Photo via my friend Leigh
Photo via my friend Leigh
Photo via my friend Leigh
the lavender scent carried me to another place
Caressing lavender stalks
my hands perfumed by the touch
A silent prayer.
Family and friends.
Photo via Miss Selfie Stick holder Madison.
We drove to Valensole weaving along the backroads. Seven in a van, my cousin Judy drove like a race car driver I loved it, I did not fall asleep.
The excitement was exhilarating. The scenery though never disappointing rarely keeps me awake. So I laughed with those in the van, felt giddy as a twinkle of a star and waited anxiously at their reaction to the lavender fields of Valensole.
From the car window, a blur of color.
Photo via Madison and her selfie stick, which was a kick in the pants.
So funny, so fun... those two little cousins are sweeties!
Photo via Madison
of my Aunt Eva May, my mother's sister in law.
Must - dash in the lavender fields.
The two grand daughters posed my Aunt in a hundred different photos. Such admiration they have, such evident love, beautiful to witness. They giggled as they would say, "Grandma bend down, smell the lavender." Click. "Grandma, raise your hands to the sky." Click. " Grandma, grandma, hold the lavender to your nose like a moustache." Click.
Until next year.
The day before Annie passed away, My Aunt Eva May, her daughter Judy, and Judy's daughters Rachel and Madison came to visit from California. And to add more healing color of love and tenderness, Leigh and Kaye came from New Zealand. Two years ago I gave five lucky winners a week to come stay in my home and I would be their tour guide and cook... Well, two years later and the day before Annie passed away my home was full of goodness, comfort, friendship and remembrance.
This is Leigh who tickles me pink.
This is my cousin Rachel who tripped, I screamed. I thought she was going over the edge.
I shutter even now thinking of it.
Though she is young, fearless and brushed it off like it was nothing.
Oh to be young.
Cassis not so crowded.
Blue as ever.
The sea tempted me to jump in clothes and all.
I regret I did not do it.
Life is for the living, seas as blue as this cannot be missed, not even for a day with a dress on.
Those darling sisters.
A wave of color, much needed, much appreciated.
Now every time Thierry and Gail invite us over to their home for dinner, I am blown away at the recipes I discover. Gail is a fantastic cook; I am never disappointed and thankful (in more ways than one) that we bumped into each other's lives. Thierry is happy. I am getting chubbier and life is good.
Gail should open a bakery.
Gail uses Nigella Lawson's recipes. I never knew of Nigella, but since I have had a few of her recipes from Gail's hand, I am a big fan.
The other night we had Gail and Thierry over to our house for dinner. French Husband made cucumber, basil, green onion, melon and limoncello smoothies. Oh my.
I made vegetable tartlettes without the crust, amongst other things... but the HIT was the dessert that Gail brought over:
Lemon Polenta Cake.
It is now my most favorite dessert ever.
Have you tried it? Don't you will eat it the entire cake by yourself, because you will not want to share.
It is that good.
"This cake is a sort of Anglo-Italian amalgam. The flat, plain disc is reminiscent of the confections that sit geometrically arranged in patisserie windows in Italy; the sharp, syrupy sogginess borrows from the classic English teatime favourite, the lemon drizzle cake. It is a good marriage: I love Italian cooking in all respects save one - I find their cakes both too dry and too sweet. Here, though, the flavoursome grittiness of the polenta and tender rubble of ground almonds provide so much better a foil for the wholly desirable dampness than does the usual flour. But there is more to it than that. By some alchemical process, the lemon highlights the eggy butteriness of the cake, making it rich and sharp at the same time. If you were to try to imagine what lemon curd would taste like in cake form, this would be it."
Lemon Polenta Cake
NOTE: to make this cake gluten-free, make sure to use gluten-free baking powder, or omit the baking powder altogether and beat the batter exuberantly at step 4.
Meanwhile back with Thierry and Gail... all is well. Happiness is a mix of those things that make us feel safe, loved and wanting to share with one another.
What is your recipe for happiness?
First freelance job.
In Paris for a few days.
Sacha graduates this summer.
The forgotten place
when the scent of roses fills the air
the window opens
the breeze dances with your hair
the chair that was the perfect place
by the fire, or next to the window for a hint of sun,
during late spring stands alone,
The first time you dance nerves sing against the melody trying to tell you not to do it, wallflowers grow because of this. But if you can catch the tune and let it slide down to your toes, a movement fills your veins, and your heart starts to beat to an inner spirit drum.
Our friend Ching's first dance.
French Husband would not take no for an answer, he put on the old record player, the kind from the turn of the century, he wound it up, then grabbed Ching, "Let's dance."
Laughter releases nerves.
And they danced and danced.
