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Posts from the ‘Life Abroad’ Category

Finding Balance

Happy 2015 to all of you wonderful folks!

So happy to see you again! A new year. New beginnings, a fresh start, 365 days packed full of adventure, possibilities, and potential.

What a year 2014 has been, huh? So many new experiences, so many memories made. I sure hope you enjoyed your year, and if 2014 didn’t quite work out the way that you’d hoped, I hope that 2015 holds a more promising future.

We rang in the new year here in California… but it wasn’t our nighttime celebrations that made the most impact, rather an evening stroll along the harbor, the golden gate glowing before us.

It was here that we happened upon a man serenely focused on building seemingly impossible stone sculptures.

His gravity-defying works of art were so simple yet so fascinating. Thought-provoking in a most unexpected way.

The beauty of the stacked stone statues was so inspirational. No stone was perfect, but each stone was perfectly balanced. Every stone was carefully inspected, rotated, tilted, and nudged until it effortlessly floated atop the one beneath it. Simultaneously strong and fragile.

As the stone sculptures rose from the coastline and the sun’s last golden rays reflected against the cityscape before us, I was reminded of the important role balance plays in life. Like the stones, no single aspect of life is perfect… but it’s our job to find our own perfect balance.

So, as we dive into 2015, my New Year’s resolution is to find my own perfect balance… to nurture an inner harmony in the midst of a busy life.

I wish each and every one of you a wonderful and well-balanced 2015. May it bring us all much happiness and satisfaction!

Taking a Break…

Hello, flower friends!

You’ve probably noticed that things are looking a bit quiet over here… however, I can assure you that they are anything but! Thanks to the arrival of our lovely little flower fairy, Fleuropean will be on maternity leave for a little bit. From the blog that is. The garden is still in full swing, and flowers are still being sown and grown.

I’m looking forward to sharing more floral adventures with you in the near future… but, until then, enjoy the magic of spring and take some time to stop and smell the roses :)

xx Emily

Buds and Blossoms

Holy smokes, what a beautiful day today turned out to be! Nothing but sunshine, blue skies, amazingly mild temperatures, no wind, and the sounds of birds and bees getting off to an early spring start. I know that yesterday’s post carried a promise of outdoor fun, but I had no clue that today would turn out to be this much fun.

Since the spring blossoms (wild cherry and forsythia) that had been snipped and brought inside for forcing have finally opened up, I wanted to capture some of the natural beauty that’s springing to life in the great outdoors. After working in the veggie garden for several enjoyable hours, off I waddled with my camera around my neck.

Past the handsome horse curiously peeking over the hedges… past iron gates beckoning me to venture further…

I followed a shallow creek that runs along the valley of my favorite forest path until I reached my ultimate destination… the very first blossoming trees! I’m torn between presenting these trees as a member of the sloe family or a “cherry plum”. Hmmm… they definitely have the thorns characteristic of sloe, but they are quite tall and are flowering earlier than any of the bushes in our field.

Whatever it may be, it sure is beautiful! The only clouds in the sky were the dense clusters of bright white blossoms hanging high above my head.

I plucked a few tiny buds to bring back home and place beneath the blossom branches I have already coerced into bloom.

I don’t know about you guys, but it feels pretty wonderful to enjoy the beauty of spring both inside and out. Do you like to bring any special branches or bulbs inside to get the sights and smells of springtime off to an early start?

Hopefully tomorrow will be just as beautiful today, and hopefully you’ll join me tomorrow evening for a strictly spring handheld arrangement! :)

Hellebores Heaven

Good evening, flower friends!

Boy do I have a floral treat for you guys tonight… ’cause my favorite local nursery is holding their annual hellebores festival this weekend, and, after perusing the drool-worthy photos posted on their website, I couldn’t resist taking a sneak peek at the fabulous flowers they have in stock. For any and all local hellebores lovers, I highly suggest taking a trek over to Kwekerij Bastin to see if there’s a wonderful winter-blooming plant just for you.

The whole entrance of the nursery is packed with cascading layers of pinks, purples, creams, and reds. Singles, doubles, picotee, anemone-blooming… from the brightest of whites to the darkest of blacks- you name it, they’ve got it.

