Wednesday, December 31, 2008

There's Hope

Happy New Year. What a year it's been for the world - exciting, tragic, sobering, hopeful. I've been especially reflective lately. Knowing that both my parents are now gone, that I've reproduced and weaned another generation that can replace me, there's nothing standing between me and the grim reaper except for fate, luck and the quality of all my habits. I'm feeling this with a kind of semi-cheerful pragmatism. The odd result is that I've been crazy busy in my kitchen, bulk cooking and freezing enormous amounts of healthy, comfort food like some babushka survivalist. (Note: If there is some apocalyptic event and you're in the neighbourhood, come to my house, maybe I'll offer you a few meatballs...)

I'd like to leave this year with a little Christmas miracle. For years I've had a friendly feud with someone close to my family. He's a well to do, republican American working in a high level finance position. A right wing capitalist through and through. He's criticized Canada's bad weather, too left politics and even the Queen on our cash (which being a complete Anglophile, I quite like, only I wish she was holding a sword with alchemy skulls or a magic wand or something cool...uh...I'm digressing).

A few days ago, I had a conversation with this lovely man and I'm still trying to put my gaping jaw back in place. He spewed forth one of the strongest criticisms against the Bush administration I've heard yet. But more surprisingly was a bit of a turnaround, complimenting some European countries for their social programs and 'taking care of their own' not like the rampant greed and corruption he's seen in the states. I was filled with the same warm fuzzy feeling I would have had if I learned about a litter of puppies being safely rescued from a well. By God, it's a Christmas miracle! my right wing friend becoming just a smidgen left of centre. And being a little 'left' is really about compassion and humanity. So with that thought, I've changed my mind, if it all goes down badly and armageddon is upon us, I will DEFINITELY give you some meatballs AND my vegetable barley soup, but only if you promise not to make the fake gagging sounds like my kids did today.

Happy New Year everyone, peace, contentment and love to you all, see you next year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

"You'll shoot your eye out kid"

Maybe a real archery set for my spirited preteen wasn't the wisest Christmas present....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back from the Big Smoke

View of the CN tower and the Art Gallery of Ontario

I feel lucky. My flights home from Toronto were only 4 hours delayed. I made it home at 4 am yesterday morning. Walking through Calgary airport, getting my connecting flight, was a bit surreal. It looked a little like an emergency disaster shelter, crowded with many weary people trying to sleep on the floor, using their luggage as pillows. Some had been there for 3 days. It was extremely unusual for storm systems to be present across the entire country at once.

I'm always surprised in these mini crisis that people are so well behaved. People just sigh, get on their cell phones, complain to people who know them or go off to the airport bar and drink. The people at the boarding gate next to mine had to get back on the plane they just came off of and go back to the city they just left to get a connecting flight to Vancouver. Then a woman spoke up,"but this plane [referring to mine] is going to Abbotsford, [an hours outside Vancouver] Why can't I go on this plane!" I was expecting the beginning of a big scene. It also occurred to me, having averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night for the past week, you become a little like a hungry, mangy dog with a bone. That distressed woman could have slowly cut off my arm with a sharp, rusty metal file and I still wouldn't give up my seat on the plane. Hmmm... I think that imagery is a result from reading The Road during my trip. A brilliant book, hauntingly beautiful, but horrific and bleak, bleak, bleak.

During my trip I did manage to do one thing unrelated to my fathers death. My sisters and I went to the newly renovated Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). The space was redesigned by Frank Gehry, hosting an expanded collection. It was wonderful. The highlight for me was an installation entitled "The Index" by Montreal artist David Altmejd. It's a disco infused, kitschy Audubon nightmare, and I thought it was spectacular. But like all installation pieces, you need to walk through it to really experience it fully.

