Monday, October 15, 2018

Of Apples and Jumpsuits and Pink, Pink Oxfords. . . .

 I'm up early (as is my tendency) after a decent night's sleep (hoorah!), and I'm heading over to Vancouver Island to visit with friends. Yes, having only just having recovered my voice after a five-day bout of laryngitis, I'm placing myself in absolute jeopardy of losing it again--all those conversations I'm looking forward to-- but it's going to be worth it. . .

And if I'm left whispering and gesturing incoherently by the middle of the week, at least I can communicate by writing and sketching, as in these journal pages. (I suppose I'll have to get much quicker at it though!)

This is one of two adjoining pages from my illustrated journal -- the theme of the two pages being Fruit, and more particularly, Fruit Harvested from our Container-Grown Trees.

To the left of the page is a sketch of the last apple from our Scarlet Sentinel tree. The text below it says, Paul found the last of the Scarlet Sentinel apples today, fallen into a niche between the containers.

Across the bottom of the page, I've written, Then later, walking to mail a letter, I spied these two, and more, fallen from an old tree in a neglected yard. And suddenly remembered the gold-green, free-fallen apples Joel [my year-younger brother] and I would pluck off the ground at the house just above Kingsway/12th Street on the north side of 7th Avenue -- on our way to the Library or Swimming Pool.

Musing off that journal page, I remember that those apples were sweeter than the Transparent apples growing on our backyard tree, the ones my mom made into applesauce and apple pies and Apple Betty (aka Brown Betty aka Apple Crisp). . . And I remember that most of the back yards in our neighbourhood had at least one fruit tree. . . .

To the right of the page, written parallel to the book's spine: Those apples ripened much earlier than our Scarlet Sentinels, and they'd nestle on the ground among the magically golden stamens of the Hypericum (St. John's Wort).

You can't tell from my photo, but the red apples I found scattered over the ground were bug-bitten and decaying -- that's a little worm peeking out of the top apple, as I've written alongside. . . .

In the middle of the page, writing top down, I've thought about apples my own kids picked up:
There were a few places on Protection Island with old, neglected apple trees -- Megan & Zach picked one or two up, I believe. But I wonder if any kids would bother much now. . . 


Because I have a ferry to catch (walk; Skytrain; bus), I'll save the second Fruit page for next post. I'll leave you with a recent OOTD (Outfit of the Day) post, and I'll ask you what memories you might have of free falling fruit; whether you see any around you these days; whether or not you'd pick up a piece to taste or to take home and use; whether, perhaps, you know of Gleaning projects in your community that take advantage of such bounty.

.
 I wore this outfit on Saturday -- a brilliantly sunny fall day, blue skies, fire-coloured leaves wafting to the ground everywhere, and crisp enough (high of 15 C/59F) that I tucked a short-sleeved black merino mock-turtleneck under my linen jumpsuit, worn with my beloved new pink Oxfords. I twin-setted with my black cashmere cardigan, and grabbed a scarf as I headed out the door, just in case. Didn't need it, though, during our stroll through our favourite garden centre (picked up a couple of pots of burgundy 'mums and a maidenhair fern for a shady spot--inspired by an arrangement I saw at Lisa's week before last.) . . . Nor while we sat on a sunny terrace at a new-to-us (and very good) Vietnamese restaurant in our neighbourhood. . . .Nor when we joined my sister and brother-in-law who'd made an impromptu visit to a craft-beer brewery just down the street. . . .

Still, I'm hunting out my gloves -- we have another week of sunshine ahead, apparently, but the thermometer is dipping lower each evening. . . . soon I'll have to wear tights, or at least socks, with those Oxfords. That pink is not going to warm me enough much longer. . .


Okay, running now. And looking forward to reading your comments later. . . Happy Monday!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Randomness

After at least a month of not sleeping more than five consecutive hours (combo of anxiety and reflux and colds), I slumbered right through last night, and wow! that feels much better.

And having begun the week with Thanksgiving (L'Action de Graçe, I learned at my French class this week), I think it might be good to round it out with the same. . . 

