Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Hallowe'en 2011

Seeing as I already had my scare last night, when I thought I'd lost about 60 photos from Journalfest, I'm tucked in at home having a quiet evening with the kitten caboodle, downloading photos, catching up on what I missed when I was away last week with only a tiny little bit of access to the Internet. 

Actually, it sounds more like April Fool's Day around here - a major snowstorm hits New York in October? Toronto mayor Rob Ford calls 911 after being ambushed by a TV crew from the comedy show, "This Hour Has 22 Minutes"?  (what channel will you be watching tomorrow night at 8:30 pm when they show that tape?!)? Tony LaRussa resigns from baseball??  It's like the whole world went mad while we were out there at Journalfest!!

Heading back to work today was much easier when I discovered this cookie waiting on my desk (everybody in our building got one, it's what they call a "desk drop" in the property management business):

It kind of looks more like Cookie Monster had a serious accident and required bandaging than an actual mummy, doesn't it? No matter, it was delicious.

But now that it's dark and the haunting hours are at hand, I can't stop thinking about this amazing antique ledger book Brian Kasstle had with him yesterday at breakfast (shown in photo below). 
My JF buddy Irene and Brian with his ledger book
It was full of newspaper clippings circa 1912 of stories of people who had died gruesome and/or terrible deaths. It was quite a ghoulish collection and yet, totally fascinating.  The book was literally jammed full of newspaper articles like these ones:

Ironically, in the middle of all these stories of bizarre deaths and murders, one of the clippings had this heart-shaped paper clip:

Happy Hallowe'en, everyone!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Home from Journalfest

That was a bittersweet title to write.  Just home after a loooonnnng day of travel from Port Townsend, Washington on the west coast all the way home here to Toronto.  I had such a wonderful time at Journalfest 2011, will tell you all about it in the coming days but for now, I've got to get some sleep as I've got to be up bright and early tomorrow (okay, maybe just early) in order to go back to work.

Uh oh, something might have just gone horribly wrong with my computer. 61 photos from last night's party I had just transferred from my photo card have just disappeared from the computer directory. NOOOoooooo!!!!!!

Okay, deep breath, trying not to panic.  For now, a photo of me with Teesha Moore.  She and her husband Tracy are the nicest people, I adore them both and they are totally awesome organizers of wonderful gatherings! Yes, you can quote me on that. 

Update:  Good news! I was able to find and/or retrieve all my photos. Not entirely sure how it happened but luckily it was reversible.  So here's the photo of Tracy, Teesha and me that I was afriad I had lost:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday at Journalfest

Today I'm taking a class taught by Lisa Engelbrecht called "Letterista Style Lettering".

The class description is as follows: 

"What does it mean to write in Letterista style? Well, it’s a sweet mash up of traditional calligraphy gone wild, modern takes and innovations on old styles of lettering and writing !

I’ve coined the term Letterista style to describe my take on calligraphy-rebellious, different and definitely not by the rules. ( Although I bow to the calligraphy gods )

What will happen when we open up to modifications of several styles of lettering-Roman to Gothic to Script? ( Don't worry-no calligraphy experience needed here!)super cool new approaches to title and text lettering for your journal.

Let’s organically explore all these options together for a jam packed day. Rebellious and chaotic, spilling our brilliant and innermost thoughts on the page, always a lot of fun.

Explorers wanted... letterers wanted...artists wanted!"

I'm taking this class with my friend Irene, whom I met for the first time last year. I'm looking forward to having a day with her, she is such a talented artist, I learned a lot last year just by sitting beside her.
Me and Irene JF 2010

I used to do my own version of calligraphy when I was younger.  Mostly I just made fancy letters with a calligraphy pen, addressed wedding invitations for friends, that sort of thing.  Do you think I could find that pen as I was packing for this trip? Not a chance.  Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to learning Lisa's style of decorative penmanship.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday at Journalfest

Today at Journalfest, I am taking a class taught by Traci Bunkers called "The Maiden Voyage".   It's described as follows:

"A visual journal combines various aspects of mixed-media and written word to personally express oneself. This workshop is for anyone who is intrigued with visual journaling, but feels like a deer in the headlights, not knowing how to even start to visually express themselves, or feels like they can't do it because they don't have the skill or art background. Don't worry, I'm here to guide you. I'll take away the fear and obstacles and open up a new world for you, teaching you everything to get you started on your new journaling quest. Starting with conquering the blank page through playing with paint, stamps, and collage, we'll get our hands moving to free our minds and quiet the critic. Then I'll gently guide you to the next level: journaling. I'll teach you how to combine mixed-media and imagery with text for your own unique visual expression. This fun and light-spirited class will initiate you into looking inward for visual, self-expression and is for anyone regardless of art background. It would also be a good refresher for a visual journaler who feels like they are in a rut. Techniques to break through blocks to get you moving on your voyage will be covered, as well as different journaling prompts to get you started looking inside for what needs to be expressed. No art or writing experience necessary."

