Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday Illustration. . . So Much to Learn!

Shhhh!  As I write this, I'm hiding out in the bedroom, with the A/C, while sheers (with the new building completed across the lane, we needed some light-preserving privacy) and a blackout blind are being installed in other rooms. Drilling into cement creates an unfriendly sound.

My hiding-out excuse (the woman who's doing our drapes would really love to chat!) is that I'm packing for a few days on the island, visiting friends -- and between the noise and the getaway planning, my blogging time is very limited this morning. . .

So I'm offering up yesterday's page from my Illustrated Journal -- and advising you of my resolution to learn how to draw and paint (here, I used the watercolour pencils) a loaf of bread!!  I can bake the bread well enough. . .
 This is the latest batch, and there are several other (prettier!) examples of my Fermented Sourdough Bread in this post, in which I also wander through my personal and familial bread-baking history. . .
But right now, I'm stymied about how to mix the right colours and to capture the texture and details of the crust's surface, never mind trying to sketch the interior. . . Still, I think it's only fair to show you my less successful efforts as well as the sketches I'm happy with, especially since I continue to reiterate that Process is as important as Product . . .

So with no further ado, I'll transcribe the text on that journal page:
Left-hand page, top right: Luckily, it's cooled down enough that the 500degree oven wasn't intolerable.
Top left: I built the dough for these loaves on Friday, when it was warm enough still that I wasn't sure how to manage the first phase of the fermentation. But I've had a slice (the heel, deliciously crunchy), and I'm calling these successful.
Bottom right: Silicon Oven Gloves. . . Huge! Awkward!  & Life Savers

Right-hand page: Given that the recipe calls for this Dutch oven to warm up for an hour (!) in a 500F  [Note: the oven reaches 500 before the hour begins] oven before the dough goes in, this is a very hot, potentially dangerous baking project & I'm so glad I bought that pair of silicon gloves.

The trickiest part is when I first take the very hot Dutch oven out of the oven, remove the super-hot lid, and drop the loaf in as gently and carefully as possible, replacing the lid and popping the heavy pot back in the oven -- Stand Back!

20 minutes later, it's relatively easy to reach in and grab the lid off -- 10 more minutes at 465, and I have the satisfaction of pulling the pot out and lifting the golden loaf onto a cooling rack. 
Mmmmm. . . 

Soon I'll leave my guy behind here in the city where the temperatures have settled at a comfortable 23 to 25 degrees (although there's an Air Quality Advisory due to drifting smoke from the province's forest fires).  I've just checked the weather for the island I'm heading to, and apparently it will be 27 to 30 degrees, with even more smoke, from even closer fires, so I didn't time that well, did I? But I'm looking forward to visits with a number of good friends, perhaps even an ocean swim. . .

bye for now,
looking forward to reading your comments,
xo,
f

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Garden Update -- Condo Rooftop Container Garden, That Is. . .

 Our local heat wave has broken, with a promised "chance of showers" today and tomorrow, the "risk of thunderstorms" this afternoon.  Enough "local smoke"  to trigger an Air Quality Warning (wildfire on the outskirts of the city and a huge blaze on a barge full of crushed cars in the Fraser River at Surrey, in the heart of Metro Vancouver). . . .  Sustained rainfall would be too much to hope for,  I know (and probably disappoint the organizers of today's Main Street Party celebrating the Vancouver Mural Festival) -- but we really need a good Shampoo-Rinse-Repeat before we get back to the all-sunshine-all-day that's predicted for next week. . . .

 I'll admit that I've been spending the hottest hours each day in the bedroom where we've installed a small portable air-conditioning unit.  But I love my garden oasis in the morning and then again in the evening after the sun's dipped low enough for cooling to begin. . .

And I realize I haven't shared much about the garden's progress this summer, so I thought an update might be in order. Today's won't be at all comprehensive, but I'll try to get 'round to the various corners over the next week or two, and I'll happily answer any questions about this condo terrace container-gardening -- from my limited experience.

