Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stone Age Scene

I've always had strong interest and curiosity for the Stone Age. I love to learn about how our far ancestors might have lived. How did they survived the obstacles Nature put on their way? How did knowledge go around and through the generations and the different families and groups? How complex was their society at the time? How did they show their love for each other? What were their customs? How different were their customs from group to group? Did the various groups meet to learn from one another?

Jean M. Auel wrote a serie of books called "Earth's Children", where we follow the life of a main character by the name of Ayla. I can't say the story is interesting all through the 6 books, but the first 3 books are my all time favorites.

- The Clan of The Cave Bear
- The Valley of Horses
- The Mammoth Hunters

I've read them numerous times in French and in English and am planning on reading them in Danish soon. The author travelled and learned from researchers and specialists on the topic, and is using our knowledge of the Stone Age to build a story that is extremely believable.

Anyways... All that to say that it is this story that inspired the following creation. It is a scene I imagined of Ayla and her mate, Jondalar, with their first born. People in the Stone Age did not actually lived IN caves. It is more accurate to say that they chose sites against rock cliffs to build their dwellings, so that the rocks would help protecting them against the elements.

But here on this image, Ayla, Jondalar and the little one are travelling, and this is a small cave they are temporarily using for protection.

Digital painting done from scratch on MyPaint with the use of a Wacom Bamboo Pen tablet. 


While the shape of Jondalar (the silhouette standing) is off, I am still quite content with the over all result. I particularly enjoyed making this scene warm and cozy with the fire and light in the little cave. It was a very good practice piece for light and shades, especially with the baskets. 

What are your impressions?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Early Spring Days

In Canada, winters are long and cold, and there is a risk (or a chance, depending how you see it) of snow usually until somewhere in April. That's how I grew up, and those who know me also know that I am NOT a fan of winter! So you can imagine my delight since I moved to Denmark and can enjoy the first Spring flowers in February! (and rub it in for my family in Canada. teehee)

The weather today was gorgeous! The sun was shining and it felt like at least 10° C in the sun. My husband and I started the early Spring clean up out in the yard. I absolutely love this time of year, where the birds sound more cheerful than usual and everything grows again. We raked some fallen birch branches off the lawn and cleaned up the patio. It already looks a little bit more like summer when looking outside!

I took a walk around the lot in search of flowers. I can't say we have a lot just yet, but they're coming!


Last year, while rearranging some things in front of my house, I had to dig up some daffodil bulbs. My idea was to relocate them, so I threw them in a plastic flower pot for later. They were only scattered on top of the soil as I didn't mean for them to stay there very long.

However, I forgot them there and the pot remained on the side of the house (an open storage area) all winter. :(

Today, I was very surprised to see that daffodils are growing in that pot! Wow! Talk about having the will to live! I had no idea daffodils required so little care. ;) I moved the pot to the patio and will definitely relocate the bulbs this time! I just need to figure out when is the best time to do it. 


What a lovely day it was. I'll definitely sleep good tonight! But I'm already looking forward to next time! 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sweet Craft

A couple of years ago, I watched a few episodes of a bakery show, where they specialize on cake decoration. I was amazed by the infinite possibilities and wondered how on earth it was possible to create such fabulous cakes with only edible ingredients. Even more so, I wondered how people ever found the courage to destroy those breath-taking creations and eat them!

As I said, this was a few years ago, and with the then imminent overseas move, I left my new found cake interest aside and focused on getting myself to Denmark and start my new life.

Until now, that is. :) 

Ok... I can't say I decorated anything today, but I did make fondant for the first time, following this incredibly easy recipe: http://goo.gl/TEFny

It really did not take very long to prepare the fondant, and I found that the "dough" it creates was quite easy and fun to work with, even though about half way through the project, I realized I didn't actually have food colouring, so my result remained white for now. Thankfully, I can store it in the refrigerator for a good while until I use it.

All I need now (besides the food colouring, of course), is a good excuse to bake a cake, and an occasion to inspire the decoration! Then, hopefully I'll have interesting pictures to share with you guys next time I bring the subject up.

Does anyone have a birthday soon? heehee :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday

I love Fridays! It's a day where I feel good because I was productive, yet can crash and enjoy the beginning of weekend. In today's case, I was at my practical stay at the daycare center. Then, I feel like I can relax because there's nothing that absolutely needs to be done for the next day. Plus, I can go to bed when I feel like it, knowing that I can get up the next day when I want, as opposed to with an alarm!

I think Friday evenings are even better than Saturday evenings!

Happy Friday, and have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

For Basil

A friend of mine recently told me about an incident that happened with her 4-month old kitten, Basil. One morning, Basil's lower jaw got stuck in his collar.* No matter how much he tried, he couldn't get free, and by the time my friend got to him (thanks to champion kitty Chili, for getting mommy!), Basil was foaming at the mouth and seemed to have trouble breathing.

