Saturday, 30 May 2009

Have a happy weekend as we move into June

I am delighted with myself. I spent about an hour on my slow moving dial-up service attending to one of the items on my to-do list. I cashed in most of my Aeroplan miles which have been gathering dust and threatening to disappear if not used and I now have a new camera and $1000 worth of Costco merchandise. I spend about $200 a month at Costco buying food for me and Kenya so that is five months of not having to pay those bills. The camera is a Nikon D60 (almost the same as Mud Mama's) so it will provide two things for me ... a new learning opportunity and better photos than I can get with my cheap little FinePix. I gave away my last camera to someone in Kenya and have not taken a decent photo since! I know I won't be getting the kinds of shots Mud Mama gets ... but maybe with perseverance I will eventually get some good ones.

Now to deal with the next item on the list: planning my lessons for next week.

I laughed when I read Hybrasil's suggestion but I think I am going to try to steer Andreas to more light-hearted topics. The comma lesson he requested comes from Lynne Truss' book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, the only best seller about English grammar and punctuation ever published. I think a humourous essay might be nice ... something that makes one think in order to laugh.

I have some paw prints to paint on the Happy Cat chair and some linking trims to complete, and then I will put on the three coats of polyurethane to finish it by the end of the weekend. Do I need anything on either side of the cartoon cats on the front side of the back? It looks to me as if it needs something ... empty gold fish bowls or cages or paw prints ... suggestions welcome.

I will likely sand another chair and apply the primer so that I am ready for another painting project next week. I find that painting silly things on chairs is a wonderful escape after spending three hours with Andreas!

My weekend started yesterday. Rowboat Flo and I went to the Chelsea rummage sale where I bought a couple of videotapes for $2 and Flo got a denim jacket for $2.50. Then we went back to her place for dinner. This afternoon I am attending a birthday party. I hope the weather cooperates so that we can party on the deck as well as indoors (and that the black flies and mosquitoes take a break). I have to make a dish to take with me ... I am thinking of lemon bread ... but maybe dandelion bread?

I hope you all have a happy weekend too.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Back to Teaching

It was a big change from my everyday hermit's life where I sing aimless little tunes as I paint or talk to Kenya from time to time. ... a life where I can live almost entirely in my own head. Yesterday I had to spend three hours in conversation with a very demanding student.

The good thing is that he is intelligent and challenging ... and he makes me think.

His English is as good as that of most Canadian students I have met and better than the drivel spoken by your average teen. He leaps on words like enigma and dilemma and demands that they be clearly defined so that he can used them and all their derivatives intelligently.

On the negative side is his propensity for writing obscurely as he makes sense of complex ideas and follows them into knotty little puzzles that need untangling.

So ... my job in the next 9 hours I have with him is to challenge him with vocabulary and ideas that are new to him and to encourage him to write clearly about them.

The other teacher working with him on Mondays and Fridays noted that he paused while he spoke. I asked what goes on during these pauses because I suspected that they were unrelated to the language he was speaking. He told me that comprehends things as patterns, almost diagrammatically, and chooses which thread of logic or which part of the whole pattern to choose for the conversation given his audience and the topic.

So ... I will simply pretend while I have him as my student that I have been gifted with a very bright English speaking student who does not want to waste his time on things that are boring. But I might also try to introduce the concept of empathy into the mix as I challenge him intellectually.

I am thinking about starting with the words "enigma" and "dilemma" and seeing how they play out with the notions of assimilation and apartheid ... perhaps as they relate to aboriginal peoples here in Canada and elsewhere ... perhaps as they relate to the Middle East conflict.

Any ideas?

Besides waking up my brain, this job has the advantage of paying better than dog sitting!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Dandy Bread, Chair and Fairy House

It looks as if it is going to be a dandy day. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and my smelly dog is curled at my feet. She reeks once she starts swimming. Does anyone have any solutions besides bathing? I think the problem is that she never really dries out.

