Friday, October 13, 2017

Putting the Magic in Your Halloween Projects With Delightful Costume Images

Clipart image of a blue unicorn
Today, for just a minute, I was a unicorn. A soft, baby-blue mystical, magical unicorn.

And now for the rest of the story.

My oldest granddaughter, having turned five this year,  has been undergoing an interesting metamorphosis of late. She started this life with a surprisingly visible reticence. She appraised people with a look that suggested an, at times unnerving, astuteness. As a baby she was serious and fiery, charming and captivating.  We weren't especially surprised to see a lively, fierce rambunctious toddler take her place, nor a horse-loving tomboy when she began preschool.

The sweet, gentle spirit that defines her so completely these days was always there.
Clipart image of a little girl hugging a unicorn
However,  what has surprised us now is that since she entered kindergarten and discovered a kindred spirit in one of her classmates, there has been a transformation in her attitude, taste and style.  We find ourselves looking now at a real little girl — fond of unicorns and rainbows, loving the colour pink, and believing in a world where fairies can chase away bad dreams and princesses understand magic.

Having talked ad nauseum about my grandchildren to a friend at work, including all about our Missy's  enchanting fixation,  I opened the door for that aforementioned brief transformation  of my own today. My colleague decided we needed to provide a little magic ourselves. So this morning then, she showed up with her adult daughter's unicorn costume and insisted I try it on. The rest of her plan was that we would send a picture to my favourite five-year-old.

Nothing like Grandma as a unicorn to make life perfect.

It's unfortunate that this particular costume is too big for our sweet girl. With Halloween arriving, it's no surprise that her only wish for this particular event is to be a unicorn. While she didn't inherit her grandmother's short-person genes, she's still a tad too small to wear the outfit I had on, which means her mother is busy seeking out affordable ways online to create a realistic costume for her. Input was also gathered at a recent family dinner, where Mommy's suggestion that another option would do just as well was effectively shot down with a barrage of boos.

Clipart image of a man in a vampire costumeThe Halloween costume is as important to most little ones as the gown is to the bride. It lets them be their fantasy. They are for that night the superhero, the enchantress, the cartoon character. With that transformation the magic feels real.

Not just for the very young either. Our son's band annually plays a Halloween show, and attendees are encouraged to dress up for the occasion. The number of participants is as high as the level of enthusiasm.  What's most fun to note is how people seem to really get into character. The costume offers a buffer, an anonymity that permits them to step a little out of their shell and be a little freer.

Even grownups, after all, can wish they were something they aren't or look to find the magic again.

As I considered what might be a good choice for today's featured clipart collection, these thoughts of little, and not-so-little trick-or-treaters, and the choices they make for the big night made the decision rather easy.   

These illustrations from iCLIPART.com and Clipart.com are full of all the fun and delight this entertaining October celebration warrants:

Clipart image of a little princess holding a frog in her hand


Clipart image of a wizard

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Photoshop Tutorials to Dress Up Your Halloween Invites and Other Projects

It was a glorious Thanksgiving long weekend — one of those sometimes autumn stretches in Canada that lift spirits. Temperatures were unseasonably balmy, but not so hot that the bugs were out and about, or that humidity made everybody uncomfortable.

The colourful collage of changing foliage, the sky's pretty azure blue and the brilliant blaze of the sun were the perfect combination to celebrate a day intended for gratitude and counting one's blessings.

Since our large family gathering was on the Sunday, which I'll get to later, my husband and I had a break on Monday to appreciate the sun and warmth in quiet ways, beginning with a hike in a nearby forest, followed by some reading on the deck, then ending with wine and friends.

It was welcome respite given that the previous day was rather more active as our brood of four and their families made it home for turkey and trimmings. Busy,  of course, but so very gratifying. There was laughter and love as well as plenty of chatter.

With five of six grandchildren, aged five and under, a lot of that of course found its way several times to another fall holiday, one that definitely delights little ones. Halloween will be here before we know it and the moms at our gathering had much to say about
the requests for costumes. From unicorns to Wonder Woman, from Peppa the Pig to pirates, ideas were thrown out as they each tried to help the others find the most economical way to fulfil their offsprings' dress-up dreams.

There are still plenty of days for my kids to get the final word on what each boy and girl wants to be,  to find inspiration on various websites and to create something that  meets the approval of these tiny critics. Yet signs of the imminent arrival of  these magical characters, as well as ghouls and goblins, witches and warlocks,  are all around. They will only increase now that Thanksgiving's behind us.

Halloween really is a visual event. The creepy countenances of carved jack-o-lanterns, wispy tendrils of ghostly apparitions,  creepy skeletons suspended from invisible strings create eerie vignettes on porches as they await the visits of tiny trick-or-treaters.  There are the terrifying masks and assorted costumes depicting everything from pooches to princess, that are displayed in retail outlets.

From decorated homes and storefront windows, to promotional materials and classroom activities, ghostly themes and spooky designs are in the the minds of parents, merchants, teachers and tiny tots.

These are the images that inspire the occasion. And for folks who like to play in Photoshop there is always a variety of fun tutorials out there that will inspire some Halloween magic. Whether it's a graphic element to serve as a starting point, a photo alteration or a creepy background to which you can add text for ads, flyers or posters,  there are many ideas online.

With the holiday being so visual parties are among the activities that are enjoyed so invitations and decorative elements can also be created with a little help from Photoshop. There's absolutely no reason to fear you won't be able to find something to raise the bar on scary.

Here's a one-stop shopping guide to some terrific tutorials. You're guaranteed to find something that will dress up your Halloween projects:

Design a Halloween Invitation in Photoshop

Creepy Halloween Tutorials

16 Halloween Photoshop Tutorials

17 Photoshop Tutorials

20 Creepy Halloween Photoshop Tutorials

Design a Halloween Poster in Photoshop

Friday, October 6, 2017

Care to Try Your Hand at Drawing? Here are Some Super Tutorials

 "Talent hits a target no one else can hit." — Arthur Schopenhauer

Who knows what hidden talent one might have. Who knows, if it's rooted early and nurtured through one's life, what targets it might hit. 

