Saturday, February 27, 2010

BBC Productions - Wives and Daughters

It's another cloudy, rainy the photo is a reminder that there's plenty of sunshine, warmth, and ocean magic out there!

I finished watching Wives and Daughters yesterday and am completely in love with this beautiful, well-acted version. It is very accurate, well-paced, much of the dialogue is word for word out of the book, the costumes are stunning, the acting quite fabulous for the most part, the country estates made me swoon :) As did their teacups and other china :) But that's beside the point, point being that this was such a delight to watch, and I definitely liked it enough to watch it again.

In terms of portraying the very real, three-dimensional characters from the book, I thought that most of the actors did a perfect job. I especially liked the portrayals of Molly, Roger, Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Lady Harriet, Mr. Gibson, Squire Hamley, and Miss Phoebe. Oh, and Cynthia as well - at first I thought they'd made her more warm-hearted, sweet, good, and...Victorian than in the novel, in which she can be quite cold and sharp and modern (refusing to bend herself to please others and fulfill their expectations of her, as her mother says she is very willful and impossible to control). However, over the 4 episodes, her character comes through very strongly and the performance definitely works well.

Osborne is still quite the tragic hero, but he is not as tall, delicate, refined, and feminine as in the book. Instead, he is stalky and blunt in speech. However, his story-line is so tragic that these details don't really matter so much. Although, if a different actor had played the part and/or if he was given more depth in the script, I think his part in the film would have been even more heartbreaking and moving. Gosh, I'm being picky here!

Roger, on the other hand, was given more screen time and thank goodness for that, because he is absolutely perfect here! An intelligent, honest, pure-hearted, loving, patient fellow who sees the best in things and can always be counted on...swoon :) Plus, he is flawed enough that he still appears human and quite interesting :) Molly made a good choice indeed...

Speaking of Molly, I absolutely loved Justine Waddell's portrayal of this character. In her quiet, attentive, persevering, intelligent, loving way, Molly is the centre of the story. Her love and her constancy are perfectly demonstrated, without any melodrama. She is strong and passionate in her views, but her heart is always open to others, and she is able to see things from their point of view. I love how the film kept showing her looking through the microscope and drawing pictures of Roger's various finds. This was a lovely way of showing how involved and interested she always was in his pursuits - and how she was able to understand it all and find it quite intriguing, despite being a woman :)

Which leads us to the ultra-modern, ultra-feminist ending. At first I was very shocked, thinking how impossible this was. However, even though it's completely unrealistic and historically inaccurate, in many ways it's completely perfect and it works!

All in all, a beautiful, sentimental, witty, romantic, tragic, realistic, fantastical, lovely film that I would highly recommend :) These characters will warm your heart and make you smile :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gloomy Cozy Day + Running

Wow, is it ever gloomy and dark today! Hibernation weather indeed :) I went for a lovely run yesterday, perfectly timed for when the sun peeked out (for maybe half an hour, sigh). I even found a cute little park that I hadn't known existed at all.

I love being active outside - it's an actual experience out in the fresh air, in the big wide world. Being stuck inside - not so much fun. When I'm outdoors, it feels like I'm playing and I just follow what my body feels like doing (like a kid, hooray!). Indoors, there's a sense that I'm forcing myself to 'exercise' and 'work out' and it all feels slightly artificial and robotic rather than being an expression of my body's energy. There may be rules, directions to follow, numbers to pay attention even if I'm enjoying the workout DVD or pedaling happily on the stationary bike, I never get that sense of freedom, openness, excitement, exhilaration, etc. that I can't help but feel when out in the fresh air.

However, when the weather's not cooperating, of course I will accept my duty, like the Knightly Knight above, and do whatever indoor workout appeals most at the time :) Halfway through I will realize that I'm feeling pretty good and that getting some movement and action into the day is fantastic, even if the luxuries of sunshine, trees, and ocean air are not possible.

