January 30, 2013

Hearts, Sirens and Hugs

My week began in an ambulance with the siren blaring. Surreal. It still feels like it might have been a dream.

I woke up very early Monday morning feeling ill. I had a pain in my chest. I thought it might be heartburn and took something for it but I couldn't get comfortable. I changed positions many times. Sat up. Laid down. My heart was beating strangely and I could feel a sharp pain under my left shoulder blade. I felt dizzy. I knew that women's heart attack symptoms were different than men's. I hesitated but, in the end, I called 911.

First time ever in an ambulance. The last time I was admitted to a hospital was when Chloé was born over 13 years ago.

It is a scary story with a happy ending.  After several cardiograms, blood tests and a lung x-ray, I was told that my heart was fine as was everything else. All of the tests came back normal. What I had felt that morning was a cluster of symptoms that could be explained by other things (indigestion, palpitations probably due to coffee and hormones, muscular aches, topped off by more than a bit of anxiety).

I spent nine hours staring at a hospital ceiling on Monday. I traced the pattern of those drop ceiling tiles about a million times. No book. No music. Not even my shoes or a coat. What did I think about? My family, my friends, my painting, Meeko. About how caring everyone was with me that day: the ambulance paramedics, the doctor and nurses, my husband and my two girls. I thought about how my husband had left a meeting and rushed home as soon as he heard. I thought about how brave and grownup Emma and Chloé were that morning. I wanted to go home and hug all of them including Meeko. I wasn't worrying about returning emails, making Etsy treasuries or new blog posts, checking my Facebook and Twitter accounts, increasing sales or churning out more prints on my temperamental printer. I was just thinking about what was important.
Amaryllis - work in progress (a mere beginning)
Yesterday when I woke up I felt so different. Lighter. Calmer. More centered. I felt thankful. I felt lucky. I took Meeko for an extra happy walk. I tried to breathe more slowly and deeply as I moved. I appreciated the powdery snow that had fallen the previous day. I got in touch with my relatives. I started a new painting of my beautiful amaryllis. I drank herbal tea in the late afternoon. I bought a pot of fresh basil to make pasta with pesto, potatoes and green beans. I revelled in the basil's beautiful colour and pungent smell as I picked the sprigs and thought about how my garden will be waking up not that long from now.

Maybe we all need a scary story every now and then so that we can put everything else in perspective. Today, nothing is different and yet somehow everything is.

January 25, 2013

Guess Who?

These very chilly days have eased me back into the studio. Better to be inside than out.

Yesterday I tackled a subject I had wanted to do for quite some time. I recognize him. Do you? :)

Final version--you can see I changed and tweaked some details from the work in progress shown at the very top (ears, bridge of the nose, beard)
Three photos taken in three different rooms. Amazing how light affects colours!

January 23, 2013

A Warm Kitchen

No need to visit the Arctic. It has come to see us instead. If yesterday was cold, today is a block of ice. The temperature at the moment is -25C with a wind chill factor of -37C. I did take Meeko out for his walk yesterday, wrapped (me that is) in a ski jacket, snow pants, hat, gloves and two infinity scarves. We'll see if we venture out today. Meeko doesn't seem to mind the cold at all and, as I've mentioned several times here, he adores the snow.

Days like this are best spent indoors sipping hot coffee or tea and making or at least dreaming about warm creations coming out of the oven.  Our ever-expanding cookbook collection grew a little over the holidays. Pictured at the top are the books that were under our tree, plus a couple I ordered in early January. I bought the book 'I love cinnamon rolls!' because I couldn't get the cinnamon rolls my sister-in-law made for our family out of my head. What to do when plagued by thoughts of cinnamon rolls? Make more!

We own every Jamie Oliver recipe book that has been published. We love Jamie and his recipes. They always work and taste so good. We own most of the Barefoot Contessa collection too, also wonderfully reliable although I've learned to reduce the salt a little and use evaporated milk in many of her recipes calling for cream.

On the very top of the pile are two books published by Love Food (aka Parragon Books)--one owned by Chloé and the other by Emma. We now have three of their books. I posted last summer about a fabulous 'sheepscape' that Emma made, inspired by a cookie recipe in one of their books. I contacted Parragon at the time and asked if they would give me permission to print the recipe on my blog. They were lovely about it and said 'yes'.

Some family recipe cards and a photo of Emma at three decorating a cake
A few months later, they contacted me and asked if they could feature my blog as their first 'blog of the month' on their website. They asked me about my art and garden but were particularly interested in how Emma and Chloé got to be such wonderful bakers.

It is pretty exciting to have my blog featured somewhere and it was fun to talk about all of the baking that has gone on in our kitchen over the years.

Keep warm, my friends!

January 22, 2013

On Age and Amaryllis Bulbs

Well, hello there! I feel like my January is just beginning. Emma went back to school on Monday after a month-long break. So the house is mine again during the days. I don't mean that in a selfish way. I just find it easier to concentrate when I'm alone.

I made it up to my studio yesterday and actually painted. It's so hard after a long break. I get weirdly scared and then everything is fine again, once I get a paintbrush back into my hand. I started to paint an amaryllis bud that had just started to open. I've never grown an amaryllis bulb before. I don't know why. They are so simple to grow. It was included as a bonus when I ordered a bunch of tulip bulbs in the autumn.
And look what I found when I walked up my studio stairs today! I gasped out loud. So extraordinarily beautiful! Its name is 'Rosalie'.  I think I'll do another painting of it.
January just seems to be slipping by. I might have been quiet here but lots was going on. Chloé went back to school on the 8th so she is already busy with school projects and extra-curricular basketball practices and tournaments. Emma started her new term of CEGEP (Quebec's unique college for Grade 12 and 13 students) yesterday. She has recently started taking driving lessons. She had her hair cut--over ten inches which she is giving to a local foundation that makes wigs for children with cancer. She looks so very grown up and beautiful with her new haircut. I sold an original painting out of my studio last week which was a wonderful thing. I've also joined a number of treasury teams on Etsy and have become a leader of one of them. I'm really glad to be back painting and my challenge will be to make sure that my social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter can be such time holes) and Etsy involvement are kept balanced so I can keep producing new work--well, because that's where the joy is.

Chloé made a beautiful family tree for her Spanish class. She used metallic silver and gold markers on black bristol board and cut out photos of apples to represent each person. The class had to present their family trees in front of the class and describe their family members including their ages. I cringed when I heard that. I'm sure I'm the oldest, or one of the oldest, mothers in the class. How did I get so sensitive about this age thing? I surprise myself sometimes. 
Actually last year, my private new year's resolution (and we don't tend to choose the easy things, do we?) was to embrace my age more fully. I don't think I was very successful and here I am a year later and a year older! There's nothing much we can do, is there? Even though there is much talk these days about age acceptance, I'm not always sure it's true. Youth does seem to be revered more than age. And as an artist who relaunched her career in her fifties (there I said it!), I think I worry about being pegged or ignored because of my age. I was very interested in reading Lisa Congdon's blog post this week. It really resonated with me even though I am a full decade older than she is. There, I'm getting very brave, aren't I? And now I will go look at my blog stats and see if my readers are running for the hills.

Here's a special somebody who doesn't care how old I am. I'm willing to bet he loves me just the way I am and almost as much as he loves snow.

January 13, 2013

Snow Bunny

Were you wondering if Meeko enjoyed the holidays?

All photos by Chloé :)

January 10, 2013

A Little Winter Beauty

Here is a selection of scenes from our stay over the holidays in Muskoka, the cottage region in Ontario where my parents live. They didn't have as much snow as some years, but it was just enough to be pretty. We walked a lot when we were there.

Do you see Woody Woodpecker in the above photo? It's a pileated woodpecker. They are so big and noisy (both their knocking and squawking)! Wish I'd had my long-range lens when I saw it.

Emma was looking at some older paintings I did in my studio just before Christmas and was saying that I should do landscapes again. I used to paint a lot of landscapes, especially when I worked in oils many, many years ago but also when I started working in watercolour many years ago. Maybe I'll paint one of these beautiful Muskoka scenes in the weeks ahead.

I'm not really fond of photos taken of me and I don't tend to be very cooperative. My sneaky daughter Chloé managed to snap this one between the trees.

January 8, 2013

Home Again

Yes, the lord and master is in! If you wondered who ruled the roost...oh, you probably knew. :) We are home again.

Our holidays are never very restful. Neither of our families live near us so we drive a lot. We spent the weekend just before Christmas in Trois-Rivières to see my husband's family and then returned for a few days here. And then we were off for over a week in Ontario to visit my family and stayed in three different houses! We lived like gypsies. It was great. We'll recuperate after the holidays, right?

The day before we left for Ontario, we had a record snowfall in Montreal. We had 45 centimeters in one day! Montrealers are used to a lot of snow (although maybe not that much in one day) so it was dealt with admirably.

I haven't really had the time to go through my photos from our holidays, but I needed to post something--just so you knew I was still around. :)

I found the perfect thing. Emma took some gorgeous photos of our fireplace this weekend. It's a bit like cloud-watching. There are amazing shapes and figures visible in the flames.

This one blows my mind. Can you see the female figure?
Really quite mesmerizing! I love our fireplace. We had a gas fireplace at first but it didn't feel natural and I was having a lot of asthma problems with it. The natural wood-burning fireplace has been much better and it is so much more interesting to look at. A beautiful part of the winter season.

Chloé went back to school today. Emma doesn't go back until the 21st. I will slowly drift back into a more regular routine. Can't wait to paint again.



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