Sunday, April 07, 2013
I hope you have survived the winter weather and are well underway with your spring cleaning! Probably better than me. I have had a quiet time since December enjoying the end of winter/beginning of spring, slowly sorting out possessions in my condo, trying to be more organized but failing badly.. nothing new there. It will happen though.
This has been my favorite time of year, the last cold crisp days of winter clouds and snow and then the softening of earth preparing for new green shoots and the flowers to come.
I am back selling my photo note cards after a break since November. The last two weeks I spent two cold Thursdays with one other brave vendor at our carts standing outside historic St. Lawrence Market. More vendors are out now as it warms up. I have a colourful display of my cards and a few framed photos - of flowers, gardens, birds and butterflies, scenes of Toronto streets and skyline, boats at the Toronto Islands, and country scenes taken on my day bus trips. I only sell on Thursdays as the table rental is a lot more expensive on Friday and Saturday, plus very tiring standing with my arthritis, and for not much money, selling from anywhere from a bad day of about 5 cards that pays for the table but no profit, to a very good day of selling 35 or more cards that will pay for one of my day bus trips or towards my painting class.
On March 23rd I went on my first country bus trip of 2013. We traveled a few hours west from Toronto to the farmlands of southwest Ontario, north of Lake Erie. We stopped for a delicious buffet lunch at a Victorian mansion, the Elmhurst Inn, then on to Aylmer Wildlife Management area where between 20,000 and 60,000 tundra swans stop annually on their spring migration route from their winter home in the wetlands around Chesapeake Bay to their summer breeding grounds in the high arctic between Alaska and Baffin Island in Canada. Here is a video about them. youtu.be/SfpVeReq01o
There were thousands of swans to see and hear from several viewing platforms overlooking the shallow ponds created to look like arctic habitat. Spectacular! Flocks of swans would land or take off so many good photo ops. The young swans born last spring in the arctic, and returning there now with their parents, have beige necks while the adults are pure white. While we were there a tractor came along spreading corn to feed them and while some swans took flight, most of them simply moved away in unison, a tundra swan parade! We also saw many swans in farmers’ fields eating the waste corn left from last year’s harvest.
Our last stop was at Jakeman’s sugar shack to buy some maple syrup products and to learn about maple syrup production. Jakeman‘s has won awards for best tasting syrup and it certainly was delicious on the buckwheat pancakes I made the next morning.
I enjoyed that trip, driving by early spring fields and seeing expanses of open country and trees and cloud formations. Having no car and no money for vacations away, I so appreciate getting out of the skyscraper closed-in city on these little day trips to the country. Really all I need. No stress of airports and back the same day to my own bed and bathroom!
Over the Easter holiday, the large Victorian greenhouse complex in Toronto, Allan Gardens (free and open 365 days a year) has a special spring flower display. In my last blog I posted some photos from the Christmas display. Several of my photos have sold as photo cards at my table so I enjoy going there several times a year to take more. Here are some flower photos from Easter Monday.
I am still taking my landscape in oils class with the same teacher, After two years and about five courses I have become a perpetual student in his class and he says I am improving. Here are a couple new ones I painted using a palette knife, from the teacher's photos of Georgian Bay and Nova Scotia. Fun and faster to whack down the paint with the palette knife than with a paintbrush but uses up a lot of paint.
Between taking photos around the city and on occasional bus trips, selling cards and signing up for another oil painting course in May-June, I have interests that keep me busy and friends and family I enjoy being with. Still struggling to get my place in order on my good arthritis days and to eat a paleo type diet, avoiding wheat, dairy and sugar, to keep my weight down. I can really see a difference in my attitude and stress level, have stopped worrying about everything being perfect. Turning 65 in March has hopefully taken me into a new serene age where my expectations and possibilities may be less but I find more enjoyment and appreciation in all I have and am able to do. I am looking forward to the spring and early summer days before it is too hot out, to enjoy taking the ferry to Toronto Islands and the watching the changing flowers in my local city park and taking several more country bus trips. Coming up in the next few months - trips to lilac gardens, rose gardens, cottage and wildflower gardens, and a donkey sanctuary..
Enjoy your spring weather and flowers whatever climate you live in! Best wishes for hanging in there and continuing on with healthy food choices and exercise. WE can do it!!
Monday, November 26, 2012
Long time, no blog! I have not checked in for months and good to see many of you still here sparking away.
I would like to start again on Sparks but the same old story, still a health issue for the arthritis in my knees and back and circulation in my legs to sit at the computer each day tracking and blogging at my slow pace plus trying to keep up with everyone's blogs, instead of meal prep, housekeeping, or walking. I must weigh the pros and cons because I did lose weight when I tracked, blogged, and posted daily photos of my food. I have not gained weight back but will not lose more unless I better regulate my food intake. When I remember to eat, I do prepare whole and organic foods, no fast food, micro-waved or packaged meals, with the occasional slip ups with chocolate bars or a pasta meal at a restaurant, and must remember to drink enough water. I know tracking would help with my protein and veggie count.
