Relish December

December for me has never been a month of being over wrought. To me it is a month to relish. to try to slow down a bit.

It is a festival of lights and I love how the colour lights up the dark nights. It feels less like winter is impending and more like something lovely is about to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be busy this month but I mean to enjoy it. I refuse to get overwhelmed by the baking, shopping, visiting, cooking. I want to relish in it. I will do all the things that need to be done but I won’t let them do me.

That means I may or may not make a fruitcake this year. It also means my shopping will be close to home and easy. It means that whatever I need to do will get done but I won’t be holding to myself to standards of other years, or to the standards of others. Each year, each home is it’s own little entity.

I mean to be grateful for who is here, and mindful of who is not.

I want to have faith and joy in a season that is meant to be a celebration.

I mean to celebrate this dark month with little white lights, presents, prayers, and thoughtfulness.

Never mind all the fuss.

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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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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Catherine Bussiere: coming to an end

as this day wears off so does this part of our trip
two days ago Isaac and Haley left for Paris
Isaac taking his belle to the last leg of her trip
she will be going home for Christmas

these past two days were spent doing small tasks
going one last time down to the village
enjoying the 2km path through the woods
looking again and again at this beautiful scenery
soaking it in
saying good bye to the butcher
buying one last almond croissant (make that three actually)

over a month has gone by already
our long time dream of Provence to be over

crazy

today for the first time since the beginning of this trip we had nothing on our agenda
first day of no work, no visiting, no traveling
I walked around the property
I took my time
I walked through the olive grove, into the woods
Geraldine was telling me how wild this place was ten years ago
the way she speaks makes me think of an archeological dig
it was all forest
they did an enormous amount of work to bring it to what it is now

I admire the stone work
some has been redone, some, in the woods, is barely visible
I can’t help to think about the past
who built these walls
when
what were they for
olive trees?
in places huge trees have taken roots
how old are they

I walk some more
at the spring I pick up the clay cup and I have a sip
fresh
I go by tall rosemary bushes
it’s hard not to
I rub my hands with their essence
I look down at the rolling hills
in the distance I see the village
on my back the cliff stands tall
no clouds are caught in it today
I look at the olive groves all cleaned up
much work was done there

this week, working away in the sun, I stopped for a moment and thought how content I was to be outside in such a beautiful environment
yes, this experience has been good

our work is done here and our journey to continue
tomorrow we will be off to Barcelona
this coming week we will reunite with our son Isaac and our son Sam who is joining us for the holidays
now that for me will be Christmas

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Catherine Bussiere: Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse: a traditional Provencal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille.

I can’t say how long I’ve wanted to eat bouillabaisse
growing up I read Marcel Pagnol, a god amongst Provencal literature
his series: Marius, Fanny, Cesar take place in the heart of Marseille where Cesar, a lively choleric character, runs a bar
the world of Pagnol is a world like any: family, friends, love, foes, food, drinks
it is lively, it is flavorful, the language sings
it is french from the south, from the sea, with accent, punctuation, words like no others
The bouillabaisse is a classic dish from this part of the world
as it requires specific fish and spices one can really only eat the “real thing” here

Friday night we were invited to a party of ten at “la table D’eux” restaurant to eat the famous soup
and I was excited
as we walked into the restaurant I was taken aside right away to the kitchen to see a basin filled with odd looking fish covered with garlic, saffron and who knows what

Our host have been fantastic
we help out all week
we’ve mostly been cleaning up the olive grove; mowing, chopping, making it nice
we get a lovely place to stay, the best grocery, (I have a tab at the boucherie where I’ve been trying all sorts of local specialties)
and on Friday we go out

Now we could just go out and eat but Geraldine (she likes to be called Gerry but Geraldine is so pretty and she does look a little bit like Geraldine Chaplin) goes above and beyond
She knows we are curious so she makes sure to introduce us to the locals
She arranged a couple tours to local olive mills
Took us out to try the Beaujolais nouveau

