Hearts Part Deux

goat-cheese

I was just going to go back and edit the last post.  Really, I was.  Why should I make you read a whole new post?  Hearts Part Deux?  Seriously?  What’s up with that? Well, here’s what.  What about all of the expressions that we use that have to do with hearts?

A huge heartfelt thanks to all who contributed to this list!  Someone I recently met (from Chicago aka a Yankee) asked if we (Southerners) really say “Bless your heart.”  Duh.  Of course.  We learn that one in the crib.

  • broken heart
  • heat of gold
  • absence makes the heart grow fonder
  • heartwarming
  • hearty meal
  • hard-hearted
  • good-hearted
  • warms the cockles of my heart
  • I don’t have the heart to…
  • bless his/her heart
  • heartless
  • heartache
  • home is where the heart is
  • cold hands, warm heart
  • emptier than a banker’s heart
  • blame it on my head and not on my heart
  • I wear my heart on my sleeve (oh, man, did Daddy ever accuse me of this!)
  • be there in a heartbeat
  • have a heart
  • young at heart
  • you will always be in my heart
  • heartfelt apologies
  • mal au coeur
  • loin des yeux, loin du coeur

My take on it?  Love begins with yourself.  After all, you are what you have left at the end of the day.  You have to be your own best friend.  Watch Hallmark movies all you want. Personally, I love the happy, heartwarming endings.  Who doesn’t?  Deep down inside. Bless your heart if you don’t.

I did indeed get up and make those sugar cookies.  I left the butter out to come to room temperature so that when I got up it would be soft.  What a satisfying feeling.  Rolling out the dough.  Dipping the cookie cutters into the soft sweetness.  Sprinkling some color onto the colorless dough.  Smelling sugar and vanilla all through the house.  Pulling the tray out of the oven and letting the cookies cool just a couple of minutes before transferring them to the cooling rack. The ladies at the retirement home loved them.  We left the extras on the table near the piano.  Enjoy them, ladies and gentlemen.  I will be back!  We will sing.  We will dance, partner or not.  We will look at photos of your youth and remember the amazing things you did.  The tennis championships you won.  The children you birthed and raised.  The trips you took. Or the ones that you couldn’t take because you had an unfortunate accident. Save me a corner room overlooking the lake and near the dining room and fireplace.  But, until then, I still have stuff I want (need?) to do.

 

girlies

chloe

Thanks for putting up with us, Chloe.  Take good care of your mistress. She needs you more than you know.

Need a song to sing along with?  How about Waylon Jennings’ Good Hearted Woman.

Bon appétit to all.  Live every single day as if it were your last.  You never know what’s around the corner. The dear sweet ladies at Golden Pond taught me that today. And the amazing I-cannot-put-it-down book I am currently reading, The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg.  And I am three years older than the heroine of the story…  Do you have a green bowl?

What I am crushing on right now

When I wore a black dress with white polka dots last fall, one of the young (and dare I say handsome) teachers at school said he was “crushing on my dress.”  Ever since then I have wanted to use that expression.  So, here goes.

What am I crushing on right now?

#1  My great nephew Caleb’s photos– he showed me a few of them when I visited at Christmas and I asked him to send some to me.  He has quite an eye for beauty, n’est-ce pas?   Here are some of my favorites:

And last, but by no means least, Max, Caleb’s mom/my niece’s dog-

max

Keeping taking photos, Caleb!

#2  My new mascara–  Am I vain?  Oui.  I do not leave my house with mascara.  I search high and low for just the right one.  Waterproof is a must sometimes, but it is so hard to remove.  Lancôme’s Hypnôse Drama does not cause raccoon eyes and it washes off easily at the end of the day.  Merci, Lancôme.

mascara

#3 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer– I just finished reading it last night (actually early this morning) and cannot stop thinking about it.  It is a story told in letters about a writer who decides to go to Guernsey to interview people about the German occupation of their island during WWII.  It’s a subject I am very interested in, but I didn’t know anything about this book until I saw it on a list of must-read stories.  I fell in love with Juliet.  You will, too.

#4 Balsam Range’s latest album, Mountain Voodoo— I have loved this band of bluegrass musical magicians since Sister Moo and I heard Buddy Melton sing at a barbecue festival in Asheville, NC about 10 years ago.  The group was formed in 2007 in Haywood County and has been winning awards ever since.  I go to hear them whenever possible, most recently at the American Tobacco campus in downtown Durham last June.

Something ‘Bout That Suitcase is my current favorite.  Probably because mine is sitting in the corner of my bedroom waiting patiently to be filled with the stuff I will need for six days in Paris.

suitcase

#5  The direct non-stop flight I will take from RDU-CDG later this week.  That’s right, step on in Raleigh, step off in Paris.  Merci mille fois, Delta.  Je vous aime.  The first time I packed my suitcase to go to Paris (and to get on a airplane) was in September of 1978.  I flew from Johnson City, TN to New York to Orly airport in Paris.  I do not remember much about the flight except that it was a charter. Many trips later, I still get excited.

#6  The stories of Sean Dietrich aka Sean of the South—  I’ve written about him before and I continue to love him more with each and every story I read.  I follow him on Facebook and start my day with his daily storytelling.  He has recently started to tell them by video as well.  Go ahead, click on the link and read a story for yourself.  See if you don’t feel better instantly.  While laughing and crying at the same time.

#7 An American in Paris— I just saw the play here in Durham with about 15 of my 8th graders, the BFF, some parents, and a couple I am especially fond of, Steve and Dani.  The Ex-Ex and I saw it on Broadway in July 2015 (I won a trip that included tickets to a show). The story is set in Paris at the end of WWII.  Gershwin music, dancing, beautiful costumes and scenery, love…

american-in-paris

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  I will leave the list with photos at seven.  I prefer sets of 14 for some reason so I will quickly list seven more.

#8  Snow days– I been given the gift of two of them this week so that I can get my grades and comments written before boarding that Delta jet.

#9  Our new sofa and “chair and a half”– the Ex-Ex and I gave them to each other for Christmas.  Blue.  Comfy.

#10  Bold Rock Blood Orange Cider– seasonal and I just got my hands on some.  Delicious.

#11  Sister Moo’s peanut butter fudge– so much for giving up sweets after Christmas since she sent a tin of it home with me.

#12  Hallmark movies on the weekend– sappy, yes, I know, but they always have happy endings.  One set in Paris will premier later this month.  Love Locks– the mayor of Paris may not like it, but I have a feeling I will.

#13  Bravelets bracelets– I have collected a few of them and love them.  The company donates a portion of each sale to a cause, 2.6 million dollars to date.

#14  The beautiful glass bird that EB gave me for Christmas– It’s a magpie.  The Chinese term for magpie means literally “bird of joy.”  And joy is what EB has brought to our family.

mantel

I texted Nephew Caleb to ask what his favorite food is and he came back with shrimp.  I am with you, Caleb. I could eat my weight in it (and probably have!).  Here’s one of my favorite ways to eat it.  This reminds me of summer at Sunset Beach…

Uncle Beano’s Frogmore Stew

In memory of Ben Philpott, the BFF’s brother and Frogmore chef extraordinaire

Shrimp
New Potatoes
Corn
Sausage (Chorizo, Andouille, hot Italian or some other spicy grind)
Limes
Lemons
Red Onion
Old Bay Seasoning
Hot Sauce
Minced Garlic
Allow 1/3 to ½ lbs of shrimp and one ear of corn per person. Cut corn in halves. Chop sausages to half inch or so. Cut potatoes in quarters.
Bring big pot of water to boil with slices of lime, lemon, and onion. Add minced garlic and a few jabbers of hot sauce (also some beer, if you like), and a few shakes of Old Bay. Add potatoes, corn and sausage. When potatoes are on verge of being done, add shrimp and cook for about 3-4 minutes until shrimps are done.
Spread on newspapers (the cooked food, that is), dust heavily with Old Bay, and serve with cocktail sauce, butter, or whatever moves you.

Bon appétit and here’s to talented nephews and crushing on stuff.

Reflections

reflexion-of-tour

It is almost time to say Au revoir to 2016.  And Bonjour to 2017.  2016 had some tough days.  In life, though, that’s pretty much par for the course, n’est-ce pas?  That’s when we learn valuable lessons.  It’s when we learn to appreciate the whos and whats in our lives.  If we are smart.  And then we move on.  The sun comes up the next morning.  Sometimes it is difficult, if not downright nearly impossible, to let go of hurt feelings, guilt, anger, disappointment, fear– all of those emotions that can bring on a middle-of-the-night panic attack if we aren’t careful.  I know.  I’ve been there done that.  Learning to take deep breaths, forgiving myself as well as those I love, and remembering what is truly important takes practice.

Why is that those who know their days on earth are numbered teach us the best lessons? I hate to break it to you, but all of our days are numbered.  Somehow, though, those who live with it daily are the wisest. Chris Rosati.  The lessons I have learned from him.  Chris has ALS.  Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Tuesdays with Morrie. Since his diagnosis six years ago, he has taught so many of us how to be kinder human beings.  I saw Chris last night at The BIGG Holiday Mashup in downtown Durham.

bigg-mash-up

He was able to put in an appearance at the end of the show.  Dressed as Santa, in his wheelchair, speaking through a computer that is somehow miraculously connected to his eyes and types out his messages.  Many of his high school friends and classmates were in attendance so it ended up being a big wonderful funny class reunion-type event for me.  I taught so many of these “kids.” See, Chris, see what you are doing?  Bringing all of us together for the Big Idea for the Greater Good.  A lesson I promise to put into practice in 2017.

So, instead of reflecting backwards, I will reflect forwards.  Think of the all the potential that awaits us in 2017.  The BFF doesn’t like odd-numbered years, but I have assured her that the coming one will be filled with Goodness.  Kindness.  Pure joy.  Hmmm…. How do I know this?  Because I am in charge of how good, kind and joyous I will be.  And so are you. There are indeed many, many things that we cannot in any way, shape or form control.  Why focus on those?  Instead, let’s focus on what we can control.  Our own attitudes.  Our own behavior.  Terrorists will not keep me from traveling to my beloved France.  The political leadership in my own beloved state and country will not keep me from hoping that good will come from this somehow.  Because we can band together and “kill them with kindness” as Mama Mildred has been known to say.

My 2017 will include the following:

  • Kennedy’s birth.  My first grandbaby.  I already get teary-eyed just thinking about her.
  • Finding new ways to show kindness and helping others do the same.
  • Spending more time with my family, be they in Charlotte, Spruce Pine, Washington, Brevard, High Point or here in Durham.  I am incredibly lucky. My sons, a soon-to-be daughter-in-law, mama, sisters, in-laws, cousins all close by.
  • At least two trips to France.  January (20 days) and March (76 days).  Ah oui, I do indeed count it down.  Every time I board the plane it feels like the first time.
  • Showing my friends how much I love them.  I am lucky in this respect, too.  I have some amazing friends who love me no matter what.
  • Joie de vivre.  I am very fond of this French phrase.  Love of life.  Joy in living.  Ed the Head, used it in 2013 to describe me when he presented me with the Hershey Award. I laughed with him afterwards as I complimented his French pronunciation.  I vow here and now to show this joie much more often.
  • Self-improvement.  At home.  In the classroom with the kiddos and my colleagues. With me.  More walks, more quiet time, good books, good music, good food, more writing.

A good place to start.  And I think I will get a week’s head start on some of those.  Pourquoi pas?

I will leave you with a recipe to make immediately (or as soon as you can assemble the ingredients) and share as gifts and/or make for the family and friends who will come a-calling.  A big bowl of deliciousness.  I fell in love with them the first time I tasted them at a foreign language meeting.  Our Latin teacher is quite a cooker.  She shared the recipe.  Merci beaucoup, JL.

rosemary-pecans

Rosemary Pecans

1 pound unsalted pecans

2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried

2 Tbsp. melted butter

2 tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. cayenne or black pepper

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Spread nuts on baking sheet (I line mine with parchment paper.)  Bake 10-15 minutes- 15 minutes for crunchier nuts.

While the pecans are baking, combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix together.  Add pecans while still hot and toss to coat.

Serve warm or cold.  Store in tightly closed container.

Bon appétit to all and to all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Here’s to 2017!

Après Thanksgiving 2016

give-thanks-pumpkin

It’s post-Thanksgiving, T + 3, but I am still thinking about all I have to be thankful for in my life.  I have fallen into a post-election sadness.  Not depression, but a deep sadness for my country.  Politics aside, seriously, it’s not Democrat vs Republican.  It’s about treating others, those different from us, with dignity and respect.  We lost that in the 2016 presidential election. We now have a group known as the Alt-Right who think it is okay to bring back some sort of Heil Hitler mentality.  I am uncomfortable in all-white Protestant settings now because it isn’t what I want my world to look like.  I like differences.  The day after the election, I sat down to face my 11 advisees and looked into a group made up of 6 girls and 5 boys, one red-head of Italian heritage, three African Americans,  three Asian-Americans, one French-Asian genetic combination, and a couple who look like me.  White European Americans.  We all came from somewhere.  Unless you are Native American, your ancestors came over on a boat or maybe in an airplane.  My ancestry?  Turns out that I am (according to Ancestry):

35% Great Britain

29% Europe West

15% Ireland

12% Scandinavia

3% Europe East

2% Italy-Greece

2% Finland-Northwest Russia

<1% Iberian Peninsula

2 % West Asia

I looked at those 12 year-old faces on November 9 and told them that we are truly only in control of how we behave, how we choose to treat others. I, along with two 7th grade girls, challenged them to Spread the Kindness and do something kind for one person each day.

