Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Dinner

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday's Petite Aquarelle

Rosey Tints
Merry Christmas to Friends and Family!
Not a white Christmas here, but the landscape is beautiful and reflects the changing light of short December days. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Small Dog New Friends

Making friends as a small dog has it’s own strategies and risk. 
BonBon, the border collie, loves to retrieve sticks, herd exercise balls and chase cars. Jolie has never retrieved anything, is afraid of balls that might roll on top of her and hopefully has the fear of god in her concerning anything to do with cars. 
NusuNusu is sleek, black, leaps like a gazelle and is as fleet as the wind. She’s part greyhound. Jolie is 10 inches tall and can barely see over a dandelion much less fields of winter wheat.
Louie is a golden retriever puppy and well, she’s a golden retriever puppy. Jolie hates puppies. She sits in a corner crouching and drooling until someone takes pity on her and holds her in their arms or we go back to home sweet home.
We had cats when Jolie was a puppy so she was brought up as a cat. Not a nice thing to do to a small dog that will later be moved to France where dogs do indeed rule.
Luckily her first friend here was an old reliable yellow lab, Duka. He cracked walnuts for her on slow, lumbering walks, stood at the end of the dinner table looking adorable and begging with her, and taught her how to worry about and bark at puppies.

She has yet to be introduced to a small dog of her size and lack-of-interest level. She sure does miss her ol’ friends Ruby the Jack Russell and Onyx the laconic black lab, back in Vermont- I wonder if they can be paw pals?
PS-- If you think the next blog entry will be about Tom and his new friends... well you know better than that! So far I’ve had three people say to me “well I saw Tom whiz by on his tractor”, “I saw Tom whoosh by in the car”, “I saw Tom zipping up the hills on his scooter”.  The same old Tom, as elusive as ever........

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jolie's New Friends

"Hey, look who I met!"

Friday, December 17, 2010

Les Petites Aquarelles

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Making Connections in Bourdeilles

Being connected is essential to me. I knew that upon arriving in Bourdeilles full time it would be important to find ways to connect with the people around me. No longer would it be the casual Bonjour of a second home owner, but a Bonjour with a heartfelt hello, how are you?, and what do you think of this weather? 
Now this will sound stupid, but it’s true:  all French people look alike to me.
I have found that the only way around this is to meet people in small groups. Four people at the most. Then I can easily see that they do in fact have different distinguishing characteristics. The small group setting also lets me find something special about each person’s personality and their interests. 
Looking for small groups, I found my first one composed of gardeners. This was perfect for me. Not much French was needed for me to express how I could help, how I am capable, and how I am eager to jump right in.  I could  even show off a little bit of my horticultural knowledge. Thank goodness for latin botanical names.
Now Christmas is here. It also has a universal language. Decorations, trees, lights, Christmas Bazaars and food. It just took one person from the gardening group to give me an entree into the decorating group. We had a fun afternoon cutting ribbons and counting out exactly how many of each decoration we would put on the town christmas trees the following day. When the conversation got moving I was often lost, but I was content to be there holding a string and trying to hold onto the flow of words at the same time. The next day we headed to the streets to decorate the trees. Some of the faces were the same with just two or three new people to meet. Just what I was looking for! Out in the cold we laughed at how charming the trees were turning out. 

Today was the Christmas Bazaar and my new acquaintances introduced me to many people. And they don’t all look the same! I have broken into the interconnecting town circles enough to know this: even though I won’t yet remember everyone’s name, they will remember me as the funny American woman and say Bonjour to me as we pass at the bakery or on the street.  And I know that our Bonjours will come in earnest, from the heart. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Market, Bourdeilles, France

"Why did I think the Christmas Market would be any different?"

Friday, December 10, 2010

Les Petites Aquarelles

A cheery corner at the market.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On leaving the bakery....

The biggest daily reward for patience comes after waiting in line in the warm,  toasty, yeasty bakery for your daily baguette. The best moment of the day has arrived. As you exit the bakery with the door bells tinkling, you raise the baguette like a baton and tear off the tip of the baguette. The crusty, well cooked, almondy morsel is glory in your mouth. Oh what a moment of complete bliss. A moment lost in the pure joy of taste. All magnified by the walk home under a medieval skyline, lost in the feeling of being in another world. 
Adding to this sense of jubilation is knowing that you have just done something that,at any other time, would be the greatest transgression against polite French society.  You just ate something while walking down the street.
Some cultures treat food as fuel.  The French treat food as cause for worship. The proper worship of food can only take place in restaurants or homes.  Never on the street.  Except for baguettes! There is only one way to worship the baguette-- taste it while it is very fresh. Chew worshipfully and slowly because this one exception to the rule has strict limits. You may only eat one bite of one end. You may not eat more than this.  If you eat a second bite you risk hearing these two words from a passerby: “Bon appetite.”  These words are meant as a sincere blessing for your enjoyment of a meal if you are in a restaurant or at home.  Heard on the street, this two words, accompanied by a wagging finger, mean “Ahah! Gotcha!”  
Perhaps this is why the feet moving towards home and away from the bakery are always livelier than the feet heading into it.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Le Bout du Baguette

