Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reading Circles

I have been invited to help start up a new reading circle or book club as some may call it.

About two months ago, I went to lunch with two of my former students from long ago, one from high school and the other from the days when I taught at the university.  They had a favor to ask and I was so thrilled since my lifelong passion for books and reading is shared by some of the people I have taught.


They have just started their 40's, their children are no longer toddlers, they work hard and are feeling a longing to nourish their souls and connect with other women once in a while.  I can think of no better way to do that than to read, relax and share stimulating conversation than around a book.  In my experience, these circles usually lead to all kinds of sharing and growth on many levels.

So tonight, I am meeting with a brand new circle of eight women of varying ages; my suggestion since different age groups can learn a lot from one another.  I also recommended that they not all be in the education sector.  My own reading circle has its share of teachers but we also have a massage therapist and a social worker.  I have learned much from these two colleagues and they have taught the whole group about life outside the classroom.


For those of you who may be thinking of starting a circle, Oprah's book club features Lise Funderburg's 10 Book Club Commandments:

1. Meet on a reasonable schedule that allows ample time to finish the book—in our case, every other month.
2. Make new friends. Invite people who don't know each other, and have more than one person do the inviting.

3. Discuss parameters, so members know what to expect: Fiction? Current events? Classics?

4. Spread the work and the power by rotating hosting duties and letting the host pick the book.

5. Cook and clean only as much as you like. One presentable bathroom and basic munchies will do.

6. Keep meetings to three hours—it's a club, not an endurance test.

7. Send kids and spouses out for the afternoon.

8. Read on paper, but communicate electronically: Set up a group e-mail list, forward directions using Mapquest, and send out reminders a couple of days beforehand.

9. Overbook for a consistent turnout. If you want six at every meeting, have 10 on your list.

10. Talk about the book—not exclusively, especially if the book's a dud, but hold the group to its purpose.

Reading circles are the best way to pursue a passion, debate and socialize at the same time!

Bonne journée,

Stella

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

122 Days and a Dream Boat

We leave for France on June 30th.  Our last day of work is June 29.  It is more than just the last day of work for V.  It is his LAST day of work.

Today, I left him wrapped up in the warm and comfy cocoon of our bed.  For the first time in three years, he is missing two days work because of some heavy duty dental surgery.

I know he will be thinking about the summer heat, the spring water, saucisson, rosé, good beers that come in small bottles, the pool, Tiki Beach at St-Tropez, driving the car around countless round abouts, painting the Juliet balconies off of our bedrooms and maybe, just maybe, he will allow himself to dream about owning a boat.

He doesn't want a big boat, just one with two sleeping areas!  So that we can follow the coast in the south of France to the Italian coast where I've yet to visit Amalfi or Positano. He would be buying a boat for me, of course... to make my mini-dream come true!

Boat buying is V.'s dream.  We've already had one dream come true.  Shall we try for a second one?  Why not? Whip out the dream board, let's make a little movie about the boat we want.  Let's imagine it, draw it, decorate it and make a list of all the things we would do with it.

If we had a boat, I know that we would coast along St-Tropez for sure because V. has been taking pictures of it's yachts for years. This is a Riviera Sport Yacht.  It would be a good start.

 http://www.topspeed.com/boats/riviera-sport-yacht/ke2603.html

What do you dream of?  Please tell me, it will only take a minute to write it in the comment box.  I know you are out there and I long to hear from you!

Have a good day!

Amitiés,

Stella

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oscar



Ever since I was a child, I've watched the Oscars almost without fail.  I am looking forward to Sunday night because of the movies that are slated.  Can't say that I have seen many of them, but from the trailers and the articles I have read, I am most interested in what is coming up.

Not the least of whom is the French actor Jean Dujardin who is nominated as best actor for The Artist.  I have seen other movies with this actor and he is to me, sublime!  Handsome, funny, expressive, versatile; now there is an Oscar hopeful. The Artist hints at the glamour of past Oscar nights.
In the best actress category, my vote goes to Glenn Close for her brilliant portrayal in Albert Nobbs.  She has always been a favorite actress, not choosing roles that make her popular, but roles that show her acting ability.  She is a clever, talented woman.

I have seen The Help and Midnight in Paris, both fun movies to watch but not, according to me, Oscar calibre performances.  The Help was a great book to read, the story compelling, the characters lovable as was the movie.  Midnight in Paris was a lot of fun  because it's in Paris but mostly because you see different celebrities past come alive.  The incarnations are fun and the background, delicious.
Another Oscar nominated performance that intrigues me Demián Bichir in “A Better Life”  It looks Oscar worthy.  The story of a Mexican immigrant and his son trying to make a good life in the US is a relevant subject for the times we live in.



Tomorrow night, like countless other Oscar Sunday nights, I will be glued to the screen with my ballot in hand to help me follow the program.  You can download it here on http://oscar.go.com/ under my picks.  You can also watch all the trailers of the nominated movies one after another on this same website.

What are your picks?  Only 24 hours to go!

Have fun!

Bonsoir,

Stella

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Adele



This new singer/songwriter is very talented.  Recently, I was at a nightclub where this song was sung.  I didn't know she existed until then. Where have I been?

Not to be missed.

Bisous,

Stella

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Two Poison Arrows

photo source: http://thrivingwithneurofibromatosis.blogspot.com/2011/08/glomus-tumors-ouch.html
We all spend much of our lives unconsciously absorbed in a future that hasn’t happened yet or in a past that is already gone and in the process, spend much of the day out of touch with the present moment, which is the only time we ever get in which to live or act. And so, we can easily miss out on the opportunities that the present moment is constantly offering us.
                                                        - Jon Kabat-Zinn in Mindfulness Meditation
I am being called upon to remember mindfulness.  It is a process that takes a lifetime to accomplish but an instant to forget.  Mindfulness is a challenge for me and I am my own worst enemy. When my mind starts operating of it's own volition, I can go days without feeling peace. 

The past week has been a reminder of how mindfulness is a major factor in the enjoyment of life and enjoyment of life is one of my most important values.  I just have to regain control of my thoughts every so often so that I can be free to enjoy the gifts of life.

I was in a graduate course about 12 years ago with a professor who had lived his childhood in China.  His teaching was rich with the legacy of this time in his life and one day, he told us this story: The Tale of theTwo Poison Arrows. 

Once, a man was stung by the words of a neighbor and he felt the humiliation deeply.  So deeply in fact, that he repeated the spiteful words of his neighbor over and over to himself and to his family when he shared what had happened.

On the third or fourth day after the incident, he shared his story with an old uncle of his.  His uncle said that it was unfortunate that he was suffering from the sting of two poison arrows instead of one.  «How so?» asked the man. «The first poison arrow you received was when your neighbor delivered his message, the second arrow is when you choose to relive the moment after it has passed.» answered his wise uncle.

The Tale of the Two Poison arrows are a reminder for me to be mindful and put certain events in my life in firmly in their place, where they belong.  No double dose of poison arrows for me thank you very much.

Now, if I can get my thoughts to cooperate...

Bonne journée,

Stella

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Friend Mary

Mary just left with her friend Lara to return to White Rock.  They have been in town for a wedding at St. Albert's Enjoy Center.  She was only here for one night but what a good time we shared during the few hours she was available.   

It's always the same with Mary,  we can talk about so many shared interests: health, the environment, business, social consciousness issues.  It is never dull being with my friend.  She is an amazing woman and an extraordinary human being.

Mary is a Croatian who was born in Bosnia.  One day, we promise to make a trip across the north of Italy from our place in Provence to visit her homeland.  Here is what the itinerary might look like:
Croation Adventure

I long to see a different part of the world where I have never been before, a part of the world that has undergone major conflict and risen up again. To see it with Mary will make it all the more meaningful.

Later this spring, my reading circle will be doing The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht:
In a Balkan country mending from years of conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage by the sea. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her. Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself.
I have invited Mary to return to us for the circle on this book and I know that she will breathe life into the story with parallel tales of her childhood in Bosnia. 

Life is good.

Amen.

Bonsoir,

Stella

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Resilence


 Resilient: strong; able to recover quickly from injury, either mental or physical. Resilience: an ability to adapt to, recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

When I as a little girl, I overheard my oldest brother talking to my mother about me.  He said that I was resilient.  I remember looking it up in the dictionary, it seemed such a strange word.

This week although not over, has seen its share of set backs.  The worse kind, the kind that make you question your competence, your value as a person, your loveability, your looks, the color of your hair, etc.

I am happy to report that I am recuperating from the second set back, larger than the first which was delivered Monday.  This second one is like the aftershocks of an earthquake.  Already tender and cautious, it still caught me unaware.

I did the right things: self-talk, refusal to replay the event repetitively in my head and talk to the person concerned, no gossiping...  I am feeling righteous but still shaky.

If one is to believe the happiness curve, the best is yet to come.



In the meantime, chin up, tomorrow is another day!

Amitiés,

Stella

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pinterest


I've been having fun with Pinterest lately.  Just a few minutes a day.  Have a look at some of my boards.

This one is called Reading Places

I'll let you guess what this one is called









Jewelry to Die For
 Just a little eye candy, inspiration and fun.  There are a lot of recipe suggestions and some really ingenious DIY projects.  Go on, have a look here.