This was quite traumatic for my friend and probably for the cat as well! Luckily everything turned out fine and little Basil is not harmed.

This inspired me to write about collar safety for your cats. Whether kitty stays inside or is allowed to visit the outdoors, there are precautions to take in the choice of a collar. Here are some tips regarding cat collars:

- Choose a safe collar

Choose a collar that has either a safety release clip or an elastic band. The safety release clip will release upon pulling, allowing your cat to break free if his collar hooks on something. The elastic band collar will insure pretty much the same thing, except that in stead of the collar opening, it expands to let your cat's head slide out.

*Note: Little Basil was wearing a safety release collar, which did not unclip despite the hard pulling. So things may well happen even if taking all the precautions. 

Safety release clip collars should release upon medium strenght pulling. This means not too easily, but without too much effort either.

- Fit the collar correctly

Insure that the collar is correctly fitted. This means it's tight enough so it doesn't get stuck in branches or other things, and loose enough that it is comfortable for kitty. Rule of thumb: When the collar is tied, you must still be able to slide two fingers between the collar and your cat's neck.

- "Undress" kitty for the night

If your cats stay indoors overnight, consider removing their collars during that period of time. My cats are allowed outside, but in the evening, we close everything and the cats stay inside with us, where I know they are safe. I "undress" them in the evening, and I "dress" them again in the morning before letting them out again.

To conclude, I must say that the best way to avoid injuries due to collar wearing is to simply not put collars on your cats at all. The best way for identification is to get your cats microchipped. But if you're like me, you will probably want your cats to have their name tags on with contact number, even though they are actually microchipped. I may be a little overprotective. ;)

However, after the incident, my friend lost trust in collars and chose to remove them from around the necks of her cats. Maybe we should all learn from her experience.

I hope this was helpful. :)

Disclaimer : I'm not a professional. I'm a life-long cat owner. (or cat slave... )


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Plant Needs Help

Last year, I got a small plant (Euonymus Fortui - Emerald gaity) and set it on the windowsill in my kitchen. (Facint north-west). It was doing fine for a long time and was even growing... But lately, it started looking very sad. :( It lost a lot of leaves and the leaves that are still hanging do not have the nice colors they should have.


I'm not that knowledgeable in how to take care of plants and how to fix these kind of problems, so I just went with what I thought might help. I noticed that its roots were coming out the bottom, which told me maybe it's feeling tight in its pot by now?


So I repotted it into a bigger home. Then, to give it more of a chance, I gave it a "haircut" by trimming naked stems down and trimming the biggest stem so that energy would go more equally around the plant, if that makes any sense?


I'm looking forward to seeing if this helped at all. However, I can say that this was 2 days ago, and today I already see beginning of new leaves on the tip of the stems I cut down! Hopefully this is a good sign. :)

Any advice? Did I do the right thing? What should I do different next time? 

Good luck little plant. :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Hint of Spring

It has been such a beautiful day today! The sun was shining and there was a hint of Spring in the air. I just love when the temperatures warm up again after winter. It makes my heart glow. :)

With all that sunshine and happiness, I let my steps guide me towards the woods, where I looked for a few nature treasures for a project idea I have in mind. There's not that much one can gather from the woods at this time of year, but when looking closely, I still found what I was looking for. 


The long birch branches were actually gathered in my backyard, as part of the lawn is always covered with them at Spring. The smaller items were found in a wooden area near my house. 

Can you think of anything you would do with these little gifts from nature?

On my way back, I got to watch a few ducks that rather seemed to be in a hurry. Are they building their nest at this time of year or is it too early I wonder...


I hope your day was as good as mine! :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Oatmeal Cookies



Mmmmmm oatmeal cookies. This is a recipe I got from a friend of mine about 20 years ago. It is simple to make, tastes good, can be modified easily and is fun to bake with children!

You will need:

1/2 cup - (110 g) softened butter
1/2 cup (100 g) - sugar
1/4 cup (55g) - brown sugar
1 ts - vanilla sugar or vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup - (130 g) whole grain flour
1/2 ts - baking soda
1/2 ts - salt
1 cup - (90 g) Rolled oats

Mix together the butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and egg. 


Incorporate the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix to obtain an even texture.


Add the oats. Here, I added more oats than the recipe requires.


The dough must stick together without sticking too much to the fingers.
Place lumps / balls of dough on a cookie pan. Flatten to obtain cookie shapes/thickness.
You should end up with 18 to 24 cookies.
(In this case, I had to cook it in two batches)


Place in the oven at 175 C. (350 F) with convection for 9 minutes.

