Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Saved by the Rain...

It hasn't really stopped raining, I think we're just getting used to it and we have been able to walk around Paris a whole lot, without getting too wet, so I'm not complaining. I just find people's perspectives on the weather amusing.



My son quite enjoys it. He finds that it adds to the atmosphere and the adventure. My husband doesn't mind the rain either, though he would prefer the sun and I'm getting used to it. However, now that my brother-in-law has arrived from Edinburgh for a few days, I have another opinion on the weather. Being Canadian, I apologized for the rain. He said, "What rain?" Well, the rain in Scotland tends to be a lot heavier and a lot colder, so some on again, off again, milder wetness is really not considered rain!!



Actually last night, when we went to read the menus of about 6 or 7 restaurants, because no one could decide where to go for dinner, I know that, if it hadn't been raining, we might have gone on to read the menus of another 12 or 13 restaurants and still not found one that every one could agree upon. Personally, I would have eaten at the first place and my son the second place we passed, but both my husband and his brother are cut from the same cloth (tablecloth) and I swear, if it hadn't started to really pour down, we'd still be stalking the streets of Paris looking for the perfect combination of food and atmosphere.



Finally, we went back to one of the first places we saw, which was not too far from "home." After sharing a very large salad to start, we all had the duck confit. Conversation was pleasant and given that my brother-in-law had actually lived in Paris many years ago, for some time, he had lots of great suggestions for the rest of our stay. Dessert was my son, Nicholas, offering to pay for the wine - a lovely treat!

The pictures? Night scenes of Paris - rain or shine :)

Have a terrific day!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sunshine for Giverny

The weather forecast for today was SUN!!! So we went to Monet's garden at Giverny. It was awesome. Here is what we saw.


This is a view of a small part of the garden from the house.


Another part of the garden shot closer to the ground. The small trees are rose trees, which were almost in bloom.


Tulips, Forget-Me-Nots and Pansies in profusion.


Wisteria on the lily pond.


And the fabled bridge.

What is missing in the post is the garden's perfume - intoxicating!!

Have a gorgeous day!!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Shopping on the Champs Elysees

Window shopping, that is. We took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe and walked down one side of the Champs Elysees and then up the other side. We did stop for drinks at a very nice cafe, Napoleone, with tables, on the sidewalk. I ordered a cappuccino, which was a mere $14.00 CAD for the equivalent of a half a cup of flavoured froth. Well, I only ever drink a half a cup of coffee, but how did they know that?

A $14.00 coffee comes with a free "biki."
I actually think that the restaurant was charging for the street theatre that its location provided. Such as -


Paris style - wear black, red or orange and a scarf!!


Or a hat and something interesting.

Or just an interesting hat!!

The only shops we went into were the car shops that had the most amazing vehicles. They let everyone take pictures of their treasures, which in turn were posted on everyone's FB. Marketing that is free except for the rents on one of the world's most prestigious streets. Message me the next time you see a picture of one of these cars and please tell me how we can make all this amazing advertising work for knitting!!


Have an awesome day!!

Midnight in Paris

For all those who saw the movie, here are some night pictures of Paris. They weren't taken at midnight, however, they were taken after a rain shower and they do show the magic of the city of lights.

Taken from the restaurant

We've managed to eat out every night, given that the cooking facilities at the flat are meagre at best. Plus we do need some evening entertainment. What's better than food? So far the food has been excellent. I was fascinated by a starter of poached eggs cooked in red wine with mushrooms and lardons - yum. I've had a traditional boeuf bourguignon and the only meal that disappointed was a lamb tagine, which should have been better because it was in the Marais district of Paris, where couscous rules!!

oeufs en murette

Even though it has been cool and rainy, most of the tables outside the restaurants are full. Streets are busy and there is a lightness in the air, in spite of the cloud.

Arc en Ciel

I even saw a rainbow one evening. Lots of magic about!! We have walked everywhere. I have managed 20,000 steps almost every day. That's about 6 - 7 miles daily. The only time we took a cab was to the eiffel tower because we were running late. We also had to take a cab back because we were soaked by a sudden, very heavy rain shower, but it was worth it for this picture!!


