Friday, December 30, 2016

weekend read

If you are looking for a book for this long weekend, I suggest The Nest by Cynthia Sweeney.  Good, comfy read; there is a lot of mayhem here, but not the kind we have encountered all over the place in the last months.  Four siblings awaiting the bestowal of a promised legacy known among them as "the nest".  The oldest brother, Leo, has  managed to get his hands on most of it through various forms of emotional blackmail.  The story is about how three of the siblings come to understand loyalty, jealousy, sacrifice, and ultimately, forgiveness and understanding.  I wasn't sure I was going to like or empathize with these characters, but I did.  All but one grew into whole human beings.

I am binge watching Downton Abbey this weekend.  I saw it when it first ran but since it is now available on instant at the Flix (all except season 6), I decided to hunker down and immerse myself in their world.  It's every bit as good as I remember it!

Dago's tonight.  It's remarkably quiet in town, as least for now.  Crowds will probably increase tomorrow, there will be noise and fireworks galore tomorrow evening, and then our little village will revert to its serene, peaceful climate.  We are having some work done on the house over the next few weeks; I'll keep you apprised.

Opera note:    Tomorrow is Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri.  You can listen to it at 10 AM (PST) on Sacramento's Public Radio station

We had a "looker" come by the house this morning for a tour.  Maybe it will be a great New Year for us in the real-estate business. I hope 2017 is happy, healthy and sane for all of you, not matter what your business!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

the Christmas spirit

Once again this year I am cooking credo con salsa verde for tomorrow's Christmas dinner.

And once again I am reminding you to listen to Alan Maitland reading Frederick Forsyth's story,
The Shepherd before you put out Santa's milk and cookies and tuck up for the night.

¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

just a blush

Just a blush of pink in last night's sky, but lovely nonetheless.  And right after this photo was taken we heard the hum and hiss of the spray truck trolling up and down the streets.  And high time, too!  Maybe now it will be safe to venture down to the malecón.  We plan to go to Fernando's puesto for comida around 2 o'clock.  I anticipate a bug-free feast.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

the opera salad

Today was my first "opera at the beach" accompanied by the usual shrimp salad ~ shrimp cooked at home instead of brought from Dago's.  See yesterday's post for shrimp info.  While Salome (R. Strauss) sang and danced and plotted (you remember the seven veils?  the thing about the head on a silver platter?) I definitely enjoyed this little feast.  Weather lovely, slight breeze has kept the mosquitoes away.  Here's to being here.

Friday, December 16, 2016

first Friday

No Dago's tonight; about a billion mosquitos are swarming around everything.  There is a bit of a breeze so we are being saved from sunset swarms.  But still, it is not a good idea to be out and about.  We await the fumigadores.  Otherwise, all is beautiful.

Oh, did I forget to tell you we are at the beach?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

when like-minds lunch

I took the train down to Berkeley today to have lunch with two wonderful young women whom I've know for about 35 years.  They are the daughters of a very dear friend who died five years ago.  The three of us get together yearly to mark the date and get caught up.  Today we had A LOT to talk about, especially the current state of political life in our country.

Before arriving at the restaurant I made a quick detour to The Cheeseboard for goodies; a seeded baguette, two loaves of City Bread, and four scones to last me until we head south next week.  Lunch was delicious, in the usual Chez Panisse manner, conversation was lively, wide-ranging, so very satisfying.  I'm relieved to know I'm not the only one . . .

By the way, that Capital Corridor Amtrak is fantastic!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

chemistry lesson

I've been doing a little research on the topic of "chemistry" as it applies to people's connection with one another.  You know the saying, "They have great chemistry" or they don't.  I can think of people in the public eye who have it:  the Obamas, for instant.  And who don't: the Trumps.  Enough of politics.