Above and below, the Snowberry Bush (Symphoricarpus Albus) which -- to be honest -- we were surprised to identify among the plants left behind by the previous owners. Surprised because we tend to think of it as a woodland plant; I'd never buy and plant a specimen numerous snowberry shrubs grew, let's say "independently," in the "wild" part of our old seaside garden.

In that setting, it didn't matter if the bushes dried out in a period of drought -- they were under a canopy of fir and alder trees that protected them from direct sunlight and their roots could search out whatever moisture and nutrients might be available. In the container on the terrace, they've been much more exposed to sun and wind, and our extended absence in the spring means they've dried out to the point of damage more than once (despite the best intentions of our surrogate gardeners, who are also on a learning curve, and who are volunteers ;-)

Spring 2017,  we came home from our travels to find this plant (and both the maples) was seriously wind-and-sun-burned, so chopped it back quite severely.  It recovered nicely, was putting out some vigorous, healthy green foliage before we went away this May -- and then showed the same damage when we returned at the end of June.

Here's the funny thing: It's never been a plant I'd have thought of as high-maintenance, mostly, I suppose, because it just did its thing in the wild part of the garden and because I never minded it looking scrubby in the woodland. As well, as I said, it's never been a plant I'd choose to feature -- so many other choices I'd make for a specimen container plant. But I suppose I'm a bit sentimental, and I like having the reminder of those twenty-some years living alongside indigenous plants (and wildlife, all in a natural setting).

As well, the berries that festoon a healthy Snowberry Bush draw birds -- and before that, as we're noticing right now, the flowers seduce legions of bees, animating the terrace. . . . You might be able to spot one of those working visitors in the second photo from the top. . .

 And they're such a dainty flower, the leaves such a distinct, notched shape . . . that we're giving the Symphoricarpus Albus one more chance. . .
 Quickly, now, so that you can see why we're considering banishing the Snowberry from our terrace forever. . . proof of its scrubbiness. . . . yep, it's embarrassing, but we'll tune in next year, and see if the rehabilitation works. Such is the gardener's timeline, after all. . . (the hosta to the left of the Snowberry is in a pathetic state as well -- it's a recent addition, still settling in. . .)
I had hoped to take you on a quick swoop around the garden, but having been waylaid by that Snowberry Bush, we seem to have run out of time.

Still, I don't want you to leave with that rather sad image of "the snowberry corner," so here's a peek in another direction -- and perhaps I'll tell you more about that part of the garden on a future visit. Note the apples on the tree -- and do you see the figs?! The Corylopsis Spicata was probably an error for such a limited space, but I can't regret choosing its gorgeously pleated golden leaves nor the shade it provides for the hardy fuchsias. . .  And do you see that dappled shade? One of the elements I love most in my garden here is the shadows of flower and foliage, and the quality of light as it changes during the day and as it interacts with the different shades of green. . .



 But really, time to go -- oh, just a quick peek under the leaves here at the salad garden -- the cherry tomatoes have been as prolific as last year, and we harvested an abundance of Swiss chard, but the cucumbers are a particular delight right now, the plant bought too late in the season, desperate for a home in a bigger pot. . . and grateful enough to reward us without delay. . .


Okay, I'm off now, but feel free to leave a comment, a question, or your welcome advice, about my Condo Terrace Garden. . . 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Retrospective Travel Sketch and Thoughts From My Travel Journal

 My retirement coincided with one of my daughters moving to Rome with her husband and their little girl. This has meant that I've had the lucky problem of travelling to Europe twice a year, with trips spanning from two to ten weeks. You're right. Not so much to elicit your sympathy there, but I do find it a challenge to integrate my travel experiences and insights with my home life (never mind maintain a steady rhythm to a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule).

