Sunday, July 05, 2015

Dreaming of France -- Elaborately Painted Building

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

One good thing about hanging out with photographers is that they have an eye for the unusual.
My husband and I met blogging friend Linda Mathieu and her husband for a drink while we were in Paris. Linda writes and posts her photos at Frenchless in France. She's also a great tour guide, I've heard, and she's written a book  Secrets of a Paris Tour Guide.
We laughed a lot and enjoyed our conversation -- in English. As we left the brasserie, Linda pointed to the top of a building along rue Mouffetarde.
After she pointed it out, I noticed the elaborate painting. But first I only saw the four portraits above the awnings.

On closer look, I saw what drew Linda's eye, the elaborate gold vines, leaves, birds, boar, pig, deer and goat stretching to the roofline of the building. I'm not sure if this would be considered a trompe l'oeil painting or not, and I couldn't find anything about it online.
Imagine the time and attention that painting must have taken. And how many times has someone climbed on scaffolding to restore that painting throughout the centuries?
Hope you all have something beautiful to help you dream of France.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave a comment and visit each other's blogs, too, so you can get your fix of France dreams.
I almost forgot about Paris in July, which started, obviously, in July. So I'm going to play along with them too. 


It's a funny thing about dreams, how they grab hold of your heart and squeeze.
And who knows why one dream ignites in a person, and a different dream ignites in another person.
This morning, after a walk in the early morning quiet, I turned on the Tour de France. It's only day two and they're in the Netherlands, but as they biked through the narrow medieval streets of Utrecht, the camera focused on the buildings, with their curious step down roof lines, I felt that longing once again to be there, in Europe, in France.
I want it so much that it hurts.
Synapses fire in my brain, nudging me to figure it out so that I can live in France.
I thought of dreams earlier this week too when my running friend Noreen sent a text message that she and her husband had reached Las Vegas and were driving to the Sierra Madres mountain range.
She sent this picture

And said, "Our first glimpse of the Sierras! I am home"
That made my heart soar -- to feel that sense of accomplishment, that dream fulfillment with Noreen.
I take a bit of credit for helping Noreen focus on her dream, because I'm the one who convinced her to join me on a hike on the Appalachian Trail nine years ago as I researched my novel Trail Mix. She accompanied me again on a second hike, and she hasn't looked back. She hikes in the wilderness every chance she gets. This time, a two-week hike in California. She's in heaven.
That's the thing about a dream, a longing. It penetrates your soul and prods you to make it happen.
I'm glad we don't all share the same dream so those trails and the countryside of France don't get too crowded.
What's your dream? What are you doing to make it happen?

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Busted Knees and Juice Fasts

Since January, as I entered menopause, one of the first symptoms that I noticed was weight gain. I've always been pear shaped, so I'd learned to live with my chubby thighs and hips (sometimes chubbier than others), but menopause surprised me with belly fat.
You can see how chunky I am in these pictures with my blogging
friend Linda. These were taken in Paris at the end of March. 

I hate that feeling. I vowed to get rid of the belly fat as spring arrived. I began training for the marathon.
I didn't necessarily plan to run the marathon in the fall, but the training would keep me running and increase the miles each week.
For six weeks, I was diligent, not skipping any of the runs, usually five runs each week. And I'd workout at the YMCA on days I didn't run. I'd worked up to between 20-30 miles each week, and I felt certain that my fat should be melting away soon.
Then Saturday morning, I started down the road on my run. I had five miles to go that morning, and something in my knee caught and then popped.
What was that?
I didn't stop but continued and a few steps later the same thing happened. And again a few steps later.
I hadn't even made it a block before I bent over to look at my knee, as if it might give me answers.
"What's going on with you?" I asked aloud.
A man walking across the street called out asking if I was okay.
"Yeah, just hurt my knee," I said.
"Don't overdo it!" he yelled.
"I'm just starting," I complained.
I decided to keep running, but I kicked my heels higher or stretched out my stride. I just needed to switch it up, I figured.
I was headed to the track because the cushioning was better for my knees and joints. But as I ran, twice more my knee caught then popped. On the final time, I yelled out. I wasn't sure if it was pain or frustration.
Instead of running, I would have to walk. I texted my running friends to complain about my bum knee. As I got back to the street, I decided to try again. Just a few strides in, catch, pop, "Aaargh!"
That time, I knew it was pain and not frustration.
I took it easy, resting my knee. The next morning, I went out again, thinking the pain had been a fluke.
I walked along the street, warming up, and I told myself I needed to try to run, just run. But I couldn't make my body do it. My knee was too afraid of the pain.
Since then, I've hurt it a few more times as I've gone down or up stairs.
I plan to rest my knee for a week or so and if it isn't better, I'll go to the doctor.
In the meantime, I decided that one thing that would definitely benefit my knee would be to lose weight. My poor knees! What kind of pressure am I putting on them?
My friend Sheila is the diet queen. As a matter of fact, she inspired the character in my novel Trail Mix who diets all the time.
For more than 30 days, Sheila has been on a juice fast. She looks great.
The idea of fasting for more than 30 days seems crazy, but she told me to watch Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead, a documentary made by Joe Cross about his 60-day juice fast as he traveled across America.

