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Tongue in Cheek
Provence, France
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This time is different. This time coming back it doesn't feel like the other times. When I got off the plane I felt like I was home. The only thing missing were those I love that do not live next to me, and the landscape around my Mother's house. Everything in Provence was familiar: Yann's embrace, the taste of wine, bread and cheese, the sounds, the colors, the light, our home, dishes, garden and bed. The emotional experience of coming back gets heavier. It is what it is: Goodbyes are not enjoyable. In fact they suck. The thing about being a child is (most likely) we see our parents grow older. There is a sting in seeing one cycle end and another begin. Whether the transition is happy or sad, letting go means just that... letting go. The lump in my throat has a way of lumping every emotional moment in my life. You would think at 58 I would have a better grip! Separating past from present is easier said than done especially when they are similar... Saying goodbye is not high on my list of things I like to do. In the past I shoved my feelings down below the bruise that constantly reminded me that I left my family to join Yann in France. Not because I did not want to be here, rather it was too hard to hold on to both at the same time. This time when I left my mom I cried for quite sometime while my brother Mark drove me to the airport. And when he dropped me off I started to bawl as he drove away. The airline hostess at the check-in desk asked if I needed to sit down? Or was there someone I could call? I just shook my head and gave her my ticket. Years ago my parents and I decided that they could not bring me to the airport when I left Willows because it was too brutal on us. From that day on a relative, or friend dropped me off at the airport. And so it was extra hard this time as my brother Mark was there, and he cries as easily as I do, which means we could end a drought if we wanted to. Paint your life beautiful. Paint it with the brush at hand. Grab it, hold it, and paint. Splatter, wide brush... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Tongue in Cheek
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As I boarded Air France the airline hostess said, "Bonjour Madame!" After thirty years of doing this back and forth, from one country to another, one family to the other, one heart string to another, one would think I had this figured out. But no, it still stings, it still catches me in the middle of it all. Poof just like that I started to tucked my time in Willows neatly in my heart. Tears gushed as I said, "Bonjour" in return. It is often like that for me when going and coming, to and fro to California to France, one home to the other. From the airplane I watched San Francisco fade away down below, we flew into the rolling fog which obscured the view. Into the fog my thoughts and feelings went as my feet lifted from my roots into the surreal world of flying from one side of the world to the other. The little boy behind me kicked my seat steadily, no matter how many times I asked him and his parents to please be mindful; to no avail. I did not sleep which is odd since I can sleep anywhere, instead I binged watched movies, had my back roughly massaged as fog rolled into the darkness of evening. Water, land, cityscape. My English is far better than my French, the French person who sat next to me started a conversation... I could see a funnel in my mind's eye above it my English vocabulary trickled through reducing my French vocabulary to a fourth. Not that I translate while I speak, but the limitation is daunting after gibbering record speed in English for a month. The French person complimented my French, I smiled knowing inside if she knew I had lived in France for thirty years she would have responded differently. C'est la vie. One horizon to the next. French Husband was there to greet me, his embrace was everything: Loving, familiar, comfortable, mine. Coming home was all of that too. Plus the reality that those I also love live in another place and time. All is good, with a tinge of sadness that will resolve itself along with the nine hour time change. ----- xoxo Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Tongue in Cheek
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Arrived home. Barely awake. Thank you for your Bonvoyage wishes! Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Tongue in Cheek
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Goodbye Homeland, Bittersweet goodbye. Good bye Buttes outside my childhood bedroom window. Goodbye golden days, harvested fields, amber leaves, geese that fly by... Good bye Mom and her kitchen of home made goodness. Chocolate chip cookies, sweet bread and early morning waffles. Good bye warm embrace. Good bye boys. Who play, and ride and have a rough and tumble growing friendship. Amaro blood. Goodbye walks in the field. Brother's humor, laughter, cold beer, girls with long hair, days that fly bye. Goodbye Erika, sweet dearest friend of thirty some years. Goodbye friends, Aunts, cousins and my dear Godmother who I did not get to see! Good bye pomegranate tree, walnut orchards, golden days of Autumn. Goodbye family. Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Tongue in Cheek
