Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye


A Year of Transitions

1. January/February: Back to work after a burnout which kept me at home for two months.  I worked hard on getting better: diet, exercise, sleep, therapy and making friends with my creativity again.
2. March: Went to White Rock for a few days with my two dear friends.
3. April: Went to friend's home in San Carlos, Mexico for a week long visit.
4. May: Applied for a new job.
5. Got the new job.  Cleaned out my office of 8 years.
6. July: Spent the month in Provence solidifying friendships and the commitment to our second home.  Envisaging staying for three months at a time.
7. August: Holidayed at home resting and readying for the new job starting on the 25th.
8. September: My big boy turned 22 and applied for SJSM in Anguilla.  I start yoga 2x/week.
9. October: T. gets admitted to SJSM.  Our family begins to imagine life without his extraordinary presence. Started sewing On-the-go place mats for sale with D.
10. November:  Spent a few days in White Rock with Mira. We both reflect on the near future.
11. November:  One year without a period.
10. December:  Said goodbye to my son and cleaned out his personal space.  We now have a guest room.

I am grateful for this year of turbulence, travel and transition.  I am grateful for the opportunity to grow.  I look forward to more growth towards a healthier, more creative me.

Bonsoir,

Stella

Friday, December 30, 2011

Anguilla

Anguilla is a small island in the Caribbean.  On this island is Saint James School of Medicine where our boy T. has gone to study.  He is 5817 kilometres (3,613 miles)away as the crow flies and three hours ahead of us.  It took him over 24 hours to get there (flights are not abundant) and he was hauling over 135 lbs of luggage.
Thanks to Skype, we know that he made it safe and sound and happy.  Exhausted though he may be, he is meeting the president of the Students' Union tonight for supper.  Tomorrow, he is going to walk around the island.  It is about 13 miles long and 5 miles across.

Anguilla is known for it's pristine beaches and abundant sea life.  T., who has always been a turtle lover, is in heaven.  He will finally see the giant sea turtles that are abundant around the island.

Here is a drawing that T. did in elementary school.  Turtles have been an obsession for T.  Alberta pet shops are not allowed to sell turtles.  We did get some from B.C. once, but they did not live long even though we had purchased all of the appropriate equipment.

In many ways, Anguilla is a dream come true for our boy.  Best of all, he can carve his own future and become his own man in a place that never sees snow.  Did I mention that T. is not a fan of the cold?
He is safe, he is happier than scared.

Amen.

Bonsoir,

Stella

Thursday, December 29, 2011

He's Gone

and my heart is breaking.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Artist Date

The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic”– think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing…                                                                                                                               -Julia Cameron
I took myself out to an Artist Date today to Wellington Garden Centre.   There was a sale on, so I thought I'd combine date and treat at the same time.  It was a resounding success!   The winter garden there is splendid.  Bird's song filled the air and the bare branches of deciduous trees along with winter greens was stunning.

Wellington specializes in statuary from France...

They have a gift shop that is like a candy shop for adults.

I took my time looking at everything they had.  They have many French imports in their gift shop too.
All Christmas tree ornaments were 70% off.  I do not need more Christmas ornaments.  But I bought a few to give as gifts next year.  They were irresistible.
Generally speaking, the merchandise is inspiring, well-chosen and  beautiful to look at.
Everywhere you look, there is a snapshot to take.  Eye candy so to speak.  Soul nourishment to feed the dormant artist.  When I was done, I let out a big sigh and took myself down the garden path for a few more glimpses at the winter wonderland without a lot of the snow.


Where in your town could you go on an Artist's Date this holiday?

Bonne journée,
Stella

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joyeux Noël tout le monde!

Merriest of Christmases to you all!  Below are Navettes de Lavande or Lavender bottles.  These have been kicked up a notch to look festive!  I am inspired!  My dearest wish is for you to be inspired this Christmas too!


