Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Beauty at Unexpected Moments and Places

Image from the December 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

You may have noticed Élan's new subtitle:  Stumbling upon beauty every day .  It is my most fervent wish to live more fully in the moment and two ways I have discovered to help me do that are: to notice your breath (yoga class) and to notice and acknowledge beauty wherever/whenever you can (Simple Abundance). 

Today:
  • The Autumn sunlight on the yellow leaves of the apple tree in the back yard;
  • The perfect fit of V's body against mine when we have our Saturday morning snuggle;
  • The image (above) that I stumbled upon when I opened Oprah's Spirit Newsletter;
  • The color and texture of the miscellaneous yarns in my window seat, waiting to be knit up.

May beauty surprise and delight you today.

Bonne journée,

Stella

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Dishwasher That Washes Dishes

O.k., this is not going to be a very exciting post, but it's nonetheless what is on my mind... and on my dishes and cutlery!

Is it because I live with three males?  Is it because the dishwasher is 7 years old?  Is it because the life expectancy of a dishwasher is very short?  Is it because I've been buying middle-of-the-line dishwashers?  Is it because we had the dishwasher running only once a day?  Did we fill it too full?

For whatever reason, we've had three dishwashers in the past 29 years and tomorrow our fourth will be installed. This time, we went for the top-of-the-line brand.

After Christmas, we'll be three instead of four people in the house and I'll watch my youngest son D. (19 1/2) like a hawk to make sure he rinses his dishes thoroughly before putting them in the dishwasher... No wait, isn't a dishwasher meant to WASH dishes?

Of course dishes need to be rinsed before they go in but do all traces of foodstuffs have to be removed before being washed in a dishwasher?  Our dishwashers have done a reasonably good job for 10 years, 7 years, 5 years before leaving unwanted materials on dishes after the washing cycle.  Yes, this means I've spent about 7 years fighting with a dishwasher, taking it apart, making it go through a vinegar wash, unplugging the water wands, etc.

This is going to be my last dishwasher purchase for this kitchen.  You know how I know?  I'm going to sell my house before it gives out!

Bon weekend,

Stella

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

25 Ways to Wear a Scarf in 4.5 Minutes!



How amazing is this? Now pull out all those scarves you've been ignoring and get tying!  With the weather dipping below zero where I live, I'm going to indulge.

À la prochaine,

Stella

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

I've just finished reading this selection for my reading circle and I feel compelled to share my thoughts on it.

Firstly, this is not the type of book that I normally read.  It is a documentation of the life of Henrietta Lacks, a poor, black married woman who dies at a too young age, of cervical cancer.  Cells are taken from her tumour, postmortem,  and this book catalogues the reproduction of the cells and the research that was done with them... without Henrietta's consent.

The author, Rebecca Skloot, shares snippets of Henrietta's and her family's life interlarded with chapters on the advancement of scientific research done with HeLa (Henrietta Lacks) cells.

 The first half of the book has more recounting of Henrietta's turbulent, dysfunctional life and offers a more compelling read whereas the second half focuses on the science of cell reproduction and took more effort on my part to read.

What is most pronounced in this book is the contrast between the poverty of the Lacks family and the work, revenue and advances in science generated literally by her cells.

I give it 3  1/2 stars out of five, not for the storytelling or the journalistic reporting but for the story of how one human being unknowingly changed the world.

Bonne lecture,

Stella

Monday, October 24, 2011

Alzheimer's

Yesterday I watched A Song for Martin (2001) on Netflix, a Swedish production starring two actors who were married in real life.  Sadly, the wife died the year that the movie came out, of cancer.

This is a profoundly touching story about a second marriage, a shared passion and eventual goodbye.  I highly recommend it for its visual and spiritual soul wrenching beauty.  This couple is beautiful to watch as they fall in love and feel overwhelming gratitude for this second chance at love.  The film, shot in Sweden is stunning in its visual simplicity and is a perfect backdrop for a calm but passionate love story.

A second, poignant story with Alzheimer's playing a leading role is the Canadian production Away From Her (2006) starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent.  Like A Song for MartinAway from Her is beautifully shot in a rugged natural background.  The couple is also middle aged and in love, but they have been together for many years.  Watching the husband struggle to let go of his gorgeous wife is heart-achingly sad but beautiful at the same time as he finds his balance and says yes to life.

Here are two movies about mature people, love, intimacy and loss.  They are worth seeing.  You cannot come away from the viewing without giving some thought to what life holds for you in the coming years.

 Mostly, I feel grateful for what I have and I am reminded that life must be lived fully and savoured at the moment it is served.

Bonne journée,

Stella

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Netflix is my Friend

About a year ago, I subscribed to Netflix, an on line movie repository.  It costs about 8$ CDN per month and has provided me with endless entertainment when I'd really rather not watch TV.  I have installed the Netflix App on my iPad and watch movies by myself, in bed, should I wish to but I can also watch them on the large HDTV downstairs with my whole family.

