Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Paris: Rue de Fuerstenberg

I found this curious antique shop as I was winding my way through the Saint Germain area of Paris on a rainy evening in February.  I remember talking on the phone, taking care of some dilemma back home in the states while struggling to take pictures of this haunting site, soothe the weary heart of one of my daughters and rush to get out of the coming rain storm.  Having dusk descending over Paris made this place all the more haunting for me.  

I love this little display of artist's models amongst some crazy antique village scene.


This is my favorite image as all the elements together create a scene of a dream that you either want to stay in longer or escape from as fast as you can.  Personally,  I delight in scenes like this.

I was unable to remember the name of the shop but you can find it at 4 rue de Furstenberg, on odd street for Paris as it has a round about in the center of it.  The area is well hidden which added to the mystery of the treasures found here. 

Photo credit:  Personal collection  

Monday, May 19, 2008

Free Burma

My heart goes out the people of Myanmar as they make their way through the devestating aftermath of nature's cruel visit.  As I read articles describing aid, both in man power and supplies that continues to be turned away by the military junta, my sadness deepens for the people who live in this  corner of the world.  The gentle and graceful beauty of the people and their surroundings is in stark contrast to the stronghold and nightmarish regime that brutally enforces their will on its people making efforts to offer foreign aid practically impossible.  

A few years ago, I picked up this book, Finding George Orwell in Burma, thinking it would be a happy go lucky adventure somehow tied to an author that I enjoy reading.  Not so much.  While this travel memoir had its moments that painted the country in the colors of its idyllic former self, I learned of the hardships and oppressive regime that this culture must live with--a way of life that I can't begin to understand.  

These beautiful images of serenity and gentleness hide the reality of a culture struggling at this point in time to stay alive, literally,  while officials black out internet connections and turn aid away that is so vital to righting this terrible natural disaster.  The violation of human rights we are witnessing, even prior to Cyclone Nargis, but more so now as the government works to suppress its exposure to the rest of the world is appalling and we need to be mindful of its citizens ongoing plight.  

Photo credit:  flickr

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Journeys of Another Kind

It has been a crazy, hectic week at my house and will continue to be so for the next little while.  Last Friday, my younger daughter, Kylie had her senior prom.  She asked if we could host a pre-prom picture party where parents were able to come and photograph their son or daughter with their date before the dance.  I was happy to do it and provided cocktails and hors d'oeuvres for the parents since we didn't get to dress up and go dancing till the wee hours!! Bummer!  

A week later, we find ourselves in the middle of our older twin daughters graduation from the University of Notre Dame.  A three day extravaganza of ceremonies, pre and post ceremonies for the ceremonies, baccalaureate mass and the culmination, cap and gown procession on Sunday.  Knowing their mom as they do, my twins asked about a month ago if I would consider hosting a dinner party at our home (we live 4 miles from the university) for their friends and all their families coming in town for the weekend. I was more than happy to do for them as I did for my younger daughter so last night we kicked the weekend off with a bang!  

These two cuties are my babies,  Taylor and Lindsay and last night we celebrated their graduation with 200 guests of which we knew not many.  Grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, siblings, parents--a whole mixed bag of people showed up for cocktails and dinner and what an evening it was.  Busy and crazy to say the least, but a wonderful way to share in the accomplishments of all these kids during the last four years.  

Here is the big, beautiful crew.  All these young men and women are so accomplished already--it is a bit overwhelming.  If they are our future, I know for a fact that the world is in good hands.  

Lins and Tay,  I could not be more proud of you if I tried.  I love you both so very, very much!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Chicago Meets Cyprus

Blogging--we could argue forever about the plusses and minuses of this new media craze.  I am new to this whole world, deciding in late November of 2007 that maybe I should start one as a personal place to figure out where I needed to go professionally.  In mid-December, out of the blue mind you, I was hired to write a daily post at The Paris Traveler.  My role there is to give readers tips on travel around the city, places to go to eat, museums and sites that you might not know about, shops that are great but unless you lived there, you wouldn't know about them.  So in a way, this little blog was a means to an end but I'm not sure that I am complete yet.  I think I am just at the starting line of the journey and can't wait to run the race!

The part of blogging that I love is connecting with people from all around the world that you would never get a chance to meet if it weren't for the internet.  And you may never get to actually meet them in person, but there is a bond somehow through cyber space and friendships blossom.  
One such friendship for me is with a gentleman named Philip or Philas as he is called in his home of Cyprus.  He happened to stumble on my post the other day about Spain, liked it, contacted me asking if he could use it or part of it on his blog and voila, a friendship born.  Today I am linking to his site as he has some wonderful photos and information to share about his country that, honestly, if I don't get there someday, shame on me!!

