Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wildflowers on Wednesday

The other day, I commented to Elizabeth at Welsh Hills Again that I loved her wonderful groupings, in her expansive garden, of naturalized daffodils, but that this appreciation was in contrast to my growing fatigue with the far-too-cheery, harshly yellow, great big daffodils that seem to be jammed into too many urban gardens every March. I much prefer the many smaller varieties in their more delicate shades of yellow and cream.

Even better, what about these native plants, growing in the remnants of a Garry Oak meadow, growing as they have been for countless generations. When Wordsworth was wandering lonely as a cloud, and discovering his crowd, his host, of golden daffodils, these Erythronium oregonum (hmm, plural, so Erythronia oregona??) were blooming at the edge of another continent. . . .

and a couple of hundred years later, while I wandered alone, if not particularly lonely, I happened upon this multitude of what are commonly called White Fawn Lilies

Photos all taken with my iPhone camera -- I did add a filter for one of these and you can probably spot it quite easily.
 Aren't they delightful, though, growing wild, requiring nothing but to be left alone to send up foliage, then to grace the earth for several weeks with their white flowers nodding prettily from curved coral stems. A few weeks after that, nutrients stored back underground toward next spring, the leaves and flowers will fade into dormancy, invisible, forgotten until they come back to repeat the show in a year's time.
I think of the lines from the King James Bible, "Consider  the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."  
I hope these pretty images cheered you, as the walk through this flowery field perked me up. Are there wildflowers growing somewhere near you? Are they treasured as much as these White Fawn Lilies are? I suspect we love these particular native plants because they know their place so well, staying only where they're welcome, dropping out of sight when they're done blooming. If their behaviour were more agressive, perhaps it would be a different story. . .

Monday, March 30, 2015

What Nana Wore -- Dress Over Pants For The Win!

Having spent five days last week wearing pyjama bottoms and my v-neck navy cashmere pullover, I'm happy to prove that I can occasionally muster a bit of fashion play. . . Especially since I am now Nana to five, count'em, FIVE, grandchildren, and much as I dearly love that role, I don't want to fall into any sad old stereotypes about grandma-dressing. . .

I've been wanting to try the dress over pants look I saw That's Not My Age's Alyson modeling. Neither as tall nor as slim nor anywhere near as Advanced-Class, style-wise, as Alyson, I didn't feel brave enough to try the look with flared pants, but thought I'd give it a go with white skinny cords and a simple Gap dress that's a bit too big for me now.

Doesn't quite work, does it?
But, I thought, perhaps with a belt . . .
And right away, I liked it. Helped that the belt was a very close match to my Acne Pistol boots -- and I like the neutral combo -- cognac plus navy plus cream.

Still a bit chilly going from my office to the building I teach in, so first I tried the combo with a merino cardigan, adding a bit of colour
I don't hate it, but for now, I think I prefer to keep the colours neutral and simplify the proportions.
So I once again grabbed my faux fur vest and voilà! a look I really like. Yes, the vest also introduces an added horizontal, but because it's dark, it blends into the navy better than the green of the cardigan.

I was very pleased with this outfit, all built from pieces in my closet and with the added benefit of getting that dress back into circulation, just when I'd been thinking I might have to pop it in the giveaway bag. . .

What do you think? Would you/have you tried a similar look? And do you agree that the vest works better with the outfit than the cardigan does? Oh, burning questions designed so carefully to elicit your thoughtful responses. . . but really, I'm happy if you just leave a quick "hello" in the comments or even just wave as you're reading this. I'll know. . . ;-)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

why Hello Master Fergus!

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you will have seen two of these photos already, but I really want to share them with readers here as well.

I love this one of newly minted big sister Harriet waiting for her mom to put baby brother Fergus in her arms

And then this one, with her look at mom just glowing with a confident intimacy, an almost conspiratorial exchange about this little fellow on her lap.

And now I'll tiptoe away and let the siblings get acquainted u
nder mom's guidance (isn't my daughter beautiful the morning after a wee hours home birth?)
Tiptoeing out of the room now . . .

Hope your weekend is going well. Spring's settling in here, and it's very welcome!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Five Things Friday (Really, Five Grandchildren, Not Things, But!)

A few months ago, I posted about how much I loved the communications technology that keeps my grandchildren close. And having been cooped up on my own this week, sick, I appreciated it even more, getting doses of the best medicine via my iPhone. I added a few new videos to my Happiness file -- a 2-year-old dancing, a 7-month-old just mastering her crawl, same 7-month-old convulsed in laughter at her dad scolding the cat. And I added new photos to Nana's Brag Screensaver. Mind if I share?
1. Eloise of the big, big eyes, concentrating on her main job, gaining weight, which she's doing admirably well.

