Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wild Horses Dragged Me Away

I've been admiring the photos of my flickr friend suertudo (otherwise known as Tom) for a few years already. He's got a great eye for beauty and consistently takes incredible photographs. Earlier in the week, I had been asking him about his recent set of shots of the wild horses back behind his place and he offered to take me out this morning. Gorgeous warm sunshine, open spaces, photogeekery, meeting an old (online) friend in person for the first time, and wild horses. How could I refuse?

And it was great. He's been trying a new style, holding the camera (not tripod) for long exposures when the horses are in motion, and he showed me how it worked. If done "right", the horses are in decent focus, and the backgrounds get totally washed out by blur. Sometimes it works even when the horses are out of focus -- I was really happy with this one because it's so abstract -- the horses are barely recognizable, but it has a neat style like an expressionist painting. They're a fine subject for a regular shot too, but it was fun to push the limits a bit.

I took a gazillion, and most were duds, but I put some up in my horse set (slideshow here). Fun experience to meet Tom, and great for me to take photos of something other than kids and ice.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

30 Seconds of Childhood

So maybe the title is pretentious, as it is really just 30 seconds of kids skating in the backyard...but I often think of the concept of the idealized childhood. I want my kids to feel safe and loved, connected to good people and nature, learning and experiencing, with lots of opportunities to grow. Same as any parent, I guess. I even put together a set of photos I've taken around the theme a while back (slideshow here). Here's what I wrote about it then:
"I think one of the reasons I take so many photos of the kids is because I want to reflect their childhoods back to them, both now and in the future. Maybe subconsciously I want to prove to them later that it was better than they remembered.

Anyway, I started collecting photos that reflect something special about childhood, theirs in particular. Familiar themes -- play, imagination, outside fun, reading, trips -- my taking of the photos and the selection of them around this theme are probably motivated by nostalgia...recreating what I valued in my own childhood. And of course conveniently leaving out the less-than-great parts."

This bonus photo is from Ivy's get together with a friend from her class this week. We happened to have an extra pair of skates, so they spent a happy half-hour zooming around out there.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Inventor Ivy

I've started posts about Ivy recently and abandoned them because it's impossible to reflect much of value in a short bit of writing -- she's a complex kid, keeping us guessing a lot of the time and wondering what's going on in that nifty brain of hers. And not necessarily in a bad way; she's just more like a teenager than we thought she'd be at seven. Questions everything. Resists suggestions, ideas or advice of any kind. Reads, reads, reads and reads, preferably with nobody bothering her for hours. Mood swings over days and weeks. Ideas for projects large and small, creative energy to burn, and no desire to go to sleep at the end of the day.

Sometimes she seems like the innocent little Ivy Jane of a couple of years ago, playing with dolls and being silly. We see that she's responding very well to learning at home -- I don't ever want her to have that stressed, worn, ashen look she had most of last year at school. Her creativity and drive are exhausting for us, yes, but also inspiring. She's a creator. Much of her frustration comes from having visions that the rest of us can't or won't help her implement immediately. Today I sucked it up and helped her build a simple "oven" using a tea candle for heat, including much experimentation with materials and methods (just about her favourite thing) before roasting a couple of marshmallows. She was so happy. You can see it beaming out of the photo.

Anyway, I'm rambling. I love this kid so much. She blows my mind and I wish I could capture some of what makes her amazing in words and pictures. Here are a couple of the latter, since the former have fallen flat: she's sticking with the violin (now pretty in pink), more skating, and she loved this weird red glow.


Update: I forgot that Ivy told me it was ok to post a copy of her letter to Santa this year. Quick transcription: "Dear Santa,
I don't know if you are real or not, but I hope so! I have been a bit bossy this year but that comes from being a big sister. That is something I am working on. Of course I don't need presents, but if you insist here is some ideas!
  • new piggy bank
  • new robe
  • Dragon equipment (find at Doctor Drake's Dragonella in London)
  • Baby alive doll (like Tyra's)
-- From Ivy 7 years old
P.S. Please just pick 1 or 2 not 10 like 2006!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My CBCRadio3 Top 40

CBC Radio 3's site is amazing, with a staggering amount of music (streamed online free) from great Canadian bands. It's not easy to browse the bands and tunes, though -- almost impossible, actually. Here's a playlist including many of my favourites, mostly rock (Wintersleep, Matt Mays, Weakerthans, etc): It's not in any real order, so you can just shuffle at will -- 40ish songs I'm into right now.

