Wednesday, January 28, 2015

That's Not So Bad. . . . Running Through the Grumpies. . . .

I'm a bit chagrined to remember my first thoughts on waking this morning -- running through the day's itinerary, I groaned at the thought of my regularly scheduled Wednesday run and felt rather put-upon at the idea of my hair appointment this afternoon. I love my stylist and always enjoy my sessions, and really, I love my runs as well. But I've been drawn to the notion of full-on hibernation lately, and the day-planner wasn't cooperating.

In fact, I indulged in one of those internal conversations where my Disciplined Self reminded me that once I got out on the road, I'd feel better about my day, and my Inner Wimp Self wondered if it might be better for my training program if I took an extra day off. . . .

By the time I'd had my morning cuppa, thank goodness, I'd remembered that my word for the year is Joy, and recognized that the privilege of a hair-styling appointment could fit pretty well in the Joy column.

And I'd got my running gear on and my butt out the door, and it turned out that the crisp cold January day featured some sunshine and some pretty snazzy views and some winter blooms that make me think spring is possible. . . .

A good run, breakfast in town on the way to work, a great class, and then, yes, oh yes, a delightful, pampering visit with my hair-stylist. Now what was I whining about? (hangs head in shame).

Do you ever have days like that? Where activities seem to pile up, threaten to obliterate your happy, until you slow down and recognize that they're actually pretty good activities, taken one by one. Or am I alone in my grumbles? And do you have some good techniques for getting you to or through your fitness activity of choice? Or does your own Inner Wimp triumph too often? (Really, I do think it's important to indulge her occasionally.)

I have a good reason, actually, to keep "turning that frown upside down" -- I'll tell you soon.  . . .

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Oh, for a Translator . . .

When I was home yesterday, the extraordinary noises the California sea lions were making out in our bay lured me outside with my little camera to try to capture the soundscape. The visual quality of the video is not great, but listen to the astonishing conversation these fellows have:

I'm back at work today, talking with my upper-level students this morning about Monkey Beach, the powerful West Coast novel by Haisla-Heiltsuk author Eden Robinson. I've read this book 6 or 7 times over the 15 years since it was published, taught it almost as many times, and I still get caught up in it, make new discoveries about its construction, and revel in the way it captures the north coast. It's a darkly gothic book, but engagingly so -- hilariously, as well, in many spots. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it, if only for the pleasure of meeting one of the feistiest young protagonists you'll bump into. And her marvelous, equally feisty, Ma-ma-oo (Grandma).

And as I hit Publish here, at 6:11, I hear the day's first bark from one of my sea lion visitors. . . . He's wishing you all a good day. I'm just translating. . . .

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pulling up the Covers . . .

Home sick today, mostly walloped by the emotions stirred up by a celebration of my mother-in-law's life, held yesterday in our little Vancouver apartment. A very informal, but very heartfelt memorial, all of our children and grandchildren gathered with us to remember a woman whose life was centered on her family. Such a relief that she never realized how riven her family had become -- but hard to look around at my four and imagine that they could ever get to such a point, knowing so concretely now that this does happen.
Again, discretion requires me to draw a veil over family matters, but "the blog" deserves at least a mention of this event, these feelings. Hope you'll understand. Also please excuse my lack of response to your comments on Friday's post. Bouncing back soon. . . .

Friday, January 23, 2015

Five Things Friday

1. The summer before last, Paul and I watched this film en français, in a great little repertory cinema in Bordeaux. We grasped enough to know it was powerful, very moving, but we knew we'd missed many of the important subtleties and sub-texts. So I was thrilled to see it available on Netflix last week, and even more thrilled that a version was available with the subtitles in French (there's also English subtitling available, if that's your preference). Generally, while the soundtrack of French movies is left in French, the movies we get here are subtitled only in English. I would prefer subtitling help in French, just to help me figure out what I'm hearing. Watching it this way confirmed how much we'd miss the first time. It also confirmed how sensitive and complicated and rich this film is, how attentive to so much of the human condition, the complexity of relations, and the possibility for trying to be our better selves, to step up morally, especially for the sake of children. The importance of acceptance and forgiveness. Watch this. You will not regret it!
 I'm teaching a version of a 2nd-year course  our department designed to appeal to a wider range of students than our English majors and minors. Depending who teaches it, the course readings change according to the focus we choose; I've built my curriculum around books about Paris, a mix of fiction and non-fiction, popular and more "literary." And what an indulgence this is turning out to be! We've just read and discussed C.S. Richardson's The Emperor of Paris which I first read a few years ago and wrote about here.

