Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Another Paris Postcard: Bad News/Good News


So, let's start with the bad news, and get that out of the way. . . Yes, against our faint hopes, our train tomorrow has been cancelled due to the SNCF work action. Luckily, we'd backed our trip up with bus tickets, so we get to sample that mode of transportation tomorrow morning. . . .

As well, there has been one torrential downpour, part of an impressive orage (thunder!! lightning!!) that sent us scurrying for shelter (in a café -- camaraderie with others who had failed to carry an umbrella or order a rowboat. Wine as well -- not such a bad way to wait out a storm).  . .  Not going to tempt fate, but I survived that sans raincoat or umbrella or anything more than Birkenstocks on my feet, so I'm not (yet!) regretting my packing. . . .

Today (we've moved over to the Good News already), I was back to enjoying the comfort of a linen dress, no back-up other than that scarf, in the beautiful Jardin Café of Le Petit Palais.

We lunched there after our third art exhibition in three days: Russian Avant-Garde at Pompidou Centre,
Mary Cassatt at Musée Jacquemart-Andrée  -- where I sketched these beasts before and after lunch -- the museum restaurant there is a must-visit, such a gorgeous room.

Sorry, I see I didn't hold the camera steady and those palm fronds are not well focused. . . 
And then today's exhibition at Le Grand Palais (right across the street from Le Petit Palais where we had lunch) -- a wonderful show, if challenging: huge collection of works spanning his career, his important turn from figurative realism to brilliant, rigorous, intellectual abstraction which is, nevertheless, aesthetically satisfying, emotionally engaging -- his work with colour, line, form is so moving to see develop over the decades. Truly a tour-de-force.  And I was so tickled to see Duchesse write about one of the paintings she enjoyed at the same exhibition, only days ago. We'd hoped to meet up but her flight was leaving CDG just about when ours was landing. . . . Nice to stand in front of the same painting this afternoon and feel her spirit there. . .

And if I were to share a favourite painting from the exhibition, much as I appreciated and enjoyed Kupka's abstracts, I couldn't help but love this tableau (included, I think, in the category of his allegorical or symbolic realist work). It's called Les Joies, and I love it for the way the women seem to be glorying in their own sensual carnality or at least corporeality -- they're not posed as objects for a male viewer, as I see them, but rather as subjects in their own right, engaged in pursuits that please them. . .

It may seem that we're spending all our time indoors viewing paintings on museum walls, but my iPhone shows that we've put between 10 kilometres and 17 kilometres of shoe leather on the streets of Paris. . . Lots of soaking up and making notes and taking photos is happening, but the reportage may have to wait. . . Hope you enjoyed this snippet.

Now it's time to figure out where to eat, this last evening in Paris before we're back here at the end of June. . . À tout à l'heure. . .


Monday, May 21, 2018

Postcard from Paris

We're happily settled in our familiar hotel in Paris (such a warm welcome -- the front desk clerk came out to give me a big hug! -- made us up a tisane and then asked if I'd like a boulloire in our room. Do you think she's been reading the blog?! ;-)

The boulloire (kettle) arrived on a tray, with a théière (teapot), two cups and saucers -- tea-stained when I snapped this photo for you because we'd just drained them dry -- and an assortment of teabags. . . 

I'd love to write more, but today was a 17.5 kilometre day, and I'm knackered!! We had a 1 o'clock lunch reservation in the 12th, and on the way squeezed in a jog through the Chagall, Lissitzky, and Malévitch exhibition at the Pompidou Centre.  Some gorgeous large Chagall paintings, which were thrilling to see, but also very cool was the chance to see some of his studies for the big works. . . .

After our lunch, we thought we'd enjoy a stroll along the Promenade Plantée and then across the Seine on the beautiful curves of the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir. . . And if our hotel had been just on the other side of the bridge, we'd have been just fine.

But it was another 4.5 kilometres onward, and some crankiness may have ensued. . . .

We've had glorious weather so far, but this evening a thunderstorm and downpour have me worrying a bit about my packing. . . It's not cold, though, and I do have an umbrella, and there's plenty to do indoors here as well. . .  We'll see. . .

Almost bedtime, though (I'm still adjusting to the nine-hour time difference, and not yet sleeping more than 5 or 6 hours at night). But before I go, I'll just quickly share the two pages I've filled in my illustrated travel journal. I haven't bothered with paints in the journal the last year or so, relying on just pen and ink, but the watercolour classes of the past weeks have encouraged me to commit to filling my sketchbook this trip. So far, then. . . .