I can't find the relevant post, but at one point when I referred to this challenge after returning home, a reader suggested that I spend some time going through photos of the completed travel, revisiting those memories. Following the suggestion, I also turned through the journal pages of the trip, and between the two records, a narrative emerged, offering some coherence that allowed me both to make connections with my daily life at home and to see the generous spaces that distance had offered me for perspective.

To this practice, I've recently begun sketching -- back here at home -- from photos I took while travelling. The one I'm sharing here is modeled after an iPhone shot I took while we were waiting for the ferry in Sućaraj (the most eastern ferry from Hvar Island over to mainland Croatia), wandering around the little fishing village. I love the calm this photo exudes with its neutral tones and simple, clean shapes, very easy to abstract.

I also thought the sketch offered me a good way to practice what Alison had demonstrated for me last week about setting up lines and angles to show perspective and to align the various planes correctly. See? I even sketched a little thumbnail version first (above) to test out my composition. . . .


 As I said, I've also been reviewing my travel journal from this trip -- not the illustrated one on the watercolour pages, but the mostly written record I keep in a Moleskine notebook.

There's an entry in that journal that I wrote to myself; It's quite personal, and I deliberated over sharing here. But with the work I've been doing on my long-form project (rounding the corner on that, first draft will be finished in September),  there's been too little, recently, of the more vulnerable, exploratory, thinking-out-loud writing that I want at this blog's core. And until that first draft's done, I can't let myself be diverted by writing new material of that sort.

So.

From my travel journal, written in Basina, on Hvar, a Croatian Island, where we rented a villa for a week to host three of our four kids' families. . .

June 5th, 2018

This morning hour, completely to/by myself on the main terrace, drinking a first cup of tea, then a second. No idea how I've managed this before Jesse got up for his coffee and set up at the table to work on his MacBook. Or how Joey's still sleeping (more likely, has nursed Cohen back to sleep downstairs & fallen back into a doze on her own).

I read through the first cup of tea, felt myself moving out of that slight background funk I've sensed, tried to repress.

And now I'm pushed to write the contentment, the drive to creativity, beginning to lick within. The waves' rhythm, their glugs and susurrations; the various scents -- resinous pine and rosemary, a certain mineral dryness that's tough to pin down but an important base note nonetheless; the woman next door swimming by herself, her head facing back to the shore, her arms paddling her away from it, in the same manner I so often set out; this fly buzzing around me right now.

I've felt so much lately that I can't/won't/don't want to/might not blog anymore -- and even that my memoir projec has gone on for too long -- but in these quiet, satisfied minutes to myself this morning, I see that the writing wants to find its way to a page, and not just to a page, but also to another pair of eyes -- yours someday, granddaughter? grandson? . . . 

Something about who I am or might be, just me, even immersed in (submerged by, sometimes?) all this family. Someone worth writing?

And the travel (which is what these pages are meant to be about, after all), the travel confuses a bit because it stimulates all my senses so, but also makes it difficult to find time to process what I'm experiencing and even more difficult to articulate and write that down. I suppose that's why I'm both continuing with and resisting and being irritated by Instagram as a platform -- it gives a place to (publicly) register my response to places and experiences, but often I'm pushing myself to do so before I've sorted why what I'm seeing -- and showing -- is significant to me. Question of authenticity?

So soon, I'm sure, Joey will be up with Cohen and I'll want to take him from her -- not only to give her a break, but because I'll sincerely and selfishly want the time with his chubby, sweet infant engagement, his attempts to respond, to begin a  conversation with the world. This writing self will sink back under and at times her wish to be more prominent, to be attended to, is likely to have me feeling that odd melancholy again. But I had this hour to let her out -- and to see her more clearly, to remember how vigorous she still is, that she'll be here still, when I have the time and quiet space to write like this again. . . .

And at the bottom of the page, at the right margin, I've written 6:59 a.m. and I'm still on my own -- Bliss!


