Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pie for dinner

(That's not my image...but it's about right)

Butternut squash.... sliced, sauteed with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg...baked on top of a flaky buttery pie crust.   

At the end of a day like this one, I could write a lot about the weight of all the sadness in the world, all the things that are endlessly breaking, all the darkness that seems to never go away but continually gets bigger and scarier.  

But there were just way too many beautiful things today that deserve mentioning (far more than all the ugliness)...Buttery pie crust was just one of the many delights I could celebrate...  waking in the morning with nothing scheduled for the day,  conversations with people I love, a surprise afternoon visit from my parents and grandparents, a cool morning run, breakfast at our little local tavern on the water, feeding the ducks, yoga on a dock, folding clothes by the fire, my girls reading together in the corner for over an hour, Maya's violin playing, baking, cousins laughing together, pumpkin carving, dinner around a packed table, siblings, a few fun and loving text messages from friends and family, and a late-night pumpkin spice latte delivery from my husband. 

And after all that, it was that perfect Autumn pastry that was my real inspiration to blog tonight.  Butter is good like that.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Paris Journal: Day Four

Ten days in Paris might last forever on this blog.   I'm stretching out the memory, because it's one of my favorite stories to tell.  I'll just keep savoring it one day at a time...recording every sweet detail.  

Are you sure you're ready for this?  It's a long day in Paris.


Early in the morning on our fourth day in Paris, I wrote a list of my (ideal) hopes for the day.  And though I dreamed big, I also had a pretty realistic perspective about my dreams.   Having all my wildest expectations already far exceeded merely by BEING in this city, I tried to reserve few expectations about what each day must include.  I was happy to just wander around, hearing people speak french.  But I did come prepared with a LONG list of 'dreams.'  Knowing that I might not ever get to return, I wanted to make the most out of each waking moment, so I had lots and lots of ideas.  My travel journal list of (unrealistic) 'hopes' for our fourth day included:
  • wander Montmarte
  • see the famous city view from le Sacre Couer
  • taste macaroons from one of the great Parisian makers
  • find Les Deux Magots and have cafe (where Hemingway liked it)
  • buy bread and fromage at a market and get photos of fruits and vegetables and flowers in the market
  • get postcards and stamps and send them to a few people at home
  • see Notre Dame
  • wander le Jardin de Luxembourg
  • see Place de Vendome and Boucheron's jewelry
  • visite le Grand Magazin or Le Bon Marche shopping center
  • eat more Berthilon glace!!
Full of anticipation, we left our hotel to seek out our last adventures in the city.  After our first stop for croissants et cafe au laits, we ewre off on the metro to Notre Dame.  It was still early morning when we arrived at Notre Dame, and unbelieveably, there was no line!  (Every other time we had walked by the cathedral, there had been a ridiculously long line, just to get inside.)  We walked right in and wandered around the cathedral, taking photos and quietly taking in the details.  We were both awed.  And I couldn't help but pray, giving thanks for this experience, these blessings, this belle city and to pray a blessing for the people of this city...for their hearts to know the depth of the love of the Creator of this beauty.
We walked alongside the cathedral, through the gardens along the river admiring the flowering trees draped over the benches, branches heavy with pink blossoms.  Whenever I imagine that scene again, I can't help but hear "April in Paris..."

Across the bridge...

and into the Latin quarter's winding streets, 

we walked and walked, stopping to study our map every once in a while...  we eventually arrived just outside the Luxembourg Gardens (one of my priority destinations for the day).  Before entering the tall iron gates, we explored the area, purchased some post cards and asked for directions to a market.
We returned to the garden and entered through the gate.  The shady garden was as peaceful and quiet and beautiful as I imagined.  At first, we were surrounded by trees, all perfectly spaced apart.

