Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday Openair Market

Join me in a stroll through the open market, found every Saturday on the oceanfront promenade in Empuriabrava, Spain. The weather was a nippy 12 degrees and a strong cold wind (Tramontana) made up for the bright sunshine.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fast Forward to Spain

Right now, it is raining in Empuriabrava, Spain. Time to write about the past week spent in the Pyranees mountains in the province of Cerdanya, staying at a lovely accomodation, just south of the border to Andorra. Our host, Hugh, took the time to show us around his huge property and explain the long-term vision for this location: a center for respite and well-being. Much care is given to provide delicious organic meals and a relaxing, casual atmosphere.

My son and I took some long hikes into the neighboring valleys, where we first came across the local breed of horse on the steep pastures, wearing bells around their massive necks!.They wear the bells so they can be located when they break out of their fencing to look for better pastures. These sturdy creatures are bred for their meat, but also serve to pull wagons and occasionally for riding.

On our way home yesterday, we stopped at the city of Puigcerda, which hosts a traditional annual horse fair, honoring the best examples of this breed, as well as mules, donkeys and miniature horses.

In the afternoon we spent a few hours at the Roman thermal baths in Dorres, France. Then it was just a few more hours via Perpignan to get back "home" to the Costabrava.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Easy Rosehip Jam

This is the perfect time of year to use those bright crimson seedpods from your rosebushes for a delicious and very healthy product. When I look at recipes for rosehip jam, it surprises me that people are willing to do so much painstaking work and add so much sugar. If you have a Passevite (get one now!) it will make the job so easy.

(Top Photo)First, collect the hips by cutting them off the tip of the branch, which you hold with a good protective glove (those prickly branches could spoil your enthusiasm!).

(Photo #2)Here you see a 10" colander filled with 1 kilogram (2 lbs. 4 oz.) washed and picked over rosehips. Cover them with water in a saucepan, place a lid on the pan and cook gently for about 20 minutes. From time to time, stir and mash the fruit.

(Photo#3) Now put about 1/6 of the mixture in the Passevite (using the medium-sized sieve) and let this gaget do the hard work of separating the seeds and stems from the fruit. Throw out the debris after each portion has been pressed through the sieve.

(Photo#4)You will get at least 2 cups of very thick rosehip puree. If you are not a fan of jams, freeze the puree in portions (for example in an ice cube tray). Use the frozen portions in your smoothies, to add zing to a gravy, or for a wonderful mousse dessert. If you get more puree because you had more cooking water, it is fine: you will just need to cook the fruit a bit longer to get the jam.

(Photo #5) Now cook the puree with only 1 and 1/4 cups sugar for about 7 minutes, stirring constantly because it is thick. If your puree is more liquid, then you must cook the jam longer and it will get darker. You will know the jam is ready when you drop some in a glass of cold water and it holds together at the bottom of the glass.

Sterilize 2 small re-cycled jam jars (350 gram capacity) by washing them with boiling water and placing them upside down on a clean tea towel to dry. Have them ready before you cook the jam!

(Photo#6)Pour the finished jam in the jars and screw the top on tightly. When they are cooled, you will hear a popping sound as the vacuum inside pulls the lid down. Add a label with the date.

This jam makes a perfect Christmas or birthday present for those health-conscious friends!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Garden Story

There is a row of apartment buildings in Hawkesbury that have only a strip of lawn and a row of honey locust trees in front of them. I asked the property manager whether he would object to my creating some perennial gardens.

He gave permission and I started in May by stripping a 12' by 9' area of the lawn and putting a 5" rubber edging around it to keep the grass out.

In June, I got some help to ram in 2 t-bars to hold up my trellis for the honeysuckle ("Lonicera"). In front of that, I planted a dappled willow ("Salix integra") and, in front of it, three Sedum. Behind the trellis, to one side, I sunk a perforated tin pan with two wild summac saplings. They have to stay in the pan to keep their pesky runners from invading the whole flowerbed. I love their foliage and brilliant crimson leaves in the fall. In the empty spaces, I added some campanula for next spring.

Later, in July, I put in lots of Cana lilies and snapdragons (the garden supply stores were throwing them away!). This project was so much fun that I went ahead and made two more flowerbeds.

Now it is time to say good-bye to my gardens for the season. The Canas have to be dug out and stored in peat moss, the salix cut back and the snapdragons composted. I will leave the sedum: they stay gorgeously maroon in the winter snow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September ATC

The title I gave this month's ATCs is "Starry Nights".

As I was cutting down the poppies in my garden and collecting the seeds from the pods, I noticed how the "lid" on each pod was star-shaped, Interestingly, the number of "rays" on each lid was not the same, even though they all came from the same type of Oriental Poppy. The lids from the Icelandic Poppy are altogether different: much smaller and many more rays.

After all the pods were collected and emptied, I removed the lids and painted them silvery gold. Then I glued them to a piece of ATC-sized black paper and drew a line with a gold jellyroll pen to indicate the horizon and to add some more faraway stars. Finally, the black cards were glued back-to-back with a recycled watercolor painting that I had cut into ATC size pieces. My name, the date and the title were hand-written on the back of the finished ATC.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


It has rained every day all week. Yesterday, the sunny afternoon was followed by a shower. As I sat here upstairs at my computer, I looked east at about 7 p.m. and saw a double rainbow. By the time I had run outside, only one was visible. The "pot of gold" had also disappeared!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August ATC

This months Artist Trading Cards were inspired by photographs I took of the country roads in my area. I found the perspectives fascinating. Here is one example of a crossroad near Dalkeith:

My cards were all made in the vertical format using collage technique.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


This is what we decided to do with our "time off" this summer:
1) Drive along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River to Metis-sur-Mer to visit the Redford Gardens.
2) Cross the river on a ferry from Trois Pistoles to Les Escoumins on the north shore.
3) Visit the Saguenay fjord on the east and west coasts of the river
4) Bike around L`Ile aux Coudres, an island in the St. Lawrence river, just out from Baie St. Paul.
5) Last but not least...spend an afternoon at the Montreal Botanical Gardens.

