Queen of Creativity

My mother is the most creative person I know. She is an amazing artist and a talented textile designer living in Toronto.
She sent me these socks and made this little card to go with them.  These photos were taken by Sir. S.

How cute is this card?


Zbigniew Libera

Zbigniew Libera is a Polish artist known for creating controversial works. His 1996 series of Lego Concentration Camps is known for having propelled the artist into the international art scene. He works in many mediums producing photographs, videos, installations and drawings. Using popular images such a play kits for children or recognizable photographs, Mr. Libera comments on popular media transforming visual memory by manipulating our perceptions of historic events.

In the Lego series Mr. Libera created seven box sets which contain various 'areas' of concentration camps. Reminiscent of the police station set (which my monkeys have) is an entire concentration camp complete with gallows, barbed wire, uniformed guards, gas chambers and medical experimentation rooms. The prisoners in this case are not the iconic black and white striped inmates but are skeletons which originate from the Lego pirate series.  In interviews with the artist Mr. Libera states that The first concentration camp was set up not by Germans, not even by Russians, but by the British during the Boer war in South Africa around 1905". He goes on to say that “When I was working on "Lego" in 1996, the war in Yugoslavia was going on and there were concentration camps in Bosnia, we could see these things every day on TV. This was one of the strongest reasons why I decided to make this piece. So there is no specific historical reference, and I do not represent any particular camp.” Of the three sets of seven boxes one is displayed in the New York Jewish Museum, one is in the "Haus der Geschichte" in Bonn and one is in the hands of a private collector.

In Mr. Libera’s Positive series (2002-2003)  he uses iconic negative photographs and manipulates them to convey positive images. The original imagines are part of the world collective sense of history. Similar to his use of Lego, a  toy with generally happy connotations, the transformation illicits a murky recollection of memory and emotion.

Mr. Libera uses popular, culturally relevant material to create art which arouses conflicting emotions. In my opion this is genius.
Here is a great interview with the artist:


Do It Yourself: Queso Blanco

Queso Blanco is a very easy ‘do it yourself’ cheese. In fact you almost certainly have all the ingredients at home already. This cheese is best eaten fresh so you can make it to enjoy the same day. Queso Blanco does not melt and is perfect for deep-frying or grilling. Today I made it using jalapeño but this semi-hard cheese can be mixed in with any fresh herbs or spices to add flavor to an otherwise mild cheese.

This recipe yields about 1/3 cup of cheese but is easily multiplied using the same technique.
2 cups of milk (I used Skim)
4 tsp of white vinegar
1. Heat the milk to 175 for about 15 minutes
2. Add vinegar slowly in to the hot milk and stir for 5 minutes
3. Allow to cool and strain whey by filtering through a cheesecloth lined colander
4. Work in salt and whatever else you are adding to the curds
5. Mold the cheese using the cheese cloth (ball or patty)
6. Let sit in the fridge until ready to enjoy


Jared Pankin

I would never hang this work in my home yet since I first laid eyes on it I have been intrigued. Jared Pankin is an L.A. based artist represented by the Carl Berg Gallery.
Despite its warm and fuzzy look the art does not exude a warm and fuzzy feeling. Using seemingly random materials like wood, sawdust, fake fur, carpet remnants and glass eyeballs, Mr. Pankin creates works that are too complex for a lodge wall yet too taxidermy for my home.
The appeal in his work is the small twists. The subtleties unfortunately are lost in renditions of his work so I will speak from intimate experience that these works are talented. I studied three of his works: Hog Wild (pictured above), Stanley (pictured bellow) and Half Knot (below, below). I taught them, I created lectures based on these pieces. I walked in to the gallery, day after day and appreciated them more each time. According to Rebecca McGrew “his [] work evolved into intimate natural history dioramas, followed by sculptures that merged a lone hand-crafted tree to massive accumulations of chunks of wood.” Stanley (2008) looks like an exploded mountain goat. Mostly the innards are made up of chunks of wood that look more like scraps put together than something methodically planned. A single unrealistically tall palm tree ‘grows’ from this construction. What it all means I cannot tell you but the way it make you feel like is the talent. Mr. Pankin says: “my work embraces elements of science, fact and fiction”. This statement holds true. His works are neither fact nor fiction and if science can produce a tree growing out of a goat’s ass then Mr. Pankin is a crystal ball gazer.


