Monday, August 30, 2010

Argeles in the snow

I wish I had found this youtube when it was so hot in Argelès. I could have used it as a fantasy

Sunday, August 29, 2010

French run

When we woke, we decided to go to France to find the Kark Lagerfeld Coke bottles at some of the supermarkets that are open Sunday morning.

No luck.

Instead we found raisin-cinnamon-bagel chips, a melon, two boxes of wine and a short cut to Leroy Merlin for a foray next week when the stores are open and a lot of beautiful scenery.

Gawwwwwwwwwwwddddddddddd I love living here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Albert Anker and Bern

My housemate and I wanted to see the exhibition of Albert Anker's paintings in Bern, but we weren't sure we would be able to find the tme. Then a window of opportunity opened up and we jumped on a train. Anker is an 19-20th century Swiss painter who seems a cross between Bruegel, Rockwell and Mary Cassett. His paintings of Swiss coutnry life are rich with details and the more you look at them, the more you see in them.

Bern has always been one of my loved cities with its medieval arched centre, imaginative fountains, olive green buildings, rivers.

We treated ourselves to a lunch of fish on a bed of black polenta (octopus ink) fennel flavoured with chutney and saffron and chocolate mousse cake. And of course we could not come back with out buying one of those thick, seed ladened pretzels.

Here's some photos.

This is NOT a building front. It is cloth covering scaffolding.

The tree is really a flower-flanked fountain.

A truck is filled with cleaning tools.

This Backerei has wonderful tile.

An antique book store window.

Meet Roberta

She is the house's new robot vac. She runs around and covers every inch of floor and stops at the edge of the stairs.

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's been a wonderful summer

Although there were a few glitches: heat (although compared to the suffering Pakistan, there is no reason to complain) my diminishing eye sight (to be taken care of in November), people I like in the hospital because of almost strokes and knocking themselves out by falling from a bicycle, and Jean-Pierre knocking Babette down with his van. All are recovering. These are blips in an otherwise wonderful summer.

What made the summer wonderful were the parties, café sits, quiet conversations, lovely walks, good writing and good food be it tapas at Flowers, three course gourmet lunches at Cayrou, and/or dinner at friends. We've discovered new restaurants, laughed, gone to a street dance, watched fireworks.

I never did find the Karl Lagerfeld Coke bottle, although I will look on the other side of the border when I get home, but I have enjoyed Coke zero. Lovely knowing there are no calories.

There was my mega shopping trip last week that left my friends, aware of my shopping phobia saying "You did what and how fast? Girl, when you shop, you shop."

And there was the trip to Toulouse to meet up with F. and P. and to my delight to discover how much I like P. for F. while seeing the city where I once lived and that I still find beautiful. The week back in Geneva with M. was truly a gift.

And when i got back from Toulouse Saturday night, I found a huge bouquet of sunflowers waiting for me. I have no idea who left them, but they were beautiful.

So now, I am ready to change lives once again, back to the other place I love and start the fall activities. Sushi, chai latté, Gilmore Girls, shrimp, champagne, an art exhibition in Berne, a kitchen rebuild, crisp fall weather, raking leaves with that autumn smell that I love, walks by the lake and through the vineyards, the pumpkin festival, and my kid coming in Nov. are all now in my future.

As my housemate and I often say: Life is good.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Olive Slaves

I love buying my olives from Joël. besides his outpouring of ever lasting love, his requests for marriage, and other BS, his olives are wonderful as is his perfume that he also sells. It is always more than just a purchase but an experience. Women's lib, not withstanding, these t-shirts are an example.

Monday, August 16, 2010

rites of passage

Although my daughter is grown, there are things I wish I could have done better.

I admire many parents on how they are bringing up their children. Some like Mighty Mom I marvel at. It has been a great pleasure to watch others go from six and missing teeth to accomplished young women, or a three-year old scoffing olives to just signing a contract for her dream job.

I've also subscribed to Dollar stretcher for years.

Today's edition carries a wonderful story about a father, aware that our society does not allow most young people turning 12 a rite of passage (exception the Jewish religion) arranged for his 12 year old son to meet with 52 men over the course of a year to gain their wisdom. The blog below is about that meeting.

In societies where youth, not age, is revered, where culture is created in corporate boardrooms, this would be a wonderful trend to have grow.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Blackberry memories

Blackberry bushes besides the country lane outside the village were laden with sun-warmed fruit. I could not help but eat a few, and as the flavor burst in my mouth memories swamped me from eating blackberries on another summer day in a woods walk with my best friend from high school at her family’s Maine cottage a few decades back. We had become friends when the same boy dated us both, only to discover we were a lot more fun than he was. Thus, started a 46 year friendship.

