Monday, October 23, 2017

A Little Navy Dress and Some Thoughts about Friendship

 For an opera as splendid as Turandot, especially when produced this sumptuously, one really should dress up a bit. But the practicalities of walking to the Skytrain stop through Saturday night's significant rainfall couldn't be ignored. My new Vince dress qualifies as dressy enough because Midnight Blue velvet! yet pairs easily with black tights and a pair of black ankle boots bought in Paris years ago. (This dress fits that category that Duchesse writes about here -- and it also channels the navy that Alyson posted about today, here.)

A scarf against the gusty wind, an umbrella, a  black, wool, narrow, very classic coat I just bought, a pair of leather gloves to keep my umbrella-gripping hands cozy, and I was ready. (For a better idea of the dress's colour, click here and enlarge the photo for a close-up -- it's a subtle shimmer of dark colour.)
Not particularly dressed up, no. Sheer tights, a bit more heel, a sparkly pendant rather than the scarf, and perhaps I could have piled my hair up a bit. . . . But I must say that I'm feeling better and better about my wardrobe matching my lifestyle, the way I've collected a number of garments that can come out to play for a range of activities and circumstances. This fall, I've added five new items (shoes, jeans, the coat, this dress (scroll down), and the Vince one you see here), and I'm close to ready for any occasion that's likely to pop up in my life.
This dress I especially love because the velvet and the swishy cut lend it enough glamour to take me to the opera, and also, as on Saturday, to a wonderful afternoon hotel for a catered, sit-down lunch a friend hosted to celebrate the women who had nurtured her through her 65 years and were going to be there for the coming decades -- isn't that a splendid idea!

I wanted to dress up a bit, but my overnight guest and I had lots of catching-up to do Saturday morning, and pyjamas were de rigueur over coffee and the delicious pastries (croissants! pains au raisin!) Paul brought us back from the nearby L'Atelier Patisserie. No time for gussying-up, in other words, but this dress let me feel festive without the fuss.

Being able to go from that late-afternoon event to a quick sushi meal before the opera, on foot and using public transit, braving the elements? While looking good and feeling not just comfortable but yummy-velvet-swishy coddled? This dress is already paying its rent!
Oh yes, and the hair as an element of my wardrobe. It's getting greyer and the curls are getting to a length I like. And at the opera yesterday, a lovely woman stopped me to ask if I wrote a blog (Do all of you stumble over my blog's name? That odd Latin moniker that I should probably ditch one of these days?). She'd recognised me by my hair (hello Rosemary? or was it Rosemarie?) and wondered if we might meet for coffee some day.

And perhaps we will. I've been thinking about friends and acquaintances, how we meet them, nurture them, open ourselves to some, haven't time for others, how they change over a lifetime, collectively and/or individually. I've pulled or been pulled away, geographically and in other ways, from various networks -- ecosystems even -- of friends numerous times in my life, and moving back to the city, away from some very dear friends of longstanding, was a way of controlling another rip in my social fabric. My hope was that by making this inevitable move earlier rather than later I'd have time to develop new friendships to delight and sustain me through my next decades.

This is happening more slowly, perhaps, than I'd hoped, and I must say that it's tougher than making friends while watching your kids play soccer or learn to swim. Tougher than making friends at grad school (even though I was, at grad school, at least 20 years older than the other students). Much tougher than making friends among my neighbours on a small island.

But life experience tells me that it will happen, and right now, I'm fascinated at seeing what's happening for me, socially, while I'm waiting for the BFFs to manifest in my 'hood. Rosemary and I may meet for coffee, and we may or may not feel a connection that will lead to another coffee or lunch. Or we might feel a potential connection but the logistics, the timing, the reciprocal need for a new friend, one of those elements isn't working right now. I'm trying, though, to be open, to trust in process, to allow time,  to enjoy meeting people in those moments we have together. 