Salmon: The Good, The Bad and The Yummy

Our friends N and E had us over to dinner and even though these phone camera photos clearly do not do the dish justice I wanted to share the recipe because it is so easy and so tasty.
E bought this whole baby salmon at the Chinese market. The fishmonger cleaned and cut everything up for him.
Before you start thinking 'baby' salmon let me assure you that baby salmon is not on any endangered list. (I looked it up).
So this fish was salt and peppered, inside and out then E stuck a handful of julienne leeks into the belly of the fish and baked it at 350 for about 30 minutes (depends on the size of course). As a garnish he added more leeks and drizzled with a teriyaki sauce.  The meal was served with Korean Beef as well.

Here are the basics about good/bad salmon consumption choices from Monterey Bay Aquarium website :
The Good
Alaskan salmon dominates the West Coast salmon market. Over the past 20 years, Alaska has landed roughly 10 times as much salmon as California, Oregon and Washington combined.
Freshwater habitats in Alaska have remained relatively pristine, and salmon originating in Alaska does not face the same damming, deforestation and development challenges as those in California and the Pacific Northwest. The current abundance of Alaska salmon and its habitat reflects the success of the state’s management practices.
For these reasons, wild-caught salmon from Alaska is ranked as a “Best Choice.”
The Bad
One of the biggest concerns is the amount of food required to raise farmed salmon. It generally takes three pounds of wild fish to grow one pound of farmed salmon. The environmental impact of salmon farming is still increasing as global production continues to rise.

Most salmon are farmed in open pens and cages in coastal waters. Waste from these farms is released directly into the ocean. Parasites and diseases from farmed salmon can spread to wild fish swimming near the farms and escaping farmed salmon can harm wild populations. As a result, all salmon farmed in ocean net pens get an "Avoid".
If you have an IPhone you can download the Seafood Watch App for FREE or check out their website at:


Push by Sapphire

I am ready to see the film Precious. I have been preparing myself and I wanted to read the book first. I read the book in two sittings. It is very short.

For those of you who don’t know- Push is the tile of the book by Sapphire and has been made into the film Precious. The protagonist Precious Jones is a black American girl who has suffered incest, by both biological parents. It is truly gut wrenching. It is nauseating. It is sometimes hard to read and I think that is part of why I read it so quickly.
Here are a few quick thoughts about the novel.
Sapphire writes the novel in a callow phonic verse. As the character grows and learns the words progress. It was not at all difficult to follow; in fact it enhanced the experience of losing oneself in the story. I an curious to see if this novel is translated into other languages and how this will be done. 
Sapphire writes in a lyrical prose which is comparable to the spoken word style of poetry performance. This talent radiates an otherwise dark story.
Finally, this story gave me a glimpse into a life that I have never had to endure. The story is a layered look into the lives of how despicable people affect others.  It is a story about the people whom society often overlooks.  It is ultimately a story of survival although clearly getting out unscathed is not an option.
I will never be the same after reading this book and I would imagine neither will you.


The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I just finished this book and I am torn. I like the book. As a first novel it is impressive. Yet I cannot shake the feeling of ‘where does she get off’.
This novel is written from the point of view of three Mississippi women, in  in the 1960’s. Two of them are black and one of them is white.
Fundamentally the novel is about black women who work as ‘help’ for white women, telling their side of the story. The catalyst for this is the one white protagonist, a woman who is portrayed as different and enlightened. She goes by the name of Skeeter which I cannot help but point out is a blood sucking insect.  This magnanimous white woman helps write a book giving a voice to the black woman of her town and then gets a job in publishing and moves to New York.  I have hated the word ironic since I first saw the film Reality Bites, but I cannot think of a better word. The whole novel seems ironic. 
Ms Stockett strives to functions as a ‘hybridity’ author, a postcolonial literature term which refers to writers belonging to both cultures. However, she endeavors to give a voice to a group of women which essentially she is unrepresentative of. In my opinion this is a chancy and bold move.

