Thursday, December 27, 2007

Running Water!

It's amazing how stuff falls into place. Just two days ago we didn't have a sink or faucet or counter top. Now we have all three!! We are shifting all of our tooth brushing equipment up tonight!!!

Isn't it gorgeous? Mom was visiting us over Christmas, and she left one day too early to enjoy running water upstairs again. Well, you've got a nice treat now when you come back!

Dave installed the counter top yesterday, and we stayed up until 1 am this morning sanding it to 600 grit by hand (don't ask). The results are spectacular. It's such a gorgeous smooth finish with the right colour value (when it was rough, it was too light), and it looks very smart. Now Dave has to remember not to use it as a surface to place tools while he works, and of course, be careful of the sink & faucet. If we have to, we'll disassemble and reassemble, but we'll just enjoy the functionality and be as careful as possible. I think it'll be safe to leave it installed, certainly for a while.

Grouse & Raspberries

We had a lovely grouse breast sitting in our freezer. Dave got the ruffed grouse this autumn up at Dad's; he also brought the gorgeous tail back too, but Murri unfortunately found it. Needless to say, we came home to find feathers from one end of the house to the other, and a very tired, but smug, cat.

I haven't ever cooked grouse before. Dad made us slow cooked stewed grouse a few autumns ago, but we don't have a slow cooker. So I thought I'd wrap the breast halves in a slice of bacon and bake them. They turned out quite well, and weren't too dry at all. I made these raspberry corn meal muffins, but had some leftover raspberries. So I deglazed the roasting pan with red wine and boiled off most of the moisture, then added the raspberries and continued to boil for a while, adding a touch of corn starch at the end. This sauce was ladled onto the grouse & our side salad, and was a nice accompaniment.

Raspberry & Corn Meal Muffins

1 cup corn meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup lemon juice (should be two lemons, squozed)
1/4 tsp zest
1 cup raspberries

Grease 12-cup muffin tin and preheat oven to 400°F. Combine dry ingredients. Combine moist ingredients. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in wet mix. When partly blended, add fruit & zest, and mix sparingly. Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Chicken Exploded in Our Bathroom!

Not literally, but it sure looked like it!

Dave was routering the edge of the solid-state counter top of our vanity, and the shavings flew everywhere, looking like the proverbial exploded chicken. And the toilet became fluffy!

So here's the rounded edge of the counter top for the vanity:

And what the vanity looks like in place.

The counter looks great! Next step is inletting the plumbing and polishing. We might have a sink & taps installed by the end of the week (fingers crossed!!!).

Turkey Leftovers

Not that we had turkey, per se, but I did make stock from some turkey necks & backs. As a result, I had a bunch of meat left on the necks and backs that I didn't want to just throw away. So I made a very modified version of Chilequeles that turned out to be the perfect use for left-overs.

Turkey Bits Chilequeles

3 cups shredded turkey meat (approximate)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup salsa
2 1/2 cups cooked beans (kidney, black turtle, cocoa, pinto, etc)
1 1/2 cups grated aged cheddar
2 1/2 cups coarsely crushed nacho chips (most of a 454g bag)

The measures are all approximate - I did it in a 9x13" baking pan, and you might want more or less of cheese, beans, nachos, whatever. I sprayed the baking pan with a little grapeseed oil to prevent sticking. Mix the meat, cilantro and salsa, then spread evenly into the bottom of the baking pan. Sprinkle about a third of the cheese over this mixture. Press half of the crumbled tortilla chips into the mixture then sprinkle another third of the cheese on top. Layer the last half of tortillas and sprinkle with the last third of cheese. Bake in centre of oven at 375°F oven for about 20-30 minutes, until cheese is melted and crispy, and everything is heated through. Serve with a spoonful of sour cream and slices of avocado.

