Thursday, April 29, 2010

Le Temps du Muguet

The first of May is “Le Temps du Muguet” ~ The Time of the Lily of the Valley. All over France, in tiny flower stalls, and in grand fleuristes alike, Lily of the Valley is queen of the flowers for the day.

Children take to the woods to gather small sprigs, or ‘brins’ of these flowers and to exchange these as tokens of friendship and good luck. For it is said that these flowers not only signify the arrival of spring, but “Porte Bonheur” – bring good luck!

The delicate green floral notes of these woodland flowers have long been appreciated by the perfume industry. Coty’s Muguet des Bois was first launched in 1941. Then there is Caron’s Muguet Du Bonheur, and Molinard has a Lily of the Valley scent in its Les Fleurs de Provence range. In 2009 Guerlain introduced Muguet, with the intent of releasing an annual Muguet perfume each April 30th. (Sadly there will be no release this year.) The daughter of Annick Goutal, Camille, created a limited edition called Le Muguet. This was the first time Camille had produced a fragrance without the assistance of her late mother. Van Cleef and Arpels has Muguet Blanc. Others with Lily of the Valley inspired scents include Crabtree and Evelyn, L’Erbolario, Taylor of London, Penhaglion and Floris. Woods of Windsor claim that the recipe for their fragrance comes from 18th century recipe books found in their attic.

"Le Muguet du Métro" by Robert Doisneau
(Photograph, Collection the Auckland Museum)

I associate the scent of Muguet, with the childhood memory of my mother wearing Yardley of London’s Lily of the Valley toilet water. Ironically, my first overseas home was located on Chemin des Muguets (Way of the Lily of the Valley) in Genève, Switzerland. Hence the inspiration for the name of my blog.

Avec Bonheur,

P.S. This posting is dedicated to my sweet perfumer friend, Ashley ~ the only nose I 'noz.'

Monday, April 19, 2010

Drawing from Nature

Some child of yesteryear lovingly compiled this Nature Journal.

Beginning this Sunday I will be attending the first in a series of four workshops on "Art and Nature: Drawing from the Collections at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History". The instructor is Erin E. Hunter, a graduate of of the noted science illustration program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In the classes we will be working with various media, and explore plant and animal anatomy, drawing techinques, nature journaling, tips for sketching in the field, and color theory.

Here is one of my "before" sketches. What do you think?

Omnis Vero Natura Est!

Monday, April 12, 2010

East of the Sun

Come each April our family would escape still-thawing Upstate New York for sunny Florida. Driving to Richmond, VA., we would then hop aboard The Silver Meteor train. After roaming back and forth through the cars, drinking Coca-Cola in the club car, and chatting with the ever gracious porters, we kids would finally fall asleep. The train would travel through the night, and we would awaken to the mysterious sight of the Okeefenokee swamp, and our first glimpse of mile after mile of orange groves.

My paternal grandparents were early snowbirds, and had settled on Anna Maria Island on the Gulf of Mexico, from which they ran a charter fishing boat business on their cabin cruiser, the “Mobjack”. They lived in a trailer park right across the street from the beach, with the most interesting cast of characters you could imagine: ex-Circus performers, a revival preacher, and my favorite, Mrs. P. Mrs. P. was a first generation Greek-American. A warm lovely lady with a thick accent, she made sweets for us, and delicate crocheted doilies.

Each morning she took her big black inner tube, and would bob in the waters of the Gulf for a few hours. One morning she paddled out, and sadly never come back.

Exploring the seashore and sandbars, we kids searched for the shells of horseshoe crabs and sand dollars. In the mornings, we cheered as the elders deftly played shuffle board; or in the evening, peeking through the clubhouse windows we watched as they played bingo. Some nights, my Grandpa would take us on a torchlight crabbing expedition. Other times, Grandma taught us how to dig for coquina (small clams). And then she would whip up large batches of her Florida version of clam chowder.

But most of all, we loved our time onboard the “Mobjack”. When they weren’t busy with paying customers, Grandma and Grandpa would take us out for the day. Grandma would maneuver the boat, while Grandpa fixed our lines, and brought in our catch – mackerel, kingfish, and grouper. The sight of schools of dolphins as they raced the boat, or of giant sleeping turtles lazing in the deep bay, captivated us. Back at the dock, my grandfather took pride in demonstrating to us his fish-cleaning skills – YUCK!

Sometimes the fog would set in. Then Grandpa would crouch on the bow of the boat, and yell directions to Grandma as she guided us safely back to our home berth on the Island.

Each year, I returned home from these enchanted vacations with many memories and souvenirs, which usually included layers of peeling skin, and always a small bottle of orange blossom toilet water - Pure Florida sunshine!

Both my grandparents are gone now, but I smile thinking of them climbing aboard the “Mobjack” and navigating out into the deep purple waters of the Gulf.

West of the Moon,

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Succulents are in Bloom

Don’t you just love the word ‘Succulent’? It’s so juicy and delicious!

My earliest memory of succulent plants is of a monstrous pre-historic jade plant which lurked in the upstairs hall window of an elderly family friend. Over the years, I have learned to appreciate succulents, and am delighted that they are again in fashion. Today’s succulents have gone modern, recognized for their versatile, decorative and sustainable qualities.

On California’s Central Coast succulents are in bloom.

Amid clumps of low growing succulents, these lush giant yellow flowering spears stand sentinel at the entrance to the old Homestead Inn in Carmel.

Window boxes and pots of assorted succulents abound.

These greet visitors to Tancredi and Morgen, a charming shop in Carmel Valley.

Succulent heaven may be the sale held by the Monterey Bay Cactus and Succulent Society in San Juan Bautista, CA. The next one is April 24th and 25th.

Denise Fasanello, a New York florist who blogs as Little Pheasant, has enthusiastically embraced the use of succulents in her 'delectable' designs. (Thank you Denise for the use of these two lovely images!)

Imagine boutonnieres for the bridegroom and groomsmen fashioned from succulents!

(Photograph by Lance Iversen/The Chronicale)

Bay area Organic Mechanics have long been proponents of the use of succulents in their award-winning garden installations. For this year’s San Francisco Flower and Garden Show they created “The Living Room” a 12’ X 12’ cube whose exterior walls were covered with 19,000 aeoniums, sedums and other succulents in 20 inch flats. These were sourced from Robin Stockwell’s Succulent Gardens Castroville, CA.

In Australia, designer Daniela Moore has magnified the basic forms of the leaves, stems and branches of various members of the succulent family, and adapted these into motifs for her popular silk-screened textiles available at Tree in Flinders.

If there was a Tulip mania in 17th century Holland; and a Victorian fern craze in the 19th century, then we must be in the midst of a Succulent mania now.

Succulently yours,