When all that glitters IS gold…

Glitter and glint are EVERYWHERE at Versailles. I mean, you hear that the Sun King was a liberal fan of gold, but wow. This was extreme.

Stoney halfway down the long promenade to the Chateau Versailles.

Stoney halfway down the long promenade to the Chateau Versailles.

Even in the distance, on a rainy day, the chateau gleams with gold.

My family joining the crowd.

My family joining the crowd.

Guarding the entrance.

Greeting all-comers.

 

Gold at the gate.

Gold at the gate.

A tiny slice of this enormous castle.

A tiny, less ornate, slice of this enormous castle.

A close-up of the glint we saw in the distance.

A close-up of the glint we saw in the distance.

Suffice it to say that this theme was continued indoors. Doorways, mantles, fabrics, ceilings, stairways, well…everything was covered in its fair share of gold. By the time we reached the end, I was actually tired of it. Some things are special and lovely because they are rare. To me, gold is pretty garish when it’s not an accent, but the main palette.

Also by the time we were finished, Theo had grown quite a headache. We took the metro back to our hotel and began dosing him up with decongestant and Advil. The next day he wasn’t really better, so we went into Paris with just Myriah. Coming up, the Louvre.

 

 

 

 

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The City of (Christmas) Lights

The day after Christmas 2013, we packed up and headed for an adventure in Paris. Theo wasn’t feeling so hot, but truly, he had had some sort of cold or bad allergies since before Thanksgiving, so we just pressed on. We stayed at a Hilton at Orly Airport, which was pretty cheap with big rooms, but very, very tired and nothing like picturesque. However, the breakfast was good, it had great access to the metro, and kept us from having to drive into Paris traffic.

It's best feature is size.

It’s best feature is size.

That night we took the metro into Paris, and our first view of the Eiffel Tower was at night (quite fitting for Christmas).

Sort of like a Christmas tree.

Sort of like a Christmas tree.

up close

An up close view. We went back in the daylight so Stoney could see the engineering, of course.

We took a boat tour aboard the Bateaux Mouches, although we didn’t go past Notre Dame, due to the Seine River being so high it affected our clearance. The night was quite cool and damp, but the boats were heated.

The Christmas Spirit, Paris-style.

The Christmas Spirit, Paris-style.

Ready, cap'n!

Ready, cap’n!

What would become my favorite museum, the Musee D'Orsay.

What would become my favorite museum, the Musee D’Orsay.

Lights at night

Lights at night

The Paris lady liberty

The Paris lady liberty

...and up close.

…and up close.

After the tour we had a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant nearby. And yes, all the French folk in Paris seem capable of a functional English. Tomorrow, Versailles.

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A Painting for Me

A couple of weeks ago, during a sermon, this painting came to me.

The transforming breath of God.

The transforming breath of God.

This one just really made me happy, and speaks to me on so many levels. We, as carriers of the Word, are sown throughout the world; and as our hearts respond to that Breath in thanksgiving, rather than complaint, we are transformed. We shine with His indwelling light, and illuminate the way for others. I am always grateful when God gives me an artwork of my own.

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Holidays in France 2013

I definitely wanted to document our second year of holidays in France. For one, we made an American Thanksgiving for people here who made an impact on us and made us feel very welcome. It was a big meal in a small kitchen, but every person there was a gift we were thankful for!

A lively table of food and conversation.

A lively table of food and conversation.

We weren't just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

We weren’t just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

And I was super especially thankful that my oldest daughter had arrived from the States to join us for more than a month!

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

My friend Brigitte brought adorable little costume additions that we photographed the group with. I added them to our centerpieces!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

We had a quiet Christmas at home, but left the next day for Paris. I’ll include the Paris photos another time.

 

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child's birth!

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child’s birth!

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

New Year’s was celebrated early, with Italy, and minimally, with a toast of sparkling pear juice. Party on, people!

So that was our Bonne Année, and I think next year we will get to have some of it back in the good ol’ USA.

 

 

 

 

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…And the first painting of 2014

I actually need to post Thanksgiving and Christmas, wonderful in part due to the presence of my older daughter, but I first want to put up this most recent painting. My daughter requested it in order to make some lacy felt pieces she was given into fairy wings, and I JUST got it finished in time for her to take it on the plane with her as she returns to the States tomorrow.

All color blocked in with the underpainting.