At the opera on Saturday night, I sat next to a lovely woman and we chatted about the opera, a bit about grandchildren, As we left our seats after the applause finally died down, she and I said good-night to each other, and we commented on how much we'd enjoyed each other's company as seat-mates.  I said to Paul as we left, "I could see myself being her friend," even wished I could have been bold enough to offer my email address and suggest meeting for coffee. (Have any of you ever begun a friendship this way?)

Instead, I'm thinking of how lucky I am that the friendships I built in our last community are proving surprisingly resilient over the distance.  That I've got an international network of social media friends whom I've met "in real life" and who feel, honestly, like good friends although no, they couldn't easily be there for me, or I for them, in a crisis. That I've already felt the potential of acquaintanceships here to develop into friendships. That while I don't have friendships that deep or dependable nearby yet, I do have family, both immediate and extended. That I have a wonderful partner. And that I'm also very content, for long periods, with my own company.

And I'm also thinking of how surprisingly satisfying the fleeting or momentary connections can be as well. Visiting with my opera seatmate Saturday evening, the ninety minutes I spent with an Instagram friend in Portland last month. Lots of ideas about friendships and finding balance in one's social life, and about friendship and moving and ageing. . . . Hoping perhaps we can talk a bit about this over the next few weeks. It's a conversation I tried to start well over a year ago,  never quite managed to get back to in any sustained manner, and I'd love to pick up the threads again, so what we might weave out of them, together. . . .

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday -- Another Sleepover Guest, Another Test for the New Urban Lifestyle

 Okay, these photos really have nothing to do with the text of this post -- except that they testify to the compensations an urban lifestyle offers against the reduction of space it cost us. . . . This stunning mural adorns a concrete wall not too many blocks from me. It's not signed, and my Google-sleuthing didn't lead me to the name of its artist, but I posted an image on IG, asked for information, and a blogging friend I've never met, someone who now lives in London, told me that it's by Nomi Chi, whom you could follow on Instagram to see more astonishing art. . . 
And now, onto the text proper . . . 
At our previous home on the island, we had the great luxury of a separate guest cottage (you can catch glimpses of it, if you click on that link), two teeny bedrooms, a bathroom with a shower -- originally an outbuilding on the property, we'd finished the 300 square feet so that we could keep the main house to 1700 square feet, knowing our four kids were already beginning to move away but would be coming back someday with partners and, eventually their own kids. That happened, and the teeny two bedrooms were very well used, by our kids and our friends and the occasional author billeted for this or that writing event. Our neighbours used it once or twice when they had a superfluity of visitors. "The cabbage," our granddaughter called it, her charming combination of "cottage" and "cabin." I do miss that space. . . .(although I truly don't miss cleaning it for guests, checking for spiders under the beds,  scrubbing out an extra shower, cleaning an extra toilet -- not to mention making up beds in an awkwardly tight space. . . . washing and putting away all those sheets and towels. . . . Ah, the good old days!)

Once upon a time, when we contemplated moving to the city, Pater promised that we'd find a great apartment in which we could set up a dedicated guest bedroom so that all the wonderful friends I'd be leaving behind could come and visit. And then the realities of the Vancouver condo market made themselves shockingly clear. Instead, we managed a Library/TV/Guest Room which we outfitted with the best leather-covered sofabed (our) money could buy. We managed to tuck an Ikea dresser into the full-sized closet in that room, and we store all the pillows and bedlinens in it -- when the bed's made up, the drawers are empty so that a guest could unpack should she choose, or there's room on top of the dresser to open out a (small) suitcase. 

The room's a very tight squeeze once the bed's opened, but there's a good reading light on either side, and a good surface for a book, glass of water, eyeglasses.  So far I've had two good friends for overnight visitors (and one was a repeat, a good sign, right?), and I'm excited to bring another back with me later this afternoon. We've also accommodated my son's family (he and his wife in the sofabed and their little girl on a narrow foam mattress (one of those fold-up ones that stores nicely but could also serve as floor cushion seating) on the floor just below them, squeezed between their bed and the wall, but apparently quite comfortable. The two oldest g'daughters have had sleepovers here, sharing the sofabed, and we've also managed with a brother-and-sister team, little guy in the Bjorn folding bed/crib, big sister in that narrow foam mattress. 

