Friday, November 12, 2010

Gratitude and Appreciation



Here is another great tip from my favourite success guru.

Gratitude and Appreciation as a Secret for Success
by Jack Canfield

The best attitude you can possibly aspire to express year-round is one of gratitude and appreciation.

Being truly grateful for what is already present in your life will automatically and effortlessly attract more good into your life.

Make a conscious decision to appreciate and acknowledge all that you have already been blessed with. These emotions are of the highest vibrational frequency, and through the Law of Attraction they will attract even more to be thankful for.

Try to be grateful for even the difficult and challenging situations that arise in your life.

It is often through these situations, that we experience the most profound spiritual and emotional growth. You can learn to view each apparent obstacle as an opportunity to develop a new quality, strength, skill, insight or wisdom and be grateful for the lessons. Each challenge is an opportunity for growth and expansion.

Rise to these occasions, and appreciate all that you are learning in the process. Keeping your attitude positive and appreciative through these times will not only help to avoid attracting more of these difficult situations into your life - it will also create a field of positive energy that will attract more of what you do want.

"Of all the attitudes we can acquire, surely
the attitude of gratitude is the most important,
and by far the most life-changing."
- Zig Ziglar

A Token of Gratitude

Try carrying a small token, stone, crystal, or some other meaningful object with you each day in your pocket. Throughout the day, each time you reach into your pocket for your money or keys it will serve as a tangible reminder to stop and think of something you have to be grateful for. This is a great way to increase your awareness of all that you have to be appreciative of.

Take a moment to breathe, and really feel the emotion of gratitude. This simple mindfulness technique helps to raise your vibrational frequency and keep you in a state of constant gratitude.

Your Gratitude Journal

Start keeping a daily Gratitude and Acknowledgement journal. This is a necessary and valuable tool in the development of your growth and awareness. This book is not intended to be a long, drawn out “diary” sort of thing, just a short, simple list of things you are grateful for on that particular day. This is a place to honor and appreciate the good in your life.

Gratitude:

Each evening, before going to bed, take a few minutes to review your day. Think about the day’s events. Become aware of how many good things actually happened on that day, and remember to appreciate even the challenges that you encountered. Select the five things, or people, or events that you are most grateful for. There is no right or wrong here, just whatever, or whoever you are sincerely grateful for on that particular day. It may be the warm sun on your face, a cool breeze, a kind word, a friend, or just feeling good about what you got accomplished that day. It may be the way you handled a particular situation that would have thrown you into a tailspin in the past.

Anything you are grateful for. As you write them in your journal, feel the gratitude and appreciation. Give thanks.

Acknowledgement:

Take a moment to acknowledge the changes that are occurring for you personally. Write them down. Acknowledge just how well the Law of Attraction is working in your life. Write down any specific event where the Law of Attraction was at work- the parking space you envisioned, the meeting you wanted to schedule, the bonus check you received, the grade you wanted, the person who said yes when you asked them out.

Miracles can and do occur on a daily basis. They are happening all around you. Honor them, and notice them. Through acknowledgement, you will become more and more aware of the amazing synchronicity that is already at work in your life.

Make the time you spend in contemplation and writing in your Gratitude and Acknowledgement journal a sacred part of your daily routine.

Your continued expressions of joy and gratitude will draw even greater joy, love and abundance into your life.

You will begin to notice a change in your perception of each day‘s events. You will become more aware of the positive things that happen all around you every single day. Your focus will shift, your energy will shift, and you will begin to appreciate how blessed you already are. And … the Law of Attraction will respond to the higher vibration you are creating.

Enjoy the journey.
Live each day in joy and gratitude.


Jack Canfield, America's #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul© and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you're ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get your FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at: www.FreeSuccessStrategies.com

ps - About the still life painting:
This is one I did with the helping hand of Penny Siopis - one of my painting teachers. Some of the work has brushwork in her own hand - to demo to me some technique or other at the time. She was one of my painting idols and listed as one of the top ten living SA artists. (You should look up her Still Life with Watermelon painting - used to hang in the JHB art museum - not sure if it is still there. I still think it is an awesome work of art.) I am very grateful to have had her as a teacher.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Abstract Painting - Red Over Blue



I have just finished a new abstract painting.
I am calling it “Red Over Blue”.
It can take over the wall space from “Breaking Through” which was won by Marlon in my win a painting competition – currently being exhibited at The Independents Dance Company at Brightwater Commons. (but not for long, since I will be handing it over to Marlon pretty soon)
This new one can hang there for a while, unless someone decides they want to permanently own it and give it a good home.

I am also posting my Orange Ghecko painting – a small work which is part of my African curio portraits series – I finished this a while back but am only sharing it now.
These paintings are simple, yet funky and look so great in a small room – like a guest bathroom for example.


Monday, November 8, 2010

I Have a Winner!

Thanks to everyone who sent me their votes, I can now safely announce the winner of my abstract painting.
The voting turned out as follows:

Mind Emerging: 10%
Lakes in a Red Sky : 30%
Breaking Through : 60%

I chose not to vote.
Congratulations to Marlon Abrahams for the winning name of “Breaking Through” – you are now a proud owner of a Karen Steffano painting.
I am sure you will enjoy owning it as much as I did painting it.

This was fun and I think I might do more competitions in the future, so watch this space!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Only Five Days Left

There are only five days left to enter the competition to win a free painting.
So far I have received three entries - but only one of them is valid since he subscribed as well.
Do you really want to let this person win by default or do you wanna give him just a little bit of competition?
Subscribing is easy - just enter your email on the right.
All this means is you get an email whenever I add a post.
You may also unsubscribe at any time.
I am perfectly happy to let my friend win my painting, but I know some of you told me you liked it and wouldn't mind winning it.
click here for details of the competition.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More Tango at Last - Hooray!

I finally got my butt onto the tango dance floor on tuesday night.
Yay!
This insomnia issue of mine seems to come and go, lately I have been quite stressed and thus sleep flies out the window.
By 8pm most nights I am completely wasted and ready to go to bed, and this makes it rather difficult to get out and tango. Sigh.

I think trying to run dual careers isn’t helping, I work for a UK firm and get paid in pounds, which as most of you know means the strength of the rand has impacted my income quite a bit, to the point where I can barely take any time off to paint.
So if you are wondering why I haven’t posted any art for a while, now you know why.
I have three paintings on the go, but they are a bit away from being ready to show the world.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the tango. I haven’t been to a milonga since that wonderful evening in honour of Fabian Salas last month hosted by Bert and Brigitte of Tango Tensity. Last night was the first night in ages where I felt awake and alive and able to commit to an actual night out.

One of the best parts for me – besides the dancing of course, is the wonderful welcome I receive every time I show up – I feel people I know are pleased to see me – the first person I met on my way in was Natasha who couldn’t wait to share the news that Ralph (Our local guru tango teacher who has been out of action due to an accident for some years and whom I had never met) was there and that she would love to introduce me – thanks Tash – I had a very lovely couple of dances with him thanks to you and can see why he is so popular. He complimented me on my dancing which made me feel really really good!
I had such a good time and got asked a lot – which does not always happen – maybe I was giving off good vibes or something.

I have to say that Erik was leading some great voleos last night – thanks to some lessons with Fabian – I will share a secret and tell you that voleos are my favourite move – I just love that swishy feeling in time with the music – it reminds me of a bandoneon.

Danie gave it his all with some fab moves and Vladi is so smooth to dance with – lovely!

Charles is getting better all the time – we even did a fun salsa together – didn’t even know he was a salsa man though having Sonia the Salsa queen of JHB as his tango teacher might have something to do with it!
I even managed to score some dances with Ryan – awesome!

I noticed Gail was showing off some really good footwork last night – well done Gail – now I must work on mine – I think my following is good but my tango technique could do with a polish.

