Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Art 2

Until next time, I shall leave you with some of the Art that grace our home. 
All were purchases made during weekend road trips or brought back from travels.
The pictures of my rug and calligraphy from my trip to Turkey I promised a while ago.
I will follow it up soon with a post about my legendary negotiation skills. 

 Silk on silk decorative rug from Turkey.  Turned one way, the
silk shows one colour scheme (the middle green is actually much stronger)...

...turned the other way, it shows another due to the reflection of the silk. 
It is the hallmark of silk on silk carpets. There are approx. 1000 knots per square inch.

 Beautiful Arabic calligraphy, written with bamboo.  Doesn't it look like music?
It is a blessing found in a home as well as something that is
spoken to bring peace to loved ones who have suffered loss.

 Isn't it neat how most of the painting is of a reflection?

 I skewed the camera angle so the photo could emphasize the texture and weight of the paint strokes (oil).

Found this (oil on canvas) in a tiny gallery while visiting a friend one afternoon. 
Big fan of photo realism.

We are off to visit D's Fatherland.  Back in early June.
Auf Wiedersehen!

Monday, May 14, 2012


When I focus, I can do so at the expense of everything else.  I am able to ignore the creative part of my right brain -- Something I would not recommend by the way. 

Painting (pictures, not walls...) hasn't been a part of my life for years.  The last one I did was 14 years ago (see below).  It is sort of a copy (I took the liberty of changing a few things) of a painting I like by Arthur Lismer, a member of the Group of Seven. 

The Royal Conservatory of Music Piano program back in the day featured Group of Seven paintings on its grade level books and one of my students had one with Lismer's "Sunlight in a Wood" detail on the cover and I was immediately moved by it. 

I couldn't find a store that could get me a print so I borrowed his book after he passed the grade and decided to paint myself a copy.  As you can see, I changed a few things, primary the tone, emphasized some lines, de-emphasized the green, chose which lines I wanted to see as the strong or defining elements.

Imitation of a style of work can be very educational.  The frustration with not being able to reproduce a texture or colour allows one to appreciate and learn techniques on the fly versus mentally being told the concepts.  Try and create some of the colours found in this Monet oil painting and you'll know what I mean.  It isn't easy to make oil paint look transparent. 

If I were to paint it again, I wouldn't de-emphasize the green or make all the lines so uniform.  Art, like playing music, is profoundly affected by experience.  When I look at my copy, I see how I wanted things even, balanced and controlled.  It was a mirror of where I was (and still am at times) in my emotional development. 

Whereas now, I can appreciate the randomness of a true forest.  I don't need to make it all neat looking and so matchy matchy (just look at the unnatural airbrush makeup some women sport...).  Similarly with my piano playing, I can express with a depth of emotion I was not capable of when I was 18 even though I thought I did an OK job recreating how a piece ought to sound for exam purposes.  I realize now I wasn't fooling anybody because I can hear it in others.

It was years later before I got to see the original Arthur Lismer painting at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  The tone was different again as my guide had been a glossy printed cover.  The real one is actually quite small in size.  Maybe 1 1/2 ft squared.

My attempt is closer to 2 1/2 ft squared and hangs at the cottage.  Doesn't it look like a pastel? (both were painted in oil)  There is no varnish on it because the effect is supposed to be chalky.  The original was even more so as well as more delicate.  The website photo doesn't do it justice.

Missed a call for submissions at the end of April.  I was looking for something to help jump start my painting as I have been getting glimpses of my right brain emerging since my sketch last fall in Nice -- First with music and now with art.

I thought about it a lot when I was in Hawaii -- What I wanted to paint, how I wanted the message to come across, which medium to use.  The subject was to be an interpretation of a feeling.  I may do it anyway as an exercise, just for fun.

I'm thinking I just need to go to an art store again.  For 8 years I would go into one every week either before or after my Saturday art class and just revel in all the beautiful supplies and books.  Even had my own drafting table.

I will eventually have to go anyway because I gave or threw away everything so I could funnel all my energy into making money, saving money, paying off debt, yeah -- all that fun stuff. 

What I wasn't able to understand then, was that I would have been stronger "Whole" than fragmented.  That energy used for creative purposes doesn't take away but adds.

My best advice to all you creative types out there...Don't let debt repayment or any other extreme plans make you go all crazy like me and forget who you are or what your soul needs.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hawaii People

While in Hawaii, I did have a few conversations that stood out.  Because the shuttle ride to Waikiki took so long, there was another guy and me for a long time.  He turned around and stuck out his hand as he introduced himself. 