My son once gave me a book to read. This is Your Brain on Music, by rocker turned neuroscientist Dr. Daniel J. Levitin, is subtitled: The Science of a Human Obsession and (to oversimplify the message) suggests that practise makes perfect.

Far be it from me to dispute someone with the education of Dr. Levitin, but honestly I really can't completely believe it. I certainly think that if you practise hours each day you will play better than those who don't. But, I also think that the talent needs to lie within too.  Our son, an accomplished guitarist, practised incessantly. And I do believe that has contributed to his admirable ability. I will never be convinced though that had I played for those hours alongside of him I'd be as good. After all,  it's not practice that makes the canary a canary, rather than a blue jay.

What I do believe, however, is that we all need the opportunity to try. It's our exposure to multiple experiences that will help us find where we excel, what our hidden talents might be.  It's probably too late for me to hone any now, but there are situations in life that will make me determined to try. 

Way back in 1968, my friends and I had entered high school. It was an interesting era for us; young girls raised by conservative parents in moderate times, we now sat on the cusp of cultural, societal and moral change. We still took home ec classes while the boys went to the tech wing, but the notion that we could be lawyers, doctors or bosses if we chose was starting to take hold.

Where just a few years before, young women planning their futures typically chose office work, nursing or marriage, now my peers and I could let our desire and imagination direct us down all career paths.  I was fascinated by the world of journalism, still not exactly thinking out of the box. A friend of mine, however, saw herself as a fashion designer, doing illustrations of young girls in mod clothes, typical of what most of us were wearing.

Fascinated by this creativity and by her romantic choice of profession, I began copying her drawings. What came as a big surprise to me was, with the exception of the hands, I  was not that bad.  At the time, that this said more about her limited talent than it did about me actually having any, was lost on me. What was found, however, was a love for doodling.

And now, today, with a granddaughter enchanted by unicorns I did a little digging to see if I might find a guide to teach me  how to draw these magical creatures and of course, discovered a bounty of them.  I remember how delighted I was as a little girl when my grandfather would sketch his beloved horses for me, so hope that this will create a similar memory for our little missy.

For many, these pastimes and activities we try can lead to hobbies,  passions or careers. All must begin somewhere though, so here are some great drawing tutorials from our iCLIPART.com Pinterest Drawing Tutorials

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

It's Good for Your Health. Promoting Fitness With Inspiring Photos from iPHOTOS.com

Photo of two senior women doing a tree pose in yoga
If you ever spend any time reading my blogs  you'll probably have noticed that I don't talk often, or much at all really, about fitness. Which is probably because, if I must be honest, I'm really not that into it.

Giving thanks for some good genetics and apparently a moderately-high metabolism, I've spent most of life indulging in carbs, cheese, sweets, treats and wine, with only a modest weight struggle. For a long time I could balance my taste for unhealthy eats with a moderate exercise program. Aerobics, yoga and a nice long walk now and then generally was all it took to keep the extra pounds off for many, many years.

Then I hit a certain decade and for the first time in my life losing any excess baggage didn't happen just because I wanted it to. Whatever exercise I did in the past to drop the weight,  now had me hanging on for dear life to stay where I was.

Improving myself before that was always the drive behind any exercise program. Now though, with nothing to show for my efforts, the necessary inspiration to get up and going was lacking. Then yet another decade arrived and with it a seemingly simultaneous shift in body parts and energy levels. Add in some new stiffness, aches and pains, and even walking has lost its lustre.

Sadly, though this might be the age when sitting around doing nothing feels most pleasing,  it is probably the absolute worst time to do it. Exercise helps ageing hearts, bones and minds. This is a fact so loudly touted it would be ridiculous to try and use the excuse that you didn't know a sedentary life, along with a diet loaded with fats, carbs and sugars was bad for you.

I'm a big fan of being pharmaceutical free. I also like the idea of sticking around this world for as long as possible. I therefore know it's time for me to shape up, that I can't continue all the bad habits I've nurtured over the past several decades and continue to enjoy the good health I have to this point.

Photo of two seniors jogging in autumn
The challenge is going to be to figure out how and what I might do to get control of me again. My fitness level is not helped by the reality of being chained to a desk, all day, each and every work day. It's not helped by the exhaustion when I get home, the inability to rise early in the morning, and the household tasks and responsibilities that must fit in to all the spaces between.  There are no gyms in close proximity, there are no indoor pools nearby.  Large classes intimidate me, and it's far too easy to cheat on solitary walks.

I will find my way, though. There's incentive to be discovered at every turn, on television and in print, from promotions for weight loss and fitness facilities, to ads reminding us that we'll never get fit if all we do is sit.

For people in the industry, who are looking for great images to promote physical activity,  these inspiring fitness pictures from iPHOTOS.com offer plenty of variety.

Friday, September 29, 2017

As Thanksgiving Nears These Photos Celebrate the Blessing of Family

Photo of a multi-generational family saying grace on Thanksgiving
"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." — Melody Beattie

The world might seem a little crazy these days — Mother Nature appears to be really upset and as turbulent as the political climate.  However,  moments of gratitude, amidst it all, have never been too difficult for me to acknowledge.  No matter how frustrating, exhausting or stressful life can be, there's never any doubt in my mind that the life I lead is a blessed one.

To start with I'm fortunate to live in what (no one will ever convince me otherwise) is the greatest country in the world. My little spot in this vast nation is calm and quiet, lush and open space.  I have lived in the same old century house I fell in love with when we bought it 40 years ago.  My husband and I have raised four great kids in that home and we are now enjoying the delights of grandparenthood.  Work is gratifying and I am fortunate enough to have several 'toys' that offer me respite on weekends and in the summer.

In summation, I want for nothing nor need a thing.

In just a couple of weeks I am presented too with the opportunity to celebrate these gifts and my gratitude for them. The Canadian Thanksgiving will be here Oct. 9, and our family along with many others will be honouring this time of blessing and bounty.
Photo of a woman checking on a turkey in the oven
Of course, for me, the days to come will be hectic. The upcoming occasion means now is going to be a busy time of preparation, with a house to clean, errands to run, groceries to buy,  and food to prepare.

