Merry Christmas from Northern BC!

Two Christmas cards this year! I couldn’t resist this doggie nativity scene (I can’t take credit for it – the original was posted by a vet in  Ireland); I’ve just added in two special friends.

Ken’s the happiest I’ve seen a wood-carver look! Mind you, I haven’t been in direct contact with many wood-carvers … He was pretty happy being the artist-in-residence in the gallery and answering all the many questions about his process. Below Diana pats the head of his alabaster eagle, perched on top of a willow wood stand that Ken also made. Ken used to be a biology teacher and principal at one of the local schools and took up carving after he retired; he’s one of the only people in this area doing relief sculpture.

Before she jetted off for Arizona Sandra had us out to her place for a hearty winter supper of fresh slaughtered chicken (sorry vegetarians!) stew with dumplings – it was delicious. I tried to get a photo of all of us in which everyone was smiling but it was not to be.

Below Ty eyes the cheesecake with homemade berry topping that Sharla’s about to consume; he fell off the no-dessert wagon that night!

Sandra’s house is all by itself in a wide open field area and driving up to it a visitor is struck by the Kudu (antelope) head that appears in her top window, the remains of a long ago trip to Africa with her husband.

Once again with the cold snap the hoar frost has appeared on the trees; this photo is from down along the river’s edge. I did not realise that rivers could be foggy; sometimes there’s very thick fog along the Peace in the mornings until the sun burns it off.

The photo below of the Peace River at sunset is by Darcy Shawchek.

I did another trip out to Freedom Thinkers Education to talk Modern Art with the grades 4-6 and play surrealist and cubist games. We are going to hang all 60 of the Surrealist Corpses up on one wall of the gallery for 3 weeks in January – my last hurrah as curator here!

December is always the Artisan Christmas Market at the gallery and we expand into the Multi-Purpose room next door for it. I was lucky enough to have 7 volunteers show up to help me put the display together and we finished this room in one day, complete with three lit Christmas Trees.

This year, for the opening kick-off for the Market, we collaborated with the Indigenous Artist’s Market and the Artisan Farmhouse, both down the road on 100th Avenue, on an art-walk style event called Candy Cane Lane, with gingerbread houses, live music, roving carollers, and door prizes.

As you can see Ty was pretty excited about it, set-up in his usual station at the bar table to welcome patrons with a glass of cheer.


Along with two local radio personalities, I was asked to judge the gingerbread house competition, with entries from families, adults, teenagers, and children. Here are some of them.

While we have had a lot of snow the last few weeks, it has not been cold, hardly going below zero at all (unlike last years many days of -20 to -30, and week of -40). The photos below of grain bins and fields at sunrise are by Norman Siemens.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, ocean, outdoor, water and nature

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

On sunny days the landscape around our neighbourhood is much more attractive. All the buildings are now complete and the “landscaping” is finished (I would have been interested to see how many of the half-dead plants they put in will survive until Spring).

As you can see the snow-drifts are very high! This is a new neighbourhood; most of the houses were built in the last two or three years and almost all of them are gigantic and have gigantic RVs and sometimes boats parked in the front. With the economic downturn lots of For Sale signs have popped up on the streets, although, now, with Site C being given the go-ahead, maybe these houses will sell.

Below is the snowcovered pond near our place.

As our friend Marsha reminds me, this area is Big Sky country and lately the sunsets and sunrises have been beautiful. Below is the road coming back from Charlie Lake, looking out over the fields to the Beatton River valley in the distance.

Barb, an artist friend who lives out near the airport, very kindly had a going-away party for Ty & I, even though we are not actually going until later on in January.

Lots of folks from the Flying Colours art group came to toast us on our way.

I will really miss all these lovely people when we leave.

A few more weeks are left to hike with the Sunday group; last week we headed out to the Beatton Hills for a 10 km hike along the river.

Even though it was not particularly cold, in spots the road was still icy so I had to be very careful where I put my feet, since my hiking boots are super slick on the bottom. Gus the schnauzer and Bear the big dog joined us for the walk; I think Gus must be pretty well almost blind but at 15 years old he is really miraculously energetic and well-able to walk 10 km.