I continue to struggle with my ADD, hyper-focusing at the computer even without Sparks, taking hours to write one e-mail, still forgetting to stop to eat three meals, eating two and sometimes one a day. I will set a timer (if I remember) or write down all kinds of checklists and schedules, to no avail. When I am not hyper-focusing on e-mails and Photoshop, I lose my focus and get distracted easily so I am making snail progress with my decluttering. I try to spend less time with computer in the day or TV at night, but at this rate I will not get my condo in order before Christmas once again although my box of decorations is still here since I never got around to taking it down to my locker after last Christmas. I am OK with my lack of progress because after so many years of making big dinners I do not care about entertaining anymore. I cannot stand on my bad knees for hours in the kitchen preparing food. Now I enjoy spending Christmas day at my brother’s or being invited to someone else’s apt. or going out for lunch or a movie with friends. I have accepted that I no longer need to be the one doing all the work at holidays although I still bake and make cookies, even experimenting with gluten free, dairy free recipes. Some good ones on the Gluten Free Goddess blog site.
If I return to Sparks, less will be done around here, but on the other hand if I track my food I will be back losing weight and probably have increased energy to do more around here. Always a conundrum. Meanwhile, I am very pleased to be progressing with my landscape painting courses and am continuing to take seasonal photos of the city and countryside. Since July, I have been selling between 8 and 32 photo cards and the occasional framed photo every Thursday at my table outside historic St. Lawrence Market next to my condo, weather permitting. This has helped towards purchasing organic food or towards a painting class or a day bus trip. I will stop selling for the winter in the next week or so when it gets too cold. At that point I will probably get back into Sparks, at least to track my food, since over the winter I will be spending less time fussing with my photos on Photoshop, getting them printed, making my cards. I start another landscape painting class with my same teacher and small class of eight students on January 22.
Oh, something important off my checklist! After having moved 38 years ago to Toronto, Ontario, from the US, I finally applied and on Monday Nov. 19th I received my Canadian citizenship! I am now officially a proud Canadian (with a Queen even) although I have always felt proud to have lived so many years here in this wonderful, beautiful country. All the new Canadians at my inspiring citizenship ceremony received a "cultural pass", good for a year for free admission to many museums, art galleries etc. all across Canada, plus 50% off ViaRail travel across Canada for a year. If I can save enough money and my knees hold up, I am hoping to take advantage of that and go "down east " by train to the Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. with a ViaRail package deal since I have never been there, and miss so much seeing the ocean. Many photo ops there for sure too.
Here are some of my photos from a 30,000 Island 3-hour cruise on Georgian Bay (mostly in the rain), some autumn photos, some of Toronto, and Christmas cards. We had no snow to speak of last year so hopefully this year I can take some winter scenes.
Parry Sound and 30,000 Islands
Harbourfront and Toronto Music Garden
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season with family and friends and a healthy new year!!
Friday, August 03, 2012
July was a busy month for me as I started selling my photo note cards and framed photos at a market table in front of our historic St Lawrence Market, conveniently located across the intersection from my condo building. All I need to do is push my cart across the street and I am there. The table is divided in two with one half flowers and nature subjects, and the other half city streets and the Toronto skyline. It is interesting what people want to buy. My swans have been selling for wedding cards, flower photos do well, and especially the city views bought by tourists and locals alike.
I do a lot of standing which is not easy on my arthritic knees but I bought a padded folding chair and that helps when I have a chance to sit down. I go out once a week Wednesday or Thursday 9am-4pm whenever it is not too hot and no rain predicted. My best day I sold 40 cards and cleared $100 after supply expenses and the $22 table rental. My average a day so far of the five days I have done this is $65 take home, selling mostly cards but twice I sold framed photos for $45 of this city view from my condo roof.
On Friday and Saturday it is hard to get a table as most are booked for the season and are at a higher daily rate of $55, not worth it. I tried a Saturday once and the earnings came out about the same. Lots of people there on a Saturday as there is an additional farmers’ market on the north side of the street. More people are around but most just want to buy their food and go home, not stop at the vendor tables. It is quieter during the week but people have more time to stop and look and a lot of tourists are on the hop on-hop off double-decker red tourist buses. People from Denmark, Spain, Australia, France, and various U.S. states and other Canadian provinces have bought cards from me.
My worst day was this past Wednesday. It was slow in the morning and I only sold 3 cards, 3 more in the afternoon and by then the wind started to gust and my cards started flying off the table and passersby reluctantly picked them up for me. Thank goodness for the plastic sleeves protecting the cards. I gave up and packed up at 3pm. I guess I was lucky on previous days that the breeze was not strong enough to pick up my cards which I display flat on the table, some in wire plate holders, and my framed prints in larger stands or tied with bungee cord to the poles of the canvas top of the table. It was even more frustrating to me about my small earnings selling cards when I heard a vendor tell another that she made "a grand" the day before. She makes beautiful chunky necklaces with shells and semi-precious stones and pearls and other objects strung with crochet wire netting over them so they look like flotsam washed up at a beach. Gorgeous and she sell them for $85 to $135 each. I am selling the wrong product!! Oh well, hers look very fiddly and time consuming. I spend hours on the computer with my photos, but so easy to put the cards together.
