Thursday, December 31, 2009

come a long way, 365/365

come a long way, 365/365, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.
from the 1st of January.
I'm so glad to be done. I do have some thoughts on completing this project - overall, I'm really glad I did it, and persisted through the slumps. But the rest of my thoughts can wait till the new year - right now, I'm just breathing a sigh of relief - and contentment. Will the first day I don't take a picture feel like a let down, or like liberation? I'm about to find out.
Thursday, Dec 31

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Blogs discovered in 2009:

December 7 Blog find of the year. That gem of a blog you can't believe you didn't know about until this year.

I have two that I wish I'd found sooner:
 Kelly McGonigal's Science and Sutras,  exploring the interface between contemporary scientific research and the ancient science of yoga, and Tammy's Daisy Yellow, a creative yet practical guide to expanding art experiences.

Kelly first came to my attention a few years ago through her webpage (which I can no longer find on the web) summarizing yoga research. That page was one of the brightest pebbles I picked up following the rather twisty path to where I am now, and I was astonished and pleased to find out that she was still active on the web through her blog, in addition to writing the newly released Yoga and Pain Relief - which is sitting in my Amazon cart till they stock it, darn them. Though I still have some conflicting thoughts about subjecting yoga to the scrutiny of western scientific research - or maybe because of that conflict, I value the thoughts of an educator like Kelly.

Tammy's blog was also a new find - I'm not even sure how I stumbled upon her - perhaps through Flickr. But as I was struggling to find my comfort zone with drawing tools and paper, her blog did something even better - it helped me move out of that comfort zone.  With practical suggestions on how to kick-start an art journal, ways to practice line control, and tools and equipment to explore, I found myself feeling freer to just take the line for a walk, and let colour find its own way on the page.

I just realized - each blog I chose reflects the needs of both my right and left brain. I'm sure that's not just coincidence.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Best of 2009: learning experience

December 24 Learning experience. What was a lesson you learned this year that changed you?

Project 365, a picture a day, every day for 2009.

Before starting this project, I took a lot of pictures anyway, of every day things: my family, my hobbies, things I saw on my walks, road trips, the garden, holidays. Since I was already recording minutiae, it seemed a natural step to take one picture each day over the course of a year, whether or not there was really something special going on that day.
My reasons were two fold: to document a year in the life of my family, and to really learn how to use my camera. Now, only 3 days from completing this project, I am very happy to have accomplished both my objectives.

I don't think I will be doing this in 2010, however. I have missed spending my downtime knitting, spinning or sketching. It will feel strange, that first day that I don't pick up my camera and take a picture. I would like to keep learning, but will perhaps try to focus on particular themes and projects, as does my friend Michele. In fact, if I decide to take on a real photographic challenge next year, it would be something like taking an honest street picture. That would be something.
A brief look back over the year:

looking back at project 365

1. Sharon's calendar, January 1/365, 2. Our Lady of the Yoga Mat. 16/365, 3. birch, 139/365, 4. Owlet, 140/365, 5. photojojo told me to, 155/365, 6. dejection, 157/365, 7. swinging in the clouds, 188/365, 8. solitary, 190/365, 9. beluga, 197/365, 10. summer pilgrimage, 203/365, 11. Today, raspberries, 207/365, 12. loosestrife and lilies, 209/365, 13. first peppers, 210/365, 14. dragonfly, 220/365, 15. slurp! 221/365, 16. abandoned, 17. where the buffalo roam, 232/365, 18. Wrapt, 236/365, 19. sunburned out, 239/365, 20. ominous, 243/365, 21. Livingstone Range, 249/365, 22. Halt! who dohs there? 256/365, 23. working late, 258/365, 24. Ammena again, 262/365, 25. Equinox, 265/365, 26. holding space, 268/365, 27. run, 28. the precious. Mi-touch!, 273/365, 29. Harvest, 275/365, 30. skeleton bride 303/365, 31. sapphire, 310/365, 32. from what I've tasted of desire, 337/365, 33. damning evidence. 345/365, 34. peppermint bark, 358/365, 35. tracks, 360/365, 36. glass bell, 362/365

Created with fd's Flickr Toys

Catching up on Best of 2009, in images

I don't always feel verbal or fully self-disclosing, so here are my pictorial responses to some of Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 prompts:

