Summer gifts

August 25, 2015

Summer is not over yet but the extreme heat we had just a few weeks ago is gone. We are left with memories of hot, very hot days. Like during a late afternoon when the sun shone brightly through the window and reflected its rays in a mirror. How grateful I was to dear Dena who had sent me a beautiful and exotic fan for my birthday which, of course, was a delight to use !

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Lawns were rather neglected this year but not all flowers. Here in front of our hospital a flowerbed was being watered. I was surprised to spot two  unexpected plants… Will you find  the odd ones out ?  Fresh looking “intruders” indeed.fleurs, veges, parterre

In the blue Summer sky,  silent visitors  flew along with a light wind they only seemed to feel and breathe. Underneath the heat was sometimes unbearable but what a lovely sight !

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The pleasure of reading Amanda Enayati’s book in the shade : “Seeking Serenity”.
“In your world, mind and body,
Be present.
Use mindfulness to heal and transform the brain, and its ability to cope in stressful situations.”
One of the ten rules on your road map for health and happiness in the age of anxiety. A much-needed guide to these difficult times. I really enjoyed this book as well as the beautifully embroidered bookmark made  with care by my friend, Janice. http://janiceheppenstall.com/blog

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Barriers, fences, walls and other man-made obstacles are bound to be crossed, aren’t they ? Those were my thoughts as I looked at the clematis flowers meant to grow along the green metal fence. And yet, quite naturally, they went over… A Summer of crossing borders, deserts and seas for so many people.

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Even my energetic Nino was affected by this particularly hot Season. He squatted my couch in the shade. We finally came to an agreement and each of us found its place.

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Maybe you can feel the heat that had accumulated on the stones of this old  house. It could be quite cool inside though because of the narrow windows and the width of the walls. I liked the plant and colored scarf that added a hint of freshness.

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Summer, terraces, parasols, cool drinks and sometimes music in the streets, another pleasure of the Season.DSC01504

My favorite time of the day was at sunset. The air was still warm from all the sun, even in the mountains but there was a touch of coolness  and of course the brilliant light behind the Alps, the sun rays on the old wooden shutters made it a special moment. Every evening.DSC01572

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Dormancy

January 22, 2013

Scott Thomas’ first photography challenge this year is about Winter. http://viewsinfinitum.com/2013/01/09/assignment-23-winter/ What does Winter mean to you ?

Here  is my contribution to Scott’s  assignment.

Winter 2012-2013 is  particularly cold and snowy in some areas of Switzerland and yet it is only January ! In an alpine area, this Season brings a lot to mind like the best, in particular the various kinds of sport activities to the most unpleasant and dangerous, like extreme coldness, icy roads,  avalanches. There is also one aspect that touches both the vegetal and animal world: dormancy. If you consider the time I spent away from my blog. you could also include humans 😉

During a train travel between Geneva and the Alps, I was looking at a landscape of vineyards under the snow. A lovely patchwork in white and grey shades, no bustling around, just quietness. I thought of nature and its resting time, dormancy.  I love this unique landscape of Lavaux terraced vineyards spreading down gently to the shore of Lake Léman. The whole area is protected by Unesco. Here are more pictures for you :

http://www.lavaux.com/

vignes, guérite

First snow in early December. As I opened the shutters one morning, I was surprised to see  whiteness all around. The air was chilly and silent. I smiled as I spotted what looked like two animal shapes sculpted by snow. A hare ? A turtle ? In any case, they were well into their dormancy period.lapin, tortue

In a more urban landscape,  some construction sites experience their own dormancy period in Winter. Work had stopped. A greenhouse in the botanical garden nearby was all lit up, a warm looking sight. The heat inside was such a contrast with the outside temperature. Tropical trees and plants were  blooming, no sign of rest there.chantier

A familiar sight, the terrace in front of our home. On the previous day, I sat there for a while,  letting my eyes wander on a landscape I am  never tired of looking at.  Now it is time for garden tables and chairs  to  take their own rest.terrasse, neige

The little hedgehock was on the way to his favourite spot to spend the Winter: a big heap of  leaves secured from Ninio-the-beagle’s investigations. Both had a rather traumatic meeting a while ago… and I doubt Ninio will ever tease the hedgehock again.  As I got nearer, he stopped his quick little steps and buried his head in the snow. Discreetly, I retreated and let him move on for a long Winter sleep.

hérisson, hiver

Someone just eaten a good part of my tasty and juicy apple. See below. I had left it on the picnic table while I taking a picture of Lake Livingston, Texas, at the end of a very hot July afternoon. The squirrel’s stomach was full and contented.  Not a bit disturbed by my presence, he lied down on the bench warmed by the sun, made himself comfortable and gave me a last look before entering  in a lethargic and sleepy state. Aestivation ? Another kind of dormancy, away from the coldness of hibernation in the North.

