Sunshine’s Macro Monday #71

These photos are from our most recent hikes in the Niçois hinterland.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday Challenge was hosted by Irene a formidable photographer who encouraged us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It was a one day challenge without prompts which I have continued to pursue. Feel free to join in and brighten everyone’s Monday.

Cee’s Flower of the Day #2

This is another challenge I’ve decided to embrace this year, largely because I took photos of so many flowers last year!

Cee’s challenge is all about bringing a little beauty and colour into our daily lives. Who wouldn’t be in favour of that?

Challenge rules

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Travel Challenge: day 9


In the run-up to Christmas, I was kindly nominated by my friend Derrick J Knight to post one favourite travel picture a day for 10 days without explanation, then to nominate someone else to participate. That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, and 10 nominations.

While I’ll post 10 pictures I won’t nominate anyone since pretty much everyone I follow took part in the challenge at the end of 2020. However, if by some slim chance you weren’t nominated and would like to take part – fill your boots!

While I’ve neither seen nor read the rules, apparently you can guess where the photo was taken and I can tell you if you are right. Sx

French Fancies: Mariage Frères

If you thought this series of posts would be about delicious French delicacies then you’ll initially be somewhat disappointed because I’m starting with some of my favourite French companies. We’re not talking behemoths such as l’Oréal or Danone, but family owned and run enterprises, many of which are now into their third or fourth generation. Equally, I’m going to be looking in more detail at some of my favourite French things, which may or may not be edible!

Regular readers will know that I’ve been a fan of this company’s tea since first drinking it in a hotel in Paris. The French tea company Mariage Frères in Paris was established in 1854, which makes it France’s oldest importer of tea. Members of the Mariage family were active in the colonial trade as far back as 17th century. For instance, Nicolas Mariage made several voyages to Persia, the East Indies and the Moghul Empire around 1660. He was part of a deputation dispatched by the French King Louis XIV and the French East India Company to sign a trade agreement with the Shah of Persia.

Today’s Mariage Frères tea company was founded by the brothers Henri and Edouard Mariage in Paris on 1 June, 1854. The tea company traded with China and Ceylon, supplied exclusive retailers, delicatessens, tea rooms and hotels but it didn’t sell through retail outlets, nor did it have its own tearooms.

There are three Mariage Frères tea rooms and boutiques in the French capital, Paris. Though the oldest tea room in Rue du Bourg-Tibourg in the Marais was only established in 1986. The decor with 19th century colonial and exotic furniture, cash registers, counters and tea instruments is very evocative and most of it comes from the historic former tea office in Rue du Cloître-Saint-Merri.

The last owner descended from the founding family was Madame Marthe Cottin. Born in 1901, she headed Mariage Frères until 1983. The year before, she found two young and enthusiastic foreigners, ready and willing to carry on the company’s legacy.

Thirty year old Dutchman Richard Bueno was looking for a fulfilling activity which would earn him a living and allow him to travel. One of his grandfathers had owned a tea plantation in Indonesia. The other young man to join Mariage Frères was Kitti Cha Sangmanee, a Thai student of political science. His father was a doctor and owned some fruit plantations near the Thai capital, Bangkok.

Against the advice of all their friends, these two young men with no previous knowledge of the tea business began to work for Marthe Cottin, who introduced them to the tea trade and its culture, initially as unpaid interns. But their hard work and positive attitude quickly began to pay off as they took Mariage Frères to new heights.

Sangmanee traveled around Europe in search of the famous tea culture. In England, the country which had invented tea time, he was disappointed to always find the same handful of average quality teas. He realised the market potential for the Mariage Frères quality teas. The company viewed tea not as an ordinary daily drink but, rather like French wine, as a luxurious and high-quality product.

Image © Extrait du livre Thé Français, Flammarion, Francis Hammond.

The two young men enlarged the company’s direct contacts with tea producers worldwide – the reputation of Mariage Frères opened doors for them – and since 1982, have enlarged their number of tea blends to some 250 from around the globe. Sadly, Richard Bueno died in 1995 and Kitti Cha Sangmanee now heads the company on his own.

Among the best recent blends created by the team of Mariage Frères is the Sakura, a perfumed green tea. The “Sakura 2004” is a combination of a refined sencha flavored with cherry blossoms. Each year, the formula of this seasonal celebration is slightly changed. Hence, you can only get a “Sakura 2004” as long as the company can provide exactly the same quality of sencha and cherry blossoms.

Image © Extrait du livre Thé Français, Flammarion, Francis Hammond.

