IMG_5409The other night at dinner, I told my husband about something, and he informed me I had told him the same thing just the day before. Of course, it isn’t as if he has anything new to tell me, either. Just like everybody else in the world, stuck at home. Well, no–the lucky ones are stuck at home while the brave continue to keep the world moving forward, so we still have electricity and running water and enough food. Which is more than about a billion people had on a pre-Covid-19 good day.IMG_5337IMG_5360The top photo translates to “underwater bridge,” which seems to negate the very point of a bridge. Actually, it’s a culvert that usually is above the stream, except for when you REALLY need it. Somehow, the concept of an underwater bridge seems appropriate right now. The title reflects my gallows humor at the moment: the song from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.”IMG_5345IMG_5348Are you also losing track of the days? It isn’t even as if I thought it was Thursday or Saturday; I had no idea at all. What does one do on Fridays? I don’t remember. Oh, yeah–the recycling goes out. Otherwise, all the things that made one day different from the next have evaporated, and now each day is nebulous–a shape-shifting fog. IMG_5441We are trying our best to eat well. Homemade pizza. Squash risotto with sautéed zucchini. Crispy tofu with mushrooms, peppers and avocado. Our avocados were still too hard to make into a guacamole, so I added some tahini-miso sauce (a tablespoon of tahini, another of miso, another of honey, another of sesame oil and two of olive oil). IMG_5426The key to the tofu dish is to cook things separately but to reuse the same pan. First the mushrooms. We like to get them very brown and borderline crispy. To do that, let them steam off the moisture before you try to stir them. They went into a bowl, a tiny bit of olive oil was added, then the peppers and onions were cooked until softened. Into a bowl, more oil and the tofu was cooked.IMG_5430IMG_5437To get tofu crispy, pat it dry with paper towels. Cut it into pieces. Put some corn starch (maybe three teaspoons? I just eyeball what looks like it will coat the pieces) and curry powder and a little salt in a plastic container with a tight lid. Shake to mix. Add the tofu and shake to coat it. When you cook the tofu, make sure there’s enough oil or it won’t get crispy.IMG_5432IMG_5436IMG_5442The nice weather has lent itself to weed-pulling, but the other day (which day? who knows) I overcame my aversion to sewing and made us a stash of masks. I should make some more to give to, say, the couple who operate the village grocery, or the bakers at the boulangerie, who are keeping us all as comfortable as possible, considering. The next time it rains…IMG_5447It is crazy how quiet it is. It’s always quiet here, but wow. Birds. A rooster. A far-off dog. No cars. No planes. Yesterday there were a bunch of helicopters; probably the army training–there’s a very doomsday-looking area in the mountains that’s for training not far away. And on the weekends, the peal of gunshots as hunters go after boars. The season ended March 31, so it’s once again safe to go off the road and onto the backwoods paths. IMG_5331IMG_5347Speaking of which, long ago, I climbed the rock wall on the edge of some woods and realized, as I looked for a way to get back down, that the paths I was traipsing along were made by boars. That same woods now has a sign saying it’s going to be the site of a new solar farm. I am furious. Just across the F-ing road is a gigantic fallow field where vineyards were pulled out several years ago. It’s just sitting there, bare and basking in the sun. Why tear down a stand of trees? I’m sure it’s all about who was willing to sell the land. As much as I’m in favor of renewable energy and solar farms, it seems very counter-productive to tear down a pine forest. I also suspect that the new housing development just meters away plays into the calculation. People don’t take kindly to boars running through their yards. I’m on the side of the boars. “Development” is the euphemism for destruction. Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

IMG_5351
Doomed.
IMG_5316
Directly across the road.

By the way, have you heard about all the wild animals venturing into towns, now that everybody is in their houses? Pretty hilarious.

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Another vineyard that was pulled out has just been planted with trees.

