Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mother and Daughter and What We Wore . . . Handknit Style

 How about a Mom and Daughter in Matching Handknit Sweaters post?
Sadly, I wasn't smart enough quickly enough to get a photo with both of us wearing the sweaters at the same time (something we probably want to continue avoiding ;-) . . .

But I did recognize the blogging potential when my daughter came over to pick up the Birkin sweater I made earlier this year -- and wore often after modeling it for you here. She'd complimented me on the newer, more neutral version I'm wearing in these photos with my white jeans, bought-them-in-Bordeaux tan suede ankle boots, and M0851 bag. . .
 And I'd realized how perfectly my first Birkin suited her colouring, quickly calculated the ratio between my limited dresser space and the wear I'd get out of two very similar sweaters with striking design features. . . .

And offered it to her. . . .

 She accepted my offer with flattering alacrity.

 Perfect pairing, right?
Eventually, I will get a photo of us both wearing our sweaters, our turquoise blooms encircling our respective shoulders. . .

Watch for it! ;-)

The conversation continues to evolve over at my last post on the persistence of Monday morning list-making in my retired life -- I apologise for the shocking number of editing errors -- I've caught and revised most of those now, and I continue to read and try to keep up with your comments. My favourite part of blogging, despite the time it takes to facilitate. Thank you!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday's List: Begin as I Mean to Go On. . . Or Something Like That. . .

Although I'm beginning my fourth year of retirement this month (!), I still find that the rhythm of my life is influenced by the notion of Monday as the beginning of a "work" week -- I'm not being paid for my work anymore, and even when I was, that work was far from confined to any Monday to Friday schedule (nor did it stay within anything like 9-to-5 hours). Marking and reading and researching and planning classes sprawled over my weekends and evenings and into my vacation time, absolutely. But Monday-to-Friday was when I had to show up and perform, to stand in front of a room and lecture or facilitate a discussion, to sit in my office and meet with students, to cross campus for committee meetings. . .

I was fortunate enough that my work flowed from an interest I would have pursued anyway -- literature and stories, the way texts have meaning in a culture and also the way they give meaning to that culture, the relationships between construction (narration) and representation. So much of my work overlapped considerably with what I might consider play. Just as some of my play felt like work sometimes -- running, for instance, or my Pilates classes on days when I really didn't want to exercise; knitting, when I'd made a mistake on a pattern and had to rip back and redo; scrambling up a rocky slope, cranky and sweating, and terrified of falling, behind my indefatigable husband.

Still and all, as I said, I continue to feel, of a Monday morning, that I'm starting a new work week, and with that, I regularly have an impulse to sort out a list of what I'd like to accomplish, or what I'm looking forward to working on/playing at. Sometimes I make the list in order to ensure that I "pay myself first" -- that I prioritise something creative, perhaps, or simply give myself a replenishing three or four hours simply to read. Sometimes, the list serves to help me get some monkey or other off my back, to push me to make the phone call or the online registration or whatever's needed to complete some niggling administrative task so that I can stop waking up at 2 a.m. fussing about it.

It occurs to me today that this Monday morning list-making has a different weight in retirement -- it's both less and more urgent than it was when I was working for a salary. Less urgent, of course, because if I let this week be shaped by daily or hourly whim rather than be guided by a list (and let's be honest, I've done that regularly), nothing grinds to a halt). But more urgent, also, in that my weekly to-do list indicates rather clearly what's guiding me forward on some much bigger calendars.

Understand, first of all, that this to-do list sometimes exists only in my head, that I often fail to write it down. Also understand that it's ongoing and it includes many items that I know won't get downdone this week -- or necessarily in any given week.  What's more likely to happen is that I add items, when I get 'round to sitting down with my notebook, to an ongoing list which mixes Errands that must be done Soon! (or Pronto!) -- and I try to write those down because that action tends to harness the free-floating anxiety and make it manageable -- alongside Goals and Hopes and Commitments and Wouldn't-It-Be Funs. . .