I am holding thumbs I can sleep nicely on Saturday night so I can make it to the Sunday milonga at Monte Casino – had to skip last night though – sorry Ryan and Emma, but being a wife and mother means I can’t go out every night.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Remembering Patrick Evans


This post is dedicated to Patrick Evans, who passed away in his sleep last weekend at the age of 49.
We don’t know yet how or why and the news was rather sudden.
Patrick was the brother of a very good long standing friend of mine, Andrew, and I knew him well, though I had not seen him for quite a while.
Patrick was the sweetest, nicest guy, always ready with a smile and would go out of his way to help you if you needed it.
He was unsophisticated and unmaterialistic, his friends and family meant much more than material things.
Always living for today and never a concern about tomorrow – much to the consternation of his family, as his spending habits were shall we say – rather free.
Yet even though he hardly ever had much to call his own, I remember a well told family story about the time he won a huge pile on the slot machines at the Wild Coast Sun, enough to set him up for a while, but his generous nature compelled him to buy gifts for everyone he knew and throw a big party for all his friends until there was practically only small change left.
That was typical of Patrick, if he had it he would share it, tomorrow is another day.

I remember another funny story he told me about the time when living in Amanzimtoti, he was pretty broke and he and a friend found and chased a chicken, caught it, killed it and after a bad pluck job cooked it in the oven and tried to eat it. It turned out to be all feathers and scrawn and not worth the time and effort – it all sounded pretty yuck and all I can say is I am glad it wasn’t me. It made for a great story though and he had us in tears from laughing, although this story was told many years ago and my memory is fuzzy now whether it was Andrew or Patrick doing the telling – possibly both of them.

Patrick liked to fish and he loved living at the coast, he was also a pretty good photographer and showed me some fabulous photos he took of the sea – he had a real artist’s eye. He was also an avid Sharks supporter and I now have a Sharks baseball cap to remember him by – thanks Andrew.



Sadly and suddenly he is gone, I know the people who love him will miss him greatly.
I have his photo on my desk at the moment and my thoughts stray often towards him, a reminder that life can be all too short and all we can do is make the best of what time we have.
Patrick, this post is dedicated to you to share with the world what a special person you were, your memory will live on here, as well as in the hearts of those who love and miss you most.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Vision Board – Another Goal Achieved and The Queen Selling Bee of Zoo Lake

I have been laid low with a nasty tummy bug the last couple of days so haven’t been up to writing much.
This Sunday past I again exhibited at Zoo Lake; I didn’t sell anything, but managed to hand out my business card to some interested people so it’s a start.
Thanks to Vladi and Marlon who made a special effort to come and visit me at my stand, your support was most welcome.
I got to know a couple more artists, like Richard who was next to me and was reading a fabulous book on how to paint landscape by John Carlson, an artist from the 1920s and 30s – look him up he is brilliant!
Richard’s grandfather was one of the artist judges at the acceptance weekend so art is in his blood!
I also had the privilege of getting to know Maya, a self taught artist who sold a grand total of four paintings on Sunday – so I am nicknaming her Queen Selling Bee!
Geraldine was there again – one stand away - but it was a slow day for her too.
Exhibiting at Zoo Lake is turning out to be a fun experience – I am making some great new artist friends and there is a general atmosphere of support and friendship.
Artists have come up to have a look at my work and offered advice and support.
There is rejoicing all round if one of us sells a work and I got to share in Maya’s excitement that day because she was sharing my umbrella and was sat right next to me.
She has exhibited there four times and this is the first time she has sold anything.
She makes documentaries for Japanese television so at least she has a day job!
I suppose people might have seen her work on previous occasions and then decided to buy one on a subsequent visit.
Who knows!

I did ultimately manage to sell two paintings this week though – to none other than my dear non art loving husband. My two grey tree paintings have been hanging in our lounge and he has fallen for them big time and offered to buy them from me.
I am not sure if selling to one’s spouse counts as a real sale, but you get your sales where you can I guess!
I get to see them every day too so it’s a win win!
To be fair I gave him a special husband discount – and he is going to buy a whole bunch of art supplies for me.
One of my goals in my vision book was to sell two paintings this year so I guess that’s ticked then!
I’ve reached just about all the goals for this year so far – the rest are a bit longer term.
There are two left for this year – One to dance in high heels again and the other is to reach 58 kgs (Only one kilo to go!!!)
(Thanks to the tummy bug this goal has been given a little push - thanks Universe!)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Four Weeks Left To Enter

There’s four weeks left to enter the competition to win one of my paintings.
All you have to do is submit your email address on the right under the Subscribe by email heading, then contact me via email with your name for the painting.
It would also be helpful to add an explanation for your name, as everyone will get to vote and the best name will win.
Note that you may unsubscribe in the future at any time.
Here is the painting for those who missed the original post entitled “Artists Under The Sun, My First Exhibition and a Chance to Win a Free Painting”.
Each person who enters will get two votes, plus an additional two votes for each person they get to join in the competition.
For each pair of votes - you may only vote for your own name once, the other vote has to be for someone else's name.
So if you alone enter, you may vote once for your own name and once for someone else's.
If you get a second person to enter, then you may again have one vote for your own name and another vote for someone else.
I know some of you are already thinking hard for a name, but you do need to enter to win.
If you are stuck, use one of the nifty abstract naming generators found on the web.
Here is one
Abstract Art Title Generator

Or just type Abstract Art Naming Generator in Google.

The original work is on display at The Independents Dance Company at Brightwater Commons in Randburg.(Next to the Scuba Shop)
The cut off date for entries will be Friday 29th October 2010.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Messy Studio!

By popular demand I have taken some photos for you of my studio as it looked this morning.
When I get creative it is like a frenzy - brushes get dropped, rags all over the floor, paint gets everywhere!
The bin overflows and the pile of struggles and rejects gets deeper.

I have spilled my jars over several times lately - but I just let it all air dry on its own.
It simply adds colour to my "Arty" worktop!

This folks - is why I needed a proper studio to work in - I can just leave it all for the next time! Fabulous!








Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Painting Up a Storm


The urge to create became all too powerful today so I took the day off work and spent the entire day in the studio.
It has been pushing me towards such a day for a while now, every day after my allotted one or two hours I allow myself to paint I pack it in with regret, irritated that I have to wait until the next day before I can have another go.
It reminds me of what my astrologer Dawie said earlier this year – that I would become obsessed with painting to the exclusion of everything else. I even forewent my daily run today.
Maybe I am subconsciously trying to fulfil Dawie’s prophesy, or maybe it’s because I have an exhibition coming up on Sunday and I want to have something to show for it.
So I am seven hours billing time poorer – but I have one finished painting and another two almost done!


I am running out of canvases – Aisch!
The stack of rejects is piling up – I am running out of places to put them all – but luckily I can go over old stuff and make it into something new.
The Mind Emerging Mark 2 was a rejected experiment before I painted it over.

The strelitzia painting is a follow up of my earlier strelitzia painting – this one I finished last week but am only posting it now.

Hmm –maybe I shall take a photo of my studio – the creative frenzy has left it in quite a mess!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vision Boards - Do They Really Work?

I am a great believer in affirmations, vision boards and the like. I have read The Secret, The Success Principles and various other books on how to achieve what you want.
I am happy to report that this stuff works – it really does.
I have hankered for my very own art studio for many years - it was always my biggest excuse for not painting. Well, I eventually got one set up last year and at the start of this year I decided to take my art seriously and began painting for the first time in many years.
Around the same time I started my vision book – it’s an A4 hardcover book which I carefully covered in gold paper and plastic wrap (It’s gotta be special).
I found pictures of the things I wanted and put one on each page, plus I write in the book daily – with goals and affirmations.
Here are some of the things in my book:
A picture of a painting by a South African artist I admired and which I wanted to buy – this one took three months – it’s now hanging in my lounge.
A screenshot of my bank account with lots of money in it – still working on this one!
A picture of three different professional cameras – I was wanting a really good camera so I could take better source photos for my art – this goal took six months – my dad gave me his rather decent Pentax plus all the lenses out of the blue last month. NB – he knew nothing about this goal.
Two pictures of beautiful tango shoes – one pair has a high heel – since my foot op last November I have not been able to wear heels much – but my foot is getting better all the time and I know it is only a matter of time – I am aiming for three to four months from now.
I wrote down that I wanted an exhibition by February 2011 – achieved this goal a couple of weeks ago – so it actually only took seven months.
One of my friends is also my tango teacher and he is a great believer in my art. It so happened that suddenly the dance studio closed down unexpectedly and he had nowhere to teach (he works freelance). So he found a way to get the studio going again by taking over the premises, getting other teachers to join him putting in a new floor etc. He then suggested I exhibit my artwork in the studio – it has loads of wall space – so of course I agreed.
So now my work is looking good in there and everyone who comes to the dance studio gets to see it. He gets the bonus of filling up his empty walls and also a commission if any of them sell.

