Two Thumbs Up ~ A Trip to Lyon's Musée Cinéma et Miniature

We’re spending a few days in Lyon with a dear friend and her family, and I am so pleased to have been introduced to this city. Paris has been tremendous, of course, but Lyon is a bit more…laid-back. There’s still so much to enjoy that I am sorry we won’t be staying longer, and the highlight so far has been this place:

Miniature library

La bibliotheque!

Reminiscent of the great library at Alexandria, it features shelves upon shelves of…teeny, tiny little books.

This is one of what must be close to a hundred different miniature scenes we took in this afternoon at the Musée Cinéma et Miniature. I wasn’t aware of Lyon’s prominent role in cinema history; it’s where brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the cinematograph in the 1890s and shot the very first motion pictures. The Musée Cinéma et Miniature is a combination of movie memorabilia and intricate miniature scenes of both real locations in France and rooms conjured in the imagination of these artists. Museum curator Dan Ohlmann ‘s work as “France’s first miniaturist” led to the eventual establishment of a full collection of miniature works from around the globe, along with props from various movies and recreations of the sets of the movie “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.”

Although my youngest kept asking “when are we go to the museum?” – having connected “museum” in his head with “ride in the stroller looking at paintings” – it was most definitely an impressive collection. My daughter loved the miniature scenes, being an avid dollhouse furniture collector, and my older son was very intrigued by the variety of movie props – particularly these:

Indiana Jones props

Indiana Jones’ biggest fan poses with props

We spent at least two hours exploring the multiple floors of the museum and could have stayed longer. You can peer into the workshop where Ohlmann creates his miniature masterpieces, and learn about the techniques behind special effects in movies both past and present. I was taken with a display of plaster casts of various actors made for fitting prosthetics, including this guy:

Jack Nicholson plaster cast

Heeeere’s Johnny!

And I couldn’t believe the intricacy of the series of miniature silhouettes on display – I didn’t catch the name of the artist, unfortunately, but I just don’t understand how you cut things this tiny. I don’t think I could achieve this precision if I were cutting out life-size drawings:

Miniature silhouette of a house

This image is about 3″ square on display

This was an excellent change of pace from our church/museum/baguette circuit so far and I know the kids will consider it a high point of the trip. Plus, they each got to spend some of their money at the gift shop on non-junky souvenirs – always the best part of any tourist experience when you’re under 12 with Euros to burn.

Dan Ohlmann is very proficient in creating new scenes to display and collecting new movie memorabilia, so I have no doubt it would be a different experience if we were to go back in a couple of years, which…could happen. You never know.

And if I may be so pedestrian, I would also like to salute this museum for offering restrooms on several floors, which makes it all the more family-friendly.

Here’s a little gallery of some of the other scenes we enjoyed at the museum (this gallery thing is a new gadget I’m trying out so if you’re reading this in a feed reader and you don’t see the images…click here to view the post itself.)

It was a happy accident that we had recently watched Hugo, based on the story of another famous French filmmaker, Georges Méliès. There’s actually a rather significant miniature prop from the movie displayed in the museum:

Miniature from the movie Hugo

Miniature from the movie Hugo

Wedding Dress to First Communion Dress – Who’s With Me?!

As I may have mentioned instead of actually sewing, I’m making my daughter’s First Communion dress from my wedding dress. (T minus 5 days.) (No pressure.) I’ve had help from my mother-in-law and next-door-neighbor, and I’d say it’s going well enough that I keep forgetting that I still need to deal with the hem and the beading. And get a veil. And buy her some shoes. And…

I’m happy to have discovered Kelly from This Ain’t the Lyceum thanks to a mention of this project in a Seven Quick Takes post. Kelly’s blog is witty and keeps it real, homeschooling-wise:

Quite a few homeschooling blogs tend to offer motivational advice; helpful quips to inspire you to aim high and achieve more. If you are feeling lazy and need a pick me up, I suggest you head somewhere else.  Like HEREHERE and HERE. Instead, I present you with my demotivational advice. You’re going to feel really good about where you are and there’s no pressure to do better.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about! Very nice to meet you, Kelly, and thanks for sharing these photos of your own wedding-dress-to-First-Communion-dress transformation:

Beaded wedding dress transformed into First Communion dress

Beautiful beading!

I must admit I’m in awe of her seamstress’ handiwork (the dress was transformed by her husband’s aunt). That delicate beadwork and embroidery is quite intimidating to me. I’m lucky in that my dress had a gigantic skirt of plain dupioni silk, perfect for cutting up into plain dress pieces. It also had the world’s most intimidating crinoline, one that allows the nearly-finished product to stand on its own two feet:

The crinoline of infinite strength holds up the dress on its own

Stuffed shirt. That joke was funnier before I typed it.