Both these sketches were begun plein air -- on location outdoors, that is -- but I finished them back in the hotel room. Both are of scenes viewed from the Promenade Plantée (the inspiration for New York City's High Line,  I believe).

That will have to do for now. I've also been posting a bit on Instagram, although truth be told, I'm trying to unplug a bit and soak up the city while I have the chance.
xo,
Wish you were here. . . .

Friday, May 18, 2018

Transition Outfits-of-the-Day, Or, "Changing my Clout 'til May Is Out"

Honestly, the weather we're having now makes it hard to believe that two weeks ago, I wore a jacket (Smythe, almost 8 years old) over that upcycled old cashmere V-neck, jeans, and the favourite loafers that now seem too dark and will probably be consigned to the closet for a few months. . .
Can you believe I was even wrapping a cashmere scarf around my neck as well? I scarcely can . . . But I was no longer needing an overcoat, so this qualifies as transitional wear. . .
This outfit, more transitional as the weather warmed, I already showed you on Monday -- Note the bare legs!! A sure sign of change. . .

This next outfit is more of a stretch for me, but I'm trying to get the (J Crew) khakis I bought last spring more into rotation -- and I'm also trying to be more accepting of my middle, to be honest, and of my short waist. . .


I don't wear my jean jacket (Gap, from quite a few years back) often, but it's perfect for this change of season. Those Fluevog loafers are almost exhausted, but I doubt I'll toss them until they fall apart. . .
I was quite pleased with this outfit, which I wore to one of my watercolour classes. The graphic tee is one I bought in Paris last year at La Fée Maraboutée. It reads: "Fée ce qu'il te plait," a play on the French expression "Fais ce qu'il te plait," which means, roughly, "Do what pleases you." It also recalls a verse with the line, "En mai, fais ce qu'il te plait," advising that in May, you can wear what you like, switch to warmer-weather clothes. This is in contrast to "avril" in which "ne te decouvre pas un fil" -- you shouldn't take off a thread of clothing, roughly. Something like our English: "Change not a clout, till May is out." . . .
I'm wearing the T-shirt with a slightly-rumpled linen skirt (J Crew, a few years old), my Vince sneakers (like the Fluevog loafers, these are approaching dustbin time, but I'll wear them until my bare soles scratch the pavement through them . . .
I felt pretty bold adding that leopard-print belt (Michael Kors, over a decade old and delaminating, sadly -- thinking I'll take it to the cobbler's and see if they have a good glue that might give it a few more years life).  I like the way the small amount of print mixes it up with the graphic lettering of the T, and the way a belt always lends a bit more structure, polish even. I think the black of the cashmere sweater and of the shoes helps do the same (the structure and attempt at polish).
My curls, though. . . they are not convinced that structure and polish are the way to go . . .
As you read this, I'll be heading to Paris with Pater, a whole different wardrobe transition underway. One that involves a carry-on-only capsule of garments to get me through late May and most of June in three different countries. I've packed more linen than ever before, thanks to a pre-Birthday Shopping Spree at Eileen Fisher last week (a Big Birthday Gift from Pater), so watch for photos of Me in Wrinkled Clothes in front of Impressive Architecture. . . 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Authenticity at a Certain Age -- or The Authenticity OF a Certain Age. . .

First of all, because this is such a busy pre-travel week for me, I'm going to spread this thinking out into three posts -- and the last one is likely to be delayed a bit with our flight at the end of the week.  Still, I hope you'll read along and perhaps join in with a comment or two. . .
No connection with my theme -- although this pink tree poppy is authentic> I snapped the shot on an evening walk with my husband last week. . . 

So. . . Authenticity. Fairly big word. Even bigger concept. And for whatever reason, I've had it come up in conversation with several friends recently.

(Please excuse an aside, but you'll remember me fretting about how my friendships would be affected by this move to the city, away from my island. Turns out that, while new friendships are still elusive in my urban environment, I've found some really satisfying social situations, opportunities to meet and engage -- authentically, even --  with interesting, compatible women. More on that someday, perhaps, but meanwhile, I'm surprised at how sustaining and sustainable are the friendships with women who live elsewhere. Turns out the distance works differently on a friendship than it did when I had four kids in school, was working and taking courses and email wasn't yet a thing. . . .)
Growing in the same community garden, another tree peony, opening to reveal its authentic essence. . . .so intimate. . . 