I have a few other things in my book too – one is to be a really good artist (I consider myself to be a work in progress) and the other is to sell two paintings by the end of the year.
I could say that I am astounded at how well my vision book is working – except that I believe in it so wholeheartedly that I am really not surprised.
So my suggestion to you is to start up a vision book of your own – it not only does not cost much, but it is an incredible motivator that can keep you going – it helps get through any bad patches – (like painter’s block) and reminds you constantly of what you are wanting to achieve. It is also an incredible way to keep you believing in yourself.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

But is it Art ? Some Thoughts on Mass Produced Abstract Paintings

So there I am having breakfast one Saturday morning with Leo and Claire, when I spied some abstract paintings displayed all around the walls of a nearby furniture shop. While waiting for the breakfast to arrive I took my two year old with me for a closer look, and noticed they looked original – actual paint on canvas and not only that but that they looked good too – the elements of design were superb.
I was interested because recently I decided to have a go at creating abstract art. It’s not as easy as you think – design elements play an important role if you want it to look good, it’s not about just randomly splashing colour onto canvas - even if your name is Jackson Pollock !
It wasn’t long (about 30 seconds) before a salesman approached me – no doubt hoping to sell me one and we ended up having a long discussion about art – having studied art himself he had some knowledge on the subject. He told me that the paintings were mass produced overseas –that they somehow print the design but then go over it with real paint in some way to make it look like an original.
To be honest I could not tell the difference but this explained why the prices were so low.
It was clear to me that an artist or artists with real talent did the original design but sadly no credit as to who that might be was given on the paintings – I guess since they were not originals anyway. To the shop’s credit – they don’t try to make out that these paintings are originals and it seems they sell like hotcakes – my friendly salesman told me they sell approximately thirty a month.
Yes they are good, yes they are inexpensive and yes they will look damn good on your lounge wall.
Would I buy one?
No.
If it was original at that price? Maybe. In fact, I would happily pay more if I knew it was an original and if I had the money of course.
Here’s why – part of the mystique of owning art is the uniqueness and originality – it is more than having something that looks good on my wall.
Knowing these are mass produced left me disappointed – maybe because I am an artist.
Yet – I happily buy a mass produced lounge suite and are these paintings not the same thing – décor for your home?
I guess it all comes down to your reasons for buying art – some people want something to fill up their wall space and make their home look good and there is nothing wrong with that.
So now I have to ask – is the abstract art I am trying to produce just décor or is it more than that? Is there in fact anything less artistic or wrong in making wall decoration?
Should I care?


There is great freedom with abstract art – you can play with it and experiment a lot – it is a wonderful way to get creativity flowing and sometimes you may just come up with something that is truly beautiful to look at.
We artists will aim to give it more meaning with esoteric names like “Interlude” or “Emergence” – but is this not just our way of making it seem more significant than just wall décor?
Is there in fact any meaning at all in an abstract work any more?
In the early days of modern art artists found the photograph taking over their role as portrayers of life and they found new ways to express what art is – always pushing the boundaries of what people would accept as art. We have crossed that bridge and gone beyond – it is as though anything goes these days – so are we saying anything new?

What’s the big deal – should we be bending over backwards to find some new way to express ourselves or is simply expressing ourselves enough?
Art can be so many things – it can be a means to amaze, shock, make one think, be a political statement, be a beautiful object or make us see something in a new light.
Whether we produce something representational or abstract – I think there is value already – we are creating something that did not exist before.
My own answer to the question of meaning in abstract art is yes – it is a form of exploration – playing with the medium and finding ways to get new effects and elements of design. It is has meaning to the artist who creates it and it has meaning to the person who likes it enough to purchase it. I have looked at a lot of abstract art lately and am astounded at how many different ways there are to explore this subject.

I just can’t help but feel that when it gets mass produced on a big scale that it loses its essence of what it is – an individual expression of one person’s vision.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Independence is my middle name Mummy!

My daughter Claire recently reached the grand old age of two and a half.
Her latest catch phrase is “Wanna do it my big self”. This applies to dressing and undressing herself, taking off her nappy and putting on a new one, applying her own sun cream, squeezing the toothpaste onto her toothbrush and so on. Her favourite is to dig her fingers deep into the jar of Vaseline and smear it all over herself when having a nappy change – I still can’t quite get how she can do all this but still needs a nappy!
She also likes to put on her own socks – an interesting exercise which always needs a bit of a helping hand which of course annoys her as it interferes with her “my big self” mindset. She went through most of winter in sandals and no socks, now that summer is here she insists on socks plus boots. Leo says her thermostat must be broken.
Well this weekend she took her independence to new heights when she had her first sleepover at her cousin’s house. Her cousin Erryn is four going on five and the two of them get along very well. I took Claire round there on Saturday afternoon for a play session and when it came time to leave Erryn pleaded for Claire to stay over.

I asked Claire if she wanted to stay and the response was an immediate “Yes, Mummy”
“Are you sure? – I will be going home and will only fetch you tomorrow” I said.
“Yes Mummy. Go home Mummy” and she pushed me off the couch and towards the door.
“Ok then. I am going. Bye Claire – see you tomorrow.”
I waved goodbye and she did not even look up to see me leave.
I gave my sister in law instructions to call if there was any drama, but no call came and all was fine. I called the next day and Claire wasn’t even interested in talking to me on the phone.
The two girls had an amazing time together – they are both only children so having someone to play with was reason for much joy and excitement.
Leo and I took them both for lunch on Sunday – they were like two little chattering monkeys in the backseat of the car – there was much giggling and laughing – I have never seen Claire so animated. She announced “I love Erryn” and “Erryn is my best friend”.
I am hoping the two of them can share more weekends like this – one day perhaps we can even persuade Erryn to stay over.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hot,Flat and Crowded – The Most Important Book You Will Ever Read

I have just finished reading Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman.
All I can say is – Oh boy are we in for a rough ride.
Thomas Friedman is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who is also renowned for his book “The World is Flat” – also a book I recommend you read.

He explains with shocking, believable and scary examples of what is happening to our world in terms of global warming, the looming worldwide energy crisis and the implications of the huge pile of ***** we will be in if we don’t address these issues, and fast.
This book will scare you into wanting to do something, anything to help avoid what could be an impossible future. Most of us are aware of the global warming problem – but this book will tell you in no uncertain terms how bad the situation actually is.
He goes as far as to say that Al Gore owes us an apology - for underestimating how bad the global warming problem actually is.(For those who have been living under a rock - Al Gore is the politician who made a documentary about global warming a while back)

Friedman wisely includes some chapters on what we can actually do to save our planet – but whether we can mobilize ourselves to the extent required and the speed at which it needs to be done is another thing.
This book kept me awake at night.
If you love your children – and I am sure you all do, I implore you to read this book.

Although the book is geared mainly towards Americans, everyone n the world ought to read it.
But if you are American – then you really, really ought to read this book.

He tells us that the country that finds the way forward first into the best and cheapest, clean energy technology will be the global leader economically into the future.

For South Africans there is an important message – one of the ways he says will mobilize the population into doing something towards a clean form of energy is if the current energy system gets prohibitively expensive. This has already started happening in SA due to our Escom crisis. A few months ago a popular local solar power provider told me that there has been a marked increase in demand for solar power. I know that new technology is starting to show up here to resolve our electricity crisis, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could beat America and China to the new energy gold rush?
As a country we are not exactly an economic powerhouse, so I don’t see how it could get done as described in the book, but could the Escom thing turn out to be a good thing after all?
Personally, I would dearly love to get off the grid entirely and have my entire house geared up for clean energy – but it is pretty expensive. Then again, I have to weigh the expense against my daughter’s future in a world that will be hot, flat and crowded.
The way things are going with Escom though, soon it may turn out to be an either or option and if that’s the case then naturally I would choose clean energy.
I have a friend who lives on a farm in the Karoo, her husband had their house built to run purely on solar and wind power – they have been totally off the grid for several years now.
They must be laughing all the way watching the electricity crisis from their solar powered ivory tower.

Anyway, so far I have changed some lightbulbs to the new energy saving type, I switch off my tv every day at the wall and my geyser is only on for about four hours a day. For a long time now I also make sure that all lights are off if a room is not in use.
My husband Leo has a plan in the works to change our water heating to a new heat pump system that means our geyser no longer needs to be switched on at all and this will save some more.
What do you do to save power?

Ps. If you are not a big reader, then do a search on either Thomas Friedman or Hot, Flat and Crowded on youtube – there are several clips of the man himself and what he has to say.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Artists Under The Sun, My First Exhibition and a Chance to Win a Free Painting

Some of you already know that I exhibited at Zoo Lake this last weekend along with 30 other new hopefuls – all vying for a space to exhibit there on a regular basis as a verified member of the Artists Under The Sun Association.
Many thanks to my friends and family who showed up in support, your visits were most welcome.
Well the good news is – I have been accepted!
They hold a selection weekend twice a year when the association sends round a bunch of fellow artists as judges, who decide whether your work is good enough for you to join up.

I was placed next to fellow hopeful Geraldine Smith, who like me likes to paint many different things but chose to display her desert landscapes for her selection exhibit.
I am pleased to say that she has been accepted too!

We spent a pleasant couple of days chatting about art and life and artists and music and more art. I got to meet a few fellow artists, some of whom make a full time living from their art, some who are still working towards such a goal. All agreed that the market is slow – signs of the economy and all that, but I feel positive towards a future time when things will improve.

I would also like to announce that my work is currently being exhibited at The Independents Dance Company at Brightwater Commons, so if you are in the area please pop in and have a look. You will get to see my latest abstract painting called Mind Emerging.


You may be wondering why I called it that. Well – I started off with the title Blue Emerging, as the blue seems to be emerging from under the red, but the work is mostly red not blue. Calling it “Abstract Red No. I” seems a bit boring.
I felt that the swirling red colour could be how our thoughts tend to swirl about and the Emerging blue represents the clarity of thought emerging through this swirling mass.
I could also call it “Thoughts Emerging”
Or I could have gone with the nifty little abstract art naming generator I found on the web which came up with the following suggestions:
Helpful:
“Absence with Reality”
“Momentary Emotion”
“Energy of Undefined”

Not so helpful:
“Dying Peasant First Part”
“Embarrassed Still Life with Reincarnated Depth”
“Drunk Boy – Oversize”
“Nudist Declining a Dog”
While I eventually chose my own title, this generator helped to clarify my thinking and inspired ideas.

So next time you go to an art gallery and see some abstract art – you could think the artist was being very enigmatic with the titles – or it could well be he used an automatic naming generator.
Maybe this is our way of making something that is decorative and looks nice on the wall appear to be oh so significant and esoteric and clever.
On the other hand – Mind Emerging sounds a whole lot better than “Untitled” or “Abstract Red No 1” and shows I did at least put some thought into my title.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Now I am going to make you think even more - if you can come up with a better title and can also say why you would call it that, I will let you have this painting for free.
The only proviso is that you need to sign up via the Email Subscription to the right and send me confirmation along with your ideas for a title.You also need to get at least one more person to sign up who is not already signed up.

I will then hold a vote for the best title at the end of October.

(NB if you are not local I will only ask a contribution towards shipping costs)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why Painting and Dancing Tango Are The Same

I was discussing this very thing with my dance teacher the other day. As I am a painter he often uses art analogies to get his point across, for instance in tango – the man as the leader is the painter and the woman as the follower is the brush and together they create a beautiful painting on the dance floor.

It often happens that I find myself frustrated when I dance, nothing will flow and it all just feels like a struggle. Likewise with painting. This usually happens when I try to hard to get it right, both with dancing and with a new painting. I also start to lose the enjoyment in both. In painting as with dance, you need to learn the technical stuff – this is the foundation, but then you need to be able to let go and just express yourself.
The more you can let go and lose yourself in the music, the easier it seems to become and the more fun you will have while dancing.
With tango and with painting I find if I let go of the outcome and stop worrying so much about how it will look, the more free I start to feel and the more I enjoy the process.



So my take on this is: Enjoy the process and let the outcome take care of itself.

Separate the technical stuff – practice what you need to practice, but you need those moments on the dance floor and in the studio to just be. This is when you chase all that technical clutter out of your mind and believe that your body knows what to do.

Here is what happened to me.
After a particularly unsatisfying tango lesson last week and after a long discussion about letting go and not trying too hard, the following day I decided to have a go at abstract art – something I have always liked but have never tried.
I had no idea of what I was going to paint, all I wanted was to let go and express myself on canvas. After the first one, I enjoyed myself so much that I produced another two, all on the same day. It seems it unleashed my creativity and broke the stuck spell I was in due to wanting to try too hard and worrying too much about the end result.

I am including these small paintings in this post. They are very experimental as it is also the first time I have tried acrylics. I don’t know that they will be considered great art, but it is a start and I would like to explore this way of painting more.
I also want to try this approach on the dance floor and see what happens.
Perhaps I will remember how I felt while I was painting these and try to recreate that same feeling.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Are You Afraid of Feedback

Have you ever been afraid of feedback, especially when it's negative?
I know I suffer from this, it's not always easy to hear what people really think.
Here is an article by Jack Canfield on how to use feedback to your advantage. This is one of the principles in his book that I just can't stop reading.

Use Feedback to Your Advantage
As you begin to take actions toward your goals, your dreams, you’ll soon realize that not every action will be perfect.
Not every action will produce the desired result.
Not every action will work.
Making mistakes, getting it almost right, and experimenting to see what happens are all part of the process of eventually getting it right.
Thomas Edison is reported to have tried over 2,000 different experiments that failed before he finally got the light bulb to work. He once told a reporter that, from his perspective, he had never failed at all. Inventing the light bulb was just a 2,000-step process. If you can adopt that attitude, then you can be free to take an action, notice what result you get, and then adjust your next actions based on the feedback you have received.
>u>There Are Two Kinds of Feedback
There are two kinds of feedback you might encounter – negative and positive. We tend to prefer the positive – that is, results, money, praise, promotion, raise, awards, happiness, inner-peace, etc. It feels better. It tells us we are on course and doing the right thing.
We tend not to like negative feedback – lack of results, little or no money, criticism, poor evaluations, complaints, unhappiness, inner conflict, pain, etc.
However, there is as much useful data in negative feedback as there is in positive feedback. It tells us that we are off course, headed in the wrong direction, doing the wrong thing. This is priceless information!
In fact, it’s so valuable that one of the most useful projects you could undertake is to change how you respond to negative feedback. I like to refer to negative feedback as information for “improvement opportunities.”
Ways of Responding to Feedback that Don’t Work
Though there are many ways you can respond to feedback, some responses simply don’t work.
Caving in and quitting:
How many times have you or someone you know received negative feedback and simply caved in over it? All that this does is keep you stuck in the same place. It’s easier not to cave in if you remember that feedback is simply information. Think of it as “correctional guidance” instead of criticism.
Getting mad at the source of the feedback:
Think about it… How many times have you reacted with anger and hostility toward someone who was giving you feedback and it was genuinely useful? It may temporarily make you feel better to get angry, but it doesn’t help you become more successful in your quest.
Ignoring the feedback:
We all know that people who turn down everyone’s point of view but their own. The sad thing is, feedback could significantly transform their lives, if only they would listen.
Ask for Feedback
Most people will not voluntarily give you feedback. They are as uncomfortable with possible confrontation as you are. So to get honest and open feedback, you need to ask for it and make it safe for the person to give it to you. In other words, don’t shoot the messenger!
The Most Valuable Question You May Ever Learn
In the 1980s, a multimillionaire businessman taught me a question that radically changed the quality of my life. This magical question can improve the quality of every relationship you are in, every product you produce, every service you deliver, every meeting you conduct, every class you teach and every transaction you enter into. Here it is:
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the quality of our relationship (service/product) during the last week (month/semester/quarter)?”
Here are a number of variations on the same question that have served me well over the years...
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the meeting we just had? ... me as a manager? ... me as a parent? ...this class? ...this meal? ...my cooking? ...our sex life? ...this deal? ...this book?
Any answer less than a 10 always gets this follow-up question:
“What would it take to make it a 10?”
This is where the really valuable information comes from. Knowing that a person is dissatisfied is not enough. Knowing in detail what will satisfy them gives you the information you need to do whatever it takes to create a winning product, service, relationship or result.
Is All Feedback Accurate?
Not all feedback is useful or accurate. You must consider the source. Some feedback is polluted by the psychological distortions of the person giving you the feedback. For example, if your drunk husband tells you, “You are a no-good bleep,” that is probably not accurate or useful feedback. However, the fact that your husband is drunk and angry, is feedback you should listen to.
Remember, feedback is simply information. You don’t have to take it personally. Just welcome it and use it. The most intelligent response is to say “Thank you for your feedback. Thank you for caring enough to tell me what you see and how you feel. I appreciate it.”
Look for patterns in the feedback you get, too. As my friend Jack Rosenblum likes to say: “If one person tells you you’re a horse, they’re crazy. If three people tell you you’re a horse, there’s a conspiracy a foot. If ten people tell you you’re a horse, it’s time to buy a saddle!”
For more on Using Feedback to Your Advantage, review Principle #19 in The Success Principles. It’s one of the core principles you can apply to your life.

Jack Canfield, America's #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul© and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you're ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get your FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at: www.FreeSuccessStrategies.com

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Last week Tuesday evening I found myself perched on a barstool in what I believe to be the smokiest pub in JHB. Can’t remember the last time I spent an evening out that didn’t involve tango so it all felt a bit strange. Those who know me from the tango scene will thus deduce that I don’t get out much – since they have hardly seen me at all the last month or so.

It all started a couple of days before at a family gathering, when my dad painted such an inspiring and an “Oh I can’t wait to see it you must be so awesome” picture of his fabulous music talent and that of his recently acquired muso friends, that I decided I really must go and see for myself. My brother got hooked too like so much fish bait, which was fortunate because I got to bum a lift with him, not being able to drive myself due to sliced thumb issues.

Now you may recall that I have in fact seen Pater play before – at Moyo, but that was an outdoor setting with piles of soccer fans making noise, plus with his mike accidently turned down it was not that easy to hear his performance.

Anyway, with great anticipation Boet and I arrive at the pub and squeeze our way through to a table my clever dad has managed to keep free for us. I say squeeze because the place was jam packed with eager musicians plus their hangers on, all waiting for their go on the mike. Tuesday nights here is jam night – all organized by a very cool drummer called Roy, who also decides who gets to play and when, so you gotta keep in his good books I reckon.

So we order our drinks and wait for the jamming to start, which we are told is about 8pm.
While we wait, my eyes start watering like crazy and the smoke smell is pretty unbearable – the whole pub area has been designated a full-on smokers zone.
My brother is an ex smoker and even he thought it was pretty bad, but he opened a window next to us, and the cold air was way preferable to the smoke.
I am now fantasizing about a smoke free tango floor, but I am here to see Dad play, so I stick it out. Problem is, he’s not sure if and when he will get a turn; you have to wait for the nod from Roy you see.
Meanwhile he’s telling us stories about Dave – the pan flute player who can also sing, his (rendition that evening of Locomotive Breath by Jethro Tull was fabulous), Domingo the guitarist;(who must have been born with a guitar attached), plus quite a few others I don’t recall the names of, he’s only been here once before and he is already friends with half the pub!

So we wait. And we wait. We watch some really great musicians play, plus one sad sack who really should have stayed on the karaoke circuit where he belongs. It’s a mix of styles, from 70s rock like Led Zeppelin to 90s Nirvana and U2.
By 11pm Jem and I are about ready to call it a night – we are both parents of small children and it’s a school night after all!

Eventually though, Pa gets the nod, dons his cool cowboy hat and sunglasses and gets settled at the mike along with a couple of guitarists and Roy the drummer.
They start up a blues number and he wings it with his harp, it’s a jam session so there’s no rehearsal, and Jem and I are blown away. He can not only play, he plays brilliantly!
I am hugely impressed; it just goes to show you are never too old to start something new.I think it is only a matter of time before he wangles his way into some band and starts doing the pub circuit, he has already found a few places in town to play in and I just hope he can keep up with the late night lifestyle all this entails.

Anyway, it was worth the wait and the smoke in your eyes, but I think I will wait until summer before venturing in there again, when the windows can be open wide and I can breathe.
He is going to play again tonight, but I am hearing the tango floor call my name so will most likely be dancing my butt off tonight.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dumb and Dumber

Well folks, I think I need to get in touch with Jeff Foxworthy to collect my sign.
For those who don’t know who Jeff Foxworthy is, he is a very funny American with a strong Southern accent to match, who talks about dishing out “I am Stupid” signs to people who do stupid things. Yesterday – I definitely earned mine.

Here is my journey to being a Dumb Ass – as my friend Charlie would say.

Step 1: Decide to join friends for a family picnic on Women’s day at the Botanical gardens in Roodepoort.
Step 2: Ensure normal breadknife is unavailable by putting it in the dishwasher and switching it on.
Step 3: Start organizing all the food for the picnic while husband and small child go shopping.
Step 4: All packed and ready to go, child is dressed, I am dressed, hubby is dressed and all geared to depart.
Step 5: Hear hubby say – “Let’s take a knife to cut the bread with” (he had bought a loaf to take along)
Step 6: Immediately pick up big carving knife and special knife sharpening tool, making sure to hold the tool steady and run the knife through it with nice pressured downward strokes.
Step 7: Knife slips and slices through thumb holding the tool. Oops.
So I don’t really react too much, there’s a bit of blood but will just wash it and put a plaster on, I think.
In the bathroom after looking a bit closer, I see it’s more than a scratch – in fact its pretty deep. Leo in the meantime is going into crisis panic mode. I say “I think this needs more than a plaster, I think it needs stitches.”
More panic mode from Leo.
I say “Don’t worry, I know you can get special plaster strips that work like stitches, let’s quickly go to the pharmacy to get some”. I am really keen on this picnic and don’t want to spend the day in the emergency room queue.

Step 8 : What I haven’t mentioned yet is that it is the second time that day that I have sliced the same thumb with the same tool and the same knife, only it was minor and a plaster sorted it out. So you could say I went from Dumb to Dumber.

So we go to the pharmacy, get the strips, come home, wash the thumb, dress it with antiseptic and then attempt to apply strips. I realize then that they are just not doing what it says on the box, so off we go to Olivedale Emergency.
Turns out everyone in town is having an emergency – the numbers in the waiting room indicated a wait of at least two hours.
So we decide to go to Mediclinic in Randburg, much less busy and where we should have gone in the first place, which would have meant we could still have made the picnic.

In the end I got a lovely local anesthetic, a tetanus injection and three stitches in my thumb.
Oh and I have to wear a thumb splint to stop it from bending, because that opens up the wound again and we don’t want that.

So In the end we had a picnic on the grass at home, which was quite nice.

PS – I now know which way not to hold knife and tool, but this is moot because Leo has hidden said tool and refuses to tell me where it is.

Now I just need to go and collect my sign.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Wonderful Tango Evening and a Portrait of My Daughter

Most of us in the South African tango community have had the joy and pleasure of meeting, dancing with and being entertained by Ariel and Daniela, the visiting tango performers and teachers from Argentina.
They came here on what was supposed to be a working holiday for the world cup, not knowing anybody except some shady promoter person who hadn’t organized anything as promised, then soon got adopted first by Erik and then the rest of the tango crowd following suit.
Within days of their arrival they were wowing us with their fabulous dancing and amazing choreography, those women lucky enough to get a dance or two with Ariel will probably agree that he is an absolute dream to dance with, his skill at leading only surpassed by his creativity on the dance floor. I want to kidnap him and keep him here!
I also had the pleasure of several lessons with them and got to learn some great new stuff.

Then of course, some very lucky and special dancers in our Johannesburg crowd were given the chance to take part in a grand finale show, they were given all the training needed and everything beautifully choreographed by Daniela and Ariel.
The show took place at Cantare in Monte Casino on Sunday night and the place was jam packed with tango enthusiasts.
All I can say is congratulations to all of you for a fantastic show and for managing some of those very tricky lifts. So the timing was a bit out, but nobody cared as the dancing of each individual couple was wonderful to watch.
So, well done Erik, Natasha, Emma, Ryan, Tania and Paddy.
Daniela and Ariel did some lovely numbers on their own too, the best was seeing the connection they have as a couple which for me is what tango is all about.
I took my dad to see the show and treated him to dinner as well, since it was his birthday the following day, and he totally loved it.

I will be sad to see them go home to Argentina, they are such nice people and have made lots of friends all over the country. They are leaving us this coming Sunday morning, but have promised they will be coming back next year January for two or three months.

I will be looking forward to seeing them again and will definitely sign up for more tango lessons.


On a brighter note – I have finally finished my latest portrait of Claire, it is of her aged two, in her pretty white dress my mother bought her last summer. This one is for me – it’s much too personal to sell.
I think I really captured her likeness and personality with this one so I am quite pleased with it.

Hope you like it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hot Off the Easel - New Painting from The Walk Series


Well, I finally finished my latest painting. I have been itching to finish it since yesterday and I think it's done. Either that or I fiddle about with it for days to come.
This is the next one in my Walk series of everyday scenes from my neighbourhood.
This painting is of the top corner of Swaeltjie Road where it meets Kelly Road in Boskruin.

Hope you like it.

Now I can get back to my portrait of Claire.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Where are Your Habits Leading You?

I have started a new habit to help me achieve what I want. I get up at 5am every weekday and put in at least two hours of work before the rest of the family gets up.
This gives me an extra hour or two to do what I love, which is paint and make art.
I started this after reading Jack's book on success.
I subscribe to his free newsletter which comes about every two weeks or so and I received this article in my inbox and wanted to share it.

Where are Your Habits Leading You?
by Jack Canfield

You are an accumulation of your habits. From how you get out of bed, how you shower, how you dress, how you walk, sit, and talk, how you respond to the world, how you act in front of others, and how you think; you're living out your habits.

Habits are necessary.

They free up your mind so you can concentrate on how to survive day to day. You don't have to think about how to drive your car so you can be on the lookout for danger while you are driving. You don't have to think about how to walk so you can concentrate on where you're going.

Unfortunately, habits can also keep you locked in self-destructive patterns, which will limit your success.

Is there something you want to accomplish in life that requires you to up-level your game? Whatever it is that you want to achieve, you will need to drop those bad habits that are lead to a dead-end and develop new ones that are in alignment with the life you want to live.

People don't suddenly appear in the life they want to live... their habits play a large part in determining their outcome.

What are the habits you have that are keeping you from achieving your goals?

Really be honest with yourself here...

Are you always running late?
Do you return phone calls within 24 hours?
Do you get enough sleep?
Do you follow through on your promises?
Do you plan out your day?

Imagine what your life would be like if all your habits were their productive counterparts!

What would your life be like if you ate healthy meals, exercised and got enough sleep?
What if you saved your money, stopped using credit cards and paid cash for everything?
What if you stopped procrastinating, overcame your fears, and began networking with people in your field?
Would your life be different? I bet it would!
So, my suggested action step for you is to write down some productive habits you could adopt and visualize in your life. Step two is to 'act as if' you were living these new habits right now!

I'd like to help you get moving toward creating more successful habits, so I'd recommend you develop four of your new success habits each year, one for each quarter.

Once you pick the new habit you're ready to adopt, next you'll want to create a method that will support your new habit.

Here are some ideas... You could write it down on a card that you keep with you and read several times a day. You could make it a part of your daily visualization. You could also enlist the help of an accountability partner who has habits to change, or work with a personal coach who can keep you on track.

It's important to make a 100% commitment to your new habit, so be specific about the steps that you're willing to take in order to drop an old habit and adopt a new one. Don't be vague about how you will change your habits. Spell it out for yourself so you can recognize situations that motivate you to act out your new habit.

Just developing four new habits a year will dramatically shift your life to be more in line with your vision. And the more in line it becomes, the easier the other habits are to replace because your perspective is shifting and you can see more clearly how your old habits aren't serving you anymore.

Make the decision. Make the commitment. Then watch your new, positive life unfold!


Jack Canfield, America's #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul© and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you're ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get your FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at: www.FreeSuccessStrategies.com

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Website Launch

Well, I have been a busy bee the last week or two designing and building my own website in my spare time. So I haven’t been doing much painting, though I do have a lovely portrait of my daughter in the works plus another in The Walk series and I hope to have them both finished very soon.
But today I am officially launching my very own website!
I would love to have you check it out at karensteffano.co.za.

In honour of my website launch – I am offering a free copy of Jack Canfield’s book, How To Get From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be - The 25 Principles Of Success, to the next four people who buy a painting from me.


I recently bought this book and can’t stop reading it. I am on my third reading. It is so inspiring that I cannot help myself sharing it with everyone.

If you don’t fancy buying a painting just yet, but you still would like the book, you can get it here from Jack’s site.
You can also buy it from Loot – a local SA site for buying books.
If you know anyone who you think might be interested, please share this post with them.

I have written a short note on each painting, so to those of you who already own one of my paintings, you might be interested to read my thoughts on it. You can do this by clicking on the small image.

I would love to collect comments from those of you who have one of my paintings, it would be great to include them under my own.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Shifty Boobs at the Marakesh Lounge

Some girlfriends and I decided that we had not had a girls night out for a while, so Kez ,who seems to be the most organized, managed to get about seven of us to agree to a suitable night.We are all very busy so finding a night that fits all is tricky, especially Maureen, who is the most dedicated and hard working person I know, she even works weekends – she’s nuts but she loves her job.
So Kez booked us a table at the Marakesh Lounge in Bryanston. It was my first visit there – great Arabian nights vibe, with low tables and cushions for those so inclined to lounge on the floor, but I was glad we had a real table because otherwise the jeans cutting into the tummy factor limits the eating possibilities. It’s basically a cross between a bush retreat and a gigantic Arab tent, with the temperature to match.

Luckily they gave us blankets, when I checked my dashboard upon leaving it was 1 degree outside. Which means it was about 3 degrees inside – they had a big fireplace but it wasn’t lit and the three small bar heaters were perfect for my mother’s 50 square meter house, but not doing much in a huge outdoor indoor tent type thing. Plus the five people standing around the heaters, blowing hands and stamping feet weren’t helping because they were blocking the small amount of heat available.
I noticed they had reserved a big table – all laid out with lots of yummy cupcakes.
Hmm – how come we didn’t have any? Seems they brought their own; I didn’t realize it was bring your own cupcake night.

We proceeded to have a fun evening – Thanks again for those blankets and our coats and scarves - Maureen and Helen kept their old man Scrooge gloves on throughout the meal. We are all dance fans in one way or another and were anticipating the belly dancing floor show, but our meal was just about done and nothing exciting had happened – even the cupcakes were untouched.

Eventually a gorgeous, voluptuous, young woman came out in a full on floaty chiffon belly dancing outfit, with loads of hip and belly showing and just a sparkly bra on top – yikes! Her dancing was fascinating – how did she isolate all those different body parts?
It was very sensual and very appealing. Her arms and hands were so graceful, very different from my chicken-wing arm styling, and she could do weird things with her boobs – popping them out all by themselves and shifting them left and right without moving anything else – amazing!

She invited us to come for lessons – said we were the only ones showing much interest in her performance, apparently the first one is free.
I have tried it before and I found it quite difficult, and after all the years of trying to get my tango right do I really want to battle with this one as well?
Besides, who will I do it with? Not my husband, who cracked up laughing when I tried out my pole dancing moves a few years ago. Maybe I will do it in front of the mirror and admire myself or something.
Anyway, we were all in high spirits and thought if anything it would be good for a laugh, so have agreed to find one mutually agreeable night and all go together.
Our new belly dancing friend didn’t hang about though – she had a pressing engagement – with her clothes!

