Oh, crap

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

We were out for a walk near our house when we wandered through a cloud of stench at the top of the hill. The odor, which - over the past number of weeks - had become rather familiar, was the first clue that something immense, wild and sour was hanging around nearby.

The second, found further down the hill... this:

Now, since moving to the country, I’ve encountered a lot of wildlife including – but not limited to – a moose, deer, a coyote, raccoons, porcupines, rabbits, a turtle, a weasel, wild turkeys, ruffled grouse, eagles, chipmunks, squirrels, mice, June bugs…

And, to be clear, when I say I’ve encountered wildlife, I mean I’ve watched or heard creatures, doing things, outside… from the comfort of my living room. Or car.

Except the June bugs. The June bugs were under my bed. Thanks to the 5 year old.

But here’s the thing about living at the edge of the wilderness, next to a heavily wooded area. You know there are critters in the thicket (after all, you’re not an idiot), but you conveniently “forget” they exist, so you can still walk down your driveway, open your windows and barbecue potatoes on your porch.

I love potatoes.

Still, no matter how hard you try to ignore them, the signs of wildlife sneak up and whack you on the back when you least expect it. Not unlike that really irritating dude you knew in college who wore that one green t-shirt, chewed Extra gum and referred to himself as “Cheeks”.

I hated that guy.

However, like Cheeks, there are many ways in which a wild animal will make its presence known. If it’s a bird, it squawks, tweets or slaps its wings against the ground. If it’s a deer, it thunders in front of your car. If it’s a coyote, it howls into the night. If it’s a bear, it craps on your yard.

Two days after seeing the pile at the end of the road and one day after my friend Jessi informed me that she was pretty sure a bear had toppled our neighbor's duck house while they were away on vacation, we woke up to see this, at one side of our house.

And at the other side of the house, next to our playground fence and a ravaged garbage bag, was this:

Upon finding the evidence, I did what anyone in my shoes would have done. I posted the poop to Facebook, which prompted a therapeutic conversation with my friend Sharon.

Meanwhile, my friend Ashley who lives two houses away, sent me this.

Ashley won the bear scat photo contest with that entry because holy freaking crap, do you see the size of that pile RIGHT NEXT TO HER HOUSE?

But that wasn't all. Our neighborhood bear had a dark side as is evidenced by this picture of Ashley's duck house.

Oh the humanity.

So, Ashley called the authorities and shortly after, a barrel was dropped off in her front yard.

A barrel.

We had a killer beast with bad manners wandering where children play and now we had... a barrel.

Me: "So... you just wait?"

Ashley: "Yep."

Shockingly, early the next morning, this happened:

So up the road to Ashley's house we went - wearing pajamas and slippers and carrying a camera. Because, of course we did.

Once there, I proceeded to be helpful.
"Is he in there?" 
"I can't see anything." 
"Holy *&#% that stinks!"
"Don't get too close!"
"Don't touch it! Don't touch it! DON'T TOUCH IT!"
Geoff glanced at me briefly, hopped out of the truck, shone his bike light on the barrel and captured this - but not before grabbing the 5 year old to carry her over for a closer look.

Is it just me or does he look medicated?

Later that day, the Department of Natural Resources picked up the hairy hooligan who they estimated to be around 2 years old (a teenager in bear years) and drove him to a forest far, far away which made everyone very, very happy, except my daughter who - on our next walk - lamented, "I miss seeing the bear poop."

No really.


by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I've opened up an Etsy shop (andreamsart.etsy.com) to showcase some of my artwork and  I'd like to share some paintings with you, starting with this one.

"Thaw" is an original abstract, painted with acrylic paint and molding paste on a 24" x 36" gallery style (2" deep) canvas. The edge of the painting has also been painted so it is ready to hang as is, or you can have it framed.

Here it is, from the front...

And here is what it might look like in your home, if your home has cement coloured walls, wood floors, a Scandinavian style table, linen-covered chairs and a lovely decorated bowl.

And this is what it would look like if you walked up - nice and close - to have a better look.

View this painting on Etsy: 

While I have your attention, from time to time, I've been asked my abstract painting process, so I thought I'd share a little bit of that with you today by showing you some (sort of) step-by-step photos of my "Thaw" painting.

I began by thickly applying some molding paste on the canvas using a palette knife. Then, I started to add some phthalo blue.

While I was mixing colors, the 5 year old stepped in to add a dash of turquoise in the lower left corner. I decided to run with it and continued to add more shades of blue along the bottom of the piece, after the following photo was taken.

But then, I stepped out of the studio and came back to this...

Don't get me wrong, I prefer to work alone when it comes to making art. 
 However, wet paint is pretty forgiving and so I try not to get too uptight when the littlest one decides to "help".

I took this.
And changed it to this.
 What follows now, is many hours, many palette knives full of paint and many brushstrokes, squeezed into a handful of photographs.

