Art and High Tea

 

This morning we were leisurely in our approach to the day. The snow had melted over night, the Olympics were in view on the horizon, and a heron watched for stray fish on the rocks below our window. Why hurry? However, after a small breakfast and some conversation the four of us went out into the city once more.

Our first stop at about 11:30 was The Bateman Centre, a museum/educational center dedicated to Robert Bateman. Jean and I have visited several times, but this was David and Marlene’s first visit. This eminent wildlife painter, environmentalist, and educator has spent his life getting people closer to nature in a personal and philosophical sense. His art combines abstract shapes with strict composition and muted colors to create portraits of things in the natural world. These images evoke a sense of the individual creature and the niche they inhabit. Bateman says that if someone comments on the detail of his work it is not a compliment. Although from a distance these works appear life-like they are in no way detailed. Each tells a story about the life of the subject and gives us a sense of that life.

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Perhaps my personal favorite is the portrait of a Spanish pig. Bateman writes of encountering this pig behind a 2,000 year old cafe in Spain. The boar lounged in the midday heat, slowly munching on specially grown acorns (to make the resulting ham succulent). He reflected that although this pig’s fate would be similar to his caged, force fed, medicated brethren in factory farms, his life will have been well lived.

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As you look at these other examples from the collections squint your eyes a bit to see the abstract shapes of the image.

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Jean and Marlene stopped to study some pieces at length.

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Leaving The Bateman Centre we walked a block to the Gatsby Mansion and the Pendray Restaurant for high tea. A couple of hours spent talking, sipping delicious teas, and eating savory as well as sweet delights! What more could one want on a cold winter afternoon? Soon it was time to get David and Marlene back to the Victoria Clipper for their return to Seattle. Only time for one Christmas photo in the mansion’s parlor.

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Paul

 

Posted in Art, B.C., Friendship, Retirement, Uncategorized, Victoria BC | 4 Comments

Christmas Season in Victoria

It has been a quiet week in Victoria. We have read, played ukulele, watched some movies, and walked in the city each day. Yesterday we were joined by friends David and Marlene who arrived by the Clipper in the morning. They arrived a bit late to our snow dusted city due to a stop for a pod of orcas and a sighting of a submarine! After a brief stop in our condo we went out on foot to explore the city.

Our first stop was The Empress Hotel. One feature here each Christmas season is a display of Christmas trees, each designed and sponsored by a local business. The decorations usually have something to do with the business. Imagine a tree from a construction company decorated with toy bulldozers and traffic cones! How about a medical supply tree decorated with vials and such? Of course there also are shops to explore and art everywhere.

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Then we were off to visit as many Native art galleries as we could fit in before dinner. Our first stop was Out of The Mist Gallery and we felt we had hit the jackpot. Owner, Tom Stark, kept us enthralled for over an hour with his knowledge of native art and culture. His collections span several centuries, but there is a great deal of mid-20th century work. Beautiful baskets, a collection of india ink sketches by an unknown artist, and much much more. David and Marlene came away with a bent wood drinking cup. We highly recommend this as a stop for anyone visiting Victoria.

Eagle Feather Gallery features contemporary decorative native art. This is art made for the market place. We enjoyed the colorful and bold works on display. Alcheringa Gallery blends aboriginal art from Canada, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. It is very interesting to see these cultures’ art side by side and compare similarities and differences.

We were on time for our dinner reservation at Ithaca Restaurant, one of the top rated dining spots in Victoria. This family restaurant features a Greek menu created by Mama Marie and managed by her two sons. The food was outstanding, the sons danced for us and Mama personally greeted us, allowing David and Marlene to practice the Greek they learned on their honeymoon. There’s a good reason Ithaca has won so much acclaim in a city with many good restaurants. This is exceptional!

We walked the two miles back home through the downtown area where Christmas lights adorn everything.

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A superb bottle of 2011 Syrah from Kerloo Cellars in Walla Walla, Washington complimented chocolates for dessert in front of the fireplace. A wonderful day.

Paul

 

 

Posted in Art, B.C., Friendship, Retirement, Ukulele, Victoria BC | 3 Comments

Jean’s Birthday

 

I woke Jean up this morning with a rousing ukulele accompanied happy birthday sung with a Caribbean rhythm. Our resident sea gull joined in the chorus.

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Jean’s request for a birthday activity was a walk to and around Beacon Hill Park. Therefore, we bundled up (it was in the 20’s) and headed uphill.

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Beacon Hill Park is one of our favorite parks in all our travels. It combines sweeping views of the Straits of Juan de Fuca with ancient trees, lakes, fountains, flowers, and many birds. We love the ducks, gulls, and ravens, but the icing on this birthday treat is the large flock of resident peacocks. They seemed relatively unfazed by the frigid temps.

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A new sculpture caught our eye. Moss Lady was created by artistic parks department employees in 2015. She’s enchanting.

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The shadows lengthened as we headed back to our condo.

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A stop at our neighborhood wine shop secured a bottle of prosecco to celebrate Jean’s day. Some sweet treats from the local bakery will cap off the evening.