Turns out he had just come from a conference in Maui (Hawaii is a popular location for conferences involving Asian countries.)  and was looking forward to spending a few days in Honolulu before going home.  He was from Kuala Lumpur and it took him one layover and about 34 hours to get to Hawaii.  I told him I've never travelled that long before and cannot yet imagine such a lengthy journey.

As he was quite well travelled we compared favourite places, best travel deals and visa requirements.  Such a polite man.  Shook my hand a second time upon his stop. 

In Maui, I met a really sweet older gentleman (80s?) who ended up sitting beside me one afternoon.  It was the only lounge seat open as there was temporary maintenance of the grounds.  He promised he would not bother me (I was journaling up a storm) and that he was going to take a nap.  I told him no worries.  His nap lasted about 2 minutes before he asked if I was writing a book.  I told him no, I was just thinking on paper. 

We ended up talking for a couple of hours and he concluded we were definitely "cup half full" people.  He lives in Phoenix and travels whenever he can and warned me he can talk my ear off about travel if I'd let him.  We spoke about the pleasures of solo travel and how underrated it was.  I told him I did my best thinking when I was alone, especially amongst beautiful scenery.  He told me I will love Bergen when I get there.

Because of his age, he has had ample opportunities to return to many places over the decades and was able to comment on the changes in cities and countries.  I was really interested to hear about it.  And since he was such a frequent guest, he got a lot of perks.  One of which was free drinks at happy hour of which he could invite a guest.  So I got an invitation.  I declined politely though I did get asked if he will make it into my journal.  I guess he has.

Remember how I seem to get mistaken for being local when I travel?  At first D thought I was pulling his leg.  Now that he has personally witnessed the phenomenon twice in Amsterdam and once in Florence, he doubts me no more.  The trend continued in Lahaina at a local gelato spot.  I was too impatient and warm one day to wait in the long line for their "famous" shaved iced so I went for ice cream instead. 

The gelato place had a good number of non dairy choices (I have 4 more months of avoidance before I can stuff my face again).  I had a scoop of coconut - vanilla - cinnamon (deliciously creamy!) and Lilikoi (Hawaiian passion fruit).  The fellow who served me asked what part of Maui I was from?  I told him I wasn't but considered being mistaken for Hawaiian as a complement.  He said I look like I could be from there. 

Never dawned on me I could possibly be mistaken for anything other than what I am.  D thinks it is because I give off a confident "I belong here" vibe when I am in a new place.  I've never been mistaken for an Icelander.  Now that would be super cool. 

So the list has gotten longer:  Italian, French, Russian, Dutch and now Hawaiian...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Interesting People

The most interesting people I meet yearly seems to happen when I'm travelling.  In lines, on lounge chairs, at bars.  There has been some awkwardness after a great conversation as to "what next?".  Never have I offered a way to keep in touch and recently I've wondered if that was wise? 

Part of me feels it makes sense to keep that experience part of the trip and cherish it as such.  Another part of me thinks they would make a great friend.  But how to approach it without them thinking I'm trying to pick them up?  Marriage status doesn't always come up in conversations and as I do not sport a wedding band, how would people really know?

I would love to have found out more about the fellow D and I sat beside on a flight to Barcelona.  He and I talked for almost 4 hours (to the delight of the sleeping people around us, I'm sure) about my dissatisfaction with where I was working, how he left his place of work to do volunteer work in Nairobi.  He was en route back to Nairobi to visit friends for a month. 

When we got to the end of the gangway and realized we were heading in two different passport control directions, there was that moment where we just looked at each other for a few seconds before I wished him well.

Same with the fellow I met waiting at passport control last summer.  He was by far one of the most interesting person I have ever met and found his enthusiasm contagious.  It was the closest I've ever come to wanting to stay in touch. 

Unbeknownst to him, we don't really live that far from one another.  I would love to know how he made out with the distance race the weekend after and if he actually ended up scuba diving the Thames after all. 

In this day and age I think people are more cautious about strangers we meet.  I tend to lean to the paranoid side of the scale even though I find it easy and natural to discuss almost anything with anyone.  I believe if we met, you'd never guess I was an introvert.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hawaii Tips

I used Roberts Hawaii  for my shuttle to my hotel.  I found them to be friendly, reasonably priced and professional.  They will meet you at the end of the gangway for domestic flights and just outside of luggage claim for international arrivals.  They greeted me with a big smile and a small shell lei. 

