The advent of air travel

As my father-in-law who is 89 years young just returned from a tropical vacation and was complaining about the delay not only in leaving Toronto but arriving back a week later, and still quite irked by the lack of concern by the airline, I thought I’d take a moment and remind people that commercial flight has only been around just over 100 years — 105 to be precise as the first commercial flight for an airline was in 1914 with one paying passenger.

By the 1930’s air travel had exploded when the number of people using airplanes to travel shot from 6,000 annually in 1930 to over 1.2 million by 1938.  Today well over 3 billion people travel by plane on a daily basis.  What are the odds that there won’t be a delay somewhere with that amount of travelers.  I always write off the first day of the vacation and the return home and if everything goes well, then that is a bonus.

We can complain a lot about the cost of flying, the cost of fuel and the absence of meals on flights but if you were flying from London, England to Australia back then it would take 11 days to complete with 24 scheduled stops to refuel for the staggering amount of $20,000 dollars.  So more for the rich and famous then the average Joe.  Nowadays this flight would be about 22 hours for less than $2,000 return.  Mind you, you can fit a lot more people on a modern plane.

An average ticket for a flight could cost 1/2 the price of a brand new car (approx. $600-$800 dollars).  The price of a house meanwhile was about $4,000.00.  Passengers also had to worry about permanently losing their hearing due to the noise of the engines and their lunch with unexpected sharp drops of 100 feet or so throughout the flight.

KLM is the self-proclaimed oldest airline in the world. It is also the world’s oldest continually operating airline under the same name. Founded on October 7, 1919, KLM made its first scheduled flight between London and Amsterdam in 1920.

The first flight attendants were male stewards who loaded luggage, reassured nervous passengers and issued refunds or helped people around the cabin.  By the late 1920’s, Pan-American Airways, which flew over water, required extensive first aid and seamanship training for its steward trainees.  The first female attendants or stewardesses were introduced in May of 1930.

Next time you find yourself at the airport waiting an extra four or six hours to depart because the airline didn’t notify you of any delays when you phoned at 5:30 am to take the airporter there and you could have used the extra three hours sleep, stay cool, you can meet a lot of nice people at the airport and what good does it do getting your panties all in a bunch anyways (or knickers in a twist if you’re from England). Till the next time, happy trails!Panties in a bunch pink

FAMILY GAMES NIGHT

We are holding another Games Night this week-end in which our friends and family will participate in a card game, a quiz game and some form of physical competition which I have not figured out yet. No, it doesn’t seem like we have learned anything from our past attempts but as stated previously, it is sometimes the only way we get to see people that doesn’t involve a death – and these game nights can get quite heated but no one has died yet!  Please see link to for prior blog on this event.

REFLECTIONS OF A SWAMPER

family-games-night-clipart

To hold a family games night as a means to spending quality time with your children is an adorable premise – a Hallmark moment of polite entertainment interspersed with laughter and learning in a secure and nurturing period of time.  In reality, it can be utter and complete chaos.

Please read  for our version of family-games-night from long ago.

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My grammerly moment

Do you know what an idiom is?  Do you care?  Just for fun, I am going to give you your grammar lesson for the week, month, year?

Let me explain how this post came about.  My best friend uses the phrase “running around like a blue arsed fly”  sometimes in conversations we have where she is trying hard to get a lot accomplished in a short period of time and getting frustrated and/or overwhelmed by it all.  It makes me laugh every time.  I think this is because my mom used to use the phrase  “a blind man on a galloping horse wouldn’t notice” when I’d point out the defects in our painting of the bedroom walls.  This causes me to chuckle every time I hear it which truthfully isn’t very often anymore.  This also makes me feel closer to them though my mom isn’t with me now.

Idioms exist in every language. They are words or phrases that aren’t meant to be taken literally. For example, if you say someone has “cold feet,” it doesn’t mean their toes are actually cold. Rather, it means they’re nervous about something. 

Idioms can’t be deduced merely by studying the words in the phrase. Idioms are phrases that have a meaning that is very different from its individual parts. Unlike most sentences that have a literal meaning, idioms have figurative meaning. A literal meaning is when each word in a sentence stays true to its actual meaning. Figurative meaning is when a combination of words mean something different than the individual words do.  Take the common idiom ”you let the cat out of the bag.” If you take the literal parts and add them up, you would assume that it meant that a person was opening up a bag and letting a cat out of it. But that is not even close to what it means. The idiom doesn’t even have anything to do with a cat or even a bag. Letting the cat out of the bag means to reveal a secret.

