Kids, Travel & Creativity

I taught a full day workshop yesterday at Fibrefest in Almonte, Ontario.  What a fun class!  Everyone was really focused on their projects and did such a great job.  It was a great group to teach.  That will be the last time I offer my Nature & Landscapes class until next Spring.  In the meantime, I’m looking at offering an evening Beginner Rug Hooking with Yarn class (likely my last beginner class for a good long while so if interested in being put on a list for more information, send me a message :)) and I’m gearing up for my first Portraits class in November (this class is full, but if interested, send me a message and I will put you on a waiting list for next time.  ūüôā )

I posted on Facebook last week that I would do a blog post on this topic, and then with prepping for teaching time got away from me.  So here I am now, talking about the observations that I have made between kids, travel and their creativity and art.  As I’ve mentioned before, my kids do a lot of travelling.  From the time both of them were babies- actually, from the time they were in the womb!- they have been travelling with us.  So they have grown up seeing it as a normal part of life.  I absolutely love that.

Of course I know that not all families are in a position to offer these opportunities to their kids, but I am forever grateful that we have been able to.  I really see travel as a gift to my kids.  I was fortunate enough to have been given the same gift by my own parents.  Every summer without fail, we went somewhere.  Whether it was flying to the UK or Europe to visit family, or road-tripping to the maritimes;  vacations and travel were a part of our family.  And those experiences have stayed with me and have motivated me to pass on these formative experiences to my own kids.

I mentioned on Facebook that I purchased the book pictured above for my son on our recent vacation.  He is a five year old geography-addict, and has an overwhelming array of atlases, travel guides and information books about countries around the world.  But when I saw this one in the store, I picked it up for him because it was specifically geared to kids without being “dumbed down”.  And he loves it.  It got me thinking about how travel and world experiences affect kids and their understanding of the world, their curiosity to embrace new experiences and their creativity.

Both of my kids have an avid desire to learn new things.  They both enjoy learning how other people live, the plant life and animals in other countries, languages,and the experience of other kids around the world.  I credit that partly with travel.  They have both been in so many different places, seeing different ways of life and different things.  And a lot of what they have seen is just the everyday stuff.  When we travel, we like to immerse ourselves in the lifestyle while we are there.  We take time to go for a walk around the neighbourhood, shop at the local grocery stores and play at the parks.  My kids have spotted snakes in the forest at the top of a hill in Vermont, have eaten skyr by the shore in Iceland, have been blown down a hill by the strong winds in the Faroe Islands and searched for rocks on the beaches of the maritimes.  They’ve gone to art galleries, and museums and to the top of tall towers.  And wandered the streets with us in New York City, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Reykjavik looking at cool architecture.  They’ve gone on a three hour canoe ride where we passed waterfalls and looming rock faces, snowshoed through the woods to watch chickadees in flight and experienced hawks landing on their outstretched gloved hand.  And all of this has affected who they are, what they notice and how they think.

My kids have long become accustomed to me pointing out cool things wherever we are:  from the shape of a tree’s canopy, to lichen on a rock, to a building’s fa√ßade.  And over the years, they have started to notice their own things and point them out.  The consequence is kids that are always aware and focused on their surroundings- when they are travelling they are taking it all in and making their own little observations and deductions.  And these too stay with them.

And it also has a great effect on them artistically and creatively.  When we travel, I always make sure to pack lots of art supplies for the kids, because I know that seeing all of these new things and having all of these new experiences inspires them to express themselves creatively.  On a recent trip, the first thing my daughter did on arrival at our hotel in Old Quebec City, was to get out her sketchbook and sketch the view from the window.   In PEI this summer, my son set himself up outside in an Adirondack chair with his paints and painted the view we had of the ocean.  And when camping the other weekend, the three of us spent a few hours sitting at the picnic table and painting and sketching and chatting to each other.  Being in new places, and seeing new things, gets kids’ minds going and opens them up to creative expression.  My son also loves to draw maps, and the shapes of countries, and create his own maps.  His view of the world and his surroundings is different because he has travelled.

I can’t say enough how happy all of this makes me.  I can’t wait to go on more adventures with them, not just for the fun that we have, and not just for how it benefits them, but also for the fact that seeing the world through their eyes is a tremendous gift to myself as well.



A little Staycation

A couple of weeks ago I decided to celebrate my Birthday by booking a weekend at a hotel in downtown Ottawa.¬† Yes, I live in Ottawa.¬† In fact I have lived here for about 36 years.¬† And yes I live very close to downtown and can go down anytime I want.¬† But frankly, I don’t get downtown nearly as much as I used to.¬† Back in the day I used to work downtown and was there every day but now I don’t have much reason to be down there.¬† And it is such a nice area of the city to be in!

I have to say it was a really fun idea.  We got the hotel room early on the Friday and the kids and I headed down, settled in and wandered the Byward Market.  My husband joined us after work and then the four of us hung out together the rest of the weekend.  Something I would definitely do again- nice change of scene.  We wandered familiar places, ate at nice restaurants and took lots of photos.  I had mentioned on my Facebook page that I am mulling doing a series of small Ottawa-inspired pieces, and now I have plenty of ideas and photos to work with.

