Maybe I should valentine more

I have still to embrace Valentine’s, for a few reasons which are a bit too preachy for this post. Actually this post is meant to celebrate a lovely surprise I got the other day when one of my prints was recommended as part of a blog post entitled ‘Make my Heart Sing Toronto’ dedicated to local Toronto shopping for Valentine’s. Over the last few years I have tried to educate myself to become a more informed consumer as well as a better supporter of smaller local businesses. Even more reason to be happy to be mentioned in this context.

The blog where it was featured, Filthy Rebena comes from two lovely ladies, Natalie and Darlene, part of a special sisterhood which works at finding exquisite vintage clothing pieces. They also have an Etsy shop where you can browse their finds.

This is the featured print as well as their generous description:

Roses have come to symbolise love and romance – there’s no question about it. How about a local alternative to the usual bouquet of roses this Valentines? This rose print comes from a curious, traveling photographer named Anca. This limited edition photographic print is inspired from one of her trips to Brisbane, Australia. This print is guaranteed to inject a fusion of colors and lavish shades into your home. 100% beautiful.

Australia - Rose Life

Thank you for the lovely surprise!!

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Thank you 2013

I had a similar post at the beginning of the previous year and it felt like a good idea to recap some of the highlight moments of 2013. We started the year in one part of the world and ended it in another. In between these, here are some of the moments.

Travel highlights:

  • Rainbow Lorekeets coming everyday to collect the nectar from a tree in Husband Chris’ mom and dad’s garden.
  • Lady Elliot Island. I have added to my happy place, the moment when I kept cleaning the back of the green turtle and as she would see me drift away with the current, she would let herseft drift too.
  • Louvre and British Museum, following the stories of Art History from Khan Academy, we went in search of some of the pieces described there.
  • Napoli. Loved every part of this trip and it made my introduction to Italy memorable.
  • Easter in Galipoli and Conversano at a Masseria in Southern Italy.
  • Picking wild garlic in the woods in Romania and walking around Bucharest in spring.
  • Witnessing the passion of the people working at Noma, Copenhagen.
  • First mini trips around North America with Husband Chris, family and friends: Montreal, New Jersey and Brooklyn.

Personal highlights:

  • Started the year with one pair of twins, ended it with a second one. Both my brother and Husband Chris’ brother have a pair of boy and girl twins. All four are spectacular and we are very lucky to have them in our lives.
  • Spent time with all parents during the year. In our case, with them over three continents, it is a highlight.
  • Had our first guests in Toronto, both family and friends.
  • Started my Etsy shop with prints dear to me.
  • Bought an old piece of furniture and restored it into a beautiful record cabinet, more about that in its own post later on.
  • Read 30 books.
  • Sorted through a lot of our packed boxes.

On a personal level, it has been the year when all the big changes we were going through, have started wrapping up. The move to Toronto, Canada finally completed in May. It has been exciting, fun, surprising, scary, hard at times and probably many other things. It is not my first move, not even my second. It gets easier with each one, as I learned to embrace the change in a proactive and curious manner, creating a great adventure out of it. With that being said, we have moments when we miss people, things and places. I think it is important to acknowledge the richness of those emotions as well. They only show we have felt love where we went and it is normal to cherish it even if it is far.

And now onto our new home with some Toronto highlights:

  • We have discovered some nice walking paths and parks around our place.
  • Kayaking on the Humber River. It was a great surprise to see such beauty right here within our reach.
  • Discovering the fun parts of Toronto: CN Tower visit, a couple of theatre plays,  some great food. The impressive multiculturalism of the city translates very well to a multitude of food choices, both for buying and dining. I have documented some on this Pinterest board.
  • We have welcomed Stuart in our lives, a Norfolk Pine tree who I hope will accompany us for many years to come.
  • We enjoyed three seasons here and they were all intense and beautiful. The summer hot and humid at times, a beautifully coloured fall in Toronto and briefly in Montreal and proper winter. We witnessed an ice storm. More importantly, we saw frozen trees for the first times in our lives.
  • A trip to the cottage where we saw a snapping turtle, loons and bears, and the most adorable chipmuk.
  • Husband Chris added a few more, of his specifically: the embracing of local sports and a job search which ended close to Christmas on a high note and embarked him on a new adventure.

Before we let 2014 take center stage here is a video and a few photos to salute the year passed.

Canada.

Canada.

Canada.

Canada.

Canada.