The first explicit reference to "authenticity" that caught my attention was from a woman I've become close friends with since just around the time we listed our house for sale. We'd known each other for a year or two (mutual friends; took a watercolour class together - six weeks of Wednesdays), but not until a couple of months before our move did we arrange a coffee date. Then lunches then extended into another glass of wine because we were catching up on life narratives, filling in the back stories, comparing travels, talking about books. . .

I don't remember her using the word "authentic" at the time, but when we had lunch a month or two ago, she used it in the context of friendship -- and acquaintance, I suppose. I'm nervous to paraphrase -- she's likely to read this, so perhaps she'll help set the record straight -- but if I remember correctly, she was speaking of how clear this stage of life makes us about what's important, about how we want to spend our time (not just the minutes, hours, and days, but the years we know are limited) . . . and with whom. And this is what I hope I remember correctly: My friend is lovely and warm and open to meeting new acquaintances wherever, but what she insisted on during our walk to lunch was that she saves the best of her social time and energy for those who are "authentic," who are able and willing to be themselves in her presence.

Does this conception of "authenticity" and its connection to friendships resonate with you? Do you find that you're less willing to spend your time with those you find less sincere or authentic? Not that you expect anyone to be completely transparent, but perhaps that you're less interested in, less patient with, dissembling or guardedness. . .  Nor do you want intense and/or authentic engagement in all social situations -- sometimes I think we're relieved, if not glad, to maintain some superficiality, as long as it's comfortable, fairly mutual, not brittle. But are you like my friend (and me, I must say), increasingly careful of how you spend your time, not wanting to squander too much time in relationships that don't feel genuine?

That's all I have time to write today -- there's the sweetest baby to cuddle, and his Big Sister will be home from preschool soon, wanting some book (or seven!) to be read to her.  Next post will feature those transitional spring outfits I mentioned the other day (although the transition has well and truly been made now, it seems). After that, I'll pick up this topic by telling you about the second instance in which a friend mentioned "authenticity," giving the concept a slightly different twist. . . I'm curious to see if we can build a conversation around this, whether the word's been showing up in your hearing as well. . . .Let's talk. . .


Monday, May 14, 2018

Nana and the Really Big Number of Candles on the Cake. . .

I don't know about you, but I didn't expect this stage of my life to be quite so busy.  It makes me think about how much got swept aside, tabled, pushed to the back burner -- all the idioms, in fact, and interesting that the ones that spring to mind are so kitchen-oriented -- in deference to work. . .
The weekend's doings? Over three hours dedicated to a mission to repair my iPhone, which turned into a decision to replace it, which then turned into an extended negotiation with our mobile service provider to get the best deal on a two-year contract.  Ugh! But at least I have a new phone with decent storage and battery life -- and a plan with ample data -- to take on our travels, which begin this Friday.

Then opera Saturday night -- a great production of a contemporary opera, The Overcoat (based on Gogol's short story). Very entertaining and thought-provoking; a good way to close out the season.

And then Sunday morning, not long after I'd finished my gym workout downstairs, my family completely surprised me with a joint Mother's Day/Happy Birthday Nana brunch, right in our condo -- where, I hadn't noticed, Pater had filled the fridge with three dozen eggs, a dozen breakfast sausages, orange juice, Prosecco -- all the good stuff!


The Littles had chosen some sweet small gifts (a pop-socket for my new phone, courtesy of a Nine who knows about the latest tech aids; and a small star-shaped silver trinket box, just the right size for my hearing aids -- a Five had noticed that I like to store these on my night table, so thoughtful; the Three's contribution was the heartiest Surprise! plus his reluctant willingness to wait until after frittatas for me to cut the cake).

Of course, the best presents was the Presence of my loved ones (I wish all of them could have been here, but two of the four families is not bad!), especially the generosity of my daughters in giving up their own Mother's Day breakfasts-in-bed to humour the guy who thought I deserved a surprise gathering for a Really Big Number of Candles! (my birthday's not until Thursday, but he co-opted their Mother's Day with no shame ;-). . . And my beautiful sons-in-law who brought a salad and a wonderful Pavlova-inspired cake. . .