Let's move from Washington to Hollywood.  I'm not a follower of all things Hollywood but I have read a bit about the breakup of the Brangelinas.  I know only the tiniest bit of their history together, but I thought it might be an interesting chemistry lesson to watch the two movies they starred in, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and By the Sea.  I had not seen either.  From what I have read about it,  the Smith flick was well received and, more important to my "research" was commented on for its over-the-top, smoke-from-the-screen chemistry.  They were having more fun that probably was legal at the time.  One was married, but after that film, not for long.  Then they took up with each other and the rest is history.  Until now.

Leap ahead 12 years and six kids and there's not only a lot of ink but this second movie, By the Sea, written and directed by Jolie.  There is not one drop of chemistry between these two, although "he" tries like anything to assure her that there is.  Now, it may well be the script, the characters they play, the story, but it was really painful to watch.  They were NOT having fun, even in their misery.  Maybe because, despite my best efforts, I know what has happened to these two admittedly gifted performers.  But chemistry?  Not one frame.  It was actually painful to watch and only partly because it's a terrible movie.

Think about Cary Grant and his various leading ladies ~ Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Eva Marie Saint, Sophia Loren.  Instant and insane chemistry based on how much fun they were all having together.  As for women, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, and the other above-mentioned women.  It's rare that when they are in a film there is not chemistry between them and their leading man.  Even if they are antagonists or miserable in a relationship, there's still "something" there.

Ok.  Chemistry class is over.

Now on to wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are.  Be safe on the road or in the air, don't eat or drink too much, and give thanks that, as of yet, we are still in a world that's fairly intact and understandable.  This may not last.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

an "in front of the fire" day

It's cold and rainy here in the valley today, a perfect day to sit by the fire with a good read.  That would be Strange Justice:  The Selling of Clarence Thomas.

It is about the bizarre confirmation hearing that pit Thomas against Anita Hill.  Meticulously researched and documented, the case is laid out almost day by day.  When it's all over, he has been elevated to the court and she is left out, but not down.  This book affirms what we all knew from the beginning; she was right, it did happen just the way she said it did.  Thomas comes off as a Jeckyl-Hyde character, not too bright but extremely shrewd.  If you are at all curious about how this all happened, I highly recommend it.  Authored by Jane Meyer, who writes for The New Yorker, and  Jill Abramson, one-time executive editor of the New York Times.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

the magic carpet

I saw an ad for a Turkish carpet for sale in our neighborhood.  Now, my house is completely "rugged out"  and the last thing I need is another carpet.  We have carpets from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Persia . . . see what I mean?  But this beauty called out to me and, after some serious hesitation, I said "Why not?  I'll find a place for it" and bought it.

This beauty has an interesting provenance.  It was given to the seller as a gift about 25 years ago by her anthropologist uncle who bought it in Turkey.  She thinks it is probably about 50 years old.  She has never displayed or used it; it has been rolled up in her garage all this time.  It is in excellent condition.  The colors are bright and clear, the weave is tight and clean.  It now graces the floor in our entryway, a gloriously cheerful welcome to our home.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

a toast! (actually four)

In the real world, only two of these toasts mean anything, but we thought we'd add two that are actually sort of frivolous.  So first, the two that are serious.

A TOAST!  to Mr. C!  This week marks the end of the Tonsil War and ten years of being cancer free!

Mr. C taking refreshment in Paris, 2016.  To your continued health!
 A TOAST! to Gwen Ifill, the sine qua non of reporters.  She spoke truth to power without wavering.  I had great admiration for her and will miss her every evening at 6 PM when she isn't at her desk on the News Hour.

A TOAST! to the new kitchen floor.  We have had a terrible crack in the floor almost since we moved in 35 years ago.  We have redone the floor twice but it keeps coming back.  In fact, that fissure runs through the whole property, through the pool (more later) and into our neighbor's property.  We've lived with it getting progressively worse for about 6 years but since we're not here much of the time we've just tried to ignore it.  This year we had had enough.  Problem:  the tiles we have on the floor are no longer available so it called for new thinking.  Solutions:  completely new floor in the kitchen but the entire house is tiled with the same product;  take up tiles in places they don't show like closet floors and hope we can salvage enough to cover cracked area; do something completely different.  I opted for t#3 and went off on the great "tile rug" hunt.  Issues, however, included the thickness of the tile so it would all be the same level and the size of the tile so there wouldn't be a lot of cutting.  I found some spectacular Moroccan tiles but they were much too thick.  Mexican tiles, too, were too thick and too small.  But here's the "tile rug" idea I had.

