La Museum du Augustine’s in Toulouse, France is a former convent that is France’s second oldest museum and full of art and sculpture. The cloister garden in both beautiful and peaceful in the spring and summer. Below are a few pictures taken from a recent visit.
in December of 2013 Stamps-With-Foot and I were in San Francisco and visited an awesome shop called Windtip, which is in the shadow of the Trans-America Building. They are in a former Art Nouveau bank building (Originally the Bank of Italy) that the store has preserved – including the vault. As you might imagine, they have lots of fancy men’s shoes that made me tingle, But are more than a shoe store: “… a “one-stop shop” for the modern gentleman… the store features a custom clothing department, professional & casual clothing, cufflinks, pens, leather goods, barware, cigar accessories, a barbershop, and shoe shine stand. And that’s just the store. A private club for our best customers houses a bar & lounge, private parlor rooms, a boardroom, golf simulator, and a wine cave.” In short, a VERY cool place that any gent or his loving wife SHOULD check out if in the city.
Anyway, while there I fell for a black leather Moore & Giles document portfolio that I considered, if only for a flash of an instant, plopping down some hard earned cash for. Although perfect for my work life as a European-dwelling engi-nerd that prefers to more fast and light through airports, I came to my senses and walked away. I have longed for it ever since and have asked for one as a gift for every anniversary, Christmas, birthday, and a few random Tuesdays and Thursdays since that first meeting.
I checked the other day on it, more to torture myself than anything else, and the manufacturer has discontinued the product. Wingtip had bumped the price up and had it marked at $450! Crap… I started sketching it up so that I could get my cobbler (that sounds SO much more pretentious than it is…) to see about making it. I needed a detail and did a image web search this afternoon 15 minutes before I had a super important call for my J-O-B and BAM! There it was at Sierra Trading Post for CRAZY CHEAP! I have bought hiking clothes from them for years at deep discounts, but had no idea that they would have something like this. I double checked the item, looked if they had the black one in-stock, and called their customer service right then.
Yes they have it in black, yes they accepted my 4 year old 30% off coupon and just like that I got a $450 portfolio for $110.40 delivered free to my house in Seattle. Done and done. I was so excited that it made the work call after a pleasure and I have been dreading it for two days.
AM SO STOKED!!
Early last year, I picked up an antique copyist’s lectern (the top part only) that originated in a French Abby. The lectern was riddled with worm holes, a couple pieces were missing, and there was some damage to repair, but the first thing was to make it bug free so not to infect all our other furniture with wood worm. The thing spent a couple of months in a plastic bag full of insecticide and chemicals that makes for square babies. According to the interwebs two months bathing in said concoction would make the piece safe to bring out see the light of day again, so after fumigation, it sat in our living-room as decoration for 12 months before I started the rebuild in earnest.
Initially, I sketched up a few column profiles in my ubiquitous little black notebook and settled on a somewhat simple design that matched the overall style and period of the piece. Next, I spent a little time one Sunday turning a new pedestal out of beech scraps from my workbench build. I glued them all up into a single 5″ X 5″ x 32″ hunk of wood. I then measured and turned matching intermediate supports from a scrap oak rolling pin with curves to match the column. A couple of weeks later, I used the last of the beech scrap and turned the pedestal base, which ended up 16″ in diameter and 3″ tall.
After gluing it all together, applying matching stain, and putting 4 coats of polyurethane on the base, it was time to start on the lectern top. All was going to plan right up to the moment that I removed a damaged shelf and saw what looked to be fresh wood damage… In one of the joints there was a small white bug larvae… Son of a bitch… I immediately put plastic on my bench top and took apart another joint. I found more LIVING wood worm. I started picking at the capped holes here and there and more worm… Shit!!! I wrapped it up in a trash bag and out to the street it went. It would seem that my lethal chemical treatment wasn’t that lethal. Just REALLY, REALLY happy that the hatch hadn’t started and that my house was no full of bugs that would lay word worm eggs all over our other furniture. I took pictures and measurements and I am now planning on building a copy of the top over the next month or so and I will post the finished product here when I am done and it is installed in the living room.
I am too stupid to own a motorcycle. Really. I have been on one bike or another since I was 5 , when i first sat on a 50cc Honda dirt bike and my last one was a beautiful 900cc rocket. I have all sorts of stories about crashes and near misses, a few scars, a broken wrist and foot from my early riding years. I decided that most of my injuries and near-death experiences on a bike were completely my fault and that unless I wanted to be an early organ donor I had to give them up, so after the birth of my daughter, I sold my last bike and other than a dalliance with rebuilding a duel-sport on my balcony in 2004, I have been able to resist the pull of two wheels. Then, minding my own business, I walk into something like the pair shown below:
Went to local pizza shop for dinner last week and what is sitting outside? Two vintage bikes, both old single cylinder French Motobecanes – the single-seater with the white helmet is a 1950 and the double-seater with the gas can on front is a 1952. Talked to the two guys riding them and the bikes are barn finds bike that they pulled out and got running this morning. Super jealous!!!! There were cobwebs and barn dust still on them. Take gander at the old plates! These babies make me want an old bike to tinker with, ride, rebuild, ride, cuss, work on, ride, love, ect… Now, I need another project/hobby like I need a hole in my head, but the pull of the Dark Side is SO strong!
