My Grandmother Frances came to America from the Azores. Her trunk was filled with simple necessities: A linen towel, a few chemises, a hairbrush, a dress in cotton for Spring, and another in wool, probably an apron, certainly a rosary, and a porcelain angel holy water font.
Before the French Armchair Beauty Contest began, the French Armchairs quickly glanced over their shoulders to see who was who and who was wearing what. As the curtain rose the French Armchairs straighten their backs, tucked in their tummies, lift their chins, strutting their stuff in front of the adoring audience of Sofas and Tables hoping to find a clever match.
Miss Smooth Velvet-
She thought she stood a chance as monochrome colors were in. Though her bone structure was not as classy as Miss Eighteen Century, and her bottom wasn't as pumped up as should be in these type of shows. That is why she wore velvet...thinking chic covered sins.
Felt like crying. She got the dance routine wrong and ended up facing the wrong way. How she wished she could do a solo routine. Certainly, the dance steps would be easier. "Groups" or the French Armchair Beauty Contest like to call it: "Teamwork", threatened her.
Miss Checker Board-
Loved to play the field, and waited happily to make her mark, "Chest!"
She laughed looking at her own, she loved the play on words
Ms. Lone Runner-
Wasn't an Armchair, but a chair nevertheless. She stood her ground declaring that the French Armchair Beauty Contest was prejudice and politically incorrect.
Elegantly dressed in Aubusson knew that she stood a chance. Though why did her parents give her such an upper-class snobby name, gee that might as well named her Princess.
Miss One and Miss Another-
The twins wanted to enter as a pair. They did everything together, and in this case, it upped their chances of winning, well at least they thought so. The judges threw their pencils in the air, "Enough is enough, this is a single ladies French Armchair Beauty Contest. One or Another has to go.
They both left as they could not bear to be alone.
Miss Down and Out-
Shook her head when she saw the other contestants especially when she saw Miss Royal-Ette. She heard the judges liked shabby chic and she had such good bone structure. How she wished she had more time, more money at least she could reapply for the upcoming year.
Miss Louisette the Sixteenth-
Knew what side was her best, and flaunted it as often as possible. A girl has to do what a girl has to do. Winning was her goal.
Miss Champagne Bottle Top Holder-
Knew her name was far far too long. But that was the least of her problems.
She wondered if she had enough time to make some arms if Miss Lone Runner didn't convince the judges to accept her.
Original was her real name. Pink was her cover. Seduction was her game. She played to win.
Threw a fit when she heard props were not allowed. Funny how she did not believe she was better without a prop.
I do not know where this is going. I like armchairs. Just thought I would let you know that about me.
The photo above is of Annie years ago.
Do you have a favorite place to sit? Since I am not very tall often my feet do not touch the ground when I sit in a chair. Therefore my favorite place to sit is to pull a leg up but that isn't very classy.
When I first arrived in France (thirty years ago) French Husband took me to an office party. He said it was a casual-after-work-have-a-drink-sorta-thing. It was at an office friend's nutshell apartment.
I wore casual. Everyone stood around looking uncomfortable, there weren't enough chairs to go around so I thought I would sit on the floor next to the crowded sofa hoping to give a lead-in for people to relax, talk in a group, and get cozy.
Wow was that a faux pas! The instant I sat down I knew I was doing a big no-no. I could hear a silence fill the space between them and me. How I wished I could have disappeared. I sat still turning every shade of red. Then I stood up and went to the bathroom. To this day I wonder what was so bad about sitting on the floor.
Though I have never seen anyone sit on the floor since.
Who has your vote for the armchair contest?
I have a thing for it.
Whenever I see old French paper I have to stop to check it out.
Name cards, invitations, announcements...
Bits of a history of a story once lived.
Menus from weddings, birthdays, baptisms, anniversaries...
Stacks that appear as artwork to me.
Photo via Lorna.
The amazing book I bought from the man I have called, "The Paper Guy" for years.
Once upon a time I found ... dated 1739 from King Louis the 13th. It was one of the best things I have ever found.
Books without covers, exposing a certain je ne sais quoi?
I told you...
Please tell me you flipped about something not human too?
Shelves, boxes, baskets, drawers FULL.
I doubt you can retire from that sort of passionate drive.
French la Vie, a new old direction gathering what I love and taking you along by leading journeys in Provence, and Bretagne, re-starting in 2019. The groups will be small (4 maximum). I have been exploring Bretagne these last few days with Francoise (My friend for over thirty years and how I came to know my French Husband) and can see that it will be more about landscapes, culture, history, visiting artisans and of course, food and the brocante. Whereas Provence will do that too but visiting more antiques and artisans both following the path to inspiring our creative soul.
Those of you who have been following me know I have a crazy passion for antiques and that which circles it: Antiquing in villages which takes me to interesting places such as Lorgues, Villecroze, Carpentras, St Cannat, Gardanne, Peypin... to the people I meet and then become friends with (Odile who I met 25 years ago and was one of the first persons I ever met antiquing with her daughter the ultra-talented artistic Aurelie, Kristen who can weave magic with the everyday beauty and charm with her abundant imaginations, Mo whose hands and spirit create beautiful pottery, Nelly in the old abandoned Chateau...) Which led me to start a blog about it over 13 years ago. None of this is new to those of you who have become my friends over these last 13 years, and who have encouraged me to take this journey with you.
And the cherry on top of the cake in the French la Vie life of mine is being married to Yann and raising our children Chelsea and Sacha, living in France these last thirty years has given me a few stories to share.
Dates available French la Vie Journeys in Provence:April 16th to the 23rd, 2019, Two places remain.April 25th to May 2nd, 2019, One place remains.May 21 to May 28th, 2019, SOLD OUTJune 25th to July 2nd, 2019, Three places remain.September 6th to the 9th, 2019, SOLD OUTSeptember 12th to 19th, 2019, SOLD OUTOctober 7th to the 14th, 2019 Four places remain
..............................Dates Available for French la Vie Journeys in Bretagne:June 11th to 18th, 2019, Four places remainOctober 3rd to October 10th, 2019, Four places remain
2020 dates to be announced they will be from May until October.
The French la Vie Journeys are handcrafted to each group that comes. If you like antiques we will visit markets and have personal entrance to little shops in private homes. If you want to find places to soak in daily life for inspiration we will wander through villages, peeking around corners and discovering history by seeing. If you want to visit craftsman's studios: painters, potters, cooks, winemakers, the cornucopia of food, and or simply learn about the French lifestyle by being immersed into the "real" Provence and the Enchanting Brittany the Emerald Coast, then this is for you.
On the French la Vie Journey the meals are all included you will dine in simply enchanting off the beaten path restaurants, have elegant picnics and sit around my table while I prepare French with an international twist organic meals.
Wine will flow as well.
There it is the richness in the everyday lifestyle of France.
Farm to table freshly picked and served, grapes, figs, almonds, olives... the multitude of cheeses and baguettes with conversation flowing as easily as the wine, arms ready to pat on the back, laughter as music and a generous table that welcomes anyone who pops in. Provence and Bretagne are laid back, with a vast landscape that runs to the sea and let's not forget that painter's trekked here to capture the light to share the story on canvas, while poet told its tales.
When is the best time to come to France?
Today, tomorrow any moment you can.