I think this class will be a good one to take as a "how to" to journal.  Even though I have been journalling for more than a year now, I still feel very much like a newbie.  My friend Libelinha, whom I met in June on the trip to Portugal with Teesha and Tracy Moore, is taking this class too so I'm sure we're going to have a lot of fun today.  Can't wait to see where this voyage takes us!
photo courtesy of

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday at Journalfest

First day of class today at Journalfest.  I'm taking a class with Juliana Coles, from whom I took a class last year as well.
Juliana and me JF 2010
The class is called "It Is Written".  Here is how it is described on the JF website: 

"Experience the Art of the expressionistic letterform in this Extreme Visual Journaling Workshop that puts the emphasis on written text as image. Learn to integrate text with images to practice speech, language, and lettering as an artform as we first set up various mixed media backgrounds and then layer different text styles to stretch our techniques for verbal expression. Learn to develop patience and attention to every detail of what is written by considering that text is as important to the image as the image itself. We will practice lettering using many different script creating tools such as pens, pencils, stick and ink, fine brush w/acrylic in ways you never considered and even how to give rubber stamped letters and alphabets your hand drawn touch. In this workshop you will learn to speak and write your own words, rather than quoting some external source. Take your expression to the next level with these techniques that will carry over into all other art forms where text can be used as art."

Last year's class with Juliana was pretty intense, so I am interested to see how this one goes!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Packing for Journalfest

I'm off to Journalfest tomorrow.  I did most of my packing last night, just a few things to put in the suitcase tonight, plus doing several last minute things (like write blog entries for the rest of the week!)

Getting lots of help from the kitten caboodle, who take turns sitting on or playing with the suitcases:

My plane leaves at 6:15 a.m. tomorrow morning ("oh dark thirty", as my friend Kate would say).  I just realized today that that means I have to get up at about 3 a.m. to get ready and get to the airport in time.  Luckily, it's less than 10 minutes from home by cab, so that helps.  Hopefully I will have no trouble getting up that early.  I woke up at 3:10 this morning and could not get back to sleep.  I lay in bed until about 4, then got up and did a few of the things that were swirling about in my brain.  At 5, I lay down again and managed to doze until 6 when the alarm went off.  So maybe I can do it again tomorrow- fingers crossed! I don't imagine I'll get much sleep tonight though, I'm too excited!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Geese on the Move

This time of year means there are flocks of Canadian geese on their way south for the winter.  I happened to come across this group yesterday about 1.5 hours north of the city as they rested in a large puddle in a field, a puddle that probably wasn't there two weeks ago before all the rain we've had recently. There had to be hundreds of birds, just standing or sitting around. When I stepped out of the car to take these pictures, there was a lot of quiet honking going on - not sure if they were talking about me or not?!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

One Last Time

Today, I made my last visit to the cottage for this season.  It's a bittersweet time, closing up the place in the fall - by this time of year, I'm ready to stop driving to the cottage every weekend and stay home in Toronto and do a little hibernating at home.  At the same time, I will miss being up there, especially after another nice day like today.  It was sunny and warm, with no wind, so that makes it so much easier to do what needs to be done this time of year.  I raked the same piece of the lawn for the third and final time this year, although there were a lot less leaves today than the past two times, thank goodness!  My sister filled 17 bags, bringing us to a total of 50 for this year so far.  My sister will go up at least one more time, to finish raking and to turn off the water and then that's it until next May.  In the meantime, the mice will have the run of the place and it will be darned cold up there.  No chipmunks around today, they might already be sleeping in their nests, but there were lots of chickadees around - winter is definitely getting closer!

No photos from today as I am staying overnight at my mom's place and don't have any way to download photos from my camera but here's one I found on the Internet (thanks to The Graphics Fairy!), a beautiful fall collage.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thou Shalt Not Covet...

...thy neighbour's laundry hamper.  But I did.  Oh, I did.

For those of my married friends who sometimes imagine they'd like to be single again, you probably don't want to hear that I'm spending the first part of my Saturday evening doing laundry.  Let's just pretend I'm going dancing at a club later, shall we?

When I went down to get the last load out of the dryer, someone had left their laundry cart tucked into the corner of the room. It looked like this:
(only it had black bags instead of beige).  OMG, talk about a deluxe laundry cart! Three bags, so you can sort into hot, cold or warm wash loads easily.  Wheels so you can take it up and down in the elevator, no problem.  Metal handles so you can lift the individual bags in and out.  Ah, heaven!