As I gazed longingly at the ocean of beautiful blooms before me, I was well aware that my budget would accommodate only a small selection of new plants. Decisions, decisions…

While some of the varieties were more “run of the mill” hellebores, there were some knock-outs here and there that really stole the show. The plants whose “wow”-factor initially caught my eye were “Tutu”, “Elfin”, “Picotee”, “Painted Bunting” and the pink doubles.

To further complicate the delicate process of elimination, each plant from the separate cultivars had subtle variations. These tiny differences made it especially difficult to make a definite decision as to which plants were coming home with me. Did I want one with more freckles? A softer shade of pink? Darker edges? Larger flowers?

As the sun sunk lower in the sky, I knew the countdown had begun. Time to pick out my new flower friends, pay for them, and bring them back home. The final selection revealed a definite soft spot for doubles and, oddly enough, it seemed that the soft pinks had stolen my heart.

Tune in tomorrow to see which plants made it into my final few and to enjoy a little more hellebores fun with me! :)

Friday Foraging

Happy Friday, flower friends!

What started as a dreary and wet day ended up surprisingly full of sparkling sunshine and blue skies. Yes, dark grey clouds rolled through now and then, spontaneously soaking anyone caught enjoying the great outdoors, but all-in-all I was pleased that the moist and muddy forecast proved to be quite inaccurate. It’s probably not a huge surprise that I chose to forego my long rainy-day indoor to-do list in order to enjoy a few magical moments in nature. With so much life popping out from beneath winter’s cloak of brown and grey- moss, crocuses, pussy willows, budding blossoms, and even leaves- who could resist a little round of foraging to bring a bit of that precious new life indoors?

In the hopes of forcing some buds into early production, I brought a pair of clippers and a small bag along for the ride. A few branches of bright green budding leaves and freshly sprouted pussy willows made their way into my goody bag…

Some wild cherry branches got clipped as well…

It’s amazing how my favorite little forest path changes throughout the seasons. Soon the forest floor surrounding the creek will exchange it’s mask of fallen leaves for a carpet of bright yellow lesser celandine.

Happy with my small bag full of bounty, I chose to just enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature and let the rest of her natural wonders be.

I always seem to forget exactly how long it takes to force cherry blossoms into action… but hopefully come Monday I can put together a sweet little spring arrangement full of my foraged finds!

Have an absolutely wonderful weekend, everyone, and I’ll look forward to seeing you for fresh start on Monday :)

Labor of Love: Valentine’s Day Lonely Bouquets

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

I hope your day has been love-ly and full of warmth, whether it be thanks to a special someone, a close loved one, or a furry friend. What started out as an (overly)optimistically sunny day has come to a very wet and windy end. But never fear! The sudden change in weather didn’t dampen my plans for launching a flower frenzy throughout the surrounding villages and cities.

I gathered a few bits and pieces from the garden- mossy twigs, herbs, hellebores, snowdrops, skimmia, and scented geranium leaves- before heading back inside to assemble a variety of Valentine’s Day Lonely Bouquets.

While arranging the bouquets, I was in seventh heaven thanks to the divine combination of hyacinths and rose geraniums. Yum!

The big bunch of tulips and hefty assortment of hyacinths that I had brought home from the market got split up into seven pretty posies. I printed out some “take me!” tags, tucked the bouquets safely into the trunk of the car, and headed out on my undercover mission to spread some love this Valentine’s Day.

Pausing for mere seconds to snap a few “in situ” shots, I stopped at various bus stops, parking lots, crosswalks, city benches, and train stations across town.

Despite the steady sprinkle of rain, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my little labors of love disappeared. Most were gone within minutes!

The biggest surprise came as we were waiting to pick up our oh-so-romantic to-go order for Thai food. We were sitting, enjoying the intoxicating aroma of fresh basil, chili, and coriander when a man rushed in carrying one of the bouquets. He popped behind the counter, grinning from ear to ear and giggling with the waitresses and cooks. He handed the flowers to one of them before sitting down to eat his meal. What are the odds?!

I honestly can’t imagine a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sharing the love with others and spreading secret smiles fills my heart with so much happiness. I was also lucky to have a handsome helper keeping me company during the distribution process… and the dinner was great! :)

Wishing you all a wonderful day and sending you lots of love!

Our Little Nut

Good evening, everyone, and welcome, yet again, to the weekend. Crazy how quickly a week can fly by, isn’t it?

