Friday, January 31, 2014


It has finally arrived. The much anticipated 1000th Postcrossing postcard!!
Seriously, I was stuck at 999 for a week. Every day I would (almost) run down the stairs to check the mailbox.  And every day I would slowly drag myself despondently back upstairs after seeing it was (almost) empty.

and.... it is a lighthouse! well, actually several lighthouses.
I change my profile every few months adding and subtracting themes for cards, and only added lighthouses in November.
Interestingly, three of the four previous cards were also lighthouses (all received on the same day), each from a different country.

Lietuva (Lithuania)

Germany (right) and Poland (although it is of Annisquam Lighthouse in Maine)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

meat eating plants

There is a new exhibit at the Royal Botanical Gardens and I wandered in this afternoon to have a quick peak. It felt a little odd, and lonely,  to be the only person there, but then it was after 4pm on a weekday. A bitterly cold, bone-chilling day. I will have to go back when there are kids around as these events are aimed at families with lots of interactive, hands on activities and it is fun to watch the children with their reactions. Some staff were on hand, checking the glassed enclosures and the animals inside before leaving for the day. One part of the exhibit involves a dizzying array of animals with unique mechanisms for defending themselves while the other part involves carnivorous plants with real examples next to gigantic mechanized versions that are meant to make you feel like you are bug sized.
the real and imaginary world of carnivorous plants

Two signs hanging from the rafters with "monumental sculptures that render viewers bug-sized, while interactive and interpretive elements educate and entertain"

The trumpet pitcher plant lures its prey - ants, flies, wasps, bees, beetles, slugs and snails -  into a tubular leaf by scent, nectar and colour. Once the insect lands on the slippery edge, it falls down the tube to seal its fate.

The sundew thrives in swamps and bogs. Their prey amounts to around one creature per month, usually mosquitoes or smaller insects, but occasionally dragonflies or butterflies can fall victim to the sticky residue on the leaves.

signs, signs

Monday, January 27, 2014

winter and driving

We've been having blizzardly weather these last couple of days.
This is a slight variation on the stormy weather and frigid weather of late. All this blowing snow sure is pretty, though. Lots of swirls and cliffs and then suddenly - a bare patch with grass sticking up! Another deep freeze is on the way, I hear. But this is no Polar Vortex, it is an Alberta Clipper (apparently an important distinction, though various accounts seem to be making them interchangeable)

By the time I finished work and got home, my jeans were frozen from the knees down and the ends of my laces had snowy white pompoms on them.

Now that I'm home, I'm not driving again. My car worked hard getting through the snow and slush last night.

I found this on a website that likes to unearth vintage photos and am wishing that The Toronto Star still had these lovely newspaper delivery vans and made them available to the carriers.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

water in Iceland

Getting a postcard - and stamps - from Iceland is always exciting. I'm not sure where this fascination comes since I've always had the impression if it being a lonely country. It has an alien wilderness about it, 
a little like Mars (but with water), which also fascinates me.
This first stamp is of the Hnausapollur (aka Bláhylur) Lake in the Central Highlands. An ancient name - Litlavíti - means small-hell.  It's a 30 hectar lake in a crater, formed in an explosive eruption 1,130 years ago. This 2012 stamp is actually a part of the Iceland tourism series, which may explain the helpful co-ordinates that are included.

Compare to this 1938(?) stamp of the great Geysir in Haukadalur in southwestern IcelandThe photography was by Ólafur Magnússon. For a sparsely inhabited land, there were quite a few onlookers for this eruption.

 The English word geyser (a spouting hot spring) derives from Geysir. The name Geysir itself is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa, "to gush", the verb from Old Norse.
Although it had been active for around 10,000 years, it now erupts infrequently. Though, when it does decide to spew, the boiling water can reach heights of 70 metres. The oldest accounts date back to 1294, making this possibly the first known geysir to modern Europeans. The area was owned by a local farmer until the late 1800s when it was sold to a whisky distiller (and future Prime Minister of Ireland) who fenced it off and charged an entrance fee. Not long afterwards it was sold and eventually donated to the people of Iceland in perpetuity.
Its co-ordinates are 64° 18′ 39.11″ N20° 18′ 13.79″ W
See more geology and landscapes on stamps here

Sunday, January 19, 2014


A friend and I had an interesting discussion yesterday regarding what constitutes a pet. For the most part, I don't think of my turtle as being the focus of those rental agreements that say "no pets". Pets are usually, and overwhelmingly, dogs and cats with maybe a hamster, guinea pig or gerbil for the younger people. Possibly a rabbit. My friend has an aquarium full of fish. She doesn't really think of them as pets, but more of a collection. Otherwise she'd be saying "I have 21 pet tropical fish" which sounds silly. We decided that a pet involves a degree of interaction between human and animal. The fish mostly interact with each other and my turtle at the moment is not interacting at all until he emerges from hibernation.

