Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rallying . . . Mood Management. . .

Today's a tough one. Or, at least, the last few weeks have had some tough stuff, and I've been hanging on pretty well until yesterday's dental crown prep, completely a surprise until Thursday afternoon. I'm glad we caught the problem and (cross fingers) have arrested it before it moved into root canal territory. But that tense hour in the chair put me over the top, stress-in-my-body-wise. Today's yoga class was a good idea, I'm sure, but uh-oh, the tears just started spilling halfway through, and I kept having to wipe them away. No one particular cause, and I'm fine, really. . . By the time you read this, I'll be even better.  So let me be clear that I'm not writing in a bid for sympathy (although you're all lovely and will offer it anyway, I know). I just think that it's only fair to register the occasional sadness as part of the spectrum and to speak out the realities of how stress affects me.

But feeling a bit sad and a bit harassed and a bit lonely, truth be told. Lonely, but I hurry to add that I've had three lovely lunches with friends this week, and one scheduled for next week. Part of the crash, I suspect, has to do with folding a bit too much social into a bit too much Stuff-that-has-to-get-done without quite enough of the quiet time I need to regroup.
 And there are surely folks I could reach out to if I felt really needy, but my own independence precludes that for a variety of reasons. In fact, there's a potluck surprise party I intended to get to this afternoon, but instead am just hunkering down, waiting out whatever this mood is. . .
 Husband's at the furthest reaches of the country, right now, hanging off the outer edge of the continent, and there are good reasons for that, but the timing could be better. . .
 Luckily, there is music I can move room to room on my little Jambox, following the packing boxes. . .
 And certainly, there are many, many tasks to keep me busy.
 I take breaks to read the weekend Globe and Mail, rewarding myself as I seal up another cardboard cube or twist-tie another garbage bag or fill another recycling bin. . .
 I'm starting to think about making myself a dinner (kimchi chahan again?! I have a frozen chicken breast that might go nicely with . . . Or shall I throw that leftover parsley into the blender with some olive oil, walnuts, and parmesan cheese to make a decent pesto for the pasta that needs to be used up?).  Feeling oddly lonely, I remind myself why I so often treasure solo time, and I start planning the shows I've been saving on Netflix for just such occasions: Hmmm, I might catch up on those midwives, and there's a police detective in a not-so-Happy Valley I should check up on.

And there's my garden, in its spring glory. . . It's going to be hard to leave behind, but for now, I'm soaking it up. . . And sharing. . . Happy Weekend!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Where's that Light? of Long Lists and Dark Tunnels and Encouraging Rewards and Pacing

Throwback Thursdays are a thing, I'm sure you know, and today I'm taking advantage of the meme for a quick post that not only takes me back to my January-February trip to Rome (the city my daughter, son-in-love, and granddaughter returned to this past weekend) but also shows my current focus on moving toward the light (even though sometimes that means trudging through a long tunnel, even a sustained uphill march!).

Not all the passages are difficult, of course. Today, for example, I intend to clear out a dresser that holds a mix of photographs, stationery, candles, table  linens, and garden records; I've also promised myself I'll fill at least three packing boxes with a mix of books, cushions, and linens. Might be a bit too much to do when I get back from the dental appointment I've been putting off for too long. But cleverly, I've booked a late breakfast with a friend right after the yoga class I'm not letting myself skip. 

Hmmmm, I just read that day's agenda back to myself, and I might leave the boxes of books, etc. until tomorrow. Pacing,girl, pacing!
I'd better go, get one or two drawers emptied, their contents sorted, so that the luxury of my yoga class will feel like an earned reward (light achieved after effort). But feel free to hang out in Rome for a bit after I've gone...and I'd love to hear your favourite tricks for urging yourself through demanding times...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

New Shoes might not be the solution to everything, But...

I began this post a few times, offering context, laying out recent ups and downs, essentially, I realise, justifying a bit of shoe/shopping. The long and short of the posts I tried to write culminated in telling you about the nightmare my husband had to wake me from a few sleeps ago, shaking me gently for several seconds and through numerous terrified yells. Apparently, although all kinds of good things have been happening, I'm feeling some stress.

