Friday, January 30, 2015

What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten?

Peanuts, Charles M. Shulz

Many years ago as a step-mother, I was experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety.  Raising someone else's child all but four days a month over 10 years took its toll on me.

I sought help and found it in a supportive wonderful woman who helped me navigate the rough waters of blended families.

It took me a long time to learn the most precious lesson that has come back to help me in myriad ways:  "Let go."

That was the best piece of advice I've ever gotten, bar none.  It also happens to be the best piece of advice my mémère (French Canadian grand maman) gave my Mom many, many years ago.

I also value Maya Angelou's: "When people show you who they are, believe them."  It's probably up there in the ten best.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten?

Bisous,

Stella

Thursday, January 29, 2015

In 2012, I wrote about the Paris apartment that time forgot.  At the end of my post, I wrote:
Now, who was the granddaughter and why oh why was she so neglectful? Did she not know about it, or did the decades of dust in the apartment hide some sordid details?
Wouldn't this make a great novel or movie? If I were a gifted writer, I would fly to Paris right now and research the story.  Then I would leisurely write it in Provence as a retirement project.
Well, it has been done! But NOT by me!  I read a post about the TWO books that have been written on Janice MacLeod's blog.  (Janice has left Paris and is now living in Calgary, just a 3.5 hour drive from where I live.  If you haven't read her book Paris Letters, you should.  It's an inspiring story and invites you to re-imagine yourself in a different context, in a different life.)

Via Janice MacLeod: Painted letters from Paris...and beyond.
I have a copy of A Paris Apartment and will plunge into it as soon as I can manage it and let you know if it does the real story justice.  It would also make a great movie.  Reminds me a little of Sarah's Key.  Have you seen it or read it?

Have a great day!

Stella

Sunday, January 25, 2015

My Old Lady

When this movie came out, I was in France and when I came home, it was no longer showing.  True, it didn't have a large target audience.  Anything directed to people, particularly women above 45 years old often isn't.

So I waited about 6 months to see this movie and this month, it's out on DVD.

What's not to love? Kristin Scott Thomas of the English Patient and Sarah's Key, Kevin Kline of French Kiss and Sophie's Choice and the inimitable Maggie Smith of Downton Abbey and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  These three actors are amongst my favorite.

The setting is a favorite too:  A huge, old Paris apartment.
The plot sounds like fun: a ne'er do well kinda guy, thrice married and divorced inherits said apartment and a gold watch from his rich father.  Only problem is, it comes with an old lady and her daughter and this, until the old lady's death.

So why did it kinda bomb?  Turns out, the movie isn't that comedic. Mathias Gold is a near 60s drunk who has never gotten over the absence and reservedness of his parent and it takes him most of this rather long movie to do so...

I love Kevin Kline but I don't love him in this movie.  Maggie is Maggie but with a little bit of a selfishness that makes her less lovable.

This movie's script does these fine actors a disservice.  It is too long and makes a storyline that should have elevated the spirit one that makes the viewer ask: "When will this be over?"

If you want to see a great little movie set in a Paris apartment, see Hunting and Gathering (2007).

I give this movie a sorry 3 stars out of 5. Still worth seeing for the setting.  The huge apartment in the middle of Paris' Marais district has a large yard and is worth 12 million...

Stella-the-movie-critic

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Where Are You Most at Peace?





I was watching an excerpt from Oprah's Super Soul Sunday where she asked a number of people: Where are you most at peace?

I immediately thought of Cotignac where we spend about three months over the late summer and fall.  I say Cotignac because there, I am far away from the many obligations that I have here where I live the rest of the year.  It's hard not to be at peace there: it's old, beautiful, surrounded by lush vegetation, potable water flows freely from the fourteen or so fountains, we hear the rush of the stream right outside our balcony doors 24 hours a day.

Having said that, I would say that I am also at peace when I am at home and more so when I am not teaching at the university.  Teaching opens the floodgates to numerous must dos every day of the week including days when I'm off.  Internet, eClass and email disrupt my quiet time and make it difficult to tune out.  An authentic desire to facilitate learning and give students their money's worth drives me to spend many hours preparing stimulating and meaningful lesson plans where they are fully engaged in their learning. Enough said about that.

May to the end of October are more peaceful months.  Maybe it's not where I'm most at peace but when.  During this period I practice meditation and yoga and mindfulness and I engage in a healthy dose of physical activity.

The trick is to integrate all those wonderful things into a workday because that's when I need them most.

Tricky thing.

I am most at peace when I practice mindfulness which is made easier when I am not working.

There.  That's it.

Love,

Stella

P.s.  When are YOU most at peace?