This particular post is The Mosaics of Paphos on Cyprus

These beautifully preserved mosaics are the floors of ancient Roman villas owned by those who governed Cyprus 2000 years ago, dating from the third to fifth century A.D.  Mostly, they depict stories from Greek mythology and are made from tiny glass pieces called "tesserae" that where puzzled together by artisans of great skill.  I had dinner several months ago with a woman who had just completed a week long course in Venice learning this very same craft.  If you have ever been to Venice and visited Saint Mark's Cathedral then you have been introduced to some of the most beautiful mosaic work anywhere.  The interior of this particular church is breathtaking.

You really must go visit Philas' blog taxidiaris which in Greek means "person who loves traveling".  He gives much detail regarding the photos you see here and you can search his blog and be amazed at all the magnificent places he has been.                                                            

I too would have to call myself a taxidiaris!! 

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bells Are Ringing

Weddings:  my oldest daughters (twins) have been invited to the first wedding of their peers.  Graduation from university (Notre Dame) is this week-end and next month the whole marriage thing starts!  It's hard for recent graduates to afford many of the things that people register for.  I got married right out of college and specifically chose china that wasn't that expensive so I would get a few settings or at least enough to make a table look as though it all went together.  I spent some time today searching for things that my girls could combine their efforts on and thought I'd share.  

I am a big fan of wine and know that many young kids aren't but they will like it someday and they may entertain people that like it and might want to start a nice collection of barware--something that they would never go and buy themselves.  This is an Italian Waiter's Corkscrew, created by Enrico Albertini with input from sommeliers and other experts on looks, feel and functionality.  Some thought went into this and I would LOVE to have this in my kitchen.  As a matter of fact, I think I have convinced myself to order one the moment I am done with this post.  Italian Waiters Corkscrew, $50.00

Add a set of wine glasses that people who talk with their hands like I do can't knock over and destroy and I think the party can begin.  Check out the champagne flutes.  I love them.  I might have to convince myself that I need those as well.  Set of six stemless wine glasses $42.00

This next one is a bit off the charts but let me explain.  We have a HUGE round table in our kitchen that can seat up to 10 people.  In the center is a lazy susan that spins around and while we are eating, whatever we need finds its way to us as it spins.  It sounds crazy I know, but people LOVE it and I have had offers to buy the table, scratches, nicks and all.  They want the lazy susan.  So here's one that you can put anywhere, anytime;  on a dinner table, buffet, take it outside on the patio, whatever.  AND you can have it monogrammed with the happy couple's name.  How fabulous is that!  My shopping cart is getting full!   Wine Barrel Lazy Susan $129/$149

My last item is the cheapest and I think the most fun.  Wall decals were everywhere in Europe when I lived over there and I am finally seeing them mainstream themselves into decor here.  I found this wonderful monogram that is on Etsy (one of my favorite places on the internet) that again, can be made specifically for the happy couple.  And the best part, it's made from vinyl and can easily be removed so they can take it with them wherever they go!  I think this idea wins! Monogram Decal $30.00 

I am off to shop!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Moroccan Mint Tea: Drink of the Gods

I spent a year living in Paris which could be a million posts long going over the delights of that experience.  Most I am sure will be revealed as I write.  Today I will share what I discovered to be one of the most exquisite drinks I had there:  Moroccan Mint Tea.  

I am reminded of this liquid pleasure as I look at my garden, completely taken over by a wildly invasive strain of mint that is making me insane.   It has taken on the likeness of  that mythological creature, the many headed Hydra who just kept growing more heads as Hercules tried to get rid of them.  Instead of fighting my minty nightmare, I have decided to embrace this herbal blessing and am on a constant quest for recipes requiring it.  It is garnishing everything I make--dressings, dips, desserts and.....tea.  

I have been very fortunate to come across a blog that I "read" daily even though it is in Italian and I don't know a word of Italian.  Cucinare Lontano is a cooking/lifestyle blog I think, written by Jean-Michel who is French, lives in Florence and speaks perfect English. (that is all good in my books!) I leave little comments for his posts when I can and he answers back in English.  It is his recipe for Mint Tea that I am sharing with you.  If you go to his site, you will understand why he knows what he talks about.  

2 tablespoons green chinese tea
10-15 leaves of fresh mint
5 spoonfuls of sugar
Pour 1 liter boiling water into teapot and let steep for 5 minutes.  Pour into small decorated Arab glasses.  You can put a few pine nuts in the glass--they will swell and soften in the hot water and become quite fragrant.  

Here are some little goodies from Just Morocco to make the experience even more authentic. 

Hyatt teapot

Beautiful golden tea glasses to drink this ambrosia from!

If you aren't as lucky as I to have a huge crop of mint taking over your backyard there's always Mighty Leaf.

