Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mushroom Matters

FACT: Egyptian pharaohs ate mushrooms and forbade anyone else to eat them. They believed the mushrooms had magical powers!

FACT: Roman warriors were fed mushrooms to give them "god-like strength"!

mushrooms in my backyard
I love mushrooms. Not to eat, but to look at and photograph! Alex is studying mushrooms at school and, as I was helping her with homework tonight, I came across a wonderful resourse for upper elementary/middle school students!

more mushrooms from our backyard
The resource is called "Mushroom Education Packet" and it is at the American mushroom site. The interesting facts I listed (above) were found in this packet. The packet includes these sections: A History of Mushrooms, Mushroom Farming in the Kennett Square Area, How Mushrooms Grow, The Parts of the Mushroom, and Recycling in the Mushroom Farming Industry.

Besides the short articles, the lesson packet also includes worksheets like fill-in-the-blanks, word searches, and true or false questions. There are even mushroom recipes, mushroom math, a mushroom science experiment, and more surprises!

our 'spore print' from 2008
When we did a quick, impromptu study of mushrooms in 2008, we made the above spore print from a mushroom. It was a neat exercise, and this study guide talks you through how to do it. It's a great activity to do a couple days after a rain!

If you use the packet, please let me know! I'm no longer homeschooling, but still have a heart & desire to teach!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Palette Knife Painting

I took a three hour workshop yesterday called "Rooster Pallette Knife Painting Workshop." We used acrylics and painted, not with a brush, but with a metal pallette knife! This is a techinque that was often used by Vincent Van Gogh.

File:Van Gogh - Starry Night - Google Art Project.jpg
Starry Night by Van Gogh - from Wikipedia
I'm not sure if "Starry Night" was done with a palette knife, but it certainly looks as if it could have been. Using a palette knife to paint is kind of like decorating a cake: you smear the paint onto the canvas with the underside of the knife.

So, here's my palette knife-painted rooster! It was a NEAT experience and I already bought supplies to do it again. By the way, there are parts of my rooster I love (like the colors in the main body - the green and yellow parts) and parts I didn't quite get right (like the tail is too large, the feet are too small, and the wattle should be curved - not pointed). But, overall, I'm happy with this project and can't wait to do another one!

Monday, January 21, 2013

L'Orangerie in Paris

The l'Orangerie was one of several art museums we visited while in Paris. A museum of Impressionist art, it is best known for its two oval rooms that each house 4 large murals of Monet's water lilies or nympheas.
File:Monet Lilies Louvre 2.jpg
Image of Monet's water lilies at l'Oragerie from Wikipedia
As much as I enjoy Monet, I didn't enjoy these rooms that much. Maybe I was just tired of water lilies! We'd seen them at several museums already... and seen the 'real thing' at Giverny!

After you left the two oval rooms, one of the first displays was this series of two dioramas. This diorama shows a model of the study of Paul & Domenica Guillaume and the museum houses their collection. You can see, on the wall, miniature recreations of some of the paintings in the museum!
I recognize at least one Picasso.

I like this one even better. On the wall you can see a couple of Degas' works and several by Cezanne. And, if you look in the mirrored doorway to the left, you see the hands of the photographer... me!

My three favorite works of art at this museum were all by Renoir. This one is titled "Gabrielle et Jean." Gabrielle was the "beloved nanny" of the Renoir children and she was often painted by him. Jean is one of his sons. I just loved the image of them happily playing together.

What I loved most about this image of another of Renoir's sons, Claude, was the story behind it. Evidentally, Claude did not want to wear the tights. His father ended up bribing him to wear them!

And, I love this painting of two young girls at the piano. I have played the piano for over 30 years and used to play and sing with my sister and with my best friend, Jill. It also reminds me of the best piano teacher I ever had - she had a cross-stitch of this painting (actually, there are multiple versions of this subject) hanging over her grand piano. These are fond memories brought back by a painting!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Walk Around Paris

After visiting Normandy for three days, we spent some more time in Paris...

Arc de Triomphe... It was so windy & cold this day that we didn't actually walk across the street circle to visit the memorial. This was as close as we got!

A detail of a freize from the Arc de Triomphe showing General Marceau's funeral.

We spent a little time on the famous Champs-Elysees lined with luxury shops and cafes.
Again, it was so windy & cold that we didn't last long!
The Beautiful National Academy of Music.

It was lined with busts of famous composers, like Betthoven and Mozart!

This is the rotunda roof of Galeries Lafayette, an upscale department store that is about 7 stories tall. We didn't shop... we just looked at the architecture and headed to the roof.

This is one of the views from the roof! There are a few benches up here and a lot of people just lying around enjoying the day. We enjoyed sitting on a bench and enjoying the view.

We walked through the Tuleries Garden which is by the Louvre. From here, we could see down
part of the "historical axis of Paris." The obelisk is the Luxor Obelisk and it's Egyptian.
Behind it, you can see the Arc de Triomphe.

And, this must be how they keep the grass in the ditches in the Tulleries Garden down.' We saw this goat and were shocked. Then we saw that he was tied up here, and figured out he was the lawn mower! Looks like he needs to get busy!

This is a view of I.M. Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre - through another triumphal arch.
This one is called the Arc de Triomphe du Carroussel.

Another view of the outside of the Louvre.

And, these are "love locks" on a bridge over the Seine! There were probably thousands of locks!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Visiting Mont St Michel: An Island Abbey

I was not familiar with Mont St Michel when my brother said we should visit it while in France. But, I got very excited about visiting it after doing a little research!

