Archive for June, 2012

Happy Weekending

Finally Friday is here after a bit of a rough week which saw the tenth anniversary of our first date.  For some reason, June 25 affected me so much more than his birthday earlier in the month.  I’m not sure why – maybe because ten years always feels like a huge milestone in anything – but I sure was glad to see the back of Monday and get through the rest of the week.

This weekend brings the end of another online class with Tracey Clark – Picture Black and White (see blog badge on right).  One more prompt to go tomorrow.  We’ve spent a couple of months looking at things differently, stripping out colour and focusing on the monochrome.

It’s amazing how texture becomes more vivid when there’s no in between. How focusing on composition gives you a new perspective altogether in black and white.  Getting grounded.  Looking up at the clouds.  The photographs in the class gallery have been truly inspiring.  Having an alternate point of view can make all the difference.

Life’s like that too.  Sometimes there is so much colour that you cannot see the wood for the trees, and everything is overwhelming. But with a little stripping down – clarity emerges. The past few months have taught me, more than ever, that it is possible to achieve a simple, beautiful life, even with daily noise all around you.  Today, instead of moping around the house, I took flowers and champagne to a dear friend who had recently become engaged – stopped en route at PeiWei for some hot and sour soup and a lemongrass chicken salad for a shared lunch.  In my fortune cookie, I found a twist on the old saying: “Don’t put off till tomorrow, what can be enjoyed today.”  Life is too short not to do so.

This weekend try turning off your PC, your phone, your television.  Be present in your life.  Do what you love to do, with the people who truly love you.

Happy weekending.


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JOY is……

The anticipation of the weekend when it’s Friday afternoon.

Knowing it’s summer and we’re going swimming at the pool today.

Watching Dexter chase squirrels, ever hopeful that he might just catch one someday.

Having nothing planned and being spontaneous.

Hearing your favourite songs on the radio.

Waking up on a rainy day and snuggling under the covers.

Going to bed early just so I can read the next chapter of a good book.

Planting sunflower seeds and watching the shoots come up.

Her little hand in mine.

Being creative in my writing or photography and being satisfied with the outcome.

Flying a kite in the park.

Digging our toes in the sand.

Being able to say “I love you” to my Mum on Skype and seeing my daughter laugh with her Nana across the miles.

Knowing you were loved every day by your soulmate, even though he’s not here any more.

Being the mother of an amazing, courageous, beautiful daughter – who may be only five but is already wise beyond her years.

Jumping the waves together.


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It’s Friday.   We’re having a lazy afternoon at the house.  Just me, N, and the dog.  Took my mother to the airport earlier so we are all feeling sad.  She’ll be back in September for another visit, but it’s strangely quiet without her – we’ve got used to having her here and she’s a big help to me, especially with my daughter and walking the dog.

I’ve been trying to catch up on some reading – I started one of Sharon Penman’s historical novels before we went to Florida but I haven’t got very far with it, and I’ve just read the same paragraph three times so I’m thinking about having a snooze instead.  I should really catch up on my writing but I can hardly keep my eyes open today.

N’s on the loveseat with her feet up and her head on a cushion.  She’s exhausted and suffering from allergies but refusing to take a nap.   iCarly is on the television.

Dexter is on the other end of the couch on an old sheet.  He’s twitching in his sleep but every so often he’ll have one eye open just in case he doesn’t miss anything.

The coffee table has been fairly tidy since we returned from our trip.  Some books, a few toys and crayons, two old photo albums with pictures from other trips to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in the nineties.  Under the table are a few piles of games and toys – Connect4, SpongeBob Operation, Legos, jigsaw puzzles.

This room faces east so it gets lots of sun in the morning, but is cool and shaded in the afternoons.   Still, it’s in the high nineties outside so the AC is on as usual.  A comfortable 75 degree setting.  I’m amazed at the reduction in energy bill now we have the new unit.  A couple of years ago we were racking up $300 monthly charges.  This past month was $90 and we had the AC going constantly.

I need to clean up the dining table so we can start eating meals on it.  I still have some correspondence to answer from Christmas and some of N’s latest school pictures to send out.   And one of the laptops.  Later I might upload some of our vacation photos to Shutterfly so I can send them to the family. Or we may go to the pool.  Not sure which way the evening is heading yet.

This time last week we were building sandcastles on the beach.  Wish we were still in Florida.

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My husband’s cologne.  My Opium perfume.

