Catherine Bussiere: January third

January third
overcast, still, dormant
in the garden I have seen tracks
the kale, bearing dark green frozen leaves, has been visited
the deers and I will share

I baked a squash yesterday
and forgot the to be roasted seeds in the wood stove
they didn’t make it
burnt to a crisp
first the oven wasn’t hot enough
that’s when you forget

we were gone new years eve and day
our cats fared well
camping in the studio
with blankets and food
they were especially cuddly when we came back
it’s good to part every now and then
makes you appreciate

the idea of resolution is floating in my head
when is that suppose to happen
like I should stop drinking coffee first thing in the morning
says I as I am sipping my coffee
but I wanted it so much
I must need it

I did go for a walk first thing
I can do that

there will be lists
these are things I’d like to get done this year
like: get rid of stuff, organize, purge, delete, make room
there will also be: visit, call, connect, take time
and: work, what’s my next move
but that’s not a resolution
maybe the resolution is how will I approach it
it being anything and everything
open mind, open heart, care
that’s sounds pretty good

the fire is roaring in the wood stove
I love that sound
it has heat and hot water and potential of baked goods
I’ll give you a wonderful news
the days are getting longer

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Catherine Bussiere: December 27th

Christmas day was unusually warm this year
but then again, it’s becoming more common it seems
Christmas too was different
for one thing, we were not home
our new daughter and our son wished to host xmas in the city
her parents joined the party
we were invited to celebrate the eve at her cousin
a jolly bunch from Cape Breton, neighbors and extended family
filled a large living room
loads of food, beverages and sweets
covered counters and tables
guitars came out
several little ones ran around
danced, played
it was what one would hope for
and more
a pure delight

over the years I have been meaning more and more
to consume less and less
as far as I am concerned, I have more then I need
this year my husband and I
put our efforts in making things
preserved food for the most part
presented in a beautiful handmade wooden crate
a skillful papa they have

on Christmas eve stockings were hung
both daughters busy filling them
a role I use to take
still, I waited for them to go to bed
and added a couple things
local maple cream, homemade caramels

under the tree there were all sorts of wrapped presents
none from me
I was a tad anxious
the pressure is high this time of year
to buy and wrap something with a price tag
I was hoping the kids would not be disappointed
they are not kids anymore but still
xmas often comes with expectation
hence disappointment
a shame really

when all were sleeping the crates were put under the tree
filled with tastes of home
it felt right
it had to be

Christmas morning was lovely
fruit salad and bubbles to celebrate
presents given one by one
my daughter is a true elf
she loves to find the right thing for everyone
I felt spoiled by all of them
be it from what was wrapped
to their sheer presence and love
to have them all around me
happy and well
what else could I possibly want

the crates were presented last
and I was happy to see their excitement
they were content
what a relief

Christmas can be a struggle
and many can’t fulfill the dreams
to give or to receive
without expectation
to be content with what presents itself
like an warm afternoon
on one of the shortest days of the year

today it is snowing
my daughter is home
I will roast a chicken
Christmas is still on

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Catherine Bussiere: such a nice day

it’s such a nice day today
sun is shinning
it’s warm for December
maybe 6 degrees or more
little breeze

I started learning Spanish online yesterday
I thought I’d get back into that routine while drinking my morning coffee
two days in a row now
it’s exciting
I already have a base in Spanish
so it’s easy to slip back into it
I like how pronunciation varies with languages
how words are said
how they sound
how they feel when you pronounce them

yesterday was a basic review
simple words like cats and dogs and water and milk
variations of those words in a sentence
Los gatos beben leche.
The cats drink milk.

today after other lessons on food and animals
I found a bonus skill lesson option
called Flirting
How fun!
now we’re talking
some useful stuff
sentences like
Hola guapo.
Estoy enamorado de ti.
¿Puedo ofrecerte una copa?
translate as
Hey handsome.
I’m in love with you.
May I offer you a drink?

so much more fun
happy Sunday

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Sage tea is quite delicious.

down memory lane

I am visiting my mom this week and next
I’m lucky enough to be able to manage my work time, and work space
editing short videos enables me to work anywhere

yesterday we visited my aunt, cousin, and uncle
as a teen I use to spend time with them
my cousin and I are close in age
I rarely see them anymore especially my cousin who doesn’t live in this town
yesterday she made the trip so we could share a meal and hang out
spending time and hanging out is a lovely thing

when I was a teen I use to envy my cousin a little
because of her father’s work she had lived in various country
spoke English fluently (I didn’t at the time)
lived a life that seemed more exciting then mine
her mother, of German decent, has been one of many who inspired me to cook

yesterday we went down their memory lane
I love old photographs
we opened an album with pictures of my aunt
beautiful little blond girl
ready to start school
all dressed for communion
young women going to Barcelona with a group of friends
where she was to meet the man with whom she would share the rest of her life
my uncle
handsome one too

my uncle was full of stories
while my mother, aunt and cousin had heard most of them
he had in front of him a brand new pair of ears
I love travel stories
tell me more
“here, I’ll tell you this episode in one minute”
and there he’d go
and so went the meal
filled with several minutes that went from Barcelona, to Haiti, to Cambodia, to Madagascar, to London
we didn’t touch New-York or Vienna
but talked about the “boîte à chansons” he use to host way back when in the sixties
where all the up and coming singer songwriters of the time would perform
cool

we, the girls, had lots of girl talk while my uncle, being an uncle of a certain generation, left us to the kitchen duty
(I have to say my aunt took care of most of it)
it was so good to catch up, share stories, laugh and reminisce about the ones we loved that passed away
it was so good to spend time with them

the photo this week is one that I hadn’t seen for years
my grand father pretending to be boxing
he’s the one who means it on the left

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Catherine Bussiere: this week

this week is the buzz of the flies in my window
the sight of the first two inches of snow when I woke up one morning
the ongoing harvest punctuated by the inner sound of a clock ticking
shelling beans with friends
making a fresh pot of baked beans
working away at a short about food security
reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan
thinking about making one more batch of apple jelly
one more batch of green ketchup
embracing the season
staying warm

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Catherine Bussiere: 20 / 20

it seems like I’ve been wearing glasses all my life
not allll my life but from about the age of ten, glasses have been part of my features

I remember the yearly eye exam we would get at school
we’d be waiting in line for our turn to decipher series of letters on a board
as I didn’t want to wear glasses (worried by classmates potential reaction)
I would try to memorize as many letters as I could
I don’t think that worked really well

I remember once finding my brothers glasses on the bathroom counter
I closed the door, tried them on, looked out the window

I remember the leaves on the tree
finely outlined, sharp
beautiful

either I stopped memorizing or got caught with my eyes squinting
one thing was clear, I needed glasses
and I got some

the kids at school were kind
fear had nothing to do with reality

throughout the years I’ve had several kinds of glasses
I remember one particularly ugly pair I wore in high school
– my dad’s pick
they were huge plastic rim glasses of indescribable color
which I hid behind banks long enough to cover them

what I wanted was some lovely delicate rimmed round glasses
which eventually were offered to me as a birthday present
I had the John Lennon look for many years
until those too were replaced

I don’t remember ever breaking my glasses
they were my best companion
on my nose they went first thing in the morning
only to leave as I rested my head on the pillow at night

in the past few year
as I aged
came the need for bifocals
I adjusted to that
I would take my glasses off when I read at night
close to my face the words in my book were sharp

lately though I was having trouble with my camera
maybe trouble isn’t the right word
it was just difficult to find focus
find the right distance between lens and screen and eye
I figured as a photographer I should probably get my eyes fixed
this is my first lens after all
laser surgery has been around long enough
all the people I know that had the surgery done love it
time to invest, give it a shot

and so it’s done
did it last Thursday
it took no time
a quick cut of the cornea
some laser reshaping
flip that flap back
next
out

girl you got 20 / 20

how is it?
you happy?

