I’ve been thinking about this post for over a month. I just have to come to terms with the fact that I will never know where to start. So, I’ll just start.
Where have I been. By far, this has felt like the busiest year of my adult life yet. We have worked hard. We have been to Berlin, Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Boston and several regions around France. We’ve traveled to two weddings. We’ve each seen a parent through a hip replacement. We have moved (and are still digging out of boxes, five months later) and bought our first car together. But the biggest change, which slowed me down for months and made me wonder how anyone could enjoy thinking about food (and that is saying something coming from me, I think you’ll agree), has been these:
Those little toes will be stealing the show come early January, and if current activity levels are any indication, they will hit the ground running! The first trimester was full of nausea and traveling. Not the best combination. But I’ve been lucky to have a very easy pregnancy so far. Weather these thumpers belong to a little fille (girl) or garçon (boy) will be a surprise for us and it hasn’t been hard to wait because, my, but nine months goes in the blink of an eye! It seems somehow appropriate that I’ve finally managed this post Thanksgiving week because we are so, so thankful for this little one. We really can’t seem to wrap our minds around it, even now.
So we’ve been going full tilt to get this new apartment ready because I have a feeling that come January I won’t want to be digging through a box trying to find item X. In fact, I don’t want to be doing that now, either, but as this apartment came without one inch of storage (not even in the kitchen!), we’ve had to invest time and clever solutions as well as a tight budget into making it as functional as possible. It’s been much too hectic but I’m starting to feel like we may just succeed! So I’m looking forward to sharing the transformation of this new home on the blog along with getting back to sharing food stories too!
I’ve been keeping up over on instagram if you want to check out peeks over there but for now I’ll leave you with some pictures of our year and a thanks. Thank you for reading, for coming back when I couldn’t get my brain to be in this space, thank you. And, please, say hi and tell me how you are? How has your year been?
And a happiest of Thanksgivings to everyone celebrating!
It’s Friday! Again! Honestly, things have been so busy with work around here that we find ourselves in awe Thursday night that the following day is the last day of the week. Again. How is it possible? Well, in between all the typing I’ve been doing, I’m dreaming of polishing off the last projects I was hoping to do to finish this apartment. Talks of moving on are long and simmering in our home but the pace of those talks is picking up and, darn it, I just want to see some of these ideas come to life! Here’s some of what I’m hoping to maybe advance on this weekend:
- These green leafy pillows on our couch are new. I ordered the fabric from Spoonflower (depending on your screen, my picture is truer to the color of this cotton/linen blend than on the Spoonflower site) as soon as I saw it! I was planning to make two smaller deep blue velvet pillows to go with them but then I started thinking that would be too contrasty in our small space (um, we live in a studio and this couch is also our bedroom…) so I ordered this gorgeous cotton/silk ikat and I can’t wait for it to arrive! I love that it is the reverse (light on darker) of the leafy fabric (on a white ground).
- We have two lightbulbs still hanging from the ceiling with 5€ “it’ll do” drum shades on them. I’d like to do this one in the main living space but the hallway is still up for grabs. We have a very modern, simple glass globe in the kitchen space, my Moravian star in my “studio”, and huge Japanese paper shade in the bathroom (do you need a floorplan after all that?). I think I’d like something darker and older in the entryway, maybe like this or this?
- We still only have a small mirror in the bathroom. The only way to see how that shirt and that skirt are working together is when i get in the elevator to leave the building. My dream mirror might be like this! Maybe. But big and rectangular. Where to find that for a song in a city that knows the value of antiques? I’ve been playing with lots of different styles in my head.
Also, tomorrow is my birthday! I would like a bit of sunshine and to do the following things:
- Have tea and treats at the Mosquée.
- Shop for gorgeous green plants along les quais.
- Shop this vente ephémère (pop-up shop in French! literally ‘ephemeral sale’)
- And eat lunch at Khun Akorn.
Do you have any weekend plans? I hope it’s a beautiful one!
I have a post about one of our favorite museums here in Paris to share with you but the truth is I haven’t been able to get myself to take the time to finish editing the pictures. It’s not because I don’t love them but if I’m being honest, I’ve been stalled on them. And then this morning I thought that what I should really share was a celebration of the holiday to come. A holiday for when life comes surging back. And that’s exactly what my mother-in-law wanted me to document in her garden the last weekend we were there. She wanted pictures of that moment in between. The quiet right before the surge of life washes over the sleeping ground. The garden waiting.
