28 February 2024

Other CHM gifts

Over the last 15 years or so, Charles-Henry gave us other kitchen treasures, as you see in the picture below. The set of three gratin dishes and the "bean pot" are pieces he bought from a vendor in an outdoor market not far from his Paris apartment, the Marché de l'Avenue de Saxe in the 7th arrondissement. I was with him when he bought them in the year 2000. He gave them to us a few years later because, he said, he wasn't using his oven any more and he thought we could make better use of ovenproof cookware. For more than a decade before the last time I saw him in 2017, he would come spend a week or two at our house in summertime, and we was always happy to see us using the things he had given us.

The dish at the bottom left of the picture is a soufflé dish that was his grandmother's, he said. I have no idea how old it might be. Since he died a few weeks ago at age 99, how old must his grandmother have been? I don't even know if he was talking about his paternal grandmother or his maternal grandmother. The cut-glass bowl (is that what it is?) on the right has no history that he shared. He just gave it to us. I'm sure he didn't buy it as a present for us. We use it fairly often. I should have asked him for more information about it before it was too late.

27 February 2024

A 2013 gift

Charles-Henry, who passed away a few weeks ago, gave us a really nice and useful gift nearly 11 years ago. It's a set of stainless steel serving dishes — the kind you see often in Paris bistros and brasseries. It's a ten-piece set. When I took the picture on the left below, one of them was in the refrigerator.

These were dishes that his mother used all the time, C-H told me. She passed away several decades ago, so they are antiques by now. One of the nicest things about them is that you can also cook in them. They are unbreakable. They clean up easily. One other nice thing about them is that they will always make me remember Charles-Henry when I cook or serve food in them.

26 February 2024

Spring... almost

Some spring days will look like the one on the left above. Others will look like the one on the right. Such is spring in Saint-Aignan. These are views of the vineyard from our windows. The weather woman on Télématin says it's going to rain all day today.

Flowers like the ones on the left are already appearing. This is a photo
that I took 10 years ago today.
For a while yet, the grape vines will look like the photo on the left just above. But the fruit trees will be covered in blossoms like the ones on the right very soon. It's starting now. Maybe we'll get some plums this year.

25 February 2024

Spring is knocking at the door

The big tree at the center of the photo to the right is the 75-foot cedar we had to have taken down a couple of weeks ago. It's harder to see, but just to the right of the cedar is a blue spruce that we had to have taken down four years ago. It too had died. In this post from 2020, you can see a video of the felling of the spruce tree.

The flowers above and below are some that come up in our back yard in springtime. They've already started this year, as they had when I took these photos on 26 February 2014.

24 February 2024

Recent tree pictures...

...and one ex-tree. These are photos I took over the last two weeks.

As you know if you follow Walt's blog, we had the 75-foot-tall cedar tree on the north side of our house taken down about two weeks ago. It had been dying for two or three years, and we were worried it might fall on the house. We had a big wind storm just a couple of days ago and we were glad the sick tree wasn't a danger any more. The photo above shows what this part of the yard looks like now.

The first step in felling the cedar was to cut off all of its long horizontal branches (photo on the right). That didn't take long. The very top of the tree wasn't hard to cut off and pull down into the yard after that. The coucou birds that have roosted in the top of the tree for decades, cuckooing like crazy, will be disappointed and disoriented when they come back to Saint-Aignan from Africa this spring.

The photos here show how big and tall the trunk of the cedar was. The stump is more than three feet in diameter. That's just two-thirds of its height you see in the photo below. We're thinking we might soon have a cherry tree planted to replace the cedar. A big potted plant will look good sitting on the stump in the meantime.

Below is a recent sunrise seen from our front terrace. The house across the street is owned by some people from Blois and isn't much occupied at this time of year. The same is true of three of the four houses closest to ours. Why? Well, we're expecting a lot of rain over the next four or five days. It's been a very rainy winter.