I was chuffed -- and grateful -- for example, to be quoted in Alyson Walsh's post (about how to wear skirts if they're not your usual gear) at her splendid blog, That's Not My Age
Personally, I wear skirts or dresses often, but wearing them with boots and bare legs, as in the top photo and as Alyson does in her post on skirt-wearing, is a stretch for me (although I recently wore a skirt with bare legs and flat shoes here). Way back here I wore ankle boots and bare legs with an above-knee skirt, and I wouldn't do that now, but I loved wearing that slightly edgy/street but easy-to-wear combo at top -- and then a week later when the temperature had dropped, the same combo with tights and flat oxfords. The skirt is actually a dress, one that I wear often enough that variety needs to be introduced by throwing a sweater over top -- this one's a cozy, slouchy, lightweight delight from Aritzia. The scarf I bought in Paris last visit -- it's light enough for this transitional weather; the bag's M0851, the boots are Blundstone's, obviously, and those metallic Oxfords are MOMA (I bought them last fall in Portland, and just had them re-heeled and soled).

Other things that have me grateful and smiling lately. . .

Such a smart idea for developing future voters -- one of my daughters sent me this link. She's been doing her best to raise politically conscious kids, keeping the accent on the possibilities for positive action. Teaching them how to vote, nurturing an eagerness for their turn to participate, seems so clever, no?

And speaking of kids and things that make me smile -- how about this video of my granddaughter teaching her Mama the names of colours -- in Italian?

Even some of the world's depressing news is leavened when a wise friend aims the near-century-old words of a poet at some "eminently presentable men". . .


And then there's my garden terrace. . . .


 where chrysanthemums bloom golden while hydrangea blooms lapse into mesmerising decay. . .
 and snowberries finally demonstrate the effectiveness of bumblebees. . .
 the geraniums gifted by a friend prove the perfect addition to their corner. . .
 and the New Dawn rose which hasn't been terribly generous extends a gracious nod (perhaps the season farewell)

Meanwhile, we thought we'd eaten all the apples, but discovered one that had fallen behind a pot -- I plan to sketch it later this morning. . .

And will also sketch a few of the figs which we've enjoyed sautéed (with a splash of cognac and a dollop of ice cream); or with a dab of Boursin (the Three-year-old allowed, the other day, when trying the combo very tentatively, that it was "a little bit good." And then he asked for another bite); or alongside my toast this morning (on which I'd spread a layer of Cambozola and a smear of honey);

or several times (once shared with a good friend who'd stopped here for the night after a flight home from France) atop a bowl of muesli mixed with Greek yoghurt. . .


The fig tree sprawls from its container even more thoughtlessly than that man-spreader next to you on the bus (and I suppose I could extend this unfortunate comparison, given some of a fig's characteristics, but I won't 'kay?). . . As much as it hogs real estate, however, I think it's guaranteed itself another year, at the very least. I mean, really, stepping onto my terrace to pick a few figs for my breakfast -- in Vancouver!!! -- seems so wonderfully exotic. So . . . Gratitude. L'Action de Grace. . . .

I've just hauled Friday's bread out of the oven, and with this post written, I rather think I might get out into the sunshine. Just to show my gratitude, you know? And you, what are you up to this Friday? Any weekend plans? Anything special you're feeling grateful for? or joyful about? I'd love to hear.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

I Left my Voice in San Francisco (But I Brought Home Some Sketches)

 We flew home from San Francisco Sunday afternoon, my cold staking more territory with each passing hour, my laryngitis not aided one jot by the drying air of the plane. Exhausted as I was by the time we opened the door to the condo, though, I was quickly revived by the smell of roast turkey and the sounds of knives, forks, and clinking glasses mingling with the chatter and laughter of our daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren. Knowing we'd be late home for Thanksgiving dinner, we'd offered our place, with its greater square footage and its neutral toys (i.e. no rampage of the Nine's bedroom by the Five and the Three) -- and now all we had to do was sit down and eat. And check out the missing tooth in the Almost Six's mouth, the Almost Ten's new haircut.

