Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Little (Lotta) Lilac Love

It's that beautiful time of year when the air is heavy with the sweet fragrance of lilacs. I have four common lilac shrubs (Syringa vulgaris). They are planted around the corner of our house where there are no windows. Their tantalizing scent draws us out of the house and around the corner to visit them. I bury my nose in in the blossoms whenever I pass by. I am sensitive to many fragrances but I have no trouble at all with the scent of lilacs. Thankfully.

I did the watercolour painting below in 2012. I think it's one of the originals that I will always hang onto. I offer both prints and cards with this image and they continue to be among my most popular products. I often use my Lilacs image on the little thank you cards that I include with orders. Maybe you've received one from me.

My original 'Lilacs' watercolour painting
Lilac Watercolor Note Cards
Set of 5 Lilac note cards
My dwarf Palibin lilac is gearing up to bloom just as the others fade.
I did my 'Lilac Sprig' watercolour in 2013. That original has sold but I offer the image as a print and note cards. I took advantage of the lilacs being in bloom to take this new photo on my 'Lilac Sprig' print this past week. It's a sweet 5" x 7" print that looks very pretty framed.

Watercolor botanical illustration of lilac
Lilac watercolor note cards
I don't cut lilacs often for bouquets. I find that they don't last very long in a vase. I couldn't resist cutting a few though recently and they were drooping by the next day. Does anyone have a trick for making cut lilacs last? I would love to hear it!


And to close, a little music sung by Jeff Buckley. Because lilacs!



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Update: My friend, Margie, of Resurrection Fern has given me a tip for making cut lilacs last longer. She suggests smashing the woody stems with a mallet or meat tenderizer. I will give this a try!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Spring Walk in the Woods

Meeko and I went for a walk in the woods near our house this morning. These are the same snow-covered woods that you have seen in my blog countless times. In the spring and summer, it is usually too boggy to walk there. We have had such warm and dry weather the past few days that the pathway was completely accessible. Well actually, it was a little squishy in places but walkable if you stepped carefully. I let Meeko lead the way.

What a treat to see the spring version of these woods and all of the lovely plant life there. There were trout lilies everywhere. Such elegant little flowers. I also saw these delicate white flowers. I think they are some type of heuchera. I love the little bit of fluff attached to its side. 

I exclaimed out loud when I saw the next flowers! Meeko looked around as he thought that such an excited voice must mean a squirrel or other small creature. Nope. Not a four-legged creature. What I had seen was a trillium!

I put my head right down on the ground to take this photo. Then I had to pick the leaves out of my hair afterwards! Completely worth it. What a beautiful flower. I've seen trilliums often where my parents live in Northern Ontario. I didn't know that there were some within walking distance of my home! So exciting.

Everything looked beautiful in the morning light. I loved the curved pattern of these little tufts of grass and the lovely pairing of this trout lily and the heuchera.

What a beautiful way to start a morning. I haven't stopped smiling since.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tea with a Friend

One of the best parts of being in Paris was seeing my friend Lucile again! Having an overseas friend is a lovely thing but it makes getting together a little bit difficult.

Lucile paints gorgeous watercolours and sells them under the name lucileskitchen. (You can follow her on Instagram if you are interested in seeing more of her work.) We became internet friends in 2011 when I was in the process of opening my Etsy shop. I contacted her because I love her art so much and I had some questions about how she did her prints. We soon learned that we had lots in common--watercolour art, teenaged children, a love of cooking and gardening, a sense of humour (absolutely essential to artistic sanity) and an interest in each other's world. We are in touch with each other on a regular basis to discuss art, Etsy, Boucherville snow, Paris rain, flowers, food, our children and Meeko!

We met each other in person in 2012. We were very lucky (well, actually it was planned) to vacation in New York City at the same time. Because we were there on family vacations, our time together was brief but very enjoyable. We visited the Ellsworth Kelly plant drawings exhibit together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our families had dinner together at one of Mario Batali's restaurants.

I own three of Lucile's original paintings, one of which is this lovely watercolour of macarons, a Sheffield's teapot and tea cups. It hangs in our dining room. Lucile and I have often mentioned how nice it would be to have tea together someday. Well, we finally did! Best of all, it was in her lovely Paris apartment! She invited my husband and me for 'un gouter'--a delicious snack at her place.

I was so grateful that she was able to squeeze in some time to see us. Lucile is currently working on a crazy schedule--doing three paintings a day (three!!!) for a recipe book contract that is due in May.

I completely adore Lucile's small, warm Parisian kitchen with its big personality. I love that it is painted with a strong yellow.  Although not exactly the same yellow, it reminded me of Monet's boldly painted kitchen at Giverny. I also love the historical Vilmorin vegetable plates on the walls.

Lucile bought a gorgeous strawberry tart from a local pâtissier to share with us and her children Jeanne and Werner. She poured tea. We ate. We chatted. It felt like we did this all the time.