Most of the crack runs down the left side of the rectangle (you can't see it; it's covered by the tiles.)  This just shows the area we had to cover.  The Mexican tiles are NOT ceramic; they are bara, a very porous clay.  Not for the floor.  But it would have looked fantastic all mixed together.  Tyler the Tiler managed to salvage a few of the original tiles, cleaned up the floor, and repaired the crack with some sort of rubber filler and a very thin membrane meant to stabilized the floor in case of new cracks.

After two months of looking for tiles in person and online, we finally settled on a pattern/color mix that we could live with.

We are very happy with how it looks and, mainly, no more crack.  We'll see how it "winters over".

A TOAST! to the pool that we had repaired and refinished to deal with the above-mentioned crack and the very badly stained stucco finish.  The pool is 16 years old and looked it.  But now it looks gorgeous.  Re-stucco'd with a acrylic-based stucco that will not stain, refinished with fiberglass that also will not crack, and repaired the lights.

before work began we had to drain the pool
all fiberglassed and almost ready to fill
The protective paper is gone and the pool is about a quarter filled
All done, filled, lights glowing, ready EXCEPT it's waaay too cold now.  Wait for Spring!  
Can you believe all of this toasting was done with just one bottle of Prosecco?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

i'm never going to catch up!

In less than 48 hours we'll be on our way home and I still have 10 days of reporting to do.  I'm never going to be able to give each of those days its due so I'm just going to lay out a bunch of pictures with minimal editorial comment.  Enjoy!

Went over to our old nabe to the street market.  We like it best because it's human sized.

Le Panthéon,just up the hill  from the market
Some of the goodies in this little market.  Everything is SO tempting.

Traditional tarte aux pommes

Coq au Vin in a jar!

I wish I knew a little girl who would
wear one of these beautifully smocked dresses.

We discovered a new museum right in our neighborhood:  La Musée des Arts et Métiers (The Museum of Design and Invention). What a fantastic place!  All kinds of machines, gadgets, tools beautifully housed in an huge old church.  And Sunday is "free museum" day so the place was full of wide-eyed and curious kids.  And it's a perfect place for them.  It reminded me somewhat of the Exploratorium in San Francisco.  We wandered around for a couple of hours looking at the remarkable collection of incredibly complex machines that are now done by robots!

Car frame of Paul Arzen's L'Oeuf (the egg)

Photo of L'Oeuf on the road.  There was also a video of this little car negotiating the traffic on Paris streets!  Makes the Smnartie look like a tank.
early printing press with auto paper feed

hand pump sewing machine with inlaid Mother of Pearl decorations
remember this?  note different keyboard lettering arrangement
early mechanical dolls.  heads nod, arms move up and down
mock-up of Statue of Liberty

cable suspended from ceiling for . . .
Foucault's Pendulum
I will definitely come to this museum again.  There's so much to see and most of it is very meticulous and needs some serious contemplation.

The great mussels hunt is on!  In 2013 we stumbled on a fantastic little rest in  the 6eme where we had THE best mussels anywhere, anytime.  But where is it?  We walked all over the place trying to find it but alas, we couldn't.  We retraced our steps as we remembered them from that rainy day  when we just came upon the spot with a big sandwich board outside advertising MOULES!  So we gave up and headed to a place on rue Jacob where I had my one-and-only steak frites.  Very tasty, and that dipping sauce for the frites was nice and spicy.

Today we went up to the Musée Marmottan, the home of many of Monet's paintings, including "Impression,  soleil levant" which literally glows in the dim light of its showplace.  I like seeing the waterlily paintings here rather than at l'Orangerie because they're smaller and the space is more intimate.  They're equally as beautiful but you get them in smaller bites.  Just one viewer's opinion.

