Back in the U.S.S…A! & La fête de la Bastille

Holy portion sizes, Batman! I’m back in the land where everything is bigger, newer, brighter & shiner! I am extremely thrilled to spend time with my family, so excited to eat pinto beans, green chilies, or blue corn chips whenever I want to, and to catch Sesame Street on PBS with the Guppy! I haven’t been on North American soil in two years (and to be honest, last time I was here it was for a sad/urgent reason and I didn’t really do any “observing”) and it’s surprising how much things have changed (and yet, have stayed the same). Logically, the longer I live away, the more I find myself feeling like an observer and not at all like a participant, though it is rather strange to get the feeling I’m more of a foreigner “visiting” than an expat “returning” home. So silly all these games of the mind!

I promise I’ll be putting together a little post showcasing the newish or striking things I’ve noticed since I’ve been here (holy inflation, Batkids!). I’m also giving some thought to my future post highlighting the differences between the eating habits of the French and the North Americans. I’m actually in Southern Michigan, which is not “home” for me, but home is where your family is, and that’s where most of my peeps are this summer. I’ll be heading north soon, and will hopefully get to spend at least a day in one of my very favourite countries, Canada. There has been some first rate food and lots of fun so far on my visit, so I’ll need to get my poop in a group and get some photos of all that excitement on the blog post-haste!

Copyright © 2008 AFP

Il faut pas oublier l’égalité! Don’t forget equality!

It’s July 14th and that means it’s the French National Holiday! Tearing down the prisons of economic hierarchy and gettin’ giggy with the people – right on. I’m sorry I missed being home for the fireworks & fun, but I caught this little news story online, featuring one of my favourite French Feminist groups, La Barbe, who denounces the omnipresence of males in positions of power in government, and it made me smile. These women commemorated the holiday by placing beards on the statues of the monument at la place de la République (dear to my heart because I lived just near by). This isn’t the first time they’ve done this:

Isn’t it funny that our phallocentric societies fawn over the workings of men, yet the monuments to their grandure always seem to be graced by the feminine form. Grrr… we still have so much work to do, even when on vacation!

Thoughtful Fridays – Pour Ingrid Betancourt, Enfin Libre – Finally Free!

photo credit

“L’avenir s’ouvre, plein d’opportunités, je n’ai pas de fardeau du passé à porter.”

Ingrid Betancourt

(“The future is opening up before me, full of opportunities,

I don’t have the burden of my past to bare.” Ingrid Betancourt*)

Ingrid Betancourt was freed after 2324 days of captivity by the FARC in Colombia. 14 other hostages were freed as well. There are so many others, hostages and wrongfully imprisoned, who find an indescribable strength from within to survive their quotidien…such courage. You can read more about her liberation here ou bien ici et aussi ici (this can also be read in English).

* my translation

Apron Love

This is an apron made by my great-grandmother Mary, my mum’s grandmother. She was undoubtedly one of the most important women in my mum’s life, and while I never was able to physically meet her (she died before my parents were married), I always felt her in our lives- not in some bizarre “Sixth Sense” meets X-Files way, rest assured. More in the way that many African societies divide people (here’s my Reader’s Digest version of a beautiful and complex theory) – the living, the sasha, and the zamani. The first category is obvious. The second, the sasha, are those who are indeed dead, but whose existence dovetailed with those still living, thus they are “alive” in the living memory of people. The zamani are our ancestors who are revered and remembered by the group, but there is no one left who was alive at the same time as the deceased.

My great-grandmother Mary was very much “alive” in the memories of my mother, my grandmother, and my great aunts and uncle. She is most definitely a member of the sasha. While my Grams often had rather humorous stories to tell, oft reflecting my great-grandmother’s sense of humor, duty and love, my mother often spoke of her in the present, and in flashes of detail rather than linear stories. The smell of parsley. Taboo. Pink flannel. Ice Box Cookies. Aprons. You see, my mother has but one memory of her grandmother sans apron, and this was when she was hospitalized. Great-Grandmother Mary wore an apron every day, as did many women at the time. Washing clothes being a royal chore, an apron served an obvious functional purpose, however, she made herself many aprons reflecting the seasons (lighter or darker colors), and special aprons for more momentous occasions such as holidays, family reunions, communions and baptisms.

Great-Grandmother Mary was a hard-working woman. She lived in a rural area, and at a time when all that needed to be done in the home – laundry, cooking, cleaning, clothes, canning, etc., was done at home. Her family made their own bread, their own maple syrup, wine (even when it wasn’t legal- rebel!) and my great-grandfather, a carpenter, carved their toys (one of our family’s prized possession is the chess board he made), even my gram’s crutches after injuring her foot when she was a little girl.

One of my prized possessions is my great-grandmother’s hand-written recipe book. Her bilingualism was often a handicap in the pre-depression era, leading to the family speaking English-only, but how I love to read her recipes which are often written in franglais. Until recently, the recipe book was all I had in the line of family heirlooms, but during her recent visit, my mother gave me this apron. It’s just beautiful, which I never thought I’d say about an apron, but it is. It must have been made for special occasions, the delicate rosebud fabric and the gold-threaded trim are rather fancy. It was perhaps only worn once or twice as it seems brand new, despite it’s being at least 50+ years old.