No point in trying to chase cards in a wind so I looked on the Internet and found a store fixture place that sells an acrylic 3 tier table display, perfect for cards. It is 21 inches wide so I can display my cards 3 across and 3 up. That is 9 sections of cards. I ordered two of them, one for the nature side of the table and the other for my city views. Now I can group them by subject - white flowers, tulips, boats, black and white, etc. and people can see them and flip through them like they are at a Hallmark store. I can even label the sections. I will still display some of my best ones out flat in front but now I can pick them up in a wind and still have a display. I am hoping this increases my sales as it will look more professional and people going by will say “oh look, what pretty cards, and a big selection too”! That is what I hope anyway. I know I will never make a lot selling $5 cards outside at the market once a week, but it adds up and that is extra grocery and cat food money to supplement my pension. Also gets me out taking more and better photos which I do enjoy. I am planning to take more day trips in the next few months and find more subjects, like this gray jay in Algonquin Park.
I hope everyone is enjoying their summer! I am not liking the humidity so cannot stay outside on very hot days. I am still struggling with my good intentions but continuing inaction about cleaning up my messy condo. I know one of these days I will have a breakthrough and decide this is a priorty in my life and and get it done. My weight is about the same but I am eating more fresh veggies and organics so that is something healthy.
Sunday, July 01, 2012
Hi all- just checking in after a few months away. (I am still watching my weight, have not gained it back). I have been concentrating on my photography and have been approved to sell my cards and framed prints at an outdoor table at the market square across the street from my condo. I am selling my 4x6 prints on beautiful card stock, with matching envelopes in plastic sleeves, plus larger 8x10 and 8x12 photos, maybe a couple 5x7s, in black wood frames with white mats. I had some canvas tote bags printed with one of my photos, if customers wish to buy one or use it to take a framed photo home.
A lot of time, effort, money and frustration up front to get this organized, as I guess is normal for any small business or artistic endeavor where someone is trying to start up, sell their work. I have wasted too much money on digital printing that was too dark, colour off, at various photography stores and on-line. My computer color settings are in RGB printing mode and still there are differences between what I see on my computer and the finished print. I finally found a good place but then they changed their printing machine and the colour/contrast in the last batch was off, some photos not sellable. Then there is the disagreement with staff that do not see anything majorly wrong with the photos. But I know what they SHOULD look like in order to feel good about what I am selling. Now I am trying another place. Not so easy for me to go all over the city looking for the right print quality, but I an confident it is out there.
I do have over 100 photo cards in their plastic sleeves ready to go plus a number of framed photos. I am concentrating on flower and garden shots taken in my city park, city views from my condo roof, photos taken at Toronto Islands and a few street scenes. Hopefully tourists and locals will like the city views and the pretty flowers. My friends and family think they are beautiful, definitely sellable, and I am excited that I have produced something original and artistic.
When I was thinking about my retirement, dragging myself to my office job in the morning, passing by the market tables, I could see myself there selling something, but had no idea what. I knew I wanted to take more painting classes and I bought my first digital camera.
Upon retirement I ordered a batch of 500 business cards printed up with my name, my photo of pink tulips, and the words "painting and photography". So this was my direction, my vision, my focus, plus I had to have a reason to give out all those business cards!
I started taking photos in my area, in the park, eventually had a photo show at a bookstore gallery last year, sold several, and I am still out taking new photos every week. I have been taking landscape painting classes and am slowly improving. But my photography is what I am happiest at and most confident about, and many of my photos are starting to look like paintings anyway.
Now to find a date when it is not extremely hot and humid out and book my table for that day. I am aiming for next Saturday if it does not rain. There are usually spaces left. I do not want to have a 6 month rental agreement, be out there every Saturday or week day for the season. I will pick either a Saturday in the north market square under canvas tent and trees, or a weekday on the south side of the street in front of historic St Lawrence Market where the tourist buses stop and it is shady til 3pm.
The regulars say business is not that good these days at the tables but I am not expecting to make a lot of money anyway, happy enough to get back the money I spent so far. Less hassle and more fun than a gallery show too, although I might do that again. If I do sell more than expected, enough for me to keep printing more photos, making more cards, buying more frames, do I want to keep doing this? Time will tell. Something to keep me busy, feel pride in what I have produced, and chance to chat with other vendors and potential customers who stop by my table. Better than being inside alone, eating something I shouldn't, or sitting at the computer all day.
I am not participating on Sparks right now, maybe I will be back entering my food again later on this year, and will check in from time to time. Wishing everyone a great summer with pleasant temperatures and sunny weather.
Keep up with your healthy eating and exercise programs!
YOU CAN DO IT!! HUGS!
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