In addition to being overweight,  more than 300 pounds, Joe had an auto-immune disease that caused skin eruptions.
I can't remember how he came up with the idea to drink only juice for 60 days, but he ended up getting off his medication and losing a lot of weight, while converting others to an all fruit and veggie diet to cleanse their systems.
Now, I'm not great with dieting, but I thought I'd give it a try. I bought a juicer and stocked up on fruits and vegetables.
I'm on day three, and frankly, I'm not feeling great. I have a hard time knowing if that's because I'm not running or because I'm not eating.
I've had a nagging headache, which is probably caused by not drinking enough water, and, frankly, I'm pretty hungry.
This morning, I had a cup of hot water with lemon and ginger, and I drank more water during a brief workout at the Y. When I got home, I made a juice with kale (very little juice comes from kale, I'm not sure what the point is), a small cucumber, two nectarines and two bananas. Pretty tasty, but I'm hungry again.
I think I'll move on to a juice that Grace called a bloody mary, without the alcohol, tomato, celery, and cucumber.
The main staple for the juice fast is supposed to be the Mean Green Juice, which includes cucumber, celery, kale, apples and ginger.
The hunger is supposed to start fading tomorrow. I'll let you know.
Meanwhile, I know that people would prefer that I not try a juice fast. People have already tried to talk me out of it. One acquaintance said, "But you're going to eat on Fourth of July, right?"
I mean, it's July 4th, not Thanksgiving. I think I'll be okay skipping the burgers and hot dogs.
Believe me, I'm in no danger of wasting away, so let me give it a shot. I'm aiming for a 10-day juice fast, unless I get on a roll.
Mmm, rolls.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dreaming of France -- Twilight in Paris

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it

I know that Woody Allen convinced everyone that Midnight in Paris is a magical time, but I think the most beautiful time is at twilight.
We went for a walk on the last evening before we flew home this spring.
The lights and the buildings are so golden and warm.
Here we are walking along the Tuileries

This sliver of moon and venus above the straight cut trees.

And here I am posing in front of the Seine with Musee d'Orsay behind me and the Eiffel Tower in the far background. But look at the warm golden color, the beautiful sky and the reflections in the river. 

Definitely magical.  
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave a comment and visit each other's blogs, too, so you can get your fix of France dreams.

Inspiration in a Letter

I got a note from my aunt.
I had sent Aunt Esther a copy of my latest book. She has read both of my previous books, and when we talked at the beginning of June, I realized that she hadn't read Trail Mix.
When I told her the book was about two women hiking the Appalachian Trail, her eyes got round behind her glasses.
"Oh, that's my thing!" she said.
So I sent her the book that week, and the following week, I got a note from her, along with a check to repay me for the book.
Aunt Esther will turn 90 this year. She is married to my mother's oldest brother, Uncle Junior, as we call him. Luther is what Aunt Esther calls him. Uncle Junior fought in World War II in Italy.
But it isn't their story of romance during wartime that inspired me in the note this weekend.
Here's what Aunt Esther wrote:
"I let time run out on my DREAM to hike the Trail."
She told me about the times she had walked on snippets of the trail, at the trail head in north Georgia, across the Blue Ridge Highway, at the top of Old Man Mountain in Vermont.
"Last we made it to the beginning of the end (or beginning of the Trail). We hiked to within an hour of the summit the Ranger told us. We came to a boulder too much for us to get over."
I felt Aunt Esther's pain of a dream that slipped away.
"But I have had several hikes on the Trail and wanted so much to do the ENTIRE HIKE."
Daggers, as she let go of her goal.
She told me she enjoyed going on the hike with the women in my book.
Then she shared another aspiration:
"My other dream was to walk the Grand Canyon. But the Old Mother Nature's Clock just went too fast."
Another reminder for me, and for everyone, that time is passing.
We can talk about someday forever, until someday is gone.
"Thank you for sharing a story that took me on my Dream Trip. I pray you will have many more travels to share"
And, there's no time like the present to get started on my dream.
The stars may be aligning to send us on that journey sooner than we'd planned.
Stay tuned!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Anniversary Follow-Up

My week seems to steamroll after Tuesday and I rarely get back to my blog.
Even now, my 8 a.m. class is breathing down my neck, reminding me to get ready, to be "on my game" for that early morning class, and other essays waiting to be graded prod me from the computer file.
I wanted to tell you about a fabulous anniversary.
Earl and I decided not to do chores on Tuesday. We both had the day off. We took our laptops to a coffee shop and wrote, sharing passages with each other.
That evening, we walked to a restaurant and for a drink.

Earl had his usual gin and tonic. This restaurant fills the glass with gin and gives a side bottle of tonic. I tried a new drink, strawberry basil mojito.

Of course, it was yummy because it was sweet and fresh on the warm day.
After our drinks, we moved on to the restaurant where we had reservations. We sat at a table in the back, away from the hubbub of the crowd.
I could tell  you about the goat cheese appetizer or the crab cakes entree, but I'll skip straight to the dessert.
Creme brulee -- 3 kinds.

You might notice that this picture only has two kinds of creme brulee. That's because we'd already dug into the first one. Called a "chocolate flight," it included white chocolate, light chocolate and dark chocolate and each one had a delicious hard crust that we dug through to the thick cream below.
That night, we walked home and collapsed into a good food coma, anticipating 25 more years of marriage.