Friday, August 27, 2010

A Day at the Vancouver Aquarium and Stanley Park

In my bid to enjoy the last remaining days of summer with the family, we went to a perennial favorite: the Vancouver Aquarium. My youngest had seen something on t.v. about the aquarium having a display of exotic frogs and she was really interested in seeing them. I was kind of surprised because she's afraid of most things that move, thinking that they might attack her. But I was game and thought since it was a Monday morning we could see the aquarium without huge crowds. Well you know that's it's summer and that means it's tourist season for Stanley Park and the Aquarium. By the time we found parking the line-up to get in went into the parking lot. Happily we had a family membership given to us for Christmas and we could by-pass that huge line. I must say that the year pass is really worth the cost especially when you have two younger ones who decide they want to leave after only 30 minutes.

So this time we skipped all the fish halls and went straight to the amphibian exhibit which I must say was really neat. One of the coolest exhibits was a circular tank which held an assortment of pond frogs in various stages of metamorphasis. It was lots of fun to see the kids get excited about finding "another frog!" amoung the plants. Below are a few pictures I took of the frogs.

On the way out of there is a gift shop that sells all things concerned with the current exhibit. Frog lights, frog umbrellas, frog cups, from pins, frog earrings, frog books get the picture. In one glass case there were these frogs that caught my eye as something unique. These handmade ceramic frogs cost only $25 a piece which made me wonder how much the artisan could have possibly gotten for their handiwork.

I snapped some more pictures at the park and just by chance as we were finishing up our treats, we were approached by a family of racoons. You can tell this family is quite familiar to people and once they figured out that we didn't have anything to eat the went on their way.

I think our family outing was quite a success. Only a couple weeks left for more adventures.
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Square Foot Show at AWOL Gallery

It's still August but I feel like this summer is ending so quickly this year.I will do my hardest though to take in as much of the fun and sun before the leaves start changing and the west coast rains create grey skys. If you happen to be in the Toronto area at the end of the month you can take in the Square Foot show at the AWOL Gallery. Every year for the past seven years the AWOL gallery has put out a call of submission for any 2-D work that measures exactly to 1'x1'. Each piece in this all-inclusive show sells for $200 and is shown in a huge grid format. For a $20 ticket you can preview the show on August 20th to get an idea of which piece you would like to snap up. The show runs from August 21-Sept.5.

Above is the piece that I entered into the show titled: "I think we need to have a chat". I really enjoyed doing this painting and I made a point of documenting the process.This is my first stop motion video and I found it much easier to edit than straight video. 
I would love to hear your thoughts on the video and painting. Let me know if you've submitted to the Square Foot show before. It looks like a fun night indeed.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Stop-over in London

  On our way back home from Greece we had a stop-over in London, England. We had one day to explore this amazing city and I knew  it wouldn't be enough. My only goal was to visit the Tate gallery. In the four years of art school I noticed that some of my most favorite paintings were housed in the Tate. I, of course, didn't know there was more than one Tate.
Since we had the kids with us and we knew they were't too thrilled with walking around art galleries we made sure to bring strollers and a knowledge that we would have to absorb the art fast. The fact that the Tate Britan was free made us feel a little less pressure to take it all in.
I was thrilled to be able to finally see so many amazing paintings that I've only seen in books. I was surprised to learn how big most of these paintings are. My most favorite works were pieces that showed the hand of the artist and their skill. While I did see some beautiful Caravaggio paintings I was dissappointed at how flawless the surface of the painting was. I couldn't tell you how they were painted. The Singer Sargent paintings were some of my favorites and everytime I see one in person it makes me want to paint with fluid, bold and fast strokes.
By some miracle we were able to see the Tate Britan and the National Museum while on our short stay. If I get a chance to visit London again I hope it will be for at least a week because I know the city has so much to offer.
Below are some pictures of some of the pieces that made me "ooooooo" and "aawwwww".