Everyone who's slept on the sofabed assures us that it's very comfortable (the mattress is dense foam, with a clever design that folds across the width rather than the length). Guests have their own bathroom right next door and a fountain singing water lullabies through the night just outside the window.  So far, it all seems to be working out fairly well. Of course, it would be lovely to have extra space, but we're managing nicely as is. I thought those of you who contemplate a downsizing in your future might like to know. 
Okay, that's the first in a few intended posts updating you on how I'm feeling about the downsizing move to the city, now that we've been here a year.  I'm off to meet my friend, launching a busy weekend of visiting and opera-going and celebratory lunches. What are you up to this weekend? And how do you manage when friends want to kip for the night? Do you make them a pallet on your floor? Unroll a futon? Unfold a foam mattress? Pump up an airbed? Or are you able to offer them a room of their own? Do you really need your privacy, so refer them to a favourite hotel or B&B? Do you wish for more space or are you content to have less to clean?  I'm curious. . . . let's chat!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Of Moods and Mood-Mods and Travel. . .

I had a wonderful time with a visiting friend on the weekend, managing to ignore the symptoms through our dinner Saturday night and lovely long chat that evening and the next morning. Another out-of-town friend arrives Friday with tickets for an afternoon event I'll accompany her to and then we'll continue our visit through the evening as Paul whips up dinner for the three of us. . . The next day, she and I are off to a lunchtime celebration, and Saturday night Paul and I have tix to Turandot -- ah, Nessun Dorma. . . 

Despite all that good stuff going on, I've been at rather a low ebb (nope, the UTI didn't help, and grateful as I am for the antibiotics, they're wreaking their own havoc).  There has been some inertia, I will admit, some cocooning, even an instance or two of going near-fetal under blankets, clutching pillows, not sleeping but no motion other than blinking the tears away. . . . And in a gruesome offering of pathetic fallacy, the skies have been manifesting their own leaden emotions, their tears soaking everything below . . . oh, it's gloomy, folks. . . .

Movement usually helps, in these cases, to shift mood, and sometimes if I can tuck into a row or two of knitting, get some momentum going however mechanically, I feel myself grudgingly becoming invested in the world again. Those stitches were beyond me today, but I knew I needed something to coax me to a happier place, and luckily, I'd recently set out my Travel Journals, ready to start recording flight, rail, and lodging information.

Half an hour later, I was feeling much better, thanks to some planning and daydreaming about December in Italy (our housekeeping and childcare services have been requested, and we're very happy to oblige -- although it's going to be a bit odd being away from home at Christmas for the first time in over 43 years).  Besides the imaginary jump forward into an Italian winter, my cheer was also lured out of hiding by the kinaesthetic and sensory charms of writing with a variety of nibs and ink colours. I'm trying not to jump too far down the fountain pen rabbit hole (four pens there -- and two are just dip pens -- and only four colours), but I will admit that some minutes of our few hours in Zurich may be earmarked for pen-and-ink shopping. . . . If you have a favourite pen shop or Papeterie to recommend, I'm listening. . . .  (In Paris, of course, there is the splendid Mélodies Graphiques, which I will also be sure to visit.)

More details will emerge here over the next few weeks, but so far, on either side of a four-week baby-sitting gig, I've sorted a few days in Paris -- Christmas windows! again! -- and some wonderful train journeys. Have any of you ever ridden the Bernina Express? I've also assigned myself some solo travel, just to keep those muscles exercised. . . . 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Back-Alley Wanderings in Urban Vancouver

 I am recovering from a first-ever Urinary Tract Infection. Horridly uncomfortable, as many of you will already know. So very grateful for modern medicine and that I live in a country with very accessible health-care: The doctor on call at our clinic called me back yesterday, listened to my symptoms, prescribed the drug which my husband picked up five minutes from home. I had two really uncomfortable nights, mostly because I didn't recognize symptoms early enough, but neither fever nor discomfort this morning.
 Still tired, though, so I'm just going to post these photos of my Saturday-morning walk through some back alleys in our neighbourhood.
 Dollops of odd, often sad beauty here. . . .

