Full disclosure, and plans ahoy…

I’m very tired this week. Very tired, and a bit grumpy, trying to get used to this regular blogging thingamajig, and altogether a bit unpleasant to be around, on the internet or in real life! Plus I have a lot of non-blog-related writing to do, because I have due dates coming up. SO: I declare this week Blog Amnesty Week, by which I mean, I will not be posting for the rest of this week. I will use the extra time to get ready for a regular Monday-Friday posting schedule starting next week, in which I plan to include things like Tasty Tuesday (wherein I profile something new I ate, drank, or attempted to cook this week) and Photo Friday (wherein I post five photos instead of babbling on about things), because I’ve heard it said that unapologetic kitschy alliteration is the way to a reader’s heart. Or something like that.

See you on the flip side, internauts!

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Il pleut des cordes.

Fall is a big deal in my family’s neck of the woods––which only makes sense, since from September to November, the rocky slopes and of course the occasional rolling hills of the northeastern U.S. are blanketed in glorious reds, oranges, and yellows.

This is my second automne in France and it’s still strange to me that the famous autumnal glut of color just doesn’t seem to exist here; most of the trees in Limours are varying shades of green and brown, or are already leafless. Being neither a botanist nor in fact any kind of scientist, I don’t know whether the difference lies in the flora itself or whether it’s due to the more moderate European climate. In any case, the lack is a bit disorienting.

Maybe that’s why I forgot winter (as they say) is coming, but coming it is, and full speed ahead, since the grass crunched beneath my feet on my walk to work this morning. A full month after my dad mentioned New Jersey’s first frost and a few days after my aunt mentioned Maine’s first snowfall, France is finally catching up.

Meanwhile, it’s raining strings, which at the very least makes more sense than cats and dogs!

frost

Waste not, want not, or something like that.

I was born in New England and lived there for the first six years of my life, which I’m pretty sure requires me by law to absolutely detest waste or excess. I think it’s the perfect storm of Puritan soil, my family’s 1920s-immigrant work ethic, and being 22 years old and thus sometimes having to get creative with money. This especially pertains to food – I clean my plate, I stretch what I cook as far as it’ll go, and I never, ever, ever throw out food if I think I can eke something useful out of it. This is why I’m pretty good at making things like apple compote, banana bread, and Leftovers Stew.

So today when I realized I could do something with my orange peels and lemon rinds, I got pretty excited!

While my apartment’s tile floors and big windows are absolutely lovely, they do make my living space colder than it might be otherwise. And I’m a bit loathe to turn on the heater until I absolutely need to. But I’ve noticed that when I’m cooking, the whole apartment seems a bit warmer and brighter. And as I was eating my orange this morning, I was struck by the bright idea to save a couple slices and the peel, and see if I could do something with them.

I had an extra lemon, too, and not being a huge fan of lemons outside of guacamole and summery drinks, I sliced up one end of it, dropped in the orange peel and orange slice, and filled the pan with water, and started up the stove since I’ll be cooking in a few minutes anyway. Since I don’t have any spices outside of salt and pepper right now, I picked a few basil leaves off of the basil plant I keep in my kitchen window, and presto! My apartment now smells delicious and feels warm despite the wet November chill.

If you have a better-stocked kitchen than I do, you could try cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves along with any other citrusy fruits you have on hand.

Plus it looks pretty!

Image

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the lemon/orange/basil mixture. I’m thinking about dumping in some sugar and a rather unfortunate red wine I bought (okay, rather unfortunate for French red wine, which means it’s perfectly decent if not entirely to my taste) and trying for Not Quite Vin Chaud.

Merci les musiciens et les limouriens…

Wow, color me impressed. Although the concert was a bit steep for my budget –– 15 euros per person ––  it was more than worth the price.

The music was incredible: three hours of jazz/Malian traditional music fusion that veered from twangy, bluesy heartbreak to wild dancing rhythms so contagious that even the lanky, dignified mayor of Limours was clapping and bobbing along. Needless to say, they were amazing, especially considering they apparently only had two or three hours to practice before performing.

The band was called Magou & Dakar Transit, and included a fantastic guitarist who played both a finger-picking jazz style and a B.B. King-reminscent blues style, a thoroughly talented bassist, two excellent percussionists (one on a Western-style drum set and one, the only woman, on a large half-spherical drum that Wikipedia tells me was either a gita or a fileh and which sent a profound vibration throughout the entire auditorium). Finally, the astonishingly nimble-fingered Djeli Moussa Condé, who plays the kora or Malian bridge-harp, was there as a guest star. Thanks to my mother’s extensive and eclectic taste in music, I’ve listened to Malian musicians like Ali Farka Touré for most of my life, so I’m somewhat familiar a tiny, famous portion of Malian fusion music. But I’d never heard of a kora before last night, and I’m sorry for it, because I’ve been listening to recordings all morning and they’re uniformly beautiful.