Taking the example of  French quality wines and wine culture, Richard Bueno and Kitti Cha Sangmanee have created an unmatched tea universe. The company now operates over 30 Mariage Frères points-of-sale within France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. There are five Mariage Frères tearooms in Paris.The brand is also distributed through a network of resellers in over 60 countries, served in grand hotels as well as being offered to first-class passengers on Japan Airlines. In the early 2000s, an online shop (available in French, English, and Japanese) with worldwide distribution was launched.

In addition, Mariage Frères sells a number of tea-based products, often a happy marriage of the culture of the Far East and the West. The founding family first patented their teaflavoured chocolates in 1860. Since 1982, many new products including poudre de jade (a green tea powder) and tea salt, which can be used as a spice, have been created.

Image © Extrait du livre Thé Français, Flammarion, Francis Hammond.

More importantly, Mariage Frères has revolutionised tea culture. They have established a new vocabulary following the tradition of French wine. Last but not least, they have established guidelines on the art of brewing the finest tea, for all of their hundreds of teas, advising on the selection of water, teapot, temperatures, infusion times, quantities of tea to use, etc. In short, they have successfully established what they call The French Art of Tea. An art form we embrace daily with the company’s Maco Polo brand.

Silent Sunday #48

Last year all my photographs were from Australia, this year they are all going to be from France.

Song Lyric Sunday #22

After a break for the Festive Season, I’m back searching through my back catalogues. Jim Adams’ prompt for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday Challenge is PG (title of song must start with the letter P or G). How about Garden released in 1991 by Pearl Jam?

Pearl Jam is an American rock band formed in 1990 in Seattle, Washington. The band’s lineup consists of founding members Jeff Ament (bass guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), and Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), as well as Matt Cameron (drums), who joined in 1998. Pearl Jam outsold many of its contemporary alternative rock bands from the early 1990s, and is considered one of the more influential bands of the decade.

The band broke into the mainstream with its debut album, Ten, in 199, which stayed on the Billboard 200 chart for nearly five years, and has gone on to become one of the highest-selling rock records ever, going 13 times platinum in the United States. Ten (named after Mookie Blaylock’s jersey number) contained eleven tracks dealing with dark subjects like depression, suicide, loneliness, and murder. Garden, the ninth track on the album, is about the early Iraq war in 90s. The shadow flag and garden of stone most probably refer to Arlington National Cementary.

Lyrics: Garden

The direction of the eye
So misleading
The defection of the soul
Nauseously quick
I don’t question
Our existence
I just question
Our modern needs

I will walk…with my hands bound
I will walk…with my face blood
I will walk…with my shadow flag
Into your garden
Garden of stone

After all is done
We’re still alone
I won’t be taken
Yet I’ll go…with my hands bound
I will walk…with my face blood
I will walk…with my shadow flag
Into your garden
Garden of stone

I don’t show…
I don’t share…
I don’t need
What you have to give…

Ooooh, I will walk…with my hands bound
I will walk…with my face blood
I will walk…with my shadow flag
Into your garden
Garden, oohhh
I will walk…with my hands bound
I will walk…into your garden
Garden of stone

I don’t know…
I don’t care…
I don’t need
You, for me to live

Writer(s): Eddie Vedder, Mike Mccready


Challenge Rules

  • Post the lyrics to the song of your choice, whether it fits the theme or not. If it does not fit, then please explain why you chose this song.
  • Please try to include the songwriter(s) – it’s a good idea to give credit where credit is due.
  • Make sure you also credit the singer/band and if you desire you can provide a link to where you found the lyrics.
  • Link to the YouTube video, or pull it into your post so others can listen to the song.
  • Ping back to Jim’s post or place your link in his comments section.
  • Read at least one other person’s blog, so we can all share new and fantastic music and create amazing new blogging friends in the process.
  • Feel free to suggest future prompts.
  • Most of all, have fun and enjoy the music.

Travel Challenge: day 8


In the run-up to Christmas, I was kindly nominated by fellow blogger Derrick J Knight to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then to nominate someone else to participate. That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, and 10 nominations.

While I’ll post 10 picture I won’t nominate anyone since pretty much everyone I follow took part in the challenge at the end of 2020. However, if by some slim chance you weren’t nominated and would like to take part – fill your boots!

