Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Patience Pays

One of the requirements for my long-term stay visa is that I have health insurance that will cover me here in France. I initially bought a private policy that met the minimum requirements, but as soon as I had lived here the requisite six months, I applied to purchase French healthcare through their nationalized system of social security. I began the process last June. Yesterday I received the final piece of the bureaucratic puzzle, my Carte Vitale! Yay!

This is the frustration of dealing with a massive bureaucracy...if you get into the system even just a little 'wrong,' it's a long, difficult road to make it 'right.' In my case, somewhere along the line, there was confusion over my divorced name and my birth name. I filled out paperwork three times, sent every piece of documentation that they requested and yet, it took three separate phone calls to the English-speaking help line to get it figured out. Note to anyone filling out paperwork here...unlike in the States where no one ever asks you for your maiden name, the French are very attached to their birth names; it shows up on all their official papers, so don't be surprised if you get asked for it...a lot. The last person who helped me (she was very nice, BTW) asked me if I minded if my Carte Vitale was in my maiden name. I told her no...'if it works for you, then it works for me!' And I kind of wish now I'd gone back to my maiden name anyway.

So....months after the first piece of paperwork was mailed, I have my Carte. It took persistence, a sense of humor and a lot of patience, but the pay off is that now when I access health services, I simply hand them my Carte, they swipe it into their machine, and voila! my care is paid for.

The good news in all this is that I have been covered and my healthcare costs paid all along. I had to file the paperwork myself for that to happen and pay up front. But, like magic, France reimbursed me with a deposit directly into my bank account. It's a great system....once you get into it!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rushing Water

Since last week's snow events, it's rained....a lot.Water is rushing in the normally dry spillway below the chateau into the large stone basin.
From there it flows under the little village road that goes by my house and fills the village lavoir.
From the lavoir, it flows underground beneath the main road and ends up in the Lot...which is looking pretty murky these days with all the run-off. I can hear the rushing water from my backdoor.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cemetery Gate

Our morning walk takes us past the village cemetery. Its gate looks very pretty etched in snow.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hero

Hero** greets Lucie and I every morning when we walk past his house..
He's such a nice dog. Never barks at us and always jumps up to say 'bonjour' over the fence.
Even on her hind legs, Lucie isn't quite tall enough to say hello, so she and Hero touch noses through the fence slats.

**say Hero the French way...."ee-row"

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bookmarks

I frequently read more than one book at a time. And I always have pages marked in other books for reference later. My bookmarks are scraps of paper, a very old church bulletin, a business card from a favorite hotel in Provence. a pretty metal 'hook' mark with a buffalo charm from Travis and Becky, a paper bookmark from a online book seller, and a pretty calla lily bookmark that slips over a page and anchors itself with a tiny magnet...a gift from Laury. One way I NEVER use to bookmark....a folded-over corner. We called that a 'dog ear' in the States. I must have been yelled at by an irate librarian in my childhood for doing this. Dog-earring a book feels like a mortal sin to me!

Friday, January 25, 2013

I'm M-e-l-t-i-n-g!

Our two snow events last week were followed by two rain events. This is all that's left of Tom and Margaux's snowman. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mary

When you live in France, it's hard NOT to take photos of religious statuary...it's everywhere. Every little village has an ancient and often quite beautiful church full of statues of the Holy Family and saints, some of which I've yet to find listed on any Catholic website! Roadside crosses abound. Sometimes you stumble on a chapel in the middle of nowhere. I find myself especially attracted to Mary, the Blessed Mother. I've decided to collect my photos of her in one folder and make her an ongoing project. This Mary was in the church in Cassis. I had fun creating this different image of her today

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Have No Idea....

She caught my eye as I strolled around Cajarc. I have no idea what she's supposed to be....or even if she is a 'she!' Any ideas?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Snow Scenes


We've had measurable snow twice in the past 4 days....a bit unusual for here. But then, where hasn't the weather been unusual lately? We don't mind walking in the snow at all especially when the sky is blue. With her long hair and very hairy feet, however, Lucie tends to pick up enough snow to make big snowballs that dangle from her feet and the 'feather's on her rear. Some were so big after our brief walk that I had to cut them out with scissors as they were too large for her to chew off herself.






The view across the river was quite pretty.
There was even a  parapentiste up sailing over the river. The uplift wasn't very good, but I think the view of the river valley blanketed with snow must have been amazing!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Graffitti

Walking from the boulangerie to the post office, my eye caught a glimpse of color up one of the tiny ruelles leading into old Cajarc. Graffitti is NOT common in this village. I was amazed, though, at how much I saw on my last trip into Paris.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I've Been Spoiled!

