Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Atlanta, Sounthern Living for Few Days

I just got back from the Atlanta, Georgia area. First real time spent in this State, a mini vacation to remember for sure.
 Our hosts (Travis' Parents) gave us the legendary Southern Hospitality. We could not have been taken care of in a better way. The days were filled with interesting visits, delicious food, impeccable company, amazing accommodation and real comfort.
First night dinner had "Crawfish Etouffe" on the menu, the next night "Chicken and Okra Gumbo" two delicious dishes that Margaret has mastered. Third night was the Cocktail party with cold cuts, antipasto, cheese, dessert and such.
Fourth night we ended up eating at Darwin's a blues bar where I had a mean garlic grilled cheese sandwich with fries and two hard apple cider to wash it down. I felt no pain from the earlier tough Yoga we had.... The music was great too, nice blues. Fifth night Emily and Travis made their bow tie pasta with roasted  squash and parmesan with spicy sausages.
We went on walks: one along the Chatahoochee River by an old mill where I could have taken pictures for a week, there was so much to see, we also walked in  Piedmond Park and the Centennial Olympic Park where the World of Coca Cola building is as well as the Aquarium in the heart of Atlanta. I also spent some time on the Wiggins property walking on it's perimeter where a lovely creek resides.

Travis and Emily were the guests of honor for a cocktail party at the Wiggins to introduce them as husband and wife to family and friends that could not have gone to the wedding.

 It was very nice to meet so many people that have been the foundation of Travis upbringing. After living in the same area for so many years the Wiggins have acquired a large family of friends around them. One could be so lucky to live amongst their friends and family for a lifetime.

I got to have a grand tour of Margaret's Mother's home. Aline is the most talented needle artist I know in the USA. Mrs Ludwig being the other one I know but living in Germany she is not in competition with Mrs Riche. I was in haw of her perfect minute stitches, her patience is endless when it comes to attain that level of skill that makes each object created a masterpiece. Most of her artwork is a creation or has been transformed to fit her liking and level of scrutiny.

We visited the Hindu Temple of Atlanta or Mandir. A magical place that would make a believer out of me. A peaceful place of beauty and faith. I was amazed by the amount of deities carved inside the main room, each with it's own symbols and name carved. Incredible what man is capable of when inspired by it's faith and needs to believe in something bigger than itself.
We had to have Indian food for lunch after that visit and we were rewarded by a feast for all 10 of us.

We visited the Sweet Water Brewery Company Travis' brother working there gave us a grand tour. The artist responsible for the fish logo was performing live on his creation of the mural outside the new building expansion.

We went to the High Museum of Art Atlanta.
Their special exhibit was "Picasso to Warrhol". Nicely laid out exhibit with enough space between multiple pieces from each renown modern artists that I could appreciate the artwork. Louise Bourgeois and Romare Beaden were my favorite of course but notable Picasso not so mainstream as well as Matisse. I am a bit cold in front of Warrhol's mass produced Pop Art but the De Cherico, Miro, Calder pieces made me a very happy visitor. The permanent collection is hand picked and very diverse. Very well organised by country and time the artwork glows by the natural light and spotlights and space allocated for each pieces. A nice flow between genres and  mediums.
 I particularly enjoyed the folk art/ art brut area. Rev. Howard Finster, a beautiful untitled Minnie Evans.

I unfortunately missed the basement where the African Art is on display. I will survive this but that will give me a push to go back to it some day.

 On the grounds are few statues one of them by Roy Lichtenstein who makes those giant cartoonish vignettes with polka dots details that I really enjoy but it was an interesting discovery to me to see this 3D piece with a funny optical illusion. A house that moves and morphs as you walk towards it from being a regular house seen at an angle then a flat panel than to be discovering that the house is actually built in reverse way (concave). You just have to go to see what I am saying...
Another interesting fact is that the museum was built after a plane crash in Orly, France killed people from Atlanta that were largely involved with the art scene. A lovely way to remember those people.

What else... Oh we got to visit with a "lost" friend of ours that relocated many moons ago in Atlanta and we met at Ray's in the City. Great place by the way where I ate a Bread Pudding with Rum. Lovely to see that friendship jumps leaps and bounds and finds us back to where we had left off. I like that!

On our last two days the temperature climbed into the 70's and it was a bonus and a time out from winter. A big Thank You for the Wiggins to have opened their home, their hearts to us and made us feel at home in their beautiful State of Georgia.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Last Night Was a Trip!!!!

