Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vacation Month of July- Week 3: Letters from Mom & Mimi

Alright Miss Ellie,

We should be in Philadelphia for Aunt Samantha’s shower as I post this blog!  Next week, your Mimi and I will fill you in on all the details you may not remember but I already can tell you it will be a fabulous time.  As for this week, your Mimi and I have a recipe and piece of writing from somewhere in the world that we like and want to share.

Brie with Almonds and Honey
1 wedge of brie (about 12 ounces)
¼ cup of honey
¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
1 large French baguette

I found this recipe for a book club two years ago when I had chosen a book set in France (Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay and it was a fabulous but very sad book).  The recipe reminded me of my time in France that I already wrote to you about last week.  There really is nothing like French baguettes and French cheese!  In fact, when your Mimi came to visit two weeks ago, while you played in the wading pool over lunch, her and I would eat French bread with cheese! 

When I was packing for that first time I went to France in 1994, I was worried that I might not like the food, so my Mom gave me a jar of peanut butter to put in my suitcase just in case.  I must have been crazy because not only was the food there delicious… I brought home Nutella, which is way better than peanut butter!  Although peanut butter on those French baguettes was almost as good as soft cheese!  So between that and these pictures that my friend Kim and I took while walking along the Champs Elysees (and yes, one is of a dog in a grocery store), I wrote a short story for my AP English class in 1998 (so mind you it was 4 years after the trip so I’m sure pieces of it are fiction). Here are the inspirational photos and the story:

Peanut Butter in Paris
            Stepping out of the grocery store into the bustling Champs-Elysees in Paris, I took in a deep breath.  The cool, brisk mid-March air carried with it a scent of freshly baked bread from a nearby pastry shop.  I let out a satisfactory sigh as we, my best friend Kim and I, stepped in line with the oncoming crowd.  Coming upon a busy street corner, we spotted a bench.  I still couldn’t believe we were in France!
            “Perfect,” I said as we sat down with our grocery bag.  I pulled out our lunch- a liter of Coke and a long baguette.  Then, I reached into my backpack and grabbed my jar of Peter Pan peanut butter (which I packed in my suitcase from home just in case I didn’t like the food here… ok who wouldn’t like the food here but I had just turned fifteen, was inexperienced, and very picky).  It seemed like the best American meal that we’ve had during the entire French exchange.
            We were halfway through our trip and the peanut butter wasn’t used yet (a sign that I was becoming more worldly by trying new things) so I peeled back the seal and realized that we didn’t have a knife.  So like any pair of best friends, we dipped the baguette into the peanut butter not caring about double dipping or germs.  After my third bite, I looked up and in the distance my eye caught a glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe plastered on the background of a cloudless blue sky.  Was I dreaming, or maybe looking at a postcard?  Nope, this was real life.  Ohmygod!  A week and a half after arriving here, I still had to pinch myself.
            “Oh!  Look at the dog,” Kim giggled between sips of Coke.  I searched around until my eyes fell on a small dog on a leash.  It wore a bright wool sweater that matched its owner.  I smiled at the humorous sight.  I nibbled on the baguette as I rested my back on the bench  The atmosphere was less than quiet but the city still seemed to have a peaceful essence, to me anyway.
            We both seemed to forget the foreign exchange debacle that was news yesterday, which in the end made us laugh.  Because Kim and I share the same first name, there was a mix-up between our French families.  Kim didn’t speak French and I had un peu experience by taking French classes in school.  It turned out that Kim’s family spoke no English and mine did but it wasn’t until Kim’s family surprised her with a birthday celebration (a surprise indeed because it was actually my birthday, hers is in July) that we realized the mistake.  We decided to stay where we were and to not mix anything up since we had bonded with our new extended families. 
            I concentrated my gaze from my food to the people bustling by.  A motherly woman walked past shaking her finger as she scolded her young son.  Behind them strolled an elderly couple with their arms embraced.  “I hope I’ll be that much in love when I’m that old,” I said as my gaze followed them down the street.
            Across from us, in front of a small boutique, a man was trying to make a living by selling bracelets.  He stopped tourists in broken English and bargained with them for sales.  Just as a woman pulled out her money for a purchase, a cluster of people clamored up the metro stairs beside her.  Amid the crowd was an elderly woman who shifted her weight onto her cane for balance as a group of men in suits shuffled past her.    
            To our backs, cars raced past.  No SUV’s or big sedans here, just small cars that could weave in and out of the matrix of traffic.  Drivers anxiously used their horns in frustration to get to their destinations.  As the light turned red at the corner next us, a new mob walked steadily past.  The mass of people walked briskly, focusing, staring at some unknown point ahead.  “It’s a shame they don’t take the time to smell the pastries,” I said aloud.  Kim shook her head in agreement.
            I swallowed the last bit of my half of the baguette, put the lid back on my peanut butter before I stuffed it back into my backpack again (who knows, I might need it one more time before we head home) and stretched my arms above my head.  Kim sighed as we stood up.  Yes, we felt a sense of serenity, or perhaps it was the impending adulthood that we wished for so desperately.  We threw our trash into a nearby bin, and worked our way into the crowd.  Where to now?  Anywhere, I realized.  We have the city at our fingertips (at least for the rest of the afternoon because we have to be back at our exchange homes for dinner).  I don’t think I have ever been happier.  The Louvre?  The Eiffel Tower?  We didn’t care if we were clichéd tourists, we were here.  Despite the crowds that had a very mundane attitude regarding their beautiful city, I couldn’t be more grateful.  I had to pinch myself one more time.