Here are some of my favourites from our weekend “away.”


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Weekend in Montreal

This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving so we went on a little adventure!¬† We usually go away that weekend- I think last year was the only year we didn’t because we did so much travelling the rest of the month of October to Niagara and Vermont for hooked fibre shows, that we decided to stay home.¬† We love going away at this time of year- the weather is usually great, the fall colours have started and it is great together time heading into the Fall season.¬† Sometimes we drag our turkey with us and cook it wherever we are, sometimes we change it up and have a nice meal at a restaurant.¬† This year I cooked up our dinner when we got home so it was a nice way to end the trip!

This year I chose Montreal.¬† I booked the trip way back in the spring and no one else in the family knew where we were going- they just knew that they were going somewhere.¬† My husband didn’t want to know until we were heading out the door, but in the end he and my daughter guessed it the night before we left.¬† Still a surprise for them though, and a lot of fun.

The day we left was my son’s 3rd Birthday so I thought it would be fun to take the train.¬† And, frankly, we find driving in Montreal slightly nightmarish so it was nice to just leave the car at home and not have to worry about anything.


Our hotel was in a great location and only a fifteen minute walk to old Montreal so we didn’t need a car at all anyway.



There is lots to see and do. We’ve been to Montreal before, but it seems like there is always something new to see. And we only scratched the surface. We’ll have to go back to see some of the other things that were on our list but we didn’t get to.


Montreal is a real mix of old and new. And very artsy- there are art galleries everywhere. And great restaurants everywhere. montreal5

We had a great time and taking the train added an extra bit of fun to the weekend!¬† I can’t seem to shake the travel bug these days so I am looking forward to whatever our next adventure may be!




Art with Kids: Simply Drawing

It was very interesting when we were away on vacation. I had brought a lot of art materials with us to do some scheduled art activities with the kids. What the kids ended up enjoying just as much if not more, though, was just drawing and painting scenes of what they were seeing around them.


They were so into it that we ended up creating a makeshift craft station in a corner of the floor. I put down an old plastic tablecloth that I had brought with me and the pastels and crayons stayed out for the entire vacation. The kids would gravitate to the “art station” while waiting for meals or when taking a break from the beach. I found it extremely heartening to watch these little beings want to express themselves artistically, time and time again.

They did so much art that one day we actually had to take a trip to the local toy and art supply store. There we stocked up on more crayons, construction paper, watercolour paper. It was a surprisingly well-stocked little store for such a small island and we had a lot of fun picking out the things that we wanted.

I’ve tried to apply the same concept at home now. Both kids are old enough for the crayons and markers to stay out instead of tucked away up high. They have their own stack of paper that they can grab from whenever they want and a little table all their own to draw at. I also snagged a fantastic double-sided easel for free and it is out for the kids to draw on with markers or chalk whenever they like. Trust me-
it gets a lot of use.

While planning specific art projects is a lot of fun, there is a lot of fun to be had too in keeping it simple.



Photo by Karen D. Miller

Travel Friday

Last year was all about the inspiration posts.

This year I wanted to do something similar without committing myself to another huge undertaking.  The solution- travel photos that I have taken over the years.

I often find myself going through these looking for inspiration from time to time and thought it might be fun to post one that I find interesting every Friday.

So here is the first Travel Friday- Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia taken in 2005.

Have a great weekend!

Photo by Karen D. Miller

Prince Edward Island 2014






PEI 22

We are just back from two weeks away in the maritimes.  The first week we spent in Prince Edward Island.  It is the fifth time I have travelled to PEI and it is always worth the long drive from Ottawa.   The weather all week was terrific and sunny.

Lots of seafood was eaten.

Every evening was spent at the beach.

Many shells were collected.

Green Gables was visited.

Lots of laughs were had.

Many hours were spent watching the kids play in the sand.

I got SO many inspiration photos while I was away and they will be trickling out here on the blog over the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, here is some of the beauty of PEI.


Photo by Karen D. Miller

Back from Newfoundland


The kids and I had a fabulous one week mini-vacation to Newfoundland to visit my sister.  It was one of those trips with not much planned in advance other than a road trip to Twillingate for two nights.  The rest was relaxed (well as relaxed as it can be with two young children) and go with the flow.  Which was fabulous.

Our two nights in Twillingate were awesome.¬† I think I took a million iceberg photos.¬† It was the kids and I’s first time seeing one and¬†it was amazing.¬† We didn’t¬†just see one iceberg.¬† We saw¬†LOTS of icebergs.¬† The one above was the one that was right outside¬†the house we were staying in.¬†¬†We could sit and watch it from our¬†wall-length picture window.¬†¬† Over the two days that¬†we were there it was constantly changing and evolving as pieces would fall off of it.¬† And incidentally, when a piece did fall off you knew about it.¬† Such a tremendous booming noise!¬† And then the iceberg would bob back a forth in the water for a little while after.¬† Really cool.