First the dandy bread recipe requested by a lurker who is a friend of a friend. (You can come out of the closet, Colleen. I would love to get your comments firsthand:~)

First pick at least 1 cup of dandelion petals. It is best to pick these early in the day and from a non-toxic location. Discard any green bits, and remember that dandelion juice turns black on hands!

Then mix the petals with: 2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

Break up any clumps with your fingers as you do this.

Mix together: 1/4 c. canola oil
4 t. honey
1 egg
scant 1 1/2 c. milk

Add liquid ingredients to wet. Batter will be fairly wet and lumpy.

Bake in large greased loaf tin at 400 degrees for 50 minutes, then check with toothpick to ensure that the bread is baked through every 5 minutes. In my oven it took 60 minutes.

Next the dandy new chair. I have cleaned it thoroughly with soap and water and then used a wire brush or two and then sandpaper, and this morning I painted on the undercoat. The photo was taken at this stage.

I will play around with ideas while it is drying. At this point all I know is that I want to use the colours I chose for the happy star table.

On to the fairy house! A new friend sent me a photo of the house he built. I couldn't believe how cute it was. I never expected to see my dream cottage appear out of someone else's imagination. Mud mama ... it is even cuter than the little gnome houses we visited near you! I won't post the photo without his permission, but oh my! Just imagine a tiny stucco and stone cottage with interestingly shaped windows ... oh never mind ... words cannot do it justice. I will post it if I can!

Today I plan to play with paint. I have everything ready for tomorrow's first lesson with Andreas so I am free to play.

Dandy New Chair

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Saturday, 23 May 2009

A Busy Saturday

It is just a bit past noon and I have been flying since I awoke ... flying, I might add, with freshly washed hair still uncombed!

My intention was to go to two garage sales in Wakefield and then to prepare my Tuesday lesson and work on a chair. Instead I found myself dashing into those two garage sales on my way to the Great Glebe Garage Sale.

By the time I arrived at Bronson a couple of blocks north of the Queensway, I already knew it had been a mistake to come this late. Traffic was absolutely unmoving or creeping far more slowly than the heavily laden pedestrians coming home from the sale. I tried parking west of Bronson but there were no spots at all. I tried east of Bronson. Same story. I stopped at the nearest gas station and then headed back to the peace and sanity of my hills with only one stop enroute ... at the giant SAQ warehouse. Once I got off the main highway I began to see garage sale signs sprouting up out of nowhere like dandelions. I stopped at each one I encountered and bought a chair for $2, another, even finer one for $5, and a handmade pottery bowl with eight wine cups for $10.

I could have come away from this experience disgruntled that I drove all the way in to the Glebe for nothing ... but it really wasn't for nothing. If I had followed my original plan I would not have got gas at Ottawa prices or wine at 15% off or found the three garage sales where I scored the chairs and the pottery.

And ... I would not have met the youngest of the German boys, Malta, cycling around Wakefield. He needed help and there I was, able to provide it! He is the one we would all like to nibble on ... or adopt ... the perpetually cheerful one.

Sooo ... a good Saturday morning all round!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Looking Forward to the Weekend ...

Today I finished polyurethaning the happy little star table. It belongs in the screened-in porch rather than the living area of the house but I love it just the same ... warps and all.

Later I went out to meet my new student ... Andreas from Germany ... 17 years old ... and anxious to kayak and rid his English of accents. Only 4 three hour sessions but I think I will have fun. I still have no idea what I will be paid. I do not make a very good business woman I am afraid.


I came home and mowed the grass (taking breaks to pick up sticks and stones and pull weeds) and broke out all over in a type of hives from the stinging nettle which has infected the whole place! Aiiyiyi! Mud Mama suggested a cool shower without soap. No good. I have taken antihistamines to little avail. The internet suggests remedying with more stinging nettle. Just the thought is scary. Tomorrow I will stop at the pharmacy enroute to more garage and yard sales to get Calomine or Benadryl or whatever the pharmacist suggests.