Even better, while those who cooked the meal were cleaning up afterward (our offers of help firmly refused), I got to take the little guy -- Three -- out for a sit on our small front patio -- he'd been getting more than a bit past-my-bedtime-No-I'm-not-tired Growly, but wrapped in a blanket on the purple Fermob chair, the lights of the city spread in front of us, he released a heartfelt "It's Amazing.". . and then began pointing out the marvels -- a crane not too far away, a red band of light atop a building in the distance, lights moving across the lower sky -- whose mystery I explained as cars driving across a bridge. He was tickled to be able to "spy" people moving through living-rooms and around kitchens in the building opposite.

Eventually, the Fermob chair proved uncomfortable for him -- he needed more support for his little back and wanted to haul one of the inside chairs out. Instead, I convinced him to squiggle over onto my lap. . . We sat like that for five or ten minutes, chatting. The best five or ten minutes of my day, I must admit, San Francisco's marvels notwithstanding. . . .

Not to say that I didn't love San Francisco, however. As you know, I had a couple of wonderful days there with my friend Lisa, and then my husband joined me. Unfortunately, this is when I lost the struggle against the cold I'd been holding at bay -- we still managed a few good walks, marvelling at the city's architecture, and we ate at Mission Chinese the first night, as recommended by our daughter and son-in-law who'd been there a few months earlier. But we had to cancel the reservation we'd made for Saturday night (a well-reviewed restaurant I'd wanted to try, if only because it's called "Frances"!), and I wasn't up to visiting the glorious SF Museum of Modern Art.

Instead, I left Pater there (he took advantage of a tour of the temporary exhibition of Susan Meiselas' work and enjoyed it very much) and I went looking for a good spot to do some urban sketching.

I was delighted to find a row of empty benches along the sidewalk, sat down, and began sorting out the preliminaries -- placement, proportion, shapes, etc., and had just begun inking in some outlines when a young woman came out to tell me that the benches were reserved for the art academy's students (all of whom were currently elsewhere!), but that I could have five minutes. . .

So.

Despite the haste with which I had to proceed, and the loss of my chosen perspective partway through, I'm pretty pleased with the way this sketch captures my sense of that street's energy along with my memories surrounding the morning.

As well, this sketch -- and the one at the top of the page -- represents for me that I'm getting more comfortable standing on the sidewalk drawing. The small sketchbook is so discreet, and these sketches began with an inkpen, so I like to think I'm not conspicuous.

 Back in Vancouver, we've woken to sunny skies today -- and the weather forecast is for those to continue through the week with temperatures topping out at around 15 Celsius (59 F).  My voice is still AWOL, and I can't stray too far from a big box of Kleenex, but the crisp fall sunshine might coax my sketchbook and I outside later today.

And you? what are you up to?


Saturday, October 6, 2018

My Writing Partner, My Friend. . .

Good morning!

In my last post, I mentioned a short jaunt I had planned.  As you might already know from Instagram, I've been visiting my friend Lisa of Amid Privilege whom I first met "in real life" back in 2011.

My husband flew down to join me yesterday, and we've planned a pleasant weekend in this gorgeous city -- although the light cold I arrived with has morphed into full-blown laryngitis after two days of catching up with Lisa and talking about our mutual writing projects. . . .

Which is what I wanted to share with you this morning -- that over the past year, Lisa and I have been partners in guiding our respective long-form writing projects to completion of Rough First Drafts. She's just posted her perspective on this partnership, and mostly I'll just echo what she says. I can't overstate the value of having a thoughtful and discerning and open-minded reader on the other side of the manuscript I'm writing. We don't ask much of each other in terms of feedback, and we certainly haven't needed any editing (structural or stylistic or copy-editing) at this early stage, but we have often asked each other whether or not a particular passage or approach is working as is or if expansion or clarification might be necessary.

Her draft is fiction -- and I must tell you I eagerly anticipated each new instalment -- she's created some characters I hope you'll meet someday and she's put them in a plot with satisfying twists and tension. My draft is a memoir focused on my relationship with my mother in the context of mourning her as well as of being, myself, the mother of daughters.  Very different, obviously.