The phrase ‘When Pigs Fly’ refers to something that is highly unlikely to ever happen. Example of use: “I might wake up early tomorrow to go and work out”. “Yes, you’ll do that when pigs fly”.  “You must be pulling my leg” – playing a joke, having a laugh at your expense but definitely not physically pulling the leg.

“Get off my back!” is an idiom meaning “Stop bothering me!” The idiom “You hit the nail on the head” means “You’re exactly right.”  “You have a chip on your shoulder” is another example. The literal meaning of this phrase is to hold a grudge.   If someone said “you’ve bitten off more than you can chew”- they are saying that you have tried to do something that is too difficult for you.  “It’s raining cats and dogs” doesn’t mean cats and dogs are falling from the sky, it just means it is raining very hard.

“Like a chicken with their head cut off “- With great haste and in a careless and/or senseless manner is quite similar to the blue-arsed fly idiom which was credited to Prince Philip in England when he asked a photographer if he had enough shots because he was running about like a blue-arsed fly but this expression was used in Australia back in the 40’s and 50’s.

Lesson over for today though I could keep going till the cows came home but that’s a whole new can of worms!  For the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone would have problems with the English language – it being so straightforward and all.

Have a great day and never take yourself to seriously!

Whitewater dreams in a marmalade river!

Years ago, actually more like decades ago; I had decided I wanted to try different adventures every September, and for a number of years I did.  You can read about some of these exploits in past posts such as Jump, go ahead and jump!

Then, of course there was Let’s Go Diving; It will be fun

Anyways, this was more involved as we had to camp overnight before we set out rafting the Ottawa River with a group called Wilderness Tours which is still doing a booming business though I think the camping part has been upgraded slightly.  After a good night’s sleep we met at 10:30 am for an extensive safety briefing and paddling practice led by our guide.

The Ottawa is like a roller coaster in that there are periods with calm water below the rapids where you can catch your breath and wonder why the hell you signed up for this before the next stretch of rapids hit you and the adrenaline and your heart are pumping while trying to remain in the boat and remembering to paddle – in other words no time for thinking, just reacting.  I have to admit I had a huge grin on my face the whole time even when we lost a few people overboard after a particularly big wave washed over the boat.

Rafting is a complete experience with time for body surfing (swimming rapids), cliff jumping or swimming off the floating island (your raft).  The scenery along the way is quite spectacular.  Each trip is about four to six hours in length with a hearty BBQ half way down the river…and you will think it is the best BBQ you have ever had because you are outdoors and have survived so far and you will need the sustenance for the next leg of the trip.

Some things to consider when deciding you would like to try whitewater rafting:

  • Choose a licensed and professional rafting tour outfitter. …
  • Always wear a life jacket
  • Be safety conscious and relaxed
  • Make sure you have the right outerwear for the day and are comfortable
  • Hold the paddle properly
  • Stay in the boat! This may not always be possible, I know but you will have been coached on what to do if you find yourself in the river unintentionally
  • Know the proper swimming techniques, this is not an adventure for non-swimmers
  • Never panic – easier said than done but panic will not help you
  • Listen to your guide/instructor in the classroom and on the boat and you will do well

I highly recommend this if you like the water, are in good shape and don’t mind being tossed around the boat like the proverbial yellow rubber ducky at times.

wildernesstours-header-logo

Today was a snow day, for those in other countries who haven’t a clue what that means, it generally means the weather is so frightful outside that it’s more delightful to stay indoors – so no school, no working, a free day so to speak where you can stay in bed and read or binge watch your favourite show and not feel guilty.

