Happy Easter

April 24, 2011

Wishing you all a Happy  Easter weekend, sunny Spring days !

Easter and eggs seem to be closely related.

Earlier on, the egg was a symbol of the earth because of its shape. Also associated with the beginning of life, it has been a symbol of fertility, rebirth and the cycle of life.

For Christians in Europe, eggs became a symbol of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. In the past, Christians gave up eggs for Lent (the 40 days before Easter when it’s customary to give up different types of food). But even though people didn’t eat them, the hens kept laying them! So people would hard boil and decorate them. This would help preserve them longer and serve as part of the holiday festivities.

At the Jewish Passover holiday (in Spring) the egg is placed on the Seder plate and is a symbol of sacrifice and loss. For some though  it also symbolizes the full cycle of life, and therefore hope and rebirth.

In China, red eggs are given out at the one month birthday of a new baby. It’s customary to hold a Red Egg and Ginger Party at this time. Once again, the source seems to be the egg’s role as a symbol of fertility and the beginning of life.

The egg is a wonderful symbol of birth, renewal and rebirth. This is something wonderful to consider as Springtime has arrived in the Northern hemisphere, where the Earth is coming back to life !

Thank you to “Mama Lisa” on http://www.mamalisa.com/blog/ for sharing such great information and much more on  her wonderful blog.

Here is a poem about Easter eggs that I enjoyed reading in this blog : http://www.tastearts.com/egg-poem-easter-eggs-by-addison-erwin-sheldon/  I hope you will too 🙂

A REMINISCENCE
Seems to me like yesterday:—
Walkin’ down the beaten path,
Where the autumn aftermath
Glistened with the April wet,
Tryin’ to look green and yet
Kind of limp and lonesome lay.

Gettin’ long toward Easter time;
Days the city folks calls Lent,—
Little that we cared or spent
What they called it, prose or rhyme,
More than twenty years ago,—
Me and my old playmate Joe;
Back in dear old Yucatan
Township, where Root River ran.

What we cared fur was the wood
Filled with flowing maple sap,
And the bluff above the gap
Where the Mississippi’s flood,—
Floating many a steamboat craft,
Many a Chippewa forest raft,—
Met our boyish gaze and curled
Round the bend into the world.

Then the mill-pond and the dam;—
Spearing red horse in the race;
And below our swimming-place
Was a cave where Turkey Sam
Shot and killed a hungry bear—
Oftentimes we’d go and peer
In about the rocks and stones
Looking for dead Injuns’ bones
While our hearts felt awful queer.

But about them Easter eggs—
We had fixed it—Joe and I,—
Talked it over on the sly,
Makin’ tops and mumble-pegs;
Playin’ marble and high spy;—
Next time Easter day come round
We would know where eggs was found;
Many a jocund, boyish boast,
‘Bout the eggs we’d have to roast
Over in the poplar grove
Just this side of Knox’s cove—
Then there’d be a big surprise:—
When we’d from our hidden store
Bring our Easter eggs galore
How the folks would bug their eyes!

I remember ‘long in March,
Mild and early was the spring.
Say, how them old hens did sing!
How the folks for eggs would search.
Mother couldn’t understand—
Fed ‘em table scraps and meat —
Combs was red and slick and neat,
Cackle, and they’d kick the sand
Through their feathers with their feet.

Joe and I — we understood, —
Playin’ ’round the old barnyard,
Watched them old hens weasel hard
Tryin’ to hide away and brood;
Every secret cleft and nook, —
Underneath the horses’ stall,
High up on the smoke house wall,
Knowed ‘em better than a book; —
Out beside the pile o’ rails,
In the tool house by the nails, —
Where a hen could crawl or fly,
We went after, — Joe and I.

Then to make a hiding place,
In the corner of a stack,
Lay a weatherbeaten rack —
Crawled beneath it on our face
With a forked, crooked pole
Worked and twisted through the straw,
Roughest work I ever saw;
Made a long and narrow hole,
Then by twisting round and round,
Dug a nest close to the ground.

