Monday, February 19, 2018

Monday Morning, Getting Started

I'm feeling a bit Monday-morning-ish today -- there's light there, yes, but there might be some climbing involved, and perhaps some digging as well. . . . (the photo is taken from my balcony, early morning, of the construction across the way, which is moving toward the final stages, with interiors being completed).

So please, check back later for my post on Solo Travel: Dining Alone, and meanwhile,  I'll get to work on searching out endorphins. For a start, I'll bundle up warmly (several degrees of frost here right now, but blue skies and sunshine) and get out onto the terrace to sniff this obliging Daphne odora. Then I suspect a workout in the gym might do the trick, or a walk in the sunshine (being careful not to slip on the ice). Some knitting, some thinking-while-knitting, and then some writing, and I'll be back in the groove. . . .
Are you battling some February gloom or Monday Morning blues yourselves these days? Have you found any antidotes? 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Five Things Friday, Palm Springs to Vancouver. . . .

1.  Let me lead with the lizard, if you don't mind. Worth clicking on that photo to enlarge -- the colours are mesmerising, and I'm thinking they could be the inspiration for a future Fair Isle sweater.

2. And the lizard's horizontal sunning inspired my own lounging
 No, you're right, that's not a Selfie. Someone was conscripted . . .

I made him take a few shots, because I really loved the textures and lighter tones of this outfit (Levi 501s, Tiger Onitsuka sneakers, Aritzia embroidered top) after the darker and more wooly or "napped" garments I've been wearing all winter. And somehow that gold, and the lounge chair's woven squares, and the sun and shadows, and the tumbling shapes of those stones -- something struck me as nearly Klimtian here. . .
 Sigh. . . all these items have been laundered and tucked away in their winter homes again. . .
 3. The riotous and glorious colours to be found inside Palm Springs' Saguaro Hotel, where we met Kurt Cyr of Palm Springs Mod Squad for our Essential Palm Springs tour. Paul and I both highly recommend adding at least one of these tours to your itinerary if you visit P.S. Kurt is personable, entertaining, obviously knowledgeable but never pedantically so, and he's very well organised -- not a minute of wasted time on a jam-packed (but not exhausting) survey of the city's architectural treasures (I'll show you a few photos from the van window next week, 'kay?). Plus -- and big bonus for this hearing-aid wearer -- he speaks so clearly that I could hear him in my (very comfortable) back seat of the van).
 Before the tour, Paul and I wandered around the Saguaro, where this gorgeously detailed-- and brilliantly amusing -- installation by Sarah Scheidemann hung on the wall opposite the reception desk (scroll down for that reception area-- have you ever been greeted so fabulously in a hotel?!)
 A row of bikes in the lobby for guests to borrow. . .

Our tour ran from 11 to 12:30, perfect timing for us to follow up with a lunch in the hotel's El Jefe (also recommended: order a Margarita and the short ribs carnitas!). Sorry, I took no photos in El Jefe -- concentrating on the food!




And now, if it's not too much of a "Thunk!" I'll return us to my reality, here in cold and wet Vancouver. . . .

4. This was me, the day after I got back from Palm Springs (Wednesday), dressed for the light layer of slushy snow that had fallen overnight. Woolen beret, check; scarf (hand-knit, alpaca lace), check; tailored wool coat, check; grey tights, check; waterproof, traction-sole Blundstones, check; M0851 small cross-body bag, check. . . . 
 Honestly, though? I really don't mind. It's very good weather for a couple of my favourite activities -- reading (see that book I'm returning to the library, above) and knitting

5. my Birkin sweater, which is progressing nicely -- yesterday I added about four inches of stocking stitch in the main colour (dark brown) below the Fair Isle yoke (photographed on Wednesday -- the sun did come out in the afternoon -- yay!)
And I still do manage to get out and walk, as long as I'm dressed properly (and carrying an umbrella!). This weekend, the weather forecast even teases that I might be Walking on Sunshine (Wow!) -- although it adds a proviso (sunshine will arrive with below-freezing temps of Minus 6 to 8 Celsius). Not Palm Springs, but it's home, sweet home. . .

