Friday, November 20, 2015

Paris: In Sympathy, In Solidarity

This post, which I have been meaning to write since my visit earlier this fall, is not much changed from my original conception of it, except that last Friday's events have made me focus more on its people and less on its places.

Even before last Friday, I was struck by the openness with which Parisians live their lives. Cafes, which seem to institutionalize this openness, are busy throughout the day. It might be for a croissant at breakfast, taking in the sun at mid-day, watching passersby from an outdoor table, or meeting friends for a drink after work. It is no wonder that earlier this week Parisians made a concerted effort to repopulate their cafes. It affirmed their way of life and demonstrated that their attackers have not won.

Another important element of life in Paris is fashion. As one of the world's capitals of fashion, it was exciting to see a fashion photo shoot in progress. Many other people had also stopped to watch, but did so from a distance and angle that didn't interfere with the photographer.

Place des Vosages

One of the liveliest places we visited was Montmartre, clearly a tourist mecca, but interesting nonetheless for the grand, domed Basilica de Sacre-Coeur,

Carousel and Basilica de Sacre-Coeur

narrow streets, bustling cafes, 

La Boheme Cafe

and artists at work.

I snapped a photo of this gentleman talking on his phone in the courtyard of L'Hotel de Bethune-Sully because of his elegance and his adorable dog. They appear so companionable! And unguarded. I wonder if after last Friday he can still be at ease in such a public place. I hope so.

In the courtyard of L'Hotel de Bethune-Sully

I will end with this image of the Eiffel Tower, a structure which is both open and soaring. The statue appears to be holding the tower in a protective embrace, as though to demonstrate that we cannot take for granted our open society, nor our right to have soaring aspirations. We must cherish them. We must protect them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Apple Season

Ah, fall! Fresh apples and comforting spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

During last Friday's huge storm - over eight inches of rain in less than six hours at my house - I whipped up a batch of apple walnut muffins for an afternoon snack. I used unpeeled apple chunks to add both flavor and texture.

Cream together
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine dry ingredients
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Add dry ingredients, in two increments, to sugar and butter, alternating with 
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 apples, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (enough for about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Spoon into prepared muffin tins and top with combined
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in pre-heated 400° oven. If you haven't used cupcake foils, let cool for half an hour before removing from tins.

Besides crispy apples and cooler weather, for us fall brings visits to our daughters in New England. This year peak colors coincided with our trip and we were treated to splendid displays of foliage. The Northfield Mount Hermon campus was positively glowing.

NMH fall colors

Sugar Maple leaves at NMH

For the long weekend break we headed to New Hampshire's White Mountains yet again for some hiking. This time we stayed at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch, right at the Tuckerman Ravine trailhead. Given the White Mountains' reputation for bad weather, we were thrilled to step out into a day of blue skies, warm temperatures and moderate winds.

Getting ready to head up the trail

We pretty quickly diverted off Tuckerman's, one of the busiest trails in the White Mountains,

Fall color on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

to Huntington Ravine, a trail that is definitely less taken. We saw only three other people, two climbers and one hiker, along the entire route. Once above tree-line the trail becomes a scramble, up and around boulders, and over bare rock slabs, requiring care to follow the trail blazes marking the route. I wouldn't want to descend this way, nor try it on a rainy or icy day, but in the warm sunshine it was great fun.

Resting along the Huntington Ravine Trail

Being up high I could fully appreciate the land's contours, ridge after ridge marching off towards the horizon.

I marveled at the effort that has gone into making and marking these trails.

Descending the Boott Spur Trail

Much as I enjoyed the exhilaration of the high, rocky terrain, as my energy waned towards the end of the day, I welcomed our return to the forest, finding comfort in its protective and colorful embrace.

Nearing the junction to Tuckerman's Ravine trail, we had one final jolt of excitement: a moose on the trail! This was a first for us in the White Mountains and therefore truly memorable.

Moose on the Boott Spur Trail

Fortunately she was intent on eating and merely looked at us and twitched her ears. We couldn't have scripted a better end to the day. I'll leave you with one parting shot of color, this from along the Dolly Copp Road as we departed the White Mountains.

The Dolly Copp Road

Friday, October 23, 2015

Seeing Red

Earlier this month I made a trip to Paris and Marseille, with a brief stop in London on the way home. Now that I've been home for a bit and have had time to look at all my photos together I am finding some interesting themes among my collection. Red, for example.