 A trip to Capitol Hill in Seattle at 9:30 pm  for a book release at the legendary Elliott Bay Book Company. Well Capitol Hill was booming in ways that I didn't expect. It was a pretty chilly night around 36 F. You would not have thought so looking around. A group of young people were playing some kind of a game in a small basketball court on their bicycle (didn't know that game). They were having such a good time it was contagious. Then after parking the car (only a 100yards from the bookstore by the way) I glanced in a small shop that happened to be an ice cream parlor. About eight customers in there were having an ice cream..... It was invented by Eskimos so I guess it is the right thing to consume in a cold night. I was more looking for something hot and full of caffeine for myself though.

After paying for my preordered book and put my name in a bowl for a chance to get a signed copy of Huraki Murakami's new book "1Q84" , I browsed the store. Nice store, with a great selection that made me salivate a lot. Their poetry selection occupied me for a long while, then the art section on African Art, and their Graphic Novels, and again their fiction shelves, their magazines racks. My self control was set on maximum, I was getting dizzy, I was bargaining with myself, justifying why I needed everything I was touching!!! I am very proud to report that I stuck to only purchasing what I had come for: one book and that choice had been made before even coming here. A tragedy in itself! but a brake through in self-discipline... The clock stroke 12 and then the suspense got really thick, and after the booksellers gave away about 19 of the signed  copies on hand to 19 other people than meeeeee.      I heard my name!!!!! Oh Joy!!!!

My lunatic venture had been rewarded.... It is a very nice dense book with oh so soft pages and a lovely font. I had to celebrate! so, I had a Vanilla Shake and French Fries. I know, I know but it was in sync with the rest of the whole experience. Another memorable little episode of my life.
Now I need to make time to read this long awaited book.
PS: I now know what that bicycle game is called: Bicycle Polo!!! Of course

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Big Sur, Pour Sur

When my friend Mimi said come and visit me while I am house sitting in Big Sur in October I was not as sure as I should have been. After many calculation to make everything work here we were, Bunny and I, taking the plane to San Jose. So we get our rental car and I drive for two hours in an ok weather and already feeling we were not in Kansas anymore we were hoooooo ing and haaaa ing about the view around every curve of the coastal road. Opening our windows the sweet smell of the flowers and fragrant bushes along the road opens up our spirit at once. We are on vacation...Yey! The ocean this vast beautiful expense of vast expectation. So here we were arriving in Big Sur being the good tourists that we are buying already postcards, wine, coffee and cream, the essentials for a perfect stay in an unknown house. Mimi meets us on the side of the road by the Lucia 22 miles post and we are following her as she opens few gates with a push of a button and we are rough roading on the side of the many hills overlooking the ocean.
Live oaks, agave, sage brush, cactus, all the regular Californian vegetation is welcoming us already. Paradise Sweet Paradise, those words are coming to mind as soon as we set foot on that special property. Nothing ostentatious about the place except being perfect. The yard, the house, the sea, the vertical decline to the shore, the expanse of the vista, the hummingbirds, the bees feasting on the fushias, the trees with their natural gentle curves and foliage, everything in perfect harmony. Not a soul or another habitation to disturb the peaceful scenery. Instant calm and "bien etre". Mimi takes us on a tour of the place and we decide on our rooms. I am to sleep in the "love shack"!!! of course all by myself this word means that I am to pamper myself. My yoga teacher would be happy with me. lol.
Attached to the house but with a private entrance I am in a little suite close to the jaccuzi and the little gravel walk to the lower level deck where the view continues to amaze this visitor. In the morning the clouds down below are pushed away in a direct north to south ligne, surely one of the designated daily angel blowing gently in the air to let the viewer admire natures beauty, very much like opening the morning curtains. From now on and for 5 days, perfection was to be on the menu. Every adventure taken was a happy joyful beautiful one. The restaurants around are just amazing. Big Sur Bakery Restaurant offers first class dinning. The Nepenthe another landmark restaurant is now a big money machine with a huge giftshop that you could plan your vacation around. Their cookbook is a must though. We ended up eating instead at Post Ranch's restaurant. "Sierra Mar" We were there for lunch, the sun was out and the water showed it's multitude of diamonds on it's surface. Perfect experience all around, we even encountered the free range wild turkeys and the black tail deers that were on the menu on our way up to find the restaurant.... but that is a different story.... We visited "La Ventana" another restaurant close by. We took a side trip to the Hearst Castle 50 miles of so south down the coast. Well worth the drive as the scenery is amazing. Stopping few times along the road for seals and surfers, ocean waves rubans enfurling in long slow motions. We got to visit the Hermitage, a monastery in the sky, were you can go to retreat and meditate amongst the monks. I bought a jar of creamy honey that is just so thick and fragrant, I love it. Father Arthur Poulin is one of the 22 Monks residing here but is also an artist and his work reminds me of the one of Rabusin one of the naif painters that I admire. The Camaldolese Monks are commited to silent, contemplative prayer. They pray for peace. Not far down is the Esalen Institute where I would love to go for one of their yoga retreat. One day maybe... Another place worth mentioning is the Henry Miller's Library, an energetic place under giant redwoods. Very funky. Henry Miller claimed that Big Sur was the place "where nothing happens", I know what he meant even though plenty must have happened but not in it's regular sense. I had the sense in 5 days to have done very little but when I analysed what happened in 5 days it was a lot just that what went on was all in a pace that matched my heart beat and the natural flow of the tides, the gentle movement of the planet and the movement of the tree branches. The birds were playing with the wind, my eyes were playing with them. So relaxed and reposed I came back with stars in my eyes and plenty of memories to keep the sun shining in the dark days of winter so I want to send up into the Universe, to all that made these five days possible, a huge Thank You! Namaste.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'ts Fall, What a Folly!