Then, the shady area opened up, and the great fountain appeared in a large round pond surrounded by people and Paris-green chairs.  I imagined that this was the place where, in the summer, children put sailboats in the water (as in the book, This is Paris).  We sat for a while and talked about our plans for the day and walked around the palace before leaving the garden. On our way, we accidentally found the Medici fountain.  It was a startling discovery, incredibly old and grand.

A starbucks along the way provided the necessary (American sized) dose of caffeine for Ryan (and a little WIFI time).  Then we walked along Boulevard Saint-Germain  to a market.

There, we found a fromagerie,  a boulangerie, poissonerie all in a row.  We bought one long baguette, some soft cheese and a piece of roasted chicken wrapped in foil.  We walked back down the boulevard (toward St. Michel) with our treasures and ate our picnic in the shady garden next o St. Michel cathedral.  Some overly friendly birds seemed ready to steal our lunch, so we guarded our crumbs as we ate, watching the people walking and lunching in the garden.
After lunch, we walked some more, down the bouleveard, purchased some timbres for the post cards and found a beautiful patisserie full of beautiful easter eggs and chocolate creations and macaroons.

We bought a pretty little box of assorted macaroons (7 flavors) and walked until we found Les Deux Magots and Cafe Flore and LE Brasserie Lippe.  Too full to eat anything more, we consumed only the view, a few photos, and the thrilling feeling of being right where Hemingway once was, outside the cafes he made famous.

Feeling accomplished and full, we took the metro back to our hotel for a brief stop before heading up to Montmarte.

Montmarte:  As we walked up the crowded cobblestone streets, Ryan commented, "I thought we'd already seen the 'dirty part' of Paris today."  It was funny and true.  These noisy, crowded streets were filthy with rubbish and puddles and filled with vendors selling cheap souveneirs.  We moved with the crowd up and up the narrow cobblestone streets avoidng the shouting vendors.  The steps leading up to the Sacre Cour seemed to go on forever.  But my excitement made me briefly unaware of my sore feet and legs. 
The view from the top was worth was priceless.

We could see so far that it was difficult to identify the familiar (but very distant) shapes..of Notre Dame, Musee D'Orsay.  But off the beaten path, a little way over to the right of the "grand" view, Ryan spotted the perfect view of the Eiffel Tower, hidden behind some trees.

A little further down the street, I found my long narrow Parisian staircases with the romantic lamp posts.  One more dream come true!
 If only it had been dark, and the lights were lit...

It started to rain, as we stopped into a perfume shop to buy Nana some Parisian 'eau de toilette'. Next, we hunted down the famous Moulin Rouge.

One quick photo of the Moulin Rouge exterior was enough for us...before we ducked down into the metro station.

As we climbed the steps, emerging from the next metro stop, the Arc de Triumph towered over us.  From this landmark, we began what may have been our longest Parisian walk.  We started strolling down Haussman, walking all the way to the Madeleine, where we finally took out our macaroons from Larnicol and ate them on the steps as it started to rain again.

We had an umbrella, though the rain was so light and sporadic we hardly needed it.  We discovered endless beautiful store fronts through winding streets....eventually finding la Place Vendome, the site of some of the most elegant, historically important, and expensive residences, hotels, and retailers in Paris, including Frederic Chopin, Coco Chanel, the Ritz, and Boucheron's jewelry.  Boucheron's was an important Paris stop in order to prepare us for our stay at le Manoir de Beaumarchais (the Boucheron family's country home).  Tired, happy, sore, and a little drenched, we window shopped until we eventually found our way back to more familiar territory, near the Louvre, the Tuilleries, and the Seine.

For our last night in Paris, we returned to our cafe from day one, the Pont Neuf Cafe for dinner, cafe, and free Wifi.  We chatted with the girls for a very long time, sometimes just looking at one another.  They ran out of things to say and ask, but they didn't want us to go just yet.  We were all so grateful for the ipad and 'facetime' to ease the pain of distance.
After dinner, we crossed the bridge again to Ile de la Cite and returned to our favorite corner vendor (for Berthilon glace).  This time, I tried carmel glace (not my best choice) and Ryan (who is ever lucky...or wise... in his ordering) got a banane et nutella crepe.  This crepe....  made all other crepes seem pointless.  When I tasted it, I suddenly wondered how I could possibly fly back over the ocean, SO far away from those crepes.  So he shared...but not enough.