December 6 Workshop or conference. Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?
Winnipeg, Canada, EPOWC, the Exercise Physiologists of Western Canada conference. But I admit that perhaps my favorite part was visiting St. Boniface, the French area of Winnipeg:

December 8 Moment of peace. An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?
I draw almost every time I'm at mass:
madonna, 355/365

December 21 Project. What did you start this year that you're proud of?
 Stuff I do here:
quiet space, 352/365

December 12 New food. You're now in love with Lebanese food and you didn't even know what it was in January of this year.
I discovered I can tolerate small amounts of whipped cream:
dutch treat

December 19 Car ride. What did you see? How did it smell? Did you eat anything as you drove there? Who were you with?
Driving home from camping along the upper Oldman river in the Rockies, at a mere 80 kmh because of a flat tire, and no garages open on Labour Day. It took an awfully long time to get home, but at least the scenery was nice:

Livingstone Range, 249/365

ribbon lace scarf, done! 361/365

ribbon lace scarf, done! 361/365, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.
my first finished object knit with my spindle-spun laceweight - Veronik Avery's Lace Ribbon Scarf.

I love it, it's so soft and cushy. I don't know whether I want to block this - I love the way it ripples and undulates, unblocked. Man - I have a lot of dog hair on my shirt. There is a lot of dog hair knit into this scarf, for that matter. Sunday, Dec 27.

Knitting notes:
I started spinning the yarn during my summer holidays in Langley in July of 2008, and continued to spin and ply up to about a week ago. I was knit between June and Dec of this year, with this rather sporadic yarn supply.  But I was in no hurry to finish this - it was such a simple, soothing pattern, and so gratifying to feel the handspun running between my fingers, whether it was running thick or thin. It is satisfying to complete any knitting project, but doubly - or even triply- satisfying to complete a project with handspun, particularly laceweight handspun. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Idle quiet: a non best09 post.

I have clearly not kept up with the best09 challenge, but I have no excuses. That is to say, I don't feel the need to make excuses, but I did come to a realization: I don't like sharing.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the posts I've run across on #best09 or by following Gwen's bookmarks, but the intimacy of the revelations sometimes takes my breath away. I don't think this is wrong; but I quickly realized I'm simply not prepared to follow suit.  I have drafted several posts in the course of this challenge, and in the end, been unwilling to hit the "publish" button. Bloggers who reveal so much of their personal, intimate lives have a certain kind of courage: I don't feel I lack courage per se, but I do lack the inclination for that degree of self-disclosure.

I do think this is an excellent way to reflect, assess, and celebrate, but for the most part, I feel best confining my personal thoughts to my journal, written or drawn, or shared with my spouse and children. I do thank Gwen for making me think, and giving me something to contemplate on, each day.  And perhaps, in the next few slow, restful days, I will catch up in my own way: perhaps, a picture with a minimum of text, because sometimes a picture is my own kind of code, for things I am unwilling to say out loud.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Best place: the coulees of the Oldman River Valley

December 11: The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?

wild flight, 334/365

There are no doubt warmer places, more exotic places, more exciting places; but for me the best place this year and every year are the  coulees of the river valley in my town in southern Alberta, because they're there for me when I need them.  It's no use pining for a beach a thousand miles away or a cafe by a distant bank: I love the coulees because they are so very present, and surrounded by their bleak, bleached, barren shapes, I can't be anywhere else but here, now; nor can I escape the elements, however they choose to present themselves that day: the sun, the wind, the snow, the dust.Coulee clouds, 34/365

big sky

rivervalley west, 255/365

They are alien to me, having been born in the tropics and then raised in the lush, temperate Fraser Valley on British Columbia's west coast.  But this week, I was working with a woman who had also moved here from the valley. She said that when she first set eyes on the landscape of southern Alberta, she was literally staggered: physically lost her balance and had to hold on to something to keep from falling to her knees. The wildness, the desolate, stark beauty completely unmoored her. I knew exactly what she meant.

coming over the ridge

I don't feel unmoored, quite, any longer, now that I've lived here for over twenty years. The coulees are almost literally my back yard. But even with their familiarity, year after year and season after season, they can still leave me awestruck, at the way that they have permeated my  breath and bones, at the way that they can revive me when my spirits are flagging and calm me when my nerves are in tatters.  This year and every year, the best place.

part of Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 Blog Challenge

Saturday, December 05, 2009


December 5 Night out. Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

YES! The Vancouver Folk Music Festival has been rocking my world since 1981, though sadly I don't make it out there often, now that I live in Alberta. But when the stars align and I manage to make it out for one day and night with my sisters, it is as joyous and openhearted as I remember from my youth - perhaps more so, shared with my children.


