Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Walk Through a Park in Springtime.

When in London last spring, accompanying Leo's class trip, I spotted a fascinating young woman wandering through the park. She was going in our direction, and such a visual was she that I simply (and discreetly) photographed her. It's tempting to write a story to go along with the photos, no? Feel free to do so and send it to me.

Ah, there she saw me. And poof, she disappeared.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fresh Goat's Milk for my Coffee

Foamy and scrumptious. Mmmm.

A Captured Moon

Jonas loves to take the camera from my hands. Jonas sees. He was the first to see the moon as we drove home the other evening. And though I was permitted the first shot, he begged the camera (my I phone) from my hands and started handling it like a pro. He used the magnifying option (I didn't know there was a zoom on my I phone???) And later he showed me that he knew how to brighten and darken photos too. Where has he learned this? 

It doesn't matter much I suppose. I'm living one of those, "goodness, my child knows my tech equipment better than I" moments. No doubt to be followed by many more. (Leo's now a master of Skype, on computer and phone...)

But how wonderful to have a child with such an eye. T'is not the first time he has excitedly joined me on a photo expedition. He too was in awe of the mist floating upon the Rhone and the bridge just barely in view through the haze. 'A Foggy Morning on the Rhone'

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Images from the Lubéron

At the Baker's

I've been visiting my baker quite frequently this year. He truly is a favorite stop -- for the coffee (i.e. rocket fuel) for the chat about family, life, politics, the weather, for nibbles, picnic supplies and simply to watch and learn. 

One of the baker's specialties is Fougasse (I wrote a post on this a while back and included recipes). Here I put a super short video. I'll try to do a longer one next visit, including all the cuts as the baker makes them. It's definitely an interesting pastry recipe to adapt for your next party. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Reflections for the Day

Questions and Conversations with Leo

The other day Leo (now 14 plus, tall, shaving, with serious physical presence) asked me what I'd most appreciated about the men I've dated/lived with/married. I'm not sure exactly where this came from. Perhaps brought about by my extolling the pleasure I took in seeing an old friend from university the other day, in being with someone who's loved me (as a friend) for over 20 years? How restful and wonderful it made me feel. I who seem to be so often in the opposite situation of being with people who are in their initial experience of me, judging, observing, wondering, discovering, etc.,

Or, more likely, Leo is simply growing up and considering what it is to be in a relationship and what a woman (me being the archetype of such for him) looks for, loves, wants in a man. We've discussed this before, but here we were getting quite specific.

So, first there was the serious university and early adult relationship I had. What did we have together? well, intellectual equality, the same age, a great friendship, we could truly count on each other, a very powerful bond and attraction. What didn't work? Numerous friends who didn't like us being together, and for some odd reason, the feeling that we weren't really more as a couple then we were individually. [Leo got a bit hung up on one detail -- as this person worked at Microsoft and had stock options, etc., Leo thinks that if we'd stayed together I'd be rich now. That this isn't something that came into play for me then or now is hard for Leo to understand. But yes, I get it that he'd like us to be better off.]

Next up, my kids' father: On the plus side, a great partner for creating two businesses and putting two children on this earth. I became more, and learned more alongside him; I tapped talents in myself that I'd been completely unaware of. We complemented each other and balanced each other, for a time. I'll not go into the negative here. Suffice to say, we still get along very very well, but being married to each other was/is no longer viable.

And then my vintner: A powerful attraction, much to learn, the chance to be truly female again. Negatives - his age, his inflexibility, our being out of sync on many levels (i.e. raising and caring for kids!!).

And currently, a lovely man with whom I dance the tango very well, who is an attentive and invested father to his boys and who has a great sense of humor.  That we're close in age and on the same track raising kids is a major plus. The hard parts? physical distance, busy schedules, not a lot of time together, and I'm still alone raising my boys (which is something I've more or less accepted at this point).

And so, with this list Leo asked me, if you put all the good elements together would that make the perfect man for you? Um, yes, are you going to put an ad out for me?

