Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Coast of Marseille

“I sat there on the coast of Marseille
My thoughts came down like wind through my hands.
How good it’d be to see you again.
How good it’d be to feel that way again ”

Jimmy Buffett said it best. The coast of Marseille is a magical place that never leaves you even after you leave it. My laptop has two desktops (One Mac & One Windows) both have pictures of the coast of Marseille. Everyday I dream of going back.

My daughter and I arrived there in the story weather, the last days of October. We saw a the sun just poking it’s firey sunset out under the gray clouds on the horizon as we rose up out of the Metro the night we arrived and saw bit of blue sky for a few minutes one day out to sea. Other than that it was a dark and stormy time full of adventure and mystery.

We got there on a Thursday night and after finding our hotel in a somewhat shady part of town, across from the Armourie (gun store) we got settled and walked back to the Vieux Port (Harbor) .

Marseille, being a port town on the Mediterranean was not like any other part of France I had visited. Known as “The Cutthroat of France” it is a rough and tumble town that is also a seductress of light and energy.

The port is a horseshoe, lively at all times with gaily lit restaurants specializing in bouillabaisse and the catch of the day. Most restaurants have a “Prix Fixe” menu, which means fixed price. You have several choices in each category to make up a dinner. An appetizer, entre and dessert. There are usually several price levels and the higher the price the better the choices. They’re usually a screaming deal but they make it up with the wine. You can’t get wine by the glass. Have to buy the whole bottle and it is usually about twice as much as the whole meal. I ordered something that I thought was bouillabaisse and realized after the waiter left that it might be something cooked in bouillabaisse. So I got to say the first of the three things you don’t want to find yourself saying in Marseille. ‘I have no idea what I just ordered.” Out came a large fish. The whole fish. Cooked in ..yep..bouillabaisse broth. It was intimidating with it’s bulgy eyes but really quite yummy…and boney.

We got in pretty late so after a stroll and dinner we made our way back to the hotel and went to bed. Somewhere around 3:30am we kept hearing this SOUND and a scrambling kind of ruckus. Finally I realized it was not my daughter’s errant alarm clock that went off at random times during our trip. I got to say the second thing you don’t’ want to be saying in Marseille. “Is that the FIRE ALARM?” It was the was!…It turned out the night clerk was trying to sneak a smoke and set off the alarm. After that adventured quieted, we got settled back in and back to sleep. About 7:00am the HORRIBLE noise started. CRASHING and well, it sounded like the building 10ft away was being torn down. It was. They were throwing large windows out the 7th story to the ground right next to us. Time to get up.

A rainy day in a port town is still lovely and smells like ocean. Wandering back down to the port we found a café on the water with a typical French breakfast, chocolate croissant, juice and coffee. Of course the chocolate croissant fell from heaven onto my plate.

Marseille is a hill town where everything eventually migrates down to the water. There are these cool little tourist trains that go all around town and hit the highlights. They also give you a great idea of what you want to go back and see. One goes uphill to Notre Dame Du Guard, the cathedral on the hill with the giant golden Mary on top (Every major city in France has one. Some holding the baby and some not.) and a spectacular 360 degree view of the city below.

The other train goes around the old town and the port. In the old town there is a basilica (there can only be one cathedral in every town) nicknamed ‘The Pajama” because it is made with brown and white stone and it is HUGE and obnoxiously stripped. Butted up against it is the ancient (time?) church where Catherine of Medici and Henry the? Were married.. It is in serious decline and is being propped up on most fronts. It is very plain but for it’s history, holds a mystery of it’s own. In it’s time it had to be the best there was to offer.

By the time we got to Marseille we were well versed in all forms of public transportation so we walked where we wanted to and got on and off trams, city buses, tourist trains and even took a boat.

We fell in love with Longchamps (pictures). The gift to Napoleon and Josphine is wondrous, it’s placement is strange. Located in a common are of the city you don’t even see it as you go towards it on the tram. You pass by average shops, some kind of industrial and then after you get off the tram and walk to the front, THERE IT IS. It’s STUNNING. Once you pass the sign that says “Please don’t fish or swim in the fountains.” (in French) and walk up the sweeping entrance, you feel like you have fallen down the rabbit hole into a different time. You expect to see the Lords and Ladies of Court sweep along the corridors on their way to dance. We went once at night and once during the day. During the day the time warp effect is more muted by the kids playing soccer in the courtyard.

Our next stop was dinner, again in what I call the restaurant district, which is lively and cheery and well priced due to massive completion. This time I did get the bulliabase. It was everything I expected and nothing was staring at me. Our next stop was the Irish pub. Irish pubs are very popular in France. This one was mostly populated by people of many nationalities who’s primary language was English. It was a rowdy, fun crowd. We stayed for a bit and then headed back to our hotel. On the way I said the third thing that caused us to do something you should not do, especially two American women alone with shopping bags in Marseille. I said.”Look up that street that looks like fun.” And we headed up, into what turned out to be the late night party area for middle eastern men who own the fish markets…… We realized pretty quickly that we were where we didn’t belong and everywhere we turned seemed to get us deeper into the mix. Finally I saw something I recognized. The GUN SHOP! We were near our hotel. WHEW. I got a thorough tongue lashing from my French friends. We retired to a peaceful night.

Our last day in Marseille was also my last full day in France as we were taking the train that night back to Paris and I would be out on the plane in the morning. It was also All Saint’s Day, a National holiday. All museums etc CLOSED. We decided the day before we would take the boat trip along the coast for the day. When we got to the port we wlked among the daily fish and flower market where the locals all shopped. It was exciting. The weather was very bad and the boat trip along the coast was not running but there was a boat that went out to the island of Friol. We took it. After the hustle and fast pace of the whole trip it was so very peaceful. Windy, but special. There was nothing much open on the island so we just walked around. We found a beautiful cove and collected seashells and beach glass. There was a lone man walking along with a baguette under his arm and a dog following behind him as he threw scraps of bread to him. The dog danced for bread. It was adorable and so very French. We took our boat back, retrieved our luggage and got on the TVG to Paris.

“When I left the coast of Marseille.
I hadn’t done what I’d come to do.
Spent all the money I saved.
And I still did not get over you.
No I still did not get over you.”

Thanks Jimmy. I get it now. I haven’t gotten over Marseille either. I wish I could close my eyes and when this plane landed I would be in France. I’m afraid though, it will be Portland.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I Want A Duck

I want a duck. I love ducks.

It’s chick & duck season.. all my friends at are getting baby ducks…..

I work out of town a lot. Maybe I could have a baby duck in a little tub on my desk? Some people have fish in a globe, sorta the same thing isn’t it? Well, maybe except for the wet duckie footprints on my keyboard. I WANT A DUCK!!!!!

Maybe I would get two baby ducks so they could play with each other. The only thing cuter than a baby duck is TWO baby ducks.

If I had a baby duck I think I would get a Swedish Blue. They are very cute… see.

And pretty handsome as adults.

I really want a wood duck. They are much smaller and very colorful. Once at the fair there was a wood duck in a cage swimming in a roaster. He looked very happy. I wanted to yell RUN WHILE YOU CAN BEFORE THE WATER HEATS UP!!!!

There are currently 49 genera recognized within the family, of which 18 are so far listed below. There is some disagreement concerning exactly how many species are contained within the Anatidae family. Conservative estimates put the number at 147. Due to recent taxonomic splits, with undoubtedly more to follow, there may be as many as 164 species. Some authorities suggest the Magpie Goose should be placed in its own family, Anseranatidae.

I have no idea what that says except I think they don’t really know but they can shuffle some around.

Still, I might want to rethink this and being a good proponent of proper animal care settle on one little plastic rubber duckie……in a bowl…with a plant.

….and be happy one of my new friends offered to name a wood duck after me. I hope I get daily duckling updates on my namesake.

*snif* I want a duck.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dave’s Garden-Welcome Home

I got the planting bug…again.

Usually this inspires fear in the heart of plants everywhere and my husband who mans the finances …because I’m not good at it….but I never give up.

This year I have no kids at home and minimal livestock to care for. Really almost none since my husband does the caring while I work out of town. (Hey, these days if the job pays well, out of town is fine.)

So……incoming… the bucket. (pictures)

Dahlias, been a favorite of mine since Great-Grandpa had them.
Johnny Jump-Ups, Mom’s favorite. Must be genetic.

Daylilies, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, coneflowers, iris, sunflowers, tomatoes, herbs, etc.. You get the picture. If it grows and it’s legal I want some…..

Last year I was stuck on trees. Planted a 4 in 1 apple (Bob) and a Vanderswolf Pyramid Pine (Charlie)..Yep. I name the trees.

Now on to Dave’s Garden.

This time I am engaging help. A whole online community of gardening people who look like they’ve had some success! I love it when I sign on it says “Welcome Home Beadmom” (That’s me.)

This home has lots of flowers and lots of friendly people. Right away I was greeted by people and offered free seeds. Free is my favorite!

Originally I signed up for the free section but quickly realized I wanted to subscribe. $19.9? a year. Call it $20. In one day it was worth the price. I learned how to plant $40 worth of Dahlia tubers without killing them all which I surely would have done! Kind people check to see if I have a designated watering person while I am out of town. I tell them I do and if he fails in that job I'll hide his Girl Scout cookies. They deemed that a suitable threat.

There are tons of forums (discussion boards), blogs, flower, bird & bug data bases, journaling, photos etc. There is a rating of companies so you know before you buy how good they are and much, much more.

I am currently involved in 11 boards. Photos, Pacific Northwest Gardening, Books, Movies & TV, Beginner Flowers, Farm Life, Beginner Gardening Questions, Dahlias, Poultry & Livestock, Beginner Landscaping, Sustainable Alternatives and Equine Forum,

Lots of great conversation in all the things I love.

Here is a picture of the converted computer desk in its new function as an indoor garden center as mentioned in

I just called home. My sprouts are doing well.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Most Expensive Coffee & Poop

Oddly these are one and the same…..

OK they try and tell you it’s not REALLY poop. It comes out of cat-like animal’s butt. That makes it POOP to me. (I am not saying I won’t ever try it…and FYI…this is how the boat tours usually get cancelled.)

So, sometime ago this topic came up on CSI.. The most expensive coffee in the world, Kopi Luwak, comes from a civet. It looks like a ferrett/cat, so of course I have to check it out. Today I just was thinking about it again and decided to blog about it. Luck you!

Kopi Luwak racks up as the priciest coffee in the world. It sells for between $120 and $600 per pound “The Luwak, (kopi meaning coffee) which eats the coffee cherry and then passes the beans out. The Indonesians then collect the droppings and retrieve the coffee beans.” Courtesy of (in case you want to get some go here…they seem like good sports.)

Doesn’t that sound like poop to you? Looks like poop too….see. -------->

Wikipedia says “Further research by Dr. Massimo Marcone at the University of Guelph (CA) has shown that the digestive juices of the civet actually penetrate the beans and change the proteins, resulting in their unique flavor.”

OK.. That’s POOP.

Soooooooooooo, who decides to market this stuff…..? I guess when you think about it, it kinda makes sense compared to other things. Not like whoever decided to eat the next thing that came out of a chicken’s butt.. Boy did they get lucky!

I mean they already knew coffee was good, but really…..who decided it might be better after being pooped out by a ferrett/cat? Was that a response to someone imbibing something else grown in the forest? I would have to be drunk or stoned out of my mind to contemplate boiling up some cat poop and drinking whatever came to be…and still probably NOT happening.

The funniest part is how someone managed to get people to pay big money for it. It is a huge market. Some places offer it by the cup for between $50 and $100 depending on where you are shopping. I am in love with the person who came up with this marketing scheme. “ Let’s see if we can get people to pay big money for Sh*t coffee.” Yep. IN LOVE!

There are now civet farms to make this stuff. Of course there is some speculation on the quality because wild civets have a choice of which berries they eat and therefore pick the ripest juiciest ones while farm civets get what they are fed… So wild civet poop coffee might be better? (Did I just write those words together in a sentence?)

There is also Kopi Muncak which is coffee that comes from the “dung of several species of barking deer, or Muntjac, that are found throughout Southeast Asia.”


Ok the deer barks and then poops coffee…….(Again....did I just write those words together in a sentence?)

I am going to stick to wine for now. I might be unknowingly drinking some pressed bugs but …’s all in the knowing.

The Boat Trip & How Things Come Together

Once someone at work said she would like to sell tickets to a little boat tour through my brain. Then would come the days where she would look at me with a strange face and say, ”The tour is CLOSED today!” She is long gone from there and so I am…sort of… but the phrase still pops up now and then because others migrated with me that are still somewhat interested in the whole concept.

Here is an example of how I put things together. Usually there is no road map so you are special to get this glimpse. (Sort of like an actual tour.)

Yesterday I blogged about bluebirds.

Usually I blog about wine (and food).

Today while on another blog I follow about wine I found I wanted to comment on something that wasn’t there. (don’t try and understand.. just get on the boat and let it drift.) That led me to another site where something at the bottom of the page caught my eye about eco-conscious wineries….

This got me interested in what that meant exactly. The boat drifted on and passed by Sokol Blosser Winery and how they got into The Natural Step program. and here is what came back to me under “PRODUCTION”…..

“Is part of the Prescott Western Bluebird Recovery Project with a dozen bluebird houses in the vineyard. It now has a small flock of about 25 bluebird residents that help to control insects.”

Remember yesterday’s bluebird? And the conservation project mentioned?

And the boat docks.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bluebirds & Full City Coffee

Here I am in Eugene, OR. I think all it does here is rain…rain…rain…Occasionally I see blue sky in between the fat gray clouds. Things grow here, mold and other green things. I think the sun shines on the weekend when I am not here. There has to be sun for things to grow right? OK no more whining…..(about rain)

Today I saw a bluebird. I have seen lots of blue jays of all kinds and I’ve seen lots of carvings, pictures etc of bluebirds (so I know what one looks like.) but today I actually saw one. I got to watch it for a while. This one was bigger than I thought it would be and very pretty. It looked like this.

Apparently they got pretty scarce in the 40’s but are making a comeback. Possibly thanks to these people.

It was quite a treat to get to watch this guy party on the roof next door. Hope he finds a girlfriend. Thanks buddy for entertaining me in that longgggggggg all day conference.

Since I mostly blog about my nighttime cuisine I thought I would let you know where I eat during the day. Sorry… no alcohol ….The job may drive me to drink but only after hours.
Down the street is a place we are making a habit. Full City Coffee.

They are a small coffee roaster and coffee café. Great coffee, perfect pastries and quiche that is comfort food for me. Today I had some kind of chocolate orange late thingy. It was heavenly. The baristas are very friendly and know their stuff. The place is always packed with people hanging out and doing things people do at coffee cafes. Computers, newspapers, friend chatting etc.
Now if I could just see the bluebird from there……

Monday, March 2, 2009

Planting Seeds & Granddaughters

Of course I can start by saying… my granddaughter is the smartest cutest 10 month old on the planet. I will elaborate on this further down. I might even say it a few more times.


OK. Now about planting.

It should be spring. I want it to be spring, therefore it should happen. Weekend before last I was lured by the bulb bin at Lowes. It was calling my name. “ Ginger…buy Dinner Plate Dahlias…”Trying to convince me it was time to plant things. It worked, sort of. I was convinced but not stupid. I bought them knowing I would store them for a few more weeks in case of snow, which of course happened 4 days later, about 5” of the cold white stuff. I mean really what if I waited and they were all gone???? I try to pay attention to impulses when shopping. (I mean if items are speaking to me directly.)

Dinner Plate Dahlias are really awesome. The flowers are the size of a dinner plate… (hence the name)

Picture courtesy of

Husband was a good sport as I loaded up the cart….OK so I should preface this with the fact that most things I plant don’t live. With one glaring exception I had very good luck growing kind loving productive kids so I can’t complain too much about the plants. After the last kid left last year I started watching “Desperate Landscapes”,3110,DIY_28996_51320,00.html

I decided to try again with the plants before someone nominated me…. So far I think the pine trees are going to make it and my lavender looks viable still. We’ll see if the apple tree sprouts leaves this spring. Right now it looks similar to most everything else in my winter landscape. Like a big stick. I have to say husband is learning that there are some benefits to humoring me in these endeavors. He scored a Yard Machine lawn tractor with more attachments than a food processor…..including a snow shovel that can also move dirt. However, he did find out you really need chains for the beastie or it doesn’t push snow anywhere.

So that was last weekend. This weekend I decided to maybe rush things a little. I have this huge corner computer desk in the dining room that really has just been collecting stuff since I got my laptop. I was going to move the computer into the French room and give the desk to my son who has been begging for it for a while. Of course now he has no room for it….grrrrrrr…. So I did move the computer and threw away most of the collection of junk around it and….the desk is now the plant stand!

I bought a new light fixture with 5 adjustable heads and filled it with grow lights. (Holy smokes grow lights are expensive…Husband was a VERY GOOD SPORT.)My daughter in law said if I put too many grow lights in I might expect a visit from the local gendarmes. I’ll be happy to show them my sprouting tomatoes and hopefully some Dahlias. They didn’t come to visit when I had 20+ 150w floodlights keeping baby chicks warm…

I went to and checked to see if Dahlias can be started indoors… YIPPEEE!

I also scored a 72 starter flat. (OK I just bought it but scored sounds so much better…) some seeds for tomatoes, Oregon Spring,, Sweeties (Cherry) and Urban beefsteaks

I also got going some cilantro, basil (Italian Large Leaf) , Johnny Jump Ups and Coneflowers

Now back to the granddaughter. (The smartest cutest 10 month old on the planet.) As I was planting these seeds I was thinking about being a grandma and the joys that come with it. Next year she will be twice her age and twice as smart and cute and therefore able to enjoy this planting time with me. I can see her little fingers pushing seeds into the squares of the starter trays. Then we can watch the little things sprout up together. (She will have a little brother or sister by then and probably welcome some alone spoiling time with Grandma.)

All that hard work and nice thoughts about my Granddaughter earned me a glass of wine. I finished the Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling. Next week I’ll let you know if anything sprouted besides my imagination.