Dave was given a great book of meat from James & Jacquie, and we all learned a new term: now you too can learn how to spatchcock a bird.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Cookies

Originally posted to WetCanvas! by TeAnne

I found a recipe in a magazine last year that I really wanted to try, but hadn't got around to it. I figured I'd take advantage of Mom being over for a visit to help with the rolling of the dough. As it is the middle of December, I didn't have the fresh herbs called for by the recipe, but dried worked beautifully well, just very crumbly to chop! Of course, I also replaced the regular flour with rice flour so that Mom could eat it. The rule of thumb with substituting the super-fine, no gluten rice flour that seems to work usually is for every cup of regular wheat flour, use 1/8 cup less rice flour.

Lavender Shortbread
1 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp finely chopped lavender florets
1 tbsp finely chopped mint
2 1/3 cup flour (but I used rice flour which was 1 3/4 plus 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup cornstarch

Cream butter & sugar until fluffy. Add in mint & lavender & mix until fluffy again. Combine flour & cornstarch in a separate bowl, then gradually add to the creamed mix and beat until well incorporated. It gets kind of stiff, so I used my hands to knead the dough somewhat.

Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic and chill for 30-60 minutes. Roll or pat out squares between sheets of wax paper (if using regular flour, you can roll out onto a lightly floured surface) until 1/2" thick. Cut into 1 1/2" squares. Space on parchment-lined baking sheets approximately 1" apart and prick with fork. Bake at 325°F for 20-25 minutes until pale golden. Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to cooling rack.

The resulting shortbread looks rather coarse, almost like an oat cake, because of the bits of herb, but the flavour is much more sophisticated than a regular shortbread, and in fact, seems slightly less sweet because of the minty/lavender flavour. These worked out to be a wonderful Christmas cookie.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Belated LSDI Christmas Party Pics

Thanks to Dawn & Paul for hosting another wonderful Christmas dinner for us all! Naturally, Laura was the centre of attention pretty much all night long.

Deep in tactical discussion
Dave & James

Kathy & Dawn

Who's THAT baby?

Who needs a tree to decorate?

Laura gets a lift from Paul

Peekaboo Laura!

Phaedra needs more convincing, Ian!

Daddy's girl

Summit '07 - Ian, Laura & Louise discuss politics

Must be a good story - Dawn, Jacqueline & Phaedra

Here comes Santa Claus!
Dawn, Jacqueline, Kathy, Phaedra, Ian, and Paul in background

Laura being cute off stage right
Dawn, Jacqueline, Paul, Kathy & Phaedra in attendance

Melissa makes a dash for the kitchen

Montrose makes himself comfy
"No one is going home - I couldn't possibly move"

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bathroom Progress

A considerable amount of work has been done on our bathroom since my last update about it. Dave ripped out everything except the toilet. Literally everything. Plus a couple of walls.

The bathroom today

There is now a pocket door between the hall and bathroom (although the door currently hung is temporary; we do actually have the real thing sitting waiting in the hall, with the brass fittings set in by our master carpenter), and also somewhat finished walls on all by one part of the room (behind where the tub will go - that has to be special water proof drywall). Thanks to help from Uncle Steve, we have electricals installed (new fan, moved overhead light (we've purchased an actual fixture from Restoration Hardware), two lights installed over where the vanity will go (again, actual Restoration Hardware fixtures, but they'll be installed at the end), as well as a GFI wall plug also just above the vanity). Also thanks to help from Uncle Steve, we have some plumbing moved and replaced (the taps leading to the vanity have been shifted to the other side of the stud they were on originally, with new valve turn-offs). We've purchased a sink and faucet. Dave's got a length of solid-state counter top, courtesy of Uncle Steve. And, what I think is stunningly important, the beautiful new piece of cabinetry is basically ready, including the brand-new hardware in chrome that was just installed today.

The vanity, while quite lovely in wood, was made to be paint grade (the wood doesn't match). I'm getting excited about colours! Quite obviously, there's still a ridiculous amount of work to be done, but in between going to Mom's and doing stuff for my family, and doing stuff for Dave's family, and hunting, and travelling, and maybe fitting in some other actual wood working projects (oh, yeah, and producing about 30 frames for me, at last count), it's actually remarkable that Dave has managed to do anything on our bathroom!

