Thursday, September 30, 2010

An English Cottage

An English Cottage If I were to close my eyes and conjure up images of an English Cottage, it would be surrounded by an explosion of colorful flowers, both inside and out. The porch, though small, would hold a whitewashed rocker, with even more fresh cut flowers peeking out of a tote hanging from the arm. A beautiful needlepoint pillow, stitched with a riotous bouquet of wildflowers, propped against the back for comfort.

The first entry to my English Cottage would feel like home itself with a wreath on the door, welcoming you to step inside. Once inside my cozy cottage, you’d find the windows draped with delicate lace curtains and gorgeous floral fabrics. Cabbage roses, trailing down each panel.
A cozy window seat, made comfortable with a down cushion, provides a perfect place to enjoy a favorite book and a cup of tea. The teacup, passed down for generations and filled with memories. The hand-painted roses, now faded and worn, just enhance the beauty and the experience.Shelves and cupboards are an essential part of any English cottage. They’re often used for storage and for display.
You might see a beautiful collection of vintage dishes, or a cupboard devoted to teapots and favorite teacups. Colorful tins that once held tea, now hold buttons and sewing notions. Hand embroidered tea towels and pure white linens, help fill the shelves until they’re called upon to celebrate a special occasion. Vases stuffed full to overflowing with fresh cut blooms, are tucked on tables and window ledges throughout the cottage. Each a reminder of the beauty that awaits, just steps outside the cottage door.The garden, visible from the kitchen window is ablaze with color and activity. Ivy climbs the trellises and arbors, colorful bird houses and wrought iron bird baths, a refuge for our aviary friends.With cottage touches in just the right places, the simple beauty of a English cottage can be yours no matter where you live.Please stop by the boutiques at Make Mine Pink to help create your own English Cottage.

written by: Joyce Lucas,
Founder Make Mine Pink

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Walking the Streets of Gay Paris

Today was our first big day in Paris. The day was very cold and gray, never warming the entire day. We decided to just walk along the streets and look at shop windows since it was Monday and all of the museums and shops are closed. Sunday and Monday are the days that everyone takes off here. Who could resist this sweet little pink motor bike?

This is one of the old and beautiful apartment houses in our new neighborhood. I just love all of the black wrought iron and the flowers on balconies. The old stone work and stone sculpture is incredible too. We are really enjoying staying in an apartment and not a hotel. Makes us feel more of a part of a community than a tourist.

Our apartment is very close to the Eiffel Tower, within easy walking distance. This was our first peak. I am in love with this old structure. The graceful lines and interlacing threads of the iron cross bars remind me of a wonderful needlework piece. I plan to spend an hour, if we can find one, just sitting underneath her taking photos. We are amazed by the number of police everywhere in Paris. Truck loads of them at times, sitting in busy spots watching and waiting. This city is on high alert after the two recent bomb threats.

Today we just plain ran out of energy after walking for hours. We sat at a small cafe and had drinks and watched the evening traffic go by. Cokes, water and beers came to a mere $45. We had to laugh because there is no crying in Paris. Things are so expensive here, it's crazy! We did make a pact though, to sit every afternoon and have drinks in a sidewalk cafe to watch the world go by!

We loved this guy in his yellow dune buggy or whatever his vehicle was. He was having a ball! There are so many bikes, motorcycles and teeny, tiny cars here. We are continually amazed at the number of people here. Coming from a month in the countryside, and a lifetime in a small town, the number of people is overwhelming. I am, and always will be, a country girl at heart.

We sat down in time to watch the younger kids getting out of school and being picked up by moms and nannies. This boy was too little for school, but he had his own method of transportation!

The florists display their flowers out on the sidewalks until the rain and cold get to be too much. The flowers are gorgeous and really lift the spirits on a cold, grey day. Everyone seemed to be dressed in black, wearing scarves, boots, heavy coats and even gloves. I think they were just anxious to show off their winter finery!

Finally, the macaron maker's shop down the street. Tomorrow night we are cooking in and will have a macaron each with some ice cream. These macarons were incredible... their colors and the display. Just beautiful! They do have a way over here!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

On the Road to Limoges

It was a sad Sunday, we said good-bye to half of our travel family and set off for Paris. On the way, we talked the husbands into stopping in Limoges, where Sue & I were desperately hoping to find the revered china factory without getting too lost. We played our "carsick" card, begging to drive after our stop to get gas. Yes! I drove for an hour, left the highway and just by guessing, we arrived at the factory within 5 minutes!