If you read this novel with suspended belief then it is a neatly packaged story. If you read it as I did with ‘cum grano salis’ then Ms Stockett is a mosquito.
This is a great article which includes a synopsis, an account of why different book covers were used in the UK and USA and an interview with the author:

Here is the NYTimes book review:


Jorge Villalba

It should come as no surprise that I love Jorge Villalba’s work. I wrote about his art last year after a chance encounter with his painting The Kidnapping of Ganymedes I at the White Squares Gallery (read it here).
The Director Natasha Young was kind enough to provide me with more information regarding Mr. Villalba.
Mr. Villalba agreed to answer a few of my questions and also to provide images of his newest painting The Rape of Ganymedes. I have done all the translation for this interview, first the questions from English to Spanish and then the answers from Spanish to English. If any of the genius or thoughtfulness in the answers has been lost in translation I take full responsibility for this.

The settings of your paintings are dreamlike. They are on the verge of enchantment and yet on the verge of ominous. When you visualize the setting, a room, a forest or a field do you picture a safe place?
What place in the world is safe?

The children you portray often seem frightened. Do you feel that the insecurities in the child are reflected in the adult viewer?
I do not know, but I still feel that I see the world through a child’s eyes and I am thankful to G-d for this.

I like the contrast of realism to surrealism in your paintings. Is this something you feel is important in the balance of your painting?
In regard to the formal composition of the work I try to find the maximum balance. The paintings open doors to endless interpretation, all can find balance and harmony, and precisely therein lays one of the beauties of art.
My work tends to polarize concepts like life, death, humanity and inhumanity. Similar to the chef who mixes contrasting flavors and textures to create recipes and the musician tones, pauses or stops to make a compositions more interesting, the artist finds himself and developed his own pictorial language accordingly.

The way you paint shadows and light I think is delightful. What do you find pleasant about this aspect of your work?
Representing the tones in the lights and shadows of a stage, a bathroom, a bedroom, anywhere; even the subtleties of temperature can be transmitted to the viewer which can strengthen or soften a feeling. These feelings have been demonstrated even scientifically. The realm of the optic is very powerful and is studied by scholars to determine how expression influences emotions. Although there are words worth a thousand pictures, the phrase we hear the most is "a picture is worth a thousand words".

In Greek Mythology Ganymede was the most attractive of mortals, in your Rape of Gaymede series you have portrayed boys in distress. What are your thoughts on this?
Without ancient Greece neither Europe nor the world would be the same. After three thousand years of history, Greek mythology is still in style, so fresh, non-combustible as ever. Why? Because it tells us of barbarism, brutality and human genius in the most sublime and elegant way. In "The Rape of Ganymede" the threat of an evil and barren world is a reflection of the reality which many children are born into.

Zeus abducts in the form of an eagle- your image of the suit wearing birds is authoratative yet not aggressive. What are your thoughts on this?
I have used "artistic freedom" and replaced the eagle from the original Greek Myth with a crow to emphasize the act of "Rapture". The raven in Spanish is “Ave de Rapina” or "vulture" [or bird of prey] in German "Rabe, Raubvogel" means “Raven, bird of prey”.
I feel there are many forms of aggression, the act of kidnapping is accompanied by the desire to dominate and abuse, it can also be a means to even more brutal aggression.

It has been a pleasure inteviewing Mr. Villalba and gaining insight into his thoughts about his work and art in general. Graciasy la mejor de las suertes.
You can see Jorge Villalba at the Gallery Jörg Heitsch in Munich, in April 2010.
Furthermore, this fall he will be collaborating with painters Dietmar Groß, Golucho and Roberto Gonzalez Fernandez to exhibit together in Essen, this years European capital of culture.
To learn more and see more of his work please visit:


Michael Johansson

I  love Michael Johansson’s work-on so many levels.
First of all I am a huge fan of kinetic art. What is not to love about art in motion?
In 2005 Mr. Johansson showed Hair Formula 1, which featured a race track constructed with hair dryers  blowing ping pong balls around the track.

Mr. Johansson’s series of everyday 20th century objects/toys which are featured in model kit form is a clever take on consumerism and plastic. He describes this examination of the deconstruction of common materialism as: “the function is displayed, [yet] the functionality is taken away”.

