Friday, October 24, 2014

Error of my Ways -- What I Wore, and perhaps Shouldn't Have

 The "big event" I was charged with coordinating happened last night. Actually, there were two events, over the last two days, and the day before that I picked up the visiting speaker from the airport and settled her in her hotel. (This all, of course, had to happen around my regular classes, so these were long days, complicated by the reality of life on the island with an hourly ferry schedule.) Months and months in the planning and organization, with many nested tasks being driven through institutional on-line requisitions and follow-ups and requests for approval, inquiries into protocols and policies and . . . . aargh!

All came together nicely. The press releases and posters and all the social media must have done their work, because we had good crowds, and the venues were ready, although there was some last-minute scrambling for A/V support (microphones and computers and whatnot). The last-minute cancellation of one of the dignitaries offering a welcome was easily adjusted to with others picking up the slack, and I managed to get all the names and titles right in my thank yous and acknowledgments. The guest speaker gave a wonderful lecture and reading, and the audience asked thoughtful questions, and when we all moved down to the reception room, the crowd commented on the simple but effective table decoration. Books were bought and signed, and poetry-lovers were happy to chat informally with the poet, and food and drink made for a convivial evening . . . . we couldn't do much about the institutional fluorescent lighting, but I think we showed our community that Poetry Functions could be Good Times!

And now I'm going to collapse. I have no marking this weekend, and I'm pretty much prepared for next week's course readings. We have an opera to attend tomorrow night in Vancouver, and I have grand-daughters (not to mention their lovely parents) to visit, but otherwise, I'm going to be as lazy and as comfy as I want.

I might wear these JCrew sweat pants, toile-print and all. Because, you know, despite what I speculated back here, these pants are clearly good for relaxing but perhaps not so much for wearing out anywhere that needs a sharper look.

Okay, admittedly, this Vince v-neck (I love it! Tissue-weight merino, drapes wonderfully) overwhelms, makes the overall look a baggy-on-baggy silhouette -- oh yay!

But I also tried it like this, a more neatly-fitting top (charcoal, v-neck Bompard cashmere) pale-pink cashmere scarf (I know, piling on the comfort I was)

and then changed the shoes from low-heeled boots to flat Converse

and then threw a field jacket over the whole thing, like this

and even then, just heading to yoga class, I wasn't convinced. . . . (In case you're wondering, these are an XS, but there's still too much fabric, isn't there? It may be the length, d'you think?)

But they're très, très confortable. . . . Which is exactly what I need this weekend, lounging on the couch with the Saturday Globe and Mail. Oh yeah!

When I've lounged to my heart's content, I'm going to respond to the wonderful, wise, lovely comments you left on my last post. My plan right now is to weave the comments and my responses into another post, and extend the conversation, but I may be too ambitious in that intention. I will respond though, and meanwhile, I want you to know how much your presence here is appreciated. Thanks to new readers who said hello for the first time, in comments; thanks to regular and occasional commenters; and thanks as well to all of you who read without commenting (or those few I've heard from who try to comment but are foiled by the technology gremlins!), whose clicks here add to the stats that encourage me to keep writing.

Now, if you're so inclined, tell me what will be bringing you comfort this weekend. Will you be oh-so-chic in your lounging state, or will you permit your tired self some leisure-wear coziness? Am I on a sartorial road to perdition or have I recognized the error of my ways just in time? Do tell. . .

Monday, October 20, 2014

Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us. . . Age and All!





Have you seen this brilliant time-lapse sketching of a woman's life from infancy to old age? The video is well worth the four minutes' viewing time -- magical!

Or have you looked at this New York Times article by Susan Minot about the glorious series of photographs taken by Nicholas Nixon of his wife and her three sisters, every year for four decades?  Aging AS beautiful. . .

I was pleased to stumble across both of these as I was deciding how, or whether, to post a few photos I took this summer while my newborn granddaughter slept and slept and slept on my chest and I played with my iPad, having never known how to take a "selfie" with it before. . . .





 Honestly, I recognize that context is so important here, and priorities shift in the face of the precious new, all that burgeoning sweet potential, but I have no qualms about those moles, the naso-labial creases, the neck I'm supposed to feel bad about . . . .
 The eyebrows are scruffy, the neck is wattle-y (and, oh yes, there's a brastrap showing inappropriately). . . .
And still, I'm happy enough. Happy enough. Happy.

