Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year 2015!

Happy New Year Readers!  May:
  • your dreams come true
  • you be buoyed by the love of the people around you
  • your desires be met
  • your bucket list get ticked off
  • you be resolute in your resolutions 
  • you read inspiring books and see inspiring films
  • you continue to work on self-development
  • you develop your talents
  • you give as well as receive 
  • you choose your thoughts
  • you speak your truth
  • health be yours
  • your heart be light
  • you live an abundant life
  • the wind be at your back
  • Etc.
Bisous,

Stella

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Blessing for my Niece

Sacha is the mother of our godson
 Sacha is starting a new job after the Christmas holidays.  This, from John O'Donahue's To Bless The Space Between Us,  if for her:

May your new work excite your heart,
Kindle in your mind a creativity
To journey beyond the old limits
Of all that has become wearisome.

May this work challenge you toward 
New frontiers that will emerge
As you begin to approach them,
Calling forth from you the full force 
And depth of your undiscovered gifts.

May the work fit the rhythms of your soul,
Enabling you to draw from the invisible
New ideas and a vision that will inspire.

May this new work be worthy
Of the energy of your heart
And the light of your thought.

May your work assume
A proper space in your life:
Instead of owning or using you,
May it challenge and refine you,
Bringing you every day further
Into the wonder of your heart.

Love,

Tatie Stella

Thursday, December 25, 2014

First Time

Yesterday was the first Christmas Eve at home without our eldest son Tristan, 25.  I snuffled and sobbed half the day while preparing our traditional fondue dinner. Although we Skyped with him a couple of times during the day, it does not compare with the giant squeezy hugs he gives us or when I get to kiss him on the neck or by the ear or when he makes us laugh till our sides hurt.  Thank goodness that we still have Damien with us!!

I wrote my 93-year-old Dad a quick note to wish him a Merry Christmas Eve and told him of how I was missing my boy. He wrote back (loosely translated from the French):
I understand your emotions, particularly at this time of year. But look at it on the bright side, your boys are getting an excellent education (to ensure a good living).  It warms the heart.
I wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR, especially good HEALTH.
Your Dad who does not forget you.
Sniff.  I thought I was done crying.

Today we are headed for my sister Doreen's for Christmas dinner and although it's not like having Tristan home, we will be surrounded by the warm hug of her large family with numerous little ones running about.

Joyeux Noël!

Stella

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Take Out the Pans

When I'm feeling a little blue, as I am today, I pull out the pans and make something to eat.  In this case, there is plenty of inspiration:

a) It's almost Christmas
b) I have two new cookbooks
c) I have at least two grateful recipients

Duchess is a fabulous French bakery in Edmonton.  If you are ever in the area, a visit is highly recommended.  The Paris Brest and the Lemon Tart are personal favourites.  Anyway, this fall, they put out a cookbook which I purchased ten days ago after we drove T. our boy to the airport where he flew back to Chicago in time for his rotation in infectious diseases.  (This is called a run on sentence I think but it matches my état d'âme so on and on I go).

Baking is not my favourite kind of cooking but beautiful cookbooks make me want to pull out my mom's wedding gift mixing bowls and my mother-in-law's vintage loaf pans.  And so I did.

My boys love banana bread so I made two small Hummingbird loaves which will be adorned with cream cheese icing tomorrow.



While waiting for the loaves to bake, I took out my new aquisition.  It is a special desserts cookbook written by the contesse of the Château Vaux le Vicomte.  A couple of years ago, my friend Rose showed me her copy and I didn't so much fall for the recipes as I did the setting where the photos of decadent desserts were styled and shot.  I found it on Abe Books for a song (less than 10$ US shipped, it's original price 45$). 
I admire the pluck of the Countess for putting out this book.  She makes me think that I can do it too...
But first, I'll try her Dulce de leche recipe which is laughably easy.  Open a can of condensed milk, put it in a bain marie and heat it on low for three hours until the milk turns caramel in color. Then eat it by the silver spoonful.

I will never make candied croissants but I love how this picture looks.  The sparkle of the crystal is set off by the buttery puffiness of the croissant.

There, that made me feel better.

Love,

Stella

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Marco Polo


In the past ten days,  V. and I have been watching the Marco Polo series on Netflix.  We're both happy to learn more about the Italian adventurer (whose home in Venice we saw this past October) but more so to learn about Kublai Khan and the great Mongolian empire at its peak.

The sets, costumes and countryside are truly stunning and I marvel at how much beauty the Mongols enjoyed in the 13th Century.  Windows, pillars, floors,  furniture and gardens are equally beautiful and artisan's work is evident in every object, costume and setting that is featured in the series.

Naturally, we are looking mostly at the Khan's dwelling or at the Chinese Emperor's castle but even the yurts that house the tribes of the great Gobi desert are luxuriously decorated. If the storyline doesn't always keep your eyes glued to the television, the visuals will.