Surely there are more of us out there. I urge you: join the movement that’s taking the nation by storm! If you’ve transformed your wedding dress into a christening gown, First Communion dress, swimsuit, or other heirloom, I’d love to see it! You can email me the photos at dorianspeed @ and I’ll post them here (with credit and a link back to your blog, if you have one).

Won’t this be fun? And a great way for me to further procrastinate?

Scraggly Bouquets and Child Theologians

We’re hitting the boards for the Catechism Bowl at tonight’s CCE class. By which I mean: I printed out the word list a full hour ago, and handed it to the children with promises of Easter candy and sharing a Coca-Cola if they would quiz one another. Bribery: the core of successful catechesis in the home.

So, my daughter and I were reviewing her word list and one of the definitions was for The Mass – “the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross offered by the priest in our church.” She parroted that back to me with a frown.

“Do you understand what that means?” I asked.

“I have no idea whatsoever” she deadpanned. I really wonder where she got this sarcastic tone.

So I talked to her about how Jesus sacrificed everything for us, and how at the Mass we offer up our own sacrifices in union with Jesus. “Have you ever heard of a spiritual bouquet?” Again with the “no idea.”

Little brother sat in a patch of sunlight at the foot of her bed, paging through a truck book. “Well, imagine that every act of love you do throughout your day, every prayer you say, is like a flower added to a bouquet. So when you help your brother put his shoes on or start to lose your temper with your big brother but change your mind (“that’s been impossible this week” “okay, fine, but you understand what I mean.” “I guess.”) – each of those actions is a flower and at Mass we bring our spiritual bouquets to offer them to Jesus.”

She interrupted me, one finger pointed up, like the Chairman of the Board. “There’s one problem. There’s one person whose bouquet would be too big to fit in the Church.” “Mary?” “Yes, because she only did good things her whole life long.”

“That’s true, that God prepared her in a special way to be the mother of Jesus, and so we can think about her spiritual bouquet as we say our prayers to ask Jesus to help us to love him more and more.”

“Right now, I’m picturing the Church flooded with flowers.”

Lavender flowers bloomingOur scraggly little herb garden features one plant that’s just for decoration – french lavender. I brought home some dried blooms from our trip to Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey in Pecos, New Mexico a couple of years ago, but I discarded them when we moved last summer. They’d lost most of their scent and were dusty and I was frustrated that the prayer box I’d created had become yet another unfinished project, a fixture on my wall but not a reminder of the grace that comes from regular prayer.

But I planted this one seedling in the halfhearted thought that maybe I could dry some more blooms and finally get around to mounting the box back up on the wall in the new house, if I managed to not kill the plant. When I come home from running errands, I stop to gently rub my fingers on the tiny flowers, drinking in the scent of the lavender.

I spend so much time policing the garden for snails, trolling the Internet for gardening advice I won’t follow, worrying that it’s just going to turn back into a patch of weeds. That’s been my default mode of thinking of late – it’s all just going to get messed up again, what’s the point, every time I try to make a change for good I just end up backsliding.

Sitting there thinking about my daughter’s fine pure heart, a heart that feels EVERYTHING so strongly (for good and for…not so good) and all of the flowers she adds to her bouquet – and how she has taught her baby brother the same, to find flowers to bring to Mommy – it’s really so simple, isn’t it? To live a life that’s flooded with flowers.

New discovery – Axis Mundi Designs

I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with Geomama of Thrifty Mystics, and I just clicked over from her blog to her Etsy store. (UPDATE: She’s now offering the “Speed Special” – WOOT – free shipping with the code “FREESHIP” at checkout!) Wow – love her designs! Her background is pretty interesting, too:

I’m a part-time geography professor and full-time mother of five. I make jewelry as a hobby and to honor the saints. Reading about their lives inspired my conversion to Catholicism in 2002. I’m in the process of becoming a consecrated Daughter of St. Frances de Sales. A portion of Axis Mundi’s profits goes to the Mission Auxiliary of the St. Frances de Sales Association.

About the name: Many cultures have sacred places that are considered to be the center of the earth, or axis mundi. This is often an elevated spot, either natural (mountain) or man-made (pyramid), where the sacred and profane meet. Christ is the Axis Mundi personified because in Him, Heaven and Earth, Humanity and Divinity, are joined together.

She makes glass saint pendants:

I really like this one, too, and I haven’t seen anything like these before – although I don’t get out much…

St. Anne and Virgin Mary glass pendantAnd then she also includes other, more “traditional” jewelry using materials like glass and stone:

Turquoise cross necklaceI think my favorite, though, might be the author magnets!

Author magnetsHer designs are very reasonably priced and have that vintage/retro/holy/moxie/sacramental vibe going on that’s so hard to pull off, partly because people do not usually combine those words. She also creates custom Catholic jewelry, so if there’s a particular patron saint pendant you’re looking for, she can craft it.

Go forth and browse!