Tuesday, December 30, 2008

And the "art" goes on...

we did paper mache last summer and Bruce had to make a cycling jersey

When we left Los Angeles for our 1 year sabbatical our biggest concern was our studio. Art-Works Studio has been our baby for 10 years, we have grown it from an art studio with 1 student a week to over 100 a week, winter camps, spring camps and summer camps (our summer camps are so popular people start signing up for them in January). The kids that come to Art-Works are all wonderful, great kids, because they have a passion for art. They choose to spend 1 day a week after-school or on a Saturday coming to our studio. It's a great feeling and something that we are proud of. It was hard to think of leaving the studio and all the kids.

It was almost 1 year ago when we made the decision to take a sabbatical. But it almost didn't happen. We were both feeling a bit burned out, 10 years of hard work, growing a business with the longest vacation being 3 weeks each September, other than that we worked year round, all holiday breaks, spring breaks and summers. 

Bruce is a painter and paints on very large canvas' (you can check out some of his work here), during the spring and summer he'd work in the garage but in the winter he'd have to move inside because it was too cold. I'm a potter and my only choice was the garage. So we decided we'd take some money and remodel the garage into a super cool studio space. We met with a contractor and had it all planned out. French doors, sky lights, heat and sink. It would be the perfect space for both of us to create our art. Then the night before the work was going to begin Bruce and I went to dinner and out of the blue he said to me "the money we are spending on remodeling the garage could be 1 year in France". We both sat there and realized it was true. Will remodeling the garage make us happy, make us less "burned out"...probably not. So, we called the contractor and cancelled the remodel and I began to research moving to France.

Our biggest concern was the business, we needed someone to take it over who would give it the same "mom & pop" feel that it has. Someone to teach the classes who has the same passion, enthusiasm and ability to work with kids as Bruce has. I truly feel that Bruce has a gift, he's an amazing artist, but he is also an amazing teacher. We placed an ad and started interviewing....oh my.  Not good. We interviewed about 10 people and nobody knocked our socks off. Nobody! And then we thought of Travis. Travis and Bruce have been friends for about 15 years, they met through rock-climbing. Travis is an artist and he graduated with a Masters in Fine Art, but he was currently teaching art at a private high school in Los Angeles, in fact he was teaching at Bruce's old High School - Brentwood and his boss was Bruce's old art teacher from high school (the man who basically changed Bruce's life). We felt bad recruiting him away, but he was the only person that we knew would be able to step right in and take over, he looks like Bruce, they have the same personality, same enthusiasm, same interests (cycling), etc...it would be perfect. So we put a package together for him and offered him the job. He accepted. Who wouldn't...same salary for the year, but only working 20 hours a week (after-school and on Saturday) and our studio is 1 mile from him house.

Holy crap...it was official, we were going to move to France for a year. Travis came in and worked with us 6 months before we left, so all the parents and kids would know him, it worked out great. So in September, Travis took over the studio for us. But he doesn't do it alone...we have Alyssa and Kim as his assistants and they keep things running smoothly and Laurel our good friend handles all of the financial stuff for us. It's been 3 months and the studio is running great.

Over the holiday break we always have winter camps (we have them spring and summer too). Kids always ask to do gingerbread houses as one of their projects. We only do this for the holiday camp. We also only take a maximum on 12 kids which makes it nice and intimate. Last week they only had 8 kids, but a good time was had for all. Travis sent us this picture of the kids and the houses.

Travis, Alyssa & some of the kids

Here are some other pictures of some of the work the kids have done in class. Our lessons are usually college-level art lessons , if you present the lesson in a way the kids can understand, the results are fantastic.

So, here we are 3 months into our sabbatical. We love it here and we have met some wonderful people, drank some great wine, visited beautiful villages and cycle as much as possible. The part of the Aveyron region we are in isn't flat! It's hilly, very hilly, steep hills, because there are gorges everywhere, when you go down down you know that you have to go up up.  We went on a ride the other day and the hill we had to climb took me about 40 minutes.  argh!  We miss a couple things though, the warm Los Angeles weather (because it's cold here), a clothes dryer and the kids.