After two days of no mail due to snow and icy roads, I really hit the jackpot yesterday when the yellow La Poste truck stopped outside my gate. There was a package for me! All the way from the USA from my friend whom I refer to as "Jam Karen," (This is because I have two other friends named Karen..."Priest Karen" and "Life Flight Karen". You guys know who you are!) Jam Karen, as her name implies, is a jam maker, par excellence. And in my box, I found three jars of her yummy creations....Pineapple Mango with Chili, Drunken Fig, and Apricot Raspberry jam. Her jam is better than any I've had anywhere, even here in France. Anyone who has purchased her lovely jam at the downtown Des Moines Farmer's Market will agree with me. You can visit her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Victorias-Table-Artisan-Jams-Jellies/208841322469039  Now the only question is whether I hoard it for myself or open and share with friends!
But my box wasn't quite empty. There was also this long pretty scarf in my very favorite colors...red, black and white. Perfect choice. And 8 tall beeswax candles. I have been truly spoiled!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Arms Cradling Snow


Remnants of Wednesday's snowfall remain cradled in the arms of the trees in Cajarc's square. Will I confuse you if I tell you that the square really....isn't? It's a triangle. But 'town triangle' doesn't exactly sound right, does it?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Celebrating Helen

We all met at La Bellerive Wednesday to celebrate Helen's birthday. That's the birthday girl in the hot pink scarf. It was a total surprise for her arranged by Eddy. The total surprise for us was we managed to make it happen despite an all-day snowfall! We had fun despite the weather.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Quine

Another first for me on Sunday....quine (keen). It's French bingo, but without letters. You buy cards...Christiane, as you can see, plays six at a time. I only bought three, knowing my pitiful French would be stretched at that. The object is to cover five numbers in a horizontal line. For the second round, you keep your first numbers, but need to have two lines to win. Third round, the entire card must be filled. There are a couple of variations to keep the number drawing interesting. The prizes were great...bottles of wine, big bags of grocery staples called filet garni, gift baskets from the local gourmet shop, flowers from the town florists. Although I didn't win anything, it was a lot of fun. Beginning at 2:30 pm, the last prize was awarded near 6:30 pm making for a long afternoon! It was fabulous practice for my French number recognition ability. Christiane did help a little as she'd repeat the number in English each time, but usually I had it figured out by then. As the afternoon wore on, though, I found my brain on overload. it was tres fatiguee. I especially had difficulty discerning between trente and quarante (perhaps Jean-Pierre, our number caller, was becoming fatigued as well and not enunciating as clearly?) and those pesky big numbers in the 70s, 80s and 90s caused me to struggle. It's hard enough to remember the little numbers, but when you have to multiply and/or add to come up with the figure...well!
I want one of these! It's a magnetic wand that gathers up the colorful plastic number markers which have a thin wire embedded in them. I'm easily pleased, huh?
Jean-Pierre, our esteemed number caller.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Saujac in the Snow

Saujac in the Snow
When I opened the shutters in my bedroom this morning, I was greeted by a surprise dusting of snow. Saujac looked so pretty across the river.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blue Sky Moment

Always look for the blue sky moment!

Sorry for the break in the photo a day posts. My village has been without phone or internet service since Friday evening. We're back online now!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Creative Moodling

Do you ever sit and daydream about what you'd do if money were no object, if you didn't have family obligations, if you were brave? I've hear that called  'creative moodling,' and I did a bit last evening. Granted, I pretty much live my dream life here in France. But if money were no object, I'd buy this house in my village, convert the separate apartment on the bottom into an art gallery/atelier and sell fine art. Of course, the house itself could use a bit of an update, and to suit my tastes, it would have to be open, airy and filled with sunlight, soft comfy furniture and loads of paintings hanging on the walls. Oh yes, in a perfect world, it would also need a chef's stove and oven (gas, by all means!) I figure it would take about 500,000 euros to accomplish all this. Anyone know someone who wants to 'gift' me???
Isn't it pretty in the fall?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Coffee Cups

Guess which one is the American coffee cup!
I'm almost embarrassed to show you this photo....do we Americans super-size everything? The French drink coffee in small cups...the white one. The mug is my favorite, and I brought it with me when I moved to France. It's my morning coffee cup, but I'll admit that I fill about a quarter of it with hot, frothy milk,. On Wednesdays after exercise class, Christiane, Marie-Yvonne, and I stop for a coffee at Le President. They almost always have two little cups apiece. Wouldn't it just be easier to have one big cup??