Here is some of the good viewing available:

1.  Recently, two excellent British TV series,  Sherlock and Luther.  I love psychological crime drama and this is it at its best.

2. Another passion is foreign drama, here are some favorites:  The Scent of Green Papaya, As it is in Heaven and The Sleeping Dictionary

3.  If you haven't seen Mad Men, you MUST!  It is addictive...

I have more to tempt you with but that is for another day.  Happy Viewing!

Bon weekend!

Stella

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Dream of a Place


This is a piece that I wrote in 2004.  I didn't suspect that my dream would come true.

My dream is to buy a small house in the south of France.   I know that the idea might appear outlandish or impossible but the fact is it’s something that I really want something that I’m prepared to work for.

My travels have taken me to France several times since my first trip in 1980.  Even then, I felt completely at home there, sliding naturally into position whether buying a baguette at the neighborhood boulangerie or having dinner with several friends and family.  The people and the places from the very first captured my heart.

Yes, I’ve visited Paris several times and I truly feel it’s the most beautiful city I’ve yet to see.  Paris is a feminine city, all beige and golden in the midday sun.  It is orderly and graceful, and filled to capacity with visual delicacies.  One can saunter aimlessly for days and never see the same thing, never tire of the scenery and of the grace of the city’s layout.  On the whole however, Paris is not my favorite French milieu.

I’ve visited many of France’s castles, cathedrals and fortified cities, each one a distinctive, magical place.  In Carcassone, a medieval fortress, children playing outdoors during recess scurried to pose for a picture I would someday show my students.  In Chartres, I sat awed in front of the cathedral, virtually intimidated by the size and majesty of the building.  In Versailles, I became speechless in front of the opulence of the hall of mirrors thinking how many lives had been lost on the construction site.  In the palace of the Popes in Avignon, I felt reverence for the centuries of life that had been sheltered by its walls.   These are all scenes from the grandiose, stately France…

My truly favorite place to be however is in rural France, a village, preferably in the southern part of the country.  No, to be entirely truthful, it would have to be a village in Provence.  Although I wish I were attracted to a somewhat less expensive and less visited part of the country, I feel wholly alive when I am in Provence.

Many travel guides have described at length all the riches to be found in Provence, and I am sure that you have read at least one account of the region’s attractions, but I ask, dear reader, that you indulge me in the telling of what makes Provence my destination of choice.

The light there is probably the most perfect I’ve seen anywhere.  It is a clear golden color and even an inexperienced photographer cannot possibly take a bad picture in Provence on a sunny day.  Furthermore, there is an abundance of natural beauty to capture on film.

The vegetation is not as beautiful as it is exotic.  The plane trees, which surround every town square, are ordinary except for the large yellow spots covering its trunk and branches.  The cypress trees and the Lombardy poplars reach up high in their tall and slender elegance and the palm trees that line the coast are lush.  But my very favorite plants have to be the rosemary and lavender bushes that practically grow wild.  They line walks, streets and paths in Provence like the potentilla and spirea do in Canada. The heat of the hot sun releases their scent.  Lavender and rosemary are what Provence smells like.

The Provençal terra cotta, sienna, honey and sky blue shutters and terracotta tile roofs are the only other embellishments and serve as protection from the cooking hot sun.  Foot thick walls also keep interiors as well as dispositions, cool.

The land inspires Provençal cuisine as well. Olives, tomatoes, garlic, lettuces, eggplant, and cantaloupe, all locally grown are paired with fish, mergez sausages, and specially prepared confits of wild game, pork and chicken.  The food looks like a painting by Gaugin and tastes like sunshine.

The most attractive quality of Provence however, lies not in its unique light, its abundant vegetation, its distinctive architecture or its Mediterranean fare but rather in the quality of life that one can experience there.  I’m not at all sure that the quality of life doesn’t flow from the area’s physical attributes or if it originates from the attitude of the Provençaux.  But when one is in Provence, the world spins slower on its axis and one feels a compulsion to relish all that the simple, authentic life of the area has to offer.

I dream of long suppers held under a plane tree in my backyard.  The table sits twelve and fairly groans under the abundance of natural, delicious regional dishes.  But best of all, laughter and passionate discussions fill the warm night air and one is sure that there is no other place in the world one would rather be.

What do you dream of?  Please share your dreams in the comments section.  I'll be reading you.

Bonsoir,

Stella
  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Thing of Beauty...

Beauty is the fifth of six Simple Abundance principles:

Creating a beautiful life is your highest calling.  It is in the ordinary and overlooked details of the every day that beauty is revealed, sustained and nurtured.
                                                                                              -Sarah Ban Breathnach

On Tuesday, I went to visit French Essence, a blog that I follow because Vicky Archer talks about beautiful things,  often found in France where she lives.  She enjoys a lifestyle that is the envy of many, sharing her time mostly between St-Rémy de Provence and London.  She has refurbished a provençal Mas and its gardens and created an oasis of beauty and peace.

