Monday, December 31, 2007

More Fairies in My Garden

I have added some hair to Hiro, and lengthened Aiko's hair. They look great out in my garden, don't you think?
Fairies in My Garden

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Yet More 3D Fairy Images

I was so happy to find the Hiro 3.0 character, now Aiko has a friend (click for a larger image):

Boy and Girl Fairies in Magical Mushroom Scene
That's all for tonight. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

More Fairy 3D Images

Oh, this is really cool, I couldn't help myself to spend a couple more hours... I have discovered a new character, called "Aiko 3.0", she's considerably cuter, and in a Japanese anime style. I've fitted her with some fairy wings, too, and placed her amongst some mushrooms I photographed this summer, near Alouette Lake:

Fairy Among Mushrooms
Then I sent her out to my garden, among the Kwanzo daylilies, photographed in June'07:

Fairy Among Daylilies
Wow! I'm starting to see the possibilities... I wish I had taken more photos of my kids in the garden this summer... This would make a cute "photo", to sit them in the garden amongst a few fairies! Hey, would even work for my daughter's fairy party, I can get photos of the girls together, and then add in a few fairies when I "develop" the photos.

PS. I know, I've got to work on Aiko's outfit. The colour of her wetsuit matches her fairy wings, but I think I should be able to find something more appropriate for her to wear.

Fairy 3D Images

I was looking at fairy images today, getting ideas for my daughter's 9th birthday, which is coming in a few weeks. Last year, she took her friends to the Midnight Fairy Party Store, where they dressed as fairies and did fairy dances and had fairy stories, and brought home fairy dust and such. They had so much fun, that she wants to have a fairy theme party this year, in our house. We will transform the Christmas tree into a fairy tree, and decorate fairy wings, and whatever other fairy activities we can come up with.

After a few searches, I stumbled upon the website, and was quite struck by the 3D-like fairy images, such as this one:

At this point, my fairy search took a bit of a curve, and I found myself downloading the free DAZ Studio 1.8 software, and a few hours later, emerged with my own fairy image, which I'll call "Fern Fairy" (click for a larger image):

fern fairy
The DAZ Studio software is quite amazing, it lets you manipulate and animate 3D objects, and there are LOTS of characters and objects you can purchase, and assemble together. For example, you "fit" the dress to the character, and then it moves when she moves, and you have control over individual joints, to move fingers and toes and elbows. It is really worth trying out, but be warned, it could be totally addictive. I'm not sure what I'm thinking, having just returned from a serious massage session today, trying to undue all the damage to my neck & back which I do, sitting at the computer all day!!

Anyhow, I think this may only be a holiday diversion for me, at this point. I haven't bought any more objects (I'm afraid that if I look, I will!!), I'm just experimenting with the sample ones that come with the free download. (By the way, you need to download the objects separately, they are in "My Account" once you register.)

Another couple of hours, and here is my fairy in the scene I'll call "Follow that Dragonfly":

Fern Fairy : Follow that Dragonfly
By the way, this is really cool.... You can set up her eyes to fix on whatever object you like, and then when you move that object, her eyes will follow. In this case, I fixed them on the dragonfly. You can also control how skinny or fat she is, make her pregnant (I want to try that out, for fun), and lots of other neat stuff.

I have yet to figure out how to export or save into a file format which I know what to do with. So for now, I'm using the SnagIt screen capture program to capture the rendered image, and save it to an image file. I also wish I could make the fairy smile. I don't seem to be able to control her mouth, just her eyes and head position. Perhaps other objects have control over this.

I'd love to hear from anyone who's used this software, and have any images you can share with me, or tips (just in case I spend some more time on it ;-) ).

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Snow Creation of the Season

The snow started out dry and fluffy this morning, but turned progressively wet and heavy this afternoon. Finally, my son and I were able to make a snow creation, before it turns to rain (which is the forecast for tonight, I hear). He wanted a penguin, since my kids are both Club Penguin ( fans.
Club Penguin members
With some Photoshop colour (colouring the snow would have been too messy), it looks quite a bit like a Club Penguin member, don't you think?

