Monday, May 31, 2010

Commuter Challenge

My company is taking part in the Commuter Challenge this week and encouraging its employees to join in, so you know I have. Canadians are encouraged to leave their cars at home this week and find an alternative way to get to work, whether it is walking, cycling, taking public transit or at the very least, don't travel alone to work.

As a result, I left my car at home this morning and got a ride in with my colleague Lesia, who passes near to where I live on her way to the office. I was planning to walk home tonight after work but it was sprinkling rain a little bit and there were thunderstorms in the forecast, so I hitched a ride home with her as well. Of course, it didn't end up raining very much and it wasn't quite the 33 degree weather that had been forecasted so I probably could have done the 4.5 km walk without getting wet or overheated but I'll try again tomorrow.

We also had a demonstration of electric bicycles at lunch today, provided by a company called Bionx. They call it an "intelligent mobility system". You start with a regular bike and add the mechanism to make it electric. I was so put off by the $1,700 price tag that I didn't stick around to hear the details of why you might want to do this to a bike, I am assuming it is to motorize the movement and make it a little easier to get around as compared to generating all the energy strictly with your body but please, costs for the conversion units start at $1,700 and that's not including the bike! That seems a little beyond the average consumer's price range to me for an item of this nature, but I could be wrong. I guess if you're willing to do what it takes to help the environment on a regular basis, you might be willing to put down that kind of cash to go farther, faster and easier on a non-polluting mode of transportation. Too bad you can't use a bike all year around up here in the Great White North!

You can read more about the Challenge here: It's taking place all across Canada this week. The various offices in our company are challenged to compete against each other to see who can generate the most "sustainable commutes". The winning office gets bragging rights and a pizza lunch. :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

How I Got Bizzy

Friday night, I learned how to make a Shabby Chic Mini Book with Jen Starr at the Bizzy B scrapbooking store. We used various products from the Tim Holtz line, including Distress Crackle Paint and a Sissix die cut in a key shape. The colour theme was pink and brown with a "vintage glam" style. We also used corrugated cardboard in a way I hadn't seen before, peeling off some of the outer layer to show the ribs underneath and then painting over top, which gave the cardboard a really cool finished look that I quite like.

Here's a picture of Jen holding her book:

and a picture of the front cover of the book I made (below). Even when you have a sample in front of you and use most of the same ingredients, the finished product always looks different for everyone, no two are exactly alike!

Saturday morning, there was a 2 hour class on the topic of Alcohol Inks, which I had never used before. They are specially designed for use on glossy paper. They dry almost instantly and there are so many colours to choose from. We finished the class with a series of tags that have a description of the technique on the back and a sample of the finished look on the front, just like they make at Ranger University!

We took a break for lunch and when we got back to the store, Tony (one of the owners) was busy mixing mocktails - non-alcoholic versions of strawberry daiquiris and pina coladas - yum! What a refreshing idea for such a lovely summer afternoon.

The afternoon class was a "Completely Distressed - Layout Master Class". We made six 8" x 8" layouts in 4 hours based on originals that Jen had created. Here's a picture of one of the ones I made, which is pretty close to Jen's original. Haven't decided what picture I'll put on it. The caption reads, "Creativity is an endless journey where we should always take the scenic route." Amen to that!

Many thanks to Jen Starr and the staff at Bizzy B for a great bunch of classes, I really learned a lot and can't wait to put the techniques to use in my own creations.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Bizzy Weekend

For the second Saturday in a row, my original plans were changed and much for the better.

I had fully intended to go to the Christie outdoor antique show today and what a beautiful day it would have been for that. However, earlier this week, I got an email from Barb, the owner of the Bizzy B scrapbooking store, describing all the wonderful classes they were offering this weekend. I was already signed up to attend one last night but her email was so energetic and well-written, I was inspired to take two more classes today!

In spite of having such an enjoyable time last night and today, I have resisted the urge to take the classes being offered during the day tomorrow and on Monday night, and it's just as well because I have to say, I exhausted!! But in a good way. That special kind of tired when you've been learning all sorts of new and exciting things and your brain is so full of information and creative ideas that you feel like you can't possibly formulate another thought or make a decision to save your life, you just need to lie down for a little while or veg in front of the TV for long enough to get the energy to put yourself to bed!

Tomorrow, I shall tell you all about the classes I took but in the meantime, you can check out the Bizzy B website ( if you want to read any of the details about the classes offered for the rest of this weekend. They're being taught by Jen Starr, a certified instructor for the Ranger line of products (, who is in town from New Jersey and who will also be teaching at A Scrapbooker's Dream in Bolton (run by the wonderful Elizabeth, whom I met originally in a class at Beadfx and then again last year at the Bead & Button show, on Tues and Wed next week.