In front of Notre Dame, a corwd was gathered around a large screen, streaming a live mid-week mass for Holy Week. We listened for a while, but it was too difficult to continue trying (mostly failing) to translate or understand.  We bought a few souveneirs on the way back to our hotel.

Looking at the map later, we could hardly believe how far we walked that day! And I was shocked that we had pretty well covered my entire list.  By some beautiful miracle, the day just seemed to go on and on, always allowing for one more adventure.   A little pensive and dreamy with intoxication with Paris and its endless beauty, I thought about leaving the city the next morning.  I couldn't really grieve though, because of my excitement for our next destination, Beaumarchais.

Since that moment, that last night in Paris, I've become more and more sure that we planned our trip about as perfectly as possible, to have spent five days soaking in the museums, and people, and restaurants, and gardens, and history, and excitement of the city...followed by five peaceful days in a quiet country estate, roaming the villages of France.  That night, I remember laughing with Ryan that I liked to imagine ourselves to be old Parisians, long familiar with the city, escaping in the morning to a lovely holiday in the country.  It's pretty easy to dream...when you are in PARIS!!  In fact, it's hard to differentiate dreams from reality at times.  When everything around me was so often beyond all of my most beautiful dreams, I could hardly believe that I was awake.

In the 'silliest' of all my Paris dreams, when I tried to imagine being really a part of it all, I stretched the dreams the most.  I realized that night, that deep down, as I walked the streets and rode the metro and ordered my meals, I longed to just blend in a bit not look and sound so sorely out of place.  In my travel journal I wrote... (and toward the end, my writing got bigger and sloppier as I fell asleep)

"It's rather a lonely feeling, to be misplaced, to be enamoured with a beautiful culture, yet to know that I'll never actually be a part of it.  But to be here, to see it all, is enough, I think.  I have far more at home to love and to fact, I don't even think I will be sad when it is time to leave.  I hope I will return someday.  I really hope so....But when Tuesday comes, even though the first few days back will be tiring and shocking and exhausting to go back to work and reality, I will be so glad to be home, to be a Mother again, to hold my girls and laugh with them, to tuck them in at night and kiss them.  I am so full of belssings and hope and gratitude.  Bon nuit."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

should've repeated those words even more.

Totally just blew my resolution to 'keep calm'.  Everything started falling apart around 4:30.  Just after posting my new house pictures....the perfect afternoon of playing, reading stories and giggling with Sophie, a quiet naptime until Maya's bus arrived, cookie-making and after-school chatting with Maya.... somehow turned into a relentless sister fight, screaming, an accidentally (but excessively) scratched hardwood floor (in three different rooms!?), a reminder of frustrating circumstances was reignited (through the internet) which always tend to steal my peace, husband had to work late, and 2 girls were late for soccer practice and crying.

And even after all my preaching, I totally blew it.  I did not keep calm...or carry on. I yelled.  And I quit.  Whined a little to my mom and my husband.  Breathed deeply.  Prayed for help. Apologized.  And hit the restart button.    Again.   And again.

