Margaret Furlong Blog | Everyday Life & Porcelain Design Inspiration



Cut branches of Japanese quince, Forsythia or other spring flowering bushes and trees may be brought inside for forced blooming in January and February. At this late date the buds burst into delicate blooms in just a few days.

The branches in my living room are white Japanese quince from the back yard. This is a yearly tradition for me and I am always in awe of the Asian flavor of this dramatic arrangement that brings early springtime into my home and my heart.

Mont Saint Michel, a tiny granite rock island off the coast of the border between Normandy and Brittany, is one of the most famous and enchanting sights in France. It is home to a preserved Benedictine Monastery that dominates the summit with surrounding village houses.

Its humble beginnings were in the 6th century when Christian hermits settled there and by the 10th century it had evolved into a Benedictine Abbey. It has had a dramatic history of ups and downs and now has evolved into a national monument that attracts almost a million visitors a year. It really is a must see if you are touring the west coast of France.

When we arrived on the island by bus along a raised road, we climbed the steep steps up to the monastery in the rain and then toured the medieval monastic buildings circling and climbing up to the abbey church. The interiors were at once monumental and spare, grand and gray. There was certainly an eerie almost transcendental quality that impressed and oppressed.

Relief from the gray stonework that dominated the interiors and exteriors were the outside pockets of green. The cloisters around a garden created an emerald jewel in the gray and cold stonework.

The views of the bay from the windows, cloisters and other outdoor spaces were amazing. You felt as if you were viewing the bay from the eyes of a sea bird.

*First photo is from the Mont Saint Michel guidebook cover.

Every few blocks in Paris and in every small town in France there was a pâtisserie. It’s a good thing we were walking a lot everyday because there was no way I could resist the luscious displays of fresh handmade tarts, pastries, breads and cakes. They were sooooo delicious…made from authentic and high quality ingredients. Fresh batches came in from the ovens in the back of the shops.

I was delighted by the artistry and attention to design in each mouthwatering confection and how beautifully they were laid out in the windows and cases.

One of my favorites was a poire (pear) tart; it was fun to buy one from different shops and compare the subtle differences.

Last Thursday it began to snow here. By Friday morning my little table and chairs on the kitchen deck had collected a lovely pillow of snow and the surrounding landscape was blanketed with white and every dark branch was outlined in snow.

Saturday it continued to snow and snow. The snowflakes floated gently down from the sky with no wind to interrupt the soft snow building up on trees and bushes and roofs and walls and my little table and chairs.

By Sunday it stopped and began to warm up. And today the snow has melted on the table and chairs, the trees are no longer outlined in white and our winter wonderland has almost vanished.

An iconic image of France is a straight road with a row of evenly spaced trees on either side. These classic images of tree lined roads and lanes have always fascinated me and traveling the country roads of France fulfilled my yearning for more of these images. It was a feast!!! Most of the photos I shot through the windshield of the car. It was as if we were driving into a painting.

Wow! what a design lesson to observe in the physical world the simple repetition of one element to create the most pleasing and intriguing composition.

During the day the vistas down the roads were stunning. In the late afternoon and up to dusk the shadows and shadow patterns added drama and intensified the beauty of the tree lined roads of France.

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