Similar, but different…

Of course, since coming to France, I notice all the little differences between life here and life in the U.S.  I thought it would be fun to go through the house making photos of a few of those little differences:

It took me a couple of weeks of naturally reaching for the “C” faucet thinking that “Cold” water would come out before I finally learned.  Nope!  “C” is for “Chaude” and “F” for “Froide.”

Shopping for your average, daily life products wasn’t always easy, but eventually I learned things like “bio” means “organic” or “après shampooing” (after shampooing) is “hair conditioner.”  Géraud has had to go into the pharmacy with me multiple times (even ibprophen and cough drops have to be bought from the pharmacy, they are not carried in grocery stores) to help me find various feminine and prenatal products that I could normally find on my own in the U.S.  He’s always a good sport about it.

Pictured above are dishwashing soap (savon de vaisselle) and toothpaste (pâte dentifrice). The reference of “pâte” for “paste” in toothpaste is interesting to me because it is also the word for dough or pasta.

You often see toilets that flush with a button.  If you look closely the button gives you the option of light or heavy flush…pretty fancy huh?  Light switches and plug-ins are different too (hence the need for an adapter when I use my computer).

For my first visit with our midwife, she asked my height and weight measurements.  I opened my mouth to answer this oh-so-standard question when I realized that I had no idea.  The midwife looked at me like I was from Mars until I got the chance to remind her that we use pounds and feet/inches in the U.S. rather than kilos and centimeters/meters.

Even google knows I’m in France!  (How do they do that?)


Food Happenings

Some of the food we have eaten…

Being gluten-free here is a little bit of a challenge (and a bummer considering all the wooooonderful baked goods there are to be found.)  Through the years, I have basically let go of baking and replaced all of my cravings for sweets with dark chocolate.  However,  Géraud and his family and friends won’t hear of me skipping dessert.  Dinner at a friend’s house this Sunday included a wonderfully airy, gluten-free cake with chocolate chips, lemon zest and almond powder in place of flour (sorry I don’t have a picture of that one).  Géraud has been experimenting with brownies made with “farine de châtaignes” (chestnut flour) and he made the crêpes below with a mix of quinoa and rice flour.  Mmmm…

#1 Local pears from the Saturday morning market soon to become a pear-apple crisp.
#2 An upturned jar with green-lentil sprouts under way.
#3 Mushrooms we gathered during a walk (Géraud learned about hunting mushrooms from his grandfather.  It’s a big thing here.  When the season is right and it’s a day or two after a good rain you will find cars parked all along the little country roads left by folks of all ages searching for mushrooms.)

“Lait cru” written on the little signs mark the raw-milk cheeses.  The absolute majority of cheeses in France (of which there are hundreds and hundreds of different kinds) are unpasteurized.  Though I agree with eating “live” foods, I admit that when a super-duper moldy cheese appears on my plate I take a double-take.  These are moments when I remember that I am an American (though this doesn’t stop me from tasting!).

This picture is from New Year’s Eve at about 3:00 in the morning.  Our friend Pascal (a real high-energy kind of guy) is leading a group croissant making effort.  The table is outside under a tent so that when the croissant are ready, they can put them directly into the old-timey, wood-fired oven to the right.  The bottles of water are to be used as rolling-pins.  Since we were heading home at this point we didn’t get to try them, but we hear that they came out of the oven around 6:00 a.m. and tasted great!


It has been so long!

Why, hello there!
It has been a good while since I have written last.  Those of you who know me personally, know that sooooooo, so many big changes have happened for me in the last year and a half since my big trip to France.  I will spare you the details, but to update you in a general way:

*I am back in France living in this house…

…with my French husband…

…8 months pregnant with my first baby…

That’s that for my personal life.  Now that I am way out here, making a new home with lots of fast changes I would like to start blogging again to keep connected.  With who?  With you!

