Sunday, December 16, 2012

Another reason to love Argelès

The children gathered by the church to see Père Noël climb down from the top of the 13th century church steeple.

It did cross my mind if he fell, it would traumatize them forever.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I am so excited...I've a real live Christmas tree in my flat in Argeles for the FIRST TIME EVER. In the 25 years I've owned the place I've never been here for Christmas.

There are many Christmases where there's been artificial trees and when you're in someone else's home they have their own traditions and it is always a joy to share them. I do sneak in one evergreen branch for yuletide, the winter solstice, which is more Christmas for me than Christmas.In fact the season without that one bit of evergreen brought him for outside means the meaning of the season wouldn't exist for me.

I still rejoice in all the other parts of the celebrations, the goodies baked by my housemate, the exchange of gifts, the good food, the feeling of good will.

Not every year do I get the chance to use the ornaments my daughter and I made when she was three. Hers are not painted neatly and that makes them all the more precious. I made sure She had been given the blue wooden clock for her own collection.

I never put lights on. And I definitely do not use the real candles that many Europeans do. At one time I made snow out of Ivory flakes but now I use cotton placed on each branch. Granted I don't like artificial things but real snow in my flat even if it were available . . . well, I don't think so . . . warm and cozy is better indoors. Authenticity can be carried too far.

This year they'll be a series of mini love will be here and we will celebrate before we go to Geneva when there will be another mini Christmas with my housemate's boys. Then she and I are planning a pj holiday with maybe DVDs and whatever calm we can think of . . . and hopefully there'll still be her brownies. A no mess, no fuss day.

We have plans for Boxing Day with our Brit neighbours which will be more traditional and when my daughter comes from Scotland in January we'll celebrate three birthdays together followed by a mini Christmas with her back in Geneva.

I found the tree at one of the local florists, a bit bigger than I wanted, but she offered to deliver it. Because it is a living tree in a pot, I can put it outside adding to the ambiance of my well-flowered street.

Tis the season to be jolly and I am sooooooooooooooooo happy.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Cuisine Chaos

Normally, I’m a relaxed hostess and well prepared.

Today was the annual apple pie lunch for three friends, B, L and R. Normally we do it in September, but it had been postponed while I was in Geneva.

Despite a tiny, tiny, tiny kitchen I had everything worked out mentally for the meal to be prepared with little effort leaving the kitchen clean and me relaxed by the time my friends arrived. It was not to be.

The menu:
·         Couscous with olives, raisons, pecans, coriander and parsley
·         Chicken slow cooked in Mid Eastern spices
·         Green beans al dente and sautéed in olive oil, fresh garlic and tomatoes.
·         Champagne to celebrate that they are great friends
·         Home made apple pie New England style

Last night, I thought I’d get a head start. I set the table and thought I’d bake the apple pie. 

Wrong. I was out of sugar.

Early this morning I was at the corner store and confessed to Babette, from whom I’d bought the apples yesterday, I was out of sugar. She was out of normal sugar. Another sugar was too powdery, but I was happy with the red sugar.

Back home the Crisco pie crust had never been easier to roll out. The apples almost fell into the pan. The crust decoration worked first time. I felt smug.

I put the pie in the oven, cleaned up all the pie making stuff and started to roll the chicken in the spices…just like any winning Master Chef contestant, I thought.

Then I peeked at the oven. The top of the pie was the colour of charcoal. I didn’t check the oven setting and I had broiled my pie. A couple of people had stayed in my flat, and I suspect one of them changed the setting.


I replaced the crust and cleaned up again and went back to mixing the spices. I had replenished all my Mid Eastern and Indian spices before I left. None were to be found. Had I checked the day before, I could have bought fresh spices from my spice man on the marché.

Back to the cornerstore. Babette tried hard not to laugh as I explained my predicament. 

Fortunately she had what I needed saving a several block walk.

I wanted to take a photo of the mess, but my camera batteries were dead. 

To speed the clean up of the Crisco in the measuring cup I used boiling water. Three minutes later for a reason that can only be called stupidity I picked up the cup spilling the almost boiling water on my hand.

I now had one hour to prepare an hour and half meal.

I would like to stay the rest went smoothly…I can say it by not mentioning the heavy pan I dropped on my foot.

My guests arrived.

When the four of us together, we laugh, share wisdom won at great prices, catch up on ordinary news, extraordinary news, check our sense of reality . . . what friends do.

The meal was late, but good.

And the broiled pie with the substitute crust.

My friend B. said it was the best I’d ever made. Maybe the secret is broiling the first crust.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Life of the writer

Despite being December, the sun was strong enough that L and I could sit outside the café drinking our chocolat chaud, notebooks and pens ready.

Our first target was a woman, probably retired, with a pink scarf and blue beret. "Go," I said.

We wrote for ten minutes. She wrote about the woman who was signing divorce papers. I made the woman buy a colorful house  after her beige husband died, playing on the love of color.

We read them to each other. Well at least we were different this time. When we'd met Saturday and wrote about dog we saw, we'd both named the pup Max.

The second were two men, one black and one overweight. I created a potential murder where the black man had been hired by the fat man to do away with the fat man's wife. She had them boyhood friends, but we both had one of the characters names Jacques.

Then we saw the mailman. She wrote about how he wanted to see inside the letters he delivered, my piece showed his regrets that postmen no longer have uniforms.

The sky was an incredible blue. A few leaves were still on the tree in the middle of the table.

We set up a date for our next writing session. Living the writer's life like this is the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

Saturday, December 01, 2012


Ok, Argelès has lots of anglophones and other foreign tourists and often shops, restaurants and real estate agents post "English Spoken Here" or "German Spoken Here" etc.

Today I saw a shop with sign in English. "Here French is Spoken."

I need to check that one out.