24 December, 2011

Christmas Eve on Cape Cod

My Garden Club project
Greetings from Cape Cod on Christmas Eve, 2011! A few lazy snowflakes are falling, the chickadees, tufted titmouse (titmice?) and red-headed woodpeckers have discovered the holiday treats put out for them.  The kids’ pageant practice is history and the big show goes on this afternoon at Our Lady of the Cape church in Brewster.  It’s a modern church, and I miss my centuries-old Church of St. Louis in Grenoble, but oddly enough it’s the same La Salette order.  My son will be, what else, a soldier in Herod’s army. A special merci beaucoup to all of the legions of volunteers at OLC who will feed 300 souls a complete Christmas dinner in their homes or at the church on Christmas Day. I was humbled to participate in their enormous effort.  

Chesnuts have been roasted for tomorrow’s duck dressing with chestnuts and cranberries, and I’m hoping to get some cookie baking in today. The champagne is chilling. It will be my first duck endeavor and I am relying heavily on Mrs. Julia Child, my favorite fellow Smith College alumna, for guidance.

The season has been punctuated by magical moments, from the wonderful Cape Cod Symphony Pops to the Chatham Chorale Gloria to caroling at a nursing facility with students. Our Village carol sing and living nativity always brings me to tears, and the welcoming hot refreshments following give an opportunity to wish neighbors a Merry Christmas.

Chatham Chorale Chamber Singers

I was hoping to spend the coming week in Paris but will not be able to, a new furnace takes priority after spending several days without heat last week and a stern warning from the plumber, once again, that a replacement is imminent.  So please send your own photos of the lights of Paris with your permission to post them!

My little family will be scattered far and wide this Christmas, and I always miss dear friends in far-flung locales, but we will all wake up tomorrow with the wide-eyed delight of little children or children at heart.  Merry Christmas to all,


01 December, 2011

1 December

Thanksgiving Day has come and gone in the US, and here on Cape Cod it was incredibly mild. We went to the beach, ate copiously with friends, and this year broke out the tree a bit early.  My daughter was visiting from the West Coast and purely for her mother's own delight joined in decorating the house for the first time in many years.

Over in Paris, Audrey Tatou flipped the switch to illuminate the Champs Elysee, and now the shopping season is full-on where ever you are.

We are changing the focus of our celebrations a bit as our son gets older. I was asked yesterday whether or not I "believe" ( I do) and if so, does he bring video games and if so do the come from a store or are made by elves...

Today we will make and decorate a gingerbread house, parts purchased at IKEA.  I used to bake the whole thing, but after many crumbled roofs I figure it's the decorating that's the most fun.  Friday we will see the Cape Symphony Holiday Pops, Saturday is Breakfast with Santa.  Upcoming is the Dennis Holiday Stroll, Chatham Chorale, and Sandwich Holly Days house tour.  Dennis also has a candlelight living nativity, which I love.  I hope you see a pattern, more "doing" than "buying."

Were I in Paris, I would be visiting Place de la Madeleine  to see the  fronts of Fauchon and Hédiard, ogling the windows of the grands magazins, and seeing a ballet.  We would visit the Marché de Nöel.

No matter where you find yourself this advent season,  hope that you celebrate heartily and find even just one thing to do for those not as able to do so themselves.

c. LittleBrownPen  http://www.littlebrownpen.com to buy.

22 November, 2011

Getting Ready, Giving Thanks

This wild guy is on borrowed time.
Wampanoag woman prepares a meal, Plimoth

The weather has not been conducive for late November. The leaves still cling to the oak trees, folks are still sporting flip-flops.  I'll take it just fine, but I remember huge snowstorms to go to my Aunt Vivian's for the big feast. At the end of the evening, when the whiskey highballs came out, the kids watched The Wizard of Oz, as it was shown only once a year.  Those flying monkeys terrified me!  This year we are eating a turkey from a local farm, quite near us. We will dine with friends from "away," Rochester, NY and South Africa, and lobster tails will be included. Extravagant! Our puritan meal as kids always included turnips and parsnips. No crunchy onions, just the pearl ones. Plain stuffing with Bell’s seasoning (never a mushroom!).  No recipe was ever consulted, unless maybe the cookbook from 1947 (which I still have and use!). It was heavenly.  

