions. (Kyle, if you're reading this, I know you're going to ask, "why did we need to include the water cooler in the shot??")

And here's a picture of Michael and me, just so I can say, hey, I met Michael David Sturlin!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Michael David Sturlin - Day 1

I am taking a 2 day "Quick Clasps and Findings" workshop at Beadfx with Michael David Sturlin. Day 1 was very exciting and I'd love to tell you all about it but after an eight hour day of class and then dinner with Michael, Marg (the owner of Beadfx) and a couple of the other ladies in class, I am now so very tired and my brain is complete mush. You know that feeling of "my brain can't possibly absorb any more information today and please don't ask me to make conversation because I would only sound like a babbling idiot if I tried to put words together in any kind of logical sequence, but if I could just sit here quietly on the couch in my pyjamas watching the TV with a rather glazed expression on my face for a few minutes before I fall into bed, I'm sure I'll feel much better in the morning".

In the meantime, here are a few photos to tide you over until tomorrow night, when hopefully I will be slightly more awake and able to blog in more detail about the wonderful time we are having and what a great teacher Michael is. The top photo is Michael at the bench - I didn't realize the block was standing up so you can't see what he is working on - the middle photo shows the shepherd's hook, figure 8's and S hooks we made this morning, and this bottom photo is a toggle clasp we made this afternoon. At the moment, we learning with copper wire - tomorrow, if we're feeling particularly brave, we're going to make the same components out of silver wire.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Boy, it's windy out there!

Phew! I am finally home, after heading downtown on the subway after work to get my hair cut. Of course, afterwards I had to do a little shopping as I need a new pair of leather gloves, having never heard back from Air Canada regarding my beloved raincoat that I foolishly left on the plane on the way home from Milwaukee back in June, which just happened to have my leather gloves in the pockets (haven't missed them all summer but now that the weather is starting to turn, I need a new pair!) Since they were having a sale, I naturally had to pick up a new scarf and a pair of wool gloves at the same time. Then was desperately in need of some dinner, so I hit the food court. Eventually headed home on the subway, and only had to change seats once, as I was sitting beside a rather portly gentleman who seemed intent on consuming an entire bag of cashew nuts in 5 minutes or less, while chewing with his mouth open - ew. When he reached for a banana, I knew it was time to change seats. Made my way out of the station to my car and headed home, only to realize en route that I needed some groceries in order to have food in the house for breakfast tomorrow, which meant a stop at the grocery store which meant that my beautifully styled hair ended up looking like I had just pulled my head out of the blender because did I mention it is raining? And really super windy outside? The kind of wind that blows the right right into your face, making it especially hard to see if you wear glasses, as I do. And oh yeah, it's cold. And dark.

Oh sure, we get wind and rain and dark in the summertime too but somehow, it's harder to take in October and November because it's starting to get so darned cold. Cold and wet is not good. Cold and wet and in your face is worse. And no, I didn't have my umbrella because of course, you can't carry groceries and an umbrella, it simply can't be done.

But at last, I'm home, finally, a little bit damp, a little bit tired, with my hairdo slightly askew, although it is a testament to the skill of my hairdresser, Teresa, that my hair still looks pretty darned good now that it is drying out, because it is such a good cut.

So while Winnie the Pooh might have enjoyed his blustery day, I cannot, in all honesty, say that I enjoyed all of my blustery evening.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mistaken Identity

The Toronto Bead Society has a section on their website called "Member Links", where members can post their website or blog addresses for others to view. I had submitted my blog address when I renewed my membership in the summer but hadn't visited the website until a couple of weeks ago, only to discover they had the wrong link posted for me.

They had posted this link by mistake: It's the blog of a woman more than half my age with a young child who only has about a month worth of blog topics (which mostly seem to be about the topic of blogging and her efforts to find a part time job) and she hasn't blogged anything new since April 2008.

I knew this blog existed when I created mine, which is why my name includes the word "Canada" in it. Knowing we were focused on different subjects (I'm not sure what it is she is creating but it doesn't appear to be jewellery related), I didn't think she would mind if I shared the name.

I have since found another blogger with "our" name: She is a photographer named Cynthia Fletcher, who appears to have set her blog up since I did, but she too hasn't blogged for a while (since March of this year) and she only has 2 blog postings in total, so again, probably not too much of a conflict.

As far as the TBS mixup, it was an easy fix. I just emailed the TBS website editor to let her know there was a problem and they corrected it right away.

