Friday, November 29, 2013

Haiku My Heart: Black Friday

Convincing people
Time is running out to buy
Things they don't really need?

Little Jenn Goes Shopping, December 1936
Hulton/Getty Images
Haiku My Heart hosted by Recuerda Mi Corazon.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Farewell 51

So long, 51, you were an amazing year!

Time to say hello to the ripe old age of 52 and look forward to the next year of excitement!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Working The Toy Drive

Today our company did some volunteer work at the CP24 CHUM Christmas Wish, an organization that collects toys from various individual and corporate donors and distributes them to various charities in the Greater Toronto area.  We had two groups of volunteers, about a dozen who attended in the morning and 5 of us who took the afternoon shift (we were joined by volunteers from other companies and some high school students, for a total of about 20).  
L to R: me, Harvinder, Bal and Sean (absent: Toni)
As I was leaving the office, I had joked with my boss that I was going to play with the toys.  As it happens, that's almost what we got to do!  We were given a piece of paper with the sex, age group and number of toys to be chosen (i.e. boys, age 9, 10 toys) and we went in pairs to where the toys had been sorted by age and sex and got to pick out the designated number of items.  We were told not to rush the process and just pick the first toy we laid eyes on but rather to give some thought as to what a child of that age might enjoy and choose accordingly.  In addition to individual gifts, we were also to add a number of board games to the bag, one game for every 3 or 4 kids.
Feeling like a kid again with all these toys!
We were advised what local organization would be receiving the toys (many of whom I had never heard of) and whether or not they had any restrictions on the type of toys - for example, some groups didn't want any toy guns, other groups of a more religious nature didn't want toys that involved witchcraft, magic or vampires.  We were also asked to focus more on "playability" (how much enjoyment the kid might get from playing with the toy and for how long), rather than worry about how much each toy might be worth.

My colleague Sean and I had fun with our first assignment, picking toys for boys aged 4, 5 and 6.  There were boxes and boxes of toys for this age group for both boys and girls and lots of board games to choose from.  We often picked toys that we had enjoyed or had coveted when we were growing up - the classics like Mr. Potato Head, Trouble, the game of LIFE (somehow I always ended up with about 12 kids whenever I played that game, always had to drive 2 cars around the board!), Battleship...
More than enough for 3-5 year olds
The pickings were a little slimmer for the 6-9 age groups for both boys and girls as well as 0 to 3 year olds.  We had to "shop" for each of these groups and that took a little longer but eventually, we found enough toys or were able to combine smaller items for more impact.

I was saddened to see that the boxes for the older kids were practically empty.
Empty boxes for the older kids :(
Kids 10 and up seem to be the forgotten ones, although there were a few items for the tweens and there were a number of books available that might be suitable (I noticed several copies of The Hunger Games books on hand, which I'm sure will be appreciated).

When you are out and about shopping for your loved ones this holiday season, I urge you to consider buying a toy or two for a needy older child (the toddlers could use some toys as well but at least they're young enough not to care if the toy they receive isn't too exciting, most of them would be just as happy playing with a cardboard box!)  But for the older kids, maybe they've already stopped believing in Santa Claus by the time they reach 9 or 10 but that doesn't mean they should be left out of the joy of receiving something special at Christmas time.  Suggestions from the CP24 Chum Christmas Wish website include:

- Gift cards (Zellers/HBC, Wal-Mart, HMV, Cineplex, Gap, Stitches, Chapters, Coles, Old Navy, Garage, Blue Notes, La Senza, etc.)
•    Electronic games, board games, books
•    Sports equipment (soccer, basketball, football, hockey, skateboards, scooters, etc.)
•    Roller blades, ice skates, snow boards
•    Bicycle helmets
•    Cosmetics (age appropriate: 16 – 18 years old)
•    Personal care and grooming gift packs
•    Hair products and accessories (curling irons, blow dryers, shavers, beard groomers, etc.)
•    Diaries, journals  
•    Creative and craft supplies
•    Purses, knapsacks/backpacks
•    Cameras with film and processing paid
•    Movies, music, and clock radios

If you have a child that age you're shopping for, please consider buying two of something they might enjoy and donating one of them. Every kid should feel special at this time of year, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Early Mornings in San Miguel

These chilly November mornings I shiver through as I make my way to the office are a stark contrast to the mornings I enjoyed during my visit to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico a month ago.