So, what do you do when you miss teaching art to kids...you invite your friends kids over for an art lesson. Our good friends B&A have 2 kids each from their previous marriages (4 girls) ages 6,8,10 and 11. We had them over and brought out the pencils, watercolors, pastels and paper, set up a still-life and had an art class. It was great having them here. I cooked lunch for them and Bruce drew/painted with them. We all had a great time.

art classes in the Aveyron

It's so amazing living here but it's also great to know that our little business in Los Angeles is going strong without us.  Travis and the gang have done such a great job and they treat our business like their own.  We are very lucky.  We just might have to open another studio in another part of Los Angeles (perhaps out in Ventura County - the riding is really good out there) when we come back and have Travis and the gang continue on.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Some random shots

Yesterday it snowed! We were at Ben's house picking up a printer in the morning and we almost got snowed in at his house. People had to push our little car up the hill to get out of the village. Took us over an hour to get home (usually a 10 minute drive). We couldnt' even get the car up the drive (which is a dirt path through the meadow), we had to park it on the road and walk up.

Stella loves the snow.

The punk.

The 2nd new pair of boots.  Lucky me!  I wanted something casual (not high heels).  Love em.

Friday, December 26, 2008

joyeux noel

We had a lovely christmas eve and christmas day.  Christmas eve was a feast at Jacques house (12 of us) and we didn't make it home until 1:30 am.  argh!!!

Christmas day it was just the two of us.  We opened our presents (I got one and Bruce got 3...is that fair???).  So, what to get the man that has everything....bike stuff!  Nothing makes him happier.

Here is his bike, he loves this bike...more than, well, not me I hope!
He wanted new campagnolo 2009 shifters and a new campagnolo cassette for this bike, so that's what he got.  He's so happy. Also got him a new scarf (he's a scarf-aholic).  

my boy loves his bike

sporting the new scarf

Campagnolo shifters

Campagnolo cassette

What did I get....BOOTS.  Yes, another pair of boots.  I guess you could call me a (boot-aholic), these are brown and much more casual then my black ones.  Love them.  

We went for a 3 1/2 hour ride today.  Through the lot department.  We live in the department of the Aveyron, but in the corner, so we are very close to 4 different departments.  The aveyron, the lot, the tarn and the tarn-et-garonne.  All of these departments have very different landscapes (all beautiful of course).  

someones chateau

we took this while riding 

It was very cold today, maybe 35.  In the shade I was freezing!  After 3 1/2 hours my toes were frozen.  When we arrived home our french neighbors from 1 mile away were in our driveway, coming for a Joyeux noel visit.  They are such lovely people and they thought we were crazy to bike in this weather.  Américains fous!

It was a great first christmas in France.  Not much different from our christmas in Los Angeles, it's always just the two of us and we always go for a ride.  The only difference is the temperature and the landscape.  Miss the warm but can't beat the landscape.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

85 euros/119 usd x 2

our wood burning stove that heats our house

Today was a good day and a bad day.  Most of my days here are really good.  I wake up without any agenda.  Don't have to go to work, don't have to deal with the business, don't have to do anything if I don't want to. We go for long bike rides in the french countryside, eat great food and drink amazing wine.  I'm loosing track of the date and sometimes the day.  A friend told me when I start to loose track of the month then I'm really on sabbatical.

2 days ago we were rushing off to dinner at B&A's, our good friends.  Funny thing, they invited another couple who's first names also are B&A...all the mens names start with a B and all the womens start with an A...we are the three B&A's.  Anyway, I wanted to keep the fire going while we were away so I stuffed a bit too much wood in the stove.  I went to shut the door and there was a piece of wood sticking sticking out and "crash"...yes, I broke the glass on the wood stove.  ARGH!  

that wasn't good mom

our stove sans glass

It was 7pm and nothing we could do that night, so we put out the existing fire, which was so painful.  We keep the fire going all day and night so that the house stays nice and warm (well relatively warm), so putting it out and knowing that we would be coming home late (actually arrived home at 2:30 am) to a freezing house didn't make me happy.  

So the next day we took the glass over to a shop in Villefranche to get a replacement.  They told us that it would take 2-3 days to order it, so now we'd be without a fire for 2-3 days.  Thank god our lovely neighbors loaned us a kerosene heater a few weeks ago, because if we did not have it there would be no way we could live in the house.  

Yesterday we drove down to Albi - a lovely city about 40 minutes south of us.  I wanted to buy some clothes, some going out clothes (going out in the cold clothes).  I actually wanted to find a skirt, I brought some but they are not cold weather skirts.  I found one from Esprit along with some leggings to go under it and 2 tops.  I was a happy girl...now I need some black boots.

fountain in Albi

main square in Albi

we're thinking someone really big lives behind these doors

 I didn't bring my black or brown high boots with me, just because we didn't have the room in our bags.  I did bring my everyday boots that I wear to the studio and around, but they are getting so beat up being here in the snow and rain and I feel like they always have chicken poop on them.

So today we went to Villefrance to pick up the glass for the stove and to look for some boots.  We ran into B&A, our friend Fabrice and his girls and our friend Jean-Michelle...a busy day in Villefrance.  We also picked up 2 bottles of Gaillac at the marché de Noel in the main square.  Then off to find boots.  We went to 2 shops and the 2nd was the best.  I tried on about 8 pair and the last I tried on were the ones...they are beautiful and comfortable and will look so great with my new skirt - on sale $85 euros.  What a deal.  You can have them just below the knee or fold them up to cover the knee (pirate like).

ah, no chicken poop on these boots baby!

Then we stopped at the kitchenware shop where we ordered our replacement glass.  Bruce ran in and when he came out said to me "it cost 85 euros for the new glass".  WHAT!  For a piece of glass?  I know it has to be special glass so that it won't break with the heat, but come on, it's only about 9x11.  But we had to buy it, no way around it.  And we found out that it happens to everyone (probably only once).

So, today we spend 85 euros on 2 different things.  One makes me very happy and I'm wearing my new boots and new outfit out to St. Antonin tonight. We are going to an art exhibit from major artisans in the region.  Good connections for both of us.  We also have a fire going in the fireplace, Bruce installed the new glass this afternoon.  It will be the last time I spend 85 euros on glass, but probably not the last time I spend 85 euros on boots!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Our Winter Wonderland

So last night about 7pm it started raining, no big deal, it's been raining a lot since we got here. Don't care much if it rains overnight.  But this morning we woke up to THIS!  Holy crap, it's snowing and it's snowing a lot!  It's now almost noon and it's been snowing since we got up at 7:30.  Bruce can't remember the last time he saw snow, probably 20 years ago.  I grew up in Michigan, left when I was 25 for NYC and have been in  California for 17 years.  I think the last time I saw snow was maybe 10 years ago when I went home for Thanksgiving, not really sure.

We are not snow people, we don't ski, snowboard, ice skate or play hockey.  Our blood is very thin so we get cold very easily (sorry to be such a whiner).  When we decided to come to this region we saw pictures of snow on the website of our house.  I asked the owner does it snow in the winter and he said "no, it was a freak year back in 2005".  We were OK with that...but what do we get when we move here - first, the coldest early winter in like 15 years, the wettest November in like 10 years and snow, lots of snow.  It is pretty but I could do without it.

Today we'll go to our "club de musculation"...which is our local gym in Villefranche.  We joined it last month because of all the rain, we needed to do something.  If you saw it you'd crack up, it's like walking into a gym from the 1970's (perfect place for a Saturday night live skit).  But it's everything we need, a treadmill for me to run on and all the weights we need to lift.  And the price blew us away, 40.00 for 3 months.  So on days like today when we can't ride or don't feel like taking the dogs out for a walk (burrr), we'll go to the gym.

My chickens don't seem to mind the snow.  I went to the coop to let them out this morning and they hopped right out the door and are still out there scratching around.  

I found the lyrics to "Walking in a winter wonderland"  and added a few comments to some of the lines.  Just how I'm feeling today.  Hope you are having a warmer sunnier day.  OR if you like snow, enjoying today.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening, (can't hear them...got Miles Davis playing)
In the lane, snow is glistening (oh my, it's been snowing since last night)
A beautiful sight, (it is pretty...but)
We're happy tonight. (well, we are actually a bit cold)
Walking in a winter wonderland.

Gone away is the bluebird,
Here to stay is a new bird (hum...could that be my chickens?)
He sings a love song, (she doesn't sing but she gives me eggs)
As we go along,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

In the meadow we can build a snowman, (we seriously have a meadow in front)
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown (i never knew what that meant as a kid)

He'll say: Are you married?
We'll say: No man,
But you can do the job
When you're in town. (huh?)

Later on, we'll conspire, (to make it sunny and warm)
As we dream by the fire (we seriously have a fire going day/night or we'd freeze)
To face unafraid,
The plans that we've made, (we are a bit afraid here in france in the snow...what were we thinking?)
Walking in a winter wonderland.

