Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 3 and the month long birthday

In my family we believe that your birthday isn't over until you've gotten your last gift. Which means that mine is definitely not over.

Beth took me out for an amazing meal at Wild Honey. And while the freak-show tense manager was irritating, the food was excellent.

And then we went to the parfumerie Miller-Harris where Nancy spent hours with us, explaining perfumes, helping us and guiding us, "Don't rub your wrists together after applying scent - it crushes it. It changes the journey."

That particular journey ended with tea and perfect cupcakes with candied rose petals on top of the perfect buttercream icing.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day 2 and the quartier

While I could write paragraphs about what Dr. Woo said, "You are clever and I believe you think too much," and what Dr. Woo did (needles, massage), I must move on to Sunday.

I slept in, I breakfasted. We started with a walk to a French cafe in Beth's neighborhood where I actually used my French with the waiter who was struggling to understand our English. And ended at the cinema to buy tickets to Australia (liked it) where I used my French with the guy from the Congo selling us the tickets.

In between the French stuff, we went to the grocery store, which I really like to do in foreign countries because you learn all kinds of interesting things.

What did I learn? That groceries are WAY cheaper here than in France. Radically cheaper. And that the food industry here has got a serious racket set up. Their expiration dates are pure folly. If you heed them, what you save on the cheap groceries, you spend on buying more cheap groceries because you can't eat anything you bought two days before.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Day 1 and Dr. Woo

Friday doesn't count, I arrived in the evening.

So the London tales will start with Saturday.

Which started with perfect brunch and ended with amazing pizza.

And in between there was Dr. Woo. Acupuncteur extraordinaire.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

London calling

So, I made it. Travel delays and no music made for a looooong trip, but I am here.

My posts will probably be short for the next week. I am using a laptop with a German keyboard. Which, of course, can´t be the same as a French or American keyboard. See that apostrophy I used? Not even a real one. I think it´s an accent.

Hey, this morning I saw a fox in the garden.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Le goût de l'effort

The taste of effort. And I don't mean sweat.

Although I think we would translate that as the taste for effort. Do you have it? And I don't mean the kind of effort that is actually struggle and resistance poorly disguised as I'm-doing-my-best. I mean rising to the challenge effort. The kind that makes you enjoy the fact that sometimes it isn't easy to get what you want. Being required to make that effort, to give of your self, means you've finally discovered something that deserves the kind of effort you rarely use - the one that costs you something.

So here's my question - when was the last time you had to strive for something? When was the last time you found something that was absolutely worth the effort?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Solstice with me

It is winter.

Which is not a transitional season like autumn or spring. Winter is a destination season. The cellar of the year. A time when you bring into the basement what you've evaluated and sorted out during the heavy justice of fall. To preserve it and keep it safe from the cold.

Darkness dominates and we live muffled and huddled lives. And those of us who like winter, do so both because of and in spite of that.

I had a winter dream last night. In it I saw a lake, pure and clean and cold, sitting upon the heavens, the light shining right through the surface of the water. I watched it all from my cellar window.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Just ask

Sometimes, some things require outside help. You get to a point, a place, where you realize that you are up against something that you cannot, no matter how much you try, resolve. Re solve, odd, the re part I mean, because that would imply you've been to this place before. And maybe you have. Most unsolvable things are not new, are they? They're remnants, reminders, remainders of other unsolvables. Things you worked with and around, but never through.

That place is nowhere you want to stay, despite its familiarity, despite how long you've been there and how many times you've been foolish enough to come back - you do realize places like these are of your own making. And even despite the inevitable discomfort associated with leaving it, with leaving anything familiar.

And so you call for outside help. You gather your courage and say the words, out loud, that make going back impossible.

It is a gracious hour, one you have longed for just as naturally as you have feared it.

And in that gracious hour - the darkest hour of the darkest day - you feel yourself, usually so lion-like, led, lamb-like, into the innocence of surrender. You cannot know yet what will remain. But you feel the quiet sense of truth brush past.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Up in the air

I survived the weekend. Burned and tired - of stirring, chopping, spreading, packaging.

