Archive for the ‘home’ Category

Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?

April 15, 2011

Those eternal questions we all ask of ourselves, everywhere.
My amazing younger sister Margaret has acted on her own questioning of this universal concern with self, origins, connections with previous generations and has undertaken an intensive research of our roots which provides her with much fodder for story telling and passing on what she learns to her daughter, my Mousey, Renaissance Man in order to help them grasp the strings which universally binds us – our present and of who and what we originate from – in a continuum.

Past September, she and our half-brother, Wise Psychologist, who lives and works in Berlin, undertook a journey to Hungary to find the village where our father was born in 1913, and to visit the childhood home of our mother in Buda. We spent many hours on the phone and on-line google searching maps of areas of Hungary, prior to their trip. I was happy to be useful in remembering names of villages and streets, as well as useful architectural memories which might enable them to orient themselves once they were actually in the country and searching out the various sites. It was satisfying to vicariously experience what they encountered on this trip.

Margaret kept in daily e-mail touch, and her commentary made me feel included in their wonder and delight with their discoveries. Margaret is a great photographer, and her pictures enrich and add concrete detail to some of my now faded memories. Of course, much has changed in the 55+ years of my being out of the country – for example, the village roads in Oros are now paved over, whereas when I was there as a child they were compacted dirt. The village church is now painted yellow, whereas, then, it was simply whitewashed. Still, the iconostasis glows with a remembered rich beauty that makes my heart soar.

Our paternal grandfather was a cantor/teacher hired by the diocese, and had previously served in that capacity in a town in Eastern Slovakia, and also in a small town in Romania. Unfortunately, his grave, and the grave of our grandmother were no longer extant, since there was a practice to allow graves a certain time before giving the space to more recently deceased person. However, the parish records and the now-serving priest’s wife helped them locate the exact positioning of those graves.

In Buda, they searched behind the large cathedral to find the childhood home of our mother, and in Pest found the apartment building where our maternal grandmother lived out her life in Communist Hungary.

It was a labour of love for Margaret and Wise Psychologist, as well as an unquenchable curiosity about the places where our family have earlier lived and moved about. Margaret speaks only rudimentary Hungarian, our brother, none at all. So considering this fact, it is a testament to their tenacity that they found so much to share with us here in our home now.

Daily, Margaret calls me to share her latest findings, and the information base grows apace. We can hardly wait until Old Forester comes to stay with me, because then we will be able to plumb his remarkable rich trove of family lore. We plan to lay in the good Hungarian wine and foods he so loves and then prevail upon him to share his memories with which to help somewhat answer those three questions for us. We can hardly wait!