Have an awesome day!!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lost in the Louvre

Today, after going to a small market in the morning, we decided to head to the Louvre in the afternoon. Fortunately, it had stopped raining long enough to walk to the museum and back. I love the lattice work of small streets lined with shops, restaurants and hordes of people, who are not all tourists!!

The Louvre is huge, as you might expect, for the world's largest art gallery. We followed the crowds to the Mona Lisa and squeezed our way to the railing to get a closer view and a picture.


Nothing, of course, compares with seeing the original. It's not so much the picture, it's more about the journey and the experience. A person could spend a lifetime here, and I'm sure many have. It's a world unto itself and for those who live, eat and breathe Art, this might be all you need!!

By the way, the Mona Lisa (I've actually started calling her just "Mona") faces The Marriage Feast at Canaan, a huge work which covers an entire wall. There's a lot of magic here. One wonders what happens when the lights go out :)

It was on now to Venus (de Milo), not an easy feat, given that exits are not placed where one might expect to find them. In fact, at one point, I was beginning to panic. I could see my self trapped in a world of Italian Renaissance art, maybe forever. Fortunately, if you ask enough people, you can generally get a consensus and if you walk up and down enough marble stairs, fate will reward you with a disarmingly beautiful piece - sorry I couldn't resist the pun :)


I also couldn't resist a few with arms. At one point I began thinking of mannequins, coloured, no doubt, by my first post, which included a picture of a mannequin shop in my neighbourhood.


I took pictures of pieces that struck my fancy and made a comment, for me anyway, on the ironies of this world. For example, I couldn't resist the piece(s) below. It needs a caption.


I have to believe that their heads are in another museum somewhere. Perhaps lodged somehow with the bodies, that may have once been attached to the toppers below.


This may also be part of the great conundrum. We are all somehow incomplete and we spend our lives searching for the rest of ourselves. Unfortunately for some, time has run out, sigh!

Have an awesome day!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bon Jour

Arrived in Paris!!! Yea!! Our flight from TO was fortunately uneventful and very quick - just 7 hours. We left Pearson at 5:30pm and arrived in Paris at 6:30am. For night-hawks the "day/night" had just begun!!

Good bye, TO

We had time to kill before meeting Francois, who would give us the keys to our apartment in Paris, so we took a train from the airport rather than a cab and walked from the train station, Gard du Nord, for about 20 minutes to Rue St Martin. No one seemed to find it at all strange that there were three people hanging around a doorway, seemingly with nothing to do. But then we did notice, on our walk here, that there always seemed to be lots of people just hanging around doorways with nothing to do. Well, yes, we did say when we left TO, that we were going to "hang out" in Paris for a while - just fitting in with the locals - n'est ce pas.

Arriving in Paris

Sorry, this is a short post for now. It's raining, so we have to have a strategy in place for "il pleut." Although I like to walk, I hate to get wet!! I think it may be the Louvre today, since we have tickets!!



More on the apartment later too because it is a little eclectic. Actually it reminds me of the garret rooms romanticized by that lost generation of writers in the 1920s. Maybe it's time to just suspend time for a while. There is electricity and running water and the old gas lights have been removed - that's almost sad :)

Stairway to the past!!

Have an awesome day!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

White Out.....

Last night at dinner I was talking about the list of songs I posted in yesterday's blog. My husband remembered "Last Train to Clarksville," because it was a song The Monkees made famous. What ensued was an interesting discussion of manufactured groups in the music industry and groups that came together on their own, such as, The Beatles.

The Monkees had loads of money behind them, while The Beatles had talent and Brian Epstein. My daughter mentioned that one of the Monkees, Davy Jones, went on to play in a number of "B" movies and I added that another Monkee, Michael Nesmith, had a famous mother. Bette Nesmith Graham  actually invented White Out or Liquid Paper. My daughter's retort was, "Maybe she was trying to erase her children." Hmmmm.



It was an interesting discussion which allowed the youngest to fiddle with his phone, as he pulled up pictures of The Monkees and various other bits if information. I know that a lot of families connect by playing board games in the evening. We never managed that; however, we have managed to have most of the family together for meals, most of the time and we do try to have open conversations.