It feels great to move and get that circulation going...even when you're tempted to hibernate :) It also feels good to curl up and read or watch an old film. I took a few DVD's from the library in preparation for all this indoorsy-ness, including The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, starring Gregory Peck, and Cyrano de Bergerac. I'll save those for rainy evenings, when a big cup of hot tea becomes a necessary part of staying warm and cozy :)

Here's to a bright and cheery day :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Teaching ESL & The Taste of Sweet

Firstly, it's all official now - I've registered at International House and will be starting a four-week training program on March 1 (next Monday!). I think that qualifies as both a "hooray!" and an "eek!" I'm planning on hitting the library today to get some books on grammar and ESL teaching methodology to help with preparation...all five days of it :) Looking back, it seems like a lot of the biggest decisions I've made happened very suddenly, without having had a lot of time to contemplate things. Hopefully that's because it was all meant to be somehow :)

Do you mull things over quite a bit, or tend to go more with gut feelings and intuition?

Delicious cookies were baked a couple of days ago. They were healthy too, of course :) My favourite cookie to bake is oatmeal walnut dried cranberry with some wheat germ and sometimes chocolate chips (but not this time). Wholesome and still sooo very very tasty :) I use a quarter of the sugar that the recipe recommends, and find that it's sweet enough.

Speaking of cookies, I'm currently reading an interesting book called 'The Taste of Sweet' by Joanne Chen. Here's the little blurb on it from the official web site: "Why we're crazy about sweets, but hate to love them: a historical, scientific, and socioeconomic journey down candy lane for sugarholics, foodies, and lovers of pop science and culture." It examines a variety of topics relating to the realm of all things sweet in an easy-to-read, compelling way. So far, I've read about the science behind tasting (there's some fascinating info on how we all have different amounts of taste buds so some of us are non-tasters, some medium-tasters, and some super-tasters); the history of how desserts in various countries came about and evolved; a disturbing chapter all about "making flavours" (this one made me shudder, it was a bit like reading a dystopian novel in which real food has gone extinct).

Right now I'm reading a chapter called 'Sweet Tooths Anonymous'. It's very light, straightforward reading on an entertaining topic, and it's actually surprisingly thought-provoking since it brings in some deeper questions regarding our relationships with desserts. My favourite parts though have been about the history of desserts and also the scientific tid bits and examples of experiments. For example, in one experiment people were presented with two sets of orange juice. In the first set, the two glasses contained exactly the same juice, but one was dyed a brighter colour. In the second set, the juices had the same colour but one contained more sugar. When asked which set, A or B, contained juices that tasted differently, most answered that it was set A - the one with the dye.

I really like books that aren't only all about recipes and nutrition, but also about the story of food and how it fits into culture and shapes our day-to-day life. It's a fascinating topic and there are many stories to tell :)

Have a cozy day!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Masterpiece Classic - Jane Austen's Persuasion

I always enjoy watching Masterpiece Classic on PBS, whichever classic it happens to be that week. Yesterday I watched the 2007 version of Persuasion, starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones. I had previously seen Sally Hawkins in 2008's Happy-Go-Lucky and really enjoyed her performance; however, in this film her role was not to be exuberant, outgoing, impish, etc. but to portray the heartache and quiet suffering of a 27-year old Jane Austen heroine who turned her back on love many years ago.

What happens? Anne's love, who she has never forgotten or stopped loving, returns to her neighbourhood after becoming a successful and wealthy captain. She is forced to look upon him again and to feel all the pain of her lost love even as he walks right in front of her.

The beauty of the novel is that it is absolutely bursting with silent, passionate, long-felt, undying love - on both sides. How do you show that on a screen? I felt that, in this version, this wasn't very well done. To me, Anne looked nervous and hyper rather than profoundly in love. Captain Wentworth was portrayed in a smoother manner; however, there was so little character development that he only had a couple of good moments rationed out to him.

I am reminded of last week's Northanger Abbey; however, Persuasion is a more complex and longer novel, so all of the flaws stemming from cramming it into such a short, fast-paced film are more obvious and less easily forgiven. Persuasion is a quiet, subtle novel full of unspoken feelings and significant glances. The film was melodramatic, hyper, and focused completely on moving the action along rather than on the actual characters and their relationships. There were definitely some lovely moments, but mostly it was a bit of a miss for me.