Son #1 lives close by so we discussed the election quite a bit.  We have the same views.  Son #2 lives a couple hours away from home and texted me a day or two after it was all said and done “The sun is still rising and the people I love are ok.  As selfish as it may be considering the circumstances, I’m going to take refuge with those two facts until I can think about everything with a clear mind.”  I have decided to take refuge in that as well.  The sun is indeed still rising.  Spectacularly some mornings.  And it is still setting beautifully as well.

I spent Thanksgiving in the mountains of North Carolina.  The view from the living room of my sister and brother-in-law’s house–

cindys-view

It reminds me of the woods behind my Granny’s house on a mountaintop in the Estatoe/Penland section of Spruce Pine.  My siblings, cousins and I spent hours making towns and playhouses under pine trees and rhododendron bushes.

The Ex-Ex’s parents made the trip with us.  We had almost the whole E clan there.  (We missed you D, K and M.)

We had an abundant amount of food.

We have two grandbabies on the way.  Thanksgiving next year will be quite different!  A pink cake pop- an ingenious way to let the family know what you are expecting. It took three of them and more than a few minutes for it to sink into my dense head.  I like to provide a laugh whenever I can.

cake-pop

My children barely tolerated my picture-taking.  One of them quite openly hates it, but puts up with me for a little while.  Can you guess which one?

three

Actually, from the looks on both boys’ faces, it might be hard to tell.  Too bad.  Mom wins.  (Thank you for smiling, EB!)

I got a few minutes with Mama Mildred and Sister Moo in Marion on the way to Brevard.  I had a couple of things to deliver and they met us right off the interstate.  Mama Mildred is on the mend (Merci, St. Bernadette) and Sister Moo is busy volunteering to take care of the firefighters who have come from all over the country to help fight the fires that have been raging for weeks in our mountains.  Love you more, Moo.  Bless you.

As I stood stirring a praline topping for this morning’s baking adventure, the thought popped into my head that in just a couple of years I will have a baking apprentice.  Sunday mornings will be my time to teach the soon-to-be-born Kennedy all of my secrets.  That thought alone is reason enough to get up in time to see the sun rise every day.

What to do with the leftover bread from Thanksgiving?  Eggs, milk, cinnamon, butter, vanilla, brown sugar, and a few pecans will solve that problem.

french-toast

Sunday Morning Baked French Toast

based on recipe from allrecipes

Casserole:

5 c. bread cubes (I probably used more- I had leftover sourdough and Italian-style bread), best if a bit stale

6 eggs

2 c. milk (maybe more if mixture seems too dry)

2 Tbsp. sugar (I used Turbinado, but granulate white sugar would have mixed in better)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Butter for greasing pan

Topping:

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

1 Tbsp. light Karo corn syrup (I found some without high fructose corn syrup which is, according to a chef friend, the work of the devil, to be avoided at all costs)

Pecans

1/4 c. packed light brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

Grease 11 x 7 baking dish.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Place bread in bottom of baking dish.

Mix eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla.  Pour over the bread and stir to coat.  If mixture seems too dry, add another egg and some milk beaten together.  (You do not have to be precise!)  Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.  (You can refrigerate it overnight as well if you like to do things in advance.)

To make the topping, melt butter in a small saucepan along with the pecans, cinnamon, corn syrup, and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Spoon it over the casserole.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until top is golden.

Bon appétit to all those out there who are thankful.  Keep smiling and Spreading the Kindness.  Wake up early and watch the sunrise!

 

Give Thanks

gratitude-tree

Practice gratitude.  Easily said.  Not so easily done sometimes.  But I try to do this every day.  By nature, I am not a negative person.  EB recently gave me this little gratitude tree. She and Son #1 have one in their apartment. Last time I was there, I noticed that theirs has more leaves on it than mine and that makes me very happy.  Now that I look at mine, so far I have the letter F covered!  When I begin to feel worried or upset, I take deep breaths and try to focus on the good.  This morning’s grateful list in no particular order.

  • My health.  A little neck pain requiring some treatment but nothing debilitating or too serious.  Getting older isn’t for sissies.
  • Two amazing sons finding their way into adulthood and their own happiness.
  • The Ex-Ex. We recently celebrated the anniversary of our first official date. We went to the 30th birthday party of a colleague (who has become a very dear friend and is still a colleague) in 1981.  2016-1981= 35.  Wow.
  • Mama Mildred.  Still my hero.
  • Sister Moo.  More.
  • Technology.  I have the world at the touch of a button or the click of a key.  Amazing.
  • A well-stocked pantry and refrigerator.
  • Leftovers.  Specifically chili and potato soup at the moment.
  • Fall.  It is going to be the perfect day today.  Sunny with a high of 65˚F.  We have had the bluest skies lately.  I actually had to find my ice scraper this morning to get the frost off my windshield for the first time.
  • My friends.  We laugh.  We cry.  We celebrate.  We mourn.
  • My home.  Warm. Dry. Comfortable. Casual.
  • Books.  My escape.
  • My students.  They inspire me, make me laugh, make me want to pull my hair out, keep me young.
  • My comfortable, warm clothes.  All my black dresses.  My black tights.  My Dansko clogs.  My boots.  A great pair of jeans I found at a consignment shop– on sale.  The cashmere sweater I found on get-rid-of-it sale and I had a coupon.
  • Durham.  The town I live in.  Keep it dirty, Durham.  I love you just the way the are.  Great restaurants.  The American Tobacco Trail.  Duke.  The Durham Bulls. DPAC.  Duke Gardens.
  • The student who inspired me (and, more importantly, helped me) to set up this blog. The people who read my blog.  Thank you very much.  Merci beaucoup.

banana-oatmeal-muffins

Oatmeal Banana Muffins

Makes 12

Inspired by Allrecipes

1-1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup Old-Fashioned oatmeal

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup mashed bananas (2 med-sized bananas)

Pre-heat oven to 400˚F.  Line muffin tin with paper cups or coat with cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg slightly with a fork.  Stir in milk, oil, and vanilla.  Add the bananas and mix thoroughly.

Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture just until combined.  Batter will be a bit lumpy.

Divide the batter evenly among the cups.  If desired, sprinkle turbinado sugar mixed with cinnamon over the tops.

Bake 15-18 minutes or until muffins test done.