Update: And on the theme of incredible Canadian content available free through our government-funded media bodies, I was so happy to see this news today: NFB makes films free online. I guess this should have probably happened earlier, and I wish they were all available now, but this start is still pretty great. Tons of fascinating Canadian films, including animation, documentaries and experimental stuff, and they're adding 10 more each month. The site was very slow today, but I suspect they'll work the bugs out soon enough.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Right Now

Things I am thankful for this very second:
  • Skating at Myron's rink with the girls this afternoon.
  • Practicing violin and learning a new song (working hard on the three Minuets in the first Suzuki book)...and having ordered a new violin as an early birthday present for myself. Amazing buying experience from Fiddleheads -- more on that later when I get playing with the new toy.
  • Fresh, cold Fuji apples from Billy's place. Ambrosias too.
  • The possibility of going for beers at the Perch tonight with Andrew (which did happen, and was nice to have a pub buddy).
  • Hockey Night in Canada on the laptop in the kitchen, with a Holsten Maibock for company while...
  • up a very nice tomato sauce using zucchini, Roma tomatoes, chard and basil from our garden (frozen)...yum.
Update: As a continuation of thankful thoughts, but one day later:
  • Amazing kids' book blogger Tanya reviewed Savvy, a book we all loved around here (especially Ivy)...and the author of the book, Ingrid Law, chimed in with a wonderful comment on the post that had Ivy beaming later that night.
  • A great date with Tannis when my parents took all three kids off our hands this afternoon -- we hit a The Hooded Merganser, then our favorite used book store and spent $50 in a happy hour of browsing.
And to provide a little balance, we've had the January blahs around here. Ivy's been out of sorts and lethargic, Tannis feeling restless, and Ezra's sick with a nasty croupy cough that made for awful nights. I've been grouchy and needing exercise in the worst way, and the fog was somewhat oppressive for all of us this week. Not to complain and whine...but it's not all fun and joy. Ella's been a shining light in the minor gloom, though -- cheery and supportive and going with the flow. Her skating and swimming really took off this week too, and she's blossoming into such a fun little girl.


Question: Do these icicles and dead flowers have anything to do with this post, or anything else for that matter?
Answer: No. No they do not.

More here: ice teeth, tubes of glass, and a perfect sculpture.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Ivy whipped these three paintings off this morning in an hour or so. I love the style of them -- she was leafing through a book on Chinese watercolour painting and picking the elements she liked best. She's been had some good success with her art lately, but it's hard to keep up with it all, never mind recording and uploading: card for a friend, and a fantastic cover for a book she was going to write ("Bean and Her Brothers").

Ella's been busy drawing too. This one she worked on this morning, and she's done a lot of cool ones lately: creatures in an art inspiration, princess sketch, an ominous creature at her campsite, and a very nifty Seuss-like map.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Ivy: Ella, you are a carrot.
Ella: No, I'm not.
Ivy: Yes, you are a carrot.
Ella: Ivy, please stop calling me a carrot.
Ivy: But you *are* a carrot.

Yes, we do have every flavour of awesome at the Hiebert house.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The biggest Ezra fans out there have probably already been sneaking peeks at the latest photos of him, but I thought I'd drop them here anyway. He's been a real handful. I put this in a comment somewhere else, but sometimes it feels like we follow him around all day keeping him from damaging himself or our property. He's already managed to kill the microwave and three functions on our stereo (CD, Tape and input/output jacks). My amp also stopped working not long ago, but I have no proof that he was directly responsible, other than finding that he had learned to remove the metal sleeves for all the input jacks.

On the plus side of the ledger, he's in one of those ramp-up modes now where he's learning new words every day. That's still a mindbender, even though this is the third time around for us. We can now identify: done, duck, fish, Ella, up, off, on, no, yeah ("dah!" very enthusiastically), nice, stuck, apple, dip, juice, cheese, ring/ding, bug, book, owl, animal, dog, ball, balloon, bum, ni-ni (soother), please ("pees", very infrequently), barn, wheat (mini-wheats), nose, star, violin ("vin!"), nuts, mess, dark, door...we should really be writing more of them down, because I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

Anyway, here are a couple more photos:So yes, he's a handful, but really, how could you ever be angry at someone this cute?