This year, it was particularly special - while standing in line getting my wristband, I noticed the woman in front of me stop and eye me curiously - I was only half-paying attention, as I was doing the usual multi-tasking mom thing: talking to my children, paying for tickets, checking my purse. When at last I looked up, I realized it was my friend Dawn, whom I'd known since grade 3, travelled with through Australia and New Zealand, and whose mother brought me to our first Folk Music Festival years and years ago. We hadn't been in close touch in the last few years, so it was astonishing to suddenly meet up with her at that time and place.  It was wonderfully reminscent and nostalgic to stroll between the tents at Jericho Beach Park, choosing workshops to go to, and even finding iconic folksinger/songwriter Roy Forbes, AKA Bim, as he was known in the 80's.


Later that evening as twilight fell on the main stage, Dawn left early to go home, but my children and I stayed with my sister and their cousin, as the festival magic continued to sparkle in the Vancouver breeze: night ushered in by the Ladies in White.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Best book 2009.

If it weren't for my book club, I'd have very little to choose from for the Best09 prompt for day 4:

December 4:  Book. What book - fiction or non - touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

Since I've gone back to school, I don't read fiction for pleasure as broadly, deeply, or ambitiously as I would like. It's impossible for me not to read:  however it has to be relatively light, not too thinky, and quite often, familiar -  something I won't get so engrossed in I can't put it down because I need to know how it ends. Thus, I find myself picking up and re-reading books by Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Patrick O'Brian, or Dorothy Dunnett. (The latter two can get a bit thinky, but since they're re-reads, I don't mind).  Alternatively, I'll often pick up children or young adult books that my kids read.

I'll only break out of this pattern to read something for my book club. Each member picks a book for the month, and with our diverse tastes, more often than not it's something I would never, ever choose on my own.  I generally prefer borrowing book club selections from the library, as about half the time it's something I can't get into, bail out of, or don't like well enough to want my own copy.

But every year, there's a book that I run out and buy for myself as soon as I finish the library copy because I know I'll want to re-read it, and in this case, ensure that my kids read it. This year, that book was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

the Book Thief

I was astonished this was classified as a children's book: set in Germany before and during World War 2 and narrated by Death, it is necessarily dark, disturbing, and at times despairingly sorrowful and bleak. Yet even Death's narrative voice has a sort of compassion and self-deprecating humour that allows us to witness the events lived out by the characters; Death almost seems to have an emotional investment in the fates of those we watch through his eyes.

If the prose doesn't move you to tears, the illustrations (ostensibly a book written by one of the characters) will. Even if I had read a lot more books this year, this one would still be the best of 2009.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I hold with those who favour fire

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice...

from what I've tasted of desire,

I'm always so happy when I can use a shot SOOC (straight out of the camera) like the one above, and it looks exactly how I felt when I took the picture.  However, the second one - ice on grass in my backyard - was devilishly hard to get right for both exposure and white balance. Snow is notoriously difficult anyway, and the fact that it was -20 celsius and I was in my shirt sleeves, refusing to actually get down on my knees, made it just a tad harder. So I spent a while playing with this in Lightroom, till I got what I felt that morning: shivering, frayed, and a little bit bleak. I might save these settings, and see if they will work as a preset for any more snow pictures as winter wears on.

to know that for destruction, ice

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

going west

go west

Every year, my best trip is the pilgrimage out west to see my family. In the exact reverse of my own childhood, when my father would pack us all up and drive out of the Fraser Valley at five in the morning to take us to Calgary, Alberta, to stay with my grandparents for a few weeks, I now pack up my own children and travel in the opposite direction, from southern Alberta to the BC coast.
(perhaps not very exact, as I avoid leaving at five in the morning at all cost)

glade, 191/365

This year, we had the additional pleasure of meeting my sister and her family, who were on a road trip of her own through Alberta, in Revelstoke, where we stopped to camp overnight. It wasn't memorable just because of my kids getting together with their cousins, my husband glowering in a violently purple rain poncho, the many flaming marshmallows or even the towering, dense cedars surrounding us. It was a return to camping itself, after eleven years without so much as airing out our old tents. There is a fairly long story behind this, involving an August rain/snow/windstorm on a long weekend in Waterton, a screaming baby, a full diaper, and a shivering dog, but it exhausts me remembering it, never mind retelling it. Suffice it to say, it was over a decade before I found the  motivation to again bring tent and children on the same trip.