In it went our Easter eggs:
Many a time I hurt my back
Skoochin’ under that old rack,
Rusty nails would scratch my legs—
Still, as Easter time drew nigh,
Poked ‘em in there on the sly;—
One thing troubled us—old Nig
Our old Spanish topknot hen,
Disappeared, we couldn’t find,
Not a feather left behind
Just to show where she had been.

Last our Easter Sunday came—
Seems to me like yesterday,
In that old familiar path
With the autumn aftermath
Lying ’round like locks of hay:—
All the east was clouds of flame
Like that early Easter morn
When the Son, of woman born,
Rose and rolled the stone away.—
Bright and early did we creep
Underneath that beaten rack,
Scratched our legs and punched our back,
Reached in for them eggs, when “cheep,”
“Cheep, cheep, cheep” and “cluck, cluck, cluck”
And Joe says “Dog on our luck,
“Ef it haint that old black hen,
‘Ef she ain’t a’gone and ben
”Just a settin’ with her legs
“Straddled on our Easter eggs,
“An’ what’s more—it beats the dickens
“Half them Easter eggs is chickens.”

From “Poems And Sketches Of Nebraska” By Addison Erwin Sheldon.


This is an addition to my reply to Linda,  http://shoreacres.wordpress.com

Linda, you may enjoy reading this post http://www.mamalisa.com/blog/the-ancient-ukrainian-tradition-of-pysanka/

about the painted Ukrainian eggs, since you like them so much.


“My Ántonia” is a favourite book of mine in the American litterature. It was written by Willa Cather. Its unforgettable story takes place in Nebraska. I can well imagine that the scenes  suggested in Addison Erwin Sheldon’s lovely poem “Reminiscence” could  have been part of W. Cather’s wonderful work.

Spring connection

April 15, 2011

For the past month the internet connection in our home has been less than satisfactory. I will spare you the technical details but in short it has become more difficult to get a reliable and lasting internet connection.  It has also something to do with the age of my  PC 😦 If I add that my camera (not the youngest one either) has been  acting strange lately, you may understand my distress about these technologies I was never an expert in anyway.  This is to explain my unwanted silence on this blog.  I regret it but little by little I will visit you again and look forward to these moments indeed.

In the meantime… Spring has arrived here too. Rapidly, beautifully and unexpectedly warm. In the 20-23°C over the past few days although in the past days the North wind has lowered the temperature by ten degrees. Brrrr…

Not sitting much in front of my stubbornly silent and empty screen, I spent more time in the garden; I read or finished reading several books. I also spent more time in the room that used to be a playroom and now is a music and sewing room.

Do I see you smiling ? 😉  Don’t worry, I am not trying to compete with the drums when my son is practising  “Ska music” with his group. The sewing machine remains silent on those occasions… but when the room is quiet my sewing machine is playing its own tune,  music and inspiration are  in the air !

This is a wonderful and inspiring book by Janet Bolton (Patchwork in an orchard) about “appliqué” in patchwork. My friend Marie, in http://ancientcloth.blogspot.com/ mentioned it a while back in her blog and I was delighted to find a copy of this book  in a second hand bookstore in town.

La Pléiade is also the name if a well-known collection of books from authors of all horizons . Precious books with soft leather binding and  thin pages  (onionskin) that one turns slowly and with care.  I was telling about it to Janice, another friend and multi-faceted artist, http://postcardsfromwildwood.wordpress.com/  as I replied to her comment in my post about it. I chose Tolstoi and his “Carnets”; he is an author I like to read and re-read  now and then. Classical  and insightful works that fascinate me.

And of course, another favourite books of mine, Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is one I read slowly, month after month. There is so much to learn about living more simply,  eating locally, being responsible for one’s own decisions and acts regarding our environment.

Regular walking through my colourful garden brought much pleasure. This constant renewal of Nature in the Spring is always  such a wonder and pleasant discovery.Poppies, wild primroses, cherry trees blossoming or anemones, all are so welcome after the cold and not so bright Winter. I really hope you  are  enjoying the same wonderful feeling.

.Happy, happy Spring to  each of you !