Cheerful, gay, poppies waves and the sun warms our backs May is such a lovely time in Provence. But then when isn't a good time in Provence? Some mark months by holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and so do I, but I also I include-- May for Poppies and Cherries, July for Lavender, August for late night dinners outside, September for grape harvest, for children going back to school and the villages returning from summer vacation filled with their chatter....
In Bretagne, you must know that it is green for a reason. The sky gives contrast and depth to the varied landscape that Bretagne is famous for, those rugged cliffs, the lush green that nourishes the dairies providing butter and cheese. The endless coastline trails where fortresses, castles, and ruins remain you of another time. With that said June through early October promise days with more sunshine than liquid sunshine.
We will visit a variety of creative artists and their studios.
Another question I am often asked is:
If I am not a "big" shopper is this journey for me?
Provence has more brocantes than Bretagne, but you do not need to be a big shopper to go on either.
Nevertheless, whatever you purchase on the French la Vie Journey I can provide a variety of options for shipping, be it a by mail or a container.
Both journeys are about discovery and inspiration.
I hope to meet you one day.
For more information contact me at:
Planning a journey for the French la Vie through Brittany has been an incredible pleasure. Being with my good friend Francoise is equal to being with a sister that I never had but longed for, I admire how she can do anything (sculpting, weaving, rushing, sewing, knitting, painting, gardening... plus how she knows Brittany like the back of her hand. She zips around the small back roads, leads along coastal trails, and then whips up amazing meals seemingly without effort.
Brittany is beautiful, the landscape is intense, rich, with a rugged coastline that remains often of Northern California.
I asked Yann how he could have ever left and he replied,
"Tell me why the sky is blue?"
A question for a question is not an answer and neither is "I do not know".
Fortresses, castles, and ruins dot the endless coastline, plus there are trails that run all along the Emerald Coast.
Beautiful trails with breathtaking views.
The weather has been utterly flawless which has made the experience even more glorious.
Brittany is showing me all the stops.
Oh and the tides! How they go out for miles and then come back in five or six hours later. And while they are out you can walk to islands with other ruins on them. Or go Peche a Pied, which we plan to do.
France you never cease to amaze me.
My French Husband grew up in Brittany. The beautiful landscape makes me wonder how he ever could leave it.
As you know we live in Provence which is not bad at all. But Brittany is tempting me, it is stealing my heart if the blue skies continue and if find my brocante bug drug of antiquing I might have to move here.
Rich is the flavor that has touched my life in France.
Every sense has been saturated, from taste to touch, sight to sound, sweetly combine with sound.
If I could change one thing about living in France it would be that my family lived next door. I will always miss them, and only a spiritual love can make up for that sense of loss.
With Sacha living in Seattle, I am reminded of the distance even more, and it was already enough. Also the other day a young man from my hometown came to live in France. A few years ago he met a French woman who was living in California, they fell in love and she wanted to return to France, so he followed her. He does not speak French, though is in the process of learning. We have many similarities, and they came to the surface when I met him in Cassis with his Mom who came to visit him. His Mom (someone I went to high school with) spoke the same things my Mom use to speak when I first left that I am speaking now that Sacha has left: Sadness, happiness, emptiness, fullness the gamut that families feel when they are separated.
Rich is the flavor that has touched my life in France: Sweet, sensual, solid, with a few lumps that add to the texture that comes with daily life. But as in everything in life, it comes with a price.
Thankfully, love the big spoon of giving and receiving stirs it gently.
Stirring gently these days.
_ _ _
What is stirring you these days?
The Louvre is a monster in the heart of Paris, beating to the sound of over 30,000 pieces of art. Over 30,000 pieces of art. That means if I spent one mere second looking at each of the 30,000 pieces, it would take me eight hours to see all of them. Eight hours. For fun I looked at each thing for one second. Robotic craziness. Sore eyes that took training not to look longer, nor look at something again. Some things, most things I wanted to stare at forever. Oh but wait I forgot to count walking.
"Duh Corey the 30,000 plus pieces of art are not lined up in a pretty row."
Walking through its 1,600,000 square feet. Do you know how many miles that is?
I cannot imagine how many brooms have been worn out sweeping.
Then there are the ceilings. No a single simple flat white ceiling in the place.
Between taking one second to look at each thing, plus walking 1,600,000 square feet, plus looking up at the ceilings, and paying attention not to trip...
Days, literally days.
When I was in Paris with my nieces we went to the Louvre, we spent three hours and walked over three miles.
I forgot to add reading the descriptions. Absorbing the facts...
1528 - The Cupid boy at the bottom of the painting is a modern day bomber,
well, that is what I translated from Allegri's Allegorie des Vices.
I smiled for several seconds at my own ding dong joke. Losing time, or I should keep the clock ticking.
When going to the Louvre or any museum with Yann, add another ten years of looking to each object. The first time I went to a museum with Yann I was at the exit door and he hadn't even view the first room.
Let's just say he takes a lifetime his time in a museum.
But then again I am easily distracted, often carried away seeing reflections...
and then taking photos of reflections, then comparing faux painted marble to real marble, then looking at the detail of the frames, and imaging my hand painting by seeing their brushstrokes, then looking at the scale of the museum, then rearranging the artwork, followed by picking my favorite, and of course looking for the signatures.
Yann studies symbolic meaning, reads the descriptions, looks things up in the guidebooks or online. Educating himself.
We are on different pages when we go to a museum.
Anyway, going to a museum especially the Louvre takes time.
Add paying attention to the perspective, the balance of the grandiose size of the Louvre and the objects and then, doing it all over again.
Add several more hours. Seriously, how could I look at each thing for a second? That idea lasted a split second.
The details grab me. Hold me. Make me gasp.
The incredible inspiration that takes time to absorb.
Saint Sebastian, the large wooden frame.
Oh, the frames! My oh my the frames.
The frames alone would are worthy of a museum.
435 rooms, 8 corridors, numerous windows to look out.
Let me just say that there is no way you can see it all in a day or a week.
I have been to the Louvre twenty times or more, and it always feels like the first time:
Two children stood by a painting and played I spied. I overheard one of them say,
"I spy an angel in a tree."
Now I want to go back, to the monster Louvre, and play I spy in the 435 rooms.
How are you in a museum?
One of my favorite antiquing experience was over ten years ago, I went to visit an antique dealer's attic. It was a dream come true. Attics are usually dark, this one was no exception. In my excitement to get there, I parked my car in a haste and ran to her home. When we went into the attic I realized I had my prescription sunglasses on, and that I had left my glasses in the car several thousand blocks away. Never mind I can see I said.
First lesson when buying antiques:
See with your heart. Because at the end of the day the piece you buy share who you are, and either will create the ambiance of your home or tell your clients about your aesthetics.
Boxes upon boxes, stacks of stuff, cramped everywhere. I nearly peed my pants I was that giddy. "Is this the stairway to heaven?" I asked. The dealer was very kind she said, "Take your time, open any box you want. I'll be downstairs."
I pinched myself really hard to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Then I said to her that I that I might end up living in her attic. She said, in that case, she would make some tea.
Lesson number two:
Most people will tell you to hide your feelings. To stay neutral so that you can have more leverage in negotiating a better price. Most people will tell you to point out the flaws in the object, to act like it is too expensive, to pretend you are not that interested.
