Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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NaBloPoMo – Day 16 – Painting

I think I want to paint my condo. Back when I bought it, I didn’t have much turnaround time between when I got possession of the place and when I had to be out the place I was renting due to some travel that I’d booked before I knew I was going to buy the place, so I didn’t have time to paint when I bought it. And I was mostly OK with the colours of the place anyway. I mean, I didn’t love the brown wall in the bedroom, but I didn’t hate it. But it’s been more than three years and I feel like it could do with some freshening up. I’ve never painted before, so I guess I’m going to have to watch some YouTube videos – which, from everyone I know who does any sort of home improvement project, is how one learns how to do such things. So if anyone has any recommended YouTube videos and/or other resources about painting rooms that they think are particularly useful, please pass them along! Or colour recommendations – I have zero knowledge of interior design or what’s trendy vs. outdated. My decorating strategy up to this point in my life can best be described as haphazard – I like
this painting; I need a new dresser because this one is falling apart; oooh, I love this purple chair! So any and all advice is appreciated!


Paint Nite – Take 2

Remember that time I did a Paint Nite with Cath? Well, I also did a paint night with my friend Amy way back in the old timely days of October! Here’s the painting we were trying to paint – a heron sitting on a hill:

Paint Nite with Amy

My hero turned out to look more like a duck, but I’m OK with a duck on a hill:

Paint Nite with Amy

I don’t really love my clouds, but overall I’m happy enough with the painting that I’ll hang it up (once I figure out which wall I want to hang it on!)

Amy was unhappy with her initial attempt at the heron, so she painted over it making the hill bigger and did another heron!

And here are Amy and I with our masterpieces!

Paint Nite with Amy


Paint Nite – Take 1

A little while ago I got the idea that it would be fun to get some friends together to do a Paint Nite. For the uninitiated, Paint Nite1 is where you go to a restaurant and they have all the supplies you need to do a painting – a canvas, paint, brushes, smocks – and an artist who gives you instructions on how to paint a particular picture. I emailed around to a bunch of friends to see who was interested, but given that people need to align on available dates, locations they can get to, and taste in art (since everyone is painting the same picture), I didn’t manage to get a group together. I did, however, find a date/place/painting that worked for both me and Cath (this past Monday) and another date/place/painting that worked for me and Amy (late August). And so it was that on Monday after work, Cath and I found ourselves at Nuba2 in Kitsilano wearing smocks and ready to paint!

To set the stage, this is the painting that we were trying to imitate:

Paint Nite


Now, I should point out that the disclaimer on the Paint Nite website notes:

Paint Nite makes no representations or warranties about the quality of your painting or individual experience. Every painting will be unique, and the expectation that your painting will be a facsimile of the painting depicted on the Website is patently absurd. (emphasis mine)

I can only imagine the situation that lead to a frustrated legal writer penning this statement!

At any rate, we were told that the instructor would show us how to paint this painting, but we were free to change things up as we liked.

I feel like things were going OK for me as I painted the sky and the mountain – I decided I wanted to go with a darker sky and a blacker mountain than the original – and even the land on which the trees would sit. I didn’t love my trees at first – the instructor wasn’t giving very clear instructions at that point… he was mostly just saying “Do this with your brush” but not explaining what “this” was.  And then when it came time to paint the water, things went totally off the rails. I had *no idea* what he was talking about and he seemed to be doing it all very fast, so I need up getting, well, this:

Paint Nite

Then things went from bad to worse, as we were supposed to be painting some yellow (i.e., moonlight) on the water, but mine turned out way too yellow:

Paint Nite

Yes, I realize that this looks like I have more of a wavy stream of urine than some moonlit water on the bottom of the painting!

I know that one evening does not a painter make and so I’m not just making excuses here, but I would like to reiterate that the instructor could have been a little bit more effective than he was. I would have appreciated some more specifics and, quite honestly, fewer cliché sentences like “Just feel the tree emerge from the brush”. Also, I know that this is supposed to be a “fun” and “nonjudgemental” good time, but I also could have done without comments like “These all look amazing! You are all doing such a great job!” because that, to borrow a phrase, was patently absurd. My painting is not, by any measure, amazing, and it wasn’t by any stretch the worst painting there. I’m not saying the instructor should tell us that our paintings look terrible or anything, but he just came across as completely insincere by doing that.

Anyway, I don’t think we did half bad for two people who haven’t picked up a paint brush in decades and, as Cath pointed out, we each reconfirmed that we made a good career choice in becoming a scientist.

Paint Nite

Cath and her masterpiece

Paint Nite

Me and my masterpiece

And, most importantly, we had a blast! I’m looking forward, to Paint Nite 2, The Repaintening. I’m hopefully that the instructor is a little better at the next one, though I think I’ll check out some YouTube videos on how to paint before then just in case!