Friday, January 16, 2015

A Series Worth Watching

This is the best crime drama series I've seen.  It is poignant, sensitive, brilliantly done, brilliantly written.  Yes, the writing is superb.  This story, perfectly imagined and carried out, themes woven in and never dropped. The acting is Britain at its best in contemporary drama.
A small seaside town in England is rocked by the death of one of it's 11 year old boys. What happens next is chaos,  lives are overturned as detectives Hardy and Miller search for the author of this unimaginable, unexplainable crime.
Profoundly touching is Episode 8 when the killer is revealed.  We are riveted by the turn of events and, with the local priest's words and initiative, the viewer could believe that a collective could heal from, but never forget the events of the last two months.

I give this series a whopping5/5

It's on Netflix.  Watch it.

Stella


Thursday, January 15, 2015

50, 000 Hits!

This blog will soon count 50, 000 hits and it makes me want to do a little happy dance.  THANK YOU to everyone who comes by and a special MERCI to everyone who leaves a comment.  Your words are like balm to my soul...

Bonne journée,

Stella

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ancestry.ca

I've been doing research on Ancestry.ca for the past couple of weeks.  It is at once an exhilarating and a frustrating experience.  Exhilarating because I am finding where in France my family comes from.  Granted, I found my father's family 30 years ago and have been in contact with them in the Champagne-Ardennes department. And this exercise is frustrating because although I can find so much information on my first French ancestors, I can find very little on my grandparents and great grandparents...
I have found that most of our ancestors from my paternal grandmother's side and from my maternal grandmother's side are from lower Normandy at Saint-Aubin de Tourouvre.  We are GAGNON descendants in more than one branch of our family.

The three Gagnon brothers left Normandy between 1634 - 1640 to arrive in Nouvelle France not that long after the first immigrants from France.  They established a store in Québec city and later took up tracts of land on the Beaupré shore, at Château-Richer.

A commemorative plaque/painting is located at the spot where the store used to be in Québec city. Had I known, I would have told my sister to check it out when she was there in November...


I know that we are descended from Jean, the middle brother but suspect that we are also descended from another of the three.  You see, tens of thousands of people are descended from these three brothers including  Céline Dion, Hilary Clinton, Madonna and the wife of the Prince of Wales.

I think that my triplet plans for 2015 are going to change because of this discovery.  The wheels are turning and along with the treasures discussed by Ina Caro in her book: Paris to the Past, we might be going to the north of France instead of the Pyrénées this fall. Darmannes is where my French family resides and Giverny is the site of Monet's house that boasts huge gardens where many of his paintings were executed. In Tourouvre is a museum dedicated to all the Canadians descended from the Percheron immigrants...


I'm so grateful for the Internet which allows me to learn about anything from soup to nuts, but in this case, to something a little closer to my heart.

Thanks for coming by.

Stella

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Don't Look a Gift Cradle in the Mouth

Before...



 ...and after using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint - Old White with clear and dark wax rubbed on...
 


Many years ago (I'm thinking about 15), I jumped at the opportunity to save this little baby from the dump.  It's been in the crawl space since then with intermissions where it's been on loan to a family welcoming a new baby.

It's coming out again, not for my grandchildren but for a friend's grandbaby sometime in June.  I've always wanted to refinish it and I was just in the mood for some hard work.  I've never worked with old white before and it's a hard color to apply dark wax to because everything shows a lot more than on the Old Ochre or the Versailles or Provence.

One day, I'm going to make some little fitted sheets for the foam mattress that fits inside, flannel for winter and some lovely flowered cotton for summer months...

Stella-Grandmother-in-Training

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ina Caro


I just purchased Ina Caro's second book, Paris from the Past. A  friend of mine talked to me about Ina Caro a couple of years  ago saying that I would enjoy her books. Well, I do.
Ina Caro is an academic and a francophile.  As such, she spends a lot of time in France and a lot of time visiting historical sites.  In Paris to the Past, she divides tours according to centuries saying that visiting a century at a time makes more sense and allows the tourist to better understand what he is seeing.

A few months ago, I purchased Decadent Desserts: Recipes from Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte and was enchanted by the photography of this magical castle (more than I was by the recipes).  

Well, Vaux-le-Vicomte appears in Part Three of the Paris from the Past under the chapter called: The Age of Louis the XIV: Seventeenth Century France.  In this chapter, three destinations are recommended:

Magical Vaux-le-Vicomte
Versailles
The Secret Castle of Maintenon

 Caro gives excellent information about the best way of getting to these sights but more importantly, she gives just enough historical information to cover the essentials while making it short enough keep the reader interested.