Her father saw to it that I could attend all father and daughter banquets at Rainbow with him and her. (My father was not in my life at that time, although he reappeared years later and we made up for last time). Their apartment was often my refuge and her mother considered corn chowder the New England equivalent to Jewish chicken soup as a remedy to everything including broken hearts.

Even after my divorce, her mother came to see me and my infant daughter every Tuesday night often bringing clothes gleaned from the Unitarian consignment shop where she volunteered making my daughter the best dressed baby in day care. Her father was quick to help with repairs and showed up one night with a moon wagon for my daughter.

My friend too often came out from her beautiful Boston apartment, decorated with things found and refinished, making a cozy home that reflected her personality with taste and imagination. We would play cards, eat potato sticks, drink Coke, marvel at my daughter’s tiny nose that she swore was too small to breathe through. She coached me through those first painful days and weeks of my separation and taught me it was okay to be good to myself.

There wasn’t a life crisis we didn’t share, and once, when things were going well and we hadn’t talked for a while, she called to remind me we were more than FOUL weather friends. There was much laughter and rooting for each other mingled among the problems that we talked about. Those problems always seemed lighter, and so often we found solutions or at least how helped each other cope better.

Thanks to the joys of email and we can still chat on the phone, despite a half-day plane ride distance between us. Happily, these days we keep problems to a minimum, each of us finding our own happiness, each of us celebrating the other’s good fortune.

Thus with each blackberry I ate I was transported back to that day in Maine. I could see her father’s garden with his unique garden watering system of wine bottles turned upside down in the soil and a chipmunk he had trained to run up his leg and eat from his hand. I remember the unconditional sharing that day built on the trust that still exists whenever we talk or write.

Those blackberries were really powerful to bring forth so many good memories and so much love.

Are you ready for this Rose

I have another planned purchase for September. That means two shopping trips unless we can combine them. I need a measuring cup that has litres and cups...

Be still my heart.


Cranky Old Woman

This is a COW column about allegedly passes as entertainment today. Until last night I listed Song of Norway as the most ridiculous movie I've ever seen. Inception has beaten it hands down. It seemed like a stupid blot to satisfy producer/director urges to have explosions, car chases, via and shoot outs in exotic locations. When it took a van almost 10 minutes to fall from the top of a bridge into the water I wanted to cheer and hope no one in the van survived. (however, I did enjoy the company of the couple I was with and we couldn't help laughing that we really sat through it and didn't leave. Thank God, I only paid 6 Euros.

Then in the Guardian this morning I see Eat, Pray, Love, one of the most boring books I have ever read (I had to finish it to discover if the woman would ever get beyond navel gazing.--She didn't even get out of her navel she was so deeply curled inside it) has been made into a movie which I will not take any amount of Euros or Swiss Francs to see. I still find it hard to believe in this world today anyone can be as stupidly self-centred as the writer. I wanted to send her list of things to do, maybe for others starting of with the promise never to write another word.

This is not sour grapes at anyone's success.Nor do I rely on high literary works or philosophically inspiring movies. As my housemate says about some they are "nimcompoopy" but are a good way to pass some time. I can read or watch good genre books/movies and knowing how hard it is to get published I say congratulations to whoever makes it.

Okay this COW is now going to graze on her oatmeal/cinnamon, strawberry pancake having gotten the message off her udders. MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blessed blankets

The storm changed the weather so it was a snuggle-under-the-blanket sleeping night. I awoke with energy for a good long walk and was striding down the street by 8 a.m. I've several favourite routes, some which are through town and some into the nearby countryside. This morning's walk was a combination. Each moment I walk through town I feel so incredibly lucky that this is my life. It isn't the big things, it's the little ones.

The brasserie across from the train station is under new management which is trying to turn it from a place where the local drunks hang out to a nice out door restaurant. A brochette meal is only Eight Euros. I haven't tried it yet, but it is on my list.

The mountains rise above the new car park next to the station. Last night's thunderstorm and today's wind has cleared the air of dust and heat.

If I ever have the success of Dan Brown or Danielle Steele, I will buy this châteauette and turn it into a writing centre.

