Wednesday, December 31, 2014


I hesitate to say it's cold here (23F/-5C). After living in Iowa and Colorado, I know what cold is, and cold is below zero, not just below freezing. That being's cold here this morning! But what makes it special is the frozen fog that has etched everything with ice crystals. I'm a outdoors kind of girl and I know that the weather always looks worse when you're inside looking out at it; once you're out in it, it's usually okay. However, I hesitated to take our morning walk despite the pleading look in Lucie's big brown eyes. The reward for braving the chilly air, though, was some pretty photos....and a happy doggie!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Red Hooker

The Spanish Arch
Sylwia Knop
The actual name of this print is 'The Spanish Arch', but for me it will always be 'The Red Hooker'. I adore the red-sailed boat which is a traditional Galway fishing boat called a 'hooker.' During my time in Galway this summer, I walked past the Spanish Arch at least twice every day. There were frequently buskers entertaining near the arch (see the violinist in the bottom left of the photo). The big white house is no longer the Galway City Museum; a new museum has been built just beyond the Arch. I treated myself to this print as a combination Christmas/birthday present. I love the playfulness and movement in the print, but the red sail is its highlight for me. It makes me want to return to Galway!

While I only ordered one print, I ended up with two by the artist, Sylwia Knop. Because of a mix-up, I actually received someone else's print of the Galway Cathedral. The shipper very generously told me to keep it as an apology for the delay in getting me the right print. I'm pleased with it as well. The tall, thin doorway on the right hand tower of the Cathedral is called the Pope's Door. It opens onto a small balcony where the Pope might greet and bless the people. It's said that it was built tall enough to accommodate the Pope's tall hat called a mitre. This print is very Van Gogh-ish with its swirling skies.
Galway Cathedral
Sylwia Knop

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Black and White

Playing with my photos today in black and white and a lomo-ish application.I think it's interesting how the effect makes Mary appear to glow. I took this photo during my visit to Ireland at the ruins of the Corcomroe Abbey in County Clare. The 13th-century Cistercian monastery was a favorite place of priest/poet/philosopher John O'Donahue who would perform Easter sunrise services here before his untimely death in 2008. In contrast to most of the monastic ruins I've visited, the cemetery at Corcomroe is still in active use. Our van driver, John's brother-in-law is buried here, overlooked by this lovely statue.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What Is It?

I have to admit I was puzzled when two boxes outlined in metal pegs driven into the wall of the Mairie appeared.

Even as I watched one of the workmen stretch wire between the pegs creating a grid, I wasn't able to figure it out.
I finally asked Christiane what the heck it was. The answer: it's a heavy-duty trellis to hold and allow climbing plants to adorn the blank side of the Mairie! I can hardly wait to see what they plant here...maybe climbing roses? wisteria? clematis? Should be beautiful when it all fills in. Pretty cool idea, huh?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Beautiful and Accessible

All the hard work up at the Mairie is coming to an end. The renovation is part of a country-wide initiative to spruce up France's tiny villages and to assure that the Mairie (the most local form of government) is handicap accessible. It's a huge project since most of these villages date back hundreds of years, many are built on steep hillsides and the primary building material is stone! Here you can see the newly-landscaped parking lot with its new stairs. The large beige building on the left is the Mairie/library.

A hedge has been planted along the boundary of the parking area and the lot has been smoothed and graded with its access paved.
The road has also been graded and repaved and new sidewalks added with a stone barrier wall at the T-intersection. There are lights embedded in the wall that shine both directions at the road and into the parking lot.
Solid wood bolyards line the newly-created planters along the road. We're taking bets as to how long they last before someone plows into one...probably after a summer fete! They look nice now, though.
These are the new steps up to the mayor's office and the Salle de Fetes. While these are certainly not handicap accessible...
the lovely and subtle stone ramp that's been built at the end is wheelchair-friendly. The area in back of the building which used to be the playground for the old school has been re-surfaced and two trees planted there. An old retaining wall has been removed and steps built with another stone ramp assuring an open and welcoming space for all the village fetes and get-togethers.
There's one project yet to be completed. I'll be sharing it with you soon. It's pretty cool, I think.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What's Going on at the Mairie?

There's been a buzz of activity up at the Mairie this fall. Workmen, big trucks, roads closed...
Here's the plan...
and here's what it cost.

Any guesses?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Parisot Writing Group

Fancy yourself a writer?  Think you might be, but would never be brave enough to call yourself one? Want to learn more about the craft of writing? Here's my suggestion...join a writing group! This is mine...the Parisot Writing Group. We've been meeting for two years now. Anita who has done creative writing classes at the university level organized the group and continues to facilitate it. We meet somewhere between 6-8 times a year. (Anita and some of our members are away for the winter months and July and August are filled with 'way too many other things for us to get together)

Anita usually does a brief review of a writing process each time we meet, and we also share out efforts in response to the previous month's 'homework' assignment. Sometimes we do an in-class writing exercise. We post our personal 'works in progress' via email or on our private blog and invite others in the group to read and critique our efforts. During the past two years, we've developed strong bonds of friendship and trust. Each person in the group has his or her own distinctive writing style, and it's lovely and inspiring to read each others' writing.

Last year author, Amanda Hodgkinson presented a two-day workshop for our group. She'll return again in 2015. We also spent an afternoon with author, Jacqueline Yallop who discussed plot with us. She wants to work with us again next year as well. Tracey Warr, another local author, has expressed an interest in doing a presentation for our group. We feel really lucky to have such an abundance of expertise on offer!

And are we real writers? You decide...Vanessa's first novel was published in July. Gary's crime thriller is with an agent who is working on finding a publisher. Mandy has finished her novel and is shopping for an agent. Anita's novel is completed and she will begin an agent search after the first of the year. And my novel? Languishing in 'My Documents' sadly, but I've started another one and have written several short stories. My writing group keeps me accountable and inspired!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

La Ruche!

"La ruche!" Christiane exclaimed. And indeed, the kitchen in the Salle de Fetes was a beehive of activity. This morning the village women came together to make the pastis, a special regional pastry, for tomorrow night's Telethon fundraiser for degenerative neurological disease. I've blogged about making the pastis here for the full explanation. There will be 32 pastries on sale tomorrow afternoon along with several boules bread which the village men will bake tomorrow morning in Suzanne's outdoor stone bread oven.

The pastis begins life looking like this...a long piece of dough.
The women gently pull and stretch it until it's paper-thin and covers the entire table. It then dries, sometimes helped along by portable fans.
The dried pastry is dotted with sliced apples, vanilla sugar, melted butter and sprinkled with a liqueur. It's folded over and over...
gathered into a circular shape and....
placed in a paper-lined pan. It will bake in the oven until it's crispy and browned on top. You'll have to wait for Telethon photos to see the finished product.

Josiane, Manu, and I were on apple duty. We peeled, cored and sliced a crate plus two big bags of apples.

Monique arrived with her apple peeler when we were about half way through the crate. Things went a bit quicker with her whipping the peels off apples at warp speed. She could peel 3 apples in the time it took me to do one!

The fruits of our labor!

Besides the pastis and bread, there will be crafts on sale as well as hot wine and hot chocolate. There is always a tombola, raffle drawing for great gifts. Last year I won the grand prize...a TV! Dare I win something again this year? You'll have to wait for my blog post to find out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Window Returns!

After months of sitting empty, my favorite window in Cajarc is back! Madame, the wife of Cajarc's mayor, is an artist, and she uses this street-side window to showcase her puppets and keep walkers entertained. Family illness and a massive ground floor remodeling project has kept Madame busy and her window empty. But it's newly-decorated for Christmas now.

I love the face on this one
While there are decorated trees, angels and even a sleigh, it's not your traditional Christmas window. It's more like carnivale meets Noel with plenty of bright colors and interesting characters to spice up the scene.

Merry Christmas from Cajarc!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In the Fog

 On Wednesday I posted a photo of this same spot on a beautiful, light-filled morning. This is what it looked like today when Lucie and I made our morning walk. The Chateau and the houses along the road were lost in the fog...a frequent occurrence when you live in a river valley.

The Chateau looks a little eerie looming out of the fog, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Morning Light

The Chateau
Cadrieu, France
After several days of clouds, fog, intermittent rain, and grey, damp skies, it was a pleasure to be greeted by a few twinkling stars and a sliver of moon I opened the shutters this morning. The light certainly made our walk more colorful as the sun peaked over the causse. I have to admit, though, this view as Lucie and I walk the last leg towards home is amazing even on cloudy mornings!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Lure of the Sea

Lacanau Ocean on the Atlantic coast of France
December 2013
I was born and raised in southern California. Some of my earliest memories are of spending time at the ocean with my family camping, splashing in the water, body surfing the waves, and hanging out with my dad while he surf fished. We never lived more than two hours away from a beach. I've always believed that landscapes seep into your subconscious and leave an indelible sense of place on your soul. The ocean is my place. I miss it, and sometimes I'm almost overwhelmed by the desire to see, feel, smell, taste and hear it. Today is one of those days!

Since the nearest ocean is four hours away, the best I can do this morning is wander through my photos and re-live some beach trips here in France. Last winter I spent Christmas on this almost deserted beach in Lacanau Ocean. The weather was fierce...gale force winds with intermittent rain. The waves crashed, the sand blew. It was glorious!
I've tried to scratch my beach itch with the Mediterranean. Beautiful as it is, it just doesn't do the trick. I need the ocean. Maybe it's time for a road trip? Interestingly, one of my very first blog posts at my previous blog, Musings from Red Bell Farm, was about the ocean.  You can read it here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fascinating Face: Ray

Galway, Ireland

Today's post just goes to show you that you can find Fascinating Faces in the strangest places. This ray was on display in the Galway Aquarium. I visited him during one of my walks on the Prom. He made me chuckle...kind of goofy looking, isn't he?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Multiples: Velibs

Parisian velibs
One of my favorite photographers, Virginia Jones, is flying to Paris today for a few days of loving on the City of Light. She's excited that the weather forecast is for fog. Paris in the fog....I can hardly wait to see her photos on her blog, Paris Thru My Lens. So...a few velibs today to welcome Virginia back to the city she loves!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembrance Day 2014

The 11th day of the 11th month, and we gather at the village war memorial at 11:45 AM to offer homage to those who died for France in WWI, WWII and the Algerian War. Children lay a wreath, my friend Christiane who is the adjoint mayor offers a brief eulogy, and the names of the dead are read aloud by our mayor, Jacques Durand. After each name, we intone 'mort pour la France.' Two young children sing The Marseillaise, their little voices pure and sweet. And afterwards everyone gathers at the Mairie for a drink and a nibble. We have remembered the village war dead in this WWI centenary  year.

And thanks to two very interesting blog posts, I have remembered American war dead as well. By coincidence both blog authors are from Iowa where I used to live. The first by Joe Weeg offers a poignant look at Omaha Beach this day. Read "Do You Know Joseph Haymoff" here. Then ask yourself...what young men from your hometown might be lying there in the Omaha Beach cemetery.

Lori Erickson is a travel writer and ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church. Although she is based in Iowa City, her Spiritual Travels take her all over the world. Her post today, though, is about Iowa and an artist's project to honor its veterans. Read "Thanking Veterans, One Rock at a Time" here. As a former Iowa resident, let me explain a little about big rocks in Iowa....they are few and far between! The lack of rocks in the state is one thing that makes it a great farming state. Big rocks are quite special, then. When I lived in southern Iowa, we had neighbors who actually proudly moved their big rock to a prominent place by the lane to their house using it as a landscape feature.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Galway Church

St. Augustine's Church
I thought a church photo would be appropriate this Sunday morning. In looking through my photo archives, I found a folder with a hand-full of photos I took in St Augustine's Church. Located just off the pedestrian street in central Galway, I think this is probably a church that a lot of people overlook when they visit Galway. It's neither the big, relatively new Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed to Heaven nor is it the historic Anglican St. Nicholas Collegiate Church. It is, however, no less beautiful, full of lovely stained glass, wood, and white arched pillars. But the image below is what caught my attention...

This unusual metal three-dimensional crucifix is suspended from the ceiling by thin, almost invisible wires. Hanging in front of the colorful, stained glass arched window it adds a contemporary layer to the beauty of the church interior.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cheery Shutters

I don't know why more people don't paint their shutters yellow. They look so cheery!