Most mornings, I got up early and went out to explore the town with my camera for an hour or so before breakfast, sometimes alone, sometimes with one or two of my fellow artists.  Bonnie took this picture of me taking a photo one morning as she and I made our way down one street (it was a slow process, we stopped every couple of feet to take yet another photo!):
I took this one of her photographing the cute little metal frogs on the door and windows of a house.

I liked going out at this time of day, the light was good for taking pictures and it was a chance to see parts of the town before things got too crowded (the closer it got to the Dead of the Dead, the busier the city became as tourists and locals alike came out to join in the celebrations).  There was just so much to see!

It was also how I discovered why there wasn't much debris for me to pick up on the streets during the day to add to my art journal.  It's because people like these ladies were hired to clean the streets with their straw brooms early in the morning before most of the tourists were out and about.

It was also a chance to see the children being taken to school.  There were two schools in our immediate area and classes began at 8 a.m.  The streets nearby were busy with families walking together or cars dropping off kids.

Being out and about at that time of day, I also saw this woman setting up on the street to serve hot food to passersby.  I think it's the Mexican equivalent of stopping at Starbucks or Tim Hortons for a morning coffee and a breakfast sandwich.

These ladies were selling bread in the shape of little people but I think that was part of the holiday tradition surrounding the Day of the Dead festivities.

Deliveries were made while it was still early enough that a parked truck wouldn't clog the street.

Fresh food was dropped off to local restaurants or picked up from bakeries.

One morning, I had stopped in a little park in front of a local church to watch a pigeon having a bath in a fountain.

I noticed a father and son sit down on a park bench near me so the father could do up the child's shoes. While the father had his head down, the boy was watching the same pigeon I was.  He laughed and laughed, while the father remained oblivious to the pigeon's antics (they weren't even shoelaces, they were velcro!)  I kept taking pictures of the pigeon and snapped a few of the boy laughing.

It was a shared moment of simple pleasure for both of us.

I'll bet he would have laughed even harder if he'd known one of those pigeons had pooped on my head one early morning just a few days before! ;)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Only A Month Away

As my sister gleefully pointed out on Facebook today, you know what is only a month away. 

Of course, the U.S. still has to get their turkey day over and done with first. More importantly, yours truly has a birthday to celebrate in just a few more sleeps. Then we can get down to worrying about which list Santa has us on this year. 

In the meantime, the shopping mall downtown appears to have been invaded by a large Godzilla-like reindeer. 

I was going to take a picture from the other end (because it's right there, larger than life just above your head when you walk into the mall!) but I figured that would put me on the naughty list for sure!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Farewell, Kym

I was saddened to hear today that an artist friend had passed away suddenly this past week, as a result of an aneurysm that occurred during surgery required after having suffered a stroke two weeks ago.

I first met Kym Stromberg a couple of years ago at Journalfest, an art retreat organized by Teesha Moore and Tracy Moore.  She was a talented artist and a very kind, lovely person.

This link leads to an interview with Kym that appeared on Violette Clark's blog back in August of this year.

Here's a picture of Kym and I together at PLAY, another art retreat held in January, 2012. As you can see, we both are wearing matching scarves, made by Liesel Lund that we had bought at Journalfest a few months before.

Rest in peace, Kym, we'll miss you.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Haiku My Heart: November 22, 1963

Fifty years now since
That fateful day in Dallas
That changed everything.

John F. Kennedy is shown. | Reuters
Photo: Reuters

For my generation, it is the tragic events of 9/11/01 but for my parents' generation, it was 11/22/63 - this November day, fifty years ago, that became their "where were you?" defining moment.

I don't remember John F. Kennedy's assignation in 1963.  I was just six days shy of my 2nd birthday when it happened.  I've heard my parents talk about that day several times since then, how they didn't own a TV at the time and spent several days watching the news coverage across the street at a neighbour's house.  It's hard to imagine those simpler times, before this advanced technological age when reams of information, whether true or not, is available instantaneously just by typing a few words into your keyboard.  Back then, there was a black and white TV screen with the latest report being handed to the on air presenter on a piece of paper, as happened with Walter Cronkite's famous delivery of the shocking news of the shooting and death of the President, the moment that ended that magical time known as Camelot.