Another good thing though - now I feel like reading the book again! This is an Austen novel that I have only read once so far and now I'm wanting to pick it up all over again.

Do you prefer to always read and watch new things that you've never experienced before, or do you enjoy going back to the same books, films, etc. because they are your favourites and provide something that you yearn for? I know some people have books that they find comforting. Personally, I prefer to go for something new, but when I do go back to something from the past, Jane Austen looms at the forefront :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Outdoors

What a wonderful Sunday day :) It actually feels very good to be home, despite the cooler temperatures. Seeing evergreens, sprawling snow-capped mountains, so much GREEN's pretty spectacular! And I still got to play tennis outside in the sun, so there's no reason to miss that yet.

One of my favourite destinations for a good walk that feels like a journey through the woods (sort of) is Campbell Valley Park. It's wonderfully serene, green, and always filled with birdsong and super fresh air. Going there today brought a great feeling of groundedness...I felt like I was reconnecting with the earth again somehow. I also got to feed some beautiful chickadees. I always bring crushed nuts, which they seem to really enjoy. Having a tiny little bird land gently and gracefully on your hand is quite lovely :)

Being in the woods always makes me think of why we are so strongly drawn to some places. Where and what are we looking for exactly? Peace? Communion with nature? Roots? Or are different people searching for very different things in very different places? Although I think we are all drawn to nature, even if we don't always know it.

Where do you look to for peace and a feeling of reconnection?


Saturday, February 20, 2010


Well, today is the big day. Here's what I'm thinking at the moment...

What I will miss about California:
Sunshine, sandy beaches, watching the waves, watching surfer dudes, the beauty of the land (palm trees, cliffs, flowers oh my!), the relaxing atmosphere, playing tennis in the sun every morning, shopping at Whole Foods, outdoor "malls", all the outdoorsy attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, strolling along the big bay, discovering new neighbourhoods such as Little Italy, talking to lots of lovely people (although this is certainly possible in plenty of other places :) ), and just soaking up the sunny, optimistic air of this place.

What I am looking forward to at home:
My bed, cooking in my kitchen, cooking something other than soup, seeing people I miss, going to the library (yes, really!), renting
'Bright Star' and finally watching it, listening to music without having to use tiny earphones that keep falling out of my tiny ears, visiting the patch of ocean near my house, seeing the mountains and big green trees, watching the Olympics, getting certified to teach English as a second language, frolicking in Vancouver, visiting CSNN, putting together photo albums to chronicle all of this traveling :)

All in all, I feel immensely lucky that I had the chance to come and stay here for such a long time, and that the home I am flying back to is also such a fantastic, gorgeous place :)

And now for last minute packing and what not. Cheerio!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Downtown San Diego - Sights and Sounds

Well, not too many sights to be seen as I still don't have access to my camera-laptop cord thingy, but I can describe them and leave all the work to ye olde imagination! After a fantastic hour and a half of tennis in the sun, I took the bus and two trolleys to get to gorgeous San Diego Bay. The weather was perfect - clear skies, lots of rays, and a cool breeze. There were many people out and about and it felt as though everyone was on vacation...ah, the good life :)

After getting a good glimpse of the blue, sparkling ocean, I headed to the Gaslamp Quarter for the first time. I absolutely adore old architecture and anything from the nineteenth century, so it was lovely to see those old, atmospheric buildings. Most of them are now restaurants, but I put my olde imagination to work :)

The convention centre is right next to the Gaslamp Quarter, so I saw seemingly hundreds of physiotherapists congregating in the area. I chatted with one very nice lady while waiting in line for tea. Everyday I'm reminded of how friendly people are here!

Oh, as for the sounds, there was some great live music by the Bay. Guitar music, hooray!

On the way home, I had some delicious gelato. My favourite flavour is stracciatella and that's what I had today - yummy!


