Thursday, April 27, 2017

Newspaper Art

Some of us still read newspapers delivered to our doors in the morning - one of the pleasures of a leisurely morning (for retired people) with coffee at our house, for sure.

But what to do with all the leftover papers. Can they be reused instead of recycled?

Here's one idea.

Chie Hitotsuyama is a Japanese sculptor who was inspired by her grandfather's paper mill where paper was rolled to make string. She uses discarded newspapers,  rolls them by hand and uses these strings to create life-like animals.

In case you feel inspired and you have some old newspapers and some time on your hands, here's a DIY video to help get you started. It might be a good craft project for kids at a loose end too.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bill FitzGibbons


The image of this Birmingham Alabama underpass caught my eye recently, so I looked up the person responsible and found Bill FitzGibbons, an US sculptor who has created numerous public art works around the world. Many of them are light sculptures, which I love.

  • San Antonio Texas, the Bank of America Building

Kinetic Skyline
  • Seattle, Washington
    Chinook Lights

  • Reykjavik, Iceland
    ├ľndvegiss├║lur, Poem of Light

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Yvonne Coomber

Image result for yvonne coomber

I had never heard of Yvonne Coomber but I recently discovered her artwork. Here's a short video about this UK artist who finds inspiration in the Devon landscape near where she lives.

Ms. Coomber has an online shop where she sells original artwork as well as prints and printed canvases, greeting cards, textiles and other home furnishings. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Save Your Toilet Paper Rolls

Toilet paper rolls can be used for art projects. Witness these Anastassia Elias works. She's a Paris-based artist who creates miniature paper sculptures inside toilet paper rolls.

To see more, visit her here.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Angel Catbird

Not too long ago I proclaimed myself inadequate to review a novel by Margaret Atwood. I haven't changed my mind, but I just read her Angel Catbird as part of a series of reading graphic novels and since I doubt whether people would consider it serious "literature", decided to devote this blog post to it.

Angel Catbird

Most of the Margaret Atwood hype at the moment concerns the airing of a 10-part series of The Handmaid's Tale on TV that Hulu has produced and that will be seen in Canada on Crave TV and Bravo, starting April 30, four days after the US showing on Hulu. This marvellous and thought-provoking novel has been a film, a dramatic radio show, an audiobook, a stage show, even an opera. All beloved by many, including me. 

I suspect most of Margaret Atwood's multitudinous fans, serious literature-lovers all, will look at or page through Angel Catbird, a graphic novel (comic book) and just say, "Pffft....what on earth is she thinking!" They will dismiss it as a waste of their time. Does that mean that Atwood wasted her valuable time in coming out with it? I don't think so.

We need to remember that Ms. Atwood is a creative person. She seems to have one of those minds that loves to grab an idea out of thin air, examine it closely and put it to use. In the case of Angel Catbird, inspired by the comics that many of us devoured growing up, she reconciles her conflicting interests in birds and cats, species often at odds with one another.

In Angel Catbird Ms. Atwood tackles this conundrum of cats and birds by having a human, a young man, actually morph into a triple entity, part-human/part-owl/part-cat. He becomes a sort of superhero when the part-cat community needs to save itself from an evil part-human/part-rat. 

Ok, the story is a fantasy. To generalize, isn't fiction mostly fantasy? One review I read said there's little in the way of character development. Oh for heaven's sake, get off your high horse and just enjoy a bit of fun. I read this in a short space of time and laughed several times over some of the witty remarks. Punsters will definitely get a giggle. A reader can definitely sense the fun Margaret Atwood had in creating Angel Catbird and the quirky characters that inhabit it.

Johnnie Christmas' drawings were wonderful, fully descriptive of the characters and alive with action. The coloration, by Tamra Bonvillain, was equally wonderful, adding a layer of realism to the content. The pages reminded me of the great quality of the Amulet series of graphic books by Kazu Kibuishi that our 10-year old grandson enjoys so much. Have a look at this random page from Angel Catbird.

In the introduction Atwood explains her reasons for writing Angel Catbird, mentioning that she has never met her co-conspirators in person, so the book is even more remarkable for that reason alone. See the Cat-Bird Math, Part 1 at the bottom of the page? That is one of many little blurbs throughout the book with tips for cat/bird safety, environmental tidbits and general information. The book is kid-friendly, although I can't see anywhere that it's considered "juvenile fiction". In my opinion, good juvie fiction is adult-friendly and vice versa, so I think this book may well be a birthday present for a cat-appreciating granddaughter soon to turn 10. 

At the back of the book, for readers interested in the process, there are sketches by Johnnie Christmas, explaining how he came up with the characters and there are two pages where Tamra Bonvillain describes how she colours the drawings. Pretty interesting even for non-artistic types like me. 