While I’ve neither seen nor read the rules, apparently you can guess where the photo was taken and I can tell you if you are right. Sx

One word Sunday: giggle or gaggle

I rarely photograph people so the giggle’s more difficult for me than the gaggle which is either a flock of geese or a disorderly group of people. Of course, the latter’s not allowed under current Covid-regulations so it’ll be one from the archives.

I’ve decided to join in with Debbie Smyth’s One Word Sunday challenge, largely because she sets them well in advance – always an advantage in my book. In addition, she’s a fantastic and inspirational photographer.

The Musette: seafood feast

If you’ve ever spent any time in France over the Christmas period one thing you’re likely to have noticed is the amount of fish and seafood in the shops, markets and on restaurant menus. We have embraced this tradition with open arms.

The French traditionally have a big seafood celebration on Christmas Eve (Reveillon de Noël), the base of which is always oysters. Exactly what else is on the platter varies according to taste but you will usually see prawns, mussels, cockles, clams, langoustines, sea urchins, maybe a dressed crab or a lobster. The seafood platter is generally served with rye bread, slices of lemon, mignonette sauce (red wine vinegar, finely chopped shallots and cracked black pepper) and a home-made mayonnaise or aïoli and accompanied by champagne.

But where does this tradition come from?

Is it because throwing a few prawns onto a plate is a whole lot easier and more pleasant for the cook than slaving away for most of the day to produce an enormous roast dinner with all the trimmings? Well no, although that is an undeniable bonus if you, like some, are in charge of the catering. In fact the tradition dates all the way back to the Middle Ages and is Biblical in origin.

In the Catholic Church it was traditional for people to either fast or eat a simple meal before feast days and that meant eating no meat. Since tofu was yet to be invented, people generally ate fish on no-meat days – which included Friday and, for the more devout, the whole of the period of Lent before Easter.

Fish was widely seen as a second class foodstuff, and items like oysters were looked down upon as peasant food, a far cry from their status today as an expensive luxury item. We tend to buy 2-3 dozen at Christmas and my beloved will open them just before we eat or I cook them. Yes, as well as being OCD (Officer in Charge of Drinks), he’s the Chief Oyster Shucker!

So while to modern eyes it might look like the sort of spread a Russian oligarch would sit down to, in fact your Christmas Eve fish feast represents a simple and humble meal. Just don’t expect that to be represented in the prices your fishmonger charges you!

We ate oysters on Christmas Eve, enjoyed a largely fish-based meal on Christmas Day, tempura oysters on Boxing Day and Tagliatelli Langoste on New Year’s Eve.

Here’s my recipe for tempura oysters, a firm favourite with my beloved, which I serve with spicy mayonnaise (mayo, tomato sauce and plenty of Sriracha) or my tomato and chilli jam.

Ingredients (serves 2, or 6 as a starter)

  • 12 oysters, shucked and cleaned
  • flour, for dusting
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • For the tempura batter
  • 50g (5 tbsp) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 50g (5 tbsp) cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 200ml (3/4 cup) ice-cold sparkling water
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1.First make the tempura batter. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Slowly mix in the ice cold sparkling water (the bubbles make the batter light), a little at a time, until you have a smooth batter. It should slowly come off the back of a tablespoon – if it sticks add more water, if it runs off too quickly it’s too thin. Transfer the batter to a container and keep it chilled.

2. Roll the shucked oysters in some sifted flour.

3. Dip two – three of the oysters in the batter and carefully place in a deep-fat fryer on its hottest setting. Alternatively, heat the oil in a large wok or pan. It is hot enough when a cube of bread turns golden in 30 seconds. You want the oysters to float, bubbling on the surface, and crisp up. After 20–30 seconds, depending on how hot your oil is, the oysters should be crisp and brown. Remove and place on some kitchen paper while you repeat with the others.

4. When they’re all cooked, serve with desired accompaniements.

Sculpture Saturday #39

After my series of sculptures from the gardens of The Fondation Maeght, one of my favourite museums of modern art, I’m returning to examples of local civic art installations.

This installation on La Promenade des Arts in Cagnes sur Mer is by local artist Danu. Born in 1955, Danu lives and works in Vence. Inspired by “the eternal feminine” but also by animals, Danu imagines and creates sculptures in ultra bright colors – a woman’s silhouette, a giraffe, a flight of butterflies. Each model represents a particular emotion. The artist also creates monumental compositions such as this one of stove enamelled, heavy gauge steel butterflies which allow our imaginations to soar along with his models.

This challenge is kindly hosted by Susan Kelly over at No Fixed Plans.

Share a photo of a statue or sculpture – go on, give it a go, you know you want to!