Looking at art from Rubens, to Picasso to pieces like Altmejd's, a selected scope of art history was at my fingertips. Contemporary art that (the proverbial) 'they' consider important can be summed up simply:
Large scale, obsessive created art pieces using common materials or objects, not art materials, remade into recognizable forms = iconic. There was sports bags and golf bags made into large totem poles, thousands of plastic craft beads made into a large curtained landscape wall hanging. Fine wire mesh that looked a little like window screening made into a replica of a bathroom. Although there was some big paintings, they seemed weak next to these other art spectacles. I thought it was exciting and pointless all at the same time, and if that feeling doesn't sum up living in the modern world I don't know what does.

Now I'm off to bake gingerbread cookies with my kids for the big red guy's appearance tomorrow. And honestly, I can't think of anything I'd rather do more right now. Simple pleasures.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm here but not here...

Snowmaggeden. The media loves their sensationalist tag lines and that's what their calling the storm here in the east. I'm in Toronto right now, typing from my sister's laptop (so no pictures for your viewing pleasure). I've been trudging through the snow today and while I think the intensity of the storm is a bit of an exaggeration, I'm a bit panicked when my plane leaves in 2 days I may get stuck sleeping in the Winnipeg airport before Christmas. Now if they could just divert the plane to Costa Rica for a few days... Any suggestions for ways to pass the hours at an airport? Maybe I should take the opportunity to learn origami or juggling.

I went to my father's funeral today. It was rough, but made a little easier by seeing childhood friends of family and being together with my siblings. Surprisingly, an old Estonian Baptist minister (almost an oxymoron, Estonians are notoriously moderate Christians, if at all) who was the only one available to do the funeral, made it easier by being a bit wacko. Very little talk about my dad, but lots of preaching for us to make sure our souls are saved. He was odd, with no talent for metaphors, a few were just too weird for me to remember. His 'loopiness', as someone remarked, made the experience annoying enough to distract me from much sadness. But I am grateful my brother, Victor and sister, Karin, spoke about my father, mentioning his amazing kindness and patience and I just want to hug them again for their wonderful words.

Grief works in strange ways. All week, I haven't been feeling much more than stress. I've been busy trying to prepare myself for the trip out here as well as prepare my husband for his brief adventure in single parenting.

Me to my daughters:
" Be good, make it easy for dad, but not TOO easy. I don't want him to think it's all easy. can beat each other up twice, and Olivia, never stop asking for a puppy."

I've been too busy and exhausted to grieve. I had 3 hours of sleep on Wednesday before leaving for the airport at 3:00am. Just before boarding I realized I left my drivers license in my other purse. The airline staff said they couldn't let me on, but could book me on a flight later the next day once I had my ID in order. Only then did I finally lose it - cried, sobbed, explained I had to get to my fathers funeral, and sobbed some more. So they relented. 11 hours later I arrived for what normally would be a five and half hour flight, but my luggage was left in another city.

Things are much better now, I have clothes, a toothbrush, the funeral is finished, I'm looking forward to going home and hearing the familiar sounds of kids screaming, the dogs barking, the hamster OCD'ing on his plastic wheel all night... I'll be back online, back to myself in a few days.

Thanks to everyone for commenting, emailing and phoning their sympathies, that meant a lot.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


This isn't going to be much of a post. After urging others to post daily with me, I was a dropout in the December challenge yesterday. My mind has been too distracted. My 96 yr old father has been admitted twice to the hospital since yesterday morning. It isn't clear what the problem is yet, but it sounds serious, he is after all 96. Since it's on the other side of the country, there's nothing for me to do but wait for phone calls. My AMAZING sisters, Ingrid and Tiina have been keeping me well posted.

It's been a bit of a reflective day as well. My father has a constitution of steel. He's had TB, heart attacks, a stroke, prostrate cancer and has bounced back from all of that miraculously well to become his good, old mellow self again in record time. And mellow he is. When he was a boy, his mother saw him lying on the grass,looking down at something,completely motionless. When she went to him, he was staring at a wild strawberry, red ripe on one side and green on the other. He said he was watching the strawberry and waiting for it to ripen and remained there for hours. Sometimes, when I'm thinking about role models for zen like patience, I forget there has been one part of my life all along.

