Tuesday, October 22, 2019

October: Relief and Contentment in the Rainy City. . .

I'm just going to chat at you this morning, and hope that you won't mind a bit of rambling. We had a busy weekend with Italian class and visiting friends; Cirque du Soleil's Luzia was, literally, spectacular (c'est un spectacle!); and I was reminded of just how much energy it takes for an introvert to be social.

And then yesterday's federal elections here in Canada. . . and the relief of last night's results. I knew I'd been anxious about the possibility of what I see as some big steps backward. I scarcely ever mention politics on this blog (although mine can probably be intuited by the astute reader), nor do I intend to take it up, but you will probably know that our PM has made some serious gaffes, has disappointed, even betrayed. The party on the right, however. . . .

Nope. Not going to go there. I started to, but it's all been deleted.  As I said, though, I knew I'd been anxious going into the election; I don't think I'd realized quite how anxious until I savoured the relief last night. We're moving forward, and I'm breathing with more hope than despair this morning. I've been awake since 5, up since 5:15. Sipped my hot lemon-honey water, scrolled through my Instagram feed, wrote for an hour, and then sat here on the couch with a cup of tea and watched the sky. Heavy, dark, and grey, it was, with just a narrow band of brightness at the horizon. Then the wind. Leaves sprinting across our terrace at my eye level, the blades of the Japanese Blood Grass churning in their container on the small front balcony, water being flung ferociously from the fountain (oooh, alliteration!). . . And the clouds being shifted in the heavens. Not so solid anymore, and they've pulled further from the earth, making room for a deeper expanse of blue sky. It's looking like a good day for a walk. . .

Last night, as the election results were being telegraphed across the country, rain was pelting down. The roof below me, across the alley, features a large puddle soon after any precipitation, and the streetlight shines on the drops hurtling down, the ones bouncing back out. Heavily, last night. . . a 30-40 millimetres-of-rain day, apparently. More, it was dark and windy, and it struck me as the first dark and stormy night of the fall rainy season. . . .And with that recognition, I was transported momentarily to the island, to the years and years of such stormy nights . . Teaching an evening class through the fall or winter semester regularly meant a boat ride through rough waters followed by cycling the dark and muddy road, my back spattered with dirt flung up from the puddles I didn't see until too late, my vision obscured as raindrops rolled down the lenses of my glasses,  hair quickly soaked. books and bags wrapped tightly in their paniers.

Even when I was grumbling heartily, I loved the adventure, the drama, of life on the island, and there's no question that the adventure heightened the comfort of being indoors by the woodstove. But last night I was content to be here, just here, in the relatively anodyne ease of my urban condo, recollecting, reminiscing. . . . And I thought I'd share that contentment with you, in this ramble of a post.

Now for some visual entertainment, courtesy of my urban life, where there are delights and surprises whether you are looking up . . . .
 I took these photos of a nearby mural back at the beginning of September and keep forgetting to post them. I'm so pleased that newer buildings are willing to host mural art on their walls alongside their older neighbours. . . . And impressed by the logistics involved.
 An aerial view on the Australian artist Fintan Magee's Instagram gives a much better image of the entire painting.
 Looking down also has its rewards in the city. . . . my visiting friend and I were out for a walk in the neighbourhood in Friday afternoon's light drizzle, and in front of an older three-storey apartment building was a surprising array of Amanita muscari (Fly Agaric) mushrooms. The classic "toadstool" of fairy/folk tale illustrations, these were gorgeously hued, seductively textured, and given their toxic (and hallucinogenic) properties, alarmingly appealing.

A resident who saw us marvelling at the fungi stopped to chat -- he'd been impressed as well, having never seen them before in over 25 years living in the building.
 I remember a few such beauties near my Teaching Assistant office at University of British Columbia campus back in the mid '90s, but certainly not in such abundance, and I haven't seen any in the flesh since, until these. . . .
This one (above) was as large as a bread plate. . . .
I'll have to stroll over there today and see what remains. . . .

And with that, I think it's time to push away from the keyboard and get outside. If you're interested, I posted yesterday on my book blog, where I'm still back in August's reading, but catching up. . .

I have something new for you next post, if all works out. An idea for us to learn a bit more about each other, for you readers to get better acquainted. . . Be sure to stop by. . .

Meanwhile, though, I welcome your responses to any of my musings today. . . .and if you only have time to wave hello, I welcome that greeting as well.
xo,
f


Friday, October 18, 2019

Five on Friday, The Gamut: Fuchsia Berries to New Jumpsuits to Yummy Food to . . .