In the kitchen of the restaurant the mother of the cook explains to me how the soup is made
the various fish have been sitting in a wonderful mixture of spices for hours
The broth is made
veggies are cooked
one by one, depending on their size, the fish will be added at the last minute so they cook to perfection

in the restaurant the table is set
as we wait we are treated to a few rounds of sparkling wine to celebrate Isaac and Haley’s engagement
the traditional plate of charcuterie sits on the counter
someone tells me to try this and that
I try everything

We are now ready to hit the table
Bouillabaisse has a special order of thing
first the broth is served pipping hot topped with rouille spread on croutons
rouille is like a spicy homemade mayonnaise with garlic and saffron

The broth is heavenly
rich, flavorful
the crouton soak just enough of the broth for an easy chew
the rouille tops it all
I am in heaven

Then comes two huge platters of fish
it has all those crazy fish I saw earlier in the kitchen plus mini crabs, mussels and squid
I try everything
Next you place any of the fish you want in your plate
grab a few potatoes if you wish and cover that with the broth that has been kept hot

we all go for several rounds
wine keeps filling our glasses
our bellies are getting fuller and fuller
there is so mush fish to be eaten

several hours later
that’s the way it goes here
a proper meal takes hours
the fish is gone and we are served an expresso followed by a few shots of Lemoncello
jolly and filled to the rim we exit the restaurant with kisses on the cheek to the cook, his mom, the waitress

another meal in Provence gone by
I am looking forward to next Friday
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Catherine Bussiere: highlights

when one doesn’t know where to start; start with highlights
Paris is already gone by and I barely said a thing busy we were soaking it up
and before Paris there was Canterbury
didn’t even mention that did I
images are worth a thousand word, I will use this

Canterbury: awe, solemnity, beauty, moved to tears when I entered the crypt
why?
I think the sense of time, history, people, us in some ways passing through, achievement, faith, war, love, peace
I don’t know
and didn’t need to think it
the feeling was there and was enough
I loved Canterbury
later on we went back to hear the choir
we went to mass
I never go to mass
it was beautiful
the whole ceremony punctuated by a mixture of voices all tones and range mixed in unison in this huge sacred place

that was Canterbury cathedral
highly recommended

then Paris
an overnight bus ride from London that took us on the ferry in the middle of the night
long and groggy is the feeling
in the middle of the night we go through border
the French one
I’m a little nervous again, borders tent to do that
Charlotte is ahead
the officer says “bonsoir”
she says “bonsoir”
he then says “and in the morning you say…”
She is puzzled for a second then responds “bonjour”
“and in the afternoon…”
that’s the trick question, one must know that to go through border
Charlotte answers: “bonne après-midi”

I go after Charlotte
He says: “Bonsoir”
“bonsoir”
“She looks like you”
“She’s my daughter”
the officer winks, stamps my passport, “Bon séjour”
off I go
I love France already

True things about Paris: people are not rude
or at least no more then anywhere else
also, I was under the impression that there would be dog droppings everywhere
that was an old rumor
Paris is clean, surprisingly clean
Paris highlights: everywhere you look is beautiful, the bakeries, la Seine, the multiple bridges, la tour Eiffel at night, walking and getting lost, our hosts
Paris was thrilling and exhausting
you just can’t help wanting more of it

We are now settled in a beautiful nook in Southern France
up against a cliff looking down valleys
olives trees lined up on “restanques” (dry-stone wall terraces)
a 2 km path takes us to the nearby village (and bakery)
today we’ll explore a different path that leads to a monastery
the monks are known to produce “Chartreuse” and honey
worth investigating

at this point in our trip we have been reunited with my son and his … fiancé!
he proposed in London about a week ago
sweethearts
so it’s five of us for the month in Provence
we will be clearing the orchard, helping out on the land
it is a country where thyme and rosemary grow wild
as my son said “herbes de Provence” could just as well be “weeds of Provence”
we love it

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Catherine Bussiere: Margate

Margate, seaside town
I love: the early quietness, the sounds of seagulls, the salty smell in the breeze
I love looking out at the sea
some morning there is no line between water and sky
variation of blues blend in one another
coming from Nova Scotia I should be use to this
but in Nova Scotia I don’t live by the sea
We are lucky this week to have a flat that looks onto it
and huge windows to boot

highlight of the week
a very long walk along stunning chalk cliffs
Chalk Cliffs
I didn’t know cliffs could be made of chalk
it feels like they should be all dissolved already
there is a castle sitting on an edge
it’s been made into condos
there are big walls protecting the cliff
to the water you’d go little castle

