Sunday, February 12, 2017

Green with envy / Verte de jalousie

green-guy
I know, I know.  Red and pink are supposed to be the colors now.  Valentine’s Day approaches. And I love hearts, flowers, and good dark chocolate.  Oh!  And don’t forget champagne. However, I am seeing green.  First, an author sent me an email asking me to review his book about living in Provence.  I jumped at that chance and the book is in the mail as I type this up.  More about that very soon since I will devour the book tout de suite.  (And I am thinking about offering a giveaway…) Next, Mme P from Pujaut sent me a link to a very funny AMERICAN stand-up comedian speaking FRENCH like a Français and making JOKES in French.  My jokes in English aren’t all that funny (just ask my students), but joking around and making people laugh in French?  Pas moi.  Pas possible.  This character, Sebastian Marx, has been living in France for 10 years.  I’ve been studying the language for 40+ years.  Ah oui, I’ve lived there a couple of times for a few months.  Voilà la différence.  It is indeed what I tell the kiddos and their parents.  We teachers cannot make you fluent.  We can stuff/cram/beat vocabulary and verbs into your darling little heads, but you can only become fluent by living the language.  C’est vrai.  And I never stop dreaming of moving over and doing just that once again.  Am I just a big romantic?  Do I put France and French up on a pedestal the way some of my French friends claim?  While I contemplate that for a few more minutes, watch this video of Sebastian and see what you think.  Funny guy.
If you don’t understand, maybe it’s time for you to move to France and learn French…  Just a suggestion.  We could start a commune.  And pledge to only speak French.  And cook good food.  And listen to good music.  And grow lavender.  And drink rosé year round.  And invite all of our new Frenchie friends over for apéritif. And hang our laundry outside to dry.  To heck with clothes dryers.  And ask everyone we meet “Ça va?” 
It’s just a thought worth thinking and daydreaming about.  So, I think that I will go do just that while whipping up some tapenade à la Fanny.  Oui, chef!
tapenade
Tapenade à la Fanny

2 cans of black olives, pitted
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced (remove the skin and the germ)
Olive oil
5-6 anchovy filets (without the oil)
2 tsp. capers
Put all ingredients in a food processor and mix. Do not over process.  Add enough olive oil to obtain the proper consistency.
If you want to read (or reread) about the wonderful time I had hosting Fanny and Olivier at my house, click here.
Bon appétit and Happy Février!  Keep eating and laughing. And daydreaming.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Hearts Part Deux

goat-cheese
I was just going to go back and edit the last post.  Really, I was.  Why should I make you read a whole new post?  Hearts Part Deux?  Seriously?  What’s up with that? Well, here’s what.  What about all of the expressions that we use that have to do with hearts?
A huge heartfelt thanks to all who contributed to this list!  Someone I recently met (from Chicago aka a Yankee) asked if we (Southerners) really say “Bless your heart.”  Duh.  Of course.  We learn that one in the crib.
  • broken heart
  • heat of gold
  • absence makes the heart grow fonder
  • heartwarming
  • hearty meal
  • hard-hearted
  • good-hearted
  • warms the cockles of my heart
  • I don’t have the heart to…
  • bless his/her heart
  • heartless
  • heartache
  • home is where the heart is
  • cold hands, warm heart
  • emptier than a banker’s heart
  • blame it on my head and not on my heart
  • I wear my heart on my sleeve (oh, man, did Daddy ever accuse me of this!)
  • be there in a heartbeat
  • have a heart
  • young at heart
  • you will always be in my heart
  • heartfelt apologies
  • mal au coeur
  • loin des yeux, loin du coeur
My take on it?  Love begins with yourself.  After all, you are what you have left at the end of the day.  You have to be your own best friend.  Watch Hallmark movies all you want. Personally, I love the happy, heartwarming endings.  Who doesn’t?  Deep down inside. Bless your heart if you don’t.
I did indeed get up and make those sugar cookies.  I left the butter out to come to room temperature so that when I got up it would be soft.  What a satisfying feeling.  Rolling out the dough.  Dipping the cookie cutters into the soft sweetness.  Sprinkling some color onto the colorless dough.  Smelling sugar and vanilla all through the house.  Pulling the tray out of the oven and letting the cookies cool just a couple of minutes before transferring them to the cooling rack. The ladies at the retirement home loved them.  We left the extras on the table near the piano.  Enjoy them, ladies and gentlemen.  I will be back!  We will sing.  We will dance, partner or not.  We will look at photos of your youth and remember the amazing things you did.  The tennis championships you won.  The children you birthed and raised.  The trips you took. Or the ones that you couldn’t take because you had an unfortunate accident. Save me a corner room overlooking the lake and near the dining room and fireplace.  But, until then, I still have stuff I want (need?) to do.

girlies
chloe
Thanks for putting up with us, Chloe.  Take good care of your mistress. She needs you more than you know.
Need a song to sing along with?  How about Waylon Jennings’ Good Hearted Woman.
Bon appétit to all.  Live every single day as if it were your last.  You never know what’s around the corner. The dear sweet ladies at Golden Pond taught me that today. And the amazing I-cannot-put-it-down book I am currently reading, The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg.  And I am three years older than the heroine of the story…  Do you have a green bowl?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Hearts

window-stuff
I have a thing for hearts.  I probably have since the first time I exchanged valentines with my classmates in elementary school.  Back in the day when we decorated white paper bags and left them out for our classmates to slip a little card in at some point leading up to the Big Day.  I wish I still had every one of those cards so that I could pull them out and try to recapture that innocent little heart-loving girl.  Some would be from classmates who are no longer alive.  Some would be from classmates who moved away and I never saw again. And some would be from little kids whom I do not even remember.   Many of them would be from the classmates I saw this past summer at our 40th high school reunion.
The little girl in me wants to find the best valentines and mail them to my dearest friends. I think I will find some drawn by Sandra Boynton.
How can your heart not feel happy just looking at this little guy?   I’ve been a fan of hers since we decorated Son #1’s nursery with a border of her characters.
Or maybe I will make my own from the photo above.  That’s my kitchen window, holding some of my memories.
Recent heart photos taken in Paris–
Christmas tree hearts in downtown Durham–
I don’t set out looking for hearts to photograph.  They just somehow find me.
I remember listening to Neil Young on FM radio at night in I don’t know what year singing Heart of Gold.  (Google tells me that it was recorded in 1971 with James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt singing back up and hit the top of the charts in 1972.)  9th grade.  That was a few broken hearts ago. I found this version performed at Farm Aid in Raleigh in 2014. I should have been in that audience.  Enjoy.  Sing along with Neil if you want.
Now, I think that I will make some heart-shaped sugar cookies using a recipe I’ve been using for years.  It is from a cookbook I was given as a wedding present, SpringfieldCookery. My Papa Bell was a Quaker and Springfield Friends Meeting in High Point, NC is the family church.  The first Meeting for worship was held there in 1773.
Rolled Sugar Cookies
Marilyn Hipps (Mrs. Richard)
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 tablespoon milk
2-1/2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cream the butter until soft; add vanilla.  Gradually add the sugar and cream until light and fluffy.  Sift dry ingredients together.  Combine eggs and milk and stir into creamed mixture.  Add half the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Add the remaining and mix well.  Chill dough at least one hour.  Roll a little more than 1/8-inch thick on well floured surface.  Cut with floured 3/4-inch round cookie cutter.  (I will use a heart-shaped one, of course.) Sprinkle with additional sugar. Place on baking sheet (lined with parchment paper) and bake in hot oven (400˚F) until only lightly browned. (6-8 minutes) Remove from pan while warm.  Cool on rack.  2-1/2 dozen.
tights
LuLaRoe leggings from Elizabeth Sayles Bland’s Facebook on-line boutique
Bon appétit to all who are near and dear to my heart. Je vous aime.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Puppies, kittens, and Paris

