Une petite vacance á Irelande

Knee to knee

upon the wood chairs

with worn woolen warmth

tea in hand

you read to me

from a line of sox…

I want to embrace you

you in your

rose mohair sweater

like Maori the cat

soft and warm

your delicious words

your voice like bird song

singing another tale

I could listen

forever to your story

 Fiddle music drifts

into my mind

tunes half remembered

like the trails we have wandered

over

the uneven ground

the plains of boyle

I tease the fire you started

gathering twigs in boxes

with chilly fingers

smoke curling over the bricks

into the room

like the memories we try to unravel

together

~~

About a month ago I journeyed up to Donegal, the wildest, most sparsely populated and northern county in Ireland to see my friend Allaye O’Connor, a gifted writer, fiddler and  baker.  I spent eight lovely days watching her kneading irish bread, laughing and playing fiddle tunes together, hiking in the moors, photographing sheep, and sitting beside the fire with a cat on my lap sharing, just two girls with kindred spirits…

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St Cecile des Vignes

Sometimes the most wonderful things happen when you least expect them.   Two weeks ago I met this lovely writer Kristin Espinasse at her home just outside of St Cecile des Vignes east of the Rhone with a gorgeous view of Mount Ventoux.  Planted in amongst their vibrant vineyard, Le Domain Rouge Bleu, to which her husband Jean-Marc devotes himself, Kristin writes in inspiring blog called French-Word-A-Day which is known and loved by francophiles from every part of the world.  She just published her second book entitled “Blossoming in Provence” which I am looking forward to reading when I return from France in one week!  I ordered three copies for my mother and daughter and myself and they sit in their Amazon box waiting patiently at home to be opened.  Since 2007 I have been painting small colorful watercolors which have each inspired a story.  It was for this idea that I hoped to speak with Kristin.  Caught between life and commitments and my unreliable Deux Chevaux, my 1979 french car, I was not sure the rendezvouz would come to pass.   Thankfully the opportunity arrived and we shared a delightful moment around her gracious wooden kitchen table, the real center of french country life.  The late afternoon sun shone its warmth across the vineyards and into her house  and we shared our lives and dreams and connected on so many levels that I felt completely blessed.  To read Kristin’s fabulous blog, go to  www.french-word-a-day.com

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Noël a Sauve

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Well December came and went as quickly as the sun sets over Sauve in winter! The beautiful lights which span the passages in between buildings in the villages lit up the first of December and are still dancing across the … Continue reading

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Wood Smoke and Fog

This morning I looked out the window to see the last nine golden leaves quiver atop the small poplar growing from below the stone wall at the river bank.  A brief ray of gold lit up the delicate tips of the micocoulier trees on the far shore.  Only branches remain.  Beyond the bridge I see a sparse number of kaki or persimmons oddly orange suspended in space clinging for color’s sake in a muted palette of winter.

It is the 6 Decembre and I catch myself trying to assimilate the last couple of weeks.  It is the moment to reflect and to cherish and wonder when nature removes her clothes, revealing sa forme, and her bones.  No embellishments, pas de decoration, only a hard grey armature…beautiful and intricate like the thousands of stones in my house.  There are few distractions in winter.  En hiver, we create our own diversions.  The darkness invites the lights and the starkness asks for color.  It was Un Dimanche á Sauve two days ago.  “A Sunday in Sauve” is an seasonal event which happens four times a year on a sunday.  All the ateliers and galleries were open to share the beauty and color created by tellement des artistes who live and work in Sauve.  I strolled about connecting and meeting those I had not met, weaving more threads in the fabric of life here.  The quantity, quality and diversity of work created here is amazing.  As I continue to paint here, I can visualize my participation in this event in the future.

In the evening I had an opportunity to participate in un défilé de mode, a fashion show, as a model dressing up with six other women in les vêtements designed by Michelle of nearby St Hippolyte du Forte.  We descended a great stone staircase in La Maison de Comte, a grand and elegant house of the XVII Century in the center of the village, to an audience in attendance for a theatrical spectacle to follow.  In my asymmetrical pleated burgundy dress and whimsical chapeau attached to my head I experienced a moment of elegance, joy and pure amusement recollecting my very brief modeling career in my twenties.   Unfortunately, my camera was not in use and the memories are caché dans ma tête, hidden in my head.  To follow Un Dimanche a Sauve go to: undimancheasauve.com

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La maison des hirondelles: a quaint vacation rental in Sauve, France

La mason des Hirondelles, the swallows nest, is a petit medieval house in an ancient four story chateau rising majestically out of the limestone riverbank in the thousand year old village of Sauve, France.  West of Avignon Sauve the Gard region is thirty minutes from the Mediterranean sea and an hour from Nîmes and Montpellier situated on a steep hillside in the foothills of the Cevennes.  Two charming levels face east to the breath-taking views some fifty feet above the Vidourle River burgeoning with fish, ducks, geese and heron and supporting a vast population of swallows and martins which fly high above in the blue skies.