Even earlier this summer, as Nola sat on my lap while we wandered into Narnia via the foxed, slightly musty pages of one of her mother's childhood books, her fingers traced with considerable fascination the swollen branching veins that lend a rich topography to the back of my hand. She followed a stream from my little finger to the bony centre of that hand, then pivoted to follow another stream up between ring and middle finger, reversed to head down a larger tributary into the dip at my wrist, then up to where the river plunged underground somewhere under the forearm. And then she moved to my other hand. Played the same game.

It was distracting, but it reminded me palpably of my own long-ago fascination with the loose plumpness of my maternal grandmother's upper arm, the velvety-soft delights of the wrinkles there, their tiny ripples. . .  The memory feels anchored to my 5-year-old self, perhaps 6, and I can sense a mixture of annoyance and amusement and fondness emanating from my Grandmother, can vaguely remember some self-deprecating comment as she distracted me with a cookie or an errand. She wouldn't have been much older than I am now, mother of 10, grandmother by then to 35 or more (yes, really! I have something like 50 maternal-side cousins now).

What would she have thought if one of her adult daughters had taken a picture of her, lounging over breakfast in the sunshine (that is very hard to imagine her doing, I must say) just because said daughter thought her mother looked beautiful?

Would she have felt the faintest flicker of annoyance, suspecting an element of . . . what? being patronized? Surely not beautiful. . . this hair, unstyled yet in the lazy summer morning, . . .Are you mocking me, daughter, you beautiful young woman? And yet I know this girl well, must look again, see myself through her eyes. . . .




Even if it's taken me weeks and weeks and weeks to muddle and ponder and post. . .

I don't need to look beautiful, you know? I think it's important to stress that. I even think I mean it, know I mean it, although I surely like to look attractive. As in, something about my look will attract, will engage, will hold my fellow beings' gaze long enough so that we can begin to interact on other less superficial levels. But looking beautiful, as conventionally understood, I don't need. I need to see the beauty in myself, though, and to accept it when and where others see it. In my age-risen knobbly veins, in my crazy curls, in something about my absorption in a book on a sunny morning.

I went looking in a favourite book, Joy Kogawa's Obasan, for a passage I thought I remembered, a passage that parsed the gap between the way the narrator's Japanese-Canadian forebears appeared to viewers of their photograph and the way she remembered their physicality. I've flipped through the pages again and again, stopped at the post-it notes I've littered the pages with, and I can't find that section. Did I create it from my own understanding of the novel and my memories of my grandmother, my own memories of how often photographs fail to capture the fullness of a person? No matter. While searching for it, I found this description  of the titular Obasan, the narrator's aunt, the aunt who raised her after her family was split apart by Canada's internment of the Japanese during WWII. Obasan is now old, the narrator, Naomi, muses, as is her house: Squatting here with the putty knife in her hand, she is every old woman in every hamlet in the world. You see her on a street corner in a village in southern France, in a black dress and black stockings. Or bent over stone steps in a Mexican mountain village. Everywhere the old woman stands as the true and rightful owner of the earth. She is the bearer of keys to unknown doorways and to a network of astonishing tunnels. She is the possessor of life's infinite personal details.

I'm not there yet, I know, but well on my way. And there is beauty there. By the time I get there, I want to have the wisdom to see it!

Alyson, at That's Not My Age, has been offering some wise words on ageing and on being old, via a variety of smart women. Check them out , if you haven't already.

I'd love to see your feedback on anything that strikes you here, although any questions I come up with feel archly formulaic, somehow. So I'll leave the forum free for you to shape, brilliantly, wisely, as you do. And please, please forgive me for the temporary hurdle of word verification. The Spam was just becoming too much, and I hope this will throw the beasts off-track. . . . But you, you I never want to deter, so please, I'm waiting for you to vault that word-verifcation bar and chat. . .



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Autumn Running, Thinking, Working, Retiring. . . . Blazing Colourfully. . . .

 I was home getting a drink and using the toilet in between loops of my long run this morning when the slanting sunlight of an early Fall morning lit the autumn foliage in the back garden. So I grabbed my camera, took a longer break than planned, slowed down to admire. . . .
 The big event that's been playing havoc with my time and energy lately (not to mention the adrenaline and cortisol it's stress-pumping through my system) happens this week. I'm close to admitting that everything just might work, although I've still got a big list I'll be checking tasks off, right until Thursday evening.
I'm still moving Retirement up on my agenda, but as work seems to be tipping back to a more manageable balance, I hope that I'm getting back to leaving because of other aspects of life I want to participate in more fully, rather than leaving because I feel my work has become too stressful. I've loved so much of it, felt so pleased to have achieved the PhD fairly late in life, had that wonderfully meaningful work right in my own community -- such a richness! I would love to go out feeling the same way, fortunate until my last day, happily anticipating the next possibilities.
























