Tag Archives: change

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I intended to post this BEFORE leaving for our family Christmas present: a vacation in Barcelona (of which many photos and postings will follow). Oops. But better late than never?

The reason for the Season...our baby Jesus doesn't appear in the manger until Christmas morning.

The reason for the Season…our baby Jesus doesn’t appear in the manger until Christmas morning.

We enjoyed a merry Christmas with our college-age daughters, who flew in to celebrate their holiday with us. We were so happy to have them all with us for Advent!

Our magi are still traveling to Jesus.

Our magi are still traveling to Jesus.

Our traditional Christmas dinner has long been ham, not turkey. In France, not only is it turkey, but you can pretty much only buy turkey in December, short of special ordering. The thing is, French hams don’t look like American hams, for the most part. I cook a Southern brown sugar ham with pineapple, cloves and maraschino cherries, like my good Daddy taught me. We perused the charcuterie counter at the store quite awhile before deciding on the end piece of what I am sure must have been a lunch meat ham. This is a place where you can easily buy a whole pig leg ham, and I have no idea how to ask for just a certain section of it. Still, it worked. Except for the cherries, which I have never seen here, we had a delicious ham for dinner, with potatoes and carrots and salad and sweet potato pie.

Sweet potato pie is easier here, because I don't have  easy access to sweetened condensed milk, which is how I make my pumpkin.

Sweet potato pie is easier here, because I don’t have easy access to sweetened condensed milk, which is how I make my pumpkin.

Christmas does seem a bit foreign and strange here. The lights are all in pink and purple, and they often have a dripping icicle element. Many houses have ninja-skilled Santas climbing the house, instead of arriving on the rooftop via reindeer. We sang carols to the neighbors on our little dead-end street with a few friends from church, and we gave THEM a surreal experience doing so…it is all but unheard of here. Most welcomed our short seranade, though. But the insanely crowded malls were very familiar!

Still, Christmas is Christmas for its spirit, not its red and green, its striped hooked candy canes, its carols blaring from every public speaker for weeks, as the Grinch found (I think I’ll need to see if that’s on Hulu…missed it, too!). Having my daughters with us for Advent, singing together, unstuffing stockings and devouring ham and pie, all made Christmas warm and cozy and comforting.

I’m curious what essentials keep Christmas cozy for you, wherever you go?


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Making Your Happy Place

Anytime I set up digs in a new place, I have to find ways to make a physical house feel like a home, a place where I and my family belong, as quickly as possible. While this, of course, happens naturally with time, it is better if you can begin to feel that sense of connectedness to a place, that “home-iness,” soon after moving in. It helps overcome the strangeness of everywhere else.

For me, it is a very visual thing. I have nooks now where my heart feels lighter just seeing them. Before these places were established, I really had no sense of comfort here, but now I have heart touchstones in my home.

Happy Place #1:

Happy daughters! happy me!

Obviously, seeing my beautiful daughters every day lights up my heart, but it doesn’t hurt that I did. not. have to build one STICK of this piece of furniture! Woohoo!

Happy Place #2:

My little workspot here enjoys prime morning light, on another piece of furniture I didn’t build. Well, mostly. The little bear is Theo bringing me a daisy. Awww….. It’s a place of my own. It needs light at night, though. I am looking for a lamp, which I will probably place on something I put on the floor to the left. I want the height to highlight, not obstruct, my Starry Night.

There you go…home! What are your home’s happy places?

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Filed under France, home & garden

The Insidious Tide of the Unfamiliar

I love beach life. there was a point at which we lived on the US West Coast. The stretch of beach near our home was a fairly safe place to play. The sand was wide and flat, even at high tide. The drop in the surf at low tide was significant enough, though, that warnings were occasionally posted at the entrance advising of rip tides. This isn’t something you see coming; it sneaks up on you below the surface, gripping you and carrying you off to dangerous depths.

A rising tide can overwhelm you, too, though, if you are on a coastline that isn’t all open. We visited parts of the California coast north on Highway 1 that hosted beautiful tidal pools among rocks, sometimes piled up against low cliffs. If not watchful, you could get so absorbed in the tide pools that you could get trapped by the rising tide.

