Saturday, June 30, 2012

A View to Cool

I'm hearing from friends that there's a heat wave going on in the States with record temperatures being set in many places. While our temperatures here in the Lot have moderated a bit. we're still in 'cool-seeking' mode. Lucie went for a dip in the river this morning and is now lying sprawled on the cool tile floor of the sunroom. I've got doors and windows open trying to catch a bit of a breeze before the sun burns away the cooling cloud cover. I leave you with this cooling view of the beautiful Mediterranean along the Cote Vermeille. Stay cool!

Friday, June 29, 2012

It's Hot!

It's been really hot here the past few days. The only cool place has been along the river, so I've walked down there a couple of times to let Lucie swim and cool off a bit. I promised her a walk to the river yesterday afternoon, but the intense heat kept us inside. She's found the coolest place in the house...lying inside the downstairs closet! Up until last night, I've been able to close/open shutters and windows and use the ceiling fan to keep the temperature in my upstairs bedroom bearable. I gave up last night, though, and made a bed on the floor of the living room instead! Slept well, and this morning we've had a bit of a reprieve...it's cool and cloudy.

I'm not going to complain about the heat, though. Laury says it's been 106 degrees at her folks in St. Louis!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Collaging Cadrieu

Laury has been trying to get this project done for a long time. A couple of weeks ago it finally happened! The walls of the meeting room in the mairie are already hung with collages of photos that she and Greg have taken over the years, but there was one blank spot that needed to be filled. The idea was a collage of Cadrieu photos challenging the viewers to see just how well they know their village. "Where in Cadrieu are you?" Since I had the biggest table with the best light, we gathered in my sunroom...


Greg and I cut and trimmed photos while Laury arranged and glued them down. We had  Greg's Monday afternoon English class look at the photos in advance. Their recommendations? It should be colorful. And no chickens...that one was from Patricia who hates chickens! So, we scraped Laury's  great close-up of a big red rooster.
The collage took most of the morning to complete. I was amazed at how many photos we used. The hope is this will keep people entertained during those long, boring meetings on commune business! To see the finished product hanging in place with our friendly handyman, Jean-Pierre, click HERE to go to Laury's blog post about our 'collaging Cadrieu' project.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Roses in Cajarc

The roses have been stunning this summer. Maybe it has to do with all the rain we had in April? Whatever the reason, I've enjoyed seeing and smelling them as I wander around Cajarc. This pretty climber across from the mairie had blooms ranging from deep orange to peach to pale yellow to pure white...all on the same bush!
It shares space in the stone square with a couple of benches and this old water spigot and stone basin. It's a pleasant place to sit and watch the Cajarcois go by.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Waterfall on the Bonnette

I usually associate waterfalls with fast-running, high mountain streams, so I was surprised when Maggie and Bill drove me past this one in the valley of the Bonnette River just outside Caylus.
The day we drove by it was thundering with water spraying out onto the road after a month of almost daily rain. When I returned a couple of weeks ago, it was less dramatic, but pretty just the same.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer and the Sea

Boats and the Mediterranean...a perfect summer combination! Check out more photos in the gallery: By the Sea.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Flowering the Lavoir

Laury's been talking about hanging flowers on the lavoir all spring. She asked Christiane if it's okay to do this since the lavoir actually belongs to the commune. Christiane gave the official okey-dokey, so yesterday afternoon, the lavoir was officially flowered! We made a trip to the pepiniere (nursery) in the morning and decided that since most of Laury's flowers on the wagon and the barn are red, we should stick with red for the lavoir. The pepiniere proprietress had some lovely cascading flowers planted in long, plastic sacs. I've never seen anything like these before, but they are perfect for hanging against walls or posts where a hanging basket isn't able to dangle. So,we bought two sacs and one basket planted with red geraniums.We had to wait a bit before we began the hanging as it was raining, but a break in the weather found us at the lavoir...Laury, balancing and hammering in hooks; me, handing supplies and standing by in case of a 911 episode!

Stretched between a low stone wall and the edge of the lavoir, Laury managed to get the hooks in place without any major mishap. It wasn't easy, though!
What a pretty place we have for happy hour! Want to join us?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wine at the Wagon

Laury has done so much work around her barn. Pulling out vines, dead trees and weeds along with cutting the grass and putting pretty flowers on the barn door has made the whole area around the barn and the lavoir very beautiful. And I get to enjoy it from my sunroom windows!. Saturday night she rang and said 'meet me at the wagon at 6pm for wine.' The old farm wagon that Laury found in her barn makes the perfect platform for nibbles and boxes of wine. Jean and I enjoyed 'wine at the wagon' and we also enjoyed the pretty spot that Laury's created.
But today it's even prettier. Wait until you see what she did this afternoon! That will be tomorrow's post.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