Amitiés,

Stella

Friday, December 23, 2011

To Do List

Costco
Safeway
Liquor Store
Home Depot

Fondue Sauces
Chili and Cornbread
Set table
Put away boxes

Clean front entrance

Talk to you later!

Bonne journée,

Stella

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Eve Menu

When planning memorable meals, I always give due thought to the wine and drinks we will be having.  We are not  big drinkers but Christmas Eve warrants special food and special drinks.  The idea is not the quantity, but the quality of the beverages that are a part of the festive experience.

Christmas Eve of course, is all about a long leisurely meal.  Here's what's on the menu:

Chinese Fondue:  broth instead of the traditional Fondue Bourguignonne oil
Tiny potatoes with olive oil and rosemary
Spinach salad
Garlic baguette
Crème caramel
Mom's recipes for fondue sauces:  à la Diable, Bourguignonne and Béarnaise

A good bottle of red, maybe a Côtes du Rhône... a Gigondas.  Gigondas come from a small region by the Rhône River.  The wines are full-bodied but smooth and easy to drink.

Blueberry Tea

I have rediscovered Blueberry Tea which was a standard when I was a young woman.  It's lovely to warm up with a brandy snifter of this delicious concoction, preferably to be enjoyed by a blazing fire on Christmas Eve with people you love.  Here is the recipe:

Blueberry Tea

1 oz Amaretto
1 oz Grand Marnier
Cinnamon Stick
Orange slice (optional)
Orange pekoe or Earl Grey tea

Mix Amaretto and Grand Marnier in a brandy snifter or glass in which you have place a cinnamon stick and slice of orange. Add hot tea to taste.

I'm going to suggest that we have a brisk walk after supper and before dessert and Blueberry Tea. My goal is to have 5 walks during the holidays.
                                                                                                                                                      Image and recipe from thethirstygourmet
Bonsoir, beaux rêves,

Stella

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last Minute Gift Ideas

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Butterdome Craft Sale with my sister D.  From there, I got a few ideas to share with you for last minute gifts (I say last minute because if you haven't got them yet, it's really getting last minute-ish). I've thrown in a few other ideas that I think make inspiring gifts. So here we go:

Beeswax candles:  who can poo poo an authentic beeswax candle? Whether a pillar, a taper or  a votive, beeswax is the best.  It burns clean and doesn't have a lot of drip.

Votivo candles - The French Collection:  if you can get a hold of them, they make a delightful gift that keeps on giving for thirty or so hours of scented light.  AND they smell divine.  Original and rustic in little terra cotta pots.

Red Knot McLaren Vale Shiraz: a lovely, smooth and reasonably priced red wine that makes my heart sing.  Put it in a lovely box and include the recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon!


A Brie Baker:  I won one at the Christmas Raffle at the office and I think it's brilliant.  Dazzle your friends with your foodie know-how and include these recipes with the baker.

Amaryllis: I was at the Wellington Garden Centre in Edmonton and bought one for myself.  It's a first and it's an interesting change from the omnipresent poinsettia.  Mine has not yet flowered but is on the verge of.  Here is another gift that keeps on giving, watch it burst into bloom! 

An Artist's Date or a Creative Excursion: Coined by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way, an Artist's Date is an excursion to a place that will prime the pump of your creative juices.  A place like Wellington, or an Indian sari shop or Foodie emporium, an art exhibit... You get the idea.  Give your friend or loved one a coupon for an Artist's Date combined with lunch at a favorite spot.  You will be in their good books forever!  Sarah Ban Breathnach of Simple Abundance renown, calls it a creative excursion.

A Pook Toque:  Made with grey wool socks, these toques are cute and warm.  They make the mitts too and I believe that these would make a fine gift for anyone.  Go on, you know you want to! (A Canadian gift idea) O.k.  it may be too late for this year but not next year!