And after writing and reading and deleting and shampoo-rinse-repeat....I decided this was as good a time as any for a Short and Sweet post. Really, I thought, why don't I just show them my new shoes...Above, my beloved older pair of Fluevogs (the distressed metallic loafers)poses with  a new pair of Vince sneakers, and a new pair of white Arizona Birks. Wearing the Vinces too optimistically yesterday has resulted in blisters that have made me very glad for the Arizonas today. . .

But although my noisy mind is teeming with thoughts about retail therapy and buying judiciously and culling wardrobes and on and on, I'm off to breathe deeply. Deep breathing, now with better shoes...


Saturday, April 23, 2016

OOMDs (Outfit of Many Days) Easy Cool?

 These have been some tough weeks, I've got to admit. And on tough days, I must say that it's comforting to have easy clothes in simple, satisfying colours (which to my mind includes neutrals) that work together to please the eye.
And I do feel Cool when I wear this, although I feel Silly writing that out loud, which immediately robs any claim to Coolness I would never dare to make anyway. Because I know I'm not cool, but this outfit makes me feel that way. Get it? Whew! That was embarrassing. . .
 I know the wide-legged, cropped silhouette isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I've been wearing these jeans at least three times a week, and I'm grateful to have this effortless way to a contemporary look hanging in my closet. Yes, the wide legs could, perhaps, be better complemented by a sleeker top, but I've loved this pairing, the yak-merino blend sweater being fluid enough to soften the overall bulk, imho.  (I've also started wearing the jeans with a button-down shirt tucked in -- one of my very few recent purchases is a navy J Crew shirt, sprinkled with pink-centred white daisies -- and look forward to summer pairings of them with  T-shirts and tank tops)
 The silver metallic Fluevog loafers light up the overall outfit just enough to keep me smiling, although they're due to be retired soon as a go-to casual shoe in favour of some new -- No, I think I'll save that Shopping News! for a future post. The sweater is going to have to be tucked in a box of winter gear soon, and I'm not sure where that will be kept while we perch in our little apartment until we find Our Next Home.

For now, April's moodiness means I'll keep it close by against another week or two of squalls, even layer my trusty leather moto over it, wrap a scarf 'round my neck and head out on whatever adventure I can fit in between bouts of packing. . . After all, Mom used to recite that old English wisdom "Change not a clout, Till May is out." She probably wouldn't want me to wear my new sandals yet. . . (Whoops! Almost spilled some more Shopping News. . . )

What about you? Are you on the cusp of a major wardrobe rotation in response to the season's change? Anything you're a bit reluctant to tuck away for a few months or are you itching to peel off all the warmer layers? Any recent purchases that are waiting impatiently for the temperature to sneak up another degree or two, the snow to stop falling, the ice to start melting . . .  And if you're willing to risk feeling silly for a moment (or if you're too smart/wise/mature to feel silly anymore, lucky you!) is there anything you've been wearing recently that makes you feel just a little bit cool?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Out with the Old, In with the New (Someday Soon, Please?)

Notice something missing? My favourite reading chair and matching ottoman were hauled off to the back of a neighbour's truck yesterday -- this move is happening!
 Duchesse asked, in the comments section of the last post, how the logistics of small-island life are affecting our move -- in particular, she wondered about sourcing boxes and getting rid of larger pieces of furniture. The boxes are easy enough, say I, who leaves the task to Pater (and fairly enough, he'll tell you, having accepted a contract that will have him away from home for most of the time available for packing!). We can't drive them right to the door, it's true, but he carried the first ten he bought at a U-Haul "in town," flat-pack, home from the boat on the front of his bike (isn't bungy cord wonderful?).  Pater even assembled them for me to fill, before he headed off across the country. Generous like that! (I'm mostly kidding -- he laboured long and hard for several days before he left,carting lumber and old wheelbarrows, bikes, broken and ancient furniture, twenty-four years' of crawlspace storage, a heap of junk, in other words, out to the roadside for pick-up and disposal by our local expediters.

Getting rid of the junk, then, was hard physical work. Getting rid of the good stuff is taking more finesse. Duchesse is perceptive -- much of our furniture will not make sense in whatever new space we find (yes! it would be so much easier if we were able to find and buy that space first!).  Big, comfortable pieces that we chose and consciously invested in, buying quality that would last, and hence, pieces it will cost a bit to replace.  Selling them on a small island, with a very limited market (there might be 400 people living here, especially in the summer, but perhaps not quite yet) was never going to be as likely nor as lucrative as selling them in the city. On the other hand, hauling them to the city and putting them in storage until they're sold is costly and there's also the added risk of dents and dings along the way.