Beneath all of the busyness, however, is a barely-contained excitement. For one whole day, all of my children will be under my roof again, bringing with them their partners and those adorable grandbabies. It will be a full house and I am beyond thrilled.

I don't remember childhood Thanksgivings the way I remember Christmases of my youth. My maternal grandmother really enjoyed the latter and her attitude left an indelible memory. The former consequently always seemed to be little more than a practice run for the Dec. 25 menu. That sense carries through for me into my adult years.  It just wouldn't be either of these celebrations now without turkey and all the trimmings, cranberries and pumpkin and apple pies.

Photo of a multi-generational family laughing togetherThere has, however, been a recent shift. With Christmas so busy there's little time to really enjoy the day with my loved ones as it all seems to pass in a blur of gifts, eating, drinking and cleaning up. Thanksgiving then, has become a more relaxed version, when the pleasure in counting one's blessings is coupled with the ability to actually enjoy each other's company for a bit.

So as the anticipation builds for a day spent in the company of the people who are my greatest blessings among many,  I thought it would be nice to highlight some family holiday pictures from the wonderful Thanksgiving photos found in the iPHOTOS.com collection.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Remembering German Grandparents and Celebrating Their Culture With Oktoberfest Clipart

Clipart image of a German girl in front of the German flag
He was an uncomplicated man. He knew little of life but struggle and hard work. His days began before dawn and ended as dusk crept through the sky.

Each morning he set out to the fields and animals he loved, speaking little, expressing less.  He spoke little bowing to the formidable personality of his stalwart wife. He was a man of the land, leaving the day-to-day aspects of life in her cracked, dry, capable hands.

She was unquestionably the strength, a woman toughened by the realities of raising a family through the Great Depression. She loved her kids like a tigress, yet sentimentality was a foreign condition.

These were my paternal grandparents. Solid, honest people who kept emotions at a premium, they thought less about happiness than they did about labour and its rewards. She was the dominant force in this partnership, the one who faced adversity without emotion, who rose each day putting one step ahead of the other. My first memories are of her sitting playing hymns at the big pump organ in the parlour, of hands working through rich garden earth,  or of her standing for hours in the kitchen. For her there were no other places.  There was no television. The only book she read was the Bible. And relaxing was an incomprehensible concept.

When I think of her husband, my dad’s father, I think of a man who showed little by way of affection, yet who was never impatient or unkind. He would sit in the chair at the kitchen door, gnarled hands planted firmly in his lap as he waited for the evening meal to be served. He rarely smiled, but never growled. Though he seldom acknowledged us in a tender way, his tolerance, whether my cousins and I ran screaming around him, or chatted incessantly behind him as he walked to the barn, was admirable. He allowed us to follow noisily behind and we were thrilled to tread in his footsteps.

This pair were both grandchildren of German immigrants. And it was that which indirectly provided the most cherished memory I have of my grandpa. Both of my grandparents were fluent in the mother tongue of their forefathers.  Conversations between the two often were a combination of their two languages.

I have no recollection of how it happened, but at some point I expressed an interest in learning the foreign words they exchanged between themselves and their children. I was quite small but remember sitting on his lap as he counted, recited poems he had learned as a schoolboy, and taught me the most important words in any language. Ich liebe dich might not sound as elegant as Je t’aime or even I love you, but it was lovely to me.

Those times with him raised an interest and pride in my heritage. Some casual research in recent years has disclosed that my maiden name is Bavarian — the land of lederhosen and dirndls, food and drink, folk music and gemutlichkeit. That I have married a man of German descent as well,  has tightened the connection to our past. We plan a trip following retirement to the our ancestors' place of of birth to see what we can learn.

Were we there now we would be in the midst of the annual Oktoberfest — a celebration of heritage and culture, an expression of the Bavarian informal love of life. However, staying close to home soon brings the same, as a neighbouring city  to us hosts the largest North American Oktoberfest in the days following our Canadian Thanksgiving.

As a girl with pride in her German ancestory, it's only fitting then that I honour these occasions with some wonderful clipart collections:

Clipart image of an Oktoberfest background with a beer on it

Clipart image of a German man holding a beer beneath a speech bubble

Friday, September 22, 2017

School Graphics Resources Offer Safe, Legal Content for Educators and Students

Clipart image of children at their desks in a classroom
School days, school days are back again for another year.  Today marks the end of the second week of the new school term,  and the business of education is moving along as usual. Classrooms are abuzz with the energy of exuberant young students, full of questions and ready to learn. Shenanigans too abound, but for the most part youngsters and teens are settling in to the old routine.

Educators, tasked with the significant responsibility of nurturing young minds,  look for creative and innovative ways to inspire their students and motivate them to learn.  Teaching tools and lesson plans are important elements in achieving these goals. Resources such as TeachersPayTeachers give educators a chance to share some of their best with their peers. This offers variety and can stimulate when motivation is lost.

In our ever-changing, fast-paced world it takes an enthusiastic educator to make the quest for knowledge entertaining and appealing for the naive.  With creativity and ingenuity they have the ability to inject humour and fun into the work of gaining wisdom.

That the notion of what needs to be taught could be significantly different than in the past is sometimes difficult to get our heads around. It all happened so fast. Yet, for good or bad, the principle driver on this has of course been technology and the many advancements we've seen over the years.

Clipart image of a girl writing at a desk
Who would have believed that we would ever be told cursive writing isn't imperative any more? Who would have imagined there would be little need to lug around heavy textbooks any more, that lessons would be viewed on tablets in a classroom, that students could share information on course work without actually speaking to each other, let alone being in the same room?

In today's classrooms, computers are key. They provide access to many of the tools teachers need, the resources for both educators and students, as well as being an integral component of modern curriculum.  We might have lost cursive, but coding is at the top of the list of programs that have been added in many districts and boards.

Learning from, on and about computers, or using them as resources for other classroom activities and lessons are important facets of today's education. Part of this involves the use of graphics within the work created by teachers, as well as in the actual hands-on education of their charges.

A few years ago, a teacher friend proudly displayed the work of one of her most gifted students. I happened to notice that images used in the project were from iCLIPART.com and since they still contained the watermark, I questioned her on how they were obtained. Her reply was that her students simply search for images online and use whatever 'free' ones they can find.  Since I work in the online subscription graphics industry, I knew it was time we had a chat.

Clipart image of a boy at a computer in front of bookshelvesAllowing students to access 'free' images online is a dicey option. These sources can often lead to copyright issues and may contain viruses. Educators need to use, and promote, in their presentations and within their classrooms, safe, reliable clipart and photos, such as those you find in royalty-free subscription sites.

Vital Imagery Ltd., with its family of clipart websites, has taken the safety factor even further —  two resources exclusive to the education field. Images on  iCLIPART For Schools and Clipart.com School Edition have been stringently filtered to ensure content is child-friendly. In order to use images legally, one must become a member, but it's a small price to pay for setting a good example to young minds.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Colours of Autumn, Your Moods and Beautiful Images from iPHOTOS.com

Photo of beautiful autumn trees reflected in water
"Fall has always been my favourite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale." — Lauren DeStefano, Wither

Whether you look forward to its arrival or not, there's no question that when autumn's good it's very good,  its appeal found in the showy scenes it creates. When the leaves begin their dramatic transformation nobody wants to miss the performance.

With torrid temperatures finally showing up this month, after a bleak July and August, my husband and I, while at our summer retreat,  opted to turn our usual lakeshore strut into more of a stroll in order to give this splendid break our full appreciation.  The brilliance of the sunshine heated the crisp softness of the sand as cooling blue waters lapped at the shoreline's edge. A gentle breeze floating in off the lake soothed hot skin and eased our exertions. Which was a really good thing since, despite our leisurely pace, the unfamiliar heat of this September day made efforts less easy.

As the sun beat down upon us we decided to duck for cover on one of the shaded streets that lead to the water. This not only provided some relief; it also gave me time to fully take notice of the spectacle of summer's shift to autumn, from lush verdancy to a canopy of colour.

Having reflected on that in the days since, I decided to take it a step further here. Why not consider the beauty of autumn colours, how they make me feel, and what the experts say about them?  It would also be a great way as well to introduce a selection of terrific photographs from iPHOTOS.com.


Photo of a yellow autumn leaf background

This is one of my favourite colours. Yellow is to me a reflection of sunshine and joy. It uplifts me and inspires a feeling of optimism.  Various websites  that I found on the topic didn't disagree, but noted as well that too much yellow can have you feeling quite the opposite of mellow.  It can be overwhelming and is best used sparingly.


Photo of pumpkins

While I'm not exactly a fan of this brilliant hue in day-to-day living,  there's no denying it's  a lovely addition to autumn. I see something stimulating about the colour and believe it has energizing effects.  Experts agree saying it's an attention getter, a call to action that has a friendly energy.


Photos of red autumn leaves

I'm not sure I'd call it an aversion, but my acceptance of this colour depends a good deal on the particular shade I'm looking at. The gorgeous crimson of autumn leaves is as dramatic as the ranges of emotions this colour can inspire. Everything from anger and danger to passion and excitement are represented by the many shades of red. At least according to those who study this.

It might be the drab cousin of the autumn colour family but it's as much a part of it as the others.  Quite simply, while I rather like all tones of brown, I do find it makes me feel a little lazy.  It is, experts say, rather low on stimulation but generates feelings of security. 

Autumn is bittersweet, its brilliance captivating and energizing; its darkening days and cooling temperatures reminding that we have left the light of summer behind. We are ready to languish, to cocoon, yet, not prepared to give in completely just yet. In essence, I suppose, we might say that the colours of autumn reflect all that we feel at this time of year. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Autumn's Perfect for Family Photos, Especially When You Take Them in a Pumpkin Patch

PhotoSeptember days are here,
With summer's best of weather
And autumn's best of cheer."
— Helen Hunt Jackson

Well, there's certainly no argument this week that we've enjoyed the best of summer weather.  After a somewhat atypical dismal, damp July and August, followed by an abysmal start to September, Mother Nature has given us a gift. For several days she has blessed us with nothing but sunny, bright skies and balmy temperatures, as well as the promise of more to come.

If, that is, we can trust the meteorologists' forecasts for our area. Which I rarely do any more. After sitting indoors recently, watching The Weather Network's current conditions showing clear skies while outside the world was drowning under a deluge, (or on many other occasions the reverse) I'm an admitted cynic about these predictions.

For this reason when I keep hearing that The Farmer's Almanac is forecasting a vicious winter here I'm not too worried. Yet. Since  our weather experts seem to have trouble telling us what's going to happen on any given day,  I just really have little faith they can nail it that far ahead.  If they do, so be it, but I'm not about to worry this far ahead that they've got it right.

Other people, however, seem ready to start stewing. On a glorious autumn day, one replete with all the things we typically enjoy in summer, plus the best of the new season, there was yet one more person who found it necessary to dampen the day by reminding me of the dire predictions for a long, cold, stormy winter.

I let them know though that for now I've chosen to be hopeful instead. Hopeful that we will have many more days of this kind of weather before the snow flies. Hopeful that this season will linger like a gentle kiss goodbye. Hopeful that we feel only the nip of winter rather than its bite.

Autumn can be such a pretty time of year I don't want to spend it thinking that Old Man Winter is going to have a temper tantrum when he arrives. Instead, I think it best to celebrate this glorious season. There really is a lot to love about the transition between the sunny heat and the bitter cold — the bold hues of the changing landscape, fewer bugs and sunny days with no humidity.

For these reasons,  and others, autumn is the chosen season in our family for many things, including being the prefect time of year to update our family portraits.

With the welcome addition of spouses and babies to our clan, as well as the changes that happen over time to all of us, new pictures need to be done with a certain amount of regularity. Thus, a decision was made some time ago that we would have family portraits taken every two years. They are always outdoors and always in the fall. We have used our yard, our daughter's woodlot, the beach and a local conservation area as the setting.