All color blocked in with the underpainting.

My daughter agreed to pose for me, as I really am not one of those artists that can work from imagination alone. Besides, I have never actually painted a human figure before, so this was a first.

Must. Hurry!

Must. Hurry!

I placed the braid too far right for the felt wings to place properly, so I had to go in and move it. Have I mentioned how much I love painting with the very forgiving acrylics?

The final painting, but not the final product.

The final painting, but not the final product.

I really took this one down to the wire. It is the only thing still waiting to be packed, so I knew I didn’t have time to attach the wings myself. Myriah will have to do it herself when she gets it home, but we have modeled the final fairy, complete with wings, although the photo isn’t too good.

Some day she will earn her wings!

Some day she will earn her wings!

I was glad to have something personal to send with her!

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The Last Painting Projects of 2013

I am pretty sure I never posted my acrylic interpretation of the Swiss lake that I did in watercolor. Here she is…

I still see things I could improve, but I am trying not to mess with it.

I still see things I could improve, but I am trying not to mess with it. Mostly I learned how to make the water look more like the dense pool of color I saw while there.

I also painted a Christmas gift for my secret prayer sister here, which they call a Sonflower. She is a lovely French lady who has a real heart for Michigan, an area of the States she has visited in the past and where she has friends. I also have visited Michigan, so I chose a lighthouse I have actually been up in! (I am pretty sure I have photos here somewhere. I’ll have to see.)

first layer

first layer

A lot of my paintings I seem to work in circles. I’ll rough in some color, highlights and shadows of the background, then move to my subject and do the same. I’ll return to the background, moving around the composition, and bring up more detail and mostly finish it before focusing on my subject more completely, and then clean up the background again. For most of my projects, even landscapes, that results in these spiraling circles from out to in and back out then in again.

Not here. This painting firmly declared it would be worked in layers. I pretty much completed the background here first, and did most of my subject, the lighthouse, as well. Then I moved to midground and pretty much worked it up, too.

Other than touchup in lighting, what you see is mostly what you get in the end in the midground.

Other than touchup in lighting, what you see is mostly what you get in the end in the midground.

This the final painting, although I added a short verse along the snow, bottom right. I enjoyed this one, too, and might even make myself a print of my photo of it for myself someday, if the photo holds up. I didn’t really shoot it for printing.

My final painting with its reference image.

My final painting with its reference image.

I found a photo from that 2009 vacation, in a rather odd spot, but for proof that I have been in this lighthouse, check here.

Lastly, I wanted a gift for the lady who had been praying for me, but I had very little time. Both of these paintings really did need to be done before Thanksgiving. So, I took my waterfall study from years earlier, cut it free from all the positioning work I had done with text playing around with it, and attached it to a canvas board. I printed the verse it had been inspired by (chosen by my Kansas friend) and attached it as well. I then painted a unifying color and texture around them. It doesn’t have the elegance of the original, but for a quickie, I think it works.

Well, actually, looking over the digital image I’ve changed my mind. *sigh* It’s amazing what looks ok when you are rushed compared to what you like when you can really examine something. C’est la vie. I don’t think I’ll even post it.

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A Beautiful Day for a Stroll in the Garden

I’m just going to post pics of the lovely Jardin des Martels. We spent hours wandering the many gardens, including water gardens and an animal farm.

Welcomed by dancing water.

Welcomed by dancing water.

Yellow fall color is strong against fading purple blooms.

Yellow fall color is strong against fading purple blooms.

Purple surviving in the shade. This palette really seems French to me!

Purple surviving in the shade. This palette really seems French to me!

I offer more garden photos here, to reduce the homepage load time, a little anyway:

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All Aboard for the Fall Garden! remembering a lovely season

My last post was in October, of activities in late August, so there is no doubt that I am way behind. But I have been having a lovely and busier time here in France, and posting isn’t that high a priority, I’m afraid. When my French class at the marie started again, I was pleased to be moved up to an intermediate group! I know I have made progress, but sometimes the elephant of a foreign language still looms so huge that I can lose sight of how many bites I’ve swallowed so far.

One of our early activities was a field trip, right before the first vacance scolaire, to the Jardin des Martels. We took a bus to a city where we picked up a little narrow-gauge train to the gardens. But first we enjoyed a stoll around town and a picnic.

A walk in the woods on the way to the river.