This is it! No frills, no glamour! We thought the building was being demolished the first time we drove past. After circling, we found the parking lot and convinced the guys that this indeed was a very special place.

After paying omage at the front door, we entered. Long rows of tables were set out with different patterns of china displayed and stacked together. It was amazing! Traditional to ultra-contemporary were all stacked casually on the tables and underneath on the floor.

I spent time looking for my favorite patterns and watching my husband. He was looking at prices with his mouth ajar. $30 plates were the inexpensive ones. So gorgeous!

I found this little artist's corner tucked away in the back of the display room. So interesting to see the paint pots of colors and the tools used by the artist to create the beautiful patterns.

This was the current piece being painted by the artist. Of course the computer picture doesn't show the complete beauty of the colors used and the detail layed down by the artist. This piece was gorgeous!

Then we were able to visit some of the working parts of the factory. The ovens, or kilns, were fascinating. Still made of the old brick used for so many years.

These are the containers that the pre-fired piece is fit into and then slipped into the kiln for firing. There were hundreds of these containers sitting inside the building and outside, stacked against the walls. They must use thousands of them with all of the pieces they fire.

I was so excited to find this collection of marks that had been printed onto large pieces of slate or was it clay? Eileen & I had the most difficult time when we first began collecting our vintage pieces... we could never read the marks and it took us forever to research and figure them out. Seeing them all printed out together was a real treat. My husband was not as thrilled.

We had a great time visiting the home of our "pretties". Now the trip continues to Paris and more fun! Tomorrow, the first day in Paris.

Friday, September 24, 2010

To the Cave Paintings and Home Again

Up early and off we went to the cave paintings at Lascaux. Unfortunately there are no photos allowed, but these paintings, reproduced exactly from 8,000 years ago, were magnificent. We were still talking at dinner about how those early people were able to draw and paint with excuisite shading the bulls and horses running and jumping through the cave. How did they understand dimension and perspective so well? Amazing!

On our way home we were looking for a small place to eat lunch, heading for some gardens at a large chateau... when we discovered Sainte Genie. What a delightful little village.

We wandered a bit before finding the town restaurant. I do love these old buildings, their decoration and structure. Reading Pillars of the Earth while we are here has just peaked my interest.

Don't you just love the carved faces and the bird nests in the round arches?

Autumn is quickly settling in here in the Dordogne valley. The grape vines are beginning to show their colors and harvest begins in a week. The vines on the old buildings are turning spectacular colors too.

This was the view from our lunch table out on an outdoor garden patio. We had to laugh, every item on the small menu was duck of some kind. Duck in pate, duck fois gras, smoked duck breast, duck meat salad, duck legs, duck soup...

You get the idea. We girls are sick of duck and fois gras. We ate the surroundings and took the rest home to the feral cats that guard our castle.

This beautiful cottage home grabbed my heart. Isn't it wonderful?

This village had very different roofs. Each was constructed of rock shingles stacked in a very unique way. They fascinated me. This shot below was one of the church steeple. The photo below is a close up of the little ferns and other plants that are able to work their way under the shingles and grow.

And look who we found on the way home! Our first large flock of geese. I made the guys stop the car (nearly a miracle) so I could get a few photos. There were hundreds of geese, honking and flapping their wings at first. When they investigated me, they all calmed down and came close to "talk". Meanwhile, my husband was yelling out the window "geese can get mean, get away". Well, I knew that, but these were absolutely delightful. Maybe they knew that I had sworn off fois gras!!

The night was capped off with a delicious dinner at our favorite village restaurant and then a ripping thunderstorm. During the night, windows were banging, doors were opening and slamming and the wind screeched and howled like you would imagine around a cornered castle. We were all in our nightclothes locking up what we could. Castle doors don't close so well. The bats must have taken cover too. We are up to nine visits now. Whoo-whee! Life in a castle is exciting!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Stitch In Time

A well worn and much loved quilt, graces the end of my bed. The stitches tiny and even, the fabric almost transparent in spots. I find myself running my hands across the time-softened fabric and wondering about the families that loved this quilt before me. With much love and care, will it someday grace the end of my granddaughter’s bed? Will she trace the stitches with the tips of her fingers and wonder about the lives it touched before her? The antique armoire sitting close by, filled with newer quilts. Some modern, with fabrics bright and crisp. Someday, they’ll be faded and worn and proudly stacked with other heirlooms, both new and old.

