Tuesday, September 22, 2009

out and about

Ah, la vie romantique! These are my wonky French chairs from the courtyard of La Musee de la Vie Romanatique in Paris, a charming little gem tucked into a neighborhood near Montmartre. We enjoyed seeing a cast of Chopin's hand, among the other works of art inside, then repaired to the garden for tea and a tarte. It was a little look into the lives of upperclass Parisians of the period and one of my favorite small museums. Then we saw the erotic museum, but no pictures from there!
Fall is definitely here in Portland, and I have been so pleased, once again, by the gourds that grow unexpectedly each year from the old gourds that I throw into the side garden. I never know what will come up, and I am always delighted when those big green leaves start to appear. I have been especially proud of my one gourd that I trained to climb along the neighbor's fence. It was such a cheery sight to see it hanging there, with big yellow blossoms and it seemed that I could watch it growing daily. The rains came, though, so it was time to harvest him, but I will continue to enjoy my gourds throughout the Fall season atop my mantle.

I wish I had planted this chair myself. I always meant to do one, so when I saw this one at the Lake Oswego antique fair a couple of weekends ago, I brought it home to place by my front door. I hope I can get it to winter over.

I had a lovely day out in the country last week, and one of the stops was Bauman Farm near Brooks. The plantings they do are spectacular, and this huge petunia hanging basket was one of my favorites. Note the figure to the right, which shows the scale.
It is a wonderful place to buy produce straight from the farm, unique plants, and especially baked goodies like their applesauce doughnuts, which are hard to resist. Now they have a giant castle made of hay bales and lots of pumpkins. It is a great outing , only 45 minutes from Portland-that is, if you don't get stuck in traffic for two hours! If you go, say hi to Mary for me.

My favorite stop of the day was Isabella's Garden near Albany. This is a charming place, in an improbable location, right in the middle of a neighborhood. The shop has only been open for a year, but it is full to the brim with unique gift items ,plants and flowers. The real gem is the garden in front, which was planted for the owner's mother when she was caring for her.
She told us that before her mother died she said, "!You must do something with the garden" so Isabella's garden was born,named for Isabella the rabbit. When we visited, the heirloom roses were past their peak, but I would love to see them in full bloom. We were treated to the Fall garden overflowing with lemon basil , plum and cherry tomatoes, and lovely garden vignettes like this topiary dog.
It's a little tricky to find, but so worth the effort! A real gem of a shop and an owner. We wish you the best of luck for sucess.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chocolat thoughs

Last week in the travel section, I read an article titled, "What's Paris sans chocolate? Just a place with the Eiffel Tower". Of course, that piqued my interest, and it was primarily about taking a walking tour of chocolate shops. The author listed several places, including La Maison Du Chocolate, Jean Charles Richoux, Gerard Mulot (a favorite of mine) and Pierre Herme among others as places to find the best chocolates in Paris. That is not something that sought out while in Paris. Too intimidating! I might ask for 2 kilos of chocolate by mistake, or get some strange flavor of chocolate, like bleu cheese. Once in Mexico I mistakenly asked for a bolsa (a purse) of ice cream instead of a scoop! I did, however, buy some of these big sugary, marshmallow candies which were sold on the street all over Paris, intending to sketch them later. I brought them home for my son, and his friends seemed to like them.

One place that I do indulge in a bit of dark drinking chocolate, though, is Angleina's. Yes, it is touristy, no doubt, but also a Paris staple, where a pitcher of chocolate costs a small fortune, but is sooo worth it. The specialty de la maison is La Africaine. I can never bring myself to use all that whipped cream, though. As Jim and I were enjoying our chocolate, we heard a bit of a commotion behind us, and a few shrieks. Everyone was looking at the floor, and I heard someone mention Ratatouille. Then one of the waiters came over and calmly told the other diners that "she is my very good friend, and if you ignore her, she will go away". Yes, a rat at Angelina's, but apparently a friendly rat.
This is another specialty, the Mont Blanc, a rich mound of white and dark chestnut cream. Very good, but next time I will stick to the hot chocolate. It was a sign of the poor economic times that there was no wait to be seated at Angleina's this Summer. Always in the past I have had to wait for a table, but once discovered that if you are willing to sit upstairs, in the less chic area, there is never a wait.
And a little French whimsey at Le Thabor, the beautiful gardens in Rennes. No matter the season, there is always some beautiful planting here, and it compares with any of the gardens that I saw in Paris.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