So that’s what I knew I wanted to share this Good Friday. Admittedly, winters in this part of France look little like the winters I know in my Maine. The ground rarely gets that unforgiving hollow thump from being frozen nor does it ever stay white very long if it ever gets a layer of snow. I had forgotten what the winter ground sounds and feels like until I was home in February. So curious. And because that rarely happens in this climate, green can blanket the ground even in the darkest months. Hardy old friends like leeks, beets, cabbage, and chard march right through the cold.
But new delicate greens are popping up in every corner. Vibrant colors that have been dormant for months. The birds have so much to tell in the trees and everything seems to be humming. It’s all waking up. It’s all surging back.
A very beautiful spring to you and a very Happy Easter.
Paris received a few inches of snow this past week. The panic it caused was a bit comical (and a lot frustrating) to those of us living here who are used to real snowy winters. Buses stop, train schedules get messed up, airports cancel flights … for 3 to 5 inches. It’s a different perspective.
I’ve been back in Paris for a about a week now. I had run home to Maine at the end of January and dove right into helping my parents as much as I could while medical adventures were had. Everyone is fine and this adventure was planned although it came on the heels of another, unplanned, medical adventure which made it that much more of a challenge. But I was so glad I could be there to do as much as I did. And, because, like a lot of women, I have a superwoman complex, I would have liked to have done so much more.
But my love of real winter satisfied while I was in my beloved Maine! We had no less than two blizzards and it seemed to snow almost every weekend. The first blizzard churned great dunes of snow around the landscape and left other patches bare from the force of the winds. The front and side of our car literally were buried to the roof. We are so lucky to have neighbors who think nothing of snow-blowing your driveway without a word when they know you can use the help.
Before going to bed the night of the biggest blizzard, I quietly called to my parents who were down the hall and already in bed, “I’ll be right back!” The wind was whipping our house on the water so hard that I was literally rocked to sleep in my bed that night. The old wood framed windows rattled. “Where are you going?” my mother asked. Just outside, to see what it’s like. She insisted on following me downstairs to the door. This is what I saw (posted to instagram), an abandoned town.
The snow continued into the next day but when the sun came out on the third day, I ventured down to “the island”. Next to our house is a small dirt road we call “the lane”. For as long as we’ve lived there, you could often hear me calling upstairs that I was going “down the lane”. It leads to “the island”. Of course, it isn’t an island anymore because it is attached to the mainland by this raised dirt road. But in times of a tempestuous sea, like during the storm, it sometimes becomes an island again as the sea crashes over the road, trying to reach the cove on the other side.
It’s a special place to me, the island. For years it was only inhabited in the summer by people from ‘away’ and the houses, yards, and shores stood empty for me and my parents to explore. We have stories that became our legends like the house with the stone wall that had a bone mortared into it. What kind of bone was it and what could be the mysterious story of its coming to be in that wall? Or the red splatter on the rock in the tiny cove at the end of the island? Lobster blood I decided, it had to be!
Now there are more people that live on the island year round. Granted, it is a relative number, there are only five or six houses. And some of the new inhabitants are more welcoming than other to the casual stroller down the lane. But I still feel a sort of right to the place. To the land. Maine roots dig deep. And I got to see through my childhood eyes being down on the quiet, cold, wild island after a real snow storm. It hasn’t really ever changed.
A leisurely visit to the Louvre last Friday night melted into a snowy trip home. When it snows in Paris, all the buses stop no matter how much snow there actually is. So I was a disappointed that we wouldn’t get to have a little tour of the city blanketed in some flurries. But I did take advantage of the slightly sticky snow before leaving the Louvre.
This visit we spent our time meandering around two special exhibits that couldn’t be photographed but to get there we passed through a hall we’ve never really visited before, a hall full of Greek and Roman bronze pieces. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore it but it will definitely be one of the next collections to explore.
Will it come as any surprise that the girl who has a picture of every Thanksgiving turkey her family ever cooked (I’d like to name my mother as my co-conspirator on that one) is also loving instagram. Probably not. These are some of the recent images I’ve posted, you can check them out here but you have to tell me if you are on instagram too!: instagram.com/abigaillabranche
Here is some of what I’ve been loving this week:
1. Did you watch Murder She Wrote with your parents when you were growing up, too? I did. And I’m not sure why I’ve only discovered it now but I’ve been loving Midsomer Murders which kind of feels like the same spirit. Plus, the genius theme song gets stuck in my head for days.