Today I have a funny story to share with you. It revolves around something that, when I found out I was pregnant, I swore I wouldn’t do. Funny how experiencing something yourself, embarking upon your own personal journey, can change your point of view. Maternity photo shoots were never really my thing… they always seemed either a little bit cheesy or self-involved. I mean, who wants to see pictures of your big, bare belly, right?

Well, throughout this whole amazing experience, I’ve come to embrace my belly (both literally and figuratively), to look upon it with much admiration and respect for the wonder taking place inside. Each kick, tickle, and hiccup serves as a (sometimes not-so-gentle) reminder that there’s so much going on inside that belly of mine. As more than one friend has warned me, the big baby belly is something that I’ll miss once we’ve welcomed our little one into the world. My belly has come to represent this exciting new chapter of our lives… the embodiment of so many hopes, dreams, and worries. It’s this continually developing overwhelming physical bond that, at nearly 35 weeks, has changed my mind. This unique feeling of attachment has made a convert out of me.

Amazingly, the mild weather has allowed for flower fields in February… albeit cover crops, but hey, color is color. Once I saw the bright yellow oceans of mustard plants in bloom, it was time to gather a few supplies, pack up the camera and enjoy!

As part of our small, immediate-family-only wedding ceremony, we planted a small walnut tree. Despite suffering a few set-backs and limb losses due to a couple rough winters and the nibbling of voles, our little walnut tree has been a real trooper. As luck would have it, this was the very first year that it put forth any fruit, and when it came to collect our harvest, there was only one solitary nut left standing. For us, this one little nut was very special and symbolic… the very first fruit from our wedding tree.

I packed up a favorite pair of my mom’s old Levi’s, oh-so-appropriately enhanced with tiny floral embellishments, and tucked out little nut into a safe pocket before heading out the door.

Thank the stars there wasn’t another soul around, because we sure must have looked odd standing in the middle of a farmer’s field, using an ironing board as a tripod.  We braced ourselves against the cold and enjoyed playing around with a few poses before putting our jackets back on and heading back home.

I’m so glad that we chose to document this moment, to capture it on camera, because I know that I’ll enjoy looking back on these photos… hopefully with a little one on my lap :)

Sunshine and Happy Dogs

Hello again, friends!

With the sunshine and blue skies we’ve been enjoying lately, it seems as if winter might never rear its head this year. As hard as it is to imagine a winter with no snow, you won’t find me rushing to exchange these  muted and mellow days for our usual frosty mornings and frigid nights. Not only does it allow me to get out and about and be part of nature, it also offers a wonderful opportunity to burn off some steam letting loose and having fun. And my little four-legged friends couldn’t agree more!

Although they are both big fans of snow, neither Dieter nor Heidi care much for the rain. Something about their low-to-the-ground barrel chests and wet grass don’t mesh well. Heidi will tolerate a wet belly, but Dieter hates it. After a minute of trudging through the moist foliage he often opts to stubbornly sit and stare at you as you continue through the field.

Give him some sunshine and crisp grass, however, and he’s a different dog! He leaps like a gazelle (albeit a teeny, tiny midget version) over the tufts of grass in search of a tossed stick or ball.

Me? I’m much happier galloping through the dry fields as well. I appreciate rain and all of the life it brings, and I love enjoying the sweet music it makes from the coziness of my bed or the couch… but I’m not the biggest fan of trekking through mud and digging while drenched. It tends to put a damper on things… literally.

So, pardon me, Punxsutawney Phil, while I enjoy these wonderfully sunny days that are dangerously reminiscent of spring. What does a groundhog know about seasons anyway? If this is his idea of a long winter, then bring it on! :)

What about you? Are you guys faring as well in the weather department?

Glorious and Green

Happy Friday, friends… and what a fabulous Friday it’s been!

Sorry sewing machine, but it was far too beautiful to sit inside all day in the hopes of trying to work out our issues. Indeed, today was much better spent enjoying some quality time outdoors, soaking up rays of sunshine while photographing and foraging in the nearby woodlands. While not many flowers besides the snowdrops have yet to surface, there’s plenty of greenery and foliage to admire.

Much to an allergic nose’s dismay, the golden hazelnut catkins elegantly dangle from the branches above. Caught in the glow of the low winter sun, the pollen-coated catkins offer a welcome burst of color between the barren branches of the trees.