I hope you might find something in this post that resonates, and if so I'd love to read your thoughts. Have you found ways to integrate travel with life back home? Or is that need to do so just my idiosyncratic tendency to introspection? And sketchers -- we could talk about the difference between drawing/painting on site/plein air and drawing from an already photo-flattened image? Or about the difference between a visual and a verbal record of an experience?
But also, perhaps some of you can relate to the challenge travel sets of offering so much stimulation at a pace that's tough to process, the grey-matter databank getting quickly overloaded. . . And of course that also depends on the kind of travel we're doing. . .
Or to the conflicting tugs we feel in the midst of family gatherings--not only as mothers, but also in whatever role our family tends to cast us or see us. . .

But for now, I'd better hustle off, get some movement in before the day gets too hot again. . . I'll check back in later to see if we've got a conversation started. Happy Wednesday!  Oh, and later today, I'll post on Instagram the actual photo that inspired this sketch, so that you can compare if you're interested.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Summer Yellow: A Paris Purchase Meets the Home Wardrobe. . .



Yellow's never been a colour I could wear, but I loved this print -- on cotton lawn, gossamer-light, perfect for summer heat -- in a little shop in St. Germain, Paris.

And whether it's the other colours in the print -- that blue! -- or whether my colouring has changed with age, but I quite like it against my face, surprisingly.

I loved wearing it with my white jeans, whose crispness I'd missed while traveling. . .

but it soon became too warm here for me to tolerate jeans, and the only white skirt I have is this flocked cotton one from J. Crew two summers ago.
Hmmmm, don't really love them together when the top's untucked -- those proportions don't quite work on me, do they?
I like it better with a half tuck (full tuck is too severe with my short waist, especially with this high contrast). . .
I know the contrasting textures would make it a Mix Too Far for some, but I'm pleased with the combo, worn with my summer-ubiquitous white Birkenstocks.

A close-up of that print, in case you haven't got enough -- isn't it pretty?!
It's a long weekend here in Canada, and although weekends don't mean the same thing to me as they did before I retired -- and summer was rarely ruled by weekends in my life anyway -- there's something about a sunny August Long Weekend that says Get Outside! Soak It Up! Only a few more weeks of these long, indulgent, days. 

So far this weekend we've cycled to Burnaby Lake, picked up vegetables at the weekly Farmers Market, and sat on a blanket on a grassy slope listening to woodwind chamber music in a large botanical garden. Today an out-of-town girlfriend is coming to visit, and meanwhile, as I'm sitting typing this post, a hummingbird has settled in to the small bubble/pool atop our water fountain and is drinking her fill.  . . While behind her, the apples slowly but surely ripen on the Scarlet Sentinel tree we planted early spring, last year.  . . I'm sorry, but I really must leave you for now. Hummingbirds deserve full attention, no?

Comments always welcome -- but you know that by now.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Five on Friday -- Making Me Happy Lately . . .


 1. That orange leather bag (deadstock/vintage) I bought in Portland this past spring and began second-guessing immediately. I decided that since I purchased it, I'd better make a point of using it, and it's earning its keep as a summer tote. Cheery against my apparent default to neutrals -- I popped this dress (by Minimum) and grey Topsider deck shoes on very early to drive a family member to a 6 a.m. appointment. The "outfit" got me through a day that also included a visit to the library, our local patisserie for lemon tarts (book and tarts popped in the tote) and I wore it that evening as we hosted dinner on the terrace with good friends --

Also note that I spontaneously/goofily decided on a SelfieVideo rather than SelfiePhoto. . .Let me know if this is a problem technically -- i.e. takes too long to load or doesn't play properly, and I'll not try it again, but it's fun to experiment, and I think this simple dress looks too shapeless in a photo -- needs a bit of movement to come alive. . .

2. My first Scrabble game with a grandchild -- no points for now, but we're getting familiar with the rules (Nana believes, with Wordsworth, that creativity can find ample room within structure, that the "prison" of rules "no prison is," but rather "solace" for those who have "felt the weight of too much liberty").  So that the word she's testing, bottom right, was rejected. . . Mean Nana.

