Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jardins de Giverny et Jane

This last weekend we took a daytrip to Giverny, the home of Monet's gardens and where he painted many of his infamous works, including his waterlily paintings.

What was particularly enjoyable was to be there with my mother and Jane. Not only my mama a marvelous gardener in her own right, but it turns out Miss Jane is following in her footsteps.  Every chance she gets, Jane is puttering outside and working her garden plot and vegetable pots.

She's also the first to notice a new bloom or have an arrangement cut for a vase. I think she was really drinking in the experience. She almost yearns for the out-of-doors.

It was a special thing to spend time in these gardens. For the beauty and the significance of walking where one of the great artistic masters once walked.

And it was special, indeed, to be there with my Jane.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to Collect Your Mail, La Cressonnière

 Attached to the main house is a series of barns. The barns are made of stone and utterly fascinating. (See the metal ring for tying up an animal? The treasures abound.) It is also where ... we collect our mail.

First the postal lady drives down our long country road and until she gets to this particular cow pasture.

Next, she pulls into the drive just where the gates open.

And then she stuffs the mail through the little letter slot on the side of the barn.

To gather the post, we open the big wooden door just to the right of Lucette, weave around some old bicycles, gardening supplies, art canvases, stone animal troughs, and past some outdoor furniture ... to arrive at a carved out spot ... where we find the mail perched on a stone shelf. Somehow it's exciting every time.

Does this surprise you like it did me? Does it sound fun or just peculiar? What are some other unusual mail-drops, I wonder?

ps- Like the family photos Part Deux? I think they turned out so fun!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Family Photos at La Cressonnière

With my Mama here, I had the impetus to harang my family into some photos. I knew she'd back me up. It's been an age since we've had photos done. As in 7 years, maybe? Yes, some lovely shots have emerged over the years, but not really "portrait-y" kinds of photos.

Why you ask? Because no kid likes being bossed around by the mom and told to look normal. Husbands neither, for that matter.

But with my mother here, I knew I could cajole and beg and she would seal the deal. Kids love grandmothers.

La Cressonnière is just stunning during springtime. Can you even believe the wisteria? Breathtaking.

 And because my mother is so multi-talented, we have some family photos with me actually in the shot. Yea! I belong in the family too!

And this shot makes me smile. I didn't know she was still taking photos.

So. Any favorites? What would make good photo gifts or be well suited to a frame? Are you good about having family photos taken? Any tips for me?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Portofino Path and Posterity

I loved this walk up to the the top of Portofino. And ... I need to remember to have Pops take more photos with me in it. Not for vanity's sake, but simply for posterity. Don't we moms seem absent in most events since we are typically behind the camera!? Some day, I know I'll be glad to have these ...

More photos to come, since this is my lazy-girl way to document our goings-on. Sigh, I can't remember the last time I made a proper photo album!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Portofino, Making Memories ... and a little Reflexology

Oh, Portofino, you are a beautiful place. So many colors, so lush and green. I am so happy I took some photos of you.

And Jane is too.

What a treat to have Pops' parents with us. A perfect way to celebrate his Dad's recent retirement and soak up some sunny family love together. A blessing.

It has been fun to look over our Liguria photos and remember the adventures we had. And how special that we had my dear in-laws to experience it with, as well. I love new experiences. For the thrill, yes. But also for the memories that I get to hold dear for the rest of my life. And memories shared with the people I love most! Best thing ever.

Speaking of best things ever ... my Mama is here with us. She has been loving on all of us and has even taken up reflexology after a crash-course session with YouTube. It's been five weeks of my daily migraine challenges and after several days of her magic fingers, I am feeling better than I have in so long. Still have some sorting out to do, but the glimmer of improvement is so encouraging. Anyone else have experience with reflexology? I'm rather shocked at what it seems to be doing for me.

We have just a week more with her here and I am thankful for every minute. Tomorrow we have teatime with a darling neighbor and Sunday ... we hope for a drive to Giverny to see Monet's gardens. Oh my. Fun new memories to be had.

ps- See the awning on the far right? Best lunch ever. For sure remembering that place for a looong time.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Lucette's Birthday and a Parisian Patisserie

Lucette turned twelve this week. She's a beauty, inside and out. And aside from turning into a delightful human being, she has been developing her love of baking into a rather intense passion.

It is not unusual for me to wake up and find that she had set her alarm for 5am to get some early-morning baking in before school. I kid you not.