I was overcome by the urge to own one of these carts, immediately imagining in my mind's eye whether or not it would fit in my closet (I'm sure it would and if it didn't, I'd make room).  It occurred to me that one shouldn't leave a cart of this calibre just sitting unattended in an empty laundry room, anyone could just walk away with it.  I could have just walked away with it!  But just in the nick of time, I remembered that I'm not that kind of girl and I put those thoughts of petty larceny behind me.

I did the next best thing. I picked up my now hopelessly inadequate-seeming plastic laundry basket full of warm, clean clothes and rushed upstairs to search for this magical cart online.  Only to discover that not only does it have wheels and three hanging canvas bags, it has a bar that raises and lowers so you can put hanging items on it!

I will not steal. I will not steal. I will not steal.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Blog Visit With Teesha

Just realized it's going on 9:30 pm and I almost forgot to post today - ack!!  But since I'm busy putting together my trades for Journalfest next week, I'm going to send you to Teesha Moore's blog, for several reasons:

(a)  she is using a new Blogger set-up that displays her blog posts as rows of images. If you click on one, it takes you to her post of that day.  It is so amazing to see the way it looks visually with all the cool images she has posted, you gotta check it out.  Or you can select a different format by clicking on the different words in the top left hand side of the page, like "classic" or "mosaic".  I have to find out how to do this with my own blog, I love the way it looks!

(b) because her blog post today is photos of inside their home, showing some of their art collection.  Also totally cool.

(c)  because I'm going to Journalfest and can't wait to see Teesha and Tracy in just 5 more sleeps!

(d)  last but not least, because she and Tracy are just the coolest. Period.
Teesha and Tracy at JF 2010

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tragedy in Ohio

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
Imagine driving down the highway and seeing this sign.  Not in Kenya or India or Southeast Asia but in rural Ohio.

They had to shoot several exotic animals dead in Ohio yesterday after they were let loose by their owner just before he committed suicide.  Apparently he had some sort of private reserve on his 73 acre property and had collected an assortment of bengal tigers, lions, monkeys, leopards, mountain lions and wolves and a grizzly bear over the years.  The man is described as someone who had had several run-ins with police and his neighbours and letting them loose has been described as his "one last act of spite" against authorities.
Maybe that is what he intended.  But if you ask me, it was one incredibly cruel act against all of the 48 animals that were then either hunted down and killed or, in a few cases, died after being struck by vehicles.  Only six animals were captured alive (they were taken to the Columbus Zoo).

18 of the animals killed were bengal tigers, who are an endangered species. It is estimated there are only about 1,400 of them left on the planet.  I've always loved bengal tigers - I remember seeing white bengals at the Toronto Zoo years ago, they were so beautiful.
Photo courtesy of 

Photo courtesy of

I certainly understand what a dangerous situation it must have been for the people living nearby, to have all these animals roaming loose in a populated area.  Especially when the animals would be extremely frightened to suddenly find themselves out of their cages and in unfamiliar territory.   According to the Globe and Mail report, "Officers were ordered to kill the animals instead of trying to bring them down with tranquilizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they dropped and would later regain consciousness."  I can see why it might be necessary to do what they did, as tragic as it is, in order to ensure that no one was injured by any of these wild animals.  But I still don't like it.

And how is it that someone was allowed to have such a collection of exotic and potentially dangerous animals on their property in the first place?   That's what really amazes and alarms me.  Not just one or two but dozens of them.   Don't you need some sort of permit for that? Aren't there health and safety regulations that need to be complied with to ensure the animals are well treated and safely contained?  And how did this guy afford to feed that many animals???  

Once again, we find ourselves with a situation that causes us to ask why it takes a tragedy of this magnitude to make people take notice, take action, to get the appropriate laws in place to prevent this from happening again.  Another case of "closing the barn door after the horse is loose", or in this case, the cage door after the lion got out.  It's just so sad.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Learning the Hard Way

They say you learn more from your mistakes than you do if everything goes smoothly and I have to agree.  Of course, in the grand scheme of things, this is just a little mistake, not a big deal, no major harm done but still, I've learned an important lesson.

Last year, in a class I took from Diana Trout, I learned how to carve a stamp, using a piece of rubber and a tool called a Speedball cutter that has a selection of sharp ends that you use to gouge out your design from the rubber (it's actually intended for cutting linoleum, which seems weird, doesn't it? You can see an image of what the tools look like here.)  We all carved little one and a half inch square pieces and then took turns going around the room and stamping in each other's journals.

My stamp looked like this (it looks like some sort of mythical animal but as I recall, I was just playing with curves at the time:

and here's the page in my journal where everyone stamped, which I love:

In a class taught by Misty Mawn at Art & Soul Hampton last May, I got a refresher lesson but didn't get any farther than this in the short time we had during class to work on this:

In June, in Portugal, another lesson from Tracy Moore, but again, there was no time to actually carve anything.