It turned out that....both soccer practices were favorite biscuit recipe baked perfectly tonight, we had extra time for a chicken noodle soup family dinner (a frozen meal made by some of my sweetest friends), and now, two girls are sweetly repeating a tiny excerpt of a song stuck in their heads.... "thank you, thank you, Jesus, thank you, thank you, Jesus...."  Homework is done, it's bath and bed time, and Ryan says that the Tigers are winning, and we have molasses cookies for dessert.

our new house


I've been wanting to post for a while.  But I always want things to be just a little more settled before I take pictures.  It's now been almost three months since we moved in.  The previous owners were still loading up in the driveway at 8 AM when we arrived as the owners at the end of July.  They looked tired, maybe having spent all night loading.  I circled the block a few times and watched them drive away.  Some very generous friends walked in the door right behind us... with paint brushes and rollers.  They spent days painting and cleaning with us.  The 'to-be-painted' list is rather small now. So I guess I might as well share.  These are just cell phone photos.   And they don't even include a fireplace picture (my favorite cold-weather feature).  The lists of projects are endless, but I just keep falling more and more in love with our home.  It feels like a place to stay for a long time.  
The 3 minutes to school in the morning allow just enough time to catch the sunrise over the lake, think about the day ahead, pray with my girls, and get ready to teach.  The walks under tall trees are as romantic as I always dreamed they would be.  I am full of gratitude and still a little childishly delighted about how excited I am to be here.  Hopefully you can come have some tea or coffee...or molasses cookies here soon. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

words i need to repeat.

Not so much today.  I'm already calm.  Some days it's just easier.  But one of those desperate moments could always be lurking around the corner.  Maybe you're having one today.  One of those days when breathing gets too tight and the brain won't stop... When everything begins to seem less manageable, and people and circumstances are incomprehensible.  That's when I'll need these words.  You never know, it could be moments from now.

When those moments come.... I'm actually quite good at pulling up a whole list of things to be angry or worrisome about, once I start to go down that road... I can wallow in misery and decide to quit, unable (or unwilling) to carry on with the things I'm supposed to be doing.

Or, I could actually decide to control my thoughts.  I can choose to meditate on what is true and noble and right....  I can keep calm and carry on.

So I wrote these words on a little note card. I have lots of these notecards with different reminders, prayers, quotes, scripture.  Words I need to repeat.

Keep calm and carry on.  These signs are everywhere these days.  But I haven't tired of them yet.  I'm not sure that I'll ever lose the need to hear them.  The signs as decor are a little cliche, I suppose.  But I'm tempted to jump on the bandwagon anyways.

Jill Briscoe was the first person to tell me the WWII story behind those posters.   She also said this, about 'carrying on:'

"Be obedient to the priority that God dictates on a daily basis.  It's usually obvious.  But you must recognize His voice.  And you must muddle through, doing the best you can.  The better you know God, the better you'll know what to do."

As a mother and a wife and a teacher (and sometimes student) and a daughter, sister, friend (etc...) sometimes it's hard to balance the list of priorities.  Knowing what to do...and when to do it usually means NOT doing something else.  But I like her words of wisdom about how to know 'what to do.'   Usually the 'what to do' that I pretend to be unaware simply cleaning the kitchen.... or folding laundry. But sometimes it's listening to a student who seems to be interrupting me, but needs my time. Or one of my daughters who is worried about a missing toy.  

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

love notes

I've been getting love notes every day.  In fact, I usually get about ten or twenty tiny little notes in a day.  I'm not the only one, either.  Everyone in our house gets them daily (and most visitors too).  But I get the most.  Today, Sophie's preschool folder was also stuffed full of her familiar style of art work.

Sometimes they are cut with fancy edged scissors into tiny squares.  They could be made from printer paper, construction paper, sticky notes, or old scrap paper.  Sometimes they are letters, stuffed into repurposed envelopes sealed wth stickers or scotch tape.  Other times they are messages taped to doors or folded into cards.  Sometimes they are "tickets," or maybe books... several pages long (like this one) taped or stapled together.  But on every page, the message is always the same.  It is Sophie's earnest reminder every day.  And I'll never get tired of it.  I hope it comes from the knowledge deep inside of her that she is LOVED.  I can't bear to get rid of them, but then again, if I saved every one, I'd be swimming in them.  I have quite a collection.  Plenty of love notes to ensure that I'll never forget this season of life with Sophie.  It's too sweet.