Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tristan is home for his 'holidays'. As a first year resident, this is what he gets for Christmas. We are grateful to have him with us. We are feeding him foods he loves and leaving him plenty of private time to sleep and unwind.

This is a guy who's been working 12-14 hour days 6 days/week for the most part.

Beside him is his big half-sister. Someone said they have the same smile. That would be Vlad's even and straight toothed grin you see.
We had a celebration supper last night and talked long into the night. Today was a day off of sorts as tomorrow both Vlad and I are at work.

I have a wreath on the door, ground pork for my tourtières and all gifts looked after. The children all want $$$ so that makes it easy for us but less fun as there are less and less parcels under the tree every year. I understand that they want to buy something they want but it doesn't make for much merry when it's gift-opening time. Am I the only one who feels this way?

Friday night we saw Denis Villeneuve's Arrivals. It was a very sensitive, moving Sci Fi. We walked away with a lot to talk about and were inspired by its philosophical message. We highly recommend it. Amy Adams is very very good in this... What are your favorite movies of the season?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

We are alive!

So we've been here, in France for almost a month now and I can't believe how time has just flown this year. Catching up with our European family of friends, getting the garden at the Moulin where we live back into shape and just vegging out because we need to get over a BIG year so far, we haven't seen the time go by. Tuesday was market day in Cotignac and we had lunch with our Moulin friends and went to Mirabeau en Provence, a local wine producer's shop for a wine tasting. Even if we had very little, I shouldn't have indulged myself. Wine is not good for my tummy but can you imagine being here and not partaking in alcohol, tomatoes, citrus fruits, some cheeses, etc., etc.?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Veg Fairy

I had a visit yesterday from D. my veg fairy.

I'll let the heavy rain do a pre-clean before I bring them in to make Borscht.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Almost Done

Here is where we are so far.  Bedroom is 90% done.  We need to do little weeny picky touch ups, buy tie-backs and get the drapes in place properly and purchase the end-of-the-bed bench.  We still need to paint the ensuite but as there is little damage to the walls, we'll get it done in a day or two.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Before Picture


Phew!  Step 1 Room and wallpaper stripping and is done and took about 24 hours!
  • Step 2 is washing walls which should be a lot quicker.  Should take a couple of hours.  
  • Step 3 is repairing walls with spakling, then sanding and vacuuming, again. 
  • Step 4 is applying an undercoat which will help greatly in hiding imperfections.  
  • Step 5 is taping and laying down newspaper. 
  • Step 6 is painting the top third of the wall with my chosen color called: Thunder.  
  • Step 7 is repainting all mouldings and bottom third of the wall with the original color: Cloud White.  These are from Benjamin Moore. I bought the top quality paint which I love as it only requires one coat.
  • Step 8 is shampooing rugs.
  • Step 9 is putting up curtains (after I buy new rods). 
  • Step 10 is making shams and a throw out of my second duvet cover. 
  • Step 11 is making up bed, replacing furniture and putting up pictures.
  • Step 12 is lightly sanding and painting the ensuite.
Here are my colors :

Cable knit and Thunder

Thursday, July 7, 2016

When you Need Confirmation

I have met several challenges in the last months, none so difficult as dealing with my aged father and interacting with my siblings.  Old patterns emerge, obscure perceptions and hurt feelings are prevalent. 

Today, as a kindness to myself, I picked a card from my Wisdom of the Oracle deck and lo and behold, I picked The Observer.  The Oracle's relationship message is the following:

Sometimes you just can’t see the forest for the trees in your way. Feelings can get all jumbled up, and often you hear one thing when a person says another. It can be like an echo of an unresolved past experience dubbed over your conversation. Take time out before you react. It’s likely the other person has no idea how his or her words have affected you. Take a few steps back and lend understanding to the situation.

Have faith in your connection and trust that you can come together. Take to higher ground now and cultivate curiosity about what you observe in yourself, in others, and in the landscape. You will find things much improved sooner than you know.

Removing Wallpaper, a Meditation

Over the last week, I've been peeling wallpaper off the walls of our bedroom as preparation for the redecoration.  It is a long boring process but as long boring processes are, they are often meditative and calming.  I am enjoying myself, not unlike two summers ago when I painted the exterior of our house.

I am done with the red toile that has been providing a backdrop for sleeping, drinking coffee, reading...  Although the wallpaper is pristine, the bed linens and curtains are tired-looking and the decor no longer reflects who I am/we are. I didn't feel a thing when I ripped off the first piece.  A sure sign that the time had come.


Finally, this lovely book is coming to the screen with one of my favorite young actors: Michael Fassbender.  I've been watching him for a few years now and he gets better and better.  Alicia Vikander won the best actress award this year.  She is luminous.  Have you seen her in 'The Danish Girl'?  