2. Reasons not to read Damn You Auto Correct! while eating lunch include this all-time favorite which will probably make you choke on that sandwich from laughing so hard.
3. I’ve been wanting to read this book since I heard the review on NPR but came up empty handed after checking the English language bookshops in Paris. I ended up ordering it and couldn’t wait for it to arrive. It came the other day and, while I’m only on page 75, I’m so anxious to keep reading. Like when you were a kid and you would sneak a page in every spare moment you could find. I mean, the first sentence is, “Every house has a story to tell and, over time, will make whoever lives there a character.” Come on! I’ll admit that memories of our trip to Santa Fe and the southwest this past spring played a part in winning me over, too. Has anyone read Jo Ann Mapson‘s work?
4. This Radiolab podcast is fascinating and thought provoking. Yes, it is about dying. But it’s just about 20 minutes long and will possibly start to change all your ideas about medical care and end of life. It’s not depressing or gloomy, I promise. But we dream about and plan all the special moments of our lives, shouldn’t we give a little thought to this one too?
5. I really love E’s take (inspired by Kate) on resolutions and plans for the new year and want to take some time to think of goals for myself that I could start with in February. Isn’t having a month to dedicate to one goal, one thought, a great idea?
I think I mentioned that I’m not always on top of the lunch game. But that tartine seems to have opened the door because I’ve been finding more and more treasures for lunchtime. If I’m being honest, I’d tell you that part of it is probably the recent taming of the fridge, also. Amazing what wonders having a system and actually seeing what you have in the fridge will do!
This salad started with leftover marinated feta cheese from the weekend’s lunches. The endless gray days of Parisian winter had us all craving sunlight and the bright flavor of lemon and citrusy zing of Sichuan peppercorns brought some to of that sun to our table. Marinating feta is really so easy and doesn’t take as much time as you would think to be effective. Even an hour or two will transform the cheese. Sometimes I forget to prepare it a day or two before, like last weekend when I remembered just after breakfast. It still had enough time to make a wonderfully flavored addition to our plates in the afternoon. Lucky me, we didn’t eat it all that Saturday.
The marinated feta and its infused olive oil was the first thing to be pulled out of the fridge for my weekday lunch, then Kalamata olives. Greek salad, I thought. But it’s January and tomatoes and cucumbers are just a dream. The just barely ripe, crisp winter pear on the counter seemed the perfect substitute and I quickly chopped some celery to pair with it. Peppery rocket, sliced red onions, deep purple olives, and roughly chopped pistachios – they all came together with a dressing of cider vinegar and the infused olive oil, lemon zest, and peppercorns. A Greek salad for winter. And you know what? I think it really did bring back the sun.
Lemon & Sichaun Peppercorn Marinated Feta
This recipe is easily adapted to any amount of feta and the amounts given here aren’t
written in stone. Feel free to just toss in small handfuls of seasoning to your own taste.
- 150 g feta cheese
- 1 lemon, organic if possible
- 1 teaspoon Sichaun peppercorns
- 1/2 c. olive oil or more
1. Peel half the lemon into wide strips with a vegetable peeler. Slice each strip length-wise into very thin strips.
2. Crumble the feta into large chunks.
3. Using a high sided bowl, arrange the feta in the bowl with the peppercorns and lemon zest distributed throughout the layers. Pour olive oil into to cover the feta. You may need more or less oil to just cover the cheese. Marinate for at least 1 hour if possible.
Winter Greek Salad
- 75 g marinated feta
- 1/2 c. Kalamata olives
- 2 tender celery heart stalks, sliced including leaves
- 1/2 crisp pear, sliced into matchsticks
- 1 shallot or 1 small red onion sliced thinly
- 1/4 c. unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
- 2 handfuls rocket / arugula
- 2 tbsp. infused olive oil from the marinated feta
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1. Divide the rocket between two plates and then arrange the feta, olives, celery, pear, and onions on top. Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the vinegar and olive oil and drizzle over the two salads. Be sure to include the lemon zest and peppercorns from the oil too!