Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Photography 101

I love taking photos, but must admit that I'm something of a technical moron.  Most buttons on my Nikon D3100 have never been used and I have no idea what they are for.  I have decided to change all of that and give myself tutorials (there are plenty of good ones online) and actually read the damned instruction booklet that came with my camera, in hopes of teaching this old dog some new tricks.  Whereas, I have been happy to keep the camera set in the default position in the past, I'm now going to try and use some of the other buttons.

One little project I tried was to put the camera into the Aperture-priority auto mode.  Sounds like a mouthful huh? By doing this, I can control the size of the aperture that lets light in, and thus, keep one object in focus while the surrounding background has a nice fuzzy, out-of-focus look.

Geranium blossoms
Missourian Gooseberries
Succulent flowers
I realize I have along way to go and have much to learn, but every journey starts with a single step.  Or so they say.

Dinner Party for DBP

Last weekend we had some friends over for dinner to help our dear friend, DBP, celebrate her birthday.  It was meant to be a cocktail party, but because we had a total of eight guests, we decided to go all-out and make it a dinner party.  The day started off grey and damp, so we didn't think we would be able to enjoy drinks in the garden, but, lo and behold, the clouds dispersed  and the sun came out! We had bubbles and cheese and crackers in the garden after all.

LP brought guacamole-stuffed JalapeƱos that had been barbecued, so they were soft and smokey. I had one then had a case of the hiccups, which happens when I eat spicy food, much to everyone else's delight.

CC set a wonderful table, as usual, and was at the local farmer's market early, to get the best flowers, in this case, peonies.

We had Vichyssoise to start, something I have rediscovered recently.  My mother used to make it many years ago, and it's simple but elegant.

For the main course, we had Caesar salad, Quinoa salad, Asparagus with orange sauce and spicy, yoghurt-marinated Chicken breasts. The yoghurt helps to keep the chicken moist and any combination of spices work well. I liked the addition of turmeric to give it some colour, as I find chicken can look so blah.

For dessert, CC made his famous sponge cake and served it with lemon curd and stewed rhubarb. Much wine was consumed and there was a LOT of laughter, just how a dinner party should be.

Origami fun

I have been making Origami pieces, off and on, for some time now, and have recently taken to carrying  some paper with me for the long bus commute home.  The other week, I folded the following standards…
Origami paper waiting to be folded.
Classic Crane.
Turtle, a favourite.
Spinning Top - made with three pieces of paper.
I also like to troll Origami websites to come up with some new ideas, and recently found one that detailed how to make a Pinwheel Cube out of six pieces of paper.  The components are all made the same way and then are assembled by sliding the pointy ends into the pockets. I used six pieces of paper that were black on one side and white on the other, as I liked the contrast and Art Deco look…

I also like to follow some Origami enthusiasts on Instagram, and found one contributor who made cranes.  Interestingly, he also hand-paints the paper or draws doodles or makes cuts in the wings.  This got me thinking because I love to make ornate, paper snowflakes at Christmas, so I decided to give it a try.  I folded the crane in plain, white paper first, marked the wings in pencil, unfolded the crane, then made some cuts with scissors and refolded it.  I was quite happy with the result…

I decided to try a similar method with an Origami Star Box, and loved the result…

I still consider myself something of a beginner, but am always striving to try new things in an attempt to make it more interesting and challenging.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Stone plants

The other week when we bought our annuals for the garden, I visited the Cactus portion of our favourite greenhouse, Belgian Nurseries, to see what they had in the way of Stone plants, aka Lithops. They are succulents native to southern Africa and are aptly named due to their stone-like appearance. They avoid being eaten in their native habitat by blending in with the surrounding rocks. I bought a couple a few years ago and have always meant to get more, as I love their appearance and the fact that you rarely have to water them.  Once a year, in the spring, the outer leaves dry up and give way to one or more new leaf pairs. Although they are supposed to flower, with small daisy-like blossoms, they don't get enough light in the window where I keep them.

The originals revealing new leaves

Christie Antique Show

Even though we would have liked nothing better than to sleep in yesterday morning, we got up early, were picked up by friends, and went down to the Christie Conservation area to attend the biannual Christie Antique show.  The others have been a few times, but it was my first visit.  There was a large line-up of cars on the road to get into the site, but it moved quickly, and we were parked and walking around with loads of other curious shoppers in no time at all.

A shopping we will go...
There are hundreds of dealers and a vast array of items to look at.  We don't always go to these events with specific purchases in mind, but rather, see if anything catches our eye.  Oh, and the people watching is fabulous!

A side of beef?
It's also interesting to see what's trendy in the world of collectors. The above cow with the cutout side is NOT what I would call trendy, but it did bring a smile to my face.  Can you just imagine bringing that home for your special someone?  Sheesh!