Moving to the Gal Pad…

April 6, 2011

When I made the decision to separate from Rumpole, last August, he moved into our recently completed basement suite which we called his Man Pad. There he had already moved his office, and I had decorated the space as he desired, with images framed that he enjoyed regularly viewing. Mousey, when she came to visit always insited on visiting the Man Pad, to get fresh looks at what I had labelled Grandpa’s Gummy Dragon, a really cheesy Chinese plastic dragon one of Rumpole’s clients had brough back from China. It smelled like recently imported Chinese plastic goods in the Loonie stores smell, a nasty, virulent rotten vegetable odour. Rumpole was wierdly attached to this artifact, and Mousey also. She did say it smelled strange – sort of like dragons smell, she said.
Like a somnambulist, I moved through the paces of finding a lawyer who practiced matrimonial law, severed our joint bank accounts, set up my own bank account and began the process of trying to figure out where I would land in order to begin to piece a solitary life together. By the end of September, I had engaged a realtor to assess the saleability of our house and to advise as to what needed to be done to it for us to get the maximum amount of money for selling it. Rumpole merely had to rubber stamp all the documents that had to be signed by both of us. This he did readily for the necessary real estate documents, but negotiated fiercely for the legal separation agreement, as he would,being a lawyer himself.
While we haggled over the terms of separating assets, I prepared the house for showings and open houses, did the necessities to maintain things in ship shape, started divesting myself of hundreds of drawings, teaching aids and studio supplies and also gave away objects and equipment I realized would not be able to be accommodated in the size of space I knew I could afford to live within. Having to make these decisions helped me to focus on practicalities and not make any hasty and panicking moves.
Within four days of the first showing of the house, we had recieved an offer, conditional on the purchasers selling their own place. It was a reasonable offer, and within a week we had a back up offer to buttress it. Must hand it to Rumpole – he bargained up the offering bid like the most skillful Persian rug purveyor – although at times during the bargaining procees with buyers he came close to losing the offer – but he is experienced in knowing just how to pressure during a deal and restrained his capacity for flaring up in anger and frustration.
As we waited for the buyers to show their place and in turn recieve an offer on it, I began the process of finding myself an apartment in the centre of town. I had absolutely no idea what was available, but knew that whatever place I could rent had to be walking distance to all necessities since I no longer can drive. I must have looked at 10 or so different apartments and was ready to give up when I found just the right apartment. And, lo and behold, our buyers recieved a firm offer for their place and we had a closing date for the sale of our house – December 4.
Meanwhile I was having lawyer problems on the separation agreement front. The lawyer I had engaged was a mother to three children, one of whom had special needs – so she was often unavailable to deal with amendments that cropped up during my bargaining with Rumpole. But, I must have had a collection of horseshoes and shamrocks gathering dust somewhere in the deeper recesses of my midden of a studio, because the house sale completed on the same day as Rumpole signed our separation agreement.
I took a risk in November in putting down a deposit and month’s rent on the apartment that best suited me, and had organized a move and clearing up of the house that proceeded like clockwork. Many friends came to my aid in effecting the move. I had enough time to move my stuff to the new apartment and then spend a week getting rid of our spoor and making the place clean for the new family of mom,dad, grandma, three kids under ten and one on the way about to take possession of my old digs.
Margaret, my sister, Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis, her two sons, Ron and Rosalie, a young painter friend helped move my stuff into the new Gal Pad with a rented U-haul which caused us a bit of grief – otherwise the move went smoothly and after rolling out the rug and assembling my bed, placing the boxes of stuff into the apportioned places, we repaired to the Kingfisher and ate a celebratory dinner, en masse.
It took me a month to shake out the disposition of my possessions, as I was also house-sitting for LookingforBeauty who was basking in the Mexican sunshine.
Since end of January I have familiarized myself with my new surroundings, set up a studio in the bedroom and generally have been busy and quite content.
Mousey loves coming over to the Gal Pad to do overnights, or for lunch. She knows where everything is, particularly the treasures I have stashed in different places for her to find and be delighted with.
Friends and family come by for coffee, tea, to drag me out to outings, to come and eat a meal with me.
I have a beautiful view of a ravine, and these spring days delight in the early morning bird repartee, the subtle sunrises and my new life, in general.
And yes, this old dog is learning new tricks – Flamenco dancing with the castanuelas, the tango, reviewing ballet core exercises, Spanish, and is carrying on…carrying on…

Collector…

October 22, 2009

The other morning, while I was quaffing my first cup of joe, Rumpole was struggling to open the pantry door, and swearing profusely and rather colourfully.
“For God’s Sake, G,” he growled, “why are there so many x^7*3# rubber bands on this door-handle? What are you saving these bloody things for?” Exasperated, he gave up the struggle and sat down across from me. But he was not finished yet. The rant continued after he cast his eyes in the direction of a corner of the kitchen counter where, teetering, rows of my sour cream, yoghurt and cottage cream containers were stacked, seeming to multiply and take over the rest of the counter space. A crafty expression on his countenance, he commented. “I think you are beginning to lose it, go into a decline or are starting to show some unfortunate aspects of advancing age.”

