Saturday, December 31, 2011

Adieu 2011

It's been a fine year.
New challenges tackled - new places explored - new faces encountered.
I always feel I'm on the cusp of change(s) with the dawning of each new year, and of course I am, as we all are.
What they may be, what they may bring - ah, patience.
The following show a few of my favorite moments from this past  year.
Happy New Year one and all!

Doc Holliday & me in Tombstone Arizona.

The Tucson three - my fellow bloggers who encouraged me on this journey.

Kitti & I in Patan Durbar Square, Nepal

Going to see Everest.


Singhe - I loved his smile.

Strawberry social.

Peach lady.

Holy Crow.

Artist & patron.

The Venice four.


Busman's holiday.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Festive Special

My Mom, me and Di at the Swiss Restaurant.
Christmas just wouldn't be the same without an annual visit to the Swiss Restaurant for the Festive Special. My Mom, Di (a former neighbor) and I have been celebrating this tradition for at least twenty years now. Every year there is great debate as to what to order — it's been the same request for the past twenty years — quarter chicken of white meat with fries for two, plus one veggie burger for yours truly, as the token veggie. Great discussion occurs over the dessert menu, and it is always the lemon meringue pie with three forks that wins. The chocolates arrive for the two who ordered the Festive Special, and they generously share them with me. As much as the visit to the Swiss restaurant is tradition, so too is the ritual of discussing the meal selection. We exchange pressies over the table and bid adieu for another season. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Nothing makes me smile faster than a plastic snowman lighting up a front yard at this time of the year.  

 I have watched this menagerie grow over the years. What once was a semi-circle of plastic plug-in snowmen, has morphed into an army of snowmen in every shape, size, construction and noteworthiness.
They are now safely tucked behind a tall wrought iron fence,
for their own protection.
I particularly like the smaller ones huddled around their campfire. 
Surprisingly, they don't melt. ;-)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Was it a Gherkin or was it a tree?

London's Gherkin.
While in London last  year, my Mom and I became fascinated by a building known as the Gherkin. Gherkin in shape, and unique in design, inside and out, it stands a part in London's skyline. Once you see it, you know you have never seen a building like it before, and it helps identify London's skyline.

Last night driving home from downtown, out of the corner of my eye I saw Christmas lights that reminded me of the Gherkin. I did a U turn, and went back to look more closely at my Gherkin. It was a tall conical shaped tree, with lights placed on it, in the same pattern as London's Gherkin. I had to take a picture. I then drove slowly through the neighborhood, taking in all the Christmas lights. It reminded me of when I was a kid, and my Dad would pile the family into our 1967 Pontiac Parisienne, and we would go downtown to see all the wonderful Christmas lights along University Avenue.

For a few minutes last night, as I was driving slowing down side streets, I felt like I was back in 1967, when Christmas truly was magical.

My Christmas Gherkin.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Traditions - my word of the week

During this time of the year, there are many traditions I like to observe. Traditions can allow for a continuity of certain feelings at certain times.

Christmas is one of those times that takes me back to my childhood, as far as when certain traditions were given their impetus for me. When I was a small girl, I would go downtown during December, with my Babcia, and we would visit Simpson's and Eaton's. It was a big event, where we were both dressed in our Sunday best, including hat and gloves. We would take the street car from her house, which was a thrill all its own — as there were no street cars  where I lived. 

In those days, Simpson's and Eaton's were two massive department stores, that were across the street from one another on Queen street in downtown Toronto. My Babcia would price something in Eaton's, and inevitably, we would buy it in Simpson's. We would hold  on to the rickety wooden escalator in Eaton's and climb up to the Toy Department - Mecca - to any child - and I was no different. Where to start? The line-up to see Santa Clause was forever, so opted to just dream about all the toys I wanted under my tree that year - Barbie, Operation, Kiddles, Kerplunk & Barrel of Monkeys.

We would cross the street and have a wander through Simpson's. The notions department for my Babcia, and the toy department again for me.We always stopped for lunch in the basement cafeteria, where we sat at stools at the counter, and where they had pieces of pie under the glass in front of you. It was so exciting and fun. I loved how I could just swing my feet, as I was too small to touch the foot rests. I was allowed a pot of tea, a habit, I've carried on to this day. My Babcia allowed me get a taste for tea at a young age, and it stuck.

No trip was complete without checking out the department store windows for Christmas. Some years had Santa and his elves working in his toyshop, some years were covered in tinsel and silver, after all, this was the age of Aquarius. 

As my Babica got older, and wasn't up for the big Simpson's adventure, my Mom and I took up the charge. No longer did we hit the toy department, but the fashion department. Lunch was upgraded to the Arcadian court, and my feet were firmly placed under my seat now. Over time, Simpson's became The Bay, but still in the same Queen street location. Each December my Mom and I make the pilgrimage to The Bay Queen Street, to have a wander through the fashion department, note the decor section. Sadly, the Arcadian court was no longer a lunch option this year, as it was closed for renovations. There isn't even a toy department in the store any more, and we were too pooped to check out the Christmas windows this year. 

Having said that, I still enjoyed my tradition of hitting Simpson's/The Bay Queen street this December, in the midst of all the Christmas madness. What would Christmas be, without a trip to the big Queen street department store. Ho ho ho!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quirk - my word of the week.

We all have our own quirks and can observe different quirks — everyday.

I raise my left eyebrow, without even thinking about it, when my curiosity is peaked, be it good or bad — the subject of my curiosity that is. I tap my spoon two times into the sink after I have stirred my tea — but only when I'm at work. On weekends, I drink my tea from my giant Starbucks mug I bought in Beijing — I never use that mug during the week. Why do we have these quirks?  Habit? Learned behavior? Is that the reason why we are all unique? I'm not really sure.

Now here is a quirky sign — which is clearly not habit, nor learned behavior,  but perhaps a non committal outlook on things. The sign is in Macy's on 34th Street in New York City.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Autumn - my word of the week.

I've never been a fan of autumn, probably my least favorite season, for many reasons. I hear friends tout its praises about the fresh fall air, the changing of the leaves, the hunkering down for what is approaching and the nesting instinct. Me - I love spring.

However, this autumn has passed so quickly, that I barely had time to notice the shorter days, the greyer days & the need to wear a jacket again. Why? Simply because I've been so busy preparing for different jewellery shows, participating in the shows and looking forward to December, when the calm of no shows arrives. And December always has its own frenzied qualities, with the onslaught of Christmas festivities — which I do enjoy.

So dare I say, this autumn is passing quickly, as an unfavored season should.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Finish - say it isn't so Andrew.

Andrew has just assigned my last word of the week assignment. I will be very sorry not to see my word assignment each Monday.

Very appropriate that the last word should be finish. When I first read the word, I thought of kinds of finishes, as in shiny, pewter, brass, matte,  and so on, not that the word of the week assignments are finished. So sad. I really did come to enjoy them, be frustrated by them, be challenged by them and took it for granted that they would just be there, waiting for me on a Monday, in perpetuity. I guess nothing lasts forever.

Yes, I was one of those original seven women that gathered in the Arizona desert in January, to take on this challenge. I still have my piece of paper with my first word challenge passed to me from either Ellen or Doriot, in my journal, I bought special for the "Capturing the Moment" workshop. The word was "clear". I was told to take a photo that captures "clear", since I smugly stated that I was not interested in blogging, but was interested in photography.

I've always been a fan of blue & I loved how Mother Nature,
made this incredible clear blue interpretation,
in stone, in the desert.

I loved the clear blue sky
that greeted us each day in the desert.

How interesting that my first word should be clear, and that my last word would be finish. Blogging and the push to think outside the box creatively has spawned many new ideas for me, and made things clearer if you will. The fact that Andrew chose to finish this assignment on the word finish, ties things up very neatly.

Andrew said that it has been 42 weeks since this project began. So, so much for a matte finish, I think this is a shiny, high gloss finish to a wonderful life course for me. Thank you Andrew.

