March 29, 2013
Wishing you all a Very Happy Easter Weekend !
Last week, I received those “cascarones” decorated for me by Mariana, a dear friend in Texas. What a surprise and a pleasure to open a long box of 12 colourful eggshells ! Only one of them had not coped with the long travel over the pond. You can see it in the basket : half broken and filled with paper confetti. More information about this Latin American, Mexican tradition here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cascar%C3%B3n
I wish I could have sent you Springful images of my surroundings. No way. As I write to you, it is snowing again and the rare flowers that I spotted a few days ago like snowdrops, crocuses, primroses, are now covered by a layer of snow that keeps growing. So, why not stay in tune with the “cascarones” and share pictures of a beautiful trip I did in May/June 2008 in South Texas. The vegetation was in full bloom and my friends’ gardens were enchanting. And cool to sit in.
Fina’s bougainvillea right outside my window.
Dora’s artistic tree in her magic garden.
The Canelas Bakery is “Serving Crystal City for three generations“. I imagine those tasty pastries are on my friends’ table on Easter Day, with a lot more delicious homemade food.
This is a painting created by Juan for his sister Mariana. For me it symbolizes the warm welcome I received in my friends’ home. The generosity of their kind heart. The creativity and variety of their tasty cuisine. The strong family links between all generations. Their luxuriant and inviting gardens. The unbelievable heat around midday when only a foreigner could be on the streets taking pictures…
Can you feel the heat under this clear and blue sky ?
This is probably one of my favourite pictures taken during my Texas journey. A wide, straight and endless road. A flat landscape (particularly in this area) and a big, huge sky. And, last but not least for a Swiss person, no mountains on the horizon. Thank you Juan, thank you to your dear family for making me feel at home in your hometown.
Feliz Pascua !
December 1, 2012
Last July my family celebrated my only and favourite sister’s birthday. It was special. A birthday with a round number, the type that is more striking than a yearly celebration, you know? We had planned a beautiful celebration for my sweet little sister. Each of us had a personal and particular idea for a gift. I had mine too but I needed everone’s help. By now, you should know what I had in mind
A quilt of course ! Here it is : our common project and my personal gift for Françoise’s birthday. Improvisation for the sewing part but not for the preparation ! When I asked family members and friends to give or send me one or two pieces of their used clothing, they did not know what I was up to (at least not all of them) but they joyfully agreed. The most difficult part was to get some used clothing from my sister herself. She was not meant to know anything about our project.
Spring and particularly Spring cleaning helped me. Some time in February I told Françoise of the great feeling I was experiencing in sorting out my wardrobe, getting rid of clothes I no longer wore even though I liked them a lot. Which I absolutely meant.
“What a good idea ! I think it’s time for me to do the same.” said my nice sister.
Taking a deep breath I told her : “Great ! why don’t you send some of your used clothes to me ? I know what to do with them”.
And this is how it all started. After a few weeks my sewing room looked like a “souk” or African market. I was a bit panicked before sorting out the clothes I could use or not (too beautiful to bring my scissors close to them). The leftover garments I gave to an “Emmaus” charity shop.
The overall blue material in the quilt comes from a pair of linen trousers my sister wore and the grey stripes used be a shirt belonging to her companion.This silk blouse and black velvet pullover, for instance, were amongst the favourite clothes worn by Françoise. I hesitated a long time before cutting through them but I knew she would love to find pieces of them again on her quilt. Underneath the block, Ninio-the-Beagle is “stuck” in total admiration
A precious block made of one of my mother’s aprons bordered by a piece of her embroidered handkerchiefs. The hook belonged to my grandfather and the heart is sewed in one of my grandmother’s dish cloths. The three of them were very present in our hearts all along the birthday celebration.
Precious : one of my sister’s best friend clothing, her checked black and white trousers and rose t-shirt. My sister immediately remembered those clothes.
“We all love you, Françoise” (title of the quilt)
Françoise was So surprised ! and delighted. Such excitement as she tried to recognize what belonged to whom, including her. A lot of fun. And a happy quilting that brought back memories, places, events. Sewing together all kinds of materials was not exactly easy but I enjoyed the slightly wonky look of this quilt. Different.
October 22, 2012
Grape harvest is over in most areas of my canton (Valais). Some grapes will have to wait for a mid November harvest though. The wine produced then will have more flavour, sweetness and this particular flavour “terroir”, from the local soil.John O’Donohue, Irish writer and philosopher, writes about “Autumn and the Inner Harvest” (Anam Cara). He tells of the four Seasons of the heart, Autumn being associated with old age.