But on this journey out to the coast, we broke that long dry spell, and despite the other excellent camping trips that followed later in summer, this one sticks out in my mind as the one that got us going again.


For Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 challenge

Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving thanks

During Canadian Thanksgiving last month, I had ample opportunity to reflect on my gratitude towards my beloved family and friends, and now with the arrival of American Thanksgiving, it occured to me that I am also grateful for artists and bloggers who put their time, effort, words and energy out there, not always knowing who is reading and absorbing what they offer.

I've recently come out of a bit of a drawing slump; when I was given the opportunity to review the Exampta Basics Sketchbook, I realized how long it had been since I had the regular habit of picking up a pen (or brush or crayon) and just let it move across paper. Getting back into it felt awkward and difficult, and being  constrained in time and entrenched in academia, it was the art bloggers out there whose posts helped me start moving through that awkwardness, whether they realize it or not.

opening out, 328/365

So, a shout out of thanks, in no particular order,  to:

Stephanie, whose  mandala art at Flickr has long inspired me, and whose words of encouragement fell on deaf ears till recently :)

Dawn of D'Blogala, instigator of  NaNoJouMo at Flickr. Her daily prompts inspired me even if I never actually included the actual word in anything I drew or doodled. I'm taking note of the words she uses nevertheless, as in lieu of resolution, I choose a word every New Year as a sort of guide and focus for the rest of the year.

Tammy of Daisy Yellow, in particular her posts about line practice and more recently, mandala practice . I really loved her very practical suggestions for just getting the pen moving, and getting past freezing at the sight of a blank page.


And of course, I haven't totally abandoned my tendency to draw my injuries - well, in this case, that of my daughter. As dancer going through a growth spurt, we're working through some hip issues.

hippity hoppity poppity, 331/365

So, thanks also to my friend and fellow yogini Sharon Frost, who has never ceased being a source of encouragement and inspiration, on the mat, and on paper.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Project 310

With less than two months to go to complete Project 365, which I started on Jan 1 of this year, I find my motivation sorely in need of a kick start. Perhaps because of a disappointing fall, during which the still-green leaves were crushed with an early snow, so that we got mooshy green-browns rather than the brilliant yellows and coppers we usually enjoy. Perhaps because of the return to standard time, leaving even less natural light in the afternoon and evening. More than likely, the steady parade of viruses that have made their appearances in our home, so that in the last month there have only been a handful of days where every family member has been completely well.  By necessity of schedule,  illness, and lack of light, there have been altogether too many pictures of stuff just sitting on my shelf, because that's all there's been time and energy for.

Still, my kids have insisted "You can't stop now. You have to finish what you've started. And what if it's interesting later on? like that old house. Maybe it will be torn down next year, but you'll have a picture of it.".

So at least I have their encouragement,  and more than likely in their case, it will be "remember those pens Mom used?" or "can you believe we ever thought the iTouch was so cool?"  So I'll keep going till the end of the year, at the very least learning more about my lenses, particularly the non-metering, non-focusing micro I recently acquired, and get a better understanding of exposure.

In the meantime, a happy surprise, the result of playing with a new presets generously provided by raceytay at Flickr, and Rita's Honey Retro action from the Coffeshop.

retro ferris

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

out of the stone age

out of the stone age, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.

we have joined the 20th century - or, wait, is it the 21st? Vexed at last with crappy cable choices, Tim broke down and ordered satellite TV. I hardly watch TV at all, not because I am philosophically opposed to it or virtuous in any way, I just can't find anything I want to watch. This feels very decadent to me - my family didn't have cable TV growing up; we had two and a half channels (four on a really good day and the wind blowing in the right direction) and Tim didn't even have *live* TV when he was young - they had to truck in tapes to Prince Rupert so that the hockey games were a week late by the time you watched them. So we are quite agog at the possibilities.