I checked out a garage sale this afternoon and left my phone number if they decide they are interested in selling a wooden chair I liked (which is not for sale) and tomorrow I will go to others in the area to scope out chairs or other potentially happy furniture.

I may also stop at the Black Sheep on Sunday because a former student, Josh Dolgin, is performing ... maybe I will invite Andreas and his brothers to join me. This is an interesting family group ... their mom, a judge, is with them learning French, and the four boys (aged 11 - 17) are all learning English. Andreas wants to kayak. The youngest who is an eleven year old version of Sarah's outgoing happy son wants to do archery practice. The other two are musicians and we hope they will become part of the Kaffe 1870's open mic evening. One of them wants to do some rock climbing. I suspect they would like to find some young people to associate with. Every one of their teachers is ancient. I think I am the youngest! :-(

Daughter #1 headed back home today. She will be back next week when Daughter #2 has her MRI. I hope I will see both of them then and that the news that comes a week after the MRI will be gloriously good ... that there is no invasion of liver, lungs, skeleton or lymph nodes and that the remedy will be a simple lumpectomy plus a course of radiation. This is a scary time for all of us. Keep those good thoughts and white light beaming down, please.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Happiness Incarnate

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Dandelion Days

On my counter sits the most beautiful loaf of dandelion bread ... a yummy golden gift from nature. In my fridge is the rest of my harvest waiting for me to liberate more petals. I think, though that I will throw those out and harvest my next lot tomorrow morning, but this time I will wear rubber finger cots on all the fingers with rough skin from painting and washing up. Two thumbs and a finger are now black with a combination of paint and dandelion residue. I hope no one who matters notices! I look like I never wash my hands, not as if I have them continually in water! Does anyone have a remedy ... Mud Mama, do you know what to do???

I love this time of year when the sun shines on fields and woods alive with the brilliance of dandelions and the new growth on all trees. Today is a grey day but outside my window the young buds on the ends of evergreen branches stand out against the older needles and the young leaves on the maple sing a yellow green song.

Inside, the new paint on old bulletin boards makes me happy too. The new paint palette is inspiring different images by the way and I am heading down to work on the ugly table's top.

But first ... some quotes related to solitude ... that I agree with ...

"He who lives in solitude may make his own laws." Publius Syrius

"An ivory tower is a fine place as long as the door is open." Darby Bannard

"There is no companion that is as companionable as solitude." Thoreau

... and a thought of my own ...


Living in a hermitage is fine as long as you know that there are people who care enough about you to respect your need for solitude while at the same time bringing laughter and love to your place in the woods.

Today Sarah is coming for lunch with her dog and her baby. Kenya and I will both be made happy by the influx of youthful energy.

Good thoughts to #2 Daughter who is having the first of her tests today, to #1 Daughter who is traveling in this direction to be with her, and to #3 Daughter who is mourning a friend being held on life support until his organs can give new life to others.

And to all of you reading this today, may it be a dandelion day for you ... one drenched in sunshine.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Where does time go?

I seldom sleep in later than 6 or 6:30 so my day begins early. By 8 p.m. I am usually weary and unlikely to want to do much more than drink a glass of wine, knit and watch a movie (simultaneously) before going to bed by about 9:30. Still and all, that leaves about 14 hours of energetic time to fill, right? Yet almost always at this time of the day (3:30 p.m.) I find myself wondering what could possibly have happened to the last 9 hours. I have been going non-stop but all I have managed to do today is:

... put the homemade yogurt in the fridge
... pick the dandelions and make dandelion bread
... dump the compost bucket
... fill a garbage bag and take it up to the garbage can for tomorrow's pick-up
... organize the recycling to take up the hill on my next trip
... feed Kenya
... dawdle over tea while dealing with email
... eat a piece of leftover tourtiere while making the dandelion bread
... go to Wakefield to tell Sharon about a bus trip to the Montreal Botanical Gardens
... stop at the hardware store to get wire brushes
... walk to the mailboxes with Kenya to mail the cheque for our trip
... work on the ugly little table (some kid's project from about 15 years ago and so badly made that the kid refused to take home)
... paint the frames of two bulletin boards for my den
... make a couple of phone calls
... make a quick lunch of canned beans and homemade bread and eat it
... make my bed
... wash my face, brush my teeth and hair and take my vitamins

Apart from the painting and fooling around on the computer, I can account for about 3 or 4 hours, which means that 5 or 6 hours disappeared while I was on the computer and dabbling about with paint.

