Tuesday, September 30, 2008

People and Sunbeams

sunrise seen from our window

Some people are like rays of sunshine finding their way across labyrinths of branches, piercing the early morning mist and letting its warmth seep through the cold-drenched ground on a wintry day.

(To Davidlind: Thank you very much for the message you left in my previous post. It’s great to “have” people like you around *grateful smile*. I owe you a visit :)).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Rudbeckia-like Afternoon

rudbeckia, a type of coneflower of the family asteraceae

It seems that the sun is making a great comeback these days. Goodbye gloomy drizzly days, hello again bright sunny days. I don’t want to include “warm” in the description of the coming days because according to the weather forecast, it’s going to be cold. And it is this weekend. We wake up to a 6°C morning (on the average) but the sky is clear with a promise of a cheery golden day. And the promise is well-delivered --- sun-kissed grass, blue sky with a handful of wispy clouds, small white butterflies and bees busily making their way from one dandelion flower to another. And the day is warm enough if you stay under the sun… which we did in the afternoons *wide grin*. I believe that one of the perfect ways to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon is to doze off on a deck chair with the sun on your face *sigh*.

I think the rudbeckias (one of the most known species is called black-eyed susan) in the photos are apt descriptions of the weekend and the days ahead (if the forecast holds true) --- glorious, cheerful with a touch of crispness in the early morning. Aside from that, I really like this flower... its gay lively color, its “open” petals as if welcoming whoever would like to admire its beauty, its inherent allure. And my favourite part… the distended center, shaped like a cone. Aren’t they tempting to touch or pinch or rub your nose against? I think they would feel like the soft rubbery button noses of many stuffed toys… or at least that’s how they seem to me *grins*. Bees and butterflies would definitely have a feast day on these flowers. And don’t they also remind you of colorful Mexican hats? Well, in any case, these blooms definitely exude warmth and festivity.

I wish I could grow rudbeckias. I haven’t tried it yet, but I will really try to have one by next summer. And if I don’t succeed with seeds (which I will attempt first), maybe I’ll go for buying a seedling/shoot. But I do hope I will get some results with seeds as nursery-grown plants can sometimes be pretty expensive here. Anyway, for the meantime, I’ll make the most of the afternoon by staying under the sun and enjoy it while it lasts *winks*.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Smurfs and Mushrooms

mushrooms in our backyard

We had periodic rain showers since the start of September. So when the sun started to reign in the sky again by the end of this week, I went to see our backyard and look what I have found --- a smurf village! Troops of mushrooms dot the shaded part of our garden. I wouldn’t say their gigantic, but they aren’t small ones, either. We’ve had mushrooms before, but not as big as these (maybe because we have a lot of rain lately). Against the green grass, they look like saucers scattered by a bunch of toddlers; or maybe they are satellite dishes masquerading as harmless fungi used by aliens to spy on humans *giggles*.

But I think I’d stick to the smurf village theory. In French, these blue-skinned tiny beings are called “schtroumpfs”. I know, it’s a mind-boggling and tongue-twisting kind of word, but that’s how the Belgian cartoonist Peyo called them. According to the story, it is virtually impossible for humans to find the schtroumpf village. But among those who got lucky enough, only a handful of them (the rare few) can find it on their own; the rest have to be led there by a smurf. I guess, in my sleep I was visited by Dreamy Smurf and he guided me as I sleep-walked into their village. And when I woke up, I remembered where to look! Hurray! Hurray! Oooops... there goes my imagination again. Please excuse me for my childish musings *apologetic grin*.

Ok, back to reality. I don’t know if these mushrooms can be eaten. They might resemble the edible ones, but then, maybe the likeness is only physical. So we decided not to harvest them. Better safe than sorry. Besides, they give a magical appearance to our yard, a playground for elves, fairies and other enchanting creatures, including the schtroumpfs *winks*. No need for ceramic mushroom garden figurines to decorate our garden. The latter might be more colorful, but the mushrooms we have lend a more “natural” look (after all they are real). One problem though, these mushrooms will soon collapse when the sun returns. Well, I really would like it to be sunny so we can enjoy the remaining days of summer (autumn officially starts next week). So between having a sunny day and the disappearing of these mushrooms, well, I think I’d choose to have some sun. In any case, autumn will be here soon with the usually very wet November. And it would mean a high probability of mushrooms sprouting again. Besides, I took several photos to remember them by.

Now, where are the schtroumpfs? Most probably they are camera shy, except maybe for Vanity Smurf and Smurfette. But then Smurfette is not really one of the schtroumpfs (she was created by Gargamel to create havoc in the smurf village). And speaking of Gargamel, I hope he’s not holding them all hostages. Bu then Papa Smurf with Brainy Smurf as a sidekick will find a way to escape. Let’s just hope Azrael, the cat wouldn’t catch one of them during their breakout *cross fingers*.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

A fuzzy bee fussing over a fuchsia dahlia on a sunny day

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Going Up or Down

a view of the upper section of the town near the castle

The castle of Beynac-et-Cazenac stands on top of a hill overlooking the beautiful Dordogne River. The hillside leading to the river is dotted with flagstone-roofed houses of the villagers. Both the castle and the town have retained their medieval appearance, turning the visit to one of the great baronies in the Perigord into a travel back in time.