“But, dear, all those items are useful and I know will come in handy…soon.” I retorted.
“For what?” he demanded to know.
“Well, just think. I have been collecting rubber bands for about ten years now. And was I ever glad to have a handy stash of them on hand then Game Boy visited and asked me to do a hairdo of mini pony-tails all over his head so he could look cool and punky. You just never know what purpose rubber bands may be put to.”
“Oh, crap! You have a rejoinder for everything I say to you. What about that mess of plastic containers? What do you intend to do with them?”
“well, …er…, oh yes! Lucky, Barb and I are doing a series of mixed media experiments, for which these containers will come in very handy – you know, … for mixing acrylic media, sand, glue, recycled house paint.”
“Yeah. So there will be a passel of these containers full of weird concoctions lying around your studio for…well, forever, or for whenever you go on one of your jags to throw stuff out. Usually when I force you to.”
Man, he was really on a roll this morning. How could I lob back some clever comment to shut down all this kvetching? Aha! My ultimate statement! “Dear, aren’t you the least bit happy that I am not one of those women who shop daily for useless things and pile them up, unwrapped, all over the house. All this little tiny bit of collecting seems rather harmless by comparison.”
That stopped him in his building diatribe. Ha!
“Grrrr,” he growled as he brought his coffee cup up to his clenched jaw. “Point taken. But please, get them out of my sight at least.” He took a swig of coffee. His face lit up as if he had just got a brilliant idea. “You know, Just before Mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she had made some rather bizarre collections…need I point out, plastic containers, rubber bands… and it seems to me you have started a rubber band collection on the linen closet door handle, on your bedroom’s as well besides the back spindles of the kitchen chairs and the pantry door-knob. Do you think you may have a problem?”
I was aghast. Was he really suggesting I was losing it, ready to be prevented from living a relaitvely normal life and sequestered in the company of other forgetful and eccentric seniors?

“Oh yeah!” I countered, “before you start to diagnose me, diagnose yourself. I am not the one who loses her pants after taking them off and hanging them up. Nor am I one who cannot see her car keys right in front of her eyes. Frankly, my dear, some days you worry me.” I fixed him with my best snotty stare as I tapped my fingers impatiently on the tabletop.

“Point well taken,” he retorted, ” but I want all that stuff gone, hidden… and I don’t care where, when I return from work tonight.”
“Yes, Bwana,” I humbly assented, ” your wish is but a command. As a dutiful Stepford Wife, I shall, however begrudgingly, comply.”

So it’s off to remove said rubber bands and plastic collections from their offending places. Out of sight, maybe out of Rumpole’s mind, but ready to hand should their utility suddenly come into my conscious ken. I shall spend the morning brainstorming as to the various purposes to which rubber bands may be put.

The Yenta strikes again…

September 20, 2009

Pssst… don’t tell anybody, but, Hungarian Yenta is about to strike again.
Yes, busybody me has set the scene and invited Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis, a single matron of 51, and Rob, a single man of 61, to a Hungarian repast the object of which is to introduce these two chronically single souls to each other. Rumpole, good natured as he is, is merely groaning and rolling his eyes at the prospect of such a dinner, which might be a disaster. However I placated him with promise of a Schnitzel, roasted cabbage, roasted potatoes, pickled beets and shrimp salad menu.
A bit earlier, when I was pounding the daylights out of pork cutlets with my trusty metal tenderizer, he wandered through the kitchen and accused me of overkill. He did stop to smell the roasting cabbage and announced it smelling delicious. Odd, though, he didn’t mention that cabbage might be too flatulence-inducing to be appropriate for a match-making dinner. Did I err, in selecting cabbage as an accompaniment to schnitzel? I mean, we are all adults who are going to sup together, and what better way to break the ice than a few choice farts wafting from under the regions of the dining room table.
Poor Jessica may, however, be overcome by the compendium of olfactory effects, hanging around under the dining room table as is her wont during meals.
Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis expressed some concerns about the timing of this dinner. She is after all coming off day-shift this afternoon and is concerned with presenting herself as buffed up and pretty. Will she have time to adequately prepare herself for meeting Rob? And is he not slightly too old for her.
Nah, I told her. She is perfectly presentable as long as she is not wearing her uniform. Just comb your hair, I suggested. And, don’t wear your Red Door perfume – it’s likely to make us all pass out from sheer delight, and excess. (She does tend to douse herself in the stuff!) And, no. He is not too old. Just think, if things go well between you two and you hit it off, then you’ll have a chance to use your nursing skills on him in the not too distant future, I reminded her. This seemed to reassure her a little. She, after all, loves what she does for the living. And oddly, she seems to attract special needs men of the paraplegic sort, and I hastened to remind her that Rob has full use of all his limbs, and can do stuff, even – like walk and run, for extended periods, fix things, and think with all his perceptual faculties intact. He’s a real catch! Why? Because Hungarian Yenta has expressed that opinion, and is not to be questioned about things pertaining to romance between the two major sexes.
Well, things will turn out as they will. No point in second-guessing, no time for doubt. I just hope both Rob and Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis don’t rebel and act out. And I hope the Schnitzel doesn’t burn.
A perpetually hopeful, and busy-bodyish Hungarian Yenta, who keeps score, needs another win in the Romance Sweepstakes.
Wish me luck?