I have every intention (I know, I know, road to hell, paving, all that. . . ) of posting something more thoughtful, even substantial, one of these days. But wow! Fall is Busy!!

And we have house guests this weekend -- as my GF says, we're having a pyjama party! Her husband has organized tickets to Cirque du Soleil's Luzia, and we'll have a few easy meals together (pizza; coffee and muesli; something small-plates somewhere Spanish; coffee and croissant). So I'm cleaning this morning, doing laundry, and for some odd reason, making up another batch of bread. Oh, and I made up a batch of sourdough pancakes, most of which will go in the freezer for future breakfasts. . .

All of which means that the best I can do this morning is offer up a Five on Friday. Very random and domestic and quotidian, but we're mostly good with that, right? We know it's the underpinning and undercurrent of the more contemplative, even the more cerebral. We know that whole Mind-Body separation is a false dichotomy perpetrated by The Patriarchy, right? Just kidding. . . (defensively? am I rationalizing? Whatever. . . .)

Okay, now that the throat-clearing's done, shall I get on with it?

1.  Friday's first Show-and-Tell item is this cardigan (above). I've made a bit more progress since I snapped that photo -- one sleeve's close to complete now and I'll start the second one this weekend. My goal with this project has been to knit up the stash of leftovers I'd somehow accrued in the three years since we moved (having divested myself of a very large such stash when downsizing).  Some days, I'm quite keen on the colours I plucked from my leftovers; other days I wonder if I'll ever be energetic enough to wear this (indoors, sure, but take it outside?)

But then this ad from the British brand Toast popped up on my IG feed, and while I won't pretend my sweater meets those lofty design standards, I do think we might share a zeitgeist. . . . Autumnal stripes are okay. . .


2.  Just quickly, to show you that I have managed a bit of sketching lately.  Top of my list a few weeks ago was to assemble a mini-sketch-kit; second on the list was to sketch with it, out of doors. . .
I finally managed this on a walk in Oak Bay last week. Sketched one of the impressive older homes, peering over its hedge and stone wall, surrounded by a variety of tall trees. I sat on a bench across the road, trying to get caught up in the drawing and painting and not feel too self-conscious. . . .

3.  A few weeks ago, I posted a photo of the fuchsia plants on our terrace, and I mentioned that I'd just read that fuchsia berries are edible. (In the photo below,  the dark berry at low centre is ripe, the one at the right edge, centre, probably won't have time to mature now the colder days are here). I've since eaten a few and had the oldest grandkid and the Granddad try them as well (yes, I waited until I didn't die before I let the Not-So-Little experiment -- and she knows all the safety stuff about eating wild). And they're good! Next year, I'll take more advantage of them, perhaps use them to decorate cakes or enliven a salad. This has been a Public Service Announcement ;-)
4. I mostly leave the kitchen to Pater these days, at least for our evening meal. But I saw a suggestion for roasted beets served with a dollop of sour cream, then topped with chives and roe, on Laura Calder's IG feed -- as she does, I roast the beets whole, drizzled in olive oil, then wrapped in foil. I usually trim the stems and root, but I liked the way she left them on -- I scrubbed carefully first, of course, making sure any grit was gone, but also reminded myself that the roasting time would kill any lurking microbes.
 Fish roe's not for everyone, for a variety of reasons (expense, taste, accessibility). I like it and so does the main cook here, but I thought I could get a similar effect with Pater's house-made tapenade (black olives, anchovies, a bit of olive oil, pulverized/blended, but not too. . . )

And instead of the sour cream, I used crème fraîche. . .
 I served it with the beet greens (chopped coarsely, then sautéed in bit of olive oil in which a chopped-up garlic clove has first been lightly sautéed)
and with a Lemony Mushroom Risotto made with cremini mushrooms and some gorgeous dried mushrooms a good friend brought from France when she stayed here a few weekends ago.
5. Finally, and I really need to get going -- these floors aren't going to wash themselves! -- I will confess to a little fall garment-shopping. Both that burgundy-striped T-shirt (Minimum Essentials) and the olive linen jumpsuit (Seek Shelter) are recent purchases, and I'm pleased that both were bought in a local shop and they're both made by companies that take environmental and ethical responsibility seriously -- Seek Shelter is a local (Vancouver Island, BC) company; garments designed and made on the island. I love the statement on their About page that "each cut honours the architecture of the body, making space for women to move, play, and work. Huzzah!!

