Category Archives: favorites

What I’ve been reading lately

With all the work going on at our downstairs neighbors and all the time I’ve been spending outside the house and trying to unwind at the end of the day, I’ve been doing more reading than usual lately. The book I finished most recently in Jan-Philipp Sendker’s ‘The Art of Hearing Heartbeats’. It is part love story, part mystery and a thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable read. It is also a great way to be transported into a part of the World that is completely different  from my corner of the planet since most of the events take place in Burma. A trip outside my town is just what the doctor ordered these days and the book is so well written that I could nearly feel the thick, muggy Burmese air and smell the spices from the food described in the book while I was reading it.

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Since finishing Sendker’s book, I have moved on to Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear’. I didn’t know that Elizabeth Gilbert had a new book out until I came across a Tweet about it on the feed of a food blogger I follow and it immediately went onto my list of books to purchase. I will admit to having trouble letting my guard down when writing and so far Gilbert’s book has been slowly helping me to let go of that, which is a good thing because I don’t get nearly as much content onto my two blogs as I could, plagued as I am by self-doubt and dogged by a fear of what anyone who knows me will think of both my writing and photographic abilities. As a child and teenager I was nothing but one big ball of creativity. I sang and danced every day like no one was watching me, I drew and painted and sculpted without inhibition, I even made jewelry for my mom and as a teenager I would churn our pages and pages of short stories every single day. Then I had a few setbacks in my creative endeavors and I stopped creating until I got my first blog going back in 2009. I blogged and snapped photos steadily until my father got sick and passed away. His death really knocked the stuffing out of me and I turned out almost nothing for two years until I started writing here. I am hoping that ‘Big Magic’ will continue to help me trust my creative abilities a bit more every day and I recommend it to all of you, my fellow bloggers, whether you have trouble embracing your creativity or not, because it is worth the read just to soak up Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful, unguarded writing style.

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On another note, the work at our downstairs neighbors place continues, as does the noise and the discovery of hidden faults with our own house (hello, shoddily braced up rotten joists under our bathtub that if not found might have resulted in an embarrassing, costly situation where our tub might have ended up on top of the downstairs tub, hopefully when both were unoccupied). Oh and the slip-ups by the workers downstairs that generally involve the cutting or removal of wires presumed dead which are actually live and connected to our entryway lights or alarm system *sigh*. I told my Darling last night that if I could have, I would have bought a plane ticket right that moment and flown the heck out of here today and not come back until I was well and properly unwound, but I can’t do that. I can’t leave him here to deal with all of this mess by himself, it just wouldn’t be fair, no matter how sick of all this and exhausted I am. I just have to keep telling myself that each day of work that gets done downstairs brings us one day closer to the end of this whole noisy fiasco and keep mentally transporting myself to my happy place, Prince Edward Island. Sometimes my memories of our time there last Summer are the only things that keep me sane.

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My grandfather’s tree and some favorites

Good news everyone: my darling and I walked past my Grandfather’s maple tree (that’s how I’ve come to think of it) yesterday and it is still standing! I’m hoping this means that the arborist who was supposed to give a second opinion declared that the old fellow is well enough to be saved, because another very large, old, Silver Maple around the corner from my grandfather’s tree was cut down just a few days ago and Grandpa’s tree is still standing. At least when the city must take down such ancient, stately trees, they leave posters tacked to the trunk of the tree explaining why the tree had to be cut down and evidence of the tree’s illness so locals aren’t left wondering why their much loved trees have been felled. and at least if my Grandfather’s tree does end up being cut down in the near future, I was able to take a series of photos of it, of which I am happy to chare a few.

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The bottom of Old Orchard Avenue with my Grandfather’s tree on the right.
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A closeup of my Grandfather’s tree that give you an idea of just how wide its trunk is.

On another note, it has been ages since I’ve shared any of my favorites with you. I just haven’t felt up to it and haven’t had the time, but I have a few gems for you today, name this adorable counter vacuum which can be found at Zone stores here in Montreal.

