Hey out there!

Hello All!

How goes your summer? Seems to me that the clock speeds up from Canada Day through to Labour Day. It’s hard to keep up with events and activities, and harder still to reflect on them and keep them in memory. Here’s a quick post from me, in an attempt to do both those things.

We went to a very pleasant Canada Day barbcue where the food and company were top notch. One of the guests is an organizer of the Ferguson Memorial Walk, an activity day, and walk in support of Orangeville’s Family Transition Place, and the White Ribbon Campaign.

As the evening got darker, I saw something I have never seen before. Across the back yard, our host held up something large and white, it looked like a garbage bag.  At the bottom of the bag was a sort of lantern, and a young partygoer was lighting this lantern with a long bbq lighter. It took at least a minute to get the flame going. A couple of minutes later, the large bag filled with hot air, and rose off the ground, into the sky. It looked wonderful, rising very quickly and moving out of view over the trees. Here’s the photo I snapped.

Flying Lantern

Very cool! Now, there was some discussion about whether launching such a thing was a safe idea. The packaging assured us the lantern was completely biodegradable, but we were also worried about it catching trees on fire, or causing a hazard to aviation, or to bats. What do you think? Have you seen these?

We ended the evening with a distant view of the Orangeville fireworks. A very satisfactory night out.

On a roll for being social, we made a date with our kids to see the Picasso exhibit at the AGO in Toronto. This was a fantastic exhibit. Picasso is an artist who can provoke a response from everyone. What a fertile creative life! The exhibit is on till the end of the summer, see it if you can. We went at 10am on a Tuesday and found that to be an ideal, quiet time to go. Some advice I wish I had followed:  check the free program that you’re given on entry to the exhibit. It lists the locations of Picasso items in the AGO’s collections outside of the exhibit. Although you can see these whenever you happen to be at the AGO, I think they might be especially interesting to see immediately after viewing this exhibit.

Art Gallery of Ontario, Galleria Italiano

The exhibit exits into this lovely space, the Galleria Italiano. Nice place to hang out while waiting for trailing family members. Photo by bobcatnorth, from Flickr.

After 2 hours of the Picassos, we didn’t spend much more time at the gallery. But we did go to see the William Kurelek room. His paintings fascinate me. In order to get to his room, we passed quickly through several other Canadian galleries, largely empty except for the iconic paintings. I resolve to return, soon. On a Tuesday.

All for now,

Elizabeth

Happy Pi Day!

Pie for Pi Day, 2011

image by djwtwo, from Flickr

Today, 3/14, is my favourite unofficial holiday:  Pi Day, the day to celebrate the circle.  Today we make pi jokes, eat circular foods, and recite as many digits of pi as we can recall.

I’ve had a fondness for π since I learnt about it in high school math.  It’s a number that is unknown, yet a constant that’s essential.  I’m always on the lookout for pi references (an elusive search).  Here’s a quote I love:

…an expansion of pi to only forty-seven decimal places would be sufficiently precise to inscribe a circle around the visible universe that doesn’t deviate from perfect circularity by more than the distance across a single proton.

-Richard Preston, The Mountains of pi, The New Yorker, March 2, 1992

So, have a happy day today, eat something round, and give a mathematician a hug.

Elizabeth
Pi Day - March 14, 2008

image by dirvish, from Flickr

Thinking of Gratitude

Aside

Angela’s most recent post reminded me of a profile I read a few years ago, of the actor Tommy Lee Jones (OMG, it was in 1994!).*  The writer spent several days with Jones, and noted his habit, at the end of each day, of listing the good and interesting things that had happened that day.  Here’s an example from Oct. 31st:  “This was a good day.  We got the pumpkins.  We made jack-o’-lanterns.  We saw Hoagy and Bogart and Bacall in ‘To Have and Have Not.’  We trick-or-treated.”

I’ve forgotten everything else about the article except for this habit of his. Sometimes I use it myself when my mind is buzzing and I can’t get to sleep at night.  For me, this is a form of gratitude, and a tool for an optimistic realignment of my bad attitude.

I like Angela’s idea of choosing a theme for the year.  Looking forward to the blog posts that will flow from the theme of gratitude!

