Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall is Here

Most everyone I speak to seems to be in denial about it, but fall is definitely here. The leaves are changing, the temperatures are cooler, the days are getting shorter (made even worse by the late afternoon rain we've had several days this week, which meant it seemed like it was dark already by 4 or 5 p.m., but surely it's way too early in the season for it to be that dark that early???).

Here's a photo I took the other night as I was on my way to my collage class, showing the leaf colours.  Surprisingly, the turrets are part of the high school where I'm taking the course. I shall have to make a point of going early one night so I can get a closer look at the building itself.  So far, I've only had this tantalizing glimpse of these turrets.  No doubt, the rest of the building's facade is equally interesting.  I just have to remember to go early enough, before it gets dark!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Good Luck

I entered my name in a blog giveaway last Friday which was being held by Andrew Thornton as part of his birthday celebration (imagine, someone who gives things away when it's his birthday - how generous is that?!?) and I was totally excited today to find out that I had won! 

Here's a picture of all the fabulous goodies I am going to be receiving from Andrew:

Every time I read the description of what is contained in this collection (see Andrew's original post here:, I notice something I didn't notice before and I have to go back to the picture and find that item.  For instance, just now, I saw the words "vintage buttons" - ooh, where? where?  It was the skulls that first caught my attention but the more I look, the more I see and they all sound fabulous.  I shall be watching my mailbox avidly for the next little while until these treasures arrive.

I heard about the giveaway by way of Kate McKinnon, who mentioned it on her blog (thanks, Kate!).  I first heard about Andrew a few years ago from Kate and quickly became a regular reader of his blog. He's a very interesting guy, a true artist who expresses his talent in so many different ways - through photography, writing, cooking, painting, and by designing and making jewellery, often in collaboration with his sister Cynthia (got love her name) for their company, Green Girl Studios, just to mention a few.

I was lucky enough to meet Andrew last year at the Bead and Button show in Milwaukee and spend a few minutes chatting with him at the GGS booth.  He is just as interesting in person as he is on the Internet and his kindness and gentleness of spirit are immediately apparent.

I've added a link to his blog on the right hand sidebar, in case you want to check him out. But be warned, he often posts photos with descriptions of meals he has made or tasted in his travels and it is always enough to make your mouth water enviously.  Throughout our recent trip to France, both Kate and I had a running joke about how we had to take a picture of what we were eating "to send to Andrew", knowing he would have enjoyed the culinary delights we were experiencing.

Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your birthday celebration with me by way of this extra special giveaway gift.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Collage Course - Week 1

I signed up to take an evening course with the Toronto District School Board on the subject of collaging.  Last Tuesday was our first class.  We were supposed to use only black and white text to complete the first project, using random shapes formed with the text and not the actual words.  I realized after I was done that I had deviated from that instruction more than once, but that's okay, we're not being graded on our creations!

I was using a Cosmopolitan magazine from 1983 as my source, which made for some hilarious reading.  As you can see from my collage, I even used part of an ad for the Columbia House tape club as part of my collage.  Talk about a blast from the past!

I'm not sure yet whether I like the class. The teacher seemed rather disorganized and didn't have anything planned for us to do for the last hour of the 3 hour class, which was somewhat alarming but then again, it was only the first week. We'll see how it goes tonight.

Monday, September 27, 2010

One Last Look

I got to have one last look at the remains of the Cherry Bomb today.  I had to drive to the lot where it is being stored to remove my licence plates and car mats.  The poor thing was just sitting in a bunch of weeds on the edge of the lot, surrounded by other broken vehicles, some of them much more damaged than mine, if you can imagine.  The rear bumper was in the back seat when I arrived but the guy who let me onto the lot pulled it out to remove the plate. 

It was my first time on the big highway since the accident.  It was about half an hour each way and I have to say, I was more than a little nervous as I drove along, especially when I got boxed in by a bunch of big trucks at one point.  However, I made it there and back without incident but man, were my shoulders and neck tense by the time it was over! (Thank goodness I had a physio appointment tonight to work out all that extra tension.)

I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself as I drove to the lot, thinking about all the nuisance things I have to take care of to get my life back to normal after the accident and worrying about all the minor little details.  That feeling lasted until I got to my destination and met the guy I'd spoken to earlier on the phone, and noticed his arms were only as long as his elbows.  His handicap didn't seem to slow him down at all, he grabbed a torque wrench and got that licence plate off my mangled bumper in less time than it would have taken me to figure out how to attach the darned thing to the bolt. 

