claire basler may just live in my dream home

From My Modern Met:

Claire Basler is a French floral painter who lives and works in a former schoolhouse in Les Ormes, right outside of Paris. On a daily basis, she creates huge floral arrangements and puts them around her house, using them as sources of inspiration for her paintings. “In her garden, she witnesses nature’s fight for life against the wind, the rain, and the sun,” according to theTelegraph. “This is what Claire Basler portrays in her paintings: the strength and frailty of a flower, the reassuring nature of a tree, the metamorphosis of a simple poppy.

Just have a look at this amazing space.  Major swoon!

0920 home of artist Claire Basler clairebasler06 claire-basler-6 clairebasler09 clairebasler10 clairebasler12 clairebasler022 clairebasler024 studio

 

that time with the cat

I recently remembered this event from my childhood and thought I would share it with you all.

When I was still living in Belarus I spent a lot of my time with one friend in particular (I can’t even remember her name now) and our favorite activity was roamin’ around our neighborhood.  We would go to different playgrounds, parks, the nearby woods, and generally completely disobey the boundaries set out by our parents of where we were allowed to go.   I remember we would even sometimes take the bus a few stops without paying (it was an honor system at the time), which I am pretty sure I also wasn’t allowed to do.  I would have been seven or eight at the time and Minsk is a very big city but from what I remember I almost always felt safe.

Anyway, one day on one of our outings we spotted a cat that was also probably just roaming around and minding its own business.  We didn’t see a collar on it so we naturally came to the following two conclusions.  One, it didn’t have a home.  Two, we were the perfect people to take this cat in. Despite the fact that we lived in different apartment buildings I think we had a plan to own this cat together, the details of which I am sure we were planning to figure out later.  We carried this cat to my friend’s apartment, gave it a bath (!), blew dry its fur (!!), and, having decided that we wanted to go back outside to play some more, stuck the cat into a cupboard under some bookshelves, closed the doors, and left.  What still surprises me to this day is how complacent this cat was.  I don’t remember how much of a fight it put up, but when I think about how  my current cat gets when I even hold him for too long, I am quite surprised my friend and I lived through the experience and still kept our eyes.

A few hours later we returned to the previously empty apartment to realize that my friend’s mother had come home.  I am pretty sure that at this point we also assumed that we could have a secret pet cat.  We nonchalantly said hello and made our way into the room with the hidden cat only to discover that the cat was nowhere to be found.  Had it fled?

It was at this point that my friend’s mother came into the room and with the vaguest trace of a smile across her face asked what we were looking for.  I believe we weren’t too quick on giving up the truth about our feline friend, but when the mother said she came home to find an empty apartment with a well-groomed cat hanging about, we knew the jig was up.  She also told us that she had taken the cat outside and let it go.

I can’t remember what happened at this point.  I am not sure if my friend got into any trouble and I also can’t remember if I said anything about this to my parents.  I have a vague recollection of trying to find this cat on our next few adventures in the neighborhood but I could be wrong about that as well.

What really interests me now is how the rest of that cat’s day went.  Did it actually have a home to go back to at which it later presented itself smelling of shampoo, its fur now slightly puffier than it had been when it left?  Did it spend a few hours contemplating what had happened and trying to find some sort of rationale for the events of the day?  Did it actually spot us first at a later date and ran for the hills?  Or, did it try to find us the next time it wanted a free meal and a wash and blow out?

I will never know.  All I really hope is that we didn’t traumatize that poor animal.  We were just trying to give it a good home.

source: whiteeecrow.wordpress.com

nostalgic consumption

If I had to pick one, I would say that my favorite dish is one that hails from the memories of my childhood.  Freshly picked wild mushrooms, potatoes, and butter fried up in a cast iron skillet.  That’s it.  When I was growing up in Belarus many members of my extended family, including my parents, were given plots of land outside the city (called “dachas” in Russian).  Although these functioned as summer cottages (I spent many weeks out of my summer vacations at my grandparent’s dacha), many were primarily used as fruit and vegetable gardens.  I remember seeing tomatoes (the smell of greenhouses still takes me back to being a kid and watching my parents tend to their tomatoes), potatoes, radishes, lettuces, herbs, raspberries, strawberries, apples, pears, plums, cherries, cabbages, carrots, beets, turnips, cucumbers, peas, flowers, the list goes on and on.  Much of this produce was consumed during the summer months, but many things were also brought back to the city for canning.  I remember at one point our apartment being filled with tubs and tubs of tomatoes that I started eating like apples…just because I guess.  I also remember fondly my mom’s patience when I made her sample many strawberries after I had already taken a bite out them because I was convinced that I had found a particularly delicious one!

according to the six-year-old me, not all strawberries are created equal source: urbanext.illinois.edu

One of the best memories of my childhood was getting a bag full of freshly picked pea pods from my grandmother and going out to the neighboring woods, where we had hung up a hammock, and lazily munching away on the peas while watching the tree tops above me sway in the summer wind.  The sunlight playing through the leaves and that slow moving hushed sound of rustling leaves high above.  The hammock slowly swinging back and forth….bliss.

Not only did we grow our own food on the dachas, we also went out into the forest to pick different types of berries…and mushrooms!  My family members (and I assume much of the Belarussian population at the time) were/are extremely knowledgeable about wild plants along with keen eyes for spotting these hidden natural treasures.  One of the times I went back to Belarus to visit, my uncle took me out mushroom picking and I remember walking through the woods, the ground completely covered in pine needles, and hearing him exclaim “Oh there is a gorgeous fellow right there!”, then proceeding to walk a few meters, kneel down, wipe away the needles, and show me a beautiful mushroom that I did not even see until it was uncovered by him.  Let me just say that I was thoroughly impressed.  And despite the fact that my uncle and my parents claim this is just ability that comes from experience, I can’t help but think that there is a certain pride that comes from being able to not only find, but also identify the various species of this sometimes-poisonous fungus.  Although my parents may deny this, I get the impression that their egos may have been ever so slightly bruised when, following a family summer getaway, they discovered through further research that the mushrooms being picked by our neighbors at the resort, which my parents had been sure were of the poisonous variety, turned out to be perfectly fine to consume.  If nothing else, the fact that this story comes up every so often over family dinners, suggests to me that this was not an error to be quickly forgotten.

which are good, which are bad? source: http://www.gmushrooms.com

 

However, the fact that this misjudgment was such an uncharacteristic one, also says a lot about this “folk” knowledge that my family members possess.  The best way to illustrate this would be to bring you back to those days at the dacha when the mushroom pickers would return with baskets and baskets of mushrooms to be cleaned, and consumed or saved for canning.  Perhaps my memory has been exaggerated through the lens of nostalgia, but from what I remember we had a few good hauls of wild mushrooms (and berries) every season.  And although I look back at this as a really cherished memory now, I would be lying if I omitted my other memory of my reluctant efforts to help with the sorting and cleaning of whatever was brought back from the woods.  But that was just me being a kid I think.

And that’s where we circle back to my favorite food.  Wild mushrooms, butter, potatoes.  Simple, flavorful, and full of many memories, without which this would just be some food on a plate.

nature + gifs

I like nature.

I like gifs.

Therefore, I am a big fan of Head Like an Orange.  Some pretty amazing gifs on here.  Here are some of my faves, but make sure to check out the tumblr for many many more!  All of these make me want to lie around all weekend watching nature shows and marveling at nature and its inhabitants.

chimp fruitim sorry whatmountain gorillaowl in the windpenguintigerwink

whaaaaaaat?

I am a big big fan of brussel sprouts.  My theory about why they get such a bad rep is because most people don’t know how to cook them and I get the impression that somewhere along the line boiling the s%*t out of them became the accepted cooking method of these cruciferous veggies by mothers everywhere.  And let’s face it, if you boil the s%*t out of anything it won’t be very good.  Well, I suppose there are some exceptions.  Like eggs maybe?  “I can boil the s%*t out of an egg!” Yeah that has a nice ring to it I think.  Anyway, as far as vegetables are concerned, this is typically not the way to make them taste good.  This is the way to completely spoil them and make their texture disgusting, not to mention remove absolutely all nutritional content.  So don’t boil the s%*t out of (most) vegetables.  That would be the bullet point to take away here.

Back to brussel sprouts, I JUST found out how they grow and it blew my mind a little.  Check this out!

source: savethekales.files.wordpress.com

Once I found out that this is how they grow, I tried to forget this information and ask myself, “If someone asked me last week how brussel sprouts grow, what would I have said?”  And, don’t laugh, what I probably would have said is that they must grow just like cabbages but in miniature form.  So picture a cabbage patch like the below, but just with little itty bitty cabbages instead.  I mean, that would be an ok guess I think.

So maybe you are also a little surprised, or maybe you’re all “Pfffffft!  I can’t believe she didn’t know that!”, but whatever.  I am happy to now know even though the brussel sprout stems kind of freak me out at the moment. I am sure I will get over it soon enough.

Here is one more brussel sprout related illustration.

source: SarahL.com

source: SarahL.com

Oh and an additional yummy way to cook brussel sprouts that I just discovered is to cut them into halves, toss them with just a little olive oil, some maple syrup, and Montreal steak spice and bake for about 15 minutes at 350.  I came up with this at a cottage and man were they tasty!  Nom nom nom nom.

Long live the brussel sprout!

foxes

Although the bear will probably remain at the top of my “favorite animals” hierarchy for the rest of my life, foxes are becoming a close second.  Not really sure why, but over the past few months I have become kind of obsessed with this fairly small furry animal.  There is something about them that is very beautiful, but perhaps I have Aesop to thank for also thinking of them as sly, scheming, and smart creatures.  And don’t they, with their bright orange fur, fit right in to the fall season?  Let’s have a look…

Fantastic Mr. Fox. Not my favorite Wes Anderson movie but it is certainly up there.
source: cussyeahfantasticmrfox.tumblr.com

Dapper Fox Ties
source: Scatterbrain Ties on Etsy

Sitting Fox plate by Becky Baur
(http://www.beckybaur.co.uk)

His and Hers fox hoodies from Canada Cosplay
(www.canadacosplay.com)

 

Adorable flying fox brooch by designer Peppermint Daydream
source: http://www.madebywhite.com

 

Vintage Fox Hunt Whiskey Glasses
(source: Tagfinds on Etsy)

F is for Fox illustration by Oana Befort
(http://oanabefort.ro)

 

Fox print fabric – not sure what I would make out of this but it is super cute.
source: Spoonflower.com

the real deal – oh so pretty

 

nature and junk

In the fourth year of my Psychology degree in university I had to complete research and write an Honors Thesis.  I chose to focus on the relationship between natural environments/natural elements and mental ability, specifically concentration and creativity.  The actual research phase of my thesis ended up being a bit of a joke as the conditions I was trying to produce ended up being fairly impossible (ahem…no budget) and I had to settle for some strung together DYI arrangements that did not work out as well as I had hoped.

I won’t get into the details of what I did because it is somewhat tedious to explain, but what my results showed wasn’t so much that the physical environment itself influenced how creative or concentrated the subjects were, but rather that there was a positive correlation between how favorably subjects rated the physical environment they were in and how well they scored on the concentration and creativity tasks.  And sure, once the data was ran through SSRS the correlation was not “significant”, but there was definitely a positive relationship and I suppose for an undergrad thesis that was good enough.  It was really more about the process of doing research anyway.

It was a very interesting experience to go through and I still sometimes think back to it and come up with ideas on how I could have improved my process and research methodology.  However, more often what I think about is the main theory I used to support my research.  A theory best outlined in this paper written by Stephen Kaplan for The Journal of Environmental Psychology, published in 1995.

The basis of it is that there are four basic tenants that must be present for any physical environment to be restorative.  Kaplan defines restorative as meaning a mental state which is active only in involuntary attention, versus direct attention.  When we do work, concentrate on a sports game, or even drive a car in the city, we are using direct attention. It is not necessarily straining or stressful, but it is also not relaxing per se.  Involuntary attention is best described as the state of mind one would have perched on top of a mountain looking out into the distance, or canoeing on a lake, or hiking through a forest…you get the idea.  You are not spacing out but there is no real effort going into concentration.  It is not necessary to be out in nature to experience this state of mind, but what Kaplan and others have argued is that nature is a naturally-occurring environment in which all four characteristics of a restorative environment exist…erm…naturally.  There are other studies, by the way, that have shown much smaller, but still significant positive influences of natural elements in work and home environments.  Things like live plants, exposed brick/stone, wood beams, and running water in fountains have all been linked to more productive and creativity-fostering work environments, for example.