15781078_1191245754286422_8982733565633941901_n
I am tired of news.  I refuse to watch it or read it.  It only makes me grumpy and grouchy. And anyone who knows me knows that I am neither very often.  Life is too short.  And in the words of Jacques Prévert, my favorite French poet, “Later will be too late.  Our life is now.”  That’s my translation, not an “official” one.  It works for me.  I haven’t felt like blogging or being creative and I need to shake that.  So, I am back in the saddle.  A great way to start feeling happy is to look at puppies.
Let’s start with Buddha.  He is Son #1 and Daughter-in-Law’s pup.  The only dog I’ve ever met who pouts.  I admit that I am not really a dog person (much to the chagrin of every single relative of mine), but Buddha is a love.  He doesn’t smell stinky.  He loves my boy.  He doesn’t aggravate my cat.  He rarely barks.
buddha
And how about Max?  He belongs to my Cuz and I bet he is just a little bit spoiled! Adorable.
max
Finally, siblings recently adopted by friends…
Molly
16105572_10154915648979469_2266792279274712328_n
Maggie Mae
16114441_10212035240302668_6380037633807498556_n
Now, it’s time for kittens.  Callie is ours.  She is sleeping next to me right now.  Studiously ignoring me, of course.  We’ve had her for about 9 years.  Her brother passed away last spring.  She is good company, doesn’t make messes, sleeps on my feet, hides in the bathroom when we have company, especially those with dogs, and is generally pretty darned content.  This is her “I am bored with you” look.
callie
My French girlfriends love cats, too.  Madame M has Tao.  A very Zen cat.  Looks pretty comfy, n’est-ce pas?
14900429_1232648636757207_3399352865477207562_n
And Bigoudi.  We’ve spent a few nights together in the south of France Chez Fanny.  A loyal America-loving feline.  I like her choice in college basketball allegiances.  Of course, I may have played a small part in that…  BTW, a bigoudi is a hair curler in French.  In case you were wondering.
16143022_10211751733739031_9164092225561425447_n
For the Paris part.  This time last week, I had just returned from a six-day trip to La Ville Lumière made possible by ACIS, the company I use for my student trips.  It was cold.  The Siberian wind blew in one day.  It was a bit rainy.  I got lost a couple of times looking for Lafayette.  The heat didn’t work very well in my hotel room. But who cares about any of that?  I WAS IN PARIS.  I met some amazing teachers.  My roommate, from Venezuela by way of Wisconsin, was a bundle of energy.
I found three first-timers who allowed me to show them some of my favorite Parisian spots, including Place du Tertre in Montmartre. Merci, mes nouveaux amis!
montmartre
I ate some of my favorite foods– foie gras, fromage, soupe à l’oignon, croque madame
And some sweets, of course.  Pain perdu, macarons et chocolat.
A glass of wine at a couple of my favorite cafés, as well as champagne at the Eiffel Tower.
Speaking of La Grande Dame, I added a few more photos to the hundreds (thousands?) that I already have.
I climbed the steps of Notre Dame to say hello to the chimera and gargoyles.  I lit a candle for Mme Buchanan, my high school French teacher.
The crèche in Notre Dame was made with santons from Arles.  An unexpected blessing.
I visited with Vincent at the Musée d’Orsay. Sad to say, Starry Night over the Rhône is not there at the moment.  It must be out and about in another exhibit. Well, as a matter of fact, Google just told me that it is in Ontario until January 29 when it will make its way back to Paris.  By mid-March, I hope.
There are so many statues to admire at the Orsay, as well.
Just strolling the streets, I found beauty at every turn.  The Panthéon.  L’Opéra Garnier. Ile Saint Louis. Sacré Coeur. Sainte Chapelle. Trocadéro. A random rose still alive in winter.
A real highlight was to have dinner at Mary Claude’s apartment in the 16e arrondissement. This is a new addition to the ACIS offerings for travelers.  They work with VizEat, a company that pairs eaters with cookers/hosts and hostesses.  Mary Claude (in the white shirt) could not have been more gracious.
mc-claire-and-bouchra
She fed us exceptionally well.  Leek tart, charcuterie, soup for starters–
Risotto and chicken for our main dishes–
truffle-risotto
Du fromage?  But of course!  I took it upon myself to give the others a lesson in cheese cutting (always respect the form!)–
and Galette des Rois for dessert.
marie-claude
When I had a chance to talk to Mary Claude, in between courses, I asked about the soup (I didn’t take a photo…) and the risotto.  The soup was butternut, made with chestnuts.  I peeked in the kitchen to get a look at her food processor.
food-processor
I am very fond of risotto.  This was probably the best I’ve ever eaten.  I wanted to know her secret.  At first, she told me that it was “just” risotto.  But I knew better, so I brought the conversation back to the risotto after learning about the soup.  Look closely–
truffle-risotto
Those brown specks?  Truffles.  And truffle oil in the initial preparation stage.  Aha!  Not “just” risotto.  The earthiness of truffles + the creaminess of the rice = a perfect marriage of flavors.
It was a wonderful trip.  It will keep me going for the next few weeks.  I will return in six weeks with 22 8th graders.
La vie est belle.  
notre-dame
And, by the way, I finally found General Lafayette.  Tucked away in the back corner of the Picpus Cemetery.  Winter hours 2-4 pm.  12e arrondissement.  Did you know his real name was Gilbert de Motier?  I did not.
Bon appétit, old and new friends.  May you see beauty wherever you are.