In the meadow we can build a snowman, (might have to try it later)
And pretend that he's a circus clown
We'll have lots of fun with mister snowman,
Until the other kids knock him down. (will probably be dashell who knocks him down)

When it snows, ain't it thrilling, (i have to say, no, it's not thrilling)
Though your nose gets a chilling (my body is chilling, not just my nose)
We'll frolic and play, the Eskimo way, (no we won't, we'll stay inside)
Walking in a winter wonderland.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A visit to Montauban

cool statue made from scraps

Last week it was raining so we hopped in the car and took a trip to Montauban, it's about 50 minutes southwest of where we live. It's always hard driving into a new city, you have no idea where to go, where to park, but we have found that it's best to head for the Office of Tourism, there are signs for it everywhere and once you find it, there's ample parking. Then you can pick up a map of the city/village and you are off.

We really liked this city. Can't call it a village, it's too big, I think (52,000). But it was beautiful. Actually the building that housed the office de tourism was amazing. Bruce wanted to go to visit the Musée Ingres as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres is one of his favorites and Bruce and many others consider him on of great draftsman (drawer). His pencil drawings were unbelievable.  I was more amazed with the building. The museum is located in a building that once served as the residence of the bishops of Montauban. The structure belongs chiefly to the 17th century, but some portions are much older, notably an underground chamber known as the Hall of the Black Prince (Salle du Prince Noir). It was where people were tortured, getting down to it was creepy and once you reached it it took your breath away. In the back were cells where people where held and there were some of the old torture devices down there.  A renovation carried out between 1951–1958 made Musée Ingres a modern institution according to the designs of the time, equipped with additional inventories.

The museum had some amazing pieces of art in it but the lighting was horrible, just horrible. Nothing like having a piece on the wall with so many lights facing directly on it that you can't even see it because of the glare. Not sure why nobody has ever noticed this before. Maybe it was just us and Bruce's picky eye.

We wandered around Place National, which is an arcade with a big open square in the middle and arches all around with shops in them.  Then went to lunch at an Indian restaurant at the corner of the Place National. Oh my it was so good. We haven't had indian since we left Los Angeles, on a cold wet day it was the perfect choice. Then we were for a bit of clothes/shoe shopping, although we didn't buy anything. I'm a horrible shopper, I much better internet shopper, where I can take my time. We then went for coffee at a really cool place called Le Cozy. The space was great and we met the owner and his daughter (it was Wednesday so she was not in school), we would love to go back for dinner.  Very warm and cozy!

On the way out we stopped at a bike shop (of course) and purchased some winter booties to cover our biking shoes, because when we were riding our feet were freezing. We also stopped at a store called Decathalon, which is a sporting goods store, great prices on sweaters, layering stuff and fleece. We purchased some good there to help keep us warm.

Montauban is the capital of Tarn-et-Garonne département in the Midi-Pyrénées region in southwestern France, it is located about 30 mi (50 km) by road north of Toulouse. It lies on the banks of the River Tarn, 53km from Toulouse, close to its junction with the Aveyron. Its history goes back to 1144 when the count of Toulouse decided to create a bastide here as a bulwark against English and French royal power. In fact, it's generally regarded as the first bastide, the model for those rationally laid-out medieval new towns, and that plan is still clearly evident in the beautiful town centre.

Montauban has enjoyed various periods of great prosperity, as one can guess from the proliferation of fine town houses. The first followed the suppression of the Cathar heresy and the final submission of the counts of Toulouse in 1229 and was greatly enhanced by the building of the Pont-Vieux in 1335, making it the best crossing-point on the Tarn for miles around. The Hundred Years War did its share of damage, as did Montauban's opting for the Protestant cause in the Wars of Religion, but by the time of the Revolution it had become once more one of the richest cities in the southwest, particularly successful in the manufacture of cloth.The early 14th-century Pont-Vieux still bridges the Tarn. Next to it on the right bank stands the 17th-century episcopal palace that, in the mid-19th century, became the Musée Ingres, housing 4,000 drawings and several paintings of the 18th–19th-century French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, born at Montauban in 1780, as well as other contemporary works. The “Vow of Louis XIII,” by Ingres, hangs in the cathedral. The church of Saint-Jacques, a fortified church dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, dominates the town. Montauban, was founded by the counts of Toulouse in the 12th century and was a principal bastion of Protestantism in southwest France during the 16th and 17th centuries.

It was a great day in a new city. Fun to explore and see new things and to just go for it. We never have a set plan, just wander around and see what you see. Here are a whole bunch of shots from the day. If you are around this area, it's a nice place to visit.

the courtyard inside the musée Ingres

statue in courtyard

me heading down to the tourture chamber

the tourture chamber

Bruce heading down
Pont Vieux (old bridge)

place national

columns all around the place national