All over facebook are questions about how expats will celebrate. The Americans closest to me haven’t had an American Thanksgiving in decades and won’t start “stuffing themselves silly” now.  My Thanksgiving in Grenoble was fun, and necessary act as I was away from my daughter, husband, sister and dying mother.  Many nationalities came to the true Yankee feast, complete with canned cranberry jelly from Cape Cod.  I looked strange carrying that huge bird, quills sticking up here and there, on the bus back home from the shopping center.  There was no Macy’s parade, no Wizard of Oz, but there were good wine and new friends.

Eldest Child
So this year is a mélange again.  My mom is gone for eight years now, but I will make her parsnips, and deviled eggs recipes.  My little boy wants the whole shooting match, ending with an Ice Age and a Charlie Brown TV extravaganza. Sunday we will march into the season of Advent, and we are ready with calendars and choirs and organ music to see.  But Friday morning my special girl will arrive on the red eye from the West Coast and help us with the tree.  For that I am truly grateful. 

11 November, 2011

Wild Weather

Summer returned to the Cape in November, and the clear skies for the full moon are spectacular. Just a few photos of enjoying the gorgeous weather, and treasures found.

My yard at sunset

Dennis, Ma Crowe's Pasture

30 October, 2011

All Hallows Eve

My daughter in costume (?)
I have experienced Halloween in the USA, France and Italy. Such different observances! I believe the Halloween goodies and accouterments are brought out here in mid-August and mash in with the back to school necessities.  Parents will buy expensive, elaborate costumes from catalogs or dedicated Halloween stores, some warehouse-sized.  Some will hand down costumes from older siblings, and some are actually creative and make their own. The magazine covers are slathered with everything to make a festive season. Some schools are engulfed in waves of sugar-laden goodies.

In France, my first and second year college students of 2003 were very curious about " 'Alloween" as it was not yet widely celebrated there, and the holy day that follows, All Souls (or Saints) Day was lost to them.  Now Halloween candy comes out with the Christmas papillots at Monoprix, mixing secular and religious metephors and holidays.

Our Mantle

In Italy, in Riomaggiori, three lonely trick-or-treaters scaled the steep street, stopping at doors. My daughter, a devotée of Halloween, had brought a modest pink hair extension to wear to dinner to keep her tradition alive.

This year on Cape Cod, I have seen much made of the literary traditions of hauntings and the paranormal.  There was a screening of Nosferatu with a live orchestra. There is more to come!

My son has been ill for several days with a virus I'd never heard of before and missed many Halloween activities, but he decorated and we made les sablés (sugar cookies).  We always toast the pumpkin seeds after carving the jack-o-lanterns, too. Just clean, rinse, dry, oil a rimmed cookie sheets and the seeds and liberally sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 400 degrees (f) stirring often. They burn quickly! Munch a bunch.
However you do, or don't, celebrate the haunting, enjoy tomorrow night, and keep your black cat indoors. Mine has double paws, to boot.
Pearly, a very large, many toed cat

25 October, 2011

Sunday Dinner

Birthday Flowers from Lynn

Sunday Dinner

Or did you call it Sunday supper at your house ? I was already forming a post on this topic when I wandered by the beautiful Sunday Suppers blog of Karen Mordechai.  In organizing a playdate for my son last week, I told the other parent we’d be done with dinner around 3 :00 p.m.. He was startled and asked if we had a mid-day meal on Sundays.  Truthfully, we seldom do. But when the stars align and there are no other commitments, I love having a real sit-down meal with my husband and son.  We use proper plates and napkins, and take our time eating. Then a light meal later on is easy to prepare and leaves time for a walk on the beach.