As an aside, he's also built a little access door for the crawl space in the ceiling at the end of the hall, which he also just installed today. That should help keep us a little warmer - the crawl space has been open for about 3 months now. Plus, it looks beautiful, and is, of course, over built! But then, it wouldn't be Dave and his brilliant wood working skills if it weren't.

Venison Bourguignon with Roasted Root Vegetables

You'll be happy to know that this doe did not make it into the stew pot.

But another one did!

Dave brought home a beautiful mule deer doe from the Peace River country up near Chetwynd this fall, and she's been very tasty. I know, many people will be deeply offended by that statement. Too bad. Unless they are die-hard vegans who live what they preach, then I'm afraid I don't have a lot of sympathy for anyone who eats store-purchased meat in this day and age that thinks that hunting is cruel. Anyway, I digress. This is our second deer and this one got hung for a few days before being butchered into meat packages, and what an incredible difference! This doe is so darned tender, it's mouth-wateringly good.

So dinner for last night & tonight was prepared as follows:

approximately 1 lb of cubed venison stew, silver skin removed
2 tbsp bacon fat (well, you could use oil, but bacon fat is just so much tastier!)
1 can dark beer (in our case, Canterbury)
4 large brown (crimini) mushrooms, coarsely sliced
scant 1/4 cup flour (possibly less, depending on how much liquid there is left after cooking)

Melt bacon fat, then brown meat all around at medium high heat to seal, but not cook. Pour in beer and add mushrooms, turn down heat to minimum or low, and let whole thing simmer for a minimum of 1/2 hour, but can be longer. When getting ready to serve, turn up heat a bit and add in flour to thicken.

For roasted veggies:

1 large sweet potato (orange root vegetable, not yellow fleshed yam)
1-2 medium rutabaga (from our garden)
4-6 medium potatoes (we used Russian blue and French fingerling from our garden)
a generous sprinkling of salt (Brittany grey)
1 tbsp crumbled dry oregano

Chop the veggies up into coarse chips (fries) shape, spray pan & veggies liberally with grape seed oil (if you don't have oil atomizer, you can mix salt & herbs with a couple of tbsp of oil then dribble over veggies). Roast at around 350°F for at least an hour, turning regularly, until fairly crisp and baked on the outside.

Serve with the stew & gravy ladled out over the veggies, and maybe with a pint on the side. Mmmm!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What to do with the carcass?

Not being a huge fan of whole chicken (until we discovered that a small chicken done in our covered barbeque was THE way to eat poultry!), I usually ask Dave to carve the bits off the carcass to cook, and then save the carcass for later. We also completely bone out our squirrels: we found that when kept on the bone, it was easy to over cook the meat. By boning them, you can cook the meat in smaller portions and to just the right point.

Anyway, I had a freezer-full of carcasses and I thought I'd deal with them. So yesterday I made a pot of stock out of:

3 chicken carcasses (including necks & gibblets)
2 squirrel carcasses
1 medium carrot, peeled into the pot (i.e. peel the whole carrot into the pot)
1 medium parsnip, ditto
4 sprigs of fresh sage
3 very large bushy sprigs of thyme (probably equal to a couple of tablespoons if I had bothered to strip the leaves off)
sprinkling of grey sea salt
enough water to just cover the carcasses

Brought the water to a boil, and probably boiled it for a couple of hours. Skimmed off some of the scum (you're supposed to skim as it boils in order to keep it clear, but I wasn't able to because the peelings and herbs were floating in the way). Removed the carcasses (falling apart!) and all the trimmings. Put just the liquid back on the stove and reduced it down to about 2 litres (probably from 4 or 5 litres after cooking).

I picked the carcasses of meat and broke up the chicken livers and divided small portions of the bits into ice-cube containers, then poured enough stock over to create the cube & froze. These are Murri's "treats", which he gets in addition to the kibble hockey.

