Thursday, September 27, 2012

Late September Musings

There was a definite chill in the air as I made my way down the two blocks that separate the parking lot from the building where I work.  Walking quickly, hugging my bags to my side, I thought of what the walk will be like in a few months when the downtown winds are at their fiercest in subzero temperatures.

Passing the Italian caffè that just opened round the corner from work, I imagined myself sitting there on a dark morning nursing a latte and writing in my journal before heading off to work.  Would I ever get up that early?

As September comes to a close, I am reminded that with every month that goes by, I approach another season of my life; the one where rising in the dark of night, navigating snow covered roads and bearing the sting of midwinter winds twice daily will be mostly behind me.

I dream of early rising, nursing a cup of latte and writing in my journal in front of the wood fire that V. would have thoughtfully laid the night before.  I dream of heading to our office in my loungewear to sit before the computer and put in a couple of hours of work before getting on with MY day. Jewelry making? Knitting? Sewing with my sister D.? Going on an artist's date? Scouring second hand stores for treasures? Reading a novel all day? Shoveling snow with V. for 30 minutes and treating ourselves to spiked hot chocolate? Making love at noon? Preparing supper early? Meeting friends for a movie mid-week?

Enough. What is before me now cannot wait. October is coming fast and there are so many things to get done in the little time there is before the snow comes and I am once again pulled into my retirement reverie.

Bonne journée,

Stella


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Apple Time

Norland apple tree

Harcourt apple tree (big apples)
I went to pick some of the apples from one of our trees.  The apples are huge.  Hot summer + rain = monster apples.  Happily, I have found two recipes that really tempt.  The first is the apple cake in the Dorie Greenspan book I talked about two posts ago. The recipe calls for rum and only requires 3/4 cup of flour.  I am writing this as it bakes and it smells heavenly.

The other is sour cream apple pie found on the Posie gets Cozy site here. Cake today, apple pie next weekend.


Apple Cake from Around my French Table
Sour Cream apple Pie by Posie gets Cozy
Hey vegetable fairy, want some apples? 

À la prochaine,

Stella

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lunch at the Leg*

*Note: Leg pronounced with a soft "g" as in  the second and not the first "g" in gouge.

On many Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, my colleagues and I take a 30 minute walk.  Sometimes,  we eat our bag lunch at the Alberta Legislature.  The grounds are carefully manicured, peaceful and inspire joy.  Young families enjoy the pools when it's hot and many people stroll about to soak in the beauty of the gardens.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to do this as I have never worked downtown before.  The Leg is about 5 minutes from the building where I work.


Lois Hole Garden

The Leg building is 100 years old this month...

I am also grateful to work with people who value physical activity.   The city is abuzz with walkers and runners during the lunch hour. In all the years I have worked, this is the one job that has phys ed built in.  On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, a one hour yoga session is offered to the employees of my workplace.  Our instructor Sue, is the best I have ever had, honestly!  On this my last year of full-time work, I take the time to count my blessings.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

à plus tard,

Stella

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Postal Treasures

Getting home to a parcel is always fun.  When I receive parcels from The Book Depository or Amazon or ebay, I get a little thrill, tear into the package to reveal my most recent purchases.  Yesterday, it was the my long-awaited copy of Around my French Table, a cookbook by Dorie Greenspan.


I have been ogling this book for the last year but the price (above 40$) deterred me from purchasing it.  Recently, I found a copy for almost half price and I snatched it.

When Julia Child told Dorie Greenspan, “You write recipes just the way I do,” she paid her the ultimate compliment. Julia’s praise was echoed by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, which referred to Dorie’s “wonderfully encouraging voice” and “the sense of a real person who is there to help should you stumble.”

I look forward to making the gougères (a cheese puff), the chocolate mousse,the madeleines, le curried mussels, the onion carbonara and so on.  Just look at the luscious deliciousness on these pages.

Gougères

Fougasse at  bottom

Cold or hot pea soup with crème fraiche
Do you know a better bed time story than a gorgeous cookbook?

Can you tell I'm craving carbs?

The discovery of Dorie Greenspan is big as The Barefoot Contessa was for me.  I have a feeling that I will find many winning recipes in here.  The book is fun to read, informative and inspiring.  I checked out the reviews on the Internet and many people have tried and written about her recipes. Watch her here:



You can check out Dorie Greenspan on her website here and check out her book here.

Bonsoir et bon appétit!

Stella

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Busy Weekend

We have been living in the same house since September 1982.  Thirty years.  It goes without saying that the trees and shrubs that we planted against the front of the house are overgrown and in two cases, rubbing up against the gutters and fascia.

Ergo, this weekend V. and D. cut everything down.  Everything.  Years of growth, gone within minutes.  It hurts but I know that it is necessary.  The maple tree was especially painful to tear down. My men were methodical and careful and nothing was damaged and no one was hurt.  V. is now disposing of the leaves and tiny branches but is making logs with the rest to burn in our fireplace in the years to come.



