10
Jul
16

A little rant about my pet peeves

Everyone has their own pet peeves.  I have several.  Um, actually, I have a lot depending on the day of the week or phase of the moon.  You know… the usual variables.

I am a list maker so I’m going to categorise some of mine by topic/theme.

Recipes

WHY do people use fractions of items in recipes?

I’m not talking 1/4 teaspoon; I’m talking about 1/5 of an avocado for heaven’s sake! Who the hell would cut up an avocado to use only 1/5 of it?  Really?  You couldn’t manage to use ALL of it?

Or how about 1/2 a can of sweetened condensed milk?  I don’t know about you, but when I open one of those I only have one thing to make and what the heck am I supposed to do with the leftover half a can?

Or recipes that call for 3 egg yolks and 5 egg whites?  What’s up with that?  Either figure out how to use 5 egg yolks or cut it back to 3 egg whites.  How hard is that?

Or 1 tablespoon of diced onion?  Sure you can put the rest of the onion in the fridge or freezer to use later, but… I’d have just included the whole “small” onion in the recipe.

And for baking – why on earth would anyone want to use margarine?  BAKING… you know, sugar upon sugar, usually containing other sweets like chocolate and fruit… use butter or lard or shortening – REAL food.

Driving

Turn signals.  When did they become optional?  They are either not used at all or only turned on half-way through the turn.  I was under the impression they were for indicating your intention to turn, in advance.  Silly me.

Rolling stops.  A stop sign means STOP.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve just about been t-boned, or as a pedestrian, was just about clipped.  These same people complain and wail when they get a ticket for not stopping (a $275 ticket!)  My heart bleeds.

Tossing butts out the window. I can’t even describe the stupidity of this.  Given the fires we have had you would think anyone with a single brain cell would know how stupid this it, but, daily, I still see it happening.  That or flicking their ashes out the window instead of into an ashtray.

Make-Up Pricing

As a professional make-up artist I buy a lot of products.

Many “brands” buy their items from the same sources – private label companies.  You can order anything with your own name and logo on it: brushes, liner pencils, eye shadow, etc. You can buy their stock items or order custom colours or packaging. You then can create your own price point.

I recognize a lot of these products and the price variation is ridiculous.  Personally, I go with the lower prices on many items – price is no way to judge make-up quality.  It can be a factor (i.e. stuff made in China for example, which I try to avoid) but all being equal, I’ll go with price.

I was looking for individual/single false lashes – the store I was in had one store brand package left at about $8.  I asked the attendant if they had anymore.  She checked the drawer, but had none of that brand left.  So she went and checked two other brands… in the “designer” section… $20 for a Borghese package.  Keep in mind these are tiny individual fake eyelashes… why would I want to pay $12 more for the name brand?  So I just got the one package.

Things like moisturizers have a wide variety of pricing – essentially ALL contain the same ingredients, in slightly different proportions with different scents, etc. There is no point, in my opinion, in spending on the higher priced brands when a $10 or $20 brand will serve the same purpose.

Brushes are something that really annoy me.  I have literally HUNDREDS of brushes for face painting.  I refuse to buy face paint brand’s labelled brushes.  They source their brushes just like any other company would, and have them customed coloured and stamp their name on them.  If you look around an art/craft store you can find the same, and usually better, brushes.  I’ve also discovered sets of cake decorating brushes work excellently – a set of 7 for $14… can’t beat that.  Quality of brushes is often judged by price, particularly artist brushes, so this is often a “get what you pay for” item.

Trying to get a price without having to talk to a salesperson

I’m curious to find out what solar panels would cost to install on my house.  I just want a ballpark – I don’t really have any intention to do it in the short term.

Couldn’t find any pricing on the interwebs that could be figured out by a layperson.  I do NOT want to talk to a salesperson, I just want a general idea of costs.  So I filled out one of those “get a quote” things – that sends to local outlets (I used one before to get car insurance quotes – and didn’t have to talk to anyone.)  They keep contacting me wanting my phone number – I told them I prefer email.  I just want to know what the price range is and that I can answer questions by email.

Just give me an average cost for this city. Then I know what I need to aim for if I want to do it.  I know they want to push a sale, but I just want information.  I hate hard sales pitches.

Well, that made me feel better.  Here’s a photo of my clematis.

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04
Jul
16

Summer Beauty

My flowers are coming along nicely this summer.  My perennials are all back and transplants from this year are doing well.  The usual petunias are looking great and starting to put on some size.