Oddly, however, we have never considered another opportunity that happens this time of year. What better place for autumn pictures, especially when little ones are involved, than in a pumpkin patch?  It's definitely on the list for the next fall photo session. Here are some sites I found offering helpful tips:

Pumpkin Patch Photography Tips

How to Take Pictures of Kids at the Pumpkin Patch

10 Tips for Taking Better Pumpkin Patch Photos

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Discover the Beauty of Autumn in Glorious Photos from Vital Imagery Ltd.

Photo of early autumn in the mountains
"Time flies never to be recalled." — Virgil

Sometimes it really does seem to have happened in the blink of an eye. A day, a week, a month, passing by with such swiftness as to make you dream of ways to hang on, to slow things down.  Happy moments arrive and before we know it they become pleasant memories.

It's with this somewhat sentimental view that I turn my eye to fall's imminent arrival. Having attained a perfectly nice little burn under late summer's blazing sun this past weekend, it was almost possible to ignore the chill that has seeped into the evening air, or the shortening hours of daylight.

Long walks at the lakeshore,  wining and dining with family and friends on the deck, are also experiences that cast a spell, ones that delude us into imagining we are not experiencing summer's twilight.

There is one facet, however, to which it's really difficult to turn a blind eye. While out for a cruise this past weekend in our beloved 1967 Dodge,  I noticed a bank of trees at the side of the roadway that had begun their magnificent transformation to autumn.  Glints of sunlight danced off the foliage as shades of burnished orange, cheery yellow and fiery crimson popped against the cerulean sky. It was a breathtaking moment quickly followed by a second when the realization struck that with this spectacular show we could no longer deny autumn was on its way.

Photo of two children playing in the autumn leavesIt's the promise of this performance from Mother Nature that makes the upcoming season palatable for me now. However, as a youngster, born in September the fall was a delightful time of year.  There was the excitement of heading back to school followed by our rural community's annual fall fair.  Visions of candy floss and caramel apples, roller coasters and ferris wheels filled daydreams.

But it was something far less superficial that lifted our energy, that occupied countless of autumn hours, that exemplified childhood. Rustling our way home from school through the detritus left by nature's summer shedding, we ran, kicked and laughed. Plowing our way through piles of colourful leaves,  burying ourselves under the crispy colours or tossing handfuls in the air, were welcome childhood pastimes that chased away any doldrums over summer's loss.

As an adult though,  it takes a lot to get excited over this particular seasonal transformation. While the first kick through fallen leaves can stir quiet memories of youthful bliss, they are short-lived as they also serve as a reminder that hours of raking will follow.  It might have been fun when called upon by Mom and Dad to take on this chore for a time, but it's worn thin over the passing years.

Since winter's chill and bluster have long ago lost any charm for me, autumn, as its predecessor carries with it a certain ominous foreshadowing.  Despite an appreciation for its incredible beauty I can't help but feel a touch forlorn.

But then a drive on a bright, clear fall day,  rubbernecking right and left to take in all of the magnificent foliage is sure to lighten the spirit.

For that reason then, today's selection of images puts the focus on showy autumn with amazing photographs from iPHOTOS.com and Clipart.com

Friday, September 1, 2017

Grandparents Rock! Celebrate Them on Their Special Day with Great Clipart from Vital Imagery Ltd.

Clipart image of a little girl smiling at her grandparents
"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children." — Alex Haley

I like to think this is the effect I have on my grandchildren. I know my own grandparents certainly put the magic in my existence.  Thoughts of them will find their way into the quiet moments of any random day,  memories that float to mind as softly as the butterflies danced in my grandmothers' gardens.  They are all welcome and beautiful when they arrive.

Both sets of grandparents were country folk,  born and raised — three of German descent, one of English.  The latter gave up agriculture for a career in the trades, while his wife, like all women of those times, kept the homefires burning. My paternal grandparents, however, stayed on the farm, giving this townie an opportunity to experience the open air and spaces of the pastoral landscape.

Though very different in personalities, my grandmas and grandpas provided, each in their own way, the calm in the storm.  As the youngest child by many years in a family of five I often as a child felt overwhelmed by the presence of adults. They always seemed larger than life. Not to mention, a tad imposing. My naive chatter was typically lost in the swirl of conversation that centred around more grownup topics, such as work and interpersonal relationships.

Oddly, however, that was never the feeling when I was in the company of my grandparents. Despite that fact that hard work and times had made them older than today's typical sexagenarian, they seemed to understand what it meant to be kid better than Mom and Dad, or my teenage brother and sister did.  When I spoke, they listened. When I walked, they walked with me, regardless of my pace or how often I stopped.

While work was a principle facet of their lifestyle, they were never too busy to pause when I asked. Grandpa Matthews would take my cousin and I onto his knee for songs, poetry or to draw pictures of his beloved horses for us. There was always time for a snack of cookies and cream soda when we found our way to Grandma's kitchen. At the country grandparents, I trailed behind as we wandered the orchards and gardens, the barns and fields. There were never too many questions asked.

To this day I will be comforted by the fragrance of bread warm from the oven, by the sight of a deep-dish pie, a crocheted afghan, a needlepoint picture. They bring me closer to these still loved, long remembered people whom I was blessed to have in my life for a time.

So it is these kinds of memories I hope my young grandchildren will have some day of their moments spent with my husband and me. I hope they remember two people who guided gently, who listened wholeheartedly, who hug tightly and loved fiercely.

Next Sunday is Grandparents Day. To know them is to love them. To have them is the best. To hold on to them as long as possible is to be truly blessed. We celebrate the love and joy they give and bring to us in these great clipart collections:
Clipart image of a Happy Grandparents Day message in a heart

Clipart

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

It's a Good Time of Year for Free. Check out These Links for Photoshop Resources

Clipart image of a bag of school supplies
The little chunk of the world where my family, friends, neighbours and I reside is looking ahead to the last weekend of summer. On Monday we celebrate Labour Day. The night before, once the sun has faded to twilight,  after fireworks brighten the dark night skies, we will begin our goodbye to the lazy, carefree weeks we enjoyed through July and August.

Because one week from today, it's back to reality.