a little more Paris

Oh my, where does the time go? Seems like ages since I returned from Paris, but I still think about it everyday. That is, when I am not thinking about weddings, which I have been lately. More about that in a later post, though. Or birthdays. Like that magical day yesterday, 9-9-09 when my baby was born 19 years ago. Yes, where does the time go? This is the first September in many, many years that I have not seen someone off to school the day after labor day, and made them stop to take a photo by the front door so I could freeze that moment.
So I have turned my attention to making things again, now that I am home and Fall is coming.
These tassels have been so fun to make and I just love assembling them in a big, colorful cluster. When I showed them to my art group today, one friend decided that she just had to have the whole collection! So, I will happily make more to sell at our show in December.
This Parisian shoe is what first started me on my path of dumpster diving in Paris, though there they might call it poubelle diving. I saw it on the street one early morning, and it was too beautiful to leave there, so I brought it home. I must confess that it was my size, even though one beautiful French shoe wouldn't do me much good. I planned to sketch it everyday, but ended up bringing it home with me where I finally got around to painting it.
One afternoon as we were throwing away our small bag of garbage, Jim looked in the garbage can and said "There are some nice reusable shopping bags in here". As he retrieved them, he noticed that there were other things that had been thrown away, and we pulled them out, too. A man's leather jacket, and then a Burberry cashmere full length coat emerged from the thankfully clean, garbage can.
Later in my stay, I found an antique lamp, some old photos and a beautiful gold picture frame. I hope my neighbors didn't notice that I made frequent stops at the garbage room, often without any garbage to dospose of.
I had always wanted to be in Paris for Paris Plages, the annual beach on the Siene event. Finally I got my wish, and it was even better than I had imagined. Of course the Parisians would do this with style, and not just dump a load of sand by the river's edge. As I like to say, it is a little more than some sand on the Seine. There were restaurants, and bookstores and massage booths and lounge chairs--lots of lounge chairs. And lounge they did! They settled in with abandon, some even in swim suits, but mostly they just seemed happy and relaxed.
And finally, my favorite dessert, the Ispahan, two meringue disks encasing rose and lychee flavored filling, studded with raspberries, and topped with a fresh rose petal. Heaven! This one was from Laduree, but Pierre Herme is said to make the best version.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

a little journal art

One of my reasons for visiting France was to see my niece and great (really great) nephew in their country home in Feins, Le Maffey. Pia has done a wonderful job of restoring an old stone barn to become a beautiful and cozy home. I was so captivated with the views from her windows that I set out to paint each scene during my visit. However, the weather got hot, there were cherries to pick, and parties to attend and that plan fell by the wayside...I did paint a few scenes, and I'm glad I did, because during my short visit, the trees on the right, tall poplars, were felled one day! Sad, but I painted the scene before and after.
One day when we were house hunting for Pia's friends, I painted this front door, which was a common scene in Brittany. Gabriel, 7 , said "You draw well". That made me feel good, and I was so impressed by his perfect english!
I sketched this statue by the Tracadero, then a bird landed on her head! The birds always find the best places to perch. Later at one garden I saw little wires protruding from the heads of other statues, presumably to keep the birds at bay.
Here is a scene that I wish I had captured in my sketch book! As I said, the birds always find the best places to perch. This jolly fellow does't seem to mind one bit that he is entertaining pidgeons, though. This was by the gardens of Palais Royale, strangely a part of Paris that I had never explored. Further on are the gardens of Les Halles, which are also very beautiful.

finally back

I can't believe it is September already! Did I really go to Paris in July? Seems so long ago now, but I still like revisiting these photos and the good memories that they recall. Just thought I should post another of my favorite views of the tower. See those buildings waaay in the distance? That is where I stood on Bastille Day, July 14th to watch the fireworks. Pretty good view. Soon I will be watching fireworks in Portland on Wednesday night, as the Oregon Symphony plays the 1812 overture, complete with booming cannons on the waterfront. The fireworks are always spectacular, and it is a fitting end to Summer.
These are the velib, or rental bikes that I wrote about before, but the photo did not appear. I so wanted to be able to rent these bikes as they seemed like such a fun and convenient way to get around the city. It was not to be, however, as my American credit card lacked the proper microchip to work in the machines. American Express may work, but don't take my word for it.
I have been trying to get to the Musee Jacquemart Andree for years, and this trip I finally found it, by chance, as I was fleeing the crowds of the Bastille Day parade. I spent a happy hour there, learning about how the upperclass French lived in this very house, then enjoyed a delicious lunch in the tea room. Although I ordered water, the waiter brought me a glass of wine, which he must have sensed that I needed after standing for 3 hours watching the parade! I recommend the lunch there.
The best part of being here, though, was seeing all the tanks from the parade zooming back up the street, as the soldiers held on to their hats! Later, these same tanks were parked near the Tracadero for anyone to climb aboard and have their photos taken with the soldiers. It was such a charming change from the rigid military demeanor of the morning parade.
Looks like a wonderful French tarte, doesn't it? Actually, it was very french and very tasty, but I had this apricot-fig tart with bourbon ice cream at Palace Kitchen in Seattle. I also tried Julia Child's mussel salad, in honor of her August birthday. Everything was delicious, and I have added this to my list of favorite restaurants. But go to Top Pot Doughnuts for breakfast, just down the street. It must have been doughnut day at work, because office workers were carrying out boxes and boxes of doughnuts that morning!