Mr. Carson & Mrs. Hughes forever


PBS Masterpiece

Did you catch the first episode of Downton Abbey’s final season? All I can say is that those writers know what they’re doing with this long slow road to romance. I mean, I have to admit that I was a reluctant, even agnostic, DA viewer to start. But the whole lot of them (except Anna & Bates, those two are tiresome) have slowly won me over. And they couldn’t be culminating the series on a sweeter note! I’m guessing that’s where we’re headed, right? A wedding finalé?

PBS Masterpiece

I just hope the writers don’t torture us too much on the way, because I simply shan’t bear it if something goes seriously amiss with those two. However, ‘arrangement’ jitters on the part of Mrs. Hughes was deliciously tolerable and also quite touching. More of that sort of tension, please. And no unexpected car crashes.

PBS Masterpiece

And, oh my — Mr. Carson’s very unvulgar pronouncement! But seriously, those exchanges between the characters of Carson and Hughes, even via Mrs. Patmore, conveyed more emotional intimacy than is often seen on television.

PBS Masterpiece

So, unless I’m way off base — I’d say we’re in for at least one more wedding. And what about the others? Mary? Edith? Daisy? Mrs.Patmore? Thomas? Isobel?

More tragic accidents? Again, I simply couldn’t bear it.

What are your predictions? I’d love to hear. Unless you’ve got some sort of inside track, and then you should keep that to yourself.

Let’s stay tuned….




Mr. Carson & Mrs. Hughes forever

John Gerrard finds unique inspiration

I’ve been following the career of  Calgary-based artist, John Gerrard, for a couple of years, purchasing the first of his Crowd Series for my new home in 2014. More recently, John decided to go ‘all in’, quitting his day job and committing full-time to his art. And while it’s the ‘self-promotion, e-mails, and social media’ responsibilities that John finds most challenging, he took some time to answer some questions from this fan!


Julie: Why now?

John: Things were going south with my work as a commercial sign maker, and it felt like a good time to take the plunge. I don’t have children or mortgages at this point in my life, and if I did I don’t think it would be as easy to do what I’m doing. I’m also at a point with my work where I think it’s strong enough to push and pursue more seriously.



Julie: How would you describe your work routine?

John: With the most recent landscapes, I’ve been trying to finish one a week. The self-inflicted deadline helps me stay disciplined. Another thing that helps is that I’ve been driving my girlfriend to work in the morning. So I’ll go to my studio and work and then pick her up when she’s done her shift. I’m a horrible morning person, so this gets me going. There are times I don’t feel like painting, though that is rare. I usually have a strong urge to create, so it’s not too hard to stay productive in that way.


Especially with this latest series of New York landscapes, there is a sense of flow, motion, almost athleticism in the work, making me curious about John’s process.
Julie: How long does it usually take you to complete a painting?
John: Average time for the recent landscapes is between 10-15 hours. It depends on the size of the piece, and also the style. The crowd paintings happen rather quickly. Some as quick as 3-5 hours as it’s so automatic. It’s important to me that I have multiple sessions though. Coming at things with a fresh set of eyes is really valuable, and helps me know what needs to be changed when I have breaks from looking at the work.
Julie: Who or what are your influences?
John: I don’t really have a favourite artist. There are a few blogs I follow that have a lot of interesting work, but nothing that I think influences me in a major way. I’ve been big into NBA basketball lately, and I find their level of discipline / commitment to their craft inspiring. I find a lot of the art world to be pretentious and draining, and I also think a certain level of ignorance to it helps keep my work unique. I’m sure people would argue this point, as there is something to be said with being involved with the contemporary dialogue.

Julie: What misconception about ‘artists’ would you like to correct if you could?

John: The creative act is often like the tip of an iceberg. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes which often counters our romantic notions of creating. There is no creative miracle where things just appear, rather just a lot of trial and error.