Happy Birthday my love!

Paul

Posted in Photography, Retirement, Travel, Victoria BC | 5 Comments

Victoria B.C.

Yesterday we escaped Seattle’s rainy morning and headed north to British Columbia where the sun always shines. Okay, a bit of hyperbole there. After an hour and a half on the ferry we arrived to a drizzle, stopped to do our shopping at Whole Foods, and checked into our condo. Home sweet home!

After an evening getting settled, watching a bit of Canadian TV (very interesting), and a good night’s sleep, we awoke to snow blowing sideways across the harbor out our windows. The natives tell us that the last two weeks have been colder and had more snow than they usually see in an entire winter.

Morning Snow

Morning Snow

However, it stopped soon after we rose and soon there was blue sky and sunshine. (See, I told you the sun always shines in B.C.!

Fishermans Wharf

Most of the day was spent drawing, playing ukulele, reading, and watching the gull who seems to have adopted us. He returned to our deck every 30 minutes throughout the day.

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No, we did not feed him. One foot seems to have a tendency to get cold because he always folded the right foot up into his feathers. Never the left foot!

When it warmed above freezing we took a walk along the waterfront to downtown Victoria, about a mile one way. There I took the obligatory picture of The Empress.

The Empress

We will be having high tea at another establishment next weekend, but one simply cannot visit Victoria without seeing The Empress. As usual it is swathed in scaffolds and sand blasters. It seems every time we come renovations are underway.

We returned to our snug home where Jean cooked up a kettle of chicken lentil stew that should provide food for a few days. Life in the slow lane.

Paul

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Home

We awoke to blue skies and sunshine in Chicago yesterday. In fact we flew through blue skies across the country until we reached the state of Washington. Our landing in Seattle sent up great sprays of water from the downpour. The cab ride home was an adventure. However, we are home!

It was an interesting and pleasing trip. Spending a day in the Art Institute of Chicago is always a treat.

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My good friend, Doug, from college was as entertaining as ever with his never-ending supply of stories.

Jean and Doug Aong the Apes

Jean and Doug Aong the Apes

Visiting family in Janesville and Madison was great. It was too long since I had seen my aunts and cousins and we had too little time with each other. However, we made the most of it.

Aunt Joyce an Ruh Roh

Aunt Joyce an Ruh Roh

Sarah, Paul and Aunt Betsy

Sarah, Paul and Aunt Betsy

It was unbelievable to reconnect with my little brother after 40 years. Steve and I remembered many of our adventures together. I believe he remembered more than I did, but after all he is a good deal younger!

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And we thoroughly enjoyed our time with Don and Sandy in their woodland retreat. Although the week brought some sadness with Spiky’s death, their hospitality and friendship is beyond compare.

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Don Michels

Don Michels

Sandy takes Spiky for a last walk along the road with Honey leading the way.

Sandy takes Spiky for a last walk along the road with Honey leading the way.

Now we must finish unpacking and get back into the Seattle rhythm of life. Today I have Ukestra Seattle rehearsal. Tomorrow I plan to get into my studio and work on some paintings I left on the easels. I don’t know when our next travels will be, but we will be writing about them.

Paul

Posted in Art, Family, Friendship, Retirement, Uncategorized, Wisconsin | 2 Comments

Leaving Greenbush

Today we leave Greenbush and drive back to Chicago. I sit here enjoying the pale dawn in the woods, turkeys roaming around the yard, and the cool sweet air coming in the window.

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This is the bird Benjamin Franklin wanted as our national bird rather than the eagle!

Yesterday we enjoyed a mid-afternoon dinner at the Log Cabin restaurant in Howard’s Grove. The special of the day was pork hocks and sauerkraut, which Don and Sandy dined on. However, Jean and I couldn’t pass up the walleye dinner. It was terrific and I have one filet left over for breakfast this morning! I finished my meal with a slab of poppy seed torte.

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Now it is time to pack the car and be off. Don and Sandy must head to Lake Winnebago to pull in their boat for the winter. Cold weather looms in this part of the country, but not as early as it did when I lived here 30 years ago. Global warming is a reality!

Paul

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A Busy Day With Some Sadness and A Happy Reunion

Yesterday was Spiky’s last day. His seizures had stopped, but he was pacing 24 hours a day and began yipping with a strange sound. After many discussions and a consultation with the vet Spiky went to the vet for the last time. Today Don and Sandy will bury their little buddy here on the property he called home.

Sandy takes Spiky for a last walk along the road with Honey leading the way.

Sandy takes Spiky for a last walk along the road with Honey leading the way.

Here is Don and Sandy’s lovely estate in the Kettle Moraine Forest.

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Jean and I did some sight seeing in Sheboygan in the afternoon. It’s a beautiful time of year as the leaves begin to turn color…a bit later each year. Lake Michigan, the midwest’s mini-ocean, was a pretty as a picture, so we took several.

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Late in the afternoon we met up with Steve Kreutz, my little brother from Big Brothers. We hadn’t seen each other since 1977 and assured ourselves that neither of us had changed a bit. Yeah, sure!