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brexit, Trump and All That

Vlad and I are in shock.  That Britain should have opted to turn the clock back and leave the EU was unimaginable.  The tiny margin between the 'leave' and the 'stay' votes speaks about a country strongly divided.  The situation in GB in fact, mirrors what is taking place in the US with the nostalgia for days past when people felt that they had a secure place in a country that resembled them.

What saddens me is that 74% of people under 24 years old voted to stay in the EU on Thursday night. Does the future not belong to them?

I don't like what is going on in the world most of the time.  What is taking place now feels close to home and completely unrealistic.  When has wanting to go back to the way things were in the past ever possible or thinkable?

In a time of globalisation how is it possible to think about becoming more insular? And how is it possible to think that exclusion is a step forward?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Post Chicago Thoughts

Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio in Oak Park

Hemmingway's birthplace also in Oak Park

Tristan's kitchen and my favorite place to sit

Architectural River Tour
Chicago surprised me.  Not with it’s densely hi-rise populated-downtown area, not with it’s numerous sculptures, not with its free zoo and gob-smacking Lakeshore Drive, no, not with these, although they are reason enough to be impressed.  I was impressed with the Chicago that is outside of the loop, to the west and to the south of the downtown area.

First, let me say that during the week that Vlad and I were in the windy city (not windy because of it’s Aeolian power, but for the wind emanating out of its’ politician’s mouths), we did not meet a single surly, sour, or cranky person.  From the personnel at the grocery markets to the Uber drivers to the neighbors living on our son’s street, we did not encounter a single solitary *ss h***.  Well, that’s not quite right. The manager at the Olive Garden where I forgot my iPad and had it subsequently stolen, didn’t even offer me a conciliatory coffee for my pain and suffering… but that’s another story. We were charmed and warmed by Chicagoans' friendliness and willingness to engage with a couple of middle-aged Canadians on a mission to settle our boy into his apartment before his Step 3 exam and the beginning of a three-year residency program at one of Chicago’s many, many hospitals.

The Chicagoans we met during our seven-day stay were authentic, kind, friendly and willing to help out in any way that we asked, be it for directions, advice on the best way to get to work, to the best place to get a delicious and economical bite to eat. We were enveloped in a warm hug of human kindness. Who would have known that this sprawling, diverse, crime-ridden city would offer up the degree of solicitousness that we encountered wherever we went?  And we went to a LOT of places…

We must have put on several hundred kilometres getting the apartment hooked up with gas, electricity, Internet, insurance, furniture and groceries. Every time we needed help, we were obliged with a friendly face, a smile and reassurance that not all big, sprawling heterogeneous cities are an unsafe place to be.

We discovered Uber, the cheapest, best way to get to downtown, the best Mexican food to be had north of the Mexican border, movie theatres with Lazy Boy-type easy chairs and neighborhood connectedness the likes of which we do not experience at home.  The people in Tristan’s neighborhood wanted to know him and were quick to include him in their daily looking-out-for type of concern.  They were congratulatory, encouraging and immediately offered the best way to…(insert just about anything here).

Thank you Chicago, for welcoming our boy into your hearts and into your community. Thank you for making us feel at home, making us feel welcome and for making us instantly feel like we are a part of your ‘hood’.

We look forward to coming back and discover more of what you have to offer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


We, Vlad and Tristan and I, are leaving for Chicago soon.  We have to settle T. into his apartment as his residency starts on July 1st.

I don't know how much time we will have to play tourist but here is a wish list of sorts for our short time there:

Architectural Boat Tour via 
Because I love boats and I love beauty sprinkled with a little history.
Millenium Park via
Because apparently, you just don't visit Chicago without taking a picture of yourself taking a picture of 'The Bean' or the Cloud Gate sculpture.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio via

Because I read 'Loving Frank' by Nancy Horan many years ago and I've been curious about him since.  When I visited Phoenix in 2011, I saw his Talliesin West and was enchanted. Talliesin East just north and west of Chicago will go on my to-do list for my next visit to Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago via
Because I love seeing world famous art and this museum has a lion's share of it and because I read a biography of Georgia O'Keefe several years ago and they have several of her paintings. Not to mention a huge selection of Impressionist work, the iconic American Gothic and Van Gogh's The Bedroom featured in a biography called: The Yellow House by Martin Gayford. 

Then there will be the walks, the grocery shopping, the wine and beer purchasing, restaurant lunches and mundane activities like getting the Internet and electricity hooked up... Should be interesting.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Checking In

It's been a while since my last post and it feels like I have nothing to say yet there is a life going on... Damien is doing well at the end of his 3rd week of a two-year after degree Nursing degree.  He hit the ground running and cannot slow down as all the learning is compressed into 24 months.  Luckily, he has a Bachelor of Kinesiology which had a great focus on the body and how it works.

Very hard to get a good picture of both of them at the same time!

