Friday, December 30, 2011

Return Trip to France?

It's official. I have to return to France.

Here is my favorite souvenir from France. A salt and pepper shaker set that I bought at Rocamadour. See my October 13th post about Rocamadour. Rocamadour was a difficult spot to get to...lots of hills, winding roads and hairpin curves that no tour bus could travel. The payoff was delightful...a wonderful ancient cliffside village that seemed to grow out of the rocks. Cute shops, ancient chapels, spectacular views. I purchased this set of 'sel et poivre' shakers there.

SOMEONE dropped the poivre! Someone cracked the pepper shaker. I am not pleased. Someone said, "I guess you'll have to go back." I guess I will!

Someone now denies having been the culprit. Maybe it was this guy?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Jace in the Box!

Early in the shopping season, I was told that Jace had been stopping everything and dancing to the Rockin Elmo commercial every time it came on tv. Being the grandmother who wants to see Jace as happy as a little boy can be, I ordered it early from Amazon - full price. I had been warned that it could be the Cabbage Patch Doll or the Tickle Me Elmo, the X-box or the Glow-worm of its time and be impossible to find closer to Christmas. Couldn't let that happen, could I?

With today's economy, I needn't have worried about that, though I'm sure the toy company wishes it had. Last week I saw it at a local store for 1/3 less than I'd paid, but I'd purchased too long ago and Amazon would only give me an 80% refund and I'd have had to pay for shipping, and it was too much trouble for so small a return; so I was 'Jump-the-gun Grandmother' with an expensive full priced toy while a glut of lesser cost ones remained on the shelves. Will I learn from this lesson for next year? Buy local is one lesson. Don't jump the gun is another. There's yet another lesson, which will become evident within a few photos.
The Elmo wrapping paper (following the theme of his favorite character) let him know which packages were his.
Jace had a blast ripping paper from packages and opening them.

He loved his Rockin Elmo, he loved his family's love and togetherness, and he really, REALLY loved Elmo's cardboard box. (At one point he even pulled Elmo into it with him as he tried to close himself up in it.) (Yep - that's the lesson!)

He loved Elmo's microphone and immediately went into a Justin Bieber imitation...swoon, girls, swoon!

At home, decked out head to toe in Elmo gear - knowing exactly what to do with that mike. The kid has style! Now, if he can only carry a tune...

Mom and the kids were here for dinner and gifts yesterday, I went to St. Peter's Basilica for midnight Mass with the Pope last night (He called this 'The Feast of the Heart' - I loved that!), and today it will be family time at my sister's. (Pope Benedict XVI also decried the commercialization of Christmas, and despite the Elmo misadventure, our gift-giving was confined for the most part to gifts of love and practicality...not counting the bourbon balls, ha ha.)

All photos here courtesy of Sandy Wright Photography.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jace the Face - December update

We met Jace, Sandy and Steve at Bass Pro Shop to see Santa for a photo. This place has lots of interesting displays all year round, but at Christmas time there are even more, including a train, a carousel and Santa and his elves and reindeer.

Here, Jace sports his 'run-a-way style' in the parking lot.

Jace enjoying the unusual experience of being on top of Pappy's car.

Jace pointing to one of his favorite things - an airplane flying over. (Pappy is wearing his IU gear following IU's win over then number 1 UK.)

Jace with Daddy riding a polar bear cub on the carousel.

Jace with Pappy, riding a reindeer.

Boys do love trains.

And finally, Jace with the main event. He was not impressed.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Montauban France (in Tarn-et-Garonne department of Midi-Pyrénées region)

Although our new-found friends had advised us that there was nothing to see there, we went to Montauban France anyway. It is the birthplace of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and is home to Musee d'Ingres. We found Montauban to be a lovely city, though we probably only saw a very small portion of it. The shopping area had nicely patterned brick streets and lovely little shops. Unfortunately, we got about the worst meal (especially considering the cost) of our trip at a hotel restaurant in the shopping area we visited there. Darn shame too, because other restaurant menu boards and plates looked like they had really good fare - probably why they were so crowded! This one cost more and wasn't good. (Several menu boards throughout the region were highlighted in an earlier post on my letterlady's letters blog.)

Here are a few snapshots of Montauban.

