Trip to France: The Organ of Saint Sulpice

When we traveled to France one of the must-do items on our list was a visit to the Church of Saint Sulpice in the Saint Germain des Pres area in the 6th arrondissement.  More specifically Charlie wanted to see the organ and hear it being played throughout the church. 

We left the 15th arrondissement at 9 a.m. and caught the Metro to Saint Sulpice station. Just across the street from Place Saint Sulpice we had a very French breakfast at Saint Sulpice Cafe de la Mairie.  Charlie had an omelette and I enjoyed my croissant.

Approaching Saint Sulpice

The bells of Saint Sulpice toll at 10:15 to summoning us to the service. Saint Sulpice, the second largest church in Paris, was all but finished being built in 1780.  It had taken more than a century and 6 architects to bring it to completion.

Saint Sulpice

 We happened to attend a church service on Scout Sunday. 

Place Saint Sulpice taken over by Scouts

 The Boy and Girl Scouts lined in formation in the fountained plaza before church began. 

Fontaine Saint Sulpice

At 10:30 the organ prelude began. The organ, one of the largest in the world, was built between 1776 and 1781. We sat at the back right side of the church so Charlie could be with the first group of people allowed into the organ loft after the service at 12:05.  Only 15 people are allowed up to the organ at one time and a queue does form. (I was tending our luggage so I missed the opportunity.)

The organ pipes viewed from below

Toward the end of the service the parishioners were serious about passing the peace greeting each person around them with “La paix du Christ”. Charlie went over to wait by the organ loft door and found some like-minded people to chat with, then up the winding stairs to the loft where Daniel Roth, the organist since the late 1980s, held court with his assistants.

Charlie seated at the organ with Daniel Roth

I know it was exciting for Charlie, who is an organist, to see this grand dame. Can you imagine what it would sound like if they “pulled out all the stops”?(Did you know that organ stops, which make different instrument sounds, are the origin of that phrase?)

5 tiers of keys and 100 stops

While Charlie was in the organ loft I ventured outside where the Veilleurs of the church were serving Muscat, orange juice and soda.

Even the foot pedals are complicated on this huge organ

The music both during the service and the concert afterward (which happens weekly) filled the church and bounced off the stone walls to create an enveloping wall of sound. As I sat in Saint Sulpice waiting for the concert to end and Charlie to return I noticed the floor grates which are really lovely. I sketched a small drawing of them and made a rubbing just in case I needed inspiration in the future.

The inside of Saint Sulpice viewed from the organ loft.

 We left the church well after the appointed time and walked around the neighborhood before heading up to our apartment in Le Marais.

Do you visit off-the-beaten-track sites when you travel? What can you recommend?


The Tree is Up and Running

We finally got busy and dragged the Christmas tree into the house. It was at least a 3 (maybe 4) day process and isn’t over yet, I think.

The tree is in a bucket outside until we set it up on the house

This is not a great, huge tree so putting it into the stand was not difficult.  But, because the tree was not tall I put the stand on our outdoor furniture ottoman (without the cushion).  Genius!: I know.

Outdoor ottoman base on an old shower curtain

 Notice the old shower curtain that we keep with the Christmas decorations to keep the floor dry when we water it or when the tree falls over (which it usually does).

The tree stand on the ottoman on the shower curtain.

 It’s like a Dr. Seuss book; Fox in Socks comes to mind.

The tree is ready for lights.

 Then, according to our custom, Charlie strung the lights which I told you here is a challenge just finding a string that fully works.   Among our Christmas decorations I found 3 boxes of electric icicles (which I had never seen before).

The icicles are cool. Hilarious!: I know.

  I put them on the tree and decided that next year they would be great on the mantle. Charlie topped the tree with an electric star.

Lights, icicles and star

 About 30 years ago I made a white felt tree skirt with the intention of embellishing it a little more every year.  So the next year I added a green and red taffeta gingham ruffle. I haven’t done a thing since except put it under the tree every year. So sad!:  I know.

Lights and gold balls

 Finally I got busy with our glass Christmas balls first putting on all the gold ones (maybe 50 or so) and then interspersing as many red ones.

The red glass balls really add some zip to the tree.

 We have at least 75 special ornaments from which I have selected our yearly “Charlie and Jo” music  ones and the Barbie ornaments my sister gave me over the past years.  I hope I get around to putting them on the tree. That’s probably enough for this year.

Now we’re looking forward to the Christmas Eve service at church (which our choir has been rehearsing for 3 months under my direction), Christmas Day with our family and friends (for which I’m providing the crab cakes), and our New Year’s Eve Party (the menu for which I’ll detail in a future post). 

One way to ring in the New Year

 Allowing our expectations to be limited in terms of both holiday decorating and other people’s behavior is reducing a lot of the stress that often accompanies this busy time of year. It’s the perfect opportunity to be conformed to the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ and extend to every person and obstacle grace sufficient for the situation.   

Are you content with not getting it all done?  What drives your holiday? Tradition? Excess? Love?

Sidebar:  You’ll note in the photos above that some have a highly embellished tree skirt which is smaller than the plain one I made.  I simply layered the smaller one over the larger one but then we decided it might be too much.  What think ye?

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7 Things That Just Didn’t Happen in 2011

As much as we tried, we did NOT accomplish all we had hoped in 2011.  Following is a list of some of the things that just didn’t get finished. When I actually thought about it, I thought there would be many more than 7 (10 at least) unfinished projects that were definitely scheduled for 2011. (Some have actually been hanging on since 2009 and 2010.) I’m not counting anything that was on our list of things to do that had no time limit expectation. We’re hopeful that 2012 brings us a renewed sense of “git ‘er done”.

1. We didn’t sell the boat.


2.  We didn’t get the yard totally cleaned up from Hurricane Irene.

Oak tree trunk still waiting for removal

3.  We did not finish the laundry room.

Unfinished laundry room

 4. We I did not finish the seat cushion covers for the window seat.

Windowseat cushion

 5.  We didn’t lay a new floor in the cottage bathroom (even though we have all the materials).

The current brick-patterned flooring and the new wood-patterned vinyl.

6.   I never figured out how to weatherstrip the cottage door.

For me, this weatherstripping doesn’t work.
 7.  I was never inspired to do something with this burlap coffee sack.
Burlap Coffee Sack approximately 18" by 36"
We had so, so many wonderful blessings in 2011 but the above list remains at a standstill.  We’re still hopeful.  Maybe this is the “DO IT NOW” list to begin 2012. I’m not going to hold my breath.
Do you have projects stuck on the proverbial “back burner”?  What’s your plan?

2011 Outside Before and After

Here are some of the fix-up projects we’ve tackled this year and their before and after images along with links to the original post.  Enjoy!

1.  Parisian Ivy Topiary

A column of ivy

Finished in November

They look sparse now but should fill in over the winter

 2. Marble Hearth Bench

The components are here, just need a location.

 Finished in July

Marble Bench - After

3.  Heart Chair

Heart Chair – Before

Finished in June

Heart Chair - After

4. Bistro Set

Bistro Set - Before

 Finished in June

Bistro Set - After

5. Park Bench

Old Bench among Lily of the Valley - Before

 Finished in June

Park bench in situ - After

 It seems like we should have accomplished more than these outdoor projects.  My favorites are the bistro set and park bench.  Not only did they turn out well, they taught me a lot of details to use in  future projects.

What lessons did you learn this year?

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So Sad

I love stained glass windows.  Hanging in our upstairs hallway in the window is a stained glass window given me by my mother.  I brought it from Florida to Maryland carefully wrapped in my suitcase years ago.

Stained glass window hanging in the window

 The window hangs sturdily on 2 chains with S-hooks. The other day I wanted to raise the sash of the house window holding onto the stained-glass window so it wouldn’t fall.  I was holding it with my weak arm and it fell and hit me on the head. (Yow!) When I returned it to its chain I noticed .  .  .

Three obvious cracks

 I’m so sad I wasn’t careful enough to prevent this mishap.   

I still like it

  Have you broken anything lately? Is your family happy YOU broke it and not them?

Saving Heirlooms

Back in the summer we Charlie planted some tomato seeds that we had saved from 2006. 

Here's the little (2" x 4") bag of seeds we planted

 They grew into wonderful productive plants.

First ripe Pink of the season!

 The trick to keeping the production of heirloom tomatoes going is to save the seeds. It’s not easy because when the tomatoes are ripe the last thing I ever want to do is to sacrifice a perfectly good tomato  and save its seeds. And I know I’m supposed to save the seeds of the best tomato (not the worst) to get great plants in the future.

One day last summer I quickly scraped the seeds from a tomato, spread them out on a piece of aluminum foil and covered them with a paper towel. I read all kinds of tutorials about washing them and separating them none of which I did. 

Under the paper towel are drying seeds

 Recently I opened up the paper towel to see what we have.

Some of the seeds were stuck to the foil.

 Seeds were clinging to both the foil and the paper towel.

Can you pick out the seeds among the dried pulp?

 Carefully with a pair of tweezers I removed each seed and placed it in a plastic bag.  Ideally I would have dried the seeds of more than one tomato to ensure that I had a good and varied supply from which to choose.

2011 Heirloom saved seeds for Pink tomatoes

 We only grow about 8 plants so these seeds should be plenty for a good harvest.

Do you think about your garden in winter?  Do you save seeds? Does the thought of a warm, ripe summer tomato sound enticing?

Christmas for My Boys

The question is always what to get the boys my men (husband and grown son) for any gift giving occasion.  This year I’m getting them both the same thing: a dress suit.  (Don’t worry, neither of them reads the blog.) They’re on their own for the trimmings (shirt and tie, belt). Of course the son wanted something a little unusual (How about a white suit, Mom?)because that’s how he rolls. I told them both we would choose something classic, tailored in charcoal or navy. “If you want to express yourself get a way-out tie or shirt.”

Son in the suit he picked out with Star Wars belt

  Less than two weeks before Christmas I wasn’t sure we’d ever make time to go to the Men’s Wearhouse or Joseph Bank to be sized, tried and fitted.  Instead I headed to Lands’ End’s website and found their suit separates which work very well for my fellas. 

Lands' End Wool Flannel suit in Dark Slate Stripe

 They both wear a size 40 jacket BUT a size 32 trouser.  A typical man’s suit pairs a 40 jacket with a 34 trouser which is always a problem.

One pair pleated, one pair plain

 Both suits were on sale plus another 40% off the most expensive item (one of the jackets) and free shipping. Not to mention hemming a custom inseam is FREE at Lands’ End.

To keep them straight one of my guys got a navy suit with pleated trousers and the other a dark slate stripe with flat front trousers. Can’t wait to see how handsome they look all suited up.

Are gifts for the men in your life problematic?  Do you have a go-to place that makes shopping less of a chore?

Sidebar:  I was not paid or perked to write about this purchase I’m just happy it’s finished.