lemon pieI decided I was going to bake a lemon meringue pie ( see photo to left); now the purist out there would think that would be from scratch but you’d be wrong.  One of my best friends made me a real lemon meringue pie (not from a box) and the ungrateful brat inside me didn’t even bother to have the decency to thank her and pretend I liked it because I can be an unthinking individual unable to see the amount of time and love that went into the gesture.  I have since apologized profusely and she eventually forgave me.  Now where was I, oh yeah, I had the filling cooling while I was whipping up the egg whites and sugar into high peaks of deliciousness when I started daydreaming, like you do, about how they discovered merinque in the first place and if you could use other eggs besides hens.  So to the trusty internet I went and here’s what I found out.
A whipped mixture of sugar and egg whites, meringue is used to lighten soufflés, mousses, and cake mixtures; to make pie toppings and to make desserts like baked Alaska and crisp baked meringues. There are three types of meringue; their differences lie in when and how the sugar is added:

French Meringue -This uncooked meringue is the one most people are familiar with. The sugar is gradually beaten into the egg whites once they have reached soft peaks, and then the mixture is whipped to firm peaks. This type of meringue is the least stable but also the lightest, which makes it perfect for soufflés.

Swiss meringue is smoother, silkier, and somewhat denser than French meringue and is often used as a base for buttercream frostings. Egg whites and sugar are whisked over a double boiler or bain marie to warm them, and then the mixture is whipped with an electric mixer into stiff, glossy peaks. Similar to Italian Meringue, the egg whites in this method are cooked and safe to eat without further baking.

Italian meringue is made by boiling a 240-degree Fahrenheit sugar syrup and then drizzling into whites that have already been whipped to hold stiff and glossy peaks. This creates a very stable soft meringue. For those concerned about eating raw eggs, this type of meringue is also safe to use without further baking.

Meringue is magical. It is incredibly versatile. It can be spooned onto pies, or piped into any number of beautiful shapes. It can be baked or poached, whipped into silky frostings, or folded into cakes to make them fluffier. It can be combined with ground nuts, chocolate or any number of flavorings. It can be formed into various vessels for Chantilly cream and fresh berries.

Meringue is a light, airy, and sweet cookie-sized dessert. They are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside that seems like it will melt in your mouth. (YUM!) In order to achieve that texture meringue cookies require preparations such as beating ingredients until foamy and fluffy, and cooking for a longer time under a lower temperature until meringue becomes dry on the outside.


Meringue drops for Valentines                                                   Marbeled meringue hearts                                         

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Food coloring, optional
  • 3/4 cup sugar

    DIRECTIONS

  • Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Preheat oven to 200°. Add vanilla and cream of tartar to egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff peaks form. Remove 1/4 cup and tint pink. Lightly swirl pink mixture into remaining meringue. Fill pastry bag with meringue. Pipe 2-in. heart shapes 2 in. apart onto prepared baking sheets.
  • Bake until set and dry, about 20 minutes. Turn oven off; leave meringues in oven until oven has completely cooled. Store in an airtight container.

Many bakers comment that duck eggs have a higher fat content that make cakes rise higher and the meringues are more stable and can get more volume.  As for who invented merinque, there is some confusion around who, and why but the when is in the 17th century.

Fun Fact:  August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie day!!  Wouldn’t be at all humid that time of year in North America. LOL

Hummingbirds, please come to my garden!

The humming bird in the featured photo is a native Californian who visited the backyard pool of the home we were vacationing at in Palm Springs.  I was super jealous and tried to film the little darlings but they are super fast and fly out of frame quickly – temperamental actors not easily directed.  They are fascinating creatures and provided endless entertainment when they were present.  This summer I am determined to attract some to my own garden in Ontario.

ruby-throated-hummingbirdIf you see Hummingbirds in Ontario, you can be sure they are members of the Ruby Throated variety (Archilochus colubris) as they are the only species native to Eastern Canada. While most of us recognize males because of their red throats and metallic green backsides, the white-chinned females are not as easily recognized. Measuring between 7.5 and 9.5 centimetres from bill to tail, and weighing approximately three grams, ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most common hummingbird species out of the five that are found in Canada.  Hummingbirds live a relatively short time, 3 -5 years (though some have lived up to 12 years) and do not mate for life.  The male will attract as many females as he can who venture into his territory.  The female builds the nest, lays the eggs and looks after the little ones.

Hummingbirds lay the smallest eggs of all birds. Their eggs measure less than 1/2 inch long but may represent as much as 10 percent of the mother’s weight at the time the eggs are laid. A hummingbird egg is smaller than a jelly bean!