Makes you realize, there's always somebody who is worse off than you are and often times, what you might think of as a problem really isn't that bad at all.  When he asked me if I'd been driving the car when it got hit and told me how lucky I was to have walked away, I had no trouble agreeing with him!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Deluge of Doorknockers

I've been downloading detailed doorknockers to delight you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Blue Door For A Blue Day

I'm feeling a little blue today, which I imagine is only natural under these circumstances, after the week I've had.  Kate McKinnon posted a photo on her blog earlier today of one of the beautiful French doors we saw on our travels, which made me think of this blue door (in the process of being photographed by Kate):

and its equally lovely door knocker:

Everywhere we went, there were interesting doors and/or knockers:

At the moment, I feel a bit like this one, as if I too have been knocked hard this week:

I'm sure the feeling will pass. Like those French doors, I intend to stand strong for many years to come.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Golden Anniversary

If my father were still alive, my parents would be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary today.  Even though he is no longer with us, it's still a special day worth commemorating.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


That's the sound the Geek Squad guy at Best Buy made when I lifted the lid on my laptop and told him my insurance company wanted to find out if it was repairable.  He then gave a small chuckle and said, gently, "sorry, it's a write off."

But the cracked LCD monitor looked like a very cool piece of abstract art when we turned it on:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Good Day

I picked up my rental car this morning. Ironically, it is a grey Nissan Sentra, the same type of car that hit mine, just a newer model. It seems much too large after my little Versa and the petite Peugeot we were driving in France but it handles well and I'm glad to have a car to get me around.

I went back to work today, after a visit to my eye doctor to have my eyes tested before ordering replacement prescription sunglasses, followed by a visit to the physiotherapist for an assessment to establish a treatment plan. The good news is, he thinks my injuries are relatively minor, soft tissue damage only, and should respond well to treatment. It's just a matter of giving my body time to heal and helping the process along with ultrasound, massage, physio, exercises and possibly...acupuncture! That could be interesting! I've never had it before but I'd like to at least try it once.

I have another bruise on my leg today. It's funny how they keep magically appearing. I don't think it's just that I didn't notice them before, they are such a lovely deep purple colour, it's hard to imagine overlooking them.

The physiotherapist said I may have new aches and pains develop over the next few days because when your body has an experience like this, it is too much for your brain to absorb at once, so it might take a few days before the individual pain messages are received by the brain. I thought that was quite fascinating.

I'm tired after a full day of activity, ready for an early night...but feeling pretty good overall, like a purple hydrangea.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Taking Stock

Now that a little time has passed and my mind is a little clearer, I've started to take stock of what happened in the accident and what has been damaged.

Physically, I am still stiff and sore today but I'm not feeling as bad as I thought I would be. I saw my family doctor yesterday and he prescribed some anti-inflammatory pills, so I am assuming that medication is already doing its job, even after just one dose. I do have several new bruises today, in some rather unusual places, mostly on my legs. A couple are clearly from the seatbelt but the rest are mostly below my knees which makes me wonder what I would have banged up against in the car to cause them to occur - the steering wheel? The dash under the steering wheel?

One of the casualties of the accident is my laptop. I'm afraid to even turn it on, as it looks quite banged up. There are a couple of actual dents in the outside case, one corner is broken and the screen looks like it may be cracked. The insurance adjuster has suggested that I take it to a computer store and have them access the damage. The laptop will be easy enough to replace if it is unrepairable but of course, all I'm worried about are the photos I have saved on there because the majority of the pictures from my trip to France are there. Foolishly, I hadn't backed them up yet. I was actually planning to do that backup when I got home Sunday night. Of course, I meant to do it before we even left France but ran out of time. Ah well, c'est la vie.

So, fingers crossed. Chances are they can be accessed and copied onto a disk. If not, I guess I'll just have to head back to France sooner than later and take them all again!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lucky Girl!

I am a lucky girl. Got rear-ended in a car accident last night, lived to tell the tale. My beloved Cherry Bomb, only 5 months old, took the brunt of the damage and according to the tow truck guy and the firefighters on the scene, will be a write off. If that's the case, I'll definitely get another Nissan Versa as my replacement car because as far as I'm concerned, that car saved my life!! I am bruised and battered but I'm alive and I'm in one piece and that's really all that matters. The car did what it was designed to do, protected me from a major impact. I guess that's why it has a five star safety rating, eh?