Of most relevance to me: I get more knitting done if I have something to watch on TV. With the coming need to wear more wool (and children having outgrown mittens, etc), this is good timing. That is, if someone else operates the blasted remote control for me so I can keep my hands on the needles.

Monday, October 26, 2009

momentary loss of motivation

Two thirds of a gathered yoke pullover, the sweater I started way back in January. I lost momentum when it got warm in the spring, but the reason I'm having a hard time picking it back up is that it is a very unweildy project. I thought I'd be clever and knit the sleeves from the shoulder down so as to avoid seaming. This is great in theory, but very annoying to have this big clump of sweater in your lap while knitting a relatively smallish tube. Still, I have vowed to finish this thing before starting a new project, and I desperately want to start a new project. Also, it is very cold here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Exacompta Basics Sketchbook Review - Part 3 of the Exaclair Swag Fest

I finally managed to get a good sunny day to take pictures of several types of media I tried out in the Exacompta Basics Sketchbook mentioned earlier. Like the previously reviewed Quo Vadis Habana and Rhodia Webnotebook, this was part of a package sent by Karen Doherty of Exaclair, the enviably responsive US distributor of products in the Clairefontaine family.

As beautiful as all the notebooks were, this was easily the most striking and most pleasant to hold in the hand, owing to the leather-like Madeira cover. Usually fake leather feels really cheezy, but not this. It's warm and flexible to the touch, and lightly embossed with a faux grain and stitching.


The book itself is clothbound with a cardboard cover, very much like the Clairefontaine "Age Bag" notebooks I've used over the years. In fact, other than the imprinted logo and slightly narrower format, you could easily mistake the two - except for the multicoloured ribbon marker, gold edging, and most importantly, the paper.


Rather than the smooth white 90 g paper you'd normally find in a Clairefontaine notebook, the Exacompta sketchbook contains a 100g light cream laid paper. This is produced in the same plant that makes G. Lalo stationery, thus the paper is lightly textured, one side more markedly than the other. Both sides are highly compatible with fountain pen inks.


However, it is a sketchbook - so I pulled out several pencils and pens to see how the paper behaved. Caveat: I am not an artist. I am someone who scribbles on notepaper during lectures and napkins while waiting for a meal, and I use sketchbooks as a rationale for buying colorful pencils and many pens. That disclosure aside, here are some charts with various media. All pictures are clickable to larger pictures at Flickr.

I tried:

0.35 Rapidosketch with India Ink
superfine Pitt Artist Pen in black and sepia
0.3 mm Pilot drawing pen
0.5 mm Sakura Pigment Micron
Pentel pocket Brush pen for calligraphy

Neocolor II watersoluble crayons
Derwent Inktense watersoluble pencils
Derwent Graphitint pencils
Winsor & Newton watercolours (I think).




Since the pictures are pretty clearly labelled, I'm not going to give a blow-by-blow of every single one, just summarize to say that colours stay beautifully bright and clean, with a minimal of buckling when wet. It's easy to pick up colour from one area and transfer it to another. The slightly muddy looking colours in the brush pen page is more an issue of having not cleaned my paint box recently, and nothing to do with the paper.

All pen inks went down smoothly with clean, sharp, lines, and none bled through or feathered. The only potential drawback is that due to the slight texture of the laid paper, I don't think I would use a pen much narrower than the .35 mm Rapidosketch - that is probably the smallest size I would feel comfortable with on this paper.

The paper is ideal for pencil, as well. I tried a 4B and HB Staedtler lumograph and the slight tooth was perfect for pencil use. The only potential drawback is that the texture makes it somewhat difficult to erase cleanly, but that occurs with many other papers and not a major drawback to the overall quality of the paper.

The laid texture does show up more prominently on one side than the other, which means that depending on where you are in the signature, you will have either the smoother or laid side facing you. It may or may not matter to you, but you certainly have the ability to choose which side to work on if you wish. The centre of the signature, however, will only show you the smoother side if you wanted to do a double page spread.