It has been almost a year since I built (with help from The Ruminator) Stamps-With-Foot a kitchen island and she has loved it (so I am told) and used the bejesus out of it. I made a couple of additions and there are a a few observations:
- The wood I used as the base platform shelf was REALLY wet and I put 1/16″ spacing between the boards. WAY too much. I should have wedged them in as tight as possible because they have shrunk and now I have 1/8 gaps in a couple of places. No big deal since it is tongue and groove, but I don’t like spacing that large.
- I installed an Arkansas Razorbacks bottle opener on one of the legs. It was required.
- I had used a hunk of cherry tree trunk/firewood and turned it down as a lid/plug for the scrap hole. I turned it too large since it was really wet and was bound to shrink/warp/crack. My best guess is that it is done moving, so I put it back on the lathe and turned it down to size and changed the profile a little.
- The rolling pin is a great towel holder, but I should have/need to stop it from rolling – the towel slips off and onto the floor occasionally.
- I also originally finished the plug with walnut oil, but it gets handled a lot by wet hands and I had to oil it every couple of weeks. This time I finished it with 3 coats outdoor polyurethane and then added a coat of wax.
I have been swamped with work and travel for the last couple of months, so my shop time has been very limited. I have mostly been puttering around with my workbench, getting the last bits and bobbles done before calling it done and I have spent the off hour here and there on the lathe and doing stuff around the house:
- I had to fix a dishwasher leak and do some painting in the kitchen – still hate plumbing
- We did some re-arranging, so I had to fill some nail holes and then make new ones.
- Glued a cutting board back together after it split – craptastic glue didn’t hold, so it is back in the to-fix pile and will get some dowels this time
- Made a pot lid handle out of some scrap cherry.
- Tackled the jungle that was once my yard – twice
- Sharpened the lawnmower blade
- Turned the compost
- I bought a sheet of plywood and built a DVD shelf and a 8′ bookshelf for the lending library we run.
- There was been an oak log in my shop for months so I cut it in half and made a couple of stools for my office.
- Our puppies play a game called “run away from Mommy” when she takes them out, so I built two small fences to keep them in the back yard and away from the front gate.
I have do a few things in the shop just for organization and am working on a couple of little projects:
- We got a huge free wardrobe that I put in the GROP to organize non-tool/shop related items like climbing gear and life jackets
- My battery operated tools need a home, so I put together an organization center for them that mounts on the French cleat board
- I hung up my 6 heavy panel clamps to get them out of the way
- Made a Lathe chuck and tail-stock tool organizer for the French cleat organizer
- With a bonus from my J-O-B, I bought a few more molding planes, but they arrived in sad shape. I spent 6+ hours one Saturday cleaning, sharpening and fixing them.
- Started work on a blanket chest rebuild: cut here, snip there, new runners and new feet. Will get new milk paint finish when complete.
- Working on a copyist lectern rebuild. I made the base, pillar and other bits from some scrap beech left over from the bench build.
- Built a wooded top for the puppy Kennel so it blends better with the furniture in the Living Room.
- Putting together a 6-board chest for molding plane storage. Will get re-purposed forged hardware and a Barn Red milk paint finish.
I am about a month late in posting this – life and my J-O-B got in the way – but the Cornebarrieu Bench is done. Completely done! All bells and whistles added. It seems like it took me forever, but it fits perfectly in the shop and I started using the bench even before it was finished. I am very happy with the outcome and am currently working on projects that have been piling up all winter. Just in case you haven’t been following along for the past year and a half or so:
My GROP (garage and shop combo) in Seattle was too small for a proper joiner’s bench. I made due with a slim, high, wall-mounted work counter, a bolted on machinist-vise, Quick Clamps, and the top of my table saw. It worked – mostly/sort of – but was a pain in the ass a good bit of the time: I never once planed a board on a stable, solid surface. My GROP here in France is roughly the same size as the one in Seattle, but is absent the huge cast iron machines and saws. I have some room to move and finally have the space for a big, heavy, proper work bench as well as some time to build one – or so I thought.
It is an amalgamation of benches by M. Roubo, Roy Underhill, Chris Schwartz, and Bill Schenher. I am calling it the “Cornebarrieu Bench” after the small village in southern France where we live, where the lumber has been sourced, and where the bench was made and first used.
For anyone interested, here is a documented build process, build notes, and step by step guide – 115 steps – to build this beast.
My wife, Stamps-With-Foot, has a normally dry sense of humor and sometimes she is unintentionally hilarious. Other times I am shocked at some of the stuff that her brain comes up with that her sweet innocent little mouth then utters. I have been recording a few of them lately and the choicest pearls are below.