Dessert was the youngest saying how much he wanted to go to Giverny, Monet's garden. I was in shock. He pointed to the prints on the dining room walls, saying, "You know, where these pictures were made." Today, I will book two more tickets for Giverny and hope that when we have to make an early start, from Paris for the trip, that the kids are still as enthusiastic.

I hummed "Stairway to Heaven" as I tidied up.  :)

Have a great day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Morning Roads and Midnight Trains.....

Caro Field posted to my FB wall this list from Potomac Secret Agent. I couldn't resist it!!


You have to be familiar with the lyrics of a few songs to appreciate the origin of this list. I remember most of them. I particularly like the song "Stairway to Heaven." In fact, I planted Jacob's Ladder one year in the garden because it reminded me of these lines from an old folk song, which in turn reminded me of "Stairway To Heaven" -

"We are climbing Jacob's ladder/ Stairway to the Lord." Would that it were that easy :)

I also love the idea of taking a road to "nowhere." There is something of the gypsy in me. I do like to wander down paths to see where they lead and I have always loved a road trip.

I also like trains, however, I'm not sure that I would hop a midnight train to just anywhere. I did take one from Paris to the south of France a long time ago and I am going to repeat that trip in a week or
two. However, I will know where I am going.


Then again there are the trains that are bound for glory!! or the City of New Orleans and are they one in the same?


There is no mention on the list of planes. Now, I have always liked "leavin' on a jet plane." Nor is there a mention of bicycles, street cars, cables cars or shanks mare. I think that we need a few more songs out there for others who like to ride the rails, walk the paths and bike the byways.

Please post lyrics I have missed and/or modes of transportation.

Have a great day!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

YOSO - 2014

Translated it means YarnOver SleepOver 2014. The weekend just past, I was one of 10 organizers of a knitting retreat at the Fern Resort in Orillia, ON. Twenty seven knitters came to learn, laugh, love and laze. It was awesome!! Here are a few pictures -


Above Mary Pat is teaching the purled German cast-on. Mind and hands working together as the brain expands!! Below Monika is creating those Eureka moments in machine knitting.


The food was wonderful, the company, superb and the atmosphere, amazing!!


Flying high at the Fashion Share


Sadly saying good-bye - but just for a year. Many made sure they were coming back and have booked already for next year!! I can't wait for YOSO 2015.

Have an awesome day!!

90º F and climbing...

OK I know that I probably should have written 30ºC and climbing but 90 seemed much more emphatic and emphasis was my goal, yesterday anyway!!

Monday started out as a normal Monday. Maybe this is a contradiction in terms, what Monday is ever normal? This one by all accounts should have been. You see it was Handyman Monday. Throughout the year, we put together a list of chores for our handyman to "do." My husband is just not that good at installing light fixtures, planing doors, upgrading thermostats etc. Now I might be, but I know, if I ever found that out, I'd be called upon all the time to do the this's and that's around the house and might, as a result, never write!!

So we call in a surrogate, a.k.a. The Odd Job Guy and voila!! The chores get done!! One of the jobs, yesterday, was to install a new thermostat for the furnace - a nice modern one that could be programmed. No problem, Mark called the manufacturer before installing it to make sure that the one I had bought would work. They did insure me at Home Depot that it would, but then I have been lied to before. Honeywell also said that the device would work on our furnace. Go for it!

By 2:30pm all the tasks had been done, the house looked great except for all the holes in the plaster and the spots that needed to be painted because light fixtures etc had been moved. I'll save those for another day. I even had time to pop over to the office and get set up for Tuesday. When I got back home, the house was almost 90ºF and the rads were pipping hot. What had happened? I fiddled with the thermostat - no luck. I called the 800 number on the manual for the thermostat and got someone halfway around the world who was following procedure. It was getting hotter by the minute in the house and my temperature was rising too!! No, I wasn't going to take the gadget off the wall and take it back to the store, nor was I going to photograph the front and back of the device, plus the sales receipt for them to send me a new one. I upgraded the call. Finally after much to-ing and fro-ing, I rang their offices in Minnesota and demanded that someone get back to me immediately or I was going to call 911 and CNN simultaneously. This was 90º of desperation.



