Friday, July 31, 2015

kitchen table in summer

I've nurtured a new habit this summer of completely clearing off the kitchen table every evening before going to bed. It isn't always easy because it is such a hub of activity during the day. 

But being the first one awake most days, it has become a beautiful way to start the day. While I wait for the coffee to perk, I get set up to do a bit of school work. Yes, I'm a teacher on summer holiday but I spend an hour a day prepping and planning for the coming school year as well as reading about approaches to education to improve my teaching practice. I like staying in touch with my teacher-self during these months "off".

This table gradually gets cluttered through the day as various children read here, draw here, snack here, and play games here.  Sometimes a friend comes by for lunch. 

Violet reads here every morning, often wearing daddy's protective ear muffs (usually used for chain sawing but Violet has adapted them to block out the noise of her siblings so she can completely enter the world of the Greek Gods and Goddesses).

Since my return from France I've more consciously used this table as a canvas for culinary creations, and find myself dreaming of kitchen equipment and place settings to enhance the many dinner parties I imagine myself having in the years to come. Meals have been simple and nourishing as the extreme heat we've been experiencing deters me from using the oven.

The table is a place to rest and connect, to create and to count our blessings. This week? We discovered that our adopted mama hen has started laying, not just ordinary white or brown eggs but delicately green-tinged eggs. A jam jar of wildflowers and a handwoven table runner are as fine as linen, crystal, and china.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Noir et Blanc

Wedding festivities were held at Domaine de la Fontaine, a beautiful site on the outskirts of Orleans.
Without kids in tow, I had the freedom to wander at will and photograph whatever took my fancy. In my teens and twenties I had an old 35 mm manual (of course!) camera; I knew how to adjust the aperture and shutter speed to get the results I wanted. With my digital camera, it just doesn't make the same kind of sense to me! But a quick tutorial from a kind Scotsman led me down the path of achieving the look I used to love. These will find themselves in frames when I get the chance to repaint my bathroom, a reminder of a beautiful trip and a wonderful day of celebration.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Simple Beauty of France

Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point.

I spent a whirlwind five days in France this past weekend. My love affair with this country began when I was sixteen, and like all affairs it burned strong in its early years. I spent three months there as an exchange student, then returned for a Christmas visit four years later when I was studying in Belfast.

Twenty years swiftly passed by and although I held the fondest of memories, the ardour faded in the midst of day-to-day life and child-bearing. Then one day, an invitation arrived: my exchange partner was going to get married! 

Armed with a kick ass dress and a good camera, I promptly fell back into love, hard. Seeing loved ones for the first time in 20 years is a very strange experience. Lots of tears and laughter. 

What is it about France? Everything seems simple. Minimalist. Tasteful. Sporadic flowers growing against mute stone walls, pops of colour in the shape of doors and shutters, the scent of lavender wafting up as you walk by a garden. Simple meals shared outdoors, hours-long and ripe with conversation and word-play. A respect for tradition and culture in a rapidly changing world.

 My hostess giggled when she saw my photos of "les volets" (shutters) because they are among the most commonplace of sights in France. I know that when she inevitable visits me she'll take pictures of my log barns and of the pine trees that grow in our yard.

My love affair has been reignited as if it never burned down. Love is like that, isn't it? Absence makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps. But France feels like home to me; when I expressed this to my French "maman" (the woman who mothered me during my three months there as a teenager) she said, "It IS your home.

Et voila. Home is where the heart is. My heart is in two pieces, it seems, never to fully settle in one place or the other. I feel blessed to feel at home in two countries and plan to get back to France before another 20 years goes by.

In the meantime, the above photos will be framed and displayed to keep my love alive.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Drinking in Summer

Photo by Tim Graham, my talented brother-in-law

The days feel timeless, and we're still early enough into our summer break that we're not counting down the weeks (yet) till school starts.

The order of the day is: what fun can we get up to today? We're swimming as much as possible (which has kind of eliminated the need for bathing), eat simple meals of seasonal fruit and veg and BBQ, and neglecting the house as much as possible. Laundry, dishes, and sweeping are about it, with vague dreams of painting the office, bathroom, stairs, kitchen...maybe in the fall.

We are watching lots of movies, reading lots of books, and I'm getting to satisfy my urge to spin every day. A passion for concocting delicious yarns has replaced knitting for now, and I'm filling a basket to be used in projects over the fall and winter. Violet got busy with a weaving project I put together for my Kindergarten students in June, using an old picture frame that I've held onto for years...I knew it would serve a purpose someday!

I don't think I've mentioned here that I'm preparing to head to France this week! It finally seems real. My exchange student from high school years is getting married and my dad and I will be attending. I haven't seen my family there since I was 21 (when I spent Christmas with them during the year I spent in Belfast, Northern Ireland). I've got a fabulous dress, ridiculous shoes, and a hot-off-the-press passport. 

The kids will be in the care of daddy and Nanny while I'm away, and while it's a bit of a whirlwind trip (five nights away) I know by the end of it I'll be missing them enough to head home again. While I'm away I plan to taste the wine, eat pain au chocolat, hold the hands and gaze into the dear faces of loved ones I haven't seen in twenty years. This isn't a trip for touring the sights of Paris, but for reconnecting.

The sweet gnome you see above belongs to the daughter of the radiant, dynamic Erin Ellenberger-March of feather + anchor. A la Amelie, I'll be bringing this little fella along with me on my trip and photographing him as we see the sights together. I don't think we'll make it to la Tour Eiffel, but I'm hoping I can snap a pic out of the plane window. I'll also send a postcard to sweet Poppy, then return her gnome so he can go on other adventures!

I marvel at the feeling of stress leaving my body and mind. I am actually achieving presence in each moment with my children, laughing instead of yelling, breathing instead of panicking. Having the space to rest, reflect, focus on what and who I love, and to once again evaluate what it is I'm on this earth to do is a gift for which I am grateful every day. 

I'll be back next week to post some photos of my time in France...ooh, la la!