And that can be true.
And other times, such as this time
it is best to blow those lessons out the nonexisting attic window.
The cardboard treasure boxes held many styles, most of the pieces dated around 1880-1930s. The craftsmanship of many creative hands, that had labored lovingly at their art, started to form mountains around me. Baptismal gowns, table clothes, lace panel curtains, mixed match napkins with monograms, bundles of lace...
Lesson number three:
Buying all of it versus picking out piece by piece usually offers a better deal.
Then in the bottom of one of the boxes, I saw two brown paper parcels. I asked the antique dealer what was inside of them. She said they were books.
"Do you like old books?"
I told her I "liked" everything except anchovies and oysters.
Lesson number four:
Ask questions. Look inside boxes, under the table, and up above. Often the best finds are waiting for you to find them.
Don't be afraid to ask for what you want, and when it comes to you embrace it with open arms.
What lessons do you have to share about antiquing?
What is up with the brocante? Oh, a lot. Always a lot, which is a good thing, I could never say, "Been there done that." Which is, by the way, something I can hardly stand hearing. I guess I never grow tired of being at the brocante, seeing the old stuff being unpacked, hearing the chatter in the background:
"What did you find?" "How much did you pay?" "Are you going to sell it?" "How much?" "Can you do a better price?"
Because in an odd way it is a French heartbeat. When I go to the brocante I see old things that have a history of the land, a lifestyle, stories unfold with conversations with the antique dealers, at the brocante I have discovered many off the beaten track villages, have met people and have picked up tons of French vocabulary.
How charming it is to see France by brocant-ing?
It is true, you know, what they say, the best way to learn a foreign language is to fall in love. That is how I learned to speak French... at the brocante in France. And while learning French I learned a few more French things: History, culture and occasionally about wine, and flirting. Brocanteurs love to flirt. Harmless, entertaining pass time while seeking out old stuff. I suppose being amongst so many beautiful antiques, pieces from all over France, pieces that connect memories and moments does that, it makes you remember, it makes you share stories and it makes you smile while listening to others sharing their stories about their lives uncannily early in the morning standing in an old village.
Vertical garden wall.
While at the brocante,
The distraction of the charming French villages.
The French brocante has everything, literally, everything and some brocantes have better antiques than others. On any given weekend there are several brocantes within an hour or so from where I live. Though there are many brocantes where I live they are not created equal: Some brocantes are expensive, others are more like a flea market with clothes, books, toys and occasionally something incredible shows up for fifty cents. Each brocante has its personality, so knowing which ones to go to is important. For example, if you come to France on a holiday and want to go to a brocante you might not want to go to one that sells clothing, books, toys with the hope that something incredible shows up for fifty cents. You might want to go to a brocante where you will desire more than your suitcase can carry while wondering if you could wear the tureen as a hat, and use the nightstand as a carry-on.
In the thirty years I have lived in France I could talk for hours about brocante tales; Creative overstuffed suitcases, deals made and lost, one of a kind pieces found, negotiating clues, marble tops breaking, paintings found in chicken pens, families selling heirlooms for a song, overpriced items that foreigners thought were real, spotting Catherine Deneuve, Keira Knightly, Hugh Grant, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, going to the dump and finding a treasure, going to a brocante in a castle and finding nothing...
After thirty years of living in France, furnishing four homes, selling countless antiques will the French brocante ever became blasé for me?
Seriously I doubt it.
I have had this passion since I was 14 when I went antiquing with my mom and Aunt Marie.
Drug of choice.
Antiques are the true coquetry teasing me constantly:
"Look closely, come closer, touch me... here I take hold!"
And then those words in French. God French is sexy, isn't it? Even if it is talking about brocante (I was going to say junk, but thought I better not... sniff.)
Though most of all it is how the brocante pieces mingle and are spilled with other antique pieces create an undeniable atmosphere. Inspiration galore, creating an urge to gather it all for safe keeping.
If you are ever in France (I am warning you) the stuff is addicting and you might want to move in just to snuggle up to the bits and pieces of happiness.
For those who have been reading my blog you know I am crazy for antiques, that I love France and that I want to meet every single one of you. Each time I have met someone from my blog (I have met hundreds of readers so far...) it feels like we have been friends for years, and we have.
Brocante and blogging have been a great gift... antiques took me online, and being online I have connected with you. How happy that has made me.
When are you coming? Why wait? Come now!
Or at least as soon as you can. If you want to join me here are some dates when I am planning to explore Provence and Brittany:
French la Vie Journeys in Provence
April 16th to the 23rd, 2019, Two places remain
April 25th to May 2nd, 2019, Two places remain
May 21 to May 28th, 2019, Poppy Fields included, Two places remain
June 27th to July the 4th, 2019, Lavender Fields included, Three places available
September 6th to the 9th, 2019, One place available.
Other dates to be announced.
French la Vie Brittany
June 4th to 11th, 2019, Four places available
June 18th to the 25th, 2019, Four Places available
Other dates to be announced.
If you would like to join me at another time or
create your own group other then the dates mention above let me know.
As yesterday's post struck a cord for many of you, I thought I would repost a post of mine from 2009.
The other day at the brocante I found a stack of letters written during WWII between a husband and his wife. At first I was drawn to them because of how they were worn, and stacked in perfect order. You might say the "art factor" attracted me. The antique dealer seeing that I didn't get the letters real significance told me they were a collection of love letters written during WWII. I had to buy them.
I asked him how much he wanted for them.
He wanted half of France, or close to it, he wanted more than I wanted to pay that much is true.
I told him that I did not read French very well and that I wanted them because they looked artful, a conversational piece, a 'real' coffee table book. He shook his head, "You don't understand their worth."
"I'll give you five euro." I might as well have stabbed him in the heart, he looked so shocked. Then I mentioned that my son liked history and he would read them to me, and I batted my eyes and said, "Pretty please with sugar on it." (or at least that is what I thought I was saying in French.)
Flirting works. Sorry, but it does at the French brocante. I got the letters for five euros.
Later at the brocante, my friend Nathalie waited for me in the car as I went around gathering the things I bought, she started to read the letters. When I came back she had tears in her eyes, "These letters are incredible, they are full of emotion."
At that point I felt terrible that I had bartered for history with flirtation.
When I got home I put the letters on the kitchen table.
The next day after breakfast, French Husband and Sacha carefully opened them. The letters had a hypnotic power, they read in complete silence. Every now and then they would look up at each other share a line or two then bury their heads back into a time long ago.
Annie, has shared her stories of WWII with me. When she talks about her past her eyes glaze over and I see her go back to when she was a young girl by her parent's side.
One of the things Annie has shared is that when the Americans arrived they had "chewing gum" and "chocolate." The American soldiers gave it to the children whenever they entered a town.
Later the troop heard that Annie's mother had the best homemade soup, soup made with vegetables from her garden! They traded chewing gum and chocolate for bowls of soup.
Most of Annie's stories are not as dark as the ones written in the letters.
The letters are written are from Lyon, and the surrounding area.
The letters always started with, "My big love". Rarely do they mention any names, instead they refer to people they know as "The one who worked at the bakery" or "The one who use to live underneath us." They never say the enemies name, for fear that the letters might be opened and used against them, or worse destroyed.
