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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Africa...Land of Dreams

Friday, February 27, 2015

I had a farm in Africa 
begins a novel of a love story with a man 
and of a love story with Africa.

Home of Karen von Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen), Nairobi, Kenya

"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the North, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold."
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen)

Africa was a land of dreams 
described in Out of Africa, National Geographic, 
The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Daktari, Tarzan, ...  
A land with acacia trees and a snow-covered peak 
that was labeled as only a legend in Europe when it was 
first reported by explorers in the 1800s. 
Scientists were skeptical about a snow-covered mountain 
so close to the equator. 

As a young girl and woman, movies, books, and television 
filled my head with dreams of an African photo safari. 
One of those dreams that is part of a 
person's unwritten list of lifetime dreams 
that seem beyond reach and never will be fulfilled. 
Just a dream in the margins of one's imagination.

Sunrise over Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania was a dream for a lifetime. 

Then one day my husband's job as a Bible translator needed him to travel to Kenya. 
Just about the time I would be celebrating my 60th birthday. 
With great excitement, we made plans for me to go with him. 
Shots, travel visas, reservations, and vacation days from my job 
as a public school administrator all came together. 

The first wildlife preserve we visited was just outside Nairobi, Kenya. 
Can you see the excitement in my smile? 
Everything was foreign ~ sights, sounds, smells... 
the terrain, the customs, the food... 
and the wildlife! 

Giraffes freely roamed throughout the open range preserve, 
and stared at us as we stared at them. 

Until they got bored and went back to finding lunch. 

Of course, during the first part of our trip 
my husband attended the conference for his work. 

After he finished the conference, we flew south to Amboseli National Park.

Our first view of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania looming over 
Amboseli National Park, Kenya. 

My dream of Africa became a reality as 
a 60th birthday present from the love of my life, my husband of 35 years.  
And it was truly a trip of a lifetime! 

Here I am, taking photos and standing on the airstrip on which our small commuter plane 
landed after flying low over herds of wildebeest, zebras, and water buffalo. 
The herds had run and swirled away below us just like in National Geographic specials.

See my left foot off the ground?
I was floating on air with excitement, awe, and wonder,
trying to take it all in and to capture the moment forever. 

As our fellow plane passengers climbed aboard a bus, 
our guide approached us and took us to our private Land Cruiser 
with a driver and a Maasai wildlife guide. 
(Could this be real?  Our very own personal Maasai guide?) 

After a full day of traveling across the plains, 
rumbling over rough terrain (no roads), not another soul in sight, 
looking at scores of varieties of wildlife, expertly described by our guide, 
we pulled into our campsite and were greeted with glasses of 
fresh apple juice served by the camp director 
and shared with several of the camp's Maasai guides. 

Our first night we stayed at a tent camp, Porini Camp, 
that stood on an old safari big game hunting campsite. 
Kenya no longer allows game hunting. 

 This was our open air dining area for breakfast and dinner. 

As we ate by candlelight under the tent that first night, 
we visited with the other couple who were also guests. 
The man was the editor of the African Geographic
and his wife was the editor of another African magazine. 
Once again, I thought, "Is this real?" 
Fascinating conversation under a candlelit tent in 
the middle of the African bush... 
The only sounds were hushed conversations 
and sporadic nightlife calls from birds and animals. 
Every minute of the trip was filled with more 
excitement than the previous minute. 

After dinner, our guide and driver took us for a night safari 
that included us sitting around an open fire talking with our guides. 
As we talked another Maasai warrior walked into the light of the campfire, 
out of the darkness, and joined our conversation.  
We talked of a vanishing culture being nurtured by tourist 
revenue that allowed the Maasai to nurture the dwindling wildlife. 
We knew we were lucky to see Africa while wildlife still exists. 

Back in camp that night, the guide zipped us into our private tent 
with warnings not to walk around outside by ourselves, 
always have a guide for protection against wild animals.  
Some of the guides wore a gun. 

We slept in our private tent on a real bed after bathing 
under a shower filled with water from a bucket. 

Tortilis Camp, Amboseli National Park, Kenya, Africa
From Porini Camp we traveled to Tortilis Camp at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. 
Once again, the day unfolded with even more exciting new events. 

Driving into Tortilis camp, the cluster of thatched roof open air buildings 
looked like a movie set. 

The reception/registration building was beautiful. 
"Is this real?" 

This was the view from the open air dining room located just behind the reception area. 
The equator runs through Kenya making it a warm country, but the altitude 
tempers the warmth creating a climate that allows pleasant open air rooms. 