First Snow in Vancouver

It is December 2, and we just had our first major snowfall in Vancouver (BC). Yesterday when the snow just barely covered the ground, my daughter was excited to run barefoot in it, and being a cool mom, I wouldn't deprive her of the experience:

Today, it has been snowing all day, and I got tired of waiting for it to stop before taking a photo of the back yard, especially since I've heard the forecast is for rain by this evening. I like how everything (except the shed and fence, and one pink solar tulip light) looks kinda black and white:

Good thing I pretty much had the garden trimmed, dahlias dug up, hoses disconnected, and my echium pininana potted up and brought into the basement. I would have liked a few more hours in the garden before the frost and snow hit, but it's in pretty good shape this year under the circumstances.

P.S. For any puzzle fans out there, here is that last photo as an online puzzle, courtesy of
Click to Mix and Solve
P.P.S. On first try, my time was 6:35. Wow, that was a challenging one. Enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Weird and Wonderful Photoshop Dream Homes

I am too tired to continue working (on a holiday Monday!), and don't have enough sense to go to sleep early when I have the chance, so here I am tonight, browsing for neat images and interesting blogs. I came across this contest to create wonderful and unique Photoshop dream homes. See the entries here, they are quite inspiring.

Here's one of the entries, to entice you to take a look:

Sweet Surprise in November

Late in October, I had a delightful surprise, when cleaning up my garden for winter, I lifted a raspberry branch, and was greeted by a cluster of red raspberries (and a spider, which I didn't even notice, until I looked at the photo later).
Surprise raspberries in October
I also found a number of my golden raspberries were ripe also. So after taking a photo, I carefully carried in a handful of the sweet little treasures...
Happy handful of raspberries
...and prepared a small bowl to share with the children:
Bowl of raspberries
Because after all, the only thing better than discovering treasure is having someone to share it with. :-)

Now, this is already mid-November, we have had a number of mornings of frost (at least visible on the roof), and there is snow in the local mountains. So when I made a trip into the yard with the kids (they were home today in lieu of Remembrance Day) to do some more garden cleanup, I was not expecting to again discover a number of ripe gold & red raspberries.

There were probably 2 dozen berries I picked today, and the kids were very happy to share them with me. There are still a number of green berries coming, too. I wonder what those raspberry canes could possibly be thinking!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Daylight Savings Time Confusion

It was the wierdest thing when the alarm woke me up at 7:30 this morning. Usually I look out the window, then just crawl into the shower, with my eyes half open. But when I looked out the window, it still looked too dark for 7:30am. So I consulted my watch, just in case I had mistakenly changed the time on my clock. It also indicated 7:30am. Then it occurred to me that this might be the "fall back" day at the end of Daylight Savings Time. So I went downstairs to consult my computer.

(Usually I rely on the preacher announcing the change the week before, to avoid half the congregation arriving one hour late, or in this case, early. I didn't remember any such announcement.)

The date on the computer indicated only 6:30am. So I googled, and found that in 2007, Congress in the US and Parliament in Canada had changed the end date of Daylight Savings, it WOULD have been this morning, but instead is November 4, 2007, next weekend.

So I crawled into the shower, this time with my eyes fully awake, but my body telling me I still had one more hour to sleep.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Small Cloud in a Blue Sky

While washing dishes in our south-facing kitchen window today, enjoying a rare Fall day of sunshine and blue sky in Vancouver, I noticed a dramatic shift in temperature and colour, as a small white cloud drifted and for a moment, blocked the sun. It made me reflect on how this is a metafore for so much of our life. We can let a small comment deflate our enthusiasm, or a small event discourage us, or a small disappointment challenge our faith. At the time, the feeling is dramatic, and all seems so real and overwhelming, but in light of our life and all that is possible, it is just a small cloud in an otherwise blue sky.