I have to say yes
how couldn’t I
yet I’m not like “wow, amazing”
I’m like “what happened to my super near clear vision”
I want it all
I knew I wouldn’t get it all but still
didn’t quite realize I’d loose that

in some ways I’ve had clear vision most of my life
glasses helping of course
and obviously I will still need glasses
except now it’s when I read

but really how is it?
20 / 20 right now
I’ll tell you
I’ve traded cinematic for HD
I am a romantic
so I’m getting use to HD

 

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Catherine Bussiere: veggie chicken pie

first days of autumn
no killer frost yet
it seems like the seasons are shifting

as I head to the garden I wonder
what could I make today
the garden is still full of goodness
kale, abundant as ever
broccoli gone into florets
onion’s harvested but leeks still thriving
best carrot crop in a while
few potatoes
thin celery

I have a little bit of cooked chicken left over in the fridge
to celebrate this first wonderfully warm day of autumn I will make a veggie pie
and throw in that bit of chicken

Veggie Chicken Pie

I used

3 small leeks (or 1 good onion)
4 large carrots
3 medium potatoes
a bunch of kale
a bunch of broccoli florets
4 small branch of celery (or one large)
1 1/2 cup cooked chicken cubed
olive oil

Chop all veggies to your liking.
In a large skillet sauté the leeks and carrots in oil. Let it caramelize a little.
Add celery and potatoes. Cover and cook until the potatoes are almost done.
Add broccoli and kale. Cover and simmer until all veggies are tender.

Add sauce to the veggie mix. Add chicken. Taste. Make seasoning adjustment.
Drop spoonful of biscuit dough to cover the top.
Bake at 375ºF, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until biscuits are cooked.

Serve with your favourite preserve.
I love it with pickled beets.

For the sauce
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
2 1/2 cups of broth (or milk)
thyme, sage, salt, pepper

In a medium size pot melt butter and add flour. Cook until slightly golden. Add broth. Mix mix with a whisk for you don’t want lumps. Add seasoning. Add more broth (or milk) if too thick.

For the biscuit
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup milk

In a medium size bowl mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add milk. Mix just enough so it makes a dough.

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Catherine Bussiere: veggie burger

I have been experimenting with veggie burgers lately
and, I have been juicing

I have loads of carrots, beets, and our apple trees are bountiful
good time to use a juicer
sometime the juicer feels a little over the top
really, couldn’t I just chew a little
but to drink fresh juice from the garden feels quite regal
so why not

I decided to make the most of it
and aside from drinking the most delicious juice
I would use the pulp left behind
here is this week’s recipe
healthy, nutritious, and tasty

Veggie burgers with quinoa

for a dozen large burger you may use

6 cups of shredded veggies (kale, carrots, beets, celery, onion, use what you have)
1 cup of quinoa (to be cooked)
400 gr of grated cheese (I like cheddar)
3 large eggs (I always get them from a local farm now)
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup oats
2 Tsp hemp seeds, or sesame seeds or, again, whatever you have kicking around
4 Tsp za’atar (a delightful Middle Eastern mix of oregano, thyme, savory and sesame seeds)
salt and pepper
olive oil

Rinse the quinoa. Bring 1 1/2 cup of water to boil. You may add a little salt or miso to your water for flavor. Add the quinoa. Simmer for 12 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Let it sit for another 5 minutes.

Chop, grate, shred your chosen veggies. If you have been using a juicer and don’t know what to do with all that beautiful pulp, here is a good place to use it.

In a large bowl place all ingredients. Mix, mix, mix with your hands. Best tool ever.
Form patties and place on a parchment covered cookie sheet. If you don’t have parchment paper just oil the pan. Bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes or until slightly brown and crispy.

Eat in a bun with garnish or with a side salad.
My favorite this week is a kale salad with one of those burger diced on it.
Tastes good, feels good!

ps. replace za’atar with your favorite herb, I used basil last week and it was delicious
pps. can’t eat them all, freeze them for later

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Catherine Bussiere: Mexican inspired breakfast

I had the delight to hang out at a CSA drop off this week in Amherst
turns out it’s my nephew and family who do all the hard work
they offer fresh organic vegetables
it was plain beautiful to see customers drop by with bags
excited with the weekly produce
asking how’s Oliver (the red headed little one)
as Oliver was happily busy filling and handing bags of cherry tomatoes

this morning I was wondering two thing:
what to eat
what the blog recipe should be

why not combine?

here is a Mexican inspired breakfast
it involves lot’s of what was offered at the CSA this week
swiss chard, tomatoes, onions, corn
I had fresh coriander seeds kicking around
and a cute little hot pepper in the green house
so I added them to my recipe
as always recipes are to inspire
use what you have

Mexican inspired breakfast

you may use

1 fresh onion
1 corn
2 medium size tomatoes (more if they are invading your counter)
a small bunch of swiss chard (or kale or beet greens…)
1 small hot pepper (if you like it hot)
4 eggs
2 tsp fresh coriander seed (or 1 Tbs fresh coriander leaves chopped)
salt and pepper
olive oil
2 tortillas

Chop, then sauté the onion in a pan with some olive oil. Caramelize at medium heat. Add corn off the cob. You may add the chopped hot pepper if you wish. Add tomatoes and chard. Cover the pan and simmer until tender. Season with salt and spices. Crack eggs and cover to poach. While they poach; heat a couple tortillas in a pan.

as soon as the eggs are done place eggs & veggies in a tortilla
eat up
it may be messy if the eggs are runny
but it’s so tasty
add sour cream, cheese, whatever you want

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Catherine Bussiere: Carrot Potage

I have been posting a weekly recipe on the Cumberland Food Action Network website this summer
here is one I posted this week
I love this soup

Carrot Potage

1 tablespoon each olive oil and butter
1 large onion, or two leeks minced
6 large carrots, chopped
1 good size potato, cubed
salt, pepper, nutmeg
2 cups of broth of your choice
milk
a touch of cream or lots
one more spoon of butter

add 1 inch of grated ginger if you want to add a little kick to that soup

Heat oil and butter in a good size pot over medium high heat. Throw in the onion and reduce. Add carrot and let them caramelize a little. Add potato, salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg (you may add ginger now if you wish). Pour in enough milk to cover the veggies. Bring to a boil then simmer until well done.

Blend and add the broth. Return to medium heat. Taste; make adjustment. Depending on thickness add a little milk or cream. You may also want to add a final dab of butter.

ps. if you are lactose intolerant just use a good broth and skip the milk and cream. Or better yet, try some coconut milk and do add ginger, I bet it would be delicious.

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Catherine Bussiere: a wedding

it was a week ago and everybody was here
brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles
parents, grand parents, friends
cousins
a few were absent
unable to make the trip
or gone too soon
they were missed
yet present in our hearts

many weeks had lead to that day
a proposal on a rainy day on another continent
a dream that kept growing
a dress bought in a heartbeat

we had a perfect location
of woods and fields
pond and garden
rock patio spread shaded by grape vines

a live dome had been built on the edge of the woods a few years back
covered by hops, an early summer offering
in it’s womb the union would take place
a fairytale setting

a week ago three young men lined up
in front of a small crowd they waited
out in the field a beautiful maiden
surrounded by her dearest
was making her way

the most anticipated moment
the one we had all been waiting for
arose

the groom saw his bride

it was short and simple
as they had wanted
in a few words they were united
in front of all they proclaimed their commitment
love at that moment was everyone’s attire

it was a week ago
as I walk outside
in the field
on the edge of the woods
or as I sit under the shade of the grape vines
I feel thankful for life and for love

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Catherine Bussiere: Beckwith Bash

Saturday August 15th is our annual festival
the Beckwith Bash
I believe it’s the 7th edition

over the years our crowd has grown
some years we get a big crowd
some years we get less
no matter what we always have a fantastic line up of musician

early comers can join in a yoga session
it is hosted in live dome that my boys built a few years back
talk about connecting with self and nature
my friend and yoga instructor Mary has graciously lead that practice for three years now
it’s a lovely way to start off

the stretch is followed by a drum circle
this time on the lounge
calling in the people
getting good vibes echoing through the grounds

when the music starts it goes and goes
only to break with a spell of spoken word and story telling
every year we try something new
we’ve had belly dance, circus act, hula hoop workshop
something for all

if you are in Nova Scotia this week end and are looking for a good time
do join us Saturday
gates open (there are no gates) at 2pm
yoga at 3
music starts at 4:30

full schedule and details can be found HERE

have a good week

ps. I will most likely not blog next Sunday

getting ready

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small drumminhula

Richard

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Catherine Bussiere: visit

my mama’s gone to church
I’m visiting for the week end
alone in her house I wander
I look around

it’s a quiet house
the sound of the humidifier fills the rooms with a constant hum

my mama is in her late 70
she lives alone
her days are regulated by a routine that keeps her going
prayers, exercise, a good diet
any break in those may set her off
she needs routine

I wander in her house while she is gone
presence of her children
presence of her faith
are everywhere
it is a peaceful atmosphere

I live far away
I have never lived in the town she was born
I can appreciate her environment and her mine
but even though we share the same blood
our constitution, our needs, are not the same
to be well we need different conditions

tomorrow I will leave
it is always difficult to part
without saying we both know
that soon routine settles again
and we keep in touch
with the regular punctuation of phone calls