Love you Ellie Girl and I hope you catch the travel bug like I did… there is nothing like seeing the world!

Now from your Mimi…

Hi Ellie,

Since this is a very busy week, I need to write this blog early as I am traveling to Philadelphia towards the end of the week for your Aunt Samantha’s Bridal Shower and yes, to see you and your mommy too!  It is another early (very early) Sunday morning and I am sitting under the patio umbrella again with a lovely cup of tea and my computer!  

Oh Ellie… do you think it is possible that our spiritual senses are heightened after saying morning prayers and giving thanks to God?  In the far off distance the sun has just peeked over the trees giving this morning a very peaceful and serene feeling.  I wish I could freeze this moment for its memory.  I was wondering if I am seeing the beauty of the landscape at a much deeper level because of prayer?  Just another of my thoughts and whatever the reason… I like it!

Anyway, we said that this is the week for our recipe and poem, so here is mine.  I chose to stay with a Scottish theme since that was my favorite vacation spot.  For my recipe, I am going to share your Great-Great Grandmom Mundy’s Shortbread for it is absolutely delicious!  And what ever you do… don’t go seeking out its calorie count… think of it as a special treat that should be eaten on special occasions followed by adding a few extra calisthenics before you go to bed… Trust me on this one!

Gram Mundy’s Shortbread
1 lb butter
1 and an eighth cup of Sugar
2 lb flour
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.  Add in the flour a little at a time with a wooden spoon...when no longer able to use the spoon, knead with your hands until all flour is absorbed.  Press dough into floured shortbread mold.  Prick with fork, remove from mold and place on an ungreased baking sheet.   Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes and then reduce heat again to 200 degrees and bake until pale golden brown. Cut into 3” x 1” strips or (bite size pieces) while still warm. 

Enjoy this wonderful dessert with a lovely cup of tea! 

Now for a poem.

Ellie, I did not have to think long and hard about what poem to write.  Well… actually I did a little bit. You see my first thought was to enter a poem written by one of your great Scottish ancestors, Sir Walter Scott.  However, looking over his work it occurred to me that his poems aren’t quite PG material.  If I were to rate his work, I think it should be under M for mature audiences only!  I know I (your Mimi) got a quick face-lift when my eyebrows and also my eyes sprung high into my scalp while reading the contents of many of his poems!  So I decided to take a much calmer route and also a more personal route and share one of your Great-great Grandmom Mundy’s poems instead.  You see Ellie, she was a writer too… and a wonderful one at that!  
This is one of my favorite pictures of Gram Mundy!

Through the coming years, I hope to share much of her work with you!  Today though I shall start with her poem called The Garden, for she had the most beautiful rose garden in front of her house that she tended to and took great pride in.  It only seems befitting.  So here it is: 

The Garden by Peg Mundy

The garden flowers all were blooming in the yard across the way,
The color and the order never happened in one day.
It took a lot of digging and a lot of planning too,
To make that garden come to life – a lot of work to do.
As each rose was being planted, a lot of love was spread,
To bring alive a garden that everyone thought dead.
I saw the lad feed it, and water it each night,
I watched her as she pulled the weeds and dug with all her might.
You could see that she loved beauty, as she moved the plants around,
Some grew tall and stately, as others hugged the ground.
But every last one blossomed as if in answer to a prayer,
But I know that God in Heaven repaid her loving care!

Ok Ellie… I guess a lessoned to be learned here is to delve into your family ancestry and try something new.  Maybe that would be trying a new recipe, reading about your heritage, exploring your family tree, or maybe taking a trip into your past!  Whatever it is… enjoy the experience!

Hey Kimberly and Ellie, how about next week we talk about Aunt Sammy’s Shower and how much fun we all had watching you, Ellie, meet and mingle with more relatives!  And Kim, we can also talk about how we are getting ready for Kyle’s Walk that will be taking place on July 23rd!  Imagine Ellie, you are not even 2 years old yet and this will be the second time walking it!  Way to go little road-runner!

Till next time little travel bug!
Love Mimi

1 comment:

  1. Again what a great story from both of you. You have done a wonderful job of scrapbooking of not just pictures but stories, memories, and expressions of you love for writing. You both have such a gift. Thank you agian for sharing these blogs, I really enjoy reading them.