Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday's Petite Aquarelle Dordogne Region, France

Farm Fields and Walnuts
12" x 16" matted and sized for standard frame
$120 including shipping

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


In an international community, you never know what language someone else's dog understands.

Likewise for dogs communicating to strangers.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Manners Can Be Fun

It’s amazing what one takes as standard, culture-crossing, global behavior when it has been instilled in you from childhood. Take manners for instance. We are taught that certain behaviors exhibit good training and upbringing.
The whole point of this training is so that you do the right thing at the right time and place. Not only will you make your mother proud, you will also increase your chances of attracting friends who aren’t barbarians.
“Keep your elbows off the table.”
“Put your fork down in between bites.”
“Look people in the eye and call them by their name when you greet them.”
“Don’t interrupt people that are working.”
Then suddenly you find that all of these fancy, proper manners are considered bad form. How can it be? This is what Grandma laid down as gospel for a young lady.
It never occurred to me that social manners along with language could also have frontiers. Here are a few differences in how we comport ourselves now a days.
At the French dinner table it is considered impolite to put one’s hands under the table. I must look like a fidget budget as I rest my hands lightly on the edge of the table and then they drift back down to their accustomed place.  Up and down up and down. I’ve actually heard French parents say to their children, “Put your hands on the table.”
The ‘european’ fashion to eat is to cut one’s food and then continue to hold the fork in one’s left hand and eat what is there. Eat slowly yet efficiently.
And one should pretty much be a part of the family before you address someone by their first name. A “Hello, Madame” or Monsieur is fine. You might even kiss the person on the check, but still not know their first name. The kissing habit is something that does not always travel well back to the states – one time I found myself going up to kiss people at the church greeting time – that started a little fancy panic back-peddling in the pews.
And if you ever wondered why every shopkeeper you met in France knows that you are not French, notice that every time you enter a shop you will hear “Bonjour” – even from other shoppers and you are expected to great everyone as well.  And don’t forget to toss out an “Au revoir” on the way out.
Walking into a small restaurant in any small village demands a protocol you won’t find in Paris.  When you enter, you say “Bon soir (good evening)” to each of the three or four tables of diners.  Yes, they are strangers. (So you don’t have to kiss anybody.)  Then they say “Bon soir” to you.  Then you say “Bon appetite” to whoever just got served.  They thank you and wish you “Bon appetite.”  To which, with a heartfelt “Merci,” you finally get to find your table and sit down.
Every now and then I ask a little advice on how to conduct myself in certain situations. In spite of the fact that what works in Burlington doesn’t go in Bourdeilles, it’s a good thing that the need for manners is a strong part of my upbringing. It makes this part of the adventure in France as much fun as the wine tastings, history discoveries and adventures with new friends.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Five Ducks, Bourdeilles France

Five Duck, Bourdeilles France
12" x 16"
$120 including shipping
available at

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cracking Walnuts

"I'm sorry, I just don't think cracking walnuts is a metaphor for anything."

Walnuts from the Perigord

Walnuts figure largely into the traditions of the Dordogne Region. Shells found at archeological sites show that humans have enjoyed the flavor and benefits of this hardy nut since early times. Oil pressed from walnuts was used in lamps.

At some point the walnut was a symbol of the union of marriage. Two complicated pieces joined at a delicate point.

During the Middle Ages physicians felt the walnut would relieve migraines because the inner nut so resembled the human brain.

With soil rich in calcium and a mild, humid climate this region is perfect for walnut production. Most homes have at least one tree, if one doesn’t have a tree you know where to walk along the farm roads and find windfalls in the ditches.

Machines have been created that can gather the nuts in the fall, but there is no replacement for the need to crack these meaty nuts by hand. Each person has their own technique, a quick punch of the hand, a tap with a hammer, nutcrackers like pinchers and the new fangled nutcrackers that are pretty much idiot proof. Guess which one we have. Whatever it takes to keep the meat in two neat pieces. 

There are many ways to appreciate this nut. Freshly cracked on a salad. As walnut oil, a taste of earth, smoke and other senses indescribable, pressed into an oil that is the Dordogne region version of Vermont Maple Syrup. And if you have made a good enough impression on a ‘local’, one might even be offered the elixir of life – a vin de noix, walnut wine. A concoction made with the entire green nut soaked in eau de vie (water of life)- moonshine! A taste of green, leaves, nutshells – every sip is savored and takes one back to the land –flavors that can only be produced by mother earth. And then there is a walnut cake.  A simple elegant way to end a hearty meal.