Broadstairs
it’s the name of a town
we walk all the way to it
highlights: pasties at the meat shop
ooooo the nice meat shop
something so nice about a shop that knows it’s business
we buy several pasties
pasties: take some dough, could be flaky, could be like pie dough, make it good either way. Add just about anything in the middle of that dough. Like a sausage, a burger with condiment, a whole breakfast: bacon and eggs and ketchup too, a beef stew, a beef stew with veggies, the list goes on…
I think the English invented a fantastic to go food
if it’s done well it is quite good
the ones we had were delicious
the best: an apple turnover loaded with apples

Other food highlights
because isn’t food an ongoing highlight when you travel
we have free tab at the local pizza shop
the ladies we are staying at and helping out are back in London and own a fine pizza place
they can’t cook for us, we get as much pizza as we want
by now we have tried all of them
by now we are a little sick of pizza
but, the one that stands out, because it is a combo I’ve never had before on the thinnest pizza dough I ever bitten into is the Blue Cheese and Pear
notice that I used capital letters for Blue Cheese and Pear
it’s that good

yesterday because we all had enough pizza I made a chicken pot pie
that was quite delicious
comfort food

what else
it was Halloween and plenty of local fireworks kept exploding everywhere
Friday and Saturday
???
November first is All Saint’s Day
Day of the dead in Mexico
I bet they have lots of fireworks there too
we don’t do that in Canada
November 5th will be Guy Fawkes day
all around England people will light big bond fire
to celebrate a failed attempt to blow up King James 1st
???
the poor guy was found maybe minutes before he was to light the fuse that was to blow up the houses of parliament
to the Tower of London you go!
and for your mischief we will light fires all over England forever
that was four hundred years ago

interesting how habits and customs come about

well I must go help and paint some more
maybe we’ll go on another big walk later today
few more days in Margate and off to Paris
oh la la
looking forward to croissant, cheese and wine

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paying attention to the what’s on the go right now

Dear Diary,

Yes, I am back to writing dear diary because I  feel as if I am writing to myself when I start like that. It is so much less intimidating. You will have noticed I am blogging less. I will keep trying to post once or twice a week.

I have to say I am excited about my new book…the best book yet…with out a doubt. Not only is it in hardcover but it is full of surprises and interesting instruction as well as my more personal writing. Simply Modern…I can hardly believe I wrote it.

My friend , Donny Miller, said one of the things he does not love abut me is that before I take time to appreciate one thing I am on to the next thing. We were talking early this fall, being honest with each other and that was his honesty with me. I really heard what he said. I was not like I did not know it. I know myself pretty good. I know that I might relish the moment but as soon as I do I move on to the next thing. It is a weakness and I plan to work on it. In fact I am working on it right now. Relishing my new book. Relishing the new store across the street. And it isn’t easy for me.

When I was in my thirties I sometimes thought that if I could do it, then it wasn’t a big deal. I took it for granted . That has since changed but I remain speedy. One thing done, on to the next. In my life there are lots of quiet and slower times but I am always thinking about the next thing. What should we do next? I think for the coming year, though I have some projects I am working on, it is important for me to think about how can this be the best?

That is what I did with my book., Simply Modern. I thought a lot about how it could be the best possible book. It is what I have done with my studio and it is what I want to do with our new womb’s clothing store, Thirty Church. I want to work on, instead of move on, taking Donnie’s advice seriously.

It isn’t easy for me. It’s a goal I suppose, to relish things more. To savour. Not to eat it all so fast that you barely get to taste it.

This is what I’ll start saying to myself…”Take yer time girl, yer not running a race.” or maybe I’ll try “Deanne , Deanne, don’t do it just because you can.” It is going to take some adjusting but this fall I want to savour, I want to relish, I want to love what I a;ready have, what has already been done for it is try;y beautiful; and it deserves my full attention.

