The Danger Zone

May really is the merriest month, and if you are a gardener, no matter what zone you live in, it can also be the most dangerous time of year.   The garden centers are starting to bring in their flats of summer annuals and hanging baskets. Hanging Baskets

Visit any nursery anywhere and everything is a riot of color.  The petunias are looking all perky and pretty in their spring finery,

Pink Petunias
Pink petunias

their vivid colors saying buy me, buy me….but beware!   They require commitment….lots of commitment.     This year I intend to save myself a summer of watering and weeding and fertilizing and deadheading and just say no.  I will not succumb,  I will be strong.

I am at the point in my gardening life where taking care of plants has become burdensome.  I enjoyed it when I was working, although I did not always have the time and my flowers suffered for it.   It was a respite to dig in dirt on my days off, a mindless occupation which did not require too much thought.    One year I had eleven hanging baskets, (what was I thinking), and twenty rose and hydrangea bushes I was trying to get started, but it was too hot to water at ten in the morning when I got up, and it was dark when I returned home from work.   But that was also the year my plants looked their best, because I gave up and hired someone in the neighborhood to water them.

geraniums
Pink Geraniums in September

It finally got too expensive, (it was a drought year), but I must admit it was a joy to have hanging baskets still vibrant in late September, instead of raggedy, dried out and dead by the end of July.

Paradoxically, now that I am retired and have more time, I am starting to consider gardening a chore and I don’t think I am alone in this.  A few years ago I found an abandoned garden cart at the side of the road, (which I brought home and spray painted lime green to hide the sunflower yellow).

Green cart
Rescued lime green wrought iron cart

My idea was to get some of the pots up off the ground and out of reach of the bunnies which had multiplied like crazy that year.   The homeowner told me to take it, it was free.   She even delivered it so desperate was she to get it out of her sight.   Having to water all those pots was just too much trouble when they were busy travelling all summer.   I didn’t understand at the time, (a few pots?) but now I do.

At this stage in my gardening life I’d much rather read about gardening than do it.    I’m ready to leave the pretty plants to someone else, not to mention the sweat and hard work, and live vicariously through someone else’s planting adventures.   This gardening book Elizabeth and her German Garden, was first published in 1898 but is still timeless today.    (see Enchanted April blog for more about the author).
Elizabeth and Her German GardenElizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A bestseller when it was first released in 1898, this book remains a gardening classic. Of course back then there were the necessary servants and gardeners to do all the hard work, still it remains an entertaining read, and proof that the love of gardening never changes.

 Luckily, most of the things in my yard, are easy care – roses and hydrangeas and peonies and lilacs.   I like all the old-fashioned flowers our grandmothers had.  I have mostly pinks, (double pink Knock-Out roses around both front and back decks), some lavenders (French and English and Rose of Sharon) and a few blues (hydrangeas if the soil cooperates and some struggling delphiniums).    I like the look of an English garden with tall waving blooms, (so Downton Abbeyish),  but have not had much success with this scheme.  Phlox, not good, lupines, disappeared, foxglove awaiting judgement.  This year I intend to buy flower seedlings at the farmer’s market as I realized last year they had a better selection and were much cheaper than the nurseries.

Plants can be divided into high maintenance (those that whine please deadhead me, fertilize me, give me a drink), and low maintenance, (those that can take care of themselves).   Lavender is as low maintenance as it gets, (it loves drought), plus it’s cheap and smells wonderful.

Lavender in a Blue Pot
Lavender in a blue pot

Lavender

Heather is also supposed to be a hardy plant, so after spying some flowering on a neighbors lawn while out for an early spring walk, I purchased a ten dollar pot and plopped it in the ground. HeatherOdds are it will end up neglected but I’m having visions of Heathcliff and the moors next spring…..Heather

The other reason for not buying as much this year is the price – it just gets too expensive, so I will be haunting the plant sales.   When the horticultural society holds its annual plant sale for two dollars, I’ll be there.  I’ll even get out of bed early before the best ones are gone.   (Well I was there by noon and got six pots of purple and yellow iris, a few bluebells and a twig they said was a Rose of Sharon which I suspect might already be dead, but all for a grand total of six dollars, everything is half price after noon, another reason not to get out of bed).

Impatiens have fallen out of favor here due to a widespread blight, but they have now come out with a hardier strain, so last year I did my own hanging baskets with a flat from a popup nursery and the end result was cheap and cheerful.