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My book companions in 2013

I used to write small posts for each book in a Book Diary section of the blog but for the moment I have retired it. Each one of these books was a rewarding read and all these companions were sources of joy and learning. The ones in bold are ones that really stood out:

  1. Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
  2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  3. Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto
  4. The Firm by John Grisham
  5. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
  6. The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
  7. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  9. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
  10. Femei celebre pe divan by Catherine Siguret
  11. Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy
  12. A Lotus Grows in the Mud by Goldie Hawn
  13. Sînt o babă comunistă! by Dan Lungu
  14. Manual del Guerrero de la Luz by Paulo Coehlo
  15. The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
  16. Amintiri si Povesti mai Deocheate by Neagu Djuvara
  17. Romanul Adolescentului Miop by Mircea Eliade
  18. Veronika Decide Morir by Paulo Coehlo
  19. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  20. Culoarea norocului by Anca Fusariu
  21. Trei zile cu mama by François Weyergans
  22. The Joke by Milan Kundera
  23. El Beso de la Mujer Araña by Manuel Puig
  24. Exista istorie adevarata? by Neagu Djuvara
  25. Amantul by Marguerite Duras
  26. Comedii la Portile Orientului by Andrei Pleșu
  27. Letters of Two Brides by Honoré de Balzac
  28. Baudolino by Umberto Eco
  29. Vipera sugrumara by Hervé Bazin
  30. Maddalena by Mircea Eliade

Let 2014 bring more fun readings!

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Photographic Prints

There is a reason why the headline of this blog is ‘Slowly getting there’. I seem to be like a turtle, slowly treading through various paths until I find my way. This time this concerns photography and the end result. I have been taking photos for a while now, and for the past few years I have been looking for a way to bring them into the physical realm.

Inspired from various blogs and artist’s pages, I grew to love the look and feel of photographic prints. I am finally at the point where I decided on a set of photos/storylines and I printed them on beautiful rough rag paper. As it stands my plan is to make only 10 pieces for each one. These prints are from Lady Elliot Island and they found a home but I plan to make these available on our Etsy shop soon enough, within 6 months or less.

The first print is an aerial view of Lady Elliot Island.

Prints.

The second print is a Loggerhead Hatchling’s first encounter with the ocean.

Prints.

Prints.

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Watery Painting

I have a history of almost doing things. When I applied for university, I almost did Business Management. I ended up doing Computer Science. When we came to Australia I wanted to take a course different from anything I have done before so I chose a Book Binding course. I ended up doing Watery Painting Techniques. My first ‘almost’ has led me to a path I am content with and I feel fate has chosen well for me. My second ‘almost’ seems to keep me happy and relaxed, although I feel like an infant taking her first steps. I did check with our almost three years old niece and nephew and they encourage me to keep going. The course was at Brisbane Institute of Art with the lovely artist, Svetlana Trefilova.

It was a perfect course for me since I had zero experience and I have never painted except maybe when I was a kid with no standout moments to remember. It was two full days of playing around with colors, looking for patterns, learning about various techniques and with no pressure to create particular shapes unless we felt like it. After the course I continued and each day I would relax, tune out for an hour or two and come back with another ruined t-shirt and colored hands.

Here are a few finished results that found a home. One claimed by Chris, and other pieces by parents. There are a combination of acrylic paints, ink and natural pressed flowers collected around Brisbane such as Frangipani and Poinciana. Today I even completed the scariest part of all, putting my name on them.

Painting.

Painting.

Painting.

Painting.

Painting.

Painting.

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Eternal comfort of the spotless kitchen

Lizard and Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

The Lizard is a collection of short stories, which I picked up similarly to ‘The Firm’ at Lady Elliot during a storm. I don’t read enough short stories and I also don’t read poetry, poetry even less than short stories. I need to rectify that. I enjoyed reading this collection and the one that stood out was ‘Helix’ and the familiarity it brought as I quickly picked the similarities to ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. I checked the writers of the movie and Banana Yoshimoto is not one of them so it is just one big coincidence.

‘The Kitchen’ is the story of a young woman losing her grandmother and finding comfort in unexpected places. As her life changes, there is one source of continuous peace and that is the kitchen. I really liked this aspect of the book. The idea that either with happiness or sorrow, there is one constant place of peace is beautiful. And when that place is the kitchen it brings back many memories. My grandmother was a brilliant cook and I remember so many things about her around the kitchen. Even the way I used to help her wash dishes is still at times very familiar. My mom is a good cook and now Chris is a good cook so I surround myself with people who love food and find it as an excuse to bring joy and happiness to their lives and mine.

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When Oswald cries …

The Firm by John Grisham

We were on Lady Elliot Island, when Oswald, a cyclone has decided to accompany us for about half of our trip. I lived in Manchester, and I have never seen so much rain. As a result we had some extra time on our hands and I picked this book from the little library they have for guests.

A recent Harvard graduate sets off his career in a law firm that seems as generous as Santa Claus in front of a box of cookies. I got into it towards the end, but I didn’t love it. I guess the tone set in the beginning was a bit too smug, and the misogyny of some characters was a bit too much to create a connection. I always had the image of Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner as the characters in ‘The War of the Roses’.

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No vacancy

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

I briefly heard of the book, but nothing specific and I started reading it with a strong sense that it was a love story. What else would you guess from a title like that.

In a very small nutshell, the main character, Humbert Humbert has an obsession for ‘nymphets’, a profound addiction to a very specific age group, girls around 12 – 15. When he was about that age, his first love and the discovery of the beautiful pure body of Annabel, traps him for the rest of his life. His attempts at a normal life fail each time more spectacularly. Through a sequence of ‘favourable’ events, Lolita becomes his partner in a journey with an American suburban background to hide in.

While I followed them around, I was a witness to the mind and soul of the character, exposed as raw as could be. There was an interesting struggle as a reader to surpass the lure of obvious judgement that came with the theme. It is really very open and obvious the knowledge that what happens is disturbing, the main character makes it easy and points it out for you. But these moments of lucid honesty are not ingredients for a path to redemption and although he tried to control his unhealthy obsession, both at home and medically, he fails miserably. We tend to classify people in very simple boxes, especially when it comes to criminal behaviour. So it is quite unsettling to read a book which shows you how complex that box is.

By the end of the lecture, I was exhausted to witness these lives. At the beginning of the journey he teaches you how to say Lolita, and as you say it out loud you feel there was a great love there. The poetry found in that love, as obsessive and hurtful as it was, made me stay with him from one motel to another until the whole sordid story culminated and ended.

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Photo Albums

This is officially the last post related to our wedding. It is only a year an a half now since we got married so it seems about the right time to wrap it up. I wanted to wait until we distributed all the thank you gifts to our guests before posting this. As a thank you for attending our happy party, we went through a very laborious process of sorting through the photos and creating a custom set for each guest and making photo albums with them. There are plenty of digital photo albums options but to make one customized for each guest would have been very costly. So we ended up making them ourselves.

Ingredients

  • A4 Paper
  • A4 Cardboard
  • Glue
  • Thick Craft Paper

Photo Albums.

Process
The cardboard sheets were great to keep since they came with some paper I bought. They were cut in thin strips of around ½ cm. Each sheet of paper was folded in half and the cardboard strip was glued on the edge between two sheets. I found it best to break this step into small parts, by gluing 3 or 4 sheets together and putting them under some heavy books, to let the glue set and dry. If there were too many pages stacked up then the alignment was lost, when pressed. So, doing it in parts was the easiest way to keep them properly aligned and stacked. They were left overnight, which was enough, and the next day all parts were glued together to accommodate the desired number of photos and left again to dry and set.

Photo Albums.

Once the skeleton was completed, the photos were glued on the page and set to dry, yet again overnight. For the covers we used a thick craft paper, cut to fit perfectly around the album, allowing some extra length to wrap around at the front. I glued the last page to it and the cord of the book. And for one more night let it all press nicely, the album was ready for a nice string to finish it off.

Photo Albums.

Photo Albums.

Lessons Learned

If you plan to make it double sided and put photos on each side, then they need to have a matte finish. Glossy will make them stick to each other. Unless you decided to go even fancier and add dividers, we didn’t.

It is a very lengthy process so I used every Skype call as an excuse to keep folding pages, and gluing photos. Although multitasking is overrated in most cases, this is easy enough to be done while you listen to something, or over the phone, especially after finishing the first couple of them and knowing exactly what you have to do.

This process also involved a lot of photos to be printed. So it is worth watching for deals on volume photo printing. For example, the print shop we were using had various offers on the receipt. So that may be worth looking at after you pay.

Photo Albums.

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Music for the soul

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

This was an excellent book to start the New Year. It was a random choice from the pile of books we found while cleaning up Chris’ old room. The author Bruce Chatwin led an interesting life and ‘Songlines’ is a window into his travels through Australia. It is also part of his continuous research into the nomadic nature of humans.

The first reason I loved reading it, comes from my introduction to the history of Aboriginal beliefs, specifically about creation. A beautiful account about the songlines, the invisible lines, contouring the surface of Australia and defining the existence of everything. The notion that music has a primordial role in creation, is a new and very exciting concept for me. This theory is not unique to Australia and there seems to be more research suggesting that our primary communication might have been more melodic than anything. Instinctively it makes sense if I think about the inspiration that would have come from nature.

During his travels, the author collects an impressive catalogue of moments, and people. Although very diverse, one commonality to most of the characters is the oscillation between deep sensibilities and bleak realities. I perceived an internal tug of war between their inherit connection to earth, nature and the exposure to a new lifestyle.

The book also had an impressive collection of quotes, and a compilation of paragraphs from researchers, writers, poets, and folk writings about our nomadic nature. The timing of this lecture is perfect. Chris and I have been moving around for the past six months and during this time there have been many times when I thought about settling down. While the majority of external opinions are that we need to stay put in one place, here comes a book to tell me that we are meant to move! And historically more violence and more problems are usually present in settlements. So many things clicked in my head and put my heart at ease. I was getting anxious at my incapacity to picture myself in the same spot for the rest of my life. My need of having a little corner where I can play however I want in contrast to my inability to feel that one particular place would bring me a feeling of complete contentment, was creating a state of confusion. Well reading this book, which I for sure will carry with me now, helped me understand that this is normal. It is natural for me to feel the need to settle for a bit, and then feel the need to move. And looking back on my life so far, I see that is the pattern I have developed automatically. Each move has been long enough to be significant and to bring changes into my life that helped me feel more at peace with myself. I hope I listen to my inner need to either settle or move around as my life continues to unfold.

One quote from the collection: “ It is good to collect things, but it is better to go on walks” Anatole France.

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