Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Ever Hopeful Toys

The world of Christmas past. All these loved and saved toys. 

Just looking at them brings flashes of hours spent in the dirt or on the rug.
Vroom vroom, crash, bang, screeechhhh
Sometimes by yourself. Sometimes with that pesky brother or sister. Sometimes with that best friend from down the street.
Or maybe I can whip up a new outfit for dolly Josephine.

Where did all those dreams of horses get started?

We never grow out of dreaming and creating.

This takes the cake - a beach house doll house!!

Oh the sweet dreams among princesses and princes nestled in this regal crib.
Wishing you and your family a Merry Merry Christmas!

Bonne Année and Sweet Dreams
love, Tom and Susan 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Petite Aquarelle

Bright Awning Light
12" x 16" framed size

$140 including shipping 
available at www.thomasvieth.com

Saturday, November 17, 2018

It's a Funny Ole Life

It’s a funny ole life here in France.

For an entrepreneurial ex-pat living in rural France, there aren’t a lot of obvious opportunities for  making money. Unless you are independently wealthy or living on retirement, it is likely that you are going to do a stint being a maid or maintenance person at some point in time. 

Here’s where I fit into this experience. On the other side of the village, we have friends that run a sports vacation center that can accommodate up to 24 people. That’s more housekeeping than one person can clean on their own so there’s a small army that tackles the Wednesday changeovers. We’re divided into 2 teams and you’re either a Kitchenette or aToilette. For one reason or another I have staked out my position as aToilette. Don’t think too hard about my responsibilities. I simply do whatever it takes to get the bathroom spotless and shiny, change the beds, and be sure the windows sparkle. It’s only a half-day’s work once a week.  After finishing, the best part of the day is sitting down to a long lunch with the work crew. I’m really working so that I can enjoy this once-a-week camaraderie.
But there’s another side to the expat, entrepreneurial, life in a small village in France. When a friend asked if I would meet her in Paris to celebrate her birthday I could say “yes” in my best jet-setty, life’s a breeze voice. 

Paris - Bourdeilles pas de problem!

The morning before I headed off on this Paris jaunt found me at work in coveralls and rubber gloves. I grumbled about women with long hair and sink drains. I worried if I had accomplished tight enough hospital corners for the sheets. Lunch time was a sack of leftovers, laughing at some of the guests capers, and catching up on the latest gossip.

I changed to a dress and fancy walking shoes (I’d never be seen in Bourdeilles with something so shiny) in the broom-closet size staff bathroom. Transformed from Cinderella in the scullery to Cinderella in impractical shoes, I was off to the fancy world of gay Paris. 

My coachman dropped me off at the train station.  The cows and the cornfields of the Dordogne speed past the train window. In a few short hours there she was— Paris!
Every time I step off the train and into the avenues of Paris I am bowled over. The elegant architecture. Cafe terraces buzzing. Restaurants open at all hours of the day. Light, light and more ever-changing light— on the Seine, bathing the Louvre, behind the Eiffel tower.

I walk with a purpose although the only purpose is to look like I belong, to shed the country bumpkin air that I am sure is trailing behind me. I meet up with my friend and we have drinks on a terrace watching the city world pass by on Boulevard St Germaine. We shop for shoes that will never leave the dark of the closet if I they don’t leave Bourdeilles. “How ‘bout that silk dress and leather skirt?” - “I don’t think so.” “Well maybe.”… We ask around about dinner recommendations and select some place we can walk to in our fancy shoes and Parisienne costumes. I’m sure everyone knows I’m posing, but it’s probably not the country pumpkin that everyone spots, it’s the American bumpkin that can’t be shed. And really who’s looking any way?!

Dinner starts with champagne and the food is way too Paris fancy. The waiters in their starched shirts and tight black jackets deign to smirk at my efforts to speak French. The bill is several days of my “housekeeping” pay.