The Pleiades

February 1, 2011

Some days are more eventful than others.  A little while ago, as I opened the frosted mailbox in the garden, a long and white envelope with foreign stamps was waiting for me. It contained a dear friend’s letter together with  a copy of this drawing.

“There’s part of the sun in an apple,

There’s part of the moon in a rose,

There’s part of the flaming Pleiades

In every leaf that grows”

by Augustus Bamburger

On the same day but later in the afternoon I enjoyed reading a great blog that another friend, Gerry, had just started posting : “The Gently Used Ideas Store” !

http://todaysprompt.wordpress.com/

This particular post drew my attention to the correspondence between the drawing and Gerry’s theme in this post : mythology. The mention of the Pleiades in the poem was  both strange and welcome.

http://todaysprompt.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/diy-adult-education/

In French, we often use the word “pleiade” to describe a group of renowned persons, like  “a pleiade of artists or writers, etc…”

Gerry’s prompt about mythology made me reflect on who the Pleiades really were.  So, I looked on my bookshelves for a particular book that was just waiting to be read…  Have you ever heard that a book does not exist or live until someone reads it ? It seems so true to me.

I finally found this book, here it is : a “Small  Mythology Dictionary”, very nicely illustrated too.

The Pleiades were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione,  daughter of Ocean and Tethys. They were Artemis´companions.  One day, as the hunter Orion pursued them and their mother, they implored the gods to save them. They were transformed into doves and then placed in the sky as a constellation. In fact, the Pleiades are only a cluster of six stars in the sky because one of the stars hides itself… Some pretend it is Merope; she was the only one of the seven sisters whose lover was mortal.

The names of the Pleiades were Alcyone, Celaneo, Electre, Maya, Merope, Sterope, Taygete.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleiades_%28Greek_mythology%29

http://mythologica.fr/grec/pleiades.htm

In my small mythology dictionary, there was no mention of the Pleiades but a page was dedicated to Atlas, their powerful father,  son of a Titan, one of those gods who ruled  the world before the Olympian gods. Atlas and the Titans were overcome by Zeus and the Olympian gods during a terrible battle. The Pleiades´father was condemned to carry forever the heavens on his shoulders and all the weight of the world.

This is the story of a Winter day that started in a freezing and foggy morning. It ended in the sky, a dark but starry sky where I looked for a constellation of seven sisters pursued by Orion…

Thanks to Gerry and the inspiration I found in her daysprompt 🙂

African quilt

January 22, 2011

This is one of my favourite quilts. I sewed it some years ago using African fabrics only. It is rather small (1m x 80 cm) and it is made with scraps of materials from various countries in West and Central Africa. A long road along the markets of  Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Congo.Most of its patterns are symbolic. These simple cotton fabrics are textile words. Those who know their language can read the social status, the affiliation to a particular brotherhood,  culture  or the area the materials were designed in and on what particular occasion.

This pattern  was printed on a traditional African dress called boubou. I was told it represented  jewelry (earring ?). The name of this piece of material is : “My husband is rich”. Obviously !

I could not find the designation for all patterns but thanks to a wonderful book (at the end of this post) there are a few I can share with you.

The name of this striking design is “My rival´s eye”… The crosses underneath look like “The turtle doves´feet” (tunfan sen).

This small figure could be the one of  a farmer. The pattern surrounding him (arrow) is called  “The back of the sickle blade” (wosoko). A farmer wanted his effective sickle to be remembered !

“Guinea fowls” running away from the photographer 😉 A design often represented on local fabrics, guinea fowls being very present in African villages and along the roads – unfortunately for them 😦

Women  grinding millet, a daily work in African villages.

Warriors´ signs. On the left there is “The Brave´s Belt” (ce farin jala). A symbol of the belt a soldier or a warrior wears around his waist before setting off for battle. On the right, a mask or a shield.

“Of threads and words” could be the translation for this wonderful book featuring many precious pieces of clothing belonging to kings, heads of tribes, clans or areas of various cultures in West and Central Africa.  Sometimes  symbols have been sewed or weaved on bark or raffia clothing. These unique pieces have been also represented on more common sorts of materials. As on the cotton fabrics I collected here and there.