In the Fall of 2014 I harvested hollyhock seeds from the flower beds of an old church – it had been converted to offices and I worked there at the time.  There were about six different colours and I collected seeds from all the plants, hoping for a variety.  Last year several plants grew, but stayed small and did not produce any blooms.  This year I have six good sized plants (and some smaller ones) and today I discovered my first bloom!

As far as I can tell only two of the plants have buds to this point.

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My Prairie Mallows are prolific as always.  They are aggressive self-seeders so I remove a lot every year.  They really are pretty.

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This bee thinks the Prairie Mallow are great too!

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This patch of lilies started as one single plant in 2010 – I’ve started to divide them and plant in other parts of the beds.

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These next two I need to research to find out what they are exactly – a friend gave me the plants out of her garden a month or so ago.  They are doing well!

My clematis are lush as usual, with the pots of petunias to complement them.

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It is still early and the petunias in the beds will soon be spilling over the landscape ties.  I really love Wave Petunias.

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30
Jun
16

Now I wait…

I had my “procedure” of injections into  both eyeballs yesterday afternoon.  I was really nervous.  Many people who’ve had that type of treatment said the anticipation was worse than the process, and they were right.

While it isn’t exactly fun, it certainly wasn’t that bad.  Much easier than a root canal… once you get past the whole needle in your eye thing.

I asked the doctor if this will fix the issue and he said that it could resolve the eye problem if my blood sugar and blood pressure stays under control (which they have been.)  But we won’t know if there is an improvement until my next scheduled tests on July 22.  They’ve already scheduled me for another set of injections at the end of the month, if needed.

I flinched when he injected the first eye, more from anticipation than anything else.  It was actually rather interesting – as the drug was injected I could see it!  All swirly like spin art, and looked like jelly fish swimming around.  Then the black floaters appeared which was the stuff pooling.

My eyes were really dry after, and all gooey around the lids.  Had drops to put in which helped as my left lid was sticking open!  And other drops to put in four times a day.

The floaters are almost completely gone now.

So now it is just wait and… SEE (ha ha…)

 

27
Jun
16

Trials and Tribulations

I just want to say… be careful of your health.  If you are told you are pre-diabetic you need to treat it as if you ARE diabetic to stop it from progressing.

Unfortunately, I have now been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy and will be receiving treatment this week consisting of injections into my eyeballs to hopefully slow/stop the progression of the disease.   I don’t want to go blind.

Even though I got my blood sugar under control quite quickly once I was diagnosed as full blown diabetic (by eliminating carbs from my diet), the eyes continued to deteriorate severely.  This was discovered last week when I had my six-month “diabetic health check.”  The fact that the surgeon has “squeezed” me in this week scares the hell out of me.

If you have any family history of diabetes, stay on top of it.  You don’t want to deal with this, trust me.

 

29
May
16

My life in art

Well that title sounds a bit pretentious, but in this post I am sharing art I created throughout my life so that is what it is.

I spent part of today photographing most of the stuff I’ve been carrying in my big zippered art portfolio.  A lot of the early work my mom had saved initially, then it all got put together when I acquired the case.

Lots of school work, stuff I did at home, things I’d doodled to kill time but really liked, etc.

I’m on a binge to cull all non-essential materials and want to make sure I have a visual back-up of things I treasure.  It is a challenge for someone with the “collecting gene” to get rid of things, but I am doing well at off-loading things that don’t have a lot of emotional attachment. Like my pin-back button collection and my pin collection – sold those.  Still have more “collections” to sell or otherwise disburse but I’ll get to it all in time.

Going through things today it was easy to see my progression/improvement as I learned and practised.

One of the earliest that I still have is this drawing I did of Marmaduke when I was around 5 or 6 years old. Mom kept this one in her cedar chest for years.

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I have always been able to copy what I’m looking at.

This is another very old one.  I was around 8 or 9.  Granny was a very talented artist and always gave me art supplies for birthdays and Christmas.  This was done with pastels – and no technique!

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This painting was  done in Grade 5 so I was 10 years old.  I’m positive I copied it.  A lot of my school art is damaged from being mounted by the teachers – some torn on the edges like this one, or, stained by tape.

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I did this one in Grade 6 or 7 – The Marlboro Man aka Tom Selleck BEFORE Magnum P.I.  I am upset about the tape damage – I was/am really proud of this one.  I had the BIGGEST crush on him!