 I've been looking for another jumpsuit, a bit more fitted than the one I wear through the summer. . . . I don't do well in garments that are belted at the waist (I'm really short-waisted--plus increasingly, I'm finding that my G-E Reflux is exacerbated by confining waists) -- this one has elastic gathering at the back of the waist, which gives the "bottom" some shape and is flattering enough.
PLus, can you tell it makes me feel insouciant? Always a good thing, in my book. . .
 I like the way it layers with my Strodie pullover, one of my favourite handknits ever.
 A silk scarf from Club Monaco, way back. . .
 The classic wool coat (Fleurette) I bought last year and expect to wear out, unless I go first. . . .
In fact, I loved wearing this wool coat last week, loved the warmth of my lined leather gloves, enjoyed popping on a beret. . . .
Not so keen on the raincoat and umbrella and rainboots I need these days, but at least I'm not in full snow gear as some of my compatriots have been already. . . .

Okay, so that's Five this Friday. It's been fun, lately, reading what the rest of you have been up to as you respond to that question when I've posed it at the end of recent posts. (Breaking News: More sharing of readers' thoughts to be featured here soon. Watch for it!) So let me ask you again, as I head into my weekend. What's up with you? What are you doing today or planning for the weekend? (or, of course, I'm keen to read comments otherwise connected to the post). . . .

Your turn,
Happy Weekend!




Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A View From the Beach. . . .Local Travel

 Rain has settled in here, unpacked its bags, looked around, decided it might stay a while. At least a week. . . .

So I'm going to reminisce about sunshine, crisp fall sunshine, temperatures that demand a coat and gloves but blue skies above. . .

More photos from our getaway last week to Oak Bay Beach Hotel in Victoria, BC. Pater had a conference call scheduled, so I made a quick jaunt to a nearby bay
 Stopping for photos along the way
 because I just can't resist.
And why should I? I take copious photos when I'm travelling in Europe, but right here at home there's so much beauty. . . .
 And sharing it pleases me, extends the little joys outward. . . .
 Imagine if we could sit in those picturesque chairs together, chatting. . . .
 To be honest, I wouldn't recommend it -- they're pronouncedly decrepit, and I doubt they'd hold our coffee cups, never mind our own weight. . .
 But what a view we'd enjoy, once we'd picked ourselves up from the collapsed seat. . . (you might notice a hint of melancholy, or just nostalgia, on my face, as if I've happened to remember these chairs. . . .
 We wouldn't need to chat much, just look and listen. . . That crow can chatter for us and the waves will entertain and relax us with their gentle susurration. . .
 Again, as in my last post, few words are needed. . . .

Which is good, because I need to save mine for efforts elsewhere, along with any brainpower I might have left after my presentation in French class yesterday evening. Who would think that a seven-minute presentation could take three hours of preparation? (Should you be curious, I presented on Jean-Christophe Rufin's novel Les Sept Mariages d'Edgar et Ludmilla -- highly recommended if you read French.)

Plans for today include a haircut,
writing a blog post, going for a run (might also be struck through if the rain stays heavy!), adding words to a much-neglected draft, moving summer clothes into storage boxes and fall sweaters into drawers. . . and momentarily, rustling up some breakfast.

What about you? 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Thanksgiving and a Tiny Forest. . . .

 It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada -- Thanksgiving Day is officially on Monday, but our family, like many others, generally gathers for the turkey on Sunday, so that we have all day Monday to unwind and enjoy the leftovers before the work week begins again. . .

And after decades during which the Saturday before Thanksgiving entailed carting home many bags of groceries and so much potato-peeling and brussels-sprout-trimming and turkey stuffing and pastry-making. . . we have the luxury this Saturday of anticipating a delicious meal at our daughter's home tomorrow. Six adults and three kids will chow down very contentedly, and then Nana and Granddad will go home to a house where not a pot or pan needs to be scrubbed and there's nary a wine nor gravy stain to be coaxed from a napkin or tablecloth. . . .There will be a touch of melancholy, perhaps, some nostalgia over those years long gone when little ones still needed their bedtime stories before the dinner clean-up could be tackled. We'll be a bit sorry not to have the turkey leftovers (sorry enough that we'll probably buy a small turkey and roast it up sometime in the next few weeks.

But mostly, we'll be very thankful for our good fortune.
And today, I'm enjoying the time to reflect on our two-day getaway to Victoria, on Vancouver Island. Our son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren live there, and we were missing the little ones. Youngest has recently moved into the bedroom that used to be a guest room, and the basement reno encompassing a new guest space currently awaits bureaucratic approval. So we checked into a nearby spa hotel (that's sunrise from our room, in the photo above -- and you can see the hot-pool from which we admired the full moon one frosty night), and we're thinking this might become a happy tradition.