 Trying to make the "waiting for retirement" stage as rich as possible rather than putting my life on hold until then, I've been concentrating again on folding some "social" back into my schedule. A week ago, for example, I met a friend for a quick breakfast before our work days started. Too short a visit, yes it was, but otherwise too many months go by without anything at all. And saying good-bye while still thinking of all the topics we haven't covered is incentive to book the next breakfast soon!

Similarly, I met a friend and former neighbour for coffee a few days ago, at the end of my "early day" at work. She was watching the clock, because her dog was waiting in the car, and I wanted to get home in time for dinner, but we filled that hour and a half with non-stop conversation, and I've got a new list of books to read as a result.

Last Friday, my work-at-home day, I followed up my yoga class with a trip to the grocery store to grab easy snacks to accompany the wine I'd invited a few girlfriends over for -- A Wine-Down Friday Afternoon, as I termed the event. I've done this before a few times, but not for months. Given the spirit-lifting effect, especially compared to the relative investment (yes, I have to organize a bit, clean a bit, shop a little, but that's really it). . . . I do wonder why I don't do this more often. Time for a resolution, perhaps. . .

 Pater got me a TomTom Runner Cardio watch for Christmas, and I've been having fun with taking every possible kind of metric on my runs -- it tracks my heart-rate, my distance, my pace (both current and then average over the run), calories burned, strides per minute, elevation, and probably a few other items I've forgotten. As well, once I get more used to it, I can use it in training mode, setting up a program for intervals or working out splits for a race.

I resisted bothering with a runner's watch for years, and then once I conceded that it might be helpful in developing awareness of pace and pushing my speed (especially since I tend to do most of my running on my own), I was overwhelmed by the choices and kept putting off a decision. So I was delighted that Pater took on the consumer research involved. If you're a runner, do you, or have you, run with a GPS watch?

 And I think we need another picture, don't we? So here are a couple of shots of a miracle I've been watching this week. . . those muscari clusters were the merest emerging buds on Sunday, and now you can easily see the shape that the separate flowers will pop out from. . .
 My girlfriend brought this little pot along with her when she arrived for my Friday Wine-Down (see #3). She'd grabbed a few various pots of spring blooms at the local grocery store, on sale nearing the end of season last year, enjoyed their cheer indoors, and then popped them in her garden, pots and all.  
And then, spotting their welcome foliage erupting into the January gloom, she'd brought them inside -- and grabbed one for me to enjoy as well. We both have many such plants out in the garden, but getting to watch the growth, up close and personal, has been a distinct pleasure.

I'll make sure to watch out when the potted blooms are on sale in a few weeks and follow Alison's lead. Do you do this? Buy spring bulbs, potted and in bloom, and then plant them out to enjoy in upcoming years?

Anyway, that's it for my Friday Five Things -- Hope you enjoyed. We're off to Vancouver after today's yoga class (we have a great Friday morning routine of yoga class followed by late breakfast at our favourite local spot (with the charming French name of Mon Petit Choux).  Chat soon . . . .don't forget to leave a comment, if you're so inclined. . . 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Rainbows are Good News, Right?

Not sure if it's the increased distance I've been running lately (40km a week, with a long run on Saturday of 20+), or the adjustment to the term's schedule, or the impatience for retirement, now that I know I'm heading there, but I'm feeling fatigued . . .

This rainbow the other day (and if you look carefully to the right of the main rainbow, you'll see the ghost of a second one) lifted my spirits and energized me, . . .

And so did coming home on Monday to see a message from Netflix that Last Tango in Halifax is now available -- two seasons! And you didn't tell me that Derek Jacobi starred in it! Fabulous!

So that's my short and sweet "Appreciating the Joy" post for the week . . . Halfway to the weekend now. . . . Any good things helping you get there?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Morning Changes. . . What I Wore, for a moment. . .

 I was quite pleased with this look the other day (with some reservations about how the frayed bottoms of the jeans work with the socks in the loafers). I rather like the pastel-neutral palette. But then I went to grab my bag and remembered I'd put my once-beloved red satchel back in rotation.

