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