The never ending wonder of surprise. How many times have I walked the path that goes by this house is unmeasurable. Thinking out loud- I wondered due to the clearing recently executed around the path did the trail leading to it become more apparent? Whatever the reason the century old house has been there longer than I have and will be...
Today I found it by accident.
The clouds that brought a slew of rain yesterday glistened the tree trunks and branches, allowing the texture of the bark, stone, soil and growth to speak volumes of spring's awaken. Almond blossom confetti covered the ground, did the soul of the house sing in the background luring me closer?
Fortunately, the house is locked solid as it is abandoned and alone out in the foothills. Though the grounds are cared for: Olive trees recently pruned, irises green shoots waking up and the boars happy dig evident around the oak trees.
I imagined a picnic during the French Muse Experience, poetry in motion, girls in white, kites waving above, and watching the clouds go by while taking a nap on some old French quilt that surely would be of red toile.
How could this house have gone unnoticed by me? I remain baffled as I walked home. The sun played hide and seek amongst the clouds of grey, navy, white and black. Night was creeping in yet hints of blue behind the threatening clouds told me that spring's daylight would not allow it just yet. "Just behind the clouds... a blue sky," I thought to myself just like the house just behind the overgrown trail.
I promised myself to see beyond what is at hand. To open my other senses to what is beyond. To reach into the moment letting it lead me.
Certainly we have all thought about what story is behind old things, if only they could talk. Though they do talk, and we do hear, and our lives follow similar paths.
I wondered if anything I ever bought at the brocante belonged to this house. The thought of it made me smile. I am a caregiver to old things, lending them a hand into tomorrow. Their story holds a piece of you and me.
Stained teacup, pillowcase that has nestled my head, reflection in the mirror, rug underfoot, sculpted wood gathering dust, drawer holding bits and pieces.
Past, present, future in each step we take.
French Easter Postcard
Did you know that in France it is not the Easter Bunny that brings the chocolate eggs, but the church bells? Yet again the chicken is overlooked.
6 Euros ($6.50) includes postage and tax.
Somebody isn't thrilled with the baby.
What no chocolate?
6 Euros ($6.50) includes postage and tax.
Chelsea came home this weekend. We talked about the race, and our "training". I told her that because she thought I could run a 10k gave me great joy. Her belief in me made me want to be in better shape. As you know I have been walking daily these last couple of months. I have been feeling spunky, proud, and all around pretty darn good about my progress until Chelsea told me we had to step up our game. Step up our game.
I truly did not like the sound of it.
"Mom every morning at seven we are going to FaceTime each other," She told me to add a certain App to my iphone, a work out routine, "...then we will do this work out routine together. Won't that be fun?"
(Hint to daughter: Fun: Is going to the brocante. Fun: Is sitting at a cafe after a ballet, drinking a glass of wine. Fun: Is being with you anywhere anytime NOT doing squats at seven in the morning.)
Brocante loving mother responded after registering the bomb she dropped, "What?" Gulp, "Work out together? You mean: Monday morning, my phone will ring, I literally will roll out of bed, on to the rug, and do a work out routine that will hurt like hell, leaving me somewhat died. Fun?"
"Come on my you are going to love seeing me! It will be fun."
My daughter has a warped sense of fun.
Chelsea added the App to my phone. Then with such excitement in her voice I thought for a moment we were going to go to the brocante or something, she said, "Okay let try it now. Take off your shoes. ready?"
Insert - Pain.
Insert - I am out of shape.
Insert - Walking is nothing compared to this.
Insert - If I hurt this much today tomorrow I will not be able to move.
Insert - I better move downstairs, 'cause I will never make it downstairs after this, never! My thighs, buttock, arms, stomach are screaming, "What are you doing? Weren't we just fine the way we were?"
The next day she borrowed my lipstick.
Oh those darling lips!
I thought for a brief moment we would not do the workout routine thing until she returned to Paris... maybe we would go shopping or out to lunch, or anything then torture ourselves. But oh no, that was not in the plan.
"Okay Mom are you ready to go at it again?"
"No I am not ready."
"Come on, it will only hurt for a few more days, and then you will be stronger..."
As she went on about what great shape we would be in, how our legs and butt and stomach and arms would be so toned and beautiful. I thought to myself how lucky I am to have a cheerleader. Well I thought lucky for ten seconds, then we started with the "Butt App", I am not kidding that is what it is called. It should be called, "Kill Yourself Slowly" App.
While lifting my leg for the 30th time in a Donkey Lift (Who comes up with these names?") I moaned, "O-U-C-H, ouch ouch ouch..." to silent ears. Instead the Cheerleader cheered, "Now the other leg."
