Friday, June 19, 2009

Internet treasure hunt!

I was trying to find videos of photography to use in my photo workshop this summer ... and found ...
-come on...feel the Groningen
The artists behind this video aparently are competing in a competition and they get points depending on how many people watch this short little flick. It is beautiful.
-one day like this
Truly lovely video by the same artists above...
This one shows the south of France... if you're curious to see clips of things France!
-dog park baptisms
A church in Florida baptizes new believers in a lake at a dog park... apparently, they usually baptize people at the beach but tried a new spot ...
I can think of no place better... with happy dog tails wagging all around them... and frolicking pups... I think it truly captures the joy ... watch and see...
-Divya Srinivasan
This is a video reel of an amazing artist... I just discovered. She did the artwork for Sufjan Steven's Illinoise album... she seems brave and emotive in her work ... her entire online portfolio can be viewed at the following link...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Culinary Discoveries

no offense mom! but I think I can safely say that I entered adulthood lacking a very important domestic skill... how to cook well.

Sure, I do know how to feed and fend for myself. Last year I survived on my own. I admit, I ate most my meals at the camp where I worked. It was very convenient to have a full-throttle kitchen and dining hall staff heaping my plates full of food; albeit, camp cafeteria food. (Actually, Sky Ranch has some pretty stellar meals... Holla for Mexican food night!)

But when it came to me cooking in the kitchen... all I really did was... eat salad... open a can of tuna... heat up some Campbell soup... or boil some spaghetti. That is pretty much... the extent of my kitchen prowess.

Let's face it: when you mother is a pediatric anesthesiologist she is much more adept at life-saving meticulous surgery on an infant ... than combining ingredients to make a great casserole. And when your dad is a cop: no one wants to break into a crack house and then turn around to make dinner an hour later.

Although Dad did cook often. Somewhat fitting his profession he enjoys hunting. So Dad always grilled up venison steak. We ate a ton of deer steak growing up. We would joke around the table... " We love deer. They're delicious!" I heard later in life that venison steak is actually one of the healthiest meats for human digestion. You get more protein for your bite and less fat. Beef steak was somewhat unknown to me. How was I to know that deer steak is leaner, thinner, and drier in comparison. (Although, to this day I still prefer deer steak.)

Marinade? What was a marinade? I did not know you could soak meats in delicious concoctions and make them taste better? Besides when Dad was grilling, we let him be.

And so I was never apprenticed in the ways of the kitchen... until now.

Here at Camp of the Peaks... we live at more of a French pace which includes longer mealtimes. If you've seen the cartoon movie "Flushed Away" there is an antagonist French frog character. This frog jumps up in his beret and says something like "let's go!" His fellow French amphibians ask, "what about lunch?" Their leader repeats himself..."let's 5 hours!"

Well, with all this emphasis on food. I felt a little inept in the kitchen arena. Fortunately, I have Gwen. Gwen is a sprightly, beautiful, girl from Charrrrrelston, South Carolina (you have to draw out your "charrrle" so you can say it like a real southern belle.) She is a co-missionary and our camp cook!

She loves to cook and bake. She is mightily good at it. You would never imagine such a tiny person cooking for 100 French teenagers, but she does! with pizazz.

She has graced me with her cooking knowledge and is giving me her recipies. She is coaching me through her dishes and teaching me how to cook!

At first, I had no real inkling to learn this task that seemed so ardurous! Yet, slowly, over time, I am being weaned into loving the amazing food produced here in France. My old appetite for easy-made noodles has long ago started to wain. I can no longer bear to eat easy-made fast stuff. New nutrition information has steered me far from sickining corn starches and syrups. I want to eat healthy. I realize that in order to eat healthy... I can't cut corners. I actually need to know how to cook. Make things myself.... and oh horror! ... make them from scratch!

It all started when our apples started to go bad... (did I mention that there are less prespervatives in everything here... everything is served fresh... and doesn't last forever... and this makes things a little difficult because we live on a mountainside. We can't make it to the grocery store everyday like most French do. They usually buy their bread fresh every day! It is really good bread too...) ANYWAY... our apples were slightly old and we wanted to save them. So Gwen taught me how to make an apple crisp dessert that used the soft apples.

Then she taught me how to make... ginger snaps, alfredo sauce, potato soup, cuccumber pasta, and tonight she is teaching me how to make home-made pasta sauce. Tomorrow: freshly baked muffins.

and I... I... really like cooking. The food tastes so unbelievable! Blandness begone! I want to go... and cook more things!

and all I can say is that France and food go together like... peas and carrots? .... voila!

Friday, May 22, 2009

In France again!