I share this perspective of the beautiful Pacific coastland because that is what life here in France has put me in mind of. Most of the time this land is beautiful, the people are gracious and welcoming, and exploring is a fun adventure. But occasionally, the tide of unfamiliar things and experiences pile up, like mounting waves, and before I know it, I am knocked off my feet. This morning was the high tide of one that had been building since the day before. It was my son’s actual 13th birthday, and a boxed cake mix nearly did me in.

I know how to do laundry. Washers and dryers are familiar. But here they are different. First of all, they vent out front. That would be *into your house.* I open the back door and window to encourage the heat to leave. Of course, when your third dryer load just won’t come dry, you troubleshoot. Door lint filter clean? Check. Other lint filter clean? Check.  Water condenser thingie empty? What? What water condenser thingie?

Our dryer, with indecipherable French instructions and manual (thankful for translate.google), with the water-thingie extended. You pull this out and dump the water, which I discovered this morning when last night’s clothes still were a tad damp.

The stove-top had an English section in the manual. Thankfully! Because it is induction. I had barely even heard of a stovetop that cooks using magnets, and NONE of the pots or pans we brought has the correct metal core to work. We were able to find a converter to place under the pan.

Note the space-age touch controls. At first, I thought they were indicator lights only, and surely the controls themselves were elsewhere.

Well, in the mornings, I need my coffee for clear thinking, so I started up the new Senseo coffee maker. We went with the Senseo led by the coffee aisle at the grocery store. There was a narrow section of just your regular coffee, then there was a wiiiide section filled with a variety of Senseo coffee filter pacs, for not much more. Then there was another even more narrow coffee section with alternative maker cups, like K-cups, which were kind of expensive. Looking that over, I decided to get a Senseo machine.

See any problem with my American-sized coffee mug? Most of the mugs in my beloved collection are two-handed sized. It makes for a psychologically warm hug from your aromatic cup cradled in two hands.

And so, drinking my short cup of coffee, I made a birthday cake for my son. I had given up on the from-scratch American style cake when I couldn’t find, the night before, baking powder. I now know the French name, but threw in the towel last night and grabbed a box cake mix, French style. The side showed the addition of 3 eggs and some milk, and that sounded achievable. I didn’t count on my French oven. It is really complicated. It bakes, broils, convections, and even rotisseries. It probably would have mixed my cake had I known how to ask it. This manual defies translate.google. It makes little sense even translated. I got my cake out of it, though, so I must have done something right.

And lastly, such a tiny thing, but when so many things have piled on to make simple things more difficult, even these little anomalies become exasperating:

No doubt unique in my little apartment, but why can’t I wash my hands with WARM water after using the WC? Is the space two small for two pipes?

Well, there you go…my little rant on a morning that was almost more than I could manage. But then, such wealthy problems I have! What an easy life, when complicated mystery appliances are the troubles that weigh me down. Thank God instead for the amazing church of people to whom we took the little cake I baked, and who all sang happy birthday to my son, devouring his cake. Life is good here in France, after all.




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Filed under France, vent

Comfort Food?

Apparently when one’s “new experience” allotment is full, flooded even, one becomes a less open person. At least, this is my observation of my near-13-year-old son. Back in the States, he had seemed fairly adventurous. He liked trying new recipes, new restaurants, and visiting new places. Somehow, I thought that would translate equally here in France.

Not so much.

Now, a ham sandwich on a baguette looks too foreign, as do all the other sandwiches in the patisserie case. (I admit to being a tad disappointed when my poor ordering skills got me the tuna and egg salad baguette instead of the ham and egg salad I was trying for, although I actually think that may have been confusion on the cashier’s part.) But the croissant still looks like a croissant, and tastes even better. It has become lunch. The burger at the hotel restaurant is too French, with aoli mayo and grilled peppers and onions. At breakfast, the eggs have parsley in them, the chocolate muffin has a molten chocolate center, and the sausages seem undercooked. All very disappointing under the current circumstances, when in another place I am not sure they would have been set aside. And I have no doubt my son is losing weight!

So we decided to give the Tournefeuille McDonalds a try. Now, Theodore is not a fan of McDonald’s even back in Kansas. Oh, he’ll eat there, but he’d rather go lots of other places. But he went to this one prepared to be disappointed.

It’s all gone in a flash, but still no smile. Some attitudes are just choices.