"I do not have another leg. It is hiding."
She counted, "1 - 2 - 3 - 4..."
After the work out I no longer had legs, nor arms, nor a body. Instead I felt like a combination of cement blocks and wet noodles.
So now not only will I be walking I will be doing a FaceTime workout routine with Chelsea every morning.
I hope Sacha doesn't have a game plan, or something "fun" to do with me.
As she left to catch the train back to Paris, a sudden thought occurred to me, "This is only the beginning. Oh I see she thinks I will start to run and then we will do a marathon or something?"
And with that I started to fancy the idea of walking to Saint Jean de Compostelle and with that the Butt App made me smile.
Spring 2012 I was back home.
Since Easter was around the corner,
Making an Easter Basket was on the agenda.
How to make an Easter basket?
My cousin Denise has a shop/studio where pink, lace, frill, and girly-girly delights reigns. It is the perfect place if you want to create something full of sugar sweet happiness.
Denise's collects vintage pretty this, pretty that. Dollhouse wonderland, Little girl's dreams layers and layers of silk satin ribbons...whip cream...lollipops...sparkles...
The other day my two cousins, Denise and Renee, had my nieces and I over to make an Easter Basket out of a yogurt cup.
After spending the afternoon cutting vintage wallpaper, sewing crepe paper into ribbon garlands, hot gluing ribbons...yogurt cups, which are plentiful in France, will never look the same.
The first thing Denise and Renee had us do was pick out which wallpapered design we liked the best. Which wasn't easy considering the variety of vintage papers they had available for us to use.
What you need:
1 yogurt cup
10 x 6 inch piece of pretty paper, preferably floral
Several yards of crepe paper
Several yards of ribbon
Four or five fabric flowers
A pipe cleaner
A sewing machine to sew the garland
A glue gun
The next step after wallpapering the yogurt cup was to attach the crepe paper garland (which was sewn down the middle, then gathered to create a ruffle) around the top and bottom part of the yogurt cup with the help of a glue gun.
Above you can see a pipe cleaner. My cousin Denise had sparkling pipe cleaners (Because girls who love pink usually love sparkles too!) and we glued part of the garland to the pipe cleaner to make the handle for the Easter basket.
The circle piece of wallpaper was glued to the bottom of the yogurt cup.
The garland can be trimmed if need be.
When the garland is attached wait for the glue to dry before adding the ribbon. The ribbon is glued in the shape of hills and valleys, a rippled effect.
My nieces were wide eyed happy, wanting to swallow everything up in one big delicious gulp.
Each niece selected the bits and pieces for their Easter baskets from the delightful multitudes offered to them. No two baskets were alike. It made me smile to see how pink took on many shades: A rose is a rose is a rose, but a pink Easter Basket can be pink in five different ways.
What pleasure it is to enter a place where the inner child rules, where little girls can be girls and grown women can entertain children in an old fashion way.
When the Easter Baskets were sitting pretty, I lifted my camera to take a photo of each one, when suddenly I had an idea- Since my cousin Denise has a vast collection of vintage ball gowns and shoes, why not do an Easter Parade! Or at least a photo shot with each niece dressed up with their Easter Basket in hand?!
Of course I didn't need to pull any arms to agree.
In a few days I will show you the results.
"Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose
From Gertrude Stein's poem Sacred Emily, written in 1913.
If you would like a packet to make your own Easter Basket
please contact my cousin Denise for the details at:
Back in 2008 I wrote this post:
The Theme: A Mother/Daughter moment.
The Stage: Daughter's (Chelsea) studio.
First Scene: The Coffee Machine.
Daughter shows Mother her new coffee maker. Mother does not like coffee, but drinks it to be with daughter who does. Conversation full and delicious. Daughter tells Mother about the coffee machine.
Second Scene: Conversation and Coffee
Daughter: Tells Mother how she got the coffee machine and about the friend who gave it to her: Daughter chatters about the coffee machine, then comes back to original subject matter, "...Even though he doesn't drink coffee he knows I do and thought I would enjoy it. Isn't that sweet?"
Mother: Zeros in on one word and one word only,"He".
Mother: Who is wide-eyed, curious, and with an agenda...wants to know more about that one word..."He".
Mother's First Line: "I'll have one spoon of sugar please and (as the Mother stirs the sugar into her coffee,) ...is the friend who gave you the coffee machine a Boyfriend, or just a boy who is a friend?"
Daughter: (Who drinks her coffee straight black) says: A boy who is a friend.
