Thursday, October 31, 2013

Going Home

As you read this, I am in transit.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution

Just finished ready this rather hefty tome. 480 pages plus 20 odd pages of the history behind the story, author's notes, etc.

Reading it while in France made the subject matter more pertinent and gave me an understanding of the French people that I did not have before.  With the revolution, the people "went to hell and back" if they were lucky enough to survive.  It seems that many thousands of people perished first because they were suspected of being royalists, then, counterrevolutionary or just simply, aristocrats... The French generally speak liberally about politics and are better informed about the subject than most people I know back home.  Having lost their freedom of speech, their rights, and in many cases, their lives, the French are articulate about and engaged in politics.

Annette Vallon is a real character, the daughter of a doctor who fell in love with a young (20ish) William Wordsworth.  She is educated, strong-willed and adheres to Rousseau's writings - in Emile the author writes: "Never hurt anybody."

After a somewhat brief idyll with Wordsworth,  he is exiled because of the animosity between their countries.  Annette will bear him a daughter and go on to become somewhat of a heroine, working alongside the "chouans" to protect simple folk from an overzealous revolutionary party.  She was indeed a woman ahead of her time.

James Tipton has crafted the story of Annette Vallon from  few historical artefacts and has done a fine job of painting the life that the main character might have lived in between the large spaces where there is in fact little known about her.  I enjoyed the cultural references to life  in 18th century France and had no difficulty imagining what I was reading.

I was glad to learn about the French revolution through a story, as vividly portrayed by Tipton but was challenged by the length of the book.   80 pages less would have made this a more enjoyable read for me.

I give it 3.75 stars out of 5.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Making a House into a Home

During the past ten weeks in France, V. and I have had the opportunity to spruce up our home a little.  A few minor repairs, a couple major purchases and a few darling touches to warm the nest are making this little apartment more and more like a home.

The closet-demolition-armoire-purchase, the replacement of the stove top, and a fresh coat of paint on the French doors were the most important and time consuming projects undertaken this fall. But the most FUN ones were the little additions that make me smile and would make any house  feel more like a home.

The big clock from Maisons du monde:  This store reminds me a little of Restoration Hardware.  I wanted a clock with some punch.  I think this fits the ticket.

The vanity curtain:  About two years ago, I purchased a set of old curtains at the brocante in town.  I finally made the curtain for the lower part of the vanity to cover the shelves behind them.  I used antique brass curtain rings to hang it with. I love this fabric.

The marble plaque: My friend C. took a picture of this plaque at a brocante one morning on her way here to lunch.  When she showed me the picture, I had to have it.  Within minutes, a call was made and the plaque was reserved for us.  We picked it up in a neighboring village and made a new friend N.

Plaque says: La source du sourire (The source of the smile)

The quilt stand: I have admired this stand at C.'s for a while and this year, she let me have it.  It is in our room and awaits the quilt that I have not quite finished back home.

What would I do without you C.?  Thank you for your inspiration, your time, your teachings and your willingness to share your many talents and resources.  My time in France is richer and more fun because you are there... and because you infected me with the brocante bug...


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Au revoir

Going home is o.k., it's planned, expected since before we even leave home (Canada) but saying goodbye to friends is never easy.

A pinch of the heart, a tweak at the heart strings, a tear, a smile, a hug, a long look and we won't be seeing each other for a long time.

I will miss them all but I am so, so grateful to know them.  They give my life a more colorful palette, a finer taste, a warmth that will keep me warm during the long Canadian winter.

The time for au revoir has come, to our home, to our friends, to the lush countryside and to the larger community that welcomes us every year.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pomme de reinette et pomme d'api...

Photo via
This is a children's song that I have known most of my life.  Yesterday, I was at the grocery store to buy apples to make a pumpkin soup with the pumpkin I received as a gift.  (My dear friend arrived for lunch hauling a huge, weighty potiron, as they call them here). Imagine my surprise when I saw pommes de reinette!  They're real!  Never saw them in Canada but hey, here, they are commonplace.

What else is commonplace on large grocery store shelves of France you ask?