Everywhere you turn these days you'll be seeing promotions for back-to-school.  In retail outlets, posters and advertisements are touting that they have everything kids need to get back to the business of learning.  This week, then, parents will be rushing out to get the last-minute deals on school supplies and fashions for their exuberant young students.

I used to love those mall outings with my four kids in the dying vacation days before a new school term began. Despite the fact that not all of them were as eager as others.

Feminism aside, the sexes really can be quite different in how they approach things. I never kept my boys from playing with dolls if they wanted, nor did I ever take a truck away from my girls. It was never necessary; their interests were predictable.

It was no surprise then, that the shopping excursions typically involved a lot of grumbling from the males and plenty of enthusiasm from the females. Especially when it came to fashion. The more clothes dumped into the change room for my daughters the better.  My requests for them to come out and model each outfit were met with enthusiasm too. When it came to my sons, however, I generally had to take them at their word that things fit.

Even,  perusing the aisles for pencils, papers and books The girls typically made a list while the boys had no idea what they needed.  A summer filled with freedom had left little room in those heads it seemed for any practical exercise.

What we all enjoyed, however, even in spite of the boys' recalcitrance, was plenty of laughter. There was good-natured teasing and the sharing of inside jokes, often at my expense. The distaste in my mouth over losing the battle on where to have lunch and finding myself at McDonald's, was soothed by the pleasure of watching my kids just enjoy being together.

Clipart image of a checkmark in a box for freeSpending a day with them, knowing that with every passing year made these times  more precious, was lovely. I usually hated to see it end.

Especially since arriving home  gave me time to take stock of the economic impact of this shopping extravaganza. While bargain hunting had been the order of the day, it still did cost a lot of money to get the job done.  Nothing comes that cheap.

So, as everyone's out spending money in the next few weeks getting their youngsters and teens in fashion-fit condition,  seeing that backpacks have all the necessary supplies, and kitchens are stocked with lunchbox essentials, I thought it might be a fun to throw out the word free. Check out these terrific free Photoshop resources:

Free Photoshop Resources from iCLIPART.com's Pinterest Board

Brusheezy.com

15 Free Photoshop Resources for Infographics

Friday, August 18, 2017

You're Sure to 'Bee' Excited About These Great Clipart Collections

Clipart image of a bee carrying a pot of honey
Sometimes it takes a simple approach to remind us of important things.  Take for example the 2007 animated film Bee Movie, where, in a cute and colourful way, attention was drawn to the value of nature's most industrious insect.

We know we can thank bees for honey. We know they can deliver a nasty sting when we get in their way. But we don't necessarily think about everything that they do. Bees are responsible, after all,  for pollinating crops, fruits, vegetables and flowers.  Their loss would threaten the food we eat and the beauty around us.

Sadly, bee colonies haven't been doing all that well in recent years.  Back as far as 2007, concerns were expressed about the fact that honeybee colonies were dying at an alarming rate and there appeared to be no simple answer.  According to researchers, who determined  there was more than one factor at play here, the issue was complex. They ultimately attributed the majority of the losses to parasites, disease, nutrition and pesticide exposure. 

Information released by BeeInformed.org reported in 2015-16 that beekeepers across the United States lost 44 per cent of their honeybee colonies from April to April.  Losses continued for the same timeframe this year.   Phys.Org reported a lost of 33 per cent.  Though the lower number is encouraging, experts were quick to add that the number is still too high. However there is now a glimmer of optimism.

Given that these little insects play a significant role in maintaining Earth as we know it, we obviously want colonies to survive. And the news from Canada appears to be heartening too.  The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists reported that for 2015-16 the national percentage of colony winter loss was 16.8 per cent, the third lowest since 2006/07.  Beekeepers have been able to replace dead colonies and the number of colonies has increased by 22.4 percent.

So, if it seems that the worst might be behind us, that the fear that bee colonies everywhere are falling faster than a hummingbird's wings is now behind us, you might wonder what prompted this chatter from me.  The thing is, like many people,  I can have a tendency to take things for granted. When I first heard about this concern,  it was troubling. Over time, however, the idealist in me trusted that experts would get it figured out and the worry would be behind us. Bees once again just became another insect.

But after happening upon this information during a search for something completely unrelated, I decided it was time again to give these helpful, though occasionally prickly, friends of ours their due. It was surprising once I made that decision how often they came to mind.

From the minute the day began when I looked over to see my husband add his dollop of honey into his coffee I was reminded about the things in my life for which I can thank the humble bee.  It was there once more while the two of us were enjoying said coffees on the deck and my attention was diverted by a bee settling on a nearby coneflower, hanging out there for a time before droning on to a shasta daisy.

Later that afternoon as we headed out for a bit of socializing,  I gazed out the car window at fields of crops and thought again of the tiny creature that played a role in the success of agriculture's bounty.


Even as the day came to an end and I prepared for bed, my mind returned to the value of bees as I slathered on my homemade lotion, concocted of oils and beeswax.

The bottom line here is that play a far greater role in our lives than we often reflect upon. So for today, we will promote the humble bee and its environmental contributions with some super clipart collections.

iCLIPART.com Bee Illustrations

iPHOTOS.com Bee Images

Clipart.com Bee Images

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It's Almost Time for Back to School. See Shiny, Happy Student Faces from iPHOTOS.com

Photo of a happy little girl wearing a backpack for back to school
"All children start their school careers with sparkling imaginations, fertile minds, and a willingness to take risks with what they think." — Ken Robinson

The 'S' word has been finding its way into conversations increasingly of late. First there was the discussion with our daughter regarding the near-future plans she and her family have in place. Listing those leisure activities,  brought the realization of how soon back-to-school time was going to be here. An educator in a Junior Kindergarten classroom, she declared, with no little amount of shock,  that in just a few weeks she would be "back to reality".

Our son, who is currently vacationing at our summer spot, remarked this past weekend that he might not stay in this place of respite for the whole week. A teacher, he noted that it's just about time to start planning for the upcoming term, then commented that his brain might not give him the calm he needs to enjoy too much of a sojourn at this point in the summer.  He knows his obsessive qualities would preclude any ability to relax so assumed he'd probably cut the idyll short in favour of beginning the work he knows is ahead of him.

