Gin and Tonic

This spring we had a Brew Pub open up in our village. Nicolas, pictured above, has owned a house in Montmirail for many years, but it is only last year that he retired from his corporate job in New York City to our village. He is an extremely energetic person and began to contemplate learning how to brew beer. He had already purchased a small shop across from his house when the confinement began back in March. In June, despite the set backs, he opened up his new pub, just in time for our summer season here in town.

The pub has been a smashing success. Every time we have walked by, it is full and over flowing with customers. The shop is very attractively arranged as well. Nicolas serves tea, coffee, snacks and other alcoholic beverages besides his home brewed beer.

Nicolas has found local producers for the products he sells. He has created a wonderful and warm place for people to gather. He has both an indoor and an outdoor space.

One of my favorite features of his shop is a poster of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We may be the only locals who know who she is. Nicolas lived in the U.S. for years and has both French and American citizenship. AOC is his representative. The shop has a real Brooklyn influence, here in this very obscure little French village.

So far he is making a pale ale and a white beer, and soon an amber. I don’t drink beer myself, but Rick says his pale ale is quite good. He has yet to try the white.

Nicolas is beginning to gear up to bottle his brew. His labels feature a photo of the castle of Montmirail. Our house appears there too, as it sits just below the château.

We were invited to his place this week on a day he is not usually open. He gave us the grand tour and we had a private gin and tonic tasting. We had tried some of his Coqlicorne gin earlier in the summer and liked it very much. It is made by a local team, a French man and a Scottish guy who produce the product not far from our village. The symbol of France, of course is the rooster, or Coq and the unicorn is the symbol of Scotland, thus the name and logo. It comes in three varieties.

The reason we got this invitation was that we were telling Nicolas about our German client who comes once a year and brings us various gin and tonic supplies every time. Last year he brought a Japanese gin and this year it was an Italian one. He also brought us a special tonic syrup to mix with sparkling water. We decided to have a tasting together.

Nicolas was the gracious bartender. We tried each gin, all flavored differently. The syrup added a nice taste and color. After three rounds we were all feeling rather jolly. It was a very pleasant evening.

In and Out

I am enjoying winter this year. The polar vortex we had in Europe last year has chosen another continent this time. Days speed past and frankly, when it’s sunny and warm, it almost seems as if spring is just around the corner. I do spend most of my time working on projects in the atelier. It’s the only time of year that I can count on days at a time with no interruptions or demands.

We did take a couple of days in Paris to celebrate the grandchildren’s birthdays which are just over a week apart. Emily took us to lunch on the canal which is a short walk from their house. The view from our table was onto this colorful wall.

Back at home I began a new wall hanging/quilt made with strips of gorgeous silk crepe. I had eco-dyed quite a few pieces this fall with willow, maple, berries and several other plants I gathered on a walk around our local lake.

I’ve gotten as far as sewing the pieces together. I ordered some batting and silk sashiko thread, so I have weeks of work still left to do before it will be complete.

When the sun shines, I try to have some paper ready to make cyanotypes. Despite a few snowy days last week, we still have a Christmas Rose blooming on the terrace, and snowdrops have arrived in the upper garden.

I left this image to develop in the sun for three times longer than I do in the summer. It gave me the typical bright blue cyanotype background.

Another project that has been sitting in my drawer since last fall, is a group of signatures for a book with eco-dyed boiled pages. These were all made in September. I had intended them to be completed during the time my friend Gail Rieke was giving her workshop here. Somehow that did not occur. I don’t exactly know why, but I feel somewhat intimidated by book binding and I always put off a project like this for a long while. I knew that I wanted to make a coptic stitch binding, which doesn’t require a spine. The pages are simply sewn together. I’ve never done this type of binding before, but this week I pulled all the pages out and decided the time had come.

It’s really not so hard. You simply need to make a cover, put in holes for the stitching and put holes into all the pages. I made a template to be sure that the holes were in the same location on every page and used an awl to punch them in. Rick got involved, as he is very good with projects like this. He is much more precise in his measurements and I am happy to have his help and patience.

Through a YouTube video, I learned how to make the coptic stitch that holds the book together. Rick took over and finished the binding for me. I was pleased with the results. I have a few other pages waiting for the same treatment.

The other escape from the atelier during the week was into La Ferté-Bernard. I captured a sunny image of the most popular restaurant in town, the Marais, which is open every day of the year. La Ferté is our local “big town” where we do our weekly grocery shopping. It features prominently in Daphne du Maurier’s novel The Scapegoat. If you’re not familiar with her, I recommend her to you. She is the author of Rebecca, and The Birds, both made into movies by Alfred Hitchcock. She was British but had a family connection to this part of France. She wrote another interesting book called The Glass Blowers which is set during the French Revolution and features our own little village of Montmirail.