Thursday, December 3, 2015

Migration: a haiku

strange migrating bird
circles south on gusts of wind--
plastic garbage bag

Copyright Barbara Etlin 2015, all rights reserved

Monday, November 16, 2015

Surprise Birthday Party

On Saturday night we were guests at a surprise party for my friend's birthday.

We hid in the back room of Paintlounge West Toronto until she and her husband arrived...

S U R P R I S E !

She was really surprised!!!

For the next two hours, the guests and the birthday lady either made individual acrylic paintings or collaborated with someone. 

At first M and I were intimidated by the idea of making a work of art, especially in public, but it was surprisingly fun. We were all beginners, together. And everyone was supportive. A couple of staff artists were on hand for information or help.

Acrylics dry fast, so there was no time for "painters' block."

M and I collaborated on this painting.

Today would have been the birthday of my late friend and cover designer, Kevin Slattery. I like to think he peered over my shoulder as I painted, encouraging me to have fun.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Echo's Glass Ceiling

Echo's Glass Ceiling

You may think you know what the glass ceiling is: the barrier which limits your progress towards attaining the job or goal you want.

Echo knows the true meaning, especially when nudging for treats while we're having a meal.

I wouldn't need to nudge if the glass ceiling weren't there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Halloween Version

Wordless Wednesday - Halloween Version



Niagara-on-the-Lake, October 2014


Friday, October 16, 2015

Publication News! Short article in The Toronto Star's Life section

"This skunk got drunk" - Published in Toronto Star

In August I submitted a short article about my experience with Boomerang the skunk to the Life section of The Toronto Star, as part of an article by Isabel Teotonio about wildlife in the city.

My piece, "This skunk got drunk" is on page 2, featured at the end of her article, "Concrete Jungle." It was one of over 200 submissions by Toronto Star readers.

Thanks, Isabel!

Echo and I are Snoopy dancing today!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October Leaves

October Leaves

Since we moved from our house to a condo five years ago, leaf collection has taken a new form. We don't bag them. I take photos of them, mostly for a friend whose home state doesn't have the variety we have here in southern Ontario.

Besides my usual vantage point from my terrace

 this year we also explored another park

 and I took photos from the car

and when we passed over a bridge.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Stevie Wonder concert - Songs in the Key of Life

Songs in the Key of Life Concert by Stevie Wonder

Last night Stevie Wonder had a concert at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, in which he performed his complete 1976 album, "Songs in the Key of Life," plus some old favourites in the encore.

I last saw him almost exactly forty years ago, in October 1975, at Maple Leaf Gardens. That one still holds the title of The Best Concert Ever.

But there was lots to like in this concert, which Stevie said was part of his last ever North American tour. In no particular order, here are some highlights:

his jazz harmonica riff, which suddenly segued into "Canadian Sunset" to honour us Canadians

- his playing and singing "Imagine" for John Lennon's birthday, October 9. When he broke into tears in the middle and couldn't sing, the audience helped him out and sang for him. Lit cell phones were waving in the air.

- his sense of play and humour. No matter what has happened in his personal life, he's still young at heart, ageless, an old soul combined with a mischievous twenty-year-old. His personality sparkles.

- his genuine gratitude to his accompaniers, his orchestra, and to the audience

Like my experience in 1975, the love was palpable.

If you can catch a performance of "Songs in the Key of Life" you won't be asking "If It's Magic?" You'll know that it is.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Stevie Wonder and Sting duet - Sting's "Fragile"

On Sting's sixtieth birthday, Stevie sang a duet with him of "Fragile."

Although it's Sting's song, Stevie blows him away with his brilliant singing and harmonica playing. Sting graciously concedes the stage to Stevie.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder

"Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder

"Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Vacation in Kingston

Vacation in Kingston

We spent last week in Kingston, Ontario. At the request of my friend, Robin, here are some of the tourist sights.

Kingston, one of Canada's oldest cities, is located at the eastern tip of Lake Ontario, at the start of the St.Lawrence River and the Cataraqui River. The Thousand Islands and the border to New York State are 30 minutes east.

