Monday, December 17, 2012

Tiny Christmas

I have declared this year to be the year of the "Tiny Christmas". The big box of fa la la la la has not come up from the basement, only one small strand of twinkle lights has festooned the living room window, and we have cut way back on the present madness as well.

As you can see we even have a tiny tree. We are to be spending the holiday with family elsewhere and we are all very excited for that, but 'round here we are having a Tiny Christmas, just to feel a little jolly and bright on these dark, cold and wet days of winter.

Though today is the official day, we had a little early celebration of my birthday this weekend. A small party of just us three. I will tell you right now that The Engineer is one good man! Not only did he cook me a most delicious dinner, the man baked me a cake! A really, really, amazingly fantastic cake!

I am one lucky lady.

This has been a crazy old year, full of highs and lows and all sorts of in between. I am feeling a bit more of the effects of getting older these days. I am enjoying some of those effects more than others I can tell you. As I look back, I feel tremendously blessed and I look forward to a shiny new year and the adventures it holds in store.

Thank you all for joining me here and sharing this last year with me, I am truly grateful.

My wish is for all of us to have a happy, healthy and inspired new year!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sweet Tooth

For a good portion of the month of November I was dreadful sick. Everything went by the wayside and now I don't know if I'll ever catch up, but I'm trying.

I am now aghast that we are already into the meat of December. The weather cold and wet, the skies dark and brooding. Seems like the perfect environment to get a little crafty. Yet, I find myself in a crafty slump. It looks as though I am over compensating for this slump by cooking up a storm and baking treats.

Even my girl and the Engineer are getting in on the action in the kitchen.

Dig her chef's hat!

How about you? Have you crossed everything off of your holiday making list? What do you do in a slump?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lola Nova Shop Opening!

Hooray Hurrah! After a long hiatus I am so pleased to announce that My Lola Nova Etsy Shop is open!

I have received some fresh copies of my book Simple Sewing with Lola Nova by Alexandra Smith and a limited number of signed copies are now available in my shop.

I'm thinking they would make lovely gifts!

Please stop by the shop, as I will be adding a few other hand crafted items here and there.

Lola Nova = 100% Pure Handmade Goodness!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dear Paris, part 2

24 October 2012 evening

Dear Paris,
I am so sorry we got off on the wrong foot. Thanks to your delicious food and your generous carafe of wine I do believe this actually could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

In Part 1 of my tale of Paris, I left off having finally arrived at my hotel just as evening was coming on...

I scrubbed my face, changed my clothes, sent an email to the Engineer to let him know I had arrived at the hotel, I drew back the curtains and opened my window to look out onto my little street in Paris. It was perfect really and I got a tiny bit dizzy, 'I'm in Paris!' I thought to myself, 'and I'm starving!'

I went down to reception to ask which direction I should walk and off I went out into the streets of Paris as the light faded from the sky.

I simply walked around for a while to get my bearings. Just a block or so from my hotel
(though I had no idea at the time) was the neighborhood of "Amalie" fame, near Montmartre. Cafe after sidewalk cafe, wonderful little shops, fromageries and patisseries and boulangeries oh my! It was heaven.

At last, hungry and weary from the day's adventures, I set my course for dinner. As I strolled past the cafes looking for an empty table - the cafes were at this time full of attractive Parisians eating, drinking, talking and laughing - who should I spy at a table in the corner of a cafe? The Lumberjack!

As I plopped down in the chair, I simply held my hands out in a gesture of questioning surprise. After I ordered my le pichet of Cote du Rhone and a simple supper, The Lumberjack began to unfurl the saga of his mysterious disappearance earlier that day. It involved an old gypsy woman with deft pick-pockety fingers, a labyrinthine tour of a secret Paris underground, fortune telling and a gargantuan pot of borscht. In the end he managed to charm the woman and her kin into letting him go, with the promise that he would send them all the latest "happening" music cds from America. How he found me on the rue des Abbesses, well LJ was strangely evasive about that.

No matter. I had found the Lumberjack, had a fantastic dinner, enjoyed a generous amount of French wine and was gazing out at the Parisian night with a renewed spirit. It is amazing what a bit of delicious food and some wine can do for a person!

Afterwards, I wandered until weariness overcame me and I went back to my room and slept soundly.

The next morning I woke to bluebird skies and a spring in my step. "Good morning Paris!" I sang out my balconied window. Then off for coffee and the perfect croissant, followed by more wandering and a beautifully peaceful exploration of the Cimetiere de Montmartre.

If you are in the area and you have the time, I absolutely recommend spending a little time walking through it. The architecture and statuary are breathtaking, and it provides a respite from the busy doings of more popular Paris sights.
The tour ended at Emile Zola's magnificent tomb; Emile being a personal favorite of the Lumberjack.

It may shock you to hear that I never made it to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, nor the Louvre; I had this one full day in Paris and there was just so much ground I could cover. I did go to the gorgeous Musee d'Orsay for a bit, something I also recommend if you haven't the time for the Louvre. The art and the building that houses it, is breathtaking.

The day was just too stunning to spend it inside though, so I walked along the Seine in the sunshine.

I wondered about the lives (and the relationship status) of the lovers who had "locked" their love on the bridge. (After locking the love padlock onto the fence, the lovers tossed the keys into the Seine river – a sign of their eternal love)

Then the Lumberjack did a bit of posing with 'the jelly family'.

It was well past lunch at this point, so we headed back to the hotel neighborhood for a baquette and a wedge of cheese, as you do. For me, it was a meal of luxury and splendor for just a few Euros. I could not have felt more spoiled as I sat looking out my hotel room window, chatting with the Lumberjack about our day so far, and reveling in the gorgeous weather.

Along with my lunch, I picked up a treat, something I would never order at home as I have never been fond of them, but something made me do it. It was then that I ate the best chocolate eclair of my entire life. This was pastry madness! This bore no resemblance to overly sweet cardboard confections I had come to know in the states. This eclair changed everything!

25 October 2012

Dear Paris,
This morning with your blue skies, sunshine and wonderful croissant, I started to get a crush on you. This afternoon after the long walk along the Seine, rambling through the Musee d'Orsay, getting lost in Montmartre Cemetery and eating the most perfect chocolate eclair of my entire life, I think I am in love!

Then I strolled the avenues of the 18th Arrondissement, had surprisingly wonderful conversations with shop owners in broken French and English. I found that being able to say "I'm sorry I don't speak much French" in French, opened the way to kindnesses and a willingness to make allowances for this American woman.

When evening rolled around again, the streets came to life, the cafes were bursting with activity and it was time to sit and watch the world go by with my little pitcher of wine.

I ended up sharing a table with a couple and his mother. The man and his mother were from Peru, his wife was Czech and they both lived in Prague. She made a comment about my bag, turns out she makes bags and things like me, turns out her name was Alexandra as well! We ended up having the most wonderful time sharing stories. We wished each other well and they went off into the night.

The lights twinkled on the street, live music seeped out from various cafes and galleries, people walked and smiled as they passed by. There was more than a bit of magic in the air.

I reflected upon the day, thought how lucky I was to be here and how long it took me to get to Paris. I thought about my younger self, how when I was 16 and began reading Miller, Nin, Celine, Genet, Duras, Rimbaud, Baudelaire... how I wanted to be a writer and move to Paris... you know, that dream. And though I felt a bit sad about having never made it to Paris in my youth, it felt amazing to be in Paris now. Perhaps it was the recollection of my starry eyed younger self, or maybe the wine, but I made a solemn vow on the spot to really properly learn French! And then I giggled at myself.

The next morning I would leave Paris, soon I would head home to my sweet family.

My travels, this whole trip had been truly remarkable. It seemed so strange now that I had never been to Europe before. I thought about the bravado of youth vs. the courage of middle age and I smiled to myself. I could not have chosen a better time in my life to be a woman abroad. I am deeply grateful to have had this opportunity and so thankful to all the people I met along the way who shared with me. What an adventure!

25 October 2012 late night

Dear Paris,
You are crazy. I love you!