Sunday, December 29, 2013

Enthusiasm : New Year's wish

Well, if we want to take the metaphor of rebirth to describe our hopes for the New Year then I am excited that I am being christened once again into the world of creation…. specifically engraving and drawing.

I woke up again to the fun of art because Monsieur has given me a whole set of professional wood and linoleum carving tools for Christmas. 

  It may be just a phase until the nice weather appears …. but I won't question this new enthusiasm since there has been a long dry spell where my heart just wasn't in it. 

 I thought that I had entirely lost my mojo. … all of the tricks, in fact, of my gris gris bag that I tried to get that enthusiasm back. 

So if I don't post for a time on the blog , I am probably working on my "lino" project.  I have been experimenting this week with different materials and techniques and carving with my new "gouges".   I'll put the results on my art blog. marympayne:art.blogspot.com

and ….

  Happy New Year to all of my faithful readers.   Thank you for your participation this year .  And, please, go out and find your gris gris bag this year and cast a spell for enthusiasm…. your own.  

That is what I want for each of you, to find that thing that engages you and makes you want to leave the house a mess, so you can go do it. 






Monday, December 23, 2013

Bonne Fete



Snow is thrilling to me, especially since I don't live with it on a daily basis nor see the havoc it can create. 

 But I am also "frileuse"( frileux masc. ), a French word that I love because we don't have the equivalent in English.  It means sensitive to cold.   I have never lived where it is cold so maybe that is why I chill easily and don't often visit the snow. 

 Still I would love a white Christmas.   Snow seems to symbolize enchantment and miracle when I see it fall.  It transforms all that it touches like a wizard's wand.  It speaks to me of wonder.


 It's holiday time, Christmas for some, Hanukkah for others, and for others still…. just a welcome change of pace.  

Enjoy your time away from routine,  whether alone or in fellowship.  

 Light a candle, listen to music and think of snow. 



tumblr, landscapes



Mama tendance. com


Mama tendance. com






Saturday, December 14, 2013

Maverick Mr Fix -it

So much for the art blog,  I didn't have a minute to concentrate on it last week.   I was watching over a big project that needed to get done asap.


Apparently how you fill degraded stucco

the steps are going in



almost finished, we just need to burn off the ivy roots and paint the wall


 There seems to be an archetypal maverick handyman out there who works most often alone and with little equipment.  I have found them in every town I have ever lived in: London, Milan, San Francisco, L.A. ,Carmel, Nice.   

   If you are lucky enough to have a roof over your head you will need one of these fellows sooner or later. The names of the good ones are carefully guarded and only swapped about like family recipes.

Many of these fix-it men are loners, rebels, and misfits.  Some of the ones I have met don't do well in the real world, often lacking the knack for getting on with others , managing money, or finding love.  

 Some of them are good at engineering-type-thinking…can solve complicated spatial or mathematical problems…but mostly intuitively without "book learning".  The good ones have a"knack" …what we call a "bricoleur" in this country. 

  I have never met one handyman who was not nervous that he wouldn't be paid at the end of the work.  Most of them will ask for money as they go along even though the agreement is one-third up front.    Perhaps this is because the fix it man often ends up doing some damage to something of yours during his project or the work on an old house may introduce a whole new set of problems.   I have never had a straight forward job…there always seems to be some complication that arises. 

One of the many stories I can tell about my experience with mavericks is the time we hired two lads to paint the interior of an apartment when we were living in a walkup in London.  Since we were new to the country, we asked for names from a friend who was in the decorating business.  She sent us a pair: a short and a tall one.  It was just a straight forward painting job. 

On the first day of their work, I happened to mention that we would eventually take out the carpet and we could use them for that too when the time came.   When we got home that day the walls were painted and the carpet ripped up so that tiny hairs of the under carpet padding were stuck in the fresh paint!   To top it off the tall chap had walked out on the little one.  ( Luckily he had already painted the ceiling). 

The kitchen was the following day's work.   The solo painter asked what we proposed to do there and I said that we needed to paint the green cupboards ,  that I would be finding someone to put wallpaper on the wall and then maybe I would look for some hand painted tiles to put among the white ones.  Then I directed him to paint the cupboards thinking that nothing could possibly go wrong. 