I, for one, am thankful that John keeps trying and erring on the side of following his creative passions! (To see his collection of paintings and prints currently for sale, please click here.)
Thanks again, John, for taking some time to chat!
(Photos from John’s website)
John Gerrard finds unique inspiration

A Woman of a Celebrated Age


If you’re a woman of a ‘certain age’ like me, you may find yourself occasionally teetering on that precarious edge between fabulous and frumpy. But, take heart grand dames and watch this inspiring documentary (available on itunes) about legendary fashion icon, 93 year-old Iris Apfel. Says Ann Hornaday (Washington Post, 2015): “Iris serves as a spirited, often dazzling primer in how to fight the dying of the light and feel fabulous while doing it.”

Magnolia Pictures

Even better are Iris’s own words:

“If you can’t be pretty, you have to learn to make yourself attractive. I found that all the pretty girls I went to high school with came to middle age as frumps, because they just got by with their pretty faces, so they never developed anything. They never learned how to be interesting.”

“It’s better to be happy than well-dressed.”

from 40+ Style

“Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There’s no how-to road map to style. It’s about self-expression and, above all, attitude.”

“When you’re somebody like myself, in order to get around and be attractive, you have to develop something, you have to learn something, you have to do something. So you become a bit more interesting.”

And interesting Iris has become! Particularly inspiring are her diverse interests including interior design, weaving, religious vestments, and of course — couture costume jewelry, of which she is said to own the largest collection in the United States.

In 2011, Architectural Digest featured the Apfels’ uniquely styled apartment.

Of course, while Iris obviously teeters nowhere near ‘frumpy’ — she is certainly eccentric. At one point in the film, when they visit the storage warehouse —  if you didn’t know you were looking at an iconic ‘collection’ — you might think this was an episode of ‘Hoarders’!  You might also question Iris’s capacity for warmth and compassion if it weren’t for the sweet displays of tenderness toward Carl, her husband whose 100th birthday celebration is included in the film and who passed away in August 2015.


I think my two favourite take-aways from this documentary are the value of original thinking and the challenge to always grow. But Iris says it best:

“When you don’t dress like everybody else, you don’t have to think like everybody else.”

“If you don’t learn constantly, you don’t grow and you will wither. Too many people wither on the vine. Sure, it gets a little harder as you get older, but new experiences and new challenges keep it fresh.”


Words to live by as we begin a new year. If you’re taking on a new challenge in 2016, please leave me a comment!




A Woman of a Celebrated Age

Meru Review (hey, that rhymes!)

by ‘The Armchair Alpinist’

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011
The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011

Hey, so it’s no secret that I’m afraid of most things…really high heights (anything above the treeline)…bears (anywhere below the treeline)…extreme cold…extreme hunger…extreme lack of washroom facilities…but oh how I do love a documentary involving all of the above! Imagine then my delight as I snuggled in under my couch blanket with a cup of tea to enjoy this year’s extraordinary climbing documentary, Meru.

Winner of the 2015 Sundance Audience Award for documentaries, this film delivers delicious tension, triumph over tragedy, inspiring friendships, an unexpected avalanche (who doesn’t enjoy avalanche footage?), an unexpected romance (hint: not between the 3 climbers) and the sage narration of the seasoned (handsome) Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air).

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011
The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011

Especially fascinating to me were the conversations with  Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, and Renan Ozturk about their fear — how they worked with it, controlled it, and used it to keep themselves alive. Also interesting were the ways they rationalized their risk-taking to their loved ones. (Having once been married to a ‘risk-taker’, I’m still not sure I buy it…)

Exhausted, Renan Ozturk contemplates the long descent after making the summit. The top is only half way.

Suffice it to say, the photography is stunning as are the revelations about courage and commitment. I’d highly recommend your putting on the kettle, stacking up a plate with sugar cookies, and hunkering down for a delicious adventure story.

–The Armchair Alpinist


Meru Review (hey, that rhymes!)