- inexpensive pie crust, you want it, you got it: pate brisée, pate feuilletée... all rolled up and ready to use, my sister would be in pie crust heaven;
- creme fraiche to die for... so much more delicious than sour cream;
- two aisles of yogurt, fromage frais and other dairy desserty things... all your heart could ever desire in every flavour and format;
-Pulco, a yummy juice made with spring water and very little sugar, relatively speaking;
- More kinds and cuts of meat, sausage, pate than you could shake a stick at;
-WINE, Champagne, beer... SO much cheaper than home...
-Bonne Maman jam.  Need I say more?
-Other (use your imagination)


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Wow Word One

Sounds like fun doesn't it?

Telling/miming/acting out jokes
Bursting out in song at unexpected moments
Putting on a silly hat and acting out
Cracking up
Making faces
NOT being suBtle

How do YOU do it?



Friday, October 18, 2013

Leaving Soon

 In less than two weeks, we are returning to Canada.  A few days ago, I missed Canada for the first time since we're here.  Today, as I drove home from my friend's place about 45 minutes away, I looked at the countryside and couldn't imagine not seeing it for the next 10 or so months.

I've gotten USED to being here.  Lush greenery, terra cotta houses, blue, green shutters, stone walls, fields and fields of vine, countless traffic circles, blue sky, hills, streams, fountains, waterfalls, plane trees, town squares, markets, stairs, alleyways, hidden courtyards, ivy, cheese, saucisson, baguette, puff pastry, olives, this is my France.

I will miss my friends, neighbors, Patricia the cheese lady and Stephane the saucisson man and three Vian patriarchs that live down the street. I will miss driving manual and going to sleep and waking up to the sound of the stream, French people's love of Canadians and trying new things to eat.  I will miss the cheese and wine aisles at Leclerc and the hot coffee on the town square after the market.

I will miss Robert and Elisabeth and their dog Balou.  I will miss the brocante and the vide-grenier and the second hand stores.  I will miss the 20+ degree weather in October and the fresh water we drink from the fountain on our little street.

I will miss being away and insouciante.  I will miss hearing French all around me. I will miss the gorgeous country that is France.

Melancholic Stella

Monday, October 14, 2013


Our trip to Paris a couple of weeks ago was a retirement gift from me to me.  I had a list of wishes and wants and I must say that I ticked off most of what was on the list.

Among the wants, I had at the top of my list were a pair of Repetto ballet flats.  Check.

Repetto flats were designed for Brigitte Bardot in the classic film: Et Dieu créa la femme.  In it, she wore red Repettos and this particular ballet flat has been made exactly the same way ever since. The following excerpt is from the Passionate Lifestyle eMag:


In 1956, legendary Parisienne sex pot Brigitte Bardot asked ballet-wear designer Rose Repetto to make her a pair of custom ballet flats for the now legendary mambo dance scene in Vadim's classic flim "...And God Created Woman." Bardot soon skyrocketed to popularity and both she and the ballet flat have been icons of French fashion ever since.
Photo via
I bought classic black Cinderella Ballet flats.  They are very very comfortable and  conform perfectly to the shape of your foot.
Photo via

They are worth every penny.

Happy-foot aka Stella

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fall Saturday

Fall is definitely upon us.  Despite the mid-day 20 degree temperatures, mornings and evenings are cool.  My mother used to say: 'Le fond du temps est froid' which means to say that the sunshine is just surface stuff that comes and stays briefly while the cold is there to stay.  That is how this October Saturday morning is feeling.

V. is out working in the garden and I am having a lie-in.  My sinuses are acting up again and the discovery of a (not) new series called: The Paradise is keeping me horizontal and happy.  What fun!
The series by BBC One is based on a novel by Emile Zola called Le Bonheur des dames.  It's the story of a young country girl Denise, who arrives in the city's first department store to work as a shop girl. I LOVE it and it is available in its entirety on You Tube. I've never seen a film where the name of the heroine is Denise... This Denise is bright, creative, ambitious and very pretty.