Our daughter, a few days old.  Johnson’s baby lotion.  Dreft laundry detergent.

My mother’s perfume on her old fur coat.

My grandad’s flat cap, smelling of Brylcreem, stale pipe smoke, and the Brown Cow pub.  My Nana’s scarves.

The front parlour which was off limits – old photographs and vases of dried flowers.

A cigar, smoked outside.

Freshly laundered sheets.  Pinesol shiny clean floors.

Honeysuckle.  Jasmine.  Roses.  Lavender.  Rosemary.  Cilantro. Basil.  Balsamic vinegar.

Cinnamon.  Baked apple pie. Warm chocolate chip cookies.  A newly opened can of cofee or a freshly brewed cup.  Mesquite barbecue.  Garlic mashed potatoes.  Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing.  Pine needles on a Christmas tree.

Summer rain.  First scent of cold weather in the fall.  Saturday market stalls on the rue Lepic.   Stinky cheese.  Freshly baked French bread and pastries.  The Bon Marche.

An ocean breeze.  Sunscreen on skin.  Beach towels.  Coconut conditioner.  Nivea after-sun cream.

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In the mornings:

Coffee.  It used to be tea, but tea always seems to taste better when somebody else makes it.  We have a Cuisinart coffee maker which I love.  Sometimes I’ll set it up the night before so the smell of a freshly brewed pot wakes me up, but usually I’ll make it first thing when I get up.  Right after R died, I kept waking up to the smell of coffee.  Which was strange, because there was nobody else in the house but me and N.   Sometimes I’ll skip making coffee at home and go to the Kolache Factory for a hazelnut brew and a ranchero.  I haven’t really done that since I discovered my favourite kolache was about 9 big weightwatchers points.  Maybe that’s where the 5lb loss has come from since I started tracking my food intake.

Sometimes I’ll have a glass of OJ in the morning.  Sometimes not.

During the day:

Tea.  Hot or cold. Growing up, it was freshly brewed tea-leaf hot tea, with sterilized milk and two sugars.  This was always the solution to every problem – a bruised or scraped body part, an emotional meltdown, a stressful GCSE exam.   This is how my Nana made tea, every Saturday, when we used to spend the afternoons with her.  And two toasted potato cakes, homemade.   I dropped the sugar and switched to fresh milk and tea bags when I went to university.   I still have my Nana’s silver plated teapot.  It’s a bit bashed up but it makes a great cup of tea.   Someone bought me a hot tea maker once.  The tea that came out of it was horrible, stewed, and lukewarm.   A proper cup of tea needs to be made from boiling water  – preferably out of a kettle.  This is why British Airways makes excellent tea on planes, and the Americans don’t, and why I drink coffee when traveling and not tea.

Iced tea was nowhere on the radar growing up.  The concept of cold tea was something alien to me…..until I moved to Atlanta in the 90s.  I discovered that tea could be refreshing in 90 degree temperatures with 100% humidity.  R bought an iced tea maker a couple of years ago and now I use it exclusively in summer.  I love the Tazo green tea with lemongrass and spearmint and lots of ice.  There’s a jug sitting in my fridge right now.

We drink purified water here.  There’s a Pur filter in the fridge so we don’t have to buy cases of it from the grocery store.  The tap water in Houston is terrible.  Old pipes + too many leached chemicals = bad tasting H20.  Sometimes I’ll treat myself to a bottle of San Pellegrino. Definitely not Perrier, it’s too fizzy.  I much prefer Badoit, but you can’t buy it here, so I drink tons of it whenever I’m in France.

I love grape soda but try not to buy a case too often as it’s just full of processed crap – I’ll save that for a special treat here and there.  Sometimes I’ll have a diet coke or Dr Pepper, but only if I’m having a fast food lunch.  I typically don’t keep any sodas in the house.

N drinks cranberry juice or OJ watered down, and the low sugar organic juices I buy at Randalls.  I avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup like the plague.   I’ll let her have a milkshake from Mickey Ds or Whataburger sometimes, but she isn’t allowed soda and doesn’t like it anyway.   No chocolate milk either.  The Horizon organic chocolate milk has 22 grams of sugar in one serving. 22 grams!  That’s almost four times the sugar that’s in a popsicle or juice packet.

Cold milk.  We both love it.  We’ll usually have a glass before bedtime, and I’ll sometimes have a glass at lunch as well.  I switched to 1% a couple of weeks ago, from 2%, and haven’t really noticed much difference.  When I was pregnant, I craved milk like nobody’s business.  Probably why N has such a tough skull and strong bones.