I adore living this good life in France. I can't think of any place I've ever lived where I feel happier or more at peace than right here in Cadrieu. But...days like today are hard. When you talk to your 91-year old Dad getting ready to start his day in Nevada to wish him a Happy Father's Day, you realize just how far away you are. Thank God for Skype! It makes loving people long distance easier. Here's to you, Dad...it's me, shouting and waving and throwing kisses from clear across the Atlantic and most of the way across America...I love you!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Town Crier

I just got home from the Saturday afternoon market in Cajarc where this fellow was entertaining shoppers with drum rolls, roller skate tricks and loud greetings in French. His cap announced that he is the publique crier. He couldn't have been over 5 feet tall and that's with his roller skates on! What made it home with me in my shopping panier? Apricots, peaches, two tomatoes, a small melon and half a dozen farm-fresh eggs guaranteed en plein-air. Some Rocamadour goat cheese, a jar of homemade cherry preserves from a cute little farm woman who put my jar in a used flour bag, and a round table cloth sprinkled with bright red poppies. It was another successful market day under a brilliant blue sky and temperatures in the 80's!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Melanging Poetry, Music & Painting

Plaque commemorating the birth of Petrach in 1304
Novelist Deborah Lawrenson said it best in her blog post yesterday: "The trouble with being endlessly curious is that there is always something else you'd like to know."  She was talking about the trail she'd been following as she researched a cookbook author, Elizabeth David, who spent some time in the Provencal village of Menerbes living in a wonderful hilltop house called Le Castellet. Finding Elizabeth David led Lawrenson to Nicolas de Stael, a famous Russian painter who also lived at Le Castellet at one time. Click through to the blog post links to read the whole tragic story of de Stael's life and to see photos of his exciting paintings. Lawrenson's endless curiosity to learn 'the rest of the story' provided me with some fascinating reading...and a bit of endless curiosity of my own!

As I read Wednesday's post about de Stael's last week of life before committing suicide, I learned that just prior to that week of frenzied painting, he had been in Paris and had attended two concerts. Lawrenson provides a YouTube video of the work that supposedly prompted this manic episode of creativity and perhaps even contributed to de Stael's decision to leap to his death from the window of his atelier. Legend hints at a disparaging remark by a critic as having influenced him. Or perhaps it was a failed love affair that made him despondent? As I watched and listened to the Schonberg's 'Serenade Opus 24, I have to admit...it's not music that would inspire me to either creativity or death! The Muse moves us all in different ways, though, and de Stael was clearly moved by the piece. Listening to the music, I read the commentary that accompanies it and was surprised to see that the central portion of the work is a sonnet by Petrarch.

Well, that piqued my curiosity! You might remember that I blogged about Petrarch this spring when I stayed in Fontaine de Vaucluse and visited the museum there dedicated to his life and work and strolled in his garden. Which sonnet was it? Could there be a clue to why this particular piece of music 'sang' to de Stael? I spent most of the morning doing the Google thing and found that the sonnet of Shonberg's 'Serenade' is Sonnet 217, part of Petrarch's Cantoniziere to Laura, his life-long love and Muse. It took a bit of digging, but here is the sonnet in English:
Sonnetto 217
Once I hoped, lamenting so justly
making such fervent verses heard,
that pity's warmth might be felt
in that hard heart that freezes in mid-summer:

and that the cruel cloud, that chills 
and veils it, might disperse with the breeze
of my ardent voice, or others might hate her
for hiding those eyes that destroy me.

Yet I seek no pity for myself, nor hatred
for her: I do not wish it, nor is it possible
(such are my stars, and my cruel fate):

but I sing her heavenly beauty, so 
that, when I'm free of this flesh, the world
will know the sweetness of my death 

It's one of Petrarch's later sonnets that speaks more of unrequited love and the reality that hope is gone.Laura barely knows he exists and will never love him. I think the last stanza is very telling. The poet almost looks forward to the 'sweetness of my death.' Is this what compelled de Stael to take his own life? Was he following Petrarch's advice? Certainly it was well-known that de Stael suffered from bouts of despair and depression, but could the music with its core of unrequited love and death have tipped him over the edge? We'll never know for sure, of course. All this is pure speculation driven by that endless curiosity to know more of the story. But isn't it intriguing how poetry, music and great paintings melange into a story of love, life and death?
Sculpture in Petrarch's garden representing his unrequited love for Laura.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

More Food Discoveries

I've had a lot of fun this winter buying new (to me!) foods at the Saturday afternoon market and trying them out. I've become a huge fan of endive, fennel, leeks, parsnips, turnips and beets...all of which you can buy in the States, but somehow look much more enticing in the open air at my neighbor, Jackie's produce stand. It looks as if the food discoveries will continue through the summer. These are girolles, a type of chanterelle mushroom. The market stands were full of them this past Saturday. I brought a box home, sauteed them with butter and olive oil, then reduced the liquid to almost nothing before adding a splash of white wine and letting it all reduce down again. They were yummy!