Life under lockdown is about the same in the south of France as anyplace else. Boring! No–like others in the countryside, we have the benefit of being able to go outside without worrying about viral load. Stay safe and do share how you’re coping.IMG_5355IMG_5349

39 thoughts on “On the Bright Side of Life

  1. Thanks for continuing to post. I so enjoy your blog, which I don’t tell you enough. We just moved house (mid Feb, before the worst blew up) from one part of Charente to another (I desperately wanted to move to Carca but he who must be obeyed took agin it….) and your blog posts are a big splash of sunlight as I get used to a house I didn’t want in a place I don’t want to be. Today you have reminded me, as I’ve been trying to remind myself) of how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, and food to eat. Anyway, thanks very much. I hope you and yours continue to be well.

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    1. I’m not familiar with Charente in person but everything I’ve heard about it sounds wonderful. France is diverse but almost always beautiful (that industrial, flat, gray region around Cambrai and Valenciennes excepted…but nothing’s perfect).

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  2. Stay safe!
    We are running out of jobs to do here and I am really missing seeing our family and friends. I am way more social than I realized.
    The beautiful scenery of your area reminds me of the trip I took in the fall…we loved Provence and Tuscany so much.
    Enjoy your walks.

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  3. Totally agree with your opinion on development. Here on the farm, the list of jobs is endless, and as we have 3 households and 7 of us in quarantine together, group projects fill the time. But at least the weather is warming an things are greening or blooming. Grieving all the things lost this year – for example, my best friend’s husband is retiring from teaching after 25 years. He is greatly loved by his high school students, and there would have been parties and celebrations, recognition by the school and school board, alumni returning, etc. – none of that will happen, and his accomplishment of years will slip quietly under the surface. I grieve those things as well as the bigger ones – another friend had 2 daughters getting married this year, in June and October. I fear neither will happen. These are less significant than lives lost and livelihoods ruined, but they diminish us as well.

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    1. You’re so right. The teacher who doesn’t get his retirement, the brides (and their families) who don’t get their dream weddings, the students who don’t get to have graduation. Some things can’t be done later. I just heard a report about the Olympians–for some, the delay means the end of their dream. The tragedy of the deaths is of course at the forefront but all these other losses are also to be mourned.

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    2. My grandson got married on March 20. It was attended by only the siblings and parents and bridal party and was livestreamed from the church to the rest of the family and friends who would have attended. But it was lovely and we could all be a part of it because of technology. We’ll have a party later.

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  4. The virus will touch us all before it is done. I don’t mean make every one of us sick, I mean that we will all be effected, however lightly. That should, of course be a bonding experience, a moment when the whole world can join hands and say ‘I understand your pain’. Sadly, I don’t think that will be the case. We will revert to ‘sold to the highest bidder and sod the trees’ in a heartbeat. Here’s hoping I’m wrong. I loved wandering through your pictures. I’m in now hurry!

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      1. I’m older than you and believe me I know. I am a cancer survivor (8 years since the first all clear) and apart from being hyper levelling, I know the experience left me stronger.

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  5. Good looking photos. Vineyards are always a pick-me up, no matter what the season. Bravo on your mask-making. I’m curious about the fabrics. The ones on top look about the weight of a flour sack towel, but do I see vinyl also in the mix?

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    1. Everything is cotton: old tea towels, old sheets, newer cotton. I left the opening for turning them right-side out open, so it’s possible to insert a coffee filter, which I read improves the performance even further.

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  6. I hear you!! Speaking with my mother on the phone a couple of days ago, she said she’d ring off because she didn’t want to use up all her news! And it is impossible keeping up with the days. I saw one of those jokey things the other day bemoaning the need for underpants with the days of the week printed on them, like kids wore, in order to know … I’ve started on mask-making as well, using old sheets. I’m doing the Olson version and am cutting up one of those bonded-fabric shopping bags for liner. I didn’t know about the coffee filters, thanks! I’ve got nearly a full packet leftover from when I made tonic water … Lots of birdsong here, too, in our urban enclave. The usual hum of traffic is barely noticeable. It sounds like the Xmas week.

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  7. Just finished 24 masks this morning. Most for family, their in-laws and for family friends who are still working out in the world every day. They will be memorable for the fact that my stash of tight. woven cotton fabrics were all originally intended to make toddler shorts. So now double-layered masks of Pokemon, brightly colored aliens, hearts, shamrocks, paw prints, etc. will now adorn the faces of grown-ups–some of whom work in high security jobs. 🙂 Got find a laugh somewhere these days.

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  8. The “pont submersible” sign reminds me of the rather unhelpful road signs in the US that tell you that “bridge freezes before road surface”, usually when it’s too late to stop should you want/need to.
    I’ve never quite understood how to cook tofu, so I shall study your directions. 🙂

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  9. Well done you for getting started on the masks!! I have a pattern and some fabric, but have yet to start – the weather is too nice not to be working in the garden for the moment!! But I will get there… 🙂

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  10. Kudos to you on the mask making. And thanks again for your wonderful posts, we can travel and learn about lands afar and yet, be near as well.

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    1. Not hard to do. I just saw an article about them–as good as surgical masks (the kind you see them wear on TV) if they are tight, doubled (at least) and made of cotton or flannel that you can’t see through.

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  11. I cracked a smile at your description of having repeated the news of the day. It can be a challenge to come up with new news – news that has nothing to do with counts of people ill or hospitalized or now deceased — when one doesn’t get out much. Then again, storytelling capability can be helpful. Actually, without need of social isolation, my former man friend used to routinely repeat some tidbit day after day after day – and I just nodded and grinned and took it as part of the package.

    Still, there’s no question that life at present is very very different.

    Your cooking looks soooooo delicious. (You put me to shame. These days I’m existing on cans of soup, cans of tuna, eggs, toast, and the last of my box of microwave popcorn. And coffee coffee coffee, bien sur.)

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    1. Stir fry! You can change the spices and sauces (kind of Chinese-influenced, Thai, Indian, Italian, etc.) and even though you’re fast-cooking more or less the same roster of vegetables, it feels different. And takes under 30 minutes.

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  12. First off, the irises are stunning in color!! Would love a few of those tubers.
    And we, too, live on 8 acres outside the city. My daughter’s family lives right next door on 4 acres. Another daughter lives just down the road. Since all are on lockdown we see each other often, walk our dogs and work in the gardens. So it hasn’t been anywhere near as difficult for us as with some of my friends.
    I’ve been keeping busy sewing masks for the nearby Childrens’ Hospital, while my granddaughter does the pinning and turning. It goes much faster and good conversation all the while. Having a studio full of fabric that I couldn’t use in my lifetime, it’s now going to a good cause. Another reason I am in a better state. Sad for those whose job outside the home is their life.
    And because I have plenty to do, my husband is still alive and in good health 😉
    Stay safe and count your many blessings.

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    1. Thank you on behalf of many for the mask-making. A cousin has a similar set-up, with family nearby and they practically are a production line, with one cutting, another making ties, another sewing… every homemade mask is one that allows the lightweight disposable surgical masks to be kept for the professionals who need them.

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  13. Lovely to see your countryside views. I’m used to my Hitchcockian Rear-view Window. Shopping in Paris is easier..hard to believe..but uncrowded if you go early and orderly. Try watching Ghibli Studio films this month on Netflix -masterful animation on nature vs. industrialization. So inventive and heart-warming.

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  14. I would say that my staying at home has been as boring, and as lucky, as the next. We live some miles outside of town on a lake so we have the beauty of nature and a full larder. But that all changed a few days ago as my daughter, who is a health care worker in NYC, showed signs of having the virus. Oh, the helplessness and despair in the pit of my stomach! It’s also a bit frustrating as her larder is not full – she’s been taking her meals at the hospital – and she can’t get delivery or get out to get food and Tylenol. Luckily, she has a few friends who are traipsing the city to get some to her in the next few days, when they aren’t working. I’m off to town now to see what I can get and mail to her. Best wishes to all there – and I so hope they don’t tear down that forest for a cell phone farm. Please keep us updated.

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