“The sun will not rise or set without my notice, and thanks.” ~ Winslow Homer
Photo by, VonShawn
“Always take the time to be completely present, because it is perhaps the best and most joyous way to keep your mind sharp and your life bright.” ~ Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Good Sunday morning, dear friends. I hope this finds you under blue skies and enjoying sweet moments with those you love.
While I have been savoring my much-needed reprieve, I want you to know how much I have missed you. Many of you I know personally and others are virtual. But to me, I treasure you both. Additionally, I want to thank those who have sent me personal messages expressing your sentiments and wishing me an enjoyable and peaceful time away from my blog. Precious moments doing the things I enjoy.
Rest and relaxation is a lovely gift, one should give themselves from time to time. However, it inevitably seems to fall at the bottom of my list and it should not. When we are rested and relaxed, we notice and pay attention to the beauty that surrounds us. Our garden, for example, has been especially lovely this year. The sights, sounds, and scents are truly mesmerizing. I might not have noticed the many small breathtaking details and intricacies if I were weary and not paying attention to my beautiful surroundings. However, the garden has not been my only pleasure. On the days when the weather was too warm to happily enjoy the garden, my stack of books, patiently waiting for me, provided marvelous enjoyment.
Nonetheless, writing my blog is a spark of joy I have missed and I hope you have too. My last post was May 22, 2021. Goodness, time does move on.
“Butterflies come to pretty flowers.” ~ Korean Proverb
Two of the sights I adore in our garden are the hydrangeas and the arbor. Scampering up and over the arbor is ‘Peaches and Cream’ honeysuckle. She is a charming and wonderfully fragrant addition to the garden and when she is in bloom (late June), she is exquisite. Another sight I deem lovely is the hydrangeas. I planted them about four or five years ago as an experiment to see how they would thrive in a pot. As you can see, they have done well. Their name is ‘Blue Danube.’ They are pink because I have not added soil acidifiers. It is a risky endeavor to add soil acidifiers to potted hydrangeas. From my reading, there is a fine line between adding too much or too little of this substance. Too much will kill them, too little does them no good. Therefore, I chose to leave them alone and allow their color choice to be their own. The important issue is, they are thriving with the help of their bi-annual feeding of fish emulsion and the great care Mike takes to pull them into the garage for the winter. On warm days he will give them just a wee drink to prevent their roots from drying out.
Please step into the garden. Rex would like to meet you. Rex, our unique Cardinal who is named after one of Mike’s golfing buddies, is a beautiful and always welcomed sight. Hearing his call is music to our ears. Every morning when Mike ventures out to feed him and his friends, he appears and begins his flying about routine. Arriving close by the feeder then initiating his conversation with Mike. Boldly, he flies closer and closer, waiting for Mike to stand back so he can land on the feeder. And, of course, the feeder belongs solely to him. Should you wonder what is hanging above Rex’s head, it is a sock feeder filled with thistle feed for the finches. They find them an irresistible delicacy.
“Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.” ~
Reading is pure joy for me. It is a marvelous thing to read a book that sends me off in other directions. Pointing the way toward people, places, and things I want to know more about. What I am really drawn to are books by authors I almost feel as though I know personally, and especially books that have a connection to places I love. However, I imagine I am no different from anyone who enjoys reading ~ we all have preferences.
I absolutely adore all things, French. Therefore, I am drawn to learning about this country and its people, which seems to have captured my heart for as many years as I can remember. While all of the following books have in some way a connection to France, to me, they are books that bring forth to the reader the great testament of the human spirit in many different ways. Therefore, I am sharing a few with the thought perhaps, you may enjoy them too.
“Lisette’s List,” by Susan Vreeland was for me, not only a lovely read but an informative book as well. It is a story of a young woman and her husband (André) who move from Paris to a small village in Provence to care for her husband’s grandfather. Upon their arrival, they discover that the grandfather (a frame maker) had befriended the great artists, Pissarro and Cézanne, and had traded his frames for their paintings. As World War II broke out, André works to hide these paintings to keep them out of Nazi hands.
This book also discusses the ochre mines (located in this region of France) which I found so interesting. These beautiful pigments were mined, sold, and used to color their homes, both inside and out, as well as a multitude of other uses.
“Saving Mona Lisa” was an amazing story of how a handful of people labored day and night to empty the Louvre of its paintings and ship them off to secure locations, safe from Nazi hands. And, from these locations, paintings were often moved several times before returning home to the Louvre at the end of the war. It is a story of love, intense courage, dedication, and suspense.
I was drawn to this book because I had never read much about either artist, with regard to them personally. In reading, I learned that Van Gogh was a gentle soul and in today’s world his mental health issues could have been easily treated. Thus, allowing him to continue his work as an artist and live a far better life. The book also revealed that Gauguin’s nature was extremely competitive and in a far different way than Van Gogh, he dealt with mental health issues himself. I found the book to be well written and at least I now know a little of the lives and personalities of both men.
Do you ever re-read books? I do. And, I never fail to be surprised as to what I missed on the first reading. For instance, In “My Life In France,” Julia Child refers to the small village of Mougins. Mougins was and continues to be a famous haven for artists. Among many of those famous artists, it was home to Roger Mühl. We fell in love with Mühl’s work several years ago and feel so grateful to own a few of his pieces, which we enjoy daily. Mühl was best known for his light-drenched landscape paintings of the South of France. The remarkable light in his paintings is what drew me to his work. Photos do not begin to capture the light.
“Village,” by Roger Mühl. Painted, 2002.
Also, in this book, Child refers to her favorite restaurant in all of France which happens to be in Mougins. The restaurant is Le Moulin de Mougins. This restaurant remains a lovely attraction today, known for its outstanding food, service, and charm.
There were many other notable ‘takeaways’ from my second reading. Without a doubt, the most is realizing I did not remember reading about Mougins during my first reading. How could that possibly be? Perhaps, I should read it a third time.
“In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection.” ~ Curnonsky
Many of you who know me, know how much I enjoy cooking. I am quite at home in the kitchen and can putter about all day. Cookbooks are my delightful friends, ~ old and new. When I retired and had a little extra time, my love became more of a passion. I wanted to improve my skills, cook new things, and so I did. And, with my love of France, of course, I ventured into French cooking, with Julia as my guide and Mike as my ever-willing taste tester. Julia is all about classic French cooking. According to Julia, this means, “Not trendy, souped-up fantasies, just something very good to eat. . . where the ingredients have been carefully selected and beautifully and knowingly prepared.” During the past few years, I have mastered many of her wonderful recipes. Actually, most are not difficult ~ simply time-consuming. Plus, winter days in West Virginia allow for the necessary time and a brief summer respite does also.
With our garden about to burst, I can’t help bringing out the cookbooks and begin creating something delicious. Especially, since we have just relished a beautiful season of lettuces, green onions, and such. Now, swiss chard is in abundance, peppers of all varieties abound, and the plump, juicy, tomatoes are about to explode. Oh, I must not forget the herbs. Stands of sweet and lemon basil, a full patch of thyme, oregano, parsley, and tarragon about to leap from the pot. And, there are others. Mike’s vegetable garden is an irresistible delight, just waiting to be prepared into a tantalizing culinary feast.
“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.” ~
Grand Caymen Island, B.W.I. ~ 1999
In closing, I will tell you I have also been doing quite a bit of dreaming. My garden bench is a perfect spot for such pursuits. Dreaming of places we have been and places we hope to go. Possibly, you have been doing the same.
So, dear friends, as this day ends and we begin a new week, let us wake up in the morning and see the beauty in the world
and in each other,
encourage others along their path, and count our blessings ~ we have so many.
Wishing you peace, love, and joy.
And. . .
‘A Pleasurable State of Mind.’
“I’m into all that sappy stuff ~ a surprise picnic, nice dinner, or traveling. I’m kind of an old romantic.” ~ Will Estes
Images: Michael S. Lambiotte, Tumblr, and Pinterest.