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The shoes were done in Grade 8.  This has a story… I was attending a small all-girl catholic junior high (BTW, not a catholic) and the art teacher was a nun with a BA in fine arts. There was going to be an art show of student art for parent’s day or something so we all had to draw our shoes – she then took our drawings to put up on display.  Well…MY drawing was NOT on display.  I, and my mom, asked where it was.  Her comment was that I hadn’t turned it in.  I did, and had witnesses to that – the whole damn class!  So she had to back pedal, and oh, surprize, she “found” my drawing but too late for the art show.  My mom said she was jealous as she couldn’t draw herself.  Nice nun, eh?  Lies and does a dirty to a 13 year old student of hers?

BTW… those were the most comfortable shoes!

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I wasn’t really into drawing people from life but tried.  I had a hard time with eyes.  This is a portrait of my sister from 1977.  It was much easier working from photos.

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This is of a fellow recruit I did while in the Army in 1978/79.  I was getting better at faces.

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This next one is Mom working on getting Special to halter lead.  It was summer.  LOL. Mom commented about me including the stomach rolls.  BTW… working with horses in bikinis and barefoot is NOT recommended.

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This next one is the logo I designed for the Pacific Pinto Horse Association in 1981.

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This cat skeleton isn’t dated – but I think it was in a drawing class.

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Quick sketch of my brother Neil in 1985.  It actually does look like him.  I wish I had been more consistent about dating my work.

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And another from 1985 of one of our horses, Major.  We left the farm in 1984 and I had a lot more time to draw and do other things so I have a fair amount of stuff dated 1985 in my portfolio.

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With that extra time I did some needlework too.

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And moving along to 1987.  I was into drawing horses – almost all of my 10th year I drew nothing but horses.  Then we actually got horses!  Then I drew our horses. The Arab below is not one of ours.

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During the 1990s I took many classes in various mediums at the Surrey Arts Centre.  The following are some of the results:

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This pastel of Little Dog sleeping beside me I did somewhere between 1990-94.

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In 2001 I painted this one of us all watching the Leonides Meteor shower.

Leonides Meteor Shower

I’m only just getting back into putting pen/brush/pencil to paper again.  I’ve been busy with my other art, make-up, for a lot of years and it satisfied the urge to create, but now that I have more time on my hands I’m itching to try out other mediums and try new things.

Over the last little bit I started doodling with these results which I find quite satisfying.  I can’t stand “adult” colouring books so just start on a blank page and keep going till I run out of room.

This one was gel and ballpoint pens.  Took me a month to finish.

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This one was done in three days because I found my felt pens… much faster filling in the shapes!

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I’ve signed up for a watercolour class starting this Wednesday which I am really excited about.  That is one of the mediums I haven’t tried yet.  I love the look and admire what people can do with it so am really looking forward to learning about the techniques.

23
May
16

Cheesecake, version 2.0

Finally got around to creating a baked cheesecake today.  After my no-bake version (read about that one here) I wanted to try a baked one and see if I could amp up the “dessert” feel to it.

I have to say this turned out pretty damn good!

I just made this up as I went along – cheesecake is a pretty simple recipe really, so I just started throwing things together.

So, here is my Baked No-Sugar Cheesecake recipe.

Pre-heat oven to 350F

Base:

1 (+/-) cup ground almonds – I just dumped what was left in a small package into the dish

1/4 cup butter

2 squares of finely grated 70% cocoa baking chocolate (the chocolate keeps the base together)

Filling:

1 – 8 oz package of cream cheese

1 pint of ricotta cheese

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

Finely grated zest of lemon (about a half to one teaspoon – or whatever you get off the one lemon!)

Juice of one lemon

1/4 cup of no-sugar dried cranberries (the type I have were sweetened with apple juice) chopped finely

In a glass or ceramic dish (I used a large Pyrex pie plate) add the ground almonds and butter – microwave for 30 seconds (to melt the butter), then remove and mix until completely blended.  Mix the finely grated baking chocolate into the ground nuts/butter until evenly distributed.  Press firmly down – I put a piece of parchment paper over it and flattened with my hand.  Set aside.

In a 2-quart bowl beat the cream cheese until loose, add in the ricotta and continue beating on medium until well blended and smooth.  Increase speed to high for a minute, add eggs, one at a time and beat well before adding the next.  Add vanilla, lemon zest and juice.  Beat on high until well blended.  Add the cranberries and beat just enough to incorporate evenly.

Pour/dump the filling onto the base and level off in the dish.  Place the dish in the oven for 35-45 minutes.  Middle should be set (meaning not jiggling) when it is done.

Let it cool completely to room temperature, then place in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.  Note: it will fall a little when it cools.

