DIY Paris-Inspired Terrariums

Beautiful terrariums on a table in the Maison Astor Paris.

At our chic hotel Maison Astor Paris, a tabletop arrangement of terrariums inspired me to make my own. I bought large and medium-sized glass globes and succulents to add to the vessels and plants I already had at home. I also picked up small, white rocks, soil and moss. On a walk, I found fallen pine boughs and plan to scatter tiny pine cones around the succulents. Guess what’s doubling as Thanksgiving centerpieces?

Happy indoor gardening, hon!

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Charming and Comfortable Hotel Tardif in Bayeux, France

This gorgeous courtyard leads to the main entrance.

Hôtel Tardif, Noble Guesthouse in Bayeux, France

gets my vote as the most charming place I’ve ever stayed!

Hubby and I arrived in Bayeux early in the morning after crossing the English Channel on a ferry. Friends had recommended Hôtel Tardif (shout out to Deb and Dave) and, right away, owner Anthony Voidie welcomed us, answered our questions, and even had our room prepared earlier than anticipated. After a delicious breakfast (think crêpes, croissants, and amazing coffee), we were ready to explore the town. But wait, there was so much to see in the guest house and grounds. Hubby had to convince me to leave since I was enamored of the decorating details and, hon, you know I love details! The fireplace, the fabrics, the fresh flowers…oh so lovely!

From the hotel’s website:

 Enjoy the priviledge of a stay in a  historic monument dating of the 18th century, in the heart of  medival Bayeux.

   Our guest house of charm is nestled in the former park of the botanist Moisson de Vaux, where many species like Magnolias were first acclimated in Europe. A peaceful location, between the Bayeux Tapestry museum, the cathedral, many restaurants bars and shops.

If you want more autonomy you can also opt for one of our  furnished tourism accomodation located on the street.

  You can easily reach the famous landing beaches, Omaha Beach, Arromanches, the Caen Memorial, Honfleur, Le Mont-Saint-Michel.

     This private mansion reflects a glorious past with its wood paneling, fireplaces in marble, a remarkable staircase, some rare centuries old trees …  

 

Bayeux, France in Photos, Part 1

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Macarons bigger than Oreos!

Hubby and I are now in Paris and today we’re headed to Giverny!

I’ll have lots to post when we get back to the U.S., but in the meantime, here are some pics of Bayeux, France. We rode a commuter train from London to Portsmouth, England and, from there, crossed the English Channel on an overnight Brittany Ferry from Portsmouth to France.

Bayeux feels like a step back in time. We had visited Bath, England which is also historic, but Bath is filled with stores that you see everywhere which, in my opinion, takes away from the town’s authenticity. Bayeux has plenty of stores–our Normandie tour guide called it bourgeois–but they and the cafes seemed individually owned rather than international chains. The village is filled with quirky shops:  a ceramicist’s gallery that includes her studio (throwing wheel, bags of clay, and unfinished work right behind a half wall, just my kind of place!); a tiny home goods shop with beautiful, velvet bed covers and pillows; a shop just for hats; shops featuring locals artisans; a needlework store or “Broderie” that recalls the town’s famous tapestry; and a shop that sells merchandise adorned with poppies–so specific to the region.

Bayeux is a town on the Aure river in the Normandy region of northwestern France, 10 kilometers from the Channel coast. Its medieval center contains cobbled streets, half-timbered houses and the towering, Norman-Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame. The famed 68-meter Tapisserie de Bayeux, an 11th-century tapestry depicting the 1066 Norman invasion of England, is on display in an 18th-century seminary.

 

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Travel Bug Part 2, Crayon Box Burano, Fishing Village

Burano, Venice, Italy
Burano, Venice, Italy

This is a re-post of the 2nd part of Crayon Box Burano in honor of travel!

Hubby and I are off to England and then France for a whirlwind anniversary trip. We’re not the only ones in the family who will be abroad. Morgan’s  going to direct a music video in Tokyo and is there now! She packed up and left within 48 hours of finding out. (“Mom, I guess you can do that when you’re 25 years old.” My response, “True, true.”)

Shout out to our amazing children along with my dad and Hubby’s mom, who are treating us to this vacation.

Hon, happy and safe travels whenever and wherever you go.

Crayon Box Colored Homes

Burano, an old fishing village in the Northern Venetian Lagoon, is famous for its brightly colored homes as well as its lace-making. Legend has it that fisherman couldn’t recognize their houses through the fog, so they painted their homes bright colors.  It’s said that house colors have been with families for centuries. Today, if someone wants to repaint his house, he must send a request to the government, who will let the him know which colors are permitted for that lot.