I thought the book was terrific! I've been blown away once again by the creative mind of Margaret Atwood. Sometimes as we grow older (though not suggesting that she's getting older) we fall into doing what comes easily, taking shortcuts and some of us tend not to enjoy embracing new ideas. Not Atwood. She defies the stats. 

There is already a Catbird, Volume 2 with Volume 3 also in the queueAngel Catbird is gaining fans. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April in Paris: Paris Plage

By patrick janicek - PLAGE DE SABLE, CC BY 2.0,
By Peter Haas /, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Regular visitors to Some Favourite Things might remember that in the past I've mentioned that whimsical Parisian idea of turning a normally very busy roadway along the Seine not far from the Louvre into a temporary beach, complete with sand and palm trees during July and August. Of course, during the hot Paris summer city-dwellers flock en masse to the coasts so the only people you would be likely to encounter on the plage would be other tourists and students - everybody else either away or working.

Every year since it started about 15 years ago there have been new features added - a shuttle ferry across to the plage on the autre rive, a floating swimming pool, even another beach area in the northeast area of the city.

One of the things I hadn't realized about Paris-Plages is that every year the sand, thousands of tonnes of it, was trucked in from the northern beaches of Normandy by the construction company which donated it. This rather large contribution to Paris sparked concerns about the possibility of favouritism at city council. 

In addition, it has recently been noticed that this construction company, LafargeHolcim, a huge Franco-Swiss company with multi-national interests, has recently come to an agreement with the armed groups in Syria regarding its cement works there, allowing them to stay in production. 

Then, to top it off, the company, which has cement production sites and operations in three of the states bordering Mexico, is bidding with the US government to build the US-Mexico wall for Trump. 

The Paris municipal government (Mairie) is unhappy with these activities of Lafarge and has decided to end the sand part of the beach in favour of opening the area for multi-purpose recreational use over a slightly longer time period of spring and summer. Traffic has already been halted for spring 2017 and below is a recent (early April) photo of the new look.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Wasp Nest Update

Last fall I mentioned that we had a wasp nest high up in one of our back yard trees.

I never saw any wasps buzzing around, so hopefully they had moved on to other quarters by the time winter storms hit.

Over the past few weeks there have been incredible winds and driving rains so I wasn't surprised when I woke up yesterday morning to see the nest lying on the ground. I went out and grabbed it with a rake before it could blow away. 

Pretty amazing, isn't it!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Happy International Carrot Day!

International Carrot Day, April 4, began in 2003 and is celebrated by carrot-lovers mainly in Australia, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, Sweden and the UK as well as by equines around the world. People enjoy wearing slightly odd orange costumes and, because carrots are so good for us with lots of beta carotene and fibre, making carrotty foods such carrot cake, carrot muffins, carrot slaw etc. 

Here's a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for what is either muffins or cupcakes - your choice.

Carrot Tahini Muffins 
(Cupcakes with the icing)
(see my notes below)

carrot tahini muffins

Yield: 12 to 14 muffins
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1/4 cup (30 grams) well-stirred tahini
1/2 cup (80 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk, almond milk or (non-alcoholic) apple cider
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour (see Note)
2 cup packed coarsely grated carrots (from about 9 ounces or 5 slim carrots)
Glaze (optional)
1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons (25 grams) tahini
2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Whisk olive oil, tahini and brown sugar together in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in eggs, then buttermilk and vanilla. Whisk in baking powder, baking soda and salt, then switch to a spoon or flexible spatula and stir in flour, then carrots, mixing just until combined.
Either line a 12-cup standard muffin pan with paper liners or coat them with a nonstick spray. Fill each about 3/4 of the way with batter. You’ll probably have enough for 2 more after this so you can hold some back if needed. Bake muffins for 14 to 16 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of each comes out batter-free. Muffins should be domed and lightly golden on top. Let them cool in pan for 5 minutes on a rack before transferring them to the cooling rack to cool completely.

my notes from Jan. 2016: I thought these could benefit from some cinnamon and possibly a bit more sugar or some maple syrup

Carrot Salad

For something even healthier, how about a carrot salad? This one is adapted from David Lebovitz.

stirring carrot salad

  • Some whopping big carrots, shredded finely on a box grater
  • Flat-leaf parsley, chopped, but not too finely
  • Dressing: juice of freshly squeezed lemon(s), good quality olive oil, a pinch of sugar, freshly ground salt and pepper, all whisked together and then mixed with carrots.
Don't worry too much about amounts - just taste as you go along and trust your buds.
Meanwhile, at the Donkey Sanctuary....