I’d also like to say thank you to the readers of our blog.  We are honoured that you’re reading us.

Elizabeth

Posy

image by horrigans, from Flickr

*Ross, Lillian.  (1994, April 4).  “Onward and upward with the arts:  Keeping up with Mr. Jones”  The New Yorker, 57-63.

New Year’s Greetings to All!

january

image by hometownzero, from Flickr

How are you feeling?  Today seems like the day we can finally resume our routines and complete the post-holiday-recovery phase.  Over the holidays I seemed to communicate mostly in single words, such as “Tape?” and “Dinner!”, with occasional indulgences in multiple words like “When will you be back?” and “Could you get up now and help me lift this?”, not to mention “Is your hedgehog warm enough?”  My holiday coping strategy seems to require me to focus my thoughts on the present crisis, and potential crises in the immediate future, leaving no room for eloquence or reflection.

So I’m glad to get back to thinking and writing in complete sentences, and to taking a slightly longer view.  Hence, a blog post!

I came upon an article in the Toronto Star last week which might interest you.  It tells the story of a woman whose mother has early onset Alzheimer’s.  Although she can no longer talk with her mother, she is keeping their connection strong by exploring her mom’s collection of recipes and documenting the cooking and memories in a blog.  This idea reminded me of Angela’s blog post about her mother’s letters.  It seems to pull together the nurturing aspect of food, the way that smell and taste becomes embedded in our memories, and the informal diaries that can be created on our recipe pages.  Do you make notes on your recipes?  (And do you want your offspring to read those notes in the distant future?)

Speaking of offspring, it was life-changing for me a few years ago when I read about brain research that revealed that the brains of children continue to grow and develop until they are around 25 years old.  This information has helped me to have more reasonable expectations for the young people in my life.  Even if they are as tall as adults, they are still kids (until they pass the age of 25, when my expectations for responsible and considerate humans will kick back in).  So how can we tell when they’ve crossed over into adulthood, if not by appearance?

Here’s something I read this weekend, from the novelist Lynn Coady, who has a crowd-sourced advice column in the Globe.  She says, “True adulthood occurs the moment we grasp that the people who raised us do not exist solely for our comfort and reassurance. From that point on, the steady stream of unconditional love and support we’ve expected from them all our lives has to flow both ways.”  What do you think?

Bye for now,

Elizabeth

Making and doing

Hi Everyone,

I follow quite a few blogs which are about garment sewing as a hobby.  These are generally by women who are interested in creating their own wardrobes, sewn to fit properly and to complement their hair, complexion, and sense of style.  So they’ve thought a lot about what suits them, and what they need in their closets.  Turns out there is a wealth of info out there to help us understand how to build a wardrobe, whether we sew our clothing, or we buy it.

One of the blogs I read is by a New York City sewing pattern designer, Liesl.  Her company, called Lisette, creates patterns and fabrics for women and children.  Recently she posted about the fashion blogs she follows.  Here is her list.  Note she includes a blog I’ve mentioned to you before:  Advanced Style.  Check it out, it will make you happy.

Speaking of happiness, our creativity group got together the other day to make Christmas wreaths (the idea came from a pin on Pinterest, connected to this blog post).  Three out of four were completed in around two hours.  I didn’t get mine finished, but hope I will soon.  Feast your eyes on these three finished products:

Julie's wreath
Laurie's wreath
Dana's wreath

The use of non-breakable balls with attached top pieces (those eyes through which the string is attached) made these pretty breezy to make.  I especially like how each wreath speaks about the home decor of its maker.

Later this past week, Julie showed me the bows she made out of magazine pages.  She found this craft through Pinterest, as well (here’s a link to the original blog post with instructions).  Here’s a photo of Julie’s bows, snapped on top of her trumpet case.  Of course, I went straight home and made a bow myself.  Paper, scissors and glue:  I’ll never get over you.

Julie's magazine page bows

So ladies and gents, what have your own busy hands been up to lately?

Bye for now,

Elizabeth

P.S. Go back to this blog post if you’re wondering about this Pinterest thing.

