Inspired by Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

…..the kindergarten classes that I teach art to created a garden of Van Gogh inspired sunflowers

Recently I read the book The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock to the entire school. The book is one of the Blue Spruce nominees for 2017. the-artist-and-me-by-shane-peacock

I liked this book for two reasons. Firstly, because it is written for young children and highlights how the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh was bullied by children and adults alike. It points out that even adults are bullied when they appear different or do things differently. In Van Gogh’s case he suffered from depression and his art was different from the classics that people had come to expect from artists. The students were surprised that such a famous artist was treated so badly. I explained to them that Van Gogh was one of several new artists that had grown tired of traditional painting and wanted to experiment with texture, colour and paint strokes. People had a hard time excepting this new way of painting and in his lifetime Van Gogh only sold one painting.

Secondly, I liked this book because the illustrator tried to use similar colours that Van Gogh used and he reproduced parts of Van Gogh’s work in his illustrations. For example there are a few illustrations of Van Gogh’s famous bedroom and an illustration of the wheat fields that he liked to paint.

I had other books that showed some of Van Gogh’s many paintings. I showed my kindergarten classes the sunflowers that Van Gogh became famous for after he died. In our art period I demonstrated how to paint simple sunflowers using round stamps. Some of the students used paintbrushes to create the petals of the sunflowers. We talked about the different varieties and colours of sunflowers and I gave them yellow, red, orange and white paint that they could mix if they wanted.

On the first day the students painted the centres and the petals of the flowers. On day two they added green leaves and stems. I also gave them the option of adding a blue sky in the background and I showed them how to paint around their flowers. Some of the students also added some ladybugs and other little critters.

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From Zero to Hero – Day 4 and Saying Good-bye to my Son

….a challenging day overall…lots of company and one last meal with B and Az

Today’s assignment: follow five new topics in the Reader, and begin finding blogs (and bloggers) you love.

One way to increase readership is to follow other people’s blogs and make comments. Invariably they will come back to your blog to check you out. Today we are encouraged to branch out and investigate topics that we haven’t considered before. I’ve chosen the following five topics (some suggested by WordPress):

Stereotypes: Livicatherine  and You’ve Got to be Kidding and Rural to Roaming

Flaneur: The English Department and Around a Red Table

Coffee Culture: Cody Delistraty and Just Add Attitude and Filter(ed)

Owls:  My Eco-centric Life and Owl Moon (it’s amazing how many sites pop up when you type the word owl)

Humour: Singing Pigs and Life With the Top Down

Day 4 – The Daily Task

Today was a busy day with saying good-bye to our son and his fiancé. My friend, L came over to say hello and good-bye all at the same time and A and J came for an hour to say a final farewell. I knew that today would be a difficult day to tackle something new so I did what I said I would and that was finish reading the book The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone. Reviewers used words like, charming, delightful, hilarious, compelling, unforgettable, unique and clever. I guarantee that you won’t want to put it down.

It’s been snowing off and on today, but mostly on and right now it’s very wet and heavy. Unfortunately I didn’t get out for my daily walk. I’ll have to do double duty tomorrow. Here’s hoping for a safe and uneventful flight back to the Netherlands for both B and Az. I miss you already. Love, hugs and kisses. Mom

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Four Days Down

….and I’m still standing

I started writing this yesterday and I finished the whole piece when I pushed the save button for the last time. I had just added my tags and when I went to preview the post I discovered that an hours worth of work wasn’t there. Oddly enough the tags were there but all the photos and links had disappeared. I tried every thing to find the missing work but to no avail. I have no idea what I did but I was too tired to rewrite the piece so I went to bed hoping the the work would show up the next day. Unfortunately it didn’t so here I am rewriting the post again.

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School started on Tuesday and four classrooms in our school had been converted into temporary kindergarten classes. A flood earlier in the summer delayed the construction on our new kindergarten addition. The workers were pulled from our job site to repair the damage that occurred in other schools. Needless to say, opening day was far from a normal day.

As I suspected the library was one of the classes affected. Two of the four kindergarten classes have since been able to move into their new spaces but the class in the library wasn’t one of them. In fact it will probably be another six days before the other two classes can move into their new homes.

So it’s art on a cart, which I’m used to anyway but now I also have to do library in a box as I travel from room to room. The staff is anxious to start using the library but I’m not able to unpack my books or rearrange the furniture for at least anther week. It’s a maze of boxes and book stands.

The kids have been great. They look forward to art classes and every class has greeted me with cheers and hugs. I started each class reading the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds.

This is a wonderful book about making your mark in life. Vashti, the main character in the book insists that she can’t draw and her teacher encourages her to put a mark on her blank paper and see where it takes her.

From here I introduced Wassily Kandinsky’s Study of Concentric Circles. Kandinsky never intended to sell his study of circles. He merely wanted to experiment with colour theory and see how colours looked when they were painted side by side. Little did he know that this would become an important piece of work in the art world.

