Monday, March 24, 2014

Northern California in October

Memories of the last weekend in October in Alameda.  Visited wonderful friends, went to Point Reyes seashore and went to the Bridge School Benefit concert to see Tom Waits perform.  As a bonus, we also got to see Neil Young, Fun, Heart, Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, My Morning Jacket, Queens of the Stone Age and Crosby Stills Nash and Young.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Uke-lady's Man

Just did my second straight day of ukulele practice.  It seems like every song in the Daily Ukulele song book is not in my key, vocally.  I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "Ever thought that you might be off key?"  There's that.  The ukulele chords aren't sufficient to provide the melody for me, even if I know the song.  I learned Paper Moon, and Let me Call you Sweetheart.  It works best if I just strum and say out the words and my husband sings the tune for me.  He has sustained notes for up to five minutes waiting for me to find the next chord.  He gets extra husband points for not laughing while I destroy the Star Spangled Banner.  I'm in good company with that one, though, aren't I?

For today's photos, I go to the album filled with photos I've scanned from old albums.  In some cases I actually just took photos of the photos, which is why they can look a little distorted. There's no real theme...just photos I like of things and places and creatures I like.

One of the Cinque Terre in Liguria....Vernazza, perhaps? Taken in 1988.

Beach off Dallas Road, Victoria

Streaker taking a New Year's Day dip off Jericho Beach, Vancouver 2002

Bull Moose in a farmer's field near Willingdon, Alberta. 2006

My favourite dog ever, Patches. Taken a few years ago.

A close second, Tina.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Digital photo review

I have a huge backlog of digital photography.  I used to be able to manage my photos.  I would shoot a couple of rolls, develop them, decide which would go in the albums and which I needed copies of to send to friends or family and the rest would get filed away.  Now, thanks to digital, I'm 6 years behind in albums.  There are just too many photos to sort through.  It's ridiculous.  Just another example of western excess.  So, my new year's resolution....well, one of to blog more often and go through my multitude of photo folders and edit them.  And I'll feature my favourites on my blog.  Incidentally, my other new year's resolutions include:  making focaccia from scratch and not getting involved in negativity or gossip about others.  I recognize that often that's just to make me feel better about myself and that's not good karma.

So, photo folder numero uno....from this computer, anyway.  Christmas 2012. We drove - in one of the worst snowstorms ever - to the Eastern Townships to spend a couple of days at a Relais et Chateaux property in Magog, Quebec:  Manoir Hovey.  The trip there was harrowing....there were trucks overturned in the  highway-dividing boulevard, the exits trapped cars in snow drifts, visibility was very low and there was the real risk of getting very uncomfortable...or of freezing to death if one got stuck (which is why I try to take our -7 degree-capable sleeping bags with us during winter road trips).  We made it, though, as did our friends, and we enjoyed a lovely weekend of eating too much and enjoying the luxurious rooms and grounds.  It was all very quiet and beautiful once the storm ended.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wintry day in Ottawa

I love winter in Ottawa and I never cease to be amazed by just how cold it gets.  This morning there is ice on the inside of the windows and the newspaper was crispy and very cold to the touch.  Last night, we got a car wash and the doors froze shut on the way home.  -33 with the windchill.  We're going to mail some Christmas prezzies today and then see the Hobbit - the Desolation of Smaug.  Then I'm hoping we'll get a fire going and write Christmas cards by the fire as it gets dark.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Did Swingline buy Ford?

I think the Ford Flex looks like a stapler.  Did Swingline buy Ford?

This truly is a "blue" bin

Just another Sunday at Starbucks

After a rainy Saturday, which was spent cleaning out the furnace room and which ended perfectly with homemade chicken soup and apple crisp at a friend's house, I woke up to another grey and blustery day. Bill and Penelope had their usual snuggle on the couch, while Zander and I snuggled in the recliner and I tried, with little success, to read the Styles section of my beloved Sunday New York Times.

