Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year That Was 2013

Facebook has an interesting feature where you can see your year in review.  They pick out an assortment of photos that you have posted over the last year to represent your 20 biggest moments of the year.  I can also look back at my blog archive for each month (so can you, if you click on any of the selections on the sidebar to the right!) to remind me what I was up to each month.  Here are my favourite highlights from each month.

The first part of January was spent finished my book for The Sketchbook Project (a travelling library of artists' sketchbooks) and mailed it off to the organizers.
February's excitement was a trip to Seattle to take part in the very first Art Romp with Teesha and Tracy Moore.  We had a wonderful group of people gathered together for a very special and artful week (alas, not all of whom are shown in the photo below!).
In March, I seemed to be busy sketching and making journal pages, as I posted several on my blog that month as I not so patiently waited for spring to officially arrive.
In April, I took part in the National Letter Writing Month project organized by Lindsay Ostrom.  What a delightful month that was, full of exciting goodies arriving in my mailbox!  I can't wait for next April to take part again, although the 50% increase in postage that Canada Post will be putting in effect as of March 31st is probably going to cut into my level of participation.
May signaled the start of cottage season in Ontario, always a favourite time of year for me!
June was a super exciting month of - I never thought I'd hear myself say this - watching playoff hockey, capped off with a thrilling Stanley Cup win by my friend Mike's team, the Chicago Blackhawks. Seeing him get to lift that trophy over his head was a dream come true for so many of us, his family and friends.
July's highlight was the Stanley Cup party, where we all got to congratulate Mike in person and take our own turns kissing the Cup!
Me, the Cup, my sister Janine and
our favourite hockey coach, Mike Kitchen
At the end of August, I travelled to New York City to meet up with my friend Debbie, her sister Jen and Jen's wife Mel, all of whom live in Australia.  We had a fabulous 4 days exploring the city.
I spent the last week of September in Paris with my friends Lisa Cheney and Lorraine - ooh la la!
The first week of October was spent in the south of France in a lovely house in a small French village. It was heavenly.
At the beginning of November, I found myself celebrating the Day of the Dead in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  Another special week making new friends and art!
December 2013 will be remembered for the big ice storm that left so many Torontonians in the dark but which also treated us to some wonderfully scenic images in the aftermath.

What a wonderful year 2013 has been. I feel very blessed to have been able to share these special moments with people I love and I look forward to more of the same in 2014.  Here's wishing us all a very happy and healthy 2014, full of adventure and excitement, friendship and love.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Haiku My Heart: Ice Storm 2013

We remain at the 
mercy of Mother Nature,
not always prepared.
Mother Nature has been giving Ontario a difficult time once again.  As if the flooding we went through in July wasn't enough for this year, she brought us more water this past weekend, only this time in the form of an ice storm.  The resulting fallen branches and downed power lines have been wreaking havoc around the city ever since, although approximately 90 percent of the more than 200,000 homes that were initially without power have now had full service restored.
Willow trees across the street lost a lot
of branches, especially the one at the back of this photo.
Six days later, about 30, 000 homes still don't have electricity and we are told it could be several more days for them, as many of them will require individual attention on a house by house basis.  I am grateful that I am one of the lucky ones for whom power was restored after living about 20 hours without it from the middle of the night on Saturday to late Sunday evening.  Even when the lights came back on for my building, I could still see a large area of darkness just across the road from where I live (the bright lights on the right of the photo are a plaza with a grocery store, bank, drug and liquor store, all of which were quite busy ever since their lights came back on.  I suspect they were operating with emergency generators initially).  Two days later, when I left to go to my mother's for Christmas, they still didn't have power but when I came back yesterday, their lights were on again.
For many, it was even more stressful as they worried about what would happen for Christmas, with gatherings and large feasts already planned and in many cases, groceries already purchased that might have already or would soon be spoiled.  The various governmental authorities and utility companies have been working around the clock to resolve the various situations, with many individuals foregoing their own Christmas celebrations to work tirelessly for the benefit of others.

Still, a number of the images of the aftermath of the storm were quite beautiful, once again reminding me that as dangerous and potentially deadly as Mother Nature can be, she is also a force to be admired. Here are a few photos I took on the Monday around and about my office.

Chunks of ice that had slid off the roof above

Haiku My Heart hosted by recuerda_mi_corazon.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice 2013

Winter arrived at 12:11 p.m. this afternoon.  At that exact moment in time, the North Pole was tipped exactly 23 degrees away from the sun.
I look forward to this day every December because it is the shortest day of the year - after this, the days will now start to get longer until the summer equinox next June 21st.

I was reading up on the solstice today and learned a few new things, such as:  we got exactly 9 hours and 32 minutes of daylight today.  Although it was a very grey and rainy daylight most of the day for us here in Toronto, no sign of the sun at all and dire predictions of a major ice storm to come overnight. Not exactly the cheeriest way to usher in the official start of winter.
Except...here's what I learned on the Internet today:  "Meteorologists consider Dec. 1 the start of the meteorological winter and March 1 the start of the meteorological spring. That's because December, January and February are the three coldest months of the year. By the time the Spring Equinox rolls around on March 20, 2014, average temperatures in most areas will have already started rising. The winter solstice isn't the coldest day of the year, either — that comes later." (click here for the full article).

Surprisingly, this isn't the day upon which we have the latest sunrise and earliest sunset.  That same article advises:  "Most U.S. locations see their earliest sunset a week or so before the solstice and see their latest sunrise sometime in January. For instance, in New York City, sunset came at 4:28 p.m. on Dec. 7, and then started occurring later. On Dec. 29, sunrise will come at 7:20 a.m. — the latest of the year. It won't start getting lighter earlier until Jan. 11."