The acquisition of my great-grandmother’s apron inspired me to try my hand at my own. The above is my updated rendition, which I love. The pattern is from De Filles en Aiguilles by Céline Dupuy which I got in my Easter basket. It is also available in English as Simple Sewing With A French Twist. This was a super-easy project for the neophyte seamstress that I am. While I didn’t make the apron while my mum was here, she did come with me to purchase the materials, so in her own way was part of the process (not the mention that she gave me my sewing machine!).

There was a time during my youth when I felt rather envious of my friends whose mothers, grandmothers, even great-grandmothers were career women, often college educated. This was not the case of the women in my family, and I found myself sometimes feeling almost apologetic when talking about them. I’ve since seen the absolute ridiculousness in not recognizing all that they did. Silly Shellyfish. Any woman who dried her herbs, grew her own food in her garden, cooked and canned it, and on and on, without the things I take for granted from running water to kitchen gadgets, well, she kicked some serious buttercream.


NB: I know that yesterday was Mother’s Day in North America, not today (don’t worry, Mum got her card on the right day!).

The idea of Mother’s Day is a rather complex one for me to actually write about, because it brings up many feelings and emotions rather difficult to articulate in the short space of a blog entry. I also couldn’t even contemplate the holiday without having zillions of images of my grams whizzing about my head and through my heart. This made me rather melancholy and waxing nostalgic, because, well, she’s gone and I miss her so, so much. Thus, I decided I would not blog about M day, having wished my mumma a happy day via telephone. Curiously, however, as day turned to evening, I found myself rummaging around for pictures of my mum, and specifically trying to find pictures of my grams with my mum, and becoming increasingly frustrated because the pictures I was looking for were not to be found.

Forgoing sadness, I opted to share a little mumma-love on the blogosphere, because I love my mumma to pieces, and really, moms rule, and IMum on left, Grams on Right, moi in the middle don’t think that I understood just how intense and complicated the job description was, until I myself became a mom. The above picture is of ma maman with Grams (her mom), on her right, and our Auntie Lorraine on her left. I’m fairly sure that the baby with all that hair is my sister Tam, latter half of the groovy 70s.

Here on the right is my still slim & sassy mum after her third kiddo (3 more to follow…). My Grams is on the far right with my Uncle who would kill me if he saw this but doesn’t read my blog, my sis Tam on Mum’s lap, and yours truly in the middle trying not to open my present until Dad has snapped the pic.

I love this picture, taken during my mum’s recent visit. The Guppy is blurry because she was cracking up laughing, not because she was being tickled, I think we were being silly, a hobby around here. I value the picture’s eloquence, so telling with the juxtaposition of the wild frenzy of love from the Guppy and the calm, loving smile of her Pamma.

The mother/daughter relationship is such an interesting one, often mirroring each other from one generation to the next. My contemplating a blog entry gave me pause to reflect on the similarities between Grams and Mum, and it didn’t take me long to find my answer : unconditional love and support. I announced I was becoming vegetarian at 16, mum bought more fresh fruit and veggies. When I got my nose pierced way back when I knew everything in 1990, my mom was less-than-thrilled, though she held her tongue. In tiny-town rural-ville, I blended about as well as Ziggy Stardust at a Rotary Club luncheon. A visiting Grams said without hesitation she’d pierce her nose, too, if it would help calm down the parents- and she was serious. When the first tattoo followed a month later, she swore she would also get a tattoo to show her solidarity if need be. Now that I see the dynamic between my own daughter and my mom, I can see the same sort of complicity between them, and while piercings and tattoos are rather passé, I am sure that whatever challenges the Guppy brings my way, her Pamma will be there to help balance things out.

Now that I’m the Mumma around here, I frequently find myself filled with doubt concerning my parenting: am I a good mom? Could I be doing this better? What would Xena do in this situation? (kidding). The crushing feelings of self-doubt are often harder than the actual mom-duty, and I know that both my mother, and hers, delt with it. To all you ladies out there (because biological mother or not, we women are the mothers to our students, neighbors, sisters, brothers, etc.) I hope you had a great day. My Mother’s Day is in 2 weeks…



Here is some beautiful mimosa that lined part of the path where I went for my (almost) daily run when in the southwest of France this past week. You could smell it for meters around, even in the freezing cold and wet, it looked and smelled amazing! It’s common to give mimosa sprigs to women (we gave some to the Guppy’s mamie for la fête des grand-mères last year). Strong and beautiful from roots to tips, just like we women!

A bit back I was cruising around and saw this inventive culinary way to celebrate International Women’s Day and I just had to participate. I knew I would be cutting it close as we’d probably be coming back from our week in the Southwest, but I decided this was something I wanted to do! I have so many incredible, strong, beautiful women in my life- from the past, in the present, and I am sure that they’ll still be there in the future! I was very fortunate to spend the week with my brother-in-law’s family, and his wife L is a great example of one of the many hip fish I get to swim with. She took time to show me how to knit a cap (working on that), generously donated random pieces of fabric for me to play with, and was just generally a super-cool fish.

So here is my YELLOW contribution to the day…


These are the Lemon Gem Cupcakes from Vegan With A Vengeance, topped with the Lemon Icing and the finishing touches of the vegan sprinkles were added by the Guppy, who is also a pretty cool little lady.

EDITED TO ADD: I’m really not cupcake obsessed. Really. I wanted to make lemon tarts, but these were just quicker & easier. Picking my battles, one cupcake at a time.