What I  cannot share with you here is the soft touch of the local cotton. A lot of  materials I used have been worn, washed on stones along a river or  in a pond, then dried in the  hot sun. The original colours have vanished a little but the cotton texture has sometimes become as soft as silk or muslin. So pleasant to sew and quilt !

At a slow pace

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 🙂

Taking time to sit for more reading and leaving aside other activities that can wait a little.

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.

See all I found when I opened the pretty wrapping papers!

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”.

This is the first of her 12 calendar cards. Each month I will share a different one with you. I wish you  a lovely start of this New Year. May it bring  Peace in your heart and mind.

baking and reading

September 7, 2010

One morning recently, a good friend called saying she might come and visit with a common friend of ours during the afternoon. I decided to bake a cake I quite enjoy for its flavour first and then because it is so easy to prepare. Here is the recipe in case you want to try it :

ALMOND PIE

For a round baking tray (middle size)

1 pack of puff pastry

200 gr (2 cups 1/4) of  ground almonds

2 eggs

1 cup 1/2 of sugar

1 cup of milk

1 tsp of cinamon

1 pinch of salt

Mix all these ingredients

Then roll out the pastry on the baking tray (use a fork to make a few holes on the pastry)

Spread the ingredients you prepared onto the pastry

Pre-heat the oven at 200/230 °C (400-450°F)

Cook for 25 minutes

Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving

This pie tastes even better if you bake it one day in advance.

Some of you may think my almond pie looks a bit “burnt”… Well, almost but not really. I can assure you it tasted delicious ! And why should it look like this ?? That’s the question. You see, I was reading. A specially dangerous chapter that kept me totally concentrated on the story. At the same time I vaguely smelled something just as dangerous coming from the kitchen 😉 “Oh ! mon gâteau” (my cake) ! I rushed to the kitchen, book in hand of course (in case I would forget it somewhere on the way…) and I saved the almond pie from a very hot oven. Then I went on reading waiting for my friends.

“Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow” by Peter Hoeg is the book I was reading with great interest and more as “le gâteau de Babette” (Babette’s cake) was in the oven and requesting immediate attention ! I could not have been further from my kitchen. In fact Smilla, the fascinating main character in this book, was secretly –  and dangerously –  going aboard a ship in the darkest night you can imagine.  She was persistent in doing her own investigation about a mystery death. The story takes place in Denmark (Copenhagen) and Greenland, two countries I don’t  read about enough and I thought this book would be a good opportunity. It was, definitely so. And much more than that! This reading just cut me off from my surroundings for a few days, so exciting was the story. It is not a recent book, I had heard and read about it but somehow had missed  it. Now it is done and I thorougly enjoyed its reading. I hope some of you did too or will do so soon !

A Romance of Naples

August 9, 2010

“Falling Palace”

This is the first book I read by Dan Hofstadter and it was a real pleasure from the first till the last page. He wrote three previous books. His most recent, The Love Affair as a Work of Art, is a collection of essays on French writers. For several years D. Hofstadter was also a regular contributor to The New Yorker.

This fascinating book is about his years in Naples and about Benedetta, the passionate and mysterious  Neapolitan woman he met there. But not only. D. Hofstadter  shares with so much talent his knowledge and love of this unique city and  people. His words bring to life – and how brilliantly ! – some great Neapolitan characters whom he befriended during his stay.

D. Hofstadter makes me feel like going back to Naples and exploring some  streets and areas I was a bit unsure of visiting as a tourist. It is not easy to describe Naples´atmosphere beside its hustle and bustle. There is so much more that remains unseen to a visitor on vacation. If Naples is a future destination for you, then read D. Hofstadter´s book about it. He has seen this city with his heart. Is there a better way to visit and feel a new place ?