Today, I took the stock, skimmed the surface of scum, and strained it through a coffee filter over a sieve and used it to make my own version of "Italian Wedding" soup:

6 cups stock
3-4 sprigs of basil, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh green beans
2 large turkey & cranberry sausages, sliced into rounds & fried
1 package (12 oz) Tinkyada organic brown rice pasta

I cooked the pasta using their "energy efficient" method: boil the water, add the pasta & cook in the boiling water about 2 minutes, then turn off the heat, keep the lid on and let sit for 20 minutes. Drain & rinse. About 4 minutes to go, I turned off the heat of the soup & tossed in the basil & beans to warm up. Once everything was heated & cooked, I put everything together and served. Very tasty.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In Praise of Salt

It all started with a unique gift from my best buddy, Elizabeth. I think she bought it for me for Christmas (or maybe my birthday) a couple of years ago. She knows I appreciate unusual stuff, especially neat food items. She's a foodie and a wonderful chef, so she always has great surprises. This one was a gift of salt. Hawaiian red sea salt (in the photo), to be precise, the flavour and colour of which is influenced by baked red clay. Perhaps she got the idea from when we returned from our honeymoon in France with fleur de sel from the Camargue (that never got eaten, by the way: it makes the most lovely body scrub for the shower. Alas, all gone now...). At any rate, it was a great gift, but it took me a while before I fully appreciated it.

I let it sit on my shelf for a long time, because I didn't really know what I wanted to use it on. I thought it would be such a waste to just use it in cooking, especially as I wanted to be able to taste its unique flavour. I also don't really use a lot of salt in my cooking, and I never remember to place it on the table for people's use; a very early habit developed when my Dad was put on a salt-restricted diet when I was a child (I don't think the salt restriction for him lasted a long time!).

Then an idea struck me: I use salt on popcorn, and I'd be able to taste the unique flavour of this salt, so why not try it? That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Next I tried it on our fried eggs (sunny side up, pinch of salt & pepper, maybe a little cumin, while cooking, perfection!). Now I add it to many things (including my whole grain dishes), and have it in a nifty little salt mill that I can set to coarse or fine (almost always coarse!) for adding that dash of difference during meal preparation.

Now intrigued by the world of "other" salt (having experienced Camargue, Hawaiian and of course, Kosher), I am enthusiastic to try other varieties. Not too long ago, I purchased grey sea salt from Brittany. It has its own unique flavour and character, not the least of which is that it's much less distinctively crystalline than the red salt, and much harder to use in the salt mill (gums it up). So it stays as whole salt to be added in a pinch to certain things.

If you know nothing of the history of salt, then I highly recommend Mark Kurlansky's "Salt: A World History" as an interesting history of the world as seen through humanity's addiction for and interaction with salt.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New Kitchen Staple

I had heard good things about toasted sesame oil, but had never had occasion to use it, so it didn't live in my pantry until recently. I picked it up a couple of months ago from my favourite bulk and specialty food store Galloways, but it still sat in my cupboard for a while before I thought to try it. Then I made one of my typical "all in one" dishes (a grain & bean salad) and thought I'd dress it with with an oil based dressing and remembered the toasted sesame. Wow! What a difference! I mean, I put lots of goodies into these dishes, so they usually have good flavour, but this takes the prize. I shall never make this dish without toasted sesame oil again if I can help it!! So, here are, generally speaking, the ingredients from this week's version (contents subject to availability & boredom levels!).

  • 1 cup cooked grain (this week wheat berries; alternatively barley, but also sometimes second grain of quinoa or buckwheat groats)
  • 1 cup cooked beans (aduki this week; alternatively turtle, kidney or cocoa, or garbanzos)
  • 4 small carrots, sliced in rounds (this week from our garden, yay!!)
  • 1 pomegranate, just the seeds (when in season)
  • 1 cup chopped parsley & cilantro (about half a bunch each; alternatively, from our fall garden, I use a mixture of chopped chives, mint and celeriac leaves)
  • 1 broccoli crown, chopped into little broccoli florets, steamed briefly (2 min in microwave; green peas, pea pods, and apples are also good alternatives)
I have been known to add other seeds, like pumpkin, sunflower, flax, etc., but with the pomegranate seeds, I didn't feel it was necessary. I LOVE pomegranate season. They're one of my all time favourite fruits. And they're so pretty they add such nice colour to any dish. Apparently the seeds freeze well, so I've got to try that. Here's how to shuck a pomegranate if you've never done it before. Try to pick a pomegranate with nice red skin, no dark or light patches, that's heavy in your hand when you pick it up.

