Announcing a new drawing challenge: The Key

Hi everybody,

I’d like to call a new drawing challenge: THE KEY

I was looking thru some old work the other day, and came across a book I wrote and illustrated which I called “The Uncomplicated Life of Joan Wood”

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This is a collaged book of drawings, ephemera, poetry and music (which one imagines would play in the background of each segment of Joan’s life.)

Joan Wood

But the key to this book are 9 letters, which I found in a box of letters at a flea market. There is one letter written by a nine yr old Joan from holidays at the sea to her aunt and uncle. The rest of the letters are written to Joan, by a headmaster of a school, by Joan’s friends, by suitors, and by a fiance. Slowly, using these letters as the key, I reconstructed Joan’s remarkable and somewhat heartbreaking life, and, as the letters stopped, I made up the rest.

It’s a slow book…that is…you have to read it slowly and methodically. Pull each letter from the envelope, read the content, read the poetry, look at the images, imagine the songs playing in the background, take it page by page. It’s the key to a good, lazy Sunday morning in bed.

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Tell us. Do you have a key? Is there something key to your art? Did you…like me…spend an hour searching for your keys (cabin) only to find them right in the place you decided to keep years ago so you wouldn’t search for them every time (yeah, what are we like?)

Say yes, and unlock a lovely bit of art, writing, photography…anything for us. :D

As usual, my post will come up on Friday, I’ll link everyone in, and we’ll go have a visit over the weekend. :D

Opening up the cabin 2015

It’s time.
It’s time to open the cabin for the year. All winter the cabin sits in a frozen valley 200km from the door of my city house. It’s still chilly up there, but the promise of spring is in the air.
I took a lot of photos, and it’s probably going to be quite boring for all of you who’ve seen the cabin before, but, you know what, mostly I write these posts with Robbie in my heart, (because right now we’re apart.)

So here we go, for Robbie, but also, most definitely, for you! :D

Driving in, there was a small, dead birch across the access road. I moved it off to the side.

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Outside the cabin Clover’s and Kers’ bespoke wind chime is still hanging up. They built it from the scrap iron they found along the railroad tracks, which are only about 100 ft behind the cabin.


The lake, (which is actually a pond, but the previous owner and all the neighbours always referred to it as “The Lake”) has filled up already.

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And the cabin is still standing after the winter!

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I lit a fire to warm the cabin up and invite in the new year.

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Then, a quick check: Kitchen’s fine.

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No mouse droppings on the stoves or counters! A year ago Robbie and I went all over the place sealing up any little hole that a mouse might pop thru, and guess what Robbie, we did a great job!

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Dining area, living room all fine too. I didn’t take the shutters off the bottom windows.

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Fireplace working brilliantly, we’ll need to chop some more wood this year though.
Up the stairs to the sleeping loft…


…everything’s just fine. No mice, clean linens, fluffy, warm duvets.

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The games are all waiting to be played with.

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It’s lovely to look thru the contents of the vintage medicine cabinet. A photo of my grandfather camping, my aunt’s silly doll from her studio, silver ore, a dried bat, a hummingbird skeleton, dragonfly wings, hand painted Easter eggs, C’s silver baby rattle, love all these treasures.

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Nothing is the worse for winter, nothing got knocked down by the vibrations of the passing trains.

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Everyone is fine…if a little cobwebby.

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On the property, the tool shed is fine. I think some mice snuck in under the door, but, since it’s such a mess there anyway, nothing bad going on.

Odds and Ends, the heritage train workers trailer guest cabin, will need a new roof and the metal chimney toppled off. Must do that this year before something happens to the interior.

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A beaver’s been thru and there are about 10 small trees…

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…and one rather big tree down. There’s our firewood, right there!

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And I think you’re right Robbie, some of the trees need to come down. Perhaps I’ll talk it over with Jon, Kers and Clove and talk to Billy Jr and ask him to harvest that great big cedar right behind the cabin…maybe the one by the side door too. And the blue spruces in the meadow need to be trimmed up, and maybe some of the alders need thinning out too so we can see the meadow and the river from the cabin.

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Apart form that, the porches need rebuilding and the broken window need replacing. (Darn Canada goose)

So that’s on the project list this year: Thinned trees, one small roof, one wrap around porch, and a window.

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But guess what happened as I was locking up and leaving? I got the feeling that I was being watched!

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From up high by the window of the loft. Who’s that? Could it be a great horned owl?

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It is!

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Who is the luckiest girl in the world! That would be me. Who else do you know who has a great horned owl as the guardian of their cabin? :D I need to paint him, don’t I?

Pollinators, Tammie’s drawing challenge

I was really excited when I got Tammie’s email saying she’s called a drawing challenge. And, how perfect for spring! :D Thank you so much sweetie, I love the DCs.