I’ve used this lesson with every class so far. This was one of my very first art lessons when I first started teaching my own art over 14 years ago. This time around I added a new twist to the assignment with the older students. I will share the results with you later next week when they finish the project.

Yesterday I was asked to give an art lesson to the JK/SK class. I came across a wonderful blog, Prek+K Sharing, that focuses on lessons for very young children and lo and behold I found an art lesson using Kandinsky’s Concentric Circles. I decided to use crayons with the junior students and let the seniors use the watercolours. I’m glad I did. The difference in abilities between the 3/4 year olds and the 5 year olds was quite amazing. All in all I was very pleased with the outcome.

February – A Book Review in August

…..after reading it again for a second time

(I discovered that the library in the village has free WiFi, so I decided to post the two stories that I’ve written since coming to the cottage and not wait until I get home.)P1020939

Earlier in the year my book club had discussed the book February by Lisa Moore. It was one of the books that I didn’t finish before our discussion. I had read about half of it and I was having a hard time finishing it. Most of the members of the group really liked the book and I was somewhat lukewarm about it.

I decided to continue reading it to see what I was missing. The funny thing is that I did read some more of it after the meeting but I knew that I hadn’t read all of it. When I brought it up to the cottage to continue where I had left off, I couldn’t remember how far into the story I had read. I went about half way back into the book and started at a random page. It didn’t look familiar but as I continued to read I started to recognize passages that I had definitely covered.

Instead of skipping the following pages and trying to find where I had left off I continued to read, even though I had read these very pages before. I rarely reread a book once I’m done with it but I found that I gained a new appreciation for the story reading it a second time. In the end I discovered that there were less than 20 pages that I hadn’t read.

February is the fictional account of an actual tragedy that occurred in 1982 when the oil rig, The Ocean Ranger, sank off the coast of Newfoundland. All 84 men aboard died. The story is about Helen O’Mara who became widowed when her husband Cal drowns during the storm on that fateful Valentine’s evening.

The story goes back and forth between that tragic night and the present. Helen tries to imagine where her husband was and what he was doing before the rig overturned and she is haunted by images of what could have been. We also learn of the difficulties Helen experiences raising her four children on her own and her struggle to end her loneliness.

I think the first time I read the book I was frustrated by Helen’s on going obsession with wanting to know exactly how her husband died. After reading it a second time I began to appreciate the writing itself. The Winnipeg Free Press described Lisa Moore’s writing as follows: “Moore’s writing resembles poetry…She expertly captures her characters’ physical surroundings in sharp-edge fragments of colour and sensation.”

February is a study of grief and how one woman’s life is profoundly changed by one tragic event. I’m glad I reread the book. I wouldn’t recommend it if you need to read something light and funny but if you are in the mood for an intense and dramatic story, based on an actual event, pick up a copy of February. By the way it was also the winner of the 2013 Canada Reads competition.

My Summer Reading

….I’m way behind and I only have one full week left before I head back to the classroom

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As you can see I may have bitten off more than I can chew but some of these books I had started earlier in the year and didn’t finish, some I’m half way through and one was a book club book that we discussed at the beginning of the month. The last one I finished and will discuss briefly in this post.

The first book that I finished this summer is The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson. This is one of the books that I started last year, picked it up again earlier this year and finally finished it in July. It was a struggle. It was the winner of the 2010 Man Booker prize and for the life of me I can’t understand why it won. I went over to Amazon.com to read some of the reviews on this book and discovered that you either loved this book or hated it. I think that some of the best comments that resonated for me included:  …..”You might also love it if you’re into angst and want to read many pages about people full of angst, who spend their waking hours worrying about angst, wondering what to do about their angst (or, indeed, whether to do anything at all), asking who’s to blame for all that angst, trying (and mostly failing) to find a meaning in angst, even questioning whether their angst is real or whether they’re imagining it.”……”Reading this book feels like reading an angst-ridden teen’s diary: endless self-indulgent delving into identity. Who am I? How can I know who I am? Why am I who I am? What does it all mean? What if I’m not really who I think I am? Is it okay to be who I am? Should I try to be someone else?….. are you bored yet?” 

This pretty much sums up how I feel about this story of three childhood friends, two who are Jewish and one who isn’t, and how they interact with each other later in life when the two of them become widowed. Some reviewers found it brilliant, funny and thought provoking. I tried to like it but the story didn’t work for me.

The next book that I read was Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. I loved this book, as did everyone in my book club. The book was a 2013 Canada Reads contender.

The story is about Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibway man from Northern Ontario, who has to confront his past in order to overcome his drinking problem. Saul’s difficult journey takes the reader through his childhood when he is  separated from his family and land and sent to a residential school where he suffers abuse from the nuns and priests who reside there. He soon discovers he has an amazing talent for hockey and he finds brief salvation in playing the game.