For the dressing, I just whisked together:
  • 1/4 cup grape seed oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • zest and juice of 1 lime (sometimes I use red wine, or balsamic vinegar instead)
  • 3 dashes of Louisiana hot sauce
  • pinch of cracked salt & pepper
On the first night, we had this dish with venison steaks (garnished with home-made native berry jelly, a perfect condiment for game) and roasted mushrooms. It was one of those rare (for me!) times when everything was just right - each piece of food had its own wonderful flavour & texture.

So we're on our third night of this grain & bean glop, and the flavours are just getting better (except the broccoli is a little past its prime now). But now it's all gone!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

In Memorium

Poor Goosey is no longer with us. After a valiant battle with a mink a few nights ago, while Goosey didn't appear to be physically damaged, we think that he was just stressed too far with the chase. Goosey, a great guard goose famed across Cobble Hill for his presence, will be missed dearly by all of us, as well as his field buddy, Lady the horse, who'll probably miss him the most of all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


My aunt Jean has constructed for her cat (and other cats) a giant rat out of an old muskrat fur coat. While we were traipsing around Ottawa, she created one for Murri out of left over and re-used scraps: "Frankenrat". Murri took a little while to believe that such an enormous creature wasn't going to attack him (he's still not 100% sure), but then he figured he should get the first tackle in. Here are some photos of Murri vs. Frankenrat.

And after all that hard work, Murri required a snorgle, confirming his prowess as a rat hunter and slayer.

Fall Colour

Dave & I just returned from a trip to Montréal and Ottawa, to visit our respective aunts. Dave's aunts live in Montréal; one of my aunts and number of cousins and aunts of my mother live in or around Ottawa. We arrived mid-October, and while the weather hadn't co-operated for a crimson blaze of colour, I was very happy with the beautiful range of gold through red with green interspersed that was on display.

We stayed on Nun's Island (Ile des Soeurs) just across the river from the main city of Montréal, which was quite convenient in some respects, but a little challenging in others. Our first day was spent wandering all over old Montréal, the Quays, the Latin Quarter, the small Chinatown, and finally ending with a brew pub dinner with a friend on St. Denis. We visited the Museum of Archaeology, and while it was quite interesting, as you are wondering under old Montréal through an excavated site, through layers of history back to the original settlement, we felt that some of the displays lacked information. There was nothing, for example, on the actual process of archaeology, and we felt a little let down by that. We wandered down St. Paul and found a print atelier which we spent a good amount of time browsing through. Mostly, we just walked and looked, and got some interesting impressions of some of the neighbourhoods around Montréal.

Getting back to Nun's Island was a bit of a trick. We found the Métro to be great, and took it to Lasalle station in Verdun (a neighbourhood of Montréal not too far from Nun's Island). We knew that there was a bus that left from there to Nun's Island, so we figured we'd catch the bus. Unfortunately, it's more of a commuter bus, and the service stops at 7 pm; we were there at 830. No problem, I thought, we'll just call a cab. Well, I asked for a pickup at the Lasalle station. You'd think would be enough of a unique landmark to get the cab in the right general area. The dispatcher asked for the address. Now, if you were standing at a SkyTrain station in Vancouver, you would NEVER find a street address, nor would you need to! They're all pretty unique in name and location (just like the Métro stations!). So here I am frantically running around trying to find out what street the Métro station is on, and I did see a street number on the station, but wasn't 100% sure that it was a street number, so I looked for the number of an apartment block across the street and gave the dispatcher that. Feeling pretty pleased that I'd managed to figure out that information, the dispatcher then asks me where in Montréal that is. As in what district. I am a tourist, who has only been to Montréal once in my life, and very briefly at that. I have NO idea what district we're in. I repeat to the dispatcher that it's the Lasalle Métro station; how much more information can I, as a tourist, possibly figure out than that? So the dispatcher informs me that it's really important to know what district that I'm calling from, otherwise the cab can't find me. For goodness sake!! If I knew where I was, I'd probably be able to figure out an alternative bus route and not even bother with a cab!! Anyway, eventually the taxi came, and it was literally a matter of less than 5 minutes to get to Nun's Island from where we were. We could have walked that far, but we weren't sure if there was a pedestrian walkway over the bridge we'd need to cross (turned out that there was). We did make it back, but not without some extreme frustration on my part!