Back to La Republique and a delicious out-to-lunch at Leon of Brussels for mussels.  And boy, were they ever good, washed down with a Belgian beer, Affligem.

I think we took today off.  I've consulted my photos but don't come up with anything.  So let's just say we did laundry, read, napped, whatever.   So here's a photo of something you can buy in our neighborhood pâtisserie:  it's a brioche bomb, stuffed with chocolate and raisins.  Probably 200 gms. carbs, which is why I look but don't eat! 

The Richard Lenior market was on the menu for this morning.  I wanted to do a couple of things there plus check out their prepared foods.  There os a stall that sells beautiful paella and I thought it might be a good idea for dinner.  Alas, no.  But the flowers were beautiful, the sun was out, the market wasn't too busy and it was just nice to be out and about.

first pomegranate of the season

Late Thursday afternoon we went over to the 4th to a little art gallery opening for three artists from San Francisco.  L'Oeil Ouvert.  It was quite fun; met all three artists, chatted them up, looked at the show that was pretty well attended.  It's in a rather out-of-the-way spot down a short side street but, as is often the case, is in the midst of two or three other galleries, an Irish pub, a fabulous fabric store (who knows about these treasures??) and a couple of tiny restaurants.

When we got back to our Metro, here's what the evening looked like.

Softly fading light, clear blue skies, time to head home.  Tomorrow is another day with who-knows-what in store.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

your preference: Arc or Arche?

Cait's friend Anne works at Défense, the huge business center on the westernmost edge of Paris.  Its centerpiece is this rather ungainly structure, the  Grande Arche that's surrounded by glass and steel skyscrapers.  It's like being in a Fellini film; all these out-of-human-size structures and cold surfaces. There are gardens, however, and a big fountain on the Esplanade

If you stand facing the Grande Arch, make a 180º turn, here's what you see.

The gracious, graceful Arc de Triomphe rises off in the distance.  I like the contrast between the two, their settings, their architectural differences.  For me, it's the Arc anytime!

We met Anne at noon, had a delightful lunch at one of the many restaurants surrounding the Esplanade that were built to feed the 180,000 people who work in this 1400 acre "business park."

We said our good-byes and Anne headed back to her office and we headed off to someplace as yet undetermined.

We decided to go to the Palais Royal, Cardinal Riichelieu's old digs.

The colonnades now have all sorts of shops and restaurants on the ground level, businesses and apartments above.

Plenty of places to sit under the trees and watch the Parisian world stroll by.  In the spring and summer it's a riot of flowers but now not so much.  But the open square still has these funky striped pillars.  Perfect place to contemplate the map and try to find out how to get home!

We got back on the metro and headed home.  We transferred at Bastille where we encountered the Metro police checking tickets to be certain all riders really paid.  The CARDINAL RULE here is DO NOT TOSS YOUR TICKET UNTIL YOU ARE OUT OF THE EXIT TURNSTILE.  Alas, a slight error was made and it cost each of us 50€!  A lesson learned the hard way and completely by mistake.  Both of us know this rule but there was a ticket mix-up and in the confusion both tickets were tossed.  Never again!

This was Cait's last evening in Paris so she packed up and got ready for a 6:30 AM departure by RER to the airport and then on to Boston and, eventually, Bozeman.  It was great fun having her here and I think her appetite for Paris is sufficiently whetted that she'll return soon.  Anyway, we all have to come back in 2019 for the reopening of the renovated Musée Carnavalet!

Mr. C accompanied Cait on the Metro to Gare du Nord to see her on to the RER.  Meanwhile, I hunkered down to take a day of rest after a week of tearing around.  My foot needed a rest, too.  The blister is healing very slowly, not helped along by all the walking we've done.  So today I a taking a sick day, as much as I hate to waste a minute while I'm here.  But if I don't get this thing healed up I'm going to be down and out for the count.  I read, dozed, did some laundry, watched news from the US ~ you people are nuts! ~ and just generally had a quiet day.  There are still two weeks to get everything on the "to do" list ticked off.