So I made a list -- isn't that always the best way to start a daunting project -- and then I catalogued the pieces we wanted to let go of; searched my files for their original purchase prices;  calculated a fair and realistic price; and photographed them, Finally, I wrote up a description, accompanied with the photos and sent it out in an email to our Island Listserv, posting it simultaneously on our Island Community's Facebook page.  Within ten minutes, I got emails, Facebook IMs, phone calls, and folks knocking at my door.  Suffice it to say that my wallet is fuller, my house emptier.

There are a few big pieces we will keep, some simply because the market here is too small to get anywhere near a price that would make sense. Our dining table and chairs, Mission/Stickley style, hand-built by a local master craftsman from reclaimed antique oak, are unlikely to work in an urban condo, but no one on the island is going to pay even the minimum that would make sense for these, so we'll wait and sell them in the city. We really like our whiskey-coloured Natuzzi leather love seats, and there's a good chance at least one of them will fit in a condo living-room. We're loathe to part with the teak bedroom furniture we only bought a few years ago and are, honestly, crazy about. I suspect it may have to be replaced, though, OR at least be whittled down by at least one teak dresser. So I put it on our For Sale list, but with a price sufficient to make it worth giving up, and so far (we're not so secretly relieved), no takers. The grand piano, you may be curious to know, is coming with us -- its fate needn't be decided yet. Overall, despite these remaining big pieces, divesting ourselves of a big swack of indoor and, especially, outdoor furniture, has reduced our moving and storage costs significantly.

This makes a difference, because to move from the island requires that moving trucks be brought over by a barge, which requires a tug to guide it safely to the dock, which operation requires consultation of a tide chart. Hefty charges are paid for each hour that said barge waits, empty and idle, for the trucks to be filled before they drive back on the barge for their ride back across the water. Letting go of some furniture that wouldn't suit a condo well anyway is a very good thing. But oh, I will miss that dark green leather armchair and ottoman in which I spent so many completely satisfying hours.

To move on from the missing, though, I've begun daydreaming about what I might replace that chair with, what sleeker yet still superbly comfortable seat might cradle my reading self in our next home.  And before I go back to sorting household small goods into Keep, Sell, and Giveaway piles, I thought you might like to know that my chair daydreaming took me on a little jaunt back to Rome.

Remember the day I got my sad self out of my Roman hotel room and out for a long walk, past delectable shop windows lined up along narrow curved streets. . . and I happened upon a red leather bracelet?  Well, that wonderful workshop, which the very kind and helpful gentleman pictured below allowed me to photograph, obviously turns out so much more than leather bracelets (which, I suspect are merely a way of using up pieces left over from much larger projects).

 Indeed, after I'd used my very limited Italian to stammer out a query about the bracelet, and it had been fitted around my wrist, then trimmed to a more appropriate length, then had several new fastening holes added (that's what's happening at the worktable above), the gentleman in the photo (is he the Dario, do you think, whose name is on the shop window?) fitted it on my wrist again, took my fifteen euros, and just as I turned to leave, he handed me a small, soft leather tag with the shop name, address, and website information stamped on it.
 Dario Alfonsi, it said, and I tucked it into my purse and almost forgot about it. Coming across it again, when I unpacked back home, the fragrance of the leather brought me back to that workshop, and I made sure to put it in a safe place. Finally, a week or so ago, I remembered it again, and I typed the website URL into my browser: And oh my, there are some Very. Delicious. Chairs! on that website. In Absolutely. Scrumptious. Colours!! Much smaller profiles, cosmopolitan-urban, completely different from the comforting heaviness of my old, traditional club chair, and I know I'd have to sit for a while to see if I might find one of these chairs comfortable enough for an hour or so of reading.

