Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My Travels to Grey . . . a Hair-Revealing Tale!

How long ago did I commit to writing a post about How a CurlyHead Goes Grey? Let's see. . . it happened way back here, when Lisa of Amid Privilege posted about her own greying journey as someone with straight blonde hair -- long, straight blonde hair, which she kept long throughout the process.

For my own first steps down the Grey path, taken after several decades of constant colouring -- visits every six or seven weeks to have roots done or highlights applied -- I went the dramatic  (or is that "drastic"?) route, chopping back a lion's mane of coloured and highlighted hair to something shorter than I'd worn for decades, maybe even four decades, perhaps five. It had been a long, long time since my hair had been this short.
Before and After, from photos my stylist took and then collaged together -- I can't figure out how to flip the photo so that Before is on the left, but you can figure it out, right? My clever readers...

Honestly, I'm not so keen on such short hair on me, but I'd admired short grey cuts on other women, especially on travels through France and Italy the last few visits, and I'd begun wondering if I could carry off this look.  Then my retirement allowed us to plan seven weeks away, with a departure date that happened to be two weeks into my stylist's annual summer vacation and a return date determined by another out-of-town commitment that would keep me away from R's cut-and-colour wizardry for another week. Adding up the weeks of uncoloured roots, I got a scary total of Ten! Even with the blond highlights and the curls as camouflage, grey would be making an emphatic appearance during our travels, especially as the increasing length/weight of my hair would be straightening the curls to expose the truth. . .

So. Either I brave a new stylist in a different language (hey, I bought a bracelet with my limited Italian, but a haircut?!) or I find a Plan B.  And that's what I did obviously. Here's how it went:

1. I'd deliberately booked an appointment as close to our departure date as possible, wanting to minimise the time away from a Cut-and-Colour. That booking, just before R hung the "Gone Camping" sign on her studio door, was almost nine weeks from my previous visit. Translation: my mane was shaggier than normal, the colour blonder thanks to extra sun time -- and the grey roots were pronounced enough, in those extra three weeks without retouching, to shock me a bit, and to invite me to think about what it might be like if . . . .

2. We chopped off most of the colour and took advantage of my time away to let me experiment with how it felt to have short, naturally greying hair. . .

What you see in these next few photos document those seven weeks -- By the end of this time,  I had an inch, perhaps an inch and a half, of grey to perhaps 40% of my head, maybe more, although the back, as so often is apparently the case, stayed its original dark brown. At this short length, the curls were springy enough to disguise or distract from the incoming grey -- or, more accurately, I think, to blend it in with the remaining blonde highlights as those grew out.

These photos show the cut/colour in roughly chronological order, through Bordeaux in September through October in Rome, then Turin:

Early September, in Bordeaux

Last week of our Bordeaux September, above,

and one week into October here, in Rome's Villa Borghese . . .

In Turin, mid-October . . .
By the time we got back home, and I finally visited my stylist, we'd experienced our longest separation ever  (other than her maternity leave) in over fifteen years of colour every seven or eight weeks, then every six or seven, and recently, a pretty consistent six weeks' apart colouring,  with new highlights every third visit.  I hadn't seen her for over twelve weeks! If I'd still had the style and colouring as in the Before photo, above, this would have been unthinkable --..

Given that the scissors wielded twelve weeks earlier had chopped at hair seven weeks from any colouring, I now had roots that revealed almost five months of natural colour, a good percentage of it grey. Close to an inch of grey over much of my head. Did I blanch at the thought? Call for an emergency touch-up? Reader, I did not! Instead -- and I'm sorry, but I've searched my files and I can't find any photos recording this step in the process -- instead, I talked over the options with my wonderfully supportive stylist, and I decided to

3. cut off almost all the remaining colour, leaving my hair as short as it's been since I was ten or eleven (and even then, only for one or two of what my mother used to call "pixie cuts," supposedly à la Audrey Hepburn).