 Bold and unlikely colour combinations that startle one into admiration. . .


 And yeah, I sat down on that curb, just for you . . . .
My caregiver is bringing me breakfast in bed now, soft-boiled eggs and toast and tea, on a tray. Honestly, I'd probably be more comfortable eating it at the table in the other room, but he's being so solicitous that I will risk the inevitable splats of egg yolk on my pyjama top.  Later, I will answer the comments on my last post, and by then, perhaps you'll have left new comments here on this one. I hope that your week has begun well, this Monday morning . . . .

Friday, October 13, 2017

New Shoes and an Old Skirt: a Friday Short and Sweet Post

It's been a short but intensely busy week here (we have a project, my guy and I), and I have a busy weekend ahead (babysitting Two Littles tomorrow morning; a girlfriend arriving tomorrow afternoon for an overnight visit).

But I still haven't given you a proper view of those shoes, so that's going to be my Short and Sweet Friday post. . . Above, a photo I took of them on some random tile floor back in Portland. . . The gold metallic surface is rather crackled, with an underlying black showing through; this is as shiny as they get, here reflecting light back at the camera. I bought them at Halo Shoes in Portland where the selection is scrumptious and the service warm and helpful, where I wondered if, since I was having trouble deciding between the 8 and the 7.5, I might buy the shoes to test out over the evening in the hotel room, and return them the next day if they weren't right. I was assured that I could return them up to seven days for a full refund (assuming I only tried them on carpet and they were still in pristine condition) or, within a month, get an exchange or store credit. I'll admit I didn't need to test this policy -- an hour in the hotel room wearing them, and I knew they were softening to my foot, so I wore them out to dinner!

I'm already wearing them with everything. They're perfect with jeans, with casual dresses as you saw here, and even for dressing up a bit, as I did for Thanksgiving dinner. The Robert Rodriguez skirt is one I spotted when shopping at Holt Renfrew with my Mom nine years ago, coveted, then bought when it got marked to half price -- and was still way more than I usually pay for a skirt. You can see me wearing it with heels here, way back in 2010. The chocolate gold beads were a gift from my husband 7 or 8 years ago, and I'm very much hoping the shoes (MOMA, leather, made in Italy) will give me a few good years as well.

Short and sweet, done and dusted, you've seen my new shoes and we've taken a quick trip or two back in time. Should you be wanting more words this Friday morning, I added some over on my reading blog. I'm so far behind there I despair of ever catching up, but the latest entry offers titles of a few good mysteries I've read lately, and browsing earlier posts -- including the reader comments -- will yield recommendations over a wider range of genres.

What have you lined up for the weekend? 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

And In the Condo Terrace Garden -- Report On Our First Summer

 You might remember that this past April, I shared my intention to track my new (container) garden's growth via regular posting here, to turn the pages of its story with you looking over my shoulder. I followed up on that intention with a May posting which described the garden as it was, with a survey of what we'd inherited from the previous owners.
 Then Lisa asked if I'd mind providing a rough schematic of the garden, and Pater sketched me up an outline. I posted it with a promise to "unpack" it later, to describe the additions represented on it.

That promised post never happened.  Since then, I've taken you on visits to other gardens: Wendy's in England, Ali's on a BC Gulf Island, Eleonore's in Germany.

But although I took many photos, posted some on Instagram, discarded others eventually to free up my phone memory, I never managed to put together a coherent post on the garden's summer performance. Shame. Shame on me. . . .
 I'm trying to learn not to make promises here, learning not to set up obligations that will begin to feel like burdens, that, when not met, leave me feeling guilty. So I'm not going to tell you that I'll do a quick catch-up anytime soon.

But I can tell you that the six cherry-tomato plants yielded bowl after bowl of sweet, juicy, jewels, many of those picked by small hands and popped greedily into little mouths.