Daughter: Tells Mother that the boy and her are very best friends. How they study together. How he helps her since he is brilliant in math, and that she helps him with his English.
Daughter continues voice softens: "One evening while we were doing homework," she tells her Mother, "We both looked up at the same time, our faces were this close (daughter puts her face right up to her Mother's face...Mother wants to grab her daughter and kiss her like a baby and never let her go... but Mother resists and tries not to cry.) we leaned into kiss but pulled back instantly."
Mother surprised and gasps, "Why? Why didn't you kiss each other?"
Daughter: Explains to Mother that it would change everything and that they value their friendship too much to risk losing it over being boyfriend and girlfriend with each other.
Mother: Scratches head, though understands and drinks the coffee that isn't that bad after all.
Hence several years later, the two are still together Mr.Espresso does not drink coffee.
Chelsea is home for the weekend. If my smile were the sun I am certain the whole world would feel its warmth. Family, that is my home and heart.
The race that Chelsea asked me to be part of is in two weeks. Chelsea is running 10K and I am going to cheer her on. Since September when she asked me to be part of the race I have been walking steadily. 10000 steps a day is a breeze, thanks to Chelsea that is.
Do you have a goal you are working on?
French Easter (Paques = Easter) Postcard
In each letter of Easter there are symbols of celebration!
The name on the green tag, holding purple thread said, "A l'Oranger." (Which means: At the orange tree.) Instead of embroidering oranges, she created a plum tree..
"What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? That is the thread to untangle." I remember those words from a high school teacher, she went on to say,
"We can be good at something, yet not enjoy doing it. On the other hand, we can enjoy doing something that we are not very good at.
The thread to untangle, is the one that will tie a bow around your mind and heart.
What do you enjoy doing and that you are good at?
When Sacha asked, "Mom what is the most valuable thing in our house?" I thought it a strange question and told him so. He gave me the sideways look one does when being sneaky and teasing all at once, "Because if you and dad die before Chelsea and I, I want to pick the good stuff, to resale it you know. I want to be one up on Chelsea." Then he laughed at his own clever thinking.
Later I asked Chelsea, if she knew what the most valuable thing was in our house. She looked at me oddly, "No. Why?" So I gave her that sideways look that Sacha given me adding, "Because Sacha knows. And he doesn't even have a masters in business. He is calculating what to scoop on to resale if Daddy and I die before the two of you."
Chelsea laughed, then mumbled ding dong brother, then asked, "...And what should I scoop up first?"
Well considering most the stuff is our house is old, peeling, chipped, cracked, faded, worn... and only valuable to one person's eyes namely mine. I told Chelsea what I told Sacha earlier, "Take the orange armoire 'cause it has chocolate inside."
Both of them shook their heads, and had the same response, "Mom." Yet I could tell they are going to go for the chocolate, they always have.
- Repainting old furniture doesn't necessarily devalue it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But repainting certain antique furniture does. The orange armoire use to be green, and before that grey. When I bought the armoire it was peeling, faded and beyond hope of saving either of those colors that I adore. I painted it red terra which looks burnt orange.
Last Sunday was the first day of this year that I walked around carrying my coat, allowing myself to be carried away by the scent of Spring in the air. Then Sunday opened the door to Monday, yesterday to today and I didn't even bother to take a coat. Don't you love that distinct change that the seasons bring, the slight temperature drop, that tiniest hints of perfumed flowers in the air, the red robin's extra round belly with its button-ready-to-pop-red-vest?
Violets are popping up in the garden of the tiny house. I went to visit Maggie to see how she was recovering. Her recent surgery reminds me of when I twisted my foot in Thailand... how I longed to be in the comfort of my own home, yet the desire to see more and continue to China beckoned me to drag onward. Maggie has Italy to whisper healing thoughts as she hopes to visit there next week or so.
I spent the day doing laundry which is not on my list of favorite things to do. I had four sets of bed linens to wash, and three beds to make, and a stack of towels a mile high to fold and put away.
Spring cleaning? Everyday feels like spring cleaning. House work is endless. No I do not have a house keeper. I have a house keeper workout instead, a gym with one and a half members (I will give French Husband some credit.) Members do house-cleaning for exercise: Dust, scrub, shake, brush, sweep, mop, rinse... Carrying the vacuum cleaner up and down two flights of stairs makes me feel like an ironman.
I am easily amused.
Violets why do you have to be so darn cute?
Oh Spring you most welcomed thing don't go away too far, I do not want to wear a coat in July in Paris you hear?
French 1900s Easter Postcard.
Two little girls, one mighty big Easter egg in a basket stroller.
The text on the bottom reads: A serious client.