Social conversations are also moving in the direction of back to school.  At parties and picnics, friends with kids in university and college are talking about tuition and lodging; others with post-secondary students in their family are pondering course selections that will enhance future goals and dreams.

Photo of a young man with a laptop in a library
At Vital Imagery Ltd. we are hearing often  from teachers like my son, who are already in work mode and looking for the right resources for their lesson plans and assignments. The needs vary, but the message remains unchanged.  It's time to get back in the education game,  to ease summer out of play and get down to business.

Obviously, there's still plenty of time left to relax before the real work begins. There are weeks left in which families can sneak away on vacations and focus on nothing more than sand, surf and campfires.  There are oodles of long, lazy days ahead to be whiled away at the beach;  evenings still offer sufficient balminess to inspire outdoor games into the late hours.

However, the signs that youngsters will soon be heading back to academia are there if we care to notice.  Baseball diamonds have quieted with most little league teams all played out. Soccer fields are silent with tournaments over and the season's winners decided.  Even the excited hoots and hollers from energetic youngsters in the swim at area pools have diminished as the heat of summer fades.

Soon, the same boisterous, high-spirited sounds will be coming from school playgrounds during recess and lunch breaks. Hallways will welcome back the sounds  of exuberant youngsters returning from their extended layoff.  Classrooms will again be enlivened by the energy of youths at work and in discussion.  Gymnasiums will fill with shouts and laughter. And teachers and administrators will again be challenged with the responsibility of nurturing supple young minds.

University and college campuses will come to life, too, as adults, young and old,  return for that final lap in their academic ride.

So as we think about saying goodbye to our 'unofficial' summer, and hello to back to school, this collection of pictures from iPHOTOS.com shows eager students of all ages.

iPHOTOS.com Student Photos

Friday, August 11, 2017

Get Your Projects Moving With This Eye-Catching Transportation Clipart

Clipart image of a sweet baby in a toy car
"Baby you can drive my car, yes I'm going to be a star.
Baby you can drive  my car, and maybe I'll love you."

The popular Lennon and McCartney song, it has been suggested,  might actually have a slightly less innocent reference than that of transportation. However, while that might appeal to our base instincts, there's no doubt that in this busy, chaotic getting from here to there, whether by automobile or other means, is also super important.

My husband loves his cars. He's never had to have the flashiest; quite the contrary really. The newest vehicle in his fleet is over ten years old while the most revered is a lovingly restored example of 1967 Mopar muscle. But he has always ensured that besides that classic Coronet, driven only in summer on momentous occasions or to special events, we have one for him, one for me and often even a spare parked in the driveway.

Though a third one for everyday use might seem excessive, the practice has proven its worth more times than not. An apparently superfluous set of wheels can definitely come in handy. Vehicle number three has recharged a dead battery on his or my car when one or the other of our usual rides is out and about. It has filled in  when an emergency breakdown has occurred, a real bonus given that we all know when we have plans to go somewhere the last thing we want to have happen is discover we have no way of getting there.

Of late, my hubby and I have been giving some consideration though, to reducing the fleet.  With retirement drawing ever closer we're thinking that maybe we could get by with just one car and over the last several weeks have decided to give it a try and see how far we get.  We did pretty well too, until this morning, when with hubby out of town, cloudy skies threatened my morning walk to work and I decided it was in my best interests to ride. That said, without the job to go to, the one car experiment would probably have still been going.

Unquestionably, travel is a big part of society today, whether short jaunts to nearby places or long trips to far away corners of the world.  We find our way to these places a variety of different ways.

Generally, for reasonably close excursions made independently, we rely on our cars and trucks.  Others, though, like to put a little more effort into their touring. Our son, for example, has recently discovered great pleasure in cycling from town to town, destination to destination. His tour might be of necessity, or simply a summer diversion, but whatever the reason when he heads out he's happy to be leaving the car at home.  He has found peace on the assorted trails and rural roads and relishes nature and the new sights in his stops along the way.

In larger urban centres there is public transit to take people out of the city or out of suburbia. We have trains and buses that move us across country, planes that carry us  over land and sea, ships that cruise us to ports around the world.  We drift in hot air balloons, pedal steep slopes, ride waves. We travel for work, for play and simply because we can. We journey using wheels, rails and wings.  And you can see them all here in these fantastic transportation clipart collections:
Clipart image of a hipping, delivery car, ship, plane transport on a background map of the world


Clipart image of a scooter

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

You'll Love These Fantastic Photos of Beautiful Butterflies

Photo of a Monarch butterfly on a pink flower
They are not just one more welcome summer visitor. They are also symbolic to many, offering a connection that is both spiritual and life-affirming.  With their presence comes an affirmation of hope and comfort.

The suggestion of butterflies as a representation of life and resurrection first was presented to me following the passing of a young friend just over a decade ago. It was a day after the service when her aunt while working in her garden, looked up to see dozens of pretty butterflies fluttering around her, filling the yard with colour and energy.  She was immediately soothed by their beauty and the message of hope that is attached to them.

A friend too had had a unique experience with butterflies recently — their appearance over the past several days not just sudden, but abundant. Fabulous Monarchs were finding her,  not just while she tended her gardens, but also in quiet moments of respite or during rejuvenating walks.

Each time she was captivated by their actions. They weren't flitting quickly past her, nor shyly darting into view and back out. There had been no coyness in their dance; they had instead boldly lingered and frolicked around her like children come to play.

During our conversation, it struck me that it had been some time since I'd seen a Monarch. Cardinals, another creature to which spiritual significance has been attached, have,  if not always shown themselves to me of late,  let me know they were there with me in their whistling call.  I have found with them that a level of faith has not been required to believe the significant meaning since I am consoled by their presence.

But the pretty Monarch has been elusive.  Until, of course, my friend's story was shared. It's interesting how conversations will often conjure that which we've discussed. There's the person you haven't seen in some time. You mention their name for some reason and they contact you the next day. Or the song that you've been wanting to hear begins to play on the radio after you mention it to someone.