And, oh dear, I'd have to go to Rome again to do that testing. But, as you know, I have a daughter, son-in-love (to be a son-in-Law before long -- my daughter's recently added a shiny bit of jewelry to her fourth finger, left hand) and heart-grabbing granddaughter living in Rome.
 Feel free to pop over to the Dario Alfonsi website and let me know which chairs I should break my "carry-on only" travel rule for . . .  Although it looks as if they're happy to ship internationally . . .

And really, anything that comes out of such a beautiful workshop must be worth carrying across a continent and ocean or so, don't you think?

It may be that this is a completely impractical daydream, but it's getting me through the dismantling of my current, well-loved home.  Time to get back to that now, actually, to the piles of smaller domestic goods spread out in the increasing Furniture-Was-Recently-Here spots in the livingroom. I hope to write a post answering Duchesse's query more fully, in particular regard to these smaller goods. If you've moved at least once, you'll already know that they can be much more troublesome to pack (and to leave behind) than the big items, and that's even more true when island logistics are involved.

For now, though, I'll be sorting and packing . . . and daydreaming about a change in lifestyle, an urban condo, a sleek Italian leather chair in a delectable colour. A girl can dream, right?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Quick and Tasty Dinner from the Pantry (with one superhero ingredient)

What with the prospective buyers viewing, and the family guests visiting, and now the packing and furniture-selling and moving-truck booking, et cetera, et cetera and, emphatically, et cetera, it's been a wee bit busy here. Meals, however, must still be eaten and, before that, prepared, and we're trying to be
mindful, as we prepare them, that cupboards and freezers and refrigerators will all need to be emptied before keys get handed to their new owners. 

Last spring, we put in an order for a side of pork--an ex-colleague of mine raises pigs, turkeys, and chickens, and we've been very happy with the meat she provides from pigs who've led happy lives with room to roam and organic food to munch. But the order was late to the butcher this year, and we didn't get ours until almost Christmas. And let me tell you, a side of pork is a few chops and roasts and hams too many for two people to eat between Christmas and May. We're doing our best, though, and we seized the opportunity of the visiting kids to cook up a large pork roast. Still, after we'd enjoyed it warm, with scalloped potatoes, and cold in sandwiches (with Branston pickle and finely chopped red cabbage), there were leftovers enough for me to make up a big dish of kimchi chahan.

In fact, this dish has become a new staple around here, and as long as my latest batch of kimchi lasts, it's probably going to be kimchi chahan for dinner two or three nights a week. It's a one-pot dinner that relies on rice and eggs and accommodates any leftovers. When my homemade kimchi runs out, I might even pick up a jar of commercial product and do a comparison.

And in case you're interested in a new twist on Fried Rice with Leftovers, I took a few pics last time I stirred up dinner for the crew. For two people, begin with two or three cups of cooked long-grain white rice, still warm (I'm going to try this with brown eventually as well, as we empty the larder...)
When the rice is almost cooked, fry a clove or two of finely chopped garlic in two tablespoonfuls of sesame oil for about 30 seconds, or just until fragrant. Stir in the rice, forking it until rice is separated, coated with the oil. Now stir in two beaten eggs -- keep your fork moving through the mixture so that the egg coats the rice without clumping.
Into this you can now stir in whatever leftovers you want. I actually made three different versions when I made it for family--one with no meat for the vegetarian, one with meat and frozen peas but no spicy kimchi for the little ones, and one with the works for the rest of us. Here's the version with the leftover pork being stirred in

 Now add about half a cup of chopped kimchi -- I'm sure a food photographer could make this look more appealing, but really, I tried a few shots and this is as good as it got!
Even my photos of the kimchi in its jar aren't aesthetically convincing, but for a quick way to spice up an otherwise ho-hum combo and get some fermented goodness, I recommend trying this out yourself. Let me know if you do

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a stack of boxes to fill...

Saturday, April 16, 2016

How We Got Here; Why We're Leaving. . . Part The First . . .

So many ideas for posts, this move is triggering, even while we're only at the first stage of waiting for our home to be sold (in case you're curious, yes, there is some action but it would be tempting fate to say much more than that, I think). Today, though, I'm going to answer a question from another Ceri, her namesake's comment having already propelled another post. Ceri in London wondered why we are moving from a home we obviously love, and she speculates that it might have "something to do with the stage of life and the choices we have to make as income reduces and our children become more settled." 

