Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It's getting to be a jungle out there...and other stories

It's incredible the amount of rain and thunderstorms we've had recently. Every day for the last seven days we have had torrential downpours, ro-o-o-lling thunder and scary lightning bolts. And according to CNN Weather we are due for more this evening and tomorrow.

Well, that's ok with us -- it's great for the lawn, damaged by prolonged freezing weather and snow, and which we are now trying to repair. In fact, it is getting to be a jungle out there! The grass seed, which looked like it would never take root, is beginning to sprout, and no sooner is the lawn mowed than it needs to be mowed again. The trees are in full bloom (in spite of the tree-hating, shears-happy neighbour who reaches over our fence from time to time and chops away at the branches from OUR tree which are overhanging HER garden! The ones she chopped at are sprouting up twice as full as ever before! Isn't creation amazing!

But we still find ourselves at war (well, a little put off, anyway) with nature. Look what happens to the grass seed we put down.
Suddenly, out of nowhere (I guess they SMELL it!), the lawn is covered with hungry crows. Never mind, the grass is growing, and the rain is helping the rest of the garden, too.
Clematis, Peonies and Sweet Williams are all flourishing nicely.
Recently, we decided to make the most of a break in the weather and headed to the Scarborough Bluffs, which always reminds me of Danes Dyke, close by to my childhood home on Flamborough Head in the UK.

A narrow, winding road, squeezed between high bluffs, snakes its way down to Lake Ontario. Once a picturesque, natural addition to Toronto's landscape, the Bluffs, especially on the weekend, are now over-run with people, from every ethnicity imaginable, who gather around a plethora of varying types of cooking apparatus for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon picnic. It is so interesting to walk through the park and experience all the 'flavours,' both of the cooking and the nationalities, as one moves past the peanut butter aroma and brightly coloured skirts of the Filipino gathering, to the saris and curries of the East Indians, and the calypso music and curries of the West Indians, on to the European Borscht and schnitzels, and then to the North American burgers and steaks! A huge multicultural experience covering less than a mile along the edge of the lake! But they are not the only ones taking over the park:
Wherever there is food, there are Canada Geese -- and they make walking quite treacherous (what goes in, must come out!). Once considered beautiful symbols of the majesty of nature, I read recently, they are now considered to be no more than pests, like mice or rats. I must admit that the fact that they are a protected species is creating a multitude of problems. But how can you be upset with them, after you've seen this?
I guess, as with any created species, they are SO cute when they are babies!

"Come on now, children....hurry along"
They weren't the only wild life we saw -- apart from the picnickers, I mean :)

Chasing them around the parking lot trying to get a good photo, we thought these were Sandpipers, but discovered, when we checked the bird-book later, that they are Killdeer, which I've never heard of. Funny thing is, the book says "If you get too close to a Killdeer's nest, the parents will try to lure you away with loud alarm calls and by feigning a broken wing" -- which is exactly what this pair did!

One last sighting:

This Red-winged blackbird sure was squawking about something -- someone in his parking spot, I guess. If you look REALLY closely, you'll see the tiny patch of red on his left wing (on your right).

All-in-all, an interesting couple of hours!

Oh -- and almost forgot; for all my hundreds of fans out there waiting to discover the criteria for the miniatures that end up in my collection -- it is simply 1) no more than 2" tall and 2) designed (in its larger state) to hold liquid of some kind.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Guessing Game Continues

Well, since no-one has yet guessed the second of the two criteria necessary for a miniature to find its way into my collection, I will post a few more photos. This beautiful aqua-green, delicate jug, two inches tall, is another e-bay find. Difficult to tell, but I would say it's made of acrylic, and it's hand- painted with gold leaves, green and white flowers and flower sprays in red, blue and yellow.From the sublime -- a cup and saucer treasure from my mother; Coalport china, made in England, its pattern is called Indian Tree, it's one inch high, two inches in diameter........to the ridiculous. Another e-bay 'find' but I wasn't so happy about this one. Actually it came in a set of three - a blue, green and pink one and I paid almost $20, including postage and handling - only to discover that they probably came from a dollar store -- made in China! Never mind, you wouldn't have known if I hadn't told you!