For me, the best sight is of sailboats. This was the view from our hotel room.

Lake Ontario. In the distance, on Wolfe Island, are wind turbines.

The quaint Martello Tower (centre, with the pointed roof) protected Kingston's harbour.

It's noted for three main industries: its university, Queen's; its three penitentiaries, Kingston (recently emptied of prisoners and made into a museum), Millhaven, and Collins Bay; and the military university, Royal Military College. Some of the historic buildings have been restored in downtown. Kingston was the home of Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and his house is a museum.

 Collins Bay Penitentiary looks a bit like a castle.

We visited with our friends who live nearby and I did a lot of writing at my fave spot, Chapters, which has a Starbuck's on site.

To get more touristy photos for Robin, on Sunday we went to Fort Henry, which has probably the best views of Kingston. Situated on a hill across a narrow bay, it looks down on Kingston and the Royal Military College (RMC).

view across the bay of RMC ( foreground) and Kingston (background)

We arrived there, coincidentally, in time to hear the cannon ceremony. It was loud! Fort Henry has a tour, gift shop, and a cafe with fantastic views. The fort is now a National Heritage Site. 

Edited to add: A link to this blog post was featured in the photography e-journal,

 The Photography Journal.

Thanks for the link, MyBlogworld ! @GoodBlogPosts

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Tale of Two Moons

Last night, I took some photos of an Almost Blue Full Moon against a pink-purple-blue sunset sky.

Almost Blue Full Moon, July 30, 2015

The striking colours of the clouds and the moon against the sunset sky reminded me of another photo which I took a while ago, also from my terrace.

I found the photo and then noticed the date I took it.

Gibbous Moon, July 30, 2012

Is this the kind of coincidence that happens only once in a Blue Moon?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Echo's Query Process

Echo's Query Process

"Please, sir, may I have some?"

"Resistance is futile."

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Flossie (an original poem)


Flossie is my dentist and
her words ring in my head.
"This tooth of yours is necrotized
(in other words, it's dead.)

I'd really like to pull it 'cause
it's hanging by a thread.
Don't scream too loud, and don't bite me,"
is what my dentist said.

Copyright 2015 Barbara Etlin

Friday, July 10, 2015

Screenwriting 102

A primer for students who passed Screenwriting 101

and are ready for additional basic information.

1.  Have a plot.

2. Special effects are awesome but they are not an acceptable way to distract the audience from the lack of a plot.

3. Two is the perfect number for dimensions in a movie.

4. Fast expository dialogue won't save your script if there are gaping plot holes.

5. Have a plot.



Monday, May 25, 2015

A Farewell to Tulips 2015

Tulip season only lasted about a week.

Soon after we planted them, summer heat made them wither.

But that week was magical.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Stevie Wonder's Sunshine

Today is Stevie Wonder's 65th birthday. Happy birthday, Stevie!

Stevie Wonder's Sunshine

expectant hush
hands on the keyboard

reggae beat
You Are the
Sunshine of My Life

he rocks
     to the rhythm
     human metronome

seventeen thousand people
dancing in the aisles
clapping so hard
our palms are on fire
don't go yet
one more

and we see Stevie feels it
radiating the stadium
and we feel Stevie sees it
through his dark glasses

sunshine of

from ANTIQUE PIANO & Other Sour Notes, Deco Owl Press
Copyright 2014,  Barbara Etlin,  all rights reserved

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tulip Party Time!

On Monday, we visited our local garden centre in search of 22 pots of tulips.

 When we got there, we found that other tulip appreciators had arrived first, leaving very little. We bought what they had left and then went to the grocery superstore, where we found a great supply of unopened tulips. Thanks, Loblaws! You saved the day!

It's a Tulip Party and you are invited!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Signs of Spring...

at last!

Although the tulips aren't here yet, I'm thrilled to see the first tree leaves, aglow with sunlight.