I will tell you that after the June infestation I wrote about here the hydrangea rallied to buy itself another year on the strength of healthy foliage and abundant bloom (it's true, the bright pink will never be my favourite, but at the height of summer, it somehow convinces me). We picked egg cases of scale insects with considerable disgust for several weeks, and we're hoping that provides a solid discouragement to next year's crew, but time will tell.

The heavy rains of spring, followed by dessicating wind and heat while we were away (we had family monitoring and looking after the garden, but the containers dry out so quickly that damage was done before help arrived), followed then by months of drought--all this was hard on plants, and many suffered a scourge of aphids and powdery mildew (a demonic duo well known to most gardeners). I had to cut the honeysuckle back to its base, as I did with both roses bushes, and we belatedly picked up Safer's Insecticide and a Safer's Anti-Fungal Treatment. In my big seaside cottage garden, I left most afflictions for Nature to balance out. Wasps and snakes and dragonflies kept most tiny pests under control, and I'd had years to find the right spot for the right plants, to judiciously encourage -- nay, insist! -- that plants dig for their own water or learn to manage without much. Containers are a whole new gig for us, and there's not nearly as much margin for error. Plus any ugliness is much more visible. . . We can't simply dig something in behind the guest cottage while it's nursed back to health.
But we've had enough success to encourage us to keep at it. The wisteria never did bloom this year, so we've been reading up on how pruning and fertilizing might make that happen -- meanwhile, I'd keep the plant for its gorgeous foliage alone. We missed the clematis bloom, although came back from travel in time to find that the flowers are purple. Finally got 'round to chopping it right back, a few weeks ago (it hadn't been properly pruned in a couple of years so there was a nasty mass of ancient dried foliage clogging up the view -- I'd sacrifice a season's bloom for the current enjoyment of the fresh leaves and vines it's put out through the late summer, early fall. . .

We had four apples on our dwarf Scarlet Sentinel!! We might need to find a more protected spot for this tree (the wind blew the apples off before they were quite ready, although still tasty), although it's currently in a good spot for sun. The fig tree has been a delightful surprise, not only for its rather extravagant branching and sketch-worthy leaves, but we have so far actually harvested more than ten sweet figs from it.  . .

The rudbeckia's been blooming cheerily for weeks now, added its colour to the violet-blue creeping campanula that never stops flowering. We added several pots of hardy fuchsia -- pink-scarlet-purple, a pot of sweet-scented purple heliotrope and, last week, two pots of hot-hued chrysanthemum. . .

The grasses we've added have all done well, and there spiky textures and diverse shades of foliage bring interest to the ground level in a fairly easy-care form. There's a long, narrow pot of Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica rubra), that I'm going to divide in the next week or two, so that I can pop I few more pots 'round. I love the way its rich wine-coloured spears move with the slightest breeze.

The sarcococca (sweet box) has been readying its tiny flowers to open all delicate and white some wintry day and release their sweet scent, and some weeks after that the Daphne will show off its pink fragrance. Before that, we'll get some fall colour from carefully chosen shrubs, and once those leaves drop, we'll look for some flaming branches and textured bark. And when the garden's denuding itself, we'll be entertained by the birds trying to put on some fat against the cold. We had a Northern Flicker hoovering around the other day, trying to remember where he'd seen a suet feeder. And we've given in on the house sparrows who seem to consider us their sole provider. They've proven themselves adaptable to bell feeders and finch/perch feeders, and I can't imagine what dire steps I'd have to take to dissuade them from the table.

One notable urban affliction we hadn't really anticipated, and a temporary one, we hope, is the fine layer of dust that coated the leaves of most plants, threatening to clog the stomata. Normally, this would have been washed off by rain regularly enough, but in this summer's long drought, we made sure to give them a rinse from time to time.

So there you go. After months and months, my promise has been kept, although I realize that was a very quick look 'round. But ask me questions if I'm missed mentioning a plant or a care issue you've been wondering about. Or offer any suggestions or advice you might have, as gardeners do. . . 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Thanksgiving In the City, Reflections . . .