The only seeds I usually plant are blue morning glories along the back fence, Morning Glory with beewhich almost always put on a glorious show, although they can be very late in the year, (see A Glorious September Morning blog), and this year I’m going to try wildflowers again. Wildflower seed packets

Although I don’t expect it will look like the meadow on the front of the seed packet, I did have some luck one year and it was an inexpensive solution for a poorly drained back corner.   Last year I put in glads for the first time, and dug up the bulbs in the fall, but they were pulpy looking when I took them out of storage, so they will need to be replaced.  

Glads and Impatiens
Gladioli and Impatiens

But I plan on limiting myself to four baskets of geraniums from the garden centers, two for the front urns, and two for the back deck, no more…..fingers crossed.

Geraniums
Pink geraniums

My only splurge will be a yellow with pink centre hibiscus bush, because it looks so exotic like the tropics, and my neighbor got one last year but I always seem to be behind on the garden trends.  Yellow Hibiscus 

One year I bought a bougainvillea plant,

Bougainvillea Plant
Bougainvillea on it’s best behavior

lured by it’s vivid pinkness, but I do not live in the right zone for tropical plants.   It overwintered indoors fine the first year, and even bloomed in February but then it got all spindly and shed until it was moved south to the garbage bin.

So goodbye, farewell, annuals at the garden centre. nursery flowers petunias

I hope you find a good home somewhere else….stay strong!

nursery flowers mixed

Progress report to date:   8 hollyhocks at farmers market $3 total, horticultural society plant sale iris & twig $6, one pot of campanula because it looked so purple but when I went to plant it the entire head of flowers fell off ($5 wasted),Campanula bellflower

six pots of lavender ($3.50 each to replace the ones which didn’t survive our harsh winter),Lavender

and my regular bright pink geraniums ($14) which came in a pink pot this year.  Why didn’t someone think of matching colored pots sooner instead of those boring taupe things?Pink Geranium

The Resistance: a Pink Knock-Out Rose Tree which at $99 is difficult to justify as I already have lots of $20 rose bushes, but there is a bare spot in one corner….. 

Knock Out Rose Tree

 The Debate:  this years hibiscus flavor – Fiesta?   Maybe if it goes on sale….

Postscript:  The best gardener of all, and the cheapest, is good old Mother Nature! Cherry Blossoms

 

May Flowers

April showers bring May flowers, so the saying goes.    Finally we are having some signs of spring here after what must be the longest winter ever.   Midway through April and nothing but single digit temperatures, flurries and freezing rain.  The flowers were up and trying to be brave but why bloom when you can hide.   But today it rained, a soft spring rain, destined to bring the first new fuzz out on the trees, a shade of green that is impossible to describe.  new spring green birch trees

Here’s some proof that warm weather is on it’s way.

Forsythia and Siberian Squill,Forsythia and Blue Flowers

Siberian Squill

Purple Vinca,Purple flowers and tulips

purple vinca

Purple Vinca and Orange Tulips

I like the mixture of colors in this clump of tulips, so cheerful to see while walking on a rainy spring day.

Tulips

This is the best time of year for lazy gardeners, as mother nature is doing all the work. 

All the fruits of last years fall plantings are bursting forth, and we can just sit back and enjoy the show.

Pink tulip

my favorite pink tulip

 

 

The final sign, the love birds are back and nesting.   They arrived during the last ice storm and had that nest assembled practically overnight, hence the messy job.  It was so cold they must have felt the need for some extra layers.  They need to do some spring cleaning and so do I, but first a cup of tea on the deck to listen to the birds and gaze at nature’s masterpiece.

Postscript:  for more pretty flower pics see last weeks post Among the Daffodils

Daffodils and hyacinths

 

 

Among the Daffodils

Daffodils are one of the earliest messengers of spring and after such a long late brutal winter, the warm weather has finally arrived.   I think we are in need of a little dose of sunshine, and perhaps some poetry.Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsmith may be famous for the poem, I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud, but I think I much prefer his sister Dorothy’s 1802 journal entry about the walk in the English Lake District which inspired the poem.

“When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seed ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up – But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot and a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway – We rested again and again. The Bays were stormy and we heard the waves at different distances and in the middle of the water like the sea.”Daffodils

This acre of wild daffodils in a wooded lot is enough to motivate me to start my daily walks again.   Every spring I thank the lovely soul who originally planted these heirloom gems, as they have reseeded themselves over the years in a way that my modern bulbs never seem to do.   They might start out in orderly clumps, Daffodilsbut the squirrels have great fun transplanting them and they eventually end up lonely as a cloud.  Daffodil

They are especially lovely paired with the delicate blue of Siberian Squill, a bulb that can be invasive over time, but who would mind?  Daffodils & Blue Flowers

Daffodils are the most cheerful of flowers, so bright and sunny, waving in the breeze as if they are announcing that spring is here.   No wonder they belong to the Narcissus family, they demand look at me, and we do!  Welcome spring!    