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Catherine Bussiere: Hope

I met Hope this week
I didn’t know Hope
I went to her apartment complex where she resides in River Hebert
she used to live on a farm
but at 80 some she now lives in a much smaller space
with two cats
although residents are not suppose to have cats
actually one of her cat is missing
which is troubling her some

I met Hope because I was to interview her about seed saving
going to a seed saving workshop recently I was presented with some beautiful beans that had been saved and planted for decades
in awe of that I had asked if I could interview the lady that did so
and so I ended up in Hope’s apartment

Hope is a lovely lady
she answered my questions graciously
I found simple, plain wisdom in her comments
I kept telling her that I wanted to hug her so content I was with the turn of our interview

to the question why save seeds her answer is this
keep seeds from plants that grow well in your region
keep the best ones
save them, trade them
they are the best seeds you can get

to the question why garden and why buy local
her answer is this
grow your own food or buy from a local farmer because the fruit you get is the tastiest
period

now of course there are political reasons
we can save seeds to fight Monsanto
we can grow gardens to lower our carbon footprint
we can do so for financial reasons
for physical and mental health
(yes, it helps my mental bits to hang out in the garden)

for Hope it boiled down to taste

it made me wonder
have we forgotten what home grown food taste like
think about a fresh, perfectly ripen, strawberry
a tomato still warm from the sun
fresh shelled peas
carrots with their tops and a tiny bit of dirt just pulled from the garden

there are many reasons to grow a garden
save seeds
even forage for wild edibles

Hope said she likes to know where her food comes from
it taste better
I agree

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Catherine Bussiere: gardening

I dealt
or rather
I started dealing
with my greenhouse
this week

my greenhouse was like a jungle of mostly
dill, peppergrass, cilantro, and kale

I like to leave some plants go to seed
the reason I had so much kale this spring was because I let one plant go to seed last fall

I crushed and shook the dried pods around in October
In May I had a small sea of baby kale

at this point in the summer
the garden is giving plenty
and it got to the point where I could barely walk through the greenhouse
I did have room around the pepper plants and the few tomatoes and eggplants
but still
how many dill, peppergrass and coriander plants do I need for seeds

But it is so pretty
And fragrant as I walk through

sigh –

I got on my knees
I started pulling

inspired by a woman I met recently
I have decided to plant now
a fall / winter garden

I planted carrots and peas
I put the peas around the few tall dill plants left
I’m thinking that it is a brilliant idea
the peas will climb up the dill stalk
and it gives me a good excuse to leave a few around

I will transplant Swiss chard and reseed lettuce
I think I will put some bush beans in between the grown lettuce
by the time the old lettuce is ready to be pulled
room will be made for the growing beans
( unless I let the lettuce go to seeds )

I have kale and parsley
that should last a while

I’m experimenting

I want to be able to make the most of our old unheated greenhouse
I have a feeling we should be able to get fresh greens late into the fall

I’ll keep you updated

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Catherine Bussiere: overcast

there is something soft and nostalgic in this overcast Sunday
or at least it is how I feel this morning
tomorrow will be two years since my sister passed away
tomorrow a week will have past since the birth of my niece’s baby boy Jack

when her mom called me a couple hours after he was born I got caught up in emotion so strong I could not speak
the new grandma couldn’t either
both chocked up at the end of our line we were overwhelmed with the beauty and sheer happiness of the moment
baby and niece, baby and new mama were fine, beautiful, healthy

I remember when my sister’s son was born
he was a July baby too
just a tiny little boy
she let me carry him around out in the Montreal streets
I remember feeling very protective of this new life
my sister had that new mother’s glow
her one and only child will be 25 soon

today feels heavy and light
luminosity of an overcast day
flowers blooming, flowers fading
the wheel turning

today I will meet Jack

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Catherine Bussiere: Rose

it’s rose time
yellow roses
pink roses
they look like wild roses
are they?

I collect the petals
I bring 1 cup of sugar with one cup of water to a boil
I pour the syrup over two cups of petals
I let it steep half a day
or more
I pour it in a jar
it’s pretty
I pour it over ice and add bubbly water
lovely

I bet I could pour it over vanilla ice cream
now I’m talking

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Catherine Bussiere: dining on the wild side

nestled in a small village on the Bay of Fundy
between Cape d’Or and park Chignecto
the Wild Caraway restaurant propose some of the best dish this province has to offer
the secret is a blend of passion, curiosity, enthusiasm
mixed with the best, fresh, local ingredients available
you can’t go wrong with that
yet it is hard to find

every single time I go to the Wild Caraway I am intrigued
there is always a fine taste that hits me and makes me wonder

me: how do you get that smoky taste in the dressing?
Andrew: you smoke the sour cream
me: oh! … smoke the sour cream … of course

Andrew and his partner Sarah have been running this delightful business for a few years now and the fact that they are far far away in this isolated place that is Advocate harbor does not seem to deter anyone from making the trek.
It is that good.

This week Eric and I treated ourselves to their once a year foraging dinner.
I have been interested lately about wild edibles so I couldn’t let that dinner go by.
Several courses were presented to us featuring such things as squid ink rice cracker with smoked mackerel mousse (one of my highlight), pickles of fiddleheads, spruce tips, knotweed and dandelion capers, rose hip gel, grilled cattails, flounder goujonettes (isn’t that a cute word; goujonette), sea lettuce and oyster leaf, sea rocket and goose tongue greens, smoked halibut cheeks and flash fried squid …

One after the other, dishes were brought to us. All beautifully presented, all using land and sea to feed body and enlighten the spirit.

The final touch before sending us off was a selection of sorbets and ice creams. Violet sorbet, dandelion sorbet, sweet cicely flower ice cream, black currant leaf ice cream.
I never knew dandelion could taste so good.
A spruce tips shortbread happily dissolved in my mouth as I was sipping my tea.
Who would think of such delight. Really.

The sad news is, you most likely missed this foraging dinner. The good news is that their ever changing menu always involves something from the wild side.
Go for a drive and check them out. You will be both delighted by the scenery and your taste bud will beg for more.
www.wildcaraway.com

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Catherine Bussiere: father’s day

I always have a hard time using the word husband
as a young woman I had no intention of getting married
I loved a man, he loved me, all was well
then we had a child and that was the most beautiful thing that could happen between us
it was a bond like no others
still, I didn’t want to get married

a year later, as our little blond bundle was running around I wished to have him baptize
I wanted to have a celebration
a few close friends and family were invited
all under the premise of the baptism
I don’t remember exactly how or when it happened but eventually I agreed to tie the knot
my loved one, a patient man, kept asking
it was a surprise for the guests
at the end of that day I had a husband

I remember thinking that the man I would love, the one I would want to spend my life with, had to be one with whom I would want to have children
not that children was on top of the agenda
but, you know what I mean, I didn’t want a fling
I wanted something solid

maybe I didn’t only want a lover
I wanted the qualities of a man that cares for children

As I woke up this morning I knew this blog had to be about my companion
(I think I like that better than husband)
the man of my life, mon amour
has been a wonderful dad
present, playful, patient
loving, generous, attentive
he is and will be there for our kids no matter what, no matter when
I know it, they do to

as I look at our now three young adults
two sons and a daughter
as I see their confidence, maturity, their care for one another
I am pleased and happy
we’ve worked well together

happy father’s day Eric
xo

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Catherine Bussiere: nature walk

I went for a walk in the woods yesterday
it was organized by the Amherst museum and held at the Amherst bird sanctuary
a man named Bill was our botanist on site
a very knowledgeable week end botanist
on week days he is a lawyer

the funny thing was, the night before I had a dream that my car was stolen
I went to see the cops
someone told me don’t bother
you need to see a lawyer

Sunday was a beautiful day
only a handful of us took part of that walk
a brother and a sister were there mostly for the birds
she knew some birds by their song
we heard this lovely chant
she showed me the author in her book

we walked for a few hours
very slowly
our host seemed to know every single tree and every single plant
that kind of knowledge blows my mind
common name, Latin name, other names
properties, how to make the different between this maple and that one

so much to know

we saw the oldest sugar maple in Nova Scotia
twisted and knotted like an old man
majestic

we chewed on a leafy twig
I forget the name of that tree
but it tasted like spearmint

we saw a plant that once upon a time was used for bedding
we saw a tutu fern
a sensitive fern
an interrupted fern
and a cinnamon fern

we saw star flowers
dog wood flowers
lily of the wood flowers
and violets

tucked away just outside of Amherst
lays a protected piece of paradise
check it out if you are ever around