It’s been a while since I mucked about with my oils, and, since the tulips are blooming in the garden, I decided to paint one.


But the tulips blooming right now are early, single hybrids, and my favourite, and the most fun to paint, are parrot tulips…you know, the ones with the frilly, multicoloured petals which twist and turn in impossible ways. And, since my parrots are still in tight bud, I got out my photos of last year’s garden parrots and used those as reference.

Painting with oils, at least the way I do it, takes a couple/three/four days per painting, (there’s sort of a fine line of drying time that you get to know when you paint with oils for a while), because the oils end up being too wet and slippery after the first layer, and need a day or two to dry a little so a second layer blends in without taking off the first layer or blending everything into mud.

So I chose a canvas, and painted a first layer of oils on Tuesday.

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And then Wednesday, my painting was still too wet and so I painted a second canvas…oh yes!

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Yesterday and today I overpainted a second layer, blended it into both the paintings and refined them to where I like them.

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And there we are, two parrot tulips in full open glory, spreading out their stamens and black pollen, inviting all the pollinators in. (They look rather tarty up there with Frida, don’t they? Like wild girls in flamenco skirts…the big flirts)

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Come fly over to Tammie’s for some more lovely pollen action. :D

Randomness to the max

The other day I bought a lovely basket at the thrift for something ridiculous like $1.99. I imagined all the wonderful picnics I could serve from it, all the stuff in my car I could organise in it, how lovely it would look in the laundry room…Morgan had other thoughts. It now lives under the kitchen table and has a slight smattering of catnip in it…lol.

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With lovely spring flowers appearing in my garden, I’m feeling more like spring cleaning and spring decorating. Fresh green mantle and decluttered, clean house, here we come!


A generous new friend, Mona, sent me a small envelope of indigo seeds from Denmark. She included a tiny bow dyed with the precious blue dye. I’ve started the seeds and hopefully, come autumn, we’ll be trying out the deepest, richest, bluest dye ever seen!!!

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Speaking of garden, I’m excited to say that I’m making home-grown garden lettuce salads for lunch already.

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And finally, my friend Sara sent me such a beautiful and generous surprise. I can hardly believe it! In a huge box full of packing peanuts were two precious and beautiful tea cups, (which have already been put to proper service), a spectacular glass paper weight, and a guardian angel! The most beautiful, porcelain guardian angel in the gentlest Victorian dress, with white feather wings, pearls and lace. No one has ever given me a guardian angel. I’m so touched Sara. I’m feeling absolutely weepy writing this. Thank you so very much. The angel will be called Sara, and will look after us from now on. Biggest hugs and kisses, and one day in person!

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Sharing with Nancy and hanging out with the random bunch over there. :D

As the sun sets on our holiday…

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…and I have to say goodbye to Puerta Vallarta, I will take another Mexican late March holiday and keep it safe in my heart. We have been spoiled to the max with the warmest ocean, the yummiest foods, the sweetest piña coladas and C’s new discovery: Miami Vice: 1/2 strawberry daiquiri, 1/2 piña colada! :D

We’ve enjoyed our fellow holidayers and had some lovely conversations with what we hope will turn out to be new friends.

We’ve shopped till we dropped and bought a little something for everyone.

I’ve drawn in my travel sketchbook, made beaded bracelets, walked all over the little, hilly streets and peeked into the courtyards. I’ve loved seeing a golden tan and freckles develop across my child’s nose, and dragged her into the ocean laughing and screaming with joy. (Evidence in her latest video up soon…I’ll link as soon as it’s ready.)

Here it is!

Goodbye Mexico and thank you once again for the frigatebirds and pelicans, the bougainvillea and plumeria, for the salty ocean, the fresh sea air, the warm days and the fragrant humid nights. X

Resort life

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What lovely days we are having. Some of us still have to do some work while on holidays, but the work is minimal and there’s plenty of time for resort life. Here the time sort of runs together in a long, uninterrupted line of bliss and sunshine. There’s so much food that we hardly register a hunger for a meal, so much entertainment that hours pass by in increments of beach volleyball, arts and crafts, water aerobics, walks, swims, shopping, and suddenly it’s evening.

I know that to a lot of you, birds like brown pelicans and egrets and frigatebirds and Brewer’s blackbirds are common, but to me they’re exotic and spectacular to the max and I can’t get enough of them. (If only you knew how many photos I’ve taken but spared you from.)

And the lovely people around us. Sunny, smiling faces. We’re loving every minute. :D

Street art

You may have noticed that, in my bedroom, there is a collection of paintings from my travels and beyond.

I do tend to go out of my way to collect art as a memory of the places I’ve lived, visited or love. Possibly not very valuable art, (example: a painting of the Laurentians I bought at a marchés aux puces when, we lived in Montreal every July, for about $10), but meaningful art and art which I love to wake up to and see.