A Quiet Sunday at Home

 T'is rare to have a quiet Sunday this time of year. I often feel that the fall is the most intense and stressful part of my year. In the spring, the new warmth and light bring energy aplenty, and I start juggling touring days with my kids' activities and school. I weed the garden and plant. I certainly keep busy. But the excitement of spring plus the rest and calm of late winter bouy me forth.

Fall however is my busiest moment of the year. School starts up again. Activities must be scheduled and put into place. New arrivals are to be welcomed and integrated into our family. The house is put back in order after the summer rentals. And, to top it off, it is the time of the year that I've seemingly non-stop tours. I'm grateful for the work, don't get me wrong. But it does require some expert juggling, and infinite levels of energy to care for all concerned, and not have a house that's a wreck, an empty cupboard, nor children stranded at school till all hours. Oh yes, and happy clients.
 And so, a short and quiet day (I've a concert tonight with my choir) is a true delight. The kids are with their father, the weather is spectacular, and I've the time to care for our chickens (we've three since last March), sweep out their house and lay fresh straw, change their water, give them grain and soaked stale bread, plus some time pecking and scratching in the garden.
 Filou is now a chicken herder. From his experience herding terribly pregnant goats (a while back now...) to today's mini-escapade, it seems that his Bichon/Poodle roots have some herding instincts in there somewhere. In any case, my chickens were not allowed to amble out of the garden too far before he dashed over to them and barked/ran them back to their pen. I was at first afraid he might go after them in earnest, and then realized that in fact, they were flocking to the safety of their pen, not into his jaws. Oh... interesting, and I suppose rather helpful.
 A while back I wrote about the building of the hen house (in exchange for a tango weekend with a dear friend). But as I didn't write much last year (or at all?) I haven't shared our joy in having 3 fresh eggs daily for the past six months. And, not only for ourselves but also for my summer renters who arrived to a note on the fridge

"There are 3 chickens in the back of the garden, please give them your scraps and left overs, with some grain and stale bread from the shed. Change their water once in the week, and they'll pay you back with many fresh eggs"

They've  been a hit with us all.

All summer I've proudly shared my favorite lunch - a fresh fried egg on my toasted multi-grain bread with fresh tomatoes from the garden, drizzled over with the olive oil from Paul Pierre (retired goat cheese maker). And I enjoy it still as the tomatoes continue to ripen and enliven my cuisine, and the eggs keep a'coming.
 This weekend's bounty includes a bowl full of ripe tomatoes, a couple loaves of my no-knead multi-grain bread, and a batch of raspberry muffins. The recipe for the latter is below:
A variation of one of my standards:

3 cups semi-whole wheat flour
1 cup non-bleached sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups plus turned raw milk (this can be replaced with yogurt) or enough to fully moisten the dry ingredients
2 eggs (mine are pretty small, so maybe just one large egg)
1/3 cup cold-pressed sunflower oil
a handful or more of summer raspberries (kept in the freezer for just this purpose)

Bake at 200/400 till puffed up and lightly browned. (about 15-20 minutes depending on your oven)

Remove from the oven, let cool, and warn the kids to not burn their tongues on the raspberries!

A September Moonrise over Silence's Péniche

A Sunrise at Châteauneuf-du-Pape

 Now how many schools do you know of that put a sunrise at Châteauneuf-du-Pape with singing, a breakfast picnic and a 4 hour hike following it on the program?

For the Saint's day (St. Michel), end of summer, beginning of fall, the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders (about 100 in all) plus many parents, all the teachers (including sports teacher and woodworking teacher) from our Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf school gathered together at 7:15 in the morning atop the hill-town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, of gorgeous wine fame, beside the ruins of the old château.

For this event many of us juggled and exchanged kids -- Jonas went to my girlfriend's house and I took her two 8th graders, plus my two (Leo and Vivien, this year's host-child). Early to bed the night before and early to rise (6AM), we were in the car at 6:30 to meet at the school and pick up 3 more (remember, I've a 9 seater vehicle) and off we went to our destination.