It made me also think about how life can go by, and we fail to appreciate and enjoy what we have right in front of us. I work from home, and other than trying to take on additional household chores and taking care of the kids' needs on top of my full time work, I too often forget to take a break, enjoy the awesome view from our office window, or stroll through our wonderful back yard gardens, or really enjoy the children and the stories that they share with me on arrival from school. Usually I don't even take time to enjoy lunch, I eat while thinking of what I am working on, and take more notes (I keep a book, as well as all my "flagged" emails as reminders) of what I need to do next.

So today I decided to enjoy the gorgeous blue sky, and sunshine. I boiled a pot of my favourite herbal tea (Celestial Seasonings Dessert Tea "English Toffee"), and sat on the deck for a short while, enjoying the heat of the sun on my face. The Sun gets way too much bad publicitly lately - it is the source of life, healing, growth, warm, relaxation. I noted how the Euonymus alata (aka "Burning Bush") which only days ago was a brilliant red, has dropped most of its leaves and is bare twigs. The fall asters, which were brilliant pinks, purples and whites for many weeks now, are starting to fade. The dahlias, close to the house, are still green, although the blooms are a bit smaller now, and they are quite fallen over. I will wait until a hard frost will turn them black, before cutting them down, and digging up the tubers for winter storage (leaving the ones protected by the house and overhang in the ground). There is the sound of leaves falling through the alders and cottonwoods in the nearby woods.

Then, in typical nerdy fashion, I return to my computer, and blog about my experience.

PS. Don't follow my example - get out there and enjoy it while you can! Invite a friend to join you, too!

PPS. Credit to Marsha J. O'Brien for the cloud photo, used without her explicit permission, but used in the same spirit as her blog :

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

When Gardening Turns Dangerous

Most of the time, gardening is very therapeutic. Even on days when I overexert myself (predictably related to me getting out the garden shovel), and return from the garden sweaty from head to toe, I know that the time spent in the plants and dirt and sunshine has done wonders for calming my spirit, lowering my blood pressure, and strengthening my heart and muscles. Gardening, to those who enjoy it, is one of the most rewarding activities for maintaining health and happiness.

Andertoons cartoonBut at times it can turn hazardous. I found out for myself, in my own small but distinct way, as I was weeding underneath one of my rose bushes in July. I suddenly felt a sharp pain in the back of the joint of my little finger. I was wearing gloves at the time, so pulled them off and looked for the thorn. Nothing obvious. I remember thinking at the time, what an irony it was, since I really don't have much fondness for roses in the first place, and have only 4 or 5 bushes which I either salvaged or bought on clearance ($1 is a hard price to resist).

That evening, after I had washed off my hands, I could see a very small spot in the skin where the puncture had occurred. So I took out a needle, and made a serious attempt to search for the thorn. Unfortunately, it was my right hand, so I was working with a handicap, using my left to poke around. The thorn was pretty close to skin colour, and went straight in, leaving little sign. No luck. So I decided to leave it, and see if it worked itself out eventually.

More than 11 weeks later of regular pain when bending or touching the finger or trying to wear gloves (I cut the little finger off my usual pair of gardening gloves, so I could continue to wear them), prayer, and two more serious attempts at digging out the thorn, I was finally successful tonight. I wish I could take a photo of it, but it would be too small (approx 1 mm) to show up well. But the relief I feel is so great, I knew I had to share this moment, even though it means working even later tonight (anyone following my blog and/or gardening painting project will note the infrequency of either lately!).

A big thanks to Mark Anderson, whose "Andertoons" have brought me many chuckles over the years, as I have enjoyed his "Daily Cartoon" on the sidebar of my blog. He generously provided the cartoon which is shown here. To view more of his cartoons and to order cartoons for presentations or cool merchandise, visit his Andertoons site.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Golden Ears Park Pics

We went for a hike in Golden Ears Park today, and got a few nice photos from the trip (click any of them for a closer view). The first three photos are from the Spirea Nature Trail, which led us through (over) a bog, where we could see tadpoles with small legs developing, some beautiful blue dragonflies, lily pads (the leaves sticking awkwardly into the air, as the water level is quite low this time of year), and bog beans. Then through a forest where the forest floor was completely lined in moss. Quite magical:
Magical forest floor with moss and mushroom
One of the neat products of our wet rainforest weather in the Vancouver area, is the trees with moss draped over the branches (sometimes with ferns growing on them, too) found in many of the parks. I like to call them "spooky trees" because they would look quite frightening at night:
Spooky moss-covered tree
I was delighted to see many Cornus canadensis or Bunchberry (a type of low-growing rhizomous perennial dogwood). Too bad there were none with flowers or fruits. But they are still delightful.
Cornus canadensis or Bunchberry
We also hiked to the North Beach area, where a number of people were camping or enjoying the beach for the day. I tried my hand at building a small rock man or inukshuk:
Small Inukshuk
Near the beach, my husband noticed a small snake, most likely a garter snake, black with yellow stripes. As I stopped to see it (the photo didn't turn out well), I spotted this beautiful little lizard. I still question if it could be a native species, it looks like something more suited to the Utah desert than a Pacific Northwest lakeshore. I'm glad I had nothing to carry him home in, or I would have been too tempted. What a little beauty:
Lizard in BC
When I got too close, he darted into the rocks, but then peeked back at us from between the rocks. I was sad to go, I would have liked to watch him longer. Can anyone identify the species? I would be very curious to know more about him:
Lizard peeking

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Embarrassed Sunflower and Veggie Faces

Remember the handsome sunflower I posted about earlier? Well, he may be a bit embarrassed by all the attention, and ever since has been hanging his head:
embarassed sunflower
On the veggie side, I have been blessed with a great crop of Purple Peacock and Scarlet Runner beans, even though I have only 4 poles of the former and 1 of the latter this year, with 5 of the poles not fully utilized (cut down by slugs or pulled off the poles by my snap peas). Even with only 5 poles, I have been picking a large handful of beans every 2nd day. In the last week, my cucumbers have started bearing also, with a fresh crisp cucumber for me every 2 or 3 days.

I was hoping to post a few photos, but realizing that it will look very much like my Purple Peacock bean photos from last year, and wanting to keep up my reputation for creativity, having recently been awarded the Creative Blogger Award by Crafty Gardener (thanks so much - what an honour!), I decided to post some veggie faces.... Mine:
my veggie face
My daughter's:
my daughter's veggie face
...and my son's:
my son's veggie face
By the way, "cool" moms encourage their kids to play with their food. :-)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Stargazer Puzzle - Improved!

I've been having lots of fun with my Stargazer Puzzle, and lots of visitors enjoying it also. So I decided I'd better fix the proportion issue which resulted in the grey edges. So here is the improved version of the puzzle, it should be more of a challenge now (click the "Play" symbol to solve it):

Click to Mix and Solve

Friday, August 17, 2007

Stargazer Puzzle

Hi, I discovered a make-your-own-puzzle site the other night, made a puzzle from my stargazer lily photo:

After you play once, you can "Play Again", and see previous scores. See if you can beat my score. :-) Try also the "bird" cut, it's much more difficult, I found!

To make your own puzzles, go to

21Aug07 Note: I now have a "fixed" version of the puzzle, with the gray sidebars removed. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What Turns a Sunflower's Head?

I have one very tall and handsome sunflower growing against my East fence. His face is wide and cheery and bright yellow. But to my dismay, he has decided to turn his head to face toward the neighbours below, instead of gazing into our yard of delightful flowers.

Tall handsome sunflower
It got me to thinking the other day, what turns a sunflower's head? What causes them to gaze in a certain direction? Surely it is not the sun, since he is neither looking into or away from the sun's rays.