Bon appétit and practice gratitude and kindness.  It has been an ugly presidential campaign and I am glad it’s over as of today.

 

 

 

The Red Boots of Courage

boots-3

Tomorrow, when I get dressed, I will slip my feet into what I call my Red Boots of Courage.  It’s going to be a long day.  Americans will choose the 45th President of the United States in the 58th election held since we became a country.  All American women have had the right to vote only since 1920. For first the first time in 240 years, we may have a female president. Anyone remember the cigarette campaign, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”?  At least there will be an end to the ugly political ads.

In the spirit of focusing on the positive, I will compose a list of my favorites as of late.

  1.  The potato soup I made for dinner tonight was pretty darned delicious, if I do say so myself.  And easy.

potato-soup

2.  My weekly muffins- banana oatmeal this time.  How else should you use up an overripe stash of bananas?

banana-oatmeal-muffins

3.  American history trivia.  Always interesting.

history-facts

4.  Poetry.  Especially sad poems in French.  My 8th graders are reviewing the passé composé so I thought of Jacques Prévert’s Déjeuner du matin written in 1946. First, I showed them a silent film made about the poem in 2013 by Emmanuel Tenenbaum.  Afterwards, I gave them the words, after asking for ideas about the verbs used in the actual poem.

 

“Déjeuner du matin” by Jacques Prévert
annotated by Maureen Jameson

Il a mis le café
Dans la tasse
Il a mis le lait
Dans la tasse de café
Il a mis le sucre
Dans le café au lait
Avec la petite cuiller
Il a tourné
Il a bu le café au lait
Et il a reposé la tasse
Sans me parler

Il a allumé
Une cigarette
Il a fait des ronds
Avec la fumée
Il a mis les cendres
Dans le cendrier
Sans me parler
Sans me regarder

Il s’est levé
Il a mis
Son chapeau sur sa tête
Il a mis son manteau de pluie
Parce qu’il pleuvait
Et il est parti
Sous la pluie
Sans une parole
Sans me regarder

Et moi j’ai pris
Ma tête dans ma main
Et j’ai pleuré.

http://litgloss.buffalo.edu/prevert/text.shtml

5.  Last weekend’s trip to the mountains.  Linville.

red-leaf

bench

6.  French-themed baby quilt made by Sister Moo for granddaughter-to-be Kennedy

baby-quilt

7.  Knock out roses that I see everyday at school

roses

8.  Humble and Kind, written by Lori McKenna and sung by Tim McGraw.

Pink and red make me happy.  So do Carolina Blue skies and fall.  So, no matter what happens in tomorrow’s election, I will still be able to see the beauty that surrounds me.  I will still have good things to eat, good friends to make me laugh and lend a shoulder to cry on when I need one, good stories to read by incredibly talented writers, good music to listen to, and the ability to experience feelings that run deep and true.  I am, above all, a lucky girl.

Potato Soup

This is a lot of guess work and easy to adapt to serve however many eaters you have.  Nothing could be easier!

Bacon, cut into small, diced pieces

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. butter

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 medium-sized onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

 

Potatoes- Yukon Gold or Russett, washed, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

Chicken or vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

Grated Cheddar Cheese, optional

Heat butter and olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add bacon and fry until well-done and crisp.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.  Set aside.  Add celery and onions, to hot oil and stir to coat.  Sauté until soft.  Drain most of the fat, keeping about one teaspoon.  Add about a cup of broth and heat to boiling, scraping the bottom of the pot, if necessary.  Add potatoes to the mixture.  Pour enough broth over the potatoes to cover them.  Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with bacon and shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Bon appétit to my fellow Americans.  Exercise your right to vote.  Believe in goodness and actively search for it.  Be humble and kind.

There are no coincidences

st-bernadette

One Girlie I am particularly fond of likes to say “Mrs. E, there are no coincidences.  Things happen for a reason.”  I completely agree.  But I am still astounded sometimes when I run across what, on the surface, seem to be totally unrelated facts or events.  Here is what happened to me yesterday.

Saturday, I went up to the mountains to check on Mama Mildred.  She has not been feeling well for a couple of months.  And when Mildred misses Sunday church services it’s serious. Last week, she saw a specialist in Asheville who did blood tests and discovered that her liver is seriously out of whack.  A blood clot maybe?  A tumor?  More tests, a scan, and a biopsy followed.  With a promise from the doctor to call her on Saturday with the results. We waited.  And waited. Mama finally gave up around 9:00pm and went to bed.  She is exhausted all of the time, but she only said that she guessed the results hadn’t come in yet and she was sure he would call on Sunday.  The phone rang at about 30 minutes later. Sister Moo answered. (She and my mom live together.)  Lo and behold, it was the doctor.  It seems that the medication Mama had been taking for an infection has caused liver damage.  Thanks to my friend Google, I found this on WebMD–

This drug may rarely cause serious (possibly fatal) liver disease, blood or nerve problems. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any of the following rare but very serious side effects: persistent nausea/vomiting, dark urine, yellowing of eyes/skin, unusual/persistent fatigue, fast/pounding heartbeat, numbness/tingling of the arms/legs, muscle weakness.

The fine print.  And as I have heard more than one mountain person say “If the sickness don’t kill you, the medicine will.”  I am not that cynical and am thankful for modern medicine, but still…

Mama Mildred will go back for more blood tests this week and enroll in a study through the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill medical school for others like her.  At least her oldest daughter has told her to. The doctor running the study will be in Asheville next week and hopefully she will go meet him.  (If she considers backing out, I will drive back up there, put her in the car and take her my own self.  Not that I am bossy or anything.)

I left Spruce Pine Sunday afternoon and decided to drive back through Linville and Boone instead of down the mountain to Marion and straight to I-40.  I wanted to see the scenery. It is good for my soul to see that stretch of road.  US- 221N and NC-105N.  Mitchell County to Avery County to Watauga County.  Through Linville, at the foot of Grandfather Mountain.

I spent three summers working at Eseeola Lodge in Linville.  They hire college students to work in the summer.  At least they did in the late 70’s and I hope that they still do.  Those were amazing summers.  I worked as a waitress and met some wonderful people.  Mr. Pottle, who ran the Lodge at the time, took me under his raspberry-colored jacketed arm and designated me as waitress to the folks who came and stayed for the summer.  Major and Mrs. Lane particularly stand out in my memory.  She had to have baby gherkins on her table.  Not much of a tipper at the end of the summer, but what a character.  I stopped at the Lodge, now quiet, and wandered around, taking lots of photos, picking up some beautiful red leaves and a couple of rocks.  (The BFF always insists on a rock.)