Thanks for looking!

View this painting on Etsy: 

The heart of the matter

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I watched the numbers on the dashboard clock change... 12:40pm, 12:41pm, 12:42pm. I was already officially late and was still at least 10 minutes away from my destination at the local hospital.

My mind began to sprint, along with my heart.

Why did I leave at 12:20pm when I know it takes at least half an hour to get to the hospital? Why did I agree to an appointment with a cardiologist? Is it possible for my heart to beat right out of my chest? Is this what a heart attack feels like? Will the painfully slow driver ahead of me notice when I slump over my wheel? I smell licorice. Calm down, calm down, calm down… 

Arriving 10 minutes late for my first ever meeting with a heart specialist, I was told by the nurse behind the counter to head to radiology and get an EKG before coming back to the waiting room.

There were at least four people ahead of me all staring at the Closed For Lunch sign. Like me, everyone in the queue was there to see the cardiologist. Unlike me, everyone in the queue had arrived an hour in advance of their appointments.

My heart was pounding.

The circumstances that led to my sitting with a group of senior citizens, discussing beta blockers in a cold hospital hallway staring at askew contagious diseases posters, may or may not have been brought on my tendency to exhibit irrational fears as evidenced by this fairly typical internal monologue.

Oh, what a beautiful sunrise. The sky is so intense this morning. Hmm, my left arm is hurting. I wonder why it aches so much. I don’t remember doing anything to bring that on. WOW my heart is really racing. I better check my pulse. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9………….. 10. HOLY CRAP my heart just skipped a beat! Calm down, calm down… ACK! It just did it again! This can’t be good. RELAX, relax, relax… Ok now my back is sore. That’s a bad sign. I better lay down before I have a heart attack. 

Ninety-nine percent of the time I’m a levelheaded person, not given to fits of unreasonable fretfulness. There was even a time in my life when I was blissfully unaware of dangers and death (case in point: the clog incident). But over the past number of years (since the birth of my daughter, the sudden death of my father and the arrival of my hormone-filled 40s) the sensible side of my brain has become mushy, not unlike my stomach…

"Andrea? Andrea Mulder-Slater?"

The EKG technologist was chatty and friendly as she instructed me to lift my shirt so she could stick electrodes on my chest.

“May I ask why you’re here?” she asked politely.

The truth was, I had become a well-informed neurotic, thanks to Google. My online research, combined with an uncanny ability to zero in on fear-provoking articles in Chatelaine Magazine’s heart-heath issues had turned me into a hypochondriac in training. All I was lacking was a mentor.

“I guess I’m just nervous.” I replied. “My family doctor thought it would be a good idea if I ruled some things out.”


“Have you ever had this test before?” 

I recounted the time, many years prior, when my love of caffeinated coffee resulted in having a holter monitor strapped to my body. The symptoms were alarming. I had palpitations, arm vibrations, full body jitters and an impending sense of doom. And it all went away, as soon as I followed my family doctor’s advice and stopped drinking 6 cups of caffeinated beverages a day.
“I’ve got the same problem,” she said, “but I just love my coffee too much to stop.” 

“I’ve been drinking decaf since February.” I explained as she began removing the sticky patches from my skin.

“Are you sure you didn’t drink a real one today because your heart is really beating fast!”

In spite of her kind smile and sweet demeanor, the technologist’s comments did nothing to ease my unease.

Back in the clinic waiting room, I tried really hard to think about unicorns and gumdrops as I listened to my fellow patients discussing who had recently passed away and which restaurant made the best fish and chips.


I was led into a little room and told to remove my clothes from the waist up. It was like the dermatologist all over again.

My heart was jumping. It might have been pole dancing.

Sitting in my hospital gown waiting for the doctor to arrive, gave me just enough time to glance at the sheet of paper I had been avoiding. I had no idea what I was looking at but I knew one thing for sure… it didn’t look good.

From what I could tell, there was a hole in my heart and I was pretty sure that it was beating backwards, rather than forwards – if that’s even possible. Also, because the words unconfirmed analysis and undiagnosed appeared on the page, I was certain I was dying.

Not my EKG results. I was too busy stressing about stress to take a photo of my own results.
The doctor arrived just in time because my heart was threatening to thrust its way through my rib cage.  At least I'm in the right place to have a heart attack, I thought to myself.

My examination was very thorough - albeit anti-climactic - with the words, “your heart is like a freight train” uttered more than once. In the end, talking with the cardiologist was as relaxing as drinking antihistamine tea (although I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed). He told me that my fixation on the area between my waist and my throat was completely normal - given my circumstances - and that my EKG and blood pressure results were completely fine. I was given a clean bill of health, but before I left, my new favorite medical professional said it wouldn’t hurt to have a cholesterol test and maybe – at some point – a stress test, just for his records.