Yes, we went short short. Perhaps two inches, longest, if I remember correctly. I didn't love this bold length on me, so I may be exaggerating. I did get compliments, although they too often referenced how easy the style must be to care for. Not the primary message I want my hair to convey, quite honestly. I was,  however,  quite happy with the highlights we decided on -- a mix of a mid-brown and a nearly-blonde. Rather than disguise the grey, they enliven it and, okay, distract from it by giving depth, texture. And most importantly, because those roots grow out alongside the completely grey hair, there's no need to touch up emerging grey roots. What that translates into, practically, is much easier maintenance -- we add new highlights every four months, or every second or third cut. The cut-only visits, of course, are much shorter (and less expensive!) than the cut-and-colours, and I'm always a bit shocked now, to be in and out and still not quite caught up on each other's news!

Here's a Selfie I took in the Palazzo at Caprarola (about an hour's drive from Rome) at the end of January -- the curls are still too short for my liking -- I like a more relaxed, slightly wilder curl, and dislike anything that smacks, to me at least, of 50s perm -- but I do like the way the highlights and the grey are blending here.

These next two selfies were taking aat the beginning of April, and I'm posting both to show you
1. the tightness I find too much of in the curls, at least as viewed straight on. . . .
 and, 2. the mix of colour and the emerging length which is allowing a bit more wildness to soften the style.

Both photos were taken within five minutes, hair the same length, same style, etc., so yes, it's just a matter of perspective, but by this point in April, I was often genuinely happy with what my hair conveyed about me. Or at least, I could often see the potential for it to represent me in perhaps another few months. The style I had hoped for when I first began this process six months ago is becoming a distinct possibility.

 And below, in a photo I took of myself in early May, you'll notice that Ronei and I changed the highlights from nearly-blonde and mid-brown to that mid-brown and a darker brown. The proportion of highlights to my own natural colour (which is a mix of grey and dark brown) is surprisingly small given the effect it makes, and for the time and expense it requires, I'm going to continue adding that much colour. I may begin to go longer between refreshing highlights, and I imagine a point when I may decide not to bother with any colour at all. I'm not there yet, but I'm very happy with the grey I'm now sporting. At our last visit, about a week or two before this photo was taken, we decided to leave the length alone so that the messiness I wanted might manifest itself -- the only cutting was to discipline the "wings" that were beginning to emerge about my ears.
My next appointment is booked for the day after the moving trucks arrive, the day we leave our home of over twenty years. And not only leave our home of over twenty years, but I'll be moving away from the stylist who has cut and styled my hair for at least that long and who has become a good friend over that period. Believe me, there will be tears. . . . (although just between us, I'm thinking I may make the trek back over to the island (she's in the small Vancouver Island city whose harbour hosts our little island; she doesn't live on the tiny island we're leaving) for at least my next two cuts until I get this style right where I want it.

In the meantime, though, for those who are curious about my daily maintenance . . . If you're a curlyhead, you probably already know that I have to wet my hair every morning. It's the only way I've ever found to erase bedhead and allow some control over the way the curls form.  For two of those mornings, I rinse only, and on the third I shampoo and condition with Aveda products. After toweling dry, I work in a small amount of TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock curl amplifier, the only product that gives me the results I want every time (although I do have some doubts about ingredients, its stubborn refusal to rinse off hands without buckets of water).  Once the thick cream is worked through my hair, I "scrunch" it into curls all over, and then I simply allow it to air-dry.  Once or twice, as it dries, I "pick" volume into it with a wide-toothed hair pick, and I do this again once it's completely dry.  C'est tout! As all curly-heads should know, Less is More when it comes to handling the curl. And never, ever, a brush!

The only change I've made to my super-simple hair care recently is that because I've been experiencing itchy scalp over the last five or six months, worse lately (I suspect stress may be playing a part), I've been trying out weekly home coconut oil treatments -- I work melted oil through in the evening and then shampoo it out in the morning. Even better, if I know I've got a day on my own where I don't have to show my head much, I'll work the oil in after a morning shampoo and leave it for the whole day -- and I've been surprised to notice that it's not bad as a styling product (for that one day, at least).