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Catherine Bussiere: week end

attending a workshop on medicinal herbs
I learned that the burdock root is not only eatable
but tastes as good as parsnip
that plantain is good for bites
and flower tea can be brewed by the sun
with leaves and flowers
collected from the lawn

went to visit someone who saves seeds
has a greenhouse
which is
at the moment
filled with tall plants of all sorts
some flowering
others about to

before too long
seeds will be collected
then sowed early fall
various greens will grow through the winter
providing fresh nutrient
in the leanest time of year

got transplants at my nephews
( they have big greenhouses )
tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants
contemplating the promise of wholesome food
rows and rows of greenery of all size
I get some lemon basil too

saw my niece who has an 8 months belly
little baby boy soon to be born
her first
she glows

spring time
some days already feel like summer

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Catherine Bussiere: Jenn & Cadence

it’s a cool morning
chances of frost last night
I decided yesterday to wait a couple more days before I transplant my sunflowers
I did transplant kale last week
my greenhouse is full of it
I like to let some plants go to seeds in the greenhouse
at the moment I have a carpet of young kale, dill, cilantro, and the odd lettuce

I woke up early this morning
sun right onto my bed
I finished a book that I had read a few years back
I like to reread sometimes
some books are like friends that you need to visit every now and then

I pulled the blankets off
– chilly –
I put them back on in a hurry
I assess the situation
t-shirt on the dresser, sweater near by, those cozy leggings that I could wear one more day
a farmhouse can be cooler in the spring then in the middle of winter
either you’re out of wood or you feel it’ll warm up soon enough, no need for fire
the wood stove is going on a diet

I visited my friend Jenn and her daughter Cadence a couple days ago
both will celebrate their birthday this week
one will be six, the other 35
I came to have this ongoing discussion about age
I was curious to know what Cadence had to say
she was thrilled to be interviewed

I have to tell you that Jenn is a potter
a few years back she left a secure job with Canada Post, build herself a cozy studio, and became a full time potter
she makes beautiful mugs, plates, bowls, vases, you name it
she started off selling at the local farmers market
when I visited her she had just completed a big order for a shop in PEI

Of course Jenn isn’t only a potter
she’s a mom, a gardener, a cook, she weaves, sows and knits, she teaches, she dances, she plays
she smiles and laughs easily
a lovely person

In a way it wasn’t much of a surprise when I asked her about age and aging that really, she didn’t think much about it. Here is what she had to say:
“My goal in life is to be in every moment, so to think so far in the future,
which is what I think when I think of age; it ends at some point, and that’s why people think about it … If I get ideas in my head about getting older I just roll down my imaginary window and I throw them out (laugh) like I’m driving a car.”

“I think that there’s so many things to do there’s no possibility that I will ever get them all done. So I trust in myself to be doing the things that I wanna be doing and that’s as good as I can get. I think that’s the best I can do, and if I start not doing those, I feel it, I just don’t feel like I’m in a good place, so then I change them (laugh).
I don’t know if it’s a good thing, I can’t make myself sit still.”

You’re an older lady; how do you see yourself?

“I wanna be a roaming around the world 80 year old … I wanna be fearless.”
“I think about attachment and I don’t want to be attach to anything”

Nice

Wiggly Cadence in her seat, mini cup of tea in hands gracefully answered my questions. She too doesn’t think much about age. Obviously there’s better things to think about when you’re five. Like her big brother not letting her play nintento at the level she’d like, how many friends she will invite to her upcoming birthday, and that hen that has been sitting on eggs for days… So much things to think about.

Cadence

What does age mean?
“How old you are.”

What is old?
“31 is old”

Is there a number you’re excited about?
“ 12 “

Why?
“I just like that number”

Is there something special that happens when you’re 12?
“well … it’s my birthday”

Jenn: what are you going to do when you are a grown up?
“ I will visit you sometimes “

mama’s heart swells, we drink more tea

I think I will visit someone today.

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Catherine Bussiere: fiddle heads & omelets

we went for a walk in the woods
we listen to nature waking up
the beauty of it all just makes me smile
I feel happy

we are out to collect fiddle heads
one of nature’s first edible
there may be others
only recently have we been going out to gather wild edibles
so far mushrooms and fiddles heads are what we collect
there is something quite enthralling about gathering food from the wild
I love it

by the river we find some tightly curled ferns
they’ve just started showing up through the leaves
you can’t wait too long
when nature wakes up she’s got no time to waste for stretches, coffee, and all
she’s on the move

this morning I made us a fiddle head omelet
for two people I used three large farm eggs
beat them up with a little cream, a pinch of salt, cumin and fresh ground pepper

I steamed a couple handful of fiddle heads
I grated some cheddar cheese and chopped some chives
I pour the egg mix onto a cast iron pan
when the egg mix starts to set I place chives, fiddle heads and cheese on one half of it
I wait a little
the cheese melts
I flip the bare half onto the dressed half

a nature walk feeds the soul, lungs, eyes
today, a nature walk also fed two hungry bellies

happy Sunday
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Catherine Bussiere: Mother’s day

I woke up this morning to the smell of melting butter
it’s a warm, grey, rainy day
my lovely man brought me coffee in bed
I figure I shouldn’t move until I got an okay from the kitchen
I actually thought something buttery would materialize near that cup of coffee
sipping away I was quite content

Eventually Charlotte appeared from the stairs’ opening at the end of my room
beautiful critter peaking out of her den
“come downstairs mama, it’s ready”
I’m thinking, isn’t it coming upstairs?
“come on down, bring your coffee”

alright alright
let me nose guide me

I enter the kitchen
handmade decorations are hanging over my favorite sitting spot
it is sweet and festive and oh so lovely

On the big serving plate / round table lays a beautiful arrangement of tastiness
A plate filled with cinnamon muffins (result of the heavenly buttery smell)
two pretty little blue bowls filled with frozen berries
a tin box (yes; chocolate)
and a card

I am in awe
aaaaaw Charlotte, when did you do this?
she did that yesterday
and woke up early to bake treats
and she is walking around in a most adorable onesie pajama that makes you want to hug her
clever

I get a phone call from my son Sam
my son Isaac posts something funny and sweet of me, online
boys are thinking about me
love, love, love

my kids make me feel lucky on a daily basis
I loved them as babies
I loved them as they grew up
I love who they are becoming
becoming a mama is the best thing I have done

The sun is peaking out
it’s now warm AND sunny
time for another coffee and a call to my mama

Happy mother’s day!

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Catherine Bussiere: Surprise

a few weeks ago
I think maybe even before we got back
my son Isaac told me that there would be a surprise graduation party for his fiancé Haley
the cover was
she would be prepping a surprise birthday party for him
so just go along when she let’s you know about it

how does this work?

Haley has a cousin
who really likes Isaac
cousin will pretend he wants to host a surprise birthday party for Isaac
Haley is excited about it
she says it’s really hard to trick Isaac and she can’t keep secrets
but she’ll try her best

Most of Haley’s family lives in Cape Breton
nobody is mentioning anything about her upcoming graduation
Dad who is a musician is busy with gigs
Mom is about to start working
no time for parties it seems

Behind Haley’s back everyone has been plotting
she’s been tricked once before
for her high school graduation
she even made her own cake I was told
thinking she was going to someone else’s party
Never again she said then

yesterday was somewhat crazy
we have to make plans out loud about the day
Hey Isaac, what you want for your birthday
what should we have for supper
let’s bake a cake
the trick is not to slip
not to say too much
no whispering
make Haley think we’re going along with this secret party for Isaac
and keep a straight face

Haley has to figure out a way to get Isaac to St-Margaret’s Bay (cousin’s place)
which is 20 minutes out of town
we have a friend who is away and asked if Haley could go check on her house
then Haley will say that she needs to pick up a jacket she forgot at her cousin
You don’t have to come she says to Isaac, enjoy the day with your family
No, no, Isaac says, I’ll come with you

all of a sudden it’s time
Haley picks up Isaac and off they go
we have to hurry
of course we get stuck in traffic
but funny enough, when we get to the highway exit they are right in front of us
we slow down to let a couple cars get between us

we easily find cousin’s place
there’s lots of cars already there
we quickly unpack the car but as we are ready to head off to the house
here comes Haley and Isaac parking right in front of us
we hide as much as we can while making our way to the house
at this point Haley is breaking up and Isaac is smiling

the house is all decorated
on the table there is a big cake
two camera are set up at different angle ready to roll
we make a quick entrance
“They’re coming” we say

Isaac and Haley walk in
she has a huge smile, her face is glowing as she looks at him
I got you she thinks
then
she turns around
and as she slowly takes in all the people that are in the room
mom, dad, uncles, aunts, cousins
her ivory cheeks turn a nice shade of pink
her mouth widens
her eyes water
(as does everyone else)
We got you, we got you big time!
Oh the love, the laugh, the tears
Congratulation darling
and oh, Happy Birthday Isaac!