Up Next Week: Some hints about some Spring Travel -- we have one shorter trip (5 or 6 hours' driving) and one longer one (back to Europe) and another post about Solo Travel.

But for now: What are you up to this weekend? What colours are inspiring you (or bringing you down)? Are you out lounging in sunshine? Or inside with a good book? Swaddled in scarves or Sauntering in Shorts? Playing Tennis or PickleBall (my sister-in-law's new enthusiasm, as I heard in Palm Springs)? Being a Couch Potato or Snow-shoeing? (Oh, and speaking of books, the conversation is beginning over at the post I published last week on my Reading Blog. Honestly, I often think those conversations are the best reasons for you to visit me! 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Postcards from A Sunny Clime -- to Me in a Snowy One, Brrrr!


Pardon me if all I can offer you this morning is eye candy. But while I managed to get safely home, still dry, before the snow fell last night, waking to very wet white stuff this morning -- a palette of grey and white and messy -- did not let me "feel the love" on Valentine's Day. . .

I have mixed feelings, still, about mid-winter sunshine-chasing travel, and I'm still sorting what I think about Palm Springs as a destination, but there's no question that sunshine and bright colours and warmth and easy mobility and the beautiful backdrops both of majestic natural geography and striking architecture enhance the mood. Not to mention the cleared sinuses and the bones and joints sighing deeply in contentment.
And there's much to be said for time with loved ones gathered around a pool or strolling to a nearby restaurant, walking back to the desert motel together after the twelve of you stretched around a table filled with food and wine and laughter.


This morning, by contrast, I'll be sloshing my way to my neighbourhood knitting store for a particular, necessary needle I was sure I already owned so that I can move from the coloured, Fair Isle section to the dark brown, plain stocking stitch section of the sweater I'm knitting. A louder metaphor than I'd like, if you see what I mean. Knitting. Wool. Winter. Dark colours. . . .

So do pardon the eye candy.
Or just, perhaps, enjoy it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Heading South . . .

I was going to try to put together a very quick Friday Five, but. . .

we've got a flight to catch this morning, so I'm going to run. Just wanted you to know that the tooth is going to require a crown, but not a root canal, and the work can wait a couple of weeks. Appointments are all lined up at the new-to-me dental office my husband's been going to for years, and I'm feeling really good about them (although the hit to my wallet will hurt a bit).

So I'm all set to sit in the sunshine by a pool with Pater and my sisters and brothers and their partners. . . Back next week, and hoping Vancouver might have arranged some better weather by then.

If you haven't yet seen the post where Sue (of High Heels in the Wilderness) calls me an "It Woman" -- well, you'll want to stop giggling and go check it out -- Her thinking about style is always interesting, balanced, and realistic, and I like her perspective on the phenomenon of "It Girls" for Women of a Certain Age. . . . even if I can't really think of myself as any kind of It Woman at all (but am, I admit, quite chuffed that someone else might have thought that, however briefly).

Even We It Women (hahahaha) need help from those with better eyes for jewelry length, and Duchesse lent me the benefit of that eye last week when I posted photos of the outfit I wore to the opera. Duchesse left me a helpful comment about a fairly simple fix I'd never thought of -- and then she posted a very useful primer on determining the proper length for wearing your pearls. Gorgeous photos of pearls to enjoy as well. . .

And while I'm pointing you in various directions, I'll just mention that I've a new post up on my Reading Blog.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's a budget plane seat waiting for me, and after that, a chaise longue, poolside. . . 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Of Books and Popcorn and Trips to Sunshine and . . . Broken Teeth? Ah, Not Again!


Yesterday afternoon, after a productive morning writing and working out in our condo gym (slowly getting back to my program after that prolonged cold/illness), I microwaved a bowl of popcorn and got comfy on the couch with this delightful book I picked up at the train station in Chambéry last month. A very enjoyable way to "study," adding to my French vocabulary while being thoroughly entertained.. . .