Sunday evening, as I write this, Pater and I are mooching on the leftovers and thinking about the week ahead -- a quick jaunt over to the island to see our son's family, and then back to finish packing and readying the condo for those who will be here while we're away (all those lists!!).

But I'm still thinking about that post on Authenticity, so I'll be back here again tomorrow with a few observations.

I've also uploaded some photos of Almost-Spring outfits I wore over the last few weeks, and I'll post those this week as well -- although we've leapt into sustained sunshine in the low 20s, so I'm in dress rehearsal now for the even warmer weather we'll be enjoying in Croatia next month. . .

One of those transitional outfits I'll be posting about later. Last week, I needed the jacket walking to meet a friend for coffee; today, not only would it -- and the scarf -- have been superfluous, but the dress would probably have been too warm. . . 


As well, I do remember that I offered, quite a few weeks ago, to say something about how we choose train destinations and routes, and how we book and buy our tickets. Since then, however, all my carefully made plans have been thrown into disarray by the SNCF (French rail) labour action -- turns out that each of our train travel days falls on a day designated for possible strikes or slowdowns. I've decided that I'll wait until we have this challenge behind us before I offer my experience here. Meanwhile, cross your fingers for us, would you?

First, though, that jaunt to the island to cuddle a chubby little guy and his big sister. . . Busy days. . . Happy days. . .

Friday, May 11, 2018

Hello! Happy Friday! (Or: One Way to Wear a White Cotton Skirt)

 Much as I love spending time with you here at "the Blog," my manuscript is demanding five hundred words from me this morning, and if I don't prioritize those, there will never be a book. . . (there may well never be a book anyway, but at least I should string the words together and see what happens, right?).

 It's a bit frustrating, because I've been mulling a topic I want to discuss with you, but I tell myself to be patient -- First the manuscript's 500 words, then I can get back here to chat about Authenticity. I know! Big topic! Worth creeping up on, perhaps. . .


For today, then, just this quick wave, explanation, and a What I Wore. The navy cashmere sweater is the same model as the one whose felting, pilling, and holes I embroidered over and showed you here. That one was such a staple in my wardrobe that when it got too worn, I bought a replacement. Combined here with a textured white cotton skirt (J. Crew, two years ago -- I'm crazy about its comfort), white Arizona Birkenstocks, and a Club Monaco silk scarf I've had for a few years.
And now, much as I love your company, I'm going to click "Publish," and then immediately open my Word file before I try any other procrastinating tricks. Of course I'll be back before long to read any comments you might leave. . . Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A (Short, Short) Story on Wednesday . . .

 I'm going to stick with the random this week, it seems.  Today, with bread-baking (yes, I made the dough on Monday, but it was fermenting in the fridge since then, popped in the oven early this morning) and itinerary-confirming behind me, coffee with a friend later this morning, and a massage at the hands of my Registered Massage Therapist daughter this afternoon, I only have time to show-and-tell you a very short story of an early morning walk. . . an empty chair. . . a little boy who doesn't sleep in . . . a neighbourhood park with a cool name. . . (the park has a sculpture of a man, reclining, and locals have long referred to it as Dude Chilling. . . Parks Board finally acquiesced)
 The story also includes dew. . . too much dew for a little guy to sit on if he wanted to keep his pants dry. . . which, apparently, he did. . .
 It's clearly lived a life, this chair. Who dragged it out here? Do they hope it will be adopted? Did they sit on it for a while with a book? A guitar? Three and I considered all the possibilities. . .
 But then someone's morning hunger grew fiercer, he remembered the promise of pancakes at a diner, and we left the chair to its own devices. . .
The pancakes, by the way, were very good. Having this guy to myself at 6:30 in the morning, sharing my bacon with him, and then my toast, while he mostly ignored the majority of his pancakes (on which he'd had me pour a very generous serving of syrup). . . .that was the treat, for me. I was the first to teach him how to hold a knife and fork to cut pancakes, a bonus!

That's all for Wednesday morning, except that I want to say, after reading comments on Monday's post, that I wish we weren't so quick to call ourselves lazy. And to wonder what that's about, and how we might reframe. . . Perhaps we could think of being fallow -- apparent "laziness" as productive. . . .
Thoughts?

Oh, one more thing: If you're intrigued by the image of an empty chair, especially when found in an unexpected place, you might check out the #emptychairsproject posts on Instagram.
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