Toast or Toasty:  these are finger less gloves for your frozen friends.  If you are a quick knitter, these can be made up in a few hours and they are adorable. OR why not copy the pattern here and give IT, along with some yarn and needles for a friend who knits AND is always frozen.

David's Tea: another Canadian company,  makes the most inspiring teas.  Check out their website and buy one or three for a dear friend.  Pair it with a teacup from a second hand store for the perfect go-to-work gift.  They have a new Winter Collection, I haven't tried them but they sound great: Chocolate Chili Chai, Alpine Punch, Snow Bunny, Après Ski and Hot Toboggan.  They offer free shipping for orders over 50$ so why don't you get some for yourself while you're at it?


Bonsoir,

Stella

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Posse

Wherever I have worked, and I have had four different jobs in education:  teaching in High School, working as the Director of Practicum at the University as a consultant at the school board level and now, at the government level, I have always had my posse.

What is a posse? It's your crew, your hommies, a group of friends, people who have your back.  This year is not an exception.  I am grateful to these women who, like me started a new position here this year and with me, are learning the ins and outs of our new positions, of the new context and are doing it, happily, together.

We keep ourselves informed, we remind each other of events coming up, we save places at a meeting, we make our way through the maze of offices to find the spot where we are meant to be, we go for coffee breaks on Mondays, give and get Friday hugs and listen to each other during times of difficulty.

For these women I am grateful, they make my day brighter, they make me happy to come to work and they help me keep everything in perspective.  Oh! and we do yoga together!

God Bless my Posse

Bonne journée,

Stella

Sunday, December 18, 2011

We Did It!

 Here it is in all it's beauty.  The most beautiful thing about it is that it was done by the four of us.  My two boys have never been so patient in indulging me.  D. even made the hot chocolate.  Decorating this tree is quite an event as every ornament has a story.  It comes from somewhere or someone special, sometimes both.

Like the tiny sweaters my Mom knitted with our initials on them or the hearts that I favour and collect wherever I can find them, or the first ornament I bought when I was pregnant for T...

The collection dates back to 1980 when, on my first trip to Europe, I bought ornaments in Germany.  I have bought them every year since then but stopped in 2010 judging that the boys had enough to decorate their own tree.

Christmas ornaments tell a story about the owner and about the giver but most of all, they speak about the love that people feel for one another in a family unit.  Every Christmas, they allow us to reflect on this as we hang each ornament with care, in it's proper place on the tree.

My cup runneth over.  My favorite pre-Christmas music is playing and we are enjoying a moment in time, savouring it, capturing it to replay when needs must. 

Life is good.

Bonne soirée,

Stella

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Unfinished Projects

The reason you haven't seen my Christmas tree is... that I didn't get it done.  I refuse to do it alone you see.  Christmas tree decorating is a family thing and if I can't even get at least V. to help, I won't do it.  I have high hopes for this weekend though. 

Another project I must finish before Sunday is the little knitting number I wrote about a few posts back.  On the trip to Jasper, I got more than half of it done so I know I will get this finished on time.

Isn't this time before Christmas just a long list of things to do?  Gift-giving and money raising at work, work parties (I get two because I go to V.'s party too), gifts, house-cleaning, driveway shovelling, entrance cleaning, light stringing (I still have not done the lights around the front door!), and all this added on top of everything else that has to get done on a regular basis.

Amidst all of these unfinished things to do, I am struggling to keep my focus and try to make the most of every day that our big boy is still at home.  He is softening up, realizing that the days are rushing towards him and that very soon, he will not be with us anymore. Evening often finds him laying next to me in bed, reading.

We are a tightly knit little group of four.  We have remained so throughout the years of distancing from my family of origin.  I have five brothers and sisters but am close to my sister D. and my brother G. comes into my life only on occasion.  V. is an only child whose parents passed away before the children were born.  What little family he has is in Europe.

So you see, even if certain projects remain unfinished, time with the boy is what is first on the list.  Those outdoor lights may not go up this year and it's o.k.

