Saturday, July 27, 2013

Point of Reference

I know a few people--admittedly, only a few--who take a week or two each summer and go off to a cabin with no running water or electricity where they enjoy following simpler pursuits.  Thinking about those people, I came up with a list of activities now thought to be old fashioned.   Activities, say, that were common around the 1940s--the time of my first memories--which, of course, would most certainly include having running water and electricity.

  • Taking a walk.  Along a beach is always nice.
  • Singing (including family sing-alongs).
  • Playing a harmonica, a non-electric piano, or a guitar.
  • Doing a jig-saw puzzle.
  • Playing vinyl records.
  • Playing cards, dominoes, chess, backgammon, bad-mitten.
  • Riding a bike.
  • Using a handkerchief rather than a tissue ... and cloth napkins instead of paper.  Then washing, drying, and ironing them.
  • Drinking from a glass or a cup and saucer.
  • Making a cake from scratch.
  • Making a telephone call from a land line.
  • Paying in cash or by check.
  • Signaling a turn when driving by opening your window and sticking out your hand--straight for a left-hand turn, bent up at the elbow for a right-hand turn.
  • Having an attendant fill your gas tank while also washing your windows and checking your oil and radiator.
  • Writing a letter with a typewriter, pencil, or pen and ink.
  • Using fans to cool off.  
  • Making sure the cottons in your laundry don't shrink or bleed their color onto the whole load.
  • Then hanging the laundry on a line.
  • Listening to a radio.
  • If you're a woman, wearing dresses or skirts and blouses (no t-shirts). 
  • Paying half-a-cent per pound for watermelon in high season.
So .... No e-books, credit cards, trips to Disneyland (it didn't exist then), computers, cell phones, TV, microwaves, rock concerts, video games, packaged mixes, catalogs in the mail, AC (house or car), or drinks with high fructose corn syrup.  Of course, the list goes on.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Garden Tour Time

I recently went on The Gardens of Westminster tour, Westminster being Vermont's oldest town with some 3,000 people located in the southeastern part of the state near the Connecticut River.  Though thunderstorms were predicted for later in the day, the morning was clear and pleasant.  I paid my $15 and was given a map to follow.  After visiting one splendid garden on the main street, I then drove on up through woods, along single-lane dirt roads, to most attractive (and quite private) homes and gardens.

These photos will give you a hint of some of the loveliness I found.

A sunken terrace

A watchful llama

(Many thanks to those who gave me permission to photograph these gardens.)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Gallery of Photos: France

With Bastille Day tomorrow--a day I always acknowledge, when France celebrates its National Day--I turn a little nostalgic for the time my family and I spent there.  We had a favorite hotel in Paris just up from the Rodin Museum--a family-run spot not far from a little café where we could get a croque monsieur and beer.  Or we toodled around the south of France enjoying the sound of the cicadas, the air's herby smell, the warm peaches and cherries, and those wonderful soft cheeses we'd spread picnic-style onto chunks of fresh bread.  Ahhhh!!

Here are some photos from various trips.


Eiffel Tower detail

View from our hotel window

And this--ours was a narrow street--with a peek at the Eiffel Tower

A Tunisian pastry shop

Notre Dame

The south of France:







Aigues-Mortes candy shop

Cloisters at St-Remy

St-Remy olive trees




Near St-Tropez

Note:  For a charming blog by an American expat who takes consistently superior photos of Paris and Normandy, go to this link (

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Turning Summer Photos into Watercolor Paintings

My very first posting on painting was titled "Turning a Photo into a Painting."  (To find it, see "Paintings" under "Topics" in right hand margin.)  When painting, I prefer to work from life but--especially with landscapes--that can prove discombobulating.  I mean, the light shifts, the bugs come out, it starts to rain, or there's no place, really, to set up my equipment.  Along a dusty road?  A busy sidewalk?  In fact, I find taking photos much more convenient.  I can simply click (no fuss) and then figure how to render it later.  I'll never forget one painting I did in France where I set up my chair, my portable easel, my palette, and got to work portraying a village scene.  Everything was shrouded in a morning fog which, all too soon, turned to pure sunshine.  So there I was trying to remember what the fog looked like as I worked in high sunlight.

Here, then, are several photos I took and the subsequent watercolor paintings I made back in my studio.

"A Bright Fourth"

"The West River at Weston"

"Red Barn in Shadow"

"Mary's Garden"

"Katherine's Rose III"

And two from France.

"View Toward Fort St-André"

"Rochebaudin Church and Ruins"