So there you have it. Good thing I'm accepting my grey because I'm sure this Big Adventure Called Moving is painting large swathes of the colour all over my scalp. . . What about you? Still colouring? Never coloured? Thinking about not colouring? Thinking you'll never stop colouring? Pin-straight hair that shows every grey root or curls that hide those roots a few weeks? Hair changing in other ways with our, er, certain age? Or is it all "tempest in a teapot" to you? Chat, please, leave comments, distract me today as we have a little something-something going on that I can't tell you about yet and that may turn out to be a disappointing nothing-at-all even as it's added a few hundred grey hairs to my head. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Moving in Style? What I Wore from an Edited Wardrobe

Wow! Tumultuous days, one after the other. This moving business is not so easy, and the challenge is compounded by this contract Pater has taken on. He's at the airport as I type, heading off for ten days after a whirlwind ten at home. After our garage sale, he stayed on the island to dispose of everything that was left over -- many trips to town transporting boxes of used goods and bags of garbage and recyclables via wheelbarrow, boat, and car to thrift shops and dumpsters and recycling centres. He emptied our freezer and packed boxes of books and cleaned the oven and cleared out the shed. Meanwhile, I did some recharging via runs with my sister and on my own, a facial and massage, visits with my daughters, a bit of shopping. . .  And we managed a few days together in Vancouver to babysit and to celebrate my birthday and to view a few possible future homes.  We will be taking a tentative step towards owning one of those, but we're trying hard not to get our hopes up as every listing in Vancouver generates multiple offers, all of them significantly above asking price.
I'll let you know when there's news on that front, and I'm pleased to advise that I've (finally!) almost finished my post on The Greying of My Locks! and another long-promised post on Why Now? in regards to this big move/lifestyle change.
For the moment, I'll share some recent What I Wore photos, perhaps the last ones taken using that mirror, that funny old doorknob photobombing itself into posterity. . .

In the photos above, I'm wearing more colour than has been my wont lately, but I do love these Gap Khakis in their faded gold. I've long loved a grey and yellow combination, but yellow isn't kind to my face. This way, though, I can pair sunny pants with a soft grey merino sweatshirt (short-sleeved, J Crew).  Wardrobe culling has drawn my attention to some great pieces that were somehow being neglected -- this blue Bompard lightweight cardi is one of them, and I've been making up for lost time with it lately. But that was a changeable spring day, and a trip to town for yoga class was going to need a scarf against possible cloud cover and perhaps a bit of wind.  So I tried out two possibilities, the (also Bompard) camel cashmere or a silk organza scarf I bought in Paris last year on my Sisters trip. Which do you think got the outing?

Below, a very different look, and yet I felt completely me in both of these. You've seen the wide-legged cropped jeans (Citizens of Humanity) quite a few times now, but this might be the most challenging version for those of you who dislike the style, and even those who do might be shaking your heads, "No, no, no, she shouldn't do that."

And I get the argument (proportion, overall volume, wide bottom -- skinny top, etc., etc.).
But I still like this. I felt very comfortable in my Club Monaco trench (I rarely do up the belt, waist not being my strong point -- instead, I tuck the belt ends in my pockets), wide (okay, floppy!) jeans, and my new Vince sneakers. . .

Even tried a different pose to suggest how the look changes in motion. But we don't need to agree, do we?
And below, a different look again, and yet, again, something I felt "completely me" in. Same Vince sneakers with a pair of finally-beginning-to-fade-perfectly raw denim jeans I bought in London five years ago. Smythe blazer I've had even longer, Michael Kors leopard belt older still, and a white J Crew t-shirt. I'm pleased to note that the sneakers and the t-shirt are the only new items of these three outfits (the jeans, purchased late last fall, being the next newest). In fact, I'm amused to see that I was wearing a very similar outfit -- the same blazer, the same jeans -- way back in May 2011.
To me, that consistency underlines something I'm trying to see for myself here, what is being revealed about my personal style as I leave behind the "performance dressing" of my pre-retirement life and as I cull a slightly bloated wardrobe in preparation for a new urban lifestyle in a smaller space.

Definitely some navel-gazing going on here,  as I'm looking at myself in the mirror, contemplating what I wear. I think it's useful stuff, though, trying to pin down what makes me feel most like the best me, especially as I try to choose something much bigger than a pair of shoes or a cut of jean. This next commitment -- a home, its furnishings and adornments -- this is a 20-year gig, we're hoping, and I'd like to get it as close to right as possible.