“In the autumntime of your life, your experience is harvested. Within the harvest circle, you are able to gather lost moments and experiences, bring them together, and hold them as one”.
As in the Celtic Wisdom, O’Donohue sees Autumn as the harvest of one’s soul that gives a deeper sense of strenght, belonging and poise. A quiet delight when this time arrives in your life.
I like O’Donohue’s deep thoughts and, as I walked through those wineyards last Sunday afternoon, I remembered my mother’s words and memories of her younger years when she was helping her father taking care of their few vineyards over the same hills. It was a hard work for anyone involved. No machines were used. The work started in February/March and ended in October/November. A lot was to be learned over months and years. A harvest of knowledge and traditions were transmitted to sons and daughters, families’ links were valued and strenghtened. Most mountain villagers grew vineyards on the foothills. Their earnings were meagre and when the grapes were brought to the communal wine cellars, the gain was much appreciated. It used to be a joyful and singing crowd which walked down to the valley early in the morning (5-6am) during the season of grape harvest. Sometimes, on lucky days, a postal bus would drive the villagers and winegrowers down to the vineyards. After a long day’s work under a hot sun the return home up to the little villages was much quieter. Bodies hurt and voices kept silent. Of course there was a big celebration at the end of the harvest. It coincided with this other tradition that is still present nowadays : roasted chestnuts (brisolée). A feast when served with various kinds of cheese, cold meats, rye bread/butter, grapes and apple pie; we also drink must (grape juice not fermented yet). A simple and delicious meal-of-the-season.
All those thoughts and more went through my mind during my afternoon walk. I wished my mother would have been there with me, holding my arm, smiling, commenting, remembering and gleaning the few grapes that were forgotten or left for visitors or birds or beagles Yes, Nino was with me and I had some trouble keeping him close to me, especially when we walked near this beautiful vineyard (below) that had not been harvested yet.
In a photo album, I found this old picture of grape harvest in our area, Valais. My mother could have been there making a pause and chatting with friends. Those days are long gone….
May 24, 2011
Scott Thomas Photography’s challenge for this month is about “Your hometown history”.
My hometown is in another state but surely a “hometown” is also the place one feels good in : my close family lives here as well as some very dear friends. I have enjoyed practising many activities over the years since my family and I decided to settle down in this town. I love the area we live in now almost as much as the one I was born in. My hometown then would be Fribourg in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Halfway between Berne, our capital and the picturesque area near the Lake of Geneva, not far from my “real” hometown in the Alps.
As for history… this subject has been very much part of my life thanks to my paternal grandfather, Ulysse, who was a self-taught historian. A long while ago, I wrote a post about him :
This is the old part of Fribourg on a rather grey day. The medieval town was was built in 1157 along a river. The Sarine river borders two areas in my country: the French and the German parts. Fribourg (town/canton) is one of the 26 cantons/states of the Swiss Confederation. Almost one third of his 30000 inhabitants are students. Several academies, high schools and a bilingual university attract many young people from here and abroad.
This medieval town used to be surrounded by ramparts. Most of those walls were destructed over the centuries. A few of them remain and have been restored as well as one heavy wooden gate that would close the town at night.
A colourful old house that used to be a military arsenal. Nowadays people seem to be more peaceful in town and the arsenal became “Arsen’Alt”. The large painted house is meant to bring people together in the Alt district. It promotes local community life for all those wishing so: kindergarten, various courses, craftwork, cultural activities, meetings, movies, birthday parties, etc… An inter-generation leisure complex.
By chance I happened to be in the old town when a photography exhibition took place on a square. It was all about the people who lived and are living now in this part of our town. Maybe one of these two ladies recognized herself or someone she knew on a picture ?
Pictures from today and yesterday; remembering history in a district that used to be a deprived area inhabited by large families coming from the country in search of a job in town. Years later many of those same families left their old houses that had become run-down for apartment houses in the upper part of the town. Ancient houses have been restored and are now sought-after… Times are changing.
Many museums are worth visiting in Fribourg. A favourite of mine is the Gutenberg Museum. A whole post would be necessary to show you its wonders. I will write more about it some time. For now let’s meet the writer and the bookbinder…
… as well as two Turkish musicians who were practising folk music in a garden outside the museum: “Our landlady does not allow us to play in the apartment !”. They were preparing for a traditional celebration with members of their community, an important one in our city.
Are you tired after the visit ? Then why not take a break on the lawn or on this stone (molasse) bridge. From there you will be able to have another look at the old city, like in the first picture. Fribourg or Freiburg in German is a town of bridges over the river. Bridges over cultures, languages and times. Bridges that join rather than divide. It is a small town you may well enjoy visiting if you are around someday.