Soon it was time to do what had to be done. Groceries. Cleaning. Planning for the week. I don't know why I thought 11am on a Sunday wouldn't be busy at the supermarket, but it was. To cope with the chaos of the busy store and the many frantic and harried shoppers, I hummed Aviici's Wake Me Up repeatedly until I reached the check out. Then I followed my bliss to Starbuck's and Chapters for some reading material and a coffee. Unlike most of the patrons, I actually paid for the magazines before taking them to the attached Starbucks to flip through them.  This Starbucks is quite possibly the world's slowest Starbucks. While waiting, I amused myself by feeling superior when the barista mispronounced doppio. Dopey-oh.  I secretly loathed the stout and thin-haired woman ahead of me who prissily announced that she had a "special request".  Four double espressos in venti plastic cups with huge amounts of ice. Who were they for?  And why did she need six lids?  What seemed like two days later, my latte appeared. By this time, I had adopted a crossed arms, annoyed stance. Maybe I didn't pronounce the double "t "adequately and they thought I asked for a "late".  I  bitchily corrected the barista when he called out "Tall latte for Shauna".  Here's what my cup looked like. Shano? Really? 

Though I, like my brother Todd, am a devoted Starbucks customer, I do have my little pet peeves. It irks me that "latte" has come to mean "caffelatte".  In italian, latte means milk.  So, by saying "tall latte", you are actually ordering a large milk. Italian is used kind of haphazardly in the Starbucks lexicon.  English for tall; Italian for grande and venti (which means twenty, as in twenty ounces). Anyway, even if it annoys me that latte was misused, I started doing it too. Then a couple of years ago at a Starbucks in Hong Kong, a wonderful thing happened; my world was set right again. I ordered a tall latte and guess what I got? A tall glass of hot milk. I felt like doing the slow clapping thing and murmuring in admiration, "Well played, Hong Kong, well played".  

Anyway back to this morning's Starbucks.  I lucked out and got a little table to myself.  I read my mag, enjoyed my coffee and looked around. There was an elderly man flipping through a Cosmopolitan magazine in one of the easy chairs, there was a pair of women next to me discussing some dude and his lies, there was a little girl in her Sunday dress (sequins!) kneeling on the chair and deconstructing a muffin while her parents chatted, and there were so many people working on their computers at the long wooden table that it looked like a computer class. Just another day at Starbucks.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My love affair with all things British

Much as I am embarrassed to admit it, I read one of the British tabloids on occasion. Okay, every day. Online. Some of the stories are appalling. Disgusting, disheartening or just plain sensationalistic. And sometimes badly edited. For the most part, though, it's just funny and harmless. Unless you're one of the celebs being skewered or embarrassed. There are unflattering stories about "unrecognizable" celebrities, photographed after a bad night or without makeup.  It begs the question, though: If  they're really "unrecognizable", how did the photographers know to snap the shot?  Still, it's my guilty pleasure, this rag. And it's not a complete waste of time;  the knowledge I've gleaned from my daily glance actually came in handy at a recent trivia night; I was one of the only non-Brits to recognize Lord Sugar and Peaches Geldof in the food-related name photo round.

This indulgence keeps me up to date with my British celebrities, too. I've become quite a fan of British TV. It started with our trip to the UK in 2005. We went in December and as the days were short and we packed a lot of sightseeing and activity into the 7 hours of daylight, we spent many of evenings curled up on the bed watching TV. Space Cadets. The show, not us. Christmas specials. BBC shows. When we got back to Canada, the CBC started broadcasting the new Doctor Who series and we were hooked.  Then it was Little Britain, Catherine Tate, Torchwood, The Thick of It, The Hour, QI, and Jonathan Creek.  We went into the back catalogues for Red Dwarf, The League of Gentlemen, Blackadder, Jeeves and Wooster, and French and Saunders. Then there was Miranda and Mistresses (Bill wasn't on board for those last two at all).  Hamlet with David Tennant. And, last but not least, Downton Abbey.