For now, though, I'm off for a long run with my sister. Curious to hear your response to anything that strikes you here, although I'm not asking for approval of my outfits nor of suggestions to improve them. Nor, I hope it's obvious, am I offering them as any kind of model for anyone else.  But I am interested in a conversation about the process of recognising and valuing and honing a personal style -- particularly a style of dress that might reflect or extend into other aspects of aesthetic expression in one's lifestyle (home decor, choice of car, vacation preferences, garden, music, art, cuisine -- the possibilities are boundless, right?)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Culinary Croatia Calls -- Part II in a Continuing Series

So much I'd love to chat with you about -- especially since we're moving into the last stage of emptying the house, and also since we've actually begun to look for a new home. Life is exciting and hectic and I'm processing a cavalcade of emotions. But time eludes me even as I visualise, constantly, lists scrolling themselves in front of me out of the sky, additional tasks being added, it seems, ad finitum.
Luckily, I have an ace up my blogging sleeve, thanks to the generosity of regular reader and commenter, Dottoressa, who has been introducing us to the cuisine of her country, Croatia. If you missed her first post in this series, you will find it here. Otherwise, please enjoy the second instalment, and I hope you'll let Dottoressa and I know what you think -- especially if you try any of the recipes she's offered here and in the last post or if you've had a chance to try any Croatian food or wine, either in Croatia or exported elsewhere.

(EDITED Saturday to add the final photo, a text conversation noting Croatian wines available in BC)

Part II
Our  Istrian and Dalmatian prsut (prosciutto)-dryed  pork ham-is  well known, slightly different one from the other,  but both are excellent, EU protected meat product of highest quality. I love both of them!
Best Dalmatian prsut is from Drnis (some of my friends who make their own prsut--and I like it very much--will kill me,if you tell them this!). It  is served with cheese (one of the best is Paski cheese from Island Pag ,made from sheep milk) and olives, as an appetiser or a snack.
Along the coast there are many sorts of olive trees and many kinds of virgin olive oil.  You have to taste it when visiting Croatia. If you could find it somewhere in a shop-buy it!  Istrian olive oils are often awarded as one of the best in the world. Olive oil I use  is mada by my friend and her family, she doesn't sell it at all, so it is really a treat. When I buy, it is usually Bracchia, from the island Brac.
You have to try grilled fish, black risotto with cuttlefish or octopus salad, usually served cold. My friend serves  it warm, it is very tasty, too.
Mountain Ucka, near the cradle of our tourism, town Opatija, is famous for marrons, a special sort of chestnuts.
When my son was little,we were staying  in a hotel at the top of Ucka for one summe , with its healing mountain air, driving to the beaches  at the foothill every day.
Istra is one of the best known and developed  gastro region (tourists compare it with Tuscany), with  a lot of best restaurants, wine and olive tours.

Kvarner scampi (or other prawns) with green tagliatelle
4 Persons
500 g of fresh or frozen, prawns without shell (if frozen, let it half defrost)
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
2  table spoons of good cognac or brandy
2 cloves of fresh garlic,chopped finely
2 tea spoons of fresh parsley chopped finely
2 table spoons of fine breadcrumbs
200 grams of  tomato canned polpa (peeled and hacked tomatoes)
1 tablespoon of Philadelphia cream cheese (or similar)
3 dcl of milk (10 oz?)
Pinch of salt,pinch of pepper,pinch of sugar

Take a casserole/pot  (better  with   thick or double bottom, but no problem if you don't have any, you only have to be more careful when cooking) and choose medium heat on the cooking stove
Put olive oil in it, warm a little, add garlic and stir one or two times with a wooden spoon , the garlic must not change colour. Add brandy and prawns. Wait till simmers, add tomatoes, pinch of salt , pinch of sugar, milk and cream cheese while stirring. put the heat to minimum (but it has to simmer very slightly all the time, if needed increase a little) Stir from time to time. After aproximately 10 minutes add (slowly with tablespoon in one hand) bread crumbs while stirring  with the other hand and wooden spoon (now  you have to stir and be there for five minutes because it is going to become thicker). Add parsley. It is done.
Taste carefully and add salt or pepper if needed.
Take a big pan and cook 30-40 dag green tagliatelle in a lot of salted water ( al dente )
This dish has to be served hot
Serve tagliatelle as a little nest on a plate and add Prawns (or you can mix it all together and serve together)