Finally, a very nice young man got on the phone and actually persuaded me to take apart the thermostat to see if it had been installed correctly. He even suggested that the instructions in the manual might not be clear enough, thereby absolving the handyman of any error. Apparently the wire in B should really be in W to make the whole thing work. Who would have known? However, to make this change, I first had to go downstairs to the electrical panel, turn the power off to the furnace,  re-wire the thermostat and turn the power to the furnace on again, sigh!!

The house was beginning to cool down. We reset the gadget and hoped for the best, because Tuesday was also not going to be your average Tuesday. After a weekend of 20ºC plus weather, it was going to snow. I just prayed that the furnace would come on again through the night!!

The picture? Nine rads a-piping!!

Have a normal day!!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tol(l) Free

I took a photo walk today in the cemetery. Since I'm leading a photo hike on a retreat this weekend,  I thought that I would try to get some pictures which follow the basic rules of photography. I managed to find examples of two of them.

Framing:

I love this tree. It reminds me of an ancient lyre and it frames the encroaching development of high rises in the area perfectly.

Lines:


There are lots of lines here to lead the viewer into and out of the picture. The patterns of light and shadow could also form the basis of a design in knitting.

This last shot doesn't actually follow any rules, but I couldn't pass it by because of the name. It's one of those ironical "things" that you see from time to time. Is the marker making a statement on life or on death? Is death toll free? Life certainly isn't. We must all pay our dues. And do we ever "cash in" at the end?



As I have said many times before, "Never cease to know for whom the bell tolls." John Donne.

Have an awesome day!!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Left Hand Turns......

Left hand turns, while driving, a car can be tricky!! I remember chatting to people who had just learned to drive and laughing at the circuitous routes they took to get from A to B, in order to avoid a left hand turn.

Driving is supposed to speed things up. I could have walked there in the time it took them to avoid these turns!!

Enter UPS!! Apparently waiting in line for several traffic light changes in congested left hand turn lanes is a no, no for UPS. Their logistics CEO recommends (read authorizes) making as many right hand turns as necessary to avoid wasting time in these left hand turn line ups. They need to get their packages delivered on time!!



WOW these professionals really know how to change things up. Actually I have very little patience with traffic congestion and have devised several ways of avoiding left hand turns, myself. Here they are.

1. Turn right onto the street crossing the intersection. Turn into a driveway; turn around and head along the street that you need to be on.

2. Go straight through the intersection. Make a left hand turn into the nearest driveway and head back to the intersection, making a right hand turn onto the street you need to be on.

If you know of any other short cuts, please share. Really life it too short to sit in traffic, unless you are going to take pictures with your camera, while waiting for the light(s) to change!!

The picture? gridlock in TO.

Have a great day!!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Two Cows

I'm sure that you have heard the metaphors that use the example of two cows to explain various political and economic theories. Here is an example from Wikipedia.

  • Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
  • Communism: You have two cows. You give them to the Government, and the Government then gives you some milk.
  • Fascism: You have two cows. You give them to the Government, and the Government then sells you some milk.
  • Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
  • Nazism: You have two cows. The Government takes both and shoots you.
  • New Dealism: You have two cows. The Government takes both, shoots one, buys milk from the other cow, then pours the milk down the drain.[7]

And here is a site. visual.ly with a whole lot more that are really funny.

I have always been fascinated by a graphic on a wall in Toronto. It's just outside a restaurant on King St. and it features two cows. Here it is -


This really needs a caption!!

It may, also, be a metaphor for small businesses everywhere. They often don't know whether they are coming or going, but they are unique, one of a kind enterprises and they need to be fostered!!

Have a whimsical day!!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Poems and Pictures.....

When I need a lift, I often turn to poetry or photography. We went out last Sunday to buy electrical adaptors so we could plug our phones and computers into French outlets, while on vacation - The French Connections, maybe. Fortunately the owner of The Travel Store on Cumberland knew which one(s) we needed from the dizzying array of prongs.