There are two ways to reach the castle. One is through a winding paved road on the hillside by car; the other is through the village by foot. If it’s hard to find a parking space at the entrance of the village (which is often the case), it would be advisable to take the hillside road because there is a wide parking space on top near the castle. It might sound less “scenic” than by walking upward through the village, but there’s a wonderful view of the castle --- woods in the foreground, green hills in the background and a fine mist covering the château on a cold day to make this route an attractive alternative. And from the parking lot, after visiting the castle, you can visit the village by taking the narrow steep road leading down to it.

We opted to park near the château as the sky was overcast and it might rain any minute (which in fact happened as soon as we entered the keep of the castle). But we did try to go down the village after making the tour of the castle and the rain had let up. The village is divided into three sections. The quarter nearest the castle ( barri del Cap de Bainac) can be reached after passing through the Widow Gate (la porte Veuve) --- a remnant of the city wall separating the castle grounds from the village. A narrow, serpentine, steep road will take you to the middle neighborhood (see second photo above) called barri de la Caforca with a nice view of the valley. And the area nearest the river is called barri del Port where villagers whose livelihood is tied to the river lived. (source: Vallée de la Dordogne, Gallimard Loisirs, 2005)

We would have walked down to last section of the village (or the first one if you’re coming from the foot of the hill) if not for the rain. We were forced to go back to the castle (well, actually the parking lot near it) for it started raining again. The road was quite slippery because of it. Taking this road is already a rather arduous task on a sunny day because of its abruptness, but on a wet day, extra caution is a must or else you’ll be like Jack and Jill tumbling down... only this time instead of grass-covered ground, you’ll be hitting stone-paved road and walls –-- which I believe is only amusing if you don’t break a bone or too.

(last photo: a view of the Dordogne river and valley from the upper quarters)

Well, I guess the villagers back then must really have strong legs to go up and down these streets. And to take this route with a heavy load (I don’t think carts can pass through it)…whew! But of course, the nearer they are to the castle, the better are their chances of getting inside its fortified walls in case of a siege. I believe in those times, survival and not comfort is the prime focus in choosing one’s lodging. On the lighter side, I think the view as they look out from their windows is not only worth their security but also a good way to end a hard, tiring day.

(Château de Beynac–et-Cazenac part II, see part I)

Friday, September 5, 2008

In Finding Happiness

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved
--- for ourselves, or rather, in spite of ourselves.
- Victor Hugo

Nothing and no one can ever replace the joy of being held in your arms as you whisper how much you care and sealing it with a tender kiss. Thank you for loving me, just as I am.

Love Your Blog Award

I was given this award by Wendy, a blogger whose positive outlook in life is quite contagious. My sincerest thanks for this rather flattering award. In return, I'd like to say to the following people that I'm always looking forward to their blog entries (in no specific order):

1. davidlind (virginia breeze)
2. katarina (roses and stuff)
3. makis (relative world)
4. nussaibah (ode to my tainted dreams)
5. selerines (selerines's world)
6. girish (first life 360)
7. june (spatter)

I would have liked to add more, but the award/tag say's I have to choose seven only. So there :). I’m also supposed to include the rules for this award so here they are:

1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog;
2. Link the person you received your award from;
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs;
4. Put links of those blogs on yours; and
5. Leave a message on the blogs that you’ve nominated

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Let The Hay Roll

bales of hay viewed from my in-laws' backyard

In summer, bales of hay are a common site in many fields here. They are made in preparation for winter. Since livestock cannot feed in the prairies during cold season (in any case, there aren’t much weeds to feed on), stocked dried hay is given (aside from cereals and corn) as their food. Farmers usually stack hay into rolls or rectangular blocks for easy transport and storage. And they are left in the field for sometime to really dry them. Because if not, the heat produce by bacterial fermentation might induce a fire which can spread fast.

We helped some friends put “bricks” of hay inside their barn twice. I used the term “brick” because despite their seeming lightness (one will think they’re not heavy for they are just dried stalks of wheat or other cereals), they are in fact heavy! And it’s not only me. Even our big-bodied friends find it a strenuous task. It was really exhausting even though we just rolled/transported “for domestic use” bales of hay. It’s quite understandable why big land farmers and herders use tractors and forklifts to move and stock hay nowadays.

It may be a tiring task but it was a nice experience. I felt like a kid again, frolicking in the field. And after sweating off some calories, nothing beats a hearty lunch/dinner shared with your friends, coupled with some good bantering and snickering. We haven’t seen these friends of ours this year, but hopefully we’ll find time to get together again, even without the bale moving scenario. In any case, I have these landscapes around to remind me of past summers of being in the country and escaping the rush of daily life once in a while.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

our resident toad in our backyard

Meet our resident toad. Usually, you will only hear it croaking but once in a while it graces us with its presence *grins*.

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