Many of his recent exhibitions use items which are recycled into conceptual art.  In his Rubiks series Mr. Johansson takes everyday kitchen objects from the 1950’s and 60’s made predominantly of plastic and compresses them into cubes.

In his latest exhibition Strolls Through Time And Space, Mr.Johansson again takes common place items from the past few decades and combines them to create 'time capsule' sculptures.

Upcoming Shows:

Market at-large/ Stockholm Feb 19-21 2010
Galleri 21 Malmo April 3-25 2010


Snow and Hot Chocolate

We drove up to the mountains to have a snow day.
The monkeys loved tobogganing.

We had a delicious hibachi grilled lunch. Korean beef, on a pita, with homemade salsa and lettuce. The monkeys had hotdogs and bacon with pita. Dr. J made the most delicious hot chocolate.

Here is the recipe for the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had:

3 cups skim milk
1 cup of half and half (I didn’t know this!)
½ cup of cocoa
½ cup of sugar (holysmoly)
¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
We added mini marshmallows.


Oozy Love-

Happy Vday! At our house we don’t do cards, chocolates or flowers. We do cuddles (everyday) and to celebrate we do butter. What says love better than butter? It reminds me of that commercial from when I was a little girl (in Canada) Butter makes it better naturally!

Here is our Vday morning breakfast made with Oozy Love AKA Eggs Benedict

Hollandaise Sauce:
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup butter (ONE stick of LOVE)
pinch of cayenne
pinch of salt
Mix egg yolks and lemon juice in stainless steel bowl until the mixture is thicker. Place bowl OVER a pot with barely boiling water and keep on whisking quickly. Drizzle the melted butter in and keep on whisking until the mixture has doubled in volume. Remove from heat, whisk in cayenne and salt. Cover and let rest as you put together the rest.

The Rest: Canadian Bacon, English muffins, Poached Eggs, Wilted spinach.

Three out of four of us said yum, one ate ‘meat and toast’


THE YEAR OF THE TIGER- Bellagio Las Vegas

Based on the Chinese Zodiac the year of the Tiger begins on February 14th 2010 and ends February 2, 2011. The Tiger is the third of twelve Chinese Zodiac animal signs. A Tiger is well known for its fearlessness and courage. The tiger is a natural leader with a strong sense of self and dignity. Tigers are intelligent, alert and farsighted. In Chinese wisdom The Tiger is a sign of luck and bravery and used to ward off household disasters such as fire, theft and ghosts.
In Feng Shui the Tiger is known as one of four celestial animals and associated with the color white. The other three animals are the green Dragon, red Phoenix and black Tortoise. The Tiger is symbolic of the Yin energy and associated with metal.

Until February 28, 2010, the Bellagio Conservatory is featuring a Chinese New Year display.
The Conservatory incorporates “Feng Shui elements to created harmony, balance and positive life energy.” According to the Bellagio: “Feng Shui experts are brought in to make sure the energy in the room is just right. This includes analyzing the flow of the water and the direction the animal props are facing.”

The showpiece of the exhibition is the tiger, made of dried botanicals and standing among Taibu rocks, which are believed to encourage circulation of natural energy.

The Conservatory also includes a Ming Dynasty- wing tipped gazebo inspired by a structure at Yu Yuan Garden, located in Shanghai.

Red lanterns are a symbol of brightness, happiness and reunion. They are also said to ward off evil sprits and are thus imperative for all traditional Chinese festivals.

All this tiger talk reminds me of my favorite William Blake poem:
The Tyger
Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


Interview with Vancouver Designer Of Sophiebelle

I recently came across a play structure by Sophiebelle Etsy shop owner Christine which really encompasses the spirit of honing creativity. For starters this teepee is hand made by Christine for her daughter Sophie. Although too little to appreciate this aspect of what she calls her ‘PeePee’ the idea of teaching through observation is fundamental for encouraging the innate curiosity in children. Imaginative play is an important aspect of every childhood. Building forts, hanging out in small spaces and creating your own environments are all essential elements in facilitating inspiration. Add to that that Christine makes really cool kids clothes and in my opinion this mom rocks!

