24 December 2011


Wishing everyone a warm, comfortable Christmas, and sending my thoughts to those who are hungry and those surrounded by danger. Special prayers to people who are facing this Christmas for the first time after a personal loss.

May the message of the season lighten your load and lift you up.

16 December 2011

christmas listening 3

It was cloudy and dark this morning. And windy. Very windy.

I was waiting for the light to change. The bridge was shaking because of the strong wind. Pedestrians and cyclists hurried past me, trying to keep themselves from getting blown into the vehicular traffic. From the comfort of my own car, I watched people walk, leaning heavily into the wind and holding the collars of their coats. Then this song came on my car stereo.

I thought about the friend I just said good-bye to, quite possibly for a long time, if not for good -- her family is leaving France. I also thought about the two-and-a-half years that have gone by since we moved to Lyon. Six more months and then we leave.

People come and people go. We are part of that migration.
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint! And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared, since auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

It's a beautiful Scottish traditional song. Above is just one version of the lyrics, and not the exact words sung by James Taylor.

Yes, I'll take a cup of kindness yet, but not for the sake of old times. I'll take my cup for here and now, becuase that's all we've got.

11 December 2011

little hands

I was at a fund-raising event on Saturday, staffing one of the craft tables for the children and taking photos.

I love watching children create. I love watching the serious expression on their faces while they are at it, and the obvious satisfaction they feel upon finishing a project, no matter how small it is.

I do have a few things I'd like to say to some parents, however.

First, stop telling your children to "put that over there, this over here, it's crooked, that's way too much glue." It's their project, not yours. They know what they're doing. More importantly, they like what they're doing. So let them be.

Second, please do not tell them to "look at the camera and smile." That so spoils the moment. For the children, and for me.

Thank you for listening.

06 December 2011

christmas listening 2

"Little Drummer Boy" is one of my favorite Christmas songs, but it cannot be any verison. It has to be this one.

05 December 2011

winter bulbs

"Water just once a week until blooming. Once blooming, water twice a week. Do not consume -- for decoration only." ~ care instruction

02 December 2011

christmas reading 2

Here's something I used to do with children around Christmas: (Note: this is easier, and actually more fun, if some adults are present to help name the reindeer... especially if those adults have never read this book.)

Me: Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Kids: Dasher and Dancer and....

Waitl til all the reindeer are named. Sometimes people forget Rudolf. Make sure he's counted, too. Then:

Me: And?
Kids: And what?
Me: There's one more.
Kids: Who?
Me: Olive. You forgot Olive.
Kids: There's no reindeer named Olive!
Me: Yes, there is.
Kids: Where?
Me: "All of the other reindeer~♪"
Kids: Huh?
Me: Don't you see? "All of the other... Olive, the other reindeer..."
Kids: Oooh.

Then pull out this book and read it to them.

28 November 2011

christmas listening 1


I have about 90 Christmas albums in my music library. One that's currently on heavy rotation is this one by James Taylor, and this is my favorite track. 


25 November 2011

christmas reading 1

One of the sweetest Christmas books ever. I love Richard Scarry books, period, but this one is probably my favorite of all.

21 November 2011

a thankful heart

Today I'm thankful for...

Our home.


Hands to hold.

My five senses.



And for all that I can hold in my hands, and in my heart.

I'm wishing everyone a good Thanksgiving, wherever you might be.

18 November 2011

chocolate guilt


Pure Chuao, 55% cacao dark chocolate.

Regular plain Bernachon chocolate bars are 6€ each, but this one is 7.50€. For a 150g bar of chocolate. That's $10 for 5.3oz. of chocolate.

It tastes like heaven, and I don't mind the price -- it's a pleasure I don't indulge in often. I just can't help wondering if the cacao farmers were fairly compensated.

12 November 2011


Fall is my favorite season of all. It always has been. I love the colors of fall, the textures of fall.

In the countryside not too far out of Lyon, we found lots of tactile evidence of the fall season.

It's fun to walk on the fallen-leaves carpet. We could feel and smell the moist ground underneath. You have to watch your step, though -- this carpet can be slippery.

We found bumpy little acorn hats and lots and lots of pokey chestnuts. The moss on the tree trunks were velvety to touch.

Ah, fall. It's a good thing that you come around every year.

07 November 2011

a space of one's own

My "office" is a small corner of our living room, essentially a desk with a laptop.

I love the setup -- the room is bright, and I've got a comfortable chair. But the space is not just for me, because it resides where the TV, along with my boys' Xbox, is located. In fact, I alway end up shutting my computer up and moving elsewhere when they come in to play games, because I can't think or write with all that game sound booming next to me.