  1. As per usual with blog postings where I talk about companies, I have no affiliation with Paint Nite. I paid for the event like everyone else, so I’m not receiving bribes to blog about it! []
  2. I also have no affiliation with Nuba. I wish they would give me bribes – their food is delicious! – but alas, I paid for my own drinks and dinner there. []



What trip to Ireland would be complete with kissing the Blarney Stone?


Yes, I know that it’s a very tourist-y thing to do. But seeing as I was a tourist and all, I didn’t have a problem with that1.

The story goes that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you receive the “gift of the gab”. I always thought that meant that you’d talk a lot – and anyone who has met me for more than 5 seconds knows that I don’t need any help in the regard. But the “gift of the gab” is actually about eloquence – the ability to flatter in a very convincing way. Which seems like a valuable skill to have, no?


I only just now am realizing that I forgot to include Blarney Castle in my blog posting about castles. Castle FAIL!

Blarney Castle:


And lest you think that Blarney is just about the stone, may I present to you this garden with giant eyeballs in it, which we saw on our way through the grounds to get to Blarney Castle?




I’m not sure why, but I kind of love those eyeballs.

We’d been warned by our tour guide that the line up to kiss the stone gets long fast and so we went right to the castle to get in line2.

Even still, we ended up in quite a long line. And the line up for the stone, which is up on the top of the castle, runs through the narrow passageways and staircases of the castle. And it moves very, very slowly. I think you’d be in trouble if you were even a little bit claustrophobic and you were stuck in that lineup.

Notice the counterclockwise spiral staircase:


My mom and aunts at the top of the castle – waiting for our chance at the stone:


And me:


Part of what makes kissing the Blarney Stone a big deal is that you have to hang backwards over a ledge to get to it and it’s pretty high up. I took this photo to show you how high up, but it doesn’t look as high up in the photo as it felt in person! Photo fail!


Line up of people at the Blarney Stone:


And before we knew it, it was our turn to kiss the stone! Because the line gets so long, the guy who holds onto you so you don’t fall to your death3 really rushes people through. You have to lie on your back, grab the rails, and bend backwards to kiss the stone on the opposite wall.

Of our group, I was up first and no one even got a photo of me! Fortunately, Blarney Castle, like any good tourist trap, is ready for such an eventuality and takes a photo of you kissing the stone and then will sell it to you. Isn’t that nice of them? Here’s mine:


Despite warnings from my epidemiologist friends, I did not sanitize the stone before kissing it!

Once I had gone, I was quick on the draw and managed to snap photos of my mom:


Who kind of freaked out at the height, but managed to kiss the stone nonetheless!


My Aunt Eileen:


And my Aunt Lynn:


Here’s a view from the ground:


So you can see that the safety bars mean that even if you lost your grip on the handrails, and the guy lost his grip on you, and you were far enough over the edge to fall, you’d just land on the bars. No big deal.


After kissing the stone, we decided to check out the Poison Garden, which is, as you might expect, a garden full of plants that are poisonous:


Like the sign at the Cliffs of Moher, this was not a sign I was going to disobey!




One of the plants in the garden that was a surprise to me was rhubarb. Apparently while you can eat its root, eating the leaves will kill you!


Common laburnum:


We also checked out the Badgers Cave:


Here’s a picture of me in the Badgers Cave…


…shortly before my aunt informed me that there was a giant eight-legged monster in said cave, and I got the hell out of there!



Both my aunts escaped from the cave unharmed as well!

And the last notable thing from Blarney was that I got a painting! I’d seen it in the window of “Blarney Arts & Crafts” on our way to Blarney Castle, but I hadn’t stopped because we were so focused on getting to the stone so as to beat the lineup. But even though I’d only just looked at it briefly, I really liked it, and so on our way back to the tour bus I suggested we stop by the store so I could check it out in more detail. And then I decided I really did love it and after hemming and hawing about how I was going to get it back to Vancouver, my mom said, “Oh, just get it and we’ll figure it out later!” And so I did! (Or should I so, so my Aunt Eileen did, because she insisted on buying it for me. I’m very spoiled!).

Here’s a photo of me and the artist – although I didn’t catch his name and discovered when I got home that there’s no signature on the painting, so I have no idea who he is! [Update: I followed the Blarney Arts & Crafts Facebook page and, lo and behold, I saw an announcement there that they’d updated their webpage… and when I checked it out, the artist’s name was there where it wasn’t there before – Arthur Cansdale!]


As it turned out, this painting was just a wee bit too big to fit in my suitcase and I contemplated taking it as carry-on on the plane, but in the end my mom convinced me that I should just but a new suitcase, since mine was 1,000 years old and had a big rip in it anyway. So now I have an awesome new painting AND an awesome purple suitcase. Win-win!

  1. See also: this photo. []
  2. We actually talked to someone who had been there the previous day, but the line up was so long they couldn’t get to the stone, so they came back on this day first thing in the morning to make sure they got their chance. []
  3. In truth you can’t fall to your death because they have installed safety bars beneath where you hang over the edge. Probably because so many people fell to their deaths. []