17 November, 2012

If today is Saturday, then I've been in France since last Tuesday. It is all hazy, like this beautiful morning in the Chartreuse mountains.  The fog lies across the lowlands and hides the snowy mountaintops as the sun fights to burn it off.  After 24 whirlwind hours in Paris with friends and meeting the delightful Anne Ditmeyer I took the direct TGV (train a grand vitesse) to Grenoble. How wonderful to be surrounded by those beutiful peaks again! Staying with the also delightful Mickey Farrance I wake up and open the shutters to see the white cattle dotting the hillside. Heaven.

Today will be lunch, I'm hoping for truite a la meunier, a museum visit and shopping.  Possibly a walk in the clean mountain air as well. Ah, la belle France.

La Gua

View of the fort above Grenoble

05 November, 2012

A Day of reckoning draws nigh

The world is watching closely tomorrow's United State's elections. Not just for the graft and the gerrymandering and disenfranchisement of legal voters. But to see if a proven commander-in-chief and his competent secretary of state, or an inexperienced, foot-in-his-mouth Ritchie Ritch will be deciding the world's foreign party.

Locally we have a choice between a freedom-of-the-people fighter, or a man who slid in upon the death of Ted Kennedy, and has not distinguished himself. The days of the moderate republican are over, the force and abuse of power is too great.

How some politicians want women to regress.  The 47% of us.  I was just in costume, but medical care, legal rights, and more will revert to the 19th century under this devout Mormon

03 November, 2012

A Yankee Life

 It has been a very long couple of days, and this entry is about neither Cape Cod nor Paris.. I went to visit my great-grandmother’s niece, my grandmother’s cousin Rhoda. She entered hospice less than a week after her 86th birthday.  She cared for my mother and her own younger brother when they were children, he in curls and the two on ponies or 1940s bicycles. Since my childhood, the rather ramshackle home she grew up in was one of my favorite places. Rhoda’s mother cooked on a woodstove, had no “modern” bathtub or shower, oilcloth on the table, and a farmyard well into the 1970s. All of this steps from the University of Massachusetts,Amherst. Now a sprawling metropolis, it began as an agricultural college.  Rhoda’s husband cared for the livestock at UMass for five decades. At their own farm, she always took me to see the horses and rabbits. I pumped water into an old cast iron tub in the pasture, while she chatted with my mother for hours in her tiny kitchen above her mother-in-law’s. 

My mother, Rhoda's brother and their cousins c. 1944
With Rhoda 2012

I visited the farm during the year that I lived in Amherst in graduate school.  My daughter pumped water into the same tub.

Her husband George died several years ago, and the farm was sold to the town of Amherst.  There is a huge controversy over what to do with the farm, preserve it as historic green space or use it for soccer fields.  I took my son there recently; it is abandoned and sad, curtains still in Rhoda’s windows.  It is a very typical New England farmstead, with a white clapboard house behind a privet hedge, two barns, rolling pastures and old apple trees. 

Rhoda has been in an assisted living facility for a while, and she doesn't know me when I visit, but she enjoys my company.  She smiles when I talk about my mother and grandmother and my great-grandmother, her aunt.  I will miss this connection to all of them, and the wonderful woman who was so special to my mother.

Photo: Friends of Hawthorne Farm

01 November, 2012

November Challenge 11:53 p.m. EST

The suggestion from BlogHer was a favorite quotation. One dropped into my lap from Bill Day, a friend of  Maryam Montague's "To paraphrase Sir Toby Belch in response to your critic, "Just because thou art virtuous, does not mean there shall be no more cakes and ale." You (Maryam) are the one who has pointed out on more than one occasion that in a troubled world, we should make the most of our moments of joy and beauty. We should appreciate what we have the more in the knowledge that not everyone is so fortunate, but the fact that not everyone is equally fortunate does not mean we cannot appreciate what we have. We simply have to be careful not to confuse the gifts of nature with the rewards of virtue. As for beauty, it may be superficial and ephemeral, like a spring rose, a witty phrase, or a summer breeze, but that does not make it trivial or valueless." (emphasis mine.) 