I got back on highway 105, heading towards Boone, with an eye on the clock and a desire to get home to Durham before dark. But as I drove past St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church something made me turn around and go back.  I had it in my head that this is where my high school French teacher, Mme Buchanan, went to church.  But she attended St. Lucien’s.  Anyway, I drove up the steep drive to the church, just to see what was behind the church.  Maybe a cemetery?   At least a great view of Grandfather Mountain and the Mile High Bridge, if nothing else.

grandfather

I wandered around, went into the chapel dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, said a short prayer, took some photos, and went back to my car.

I left an offering and took a little packet containing a prayer and medal.

st-anthony-prayer

I am not Catholic.  I am a reformed Southern Baptist, as I like to say (but absolutely not in front of Mama Mildred).  I do believe in a higher power or powers.  I think that this Power wants us to help our fellow man and that He/She could care less about our politics or who wins a football game to be perfectly honest.  Mama was raised in a serious Baptist home. She is a bit suspicious of Catholics, but we can’t hold that against her.  She did go to the Catholic church once for my cousin’s son’s baptism. I may not be Catholic, but I light candles in every cathedral I enter and offer up a little prayer for the safety of my loved ones and thanks for the life of Mme Christiane Roze Buchanan, my beloved French teacher.  I filled in the blank of the prayer above with:

“Obtain for me good health for my mama.”  

Short, sweet and to the point, St. Anthony, Saint of Miracles.  He was a Franciscan monk who lived from 1195-1231.  He was canonized only a year after his death.  It seems his body was exhumed 336 years after his death and his tongue was found to be totally intact although the rest of his body was “corrupted.” He was known for his “simple and resounding” teaching and taught occasionally at the universities of Montpellier and Toulouse in my beloved southern France.  He is the patron saint of lost articles and was known for his undying devotion to the poor and sick.  Mama Mildred is both, dear Anthony, so send her some love, please.  How can it be fair that a woman such as my mother can work for at least 50 years of her life, at mostly minimum wage jobs, raise four children plus a mostly lovable but irresponsible alcoholic husband, finally retire and try to live on her social security check?  Answer that one, politicians?  How was she supposed to save for retirement?  You try it and see how easy it is, Senator or Congressman Whomever. Anyway, I digress.  Back to my story.

As I got in my car, I noticed what looked to be a statue across the parking lot.  I decided to walk up and check it out.  It turned out to be a grotto dedicated to St. Bernadette, the namesake of the church.  As I approached it, I realized that this is why I felt the pull to turn my car around and visit this spot.  St. Bernadette of Lourdes.  I have never visited Lourdes, in southwest France near Spain, but I have read about her.

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Bernadette lived from 1844-1879.  She was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933.  She is the patron saint of illness, people ridiculed for their piety, poverty, shepherds and shepherdesses.  Thousands of sick people flock to Lourdes every year, hoping for a miracle cure.  We can’t make the trip to Lourdes, but it felt rather holy at this grotto yesterday, as I lit a candle and said a prayer.

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As I researched Bernadette this morning, I found the quote below, written by Dr. Comte upon the 1928 exhumation of Bernadette’s body.  He published his findings in the Bulletin de l’Association medicale de Notre-Dame de Lourdes.  A coincidence?  I don’t think so.

“What struck me during this examination, of course, was the state of perfect preservation of the skeleton, the fibrous tissues of the muscles (still supple and firm), of the ligaments, and of the skin, and above all the totally unexpected state of the liver after 46 years. One would have thought that this organ, which is basically soft and inclined to crumble, would have decomposed very rapidly or would have hardened to a chalky consistency. Yet, when it was cut it was soft and almost normal in consistency. I pointed this out to those present, remarking that this did not seem to be a natural phenomenon.”

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pumpkin muffin (baked in a jack o’lantern mold) with apple butter from The Orchard at Altapass.  Yum!

Bon appétit and Happy Halloween to all.  All Saints Day, Toussaint, is tomorrow.  Say a prayer for Mama Mildred or send up good thoughts to whatever higher power you believe in.  

Let them eat brioche?

**Update October 25, 2016

Sometimes the most wonderful things happens when you write a blog. You make new friends.  And you realize that people really do read what you write.  I write this blog this for me, but if I can reach just a few others who have the same interests I do, then I feel so grateful and just plain old happy.  After I posted this one, I got the following unexpected email:

Looking for a yummy breakfast recipe for this weekend, I came across your blog about adventures in life, food, and travel and your brioche recipe, I enjoy your post and most of all thank you for the recipe, I will definitely try it!
I also read an interesting subject on your blog about Marie-Antoinette. (From Tuesday, October 16, 2012, you pasted back on Let them eat brioche? October 16, 2016).
This reminds me of my work, I work as an e-translator in the e-tourism sector at Seine Saint Denis Tourism Board Paris Ile de France. I translate and updated every week on a regular basis plenty of tourist information for international visitors! I love to socialize, and tackle ideas, talk to visitors from wherever they are in the world ….making my contribution to the fabric of e-community
As I translated some pages which included M.A (…..The statue shows some anachronistic details about the Empire-inspired dress worn by Marie-Antoinette. The former Abbey of Saint Denis is witness to centuries of the spiritual, political and artistic history of France, a masterpiece of gothic art and final resting place of the kings and Queens of France….).
So referring to your post, I would be very grateful if you can paste some links,
as I think it would be helpful to future visitors of the Gothic Basilica of Saint Denis http://uk.tourisme93.com/basilica/louis-xvi-and-marie-antoinette.html or to locate Marie-Antoinette tombstone on this map http://uk.tourisme93.com/basilica/map-of-the-tombs-saint-denis-basilica.html; and also know more and get practical information to plan their visit.
Thank you for your time and consideration, do contact me if you have any questions or for any information on Paris for your blogs.

How cool is that?  I am very happy to post the links and maybe I have made a new friend!  It makes me realize that I need to go back to the Basilica of Saint Denis and spend more time looking around.  I never miss the opportunity to photograph a statue of St. Denis carrying his head on his way to Christian land to breathe his last breath.

In Senlis-

senlis

In Montmartre–

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montmartre

At Notre Dame de Paris–

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Merci, Camille!

I looked at today’s paper and saw that it was on this day in 1793 that Marie Antoinette lost her head.  Literally.  In front of a crowd of bloodthirsty Parisians who had gathered for the day’s festivities.  223 years ago.  My first thought was… I should blog about M.A.  Even go back to my orange brioche recipe that I worked on over and over when I first moved to Arles.  Well, fans, seems I have already done that.  Oui.  A few years ago.  So… I will just copy and paste it from the old blog.  But I might dust off that orange brioche recipe and give it another try.  It really is good.  Oh- and I still haven’t come up with the headless Halloween costume yet.  This year’s costume is already in the works and that’s not it. Maybe next year?  L’année prochaine peut-être?  On verra.