Thanks Scott for allowing me to use pictures of various “times”. I loved this theme too.
May 8, 2011
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day in Switzerland. My own mother is no longer here but she will be lovingly remembered indeed. This flower is for her; her love of nature and flowers, her pleasure to sit in the garden, inhale scents and let her eyes wander quietly over the greenery. She sometimes started telling of her younger years in the mountains she loved so much, a life of hard work that taught her a lot about nature, its beauty and dangers. I am happy to have written down much of all she shared although her words are in my heart forever.
The weeks preceding Mother’s Day are even more busy at school over here… My sons always brought me lovely surprises on the second Sunday of May. They still do but at that time there was mystery and secrecy, something they could hardly keep for themselves…”I have a surprise for you but you are not allowed to see it !”
The D-Day finally came and the suspense was relieved. Both would wait till I woke and then present their gifts, nicely wrapped in a paper they sometimes had created themselves. What an excitement and impatience for me to open those treasures ! I received many, many wonderful drawings and gifts of all sorts, made with love and care; I cherished them all. One of them is still in our kitchen : it is a small decorative wooden panel made for me in primary school. There was an original handmade notebook on the right hand side that has been replaced countless times since then. Very handy. What still brings a smile whenever I write a note on my “to do list” is the poem one of my sons had composed for Mother’s Day on that particular year.
He had to find rhymes. For example : Isabelle/belle – bruns/lapins – noir/loir – maman/tendrement. In English though it may sound a bit strange to your ears but so lovely to your heart
How beautiful you are
With your eyes
As brown as rabbits
And your hair as black
As a dormouse
This is just to tell you, Mama
That I love you tenderly “
The French spelling is as creative as the images/rhymes he found and I just love the fact that his teacher left it untouched
To all mothers, mamans, mamas here and there and elsewhere I wish a Very Happy Day filled with love, sharing, joy and gratitude.
This is quilt I sewed several years ago for a Mexican mama of many children who happens to be also a dear friend of mine, Fina.
January 6, 2011
Walking in the garden a few days after Christmas. I was enjoying a fresh and early morning sun as I spotted a branch of blackberry, shaped like a heart. A wild and stubborn bush, not ready to give in to Winter. The persistent branch made me think of this past Summer bounty and of the delicious marmelade waiting on the kitchen table for the family breakfast.
Fleeting images of particular moments during the Holiday Season. I realize that the grandfather who once was as tall as his grandsons looked now small and frail. Emotion. A moment of love shared between generations, smiles and looks of complicity that belong to the three of them only. A wonderful bond.
My activities will not resume until mid-January. These days after Christmas are “in slow-motion”. Remembering family celebrations, animated talk around the table, gifts being offered, a surprise for everyone. Each family member had decided to offer a gift to one person only chosen by drawing lots. Each one kept the secret until Christmas Day. What an excitement as the time for sharing gifts came ! I was so happy that mine was meant for my Dad! I offered him a soft warm fleece jacket in his favourite colour, grey/blue. He loved it and is wearing it almost every day since Christmas
Sidney Poitier’s spiritual autobiography is one the best I have read in a long time. “The Measure of a Man” is the story of his life from his birth on Cat Island in the Bahamas until his recognition as a great actor in Hollywood. When he was about 12, S. Poitier told his sister : “When I grow up, I want to go to Hollywood and become a cowboy “. He had just seen his first movie in Nassau, a cowboy one of course. In 1963, S. Poitier was the first black actor to win the Academy Award for best actor for his great performance in Lilies of the Field. He also received the Life Achievement Award for an outstanding career and humanitarian accomplishment.
Reading his memoirs is like having a worthwhile conversation with an older family member, his words are powerful, reflective, generous, humane and so moving. It makes you look closer at the foundations of your own life.
Looking forward to even more reading. Family and friends know me… and I received several books:
The Amish Quilts, 1870-1930, showing many reproductions of quilts from private collections in Switzerland; there are also some very interesting chapters about the origin and history of the Amish.
Matthieu Ricard, “Spiritual Paths”, a small anthology of some of the most beautiful Tibetan writings. To be read slowly too.
“Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time. I have already started reading it and can hardly stop…
“The Rothko Chapel” by Domique de Menil. With her husband, John, Dominique founded the inter-religious Chapel in Houston/Texas in 1971. The de Menil’s dream was for the Chapel to promote interfaith dialogue, human rights and the arts. I am so grateful for this gift, a beautiful souvenir of a memorable visit of this Chapel some years ago.