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Sleep well, greedy little one 🙂

How do you think my own dormancy looked like over this past month ?

Just like this. Books. Lost in books of fiction, history, biographies, memoir. A few have been read and enjoyed a lot. Others’ turn will come soon.books, Jan. 2013, HDR

Christmas mood

December 23, 2012

Sharing some snowy

CHRISTMAS STARScarte de Noël, 1 to wish you all

  JOYEUX NOEL,  MERRY CHRISTMAS, FELIZ NAVIDAD, HYVAA JOULUA, FROEHLICHE WEIHNACHTEN, GLAEDELIG JUL, BUON NATALE

book, de Luca, mère

A beautiful little book “Au nom de la mère” or “In the name of the mother”. Erri de Luca tells about what is probably the most well-known story in humanity. The Italian author focuses on  Miriàm, a young Jewish girl engaged to Iosef. Under his hand, the story of the Nativity is seen in the Hebraic context and is a praise of all mothers, body and soul. A wonderful read particularly during Christmas time.

« Grace is the superhuman force to face the world on one’s own, without any effort, to defy it… It is a prophet’s talent. It is a gift and you received it. You are full of grace”.

Iosef to Miriàm, Mary, Marie

If you would like to see more of this magnificent painting by Andrea Solario, “Madonna with the Green Cushion” ( part of it is  pictured on the book cover),  the following  link  leads you to Le Louvre Museum in Paris.

http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/madonna-green-cushion

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 😉

Fascinating reading

November 6, 2009

This past Summer and Fall several books have followed me wherever I went. One that I never forgot to take with me was “The Shadow of the Wind” by Spanish (Catalan) writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

book Zafón

The novel, set in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelone,  is about a young boy, Daniel. After the war, Daniel’s father takes him to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a huge library of old, forgotten titles lovingly preserved by a select few initiates. As tradition goes, everyone entering this secret place is allowed to take one book from it, and asked to protect it for life. Daniel selects a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. On the night he takes the book home Daniel starts reading it, and becomes completely obsessed with it and his writer. He then attempts to look for other books by this unknown author, but can find none. From then on Daniel’s life takes a completely different turn !

I will not tell you more… in case you would decide to read this fascinating book (mystery, romance, thriller, period epic). One of the best books I read this year, one that is so difficult to put down !

Two books, two women

September 21, 2009

Laura Diaz and Mari are two characters that could not be more further apart.

Carlos Fuentes (Mexico) and Haruki Murakami (Japan) are also two favourite writers of mine. Both readings were fascinating and yet, how different their main characters.

Diaz-After Dark

Laura Diaz is the passionate woman who fascinated me in Carlos Fuentes’ book : “The Years with Laura Diaz”.

Mari is a shy and rather reserved young person around whom Haruki Murakami  wrote an eerie novel, “After Dark”, a book  you cannot put down easily. In fact I read it in a few hours, almost in the story real time.

Laura Diaz lives mostly in Mexico  whereas Mari’s story is set in Tokyo.

“After Dark” is a story of encounters in the hours between midnight and 7 am on a particular night. “The Years with Laura Diaz” lead you all along the 20th century  and the main events that marked that period.

Tetsuya Takahashi is Mari’s encounter during that night. The men in Laura Diaz’ life bring her to various places in Mexico, North America and Europe.

The writing style of these two books is very different too. In Carlos Fuentes’ novel it is flamboyant and very descriptive,  South American writers excel in it.  In “After Dark”,  Haruki Murakami writes about reality or dreams with a more concise style and shorter sentences, always making you want to read further and see beyond the story itself.

Laura and Mari are women you get attached to until the last page.  I almost regretted closing these two books, wishing that the story would go on and on. Imagining another end. Laura, Mari will stay with you for a good while should you decide to read those novels.