Isn’t he just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen??? My brother and his wife had one just like him and I had been coveting one for at least a year but my Darling felt that ia counter vacuum was a useless gadget that would do nothing but take up valuable counter space. First of all, he clearly has no concept of how many little crumbs can be created while cooking and second of all, we have such a massive kitchen counter that we would need dozens of these little vacuums to fill it up. After my Darling was forced to go into the office for the second Saturday in a row last weeked I was feeling pretty down, so I detoured by Zone after buying some groceries and picked up my very own little mouse vacuum. He is quiet, efficient and elicited some grumbling from my Darling. I told him that if he really hadn’t wanted to end up with a kitchen counter vacuum, he simply should not have gotten himself called into work so that I would not have needed cheering up. I named my little mouse friend Brie and he has already made himself more than useful. If you’re like me and love cooking but hate having to sponge down your counter after spilling a bit of flour or other miscellaneous kitchen crumbs on it every time you cook, you should really look into getting one of these little guys. They also come in ladybug format and are about the size of a standard computer mouse.

Another one of my current favorites is a wonderful classical music album which is perfect for chasing away the Winter Blues: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons recomposed by Max Richter.

 

Richter takes the much-loved favourite and tweaks it just enough to give it a contemporary feel but best of all, there are long recordings of bees, blowing wind, bubbling brooks and birdsong so that you can very easily imagine yourself in the middle of a beautiful, lush, green field surrounded by early Spring wildlfowers. Absolute, pure bliss when you are in the dead of Winter and I find that it is an even more effective pick-me-up in February when I begin to feel that Spring is getting close but is still annoyingly out of reach.

And finally, if you are looking for a nice, light read that will have you giggling out loud, I just started reading the absolutely delightful ‘A Night In with Audrey Hepburn’ by Lucy Holliday.

The link above will send you to the Chapters/Indigo Books website for my Canadian readers,  but the book can be found at any bookshop and is so worth it if you are looking for some very easy laughs, but be aware that you will laugh out loud while reading this book. I kept having to relate the funny bits to my Darling yesterday while we were reading on the couch together, so be prepared to explain your fits of giggles to anyone you are reading around!

Fall beauties

Our Maple Tree is putting its Fall show on.
Our Maple Tree is putting its Fall show on.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Fall finally got its foot in the door here in Montreal last week. The leaves started changing gradually in the first week of October, which is quite late for us. At the same date last year, they were past peak and almost all gone. Our lovely Maple was nothing but green until Friday and then all of sudden started turning, which is usually how it goes! We had such a lovely, perfectly balanced Summer here that aside form a bumper crop of massive, juicy apples all over Quebec, the Fall colors are stunning to say the least. Also, this is still going on with our organic Strawberry plant:

Our crazy strawberry plant is still giving us berries.
Our crazy strawberry plant is still giving us berries.

Is that nuts, or what? I ate that berry this morning and it was just as juicy and sweet as the ones this plant was giving us in June and July! Has anyone else ever had a strawberry plant grow berries right into October? I’ve never heard of it and there have been no fresh local berries at the grocery store for weeks now! We’re delighted about this of course and I’ve decided to let the plant spend the Winter out on our balcony and see if it comes back again in the Spring.

Along with the beauties of changing leaves and the pleasures of being able to put on nice, cozy sweaters and scarves comes a change in the outdoor decor of our home! My darling and I both love our Fall wreath which I purchased from Michael’s craft and hobby shop two years ago and while we’re always a bit sad to have to put away our shorts and sandals in September, it always puts a smile on our faces when I pull this wreath out of storage and hang it on our front door.

Our Fall wreath hanging on our front door.
Our Fall wreath hanging on our front door.

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All of our door ornaments come from Michael’s and I have to say that I have been nothing but pleased with the quality of their decorations. Only one of them has not resisted the elements, but I realized pretty quickly that it was never meant to be hung outside, so its demise was totally my fault. This Fall wreath however looks just as fresh as it did the first time I hung it on our door. If you have a Michael’s in your area, I strongly encourage you to go and check them out, their Fall and Halloween decorations are up to 60% off right now and That means that their Christmas stuff will be in as well if you like to buy your decorations early.