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Catherine Bussiere: Gail

foggy morning, fishcakes and biscuits, company over
my blog is a little late today
it’s Sunday

I visited Gail this week
Gail, in legal term, is my mother in law
in my term she is a friend

I thought Gail would be a good person to interview for my age series
she will be 77 this year
you may think: she’s 76, don’t need to age her faster
no, but the thing is, Gail cares more about the sound of the number then the meaning we might associate it with
and so 77 sounds much better then 76
actually, really, Gail loves double digits

so far, in the few interviews that I have done, there have been reactions regarding age;
mind association that connects age with physical and mental abilities
beauty, energy, hopes and dreams, curiosity, interest …
often I hear concerns, at any age, be it 20, 30, 40
fear, unmet expectations
our own or others
trying to keep up with the time
and the time ticking

The interesting thing with Gail is that age seems like an irrelevant word.

“ 77, what about it ? Nothing ! I’m grateful; I love double numbers.”

When does one become old?

“ It’s a mental attitude, an outlook …
I find it’s enriching because the wisdom is with age,
because of past experiences …
You have great memories of past experiences and that keeps you young,
in thought, mind …
Then I am just grateful;
Thank you!
I’m still able to be independent, and that’s everything.

Being a woman, when you go through menopause that’s the beginning of getting old
and you know it, you feel it, you sense it
you know your limits little by little
and the thing is not to give into your limits because you’ll loose all that muscle
muscle disappears quickly and you want to keep your muscle more or less ”

Time or age never affected you?

“ No, I had a lot of desires so I just went…
I never needed a lot of comfort, I didn’t need to have luxury.
You can be very vain about your body, your face and your living style
and I don’t think I was enhanced with vanity. “

the conversation will keep going
what inspires me with Gail is her will power
whatever Gail wants, Gail gets some way or another
she has lived and is living her life just like she wants
she has embraced an innumerable amount of projects
art, travel, work
she is creative, curious, passionate
she is demanding to herself and others
and is incredibly generous
her life has been and remains full

Next project? : “ my goal is when I’m 80 I’ll go to Cuba “

I love it

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Catherine Bussiere: homecoming

it’s been one week today
one week actually yesterday, we arrived on a Saturday
the first two nights I’d wake up in the middle of the night wondering where I was
trying to figure out how our windows fitted in what I thought was my Moroccan room

then I slept better and slept a lot
jet lag I guess and recovering from the journey itself
as if I didn’t realize my batteries were low and needed a full charge

the weather has been wonderful and tons of snow have melted in the past week
I started cleaning up the greenhouse
pruned around an apple tree
got a piece of ground ready to plant garlic

the ice on the pond is still holding but there is an opening near the beavers house
I saw the beavers come out looking for grubs
I should bring them my apple clippings

I saw a couple deers in the orchard and in the garden
I was happy about that
I heard form my neighbor that there are three dead ones in our woods
winter’s been hard

I visited a friend and she has some work for me
I went to a community talk on wild edibles and met a few acquaintances
we’ve shared a meal with family members, made tagine and drank some wine

slowly, bit by bit, as familiar motions take place
I am getting home
it’s been a long journey after all

ps. people are asking about highlights from the trip, there are so many, here are a some visual highlights

pps. I am planing on doing a blog series about women and age. I want to keep that conversation going.

 

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Catherine Bussiere: Home

it was a long journey
we almost missed our last connection Montreal – Halifax
but all and all it went really well
several hours of transit brought us to a sunny Nova Scotia spring afternoon
where Isaac and Haley kindly picked us up at the airport and brought us home

the mud road to our house is overrun by melting snow
little rivers everywhere eating away at the mud
I’m impressed with the amount of snow left to melt

we walk in the house
it’s warm, and has the smell of a cottage that has been left alone for a season
Sam got here the day before to get things going
the fire is crackling, flies are buzzing in the windows
I will get the vacuum out later to take care of those

it’s interesting to walk around
everything looks quite good
a cd case left near a window is washed out, bleached by the sun
the trip “to do list” is still on the kitchen table
most of the items are crossed off
I guess we did what had to be done

Eric goes to the basement
he had made a batch of wine before we left
6 months later we are ready to try it
celebrate our return
the wine is tasty

our cats are back too
they look quite content
Grammy took good care of them
they each carry a few extra pounds
round purring ball of fur they are

it will take a few days to fully settle in
we’re back
it seems somewhat unreal after being on the road for months
seeing and meeting and experiencing so much
time to reflect
time to embrace a new season
time to look for work!

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Catherine Bussiere: Kaouki dog

this will be our last week in Sidi Kaouki
last week in Morocco
last week of our, almost, six months journey
next Sunday we will be back in Beckwith
it’s hard to believe

it’s funny how time goes
it didn’t take too long after we got here that Charlotte started counting the days
she was ready
it was 20 + days and it seemed so far off
then the days blended in and weeks flew by

one of our highlight lately has been a daily walk
to your left or to your right
down the beach
you can walk for miles and miles
and once you’re out of this small village, its’ hotels and campgrounds
there is just about nothing but a few fishermen checking their nets at low tide

the owners where we stay adopted a beach dog named Raquel
maybe a year or two ago
I am not a “dog” person
I much prefer cats
but I have to say
after four weeks here
I very much like Raquel

she guards my sandals and glasses on the beach when I’m swimming
she doesn’t whine
she is independent
she can run for miles

She is the impersonation of “the dog”
faithful, beautiful, noble

She has a two year old daughter named Blondie who is a little bit crazy
Blondie lives up the road at Villa Soleil
often the two of them will join us on our walk
together they become a lethal duo
they will attack at random any lonesome dog
they are out of control

it blows my mind to see these lovely gentle creatures become instant brutes
then return to us, wagging their tail, with a big smile on their face
they rule the beach
secretly I admire that
their power, their strength
while I humanly disprove

yesterday was special
a little one decided to join them
they did not seem to mind
as he looked quite smug to be hanging with the fearsome two

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Catherine Bussiere: Susan and Regina

Two German ladies showed up one evening while the hotel was vacant.
I looked at them walk in wandering for a second what they wanted. We didn’t expect any guest for a couple days and I must have forgotten that we were indeed a hotel providing rooms. It didn’t take me long to clue in and I quickly went to the reception desk to welcome them.

They took a room and stayed with us for a couple nights. The second morning we started a conversation as I was serving them breakfast and I asked if they would be up for a couple questions about age.

Susan is a university professor. She is sixty three.
Regina is a psychologist. She is sixty six.
They are cousin, good friends, and enjoy traveling together.

It is interesting to get feedback from different age group (last week the ladies were thirty). The fact that English is a second language (for myself as well) only added flavor to the exchange.

What is old?

Susan: Being not attractive anymore, not attractive for other people, loosing autonomy, needing help.

I think you can be old in so different ways, I think and I hope I will never be old in that terrible sense. My mind is quite young, my way of behaving is rather young. All the time I’m in contact with young people now so that, perhaps, keeps me young as well.

Regina: What is it to be old? I don’t know.

My body is feeling old. When I get out of the car my legs are stiff, it takes a moment and then it’s good, I can move again. My mind, my emotions, are not old. And when my cousin say we are not so attractive for the man, for me it’s good because I was a very attractive woman and it’s not nice to be that, and now I can look and nobody is looking for me. I love it. I can show my emotion.

Last year I was really old, I lost one (pointing to her breast) and I think it’s good that I am an old woman and not thirty years old. No problem for me. I’m an old woman and I’m very very interested in all things and I’m also naughty. I’m a old time naughty, yes! And I understand a lot of things and when people say: oh, I want to be young, I think no, no. You are very alone then and I don’t want (that). It’s ok I’m old, but my body, my legs, it’s not so nice.

Susan: I see that the norm says you, as a woman, are suppose to look for men who are older or as old as you are and not the young ones. But when you’re getting older it’s for you like for the man that you like the younger ones.

Regina laughs and says “Naughty!”

Susan: And you accuse man of taking second and third women or marrying again and again and you say yeah, he can do that, he gets the new one when the old one is worn out and old and ugly but we’re not allowed to do that. I mean in general.

I have to think about that a lot because I meet a lot of young people that are nice.