At the end of the road two oil pumpjacks continue their operations day and night. It is still a surprise to me to come across one of these machines in the landscape.

Along the way back Bear discovered the remains of a deer skeleton, from the looks of which the animal was very recently killed.

The sunrise picture below, taken out on the way to the airport, is by Heather Theede.

On Sunday 6 of us got together for a pre-Christmas walk and brunch in Clairmont, a “suburb” of Fort St John, located in between the city and Charlie Lake. Val and Greg have lived here for 30 years and have about 7 acres along Fish Creek. It was a beautiful almost cloudless day with a brisk, cold wind that made Gus the dog walk with a very high-stepping gait.

Since the sun does not rise very high up over the horizon even at 10 in the morning the shadows are very long and blue over the snow-covered fields.

We haven’t had a snowfall for a while so it was icy and crunchy walking over this area. My hiking boots, while warm, have very slick soles so I had to be quite careful not to slip and fall. (As you can probably tell, I am sort of obsessed about not falling!)

Our walk took us across fields over to the West Bypass road and then back again along the railway tracks, with a stop at the viewpoint over the Fish Creek gully.

Across the gully a moose stood still and watched us, never once moving. You can see it below next to one of the large spruce trees.

Unlike me, Gus had no difficulty skipping along the top of the snow. He led us down the creek bank and across a frozen beaver dam on the way back to Val’s place.

Folks around here still go out into “the country” and cut down their own Christmas trees, know as being “holiday criminals”. Sandra went out with her grandkids and dragged back this beauty now installed in her living room – it must be at least 18 ft high.

We helped Sandra and her family decorate it for Christmas.

The Cultural Centre’s Christmas party was held at the local bowling lanes, pizza followed by ten frames of bowling. As usual, I was hopeless but Ty managed to get two strikes and one of the guys we were playing with had at least 4 as he blasted the ball down the runway.

Katy and her husband tried to teach their two year old to bowl – he seemed to be enjoying the action.

There were a few people in the crowd who seemed to know what they were doing. It seems so simple; just roll the ball down the middle of the lane … not sure why I can’t ever seem to do it.

The Flying Colours artist group got together yesterday for its annual Christmas art-making and food-eating party, with laughter, merriment, and a gift exchange.

On the garage door wall to the left you can see two of my recent linocuts, a skull and heart. I am working on a series of body parts still …

Finally, for 2017, I leave you with some images of the Fort St John and Peace Region taken by members of the local photographers group; these folks get out early and stay out late to get fantastic photos of the local scene. The FSJ grain elevator out by the airport is by Heather Theede.

Merry Christmas pumpjack by Darcy Shawchek.

The photos below of the ‘hood are by Heather Theede.

Hope you are making merry with loved ones this holiday season – best wishes to all!

See more pics here.

Happy Holidays 2015!

Oh the glory of the lights at the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens! Unbelievably, the evening we had chosen to go and see the lights, it wasn’t raining – glory be! The heavenly hosts must have been gazing down benevolently upon us. And, even better, there was no horrendous line-up to get in.

This year the light display is even more spectacular, with an additional five acres of glowing LED madness. Ty had to fortify himself with a bucket of popcorn for the trek around the grounds and found himself in the line-up with a group of grey-shrouded barefoot Buddhist nuns.

Around every corner is a new photographer’s delight; I especially love the reflections of the trees and bushes in the various lakes and ponds and the tree branches lit up against the night sky and almost-full moon.

New this year, or maybe I had just not noticed them before, are small heating hut areas, with shelters and heaters for the gathered throng to warm up; the only down side of the clear night was the fact that my extremities are always cold and my hands, even with two layers of gloves, were cold.

There are also quite a few interactive displays; this one, for example, in which waving one’s hands over a light panel causes the trees to light up in an array of different glorious colours.

Another interactive display allowed visitors to yell into a tube that generated a snake of coloured light to run through a passage and change the colour of the plastic icebergs, seen below.

Oh Christmas lights, how I love thee!

Merry Christmas All!