23 February 2024

Ferronnerie (2)

In 1998, Charles-Henry and I were driving around in Normandy, just sightseeing. We realized we needed a Michelin green guide for the region, so we stopped in a small town and found a bookshop/newsstand. We asked the woman running the place if she had a copy of the guidebook we could buy. She searched around for a few minutes and then told us she didn't seem to have the book in French. She only had it in English. We told her we could make do with the English version. And we laughed about it when we got back in the car and continued our sightseeing.

So here is what the Michelin guidebook I have in my book collection says about the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles in Rouen: "The Wrought Ironwork Museum is housed in old St. Lawrence Church, a fine Flamboyant building, and is exceptionally rich (3C to 19C)." I assume that means 3rd to 19th century objects.

"The nave and transept contain large items such as balconies, signs, railings etc. and in the display cabinets locks, door knockers, and keys. Their evolution can be studied from Gallo-Roman times."

It continues: "The north aisle includes displays of locks, belts, and buckles from the 15C to 19C... The south aisle exhibits a large variety of domestic utensils and tools such as knives, grills, irons, spice and coffee mills etc.The north gallery... is devoted to accessories such as jewels, clasps, combs, and smoking requisites."

22 February 2024

Ferronnerie (1)

The French painter Félix Michel (1856-1915) had as a friend a man named Henri Le Secq des Tournelles who was just two years older than he was. I think their fathers were friends; both were artistes-peintres. Henri's father also collected wrought iron objects (ferronnerie) and he left the collection to his son when he died in 1882. Henri made it his life's work to expand the collection and it is now on display in an old church building near the Musée des Beaux Arts in Rouen. Here are a few photos I took there in 1999.

Rouen seen from high ground just south of the city.

This the interior of the old church building where all sorts of interesting wrought iron objects are on display.

P.S. We're having very high winds this morning and I'm trying to get this post uploaded before our power goes out. It flickered a few minutes ago. More tomorrow, if possible...

21 February 2024


I got an e-mail this morning from Charles-Henry's niece Muriel in Grenoble saying that cremation was scheduled for between 5 to 7 a.m. today in Arlington, Virginia. Rest in peace. I've heard some talk of a memorial service for C-H later in the spring.

Left to right, Charles-Henry, Walt, and me standing in front of the restaurant La Couronne in Rouen (Normandy) in 1999. La Couronne was the restaurant where Julia Child had her first meal ever in France; she was astonished how good it was. We didn't eat there the day this picture was taken, but Walt and I did eat there one time, 20 years ago.

20 February 2024

Pastels by Félix Michel (2)

Félix Michel (1856-1915), the second son of the painter Charles-Henri Michel, opened a candy store in Rouen (Normandy) toward the end of the 19th century. One of Félix Michels nephews was my friend Charles-Henry, who passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of 99. These are some more of Félix Michel's pastels.

19 February 2024

Pastels by Félix Michel (1)

The 19th century painter Charles-Henri Michel, grandfather of my friend Charles-Henry who passed away two weeks ago at the age of 99, was not the only artiste-peintre in the Michel family. The painter Charles-Henri had three sons: Auguste, Félix, et Paul, all born between 1855 and 1860. One of them, Félix, was a painter who worked with pastels. That's about all I know about him, except that I read somewhere that he lived most of his life in Rouen (Normandy), a city where I spent a year teaching... 50 years ago. C-H's father Paul was a well-known doctor who practiced in Paris and died in 1956.
These pastels came to me from Charles-Henry who recently died via another friend of his whose name is Jim. Jim became a colleague and friend of Charles-Henry's some 50 years ago. I have never actually met him, but Jim and I have been keeping each informed on Charles-Henry's health for a few years now. Charles-Henry talked of Jim often and fondly over the decades I knew him. At some point he gave Jim digitized copies of these pastels that C-H's uncle Félix painted, I assume, in the 19th century. I first saw them decades ago, I didn't have a copy of them until Jim e-mailed them to me last week. He asked me to post them here.

PS: I just found this web page about Félix Michel, who died in 1915. It was written by our departed friend Charles-Henry!