The men that are of my age and older I think they are incredibly unattractive. They are so much less attractive then women of my age. And so, what can I do with them? I mean they don’t attract me, I don’t want to share my life with them. They are not lively anymore. It seems they are sort of depress, they are slower, they do not look for what is happening in the world.

I have the impression that women try to get more when they are old, they still want to learn things for themselves; keep themselves upright (she is looking for the right word) dynamic. And of course I can’t say that about all women but there are such women and I meet them and I like them. And I have a big problem getting to know men of my age that are interested and interesting.

Why do you think that is?

Regina:
The garden; the garden of Eden.
Eva say, let us eat from the apple and Adam say “oh God say no!”
She is very interested, she wants to eat the apple and I also want to eat the apple.
And God say no, Adam says no.

(Big laugh from both of them)

Regina:
I think it’s not easy to be old because I don’t plan, I can’t plan the next 10 years.
Oh! I’m going to (do) this and that… It’s over.
You can’t plan.
I think the next five years; I think it’s like now (looking at herself, physically) but then I don’t know. Can I live in my loft?, I have a lot of steps. I don’t know; I – don’t – know.
It’s a difficult question. I think when I have a good day, I think twenty years. (laugh)
Yes; I’m old in twenty years. But I don’t know.
I feel my body much more (now) then when I’m younger, I didn’t think about my body when I was young.
My wrinkles that’s ok. Ohhhh, beautiful! (laugh)

When was beauty not a problem anymore?

Regina:
Fifty.
Fifty years old and I’m sitting on a ship in Sicily and there are lots of men of all ages and they laugh at me and I laugh back and I think, ah! it’s no problem, ah!, the world is opening up (laugh).
The first time I realize this, yes, I was fifty, I remember very very clear.

About youth?

Susan:
Youth has a future. The world is there for you (if you are in such a privilege situation as we are, enough money, good parents, good education), the world is open, you can do many things, you just decide or you wait and things happen. Youth means you have all possibilities, the world is open. People expect from you that you take advantage of your opportunities.

When I got thirty we were joking about things. My friend say thirty, oh yeah, that’s something, and we give you some cream for your face and how to eat in healthy way so you sort of get along with age from thirty on. We’re laughing a lot and I say; you go off with your stuff, I don’t want it.
I didn’t think much change then but I know that when I approach sixty, my age of sixty, I was never fifty nine, I was always almost sixty and it was like aaaahhhh, sixty, that’s quite an age, this is something really…

You have to get over that. Say well ok, I’m sixty, nothing happened, I’m still as I am, ok, ok, ok.

But it is since I’m in the sixties that I’m getting more and more afraid of age… and I’m afraid that people expect me to be old. That they judge me and say: you’re sixty, oh yeah, ok, you’re sixty, not much to do in your life anymore.

I know that my father and my mother were ninety when they died so perhaps half my life is in front of me.
Yes, much life left in you indeed. Thank you Susan and Regina.

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Catherine Bussiere: Claudia, Julia, Ines

It’s been quiet here these past few days
been rainy and stormy and grey
our guests are gone
there’s water dripping here and there
looks like it will be quiet for a few more days

I photographed and interviewed Claudia and Julia last week
they are both 30 (it was Claudia’s birthday)
they were both on vacation with their beau

I got to know them a little, took a few pictures and asked random questions
there is a topic now that I will keep on investigating
age, aging, time

here they are

 

Claudia and Simon

Claudia is from Germany, she is a lawyer, wants to make a decent living, wants kids.
She turned thirty during her stay in Sidi Kaouki. That morning I made her fluffy pancakes with honey syrup. She liked them so much she asked for the recipe.
Simon looked chill, I forget what he does but he seemed willing to stay home and look after the kids when the time comes. Attentive, he had bought a small cake for her birthday. With candles on it.

They were both lovely.

– How does it feel to be 30?
“Three or four months ago I didn’t want to get 30 but now I feel good.
The last year is that (when) I found the more and more what I am. When I was younger it was like what the world is expecting from me.”

Now she feels like she is being herself not meeting others’ expectation.

“I want to be happy, have a family, we want to marry.”
“I don’t like this word: old. Maybe you are never old. You can not fix it with an age.”
“You don’t get that much older when you go with the times. My grandmother has a strong will. She grew with the times.”

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Julia and Aurélien

Julia is French.
She is pretty, social, happy, generous, attentive.
She likes her coffee black.
She is a waitress.
She wanted to work with kids and elders
Do social work
For some reason the french system may not let you be what you want to be
Julia loves: the sun, Morocco, but most of all she loves Aurélien

What is your dream?
“A house in the country, a big piece of land, three sheep, chickens, a goat, a garden, a baby.”

What do you like about your work?
“The contact with people. To offer (the pleasure of) food. The contact with the kitchen: foods, smells, flavors.”

She likes the fast pace. “You don’t get bored”

A good waitress is…?
“Organize, efficient, always smiling.”

Aging? What is it to be old?
“It’s in your head” “ I’m thirty now, my twenties are behind me. I’m not happy to be thirty, to have lost my youth. It’s the Peter Pan complex.”

What is youth?
“It’s to have time ahead of you, the older you get the less time you got.”

About Aurélien she says:
“I’m a fan of our love.”

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Inès

Ines left us too this week
She is a beautiful, spirited young lady
She has claws and she can bite
for that reason she found a new home
before she left we had time to become friends

What makes you happy?
“meow, meow, meow” (sardines, half the bed in the middle of the night, ruling the house)

What do you think about age?
“ meow?”
(what you talking about?)

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I miss them all.

Catherine Bussiere: Blue Kaouki

Blue Kaouki
it’s the name of a hotel
in Sidi Kaouki
long beach, pounding waves, surfers, camels, goats, dogs with teeth that mean it
travelers, campground, hotels, restaurants, surf shack, bicycles
low key
laid back
lovely

our job here is to welcome clients, make breakfast (on the rooftop patio), keep the place tidy
easy

there has only been few clients at a time
only so much to do
we end up chatting, hanging out throughout the day
sharing a little of our lives
I love it
we met a few germans, some english folks, a lovely french couple

Claudia turned 30 while she was here
the big three o
on Friday the 13th
I made her some nice fluffy pancakes with honey syrup
good start to her day

I like this job of easing people’s morning
serve coffee and fresh pressed orange juice
flip an egg
serve that delicious Moroccan bread
(it is delivered warm around 8 every morning)

we will be here until the end of our trip
over the next four weeks
I’ll introduce you to some of our clients
a snapshot and a quote
(yes, yes, I am inspired by humans of New York, the clever idea is not mine)
here’s the first

Drusilla

This lady came in with a cane, luggage and bottles of wine. She told me her doctor told her not to travel. She has been coming to Morocco for years. She is now writing a novel that takes place here. She likes to write at night with a glass of wine and a cigaret. Classic.

What do you like about Morocco?
– I like the people. People don’t care about how you look. They care about who you are.

What makes you happy?
– The lack of pain.

What bugs you?
– Rudeness

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Catherine Bussiere: Taroudant, another carpet ride

After a memorable stay in the desert (I missed last week’s blog for lack of internet but you will find a post on that experience here if you like) we are now in Taroudant, a town that the locals call “the small Marrakech”. We got off the bus two days ago after a long ride through more Atlas where stunning scenery of mountains and valleys, dry river beds, oasis, herds of sheep, dusty road stands with colorful potteries kept us entertained. The landscapes in these parts are rugged and beautiful.

As we got off the bus I started looking for a taxi when Thami, upon asking me where we were staying, offered us directions then took upon himself to lead us there and carry some of our luggage. When I offered Thami a tip for his service he promptly refused, welcoming us to his town and offering us to take a horse drawn carriage ride with him for a tour of the city the next morning at a very reasonable price. Why not. We’ve never done that.

If there is something I have to learn about morocco it’s to be open to whatever the day will give (or lead to). The ride with Thami didn’t last an hour as I had expected, it took most of the day. Not only did he show us the city rampart where here and there we hopped off to climb, get a good view and take photos (he knew of all the good spots for pictures) but he made us visit the souk and of course some shops. Now the nice thing about visiting shops with a tour guide is that you are made to feel that there is no obligation or pressure to buy anything. Have a look, ask questions, take pictures.

We visited a women cooperative where several products are made from the argan nut. I already had bought argan oil in Fes so there was no need for more. We visited a jewelry shop and there, since this region is famous for this art, and because we had not indulged yet, Charlotte and I splurged. We went into an ancient synagogue transformed into a art shop where I saw the biggest carpet show room I had seen yet on this trip along with several rooms filled with ancient and new art from Morocco and other African country.We might as well have stepped into Ali Baba’s cavern. I knew nothing there was within my budget but oh my, what a feast for the eyes.