Next door, there is not much to look at:

View of neighbour's yard and beyond
Or is there? On closer look into the yard of the neighbour two houses down... There is this row of giggling, pretty sunflowers. Ahah!
Object of sunflower attention

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hummingbird Pics

I am determined to get a few photos of the hummingbirds which are constantly zipping about our garden this year. Since it was overcast today, I took the opportunity to try again. The quality is not good, but here goes anyhow:

The hummingbirds are most often near the Buddleia (butterfly bush) and Monarda in the top corner of the garden, but are also visiting many of the flowers in the garden, including the Crocosmia, Phlox, Lilies, and Fuschia. They chase each other around the yard, and up into the alder trees beyond our fence. They are so fun to watch.

I am really pleased with the Helianthus Giganteus this year, I wish I had a few more. Grows like a weed, as does the other sprout in the photo. :-)

Speaking of our sprout, after talking about wanting a pet every day for I don't know how long, we finally gave in to her request, and got her a hamster 4 days ago. "Hammy" seems to be settling in to the household fairly well. We have started taking him outside in the early evenings, while we clean his cage (I'm sure this daily ritual won't last long!). It is interesting that if we put his cage out, he will stay near it.

But that seems to be true of any large object; we had the same result with an overturned flower pot tonight. If he's in the open, he makes a quick dash for the wall, and runs along it. I am reminded of the time my son and I witnessed a small mouse running out into the street, and a crow swooping out of nowhere, to snatch it up. It is no wonder the hamster is not comfortable out in the open.

Hammy also enjoys my snap peas (just the peas, not the pods), so it gives me an excuse to get out picking them regularly. I had fallen behind in checking on them, since I had a large bag of store-bought snap peas in the fridge for the last week or so to enjoy. I just noticed that my Purple Peacock beans are ready to start picking, and I brought in my first handful last night. It seems only days ago that I had checked, and they were barely in flower. This summer is going by much too quickly for my liking.

To end on a positive note, the dahlias I received from my father-in-law are looking gorgeous again this year. My favourite is these tall (6') pink and white ones. They start out a vibrant pink, and fade almost to white with age. This year again, I didn't stake them early in the season, and it is too awkward to try now (without breaking too many branches), so the plants are flopping forward too much, especially when it rains. But the flowers, I think, are stunning.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Garden Glimpses : Early August 2007

We took advantage of the great weather on the weekend, to visit Bunsen Lake. We were very impressed by our kids, 8 and 6, who very cheerfully walked the trails for 1 hr 15 min to get to the other side of the lake. Then, the 2 hr 15 min of the more gruelling (or perhaps it just felt more challenging since we were already tired on the return journey) longer trail on the other side of the lake. Afterwards, they even had enough energy to go wading in the cold lake!

The barn swallows had several nests on the outside of the building which contains the washrooms. It was fun to see the little heads and open beaks pop up each time a parent approached the nest. One nest contained 4 chicks which looked nearly ready to leave the nest (click any of the photos for a slightly closer view):
barn swallow nestlings
I waited for quite a while, trying to snap a shot of them with their mouths open, but the mom (or dad, I guess) darted in and out so quickly, I missed a number of times. Finally, I got the shot I wanted:
barn swallow chicks with mouths wide open
On a similar note, almost every time I look, there are 2 or 3, sometimes even 4, hummingbirds darting around our garden, and up into the maple and alder trees beside our property (in the ravine). I have been trying to catch them on camera, but this is the best I've done so far:
humming bird
Not National Geographic, but any means! I've done a bit better, with the video camera, because that at least picks up the motion, and I got a good close-up of one sitting on the top of my small cherry tree.

