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.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

what I've been up too...

I left the U.S. Feb 13th but arrived in France on Valentine's Day. I think the correct term is “lugged” two giant suitcases across the world and I was overjoyed to meet Candide, Dan, and Tim at the train station in Grenoble. We all ate Raclette for dinner (which is a very delicious cheese based dinner… where you heat cheese in little skillets and eat the melted cheese with potatoes and slices of meat). yummmm. The next day we dove right into our family camp. There were about 6 families, a few couples, and a few people who came along on their own and all together we were a good crowd. Our daily schedule during camp generally included:
8:30 Breakfast of chocolate chuad (hot chocolate) and bread
9:00 (for me cleaning dishes, sweeping floors, wiping tables until 10)
10:00 meet for worship (Seigneur, ton nom est élevé…)
10:30 I would baby-sit the youngest kids (Marion 3yrs & Laura 4yrs) while the parents listened to a local French pastor speak each morning. The girls and I played on “drums” made from pots and pans. We also found a giant cardboard box to use as a voiture (“car”) and a caverne (“cave”). In addition, to the copious amounts of toys, balls, and colors we had at our disposal. Yet, the simple drums and the old box were our favorite toys!
11:30 We would all grab our sack lunches that the cook (a fellow missionary named Gwen) prepared for us. A baguette sandwich, a piece of fruit, a lump of cheese, and (the French never forget desert) a chocolate bar.
12:00 By noon, all the families are scurrying about to get their kids into long johns, pack up the vehicles with skis… because the rest of the afternoon was free for the families to ski or snow-shoe, or go sledding in the surrounding mountains. I was fortunate enough to ski with the families for three of the days. A few days, I stayed at camp and helped watch the kids for parents who wanted to have a “kid-free” ski day. I got to go sledding with one of my charges and we built a bon homme de la neige. (“snowman”). One afternoon I stayed behind with a French woman named, Caroline Berger, and we had a French lesson. First, we started of with a French Bible and English Bible. She taught me how to pronounce and understand the first Psalm in French. Then we spent two hours practicing French words… before we knew it… the sun was starting to reach the mountains… and we had spent the whole afternoon together. It was lovely.
5:00 Everyone returned a little colder and perhaps a bit fatigued from the afternoon of skiing or tromping about in the snow.
6:00 I would help prepare for dinner, set the table, wash the cook’s dishes with my fellow staff members at camp.
7:00 Dinner is served! Beginning with a salad or cold vegetable, followed by the main course, and then desert. Meals were at least an hour, usually 2 or 2 ½ for me, including dish washing and cleaning up the kitchen each night. I love dinner. Mealtime is very important relationship building time. Each night, I find someone new to sit next to, or sit next to someone I want to talk with more.
9:00pm I am usually finishing my last corner of the kitchen with a mop by now and downstairs in our meeting room… all of camp is gathering for the night event! We start with more French worship and then games ensue. We spend time together until 10pm or occasionally 11pm (we sit together and have tea before bed a few nights). Then it is time to say “bonne nuit” and go to bed.
Camp ended on Feb 22d, and we said good-bye, exchanged emails. The families signed up to return to us for family camp in August. I can’t wait to see them again and will keep them in our prayers… each family struggling with the serious stuff that we all know; possible divorce, depression, and happier struggles like new babies on the way.

Since camp ended, we (everything I do... nearly always includes the camp staff team) have been cleaning camp! Scrubbing every toilet, vacuuming every room, washing mountains of sheets. We had a septic tank clogging issue… due to freezing temperatures, perhaps. We aren’t really sure what caused the block up and the overflowing of nastiness… but for almost a week… one of our bathrooms was disgusting! Poor Dan, fellow missionary, had to work on unclogging and dealing with the nasty. I also had to spend a few hours mopping up poo water one day!

There was a large retreat group using our camp this week. Apparently, someone in their group was sick, because I discovered some very nasty blankets in the washer… when I went to wash some camp sheets… and spent an hour cleaning the washer and the blankets… but at least the chunks were sanitized I kept telling myself. Since, I have worked at camps since I was 16, this definitely wasn’t my first rodeo, discovering and cleaning up vomit… but it never gets any more pleasant!

All in a days work at camp!!!

I also developed a pretty inconvenient cold (sore throat, goobies, nose running)! Which I blame on the difference in temperature between Texas and here. There is a blanket of snow on the ground here… Thankfully, the cold hit me during a few days of rest.

Our next camp starts tomorrow. It is a kids ski camp that I will be helping to clean for… so more dishes and toilets are in my future. I also will get to practice my French with some kids, make them laugh, and I even have to take them skiing on Wednesday (I know… that is a terrible job, isn’t it!)

All in all, I am so content! I step outside into the snow banks and feel more alive. I see the grateful smile of the French people when they find me scrubbing their toilets or dishes. I am having engaging and meaningful conversations. I am forming lasting relationships.

AND! I get to be near the French loved ones that I already have worked for and loved on since 2002. Things are going merrily along… yet keep our work and health in your thoughts… there is so much work to be done. Miss you all and send my love.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

traveling mercies

This week was an adventure.

It started this last Thursday night…
Thursday night: Arlington and then home to Southlake
Friday night: Mason, TX (just northwest of Fredricksburg)
Saturday night: Brownwood, TX (central Texas)
Sunday night: Comanche, TX (little bit east of Brownwood)
Monday night: Missouri City, TX outside of Houston
Tuesday night (last night): Denton, TX north of Dallas/Ft.Worth
Friday night: Paris, France
Saturday night: Camp des Cimes, La Rivoire, Bourg d’Oisans, France

I’ve been reflecting on everything and I’m trying to crystallize all my favorite moments into memory…

Starting last Thursday… I played “volley-pong” around a ping-pong table with a crew of Indian students from University Texas Arlington. Goba and Anyesh (I know I have miserably miss-spelled their names) taught me how to play ping-pong using the rules of volley-ball… the result… little plastic ping-pongs flying through the air at break-neck speeds… running to hit the ball with your paddle to your team mate… running into the wall in your distraction… running while contortion-ing your arms like a Picasso painting to try and hit the ball back to the other side of the table.

Mason, TX is a beautiful small town in the middle of Texas mesquite flats and scattered scrub oaks. Surrounded for miles, by nothing but goat ranches, prickly pear, and pick-up trucks. I was there for a church retreat… we drove into the Texas sunset… up and down the hills… over cattle-guards… down a dirt path (for miles)… and finally descended down the steepest hill to discover a tiny little creek-bed valley that had whittled-out a beautiful hole between the hills. Lined with rock cliffs and floored with oak leaves. In this little hide-away were the largest oak trees… that grew horizontal to the ground, like crab-legs extending in long beautiful directions… littered with children climbing on their branches.

Conversations with people that I love to be around ensued. The hustle and bustle of a large group of people preparing a meal… and then all of us sitting down to eat it. Stories being told. Cooling temperatures in the night air… and as only country Texans know… that certain earthly smell… the aroma of the trees and soil that grows stronger as the earth cools.

Watching “Arrested Development” on the wall with a projector. Enjoying farm-made cheese and wine. Playing “salad-bowl” (a conglomeration of charades and word games) around a kitchen table while sipping peppermint tea.

Jumping on the trampoline with my two little cousins Hannah and Jack. Hannah is twelve and Jack is eight. Hannah asking me questions… about God… about loving enemies… about her 6th grade crush Thomas who is moving to a different school.

Driving through the pine forests along I-45 as rain sprinkled the car… and finally, out-driving the storm and reaching the line in the sky between the dark rain clouds and the light-blue sky. The sun had just showed up when…. glug-bump glug-bump glug-bump… my back tire went flat. The wind was whipping! The storm front was right behind me… blowing my luggage over and making it difficult to keep my page in the car manual open to the right page! I was half way finished changing my tire. I loosened the lug-nuts by myself… which took all my muscles combined… got the spare out… had gotten the car on a jack… I had grabbed my camera to take pictures of the little dilapidated white shack and the green field at which I was parked.... when all of a sudden…! A giant 18-wheeler pulled over, and Doug the trucker/ odd knight in shining armor helped me finish changing my tire. Good Samaritan incarnated.

Falling asleep next to my grandmother, Peep, under her canopy bed. Intricate wood arched over my head with white lace hanging along its frames… an old treasure that Peep and Pop have had since they married over fifty years ago. It was storming! Rain pelted the side-walk outside. I didn’t want to get my pajamas from the car… so I borrowed pajamas from Peep… a giant moo-moo pajama dress…white flannel covered by little pink rose-buds. Peep and I told stories… rubbed noses in an Eskimo goodnight kiss… and fell asleep to her favorite radio station… soft-rock… I think I fell asleep to Cat Stevens “Bridge over troubled waters.”