Luxury Tent #3 was our "room". 
The thatched roof covered a raised platform on which a tent was pitched. 

A king size bed sat in the front area, 
and behind it was a full bathroom with 
a flush toilet, sink with faucets, and a luxurious shower. 
Is this real? 
Yes, it was. 

Mount Kilimanjaro with clouds overlooking a herd of zebras
Two full days of private safaris with Maasai guides were filled with 
herds and herds of wildlife that largely ignored us. 
Except for the zebras. 
There were always several that stared at us. 

Our guide also arranged for us to visit a local Maasai village 
that was enclosed by an 8-10 feet tall by 5-6 feet wide fence 
made of thorny bushes to keep out the wildlife, especially lions. 

The one-room houses were made from mud, had no furniture, and no electricity. 
The village did not have a well, and villagers walked several miles to the 
closest well to collect water in buckets. 

Our last day on safari, our guide asked what we wanted to see that we had not seen. 

He drove us to another area of the national preserve where he found a den 
with two sets of cubs, five cubs total, guarded by unseen male lions in tall grass.  
While this photo looks like we were really close, we were much farther away 
and took photos using telephoto lenses. 

Africa was a land of dreams for me, 
and it took my breath away day after day. 
We arrived home the night before my 60th birthday. 
Life has never been the same since. 
How grateful I am for the trip of my lifetime dreams 
with the love of my life.  

The African Geographic editor asked me 
how I would celebrate my 70th birthday since 
my 60th birthday celebration was so spectacular. 
He asked how could I top going to Africa. 
I don't know what life has in store for me, 
just like I did not know I would go to Africa.

Anything is possible... 
if you dream it.  

Missing the Paris Metro

Friday, February 20, 2015

There are times I miss the Paris Metro. 
When it's cold, or rainy, or I'm too tired to drive, 
I wish for a metro (subway) system where I live. 
A system like the Paris Metro linked 
to a high-speed rail system to whisk me away 
to Austin or, even better, to New Orleans, 
as well as transporting me to nearby groceries, church, shopping. 

In truth, the main reason I miss the Paris Metro 
is because it is in 

P * A * R * I * S 

Now, I'm missing the Paris Metro another way. 

I miss the 3'x3' metal Paris Metro 3-D map I sold in my last 
French Country Christmas Event. 

Have you ever given away or sold something you miss 
after it's gone and you wonder if you should have kept it? 

With a black background, white lettering, and metal wires 
bent to form three dimensional routes of the Paris Metro, 
the artwork made a perfect board on which to hang cards 
and vintage French documents.  

I envisioned it above an office desk holding 
notices, pamphlets, maps, and design ideas,  
after the holiday cards were taken down. 

Or above a chest of drawers in a living area without 
anything hanging on it, just an uncluttered piece of art. 

Wouldn't it be wonderful for the map to be within sight for close studying 
and then to gaze away to reminisce about those 
beguiling Metro stops in Paris? 

Solférino, Saint Germain des Prés, Luxembourg, Tuileries, Pyramides, 
Palais Royal Musée du Louvre, Madeleine, Opéra, Concorde, Cité 

Source - Wikipedia

Solférino was the Metro stop I took on my first visit to the Musée d'Orsay. 

Solférino opened November 5, 1910 and is one of the last Metro stops 
to retain the original Nord-Sud Company design.  

Later Metro stops are identified with street lamps and billboards. 
Ledru-Rollin is a small stop, first opened in 1931. 

Across the street is a papeterie where I spent many happy hours. 

In the background is winged Liberty in the Place de la Bastille, 
the most symbolic place for Parisian political protests. 

Underground, the Metro stops are beautiful, and I love looking at their designs. 
There may be graffiti, but I do not remember seeing any in the 
more than 25 years I've traveled to France. 
I remember the first time I saw the Metro stop beneath the Louvre 
in which there were museum-looking pieces in recessed niches 
all along the wall of the station. 

All of the Metro stations have individual personalities filled with 
designs connected to their namesakes and arrondissements. 
Clad in copper, the Arts et Metiérs station is designed to resemble 
a submarine reminiscent of the science fiction works of Jules Vernes. 

Opened in October 1904, the Arts et Metiérs stop was redesigned in 1994 
as part of the bicentary celebration of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. 

The city of Paris Coat of Arms located throughout the city are similar, but not 
exactly the same to each other or to this one in the Hôtel de Ville Metro station 
located underneath the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall).  