The acting is good:  Little known Lorenzo Richelmy plays clever yet humble Marco Polo, well-known Joan Chen plays a favorite wife of the Khan, Tom Wu plays Hundred Eyes the blind monk charged with Marco Polo's education in the martial arts and finally, Chin Han plays the evil Chancellor, hungry for power on the other side of the Great Wall. Benedict Wong is imposing as the Kublai Khan at once tenderhearted and treacherous, a friend and a formidable foe.  His presence, made all the more majestic by his costumes,  is intimidating.

The series is rife with political and sexual intrigue and conflict and if sometimes, I knit while watching, I still look forward to seeing what happens next.

I give the series four stars out of five for stunning visuals and a diverse cast of good actors.

Love,

Stella

Friday, December 19, 2014

Pentatonix White Winter Hymnal


I think that this Fleet Foxes cover by Pentatonix is totally rad.  Enjoy! 
Below is the original version by the Fleet Foxes.  Thanks to my son T. in Chicago for introducing them to me. 



Caitlin Matthews in her inspiring little book: Celtic Devotional : Daily Prayers and Blessings counsels us to

Practice introspection, meditation, contemplation, drawing upon the peaceful sanctuary of this season.

The White Winter Hymnal, especially the Fleet Foxes rendition, recalls the winter season in the perfection of its tone and rhythm.


Yours in the Christmas Spirit,

Stella

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Darn



When I went to France this year, one of my objectives was to secure a darning egg at the brocante.  I bought a beautiful one in Cotignac but alas, it that has developed a hairline fracture in the last two months as it is very dry here in Alberta.
I also scored at the second-hand store when I found someone's vintage fabric-covered box full of embroidery thread and darning yarn.  I brought a few cards home to use to darn V.'s socks. 
 I like the economy and the ecology of sock-darning.  I have more time now and it makes so much sense to repair a small hole rather than throw two socks away. My friend Corey says that brocanteurs were recycling before it became a trend.
My Mom used to have a flowered biscuit tin to hold all of her darning and embroidery thread and I remember her wearing a thimble... I love vintage sewing notions and think that I'll be looking out for more of these on future trips. 

Do any of you darn? or sew? or knit? 

Stella

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Recording Gratitude: You are Never too Old or Too Young

This post is dedicated to Donna with thanks.


If we are still hearing about the power of gratitude in books, on Oprah and on the net, it is in large part because of  Sarah Ban Breathnach and her seminal work: Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy published in 1994.  That book spoke in part, about the importance of gratitude: all you have is all you need" wrote the author.  Oprah discovered the "pink book" in her offices and the world was never the same again.

Ban Breathnach appeared on the Oprah Show maybe 10 times to talk about Simple Abundance and about the power of gratitude to transform lives.  She then published a little book called The Simple Abudance Journal of Gratitude in 1996.  I have begun writing again  in this journal.  I purchase them on Abe Books and often get them for a song.  I know they are also available on ebay. Of course, any piece of paper will do to record five things you are grateful for that happened in your day.

SBB has come out with a children's book with the theme of gratitude at it's core, it's titled: The Best Part of the Day.  The book is beautiful with it's illustrations by Wendy Edelson, there's a lot to see on the page and the text is rhymed. I purchased my copy and after having read it, know who I am going to give it to. An activity sheet has been created to accompany said book and I think that cultivating an attitude of gratitude with the very young just might make a big difference in the world we live in. 

You could create a gratitude journal by assembling 7 sheets for a week of daily thank you's.  Or, you could assemble 4 sheets at a time for weekly entries for each month.  A parent could read the book in the evening before bed, gather up the child's gratitude list and on Sunday, the child could write/draw on the activity sheets what he/she was grateful for during the week.  The journals could be seasonal too, as the book is divided.   You can find the activity sheet here. You can purchase the book at Costco if you are in the States (I saw that SBB had a signing there in September) or at Ebay, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Amazon, etc.  This book makes a thoughtful gift for any family that you love.

Yours in Simple Abundance, 

Stella

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Comments


The comments section has been positively arid the last few weeks.  Corey and Rachelle, I have gotten yours and thank you.

Sister D. has told me that she tried commenting by replying to the blog post she's been getting in her email.  Which makes sense since she tells me that at the bottom of the post it says "click to reply".

Warning, warning, warning! If you click to reply thinking that this will enter a comment, it does not!

If you wish to comment, you must click "comments" at the bottom of the blog post and enter your comment there, OK?

Love to hear from you!

Stella

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Perfection of Morning

Tom Brown Fine Art
I love mornings, it's my favorite time of the day.  I love to lie in and wake up slowly, drink my latte, do some reading, think, roll over and think so more before I check emails and read a little of my favorite blogs.  That is, if I'm not working that day.