All in all, this is a book that I really enjoyed testing and continue to enjoy using. If I were the sort of girl to hug a book to my chest and spin around in delight, this is the book that would make me do that. However, I'm not, so instead, I just stuff it in my bag and carry it around and shout "don't touch that" whenever a member of my family ventures near it.

I have plenty of sketchbooks, all of which I use at some point or another, but among the virtues of this one is that it lies flat WITHOUT hateful spirals that drive me nuts, or the annoying hump in the middle that some notebooks have. I thought at first that the gold edging and ribbon marker, not to mention the vibrant Madeira cover would make it seem too "nice" for everyday use, but that hasn't been the case at all. It's just the right size to carry around, the right balance between flexibility and stiffness, and the paper seems happy to take anything you care to throw at it. I've already ordered a few for my children, one of the rare times that I actually order something from out of the country. I like it that much.

Read more reviews on this sketchbook at:

Dizzy Pen

Lung Sketching Scrolls

Spiritual Evolution of the Bean

The Inkophile

Many thanks again to Karen of Exaclair for the chance to try these wonderful products!

#491; In which Wendy is prepared

it's like a sign! well, if signs came from surfing through various links shared by friends. However I interpret it thus: pick up your knitting needles and get cracking.

#491; In which Wendy is prepared

Friday, October 23, 2009

to while the cold winter away

although we should really be outside enjoying beautiful fall weather and golden leaves out in the coulees, we're - well, not. The weather has vacillated between snow and freezing rain with the occasional chinook to break things up, and the onset of cold and flu season has struck earlier and harder than usual, with burgeoning fears of H1N1.

Saturday morning is usually judo practice, but only one out of the three of us felt really up to it, so the other two of us picked up wonton skins with the idea of making chicken soup - wonton chicken soup, that is.
won ton, 290/365

we ground up chicken thighs, added chopped carrot and onion, and seasoned it with black pepper, salt, soy sauce, and some ground ginger. Next time I think we will add green onions and water chestnuts. I was pretty happy with these, considering that I haven't made them since I lived at home with my parents. Dropped into homemade turkey broth from the freezer and simmered till tender, they were fabulous, and I'm sure, very therapeutic.

chicken wonton filling

I hate deep frying things because I can never get the oil the right temperature and I inevitably burn things. Plus the house smells like McDonalds for a few days. Ecch. Yet I felt compelled to try it anyway, just this once, because hey, wontons.

They were not a succcess. The skins burned, and the filling did not quite cook through, necessitating putting them in the microwave, which of course toughened the skins. Ugh.
In the same batch, threw in some samosas made with a curried beef filling. However, the samosa pastry I bought at the local ethnic food store kept falling apart - probably freezer burned and a bit brittle. No matter how much I tried to soften it with a damp paper towel, etc. it cracked even when gently rolled.

burnt offerings

so I made some empanada dough to enclose it instead.

filling the sampenadas

We baked most of them, but for the sake of experimentation, tried frying a few.
The filling turned out better than usual - I think because of the addition of toasted cumin seeds.


Almond toffee bars. Stasha made these. I'd forgetten how good roasted almonds are, and that's just what happens to these almonds here, after baking in the oven surrounded by butter and sugar...
They are horribly addictive. She has been ordered to never ever make them again, except maybe at Christmas.
Almond toffee chocolate bars

I was inspired by mikomiao's picture and post at Flickr to roast eggplants and make baba ganoush, using Pioneer Woman's graphic and very funny recipe. It would have been a lot better if I'd realized that the 4 garlic cloves the recipe called for was meant for three eggplants, not the two I actually used. Whoops.

blast o' baba, 293/365

It is still worth another try, either with more eggplant and less garlic, and maybe a less heavy hand with the tahini. But overall, a good food weekend.

Next up? Maybe some Vietnamese style salad rolls? another stab at the baba? I did enjoy scooping out their brain-like innards. And, I have a butternut squash just sitting on my kitchen island waiting for something interesting to happen. Hmmm.

Friday, October 16, 2009


telephone, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.

Another Film Friday placeholder. After over a week of miserably grey cold weather, the chinook came and tore the clouds into fantastic shapes that changed throughout the day.

I didn't actually take the film version of this one myself - I let my daughter try out the film camera this time, but honestly she has as much of a chance as I do of getting something decent.