The only time I play a computer game is while I am waiting for something to load so this was all reading and writing ... but it is still a time thief.

Does your time evaporate?

Monday, 18 May 2009

Playing Catch-up

Now that I have a life outside blogging I find that I am not writing as regularly as I did. My apologies to those of you who drop in daily to see what's new.

I have been painting and preparing surfaces for painting. It would be a lot easier if I were painting pictures but I have no wall space left in this house of many windows, so furniture that has other purposes must act as my canvas. Besides of course, the quality of my "art" could not make it as a painting on a wall.

I went out the other day and drove around the countryside just breathing in the springness that was suddenly everywhere. Every shade of green had exploded overnight and the fields were alive with dandelions. Less than two kilometres from home two deer bounded across the road and into a water-filled culvert and then simply gazed at me calmly while I sat there in the car and talked to them. I discovered two garage sales even though it was a weekday. At one I bought three interesting old painted chairs, and, at the other, two pretty tin boxes and tents for holding up tomato plants.

I have started to clean up the chairs so that I can sand them before applying primer. The first one is proving a challenge. Its top coat of green continues to flake after each stage. Tamarak has suggested a wire brush.

On Friday evening I drove off on the spur of the moment with Kenya to Lanark to visit my son. My favourite step son, was visiting from British Columbia. We ate very well ... those men are good cooks! We all drank more than we should have as we reminisced about the long ago teenage years and got caught up on the last thirty or so years. It was fun. Kenya and I slept above the store on a futon and headed out at 6:30 a.m. to start the 21/2 hour drive home.

On Sunday morning we met the next dog we will be boarding. Laird is a beautiful two year old tri-colour collie who is very submissive. Kenya frightened him by shouting at him when he nosed around in places she regards as off limits, but they had a good time playing together and chasing one another outside. In the afternoon Kenya and I took off again, this time on a shorter trip ... to visit Tamarak and Carlos who were having a family dinner with lots of chicken in Diablo sauce. Mandara borrowed a bike and rode home after dinner and we drove Jesse home and ate chocolate popsicles. Jesse is in love ... she has bought herself a pocket pet called Starr... a mix between a miniature dachshund and a Boston terrier. Perhaps Starr will help Kenya overcome her fear of tiny dogs. After walking the dogs we all headed off to bed. Once again, Kenya and I snuck out like thieves very early this morning.

When I got to Wakefield I realized that it was a holiday weekend and I would not be able to buy the last two colours of paint for the new palette I have decided on. I have chosen a dark gold, a bright brick red, a very dark purple and a bright turquoise. I am looking forward to discovering what images those colours will inspire.

Today I plan to prepare some more pieces for painting.

Tamarak and I are thinking of having an open house in August as a way to display T's paintings and my happy furniture. We are inviting a potter to join us so that she can show her newest venture. She works with home owners to create unique tiled areas. She is surrounding my bath tub with hilly landscape (the Gatineau Hills) done in terracotta with some blue-green glazing. Maybe Tamarak can sell some pieces and Carrie and I can get some people interested in commissioning us.

How come this is a holiday weekend? It isn't May 24th and it isn't warm enough to start planting!

My daughter's meeting with the oncologist went well and she was able to put some of her worst fears to rest. Thanks to all of you who sent good thoughts and white light. She's not out of the woods yet so please continue to think of her.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Just a Scattering of Stuff ...

Words instead of pictures today.

Yesterday I picked fiddleheads and fried them in olive oil and butter and then doused them with balsamic vinegar. Yummy addition to a dinner of leftovers.