Monday, February 15, 2010


Agh, it's so sad to look at this blog and not see any pretty pictures!! Only a few days, just a few more days and there will be plenty of new photos to post, deep breaths :) It looks so bare and unadorned, poor thing.

I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine's Day full of love and colour and chocolates :) I went to Chuao Chocolatier, a classy little place with a European feel, offering both traditional treats and also some spicy and truly unique chocolates to mix things up a bit. Breaking the mold :) Their gelato also looked amaaazingly delicious and beautiful. And they offer hot and cold drinks so you can sit down and try your chocolates without any unnecessary delay :) I love that these tasty little treats are made locally using fresh, local ingredients.

Okay, enough about that. While I did not do any amorous cooking or reading (I'm assuming broccoli soup does not qualify as an overly romantic food), I did sneak in a viewing of Northanger Abbey, the newer 2007 version. It's only an hour and a half long so it's incredibly brisk and seems to run away with itself by the end, finishing and wrapping itself up with a bow before you've reached for your fourth sip of tea. Of course, I loved the look of the film - the sets, the costumes, the gothic touches...and especially Felicity Jones' costumes (stunning! wish I could wear something like that today). I also loved the performances, the acting was top notch and full of honest feeling as well as comic delights. Felicity Jones and Carey Mulligan (looove Carey) were especially terrific. It was also a fun surprise to see William Beck, who I last saw in the BBC TV series Robin Hood. JJ Feild as Henry Tilney was quite good too, though the film was so short I didn't get to see as much of him as I would have liked. That was the overall big problem, the film felt so rushed that no gradual character development had any chance of happening. I didn't mind the modern touches too much since they correspond so well with the book's inquiry into the nature of the gothic novel (and the pleasures it provides).

Oh dear, I feel like I'm rambling. To wrap it up, it was an enjoyable, very well-acted film but a bit too light and rushed. Jane Austen deserves more.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

War and Peace (the Hollywood version)

I must confess that I have yet to read 'War and Peace'. I have many books from the Russian golden age of writing to tackle, and they are all heavy, serious, tragic tomes it seems. Brilliant, but something to be taken in doses rather than consumed too quickly :)

In the meantime, I did watch the film 'War and Peace' - not the real one, but the newer version (with Audrey Hepburn). Even though I haven't read the book, I know that the characters in the film are quite flat in comparison. This is understandable considering the epic nature of the story and how much plot has to be worked through. It's unfortunate though, as the beauty of Russian writing isn't so much in mere plodding through plots, but in the quiet honesty and realness of the characters, in the paragraphs that philosophize and contemplate rather than tell, in the poetry of the language, in the ability to make profound truths spring up in the reader's heart while presenting the simplest of sentences.

What I did enjoy while watching the film was the whole look of it - the sets, costumes, framing of the shots, sweeping cinematography...everything looked gorgeous and epic indeed. This was done on a grand scale and I can't even imagine how they could make all of it happen. Some of the shots looked like the grandest of old paintings brought to life, it's extraordinary. I also enjoyed seeing Audrey Hepburn as Natasha. She is one of my favourite actresses and I thought she brought real humanity, deep feeling, and sheer energy and spunk to the role. I loved seeing all of the Russian costumes especially, it made me kind of homesick in a strange away. Some of the music was quite striking also.

Like many epics, the last third or so of this film was hard to sit through. They all seem to start so cheerfully and energetically and so full of hope...then, before you know it, everything has turned tragic and gloomy and pretty much everyone is dragging their feet through a deep well of tragedy and despair. Sigh. I think I'll have to watch something light and humorous to even things out a bit :)

Cheerio :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Festive Friday (sort of?)

Weeell, today wasn't overly festive, but it was lovely all the same - some fun clothes shopping to be had (at an outdoor mall called Fashion Valley - you can shop and still get plently of fresh air, sun, and palm tree action!), some good eating to be...eaten (crepes with a savoury filling which included ground turkey, onions, grated carrots, and sauce), and a possible new opportunity to be contemplated.