Did you know that France prefers a two pronged adaptor, while Italy likes a three pronged one? It might be right up there with extra virgin olive oil. Anyway, since we have two three-pronged ones, we decided to buy two two-pronged ones - this could also be the lyrics of a song - "The harmony of Harmonization" or not as the case may be :) We have taken power bars in the past to avoid this prong overload, but we blew every circuit we used in Italy, even though they (power bars) had worked in Spain.

But I digress - back to the poems and photography!! It was a mild, but grey day. I took my camera to alleviate some of the gloom by taking pictures. Here's one.


It's a little odd. The tree behind the building actually looks as though it's growing out of the roof. I liked it because it was different. I need to change up the ordinary ever once in a while.


I also liked the spots of colour against the grey trees and equally grey building - warm for so many reasons.


This looks so European. There were some really pretty places in Toronto before the high rises came.

These are the pictures and this is the poem.

Litany

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine. 
I think that I need to do another post, maybe tomorrow on this poem, because I know that I am the bare creaking branches and the spot of red on the corner. Please tell me what you are.

Have a wonderful day!!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Cat Condos

Last night at dinner, we were discussing an article which appeared a few days ago in The Toronto Star. Apparently the city is going to build a few cat townhouses here and there throughout the city to protect feral cats from bitterly cold winters, such as the one we have just had!!

Feral cats are known to keep the rodent population down so they are good animals to have around. In fact, we started feeding two feral cats, who appeared at our back door this winter. I don't normally feed strays, but it was so cold and one of the cats was so very young, that I just couldn't look into their sad little faces and say no. We now buy an extra bag of cat food every week, sigh!

These city homes for cats will house between five and ten felines depending on how accepting the cats are of each other. The more cats that club together, the more warmth they generate and one presumes that each of them will be able to find enough food to keep going. Then again, there will be kind souls, cat lovers from the general public, who will, I'm sure, provide food and water for them on a regular bases.

Fluffy the Feral Cat

I'm so happy to know that our city has a heart and that we are using a natural method to control vermin. Even before reading the article, I was actually toying with the idea of building a small "cat house" this summer, outside somewhere, at the back of the garden. I always remember the story of a woman who had a cat, an outdoor cat, who never came in the house. On very cold nights she would turn on an electric light in the cat's house to give it some added warmth. Our three indoor cats are so spoiled. Coddled on cushions in the warmth of a family home, they sleep their days away, guaranteed that their food dish will always be full.

There are children in this world who should be so lucky.

Have a plentiful day!!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Flower Power.....

This morning, in the Toronto Star, was a wonderful article about a photography artist, Elaine Waisglass, whose exhibit, The Beauty of Life, is on display for the next few weeks at the Roberts Gallery. The article first outlines Ms Waisglass' long career in the arts from OCAD - Ontario College of Art and Design, through script writing for radio, TV and film, to finally restoring a rambling arts and crafts home with a garden.

The Beauty of Life is a presentation of photographs from this garden. As with any art form, though,  there is a lot more here than just a collection of photographs. First there is the artist's inherent skill in selecting both the flowers, and the vase for the arrangement. Next, the flowers are arranged in a composition to make a statement. These statements are then skilfully photographed by the artist, who adds the last finishing touches with computer software. The end results are incredibly beautiful images.

Enter the amateur! Last Saturday, I was at a loose end, so I decided to take a few shots of the flowers around my house. Now, I literally mean a few shots. Elaine Waisglass, according to the article, takes about a 100 shots a flower to get one final photograph. Obviously, I need to have more patience!!

However, I do tend to be economical, not just in the time spent on an art project, but also in the cost of materials. I have no Ming vases, expensive cameras, digital studios or designer gardens. No, I have a few old pots, a Canon Powershot and an orchid purchased on sale at Home Depot for $12.95 - down from $15.95 a week before.



Also, I usually don't use computer software to tweak my images. I'm still of the old school where you try to capture what is there. Apart from a crop or two, this is it!


Here's a close up in the style of Georgia O'Keeffe.


Finally, there is the second blooming of a red Amaryllis. This is a double flower, which bloomed once with two or three flowers on the stalk. Then another stalk grew up and it is flowering right now with another few blooms. Great entertainment from January to April for $15.00.

Have a blooming wonderful day!!