Daffodils indoors

Postscript:  for more pretty pics see May Flowers blog.

 

Enchanted April

“To those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine.  Small medieval Italian castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain.  Z, Box 1000, The Times.”

Despite being written almost a hundred years ago the book, The Enchanted April, is just as enchanting today.   Four very different women, all unknown to each in dreary post WW1 Britain, answer an ad for an Italian villa.   Two are married but taken for granted by their husbands, one is single and beautiful but tired of grabby men, and one is a widow facing a sad lonely old age.  They have nothing in common other than they are starved for beauty and love, and for the fresh air and sunshine of the Italian coast.

Italian Villa - AMc - 2015

Italian Villa – 2015

I watched the movie first, before I read the book, which is what I would recommend.   The movie is from 1992 and while film quality has improved tremendously since then, it is still a lovely period drama, (and if I’m ever reincarnated I want to come back with straight black bobbed hair). 

My Good-reads review:

The Enchanted AprilThe Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this book, but I had watched the movie first. A timeless tale with a lovely story line and such vivid descriptions of flowers, gardens and beautiful countryside that you almost felt like you were there.
I ordered the book because it is one of those timeless classics you simply have to own.   It was a bestseller in it’s day, 1923, and was based on a month long trip the author, Elizabeth von Arnim, made with her husband to the village of Portofino, Italy, which soon became a famous tourist destination because of the success of the book.  They stayed at the Castello Brown, (now a museum), which is where the movie was filmed seventy years later.

It’s such a charming story, that it might inspire you to grab three of your girlfriends and go off on your own Italian adventure.   Who wouldn’t want to live la dolce vita?

Tuscan Villa - AMc - 2015

Tuscan Villa –  2015

Of course in the book the villa came complete with all the necessary servants, so hiring a chef to do the cooking would be the sensible thing to do.  (You could invite Amal for tea, she’s British and may be in need of a cuppa and a break from the bambinos).   Isn’t that part of the attraction of period pieces, there was always someone to prepare the meals, wash the dishes, care for the children…..and look after the garden.

It’s not surprising that there were such lovely descriptions of the flowers and grounds in the book, as the author’s first bestseller was Elizabeth and Her German Garden in 1898.   I have not read that one yet, as I plan on reading it outside on the deck whenever it gets warm enough, as inspiration for gardening season.   But I did read her book, The Solitary Summer, last summer which I enjoyed also, which concerned her need for solitude and beauty in the countryside with her April, May and June babies.  Her first best seller was published anonymously, and the subsequent ones as by the author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden.   Because these books are old and often out of print they are best ordered online.

Perhaps there is something about being in such a lovely setting that inspires love.  In the book their husbands became more appreciative, although no one runs off and has an affair, (it was a more decorous time), well only the single one.    I remember reading once in a book on Italy about a medical condition called, Stendhal’s Syndrome, which is an emotional reaction to too much loveliness.   A handful of tourists are treated for this every year in Florence, having been overwhelmed by an excess of beauty.    Finally a medical condition we can all aspire too!   Of course we don’t have to go to Italy to experience beauty in our lives – it is all around us, we just have to pay attention.   Is it possible to surround yourself with an excess of loveliness, especially in a world which so often seems full of evil, hate, and ugliness?   Perhaps not, but  it is an admirable goal to  choose to focus on what is lovely in the world, and so much better for your health!   Buona giornata!

Quote of the Day:   “It is their manners as a whole, their natural ways, bonhomie, the great art of being happy which is here practiced with this added charm, that the good people do not know that it is an art, the most difficult of all.”  (Stendhal on Italy)

Song of the Day:  April Love by Pat Boone

Postscript:   This week I received a copy of Frances Mayes newly released novel, Women in Sunlight, which sounds like it could be a remake of Enchanted April, albeit with older characters.  Certainly, the writer of Under the Tuscan Sun is well qualified to write about Italy, but I will reserve judgement until after I have read it.  