Purchase a hummingbird feeder and fill it with a solution that you can make at home. To make your own hummingbird food, mix one part white sugar to four parts water. Allow the water to boil for one minute and then add sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool thoroughly. Fill your feeder and store any excess in the fridge for up to three or four weeks.

The red on the feeder will attract hummingbirds. If, after a couple of weeks, you don’t have any takers, move the feeder to a more visible place and consider other ways to entice hummingbirds to your garden.

Please don’t use food coloring as this only adds chemicals to their diet; honey as it may cause a tongue fungus, brown sugar, unrefined sugar or sugar substitutes, as they can be harmful to hummingbirds. Under no circumstances should insecticides or other poisons be used at hummingbird feeders. Be sure to properly clean the feeder and replace the hummingbird nectar in your feeder every 3-4 days and 2-3 days in warmer climates. 

Cleaning doesn’t have to take long — swish a long brush inside and rinse with hot water. If you use soap, be sure to rinse the container very well.

The best rule of thumb for when to start feeding hummingbirds is this–it is better to put out hummingbird feeders too early rather than too late. Do not wait until the first hummingbirds have been seen before getting feeders ready, as this will likely be too late to attract the earliest migrants. These birds have amazing geographical memories for reliable food sources, and once they find your feeders they will continue to visit year after year.  At worst, putting out feeders too early may mean taking steps to keep the nectar from freezing during a late winter or early spring cold snap or replacing old, spoiled nectar once or twice before the birds arrive. Those are very small inconveniences for the joy of welcoming these flying jewels back at the first opportunity every spring.

No other bird on Earth can stunt-fly like a hummingbird. They can fly forward or backward, hover, and even fly upside-down, and they do all of this so fast we can’t even see it—beating their wings between 70 and 200 times per second.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta lies on the Pacific Coast and is the chief port of Jalsico estado (state) in West-Central Mexico.  Over the years it has gone from a sleepy fishing village to the third largest destination in Mexico and hosts nearly 2 million visitors each year though its population is 300,000.  I have known people that have been going down there every winter for the past twenty years and I recently got to see for myself why they go back every year.  I suspect its chief claim to fame was when the director, John Huston, filmed “Night of the Iguana” 8 miles south of here in 1964 and the subsequent publicity helped put Puerto Vallarta on the map.  The movie starred Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon.  Richard’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Taylor accompanied him though both of them were married to others at the time.  How scandalous!

churchExplore the architectural wonder of the town’s centerpiece, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the focal point of a 12-day festival in December that marks the founding of Puerto Vallarta in 1851. White-washed villas with red-tile roofs, many capped with small domes sparkle in the hillside.  Spanish explorers had great influence on this region’s architecture, importing their arches, domes and courtyards.


For now, I will simply showcase five of the many sculptures that you will find when you stroll the Malecon (boardwalk) in the ‘old town’ region.

caballito de mar by rafael zamarripa, 1976Let’s start with the 1976 bronze of a boy waving while riding a sea horse by Rafael Zammarripa or the Caballito de Mar.  There are numerous sculptures lining the boardwalk, not all of which I took photos as they were generally encircled by tourists or they didn’t speak to me.  However, I might have paid more attention to some if I had done any research before my visit.  Poor planning on my part, I hate to admit.

 

the friendship fountain by james bottoms and ocatvio gonsalez gutierrez, 1987Next is the Friendship Fountain (Dancing Dolphins) created in 1987 by James (Bud) Bottoms, a Californian sculptor and environmentalist with co-artist Octavio Gonzalez Gutierrez, a Mexican sculptor best known for his Vallarta whale.  The use of dolphins is inspired by a Chumash Indian myth in which the Earth Goddess, Hutash creates a rainbow bridge, Wishtoyo, to help the Indians cross over to the mainland, along the way some looked down (despite being told not to do so) and fell off the bridge, to prevent them from drowning they were transformed into dolphins and since then the Chumash have considered them as brothers.

triton and mermaid by carlos espino, 1990
The Triton and Mermaid is a bronze sculpture fashioned by Carlos Espino in 1990 (born in Mexico City, May 3rd, 1953).  (Also found under the name “Neptune and the Nereid”, “Triton and the Nereid” or “Poseidon and the Nereid”). It depicts Triton, a merman, son of Poseidon and Amphitrite (God and Goddess of the sea respectively) reaching out to a Mermaid.

the subtle rock eater by jonas guitierriz, 2006Our fourth sculpture is a 2006 whimsical figure named “El Sutil Comepiedras”, (The Subtle Rock Eater) by Guadalajara artist Jonas Gutierrez moulded out of bronze, obsidian and stone.  When asked, the author states that he feels that negative emotions are like stones which we swallow through life. So this figure is certainly very artistically going through life digesting negativity at a rapid pace yet surprisingly unaffected so perhaps he is trying to help mankind by devouring all the negativity so that we can be spared.  One thing is for sure, you either love it or hate it!  I kind of think he’s cute!

 

xiutla folkloric ballet by jim dementro, 2006
I was utterly enchanted by the sculpture The Xiutla Fokloric Ballet in which a gentleman and his lady are dancing oblivious to the throngs of tourist with eyes only for each other.  This was also created in 2006 by Jim Dementro.  Xiutla means “the place where the vegetation grows” in the Nahua language of the pre-hispanic inhabitants. The Xiutla group was started in 1993 by Professor Enrique Barrios Limón, one of the foremost teachers of dance in Mexico. He used local Puerto Vallarta children to form one of the best troupes in Mexico, one which has toured internationally.  The sculpture captures the fluidity and grace of motion both in her dress and his stance.

Next week, I will highlight some of the restaurants in this beautiful City.  Thanks for visiting!

Festivals in 2019 every month – for when you win the lottery.

  1.   Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, Dec 24, 2018 – Feb 28, 2019

    From December 24, 2018 to February 28, 2019, come experience the world’s largest ice festival in beautiful Harbin city, China


  2. On January 29th in Lerwick, the capital of Scotland’s Shetland Islands, a fire festival named Up Helly Aa will be held to mark the end of the yule season. Up Helly Aa! – that’s Scandinavian imagery, myths, sagas and a huge bonfire which takes place on the last Thursday of January every year to celebrate their Viking heritage. ‘Up’ refers to end of an event; ‘Helly’ is linked to holiday; while ‘Aa’ covers all.
    up helly aa


  3. Mardi Gras in New Orleans – Mardi Gras 2019 is on Tuesday, March 05, 2019.
    New Orleans
    Mardi Gras always lands on the Tuesday that is 47 days before Easter. It is always the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent. Carnival season refers to the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, and officially begins on January 6 every year. Although Carnival season lasts more than a month, the parties, parades and fun kick into high gear on the Thursday before Mardi Gras.


    4.  Carnival in Rio De Janeiro – March 1st – 9th, 2019
    rio
    The actual annual dates of Carnival differ and depend on the date Easter falls in that particular year, as Carnival will be 40 days before Easter. Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon in Spring.

    5.  The date of Holi is different every year in India!
    Related image
    In most of India, Holi is celebrated at the end of winter, on the day after the full moon in March each year. On the eve of Holi, large bonfires are lit to mark occasion and to burn evil spirits. This is known as Holika Dahan. In 2019, Holi is on March 20 and ends March 21st.  Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It’s fun, safe, and free. Just remember to BYOD (bring your own dye).


    6.  Coachella, California | 12th – 21st April 2019 
    Image result for coachella california 2016The first major music event in the annual festival calendar, Coachella – California’s glossy, glam, palm-tree-peppered answer to Glastonbury – returns. Expect clear skies, designer-hippie ensembles and not a squelch of mud under foot.  If you can’t get tickets for this perhaps the next one might interest you.


    7.  Songkran Water Festival – Chiang Mai, Thailand – April 13-15th, 2019
    songkran-in-bangkok2
    Stay indoors on the 13th of April – if you happen to be in Thailand. Or step out if you love water… and getting wet! For it’s a given that you won’t escape the water pistols, the water balloons and buckets of water as the Thais celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year.


    8.  The Ottawa Tulip Festival in Ottawa, Canada is the largest tulip festival in the world and it is held every year in May.  It will be held on May 10th-20th, 2019
    Tulips
    This festival is a celebration founded on international friendship with the 1945 presentation of 100,000 tulip bulbs from Princess Juliana of the Netherlands to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, given in appreciation of the safe haven that members of Holland’s exiled royal family received during World War II in Ottawa and in recognition of the role which Canadian troops played in the liberation of the Netherlands.

    The Canadian Tulip Festival is also a celebration of the return of spring, with over a million tulips in 50 varieties blooming in public spaces across the National Capital Region. The highest concentration of tulips can be viewed in the flower beds of Commissioners Park, on the banks of Dow’s Lake, where 300,000 flowers bloom.


    9.  Glastonbury 2019, England – Worthy Farm – 26th -30th June – 2019

    Glastonbury. This five-day bonanza offers dozens of live stages, attracting almost 200,000 people every year. The event hosts the absolute best of the musical world – names like Radiohead, The Smiths, Kanye West and Beyoncé have previously played here. The event also supports upcoming acts and promotes dance, comedy, theatre, cabaret and arts.


    10.  Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Manchester, Tennessee  June 13-16th, 2019
    Related imageThe name of the four-day music and arts festival is one of the most recognizable in the world. Founded in 2002 on a sprawling farm an hour south of Nashville, Bonnaroo has since become synonymous with positive vibes, eclectic music, 24-hour programming, camping and high fives.  Artist line-up revealed in January.


    11. Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain
    pamplona
    The  Running of the Bulls is a part of the San Fermin Festival, which runs in Pamplona from July 6 to July 14 in 2019 and every year.


    12.   Edinburgh International Festival , Scotland – 2 August 2019 to 26 August 2019

    Image result for edinburgh festival 2016 imagesEvery August, the Edinburgh International Festival transforms one of the world’s most beautiful cities, presenting three exhilarating weeks of the finest creators and performers from the worlds of the arts.

    Edinburgh’s six major theatres and concert halls, a few smaller venues and often some unconventional ones too, come alive with the best music, theatre, opera and dance from around the globe.  The Royal Edinbugh Military Tattoo takes place at the same time.


    13.  La Tomatina in Spain 2019 – Wednesday, August 28th, 2019
    Image result for La Tomatina in SpainLa Tomatina is the most popular tomatoes throwing festival in the world. It is being observed in the town of Bunol, Valencia, Spain each year on the last Wednesday of August. It is a festival held purely for fun. The festival attracts a large number of tourists in the town of Bunol during the celebration.


    14.  Burning Man in Black Rock City, Nevada
    burningman

    Burning Man 2019 taking place August 25th– September 2nd, 2019 in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.  Their mission:  The Burning Man organization will bring experiences to people in grand, awe-inspiring and joyful ways that lift the human spirit, address social problems and inspire a sense of culture, community and personal engagement.  This is by no means your average festival!


    15.  Oktoberfest –  Munich, Germany
    Image result for oktoberfest 2016On Saturday, September 21st, 2019 the Schottenhamel tent is the place to be, if you want to catch the official opening ceremonies. At noon, the Mayor of Munich will have the honor of tapping the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Runs until October 6th.


    16.  International Balloon FestivalAlbuquerque, NM -Saturday, October 5th – 13th, 2019Image result for balloon festival albuquerque new mexicoThe Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual October festival that takes place in New Mexico. It was first launched in 1972 with just 13 participants. Today, more than 500 balloons take to the skies over Albuquerque each year, making the Balloon Fiesta the largest event of its kind worldwide.


    17.  Day of the Dead, Mexico is celebrated from October 31 till November 02, 2019.
    Image result for day of the dead images
    Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it is a national holiday, and all banks are closed.


    18.  Christmas Markets Dates – all over Germany
     25th November to 23rd December, 2019

    Image result for christmas markets in berlin 2016 imagesThere is an air of  festivity that fills the air the end of November and continues till Christmas. Heralding the approach of the festive season, the streets are brightly lit, Christmas trees adorned with tinsel and little red bells and stars line the streets and people are out late doing their Christmas shopping. Concerts are staged, both outdoors and indoors, classical and modern. Street plays performed, musicians show off their talent and generally there is very festive and happy air around. This is when Germany is at its colourful best – white snows, green Christmas trees, red tinkling bells and families out on the streets. Come, join in the festivities!


 

Loving Vincent and more

Happy New Year everybody, thank you all for hanging in there with me and I hope that 2019 is especially good for you all!