I spied a pair of shoes drying on a clothesline on a porch. (Can you see them?) The shadow-image of the shutters demonstrates that the shutters on homes in France are not merely decorative, but are decidedly useful.

In one of the two ancient cathedrals we visited in Montauban I took this photo of a hand-lettered prayer (Our Father.)

The flower market was quite lovely.

Beautiful scene from the bridge. Note the flowers. In most places I've visited in Europe there are many public floral plantings, which really add a lot to the travel experience, and I'm sure to everyday life there.

On the bridge and near one cathedral, the rock sidewalks were laid in for art's sake. Lovely touch!

It was lunchtime while we were there, so streets were fairly deserted - and most shops were closed. (A money saving tactic on our part?)

A shop window display.

We toured Musee d'Ingres, and two huge old cathedrals - one of which seemed especially active, despite a plethora of pigeon feathers on the floors near the entrances. The museum is located in a building which was once the residence of the bishops of Montauban. Most of the structure is of the 17th century, but some portions are much older, notably an underground chamber known as the Hall of the Black Prince (Salle du Prince Noir). There are many fragments of carved lettering and other relics of ancient times in the chamber. During World War II, a secret chamber behind a wine cellar in the chamber served as one of the temporary storage places for daVinci's Mona Lisa, which had been removed from the Louvre for safekeeping.

As a calligrapher, the lettering in a place always intrigues me. Here are some photos of centuries old lettering fragments in La Salle du Prince Noir. The chamber was dim, and my photos are not the best, but you can see the samples are very different from one another in style.

Due to a little mishap, we met a very nice young man at a service station in Montauban. I was able to polish up my French a bit with the two of us speaking our respective 'pigeon' languages to each other. It worked! His English was better than fair, and my French was getting slightly better than when I'd arrived in France, and our smiles helped a lot too. We met a few really nice people during our travels and they helped make the trip memorable.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

French Doorknockers Keep Walking Interesting

I still have lots of photos to share from my three weeks in France this summer. I even used one of them for my Christmas card this year. Today's post is about the door knockers that I found so interesting. I have lots of beautiful doors to share too, but for today...doorknockers. I almost bought a LETTRES mail drop frame at a flea market in Foix, but it was heavy and I had to think of the luggage, and my mail is delivered to a mailbox, not a slot in my door. We lose a lot of the nostalgic touch with our lifestyles. (I still regret that I didn't buy it and the ivory domino set as well!)

Friday, December 02, 2011

A Little Photoshop Fun

Tonight while my husband and son cheered U of L's basketball team on to a win in OT, I played with Photoshop. I started with a photo I'd taken in Madison Indiana last Spring of pretty pink roses peeking through a black wrought iron fence.

First, I filtered the photo with 'glowing edges'. Then I adjusted the brightness. (Click on photos to make them larger.)
Next, I inverted the color. More adjusting of brightness. I think this one has a little watercolor feel to it.
I like all three versions. Of course, no one beats Mother Nature, but playing with the images is fun. I was having so much fun that I created a fourth image from a part of the photo...lots of filtering created the photo at the top of this post. I think it looks a little like a batik on fabric. It's been a long time since I've dabbled with Photoshop. It was fun!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Day 2011

Hiding in Plain Sight. We were delighted to see a Tom Turkey as we turned the corner onto my brother's road for our Thanksgiving feasting. Here's one who got lucky!

Here are two beautiful cousins and a beautiful mom. I was busy handling an asthma attack and didn't get many family photos.

Roger pointed out these birds nest mushrooms with spore 'eggs'. I may have seen them before, but I didn't know what they were called. He and my sister in law Wanda are quite the naturalists, and it's evident in their lovely surroundings.

On our way down the drive I spotted this farm equipment and took this quick pastoral snapshot from the back seat.

We stopped at the forestry where Steve, Sandy and Jace climbed to the top of the fire tower.

Jace and Daddy on the top level.

Jamma didn't make the climb.

Looks like there have been some naughty people on the fire tower. These undergarments are in a tree beside it. Santa knows when you've been bad or good...

After the fire tower, we visited a sliding board...the metal was COLD! The slide was slow. That didn't stop Jace from having fun.

My Jace is a well-rounded boy. Athletic, cute as can be, and well-read too.