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Several years ago my five younger nieces started cutting their beautiful thick hair, Molly had hers cut to chin level. As my hair was short at the time, and hadn't been long since my late twenties, I came up with a plan, a long hair contest. Each year when I came home we would see who had the longest hair. Kate the youngest, nor Gina, nor I ever won either. Usually Maci with her curly hair won, Marie and Molly won. Now Molly's hair is soooooo long and thick it is amazing, none of us stand a chance. Last year we decided to keep our hair long, but not to have contests. Most of us cut our hair to our shoulders or there of. That is long enough. From left to right: Marie, Maci, Gina, Molly and Kate. Patti and Chelsea are missing they are the oldest two in our family. The following is the from 2012 when we started the contest: My five youngest nieces and I have a standing contest to see whose hair is the longest each time I come home to visit. Last March I was in third place. But since I am the oldest my hair doesn't seem to grow as fast, nor as long as theirs. I think I should have a handicap of five inches extra per six months. But they said no go. The Longest Hair contest started over eighteen months ago when I noticed that my nieces were cutting their hair shorter and shorter. First to their shoulders and then to their chin... I had to do something, you see long hair to means young and staying young is what I want my little nieces to be... forever young would be fine by me. The Longest Hair contest took the scissor away and the race was on. Maci, won again with her curly long hair. I told her I heard a secret to keeping hair long and beautiful, when she asked me what I heard I told her, "Bubble gum, a big wad of it in your mouth when you go to bed." She didn't fall for it. Kate is the youngest and her hair color is what I want. Notice she has chocolate on the tip of her nose. So cute. Gina, Maci and Kate are sisters, they also have a brother named George. We stood by the family barn... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Tongue in Cheek
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As the last rays streamed down creating a masterpiece on the still water of the canal I was was transfixed on how an ordinary canal running behind my mother's home became a work of art. The canal's dirt road, the fields in the background, the barns and sheds that dot the canal bank were transformed simply from nature's brush of golden hue. The nearby eucalyptus scented the air, the branches gracefully bowing added to the scene. I was taking photo of my nieces their eyes deep pools called me in, "I know you. I love you. You are the tomorrows of many moons and stars." Later as I was washing dishes, while my mom baked cookies I was carried away from the moment with thoughts about returning back to France. Making mental lists as my thoughts raced from one thing to another. The marbleize suds popped catching my attention, my mental list stopped. I looked over at my mom who was measuring butter, cinnamon and love into her mixing bowl. Be present to the moment. Be present to now. This is why you are here. My heart swelled as I prayed I would become more mindful to the moment at hand. The coming and going of youth and age, like the changing seasons crossing our stage, slowly transform before our eyes, and yet suddenly the recognition that something has passed, time has gone by, life's experiences have settled within the soul of who we are. The sun sets highlighting the walnut tree by the chicken pen. A crown appears on the end of the day. What did I make of it? It gave me more than I gave back. The fortunate moment at hand, while others for no other reason of their own live in turmoil (war, famine...) What do I make of this glorious gift of peace, harmony, love, family, meals, faith, comfort, water, land... the time to reflect without worry? Is it enough? All this because the sunset over the canal behind my mother's home. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Tongue in Cheek
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Mystical Morning Call photo: The call of the morning, Northern California. Early this morning as the sun was adding gold to the sky my youngest brother Zane called, "The geese are here, the field is white, if you want to take photos now is the time." I jumped out of bed threw a jacket on over my PJs, brushed my teeth, but not my hair, and drove to the fields. photo: Birds in Flight, Northern California. As we drove to the ranch I felt that surge I have come to know as my fuel. My fuel is what makes me a better me, makes me feel alive and happy, it heals my wounds, it restores my faith, it connects me to God's love, the greater knowing, the center of life itself... that which is good. photo: Geese in the morning light. I felt it, stopped right there and then letting it soak through me, absorbed my surroundings, took it in gulps, thanking the high heavens for such beauty, for such a life, for my family and for knowing the gift that it is. Leaning on that moment, with humble gratitude. photo: Home Land I love those moments, that come with the day, no reason though not always received. How they affect each of us differently. Some see a field, some see a harvest, some see work, some see stress, and some see paradise. I see home land. The base of who I am. Photo: Mystical morning, the call of communion. Not matter where I am I will always be home because home is with me. I could say many things inspire me, such as the brocante... but what fuels me? Something beyond anything I can tag and tame, something that stirs without knowing when or why, a mystical moment that comes up and says, "Here I am I am yours". Life is simply a gift to accept, so when it speaks intimately to the center of that vast unknown part of myself I believe I must pause to honor. What fuels your soul? Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Tongue in Cheek