And VoilĂ ! Enjoy your freshly baked oat cookies! :)

Notes:

- I like to reduce the sugar quantities by half and up the oats quantity. I add oats until the dough is quite solid and reacts as mentioned above: It sticks together, but not too much to the fingers.

- You can easily add raisins, cranberries, chopped nuts or even chocolate chips / chunks to the dough to vary the taste and nutritional values.




Saturday, February 18, 2012

New House Plants

I really like to have plants in the house. Unfortunately, I'm not exactly the best at keeping them alive. :( I try a lot, tho, and hopefully I am learning something with each plant that suffers my poor plant caring skills.

In any case, I am not giving up! I have a few plants that are doing quite well, so this gives me hope and drive to keep trying to learn how to have healthy happy plants in my house.

Today, I had a lovely visit to the garden center. The weather might have been quite yucky with the rain, but it felt like Spring in my heart! I bought myself 4 new plants. I find they bring life into a home and make the place feel happy and healthy... when they live, that is. *sigh*

A small ficus tree,
A small umbrella plant,
A very pretty wandering jew, 
And what I believe to be a jade plant. (I may be mistaken)


Now I must find the perfect spot in the house for each of them, and hope that my thumbs got a little bit greener with time.

Any information, tip / advice on each of these plants are extremely welcome!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tree of Life

I always liked trees very much, and they often appear in my creations. I find them beautiful, peaceful and inspiring. Sometimes, I enjoy drawing or painting trees by themselves. Other times, I like giving a different meaning to the tree and its branches, by mixing other components in the picture.

This is a digital drawing/painting i made with a painting software called MyPaint, using a wacom bamboo drawing tablet. Here, the tree and its branches are holding and protecting Life. The composition is most probably (and quite obviously) influenced by my deep desire to have children. 
To me, in this image, the tree represents safety, the foetus represents life and hope and the butterfly represents growth, maturity and freedom. 


What does this creation invoke in you?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My little Tiana

As mentioned in my post titled "Kashew's early years", I visited Kashew often during her stay at the vet clinic in 2005. During one of those visits, I was presented to a little grey / cream girl-kitten who was in search of a forever home. The vet team knew that I was looking for a second cat to complete my fur-family. I was taken to the adoption room and there, in a cage, was a little 2 month old gray/cream cat looking up at me with what would seem to humans as a "will you be my mommy?" look. I crouched down to take a better look, and as soon as I started talking to her, the kitten meowed and put a paw up against the cage door. My heart melted. I asked to see her out of the cage. 
I picked her up, caressed her, cuddled her.... And of course, there was no way I could put her back in a cage after that!

This is a picture of Tiana the day we adopted her



It was really hard to take her home while my little orange furball (Kashew) was still confined to the clinic. :( But there was nothing I could do about that just yet. 

So although Kashew was adopted first, Tiana made it home before her. She was a healthy, playful, affectionate and mischievous kitten, who was loved and spoiled from day one. :) 

Today, Tiana is a calm, easy-going, affectionate lady cat of nearly 7 yo. She has a lot to say and expresses herself in a wide range of meows, mrows, mews, bruus and meooowbruuus. It's quite easy to converse with her. :) She enjoys being around or on us and she has a passion for long strings and massages in the sun. She loves to "help" mommy change the bed linen or fold freshly clean clothes. Tiana also enjoys eating - especially if there's tuna on the menu! 

This is our sweet Tiana today with her sister Kashew



More stories about Tiana and Kashew in the near future... :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My first watercolors

I like to try nearly everything that is related to arts and crafts. Some things I try once or twice, and then let go... and some other things I take up again every now and then. The mediums that came back the most often for me are probably acrylics, drawing pencils and polymer clay.

However, watercolors also recently entered my life, and I tend to believe it will remain in my favorite box for a good while, along with the 3 I mentionned above.

I, of course, heard about watercolors before, but for some reason always stayed away from them. I was never that attracted to the results I saw, and it seemed rather difficult to manage and control. I like vibrant, slightly unrealistic colors, for one thing, and watercolors didn't seem to allow this sort of color expression.

I was wrong.

I decided to explore the medium a few months ago and though I felt very clumsy with it, I was surprised to find out that I actually liked the feel of it. I tried a few techniques and I liked the way colors mix together and the role water plays in the creation. I discovered a whole new way to put my abstracts together.

And then I was lucky. I received a watercolor kit as present (thanks mom and dad!), and I only very recently got to try it. Here are my two first "real" creations with watercolors.

This one with the trees started as an abstract background.  I was experimenting with mixing and using water to play with the colors on paper. The lines and shapes it created made me think of trees... so I continued from there. I do often use vibrant colors in my creations. I find it gives them a hint of fantasy and a tone of deep happiness and warmth.