The novel was an eye opener for me of the harsh reality of life in 1960s Canada. We don’t often think about racism existing in our own backyard but in this story racism is a central theme and Saul’s spirit is destroyed by the harsh realities of cultural displacement. A must read for all North Americans and Canadians in particular.

Book Review -The Imposter Bride

…..by Nancy Richler

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I read this book a couple of months ago and last night our book club met at the Runnymede Library to listen to Nancy Richler read excerpts from her novel, discuss her motivation for writing the book and take questions from the audience.

The presentation was part of The eh List Authors Series. This is a Toronto Public Library initiative that promotes successful authors and invites them to come to a designated location and speak to the library patrons in Toronto. 

Here is a brief summary of The Imposter Bride, taken from the Toronto Public Library website:

When Sol Kramer sees his intended bride, Lily Azerov, fresh from the Levant and waiting at the Montreal train station, he takes one look and he bolts. His brother Nathan is mortified. And charmed. Nathan steps up and proposes to the beautiful Lily himself. But Lily has a secret. She is not Lily Azerov. 

Nancy Richler carefully chose passages from her novel to share with the packed house at the Runnymede Library. Most of the audience had read the book, so she was delighted to discuss the theme, the characters and her own personal connections and experiences that helped her write this wonderful book.

Hearing how and why Nancy wrote this book made it even more special. It took her nine years to write this book. Some of the characters are loosely based on her own family and childhood friends. Having grown up in Montreal in the post war years in the 50s and 60s gives Nancy first hand experience of the broken Holocaust survivors and their struggles to make a new life in a new country. 

Most of the book is told in the voice of Lily’s daughter, Ruth. When Ruth was only 3 months old, Lilly abandoned her daughter and husband and disappeared for decades. On Ruth’s sixth birthday she receives a mysterious package from her mother with a stone inside. Over the years Ruth receives several parcels from her mother, each with a new stone inside and each return address is from a different city in Canada. Does Ruth ever meet her mother? You’ll need to read the book to find out.

Rating:  4 out of 5

Spreading a Little Joy

….I decided to save my rant for another day

One of my new followers inspired me to write about events that bring me joy or in her words ‘what delights’ me. Earlier today I started writing about political issues that I feel passionate about but after my delightful afternoon with my husband I decided to put that piece on hold and share with you some of the happier events that I’ve attended in the last two weeks.

My youngest daughter has been working with a friend to promote their blogs and businesses. Earlier in the year I wrote about the stamp making workshop that they hosted. This time around they created a workshop around creative Christmas wrapping and featured numerous ideas for creating your own ties, tags, embellishments and paper. As always they were highly organized and personable and offered their eager clients all the materials they would need to experiment with. My daughter also made some delicious shortbread to serve with a variety of teas.

DSCN0225DSCN0227DSCN0228DSCN0229DSCN0232The group enjoyed the evening so much that the owners of the art store where the event was held allowed us to stay an extra half hour to finish our projects. Some of the things people made were package toppers, tags, bows, tree ornaments and stamped paper. Unfortunately the battery in my camera gave out and I didn’t get any pictures of the finished projects.

The next day my book club had their annual Christmas dinner. Since the book we were discussing was Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts and was set in Berlin, we decided on a German theme. I was in charge of dessert so I brought a tray of German stollen and other festive cookies and chocolates. I posted a review of the book earlier in the year. In the Garden of Beasts: A Book Review On average the group gave the book a rating of 4 out of 5, much higher than what we gave his last book, Devil in the White City.

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A week later another group of friends got together for another annual Christmas dinner. We lovingly call ourselves the “Over the Hilltop’ gang because we worked together at Hilltop Middle School over 15 years ago and continue to meet three or four times a year. My friend L hosted the party and cooked the entire dinner. What a lovely gift. Again the food was amazing, the company warm and joyous and presents were exchanged.

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The Sunday before this last dinner my husband and I treated our daughter, A, and her partner to a day of wine touring and dinner. We managed to visit 6 wineries, each unique in its own way. The winery that intrigued me most was the one called Organized Crime. The owner explained to us that years ago in the area there were two orders of Mennonites, a traditional ‘old’ order and a more modern order. The traditional order didn’t like that the other order played music during their services so in the dark of night they got in their buggies and stole the organ from the modern church. Hence the name ‘Organ’ized Crime.

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The day before the wine tour I found myself at a fantastic craft show in the city. The crafters were all local and predominately young, although there were a few people there closer to my age. The crafts were original and beautifully made and displayed. The show was held in the Great Hall and in two other stores, all in the same block on Queen St. W.. I spent hours browsing and buying.

IMGP0169 IMGP0170 IMGP0171 IMGP0172 IMGP0174 IMGP0176Today K and I attended the Toronto Christmas Market but I think I will save this experience for tomorrow’s post. Till then, cheers!