It was an inspiring 1800 km, 6-day trip. Reto took the 2 pictures of me at the right: one where I am behind of a pair of Alder Buckthorn trees and the other where I am reflected in the window of the Insectarium, just behind his shot of a Monarch butterly!. The other photo was taken at Baie d`√ąternite on the Saguenay: we took the 3.5 km hike up to the statue of Notre-Dame-du Saguenay, where we got this view to the north.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Did you miss last night's fireworks at La Ronde? It was Sweden's turn to show their best for the International Competition here in Montreal. I was standing on the Jacques Cartier bridge at 10 pm: it was worth the trip! See for yourself!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

July ATCs

This month I was inspired to use the "rubbing" technique to create my miniature artworks.

We all know this method from our school art classes: place a piece of parchment paper over a textured surface and lightly pass your pencil over the paper in a windshield wiper motion. The texture is captured on the surface of the paper. This is a handy method to copy engravings that cannot be moved or are not suitable for photography (gravestones, wall carvings, embossed texts).

The design was borrowed from classical still life paintings. I made a sketch of the shapes on my ATC sized parchment paper, then went around the house looking for different textures to use for each shape: a cardboard book cover, a brass plate from Morocco, a tablecloth, etc.. Using different colored pencils, I filled out each shape.

From the top:
Martha Alf: Pears Series 11 #7, 1978
Paul Cezanne: Still Life with a Basket, 1888 (used only the top right corner).
Georges Braque: Still Life with Fruit and Stringed Instrument, 1938
Frida Kahlo: Still Life with Parrot 1951 (without the parrot)

Monday, July 26, 2010


This is the best time of year to take a walk in the vacant wastelands to pick a bouquet of wonderful "weeds". As a gardener, I would not welcome any of these plants in my garden: they would take advantage of the fertile soil and regular moisture to overwhelm my cultivated plants. No, these beauties thrive on poor soil, intense sun and drought.

Here is a list of some of the flowers I was able to identify:

purple loosestrife
wild rose
mayweed (daisy)
viper's bugloss
bird's foot trefoil
bladder campion
Queen Anne's Lace
August flower (or lionstooth)
everlasting pea
common tansy
goat's beard
creeping bellflower

To identify your own collection of weeds, check out this great website.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Exotic Flowers

Last month, I attended a special exhibition at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Horticulturalists from far and wide presented their special products: garden tools, floral arrangements, unusual perrennials or rare cultivars. I bought a small plant for $4.- that had no tag. Here you see the beauty it became. Sorry, no idea what the name of the plant is.

Another flowering plant (actually a vine) originating from tropical climates is the Aristolochia gigantea. They are grown by a nursery in St.-Remi, Quebec. The flowers are a feat of Nature's creative powers: purple brocade velvet bags about 12" across with a disturbing scent. Here is a picture of the one I saw in Montreal. Now I have the plant too. It can be kept outdoors in the summer and I am waiting for the first bloom.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Inkblot Landscapes

Here are my ATC cards for this month. We trade today at 2:15 p.m. in Dunvegan, they are fresh from the artist's oven. Which card would you pick?

Method: I dropped some orange, blue and black ink onto one long side of an ATC-sized piece of 140 lb. watercolor paper. Then, I folded the paper in half, lengthwise. Presto! When I turned the card so that the fold was horizontal, there was my inspiration for a landscape reflected in the water. With a few dashes of colored pencil, markers and my favorite reflecting acrylic paint, my landscapes were complete. I glued the mini-artworks onto ATC-sized pieces of sketching paper, cut from a drawing I wanted to recycle.

My inspiration for these ATCs came from the famous Rorschach Test inkblot. Psychoanalysts used certain inkblots in determining unconscious associations. I only saw landscapes this time..............

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Tomorrow I will bring in my submission for this year's Art Fayre in Dunvegan, Ontario.

My painting is titled "Sunset". It is 48" wide and 24" high, acrylic on canvas.

The inspiration for this painting came partly from my regular trips to the Carillon dam to see the sun setting over the water. Another element of inspiration is my regular drives though the Eastern Ontario landscape, cruising over hills to discover new views. Finally, my imagination played a large role in designing my artwork.

"Sunset" is about the time of transition.....from the activity and structure of daylight time to the mysterious and restful darkness of night. Also in life we have these transitions: the glow and extroversion of public life gives way to our private and inexplicable nightlife. It is a force of Nature that we need rest, that we must dream, that we return to where we came from, over and over again. So it is in my painting that the sun sets between the sky and earth and between the wild and secretive interim periods.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

house for sale

Yes, it's true. My house is for sale! It is 6 years ago that I first saw it and fell instantly in love with the brick exterior and white verandas and the huge green barn (now weathered down). What a history this house has! It tickles me to know that my parents, who immigrated to this village from Holland in 1949 and only stayed a few months, must have walked past my house on their way to the store and waterfront.

We have renovated the house completely, leaving all the original historical (1905) elements, such as hardwood floors, 12" baseboards, plaster columns and ceiling moldings. The doors were stripped of 4 layers of paint to the original solid British Columbia fir. It is not a big house by modern standards. At one time though, in the 1960s when the Carillon dam was being built, 4 families from the Canary Islands lived here.

Why we are leaving? Our mission here is fulfilled: to polish this gem till it shines. Now we are ready for a life of zen simplicity and mobility. Our lives have followed an 11-year cycle and 2011 is the beginning of a new phase.

Welcome to a virtual tour of our "home for now".