Between winding up the record player,
Ching skipped the light fantastic!
The first time you danced?
Peeling back the layers,
one sweet note after another,
larger leaves first.
Lemon and a hint of butter.
So little with so much.
To the heart,
The center that holds it altogether,
with its prickly beard.
Worth the peeling,
One leaf at a time:
That is how the story began..
One moment, added a memory, gave way to sharing a cup of sugar, then as time went on the intimacy grew, the moments turned into years, the leaves became smaller, richer, divine destiny, rich chapters...
A pair of 1900s coral mohair dining chairs.
Black paint and gold leafing was someone's recent handiwork, I will tone that down a bit. Otherwise they are a perfect addition.
Perfect condition. Price less than grocery shopping for a week.
Crackers never taste better!
Poking around our apartment in Paris. Some friends from Willows are coming next week, and I want everything to be just so. Also a magazine photographer and stylist came over this morning to take photos for an article about designing and creating home with old things. I guess they thought I would be the one to talk to. I wonder how they got that idea?
The funny thing is I thought they were coming around one in the afternoon, and instead they arrived at eleven in the morning. They caught me with my fair unbrushed, in my cleaning-the-house clothes and well, really not ready. They looked very glam and professional I looked like a cave dweller.
At least the apartment did not disappoint them.
Needless to say they did not take my photo, whew.
Sacha is coming over for dinner.
Chelsea is in Provence with Yann... she took the bad weather with her. It hasn't rained in Provence in several weeks. And it hasn't felt like summer in Paris until a few days ago. Lucky me.
It didn't just rain it poured, the flowers must be in wonderland.
I added three more plates to the wall; I want to cover the wall with plates. Call it ironstone paper. Thirteen of them. I am not worried that thirteen has a bad rap... but if any of them fall I will re-think the thirteen thing.
Such a glorious day.
I can hear it calling, "Come out and play!"
A evening walk with the boy is on the menu.
The magazine people brought over a lovely bunch of flowers. Some of them were pink which really doesn't go with the color scheme, but once they were placed here and there I had to admit the those pink flowers added such harmony and grace, that they could have been purple with red polka dots and still I would have felt like singing.
I hope your Sunday is a singing one too.
When you are an American living in France, there are a few things that you can be sure of:
1) You will compare your adopted country to your home country.
2) You will miss home, and eventually miss the other when you are home.
3) You will say French words when speaking English, and English words while speaking French.
4) Family and friends will come to visit, crowning you the best tour guide.
5) You will find yourself defending the misunderstood ways of the French.
6) You will say Oh la la in a perfect French accent, and be able puff your lips, and blow air out in the most convincing way.
7) You will know how to get the French waiter's attention to pay the bill.
8) Instead of hugging your friends you will kiss them.
9) You will be able to spot another American ten miles away.
10) When in the States you will ask the waiter, “Can I have water with no ice, please?”
11) You will know the secret of how the French stay thin and how to wear a scarf.
12) Endives, Radishes, Leeks... will be your new best friend.
13) The paper cup will feel shameful.
14) You will understand the art and appreciation of flirting.
15) Good butter, wonderfully inexpensive wines (that would cost a fortune in the States,) and baguettes will never, never compare anywhere eles in the world.
17) Being chic for no reason is reason enough: Why not wear high heels today?
18) That dogs are not dogs but human beings.
19) You will smile knowing that a facade is a facade, and that what is real is behind the wall.
And I am not talking about shutters and house interiors.
20) When you have visited France, or have lived here for nearly thirty years, or are a native, you will be asked, "What is it about the French?" And if you are like me you will smile knowing deep down inside... la vie est belle and with that you know what they know and cannot explain it.
He never liked the brocante,
though he tolerated it because of me.
Love does crazy things to us.
Then little by little, cause there are a million stories to say, but I will cut to the chase and say little by little he started getting into it.
Eventually, 27 years later he is starting to spot things I miss.
Nearly a yard long.
Framed in a gilded ruin decay, which says "MUST HAVE"
1800s classic engraving.
Reminds French Husband and I of our first trip together to
But that is another story.
We plan on taking it to Paris for the bathroom.
The best part Brocante Husband found it for
10 Euros or $12.
The lavender is beginning to bloom in our garden.
That means Valensole, the area where the lavender fields are that I love to visit are budding. We are about two weeks ahead. The best time to see the lavender fields is around the end of June, early July, but this year it looks like it will be earlier. It is the prettiest when the buds are fully bloomed. That is when the color and fragrance is the most vivid.
Ruth and I are planning our next French Muse Experience in September. I would like to repeat the same things we did, but the other options are also wonderful. Surely, we will return to Mo's studio Reves d'Argile, have a drink in the gardens of Picasso's lover's home, hit several brocantes or a hundred, more sounds better to me but I am not the only one going.