Sometimes I'll be crossing off items three pages back in my little purple-covered notebook (3.5x5-ish) and adding to the list at the same time, with six or seven items persistently undone in between. (As a safeguard against losing sight of these, I circle the remaining item on a page if it's all that's holding me back from drawing a big X across a page that's been completely worked through). At some point, I'll let some of them go, drawing dark ink through them with a gesture that's as much absolution as regret.  Eventually, though, I do get to most of them.

Why so much chat about my list-making this Monday morning? Perhaps because I have three days with the place to myself (Pater off following lists of his own), and I'm wanting to spend them wisely. Partly because it's two weeks now since I finished the first (perhaps only) draft of a long manuscript I worked on for over a year, and it's time to wonder, "What's Next"? Partly because my Morning Pages the last two days have returned me to the question of what I want to do here, on the blog. A question that moves me into that space of discernment: what is work, for me, and what is play? What do I really want to do with the time I have? How much obligation is good for me? How much freedom? How much discipline? What's the balance between what I Should do and what I Must do, and how do I recognize the difference? (my daughter gave me Ella Luna's The Crossroads of Should and Must for Christmas year before last, and I recommend it as an engaging and provocative and creative way of "finding our passion."

Time to wrap this post up, though, so that I can get on with my list.

Some of the items, in case you're curious:

- Write 3 blog posts for the week; Try to complete 1 for reading blog as well
- Get back to the Gym!!! (Exclamation marks because I haven't been to the gym since that 'flu hit 3 weeks ago)
- Knitting -- sweater for N
- Journal sketches -- experiment with fountain pen and dry-brush.  .  . Also practise using the flexible nib
- Coffee Break Italian
- Italian, French drill with Duolingo
- Book eye and dental appointments
- Downtown to look for replacement black cardi for P
- Something in the mail for G and for S
- Urban sketching -- get organised and get out there!
- Find top to wear under new Fair Isle sweater
- Mend socks
- Pick up shoes from cobbler, drop off second pair for new Topys
- Get some photos printed (This one has been carried forward so often, it really needs to get to the top of the list or to be abandoned honestly. . .
- Book piano tuning
- Get notebook to keep notes for new writing project.

Okay, clearly that's not going to get done this week, probably not even this month, but I can obviously pick out several items to do today, and there are a few more that will be manageable within the week. I need to work them around the commitments in my day-planner, of course, but so far only this afternoon and Thursday morning are blocked out. Mondays an ideal time to block out time for the errands on my list, and that's what I'm going to do next. I'm thinking I should book those appointments and then sit down with my knitting and listen to my Italian podcast.

Also thinking that if I pack up my sketching gear, I could stop along the way to buy that new notebook. . .

And I've already written one of my three posts for this week. . . Now maybe you'll comment on this one, tell me, if you're already retired, whether Monday's still got that beginning-of-the-week feeling for you. Retired or not, do your lists tend to shape up on a daily, weekly, or longer-term time-frame? Does your list look anything like mine (with different activities and tasks, but a similar balance of work and play)?  How much "carry-forward" do you allow yourself? How much does your weekly list indicate your big-picture goals?

Friday, September 14, 2018

Five Things Friday

1. Turmeric Chai/Latte
I've been meaning to work more turmeric into my diet for its various health properties, particularly its anti-inflammatory super-powers. So when a pack of Turmeric Elixir caught my eye while I was re-upping the tea supply at Murchie's a few weeks ago, I brought it home with me. It sat in the cupboard for a week or so, until I resolved to try it as a replacement for my habitual afternoon tea, thinking it might be a good idea to dial down the post-noon caffeine. 

Pater and I both enjoyed our turmeric tea that afternoon -- I added a quarter cup of heated milk to each serving and a bit of honey. Enjoyed it enough that it became a bit of a ritual over the next week, until the package emptied. . . At which point, I trawled the 'net for a recipe or two, rummaged through the cupboards for the necessary ingredients, and have come up with a much less expensive, equally tasty, although slightly less convenient variety -- I just sliced a small knob of ginger into a saucepan, added a few peppercorns, a few cloves, a cinnamon stick, and shook in some ground cardamom and spilled in a teaspoon of turmeric, added enough water to make up our two mugs, and brought it to a boil, then turned the heat down and let it all simmer for about ten minutes.