The French Touch

Paris Victoria and Journal

We cannot always have Paris, but we can all have a touch of Paris in our homes.   I was surprised when I looked around my humble maison, (which more resembles a B&B), how much of a French influence I have in my surroundings, but they are small touches, understated, like the French themselves, where less is more.    The French way of life is one of order, elegance, proper routine and a good dose of perfectionism – of course this might just be a myth perpetuated by smug French women!    (The Victoria magazine cover Oct 2000 is just so French – I collect the back issues and the annual French edition is always inspiring.  This years French edition is in May/June).

Victoria Magazine French Edition

Victoria – May/June 2018 French Edition

A favorite flea market sign from Winners, in my front hallway.  (Note B&B wallpaper as I have not finished renovating the house yet, although the outside is done, but I don’t mind the wallpaper so it may have to stay).Paris Flea Market

My first and only attempt at stenciling hangs in the dining room, (don’t look too close, you really have to glue those stencils on well). Paris Sign

Who doesn’t love lavender.   I have lavender everywhere, in bowls, sachets, vases, soap….

 

Paris hatboxes and journals….

 

A special Renoir journal for jotting down blog ideas.

 

A silk scarf a friend brought me back from Paris many years ago, in my favorite color blue. Paris

And of course no aspiring Parisian would be complete without a navy striped boat neck sweater, (and some red lipstick).Paris striped shirt

HappyHauteHome, (check out her elegant blog on the modern French country home) posted about a French provincial home for sale, which looks like my dream house, but until I win the lottery, I will just have to be content with my petite accents.    To be French is an attitude, a state of mind, oui?

What blog would be complete without une recommandation de livre.

The French way of life is a call to pay attention, an appreciation of all matters large and small, including food, which is to be savored without guilt or worry.   I can smell those fresh baguettes already.    French Women Don’t Get Fat.

French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for PleasureFrench Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enjoyable read, this book certainly provided a different way of looking at eating, for pleasure and without guilt about calories or cholesterol. I think I’ll go for a long walk to the boulangerie….like the French do!

After reading so much about their chocolat chaud, I decided to try making my own.   I added four squares of Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate (but any good dark chocolate would do), to a bit of water and microwaved it well until it melted into a nice chocolatey gooey mess, then a few teaspoons of sugar and the milk, and microwaved it again until hot.  Um….like drinking a chocolate bar.   Maybe best to add  only add two squares……  

My only venture into French cooking was a failed attempt at beef bourguignon which I ruined by using a cheap red burgundy, despite the advice of the LCBO clerk that I should trade up to a better vintage.  She was adamant, I did not listen.   I hadn’t shopped at the liquor store for years (other than an annual trek at Christmas to buy rum for the pudding), and was horrified by the wine prices, when I only needed a cup and a half?    The best that could be said for it was that it was edible….if you were very hungry and very poor like Hemingway in his early days.

One day while shopping at a very expensive bakery ($55 for a birthday cake – let them eat Betty Crocker!), I spied a lovely tray of pastel macarons, and even though they were $2.50 per cookie I decided to splurge – totally tasteless.    If this is what Proust was going on about with his French madeleines, I think I’ll pass. The best part of the cookie by far was the turquoise color.   It’s good to try new things sometimes, if only to find out what you don’t like.   I do like crepes though, my favorite tea shop used to offer an excellent chicken and mushroom crepe until they closed due to a rent increase.   On my farewell visit I asked the owner for the recipe, and she said just make a basic roux, so I did, but my roux was thick and pasty from too much floor.   Julia Child I am not, so I will need to try again as I do miss the tea shop.  We have no need to fear the cream filled calories of France however, as gardening season will soon be here and now that spring has sprung, we can walk it off.     Next week we will be in Italy, along the coast, bring sunscreen.   Until then enjoy the spring flowers.

Muguet du bois,

Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley

 

 

 

 

April in Paris – Part Two

Paris – the City of Love.  How many romantic movies begin and end there, complete with visions of strolling along the Seine beneath the chestnut trees with our amour.  Continuing our Parisian theme (see April in Paris – Part One) with some bibliotherapy for the Francophile may I present a book that is simply enchante.     A Paris Year – by Janice MacLeod      (My Good-reads review below)

A Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the WorldA Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World by Janice Macleod

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Janice MacLeod’s first book, Paris Letters, chronicled her Paris adventures after she quit her job, sold everything she owned and moved to the City of Light.   This sequel, A Paris Year, is more like a personal journal of her year there, full of photos and illustrations, (she is a watercolor artist).   The cover alone is gorgeous, and the pages are a visual treat.  While there, she acquired a French husband who just nodded when she told him she was making a pretty book about Paris, and that’s exactly what it is. Should be required reading for anyone contemplating a trip to Paris, so they know what to expect, and for the rest of us who only dream.  A charming, thoroughly enjoyable book.