As for me, I’m going to keep admiring the beauties of Fall before I start getting serious about Christmas.

This little guy wouldn't look out of place on a Canadian flag!
This little guy wouldn’t look out-of-place on a Canadian flag!
The changing leaves of our Maple Tree.
The changing leaves of our Maple Tree.

Some of my Fall favorites in no particular order:

1- Pumpkin spice EVERYTHING

2- Homemade mulled apple cider, we use Williams Sonoma mulling spices.

3- Getting to wear scarves again! I’m a scarf fiend and have so many that I’m running out of places to store them properly.

4- The beautifully colored leaves and the crisp air.

5- Curling up in front the television under a blanket with my Darling in the evening.

Fun with my macro lens and the last days of Summer

A flower box in Old Montreal
A flower box in Old Montreal

Before we left on vacation in July I treated myself to a macro lens. I had been wanting one for ages and I really lucked out on the day I walked into Camtec Photo’s Notre-Dame Street location, because they had a gently used lens on hand and it was just the one I wanted! It works like a dream and I’ve been having tons of fun with it ever since! The first photos I took with it were in Old Montreal, which is a photographer’s dream, especially for me since I am a serious architecture junkie.

Architectural details on a building in Old Montreal
Architectural details on a building in Old Montreal
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Carved stone and wood architectural details above doorways in Old Montreal

A few days after purchasing my lens, I took it out for a whirl at one of my favorite places, Atwater Market, knowing that its gardening stalls would be in full bloom and they did not disappoint!

Recently watered flowers at Atwater Market.

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A macro lens also comes in very handy for taking photographs of your cats. The next few images are of Magique. Do not be fooled by her calm, cool, laid back exterior in these photos. She is a little devil of a cat, just this morning she looked me square in the face and tipped over two photo frames on our dresser and then proceeded to snitch and eat one of my evening primrose old supplements off the kitchen table, then look up at me licking her chops while I scolded her, without a care in the world. But life is better with cats, I swear! How can it not be? We never have a dull moment here thanks to our two feline friends and we really do love them to the moon and back.

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Aside from going on wanders near and far with my camera, I have been enjoying the last days of Summer as best I can. It is still warm and sunny here in Montreal and the leaves are still green, but school started again for kids here this week and it is Labour Day this coming Monday and we Canadians know all too well what that means: Fall is coming and soon enough, Winter will be right behind it! I don’t know how anyone can complain about unusually warm weather at this time of year, especially since our last two Winters have been so brutal. I say, soak in all the heat and sunshine you can, because within a few months you’re going to be paying big bucks for plane tickets to fly South and get some!

Finally, because I haven’t done so in a little while, here are a few of my current favorites:

1- The Goldfinch, a novel by Donna Tartt that I just finished reading. It was the last of my Summer reads that I bought a few months ago and I loved it. It is not a light read or an easy one, but if you like books that are focused on character development, you will enjoy it greatly. It won the Pulitzer Prize this year and it really lives up to it in my opinion.

2- Evensong Live 2015, a recording of choral music recorded during Evensong services at King’s College, Cambridge during the 2013-2014 academic year that I have been listening to several times a month since purchasing it in Spring. I have always been a huge fan of the choir of King’s College, they are a group of hugely talented boys and young men and I will never, ever forget how incredibly moved my Darling and I were when we attended an Evensong service at King’s last December. It was the realization of a dream for me and my Darling was oh, so happy that I had convinced him that just the service would make him happy we made the day trip out to Cambridge from London and boy, was I right. As soon as the boys started singing we both got chills and my eyes filled with tears. So, if you enjoy choral music, check out the choir’s recordings and please, please, if you are ever in London, take a day trip out to Cambridge and attend their Evensong service. The express trains get you there forty-five minutes, which is less time than it takes to get from one point to another in many areas of London itself.

3- Our organic Strawberry plant, which is gifting us with a totally unexpected second crop of berries. What a treat to be picking fresh strawberries in September, right off our front balcony!