The letters talk about how the enemy gathered the children, using them as human shields as they maneuvered from town to town. How farms where gutted then burned to the ground. "The Wife" mentions how she felt safer in the city that was being bombed every day than in the country.
Later she talks about a butter factory that was raided and the butter burned, "Just to belittle, to taunt us in the face of slow starvation."
She goes on to mention a small village of thirty-five residents, where she had thought to live safely, though over half were murdered in one day. "Whenever we hear a gunshot, we know someone is dying. Many are dying."
They write, in details, often coded, evident of fear, out of anguish and love for one another.
Sacha and French Husband read ever so slowly a few letters, often stopping... casting a distant look out the window, in deep thought, then continuing without a word.
The handwriting is exceptionally small. French Husband told me that is because paper was scarce, and to post a letter during that time one was expensive... in more ways than one.
Often the letters were written on mix match pieces of scrap paper. Their need to "talk" to one another, to share what they were witnessing, to be present to each other through the details of how they were surviving. They found paper and a mail carrier, out of their healing balm for one another.
I kept thinking how much they loved each other: Image walking to the post office, or a drop off zone to mail a letter in a battle zone? That is commitment.
"I do not know if I could have done that...." I said to the men in my life engrossed with reading. Nonetheless, French Husband looked up at me with sad eyes.
"Love motivates, but gee so does fear!" I said in defense.
XOXO in French "Gros Bisous".
Sacha pointed to the curled back envelope, "Look Mom." he said. He knows I love random, unplanned, spirit of love moving in the unconscious hand of time, sort of thing.
It will take awhile before all the letters are read.
Books to read about WWII:
All that Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Nightengale by Kristin Hannah
Sarah's Keys by Tatiana de Rosnay
The Lost Letters by Jillian Cantor
Please tell me of others that you know...
When France was occupied by the Nazis during World War II, they set up their headquarters in certain large often beautiful French homes throughout France. My Belle Mere's (Mother-in-Law's) parents' home in Rennes was chosen for such a purpose. My Belle Mere was sixteen at the time, she and her family were allowed to live in the basement while the Nazis took over their home.
At the same time, my Belle Mere's family who lived in Paris were afraid that Paris would be destroyed came to Rennes because they thought they would be safer, they moved in with my Belle Mere and her family, forty-five of them lived in the basement.
My Belle Mere's Father was active in the French Resistance. Living underneath them in the basement provided a sneaky eye's view on what was going on. It also proved a place easy to eavesdrop on the Nazi officers' conversations. He was allowed to ride his bicycle into the countryside to collect fresh produce and dairy products, a note or two was often slipped into the potato sack. Certainly, he feared for his life and the life of his family. But "...to sit and do nothing was like death itself." he later said.
My French family has many stories about life with the Nazi officers, oddly none of them are brutal nor ugly, seemingly surreal. The head Nazi officer was a family man and his wife like my Belle Mere's mother was pregnant. When my Belle Mere's mother went into labor, the head officer took her to the hospital and made sure that she had everything she needed.
I often wonder how it was to live like that? How it must have felt to be treated with an odd respect, yet knowing a violent war surrounded them. To see the enemy as human, to see their lives similar and intertwine. It was as if the Nazi officers in their home were not part of the war. The twisted twist of being involved and yet not wanting to be.
As horrendous and evil as that war was, it seemed some small acts of kindness sipped out of such ugliness. Often at night, the Nazi officers played the piano, and the music seemed to settle their frayed nerves. Though my Belle Mere's family never once let down their guard and knew that death was as close as their doorstep. The expression, "killing with kindness," seemed to hold a raw meaning for them in times like this.
A family in my village (whose home was also occupied during WWII) told me that their Great grandmother was told after celebrating Christmas with the Nazi officers that occupied their home, "We have had a wonderful Christmas celebrating with you, we have enjoyed our evening together but if tonight we receive orders to kill you, we will." He said as he smiled and went upstairs to bed.
Photo: A French food ration chart from WWII that I found years ago at the brocante. The food chart lists the food items available, the cost and how much per person. Fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, and meat are not on the list.
The WWII food ration chart is hand-printed on canvas and hangs in our kitchen.
Today August 22nd, our town in Provence celebrates the day it was liberated, as it does every 22nd of August, with a parade celebrating the American and British soldiers, a moment of silence, then a party in the streets. I will post videos to my stories on Instagram.
On this day over twenty years ago I met Annie when she came to my door and said, "I didn't know an American to thank at the end of the war, and since I heard you are American I came to say thank you to you."
Our Canadian friends Denise and Vlad are back! They come every summer for two months or more, as they have an apartment in Cotignac. I met Denise through blogging about eight or nine years ago, I have never been good at remembering dates. As soon as they arrive Yann and I say it is then we feel summer is here, I guess you could say they are the cherry on top.
Many of you have met my friend, Denise, as she is an excellent cook, a great joke teller, a fantastic enabler... and whenever we have guests Denise invites everyone over (hint another good reason to come to France!)
Vlad took this photo of us and two seconds later Denise was dancing with Yann, I wish I had that video.
It starts with a baguette and wine, then depending on the season the flavors unfold the meal,
cheese comes waltzing in towards the end, and lastly with fanfare a dessert with or without coffee.
What part is your favorite?
I prefer salty anything to anything sweet.
Walking along the streets of the neighboring village,
I was happily surprised to find the olive tree surrounded by pansies.
The pink backdrop adds perfection.
Midday and the shutter is half closed.
Basil ready for pesto.
The hike up to the clock tower gave me this perspective.
In France, the center of town is often, if not always, a maze of tiny streets mounting in a circle with the church in the middle.
..."ERIE" is on the end of many French words. Do you know what this sign says?
As soon as someone says, "Cremerie" I am going to say, "Voila!"
Up above the city, from one church tower overlooking another.
If you want to see the backroads of France, then go on the back roads.
If you want to see how the French live, then visit a non-touristic village and stay there
for a week or so and immersing yourself in the daily life of a small town.
The foothills of Provence. Garlaban in the distance.
I wanted to ask him if he sold wine. But then thought he might think I was flirting and ask me up.
As I walked away, I thought I should have asked him certainly, he had wine for sale.
Looking up at the clock tower.
A facade next to the town hall, called "Hotel de Ville".
The massive, century old, olive pot, now used as a plant holder.
Thought you might enjoy a few postcards, from the village next door to where I live.
Late this evening I walked from our apartment to the seaside, it took me three minutes.
Taking my sandals off I stepped into the sea the water wrapped around my legs which felt like a needed hug, the water was warmer than I have ever felt.
Delicious and inviting.
Very few people were around, a few were swimming, it was 11pm.
I took off my dress, threw it behind me and went on in.
Later I stepped out, put my dress back on and walked home to write this post.
Summertime on the Mediterranean...
where the days stay late into the night.
Blue and inviting.
Walking along the coast, one village to the next, like collecting seashells, each one is prettier than the last one, and you want to find just one more to go see.
Twilight doesn't mean the end of the day.
A dip in the Mediterranean, La Cioata.
White cliffs and a transparent sea.
Along the coast of Marseille.