Next summer, we will have to redo the landscaping in front of the house. In a way, it is exciting.  There is more light in the living room.  I will make sure to plant low growing greenery this time.  As I get older, I need the light even more than ever.  I will imagine our new front yard over the winter and when spring comes, I will be ready.

I also spent a couple of hours mending, shortening and ironing downstairs.  When I get in the mood, it is a real mood booster.  Just seeing the pile disappear gives me a great sense of accomplishment.  I always think of my Mom when I do this kind of work.  It brings her closer somehow.

Changes are a part of the landscape of our life.  When we fetch wood from the woodpile, we will remember the trees that welcomed us home every day.  And we will be grateful once more.

Did you ever read The Giving Tree?

Bonsoir,

Stella

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On the Night Table: Georgia O'Keeffe

In November, I am going to White Rock, B.C. for my west coast reading circle.  This is an opportunity not to miss.  Staying at my friend Mary's at Dancing Firs, cooking in her wonderful kitchen, eating meals and waking up to a view of the ocean, walking in the lush gardens, it is a feast for the senses.

The last time we met in March, we read Emily Carr's biography.  It was enlightening, a real discovery of an extraordinary woman.  We capped the activity with a visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see a few of her works.

This time,  we are reading Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe by Laurie Lisle.  I am 1/3 of the way through the book and am enthralled. No doubt I will have to reread it because I am going too fast but the life of this woman captures my attention fully.  As I read, I have my iPad close by to check pictures of her paintings, of the people and places mentioned and of the gorgeous pictures that her lover and husband Alfred Steiglitz took of her.

She has much in common with Canada's Emily Carr: both were nature lovers, both liked to spend a lot of time alone and both went against tradition to bring to light modern painting techniques that allowed them to express their feelings about what they were seeing.  Both were very strong and different from the women of their time. I don't think that they knew about each other...  Emily Carr was 16 years older.

What a treat!

Bonne journée,

Stella

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Our Boy and his Lovely Girl!

 If you have to be on a Caribbean Island in the sweltering heat and humidity, and you have to spend 80% of your waking time in class and studying...

... you might as well do it with someone you really like.

Our boy T. is studying medicine and has found a lovely girl to share his dream with.  A lovely girl who was born in Romania like T.'s father.  A lovely Romanian girl who speaks French, English and Romanian and who is studying medicine too.

Joy.

Bonsoir,

Stella

Friday, September 7, 2012

Remembering Marlon Brando

When I was a girl, I developed  a crush on Marlon after seeing him as Fletcher Christian on Mutiny on the Bounty.  Who wouldn't?  He was young, devilishly handsome and masculine.  He seemed the perfect man to me.  As Christian, he is a gentleman and a powerful man.  And boy did he look good in those white pants!
Marlon in his thirties to fifties was the Marlon I thought most handsome.  Some said he had the face of a poet and the body of a Greek god.  He embodied masculinity, yes but he also had a soft feminine side, a vulnerability that was not just acting.  I think that celebrity shook him to the core, to the point where he no longer wanted to act and especially did not want to talk about his movies.

I just finished reading a biography of Marlon written by his long-time personal assistant: Alice Marchak and despite the sexual and prescription drug addiction, despite his lying ways, I still think he was a hottie.  I watched The Last Tango in Paris again.  Some say it is his greatest performance and I have to agree. Despite the dark nature of the film, he shines as only Marlon Brando can.
A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, The Fugitive Kind, Morituri, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Godfather, The Last Tango in Paris are all worth a watch.

Bonne fin de semaine,

Stella

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Happy New Year!

This was the opening greeting to our meeting this morning.  Indeed, a new year (school) is beginning and it is my last...  I will relish every month knowing that this is my final full time year.

In order to make the year go smoother and easier, I am planning some blissful breaks througout the next ten months.  Actually, I have been doing this for the last several years.  Having something to look forward to is delightful and fires me up to do a good job and be productive.

So, there is a long weekend in October during which I will be sewing with my sister and I will be spending 5 days in White Rock at my friend Mary's in November.  Then there's Christmas. After Christmas is always a challenging time because there are a full three months before I get to do something around spring break.  This year, we have been invited to Mexico for a week. 

After that, it's a mere three months before the end of June and I am a free woman.

What I have to do now is think about activities to shore up my energy and morale during those three months of winter after Christmas.  Knitting, reading, sewing and deep cleaning of my basement will be a part of my resolutions.  I also plan to entertain about once every 4 to 6 weeks.  It's too easy in the season of cold and dark to just retreat to a soft surface and veg out.  But I have to think of something else I could do toward the second or third week of February for that Something to look Forward to.  I have two personal days coming to me.  I may combine them with a weekend to go to Calgary and visit a friend and visit my Dad with my sister.
For now, I have two trees full of apples and a couple of unfinished quilts beckoning for my attention.

How do you create a little joy for yourself in between work and other committments?

Bonne journée!

Stella