Tuesday, August 31, 2010

adventures in canning

I don't know how all the Italian mamas do it. I decided to can my own tomato sauce this year, and 45lbs of tomatoes and I got next to nothing in the way of sauce. Seriously! It's not that it's hard to make tomato sauce. But it's really time consuming. All afternoon and evening on Sunday was spent boiling, straining, and canning tomatoes. And while I have a fair amount of jars... it's by no means enough for the year.

The question is, do I do it again next weekend? Or do I move on to a new vegetable/canning experiment?

(I made one jar of canned red peppers from the peppers in our garden... that's all there was enough for)!

Monday, August 30, 2010

how teachers influence us: the good, the bad, and the ugly...

Once upon a time I had a math teacher who I wasn’t particularly fond of. Shocking, I know! This particular math teacher asked us one day about what our dreams were. An odd subject for a math class, but he was an aging hippie, prone to venturing into odd topics to teach us about math. Anyways, in hindsight, I suspect this was a way for him to launch into the topic of probabilities in math.

So of course, being 13 years old, most of us dreamed big dreams of being astronauts, actors, and athletes. My silent response at the time was to be a writer. In the end, as he so kindly noted, most of our grandiose dreams at that tender age centered on being famous in some way. We all felt that we were destined for greatness. For fame. For money. The sky was the limit for our fresh 13 year old selves.

His response, albeit logical for a math teacher intent on discussing probabilities (which I think was his point because honestly the only part of that class that I remember was this section) was that it was unlikely that any one of us would ever attain our young dreams. And it still sits with me, rubbing me the wrong way, just as it did the day he said it. But it doesn’t bother me because he was a jerk. No. It bothers me because up until recently, I feared that he would be right.

While I might have felt outraged by his lack of compassion for our fragile and easily influenced selves, even then the pragmatic voice in my head whispered that he might be telling the hard truth, albeit shitty as it was of him to do so….
Our odds might really only be 1 in a million in the quest for fame. Great fame, great innovation, great financial prosperity.

Let’s face it, my math teacher made no friends in class that day. Even if we might know that there was truth to what he argued, we needed our dreams and were outraged by his audacity. My good friend at the time and I walked out of class livid over his being such a jerk.

But, I’m pleased to note that many in my class have defied the odds in another way that he failed to consider in his quest for mathematical precision!

Because attaining your dreams and living a life that is extraordinary isn’t necessarily about being the next great actor or athlete. It isn’t necessarily about being rich or popular. He failed to consider the nuances that make a person feel successful. He failed to see the multiplicity of ways in which we can attain our dreams or the ways in which our dreams might change, or our fame might be acquired within a niche.

I may never be the next Virginia Woolf. And that’s ok. But the other day, when a student came to my office and told me that she came for me specifically because someone had told her to see me, well that made me feel like I had done something amazing. I might not win an Oscar for it. But hell, knowing that I made a difference in someone’s education/life is a pretty amazing feeling. Knowing that this new student reached out to me because of word of mouth, and that I helped make her day brighter… makes me cherish how valuable my job is in the world.

But as I listen to student’s narratives about education/self/autonomy, etc… more so than ever, I’m starting to realize how people harm us in ways we don’t even realize. How family, friends, teachers, society, etc, create the internal voices that influence the way we view ourselves and our abilities. And this scares me. Because if I’m still put off by my math teacher from 20 years ago, what other voices have influenced my own narrative? And what voices are shaping the identity of my students?

I remember the teachers who nurtured me. Who dared me to believe in myself. And I remember the ones that devastated me. And I think that the teachers in our lives (from school, to family, to whatever form a teacher may take) need to remember that they can make such a difference. Such a huge difference. My goal this year at work, both in my handmade little art world and my everyday job in education, is to remember to see pass my mundane concerns and see the student as a person in need of nurturing. I know I won't always succeed, because I'm not the greatest of people persons, but if I'm so invested in this idea of metta, than I think it's important that I look for ways to bring it into my daily life.

Because I'm tired of the narratives I've been told and the narratives I hear: from believing that art has no worth because it’s not a viable living to believing that you don’t have enough talent to dare… who has been telling us these stories and how do we grow past them in order to be brave enough to dare for more and believe in ourselves?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

yum, chocolate cake

Last weekend was a very domestic weekend for yours truly. No crafts, just baking and canning.

I made this chocolate cake, with the help of my sometimes ok half (kidding, I love you Paul), from a recipe I think I found on smitten kitchen but now I can't find the link...

1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (I substituted regular milk with a tsp of lemon juice)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Bake in bread pan for 60-70 minutes, sprinkle icing sugar over and serve with raspberries or strawberries.

Being typical Marya, I decided that baking one thing at a time wasn't good enough, so I threw in canning tomato sauce, frying onions for this curry potato salad (made with dairy) while supervising Paul as he mixed the dry and wet ingredients. Yes, at one point I was literally beating the cake while stirring frying onions.

Of course, what I failed to mention to Paul as he was mixing items for me was the that the butter, sugar and eggs go together first... so instead we added it all at once and hoped for the best (oops). Overall it was pretty good. Though a bit dry (from error or recipe remains undetermined...) but for safety's sake, I recommend making the cake with a sauce of some sort (or serving with ice cream).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

wordle fun


Apparently, according to wordle, these are the words I use most often on my blog. Some are no surprise, but some…. are unexpected….

Monday, August 23, 2010

stamped art journal

creative journals 001

I had the day off last week due to a doctor’s appointment, so I took the morning to be a little creative.

I usually art journal while at work, so I don’t have the tools available to really stamp or sew, so this was a nice change for me and my art journal habits!

I recently bought a set of date stamps, which are quickly turning into one of my favourite elements to use on my pages… So handy!

I remember as a kid how days used to seem so long, and months (especially the summer months without school) were forever… but my mom said then, “Enjoy it while it lasts because time goes faster when you’re older.” Of course, my 7 year old self, the one dying to be an adult, couldn’t understand or appreciate that advice. Only now , as I watch the days and months fly by, do I really get what she meant back then.

School is about to start again, the halls at work are about to become loud and packed with 20 year old energy and all I can wonder is, crap, where the hell did my summer go?

Friday, August 20, 2010

cuba, si, scrapbooked

Another scrapbook page… this time of the beach in Cuba

scrapbook 014

Playing with new techniques (circles, glitter mist, ribbons, and borders). As much as I love the rich full pages, I don’t pull them off well in my own design, so this time I was opting for a simpler look. I may try another page along these lines in the future, but without the border along the edges of the white page.

Slowly but surely, I’m learning…

Thursday, August 19, 2010

new digs, scrapbooked

Lately I’ve been really keen to scrapbook. In the past week I’ve done 4 new pages, which is a change from having done none for a month or so.

scrapbook 009

For some reason I really love purple and green together and wanted to make a page that played with those colours. So what better than to write about our apple green martini wall?

The boxes say:

We moved above Paul’s parents in April 2010 in order to save for a house. They let us pick our own colours but everyone was shocked when they saw our apple green martini living room. It’s BRIGHT!

Until we added furniture into the room no one could conceal the shock in their eyes when they first walked in. Now – with all the decor – people are more appreciative…

For the most part I’m happy with the page, but I went a step to far by adding the glitter mists. I hate it when I do that but I’ll be honest, I’m too lazy to take the page apart and redo it!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

corsets, anyone?

Working on a new idea—what do you think?

 etsy 002 etsy 008

Corset origami ornaments!

This is my first attempt, and now that I’ve tried it, I know that I need to make the corset a wee bit smaller so that it can float in the glass ball a bit more freely (at the moment the bottom tip touches the base) and I need to pay a bit more attention to the the stitching (cause it’s not even right now).

But wouldn’t these be fun in this origami paper:


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

happy birthday little brother


This is my baby brother, Sean, he towers over me, and his fiancé. It’s his birthday today.  He’s 26. When he was born I threw a temper tantrum because he wasn’t the sister I was waiting for and I refused to meet him. Once I was finally convinced to visit him and hold him, I decided that we could keep him even though he was a boy!

So baby brother, you weren’t the sister I was hoping for, but I like you fine the way you are… and I’m thrilled that you’re getting married soon and finally giving me the sister I always wanted :P

Kidding, love you, and I wish you all the best for the year ahead!

tearful fairy


Some days I use my lunches for art journaling (as I mentioned here), other days I read. And some days, I just paint. Thursday was one of those days. No journaling, just pure painting with my water crayons.

It’s a bit challenging to get precision with the crayons but they’re convenient for the work environment, lunch crafting. Anyways… the point I’m getting to is the fact that my accident with the blue eyes (again with the frustrating precision issue), actually created something entirely different in this painting. I hadn’t meant to give a feeling a sadness to the fairy, but with the blue muck up, she ended up looking like she was crying and truth be told, I sort of like it….