If you come to Provence, make sure to see the small ports:
La Cioata, Cassis, drive along the Route de Crete, Bandol, Toulon, walk along the stone wall seaside path at Cap Ferrat, or go inland Turbie, Peillon... or take the train de Merveilles from Nice into the countryside, I promise you, you won't regret it.
France, along with the French Mediterranean.
Summer retreat that feeds the soul.
Yann went well diving today to help our friend Jean-Bernard and Nathalie clean their old well and to see if the natural source was still working.
Of course, Yann had us in stitches as he was clowning around with this ridiculous mask.
Instead of well diving and hauling buckets of silt, I thought about chilling out in the garden.
Suiting up to go down into the well.
Water to be used for the garden.
Our friend took a turn going deep.
The well was several yards deep before reaching water. Yann had a light and could see that the water wasn't deep. They removed several buckets of silt and several more of rocks and stuff.
On a piece of paper, I wrote a list of things that the nieces had to find in our village.
They spoke up, "But we do not even know the name of your street."
In which I thought to myself that will be tomorrow's game.
I sent them out telling them they had to take a photo of each thing to prove that they had found the things on the list.
Happily, the set-out.
A blue shutter.
The church door.
There are sixteen fountains in our village they had to find five of them.
A cat in a window sill.
Discovering our village on an early summer evening.
Fountain number 3.
One of the things I asked them to find was a place, a loop, where one use to tie their horse.
Yeah, this wasn't it.
Fountain number four.
The front door of the school.
Fountain number 5.
The iron loop to tie one's horse.
A year above a doorway indicating when a house was built.
An iron "lettre" box.
Playing with a cat since they missed theirs.
A bonus, another fountain.
A lion's head.
The things to find on the list I made were within a few minutes on foot from our home.
Faces on a building.
Tomorrow another game awaits.
Our dear friends Jean and Nathalie celebrated their birthdays.
Their home, family, friends, the celebration was one of great joy and enormous love.
Everyone should feel such gorgeousness in their lives.
Delicious, wholesome, rich, unlimited, wonderful...
Their birthday party was at their home, I love their home.
If you would like to see more photos and videos please check out my Instagram story.
Yann and Nathalie dancing is a favorite.
Their creative ideas were everywhere.
I loved it all.
I swear Yann ate half of the cake by himself.
What a fun party! I loved it and the blisters on my feet from dancing prove it!
I am off to Paris, Monday my nieces arrive, they leave Sunday!!!!!!!!!!
Oh, happy happy happy!
Thank you for letting me share my joy!
At the end of the day,
we have the earth under our feet,
the sky above our head, and
the air we breathe in between.
The window with a view.
The soft air of summer poured in.
A simple meal salad, breadsticks, cheese, asparagus, a carafe of water and nothing for dessert.
Simple. Delicious. Friday night.
Thoughts come and go like the waves of the sea in front of me.
My parents, especially my Father as I became older use to call me, "Pernas de Cabra" or "Goat Legs" in English, because he said I was always up to something, going, going, going. Not in a hyperactive way but a diving into tackling life full on way. But I daresay Chelsea has me beat. If I am Goat Legs she is a Jack Rabbit. In a month's time, she will be walking down the aisle, has a full-time job, planning the wedding with Martin, running and now she is in Guiana celebrating her "bachelorette party" with her dear friends who invited her. Domi is working in Guiana and Leah is working in Italy, so why not go to Guiana for a week?
Yellow fever shots and they were off rowing a boat down a stream.
No wild nights drinking with half-naked men, alligators you say?
Photos via Chelsea
Where they are staying and living life truly, madly, deeply.
I am so happy for my daughter, to celebrate friendship and adventure and freedom and being a Jack Rabbit.
A child's map I found the other day in a French children's newspaper called, "La Journal Rose" it was dated 1901.
Do you know that France is made up of regions? Each region has its specialty and they are not to be confused with other regions. For example, Crepes are from the region of Brittany, though they are served all over France. But if you are in Rennes you might want to have a crepe, or a galette (Crepes are only served with sugary fillings, and galettes are served with salty fillings. Hence a Crepe is never served with spinach and cheese.) In Brittany, you also need to wear a striped tee-shirt.
My French Husband is from Brittany, he is my informant. Oh, I nearly forgot, you must drink Hard Cider in a red stripped cup when eating galettes too. If you don't like butter don't go to Brittany.
But the map above is of Marseille I got off track.
Marseille in a nutshell...
The Fort of Saint Jean
(Though not necessarily in that order)
Cannes, Nice, St Raphael, St. Tropez those seaside towns conjure up images of reclusive beaches and the playground of the rich and famous. Though with the arrival of the autoroute de Soleil the freeway back in 1951 those towns become the number one retirement spot for the elderly, as well as a summer destination for many.
Now the rich and famous hang out on their yachts parading along the coastline. When they do come into shore along St. Tropez it isn't uncommon to see a bunch of young starlets jump from their small "taxi" boats to the shore in their mink bikinis. When they arrive on shore it is customary to spray them with champagne.
So in case, you decide to come to shore on St. Tropez in your mink bikini or otherwise you stand forewarned to bring an umbrella or a hunk-of-burning-love to stand in front of you.
The French Riviera (short film)
Provence. If ever you want to taste the south of France read Peter Mayle's
Dreamy blue skies. A river runs through it. Paradise of fruits and antiques being one of them.
We moved to the south of France from Paris when our daughter was three months old.
I read Peter Mayle's book then used it as a guide to Provence.
Every place he mentioned in his "A Year in Provence" we went to visit.
Because of that, I discovered the world of antiques in Provence. Thank you, Peter Mayle, for mentioning Isle sur la Sorgue.
France become a whole lot better after that little discovery. I found my map to being very happy in France. Not that I wasn't happy being a wife and mother. It is that the BROCANTE added a roadmap to finding my footing. I discovered a place of extracurricular activity, an outlet for creating a business for myself in France through antiques.
Chelsea (my daughter over 28 years ago.) in Avignon. Chelsea called me "Maman" which is Mommy in English. Since I didn't respond to being called Maman, she called me Corey. It stayed that way until she was four. I kinda liked it then though now I call myself Mommy. I am weird like that.
Oops, I got off track again I think I have always been off track it makes for one helluva adventure. I think I'll stay this way.
Where does your roadmap take you these days?
Brittany, the part of France where Yann is from, literally the opposite of where we live now. We have a very good friend Francoise who also is from Brittany, and at one time long ago she lived in San Francisco. When Yann went to California he met her and because of their meeting I met Yann. Francoise was at our wedding in California thirty years ago, and she will be at Chelsea's and Martin's wedding next month.
Years ago back in San Francisco Francoise would make clothes without a pattern, or I should say she would make a pattern from seeing something she liked. She amazed me with her creativity and talent. As you know I have a backup dress plan for the wedding if I do not find anything I like, but stewing in the back of my mind I had this blouse that I loved so I called Francoise and shared my crazy thought and asked if she could make me a dress and she said why not. So I bought some fabric and went to Brittany these last few days to see if Francoise could make a pattern from the blouse and then lengthen it into a dress.
My mother would say, "Are you nuts! As if you have all the time in the world to be traipsing to Brittany to have a dress made."
Francoise's mother would say, "Are you nuts! You haven't made a pattern for years and now you are going to make the mother of the bride's dress?"
And Francoise and I would say, "Why not."