(The guy that hit me was driving a Nissan too, a Sentra. His car is probably totalled as well but as far as I know, he and his passenger were also okay, thank goodness.)
Many thanks to everyone involved - the 911 operator, the people in the car behind us who weren't involved and didn't see the accident happen but stopped to make sure everyone was alright and helped block traffic until the fire truck arrived, the tow truck drivers (who were first on the scene and who also called 911), the firefighters (especially the ones who helped empty my car of my personal belongings), the EMS personnel, the OPP officers and the MTO guys who parked behind the accident to block us for safety and swept everything up when it was all over. And especially to my sister Janine, who was stuck behind me in the traffic jam but was able to park at the accident scene and join me, keep me company, load the contents of my car into her car, drive me home, feed me, buy me frozen peas to use as ice packs on my bruises and generally make sure I was looked after. Everyone was very kind and helpful and understanding, which made dealing with a frightening and stressful situation much easier to bear.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Shiver me timbers, can you believe another year has gone by and here we are again on Sept 19th, celebrating "Talk Like a Pirate Day"?! Arrr, where does the time go?

My friend Doriot has the perfect hat for a day like today:

(is that not the most amazing photo?? I love it!!)

Avast ye, mateys, here she is again, looking even more like a pirate with a sword we found at a vide grenier (which she wisely decided not to purchase because, really, how would one get a sword home on the plane??)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Box From France Has Arrived!

Big excitement at the end of the work day yesterday when the box I mailed from France arrived. It looks a little battered but it's all in one piece. I was quite impressed that it only took a week to get here. We knew our boxes wouldn't go out until Friday when we visited the post office last Thursday afternoon, as the postal truck was just pulling out as we were driving in. Incredibly, Dawn's two boxes reached her home in Tennessee this past Tuesday, while Doriot's arrived in San Diego on Thursday. No word on the fate of Kate's and Meryl's boxes just yet.

I'm trying to remember what's actually inside the box I sent myself. I am delaying the opening of the box until later today, just to enjoy the anticipation a little bit longer.

I took this photo of the contents as I was partway through filling it:

There were some old books and maps, three bars of lovely lavender and oatmeal soap that was the first thing I bought on the first day we were there, at the Saturday morning farmers' market in Revel - Gwen introduced me to this soap last time I was in Durfort in 2008, three bars lasted me an entire year! - the metal first aid box I bought at one of the vide greniers and the game box with the key, carefully wrapped in bubble wrap as I couldn't actually remove the key from its slot and wanted to be sure it didn't get damaged in transit, and a large piece of fabric that Gwen gave me.

But there are other things in there as well that I added after I took the above photo. As far as I can remember, there is also a metal soap dish in a lovely mauve shade, slightly rusted and aged looking, several watch chains, a half dozen men's cotton handkerchiefs in various muted plaid patterns.

I can't wait to open the box and view my treasures!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Beam Me Up, Scotty

Kate McKinnon posted a lovely photo on her blog the other day of these windows in the 14th century church in the tiny village of Saint-Felix Lauragais, showing how the sun was beaming down into the church when we were there one afternoon. I don't think she will mind if I reproduce it here:

I like Kate's photo because of the warm tones and the fact that it was taken from a position farther back than where I was standing. Here's the shot I took:

But here's the picture I like best from that visit, the one of Dawn all aglow as she stands in the light:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Shutter Keepers

(I'm conducting an experiment in this post. My friend Kate McKinnon pointed out to me that she was unable to "click to enlarge" (or "clickenzee to embiggen" as Kyle Cassidy would say) the photos in my blog postings and suggested I should fix the setting to enable this feature. But I couldn't find any such setting. After Googling the issue, I learned that this problem is "a known issue" with Blogger, one that causes photos to become "un-clickable" because I have dragged and dropped them into place. The solution, so they say, is to cut and paste the HTML code instead.

If you look at yesterday's post, you'll see that you can click to enlarge the photo at the top of the posting but you can't do the same with the rest of the photos. That's because I left that first photo in place after it was uploaded, it didn't need to be moved anywhere. So here are several photos that I will position by cutting and pasting and we'll see if this proposed solution works.)

In France, we noticed they have the cutest little metal holders to keep their shutters open, often in the shape of people. They can be flipped up or down. In the "up" position, they hold the shutter open against the wall.

Sometimes it's a male, sometimes it's a female:

You can see the female's long, wavy hair when the shutter keeper is flipped down:

I found one that looked rather like Father Christmas:

and this one is the more basic version:

We looked high and low at the vide greniers to find one or more of these objects to bring home with us (which wasn't easy, considering we didn't have the words to ask for them but often had to resort to mime and our quite rudimentary French to try to get the message across) but to no avail. We stopped short of visiting the French equivalent of Home Depot to see if they carried what we wanted, as that seemed a little too easy and would have taken the fun out of the search. But alas, we never did find any of them. The search continues...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No Go

I had intended to be at the Toronto Bead Society's September meeting tonight but I didn't make it there. I worked late, doing a little catch up after being away, and just didn't have it in me to make the one hour trek downtown on the subway. Which is too bad, because tonight's panel discussion on copyright and traditional knowledge sounded really informative.