Autumn, a resplendent season, brilliantly rich, all that memory of spring's unfurling, summer's basking in the heat, the foliage and berries vibrant in new ways, their colours heightened in anticipation of the stripping back soon to come. . .

And me, still running. . . . (22.5 kilometres today, 15 of them a tough push!)

Please excuse the word verification I have temporarily activated for the commenting feature here. As much as I dislike this potential impediment to your ever-so-welcome comments, I've been increasingly irritated, then frustrated, then just angry with a growing number of spam comments in my mailbox for screening. I'm hoping the Word Verification may divert them to some other unfortunate target, and perhaps after a week or two, they'll move elsewhere -- at which point I'll take the Word Verification off. My apologies. And my thanks in anticipation of your working through this extra step to leave me your thoughts. Always much appreciated.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Denim Skirt, Easy, Eh?

This denim skirt (Mother, Easy A, hence my little pun above, wince. . . ) kept catching my eye -- I think I saw it first on Girls of a Certain Age and then it showed up on You Look Fab and of course once (or twice) I clicked on the link to check it out, it started following me around, winking at me from the corner of the screen in those devilishly tailored ads that insinuate their temptations into our unguarded moments.

Nonetheless, I ignored the temptation for weeks. Then I started listening to the voice that reminded me that I'd been looking for the perfect denim skirt for ages. Then just when I thought I might responsibly choose this new sensible wardrobe addition, they were completely out of my size. My Mastercard was saved.

Until they replenished the stock or someone returned a too-big or too-small or not-quite-room-in-this-month's budget skirt in exactly my size. And I did the deed. Ordered. Waited and waited. Picked up the package. Nervously tried on the skirt, knowing that returns are always a hassle (except for the wonderful Gap which makes them brilliantly easy).

And I am a very happy camper. This one's definitely a keeper, even if I have to hike it up rather indecently to ride my bike to and from the ferry. I could have wished for a walking slit, for a stride of more than the 18-20 inches this gives me, but I love the hint-of-90s length and silhouette, reinvigorated by just-soft-enough denim in a wash I love. Also enamoured of the raw hem. And the back pockets are flattering! Just sayin' . . . .
Wearing it here with that faux fur vest, a Banana Republic scarf, and a cozy grey Bompard v-neck pullover. Boots that I bought in Paris 3 or 4 years ago. (by an Italian brand, Ink, bought in a shop in the heart of St. Germain, I can't believe what a mainstay these have become -- I wear them at least once a week.)

Interestingly, I recognize as I look at these photos how comfortable I am with this basic formula, probably because of the years in uniform at my all-girls Catholic high-school. Simple skirt, simple top, black oxfords -- even the scarf might be seen as a replacement for the necktie we wore (tied our own, although a few of us may have cheated with clip-ons). And this skirt would have passed the Sister Superior test of having us kneel on the floor while she checked distance between knee and hem. The denim, of course, would not pass muster. . . .

So, let's see, questions for you: Do you have a great denim skirt or are you still looking or have you no interest in such a garment (they can be tricky, I know!)?
Do you order online often? regularly? Is that a bit dangerous or do you have some sensible parameters in place? And how often do you have to return items? Is that a hassle? Or do you have a system?
And if none of these questions grab your attention, just comment at will. I'm always pleased to hear from you. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Paul's Fish and Green Tomato Curry

Some of you asked for my husband's fish and green tomato curry recipe when I posted some autumn culinary adventures recently. He played coy for a bit, but has agreed to share, admitting that he found the basic inspiration on the web after Googling "green tomatoes curry fish." Back and forth between the several recipes he found, he ended up putting a few together. And improving, he claims (convincingly, I will testify, having tasted the results!). Feel free to adapt his instructions should you have any green tomatoes available, or try following the same Google trail for other versions:

Ingredients/Preparations:
500-600 kg Firm-fleshed white fish (sole, halibut, cod) cut into chunks and marinated with (1/2 tsp.) paprika, (1 tbsp.) olive, and lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon, squeezed) for about 20 to 30 minutes.thanks to Marsha for noting the error. 500-600 kilograms IS a lot of fish. 500-600g. is more likely -- and if you're more comfy with Imperial, something like 1 to 1 1/2 pounds should work.