Bonne journée,

Stella

Monday, February 13, 2012

New Cu(te)bicle



Someone at the office got a promotion, so I got a new cutebicle with a window.  In fact, it's a cuterbicle than my old one.  Although the view is atrocious (building a high rise right next door) it faces west, so I will get a corner  of afternoon sun.



The bonus is I can do some bird watching.  Pigeons hang out on the terrace in front of my window.  We are on the 9th floor but I am in seventh heaven dancing with the construction workers next door!

Bonne journée!

Stella

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Bathroom Saga

I have started posts about three times in the last week and have been unable to finish any of them.  It seems that inspiration has left me...

On another note, I have been a busy bee, what with Teachers' Convention on Thursday and Friday and a Valentine's outing with good friends on Saturday... and the interminable bathroom renovation which is to be done today!  I will be very excited to post pictures and put the whole saga behind me.

Regret, I have one.  Had I the TIME, I would have scoured the city for antique pieces that would have made this a more distinctive project.  Instead, it will be a regular North American bathroom.  Nothing out of the ordinary, just comfortable.

I have been spending time on Pinterest and some of the bathrooms you see there are stupendous.
This one is a beauty.  Just look at that architectural element!
Love the color of the towels too.

Love the mirror, the fabric, the painted brick wall, the daring of it.

The mirror!
The bathtub, chandelier, curtains, colors... beautiful, restful and elegant

How about that mirror and the use of the pretty side table?

If I'd had time, I would endeavoured to find lovely pieces and have V. transform them for me.  But alas!  time is not plentiful.

But you know what?  I CAN dream and take my time with the bathroom in Provence where I have a big blank canvas.  This summer, I will dress the vanity with curtains below the sink with vintage fabric I found at the brocante. Last summer, we painted that awful salmon pink trim white.  I will take my time looking for an armoire and a mirror and maybe some lovely lace for the window.  Corey is finding antique curtain clips for the vanity curtains.

Picture of the main bathroom in our apartment in France in 2008.
I look forward to sharing this less frustrating renovation project with you.  As I am always on holidays when in France, everything seems easier, and V. and I make sure we only do one thing at a time and do it well.

Bon dimanche!

xo Stella


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dream Come True


Our town center
 La Bergère Basque kindly asked what dream I had that came true in the comment section. First, thank you for commenting and secondly, thank you for your interest.  Here is the story.

In 1999, V. and I took a month long trip to Europe with our two boys then 10 and 7.  The trip in itself was a dream come true (not our first trip to Europe but a first with the children) and I spent a lot of time planning and organizing the trip to make the most of the gift of travel and time with the boys.

This trip was the first time that we were doing property rentals and it happened that, while scouring the Internet for good places to stay, I came upon a lovely apartment in the Var in what is called Provence verte.

I contacted the owner to make arrangements for our stay but her place was rented for the summer.  However, she knew of another owner in the Moulin who might be interested in renting.
Home, where the heart is

The Moulin is a 17th century olive oil mill that was refurbished about 25 years ago into 10 apartments.  It sits by a small river with cascades about two blocks from the center of town.

As it happened, the owner was willing to rent his apartment for the two week period that we wanted.
We arrived there at about 8pm exhausted from a day of driving from Switzerland where we had been visiting with V.'s cousin. 
Pool with river flowing on the right

It was getting dark and it was raining.  Luckily, we had the apartment manager's number and we called him and arranged for him to show us where it was.  Steep little street, narrow and dark after winding our way from above the town where we arrived from the north.  The children were quiet, D. had been car sick.

We parked in the narrow street across from the Moulin, unloaded the car and made our way through the gate, down the path lined with lavender turning sharply to the left, through another wrought iron gate, through the hall where the arches containing the olive presses used to be and finally, to the door of the apartment.

When I stepped through the door and into the living area, I was delightfully surprised.  Everything was neat, the decor was neutral but the materials were interesting.  It was getting late so we shuffled the children to bed in the twin bedroom upstairs and we breathed a sigh of relief.

After a short time wrestling with the luggage up the stairs, we dropped into bed and slept like the dead.
The stream flows on the left.
The next morning we awoke to the sound of the stream that flows by the balcony and the extraordinary light of the provençal sun.  When crept downstairs and opened the shutters, the apartment sprang to life.  White washed walls, terra cotta floors, pine furniture and two sets of French doors.

We could not believe our luck.