So instead, I'm at home, chilling out and about to watch a little mindless TV while working on my travel journal.

I'm feeling better today mentally, the jet lag seems to have cleared from my brain.

Thought I'd post a few more pictures of the beautiful organs from the Organ Grinders Festival we attended last weekend.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Adjusting to Real Life

It's a weird sensation, coming home from vacation, getting back to reality. It always surprises me how easily you slip back into your regular day to day routine, as if you've never been away, and yet at the same time, you can feel yourself processing the vacation memories and experiences, knowing that it was a life altering experience, that you have changed deep down inside and that life as you knew it will never quite be the same again.

I'm not the only one adjusting to being back home. Both last night and tonight, Max has been spending quite a bit of time lying in my half-unpacked suitcase. Maybe he thinks that if he stays there, it might be a good way to make sure I take him with me next time I go anywhere.

I'm definitely a little jetlagged, which I know because my brain simply isn't firing on all circuits. I was back at work today, reading the same emails over and over and they just weren't making any sense. I got a few things done but I was clearly off my game. Luckily, there was nothing urgent that had to be done.

I laughed when I realized in the car this morning that I was still trying to shift gears with a clutch pedal that wasn't there. It took me several minutes tonight to figure that the pictures I was looking for are still sitting in my camera, waiting to be downloaded to my computer. I went grocery shopping after work but had trouble deciding what I needed to get.

No doubt things will be better tomorrow, after another good night's sleep.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Home, Safe and Tired

Just a note to say I am home safe and sound, and happy to be here. What a long day it has been. Right now, it's about 11:30 p.m. in France and I got up at 5 a.m. to start my day, with a 1.5 hour drive and two plane rides since then so as you can imagine, I am just a little bit weary by now and having trouble forming cohesive thoughts and sentences. the good news is, all went without a hitch on the journey, my suitcase was 2 kg lighter than the maximum allowed (darn, I could have put a few more things in there), rental car returned with no issues, fond goodbyes exchanged with my dear new friends, Doriot and Dawn. I do have a bruise forming on my wrist that I have no memory of incurring. Very little sleep on the plane from Paris to Toronto due to happy French senior citizens celebrating their journey to Canada (the ten rows at the back of the plane drank up all the complimentary champagne, leaving none for the rest of us!) and they stopped showing the last movie 5 or 10 minutes before the end, in the middle of the climactic finale, if you can imagine, in favour of repeated announcements about returning seats to their upright position, etc. - not that you really need to see the last 10 minutes of an action movie, do you? I'm sure it all works out okay for everyone. Grrr.

Nevertheless, I am very glad to be home and looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight, with a purring cat beside me. I am just on my way to the catsitter's to pick him up, I do hope she is willing to give him back! :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Au Revoir, La Cascade!

Our last day in France is winding down. We are on our way to Ann and Peter's for an aperitif and to pick up our finished scarves, then home for a quick dinner and last minute packing. Dinner last night was amazing, quite magical (I'll post more about our evening in a few days) and two last vide greniers today where we tried to only buy small, lightweight things. Not quite successful but we'll see how it goes when it's time to weigh my suitcase. :)

I can't believe it is time to leave Durfort and France. We're leaving very early tomorrow morning to drive to Toulouse, return the rental car and hop on a plane. Doriot, Dawn and I are on the same flight to Paris, where we'll say goodbye and split up, with me headed back to Toronto and the two of them headed to Atlanta, GA and then on to San Diego for Doriot.

It has been such a wonderful trip and I have very much enjoyed spending this time with Meryl, Dawn, Kate, Doriot and Gwen, enjoying Gwen's wonderful hospitality and meeting so many of her lovely friends. We have seen some amazing sights and delighted our palates with many fabulous taste sensations. I've taken way too many photos but I shall be glad to have them to remember this trip once I get home and in the months and years to come.

I hope to return to this lovely place again some day.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Le Festival D'Orgues de Barbarie

We were up early this morning to go to the market in Revel for food, as we are hosting a dinner party this evening at La Cascade. Dawn, Doriot and Gwen will be cooking an amazing meal and I, their chauffeur, shall be chief dish and pot washer as we entertain Ann and Peter, Glenda and Anne.

After the market, Gwen drove us into the French countryside. We had a good view of the Pyrenees to the south as we drove, some of which had snow on top. Our destination was a small village about 45 minutes away named Montesquieu Lauragais, to attend the 8th Festival D'Orgues de Barbarie. In Engligh, an Organ Grinders Festival. Can you believe it? Only in France!