Bon appétit!  

From Tuesday, October 16, 2012

 

Marie Antoinette at age 13 by Martin van Meytens, 1767.
Well, boys and girls, tonight I was looking forward to a nice quiet evening of gubernatorial and presidential debates.  But what should I see when I get to the “Today in History” section of the local newspaper?  Today is the 219th anniversary of the death of Marie Antoinette.  She lost her head on October 16, 1793 in what is now the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Marie was just short of her 38th birthday.  Her body was tossed into an unmarked grave but exhumed in 1815 and taken to the Basilica of Saint Denis for a proper Christian burial.
I visited her gravesite last March.
She is also immortalized in stone in Saint Denis, alongside her husband, Louis XVI.
Funerary monument to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette,
sculptures by Edme Gaulle and Pierre Petitot in the Basilica of St Denis
(I have developed quite a thing for statues lately.)
Some Marie Antoinette facts…
— She was the 15th child of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.
— At her home court, she was encouraged to play with the “commoners” and was allowed to wander the gardens and have pets.  The atmosphere was much more relaxed than it was in France.  She tried to recreate this later at the Petit Trianon and her little farm, le petit Hameau, but she was not very successful.  It is a cool place to visit, though, and where I saw my first “wild” boar.  (If you find yourself at Versailles in nice weather, rent a bike and ride around the grounds– a great way to see everything without wearing yourself out and spending all of your time walking.)
— She didn’t take her education very seriously and had lousy handwriting.
Her signature:
However, she was a good singer and dancer, could speak Italian and French in addition to her native German, was fairly proficient in English, was a decent artist, and had great poise– a queen in training, wouldn’t you say?
— Maria Antonia, as she was called, had crooked teeth and the French didn’t care for that so before her marriage, she had to have very painful oral surgery to correct her smile and bring her up to queenly snuff.  No braces back in the day.
— After all the marriage negotiations, she was finally wed by proxy in Vienna.  Her brother stood in for the bridegroom who couldn’t make the trip, I guess.  She was handed over to the French at the age of 15 and headed for the palace of Versailles where another wedding ceremony took place.  The mystery surrounding the consummation of the marriage plagued the newlyweds for years.  A marriage of convenience?  Perhaps the future king of France had problems?
— Her mom was hyper-critical and her husband was not very affectionate.  She turned to shopping and gambling.  However, she did seem to get tired of fancy petticoats and lots of make-up and helped change fashion.
From this
To this
— She birthed four children, two sons and two daughters, but one daughter lived less than a year.
–“Let them eat cake.”  Did she really say this?  Supposedly, upon being told that the peasants had no bread to eat, she quipped that they could eat brioche, a sweeter bread than the usual baguette.
— There is a fascinating story about The Diamond Necklace Affair at this website.  I can’t possibly retell it and do it justice.  Just click and read on.  It was the undoing of Marie Antoinette.
As I attempted to write this post about Queen Marie Antoinette, I quickly realized that I had barely scratched the surface and that I am very ignorant about her.  I’ve seen the 2006 movie, Marie Antoinette, starring Kristin Dunst and didn’t care for it.  I just read a story about the attempted escape from Paris by the royal family in the book Parisians:  An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb.
I have this book in my bookcase but have not read it.
It has now been placed just under the Graham Robb book and is next on my list.
For the past four years (since spending Halloween in France and not dressing up), I have considered dressing up as her for Halloween.  I think that this is a sign that the time has come.  I have two weeks to get that costume pulled together.  Got any good suggestions?
Also while living in France, I decided to try to learn to make a decent brioche à l’orange.  The B&B guests were served quite a bit of it.  I discovered that it makes great French toast, too. I tried several different recipes and blogged about it here and here.
Brioche #1
broiche1
1 tsp sugar (or honey)
2 packages yeast (or 5 tsp)
4 eggs
1/2 c. warm milk (110 F)
4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c + 2 Tbsp butter
1 egg yolk, beaten (for glaze)
orange flavoring (optional)
1 c. dried apricots (optional)- snip and add to dough during the second risingStir sugar into warm milk and sprinkle in yeast. Wait 5 minutes. Sift flour and salt together. Melt butter and cool slightly. Lightly beat butter and eggs into yeast mixture. Add orange flavoring. Add 2 cups flour and then slowly add more until a dough forms and you can knead in enough to make a smooth dough. Cover and let rise 60 minutes in a warm place. Grease small or large brioche pans. Take 3/4 of the dough and shape into balls. Use the remaining 1/4 to make small ones to place on top of the larger ones. Place in baking pans. Brush brioche with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar. Let rise another 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown.

brioche-2
Brioche #2
My (Nearly) Perfect Orange Brioche Recipe
(found on the back of a package of yeast in France and slightly modified…)1/4 lb (one stick) of softened butter
1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs (at room temperature)
1/4 c. warm water
one package active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm milk
orange flavoring
2-3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
apricot or strawberry preserves
sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
Mix the butter, eggs, sugar, warm milk and orange flavoring. I have sweet orange essential oil that I bought at Florame (www.florame.com) and I use 4-5 drops of it. I know that you can find orange flavoring at the supermarket.
Add the yeast mixture and mix.
Add the combined flour and salt. Add enough flour to have a dough that you can knead (not too sticky).
Turn onto a flour covered surface and knead for about 5 minutes or so.
Place in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a warm place to rise. My microwave is above the stove and is a great place. Allow to rise for 2 hours.
Turn onto a flour covered surface again and knead for another 5 minutes. Shape however you wish– into rolls, two small loaves or one large one. Place in pans.
Cover again and allow to rise for 2 more hours.
After the second rising, you can bake or you can put it in the refrigerator overnight and bake the next morning (allow the dough to come to room temperature before baking).
Brush with the egg yolk and bake at 400F for about 20-30 minutes. Baking time will depend upon the shape of your brioche. Rolls take a shorter time. Adjust the oven, if necessary, lowering the temperature a bit if it seems to be baking too fast or if your oven tends to be on the hot side.
After baking, while still warm, brush with preserves (you can warm them in the microwave so that they brush easily- I have also used orange juice at this point, when I didn’t have any preserves) and then sprinkle lightly with sugar. I have mixed orange essence in with the sugar before sprinkling to give it more orange flavor. As you can see, I have played around with this recipe. It is wonderful hot from the oven. It makes really good French toast when it is a couple of days old and a bit stale. It is also good sliced and toasted. It is not very sweet. French pastries and desserts are not as sweet as American ones.
Enjoy! And please let me know if you make it and something just doesn’t work or you make a modification that helps! It isn’t perfect yet! A work in progress!