So here I am lying in bed trying to read a book to unwind ready for the land of Nod, but them shifty boobs keep “popping” into my mind, so I've decided to write this post instead.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Dad's On-stage Debut at Moyo - Visit to Zoo Lake No. Two

So how was the blues harp sensation’s debut I imagine you are all asking?
Well, the trip to Zoo Lake had it’s ups and downs – we arrived there around 11.30 and spotted busloads of people arriving at Moyo – oops! Turns out we had just missed the Spanish team having their breakfast, and the whole of Moyo was pre-booked by soccer fans wanting to have a nice lunch before scooting off to the big final.
Or maybe they had all read my previous blog posting and were dead keen to see my dad play!

So anyway, after a big fat fight with my latin temperament husband over not having anywhere to sit, we finally got a table for the nine of us and had something to eat. Sadly some of the orders were simply forgotten, my order arrived cold and I had to send it back, but the chicken strips and chips I ordered for my daughter Claire were outstandingly nice and I pinched most of them.
I know what I’m gonna order next time.
Despite the food and the waiting problems, the vibe was great, all the fans were in a big fat party mood and things were generally very jolly.
The real nice thing about this Moyo is the informality – some people had their dogs with them – we spotted a cute bull terrier puppy wearing a pink jacket and a denim skirt! Work it baby!

My dad was in his element – he is a big showman at heart and his playing was very good.
Not sure where the American accent came from but maybe it is a prerequisite for playing blues! Only problem was his microphone got accidently turned way down and we couldn’t hear half of it. The other guys in the band were good too, they have a trumpet player who is fantastic; turns out he used to do some ballroom dancing so I got him to do the mambo with me while he was waiting for the next set.
His Argentine Tango needs work though!

As for the Art Exhibition, we managed to find it this time and I spent a lovely hour or so smooching with the artists. I almost bought a painting from Terenia Butler; it was an exquisite image of two boats, with the sea almost an abstraction of colour rather than actual sea. I don’t have the money to spend at the moment but if I see it again I will be sorely tempted.
I also met Steve Jones, a talented wildlife artist who used to be a factory worker and is now a full time artist. His technical ability with pastels is amazing!
Some of them, like Steve and Terenia, make a full time living from their art, so there is hope!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

You're Cracking Me Up - Another Crunchy Session With My Chiropractor

I went to see my chiropractor, Craig Lyons this week. I have been having a small issue with a sore neck and he has been patching me up, so this was a follow up appointment.
Last week I could hardly move my neck and now I feel great!
He says it is the operation on my foot that is causing it, because I still have to favour the big toe joint slightly when I walk and it is pulling my entire body out of alignment.
He did tell me that of all the bunion ops he’s seen, mine has shown the best result – this is because I am desperate to tango in heels again and have been doing toe joint stretching every day religiously.

I want to share what it is like to visit Craig.
He is the most affable, friendly, warm guy you will ever meet. He is also very popular, unsurprisingly. I feel good when I go there and even better when I leave, and it’s not just that he is so good at what he does.
He just makes it feel like you are having coffee with a best friend, except without the coffee. Instead I get a massage with his vibrating machine – which always makes me say “Errrrrrrr” – it’s kind of weird lying on your tummy with your head in a hole, and the noise that comes out is hilarious. Well actually, not really, but he made me cry with laughing when he said it sounds like I have Tourettes syndrome.
Then he hits me with a hammer in special spots, and after all that I get some lovely crunchy hugs.

There is a particularly satisfying crunchy crack sound from your bones falling back into place. I love it. Craig says I am addicted to crack. Ha ha!

The only disappointment is the session only lasts half an hour, and I always feel like we have just got the conversation under way. Both of us talk at speed, trying to get everything we want to share in our allotted half an hour.
He is also a fountain of info on the best places to get good deals on furniture – like beds for sore backs. In fact, he is a fountain of information on just about everything and highly entertaining with it.

I started seeing Craig a few years ago when I first went to the podiatrist working with him for my problem foot. Eventually she referred me to him for patch up therapy on it as he is a specialist on feet. So I would do a whole pile of dancing, and he would patch me up for the next round of dancing.
He is not exactly round the corner from me, it’s about 12 ks from my door to his practice, but I won’t consider going anywhere else.
If you need a chiropractor in the future, you won’t regret going to Craig.
You will find him at the Naturally Yours Health Center, just off Main Road in Bryanston.

The only thing is you may need to plan ahead because he gets pretty busy.
The great thing about it though is he is brilliant at structuring his appointments on time; Not once have I waited more than two or three minutes for mine.
In any event he has a marvelous supply of recent magazines that normal people read – no Financial Mail or boring medical newsletters so waiting is actually fun – almost as fun as seeing Craig!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How I Added Three Columns to my Blog

Have you ever seen a blog on the very popular Blogspot.com that uses more space that the standard template they give you?
Well, I managed to update my blog recently to a three column site.
Here is how I did it.
This works with the minima template which is the one I am using and I believe to be one of the most popular.

Step 1
Go to your blogger dashboard and select the Design tab and then the Edit HTML tab.

Then make a backup of your template before continuing by clicking on Download Full Template.

Then select all the text inside the html edit textbox and copy paste it to Notepad or some similar text editor.


Then save this file as MyBlogOld.txt.
This ensures you have the original html to copy paste back if you don’t like the result or make a mistake.
Then save the same file again as MyBlogNew.txt.
This is the file you will work with.


Now, all you will need to do is make some small edits to specific lines in the html code inside the this file, before copying and pasting back to your blog.
Tip – I copied the entire file back into the blog template after each small change and did a preview to see how it was going.

Now, do a search for the following bit of code:

#outer-wrapper {
width: 660px;
margin:0 auto;
padding:10px;
text-align:$startSide;
font: $bodyfont;
}


Change the line highlighted in red to this:
width: 950px;
(NB 950 is about the widest you should go to allow for different browsers.)

Step 2: Change the width of the sidebar
Search for this section of code:
#sidebar-wrapper {
width: 220px;
float: $endSide;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}

Change the line highlighted in red to this:
width: 250px

Step 3 : Add a second sidebar
Find and copy this whole section from your file (this is the section we modified in the previous step):

#sidebar-wrapper {
width: 250px;
float: $endSide;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}


Then paste this section of code immediately beneath the original set of code. Then change this line in your newly pasted code:
#sidebar-wrapper {
To say this instead:
#new-sidebar-wrapper {
This is because each sidebar must have it’s own unique name.

To get the new sidebar to appear on the left, change the line
float: $endSide;
to
float: $startSide;

when I previewed my blog I found that the post section was too close to the new column. To fix this I added margin-right: 50px;
Underneath the
float: $startSide;
line.

Note: You can add a left or right margin to your right hand column as well as your main section. Once you start adding elements to your new column you may decide to play around with these settings.

The main section code is as follows:
#main-wrapper {
width: 410px;
float: $startSide;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}


You can also try changing the width of the main section to
width: 450px;
I decided to leave mine as is.

Now the really nifty bit – how can I add new gadgets to this new column?
Find the following piece of code :
< id="'content-wrapper'">

< id="'crosscol-wrapper'" style="'text-align:center'">
< class="'crosscol'" id="'crosscol'">
< id="'Image1'" locked="'false'" title="''" type="'Image'/">
< id="'CustomSearch1'" locked="'false'" title="'Search" type="'CustomSearch'/">
<>

!—New lines here
< id="'main-wrapper'">
< class="'main'" id="'main'" showaddelement="'no'">
< id="'Blog1'" locked="'true'" title="'Blog" type="'Blog'/">
< /b:section>

And insert this piece of new code where I have indicated in red above.

Save your text file and then copy – paste the entire contents to your html code box on your blog.

Click preview to see how it looks before saving.

Once you are happy, save your changes.
Then go to the Page Elements tab and you should see three columns like this



Important note:
Do not load heavy java script type gadgets to the left hand column, as this column gets load before the rest of the blog, which slows the loading of your page to the bit that counts – your posts!
Things like simple file links are ok.

I got the How to for this from this really informative site which goes into a lot more detail and also explains many other ways to change the look of your blog.
Things like changing the width of your header and header picture to match the new width of your blog, which I haven’t tried yet.