Okay, yes, I began this post a couple of weeks ago, but was too tired, busy, or conflicted emotionally, to finish it. Today, I've dusted off the draft, realised it's pretty close and that any more stalling will soon render it stale-dated. So here you go. 

The short answer would be that Ceri is right and the move has to do with this stage of life. But if you'll indulge me, I'll give you a longer answer. What I hope to explain is why, when we knew we wanted to be back in the city for our last few decades, if not earlier, why did we make such a long detour through a small city that (if we'd been more rigorously honest, if we hadn't been so thoroughly seduced by one tiny island) we knew all along we'd have to leave. . .   

A brief summary seems necessary first: we both grew up in small cities near Vancouver, and we bought our first home in one of those cities when we were Oh! So! Young! (24 and 26, respectively, our daughter only 1). We sold that home to move, for my husband's work, to a very small city (population 17,000,  140-kilometres to next real dot on the map, a town of 11,000) a 1000-kilometre, two-day drive from our families only three years later, and although we came to embrace small-town life and made many good friends in our seven years there, we visited our families "down South" (as the local geography had it) often, and our kids somehow were always oriented to city life. We've often wondered if my husband should have held out a bit longer for a promotion or transfer to Vancouver rather than accepting a transfer to the Vancouver Island city of 60,000 that became our next home. In fact, he was invited to apply for such a position within six months of our settling in to our new home, by which time, of course, we weren't willing to uproot the kids again, and our life here has been so rich that we don't regret the long detour. 

Our first home here was in an area that still featured some rural zoning, but was transitioning to subdivisions. Cows grazed in a field across the street; a lone horse leaned over a fence into the playground at the kids' community school; and we could walk to a beach, cutting through forest paths on the way, in fifteen minutes. Our kids spread themselves out in various grades at that elementary school, but the community grew so quickly that, besides pastures being replaced by cul-de-sacs, the daughter who had to take a bus to high school her first three years transferred to a beautiful new school back in the 'hood, built to accommodate all the families moving into the area. The growth meant that my music studio always had a waiting list, and it also meant that there was abundant community support for all those activities kids take on: I could share driving for swimming lessons, gymnastics, piano lessons, soccer practice and away games.  Much as I was grateful, though, for a network of families with similar commitment to their children's development, the ever-so-slight coercive sense of subdivision life began to grate. (One Christmas, for example, our eight-year-old daughter was surprisingly thrilled at one of my siblings' gift of a set of water and juice glasses and asked if she could be the one to put them in the cupboard -- because, she said, happily setting them in place one by one, "Now we have all matching glasses in the proper cupboard like all my friends." . . . poor, previously deprived child. . . )

Gradually, that dissonance became more pronounced, and although I was happily, if busily, juggling my music-teaching with my kid-chauffeuring with completing my B.A. at the local uni, we occasionally admitted that once the kids eventually moved on, our home's location was too random, really, to believe it could be our "forever home." Not that we articulated such a concept so precisely, but we had come to the city for only one reason, my husband's work, and it began to appear that there wouldn't be enough steps on the ladder here to accommodate his potential. For a while, we both scratched our itchy ambitions through education: I finished my BA and started an MA, and he did an MBA designed to accommodate executives working full-time. Those were crazily busy years.

And during those years, our mortgage got very close to being paid off. As well, while admitting that a big-city move might be best for career advancement, the kids were thriving, for now.  Somehow, then, our restlessness got displaced into looking at recreational property, and somehow (a story for another long post, someday!) we discovered a waterfront cottage just within our financial grasp, and somehow, two years, after buying it, we decided to consolidate our lives in a NE-facing, 800-square-foot cabin. Again, fodder for another long post, all the commuting we then did, kids to school and soccer games and part-time jobs; me to Vancouver, then Victoria, for grad school; Paul to a new job in Vancouver and then a much bigger commute to Ottawa. . . If we hadn't found this home (which we renovated into a more reasonable 1700 square feet, with an additional 300 in a guest cottage),  we probably would have moved to Vancouver, perhaps even to Ottawa for a while. 