Monday, August 16, 2010

origami corset art


I love it when a new idea pops up and all of a sudden you’re filled with thoughts and possibilities as to how you can make it work in your own project.


This origami corset has me thinking up new painting ideas…. and I immediately started folding away during my lunch break to get an idea of how it might look….

Next up, putting it to work in a painting!

Friday, August 13, 2010

the art of loneliness (or just being alone)

Such a lovely video... you should watch it, all the way to the end.... it made me feel so glad and slightly weepy when I did. Warm fuzzies and goodness... in reclaiming alone

Thursday, August 12, 2010

cabin adventures, scrapbooked


It’s been a while since I’ve scrapbooked, but lately, I’ve had the urge to create some new pages. Normally I try to use photos with people in them, but I loved this nature shots that I just had to create a page using them! I kept things simple because I didn’t want to distract from the actual photos.


I wanted to combine my current love of paint, so you’ll see that I’ve added some acrylic paint to both pages.  Originally I wanted to create  a purple and green page with circles, but it just didn’t work out so I had to start a new page and strategically save my pics by adding flowers (from where there was glue leftover from the circles).

I’m happy with the simplicity of the first page (Cabin Views) but am still mixed about the 2nd page. I purposely crumpled the background, but as always when I attempt shabby chic, I always end up feeling like it doesn’t work for me….but I’m trying!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Good mail

Yesterday I received a good piece of mail from the student loan people. Who knew... they send good mail from time to time....

Yay! Official notice that my BC loan is paid in full.

And yes, I felt that it needed to be blogged about. Because really, it's like a huge, ginormous, fan-fricken-tabulous big deal in my world.

So big, that it's made it to the fridge and there's talk of framing it.... You may laugh - but it's tempting....

callejon hamel, havana, cuba

In a small pocket of downtown Havana, off the mainstream tourist track (albeit still in the guidebooks), past the artistically quaint run down Havana, is a corner of Cuban art that is well worth the adventure outside of the turista region.

A lesser known tourist destination, Callejon Hamel, 1 block of Afro-Cuban, Santeria inpired art, is a sight to behold.

Here’s a sneak peak….


This being our 2nd trip to Havana, Paul and I wanted to venture off the tour bus and see areas of Havana that the “real Cuban life” tour fails to show Varadero resort tourists. Walking past Floridita’s, past El Capitolio, past the line-ups of locals waiting to enter stores or fixing broken ladas, we saw a Havana that defied the romantic notions of Havana being a dirty, run down, glory.


No, this Havana was poor and definitely recalled communist stereotypes/images of Russia during the Cold War era.

image  image

But despite this, there is still something about Havana. Maybe it’s the sense that this city could be great, that it was great, or that, with a few coats of paint, it would just be amazing. It has Nice like potential, but with Cuban heart.

So by this point you’ve seen pictures of everything other than what I really meant to show you! Enough of a lead up already, right? You want pictures of Callejon Hamel!

image image

Remember, the art is inspired by Santeria so some of the images might strike you as unusual…

image image

From images of Orishas, to repurposed Cuba goods, the art is colourful and unique!


A photo for my fellow Nanamoites (Nanaimoians? ok, just people from Nanaimo, BC) can appreciate! Perhaps only those who grew up with up with repurposed bathtubs and bathtub races can fully admire the recycling going on here as fully as I do!


Just to complete the sense that this little corner of Havana was a mini oasis in the blistering July heat:


If you ever venture into Havana… you should go. It was really lovely and extremely interesting (at least I thought so!).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

morning rituals


I think I may finally be getting healthy again and my energy is back on the rise.


This morning, instead of lazing in bed, avoiding the day, I actually emerged from my blanket cocoon and did something I haven’t done in a while: made tea and breakfast.

Yup. Yummy cinnamon raison bagels and chai tea. Could a morning be any better? 

Why yes it could…. last night I ventured out on my bike (shamefully for the first time this season… terrible, I know) and my knee (which has been gimped since the end of May due to a Nia incident) is still ok this morning. Oh the ironies… my knee finally seems to be getting better and I go to the physiotherapist next week!

Monday, August 9, 2010

going back to school vs finding time for art

A conversation with someone from work today has me contemplating, once again, the merits of heading back to the classroom for another expensive piece of paper to further my work qualifications.