Not quite a Staycation, because it does require a 90-minute ferry ride (and then 25-minute drive), but close enough . . .

The weather was spectacular -- flirting with frost at night, and crisp sunshine during the day. I'm surprised how pleasurable it was to wear my wool coat again after so many months (and quite sure this pleasure is time-limited).

 We went for walks together, admiring local sculpture (the metal wolves are chasing a deer, which I failed to spot until I'd put the camera away -- you'll have to imagine it)
 And I did some solitary ambling as well, when the thrower of that long shadow was busy tele-conferencing. . . .

Just across from the hotel is a Native-Plant Garden
 a patch of wild-ness in the middle of a gracious residential neighbourhood. . . .
 Perfect for forest bathing (shinrin-yoku is the Japanese term for the therapy developed there in the 1980s)
 You
 really
 don't
 need
 more words
 from me, to understand this. Do you?

And after a spot of forest-bathing, that sensibility is awakened, and I see echoes of the forest . . . as in the hotel hallway, where a shaft of sunshine next to a wood-paneled column recalls patterns of sunlight on a tree trunk. . .
I have more photos to share from our getaway, but I have an appointment with a small flamenco dancer shortly, so I must run. Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers and Happy Saturday to all of you. . . And may there be some forest-bathing in your days, some sunshine too.
xo,
f

Monday, October 7, 2019

Monday, Looking Forward, Looking Back . . . with sketches. . .

One of you clever readers (I've just looked back to check: it was Barbara of Coastal Ripples) commented at my post of two Mondays ago that she's adopted a more relaxed schedule and pace for Mondays. That after what tends to be the busy-ness of a family weekend, Mondays offer a chance to take stock of the week ahead before the pace picks up again with a plethora of activities.

Barbara's approach seems wise to me -- especially the notion of building in some stock-taking time.-- after coming out of a weekend that included
- catching up, mornings and evenings, with a good friend who stayed with us while teaching a painting course in town
- our Saturday morning Italian class (for two and a half hours, our poor little brains straining to keep up)
- a couple of hours cycling to a favourite spot on Sunday morning ( little photo-story about that here if you're interested)
- a Stretch class late on Sunday afternoon. So good. . . .

I find this idea of stock-taking especially relevant right now as I've got my new workspace set up and have almost finished sorting a chaotic archaeology of personal and family artifacts. Too many ideas careening around my cranium. The ideas and I deserve some quiet time, I think, while I imagine credible ways they might take form. How will I find time for them amidst the French and Italian classes and the fitness time and the beloved grandkids time and the novel delight I've found in retirement of making time, once again, for friends?

Interestingly, I saw something on Instagram this morning that struck me as relevant to these questions.  An artist had suffered a setback via a technological problem which meant that her plan for making prints available was now going to be more trouble than it was worth. She'd wisely resolved to stop fussing, let that series of prints (the first she'd planned to make available) go and look forward to digitizing her next series instead. All laudable, but what I was less sure about was the Aphorism scripted in one of those photogenic fonts in a pretty colour against a trendy-neutral background:  "Don't Look Back; You're Not Going That Way." There was probably a very cute GIF as well. . . .

Obviously, this advice makes sense for the context (although I suspect that some looking back to say whether, and how, the technological problem could have been avoided might not be amiss). But these days, for me, are feeling very much about consolidation of my past as something like inspiration for, and guidance of, my future. Back to the Future, as it were. . .

Not sure if these musings make much sense to you or resonate at all. But going forward, I'm hoping to include some rear-mirror views. 

For example (and to keep my Monday morning simpler by tucking in some ready-made content), here's something you've already seen, augmented by a new iteration. . .

Back in July, I showed you the (unpainted) sketch of a Citroën 2CV we'd seen a month or so earlier,  parked against a stone wall on a very rainy day in St. Emilion.
 I was frustrated at the sketch (which was done from a photo taken that rainy May day in Bordeaux), but determined to keep trying. I added watercolour, and then I turned the page of my travel journal to try again.
 Honestly, I didn't think it was any better, but I thought a bit about how naïve it was to think I'd "get it" on a second try. I thought about the "10,000 hours" that supposedly are needed to build mastery of a craft (never mind where the art, the vision, might come from), confronted the 9, 872 I probably still needed to accumulate, and turned another page. Not before adding watercolours, though, and this time I decided I could play with those.  Since my Citroën's a very long way from photorealist, why not take liberties with the background colours as well.