The French Muse.
My friend Ruth and I have taken the plunge, and after years of pondering we have launched our desire to share what we know and love about Provence, the brocante... and those tender musings that stir our imaginations and hearts.
The French Muse Experience is for anyone who would like to visit Provence by following their heart, by indulging their senses, by experiencing first hand what we have lived for years.
As some of you know, Ruth and I are married to French men. We have had children in France, have had to learn how to speak French and be French with an accent and recreate ourselves in a new country.
We want to share what we love about Provence:
The old things found at flea markets, second hand shops and friend's attics. The ever changing landscape dipped in color, that scents our table and dances throughout our lifestyles. We take pleasure in the day to day beauty which has helped us create our homes. Because of this passion Ruth is the creator of beautiful objects using antique textiles and bits and bobs, while I am a curator of past memories, stories and faded time.
The French Muse Experience aims to create a very personal authentic journey into Provence. It has been crafted to let you connect with what we treasure and hold true about this place we call home. Most of the places we will visit are not open to the public rather located in homes, and artists that rarely open their doors to anyone unless family or friend. We will stay in a large old family owned bastide (A French word for a Provencal country home) in Lacoste.
We are lucky enough to know so many other kindred spirits who want to share their artistic world with you, yet at the same time we are mindful that going out and about to the seaside, villages and markets is a must as well, Ruth likes to tease:
"Learn to speak ‘Brocante’, meet and connect with local artists, farmers, winemakers, fly trufflers, cheesemakers, bread bakers, brocanteurs, raconteurs and petanque players. "
If you do not know some of the words above, you will when you experience Provence through our eyes.
"Besides the French Muse week long experience, perhaps you would love to spend a day with us learning how to ‘brocante’ like an expert, or you need help planning a special gathering – a picnic in a cherry field, or a vintage themed luncheon? Or perhaps you would like an invitation to discover the hidden worlds of important local makers and artists?"
We are more than happy to discuss your needs and to tailor make a day for you and your loved ones." Via Ruth who thinks we do not have enough on our plates... so added some more sugary things to do! I am gamed.
For more information:
Photo by Allison.
The problem with visiting Provence is that you need a car. The miles are many between each village, city, spot, museum, church, beach, path, market, brocante and the hidden gems that history has marked.
When you live faraway from France those one or two hours drives one way do not sound like much. But once you are here the reality that jet lag brings and the pleasure to soak in the moment comes tumble down to remind you that driving two hours anywhere every day to see a few of the places on your list is not an easy task.
Luckily I live nearby some utterly charming places that keep me happily put.
Cassis and Sanary being two of them.
But since my friend Allison has been here, we have traveled miles. Allison rented a car and I slept in it. Though I always told her where to go before I zonked out.
Allison stayed a week, she mapped two or three places to visit, did not try to see and do everything, instead took time to appreciate what was before her plus ventured three days to and fro home-base to see other areas in Provence.
Saintes Maries de la Mer,
The other days we made smaller jaunts within thirty minutes from where I live.
Photo by Allison.
Photo by Allison.
If you come to Provence I strongly advise to rent a car,
Visit one place per day and be prepared to drive, when planning your trip calculate the freeway tolls which add up, and pack water.
Three favorite places to stay one in each area of Provence.
Spring feels around the corner.
Allison leaves tomorrow.
Maggie came home today.
The advantage of living close to the seaside... I will never grow tired of this view. Never. You know the saying, "If I had a nickel for every time I ________ I would be rich."? Well I am rich because the penny is seeing this view often.
Cassis, Route de Crete.
The road alone is worth the drive, well unless there is a crazy speed demon coming up alongside of you. I have dropped a few swear words off the cliff when someone has passed by too close.
Cassis down below. That water cannot be anymore blue.
The end of the day, sunset in Cassis. A quick drive just to see catch its last rays, then we went to visit Maggie in the hospital.
"Gee!" I said to Maggie, "Talk about a room with a view! I don't know if it is worth have surgery for it, but man do I like being the visitor!"
Aubagne view of the old town.
Spring is in the air. Little flowers blooming with the rosemary along the Route de Crete in Cassis.
Thanks for your well wishes for Maggie xx
French Easter Postcard
Stacking up the decorative Easter eggs.
Did you know that in France, it is the church bells that ring out the chocolate eggs and not the bunny?
Around the table, Sacha's girlfriend Celia, our friend Victor, Allison my friend from San Francisco, French Husband, Gael (Thierry's sweetheart), Sacha, Thierry and below Philippe.