For those of you not in the know, I’m in Education, working in a writing/tutoring/learning disabilities center in a local college. My primary role is to work with students with learning disabilities. I have no training in this. None. Oh, I’ve attended conferences and local workshops, but I’ve never really learned how to teach/tutor this student population. And my new top supervisor is really on board with developing this aspect of my job and spending money on this area of student services in order to really provide excellent services to the emerging, growing (hell busting at the seams) student population that fits into this category (yes, that’s the bureaucratic side of my job speaking… student category instead of people….).

And while I love the idea of getting training specifically geared towards helping these students, and I know that it would be invaluable for my professional development, but I can’t help wondering….

If I go back to school… what will happen to my crafty time?

Friday, August 6, 2010

nurturing creative positivity

image For the past few weeks I’ve been in a bit of a creative lull. Not surprising really, every high is followed by a low.

I’m not worried, because I can feel the energy building up again…

In the meantime I’ve been thinking a lot about how things seem to cycle in life. All around me on the web I either notice people amping up or gearing down creatively (you know, on those millions of blogs that I read).

At the same time, a few of my creative peoples around me are going through periods of doubt, blockage, or quietness and I’m struck by how I’ve suddenly taken on the role of pep talker.
Art market, Varadero, Cuba  

Given the fact that I’ve spent the last year really trying to work on showing enthusiasm, trusting myself and others enough to put that out there, it’s an interesting shift for me to feel like I’m in this place of supporting others and reminding them to have faith in themselves. It’s a good thing. But a surprising thing. And I’m a little awed by the fact that what I’ve put out there in some ways has come back in such positive ways.

Oh don’t get me wrong, things are perfect over here in my world. But they are good and I’m really aware of how much cultivating creativity and nurturing a positive attitude has played into me being able to appreciate what is good and being able to give others more encouragement and support in their own endeavours. And I’m really excited to see the various ways and places they are going.

To my creative ladies: have faith, because I do…. Enjoy the process, the ride, the adventure of it all.

Oh,  the places you will go!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

happy birthday


Paul, may your cup runneth over today, this year and for the rest of our lives together! You make me laugh, nurture my endeavours and just generally make my world a better, brighter place. I love you!

Bisous! Vse najboljše.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

cuban art

There seems to be 2 types of art in the areas I visited in Cuba—the tourist art (you know the type… you can find it in any tacky tourist shop). See:

image tremblant, cuba, soccer 427

And although this art is purely tourism driven, there is something to be said for the fun, bright colours and the aesthetics of it that makes for a nice addition to your home during those long winter months!

But Paul, being the ever loving and supportive husband that he is—ventured into galleries galore for me to feed my current art infatuation. Obviously it’s bad form to take pictures in galleries so here are shots that I took from outside the galleries!

tremblant, cuba, soccer 398  tremblant, cuba, soccer 397

I don’t know if it’s because I walk by the art in my community with a blind eye, or if it’s that there is less art (which feels like the case but I can’t really believe that), but art is everywhere in Cuba.

From Giger to VanGogh inspired art, there is something dark and foreboding in much of the art that ventures outside of the tourism realm.

These are examples that hover between tourism and local art:

image image

I don’t know, but it feels like surrealism and magical realism are both alive and well in Cuban art. I’m no expert, and my exposure is very limited, but I was struck by how much of the less tourist driven art was filled with skulls, distorted bodies, Santeria symbols, and dark shadows contrasting brighter images. It just felt like I’d walked into an Isabel Allende novel, and well, the artsy lit geek in me… she dug it!

I’ve already told Paul that next trip I’m buying a piece of real art. Watch… Paul won’t ever take me back to Cuba!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

falling apart!

Paul: shoulder knotted and sore throughout our vacation. Fine now.

Marya: Fine on vacation. Gimped knee and unhappy tummy now.

Moral of this story: Paul should stay home and work while Marya vacations!

de retour

You’ll probably never believe this, but honest to god truth, I feel more exhausted now than I did before I left for vacation.  I feel like I should be filled with words, inspiration, and energy, but I’m just not.

I know, right? Totally absurd.

tremblant, cuba, soccer 023

tremblant, cuba, soccer 064

tremblant, cuba, soccer 210

tremblant, cuba, soccer 185

None of these images add up to create exhaustion! And yet, I am.

I have things I want to talk about, Cuban art, travels, swimming, etc, etc.  But they’ll just have to wait a little bit longer….


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