It's not a serious complaint -- the issue comes up only when my husband and son are home during the day, as in during weekends and vacations. But it gets me thinking. How is it that I, who spend greater amount of time in this home than either of them, do not have a dedicated space just for me?

My husband has his office (with a door that closes!), and my son has his playroom (which actually is a spareroom/guestroom, but we don't have guests that often). But moi? Just a small desk in the corner of our shared space. Is that fair???

I mumbled to my husband, and his response was, "You have ALL the space in this apartmen ALL to yourself during the day!"

Well, he's right. And he didn't say, "The kitchen is where you belong," either.

But in the next home we live in, I'm going to set up my "office" away from my boys' entertainment area, where I can be mostly alone and not bothered. That should not be too much to ask or too hard to accomplish. I just wonder why I have this feeling that it will be in the kitchen.

*I have a small mirror sitting behind my laptop, leaning against the wall. Occasionally I look up from the monitor and catch my own reflection -- shoulders slouched forward, eyebrows furrowed. I straighten up right away. I highly recommend this self-posture-check system for anyone who spends a lot of time at the keyboard.

28 October 2011

from past to present

I brought home some cuties and beauties from Les Puces du Canal a few Sundays ago.

Some days, I go there and I don't see anything I want to take home -- and that's okay, because half the fun is in looking (not just at the stuff, but also at the people). On this particular day, however, I kept finding things.

I fell in love with this serving utensil because of its delicate floral etching detail. It has a slightly irregular shape -- it must have had a very specific function. I would love to know what that might have been.

I love vintage tea towels. I spend so much time in the kitchen, often doing the dishes --I figure I might as well use pretty things that make me happy. The linens in these photos came from four different stalls, and were incidentally all 5€ each. I don't ever spend more than 7€ on a tea towel; otherwise I'd hesitate to use it because it's too precious.

Two pieces of cloth caught my eyes at the stall of one of the ladies in the hangar who specializes in laces and linens.

They are both made of several pieces of fabric, patched together to make a larger piece. The MP one is actually quite small, and also very narrow. I have no idea what it may have been used for -- it's too small to be a tea towel, and too long and narrow to be a dinner napkin. The DM one is larger but isn't even a recutangular -- the fabric used in the corner has a slanted edge, and the whole piece looks like an indecisive pentagon. All the sewing is done by hand, with stitches so small that I can barely see them without a magnifying glass.

I keep spreading them out on my lap, looking at them again and again. I look at the stitches and think of the women who saved fabric scraps and patiently repurposed them. I remember how my mother used to mend our socks when the toes got thin -- does anyone do that any more? People talk about recyling as if it's such a cool, new, green thing, but that's how things have been done for hudnreds of hudnreds of years. Mending, fixing, reusing, upcycling. When did we stop repairing things to keep them in use longer?

This little princess of a plate is about 16cm by 12cm. The lady at the stall wanted 10€ for it; I paid 8€. I can't date it but here are some clues: The bottom is all bumpy, so I'm guessing it wasn't factory-produced on an assembly line. The drawing looks like transfer printing and the color hand-painted (but I'm no expert).

There's no indication of where it was made, either. Does it look English, perhaps? 

The dealer I bought these cups from would not negotiate (he's in La Halle -- under the arcade, toward the western end). I almost walked away but eventually indulged because I was smitten with the patina on these cups.

I love the medieval chainmail-looking design on one, and the sweet way the number 64 is carved on the other. I won't use them for drinking. They'll look pretty with miniature cactus plants in them, or cradling our toothbrushes in the bathroom. Maybe I'll use them to hold a small stem of flowers from my backyard -- once I have a backyard again.

Many of the things I buy at Les Puces are indeed French vintage and antiques. Occasionally I ask myself if it's right that I will be taking them out of the country, out of the context of where their being makes most sense. But I'd like to think that they are finding a new, good home with me. I'd also like to think that they appreciate being used by someone who enjoys their function as well as their beauty.

And if I do things right, they will last 30, 50, maybe even 100 more years. They will find new owners who would do the same as I've done, wherever they are. Then they will be passed on, once again, to someone who will take care of them, so it can be shown to the future generatoin that, you know, people didn't used to just throw things away.

14 October 2011

a fine day in Vieux Lyon

During the last weekend of September, we had a visitor from England staying with us. It was sunny and very warm; perfect time to walk around in Old Town Lyon

The exterior walls of Eglise Saint-Jean had been completely cleaned, and the cathedral looked like a young woman who just came out of the shower -- fresh and happy to have all that yucky stuff scrubbed off.

