To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.

IMG_6344(quote by Thoreau, Walden).

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A Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?

Black-capped Chickadees at Wye Marsh near Midland, Ontario.

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The New Year and a Home-Grown Resolution

IMG_6272We all made our famous resolutions by now, yet some will be broken before the crocuses peek through the snow. I was never big on making them, for fear I would not live up to my own expectations. But this year is different … I am very passionate about my resolution and that’s the key to lasting success!

Buy local, eat local, I say!

I want to support the hard working folks around me and in the process contribute to a vibrant grass-roots culture. Isn’t that what makes a community?

Visiting the grocery store this time of year and perusing the fresh produce section, one has somewhat limited choices for locally grown goods from Ontario — well, heck, it’s winter around here! Who says we have to eat exotic fruits and veggies all year round?

Two days ago, I was able to get a number of healthy foods that were locally grown, such as apples, root veggies, and a few others. Plus I grow what I can on my small garden lot (I still have lots of potatoes stored away in my basement, lasting me through most of the winter, and my freezer is full of frozen goodness from the summer harvest — no need to buy raspberries from down south!)

But it doesn’t stop at food — a large number of merchants, artists, and artisans are happy to sell anything from gifts, clothing, and art. Let’s not forget the local entertainment scene, such as music, theatre and dance. When was the last time you attended a local play or a dance show? 

Why do we seem to love Hollywood stars more than our own? … “Individuals should be encouraged to buy more local art, more local crafts, to see more local theatre or local films,” Hill says. “If they do that, they’re supporting Canadian artists and they’re contributing to the earnings of Canadian artists. That is something we could all do as individuals.” (Bruce DeMara, Toronto Star, quoting Kelly Hill of Hill Strategies Research)

So what’s keeping YOU from going local?

It’s just a matter of finding the right sources. Make a list of local sellers and read labels at the grocery store: where do the apples come from? If I have a choice of getting Ontario apples, they’ll win every time! Find out about local art shows, dance companies, and musicians. Over the next few months, I will be showcasing a few of my favourites!

Food for Thought:

The average Canadian meal travels about 2,500 kilometres from farm to plate. But when you buy food grown in the Greenbelt, this distance drops to 250 km or less – a dramatic decrease in the ‘food miles’ required to reach your table! Greenbelt.ca

The Ontario Table — How To Buy Local Food

I’ll drink to that: 10 Reasons for going local, from the Ontario Wine Country.

Need a gift? Shop local on Etsy.

Buy local, support the arts.  Now Magazine.

Here’s to a home-grown New Year’s resolution!

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Champagne Dessert for New Year’s Eve

My German champagne dessert is a hit with everyone, so I’m posting a recipe in time for the New Year’s Eve bash. Here is the PDF to download: Champagne Dessert

Ingredients:

  • 6 sheets gelatin (or 1 pouch gelatin)
  • 150ml (3/4 cups) yoghurt
  • 115ml (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 1 small pouch (8g) vanilla sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 350ml champagne
  • 400ml whipping cream
  • semi-sweet chocolate and/or fruit for decoration

Before you start, open a bottle of champagne and taste the contents to make sure it’s fine to use in the recipe 🙂 — this step is vital in the success of the dessert!

champagne

Slurp! Gulp! Now on to the hard work: soak 6 sheets of gelatin for 5 min. in cold water.

soaking gelatin

While this is happening, put yoghurt, sugar, vanilla sugar, and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl and stir until smooth. Add champagne — 350 ml is the amount of two champagne goblets:

champagneadding champagne

Oh goody, see how bubbly it is! At this point, take another sip of champagne for good luck; your glass should be half empty by now!

half empty

Remove the gelatin from the cold water and squeeze it gently, then place the softened sheets in a small bowl. Whisk in 1/4 cup of hot water to dissolve the gelatin. Slowly add 1 cup of the yoghurt/champagne mixture to the hot liquid — don’t rush, or you’ll get gelatin lumps!

Stir the gelatin mix into the remaining yoghurt/champagne. Let it sit until it starts to gel (about 15 minutes in the fridge).

The final step consists of making the whipped cream and folding it into the yummy champagne mixture (I added 3 cups of whipped cream). Pour into champagne goblets or dessert cups and chill for at least 4 hours.

dessert

Your glass of champagne should be empty by now. But if you opened a bottle for this recipe, there will be enough left for a refill!

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While the dessert is chilling in the fridge, make some artistic chocolate swirls. Melt semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Then put melted chocolate in a plastic bag and cut a small opening in a corner; squeeze the soft chocolate on waxed paper to make creative designs. Let harden in the fridge. Here are some of my designs:

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Presentation is everything: decorate with whipped cream, shaved chocolate, chocolate sprinkles, or home-made chocolate swirls. Adding fresh fruit before serving is another idea — the possibilities are endless.

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Happy New Year!

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Odour-ableTenants

A few months ago, a skunk decided to make her home underneath my garden shed. I wasn’t too thrilled about the new tenant, but skunks are nocturnal and I didn’t see or smell her presence the following weeks.

This morning, while enjoying a lovely cup of tea on my deck, I noticed a small black & white furball roaming around my peppermint patch. At first, I thought it was a funny coloured squirrel, but upon close inspection, it turned out to be a baby skunk. Later today, I counted four little critters meandering about the garden … mother skunk must have been sleeping while her curious charges were looking for adventures.

Like all baby animals, the kits are very cute, but alas, I don’t wish to have an unexpected close encounter with Pepé Le Pew’s odour-able children …

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How to Make Dandelion Schnapps

On the special occasion of Mother’s Day, I’d like to post a recipe in honour of Mother Nature!