In the UK it's hard to avoid seeing red since it is used on many public facilities, such as buses and trains,

Piccadilly Circus tube stop

post boxes, and phone booths. I didn't check to see whether these old phone booths still have working phones in them. Does anybody use still them? Maybe they are just part of the scenery now, intended as subjects for tourist photos. 

Belgravia, London

In Paris red is more often used to make a personal statement, as in these love locks on the Pont Neuf,

Love locks on Pont Neuf

and in these red laces, which I spotted near the Louvre.

At the Carrousel du Louvre

In some cases red stole the scene. Tatiana Wolska's free-form sculpture contrasted sharply with lush  gardens in the courtyard of the early seventeenth century Hotel de Bethune-Sully in Paris.

Sculptures by Tatiana Wolska

Coca-Cola's enormous sign looms over Eros at Piccadilly Circus.

Statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus

Equally arresting was this couple just outside the Piccadilly Circus tube stop. Her red dress caught my eye, but with no time to change camera settings, I just pointed my camera and clicked. It was this blurry image or nothing, though I rather like the blurriness as it conveys a bit of the motion and chaos of Piccadilly on a Saturday night.

Piccadilly Circus at night

Less chaotic were the shiny doors welcoming us into The Grenadier, a traditional pub near Belgrave Square.

The Grenadier

The red door of the Chateau d'If, a few minutes by boat from Marseille, is not quite so welcoming, at least if you imagine yourself to be Edmond Dantes of "The Count of Monte Cristo."

At the Chateau d'If

In other cases red was more of a highlight. A red-jacketed pedestrian appeared at just the right moment to add interest and a sense of scale to this image of Green Park in London.

Green Park

A red-shirted runner completed this scene of the lattice-work exterior of the MuCEM (the Museum of European and Mediterranean Culture) in Marseille. I will have more details about this building and Marseille in a subsequent post.

Runner alongside Marseille's MuCEM

Greeting me on my return home was this piece, consisting mostly of scraps, which has come together slowly from the scraps that I sew together every time I sit down at my machine to work on a proper project. It is very much an improvisational piece and I'm not entirely sure where I am going with it, except that eventually it will be large enough for a twin size bed.

I like the sunny yellow center, but once the borders were sewn on the yellow seemed overpowering. Hence the appliqué tree, the idea for which came from a book I enjoyed as a child, "The Cookie Tree," illustrated by my uncle,  Blake Hampton.

In spite of all the yellow, the red highlights are enough to make me see this piece as predominantly red. A little red goes a long way.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Wedding Celebration in Maine

August found us in Blue Hill, Maine, attending my niece's wedding. What a beautiful event! The bride and groom gathered friends and family to a field, black and white cows watching from one side, the bay sparkling in the distance opposite, and said their vows under a perfect blue sky.

My gift to them was, naturally, a quilt.

It is quite a traditional quilt, comprised of Ohio Star blocks alternating with solid blocks and framed with a red zig zag border. I think this arrangement allows each star to sparkle a little, and provides space for the quilting to stand out. Each star is different, and though I used mostly traditional fabrics, they are in bright, saturated colors which gives it a youthfulness appropriate for the recipients.

I quilted it, block by block, on my long-arm machine, using my own simple design for the stars,

and used the pre-loaded designs from QuiltPath for everything else.  The triangle designs in the red portion of the border match up so well that it looks like a continuous pattern.

After the wedding we spent several days in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. Our plans were so last minute that we couldn't find accommodation in Bar Harbor and ended up in Northeast Harbor. This was fortunate as Northeast Harbor is far quieter than Bar Harbor. A two minute walk from our hotel brought us to the dock where we hopped on a boat for an evening cruise of the harbor. We saw seals, osprey, cormorants,

lobster boats,

and hundreds of lobster buoys, each one painted in its owner's colors.

We were also blessed with a brilliant sunset.

No visit to Acadia is complete without an exploration of its carriage roads, a legacy of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who financed and directed their construction in the first half of the 20th century. They wind up and down and around, crossing stone bridges (also part of Rockefeller's legacy), passing ponds and coastal views, and through dense woodlands. They are all wide and gently graded, perfect for enjoying on foot, on a bicycle, or in a horse-drawn carriage.

If you are up for a little more excitement, you can tackle the Precipice Trail, which is described as a non-technical climb.

It requires climbing fixed metal steps,

and steep, narrow stone steps.

We went very early in the morning, and quickly emerged from the thick ground fog.

 It was a great way to end our short visit to Acadia.