So as I'm waiting for some word from thousands of kilometers away, I realize whatever happens, all I wish for is for his comfort. 96 is a good, long life. If you were to choose the length of your life, what would you choose? Could you choose? Or would your thoughts immediately shift to how meaningful you make that life. If you were able to accomplish much of what you wanted and experienced the full joy and richness of life by the time you were 60, would you want to live to 110. These thoughts occurred to me yesterday morning when reading Edward Winkleman's blog post The Immortality Paradox. I've just started reading his blog, it' s a great read about art, the art world and the art market (high end). This post was more philosophical about post-human ideals, the conquering of death and extending life spans to 1000 yrs and the moral argument surrounding the desire for immortality. It's an interesting read, the comments even more so.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Slice of Life

I went cloud chasing today. Living sandwiched between mountains and an ocean, experiencing extremes in weather is common. It was a clear and sunny day. However, while driving around doing errands, my easily distracted brain noticed a big, white, fluffy cloud stretching across the ground down the hill. I suppose the other term would be fog, but I'm full of child like wonder today, so I prefer cloud. I dropped everything to go walk through it. Here's a picture I took this afternoon. I was cloaked in a white mist. A few hundred feet on either side of me, I would have been standing in bright sun. It was a completely surreal experience. I wanted to rush home and paint a huge picture with just layers and layers of buttery oil paints and try to capture this subtlety, but not today... there's groceries, dinner, kids to pick up and parcels to send away. Meh, maybe tomorrow.

And here's a picture of one of my daughters at her school's big Christmas concert last night. Yep, that's her in the red and black top. And I was so pleased with myself for arriving early, thinking what great seats we got this year....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I failed to post last night, nothing I would have written would have been coherent anyway, too little sleep in too many days. When I woke up this morning, I was confronted with my very first email requesting a temporary loan from Nigeria! I have been waiting and waiting for the honour of this scam in all the years I've been online and finally it came. I'm worthy of spam now. I'm SOMEBODY!

Unfortunately, not long after, my computer told me it had deflected an outside viral attack. It did this many times. There was a nano battle occurring right in front of me, so I assisted by using my power of invisibility - disconnecting the internet. Then I felt lost. Because a computer with no web access? What's the point? Free cell? Solitaire? So I wasted time doing that, to prolong the insane amount of things I have planned today. Now I have to get back to all those things.

I have a few posts planned for the December Challenge. But I'd like to use one my lifelines please. I'm asking YOU, reader, for ideas. Anyone? Keep in mind, I'm not above personal humiliation right now (to a degree). Topics that are off limits are: automobile things (because nothing bores me more) and team sports (same reason) and that's it, anyone?

Monday, December 8, 2008


I'm beginning my Christmas shopping for my kids this week. Luckily, righteous and diligent parents have saved me from making morally irresponsible choices. This holiday season major toy manufacturers have teamed up with the likes of Al-Qaeda and possibly SATAN himself to offer these outwardly innocent but insidiously dangerous toys. Take a look.

That clip was from Associated Press. I wanted to see updates from this news story so I fearfully explored that path of ugly stupidity and took a peek at ultra right-wing Fox New's take on the story. Not surprisingly, Fox News expands the doll's messages to include Satanic ones as well. And if you understand what they are from the video clip? then you're marked and you must BURN, WITCH BURN!

The power of suggestion is everything. Adults pick up many accidental little quirks in kids toys. Mike Mozart's humorous reviews of common toys demonstrates this point. This one's my favourite, how... HOW did Disney miss this before it went into production?!