I noticed this book in the bookstore because of it’s beautiful cover, (one of the author’s watercolor paintings),

A Paris Year - Janice MacLeod
A Paris Year – Janice MacLeod

but at $35 Cdn plus tax, decided to order it through the library instead, but I enjoyed it so much I bought it.  Although I had read her earlier book Paris Letters it didn’t grab my attention the way this one did.  Perhaps because I thought the ending was too pat, in a we-must-have-a-happy-ending for the book way (there is a wedding picture of her and her French husband on the last page), but then I felt the same way about Eat Pray Love, and look how that turned out, despite a subsequent book on staying Committed.   It is wise to be skeptical of a relationship where two people don’t speak the same language and don’t seem to have anything in common (ah yes, but love is not always wise, and as in the song says, is for the very young), but frankly as an older more cynical person I was worried about her.   An exception would be Colin Firth in Love Actually, who learned Portuguese so he could communicate with his new love, but I think we might all learn The King’s Speech if Colin Firth was involved.   There is an admirable degree of bravery in wanting a different life and doing something about it, but when you are older you realize there doesn’t always have to be a guy at the end for it to be  a happy ending.   Just once I would like one of these memoir travel type books to end with the author just sitting Under the Tuscan sun, gazing contentedly at the gorgeous view…..and if the gorgeous view happened to include your own Colin Firth that would be okay too!   (I think I shall write it myself – “Our middle-aged (but well preserved due to French beauty secret), heroine-in-waiting is sitting on the terrace of her French villa on a soft summer evening, a glass of chilled Chablis in hand, contemplating the calming rows of lavender waving in the evening breeze and thinking how lucky she is to be here in the lovely light of Provence…. 

Provence Lavender Farm - AMC - 2017
Provence Lavender Farm – 2017

…when suddenly she observes a man walking up the lane.”   The End.  

Is it a) a lost tourist  b) the vin delivery garcon  c) a uniformed police detective or d) Mr. Darcy.    The answer is e) all of the above.   Stay tuned for the sequel, Murder in Provence, wherein our lovely heroine meets Inspector Darcie LeDuc, who is investigating a series of murders involving art thieves, wine merchants and lost tourists, with plenty of dead bodies sprinkled in the lavender fields and vineyards.  Will she be next?)      

But I digress (badly), enough about fairy tale endings, forever after and just for the moment.   I am glad it all worked out for them because they are now living in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  (link to her website Paris Letters Press)  She has a very nice website and also paints and writes a monthly personal letter on Paris which she sends out via snail mail, a business which enabled her to finance her stay there.   In the About section she says her first book was about her move to Paris, but her second is about being an artist in Paris, which is one of the reasons I liked it so much.   It was just like being there – there were lots of photographs and quirky journal entries about her cafe observations and day to day life in the city.   Plus her paintings were charming, but then I am partial to watercolors.    

A Paris Year - Janice MacLeod

A page from A Paris Year – Janice MacLeod

 It is a lovely book visually speaking, an illustrated journal on good quality paper with a beautiful cover, in the same vein as the Susan Branch books on Martha’s Vineyard and England.  (if you are not familiar with Susan Branch check her out, her blogs are so inspirational and she is currently blogging on her trip to Cornwall and England).   I suspect that type of book, which is basically a hard cover blog, is expensive for a publishing company to produce which could be why Susan Branch now publishes her own.    Anyway, both are good reads for armchair travelers.

I split this blog into two, because someone told me my blogs are too long, and the April Love section seemed like it deserved it’s own topic.   Does anyone remember the fragrance, Evening in Paris?   One of the most popular fragrances in the fifties,  it was a light floral fragrance in a blue cobalt bottle (you can still find some of the bottles on e-bay), evoking images of l’heure bleue in the city of love.   I have a visual image of my mother wearing her Jackie Kennedy-like sapphire blue dress and beads, dabbing perfume behind her ears, and then bending down to give us red lipstick kisses on our arms, on the rare occasions she went out in the evening.   Somehow spraying perfume doesn’t have the same degree of glamour.   Last year while cleaning out my mother’s house I came across a bottle of French perfume stashed below the bathroom sink.