Because of the tiny dimensions of the flat, monsieur and I didn't come back until late that day.    I immediately noticed :   The cupboards had been painted but the breakfast table had been moved to the center of the room and there were five or six holes in the back-splash where tiles had BEEN KNOCKED OUT!  

After I finished exclaiming about the missing tiles I asked why he had knocked them out without a clear directive and he said, "  I wanted to surprise you".  He had.    

 After he was gone, I picked up the circular table to put it back where it had been and BEHOLD under the floor length table cloth: a huge puddle of white paint on the floor.  I don't know if he intended to leave it like that or not or I had just surprised him and he whisked the table over it.  

What was really naive of us though , was letting him bring his friend the "wallpaper guy" after he had replaced the tiles and finished the kitchen.  

 He was so surprised when we fired them soon after they had ruined the second role of expensive Designer Guild paper, on the third day.  

   The friend who had sent the boys admitted that she was trying them out and had not worked with them.   In the end she sent us another handyman, this one did wonders while wearing the same odoriferous shirt all week…. another misfit, but a great worker. 

 There always seems to be a catch if you hire Maverick Mr Fix it.   In fact the only reason to take on a handyman rather than an "artisan" is that they will give a fair price and will often deliver a fair job.  

 One needs to be present and check on the work frequently to make sure it is what you want each step of the way.   Often too, you need to have rags, small brushes, wet sponges and paper towels handy if you want a clean result.  The idea of cleaning as you go is not always the maverick's best quality.


The name Misfit may sound pejorative to some but it just means an "individualist".  I sometimes consider myself one as there are definitely women mavericks too.   Misfits just don't see it the way others do.   But we need them and they need us so I am so pleased I have found Monsieur L. 

 He started by trimming the trees in my yard but said that he could do the masonry jobs of repairing a degraded wall and building new steps to my studio also.    I wanted to get it done as a surprise before Monsieur got home so I agreed, signed and away we went.   

 PS.  The work was finished as of two days ago and the steps look fine and so does the wall.  He even burned off the old ivy roots and painted the wall by the steps for me with paint I had on hand.  

  There are only a few bits of damage to the frieze and lower paint trim but maybe I can repair those myself.  And the price was right.  Thank you Mr L.  but….

  

  For now,  please go away and have your holiday,  I need to lie down……for a week. 









Friday, November 29, 2013

Time for the art blog

So I am finally making time for the art blog I started at the same time I started this one ( 2008).   From time to time, someone asks to take a look at what I have produced and so I intend to get it all online this time and take some photos of the "odds and sods" , mostly experimental pieces, that are in my basement studio.  

The blog is called Art: Mary M. Payne for lack of imagination for a more interesting title.  Maybe I should call it "Untitled" as artists often want to leave it up to the viewer to make what they will of the canvas.   But funnily,  I like getting involved in titles…because I love words as much as images….or haven't you noticed?



artmarympayne.blogspot.fr    http://artmarympayne.blogspot.fr

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pascade. Paris



So what's a Pascade?  My friend and I happened upon a 

little restaurant that caught our eye on our way to

a traditional brasserie lunch that the hotel had 

recommended.  We both did an "about-face" when we saw

the window and managed to snag the last table of the hour. 



Alexandre Bourdas, chef of Pascade

It turns out that a pascade is a sort of crepe soufflé lightly 

caramelized.  It is a traditional dish that comes from Aveyron. 

The name evokes Paques , the French name for Easter.  



The restaurant, Pascade, owned by a young couple,  Laura 

and Marc de Falaise, took off with the discovery of 

Alexandre Bourdas, the former 2 star chef Of SaQuaNa

 in Honfleur.  He suggested that the idea would probably

 work for Paris. 


Laura and Marc de Falaise, owners


Alexandre says that he always had in his head the idea of 

garnishing these little soufflés to make them "sale ou

sucre"…so some he makes as main dishes or starters

and others for dessert.  

