24 October 2014

Countryside and Unbounded Freedom

Fresh back from a trip across the Channel. Countryside, family time, exploring, adventures, perils, ... speaking English. Glorious.

In uncheckt shadows of green brown, and grey
Unbounded freedom ruled the wandering scene
-The Mores, John Clare

16 October 2014

Lucette Makes Friends for Us All

I am so proud of Lucette and the friendship choices she has been making here. Such a worry and prayer of mine! She has two close girlfriends that are kind, gentle, and so very patient with the language gap. I think this says a lot about their character!

This last weekend we went to meet the family of one of the girls. Such a dear, friendly family and ... the parents speak fantastic English! I couldn't believe how utterly easy the communication was and how comfortable I felt.

Yesterday, the mom swung by La Cressonnière with a quick delivery (nobody swings by, it's a total effort to drive out here and always thoughtful when someone does!). She brought a pumpkin, a head of lettuce and some eggs, all freshly gathered from her farm and garden. I was all fluttery with joy.

Gorgeous and privileged as it is, sometimes the days and trials of life here are very wearying. But then I stop and realize we are becoming established and continuing to make connections. It really feels like extravagant provision.

You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance.
Psalm 68:9

14 October 2014

A Teenage Boy and His Woodpile

 There are a lot of great things about having a teenage son. For starters ... he stacks wood.

We are told it gets mighty chilly here in the winters and running the oil radiators all of the time is just too spendy. No bother. We have two fireplaces we can use, Monsieur Durand who delivers by tractor, and a boy who likes to take ownership over the whole process.

He thought it was funny that I wanted to take photos of a wood pile.

Why, my son! Both you and the wood pile are a thing of beauty!

But hark! What thought dost appear?

Yes, the time-piece has been consulted and it is time for lunch. 

We'll finish the rest later. Woodpiles can wait and mealtimes are not to be missed.

10 October 2014

A Different Pace, A Different Way

To be honest, I've never really considered myself a "city-girl," as I always picture that term applying to some New York sophisticate, or some such thing. But really, having never lived in the countryside before, I am finding that I am a little bit more city than I thought.

The spiders and mice are a continual surprise to me. And a few weeks back, I was chatting on the phone outside and a bat swooped down over my head nearly sent me into apoplectic shock. However, in spite of my ninny-outburts, I quite enjoy passing the days here. Perhaps it is the countryside, perhaps it is France, but I find the pace slower here. I like that very much.

To be clear, it's not to say there isn't as much to do. Au contraire! There is plenty to be mindful of and that requires attention. But somehow, life here is both busy and slow. There is work to be done, but less rushing about. I like smiling at the cows on our way to school in the morning (Did you know French cows respond to Bonjour and not Hello? It's true!). I'm rather fond of putting on my rubber boots to go retrieve the laundry from the line because the ground is getting a bit sloppy. And it's such a nice problem to wonder what do do with all the walnuts that fell from the treehouse.

There is regular family life and housekeeping to be done, to be sure. I'm still consistently behind in accomplishing about 423 things on my to-do list. But here, time often is less frenetic in the accomplishing. It's spent setting and checking mice traps, wondering how to arrange the purchase of eggs and milk from the farm next door, watching the weather to know when to do a load of laundry so it can still dry outside, and planning on a Saturday of family walnut cracking with some hot apple cider.

In my old house (which I did love dearly!) we didn't have mice, laundry was dried in the machine at any time of day and there were too many things to do on a Saturday to just sit around cracking walnuts. It's not that I think one way is better than another, I really don't! But it is enlightening to me to experience a different pace, a different way.

*What have you learned from the different places you've lived? Have you taken habits and lessons from one environment and applied it to another? Was it successful?

06 October 2014

Church, Quiche, and Learning to Share

Did you know that church people and food go hand in hand? They do. What's more, church people are often very good gardeners ... and if they have been reading their Bible, they are generous too! (Wink, wink!)

We have found a lovely little church to attend full of British expats. It's about a 45 minute drive from La Cressonnière, but it's no bother. Meeting every other Sunday in a little church rebuilt after the war, a small cluster of us meet together for worship, fellowship and to share in a message together. Very simple, casual, low-pressure, welcoming. And they have gardens. 

We were last gifted with a bounty of cherry tomatoes (picked that morning!) that were the sweetest, brightest flavored tomatoes I've ever tasted. We ate some plain but we also whipped up a quiche for an afternoon brunch.

And when I say whipped up, I do mean it. The groceries here sell pre-made crusts here that are all buttery and flaky goodness. There are about 20 different options that I am still discerning the difference between, but so far ... all a 2 euros well spent! 

Place the crust in the pan, beat some eggs, crème crue (oh, how will I ever live without you again??), salt, pepper, and whatever else you might have. In our case, some fresh spinach, a bit of goat cheese, and church tomatoes! Place in crust, bake, eat.

It was so good, I can't even say. If you come for a visit, I'll make some for you. But, I better read my Bible first, because lately ... I haven't been big on sharing.

02 October 2014

Immigration Appointments, Underpants, and Stamps in our Passports

These last nine months have been full of more events, hurdles, impossibilities and accomplishments than I have ever experienced. Taken as a collective, all that we've done to get here seems like a Herculean task ... but I suppose, it really has been just one task as a time.

And today we checked off another huge task from our have-to-do list. Immigration appointments! I have been dreading this. It seemed enough that we had already run the gauntlet of visa applications, as we do have the official seal in our passports. But apparently, the French government wants to have another appointment with any grown-ups once you get here and gift you with another seal for your passport. Naturally, this involves more paperwork and documentation and complicated requests in French that you only think you might understand.

After filing our "we have arrived" paperwork just weeks after we entered the country, we received a packet of confusing letters from OFII telling us of our pre-assigned appointments. So today was the day. Drive up to Caen, appointments, get back before the children let out from school. Bleesh.

First up, a medical check. France seems very concerned about tuberculosis. (Is this still a thing in westernized countries??) After bumbling about in reception for a bit we managed our way down to radiology where we had chest x-rays taken. Turns out we don't have tuberculosis. Hurrah! Next, we went to a waiting room full of nervous foreigners and sweated together in a small stuffy room for an hour.

When Pops and I were finally called back together for the remainder of our exams, we experienced the most bizarre medical appointment ever. Let's just say apparently a French eye-exam consists of spending some time hanging out in your underwear pronouncing letters in French while a kindly older doctor with massive amounts of chest hair sprouting from his white coat points at letters with a stick from across the room. As an added challenge,  you get to multi-task by also casting eye-daggers at Pops because he will be in giggle-fits over the whole thing. There's more to the story but that's all your gonna get unless you have my phone number and I already know some dirt on you.

Nevertheless, apparently France thinks we are healthy enough to continue to live here and we were given our approved paperwork. As we were driving over to our final appointment, we were a bundle of nerves, for we were going to be over an hour late and lunchtime was imminent. We all know that French lunches are serious business and everything shuts down for 2 hours. We made it with minutes to spare and they graciously let us in, cranked us through the final paperwork and put some more fancy stamps in our passports. Hallelujah! One more task accomplished.

If you were praying for us, thank you. We did it, we are done, and we are once again fully clothed. And these are all very good things. Vive la France!

*Do you have any bizarre stories that come to mind? Please do share and make me feel better about myself.