Actually, he conceded that the flavorfully salted steak fries were quite good, and much better than traditional fries at home. He ordered just a plain hamburger, but the nuggets look promising, so next time he will probably get one of each.

I think the French would be highly disappointed if they came to visit the States and ate at a McDonalds. The food tasted fresh and, while not grand cuisine, still better than McDonalds back home. Stoney got a Charolais burger, which came on a ciabatta bun. He also got a side salad, which you can see was fresh greens. Theodore concedes the soda pop here seems better everywhere we go. I suspect the use of real sugar, rather than high fructose corn syrup. My burger was good, with some kind of thousand islandy dressing with a hint of horseradish, and lettuce and tomato. Some mayo-based sauce was given us, probably in lieu of ketchup for the fries.

The best thing in my mind was the automated ordering kiosks, which had an English option, and allowed for ordering meals or individual items. Unfortunately, although our swiped American credit card got us into the kiosk ordering system, it couldn’t take payment off that non-chipped card, so we still had to pay with euros to the non-English speaking cashier. Definitely a good experience for us, though. And I think it let our son relax a little, knowing he CAN eat here if he wants to.


Filed under family, France

What do I REALLY need?

Moving overseas has pretty much left this as the burning question of the day, almost daily, for the last month (excepting my son’s wedding). You’ve seen my closet in a previous post, and I would share that with Stoney. And those are big closets for France. The kitchen isn’t very big, and the appliances are pint-sized. The bedrooms and bathrooms are no larger than necessary. We aren’t going to move any furniture (it would be oversized anyway), and instead rely on an allowance there. This, of course, means that all furniture acquired there would stay there when we leave, since if the company isn’t shipping any there, it sure isn’t shipping any back.

So, with a 900 pound airship limit, what do I NEED?

Practical stuff comes to mind first. For instance, clothes. I admit, I am taking more than I NEED, although certainly not all I have. I’ll have to come up with storage options to accomodate what I have chosen, which I am limiting to this pole in my Kansas closet.

Here are clothes for 4 seasons, not including underclothes, pajamas, shorts and capris, and tanks. Oh, and my coats. Or shoes, obviously. It’s amazing how much stuff Americans accumulate.

And art stuff is a need, for some of us. This pile actually is one of my bigger ones, although it also includes random storage containers.

Unfinished and blank canvases and pads of paper fill the box in the back that the bagged easel lies across. Some other miscellaneous stuff is here, too.

Since we will be homeschooling, THAT stuff becomes a significant portion of what we have, not to mention of our allotted weight. Books are heavy. The boxes under all the random kitchen-ey and decor stuff are homeschool stuff.

Five boxes of books, etc., plus another in another stack.

But some things you NEED because they represent home to you, or are comforting in some other way. Family photos and my mom’s paintings are included. The cougar drawing in the above photo was done by my oldest son when he was 7 or 8. Quilts count here.

The computer desk is not going.

We’ll take some dining and kitchen things, but some we’ll get there. We’ll take some pillows, but not sheets, because they probably won’t fit the beds. My husband will take the Xbox, but also a transformer so he can run it without frying it. And we’ll even take some food items too hard or expensive to get there, like peanut butter. And personal electronics will also go, like laptops and ipods, but a printer will be bought there.

What would you consider necessary? What would make your life richer by being  included in your air shipment?

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Filed under home & garden, personal

And Walk This Way…

Upstairs is a landing and a small lounge that overlook the main rooms downstairs. One side of the upstairs is tucked under the eaves, so you’ll notice the petite size of the door to the bathroom. Luckily we are a somewhat petite-sized family.

This will probably house bookshelves, a desk, and maybe some soft seating.

If you turn right at the landing, you enter the room at the front of the house, which will be Theo’s. The door leads to the little balcony.

The balcony overlooks the front patio and the planter boxes.

This is the bedroom you get when you turn left, toward the back of the house. It will house art, some school, and eventually Myriah, but it is the least light in the house, so I strongly suspect my work will migrate out into other areas. I’ll need to plan to contain that before it gets out of hand.

The upstairs bathroom…

…with shower. As long as Theo doesn’t grow a ton, he’ll still fit in this room nicely, even though it is tucked under the eaves. We might need to find a way to bump-proof the door frame, though, for sleepy mornings. I think it is about 5’6″.