Masala mix (he mixes his own with 1/2-1 teaspoon of turmeric, coriander, salt and pepper, small sprinkle of cayenne powder, 1 tbsp. diced ginger, 1 tsp. of a good Madras-style curry powder mix)

Dice 1 medium to large onion, finely dice 1-2 chopped garlic cloves.
Cut up green tomatoes 2-4 cups roughly chopped (not too small).
Cinnamon stick

Start by heating up 2-3 tbsps of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Add onions, then garlic. Cook 'til onions translucent, slightly browned. Add the Masala mix, stir in for about a minute, then add the chopped green tomatoes and 1 cinnamon stick
Cover, simmer until tomatoes have broken down and are turning into a fairly thick paste (some chunks left).

When the sauce is thick, cooked, add a bit of water to dilute if necessary, just enough so that you can add the fish and cook until flesh is opaque, shouldn't take longer than 3 minutes.

Add a couple of tablespoons of sour cream. You could sprinkle fresh cilantro over the top. Serve on basmati rice.
This made enough for the two of us for dinner -- Paul eats as much as 2, despite having retained his 32-inch waist for 40+ years (No idea how he does it!) -- and there was enough for my lunch the next day.

I'm not sure how many of you will be able to find green tomatoes to try this out -- let me know if you do, please. I've been trying to think of what might substitute for the green tomatoes -- it would, of course, be a completely different dish with ripe ones. I suspect tart plums might give a similar result, although they wouldn't break down the same way, I shouldn't think, and they have the same problem of not being available for long. But perhaps pears or apples, sliced. . . .Suggestions? I think we'll just keep the recipe handy for next year's surfeit of unripe tomatoes. . .






Sunday, October 12, 2014

Weekend, Ups, Downs, In Betweens . . .

 A run on Friday morning, while the rain held off . . . spirit-lifting!

Our condo kitchen has had its guts ripped out in preparation for installation of new Ikea cabinetry, badly-needed new sink and counters. So I had to go out for breakfast. After having marked papers from 6:30 to 8, I thought I deserved a treat. . . Vancouver's Thierry cafe on Alberni street provided that in the form of a gorgeous puff pastry apple tart, eaten outside so that I could people-watch as I read the paper, sipping a perfect coffee while sheltered from the rain. . . .
 Despite the rain and the stacks of marking, then, you can see I've been fitting in some small pleasures. Somehow, though, sadness or fatigue welled up yesterday, and I was more than dismayed to find myself overwhelmed by unstoppable tears hour after hour, while sunshine warmed the crisp autumn air just outside. All sorts of possible reasons, and I don't want to dwell here, but it seems important to register that all is not hopping from one treat to another. There is some Real behind the blog's Busy Glitter, and while I'm sure you have enough of your own Real that I won't trouble you with mine, neither do I want to suggest that any of us live perfect lives.

Yesterday afternoon, Paul finally convinced me to try a bike ride as a way of moving past the sadness. It turned out to be a good thing, despite my swollen face and the occasional tears insisting their way down my cheeks. Gradually, my brain stopped hamster-wheeling over the same troubles, and I concentrated on the burn in my quads as we climbed little hills, on the need to change gears as we powered down their other sides. We stopped at a dockside restaurant for fish and chips, a glass of bubbly for me, beer for him, and got home tired and happier. I'm still not all the way there, but working toward it...
This afternooon we're all  (13 of us including 3 little girls!) meeting at our oldest daughter's for Thanksgiving dinner -- balm to the spirits, for sure.

For now, it's back to the marking. I'm wishing you and me a Happy Sunday! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Recent Culinary Adventures, Autumn-Style!

Photo taken from the Globe and Mail























Paul's been making this lively Plum and Green Olive salad lately, and I highly recommend it! Simple so that the clearly contrasting sweet, salty, and crunchy tastes stand out. We love Cerignola olives even more after having driven by Cerignola this summer on our way to Peschici.

If plums are a satisfying harvest treat (and yes they are!), so are green tomatoes, although it might have been even more satisfying if they'd all ripened. Since we had a bumper crop of still verdant globes, however, we've found some pleasing ways to use them up.

First, I sliced up a few and mixed them in with the apples I sliced into a pie, following a recommendation from my battered old Joy of Cooking. And, of course, a few got sliced into the frying pan to go alongside Sunday morning bacon 'n' eggs.

Then Paul made a so-good-it-couldn't-possibly-be-as-healthy-as-promised Fish and Green Tomato Curry.

And, finally, I simmered 2.5 pounds of them, all chopped up, with chopped onion, brown sugar, vinegar, spices and raisins, the aromas dancing through the house, blending the heat of August fruits with the exotic warmth of ginger and cinnamon and mustard and chili peppers. All to trick our palates, this winter, into forgetting the cold and grey for the length of a meal. .  .

Are you a green tomato fan? What are your favourite ways to use them up? Have you ever tried them in an apple pie? And what other early fall dishes have you been enjoying?


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