As a result of this Brit binge, my speech has become embarrassingly, and quite accidentally, dotted with British-isms like: "If I'm honest" and "at the weekend" and "in hospital" and "as such". Instead of: "To be honest/to tell the truth" and "on the weekend" and "in the hospital" and....well, I don't know what the equivalent of that last one would be.

My friend Karen and I even went on a spur of the moment "mini-break" to London in November 2011.  It was one of those perfect, magical moments in time. We met up with my friend from Hastings and shopped in Bloomsbury and visited Persephone, the wonderful bookstore on Lamb's Conduit. We went to Fortnum and Mason for tea and then tested hand lotions at Molton Brown on Regent Street. We visited Liberty, where Karen bought a gorgeous print. We walked and talked and laughed in the chilly autumn air and truly enjoyed every minute.

But it was actually over thirty years ago that I first visited the UK.  1978, with my parents and brother.  We stayed at the Royal Lancaster hotel at Lancaster Gate, where, by coincidence, the Faberge World Trade Show was being held.  It was the era of Farrah Fawcett and Farrah Fawcett shampoo. And Cary Grant was the honorary chairman of Faberge International. Being a chatty, friendly little girl, I made friends with the head of Faberge UK somehow and subsequently was introduced to Cary Grant. And got his autograph. Didn't really know who he was at the time, just that he was famous, but my mom was understandably thrilled. Cary Grant was white-haired and wearing black-framed glasses at that time.  When told that we were from Victoria, he joked "That's not their fault, Gerry". Oh, stop it, Cary; you are outrageous! Later on, when my parents were out on the town and my brother and I were heading back up to the room after eating dinner at the hotel restaurant, Cary Grant got on the elevator with us.  He remarked to us, "I've really got to take a leak".  Or something very similar to that. Now that I'm writing this, I realize how odd that was. I kind of wish he'd said something dashing and clever, not something so "human".

I got two autographs from Farrah.  Well, actually, Gerry, the Faberge executive got one for me and I got one myself, intercepting Farrah as she breezed out of the tradeshow and into the hotel lobby. Notice how she incorporated the year into the end of her name. When I got home, I gave one to my classmate and friend, Chuck Bell. He loved Farrah. Not unusual for a 13-year old boy in 1978.

Farrah and Gerry and Cary were not my only brushes with Faberge-related celebrities, but more on that later. Hint:  theres a Hemingway involved. Seriously, my six degrees of separation pedigree is pretty damn solid.

I dream about moving to England and drinking tea and being completely surrounded by the loveliness of all things British. All the good stuff, I mean, like the museums and the castles, the gorgeous store windows, the history, the stripy scarves, the ubiquitous curry shops, and the British wit. And the chocolate and the biscuits. And the pudding hotel in the Cotswolds  Not the class system or the social problems, though.  Or the asbos and the high cost of living.

I suppose I'm lucky. I grew up in Canada's "most English city": Victoria. Lots of Brits and British-ness there. Many of the older generation settled in Victoria from Scotland and England, including my Granny Vickers. Victoria had double-decker buses, the Tudor Sweet Shop, Craigdarroch Castle (where I took piano lessons in the basement), the cricket pitch at Beacon Hill Park and many, many tea rooms. My grade 12 graduation dress was inspired by Princess Diana:  royal blue, taffeta, ruffled and accessorized with replicas of her engagement ring and matching earrings.  My "rebellious" teen years saw me hanging out at the Blethering Place tea room, drinking tea and eating scones after school with my friends.  Really. It didn't even seem weird at the time. So, I come by my anglophile nature honestly, I suppose.