Here's a picture of our group from this morning - me on the left, then Jen, Barb (one of the owners of Bizzy B), Vicky and a lady whose name I did not get.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Art and Soul May 2010

My friend Heather was lucky enough to attend Art and Soul in Hampton, Virginia last week. It's a fibre, paper and fabric arts and beading retreat (, held in a couple of locations around the U.S. throughout the year. I very much wanted to go but didn't think I could miss opening weekend at the cottage. So I didn't go and Heather did and she took a class taught by Stephanie Lee, whom I have long admired and whose Thoughts Threads journalling course I took a few months ago. I have only had a few quick emails and texts from Heather to say she had a fabulous time, haven't heard all the details yet but here's what I got in my mailbox this morning:
Ladies, I wish I had been there with you but I LOVE the photo - thank you!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I'm having dinner tonight with an old friend I haven't seen for...hmm...maybe 20 years? Maybe a little more, maybe a little less. I can't actually remember the last time we saw each other. We worked together one summer at Ontario Place back in the very early 80's, stayed in touch for several years after that and eventually somehow lost contact. It happens - life gets busy, we were living in different towns, building our careers, she and her husband were raising a family, just everyday stuff like that. Somehow the years fly by and all of a sudden, you think, hey, I wonder what so and so is up to these days?

I Googled her two years ago when a bunch of us former OP staffers were getting in touch, found her email address and sent her a note. We've had several email exchanges since then but believe it or not, it has taken us this long to arrange to be in the same city at the same time and be able to coordinate our schedules so we could get together.

You know how it is with some people, it doesn't matter how long it has been since you've seen or talked to them, when you eventually do, you just pick up where you left off - she is one of those people. I'm sure we'll have no problem finding things to talk about. I'm quite looking forward to seeing her again and having a chance to catch up and reconnect.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Smokin' Hot!

It's really hot today. Really, really hot. Abnormally, record-breaking hot for the end of May.

I find it strange to hear people complain about the heat so early in the season. As far as I am concerned, these are the days we dream about in February when we've got icicles dripping from our nose, it's minus freaking 30 before the windchill, we're trudging through snow up to our armpits and complaining about the bloody cold. This heat, this little trickle of sweat down the back of my neck while sitting still, this is what keeps me going in February, the thought that some day, summer will come back and it will be warm and sunny and sometimes humid. If the heat and humidity bothers you, you can sit inside with the air conditioner running but if you like it, like I do, you can sit out on your balcony wearing shorts and a tank top and flip flops, enjoying the view and feeling the heat soak into your soul. Ahhh, lovely.

I was thinking I'd like a margarita to sip while I sat out here. I even stopped at the liquor store on the way home and contemplated buying something to make a margarita with, only I wasn't clear on what ingredients I needed and what I might already have at home. They have bottles of pre-mixed margarita flavours but I was concerned that I might not like the taste - a lot of those ready-made drinks are just too sweet for me. So I left empty-handed, knowing at the very least, I had orange juice in the fridge and vodka chilling in the freezer.

I went online when I got home and checked out a few recipes but they weren't quite what I had in mind, so in the end, I mixed some vodka with some Blue Curacao - okay, that second "c" is supposed to have that little curly thing underneath it, you know what I mean? You'll have to use your imagination, it took me long enough to train my laptop keyboard not to write in Lithuanian, I don't want to confuse it by adding funny symbols to my consonants on purpose.

As I was saying, mixed the two liquors into a shot glass, shook it up in a martini shaker with some orange juice and then poured the result over crushed ice. The result is a lovely lime green colour so I can think margarita visually while tasting screwdriver. It's a combination that works for me.

How did I get the crushed ice, you ask? Simple. Half a dozen cubes in a Ziploc baggie, wrap it in a dish towel, slam away with your hammer and voila! (again, imagine the accent on that "a", won't you?)

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go make myself some nachos, sip my drink and contemplate this other example of smokin' hot:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cottage Science Projects

It was that time of the year again, time to open the cottage for the season. It's always nice to get back to the cottage again after being away for several months of winter. The weather this past weekend was so warm, it felt more like July than the end of May. Unfortunately, we are having plumbing issues and my sister wasn't able to get our pump working properly yet but we muddled through using buckets of water from the lake and large bottles of tap water that my mom brought from her house in town.