Twillingate was a pretty little spot with lots of dramatic vistas.¬† The lupins were out.¬† And I also saw patches of buttercups.¬†¬† They reminded me of my childhood here in Ottawa where we would find them in the fields.¬† Now that those fields are full of new housing developments I don’t see buttercups around here very much so I loved seeing them in Newfoundland.




We drove around Twillingate and New World Island.  We did a side jaunt to the community of Toogood Arm- just because it had a cool name.  It ended up being a really pretty spot with lots of inspiration so my sister stopped the car and I took a lot of photos.


On the way back to Corner Brook from Twillingate we ducked into Moreton’s Harbour.¬† Another pretty little fishing village.¬† And now I can say that I have been “all around the circle” (as the song says) having been to Fogo last year and Twillingate and Moreton’s Harbour this year.



We spent the rest of the week in Corner Brook hanging out at my sister’s house and doing some local stuff.¬† We made a stop at Harbour Grounds coffee shop to drop off my “about me” statement to hang with my art.¬† And we may have enjoyed a beverage or two while we were there.¬†¬† Always popular is a walk around the Glynmill pond to see the ducks and swans.

We had great weather- in fact it was super hot and super humid which was not what I was expecting for Newfoundland.¬† And of course not many people or businesses have air conditioning there so there was very little respite from the heat!¬† It only rained one day while we were in Corner Brook and we still managed to find things to do so it didn’t phase us in the least.

We always enjoy our Newfoundland vacations and I have returned with lots of ideas and inspiration to incorporate into my work!  I love summer adventures!


Northern Landscape

kuujjuaq shore

kuujjuaq town

kuujuuaq ice


kangiq stop

kangiq mural


ice fishing

mussel seraching

dog sled

In March, my husband went on a work trip to the far reaches of Northern Quebec.  They made stops in the towns of Kuujjuuaq, Kangiqsujuaq  and Puvirnituq.  All are very small communities with a primarily Inuit population.  While there he had the opportunity to dog sled, ice fish and search for mussels under the frozen ocean.  He saw the Northern Lights and learned a great deal about Northern life.  There are some things that you have to experience to understand- it is not enough to just read about them- and I think that this would fall into that category.

These are a few of the photos that he took while there.  He also took a few that he thought I might be able to use in my work and I fully intend to do a Northern Canada -inspired series of pieces sometime in the near future.



TWIST Fibre Festival

This past weekend we headed to the TWIST Fibre Festival in St. Andre- Avellin, Quebec.  A short road trip this time as it was only a short hour-long jaunt across the Ottawa River and through the Quebec countryside.

I didn’t go last year (which was its first) but saw there was a lot of hype about it so wanted to check it out.¬† I also wanted to see what the advertised fibre art exhibit was like to see if it was somewhere that I might like to exhibit in the future.

The fibre art exhibit, while having some very nice things in it, was very small and not very developed.¬† I’m not sure if they are even looking to develop that part further or not.¬† Certainly not reason enough to head to the show.

The vendor part, on the other hand, was huge.  As my husband said, it is just a trade show.  But if you are into making fibre art of any kind, what a trade show it is!  There were tons of booths of roving (both raw and dyed), yarns of every kind, spinning equipment, dyes.  If you can think of it it was pretty much there.

Did I come away empty-handed?¬† Of course not.¬† I found several skeins of silk sari ribbon in some pretty colours and bought two small boxes of roving.¬† There was one booth that I spent the most time at.¬† She had all sorts of little bits and pieces that would be great to add to a rug for texture.¬† I picked up some shiny blue firestar, silk sari strands, and some blue roving.¬†¬†¬†I also got¬†one small skein of yarn that had a thread of beads wound into it for $1.00!¬†¬† She even had some yarn with plastic skulls woven into it which I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I would use it for and which made my daughter exclaim “oh, weird.”

I’m not sure¬†right now what I am going to do with it all but I know that I went home happy!¬† ūüôā


12 in 2012: #1 Visit a New Art Gallery

 While in New York we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I have to say, it is by far the largest art gallery I have ever been to.  Just about every type and ethnicity of art is represented there and you could easily spend several days touring the entire collection.

We were much more picky and focused primarily on the European art- in particular the section on Van Gogh, Monet, etc.¬†¬† I was blown away by the fact that you were allowed to take photos of the art- isn’t that usually prohibited?¬† But there, in fact, the security guards would actually ask people to move out of the way to allow others to take photos of the art.

So, I jumped in with my camera and took photos of about a dozen of my favourites.¬† We were kind of disappointed to discover that Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is not actually at the Met but instead is at MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art).¬† But I did get to see quite a few of his most famous pieces including his Cypresses and a self-portrait.

The store at the Met was incredible too- books on just about every aspect of art that you can imagine.¬† Some time was spent in there.¬† We kicked around the idea of heading to MOMA afterwards but decided against it as other than the Van Gogh piece we didn’t think the rest of the museum would be our “thing.”

I’m so thrilled that I have gotten to see so much art this summer!