I'd better stop writing now.
I'm off to bedfordshire.
Okay, I'm going to bed.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gentlemen, you have just been schooled....

 in how to blend colours, patterns and textures with style, by my most fashionable friend, Iwan.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

My picks for Doctor Who and the Oscars

This weekend the BBC will announce whom they've chosen to play the 12th Doctor. There is a long list of potential docs, including Idris Elba, Olivia Colman and even Helen Mirren. But I just heard of another candidate and I'm super excited about the possibility: Peter Capaldi. Loved him in Local Hero, adored him in both The Thick of It and The Hour.  I will rejoice if he is chosen! My second choice would be Ben Whishaw. Utterly captivating, dark and mischievous. Third choice? Julian Rhind-Tutt.  So interesting. To my mind, choosing Helen Mirren would be disastrous, but not because she's a woman. She's just too high profile.

And, while we're on the subject of replacements....who should host the next Oscars? Martin Short. Without question. I used to really like Billy Crystal until the last time he hosted. He took a really cheap and mean shot at Jonah Hill. I mean, the kid was having a really big moment.  He was nominated for his work in Moneyball, which was a big departure from his usual gross-out brand of comedy, and all Billy Crystal could muster was to make fun of his weight and eating cupcakes.  Way to ruin a special night. That was just not on.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Let me be frank with you, Beans

I've been married for fourteen years and I think I'm happier now than ever in my marriage. I hope that this trend continues because I'm really enjoying our life. Here are a few things that I love about my husband.
1. That he calls our cats "bunkies". Like the four of us are holed up in some barracks somewhere.
2. That he has an amazing memory for all the obscure songs he's learned; most days he pulls one from the mental catalogue and sings it as he's getting ready for work. And then it sticks in my head all day.
3. That he thinks I'm a good dancer. He's probably the only person in the world that has seen me dance in the last ten years. And it's usually in jest....homage to the famous beat poet nightclub scene in Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn. There's hope for the "ballet de l'inflexible" yet.
4. And speaking of dance, I love that he is one of the only guys I know who will get up on the dance floor and just let loose. I envy that. I have a video of him dancing with seven women at once at a recent wedding. He was literally the man.
5. That he spends hours on the phone with his sisters and his mom...not every day, mind you, just a few times a year.
6. That he never realizes when women are flirting with him.

More later.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday morning in the driveway

Twenty-two degrees. Sunny with a slight breeze.  I'm sitting in a chair made with hockey sticks on the landing of the front steps.  My feet are up, my coffee and iPhone are beside me on a makeshift coffee table which is really a weeding bench. My husband and his friend are taking his Triumph apart in the driveway to replace the brake pads. Motorcycle ownership is a time-consuming hobby. There's a lot of cleaning of small parts and reading of the manual going on today. Wafts of citrus-scented contact cleaner are floating my way, with tiny droplets likely landing in my coffee. I never imagined that motorcycle cleaning products would be scented.  Do bikers choose the brand based on scent?  Do bikers like essence of orange? Does it soothe the savage breast?

I love my Saturday mornings. But, the enjoying of coffee and the reading of the newspaper is followed by the being overwhelmed by all the things I could and should do. So far today I've thought:  I should make focaccia, I should clean the front bay window, I should organize the Galapagos photos, I should try to find those tennis balls I bought.....and the list goes on. So, instead of doing stuff, I just write about it. Good solution.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Oslo in January

I like the cold, I replied, when friends asked why we'd go to Scandinavia in the middle of winter.  And it's true, I like to walk to work in the snow, bundled up and clutching a travel mug of hot coffee, stepping carefully so as not to slip on any ice. I like skating and skiing.  But when we planned our January trip to Norway, I wasn't really tuned into the fact that, while travelling, Bill and I like to explore on foot, which means several hours spent outside every day, not a twenty-minute walk to work followed by eight hours inside a well-heated office building, or an hour of skiing followed by hot chocolate in a chalet.  So, it was a bit of a miscalculation.  Our first full day in Oslo was bone-chilling.  Minus seventeen, more with the wind chill taken into account.  We shivered a lot and made repeated comments on how crisp it was, how invigorating.