Until it's tulip season, I can look at these:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thankful Thursday - Art by Rima

M and I are lucky and very grateful

to have such a great friend, artist,

who painted this wonderful


Check out her other art at @artbyrima5

just for him!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Is it Spring yet?

Although it's late April, we only started to see signs of Spring
on the weekend, when we returned to our old midtown neighbourhood for a quick, late lunch.

Hazelton Lanes, a nearby shopping mall, is undergoing a massive reconstruction, and the café we wanted to go to was gone. But it was close to 4 pm and we were starving.

We had a nutritious, heart-healthy lunch--okay, chocolate bars and Diet Pepsi-- and I took a few photos of the neighbourhood to remind myself that, yes, Spring will come soon. Even to the suburbs.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Woman in Gold is Pure Gold

The Woman In Gold

Yesterday I saw the movie, The Woman in Gold.

It is based on a true story about Maria Altmann, who sues the Austrian government in the 90s to get back the Klimt portrait of her aunt which belonged to her family and was stolen by the Nazis.

Helen Mirren, as Maria, and Ryan Reynolds, as Randy Schoenberg, a young inexperienced lawyer, deliver dazzling performances. There are many flashbacks woven into the storyline. The brilliant last scene made me choke up.

Maria reminds me of a couple of my husband's relatives, both Holocaust survivors.

I highly recommend The Woman in Gold and predict it will win some Academy Awards next year. It is pure gold.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Decoupaged Contact Lens Box

Decoupaged Contact Lens Box
(Here's Looking at You, Kid!)

Last week I showed you a decoupaged cigar box which I gave to M for his birthday.

Today my decoupage project is a box which I gave to M to keep his new contact lenses in. Eventually he decided not to use the hard contact lenses, and went back to glasses. He now uses this box as a sewing kit, for needles, thread, and buttons.

For the top of the plain box, I used a very thick piece of leftover wallpaper. Normally this isn't a good idea for decoupage because it is too hard to sink it into the surface. And it didn't sink. But I still think it looks pretty.

Wallpaper goes on the exterior top of box.

I painted the top exterior brown and the bottom exterior white.

I painted  the rim white. I lined the bottom with brown velvet, with a trim of gold thread.

Full view of interior.
 What's that on the top?

A cut-out of an owl 
 from a greeting card
 is pasted on a white-painted background.
The top is also trimmed with gold thread. 

"Here's looking at you, kid!"
(at least while he wore contacts)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Decoupaged Cigar Box

Decoupaged Cigar Box

The process

In the 70s and 80s I used to do decoupage for fun.

At that time, it was a time-consuming craft, requiring patience. The process of traditional decoupage was something like this:

  • 1. Cut a design (original art or someone else's).
  • 2. Paste it onto a new surface (which you might first paint or otherwise refinish).
  • 3. Protect it with several coats of varnish or other protector.
  • 4. Sand down the decoration after each 5 coats.
  • 5. After about 15 coats of varnish, apply one last coat of protector.

The idea was to make the decoration appear to be flush with the surface.

Now I think most decoupeurs use one coat of Mod Podge and skip the sanding steps.

The Modigliani  Box

Here is what I did to convert my grandfather's cigar box into a keepsake box which I gave to M for his birthday.

  • First, I removed a couple of things from the interior which I'm guessing may have kept the cigars humid. The cedar wood was beautiful so I didn't want to paint it.

  • Then I pasted a removable plate of Modigliani's "The Cello Player" (from a paperback about Modigliani) onto the top of the cigar box. 

  •  The design goes over the box opening. I used a knife to slit the design at the place where the box opened. I wanted a smooth, unobtrusive opening.

  • When you open the box, there's a surprise on the interior of the lid! I pasted a page of sheet music from a Mozart Sonatina. (M's favourite composer is Mozart.) I gave it to him for his birthday in 1977. I call it the Mozart Box; he calls it the Modigliani Box. When I moved into the house with him when we became engaged, he returned the box to me because he says it's a family heirloom. So we now share it!
  • The interior is lined with blue velvet.