When I visit a city, I always search out the street art. Street art feels like the heartbeat of the people. I love graffiti. I love seeing how people decorate their homes.

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I love that people open little pop-up art galleries in small hole-in-the-wall shops.

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Love street performers.

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And I love the cultural significance of the art in any city, especially here with the much revered Day of the Dead celebrations.

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But the kind of art that gets to my heart the most, are the paintings on the makeshift easels that people stick in rows and groups on the sidewalk. In so many ways this art is so much better than any painting in any high-brow gallery, and I’m always amazed at the affordable prices. (I know and have an appreciation of how much work, talent, and cost of material goes into each painting, let alone the hours spent in class and studio sweat learning.)

And I know that I can most likely paint myself anything I like, anything at all, but that’s not really the point here, because, even if I did, I’d miss the spirit and the essence of what other artists can bring to a piece of their art. I could no more capture their passion as their hours of experience and studio sweat. And, I appreciate that.


Each time I’m here in Puerto Vallarta, I search out a very special artist and buy one of his paintings. He is Xaime Ximenez. He doesn’t have the use of his arms and paints with the paintbrush in his mouth. Last year, C and I picked out the painting together, and this year C fell in love with this one the minute she spotted it, Mujer Y la Mar, (woman and the sea), and so she chose it for us.

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I’m humbled by his bravely and talent.

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But, as you may have failed to notice…lol…we’ve been on a bit of a Frida Kahlo kick lately.

And so, when we came across Rudy, we fell in love with his Frida portraits and with his knowledge and his passion for this Mexican icon.

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Chloe fell in love with this painting and wanted to buy it right away, on the first day, but I fell in love with one Rudy was painting earlier in the week, and so we decided to wait for the second painting to be finished and go look at them both to decide which one we should add to our collection.

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As it turns out, we couldn’t be without either one, and so we are adding these two Frida portraits to our world.

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Aren’t we the luckiest girls? :D

And here’s Chloe’s third video all ready for you. Don’t you love it? I do. :D

Puerto Vallarta, above the tourist centre

This afternoon, we walked along the Malacon; the mile long boardwalk, the tourist centre of shop keepers calling out to us, “hey pretty lady, tequila time, your boyfriend won’t mind, hey, where you from, come here, almost free…” ad infinitum. (groan)

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Small wonder then that we decided to turn to our left, up the small streets, up the stairs, up to the top of Puerto Vallarta, away form the sellers and tourists, to the very top till we couldn’t climb any more. We came to see what we could see.

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We were on the same level as the crown of the Our Lady of Guadalupe church.

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The top of the hill and the only things above us were the roofs, the tulip trees and the blue sky.

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Around us are ancient doors…

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Tiny streets…


And backyard papaya trees.

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Doorstep house cats,

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And seed throwing squirrels.

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That’s the seed pod he chucked at us…lol…he missed :D

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We took a good hour mooching around the little streets.

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We admired the beautiful doors.

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We were sorely tempted to trespass and run across the little bridges.

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But, in the end, we took in the sights…

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…and walked back down to the river…

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…and followed it down to the sea.

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I’ll link Chloe’s brilliant video of today as soon as she’s uploaded it to YouTube. Writing blog posts is a lot faster than editing videos. :D

Here it is!

Viva La Vida, sandias


Overcast day, so a little trip into town. A little walk down the El Malacon boardwalk.

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With Chloe’s new GoPro Hero 4 Black! Oh she’s so excited to the max.

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Me, I’m into the magnificent frigatebirds. I love how they hang out on the statues and roof tops here.

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C’s into her GoPro, but just wait, she’s editing a wonderful little movie right now. Hopefully she’ll upload it and I’ll link it for you. :D

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Oh, I’m also into the pelicans.

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And picking plumeria blossoms for my hair. And feeling very Frida Kahlo-esque
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And the bright, beautiful colours of Mexico.

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It’s easy to be happy here and enjoy life. Viva la vida!


And viva la never ending supply of limes for the Coronas.

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And the watermelons? The sandias? Oh yeah, love those too! :D

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Here we go: Chloe’s post

Plus her youtube for her charming video:

Viva la vida Kahlo

Ola from Sunday night, which suddenly turned into a Monday morning

There’s something to be said about bringing the weather with us.

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But we Vancouverites, what do we care about the rain! We don’t ever bother with an umbrella in a good old West Coast downpour… so a tropical storm? It’s just March lioning it.

And then there’s that sky!

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evening rain

And that tropical Pacific.

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This evening I walked in the warm, wet sand, and let the surf splash up my legs. I watched dolphins playing and pelicans floating, and small birds darting among the palms, until the last of the light was gone.

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And then, exhausted from two extremely shorts nights and hours of travel, I slept, and slept, and slept thru the warm and humid Mexican night. :D