Vincent van Gogh Signature
Mar 30, 1853 – Jul 29, 1890
“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream”….Vincent van Gogh…

“Loving Vincent” is a full length animated feature film in which every scene is hand-painted and is based on the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh and his paintings.  Now I didn’t know that much about his life other than that he was an impressionist painter who was supported by his brother in his pursuit of his passion and that he had spent time in an asylum because he had a nervous breakdown and had cut off his ear.  Naturally there is a lot more to the man … genius or madman the line between is pretty thin.  He did not start to paint until he was 27 and died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound when he was 37.  He painted over 860 paintings, wrote 800 letters in that time and sketched over 1,000 pieces.  Incredibly prolific and disciplined, attributes I admire and wish I possessed.

“It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.”

This past week I watched “Loving Vincent” … released in 2017 – the film features 65,000 frames made by 125 painters over the course of 6 years.  It was a passion project for the filmmakers and was funded in part through a Kickstarter fund that helped to pay for the numerous painters and animators required.  It is fascinating to watch many of his famous paintings brought to life in this manner.

“Real painters do not paint things as they are… they paint them as they themselves feel them to be.”

Vincent van Gogh’s artworks provided endless inspiration for artists, but his tragic life story has also captured the hearts of countless musicians, writers and filmmakers too.  There are many movies on his life.  Don McLean’s 1971 hit song “Vincent” is inspired by van Gogh’s unique perspective on the world. He sings, ‘they did not listen, they did not know how… perhaps they’ll listen now’.

“The best way to know God is to love many things.”

His canvases with densely laden, visible brushstrokes rendered in a bright, opulent palette emphasize Van Gogh’s personal expression brought to life in paint. Each painting provides a direct sense of how the artist viewed each scene, interpreted through his eyes, mind, and heart.  His paintings were often completed relatively quickly, as his style was spontaneous and intuitive, which gave some viewers pause.

On this point, he once told his brother, “When anyone says that such and such [painting] is done too quickly, you can reply that they have looked at it too fast.”

Much of Van Gogh’s work has been lost, as many people who owned his work initially thought it to be worthless. His own mother is said to have disposed of full crates of his paintings.  Though it is impossible to assign an exact monetary value on an irreplaceble, unique artistic masterpiece “Starry Night” which is arguably Van Gogh’s most famous work of art is estimated to be worth well over 100 million dollars.

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” 

In 1987,  “Sunflowers” sold at auction for the incredible amount of 39.9 million dollars.  Even though Van Gogh himself lived in poverty most of his life and sold only one painting in his lifetime he has since become one of the most loved artists of his time.  A sad reminder that most artists never get to reap the rewards and fruits of their labour.

“In the life of the painter, death may perhaps not be the most difficult thing. For myself, I declare I don’t know anything about it. But the sight of the stars always makes me dream.”

In May, 2015, Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, “L’Allée des Alyscamps” sold  at a Sotheby’s auction for $66.3 million to a private collector from Asia. This is roughly 6 times the price it drew in 2003 when the hammer fell at $11.8 million.

In November of 2017, The 1889 painting, “Laboureur dans un champ,”an oil canvas by Vincent van Gogh fetched $81.3 million in an auction just short of a record sale price for the artist.

cafe “Café Terrace At Night” (1888) is my personal favourite of his works; it is a powerful scene which pulls you into it as if you yourself were strolling the cobblestone streets.  The cafe in Arles still exists today and is a mecca for his many fans visiting the south of France.

Describing this painting in a letter to his sister he wrote, “Here you have a night painting without black, with nothing but beautiful blue and violet and green and in this surrounding the illuminated area colors itself sulfur pale yellow and citron green. It amuses me enormously to paint the night right on the spot…”

More Vincent van Gogh Artwork

Fourteen Sunflowers in a Vase (1888) The Bedroom (1889) Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889) Starry Night (1889) Church at Auvers (1890) Paul-Ferdinand Gachet (1890)

Portrait of Dr. Gachet — Vincent van Gogh

Sold way back in 1990 for $82.5 million USD (approximately $148-$152 million in today’s money), Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet was painted in 1890 — the same year van Gogh died. An auction sale, this work sold for much more than Christie’s anticipated — low estimates were predicted at $40 million, and some thought that was too high. Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito thought otherwise and won the auction; however, Saito died in 1996 and the whereabouts of the portrait is unknown though he is stated to have claimed he wanted the work cremated with him.  If true, a tragic loss to the art world.