When we toured the islands of Murano, Torcello and Burano, I’m glad our vaporetti, or water taxi, stopped at Burano last. It was definitely the jewel-in-the-crown.

Previous Post:  Crayon Box Burano, Venice, Italy (Part 1)

Striped curtains match house colors.
Striped curtains match house colors.

Many houses and buildings are adorned with religious wall plaques.
Many houses and buildings are adorned with religious wall plaques.

Laundry lines are a common sight.
Laundry lines are a common sight.

Pink up close.
Pink up close.

Colorful canal.
Colorful canal.

Travel Bug, Crayon Box Burano, Venice, Italy (Part 1)

Burano, Venice, Italy

In honor of Hubby’s and my upcoming trip to Europe, I’m re-posting these photos from Burano, Italy. We’re headed to England and France where I’m sure to be bitten by the travel bug. If I was independently wealthy, I’d travel the world! Hey, I can write anywhere, and what better way to get inspired than to meet new people and visit new places?

And, as for my love of children, ask my own kids–language barriers aren’t barriers at all when a child’s smiling eyes meet mine. If that sounds sappy, so be it, but consider…

  • in an airport security line, a mom handed me her baby to hold while she struggled to open up her stroller,
  • in a store, a toddler giggled at our silly game, then threw her arms around me for big hugs,
  • in Sienna, Italy, a 5 year old German boy and I  played hide and seek at breakfast,
  • in a shoe department, a 3 year old boy slid over to me and let me tie his shoes,
  • in a bookstore, a 4 year old girl and I read books together,
  • on a train from Manhattan, a 6 year old girl and I played I Spy,
  • in a restaurant, new twins parents and I bonded over being parents of multiples and then took me up on my offer to hold a baby so the mom could eat,
  • at the store where I work, two 5th grade girls asked me to be in their  Tic Toc video (umm, yes!), and then hung around for hours chatting about their siblings, parents and teachers,
  • And so many more wonderful encounters here and abroad.

So, while we travel, I’ll be on the lookout for smiling eyes because those connections, no matter how short, are joyful.

And hon, I need a whole lot of joy just about now.

Shops along the canal, Burano.
Shops along the canal.

School boys meeting by a first floor window.
School boys meeting by a first floor window.

Photographer's delight.
Photographer’s delight.

Hubby and daughters.
Hubby and daughters.

The Best Blondies

I found this recipe for “The Best Blondies” on Crazy for Crust and, trust me hon, they are a mouthful of yumminess. Since I’m officially “Team Mom” on the trip to Cape Kennedy (to view the test launch of the Orion Ascent Abort-2, lots of upcoming posts about the trip!), I figured blondies for the plane ride were in order. I’m also going to pack playing cards, travel games, bandaids and Tylenol. So exciting!

Mix wet and dry ingredients.

Add mix-in’s.

Cool before cutting.

THE BEST BLONDIE MIX-INS ARE:
  • M&Ms
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Nuts
  • Butterscotch chips
  • Peanut Butter chips
  • Chopped candy bars like Snickers, Milky Way, or peanut butter cups
  • Anything YOU like!
SERVINGS: 24 BARS
INGREDIENTS
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar — packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups mix-ins: toffee, chopped candy bars, M&Ms, chocolate chips, nuts, etc
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13” pan with foil and spray well with cooking spray.
  2. Mix butter and brown sugar with a stand or a hand mixer until crumbly. Mix in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Mix in salt, baking powder, then flour. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the mix-ins.
  3. Spread in prepared pan. The mixture is wet so it’s best to spray your hands with cooking spray and then smooth the dough with your hands to get an even layer. Top with remaining mix-ins
  4. Bake for about 22-25 minutes until they start to turn golden. Err on the side of under baked with these – they’ll finish baking as the cool and you don’t want them over baked.

Bubbly and Black Flies, a Mystery

Tuscany, Italy.

Tuscany, Italy.

It all started in Tuscany.

In August 2016 while traveling in Italy, my daughter Morgan and I took a day trip to Tuscany. We toured two vineyards and an olive oil farm, enjoying a lovely meal prepared by the owners of the smaller vineyard. Once we returned to the U.S., we excitedly awaited our shipments of wine.

Fast forward to Spring 2017. In Brooklyn, Morgan’s roommate was enjoying a quiet day when, out of nowhere,  POP! SPRAY! SPLASH! a bottle of wine exploded! It was wine shipped from Tuscany. The cork popped out and the wine sprayed all over the kitchen. How very strange!

Fast forward again, to Summer 2017.  In New Jersey, our house was plagued by black flies. Not small house flies but big, bluebottle flies. Yuck! We closed doors and windows, cleaned fastidiously, and “disposed” of as many as we could. But they kept on coming. Hubby and I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from.