With only minutes left to catch my ferry, there was no time to transfer my gear back to the taupe bag I've carried for months, so a switch of scarf was the only option. I've since put the red bag back in the closet. Not quite ready to let go of it for good, but I have neither the patience nor the organizational skills to be switching around regularly. Plus, damnation but it's heavy!
 And in case you're curious about what I topped the white jeans with -- a taupe cashmere cardi over a boxy double-faced merino sweater.
I really must learn to smile for the camera, mustn't it?!

There, that's a bit better.

Now tell me, those of you who switch up bags regularly, do you have a system for transferring everything? I did buy one of those liners, at one point, but then the interiors feature different configurations of pockets, etc., and somehow, whatever I most need seems to be in the other bag. I had to have my husband send our Vancouver apartment keys over by seaplane once because I hadn't transferred them to the bag I'd deemed more city-stylish -- so that stylish me was locked out of the condo until rescue arrived.

And the whole "pop of colour" that seemed such a good idea a few years ago just seems to throw one more complication into my mornings these days. Do you stick to a neutral, no-brainer bag or are you willing to coordinate your day's outfit to a more colourful purse? Enquiring minds want to know . . . .

Friday, January 16, 2015

Wine Tour in Puglia

L. to R., Natalie, of Tormaresca Wines, my daughter-in-law J, husband P, son Z, and son-in-law A.

My blogging task this week -- let's call it a late New Year's Resolution, shall we? -- was to finally complete a post which I've been planning and writing and not finishing ever since last summer. Rather than reconstruct it completely, I used the Draft that's been in my file for months, and you'll see what I mean. I've kept the additions and updates in italics. I finally finished last weekend, but I'm having some girlfriends over later this afternoon for a Friday Wine-Down, and since I'll be pouring from bottles of Tormaresca (Chardonnay and Trentangeli, descriptions below), this seems a good day to post.

Started writing this section in October. . .  At the end of June, I thanked the wonderfully generous Giuseppe Palumbo and Natalie Orsini at Tormaresca's Bocca di Lupo estate (in Italy's Puglia region) for an amazingly warm, informative, thoroughly enjoyable tour. Giuseppe's son, Vito, had extended the invitation to visit when he met my sommelier-trained daughter-in-law in Vancouver earlier in her role as a sales rep with Mark Anthony Wine Merchants, the company that imports Tormaresca wines to BC. (Vito wasn't able to be with us in June, but he called during lunch to apologize for his absence and make sure we were being well taken care of -- as, indeed, we were!).
Joey takes a call from Vito while Giuseppe looks on. . . .

At that time, I promised a follow-up post in which I intended to roll out more photos of the gorgeous building and grounds and tell you a bit about the wines and our magnificent lunch.

And now it's October, and I still haven't done that (hangs head in shame). Can I hang it much lower, in January?

I did think about the promised post and begin to upload photos here when my daughter-in-law  gave us a beautiful bottle of the splendidly dignified, sumptuous Bocca di Lupo for our 40th anniversary at the end of August. Sadly unavailable for private purchase here in BC, this was one of ten delicious wines we'd tasted back in Puglia, and remembering the surroundings in which we'd first sampled it prodded me to fulfil my promise.

Isn't this space beautiful -- those long gentle arcs, the rhythms of curves playing off lines, all in muted, natural tones. . .

The same line-up, with the addition on the right of my daughter and granddaughter

In all the photos above, we're on the ground floor in a vast yet hospitable space where the various wines are displayed with information about their provenance, their qualities, their best pairings.

The space's coolness was welcome after we'd stood outside for five or ten minutes on arrival as Natalie pointed out the grape-processing machinery. It was southern-Italy-July-noon hot out there, but we trusted our sunscreen and endured the heat in order to learn a bit more about the 21st-century alternative to stomping fruit in a barrel.
The machinery and storage facilities inside were impressive as well (and, to our relief, housed in a much cooler spot).
The building, if I remember correctly, is 10 to 15 years old, but it beautifully echoes the arches and vaults and curves of older Italian architecture (actually, it put me in mind of the early 19th century warehouse that was converted into Bordeaux' Musée d'Art Contemporain). And oh, I wish, I wish I could convey the rich, full, mineral, vanilla-woody, hint of fruit and fermentation fragrance of this space. The overall effect of the visual rhythms, the assertive blending of  deliberate neutral tones, the reassuringly consistent textures, the comforting scent that insistently, yet kindly, urged deeper, slower draughts of oxygen into grateful lungs. All we were lacking, really, was the incense, and the allusion to a cathedral's sacred space would be complete.