This was one of our first views of Mont St Michel which has been a pilgrimage site for over a thousand years. Can you imagine walking for weeks, and then watching this gothic silhouette soaring to the sky as you got closer and closer?

Today their is this causeway for visitors to walk across. But, that is a relatively recent addition having been built in 1878. The Abbey used to be an island when the tide was high creating a hermitage of solitude for the monks who lived here.

Here is Alex, ready to enter through the gate into the abbey. Yes, we drove for several hours instead of walking for days. But, even from the parking lot you walk 20 or 30 minutes. (On the way back, we caught a bus for part of the trip.)

When you begin the LONG CLIMB up the streets of Mont St Michel, you see a lot of shops.... and people! It is very touristy! But, remember... even in the Middle Ages these streets were lined with shops selling food and memorabilia to the pilgrims!

As we climbed higher, we got our first view of today's pilgrims. We were visiting at low tide which is, of course, the only time it is possible to make this trek. It is actually a part of the Mont St Michel experience I was wanting to do, but we didn't work it into our schedule.

Can you see the groups of people as the walk towards the abbey? Again, this takes place at low tide and has to be carefully planned. This is also the way the pilgrims of old made the trip. These 'pilgrims' travel barefoot through the mud. And, they have to watch out for the tide. It is incredibly fast, for a tide, and can become dangerous if people are taken by surprise!

I read while researching for the trip that, as the tide is getting ready to come in, there are voices in many languages over a loud speaker telling the 'pilgrims' to get off of the mud flats - the tide is coming!

There are even parking places that have to be abandoned before the tide comes back in... or your car or the buses will be under water! The tide comes in at 12 mph! (That's a little more than twice as fast as I can RUN!)

When the surf goes 8 MILES in and out! That's a HUGE difference between high and low tides!

Walking up the spiraling streets is quite a long hike. An, the views are amazing.
Then, you reach the abbey! Because wood burned so often, the builders of cathedrals finally found ways to make roofs of stone. Most of the wood roofs have been replaced, so it was neat to see a real wood roof!
More wood! And the dangling lights.
The abbey part of Mont St Michel is a cathedral - or like a cathedral. I read that there used to be stained glass in these windows.
Gorgeous stone work!
A door I loved.
This is a cloister - "a rectangular open space surrounded by covered walks or open galleries" according to Wikipedia. We spent some time walking around these 'covered walks' where the monks probably walked in silence.
And, I LOVED this wheel! This is how they used to get supplies (stons for building, food, etc) up to the abbey. Six men could walk in this wheel like hamsters!
A long rope was looped around the outside of the wheel. The rope had a 'sled' attached to it. The sled was pulled up by the men walking in the wheel!
A beautiful staircase being lit by windows.
Saying goodbye to Mont St Michel!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Veronica's Veil

Today I was at MFAH (the Museum of Fine Arts Houston) and saw two works of a subject I've not seen before now. The subject is the veil of Saint Veronica. Like many works of art, this religious subject comes from the Catholic faith. And, as I'm not Catholic, I usually end up doing some research to learn the story behind the art. I was viewing the special exhibt MFAH is currently hosting from the Prado, and I was able to find out the story of Veronica's veil from the audioguide.

File:Veronicas Svetteduk av Domenico Fetti.jpg
The Veil of Veronica by Domenico Fetti posted at Wikipedia
Although this is not recorded in Biblical accounts, Catholic tradition shares that, while Jesus was on his way to the cross, a lady gave Him her veil to wipe the sweat from His brow. When He returned it, the image of His face was miraculously on it. Some accounts say it was folded in thirds and so there were three images of His face. Those images became Holy relics for the Catholic church.

File:Hans Memling 026.jpg
Veronica Holding Her Veil by Hans Memling at Wikipeda
As I left the Prado special exhibit, the first painting I saw was another work of the Veil of Veronica! I love learning something new... and then recognizing it in a new format! I don't remember who either piece was by, but I found a couple of images online of other works on this subject.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Visiting the Bayeux Tapestry & Bayeux, Normandy

We made the small town of Bayeux are headquarters for several nights while in Normandy.

This is a view of our cute hotel! There are two rooms per floor, and Alex & I were on the second floor on the right in this photo (our left window is open). It reminds me of the children's book, Madeline... "In an old house in Paris covered in vines..."

There were actually three separate buildings and behind one of them was this gorgeous garden. We sat out here one evening and had drinks - you had to buy off the menu to come out here. We also had very nice buffet breakfasts while staying here. (I'll have to look up the name.)

The Bayeux Cathedral reaching up to the sky!
Another view of the Bayeux Cathedral. We went inside, but I don't feel my photos do it justice!
File:Normans Bayeux.jpg
from Wikipedia

One of the highlights of Bayeux is the famous Bayeux Tapestry. Unfortunately, though I understand why, you are not allowed to take photos of the tapestry. So, these photos are from Wikipedia. This tapestry depicts the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.
File:Edward der Bekenner.jpg
from Wikipedia
The "tapestry" is a misnomer and is actually embroidered cloth. It measures about 230 feet long and tells the story in cartoon like images. I wrote a lot more about the tapestry here.
As we walked around Bayeux, we enjoyed the sites - like this waterwheel. Inside the building on the left was a shop where we bought a few souvenirs.
And, we loved this cat sitting on the ledge of a second story window - though we were nervous, too!
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