When we see these gothic churches, they are typically wearing grey skin, dotted with decades' accumulation of black dirt. That's how we know these buildings, and when we see them with all the dirt washed off, it almost feels "not quite right", as if not gothic enough.

But old buildings weren't always old. What a privilege to see them like this, the way people saw them when they were first built. I had a sensation, as I admired the facade of this beautiful (and clean) church, that I was sharing the joy and awe with the people who stood there when it was dedicated back in 1476.

Lovely weather means lunch outside. Soon all the terrace tables at cafes and bouchons were filled with people enjoying food, wine, sunshine and conversations.

Alas, there was plenty of cigarette smoke there, too. So my friend and I opted instead for a brioche and a crêpe, and ate them as we walked.

I had always wondered why Rue du Bœuf was called that: The Bull Street. It's such an unusual name for a street. Did this street get its name because this statue was here? Or was the statue erected to reflect the street name? Which came first: the statue or the name? It only took a click on the mouse to find out the answer (the former).

Now I'm curious as to why it's a bull. This bull is placed in the part of the building where we normally find a niche adorned with statues of saints or otherwise important people. So who put a bull up there?

I'm sure something has been written about that by someone somewhere, but I can only Google in English (unfortunately my French is too poor to do any type of in-depth research), and I have not found anything.



La Tour Rose is one of the most famous Vieux Lyon landmarks. Part of this building is a hotel, and there is a traboule here that's open to public.

I wonder what function this tower used to serve. The staircase it houses doesn't lead anywhere but the room at the top. It sure looks like a watchtower of some kind, but this -- in the middle of a town -- seems to me like a strange location to have a watchtower. Perhaps this used to be a good vantage point to watch the traffic on the Saône, before the taller buildings were built along the river? 



Since that lovely weekend, the weather in Lyon has gotten rather cold rather fast, and we now have heat in our apartment. I need to get out more often with my camera before it gets too cold to walk around. 


07 October 2011


How does a pumpkin know where to stop being yellow and start turning green?



I love the many, many shapes and colors and faces and textures of pumpkins.

Thank you for being so astonishingly beautiful.


02 October 2011

sunday afternoon

It was Sunday. The sun was smiling happily on us, and the afternoon light was bright and crisp.

I realized it had been a while since the last time I stepped outside just to walk around and look at things.

I had a few hours to spend alone, so I grabbed my camera and headed out. 

I love the area between the hill of Croix Rousse and Presqu'île, where the 1er and 4eme arrondissements meet and the slope toward the hill starts.

This area, I've been told, used to be much seedier and was frequented by questionable characters. But that meant the rent was cheap, and cheap rent attracted poor artists who needed big spaces to paint, sculpt, and otherwise create their stuff.

That history explains the many galleries and art studios we see in this quartier today. The vibe is funky and bohemian. I don't quite stick out walking around in my Birkenstocks here, like I do in the 6eme (where high heels and brand-name handbags rule).

Rust, cracks, peeling paint, crooked doorways -- I love them all. I just need to remember to look down every few meters, just to make sure I'm not stepping on something horrible on the sidewalk.

My understanding is that traboules are open to public if the entry is not locked. I still feel as if I'm trespassing, but I have to admit: that feeling kind of contributes to the sense of fun when I'm exploring the old sections of Lyon.

There are many fabulous trompe l'oeil murals in Lyon. This one, perhaps the most famous of all, is called La Fresque des Lyonnais. I don't know anyone on this wall except Paul Bocuse, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and the Lumière Brothers. There are a couple of benches facing the mural, and it's the perfect spot to sit and take a five-minute break before I continue my walk.

Just by the mural, I cross the Saône on Passerelle Saint Vincent. Lyon has many bridges crossing its two rivers, every one of them having different history and unique character. Passerelle Saint Vincent is one of my favorite -- I like suspension bridges and foot bridges; this one is both.

Whenver I walk on this bridge, I stop to take in the view toward North/West. I don't venture out much further that way from this point, so this view to me signifies an unchartered territory, a mystery. I also like how the river bends when I look in that direction. Elsewhere in the city, both rivers are pretty much straight, but here, the Saône turns quickly to the right and disappears, as if beckoning me to follow it.

Ah, yes, mystery. An adventure.

But not today. My two-hour sabbatical is ending soon and I must head home. I see people fishing and think to myself, hmmm, fish for dinner tonight.

No, the fish isn't from the rivers around here.

And that's probably a good thing.