Back to the present… Sunday, October 16, 2016
I have now looked through my Arles photos from 2007 and 2008 on my trusty MacBook and am feeling rather nostalgic.  Did I really do that?  Was that really me living another life en français in the south of France?  Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it.  It was a rocky road that got me there.  Separation.  Divorce.  Leaving my friends and children behind.  But I have to believe that things happen for a reason.  I needed that time in France to find myself.  I was lost.  I didn’t feel needed here.  Just reliving those feelings brings tears to my eyes.  The guilt still builds up from time to time, but I find it easier to let it wash over me for a few seconds or minutes (instead of hours as it used to) and then let it go.  I have had some professional help with that, mes amis.  And I surrounded by people who support me and love me just the way I am.  That’s the crucial piece.  As my children have gotten older, I think they are better able to understand.  I hope so.  I still, and will always, consider myself a lucky woman.
How about a few happy photos?
The kitchen in Arles
arles-kitchen
The Sabbatical Chef 2007 (I kept the apron and still wear it every time I cook)- making crêpes for breakfast
the-sabbatical-chef

Breakfast table at the B&B- home made jams, bread and granola, Cavaillon melon, Sophie’s honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, plates and cups from a local potter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Deboning a duck- the beginning of my love affair with duck and foie gras
duck
At the Pont du Gard on a windy fall day
pont-du-gard
The Sabbatical Chef 2016
The hair color may have changed, but I am still the same green-eyed lover of France and everything French…
school-photo-16-17
Bon appétit, Marie Antoinette!
Many, many thanks to everyone who loved and supported me then and who loves and supports me now.  I couldn’t do it without you. Life is an adventure, n’est-ce pas?.
 
My source:

Kindness

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Quote:  Audrey Hepburn  Photo credit:  not sure- I found it on Oui, Oui Je Parle Franglais’s FB page

I am, quite truthfully, so undone by this presidential election and the ugliness that it has brought to the forefront of almost every waking moment of our lives in the United States, that I find myself in a state of unbelief that this is actually happening.  I look at the photo above, pretend it’s me, and daydream myself to a happy place where all I have to do is gaze at the Eiffel Tower and keep my hat from blowing away should a gust of wind come up suddenly. (My French friends accuse me of romanticizing their country and I am guilty as charged.  But I am not French so I do not have to worry about their next president the way I do as an American. I apologize to them if that sounds callous.  I do not mean it that way.  I have trouble understanding politics here where we only have 2 major parties.  France is way over my head! Noticing the Communist party headquarters at the end of the street I lived on in Arles shocked me beyond belief in 2005.)

I am not overly political active.  I started being aware of politics in 1968 when Richard Nixon was elected as our 37th president.  In 1972, my dad got me involved in the North Carolina gubernatorial race.  Daddy was a dyed in the wool Republican, like his father before him, Papa George.  James Holshouser vs Hargrove “Skipper” Bowles.  Holshouser, from Boone, in the mountains of NC, won.  It gave me great pride to realize I had helped in some small way.  And I actually shook Gerald Ford’s hand when he was running for election (he came to Spruce Pine and Mama Mildred took me to the small landing strip there to meet him).  Ford became president after the resignations of Nixon and his vice president, Spiro Agnew.  He was defeated by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 race, serving as president for only 895 days.

I have since turned to the dark side, as my dad used to say (not quite his language), changed party affiliations and become a Damn Democrat, to use his real words.  I took great pleasure calling him up to tell him I had cancelled out his votes for Jesse Helms each year he ran for yet another term in the Senate.  When Trump first was mentioned as a presidential candidate, I thought it was a joke.  I seriously did.  I thought that the Republicans were holding him up as a possibility and then they would introduce their real candidate.  Joke’s on me, I guess.  I have tried to stay away from the TV ads, I watched the first debate and then swore off, I keep my mouth shut in my classroom around my students, and just generally shake my head in disbelief about the whole thing.  How have we sunk so low?  It’s a good thing Daddy is not alive for this election.  We would not be on speaking terms, I fear.

In the interest of preserving this video and knowing where I will always be able to find it, I am posting a tribute to our two-term president, Mr. Barack Obama.

Published on Oct 7, 2016

Because of the lyrics of the song “Don’t Go” by Jon Tarifa, Spiros Lena was inspired to make a tribute video for the coolest President the world has ever seen!– from the Facebook of NEXT Studio.

I smiled as tears rolled down my face the first time I watched this.  And each time since.  My thoughts on FB when I shared the video:

How can anyone dislike this man and say mean things about him? Mr. Obama, my President for the past eight years, I am in mourning for our country as we head into the final stretch of this election year. Thank you for your kindness, your strength, your compassion, your dignity and the grace that you brought to your office. It may be a long time before the United States has another leader of your caliber. If anyone reads this and disagrees with me, that is their right, but I would ask them not to disrespect my feelings. May we continue to fight against prejudice and corruption in our government and in our own private lives. Keep smiling and dancing, Barack!

 

So where does kindness fit in?  After watching the video and seeing many acts of kindness performed by President Obama, I then read a petition posted by Molly Barker, a woman I have met and heard speak.  If you have heard of Girls on the Run or The Red Boot Coalition, she is the force behind them.  I admire her willingness to get involved and to speak her mind.  Molly, too, is concerned about how ugly and just plain nasty this campaign has become.  She has started a petition, My Promise to You After the Election.

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It can be found here.  I think that it is at least worth your time to read.

I will wear my red boots when I go to vote, Molly.

It is now dinner time.  I am reheating a delicious dish delivered to my doorstep by Son #1 via my future daughter-in-law EB.  And I am hungry for something good.  It’s from Bull Street Gourmet Market and Café where EB works.  I am addicted to their food and drinks.

dinner

Bon appétit and bon week-end à tous!  Be kind.

“News is bad for you”

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photo credit:  Amanda Whitlock

“And giving up reading it will make you happier.”  The Guardian

I admit to being semi-addicted to Facebook.  I get up every morning, make my hot lemon tea water, start the coffee brewing, and open up the computer.  My day just doesn’t seem to start off right without reading Sean Dietrich‘s daily post.  I get up an hour earlier than I really need to so that I can have that cup of hot water, check emails and get all the morning news I need via emails from friends and Sean.  With a healthy dose of food porn, cute photos like the one above of Steve, a New Zealand cat, and his herd of lambs. Or this one of Major, the Durham bull, dressed as the Durham Academy Cavalier.