So when we had boarded the train for her birthday trip to Paris (I know. It's crazy we can do this.), I told her the news ... her birthday gift was a grown-up level patisserie class in the city. She just about passed out from the glee and told me if she wasn't on the train she would be screaming and dancing.

 The girl was so happy. I knew she would like it, but she was just jittery with excitement.

 Once we arrived in the city, we stopped at the hotel to drop off our bags (an overnight stay and picking up my mama in the morning!) and do a little shopping at Monoprix with some birthday money from kind grandparents. and then hit the metro to get us into the Montmartre area where her class would be. We had time for a lovely lunch and a walk up to the Sacre Coeur, but she was checking the time every 10 minutes to make sure we wouldn't be late.

She made three items in the 2.5 hour class. Florentines, a caramel custard, and a multi-tiered cake with peaches and pistachio buttercream.

She was so blissfully contented the entire time. When we left, she near danced down the sidewalk stating it was one of the best days of her life and she now had sooooo many ideas. I love it when you find out what makes your child's heart sing and then finding opportunities to open up their world of interest.

It matters not whether she becomes a Parisian pastry chef or just a master in her own kitchen. But to just learn and bake and dream and create ... go for it, dear one. Go for it.

I love you so very much.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Village Medical Adventures, Continued

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I found the elusive hole-in-the-wall for which I was to have my blood taken. Indeed, it was not the red door but a bit further down on the left. There was a teensy, tiny waiting room and then a small office adjoining that hosted the lovely blood-lady and her kit, open from 8:30-9:00am.

She was very kind and lied to me in the nicest possible way (she told me I was speaking very good French). She told me about some family of hers that lives in Kentucky and how they were recently here as part of a singing-group. And when we were finished and I moved to pay her, she told me, with a twinkle in her eye, "Non. C'est mercredi et pour vous, il est gratuit."

She told me that it was Wednesday and for me ... it was free. Free? Free blood-draw and lab-work because you feel like being kind and generous? I was astonished. Can you imagine this even as a possibility in the States??

ps - Afterwards, I went back to the doctor to stalk him with a letter I typed up in French to convince him I truly needed help. I got a little bit of a lecture about arriving without an appointment ... but I left with a prescription. For a girl who avoids medicine like it's a job, I was thrilled to snatch that prescription. Here's to hoping it works.

pps - My Mama gets here on Friday. Can't wait.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Springtime Countryside and a Visit to the Doctor

Right now in Normandy, everywhere you drive there are expanses of lush green dotted with very linear fields of yellow. It's rather breathtaking. And if you get a sunny-day view from a hilltop and and spy them all over the countryside ... marvellous. Norman winters are are hard but springtime is glorious.

The photo above was on my drive from the doctor's office. My headache continues to vie for attention and I decided I was ready to brave the medical offices of France.

We have managed to avoid going to the doctor thus far, even though last weekend involved a tick removal (scary, but all is well) and a carving-tool/split-open hand incident (butterfly strips). Doctor's appointments here generally book out 6-9 months in advance or you can go to the emergency room. Blargh. Plus, you have to manage your French. Blargh, blargh. Self-care is preferred, when possible.

Side note, self-care is so different here. The ubiquitous green-cross pharmacies are everywhere. Ev-er-y-where. They are rather magical, as a source of coveted skincare creams and ointments that people from around the world literally travel to purchase. The French are into skin. But the pharmacies are also where you will buy almost everything else. Prescriptions? Go ask the pharmacist. Tylenol? Go ask the pharmacist. Hydrogen peroxide, throat lozenges, ibuprofen, vitamin C, antibacterial ointment, bandages, cough syrup ... even floss ... you go ask the pharmacist. It's all available, but you can't peruse the aisles or dash in and snag what you need. A request and conversation must take place first and then typically they decide what you need. Most of the time this works out ... but sometimes I get home and realise ... no, this really wasn't what I wanted. So back I go again.

However, with the help of a sweet friend, today I managed to get an appointment with a doctor in a nearby village to deal with the headache saga. His office was a "triangular building after the railroad tracks and across from the WWII tank." (This is very standard ... directions via landmarks, not actual addresses. Perhaps because the streets are so small and complicated you'd never find your location any other way?) I walked in and was shown to the waiting room of the doctor (each doctor had one) and shortly thereafter I was invited into his office through an adjoining door. I launched into my "I don't speak French very well, but here we go" speech and he kindly listened to my needs and requests. After a fairly typical exam and brief questioning, turns out he wasn't ready to give me a prescription for my headache. I think I am okay with that. But 3 weeks feels like a long time! He said to wait a little longer and come back if I had to. Okay.