Just before leaving, we had a peek at Lucile's studio. I had glimpsed it previously in an Etsy blog post on inspiring workspaces. It was so lovely to see it in person. I was very touched to see that a little heart watercolour I did for Lucile as a thank you for her help a few years ago was framed on the wall beside her Wacom Cintiq tablet.

Her softly lit studio had an almost magical quality for me, with its high detailed ceiling, the beautiful chandelier that belonged to her grandmother, the tall window and the painting she had worked on that day drying on the table. I love that now when Lucile tells me that she is working on a painting or cooking dinner that I will be able to picture her exactly where she is.

Sending a big anglophone hug across the ocean, Lucile. Until next time, my friend!

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Ten Days in Paris

My husband and I don't get away together very often. I can pretty much count on one hand the times we have been away from home as a couple since becoming parents (and that includes weekends!). Last year we had hoped to go to Paris for our 20th wedding anniversary but it didn't happen due to a combination of timing, work and family responsibilities. This year, our youngest daughter Chloé was booked on a two-week European high school trip in April. Our eldest daughter Emma is living in residence at McGill University and is busy finishing up her first year. We realized that an empty house was providing a perfect opportunity to get away. Don't worry, we didn't leave Meeko on his own!

On our honeymoon almost 21 years ago, we flew to Paris (my first visit!) before renting a car and travelling to Provence. That time, we stayed in a B&B on the outskirts of Paris and took the train into the city. As we emerged from a subway exit beside La Seine and the gorgeous cream-coloured buildings that line it, I remember bursting into tears. I had dreamed of visiting Paris for so long and I was finally there, and it was even more beautiful than I had imagined. Each time we've revisited Paris, we've fallen in love with it more and more deeply. The last time we were in Paris was four years ago. That was a special trip because we introduced Emma and Chloé to the city.

This time, we rented an apartment on airbnb instead of staying in a hotel. The apartment was great and we loved the experience (imagining that we were Parisians) and would definitely do it again.

We decided not to visit museums and other indoor venues this time. The weather was glorious; we were told it was unseasonably warm for April. So basically our trip can be summed up in this way: we walked and walked and walked. Thank goodness we did because we also ate a lot of great food and drank fantastic wine. We saw old friends and made new friends.

I got to see my dear friend Lucile (lucileskitchenInstagram) again--actually twice. Yay! We went to Le Sennelier together to buy some art supplies and then on another day Jocelyn and I visited her in her apartment. I will post photos of her beautiful studio and kitchen later this week.

We spent a lot of time with our wonderful friend Laurent (in the photo on the left) and his adorable life and business partner Marie. We met Laurent, who is both a chef and sommelier, eleven years ago when we first discovered his restaurant Mémère Paulette

We ate copious quantities of delectable food while sitting at the front counter of Mémère Paulette. (I am still dreaming of the scrambled eggs with truffles that Laurent made for us as a special welcome.) We made new friends as we ate and talked with those seated beside us, our 'copains du comptoir'--Aymeric, Carine, Antoine and Thibault. We also sampled wonderful French wine from Laurent's cellar.

On a couple of afternoons, Laurent became our animated and passionate private tour guide, pointing out architectural details and providing historical facts as we walked through arrondissements. Better by far than any book.

One night, Laurent and Marie took us to their favourite cassoulet restaurant, Auberge Pyrénées-Cévennes. On our last day in Paris, they arranged for a tasting of amazingly wonderful éclairs. We had so much fun together.

L'éclair de génie
Jocelyn and I also visited the beautiful new location of Mémère au Piano--a restaurant that we had enjoyed on two previous trips. We think it's funny and interesting that we seem to gravitate towards restaurants with 'mémère' in the name! (Mémère is a French word for grandmother.) We had a lovely meal there and we were very happy to see Christophe, Valentin and their warm entourage again. (In the photo--Christophe, me, Valentin, Lablu, my husband Jocelyn and Johnny.)

When we left Montreal, it was cold and everything was still covered with snow. I can't tell you how happy I was to see all of the flowers in Paris. They were blooming in the public gardens. Trees along the streets were beginning to flower and leaf out. And, of course, there was the 'marché aux fleurs' on Île Saint-Louis. I took so many photos.

I decided to take a break from social media while we were away but a chance glance at Instagram showed me that two Etsy friends from Milan were in Paris at the same time. What luck to be able to meet up with Mirta of modernbotanics and Giulia from unpeusauvage for coffee and a walk. It's amazing to meet people who you already 'know' and 'like' from the internet and to find out that you really do like them! (In the photo from left to right: Giulia, Mirta, me.)

Chloé came home from her European trip on the same day as we did so we met up at the airport. The next day, I drove to Trois-Rivières to pick up Meeko from his 'vacation' with my husband's cousin. Emma came home for a visit on the weekend. Together again, we exchanged gifts and enjoyed telling each other about our experiences of the past two weeks.

Now my challenge is to resist the dreamy Parisian cloud that is still enveloping me and get back to my normal routine! Wish me luck!


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If you are interested in seeing more photos from my trip, I posted some of them on Instagram: https://instagram.com/trowelandpaintbrush/










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