2. Frankie, the newly mobile Baby who loves to laugh.

3. Hattie, who helped Granddad baby-sit Frankie one day last week (Is it okay for me to admit how envious I am that he can do this while I have to be at work? I know, I know, only a few more weeks of that. . . )

4. Not everyone communicates solely through their phones and dataplans, however. Some still participate in the wonderfully sensory world of snail mail -- real correspondence. Small fingers sounding out words and printing them, then adding illustrations. The words require some sensitive decoding but ah, the delights revealed include poems and jokes and clapping hands (more precisely, at the end of the poem's first line was an instruction: Klap 2 tims, and a drawing of a hand, for those whose reading skills might be weak). All inside a richly patterned (peacocks and fans and flowers, greens and coral and gold) notecard and its matching envelope, so that I know my daughter held both her mother and her daughter (yes, Nola, 6) together in her mind while choosing and buying it. Priceless.
5. Will be here very soon. I'm trying to finish this blanket first.

 Not sure if I'll give it to the new arrival or let his big sister have it and begin another for him.
Watch this space. . . .

And after a night of little sleep, checking text messages through the night, I'm updating to add that wee Fergus has arrived, two weeks early. I'm hoping to catch the early ferry and meet him a bit later this morning -- also hoping the combo of bliss and adrenaline will compensate for a night's lost sleep after a week of illness. Can't wait to meet Hattie as a big sister!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wednesday Woes and Wanderings

How's that for a fanciful title? Not sure I can live up to it, and I'm rather exaggerating the woefulness. Never mind . . .

Home sick again today -- more days than I've ever taken off in a row. Ever. In fact, more days than I usually call in sick in a year. I am clearly on the mend, though, with my appetite returning and my digestive functions returning to normal, but I'm too wobbly to lecture productively or too facilitate a class discussion.

Instead, I'll catch up with some marking and probably answer student emails and definitely prepare next week's classes and figure out how I'll catch students up on material we've missed this week.  I'm also going to try to get out for a walk later, although the weather is blustery and wet. I did a ten-minute walk yesterday evening and was surprised how weak I felt, and I'd like to feel a bit more sure of my strength before I head to campus tomorrow. Living on the island, with a kilometre's cycle between here and the boat, and ferry service only hourly, it behooves one to consider these things before transporting oneself far from one's own bathroom and bed. . . .  Just saying.

I suspect it will take me a few weeks to get back to running the mileages I was managing just recently, and I've decided that's okay. Perhaps an enforced slowdown was just what I needed. In the last while, running had begun to feel a bit too disciplined, bordering on compulsive, and I'd like to get the joy of it back. Meanwhile, perhaps I'll do more of what Paul and I did just last Friday, walking around the neighbouring island, the whole place a wonderful provincial park with magnificent views from its magical forest trails.

The maple flowers being shaken from their pink-green sheaths, as elegantly as a well-trained French waiter shakes out a crisp linen napkin, are one of my favourite spring phenomenon. Luckily, as the flowers respond to the differences of the microclimates in which the trees grow, this phenomenon is spread over several weeks, so that while some trees were flowering at least 10 days ago, there are some in my neighbour's yard that will wait almost until the end of the month to show themselves.

Not showing herself at all is the mysterious owner of these sandals, stepping across a mossy glade, inviting us to follow . . .

If Nola had been with us, I think we might have made up a story about the sandals' owner -- a princess escaping to meet a girlfriend so they could go hunt for the dragon together in order to save the kingdom? Or just someone who wanted to be barefoot despite the still chilly temperature? The trail we walked on Friday was about 9 kilometres, although our once-sandal-footed hiker could have come across island by a shorter route. Still, I'm having a tough time imagining scenarios that could explain these sandals, their abandonment and their placement, other than someone having a good sense of narrative and playfulness both? Suggestions welcome.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sickbed Diversion, Colours of France

 Home sick today. Slightly better than yesterday when I was confined to bed (slept 6 daytime hours, then 9 last night!) and bathroom.

Thought a quick post might be a diversion and give me the illusion of some company. Paul's headed off to Vancouver where he's got a couple of baby-sitting gigs -- worried about leaving me, but he's got the kitchen well stocked for when my appetite returns, and really, the young moms and the wee ones need him more than I do. And the noble martyr role is almost as satisfying as that of the poor sickabed calling for a bucket or a tissue. . . .

Anyway. . . .I've started playing around on Instagram and one of the people I've been following is currently visiting Nice. She's been posting the loveliest, cheeriest watercolours throughout her trip, and the other day, she posted a photo of a charming house in Nice, creamy stone adorned by soft mint shutters.

I was immediately reminded of homes that we saw sporting this combination when we drove through the Médoc a few years ago. Such a pretty combination, and repeated so often throughout the region, that I had to stop and take a picture.