We learned that we had unwittingly conducted a couple of unplanned science projects over the winter. For one thing, we discovered that pop cans explode open and spew their contents all over the cupboard in which they are kept when left behind to freeze in an unheated cottage. Here's a picture of how the top of the can was blown almost completely off from the force of the explosion.

We also learned that mice can walk up walls, at least when there is food involved and when the wall is made out of barnboard, which probably gave them a better surface to grip onto that a regular wall would. We had hung this piece of art made out of wood and various nuts and pine cones, etc. on the wall last summer and it hadn't occurred to us in the fall that we might want to take it down and put it away for the winter when the building is unattended and the mice have free run of the place. They appear to have snacked on several of the nuts over the winter, leaving only the shells behind.

The most unpleasant lesson was learning that potatoes mistakenly left behind in a drawer rot over the course of several months, spreading a sticky liquid about that is not pleasant to clean up and leaving a horrible odour of rotted food that lingers even after you have scrubbed out the drawer several times with a bleach based product. I have a feeling that a new coat of paint will be required to restore the drawer to its past usefulness.

But these unexpected findings weren't a big deal and were vastly outweighed by the sheer joy of being back at the lake. Here's a picture of the first sunset of this year. The sun is over to the right side of the tree, as it gets this time of year. It will go even farther to the right over the next month before starting its swing back slowly to the left following the summer solstice on June 21.
We are a little wiser and a little weary after two days of cleaning, raking, dusting, scrubbing, mowing and plumbing, not to mention several trips back and forth to the hardware store, but mostly, we're very much looking forward to a long and enjoyable summer ahead at our home by the lake.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Niagara - Part 2

As promised, here are more photos from our adventures in Niagara Falls on Friday.

Here is Kate, travelling down one of the tunnels in her yellow poncho, surrounded by other plastic covered visitors.

We asked a fellow tourist to take a picture of us standing in front of one of the portals that is behind the giant fall of water. With the light behind us, our faces were completely in shadow in the photo but look at the cool colours I got when I tried to add enough light to show our faces. I really like this effect! (Addendum: I notice when I view this on a different computer that the cool colours in the photo don't show up at all in the blog posting, sorry about that!)

We found some great antique stores driving between NF and NOTL. This first one, Queen's Antiques, was especially good even though we left without actually buying anything. Here's a picture of Kate checking out some of the items available.

This next antique store was set up inside a former church. We weren't sure they had enough signs out front letting people know what they were selling, what do you think?

Check out this beautiful stained glass window inside the church:

And here's a metal dental cabinet which left me sorely tempted:

All in all, it was a lovely day, full of amazing delights for all of our senses, topped off by a delightful dinner in Dundas with Debi, Dave and Aaron, to whom we owe many thanks for their hospitality.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Niagara Falls - Part 1

What a great couple of days we had. Kate McKinnon and I went to Niagara Falls on Friday morning. I hadn't been for a couple of years and the last time I went, it was the middle of December and freeeeeezing cold. It's a totally different experience in warm weather, let me tell you! There was also a strong breeze, which made it really fun when we stood too close to the Falls and got drenched in mist! We did the "Journey Behind the Falls", which is a little tiny peek behind the Falls, not what I was expecting. But we sure did get close.

I've always wanted to go on the Maid of the Mist, the boat that tours close to the base of the Falls, but couldn't convince Kate to go with me, so I'll have to save that for some other day but I did get some good photos of the people in the blue plastic ponchos. Our ponchos were yellow, thinner than a garbage bag and not a good fashion look but definitely made a difference when we were standing in the spray.

We visited Niagara-on-the-Lake in the afternoon. We bought some fudge, found a great sewing and yarn store where we bought some beautiful ribbon and I picked up some "fat quarters" (1/4 yard fabric squares) and we saw this amazing plant, a Japanese peony tree, according to a handwritten sign posted on the fence outside the house whose yard the tree was growing in (no doubt the owner had gotten tired of people asking!) The flowers were the size of my head and here's the photo to prove it!

This morning, I took part in the Corset Stitch class taught by Kate at Beads of Colour. What a pretty pattern this is, I'm going to have fun making this bracelet. Here's a picture of Debi and Barb from BOC, who were also in the class, as was Marg, the owner of Beadfx and four other lovely ladies Jill, Ana, Helen and Louise, with the ever helpful Chris giving us a hand and finding beads for us as needed.