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


There must be some 'legal' ones.
Walnuts. Just go to the store and buy them right? Not in Bourdeilles! We live in the walnut capital of the world. These walnuts are shipped to Paris, Japan, anywhere where a gourmand’s taste can afford the best.
Surrounded by these wonderful trees Tom and I have a problem. We do not have a yard which means we most certainly do not have any walnut trees. We love walnuts. Have you ever had fresh walnuts on a salad drizzled with a walnut oil dressing? 
We could easily remedy this problem. We must walk past 20 trees on our evening walks. The ground is littered with beautiful golden walnuts. Just carry along a sack and fill it up right. Absolutely not. Unlike in the States with no trespassing signs every where we are allowed to walk on almost any property that we want. There are trails that traverse all the corners of France. We use our fair share of them. These properties remain open to the public because of the politesse that is part of french life. One may covet the apples, peaches, or walnuts passed on these walks, but they are not to be touched with out an explicit invitation.
There is however a small twist to this. Of all the hundreds of walnut trees along the roads, and the thousands of fallen walnuts sprinkled around the landscape, only some may be taken. If the tempting fruit is in the public right of way it is fair game. Our problem is that we find ourselves in the moral dilemma of defining the limits of the public right of way. Is it the mowed edge that the town maintains? Is it the ditch that is just on ‘our’ side of the fence? If that field is untended and the nuts have been laying there for days and days couldn’t we just fill our pockets and then move on? Funny how even normally rigid rule followers find their arms stretching just as far as they can go while our feet, well heels, rest on the path.
For 5 weeks we have collected a few walnuts that lay in our path. Our bulging pockets at the end of the daily walk could lead to questioning stares, but we time our walks to take us through the village at dusk. Slowly our bucket has filled up and we are now in the process of drying them over the woodstove. Time will tell if we have enough to get us through until the next season. Maybe by this time next year we will have found someone that needs help collecting their harvest and will let us crossover the right of way and finally, legally, into the field.

Here, right on the edge.

It's a good one.

Might have to share a few with Jolie.

Staking keeps most of the nuts over the farmers property and out of the road.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gathering Walnuts

Ok Honey, the coast is clear.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Village Guards

Upon entering a nearby village my presence was announced to all.....


and then

and on the other side of the village.....

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Trip to the Bank

On Monday I went to the bank, but only an American would do that. Banks, and most businesses, are not open on Monday. 
I went to the bank on Tuesday. They were open, but did I have an appointment? No. 
Wednesday I arrived for my 3:30 rendezvous.  I had a lovely meeting with one of the managers and on my way out I realized I was ‘holding’ everyone up as it was after 4:00 and they close for the day at 4:00.

During all of this our car was at the garage and I was making the 22km round trip by bike. These pictures are of my route between Bourdeilles and Brantome.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Festival de la Recoup

Every village has an autumn festival. Celebrations of the walnut, chestnut, pumpkin, grape. Here in Bourdeilles we celebrate junk. 

That’s not really true. The celebration is called the Festival de la Recoup and it is a festival to call attention to how we can reuse objects and be mindful of what we waste.
This celebration starts off with a morning of apple ‘picking’. Not the first harvest of the season, but the second pass, picking up windfall apples. Apples easily gathered off the ground and perfect for apple juice.  

Children participate and see that juice comes right from the fruit not a jar. Pressed right in front of their eyes by their moms and friends. A fresh cup of cider from the stream pouring out of the press.

Then there is a
vide de grenier, empty the attic, better known as a yard sale. ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’ And it’s a hoot to see what gets swapped around.

The artist of our village also show off their creativity with found items. Creating fantastical creatures and giving them homes in amazing locations.

The Festival de la Recoup is finished off with a couscous dinner with local vegetables and organic wine from neighboring small vineyards. In the end it always comes back to food and wine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Festival de la Recoup

Hey Mom look what I found.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


We love those village bells. They give a comforting rhythm to the day. But, on our return to Bourdeilles this fall something was amiss. The bells were off an hour, sometimes more than that, and they did their “crazy bells” at random times. 
Finally several weeks into our new lives the bells are back to their reassuring, regimented performance. Maybe they were off kilter in solidarity with our slow, sometimes confused, march into the rhythms of our new community.
----extra extra--- we succeeded in getting our official Visas  yesterday - and THE CONTAINER ARRIVED TODAY! Let the crazy bells ring out!!!