This next one was also an exploration of colors and water mixing directly on paper. The abstract result reminds me of a dense forest leading to a source of light, or opening into a warmer place.


What do you see in this abstract watercolor painting?

:)


Monday, February 13, 2012

Kashew's early life

In 2005, while we were still living in Canada, my husband and I adopted two adorable (I may be biased!) cats: Kashew and Tiana.

Kashew was the first to enter our lives. She was found wandering alone on a campground, at about 3 weeks old. She was crying and shivering, and seriously underweight. Our vet clinic at the time took her in and bottle fed her, day and night, weekdays and weekends.

I had a good contact with the staff, and they knew I was looking into adopting two kittens. One day, I walked in the clinic to get some special cat food for my mother's cat. The woman at the front desk greeted me, and then took this tiny bundle of fur and put it on the desk in front of me, saying "We've got this little furball, if you are interested".



I looked at the fierce little kitten. Picked it up, listened and watched it as it meowed and squirmed like a baby lion in danger. I looked at its fur. Orange... not yellow, not ginger... no.... orange. A beautiful, flaming orange. The kittens eyes were still a little sick from infection that was being treated. And it meowed, and yelled and squirmed... I put it down again. I will say with honesty, this wasn't love at first sight. Sure it was cute, and I also do love kittens from the moment I look at them... but this was not "my kitten". I always liked the mellow, easy going kind of cats... plus, I do prefer having female cats around, as they tend to be cleaner and less territorial. I was living in apartment, after all! Yellow / ginger / orange cats are most often male.

"Cute but fierce little guy" I said. Thank you. I'll think about it. I must talk to my partner first.

"It's a she", answered the woman.

"A she? are you sure?"

"Yes, I assure you... this is a little girl"

I picked up the little lion cub. Yes, I looked for myself. And yes, it was indeed a little girl.

On that moment, I thought... This means something. This cat is special. I asked for her story, where she came from, how healthy she was, or how healthy did they think she would be.
My heart melted. This little one fought for her life, got a staff to help her make it. Was still not out of the wood, and here I was, judging her solely by what I thought was her gender, and by her reaction to a total human stranger.
This tiny (she really was tiny) kitten needed the love and care of a family, and I wanted us to be that family.

And so we adopted the little furball. But it was only a month after my first contact with her that I was allowed to take her home. She needed to be over 1 lbs. At 2 months old, she weighed 1,2 lbs (still 0.8 lbs under ideal kitten weight at that age)

During the month waiting, I visited her at the clinic very often. She was My kitten, and I felt very protective of her. She got used to me and became much more affectionate.
Today, Kashew is a very healthy, spoiled, loved, furry and affectionate nearly-7 years old lady cat. As for her personality? Well, let's just say I was right. She IS a special cat! But that will be for another post.






Sunday, February 12, 2012

Learning the ropes

This is the first time I seriously try to put a blog together. I managed to give it a look which I find satisfying. I am hoping to make it a place of peace and inspiration, where I will feel free to express my thoughts and feelings on various things that strike my interest and/or represent me and my life.

But I'm still learning the ropes and some technical things still need to get in place. Here's an attempt at posting a picture within an entry.

Test subject: Nearly random (and fairly boring) picture of the interior of our garden shed. Oooh how I'm looking forward to Spring!


I will most likely come up with more interesting pictures in the near future. But hey... a test is test. ;)

Update: And it seems like it worked... Yip yip hurray!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Green

Green is the accent color in my bathroom. A nice, bright lime/apple green. Green is also what covers the walls of my living room. A relaxing, pale and creamy moss green.

Green reminds me of nature... Green is a peaceful color. Not that nature is always that peaceful, mind you.

"The word green is closely related to the Old English verb growan, "to grow". (wiki)

I like to think that I grow a little each day. Life is a journey through which one learns every single day from birth to death. Physical growth may halt, but knowledge and experience will grow to the day one turns their last page and closes their eyes for the last time.

To me, green is the color of hope. I hope for a lot of things. I have huge hopes for little things, and little hope for huge things. Go figure... but I also have deep hope for deep things; things that mean the world to me. Hope is the last thing that dies out in a person's dream.

Life is of many colors... but perhaps even more importantly, life is of many shades. Happy is not just happy. Happy can be a little happy, or a lot happy. It can be genuine, or a tactic to cover another color - sad, for instance, which is also of many shades...

You get the point.

I like green. Every shade of it. 

I'm not much of a writer. Well, I actually can be, but I'm also a very talented "select-all and delete" person. I second guess my thoughts and end up keeping my writings well protected in a corner of my heart. 

I shall attempt to reconnect with my inner journal and print it out here on these pages.