One daughter who doesn’t like bugs of any kind, wore a hat in the house and hid in her room.

Another daughter who likes some bugs, practically dove into her cellphone.

Our dog Lucy caught and ate some. They wiggled in her mouth! Double yuck!!

Still, Hubby and I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. It was a mystery!

Then, out of nowhere, they were gone.

A few months later, in preparation for Thanksgiving, Morgan was choosing wine and happened upon an empty bottle. “Who drank a bottle of wine and put it back empty?” she asked.

“Who indeed?” I wondered.

Hubby hadn’t and neither had any of my daughters. It was a mystery!

Then Hubby had an epiphany. “Remember those black flies? I bet the cork popped out of that bottle the same way it did in Morgan’s apartment. The flies must have been attracted to the wine.”

We checked the label and, sure enough, it was a bottle from the same winery as the exploding bottle in Brooklyn. Mystery solved, except for one more mystery…

Do you think the flies got tipsy from the wine?

Why would corks pop out of a bottle? Here are some possible reasons:

A cork would start to pop out of the bottle only if the wine or pressure inside the bottle started to expand, and that only happens at temperature extremes of hot or cold.

 

[Corks popping out of bottles is] more than likely caused by either: (1) not allowing the fermentation to complete all the way before bottling, or (2) adding sugar after the fermentation to sweeten the wine, but doing so without adding a wine stabilizer.

Barrels in Tuscany.

Me and Morgan in Italy, August 2016. 

Sources: Wine SpectatorECKraus, Ehrlich

Antlers on an Airplane?

Live country music at Albuquerque International Sunport.

I’ve flown in and out of Albuquerque International Sunport many times but, on a recent trip, I entered the airport to twangs of live country music. Yeehaw! I thought, “That’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen at an airport.” I was wrong.

Moose antlers that were shed naturally for sale on the side of road in Maine.

Waiting to board our flight was a man carrying a rack of antlers about 5 feet wide! The tips were outfitted with cut up pieces of hose stuffed with foam. Why? Because antlers are weapons!

It begged a lot of questions.

Passenger: “How did you get them through security?”

Man: “They told me to bring them to the gate.”

Passenger: “Did you buy extra seats?”

Man: “Nope.”

Passenger: “Where will they go on the plane?”

Man: “Dunno.”

Mind you, you can’t bring scissors longer than 4 inches on a plane.

Once boarding started, the ticket agent was apoplectic.

First, he said. “Whoa! Where do you think you’re going?”

Second, “If you read what cannot come on a plane, antlers are on the list.”

To his colleague, “If I see one more pair of antlers today, I’m going home.”

Then the ticket agent made a phone call.

“Calling Security! We have a pair of antlers to check!”

Glass Tea House, Venice Architecture Biennale

View from the bell tower of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice.

Another view.

Sign in the bell tower.

Last summer in Venice, my daughter and I discovered something beautiful and peaceful behind the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. We had taken the vaparetto, or water taxi, to the island of San Giorgio to see the views from the bell tower. We spotted a bright blue rectangle and we were curious. 

The hidden gem turned out to be a teahouse at the museum Le Stanze del Vetro. Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto designed Glass Tea House Mondrian for the Venice Architecture Biennale.

The ‘Glass Tea House Mondrian’ by Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto unites wood, glass and water as a pavilion, holding the traditional japanese tea ceremony within its transparent walls. The temporary structure consists of two main elements: an open-air landscape courtyard and an enclosed glass cube.

The garden follows a path leading along a forty-foot-long reflecting pool completely covered in Bisazza mosaic, guiding the visitor to a lucent space, inside which the cultural ritual is performed. The pavilion hosts two visitors at once, together with the master of the tea ceremony, while the other spectators can take part by watching around the perimeter of the reflecting pool.

Relating to its surrounding environment and the historical context of the site, Sugimoto’s ‘Glass Tea House’ suggests a subtle analogy between the ancient tea ceremony practice and the art of venetian glassmaking.

Glass Tea House Mondrian by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Click here to read an interview with Sugimoto. Click here to see how the tea house was assembled.

Happy exploring, hon.

Source: Designboom.com

Off the Grid in Italy

Morgan and me in Tuscany.
Mom and daughter trip to Tuscany.

Tuscany is Bellissimo!

I haven’t posted in awhile for a very good reason…I was in Italy! I was practically off the grid with unreliable Wifi and no phone plan. My daughter became our navigator with her grasp of Italian and her own data plan. Look forward to lots of pics and posts about Venice, Bologna, Siena and Rome.

I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. Where to next?

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