"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Friday, July 08, 2016

The Bee Keeper...

"The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams."
- Henry David Thoreau

I keep a red Moleskine notebook, my Paris notes. In it I write, cut and paste all of the intriguing places I want to go, things I want to experience and people I want to meet when I'm next in Paris. Always on the list, but not yet realized, is to visit the Beehives in the Luxembourg Gardens and atop the Opera Bastille - two of the 300+ bee apiaries housed within the city's limits - a grand adventure Parisian indeed. I never thought that I'd realize my goal of touring a bee apiary only a few miles from my state's side-Midwest home...

"Meet your local Bee Keeper. 
See Bees up close. Ask questions."

Such a tantalizing invitation - how could I resist?

Fifteen miles from my home, down a former Indian trail, is the most unusual little shop - The Outpost General Store. Train tracks run along one side, followed by acres and acres of cornfields interspersed with horse farms. You can come to The Outpost for gourmet groceries, a wine tasting, meet with the local book club, buy a vintage tea set, sample local cheeses, meet the local Bee Keeper, stay for lunch.

"Listen! O, listen! Here come the hum of golden bees." 
- James Russel Lowell

At the front of the store, surrounded by a dozen people hanging on his every word, stood a gentleman - Rik Alex. He wore a white apron and a toque blanche (the traditional headgear of professional chefs). At first I thought that I had come on the wrong day; that there was a cooking demonstration going on instead. But as I listened to Mr. Alex, I too became entranced and realized that he wore a toque blanche because he literally is a Master Bee Keeper.

Mr. Alex's depth and breadth of knowledge of bees, honey, and bee keeping are extraordinary. And equally so is his ability to share that knowledge and experience in a way that is totally engaging. After the crowd had dispersed a little, I introduced myself and asked if he'd allow me to photograph and interview him for Belle Inspiration. He said yes, but that was as far as we got because there were so many people waiting to speak to him. So I boldly asked if he'd allow me to conduct my interview at his apiary. Again he said yes. I guess the Latin proverb is true - fortune favours the bold.

"Life is the flower for which love is the honey." 
- Victor Hugo

"Oh, for a bee's experience of clovers and noon!" 
- Emily Dickenson

Rik's apiary is housed on his two-and-a-half acre property, surrounded by corn fields, on a country lane appropriately named Honey Hill. Flowers are bees' primary food/pollination source. So, other than mowing a walking lane, Rik leaves his land free to be a wildflower garden - just gorgeous! 

Rik, Coco and I spent a lovely afternoon walking his sun drenched, flower bedecked property while talking about bees, honey and life. Interestingly, Rik calls himself an accidental Bee Keeper. He inherited his apiary from his father. His hives and supplies are from the Sears Farm Catalogue and his expertise is born of four decades worth of good old fashioned research, trial, error and success. From his two hives, Rik harvest's an average of forty pounds annually! Which he freely and generously gives to his friends, his children and their friends.

Rik may call himself an accidental Bee Keeper  but he's is much more than that. He is a member of the Bee Keeping Industry Club and is one of a very select few, in our slice of the world, who is an expert in the field and is treated as such.

"Eat honey, my child, for it is good." - Proverbs 24:13

At the end of our apiary tour, Rik invited me into his cozy home to sample a few honey varietals. Each had a distinct history, provenance and flavor: black honey from Arizona - grown in hives housed in giant cacti (I could clearly taste its smokey mesquite flavor). Raspberry honey from Maine - it's deep dark red in color but tastes surprisingly light and floral, with a hint of cocoa butter. Rik's homegrown honey is golden, sweet, mellow and nutty - delicious.

My Bee-adventure has given me a newfound respect for, and appreciation of, the complexities of honey. Yes, Rik gave me a large jar for my very own. I put it in my tea, spread it over my morning toast, drizzle it over water crackers topped with goat cheese and almonds, and I'm learning to cook with it.

When I'm next in Paris, the first thing I'm going to do is visit a few of her apiaries. Oui, you know I'm going to share that adventure with you too - bien sur! I wonder, does Parisian honey taste like champagne?

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


Post Script...
This article was originally published in Belle Inspiration. I have extensively revised it and added photos, not included in the original article..for you. Also, here's the original Bees Knees teaser. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Celebrate Life!

"Life is a celebration. 
Lord I'm gonna celebrate.
Life is a celebration. 
So come on now and celebrate, celebrate.
Life is a celebration. Look it's a revelation.
So celebrate now. Celebrate life!"
- Rick Springfield

Our glorious friends - Matt & Neal - again hosted a weekend long celebration of Mr. G's birthday; in their stunning treehouse at the edge of Lake Michigan. The guest list: 3 married couples, 2 French Bulldogs, a Min-Pin and a Coco. We made our plans months ago. Little did we know then that our gathering would occur six days after Orlando. What to do, in the wake of unspeakable hate? It wasn't even a question; not really. 