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Playing with Picasa

The icky weather gives me an excuse to play with Picasa!
This is what it really looks like.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dismal Days

The weather has been gray and dismal the past several days. While my river valley has been clear, fog has draped the causse obscuring the  horizon and lending a heavy feeling to the air. Monday morning when I drove to church, I had to put my lights on and slow down a bit. The narrow winding roads can be hazardous on clear days. You certainly don't want to be going fast when you meet a farmer on his tractor emerging out of the fog on a sharp turn! This bleak weather is not conducive to taking beautiful photos.

To see what other bloggers are posting for 30 photos in 30 days, click here to Chris Galvin's blog where you'll find links to photos, paintings, poetry and even video!.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Monday Church

I've posted photos of some of the most beautiful churches in France. You don't see anything more breath-taking than Ste. Chapelle or more historic than Notre Dame. But this is my favorite 'church,' Monday worship with my Anglican friends. As an Episcopalian, I knew it would be difficult to worship here in the Lot. I've attended Mass locally, but since my French isn't very good, I understand very little of the service. And not being Catholic, I feel uncomfortable taking communion when I know it isn't okay with a lot of priests. There is an Anglican Chaplaincy based in Toulouse, and services are held in Cahors. That's over an hour's drive and I confess, I've never been motivated enough to go on Sundays. But, the Chaplaincy does sponsor home study groups which meet for worship in various people's homes. My group meets the first and third Mondays of the month. On the first Monday, a priest comes to offer us communion; the third Monday is a morning prayer service. This Monday we met at John's in Caylus; June presided. We sat around a table in the basement, heard a homily on the Magi, sang two Epiphany carols a capella, and after June blessed the elements, we offered each other the Eucharist. Simple and heart-felt with a feeling of close community... a lovely way to worship.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Bit Confused?

This iris blooming now in my backyard is either a sign that EFFLORESCE is absolutely my right word for 2013 or it's really confused. It's blooming in January...and it's neither sunny nor warm!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Saturday Afternoons

Most Saturday afternoons find me in Cajarc at the market. I buy my vegetables from Yannick and Jackie, my neighbors in Cadrieu. Today I bought potatoes, 2 small heads of romaine, half a dozen small leeks, and two hands-full of Brussels sprouts for the equivalent of a bit over $3. Yummy good flavor and inexpensive.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Thirty Photos in Thirty Days!

A fellow blogger that I connected with doing the Writers Abroad, Foreign Encounters project, Chris Galvin has challenged her readers to post a poem, a painting, or a photo each day for thirty days. As you know, I'm not a painter...dang it! While I do write a bit of poetry, I'm not sure I could be that creative for thirty days in a row. So, I've decided to do the photo thing...one a day for the next thirty days. Now, I could go into my archives and find a photo a day for the next ten years, but that doesn't seem to be the right spirit for this project, so I'll attempt to post photos that I actually take each day. If you read my blog, you know that I already post about the more interesting and fun things that I experience here in France. I'll continue to do that, of course, but the focus of these next thirty days will be my every day life. What!? You thought it was all parties and Paris, fun and fetes, champagne and celebrations?? No, most days are probably a lot like yours...grocery shopping, doing laundry, washing dishes, being bored. So, welcome to my 'real' world. Here's photo number one: Shutters
One thing that I do every morning and every evening that you probably don't do at your house is open and close the shutters. I've blogged about shutters in the past. Click here if you're interested. Shutters are so very practical. They keep out the light and the noise of the road, they keep the cold out in winter, the cool in during summer, and they are a great security system.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Etoile de Noel

While I wait for my life to EFFLORESCE, I'll share what already is blooming in my life...this pretty Etoile de Noel or poinsettia that has graced my kitchen table this holiday season.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reveillon 2012

Reveillon 2012 began at 8 pm with 10 of us gathering at Christiane's. Isn't Christiane's table pretty? It was an evening of exploring French food and culture, as well as an evening of 'firsts' for me. With vintage American rock-n-roll in the background, the merrymaking began with nibbles and a champagne toast. We decided a couple of weeks ago to make this evening easy, so no meal was planned, only platters of easy-to-put-together food. Christiane, however, just can't help herself. Our first platter was her homemade foie gras accompanied by various toppings: ginger-flavored salt, homemade fig preserves and onion confit. The next three platters focused on the sea: oysters and gambas, coquilles St. Jacques, and smoked salmon.