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Steve has two grown kids and three grandchildren! It was great fun to remember things we did together way back then and to learn about what’s happening in our lives these days. I am very thankful that he took the initiative to find me after all these years.

We returned home in the evening to learn of Spiky’s passing. That called for some quiet talk in the living room with cups of hot cocoa before going to bed.

Paul

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Greenbush Wisconsin

We’ve been with friends Sandy and Don in Greenbush the last couple of days. Lots of chatting and memories. Don and I fished together for many years. As a reminder of our adventures many fish trophies adorn the walls in their home. At least one 45 inch muskie was netted by me after an epic battle that is the subject of a story I tell when singing my song The Musky Bum. Of course we had to retell that story to compare our memories. Sandy keeps us nourished with great food. Monday evening it was roast chicken and vegetables. Yesterday we had a large meal at midday of cauliflower garbanzo curry.

Don Michels Telling Stories In His Favorite Chair

Don Michels

Sandy Doing Some Gardening

Sandy Doing Some Gardening

They live on several acres in the midst of the kettle moraine surrounded by a beautiful mixed forest. The trees are changing color daily, but not yet near their peak. Birds fill the yard around their many feeders. We see two different woodpeckers, blue jays, hawks, and a variety of small birds. However, the stars of the show are turkeys. Two different families visit each day.

Their "Front Yard"

Their “Front Yard”

Don and I took a long drive yesterday afternoon around Sheboygan county to places I previously lived or visited. We ended up at a cheese factory where I bought some curds. Curds, jalapeno slices, and crescent rolls were our dinner. (With malbec wine.)

We share the house with four cats and two dogs. It has been a trying time. One of the dogs, Spiky, had a grand mal seizure at the same time we arrived on Monday and had several more in the next 16 hours. A trip to the vet provided some seizure medication, but he seems to have only partially recovered. This means little sleep for Don and Sandy the last two nights.

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This afternoon Jean and I are going into Sheboygan to get together with Steve, my little brother (Big Brothers of America) whom I haven’t seen since 1977.

Paul

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Visiting Friends and Family

Friday we spent the day with my college big brother, Doug, in Chicago. It was an afternoon of talking, laughing, and remembering. Lunch was at the Rainforest Cafe, an experience Jean and I had never seen. It was loud, crazy, and jungle-like in a Disneyesque sort of way. After many stories (some of them may have been true) we called it a day well spent.

Doug and Paul Among the Apes

Doug and Paul Among the Apes

Jean and Doug Aong the Apes

Jean and Doug Aong the Apes

Saturday we got a cab out to Ohare to pick up our rental car. We got a Hyundai with Colorado license plates! Then we drove through rain storms to Janesville, Wisconsin. My cousin Cindy lives in a big house on the Rock River on the north end of Janesville. Aunt Joyce was there to greet us as well. After a brief round of laughing and talking Cindy left to attend a Ziggy Marley concert in Madison and Jean and I settled down with Joyce to chat and watch a little TV. We ended up talking until 11:00 PM before we crashed.

Aunt Joyce an Ruh Roh

Aunt Joyce an Ruh Roh

This morning we spent some more time chatting with Joyce and Cindy and hearing about the Marley show last night. However, we had a date to meet another aunt, Betsy, in McFarland for lunch so we hit the road. Cindy and Joyce couldn’t join us for lunch because Joyce has been ill and our long day Saturday really tired her out. We arrived at the 5100 Bar to find Aunt Betsy and cousin Sarah waiting for us. I hadn’t seen Sarah in about 40 years (she was in middle school at that time) and Aunt Betsy in about 25 years. We spent 3 hours conversing in a private room the restaurant generously let us use. What a time catching up on news, memories, and just getting to know each other again.

Sarah, Paul and Aunt Betsy

Sarah, Paul and Aunt Betsy

It has been a wonderful weekend to reconnect with family and friends and share old stories as well as new ones. Next we are off to eastern Wisconsin.

Paul

Posted in Family, Friendship, Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Art Institute of Chicago

Today we immersed ourselves in art. A brisk 1 1/2 mile walk in the rain brought us to the lions guarding the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago. I spent much time here in high school and have visited a few times since. It has grown tremendously and cannot be seen in one day, but we did our best.

Our first stop was a special exhibit of drawings and sketches that have not been shown previously. The Institute has been amassing this collection for 25 years and now is showing off their finds.

One of the most interesting aspects of this collection is that it features several drawings that are studies for finished paintings already in their collection. This enables the viewer to see steps in the artist’s development of the finished painting.

Then we hit the Impressionist, European, and American collections. Of course there were too many favorites to include them all. Here are a few.

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Of course we had to take time for rest and reflection.

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Lest my Ukulele Seattle colleagues think music was forgotten this day. These reminded me of US. The Juan Gris pairs the instrument with a wine glass. How perfect! Picasso’s Old Guitarist could be me bending over my ukulele.

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Our day ended with a great Italian dinner at Magianno’s Little Italy around the corner from our hotel.

 

Posted in Art, Music, Retirement, Travel, Ukulele, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments