Paris’ Village on a Hill

Farmguy and Farmgirl standing in front of Le mur des je t’aime or the I Love You Wall in Montmartre Paris, France   A while ago, Farmguy and I spent several days in Paris.  We decided to include a walking tour of Montmartre, or the “neighborhood on the hill,” which is in the 18th Arrondissement.  Our first stop was the I Love You Wall, a love-themed 40 square meters (430 sq ft) wall in the Jehan Rictus garden square.  The wall was created in 2000 by calligraphist Fédéric Baron and mural artist Claire Kito and is composed of 612 tiles of enameled lava, on which the phrase “I love you” is featured 311 times in 250 languages.  The red splashes on the wall symbolize parts of a broken heart. A few of the must sees in the area include the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, the vineyards, and the Montmartre museum.  However, it’s also worth the time to explore the charming streets and quaint village atmosphere that Montmartre offers. The 18th is a delightful mixture of lovely old houses and a place to discover farmers’ markets, small art galleries, and bistros.  In the area of Rue Poulet toward Sacré Cœur, away from the tourists and busyness, you’ll see the quintessential Paris referred to as “the village.”  It was home to many families as well as intellectuals and artists (Claude Monet, Amedeo Modigliani, Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, August Renoir, Henri […]

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Still Looking Up….

       UNDERSTANDING                   GOODWILL   PEACEFULNESS            COMPASSION                           UNITY   FORGIVENESS                  FAIRNESS                       HUMANITY  FAITH          EMPATHY                                GOODNESS                 PATIENCE            FRIENDSHIP                  BROTHERHOOD PERSEVERANCE                 EQUALITY    COMMON SENSE                   HISTORY                DIALOGUE JUSTICE                         HARMONY              CITIZENSHIP               DILIGENCE COMMUNICATION                    GRACE  RESPECT                          LOVE     TRUST  COURAGE         KINDNESS          DECENCY    TOLERANCE  

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Force of Nature

  A few weeks ago, I decided to coax cuttings of a flowering cherry tree into an early performance in order to speed up spring. Persuading plants to flower out of season is known as forcing.  You can either trim branches from your yard or buy them from a florist.  There are a number of flowering trees and shrubs that you can choose for your trimmings.  I have a flowering cherry tree in my front yard.  So, that’s what I used. However, flowering dogwood, redbud, flowering dogwood, saucer magnolia, flowering quince, or forsythia work well, too. Here are a few tips to keep in mind: 1.  Prune on a mild, late-winter day.  Branches are more pliable when temperatures are above freezing.  Most spring bloomers form flower buds on the previous season’s growth. 2.  Look for crowded branches that are no more than 1/2 inch in diameter, with numerous round, plump flower buds.  Thinning is okay. 3.  Place branches in fairly hot tap water, and recut at an angle.  Next, place in a bucket of water with floral preservative.  Store in a cool, dimly lit area like a porch or garage to ease the transition indoors. 4.  When buds begin to swell, bring branches indoors.  Set arrangements in a bright area away from direct sunlight and heating vents.  Change water daily. 5.  Celebrate spring early!  After all, you just fooled Mother Nature.    

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Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

     I think someone once said that life is supposed to be challenging. Well, yes, the statement is true enough.  But, somehow, many of us believe that things should go smoothly a good part of the time.  Most of us work towards this end, and we count on it.  Then, when life goes awry, we’re upset, angry, and disappointed.  We dread challenges and vexation.  I’ll be the first to admit that I work very hard to keep my life on course. I’m an “all your ducks in a row” kinda girl.  I follow the rules, keep my word, and act decently–treating others as I would like to be treated.  I basically over-analyze most situations, teasing out the pros and cons before making a decision.  However, despite my good intentions and best efforts, challenging stuff still happens.      Maybe, if we modified our view of challenging circumstances as a normal part of life, we wouldn’t be so surprised and upset when they occurred.  Also, what if we stopped interpreting the stuff that happens as positive or negative.  It’s happening, let’s try to accept it, and move through it.  You know, let’s stop judging the stuff.  Of course, this is easier said than done.  On the surface, some stuff looks pretty negative–even devastating at times. Which brings me to a quote by Elizabeth Gilbert that I absolutely love:  “Ruin is a gift.  Ruin is the road to transformation.” What if the […]

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Got Merlot?