The Auld Sod – here and there…

July 20, 2009

Rumpole, Renaissance Man, Glasgow Girl and Mousey have travelled to the Auld Sod, Scotland, to visit Glasgow Girls mother and to make the pilgrimage to the Gathering of the Clans in Edinburgh. I am left behind, thankfully, to tend to the animals and the garden, in its current incarnation.

Rumpole has been keeping me updated with news of their various doings via e-mail. Mousey is not acclimatizing at all to the time change and she keeps them up until 3am at night. Rumpole finds himself having to drive the busy streets of Glasgow in a hire car; he is terrified of driving on the left hand side of the road, which, surely, takes some getting familiar with. Glasgow Girl is partying with her school mates, and Mouse is entertaining the neighbourhood matrons and little children with her own peculiar brand of Canadian wild childhood. Rumpole and Renaissance Man are doing father and son bonding and trekking around Glasgow taking in the sights and getting lost. I am happy watering and critter entertaining, so all is well with the Stepford-Rumpoles.

Yesterday, Lookingforbeauty, Moira, OurLady of PerpetualCrisis and I had a yard sale chez moi on what had to be the hottest day of our summer yet. I tried to offload such interesting items as Rumpole’s old pre-amp, kitchen chairs, crystal, my favourite conversation piece – my Osama Bin Laden Zippo-clone lighter, some jewelry that hasn’t seen the light of day in 20 years, rubber boots, a vintage 1930s pedestal ashtray of interesting provenance ( it comes from a demolished funeral home and has been the repository of many extinguished cigarette butts from generations of mourners), a crab trap, a dressage helmet and hand-painted mexican tiles.

Osama got a lot of varied responses from the die-hard Garage salers out and about on this hellish morning; some outright indignation, some chortling and some questioning – “Where on earth did you get this?” I managed to offload…er, sell, Rumpole’s pre-amp, and have already decided what to do with the loot gotten for its sale. He may not exactly approve, but he won’t be here to weigh in with negative comments on what I plan to do with the money. I also sold some jewelry. And that was that.

We girls decided that our Yard Sale was a bust. None of us did at all well for all the work involved in hoisting stuff outside, setting up and sitting sweltering in the sun for 4 hours, let alone the bringing stuff back inside when the sale time was up. We figured our timing for the sale was off – too hot, wrong time of the summer, we didn’t have stuff people wanted. But who’s to know? Except for Lookingforbeauty, the rest of us were Garage Sale beginners. Honestly, I didn’t like the whole experience, not being cut out for the badinage required to engage prospective buyers. I hate stuff, anyway, and the less stuff I have the more at ease I find myself.

Today I languished, wiped out by the experience. So I did three loads of laundry and cleaned the basement floor. I hung out the laundry to dry, which happened really fast, it being infernally hot again today. No complaints here.

This afternoon, I invited Lookingforbeauty over to harvest some zucchini, while I harvested some lettuce about to bolt and some sorrel for dinner to which Lookingforbeauty invited me and another friend. We got a good crop; especially one spectacularly large zucchini which I plan to wrap, Furoshiki style and gift, anonymously and with great night-time stealth, to my neighbours Gary and Laurie.

Boy, will they be surprised tomorrow morning. And will Rumpole be delighted that I have less zucchini to process and freeze to augment winter dishes, unbeknownst to him, and ostensibly to convert him, although he is completely unwilling to become a zucchini consumer.

Going to the dogs…

April 11, 2009

This past month has been health month for Jessica, our, Scottie, and me, both. I have undergone numerous tests for a heart blockage and for measurement for a new lens for my left eye. Jessica had to have some dental cleaning done and some blood tests to determine her overall health, after all, she is a ten year old, but vigorous, Scot. She welcomes visits to the vet’s – there are cookies there, and plenty of admirers to compliment her on her greying black sleek body, her shiny black eyes and her remarkably loving temperament.