I had spent most of the day painting a bookcase/room divider I bought in 1963. It was once teak, then blue washed, then white. Now it is simply ochre and holds all my painting supplies out of sight and supports a lot of plants more attractively than they were displayed before on a broken table base and an ancient table top.

It began life in an apartment situated just north of the railway tracks in Beaconsfield. Maybe you have seen a print of that station done by G.A. Scholes. I used to commute from that station every day ... and one day almost died there in a gory accident. I was waiting for a westbound train to pass and almost stepped into the path of the eastbound train that had been hidden and silenced by the first train. When I close my eyes and remember, I can still feel the roaring heat that knocked me backwards out of harm's way.

The bookcase moved in its original teak state to a number of homes in and around Ottawa. After my dad died, I had a great many of his watercolours framed. I redecorated the spare bedroom in the yellows and blues of Provence, and created a gallery for them. That was when the bookcase was stained blue. Much later I lived in an apartment in Westboro, painted the bookcase white, and used it to display pottery pieces in the diningroom. For the first two years at the Hermitage it held linens, bath salts and laundry detergent in the laundry room off the main bathroom.

Now it is downstairs starting a new life in front of a large window overlooking the lake.

While I was painting it ... a base then three coats of ochre acrylic and then two coats of polyurethane, I painted a board to make a new sign for the hermitage. Then I began to sketch and letter it in chalk so that it will be somewhat like the happy chair I made. I will post a photo when it is ready.

On Tuesday I learned from Rowboat Flo that my child-sized chair stained aubergine is not a child's chair at all. I knew it fit me but was much closer to the ground, and thought it odd. Now I have learned that it is a potato peeling chair. Imagine! Some farm woman, tired of peeling mounds of potatoes at the wrong height, and remembering that in summer she peeled spuds, shucked corn and took fresh peas from their pods in comfort while she sat on a step outdoors with a pail between her feet, simply cut the legs of a kitchen chair down to size ... and now I have it sitting in a corner of my kitchen so that I can use it that way too. (Rowboat Flo is a woman in her seventies who spends summers at the lake ... I met her while she was fishing from a rowboat near my deck a couple of years . Some day I will write a post about Rowboat Flo ... who is at least as colourful as Tugboat Annie.)

I need to get my propane tank re-filled and buy some more paint so that I can try a new palette. I am thinking rich jewel-like tones such as you find in stained glass windows. Or maybe dusty pinks and mauves. More grown-up than the happy chairs, but I still have lots of chairs that I want to make happy as well.

This morning I was looking at Haliburton's calendar and discovered a course being offered that would teach me all kinds of techniques for re-painting furniture. Hmmmn!

Have a great day and send good thoughts to my daughter who meets with the oncologist this morning.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Spring Walk: Well, are you coming or not?

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Spring Walk: poison ivy and white trillium

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Spring Walk: Red Trillium

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Mother's Day 2009

Mother's Day was special this year. In fact the whole weekend was special.

On Saturday I moseyed around Wakefield with a friend and neighbour ... a garage sale where an old harridan screeched at me because I innocently picked up the chair she intended to buy, a sidewalk sale where I bought a local vegetarian cookbook, and a place that sells Nova Scotia slate. Later we planted Mugo pines.

On Sunday I had brunch at Marta's and then attended a story telling event with Tamarak , Jesse, Marta, and one of my daughters (the one I most needed to hug). Afterwards Tamarak's Carino made dinner for Tamarak, her daughters and me. Kenya and went home very early on Monday morning, and I began to work on a suggestion by Tamarak.

I didn't start taking photos until we were at Tamarak's ... so only a small part of the weekend shows up in the photos I've posted ... but the whole weekend was special. Something bitterly sweet happens when one of your children becomes vulnerable ... you realize just how much you love her ... how much you love all your children ... and it extends outward in ever widening circles until you understand how important everyone you love is to you.