Don't you just love play on words? I do. Fall is my favorite season. Those colors lift me up in the thin air few inches above the ground and they create sounds in my throat even exclamations of total bliss. Then you have the chill in the air, the cleansing rain, the quick step.  The smell of roasted chestnuts wrapped in newspaper... as good as the smell of new school supplies. So lots to look forward in the few months to come. Trying to get our house painted so late is a folly! but we are known for our risk taking actions. We do pay for those quite often. Before it was because of our young age, now it is because of the forgetfulness of the ripened middle age. A bit like the Fall season. Few leaves flying off your branches turning and turning,tumbling to the ground. Where was I???
Oh yeahhh! So I am looking forward to the stay at home and work the days of darkness. When the real colors show on paper or in fabric on the design board. Where things don't come that easy and you have to make them and dig in to find them. Add layers for warmth. When things are not taken for granted. Yep I will have to make gallons of hot tea again and Yoga will add more needed glow. Inspiration always is at it's best when there is discomfort and yearning. A bit like lost love. Maybe that is the reason why we remember who has died in the Fall:, maybe to do it in Winter would be way too sad.  Day of the Dead, All Souls Day, La Toussaint, Halloween. Ironically, Memorial Day is in May in the USA. I wonder why?

I also look forward to the food in the Fall: the delicious apples, all this abundance of squash in all shape and colors, the harvested bounty. The thick stews, the chillies, the heavy pasta dishes, the aroma of slow cooking in the house.
This year I am ready to be successful at knitting socks before Christmas. I want to be able to gift at least two pairs of those to some understanding souls. I am looking forward to catch up on the movies that I missed, the books that have piled up, the buttons that need to find their sewed places on shirts. It is time to slow down and take nature's advice": to go dormant inside the earth. My house is my earth where my roots are nurtured and safe awaiting to grow. Hum. It is comfy in here, please come and visit, the kettle is on!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011

Ten years and we are still feeling the impact of that terrible day in History. A day to reflect and to hope that we can once again learn and grow from a horrific event. So many questions asked that will never be answered. An alteration, a shift, a break, a trauma, a collective pain.
Do you need to remember when you never forgot? Much to think about.
May peace and compassion prevail in this World of uncertainty. May we find an harmony that will benefit each living organism. May we find the way to understand and respect each others needs. May we find the balance that is needed to survive.

"We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are".

 Thomas Merton

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oregon Sweet Oregon

I have a soft spot for the State of Oregon. First Emily and Travis live there, then it seems that grapes grow very well there as well as many different crops. The farms look picture perfect in the Willamette Valley. You can travel two hours from Portland and end up in a totally different setting, mountains, the cost, the countryside. It is diverse and friendly and feels safe even in the big city. So there. Now about my little escapade. First stop was about 15 miles south of Portland, Shampoeg State Park, a shady campground where the Wiggins were waiting for us for an adventure in the vineyards. The place to grow Pinots.

