A Simpler Christmas, The Fun Continues

It was so so nice to be able to go on outings as a family. With Danny so busy with school, we normally have to choose to do things without him, or skip it. Unless of course, our adopted neighbours have older kids free to help herd children, and we combine flocks! 


Prairie Theater Exchange


We planned an activity for Boxing Day, so we'd all have something else to look forward to after Christmas. We were given tickets to a play for children based on Robert Munsch stories, and so we bought a few extras and took another family and Astra's friend. We ended up being seated right next to another family we know, which was so fun! Lily did amazing. She yelled a bit when she got excited and loved the clapping!

Lily and Daddy. 

Lily and Daddy. 

We even managed some impromptu hosting, and had the family we invited to the play over for dinner after! That felt great. I sure have missed hosting people for dinner on a whim! On that note, Danny has evening classes on Thursdays, so you are officially invited for dinner to keep me company! 


Fort Whyte Alive

When we'd spent too much time indoors, we headed to Fort Whyte, a local nature center. We ate lunch at the cafe. I love eating there. There are huge beautiful windows with bird feeders outside, a view of the lake, a fireplace. It's set up somewhat cafeteria style, and has the same people working there most of the time, meaning my kids can go and get things and ask for things from the staff themselves, while I hold Lily. The space, with the high ceiling and beams, seems to be sound-absorbing, as I never feel bothered by noise there. My kids feel so comfortable that they spend all their time before the food arrives, visiting the other customers there, frequently meeting other families, elderly couples, or people with disabilities that enjoy the space for the same reasons we do. If it sounds like we go there a lot, we do. Sometimes just for a hot drink or muffin. When I was pregnant with Lily I started going there, instead of to hectic playgrounds and just following my kids along the paths. It seemed like the next best thing to taking a nap.


We did a couple of runs down the toboggan slide onto the frozen lake, went to the interpretive centre to look at the aquarium, and burrowing owls, and then headed to the sod house, where they were making snow taffy.


Wave Pool in Portage La Prairie,

 The Shindleman Aquatic Center, Stride Place


The timing for this worked out perfectly. It just re-opened the day before, after extensive renovations. We left after lunch and all three kids had a nap during the 45 min. drive. They were such good listeners and took directions so well in the pool. It was a fun time. One adult was able to be with the older two, and one held Lily with her life jacket. We stayed until supper, had supper on the way back, and the kids fell asleep in the van, so we just put them in bed at home! What a gift that day was. 


New Years

On New Years we headed over to a friend's house with the kids, for a pizza party and countdown to 6:08pm (Does it matter the time?) When the kids were getting tired, we pulled up the youtube countdown, pulled out the maracas and noisemakers, rolled out the bubble wrap for the kids to jump on, and got it poppin'. Lots of New Years hugs, and packed up the kids. 

Shortly after arriving home, my cousin, a.k.a. The Knotty Swede, and his family arrived from their vacation in Ontario, for a two day visit before driving back to their home. We were so happy to see family. The 6 kids went wild with excitement, but we got them all tucked away in bed eventually. We managed to stay up until midnight, huddled around a few candles, visiting in whispers so as not to wake the child sleeping on the sofa bed close by. It couldn't have been more cosy, or more hygge. 


At Home

So here we are. I think I've recorded this Christmas pretty well. Thanks to my wonderful husband for taking such amazing photos! Danny has come a long way with his photography in a short time and I'm so happy with these images! As a technical person, he has had quite the learning curve getting the hang of composition and more artistic skills, but we are learning from each other. Here I am writing a blog! He took this photo of me showing off my new book, Wabi-Sabi Welcome. Learning to embrace the imperfect and entertain with thoughtfulness and ease. I am already dreaming up some get togethers at the studio and at home in 2018, using ideas in this book. I love things that connect my art and home life, and this book totally does that for me! I wish you all the best this year. Thank you for reading, and stay warm!

Photo credit Danny Vanderbyl

Photo credit Danny Vanderbyl


A Simpler Christmas Outing


This year we needed a quiet, restful Christmas. As you can probably tell by my lack of blog posts,  life has been busy here. My husband started a Masters program in July. I wish I'd known during those last days of summer vacation, on our road trip to visit family, that when we returned, he would be working so much more than full time, and that I would be suddenly without his help for so many things. I felt like the rug was ripped out from under me, and I'd been trying to catch my balance, but the rug just kept moving.  Needless to say, a week of him having to work to do, and spending our days relaxing together as a family has been absolutely amazing! I feel like I finally got my feet under myself, and I'm ready to get back into it again. I thought I'd share a few of the things we did, decisions we made this year, so that we could have a restful Christmas holiday. I made a few decisions that felt selfish, and some that were experiments in simplicity, but I am looking back smiling, and as you'll see in the pictures my family spent a lot of time smiling too.

Red River Christmas 2017, Lower Fort Garry

I have wanted to attend this annual event for years. The trouble is that it competes with the annual military children's Christmas party. It's a great event for seeing friends, for checking off a lot of holiday activities from one's bucket list, and for bouncy castles. Who can compete with bouncy castles?! My kids LOVE them.