We chose to celebrate love, celebrate life...

Pete's Posse

In Orlando's aftermath, we Six, along with most of the world, were shocked, sickened and saddened. We, along with most of the world, grieved for the beautiful precious lives of the brutally lost and horrifically injured. We, along with most of the world, felt enraged, afraid and...helpless. But, here's the thing:

Sometimes (maybe often times) this world can be a scary place, seemingly bursting at the seams with people who espouse and do hateful terrible things. But I (still) truly believe that the vast majority of us, who inhabit this beautiful Earth, are kind and good. And we are the lucky ones. In the midst of unspeakable pain and tragedy (we spit in its eye!) we gain strength and sustenance from those who love us and by giving in kind to those we love. And we, in times of tragedy, trouble and strife - willingly, freely and fully lend that strength, sustenance and love to complete strangers. We find joy in the simplest of things - an 8th grade volleyball game, birthday cake, a drive through the countryside, time with friends, a good meal, the bubbles in a glass of champagne, the grit of sand between our toes. And the accumulated positive karmic weight of these simple things, by their very existence, and our insistence that these things continue to exist, change our world for the better - and always will. In the meantime, and always, we will continue to choose to celebrate life.

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!

Sunday, June 12, 2016


"But I don't understand! I don't understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she's, there's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore! It's stupid! It's mortal and stupid! And, and Xander's crying and not talking, and, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well Joyce will never have any more fruit punch, ever, and she'll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why." 
– Anya, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I've been following the media coverage of the horrific, brutal and devastatingly sad massacre in Orlando, the FaceBook comments (loving and hateful), and the outpouring of grief, support, grace and love from countless many. I needed time to process this overwhelming wave of murderous hate and debated for half a second if I would post about it. But, ya'll know me.
I have been an LGBT ally for my entire life (thanks to my now 87 year old mother, who led by love, word and example - thanks mommy): the best man at my parents' wedding, my babysitter [for most of my and my sister's childhood(s)], many of my parents' closest friends - who loved and helped raise my sister and I - were/are LGBT. I grew up in Boy's Town, Chicago (lived there for 20+ wonderful years). A community that fully, freely and with open arms welcomed my interracial family and (years later) a lanky pimply faced Black girl and the tall, skinny, equally pimply faced Mr. G white boy she fell head over heels in love with. I am proud to have LGBT people as students, colleagues, beloved friends and family members.
I send my heart and love; prayers of grace, peace and solidarity to the slain men and women of Orlando - and to their parents, siblings and families; their husbands, wives, partners, lovers and friends.
I've been listening/reading the need by some to obfuscate, ignore and/or totally lie about the fact that this was a hate crime - specifically leveled at the LBGT community; debates about gun-control, the Islamic-terrorist threat, etc. But all I can see/focus on is that nearly 50 lives, fellow human beings - were targeted, murdered; and another 50 survived by the hair of their chinny chin chins. The political and socio-cultural bullshit fades so far away in the face of the fact that these beautiful precious individual people will never again enjoy fruit punch, or eggs, or yawn or brush their hair - not ever, and no one will explain to me, why...

Friday, June 10, 2016


"I equate peonies with love because 
they're the first blooms of summer."
- Isaac Mizrahi

During all four seasons, every other Friday or so, I make a special trip to buy flowers for nearly every room in my home (a habit bestowed upon me by ma mère bien-aimée). I have found that, no matter how hard it rains, how heavy the snow falls or how dire one's mood, just a glance of bright colorful petals in one's periphery or even the scantiest soft scent of blooms' aroma lightens one's mood and eases one's soul.

a cozy, calm, relaxing place
For obvious reasons, I call my living room 'the White Room.' The amazing all day natural light, bleached whitewashed wood floors, white walls, furniture and piano make it the perfect backdrop to showcase my various art projects and is the ideal place to hold my photo-portrait sessions. The glass and stainless steel table (in the center of the room) is where I indulge my amateur love of flower arranging.  For a few years now, on my personal and Pour l'Amour Facebook pages,  I've posted my Friday Flowers.  I figure it was high time to share them here too. So let us begin with my favorite bloom - Peonies.