- We bought a chocolate tart from a local patisserie on our way into town one afternoon. It was dairy free, gluten free, and egg free. After tasting it, my sweet tiny wife said, “What the fuck is this thing made of, unicorn tears?!”
- She mixed the old and new high-priced boogie dog food together – three different flavors. The dogs refuse to touch it, so my wife has spent a fine portion of her evening sitting on the kitchen floor in her PJs sorting the kibble cussing and snarling about the “fucking spoiled-ass monsters” …and yet she went on doing it…
- While at the Musee du Picasso, we walk by a surrealist blue woman reclining. My wife stopped and said, “I don’t really like it, but something draws you to the center of the painting.” I said half-joking, “Probably the huge anus in the middle.” and she shook her head knowingly and said nonchalantly, “Yes, that is probably it…”
- At dinner the other night, my wife looked down at a not cheap glass or red wine and said softly, “Why can’t I quit you?!” she then took a sip. I think she was mentally calculating how much each taste cost.
- My bride is a visual person: she has to see something real time to make a decision. This means that I often have to move a piece of furniture 5ish times before she decides to put it back in the original place. While doing this dance recently over a new piece of furniture, I sketched up the room and all the associated furnishings in MSVisio and she tried every possible combination. There was a plan. She had made a decision. When the day came to start moving that plan melted away like it never existed. Before we even started I mentioned my thoughts on correct placement, but she needed to “See” it. After moving it around and around in real-life a few times, she decided to put it the piece in the EXACT spot that I had pointed out initially. I uttered an under-toned ‘told you so…’ and she got all wide-eyed, stamped her foot, raised her voice and said, “You know I am a bad listener!”
- Anytime that my sweet wife cannot remember the name of a town or a village, she calls it Hogsmeade. It doesn’t matter what country we are in or what historical significance that the place may have, if she can’t remember then it is her shorthand name, but I thought it was just kind of our own private nerdy joke. Nope. We had lunch in a small hamlet at the bottom of a glorious castle in Bavaria and in the accounting software we use she labeled it as “Lunch in Hogsmeade.” I almost want to be audited just so that I can show them that particular entry…
- We were in discussion to add a dining room addition in our place in Seattle. Stamp-With-Foot has wanted a chandelier for years and said her only request was that we install one over the table. I jokingly said that “I didn’t get the memo for that” and it “…wouldn’t be possible unless the change notice request was submitted in writing.” She walked over to the whiteboard in my office and wrote in cute bubbly script: MEMO: Motherfukin’ Chandelier and then said, “Now you have it in writing.”
So, I am a little tweaked… I got a small bonus at work and sent a little money to my mom and daughter, got something for my wife, paid to have a tree taken out, sent Heifer and MSF some funds, paid off my last student loan (FREEDOM!!), put a little money back for a rainy day, and with the last bit decided to do a little something small just for me: I bought a few beech molding planes and 3 mortise chisels from a guy with a web store in the Scotland. I will call him UK Tool Guy. I have bought twice from him before and it all went really smooth and my purchases were exactly as expected. I bought a toothing plane from him at a good price that was in perfect working order and arrived exactly as pictured on his site.
My experience this time around was different. The order part was normal, but when I received my stuff it was all kinds of wrong. Painted parts, broken pieces, condition received was NOT as advertised, etc… I spent 4 hours cleaning and fixing and will have to spend another 4-5 repairing 2 chisels and 2 of the planes. 8-9 hours is a lot of time to unexpectedly fix stuff that I just bought. I am not super-important in the grand scheme of things, but my time is worth something to me.
Anyway, I took a few pictures and wrote the guy to let him know about the issues, asking about the possibility of some remuneration. He sends me back a mail offering me a little credit instead of a refund. I take him up on it, not knowing what the shipping will be I choose a couple of items from his web store that equals to less than £50 (~$78) that he offered up. I think my time and frustration was worth more, but I didn’t press the point.
He sent me a response that informed me that I had gone over budget and that he would “…let me off for now…” Seriously‽‽ Was this guy born with an extra set of balls? This is the third time I have done business with him. I check his site regularly for stuff I am looking for – I am even on his MF mailing list. The bottom line is that I got an unexpected crappy deal, I was gracious and completely undemanding and he will “…let me off for now…”. It took over three weeks for him to send the stuff two new items out. So much for the “Shortly” time frame he referenced in his last mail. I believe that this is the last time I will be doing business with the UK Tool Guy
For the sake of Transparency, I have included the whole chain I sent below – only deleting names and contact info.
Thanks for your response.
Those two items actually come to £63.50 with postage which is a bit over
£50 but I’ll let you off for now, we can maybe adjust slightly with any
future order. I will get these off to you shortly.