Fast-forward two months. I’m feeling a little bit guilty about the French fries I ate two days ago. Also, the oven-baked hash brown I devoured yesterday and the sausage I just consumed.

The thing is, I still have yet to take that cholesterol test and ever since I received that yellow sheet of paper, I’ve abandoned my penchant for morning green drinks, afternoon salads and evening veggie platters (with almonds for snack time) and instead I’ve been eating like a glassy eyed, super-high fraternity brother on a weeklong bender.

Potato chips, pizza, deep fried vegetables. You name it. I’m craving it. In fact, a food psychologist would have a heyday with me right now. Which makes me wonder… are food psychologists for real? Because really, I think I can figure this out from here, on my own. No disrespect intended. And please pass the Cheezies because I need energy since, as you know, I'm in training for an upcoming stress test.

 No, really.

See it work

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I love Dick and Jane books. 

I loved them when I was a kid and I love them now that I am teaching the 5 year old how to read.

Yesterday, I was in the office, busy writing about another one of my brushes with the medical community, when I heard my daughter reading aloud in the living room. 

She was going through a book we had recently purchased at a library sale. 

Then, I had a slow-motion conversation inside my head -- because, look at this.

Um... what exactly is this story about?

Oh shit. Did I accidentally buy a Dick and Jane parody book?

WHAT can work for her? Good lord Dick!

That's when I sprung into action.
I rushed to the living room, distracted the 5 year old with a box of raisins and grabbed the reader in time to see this...

I love Dick and Jane books.

No, really.

He's a doctor, and he plays one on tv (or the big screen, whichever)

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Since hitting my thirties forties, my body has gone a wee bit haywire, thanks to a combination of hormonal skirmishes and sour cream and onion potato chips.

To give you an idea, earlier this year I watched a tiny freckle on my collarbone inflate into a horrific skin balloon worthy of its own after school special. Circa 1983.

It was enough to land me an audience with a dermatologist, but not until two months later. The timing turned out to be less than perfect because as it happened, my ghastly growth heroically absconded from my neck exactly one week before my appointment.

It’s like my body isn't even trying to be normal.

Still, I kept my meeting, mostly because I wanted to make sure the rest of my beauty marks weren’t plotting a mutiny, but also because I thought I might be able to talk the good doctor into removing a bothersome bump located just below my left eye, which had been eliciting far too many “here let me get that smudge off of you” gestures from total strangers.

On the morning of my consultation, Geoff offered to drive, in case I inhaled too much rubbing alcohol and became unable to find my way home. Since I am incapable of parallel parking at the best of times, I took him up on his offer.

 In the waiting room, I was able to catch up on my reading while discovering an assortment of disorders and allergies I might start to develop as I age. When the nurse called me in, almost an hour later, I was grateful for the reprieve. That was, until she handed me a disposable sheet and asked me to strip down to my underwear.

“But,” I said, motioning towards my face, “I’m just here for this little bump…”

She left the room with the words “The doctor will be in to see you shortly,” trailing behind her.

As I sat, perched on the examining table, it struck me how utterly freezing the room was. I tried to stay warm by rapidly rubbing my hands together, which might have worked had I not accidentally grabbed and ripped my paper privacy sheet in half. And so, to keep my mind off my nudity, I started to compare the marks on my skin with the images on the posters covering the walls.

After diagnosing myself with several stages of skin cancer, I noticed some pristine utensils sitting on the counter-top in the corner. A syringe and razor blade were accompanied by a stash of cotton balls, paper towels and a tiny bottle of liquid labeled HurtBeGone or NoMorePain or something like that. Really, there was no reason not to feel panic-stricken.

That’s when Val Kilmer walked in.

“Hello,” he said as he reached over to shake my hand, “I’m a major motion picture star from the 80s and 90s and beyond, and I’ll be playing the role of your dermatologist today.”

At least, that’s what I heard.

He had a puzzled look on his face as he glanced at the torn paper sheet no longer covering me in any useful way. Then he proceeded to inspect my collarbone (inflamed mole) and the spot beneath my eye (skin tag). Following that, he asked me to lie face down on the table so he could have a looksee.

That’s when several thoughts occurred to me all at once…

GOOD LORD, a dermatologist is a SKIN doctor. I have skin ALL over my body. I am about to be inspected, close up and my doctor looks like Val Kilmer (post Top Gun). I did not groom today. Wait, is that a magnifying glass? 
At the end of the going-over, my dashing specialist told me that my skin was healthy. He even named a few of my moles and said I should probably keep an eye on them, then he said he’d be right back and left me to get dressed.

I was conflicted. Sure I felt violated but at the same time, I had just been given a clean bill of health, so really… double win!

When he returned, Val Kilmer had a can of liquid nitrogen tucked under his arm. That’s when I noticed he was wearing sandals. He had me hold my eyelid shut with my left hand while he blasted the hell out of a spot mere millimeters from my eye.