So it was really no surprise to me when I stepped out on to my deck this past Saturday morning and was greeted by this flamboyant creature. Like those who have visited my friend, this one was in no hurry to pass through. As I stood waiting, coffee and book in hand, it floated around me, hovering and flittering. When after several seconds of watching its dance I decided to sit down, it seemed to follow me, swooping back and forth as if trying to get my attention.  The book was forgotten as I watched, smiling.  It probably stayed with me for five minutes before moving on to make another person's morning.

Later that day two more popped by for another quick visit.  I don't know if these guests did indeed represent something special — a message from a loved one who has passed, for example. But I like to think that their presence was somehow connected to my late parents and it left me feeling calm and centred, at peace, content.

It is not just to the Monarch that this significance is cast. All butterflies are believed to be a deep representation of life. For that reason, as well as for their photogenic qualities today's image collection, I've chosen to highlight these fantastic photos of beautiful butterflies from iPHOTOS.com

Photo of a green butterfly on a leaf



Friday, August 4, 2017

Terrific Back to School Clipart For Your Promos, Products and Projects

Clipart image of a little girl skipping in front of a rainbow
In our world of images here at Vital Imagery Ltd. we're always looking ahead. We trumpet the arrival of vacations and seasons.  We proclaim in our blog posts when things are about to happen, often weeks before they do,  for the simple fact that the people who will be looking for clipart to use in promotions, products or projects can't wait until the event arrives.

So,  today I ponder a reality that looms several weeks before us that just happens to be a little tough to fathom.

Looking out the window on a hazy, rainy summer day, my mind full of plans for a weekend in lake country, it seems incredibly difficult to turn my thoughts to the fact that it won't be long before children and teens head back to school.  It barely seems like any time has passed  since the schoolyards were filled with the lively sounds of exuberant youngsters let loose for recess. It won't be long though until the bells are no longer quiet, the halls no longer empty.

The foremost thought as I contemplate this, is life's swift passage. I really don't understand when summers became so short. I remember those of my youth as being long and lazy, almost endless.  When the school bell rang for the last time each June it felt as if forever stretched before us until we would return.

And it's not as if nothing happened during those two months. There were so many activities crammed into just eight weeks, yet the time seemed to move along like the tranquil flow of a forest stream.  There were week long visits with country cousins and family vacations at the beach.

In the neighbourhood, my friends and I filled our days with fun. There was pick-up baseball. We crowded the playground,  swinging until our feet touched the lowest branches on the tallest trees, riding the  playground until our heads spun and our stomachs lurched.  We spent hot afternoons chilling at the pool and warm evenings working up a sweat in games of chase and hide and seek.  We hiked, we ran, we played through all of the glorious summer weeks of our golden youth.

And by the time Labour Day arrived, we were actually eager for the return to formal education. There was always the back-to-school shopping first, meaning new duds and supplies. The latest fashions in everything from clothes to pencil cases were sought and bought.  The first morning back we eagerly donned our spiffiest outfit, grabbed pencils, papers, etc. and headed out the door ready to return to the classroom.

We were keen to find out what the classmates we hadn't seen had been up to during those long lazy weeks. We were excited to get into our classrooms and see if we'd be sitting near any of our friends. Regardless of how much we enjoyed the break,  that first day back to school was always exciting.

While students, young and older, might not be quite ready for that heady back-to-school vibe,  businesses and educators will soon be thinking of nothing else. Here then are two clipart collections to get them in the mood.
Clipart image of colouring pencils forming a frame around the words back to school


Clipart image of an open classroom door under the words back to school

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

It's a Day at the Beach With These 2 Sunny Clipart Collections

Clipart image of a beach scene
One of the best parts of summer is the long weekend — an extra day of fun in the sun,  of sand and surf, of hammocks and  shade trees, of croquet mallets and golf clubs.  The long weekend gives us a little more time to see the people we love and do the things we choose.

And this weekend, in our corner of the word we are celebrating the Civic Holiday.  On Monday offices will be locked, stores will be dark, factories quiet while families and friends will be kicking back and enjoying time spent in leisurely pursuits.

For my guy and I it promises to be a crazy busy long weekend.  With family visiting from the other side of this vast country there are more occasions and events than is typical, including a fundraising tournament.  From music to games to the beach the three days and nights will be a dizzying whirl of activity. Entertaining for sure, but a little outside my comfort zone.

Clipart image of a girl reading under a tree in a gardenAn introvert, my happy place is found in quiet hours on the deck, or enjoying a tête à tête with a close friend. Listening to music in a crowd, I am the one who is happy to be lost within the sound, thriving in the driving guitars and pulsing drums played so loudly that conversation is difficult. I am the one who seeks entertainment between the pages of a book, who upon entering a busy room moves quickly to a familiar face in a secluded corner.  I am energized by calm and quiet, depleted by noise and confusion.

And I'm married to an extrovert who thrives on the company of many and finds a lazy Sunday afternoon  pointless and boring. Over decades of marriage, however, we
Clipart image of a group of people partying
have learned to understand these differences and work with them. When we must be around a large crowd, he stays with me until I'm settled. When we have a rare few hours alone, I respect that he will look for ways to be less still after a time.

So our approaches to, and anticipation of, this upcoming long weekend will be quite different. Where he  will zealously seek out as much interaction with those surrounding us as possible, I will probably steal moments of alone time.  Of course, there will be shared activities too — those little conversations and private jokes typical of long-married couples,  our enjoyment of a concert, and our pleasure at being able to spend the majority of the weekend in cottage country.

Clipart image of a cottage at the beachWhen I think about it, time at our summer place seems to blur lines between extrovert and introvert.  The former soaks up the vibe and can sit and be cool, the latter is comfortable in the relaxed atmosphere and spreads her social wings.

The beach is peace and calm. It's a place to recharge your batteries. You can be as alone as you want or as busy as you desire. Sand underfoot and sun overhead quiet heart and mind.  The sounds of rushing waves lapping at the edge of the shore is nature's best song.

As we head towards a lovely summer long weekend my daydreams stray to the beach and the wonderful images that fill my mind when I look ahead. Here's a sample of those from iCLIPART.com and Clipart.com