Forget about treating Taraxacum officinale as a garden or lawn weed and start appreciating the beneficial properties of Dandelions!

First, dash out to get a bottle of fruit schnapps, such as kirsch, peach, or plum (grappa or vodka will do as well) — schnapps is usually 40% alcohol (80 proof).

Gather about 30 flower heads (make sure to collect them from a pesticide and traffic free area). You also need a spring of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).

Pick off the yellow flower petals and discard the sepals (green parts — they are bitter). Place petals and lemon balm in a clean glass jar. Add schnapps (375 ml bottle).

Let steep in a bright place for 14 days (not in direct sunlight). Every day, shake the mixture lightly.

After two weeks, strain and filter the infusion into a clean bottle. The schnapps will have a nice yellow colour! At this stage, I like to add a tablespoon of liquid honey to sweeten. Shake well to mix the honey with the dandelion schnapps and you’re done! Store away from heat or sunlight, best in a dark cupboard.

“If no one had ever seen a flower, even a dandelion would be the most startling event in the world”.

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Happy Earth Day, Mr. Harper, how does your garden grow?

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Dropbox: a box without hinges, key, or lid …

For all you tech novices out there, I know things can get a bit confusing with so many apps to choose from. What to pick, where to start? Don’t fret … there is hope! I’m far from being a techy myself — just a curious artsy person, trying to pick out a few morsels from the smorgasbord in cyberspace. In my previous blog post, I discussed the usefulness of Evernote, a cloud-based note taking & clipping service that remembers everything!

In this blog, I’ll talk about another nifty little app for storing photos, docs and videos in a virtual box. So what is this thing called Dropbox?

A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid. (The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien)

Well, it’s not an egg like in Bilbo’s riddle, but it does contain a treasure: our files! Don’t we all believe our documents and pictures are “PRESCIOUS”? Why else would we save them?

Dropbox and Evernote are similar in many ways: both provide network storage and allow us to keep and share files using file synchronization.

Brat Kelly explains it really well in his blog post, “Evernote and Dropbox: Why I Use (and Love) Both”. The focus of Dropbox is on files, while Evernote deals primarily with text and image content. He provides some examples on how to use both:

Dropbox is how I move files easily between computers, Evernote is how I move text easily between computers.

In other words, Dropbox is best suited for file storage, while Evernote is ideal for notes, memos, copies of receipts and other little bitty things to keep.

Dropbox has folders for files and photos — these can be shared with anyone, even non-Dropbox users.

Dropbox is very userfriendly — it actually took me less time to figure out how to use it than Evernote. Places to learn more about both apps:

Bridging the Nerdgap: Evernote and Dropbox: Why I Use (and Love) Both

Dropbox and Evernote Prezi by Douglas Shouga

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In the Cloud with Evernote

Click-clack, clickety-clack, save document … send via email to other computer or device.
Click-clack, clickety-clack, save same document and email back again.

Does this scenario sound familiar? These days, we store information on phones, tablets, desktops, laptops, and servers — wouldn’t it be nice to keep notes or pictures in one place and have them at your fingertips regardless of where you are during the day?

Let’s enlist the help of the Great Wise Cloud!

There are a number of free tools available for cloud productivity; I currently use Evernote. The exciting part about this application is the storing of information through syncing. Let’s say you are working on a document from a home PC … Evernote will instantly sync data across computers and mobile devices you access daily.

All notes, clips, ideas and photos are automatically indexed and can be searched by keywords, tags, or titles.  If you want to share some files, it’s easily done by email or via social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Many artists spend time away from the studio visiting galleries, taking photographs, sketching, or presenting workshops. Evernote is a convenient way to save records, notes, pics, etc. on a phone and then instantly have files available when working at a home PC or laptop.

I keep reference images handy, create to do lists, make memos to self, or record cool stuff I might need down the road. Let’s face it, we can all use a some help getting our life organized. Evernote is like my own personal assistant, making sure files are easily accessible, no matter where the day takes me.

So here is your incentive to get rid of the paper clutter and electronic file jungle — off you go to the digital filing cabinet in the cloud! But don’t forget to bring the elephant …

 Related Posts:

Get Busy Doing: Productivity Tool #1: Evernote

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Twitter for Artists

Or should I say twartists? Back in the 90’s, it was a great thing for artists to showcase their work in an online gallery. I had my first website designed in 1994 and was mighty proud of it. These days, linking a website or blog to the social media network is just as important.

For the longest time, I was reluctant to explore what Twitter had to offer. My first reaction was similar to that of my circle of friends: “Why would I want to tell the public what I’m up to every minute of the day?”

Well, I must admit … I just didn’t know how to use Twitter properly. Now that I have learned the lingo, I know the difference between #hashtags and @usernames, and how to write down a thought in no more than 140 characters. The true value of Twitter becomes more apparent to me as I understand its potential as a microblogging/networking/news-feeding platform that provides information and connections about my life’s passion: visual arts and the environment.

A survival guide for Twitter novices is the Twitter Dictionary: A Guide to Understanding Twitter Lingo by Vangie Beal. 

Should you still be on the fence about Twitter, I suggest reading the blog articles by Lori McNee, an artist who is ranked one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter. Follow her tweets @lorimcneeartist — she provides tons of useful information on a wide range of topics related to art. Her site is like a Wikipedia for artists!

Here are some of Lori’s posts that helped me through the Twitter-jitter:

12 Compelling Reasons Why Artists Should Use Twitter

How To Reach Beyond Your Niche on Twitter

Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Twitter Image & Following

14 Art Business Tips from the Top Pros on Twitter

Finally, a bit of creative humour about Twitter — a cartoon titled “Zigfried & Gingerale”, based on my two feline friends. Zigfried & Gingerale

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