 3. We've been in our condo for almost two years now, and I have complaints, absolutely, but I still experience shots of joy when I look through these windows at the green wall of foliage outside, at the particular quality of the light.  And increasingly, I know that it's important to settle in these moments as they arise -- do not be dismissive of joys, however brief, however fleeting. . .
4. We saw the marvellous Angela Hewitt perform Book I of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier -- two hours of this intricate music rendered in all its intellectual and technical and emotional complexity. This just-turned-60 woman isn't worrying about invisibility! (and oh, she cuts a brilliant figure on the concert stage, as she has every time I've seen her over 20 or so years -- long, slim evening gown and beautiful shoes).

5. Plein air sketching with my good friend Alison (who still has one spot left in her Lyon workshop next month) at VanDusen Botanical Garden -- where you might not expect to find an antique tractor. It's set in the Urban Garden, which comprises numerous vegetable beds arranged attractively all 'round. It's used for Community Education -- workshops on food-growing in city gardening -- and while we were there, a delightful romp of children scrambled all over it, one of the cohorts from the Summer (Day) Camps offered here.

May I admit that this experience wasn't all fun, despite the pleasant company? My first attempts to render the tractor in pencil lines clearly demonstrated my weaknesses in perspective and determining angles. Even after Alison moved into my spot on the picnic bench and showed me how to set up the governing lines and the important ellipses, I foundered a bit, and then struggled. But I give myself credit for persevering -- especially tricky after I'd sneak a peek at her page (Comparison truly is the thief of joy! although inspiration can be found in others' work as well, of course).

I could easily point out ten problems with the resultant sketch. Fifteen, if you push me.

But I also can imagine Peter Rabbit hiding at the feet of those sunflowers. . . .

And yep, that makes me happy. . .

Your turn, now. . . What makes you happy these days? What joys, however fleeting or small, are you celebrating?
Or feel free to comment on any of my Friday Five. . . Thank you in anticipation!





Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Travel Wardrobe Recap, Part II

 Part II of my Travel Wardrobe Recap (you can find Part I here). I know that you've seen some of these photos before, either here or on Instagram, but I wanted to gather these shots of the various outfits I was able to assemble from one carry-on case during 5+ weeks travel.

Above and below, the (Eileen Fisher) linen mesh pullover, layered atop the (Eileen Fisher) linen jumpsuit -- I didn't wear the pullover often, but I liked having that dose of colour to break up my reliance on navy and olive. . .

 I didn't wear this linen knit tank (also EF) often either (our access to laundry facilities was limited, except for that week on Hvar), but I liked the freshness of the white for a change -- I'm wearing it here with a silk scarf I'd bought in Paris.  I suspect I'm wearing the tank and scarf with my olive linen skirt, but I might also be wearing the olive cotton joggers.

The linen tank leaves me more exposed than usual, with those bare arms, but it got warm enough that I bared those arms a few times. Below, for example, I've taken off the top (that purple mesh pull) I'd layered over my linen jumpsuit, itself layered over an olive tank. . .


 A few hours later, same outfit, different sunglasses, borrowed for a moment (recognize these Dottoressa? Oh, that was a meal!! Imagine beginning with grappa, as per custom, honest!!)


 That Eileen Fisher dress again -- we're back in Paris in this photo, in our hotel, and I'm trying on a new scarf I bought -- by coincidence it's a brand I'd read about on Passage Des Perles, Inouitoosh. Lightweight cotton, a lovely print. . .

 This indigo linen tunic (EF) didn't get out quite as much as it perhaps deserved, but I wore it at least four days -- either with the olive skirt or these olive pants. There were days when I wished I'd packed one more (very light) skirt or pants, but overall, I'd call this a successful travel wardrobe.

 And interestingly, whereas I've often been eager to wear anything but my travel wardrobe once I'm back home, this time, I find I'm often reaching for these useful garments, although I'm enjoying being able to style them a bit differently.