A walk in the woods on the way to the river.

Our reward at the end. I don't know the name of this river, though.

Our reward at the end. I don’t know the name of this river, though.

The city had lovely character.

This is an old community laundry. I'm not sure what I think of luandry as a social activity.

This is an old community laundry. I’m not sure what I think of laundry as a social activity.

Perhaps the city's patron saint?

Perhaps the city’s patron saint?

The ville was out in the country, really, since you didn’t have to go far for farmland. Check it out here:

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Better luck with French food

The last of our summer 2013 events included two of the better meals I have had in France. And yes, I DO have trouble finding meals I really enjoy here. In fact, Stoney eats a French lunch with his Airbus counterparts many Wednesdays, and some of the stories he comes home with me just give me the willies. The French eat EVERYthing, in three courses with an aperitif and finished off with an espresso. Once he sent a photo of a lunch because it had to be seen to be believed…there were just too many cephalopod arms on the plate.

I did have two meals this summer that I can honestly recommend, though. One was in the enchanting ville of Rocamadour. We didn’t have long to explore, as we were on our way to the grotto and caves nearby (le gouffre de Padirac whose site you should seriously check out), but we did have lunch.

Rocamadore. Stoney and I hope to return and explore it further.

Rocamadour. Stoney and I hope to return and explore it further.

We ate at a hotel cafe, and the guys opted for pizza, thinking that was likely safe. It was pretty good.

The view was of the old town, and the weather was perfect for patio dining!

The view was of the old town, and the weather was perfect for patio dining!

I have good luck at picking well from menus, though, and this time had elected a heavenly chicken kabob. It was really good!

Eat your hearts out, guys! Yummy!

Eat your hearts out, guys! Yummy!

We also decided to brave another Toulousain attempt at a Mexican food restaurant, this time with better success. I’m not saying it tastes like TexMex, but Texxas Cafe definitely had Mexican cuisine with recognizably Mexican flavors. We have been told by some colleagues of Stoney’s to avoid barbecue night, but I can recommend the Mexican.

Stoney always looks too serious about his food; it wasn't too bad. (My tacos al carbon were better!)

Stoney had fajitas. (My tacos al carbon were better!)

Theo wasn’t willing to risk the Mexican fare and, seeing that authentic Red’s Buffalo Sauce was on the table (a rare but not impossible find), he opted for French Buffalo wings. These are invariably just dry seasoned fried chicken wings, rarely very flavored, much less spicy. Theo emptied half the bottle on his basket of wings. A little embarrassing, actually.

juicy wings

juicy wings and an antagonistic model

So, our luck is improving. If you have any great but not too expensive restaurant suggestions, I’m taking notes! Let me know in the comments.

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Albi and Adding Another Art Museum

Our last tourist trip this summer was to Albi, this time a daytrip date without Theodore. It was a really lovely city, and as clean as anything in Switzerland. It is also home to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum, so I have another to add to my collection. I was quite surprised at how much of his work was on, essentially, cardboard panels. Much like my sound-suppression paintings at the apartment, only studies for great artworks. Or not even studies! Starving artist isn’t always a cliché.

At the entrance to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum.

At the entrance to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum.

Coming up on Albi's centre ville.

Coming up on Albi’s centre ville.

The cathedral here is supposed to be the largest brick cathedral in France. Apparently most are made of stone.

cathedral plaza

cathedral stairs

Stoney going in.

cathedralstatues

Ornate stonework.

It may also be the gaudiest interior in France, although my sample size is rather small still.

It may also be the gaudiest interior in France, although my sample size is rather small still.

Impressive organ.

Impressive organ.

Albi’s cathedral and T-L’s museum were next to the Bishop’s home (actually, I think the museum was in the bishop’s home), and you could tour his garden. It was a little marvel.

The other side of the city in the distance.

People lining the walkway.

We considered a river boat tour, but I chickened out at the last minute.

We considered a river boat tour, but I chickened out at the last minute.

We were actually there on a holiday weekend, so there were some shops closed in spite of its touristy nature. One was the bookstore pictured, which I would totally have LOVED to see! We did manage, for dinner, an interesting wood-fire cooked pizza, in which the mushrooms were served large and entire. The pizza shop was right across from the carousel. Fun date!

The evening's entertainment.

The evening’s entertainment.

bookshop

Sad moment.

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