  Farmgirl in Saint Émilion (right bank of Bordeaux) November 2016   “You had me at hello.” A line made famous by Dorothy Boyd, the love interest in the film “Jerry Maguire.” However, if Dorothy had been a sommelier, she may have said, “You had me at Merlot.” And, with good reason. Merlot, French for little blackbird because of its very dark fruit, is naturally versatile, acclimating to different climate zones and soil compositions, which, over time, have made it the second most planted red grape on the planet, behind its brother from Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot can be big and rich, but also fruity and soft, without being overly high in acids or tannins. These characteristics make Merlot an elegant and easy choice to drink as well as pair with food. If that doesn’t spark your interest in Merlot, maybe this will.  You know all those famous red wines from Bordeaux? Wines that are considered some of the best in the world?  Well, they’re all blended with Merlot.  And, many are mostly Merlot—especially, on the right bank of the Gironde estuary in the Bordeaux appellation, where it’s the law that Merlot has to be the predominant grape.  Of course, the most famous Merlot wine is undoubtedly Pétrus (100% Merlot) from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux.  This highly collectable wine can fetch several thousand dollars, depending on its vintage. You may not be as familiar with Merlot’s positive attributes, especially post “Sideways”—a 2004 film […]

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Got Tenacity?

  This sunflower inspires me.  I’ve planted these cheerful blooms in my garden a number of times, and they haven’t come up—maybe, because the birds ate the seeds.  I really don’t know. But, two summers ago, this little sunflower sprung up in the backyard of its own volition.  It didn’t just grow….it thrived.  To my surprise and joy, it bloomed and bloomed and bloomed…all summer.  This eager little flower, in its simplicity and loveliness, grew into a flourishing plant.  And, it accomplished this feat despite a lack of proper planting, no fertilizer, and without consistent watering.  I admire this sunflower for what it symbolizes to me:  determination, perseverance, and tenacity.   “Tenacity”   by Tonya R. Hengerer   Tireless Effort to resist Negative thinking And overcome difficulties, while summoning Courage In spite of Tough times—never Yielding.     “Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” ~James A. Michener   “If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” ~H.G. Wells

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All That Sparkles

I absolutely love fizzy and sparkling wines!  And, since New Year’s Eve celebrations are fast approaching, I thought it may be fun and helpful to share some information about Champagne and sparkling wines. Champagne: First, all that sparkles isn’t Champagne.  Sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it’s from the Champagne region of France and made in the traditional method (méthode champenoise). The traditional method is a labor intensive, multi-step process (two fermentations) that contributes to the expense.  Champagne can be made from three grapes:  chardonnay and red-skinned pinot noir and pinot meunier.  Sometimes the label will use the terms “blanc de blancs” meaning the wine was made from white grapes, or “blanc de noirs” indicating that the Champagne is a white wine made from the dark pinot noir and pinot meunier varieties. There are also different levels of dryness/sweetness in Champagne: Brut Nature/Brut Zero:  Bone dry.  No residual sugar. Extra Brut:  very dry Brut: very dry to dry Extra-Sec or Extra Dry:  off-dry to medium dry Sec:  medium dry Demi-Sec:  sweet Doux:  super sweet *Special note:  More Champagne houses from France are opening vineyards in California: Roederer Estate (by Champagne Louis Roederer), Domaine Chandon (by Moët & Chandon), Mumm Napa (by G.H. Mumm), and Domaine Carneros (by Taittinger) are a few of the French producers in California. Sparkling Wines: Crémant:  French sparkling wine that is made outside of the Champagne region in France but produced using the traditional […]

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