It was truly magical. My photos I trust capture a bit of this. Once all victuals were shared, we headed off down through the cobbled streets, to the vineyards below, following the Rhône, then the branch between Ile de l'Oiselay and the river's edge (note, the winery Mas de La Lionne run by my fellow American, mentioned in an earlier blog post is here), over hill and dale, through the village center of Sorgues, to school in time for lunch.

Along the way I made the acquaintance of two new mothers to Leo's class, chatted with his teacher about Leo and Vivien, berated and nudged and tugged at some slow-pokes pulling up the rear, threatened to remove some ipods, mp3-players, etc., (no, the Waldorf world is not perfect, we too have issues with these items), and reveled in the extraordinary Indian Summer weather we're experiencing this year in Provence.

My chat with Leo's teacher was lovely and reassuring - he finds Leo more serious and present in class this year. Truly contributing to the energy of what is now a class of 30 pre-teens, scowling when others disrupt, etc., We also discussed Leo's physical size and presence -- he is the tallest of the class, and not whippet thin, nor in any way heavy. But he has physical strength and power that is unique in his class. His best friends are often smaller, lighter kids, including Vivien who is half his size, and very much his equal as he teases, provokes, and plays with the gentle giant that Leo is becoming. I at times worry that Leo, of a very reactive and sensitive temperament, might accidentally harm one of his friends as he lashes out, chases down, man-handles to the ground, etc., In a later discussion, Vivien reassured me that he is in no way afraid of Leo's power, and feels quite confident that Leo is master of it, and would not hurt him. This from a lad that I find often beneath Leo, head held in an elbow/arm grip that has me more than a bit anxious. However, I am witness to the provocation that has brought forth this wrestling hold, and thus restrain from criticizing. Though I remind Leo to be careful, and aware of his size and force.

I am finding it both wonderful and frightening to be a sole parent to my teen son. His father is in the background, yes, but I am the educator, the disciplinarian, the one who sets the limits and exacts certain behavior. I am the one drawing him towards responsibility, self-awareness, work, pride of skill and ability. I am the one pushing and tugging and urging.

He is stronger and taller than me now. And there are moments when it is just, well, a battle of wills. For the moment, it is working (as I see it). We have our tits -- the battle of the carrots was one the other night. To a refrain of "I just don't want them" (reminiscent of "I just don't like doing dishes") I simply insisted (remembering my horse-whisperer and her instructions to just repeat, insist, and keep the tone of voice calm). Amazingly, after quite a bit of urging, and more than a smidgen of uncertainty (hidden) on my part, I won the battle. Phew! Such a minor concern, and yet, I am still Mother. I am still the one who commands.

And then we've our morning battles -- ah yes, getting up in the morning... For me it comes down to respect for the rest of the household and for me in particular (he has often told me that he gets up with alacrity and good spirits at his father's, at friends' houses...). And, nothing gets me hot and bothered and distracted more than needing to call after him every 5 minutes from 7:30 to 7:50 every darn day. I forget things, I leave the house half-dressed and in a foul humor... and then I pummel him verbally in the car as we drive to school, begging for more effort on his part, less selfishness, and to somehow get through his head that mornings are tough on all of us, and we must do our part, no matter the overwhelming desire to stay in bed under warm covers...

I've now new weapons of coercion. Be this for good or ill, I have passed to Leo my old computer and my first Iphone. His time on these is limited, as is the content he is allowed to have on them. (i.e. for the latter, just music, skype, facebook and phone numbers, no games). His computer is reserved for the weekends and Wednesday evenings (mostly). This is working, sort of. There are moments of abuse. I'm doing a lot of hiding these objects around the house when I know I'll be out for the evening and he'll be here. He's becoming (with Jonas' help) adept at finding my hiding places (as my siblings and I were adept at finding my mother's hidden stashes of cookies/brownies/ etc., in the kitchen of my childhood). But at least, I at last have something that I can clearly remove from him when things get out of hand, and give back when behavior has improved.

Oh, the complications of raising a 14 year old. He is so sweet, and so stubborn. So interested in others, and so self-involved.  More on this later.