Here's my first 'first' of the evening...raw oysters. Our oysters hailed from Brittany and the Vendee. How have lived so many years and not tried them??? Thanks to Greg, the moment is recorded for history! Not very good photos of me, but hey, it's hard to look glamorous as you slurp an oyster.
See that smile on my face?? One slurp, and it was instant love! I could have an new addiction. Christiane had both lemon and a shallot-vinegar sauce for them; both were yummy, but I really loved them best with just a little squeeze of lemon. I've heard people describe them as tasting like the ocean, and I've scoffed. But that's truly how they taste. Enough like the ocean that the next time I'm in need of a 'seashore fix' I think eating a few oysters would cure it. Hopefully, the need will come in a month with an 'R' so oysters will be on offer!

After a palate-cleansing boule of pineapple ice cream swimming in homemade juniper berry eau de vie, we moved on to the next platter: puff pastry cups filled with ris de veau, a classic French dish, again homemade by Christiane. Ris de veau was my second 'first' of the night. Ris is the French culinary word for sweetbreads, and although I've eaten liver, heart and of course, Rocky Mountain oysters, this dish was my first taste of thymus gland and pancreas. Small pieces diced and mixed with a flavorful gravy filled the pastry with a rich, chewy sweetness. I liked it a lot!

Salad followed, then a cheese platter with five choices: Emmenthaler, some cabecous, a lovely orange mimolette with a crusty rind, a chunk of beautiful blue veined Roquefort and a round of Epoisses. Third 'first'....the Epoisses, one of the grand stinky cheeses of France. Smells awful, tastes delicious especially with a sip of champagne.

Are we done yet? Nope! We were offered two flavors of ice cream molded into loaves. One was two kinds of chocolate, the other raspberry sherbet covering a rich vanilla. Then, coffee, sweet cherries soaked in vodka, and a box of chocolates. Now, we're done! And it's 2:30 am. We have truly welcomed the New Year in grand style. We've eaten, drank, kissed, sang Auld Lang Syne, and laughed.What a fun way to ring out the old year and usher in the new.
Brittany oyster with its fluted, black-striped edge.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013: Effloresce

The problem with this choosing-a-word-for-the-year thing is that it is very easy to over-think the process. If a word comes right away, great. But if it doesn't and you try to consciously think of a word that you should choose for the year, it becomes more like a New Year's resolution and less like the spirit moving. That being said, this year's word just would not come. I thought of a couple that felt kind of right, but not really. I signed up for a word 'mini-retreat on one of my favorite websites, Abbey of the Arts, and followed all the suggestions, but still no word appeared that really resonated with me. So, I tried another tactic...SoulCollage. This is a process that I also learned in an Abbey of the Arts online course. It's basically pulling images, words, colors from print material and making a collage. You let your inner spirit do the choosing; conscious over-thinking spoils the fun.

Armed with four magazines, scissors and a glue stick, I began, but with some reservations. I don't exactly have a great choice of magazines here. What I had was a things-to-do in the Lot tourist mag, a 'Marie Claire' that I bought in a crazy moment of caring about fashion, a 'Town and Country' that I picked up in an airport somewhere desperate for something to read, and a slick 'Santa Barbara' high-end lifestyle magazine that my friend, Marie, sent me. None were really soul and spirit material. Flipping through each one while holding the thought 'give me a word' in my mind, I cut out images, swaths of color, and patterns that appealed to me. On one of the last pages of the last magazine I leafed through, I found an ad for a florist shop. And there was my word: EFFLORESCE. It even came with its own definition: to burst into bloom. There was no doubt in my mind that my word had finally chosen me. What I did doubt, however, was how the images I cut out would go together in a meaningful way. This is the beauty of SoulCollage; it always works. And so did my collage.
As I moved the pieces around, each one revealed its meaning to me and each one found its place in the overall design. I won't bore you with what those meanings are, but let me say that there are a couple images that remain a mystery. I have no idea what the hand, the beautiful flock of sheep or the XII mean. I'm hoping that 2013 will reveal their significance. So, there you have it. My word for 2013 is EFFLORESCE. I like the sound of it. It resonates nicely with last year's word, explore, and also with my name. I'll be adding it as a blog category, so you'll see it in my cloud. It will be fun to see just where in my life I burst into bloom this coming year!