Vintage French Perfume

Vintage French Perfume – Chat Noir

My mother says it was a gift from my father in the early years of their marriage, which would make it over 60 years old.   When I opened it, it still had the sweet smell she remembered, as it had been kept in a cloth bag, in a dark spot, the way you should store expensive perfume.  A perfume can evoke an era, a love story, a moment in time.   It reminded me of Bogie’s promise to Bacall, we’ll always have Paris.   Here’s to romance – may you always have a small piece of Paris in your heart to reminisce about on starry nights.  

Van Gogh Sketchbook

Postscript:   In my university days I wore Je Reviens, and later in my 20’s and 30’s Ombre Rose, then I mostly abandoned perfume because so many places, work and social, have no-scent laws now.   My bottle of Ombre Rose from three years ago is still half full.   Do you wear perfume, and do you have a favorite scent, or a scent that reminds you of a certain time in your life? 

April in Paris – Part One

Move to Paris…..learn French….write a book.   Who hasn’t had that dream someday. Even if we can’t go there ourselves, we can still read about other people’s trips in the delightful little book, A Paris All Your Own.    My Good-reads review below.

A Paris All Your Own: Bestselling Women Writers on the City of LightA Paris All Your Own: Bestselling Women Writers on the City of Light by Eleanor Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an engaging little book of essays about Paris by women writers who have been there, mostly to research their Paris-based books, and like the title says, each one has their own story, some good, some bad, but all are different. I appreciated the honesty of those who said they didn’t enjoy Paris all that much, as it has always been a dream destination of mine and now I don’t feel quite so bad about what I am missing. Expectations are best kept realistic to avoid disappointment…but can anything ever live up to the romantic promise of Paris? I particularly enjoyed the biographies at the end of each section, as I picked up some new authors and books to explore, and their advice on what to see and what to skip will be valuable if I ever do get there some day.

While I was familiar with some of the authors in this book, for example Paula McLean of The Paris Wife, (a novel about Hadley Hemingway), there are some new ones I can add to my to-read list.   I appreciated their candor – while most enjoyed their trips, one went home two weeks early,  one had children who were bored, one’s mother-daughter trip didn’t quite turn out as planned, another just wanted to be left alone to write and declined all invitations to socialize in her writer’s residence.   I could sympathize with that, when you are in the flow you hate interruptions even if the distraction is Paris!  (If Hemingway had done more writing and less socializing he might have kept his first wife).  One writer mentioned that April is not the best month to visit Paris.  It rains a lot, she said, May is better, but the chestnut trees are out in April and then there is that song.

I cannot travel at the moment, and my French is abysmal.   Although Canada is a bilingual country, (we have two official languages so everything is written in both), the reality is most people outside of the province of Quebec do not speak it, and Quebecois french is different than Paris french.   My french is limited to the back of the cereal box.   My education consisted of twenty minutes of french twice a week in grades 7 & 8, mostly concerning the Leduc family – Madame and Monsieur LeDuc and their enfant terrible, Henri.  I recall they were always scolding their chien, so I would know to be careful when walking in the streets, (non chien scooping laws).   They seemed to eat plenty of gateau, so I could probably navigate my way around a confectionaire/pâtisserie too.   My accent was horrible so I abandoned la LeDuc famille in high school as soon as I could.  Today if you want your child to learn french you send them to a french immersion ecole, a much more sensible method. 

While I have no dreams of being Hemingway, I would like to visit Shakespeare & Company as bookstores are my thing, and that stationary store (Melodies Graphiques) mentioned in the book sounds divine too, a whole store devoted to paper and pens and different colored inks.   Some day I hope to visit Paris, and see all the famous paintings, eat bread, take a boat trip along the Seine and visit Monet’s garden.    One of the things about my mother’s late-in-life art career is she is too old to travel and see all the art museums.   You should do your traveling when you are young and poor like Hemingway.   (Quote: “There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.”)   Then later you can write your memoirs and become rich and famous, if you are very lucky.    Hemingway

We can’t all be as famous as Hemingway but we can all write a little something, a blog or a journal or a book, (and we don’t have to move to Paris to do it).   I am sure there were times when Hemingway wondered if what he was writing would ever be of interest to anyone, but it is helpful to remember that there is always someone out there reading.   And even if that person is only yourself, you are documenting your life, in the same manner as Janice MacLeod did while in Paris (see Part Two next week).     