 The problem with this children's event though, is that it takes place in a giant gym. The noise, the huge open space, the flurry of activities overloads my brain. I am constantly looking for my children, and by the time we leave I am totally burnt out. My children are cranky and we congratulate ourselves for having survived. I started to wonder, is it worth it? This year, I may have pouted quite a bit, sighed, and acted immature about the whole thing, which I am not proud of, but Danny was able to see past that. He said it wasn't all about what the kids wanted, often they don't even know what they want. "It's your life too.", he said. We decided to go to the Lower Fort Garry event, and if there was time, make a quick stop at the other party. The kids occasionally asked about the bouncy castles, but it became more clear throughout the day that this was a better fit for us, and everyone was happy that we went.


Snowshoeing and warming ourselves by the fire.

Pen and ink Santa letters

We made Christmas ornaments as a family, using copies of an old newspaper, dried flowers, wool, paints. I was really excited about the materials laid out on the old table. I absolutely love what we made, and was inspired by the handmade decorations that others had filled the space with. We tried to arrange our crafts carefully in the stoller, to keep them from blowing away in the wind, when we went outside.


Warming up with hot chocolate and lunch, while listening to Simpson's Folly playing traditional carols. We spent about an hour there with the kids totally relaxed and content, before deciding to move them along.

Simpson's Folly

The view as we were leaving. Glowing sky, rosy cheeks, and soon after... sweet kids, asleep in the back seat.


Doses of Empathy

This year I had the delight of meeting Syrian curator Abir Boukari at my studio, thanks to MAWA. She later invited me to exhibit in Övergångar / Transitions in Sweden, where she is currently living, and in September I shipped over a dozen tiny paintings in a cigar box. Here is a little about the show, along with images of the works:

1 Oct. 16 – 31 Jan. 17
The exhibition Övergångar / Transitions brings elements from the Art Festival & Flea Market, that took place in the neighbourhood of Fittja on the 17th September, to Botkyrka konsthall in Tumba. It explores the many facets of place, lost and recycled memories, as well as the new untold stories. 


“Doses of Empathy”   14 hand painted tins
In her work, Shelley is interested in caring and nurturing for others. The tiny hand painted landscapes that fit into a pocket, become portals to other parts of the world. They are created as “medicinal” paintings offering relief in times of deep distress. Over the years, the artist has given them away to people who need them, as a pharmacist fills a prescription.



The New Biennial for Art & Architecture in Botkyrka is an event that is inviting the community to explore the public space through new forms of art. It is a lo-fi and process based format focusing on the intersection between contemporary art, community engagement and architecture en route to the new arts institution in Fittja.
The first edition of the New Biennial opened in September 2014 when Botkyrka konsthall inaugurated the Fittja kitchen, the first addition to the new arts institution. The Fittja kitchen + FörOrten are two reworked shipping containers from South Africa, that have become an experimental platform for community driven art in the public space. The New Biennial had a prelaunch at the 14th International Architecture Biennale in Venice where Botkyrka konsthall / Residence Botkyrka presented the Fittja Pavilion in the gardens of Serra dei Giardini. The exhibition researched how a new arts institution could grow out of the specific qualities of Fittja and northern Botkyrka.*
Anneli Bäckman, curator, Botkyrka konsthall
Abir Boukhari, curator, AllArtNow
Miriam Andersson Blecher, director, Botkyrka konsthall
Abir Boukhari (Syria) is invited co-curator for the New Biennial’s Art Festival & Flea Market as well as an upcoming exhibition in Botkyrka konsthall’s current location in Tumba. Abir has been resident curator in Residence Botkyrka during the spring and summer of 2016. She is the co-founder of AllArtNow, a contemporary art centre located in Damascus until 2012 when the war closed it down. It now functions as a nomadic space throughout the world.

Gardening Win!

Finding a way to eat something I'd never tasted this side of the Atlantic...

Nussli Salat. My Favourite kind of salad green in Switzerland.

Nussli Salat. My Favourite kind of salad green in Switzerland.

There have been many things I've learned about cooking from living in Switzerland. When I was 19 yrs old I worked as an Aupair there, and was so incredibly lucky to have been with a family that not only had amazing taste in cuisine, but that showed me how to make delicious meals, teaching me throughout the year, and preparing meals with me, rather than just tasking me to make them. I've been able to recreate versions of those dishes here in Canada, but some ingredients have been unobtainable. One ingredient was "Nussli Salat"- until now!

Corn Salad, Mache, Lamb's Lettuce...

I picked my little plants, right up from the roots like beets, and was FINALLY holding something that looked just like my beloved green. It tastes delicious! Crunchy and delicate, and looks so pretty on a plate too.

Part of the struggle was with the translation. I hunted for the lettuce in grocery stores, trying things that might be similar. They weren't. I looked for seeds. I grew what I thought might be it. It wasn't. I grew a different type another year, and wasn't sure if it was. It seemed to stop growing, stunted. I kept the packet. 

During my time in Switzerland last year making art and attending my exhibition in Gstaad, I decided to try again. I came across some exotic lettuce on a seed website that looked like it might be it. I looked it up on Wikipedia and found other common names for it, and it seemed to describe what I was looking for. One of the names was on the packet I tried. It was so hard to judge the scale of the leaves from a cropped image, and the macro lens photography, when you're used to seeing it on a plate!

I found a seed packet at Shelmerdine's Garden Center here in Winnipeg, and finally had great success!


This year I realized that it only grows so tall, and then it's done.  You can leave it in the ground and it'll get more leaves, but it stays the height of little starter plants. 

I hope you get to enjoy it someday! I strongly suggest trying it if you are a gardener! If you aren't, I'll try to grow extra, and maybe try to convince a local bistro to grow and serve it!