See more photos here.



Happy Holidays!

Santa Claus has come to down and he is resting on Ty’s head as he watches the Carnival Band play for the first West End Lumiere Festival.

I made the supreme effort and decorated my jacket as a Christmas Tree …

Band groupies that we are, we followed the Pied Pipers of the Carnival Band down the Comox Greenway and along Denman Street to the recreation centre.

In front of the Community Centre, the Band had competition in the form of a drum band and dancers who put on a great little show.

Another December, another light show in downtown Vancouver; when the lights come on at St Paul’s, we can feel the surge.

We wandered through the downtown hotels to look at their decorations, the most spectacular being the Sutton Place on Burrard.

After sampling the best ever chicken wings in the bar at the Sutton Place, we headed down to the Hyatt for their Gingerbread Lane display.

The Four Seasons had their usual tree competition; here are some samples:

Happy holidays, everyone!

See more pics here.

‘Tis the Season …

for the Christmas Train at Stanley Park. The Bright Nights Train and Plaza at Stanley Park twinkles in the seasonal darkness with three million lights, adorning the trees, holiday tableaus, and seasonal statues until January 5.

The first time that I had ever seen trees decorated with lights in this way was in front of City Hall in Kauai when we visited Ty’s sister for Christmas one year. I really love it!

Brights Nights is a Vancouver Park Board and the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund fundraiser and welcomes a host of folks to the park each year, including the Grinch.

This year’s decorating theme is a Charlie Brown Christmas, based on the classic Christmas tale that was my Dad’s favourite.

Whenever I see these characters, or hear the music supposedly played by Schroeder on the tiny grand piano, I think of my father and wish he were still here.

We were lucky to have perfect weather for our train trip, although it was cold waiting in the long line that snaked its way through the plaza and onto the train platform.

Kids big and small lined up to commune with Santa.

I really loved the enormous reindeer with its what looked to be thousands of twinkling red lights.

See more pics here.

A Very Merry Christmas to you all!

‘Tis the Season …

For lights. We went to see the annual Trinity Street Christmas Light Competition, a four block extravaganza near the PNE. Since it was really a bit too early in the season, not all the houses had their decorations and lights complete, but there are some nice displays. I wasn’t able to get too many photos because my fingers were freezing off – a cool night for picture-taking!

Some of the displays were minimalist, but intriguing.

I liked this rope of white lights dancing across the lawn.

Some pretty traditional ideas were on view, such as this gathering of plastic snowmen.

I preferred these rather frozen looking gingerbread people.

There is something definitely a little creepy about these guys.

A recent walk along Spanish Banks produced a few landscape images of the water and city in the cold December light.

Ty, Brubin and I ventured down to check out graffiti row downtown, a changing panorama of street art.

The folks who create these are pretty good. Below is a photo of tree-decorating; this year we made the big treck downstairs to the ol’ storage locker and unearthed our Christmas gear.

I must admit; I love Christmas lights and trees and colour … what a surprise, not – these are the St Paul’s Hospital Lights of Hope.

After listening to Jazz Vespers at St Andrews Wesley, we strolled over to check out the downtown hotel Christmas displays, with a first stop at the Sutton Hotel on Burrard.

A poor old elf was discovered stretched out through one leafy tree; I guess he came in for a hard landing.

Dana liked the angel tree …

The lobby display is pretty spectacular here.

Next up on the light train was the gingerbread house competition at the Hyatt.

We all thought this gilded palace was pretty spectacular.

After a little liquid Christmas cheer in a mostly deserted bar, our next port of call was the Hotel Georgia, where we admired the trick perspective of the lobby oil painting by a local artist whose name escapes me. Standing centered in front of the painting, and rocking back and forth, gives the impression that the image is moving and changing in space as the viewer moves – very cleverly done.

The Four Seasons just down the road also had a Christmas tree competition but it was not nearly as good as the Sutton’s, not as inventive or colourful.

Our final stop was the Hotel Vancouver’s lobby bar, always a nice place for a glass of holiday cheer – and an enormous burger feed.

See more pictures here. Happy Solstice All!