All I know is, even though we've got a whole lot of winter to get through first, we're on our way and headed to spring!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Haiku My Heart: Winter Threatens

The weather outside 
is frightful; hibernation
seems the best option.

For more Haiku My Heart, hosted and inspired by Recuerda Mi Corazon, click here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Someone's Still Hard At Work

It's 7:30 on a December Thursday night, pitch dark outside, a mere 6 days before Christmas, and the construction crew down on the ground outside my window is still hard at work.
I've been taking pictures every morning once daylight arrives (just haven't had a chance to post them!) as the view changes quite dramatically from day to day.  This morning, at 7 a.m. when it was still dark out, I noticed there were several trucks lined up on the road.
By the time it was light enough to see what was going on, there were big piles of dirt in place.
This afternoon, I got home early from work, while it was still light out, and thought the landscape was starting to look like they're building a racetrack.
See what I mean, with the loop? However, what you might not be able to see is they have placed a couple of concrete barricades across the portion at the top of the photo (don't ask me why, they weren't there this morning!)
which means the bottom route is the only one currently available. At the moment, they appear to be taking loads of dirt from the piles on the left in the racetrack photo above to the street (which is just out of view on the right hand side) where they had dug a big hole last week and appeared to be installing new pipes.  Here's the view from street level, taken two days ago on my way to work.
(I had plenty of time to take photos as traffic was stop and go while the sign guys controlled our destiny, which was already moving slow as molasses due to the rush hour snow we were experiencing, never mind the guys with the "slow" and "stop" signs that were telling us when we could finally move ahead.)
Tonight, I know they're still working, because there's a constant "beep, beep, beep" as the dump trucks back up the entire way!! Sigh.
Not sure if they're working so late trying to finish before Christmas, before the big winter storms we are supposed to be getting tomorrow and this weekend, or what.  All I know is, I'd like the beeping to stop, please!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I Heart Christmas Cookies

If I had the time and the inclination, I'd totally want to make these Santa faced shortbread cookies using a heart shaped cookie cutter. How clever is this?!
For now, I must be satisfied with my role as self-appointed official taste tester.  I can tell you with complete confidence that it was delicious!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Prize Winner!

Went in to Bizzy B after work tonight to pick up my prize, the Silhouette Cameo!
I found this video online which is very helpful in explaining what my new toy can do. Can't wait to try it out!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bizzy B Customer Appreciation Day 2013

It was Customer Appreciation Day today at Bizzy B.  First Daniza gave the Stamp of the Month demonstration,
featuring this lovely stamp made by B Line Designs, called "Doors of the World":

She had made several beautiful samples:
Then we had a short break while everyone sampled the Xmas goodies that had been prepared for us by Barb and Tony's niece:
Outside, it was a wintry day, with falling snow and blowing wind:
Daniza then instructed us in the "make and take item", a Christmas card featuring a die cut evergreen bough:
Mid-afternoon, I headed out to my car to make my way home but first, I had to clear off the snow! Which was not a problem, it was actually very light and fluffy.
Shortly after 4 pm, Barb called to tell me I'd won the raffle prize, a Silhouette Cameo electronic cutting machine!!

Guess I should have stayed until the draw but that's okay, I'll pick it up in the next few days.  Whoo hoo!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Haiku My Heart: Beware or Not

Friday the thirteenth:
A dangerous day for those
who believe the tales.

Two black cats live here
Every day bringing joy,
dispelling the myths.

To read other poems, visit Haiku My Heart hosted by recuerda mi corazon.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Goodbye Tag

One of my work colleagues is starting a new job next week, tomorrow is her last day with our company.  After shopping for a goodbye card and not finding one that I liked, I decided I would make her something myself.

The finished result was this tag which I made using some scrapbook paper called "Supply Closet", featuring vintage images of office supply items, made by a company called October Afternoon.
I used a Prima flower I decorated with Distress Inks after watching a free tutorial on Nathalie Kalbach's website (under the heading "Other Fun Stuff", the one called "Notebook/Mini book with 1 sheet of paper) and a little bit of lace to jazz up the front.

On the back, I used some punched out letters that look like typewriter keys and some glittery black sticker letters to write my farewell message.  The account ledger background was appropriate as her job involves keeping track of the rental accounts for various tenants.
I shall be sad to see her go but I'm excited for her at the same time.  It's always nice when someone gets a new job and heads off on an exciting adventure with new challenges.  Best of luck, Karen!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dear Santa

Here's why I don't always make my bed every day:
From Cynthia and the always glamorous Maggie. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

More Journal Junkies' Pages

Here are the pages from my fellow Journal Junkies who attended last night's meeting at Bizzy B.

Betty's page was based on a challenge to use Christmas cards from previous years (the theme didn't to be "food").  
Here's the response to the "bah humbug" on the other side of her mitten. :)

Diana's page featured an actual pair of chopsticks, as well as pictures of some of her family's favourite meal items. 
Donna's pages were about shark fin soup.  The left side included a recipe for what is considered a must serve item at Chinese weddings as a means of wishing good health and prosperity to the newly married couple.
And yet, as she showed on the right hand side of her journal spread, the indiscriminate killing of various types of sharks solely for their fins is not a practice that should be encouraged.
Louise's page was made with a page from Chatelaine magazine as an under layer.  I really liked how it looked after she had painted over it and how the text suited her snow sledding Santa perfectly!

As you can see, we were a small group again last night. We're hoping more of our regulars will be able to attend January's meeting, when the theme will be "transformation".