Walnut Cake
125 grams of chopped almonds
125 grams of chopped walnuts
125 grams of butter
300 grams of sugar
6 eggs

Separate the eggs. Reserve the whites.  Mix the yolks with the sugar.  Add the chopped nuts. Melt the butter, not too hot and mix in with nut mixture. Whip the egg whites until stiff and incorporate gently. Place into a pie shaped dish, buttered and floured. Bake at 225 Celsius for 30 minutes.
Decorate with walnut halves. Drizzle with chocolate if you like.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Friday's Petite Aquarelle Dordogne Region, France

Yellow Awning, Brantome Market
12" x 16"
$120 including shipping
Available at

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rock Realty, The Dronne River Valley

"Don't worry - they're the last Neanderthal family."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Unheard Stories, Bourdeilles France

All buildings have unheard stories. In Bourdeilles these stories could be Renaissance  adventures, a Medieval tale, or even, in the case of one or two houses, the claims of Roman settlers.

 Sometime last fall I heard tell of an ancient abandoned place in the forest near by. With no leaves on the trees I spent the winter following every rabbit path that led into a hidden corner, but every trail narrowed to an end with no discovery.  Not even a rabbit. Then one day walking in the middle of our favorite valley Tom spied a window. A window floating in the bare tree branches. One step forward it was gone, one step back and it was gone. Look up at the wrong moment and there would be nothing. Maybe this was it!

After a few inquiries we were given directions to the entrance of a hidden path. A place we had passed many times.  The path made a straight line along the edge of the cliffs and then suddenly took a sharp left on the other side of a small hollow. Looking across the hollow we could again see an opening floating where there should be rock and brambles. Just before arriving at the now obvious entry there was a lovely terrace. Just the sort of space one would enjoy on a summer evening as the sun was setting. Then we entered the “building”.  
It was a cave.  More exact, it was an enhanced cave that had been carved into and added onto until it became a home. It is enchanting.

Nothing could have prepared us for the beautiful space. We were suspended over the valley floor in a rock room with a smooth mud floor, light pouring in from several sides. The scale and space were amazing and elegant. Here was a room that held bright sunshine on a cold winter day.  A fireplace finished the scene.  The mass of rock and hill and cliff wasn’t oppressive, it was oddly comforting.  One felt immediately safe and at ease.

This hole would probably  have been a grainary.

I’ve since asked several townspeople what is known about this nearby secret place. The only consistent theme is that it has been a hideaway. A hideaway during the wars of religion, a hideaway from the English invasions, a hideaway during the Nazi occupation, (one woman says she heard of dances held here on summer evenings during this time) a hideaway from teenager’s parents. A hideaway used for hundreds of years.

One’s imagination goes wild in a space like this. When did the first human find the cave? When did they begin to add cut stones and make it into a homey space? Was it actually a church at some point in time? Could a space like this ever be comfortable? When, when, when, did all of this start and when did it finally become abandoned? (There are still homes like this being lived in in this region.)

Oh to hear a story or two from this beautiful space. 
The cliffs are just below this table top field.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday's Petite Aquarelle Dordogne Region, France

Three Cows and Vineyard
12" x 16"
$120 including shipping
available at

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Even in Paris....

Even in Paris, the first sign of spring is the biggest event of the year.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Parisian View of Nature

Turns out my parents have turned this into a challenge for themselves. They have asked that I identify as much as I can so they can see if they have 'found' all the locations. So.....

The Brasserie, Printemps Department Store
Models, Printemps Department Store
Store front in the St Germain
Parisiens at the Farm Expo Porte de Versailles
A poor duck and a duck press
Medici Fountain, Luxembourg Gardens
Visiting at the Luxembourg Gardens
Paris balcony.... and other random 'country' scenes
Deco bed, Musee D'Orsay 
Classic French Rooster, The E Dehillerin Shop
View from the Eiffel Tower
Ice Skating Rink  Paris City Hall
unknown building and garden in the Marais
The Petit Palais
Roses on the Terrace at the Pompadou
Rainy view of Eiffel Tower from  the Pompadou