Archive for the ‘Life Ramblings’ Category

The second half of our spring trip that gave my brain a good shakeup was in Kyoto, Japan.  I’m really drawn to the Japanese way of life, sense of style and history.  Kyoto especially had long been on my travel wish list.

We spent most of our time there visiting gobs of temples, admiring beautiful cherry blossom trees just starting to bloom and eating like crazy!

We decided to make Kyoto an adventure in food as well as history and natural beauty.  We tried high end kaiseki, low end (but great!) conveyor belt sushi, fermented wonders, yummy sweets, street food, you name it – we tried it!

beautiful tamago rolled omlette (not done by me but something to aspire to!)

Loved so much of what we ate – and how we ate – that I’ve tried to incorporate it into my eating at home.  After the trip, I figured out a bunch of recipes that mimic what we had in Japan – including eating fish for breakfast(!), cooking mushipan steamed cakes, and working on perfecting my technique of the tamago rolled omelet in the new purple tamago pan I bought (oh so good!).  I got a little book of 300 bento style recipes and have been experimenting with all sorts of new things.   Cooking lotus root is a delightful new find!

The way we ate while in Japan made so much more sense to me, it felt much healthier than what we do at home even though we’re pretty healthy eaters by North American standards.   I’m eating so much fish now that I can probably ditch that Omega-3 vitamin!  😀

Our last day in Japan we left the traditional beauty of Kyoto for the lights of Osaka.  Capsule hotels are so fascinating and I always wanted to try one, but they don’t often allow women.  The husband was able to find one that did and he generously put up with a crappy room all so I could sleep in a tube on the women’s floor.  He’s a good man! 🙂  The experience was super fun but not one I will repeat.  Love the energy in Osaka, so many people, crushing almost – but everyone is respectful and polite.

a few of the mushipan experiments

Japan shook up my brain in a great way, exposing me to some beauty and giving me renewed interest in food and cooking after having been in a rut for awhile.  I was so set on getting just the right mushipan recipe that I went nuts trying tons all in one day.  The husband saw the day’s production all laid out on our counters and wanted to know if I was starting a mushipan factory!  But it’s great, stimulating new areas of the brain and learning new things can only be good for all other areas of my life.

Below are some pics from Japan.  Next blog is back to stuff about glass and mosaics as summer is now upon us and I can get to work under the glorious sun outside. ☀

 

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Have you ever not realized how much your brain needed something to shake it up?  I’d not realized how in need my brain was of something completely different till recently when we went on a big trip.

I’m not good at being “in the moment”, my brain is always moving, usually bouncing around future and past thoughts more than present thoughts.  It is hard to not think of things elsewhere from where you are, whether it is a worry, a project, a conversation you recall out of nowhere.

We took a trip this spring that I was looking forward to (we’d been planning it for 2 years) but didn’t realize how much it would impact me.  We were to visit China (Beijing, Guilin & Shanghai), the husband had lived there in his 20s and wanted me to experience it a bit, and after China a stop in Kyoto Japan (my choice due to a long love of most things Japanese) for cherry blossom season.

China was our first stop.  I knew Facebook was banned there, but forgot about Google being banned – and thus my email, which is a gmail account.  Immediately, I had no contact with anyone back home and decided to take that opportunity and run with it by not going online to read daily North American news.  It was a complete disconnect from all things tech and news from everything at home – which was wonderful.

Not that I had the time for tech and news anyways!  I was blown away by China.  Beijing and Shanghai were wonderfully fascinating places to visit.  We saw some amazing sights (the Great Wall, Hutongs in Bejing, the Marriage Market and Propaganda Museum in Shanghai) and learned so many interesting bits about life from various guides.  But my new love on this planet is the Guilin area of China.

I’d long wanted to see the mountains around the Li river and we spent several glorious days there with a suburb guide.  We climbed up peaks in the dark to watch the sun rise over the mountains, we rode on small rafts on the river surrounded by gorgeous vistas, went to ancient villages and met the most amazing people who let us take their photos and told us about their lives.  I can’t even being to describe without writing a novel how many things I learned, how much I cherish the experiences we had, how wonderful and warm the people were.  My brain never once thought about anything back home (except checking in on the beloved dog) the entire time we were here – every day was simply amazing.  I hope with all the hope in my body that I get to return to the Guilin area one day.

We had a week+ in China and on our plane ride to Japan both remarked how wonderful it had been and that we could have happily gone home at that point and counted it as the best trip ever.  But we got one other week in Japan which was spent in Kyoto – I’ll share more about that with you in the next blog post.

