Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Touch and Go

Home for just a few days in California.

Taking nurture from the flowers left by the gals who stayed in my house, from the welcome home drawing that my little neighbor couldn't wait to bring over in person,

from the time spent gabbing with the gals at the kitchen table or over coffee and daughter-made coconut bread at the local cafe.

Gathering warmth from a night in front of the fire,
an evening watching a movie and sorting family photos,
an afternoon at yoga and in the steam bath,
a simply delicious dinner of roast chicken and vegetables and homemade huckleberry pie with whipped cream.

Of all these things is nurturance made.

Sending warm hugs on to you, Dears.

x0x0 N2

Friday, February 19, 2010

Traveling Comforts

Kathleen of Hill Country Mysteries said something in her comment yesterday about "travel comforts" and that got me to thinking about the people, places and things that have been comforting as I travel through San Francisco on my way home. Here's the beginnings of that list:

Farley's coffee shop, the day sunny enough to sit outside, the sight of two grown men sharing a tea party with a little girl in pink,
drinking their coffee out of her pink plastic cups.

My beauteous daughter bursting with life.

My son and his lifelong friend exercising their creative juices making beer.

The SF magic sunny midwinter day spent walking from the Ferry Building to North Beach to the new sights in the alleys of China Town guided by my daughter-in-law.

...gathering for family dinner at an old Italian restaurant in the avenues...
...having a welcoming space to land in the Dogpatch neighborhood...
...spending quiet time with my sisters in Walnut Creek, sorting through Martha Dear's cards and pictures...
...tea with a new friend from France at her flat on Church Street...
...dinner and music in the Mission with a friend of 35+ years...

These are just some of the comforts of this time betwixt and between.
Wishing you safe travels large and small.

x0x0 N2

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Smell of Sky Blue

In the midst of all the family logistics and planning for my sister's funeral, I checked in with my friend Ms Moon over at Bless Our Hearts. She wrote simply and eloquently about the joys of hanging out the wash, of standing outside under a bright blue sky.

Here's my own take on just that feeling from a few years ago.

Sun Washed

I want my wash to smell of sunshine and the wind.
Why did we become convinced that
some lab concocted combination
of hydrophobic long chain molecules
is better?
could even come close?
Because we were missing
a half remembered fragrance from home?
Because clothes from the dryer have no smell?
Or worse, smell sour
having sat in the washer too long?
Because by using a dryer we won’t have
to lift wash
to carry it to the yard
to shake out each piece
to pin it with wood to the line
in the sun
in the breeze
to catch sight of a blue jay in the redwood
to sigh at the beauty of cloud against sky.


Still on the road here. The up side is that I am getting some time to connect with family and children. Looking forward to being home and having the chance to do the simple things like hanging a load of wash on the line.

Thanks to one and all for the kind words of condolence.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 36: The Other Side (l'autre côté)

Hello Dear Friends,
My heart is heavy today, as my youngest sister Martha died this morning very unexpectedly. I had already made arrangements to travel back to CA to see her in the CCU where she was being treated for "blood clots in her lungs and sepsis" (massive inflamatory response of the body).

Two of my sisters drove down from Oregon on Tuesday to see that she received the best of care. They and our brother-in-law who lives nearby were all with her when she slipped away at 4:59 am this morning.

I talked to Martha on the phone Monday and Tuesday from here in France and she was joking and giving out I.love.you.'s up to the last minute. Several workers from the rehab center came over to the hospital to check on her yesterday. They said she was the light of the center while she was there.

My sister Martha was the youngest of ten children, seven girls and three boys, in our Boston Irish Catholic/Bible Belt Baptist clan. She was born with Down's Syndrome and grew up well loved at home in the center of our family.

We will all miss her generous heart, red hair, smiling face, sense of humor, caring touch and prodigious Skip-Bo playing abilities.

Good-night, dear Martha,
sleep well,
may "flights of angels
sing thee to thy rest."

Loving you from the other side,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 35: Think of Martha. Now!

Had a more frivolous post in mind but I've been on the phone to the CA checking on my youngest sister who was suddenly transferred last Sunday to the ER from the rehab facility where she was gradually recovering from hip surgery. She sounded stronger yesterday when I talked to her, but today it is not looking so good.

Anyone out there?

OK. I need you to focus all your healing energy and send it to my sister Martha.
Or just send it to me and I'll pass it on.

I know it sounds desperate, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Think of it as the Psychic Unity Hotline. My Mom used the Unity Hotline a lot in the last ten years of her life and was a true believer. She'd call the 800 number and put in your request for 24 hours of prayer for whatever you needed -- love, health, a job, more money to pay the bills...

The Psychic Unity Hotline is not an organized religion, it comes together the instant it is needed. And that moment is now. Think of Martha. Send her all the love and healing power you can muster.

I'll check back later today.

x0 N2

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day 34: The Inside Story (l'histoire l'intérieur)

While I was up at the marché du livre (book market) at the Hôtel Abbaye Ecole De Soreze (we locals just call it "the Hotel"), they opened the back door so that the book vendors could load out. I slipped outside to walk around the grounds and give you a peek at what it looks like behind the big stone wall.

à demain!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day 33: The Mossy Wall (le Mur Moussu)

When I came downstairs yesterday, the morning light striking the miniature daffodil bulbs and roots reminded me that I had promised to get them a moss blanket.

After a short detour to the marché du livre up at the abbey to fondle some tight leather bindings, lust after marbled end papers and purchase one small book, I took a walk along le Chemin du Tour du Parc (literally: the path around the park).