The #LovingVincent UK Premiere will be broadcast to cinemas nationwide live from the National Gallery on 9th October: www.lovingvincent.film

 

Vincent van Gogh Signature

Favourite Christmas Movie??

With the Christmas season upon us I have been watching some of the old classic Christmas movies and some of the new ones and yes, even the Hallmark Christmas Movie specials which seem to boil down to the same plot lines in all.  Girl meets boy, they like each other, some ex is in the picture, there’s a misunderstanding, girl and boy realize they love each other, happy days are here again.  In all of these films, the town comes together to do something amazing, or someone completely changes their life.

There are certain movies however that have become a tradition in our family.  A Christmas Story about the kid who wants a BB gun for Christmas – The Grinch Who Stole Christmas which is self-explanatory and Miracle on 34th Street (original) where a New York lawyer proves the existence of Santa Claus.  There is also It’s A Wonderful Life that shows one young man what his world would have been like if he never existed and how we should be thankful for what we do have.

I also like The Holiday where a woman from LA changes homes with a woman from England and love ensues and Love, Actually which is bittersweet as not everyone ends up happy.  The scene where Emma Thompson is listening to Joni Mitchell after finding out her husband has cheated on her and having to get it together to go out that evening makes me cry every time.

One of the funniest movies at this time of year stars Will Ferrell as Elf (one of his best roles) and how you can be different but still belong.  The thread in all these movies is how you need to believe in the spirit of Christmas and magic will happen!  Next to A Nightmare before Christmas which is 50% Halloween and 50% Christmas; one of the best animated movies is the Polar Express.

I know I have left off a lot of movies here but these are the ones I make sure I see every year.  What are your favourites?


 

Parker Family Home in A Christmas StoryThis house at 3159 West 11th Street, Cleveland, Ohio, stood in for the exterior of Ralphie Parker’s fictional Hohman, Indiana home in the 1983 cult classic A Christmas Story.  The actual house has been renovated inside and out to capture the look of the movie and is now a museum. 

homealoneThe Georgian home Kevin McCallister protects from a pair of burglars is not actually in Chicago.  The house in which Kevin gets left Home Alone in the 1990 movie still stands, as beautiful as ever, at 671 Lincoln Avenue in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, Illinois. The property was sold for $1.585 million in 2012. 

Elf Manhattan apt building

In Elf, Buddy tracks down his real father, Walter Hobbs, who reluctantly allows him to come stay in his Manhattan apartment. The exterior of the Hobbs’s apartment building was shot at 55 Central Park West, a 1929 Art Deco building that also served as the location of Dana Barrett’s apartment in Ghostbusters.

The Holiday farmhouse

Nancy Meyers’s 2006 movie stars two gorgeous homes. The charming English country cottage that belongs to Iris (Kate Winslet) in the 2006 film The Holiday is completely enchanting. Sadly, it’s not real—a facade was built in the middle of an empty field that was extensively landscaped for the movie.

The Holiday LA home

All The exterior scenes of Amanda’s house in the movie were filmed at a real house in the small, affluent city of San Marino, California. The property was designed by acclaimed West Coast architect Wallace Neff in 1928.  Located at 1883 Orlando Road, the house is a stunning, distinctive Mediterranean-influenced California mansion, filled with all the luxurious, modern conveniences. It also belonged at one point to the architect and his family (sometime in the 1930’s).  It now has iron gates as opposed to the wooden ones in the film and a fountain in the driveway.

Amanda's kitchen

Amanda’s kitchen is beautiful; if I could have her home, I would take it in an instant, beautiful, pool, bedroom, swimming pool – what is not to like!  Mind you, I’d also want a chef, pool boy and cleaning lady to go along with it.

Die Hard buildingYou may not think of Die Hard as being a Christmas movie especially considering the violence, etc. but it is set on Christmas Eve. This classic 1988 (celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018) action flick has Bruce Willis fighting terrorists who’ve taken over Nakatomi Tower in Los Angeles although its real name is Fox Plaza tower. Both the exterior and the interior of the tower were used to film the movie and who can forget the opening song, Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC.

Regardless of what Christmas movie rocks your stockings, make that popcorn, snuggle under the blanket with family, friends, or that certain someone and relive those warm and fuzzy moments again.  Believe in the magic!