The one case of true toy sabotage I know of is an act of genius in my book. In the early 1990's a group claiming to be the BLO, the Barbie Liberation Organization took 300 talking Barbie and G.I. Joe Dolls and switched the voice boxes before returning them to the store. G.I said things as, "I hate math" and "will we ever have enough clothes?" while Barbie said, "Eat lead, Cobra!" and "Vengeance is Mine!".

Mike Bononno was the mastermind behind the prank and went on to form The Yes Men with Andy Bichlbaum. They're activists, posing as representatives of the World Trade Organization, Exxon, Dupont and others to expose the true nature of 'The Man'. They call it "identity correction" and their weapon is elaborate satirical pranks. The Yes Men documentary is smart and gut-busting funny. Here's the trailer for it. Go rent it! Now I'm off to sleep to rest up before confronting the crazy Christmas Shoppers. G'Night.

**A big thanks to Andrea for the doll news clip (keep them coming!)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peace and Quiet

Quiet Place
Ellen Sereda

A little doodle I did while taking a break from scrubbing the mysterious red stuff on the bottom shelf of my fridge today. It turned into a drawing that I quite like and is available matted in my Etsy shop. Now my Etsy widget on the side is symmetrical again (yay).

When you sketch purely from imagination as I was doing with this drawing, it's pretty clear that you're influenced by whatever is going on at that moment. In my case, my daughters were bickering for most of the weekend. After exhausting myself as a referee, I gave up and hid in the basement with my pen and paper and let them fight it out. My youngest has a new (only mildly disturbing) saying she uses when her older sister is squeezing her or pinning her down, "That hurts so much it doesn't even hurt anymore!" I should have bred more. In a big families, the sibling torture is nicely spread around, not so damn focused.

So I was craving some peace and quiet. Today, I also received some old photos of my parents and my family when we were all young. Both my parents escaped from Estonia during WWII. We grew up as part of an Estonian community in Ontario. My parents Estonian friends were close enough for my siblings and I to call them Aunt and Uncle, but our only true blood relatives in Canada were my Great Aunt and her family. Thanks to the magic of Face Book, my cousin has contacted me and has been sending old photos. I love getting them. As I was looking at them today I thought of old rustic, Estonian, woodsy like things when I drew the picture (the background is pure BC though).

It's interesting to see old photos of yourself that you've never seen before. Here is one photo sent today of me and two of my sisters with my great aunt. I'm the little, squishy one sitting down. Awww, poor me, cute but a little like a flunkie alien child from Village of the Damned. I would be posed for world domination if only I could find my other shoe...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ocean Music - WIP

I sold a few things in my Etsy store and thought I really need to start adding more pieces. I'll be adding this little painting shortly. This is my daughter, who actually has started enjoying posing for me, so I'm taking advantage of it. I'm reworking this piece, trying to determine what I want for the background. I'm thinking the suggestion of a beach at night and cityscape in the distance. Basically Vancouver, which is where I spent the entire day today.

I would post some of my pictures of my escape from suburbia into the big city, but when I downloaded them, they were all blurry, except for this one...

I've never seen this picture before. It was no doubt, taken by one of my daughters, who DO understand technology better than me. This is my poor, old dog. It's the holidays and time to humiliate the pets. Gently placed hats allowed, garland and lights, no.

Forgive me, we had our weekly family movie night and today's screening was, Fred Claus. I'm still recovering. So I'll leave with a beautiful singer, Lior and his wonderful video done with silhouette marionettes. And yes, I've made peace with YouTube.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What to Put on Barbies Walls

Lucien Freuds' painting Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995) sold for $33 million this past May, a record for a painting by a living artist. I'm kind of wanting to use a mini version of it for the interior of the Barbie house I'm working on. But no, that is cruel. I'll give my daughters a Barbie house that is pretty and bright with no social statement attached. Also, I'm imaging that awkward moment when their friends leave our house and tell their parents, "...and their mom made them a doll house and pasted pictures of naked, fat ladies on the wall".

