Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Day at the Fair

La Perrière is one of the prettiest hilltop villages in our area. When friends come to visit we generally take them for tea at the charming Maison d'Horbé, an extravagant antique shop/tea room. Once a year there is a marché d'art in La Perrière where artists display their wares and thousands of people stop by to see what's available. For a quiet countryside like ours, it is a très big deal.

This year I submitted my work for consideration. Since moving to the area, I have wanted to participate. I was pleased to be selected, as there are a limited number of spaces and many more interested artists than booths available.

When we arrived, I was happy to find that the booth assigned to me was in the private garden of the priory, just next to the church. It was a picturesque location.

I brought my entire team with me: Emily and Quinn, James and Adric and Rick. We set ourselves up and waited for the crowds.

The unfortunate thing about the weekend was that rain was predicted, and instead of being warm and inviting, it was gray and threatening. Although it was pleasant enough to sit outdoors with the family, chat with people as they came by and take tours of the village ourselves by turns, the weather was a deterrent to the usual large crowds.

La Perrière is a lovely place to spend a day. The views out over the countryside are magnificent.

The main roads, filled with artists booths are intersected by little pathways. It is enjoyable to take walks and peek into the cottage gardens that dot the village byways.

We had some very nice customers and made several sales, but just as the crowds were beginning to arrive, after the lunch hour, the sky opened up and rain poured down. Our nicely framed prints, hung on a stone wall, were in the path of a flood and several of them had water leak in under their cardboard backing. We were forced to take everything down, pack up and go home hours early.

It was a bit disappointing, but a good experience anyway. I'll probably try again next year, as it's one of the nicest art fairs I've ever seen. I'll request an indoor space the next time.

Once we arrived home a beautiful rainbow appeared out the window. Promise of happy times to come. Indeed the weather has turned summery again. In the storm a branch of our wisteria, which happened to hold a morning dove's nest, slipped down in front of one of the windows. We now have a ringside seat to watch the baby grow up. One of the eggs had tumbled out of the nest and onto our terrace, so this bird is an only-child. He's already about half the size of his mother.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Collecting Butterflies

During summers when I was young, my brother and I would spend hours sitting next to our mother's lantana bushes watching and catching skippers who fluttered around by the score. We would take them in our cupped palms very loosely and allow them to tickle the insides of our hands, then we would let them go to drift away. We had been told that their wings were very fragile, so we were extremely careful. Do you remember how it is to see the world through the eyes of a child? When I think of those bright red and yellow lantana plants, I can smell their sticky scent and feel those charming skippers on my palms, wonderful and magical, and I am as a child again.

My life now does not include nearly enough butterflies and no lantana whatsoever.

My love of butterflies led me to investigate the idea of collecting. In those days you could see beautiful butterfly collections hanging on people's walls. You were led to believe that these gorgeous creatures lived for only a day (not true!) and that the collecting part was not a cruelty, but a way of preserving the expired bodies of the butterflies. When I got my first butterfly mounting kit I was simply horrified to discover that it was necessary to spread their wings by using some foul smelling chemical. I half-heatedly tried to relax the wings of one specimen I had found, but frankly I soon lost all interest in this hobby. It began to seem somewhat barbaric, especially since the kit came with something called a "killing jar." I never did have a butterfly collection; instead I enjoyed them alive. I stopped trying to catch them and simply observed them. Certainly there are plants which are absolutely foolproof in attracting them to the garden. I'm most familiar with buddlea, which until recently, I've planted in almost every garden I've ever created.

I made this book with young children several years ago:

Here are the directions for making the pop-up butterfly (click on the image for a larger view). Cut on the solid black lines, fold on the dotted line and draw/paint on the gray lines. Paste a piece of bright colored paper behind the cut out butterfly. Voila! A butterfly you can collect without shame.

Another way to collect butterflies is to patronize one of these craftswomen on Etsy:

Clockwise from top left:

Butterfly Palooza
Wall Butterflies
Tea Party Butterflies
Edible Butterflies

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Zounds! It's 4 O'Clock, have you never heard of tea?

Do days pass by without that quiet moment which includes a steaming cup of tea? I hope not. Did you know that tea is an antioxidant and has many healthful properties? A cup of tea a day is a stroke preventative, for instance. Of course most of the world does understand the value of tea. After water, it is the most consumed beverage on the planet.