…it was a lot of driving… but worth every second.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

something looming on the horizon

beautiful things are happening. it was very very cold today. I spent most of my time indoors. sitting in front of one of those plug-in-the-wall heaters...keeping toasty warm as I sent emails... talked with people on the phone... filled out forms... all working toward getting to France sooner than later. Finally, having been cooped up in my pajamas in the house all day (oh the joy of working from the house! pajamas worn nearly the whole day!) I decided to go for a walk with the dog... through the cold and dreary woods.
Did I mention that sleet was falling from the sky?

It was a glorious decision.

I bundled up.
Long Johns.
Fleece lined pants.
Monkey Fleece (I love my friends... thank you again for my lovely monkey fleece)
Big- waterproof- winter boots
Favorite gloves.
My new SCARF-HAT! (Yes! it is both a hat and scarf in one! the little hangy-bobs from the side of the hat are actually long and knit like scarves so I can wrap them around my neck.)

My dog, is the shaggiest, largest, dog. He is quite warm (half Great Pyrenees...with a thick winter coat).
So we started on our way... as the sleet made icicles on the top of my hat and the sides of the leash. We trudged quite happily to the trail-head near the house that winds endlessly through the woods around the local Lake Grapevine.
We splashed through icy creeks. We carved through bramble-bushes anointed with frozen droplets. We slugged through cold mud. We didn't see another soul.

The gray sky grew darker and darker gray. We were in the thick woods but far off lights popped up on the hills along the skyline... as the houses atop the hills were somewhat visible through the naked trees.

It seemed to be really quiet... but listening... I could hear the swishing of my pants. the crunching of dirt under my boots. the padding of the dogs prints on the ground. the fluttering of little bird wings. a very distant bark (probably from the houses on the hills). an even more distant train blaring it's horn. the rumble of a plane engine high in the cold atmosphere.
and the tiny-splittering of sleet hitting the world.

Nothing exciting is happening right now... I make it home... covered in ice. (My curly hair is actually frozen that way.) Eat leftovers (Pad Thai...yum yum). Send emails and write my blog.

Today was a quietly beautiful day. and tomorrow is coming!

Friday, January 23, 2009

stumbled across this

A brief rainstorm,
in which I was lathering away the daily sweat,
suddenly burst forth
Thoughts that seemed well-dressed
I treasured. Curiosity

wondered around
the thought:
want is the seed of interest.

To peer under every stone,
and mound of earth,
to filter fingers through pages
and minds, mining,
to fuel the exertions of comprehension,
humility is the spark.

The premier map-writers admire
the grid and squirm to think
what’s beyond the edges.

The politicians
the pastors
the professors
the planners
do not seem passionless, but the

pursuit of viable alternatives
are not advantageous.
fuller pockets, greater pulpits,
projects and pledges are preferred to the

Truth taboo.
Simplicity too complex:
ignore–angst is their diet.

They make defining
They make everything
seeming so, they disguise
starvation-bellies, orphan-farming, savagery-cycling.

Proud fools
caress the phantom:
omni-science. (comforting thoughts so they can remain comfortable)

Explaining the world,
they ignore it. (graph the hungry)
Ruling the world,
they destroy it. (kill the opposition)
The Renaissanced are sparkless.

Dingy ignition: love & modesty,
yet nothing finer
than limited ones
plumbing the limitless.

No one asks the spark-people
Where their imaginations have gone?
Except those who have lost their own.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Yes, I am one of those...

...girls that loves all things Jane Austen. I own every book. and I have read them all. repeatedly.

I found the audio book Pride & Prejudice the other day and took it with me to drive to east Texas on Monday. I started listening to this wonderful book in the car... and listened to it the next day on the drive home... and then... popped the CD in my computer and listened to the book all the afternoon. I listened to the whole book in one day. I could not put it down, so to speak.

After listening to the most classic love story ever written... I, of course, wanted more... so then I watched the movie. The really really old version. Black and white. Laurence Oliver as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Miss Bennet (See picture below). Yes, I own the black and white version of this movie.

and the newest version with Kiera Knightly. and the Bollywood version (Bride & Prejudice). and I am dying to own the 6 hour BBC version... but it is really expensive... so I am waiting on that one.

In the meanwhile, I have Pride & Prejudice on my mind. I keep wanting to speak like English nobles in the 1800's. I want to use words like ...


And say things like..."Pray, do tell!"

Pray, do tell me, why has the habit of throwing a ball fallen out of fashion?