 

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Catherine Bussiere: thanks dinner

I am walking around this morning
I go to the lounge
it is another stunning morning
crisp, fresh, covered in dew
the lounge sits empty yet I can hear the rumor
yesterday the two tables were filled with friends, family, neighbors

before our trip and just for shear pleasure
we decided to host a thanks dinner
for your support, for looking after us, for your friendship

there is something I really like about hosting
sitting people around large tables
having counters filled with food and beverage
being outdoors on a rainy windy day
and not caring because of a warm sweater and good company

I love to mix people
to introduce and say, this is so and so, she is an artist, he is a gardener
the conversation rolls
glasses and bowls are being refilled
people relaxing, taking time, enjoying

It was busy, it was good
we were thankful and we were pleased

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Catherine Bussiere: I love today

today is the light of autumn with the heat of summer
the smells of fallen leaves and the sounds of crickets
the dear fly buzzing around my head as if it were July

today I want it all
I want to do nothing and do everything
I want to sit all day and soak it up
I want to hold it so it doesn’t end
I want to make the most of it and harvest and clean up and trim and get ready
but I don’t really
it’s Sunday and it’s indian summer and if I could I would push on pause

I’ll go visit someone today
I’ll go to the garden and find something to make a nice meal
I will throw myself in the pond for one last time
and run to the sauna if I get cold
or lay in the sun
yes, I will lay in the sun

now there’s a plan

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made apple jelly yesterday

I am productive sometimes

Catherine Bussiere: lots to do

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– those are very small Beckwith news by the way
the mosquitoes are back
it’s been driving us crazy
it’s the end of the summer crop
they are small and they are hungry

then there is the garden in it’s full mature beauty
I walked through parts of it this morning looking at patterns
closing in to borage
how velvety it seems

a friend of mine spent the week here working away at four short videos
she is a percussionist extraordinaire
it’s been fun helping her out

but the most exciting news at the moment
is our upcoming trip to Europe
this week more then any
things have developed
we now know for sure that we will be helping out for a month
harvesting olives in Southern France
it sounds romantic
maybe it’ll be brutal
I doubt it
I’m up for new grounds, experiences and challenges

on my to do list coming right up
is a blog site (shared with my daughter)
that will feature our adventures in Europe
I’d like to keep posting photos and make short videos

I will keep a post on Deanne’s Sunday blog
it will most likely be linked to my new blog site
must figure that out

for now my friend is waiting
today we must wrap up her video projects
lots to do
have a good week

Catherine Bussiere: a kettle and a pan

I missed my blog last week
the Bash overtook everything
today you would barely know there was a music festival here
crazy how fast things go

This time of year, pretty much right after the Bash, is my wedding anniversary
To celebrate Eric and I have been going to Advocate at the Wild Caraway where Eric plays some tunes in exchange of a fine meal and a few coins
The Wild Caraway is one of the best place to eat in Nova Scotia
Andrew, the chef, is a passionate cook
The food always surprises me
In every bite I pause to figure out what went into this wonderful explosion of flavor that invades my mouth
Eric and I take different dish so the pleasure is expanded
I love everything about the Wild Caraway
the food, the presentation, the attention to service, the simplicity yet complexity of every dish
Andrew and Sarah use as much local, fresh ingredients as possible
Several options last night included Chanterelles
Straight from the woods
The potatoes salad I ate tasted smoky!!
How did he do that?
Home made smoked sour cream.
Every bite is a wonder
every bite is exciting
every bite is a delight

After the show Eric and I went camping on the stretch of beach between the Ottawa House and Partridge island in Parrsboro
Whenever visitors come to Cumberland County I always refer two places to go to:
The Wild Caraway and Partridge island
(of course there’s Cape d’Or and Chignecto, and Fiber Fest; the list goes on…)
That beach is one of the most stunning place Eric and I have ever camped at
and we’ve camped by the Grand Canyon, the Red Woods and Joshua Tree National park

When we got there we parked by a picnic table, built a little fire, admired the starry night, listened to the water bubbling through the rocks as the tide was coming up. There was nobody on the beach.

