Thursday, 31 May 2012

More Banners (This Time With Children's Art)

A couple of weeks ago, I posted photos of banners showing Canada's provincial flowers that were put up along Ottawa streets to celebrate the Tulip Festival. This week, I noticed that there were more banners - this time, showing art made by children. They were set up along the sidewalk beside Majors Hill Park.

 These banners featured the work of the seven winners (out of over 1000 entries) of the 2012 National Student Banner Contest. The artists designed banners about things they consider important. This one was about healthy farms and healthy food.

I like the simplicity of this one. I wasn't sure what it was about so I read a sign on the base of the pole. 

This is great! The students made up an imaginary plant. The banner designs were from many places and the children were many ages. This design was by some Grade 5 students in Quebec. 

I wasn't sure what this one was about either but I liked the design.

The topic of this banner was "giving". The hands below are holding a bowl with some coins and the hands above are giving love. This design was made by some Grade 7 students in Mississauga, Ontario.  

This is my favourite. I love the red sky above and the black rocks and blue water - but mostly I think the white polar bear sitting on the ice is wonderfully minimalist. Fabulous design. 

As you can see, this is about environmental issues and global warming. It was designed by some Grade 7 students in Manitoba. Bravo to all the designers! It is great to see students making such wonderful art about such important issues.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Trying to Outrun the Rain

We had at least one big thunderstorm this afternoon in Eastern Ontario, and while I was a work, I heard some of the crashing and booming outside. When I left work later in the day, the storm had passed by but the sky looked pretty threatening through these skylights on a covered walkway. I hoped to be able to outrun the rain. 

I got to the bridge that I cross from Gatineau to Ottawa and it still hadn't started raining. So far so good. Everything still looked wet from the storm earlier.

Whoops! It started to rain when I got to the other side of the bridge. People started pulling out their umbrellas. 

So I pulled out mine too and tried to take pictures while walking along. I always like walking under an umbrella -  it feels so cozy.

At one point it really came pouring down. The rain looks like streaks against the dark background here. But there were still guys on bicycles zooming along, getting soaking wet. 

People had prepared for the weather in different ways. I really liked this woman's raincoat, which was a tiger skin pattern. Wild!

Trying to cross the street put one in danger of being soaked when cars splashed through the puddles. 

And here is something that really enjoyed the weather! This floral decoration in front of the Domus Cafe on Murray Street looked very fresh and happy in the rain. And wouldn't you know it - just as I got close to my apartment, the rain stopped and the sky cleared. Oh well - I didn't manage to outrun the rain but at least it wasn't a big thunderstorm with hail and high winds and all that. As a matter of fact, it was rather refreshing.

Monday, 28 May 2012


Sometimes, one just has to take a stand for what one believes in. I strongly support the students in the demonstrations in Quebec for a number of reasons. Today, I saw some people wearing the red squares that are the symbol for support of the students and decided that it was time for me to wear one too. So I bought some red material and cut out a square.  

I pinned it to my shirt and now I am ready to show my solidarity. Too many students are crippled by debt after they graduate and so increasing tuition and telling students they can just take out more loans seems terribly wrong. Also, the growing gap between rich and poor in this country is a true injustice, and making education inaccessible for a large group of people is just going to aggravate this. Time to take a stand!  

Sunday, 27 May 2012

A Beautiful House in the Country

This past weekend, I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the home of my friends, Bonnie and Greg. They have a lovely old farmhouse that they have been renovating. In this photo, Bonnie and another friend, Lis, are examining the wooden trim above the porch, which is in a thistle pattern.  

It really is a beautiful old house, situated on lovely grounds. 

One of my favourite features of the gardens around the house is this sculpture, which is by my late husband, Peter MacElwain (I am probably a bit biased!). You can see only the top part of the sculpture with the duck on an apple. The base has two wheels and some copper "leaves", but they are hidden here by the irises and other plants in the garden. It is always a treat to see Peter's work, especially when it is in the garden of a beautiful country house like this.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Feasting My Eyes on the Skies

When I am at work all day, sitting in my cubicle in front of my computer, I get cravings to go outside and just look at the sky. I often go out at lunch time and walk around, stretch my legs, crane my neck and watch the clouds above the tops of the buildings. 

At five, I leave work and start to walk home. Like most people, I can't wait to get out of the building and emerge into the open spaces where I can look at trees and gardens and people and the bustle of everyday life. The best part is being able to look up at the sky unimpeded by overhanging roofs like this one. 

It is a real treat when the sky is full of fluffy clouds against the infinite blue, like it is in this photo. You can just see the top of the bridge I walk across every day, peeking through the trees. 

In the evening, I go out onto the balcony of my apartment and look at the soft pink sky with a few gentle clouds. Dusk is one of my favourite times of the day because of skies like this.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Some Aboriginal Awareness Week Sights

This is Aboriginal Awareness Week at the building where I work and there were various displays in one of the lobbies. I saw this young Aboriginal girl sitting at an information table. She was wearing the most amazing footwear - they looked like they were made of very soft leather with really brightly coloured patterns. She was also wearing a wonderful feather headdress. But like all young girls her age, she was busy texting on her cell phone - a mix of the traditional and the new.

This is a close-up of her footwear, which were really quite wonderful.