 Honestly, I could move in tomorrow. Isn't this sweet? And so obviously well cared for. Does anyone know the architectural term for those diamond windows? Thanks so much to my Parisian friend, Jennifer, for advising me that these are lucarnes, a term that seems to translate to mean a variety of dormer windows, with particular names according to the particular architectures. Lucarnes seem often to be as much about ventilation as about light, and I had discarded them as a possibility because the house seems too low to justify that, its roof so shallow. But I'm pleased to have a name to associate with them . . . I also want to call them "lozenges" because of the diamond shape, and this seems to be a term widely used in architectural history/historical architecture -- any contraindications I should know about? Wikipedia, btw, hosts a fascinating site (en français) on lucarnes. Life offers so many tempting rabbit holes of information one could disappear into, no?

Back to bed now, for me. Hope your week has begun more promisingly than mine.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Five Things (I Want To Do When I Retire) Friday

Somehow yesterday morning, I had a teary meltdown, all before 8:15 (and I had to catch the 9 ferry, so little time for mascara re-do) and despite the curative effect of ten hours' sleep the night before (I was asleep by 8 to make that happen!). Triggers? Sheer fatigue from burning the candle at the Family end and at the Work end, I suppose. Missing my centering and stress-releasing weekly yoga classes for two weeks now, and only managing about a quarter of my usual running. The time of term when I'm dealing with students suddenly realizing they may fail the course -- I've had two of them in tears this week, young men both, and I'm not sure if it was tougher for them or for me. Perhaps the approach of my mother's birthday, and then, next week the anniversary of her death two years ago -- the body's got a funny way of knowing these calendars and responding emotionally . . .

At any rate. . . (en tout cas, as my husband says so often when he's speaking French, in any case. . . ) I know that I've made the right decision, the big Retirement decision, although this is the evaluative part of term when I often begin thinking of what I might try differently next time 'round, and it makes me a bit sad that there won't be a next time. . . There are just limits to what one person can do if she wants to do the important things well, and I do . . .

So, with only four more weeks of classes left (although then there will be marking and exams and some committee work and cleaning out my office, all of which will take me through the end of June), I'm allowing myself to think ahead increasingly and I've made a little list (does anyone else hear Gilbert and Sullivan when they say that phrase? There's a small chorus in my head right now!):

1. Make kimchi. I've wanted to do this for over a year now, long enough that I can't remember where I stored the recipe, but it will be easy enough to find another. First, though, I need to find a decent container for the long fermentation. I suppose if I wanted to be authentic I could make #2 be "dig a big hole in the back yard to bury the fermenting mixture in its container, but the contemporary recipes seem not to require such commitment. I've stalled on the kimchi all this time because I haven't been able to spare the time to hunt out the fermenting crock. Soon!

2. Meet a Victoria friend for lunch or coffee or whatever next time I'm down there visiting my son's family. All visits to that lovely city over the past few years have been pretty single-purposed, and I'd love to add an extra day to catch up with neglected friends, shop some of the lovely stores, go for a good long run along Dallas Road, maybe even stop in Sidney for more shopping and coffee (ooh, those used bookstores!). . .

3. Organize my photo files and Get. Some. Prints. Made. And. Framed. Imagine heavy underlining here! Our daughters gave us gorgeous prints of themselves and their daughters for Christmas and three months later, those are still not framed.

4. Book a set of sessions with a French tutor (shared with Pater, bien sûr). I read a French novel last summer and I listen to French radio in the car on the way to work, but otherwise haven't worked on my language skills since our lessons in Bordeaux last June. Given that this is one of my life goals, I need to spend more time at it on a more regular basis.

5. Finally begin working the needlepoint kits I picked up in the wonderful Paris shop, Bucherie , not last trip, but the one before! Two years I've had these, and although I did try a few stitches, following the online tutorial, I put the canvas back in the bag, resolving to pop into our local needlework shop for some in-person help (they charge a small fee, well worth it). Made that resolution many long months ago and haven't got there yet. But now it's on my little list of Things I Want To Do When I Retire, so we'll see. . . .

As for today, what I will do is head to yoga class with Pater, then follow that with breakfast together at our favourite local French/Paris-themed cafe where we'll be making another list: Travel Plans for the coming year. . . .
There will also be some marking, some work-related reading, and perhaps a very long nap (I'm writing this at 4 in the morning, giving in to insomnia, and that deficiency will probably become very evident at some point!)

What about you? What's up this Friday? Can you relate to any of the items on my list? Do you have your own for your eventual retirement? Or have you ticked off items as you've moved into retirement? I do wonder if retirement will shift priorities so that some listed items simply drop off, eventually. But not the kimchi, surely! Have you made a batch? How did that go?

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