But don’t worry.  I have no intention of making this blog about how oh-so-romantic it is to be living here or how oh-so-challenging it is to be pregnant and a new mother (though, of course, our daily lives are integral in our creative lives).  I am still painting, playing music, making books and exploring in general.  I still want to participate in the creative exchanges that happen via the net while far away from home.  How does that sound?

So…to be continued.

A Chateau & A Croissant

O.K., this might be a little confusing, but stick with me.  After the old-time weekend and then recording with Polo and Nadine I returned to the little cottage in Champtocé that I was sharing with Clara (which involved the same 45 minute trek from the little train stop).

She had had a lovely, solitary week and a half reading books, drawing, journaling, working on the computer AND making fires in the fireplace.

Here is the rest of the story about how we found the cottage.  As some of you know, Laurie Corral, of Asheville Bookworks, and I were asked to teach a 9 day workshop at Chateau du Pin in the Loire Valley.  When Clara had the idea to find a place for a month-long retreat she suggested I ask, Peg Gignoux, the woman who hired us to teach at the Chateau.  As it turned out, Peg’s cousin Marie had cottages for rent just down the road from the Chateau.  Have I lost you yet?

During our time at the cottage we made buddies with Marie (our land lady) and Louise (Peg’s sister) who is living at the Chateau for 3 months to help with the family business.  This is how it came to be that we received a personal tour of the grounds.

The story of the Chateau is an interesting one.  Louise told us various tid-bits; it was seized as living quarters for the Nazi’s during the war and at present it’s owned by almost 20 members of the French-American Gignoux family.

Pretty nice eh?

The story continues…Clara has a rule for herself when it comes to France: Never go to France without going to Paris for a few days.  So, staying true to her rule, she had planned 5 days in Paris at the end of her month-long stay.  Being the lovely person she is, she invited me to come along.  Who passes up being in Paris? Not me!

Bécours: Old-Time Music Weekend

Smack dab in the middle of my “travel break” with Clara, landed an amazing thing; an Old-Time music weekend.  For those of you who don’t know, Old-Time music is the name for the traditional music coming from in and around the Appalachian Mountains in the U.S. of A.

It being a surprising and wonderful thing to find such a weekend way over here in France I really, really wanted to go.  Once Clara assured me that she wouldn’t feel deserted, I bought a train ticket and embarked on yet another mini-journey within my grand journey.

However, it wasn’t as easy as that.  Clara and I didn’t have a car and the cottage where we were staying was a 45 minute walk from the nearest town.  The town had, not a train station, but a train stop.  So, I woke at 6 a.m. and walked with a day bag, a water bottle and my banjo, down the road (I wish someone had been there to take a picture).

I caught the little train that ran through Champtocé to Angers where I caught another train to Orléans.  Nadine had arranged for me to catch a ride there with people I had never met; Yves and Réjane.  I recognized Yves immediately because he was the only one waiting for the train with a banjo on his back.

We drove for hours, talking all the way.  We arrived to meet a whole gang of folks with instruments, sleeping bags for the dorm beds and lots of food and wine to share.

Everyone was curious about the American girl who really, truly came from North Carolina.  Then, amazingly enough, another American girl and great fiddler, named Anne, arrived.  I taught some clogging steps and she called a few square dances.

(Anne and I also discovered that, not only are we teaching during the same week at Augusta Heritage Center in August, but she is also the musician for my clogging workshop at Pinewoods in Massachusetts.  How crazy is that!)

Everyone put their food in a large utility kitchen and shared the duties of cooking and cleaning.  Polo got the big idea to make 40 wood-fired pizzas from scratch.  It was alot of work, but they tasted soooo good.

Bécours is also the location for a boyscout/girl scout camp.  A few of us went down and played them some tunes.  I’m sure none of them had heard Appalachian Old-Time before.

Here is a short video of a brother and sister duo playing and singing the Lonesome Pine Special from the Carter Family.  They are accompanying themselves with a piano accordion.

Here is the link to the video if you are unable to view it here: