Thursday, March 31, 2016


While I am here in Spain, I am getting private lessons on painting portraits from my an amazing artist-daughter,  Kim Peters. She has studied under several world-class modern masters, and she is also a modern master in my humble opinion! So, we are squishing in some lessons in her painting techniques between all the other activities of family and sight-seeing. Here is a photo of my color study, and the beginning of the actual portrait. My brain hurts from learning so much, but I am soooooo grateful to have this instruction! Wish I could have Kim all to myself for a continuous week of lessons...   :-)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Last week we visited Parque Europa, one of the largest themed parks in Europe - 233,000 square meters of land. Parque Europa boasts 18 reproductions of the most important monuments of many European cities. It also has areas of different activities for kids and adults alike, as well as 3 lakes and green spaces to enjoy. 

Many of the activities were still not open, which we thought odd as it was spring break and kids were out of school. Still, we made the best of our time there, and as you see below, "our" kids played mini golf, and they (and grandpa) had a great time with archery.

Below are some of the monuments which may be familiar to you...we traveled all over Europe in a few hours! :-) It was sunny, and cloudy all afternoon, and when we left, it began to rain - so the timing was perfect. I am glad we were not there in summer - I think it would be very hot to walk the park on a Spanish summer day!

London Bridge

Berlin Expo Sculpture

Trevi Fountain

Eiffel Tower

olive tree

mini golf


Thursday, March 24, 2016


We have been "out and about" for the last several days, and I am falling behind in posting pictures of what we've been doing! Everyone is feeling much better health-wise, so we have been able to do some exploring.

We went into Madrid on the train (I love how convenient travel is in Europe with their train system) to visit the Madrid Railway Museum. It is one of the largest historic railroad collections in all of Europe. The architect of the building was Gustave Eiffel - the same man who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This was a wonderful experience for the majority of the family, who are all interested in history. One of the trains (photo below) was similar to one which my son-in-law, Kurt, traveled on way back when he first visited Europe. We were able to walk through it - very spacious and not much different than the modern trains, really.

There were many, many trains from all ages. One of the engines had a great deal of corrosion, and I was able to take some photos through the lace-like pattern of the remaining metal...really cool! 

After a couple of hours in the museum, we were able to find a yummy Indian restaurant where we enjoyed a great meal. It was a fun and interesting day!

Madrid Railway Museum, designed by Eiffel

One of the first high speed trains in Europe
Sydney enjoyed peeking into the trains which were not open for inspection

Through the corrosion of an engine

Friday, March 18, 2016


A few days ago, we were able to go into Madrid and see the Cleopatra exhibit! Although I was unable to take any pictures (forbidden!), I can assure you that it was impressive. The exhibit itself was very large, with so many interesting artifacts and information, that it took us a couple of hours to see it all. That is quite a bit of time when there are 3 active and anxious kids who zipped through it in half that time. :-) However, being the amazing kids that they are, they patiently waited with their dad in the ubiquitous gift shop which was at the exit from the building. It was quite a surprise to see the extraordinary ability of artists from thousands of years ago - their skills were stunning, as were their pieces - from jewelry, pottery, dishes, statues to carvings and paintings on various surfaces such as sand and marble. In addition to the actual artifacts, there was a whole section on various women in modern history who have played the part of Cleopatra in movies from Hollywood. The clothing they wore, the gigantic sphinx used in one movie, wooden chariots and so on, were all on display. So interesting!  It was wonderful to be able to experience this exhibit while in Spain.

Another afternoon, we went for a hike in a National Park. It is a very large reserve which is used by many mountain bikers, as it has great hills and valleys, and lots of heart-stopping jumps as well. As we were walking, my husband observed that this is the kind of wood which Sir Lancelot would have chased Guinevere through...I didn't really understand what he meant until he explained:  In the places we have lived in Canada, or visited in the USA, the woods have so much undergrowth, that it would be difficult for horses to navigate, let alone reach a gallop. But this wood has only grass as its undergrowth, so it is wide open, and a person riding on a horse could gallop through the trees quite nicely. This is the kind of woods that I imagined in the Narnia series of books, and that Syd felt would have been perfect in the times of the Knights of the Round Table.

