A Good Home

Meet Rosie Riviera-Lopez

The most challenging thing about painting is knowing when to stop,” says Rosie Riviera-Lopez, an artist and educator who recently moved to a small town in Northumberland County, east of Toronto.

I did this interview for the Northumberland Festival of the Arts. (Link below)

A Good Home, Arts, Libraries, Myrtle The Purple Turtle, Spirit of the Hills - Arts Group

A Busy Week and Purple Fingernails

Accepting a blogger friend’s challenge, I painted my nails purple to attend the Festival of the Arts in Cobourg, Ontario last weekend.

Blog Photo - Myrtle Purple Nails

Of course, my friend won the challenge hands-down (hands-up?) because in this picture below, she’s also wearing a purple shirt! 

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Mandy and Purple Nails


I’m a volunteer with the Festival and it was a great success! Painters, photographers, authors, actors, musicians and others shared their talents with enthusiastic audiences.

Blog Photo - Festival Marie-Lynn playing guitar

Blog Photo - Pat Calder Stall at Festival

Blog Photo - Festival Mandy Bing paintings

Blog Photo - Festival Book Fair

Blog Photo - Festival Sharon Ramsay Curtis

Blog Photo - Festival Kim aubrey reading

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival Performers

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival gifts for Chairs
Above 6 photos by Hamlin Grange


In the photo just above, publisher Jennifer Bogart(right) and I are presenting gifts to Felicity Sidnell Reid (left) and Susan Statham (2nd from right), the hard-working co-chairs of the Festival’s organizing committee.  


It’s also been a great ‘Myrtle week’.  I dropped into A Different Booklist  – one of Toronto’s best-known book stores. Owners Itah and Miguel introduced me to customers Shay Lin (holding a copy of Myrtle), an international student from China, and Qing, her mother.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Friends at A Different Booklist


Earlier, CBC Radio interviewed daughter Lauren and me about Myrtle. Metro Morning host Matt Galloway and his team were terrific. They pre-interviewed us, and, when we arrived, made us welcome. Then they talked us through the journey the interview would take.

Blog Photo - Myrtle Interview by Matt Galloway

They were so kind, I suspected that someone in the team must have read An Honest House, which describes my struggles with PTSD, cognitive difficulties and pain following a car accident. So I asked producer Morgan Passi.

Imagine my delight to discover that this is just the way they operate!

Blog Photo - Myrtle interview by Wei Chen

Next, Lauren and I were skilfully interviewed by the wonderful host of Ontario Morning, Wei Chen. She greeted us warmly, made us feel entirely at home and the interview began. 

Bravo, CBC Radio!


A few days ago, Seattle’s Allen J. Mears posted on Facebook a photo of his daughters, Megan, 8, and Hailey, 6, with Myrtle. I loved it! Thanks to the Mears family for allowing me to share it here.

Blog Photo - Myrtle with Megan and Hailey

I love  photos of children reading Myrtle, courtesy of kind parents and grandparents.

Blog Photo - Myrtle being read to 2 daughters

In these photos, Ashly Dixon in Wisconsin is reading Myrtle to her daughters Denali, 9, Anika, 6, and son Vincent, 2, while their father Damien takes the photos. 

Blog Photo - Myrtle being read to children by Ashly

Ashly says they all love the book, including the brilliant illustrations and Myrtle’s “message of acceptance and knowing one’s self-worth” .

Thanks, Dixon family. 

And don’t you just love the pyjamas?


Carl Randall, a veteran marathon runner, did something unusual to spread the word about Myrtle.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Carl at Brunswick County PL

He and his wife Jackie have brought Myrtle to libraries in various cities — including New York, where he recently ran the marathon.

Blog Photo - Myrtle held by Carl at NYPL 2

Thanks, Carl and Jackie! 


Finally, Kev Cooper – blogger, book reviewer, author and musician — has made Myrtle “Book of the Month” on his website, Books & Music.  Wow, Kev! Thank you!

A Good Home, Communication, Paintings, Partnership, South Africa

Days Off in South Africa – Part 2

The closer we got to our destination, the more worried I became.  

A paved road took us to a small, whitewashed stone house similar to others in this mountain village.

It was modestly furnished.

I spotted something I hadn’t seen since my childhood in a mountainous part of Jamaica: rubber hot water bottles. They helped keep us warm on cold nights.

Smiling in recognition, I held one against my chest.

“Once a mountain girl, always a mountain girl,” I told Marie.

We laughed for the first time since we’d left Johannesburg.


The housekeeper, a kindly Black woman, greeted us warmly. She didn’t live here – this was an all-White neighbourhood. We chatted with her, relieved to see a Black face.

At the local cafe, we were greeted pleasantly by the White owner-chef.

At our request, she gave us the recipe for her homemade bread, which we ate with delicious squash soup.

I could have hugged these women  for their warm welcomes.

But I was still on edge.


I jumped awake at a sudden sound that night.