Although the British have turned tea time into an art form, they didn't discover this Asian native product until 1669 when the first imports were received in the British Isles. At that time only the extremely wealthy could afford a cup of tea. An average wage earner would have to pay 9 months of his salary for one pound of tea.

Strictly speaking, herbal blends are not tea. Tea refers to a specific plant which provides black, green and white tea leaves. There are about 1500 varieties of tea available today.

Brewing your tea correctly is a science unto itself. As the British say, take the cup to the tea kettle, and not the kettle to the cup. Water must be boiling. Asian tea brewing is the most refined. Different size of boiling water bubbles have specific names and are used to brew different teas. Shrimp eyes, the first tiny bubbles about the size of a pin head which appear when the water begins to boil, indicate that the water temperature is between 155ª-174ª F. This is an ideal temperature for brewing delicate green teas. Crab eyes are a little bigger and begin to form at about 175ªF, the ideal temperature for brewing white teas. Fish eyes are formed between 176ª-180ªF. This is the correct temperature for brewing hearty green teas. Rope of Pearls, so named because the bubbles have now formed a steady stream, indicates 195ª-205ªF, just right for black teas. Raging Torrent or Old Man Water (212ª) is considered ruined water, too hot for most teas but acceptable for herbal blends. If your tea is bitter, the water with which you brewed it was too hot.

Serving your tea is a proper tea cup increases your pleasure. Tea cups, by the way, used to be given to girls when they became engaged, and women would have large collections of beautiful, unmatched tea cups.

Tea bags are so very convenient, but loose tea makes a much better brew.

In Britain, a cup of tea can be part of a mini meal. Low tea is served in the afternoon with scones, cakes, clotted cream and biscuits. High tea is an evening meal, served with meats and other savories.

Gathering with friends around a beautifully laid table to enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon is one of the most pleasant activities imaginable. How civilized!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Language of Flowers

So delicate, so exquisitely temporary, flowers fill spring and summer days with joy. Who can resist their charming faces, their extravagant personalities, their who cares what tomorrow may bring attitude?  They are made to attract and seduce.

 How lovely to watch a bee madly romancing a flower, drunk with desire, he hums his satisfaction
 He may fly away for now, but he will return soon enough and start all over with his kisses.
Did you know that before there were flowering plants on this earth there could be no warm bloodied animals either? We depend on them, in fact, for our very existence.
How incredible their variation in form and color.
They work upon all our senses.

 A bouquet of flowers given to a friend or lover will never disappoint.
And if you wish to send a secret message along with your gift, you can speak the language of flowers

Here's a short list of some common favorites and their meaning:

Agapanthus - a love letter
Azalea - take care of yourself for me
Baby's Breath - pure in heart
Bluebell - constancy
Borage - courage
Calendula - joy
Calla - magnificent beauty
Camellia (Pink) - longing for you
Carnation (pink) - I'll never forget you
Chysanthemum - you're a wonderful friend
Daffodil - respect
Dahlia - good taste
Daisy -loyal love;
Gardenia - secret love
Geranium - friendship
Honeysuckle - sweetness of disposition
Iris - wisdom and valor
Jasmine - grace and elegance
Lavender - devotion
Lilac - first love
Lily  - purity
Magnolia - nobility
Marigold - sacred affection
Morning Glory - affectation
Nasturtium - maternal love
Orchid - refinement
Pansy - message of love
Pink - hope
Primrose - I can't live without you
Queen Anne's Lace - fantasy
Rose (red) - I love you
Rose (white) - eternal love
Rose (pink) - please believe me
Rose (yellow) - friendship
Roses (bouquet in full bloom) - gratitude
Snapdragon - gracious lady
Sunflower - you are splendid
Sweet pea - thank you for a lovely time
Sweet William - grant me one smile
Tulip - declaration of love;
Violet - faithfulness
Wisteria - I cling to you
Zinnia - thoughts of friends

Monday, June 6, 2011

And the winner is....

This morning Quinn

 has randomly drawn the following winner from a hat:


Thank you so much to everyone who participated
in our giveaway contest!