We went to Atwater Market beside the Lachine Canal the next day, and it was like being transported back to France. The food!! Although the pastries aren't quite as good, the fresh fruit, veg, beautiful cheeses & charcoutrie meats were fantastic. We stocked up on picnic goodies for our train trip to Ottawa the next day.

So we are on a roll with unsuccessful transportation options. We thought we'd rent a car from the train station in Ottawa (which is way out beyond hell's half acre from the centre of the city, go figure) and drive to my aunt's in Nepean, thus having transportation for the rest of the visit. Nope. No car rental. No obvious indication that car rentals are even available in Ottawa, from all the information available at the train station. Sigh. I suppose if you take the train, you can't drive and have no need of a vehicle.

We visited the Agricultural Museum in Nepean (quite good: tractors & animals; how can you go wrong!), wandered the footpath along the Ottawa River towards Parliament, I took a ridiculous quantity of photos of the stone carvings in the various buildings around the Hill, and then visited my mom's side of the family that afternoon. The next day was spent wandering all over Ottawa (including walking past and across the locks at the Rideau Canal as it joins the Ottawa River) and into Gatineau across the river. We figured we walked about 15km that day! But it was gorgeous; 23C weather, sunny, and the foliage was, if not spectacular, then lovely. And the scenery was nice: we walked part way up into Gatineau Park. We were happy to have the opportunity to sit for five and a half hours on the plane home the next day!

Saturday, August 4, 2007


Well, I started a new blog for me & my printmaking (Burnishings) but unfortunately, the profile seems to have overwritten this one. Sigh. Well, anyway, if you're here, you already know about Dave & I, but since I seem to have lost his info too, I'm adding his picture so you all remember him, too!

Still mired deeply in bathroom renovations, but they're progressing. Dave is wrestling drywall this week, and already, it looks more like a room! Will post photos when able.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Out Dated

It has been a ridiculously long time since I posted anything. No excuse; just not remembering to! A few things have happened that I can recall.

I succeeded in receiving my AFCA signature status with the Federation of Canadian Artists. This was a 5-year plan that resolved in about two years. Before you can even apply, you have to have been juried into 8 shows a the Federation gallery within the past four years; I managed to get into my eighth show after just two years, so I thought I'd go for it, and was successful. Since that time, I have been in a few more shows - Landscapes, Works on Paper, the Open Print Show (which was open to non-Federation artists as well), and currently the Summer Gallery (on until August 19, 2007). I have been in a couple of non-Federation shows as well: Lessedra Gallery in Bulgaria hosts an international print exhibition every year, which I was accepted into, and the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley hosted a juried show (777) which I was also accepted to participate in.

We've been making our monthly pilgrimages to Vancouver Island. Mom has a brilliant veggie garden this year that has been keeping her on her toes.

Dad & Judy now have two ducks, two geese, three pigs, five horses (one rented just for the summer) and I don't know how many sheep, probably three or so. Judy and Dad each came down on separate occasions to the Coast for a visit. Dad even made it over to the Island with us last month, and got to see Mom's garden.