Unexpectedly, the night turned out to be of some local political importance, too. Limours has been ‘twinned’ with Nioro du Sahel, a town in Mali, since 1983; Les Molières, one of Limours’s neighboring towns, has been twinned with another Malian town, Fégui, for as long, or so I gathered from the proceedings. This concert was not only to celebrate thirty years of “amitié” between the two countries, but to mark a renewing of the towns’ connection to one another. In addition, during the intermission, the mayors of Nioro du Sahel, Fégui, Limours, and Les Molières all sat down to sign financial paperwork that would allow Limours and Molières to pledge a fairly hefty sum to Fégui and Nioro over the next three years because drought has eaten away at those regions in recent seasons.

I guess it’s not the time to get philosophical, but I did think it was extremely interesting that, first of all, twinning between towns actually means something whereas in the States it’s a nice but ultimately meaningless gesture, and second of all, your average person seems significantly more aware of sovereign states and traditional regions within Africa as complex institutions with individual problems and individual needs in their own right, rather than just being aware of The Continent of Africa (Which Is Full of Suffering People), which is how I think we generally approach Africa in the U.S. I don’t know why this is the case, although it probably has something to do with France’s intensely complex history with North Africa and colonialism, but it was fascinating to watch.

I had no idea, when I moved to this little town, that so much big stuff would be happening here. It’s great!

I’m baaaack.

I was sitting here at my table, boiling water for tea and getting ready to go to a ‘blues et folk africain’ concert tonight, thinking about all the things I’ve done since I’ve gotten to France…and I realized: I haven’t blogged about any of them.

My mistake, internauts and francophiles. I was too busy living to write about, well, living. In the past six weeks, I’ve started teaching English to middle schoolers, travelled through Brittany, visited two chateaux, tried to learn how to use my microwave/convection oven (and failed), and started making friends in my tiny town – stuff which takes quite a bit of both time and energy.

But now things have settled down somewhat, and although I’ve got somewhere to be tonight, my Not Quite New Year’s Resolution is to be as disciplined about this blog as I am about tasting new cheeses and drinking new wines!

Let me leave you with this photo I took of La côte sauvage, or as we’d say in English, The Wild Coast:

quiberon002

(La Route Cotiére, Quiberon, Bretagne, France.)

Please allow me to introduce myself: I’m a man of wealth and taste.

Okay, Rolling Stones aside, I’m actually not a man, I have no wealth, and my taste is dubious, but I can certainly introduce myself! My name is Adriana, I’m 22 years old, I’m American, and for some reason I can’t quite identify, I’m moving to France for the second time.

I’m a bit nervous about it. Well, to be honest — a lot nervous. Last time, my bravado carried me through the first two weeks, at which point I promptly had a total breakdown and called my mom every five seconds. This time, even though I already talk the talk and (sorta) walk the walk, I’m much more anxious about the whole thing! Hopefully, this is a sign of growth, and not a sign that I will just have a breakdown as soon as I land in the CDG airport.

In 2011, I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed undergraduate who was paying for her study abroad through a combination of lifelong frugality and teaching at a high school in a Parisian suburb. But now I’ve graduated with a degree in English literature and French linguistics — which is to say I’m occasionally bitter and have few obvious career prospects — so I decided I might as well be broke and confused in France rather than in my parents’ house in New Jersey. Luckily, the French ministry of education decided to hire me back. I’m now going to be living and teaching in the “quasi-rural” town of Limours, which is still in the Île-de-France region but is too far away to count as the banlieue.

I really am not quite sure what I’m going to be doing with this blog yet; mostly, I’m trying to become more disciplined as a writer, and to learn how to write entertaining nonfiction. My not-exactly-secret life goal is to become a novelist, but, like, LOL, that’s not exactly a sure thing, so I’m trying to get practice in the meantime! I’m also trying to learn how to document my life because I never ever ever take pictures and I always regret it later. AND I’m going to try to do some lifestyle blogging in support of my mom’s nascent company, Parlez-Vous Provence (Speak French in Every Color, is that not the most adorable thing you’ve ever heard in your life?).

See you on the flip side!