But as challenging as the logistics of island life undoubtedly were, the charms of a beautiful setting, a tight-knit community so safe that kids could head out to meet their friends sometime after breakfast, call in for sandwiches a few hours later, and show up for dinner dirty but happy . . . Not to mention swimming in the ocean fifty feet from our front door, gathering on the beach with neighbours to admire passing orcas. . . We lived in our first house for three years, the second for seven, the third for eight, and then, somehow, this place we bought on a crazy impulse 24 years ago this fall has been our full-time home for 21 years.

One by one, of course, the kids moved on. One daughter and her then-boyfriend/now-husband moved into the guest cottage for a year while both went to university the year before she headed off to grad school; my son, our youngest, moved away for a gap year before university, then back home, then a few stutters away and back for co-op terms before the nest was completely empty. My husband worked a few years on the other side of the country, then a few more across the (Georgia) Strait, while I stayed in place so that the kids could finish up high school, then university here in town, meanwhile getting my Master's, then my PhD, then landing a position right in the university here in town. Thus even after Pater retired five years ago, even though the kids were obviously settling in the big city, beginning to raise their own kids, it made sense to stay here until I was ready to retire.

We'd bought the apartment over in the city when Pater landed a promotion there ten or so years ago,and buying a place in an upwardly-trending market made more sense than renting, especially since the kids began gravitating there. Increasingly, I'd be packing up on Thursday or Friday night, trying to remember everything I'd need for an urban weekend, lugging stacks of marking and materials to be prepped. We called it "the best of both worlds," and it was, but bit by bit, the back-and-forth grew a bit wearying. When we were in the city, I crammed my work into early morning and late evening hours, and all the rest seemed to be spent catching up with the younger generations. A treat, absolutely, but when we got back to our island home, we were happy to collapse in our big leather armchairs by the woodstove.

In fact, between my work, which tended to chew up weekends and evenings during term, and Pater's numerous contracts and the several boards he serves on, any social life on this side of the pond languished, and really, on the other side, we only socialised with family.  The ride from town to island in our very reliable commuter boat only takes ten minutes, but during the long winter months, there's not much appeal crossing in the dark, especially if it's raining and blowing hard, or if the docks are treacherous with ice. Over the years we've become less and less willing to do that crossing, and when we're on the island, we tend to stay home of an evening, October through March. Not a problem when I was working and either had marking or prep to do or was glad enough for the respite of a Netflix binge, but we're beginning to want a bit more activity.

Similarly, when I was working, my social energies tended to be exhausted by my students, and I didn't mind so much that we declined many weekend invitations because we were planning to visit the kids in Vancouver. But part of the sadness that's been hitting me the last few years is tied into the huge difference between the rich friendships I nurtured much more carefully before teaching full-time and the ones whose potential I've only tenuously grasped lately.  Moving up my retirement date was at least partly motivated by a determination to give more to friendships, both old and new.

There are certainly people our age living on our little island who manage very active social lives here with a rich complement of hobbies and interests, many of which they pursue "in town," happily commuting by boat, even on those dark winter evenings. But having raised four children who chose to live "away," we now have five grandchildren growing up in places that require a minimum half day's travel, round-trip.  If even two of those grandkids were living in town, we'd probably stay here, but their parents have good jobs and full lives in cities we like.  We're the ones with flexibility now, so with the logistics of that travel growing more wearing, we decided definitively a few years ago that once I retired, we'd give ourselves two to five years to enjoy the island together, at a more relaxed pace, and then move to Vancouver. . .

Next up, a (much shorter, I promise) post about why, having decided to have at least a couple of years together enjoying a slower-paced island life, did we put the house on the market, setting in motion a period of our lives that is not characterised by the words "enjoying" or "slower-paced."

Meanwhile, though, as always, your comments are welcome. I'm curious to know how many of you have relocated for similar reasons. I'd always marveled at people who move across the country to a city or town where they knew no one but their own adult child's family. The uprooting from their own lives seemed so drastic to me, and yet I could see that most often, these moves were happy ones with new social lives established, new activities adopted, new nests feathered. Our move will not be nearly as drastic, moving to a city we've had lifelong ties to, but I'm still feeling a bit apprehensive about making sure we establish fulfilling, interesting, joyful lives independent of our children and grandchildren. So your experience would be appreciated. I'm also happy to share what we find along the way, for those of you who anticipate similar moves down the road.

But now, it's time for yoga. Namaste!
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