First freelance job.
In Paris for a few days.
Sacha graduates this summer.
There is a hammock, like a nest, in an old large fig tree. I have a thing for figs, the scent is one of my favorites. When Chelsea's boyfriend Mr. Espresso invited us over this afternoon for a swim, I spotted the hammock, the pool though beautiful did not interest me as much as the pleasure of being in the middle of that fig tree.
I took a rare and wonderful nap.
Later Chelsea came up, sat on one of the branches.
Chelsea was home for Juliette's birthday party, and for Father's day.
These two sweethearts.
The only thing missing on this perfect weekend was Sacha.
I never doubted for one minute that Yann would be anything other than perfect as a Father. More than anything that is why I married him. I wanted a man who could be a beautiful generous Father.
Also I loved him because he could dance.
Happy Father's Day Yann!
Chelsea being a mermaid. She was darling acting up for me. Striking poses. Oops, the camera made blotches appear on her skin.
If you do not see me on the blog tomorrow, it is because Chelsea saw these photos here.
Isn't that the most darling sunshine swimsuit!
How to make a Foret Noire (a black forest cake.)
Easy... you ask my niece Juliette to come over.
She made the chocolate cake (which in itself was almost as good as French Husband's kisses.
Then she cut it in half, and spread homemade cherry jam in between the two layers. Next she added chocolate cream, then whipped cream and dotted it with black cherries.
After lunch Juliette carried the ingredients to make the foret noire at the table. She cut the cake in half and assembled it in front of us. If I hadn't just had lunch I swear I would have devoured it before she even opened the homemade jam. Watching someone make a cake like this is torture... Chocolate cream, whip cream, black cherries, a rich chocolate cake.... Juliette is the baker in the family. Never disappointing. Juliette masters a clever trick with ease.
She pre-sliced the cake before adding the filling! Because as she said, "It is a squishy mess to cut it after-wards if you don't do so."
Delicious as is... but it wasn't finished.
I was admiring her artistic way of putting the cake together that I didn't notice the chocolate cream and cherry jam spoons to lick!
Isn't Juliette's daughter Tatiana beautiful! I love the smudges of chocolate on those kissable lips.
Almost makes me happy she go to the spoons first.
My Great Grand Mother's recipe for the chocolate cake.
I've called it "The 1900's Chocolate Cake".
My Grand-ma, Bonne-Maman, use to bake it every year for our birthday.
6 eggs (separate the yolk, keep both)
90 g of butter
180g of chocolate
80G of potato flour
200g of sugar
Melt the chocolate and the butter together "au bain-marie"
Mix the yolks and the sugar until it takes a very clear color.
Add the potato flour.
In the bowl with the eggs, sugar and potato flour, stir the chocolate + the butter cream.
Very lightly, add the whip the 6 whites "montés en neige"...Th.n°5 (150°C), 50-60 min
Happy 40th JuJu!!
Twenty three years ago Sacha was born three weeks early.
He weighed 8.8 pounds.
French husband, Chelsea and I were spending the weekend with Yann's Great Aunt who lived two hours away from the nearest hospital.
During the afternoon we hiked into the forest to pick wild strawberries, and late that evening after dinner at French husband's Great Aunt's home I went into labor.
I won't tell you about the wild speed racer ride to the hospital. Nor about being lost, and going around, and around the round abouts, with the contractions coming fast and steady. I won't tell you how when I gave birth to Chelsea I was out of my mind with pain, and begged French Husband for drugs, better yet for a truck to run over me, and repeated every bad word I knew.
But I will say that during labor with Sacha, I asked French husband to sing so I could focus on his voice. He started to hum a song, one that was unusal and old fashion and as my mind tried to figure out what he was singing I forgot about being in labor, "... Dr. Zhivago? Are you singing Dr. ZHIVAGO?" We both cracked up laughing, my water broke and Sacha was on his way.
Happy Birthday Boy-Boy!
France celebrates the end of World War II on the 8th of May.
Over twenty years ago, when we first arrived in the French village where we live, an elderly woman came to our door. She introduced herself as Annie and said to me:
"When the Americans came and liberated us years ago, I never knew any of them to say thank you. I heard you are an American, and since you are the only American I have ever met, I want to say thank you to you for your country's helping us."
Annie's home was up the hill from where we lived, she walked passed our house everyday as she went on her daily walk. If we were in the garden she would stop and say hello.
When my Mother and Father came to visit, and then after a several wonderful weeks they prepared to leave, I was sad. I didn't want them to go, I knew they couldn't stay and my reality of having my heart in two places stung. My Mother knowing Annie lived down the road, could see a friendship blooming nudge me, "Be kind to Annie, show her what a good friend you can be. Whenever you help her or show her friendship you will see us by your side. Whatever you do for Annie, you do it towards us too."
It was the most loving advice to give, I knew that in loving Annie I was also loving my Mother and Father, and in doing that the gap between California and home felt smaller.