I've a new favourite bakery now that the old one was sold and the new owner does not make bread out of chestnut flower. This bakery has wonderful deserts from the fugase, bread with fruits, to anything with chocolate. Usually I just buy their cereal baguettes, but today I gave into a Napolitan, which I will take two days to eat. Did you know there are no calories in half a desert?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Modern Life can be just plain dumb

I live in an 18 s.m. studio albeit it seems more spacious with its cathedral ceiling and skylights. If I were exactly in this spot 400 years ago, probably I would standing in straw used to feed the animals that would be kept on the first floor while who ever occupied the house would live on the second and third. Whoever they were would not have been able to imagine life in the 21st century nor would they have imagined REMOTES. Considering the size of the flat the idea that I need FOUR remotes daily is a bit mind boggling if not dumb.

The TV needs two remotes but the DVD needs only one. The heating/air conditioning unit on the wall would require a step ladder if it had an off on switch on the unit itself but maybe like lights a switch could be on the wall itself.

Having worked for a standards organization, I do not see why all remotes can't be identical with menus in the same place and all the functions being identical. That would also solve the frequent problem when I try and use the TV remote on the air conditioner and vice versa. At least in summer, I can say the heat has melted my mind.

However, I do not want to return to the hay-filled attic of the 16th century. I would not be able to read with books being much too rare and candle light impossible unless I wanted to burn the place down.

Nor would I have had air conditioning to cope with the heat and I'm aware that if remotes are my only source of complaint, I am pretty lucky.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Religion and Risotto

"There's a restaurant in St. Andre that specializes in risotto," My friend said.

No more was necessary. On Sunday we jumped into neighbours' car and off the four of us went to the next village. This is the village that has the theatre festival each summer, although this year we missed it. Another year perhaps.

We were told to park behind the marie, which we did. K. had never seen the Romanesque church, although I had visited it a couple of years before. It had that musty smell that most 13th century churches have. Its walls were impregnated with centuries of baptisms, marriages and funerals. How many masses can be held in over 700 years...conservatively I would say 75,000. How many priests have swung incense on the alter?

Although the gargoyles have been worn away by wind and rain, the carving over the entrance is still beautiful.

In so many French villages, locals never miss a chance to place flowers. We "suffered" eye strain from the beauty as we walked to the restaurant.

The hostess was welcoming. At the end only one of us had risotto, but my gazpacho whic included blended roast red pepper and apricots were some of the best I ever ate. And we all got to taste the risotto

Friday, August 06, 2010

Metaphor for life

If geraniums could talk, the ones in my pot might have had as their last words: "I don't care what the books say, I don't like heat." They turned yellow, folded up their leaves and died.

I barely keep up my part of this floral street with my two pots on each side of the door but now was the time to make a bit more effort. At the marché I found these beautiful begonias (?) but in carrying them home one of the flower-ladened branches broke off.

Instead of throwing it out, I brought it upstairs and put it in a vase, but this morning it succumbed to its injuries and I gave it an informal burial in the poubelle.

The replanted begonias (?) are flourishing.

I am thinking of my high school reunion coming up next month. Some of my classmates are still flourishing. Others have died in accidents from cancer and on the battlefield. And in that thought I found a metaphor for life and death.

Point of view

When writing, point of view is important. My point of view of Argelès is usually from my flat, from the streets, from La Noisette.

A group of us had planned a picnic on a lake and wouldn't you know, the one rainy day of the summer was THAT day.

One of the potential picnickers who lives in the nearby mountains, suggested we all go to her house for lunch instead. There were five of us: three with the German mother tongue, two with American English and all with some French as a common language. One woman speaks all three. I could choke out a few German sentences and understood maybe 20 percent of what was being said in German as I metaphorically kicked myself for not being more rigorous in relearning my German this year and giving into computer games rather than declension drills.) However, we understood each other as we shared stories, listened to jazz and even danced a bit, just another example of how well women can communicate.

What does this have to do with point of view? I snapped a picture of Argelès. It is almost in the middle to the left of U-shaped branches. The sea is hidden by clouds. I had never seen Argelès like this and fell even more in love with it.

My point of view, my village.

I wish my housemate had been with me

I take snapshots. My housemate takes photographs and makes them into beautiful greeting cards. She just sent a batch off to my Step Mom who oohed and ahed over them. On my morning walk, I discovered this odd combination of grapes and morning glories, and although I captured some of it she would have turned it onto a work of art. My snaps hum, hers are a full Broadway Musical. However, that DID NOT stop me from enjoying the moment.

Poivre et Sel

One of my favourite Argeles's restaurants, Poivre et Sel, has beautiful new dishes. Run by a Moroccan family, their couscous is the best I've eaten outside of the Langella family. Barbara and I ate there with the Swiss couple because we felt we just had to have a wonderful evening with wonderful food and conversation. The mint tea didn't hurt either.