He did grant my request for a blood-work order for most of what I requested. He was quite confident that I didn't need everything that I requested (and have had in the past) tested. Alrighty, then. I had wanted to get all of the specific blood level updates to compare with my levels from before we left the States ... but we'll start here. Now I just have to take the request to a mysterious office/place/unmarked-building that is located "across from the florist on one of the little streets ... and it does not have a red door but might have a green door ... and is open from 8:30-9am most days, except Fridays and Sundays for sure." Heaven knows how this will all go ... but it always seems to, one way or another.

And incidentally, the doctor's visit? It cost me 23 euros. That's about 26 dollars these days. While we were sitting in his office, the doctor himself wrote down my name, address and birthdate and then wrote out a receipt. No credit cards, just cash, and he put the money in the till he kept in his desk.

Somethings are so complicated here ... and others so very simple.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

La Photo Mystère

Isn't this a great shot that Pops took? How many of us can you find ...

**ps- This was taken at Chateau de Sassy. How awesome is that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Loved Ones and New Days

I love this photo of Pops and his Dad. Like the two of them, it says so much with out saying much at all.

We were most blessed to have my in-laws come for a springtime stay this past month. They brought gifts from the States (English magazines, candy, and steel-cut oats were the height of excitement!), as well as love and hugs and affection. It feels good to be loved on by friends and family when living halfway across the world.

The weather while they were here was unbelievably beautiful and sunny, making for lunches outside, promenades to see the creek and the cows and rousing games of demolition petanque (Like a kamakaze bocci ball sort of game that the menfolk devised. Stay alert. That's's my advice ... stay alert.).

Whilst here, we also took a rather epic train trip to the northern Ligurian area of Italy. We had three connections each way and anyone who has traveled by European rail knows that it's no joke. The train roles in and you have 2-3 minutes to locate the correct car and board with all 7 seven people in your party plus luggage and bags ... while dodging other travelers, trying to discern all of the directions in foreign languages, and keeping the family circus intact and alive. It's intense.

I have some lovely photos and memories to post for posterity on our time in Italy. It was beautiful, as Italy insists on. I did, however, manage to develop a pretty severe migraine while there that kept me in bed a bit and set me back some. It's two weeks on and I am still avoiding light (and the computer), napping and into bed by early evening. It's a bummer, but whatdya gonna do. Needless to say, lengthy blogging time will come later.

Have any of you had an illness or setback while traveling or during a big event? Found that you had to readjust expectations? Find new ways to trust and pray and be thankful? It seems I've had basket-full of health challenges and issues these past couple of years and it can get me down when they flare. But it also pushes me to pray more for others ... because I get so sick of thinking about how I feel, blah, blah, blah. And always ... this is a good and rich thing.

Happy springtime.

Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning. 
Ecclesiastes 11:7

Monday, April 6, 2015

Joyeuses Pâques and Happy Celebrations

 Easter Sunday is one of my favorite holidays. The celebration of Christ's resurrection, the newness and possibility of spring, the chance to celebrate and be together as family.

And while our holiday experiences as expats are different than when we are "at home" and have put some well-loved traditions on hold, we continue to find joy and unexpected blessings in our time here. Like finding this easter basket delivered in the wee morning hours by the darling and generous Madame S.

And even though the children are getting older by the minute ... there was no question that they were up for a pre-church chocolate hunt. (Did you know that bells bring the chocolate instead of bunnies in France? I am told that it is because the bells are silent from Good Friday until Easter Sunday, when they ring to announce "He is Risen!" Naturally, in celebration ... the les cloches must bring chocolate!)

 Does one ever really out-grow hunts? There is an undeniable thrill at finding and racing and scavenging!

And, ahem. Can we just for a moment comment on how sharp Pops looks!

This year, the bells passed over La Cressonnière and left chocolate Euros! Fancy that!

Another Easter to rejoice in ... and marvel at how the kids have grown!

Joyeuses Pâques and Happy Easter!

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! 
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope 
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 
to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
kept in heaven for you .
1 Peter 1:3-4