But what's been the same is the value of the partnership in providing a structure so that we pushed to complete a number of chapters or a number of words within a certain timeframe, so that here we both are with completed drafts.

I'm still not sure what I'll do next, with mine. It's very personal, and I'm still working through how much I want to share and what that might mean for family. Lisa's book should find its way to a shelf in your favourite bookstore -- I know you'll love it!

Meanwhile, though, may I also echo what Lisa wrote on her blog this morning, about friendships forged via digital platforms? I mean, that might be where our friendship began, but can you get more "IRL" than hiking "Cardiac Hill" together? More than that, hiking it and having a passing female hiker of-a-certain-age stop in her tracks to confess the relevance to her of our discussion of certain gynecological issues pertaining to menopausual women. She apologized for eavesdropping, and we weren't that loud, honest!)
Now I really have to get out on The Streets of San Francisco. Not sure Michael Douglas will be there, but I have my own handsome guy to accompany me.

Happy Saturday -- and to my fellow Canadians, Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!


Friday, September 28, 2018

Postcards from Lyon -- Delayed in Transit. . .

 I don't know how you're faring this morning, but I need some respite from ugly news. So I'm heading back to the Basilica up the hill in Lyon's Fourvière district.

When I visited this late 19th-century church this past May, I was immediately enamoured of the stylised botanical images -- carved in bas-relief over much of the stone facade. 
 Of course, I had to pause to admire a pheasant-berry bush (Leycesteria Formos). (I wonder if I'll ever stop remarking when I see a plant I used to "have" in my island garden.)
 But I stepped past the shrub to get a closer look at the botanical ornamentation -- these panels representing  -- as I've found after doing a little research this morning (a welcome distraction from what I can't bear to know yet, on the news) -- Wisdom describing herself (in Ecclesiasticus) as being,

"exalted like a cedar in Libanus (Quasi cedrus)


"and a cyprus tree on Mount Sion" (Q.-- for Quasi -- Cypressus)

"As a fair Olive tree in the plains" (Quasi Oliva)
 "and as a Plane Tree by the water in the streets, was I exalted" (Quasi platanus)

"I yielded a sweet odour like the best myrrh" (quasi Myrrha)
 "As a vine I have brought forth a pleasant odor" (Quasi Vitis)
 Shall we simply ponder Wisdom now, as we step 'round the corner of the Basilica. . . angels and apostles and saints and lions abound on the façade. . . but I'm in the mood this morning, as I was back in May, to admire the flowers and leaves. . .
 Isn't their stylised repetition soothing?
 We didn't spend much time inside, having left our visit too close to lunchtime, but the same botanical theme prevails. . .
 Leafy enough for birds to settle in . . .
I'm afraid that's all my spirit can muster this morning, but I hope you found some enjoyment and a bit of respite here from the world that sometimes seems too much. . .

We have a busy family weekend here with visitors from the island. Then next week I have a short jaunt that I will tell you more about later -- but first, I'm going to take a week away from you, although I might not be able to resist posting the occasional photo on Instagram.

Until I meet you here in a week or so, take care of yourselves in these fraught times. Remember to breathe; remember to find the small pleasures where they surely are; remember that there is still much wisdom and goodness in the world. . . 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Those Sweaters Again -- Mother, Daughter, Photo-Bomber. . . .

 I promised to get you a Mother-Daughter Sweater Selfie, and I'm keeping my promise today! Megan texted the other day: "Get your sweater on. We're doing the Selfies."

Of course, she had lots of energy, given that we'd just had her Five (and three-quarters!) and her Three for a sleepover. . .

Above, an accurate representation of our respective heights; below; we decided we needed to align the pattern along the turquoise -- isn't it striking how different that looks in the two colour combinations?

 Spot the tiny photo-bomber?
 My cheeky girl insisted I take a photo of her wearing the sweater and holding a loaf of bread that was cooling on the counter.  She even gave me a suggested caption for posting it: I made these three things (Woman, Sweater, Bread -- and yes I did, it's true ;-)

By the way, since you've probably noticed the curls -- yes, I think she did get them from me, and yes, they're completely natural. I think both of us probably used the same Apply Product to Wet Hair, Scrunch All Over technique -- I let mine dry naturally, and I think she blows hers with a diffuser. I usually use a pick to bring some volume once it's all dry.

And mine is all my own colour now, lots of grey -- if you're curious, I wrote about my decision to go grey and the approach I took here
 And finally, we took the hint (see her above, in the bottom right corner) and brought the Five (and three quarters!!) into the frame. . .
Off for a hike this morning -- up Mother Nature's Stairmaster as our route is known locally (853 metres elevation gain over 2.9 kilometres). Last time we did it I was two years younger . . . wish me luck and stamina and strength.

Monday, September 24, 2018

I Blame Francine! -- Of Shoes and Memories and an OOTD

 This Transitional Outfit -- which I wore to Watercolour Drop-In last week -- wouldn't have worked over the weekend, I have to admit, given the heavy rain, grey skies, and mid-teen temperatures . . . Today, though, the skies are supposed to clear early this morning, and the weather folks tell us we have a week of sunshine ahead, temperatures all the way up to 21 Celsius, the kind of fall weather we all love.

And last Thursday when I packed my paints, palette, and paper to hang out with fellow creative dabblers, there were a few showers, but the temperature was comfortable enough to wear my favourite linen dress. After all, I only had to run a hundred metres from parking lot to door -- the weekly class is one of the very few reasons I have to drive anymore; I could get there by public transit, but I'd be shoe-horning an extra hour to the day, and I think it's a good idea to maintain my driving-in-the-city skills.

Still, it was too cool for bare legs. I'm not quite ready to haul my tights out of their storage box, but I'd just seen Alyson Walsh's post on combining shirt-dresses with jeans to extend their shelf-life beyond summer, and I thought that idea might work for a non-shirt-dress as well.

 I quite like the pairing, although I can see the proportions aren't convincing in the top two photos -- the one below gets closest to what it felt like, from my perspective.  I'm not sure the Hermes scarf works, but I don't wear it as often as it deserves (a cherished birthday surprise) and I wanted something to break up that expanse of navy. . .
As for the shoes. . . My new pink Oxfords would have been perfect with this combo, no?

So why did I choose, instead, to wear those silver Fluevog loafers (which this post -- coincidentally also on transitional fall dressing -- testifies are at least six years old)? Whose metallic surface is now scuffed a scuff or two beyond "fashionably distressed"? Whose rubber soles, with their dance-step graphic and the words "let the dance begin" are probably on their last hundred kilometres?

I blame the "Francine factor" . . . Francine (not Frances!) was a young woman who worked in the same office as I did, in '75 or '76.  She'd left her family behind in Montréal, taken the train across the country to try her luck on the West Coast. Raven-haired, vivacious, her striking figure attracted attention in the office, one of those vast open landscapes carved up with those portable dividers still modern and appealing, perhaps even sexy, in mid-70s Vancouver, in those golds and oranges that quickly became ubiquitous.

There was a boyfriend who worked at the heritage CN hotel in town. Ambitious, upwardly mobile perhaps, but still of modest income, he quickly bumped into some more moneyed competition, and we were all eager, each Monday morning,  to hear of the weekend's romantic adventures, the restaurants she'd been treated to, the offers that had been proposed to her -- all told in her heavily accented English, punctuated regularly by her ever-so-cute "How you say?" "What is theees word?

As much as her romantic adventures interested us, we were even more fascinated by her style, which confirmed every rumour we'd ever heard about les Montréalaises.  If I had to sum it up across the blurry distance of the decades, I'd probably rely on that cliché, "Classic with a Twist," although I hadn't heard that expression at the time. She already had the beige trenchcoat, and her French accent transformed a plain white shirt with a black pencil skirt and simple cardigan. Somehow, her pieces and the way she combined them always looked fresh and confident, despite there rarely being a single standout garment.

One of us, in particular, studied Francine's style, trying to see how she might emulate it. Marion was bright and funny but prone to depression which she tried to stave off by shopping.  The office we worked in occupied the entire 7th floor of a bank tower, one of the tallest buildings in the city then;  (dwarfed, now, of course, by five decades of subsequent construction). Far below us, an underground mall was gradually extending its reach in a retail configuration that was only a few years old, still relatively new--and exciting--to Vancouver. Our lunch hours -- sometimes even our coffee breaks -- often included a quick foray past the tempting windows.

Marion's forays, in fact, would often head past the windows, make a sharp turn, and somehow end up inside a store, flipping through dresses or blouses or skirts on hangers or unfolding sweaters piled on counters.  She'd come back after lunch and gleefully show us some cute little blouse or a pair of dreamy new platform shoes, maybe a suede bag with a swishy fringe. And by the next day, whatever she'd bought would be featured in her outfit. The new purchase would be in rotation for the next few weeks, but we could see it losing its shine, and by the end of a month, it would be replaced by a new favourite. 

Marion's retail excursions relied heavily on a credit card. She and her husband, she confided ro me once, had racked up a six-thousand dollar debt (on a combined income of perhaps 30K). So she was understandably mesmerised by our Québecoise co-worker.  Francine shopped as well, no question, but she did so much more deliberately.  She window-shopped as much as the rest of us, but generally, she wasn't shopping to buy unless she'd clearly identified a gap in her wardrobe. She had a very realistic sense of her budget, as a single woman on a modest salary, but she also knew the price of quality and was willing to save, in order to pay it -- or to wait for a sale!

But even Francine experienced the occasional coup de foudre. A few times, that summer and fall she worked with us, she would come back to the office after lunch and regale us, not with a tale of the older suitor who'd offered to fly her to San Francisco for the weekend, but with the description of an exquisitely fitting skirt. Plaid, in a fine wool, and then she might giggle a bit describing how well it showed off her, well, her ass-ets. . . We'd egg her on, tell her she had to buy it, tell her she should pop back down to the mall on her afternoon coffee break and buy it before it was gone in her size -- but she'd wait a day or two, double-check her bank account, look carefully in her closet to see if it would really work.  Finally, she'd treat herself to the new piece -- and we'd look forward to seeing her model it.

Here's the whole point I've been building to, though: Francine wouldn't wear the new plaid pencil skirt or the black patent pumps or the ruffle-sleeved blouse to work the next day, the way Marion always did. Sometimes Francine wouldn't even wear her new purchase the whole next week. Sometimes it would be several weeks before we'd see it as part of an outfit, and it would take us a while to recognise that it was, indeed, a new garment. Somehow, she'd simply blended it into her own inimitable style -- she absolutely wore the garment or accessory, rather than it wearing her. 

Yes, of course I've come across this approach numerous times over the decades since, but I'm not sure I've ever seen it practiced with such a combination of restraint and flair on such a careful budget. Thinking back, I calculate that Francine was no more than 21 at the time; she'd already mastered lessons many style-bloggers are preaching today, forty-some years later.

And last Thursday, although I hadn't thought of Francine for ages, she was suddenly with me, shaking her head and raising an eyebrow as I slid my toes into my new pink Oxfords, shoehorn against my heel. In my imagination, she cocked her head in the direction of my old silver loafers, which I still love, and I conceded. After all, if I've chosen carefully, I'll have many years of loving and wearing those Oxfords. . .

I'm curious: Have you been a Marion or a Francine in your shopping habits? and has your pattern changed over the years?) Or have you known a Marion or Francine? Or known another type of shopper, either a cautionary example or an inspiring one? And does the simple act of getting dressed ever make connections across the decades for you? Who or what does that mirror sometimes reflect from the past? Not necessarily about shopping, but just ways in which whatever you're wearing pulls the past forward or sends you backwards in reverie. . .

It's another Monday, obviously, and I haven't written a list yet. I probably should, as this week already has the potential to get away from me. Time for a quick workout now, and then I'm meeting a GF for coffee. . . Hope your week's begun well. Happy Monday!










Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...