And finally, I had the happy notion to incorporate some of the comments my readers made about this iconic French car.  So I drew yet another car, not obviously better than its predecessors, but at some level the looking and assessing and mark-making is carving out neural pathways, no? May I hope?

For this version, I tried to mix my colours as close to those in the photo as possible, but I didn't bother with detail beyond that of the car. . .

And because you inspired me, I'm sharing all three pages as I consolidate my thoughts this Monday morning, digging back through my archives as I move forward.

Thoughts? Do you also turn to the past as inspiration for moving forward? Or do you tend to think there's too much danger of getting stuck? (And if you'd argue that it's hardly an either/or situation, I'll admit I'm with you). 

Meanwhile, here today, it's as rainy a day as it was back in St. Emilion last May. A good day to stay inside, consolidate, relax. . . and read (I've just begun Elizabeth Gilbert's City of Girls, and so far it's very entertaining). Some French homework to do first, so I'd better sign off.
Your turn now -- the mic's open.
xo


Friday, October 4, 2019

Fall Friday Five -- Garden Blooms, OOTDS, No Sealing Wax Nor Cabbages. . . .

 Miscellany 'r' Us today, because
1. I've a five-hour roundtrip jaunt to take a girlfriend out for birthday lunch. All on public transit (except for the part I'll be transported by Shank's Mare), so I'll have some welcome reading time.

2.What will I be reading? Red Rooms, by Cherie Dimaline. I unearthed it from a pile of books when I was sorting and culling books a few weeks ago. On its cover was stuck a yellow post-it note on which a colleague of mine had written "Frances, For your pile of leisure reading! Happy Days!" Yes, she'd underlined "leisure reading," no doubt with, hmm, not so much envy because she was still energetic and enthusiastic in her teaching and research, but rather with anticipation of the day when she might indulge. So it's a bit embarrassing that only now, at the beginning of my fifth year of retirement, am I finally turning her gift's pages.

3. Above, an outfit that well represents what I've been wearing these last few weeks of transitional weather, as does the one in the photo below. I bought that faux-fur vest on sale seven years ago, dubious about giving in to such an obvious trend. As it turns out, I wear it numerous times throughout the fall and have not yet felt dated in it, and it's so useful. Glad I didn't leave it behind in Bordeaux three autumns ago when it formed part of my Ten Weeks, One Carry-On Wardrobe.

I'm pleased to note that there are only two relatively new items in the two OOTDS here -- the black sneakers (a few weeks old) and that cotton-linen navy skirt (bought this spring).  The black folk-embroidered dress is another I contemplate giving away, but I still enjoy wearing it a few times through the fall and winter. . . .

4. And now a very quick garden tour. . .
 As the kids say, these chrysanthemums are LIT! The pink-burgundy (are they magenta? With a hit of sunshine they come close). Pater brought those home the other day for the little balcony directly in front of our sitting area where we need something to soften the view of the hydro lines and rooftops across the lane.

The 'mums below are from pots that served the same purpose in previous years and then got moved to the bigger terrace, where they thrived well enough to cheer us again this autumn. . . .

 This one's sleepier than her cousins. . . .just beginning to stretch into action. . . .

And this one's actually a considerably deeper colour than the rust of the one above. It skews closer to burgundy, but it's on the ground under a tree canopy and I have a tough time photographing it.

Other features right now include the seeds -- these maple keys. . .
 the snowberries. . .






5. and the one fig that ripened enough for me to eat. . . We would have done much better with our fig harvest if we had better instructed the young contractor (cough granddaughter cough) who was watering plants for us while we were away in the spring. She's a close relation ;-) . . . and will do better next time. So no hard feelings but . . Every leaf and the nascent figs fell off the poor little thirsty tree. The good news is that it bounced back quite happily once watered more carefully and even threw up a whole new crop of figs, but they're not going to ripen before the cold. Except this one.

 So there you go. My Friday Fall Five

and now I'd better get the rest of my day organized. . .

 What's up for you this Fall Friday? Or, as I saw, but did not photograph, on a sidewalk sandwich board outside a bistro-pub yesterday "Sup Bae"? (Here's an interesting article from Esquire online, written five years ago, when "bae" had just entered the language. And while we're thinking about what was happening five years ago, if you're curious about what I was wearing this transitional  time of year seven years ago, here's your answer. . .

Your turn to chat now -- or even just wave a hello here, let me know you've stopped by. . . Comments always welcome.
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