> On 17 March 2015 at 11:20, drivenoutside wrote:
Sorry, I didn’t mean to come off as someone that can’t be pleased. It is
not that at all and my two previous purchases were really spot on.
Thank you for your immediate response and offer for credit. I would love
to have the boxwood rule and the upholstery hammer if you are OK with that.
Thank you and regards,
> On March 16, 2015 at 4:18 AM UK Tool Guy wrote:
Thanks for your e-mail and I am sorry you had so much to complain about.
Not that it is an excuse on my part but I have a funny feeling I didn’t
pack your order up as otherwise I would have picked up on some if not all
of these points as I check everything properly when I am packing it. I
understand your frustrations when you get something that is not quite what
you were expecting and once again I am sorry for this. Rather than
refunding you some monies why don’t you instead have a look at the site and
see if there is something there around the £50 mark including postage that
you might like FREE. If there is just drop me an e-mail with the product
number so I can remove it off the site and send it over to you.
> On 15 March 2015 at 20:36, drivenoutside wrote:
I received the molding planes and chisels a couple of weeks ago, but as I
travel a good bit for work, I just this weekend had the time to open the
packaging up and take a look. What I found was a little surprising as I
have ordered a couple of planes from you before and condition was spot on
as advertised. I did not expect like-new condition as some of this
material is over 200 years old, but some of it was not as stated.
Two of the collars on the sash chisels are cracked, one completely. I am
going to have to tear them apart and replace the collars. I guess I will
either see if I can source from Marples or turn down some brass stock on
I spent most of yesterday flattening, polishing, sharpening, and oiling
the plane blades. There is a good deal of pitting on some of them and I
will need to replace two. Most of the plane bodies were fine, but the #12
was painted red and the #16 had a screw holding a crack in the body
together. I drilled it, filled with hide glue and inserted a beech dowel.
The #1 round’s wedge is cracked in half and has been glued back together
by a previous owner. I am going to have to make a copy of it and replace.
When I unwrapped the #9 there was wood worm in the packaging. Not just old
holes, but a live worm in the plastic. There was damage to the plane and
the wedge. I took the whole lot to our local vet and had her x-ray the box
4 times. It is a Luthier’s trick and it kills any worm/moth larva.
Take a look at the attached pictures and let me know what you think and if
you think it is fair to refund me a little of the purchase price and
On 23 February 2015 at 15:51, drivenoutside wrote:
The ship to address is: __________
My phone number is: ___________
Please send me the tracking number so that if there is a problem with the
shipper or customs, I can call right away
Thank you again,
——– Original message ——–
From: UK Tool Guy
Date:02/22/2015 2:30 PM (GMT+02:00)
To: Driven Outside
Subject: Re: Tool Order
Just written out your invoice for the tools ordered. The grand total
including postage comes to £metric shit-ton. An invoice / receipt will be included with the tools. I’m in the shop today until 4:30pm if you want to ring with card details for payment.
I was in Bristol, England for my J-O-B last month and I wanted to get out into the countryside after working 12+ hours and flying the day before. My meeting that day went really well and ended at 2:00, so I hopped in the rental car and headed across the “border” into Wales. There is a little village in the River Cothi valley called Talyllychau in Welsh or TALLEY in English. It is purportedly the origin of my surname. Talley is in Carmarthenshire, Wales which is six miles north of the small town of Llandeilo and an hour north west from Cardiff.
The day was beautiful with warm sunshine, blue skies, and fresh green spring grass growing in the valley. Thick woods cover the steep hills on each side of the valley and there are twin lakes at the bottom that had geese and swans paddling about. The setting was idyllic and surpassed any hope that I had in my brain about the beauty of the place before visiting. I walked the former naive and walls of the ruined Talley Abby (founded in 1185 and destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII), explored the grounds of St. Michael’s Church (built from the Abby stone) and the surrounding cemetery. It was a very pleasant afternoon and I spent the time in quiet thought about those who have come before me and those that will live after.
I would like to tell you about the amazing pint of stout and piping hot beef stew that I had in the local public house after my exploration, since that was my plan, but sadly the pub in the small village closed last year so it was not to be. I ended up eating that evening in Llandeilo in a nice little pub, listening to an elderly couple speak welsh to one-another and English to the barman.
In a different life, I could see buying a small home in the village and re-opening the pub. Living the rest of my days in that little valley, walking the hills, woods, and fields in tweed and Wellies, flat cap slightly askew. Evenings spent pulling pints, making furniture, loving my wife and family. In the end, being placed in the pretty graveyard beside the white church walls, under an ancient oak, or down my the lake shore. The thought/day dream is somehow comforting.
