Friday, December 14, 2012

Oh, Christmas Branch!

Ooh, the holidays. There is so very, very much that exudes wonderfulness about this time of year and it is a moment to let your creativity spark then shine. But somehow both Remi and I were feeling the itch to do something simpler, more scaled down. Especially for the tree. Remi had been repeating that, "We are talking about a live tree that has grown for years and years, then we cut it down to enjoy it for a few weeks only to throw it into the garbage after. I don't know..." I listened to him even if my initial reaction had been something akin to shock after having growing up in a family where the bigger the tree the better. Last year, we had brought home one that scraped even our very high yee olde ceilings. But while I was in the States, I thought about it. And no matter what, I had to appreciate that he had that initiative. So when I came back, we set about exploring our other options. Well, after I had declared that, "Alright, we can have a fake tree but only if it is a super fake tree...I want a..." "White one," Remi finished my phrase as he has a wont to do. "Exactly."

But now, will someone explain to me why PVC Christmas trees are not only so crazily unfantabulous but also ridiculously expensive? Anything that was even vaguely worth considering was in the 150€ Euro range and folks, we do not have that kind of money to spend on a Christmas tree, most especially as we do not have room to store one for use, year after year, anywhere. We did go take a good looksee though and while in Truffaut, France's largest garden store chain, Remi picked up a branch that was  taller than he is and we joked that it could be an option. It was closing time and he was feeling off with a toothache so we left. 

But by the following Wednesday, it was Tree Day. Either I was going to go by myself and pick out a live one from our sweet vendor from years past or not. My Flower Guy had recently reminded me that he only bought trees that were grown responsibly for the purpose, I tried to justify that France is a rare country with a tree surplus but still, I brought up the branch again. We went back to get it that afternoon and yesterday I broke out the Diana Krall Christmas album and went to town. 

Just my vintage abandoned chandelier parts, white lights and some sparkly pine cones... the one ornament that Remi had chosen, akin to a baby bird or an aspiring Muppet.

The result is utterly féerique or fairy-like but even with multiple tries, I admit defeat in photographing it. Sigh. Some things don't share well. 

Tired of not having a real fire, we put a little thought into our candle-lit fireplaces. I had a little click with a memory of the beautiful Sheesh-Mahals in the palaces of Rajasthan so Remi put down some glimmering tile. It is a work in progress...

Just a few pine cones on the lustre... branches around Marie in the hall and a tiny angel in the alcove.

For the first time ever, I have succumbed to the kitsch of spray snow on the windows! Bah, it made me happy. What I wouldn't give for the real thing...

And so with our little branch and our wee doodads, we have piffed and poofed up our bit of Christmas happiness for this year. And it has done its magic. As my friend Nancy Kate so charmingly has reminded me in her post at Bread is Pain, it is all about creating then spreading the joy.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!! Try to make sure that you enjoy this season and don't let it enjoy you!

Just after I hit publish, I read of the terrible shooting in Connecticut. I am horrified and will be sending prayers for peace and strength for this horrific act and that in Portland.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Slows Bar B Q, Detroit

I think nearly any American expat living in France would offer up the same response when asked the question, "What food do you miss the most from home?" The answer would be: Mexican. Or more specifically, Real Mexican Food as yes, Old El Paso can be bought even at my local grocery store in Arles and that isn't even food let alone authentic. My Mom knows this and so whipped up her crispy quesadillas with tomatillo salsa within an hour or so of my arrival in the States. For that, not to mention the glass of wine that was immediately placed in my hand, I thank her. I am also grateful for her truly infallible food radar, one that the military would covet if only they could figure out how to transform it into say, a heat-seeking missile.

So when she kept suggesting that we take a road trip down to Detroit (not even 45 minutes from Ann Arbor) for BBQ, I listened. In the realm of expatatia, great BBQ is beyond what one can even hope for and so is often left off the list. And yet somehow before we knew it, my trip was almost over. But my Mom is a wily one and nothing will stop her from good food even if she has to take a personal day off from work to get it (shhh). This is after all, the woman who said that I had a dentist appointment one day when I was in high school so that I could attend a traditional Indonesian luncheon at India Joze in Santa Cruz, California (rightfully feeling that I would learn more from the experience that I would that day in school). So soon, off we went, barrelling down the highway with her companion, Leonard in his big Lincoln that we affectionately call "the Boat."

Later, when folks would hear that we went to Slows Bar B Q, they would immediately ask, "How long  was your wait?" Turns out, Slows is famous. But it also just so happened that luck was on our side. Even though it was already past 1:30pm when we heaved open the heavy front door, we were initially told by the hostess (who is heading to Paris next April) that it would be 45 minutes but to come back for our beeper (ah, only in America!) in fifteen. Back in ten as it was too cold to wander, we were seated straight away.

It says a lot about "the what" we were about to dive into that the beer menu in the bar area suggested to "Buy a six pack for the kitchen" for $5.95. Well, they do have to smoke and roast all of the meats on the menu for hours--hence the name Slows--I suppose they could use a little encouragement from time to time. That there were four different types of sauce, including the vinegary North Carolina style (David Terry, are you listening?) on the table also had me curious.

Need I mention the...perfume...of what was so clearly the real deal that permeated the room? I leaned my head back and murmured a drawn out "Baar--beee-quuuue"...

We noticed the mix of customers from business men with their ties flung over their shoulders to big tables of families to sociable students, all united by one factor: they all looked supremely content. The conviviality was encouraged by the staff, our waiter was a charmer and steered us where we needed to go on the menu. 