A week or so ago, I was thinking about the theme of Journalfest this year, which is "woodlands" and I came up with this idea to carve "2011" and cut out 2 tree shapes as the ones.  I was really happy with how it turned out...until I realized - and here's the lesson that each of Diana, Misty and Tracy all told us but which I had forgotten - that I hadn't carved the design BACKWARDS.  You have to carve the mirror image so that when you flip the stamp over to press it onto your page, it reads properly. Of course, this only applies to letters and numbers, if you are carving a shape like my star above, it is less or not crucial.

Not sure I'll have time to make another one of these stamps before JF next week but I'm still really happy with the look of my stamp.  I could tell everyone it's a special design, meant to be held up in front of a mirror for maximum effect but then again, maybe not! :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pretty in Red

It seems like the leaves this year have been mostly yellow tones so when I saw this beautiful red display on the weekend, I just had to stop what I was doing and take a photo.

But then I had to ask myself, why do some leaves turn yellow and some turn red or orange?  Is it because we had such a dry and warm summer? Of course, I immediately had to go to my beloved Google to look up the answer.  Thanks to "Science Made Simple", I now know why leaves change colour and you can too, all you have to do is click here.  And here if you'd like to read a bit more from the USDA Forest Services' point of view.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Visit With Doris

Every woman should get to drive a piece of heavy machinery before she's 50, don't ya think?  Yesterday, I had my chance!

First Janine had a turn:

Then Rosemary (since it was her brother-in-law Dave who brought Doris over to visit, as she and her husband Tim needed a few things done around their cottage before winter sets in.  That's Dave riding along on the back):

then it was my turn:

Look Ma, no hands!

Of course, when the time came, Dave was the one who got to do the actual digging:

closely supervised by Janine and Tim:

Janine and I are already busy thinking up all the ways we could put one of these tractors to use if we had one of our own.  Okay, probably not going to happen but a girl can dream!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Before and After

Before (last weekend):

After (a few days of rain and high winds in the latter part of this week):

Before (how it looked when we first arrived around noon today):

After (4 hours of raking, 22 bags later):

Now: tired!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

View from an Office Window

I was really impressed with the yellow leaves on the trees surrounding my office building this week and wanted to take a picture of the bold, vibrant colours. But I kept forgetting to take my camera to work and then it got grey and rainy towards the latter part of this week, so when I finally broke down and used my phone to take the photo, the results just weren't what I was hoping for:

When I tell you there was a bright yellow car parked under one of these trees last Tuesday, with the trees glowing in the sun, everything as bright as a chartreuse Crayola crayon, you're just going to have to take my word for it when I tell you that it really was a pretty as a picture.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Not Quite the Perfect System

Okay, I admit it - having cats as assistants is not exactly a perfect system.  Case in point - when they start to play with the props. 

Followed by eating the props.

Although there were some interesting acrobatics along the way:

Those pieces they don't eat, I have to sweep up.

Who could have guessed the cats would like dried leaves so much? I did get a really cool journal page background out of the experience though.

Ah well, as they say in the art world, back to the drawing board!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thanksgiving Treasures

My mom, my sister and I spent some time on the Thanksgiving long weekend checking out a couple of junk/antique stores in the area one last time before the season ends.  I picked up some really cool things, like this amazing mirror for only five dollars!

It has some cracks or veins showing in the silvering but I really like the effect and it's only around the edges, the middle is still clear.  If you look closely, you can also see the border lines etched into the glass, which I also love.

I also picked up some old postcards, from all over the world, some with writing and stamps on the back but many which are unused.

I got this old book, which is already falling apart so I won't have any qualms about ripping out the pages and using just the cover to make a new book (stayed tuned for the before and after shots of that in a few weeks time). I simply couldn't resist the title!

I also picked up this little package of vintage photos of Paris that measure 2.5 by 4 inches in size.  (I'll use them in my journal next time I visit Paris.  Oh yes, there will be a next time!)

There are about 20 of them, dating back to the days when cars were new and Hemingway might have been sitting at a table in a cafe or visiting Gertrude Stein at her apartment.  Maybe that's him standing on the street corner?!

And last but not least, 3 spools of film that my sister spied on my behalf and which I quickly snatched up.  I love the old metal spools themselves but the films are fascinating - one is entitled "Plunged from the Cliff", another "Lost Strayed or Stolen" and the 3rd doesn't have any titles, it starts off with pictures of a woman dressed in a matching jacket and skirt made out of some sort of heavy fabric with badges sewn on the chest of the jacket, she is sitting on a hospital bed in an empty ward.  I hesitate to unwind any of the spools very far right now but I intend to cut them up (gasp!) and use them as borders on journal pages.

All in all, another successful treasure hunt!