(The photo is of Annie's hand when we went to Lourdes.)
I came across this image today, the second I saw it I felt it penetrate to the very heart of how I am feeling:
Hearing the stillness of the water
as it barely laps the side of the boat,
I could feel the sails full yet not moving.
Simply standing on water.
The deep unknown,
as it stirs underneath
The spirit moves.
Thank you for your steadfast care, love, prayers and thoughts for my friend Annie.
In respect to her family I am not saying much, thank you for understanding this private moment.
Please continue to hold Annie as her journey continues.
Thank you Mo!
For restoring the old wooden crown.
Everyday when I see it, I thank you,
instead cursing French Husband for accidentally breaking it.
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?
Where: La Ciotat Figuerolles
The elegant egg, amongst many good things.
Wear flats as you gotta hike down to the tiny beach to reach the restaurant.
Love a crown worth wearing.
For what other crown would serve as well?
What other crown would bring as much joy?
has the honest balance that challenges, it doesn't come on a silver platter, it is as if it says, "Here I am take me, care for me, hold me, let me burn inside you and then watch where I lead you."
The path is never in front of you,
but never out of reach.
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.
Michel Biehn artwork
Imagine one day you strike up conversation with a stranger and happily discover you share an addiction to collecting antique textiles – kinship over old threads – love it!.
This new friend, Anna, confides that she is in the process of downsizing and is building her very first ‘new-build’ home. It turns out she just so happens to have boxes upon boxes of antique textiles; ticking; linens; tapestries; 1800s fabric, antique Provencal piqué and boutis in storage and would love to find a way to sell them without having to drag them around from one antique fair to another.
I mention I have a group of kindred spirits coming to Provence for the French Muse experience and the idea for a private textile brocante sale is hatched.
I went to visit her a few weeks before our retreat and as I stepped over scaffolding and into her beautiful home it became very obvious that Anna has an incredible eye, even in its unfinished state, there was a delicious marriage of pattern, texture and light, I was ready to move in if she invited me to!
….Somehow she had forgotten to mention she has been featured in many quintessential books about Provence and interior design…. I remember the heat of a blush forming when I realised my new friend was a pretty big deal…. and I was literally stepping inside the pages of one of my favourite interior design books – ‘Textile Style’.
... to continue reading go here:
1) The first page in a century old book.
2) A bronze drawer pull, 1700s.
3) French antique textiles for the next French Muse Experience.
4) A worn silver thimble.
5) Delicate scissors for fine lace or needle work.
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.
Photos Via Vany, Chelsea's friend.
Vanessa, who has been Chelsea's friend since the very first day on university is a girly girly, a serious bike rider and often competes in triathlons.
While in the Philippines Chelsea and Vanessa went Whale Shark snorkeling. I asked what was wrong with having a drink at a cafe? My daughter laughed, "Mom!" Like I was lame for thinking of such a thing.
Oh and she burned her leg while riding a motorcycle she rented. Yes Chelsea rides motorcycles.
Because heck why not live life like it is the last day. The motorcycle burn is what my father would have called, "A biker's tattoo." I even have one. But still.
Chelsea does not do the brocante.
No that would be to calm.
That would not be her idea of living life.
And I love her for being her own person and doing it her way: Adventurous, Collective, Deep, Intelligent and Loving Spirit!
Vanessa, Chelsea and some other friends in the beginning of their hike in the rainforest.
"Mount Makiling hiking in the rainforest
ended up being quite an adventure... (Mind you no small potatoes when Vanessa says QUITE an adventure. Gulp!)
We were attacked by leeches,
got caught in a thunderstorm."
Vanessa continued, "But were fortunate enough to make it back safe and sound
with the help of a nice group of Koreans
who fed us Kimchi and gave us Soju to warm us up."
When I asked Chelsea if she was ever scared she admitted she was, "... I kept wishing to be home."
I asked if they had any photos of the storm. Chelsea replied, "Mom we couldn't even see in front of our noses. Luckily we had our cameras in ziplock bags... three days later my shoes were still soaked, and the MUD!"
"Mount Makiling is a dormant volcano in Laguna province on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The mountain rises to an elevation of 3,580 feet." via Wiki
These photos are before the storm.
Nice, dry, light... smiling.
Before Chelsea went on the hike I received a text that read:
"Hey Lovely Lady,
So I'm waiting at the "bus station". I still have 2 hours to go before the bus actually leaves (I came early as it wasn't clearly indicated at what time the daily bus departed and I wanted to make sure I had a seat (Instead if standing, squatting, or hanging on for dear life on the roof you know) since the ride is 10 hours long....
Ten hours long.
Of course the moment I received her email I started pleading with whoever could hear me, "Please may Chelsea's journey be safe. And a seat for everyone inside the bus too."
Chelsea made it home safe and happy.
Happy and safe is living it well.
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.)