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photo credit:  Melody Butts, with help from Tim McKenna and Leslie King

But this past Monday night, thanks to Son #1 and the thought that I should be a better informed Américaine, I watched the first presidential debate.  Huge, major, God-awful mistake on my part.  I even sat with my trusty laptop on my lap following fact-checkers. Instead of looking at cat photos. Before the debate, Son #1 hooked up the Apple TV and brought up HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, a show he is addicted to and has been nagging me to watch for a couple of months.  (This, my friends, is a great way to get the top news stories of the week and laugh at the same time.  Don’t watch it, though, if you object to cursing.  It is HBO after all and they say whatever they want to for those willing to pay less than Time Warner charges for cable and the ridiculous stuff on nightly primetime TV.)  Anyway, I should NEVER have watched that debate.  I should have respected my usual early bedtime (which allows me that extra hour to goof off in the morning) and called it a night.  Let’s just say that because I decided to stay up until 10:45 pm and be “better informed” my week did not start well.  Tuesday morning found me uncharacteristically grouchy.  A 9 on a scale of 0-10.  I am sure that my colleagues at the 7:25 am team meeting noticed.  I know that my advisees did because I walked away from our morning circle time.  They couldn’t come up with answers to whatever my question-of-the-day was and I didn’t feel up to cajoling them.  So I walked away without a word.  Took attendance instead.  All day long I just could not shake the “Our country is going to hell in a hand basket” feeling that had settled over me.  I posted on my FB page:

Trying to find calm this morning. I cannot control or fix the things I am most concerned about. I will not watch any more political debates or ads on TV. I do not want to discuss it either. Deep breaths.

Bless all of my friends who then commenced to worrying about me.  Iron Woman, my dear friend who loves France almost as much as I do and may have been Jeanne d’Arc in another life, brought me a Chai latte.  (She knows my weaknesses.)  We went to dinner on Tuesday and I was beginning to feel a bit better about the world after a dish of house made pasta at The Boot and a glass of Pinot Grigio.  Mostly it was the conversation and the chance to laugh with this dear girl.  We both desperately want to have our DNA tested and find out if we are any percentage French.

mont-saint-michel

Mont Saint Michel 2012

Another friend brought me an apple fritter– a sinfully delicious pastry with cinnamon and apples.  I didn’t even take a photo of it.  But I did manage to make it last for three days and I savored every crumb.

One other friend sent a private message to ask me if I am okay.  I answered back that I am, but that I have sworn off politics and debates.  I will vote.  I will volunteer to get folks here in Durham registered to vote, but other than that, I am done.  What will happen will happen, n’est-ce pas?  It is what it is.  C’est comme ça.

By Wednesday, I was less grouchy, maybe a 6 on the grouchy scale.  I had plans to go to a wine dinner at Pompieri Pizza with Arles Lucy.  We love the special dinners at PP and Bull City Burger and Brewery.

st-emilion

St. Emilion 2008

I have to admit, however, that I didn’t really feel up to it.  I thought about texting Arles Lucy (on the left above) and asking her to find a replacement to go with her.  I am so incredibly glad I didn’t.  You know how sometimes you don’t think that you are going to have fun at a party or whatever and you have an amazing time.  The San Marzano Wine Dinner was exactly what I needed.  Great food, great wine, even greater company.  Before I begin with the feast, I have to say that I know that I am a very lucky eater.  I am constantly amazed by how lucky I am.  And very grateful.

menu

To quote directly from the menu:

POMPIERI PIZZA welcomes Cantine San Marzano and special guest Salvatore Ricciardi, vineyard owner and sales and marketing manager for San Marzano winery. In 1962, nineteen vine growers from San Marzano, whose families had farmed the land for generations, combined their efforts to establish “Cantine San Marzano.” The winery is located in Apulia, in the heart of the acclaimed d.o.p. “Primitivo di Manduira” area.  This strip of land between two seas, the Ionian and the Adriatic, in the province of Taranto and Brindisi,  is where vines and olive trees flourish side by side on the red soil surface, much like North Carolina’s red clay.

sal-and-seth2

  1. Amuse-bouche

beet

Beet Cube with Jalapeño, House Made Honey Mascarpone and Monte Iblei Olive Oil  Frizzante Lambrusco

A certain someone sitting directly across from me was heard to say that she could easily eat seven of these.

And Seth, owner and punster, said “You can’t beat that first course.” hahaha

2. Anti Pasta

kale

Persimmons and Apples with Aged Cheese, Kale Salad  2014 San Marzano Savignon-Malvasia “Il Pumo” Salento IGP

3. Pasta

ravioli

Fall Butternut Squash Ravioli Pillow with Lemon Ash, Tiny Farm Arugula, and Salted Pecans in a Butternut Broth  2014 San Marzano Negroamaro “Il Pumo” Salento IGP

(Negroamaro means black and black- in Latin and Greek  Merci, Salvatore!)

I did not lick the bowl clean, but I thought about it…

soup-gone

4. Fish

tuna

tomato

NC Coastline Caught Yellow Fin Tuna with a Fennel Crust, Smoked Pedach Jam, Roasted Tomato and Charred Carrot Ragú  2013 San Marzano Primitivo “Il Pumo” Salento IGP

5. Meat

lamb

Local Leg of Lamb with a Rich Red BBQ Sauce, Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Potatoes, and Mustard Greens   2013 San Marzano Primitivo di Manduria “Talò” DOP

There was another wine sampled served after this one.  A special anniversary wine?  A different vintage?  The details totally escape me at the moment.  It was an extra treat.  Grazie, Seth and Salvatore!

6. Dessert

dessert

Zeppole (fried dough) with Goat Cheese Granita  Americano Cocktail

As I was served my dessert, I was told that I got the one with the most chocolate.  I am special that way.

sal-me-jinn

I had fun sitting next to Salvatore.  Quite the charming, handsome Italian.  He told his daughter that Seth had closed the restaurant early because a celebrity was coming.  She texted back calling him the Italian Justin Bieber.  (We had to explain who that is.)  Jin served the wine impeccably.

Salvatore made the rounds and addressed the group, explaining his wines and the growing region.

sal-and-jill

“Easy to drink.  Respect the characteristic of the grape.”

When we started trying to figure out which wine we liked the best and why (Do I really have to choose??), Salvatore said “When you can’t describe it, it’s love.”

I loved every bite and sip.  I also loved meeting Heather and Jill from Habitat for Humanity, who sat across from Arles Lucy and me.

heather-and-jill

I love my BFF for being herself as well as a great server.  Doesn’t she look beautiful in her Villeneuve-lez-Avignon market ruffles?  I love Arles Lucy for always making me laugh and for always being up for an adventure.  We’ve had some great ones.

yo-and-mpk

What a delicious night.  Thank you, Seth and Chef Jeff (sadly no photo of him- we haven’t even been properly introduced yet.)

I solemnly swear to stay away from the news and to stick to uplifting activities involving my friends and family.  And good food, bien sûr.

flowers

Bon appétit to all cookers, eaters, and wine makers!