Christine creates 'one of a kind' or ‘one of few’ organic clothing for children, newborn through six years old.
She was gracious enough to share photos of her home, work space and teepee in Port Moody, BC (close to the home of the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver) and to answer a few questions.

So the thing that I love about your clothes, besides the fact that they are organic, is the fabric. I am a huge fan of textiles. Where do you get your fabrics from?
I get my fabric from a few places. The best place I’ve found close to home is called Fabricana and they have a huge selection of modern designer fabrics. I’ve also bought fabric online from various sellers on Etsy. I love Etsy, you can get almost anything!

I have always loved baby/kids clothes that feature the less ‘babyish’ patterns. I love that about the fabrics you chose, after all- like they care!
Exactly! Honestly, until your kid is old enough to decide, you’re dressing them in clothes you like. For the most part I just don’t go for the whole cartoon, mass-produced stuff. Don’t get me wrong, some of that stuff is fun but for the most part, I prefer Sophie to wear clothes that I would wear.

Who is your favorite textile designer?
I have a few… I really like Heather Bailey, Amy Butler, Michael Miller and Alexander Henry. I find that they have really playful, yet sweet prints, and not too cutesy. I’m not a huge fan of cutesy. A lot of their fabrics are not even geared towards kids, but I think they can totally be used that way. Ikea fabric is also really good, but I don’t use it for clothing. For home projects like the teepee and reupholstering Sophie’s little chair, it’s awesome!

Okay lets talk about the teepee, I think it is crazy cool. I have always built forts for my monkeys and obviously kids love them but your teepee is taking it to another level. So where did you get the idea?
I think from the website Ohdeedoh, but maybe I saw something like that on Etsy, I don’t remember. But I knew that I could make it, so I just bought some fabric and curtain rods from Ikea, and a couple of hours later, done! I like making things for Sophie. I think eventually she’ll think it’s pretty cool that her mom made her all this stuff. I enjoy the challenge of seeing if I can do it, and figuring it out.

Are you going to sell it at your Sophiebelle Etsy shop?
Not sure… probably at some point!

Thanks for sharing photos of your workspace. I would love to hear your thoughts about your ‘create’ space.
My workspace and our living space are one and the same. Because we live in a 2 bedroom apartment, there isn’t really any other option, but it works because I often work during naps and after Sophie is asleep for the night, and I can sometimes do some work while she’s busy playing at my feet. It’s usually cluttered and crazy (not like the staged photos!) but what can you do?

Playing at your feet with toys all around is the perfect environment to raise a creative kid! What are some of Sophie’s favorite play things (besides the teepee)?
She loves Horton hatches an egg – Seuss – it’s her naptime book. She also loves the little men books, all sorts of board books with diggers, animals, babies… she loves books, which we are so happy about! As for toys, she’s super into her nesting blocks that she builds towers with (then knocks them down). Loves trains, and little animal figures, that she marches around the house!

What are some of your thoughts on creativity, inspiration and honing it in our children?
I think that kids today are given too many toys that tell them how to play. I prefer simpler toys where kids can use their imagination, to electronic toys. I prefer less toys and less clutter, that way kids can focus on one thing at a time, without so many distractions and endless options.

I know that your Sophie Savers are popular at your Sophiebelle Etsy shop and at Dandelion KIDS ( a Vancouver children’s boutique). What is the story behind how these started?
After Sophie was born, I just figured that I could totally make stuff for her. That’s how the whole Sophie Saver thing started. I made one, because I was tired of using those little loop link things, you know the plastic things that you attach toys to? So I made a Sophie Saver. I was in Dandelion KIDS and the owner liked it, and said I should sell them there! So I made a bunch, and that’s how it all started.

What is your next project going to be?
I’m planning on building Sophie a little play kitchen. As soon as I find the right scrap wood I will make it. My mom already made her a little apron, pot holders and oven mitts for her future play kitchen.
Christine thank you so much for sharing your home, inspiration and thoughts. 
You can visit Christine at:
Babyvibe’s Spring Fling – May 15 2010 in Port Moody where she will be a vendor.
Or on at her Sophiebelle Etsy Shop:
Or if you are in the Vancouver area check out:

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