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The chocolate in the base keeps it holding together – it isn’t crunchy but does add a textural element.  I was a little worried about the nuts burning if I tried pre-baking it, but possibly it might help to crisp it up a little.  I will try that next time.

My oven likes to run hot – when I took it out it read 389F so, I need to watch that.  It turned a nice golden brown, which is fine, but not strictly required to be properly done.

This really turned out well.  The lemon makes it fruity and tangy, the cranberries gave it just enough “sweetness” to be dessert-y and it smelled fantastic baking!  There is a very subtle hint of Creme Brule on the palette (fancy eh?) which really hits the spot with me.

I had the first piece plain.  I’m going to have tomorrow’s piece with strawberries (just a tablespoon!)  That was too big a portion actually… but it smelled so good!  I ended up putting part of it back as I couldn’t finish.

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15
May
16

Der spring haz sprung

We’ve had an exceptionally warm, and early, Spring this year.

Usually I can’t get near my apple tree to spray it before it buds because of the snow, but this year the snow was all gone before it leafed up.

I had to mow the front yard in early April which is unheard of.  Usually I don’t mow until near the end of May, which is when the last of the snow has melted.  I’ve now mowed the front lawn four times and the back twice.  The back is three times the size of the front and no one sees it… so I only do it once to every two or three times I do the front.

We haven’t had a lot of rain (or snow for that matter) so far either.  My lawn is the first to green up, but also the first to brown up… I don’t water it so it fends for itself.  Makes for less mowing when it is dry.

I’ve been busy tidying up the yard, staining the deck, doing some heavy work with paving stones, etc.  I had bought the stain last summer but just as I bought it the weather turned cold and damp so I wasn’t able to get the deck done.  A couple weeks ago we had a heat wave of near 30C for a week so I got it done!  Took me just over 8 hours over two days.  I just have a couple small things to finish – the garden benches and part that needs a ladder.

Here is the deck, after the staining – I really like the colour which is a match to the soffits and eavestroughs.

Another project was fixing up the area between the garage, shed and deck.  There were large paving slabs there, but an area had been left open with pea gravel which just became a weed patch every year which was annoying.  I scored some recycled paving bricks on a local auction site, and moved some others from another part of my yard to fill in.  Much better, and more useful a space now.  Here is before and after:

The stone stamped pavers go around the side of the house to the front.  Ignore the rubble under the deck – that was there when we bought the house and it isn’t in the way.

When I was scraping away the pea gravel I uncovered nails, screws, broken glass and masses of asphalt shingles… which we also found tons of in the back “garden” patch (along with black plastic garbage bags full of grass clippings… ?  If you are going to dump your grass clippings in the corner of your yard… why would you not just dump them out to rot???)  Previous owner(s) obviously were of the “bury it and they won’t know I was too lazy/cheap to dispose of it properly” mindset.

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I finished putting out my petunias today… even though conventional wisdom up here is “NOT before the May long weekend!”  I bought them a couple weeks ago and kept them in the garage for a few days and on the deck for the rest of the time so they were well hardened off.  It’s been nice and the next few days are supposed to be very warm, then it is supposed to rain on the long weekend… so I planted them out in the front beds and some in pots on the steps.  And the big basket I bought for the big planter is out too.

The small pots have silver and white petunias, and the bed is mostly magenta (same as in the big planter.)  They are all Wave Petunias which are really lush, it will be really pretty later in the Summer.

My perennials are growing like, er, weeds!  The Lilies have multiplied and are starting to bud.

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And my Prairie Mallow and Hollyhocks are doing great as well.

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And the Clematis on both sides of the stairs!  You can see how dry my grass is in these photos.

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We talked about getting an arbour to go around the door, but stabilizing it given the wind here was a worry.  As you can tell, we don’t use that door.  That is obvious, right?  You wouldn’t believe the number of door-to-door types that go up to it and try to knock… mostly male (make of that what you will.)

I’ve got pots of herbs on the deck so I can get them easily when cooking – chives, parsley, spearmint, oregano, thyme and dill.  I’ve already been using them.

The apple tree bloomed very well this year on every branch, which is a first.  It is a five-in-one so each branch is a different variety – up till now only three branches bloomed.  So I am excited!  In 2011 I got 31 apples off of three branches.  Last year… 2.  This year, lots of blossoms and more importantly, BEES.  So I am hoping to have a crop.  Each variety has a different ripening time so it should be staggered.

So all done with the prep and planting; all that is left is mowing, watering and weeding for the rest of the season.  Well, just tiny bit of staining left on the benches and high bit, but that won’t take too long.

 




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