One of the nice things about blogging is you can find a blog about anything that interests you anywhere in the world.  In my Word-press travels I have discovered two wonderful blogs on Paris and France.

https://adventuresofananglaise.com/                                                                                                                 an English ex-pat’s blog on her adventures in Paris                                                                            (for armchair travelers to the City of Lights)

https://chomeusewithachou.wordpress.com/                                                                                 unemployed with a cabbage/tot – tales of family life in France                                                 (Jane Austen is reincarnated and living in rural France)                                                            

Au revoir mon cheris….until next week….Part Deux

Song of the Day:  Andrea Bocelli – La Vie en Rose

Quote of the Day:  “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”    (Ernest Hemingway – A Moveable Feast)

Eiffel Tower - AMc - Feb 2018

Eiffel Tower – Feb 2018

Easter Chicks

Spring Fling - AMc - 2016

Spring Fling – 2016

After the earthy tones of winter, we are all craving the colors of spring.   Pretty pastels, soft greens, yellows, purples and pinks, all the colors of nature when she’s decides to put on her spring fling.   Even though it’s not yet warm enough to sit out on the deck, we can always dream, and decorate with a few Easter egg touches until mother nature agrees to cooperate.   Never fear, this blog is mostly pretty pictures.   (There may be cake at the end.)

Paperwhites, started in January, can be an early reminder of spring and it is wonderful to come home to such a heavenly smell.   Hyacinths are great too.

 

I forgot to buy Paperwhites this year, so I made do with a new candle in one of my favorite scents, rose water.

Rose and Ivy Candle

Victoria magazine is one of my favorite reads.   I have a collection of old editions in the basement and like to browse through them for seasonal decorating ideas.   For those weary of winter and in search of an early dose of spring the new 2018 March/April edition is a feast of gorgeous color.   Victoria Spring 2018

Victoria Daffodils

I found this garden gate table decor at Winner’s a few years ago and thought it might make a nice centerpiece, with some daffodils in the middle.

 

Also found this cute little guy to put inside one of my indoor bird cages.

Baby Bird

I saw my first robin yesterday, but he was camera shy and got away before I could point and shoot.  They will soon be getting plump and fat, and preparing their nests.   This is a well behaved bird, who chose her birthing bed wisely, a sturdy tree with lots of supporting branches.Robin in nest

This is a badly behaved bird who chose her nesting place just to annoy me.    morning dove Apparently morning doves mate for life, and these two lovebirds have insisted for years upon building their nest on my front light fixture, so I have just resigned myself to never ever getting new light fixtures because what would be the point.

Morning Doves

Mr & Mrs. Lovebird

They are very efficient creatures who can assemble a home in a day, and often the nest is built and the eggs laid before I even realize it, and then I don’t have the heart to do anything.   But last year I was ahead of the game and brushed the twigs off before they could get a head start.    After a few days of this build and toss tussle, they finally gave up and went elsewhere, but then I felt guilty.   I had destroyed their home, when they were just trying to feather their nest, the same as I do.   This year I am hoping we can co-exist somewhat peacefully, except they do tend to coo a lot, which is annoying so early in the morning.

The crocus usually pop up where ever ever they feel like it, sometimes in the middle of a bush, seldom where I planted them.  There must be a secret underground passage for wayward bulbs.  My elderly more sensible crocuses are still hiding under the lavender but these younger braver souls are blooming in front of the library. Crocus

These pretty blue flowers are one of the first signs of spring, but spring has been very late this year so this is a picture from last year.   It’s not my yard but I wish I could get them to populate on my grass.

blue flowers and forsythia

The annual trek to buy the windup Easter chicks…..they break after a few hours but what little one doesn’t love them.

Easter Chicks

My mother always had an Easter lily on the farm, and coming home after church for our family dinner of ham and scalloped potatoes is associated with the smell of the lily on the kitchen counter near the sink.  (Perhaps I remember it so well because of the two hours spent washing dishes by hand pre-dishwasher days!)

Easter Lily

Can you smell it?

Traditionally, we would either have a cherry cheesecake for desert or coconut angel food cake or a pineapple upside down cake.   This year I made a pineapple upside down cake, using the recipe from her old Purity Flour cookbook.   Sprinkle brown sugar (I like lots), in the bottom of a well buttered cake pan, lay out the pineapple slices and pour the cake batter on top – voila, a fast and easy desert.

 

I nixed the cherries though because of the red dye, (we didn’t worry about such things back then), although they do make a festive touch.  You could try strawberries perhaps?    If you haven’t time for that, President’s Choice makes a perfectly acceptable frozen cake in individual portions.  (Note PC is a Canadian brand.)