Below for example, that striped linen shift, worn with ankle boots I bought in Bordeaux a few years ago -- and the new bag I couldn't resist bringing home from Paris last month.

 The bare-legs-and-boots is a stretch for me, so I texted my daughter in Rome to ask her opinion, and she gave me a Thumbs-Up.
 I have two more Paris (garment) purchases to show you, but those will have to wait. . .
It's 5:26 AM (!) as I post this, and I've offered a ride to a family member who's crossing fingers and hoping for surgery this morning, so I'm off. 
Travel wardrobe comments on questions? Leave them below and I'll do my best to answer them. For now, Happy August!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Outfit (and Breakfast) of the Day, Illustrated What I Wore!

Happy Monday! We had a busy weekend here in the heat (I know, relative!), with one of us turning older and both of us determined to feel sanguine about that (I'm currently reading Ursula LeGuin's collection of essays, No Time to Spare, many of which focus on aspects of ageing. She's so clever and entertaining and wise and provocative.) And we watched Hannah Gadsby's Nanette on Netflix, and if you haven't yet? Really, do. Now. Entertaining and thought-provoking and, finally, powerfully poignant and poignantly powerful.

I'm sharing this page from my Illustrated Journal -- I've been playing with the new watercolour pencils (Faber-Castell) I bought last week. I have a limited range of colours and the paper in my daily journal is not conducive to using much water, but I think these will be useful for enlivening the pages. Shall I transcribe?
July 26, 2018. . . And it's another hot day -- 26C outside, but inside all this glass, so much warmer. I swelter, even in breezy linen . . . which is not as tie-dyed as it appears here -- the tunic is a dark-wash indigo & the pants, very wide with a dropped crotch, are a much paler dove-grey. "Dreamy" to wear. . . if I borrow that overused, so-trendy-now adjective.

I'll interrupt this transcription to show you some photographs of the outfit I sketched
 You might like to know that when I did, eventually, step outside wearing this, I wore it with my white Birks once and with my worn, old, grey fabric Topsiders another time. Super comfy. . . .
 Also super wrinkled. . .
 The pants have a pocket -- only one! which makes me feel asymmetrical, slightly off-kilter. . .
but I love something that I channel in them, something artsy-street-chic-European? I bought them in Paris, in the Marais (at Crea), about six years ago, and -- surprise!! -- have found them a bit tricky to work into daily life, so I've been making a concerted effort lately to take them out of the closet.
The back view is interesting with that twisted and dropped crotch. . . . I don't wear them for the figure-flattery. . . ;-)


Top left, on the perpendicular: Such a lazy indoor day -- although I did finish and click "Publish" on a blogpost and wrote another to publish later. And (c'mon, give yourself a pat on the back, why not?)  will do some more fencing with that memoir chapter -- such a struggle! Oh! And I drew this little page, right? Oh! And I made banana bread. Not so lazy after all. . . 

 Below my left toes (on the right side of the page: Reading the last Ruth Galloway mystery, The Dark Angel.

And then beginning in a semi-circle hugging that little sketch, bottom left: I sent Paul off for a bike ride with Megan and then curving below the sketch: and I ate my breakfast out on the terrace -- toast & tomatoes & goat mozzarella all broiled just long enough to melt the cheese & set off the smoke alarm which wouldn't stop howling, ratcheting adrenaline through me as I flapped a towel uselessly beneath it, hoping to blow the smoke away.

I know that toast illustration is not very convincing, but I wanted to try it -- I so admire the food sketches by Eliane Cheung, a Parisian freelance illustrator who posts as @mingou_mango on Instagram.

That's it for Monday. Now perhaps you'll tell me what simple, tasty breakfasts you've enjoyed at home lately. Or when was the last time you set off the smoke alarm in your kitchen. . . Or what neglected garment you've been pulling out of the closet lately. . . All comments welcome, as you know. . .

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