It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere:

I used to love cocktail hour when I lived in Paris.  We’d set out a couple of trays of hors d’ouevres in the office, and have kir royales or a chilled glass of Brouilly red on the side.  Yummy.   When I first moved to Houston, I hooked up with a friend I’d known in high school in England, and we were part of a happy hour group that met every Thursday.  Someone would pick a bar, and those of us who were around would meet there for drinks and appetizers.  The group disbanded when we all grew up, got married, had kids, got divorced, moved away.   We’ll still get together occasionally for birthdays and stuff, but not regularly.

There’s a bottle of Pinot Grigio in my fridge along with a six pack of O Doul’s and two Bud Lights.  Two bottles of red on top.  I can’t remember how long the white wine has been in there.  Probably since last summer.  A half finished bottle of margarita mix and the same with a bottle of bloody mary mix.  I prefer gin and tonic if I’m out, but I don’t drink much at home any more.  The sangria at Escalantes restaurant is really good though, so I might have a glass of that if we go there for dinner. Otherwise it’s iced tea or water.   Pretty ordinary, really.

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I had a few hobbies when I was a kid.  Philately.  I still have my old stamp albums and first day covers.  Latin and ballroom dancing.  Kept all my exam medals.  Swimming.   Have my lifesaving and endurance badges.

These days it’s photography that occupies my leisure time.   I used to play around with my Mum’s old Brownie, which alas, we don’t have any more.  I received my first camera for my tenth birthday – a Kodak instamatic with built in flash.  I loved it.  “Say cheese!” became a regular refrain in our house.  The father of a friend used to take black and white pictures and let us hang out in his improvised darkroom at home as the photographs appeared in the chemical baths.  Like magic.

In 1991 I bought myself an SLR – Olympus 101 – film camera.  I loved playing around with the settings and getting photos developed was always so exciting – waiting for the pictures to be ready at the local photo shop and that first look at the shiny Kodak paper.  Taking pictures cost me a fortune as I had endless rolls of film developed.   Photographing two weddings was fun but as far as I went professionally.

I resisted a digital camera for the longest time, but once our daughter was born it became a necessity for someone who didn’t have the time to sort pictures and put them into photo albums.   These days I use a point and shoot, a Canon Powershot digital ELPH.   I’d love an SLR but it’s not in the budget at the moment, and so many times I hear friends say “I have a great digital camera but I don’t know how to use it.”  My camera fits in my purse and when I don’t have it with me, I use my not-an-iPhone.   Sometimes I find it equally liberating not to bring my camera and see with my eyes, not through a lens.

I’ve learned from several online classes with Tracey Clark (see sidebar) that it’s all about expressing yourself and being true to your creative heart.  Keep in mind your perspectives and composition – and you can shoot great photos with any camera if you take a little time to see things differently.  You can also have fun with processing – a creative crop, washing out colour, highlighting a scene – all these things can make your photographs jump off the screen.

Sharing classes online kept me motivated to focus on the positive in the past few months.  I’m glad I have pictorial memories of my husband and his love for us.

Photography is my creative outlet.

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I don’t covet too many things any more, in fact I’m trying to get rid of the stuff I have that I don’t need.  I covet more space in my house and less clutter.

I covet clean floors.  They always seem to be covered in shoes, or dog hair, or piles of paper.

I covet warm weather when it’s cold, and cold weather when it’s too hot.    I covet the rain when we don’t see any for months.

I covet the age my daughter is at.  Being five, having her first loose tooth, dressing up, drawing and coloring, loving life with no strings attached.

I covet the intangible.

Peace.  Silence.  Unshakeable faith.  Always knowing that God is present and believing in heaven.

Travel.  I want to travel more.  My daughter seems to have inherited the bug already.   She’s talking about China, Egypt, Africa.   I want to see Peru, Buenos Aires, Hawaii, Prague. Go back to Australia and New Zealand again.

Money.  I’d like enough money so I don’t have to go back to work.  So I could devote time to writing and traveling and spending time with the people I love.  So we could be comfortable without worrying about bills and mundane stuff like cleaning the house.

Time.  I’d love more hours in my day sometimes.  I would love to be able to spend more time with my family and friends overseas and around the USA.  I would give anything for 24 more hours with the people I have lost…..my grandparents, my father, and especially my husband.   There’s never enough time.

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