Anyway, for pets on stamps I have been looking forward to sharing a few from a 1963/4 series of dogs and cats.

above we have a Poodle, a Bulldog and an Airedale
and below a Persian, Siamese and European 

and my favourite...

These  are all the works of Polish illustrator Janusz Grabiańsk (1929-1976).
If you are not familiar, look at his luscious illustrations for children's books.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

downhill sports

No athlete from Togo has ever competed in the Winter Olympics, though they have participated in the Summer games since 1972. That didn't stop the country from participating in Olympic stamps. Here are two from the 1960 Games held in Squaw Valley.

On the left is the slalom
and on the right, bobsled. Interestingly, there was no bobsleigh event in 1960 as the officials decided that it would not be cost effective to build a venue for the nine countries sending teams, but Togo still issued a stamp featuring a four man bobsleigh! I know the style has changed much over the decades, but this looks more like a toboggan to me. I like the stylized drawing that engraver Jacques Combet chose for these stamps.

For the Sochi games, there is this rather bland grey on grey series from 2012
that includes a snowboarder and alpine skier. Others in the set include skeleton, luge and speed skating. Snowboarding was only introduced in the 1998 games in Nagano, but alpine skiing has been included since 1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

I know this was last week's theme for Sunday Stamps, but as I accidentally slept through the weekend in a flu-ish stupor and forgot to post... 

Friday, January 10, 2014

ice scenery

This is what I found out (courtesy of the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City) about Americhrome:

This series was printed in the United States using tinted halftones. These cards are characterized by a medium screen pattern, limited pallet, turquoise skies, and small red block lettering. Their soft look creates the illusion of continuous tone lithography. In later years white border cards and a fine textured linen type card were made that continued to carry the Americhrome name but not the old printed characteristics. They were not always published by the American News Company. Prefix M   (1910-1941).

note: although my pictures have a white border, the postcard does not.  the number is M-3537

Sharing winter on PostcardFriendshipFriday

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


It's been a challenging couple of nights, what with deep freezes and polar vortexes and people expecting their morning newspaper to read all about it.
It was damn cold Monday night. And windy. Last night wasn't nearly so bad, but everywhere was still covered in sheer ice. Even the snow had a glazing of ice over it. Unfortunately, during the earlier part of the night before the deep freeze started, it was mild and raining. This meant there were deep puddles of slush everywhere. This meant there were deep indents of my footprints on all the driveways and paths I walked. They are still there. In some spots I tried to follow my footsteps, thinking it might be easier. It was not. There are now dozens of bits of evidence that I do not walk with a regular gait. (though, to be fair, some of that was due to trying to avoid the deeper puddles of slush). Had I known what a lasting impression I was making I might have taken more care to walk in a straighter line, both to-ing and fro-ing. It brought to mind a childhood memory of my friend Kay and I walking backwards down the middle of the road to school so that on the return trip home we could walk in our footprints of the freshly fallen snow. Sometimes, we would bob and weave and make patterns in the snow which looked like we'd been dancing (remember those lessons with the printed feet you were suppose to follow?). There obviously wasn't much traffic on the dead end street that we could do this and have our snowy footprints still visible hours later. No traffic or ploughs.

On another note, I felt a touch flu-ish over the weekend but had passed the 'chills' stage by yesterday. Still, you know you are at least a little sick if, on the coldest day in decades (-40 with windchill), you can lay in bed snuggled under a warm duvet with the window open and be thinking "what a nice refreshing breeze...". I'm all better now and am feeling every centigrade degree of the cold. So bring on the +10º for Saturday!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

swanning in the bay

At the bay end of Lake Ontario there is perfect conditions for the geese and ducks and, most importantly, the swans to congregate. They use it as their winter resort. There are hundreds - hundreds! - of them from November to March. It can be a shock (and a wee bit disappointing) to come down one day in the early days of spring and see that they have, en masse, left. There are a few who make it their year round base, and maybe they are glad to have those noisy visitors gone with more room to swim around. But for now, this is the best time to see the variety and reacquaint yourself with some old friends.

The noisiest swans are the trumpeters. They are the ones with black bills. (The mutes have orange bills)
They are a legally protected species after becoming almost extinct in the early 1900s. Now you will see them with bright yellow tags that may look cumbersome, but apparently don't bother them at all. The identification tags help with monitoring the birds. The yellow means they are from Ontario. Records are kept of their whereabouts, when they are spotted and their nesting success. You can call to report any tagged bird if it is seen in an unusual area (like a golf course or somewhere farther away from Burlington or Scarborough, Pickering or Whitby where they also congregate in the winter).

I thought maybe these juveniles were siblings out with their mother. You can read an article about the wonderful job the Kingdons have been doing with feeding and caring and tagging of these swans at Lasalle Park here

And one thing I learned just this week, is that the metal leg band also indicates the sex

on the right is a male with the band on his right leg and this saucy one on the left is a female.

I'm sharing this New Year's Day post with signs,signs