These are broad beans. Looking for all the world like the biggest, toughest green beans on steroids you can imagine, they almost didn't make it into my shopping panier. Although they are a bit of work, they are very worth the effort. First, you pod them. The bean inside looks like a large pregnant lima bean, but there the resemblance ends! You either steam or boil the beans for a few minutes, then you slip off the light green hull revealing a brilliant green bean inside. The beans will then divide in half. The taste is nutty and fresh.I tossed mine with some chunks of firm goat cheese, a few slices of jarred roasted red peppers, a couple of shavings of shallots and dressed the lot with oil from the pepper jar and balsamic vinegar. A spoonful on a bed of lettuce greens made a delightful salad.
All these new vegetables have been an unexpected pleasure here in France. I can hardly wait to make more market discoveries this summer!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Petite Adventure

I had a petite adventure last week. On Tuesday morning, I drove into Cajarc to do errands. After dropping Laury at the post office, I parked the car to wait for her. I picked an empty spot in front of my favorite window...you know the one. I blogged about it here recently. To my delight, a woman was out raising an awning that partially covers the window at night. I spoke to her, inquiring if she was the artist who designs the window. "Yes," she smiled. I gushed just a bit..."I love your window! I take photos of it all the time!" She told me that she 'does it for the children'. "And for me," I said. "Me, too!" she admitted. With that she invited me in. She had only a brief moment to spare as she was on her way out, but that brief moment was awesome. The door opened directly into her studio which was filled with jars of brushes, pots of paint, statues, photos, drawings, and every artist tool you could imagine. We walked through the house to another room, my head swiveling almost 360 degrees as I  tried to take everything in as quickly as I could. My memory is of gorgeous French antiques and charming traditional touches. But, the room we ended up in was incredible! Floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall puppets, marionettes, puppet stages of all sizes, shapes, and colors. The puppet accessoires overflowed the room and spilled out into the hallway. I was overwhelmed with the color, the texture and the sheer volume of the fun and beautiful creations. A moment later, she opened another door, and I found myself back out on the street, my whirlwind tour complete. Laury was walking towards me..."Where have you been?" she asked. My answer..."Having an adventure!"

This is one of those French moments that I'll tuck away to bring out the next time I hear some boorish person declare that 'the French are rude and not nice.' Not true, not true at all, and I can prove it!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chairs

This might look perfect hanging in your music room. Check it out in the "Chairs" gallery.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Epicerie

One of the very first French words I learned was 'epicerie' or grocer's shop. Along with coquelicot (poppy), it remains one of my favorites, too.An epicerie is like a corner grocery store where you can buy a bit of everything. This one in Goult is tucked away at the end of the main street. You can buy something for everyone here: tourist trinkets and postcards, fresh produce, flowers, meat, cheese, wine.... even soccer balls!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"The Lantern": A Book Review

The hilltop village of Gordes
Do you dream about hilltop villages made of stone, the soft fragrance of lavender, the cool taste of pastis, and muted sunshine filtering through tall plane trees? Have you been threatening to paint your house ochre or pink and add green shutters? If so, then you are hooked on Provence! And I have a book recommendation for you. Read "The Lantern" by Deborah Lawrenson. You won't be disappointed. It's true, there are a lot of books out there about Provence. A few are stellar, a lot are not. "The Lantern" is a stellar one. Set in a fictional village in the Luberon, it's a novel suffused with the lusciousness of Provence, the exhilaration of love and a  frisson of mysterious happenings that span generations and connect lives across time. It could be trite, but it's not. The author combines her in-depth knowledge of the area with an uncanny ability to evoke ambiance....and fragrance. Because fragrance is the essence of the book's events; an essence that can be difficult to capture in words. Lawrenson does so brilliantly. She also tells a fast-paced, intriguing story that will have you wondering just who is telling the truth.
Houses in Roussillon
I've provided links to both the author's website and her blog, begun to provide readers with background information and visual images from her book research. Both are beautiful! Do check them out.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Fascinating Face in Provence

This guy lives on a wall in a locked courtyard next to the village church in Goult. I believe this used to be the courtyard of a convent that has since been turned into the village cultural center. Funny company for nuns to keep, no?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Three Changes

There have been three changes at Melanged Magic over the past few days. Do you know what they are? The first is pretty obvious. I've changed my blog banner to this photo that I took in Provence. Along with the banner change, I've updated the type font and colors of the blog as well. The second change is not obvious and is actually one I hope you haven't noticed! Melanged Magic has become a website: www.melangedmagic.com Blogger should be taking you there seamlessly. If this isn't happening, please let me know. I'm still in the steep part of the learning curve for this website thing! The third change is the addition of  photo galleries under the blog banner. I've decided to offer a few of my favorite photos for sale. I've found a wonderful printer here in France who produces high-quality art prints on beautiful watercolor paper. I will be adding more photos over time. Have a look! If you see something you like or have questions, either use the comment box or email me.