Now that she is through with the trials of teeth cleaning and ear-hair plucking, she is feisty and energetic as is appropriate for any being in the new Spring-time. Last week she also went to the groomers and recieved her spring clip, which always make her have a little vanity induced sprightliness. She seems to feel, as I do, the same insouciant joyfullness whenever she is freshly groomed. Yesterday, I too went to have my spring hair-cut, so we both prance about the house and yard like a couple of ageing divas. Rumpole is amused with our new-found flirtatious gadding about. Spring has sprung at the Stepford household.
Meanwhile, the yard has also gone to the dogs, so to speak. Our fences are falling down and no longer will stand up when propped into proper position. Time to bite the bullet and have new fences installed. According to all the local wags, “good fences make good neighbours”, so I have to beard Lookingforbeauty, next door, to agree ro a simple and effective separation of our two plots of suburbia. She wants, it seems, a new re-reiteration of our old fence – with no embellishments such as latticework, which she deems as trifle fussy, and frankly so do I.

On the other side of the property, Gary and Laurie seem also to want a repeat of the six-foot fence that separates our back yard from theirs. My own idea is to lower the fence to four feet there, so we can get more afternoon sun for my planned vegetable garden. Next Saturday, our garden Guru, Matthew, is coming by to break turf on the back yard and rototill the manure and compost for the planned vegetable beds. I have wonderful visions of Swiss Chard, rhubarb, beets and beet greens, pole beans and herbs to start out my little gardening effort. Also maybe some yellow Hungarian peppers.

Since Jessica is almost a vegeratian, I will also have to plant zucchini, as she really likes to chow down on smallish zucchinis. (She always raids my weekly vegetable sack and extracts any zucchini in it as her treat.) Any garden plan has to take into consideration the eating habits of any dog which might currently be living with us. It may be that turnips should be on the to-grow list, as Jessica is wild about chomping turnips, as well.

I figure I have two good months of establishing a little veggie plot before my late June eye-operation, which will prevent me from mucking about in the soil. Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis is going to have some growing space here for herself, in exchange for weeding in July and August, while I recuperate from the operation. We should be able to share in any growing bounty at harvest time, and then plan to increase the size and scope of the veggie garden next year.

How do I love you…

February 14, 2009

Last Saturday, when Rumpole took me to shop for fruit and vegetables at the local farmer’s market, we spied a pile of Blood Oranges. Now, Blood Oranges are a spectacular seasonal treat, only available this time of year. They are my February obsession; I have to purchase 5 to 7 of them to hold, admire the variegated peel colours and to strip, cut open in different ways and assemble for a painted study. Then wolf them down, smacking the lips all the meanwhile. They are an acquired taste. This year’s selection, which we picked up, did not have the peculiar bitter sweet tang of previous years’. But their peel was so beautiful, that I decided to make a Valentine’s treat of candied orange peel for friends and family.

Mousey has never tasted candied orange peel before. So I am especially excited that my little labours will provide a first taste ecperience for her. She may not find the flavour exactly to her liking, but it will be a first exposure to a new taste sensation.

While Rumpole was off on Wednesday evening to his weekly guitar lesson, I carefully peeled foor blood oranges. The white spongy inner membrane required cutting off. None of my paring knives were sharp enough to be up for this task, so I had to sit patiently sharpening the blade of my favorite small knife to razor conditions. That in itself is a relaxing, meditative task – honing the blade, testing it, resharpening until the perfect cutting capability was achieved.

Once the knife was capable of slicing the peel from the pith with ease, I took off my glasses, took up one quarter peel at a time and, taking a deep centering breath, made tidy work of stripping each section of peel. Since I can see up close with one eye, it was fine and calming work, that suits well my degree of sightedness.

After all the work of separating pith from peel had ended, I sliced each peel into thin slivers. Then a liquor of supersaturated sugar solution is required to be made, for slowly simmering the peelings for about three hours, in order to reduce the sugar solution considerably. I kept a close eye on this process to ensure no burning could possibly occur. The pot on the stove smelled delicious. I know this as I frequently hung my head over to sniff the citrus scent evaporating from the batch. MMM!

At the conclusion of the simmering process, I drained the sugar-saturated peels and laid the slips onto parchment covered cookie- sheets. (They sat out overnight to dry and harden.)

At breakfast, the following morning, I dredged the bits of sugared peel in a bowl of sugar. Rumpole snagged a slip and munched it with his coffee. Then he took a second sliver and pronounced it “addictive”.