Tristan, Vlad and I are leaving for Chicago in about ten days to help Tristan settle into an apartment for the start of his residency on July 1st.  Having had him at home for the last 5 months has been a great joy and I will miss him dearly.  His lively conversation, sense of humour, keen and social commentary make him a really fun roommate.

Vlad, as you know, had his hip replaced on Feb. 29th and is doing marvellously. He is substitute teaching in schools and his almost daily exercises and is very upbeat and positive.  He also has a small landscaping project in the back yard which keeps him engaged.

For my part, I seem to just be coasting through this last few days with 'children at home'.  Finished cleaning and painting Damien's room and have started the design for the re-decoration of our room. It's been about 13 or 14 years since our last redo and the red toile is looking a little tired and I am very tired OF it.

I went to Restoration Hardware for inspiration for my gold and grey room.  I found a beautiful print that is my jumping off point:

via Restoration Hardware

Framed by scrolling leaves and vines, a 16th-century classical flora motif is printed by one of Italy's famed ateliers on basket weave cotton in a softly weathered palette that accentuates our bedding's heirloom quality. The antique Italian pattern, capturing the scale and fluidity of a watercolor painting, comes from the distinguished archives of the Ratti Group, a company founded by Antonio Ratti in 1945 and now led by his daughter Donatella Ratti.

I've purchased the duvet cover and will use it with gold herringbone sateen bed linens to complement.

via Restoration Hardware
The cherry on the sundae will be the purchase of a bench for the end of the bed.

via Restoration Hardware
via Restoration Hardware
The wainscotting will stay in the cream color and I want to paint the top two-thirds of the wall in a stormy-sky grey color.  Then I want dark grey drapes that hang from the top of the wall and a dark grey bed skirt.  I've already found lighter grey bed sheets at Winners and BBB.
                             Very bad photo of the armoire to be given a face lift 

I'm thinking of repainting the armoire above that I bought years ago at Home Depot. I wish I had the talent to make it feel like this with an Italian or Provencal landscape with cypress trees:
I've looked for posters that I could collage onto the doors of the armoire but have not had any success yet.  The fun is in the hunt... Any ideas? And no, hiring an artist is not within the means of this budget...

All I need after that is a cut glass decanter and glass on a silver tray on my night table.  I think I'll head to Value Village.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

100 Days

I like checklists, I like roadmaps, I like signs and I like me a good countdown.

It's a hundred days till we fly to France for our annual stay in Cotignac. This year, 10.5 weeks of (mostly) bliss. Why is Cotignac blissful?  Because:

1. it's in France
2. it's in Provence
3. we live in an apartment built on the ruins of a 17th century olive oil mill
4. there is a stream that rushes by our balcony which is about 3 feet above ground
5. there is a fig tree right across the stream and I have picking rights
6. our beloved French and American friends
7. cheese
8. rosé
9. triplets (little trips, not like twins) in France
10. the brocante
11. parasol pines
12. the Mediterranean
13. our infinity pool by the town's river which has little cascades
14. walks are never boring
15. sleeping to the sound of rushing water
16. the markets
17. the outdoor beer/wine drinking and moules marinières
18. baguette
19. days at the beach in St-Tropez
20. impromptu talks and get-togethers
21. etc.

This had me thinking about how where I live right now is blissful (NOT in order of importance):

1. I just cleaned and painted our youngest son's room, it feels new again and my 'fixing up' mojo is back
2. our back deck
3. my big sunlit kitchen which is lovely to cook in
4. my books
5. large TV screen with Netflix and Apple TV for those long winter months
6. friendly, kind neighbours
7. all my craft stuff: yarn, fabric, sewing machine and serger, etc.
8. parking on my driveway and in my garage!
9. teaching position at the uni
10. work with student teachers
11. sister D. and her family
12. the kids
13. the endless fields (wheat, rapeseed, etc)
14. friends and community
15. quilting with Brenda
16. when I want/need something, I know where to get it and it's usually available
17. the joy of feeding my family
18. spring that is like summer
19. wide roads
20. big sky
21. etc.

Whether in Cotignac or Canada...

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Fort McMurray Wildfires

photos via:

The town of 80 000 has been evacuated.  The fires are raging over 850 square kilometers. Fighting this fire is extremely difficult because of the intensity of the heat and the shifting winds.  1 100 firefighters are working long hours and some of them are even here from Mexico...

Albertans are showing their support in myriad ways, donations to the Red Cross, volunteering, offering shelter, food.  25 000 evacuees who had fled to the oil camps further north are now being airlifted out because it's not safe.

Fort McMurray is a 4.5 hour drive from where we live.  I used to go there once or twice a year to visit our school there and work with teachers...


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hotter than California

We are having 30 degree weather hotter even, than California.  In fact, the temperatures we are having are more typical of July than early May.  We've been sitting on the deck for a month already.