Thanks also to JohnDeereMom who led me to this site.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Zoo Lake

Last week I had a brainwave and decided to look up Artists Under The Sun on the internet. For those who don’t know, this is an organization of artists that exhibit once a month in the park at Zoo Lake in Rosebank. I last went to this exhibition when I was still at university over twenty years ago. It was quite big, lots of artists and consisting of mostly fairly traditional art – South African landscapes, portraiture, still life work etc.
I don’t what it is like now and decided to go along last Sunday to check it out.
I took my daughter Claire and my dad along and we had a pleasant morning strolling around the lake – but no art was to be seen anywhere. Maybe I had got the dates wrong?
Anyway, we went past Moyo – the African themed restaurant there and decided to sit down in their outdoor breakfast area for tea and muffins.
What a great venue, the day was sunny and the vibe relaxed but with a kind of arty African feel about it – the waitresses had these fascinating headdresses on and the Moyo painted face look – very cool.

We sat on couches next to the music platform set up for live music and before long my dad was chatting up a storm with the musicians who were standing around waiting for their gig to get going. Those who have read one of my previous posts will know that he is a keen harmonica/mouth organ player – for those in the know it’s really a “Blues Harp”.
I took Claire to buy a ball from one of the vendors hanging around and we had some fun kicking it around. By the time we got back to the couches my dad had exchanged numbers and made some new friends. They invited him to play his harp with them, but he didn’t have it with him so he returned later in the afternoon. I got a very chuffed father on the phone that evening to tell me he played some blues numbers on stage with them and even got a couple of encores from the appreciative audience!

I have yet to see him perform so still can’t tell you what I think but it can’t be too bad because they have invited him to perform with them at Moyo this coming Sunday 11 July.
As it happens it’s the same weekend the art exhibition is actually on so I have invited a couple of friends and we will make a nice day out of it. Possibly some other family members will be joining us too.
So if you haven’t got anything better to do and yes I do know it’s the same day as the Big Final of We All Know What, but we plan to be done and dusted in time for that, then come on down to Zoo Lake and support my dad in his first actual music gig.
I hear that the other musicians aren't half bad either and I can recommend the Moyo breakfast (well judging by the plates going past me it looked yummy) so I think I can safely say you will have a good time.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Good Things Come to Those Who Ask


I subscribe to Jack Canfield's newsletter, he wrote one of the best books I have come across on how to have a successful life. I am allowed to post his latest article as long as I include his contact details below.

Here it is:

Good Things Come to Those Who Ask by Jack Canfield

Good things come to those who ask!Asking for what you need is probably the most underutilized tool for people. And yet, amazing requests have been granted to people simply because they've asked for it!

Whether its money, information, support, assistance, or time, most people are afraid to ask for what they need in order to make their dreams come true.

They might be afraid of looking needy, ignorant, helpless, or even greedy. More than likely, though, it is the fear of rejection that is holding them back. Even though they are afraid to hear the word no, they're already saying it to themselves by not asking!

Do you ask for what you want or are you afraid of rejection?

Consider this: Rejection is just a concept. There is really no such thing as rejection! You're not any worse off by hearing no than you were before you asked. You didn't have what you asked for before you asked and you still don't, so what did you lose?

Being rejected doesn't hold you back from anything. Only YOU hold yourself back. When you realize that there's no merit to rejection, you'll feel more comfortable asking for things. You may just need a bit of help learning how to ask for what you want.

How to Ask for What You Want

There’s a specific science to asking for and getting what you want or need in life. And while I recommend you learn more by studying The Aladdin Factor, here are some quick tips to get you started:

1. Ask as if you expect to get it. Ask with a positive expectation. Ask from the place that you have already been given it. It is a done deal. Ask as if you expect to get a “yes.”

2. Assume you can. Don’t start with the assumption that you can’t get it. If you are going to assume, assume you can get an upgrade. Assume you can get a table by the window. Assume that you can return it without a sales slip. Assume that you can get a scholarship, that you can get a raise, that you can get tickets at this late date. Don’t ever assume against yourself.

3. Ask someone who can give it to you. Qualify the person. Who would I have to speak to get... Who is authorized to make a decision about... What would have to happen for me to get...

4. Be clear and specific. In my seminars, I often ask, “Who wants more money in their life?” I’ll pick someone who raised their hand and give them a quarter, asking, “Is that enough for you?” “No? Well, how would I know how much you want? How would anybody know?”

You need to ask for a specific number. Too many people are walking around wanting more of something, but not being specific enough to obtain it.

5. Ask repeatedly. One of the most important Success Principles is the commitment to not give up.

Whenever we’re asking others to participate in the fulfillment of our goals, some people are going to say “no.” They may have other priorities, commitments and reasons not to participate. It’s no reflection on you.

Just get used to the idea that there’s going to be a lot of rejection along the way to the brass ring. The key is to not give up. When someone says “No”— you say “NEXT!” Why?

Because when you keep on asking, even the same person again and again...they might say “yes”...

…on a different day
…when they are in a better mood
…when you have new data to present
…after you’ve proven your commitment to them
…when circumstances have changed
…when you’ve learned how to close better
…when you’ve established better rapport
…when they trust you more
…when you have paid your dues
…when the economy is better
…and so on.

Kids know this Success Principle better than anyone. They will ask the same person over and over again without any hesitation. (can you relate?)

Getting a good perspective on rejection and learning how to ask will make a world of difference for you as you work toward your goals. Practice asking and you'll get very good at it! You'll even speed your progress by getting what you need, or improving yourself in order to get it later.

Make a list of what you need to ask for in all areas of your life, and start asking.

Remember, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE… if you dare to ask!


Jack Canfield, America's #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul© and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you're ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get your FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at: www.FreeSuccessStrategies.com

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mister Turkey and His Wife

Here’s a painting I did way back in 1988. I decided to call it Mister Turkey and His Wife.

It has been hanging in my mother’s house for just over twenty years and she loves it.

I have never shown it to the world until now. It was the last one I ever did along these lines up until now.

It ties together two running themes in my work back then that I only really noticed after giving a lot of thought to what I was up to in those days. One is the exploration of animals, sometimes figures, in unexpected places – like pigs in the lounge, horse statues in the sea, a pig at the dining table, and so on. The other was playing with famous works of art and using them as a backdrop for my strangely placed figures.

I did a couple of very large charcoal drawings – these were the first of these and give a hint to where I was going art wise. One is of strangely sized, unexpected figures in a landscape based on a famous painting by El Greco, the other is also strange figures – inspired by ancient Greek statues set in a landscape based on a work by Goya.




‘MisterTurkey and His Wife’ encompasses all of this – animals in a place you would not expect them, the place itself based on a famous painting by Jan Van Eyck often known as The Marriage of Arnolfini and His Wife. The animals too are much bigger than you would expect, I often deliberately change the scale in my paintings to further intrigue you and emphasize the idea that they do not belong in the setting in which I put them.

Yet at the same time, I try to keep the portrayal realistic, I want you to believe in what you are seeing. Yet we both know it’s not real – but I want to amuse you and at the same time make you want to know why.

Am I making fun of the Van Eyck painting?

I am certainly being very playful with it, maybe it’s a subconscious response to the way we elevate famous works of art. Do I think Mr Arnolfini is a turkey and his wife a chicken? No, not really, but I also know that it could and probably would be seen as such.

Perhaps that is part of the humour – just think – why a turkey and a chicken – I could have placed much more impressive animals. Would a lion and a tiger receive a different response? Undoubtedly.

I am often drawn to the mundane – I like to elevate in a work of art that which you would not often expect to be elevated – so it’s chickens, turkeys and pigs all the way.

I do this in landscape too, I often select a simple thing and elevate it by painting it with care and attention. This is why The Walk series is so appealing; it’s just scenes of “down the road” – a tree outside a cluster complex, a path leading to a dustbin and so on.

With the Mister Turkey painting , I am taking a great work of art, depicting a person who sees himself and his wife as important enough to warrant a commissioned portrait and thus elevating themselves, and replacing them with the mundane. So you could say I am reducing that which was elevated.

Interestingly, I understand my painting more now than when I first painted it, perhaps it is the distance of years that helps me see the big picture, or maybe I am just older and wiser.