The hot water bottles, packed around me for warmth, went flying.

Marie murmured something and I murmured something back.

I stayed awake, tensely listening.

A car drove by.

A dog barked.

Crickets chirped.

It took a long time for me to fall asleep.


Sunday came and the highlight of our trip:  visiting our friend’s farm.

He greeted us warmly. We set off up the hill.

A wafer-thin layer of ice coated parts of the hillside, but Marie and I smiled in anticipation as we climbed.

I stared, mesmerized, at a family of mere-cats, their heads popping from earth-holes in tandem. They’d disappear, then pop up again, movements perfectly synchronized.

“There’s a leopard living over there,” our host said, pointing to some trees on a nearby hill. He was remarkably casual about it.

He had given us sticks to beat the bushes, in case of snakes.

We were near the mountain top.



There they were. 

On smooth, upright stone walls, the paintings.

Protected by the cliff overhead.

Human beings had created them thousands of years before.

Pictures, some of men with spears. And wild animals, some which looked fierce.

Turning my head this way and that, I stared in awe.


Walking downhill, I glanced in the direction of the leopard’s hill and wondered which was more frightening.  Wild animals?  Or angry humans?


We had shared everything, but not this.

Working closely together, Marie and I had resolved challenging situations in both boardroom and training room. I always marveled at this woman’s skill.

As we neared the end of the visit, I knew I had to explain my strange behaviour.  So I did, starting with the warning I’d received.  We finally talked.

As Marie and I talked, true partners again, it hit me: the problem was never mine alone. If I was at risk that entire weekend, then Marie — my loyal partner — was also at risk. It was essential that, in a strange country far from home, we shared what we knew or feared. We would always do our best to protect each other from harm.



Our host had asked us to not reveal the paintings’ location. And that was a secret worth keeping.

We returned to Johannesburg safely, chatting and laughing companionably as we usually did.

We continued to work closely with remarkable individuals at the SABC and some of them became our friends. We, and the rest of our Canadian team, felt greatly privileged to make a contribution at a crucial time in the country’s history.


Marie Wilson was later appointed to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC recently filed its report on the treatment of Aboriginal children in Canada’s residential schools and the impacts on their families and communities. (Click on “What has been the Purpose and Role of the TRC” and other videos to see her.)

A Good Home, Art, Artists, Miniature Paintings, Water colour Paintings

The Marvelous Muriel Mason

The Images in this post may be re-used only with the artist’s permission.


Some people inspire me no end.

Muriel Mason is one of them.

Muriel has been painting since childhood.

Blog Photo - Muriel Blue Vase

“Actually, for as long as I can remember,” she says.

She’s self-taught.

Born and raised in England, Muriel taught physical education and anatomy at a high school. She and her husband Michael, a professor of English, moved to Zimbabwe, then Canada, with their two sons in 1966. They live in a village east of Toronto.

Blog Photo - Muriel Paintings - Barn

Artistic talent runs in the family. Michael has written poetry and prose, son Paul is an accomplished author, and Robin is a lawyer who also writes.

Muriel and Michael Mason
Muriel and Michael Mason

Over several decades, Muriel’s art has been recognized repeatedly.

Blog Photo - Muriel Flowers1

Since 1985, her work has been accepted into juried shows of watercolour miniatures in Washington, DC and Florida and in a special show in Sweden. In 1986, she was elected a fellow of the Ottawa Watercolour Society and received an award of excellence from them.

Muriel also designed tiles for H &R Johnson and Christmas cards for the Cystic Fibrosis Society. She creates larger paintings too, and has worked in pen and ink.

Her favorites? Miniatures in transparent watercolour. She’s created well over a hundred of them.

Blog Photo - Muriel Red Poppies

“I often look at my paintings and I’m amazed. I think ‘I did that?’ It really amazes me. It’s a sense of achievement.”

Blog Photo - Muriel Paintings Rocks

But a few years ago, a tumour was found growing around Muriel’s spinal cord. Four operations followed, each with a period of painful recovery.

Blog Photo - Muriel Paintings Woods

To the delight of family and friends, she started to sit up and even walk again, with the use of a light metal walker. But she could no longer paint miniatures – the neck pain is too great.

Blog Photo - Muriel Leaves

Would Muriel return to other kinds of painting? She recently has.

“Just a few little things,” she claims. (I say “claims” because I know her standards. What she calls “a few little things” are undoubtedly beautiful paintings.)

Like the great Michelangelo who declared late in life, “ancora imparo” – I am still learning – Muriel is now learning how to paint despite struggling with physical challenges. You could say she’s back to teaching herself to paint. At age 85.

Blog Photo - Muriel Bouquet

And she’s still exhibiting. A recognized international expert in miniatures, she will have a show in Whitby, Ontario in January of next year (at the Brooklin Public Library).

Brava, dear Muriel!

Blog Photo - Muriel amaryllis

All paintings copyright of Muriel Mason. Photos of paintings by Camera Kingston.