The film is done so I'll take it in tomorrow. I was genuinely worried I'd mess up rewinding the film and taking it out of the camera since it's been so long since I'd last done it. I hope some of them turned out, but I'm glad I have these digital versions for backup.

One more cloud picture, looking westward.
break in the weather, 289/365

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Exaclair product review, Part 2: Quo Vadis Habana review, US version

I'm still sick, and it's cold outside, so this seems like a good time to catch up on my review of the US version of the Quo Vadis Habana. Like the Rhodia Webnotebook reviewed last week, this was also a sample from Karen at Exaclair. It's markedly different from the Quo Vadis Habana I bought in Calgary about a year and a half ago, which at the time had me wondering at the raves it was getting on various forums and blogs.

As I wrote at the FPN forum :
"the paper in my Habana does not have the silky feel that I expected from a Clairefontaine product... It feels nothing like Rhodia, Clairefontaine, or the Quo Vadis planners I've owned in the past. It feels toothy running your hand over it...Writing on this paper made my pen feel scratchy - in fact, I had to keep some Rhodia notepaper nearby to write on intermittently to assure myself that the tines didn't suddenly spring out of alignment or catch a fibre. There isn't any doubt that it was the paper causing the scratchy feeling."

That post produced some discussion at the Quo Vadis blog, and it appeared that notebooks sold in Canada and Europe were different from the ones in the US, a situation that is still true: the difference between the Canadian market Habana and US market Habana is apparant in more ways than one - though not till you open up the book.

The outer appearance is the same: hard cover padded with softer vinyl, similar to the Webnotebook . In both versions, the logo is imprinted in the bottom right hand corner.
(all pictures are clickable to larger versions)

Quo Vadis Habana

Both of these are the large size, approximately 6" x 9", so larger than either the large Moleskine or Webnotebook. Note that the the Canadian version with the brown/orange label contains 224 pages, in contrast to the US version with 80 sheets/160 pages. Implicit here is the difference in paper weight: in a notebook of identical size, the Canadian version necessarily contains lighter weight paper - 60 g according to the thread referenced earlier.

Quo Vadis Habana
(Canadian version on the right, with orange and brown label)

The Canadian version has cream colored paper, which I personally really like and a narrower ruling, which I don't love, but don't mind, either. In contrast, the US version has bright white Clairefontaine paper, with wider ruling.

Quo Vadis Habana
(Canadian version in cream on the left, US version in white on the right)

Actually, on the front page, both notebooks seem to perform well. There's no feathering from any of the inks in the Canadian version. The lighter weight is really apparant, though, as you can easily see the writing showing through from the next page. That might not, in itself, bother me. If it weren't for this:

Quo Vadis Habana
(Canadian version in cream on the left, US version in white on the right)

Quite a bit more bleeding through that I really would like. In comparison, there is no bleedthrough, and minimal showthrough in the heavier, glossier paper used in the US version. The paper feels just as you'd expect Clairefontaine paper to feel - strong, smooth, and perfect for fountain pen ink. I've used Clairefontaine clothbound notebooks for some time, and it's great to have this paper bound in a hardcover with elastic and pocket.

Like the Webnotebook, the US version of the Habana is superior to the Canadian/EU version in many ways, although personal preference might come into play. Some people dislike the bright white colour and the wide ruling, although that would not personally be a deterrent for me. It could also be argued that with less pages, 160 vs. 224, it might be less of a bargain - but the trade-off is paper weight: if you end up only writing on one side of the lighter, 60 g pages due to bleeding or showthrough, all those extra pages aren't much of an advantage.

Bottom line:
I like the US version of the Habana a good deal better than the Canadian one, and would again find it more usable. However, I don't like it better than the Webnotebook, which would be my preference because of the smaller size, cream colored pages, and slightly narrower ruling. Because of the wider ruling, I would be less likely to use the Habana as my personal journal, and more likely to use it as a project journal where I want ideas laid and spaced out more clearly (I like my personal stuff to look cramped and cryptic :) - like my thoughts)

The Habana would be a great choice for anyone who likes Clairefontaine paper, which has always been consistent for me in performance and texture. It has a utilitarian, no-nonsense look and the slim build and durable binding would make it ideal for carrying around day-to day. However, for the reasons given above my first choice would still be the Webnotebook.