Ever since I learned English upon leaving my homeland (such a romantic word...homeland :) ) and arriving in England, I have had a great passion for the English language. Whether it's literature or grammar, I'm fully engaged. I have thought often about teaching English as a second language as this would combine many of my passions into one, but somehow I hadn't gotten around to it before. Now I am doing some research and planning on going somewhere with this.

Oh, and a bit of a reading update - I am about halfway through 'Villette' and am trying to savour it as I may not be able to get another book before leaving California (mainly due to lack of luggage space, eek!). It has gotten progressively more interesting, suspenseful, and intriguing.

Here's wishing everyone a lovely, healthy, and fun Friday night :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Terrific Tennis

After a few days of slightly dubious weather and a broken string, I returned to playing tennis bright and early in the morning (8am!!) and it was fantastic! Playing outside in the sun (surrounded by palm trees!) is so much fun, I'm going to miss it for sure. So I'm enjoying it as much as I can while it lasts :) I also bought new running shoes which made zipping around the tennis court that much more fun.

There's just a little over a week left of my adventure in California so I will try to soak up lots of sun, relax, eat some pastries, drink lots of loose leaf tea (hydration is uber important!), and see as much as I can before it's time to fly off. The Olympics start soon (tomorrow?) back home, so that will be exciting too :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wave Watching

I cannot get over how gorgeous the ocean is here - so vast, such big gushing waves, the magical turquoise colour, and of course the soothing whispery sound as the waves beat against the sandy shore. Ahhh. Life doesn't get much better than that :) I wish I could post a picture or two right now, but that will have to wait a bit.

In the good old days, people were actually told by their doctors to go to the sea for their health. The fresh sea air is wonderful, but I'm sure that this also had to do with the calming, soothing effect of the sound of water. It's something that never ceases to amaze me - such a simple, easy, natural thing and yet every time I'm by the water I feel so uplifted and rejuvenated and relaxed.

Yesterday I saw the cutest little seal pups when I went to the beach. They're so playful and adorable looking :)

Wishing everyone a glorious, uplifting day!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dozy Dreams

As I was dozing off to sleep last night, for some reason I started imagining what kind of music I would play if I did indeed some day own a little bookstore (offering nutritional consultations in the back room of course!). This is what I came up with:

She & Him
Cat Power
Beach House
The Magic Numbers
Simon and Garfunkel
Bat for Lashes
My Morning Jacket
Devendra Banhart
Belle & Sebastian

And thrown in for good measure: Debussy, Chopin, Vivaldi, and various jazz and opera music (depending on the time of day).

There would be dark wooden shelves, a little tea bar serving loose leaf tea, little round tables scattered throughout the shop, and an upstairs level that feels like a cozy loft.

In this age of kindles and iPhones and iPads and digital everything, I think the people who have always loved holding a book in their hands and turning the textured pages and enjoying the fragrance of a new book will keep on doing so, thus keeping real live books alive (even if they become endangered). I don't understand how the beauty, character, uniqueness, and solidity of any one book can be thrown away for a generic digital version. Sigh.

It seems like all the old things are being processed into a high-tech, modern version, soulless and fragmented and unhealthy. This even happened with food - whole, natural, wholesome food replaced with boxed, mass-produced, chemical-laden mysteries.

Okay, rant over. It's always important to stay positive, have hope, and create positive change by taking conscious action and making healthy, happy choices :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sensational Sunday

I had a fantabulous day of sunny outdoor fun today...oh San Diego, how I love thee! Early in the morning, I took a bus and two trolleys to get to San Diego Bay and enjoyed a gorgeous walk by the water, admiring all the pretty sailboats and old pirate ships (maybe they weren't really pirate ships, but they certainly looked like they could be). Seaport Village was very quaint with its small, old fashioned looking buildings, cheerful atmosphere, and colourful feel. Mostly I liked it because it is home to one of the coziest (yet still lively) bookstores I have had the pleasure of stumbling upon. It's called Upstart Crow and I wish it existed back where I live, sigh. Do check out the web site, there's a cute picture and it explains the name. I was so tempted to buy a book, they had such a great selection and lots of classics and historical novels (obviously aimed at people who feel that they belong to another me :) ).