Of course I was there, cooking, serving, taking photos and answering the phone... I snapped this photo before dinner started to send to Maggie.
Maggie couldn't make it last night because she wasn't feeling well... around dessert she called to say that she felt very ill and feared she needed to go to the hospital. French Husband flew out the door after brief goodbyes to our guests, he took Maggie to the hospital.
Long story short... Maggie had an appendectomy! She is fine now. But will be in the hospital for a few days.
Endless sandy beaches,
Endless blue sky,
Prayed into the 15th century ear at the church,
Wished I had brought my camera, wondering why I only had my phone.
Must have tellines.
A glorious day.
A woman doll-ed up in a pink dress, high heels, pearls and her hair in a do all in the name of feeding the chickens!
Only Elizabeth rocked Paris!
This was the sugar bowl that shattered on the red tile floor when it fell from Mademoiselle Elise's hand back in 1916.
This was Mademoiselle Hoped-to-be-Husband, Pierre-Louis. Often she told her children how handsome their father looked the day she placed her necklace around his neck and whispered in his ear, "Come back to me, come back to me..." as he left wearing his beret that day long ago.
This was Mademoiselle Elise's medal the one Pierre-Louis had on the day a bullet came aiming towards his heart.
Pierre-Louis liked to tell his grandchildren that it wasn't the medal that saved his life, it was their grandmother's Elise's words whispered in his ear that day so long ago.
As time went on Elise had the sugar bowl repaired by the man who walked along the streets playing a flute. The flute's music was a signal to housekeepers that the porcelain repair man was in town.
At the table in the kitchen the porcelain repair man sat, gently drilling holes to wire the sugar bowl back together. He asked, "How did the sugar bowl break?"
"I was drying it when I received news that Pierre-Louis, my fiancé, had been shot. I didn't know then whether he was dead or alive. Months later, I found out that a medal I gave him had saved his life.
The sugar bowl you are working on... he gave it to me the day he left for the war, he told me it was to hold my sweet thoughts until he returned."
As he worked he couldn't help notice how her eyes glistened. Happiness is not easy to come by, he knew that by listening to the stories as he repaired their broken hearts objects.
The shattered sugar bowl was restored, it had scars but they were no longer desperate wounds.
Seventeen months later Pierre-Louis returned.
Elise handed him the sugar bowl.
Pierre-Louis saw the cracks, he traced them with his finger, with hidden anticipation he opened the sugar bowl, and saw that it was empty.
"Where are your sweet thoughts, I was hoping to read them when I returned." He didn't understand.
Elise told him, "Instead of sweet thoughts I prayed, I hoped, I cried, I longed, I waited... Instead I kept my fear inside the sugar bowl. Knowing if ever you came back to me my fear would leave and we could fill it with a life together."
A few weeks later the medal slept in the sugar bowl.
Years later the grandchildren would open the sugar bowl lid, and unroll the notes hidden inside of a life well lived.
A few years ago I found this medal at the brocante. When I asked the dealer about the hole she told me it was from a bullet during WWI. On the same stand I found a sugar bowl, the dealer told me how a man use to go around villages repairing broken china..."Often they sang or played a musical instrument to let people know they were in town."
My friend Allison is staying with us, she saw my collection of rosaries and medals and asked about this one... I told her I would repost this story to explain the hole in the medal.
French antique Easter postcard 1900s
Not your everyday egg, nor chocolate.
Three Grandchildren offer their Grandfather A Tabac Chocolate egg.
6 Euros ($6.75) includes international postage and tax.
Walking along a street in Arles I saw an older woman sitting by a window. If it hadn't been for the brown worn shutters, and the white sheer curtain that framed her face... I would not have seen the small shadow of a person peering out.
Aiming my lens at the second floor I hoped to capture the stillness of the scene, the age, the solemn color, the moment. The woman by the window didn't sit still...she moved in and out of the shadow of the curtain. I held my camera and waited.
While I was focusing my camera on her silhouette, she turned around and looked directly at me. Her eye and my eye caught each other inside the lens. Instead of taking her picture, I lowered my camera and sheepishly smiled at her, then I held my hand up, sort of as a wave and an apology. Her eyes sparkled as she smiled back, and I knew she didn't mind. I wanted to ring her doorbell and run up the stairs to meet her.
Instead I walked down the street, carrying the image of her smiling at me. What a lovely image to have.
In that moment, in our silent exchange, I felt like we met. Have you ever felt like that? A chance meeting between two people where something goes beyond words, time or activity, and you know you have shared another space and time together?
Number 89 French Postcard.
Valentine's has passed, Easter on its way. I will post what I have regarding Easter postcards.