This begonia was in an Easter planter.  I transplanted it outside about 3 weeks ago.
Grape is greening, about 6 weeks early.

Brilliant sunshine and baking heat.  Apple tree on the left is in blossom.
What you may not know, is that we never plant our flowers and gardens before the May long weekend (3rd weekend) because the danger of frost is no longer present.  We are enjoying an extra two months of summer weather this year.

Thank you global warming?

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Picture to Remember all of the Good Times

Believe it or not, that child's sombrero is my age.  When my Mom was expecting me, my parents went on a trip to Mexico.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Au revoir Damien

This is my favorite picture of Damien as an adult. It really captures who he is: calm, deep thinker, quiet, respectful, kind... I took this a few months ago to add to my knitting projects gallery on Ravelry.  He always poses patiently for me to get the right shot.

Well, he's leaving home on Sunday, May 1st.  Going to pursue his studies in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the neighbouring province.  It's a pretty little jewel of a city with a lovely Campus and downtown core, perfect really, for Damien to reinvent himself.

I have tears in my eyes as I write this.

So Sunday, my boy and I are getting in the Prius and driving the five or so hours that will separate us at least for the next two years.  He said he will be home at Christmas but probably not at any other time as his program, after-degree Nursing,  is intense and crowded into two whole years of back to back semesters.

I will miss his gentle manner, his respectful, discrete demeanour, the kindness he shows to everyone he interacts with, his blue eyes, the friends he gathers almost weekly at our house and of course, his love and concern for us...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lovin' and Learnin'

Dad:  You do well at school because you have a good teacher.
Daughter: No, I do well because I love my teacher.

After 6 weeks of almost weekly visits to my student teachers and 25 years of observing pre service and in service teachers, I have come to the unshakable conclusion that if you love/admire/respect your teacher, whether you are 6 or 66, you will learn better.  Granted, love is not required but respect is, at the very least...

Loving your teacher generally helps motivate you to learn, enjoy being in his/her presence and consequently being more apt to enjoy/want the learning.

My student teachers all worked hard this term not only on their lesson plans but on their relationships with their pupils.

They're gonna be all right.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Chillin' on the Deck

Yes, those are two of my men on the deck wearing my hats.  We are being very responsible about the sun and its potential dangers.  We've been spending time on the deck, talking laughing, sometimes with a glass of wine or a cup of tea or coffee but always in our best mood.  The sun in April is deceptively strong and we love to sit out and chill while soaking in its rays.

Natural mood elevator.

Pure bliss.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Happy Birthday Vlad!

Happy, happy Vlad with his three children. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Chorale Saint-Jean

Our son Tristan who is home since December when he finished his studies and returns to Chicago to start work in July, went back to sing in the choir where he sang years ago.  Last night was the spring concert.

The most beautiful song for me was Water Night.  Not for it's melody, but for the richness and layering of sound that is mind boggling.  Listen, this is Eric Whitacre directing a virtual choir of thousands of singers.  Best heard with with eyes closed.

Wow Word

My son and I were talking about the word: "overachiever". He had an understanding that it meant that an individual overachieves in relation to the established standard in his cohort.  I said no, that an individual overachieves when he overreaches what is expected of him because of hard work. I won.

Overachievers are individuals who "perform better or achieve more success than expected." The implicit presumption is that the "overachiever" is achieving superior results through excessive effort.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Creative Soul Series: Marthe Armitage Wallpapers

Trawling through Pintrest as I am known to do almost daily, I ran across this creative soul from Chiswick.  Marthe Armitage has been drawing and making lino cut prints since the 60s when as a young mother, she started designing wallpaper in her home.

I am mesmerized by them...

This one is called Gardeners
This one is Alphabet
This is called Cobweb and I think it is my favorite.
Cobweb in gold
Angelica, her first design

The print above is called Pagoda and would look smashing behind the floating shelves flanking the fireplace in Sister D's living room.  They custom print in whatever colors you choose... Must be a hefty price tag attached though...

Check out this video of her working with her daughter in her garage/studio.  She must be in her 80s.  When I am 80, I want to be like Marthe Armitage.  Just have to come up with a talent for something...



Saturday, March 26, 2016


Back in the late eighties and nineties, I was an avid subscriber to Victoria magazine.  I have treasured all of my copies because of the beautiful pictures and articles.  It was a magazine that spoke to me...

The only magazine I look at occasionally now is the Oprah magazine and I do so on the Newstand app on my iPad.  The subscription is inexpensive and I enjoy flipping through it.

Yesterday, I noticed that I could have a look at Victoria magazine and although it is no longer my cup of tea, the March issue, devoted to France, spoke to me.  I purchased it.  While flipping through some images looked unusually familiar...

Well no wonder!  They are from my friend Corey's apartment in Paris where I stayed for a few days last spring!

Congrats DC, on a lovely eight-page spread!

xo Stella