A dessert pascade: this one wasn't on our menu



The menu changes weekly and on ours was a choice of :


1. Tarte aux Pommes and Boudin

cream of potatoes with herbs, roasted apples and boudin

sausage

2.  Filet d Cabillaud

pieces of steamed cod, salad hearts, cream of chicken 


sauce, lentils w/ old sherry

3.  Coeur d'Artichaut

Artichokes cooked and fried, polenta, chanterelle

mushrooms, lemon and hot pepper

4.  Spaghetti Rave

Hearts of celery (celeri rave), hard cooked egg, parsley, lard and lamb


Main dish pascade: I think this one is the cod




We chose to split the apple and sausage and the

artichoke pascades for our main course so we could each

have a taste.....followed by the mini desserts:  ones with figs and creme 

brûlée, lemon tart with passion fruit sorbet, meringues and a sort of spun

sugar caramel toffee topping.  

This gives you an idea of the "mini" dessert plate. 



mini dessert sampler


Everything was tasty and refreshingly different from the usual French

fare.  


You can be sure that If I find myself in the second Arrondisement again, 

I will be back there for an unusual treat.  

We already put in our bid as Nice for their next restaurant venue.    Who knows, it might work.










Monday, November 25, 2013

C'est pas ma faute!



 I have been back for a few days….  trying to get back into the flow after a wonderful time with my friend, Allison , in Paris.  And guess what I discovered?

  The Parisians have a new softness,  friendliness even…that I don't remember before.   In restaurants, shops and in their new system of helping tourists with the metro….. I sense something in the air, a change of attitude. 

 I had a french waitress apologize to me for not bringing my coffee early in the breakfast.   She was working in Le Grand Hotel, so might have been trained to deal with foreigners .  But still, I think it was a first for me.  The apology, that is.

 My experience is that one does not apologize here in France.  It is seen as a sign of weakness and not cool.  If you step on someone's foot it is normal to say excuse me, or I've heard…the more belligerent " I didn't do it on purpose".   But if, for example, you have just knocked a jar of pickles off the shelf in a supermarket... the refrain is likely " C'est pas  ma faute".   "It is not my fault."   It is a sentence that one hears a lot here.  I think there is even a movie by that name.

  Asking someone to excuse you is not the same as admitting fault.  I have never heard anyone say " je suis désoler ( I am sorry) to admit wrongdoing here in France.   

 Once,  I was almost run over (while walking my bike through a zebra crossing)... by a woman in a  car who was not paying attention.  She really "laid it on me" about how I was to blame.  

 I did notice though that the people in the car behind her jumped to my defense.  So maybe,  the mentality is changing down here too.  

 Customer service and civility are always high on my wish list …  so bring it on. 

And hey,  if you can,  go to the show on "corsets and codpieces".  It was the best exhibition of "undergarments through the centuries" … that I have ever seen ( I have seen similar shows at the Met in NYC and at the Victoria and Albert in London.)  

The museum even lets you try some of the underclothes on.  And the stuff I learned about men's padding and codpieces was nothing short of astounding.  The show there on "bijoux" is also great and it is included in the ticket for under ten euros. 

 Its at the Decorative Arts museum near the Louvre.  


Pieces available to try on...



Kid trying on the codpiece.  We both tried it on!


Young lady sampling the corset

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Glamour and Glitz

There is no end to magpie attractions nearing Christmas holidays in any big city.  Paris is no exception.  The very architecture speaks of luxury and the theme is carried out admirably by the big stores.

 My Starbucks cafe near L'Opera


Mascot in front of a restaurant


Photo shoot in front of L'Opera... they never gave her a coat and they were still at it when I came back in the afternoon.  Who says modeling is fun?






Galleries Layfayette











Famous competitor: Au Printemps


 A block from Le Grand Hotel, one finds these temples of spending.   

 The first counter at Au Printemps is Rolex.  There is a huge crowd buying watches.    At Chanel there is a queue of women patiently waiting…. mostly Japanese "twenty or thirty somethings".   I ask the clerk across at Fendi what all the fuss is about.  "Oh, its like this everyday.  It's the line to make a purchase at Chanel."  