A $7 glass of excellent Crozes-Hermitage to start? No wonder these folks were serious about putting the Bar back into BBQ. Don't mind if I do. The most fulfilling, smokiest gumbo that I have ever had outside of New Orleans? Ditto.

Not being fools, my Mom and I decided to share an order of the Carolina Style Pulled Pork (at only $12.95 the buy of the century) rather than attempting plates of our own, most especially as it came with two quite copious sides. We choose a bowl of earthy baked beans spiked with jalapenos and coriander...

...and of course, of course, the gooiest, creamiest Mac-n-cheese, the one that I will be longing for almost as much as that pork...roasted with the bone left in, falling apart, perfectly pulled, lightly sauced and tender as can be. You know how we wanna be Frenchies love our sucré-salé and the spice rub used fit the bill perfectly. 

We did our best.

And although we are not fools, we are indeed gluttons. The proof is in the (banana) pudding that my Mom finally caved it to ordering "just to have a little nibble of something sweet, you know." I do, Mom, I do. Did I need that second glass of Crozes to finish it off with? Perhaps not but I was on vacation after all...

I raise that now imaginary glass to Slows. When we ambled out into the big city of Detroit (more of that to follow soon), we all were surprised by the happiness, just that, happiness that we felt. A wonderful hour or two, catching the contagious good times of what is now my favorite BBQ joint in the nation. I am already mentally planning what I will order when next I go back. For certainly, this is not goodbye but simply au revoir...

Slows BBQ
2138 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, Michigan
Tel.: (1) 313-962-9828
And for you lucky fools that are in the region:
Now, if only I can convince them to Fedex some Slows my way...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Leaning towards twilight

I can feel the days getting shorter. The compression of time within me, weighs. Having exchanged one time zone for another, I feel robbed all over again, a week of daylight missing as if I could count it on the fingers of my hand then wrap it into a sleeping fist.

So restless this awareness made me, that ticking tock of why I do not wear a watch, that I stood up looking for an exit. I grabbed my camera and leashed up my dog, sneaking out of my own anxiety.

I walked up the hill that I always do and looked for lines instead of objects to calm my pulse. At just past five, the light was in its laughing run, so I leant into it and let it push me pulled.

Lucky like a charm and looking like a child, it worked like a clock. My breath stung quiet with shivering hope, I returned home and opened the lock. "Good Boy." I patted Ben reassuringly and climbed the stairs in the dark.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday finds at Found

Hello everyone! I want to start off by extending a warm merci to all of you that responded and emailed regarding my previous post. Julie really has put together an amazing week in Provence and as all of the money raised by Passports with Purpose is going to, whether you win it or not, well, you are already a winner in my eyes just for having donated. And if you are waffling or just plain forgot to bid, please hurry as the fundraiser is finished on December 11th, just four more days away! So far, they have reached $35,000 of their $100,000 goal. Can you imagine what a phenomenal Holiday surprise it would be to offer your loved one any of the amazing prizes on offer? 

Speaking of wonderful gifts, I have been looking forward to sharing a happiness-inducing store that I came across during my visit to the States. One of the many things that was so phenomenal about my trip was the timing. Not only did I get to have a perfect Thanksgiving (more about that soon) and delight in my Sister's rocking birthday party (literally) but I got just the perfect dose of holiday buzz, minus the mania.

And no one did it better than Found in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown District. Having grown up in a family who worked in retail (you can partially blame my Dad for Abercrombie & Fitch's transformation from stolid safari to adolescent dreamland), I will admit to being ever so slightly a snob when it comes to a stores presentation. The lights are always too bright, everything can be taken in with a blink and there is little in the way of experience--no matter how earnestly the employees at Banana Republic try to make it otherwise.

Not so at Found, which is clearly curated with love by owner Mary Cambruzzi. I could have spent hours in there and would have if I were alone. As it was, I was a wild snapper with my camera, trying to capture as much of the ambiance as I could to share with you, so much so that one of the fellow shoppers asked exactly what was I doing with a suspiciously raised eyebrow! Does it sound odd that I would put a collective aesthetic on your tastes? But something tells me that if you are here, you love patina and the tiny details as much as I do. If so, then Found is very Lost in Arles! 

The evening I was there was part of a special event and there was nary a space to stand. The line for the register stretched to the rear of the store and so with promises that I would return, I regretfully took my leave. Alas, my visits to the States are often a rambunctious run and I did not get the opportunity this time...

...and how would I have fit this 1930's doll-house in my carry-on? 

All of these candles are Made In Michigan...

...and the vintage finds are Made with Time!

Here in Arles, the Christmas lights have just popped on below my window, reminding me that it is the  moment to extend the holiday spirit to my life in France! I have pulled down the boxes of decorations from the attic and will now wonder what to do with them this year...Are you in the same mood or not quite yet...? Found certainly has sparked plenty of ideas...

407 N. Fifth Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Tel.: (1) 734-302-3060

While the gallery is a big believer in "Shopping Local" they ship internationally and there is currently free shipping for all orders in the US that are over $100. They don't have much of these holiday items on their website but everyone was so nice that if there is something that you love here, I bet they will be able to help you out. And no, this isn't a "Sponsored Post" (I wish I was at that point! ;), I just like what they do.

Wishing you all a wonderful's time to break out the vin chaud!...brrr...