Dave has ripped out our bathroom upstairs and is in the slow progress of putting it back together. We've been traipsing up and down the stairs outside to get to our basement which has a full bath, luckily, but just slightly inconveniently. As you can see, it's got a long way to go still. Dave is currently working on getting some drywall up between the bathroom and the hallway, so at the very least, we'll have a little privacy option!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Risks & Rewards

I was very excited to receive an email from a lady in Scotland, who was interested in purchasing one of my pieces. She said she'd found my website on the internet, and told me the piece ("Satori Blue" pictured at left) that she wanted to purchase. We exchanged a few emails, and she asked me how much the piece she was interested in would cost. When I informed her of the price, she asked if I would accept either US postal order or a bank draft drawn on an American bank account. I figured that I should set up a PayPal account and offer her the option of paying that way, as there is somewhat more security available for both the seller and the buyer that way, plus the options for payment are increased for the buyer.

She wasn't interested in PayPal, and had said that she's arranged shipment, and had the company yet been in contact with me? I told her that it had not yet, but that I would let her know when it had. Then she said that her husband was interested in a few pieces, would I mind sending her photos. I thought this was rather odd, because if she'd been to my website, surely she'd seen all of my artwork there. I recommended that she visit my site again, and just copy the link to whatever image she or her husband was interested in, then paste it into an email for me. She inquired about two further pieces, and I provided her with a quote. One of the pieces ("Red Running" pictured at above, at right) had already been sold, but I offered to repaint it for her, and she accepted.

Meanwhile, her shipping company (Arriva Transportation in the UK) contacted me to discuss shipping. They wanted a quote on weight & dimensions. No problem, but I said they'd have to wait until the commissioned piece was completed, then I'd provide them with appropriate details. Out of curiosity, as I'd never heard of this shipping company before, I checked out their website, and they're a bus company located in the UK. Fine, Greyhound does shipping here, but there was no indication that they provided freight, and certainly not outside of the EU. Still, no big deal, maybe they subcontract here.

Finally, the lady suggested that she overpay me for my work, and then I would arrange to pay the shipping company. While I didn't think it was the world's best idea, I didn't really care, but Dave was totally opposed. I had planned all along to not proceed until all money had cleared, even if that meant waiting a month or longer, but Dave really didn't think it was a good idea that I agree to that; he smelled something off. So I informed the lady that I was not comfortable with that plan, and I'd await payment from her for only what I'd invoiced her for, and that she could arrange to pay the shipping company directly. OK, she agreed. Now I'm waiting to see if there is a cheque that arrives.

So why did this sound odd? At first, not very, and while I was skeptical to a point, and certainly wouldn't trust any payment really other than PayPal, I was willing to wait whatever time it took for all monies to clear my account appropriately if necessary. I noticed that some of her English wasn't consistent, and certainly not brilliant sometimes. Again, no big deal. I use email all the time, and it's a preferred method of communication for me; maybe English wasn't her first language, maybe she wasn't good at composing emails. The transport company made me a little curious, then I noticed that the email from the transport company was a Yahoo! address. This seemed really odd to me - what significant corporation (and Arriva is a big company, I did check them up on the UK Company House website - handy tool!) would use a Yahoo! account for their customer service? Then I looked at the signature block for the Arriva "representative", and his name was followed by "B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D." Again, not really unreasonable, but a bit of overkill, right?

Dave said that it's a classic scam; start off small, then progress to a larger (but still not unreasonable) amount, and finally suggesting that the target pay for shipping costs etc. This is where the money is made - you pay the difference to the "shipping company" and then the scammers pocket the cash, and you're out at least a few hundred bucks.

For those of you who are interested, the RCMP has a site on frauds & scams and reporting economic fraud. You should check out the Better Business Bureau if you feel there's a false company, or search government websites to see if they've got something similar if the company you're interested isn't Canadian or American.

I am not the first artist to be drawn in by this, nor by a long shot will I be the last. There are lots of posts on various art forums, and on one of my favourite artists' resources, the Painters Keys. The names and places change, but the overall structure of the scam does not. So while the internet provides artists with a fantastic platform to display their work to the world, there are risks in having yourself out there. On the other hand, the internet also provided me with an amazing array of tools to inform myself about possible scams and fraud, so I can be more vigilant in the future.

So we'll see. I'm still a partial optimist; it's possible that it's real. But I'm not holding my breath.