And then I had a dream.

I was sitting in a field, nothing in sight but hills in the distance. And I was trying to put a beautiful pink rose back together. I had all the petals in my lap and I attempted to carefully arrange them back into a rose.

I finally gave up. I threw the petals up in the air and let the wind deal with them. Some stayed right with me, landing back in my outstretched hands or at my feet, and others were carried off to the hills.

I love pink roses more than any others.

What's your favorite color rose?

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's that time of year again

The time of year when I can't say no.

There will be a Christmas market at the boys' school next Thursday and Friday.

Which means I'll be spending the entire weekend in the kitchen.

By Sunday evening, the candy thermometer and I will be best friends and I'll have two or three sugar burns on my hands and there will be 20 jars of salted butter caramel and 80 sachets of caramels, toffee, truffles and whatever else I can come up with.

You wish you had my social life, don't you?

Not being able to say no used to be a lot more fun than this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's really cold here

But I'm definitely not complaining. It just helps explain why these pictures I took of the lights they put up for my birthday Christmas are a little blurry. No gloves and freezing hands don't improve picture quality.

That said, you get the picture.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Pick a lane

It was beautiful here this weekend. Cold and sunny. I worked at the café, I cleaned and organized my house - some but not enough - is it ever? And I wrote. I've got this writing gig, just a couple of items a month. But it's a start. And I like it. I'll tell you more about when/if I start to feel a little bit more at home with the idea.

In other news, I had to buy a damn washing machine because my stupid old washing machine was the thing that made the electricity go out last week. Ends up that 10 years was all it could handle. I shouldn't complain, it lasted 10 years and never once broke down. And it washed endless loads of little boy clothes (read: very dirty) for 8 of those 10 years.

The good news is that I have a nice, new washing machine. The bad news is that I hadn't really included buying a washing machine in December's budget. What with Christmas and the trip to London.

The other good news is that if the washing machine had broken down before I bought the London tickets, I wouldn't have bought them. Which means I would've spent the week after Christmas at home alone staring at my new washing machine instead of seeing Beth in London. Which would not have been good. So we'll say that the timing of the whole washing machine thing was as it should be.

So which is your favorite lane? Right or left? Fast or slow?

Friday, December 05, 2008

When the boys are away...

I do not eat the same way.

Dinner tonight:

Half a camembert and pine nuts, roasted, on baby salad greens. A big glass of thick, dark red wine.

Dessert tonight:

Apples sautéed with salted butter, honey, and ginger.


I got:

Flowers from students.

Cakes from students.

A birthday lunch.

Flowers from friends.

It was a long, deep, exhale of a birthday, a week-long sigh. I've always been a sigher, but not the exasperated kind of sigher. They're usually contented sighs or peaceful sighs or contemplative sighs or I'm so sleepy sighs or I miss that sighs.

I miss certainty, even the illusionary kind.

What do you miss?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Lights on, lights off

It's actually my birthday week. Because one day just isn't enough.

I had a very small gathering at home on Saturday evening. Monday was the real birthday, but I mostly just worked. Tuesday was a beautifully timed acupuncture appointment and then coffee. Friday is a birthday lunch. And then, of course, lovely blog birthday wishes and messages on my answering machine and emails.

My birthday present to myself? A eurostar ticket to London for the week after Christmas. To spend a week with a friend I've had for nearly 20 years, since Wilmington.

The light thing?

Well, Laval is one of those cities with a major Christmas light thing. Saturday evening they turned the lights on with big music and fireworks.

I, of course, told the boys that they were really turning them on for my birthday.

Lights off, well, my very old house and its very old electrical system seem to not be getting along well tonight. The power keeps going off. I've unplugged and called the electrician and followed his instructions and currently have lights and hot water. I'm under strict instructions not to use the washing machine or the dryer or the dishwasher.

He must not know I have two boys.