I have gotten a few comments and questions about our puppies, so here is the lowdown:
Brodie is our 8 year old male that is 1/2 French Bulldog and 1/2 Boston Terrier. He is a rescue that was once deemed by a shelter as “unadoptable.” NW Bulldog Haven stepped in and made sure that he got medical help for an eye issue and he found his forever home with us 6.5 years ago. When we fist adopted Brodie, he had leash aggression issues and DID NOT play well with others. There were beat downs, bloody lips, flying fur, and all out brawls with much larger dogs. We have spent years socializing him so that he could have puppy-friends or siblings and he is so much better than he was when he first came home. He is an awesome dog. He is smart and obedient and loves Stamps-With-Foot like the Pope love Jesus. He likes me fine and we are super-buddies when my wife is out of town for a day or two, but prefers her company and ignores me the very second her car pulls up. I am sure that he now views me as his combination butler/chauffeur. We brought him to France with us and he loves it here – I think it is the duck breast, nibbles of cheese, and foie gras that he gets under the table.
After all the work socializing Brodie we decided that he was finally ready for a full time buddy. Right at exactly that same moment we found Truffle.
Truffle is a full-blooded and pedigreed French Bulldog with a brindle coat and a cute under-bite. While surfing the local chat group for a specific piece of furniture, I saw an add posted in French about a female French bulldog puppy that was being re-homed due to an allergy in her family (we decided later that was crap and someone got a “fashionable” dog and had no idea how to train or care for a Frenchie…). She and Brodie immediately got along, though she is a bit of the annoying little sister. She was a year old in July and is still very much a puppy. There have been a few issues: potty training, diet, her delicate digestive system, some minor health issues, etc…, but we have 99% of it worked out. We did, however, make the decision to take her out of the gene-pool and we had her spayed. Frenchies as a breed have a LOT of issues and if we breed her, then we would be perpetuating the problems.
She is SO sweet and lovable, but she is not a puppy-rocket scientist. She was gifted with beauty and personality instead. Truffle wants nothing in this world but to sit beside one of us all day or it is even better if she can touch both of us at the same time: Her self-assigned spot in the bed is between the two of us at shoulder level. She “helps” my wife put on makeup, is there to “assist” in making the bed or folding cloths. She NEEDS to come into the shop with me, but isn’t allowed because she eats wood shavings. Truffle looks so sad standing at the door looking at me in the shop and the second my head is turned, will sneak in.
Below is a photo dump of both puppies just being themselves.
Some stuff on my current want-list:
To stop traveling SO MUCH!
For real spring to arrive in Toulouse
To stop eating so many carbs and so much sugar
For my wife to feel all better
A couple of lathe tools.
A three day walk in the mountains
About 15 big, not cheap, hard cover books
A Moore & Giles Portfolio
For my new garage in Seattle to be done & dusted.
For my wife to finish some alterations and repairs for me
Porsche Design TecFlex Fountain Pen (F or EF Nib)
For my workbench to be 100% done
A slender dark grey Yorkshire cap
A sweet tweed vest
A few pairs of two-tone wing-tip Made-In-England Doc’s: White and Tan
A set of 10 cedar shoe-trees
Tickets for my son’s trip to France to be CHEAP.
For my Al’s Attire brogue boots not to squish my toes
Brooks Brothers grey or subtle pattern sport coat – slim cut.
A Filson Medium Travel bag.
One medium-small Rimowa Carry-on
To start working out again in earnest and stick to it
A fine set of Cuff-links
For my business plan to be finished
Tiffany blue silk tie and a matching pocket square.
For real spring to arrive in Toulouse
A couple of lathe tools.
For my workbench to be 100% done
A slender dark grey Yorkshire cap – I got a sweet green tweed one made in London
A few pairs of two-tone wing-tip Made-In-England Doc’s: White and Tan
A set of 10 cedar shoe-trees
For my Al’s Attire brogue boots not to squish my toes – Had them stretched in the States last week. Perfect fit now!
Brooks Brothers grey or subtle pattern sport coat – slim cut.
Tiffany blue silk tie and a matching pocket square.
Son of a… My site got hacked. I thought that I was safe: A host provider I trust, back-doors closed, a random generated password, all the stuff you are supposed to do. I was talking on the phone last night and I noticed a “payday Loan” link just under my site name on my home page. Son of a…
This is a BIG deal. Aside from some ass-hat having a BS ad on my site, it meant that my corner of the web was compromised and the second that Google gets a whiff of it, your site is no longer searchable and you get put into website purgatory. It happened to me in 2005 and it took me YEARS to get it all fixed and to be back in Google’s and all the web filters good standing
I immediately put my site to sleep, scoured my site code for the offending link, and then searched the inter-web forums. It looks like the link was added via a .php server backdoor and was somehow attached directly to my WordPress Theme, so I deleted the existing theme and rebuilt the my main page and widgets. That seems to have done it for now, but I contacted my Web Host to see what they were doing about any possible breach and got the “We are experiencing a large call volume… longer than usual wait times…” message. No luck with live chat or e-mail either. Super pissed. I have been with them since 2002 and have never had a server-based security breach.