I am back in the lovely land of baguettes and cheeses and wines and many other fine things. My travels across the Atlantic were smooth and easy... the eyes of our predecessors, of long ago times, would POP if they knew how easy it was for me to cross this ocean.

I slept nearly the entire trans-Atlantic flight. Not even the summer exchange students from LSU speaking in strong and loud Lousianna southern accents could keep me awake.

Across the aisle from me sat the most typical French man I had ever seen. Don't ask me to describe him... because I can't exactly. He didn't wear a beret or anything extremely Frenchy like that. But the way he spoke and carried himself was just French. He made me chuckle. It was especially funny because he seemed to show up everywhere after we landed in Paris. I saw him when we picked up our baggage. He was at the train station. Even at my train platform... he was taking the train leaving from the platform next to mine. After traveling all the way from Dallas, TX we finally parted ways... his train lurched away north to Strausburg and mine lurched south to Lyon.

There are brilliant red poppies everywhere here! They dot the fields and roadsides. They are stunning. I've never been here in time to see the poppies bloom.

I've made my bed in a deliciously musty 300 year old stone building... with a colorful patchwork quilt. I ate dinner with my camp family... delicicious chicken pot pie.

Walking through the camp at dusk... all the early summer smells fill the air. the trees and dirt and flowery smells...

pink clouds hover about the shadowed peaks...

... it is so lovely.

Time to recover from the hustle of airports and the din of the engines... peaceful sleep in my quiet quilted corner of the world.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beautiful April Morning

What shall we do this morning?

Let's go for a walk...

... we walk by beautiful Indian Paint Brushes...... all the way to the lake.
(and I nearly stepped on a big snake)

We rescue a fish we found washed up on the rocks.
We found a boat tied to shore. But we didn't take it out.
Instead, Sampson played in the water...
... and we kept walking down the shore.We found some trash...
...Then, walked back home through the woods.

The End.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rendevous with the DREAD SANGLIER!

Like the DREAD Pirate Roberts roamed the oceans in the movie, The Princess Bride, around here (in rural rhone-alpes region of France)... roam the DREAD SANGLIER! Sanglier... pronounced "sang-glee-ay" are a type of boar.

Now, when I first saw their large and ominous tracks in the snow... and I was first told of their existence... I thought... "Interesting." "A wild pig roams these frozen forests." and didn't think anything more.

They assured me they were only dangerous if they were with their young... then they would charge you... etc, etc. And still... I just thought of them as pigs. You know, a Miss Piggy on a bad hair day. Something to avoid, but not to fear...

until tonight. when I had my first real encounter! It all started innocently. I walked out of the chalet... the camp was empty. The sun had set over the mountains... but the twilight was reflecting off the snow and orange clouds above. The moon was exhilaratingly bright and the first starts were twinkling. I thought... "how beautiful" and decided to go for a little walk uphill to see the mountains in all their glory... (you see... there is a little break in the trees and you can see the mountains better... but you have to walk uphill a ways... away from the buildings and closer to the woods).

As I ambled along the road... admiring the general splendor... I heard a rustle rustle to my left in the forest... and there I spied... a boar of enormous proportions... grunting along in the snow! It was shockingly huge... with giant tusks... and a hunched back...

it didn't look piggy at all!

It looked at me and started running toward the road...(which, though not directly toward me... was still closer to me than he was before)...

EEEEEEEK! I wanted to shrilly scream, but reigned my emotion and started to back away... and the WILD BEAST ran across the road and up this shear hill with the prowess of a tiger and the speed of a gazelle... albeit and very fat and lumbering one. It's hooves made pounding noises on the pavement... as did my own kicks as I ran down the hill and back toward camp.

All in all... it was a dizzying experience... even as I write this I find that I have been holding my breath.

The other night, one of the missionaries told me about a man that he offered to drive home... he found the man walking from the village of Bourg d'Oisans to another village very far up the mountain...(the man was inebriated... and confessed he had recently lost his driving license... hmmm I wonder he had been walking from the bar in town up to his little mountain village three nights a week... a walk that took 2 1/2 hours!)...(I couldn't help but think that was extreme dedication). This man walked the busy mountain road that runs along a sheer cliff... THIS ROAD IS TREACHEROUS! It curves and bends and at some of the more dangerous turns... the road seems to be only barely wide enough for two cars. May I remind you, there is no side walk... there is barely space for the cars... let alone a drunk guy stumbling along at night.

Anyway, there are two ways for this man to get to his village... via the road or via a trail through the woods (the trail through the woods would take an hour off of his walk home). He walked the extremely dangerous road BECAUSE he was too afraid of the SANGLIER to take the wooded path. I don't blame him, now.