In front of some of my work November 5, 2011.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My love of colour...

Just cracked my November Style at Home magazine, and saw the following quote by Carleton Varney, one of America's top interior designers, " I honestly believe that if you're a happy person, you have to live with colour." 

Nuff said.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My word of the week catch-up

October 3 - Strength
October 10 - Sanctuary
October 17 - Written
October 24 - Soft
October 31 - Shiver
November 7 - Cherish

Yes, it has been six weeks, since I've dealt with my word of the week challenge from Andrew. I've noted them, thought about them and concluded the following:
My Mom gives me strength.
My home provides me with sanctuary.
I get more pleasure out of keeping a written blog than I would ever have imagined —thank you Andrew and Kate for pushing me initially.
My precious Gretel, is the softest creature I have felt.
The thought of our first snow fall of the season causes me to shiverthank goodness for cashmere.
And cherish, would describe how I feel about my relationship with my Mom and my feline companions, Gretel and Lily.

There you go, six weeks of homework covered off.
And all very connected.

Soft: Lily and Gretel & the armless teddy bear.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Arrivederci Venezia...

• Lots of walking • Melt in your mouth gnocchi • Meals beside a canal • Tall beautiful men, with personalities to match, who knew how to accessorize • Endless canals • Gorgeous gloves • Vivaldi • Murano glass • Scarves worn by everyone • A church on every corner • Cappuccino's for breakfast • Gondolas • Vaportto's • Valpolicella • Prosecco • The colourful houses of Burano • Photo ops on every street • Sharing memories with good friends • Quality mother/daughter time •  Love of Italy reconfirmed • Being with good friends at special times • Colour • Low rise buildings • Marble • Bridges • History • A sense of style • Water • Docks • Singing

It was a whirlwind trip — but those are my most favorite as I feel I get a lot of experiences in a short time.

When I saw a car for the first time in six days, it hit me, that I really had been a very different world.  :)

Mom on the vaporetto back to Piazzale Roma,
to catch a cab to the airport.
There was no way, my Mom was doing another
crazy speedy water taxi back to the airport.
We even had a porter take our bags to the vaporetto.

One last pass under the Accedemia Bridge,
with skinny house and gondola in the background.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My big 50th!

Up at 6:30 on my birthday? Yup, I signed up for a photography tour of the "other side " of Venice with Ian. I wanted to at least have a cappuccino before I met Ian, so reluctantly got out of bed. The morning was spent happily snapping away, in the Castello and Arsenale regions of Venice, along with Ian at my side. We had an intimate group of 5, including our guide. A couple from New Zealand were along for the tour as well. Off the typical tourist path, I got another side of Venice on this tour. I embraced the opportunity to capture as much of it as I could. The following speaks for itself.

Masks to be adorned, or not?

Ian and the Kiwis and our guide.

Sensible tourist shoes.

Canal hotel entrance.

Ian getting some photography guidance.

Endless bridges.

I hadn't had breakfast, and everything looked good.

Fresh picked pomegranates.

Local newsagent. Typical architecture.

Back doors of homes.

I liked the asymmetrical mail slot.

Bridge to front door. How convenient.

Like the crazy wires of Kathmandu,
I was fixated on the laundry lines of Venice.

A study in laundry.

More laundry.

Adornments on the gondolas.

The winged lion of Venice, atop the Arsenale.

I thought this looked like a character out of Gangs of New York.

The best known symbol of Venice.

After a happy two and a half hours of exploring and snapping, Ian and I met up with my Mom and Sue - where - in front of  Florian's. Florian's was a great meeting spot. By now Ian and I were hungry, having sacrificed breakfast for the sake of our tour, and were keen to get somewhere. The lovely tiny northern island of Burano was our destination for lunch. Two vaporetto's and just under two hours later, we arrived in the most colourful island of Burano. Had we known it would take so long to get to Burano, I think we would have had a bite before leaving St. Mark's Square, alas.

One of our daily sites,
as his master sold his paintings by our hotel.