I had someone send me a message the other day through Facebook, asking me if I had lived in New Rochelle, NY in 1969 and attended a certain high school. Needless to say, that isn't me either (I hadn't even graduated from public school in 1969!) but it's interesting to know there are other people out there in the world with your name, living completely different lives. Sometimes I Google my name to see who they are and what they're doing in their alternate universe, just for fun. You should try it, you might find the results to be very entertaining.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Getting Published

The October meeting of the Toronto Bead Society featured a panel discussing the topic of "Selling Your Designs for Publication". The panel consisted of Maria Rypan (, Marilyn Gardiner ( and Carla Canonico, the editor of Needle Pulling Thread magazine ( (BTW, I hadn't read this magazine before but I won a copy at the meeting and quite enjoyed it. Mostly focused on needlework and quilting - the photos are beautiful - but they do have a couple of beading designs as well.)

Maria had her first design published in Bead & Button magazine in 2003 and has been featured in several publications since then. She is currently appearing in the October/November 2009 issue of Beadwork magazine with a design call "scythian gold" (must be a typo, should be "Cynthia's Gold", don't you think?!!! Actually, "the name relates to one of the original habitants of the Ukraine, the Scythians, and draws inspiration from troves of ancient gold jewelry excavated in the country's royal burial mounds", according to the write up.) Her comments on the panel were very informative from a designer's perspective.

Carla, as an actual editor of a magazine, gave pointers from the perspective of the people who receive submissions from artists and consider them for inclusion in their magazine.

Marilyn is a jewellery designer and teacher who has done quite a bit of self-publication, mostly of her own patterns and designs.

It was an interesting discussion covering a variety of topics, from the importance of good photographs to send with your submissions to the need to be multi-tasking (teaching, designing, operating a website, blogging) and networking all the time in order to keep your product (i.e., you) in the public eye to the necessity of creating instructions that are easy to follow. It was interesting to hear that your design doesn't have to be complicated to be chosen but it does need to be unique. It is very important to read the submission guidelines for each magazine (often found on their website) but often, it just boils down to the fact that you happen to submit something at a certain point in time that matches the criteria of what the editors are looking for at that time.

Some of the key tips were: don't submit the same piece to more than one magazine at a time, don't be discouraged if your piece isn't accepted (it doesn't mean it's not fabulous, it's just not what they need right then), submit work that is different, unique, innovative and well put together, play with designs and always, make pieces you truly believe in instead of just something you think will "sell".

Speaking of being published, I am incredibly excited to advise that I am featured in the latest issue (Winter 2010) of Bead Unique magazine. A photo of yours truly making glass beads at the torch (taken by Dwyn Tomlinson) appears on page 41 of the magazine, as part of an article written by Jennifer Keil about one of my favourite beading stores, Beadfx in Toronto, as the topic of their regular column, "I Could Just Live Here!". I look a bit like a bug with my protective didymium glasses but as Marg Yamanaka, owner of Beadfx, describes it, I am grinning like a cheshire cat, obviously happy to be making beads!!

As far as being published in a beading magazine, hey, a girl's got to start somewhere!! :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Funky Ring

The subject of last week's Bead Crazy Advanced class was the making of this funky ring. It was a very simple design and very easy to size to fit on your finger. I am looking forward to making several more of this design in the days to come. The choices of beads are endless.

The first two photos show the ring made by our teacher, Katherine. The second photo is especially good for seeing the side detail of the pattern. The third photo shows how dynamic this design looks in a blue colourway. The fourth photo shows the ring I made in class - yes, I actually finished the project! I'm not overly keen on the colour combination or the beads themselves but my selection was limited at the time. As I say, the future possibilities are endless and will hopefully be much more striking.

This ring makes up very quickly, using both ends of the 28 gauge wire on which the beads are strung. However, I'd also like to try making it with thread and two needles, or possibly with that super fine beading wire called Soft Touch that is thin enough to be threaded onto a needle.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to track down the source of this pattern. The instructions we received don't show what magazine it came from, but I can tell you that the designer's name is Martine van den Bussche of France and that the article appeared with this very funky photo (which unfortunately is not very well reproduced in the photocopy we were given) of two Barbie dolls wearing several of these rings on their various limbs. Rather an unusual photo choice for a beading magazine, but also rather clever, if you ask me!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pas de Francais Ce Soir