So I’m home now, with a rested brain that is humming with Chinese and Japanese inspired ideas.  🙂 It will be fun to see what all comes out of it (kind of want to try and learn some basic Mandarin now).  The 2 weeks of being so stimulated with everything new and interesting that it didn’t allow my brain to be anything other than “in the moment” has sort of held.  I’m doing much better at being in the now and looking forward to the rest of the year in a much more relaxed mode.  Think my brain was really in the need of learning and seeing some new exciting completely different bits.  Before this entry gets any longer, will end with a bunch of favorite photos from the China portion of the trip, and a wish that you too get to experience a brain shake up (in a good way) soon.  🙂

MyPhoto01 resized2Usually this time of year I make a new holiday themed mosaic but this year it just didn’t happen.

So instead, I’ll share with you of one of the other great loves of my life and hope it gives you a smile.  Ozwald – the ruler of our house – in his annual visit with Santa picture.

May you all have a lovely Christmas – or if Christmas isn’t your thing, then a lovely holiday that you celebrate – and the brightest of wishes for a Happy New Year!

See you (or read you 😉 ) in 2016!

My holiday gift came early this year!  On December 9th, I received my Canadian Citizenship. 😀 glovesNot only did I receive my citizenship – but I was insanely lucky (and honored) to have been 1 of only 50 new citizens invited to attend a very special ceremony hosted by Canada’s Governor General at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

For non-Canadians, the Governor General is the representative of the Queen in Canada and carries out most of her constitutional and ceremonial duties.  Our current Governor General is the His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston.  Rideau Hall is his residence, the largest official residence in Canada.

my micromosaic maple leaf pinI wanted to show my pride for becoming Canadian, so made a micro-mosaic pin of a Maple Leaf.  It’s small, 20mm x 20mm, with individual pieces just 0.5mm to 2mm!

The first part of the day was in the Tent Room where we had round table discussions on citizenship.  It was neat to meet other people and hear their stories.

the Governor General with my card!! photo by Kevin Burns

the Governor General with my card!! photo by Kevin Burns

The best moment was when the Governor General arrived, he went through the room stopping to talk.  Amazingly, he came right by me to say hello!  My (odd) hair probably caught his attention first- but my absolutely lovely mother-in-law leaned over and told him to look at my pin because I’d made it.  We had a nice chat and when I told him I was trying to do mosaic as a living – he asked for my business card!!  I was so nervous I grabbed a wad of them and handed him a bunch. :? It was like a dream to talk with him, he was so great!

I really had my mother-in-law to thank for the whole exchange.  I’m not good at self promotion, it was all due to her that he looked at my pin and found out I’d made it, I’m lucky to have her in my life!

We took our Oath in the ballroom with an orchestra and singer.  Also in attendance were the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, 26th Governor General, & John Ralston Saul.  It was incredibly emotional – I’m not an outward emotional type but got choked up & nearly teary.  Several other people around me were wiping their eyes as well.

yay for cake!

Once we all received our citizenship certificates it was time for food and fun!  We had a reception with cake, beverages and photo ops.  We were given a tour of Rideau Hall, even into in the green houses.  In all, we were there 5 hours!  My face was sore from smiling so much.

It’s easy to look back on life and make connections – but somehow I think I was always meant to be Canadian.  I grew up near Seattle and we got Canadian TV.  I watched (the original) Degrassi High and related to the kids on that show more than the USA tv shows.  We often visited BC growing up and as an adult I worked for a Canadian company where I first met my future husband.  Though if you’d told me at the time I was to marry him 14 years later I’d have never believed it.  He often tells me Canada is more suited to my personality.  He might be right, my Dad used to get mad at me for apologizing and saying “sorry” all the time.  😉

I’m well aware that my journey to this great country was a smooth and easy one.  I wasn’t fleeing any war or horror – it was only love that brought me here (or could have possibly gotten me to trade Florida heat for -30 c winters!).  But it doesn’t make my journey any less, I am so beyond proud to be Canadian and thrilled to know I can stay forever.  It is the best gift I could have received!

A bunch of pics from our day are below – there is a really cool one of me and the GG on his site, can’t post it here but you can go to this link – it is the 3rd pic in!  https://www.gg.ca/gallery.aspx?ID=11391

 

New Workroom!

New Workroom!

My neglect at the blog is terrible!  It has been so long it must have seemed like I fell off the face of the earth!  The past few months have been chock full of so many other life happenings that the blog and mosaic kind of went on the back burner.