I've always liked Freuds work. He's known for his stark painterly portraits that never romanticize the subject. He paints flesh, exaggerating folds and crevices like some kind of figurative topographer. His painting of a pregnant Kate Moss is unlike the Kate Moss we're used to seeing. And if this queen was a 15th century one, he just might lose his head. He gets to the blood and guts of what people are, which is...blood and guts. To me, his art makes more accurate statements about the human condition than anything his dopey grandpa said.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Suburban Tales and some Art....

My heroism was put to a test today. While out on errands I came across a scene of a security guard pinning down and trying to handcuff a struggling man. The man's hysterical girlfriend was screaming at the security guard. Then she lunged at the guard, so I sprang into action. After determining the man was securely handcuffed and concluding the woman was unarmed, scrawny and probably weak, I said to her, "Hey, don't do that". I don't think she heard me though, because by that time, I was blocked by the 2 people who had already pulled her off the security guard. Then a calm onlooker said to the woman, "You're making a scene you know," as if the whole thing in sleepy, middle class suburbia wasn't already a scene. But I could leave, reassured my work was done.

My poor reaction time is no doubt from staying up too late again. If anyone knows a good technique from switching from a night owl to a morning person, I'd be ever so grateful. I knew I was especially tired today, because I glanced at my wall calender and misread December 8th as Hajj (Muslims pilgrimage to Mexico) and didn't question it, just thought "why the venue change?" Oy. It's been quite a day. Tomorrow, I'm in the studio, painting and listening to soothing music ALL DAY.

I feel a need to be at least a little useful and to make up for my humiliation for accidentally posting an altered version of the kitschy 80's Soviet ground beef commercial I originally meant to show. If you didn't see it (and I'm hoping that's EVERYBODY), some twat thought it was oh-so-clever to subtitle the ad with juvenile references to male appendages and the like. Sheesh. So, for you artists and those interested, here are some links and resources for films and videos relating to art/artists .

The PBS series Art:21: Art in the 21st Century is a fascinating program on current contemporary artists and the direction of contemporary art. On the website you can watch show previews, bios of all the artists featured and related links to them. If you can catch it when it airs, it's definitely worth watching.

Saatchi Online TV has a little bit of everything. Mostly low tech weblog info on artists, visits to artist studios, galleries, etc. And if like me, you're miles away from an art scene, you can live vicariously through this site. There are a few short films and film previews. This preview of a documentary on artist Alice Neel by her grandson Andrew Neel fascinated me. Her unconventional and tragic life and her art are explored in this film. Certainly an artist I want to know more about.

I have more links but since I'm blogging everyday this month, I need to ration. Until tomorrow my good people...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I'm never going to use You Tube again

****update****This post originally had a You Tube ad on it. It disappeared this morning, so I went to find another version of it and updated it. What I didn't check was that the updated version was embellished with lewd and completely humourless subtitles. OOPS!And that is THE last time I will ever embed a video again. Maybe. So in all, I apologize if you received that video in your email box or reader. This blogging challenge is proving stressful. Puppies, I should just blog about rainbows and puppies. Moving on then...

I'd like to make a correction to this post, in which I shared the slinky toy commercial from my childhood and said I didn't think they made metal slinkies anymore. I was wrong.


Yep, my anti-consumerist rant backfired. My kids saw the commercial and whined for a slinky.

Last week while clothes shopping, my kids' paranormal toy sniffing gift led them to find a couple of slinkies hidden in the back of a high shelf in the toy section. After getting the slinkies home, the excitement didn't last long though. That old commercial is all lies. You need a physicist to calculate the exact arc, position and speed to get those babies to make it down more than 2 stairs. And I didn't cheap out on them when buying them either! I just noticed my receipt reads, "Slinky - DELUXE". If you look closely at the picture maybe you can spot the upgrades or special features I missed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Having publicly admitted my workout failure to even complete a full session of Tai Chi classes, I thought I should try to find my sport. I have no idea what that could be. It can't be team sports, because I have the competitive spirit (but not the serenity) of a Buddhist monk. Although, I got pretty riled up about over a game of Wii bowling last year.