My Own Roast Chicken (with the dreaded plastic pop-up)
My Yankee Pot Roast

When I was a child, Sundays were generally spent at my grandparents, with my father. He watched football, and my grandmother prepared some sort of meat : roast beef, roast chicken, roast lamb, or ham. Always whipped potatoes, and a vegetable like string beans. Not one sauce, spice or flavoring.  I always drank ginger ale.  The meats rotated on a schedule, unless it was Christmas and we begged for tortière a Canadian meat pie. Oh, that was wonderful.  

Market in Languedoc-Roussillon
So I began to think about Sunday dinners in France.  When I lived in Avignon with Marc and Angéle, we had a large meal each Sunday. But since it was summer and horribly hot, she prepared the meat (á la grandmère) very early in the day and allowed it to sit out on the sideboard until dinnertime.  She went to the morning market for vegetables, salad greens, bread, cheese, and a bit of pastry.  Sunday markets in France generally close by 1:00 p.m. so that venders can have their own dinners.  Americans used to 24 hour services may be caught without decent groceries if they sleep in on Sunday. (The Marais in Paris is the exception.) A roasted chicken, some fresh cheese and a bit of tarte can be had in nearly any French village market, and make a fine picnic ( just stay off the grass !)   

Mayflower Beach, Dennis, MA

Growing up, Massachusetts had « Blue Laws » prohibiting store openings on Sundays. They were lifted for holiday shopping.  I believe that repealing them has had a very bad affect on family structure. Mom, Dad, or even kids are at work on Sundays, and there isn’t the opportunity for that one weekly pause, and breaking of bread together as a family.  Several US states are currently considering repealing their Blue Laws. I hope that they consider this.  

15 October, 2011

Down on the Farm Today 10h-15h, then shuck in Wellfleet

Today Taylor-Bray Farm in Yarmouthport will host its annual fall festival.  Get close to heirloom breeds of sheep and highland cattle, ride the haywagon, and more. It's a terrific spot to discover at anytime of the year, with marsh views.  Here are some photos from past events. Enjoy!

03 October, 2011

When Opportunity Knocks, Ouvre la Porte

Louis Pasteur said, “chance favors the prepared mind,” and I can attest that the same applies to real estate.  Not that I suggest that homes are infested with microbes or that real estate agents are amoeba, but that if you are predisposed to, say, the possibility of buying a lovely renovated home in southeast France and someone tells you it’s available, there is a confluence of “chance and the prepared mind.”

Yesterday I discovered that a home we were fortunate enough to stay in in 2009 has become available.  After leaving the relative hardship of the ferme at the Chateau de Montlaur, we were enthralled by the comforts of this home in Campagnan (34230).  Light-filled, it sits across from the ancient church and around the corner from a little shop.  There is a garden, and covered parking. Very near the lively medieval town of Pézenas, the seaside of Sète, and the large city of Montpellier it has something for everyone.  The commune has schools and a municipal swimming pool. 

The Home
See the listing agent's page, with details, here.  


 My favorite memory is of the village-wide paella celebration, complete with plein aire disco ball and unlimited paella, wine, bread and comraderie. I danced onstage with my son when his new copine would let me get on his card. 

I am not the listing broker, just filling you in, but do take a look. Buy as an investment  with family, and bring your couverts and dancing shoes.

01 October, 2011

So what’s a Massachusetts girl doing in France so often? And how did I get from the Connecticut River banks to Cape Cod Bay?

Sandy Neck, 10/1/11

My parents honeymooned on the Cape in 1962, when there wasn’t too much out here and my dad spearfished off the beach, probably to impress my mom with his abilities as a provider.  Maybe if all we ever ate was dogfish?  But they were both from Western Massachusetts and set up shop there, literally, an automotive repair shop and gas station.  On opening day, Dad offered a free case of Pepsi with a fill-up, gift value $1.69.  But somewhere along the line Dad had taken French, and would toss out a petit mot or two now and then.  He sang Alouette.  This was a big guy on a motorcycle.  My first dog was a toy miniature French poodle named Cherie who jumped out of a hat box on Christmas morning, circa 1970.  