The Musee Carnavalet (The History of Paris Museum) is a hidden gem! It is off the normal well-beaten tourist path and within walking distance from St. Eustace Church and the Picasso Museam. It is full of treasures including an entire Alfonse Mucha designed jewelry store – see pictures below. It made me feel all funny inside when my wife drug me there. She tried to get me to go with her this summer , but I wanted to do something else that now escaes me. I should have listened to her. There are 100+ rooms of paintings and sculpture, models, furniture, and good stuff to gawk at.
Set in a series of old Parisian town homes and Orangeries that are all put together with walkways and joined gardens. One of the cooler aspects is that you wander through re-creations of rooms from the French Revolution to the Paris Commune, and enter into the private spaces of famous Parisians like Marcel Proust’s bedroom with his brass bed and his little table covered in pens, ink, and notebooks. As I said, I was drug here the first time, but it is on my list to visit now even if I am in the city alone for a few hours. It was not too crowded at all and the gardens are a really nice place to sit in and catch up on your travel journal entries. Did I mention that the admission is free?!
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is purportedly the largest tourist attraction in all the world. Maybe. We were there in the winter – snow on the ground – and it was still packed. After an accidental trip to the Egyptian Bazaar (cabby issues are the bane of every traveler’s visit to the city), we decided on the full Grand Bazaar experience: walking all the lanes, seeing the sites, listening to all the languages and the sellers hawking their wares. My wife, who is an expert haggler, attempted to buy all the scarves in Turkey. We bought a few little souvenirs for people we love (my mother’s and my father-in-law’s birthdays were coming up). I ate a significant amount of pistachio Baklava and honeycomb. We also had lunch and coffee at a kebab place hidden in the bowels of the market that was serving the market sellers when we arrived – a sure sign of authentic yumminess.
Stamps-With-Foot had a “No Pestering” policy and when one of the sellers started harassing her to buy or to come in his shop, she would move on. It seemed to work and she was left alone to browse and shop and got a couple of bargains. I was the designated pack mule and carried all the bags. I also assisted in the negotiations for some of the goods – playing the tired husband who’s wife is on a spending spree – they had no idea that the bags were filled with $1-10 dollar items. It worked great and she got a gift for her dad at 1/3 the original asking price as well as a couple silk scarves for a ridiculously low price. The scarf seller looked at me with knowing eyes and brought me apple tea while she tore through his stacks looking for “the right one… or five…”
Words fail me in describing all that we saw and did, but the images below should give you an idea.
The Turkish know how to present a breakfast spread! My hotels on two recent trips to both Ankara and in Istanbul had a fresh honeycomb (Petek Balout in Turkish) for breakfast every morning. Slabs of raw, dripping, delicious goodness. Honeycomb was also available in the street markets and in a couple of places where I had dinner. I got to enjoy some pistachio baklava and honeycomb with my morning meal AND while walking down the street. Awesome!
I get asked all the time (friends, colleagues, family, friends of friends, some girl on the interwebs who read a post on this site, Instagram, or Tumblr…) about a visit to Paris. Logistics: where to stay, what should they do or see in 3-5 days, what should they avoid… I have written 8 e-mails about the subject in the last 6 months alone. I have been to Paris maybe 30 times in the last 15 years, no joke, and have been to all of the sites that you can think of. I am not an expert, but I do have some experience to share that might be helpful. I decided to collect all my “wisdom” and opinions in one document and just put it out there. So, here is Matt Talley’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Paris.
I was never a huge Picasso fan. I love a couple of his pieces – mostly his stuff from Paris in the 1904 era and some additional pieces from the Early 1920’s. We have a print of Blue Nude hanging over our bed and I have a small print of El hombre da la Mancha in the upstairs bathroom, but I don’t really enjoy his sculpture of cubist paintings. Who am I though? My opinion about Picasso’s work matters very little to anyone but me.
All that said, the Picasso Museum in Paris is a must see for modern art fans. It is a couple of hours well spent with a few nice sidewalk cafes nearby. It has just reopened after a multi-year re-build (millions over budget) and it was on our planned tour of Paris this time around. After standing a a very long line, Stamps-With-Foot and I walked the galleries and I saw a couple of pieces that I had never seen before that I really enjoyed and I liked the new building itself almost as much as the art. Take a lesson from us: buy your tickets in advance though and the best way to do this is on the museum website. I will say this again: buy.your.tickets.in.advance. If you fail to heed my advice you will stand in line for 1.5-3 hours.
We were recently in Paris and we had 4 hours to kill before our train left for Toulouse. We decided on a visit to the Musse de Orsay. Excuse me while I mount my soapbox: If you go to one museum in Paris, let it be this one. Go early, get the audio tour and plan on a half day. It is full of impressionists: Monet, Manet, Corbiers, Toulouse Letrec, Van Gogh, etc… the sculptures are breathtaking – on pare or better than those found in Florence or in the Vatican. Dismount soapbox.