Waiting for the vaporeto to Burano from Murano.

I love colour, and Burano was full of colour. It was such a happy looking spot. These island dwellers embraced all colours  and all combinations of colours. They were not shy. I loved it!

We had been told of a good restaurant in Burano, Al gatto nero, the black cat, by two people now — Mario, our tour guide in the Murano glass works factory and by the Contessa. Somehow going to a restaurant called The black cat on my birthday seemed very appropriate. So, we set our sites on finding this restaurant. It was located  maybe ten minutes from the vaporetto dock. We had a slight line-up, but were each given a glass of prosecco as compensation, and the line moved quickly. Word got out that it was my birthday, and more special drinks came out. I was given the head of the table in this charming restaurant that was adorned with dozens of paintings, sketches and drawings of black cats, and local scenery. This was a happening spot. It was buzzing inside and out on the canal side patio. Their specialty was fish, so we all ordered fish dishes. We had two large platters of antipasto of all kinds of fish — shell fish, raw fish, squid, mussels, fish I didn't know, a mousse of a white fish, it was all yummy. What's a meal without pasta, but with crab added. More yumminess. When it came time for dessert, I was stuffed, but was brought out a lovely little panacotta with a candle. After making a wish and blowing it out, more indulgence.

Location of my birthday lunch.

A one...

A two...

Note the Murano glass bead bracelet.
A birthday present from my Mom.

I think we were all ready for a walk around Burano after that very satisfying meal. We needed to move, or at least I needed to move.

Post lunch outside the restaurant.

Typical canal of colour.

Is this not sweet.

Bold and beautiful.

Embracing the many colours.

Side by side and bold.

Even the laundry was colourful.

Burano is known for its hand made lace.

Lovely reflections.

We had a glorious afternoon wandering around Burano. The weather was beautiful, the company splendid, the occasion was noteworthy — a day to remember.

Burano is small island, quite a way north of the action of Venice, but well worth it. Next stop Venice.

We took the vaporetto back towards Venice, changing vaporettos in Murano, and ending up on the opposite side of St. Mark's, at Fondemanta Nove. We were clearly, nowhere near where we wanted to end up. Not sure how that happened. When my Mom and I came back from Murano, we took a direct vaporetto. Oh well, more new neighborhoods to explore. I had been on the search for Pan Forte, a delicacy of the Florence region, but thought I could get it here, I mean, we were pretty close to Florence. I had gone into several Pasticcerie's, all with the same results. Finally, I saw one in a window, and two were purchased. Success. We were clearly walking through residential neighborhoods, with kids kicking a soccer ball around, moms and kids strolling and chatting before dinner and the end of a day's events were shared with neighbors.

We made it to the Rialto bridge and caught the vaporetto around the grand canal, back to St. Mark's. It was mostly full of people going home from work, or going out for the evening. Not many tourists like us on board. Again, the moon was full and bright and lead the way back to St. Mark's.

Vaporetto just going under the Accademia bridge with full moon.

One thing my Mom and I had on our list of things to do in Venice was to go to the original Harry's Bar. Now, Harry's is where Hemingway hung out in the 20's, and Bellini's originated. Yes, a total tourist trap, but one we wanted to experience, even though the Contessa told us they used frozen peach juice now. We knew it was around our hotel, but just didn't realize just how close, until we got off the vaporetto at St. Mark's. Harry's is an intimate little bar, full or little tables with little chairs occupied by tourists and locals alike. The menu asked that we refrain from taking photos, so as not to make other patrons uncomfortable. Wonder what, or who should or shouldn't be seen there. I resisted, but so wanted one last group shot of us with our 15 Euro Bellini's.

By now we were all getting weary, and my Mom and I still had to pack as we were leaving in the morning. I walked Ian and Sue back to their vaporetto stop, and had one last lovely walk through the evening quiet of St. Mark's square.

My 50th birthday was indeed a day to remember. My Mom suggested this whole trip, and from start to finish it was truly wonderful. Thanks Mom, for everything. I love you.