During the morning, Jessica and I hiked to the local grocery store to buy some chocolate bits, which when melted might coat the ends of each sliver of peel. I came home with the dog after our walk, energized, full of resolve to do a bang-up job of coating the orange bits with chocolate.

(Now I am not a chocolate-loving person, and don’t cook and bake with variations of cocoa and chocolate. Why, the one time I ordered Mole Chicken at the Mariachi Restaurant in Tucson, on New Year’s Eve, twelve years back, I was horrified at the taste of a spicy chocolate coating on that fowl which should never, in my opinion, be treated with extreme flavours. So need I add at this point that chocolate is not a staple in my pantry or a favoured taste?)

I nuked the half the chocolate in the microwave and it came out a mess of steaming pumice textured stuff. No way was that flowing and liquid enough to coat the ends of my bits of candied peel. (I am still soaking and chipping out the bowl from the mass of vulcanized chocolate, and that, three days later.)

That endeavour being a complete failure, I settled on the tried and true double boiler method of melting chocolate. Yay! It worked.
Just at the point where I was ready to start dipping, Flora arrived at my studio door. She breezed in, uncoated herself, snaffled a candied peel, then another and yet another. So I poured her a coffee to slow her down. Instructed her to wash and dry her hands and to start dipping the peels one after the other in the chocolate.
Every fifth one she popped into her mouth and mumbled, while chewing, “God, I’m going to have to work extra hard at my spin class this evening to work off all these calories! Slap my hands, if I take any more of these to eat.”

“Just keep dipping.” I ordered her.

Flora made short work of dipping half the peels. We figured some of my loved ones and friends may have allergies to chocolate, So they should be able to partake of naked peels. She popped the chocolate coated peels into the fridge, and we sat down to discuss Gallery business and ideas for bringing in the public in numbers, over another cup of coffee.

Before Flora left to go on to the rest of her late afternoon, we packaged up the naked peels, and then the cooled chocolate ones. One batch was to go to Amy and her sons; one batch was to serve as after Valentine Day’s dinner treat for Martha’s do tonight; a group of us to eat a fabulous meal prepared by Martha, after which we will look at her photos from her trip to India over Christmas.

Tomorrow Mousey, Glagow Girl and Renaissance Man are coming to our house for Valentine’s dinner. Mousey will get her first taste of the third package of candied orange peel. Glasgow Girl gets a reprieve from having to cook Sunday dinner after working 5 evenings this past week. And Renaissance Man has a taste treat which is a blast from the past.
No trite Hallmark cards for any of us. No over-packaged commercial chocolates or flowers from far away places. Just each other’s company for pleasure, and a tiny bit of labour from me to show they are important in my life.

And, as added bonus, I learned how to and not burn chocolate. This old dog continues to keep learning.

The Green Dress…

February 11, 2009

Twenty-three years ago, after seeing an afternoon client, I made my way to the fabric store to browse through the selection of swing-season fabrics. These to me were fabrics that might see one through Spring and Summer, of the colour temperature suitable for those burgeoning, bright and longer days. “Saturated, jewel colours” I kept in mind as I parked my Toyota Landcruiser a block from the fabric store.

It was the beginning of February, which up North meant sunny cold days, hoarfrost on the trees, with a hint of the promise of lengthening days and hence the arrival of Spring. Third Avenue was slick with ice. The berms at the side of the parking spaces had much reduced due to alternating days of warm and cool. A habitual hangover from driving lessons more than twenty years before, I turned the front wheels of the truck toward the edge of the sidewalk, disembarked and walked in my mukluks up the block to the only fabric store in town. The sky toward the west had a warm glow. It promised another clear and gorgeous winter day for tomorrow. The street was mostly deserted of pedestrians, and on my brief walk I ruminated over just exactly what I wanted to buy.