No French class tonight. I feel very much like a kid who has woken up to find the world covered in several inches of snow and realizes that means there will be a snow day, the delight of the unexpected freedom. But I'm also a bit pissed off that we didn't find out that the class was cancelled until after we'd sat waiting for the teacher for 25 minutes and only after one of the office staff tracked him down by phone. The good news is, our teacher had not suffered some unforeseen calamity, had not fallen and could not get up, was not stuck in traffic gridlock. The bad news (for him) is, he is apparently very sick. Unfortunately for us, he was apparently too sick to remember he had a class to teach or to call in to let the office know. Not that I would have rathered he called to say "I can't talk long as I'm in the emergency ward and they don't like people to use their cell phones, but still, it amazes me that a professional teacher could not give some consideration to the 20 students waiting for him to show up. A little common courtesy is all I'm asking. Especially since he probably realized long before 7:20 p.m. that he was too sick to teach tonight.

Ah well, what can you do? As the Monty Python song says, we must always look on the bright side of the life. I am glad to be home early and not to have been exposed to any more germs, and I am relieved that I don't have to strain my brain with a class that is very much like work (as compared to my two artistic classes, which are much more like fun) on a night when I am still very tired from yesterday's exertions.

So instead, I will share with you the very beautiful French themed locker art from the very talented students who attend one of the high schools at which I am taking a night school class. I give you - the artists Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Gaughin, and the characters from French literature, Le Petit Prince, Le Petit Nicolas (of whom I had not heard of before, I had to Google him but if this artwork is any indication, the illustrations are amazing!) and of course, the infamous Caillou.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

#1-27 in the Bag(s)

A quick post tonight as words cannot describe how bone weary tired I feel right now, after a very physical day working at the cottage. A very exciting drive up to the cottage, as we spotted 3 hawks along one country road and managed to catch one sitting still long to have his picture taken. Not as much luck with his two smaller friends, who were definitely red tailed hawks, as this one might be, just haven't had a chance to look him up yet.

Arrived at the cottage to find that leaves covered the ground everywhere you looked - here's what we saw:

My sister and I got right to work and an hour later, when Mom arrived with lunch, it looked like this:

After lunch, we got back to work. Mom and Janine went to work bagging the leaves. I helped out a bit there and when all the bending up and down got to be too much for my back, I went inside and stripped all the beds, emptied the fridge and food cupboards, packed all the linens into the cedar closet, and defrosted the freezer. Three hours later, 27 bags of leaves had been filled and piled up at the road, ready for the City's first leaf pickup of the season next Friday and we three ladies were pooped!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Not to be Confused with Cheese

The other technique we learned at Creative Art Journal class this past week is called "frottage" - not to be confused with "fromage", the French word for cheese. :)

Frottage comes from rubbing a pencil over a piece of paper that is placed over a textured object. It is similar to brass rubbings, where people copy the patterns on commemorative brass plaques found in churches or at historial sites.

In our case, we used textured wallpaper, plastic netting from bags used to hold food products like onions or potatoes, scraps of burlap, etc. Here are two examples I made, one from the textured wallpaper pieces and one made by tracing various coins. The coins were hard to do, because they would sometimes move under the paper before I was finished tracing them. But it was interesting to see which parts of the coin stood out in the finished image, like the Queen's crown or the word "dollar".

I would like to try this technique again. Our teacher told us they let you do rubbings at the Royal Ontario Museum on some of the exhibits, that would be something I'd like to do.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Marble Painting

One of the techniques we learned at Creative Art Journal class last night was called "marble painting." When I first saw this on the list of topics, I thought it had something to do with painting things to make them look like they were marblized (is that spelled right?), something that would involve drawing little veins of colour on a salmon pink or white/grey background. I could not have been more wrong! We actually painted pictures guessed it, marbles!

Our teacher, whose name is Toni Calderone, handed us all shoe box lids and instructed us in how to cut our paper to fit inside the lid. (She's very organized, probably because she teaches kids a lot so has to be totally prepared, and she either brings everything we need and/or gives us a list of supplies the week before.)

She laid out a variety of colours of acrylic paints (ratio 3:1 paint to water, the full concentrate would be too thick) and explained the technique - you scoop a couple of marbles up with a spoon and drop them into the show box lid and tip and shake the lid to make the marbles roll around and leave a trail of paint on your paper. It couldn't be simpler.

Here's a picture of my finished result. I haven't quite decided what to do with it. As you can see from the line in the photo, there is a top sheet and a bottom sheet of paper. When you peel the top away, you are left with a cleaner space in the centre, with the painted design acting as a border. She also showed us how to do this in reverse, so you have a white border and the colour framed in the centre. Although a couple of my marbles got loose and travelled under the top layer, so the plain white isn't so plain on my piece, which is not such a bad thing. There are no rules, that's what makes it so fun.

