Arles, Place de la République, December 2008
As usual, I should be doing something constructive. I honestly started out that way this morning. Really I did. I made coffee, read the ever-shrinking Durham Herald-Sun and started on some school work. Grading the last of my 7th graders' Paris Projects. And that's where the trouble started. I googled (oui, my favorite internet invention) Paris black and white photos so that I could add one to the evaluation sheet I decided to use and well, I stumbled upon this photo by Peter, one of my cyber blog pals--
I love his blog and his wonderful photos. Well, that lead to looking at his most recent posts, one of which is about the Paris department stores Le Printemps and Galeries Lafayette and how they've decked out their windows this year for Christmas or Le Noël. Next thing I know, I am wandering down memory lane, remembering last November and December and the decorations I saw before leaving France. So, off I went to iPhoto and started wading through the 20,135 pictures I have downloaded on this lovely little MacBook Pro. I did zero in on Paris in November and Arles in December, just to give myself a little bit of credit.
This is what one of the windows of Galeries Lafayette looked like last year. The theme was les flamants roses, pink flamingoes. I sincerely believe that they did that just for moi. I love these birds and cannot wait to get back to the Camargue for another close up of them. They put little steps in front of the windows so that the little ones can get a better view.
Visit Peter's blog to see what they look like this year http://peter-pho2.blogspot.com/
This is a view of the beautiful ceiling of Galeries Lafayette with a bit of the huge tree they put up under the dome every year.
One of the last things I did before leaving Arles last December was to wander around town and check out the Christmas window displays. I was desperately trying to see it all just one more time and take pictures so that I could do exactly what I have been doing this morning-- look at the pictures and bring it back one year later.
I loved this one in a shop that sells Provence souvenirs in Arles... the crèche scene and the animals. My students and I are going to try to make our own santons or crèche figures before the break by using sculpey clay (which I sincerely hope is on sale at Michael's or A.C. Moore this week). I am not at all artistic, but my students are very creative so I am excited about this project. On va voir. I will take photos, bien sûr. You can count on that.
This was the decoration hanging across street just outside the Arles house on Rue Pierre Euzeby. I feel certain he is sitting there again this year, looking out at the Rhône. Maybe Père Noël arrives by boat in Arles?
And this is the wreath I bought at Leo and Jonas' school Christmas fair. The parents and students make all kinds of crafts, invite local artisans and have a Saturday fair so that everyone can do their Christmas shopping. We spent an entire morning there last year, shopping and even having lunch in the school cafeteria. Chef Érick gave the boys money to shop for their gifts and off they went. Leo gave me a pair of earrings. I brought home some gifts for friends. This wreath was my favorite. At first I thought it was for the door, American-style. After we got it back to the house, Chef Érick found a candle and showed me that it is for the table. I plan to have one similar to this on my table soon. The smell of a frasher fir (voted the #1 Christmas tree, named for Scot botanist John Fraser who explored my home, the southern Appalachian Mountains, in the late 1700's; it has excellent needle retention, not a small factor according to the un-ex-- the top three factors in choosing a Christmas tree according to him are shape, scent and needle retention)... that's the smell of home for me (Spruce Pine!), as well as Christmas.
This cookie recipe came to me about 25 years ago from my friend Jean Sartain. I make them every Christmas. Just looking at the stained recipe card makes me smile.
(makes 4 dozen cookies)
3/4 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. molasses
2 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and molasses and beat until well-blended. Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture and mix thoroughly. Chill dough for at least one hour. Shape the dough in one-inch balls (rolling it between your hands works really well if the dough is well chilled). Roll balls in granulated sugar and place two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes. Adjust baking times to the style of cookie you prefer-- I like mine soft so I bake them for about 9 minutes. Baking them longer makes them more like ginger snaps.
Bon appétit, Noël en France!