Later, we would explore the extensive grounds and the lush greenness of the river valley surrounding a lovely pool, an aquamarine jewel in the summer sun.
We spent an idyllic two weeks enveloped by the sun, the sweet spring water and the clean air of this tiny French village.  The weekly market alone was an adventure not to be missed: cheeses, saucisson, fresh produce, soaps, linens, and more filled the senses and the soul.  We were in love.

During the eight years that followed, we were never able to set aside our fairy tale summer in Provence.  We remembered our trip fondly and frequently.  We made a little video of our time spent there and I played it regularly on my computer.  I would dream about it regularly and redecorate the apartment it in my mind over and over.  In 2006,  I made a dream board about the home I wanted to own in the area.

Late  in 2007, I contacted the owner to ask him to let us know should he ever want to sell his apartment.  Although we could not really afford it, one year later, a little over nine years after that fateful summer, we would travel to France on a five day fall break to sign the papers for the sale.

We have never looked back.

Bonsoir, bons rêves,

Stella

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Life is a Process

The bathroom renovation is trying.  We have been inching forward but it seems that every step we take is longer than expected.  Today, the mirror for the space above the vanity arrived but it is just an inch too high and it is really too big for the space.  Beautiful but not right.  Originally, I had wanted a round mirror, now, I am doing my best to get a rectangular mirror that works.

Good news, we placed the new mirror in the dining room  and we will spray paint the former dining room mirror silver to put in the guest room.  I found and ordered another bathroom mirror and  hope it arrives before my house guests do.

Patience is a virtue that I do not have in abundance.  This is challenging for me but I know that the lesson is to lighten up and keep going.

Today, we put in the light fixture, hung up the new mirror in the dining room, bought silver spray paint for the old mirror, bought a plastic cover for the light switch and had tiles cut for the baseboard behind the new vanity. Our friend Vic will put them in next week.

Tomorrow, I have to return a light fixture and a vanity set (which is way too fancy) at Restoration Hardware.  Will have to get a new vanity set and wait for grey towels back ordered from Lands' End and the new mirror from Home Depot.

As I reread this post I realize how silly it is.  How unimportant all of this really is, how I have built up expectation to a point where I allow my day to be spoiled by the sluggishness of the process.

There are a few hours left to this day and my intention is to live them well. A long hot shower, a clean pajama, a nice cup of tea and a movie to watch on Apple TV.

Tomorrow, I will visit my friend Carole who is living with cancer and get my perspective back in check.  Life is a process, not a destination.  Live each moment fully and be grateful for the gift of life that you have.

Thanks for listening.

Bonne soirée,

Stella

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dreams are Whispers from the Soul

When subscribed to Simple Abundance online, you receive daily quotes by SBB.  Here is today's:
One of the most wonderful truths you will discover on the path to authenticity is that your aspirations are your possibilities.
All my life I have embraced this assumption.  Some may think it's rather optimistic but my life's twists and turns have proven it to be true.  That's why when I asked my friend Nicole what her dreams were, and her reply was: «Hey, I'm no longer 25.» I was abashed. 

People need to have dreams big and small.  Dreams are how you communicate to the universe that this is what you want.  I'm not saying that you will always get exactly what you want but you may get close.

«A Life without dreams is like no life at all. When our existence gets reduced to a list of problems to solve or things to check off, passion dries up. Imagine a different list, one comprised of projects and activities that are the expression of your heart and soul. Reconnect to what makes you happy. Do you know what that is?"   ~Marcia Wieder

What do you dream of?

Watch Dreams are Whispers from the Soul here.

Happy Friday!
 
Bisous,
 
Stella

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thursday and Friday Take Too Long



Today's post title comes from Lorrie Morgan's Except for Monday's song.  Whenever I start a week at work, this song comes to mind:

Except for Monday which was never good anyway              
Tuesday I get a little sideways                                         
Wednesday I feel better just for spite                                
Thursday and Friday take too long                                          
Before I knew it,Saturday's gone                                               
But it's Sunday now you can bet that I'm alright

Personally, I love Friday night and Saturday morning because they are and feel like the beginning of the weekend.  Friday night we crash with the healthiest take out that we can think of and Saturday morning we lay in a little bit.  V. with TV and I with my computer or my reading or my knitting.  The rest of the day is chores, chores, chores. Sunday feels like the last chance to get some weekend in and to prepare for Monday...

Thursday is o.k. at work, it is usually a good workday because the weekend is approaching and I have the workday rhythm down pat.  Friday we wear jeans at work and the atmosphere is full of anticipation.

I wonder how the week will feel when I am retired?  Will I differentiate the days?  Will I have a little lay in every morning?  Will I have a wild late night out say on a... Tuesday?

In the meantime, it's Thursday and I have to get to work!

Bonne journée,

Stella