When I last left you – the mosaic room was getting packed up for moving to the new house.  The move went well and a brand new mosaic room, complete with new worktable and storage unit, was set up.  This new workroom is amazing!  It is on a 2nd floor, has a great window with fantastic afternoon sun, a comfy chair for Ozwald to be while I work and walls loaded with fun photos and tchotchkes from my travels.  My first few days of working in here were pure joy – it is the perfect place!

Speaking of travels, one reason for my absence from the blog – in addition to the move – was a great big adventure to Asia.  Having never been, much time was spent planning and organizing ahead of time so that I could see the most in a limited amount of days.  Visiting Tokyo was a dream come true, I love Japan related books and have long had a fascination with the culture of the country.  Could write about 7 blog postings on that part of the trip alone!  We also got to visit Hong Kong and were totally fascinated by the street markets.  A quick visit to Singapore gave another taste of Asia and I actually braved up over my fear of high edges and swam to the edge of the infinity pool at the Marina Bay Sands, 57 stories in the air!  Finally the trip wrapped up with a visit into rural Indonesia for some amazing scuba diving.  We saw some sea anemone there that blew my mind – and make me want to re-visit making 3-D sculptures of anemones to mosaic.  Our flights there and home had us circumnavigate the globe, a first for me!

It has been a busy few months, but now, with the new room all in order and finally recovered from our 40 hour trek home, I’m ready to ramp back up and spend the winter mosaicing my heart out!  New projects have gotten started – and new blogs will come again more regularly, so please stick with me and check back next week when I’ll share the start of the next mosaic!

The changing landscape

Posted: April 24, 2013 in Life Ramblings
Tags: ,
my neighbour's flowers finally appearing!

my neighbour’s flowers finally appearing!

Ahhh, spring has finally arrived here!  Returned from California to see the snow melting, only to get 2 more helpings of it the following week, but today it is a blissful 14⁰C and all the snow is truly gone till next winter.  (never thought this Florida girl would think 14⁰C was blissful!)

The landscape here at the blog has changed a bit too!  A new template was installed that gives more room width-wise for the entries and jazzes up the background a bit.  Our other site (www.mercedesmosaics.com) will undergo some changes as well in the near future, a little consolidation and maybe add some new fun features!

Also came back from California to find my French class giving a great big evaluation to us all.  I, along with 4 other classmates, passed and after 18 months in the course have graduated!  The graduation was bittersweet, nice to know I have the skills but sad to leave my group of fellow immigrants and teacher that had become so much a part of my daily routine.  Going to look into another program and hopefully will find a class offered at a higher level somewhere.

A nasty little virus was contracted after California too – no not in my body, but in another very vital life system, my computer.  Much effort has been put into place eradicating the nuisance.  With all that has been going on, not too much time has been spent on mosaics to give you a proper update just yet, but – a mosaic update will be forthcoming shortly!  Pics of some of the completed pendants will be posted early next week, so stay tuned my friends, many changes are afoot this bright spring season!!

Ozwald enjoying the sun outside finally after a long winter

Ozwald enjoying the sun outside finally after a long winter

graduation with my teacher, she is so tiny - I feel like a giant next to her!

graduation with my teacher, she is so tiny – I feel like a giant next to her!

Escaping the cold!

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Life Ramblings
Tags: , ,
giant pile of snow, and this is AFTER some melting

giant pile of snow, and this is AFTER some melting

At the time of this posting, I’m shooting through the air heading towards California sunshine!

Winter here has been long and snowy.  The last couple of months there’s been a pile on each side of our driveway taller than me and I can’t remember when we last saw the yard.  Then out of the blue, a visit with family in California for Easter came on the radar – family & sun, count me in!

However, this means no updates for a couple of weeks – but I will leave you with a little teaser. 🙂

There are several projects in the hopper, but one has taken me in a bit of an unexpected direction.  I stumbled across some jewelry blanks recently for necklaces and a ring.  The bezel setting looked deep enough to fit tiles into, so I bought a couple to play with.  Never thinking more than 2 might get done, I started designing the mini-mosaics in the pendants and couldn’t stop!   I made a tiny collection, they’re setting up in their glue as you read this and when I come back will finish them up with some grout.  So be sure and check back in a couple of weeks to see the final results!

long pendant blanksshiny silver pendant blanks

This past weekend we went off for a few days to enjoy the fall colors in a bit of mountains.  This is still a fairly new feeling for me.  The past 12 years before I came to Canada, I lived in NorthEast Florida.  It was so beautiful there and being in North Florida meant we had a bit of cool winter.  In fact Orange trees can’t be grown there commercially due to potential for freezes in the winter.  The freeze temperatures only ever last a handful of hours but still, it freezes sometimes!  NorthEast Florida had wonderful weather, nice hot in summer or not so hot in fall spring and cool-ish in the winter, but no grand change of seasons.