Monday, January 12, 2009

Photo Grab Bag

Some artsier photos I've neglected to post recently:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shawna Nelles Photography

I've been digging into our friend Shawna's photo site lately -- it's outrageous. The quality of the shots are outstanding, but the range of subjects covered is what's really blowing my mind. I mean, Lebanon, Rwanda, Mexico City, Montreal and Kenya -- all seen through her gifted eye. Grab your favourite beverage, put on some good music and spend an hour floating through beauty.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

More Riveting Weather Coverage

So, after having temperatures at least ten degrees below normal for nearly a month, we're supposed to be almost that far above normal today, with more of the same on the way. As it was dumping snow two days ago, it was hard to imagine how it would all ever melt, but this morning on the way to the office, the snow cover on the mountains was already starting to look patchy and worn. We're used to mid-winter melts like this, but usually they come shortly after the first couple of snows -- this year it's late, but welcome enough. I'm thinking the skating loop is doomed.

Jan. 14 Update: I haven't been leaving this post sitting here at the top for a week just to infuriate beloved Manitobans enduring -50 temperatures. I've just been busy. They have my sincere condolences.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Reel Life Wisdom

Doug put together a great top-10 list this week: The Ten Smartest Movie Quotes of 2008. It's a neat project, and the book is great, too -- you can pick it up any time for 30 seconds and have something interesting planted in your brain. This one seems to ring true at the end of a year that will probably stand as a reality check for many:
“We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.” -- From the newest Indiana Jones

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

One Year

I love this time-lapse video of a little corner of forest, documenting the changes in one year.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Strengths (and Weaknesses)

It seems to be the time of year for reflection, and I revisted a Personality Strengths Survey thanks to a nudge from Psyblog. There's no real magic to these things; you tell them what you think of yourself, and they reflect that back to you in a way that may offer insight. Ideally, you learn to take advantage of your strengths over time and recognize weaknesses as things to improve on or minimize. These results don't explicitly outline weaknesses -- you just look at your lowest-ranked "strengths" (not really a strength if it's 24th in the list).

No surprise that I think I'm curious, creative, value integrity, appreciate beauty, and think critically (from the top of my list). People who know me best wouldn't argue with those too much (although I could be mistaken), and seeing them listed makes me feel like I'm super awesome for a moment. And that tiny ego boost is good, because at the very bottom:
20. Bravery [valor]
21. Persistence [perseverance, industriousness]
22. Citizenship [social responsibility, loyalty, teamwork]
23. Forgiveness and mercy
24. Spirituality [religiousness, faith, purpose]
These ones at the bottom are more...ummm...interesting (ok, painful). Weaknesses might reflect areas you don't value enough to focus on, or they might be things you aspire to, but aren't doing well at. 21 and 22 (Persistence and Citizenship) would fall into the latter category for me -- things I wish I was better at and more involved in -- areas of relative failure because I would like to improve. My persistence in work has been less than impressive and my life has been too insulated to have any impact in areas of social responsibility and teamwork. And who wouldn't want to be considered brave, forgiving and merciful? I've got a long way to go.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Trout Creek Skating Club

Yesterday afternoon, the girls and I skated at the mouth of Trout Creek, where it spills into the lake at Sunoka Beach. Tannis and I discovered the skating area the day before on a walk (sans kids, thanks to grandparents) and I knew I had to try it. There's something pretty special about being able to skate in an epic spot like that, looking out over the water. Someone had cleared a lot of snow, so we brought a shovel and tried to contribute a bit of help as well. A quick video of our exploits:


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Annual Soundtrack

I've been enjoying the "Best Music of 2008" lists that have been popping up all over the web. Cousin Richard put up a good 'un this week too. I didn't get into a lot of the bands with big indie buzz this year, but I thought I'd collect a sort of a playlist representing of some of my favourite music anyway. Most of it was released in '08 or later in '07 and I only got into it this year. I've put in links to the bands, and links to go searching for a song if you want:
Frightened Rabbit -- The Modern Leper
It was late in the year before I stumbled across these guys from the UK, but their album has so many great songs that it really stuck with me. Not particularly challenging, but great pop/rock in the Counting Crows vein.