Looky here

inspiration board

photo by craftapalooza, from Flickr

A couple of months ago I mentioned a newish website which offers some excitement for those who are visually-oriented.  This is the service called Pinterest.  The site likens itself to a bulletin board where you pin images that interest you.  So you can get an account with Pinterest and start collecting images you find on the web, rather like clipping photos from magazines and putting them on a design board.  You can take a look at other peoples’ boards and add anything that appeals to you there, to your own board.  I’ve found it useful while doing the planning for our new kitchen. And I’ve discovered tons of craft ideas.  Here’s a link to my paltry collection of crafty images.

There is a social networking aspect to the site.  All boards are public, and anyone can comment on a pin, which can lead to some bad behavior, as well as the sharing of useful information.  There is a huge amount of repinning, which leaves a fascinating trail.  In order to sign up, you must have a Twitter or Facebook account, so you know this is about gathering and selling information about users, to advertisers.

You might wonder about copyright on all these freely shared images.  Pinterest takes a pinner-friendly approach to this, offering to remove any images that violate copyright, once the rights holder contacts them.  The web source from which the original pinner grabbed the image is credited on each pin.

Although I joke that this site will particularly appeal to visual learners, it has much wider application.  Leave yourself some time to check it out, as it’s quite mesmerizing.  Let us know what you think…

Bye for now,

Elizabeth

Kitchen Inspiration Board for the Nest

A kitchen idea board made the old-fashioned way, by http://www.simplythenest.com, from Flickr

The hardest job

Hi, All.

I am writing today to recommend to you a book that I read recently:  Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua.  Back in May, I mentioned this book as one of a list of motherhood-themed books suggested by the Globe & Mail around Mother’s Day.  I read it in ebook form, and really enjoyed it.  Here’s the scoop.

20th Best Book about China - Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

Photo by China Books, from Flickr

Chua is the daughter of two Chinese immigrants who came to the USA as graduate students.  They lived hand-to-mouth for awhile, but through discipline and hard work became successful.  They raised their American-born children with the expectation that their kids would learn and achieve great things through a similar sort of discipline and effort.  The book tells the story of Chua’s own experience raising her two daughters with those same high expectations.

Much controversy has surrounded Chua’s list of expectations, which are detailed at the beginning of the book, and in many reviews (here’s an excerpt which should get your blood boiling).  She describes her parenting style as Chinese, and contrasts it with Western-style parenting, characterized as laissez-faire, with little pressure on children to live up to their potential.  Chua is a provocative writer, and many readers (and probably lots of non-readers) have taken offence at her forthright statements about the superiority of Chinese-style parenting.  She even received death threats.

I think this may have been an unfortunate result of Chua’s excellent storytelling ability, and would urge any reader to be undeterred by the trash talk.  As she states on her web site,  the book is a memoir, not a parenting manual, and Amy is a compelling character in her own story.

Chua is funny, and self-deprecating, and the book is a fast and pleasant read (excellent for the ebook format).  It could also serve as a fertile discussion-starter in a variety of directions.

Nadine et Elisabeth

Photo by ParaScubaSailor, from Flickr

For instance, here’s the part that lingers with me.  Music was one area in which Chua chose to develop her daughters’ potential.  They began studying piano at an early age, and younger daughter Lulu eventually moved on to violin.

Chua actively participated in their musical education.  She accompanied them to every lesson, and made meticulous notes; she sat with them during their daily hours of practice, keeping them focused on their task; she found them new teachers as they gained in ability, and chauffered them to their lessons; and she arranged for prestigious opportunities for performance for both girls, even travelling to Europe in order for them to perform.

Chua, who studied music as a youngster, invested heavily of herself in her daughters’ musical accomplishments, and her determination drove the family.  And I wonder if Chua was able to maintain her determination to push her daughters musically because she herself valued musicianship so highly.  In other words, was it more about her own frustrated desires to achieve great things as a musician, than about helping her kids pursue their interests?  I found myself wishing that she would spend some of her energy playing music herself, instead of putting all her creative drive into her kids. (Does that seem harsh on motherhood?  Or just a sneaky way to bring creativity into the discussion…)

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Bye for now,

Elizabeth

Violin lesson

Photo by angus mcdiarmid, from Flickr