If it works it works, and if it doesn't it doesn't, and if it does and I decide not to wear it that is okay too.
The sewing adventure began.
But first we talked and had lunch, and then I took a nap.
And then we walked around her utterly charming village and went to a Rose garden show where I collected a big bag full of rose petals, and then we went for a walk in the countryside.
And then started to sew.
Oh, then we talked about organizing a week-long tour in Brittany, where we would take a small group around visiting antique shops, castles, gardens, visit Saint Malo, eat galettes and crepes, and take a sculpting lesson in her studio (Francoise is a sculptor I am a dreamer.) We were on a roll dreaming up ideas and having fun.
I am seriously planning a tour are you interested?
Oh, we or I should say Francoise made me a dress. It is lovely, more about that tomorrow.
One week from today my nieces arrive.
We are going to try to live stream Chelsea and Martin's wedding on my Facebook so if you are a Friend of mine on Facebook I hope you will tune in, mark the date July 6th at 4:00 in the afternoon French Time.
Many of us have seeds buried within us that are longing to have water, hoping to be unearthed, waiting to share their fragrant scent. Creativity is born from the smallest of seeds. If we can nurture our dreams with the belief that we have something to give, we can learn to trust that our roots will spread into tomorrow. When a seedling of passion awakens, it can bloom a never-ending bouquet of happiness for us to hold.
The rain's perfume filled my room
the morning light had a hint of grey,
My husband's steps downstairs were soft
my bed was my vehicle of healing this cold.
I rolled over, pulled the blanket over my head and slept for another few hours which was the best medicine.
What is the saying feed a cold starve a fever? I looked it up:
"The thinking behind the old saying "feed a cold, starve a fever" goes like this: fasting causes a drop in body temperature, which helps to fight a high fever, while eating raises your temperature, warming you up if you have a cold and keeping your sniffles at bay. ... If—or when you're hungry, eat."
Around six in the evening, I realized I hadn't had anything to eat since noon yesterday. I ate a little but still do not have an appetite. Tomorrow I will probably eat an entire grocery store.
My nieces will not be at Chelsea's wedding. I bought their tickets before I knew that Chelsea was going to be married in July.
They are okay with it, and it is what it is.
Sacha is looking for a place to live in Seattle, he is hoping for one of these areas:
Greenlake, Fremont, Ballard, Georgetown, Industrial district, Captiol Hill, Madrona, or even South Lake Union, Westlake, Eastlake, Queen Ann or Magnolia.
If you know of anything in any of those areas please let me know, and I will let Sacha know.
My friend Martina, who lives in Seattle, who I know through blogging is drying rose petals from her garden for Chelsea's and Martin's wedding. The rose petals are so perfect compared to my shriveled ones! I asked Martina how she managed to have them look so perfectly:
"I (Martina) used a wood frame. Years ago I had stapled chicken wire inside to make for a little treasures holder, but never used it.
Elevated it and put some lacy fabric over, then petals flat on it. Because Cashew the cat will eat any plant or flower in the house, I gently placed more lace on top. Two days in a room that gets full sun est voila! "
What is new with you?
Right after Chelsea and Martin's civil ceremony, we stepped outside of the City Hall in the 11eme in Paris, opened chilled bottles of champagne and toasted the newlywed couple.
The mailbox served as the makeshift bar.
A kiss from Martin's paternal grandmother.
Brother Sister Hug.
New brothers hug.
Martin's childhood friend David.
Sharing the love of the day.
As there was a direct bus line we took it from the city hall to the restaurant where we had lunch.
Urban. Hip. Fun.
Together in one city bus.
Some of the wedding party.
Childhood and university friends.
Some of the men in the family.
(Stephan, Sacha, Martin, Yann, Jarod, and George.
Martin's family (missing one brother who could not make it).
More to come I hope you do not mind.
Standing in the middle of the street in Marseille behind the Grand Major.
I asked Sacha to take this photo of me.
On New Year's Eve Chelsea asked us to select a word that would signify our upcoming year.
My word was:
Thirty years of marriage,
My Sixtieth birthday year,
Martin and Chelsea's upcoming Wedding,
My nieces coming to France,
My family coming to France...
and all the things that make up life around me
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" —Mary Oliver.
Pet Peeve... Soggy pasta, or the utter opposite of Al Dente.
Few things get my goat so to say, and when it comes to getting my goat "pet peeves" soggy pasta is one of them, so is cracking knuckles, God I cannot stand that.
If you want to torture me just serve soggy pasta, crack your knuckles, play heavy metal music, bite your nails, eat something anything in front of me when I am not eating anything (Misophonia) and the utter torture ban me from the brocante.
I would confess to anything after that in record speed.
What are some of your Pet Peeves?
Asparagus, that elegant vegetable.
Whenever I asked my family if they had a preference for dinner and before I could barely finish my sentence, they would cheer in unison, "PASTA!" As if they were the entire population of Italy who hadn't had pasta for the last million years. I am not joking.
Honestly, my family is not French, they would easily give up their baguettes and cheese for pasta any day of the year. Sacha would have pasta for breakfast every day if I had let him.
I remember having a dinner party, where it was the first time some guests were to come to our home. I made pasta with smoked salmon, in a tarragon cream sauce. As I was tossing the pasta I overheard them say that their family was from Italy and that their mother made their pasta daily from scratch. With that I nearly dropped the pasta bowl on the floor.
I should have chucked my pasta, right then and there, out the window. I would have if it hadn't been for the smoked salmon.
They talked on and on about how only Italians can cook pasta al dente. I figured we lived close enough to the Italian border, and since I cook pasta several times a week I needn't worry... I swallowed hard, I looked at my pretty pasta, tasted one, it had a chew to it. I carried it to the table and served it.
Unfortunately, it did not pass their "al dente perfection need" and they barely ate it. I was embarrassed and kinda sad to boot. I looked at their untouched smoked salmon. I imagined how I could save that untouched, beautiful, smoked salmon from going into the garbage. I wished I had a cat. Poor salmon's life ending in a garbage.
Later, Sacha would reassure me that I was not a bad cook, that I was oversensitive and that my pasta was the best in the world. Then he said,
"Well, at least we know who won't be coming to dinner again."
Sacha will be home this Friday for a brief holiday. He sent a list of dishes he wants me to make. Pasta is on the top of the list, and nearly every other word.
It does not surprise me. Because if he hadn't requested pasta I would have thought something was wrong.
Silly to say, each time I make pasta I recall our al dente guests and watch the pot like it is the last supper on earth. I gotta wash that crummy memory down the drain.
Pasta with elegant Asparagus very al dente.
Cook Pasta, a few minutes less than what is written on the box.
While the water is doing its best to boil prepare the sauce.
Saute a hearty handful of pine nuts, and put aside,
Saute strips of smoked salmon,
When the pasta water begins to boil add salt to the water.
Pour cream into a pan and heat,
Cut the steamed asparagus in bite-able sizes...al dente asparagus that is!!
Before the cream starts to roll and tumble wildly, add the asparagus, pine nuts, smoked salmon and a tad of tarragon to it, let it simmer and thicken.
Drain the pasta, add a touch of olive oil and Parmesan toss, then add the asparagus cream sauce.
After five days in bed, three visits to the osteopath, loving meals prepared by my friend Gina and numerous natural remedies I felt better this afternoon.