I grew up in the NorthWest US, near Seattle.  Same thing there, beautiful place but really just the season for rain and the 2 weeks of summer.  🙂  OK, I exaggerate a little, but there was no massive 4 season change like here, a bit for sure and more than Florida but no grand change that lasted for very long that I remember.

Coming to Canada 2 years ago put me in a place where we live with 4 very distinct seasons.  It is really fantastic, it makes you appreciate the different times of the year more.  I savor summer now because there is no way we’re going to get a 75 degree day in January (like we’d have gotten in Florida).  I relish in the new flowers of spring, they can grow bulb flowers here and the tulips are phenomenal!  The winter has its’ white pristine beauty and fun activities, but by far – my favorite season is fall.  The trees in their glorious colors, the crispness of the mornings – enough to need a bit of a jacket, the smell of the fireplaces in the houses, the pumpkins and gourds abound at the grocery.  It is a season that is a true treat for all the senses.

Heading off tomorrow for Italy!  Not sure if connectivity will allow me to blog from there or not, so it may be a couple weeks before I’m back online.  Wish me luck!!

Do you ever draw things out just to prolong the pleasure?

The Tribal Fish is coming along and I’m so happy with him.  Yet, I haven’t felt a big rush to hurry and get him finished.  He’ll be done for sure within a week but he probably could have been completed much faster.

I pondered the why of this the other day as I had the options of mosaic-ing all afternoon or going to yoga.  I chose yoga and just mosaic’d a short bit of time.  I realized that I’m getting a ton of enjoyment watching the Tribal Fish evolve.  Watching the background fill in bit by bit is really floating my boat so to speak.

Thought about if I do this in other areas of life too and realized the answer is a resounding yes.  Once there was a book I enjoyed so much I didn’t finish it for 2 years – I read other books in that time of course, and it wasn’t slow reading that took me so long – it was just I loved the story and didn’t want to find out everything quickly.  So I’d read a small bit, put it down for a few weeks, read a bit more, etc..  Desserts get a similar treatment, not the 2 year treatment, but they are eaten so slowly.  I have a giant sweet tooth and trying to make the sweet taste last as long as possible is delightful.

It was a bit interesting to see this pattern reflected in many other areas of my life too and get a bit of new insight!  A final pic of Tribal Fish totally completed will come next week – but here’s a tiny portion of it with the background as a teaser!   Though not yet grouted….

There is a new rule in our house, my significant other is no longer allowed to touch the mosaics.

To be fair, he was originally trying to help out.  He takes amazing photographs, understands all the settings and has patience for setting up a shot, stuff I have no patience for.  I’m an auto-focus, click it and move on type of gal.

Remember the Cherry Blossom Tree?  Of course you do, it was just a couple weeks ago.  Frustrated by my horrible picture taking, he wanted to take some final shots for me.    I gave it to him and followed behind to observe.  He kept moving it around then all the sudden, the worst thing ever, he knocked the chair he had it on and it went flying up into the air.  I gasped but was too far away to do anything – it flipped over and over and landed on the hard deck – SMACK! – face down.  Thankfully it was not damaged, a dent occurred in the backing wood – but likely a dent only I will ever notice.

Of course he is mortified, and apologizes tons.  But a few minutes later he knocks the chair again, thankfully this time the mosaic does not fall all the way off,  but we cease taking pictures.

Fast forward to this past weekend.

Sunday afternoon, he wants to help me take some “in-progress” pictures of Rodin.  Often when working I cut pieces and arrange them on the board in zones – like color zones, or certain pieces are triangles and are grouped together for future use, or I like a piece I’ve cut but am not ready to set it because I want to think on it a bit more.  All these pieces are loose, laying around the board – can you see where this is going?

Not happy with taking a picture of Rodin flat on the kitchen island where it was safe – it gets moved over near a window and balanced on the sill so he can have some natural light.  A minute later, Rodin is bumped hard while setting up another shot, thankfully he isn’t completely dropped, but like Olympic trampoline champions – all those little pieces that were arranged for future use went FLYING up up and into the air!  Gasp!!  Twisting and turning, I watch helplessly as they hit the floor – then heard many of them tinkle down the air vent never to be seen again.

Apologies abound.  He was just trying to help after all.  I started giggling – he’s lucky I’m so nice about this – and lovingly tell him, that is it – he is not allowed to touch the mosaics ever ever again.