06 August, 2012

What Would You do if You Had a Day?

With my son off at camp ( no late night calls yet! ) I woke up with no real obligations but many intentions. Unfortunately, I became ill yesterday and had to make a doctor visit, but while in that area I left the car and walked "downtown" Orleans. I did some errands, sent my son and niece postcards at camp, sent a birthday card to Paris (Bon Ani, Sharron!) and to Maryland, bought a fabulous Guess leather coat for a song at a consignment shop, and got some bright green, orange and espresso paint for the new bath project. Random purchases but fun. I also wandered in and out of art galleries and designer clothing shops, but just to lache vitrine, or window shop.  I kept feeling guilty that I wasn't home scrubbing something.  Being a tourist at home can be very wonderful.

Hoxie Pond, Sandwich

Me, on Bike Path, Orleans
Yummy Orange! Left Bank Gallery

Hot Chocolate Sparrow goes francophone

05 August, 2012

Let Them Eat Cupcakes

Sadly, even Sugar Daze cupcakes in Paris is en vacances ( en congés  is on paid leave), maybe unlikely for the self employed ( a New Yorker I hear!) I will give you their info in case you're in Paris after August 30, its 20 rue Henry Monnier, 75009 Paris (South Pigalle) Metros: St-Georges (12 line) or Pigalle (2 line) Bus: Lines 30, 42, 43, 54, 67, 68, 74, 85. Yes, that's the three weeks of closing up shop to appreciate the good things, rejuvenate and prepare for the rentrée. 
How will Paris live without these for three weeks? Photo: Sugar Daze

I love rentrée, when Parisians somewhat take back their city from tourists, children reappear in school uniforms, and restaurants are available for the rest of us.  All of that applies here on Cape Cod, as well!

04 August, 2012

The Big Bon Voyage

Tonight we had a special bon voyage to camp dinner for my eight year old son.  His favorite lobster, this time cracked, picked and eaten by himself. It even wound up on the back of his head.  Corn on the cob that came from Canada, probably due to the severe drought this year in the USA, and spaghetti with aglio e olio and anchovy. My son likes anchovies.  So we ate outdoors to make the necessary mess and try to catch a hint of a breeze in this stultifying air.

Four gals busy removing moss and cooling off
The chickens were gaping they were so hot, so I let them dig up the moss, which I've been meaning to do anyway, and literally roll around in the cool dirt eating their weight in yucky bugs. Good girls! They are four months old now and starting to look very grown up.

The dry soil and moist air have done little for my gardening efforts. I made two terraria with plants my son brought home from school three years ago. They sat in the kitchen window in a sorry state but alive all of this time, so I made something interesting for him.  I'm not much for indoor gardening. I saw a photo in a French design magazine (to which I am addicted) of a wall in a Paris apartment covered every inch in plants. I assume they have an indoor gardener. I have a palm from IKEA in my room to which I sometimes remember to add a couple of ice cubes.  On the deck I have several planters, three tomatoes  a pepper and a variety of Mediterranean herbs. The herbs are doing the best, although the oregano shriveled up once and had to be cut back to start again. This morning I gathered enough goodies for lunch, the tiny tomatoes are as sweet as candy.  I would like to visit the Abbaye de Senanque yet again to see the enormous fields of lavendar, and walk the beautiful cloister.  I was looking at a rental property today 30 km from Avignon, not far from the abbey. There isn't a day that I don't speak, dream, read, write or cook in French. My thoughts are always of what I know to be in the markets or which fête is coming up.  I clearly remember the flinty white wines of Cassis drunk beside the white calanques.  I can taste a rosé from Tavel after a hot hike on Montagne Sainte-Victoire, at the empty café overlooking Picasso's home (and grave)  at the  Château de Vauvenargues. These memories span the now 20 years I have traveled or lived in France. Yesterday, though, I watched my son play on the neighborhood beach with his buddy, riding an enormous inflated Orca through the waves. So what if my only rosemary is in a pot, not in a huge Provençal hedge.  It tastes as delicious under the same summer sun.

