Friday, January 12, 2018
A repugnant fellow has decided to move into our neighbourhood and having made his presence known in his typical style he's become not just an unpopular addition but most definitely an unwelcome one. You too have met his kind before, I'm sure — brazenly roaming where he pleases as if he has every right to be there. He's short on personality, a black-and-white sort of critter. And if all of that isn't bad enough, he stinks to high heaven.
It was a bitterly cold dusk a few days ago when we first became aware there was a skunk in our midst. Standing at the back door, my husband was surprised when the nasty little interloper came walking up to him, turned and meandered across the deck past our patio doors. After a brief reconnaissance, he wended his way back around from whence he came before waddling up the sidewalk to the road. The whole time with an insouciant air that suggested he believed he was right where he belonged.
It's not that I don't love and appreciate wildlife. Assuredly I am awed by their beauty and majesty. Watching a hawk soar above a plowed field. Gazing at a gentle deer as it stands alert by a verdant woodland. Spying a coyote on a forest trail. A chipmunk darting to and fro, cheeks bulging as it stores up for a long cold winter. It is images such as they that are looked upon in wonder and humility.
However, when they wander into my territory, when they invade my home, I tend to be a little less impressed. Given that the regulations from our natural resources ministry indicate that live trapping and the removal of an animal more than one kilometre away from where it was caught is illegal, or that until we see our stinky friend out and about in daylight — an unnatural state thereby indicating illness — animal control won't deal with it either. So, it seems, I might be forced to learn to share my space, as undesirable as our guest might be.
Growing up it was rare to see wildlife, other than birds, squirrels, bunnies, and toads, frolicking in our neighbourhoods. But as urban centres continue to expand, moving ever closer to natural areas, skunks, raccoons, foxes, deer, bears et al are drawing near. They seek food from our gardens and composts, shelter beneath and inside our buildings. As they have adapted, I suppose so will we.
To that is the end of my musings. And so, if you made it to the end, here are those great clipart collections I promised you:
iCLIPART.com Wildlife Images
Clipart.com Wildlife Images
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
That's winter — perverse yet picture perfect, providing the perfect landscape for photographers and weather that no one wants to venture out in.
From autumn on, weather experts were promising us this year, a traditional, formidable Canadian winter, one of plunging temperatures and plenty of that fluffy white stuff blowing around. If the start of this new year has been any indication, it would seem that they have indeed nailed it.
From the moment this season made its official arrival, it has brought with it all of the things that make it the complex character it is — at times a bitter and obnoxious fiend, at others a lively and picturesque scamp. So far in 2018, stormy blasts and deep chills have shown that Old Man Winter wasn't going to waste any time delivering his worst. Having just recently come out of a deep freeze, with biting cold numbing us nose to toes, we awoke today to an overnight dumping of about a foot of snow.
Unquestionably, it could be said that winter is an acquired taste, one that I have little desire in savouring. From the first dip below 0°C or the initial snowflake sighting, I settle in for a period of semi-hibernation, venturing out of doors only as needs and life requires. Which helps me to ignore the bluster outside, but does admittedly put a bit of a crimp in at least one of my leisure pursuits.
As much as I like photographing all the examples of the beauty Mother Nature provides, it's generally a warm-weather hobby. Not for me are the cold temperatures and challenges of winter photography.
Certainly, there are winter patterns and landscapes that have caught my attention enough to force me out of my haven to grab a picture or two – the water from a dripping eave frozen in time on a branch, or the splendour of a glowing sunset over incandescent snow. But these are quick flashes.
I would fall under the 'have not' side of this. While I often joke about only having a two- degree comfort zone, I actually love the blaze of a summer sun, the muggy humidity of an August day. But being cold? That I hate. To my mind it's one of the most unpleasant conditions there is. Thus, when winter winds blow, you will find me snuggled indoors under a cozy afghan, not wandering the backwoods and fields looking for a great photo op.
Which makes the efforts and tenacity of those who will venture out in the ice and snow, slugging camera equipment and sitting patiently in frigid temperatures to get beautifully stunning pictures greatly appreciated. Jack Frost and Old Man Winter might be a nasty pair, but they clearly have an artistic side. Those photographing their work can achieve some remarkable results.
If you're the hardy type, ready to tackle the elements and photograph the beauty of this often harsh season, here are some links to some helpful tips and advice:
Outdoor Photographer's Tips for Winter Photography
Canadian Nature Photographer's The Joy of Winter Photography
Shooting Winter Landscapes With a Short Telephoto Lens
Amateur Photographer's Essential Photography Equipment for Winter
Winter Photography Tips Everyone Should Know
Friday, January 5, 2018
Like most mothers, the fixation with festive fare began well ahead of the actual parties with time spent preparing, baking and cooking. Our ovens got a workout as kitchens filled with the fragrances of homemade shortbread and gingerbread. The percussion of chopping and paring set the rhythm as appetizers and chafing dishes were made ahead for convenience when the busy days arrived.
For working women, all of the extra work can often prove stressful. It's not easy to try and meet the demands we put on ourselves. Our attempts at squeezing in more responsibilities between the already full hours of our lives can be challenging. Knowing that all of these tasks must be done is a lot of pressure. In order to cope, shortcuts might be found, most frequently in the form of convenience food purchased from retail outlets. Or, worse yet, some of the items on the list, quite simply don't happen.
The latter was exactly how I saw things working out this time. As I considered the jobs that needed to be accomplished, as I thought of them in terms of when they could be attacked between work hours and social commitments, I felt a momentary panic that the favourite dishes my family had come to expect from me during the holidays weren't all going to make it to our meals.
As a result, instead of letting the work own me, I remembered how much I enjoy preparing food for my family, and the fact that it always provided me with an equal amount of pleasure to watch them enjoy the dishes before them.
Of course, with the arrival of a brand new year, and the festivities all behind us, my efforts in the kitchen have been curtailed somewhat. Neither my husband nor I have any need for desserts and treats given that any little extras tend to stay with us in places we'd rather they didn't. As well, after so many heavy foods, it's time to consider healthier entrées, more salads, fewer carbs.
While I'm always (unfortunately) more interested in the preparation, and consuming, of comfort foods, I recognize that these are best served in small doses and rare occasions. So now I turn my culinary interests to making the simple and plain enticing. My focus for 2018, I guess a resolution of sorts, is to find the same kind of pleasure in making those dishes as I do in preparing hearty homebaked breads and desserts.
Though my mind might be turned away from the decadent to nutritious for the moment in the practical sense, the images in these great clipart collections from iCLIPART.com and Clipart.com offer a veritable buffet of good eats– from meat and vegetables to treats and junk. They're perfect for any number of projects. Some of them, I know, will be making their way into a cookbook of my family favourites I'm creating for my brood.
Friday, December 29, 2017
So we have unbelievably reached this point. Again. With amazing speed, like melting ice down a window in the sunshine, another year has passed. All the fun of Christmas is behind us, and we now look ahead to the promise of all the good things we hope for in 2018.
The festive holidays for me were perfect; counting my blessings each day was easy as they were apparent at every turn.
All of it began a few days before Christmas with an elegant feast hosted by a friend, followed by a relaxing bit of socializing. The next day we travelled to enjoy turkey dinner number one at our daughter's home with her in-laws. From there, it was the joy of having all I ever need under my roof. On Christmas Day, family surrounded me, a bounty of gifts spoiled me, the abundance of food and drink flowed. It was an excellent reminder of how fortunate I am to enjoy so much.
Humorist Mark Twain once said that the new year is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions, followed by the week when you begin "paving hell with them as usual".
Having spent decades on this earth, I decided some time ago to forego the proverbial New Year's resolution. There is, after all, no need to set myself up for failure. Given that I'm wise enough now to know that the probability of not keeping them is quite high, it seems somewhat foolish to go ahead and make one. Disappointment is never nice. It's especially unpleasant when it's a result of not achieving a goal you yourself have set.
Typically it's better to not give a lot of thought to what hasn't been accomplished, or what goals haven't been met. So, instead of making resolutions, I have come to think of the old year more as an opportunity for reflection and the new one as one of promise. Rather than take stock of what could be better about me I will let these final days in December be more about recalling all the good things that happened over the previous 12 months. If there is a resolution to be in there somewhere it will be that I spend the next 12 months continuing to remember these blessings.
Sure, life can be a spoiler. We never know what tomorrow might throw our way. But the company of friends, the memories of times past, will go a long way to ensure I'll be ringing out the old year with nothing but joy for what has been and hope for what will be. Far better to assume the best and bid goodbye to 2017 with gusto. Just as I'm sure the folks in these festive photos have done:
iPHOTOS.com New Year's Party Photos
Friday, December 22, 2017
Today is Friday. But perhaps most significantly, it's the last Friday before Christmas. By the time I return to my station here next week, Dec. 25, 2017 will have found its place in the memory files. The bows and paper have been torn away and relegated to the refuse bin. The presents have been accepted, as cherished treasures or secretly set aside by re-gifters. Cooks are practising their culinary creativity as they look for new ways to dress up that leftover turkey.
And as we look ahead it will be to the end of 2017 and to the start of 2018. These are the days when we often find ourselves reflecting on the year soon passing. We think of the special events that brought us closer to the people we love. We remember moments that surprised us and filled our hearts. We look to the beautiful memories, to the blessings that came our way and our hearts are filled with gratitude.
It's a time too, to acknowledge the people who enrich our lives, the ones who have been with us through all of the years and those who entered our world just recently. We also spend time reflecting on the ones we have cherished and lost.
Sadly, yes, not all of our 2017 memories will be perfect. There will be losses. There will be regrets over foolish fights, silly slights and overlooked opportunities. We might have spoken out of turn. We might have hurt someone who means the world to us.
Regardless of the memories, we are inspired at this time to year to think about who we are, who we want to be and what we can do to achieve that as the new year arrives. There will be resolutions made, some to be kept, most probably not. But at least we plant the seed, and hope that some of the goals we set to make us more the kind of person we want to be, will be met in 2018.
Before then, though, there's a party to be had. New Year's Eve provides an opportunity to celebrate the promise of tomorrow with all the joy of living in the moment and no regrets over yesteryear. For decades my favourite date and I have celebrated the occasion with old, dear friends.
There was always music, noise and laughter. We counted on the consumption of food and drink with the same certainty we could count on midnight kisses. As reflected by time's passing only how much of all of those these changed.
When we were young, with naivety and energy on our side, the gathering was a house party, a scene that suited us well since such exuberance as we displayed was best contained among close chums. The desire for fun was high; the interest in regret quite the opposite.
When we entered our 30s we came to the conclusion that we were probably civilized enough to take our show out in public and for several years spent New Year's Eve at a crowded dance. Gussied up and full of fun, we enjoyed sharing our circle with a wider group of acquaintances. While thoughts of yesterday and tomorrow were starting to get a little more attention, we didn't dwell on them either. There was far too much to enjoy in the present.
Eventually, lacking some of that youthful energy and morning after resilience, we found ourselves celebrating at house parties again. We had outgrown the noise and frenzy of a large gathering, complete with overly-friendly strangers. Though we still enjoyed a good time, there was no question we were a little more sedate. A contemplative atmosphere too, had settled over the notion of a new year, one that hadn't been there before. Time was spent on remembrance and reflection.
Then a few years ago, some of these old friends decided a nice dinner out was all we needed. However, there is apparently still a hint of those 20-year-olds in my guy and me. We were actually ready to put a little celebration back into the occasion. After dinner we headed out to a local nightclub where our son's band was playing for a night of music, noise and laughter once again. It was a grand time. So much so we plan to repeat it this year.
And with those expectations I've been inspired to share these fantastic collections of New Year's Eve clipart:
Happy New Year's Clipart from iCLIPART.com
Clipart.com New Year's Eve Clipart
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Normally at this time of year I am well ahead of the season. The decorating was completed so long ago I can barely remember what the house looked like before. The presents have been bought, wrapped and placed under the tree. The baking is done and stacked away in the freezer. The turkey is ordered, the wine cellar stocked.
As of last week all that remained was the selection of an image to use for this year's festive eGreeting, which was completed efficiently after a perusal of iCLIPART.com.
Yes, while others are tying up loose ends, completing their shopping amidst the busy whirl of seasonal commerce, I have been sipping pinot grigio, warmed by the crackling fireplace and twinkling tree lights. While deep in the pages of a good book just the other day, however, it crossed my mind that Christmas cards are needed to accompany gifts for a few special friends. And then I thought, with all this extra time on my hands, why not try making them.