You might be wondering where the "spiders" in my title comes into the picture in our time in Spain. Well, actually, it came into play before we left Canada. About a week before our flight here, I got a small bite of some sort on my right arm, just above the inside of my wrist. Although I tried treating it with several different things, the size of the bite continued to grow in size and in itchiness, and would NOT heal -  until it became a concern.  As well, one of the children's colds turned into sinusitis, and needed medical attention. So, off to the doctor we went, with Kim to translate. My bite is a spider bite which had festered, and needed a special cream to heal. And Isaiah's cold had indeed deteriorated to the point of needing antibiotics. So we are both on the mend. Syd, however, has succumbed to the cold virus, and is now slowly recovering. The others are almost completely cold-free. Kim and I are doing everything we can to keep from getting sick!  

One of the goals I had for this trip was to sketch as much as possible. I bought a lovely sketch book, which I am using most every day. I did a photo shoot last year with my neighbour's girl, and I plan to do her portrait when I get home, trying some new ideas in the piece. So, I am sketching her picture to work out details. As well, there is the cat, the dog, the kids, and things around me - anything to work on my drawing skills and improve my confidence and ability. Practice, practice and more practice. :-)

Sunday, March 13, 2016


This week, we had planned to do our El Camino trip, but it has been delayed. Four of the seven people in this household have been very sick with a nasty virus which has them coughing much of the time, high temperatures, and requiring lots and lots of sleep. It really was for the best that we delay, as there was snow and very cold temperatures on the Camino where we planned to hike.

There are two creatures in this household - a Papillon dog and a cat. They are best of friends - and about the same size. 

I remember seeing an article a couple of years ago about a dog in a senior care facility letting the staff know who was going to die next as it would go to that person and lay with them just before their passing. Well, this cat was like that dog this week, in that he would go and lay on/sleep with the person who was getting sick to comfort them and let them know he was sympathetic!

Yesterday, those of us who were still well decided to go in to Madrid by train, to the Thyssen Museum (of art).  I have my FitBit on every day, and 10,000 steps were easy to achieve when walking through the museum.  There were 3 major exhibits at the Thyssen; the one which inspired me, fired my imagination, and which I related to the most was the  Andrew and Jamie Wyeth exhibit. I LOVED it! Having lived in the prairies for the majority of my life, I knew their monochromatic palette was true to life, and I knew the old buildings and landscapes smelled of dust, sunbaked grasses and wild herbs. The paintings of their summers at the coast took me back to my childhood in New Brunswick on the east coast of Canada - a region very similar to the neighbouring state of Maine. What an amazing collection of their work.  You are not allowed to take photos in the museum, yet I brought home photos of every one of the paintings - in a now-treasured book of the entire display!

Walking to and from the train stations was also an experience. (We arrived and exited Madrid from different stations.) Here are some photos of downtown Madrid, and my fellow art lovers who had this experience with me. :-)
The first thing we noticed once we were on the streets of Madrid was this huge sign on  the Post Office.
Madrid has many beautiful parks,  ponds, fountains, and gardens where "wildlife" can be seen. This pair had come out of one pond in the hopes of being fed by the many admirers who had stopped to take pictures of them.
After seeing the Wyeth display as well as the Madrid Realist exhibit, it was a given that I would take a photo of my cafe con leche at the Museum. In all 3 of the current exhibits, the artists took photos of,  and painted, what was around them in their every day lives. 
Downtown Madrid has beautiful old apartment buildings

Syd and Kim were looking for wild parrots in the trees next to the Prado Museum, which is a short distance from the Thyssen Museum

This building is the Department of Agriculture. So many of Madrid's buildings are like this one in that they have statues on the top of the building, and many artistic features on the face of the building as well.
Here is another museum in Madrid - and its "living wall" which has to be watered from a crane as it is so tall! In the spring, when the plants bloom, Kim says it forms beautiful patterns of color.

As with many of the major train stations of the world, Madrid's premier train station is a work of art ! This building is immense and a beautiful piece of architecture.