One of the best Istrian wines is Malvasia, full white wine, with the hint of accacia flowers and bitter almond taste,with floral and fruity aromas. There are also mighty red wines,like Teran, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and a dessert Muscat wine.
Original white wine on Island Krk is Zlahtina.
The production of wine in Croatia started with the Ancient Greeks.  Many traditional  old grape sorts still exist.
Here, in Croatia, you can find a lot of great wines,some highly awarded. When in Croatia, don't hesitate to order a bottle of our wine (or more J!), you can rarely go wrong. Even some house wines are pretty good,but it can be a lottery,too
Dalmatian wines are mostly mighty red Mediterranean wines. Some sorts of our wines are quite unknown outside the country, like the sort of Plavac mali.
Did you know that the well known Napa Valley winemaker Mike Grgich is actually a Croatian native? He was the one who started to claim that Zinfandel is descedent of Plavac mali. DNA testing has proved that theory. Interesting, isn't it?
My favourite wines are: white- Malvasia,Pinot sivi (Pinot grigio)  from Orahovica (Slavonia) and  Josic  winery (Baranja region). The latter is very hard to find ,except in some restaurants (small production=great quality=problems where to find). Grasevina Perak (Kutjevo county) is value for money.

Red wines- I love all from Masvin winery (my latest discovery!): Shiraz, Merlot  (has won a bronze medal at Decanter competition in London 2013) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Here is also my favourite from  Baranja county- Cuvee  Josic. 

Again, thanks so much, Dottoressa, for sharing your country's cuisine with us. Readers, I know from previous posts that Dottoressa will respond generously to any comment you care to leave. And let us know if any of you are motivated to serve up one of these dishes in the near future. Meanwhile, Happy Weekend, wherever you are!

And for those of my BC readers interested in tracking down Croatian wines here, I texted my daughter-in-law, who is trained as a sommelier and works as a wine rep for a Wine and Spirits Importer and Distributor.  She's so generous and knowledgeable, and she quickly sent me an answer, as you can see below. Thanks, Joey. I think I'm going to be drinking some fine Croatian wine very soon (as practice for a possible trip to Zagreb in the next year or so, I hope!) 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Better, not Older, right? Birthday with Flowers and Grandkids and Breakfast Cake, Not Bad at All!

You may have garnered, from my Instagram feed (widget to the right) that my age is a bigger number today than it was on Monday. My birthday, yesterday, was a lovely day, very busy but really quite lovely, and I thought you might like to see some photos....
An early-morning baby-sitting gig included the delightful surprise of breakfast cake (strawberry and almond, scrumptious!), balloons, streamers, and even -- ta-da! -- Princess tiaras...

And then there was a walk to the community garden where the little ones showed us what's growing in their plot

All the wonderful things to touch and smell and pull and sometimes taste (quick! What did he just put in his mouth, Granddad?!)

If you live in a small flat in a city,  this is a clever way to give your kids a backyard, and also let them see where food comes from -- these two have already feasted on radishes and there was a strawberry reddening on a newly bedded plant (Yes, they resisted the temptation, and I hope any passing raccoons will be as respectful).

I've been trying to reorient myself to life without a garden. As I've mentioned before, we've been fortunate in having lived in a house with a yard since we returned from our honeymoon, 43 years ago this August.  I imagine I'll miss cutting flowers to bring indoors, but perhaps I won't miss my trowel too much and the achey back . .  Seriously, though, among the tactics I'm developing is something I'm thinking of as "gardening with my camera." For example:

I'm also "borrowing" gardens wherever I find them, stopping to smell the roses that bloom generously along sidewalks. These beauties are climbing a heritage building just down the street from a listing we looked at as part of the birthday celebrations. It won't do to get excited about that potential new home yet -- the real estate market in Vancouver right now is such that anything desirable will get multiple offers, everyone of them at least tens of thousands of dollars above the asking price, with the successfuly bids more often 100-250K more. (I know!) But we're getting ready to take the plunge . . .

Now back to daydreaming about a new home (while Pater is back at the old one, packing boxes -- it's his turn, and we're almost done now).   And I'm curious -- how many of you are fortunate enough to have your own garden, and how many of you "borrow" yours, whether just by walking by or through public or private gardens regularly, or occasionally, or by gardening in an allotment that you walk or drive to? And those of you who used to maintain your own garden right out your back door and have given that up for a smaller footprint, how have you found the adjustment? Do you miss getting your hands dirty and filling vases with flowers you've grown yourself,  or is it a relief not to have to do that work anymore? Or is it simply a tradeoff that you were willing to make, taking the loss to gain other benefits?