Detail of Overlapping Triangle Border

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The desk with Tamarak's suggestion implemented

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Madly in Love on Mother's Day

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Oma on Mother's Day

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Mandara on Mother's Day

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Jesse and Kenya

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Friday, 8 May 2009

the sea god mask

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The desk ... just need polyurethane ...

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Deflated but not depressed or dead ...

A couple of days ago I received upsetting news that completely undid me. I shed a great many tears, and then I emerged feeling that battles had to be fought and tough decisions made, but that everything would come out all right.

During my time away I watched movies, painted and knit. When I tried to be sociable I failed utterly. At first the tears intervened making conversation impossible. Later I felt deflated. Not depressed. That's very different. I just felt flat; emptied out. I still feel that way.

When Opa (my father) died, his entire sofa back was covered in teddy bears ... some he had bought ... others he had made. The bear wearing the long tailed hat and mitts is one of his creations. I started this hat for Mud Mama's Wild Thing but I think it will likely fit either her Sprout or the great grand baby expected in our family. The wool is lovely and soft and cozy. The mohair strand creates fluffiness on the inside to trap warmth close to a little one's head or hands.

I have been thinking a great deal about Opa the past couple of days ... and about the importance of family. Even hermits need those connections. Teddy bears, movies, dogs, and hobbies are not enough.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Progress Report

I have painted the main body of the desk in ochre (like the stash chest) and the 6 drawers ... first in different colours and then in blue (like the stash chest). I decorated one drawer front with a mask and border. It was too busy and carlos was offended so I sanded it down and re-painted the base of blue. I decided my best bet was to draw each of the masks on paper and try them out. Enroute I discovered (duh!) that I should create a pleasing size and keep all of them in that range.

So the first photo is of the paper drawings tried on the drawer fronts.

The second is of one of the actual drawings close-up.

I have also played with a trim involving ink drawings of tiny giraffes with African beadwork triangles done in paint.

I think I will do the drawer fronts first and then play some more with the trim.

As I created the masks (first doing some research on tribal masks, then branching out, and finally creating my own), I remembered a story from my past when I lived in the school house. Our insurance agent had a a small child who was constantly opening the kithen cabinets and creating havoc in the kitchen. On Hallowe'en, this tiny toddling monster was terrified of the trick-or-treaters wearing masks. His parents decided that the easiest way to keep him out of the cupboards and drawers was to hang masks on them. This desk will be my sewing desk so I hope the masks act as deterrents to snoopers.

One of the masks

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The desk as a work in progress

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Saturday, 2 May 2009

Almost Finished

The happy chair is almost finished. It has been fun and I have learned a great deal from the experience ... things that work ... and things that don't ... how brushes, pens and paint behave ... the difficulties of working on rounded surfaces ... and on and on ...

I will do the piece of blue above the dancing starfish last ... it will be difficult because the seat is in the way ... and I have a couple of other small chalked in drawings to paint ... and then I will polyurethane the whole chair a couple of times to protect it from the inevitable bumps and scrapes it will endure.

I am anxious to get at the desk which is next. I am looking forward to working with flat surfaces again.

My hermitage is demanding more time than I have been giving it what with tax time and a flu bug (no, not piggy flu) and the after effects of having three dogs in the house all week. My floors are coated in gritty sand, clouds of shed hair float everywhere, and I have just finished the second full load of dog bedding and towels. All my rugs are outside getting fresh air before I vacuum them.

And all the messes that need work are showing up since the spring thaw. One of the mastodons melted and fell onto the the side of the road yesterday and frightened Kenya half to death. She must still think they are prehistoric creatures even though the frozen waterfalls have been there all winter.

The garbage and recycling trucks still cannot navigate my road and I can't get the road repaired for another month. The remains of the old cottage look like a scar on the landscape which needs to be covered in gravel first and then topsoiled so that I can start to create a garden down by the water ... but again nothing can happen until the road is fixed.

Butterfly Garden Detail

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Happy Skies Over Playing Dolphins

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Starfish Dancing on the Sandy Sea Bottom

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Dancing Starfish Detail

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