The only thing I really like to do is walk. No, more like, wander. A friend from high school contacted me a while back and asked if I still loved to walk. She remembers how I would say no to a bus ride and choose instead to spend 3 hours walking home from the across the city. When I moved to my current city, I worked nights and explored the mountain trails in the region for hours. Then I worked days and had children and the years and the scale moved forward.

So I'm off today to explore again, although I don't have the time (and probably not the stamina) to explore for hours. I'm determined to keep this up, because finally I understand that consistency is the key to everything. That's what this daily blogging challenge is about, consistency. What you do doesn't have to be perfect or amazing or brilliant or extreme. You just have to DO, like the tortoise plodding along.

And in the spring I'm thinking of taking up fencing or archery. Yep, old fashioned sports with weapons. I wonder what that says about me. I think it means I played too much Dungeons and Dragons with my brother when I was a kid. And I'm a geek. En garde!

Happy Blogaversary from the Land of Crisis

Who says Canada is boring. Our current government has a real possibility of being overthrown. Yet in typical Canadian style it involves a lot of paperwork and very dull characters. I'm disgusted with every one of them. None of them represent me anymore. I've also discovered our Governor General is rushing home from Prague (sort of rushing... on Wednesday) to attempt to sort out the matter. She is the personal representative of the Queen. The Queen of England. The woman who is our head of state but has no other purpose in our country other than having her head decorate our money.

However, I'm not going to let the matter get me down because today is my one year anniversary in the world of blogging! And so even though I'm a terrible party planner, I'm going to throw a virtual party.

First, a celebratory cake.This was tough, because when googling "existentialists cakes" you get nothing, and that's what I really want pastry wise. But this is even better! Picasso's Woman with Crow by artist Jean L. Zaun, not a cake but all chocolate, including the frame. Yum.

For wiping off the chocolate, you must use these, retro stressed mom napkins available at Mikwright. They read, "where the hell is my pickle fork? i can't have anything nice with you kids" I love them.

During the party we can play a giant game of scrabble like this one played at Wembley Stadium in London.

Later we can sit and put our feet up wearing these bird seed shoes and see who can attract the most birds.

Hmmm...I even give bad pretend parties.

But it's been a good year here. To all those who read this blog and to those who comment, I'd just like to say I couldn't ask for more intelligent, beautiful, perceptive, interesting, wise, articulate and overall super duper fabulous total strangers come into my life, who now... feel like friends. Cheers!

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Blogging Challenge

I found this brooch I made when I was about 20. I created wood painted jewelry and sold it occasionally . I had enough sympathy sales from friends and family that I was able to pay for a month's rent or was it rye and cokes? Memory eludes me.

At the time I thought I was basing this image on Edvard Munch's The Scream. What I didn't realize, was in fact, I was painting a pretty accurate self portrait of me in the future, specifically last week.

Three points and I'm not going to harp on them, but quickly just imagine:
1. arthritis in your cheekbone
2. toothache
3. sinus infection


The other annoying thing I won't do is what every woman who has given birth does when she experiences strong pain in her life is to use the childbirth scale. On a scale of one to ten, how bad was it in comparison to childbirth, that sort of thing. Irritating. was a seven, sometimes 8 1/2 and with no cute, cuddly baby reward at the end.

I'm much better now. So better in fact when I read about the blogging everyday for a month challenge, I thought I'd participate. It was for November, but I see others are starting one for December, so I'm signing up. Yes, it's December, the worst month to start. Christmas Day will probably have nothing but a YouTube video of the burning Yule log, but I'm going to give it a go.

Be prepared for creative spelling, big grammatical errors (even more so than usual) and pointless ramblings (even more so than usual). Possibly even some intense personal disclosures, simply for lack of better ideas. Anybody else want to take the challenge?