Tomorrow I'll share some more pictures from our adventures with you, so stay tuned! In the meantime, check out Kate's blog (see link on the right) for her version of the story.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

New Technology

I'm home from my adventures in Niagara Falls and Dundas, Ontario and I'd like to share some photos with you but I'm having a bit of a technical issue. Not that it's a bad thing, I'm actually suffering from a surplus of technology!
I got myself a new laptop the other night. This afternoon was the first time I have really had time to get it set up and play around a bit. Once I got it up and running, created my restoration files and downloaded anti-virus software, I thought it would be a good idea to do a backup of my desktop computer, which I haven't done for about a year and half. But now that the backup is in progress, I don't have access to the photos I downloaded from the past two days until it's done, which is going to take a few hours. So bear with me and I'll get those to you tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'm playing with my laptop , watching TV with it on my lap, typing this posting and surfing the Web. Technology is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Change of Plans

Sometimes things happen that you can't control and suddenly, without warning and completely unexpectedly, your life takes a different path than the one you thought you were going to follow. Sometimes, it's a life altering change and sometimes, it just means your plan for the next few hours are different.

I'm blogging from Dundas, Ontario tonight. When I woke up this morning, I had no idea I was going to be here tonight, doing this. Kate McKinnon is in town and she and I had planned to go to Niagara Falls today, then I would drop her off in Dundas on my way back to Toronto at the end of the day. She is teaching classes at Beads of Colour ( this weekend and I was to be up north opening up the cottage.

As it happened, literally as we were about to walk out the door this morning, my sister sent me a text suggesting an alternate plan for our weekend and suddenly, everything changed. For the good, I must add. It was a fabulous suggestion and to both our benefits.

So Kate and I had our morning in Niagara Falls and afternoon at Niagara-on-the-Lake and now we're visiting with Debi Keir-Nicholson and her lovely husband and youngest son. But instead of me heading back to the city after dinner, I packed an overnight bag before we left and I'm sleeping over.

Best of all, tomorrow morning, I get to join Kate and Debi at Beads of Colour to take part in Kate's Corset Stitch class in the morning and trunk sale in the afternoon. The forecast is for rain tomorrow, which means it wouldn't be a good day at the cottage anyway. Instead, we'll head up there Sunday morning and stay over until Monday.

Sometimes plans change without warning and everything gets jumbled up and thrown out of whack. In this case, it's all good.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Roadside Scavenging

My friend Heather is going to laugh when she reads this post. She calls me a magpie because I'm always picking up objects as I walk along. Often something bright and shiny that catches my eye. Or possibly rusted and not so shiny, I'm not particular.

The other day, I was driving to work and as I got within a block of my office, I noticed a sign lying by the side of the road. I parked my car and walked back to pick it up, which turned out to be larger than I had first thought. The woman who rode up in the elevator with me couldn't contain her curiosity, and said, "okay, I have to ask - what is that??" She laughed when I said I'd just picked up by the side of the road, I'm not sure she believed me.

As you can see from the photo of me standing beside it, it's close to 5 feet long. It's a piece of wood painted yellow with the stop sign bolted onto it. It's broken off of something but I don't know where or what, perhaps some sort of barrier. I also don't know what I will use it for, but I'll keep it around for a while to see if I am inspired to do something with it.

Speaking of magpies, did you know they are a member of the crow family? Which probably explains why they are one of the few animal species to be able to recognize themselves in a mirror. The Canadian version is known as the black-billed magpie and is found in the western half of the country only, between the Yukon and Manitoba. Their elaborate domed nests take about 6 weeks to build and they are believed to mate for life. Their tail takes up at least half of their total body length, which can only be said of three other songbirds.

You can read more about them here:

Magpies are described as "opportunistic scavengers" and I guess that is exactly what I am!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

100 Days and Counting Down!

I finally found the place to edit my gadget counting down until my trip to France. Luckily, I did it just in time to celebrate the fact that my departure date is only 100 days away!! I'm so excited.
I've bought my plane ticket already, hoping to take advantage of lower fares before the more expensive summer travel season begins. I'm also hoping that volcano won't be erupting when it's time for me to leave! I've transferred the money for the ticket out of my tax free savings account (where I've been $100 every payday for several months now) and onto my credit card, so that's a good thing. I've paid half of my deposit for lodgings to Kate McKinnon and will be paying her the second half tomorrow, which is also good.

BTW, if you'd like to create your own countdown gadget for an event, here's the link to the place where you can do so:

I know, it's a really long link but if I don't post it here, it will take me a really long time to find it again if I ever need to!

Anyway, back to musing about France. In 100 days, I will be here in this small village in the south of France surrounded by rugged looking mountains - you can see them all green and scraggly-looking behind these shops in this photo of the village square.