We saw mountain of spices at the market, and several other small artisan shop. But what took the main part of our tour was yet another carpet shop owned by one of Thami’s relative. Soon after we got in and as a gentleman was about to show us some carpets (tea already on it’s way) we did let them know that we had already bought carpets and blanket earlier on the trip. In fact, that was the heavy piece of luggage that Thami helped us carry the night before. No problem my friends, just have a look, no need to buy.

Of course you know what is next. Next comes an array of beautiful thin blankets made of camel hair and cactus fiber. They are light and roll up to almost nothing. When will I ever have a chance to acquire such beauty. We ponder, we do not have enough cash, I plead that we must go back to the hostel and get a credit card if we are to make a purchase. I think that really we should finish our tour first. The gentleman doesn’t settle for that. It is Friday, couscous day, why don’t you join us for couscous. Finish the tour then come eat with us. Hum, homemade couscous is an invite no one should refuse. We agree, we finish the tour, we come back. I know already that we will get those blankets. After couscous and more tea we not only get three but four blankets.

Maybe because we are not good at bartering, maybe because we spend time, maybe because tourism is low at the moment, who knows, not only our gentleman lowers the price a little but he trows in a few cushion covers to go with the blankets and give Eric a Fatima hand for his mom. Hands are shaken, shukran (thank you) exchanged, we are all happy with our day. Moroccans depends on tourism and will do their best to give you a good time. I have seen here some of the most beautiful craft / art there is. Generation of men and women have passed down their skills from fathers to sons, mothers to daughters, and most of what you see has been made by hard working hands.

Thanks to Thami and extended family for a great day yesterday.

Here are some photos for you textile and art lover!

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ps. one more thing, we visited Amoon, a collaborative of Berber women in Taroudant today, there was one rug that was hooked!

Here is their website: anmoon.com

If you ever visit Taroudant do visit their shop.

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Catherine Bussiere: on the move

packing once again I go through an accumulation of receipts
we are leaving tomorrow morning for Ouarzazate
I love these names
Chefchaouen, Ouarzazate, Tagounite, Essaouira

I am packing once again and trying to organize my “stuff”
what goes in the large backpack; where
what goes in the smaller backpack
what goes in my purse

I empty everything
I even wash the smaller backpack
I think somewhere along the way there was a leak in the ice tea bottle
it got soaked, it dried, I forgot about it
today it looked dirty and felt… well, like it needed a wash

my purse had accumulated a series of receipts, directions and hotel names on the back of printed boarding passes, museum tickets, grocery lists, business cards
I look at them all
I paid 75.00 (euros, pounds, dirham?) at Rodeo something for three Bonnie
three Bonnie?
what was that?
think, think, think
oh yeah, those were chicken wraps just outside the train station in Casablanca
we were starving
they tasted good

I found a map I drew of the main streets around our apartment in Barcelona
brings me right back to the holidays when the boys were with us and we walked the town
memories

tomorrow we leave for Ouarzazate
there isn’t much there apparently except for their film studio
I’ve never visited a film studio
this week we watched “Gladiator” because some scenes were shot there
so cool we thought, we’re going there!

the main thing is that we are heading south and are going inland
rather up and down land
we will be getting into the Atlas mountain range
and then, when we come out of there, we will be at the edge of the desert
the cool thing is that we will be getting further away from tourist traps
if that’s possible
I hope

this week we are to meet and live with a Berber family
still through this helpx thing that we do
I am looking forward to it
It has been nice enough to be by the beach and stay with our American hosts
but we are in Morocco
it only seems right to spend some time with Moroccans

maybe by next week I will have learned how to make tagines
or a proper couscous
maybe I’ll tell you about it

have a good week

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Catherine Bussiere: Textures

it’s been an interesting week
moving deeper into Morocco
new sights and smells
more interaction
with locals
with other travelers
with a new host

we’re by the ocean near Casablanca
Dar Bouazza it’s called
there is a little port where fishermen bring their catch
there’s a few fruit and vegetable vendors
the beach in front of us is sand with the regular pounding of waves
nothing too big
gentle and steady
further along there are very interesting rock formations
their design make me come back for a photo shoot

it is busy this week end
the weather is nice and several cars are parked in rudimentary parking lots along the ocean front
you wouldn’t think much of it
unpaved dirt lot overlooking the ocean
but in the shade with a glass of tea
an attendant keeps watch
over the nice looking cars

I was looking to buy chicken the other day
on the main drag there are several small shops where you can find all the basics
but meat
for that there are meat stalls
I see a big side of beef hanging and a nice array of cuts in one of them
I’m looking for chicken though
I ask the man if he has any
I ask in French
turns out French is the unofficial third language in this country and is definitively not spoken by all
in the north more people speak Spanish as a third language
the two first ones you ask: Arabic and Berber
in Tangier for example, the first boy we met spoke Spanish, French and English aside from Arabic and maybe Berber
I’m thinking of my kids back home
the ones I used to help with french at school
who struggle with one extra tongue
back to my chicken; I am stubborn and ask again, in french, if he has any other type of meat
maybe mentioning lamb (but not pork) will help
the man graciously points to a nice piece of beef
he obviously thinks I want a particular cut
I understand that we will not understand each other if I keep on like this
so, I resort to a universal language and mime a chicken while clucking
that works, the man has a good laugh and points up the alley to another stall

I have been using this method daily with Mina the maid who works here
she too only speaks Arabic
on the first day after many “merci” for this or that
I muster the courage to try it out in Arabic
“shukran”
I can tell she is pleased
later she uses a few words in french
here we go, between gestures, a little of this and that we may understand each other

the photos were taken yesterday
fascinated I was by the various textures on my path

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Catherine Bussiere: Chaouen blues

On the ferry we saw the edge of the Rif mountains
Africa
looking for a culture shock
looking for extra heat

we had been told many things
the cabs, the haggling, the food, the art, the hospitality
go to: Chefchaouen, Fes, Marrakech
do this, don’t do that
and
it won’t be much warmer

we experienced the cab first thing
an old Mercedes
the grand taxi
from Tangier port to the city
a good half hour drive
full speed

as soon as we step out a young boy is offering us direction
I know where I am going
I have my map
it’s around the corner
still he is one step ahead of me
pointing to where I am going
I tell him I have no money
which is true, I will need to find a bank first thing to get some local change
it doesn’t make any difference
one step ahead of me he goes

we’re at the hostel
still the boy and now another one are waiting around for us to be done with checking in
they want to take us to their uncle or other relative for dinner
we are exhausted and just want to settle in
it has been a long day
the clerk who knows them shoos them off

welcome to Morocco

Next day Chefchaouen or like people say Chaouen
the blue city
the Medina (the old city) is so pretty
just big enough to think you may get lost
but really, small, so you don’t

cats are everywhere
most of them look good
I think it’s a good sign
our hosts at the Riad are most welcoming
our house is your house
truly

we venture around
I click away
every door, every step
every shade of blue
catches my eye

there are shops everywhere
everything is beautiful
I don’t dare let my eye linger too much
the vendors know
they will catch me
once your caught it’s hard to get out

eventually I get caught
come to see this carpet shop one says
I will take you there
innocently I go
sure, let’s have a peak
we are treated the royal way
the place is large
mounds and mounds of carpets and blankets
all of them absolutely gorgeous
two men are busy picking several out to show
unrolling them on the floor
tea is offered
we agree
it’s a ritual
it’s also a trap

I really didn’t have any intention of buying anything that day
I was going to be smart and inform myself first
I had been told to bargain
I was not going to buy anything big
we are backpacking

you see where this is going

a couple hours later I came out with a large carpet
two small ones
and two blankets

did I bargain?
no
I couldn’t get myself to do it
the craftsmanship shown to me was so beautiful
how could I undermine it

later I felt a bit like a fool
my daughter and I, on another walk, got caught in a different shop
the vendors are so slick
so nice
like fine fisherman, they know how to hook you and slowly get you in
I am the biggest fish around
he offers prices that are way below what I just paid
I feel tired, I had enough
we manage to get out of this one empty handed

my daughter tells me what we got was way better
thanks Charlotte

there is much to adjust culture wise
as a foreigner I don’t want to offend anyone
we are in Muslim country
what do I know
much to learn

we are in Fes today
biggest Medina in the world
this time we will get lost

here are some Chaouen photos
enjoy

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Catherine Bussiere: la Taha

two more days until our visa expires

on another journey we go

this one has been good

the kind of good that makes you feel like you could stay a few more days or a few more months

that you could easily slip into this community

be yet one more wanderer that stumbled upon this place and never left

we have found generous people

that took us in

shared what they had

made us feel at home

tomorrow we will cook a big gumbo

invite a few neighbors

make one last almond cake

today we will go for another walk

maybe not the great big one we had planned on

but at least a little one

I was hoping to see almond blossoms before we left

even the trees in their greatness granted me my wish

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Catherine Bussiere: almond cake