In my head, I heard my mom say, "Now, don't go overdoing it, galavanting about, stay at home, otherwise you are going to be back where you started."
Did I listen? My mom would say, "Heck now."
Gina and I went to Aix for a late lunch, peeked into one brocante shop and bought a dress.
And that was the best medicine ever! Of course, I walked the pace of a turtle and was very mindful of my steps, oh the change of air did me good.
Spring is stretching its arms inviting nature to open up and sing, the trees had the first hints of green, Ah the beginning with the various hues:
Wisteria, lilacs, daisies, a few poppies, irises, and the last velvet pods on this tree.
Even though it lightly rained I could feel Spring touching my shoulder.
I did not buy anything at the brocante shop, though had a few hellos to the owners and admired a thing or two.
The idea of carrying anything to the car just wasn't in me... shocking even for me, maybe in a way, I was listening to my mom heeding her advice, taking it slow.
Having a late lunch in France, especially in Provence outside the tourist season is not an easy feat to accomplish unless you grab something at the bakery or a fast food joint. Lunch is typically served between 12:30 and 2ish. Gina and I arrived around four, a tad late for lunch. We went to "Les Deux Garcons" one for the decor, two because it is an icon and three it serves classic bistro fare after lunch... which they called "Snacking". We had omelets. Mine was with egg whites, ricotta, and spinach... and fries oh those fries.
After lunch we took a stroll through the windy streets of Aix, I will never grow tired of this town, we did some window shopping or in French:
"Licking the windows".
Though I did more than window shop, I bought a dress which was the first thing I have bought since I lost 14 pounds.
That made my day.
A wedding on the horizon gave me the kickstart, or kick in the derriere last October.
A walkabout in Aix was a welcome ending I pray to my backache.
Thank you again for your thoughtfulness and advice, I hope all of you who suffer from back problems find relief too.
The first Paris marathon started in 1896, though the present course in the heart of Paris started in 1976.
Over fifty thousand participates run forty-two Kilometers starting of the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs-Elysees, around the Place de la Concorde,
alongside the Tuileries Jardin, passing Pont Neuf, then on the Bastille, onward with a long loop to through the Bois de Vincennes, then back to the heart of Paris along the Seine, passing by Notre Dame, Orsay, Louvre... a very scenic route including a wave to the Eiffel Tower and then through Bois de Boulogne to Avenue Foch.
An interesting way to see Paris let alone distracts oneself from the pain of running a marathon.
Chelsea trained faithfully for a few months in the rain and snow... mostly cold weather in Paris, yet the day of the Marathon the first spring day decided to appear at 75 Fahrenheit! A rather lovely shock from the cold winter in which she endured training.
In the beginning.
Chelsea had a Schneider APP on her cell phone that her support team was connected to. With it, we could track her progress: Where she was on the route/map, projected her speed and time. Chelsea also had a WHATSAPP group that where we could share photos and give updates as she passed by. Several friends plus Yann and I were stationed at different places on the route that she had set up. Sacha was connected by phone and was programmed to call her towards the end of the race, to keep her company plus she had Yann run the last ten Kilometers with her for moral support. A friend Alice, ran with her to cheer her on as well.
The above photo is of the last Kilometer.
Along the way, there is music, people cheering, food, water, and water mist to keep cool and hydrated.
I was stationed at the Place de la Concorde at the beginning of the race. There were so many runners I doubted whether I would be able to spot her, though she spotted me and waved. My next station was at the WALL at 30 Kilometers
(Every year hundreds of thousands of runners will have the opportunity to "hit the wall." "The wall" is defined as that period in a marathon when things transition from being pretty hard to being really, really hard. It is the point where your body and mind are simultaneously tested. It's the perfect intersection of fatigue and diminished mental faculties. Or as you most likely remember it, it's the exact point where all your pre-race plans went out the window.)
At the WALL, there was great dance music and such an atmosphere of support that it felt like a party to me at least. Chelsea later said that every ounce of her body was in pain so she asked herself, "Where do I feel good?" and the only place that came to mind was the tip of her nose. So she focused on the tip of her nose and then it started to run but not with her if you know what I mean. I was to meet her again at the beginning of the Bois de Boulogne. As I walked to my next pre-planned meeting point I remembered my Mom sitting in the stands when my dad was racing motorcycles, she would tell us kids to send dad our positive energy, to keep our fear from him and only pray for his best. As I walked on I did as my mother had taught me to send positive energy towards my loved one
Martin was on a scooter, he was stationed at the beginning then at Bastille, and a few other places, then at the 37-Kilometer point.
I was to see her before she entered the Bois de Bolougne where I was supposed to give her sugar cubes and Kleenex if need be, but I never saw her go by as a man fell at my feet so I gave him the sugar and Kleenex. I think it was at that point that I missed her.
I was amazed at the various ages, sizes, and teams carrying people who ran by. Total admiration for each and every one of them. It was very emotional to watch.
The runners had their names on their runner's bibs so when they would run by I would call out their names if they looked like they needed encouragement. Chelsea later would say that when people called out her name it made her feel good and she felt proud.
The Cheerleaders: Fabrice (Chelsea and Sacha's childhood friend), David (Martin's childhood friend), Clemence (Chelsea's junior high school friend), Martin (Mr. Espresso future husband), The Marathoner, Yann, me, and Alice (Chelsea's university friend who ran several kilometers with her at the end.)
Not pictured: Marina and Lucie (university friends), Constance and Antoine (friends from work).
Oh, the abundant joy of reaching your goal!
Bravo Paris 2018 Marathoners
Tomorrow Chelsea will run the Paris Marathon. We came to Paris to cheer her on.
We have a map which shows us where we are to meet to cheer her on along the way. Yann will meet and run with her at the 30k marker that is the
Readdy set go!
Each and every person I have met while writing my blog has been a happy experience. I feel so fortunate to have many of you as friends, to share our lives together be it through this window on the blog or by meeting you. I love when you come to France and I have the pleasure of sharing my family, Provence and the brocantes with you. This latest adventure with the Muse is no exception. Myrna and Marianne are from my hometown in Willows and Barbara I met last year.
While visiting Lourmarin we ran into my friends Jean and Nathalie who have a beautiful antique shop in Lourmarin, and Gary who is my friend Ching's husband at the town's market buying bread, later in the day we saw Odile at her shop in l'Isle sur la Sorgue, and then John and Camy in Lacoste at the village art show. One of my favorite things to do is to connect people, and today felt like a whirlwind of worlds coming together.
Provence, the markets, the shutters, the cobblestones, the bakeries, the markets, the day to day life of the village and the countryside which is simply
waiting to take you into a life that only seems like a dream.
This evening as we walked back from the village to our guest house we came to a stone terrace that overlooked the Luberon valley. Stretching out before us under the luminous full moon the cherry trees ready to bloom, the toiled land ruffled moist, the lavender longing for July, the first iris, the birds singing their last song of the day while the wind teasingly drowned them out. I opened my arms wide and prayed let this wind blow through me cleanse me, let the full moon's light led the way and may I too be like the aching fertile ground ready for the seeds of tomorrow to bloom bright and giving.
Thank you, dear readers, blog friends, and those of you who have come to visit me.