The next morning was the funnest part
I had packed up everything for a fine breakfast
a little kettle for hot water was all the was needed for a cup of cowboy coffee
a camping pan, fried up to perfection a couple fish cakes and some eggs
I had brought some hollandaise sauce (Fancy!) I had picked some blackberries and cherry tomatoes the day before, we had bagels and home made rhubarb sauce

I was playing Wild Caraway in the wild
fine food enjoyed in one of the most stunning scenery in the world
with a kettle, a pan, a fire, fine ingredients, a gentleman and a glass of wine
(that was a first for breakfast but I highly recommend it)

it was simple and grand

I love Nova Scotia for that
It’s rugged, it’s beautiful, it’s majestic yet there’s hardly anybody here.

Precious.

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Catherine Bussiere: passion

If you read my previous blogs you know that I spent some time with family in Quebec.

I’ve been back for I week now and I miss them all already.

During my stay I spent a lot of time with my nephew Eliot and my niece Léonie.

It was precious.

For them I made this short video. It’s about passion, creativity, beauty, nature. It’s a little dreamy thanks to the music by Chan Wai Fat.

The commentary, by Eliot, is in french.

Here is the translation:

“I make flies since I’m 6 or 7. It’s my dad that showed me. I like it a lot. Since then I make lots.”

“I like to know that this fly will go on the water, fish will see it. It’s fun when you catch a fish and it’s you that made the fly.”

“I like to fish because; you’re on the water, you see fish, you’re in nature, all of those things that brings you close to nature.”

“When I’m fishing… I feel like… with all my equipment, in the middle of the river… I feel good… I don’t know how to say it… I lose a bit the notion of time… I can stay there a long time… so much I like it… That’s it.”

 

Catherine Bussiere: bike ride

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it is sunny
it is warm
it smells like fresh cut grass
it smells like a warm summer forest
there’s bugs
there’s birds
and fishes
and wild flowers

it’s the country
another country side
a hilly one
with fields, forests, tractors, and hidden ponds
with nephews and a niece
and bikes

it’s June
and it’s summer

Catherine Bussiere: traveling with my mom

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I know it’s fathers day
but
I’ve been hanging with my mom lately

My mom came to visit me in Nova Scotia
almost a month
she lives in Trois-Rivières, Québec
a city gal that can appreciate the country

as adults we may not spent a lot of time with our parents
with the distance that separates us I certainly don’t
but when I do it’s usually a chunk of time

the interesting thing about a long visit is that you have to adjust to each other
each others life style and environment
if someone comes for a day or two you most likely give all your best
on a longer visit the full you starts coming out

it took about a week for my mom to settle in
to adjust to our country rhythm
to adjust to our personalty
to make herself fit in

my mom lives alone and has been living alone for years
it takes adjustments

it’s funny how we both have a tendency to put each other on pedestal
(I didn’t grow up with her)
but face to face, day after day, the pedestal got shorter
we both became more human
with our faults, our imperfection
it’s a good thing
it’s real, it needs work and it works

I drove my mom back to Québec last Wednesday
we stopped in Kamouraska for the night
treated ourselves to a beautiful B&B
if you ever drive through Québec do stop there
this little village on the shore of the St-Laurence river is so beautiful

I’m in Trois-Rivières now
for a week
a country gal that can appreciate the city
it’s good to spend time
beyond the surface there is so much to learn

Catherine Bussiere: light

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I was out first thing this morning
the sun just at the rim of the tree line
lighting up every piece of greenery
all covered with dew
the air still fresh from the cool night

beauty filled my eyes
urgency to capture the light

isn’t it interesting how we can marvel over and over
how many times
how many blossoms
it comes again and again
yet I marvel every single time

Catherine Bussiere: day off

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I can easily keep busy all the time
just one little task after another
my mom who is visiting is shaking her head

so after being busy for days I finally took the day off to hang out with my mama
first I took her to church
I don’t usually go to church but decided to stay as two teens that I knew were having their confirmation today
the ceremony was quite moving
how beautiful to see these youth engaging in something as big as faith
to say yes to goodness in front of their congregation
I was glad to be there

then I took my mom to visit a friend of mine who is a potter
I did have to do a short interview for a project that I’m working on but only for a minute
My mom marveled at her pottery and bought a few pieces
that was lovely

