Tuesday, what more can I say?

It is almost noon and I must face facts, I am lazy today.  I told MK and Mike this morning at breakfast, before heading out to the gym that I was having a “Rich Day.”  Mary Kay laughed and said that a “Rich Day” is nothing more than a day I spend in running around the house doing things.  She is right, but I am not sure what I should have called it. 

I am still in my leather easy chair but I do have my beloved laptop with me.  I have spent the morning messing around with blogorganization, making sure that I have everything properly documented and filed.  I have done some e-mailing and also a short translation from French into English for Christine in France, who requested that I go over something for a special “Fair Trade” exhibition taking place in a Strasbourg church in the near future featuring bronze statues from Burkina Faso.  It amazes me that a small piece of my work might soon be sitting in a French church.  It also just occurred to me that I forgot to mention to Christine, although with her English I am sure she is aware, that I used the American spelling of mold which would be mould in British English.  Oh well…

Yesterday was absolutely wonderful with Samantha but for some reason it flattened me a bit!  I fell asleep in my chair during her afternoon nap, something I don’t do all that often.  I thought about it and realized that I have really been terribly busy, so why not just have a plain old lazy day?

I had a great workout at the gym early in the morning.  Mike’s was less successful as he was dealing with Charlie’s somewhat unexpected exercise routine that “confused” his own a bit.  Mine was going along just fine, some cardio, my shoulder/chest machines, and then a “super” cardio finish because somehow having Michael next to me on a treadmill had me working harder than I otherwise might have. 

So, I came home, did some organization, a bit of translation, and am quietly sitting finishing up the herbal tea I prepared.  Lunch, perhaps?  Darn, I am going to have to prepare it myself!

I also did some work for MK’s upcoming birthday.  As usual, I will set some “grenades and bombs” of confusion about what will take place and about what she might be receiving for this particular “big” birthday that she wants no hubbub about.  I love the element of surprise and the stress as one wonders exactly what is going to happen.  Honestly, I haven’t done much planning…or have I?  Since she reads this blog, perhaps I am setting her up from this vantage point.  On the other hand, is her birthday this month or next month?  She knows me too well, I am not the normal husband, I remember these things.  My mother trained me well, Queen of Hallmark that she was!

So, although I am blogging later in the day than normal, at least I got to it!  Still keep wondering…the day is young, there are all kinds of mischief I can get involved in!

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Soufflenheim and its pottery

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France is obviously a very important part of my life.  My first view of it was through Paris and of Tours, living in the latter for an academic year of college.  I thought that I would always prefer Tours and the Valley of the Loire, but I was mistaken.  Although I frankly adore it all, I am particularly smitten by Alsace and Strasbourg.  So much so that when I am in Paris I have been asked if I am “from the East.”  They noticed that I was using some vocabulary and also had a trace of an accent from the eastern portion of France.

Having spent more than ten years of yearly two weeks or more stays in the environs of Strasbourg, I grew to love the area. I created many close friendships and had many a good time there.  Because of the nature of the exchange program I worked with, I lived each time I went to France, with a teacher/colleague who exposed me to all aspects of the Alsatian/French culture while treating me like a king.

I remember early on falling in love with the everyday dishes my friends would serve me on.  During the daily trips we would take in the area with students, one of the stops was always the lovely town of Soufflenheim.  While there we would visit the local pottery shops and get to see the making of it as well.  In my visits there I became enamored of the blue variety you see in my pictures.  I decided that we needed to have a set of it.  I even have my favorite potter’s studio of Philippe Lehmann.  One of the things I like best about it is the fact that there are variations in its production, they are not perfectly alike.  From potter to potter there are variations as well. 

Supposedly potters have been in the area since almost 400 B.C.  The local potters were given the rights to use the local clay from the nearby Haguenau forest by the Emperor Barbarossa.

The large dish/plate/tray with my name and Mary Kay’s was a gift from my dear friend, Martine, one of my teacher/colleagues who stayed with us and then we stayed with her family while in France.  That was quite the lucky stay since it was a Boulangerie/Pâtisserie Artisanale, which means that it was truly on top of the heap in terms of honors and they were well deserved ones at that.  Needless to say, we had the most amazing culinary time you could imagine soaking up all the amazing bakery items imaginable, all while visiting with a most amazing family.