Going back downstairs…

…check out the side patio. It wraps all three sides. There is also a garage, but it is a shared unit of garages for the street, a little ways down. But you can also park on the street across from the house.

And that’s our house. Next, I’ll show you a little around Tournefeuille.

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Filed under France, home & garden

Drumroll, please…and the winner is

…the light-filled house. This house is right on the edge of the city centre of the busy ville of Tournefeuille. Theo will be an easy bike ride or long walk to city shops, our daily bread at any number of patisseries, the park with bike trails, an archery range and that French lawn-bowling sport, a large library that seems to double as a community center, a public pool, and a stadium where competitive soccer and rugby are played. The end of our street has a bus stop, connecting us to other villes (about 15 minutes from our church at most) and to the metro, which takes you into the city centre of Toulouse and its many museums and attractions. We will be connected.

The house itself is a duplex, and our side is situated facing mostly east, so the house was viewed with the late morning sun pouring in. You really can’t get a true feel for the sunniness of the rooms from these photos, though, because they were taken by another couple on a day it was pouring rain.

Our side is on the right. Note the planter boxes up front of the patio.

Isn’t the door beautiful?

I do believe this fireplace works. In the space you see between the entry and the little living room is a tiny WC…


The kitchen is separate, lying off the larger living space here. Both areas had sliding glass doors that opened onto the wraparound stone patio. This whole area was white tile and white walls with a vaulted ceiling in the main space.

The kitchen has warm, peachy walls and gray counters. It also has room for a tiny dinette. Or I could put in a little island with a bar edge for a couple of stools.

A utility room lies beyond the kitchen, with hook-ups for washer and dryer, and another door to the patio.

The master bedroom is also on the ground floor. Beautiful floor!

The walk-in closet here is the only one I saw in the nine houses, and there is called a “dressing room.”

The master bath has no toilet that I remember, but a bidet. But check out my favorite part…

the wallpaper is inspired by Van Gogh’s Irises! His painting is actually my laptop wallpaper, and it was like God saying, “Here. I picked you a house.”

Tomorrow we can explore upstairs!

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Filed under France, home & garden

Winter Remodeling

So I made a few seasonal changes to the site. Any thoughts? More readable? More confusing?

Yes, the photo is of my neighborhood, from my front porch. Wouldn’t it have been nice if the pickup hadn’t been there? Please press the like button at the bottom of the post (once you click on the post) if this set-up is working for you. I’m concerned about the readability of white on black.

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Happy Reformation Day!

I want to be reformed. In the sense that I want to be made more like Christ. I have a tendency to get real lazy and stagnate in my current iteration. But if there is one thing I have learned in the past 45 years, it is that what doesn’t grow, decays. I really do want to be relevant to God and His purposes, though, and that is what I am looking at in me right now. Am I willing to make ANY change God asks of me? Am I willing to make any effort God asks of me? I hope so. I pray God would make me able. One thing I am examining in light of reformation is art. I approach each class prayerfully, and I know that is necessary. But what else can I do? Can this have outreach uses, ministry uses? Am I really helping God show each child their precious value even now?

And completely unrelated, I think I am finished with my koi. I keep looking at it and considering the addition of one more leaf group at the top. It still feels a little unbalanced to me. I’m also considering darkening my leaf shadows. We’ll see; no one says I can’t start it up again!

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Filed under faith, personal


Me (far right) and my buddies in the Derby Days Parade

Well, it’s been another year since I completed my sabbatical year, and goodness, has God ever remade me! Not only have I continued to act as Survivor Chair on one of the best-grown Relays in the state, but God dropped a teaching position in art education in my lap. I worked with the Census all spring and summer, and that mostly funded this year’s tuition for my son; but I am also teaching art to kindergarten through 7th grades at his school, Faith Lutheran. Yet another dream I would NEVER have dreamed for me was imagined by God, and I have been blessed beyond measure! It has been a long time since I have had so much fun! And then God added yet another undreamed dream: growing the art teaching to homeschool classes. I am humbled and overflowing with love for the Father who cares for me so creatively.

So, just as I have been remade in a new phase of life at 45 years old, I am remaking my old blog. It will serve to document my art lessons and teaching experiences so that I can learn from my mistakes and build on my successes. Happy birth to the new me!

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Filed under Education, personal