Lightening one's mood, easing one's soul

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


Thursday, June 09, 2016

nouvelle palette

"Life's like a painter's palette, just when you've got everything worked out the colours change." 
- Benny Bellamancina

It all began quite innocently - when my atelier's 15+ year old television finally kicked the bucket. For its replacement, I decided to splurge on wall-mounted/flat-screen/wi-fi/tv - and that's when things really got interesting...

blank slate

Since the 'tv-technicians' had to drill several holes, I thought: "The walls haven't been painted in ages, let's have that done too." And once the walls were done, my ravaged hardwood floors looked even worse - so we had them sanded. Of course, after the walls and floor were done, the room's time-and-use-ravaged furniture was quite glaring. So I had them painted and had the chandelier cleaned.


the basics were completed just before Christmas. 
I couldn't resist adding a small tree ;-}

After all that, I realized that I had a fresh, clean slate - time and space to allow my imagination free reign. I've always been so reluctant to use color. But since I had this unexpected 'do-over,' I decided to indulge my self-stifled love for color.

starting simply, baby steps...

* An area rug in glorious teal, cream, yellow, white, with a touch of pink 
* Re-pourposing a brilliant hot pink pashmina, I got in Paris, on my settee (until I can afford to have it re-upholstered)
* My daughter's pink/purple tutu above the armoire

Touches of whimsy
* a modern faux-fur covered ottoman 
* Champagne and wine crates to store my school work
* And Peonies, must have those

blue velvet and silver sequins

Due to my budget and the fact that I absolutely love them - I've kept all of my original furniture. I only added four new pieces: the rug, the ottoman, a vintage cabinet with turned feet and a scalloped bottom - that serves a media storage for the tv. My favorite new piece is this Paris-Shabby Chic chair, upholstered in blue crushed velvet - topped with an old pillow I recovered with a remnant piece of silver sequined material. All that remains is choosing and hanging artwork - I'm thinking one or two huge canvases (bien sur, I'll share). 

But I wasn't quite done yet. There's a tres-petite deck attached to my atelier...

bringing the outside in...

* Mr. G spent an entire day painstakingly power washing every plank
* Eucalyptus wood bench and chair (World Market), hot pink solid and patterned pillows, large floral print outdoor rug - in the same colors as the indoor rug (Grand in Road
*I've had this outdoor chandelier for years and I still love it

Temple Tip:  in early summer, stores drastically reduce their prices on all things summer - yay! 

Coco approves

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


Friday, May 20, 2016

Flower Power, un avant-goût...

"For myself I hold no preferences among flowers,
so long as they are wild, free, spontaneous."
- Edward Abbey

I am so excited to finally be working on my next Postcard to Paris... 

A beautiful, tranquil place - blooming with glorious colors and lush fragrance - that looks and feels like it should be located on my beloved rue Cler... 

I've had my eye on this lovely artist for awhile now, avidly following each and every FB post of her gorgeous creations. I can't wait to introduce you and I know you're going to love her.  Stay tuned...

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

beautiful day

"The heart is in bloom. Shoots up through stony ground...
It's a beautiful day. Don't let it get away." - U2

The Midwest has been in the full grip of winter. 20 degrees, a chill that rattles through to the very bone, gray cloud filled skies - for weeks. But today nature gave us a reprieve - 62 degrees, brilliant warm sunshine, billowing clouds softly floating across the sky. I was eager to get...out.

"Can we just go already?!" - Coco

Every morning Coco lays on a chair in my kitchen - next to the coffee maker, patiently waiting for my coffee to finish brewing so we can either cuddle a bit before I leave for class or go to my atelier where she curls on my lap while I work. But not today. Today Coco sat straight up, wiggled her booty and thumped her tail so hard I thought she was going to fall off. She knew. Somehow she knew that, even though it was 25 degrees the night before - today it was warm, the sun was shining, I wasn't going to work and leaving her behind, we weren't going to be spending the day in my atelier, and she couldn't wait for us to get on with it already.

"Go outside. Don't tell anyone and don't bring your phone."
- Charlotte Eriksson

I grabbed Coco and my camera, put my top down and we hit the road. My plan was to capture this beautiful day, really. But as I drove further and further west, into horse and farm country, slowly cruising down a completely deserted tree-lined country lane, the shining sun was so brilliant on my face, my body. I was moving through stillness and there were so many gorgeous images: A horse slowly walking through a field; long dead brown crumbly leaves, that had somehow survived the winter, swirling around, up and over my car; the soft balmy wind blowing my hair every which way. I just took it all in, reveled in each sensation, at some point I realized that some moments aren't meant to be captured.

A hot simple meal, a good book, Coco curled on my lap

Our final destination was my favorite little town, on the banks of the Fox River. I parked, took Coco on a very long walk, then lunch at our favorite cafe. Coco is such a well-mannered lady, the owner kindly allows me to bring her inside. I spent a few hours at table in the corner, with a good book, discreetly feeding my girl tidbits (that bit of pink on my lap is not a napkin - it's Coco ;-} Then another long walk, this time in town. Up and down streets lined with homes built during the Civil War and not long after. There's even a gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright house! I left my camera in the car - more than content to file away the day's images to precious memory. It felt like Paris and I have not felt Paris in so long. It was a beautiful day...

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


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