Martine and my other friends, Nicole, Catherine, and Fabienne, spent much time with me and my family and exposed me to so many aspects of Alsace and Strasbourg.

One thing I found out right away is that the pottery from Soufflenheim could not be easily gotten in the U.S.  When I asked about shipping it, they told me that they just don’t!  I checked into shipping it myself and my friend, Martine, told me that I risked getting it back home smashed to bits because the postal workers were notorious for not treating packages well.  I therefore set about, in my stays there, to picking up plates, mugs, assorted pieces, bit by bit and transporting them on the plane as carry ons.   Little by little, mostly just by myself, but with family members when they were with me, I picked up enough pieces to have a set of fifteen dinner plates, salad plates, etc.  We use it when we feel the need for a “pick me up” because it always gives us pleasure using it.  This year we decided it is our official Thanksgiving set of dishes to be used with the dirylite cutlery we have.  It all looks amazing together.

In France, it is advertised as being safe in the dishwasher, oven, and microwave although we take more care with it than to do that.   The blue is the secondary color of Soufflenheim, I believe, the mustardy yellow being more popular.  What we purchased is pretty traditional in style; they have advanced to modernizing it a bit.

One of these days I need to visit the town of Betschdorf, the other famous Alsatian town for pottery.  I think it is beautiful as well, it is a gray/blue combo, but it just doesn’t have the pull for me that Soufflenheim’s does.

Soufflenheim is also known for being close to Sessenheim, a town where a young lady lived, who was pursued by Goethe.  I believe that Goethe was known to have visited Soufflenheim with the young lady as well.

One of the pictures has a piece that looks a lot like a Bundt pan.  It is the mold for a Kougelhopf, a special Alsatian cake that can either be made as a dessert type with some sweetness and almonds or a more savory apéritif type variety with cheese and bacon.

I know many people who have a piece or two of the beautiful Soufflenheim pottery, but don’t know of any other family beyond our own who has an entire set of it.

At the present time, one of our salad plates bit the dust, I think I may just have to go to France and pick up another!

Beautiful tiles (and vases)!

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One of the great benefits of travelling is that you encounter all sorts of different people with different talents and interests.

One of our great joys for the past few years is to go to Stratford, Ontario each summer with some very dear friends for the Shakespeare Festival where we obviously enjoy Shakespeare plays and others as well.

While in Stratford, we have downtime in which we manage to go to the local places and check what they have to offer. A few years ago we chanced upon the old train station in Stratford and noticed a sign for pottery. Little did we know when we entered it and came upon Mary Philpott (now Mary Philpott Mateljan) that we had just found a rare gem that Stratford seemed to be hiding.

MK and I love Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and the Arts and Crafts movement and the art and furniture which go along with it. When we walked into the pottery studio operated by Mary, we were absolutely blown away by the sheer beauty of the tiles hanging on her walls.

The studio or “atelier” as she now calls it is really quite the basic pottery studio and that is one of the reasons for its charm. The charm of the location is so unbelievably enhanced by the potter herself. She is not only, if I may inappropriately say, beautiful, but also a beautiful person with an amazing personality. The simple interior of the establishment only embellishes the tiles that are displayed on the wall, in baskets, etc. Visible within are numerous works that are in various stages of the evolution from clay to actual tiles.

This past summer, Mary explained to us that she was marrying the Frenchman that she had lived with for some time and was going to France to have a sort of internship experience followed by a showing of the work she had done. Now her work is going to have the addition of the possibility of a certain French influence from Provence.

We love to be surrounded by beautiful things, the work of Mary Philpott Mateljan is amazing and I took pictures of some of the items we have purchased from her. Not only do we have some of her tiles, but also a vase. Our friends have a collection as well that graces their lovely screened in porch overlooking their back yard. So, if you are ever in Stratford, Ontario, one heck of a lovely town anyway, look for the old train station and the Verdant Tile Company.  You won’t be disappointed.