02 August, 2012


Were I in France, I'd be preparing for the annual August exodus.  French folk from all six corners head to the mountains, seaside, or family homes for often a full month of rest and relaxation.  Something to remember is you are visiting France this month, as many attractions, restaurants and public facilities are closed or have reduced hours. You may find this frustrating, but go with the flow.

French children as young as first grade go off  for class trips, without parents, for a week in the forest camps.

Mayflower Beach, Dennis, MA c. LM
Since I live in an American vacation mecca, the rest of the world seems to come here making restaurant reservations as rare as my hens' teeth.  Although I can walk to Mayflower Beach, a stunning "10 best" beach, my travel plans include a weekend in a college dorm and a visit to the mountains.  My son and I will attend the Northeast Organic Farming Association Summer Conference in my ancestral homeland of Amherst, MA (and my graduate school alma mater.) Although our Cape Cod "farm" is 10 vegetables, four chickens, a dog and a cat I'm hoping to glean more information on sustainability. Then we will head north to Shelburne Farm Museum and the Lake Champlain region.  I realized how much I miss getting some elevation since I live at sea level.

Sète, France   c. LM
My own French vacations have included Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Sète, and more. I would dearly have liked to attend the festival in Avignon again (and again). For now, I'll hang at my "10 best" beach.

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01 August, 2012


August 1 is my friend Lella's birthday ( buon compleanno! ), the start of my birthday month, the home stretch to my favorite season, and a challenge month to write daily. I've just returned from IKEA, the only one in Massachusetts and it's near my sister's home.  I only went for a piece of fabric to make a cover for a chandelier chain, but of course came home with all kinds of nonsense. Shopping with my son, we started in the cafeteria so he wouldn't be hungry along the long, winding aisles.

I have shopped and eaten at several IKEAs in France, and they offer wine and beer to enjoy with your gravlax. The marketing model that controls all big box stores and makes them look identical worked its magic on me, and I searched in vain for the vino. I even asked the bemused line cooks for it! I forgot what country I was in!

A soul-crushing trip to IKEA Paris-Nord left me weak as a limp noodle in March. It is no small feat to get out there without a car and come back with anything heavier than a lampshade. I did negotiate next day (Sunday!) delivery of a couch and many other items, but it wasn't easy, and I finally uttered the dreaded, "only in France," to the clerk. But I got it done for my home design commission.  I was fortified by red wine and meatballs.

Paris 9eme After Home Staging

15 June, 2012

Loads to post, but meanwhile here is an apartment in the 9th arrondissment that I Staged in March on a looowwww budget. Start to finish in 6 days, with extensive cleaning, deliveries and assembly.

Before: Paris apartment "before"
After: Paris apartment "after"

It can be done!

21 January, 2012

Wintry White

The beautiful, wintry white I’ve been waiting for finally arrived overnight. A silent, heavy snow fell blanketing Cape Cod.  My son had received a sled for Christmas, and a snowball maker, and he’s been anxious to try it out.

We headed to the golf course, where one parks at the top and sleds sown into the hollows. We brought the dog, Chloé, and she romped through the unfamiliar white stuff.  She’s a Southern gal, from Tennessee.  She raced behind the sleds, kissing us all over whn we dumped out of them at the bottom of the hill.

We stopped by the beach on the way back, as it’s an amazing sight with sky and snow and sand mingled into an indiscernible horizon. 

I’ve been thinking about spring, and a new garden. Seeds are bought, compost is cooking. But I so much want to spend June and part of July in France, to visit friends and welcome a new baby to one.  A garden here cannot go untended.  Many years ago I read French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman (1991). It has really stayed with me, the idea of working my own plot in France. And while I did do that for a bit in Montlaur, I left without seeing any final results.  On verra, indeed.  Planting French cultivars in Dennis is simply not the same at all.

There is much snow to be moved in the morning before I can head to church.  By Wednesday I will be far from it all, in California.

12 January, 2012


Exhibition Program for Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Why not eat well while museum going? MFA
Cape Cod's Parnassus Bookst in Yarmouthport
Bouquinistes, Paris 2007