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Quote: On Reading... [Gustave Flaubert]


...what could be better, really, than an evening by the fire with a book, with the wind beating on the panes, the lamp burning?

Your head is empty,... the hours slip away. From the chair you wander through the countries of your mind, and your thoughts, threading themselves into the fiction, play about with the details or rush along the track of the plot. You melt into the characters; it seems as if your own heart is beating under their skin.

Project 366: a Review


In a few days I will complete my photo-a-day Project 366,...and though looking back through it leaves me wistful, I'm relieved to mark the end (whew!) of a truly challenging photo-a-day challenge. The intrepid photographer often became a reluctant shooter. I admit I fell behind. many. times...

But at the end of the day (or year in this case), it is enormously satisfying to review your work of 365+ days, in visual detail, each 24-hour day curated into a single moment. This exercise is supposed to help us become better photographers - essentially teach us how to look at every thing and every moment more keenly, improve upon or simply find our photographic style, and very importantly come out of it a more thoughtful observer. all the while having fun. It's a tall order. I certainly need more than a 365/366 to accomplish all that!...

What I have learned is that my favorite photographs (by others as well as my own) are the ones that tell stories and that I've got miles to go before achieving that. So I'm thinking about my next photo project, something less demanding this time; a Project 52 sounds about right. Perhaps you'll join me?

To you friends who are undertaking a photo-a-day project of your own or bravely hosting a photo-a-day blog - I applaud you! I so enjoy looking through your posts, dreaming about what your days are like. Have fun + persist even when you feel like stopping!

There's a wonderful and relevant read when pursuing artistic endeavors (and for life in general) from Maria Popova's Brainpickings post: Advice on Design and Life: Graphic Designers Then and Now.

Babar the Elephant


The plush Babar, the beloved king of the elephants who sports a bright green suit and golden crown, was originally a gift for my older son when he was an infant. Now Babar sits most happily in my bedroom as my boys (yes, even the two year-old) have simply outgrown him. So all the souvenirs I've picked up over the years in France have now mostly become mine, though thankfully the boys still enjoy Babar's delightful tales and adventures with his wife Celeste and their family (one of my favorites is A Gift for Mother, which taught my son that his drawings are more special and more valuable than any store bought present). 

In the States, it's been nearly impossible to find Babar mementos except for the storybooks... until now. With the 80th anniversary of Babar upon us (in 1933, Babar's first book appeared in the United States, two years after the publication of the French version), we'll be seeing a lot more of our enchanting little pachyderm stateside!

I did run into these pretty paper butterflies upcycled from vintage Babar book pages (from Dallas Manicom's Abounding Treasures shop on Etsy) that I think could easily be hung in an adult space, ...non

photo credit: Dallas Manicom

Here's a short video with author and illustrator Laurent de Brunhoff at his home in Florida explaining the history of Babar and demonstrating his process of sketching, painting and bringing Babar to life. At a youthful 87, Laurent has no plans of retiring Babar. The 42nd book of the series, Babar's Celesteville Games, was just released in 2011. 

Happy Valentine's Day | Joyeuse Saint-Valentin


May your Valentine's Day be filled with sweet memories & leave the most lovely of imprints...

[from the archives: Je t'aime (I Love You) , Sacré-Coeur, Paris]

Words & Le Bon Mot


soupçon [soop-sahng]: a hint, a trace, a glimmer

we can sometimes find in winter the slightest soupçon of spring


La Maison: French Blue


Exactly what color is French blue

Seems I made the silly mistake in assuming it was one definitive shade of bluish-grey; what I found is it's as nuanced as the perfect shade of white in a sea of stone, cream and eggshell. The range of French blue seems to span a spectrum from cornflower lavender to steely azure to a rich royal blue.

In fact, France's history and association with the color blue is as rich and bold as the pigment itself. French blue is also known as French ultramarine, a deep vivid blue manufactured using a process invented in France in the 18th century. Because genuine ultramarine using the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli was so expensive (more costly than gold), the Societé d'Encouragement pour L'Industrie Nationale offered a prize to anyone who could synthesize the color using less costly materials; four years later, French chemist J.B. Guimet was awarded 6000 francs and ultimately ultramarine became one of the most significant color discoveries in the history of artist pigments. 

Another particular shade of French blue, Le Bleu de France was the name synonymous to the Hope Diamond, the famed 45.52 carat gem initially obtained as a crudely cut stone by the French merchant traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier in the late 1600s and sold to King Louis XIV. The diamond's color has been described as intense steely blue, a beautiful violet and a fancy dark greyish-blue, to name a few.

Most significant though, Bleu de France is the color traditionally used to represent France, imbued in the late monarchy's coat of arms as the background setting for the golden fleur-de-lis and the color symbolizing vigilance, truth, loyalty and justice in the country's national Tricolor flag.

But enough history... I simply wanted to find a warm French blue for my dining room.

So did I ever find the elusive French blue I was looking for? ... Enter Annie Sloan, a trained painter with over 40 years of experience in the world of paint and color. She developed her own line of signature decorative paint called Chalk Paint in 1990; they come in a fabulous array of colors, one of which is Aubusson blue (above), which she describes as a "beautiful deep grey blue found on the classic 18th and 19th century Aubusson rugs from France. It is an elegant colour that works well with many colours as it is a dark neutral." When I think of French blue, this is it! Two of her books, Creating the French look and Work Book look absolutely enticing...

Printable Calendar: February | Février 2013


Quatre bisous! (four kisses) I nearly jumped as Dominique scolded me for stopping at two cheek kisses when it was customary (for her) to give and receive four. She is my French husband's dear sweet aunt, who in her own way was teaching me yet another French rule, or in this case an exception to what I thought was the norm of two cheek kisses upon greeting someone in France.

Like following old culinary traditions and establishing good table manners, rules for donner une bise (or not) are a prominent part of France's social etiquette. Generally, women cheek kiss no matter what the relationship; men shake hands with acquaintances, reserving cheek kisses for relatives and close friends; and then depending on the region, the number of bises goes from one to a time stopping four! Even the French become confused about the magic number of regional bisous; Frenchmen take full advantage of this with pretty ladies by the way: "chez nous, c'est 4 bisous" (at home or where we're from, it's 4 kisses ;). But once that's known, you can count on waiting until everyone has given and received their proper share. 

Perhaps like little cheat sheets that we carry around to remember useful tips and oddities, we may want handy when traveling around France the geographical bisous map created by the Frenchman Gilles Debunne. He developed a website in 2007 that polled (and still polls) thousands of his countrymen and women to denote the typical number of cheek kisses by département. Take a look! Paris and other northern regions top the country at four bisous...

Happy February and bisous! (in this case, two ;)

For the calendar, simply download (below), print and cut on the dotted line.

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