After exploring the bay, I walked over to Little Italy. I basically walked down the main street, which was quite beautiful and filled with restaurants, bistros, art galleries, and, oddly enough, a big dark British Pub (which looked very busy). I heard lots of people speaking Italian and enjoyed a bit of delicious cappucino and half of a big, soft, chewy cookie full of giant chunks of chocolate - yum yum. What a great day! And it doesn't feel like February at all - no hibernation required :)

I have started reading 'Villette' and so far it is very good. Obviously great writing style, interesting and distinctive characters, a bit of a gothic tone (which I love, enough to have taken a Gothic Novels course back in university), and it looks like I'm starting to get to the really juicy part :)

Tomorrow I'm hoping to go to San Diego's historic Gaslamp District. I love old buildings, cobblestone streets, and unique little coffeehouses.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Delightful Discovery

I arrived at the UCSD bookstore this morning at 10am, needing a book to tide me over these last couple of weeks and feeling especially bookish as it was raining pretty hard (gasp!). Sadly, the bookstore was closed and was not to be opened until noon. What's a girl to do? In my case, the obvious answer was to head on over to Whole Foods, drink some rooibus tea, have a delicious snack (which included organic Greek style yogurt - sooo thick and creamy, yum!), and wander around a bit before jumping on the bus and going back to the bookstore. No way would I give up on my literary mission :)

The book I settled on is one I had never actually heard of before - 'Villette' by Charlotte Bronte. I must confess, the only book of hers that I've previously read is 'Jane Eyre'. I love reading about her life as well, and if it's available, I would love to read Elizabeth Gaskell's 'The Life of Charlotte Bronte' someday soon. I think it's so interesting that they were friends - two passionate, talented, fascinating female authors who not only respected each other's work but were also close friends. It's always interesting to learn more about how their real life experiences and relationships crept into their work...although at the same time I like to think of these different worlds as completely separate, so that you can really escape into the books :)

Well, 'Villette' sounds absolutely fantastic and I can't wait to start reading it! Here's to some good reading :)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

February Fun

Here I am, still basking in this California sunshine! It's absolutely glorious, I don't think I've ever worn T-shirts and shorts in February before :) Feeling warm sunshine dancing on your skin has to be one of the best things in life! Even with all this warmth, I've been cooking up some wholesome veggie soup almost every day. Broccoli, pea, corn, red pepper...ahh, such lovely soupy flavours. And what a great and easy way to get your servings of vegetables!

I finished reading Elizabeth Gaskell's 'Wives and Daughters' and am looking forward to watching the miniseries as I am completely in love with this story and all of its vibrant characters. This was the kind of book that I simply couldn't put down - I was completely and utterly absorbed. Victorian novels detailing the lives of young women living in small towns fascinate me to no end. It all started with Jane Austen...and there's no going back, thank goodness :)

I was in a lovely little beach town called Del Mar about a week (or two? time is going by very quickly!) ago and wisely I popped into their library, which is so cozy and full of light and has such a happy atmosphere, but getting back on topic, I picked up a couple of used books for fifty cents and am now enjoying one of them - it's called 'Paris to the Moon' and it's by a very talented and insightful (and hilarious) journalist named Adam Gopnik. If I had been visiting a bookstore, I would never have picked this up, but the For Sale options at the library were quite limited so I went for non-Victorian lit this time :) This book is basically a series of delightful, intelligent, sincere essays on the subject of living in Paris. Gopnik is very witty but also quite sentimental and capable of being very much swept away by love and hope and wonder and feelings. Exactly the kind of journalistic style I enjoy, ponder over, and laugh along with.

Still, I find that I simply can't get absorbed in non-fiction the way I can while reading a great novel. There is no world to get transported to really, and I must confess I cannot wait to jump into another Elizabeth Gaskell or George Eliot as soon as possible.

Here's to a wonderful February beginning!