This last photo is a closeup of one of the swirls of colour within my painting, taken while the paint was still wet. It's like looking at ink blots - can you see the shape in the centre that (I think) looks like a butterfly's wing? I like this photo the best. By comparison, the finished painting doesn't look quite as exciting as the photo, now that the paint has dried. But that's okay.
We also used a hair dryer to dry the paint quicker, so we could transport our creations home safely. Of course, it didn't take us long to discover you could also move the wet paint around your page with the hot air and add to your design that way.

It was all so much fun! Like being a kid again and doing what you want with the paint, smooshing things around to see what effect you get. I know, I know, half the battle of being an artist is letting go, not listening to that inner critic, doing things spontaneously and without judgment. Not to worry, I'm learning!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Do you remember what you were doing 15 years ago today? I do, because I was taking part in my brother Craig's wedding as he married his lovely bride, Cheryl in Saskatoon. What a day that was! We had so much fun. It's hard to believe all this time has gone by. When I look back at the photos, we all look so young. It's also a little bittersweet to see those photos now, because of those who are no longer with us - my dad, Cheryl's dad, my grandfather, my grandmother, my uncle. All of them would be so proud of the life that Craig and Cheryl have made together and the three beautiful children they have brought into this world. Happy Anniversary, you two!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bead Crazy Advanced - Classes 1 and 2

I have been quite remiss in sharing the results of the first two weeks of the Bead Crazy Advanced class. The class is taught by Ms. Katherine Flynn and is offered through the Toronto District School Board.

The first week, we made a seed bead chain necklace. Here is a photo of the demo piece that Katherine made. It is based on a pattern called "Beachy Bangle" by Barbara L. Grainger, as featured in Beadwork magazine.

Week 2, we made a wire wrapped pendant. We used 28 gauge wire to wrap various beads around a circular armature. Once again, a photo of Katherine's piece.

Where are the photos of my finished pieces? Er, um, ah, I'll have to get back to you on that, they're not done yet! :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Day After

I don't know about you, but it's the day after Thanksgiving weekend, I didn't even eat a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings and I still feel like maybe I ...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

Today is a statutory holiday in most of Canada as we celebrate Thanksgiving. I've never really understood why we do this on a different day than the Americans. For us, it's the second Monday in October. For them, it's a full 6 weeks later, on the fourth Thursday in November.

Wikipedia has an interesting history lesson on how the tradition has been celebrated north of the 49th parallel - - but it doesn't explain why our countries give thanks for the harvest on dates so far apart. Perhaps because the southern states have warmer climates which means they bring in their fall harvests later in the year? The Americans often refer to the first dinner at Plymouth Rock in 1621, when European settlers shared a meal with the Native Indians, but even that might not have been the first Thanksgiving, according to Wikipedia, which cites an earlier celebration in 1565 as a possible contender.

Both countries celebrate with turkey dinners, family gatherings and football games on TV. This year, I am doing none of the above today. My mother is out in Alberta this week, visiting my two brothers and their families. My sister and I headed up to the cottage on Saturday, which was a beautiful but cool day, intending to stay for the entire long weekend. Lots of sun driving up, the changing leaves were gorgeous to look at, multitudes of pumpkins for sale at roadside vendors. However, when we got there, we discovered the power had been out and when it came back on, for some reason, the water pump wasn't working. We ended up filling several buckets of water from the lake (harder to do since we took the dock out a few weeks ago) and using them to flush the toilet when required, boiling said water to wash dishes, etc. It rained overnight and Sunday morning dawned cold and grey with gale force winds coming in off the lake. We hung about inside all day, happily beading (see photo of Janine's travelling bead stash on the right) and watching Coronation Street and various DVDs (finally saw "Slumdog Millionaire", it was excellent!) but by late afternoon, we got to thinking, why exactly are we here? So we decided to pack up and head back to the city, and shared a pizza dinner when we got back instead of the roast dinner we had planned to have up north.

So today on this day of giving thanks, among many other things, I am grateful for our cottage neighbours who brought over homemade cranberry sauce and offered the use of their washroom, hot water in the tap and a heated apartment, electricity to light up the rooms on an otherwise grey and dreary day, and the affection of a purring cat who was glad to have me back early. And for the reminder (not that I really needed one) that it doesn't really matter where you are or what conditions you're coping with, it's who you're with and the fun you can make just by being together that makes any day special.