Friday, January 11, 2013

First walk of the winter, first post of the season

It’s been two years since my last post on this blog. Amazing how time flies. I wasn’t up to it, writer’s block I guess. So here I am, back here, refreshed the background a bit, and decided to start posting again, no matter what. There may be less writing than I used to to start with, I need to get warmed up. I used to write stories, crazy stories a lot on this blog, and poems. I don’t know which form it’s gonna take now, but it doesn’t really matter, what matters is for me to do what I enjoy doing, and share it with you. So a couple of days ago I had my first walk of the winter, thus resuming with another favorite activity of mine.
It was one of those quintessential Pacific Northwest winter sunsets,with enough moisture in the air to produce those beautiful soft palettes in the skies.
The weather has since then turned clear and much colder. In the meantime here are a few shots I took with my phone camera.
One of the things I like most in the winter, is that the bare trees are turned into sculptures, nothing remains but their core structure. Which is not the case of the evergreens that gave this state its name, “The Evergreen State”. And yes, the rain, we do get lots of it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Mémé Gagny"

WE were so used to call her this way that sometimes I almost forget her first name: Marguerite. My maternal grandmother was form the French province of Bresse, in Eastern France, part of the region of Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne, and Franche-Comté. La Bresse is especially renowned for its poultry, especially its chicken,1,200,000 chickens per year which are raised primarily outdoors with a minimum of 10 square meters per bird.The chickens of La Bresse were the first animals to have an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée. Bresse chickens are noted as the best for quality chicken for cooking. Which is why the recipe I'll share with you today is a chicken recipe in Bresse fashion, directly from Mémé's cookbook, that I brought with me from France,as 1 of of my most precious possessions. That cookbook was transmitted to my mother, who in her turn gave it to me shortly before she died, and when I grow old, I'll pass it along to my daughter. It is, as you'll see on the picture, antique - 1932 edition of "Je sais cuisiner" (I know how to cook)-
Marguerite was born somewhere around the beginning of the 20th century, to be left orphan at a very early age, so she spent the rest of her childhood working hard in farms.
At some point in her life she got the opportunity to travel to Tunisia, then still a French colony, where she met my grandpa, then a French army soldier there.
They got married, had 2 children, my Mom and my uncle Yoyo. They went through 2 world wars, and grandpa was a resistant in WWII. I think they were a happy couple. At some point they left the countryside of Bresse to move "up" to Paris, to allow my mom to attend an Art school. There my grandma became a dresser at the Théâtre du Chatelet for the Ballet dancers. That's where her picture here was taken.
With her husband they saved all their life and managed to purchase a "pavillon" in the suburbs of Paris, at a time when the suburbs were quiet and quaint. It was a two storey house, and we would go visit them on Sundays, they had a large garden where they grew all sorts of food and herbs, for Mémé, having been through two wars, was not a person to waste anything, and oh, boy, what a treat it was to play in that garden, get some berries, and Oh! the meals she cooked! And the pies!
She was a very sweet lady who had worked hard all her life, and today I'm going to share with you one of the precious recipes from her cookbook:
Poulet à la crème.
Prep time: 25mns. Cooking: 1H15mns
1.3Kg whole chicken
125 gr white mushrooms
60 gr butter
30 gr flour
1/2 liter of thick cream or crème fraiche
Chicken stock
Put 40 gr of butter in a casserole dish,brown the chicken. Salt, add chicken stock and simmer 930mns per pound). After 55 mns of cooking, add the mushrooms previously washed and cut.
Prepare a "roux blanc" (roux): 1 cup butter, 1 cup flour. Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat, then add flour. Mix well and cook to desired color, stirring constantly to prevent burning. This takes about 10mns but may well take up to twenty minutes.
Add the cream. Season.
Add the cooking juice from the chicken.
Cut the chicken, place the pieces in crown shape on a dish, and coat with the sauce.
There are regional variations to this recipe.
Have fun!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Layers, cracks, and waves

This afternoon as I was walking on Sneeoosh Beach I looked at all the weather beaten driftwood, and this particular tree stomp attracted my attention, not only because of the beautiful sculpture it was, but because of its intricate, complicated structure. All these limbs, tied together by age, all these concentric circles, layers and layers of growth that reminded me of the layers of my life, the meanders and the cracks, accidents of life, that all led to the centre of the stomp, that was a charred heart shaped core. The heart itself had many layers, that reminded me of all the loves of my life, but also of all the different kinds of love, but never mind, these concentric circles on the heart had kept multiplying, and growing outwards, all its life, this tree had kept growing outwards and upwards, by all weathers, rain or shine, it had clung to life, at least until someone cut it. Now it is there, lying on its side, as a monster piece in a natural history museum, formidable colossus, that, even dead, - is it dead? – inspires respect.
Then beyond, my eyes fell on the waves, teal and silver, iridescent from the pale winter sun, a living monster this one, growing and growing and multiplying endlessly, with the unwavering patience and stubbornness of the very essence of Life, water, for this, this is Waterland.
I looked, and looked again, or rather contemplated, the formidable work of the ebb and flow, here the top of the wave, dark teal, like the backbone of a whale, then a golden curve capturing the light, then a perfect silver roll finally releasing its foam splashing like a million pearls run loose from a broken necklace.
I looked, and listened to the waves, the wind battering my face, bringing to me the smell of iodine.
Then I looked up, to the grand theater above, of the Pacific Northwest skies, unfolding a debauchery of white cotton balls, heavy dark blue cloaks, curtains that here and there the wind would push open to disclose a foretaste of spring.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