Photo credits: Mighty Leaf Tea, Just Morocco, flickr: Dragos z 

Travels to Spain: Paradors

A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places.
-Isabelle Eberhardt-
I started traveling, REALLY traveling late, or what I consider late in my life.  My daughters ranged in age from 11 to 8 when we started taking them to Europe.  Prior to that, we were on a first name basis with Minnie and Mickey and felt it was time to spread our wings.  London was a first overseas destination; nice but not my favorite place.  The next year, my hubby wanted a beach vacation.  So, leave it to us, we came up with one--Marbella, Spain.  He would tell you he was thinking along the lines of the west coast of Florida.   Hard to argue with this selection; it was on the Mediterranean, the Rock of Gibraltar made itself known in the distance and the sun poked it's head out every day.  It's been our most memorable trip to date. 

So many things stand out for me but I would have to say, hands down, our visit and overnight stay at the Alhambra in Granada was the highlight.  Nestled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, this compound of Islamic inspired buildings dates back to the 9th century built initially as a military fortress and four centuries later becoming the royal residence of Mohammed ben Al-Hamar.  It's history is rich in peace and conflict that is too complicated to go into here. Currently, it is one of Spain's most popular tourist attractions and worth the trip!

We were fortunate enough to stay on the grounds of the Alhambra at Hotel San Francisco, a fifteenth century convent that has been transformed into a small four star hotel.  Referred to as a Parador, it is one of many  historically significant buildings (convents, castles, palaces and monasteries) throughout Spain that have been transformed to accommodate guests in some spectacular settings.  Once the last tourist was ushered off the grounds at the end of the day, we were able to roam about certain parts of the grounds as if we alone lived there.  It was amazing.  To watch the sunset and have millions of stars appear as we stood at the highest point in the watch tower will never be equaled for me.  

I have found tours through the Smithsonian that initiated this whole post idea.  Travel to Spain this fall for two weeks as you make your way through this beautiful country, staying in beautiful Paradors at each stop.  I can't help but think you would have an experience of a lifetime.  

Photo credits:  Personal collection, GreatBuildings.com

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Colors from Milan

Check this out:   a new line of rainbow colored plastic ware from Pandora Design, a company in Milan. They're so magnificent, I would have to wash and reuse them!! I covet this beautiful chandelier that they've created.

This set looks similar to an antique serving fork I bought years ago. Great design stands the test of time!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Flower Girls Wishing You A Happy Mother's Day

In my ongoing journey to find fun, fanciful, wondrous things on the web, I came across these absolutely delightful creations done by Elsa Mora or as she is known to her readers, Elsita. Her story is interesting and one of those that has looped about in different directions and has landed her in what appears to be a most beautiful place. Take a look:


LIZETTE (my personal favorite!)


Her artwork appears in galleries throughout the world and lucky for us we can bring some of her beauty into our own lives by visiting her Etsy shop.  Such gentle creativity really is inspiring. I hope these brightened up your day as much as they did mine.  

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Beautiful Tribute To Women

My daughter found this video months ago and shared it with me.  I "stumbled-upon" it today and was reminded how beautiful it is.  Hope you enjoy it as well.   

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Paris Before We Met

I am in the process of weeding things from my surroundings as our family gets ready to pack up the last 12 years of our life and come July split off in different directions as we go through a monumental shift in how and where we live our lives.  As a result, I have been going through things and of course, get all caught up and side-tracked in old photographs, magazines, the dilemmas of, "Do I keep this Mother's Day card from 1987 and where do I pack it if I do?"  All things that take me totally off track from what I am supposed to be doing--downsizing!

I am a lover of many things but antiques are right up there for me.  During a phase when I had a small business, I was constantly at auctions, digging around for that great find (many of which I kept for myself......that's allowed).  Often times, I would buy something that ended up being auctioned off along with a box full of junk which I would then get to search through and hopefully find the elusive pot of gold.  Here are two items that although will not get me millions at Sotheby's, make me happy just the same.  

This is Opéra Garnier as it looked at the turn of the 20th century.  This building is the piece de resistance in Baron Haussman's urban planning crusade of Paris.  Designed by Charles Garnier, a young, unknown architect at the time, Mr. Garnier beat out over 170 of his contemporaries in winning the right to design this opulent, over the top structure.  It is magnificent and deserves a trip inside should you be in Paris--a tour would be nice, but to experience a performance here is a different memory to take home with you altogether.  

Here's a photograph of the Champs Elysées, looking towards the Arc de Triomphe from the Place de la Concord--that is quite a mouthful.  Check out the horse in the center.  How crazy is that.  I can just hear Maurice Chevailier singing "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" as he strolled down this very same boulevard in the movie Gigi.

Photo Credit:  Personal Collection