The next day we settle for lunch in a neighborhood bistro with gilded panels and cherubs dancing on the ceiling. My mind wanders to niggling thoughts. Who’s back in the kitchen getting this delicious food out to us? Who’s doing the dishes? Who’s keeping all that gilding sparkly? Who keeps the door hinges from squeaking? Is the WC (aka les toilettes) proper?
I know I’ll be back at work on Wednesday. The rubber gloves will be back on and the banter will go back and forth from room to room as we work and catch up on what’s happened since last Wednesday. I’ll pay extra attention to how important it will be for the incoming guests to crawl into crisps sheets without a thought for how the place got this way so that they can feel like they are special. My shoes won’t sparkle, Prince charming will have picked me up in the old car, but the elegant memories of a fling in Paris will linger. 
It’s a funny ole life.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Bucket List

Bucket List

Some might say that moving to a small village in France would be something for a bucket list, that our adventures and experiences here would take up a lot of the volume of a galvanized bucket. But, after awhile, can that bucket be replenished as it’s contents splash or trickle out?
I’ve never formalized a list of dreamed experiences. For now at least my curiosity has been satisfied with unexpected discoveries nearby or opportunities that arise randomly. These random adventures surprise me. I love them. I’m getting to know unknown places - they just aren’t fixed, prioritized, and listed.

A year or so ago Tom started talking about his bucket list. This seemed strange from someone that would rather have dirt or water in a bucket that is being used for “practical” things. When asked about his bucket list he said, “Go to the Grand Canyon” —and….. “That’s it.”
When we found ourselves with 10 days between a wedding in New Hampshire and a wedding in Michigan we decided to check off the one thing on Tom’s list. Is it ok to check off the first and last thing on your bucket list when you are just 60?

I guess if you only have the one thing you might as well go in a mind-blowing way. Being in the United States this trip was not exotically foreign. We didn’t raft the Colorado River, or hike, so the adventure was not physically challenging. This was an adventure that confronted the bounds of mental comprehension.

Those of you that have been to the Grand Canyon know how happy Tom was that this what inspired his one-experience long list. We got up before sunrise to find a place to sit quietly and watch the majesty of the sun forcing the colors of the canyon to change. The sun shadows played with and flattened and rounded the structures of the eroded landscape. Our brains tried to make peace with the volume before us in this sacred space. These quiet hours changed our lives. I don’t really know what I mean by “changed our lives.” It’s just that seeing the earth sculpted and formed by erosion and time and the power of the sun’s coloring palette strikes something new in your brain. 

We walked up and down the National Park’s South Rim Trail all day long for several days. Passing the same view point three, four, five times and never seeing the vista in the same way. We paused to read all of the geological information panels and looked at the canyon’s great variety of rock types. Tom recounted the story that had fixated him on the Grand Canyon in the first place. He’d read the  book The Emerald Mile, the true story of the fastest trip ever on the Grand Canyon portion of the Colorado River. He couldn’t stop wondering what it was that compelled folks to risk their lives on a rafting adventure down the muddy, dangerous Colorado River. Here, experiencing a tiny part of the canyon in person, we felt a connection to the draw and mystery of that Grand Canyon.

In the evenings we stalked the perfect lookout for sunset. Turns out everywhere is perfect and magical. Not a bad seat in the house.
 I can’t say how glad we are that we went out west. It’s too early to ask him, but I wonder if this has inspired any other adventurous ideas for Tom.

We’re back in our small village in France. The colors are different as the sun washes from morning to evening. Living under one of the tallest castle towers in France has a new perspective. Geology has shaped a quiet, narrow valley just perfect for filling up and emptying out a bucket full of dreams.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Special Open Gardens in the Dordogne

Nothing is better than discovering the unexpected. We can be sure that there will be at least one big WOW every year on the weekend of Rendez-vous aux Jardins. With hundreds of gardens to choose from I narrow our adventure down to 4 or 5 hoping that we have the energy to make it to at least 3. Here are the three gardens that we made it to this year. All right here in our beloved Dordogne.

Forgive me all the photos.......

You will notice how important stone is to our environment. Even the color of the stone features in the landscapes.

Les Jardins de Cadiot   24370 Carlux
Open to the public most of the year
Over the past thirty years, a garden crazy family has created and maintained this extraordinary garden, which is nestled in an embracing valley. One wanders from room to room finding unexpected sculptures, rose gardens, formal and informal gardens, and woodland paths.

Les Jardins de l'Albarede   24250 Saint-Cybrabet
In lieu of classic garden style, landscape architecture finesse, and rare plants, this garden has personality.  A mixture of stones, wild flowers, borrowed views, clipped waves created from trees and shrubs found on the land, and eager amateur attempts at sculpture, this garden has an easy-going personal style.

Jardins du chateau de Veyrignac
Private home, only open to the public for this one weekend.
----except for a certain artist that had the cheek to ask if he could come paint.......
I can only say that my photographs do not even begin to show the elegance, grandeur, and intimacy of the gardens. These gardens and buildings demonstrate the true meaning of landscape architecture.
I'll keep you posted when Tom gets some painting done there!