Here is a nice shot of the globe thistle with bees in it:
globe thistle with bees
I find it interesting, that each flower has its own following of bees. The globe thistle attracts the smaller honey bees. Many of the others are a magnet for the big fuzzy bumblebees. The lamb's ear was a favourite of what I believe was mason bees, as well as bumblebees.
stargazer lily
Can you smell the fragrance of this stargazer? They are so sweet-smelling. I am pleased to have a number of them blooming in the garden at the moment, and catch a whiff of them as I walk through the yard. I have a fond association with the stargazer, since it was my wedding flower. This is a good time of year to buy them in the grocery stores, enjoy the fragrance indoors, then when they are finished flowering, plant them out to enjoy next year. It is about the same price as buying the bulb at the garden center, so this seems a better way to go.
beautiful lilies
I don't remember if these lilies are fragrant, but I love the rich orange colour, and the freckles on them. My friend Lily gave them to me, the bulbs are apparently a Taiwanese delicacy. But I think they are much too beautiful to consider eating.

I learned something interesting the other day. A few weeks ago, I had deadheaded a number of my hardy geraniums, mainly since I already have enough seedlings to deal with, and the seedheads can look quite messy. On one geranium, I trimmed most of the plant, but was interrupted before I finished completely. Now, weeks later, the part I had trimmed (front), looks green and refreshed, and has even started to flower again, whereas the part I had left in seed (at back), appears yellow and faded (Yes, those are really two parts of the same plant!!):
dramatic effect of deadheading on a geranium
Finally, it is only the first week of August, which feels like only half way through the summer. But the Virginia Creeper is telling a different story, it has already started to turn red. (It turns a brilliant red in the Fall before losing its leaves for the Winter.)
Virginia creeper
Could we be so close to Fall? I guess it is only 4 weeks left before the start of school! Much too soon!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Floral Wreath Workshop

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a hands-on Scandinavian-inspired floral wreath making ("Every woman a goddess") workshop offered by Catherine Dale of the Land Conservancy (TLC), held at the Eagles Estate in Burnaby.

My mom first heard about the workshop, and brought along her mom who is visiting from the Okanagan. I brought along my daughter, so we ended up with all 4 generations of us ladies, which is already a special moment in itself. Then add to this moment some bright flowers and berries, mix it with good company (Catherine and I are old friends - although I would have to qualify that neither of us are actually old - who hadn't seen each other for a number of years), and then place this in the setting of a restored historical house on 1 1/3 acres on the upper side of scenic Deer Lake, and the result was almost magical. (Click any of the photos for a closer view.)

4 generations of beautiful ladies
Here we are, all 4 generations, sporting our floral arrangements.

my daughter with her great-nana
My daughter is fortunate to have a great-nana (now 89 years old). I hope the Lord grants me the opportunity to one day meet some of my great-grandchildren. (Although I had only 2 children myself, I already tell mine that one day I am hoping for lots of grandchildren!)

Doesn't my Nana look like a Queen with her floral crown? Very distinguished indeed.

my daughter with her grandma
My grandma decided to make a larger wreath, so hers became a flower necklace for the photos.

with my daughter
I got this photo with my daughter at home, before we hung up our wreaths to dry. The flowers were quite wet when we started our wreaths (it had been raining for a few days already), and perhaps it was a bit early in the season for the hydrangeas, so the crowns are looking pretty curled and wrinkly, but the ivy still looks fresh. I suppose one could use silica gel and dry any flowers. We'll see, but there may be some life still left in it.

For anyone inspired by these photos, the technique was actually fairly simple. We started with a length of common ivy, wrapped maybe twice around (try it on for size if you are aiming for a crown), and scotch-taped together. Then we used a spool of black sewing thread, tied and knotted to start, then wrapped around and around to secure each bunch of flowers or berries, in turn. For a fuller arrangement, you could go around twice (although we didn't). To end it, cut the thread and tie and knot (it's a bit awkward with only one end of the thread), and then separately take another piece of thread and tie and knot it again securely.

The flowers Catherine gathered included a few colours of hydrangeas, mini roses, lavender, mountain ash berries, and tansy (pretty yellow, but not sweet smelling). My mini roses are much past their prime this year, but I'm already wondering about an all-rose flower crown next season, if I can find the time.

Thanks to Catherine for an enjoyable Saturday morning, and for a great floral craft experience. We look forward to the next workshop! Here we are, with Catherine:

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