I went to Montessori kindergarten in Springfield somewhere around then, and my favorite thing was French class, more Alouette.  I still don’t know all of the words to it. But after that it was public school, where foreign language was, well, a foreign idea until seventh grade. In 1972, my parents divorced and I changed school districts.  In junior high one chose French or Spanish and that was your lot in life.  Although I was really interested in the lengua maternal of my Cuban great-grandfather, I went with the French flow, as down the Canal du Midi. 

Neither high school nor French class were my shtick.  Although I threw in a semester of Latin and one of Spanish, three and a half years of that French program got me nowhere.  There weren’t any French questions on the GED exam. But I didn’t give up and struggled on again with Madame Ball at Smith College, even as an Economics major. 

My daughter at the time of that first trip
Still with me? It was a long, slow journey. My daughter  was meandering along beside me and for Christmas 1990, I gave her a plane ticket to London in her stocking.  She was eight and being my kid actually thought that was cool. We would take the hovercraft from Dover to Calais, then train to Paris.  We were living in family housing at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the first Gulf War raged, hence the cheap tickets.  The airline called daily to give me updates.  When we landed at Heathrow there were tanks on the tarmac, but the dream begun in kindergarten (mine, not hers) was about to be realized.

I will have to scan some of those first trip photos, pre-digital camera.  There was the war, general strikes, bad weather and a picky eater but I was in love, with Paris.
Toward La Defense
Tomb of the Unknowns

30 September, 2011

The Glory Season

My Son Exploring the Chateau de Montlaur

Thomas prepares his first moules

While summer on Cape Cod is supposed to be the big sha-bang, it is also a perfect time to rent your own home out and get away from the hordes.  Blessed with sudden unemployment, we went to live and work at the ancient Chateau de Montlaur in Montaud, in the south east above Sète.  We brought our cat, Pearly, via Iceland, who got in a dust-up with the resident barn cats. More on that later.  We covered lots of ground throughout southern France, Spain, Andorra, and Scotland by various means of transport.  Meanwhile an Irishwoman then a Québecquois were in our house.  It was hell getting our house ready to rent.  Coming back to the Cape in early September brought us back just in time for the glory days.  That’s where we are now, with wonderful sun, clear air, and little traffic.  This weekend will be Fall for the Arts, a Cape-wide celebration.

Pearly guards the shower from scorpions

29 September, 2011

Bienvenue aux voyageurs internationaux!

East Dennis Oyster Company flats, Cape Cod Bay
Hello, and welcome to my "holding page" while I figure out if I have anything to say about my home island of Cape Cod and my spiritual homeland of France, that which is not already said on facebook or twitter or linkedin or even my other blogs here or here.  Can the world stand another collection of paroles diverses concerning Parisian light, food, and dog doo?  Or still more on the dunes and dudes of Provincetown?  I am spending this year on financial, spiritual and physical recovery (as it's somebody's New Year today, I choose today as day 1) and a new creative outlet may be rather nice. Therefore, I write for myself.

I have developed some Paris/France/Francophone blogger idolations and plan to liberally share their marvelous musings, while desperately wanting to beg them for space in their chambres de bonnnes.

I have traveled extensively in France with my children, beginning in 1991 with a nine year old and most recently in 2011 with a seven year old.  You can work with that math.  So I'm equally good with playgrounds as I am at boites de jazz, and Chamonix to Marseilles.

So as I am laid up today after a rather annoying and painful procedure, I shall ponder what to say, what you may want to share with other expats who may love these two coins du monde, and gather up some fun pictures.

A note of thanks: If you share my stuff, credit me and let me know.  Merci a tout en avance.  And btw, feel free to write in French or English, but restrain from correcting my creaky written French.  I'm learning Italian but not quite there yet.

Skype? lisamorales831

This Weekend Cape Cod Museum of Art

Words to "I Have Two Loves" by Madeliene Peyroux, translated by "pioupiou09"