We concentrated this visit on a couple of painting rooms and the Art Nouveau furnishings collections. I have a serious weakness for fine furniture. It is genetic – both side of the family. I have been to the exhibit before, but I wanted some quality time with it and my wife happily agreed. The downside to any visit is that whenever we go and Stamps-With-Foot sees anything remotely Art Nouveau related, she is almost unbearable for an entire day: “PLEASE build me a bed like that!?” “Can we PLEASE have a door just like that…?” The collection is on the second floor on the left, directly opposite of the Seurat gallery – an artist near to my brother-in-law’s heart.
From the photos below, I WISH I had the time and skill to do the little chest with the linen-fold drawer fronts and the carved mice pulls.
Carpet Sellers: I have purchased rugs and carpets from multi-generational vendors from Istanbul to Marrakesh, Casablanca to Chendu, Ankara to Toulouse. These men, always men, have spoken every conceivable language – especially the numbers – and have seen every bargaining trick known to man.
My wife is an expert haggler and has no qualms about walking away from a market seller and going to the next stall in full view of the first seller. She was in Marrakesh when I bought my first Moroccan Hanbel, but she didn’t do the actual bargaining – she drank the sweet mint tea and watched. It think this left a hole in the part of her soul that needs to haggle (the Burton side of her genetic pool) and she has been twitching to buy a carpet ever sense. I think that she wanted to bargain with the best of the best – to test her mettle and skill. Our recent trip to Istanbul provided her with that opportunity.
Our first carpet stop was at a 5-story establishment late one evening just before dinner near the Blue Mosque. We were handed off to a tall, greasy, smooth-talking seller that had spent lots of time in the US and was the picture of shady used car salesman. Seriously. We let him talk and lie and talk and lie. After about 2 hours and in the middle of what was probably his dinner time, we started negotiating prices. I really wanted a unique 5X7 kilim and Laurel was eye-balling a wool runner. The seller wanted BMW prices for the equivalent a small Honda with a tiny engine. Laurel gave him a final price for both and he unceremoniously ushered us out of the door. I really liked that Kilim and it became another “One that got away.” A shame that it did not go home with us… It will forever be like the hanbel (kilim is the Turkish word) in Essaouira, Morocco that I left folded on the floor there that still calls to me. Every so often my wife will say, “Remember that rug…” and we both get a little sad.
Our second stop was the next night and due to my schedule, we showed up 15 minutes before their scheduled closing time. No worries, three people stayed and tea and carpets and rugs appeared from all corners of the shop. My sweet wife busied herself inspecting a $3000 silk carpet that stayed in the store where it found her. Our seller was another guy that had spent some serious time in the US and although would also have been at home at any New Jersey used car lot, was more polished and a touch more upfront than our dealer the night before.
Laurel went to work on him. We were good-cop bad-cop right away. I was the bored, broke husband upset at my wife’s spending habits and she was the doe-eyed, sweet little girl who couldn’t make up her mind. She is awesome at that. We work the shit out of it and she was so good that she completely had me convinced that she wanted an entirely different rug – crafty that one is.
In the end she got an amazing small wool rug with insane knotting and detail for our bedroom and I got a small wool on wool rug for the living room. Now, we did not get the deal of the century, but we didn’t have to sell blood to finance our taxi ride back to the hotel either. We got a decent price, but make no mistake – the seller made good money.
My hope was that this one experience might satisfy her need to buy Turkish/Persian/Moroccan carpets… Nope. She talked about “the next one” on the taxi ride home. I have helped created a monster.
I spend 1/3 to 1/2 of my work life on the road and away from my wife and hearth: Crappy food, shitty airports, empty hotel rooms, taxis, trains, assigned to the middle seat in the plane, another awful airport, missed connections, terrible coffee, jet-lag, missing luggage, etc, etc, etc… It was all very exciting when I started this 15 or so years ago, but it has gotten very, very old. Most of the time when I travel I get to see the inside of meeting rooms, lounges, and hotels, but every so often I get out to see some local attraction and one of my first reactions is ‘I wish Stamps-With-Foot was here to see this…’ Traveling alone when you love your wife sucks. There is a bright spot every so often though – when my schedule and our finances work out so Stamps-With-Foot can come along.
A couple of weeks ago the stars aligned and we bought a super cheap (somewhat uncomfy) flight to Istanbul for her to spend a couple of days there while I was working. It was fantastic. We got to tour some sites together after work, do a little shopping, make some memories, and neither of us was all by ourselves waiting on the other.
Istanbul was on both of our bucket-lists and we only had a few hours each day to cram stuff in and although it was cold the whole time and pouring rain one day, we made it all work out:
A tour of the Blue Masque
Raw honeycomb every morning with breakfast
Tour of the Hagia Sophia
Late night Carpet shopping
Criss-crossing the Bosphorus – back and forth between Europe and Asia
An accidental trip to the Egyptian Bazaar
The full Grand Bazaar experience – sites, sounds, and lots of haggling
My wife attempted to buy all the scarves in Turkey
Little souvenirs bought for people we love
I ate a TON of pistachio Baklava
Great food was eaten
Serious snuggling in a king-sized bed sans puppies
I have spent 5 years hating my neighbor’s tree – 5 years, but that time is at an end. My 50′ foot nemesis is dead. Its corpse has been rendered, chipped up, and the big bits have been given to another neighbor to chop up and burn at their leasure. It took a huge chunk of my yearly bonus check, but is worth every penny of it. THIS is a fine day!