This is the lane which circles the capacious grounds that used to belong only to the Catholic Church and its abbey school. Though it takes up 6 hectares, or nearly 15 acres, near the center of the village of Soreze, the Parc lies behind a high rock wall and, in the old days, was seldom seen by most of the inhabitants of the town, unless they worked for the abbey or the school.

The moss is so lush and velvety green on the wall next to the stream that I couldn't bring myself to take any off.

I searched the ground at the bottom of the wall and found some loose pieces which I brought home from my walk.

The baby jonquils are all tucked in and already starting to pop out blossoms.

Maybe I'd better feed them some whiskey water tomorrow.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 32: One, Two, Three, Dinner! (Un, deux, trois, Dîner!)

From time to time I bring home "the easy dinner" from the Saturday market.
I love that the bag they put it in looks like an illustration from a children's book about life on the farm.

There are three sizes of poulet rôti that you can buy at the rotisserie truck. The middle-sized chicken is organically grown and more expensive. Over time, depending on how many people I am feeding, I have tried each type and all are délicieux.

In a long pan below the roasting fowl, they place onion slices which cook in the the drippings from the meat and the heat from the rotisserie. They ask if you would like aussi jus de viande et d'oignons? Mais, oui!

They also cook slices of potato in the dripping pan, which you can purchase as a side dish, but I had already bought these red potatoes, which were so pretty I had to bring them home and pose them in front of the fire. Then I cold-heartedly chopped them in half and roasted them in my cast iron pan in the oven before adding the onions and chicken for warming.

I steamed some brussel sprouts and made a polonaise sauce for them -- basically: sautee 1/3 c bread crumbs in 1/3 c butter, add 2 Tbsp chopped parsley/chives, juice of 1/2 lemon and one finely chopped hard boiled egg; spread over brussel sprouts and serve. Its a recipe I stumbled across years ago in Joy of Cooking. The kids liked the way it took the sharp edge off the taste of the brussel sprouts, so I always made it when we had one of our family standard dinners: roast chicken, yams and brussel sprouts.

Et, Voila! Two weekend dinners for one or one dinner for two, with more roast chicken to be made into soup later in the week.

Bon rêves!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day 31: Bringing Spring Inside (Apportant au coeur de Printemps)

Today was market day in Revel. Part of the pleasure of going to the market, for me, is bringing home fresh flowers. They're so affordable and available, even here in our small market town of Revel.

When I lived in the center of Amsterdam a few years ago, in the Jordaan, I could buy flowers at the Noordermarket, the weekly bio market on Saturday, and, even on Sunday, choose from a wonderful seasonal variety of moderately priced flowers at the Bloemenmarkt.

Today I saw the first bunches of daffodils for sale here, probably come over by truck, train or plane from the Aalsmeer flower auction, near Schipol Airport, also in Holland.

Daffodils are an irresistible harbinger of Spring, for me and most people, I suspect. Just looking at them lifts my spirits. I picked up a bunch each of jonquilles and narcissus for the table.

On the opposite side of the market halle (the covered area of the market), the other big flower vendor had pots of forced Tête à Tête miniature daffodils for only 1.50€. I had to have two of those as well.

Back home, out at the well on the patio, I transferred the bulbs to a pedestal dish I have that fits on the ledge behind the sink.

Tomorrow I will walk the short circuit around the abbey grounds, along le Chemin du Tour du Parc, and pick up some moss to tuck over their roots. I love to watch the tiny daffodil flowers emerge over several weeks, the shape of the Lilliputian shadow they cast on the wall of the stairway that runs behind the ledge.

I got in the habit of bringing in flower bulbs while living in Germany and then Holland, both known for their long, dark winters, where bulbs are plentiful and cheap at this time of year. And, hey! What price sanity, I always say. Here's a good article online about forcing your own bulbs at home. You might be able to find paper whites on sale at this point, and they sprout the fastest.

At the web site I linked on forcing bulbs, they advise replacing some of the water in the bulb's container with whiskey, bourbon, vodka or even tequila! to slow the growth of the plants and keep them from falling over...Now that's kind of counter-intuitive...but they say it works. While you're at it, you could make yourself some "grog", which a local Dutch friend told me is just hot black tea, lemon, honey or sugar and a little whiskey. "Goes straight to your head." A light dose of that might be a good thing when you're havin another cold, gray Saturday.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Day 30: Leftover Dinner (Dîner à Nouveau)

What leftovers look like in Soreze with one glass of the rosè on special at the Utile (3.80€ !).

à demain!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 29: Recipe for a Windy Day (Recette pour un jour de vent)

Invite two friends to come for tea in the afternoon.
3:30 is a good time.

Blow around the corner to the Utile in the whistling wind.
Look for some méllasse, on every aisle, tous les coins.

Buy more flour, a bag of Dourgne milk, sweet butter.
Tuck them in to your drap sac rouge; whistle home.

Pull a ginger cake recipe out of your cyber file box.
Replace the missing molasses with honey and maple syrup.

Use quatre épices for the cloves and cinnamon, white pepper for black.
Convert 350 degrees to 175 celsius for your oven and bake.

Make a sauce de citron et oranges;
use mandarins for the juice.
Grate the tartsweet peel from one
precious meyer lemon you brought from CA.

Vacuum the rug, fluff the flower bouquet,
warm the parlor, lay out plates, light the candles.

When M&D arrive, give kisses and take coats.
Pour hot water over good tea in your best pot.
Heat the sauce, cut the cake, pass the cups.


Words and pictures by Nancy Norton for her blog n2notesfromabroad. Copyright 2009-2010.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 28: à pied à coucher de soleil

Et à maison pour un dîner de soupe de prosciutto, escarole et les raviolis frais de jambon.
Miam-Miam = French for Yummy!

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