As I didn’t have work today, I used this down time to start a small – well, not so small - home project: sort out, throw, recycle, re-arrange stuff in order to gain space and functionality. Yeah, not so small. If I allowed my Mediterranean sense of exaggeration to take over, I’d say Titanesque project. Today I attacked the first portion of this task, consisting in sorting out all my magazines. You’ve heard me. I keep them all, it’s real bad. So after three years in this home, in which I had already transplanted all my magazines from my previous home, some of which already originated from the previous before the previous home in France- Yeah! - I found myself with no room left for them, unless I’d wanted to let them pile up on the floor, which is nice when you got a really big home, but not in my living room, which also serves as my office and my Art studio. My Gypsiness has its limits, folks. So here we go, and as I’m pretty particular with my magazines, I first sorted them out by category. Don’t get mistaken, I don’t collect the women’s “de-clutter your home” and the like. I’m more on the cultural side: Art magazines, travel and geography magazines, of places I’ve been to, or places I want to go to – yeah, I know, but I did restrict my pile of New Mexico magazine to 5 samples – maps, literary magazines, gardening magazines – got lots of those- home décor magazines, - mostly “Côté Sud”, my favorite- holistic care, and environmental magazines. And newspapers of course. So I made piles, by category. Then came the painful task to decide, Aïe!, which ones to discard and recycle. Most of them were stocked in a special cabinet I have, plus the rest in three magazine racks, two in the living room and one in the restroom. Took me a couple of hours, but I managed to get rid of one magazine rack, and store most of them in the cabinet. I’m not a hoarder, nor a packrat, no, but I like to keep those things. They’re part of me, like an appendix. They’re part of my world. Just like my books. I’m not particularly attached to “stuff”, but books and magazines are almost more important to me than furniture. I like to have them around me in every room. Got books and magazines in my living room, my kitchen, my bedroom, and in the restroom. I ended the day with a big pile of those to recycle, a sense of satisfaction, and inspiration to cook a nice winter stew.
What’s next? Sorting out my photos, you know, those we took before the digital age…

Sunday, January 02, 2011

On stillness

On stillness

The pond knows when it's time to stay still,
and chill
The mud knows when it's time to gather itself,
and wait
The grass knows when to fossilize in sheets of blue ice,
turned into white lace where the sun has broken through Sharp, ciseled cracks.
The disheveled grasses have given up combing.
That was the raw, comforting stillness found this crisp afternoon,in the naked beauty of the winter.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Instant eternity

A cotton blanket is spread above us,
Layers of muslin veils and cotton balls,
Incandescent with the last embered juice of the sun,
Soon turning Lilac,
Stretching indefinitely,
A foretaste of Eternity.

Sweeping view on Swinomish channel

A golden, powdered light shrouds the firs on Eagle's Nest behind Rainbow Bridge. The soft, iridescent light lands on the boat masts, making them look like transluscent cobwebs.
Tiny toy trucks go over the bridge, powered by the magic mecanism of a child's model track.
On the other side of the channel, the Swinomish houses and their rickety piles of wood, tired furniture,tired trucks, tired yellow dogs, cry out their freedom from the tyranny of Martha Steward design and the like.
The channel has its dark, blue belly full, waiting for the eagles and the fishermen to come and harvest the precious bounty from its entrails.
A hot cup of lemon ginger tea is trickling down my stomach, and I'm waiting for the eagles.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sun,re-heating the accumulated harvests of summer juices, that the body will preserve and store in deep recesses, pantries, and holds of the extraordinary vessel of the human body, getting ready to sail the long journey on the dark, cold abysses of the vast winter ocean.
Breeze, messing up my hair, turning it into tortured sagebrush, strong, gnarled, but flexible bushes, that bend wherever the wind goes.
Salt,in the marine air,bringing over to your face, your nostrils,and then your brain,
all the tales of all the purposeful migrations of salmon,geese,swans,fishermen,
all for one single purpose, survival.
Humans thought it fit to invent the concept of purposeless,leisure migration,"voyage".
If we combine both, we get the ideal chemical reaction:
A quest with a purpose, that we enjoy like a leisurely cruise.
One day at a time.