A needlepoint sampler displayed proudly on the wall in my sitting room - once loving stitched by someone’s great grandmother and passed from mother to daughter until it reached it’s resting place in my home. Some memories imagined, many yet to come, surround this beautifully stitched heirloom. Each piece, a stitch across time, binding us together with no regard to time or family. We’re unified by our love of all things hand-stitched.

My sewing room boasts stacks and stacks of beautiful fabrics. My love of fabric handed down for generations, and a reminder of days spent watching the magic that my mother created. I was always eager to touch the colored fabrics that were tucked in every nook and cranny of her sewing room. I'd watch her hands and as she worked her magic. She always worked with swiftness and accuracy. Slipcovers and floral panels, magically transformed our living room into a brand new space. Tiny pastel prints, trimmed in lace, became favorite new sun dresses for my sister and I. A length of fabric, the hues of the rainbow, turned into prized treasures.

I still feel that same enchantment and wonder today.A hand or machine stitched treasure can be beautiful as well as practical. Handmade totes and pillows, stitched for style and practicality. Whimsical quilts, using the newest techniques and blended with treasured old fabrics, now faded with love. Each and every piece, beautiful in its own right and coming together in perfect harmony.Table linens, trimmed in tatted lace, become the finest of heirlooms. Many have been passed down from mother to daughter or are looking for new homes to create new traditions. Needlepoints rescued and made anew with beautiful silks, each one with a story all its own, ready to make new memories in it’s new home. A beautiful handmade shawl, stitched with loving hands and eager to warm someone special on a cool summer evening. Our love of all things stitched, transcend time, uniting us, and giving us a sense of belonging.
Please visit the boutiques at Make Mine Pink for stitched treasures that are sure to become a favorite family heirloom.

Written by:
Joyce Lucas,
Make Mine Pink

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wine Tasting at St. Emilion, Bordeau

The guys decided that this was the week-end to go wine tasting. Since I don't drink wine, this wasn't a great event for me, but the opportunity to take new photos was tempting. We left early, awaking to the autumn fog settled into the valley, following the Dordogne River below us. Beautiful start to the day.

St Emilion was our main stop. It is a medevil town set high on a hill, with a cathedral overlooking the valley. The guys and one of the girls took a wine tasting class and then on to the buying. This was such a scenic town. The streets were very narrow, cobblestoned and STEEP!

Of course many restaurants are needed to accompany the wine vending and tasting. Many had their menus wrutten on blackboards, in chalk. Very expensive too!

I enjoyed watching the mobs outside this macaroon and ice cream shop. Buyers of all nationalities and ages were eagerly eating the delicious mararoons and many flavored ice creams.

Many smaller shops were selling grape vine starts. I would have bought a few, but customs in the US would just throw them out. Great souvenir!

This was the incredible view from the plaza of the church. You could see for miles and almost all of the land is grape vines. The vivid greens are beautiful. Some of the leaves here are starting to turn crimson.

Grapes are planted as far as you can see. The perfectly straight rows and immaculately groomed vines are gorgeous. The ground underneath is a nightmare! Who would guess that some of the world's greatest wine would come from such rocky, gray soil? Amazing that anything could grow! Many of the vineyards have roses planted at the ends of the rows and fruit trees around the fields. This is to attract bees for pollination and also to flavor the grapes for the wines.

The most gorgeous and pampered fruit you will find! Harvest is only 10 days away!!

The steeple at the cathedral of St Emilion. Many of the vindyards have crosses and religious symbols at the head of the field to ask for heavenly blessings and safety for the fruit being grown. Grapes truly are the sole earning power of this region along with the tourists that come to partake of the juice and food.

Monday, September 20, 2010

We Have Arrived at the Castle!

This is our incredible castle that we four couples will be staying in for 2 weeks. We three traveling girls arrived first. You should have heard the screaming in our car! Renting by international internet is a real shot in the dark, so we arrived not knowing exactly what we were getting into. The photos looked good, but you never know!! This was like a childhood dream come true.

This was our view from afar, after driving for almost 6 hours. It was magical to recognize the 14th century building that we had seen in photos sent over the internet. Isn't it amazing? Can't you imagine being a princess sitting high up in one of the many rooms, looking over the gorgeous green valley?

The views from every window were incredible. At this time of the year, the farmers have finished a second round of haying and are gettign ready for the massive grape harvest in 10-14 days. Everything is a lush green, although there are small signs of the season change. We are soaking up the sunshine, knowing that it is raining already at home.