The ferns, encouraged by a marked lack of heavy frost, have continued to put forth new growth. Thanks to moss and ferns, the shaded hillsides previously coated with fallen leaves are slowly transforming into a mass of greenery.

Even though I don’t have many flowers… okay, any flowers, really… left in the garden, I’ve been itching to put together some more arrangements for you guys. Seizing the opportunity to take advantage of the available foliage, I snipped some branches of hazelnut catkins, fern fronds, fennel, and mint. If there aren’t any flowers to play with, why don’t we make a green bouquet instead?

Even though we stuck to a monotone color scheme, the wonderful variety of textures made our little arrangement anything but monotonous.

To keep with our woodland theme, I wrapped the stems in a layer of bright green moss instead of my go-to ribbon selection.

To me, there’s something incredibly pleasing about a green color palette… something soothing about feasting your eyes on a hand-tied bundle of fresh foliage.

Although this handheld arrangement probably wouldn’t last terribly long when carried out of water, the foliage fared remarkably well during the entirety of my nature walk and is still looking nice and perky in the vase.

How do you guys feel about flower-less arrangements? To boring for your taste? Whether you “yea” or “nay” the green bouquet, I think that it’s always nice to stay seasonal and use what you’ve got… even if what you’ve got ain’t a lot :)

Wishing you a glorious weekend!

An American Tourist in Paris

Hello there, everyone, and welcome to the weekend! Well… for those of you visiting from the US, I suppose I’d better wish you a happy Friday instead. You’re almost there! :)

This week we’ve done a bit of touring around Paris. Are your feet getting sore yet from all of the walking? After scouting out some local gems and strolling around several characteristic quartiers, I suppose it’s time that we hit a few tourist traps. Although I’ve visited these quintessential Parisian hotspots before and have, thus, neglected them during subsequent visits, this time I felt drawn to check them out once again. Sometimes a few years and a fresh focus can bring out new details and give you a new perspective.

First up, Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomph. Although packed with tourists even on an early January afternoon, the flow of pedestrian traffic was smooth enough to enjoy a stroll along the massive rows of shops that make up the Champs-Élysées. There are several boutiques and specialty shops, for all of you chic shoppers, but also plenty of cafes and well-known department stores.

The Arc de Triomph is a beautiful construction… and always bigger than I remember it. For a fee you can choose to march all the way to the top of the monument for a scenic view over Paris. If you’re still a youngin’, the best part about most of the monuments is that they are free to EU residents under 26 (and all other international visitors under 25). Oh to travel a few years back in time…

Another sight-seeing stop I’d marked on my map was the medieval cathedral of Sainte-Chapelle. Tucked between the buildings of the Palais de Justice on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, the cathedral appears unassuming from the exterior. The interior, however, reveals a “jewel box” of a chapel fully enclosed with floor to ceiling stained glass windows. It’s really only one room, though… so don’t expect anything too outrageous or extensive for the 8.50 euro entry price.

And then, of course, the Eiffel Tower. The grandiose icon of Paris. What a lovely lady she is.

We first caught sight of her from Trocadéro Square (probably one of the better and most picturesque views of the tower you’ll find). We didn’t take the stairs or the elevator up to the top this time… instead, our source of entertainment came in the form of bird poop. As we were admiring the structure from below, Monsieuropean got pooped on by a bird. Ha! For once it wasn’t me getting a little extra special souvenir from our flying friends.

Last, but not least, we decided to take the last of our flower friends to a fabulously fitting drop-off spot, the Louvre. We left her atop one of the marble pillars where countless tourists posed for photos with their finger hovering above the tip of the museum’s pyramid. First she was ignored, then she was tossed aside by an American tourist (boo…), until finally two young ladies rescued her from despair. They read her tag, took some pictures, and then called over a gaggle of their girlfriends to check out their lucky find!

It was cute to watch them pose for pictures, the Lonely Bouquet in hand :)

So there you have it… the final chapter of our adventures in Paris. I hope that you enjoyed being a virtual tourist and traveling vicariously to a scattering of places in Paris, both tourist traps and off the beaten path. Thanks so much for joining me! It’s be great fun going back through the pictures and being reminded again of all the special memories :)

Have a wonderful weekend!