Enjoy!  I am... along with a cup of Rouge d'automne tea by Mariage Freres, the perfect treat for a cool, sunny fall Saturday:

Autumn, which turns maple leaves fiery red, is a good time to indulge in a delicious treat that erases the bitterness of rainy days. That is why Mariage Frères has employed an almost forbidden fruit - marrons glacés, a famous French indulgence ever since the days of Louis XIV - to create its new "Autumnal Red" tea.
A red rooibos from South Africa, mild in taste with very little tannin, has been combined with the flavour of fine candied chestnuts and Bourbon vanilla, yielding a most striking yet smooth cup, warm and festive, with fruity and slightly spicy harmonies that precede a final note of honey and dried fruit.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Along Le Vallon Gai

Along the little trail that borders our river Cassole, if you walk about a kilometer...


... you will arrive here.



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Very Good Brocante

Digouin Sarguemines 1855 - a gift from V.

Digouin Sarguemines - St-Jeanne d'Arc
Christofle coffee spoons
Paris 1930s souvenir album to hang on a chain

1920s wool, fully lined never worn sailor suit...

...and matching hat
Boy did I have fun on Sunday.  My first purchase was the sailor suit.  A little pricey,  but it will bring generations of pleasure to little members of my extended family for portraits... I was looking for a baptismal gown but the elderly lady who sold this to me said that I would never find one in this condition again.

After that, I bought all the rest of my purchases from one vendor.  The Digouin Sarguemines cup is absolutely stunning.  I wouldn't buy it because it was too expensive.  I exclaimed over the beauty of the cup and the vendor reduced the price and V. bought it for me.  I will drink my morning coffee in it for as long as I am alive or as long as it is intact...

The Sainte-Jeanne d'Arc plate is of a series of 12 made to commemorate different stages of the saint's life.  I intend to collect them.  They are for my kitchen in Canada.

The six silver Cristofle spoons match the forks and soup spoons I purchased at a large brocante in northern Provence.  I got them for a song -

 Lastly, the little souvenir album contains a series of tiny pictures of Paris monuments.

I am enchanted with my finds.


Monday, October 7, 2013

A Very Good Sunday in Provence

What makes a very good Sunday?  Friends, Brocante, Market, Food...

There was a brocante in my town on Sunday and I just happened to score.  Doesn't mean there were a lot of stands but there were a couple of very interesting ones, and that makes all the difference.

 After the brocante, there was a fall flavours market and we strolled around, tasted, tested purchased or not at our leisure.

After all the brocanting and tasting, we were tired and headed for one of the town's outdoor restaurants and had lunch.
Gourmande: duck, foie gras, sundried tomatoes
Normande: with a whole baked brie
Tomato Mozzarella with Prosciutto in a basket

 It was a very, very good Sunday...



Saturday, October 5, 2013

Backyard Editing

This is our "backyard" as I consider the gardens the front yard.  The Moulin where we live has extensive gardens but this little corner is all ours.  Well, not really.  You see, it belongs to our neighbor who doesn't give a fig about it.  Ergo the weeds, the garbage, the rotting figs, the dying elderberry trees.

For the first time since 2008, we are here long enough to work on our backyard as well as the gardens.  I have bought a jasmine vine to plant along Manu's dry stone wall which we look on all the time.
Climbing ivy
To the right is a large weed
Next to the weed is an olive tree
The olive tree bears no olives. Right of the olive tree is a fig tree.
Bay tree
Bay tree and stream bed
Dying elderberry tree on Manu's land
Pink Oleander not bushy because it lacks sunshine
Oleander and view of river valley
The jasmine vine is to replace the large  weed growing on Manu's land.  I have permission to plant something else in its place. My friend Corey recommended jasmine because it's pretty, fragrant and not too messy.

I would definitely like the dying elderberry cut down.  That would give us more sunshine (a good thing when it's not 35 degrees).  Then I would consider cutting down the bay tree.

I would really like to trim the Oleander to about 3 feet tall, then, with more sunshine, it might grow straight and grow more flowers.  Now it grows horizontally looking for the light.

What do you think?