Sportsman's throne
There's a lot of folk art, which always intrigues me, and the above is a case-in-point. It had everything a sportsman could possibly desire - a snowshoe, fishing rods, antlers, all combined to make a very special Muskoka chair.  Again, sheesh!

Colourful cookware and people
Not everything there is so…special.  The cookware above was very retro, very colourful and made for a great photo-op with the surrounding people in their equally colourful jackets. It would look great in a kitchen that had lots of Fiestaware and le Creuset.

What you looking' at?
I loved the warm colours of the above sideboard and the assorted knick-knacks on its shelves.  I didn't notice the look I was getting from the lady beside it, until I uploaded it onto my computer. "Don't worry lady, I'm not going to bite!"

Hmm, where would this look good?
Although I didn't take a lot of pictures, I did find I was drawn to certain colours and certain themes.  The above would belong with the "Sheesh" theme. I just can't imagine where someone would put something like that, but I certainly appreciate its originality.

Orange bird

Orange truck

Orange vase
On a sunny but cool day, after a long, cold winter, the colour orange is one way of bringing some warmth into my life.  I think the next time I go, I'm going to decide on a theme before-hand and just take pictures related to that theme.  The only problem is that there are so many ideas to choose from. I did end up buying a few things, and got some good deals…

Turtle shell
I've always liked when people have decorations around their houses and gardens taken from nature - shells, antlers, bones etc., so when I saw the above turtle shell, I knew I had to have it.  Where it will go is another question altogether.

Retro pottery
The above is a vase from West Germany with a very '60s look.  Friend of ours collect these and have brought them to my attention.  There weren't a lot around that I could see, but this one was colourful and immediately caught my eye.  I didn't buy it immediately, deciding to let fate determine whether I got it or not.  So, when we were about to leave, I went back to the vendor, noticed it was still there and decided it was meant to be.

Riviera pottery
The bargain of the day was the above stack of Riviera plates, saucers and bowls, all for $35.  They are made by the same company that made Fiesta and Harlequin, but are hard to find. There war some chips on some of the pieces, but that is to be expected as the shape has made them very fragile.  Hence the difficulty in finding them.  The vendor took my e-mail as he said he had a couple of bowls and a platter at home that he would be willing to let me have for a good price. I like the scalloped rims and the bright cheery colours. They're perfect for serving food at parties or for putting under potted plants.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Current garden favourites

The spring flowers are rapidly disappearing, but there's a greenness in the garden that is full of promise.  We still have some flowering shrubs flaunting their colour - Azalea, Viburnum, and of course the Redbud graced us with it's frothy pink clusters, but now is the time to look at some of the subtleties and textures that necessitate a closer look.

Primula veris
We have many of these dazzlers throughout the front garden and they are gradually spreading. Their bright yellow flowers radiate out atop a rigid stem, and due to their relatively low height they look particularly good at the front of the garden beds.


Epimediums are hardy perennials that flower in the spring. The flowers are borne on delicate stems that rid cup above the bronze-colored leaves. Flowers are spider-like with four petals and come in a range of colours - we have four different kinds, three of which are shown above. The leaves become more reddish in the fall, making them a very attractive ground cover.


Euphorbia or spurge are heat- and drought-tolerant plants that often have rigid stems and somewhat bizarre floral structures.  Even when they are not in flower, they provide architectural interest. The lower image is a close-up of the flowers of the common Donkey Tail Spurge.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spring has (finally) sprung!

Hardy Cyclamen
Above are the first bits of colour we saw this spring. They are corms as opposed to bulbs and pop up above the leaf litter early on. As well as the flash of much-needed colour at this time of year, they have interesting foliage, which resurfaces in the late fall.

Aptly named, because they are often up while there is still snow on the ground.  They don't last long, but are a sight for sore eyes, especially after a long, cold winter.

They always remind me of Easter, but I love how they open and close with the sun, and how they attract swarms of the first pollinators.

Scilla and friend
These always look much more dramatic when they are in groups and I particularly like them when they cover a lawn.  Blue is a rare colour, botanically, and it contrasts beautifully with the bright green leaves.

Heath and Cypress
We have a large patch of Heath in the front garden, and in amongst it is a small, shrub-like Cypress that provides a lot of interesting colour and texture contrast.  It also gets swarmed with bees, a sure sign of summer's approach.

A Buttercup-bright yellow flower, above an umbrella-like stem and leaves, which are brilliant compared the greys and browns of the leaf litter, through which they emerge.

Aka Christmas Rose, Winter Rose and Lenten Rose, however they are not roses at all, but rather, evergreen perennial shrubs. They take time to get going, but are worth the wait.

Unknown bulbs
We have two small clumps of these in the front garden, and although we don't know what they are called, they are an incredible mauve colour.

Not the big kind that flower later in the summer, these are short, early-blooming and don't last long.