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The last details await my return. Here are two photos that Rene sent me of the kitchen. The first thing I have to do when I return to France, besides kissing up French Husband, is pick out paint colors... Yann and I have different ideas when it comes to painting. So as I was leaving and we still hadn't made up our minds, or should I say we were still disagreeing, paint decisions were put on hold. The second thing is to pick a kitchen faucet, Here is an example of the two I like, which one do you prefer? Something like this or or or or What is your opinion? Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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My stay in Willows is coming to an end, and with that a bittersweetness seeps into the cracks of days gone by, many days gone by, and the days to come. Coming and going has a way of raising havoc in my French American life. I am fortunate to have love and life on both sides of the world, I do not take any of it for granted. Though there is a gap between the two, a great deal of miles, that gap separates me from the everyday of these two wonderful lives and love. Most of the time I hold the two in a way that keeps me from becoming overly sentimental, but when the gap nears, when I have to leave one for the other, well the emotional rollercoaster begins. Hence, I am there. Up, down, sideways and standing still. During these times memories filter in jumbling the moment at hand with other moments spent. "Remember when we did this..." Or, "I guess you were in France during that time..." Whenever I come back to my childhood home it is apparent to me how long I have been away, and yet I am here and yet not here. It is odd to explain, by the time I am feeling - fitting into the groove of my family's lives I am boarding a plane to return to my other life. Children grow up, it is a measuring stick of time. (Chelsea six months old, her first trip to the States. Photo taken in Willows.) My dad with Sam, Chelsea, Patti and Andy. Where is Sacha? This photo was taken on Sacha's first trip to Willows, he was 19 months old. On that trip we stayed three months as I was recuperating from chemotherapy. When we arrived this was the welcome Patti gave Chelsea. I made the dress Patti is wearing. My brothers and their children during a holiday I missed. A family photo when I came back from the monastery. My brothers and dad years ago. Halloween at home, my mother with Sam and Sacha. Our memories are a source of conversation, they come up, over and over as if needing air. They are memories buried underneath other memories, layers upon layers, like photos stacked in a box waiting to be sorted. Memories are there to show us who we are and where we have come from. And with... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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As I am visiting family in California, Sacha and French Husband went for a hike along the Luminy coastline between Cassis and Marseille. The first part of the trail is do-able, though if you hike the entirety you are in far better shape than me. It is a chunky-monkey of a hike... period. Nevertheless, Sacha sent me these photos through SNAPCHAT to remind me of what I am missing, more so what he is soaking up since he lives in Paris. Also I think he is giving French Husband some well deserved family time. Trails outlined: http://www.randogps.net/randonnee-pedestre-gps-bouches-du-rhone- French Husband is calling me through the waves of the blue sea. I hear him deep within. One of the deepest truths about "Happy-ever-after" isn't that a couple is smiling from here until the end of time with a joyous giggle under their breath, for me it is that there is a knowing of each other that allows the other person freedom to be who they are with out fear of rejection. The tides, no matter their size or force, roll in and out throughout the year, the beach like love, is ever present to receive and let be. As those two men I love Sacha and French Husband walk along the coastline, I imagine their conversation, their state of mind, the power of their bodies, son and father, and a smile spreads across my face linking me to them. All is good when love is at the root. Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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Cruising with Christine through the Black Buttes with the top rolled down. Oh Northern California you know how to shine with your good looks and blue skies. Such pleasure seeing those hills green. After living all these years in France I understand what the French often notice when they come to the States... open space, far, wide, big skies, a big chunk of wonder and awe, to stretch out and breath. Empty space. The road ahead asked, "Are you gonna follow or not?" The oak tree waves, "Look over yonder, plant a thought or two, then grab a cloud and go." The cloud up above floats by as if to say, "Let it be." Christine and I drove on, letting the day unfold before us. The incredible fortunate joy of being able to just be who we are where we are. Where is the road leading you? Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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photo by Laura Eleven years of blogging is very long time. Thank you for following me, and for every kindness you have shown me. I have been so very fortunate to feel your friendship, to get to know so many of you. I cannot imagine I will ever stop because that would mean I might not see you everyday! Thank you! Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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Being a kid in the country meant being free to do what I wanted pretty much all of the time. Unless I was at school or had chores to tend to. I grew up in a small rural town in California. Most people think of California as one long coastline where everyone has a year round tan. But California is far more than that. It actually has farmland, my Dad had a dairy farm and grew rice. Surrounding my childhood home there are fields. Growing up we were told that having land mattered. If you had land you could live. Heck with a patch of dirt, seeds and water at least you would never starve. Knowing my Dad had land, that he knew how to farm and that my Mom knew how to cook. Hard work, food and love went hand in hand. We had plenty of the three. As a child growing up on a farm I took for granted the freedom that the land had to offered. The wide space to run around and play. I took for granted the daily lessons of nature. Most often I didn't realize the soothing sound of silence during the day. These natural parts of my day seemed unimportant until I went to the urban side of the world. Though the moment I went to live in the city where my feet touched cement instead of the earth, where the sun and moon weren't visible at a glance but often peering between buildings, reducing seasons to simple words; too hot or too cold. I realized how lucky I was to have experienced dirt underneath my feet. The country become my "Emerald City." The lessons I gathered rose strong within me. My French Husband grew up in Rennes, a city in Northern France. His work is in investing in urban developments, the land of concrete buildings. Far away are his city experiences from my growing up on a farm. When we were first married we lived in Paris. As beautiful as it was the moment my feet touched the dry earthy ground of Provence I knew then I could call France a home. Of course it helps to have French Husband by my side, even if he isn't a farmer... Thirty years in France. I have lived longer in France than in California, that reality is a landscape full of mountain tops, valleys,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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Chelsea posted this photo on her FB. The seven older nieces and nephews (of our American family) in order of age: Patti, Chelsea, Andy, Sacha, Sam Jack and Joe. They met to share the evening together aster Thanksgiving (except Sacha who could not be here with them). It is a rare treat for them to be together, and soon the seven younger ones will find it as rare to be together. This getting older bit reminds me to grow younger if only in spirit in mind every moment I can. Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
Details, that is the type of photos I like to take. Close ups. So close I sense I can see atoms doing a dance. Maybe the idea is to get inside the object? I don't know... but I like focusing the camera on the little details, the corners, the forgot spot, where the heart of the matter seems to beat. Hand to heart. Carved wood, brass tacks, worn, velvet brocade upholstery, faded paint... The texture is rich, the details endless, the history evident. It has been touched, it has lived. When focusing on the entire armchair those inviting details might be lost, and it is often seen as just another worn out armchair. A place to be still. Layers upon layers of time. The French word on the leather bond book, "Chansons" translates to, "Songs". Books invite you to hold them, open them, as if holding hands through time. There is movement in those worn pages, collective thoughts, like a song asking you to join in. Soul humming. Stories unfold. Communicating through the presence of silence. Telling time, telling our story. Taking time to notice the little things. Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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How do you feel today? I feel happy, content, slow moving, and still full from yesterday. How I love the taste of Thanksgiving, the sweet savoury mixture of spices, the hint of sweetness. It is the taste of Autumn perfume. Don't you think the trimmings are the better part? You know the turkey was never my favorite, but it does bring up a certain atmospheric memory. (Is there such a thing?) How do you feel? Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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Potatoes are being mashed, turkey is being smoked, pies are ready, children are running around, beers and wine poured, mom is busy checking the last details of Thanksgiving lunch, while I quickly type this blog post before I get called into the kitchen to go scoop, slice, chop, serve... dine! ...and the heads are still on the turkey cookies! Take a shovel, hang it on the wall to make a shelf, take a old rusty tin can for your bouquet of feathers, leaves, wheat... Thanksgiving bouquet. My mother took a cylinder glass vase then added pomegranate seeds, mint, oranges and lemons then she put in a large glass ladle for water. My mom never misses an opportunity to make the things beautiful. Happy Thanksgiving! xoxo Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Thanksgiving celebrates the beginning of life in a new land. The seeds of friendship between two different cultures. The pilgrims and the Indians. The journey of the Mayflower. The need for one another. The helping hands of family and friends. The feast of giving thanks for where we have come from and for what we have. Thanksgiving is a dining room table. Family gathered. The blessing. The smell of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and the sound of football in the background also, my brother Marty eating the heads off the turkey cookies. Celebrating Thanksgiving abroad is not the same. The first Thanksgiving I spent in France we lived in Paris. A group of Americans that I knew from working at the American Church had a dinner party. Everyone was asked to bring something for the meal. We knew it was going to be hard to find the necessary ingredients. I was in charge of the pumpkin pies. I had never made pumpkin pie. Canned pumpkin did not exist in France. I went to the market to buy a pumpkin. When I saw the pumpkin it seemed to say, "Carve me, I am Halloween." I took that heavy monster home. Cut it up, seeded it, simmered it, added fresh cream, brown sugar (that was not like brown sugar back home), added the last of my maple syrup that I had brought back in my suitcase, brown eggs, a tad of cognac and spices. Then I whipped it until my hand nearly fell off and baked it. It was delicious. French Husband was confused, "Why do zee Americans eat salt and sugar at zee same time?" Instead of answering him I groaned, "Eat it." He did. Then he said, "I prefer Chocolate." The guests said my pies were delicious. I beamed, "I made it from a real pumpkin!" French Husband leaned towards me and whispered, "Does fake Pump KEEN exist?" The following year at Thanksgiving, I was three weeks shy of delivering Chelsea. I am five foot three. I gained over 50 pounds when I was pregnant. I looked like I had swallowed the turkey whole. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, I went to the butcher to order a "Dinde" (turkey in French). Though we were vegetarians I decided I was going to prepare a turkey that Thanksgiving. When the butcher asked me in French what size I... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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Driving along the back roads looking for photo opts for my niece's senior graduation photo. We found a few and will drive back in the days to come. We stopped every five minutes, it was sunset with pink ribbons, and the rain from the day gave the countryside a certain air. The silence of miles around was incredibly peace. The paved road gave way to gravel. This spot was marked "X" we liked it best. Now if only those clouds could stay until we come back. Such troopers, my nieces asked, "Aunt Coco we need to take off our sweatshirts, and do you want us to smile?" They know me well. The road leading ahead, around the bend, a steady path, taking us to tomorrow, yet not leaving today. Marie and Gina will graduate from high school this spring. Seeing them reminds me we are all getting older, though their ageing is blooming. Those little girls are young women now, the road is ahead of them. Too good this kind of love. Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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Golden straw, rusty metal, chartreuse, grey pavement... down the lane, amongst the fields, a canal running in back, Willow creek over yonder. Leaves tumbling down faster than we can rake them. My mother loves to garden, but at 81 she is slowing down, but her slow pace is still faster than any of my good days. As it is raining, we are in the living room around the fireplace, as my Mom talks Thanksgiving recipes: "Cranberry pie? How does that sound?" Meanwhile Chelsea is making a list. My nieces pulled a prank on Mr. Espresso. They put uncooked pasta shells under the toilet seat. When he sat down on it, they cracked and he thought he broke it. Never a dull moment. Mom made Chocolate chip cookies. At church they served donuts. I am on a sugar high. It is hard to hold that I have been away longer than I have lived here, a place I call home. Life looks the same: The ranch, the town, the rice fields, the sky, the distant Sierras, the birds lining up on the telephone wires, the cards going around the table, the aroma from the oven, my mom's sassy personality, my bedroom in the back of the house. And yet nothing is the same. Watering my soul. Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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After seeing many videos of my niece Marie (a Senior in high school) and my Godchild/Nephew George (a Freshman in high school) I finally saw them last night rocking out on the high school field. The last three years in row I was been crazy enough to do a slumber party with the seven youngest nieces and nephews in my family. Let me just say that crazy isn't saying it enough. This year I am not so nutty, and refused to even let love get in my way in doing another slumber party. Staying up all night with seven fun loving kids is just not in me this year. I wish it were not true, but no way. So instead two of them came over and slept in the living room while I slept far away happily. They said they made noise and stayed up, but I did not hear them. Whew. This morning my mom woke up with the chickens and made waffles, cream puffs, popcorn balls... enough to make me wonder if the scale will tip when I get on it. Sacha gained 12 pounds when he came home last! He seemingly lost it over night once he was in France. The girls are making thumb print cookies. Does the baking ever end around here? No. All that baking, how can I still have room for anything else? Sacha sent me this photo, standing on top of the Arc de Triomphe. What are you up to this afternoon? Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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Whenever we come home, whether it is Sacha, Chelsea or I we always crack and shell walnuts, and we are at it again. Three hours later several bags full. Indian summer, or should I say summer going into late Fall. Mr. Espresso cracked the walnuts and we shelled them. When a handful cost 7 euros in France, we crack a couple pounds worth to take back with us. Do you have a recipe using walnuts that you would like to share? Pesto with walnuts is one of my favorite usage, or endive/roquefort/walnut tart... and you? Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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When you live in a foreign country rather than the one you know as home, there are certain things you expect will be different, unusual, far from the norm of what you are accustom to. Those big things like language, culture, food... those big things that are necessary to understand and help one to feel like they fit in. One doesn't expect to be thrown off by the little things such as how to open a door, toilet paper, signatures, hand shakes, ice cubes, you know the little things that you don't expect to be different but are and catch you off guard the first time you encounter them. When you live in a foreign country you will learn the language, learn their culture, cook their food, sing their songs and eventually laugh at their jokes. But when you first live in a foreign country you will miss the smallest things from back home the most... for me the things I missed the most where so silly I can hardly bring myself to tell you... let's just say you will miss the smallest things because it is easier to cope with than feeling your heart breaking because you aren't there for your Mother's birthday, or your niece's birth, or your best friend's wedding, or a memorial for your cousin who died, nor any of the unending list of important dates that will come every month for the rest of your life. When you live in a foreign country your mother tongue sounds like music. When you hear someone speaking your language your very words will race out, "Hello, where are you from?" Perfect strangers seem like your new best friends. You have much in common without even knowing the person name. You wonder why you don't meet more people when you are back home... everyone there speaks your tongue? Then after years of living in a foreign country you realize you have two places called home. You look around and the foreign place doesn't feel so foreign. The doors that were closed to you before have opened over time, and the homesickness feels so common you think of it as a bruise that won't go away; you know how to protect it. When you live in a foreign country the keys to your new life will seem strange. The keys to any door at first feels awkward to use. Then... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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Home made Portuguese sweet bread, amongst many other things, reminds me of growing up in the rural countryside with my many cousins. Hot from the oven the aroma takes me back: I see my Va and Aunts around the wooden table in the kitchen, slabs of butter, children's chubby hands, coffee brewing, white ironstone mugs, the Holy Ghost crown in the living room and the Portuguese chatter filling the air with a happiness that gives my roots a safe place to remember. Portuguese sweet bread begins with melted butter, eggs, flour, sugar, yeast... Though it also begins with my Va passing the tradition of bread making to her daughters, and her daughters making it for every reason and none for their children. Since I have been home I have had five rolls and plan to have many more, preferably hot from the oven. Today I went to my Aunt Louie's to make sweet bread. Guess which ones are mine? Recipe to follow. Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2016 at Tongue in Cheek
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