There's only one thing to stop me really. I've never made a serious attempt at it before, and I don't easily jump into the unknown.
I guess some would say I'm a cautious person. And in all honesty I can't argue that assessment. Where others will plunge fearlessly into new experiences, I sit back and consider the risks. While there are those for whom air travel is a common sense way to get around this world quickly, I need a pretty darn good reason to get in a plane.
There are many for whom the daredevil curves and hair-raising plunges of a roller coaster are what amusement parks are all about. Me? I rather enjoy the carousel. I would never skydive, scale the side of a mountain or bungee jump. I don't mind staying close to home for my vacations and feel not the least bit regretful that I don't plan any trips to exotic, though occasionally volatile, destinations.
None of this troubles me or makes me feel inferior to people full of the spirit of adventure, though. I am a homebody, content in the familiar, satisfied by what I have and of my abilities. For this I make no apologies.
Yet, there is one aspect of this mild trepidation of mine that frustrates me — my reluctance to try new things, regardless of how mundane. I try to convince myself it's okay, because time is valuable, I hate failure, so why subject myself to something I might not be able to do well and instead waste precious minutes that could be spent achieving other things.
The answer is, I constantly remind myself, because learning and experience are important. People never know what their capabilities and talents might be if they never try anything. I'm too old and edgy to take up freestyle skiing, but there's no excuse for not opening up Photoshop and seeing what I can accomplish. Especially with Christmas to inspire me and the dozens of tutorials out there to guide me. Like these for example:
Make a Custom Holiday Photo Card With Photoshop Elements
Create a Christmas Tree Card
A Holiday Greeting Card Photo Border
Design Your Own Christmas Card
Create Custom Greeting Cards in 6 Steps
Design a Dazzling Holiday Card in Photoshop
Friday, December 15, 2017
When I look back on all of the Christmases in this life, I'm blessed to be able to say that few of the memories are bad. From the Sunday School concerts, followed by the drive to see the lights around town, to the presents under the tree and supper with the cousins at Grandma's and Grandpa's, the images of my childhood festive holidays are ones I hold dear. They do in fact bind me, with threads of sentimentality and love, to those with whom I share them.
Later, as a young mother of four beautiful children, the memories created were often from the traditions that began with this new life my husband and I were beginning. There was nothing particularly original, no grand gesture. They are many things that others might not even consider traditions, more like rituals. But the simple things are often the best and remembered with fondness.
There were the Christmas Eve dinners with good friends, after which we attended the candlelight service at our church with our young broods. The soft glow, the magnificent music filled the air while the meaningful message of peace and goodwill filled our souls. A more selfish bonus was that late hour ensured a slow start to the next morning's chaos for little ones.
To get the turkey stuffed and in the oven in time for our dinner I, however, was up in the early morning stillness. It did afford me the pleasure of a few quiet hours to myself which fast became another tradition. Snuggled in my chair by the twinkling lights of our tree, I savoured a nice smooth coffee, made even more so with a wee addition of Irish Cream.
Our eldest was usually the first to make his way downstairs and this time with him was special to both of us. As my first-born he had had my undivided attention for a couple of years. Now, with competition from three younger siblings, that rarely happened and we enjoyed this time to reconnect.
We also came to anticipate the fun of dragging the younger girl and their father out of bed — the latter lagging about to play along, the former the best sleeper I'd ever known at the time. With tugging of blankets and pulling of legs we would finally manage to rouse her well past the time most kids her age would be playing with their new gifts. Or perhaps this was all a ploy to wear the Santa hat, traditionally bestowed on the last one awake.
Without a fireplace from which to hang our stockings with care, they graced our staircase. Before they were opened, the requisite photo was taken with our crew on the steps. Then with much delight time was taken to discover what hidden treats Santa had bestowed on them.
There were others traditions, of course, some grander, some that fizzled out. But even now, with grandchildren making our family all the more perfect, the stockings and the rituals that accompanied them are a big part of our festive gathering.
So as we head towards the final week before Christmas let's highlight this familiar holiday tradition with some super Christmas stocking clipart:
iCLIPART.com Christmas Stocking Clipart
Clipart.com Christmas Stocking Clipart