There were also some musicians performing, but I missed the performance when they played this beautiful drum. It has real skin on the top and bottom, and the drumsticks look like they are carved. What a work of art!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Three Things I Love About the Month of May

May is one of the best months of the year. It serves as the bridge between spring and summer, so the unpredictable weather of spring is over (we know we won't have any more snow), but it isn't as hot as true summer yet. Also, we still have a month before the summer solstice when, unfortunately, the days begin to get shorter. So for now, we can enjoy this best of months when days are still getting longer and nature is still unfolding. There are three things that I really love about May - they don't happen in any other month of the year - and they are:

...the sight of flowering Crabapple trees. They look spectacular when they are all covered with flowers. This one is just a baby. I planted it last year (with help from my friend Mac - thank you Mac), and I am so impressed with all the flowers on it this year. 

...the smell of lilacs. I was home at my place in the country this past long weekend and I spent most of my time outside, happily inhaling the wonderful perfume of my two lilac trees. Marvelous! 

...the taste of fiddle heads. I have been eating them as much as possible because they don't last long, and they taste so good steamed, with a bit of butter and pepper on them. Yum!

I am sure there are other wonderful things that make May special, but these three are enough for me to declare it one of my favourite months. What are your favourite things about the month of May?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Comfort of Beautiful Things

Like many people working for the federal government in Ottawa, I have been under a lot of stress lately. But I have found comfort in some of the beautiful things I see every day. For example, a friend of mine gave me this Gerbera to thank me for letting her stay at my apartment recently. I love Gerberas and have been enjoying looking at the bright and cheerful flowers on this plant.

Appropriately, not only do I have a Gerbera at my apartment in the city - I also have some Gerberas at my home in the country. Here is a pic of one of my Country Gerberas, which I planted in my garden about 2 weeks ago. Aren't they happy-looking flowers?

This butterfly was basking in the sun on a rock recently and I managed to get a picture before he (or she?) fluttered away. I think this is called a Red Admiral. All butterflies are beautiful and seeing one is always a delight.

Sometimes the best part of my day is my walk across the bridge - from Ottawa to Gatineau in the morning and back from Gatineau to Ottawa in the late afternoon. It is such a pleasure when there are big puffy cumulus clouds in a glorious blue sky, like there were the day I took this photo. My troubles melt away when I see a beautiful landscape like this. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A Little Night Photography

Often when I go for a walk in the evening I see things that I would like to photograph. My camera is not the greatest for this, but I try nevertheless. For instance, I saw this cat in a window recently. Despite the fact that we only see the silhouette, we know it is a cat just from the distinctive shape. 

The sun had already set but there was still a lot of light in the sky when I took this picture of the Rideau Locks near the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. The blue of the water and the lingering pink tinge in the sky was very beautiful.

This is a close-up of the locks. The lights of the city of Gatineau are in the distance, across the Ottawa River.

This is a wonderful pavilion on the grounds of the Parliament Buildings. I thought it looked even more delicate and ethereal than usual when shot from this angle, backlit by the fading light so that it is silhouetted against the sky. And perhaps that is the point of taking pictures at night - that is, as the dark comes on, light can be seen in a whole different way.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Good Weekend for Gardening

It was a wonderful weekend for gardening, so I hit one of the many gardening centres that was open near my home in the country. Many other people had the same idea. I love gardening centres because it is such a treat to be completely surrounded by hundreds of bright coloured flowers. 

I bought some perennials and some annuals and spent a happy hour crawling around in the dirt in my garden. My tulips are in full bloom right now and they kept me company while I worked. I like the way they cluster around the memorial Peter and I made for our cat Titi after she died.  

My very own tulip festival!

These two young girls were climbing in a tree that is on the border between my land and my neighbour's. I went back and asked if I could take their picture. The girl in the pink shirt is Emilie, my neighbour's daughter. She used to visit me all the time when she was little and we would make artist trading cards together. However, she is a teenager now and has more teenager-type things to do. But I liked the fact that she and her friends can still enjoy climbing a tree. 

They are like flowers themselves. Ah youth!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Colourful Banners

It was a cold windy day and, like everyone else, I was rushing across the Alexandria Bridge with my head down, trying to keep from getting blown away. But then I looked up and saw this wonderful, bright banner attached to some metal uprights on the bridge. This banner is for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

A little further on, there was another banner, this time for the province of Nova Scotia. These banners must have been put up quite recently, to decorate the National Capital Region for the spring and summer. Last year, banners were also put up, but they had different pictures on them. I really like the banners this year, with the bright flowers on them.

There was something quite wonderful about seeing the vivid reds and purples and pinks against the very industrial look of the bridge. This banner is for Nunavut, Canada's newest territory. 

When I reached the other side of the bridge, I discovered more banners above the sidewalk going towards the Byward Market. I really like this one with the lady slippers, for Prince Edward Island. 

Manitoba's banner was quite colourful too with the orange sky behind purple flowers. 

Such vivid Day Lillies for Saskatchewan. 

Okay - I have to admit it - this is my favourite. Ontario's banner was really terrific with the white Trilliums on green stems and leaves against a red background. These were such a treat to look at on a really dull, nasty day. Hooray for bright colours!