 There is every temptation to produce your wallet and I must say I myself was seduced by all the things I didn't need…...basking in the glitter and eating a quick bite in the cafe with the rest of the glassy eyed crowd as if it was our last meal and we had to get back into the fray.  

In the end of browsing one morning, I bought some outrageous black shoes that "spoke" to me.  They said "weird", they said "glamour", they said comfort and that in fact, sealed the deal.  Monsieur says they look like old fashioned irons.  So I will wear them at least to do the "repassage". 




 Paris is the place wear you can lose your head. 















Quai Branly museum



Entry to museum and gardens


....they call it an ethnological museum and having seen some fascinating films that Monsieur had gleaned from their collection,  I wanted to have a look at the Quay Branly museum over by the Eiffel Tower.  









The museum gardens



Gardens on the way to entry



Punishment dolls, made for your enemies.  Good idea!


detail of Aborigine painting from Australia



Australian aborigine art
 Yes, the building is interesting; the garden gives an added dimension to the whole;  the collection is excellent,  the information expansive and the displays cunning.  

We learn that one tribe kills one from another tribe for revenge if someone from his own clan dies … even from old age.   

 We are not surprised at the quantity of peoples who revere and maintain relationships with the deceased....even so that widows or widowers cannot remarry in some cultures.  

 It's all about the ancestors…. we trace it from Asia to Africa and Australia.   And we see a lot of trances happening in many, many cultures, not just Vodoo ones.   Is the trance and the ability to visit with ancestors some ability we have lost?  I am not willing to close the argument that it is all a bunch of nonsense.   I would love to visit my ancestors!  

Mostly at the Quai Branly we see a lot of excellent art and craftsmanship.  Some of the poorest populations wear fabulous clothes, have fabulous jewelry and  household objects.  They perhaps mean more than our Prada, in that the wearer feels protected by his clothes and jewelry and objects. Maybe we are the primitive ones for not giving more meaning to our art. 

Now for the food.    The cafe is four or five minutes away, just far enough that I got chilled since I didn't go down to the deep recesses of the building in the far away "Vestiare" to retrieve my heavy coat.     I thought I could just pop over and have a quick lunch and come back and see more.    The architect did not think of this building in winter.  It was a mistake not to get my jacket.

Now to get a table….. even though some were available,  the restaurant staff was not able to bus a table and work efficiently so a long line formed at the door. (there was one good waitress, looked Egyptian, really savvy).  Some people were forced to stand in the cold as they were too polite to push the line further into the room.  To further annoy me, the food at the cafe is pretty bad and its expensive.  A burger with fries is twenty five euros the same as at my fancy hotel!  I ordered a fricasse of chicken and the meat in it I wouldn't give my cat.  

 My advice is that you eat first and then go. It seems to be the way the French do it because as I was leaving Sunday at three, a lot of families were just arriving.  Stalwart these Parisians , I must say for such a cold , dark day.  

But the museum is worth the visit , so go .  I just need for you to put on one of these masks for me,  



Kiaapaatt mask, 1934, Greenland



They are from Greenland made in 1934.  That will get me over the cafe experience.   I can't stay indignant with such ingenuity around.   

Monday, November 18, 2013

Whoa, I'm in Paris



Opera Garnier


I'm sitting in Starbucks near the Opera Garnier, the beautiful opera theatre in Paris. It is the first time I have used my new tablet in a coffee shop.   In fact it is the first time I have sat in a Starbucks in France .  Until last month there was not one in Nice but they snuck it into Nice Etoile while I was away.  I come here because it's the only place I can get a "split shot" (half decaf and half regular coffee)…. and to warm up.

 Yes, Paris is "freezing ass" cold, (3-6 degrees C) , jammed to the gills with tourists (like me) and busy, busy, busy.   Yesterday I tried to go for the expo of Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera and there was a two hour wait, outside in the wind... so I went to the Louvre instead.    



Place de la Concorde



A common sight in the Tuilleries

 I am a little disappointed.  My emotional memories of Paris are not matching up with the reality.  However, coming out of the metro yesterday onto place de la Concorde, I glimpsed the majesty and grandeur of the place once again.  And if we can spread the people out a little thinner, as in a park, one can finally feel that it's still Paris, the one in your head, the one in the films.