The various organ grinders were stationned at different points around the small village. We wandered up and down the streets, taking photos and being charmed by the music, the singing and the costumes. (Alas, no live monkeys but a few stuffed ones and several small dogs.)

This woman was our favourite female entertainer:

and this man our favourite male entertainer:

(When he found out we spoke English, his first question was "why?")

I like this photo of the little boy curiously checking it all out:

I'll post more photos of the organs themselves at a later date, each one was a work of art.

The festival started at 11 a.m. and we arrived just about this time. We walked about for an hour and then, because this is France, after all, at twelve noon, after the church bells struck the hour, everyone closed up their instruments and went off to have lunch. We ate at the only restaurant in the village and had yet another lovely meal.

Then home for a quick nap and then to start making dinner!

Friday, September 10, 2010


We drove to the city of Albi today, about an hour and a half away. We used Dawn's Garmin (portable GPS unit) at the request of my friend Lorraine back home in Toronto, as she is thinking of buying one. We hadn't used or needed it the whole time we'd been here so Dawn was glad to have an excuse to try it out since she'd gone to all the trouble to download the maps and instructions for France and carry it over here.

I can report that it didn't tell us anything we couldn't have figured out on our own as far as the highway driving was concerned - everywhere here is very well sign-posted and the roundabouts are easy to use, plus if you miss your turn, you just go around again! - but once we got to the city itself, it was great for entering and exiting the city. Although it took us literally to the front steps of the cathedral as compared to, say, the nearest parking lot, so that we had to keep driving and turn around to come back once we'd got our bearings, which was a bit challenging on the narrow, one way streets we encountered while trying to get back.

My major complaint was with "the voice" (a woman's, with an accent that was perhaps Australian or South African, we couldn't quite decide). She spoke horrible French so half the time when she told us what street to turn onto, we had no idea what she was saying and if we couldn't find a street sign to try to match to her horrible pronunciations, we often missed the turn. For example, for "boulevard", she would say "boo-lay-vard". Very annoying. Once or twice, it also seemed that the direction was to turn down a one way street, which was also a nuisance. Typing in your destination address information is a bit cumbersome but perhaps you could do that in advance rather than once you're en route. One thing that was very handy was the way it gets you back on track if you make the wrong turn, it "recalculates" how to get back to the right route. However, I expect if you were using it in North America in English, it would be most helpful, especially for driving in, around and out of a large city. (I wish we'd used it the other day in Carcassonne!)

Albi (not to be confused, as my brain does for some unknown reason, with Elba, where Napoleon was exiled) is beautiful, lots of red brick. The stunning and immense Sainte Cecile cathedral takes you by surprise. It looks big but somewhat plain as you first approach:

but 50 yards/metres later, you turn the corner and WOW! The Gothic architecture is stunning.

Here's an up close shot of that roof over the doorway, it's exquisite:

When we went inside, it was huge and packed with people and every square inch is ornately decorated. The painted mosaics on the walls of the various chapels are quite amazing.

The whole place is quite beautiful in a slightly gaudy, over the top religious way but I have to say that I still enjoyed the peaceful and more subtle beauty of the church in Saint Felix more.

We also visited the Toulouse Lautrec museum, which looks lovely from the outside but is not very impressive as an art gallery on the inside. Apparently they are under renovation so maybe things will improve at some future date. Toulouse Lautrec's art was wonderful to see in person, especially to see how his skills and talent evolved over the years - definitely worth the visit if you like his stuff, which I do.
But the piece de resistance of the whole day was our lunch. We found this restaurant a couple of streets away from the cathedral and were the only people there, except for a couple who arrived a bit after us. The food was, hands down, the best meal we've had in the past 2 weeks and in case I haven't told you, we've had some pretty amazing meals over the course of our visit. We chose the restaurant because it was named La Viguiere D'Alby and Dawn's husband's name is Vig, so we figured it was a good sign and boy, was it ever!! If you are ever in Albi, look for this place - afterwards, we noticed several signs pointing out its location so it is easy to find, at number 7, rue Toulouse Lautrec.
Andrew Thornton, if you're reading this, these photos are for you (Andrew often posts pictures of what he cooks or meals that he's had that make your mouth water) - first, a salad with goat cheese enveloped in phyllo pastry:

Then, as our main course, "cuisse de canette" (female duckling)(duck seems to be the main meat here in this part of France, I don't think I've seen chicken on any menus since we arrived):
followed by a dessert they humbly described as a tarte aux fruits but was so much more:


A lovely day but a long one - three hours in the car and four hours of walking about and now I'm pooped!