I shall be looking to see if this cat is still drinking from the quench that runs down the middle of the street, where copper artisans used to cool their creations. I shall be enjoying seeing Gwen and Vero and Nese again, exploring the vide greniers (flea markets) and the French countryside with Kate and meeting new friends.

I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Had a great time at the Blue Jays game last night, even though they lost abysmally to the Minnesota Twins by a score of 8 to 2.

The crowd was small, only about 13,000, so there were lots of empty seats and still I found myself seated behind a very large man whose head blocked my view of the space between the pitcher and the batter. But at least it was easy to switch to another seat.

Yes, I paid the astronomical fee of $12.75 for a hotdog, a small bag of potato chips and a serving of pop that would put a Big Gulp to shame. No, I didn't finish the drink nor did I take advantage of the free refill!!

The most dramatic moment was not the horrible combination of bad plays that took place in the fourth inning that started with a miscatch at first by Lyle Overbay (whose last name should be "Overpaid", according to those booing in the crowd), who then bobbled the throw to third base, followed by that player making an even worse throw to second base, resulting in two errors charged against the Jays and several runs scored by the Twins.

No, the most eventful moment came at the bottom of the 9th as the 3rd out was stepping up to bat and the game was a mere three strikes from being over, when the two drunken teenage girls that had been shaking their booties and annoying their older and more sober neighbours all night were finally escorted out of the stadium by security, to the applause of all in our section.

Ah, that's the beauty of a live baseball game - there's always lots of drama, both on and off the field!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

First Ball Game 2010

I'm off to see my first Blue Jays game of the 2010 season tonight, so in lieu of a blog posting, I'll share some of their logos.

This is the original:

Then came this one, which I quite like because it retains the essence of the original but it's a little more modern:

This current one, I have never warmed to. It's too mean looking for my tastes.

No matter what logo, throughout the years, my philosophy has remained the same - Go Jays!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Vintage Fabric

My mother has very kindly gifted me with two more boxes of vintage fabric. There is quite a selection of colours and types, although I don't know enough about fabric to actually put a name to some of them. There are cottons and silks and something that feels like a very soft wool and others that are a rather unusual texture that I can't identify.

I know they are vintage because one of them still has the Simpsons remnant tag on it, dated June 29, 1960. It's 1 and 3/8 yards, for which she paid the exorbitant price of $1.82.

This striped fabric is my favourite. There is one piece that is just plain stripes and a matching piece with both stripes and flowers on it. Mom thinks she bought it to make curtains, which she may have done because there isn't enough fabric to do so with the pieces she gave me but she doesn't remember what windows she might have made them for, nor do I remember seeing them in my lifetime, so perhaps she made them before I was born or for the house we lived in when I was a toddler.

Not sure what I'll do with all this fabric. There are definitely some shabby journals to be made with some of it but as for the rest, only time will tell.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

And So It Begins

Today turned out to be a day I had been anxiously awaiting for several months now. It arrived unannounced and a week earlier than I had expected. It was...the first day of yard sale season.

In spite of the cloudy skies and surprisingly cold temperature (I deliberately left my gloves and earmuffs behind as I headed out this morning and had reason to regret that decision several times before things warmed up slightly after noon), everywhere we went today, there were hand drawn signs and lawns covered with a variety of stuff. It was a wonderful sight to behold.

Unfortunately, we were on a tight time schedule all day and could only squeeze in a stop at one house but what a stop it was. It was one of those places where they had just sort of piled various items on top of tables in their driveway, either on their own or all jumbled together in cardboard cartons. We went down the row of tables and didn't see too much, until we got to the very end, closest to the house and suddenly, we hit the mother lode (as far as I was concerned) - the box of games.

I picked up a small vintage Tupperware container full of dice and game pieces and was pretty excited, until I opened an inconspicuous looking candy tin and discovered a collection of Scrabble tiles. To anyone who makes mixed media art or jewellery, this is like the Clampetts finding black gold in their yard - eureka!!

I added a wooden box of ivory dominoes, a travel-sized Yahtzee, a 2 inch stack of stickers, a plastic compartment box filled with beading supplies, a paperback french-english dictionary and a deck of cards to my pile and my sister picked out a Windows Vista for Dummies book, a small metal Winnie the Pooh lunch box and a large glass vase. For all of that, we only ended up paying - you are so not going to believe this - $6.50 for all of our purchases!! That's right, six dollars and fifty cents for the entire lot. Even that was a dollar more than the owner asked for, we forced her to take the extra dollar because we only had twoonies. She was purging and just wanted to get rid of the stuff. We were happy to help her do that!!

Hands down, one of best yard sales scores I've ever had so far! :)