Last Sunday I did make an almond cake

I don’t think I’ve given you this recipe before and it is one of the best cake I make

It barely has flour and the little it has could be replaced by a non gluten one

it has no butter or milk so it is dairy free

boring you’re starting to think

think again

this cake is mostly nuts, eggs a little sugar and can be covered with whipped cream

originally it was a hazelnut cake

I once replaced the hazelnut with almonds

I played a bit with proportion

and this past Sunday I did something very decadent and exciting

I made baklava syrup and poured it all over the cake once it was done

this is what I will share with you today

My new favorite almond cake

for the cake you will need:

2 1/2 cups of freshly roasted ground almonds (roast the almonds then ground them)

6 tablespoons of flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

10 eggs

1 1/2 cup of sugar

Beat eggs and sugar. Add the ground almonds. Mix in flour and baking powder.

Bake in a large dish 20 minutes at 350ºF.

Now you can eat the cake just like that or if you want bake it in two round cake pan and you can put raspberry jam in the middle then cover it with whip cream or skip the jam and make a ganache (melted chocolate with cream) and cover the cake with it, whatever you fancy, it’s already delicious.

But if you want my new version, once the cake comes out of the oven, pour this syrup all over it.

for the syrup you will need:

1 1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

3/4 cup honey

1 cinnamon stick

5 cloves (if you have some)

4 lemon slices

4 orange slices

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and cool syrup.

To be honest I did not quite mesure the ingredients for the syrup. If you don’t have much honey put more sugar and if you don’t want to use sugar put more honey. The key for this syrup is the citrus and spices.

Also if you go with this version and think wow, too much sugar here, you can reduce the amount in the cake a little or just skip the syrup all together.

In the end it is a really easy cake to make and is absolutely delicious, nutritious, healthy and quite stunning if you go the whipped way. Speaking of, next time I will make it with the syrup and then serve it with a beautiful dollop of vanilla whipped cream.

That ought to be good.

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Catherine Bussiere: Atalbeitar

long days, short week
where does the time go
officially by 9am we should all start working
it’s about right, más o menos quince minutos

Alma goes to school
she is four years old
has curly blond hair
and the features of an angel
morning revolves around getting her to the bus in time
like any other household with a child in school

there is a breath of relief, a sense of achievement, when she is off
we did it again
we can go on with our day

a long list of various task is written on a large piece of paper pinned to the kitchen door
everyone has something to do
sanding, painting, fixing, building
ongoing maintenance of a restored house
very different from our house
this house has rocks for roofing
the ceiling of my bedroom is made of large beams holding a wooden structure that supports loads of rocks
the walls are made of blocks of cement covered with plaster
it enable a creative person to shape them as they wish
to insert rounded selves and small alcoves
I quite like it (I love it)
I want a house like that

it is snowing this morning
first snow we see on our trip
we are way up in the Sierra Nevada mountain range
it’s not unusual to have a little snow this time of year

although Christmas has gone by this snow makes us feel like Christmas

everyday we go for a walk
this village is tiny
it has a church, a bar (run by a gentleman named Jesus) and a handful of houses
most of the time you won’t see anyone in the streets except for cats
I have been thinking there may be more stray cats then people living here
I’m not too far off

the houses are all white
every year they get a fresh coat of lime wash
apparently it has antimicrobial properties
you can spot the villages from a distance
white slashes on the mountains

I like it here
every single time we go for a walk I end up picking either: almonds, walnuts or chestnuts off the ground
mostly almonds
people grow almonds around here
I keep writing this word: almond, because it pretty much blows my mind
it’s a dream come true
picking almonds off the ground, cracking the shells with a rock and eating them
I can scratch that off my bucket list
but I don’t want to
I want to live in a place where I can have an almond tree

do you think I could have one in my greenhouse?

time for another cup of tea
it’s Sunday, it’s snowing, I might just go bake an almond cake

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Catherine Bussiere: I love Spain

It’s tempting to talk about where I am at the moment but I may have to wait until next week for that

on Monday there was an amazing Kings parade in Barcelona
that could be a post in itself
the three kings parade is really the kids Christmas here
That’s who they write their wish list to and that’s when they get their present
the parade was magical
floats, carts, crazy rolling cars, masks, dancers
it was like a circus

Wednesday night we took the train to Grenada and arrived early the next morning
We had rented a room in the Albayzín district, I’ll call it the old quarter
from the shared roof patio of the apartment we had a fantastic view of the Alhambra which we visited the next day
What struck me the most with the old quarter was the stone work
the roads, sidewalk, pathways are all neatly laid with pebbles forming various pattern
some squares look like mosaics
everywhere you walk is like a beautiful stone carpet
it just amazed me
so much time and detail put into the common place

I felt so happy
sure I am on vacation
but I was pondering upon the effect of beauty in your everyday surroundings
the fact that everywhere you look is beautiful
that an artist, an artisan, an architect put some thought, time and effort into making something, the most common thing, like a pavement, beautiful
what does that do to one self
to walk amongst beauty everyday
it sure made me feel good

as if that was not enough
we visited the Alhambra the next day
The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex
it is one of the most visited place in Spain
depending on the time of year you would have to reserve tickets weeks ahead to get a chance to visit it

The Alhambra is breathtaking
the outside of the buildings are rather plain
the views from the fortress let you admire the city and the snow caped mountains in the distance
eventually you get into the main palace
that’s when your jaws drops
walls and ceiling are ornate with what I thought was carved stone but turns out to be plaster
there is water flowing everywhere
there are courtyards with orange trees, pools with goldfish, palm trees that turned out to be date trees
we walked at a slow pace taking it all in
peace, beauty and serenity emanated from the place

we are now since yesterday up in the mountains near Pitres
the village we are in only has pathways, no roads for cars
we are up in the mountains on the south slope
our hosts are young artists with a lovely 4 year old daughter
I haven’t taken any pictures yet
I will save that for next week
all I can tell you is that I keep falling in love with Spain
over and over again

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Catherine Bussiere: walking

one of the thing I like about being in this city is that I can walk to places
walk to get fruits and veggies, meat, bread
walk to the theater, to the museum, to the park
walk to the beach and even to a hill top high enough to overlook the whole city and beyond
we’ve been walking several km a day pretty much each day since we got to Barcelona
I love it every time

here’s what caught my eye

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Catherine Bussiere: Catalonia Art

yesterday we went to visit the Catalonia art museum

I mostly spent time walking through the modern art exhibit

rooms and rooms of paintings, sculptures, furniture, drawings, metal work, photography you name it

the great thing was that I only knew very few of the artists

there might have been one Picasso and one Dali

of course there were some Miro

but otherwise I really didn’t know much

How refreshing and exciting to discovery all this art

here is some of it

enjoy

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Catherine Bussiere: Christmas

December 21st
it’s hard to believe
I see the Santas here and there
a few decorations
but really walking around Barcelona
wearing a light shirt under a sunny sky
I don’t feel like Christmas is in a very few days

My son Sam joined us this week
we had said good bye to the hills of Provence
spent a day in Marseille
got off the bus really early one morning in the city of Gaudí
and a few days later Sam was here, on our door step
not in my computer talking to me on skype
but right there in front of me
sleepily standing between his brother and sister who picked him up at the airport
Could I possibly want anything else
my three babies for Christmas
my three adult babies
maybe that’s even more special

Barcelona is great and I should tell you all about it
but in a way
at this point in our trip
it is more like a shell that holds us all
a beautiful shell I must say
it is where we get together as a family for a precious amount of time
where we walk and talk
shop (mostly for food) and cook and drink
laugh and snuggle
where we just hang out and enjoy being together

it is precious isn’t it
once the kids grow up
once life takes us apart
when we all fly our own direction
to be able to take the time
make a pause
and reconnect with our dear ones

of course there’s always someone missing
make that a plural
my son’s fiancé
our moms and dads
brothers and sisters
nieces and nephews
the list goes on

But for what I have I am thankful

I wish you who may read this blog a happy Christmas
I wish you to spend time with anyone who is dear to you
may it be family or friend, make the best of it
Merry Christmas!

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