Note that the closer you stay to Waikiki, the longer you will wait to be dropped off.  I was last.  Don't be surprised with how long it will take to traverse the 9 -10 miles from the airport to Waikiki.  It took over 1 1/2 hr for me.  I thought I'd have time for a swim before it cooled down and instead, I ended up trolling the streets for a suitable restaurant for dinner instead. 

There are no shortage of Sushi restaurants in Honolulu.  I can't believe there is enough business to support them all.  I ended up eating at an Asian seafood restaurant frequented by movie stars and Presidents of the US, past and present.  The food was good, not mind blowing. 

Waikiki beach was different from what I had pictured in my mind.  In fact, all the beaches I saw on this trip were.  It could be I wasn't in the correct place, but the beaches weren't the long expansive ones.  The sand is coarser than you would find in the Caribbean and the colour of the water is definitely Pacific Ocean -- Darker, with occasional turquoise.

In the case of Waikiki, the erosion was severe enough there was a good 3 - 4 ft drop to get to the water.  Active effort was underway to truck in sand from drudging a nearby river so expect areas to be fenced off.  The beach I visited in Lahaina Maui, had a pretty fierce (for me) undertow not far in from the water line.

I flew with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters in Kauai.  Would definitely fly with them again.  Regretted not signing up for another flight on time when I was on the Big Island.  I would return to Hawaii just for the helicopter tours. 

On their website, there are a few minutes of video intros of each island worth watching.  Looks like they offer discounts for booking online.  I wasn't aware of that as it was a spur of the moment thing for me. 

There is a pub located in the same small plaza as the Blue Hawaiian office in Lihue called The Feral Pig.  The staff there are really friendly and the menu is diverse.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Loose Ends

D and I have been busy with imagining new room arrangements at home.  Now that he is pretty established with his 3 days a week working from home, we've found it necessary to carve out a bigger space, possibly in a different part of the house to permanently accommodate his office.  I'd like to see a larger space dedicated to exercise as well.

Living in an older house, the room flow isn't like what people are used to in the modern, open concept homes of today.  Ours is a traditional layout, except we do have one large room that serves as dining and living.  We have been going to furniture stores to get ideas of room arrangement and potential desks.

What a concept -- Re-working your house to suit your needs first, guests second.  It had been the other way around on our main floor for the last 5 years.  There is a lot of space unused a lot of the time that can be put to better daily use.  Some rooms will simply have to do double duty.

We are also looking to replace the sofas at the cottage.  I want a more durable material than cotton.  I'm thinking ultrasuede or leather.  Leather will likely win out. 

It has been a productive week.  I've been busy tying up loose ends all over the place.  It's always the simple stuff that accumulate like a junk drawer.  Phone calls I owe to people, some over a year ago...I know... awful!  Lucky they love me. 

Getting off my wallet and buying a re-usable water bottle that fits in my purse so I don't become dehydrated due to stubbornness?  Some days I'm not as logical as I think I am.  Drop hundreds of dollars in intro flights... Yes!  But $30 for a Sigg bottle?  A Struggle.  Now that I have it, I love it. 

Eye drops for work (air there dries my eyes for some reason), getting my cell phone plan changed (you are allowed to change it, even though your contract isn't up!), replacing some old T-shirts with new ones (I went with the tried and true "Favorite" line from The Gap), more work clothing (Mexx).  All Done.

I still need scotch tape and white out.  I sent D and he actually came home with bottled liquid paper, not the tape stuff...WHO uses liquid paper anymore???!!!  I got Laughed at at work.  Thanks Man.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

D's Numbers

The long awaited pension numbers have arrived and here they are:

Assuming D works till he is 65 years old, he is eligible to receive an annual retirement income of $31078 from his work pension plan.

They estimate his Canada Pension Plan (CPP) annual amount to be $12525.  And Old Age Security (OAS) to be $6481.

Total Annual Income:  $50084

This is a big deal for us.  All I can think about is the amount of money we don't have to save because of this news.  Believe me, we are grateful for that.  It was strange to see my name on the pension statement because the above totals do not reflect my numbers.  I'm just the spouse.

I am not expecting him to work till 65.  He wants to consider "retiring" around 55 and doing contract work to allow for more flexibility for travel.

Because contract work will pay more, we will be able to bank let's say half and it will help make up for not having 10 more years of contribution. 

In 3 years, D will have completed his financial responsibilities with respect to mortgage equalization.  He will be able to start taking a few more weeks a year off without pay.  It's all good.