We kept going up the shore to have a bite at Whirligigs, a wonderful restaurant that specialize in delicious breakfast
we had some smoked salmon Benedict
I think I like anything Benedict

by the time we were done it was time to go to an opening at the Tidnish art gallery
A young friend of mine was having her first opening
she is 15, has been home schooled all her life, you should see the art work
it is done through a computer program with math equation
it is beyond my understanding and the result is a series of beautiful abstract images
loved it

as we drove home along the coast we decided to stop at a beach in Northport and went for a little walk
the water on the edges was nice and warm
my mother sat on a rock to let her feet soak for a while

Sunday June first in the maritime
I couldn’t ask for more

Catherine Bussiere: Graduation

it’s busy time at the moment
my mom is over for a month visit
yesterday we all went to Halifax for my son’s graduation
he now holds a degree in fine arts
he’s my first to graduate from university
in a card that I gave him I was saying how proud I was
not so much (of course so much, but also) of his talent and achievements
but so happy of the man he has become
caring, attentive, responsible

It’s interesting to see kids grow
their impetuous nature
the challenges we must deal with along the way

It is spring and in this time where all is blossom and growth and promises
I feel so content to see my young man
like these blossoms
fresh, filled with potential
ready to embrace the world

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Catherine Bussiere: rhubarb and fiddle heads

I woke up to a warm morning
how glorious is a warm breezy morning in the country side
no bugs yet
no bitting bugs anyway

I put the kettle on for coffee
looked around… no husband
I thought, and I was right, he must be gone looking for fiddle heads

the water wasn’t even boiling that my son was up
to my surprised expression he responded: happy mother’s day
smile (awww)
then offered to make a smoothie

the smoothie was on it’s way when my daughter came down
with a gift and a card in her hand
!!!
awwwww
I really was not expecting anything

I like to make the most of my adorable, most willing to do something for me, children
I had invited my mother in law for brunch and was about to make the first rhubarb pie of the year
to the garden we go, help me gather enough for a couple pies
the rhubarb isn’t high yet
but with three sets of hands it didn’t take long
as we were picking my husband showed up with a bag filled with fiddle heads
it’s the first year that he gathers them
last fall he found edible mushrooms in the wood, now fiddle heads
there’s something quite fantastic about foraging
it has to be some of the best food one can eat

the meal consisted of fish cake Benedict (that is a fish cake with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce), steamed fiddle heads and rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert
we had some white wine with cassis liquor and frozen strawberries to go with that
which may explain why this blog is posted a little later than usual
a nap had to follow that scrumptious meal

it is a blessing to be a mother
to honor the ones that have nurtured us and to nurture in return

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Catherine Bussiere: school

For the past three year I have been an assistant in french classrooms.
The main requirement for the job was to have french as a first language.
I only have 1 year of university under my belt and even if I’ve done a few years of college, when it comes to certain jobs it doesn’t mount to much.
When I realized I could do this job in two nearby schools, one being where my kids went, I jumped on the occasion. I’d been self employed for a while and the prospect of a regular paycheck was rather incentive.

In three weeks I’ll be done my third year.

During these past three years I’ve had the chance to experience first hand what it is like to be in a classroom. From grade four to grade twelve I’ve spend time along side teachers going over the basics of the french language. Core french it’s called. During these years I have seen how in general the idea of speaking another language is, at first, for most, appealing. The little ones generally have fun with it. And they are quite good. They remember words and sentences, they have fun with it. But as the years go by, it doesn’t take too long, it seems like what was once fun becomes dull and unnecessary.  By grade 8 or 9 the kids are done with it. Even though they are told how important it is to know another language, even though they could potentially get a better job (or a job at all), they are not interested any more and some seem to have lost the little they learned in previous grades.

Many times I’ve come across this attitude of “I’m not good at it” therefor let’s not even try and keep the door shut. I know better. I know better because I have been around those kids for a few years now. I can see the potential. I can see how smart they are. I have kids of my own. Been there. Open up little one, don’t do that to yourself.
It takes a lot of nurturing to convince a kid (or anyone maybe) that they should give themselves a chance. To keep that door open even if it is only a crack. To inspire them.