Tuileries is the first station that I remembered how to get to without help from a guide. 
It is probably my single favorite Metro station because the exit leads to  
the sidewalk adjacent to the Tuileries gardens that lead to the Louvre. 

Seeing the left wing of the Louvre as soon as reaching 
the top of the exit stairs is always exciting. 

Reading the names of the Metro stops and running my fingers along 
the metal lines bring memories of beautiful Paris and its
beautiful Metro system. 

Memories of traveling with students, friends, and family 
are filled with laughing, nervous boarding a Metro car, 
counting the number of stops, and watching the 
diagrams of the Metro line's stops above the doors, 
and then anxiously getting off the car before the doors close 
and the Metro zooms off to its next destination 
as we checked our group to make sure everyone 
made it off. 

Missing the Paris Metro, both the real thing and 
the 3-D metal reproduction... 

Missing the way the 3-D Metro map holds cards for the season... 

The raised metal lines outlining the Metro system are the perfect place to clip 
cards, photos, French postcards, 

and mementos of Paris found at a flea market. 


If you enjoyed this Moment in France about 
the Paris Metro, you may also enjoy more 

Want to learn more about the beauty of other Paris Metro stations? 
See From Paris With Love for great photos with detailed descriptions. 


Paper Valentines ~ Free Templates

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Papier Valentine
(Paper Valentine)

Let me count the ways I love paper valentines!

Paper Valentine Love #1 

Display a Collection of Small Cards 

Small gift enclosure cards are the perfect size for 
displaying in gold metal wire hearts. 

The small cards add just the right amount of pink and red hearts 
to give the house a touch of Valentine's decor. 

Paper Valentine Love #2 

Send Small Cards ~ Perfect for Friends 

Small gift enclosure cards are often blank inside allowing 
the author to write her own sentiment with a 
pink pen from Paris. 

A friend lives in your heart forever. 

May your day be filled with love of family and friends. 

Whenever I travel to France, I spend hours browsing 
in the papeteries (stationery stores), selecting inexpensive pens, 
inks, notebooks with colored graph paper, desk blotters, etc... 
I also look for small gift cards in the fleuriste shops and  
especially look for small cards with greetings in French. 
It is time for a trip to Paris; 
I've used all of my small French cards. 

One day I plan to try to try my hand at painting 
my own watercolor Valentine cards, 
but until then I will either buy them like these or 
create some digitally on my laptop. 

Paper Valentine Love #3 

Display a Small Card in Candy 

A small clear heart-shaped dish filled with Hershey's cherry kisses 
is a quick easy way to share Valentine's Day greetings 
with those who visit your desk at work, 
with customers at your checkout counter, or 
with friends who stop by your house,  

 for you and your family at home. 
A little French je ne sais quoi

Paper Valentine Love #4 

Give a Heart-Shaped Paperclip 

Attached to a Homemade Card  

Remember my visits to French papeteries
I found this adorable sturdy wire heart-shaped paperclip 
in one of those Parisian stationery shops. 

The heart paperclips came in boxes of about 30. 
They are inexpensive, easy to carry home in luggage, and 
a novel memento that most everyone enjoys receiving, 
even without knowing they came from Paris. 

Dress up the small gift even more with a sliver of silk ribbon, 1/8" width. 

Have more time to embellish your homemade Valentines? 
Use special craft scalloping scissors to trim the bottom edges. 
Just that little touch adds so much to the card. 
Another French je ne sais quoi

No heart-shaped paperclips? 

No problem. 
Attach a single Hershey's cherry kiss to the card. 

These small cards are great for giving when you want several 
inexpensive Valentine's greetings for friends 
at work, in your book club, in your bridge group, or in your 
ladies Bible study group. 

These would also be easy for children to make for their friends. 

Paper Valentine Love #5 

Use Small Cards as Favors in a Centerpiece 

A small flower vase on a stand with a heart-shaped card holder 
combines roses and cards for a small table centerpiece. 
Remember to face some cards toward the front 
and some toward the back. 
The cards can be small party favors for guests. 

Ready to make your own 
Homemade Valentine Cards? 

I think you will be able to use the templates above to print your own cards 
on 8.5" x 11" white card stock. 
Printing on colored card stock would also be very pretty. 

My favorite collection of Valentine's hearts, flowers, and candy boxes 
reminds me of friends and family over my life. 
My most cherished Valentine's card reads, 
You will always be my Valentine.


Happy Valentine's Day 
to all of my readers.