So the first one to stop was a very  "Archery Summit". Nice Pinot noir. We purchase a nice bottle for our campfire dinner later. Then it was a visit to  a less exclusive but very interesting more hip place with a gorgeous view that reminded me of Toscany.

 "De Ponte Cellars". Nice selection, no frills. Then the third and last one due to the late afternoon, Cellars close between 4 and 6 depending. That last one had a wine that just blew me away. I had never tried anything like it.
"an accessorized tastor"
 Argyle Vineyards have a Chardonnay that looks, smell and taste like butter. That was a first and love at first smell. I need to find the perfect meal to degustate this little gem that I am going to enjoy on and off in my life from now on. The other wines were nice. We also tried their many sparkling wines, one being the color of raspberries. All very fun but sticking to the Brut traditional is a good idea in my opinion. Anyway back at camp we enjoyed a pasta puttanesca with fresh cod fish around a nice fire. What a lovely day it was and a lovely night.

Next day was started early with a stop at "Heirloom Roses". Should I say more? Roses as far as my eyes could see. I raced through the aisle like a mad woman trying to find a couple new plant for the yard.
After great difficulty as I wanted so many of them I selected a "Climbing The Impressionist" and "The Prince".
 Emily settled for "Golden Celebration". Can't wait to see those beauties grow.

Portland was our destination for that day and after locating a place to park in the Pearl district we had lunch at Clyde Common.
Travis had a fried oyster sandwich that looked just great. We all were rewarded with our choices. The decoration was very trendy with an aged wood floor that talked to me as well as the repurposed canvas covering some walls.

 Of course Powells bookstore was on our agenda and just around the corner.
 I could just vacation there and be totally happy. A week would be just fine. But of course we had two hours and I spent most of that time in the poetry section, fiction and the art. I dared not go into the rare room that will have to wait for another time.
 A little hike around and it was a visit to Cargo another place where I could get lost and be happy. floor to ceilings interesting decoration. Very stimulating very tempting. I bought a pair of hand carved hands, no surprise there since I have a mini collection of those and two vintage aravic newspaper pages. I was very very good. 

More meandering around the city of Roses and around our hotel. I would not recommand this hotel if you want to sleep. The band plays until 2 in the morning but if you join in the fun you can really have a good time.
Good music and good cocktails not to mention the local microbrewries offerings..

Next day we were off to another part of the State, The Columbia Gorge via one very scenic route with amazing vistas and waterfalls.
 The sun was with us the whole time, amazing.
Hood River is one of the little gem towns along the River were you can enjoy watching windsurfers and Kite Surfers play while you sip your beer at Full Sail Brewery. I had their Porter of course. Yum. Dinner that night was something that I had anticipated for a long time. Moose's Tooth pizza in Oregon. Same recipe different names but I had the Hitchiker (Backpaker) and the White and was so stuffed I could not move and had only one bite of the mud pie!!!! This little bar is in the middle of nowhere in front of a saw mill and you really need to know where it is. Love it!
We were camping again this time right by a beautiful strong river (Hood River) at Tucker campground. I slept like a baby with the sound of the magical water in my ears. We left early that morning in order to arrive and have coffee and then goodies in town then off to Bend via another gorgeous scenic road.
We stopped at the Rasmussen's Farm and loaded on fresh produces. We were in Bend by lunch time and had a lovely pear blue cheese salad. Life can be so good. Curt went golfing, I went for a walk with Emily, Travis went to work. Emily too later and I played with some new Indigo Ink, paper and uillls I had purchased in Portland. Next day was spent in food, walks with a visit to Between the pages teh little bookstore I love and support and found the last book of Jonathan Safran Foer. An amazing construction and a tour de force to "write"
The Tree of Codes is something I am going to savor slowly. It is a bit tricky to read and assimilate. Love it.
The rest of the afternoon I caught up on internet things while Curt was golfing and the others were working.

The evening was full of activities with appetizer and a glass of wine on a sunny terrace by the Deschutes River where Emily works then a First Friday with a quick view at the end of a Bicycle Race. Later a visit to the Little Woody Festival. Well it was a full week that is why the post is so long. Now some pictures and voila I will close this long narrative, for now that is.