I had earlier determined that I wanted to make two dresses to serve as a sort of formal uniform for dress-up occasions. I hated the selection available at the local dress shops. They had nothing to suit my austere taste. I liked clothing which skimmed my body loosely, allowed for free movement, a certain modesty, simple details, well made, of beautiful colours. No elaborately opulent patterns for this simple middle-aged woman, Thank You. I also like materials which were of good quality and had good weight and drape.
This was a tough call for a Northern City, where most of the stores had the recent styles on hand, but little of classic nature which might outlast the switching diktats of the fashion world. The closest one could come to acquiring this kind of clothing was to find a skilled dress and pattern-maker, cloth of good quality and have something tailor made. I didn’t have a lot of money to hire this chore out, so decided to wing it, buy and alter a pattern, myself, and do the cutting, fitting and sewing over a period of months.

Once I entered the fabric store, I headed directly to the pattern section. I liked Burda patterns at this time, and spent some time browsing the selection of dress patterns available. The right design presented itself, fortunately, and it promised to be one which could be altered in different ways, as a sort of variation on sleeve lenght, neck detail and skirt length. It was classic, subtly constructed and attractively austere. It just needed the cloth of the correct weight and drape and colour.

It took me less than 5 minutes to find the correct cloth. Beautiful mid to light-weight rayon, solid coloured in the most delicious jewel colours. I stood and drooled over the colour selection, playing with the drape and the sizing in the fabrics. In the end a marvellous Winsor Blue solid and what might be called a Grass Green solid were the ones I selected, hauled up to the cutting counter and presented for measuring into the needed lenghts. I also found some muslin which I bought in the same amount. I needed to make a muslin variation to practice altering and revising the pattern before committing it into the final versions. Then found some thread and zippers, interfacing, buttons and seam binding to match both colours of cloth.

I was so thrilled to have this project to begin working on. Rumpole and Renaissance Man were treated to a fashion parade of me, flouncing about, bedecked in the two fabrics. The Grass Green fabric was for a dress to be worn for weddings, engagements, bridal and baby showers, and the Winsor Blue was to be made into a dress to serve for more emotionally somber occasions – funerals, memorial services, retirement parties, partner dinners. I figured to have my formal dress needs looked after for the next fifteen years.

Diagnosis and treatment for Leukemia (AML) intervened and put stop to my sewing plans. However, two years later, after we relocated back to the Lower Mainland, on a sunny February morning, I pulled out the pattern and the muslin and coloured fabrics. I took and noted my measurements with my Anyu’s help, and began cutting and constructing the muslin version of the “dress”. Lots of pinning, unpinning, altering, basting and pulling of stitches – until a pale facsimile of the dress took form. And – it fit and flowed and draped beautifully, reassuring that the making of the Green Dress would result in a successful Garment – one which would have an extended and valued life.

By the end of March, the dress was complete, with an inside worked by hand to be as beautiful as from the outside. It gave me enormous pleasure to work the unseen parts of the dress, and the pleasure of hand-stitching a beautiful edging repeated in the observation of the same. The dress, finally hemmed and pressed, was beautiful. It hung from my shoulders gracefully; draped over my poitrine modestly; flowed with movement and its hem was a perfect edge.

The following summer I wore that green dress to two weddings; the following fall to a memorial service. Every year for the next fifteen years, that Green Dress took me to many weddings, christenings ,bridal and baby showers, summer trips to the theatre.
I always felt like a million dollars in it. I dressed it up with inherited jewelry, scarves and costume jewelry from second-hand stores, shawls and a variety of shoes to suit the occasion.

Finally, last year ,my body had changed enough in its conformation that the dress no longer looked so great on me. My breasts had settled to a lower part of my torso, and the fit of the Green dress no longer seemed the same. The fine handwork I had done on the unseen side of the dress had held up well during the many years it was worn. The cloth also had maintained well, and still hadn’t broken down to seem old. I took the dress down to the Salvation Army Store, hoping that some younger woman might see in it a labour of love and good use, with still some useful wear in it. It had served me well, as the only Spring, Summer and early Fall dress that I owned and wore for well over a decade. I loved that dress, and then released it.

The beautiful Winsor Blue material I made into a cullotte and blouse outfit. That lasted me for fifteen summers, before being relegated to the resale aisle of the Salvation Army Store.

I have always felt that clothing was to serve as a beautiful second skin; that it should be comfortable enough to forget while wearing; that it make us add colour and pattern to the world in the manner of butterflies and; that they should be made beautifully and last a long time. The Green Dress saw me through a period of my life – from the age of a young matron of 43 to an older woman of 60. it was time to let it go, and for me to find a new uniform more appropriate to my current chronological age and my ageing physical appearance.