On Tuesday she shared her Pin boards from a site called Pinterest. Here is what she says about it:
Tumblr and Pinterest are like image banks that enable us to take a break from reading, allow us to switch off the brain for a moment and indulge in some visual beauty...which is not to say that blogs can't do all that...they can and they do....but these social media distractions are quicker...and with the lives that we lead today, time is often of the essence.
I had a look at Pinterest and what I saw enchanted me.  Here is a look at my board called Ingenious:

 Click on the image for a larger view.
I've only just gotten started but I know that this feature is going to be a lot of fun and it fits into my objective of bringing more beauty into my everyday life.
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.
                                                                       Keats 1795-1821

My friend Corey Amaro from Tongue in Cheek also has Pin boards that are absolutely gorgeous.  They are a testament to her superb taste and eye for beauty.

Have a great day and may you stumble upon beauty wherever you look.

Bonne journée,

Stella

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Tapestry of Bayeux

Yesterday, I blogged about my sister D.'s trip to France.  I referenced the Tapestry of Bayeux.  Anonymous left a comment - thank you!  I love comments!  They inspire me and keep me blogging!  Anyway, Anonymous told me about Pam Holland who recreated the famous tapestry in a quilt.  As I was researching Pam Holland's reproduction, I came upon this YouTube video of the animation of the famous tapestry.  Have a look!  And thank you again to Anonymous for giving me a lead!





Amitiés,

Stella

Thursday, October 13, 2011

La Belle France

My sister D. and her husband T. have been travelling in the north of France and Paris for the last two weeks. Happily, I suggested that they write us an email once in while to tell us where they are and what they are doing and faithfully, T. has been writing a Where Are T & D every day since they left.

It is such a pleasure to hear from them and live the trip vicariously through them. As I helped them plan their trip, I am familiar with most of the places they visited.

Here is their itinerary:

1. Paris no need to explain
2. Chartres to see the cathedral
3. Loire Valley to see a few castles
4. Saint-Malo because of the song we sang as children: "Ah Saint-Malo beau port de mer..."
5. Mont Saint-Michel just to see what a marvel this island is
6. Bayeux to see the famous tapestry
7. Juno Beach very significant for Canadian History in World War II
8. Honfleur because Samuel de Champlain left from there to found New France and Québec
9. Arras because of the famous Canadian Vimy Ridge War Memorial*
10. Verdun significant World War I site for Canadians
11. Epernay because of our love of Champagne
12. Soncourt to see the house where grandpère was raised
13. Darmannes to see our relatives
14. Flavigny-sur-Ozerin because that is where the movie Chocolat was filmed
15. Provence** to stay at our apartment for a couple of weeks.  They will be visiting the Côte d'Azur too.
16. Marseille to return home

* T. and D. read The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquart which is a novel set around the creation of the monument at Vimy Ridge, a beautiful, captivating story.
 ** They are also reading two novels, one is a sequel of the first novel,  by the renowned French author Marcel Pagnol:  Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring.  Pagnol is a compelling storyteller.  His characters are fascinating and the plot lines hold you captive from the beginning to the end of the story. 

There you have it.  A perfect little itinerary to build a dream on...

Bonsoir et bons rêves,

Stella

                                                          A segment from the famous Tapestry of Bayeux.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hot Turkey Sandwich and Greek Salad

Nothing says comfort like a hot turkey sandwich. As I was driving home from work, I planned dinner and it took very little time to prepare. I made a Greek salad to offset the plainness of the sandwich.

Does anyone else make Greek salad? It's a family favorite here and so healthy. I dress it with fresh lemon juice and olive oil like I remember it from Greece in 1980. My roommate and I were stranded on Crete for eight days because of a general strike. It was a relaxing, healthy time, all that sun and fresh food. I remember having rice pudding for breakfast. It's the best I've ever had.
Dinner wasn't bad for a Tuesday-after a long-weekend supper n'est-ce pas? Yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada and I had a blissfully slow weekend.

My Greek Salad

1& 1/2 orange or yellow pepper cut in squares
Handful of pitted Kalamata olives
1& 1/2 cups grape tomatoes
1& 1/2 English cucumber cut in cubes
1/4 cup red onion chopped large
2/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 -1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 - 1 tsp. Oregano
Juice from one lemon(I use a reamer over the salad bowl)
About 1/4 cup olive oil

Bon appétit!

Bonsoir,

Stella

Monday, October 10, 2011

Just 21 Months to Go!




Yes, I am approaching retirement and am giving it my last big burst of energy to make it to the end of year 31.

We have had a year of evolution and changes. All of them for the better.

I was ill last fall, devoted myself to better health, changed jobs and am moving along just very well thank you!

Our oldest son T, at 22 is getting ready to leave home forever. He starts at a school of Medicine in January and is going to be several thousand kilometres away.

V. Is on his last year as principal at a high school and the baby, D. 19 is working for a year before going back to complete his Phys Ed degree.

Now that we are caught up, I will endeavour to post a few times a week.

Thank you Donna for your encouragement and support.


Bonne journée,

Stella