Often the lie-in leads to inspiration and what I'm going to do with my day if I don't already have a list of things to do.  No, that's not quite so, I always have a list of things to do but in the morning, I get to decide if I'm going to do something on the list or if I'm going to check off  something on the 'what I feel like doing' list.

It could be writing a post or checking out books to read or books to create from.  I love Kaari Meng's French General books.  All those red to coral tones in antique or antique inspired materials. What I love is her love of all things French and her fresh take on them. I have yet to sew my Esprit de Noël quilt, the time is approaching but not quite here.

I've asked my men to drag the 6 Christmas green Rubbermaid bins from the crawl space to begin decorating.  A glass of wine, my favorite Windham Hill A Winter Solstice soundtracks playing, the early evening darkness and wood fire are the perfect stage for decorating a tree.

Between now and then, I'll do a little housecleaning, a little laudry, roast eggplant, peppers, garlic and red onion for our favorite Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, a Barefoot Contessa favorite.  This salad can be eaten at any time of day for a satisfactory meal or snack.  If you are a 25 or 22 year-old, you can inhale it as a snack and thank your mother for making the effort to fill up your hollow legs.

I don't always give a shape to my day in the morning.  Occasionally, I just let it roll out and see what happens. That is the beauty of retirement.

Amen

Stella

Friday, December 5, 2014

Brené Brown and Wholehearted Living



I am currently reading: The Gifts of Imperfection (Let Go of Who You're Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are) by Brené Brown.  I am so taken with this book.  A few months ago, I spoke aloud my desire to be brave and say my truth instead of just skirting around not wanting to hurt or offend anyone. I am referring here to authentic truths about what a person wants and doesn't want, not the type of truths that are best not shared, if you know what I mean. Brené Brown deconstructs this form of honest integrity for us in her book Daring Greatly which is going to be my next read.

I am very impressed with this researcher/author's work, her TED talks and even her website. Brown is a seasoned research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.

My reading circle is meeting Monday night and I can't wait to hear what my friends' take is on this seminal work. 

She has generously created some downloads on the site, check them out! Here is my wish for you!

I give The Gifts of Imperfection a whopping 5 stars out of 5.  It's the best self-help book I have read in a long time.

Stella

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Words to Live By


Have you ever felt that there's something you're supposed to do and are not doing?  I don't mean laundry or supper or even taking an evening class,  although an evening class could propel you forward...
Do you dream of creating something special from deep within you? Do you have something to show or to say in an important, significant way? Do you feel a yearning, a pulling that you can't quite come to grips with? Do you toy with an idea but put it aside saying: "Maybe later"?
If you believe that you can, if you even suspect that you can, you must, mustn't you?


Stella

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Supper at the Farm


So we went to Sister D.'s place for an early winter supper this evening.  We brought T. with us to visit and they had their daughter, my niece and her family with them to visit.

I brought along a little craft activity and the girls and I whipped these necklaces up in less than an hour.  Aren't they cute?  Sister D. picked the primary coulours agains a black ground and S. picked a leopard print.  I think they look very artsy and attractive don't you?

Sister D. has a new look: shorter hair and some magnificent bespoke glasses by Tom Davies.  I am loving this look for her and think that she is loving it too.

Our godson A. was attracted to T. and backed up to him with a book, waiting to be lifted up to share one of his favorite books on animals.  Isn't this sweet?

Picture quality is poor but the subjects' enthousiasm more than makes up for it...

Happy-wife-mother-sister-aunt-tatie-Stella

Friday, November 28, 2014

Winter is Upon Us







Today -21 degrees Celsius.  Yesterday,  the first serious snowfall this season: 30 centimeters. Took these photos on my way home from work today.  Snow plows have worked all night clearing the main roads but the residential areas are, well, thick with it.  I drive a 10-year-old RAV4 and I am glad of it.

Stella-in-the-White-Winterland

P.S. No lives were endangered whilst taking these photos.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Coaching, Shopping and Madeleines

 
I've been supervising student teachers for now, my fifth week.  As my friend Danielle's dad is very sick and she has had to fly home to see him and  I now have her student teachers too, a total of seven (more than double) to see each week and evaluate at the end of their practicum.

The few extra dollars I'm making have prompted me to do a few things after work.

1. I went to fill up the car;
2. While there I had the car's outside cleaned, twice, because the first time was a bust;
3. Went to Michael's to buy:
  • Bernat Handicrafter cotton to make dishcloths over the year for our little Provençal home;
  • Wooden beads to make more necklaces (see yesterday's post);
  • Wrapping paper for Christmas.
4. Hopped along to HomeSense  just to see what I could see and wouldn't you know it, I found a few things I needed/coveted:
  • A Madeleine cookie mould;
  • New scented candles;
  • A sink mat;
  • A cute, cute Carly Dodsley serving plate - I couldn't resist it because we visited the Chateauneuf-du-pape region just a few weeks ago.
I then proceeded to make the Madeleine recipe on the mould's packaging and Voilà! Behold!
(There are only 8 because I burned the first batch because I set the timer but neglected to press "start", sheesh!) The burned ones taste good only they don't look so good,  y'know?  Will repeat the exercise although, I will need to exercise as this recipe requires 1/2 cup of butter!!