Have a great day!

Amitiés,

Stella

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jasper Park Lodge


Do you want a good laugh?  THIS is the ONLY picture I had the time to take during the 20 hours that I was in Jasper!  The bathroom was gorgeous!  As well as the room, the natural beauty of lake Beauvert, the mountains, the high school kids, the restaurant, etc.  Well, I did say I was there for work!

This picture was taken while waiting to get picked up for a ride to the restaurant for supper... Here is a stock photo of what it usually looks like.  Wildlife and all...



Amitiés,

Stella

Monday, December 12, 2011

Jasper, Canada


I'm off to Jasper for work and will be staying overnight. Jasper, a national park nestled in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, has incredible natural beauty.

To top it all off, we are staying at the Jasper Park Lodge! It just doesn't get any better...


Bonne journée,

Stella

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Oh! Comments!

Labergèrebasque and Debra, you made my day! Thanks you so much for commenting! Knowing you are there makes such a difference.

Blogging isn't a one-way communication. I love to share about my thoughts and days but your sharing turns the whole experience into a kind of friendship. If my Google ID would allow me, I would answer your comments but somehow, I am unable to do so.

La Bergère, thank you for your gift suggestion. I am going to ask my son about it. And Debra, thanks for swinging by again. It's great to know the names of people who visit.

Now, I am off to put the ornaments on our tree. I'll take a picture of it when it's done.

Bon dimanche,

Stella

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sugar Pie

Photo source: Recettes du Québec website
Traditionally, French Canadians make sugar pie at Christmas. Although, I have habitually eaten my mother's sugar pie, this year I am making my own sugar pie with a twist.   This is a creamy, firm pie that I've heard is fantastic. 

Sugar pie always put me in a mind of Québec city on a wintry day.  If you haven't visited Québec, put it on your bucket list, it's worth it!  If you want a treat, have a meal at Aux Anciens Canadiens on rue St-Louis and taste their maple syrup pie.


Photo source: Aux Anciens Canadiens Website
It's beautiful out today, almost 5 degrees, atypical for an Albertan December!

Bonne fin de semaine,

Stella

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Yoga


Cubicle Yule!
At this new job, yoga is offered for free to employees three times a week during the lunch hour.  I try to get there every Tuesday and Thursday.  We have the best instructor in the world: Susan is knowledgeable, adept, patient, kind, smiley and a real cutey. 

Today, as I did not get a good night's sleep and some challenges are getting to me, I almost convinced myself not to go to yoga but then something inside me propelled me toward the change room and the next thing I knew, I was on my mat with my eyes closed, waiting for the session to begin.

Susan, being who she is, saw that my energy was flagging and she came up to me to ask me about it.  She gave me a pep talk and then led the class through a series of long-held poses to release tension in the body (and in the mind). 

At the end of the 55 minutes, I was feeling calmer, less anxious and a whole lot more positive about the afternoon ahead of me. My husband V. has often told me that when it's time to exercise, not to think about it but just do it without thinking. This is what he was talking about.  Thinking leaves the door open for the ego to step in and make it's presence felt.  I'm grateful for this small grace.

God bless Sue, V. and yoga!

Bon après-midi,

Stella

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Letting Go

Boys in St-Tropez,  T. is seated.
Last night I had a conversation with my friend Lucille.  We talked about letting go and detachment.

Our son T. is leaving on December 29th for St. James School of Medicine in Anguilla, a Leeward Island in the Caribbean.

My very wise Mother always told me that if one followed the seasons of life not only literally but figuratively, we would evolve toward a natural letting go when the time arose.  Such is my experience with my big boy of 22. I am watching him prepare, and there are a lot of preparations, for this first of several steps he must undertake to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor.  As I watch, I am aware that I do so with some detachment because after all, this is HIS life, not mine.  Although I will miss him dearly because he is an animated and fascinating person to spend time with, I know that the time has come and I am generally o.k. with it.