No more moss on my roof, no more easy roof access for the squirrels and rats, no more pine needles & cones littering my yard and tracked into the house. My flower beds and grass will grow. My tiny sliver view of Mt. Rainier is visible. I now get to clean my gutters ONCE a year instead of 5-6 times We can use the fireplace without fear of burning the house down. No more worries about wind storms and branches/the whole tree falling through the roof. The breakfast area and kitchen are filled with sun in the mornings, birds are singing, and I am all giddy inside.
My neighbor was sad to see the tree go, he actually was. I will spend a little money and send him something nice and also send him a ‘thank you’ note. This also means that I am in his debt and I will probably have to do all sorts of stuff for him in the foreseeable future and ignore all sorts of annoyances. Fine. Worth it!
This weekend I finished up a “little” lathe project I started in early February – I made a couple of stools out of a hunk of oak tree that was cut after a storm in our village. They are about 15.5″ (39cm) tall and 10″ (26cm) around and getting it that way pushed my Chinese lathe to its absolute max. It walked all over the floor when I first started it up – hence the kettle bells thrown on the middle shelf to add mass. It super did not like the out of balance logs. It would have been fine at a slower speed, but the slowest my lathe goes is 400 RPM and that is too fast for this size project. I managed, but there was lots of starting and stopping.
I really like both how the turned out and how comfy they are to sit on – just the right height for a quick stop-and-rest. I will add bow-tie joint if needed as they dry out and split, maybe out of some walnut that I have. They will make a nice addition to my home office.
Today was the official first use of my workbench. I used it as a work table to lay out the shape of the leg vise, I cut the dados for the tail vise, cleaned them with a chisel, and after spreading plastic used the bench top as a glue-up table for the vice pieces. I had enough room at the other end of the bench to put together a French-cleat mounted battery drill organizer that I cut the parts out for yesterday afternoon. I have trouble staying with one project and do 3-5 at a time. It makes my wife crazy.
The bench top height is perfect and I am super stoked to have a real workbench here in France. I can finally get down to serious business and make some moldings and a small linen-fold panel chest.
We had to go to Paris the week of Valentine’s Day for the final meeting to renew my French Work Visa. It was a bit of a Keystone Cops affair, but in the end we are all good and get to live and work (just me for that one. Stamps-With-Foot no get to worky…) in France for another year. Since we we in the city of Love & Light, we stayed over an extra night to celebrate the occasion like champs. We made a last minute reservation for dinner, tried to see a show at the The Folies Bergère (nope), and spent the day storming to and from museums around the city: The Rodin, The newly re-opend Picasso, The Orsay and the amazing History of Paris Museum, which we showed up to 20 minutes before they closed and made a mad dash for the Mucha designed Jewelry store exibit.
It was fantastic. We got to tour some beautiful sites together, view amazing art and furniture, buy some postcards, do a little shopping, make some memories, and hold hands while walking across the Seine at night with Notra Dame lit behind us. Very Romantic. Not many people can say that they ‘Spent Valentine’s day in Paris…’ We both feel really blessed!
A few pictures from the trip:
When we left Seattle for Southern France, I sold my truck and it felt like I lost a hand. I toyed with the idea of bringing mine over, but it would have been impossible to park and the money that I would have had to spend for gas would have been astronomical. My very first vehicle was a truck and I have never not had a truck to drive. There have been other vehicles, but I have always had a pick-up.
I didn’t really plan to do much heavy hauling during our time in Toulouse, so we got a 5-door diesel Suzuki Swift and I added a roof rack – just in case I needed to road trip with a bike or grab the odd 2X4 at the lumber yard… Reality is often brighter and more interesting than the initial plan. We have abused our little Suzuki. I have treated it like a farm hauler and overloaded it again and again. The rack has a 100 pound weight limit, yeah about that… In my own experience, 250 pounds has ridden just fine. I still miss my truck, but we are making due.
All the things I have hauled in or on the car that have been questionable:
400 pound wood lathe
The cut rounds from 4 trees (to date)
A 200 pound 7′ X 6′ x 2′ Wardrobe
3 large work benches
~1500 books in boxes
10+ sheets of plywood
Enough lumber to build a garden shed
9 rolled carpets
A buffet hutch
A garden table, 2 side tables, 8 chairs, and a umbrella
250 pounds of gravel for lathe ballast
A huge antique armoire
300 pounds of wet lumber
A Canoe that was wider than the roof
5 people and all their crap