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

PC Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Although we can’t bring our spring clothes out just yet, I have noticed the weather girl on my local tv station has switched from her winter scarfs to her spring ones. Spring scarf If I had such a vast collection of colorful artfully tied scarves I’m sure I could learn to love inclement weather too.   I am sure there must be a stylist on set to drape all those scarves just so……the art of the scarf might be a French technique? She is predicting possible snow flurries for Easter tomorrow, so I hope the bunny bundles up.

Happy Easter!  May the Easter bunny bring lots of chocolat français.

The Easter Bunny

 

Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge – Day Three

The grande finale.    I would like to thank Chomeuse with a Chou for nominating me for this challenging literary exercise.   (see Days One and Two for previous quotes and some shameless PR).   What to chose?  My mind is abuzz with numerous quotes, I cannot chose just one.   It is so distressing.   (“I will be calm – I will be mistress of myself.” – Elinor Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility).   I fear we must set dear Jane aside, lest the other literary greats feel neglected.   I am waffling between Henry James and Edna St. Vincent Millay and as they both involve better weather than what we are currently having (snow flurries for Easter), they may prove inspirational as well.  Yellow Flowers

Quote:  “I will be the gladdest thing under the sun.  I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.”   (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

I picked this cheerful quote because it’s been a long cold snowy winter, but spring and gardening season are on the way, and won’t we all feel better with some sun and May flowers.

20180326_145812 (2)

And after spring, comes summer….and the beach and beach reading.

Quote:  “Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”  (Henry James)

Sailboat

Here are the Rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you

2. Post a quote for three consecutive days (1 quote for each day).

3. Nominate three bloggers each day.

My nominees are:

https://westandbesideyou.wordpress.com/

https://www.unfoldandbegin.com/

https://sophiexli.wordpress.com/

If anyone else who is reading this would like to participate, please feel free to join in and share!

If you are burning the candle at both ends like Edna and are pressed for time that’s okay.    I acknowledge some people are not fans of awards, but this one is a fun and easy post…..if you like quotes that is!    As Jane said, “one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.” (Emma)

 

 

Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge – Day Two

Thanks to Chomeuse with a Chou for nominating me.   (translation Unemployed with a Cabbage/wee tot – check out her humorous blog for tales of family life in rural France).   I’m happy to be nominated as quotes are one of my favorite things, and I always try to sneak a quote into my weekly blog if I can find one which suits the theme.  (see Shakespeare quote on last week’s insomnia blog Counting Sheep).  I was thrilled to find an old copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations at a book sale in January (see blog In Praise of Second Hand Books), because even though you can find quotes online, it’s nice to just browse and see what interests you.  I could waste hours researching quotes and have a pretty journal for recording ones I might like to use in the future. Monet notebook

Of course, my favorite Quotess is Jane Austen, so I started with her on Day One and also for today’s quote.  (plus recycling yesterday’s blog saves time as I am far behind, between taking the computer in to be repaired, figuring out my new Instant Pot pressure cooker, getting ready for Easter and pruning all the rose bushes today in case spring ever arrives.)   Our dear Jane has so many famous quotes that there are entire books devoted to her wit and wisdom,Jane Austen Bookso it is difficult to select just one.    I wrote a blog for Valentine’s Day, An Interview with Jane Austen, based solely on her quotes, and had great fun doing it, and spent more hours than I care to admit.   (This is a great idea – I can put in a plug for all my poor posts, past and future who would like more attention.)

Quote: “If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”   (Northanger Abbey) 

I love this quote because it speaks of the importance of travel to broaden your horizons and your outlook on life.  I wish I had traveled more when I was younger and had the energy.    It was a tossup between that quote and one by Hemingway, because I will be blogging next week on some literary adventures in April in Paris.

Quote of the Day:  “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”    (Ernest Hemingway – A Moveable Feast)

Here are the Rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you

2. Post a quote for three consecutive days (1 quote for each day).

3. Nominate three bloggers each day.

My nominees are:

https://anhistorianabouttown.com/

(because she is a Jane Austen fan too)

https://lynnvanlier.wordpress.com/

(because she helped me out with the hissing Instant Pot Monster)

https://writtenintheinkblog.wordpress.com/

(because she has lots of quotes on her site)

If anyone else who is reading this would like to participate, please feel free to let me know or just join in and share!

If you are pressed for time and would rather condense your three quotes into one post, that’s okay too.    I acknowledge some people are not fans of awards, but this one is a fun and easy post…..if you like quotes that is!    As Jane said, “one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.” (Emma)