“Falling Asleep in the City”, a few words of the Prologue that made me love D. Hofstadter´s book about Naples immediately :

“Whenever, after a long absence, I return to Naples, that beautiful and wounded city, I find myself looking forward to bedtime, to the first few moments of falling asleep. I always stay in  one of the more populous quarters, in a room overlooking a steep, narrow street, and as I throw open my window a vast wave of sound floods over me. Settled in bed, I´m disconcerted at first by the sheer volume, by my feeling of floating helplessly in a tide of half-drowned voices, people calling or quarreling, snatches of jokes, television commercials, soccer games, ghosts of song twisted by the wind; footfalls mingle with rasping sc0oters, a baby´s crying with the honking of horns. Yet soon the noises soothe me, and suspended between wakefulness and sleep I enjoy a sensation of homecoming, of rejoining a crowd of kindred spirits,  faces I have always known.

Easter holiday

April 14, 2010

Hello 🙂

I have been away from the computer for a while,

Enjoying a timid Spring awakening in the Alps,

Sunny walks along mountain tracks,

Exuberant birds’ songs at all hours.

Quiet reading and sewing,

Happy meals with family and friends,

A pause at Easter, a time to reflect

While wondering at Nature’s revival

And new inner paths.

Eggs, you find them everywhere around Easter time  ! Mostly chocolate eggs over here 😉   Not all though; those are carved in various  semiprecious stones from  Madagascar. I got them as I lived in this great island and visited   market places, craftsmen’ workshops.

You may be interested in reading a few lines about eggs and their symbolism

http://crystal-cure.com/easter-eggs.html

Almost every day during Easter time, I walked along a narrow irrigation canal (the local name is “bisse”). Sometimes on wooden paths or bridges, but mostly on mountain tracks barely freed from snow. The very first flowers were blooming on the dry slopes. Delightful !

Sewing and reading, two of my favorite hobbies. The “grandmother flowers’ garden” is still growing and blooming… since it is sewed by hand, I like to bring it along wherever I travel and I added quite a few hexagonal flowers. Spring mood and also the wish to see this quilt finished at last. A low table has been waiting to be covered for… quite a while.

In my favourite second-hand bookstore I found a wonderful book by Alice Munro (Ontario, Canada): “Open Secrets”. Shorts stories about women that take place over several generations from  1850s to the present, from Canada to Australia, the Balkans and France. Unconventional women who never wanted to be contained. I so enjoyed each story!  Alice  Munr0’s writing is simply superb. Her characters  never leave you.  I already know that I will read more of her.

“In the mountains, in Maltsia e madhe, she must have tried to tell them her name, and “Lottar” was what they made of it. She had a wound in her leg, from a fall on sharp rocks when her guide was shot. She had a fever. How long did it took them to carry her through the mountains, bound up in a rug and strapped to a horse’s back, she had no idea”…

(First lines of “The Albanian Virgin”, a short story by A. Munro – just to make you feel like knowing more…)


How about you, what are you reading right now ?

St Patrick’s Day

March 17, 2010

A special  ancient edition of James Joyce’s “Dubliners”, smooth cloth cover, as green as the  island of the “Forty shades of green”. Joyce’s famous book is translated in French “Gens de Dublin” and contains some lovely lithographies by Charles Bardet. I thought it would be an opportunity to wish a ” Happy St Patrick’s Day to all Irish people and  to those Irish at heart.

Simplicity

February 1, 2010

A book I am re-reading at the moment, “The Art of Simplicity”.  Still fascinating and inspiring. Dominique Loreau writes about living more simply, reducing the number of objects that may surround us, having less, making choices about what is really essential in our life. Her wish in writing this book is to invite us to try getting rid of the superfluous to find more inner space.  She reintroduces us to the pleasures of living without the excess. A wonderful perspective,  one of my resolutions for this new year. The good news is… slowly but surely I have started the “désencombrement”  (to clear) and it feels so good !

I chose this picture to participate in Scott Thomas’  “White” assignement for this month on his blog . You are all invited to visit his site and join in ! Don’t wait too long : your “white” pictures should be posted till Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 ! Good luck and much pleasure.

http://stphoto.wordpress.com/

The red rose is for you, giiid,  http://my2008blog.wordpress.com/ . Thank you so much  for your help ! I made it 😉