Alela Diane -- White as Diamonds
This song is technically going to be released in '09 with her new album, but I've loved pretty much everything I heard from her past stuff and this song is looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.

Born Ruffians -- Red, Yellow and Blue
I had a hard time getting into much of their other stuff, but this haunting tune keeps popping up in my playlists. Excellent harmonies.

Wintersleep -- Search Party
Love this band. Pretty much everything they put out is fantastic, and the last album took it up a notch. Perfect for people like me who still think Pearl Jam's Ten was a high-water mark.

Matt Mays -- Never Saw it Comin'
This guy should be a star. Smart, intense rock songs that smolders and drives along in your brain. I could have put four or five songs on here as favourites.

The Constantines -- Our Age
I still need to get the newest album, as everything I've heard off of it has been excellent. So looking forward to seeing them later in the year with...

The Weakerthans -- Night Windows
I think I've blogged this one before. This song is beyond beautiful and warm and perfect, and it would have fit in great on the last album. I still wish I could embrace the new one more. Stoked to see these guys in a few months.

Tokyo Police Club -- Tessellate
Two-and-a-half-minutes of joy for me. The driving bassline that kicks in through the chorus still gives me goosebumps after hundreds of listens. Dire times call for dire faces.

Beck -- Gamma Ray
This album is fantastic, and is not getting less so after a few months of listening. Highly recommended.

Nine Inch Nails -- Discipline
I couldn't really leave NIN off the list considering how much I've enjoyed them this year. This song from the newest album (released free online) was one of four or five of the best (I thought, anyway), and was amazing live.
I've been listening to a lot more instrumental music this year, mostly because it makes better background music while I'm working. It seems like there's a lot of great instrumental stuff coming out lately, too.
Bablicon -- An Orange Moon
Weird, unconventional, abrasive and intense, this isn't the most relaxing background music...but I love it anyway.

A Hawk and a Hacksaw -- Salt Water
Andrew shared this one with me a couple of months ago and it's become a real favourite. The rest of their stuff is cool too, with a neat gypsy vibe.

Clogs -- Pitasi
Hard to describe, but this sorta classical music has really been capturing my imagination lately. Excellent music to have on while doing anything creative online.

Aceyalone & RJD2 -- A Beautiful Mine
I think of this as soundtrack music, but I'm not sure what the genre really is. Chill electronica? I've been listening to lots of this lately, but often just in the background, and haven't paid enough attention to the artists and titles yet.

Amon Tobin -- Slowly
I've liked this stuff for years, but always as an afterthought. I forget about it for a while, then stumble across amazing songs and wonder why I don't get more of it. Same genre as the song above.
There are hundreds of music blogs, and I do follow some of them, but I depend largely on three sources of new music right now. Thanks to them for keeping my collection from getting stale:
  • CBC Radio 3 -- a Canadian treasure, seriously
  • Pop Tarts Suck Toasted -- incredible depth and breadth in posting music with smart commentary
  • motel de moka -- a more recent discovery, with fascinating and eclectic playlists posted regularly. Old songs mixed with new, crossing genres, obscure themes -- great stuff.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Essence of Ezra...

...cannot be captured in a single post, or a thousand posts. However, I did throw together a couple of minutes of Ezra clips from the past couple of months, mostly for the benefit of Grandma Pearl and Papa Larry, who are enduring even further distances away than usual this winter. Because they're spending parts of their weeks at the beach, we don't feel too terribly sorry for them, but they do miss the kids a lot this time of year. Anyway, please enjoy, if these things are your cup of tea:

I love the emerging motion and emotion he's expressing in some of these clips. I still need to get some more footage of his recent "conversations" and bits of singing and chattering.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Skating Into 2009

Our skating season started a little earlier than last year, thanks to an earlier cold snap. I shaped and flooded a little skating loop in the backyard, and the girls tried it out (and helped) yesterday morning for the first time. Still a little bumpy, but they did great and had fun. The dynamic duo has also been having a blast at Myron's much more impressive rink (this was before he put the boards up!).

We celebrated up there again for their New Year's Eve party, and once a few days before. Tannis and Ezra got in on the skating action too, although Ezra's tolerance was pretty low. The party turned out great, even with nine kids causing chaos -- awesome food, and good company. Here's a quick video of some recent winter action around here:

And a happy New Year from our clan to yours!