But it did feel authentic and there sure weren't many tourists around; at the Viking Ship museum, for example, we were two of maybe a dozen.  But, boy, did we have fun!  We loved Oslo.  Lots to see and do.  Lots of  gorgeous, healthy looking Norwegians carrying skis around town....the main subway line terminates at a popular cross country skiing area, near the Holmenkollen Olympic ski jump.  Wonderful museums and history to take in.  Shops looked so inviting, cozily lit with lanterns outside and hot tea inside.  Some restaurants and bakeries optimistically provided an outdoor seating option, complete with benches covered in furs.  We did see one or two hardy couples outside, but they were smoking, so I assume it wasn't by choice.

We happily explored the city, retreating to the trams or the occasional cafe to warm up.  I say occasional because the prices were less inviting than the interiors.  One cafe latte and one chai latte plus a pastry to share = $27.  We economized by making the most of our hotel, which included a buffet breakfast and supper, the latter served up in the slope-roofed loft complete with dormer windows.  Once the sun had disappeared, we'd head back to the hotel and enjoy a dinner of fresh bread and cheese, seafood, soups,  salads and cooked eggs topped with shrimp, and desserts of custardy puddings or potato pancake "lefse" served with butter, sugar and cinnamon.  We stayed in every night, writing in our travel journals, planning the next day or watching TV, snuggled under our individual eider down comforters (no fighting for blankets in that country).  One thing about Norwegian TV:  I am not joking when I say that  most of the time when you tune in, there is ski jumping on on at least one channel.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In praise of magazines

I love magazines.  From fashion and style magazines to gourmet magazines: From Elle magazine to Surf magazine, from Entertainment Weekly to Allergic Living (okay, maybe not that last one, but I love that there's a magazine called that).  I have loved magazines for a very long time, since tweendom, when Tatum O'Neal and Brooke Shields were first famous.  Ah, the thrill of  buying the latest issue of Teen magazine or Seventeen!  The fun fashions, the advice columns, the teen idols, like Scott Baio and Parker Stevenson.  Weirdly, I recall when and where I glimpsed the first issue of Seventeen with Whitney Houston on the cover.  It was at a figure skating practice.  Some girls who were watching the session had gotten their hands on the brand new issue and we skaters would glide over to the boards occasionally to flip through it.  Instead of practising our flips.  Which is probably why I never got anywhere in skating.  My addiction to mags is a source of bewilderment to some of my friends; they just don't understand the allure, no pun intended (only a magfiend will understand that).  I have two friends who are even vehemently opposed to fashion magazines.  (How DID we get to be friends?!)  The reason, they both state, is simply, "They make me feel bad about myself".  Ironically, they are two of the most stylish and gorgeous women I know.  The husband of one of them confesses that the fashion industry makes him really angry. I don't really get that.  Maybe I'm not thinking deeply enough about it.  Or maybe I just ignore the bad stuff and appreciate the good.  Of course I recognize the absurdity and negative influence of some aspects of the fashion biz, like the promotion of ridiculous ideals , consumerism and label mania.  But I also see the very positive and fascinating side....the creativity, the beauty;  the craftsmanship, the spectacle and even the humour.  Just watch Catwalk, the documentary featuring the preparation and execution of an early John Galliano show.  Or check out the book which accompanied the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art a few years ago.  One can't deny the genius.  I mean, making an exquisite dress using painted medical lab slides as adornment? Brilliant.  Plus, if you're wearing the dress and you suddenly feel the urge to examine a drop of blood under a microscope, you're all set.....unless you don't have a coverslip on you.  Or a microscope.  All joking aside, fashion magazines offer considerably more than just the skinny models and $3000 dresses.  From those magazines,  I have learned a lot about art, photography, books, music, food, health, travel, cinema,  and even politics. So, maybe, just maybe, all that good stuff outweighs the fact that fashion magazines kind of make me feel bad about myself too.