Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Paris in July 2019 - Un Appartement sous le Toit

During our visit to Paris in the summer of 2014 we stayed in an apartment in Rue Molière just off Avenue de l'Opéra. It was a typical old building where you first had to go into an inner courtyard before entering the house.

Our apartment was right beneath the roof which meant climbing stairs - many stairs. You're asking for an elevator? Are you kidding?

But once we reached our apartment we entered a charming little realm.

The couple from whom we rented this apartment lives here in the "slow" season, but during the busy late spring, summer and early fall they are living on a boat on the Seine. They were both artists and the apartment was filled with their art.

The entrance was full with book shelves loaded with books and paintings. From here we directly came into the living/dining room.

At the far end of the dining section was a tiny kitchen.

A very steep staircase - more like a ladder - led up to the two sleeping areas.

This is the view from the top of the ladder. It was wise to be very careful and not just half awake.

The "door" to the bathroom (off the living room) ...

... and - tada - the bathroom!

Even though we were living in the middle of Paris it was very quiet. The view out of the windows in the roof wasn't spectacular, but very Paris.

This is my last post for Tamara's Paris in July on her blog Thyme for Tea. It was fun to participate and re-visit all those memories.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

One Hundred Days in My Garden

You all know that I love my garden. Hardly a day goes by that I don't find something exciting or beautiful and worth photographing. Especially in the exciting months from April to about October when the garden is changing constantly I love to be out documenting all the happenings.

So when the annual #The100DayProject came up with people committing to 100 days of exploring their creativity I decided I'm exploring the ways to take photos of the exciting things happening in my garden. I thought it would be easy to find something worth to show every day.

Well, I started out with - missing the starting day! Somehow I had it in my head that the challenge would start on April 6th, but when I saw pictures with the appropriate hashtag turning up on Instagram I realized I had it all wrong - the challenge had already started on April 2nd. Oh well, so I was just trundling a few days behind. Who cares anyway?

We had a very rainy April which resulted in a lot of grey photos with raindrops on plants. But the moment the weather became warmer and there was less rain the garden exploded. It's been a while since it had been that well soaked and it sure showed. Everything in the garden was just spectacular (the weeds as well...).

I included garden decor as well since there are a few objects in my garden that I simply love. This little angel that no one wanted because he has a broken toe has found his home sitting on some driftwood among the yarrow and fernleaf lavender.

Another angel is talking to a bird - angels and birds are good company!

This year I had a lot of poppies in my garden again. I used to have almost a meadow at the beginning of creating my garden, but then pulled the poppies before they could go to seed in order to reduce the number of them. However, in that following year I missed their happy colors, so I let those that were still there go to seed again. This year was exactly the right balance!

At the end of May the front garden looked like this:

There weren't only flowers - I also planted vegetables and herbs. This is the flower of chive.

I discovered butterflies and caterpillars; the bees are buzzing around like crazy; all kinds of beneficial bugs are hanging out in the flowers; and of course many birds come here as well.

For the first time my Rudbeckia "Indian Summer" turned out to be spectacular. All the years before they didn't do very well and I always felt like I'm an excellent Rudbeckia-killer.

I have to admit that on some days I ran out of steam - one evening when I still hadn't posted anything I actually took a picture of the glass of wine I was drinking while sitting out in the garden. Well, it was one of those 100 days in my garden, wasn't it?

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Paris in July 2019 - La Vie Douce

After my last Paris in July post was all about street cafés, it's only natural that this post features those sweet delights we can't live without.

The French seem to love the "sweet life" - just look at their delicious desserts like profiteroles, mousse au chocolat, crème brûlée and crème caramel. Or just take a step into one of the many Pâtisseries.

Éclairs, Milles-feuilles, des gâteaux et tartes... a true paradise for everybody with a sweet tooth (or several...)

Aren't these mouthwatering?

Many love macarons like the ones in the top photo. They are available in so many colors, but if they are called "a Sunday in Paris" they have to have sprinkles.

I'm not sure what the sweets in the next image are. I saw them in the window of a very elegant shop in Le Marais, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris. There were no signs with prices, so I assume they weren't what I would call "affordable".

Of course you can get ice cream in Paris - how can you not? The selection is huge as you can see here on the board of Berthillon at its store on the Île Saint-Louis.

However, while Berthillon ice cream is super delicious, you can get good ice cream and sorbet almost everywhere in Paris. Enjoy!

I'm joining the Paris in July blog event at Tamara's Thyme for Tea.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Lavender Fields Forever

Nestled in the middle of our beautiful wine country a purple field puts a break on the green of the growing vines. That is, until the lavender is being harvested which usually happens by the middle of July. This year the harvest happened a little bit later and I got lucky to see the lavender gardens at Matanzas Creek Winery in full bloom.

The first view coming down from the parking lot is stunning, and if you want you can actually stop here and take it all in. Wouldn't it be wonderful to just hang out in these chairs, perhaps with a glass of wine?

But it's the lavender that I want to see and so I follow its call down into the gardens.

The lavender gardens have been here since 1991. Originally, a two acre lawn occupied this area - but dry California and lawn doesn't really go together. Lawns are a water sucker, and water is something we don't have in abundance where we live. When you make wine you need the water for that process, but when that water is not available, something has to go - in this case the lawn. Instead, drought tolerant lavender went in and it has become a beautiful and wonderfully scented magnet; plus its harvest fits perfectly into the wine making cycle since lavender is harvested long before the busy grape harvest starts. These two seem to be made for each other.

The lavender is hand-cut at full bloom for use in culinary, bath, body and home products. Can't you just smell it by looking at these stems?

Of the many varieties, only Provence and Grosso Lavender are grown here. Provence Lavender is stronger scented and has a deeper color whereas the Grosso Lavender is for culinary purposes. You can see the two different kinds here - the darker, purple one being the Provence Lavender and the lighter, bluer one the Grosso Lavender.

As you can see they grow more Provence Lavender than Grosso. And there's a lot here that reminds me of Provence. This house for example, that sits above the winery:

These two images certainly remind me of Provence a lot:

Did you know that lavender has been used for over 2000 years? The Egyptians used it in their mummification process and they also perfumed their skin with it. The Romans used it for cooking and added it to the water used for bathing (ah, those Roman baths!). Growing Lavender commercially started in the Victorian area with Queen Victoria's interest and passion for lavender, that was quickly followed suit by English ladies who scented themselves and anything else possible. There was a constant demand for lavender and this demand started the history of the English Lavender, that is botanically called Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis.

I love this combination of the Hot Poker's orange and the lavender's purple

In modern times, lavender was re-discovered by René Gatefosse, a French chemist who was one of the founders of aromatherapy. He accidentally burned himself in his lab and immediately immersed his arm into the sweet essential oil of lavender and noted the quick healing.  The oil was also used in World War I as a wound dressing for injured soldiers.

Next to the gardens is this interesting fountain that was highly attractive to the birds. Just watch these tiny hummingbirds, they are having a blast.

Last year I missed the lavender bloom because I was in Turkey and Ireland around that time. I'm very happy that I was able to enjoy it this summer.