The top floor has a beautiful arched ceiling comprising the kitchen, dining and sitting area, a cozy bedroom with a single bed, and a bathroom with shower, sink, toilet, and washing machine.

Below, down the solid stone stairs, the magical curtained sleeping chamber with its queen sized bed can be found.  This opens on to a spacious salon including the original fireplace, a comfortable sofa (also a double bed) and a grand window through which the morning sun shines.

With respect to its historical architectural origins, this gîte was sensitively restored to preserve the original terre cuite tile floors, wood beams, carved stone stairs and sink along with the vintage fireplace (which is strictly decorative in this century).  This is a dream come true for romantics.  Come fall back in time….

The Gîte consists of 450 sq ft on two levels in a four story medevial stone house.

* living room & kitchen

* 2 bedrooms:  1 single, 1 queen with 1 double hideabed

* bathroom with shower, sink & toilet

* capacity:  2 or 3 ideal, 4 if a family

* washing machine, linens provided, radio

* view onto the Vidourle River and two lovely bridges

Rental Conditions:  Weekly Saturday afternoons to Saturday midday

 Prices:  first week only (reduction for multiple weeks)

*high-season (July-August)            400 Euros

*mid-season (June & September)  350 Euros

*low-season (May & October)        250 Euros

*deposit                                              150 Euros

Contact:    Alison Johnston    Email:    loves2paintali@hotmail.com

 

 

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La Cuisine chez moi

Yesterday I escaped my stone house when there was a break in the clouds.  I climbed above the village and walked in the grey light to feel the wildness, the limitless space and to gather bay leaves, laurier as they are called in french.  I was thinking of Noêl, and something to send from my home away from home.  Les herbes gathered in the garrigue seemed a likely idea.

It is dark now in the month of November.  I spend much time inside with a pot of tea and my le Cruset full of le soupe de jour.  Yesterday I made a “poti” with onions, garlic, choux or cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and boudin aux cêpes which is delicious pork sausage with mushrooms.  Into this I tossed four bay leaves, un carré of chicken bouillon, some pepper and a bit of Dijon moutard.  With a soup ready during the day, my mind is free to think of painting or writing.

Living in a foreign country can really enhance your magic à la cuisine.  I decided to collect all my favorite french food photos from the past four years.  Le mois de Novembre makes me think of chestnuts which I have had roasted, cooked in squash soup, and in apple tartes, and as a crême de chaitaingnes spread on bread for breakfast.

Quiche with poireaux, or leeks, and loads of Emmental rappé makes a fabulous lunch with some fine slices of artisanale saucisson.  My favorite is wild boar with hazelnuts, or sanglier avec noix followed by one rolled in herbes de provence.

Recently the pears from Spain have been exceptional each coming wrapped in a white tissue with a fruit logo reminiscent labels in the thirties or forties.  I am saving these treasures for some creative moment…  The pears were actually secondary, but in fact were excellent and made a divine tarte de poire.  

Other images include my favorite seafoods, les huitres et les moules, as well as all the fresh fruits of summer which remain in our culinary memory to entice us as the seasons turn.  There is nothing sweeter than les garrigettes, strawberries from the Luberon sold in wooden baskets at a fruit stand on the N-100 in the month of May.

Finally for desert, or for le pause, take a break with a steaming cup of café noir.  Treat yourself to a patisserie from le boulangerie, or perhaps a square of organic chocolat noir a l’orange qualité Suisse.  La vie est belle! 

 

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Halloween in France

On Halloween, my friend Charlotte and I were all snug inside la maison enjoying les pommes de terres au gratin which we had made together using delicious petit potatoes, grated or rappé comte cheese, and a bit of crèam fraiche.  We were actually watching a film on her computer when a knock was heard at the front door.  Surprised and completely oblivious to the fact that it was the 31 Octobre, I got up and descended the six steps and opening the antique red painted door to find four adorable smiling faces painted by an artist, dressed in costumes even my mother would have approved of. Luckily, Charlotte likes caramel and we had exactly enough bonbons to share with our young goblins.  Merci, merci, giggles, merci… quickly we reached for our appareils photos to capture the moment.  I was laughing remembering that in the seven years of living in a cottage in town on San Juan Island, Washington,  I had never had one trick or treater come to the door!  Yet, I come here to rural France and voilà! 

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