Here is the master bedroom... isn't it incredible? The first night Sue and Gary had a friendly visit from a bat. The second night, Gary had taken a sleeping pill and was nearly comatose, in bed already. Sue opened the door to her room and there was a bat frenzy. Four or 5 bats were dipping, circling, swooshing through her room. Together we attempted to get them out the window. We were laughing so hard, we had to sit down to catch our breath. Using a broom and a mop (we didn't know that it was wet until it was too late) we managed to clear the room after 45 minutes. An experience that will never be forgotten!!

Another part of Sue's room, the chaise lounge near the little wall niche. The owner told us that u nder the flower pot was a hole that the knights used as a toilet. It drains to the outside of the castle. OMG!! Don't let the guys see or they will be trying it out! The bat window is behind the head of the chaise.

This is the fireplace in the dining room. The table seats our eight very comfortably. No fires though, it is still very warm outside. Centuries ago, this was the room that the knights used for sleeping quarters. Mats or straw were thrown on the floor and voila! you had wall to wall beds.

Every window has such an incredible view. I try to work on my tiny computer and my new photos on this desk, looking out over the valley. It is so tranquil and quiet. We are all feeling quite relaxed and peaceful. I am enjoying not driving every day. We 3 girls are missing home and our families, but not the day to day patterns of our lives. We have all been talking about how much better we feel with the lack of stress and necessary itineraries. Such is life.... or
C'est la vie!

Last, but never least, this is the wonderful swimming pool in the rear of the castle. Our group goal is to make it back to the pool by 3:00 every afternoon. It is fun to watch everyone reading, sleeping or Sue, painting outside. Even more fun is to watch the husbands becoming themselves
again. I think my husband has been the only one to be contacted by business on the phone and internet. Bummer. He seems to be able to ride over the bumps easily enough and get back to relaxing. We are all thanking God for so many blessings, realizing that this is true decadence and the trip of a lifetime.

Friday, September 17, 2010

On to Saint Malo the Walled City

Oops, the blog will not let me load another photo... the beautiful boats in the harbor at St. Malo. We had such a good time here. This is a wonderful old walled city, heavily bombed in WW2 because of its harbor. Our first day we walked the wall, about a half day around if you are stopping to take photos.

This is the bakery where we went both mornings to buy our breakfast croissants and lunch sandwich of ham and cheese on a baguette. The first night in our hotel, we were woken at 2:30 am by a fire drill. I rolled over and went back to sleep, the beds were wonderful. Sue decided to use the bathroom. Our third partner nearly broke the door down trying to get us out of our room. OK, we put on our jackets over our night gowns and ran downstairs after the night manager came to the room also. I forgot my shoes and purse... really stupid. But, the party was on in the street and we had a great time for 45 minutes with our hotel neighbors. No fire fortunately.

This artist was busily painting water color scenes of the city. We decided that he had many half printed onto the papers and then finished them in the small market area. Very interesting anyway. Someday I want to learn to do water colors.

These 2 photos were taken from up on the wall. Above is one of the cannons that were used to defend the city in days gone by. Below, are an example of the many wood pilings that have been sunk into the ground close to the wall enclosing the city. The tides here are incredible and we arrived during a 3 day period of exceptional high and low tides. When the tides are in, these pilings are nearly covered with water. They help to protect the wall from moving sand and rock and the amazing shift in water levels. The ships coming and going are forced to work around the swing in tides too.

We discovered many half timbered buildings here that we presumed were constructed only in England. This little walkway above the street was very charming. The streets were narrow and very difficult to drive through. We decided to park our car and pay the hefty fees to leave it in the city so we could walk everywhere yet have the car near enough to load our luggage when we were ready to leave. Our carry on suitcase per person has grown considerably, including a few extra suitcases!!

Aren't these streets wonderful? We are still trying to get used to the French way of opening shops at 9 or 10:00 and then closing for lunch at 12:30-3:00, open again from 3 to 7:00. So very different than home!! Most shoppers are walking here as the towns are small and don't require driving from one point to another 5 miles away. We explained this to some French women who said that America was so "not" green. The countries are so different. We hope we are talking and discussing enough to change some opinions. They also shop for their meals on a daily basis, not using much refrigeration and rarely a freezer. What?! How do you keep ice cream?

This is the excuisite fortress island off of St. Malo. When the tide is very low, as today, you can walk out to the fortress. A high tide makes it necessary to take a boat to visit.

Tomorrow we begin the long drive to southern France to meet the husbands and stay in our castle for 2 weeks. We are in mourning tonight that our girls only trip is over, but on to the good food and wine for the others. A bientot!