I posted the photo on Instagram (I know, I know, causing even more legions out there to shake their heads about Social Media where superficial people snap photos of what they're eating and tell the world. My Bad), and settled in to munch and read, read and munch.

In fact, I got right to the bottom of the bowl, just a few unpopped kernels left. Swirling my tongue around my mouth, as you do post-popcorn, to shift some of that kernel coating, move those fibrous bits out from between my teeth. . . and my tongue met something sharp. Something it didn't recognize. Could it just be a big piece of kernel, wedged weirdly? But then why concave? Realization came reluctantly, followed quickly by horror, and I noted, at the bottom of the bowl, a small piece of something non-popcorn-y. Yep. Popcorn is, apparently, dangerous to your teeth.

Now, you might remember about me and dentists. I was very happy with my last dentist -- of whom I was a patient for well over 25 years and to whom I took my four as they grew. But moving pushed me into a different dentist's chair last year, and that was a sad story which you can read here.

I reconciled myself, after that tearful visit, to the new dentist, the new office, and I told myself eventually I might feel nearly as comfortable as I had with my previous dental-care team. But when I phoned just before 5 yesterday, no one answered the phone, and after many, many -- many! -- rings, the voicemail message advised that they were closed, but would be open again on Thursday. A shock to the system for this privileged woman who'd always been fit in, somehow, for a dental emergency.

Luckily, my husband also has a dentist in the city (for the last seven years of his career, before retiring seven years ago, Pater worked in the city all week, came back to the island on weekends -- he fit annual check-ups and cleanings into lunchtime or early-morning appointments) -- I hadn't chosen that office last year because that dentist was almost retired, only practising one day a week, but recently, a young dentist has joined that practice and Pater's been impressed.  Also luckily, I managed to get Pater on his cell late yesterday afternoon, he phoned that dental office -- still open, Whew! -- and they had just had an afternoon cancellation for today.

So . . . . I'll be crossing my fingers until then, and trying to feel grateful that good dental care is available and that, while it will jostle the budget, we can manage it. Trying to think, "Well, isn't this a great opportunity to check out that new dentist." Mostly, mostly praying it's not going to require a root canal (honestly? I've lost track of which teeth still have nerves left, and for all I know this could be an already dead tooth whose crown needs repair (yep, that's my secret, probably very unrealistic hope). Really, really hoping this story doesn't end with extraction, because I've been there . . .

Plus one small complication: We've a flight scheduled for Friday morning -- it's a short trip, just an extended weekend, but it's our very first Warmth in MidWinter trip ever.  Five of my siblings are staying, with their spouses, in the same hotel -- one of those great midcentury places with all units facing onto the pool. We're planning a hike or two, maybe some biking, I've booked an architectural tour, dug out my swimsuits and packed my Birkenstocks. So timing is all.

Wish me luck?

Monday, February 5, 2018

City Life and Wider Spaces

 I'm finally feeling well enough to have started putting my fitness regime back in place, but with the nearly constant rain we've had, most of the moving has happened indoors. I woke up Friday morning desperate for some expansive natural space, some exposure to what an article in The Globe and Mail last month called "Vitamin Tree."
 So we headed south, through the city, out to where the Fraser River estuary spills out into the Salish Sea.  We crossed that turquoise bridge to Westham Island where here's a wonderful migratory bird sanctuary, the Reifel Bird Sanctuary with wetlands for all manner of waterfowl.  As far as exercise goes, we only put 3.5 kilometres on my iPhone app, but walking the trails through the various habitats worked at other aspects of health -- breathing became deeper, heartbeats slowed, minds settled, stresses fell away. . .
 I thought you might appreciate some of that as well, wherever you're sitting with your computer this Monday morning. . .
 Paul stretched out his arm to point to a hawk in a nearby tree. The chickadees assumed he'd brought them seed and was offering a snack, and he caught at least 20 landings. A huge grey squirrel climbed up a nearby stump, obviously contemplating a leap, but I quickly pushed Pater's arm down to discourage that idea. . .