“This may or may not work. You’ll know either way in about two weeks,” he said as a slightly icy sensation turned to blazing hot pain.

“Ouch?!” I spat. To which he whispered, “Yes.”

Then he continued to burn my face for several more minutes.

Before I left, we discussed laser surgery which could remove a small spot on my nose that only I can see. In bright sunlight. Wearing three pairs of reading glasses. Val Kilmer told me the surgery might temporarily leave me looking like I have two black eyes, then he proceeded to punch me in the arm show me what to expect in terms of discomfort. I agreed to book an appointment.

After that, he bid me farewell.

Back to the waiting room, Geoff took one look my eye and asked, “Too much rubbing alcohol?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “Something like that.”

Fast-forward several weeks...

The skin tag that had been plaguing me for nearly 4 years first grew to epic proportions and then, without fanfare, disappeared without a trace – kind of like my modesty and now I feel like a movie star.
Thank you Val Kilmer. Thank you.

No, really.

Putting Prang to the Test

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Part of the fun of back-to-school, is all the fresh new supplies!

This month, I was thrilled to receive a box of goodies from the Dixon Ticonderoga Company, featuring several of their art supplies (as well as a group of competitor's products) for me to put to the test.

I began with a set of Prang Large Triangular Colored Pencils...

These colorful pencils have a unique, chunky triangular shape which makes them easy to hold - for both big and small hands.

OnceI  started working with the pencils, I noticed immediately how "creamy" they were... they seemed to just glide on the paper. By comparison, a leading competitor's brand was kind of "scratchy".

The Prang colors were rich and bold and the variety was fantastic. I'm a big fan of metallics so I was especially taken with the inclusion of silver and gold. The pencil sharpener (two pencil sizes) was a nice added bonus.

All of that aside, I wanted to make sure these colored pencils could stand up to the "Drop Test".

I let the pencils go from a standing position and they hit the floor, hard. But -- not a tip snapped off! Nor was there a fracture inside the wood. These puppies are strong!

Grade: A+

Next, I tried out Prang's Classic Art Markers...

Now, here's the problem I have with most markers. They dry out!

To deal with this problem, Prang has created a marker with an exceptionally long cap-off life. I put this claim to the test but leaving the cap off of a Prang marker for an entire day - plus one hour.  And guess what?

I was ridiculously surprised to see that the marker worked as well without the cap, as with. Which begs the question... how on earth do they do that??? By comparison, when I left the cap off a competitor's marker, it started to fade after just 8 hours.

Prang's marker colors are bright, bold and smooth - no scratchy drawings here! And, they are completely odor-free, which is a huge plus. They are also quick drying, which means less chance of little hands becoming covered in a colorful mess.

As if all this wasn't terrific enough, the caps on these markers are super easy to pop off and on, so even the youngest in your classroom can get to work straight away, without adult assistance.

Grade: A+

After the markers, it was time to dig into some paint...

Prang Oval Semi-Moist Watercolors feature eight colors and a wooden-handle paintbrush. We tried them out on a simple sheet of poster board, rather than watercolor paper. Reason being... a lot of classrooms simply don't have the funds to purchase expensive papers. 

Happily, the paint performed very well on the poster board. I found the Prang colors to be rich, and not at all chalky. 

Even though the set came with secondary colors, I thought I would try mixing my own, just to see how the paint performed. 

The Prang colors I mixed up were "earthy" compared to the colors of a competing brand (which were a little more pastel).  I suppose you could say the Prang colors were closer to nature. For example, I would choose Prang's green over the competitor's if I were trying to paint a realistic looking tree.

Next, I wanted to see just how washable these paints were, because - let's face it - kids + paint = mess. Am I right? 

So,  I covered my hands with paint and waited for it to dry.

All it took to clean my hands was a quick warm water wash with a touch of dish soap. 


Then, I "dropped" the paint on a 100% cotton t-shirt.

And guess what?

The paint was washable :)

This brings us to the paintbrush.

The brush held water really well and could be used to create large and small lines and areas of color. 


While it was great to have a brush included with the kit,  the quality of the tool was a disappointment.  From the first dip into water, the bristles began to fall out of the brush. While it certainly was not the end of the world, it was distracting and I can see students becoming frustrated with having to pick little hairs out of their artwork. The quality of the paint more than makes up for this though. Just make sure you have your own brushes on hand before using...

Grade: A+ for the paint
Grade: C for the paintbrush

Finally, I opened the pack of Ticonderoga Pencils...

I have personally been using these pencils in my own studio for years. They are beyond terrific and they always pass the "Drop Test". The lead in these pencils will not break. It really won't! It even stands up to youngsters who like to press HARD on the tips of their pencils :)

You can get a nice variety of shades with just one pencil, making it a terrific choice for the art room.

Grade: A+