29 November 2014

Thankful in France

We had a lovely little Thanksgiving this week. We had invited a couple from church, but the morning of, they fell ill and were not able to come. Sad for them, sad for us. But nevertheless, a full day at home (I let the kids skip school!) with good weather and excessive amounts of food is still a good day!

I had been told that whole turkeys are not available until mid-December here, but the boucherie could order one for me ... plucked, but with the head, feet, and innards intact. Uh non, merci. The butcher at my everyday market had a large cuisse de dinde, which is something like a turkey leg with the thigh. Sounds good to me.

He also insisted that I cook the turkey with marrons,  or chestnuts. Chestnuts are a big thing here. I bought a pre-shelled pack and just layered them under the turkey with some sliced carrots. Turned out lovely!

Incidentally, the butcher also gave me detailed instructions on how to cook it. Which honestly, I appreciate! I love how their job here is really their craft. They take it very seriously and want to send their goods off to a home that will cook it properly! He recommended rubbing it with butter not olive oil, seasoning with herbs and salt/pepper, and cooking for 1h15 on setting 6. (Not only is everything celsius here, but the ovens have single digit settings. Honestly, I just guessed on "setting 6" and it all seemed fine.)

At one point, I also thought the butcher was telling me I needed to cut the piece between the leg and the thigh at the joint. So, I just nodded my head and said, "oui." (Like I always do.) Apparently, he was asking me if I wanted him to do it for me, so after my "oui" he nods his head in approval, turns around, slaps the piece of meat on the cutting board and wields a cleaver the size of my face .. wham, wham! Done. Wow.

While at the grocery, I could not find yams/sweet potatoes, corn meal for cornbread (corn is feed for animals here, not people!), cranberries, or pumpkin. A challenge to make a traditional meal! However, we ended up accompanying the bird with mashed potatoes, gravy, fresh bread and roasted veggies. Jane made poached apples and pears (wow!), I made a pumpkin pie from a coveted can of tinned pumpkin my mother brought me, and Lucette made:

a triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting. Wowzas.

Most of the holidays here overlap some with American, but quite obviously, Thanksgiving isn't a on the French calendar. Such a shame really, because it is a truly lovely holiday, isn't it? Family, food, and thankfulness? Love it. It was rather strange to be here on this day, knowing we'd have to carve out our own version of the holiday instead of falling back on tradition. But truly, we have much to be thankful for.

14 November 2014

Reflections on our Trip into Paris

 My mama has now been returned to the States and we do sorely miss her. She's a dream guest. A dream mother, for that matter.

But now we have many happy memories. Including the trip to Paris that Jane and I took to pick Grammy up. We decided to incorporate it into a slightly-belated birthday trip for Jane (less "things" more experiences, are our goals whilst here!). We left La Cressonnière a day early and took the train into the city for a grand adventure. (In the interest of honesty, I was so nervous to take the train in for the first time and navigate around Paris! After I do things once, I feel much more confident ... but boy, I did have the jitters this first time around!)

We stayed in a very reasonable hotel directly across the street from the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter. A short metro or cab ride from Gare Montparnasse with an incredible amount of tourist delights within easy access. Recommended without hesitation.

Jane is a marvelous traveler. She is easy-going, willing to find interest and joy in everything, and cute as a bug (if I do say so myself). We spent the day in search of the best pastry shop (Gerard Mulot - amazing), walking through the grounds of the Louvre and the adjoining Jardin des Tuileries, and seeing two different movies being shot. Fascinating!

And knowing Jane's love for animals and insects, we stopped at Deyrolle, a taxidermy shop of epic proportions. It's free entrance and a marvel!

 The next morning, full with anticipation of Grammy's arrival, we walked over the Seine to see Notre Dame de Paris. (Did you know that the de Paris is a pretty important part of the name here? Notre Dame is a university in the States, Notre Dame de Paris is a cathedral in France!)

And sometimes we just stopped and watched the city.

And by the time we returned back to the hotel, Grammy had arrived! She was shockingly full of vim and vigor and we stashed her bags and set off to stretch her legs. A quick walk over to the Jardin du Luxembourg, we found an older gentlemen selling freshly roasted chestnuts.

How can one not buy hot chestnuts to eat in Paris?

And floating on clouds of happiness because we were all together, we gloried in the beauty of Paris in the fall and the time to be spent in the weeks ahead.

Even though my heart, once again, is missing the presence of my mama ... I am so grateful for the time we had the chance to "travel" together! This whole experience is a rather grand one, and to be doing it alongside my dear ones is such a treat.

Until you return, Mama!

06 November 2014

Birthdays, Expectations, and Feeling Loved

Yesterday was my birthday. I never really know how to feel about birthdays. I don't really mind being another year older, I don't think it is that. Perhaps it is expectation? Or wanting to to not have expectations (i.e. disappointments) for the day? Does the day function differently even though there is still life to be attended to? How does one field the recognition of a day of self? Is it just me or can it feel a bit disconcerting?

Yesterday was my birthday. I am thirty-eight. I have my husband, my children, we are living in France and my mother is here for a visit. It has been a magnificently wacky year and I am grateful beyond measure. Nothing else needed!

But that said, whether I like to admit it or not ... it does feel awfully nice to have loved ones sending notes and saying kind things. For breakfast to be prepared and admonishments administered (no, you may not help clear the table!). And even for a gift or two to be received.

Last night, after a day of exploring Bayeux, I settled into a surprise birthday evening that made me marvel. Shooed away from the kitchen with instructions to "dress fancy," I sat down to a meal planned and prepared by my daughter, Lucette, and her fine sibling sous chefs. Jane added some ambience with end-of-season cuttings from the garden, Peter assembled a perfectly crackling fire, and we ate and shared and loved.

What's more ... they were all so pleased to do this for me.

I don't need fancy. I really don't. Some grocery store flowers and birthday sandwiches on paper plates suit me just fine. But I was humbled, this birthday. To be loved and celebrated so intentionally ... for the effort to be made on my account ... I stopped feeling discomfited and just felt loved.

**As a side note, during dessert I was also re-gifted a favored card that hosts a battery-operated mustache and sings Happy Birthday. Peter and Pops decided I couldn't really want to keep it and decided it would be much more fun to artfully place it in the smoldering embers of the fire while activated. It then proceeded to explode, rocketing coals and sparks and sending all of the women in to shrieks of terror and the boys into giggle fits of glee. Every fancy dinner needs some entertainment.

04 November 2014

Some Adventuring Together

Oh, it has been so utterly marvelous to have day after day with my mother here. Not only do we get the simple pleasures of breakfasts together and evening fireside chats in our jammies, we get to do some adventuring together.

This past weekend we journeyed to the north to see Mont St-Michel. What a stunning sight.

I can't express how privileged I feel to be having these experiences with my family and, in this case, to be sharing them with my mama. Our days here are not always easy nor comfortable, yet they are so worth it. 

There are times I feel stretched beyond my limit, but goodness. Look where were we are.

And my mama? She is here just loving us, feeding into us, cheering us on, affirming us, and experiencing life with us. I love every moment of her presence. 

So, so grateful.

03 November 2014

My Mama Comes for a Visit!

No time for posting ... just enjoying time with ma mère. It's been heavenly.