Stella-la-patissière

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Little Craft


Via Of Dreams and Seams
Ever since I saw these on Pinterest, I knew that I would have to make them.  Finally, my son arrived from Chicago with the beads that I ordered.  I can probably get the beads in town here somewhere but couldn't locate them on the Internet so I did the next best thing.  Anyhow, they are one inch diameter wooden beads.

The silk is from one of my husband's old ties.  The project is a little labor intensive as you have to carefully take the tie apart. I will never see a tie and not think about the complicated construction again.
The tutorial to make these is here which is the way that  I have made it in the pictures above.  I like the knots that separate the beads... and it's less work! I have three more sets of beads to use and I'm going to try some cheap silk scarves I purchased from ebay next.

Crafty-Stella

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Historical Midi and Pyrénées Triplet 2015

I'm already dreaming of our next stay in France and of course, the next triplet.

We are going to be a little more conservative this year, and explore the Pyrénées region of France.  There is so much to see that it will be a challenge to make this trip a triplet.

Cotignac-Arles-Saintes-maries-de-la-mer-Rennes-le-Château-Château-Verdun-St-Étienne de Baïgorry-Biarritz and back home.  950 kilometers and 4 nights.

For a North-American 950 kilometers is not a big deal. This however, is France and 950 kilometers is DENSE with gorgeous countrysides and things to see.

We could spend a solid week busy all day visiting worth-seeing sights.  As it stands, here are some spots that could make it on our list:

1. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer: this is where Mary Magdalene is purported to have landed in France.  After visiting the cathedral at Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume this year, I'm motivated to follow the footsteps of Mary in France...


2. Abbaye de Fontfroide: a wine-producing former Cistercian monastery with vaulted cloisters;

3. Montségur: a commune famous for its fortification, the Château was built on the ruins of one of the last strongholds of the Cathars;

4. Rennes-le-Chateau: an important site of Da Vinci Code fame where the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene is visited by 10,000 people/year;

Church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

Via Chateau de Gudanes website
The Class 1 Historic Monument was designed by Parisian architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, famous for his neoclassical, architectural symmetry, including the Le Petit Trianon and Place de la Concorde. 
In 2013 it was purchased by an Australian family who have taken on the responsibility to awaken this sleeping beauty after years of neglect;
6. St-Étienne de Baïgorry: a beautiful town in the Pyrénées where velvety-green hills and sheep abound and very good cheeses are made;

7. Biarritz: is a luxurious seaside town (the Atlantic) and is popular with tourists and surfers.  My adoptive Tita and Tonton used to live in this area.  Tonton passed this year and I'm going to say goodbye at the cemetery;
Biarritz - La grande plage via Wikipedia
8. Toulouse: If there is time, I would like to visit Toulouse as it is a town that I haven't visited but know to be a lovely are from Kaari Meng's Château Getaway that takes place every summer just north of the city at Chateau Dumas.  This city is also the birthplace of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec whose paintings I loved as a girl. There is a Toulouse-Lautrec museum in Albi close by.

About Toulouse,  Wikipedia says:
A city with unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks, which earned it the nickname la Ville Rose ("the Pink City"), Toulouse counts two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Canal Du Midi (designated in 1996 and shared with other cities), and the Basilica of St. Sernin, designated in 1998 because of its significance to the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.

Over the winter, I'll be reading Ina Caro's The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France to guide our way. I also have to reread sections of Travelling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk-Kidd because she makes a reference to some sites in this general area.

Stella-ever-planning-the-next-trip

Friday, November 21, 2014

He's Home!



He's been away from home for three years.  December 29th, 2011 he left for Anguilla, then Chicago in 2013. He will finish his MD in October 2015.

He's as passionate about medicine as he is poor and indebted.  He lights up when explaining this or that medical condition or how a drug works.  His other passion is, well, us.

We have him for three weeks then he has to head back as he is starting rotations at Mercy Hospital in Chicago.  We won't see him again until July because he has to renew his student visa every 6-8 months.
In 2015 he must:
  1. do 6 months rotations back to back
  2. write the Canadian MCCEE
  3. write Step II CS
  4. write Step II CK
  5. write the NAC OSCE (Canadian exam)
  6. write Step III
  7. put in 75 or so applications for a residency
  8. do interviews between October 2015 and January 2016 for a residency
  9. get a residency somewhere
Pray for him please.

Stella-the-mother-hen