We're still feeling the shock waves of that terrible day all these years later, like ripples that continue to travel across the water long after the stone has dropped to the bottom of the pond.  Still asking each other, "who did it?", "why did they do it?", "how could it have happened?", "when will it happen again?" and "where were you when it happened?"

Haiku My Heart hosted by recuerda mi corazon.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My New Typewriter

I went back to the thrift store today and got the typewriter. 

I went in and looked at it again. Realized that it had the type of keys that last night's online research suggested would not be easy to remove. Decided I wouldn't buy it and left the store. 
Had lunch nearby and thought about it while I ate. Realized I liked the typewriter just the way it is, even if I couldn't remove the keys, and that I was unlikely to find another one at an antique market for such a reasonable price, decided to go back and get it. 

The woman at the cash desk went crazy when she saw it. Called 2 other people over to look at it, one another staff person, one a random customer. They exclaimed over it as well. All of them told me I mustn't clean it up or try to fix it, I must leave it just the way it is. 

Knew I had made the right choice. :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Left Behind

I popped into a local thrift shop today on my lunch hour.  You never know what you're going to find on any given day, but today there was an extra special treasure trove to be found. 

Like this vintage cooler for only $6.99.

I pulled it off the shelf, thinking it was a picnic basket, the type that normally sells for $15 to $20 at the antique markets, but it was larger and heavier. As a result of the special liner inside, no doubt, which was very clean and in good condition. I think the liner could have been removed if one so desired, it appeared to be held on place by just a couple of screws but I decided not to get it. 

Then I noticed this rusty old typewriter. It was love at first sight. 

But the practical voice in my head wondered what I would do with it, since the carriage didn't move and the keys were jammed. It would just be a display piece (unless I removed the keys and used them for jewelry or embellishments). I reluctantly moved on. 

Only a few feet away, two dressers. 

Not too exciting as is but I loved the little drawers on the side. These dressers  would no doubt be quite lovely looking with a coat or two of an antique white paint. Or perhaps a pretty blue or green or grey.  Country Living magazine has several excellent examples of just such a transformation on their website. And it was only $14.99 for the pair! But they were bulky and I didn't know where in my apartment I'd put them, unless I were to get rid of my existing dressers, so I didn't them either. 

I didn't leave empty handed though. I picked up this very cool ruler, with a metal side and a longer, heavy plastic side. 

It even has a levelling bubble on the one arm.   I'm sure that will come in handy from time to time. 

Nevertheless, I find that tonight, I'm still thinking of those treasures that I left behind...wondering if they might still be there tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Special Place

During my recent trip to Mexico, after our group's visit to Anado McLauchlin's colourful home (as I described here and here), we made one more stop before heading back to Casa Carmen for lunch.  We went to see San Miguel Viejo, the oldest church in San Miguel de Allende.

It's a little bit off the beaten path, a mile or two outside of the city proper.  It was built around 1542 and currently sits next to a corn field at the end of a bumpy road, it's nearest neighbours the inhabitants of a small and rather impoverished looking collection of rundown buildings that might loosely be described as a village that we drove past on our way to the church.

The stone building features an elaborately carved front

and a pretty in pink bell tower.

The carved stonework was quite interesting.

I didn't take note of the subject of this statue but he seemed to happy to see us.

The building itself was locked but we walked all around and took turns posing for each other in front of the picturesque stone wall that surrounds it.
Jeanne and Alexis

A Mexican cowboy rode by while we were there, taking two horses to an unknown destination.

The surrounding view was quite spectacular.

We stood around afterwards, in no particular hurry to get back on our little bus and head back home, just enjoying being together on a warm, sunny day.

The feeling of peace and tranquility that surrounds this small and rather unassuming, pretty pink building was palpable and only served to enhance our enjoyment of each other and our surroundings.
Jeanne, Kathie, Alexis and me
(Photo by Paula Fava)