 So many wood ducks! I love this couple, so striking, their eye makeup . . . .

 These colours -- so wintry, yet warming, somehow, all that tawny texture. . .

Not much warmth in the photo below, but if you've gotta have grey, this is the grey to have, right? That horizon!


 These photos were taken from the observation tower, 10 metres high. . .



 I love the way natural spaces like these offer an expansive view, so restful, but I also love the way they invite me to look more carefully at the smaller details, close-up. . .


 And finally, who doesn't love a rebel?
Hope you enjoyed that nature walk -- I used to be so very spoiled living for so long at the water's edge, with so many big trees on our property, and so many kinds of birds, abundant wildlife -- deer, raccoons, mink, otters. There's ample compensation in the city for having given that up, but some days, the missing gets noisy. . . Luckily, we don't have to go too far before we've left the city behind. (and, as you know if you've been following my Instagram, even right here in the urban centre, wildlife persists -- check out this video of the beaver who lives a ten-minute walk from our condo).

If you haven't yet read my last post -- on solo travel -- I'd urge you to check out the conversation that's formed in the comments section. This is probably my favourite part of writing this blog, the fascinating and lively conversations that sometimes build around a subject, the way we collaborate. I'm planning more posts on the topic and I hope that we will continue to chat about this. For now, I'm just trying to keep up with responding to all your thoughtful  and interesting contributions.

Where do you walk to get your Vitamin Tree? Or just to see some bigger skies than a city offers? Some of you are lucky enough -- as I used to be -- to walk out your back door and be immersed in a more natural world. Many of you perhaps live in suburban spaces with plenty of groomed green space, perhaps not so much left wild. Some of you, like me, are city dwellers and have the local restorative green spaces on speed-dial for those days when you really crave a good hit of Nature.  Which of those describes you? Are you able to scratch your itch for the natural world as often as you'd like? How? Where? I'm listening . . .


Friday, February 2, 2018

Flying Solo. . . Flexing my Independent Travel Muscles at a Certain Age

I'm not completely sure what demographic we form together, you readers and I. I sometimes think we might be a tad more homogeneous than I'd like (love me some diversity), and I'm pretty sure we skew female, of a certain age, mostly comfortable, and perhaps mostly partnered. I suspect that when I write here about travelling solo as if it's a challenge overcome, a hurdle jumped, a liberation achieved, however, there is an almost audible eye roll from those of you who have never factored a life partner into each and every trip (or factored him or her OUT of it, for that matter).

But the reality is that although I used, often, to travel on my own--or as the only shepherding adult with my small clan as they grew,  I fell out of the habit during years of post-grad study. By the time we took our first trip to Paris (back in 2005, a celebration of my PhD), I found myself deferring to Pater's confidence at airports and train stations--he'd been travelling so much for work that he'd earned Elite Traveller status-- and I tended to plan the trip, buy the tickets, and chose the daily destinations (elements of his work travel he could leave to administrative assistants, so was not nearly as good at as I).

At first, I was simply grateful for this division of labour, but over the ensuing years I found myself both defaulting more, assigning him responsibility for what I found the more stressful aspects of travel, and becoming more impatient when I intuited or suspected a better way but didn't say so in case I was wrong.  I know, not fair. . . Also, during those ensuing years, I was ageing. Duh. I know, but this made a difference in my confidence in subtle ways. And, honestly, I was so busy at work, facing enough challenges there, that I didn't need to take on more during vacation travel.

I've written before about the process of gradually losing, then deliberately recovering, some travel independence in the context of our long (41 years when I wrote that post,  44 this August) marriage (there are three posts in that series, which began with my reluctance to cycle alone in the city. I think nothing of doing this now, you'll be glad to know, but it was a surprisingly big hurdle at the time).