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Moving Project Continues: Aftermath of a Yard Sale!

So, first of all, I hope you've had a chance to check out Dottoressa's guest post on Croatian cuisine. This is the first post in a series, I'm glad to say, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Our yard sale is done! Such a relief to be on the other side of all that preparation, the physical and emotional and logistical work involved. It went very well from a number of perspectives although my, yes, there seem to be enough leftover goods that we could open a small thrift store. . .
But that is not my problem. Pater has claimed that task as his fair share, and he's home for over a week, so I'm off to  Vancouver again for baby-sitting and for some self-care.

I'm thinking a few hours at the spa might help me from the emotional impact of having all the neighbours in to gawk at the cast-offs of my life, the now-dispensable ballast that I once purchased, supposedly, with hope, used with intent or skill or joy or frustration, even only with resignation to some once-necessary task or other...

There were some lovely moments, in Saturday's maelstrom. Certainly there were some grating ones: surprising how many people's delight in bargaining, pride in some interpretation of frugality, causes or allows them to ignore other people's feelings (oh yes! I have stories!). But why not focus on such happy vignettes as a friend coming to pay me for the shawl I'd knit years ago of a silk-kid mohair blend, all soft greys and lusciously lofty cables, a shawl I'd only reluctantly put in the sale. The five dollars, of course, wouldn't have bought a single skein of the 5 or so the shawl had gobbled, nor compensated for the tens of hours that went into its making. But to know that it would be keeping J warm for the next few years, that it was already newly treasured? Ahhhh....

Similarly satisfying sales were transacted with the three other knit garments I'd forced myself to let go of. Truly, this goes deep, knowing that someone else enjoys a knitted piece every bit as much as I'd hoped with each finger-throw of yarn around needle tip...

A neighbour stopped to tell me how delighted she was with a breakfast tray she'd bought with a loonie (Canadian slang for a dollar-there's a picture of a loon on our dollar coin). She's been trying to introduce a bit of colour to her decor, and the peach accents in the tray's surfaces complemented her new plans perfectly. She was even more pleased to learn that the tray had been a gift, 20 years ago, from Parisian friends who'd come to visit us on the island; my neighbour's daughter lived in Paris for years. Connections! Bonds strengthened somehow. My almost-ex-neighbour promises she will remember me when she uses the tray, remembers all the mornings that my running route would cross her and her husband's "daily constitutional." We never chatted much beyond "good morning" and the weather, but those simple conversations built up a cumulative pleasant sufficiency, and I'm surprisingly comforted to think the tray might carry them, long after their physical reality is gone.
The straw bag above I have had for nigh on 25 years, I'd guess, and I do love it in the summer, was a bit loath to part with it. But not once I saw who nabbed it: a young girl who accepted with considerable alacrity my offer to take what she wanted from the Miscellany table. A bit miffed that her grandma wouldn't buy her a used saxophone*, she added a stack of lined loose leaf paper to her new straw tote because "I'm writing a novel," she told me matter-of-factly. So there was a good reason I'd hung onto those leftover school supplies. Always good to support young artists, right?

I was elated to receive cash ($5 a pair) for a beloved pair of vintage Fryes and another of Fluevog ankle boots, not because the small sum would buy me anything sigificant, but because of the obvious satisfaction its previous owner had in giving it to me for the footwear. Yes, I'd been a bit sad at leaving those boots out of the moving boxes, but they weren't being worn enough to justify a place in whatever (definitely smaller) new home we find. And here was a young mom I like very much handing over some purple paper and telling me how much she's always admired my footwear and hoped she'd find something at the sale. If I'd known we shared a foot size, I'd have been hooking her up with hand-me-downs long ago. She works hard, has a great flair for fashion, and currently directs most of her income to mortgage payments and jeans for her three-year old. Now she'll be doing all that even more fiercely in great boots. Elated, I tell you! I'm elated about this!
Another happy-making vignette involved the foreign coins I'd sorted out of the piles Pater is wont to make, regularly, as he empties his pockets of change. There's a whole other post I could write about this habit (not too long ago, from his stash at the apartment, we netted over $200 when I insisted we haul the metal to the bank's sorting machine). But I'll just let you know that I separated the Russian, British, Euro, and old French coins into a hinged wooden watch box, and added them to the Miscellany Table. And just as I'd hoped, a young boy, perhaps 10 or 11, found the box. He came over to us and asked earnestly how much we wanted for the coins, opined just as earnestly, when Paul asked him what he thought would be fair, "thirty dollars." When I countered that maybe Free would be fair, he shook his head, doubtfully, but began to see where we were going with this negotiation, and decided to accept our offer. Not sure who was happier...those coins have been  taking up valuable real estate for too long Chez nous. Leaner, cleaner days are coming, baby!!

I'm off now to book a facial, I think, as a reward for all the tough work a garage sale is (my jaunty tone here belies the horrid crying jag that set in hours after our last customer left...).  My upcoming week in Vancouver will be full of little treats, as I prepare for the last big push before the moving trucks arrive. Meanwhile, though, if you're curious about the sartorial requirements of a successful garage sale? This worked for me: wrinkled olive cargo joggers, Aritzia; navy sweatshirt with lace yoke inset (that's the casual glam bit, don't you know?!) J Crew; white Birkenstock Arizonas.

What about you? Have you held a Yard or Garage Sale yourself? Would you do it again? Any memorable experiences from yours? OR are you a champion Garage Sale Buyer? Know how to track down the best venues, spot the treasure among the trash? Care to tell about your best find or biggest disappointment? Grab the microphone down below -- we're listening (okay, it's a keyboard and a Comments section and we're reading, not listening, but go for it anyway, why don't you?! ;-)

 * I'll tell you later where that saxophone ended up, along with details about a few more satisfying transactions.  . .

Friday, May 13, 2016

Culinary Croatia Calls, via Guest Blogger Dottoressa -- And What a Delicious Call It is!

Most of my readers will already know Dottoressa from her regular generous and thoughtful comments, and you will also have had the chance to read her recent Guest Post here where she tells us about coffee culture in Croatia, Zagreb more specifically.  A few weeks ago, she wrote an entertaining and informative post sketching her personal history of fashion in a country that has gone through significant political and economic change in her lifetime -- you can read that post over on Lisa's blog, Amid Privilege. And now I'm excited to introduce the first in a short series she's put together on Croatian cuisine. Here she is:

                                                                 What's  in the pot ?
                                          Dottoressa's Guide Through   Croatian Cuisine(s)
Hi ! Frances has kindly invited me (again! Thank you very much!)  to share with you some of our dishes and customs in the kitchen.

Although Croatia is a small country,it  has a lot of different landscapes:beautiful coast  with  more than thousand islands,large plains,picturesque hills and little towns (and a couple of big ones,too),lakes,rivers ,waterfalls and mountains. There is actually not such a thing as "Croatian cuisine“,there are many different regional cuisines,influenced by fresh local ingredients,climate,soil, herbs , spices , our stormy history and our neighbours. There are also excellent wines to accompany the food, I'll tell you about  some of them,but that is a whole new story.

I could write and tell you so many stories and describe so many dishes and  there would be more to tell. I had to make a selection-it is my selection only,my choices! The recipes are traditional ones but with my personal touch. I like to cook ( some traditional dishes and a lot of international ones,food  from all around the world),do it my way and make it simple,easy,tasty and healthy for my family and friends.

Part I
We have to start somewhere,so let it be at the Adriatic Coast:  regions of Istra,Kvarner , Dalmatia and Dubrovnik. The Mediterranean Diet is one of the most healthy and well known in the world. You can see, taste and smell a lot of  influences  from old Greek and Romans to  Italians. It is living and cooking in harmony with the nature.

Here we  use olive oil and  herbs and spices like parsley, rosemary, sage, bay leaf, garlic, nutmeg, lemon and orange zest, oregano, marjoram, and lemon.
It is my favourite cuisine,a lot of dishes I make are from this part of Croatia.I love its simplicity,fish and seafood.  One has to buy fresh,tasty,aromatic ingredients which speak for themselves, full of flavours and then cooking is simple ,you don't have to use a lot of spices,just enough  to accent its  essence.

We still have a lot of open air markets  where farmers sell their products. First spring vegetables are from Dalmatia. After a long winter ,one is craving for green vegetables and salads.

A lot of dishes are similar in all of the regions (maybe slightly  different ) and some of them are characteristic for only one of them. Fresh local ingredients and aromatic herbs, meat (in Istra you can find Boskarin, authentic cattle, prepared as carpaccio, as  stew--served with istrian traditional  pasta,“pljukanci“ or gnocchi- or simply as a steak), fresh fish (we have a lot of varieties of excellent fish) and seafood (scallops near Novigrad are considered to be one of the most delicious in the world,due to the mixture of salty sea waters and fresh river waters), scampi (Kvarner scamp is a real delicacy), adriatic squids (pure perfection,on the grill, with cooked mangold, potatoes, olive oil and garlic, as a side dish). Vegetarians can enjoy spaghetti with homemade tomato“salsa“(fresh ,peeled and hacked tomatoes,cooked with garlic ,parsley and olive oil) . Here we can find self grown plants,like wild asparagus  in April,it's their time and I'm going to prepare Fritatta with wild asparagus for light lunch tomorrow) and (in Istra) world known black and white truffles (underground mushrooms of specific, aromatic and rich taste), served with pasta or grated on steaks.

Frittata with wild asparagus (my version)
If you don't have wild ones,you can make it with the cultivated sort. It would be not the same,but still…
(serves 4-not very hungry person)
1 bunch of fresh wild asparagus
6 eggs (free range,if possible)
2 spring onions (chopped finely)-optional
A pinch of cajenne pepper and curcuma-optional
Olive oil
Twist every single asparagus,it will break in two halves,upper,soft,for frittata and the other,hard part,you can use it as an ingredient for soup
Boil  it for a minute or two in boiling water
Put the olive oil in a pan,add onions and asparagus,stirr for a while
Add eggs,salt ,pepper,curcuma and cayenne pepper
Stir till it is finished

Thanks so much, Dottoressa! It looks delicious, and while we have no wild asparagus here, I did notice local ones for sale at our nearest grocery store, and I'm looking forward to testing this recipe with them this weekend. Readers, do let Dottoressa and me know if you try it out as well, and perhaps those of you who have access to wild asparagus could tell us where you get yours. Or do you grow them in your own garden?

We'd also be happy to hear from any of you who have visited Croatia and/or have any experience with Croatian cuisine. Personally, I'm really hoping to hop over to Zagreb one of my next visits to Rome. . . it's really not that far, and now I have a friend there!

I know I don't need to ask you, since you're such a great community, but if you have a minute, please let Dottoressa know how much we appreciate her guest posts (I keep telling her she should start her own blog, but meanwhile, I'm happy to have her visit here) -- and I know she will answer any questions you might have. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Word-less Wednesday in the May Garden. . .

 The disarray inside has convinced me to take you with me on a little tour of the garden. . . It's tough to spare much time for blogging -- besides packing the good stuff and organising a weekend yard sale of the Stuff We Don't Need but Hope Someone Else Will Take Away, Perhaps After Giving Us Money!, I've been getting maintenance done by all the wonderful service-providers I'll be moving away from. Yesterday was Physio for IMS and accupuncture, followed by a Hearing check and hearing aid clean-up at the audiologist; today I'm getting my dental crown put in.
 But I do have a treat for you, as soon as I can find a small pocket of minutes to put it together. Dottoressa has agreed to give us a culinary tour of Croatia, along with a few of her favourite recipes, accompanied by photographs. Very, very generous of her, and it means that there will be some wonderful posts in this space soon, a pleasant change from my whingeing about packing and moving and wondering where my next home will be.
 But that's not ready yet, and I'm afraid all I have for you today is a tour of my garden in full spring glory. I do love it!
 Were we staying, these allium would need some very serious curbing -- they spread like mad, but aren't they wonderfully emphatic? Such a great, sculptural bloom!

 And my beloved Guernsey Cream. . .

 I've dug out quite a few of the columbine over the last few years (they're not terribly attractive once they've bloomed and they will spread quite readily), but I'm always happy to see that some have ignored me. They have the sweetest, wonderfully old-fashioned flowers...
 Royal Sunset rose . . .
 And the restful, lushly textured, blue-green hosta, the leaves capturing needles and cones from the nearby trees. . .

There we are then, back at the porch steps. Hope you enjoyed the little tour, and now I suppose I'd better get on with the lists. Happy Wednesday!

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