From Barbara, my English quilting friend, I received the loveliest Desk Diary you can imagine !
More gratefulness. To Marie, http://ancientcloth.wordpress.com/ my inspiring and creative friend; she sews and expresses herself beautifully in her quilts. Marie sent me those colourful parcels.
Wonderful handmade gifts and special fabrics I look forward to sewing in my quilts. Precious presents from here and there. Thank you so very much, Marie ! All is truly appreciated. My thoughts are with you.
January will be a slow month for me. As my friend Marah wrote on a beautiful card : “Never let the urgent crowd out the important”.
May 1, 2010
As I visited a photography museum a while back, this small black cube in a show case attracted my attention. And memories started coming back in waves. Lovely ones. My grandfather Ulysse owned such a camera, I never saw him using it though. Books were what he mostly had in his hands. He probably gave it to my father who used it quite a lot when the family travelled abroad or simply when he felt like taking a shot wherever we were. The result were tiny b/w pictures with a large white indented frame.
This small camera really saw a lot ! and experienced just as much too… oh, the drama when my sister and I forgot it on the table of a restaurant in France (we were in charge of it) ! My Dad simply turned around his old Chevrolet and off we went to look for it. And we found it Françoise and I kept a low profile about the incident but never forgot the place and the table ! And my Dad’s smile ! So precious was his camera. The first one I ever remember seeing in the family.
While on a journey to the North of Switzerland, I stopped in a pretty old town close to the German border, Rheinfelden, near the Rhine Falls (our Niagara . It was midday, all shops were closed and as I walked through the narrow paved streets I spotted this second hand place with the most striking ancient cameras behind the window. I wish I could have gone in and get a closer look. Instead I took pictures from the street. This particular camera was an Ensign, Selfix 20. This is what I could decipher on my picture later on. A real beauty !
December 18, 2009
December 17 would have been my mother’s birthday. This is one of the first quilts I sewed for her. A Christmas gift that she always kept close to her. She loved it. She left this world on December 22nd, six years ago and I like to think of her as the most brilliant star in the sky. Soft, luminous, always present.
This quilt is also one of my first attempts at patchwork. It is definitely not perfect but it carries a special meaning for me, especially during the Holiday Season. It is on one of my walls at home now and I see the sparkling smile of my mother.
November 26, 2009
This was no Thanksgiving Day but these people were having some kind of celebration, for sure ! It was a few years ago in Lyon (France). I was walking along the river flowing across the city and stopped beside this barge where a long table had been set and beautifully decorated. Obviously they were waiting for more guests. A young man was giving a sweet kiss – un bisou - to his partner. Another man smiled to me and said “pas de photo, svp”, “no photo please”. Jokingly.
Thanksgiving was not celebrated on this river boat but all the guests around this happy table were definitely thankful to be together on that day. An engagement or a wedding lunch ? And two of them even more grateful to the paths of life that brought them together.
Today as I remember this moment in Lyon, I thought of sharing this picture with you. To all of you who celebrate this happy day I wish a wonderful Thanksgiving !
February 16, 2009
There was this old wooden trunk that had sat in the garret for ages. I knew it belonged to a family member who had travelled to North America in the late 19th century. He and his family settled somewhere in the state of Wisconsin, and lived there for quite a few years. For unknown reasons to me, part of the family came back to Europe (France). Again the sea trunk was part of the journey home. It was transported here and there along the years and the various movings until I received it from my own grandfather before he left for his own journey. And since then the trunk has been waiting patiently, up in the garret of the house until someone curious would open it !
I did so a few years ago and was very surprised to find several sorts of thin and colourful materials (lining). Some of them were already cut and sewn together in narrow strips, others lay untouched on the flowery paper that covered the inside of the trunk. I have no idea who could have sewn these pieces of fabrics together, nor what their use would have been. On a cool and grey weekend I decided to start sewing them together. Just the way the strips of materials were assembled, sometimes adding a piece here and there to get more or less the same lenght. Here is the beginning of a wall hanging (maybe but maybe not?) I sewed with some of these forgotten strips. More are waiting to be added.
I am not sure yet how this pannel will look like when all the fabrics will be sewn together. But I am so enjoying the journey though ! The crossing over the Atlantic in a ship of La Compagnie Transatlantique where many other hopeful passengers had embarked for a new life in America. Then travelling further from New York to Wisconsin, finding work, settling down, raising a family, learning a new language and way of life. All so different from the mountainous forest area they had left back home. Years later the family separated, the children stayed in America, the parents came back to Europe. If the trunk could speak… what stories would it tell ?