When it seemed ready, I added in a good dollop of milk, a teaspoon or so of coconut oil, and the same of honey. I added the milk and oil mainly because I'd read something about their contribution to the bio-availability of the turmeric's good stuff. My science may be questionable. . .

I plan to pick up some turmeric root at our local grocery store later today, and will use that next time instead of the powder, but yesterdays' drink was a pleasant substitute for my usual Ceylon Select.

Have you tried Turmeric Chai or Turmeric Latte or a simpler Turmeric Tea? Do you make up your own? Have any suggestions? Or scoff at the trend? (which I'll admit I could easily do in a pinch ;-)

2. Nutritional Yeast Dressing
There will be no scoffing at all, however, at the deliciousness and sheer efficacy of the nutritional yeast dressing we were introduced to at my son and daughter-in-law's last week. I'd heard about nutritional yeast but it had never graced my pantry. But Z and J served us up a Buddha Bowl (brown rice complemented by sautéed mushrooms, charred broccoli, julienned raw beets and carrots, pumpkin seeds, pea shoots) made I-can't-stop-eating by the dressing we drizzled over it all.
He sent me this link afterwards, and then I did some poking around online for other versions with slightly different proportions and/or ingredients, and I ended up making a version closer to this.

Seriously, a tablespoon or two of this will turn whatever's in the "crisper" drawer of your fridge into a yummy meal, especially if you mix it up with the leftover whole grain you tucked away in that Tupperware container. . . . Hence my using the noun "efficacy" as one of the dressing's qualities. . .

Have you tried it? Will you? And tell me, have you learned some great recipes or culinary tips from your kids? That phenomenon is at least as delicious as this dressing, truly. . . .

3. New Shoes
I really could leave this photo wordless, couldn't I? Except I'd like you to know that these were comfortable from the get-go. Officine Creative made them, Gravity Pope sold them to me, and the cobbler down the road is going to put a Topy sole on them next week to protect them from our rainy sidewalks -- and yes, I'll also spray some protection over that blush-pink impracticality. But honestly, I'm looking forward to them getting a bit of patina on them, and I'm hoping not to be upset by a stain or two. . . .

4. New What-Shall-We-Call-It

We spend a few (too many) hours in this room watching Netflix together, often eating dinner while catching up with a favourite show. Being short of stature, I find I'm much more comfortable if I can put my feet up, and we've been making do with a leather ottoman we brought from our old house. Trouble is, it's big enough that it has to be moved down to storage when we open that sofa into a bed for guests -- and then it can take a while for it to get brought back up again. Plus it's just not the right proportion for the space.

So we've been making do, but keeping an eye out, and the other day, my guy made it a mission to solve the problem. Honestly, when I saw the effort he was putting into looking online (and I realized there might be a gap between our respective aesthetics regarding a solution), I got into the act and researched the possibilities offered by a cool design shop up the road.  That oak tabletop lifts off easily, but stays in place thanks to a lip in the metal basket base. The what-should-we-call-it shifts into the corner very accommodatingly. And there's all that storage space in the basket, although right now, we prefer leaving it empty for a less cluttered look and to let the rug show through.

And in case you're wondering where His feet rest while mine are happily supported by that oak disc. . . . we've ordered a second, so there will be a His and a Hers what-should-we-call-it. . . .

5. Watercolour Drop-Ins

And finally, the watercolour drop-in mornings have begun again at the local botanic garden, so my fall begins to take on a more structure schedule.  I appreciate the instruction and the motivation and the inspiration I get from these drop-ins, and perhaps just as much, I enjoy the relaxed social atmosphere.

Yesterday, I bypassed all the vases with stems of flowers or berries or ornamental leaves the volunteer put together  for us, and I chose instead to make a simple arrangement of three Cornus kousa (Korean dogwood) berries.

And then I was flummoxed by how to indicate something about the various planes/angles of those stems. . . Our instructor sat beside me, though, and demonstrated (on her own sheet of paper) how she would show the relief through shadow.

Then she left me to try it on my own while she went off to help someone else. I haven't got it yet, but I'm on my way. . . .