I didn't do any real shopping while in London but I did go into a store which has been established since 1707(!). I only saw a small portion of the Fortnum and Mason store but I have to say that it was just amazing. This is one fine department store! We hit the teas, candy, and pastry floor, of course, but by chance for a washroom we hit the kitchen supply floor and ended up with a new cooking apron. As we walked through we saw beautiful tea sets which the girls loved. As I stopped to pick up a cup I noticed the price....540 pounds! This was not the price of the whole set, this was the price of the one cup. The set will put you back 7,655 pounds.  Below is a photo of the most expensive tea set I've ever seen. I promised the girls that when we got back home we would get some fancy tea cups from the thrift shop for our own tea party but "please don't touch anything!"

So what other places must I visit when I get a chance to make it to London again?

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Grocery Shopping in Greece

As a follow-up to my last post about the food in Greece I thought I'd tell you about how people shop for their food. There are a couple supermarkets in a town about 20 minutes away by they're really about the size of a large convenience store. There are several produce stores and on certain days farmers would come into town and set up stalls with fresh produce. We would take advantage of the produce places as the price and product was better than the supermarket.

One of the major ways people shopped in the mountains where we were was with home delivery. Trucks and vans outfitted with bull horns and speakers would drive up and down the streets and call out their wares. If you were interested you would flag down the seller. You can get anything from fresh fish and produce to shoes and furniture. We would regularly run down for the bread man to get a daily loaf. Most people buy their bread everyday as it's without preservatives. Whatever is not eaten turns into toast, chicken food and compost.

Below are pictures of a produce seller. He called out "Fresca!" This is probably from his small farm. Most people tend a small vegetable garden by their house but there are plenty of small farms that grow a variety of things in a 1-5 acre space of land.

I really liked this way of distribution and I have to tell you that I had some of the freshest and most delicious produce while in Greece. Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, oranges, lemons, cherries, watermelon and peaches. The best peaches were from the neighbor's tree and they were to die for. I came home to Vancouver and and went to the produce store and was saddened to see rock hard nectarines and peaches from California. No thanks. I'm thinking that we don't even know what food is supposed to taste like. My daughters are so used to under-ripe, dry and crunchy fruit that they complained the fruit in Greece was too juicy and soft. Hopefully their opinions will change as they get older.

I would buy local produce if I could get it but I'm finding less and less of it in the stores. I will keep trying though because I want local farmers to know they have a market here and that I appreciate biting into a fresh ripe Okanagan peach. What do you think? Are farms disappearing in your area? Where does your produce come from?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My time on a Grecian island

Hello everyone! I'm back from my three-week stay on the island of Kefalonia, Greece. I took around 600 photos and I'm currently trying to recover at least 200 of them from a bad upload but I still have plenty of memories recorded.

When I went to Greece I had a mission to try some of my favorite authentic dishes and compare them to what I know in North America. I make a mean baclava so that was at the top of my tasting list. I was really surprised to find that I preferred my own recipe. Other items on the list were dolmathes, greek shortbread, and bougatsa. I found I was to be disappointed on all fronts except with the bougatsa which was fantastic. Bougatsa is a filo pastry filled with a custard made with semolina flour and sometimes lemon zest. Very addictive.  Although I didn't get to try any fasoulatha, avgolemono soup or mousaka, I did get to try some other fantastic and fresh greek cuisine. Calamari, spanikopita, fresh goats feta, stuffed tomatoes and zuchinni fritters were some of my favorites. Below are pictures of some of the items we tried before gobbling them up.

Grilled local fish
The kids liked to poke the eyes.

I love this presentation.

Barbecued Octopus
I prefer calamari

Stuffed Tomato
It may not look pretty but it was fantastic and it is on my "must make" list

My lovely treat.

If you ever travel to Greece be warned that the dishes are always large and if it says "one" on the menu it really means "two". Most of my favorite meals were eaten in an open-air taverna with a large ice-cold beer which was cheaper than a coffee or a juice. I think the biggest reason why the meals in Greece tasted so good is that we got to eat fresh and local food that was simply prepared. It was rare for us to get anything processed and that included  french fires which were all cooked in olive oil. Give me some more!

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