At the end of the day, after the first year, the important thing for me was not so much how much french they learned. It was that they had met someone from elsewhere who spoke a different language. It was that they could say that they knew someone from Quebec and that person was fine. It was to bring down barriers and let go of the fear. It was to create a relationship of trust and care.

I sometimes wonder how it goes for other subjects. Math, english, sciences. How are they doing there? How much of what we do, what is taught, is for keeps, is of use.

In three weeks I’ll be done my third year and I’m calling it a wrap.
My daughter, my youngest, will unofficially graduate from high school (she’s skipping grade 12 by doing two correspondence courses on her own). We will celebrate with a journey through Europe and after, who knows. I feel like I’ve been in school long enough. I need to experience new things. Have new challenges.
It’s been a good journey though. It has been really good to meet all these fine young individuals. It’s been good to find behind a rowdy front, attention and mindfulness.
It’s been good to nurture the needs and to be trusted to do so. It’s been good to see my own barriers and fears fall.

I’m looking forward to a new journey and I will be happy to hear, when chances come along, the sweet sound of: Bonjour madame Catherine.

 

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Catherine Bussiere: Easter pancakes

Beautiful sunny day here in northern Nova Scotia

I was gone for three days last week with my daughter to a conference in Sydney.
Through multiple presenters we learned how and why the arts and crafts are a leading economy. It was interesting and inspiring; the creative economy is one to be reckoned with.

When I came back home a few things had happened that were of great excitement. First, the ice on the pond was gone. It may not seem like much but with the ice gone the pond gets fixed (by the beavers, instantly it seems, they come and fix any little or big leaks and the water goes up). A pair of ducks arrived for their annual visit and the peepers will soon, any day now, deafen us with their high pitch chorus. The sound of the peepers is one of my favorite. It’s the sound of nature celebrating the end of a harsh winter and the prospect of life about to blossom.

Oh, I love this time of year.

This morning I’m waking up to the smell of home made baked beans. My husband has been making them with beer and smoked pork lately and they are just divine. There is bacon slowly cooking and pancakes will be made. Of course this whole lot is also home made. Maybe I should share the pancake recipe with you on this Easter morning.
When I make pancakes I don’t bother, I grab the bag of premix flour, add an egg, milk, little oil and bam we go. They’re good. Fast and easy.
When my husband makes pancakes it goes up several notches.
First he takes say 8 eggs (maybe a dozen if they are small or 6 if they are extra large)
He separates the whites from the yolks. He beats the whites like he was making a meringue and set that aside. Then it’s the usual. Mix the yolks with milk, melted butter, a little vanilla if you wish. Add the flour but do not add any baking powder. See that’s the beauty of these pancakes, no baking powder or baking soda, none of that taste. When your pan or griddle is ready to go, gently fold the fluffy egg white in your pancake mixture. It’s like incorporating cloud bundles. Then gently scoop that up and cook it.
The result is the spongiest, tastiest, most syrup absorbent pancakes you will ever have.

I hope today is as beautiful and warm for you that it is for me. Enjoy spring, fine food and the presence of family.

Happy Easter!

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Catherine Bussiere: recipe for a great day

You will need:

1/2 dozen people you love
1 forest
a good dose of fresh air
1 big black pot
1 fire
sunshine

bannock
sausages
homemade cookies

spirit(s)

The kids are visiting this week end
and with some luck
between yet again snow storms and freezing rain
we got a warm sunny Saturday

my husband decided to boil a little sap this year
yesterday we went all out
the big black cauldron was brought to the woods
a fire pit was made
we collected dry branches
we collected some sap
we lit the fire

it felt like pioneer’s time
there was even a piece of pork to be smoked for bacon

we hung out for hours
unplugged from our oh so omnipresent technology
a miniature house and igloo were built
the smell of the woods, the fire and the sap boiling
filled our lungs and put our minds at peace
as notion of time evaporated

On the menu for this dreary Sunday morning: pancake with fresh maple syrup and homemade bacon. Sun is shining in the house!

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