So. Friday, here we are, poised at the weekend.
Any plans? Any comments? Any questions?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Watercolours in the Kitchen. . . Shall We Speak of Bread and Apples?

I continue to practice what I learned from my friend Alison about painting a loaf of bread -- not because I have any particular interest in bread representation in the future. I'm pretty close to having exhausted the number of loaves I really want to sketch -- and probably well past the number you wish to see here.

But the lessons I'm learning as I practice are transferable lessons -- mostly about mixing colour (I'm fascinated to see the way that a red, blue, and yellow come together to offer that hue of the bread's interior -- and, as I've learned, this is the same kind of mixing that will get me flesh tones as well, just varying proportions as necessary).

I'm also trying to fold in some experimenting with composition -- I don't think that including the brotform or banneton (the cane basket the loaves rise/ferment in, that they take their shapes from) was particularly effective in this sketch, but I'm pleased with the knife.

Mostly, though, I'm simply trying to choose a sketching subject (as close to daily as possible) and get on with it. Yes, I post the results here often, but my little sketchbooks are really just for me, a way of recording what's happening in my life. So I give myself permission to make errors (the colour of the brotform, my quick decision to paint its coil-lines so loosely). . . .

 And then I add my text (using one of my fountain pens, choosing the ink colour for an appealing contrast) -- and as soon as I do, I find myself pleased with the finished page. Not that I'm not aware of where it could be improved. But I'm still pleased. . . .

Let me transcribe my red writing for you, before I share a second example:

Top right: September 10, 2018, Started the week by baking the two loaves of Fig Anise Sourdough that I made up Saturday (they've been slow-fermenting in the fridge since then). My bread-sketching skills are not keeping pace with my bread-baking, but there is some improvement.
Top left: Banneton or brotform -- although perhaps it looks more like a beehive here!
Above the knife, from the left margin: Now that the bread's been baked, tested, sketched, it's almost lunchtime, but first I'm going to practise my Italian and my French (placement test this p.m.)
Below the knife: I think we bought this knife at Dehellerin, in Paris, quite a few years ago--back when we were still checking luggage. . . No knives allowed in carry-on!
Bottom right: Currently reading Michael Ondaatje's Warlight.

And another page, this one from a larger sketchbook (whose pages are not watercolour paper but which do tolerate a light wash). . . see? it's not all bread, all the time, around here. There are apples as well (harvested from our terrace garden!)

Again, a transcription:

Top right: September 11, 2018. I've been reading Mike Yoshiaki Daikubara's book Sketch Now Think Later. It's intended for urban sketching, but I thought I'd play with some of his tips at home. . . Mostly what I tried here is leaving some of the sketch without colour, then using that space for text. 
Top left: Ah, the sweet scent, the association of cinnamon added by my olfactory imagination.
Bottom left, perpendicular: After I posted a photo of our small apple harvest on Instagram, a "Follower" suggested the apples would make a great subject for a painting . . . 
In the Apples. 1st apple, on the left: Scarlet Sentinel Apples -- The tree was planted Spring 2017 & yielded 5 or 6 apples that first harvest.
2nd apple: This year, perhaps thanks to "our" mason bees, the harvest is closer to 20 apples, enough for several pies.
Bottom of the page: I tried to keep this quick and loose -- I had difficulty getting the proportions & positions of the apples accurate[ly] but decided that wasn't so much the point here. As well, this paper is only suited to a very light wash of watercolour.

That's it for today -- I hope you've enjoyed this foray into my kitchen and my sketchbooks. Comments and questions always welcome. . .

Monday, September 10, 2018

Weekend Doings: The Bard and The Beatles and The Big Little Mistake. . .

I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon, so that I'll have it ready to post Monday morning. As soon as I finish, we'll be heading to a performance of As You Like It at Bard on the Beach (a production set in the 1960s and accompanied with Beatles music. Purists may not approve, but I know from experience this will be much fun although it will certainly slash Shakespeare's words to make room for those Beatles tunes).