Today is a wonderful day and may tomorrow be another day of celebrating you.
Living in France has opened my eyes to an artful way of living. It has shown me a depth of color in the celebration of seasons, layers of textured history, and that day to day life is like applying paint on a canvas, our actions and feelings are brush strokes to the greater story.
As in Renoir's painting, I noticed the corner of his paintings, the scenes within the scene. Ah the reflection of light, the movement of the moment caught and held up as an example of passing time, brush strokes of the day to day life reflecting on that which is at hand, the beauty of the smallest details which are often overlooked.
Living an artful life: To put my habits and attitudes in my back pocket. To absorb that which is around me, let it soak in over time letting it recolor my days. To take an entire afternoon at a cafe with one glass of wine while watching the sun take its time to move over my head.
As I didn't speak French when I first arrived in France, I spent an endless amount of time listening. Though what I came to realize it wasn't just the words I was listening to. Listening for me had more to do with observing the unconscious language of the body. Most of the time I understood the conversation though could not repeat one word which had been spoken. Isn't it like that when we listen, we hear the heart which often speaks without uttering a word?
A girl by a window. Her dress, like the curtain in front of the window barely concealing what is inside. Her lips are closed, her regard...what is she thinking? That is how I started to learn French. Instead of asking myself, what are they saying? I started to look at them and wonder what are they thinking, or what are they feeling.
Have you ever noticed hands speak without measure? Words can be guarded, but hands and eyes speak the depth of feeling, the truth.
Often with nothing is being said, the hands and eyes keep on speaking.
Another thing I started to paid attention to was how others handled objects, how they used things. Their movements like a dance spoke of either hurriedness, a-quick-two-step and get the job done. Or they moved with a grace, a gentleness, an awareness of the things around them and if they were struggling with contained emotion, their actions could resemble the tango. Paying attention to how someone moved, how they set a table, how they ate their meal, how they carried themselves, made me more aware of my own actions and what message was I sending
Ah the importance, yes importance of setting the table, writing a note by hand, baking a cake, ironing the shirt, saying thank you, opening the door for another, letting someone go in front of us, the not eating the last cookie, the taking out the garbage, not jumping to conclusions, letting someone hog the blankets.
Those little things count, like many other things, speak volumes truly they color the world around us.
Layers upon layers, stories within stories, love mixed with odd bits that create an artist to mix, blend and stir with their brush strokes and colors. Or paint a picture that puts an experience in place. Day by day we are painting our lives, on each other's canvas.
What color are you today?
Tomorrow starts the first French Muse Experience of the year. I will be posting photos (also on my instagram) mostly that tell the story of exploring Provence and searching for antiques. I hope one day you will come to France, what a pleasure it will be to show you what I have come to love!
Note: Photos taken while at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris
Here are some of the photos on our Fridge:
This is Sacha when he was twenty-two months old, early in the morning, with his stuffed bear. He had yet to sleep through the night. In fact, he woke up five, six, seven, eight times throughout the night until he was five years old.
It wasn't easy.
This is a photo of my dad and me. It was the first time that my parents came to visit me in France (1988). Dig my short brown hair?
Peeking out above the photo is another photo of Chelsea... who barely had any hair on her head until she three or so.
Chelsea is holding her little brother Sacha. She thought he was a doll. He liked being a baby. So everyone was happy. Until night time that is...
In the background was our cherry tree.
This is a photo of my mom's family Easter egg hunting. My mom was the youngest of seven. (Not all seen in the photo.)
An old photo of my mom with some of her sisters and my dad. Another one of my Grandmother that I adored, I adored both of my Grandmothers. A snippet of a postcard from Sacha when he was in NYC and a movie stub when I went to the movies years ago with my nieces and decided right then and there to invite them to Paris when I turned sixty. They arrive June 11th this year.
A painting of a French boy that activated French Husband's brocante bug! He found the painting and bought it.
Some of my family when we went back home a few weeks before my brother Mark's (and Diane's) wedding. I think Sacha who was three years old at the time took the photo.
The seven oldest grandchildren (including Sacha.)
A photo of my brother Marty (who is younger than me) and me.
It is probably the first and only time I held a dog.
What photos do you have on your fridge?
For a few hours this morning we had snow
Like dusting powder sugar on a cake.
As the minutes passed, the dusting gave way to icing.
Snow in Provence is like having your cake and eating it too.
It might last a day or two, though today it melted away within a few hours.
Sweet but no snowman.
Watching the snowfall on the garden chair was like watching the hand of an artist painting.
Adding just the right amount of color, capturing the light, steady strokes...
Our courtyard became a stage, wonderland, for the red robin who dares to sing, or the doves to dine, if only for a day.
By the afternoon the stage was prepared for spring.
How is it chez toi?
The sketchbook from an unknown artist was one of many stacked in a pile. Glancing through a few pages I asked the antique dealer how much and bought all of them.
French Husband's grandmother was an artist. In his Uncle's home, there are a few pieces that she created. His Uncle has no children hopefully when the day comes and if he goes before his nieces and nephews that he has it written down to pass his mother's art on to them.
Otherwise, it might land in a heap at the brocante.
This one has a personality.
It is said that ears and hands are some of the hardest elements to draw and paint.
Looking through this sketchbook I found myself making up stories about the portraits.
Stories, when are not known, are invented. The thing about things, especially old things is that they speak a language
of curiosity, of wonder, even the flaws make us take a second look and have an opinion.
Santa Claus incognito.
I like the contradiction of light and dark.
Narrow lips, tiny eyes, set chin, makes me feel she is judgemental. Not happy.
Do you feel that when you look at her?
That tiny foot.
The hint of orange on his glass and lips makes the sketch.
A vast collection of characters, maybe people from his community and a few from another century, or maybe ghosts from his village.
Spent the morning with my friend Mo, one of the most creative generous souls I know.
One love feast after another, a constant circle of love.
When you come see me, let's go see Mo who lives a few miles away.
French Husband and I didn't have that option. We could not just pick up and live in one or the other country simply because we loved one another and wanted to be in a relationship. We had to marry to be together in the same country. Luckily for us, we could, but back in 1988 that wasn't an option for same-sex couples. French Husband and I never thought of that until we were faced with the fact that we could only be with one another if we married.
French law only recognizes civil marriage. This must be performed by a French Civil Authority (officier de l'état civil), which includes the mayor (maire), their legally authorized replacement - the deputy mayor (adjoint) - or a city councilor (conseiller municipal).
"A prenuptial (or pre-marital) agreement (the contrat de marriage) stipulates the terms of the marriage (régime matrimonial). If this is desired it must be drawn up by a notary public before the wedding; if a wedding proceeds with no prenuptial agreement the couple is automatically married in community of property (communauté de biens réduite aux acquêts). This means that items each party owns personally before the marriage and whatever comes to them afterward through inheritance remains their property. That which is acquired during the marriage is owned equally by both parties.
The two most common marital regimes are: being married out of community of property (séparation de biens) and a combination of separation and joint ownership (participation aux acquêts). A notary will advise."
Martin and Chelsea will have their legal ceremony May 6th in Paris, and Sacha will be home for their special day.
Though we all agree that the real wedding the Sacrament of Marriage will take place July 6th, on the eve of my Mother's and Father's wedding anniversary.