So, what are the four tenants?

  1. Fascination – objects, patterns, movements that naturally capture attention in a “soft” way.  Basically without requiring a dramatic response or action.
  2. Being away – Kaplan emphasizes that this is more a conceptual and not necessarily a physical attribute.  One does not need to be in the middle of Algonquin Park to experience this aspect.  Think of being in a small down town park for example.  You may still hear city noises, but at the same time feel removed from them.
  3. Extent – Again, this is naturally found out in nature because one has a sense of it extending way beyond what the eye can see.  However, this can also be achieved in other ways.  The main idea is that one has the sense of a separate and full environment.
  4. Compatibility – Kaplan writes, “the setting must fit what one is trying to do and what one would like to do”.  One person might love fishing and find sitting in a boat on a lake all day to be a very restorative experience, for example.  If one does not like to fish, and does not enjoy the process, the same activity will not produce the same effects.  You get the idea.

Still with me?

The reason I wanted to write about this stuff is because it has been on my mind an awful lot this summer.  I thought about it while sitting in the woods at the Ontario Vipassana Centre, while spending time at the Toronto Islands, while sitting on the shore of Lake Ontario in Ashbridge’s Bay and Humber Bay Parks, and while enjoying the company of friends in city parks all summer.  And the reason it has come into my head again, and again, and again is because it is oh so darn important!  At least it is to me.  And also because I have been so lucky to enjoy these restorative environment experiences all summer.  It is interesting that not once have my friends and I ventured out to one of these locations this summer that one of us does not exclaim “I can’t believe this is RIGHT here!  We are still in Toronto, but it so doesn’t feel like it!”  Amen to that!

And now with winter sort of around the corner I am already starting to worry about where I will be finding these moments during the cold winter months.  Although, I am probably much more excited about apple farms, pumpkin patches, and foilage oooooh and aaaahing outings for now!

-The Postiliminary-

In a real “go out with a bang” kind of outing this weekend, my friend and I are biking 60k as part of the Tour de Greenbelt AND I AM SO EXCITED!!!!  Just read this description!  Just read it!

What began as a fresh air festival on wheels is now a fresh air festival on wheels or foot that allows you, along with your friends and family, to enjoy an at-your-own-pace marshaled bike ride, run, or guided hike through Rouge Park, a gem of Ontario’s Greenbelt.

Conveniently located close to downtown Toronto this year’s tour offers visually stunning routes, numerous fun and interesting stops along the way, which could include spotting ducks and frogs at a newly created wetland, cycling through Bob Hunter Memorial Park (which celebrates a Canadian environmental hero), stops for some freshly baked pie, and maybe even a detour to pick up some delicious local corn to take home. As always, there will be varying routes and lengths, so there’s something for everyone’s skill level.

I am so looking forward to Saturday and I will make sure to take lots of pics and write all about it next week.

and you thought the hermitage cats were cool…

Just to go along with yesterday’s post on the feline employees of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, did you also know that Russian feral dogs in Moscow have not only become quite clever at stealing food from pedestrians but have also managed to navigate and use the expansive subway system?

Well they have and I am pretty sure we can all start panicking…..now!  Because we all know that their intelligence will only continue to expand, pretty soon they will be wearing pants, and driving cars, and stealing our jobs, and eventually forming some sort of world government (in collaboration with the Saucer People) and it’s all down hill for us from there.

So enjoy the freedom while you can simple humans, I am going to try to win over on the canine side.  First step, let’s all look at some pictures and watch this video about our imminent overlords.

don’t worry, I’ll get the next one!
source:http://img.thesun.co.uk/

Some extra reading:

abc NEWS –  Stray Dogs Master Complex Moscow Subway System (2010)

Wikipedia – Feral dogs in Moscow (last edited 2012)

The Wall Street Journal – In Moscow’s Metro, a Stray Dog’s Life Is Pretty Cushy, and Zoologists Notice (2008)