Now I am on the hunt for a pattern and colour of a dress to make as a uniform to last me into my mid seventies. This is my February and March Challenge this year. And I look forward, with the help of Rumpole this time, to construct this new all-purpose dress.

I figure owning two dresses in thirty years is an accomplishment of a modest sort.

Snow…Blagh!

January 8, 2009

It may seem ungracious to complain about the presence of snow in our landscape, not only ungracious but also uselessly whiny, but enough, already. Sure the snows are useful to keep vegetation from freezing out at the roots in the icy weather and the blankets of snow obscuring the less than aesthetically pleasing aspects of suburban life may seem to be a temporary boon for the eyes and soul, however its sudden record-breaking presence in a micro-climate best thought of as Mediterranean makes for problematic living, in the short term.
The past few days have seen unending deluge of rain, which reduces the snow-pack, but also threatens flooding. Our municipality has not been able to keep up with the snow-clearing. The plows have left berms almost 5 feet tall, and increasingly narrow roads. The local bus run disgorges its passengers onto our semi-cleared driveway, the only place people can actually get off the bus onto stable footing and without having to fall into deep snow. Once they get off the bus, they move with glacial slowness at the edges of the slushy road toward the relative safety of ankle deep slush on the sidewalk. At the corner, where the main drains are, a huge pile of snow blocks off the exit of the rapidly gathering melt-waters; the water keeps building up and up and cars turning the corner throw up huge tsunamis of water onto passersby. Walking about in my neighbourhood makes for comfortless, and even life threatening activity to pedestrians.
A couple of days ago, I ventured out onto our snow-covered lawn to test for myself the depth of the receding snow. I promptly lost my footing, slipped and took a header face first. The mouthful of snow I spit out was thankfully not yellow snow. I slithered my soggy way back to the relative safety of the walkway and tried to remove snow there. Man, was that snow heavy and water-logged! After digging for three feet or so, I threw in the shovel, so to speak. Visitors would simply have to wade their way into our place through the pile of slush.
Even Jessica, our Scottish Terrier, has a special horror of the current snow conditions. Whenever she goes outside to pee, she linger in the open doorway with a martyred expression on her pleading mug. “Do I really have to go out there to pee?” she seems to be projecting with heart melting glances. Heartless as I am, I order her to get out there and do her business. She bravely swims through the slushy snow, but doesn’t linger long out in it. She comes inside and makes dramatic shakes, as if she had braved sub-arctic temperatures ( in her ample fur coat, yet) and had trekked for unspeakably prolonged MILES, just to comply with her need to use outdoor plumbing. She does get a good rub-down with her towel afterward, and promptly heads to her perch on the back of the couch to sulk. Can’t say I blame her for her attitude as I am in complete agreement with her on it. We are two little old shut-ins, with raging cabin fever.
Yesterday, I phoned the municipality to complain about the rising waters on the blocked up corner, where the drain was completely covered by the snow pack. The woman on the other end of the phone suggested I or Rumpole go out and wrestle with the digging out. I told her, rather nicely, I thought, that neither of us wished to become part of the winter statisctic of older people dropping dead from shovelling snow, and that we had problem enough with extricating the car daily from its parking spot without having to tackle cleanup for which the municipality was responsible. A couple of hours later a Public Works truck parked in out driveway, and two stalwart young men schlepped through the sludge to the corner. In fifteen minutes they uncovered the plugged drain. (Reminder to self: send a letter to the editor of the local rag to formally and publicly thank the municipality for its prompt attention to what may have become a major flooding problem on our street.)
Today, the rain continues to fall, the snow keeps melting. At the rate of melt, Jessica and I will be able to resume our neighbourhood walks within a week. Only, the weather forecast threatens more snowfall in the next couple of days. Blagh!!! Whine!!! We can only hope the weathermen are wrong.

A Christmas wish…

December 24, 2008

The snow falls steadily here at my home. The day is pure white light, as it can be on a snowfall day. For once, the streets are quiet; no cars roar down the street at ten second intervals. The silence is welcome after the frenetic pace out there during the past two weeks.

I hope for all of you a pleasurable and peaceful exit of the old year and much health, contentment and love from friends and family. May some sanity, thankfulness and peace prevail everywhere. G