Three years later, I've made two solo trips to Rome, flown from there to Bordeaux where I settled in for a week on my own, taken the train, solo, from Bordeaux to Paris. And most recently, I flew to Paris separately from my husband at the beginning of December, meeting him at the hotel later the same day. Five weeks later, he flew back from Rome, and two days after that, I took the train from Roma Termini to Paris Gare de Lyon with an overnight stop at Chambéry, and enjoyed three days in Paris on my own before flying home.

Again, I'm aware of the eye-rolling out there. I'm not claiming my solo travel is particularly adventurous nor noteworthy -- Google "solo travel" or "solo travel female" and my travels look ridiculously tame. But acquiring my current comfort level with "solo female travel at a certain age" took some work, and some of you have asked me to write about the experience, so here we go. . .

Transcribed from my Journal, the Page Photographed above:

le 9 décembre, 2017

Et ça commence!
Flew out on my own, Air France (Paul's a bit later, through Heathrow). Decided to try checking bag & definitely easier at airport although could easily have found overhead space on plane.
90 minute delay for baggage loading to do with connecting flights, but only 45 minutes late. Seatmate an Indian man about my age or older -- very little chat, just enough. He's travelling on to India, from Paris.
Retrieved bag easily after long-ish wait at Border Patrol, then long walk to RER, bought ticket easily, train was an express to Gare du Nord. Only problem was trying to get out of St. Michel station -- turnstiles that take tickets are rare.
Walked to hotel with a few unintended detours--room not ready so lunch at Le Nemrod-Omelette Mixte. Then nap, long walk, and now I'm having early dinner at the other place. Just ordered Foie de Veau, something I only ever have here -- with a nice Brouilly. And a tisane-- Verveine Menthe-- to finish.

You might wonder why Pater and I took separate flights -- the problem was that he needed to get home earlier for meetings. I'd booked my flight to Paris first, assuming we'd both go Air France, but when we looked at the flights out of Rome, AF would have meant him waking at an ungodly hour for a crack-of-dawn flight. British Airways timing was better, and BA roundtrip the budget option (combining the one-ways of two different airlines ridiculously expensive). Luckily, I've flexed my solo-travel muscles enough the last few years that this wasn't an issue.

In fact, the best advice I could offer to anyone wanting to overcome reluctance or fear around solo travel is to do so incrementally. Flying into Paris, navigating my way through Charles de Gaulle, then taking the RER (regional train) into Paris, walking to the hotel -- this was relatively easy for me because I've flown into Paris so many times, taken all those steps, with Paul. I remember the way to the RER office where I know exactly what to say to buy my ticket; walking through Paris feels like coming home rather than confronting the streets of a strange city; I check into a hotel where they remember me from previous visits, welcome me warmly. It also helps that before I tried flying without Paul, I had a wonderful week with my sister -- so I got to test out my ability to navigate airport, RER, route-finding to hotel, with a companion who needed me to take the lead because I had more Paris experience.

Here in Vancouver this morning, it's raining -- as it has been for almost every morning of the past two weeks. The weather forecast shows nothing but the same right through 'til next Thursday. But I'm craving some outdoors today, some big trees or an expanse of water, notwithstanding the grey meeting grey at the horizon. . . So I'm off now to sort out some serious raingear for walking muddy trails. I have more to tell you about solo travel -- the train part, for example; and arriving in the dark at a train station in a city you've never visited before and in which you're going to find your way to a hotel; and some tactics around eating solo in restaurants (hint: take advice from Nike and Just Do It!).

Perhaps in the meantime, while I'm getting muddy and wet, you can comment below.  Ask me any questions you might have about the experiences I've related here. Tell me why you do or don't travel on your own, and whether you'd like to change that.  Do you have a reliable travel companion or not, and do you sometimes feel too dependent on him or her? What most intimidates you about managing the logistics at an airport, whether departing or arriving? And has this changed, with age? 
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