If you were coming to the French Muse experience what would you hope to see or do?
French lard pots, 1800 to 1900s confit pots speak Provence. I cannot stop collecting them. The more I see of them, the more charming their appeal. Various sizes, always in green, yellow, though the blue and white ones, especially the white ones I cannot part with. Harder to find and they stay inside my home.
The straw, wicker, basket covered bonbonnes... oh my I could not pass this one up, could you. If you say yes, don't tell me.
Provencal summer ware. This is why I do not have any new clothes... how can I go clothe shopping if there is a brocante in town?
As I walk I carry your kindness with me.
As I walk along the river, letting it carry my feelings that are too heavy, holding on to your kindness instead.
A reflective sacred time.
Thank you for sharing it with me.
Today is Annie's birthday, it is also Mother's Day in France and yesterday evening Annie went into intensive care.
I long for her to have peace.
I pray for gentleness.
My thoughts only hold her.
Annie, my dear Annie.
(Thank you for loving Annie.)
Down by the river,
beyond the gate,
a dirt path
winds this way and that,
between the chestnut trees,
the sunlight filters through the leaves,
creating lace-like shadows on the ground.
The water rushes by and it seems
the birds sing in harmony with it.
Nothing is asked.
Though much is said.
Words spoken without a human voice.
The water gather,
reflecting the sky,
Deeply, without moving,
The leaves rustle as the breeze goes by,
I look up diamonds sparkle then tumble into water.
Moving without a sound,
Caressing everything even me.
The light beckons further down the path.
One step at a time,
(Please keep Annie in your prayers: Tenderness, gratitude, peace.)
Added a rug.
I guess when the walls, cupboards, drawers, tabletops... cannot hold anymore the floor becomes the newest center piece.
When we renovated our kitchen I had the carpenter cut a long narrow horizontal line along the counter top so I could show the handles to my kitchen knives collection. One regret is I wish I had the carpenter cut it the full length of the counter instead of ten inches.
Mixing practical and beautiful is important to me.
Old things are practical:
A knives sharpener,
An herb sack with the number 25, I like to think it had to do with Christmas and candy, probably not the case, more likely for herbs,
An espresso 1800 cup from my friend Melanie...who moved and it is my way of remembering her everyday.
Silver ornate knives. I kind of have a thing for them. Weird isn't it.
What do you like to collect?
The mask, looks like something someone would wear to the Venetian carnival. I do not understand why the eye part is open?
Looking at old images from another time is a good way to learn about history, especially when it comes to antiques, period pieces, lifestyle.
Driving around the countryside in the Luberon: Goult and Lacoste. Enchanting this time of the year. Mild weather, not to hot. Poppies everywhere considering it was a mild winter with just enough rain and a gentle May. The cherry trees are pale pink, soon to compete with the red poppy fields.
The towns in the Luberon are spread out. You will need a car to go to one to the next. Then walk, and walk and walk, stone steps up and up and down and down. Visiting towns such as Lacoste, Goult, Menerbes, Lourmarin, Bonnieux... to name a few will keep you fit. Though you can park your car and find a cafe with a view:
Though what a pity if you do not take a walk around.
French Husband and I went back to Lacoste. Back to the house we rented for the French Muse Experience. We stayed there, hardly moved. Stopped only for groceries, wine, poppy fields and the brocante. As most of the above is within five minutes away we weren't gone for long. Instead we sat on the terrace, listened to the multitude of birdsong, saw a fawn run across the distance orchard, stayed outside until the last ray of sunlight illuminated the carousel pine tree golden red.
Then we waited for the stars. Smiled at our peace of mind. Embraced the holy moment that speaks without words and comes when we are still enough to let it echo within.
A long weekend, a needed retreat.
Deeply under the blankets, covered with tenderness we slept and reconnected to who we are.
Going through thousands of French journal images that I have from the 1800s, for an artist/client to work with.
Here are a few I am sending...
Hat, lace collar and black ribbon necklace.
Annie was a hat maker in her day, a modist. She talks about walking around Marseille window shopping for ideas for the hat company she use to work for.
"A hat for a young girl", says the article.
Manuella, the young woman who does my hair, came by. As she watched me sort through these pages of designs, she was taking images for her soon to be shop.
During these last few weeks, especially during the French Muse Experience, I have posted more photos and barely any text. I have found during this time that it was all I could do. After all these years of blogging daily and responded to your wonderful emails I found I needed a break. Pardon my silence, enjoy the daily photos and I will return soon. Also I will continue to post little videos on Facebook, items on my brocante online, and on Instagram. Thank you for your support. xxxxx