Would it surprise you to know that we headed to the same performance on Saturday night? Yes, yes we did. Walked the whole way (about four kilometres) there -- a pleasant enough walk, scarcely had to put the umbrellas up -- and were pleased to be there fifteen or so minutes early. Worked our way up the line to have my e-tickets scanned, wondered a bit at the problem the usher was having with her little scanner, tried to enlarge the QR code box for her except that she was trying to tell me something about a problem with the ticket. Which, of course, I knew there wasn't, so I was smiling and staying patient until I noticed that the date included the word "Sunday." And we were still on Saturday.

Uh-oh. . . . Apparently, the show was sold out, but we could have waited to see if they could accommodate us, except that our tickets for tonight--Sunday night!-- are actually quite good tickets, not likely to be available on a sold-out night.

So Saturday evening, we had a lovely long walk (yes, there AND back!) and called it a date. . . . Not completely convinced of its romantic possibilities, mind you, and my feet were really sore by the time I got home (did I ever tell you that I really banged my toe week before last, banged it so the whole top of my foot, instep and all, went all purple-y and a bit nasty, and it still gets sore if I walk too much (and maybe even more sore if I walk somewhere with hopes of watching a play, but then have to walk home again without having watched that play).

As I said, then, we're going to a performance of As You Like It shortly, and by the time you read this on Monday morning, let's hope we got there and our tickets were good and the play was just as delightful as the reviews promise. . . . Edited just before posting to add that the performance was brilliant, as much of a Beatles revue as of the Shakespeare play, but doing (slightly truncated) justice to the latter. Physical comedy and musical ability and skilful acting and clever set and costumes and much audience delight were ample throughout -- I think the bard would have given it two thumbs up.

In case you're wondering, I've decided to wear exactly what I wore Saturday -- my dark blue velvet shirtdress (Vince), those metallic-gold MOMA Oxfords, a dark-brown faux-fur vest, and my chocolate-gold beads. But the fellow who takes pretty good care of me (thank you, Pater!) insists that we take the car this evening in deference to my cranky foot. . . .

Before I go, though, may I share a couple of recent annoyances, just to demonstrate how petty I can be?

A favourite stationery shop here in town -- it sells the most beautiful papers from all over the world --  that uses the hashtag #stationary, in almost all their Instagram posts -- yeah, really!!

And the Guided Meditation (I've recently downloaded an app, and overall, I'm finding it a very good way to slow down, catch my breath, and remind my shoulders where they belong) which had me visualize a stream, the burbling water, the grass around, and then asked me to imagine the "ebb and flow" of the stream -- huh?? Is this a stream or a body of tidal water? -- and then to picture lilies in the stream -- well, first of all, lilies generally don't grow in streams, what with their preference for having their roots in still water -- but then I'm supposed to mentally place each potentially disruptive thought, as it arises, on a lily and then watch it float down the stream -- Counter-productive, that particular meditation, and although the fellow had a lovely, soothing voice, I won't be listening to it again. Picky, yes I am. . .

Since we've drifted a bit into random with this post, I'll share a What a Wore photo with you and then I'd better be off. . .
 I wore this last week, in transitional weather (still sunny enough for the shades, but cool enough for a sweatshirt and jeans).  According to the weather forecast, I don't need to bother carrying sunglasses around for the next week. . . .

I wouldn't bother showing you this second photo except that it amuses me that our 3-year-old grandson identifies this feline as a Fox each time I wear this, although he's begun to correct himself. . . (sweatshirt is by All Saints; I really like the relaxed fit, especially the non-hugging, split hem, slightly more length at the back)
Okay, now I'm done. . . . Hope your weekend was good and that the week ahead is shaping up to be decent as well.  . .

Now tell me, what calendar snafus have you made? This mix-up wasn't nearly as dramatic as the time I missed a whole transAtlantic flight, but perhaps you have a dramatic story about a time you showed up on the wrong date . . . . 

Friday, September 7, 2018

New Sweater -- Handknit!

Good morning!

I have a honking big cold sore on my lower lip that testifies to how busy this week's been and how fatigued it's left me -- but it's all been good stuff  -- hanging out with the grandkids here, visiting the Victoria crew and showing their folks how to make sourdough bread. long text conversations with a niece adjusting to university residence life far from home. . . .