Detachment is not always easy but it can be natural and if it is seen as a natural occurrence, I think it is a smidgen less difficult.  Also, one must remember that detachment is a process, not an event.

I have had a few moments where the inevitable tears flowed and my boys and I embraced recognizing that this is the end of an era.  Life together as we know it is changing forever.  All four of us are going about our days with a little more sensitivity to each other, a little more love, a lot more patience.

By letting it go, it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try the world is beyond the winning.
                                                           Lao-Tzu (BC 600-?, Chinese philosopher, founder of Taoism)
 
Bonne journée,

Stella

Monday, December 5, 2011

On The Needles

I have been knitting on and off (mostly off) for the past 30+ years.  Only lately have I begun to knit more regularly.  I still stick to easy patterns as I find I easily get muddled and have to start over a million times because I don't know the tricks to undoing my work cleverly so as not to have to rip everything out.

I am knitting my fourth Light and Lacy Poncho.  When someone in my reading circle has a significant birthday (I won't tell you which one), they get a poncho from me.  This poncho is light and somewhat lacy but the most interesting feature is the yarn with which it is made.  Bernat Matrix is no longer made,  so I have to get it off of ebay or Ravelry.  There are many neat colors and the names are all related to technological language:  Radius Red, Copper Wire, Silver Server, and so on.

It's not the most exciting knitting but it makes my friends happy and it's a really cute piece, fun to wear over anything black.  One of my friends wears it over a black dress and it's just right for an evening out. 

Will try to post a pic with the lucky recipient!

Bonne journée!

Stella

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Here is a Movie I Want to See

What to get for Christmas?

 This picture is not my own but years ago, I did make wrapping paper like this with a potato stamp.
photo source here

I have been giving a lot of thought to Christmas for my three men. T. is easy, he is leaving home to study far away, so we bought an extra big suitcase and a camera. V. Is a school principal, so I got him two sleeveless cashmere sweater vests and I want to get him a lovely Panama hat for when we are in France. (Thanks to my sister for this idea)

D. Is another matter altogether. I really don't know what to get this almost twenty-year old Zen Phys-Ed guy. He has read all of my Eckhart Tolle this past fall and is into electronic music which he writes with the help of a program on his computer.I am baffled, at the same time, I refuse to give him only cash for Christmas. It feels too cold, not thoughtful.  I had thought of getting him a meditation course, I know that he would love that but how do I know when he is free to take it?  It's a quandary I tell you.If you have any great ideas, I would love to hear them.

I have never been this late gift-buying. At the same time, this year is the first time I will be attending the Butterdome craft sale next weekend. I hope to find something inspiring there.

Wish me luck! and to all of you, Happy Hunting!

Bisous,

Stella

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cubicle Detail


A few months ago, my dear friend Lucille was attending a conference in Greece.  Naturally, she did a little touring while she was there and when she came back, she gave every member of our reading circle a postcard from the Acropolis Museum.  I chose this stunning back view of a caryatid of Athena, goddess of wisdom.  As I would be starting a new job at the end of August, it would hold a place of honor in my workspace to remind me to be wise in my work and in my life in general.  This beautiful sculpture comes from a series that is on exhibition in the museum.  Click here to see where she lives.  Here is where she used to live.  You will see her compatriots if you ever visit the Acropolis. It's called the Porch of the Maidens. 



Dear reader, yesterday, I wished you joy. Today, I wish you wisdom to follow a path of health, of peace and well-being.

Bon weekend!

Stella

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Cubicle, My Joy

This new 'office' of mine is smaller, it has little privacy, no window looking to the world outside, less storage space, counter space, walls.  Oh! but it is a happier place.  For what is a corner office with magnificent views if you are spinning like a whirling dervish, spinning right out of your healthy mental, physical and emotional state?

This is my little cubicle of Joy and for it, I am grateful.

Amen.

Bonne journée,

Stella