Today is officially Canadian Thanksgiving (here's a fascinating article about the respective histories of the American and the Canadian feast, in light of the indigenous celebrations that preceded contact) but like many Canadians, our family gathered for turkey dinner yesterday -- a much more congenial timing for those who need to be back at work Tuesday morning, allowing a solid 36 hours to digest that bird and get the dishes and leftovers sorted, the carcass simmering into stock on the stove. . .
Fall colours throughout courtesy of a local Community Garden
 No turkey carcass simmering on our stove, though, nor will we be making up sandwiches for lunch today. All the leftovers, all the dirty dishes, were left behind at our daughter and son-in-law's place last night as we kissed all good-night and headed back home (walking a whole block to get here ;-) with the empty pie plates (my contribution to the feast: two pumpkin, one apple) and a high chair.
My daughter and son-in-law had expanded their mid-century table to seat ten of us comfortably, but just as we were getting ready to sit down, the two-year-old wondered, just a bit imperiously, where his high chair was. Our hosts don't have a high chair anymore, but Nana and Granddad do, and I offered to pop home for ours against protests that we could easily manage without. I persisted (it just makes everything so much easier to corral the little guy, and he likes to be at a comfortable height to join the conversation), and Granddad decided he'd come help. Next thing we knew, three short people were at the door putting on their shoes, ready for an expedition.
 Almost-Five stepped into the October evening in her sleeveless dress, threw her arms back as she looked up at the sky, and exclaimed "It's night-time. I love walking in the night!"
 Two scarcely-trafficked crossings to make at one intersection, then less than a full city block, total, and one of the Littles grabbed the keys to scan our way in, another scampered through the door first to push the elevator button. City kids. They loved visiting us on the island, running on its dirt roads, clambering on its beaches, and I loved showing them that differently paced lifestyle.
But over this last year of living so near to two of our kids' families, here in the city, we've come to see more fully the wealth that urban life offers them, the competencies they're developing, the innocences they nonetheless are able to hold onto. 
 Inside our condo, we stopped the Two from taking off his shoes (he'd plonked onto the floor immediately to pull at them). The Almost-Five spotted the thermos they'd left behind last weekend, reminding me that I also wanted to return leggings and a pair of pink socks, similarly abandoned. Paul scooped up the highchair, and we all headed back out.

We reversed our short route via elevator and dark city sidewalk, crossing streets lit from above, the Two in my arms for a moment, pointing up to the dark sky, marvelling to me that it was night, his enthusiasm no less than his sister's for all its belatedness. All that October night-air magically crisp around us, and back inside, another elevator, to settle ourselves around the table, happily passing bowl after bowl around, serving spoons clanking, decisions about white or dark meat or both, and murmurs of "Please pass the . . . ." My dad's traditional turkey stuffing, which I've been improvising around for more than forty years, was missing, replaced by the apparently more contemporary (and safe, the kids tell us, not finding  the greasy glories of seasoned bread cooked inside a bird worth the risk of food poisoning) oven-baked dressing.

Missing, but not missed, really. I'll admit I would have loved to have two more families at that table, have our whole crew together again. But otherwise, the feast gathered up all that was important from so many earlier Thanksgivings. It was an evening for gratitude, for appreciating what we have so close by.

This morning, the gratitude continues, extended into a reflection on our first year living here in the city. So many changes made to get here, and some still to make as we continue adjusting. I'm hoping to write a bit about that here over the next while, and I'm wondering if any of you have anything you're particularly curious about concerning the process of downsizing, of uprooting from one community to another at this stage of life, of retiring, or whatever. I can't promise I'll answer them all right away, but I'll be happy to try in future posts.

And before I sign off, here's a Back to the Future moment for you, a post from 2007, my first blogging year, and it seems we've done urban, non-traditional Thanksgivings before. . . .

Happy Thanksgiving! Feel free to share whatever you're feeling grateful for today, whether you celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving or not. Never too much gratitude, right? 

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