 And the week's not done yet. I have a ticket for a breakfast lecture this morning, but yesterday afternoon a friend texted to say she's finally freed her schedule for the Art Gallery-and-lunch visit we've been trying to coordinate for weeks. Both activities fit into the agenda logistically, so I'm going to try to make both (no question about the friend meet-up, that's a great big Yes!) and hope that doesn't undo all the good healing achieved by last night's sleep. . .
 Long and short: life's good, life's full, life's busy, but whoah! Something's gotta give! And today, again, apparently it's the blog. . . . I'm working on that for next week, when I hope to be right back on track, but meanwhile, photos will have to suffice again.
Photos of the sweater I finally finished last week, the last inch of cuff having waited all summer for me to sit down. . .

And yes, these are moody, summer-evening photos with an uneven mix of light-and-shadow. I'll get you better photos later of the sweater, worn in an outfit, even. But for now, here's my second Birkin, this one in a gentler palette than my first (which I still love, but which may go to a daughter who expressed some admiration. . . )

Sorry, really have to run now. Chat soon. . . .

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Late Summer, Dressed Up and Walking. . . What I Wore. . .

I might have done a bit too much over the weekend, and the fatigue and cough pushed me back into a chair, with a book, yesterday.

It was worth it, though. Both Saturday and Sunday's events -- a performance of a contemporary riff on Lysistrata at Bard on the Beach Saturday and dinner at a friend's on Sunday -- called for a bit of dress-up. The dress-up, though, had to keep in mind that we were walking about 4 kilometres to each event, and outfits also needed to consider the cooler evenings we're beginning to enjoy here at the tag-end of summer.

And this is what I came up with

Saturday evening,
navy lightweight cashmere pull (Bompard) and this skirt -- 10 years old now! -- is the same one I wore here. In that post, you'll see I accessorized it then with the same chocolate-gold beads, the same crackle-finish metallic oxfords.

But this might be the first time I've ever worn it with bare legs. Probably won't be the last, though -- I rather like the practicality and the look itself, in this transitional weather, anyway -- it was just too warm to consider tights.
There are certainly bags or clutches that would have been chicer or more elegant with this combo, but walking comfortably was important so I opted for this small cross-body M0851 that used to be Pater's. . .

Similar parameters for Sunday evening -- it was still quite warm -- 21-ish, when we set out, and that scarf/shawl (tissueweight cashmere -- Bompard) got unwrapped very quickly, carried over my arm.
But I would have shivered all the way home if I hadn't brought it. That tunic (All Saints, bought in Paris with my sister three years ago -- I wore it as a dress here) is a very light and breezy silk.

The white jeans (One Teaspoon) are not the perfect pair of white jeans, but they're not bad -- I'd prefer no distressing, and I'd prefer not to have little zippers at the ankles, and I debated replacing them this year, but in the end I decided they're just fine.
For comfortable walking, I grabbed this pair of metallic silver Fluevog loafers that I keep coaxing one more wear out of (five years old with at least 5000 kilometres on the clock ;-). And grabbed a clutch this time, for variety's sake -- this one's Club Monaco, at least eight years old. . . .

It felt good to be able to pull these late-summer slightly dressy looks out of my closet, I must say. The only things newer than three years old in these photos are the oxfords in the top outfit and the orange watch-strap (in both).  It also felt good to move toward the expanded possibilities of Autumn outfits with a wider range of textures and weights and colours.

And I'm thinking about Fall's expanded possibilities in other ways as well -- Two granddaughters head back to school today, and my twin nieces begin their first university year way across the country from each other. I've just put together the itinerary for some solo travel late in November, and before that, I think I'm going to sign up for a class or two (right now I'm thinking language and more sketching).

What about you? Fall wardrobe? Fall plans? Resisting or Embracing the transition? Trying to wear as much of your summer wardrobe as you can in Summer's Last Gasp, like my friend Sue?(Or are you heading into Spring where you live?) Classes you're looking forward to? Trips you're planning? New volunteer activities you're excited about taking on? Do tell. . . .The mic's all yours. . . 
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