Vaux-le-Vicomte rivals Versailles in its breathtaking awesomeness and is less crowded.  It's most famous owner and builder of the estate was Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV's superintendant of finances.  Fouquet, being a brilliant and cultivated man,  engaged the services of some of France's budding best: Le Nôtre for the gardens, Le Brun for paintings and architect Louis Le Vau to oversee the project. What resulted was a castle that while not as impressive as Versailles, is more beautiful according to Caro.

I also own a copy of Caro's The Road From the Past which proposes an unforgettable driving tour of France, from Provence to the Loire Valley to Paris. The triplet I discussed a few weeks ago was inspired by this book.

Over the next few years, it's our intention to take small trips to explore more deeply the hidden treasures of France's past and with Ina Caro as a guide, I know we won't be disappointed.  What she proposes inspires adventure, discovery and appreciation of some of the finest France has to offer.

Stella-Enchanted

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How to Make Green Tea Latte



I'm going to make this because I love the Green Tea Latte at Second Cup!  Many years ago, I was given six perfect japanese tea cups, just like the ones in the video.

This drink is perfect for a morning brew or afternoon pick-me-up.  Now I wonder if the Green Tea Matcha Blend bags (Kirkland brand) that one can purchase at Costco will do the trick.  Anyone out there know?

Stella

Sunday, January 4, 2015

George Ezra - Budapest (Official Video)



Love this song by George Ezra.  Lyrics are good, tune is catchy and singing is great.

25M+ hits on Youtube.

This guy's got talent.


Stella-trying-to-keep-warm

Where Would YOU Spend Winters?

Cotignac, January 4th, 2015 - 18 degrees Celsius
45 degrees Celsius, that's the difference between the temperature in Cotignac (where we have a condo in Provence) and Edmonton (the city close to where I live) today.  I was asking Vlad the other day why we don't spend January to April in Cotignac instead of August to October.  His answer? "Because I want to use the pool and go to the beach when I'm in Cotignac." 

Yes but... you can spend almost all of the winter months with single or double digit temperatures, above zero that is, in Cotignac!

Temperatures here are frigid: -27 C today.  I am writing this sitting in bed in flannel sheets with a feather duvet covering me and tomorrow, tomorrow I have to fire up the RAV 4 and go to work in the morning!

Maybe we could find an indoor pool in Cotignac...

Love and icicles,

Stella

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Crock Pot Oatmeal



When I was little, our Mom used to make oatmeal by cooking it all night at a very low temperature.  My sister Doreen told me about Crock Pot Oatmeal during the holidays and we had it this morning.  It's a winner! 
Here is the recipe I made which calls for 1 cup of oatmeal and 3 1/2 cups water amongst other things - like 1 tablespoon of cinnamon which is a little too much for my taste. I found another recipe here which calls for 2 cups of oatmeal to 4 cups water which will no doubt make for more consistency.  I found another recipe that calls for flax seed which would be a nutritious add-in. 
We added a little maple syrup and half and half to top it off.  Chopped pecans and dried cranberries would be delicious as well.
Two nights ago, 8 inches of snow fell and today we are sitting at -23 degrees Celsius.  A perfect morning for Crock Pot Oatmeal.

Love,

Stella

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Eve Hightlights

We had a very good time last night with our dear friends.  We both provided the nosh and drinks and had a veritable post-holidays feast.  The highlights were undoubtably the company but in the food and drinks department, these were our favorites:

From the Holiday issue of Flavours magazine
Sacha made this blue cheese terrine for us when she came for dinner the other night and I saved the leftover for last night.  She made it with dates and pecans, I think and it worked wonderfully.  Just click on the link below the photo for access to the magazine. At room temperature, this spreads beautifully on crackers and with champagne, you cannot ask for a better combination.

This what our friends brought for the New Year's toast.  I want to toast every new year in this way for ever and ever.  Veuve is a really delicious, super bubbly champagne.  It is a pleasure and a priveledge to drink...

The little fridge is reusable and keeps the cold champagne at the right temperature for two hours.  I was tickled pink by this miniature.  I thought it might be just right for Barbie...

And above all, the most durable highlight of last night is that I have discovered a most fitting, short but all encompassing  resolution for 2015:

Here are a few strategies I will use to stay focused my resolution throughout the year:

1. Post the resolution in 'easy to see' places like your bathroom mirror and your computer desktop.
2. Meditate on the resolution.
3. Make the resolution into an intention and repeat it three times a day, several times each time.  This works well in the morning, in the car and in the evening before sleep.
4. Talk about your resolution with family and friends.
5. Write about your success with your resolution in your gratitude journal.

Thank you for coming by, for commenting and for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.

Bonne et heureuse année,

Stella