And finally -- a favourite: This little corn-cob teapot -- one and a half inches, with its lid on -- isn't it cute?

Now, I know you are going to say that all these miniatures can be used for a lovely cup of afternoon tea (British-style: tea-pot, mug, cup and saucer, and creamer!), and that's true, but that is not why they are in my collection.
Here are two more that really don't fit that criteria:
Two urns: the one above -- made in China, I'm sure, but very pretty. And the one below, another treasure from my mother -- a little piece of Limoges, from France, with a 'trysting' couple on the front.
So there you have it -- a good sampling of my collection -- none of the pieces are valuable, but all are very precious to me. And have you guessed why they are in my collection? As I said, it's very simple, and I only stick to that reason to keep me from spending too much money -- there are a lot of miniatures out there!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It's the little things that count - for me

I'm not a big collector of things, these days. In fact, at my age, I think it's better to start doing away with things!

I used to collect stamps when I was little, and learned a lot about the world. I also used to collect things and put them in my 'museum,' which was actually a dresser drawer lined with newspaper. I had some artifacts my grandfather brought home from the war -- a wooden snuff box, hand-carved by a soldier from a piece of tree trunk; a metal match-box holder he brought home from India, a hand-carved wooden crumb tray from China. Grandad also gave me some ancient Japanese shoes -- the kind the women would wear, with their feet bound in cloth and squeezed into the tiny embroidered slippers, to keep their feet tiny.

I found some fossils that my brother insisted were 'billions' of years old, and I had a coin, from 70AD, that I found in a trench in front of our house, that was being dug for new pipes to be laid, (while I was pretending to be excavating in Egypt or somewhere exotic).

I had an assortment of coins from around the world, and also some mosaic stones. The little coloured stones came from the floor of a Roman villa that my father took me to see one Sunday afternoon, not far from our home in Yorkshire. The villa was really in ruins, but the mosaic floor had been excavated and put together as best as possible, and my father hopped over the protective rope and took a little handful of the stones for my museum. I was so surprised that he did that, but I was pleased, also. I must say, though, that I wondered -- if everyone who visited the villa did that, there wouldn't be much of the floor left to see! I had many other items -- the collection was quite extensive, especially for a child to own.

I even typed up a little catalogue of my museum items - what they were, where they were found and approximately how old they were, along with any other little details I could discover about them.

Unfortunately, when I moved from the UK to Canada I had to leave them all behind, and ultimately my parents -- horror of horrors -- threw them all away, thinking they were just junk! I was devastated, but I got over it, in time.

Now I only have one collection -- miniatures from around the world, that I have either picked up in my travels, or someone has brought back from their travels....or I have found on e-bay. There are only two criteria that a miniature has to meet, to get into my collection. One is that they must be no larger than two inches high. As I show you some, see if you can guess what the second criteria is.My friend. Debbie, brought me back this tiny jug, from a trip to Greece. It is exactly two inches high, made of clay and hand-painted -- I love it.
This little watering can is so delicate, and I love the picture of the robins on it. It's also just two inches high. This was an e-bay find.
These came back with me from Romania. They are miniatures of the kind of pottery you would find in just about every home over there. Hand-painted and then glazed, the thinner one is just 1 1/2 inches, and the other is two inches tall.
I bought this one last year, in Conwy Bay, Wales. It has a picture on the front of The Smallest House in Wales -- probably the smallest house anywhere! And that's where I bought it, from a lovely lady dressed in the Welsh national costume -- because the house has been converted into a tiny gift shop. This delicate china mug also is two inches high.

I'll post some more of my collection next time -- but have you guessed what the second criteria is, for a miniature to end up in my collection?