 Even our littlest member seemed impressed (and remarkably well-behaved!)
 Of course, the wonderful architecture and furnishings invited all to be on our best behaviour
 although welcomingly, comfortably, so.

 And the vistas of vineyards stretching across the landscape

Imagine being in a grand, sumptuously furnished room with such vistas. . . and imagine a table being set up with bottles of red, white, rosé, sparkling glasses set out . . . .and then wonderful appetizers brought in as accompaniment -- burrata cheese, beautifully cured meats, artisan breads, fruit. We moved through the tastings, introduced by Natalie to 8 or 10 wines. 

It was especially meaningful for all of us to hear Joey add so informatively to Natalie's introduction to the wines we drank. Of course, we know that our Daughter/Sister-in-law is trained as a sommelier and we've all benefited through the years from her knowledge about which wines to buy and/or to serve. But to gather around a beautiful table full of delightful bottles in such a magnificent setting and hear how passionately and knowledgeably and clearly she described these various wines. . . .so special!

Weeks and weeks and weeks (okay, months!) ago, I had her send me a list of the wines we drank. Here I've excerpted from her e-mail: 
Tormaresca Chardonnay IGT (which can be purchased in BC. This was that really lovely steal of a deal Chardonnay that you loved!  Kind of a cross between new world and old world chardonnay.  Has a great minerality, similar to Chablis)
Roycello, made from Fiano (more aromatic white)
Petra Bianca, made from Chardonnay (Richer, more full bodied than the Tormaresca)
Calafuria rose, made from Negroamaro (Red fruits, hints of purple flowers)
Morgicchio, made from Negroamaro (means "black bitter") (red fruit, licorice, spice)
Masseria Maime, made from Negroamaro (floral, black cherry, baking spice)
Torcicoda, made from Primitivo (intense red and black fruit, coffee, spice and chocolate)
Trentangeli, a blend of Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah (this wine is big, smooth and rich)
Bocca di Lupo, 100% Aglianico (Big, full, rich black fruits, spice-incredible age ability)
Kaloro, made from Moscato (delicious dessert wine-apricot, honey, nutty, floral notes)

Is it goofy that I loved the floor enough to take (and post) a photo? The clever herringbone pattern of its bricks charmed me utterly (so much, that I didn't realize I'd caught that little tag of rug at the left, centre)
We also got to sample the yummy Fichimori, a red sparkling wine typically served chilled, made from Negroamaro and Syrah, in the care package that Giuseppe and Natalie put together when they heard that one of our young families had stayed home and that it was the young Mom and Dad's anniversary. I told you they were generous! Here they are giving us a huge bouquet of flowers to take back to Meg, Rob, and Harriet

This is the point we all said good-bye, and you may have realized that I've skipped the details of our lovely lunch. Honestly, memory fades on the specifics, but it was a wonderfully convivial occasion as you'll guess from these photos -- the wine bottles! the beautiful colours of the different wines in the glass! I can tell you that we were served a number of delicious, traditional Puglian dishes -- orrechiette with greens, if I remember correctly, was one of the courses; another involved eggplant, and there was a succulent stew which we guessed might have featured goat. 
A fabulous cheese board, that I remember (was the standout called caciocavallo or have I mixed that up?) and fruit and cookies. . . 
 This dessert wine tasted every bit as pretty as it looks -- don't the various wines comprise a charming palette?

A few of these wines are available in BC -- Joey sent me this list:

I'd be curious to know if you've ever seen the Tormaresca label where you are, and if you've tried any of their wines.

We're currently working our way through a case of the Chardonnay and a case of Trentangeli (30 Angels! How could one go wrong?)

And I feel as if, perhaps, I've finally fulfilled the promise I made oh-so-long-ago, and in some tiny way, tried to indicate our gratitude at the warm gracious hospitality we were extended last summer, in Puglia. What a lovely, lovely day that was. Thank you, Giuseppe and Natalie. Grazie mille! And thank you to my daughter-in-law for sharing the benefits of her career connections with us!

just realized there's another task I've been procrastinating -- I'd intended to get this photo printed -- Nola with her Mom and Dad taking advantage of  the comfy seating in rather photogenic surroundings.
So there we got. one long-procrastinated project crossed off the list. Doesn't that feel good when we do that? Have you managed to get anything similar done lately? Or perhaps you never procrastinate.  Do tell. And feel free to chime in with comments about wine, estate visiting, Italy, your version of winding down for the weekend, or any other loosely related topics.  . . .

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