The great thing is that I was invited to share a room with my friend Allison, whose job brings her here from time to time.  We are staying gratis in the Intercontinental Paris right around the corner from L'Opera.   The hotel itself is an impressive building and the rooms are comfortable and elegant but I need not have fussed that I was underdressed for the place.  There is a bit too much casualness of dress for my taste.   But hey….    What an address!


My room


The atrium dining area

There is still splendor everywhere and there is still glamour too and I think we are all still trying to grab a little piece of that for ourselves. 










And there is the richness of history and art and architecture…..  It is all Paris. 

Off I go to seize whatever I can!!








Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Coulour of Music Festival, Charleston

 Before Dave and I headed out of Charleston , we were able to hear a concert with the Colour of Music Festival , a festival of black musicians featuring a few famous black composers.   The concert we heard was extremely accomplished and the young man, David E. Berry,  played Chopin, Schubert, Scarlatti and a black composer that I had never heard of: George Walker http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Walker_%28composer%29 . 

 The information in the program said that Walker was born in 1922 which would have made him 91 years old.    The piece that Berry played for piano was intriguing and unique.  It was called Sonata no. 2 and was written in 1956.  I really liked it.


It was a shame that there were only about 20 people in the large auditorium but Mr. David E. Berryhttp://www.davideberry.com/html/slideshow.php was completely professional and announced each piece.  As he announced the Walker piece, Berry said that Mr Walker was in the audience.    Since we were so few in the audience, Dave and I got to speak to both Berry and Walker afterwards. 


 This one and the concert I heard at the symphony hall with Ellen's friends were fine memories.  I will never forget the sweet face of 91 year old Walker.    


 I hope the Charleston Orchestra will soon be on its feet again and that this Color of Music Festival will continue to grow each year.  With the low price of tickets and the fine offerings it should be a sell-out. 


Magnolia Plantation

 A visit to the south wouldn't be complete without a trip to one of the plantations now open to the public . 
View of marsh from lookout tower



Dave up in the lookout tower



the river that transported goods and people to Charleston

 Dave and I chose Magnolia because we liked the sound of what they had on offer.    Besides the lush gardens which we walked through for an hour ( some of the previous photos), we decided to see the house and then take the boat trip into the wildlife preserve .  






We had a boat pilot named Dick Winter, quite a character, sort of a hunter, alligator-wrestler outdoor guy.   Mr Winter had a notebook to show his former glory days featuring him holding poisonous snakes and posing with dangerous game.   He now is into preserving animals , not hunting them.  


 Mr Winter was warm and personable and seemed to love his job of pointing out the alligators , herons, egrets,  moorhens and snake birds that we were to see.  I even saw a Bittern posing in the reeds with its amazing camouflage but no one else spotted it.







When we moved up on this egret I was all ready to take his picture… but he didn't budge.






I have to tell you though, that he remained completely inert while we passed within a meter of him.  I watched for a long time and was just about convinced that he was fake and I was on some sort of crazy disneyland ride when he dipped his head. 

 Dave says Egrets are famous for standing completely motionless lest they scare their prey. 




A great blue Heron




  From then on I really enjoyed the fact that the animals were so close.  Of course, nothing had disturbed them there for years and they were unafraid of us. 




We saw about 5 alligators…. females with young according to Dick... since they were not acting aggressive towards the boat.  



An Anhinga posing on one of the Alligator rests

And this beautiful snakebird called an Anhinga.  Dave was pretty pleased too as he and his wife are enthusiastic bird watchers in Oregon, ( they have a scope and everything) and he had not seen a couple of these birds of the south before.  



 At the end of the trip we had seen everything on this poster.   We didn't see the Ibis until the next day or so.

It was also interesting that Magnolia Gardens Plantation is still owned and operated by the original plantation family and that even though it was against the law at the time,  the owner (a minister by choice, a second son who only inherited when his brother was killed) educated his slaves.  The school house still stands on the grounds to prove it.