July 30, 2007

moving and shaking

Susan moving the stuff that didn't fit into the trailer, Oscar's guitar and magic mirror.

Oscar and Maxime "helping" with the move. Oscar and Lorraine at the tour de France, for some front of the race, there is a 45 minute caravan of cars and trucks throwing bizarre gifts at the crowds. Mostly keychains, and inflatable objects. They whizz by at 30 mph and if you look the other way, you could get hit by a sausage. I guess there was a promotional truck for the new Simpsons movie.

heavy sigh

Good morning RD2

The third morning waking up in the new house....everything is different.

I recall vividly, 2 years ago, near the beginning of our efforts here, having the opportunity to be inside this house at dawn. I was here to let in the concrete contractor who was here to pour our gypsum floors, and while I waited I walked slowly around the house until I came upon what was to become our bedroom window and the rising sun outside of it. I have been visualizing that sunrise for more than the two years we have already owned this home, and it was a sublime moment to see it this slippers!

I'm not sure this house is all that we thought it would be, or more? It is too early to tell...boxes everywhere, silverware in the wrong drawer, coffee on one side of the room and filters on the other...we have our work cut out for us. Yesterday we (Pat) finished cleaning out the corners of our last home and moving the dust down the street here. Tomorrow we sign the papers and give away the keys. Today we nest. So far gravity played the biggest role in where our stuff landed and now it's time to be more deliberate. It seems our life is occupied by too many chairs and too much art! rugs rolled and stuff stacked, missing mugs and boxed books! But these are good things. and perhaps if we wait long enough unpacking each box can have an aire of Christmas morning...? It's strange to work on a home for two years, to caress each wall into a smooth state and each stone into a unique reflection of time and then to apply one's life to the canvas. There are books to place on those waxed walnut shelves and paintings to hang in front of those 1000 year old stones and sacre blue, nails to drive into the venetian plaster walls to give home to lesser works of art! It will all sift out and we are very happy to have this chore in front of us; trying to take our time, putting the furniture on wheels until it finds it's own feng shui.

Meanwhile, Martel is in full summer swing, minus the heat. The french tourists are packing their bags and leave Paris tomorrow, the August holiday. We await them, hidden behind our doors, windows opened letting out our own blend of bad music and NPR podcasts. Oscar is enjoying the move, he is between "best friends" and is all ours. The first night in the house he put up a sign on his door that said the french equivalent of "keep out" "anyone over 9.5 years"...then as I left (after gaining permission to enter) he said "leave the door opened and come check on me after I fall asleep". A wonderful contradiction of (in)dependence.

We went to watch a stage of the Tour de France last week, crazy and fun. It's much easier to watch on TV, but now we feel we understand the spirit of it all a bit more wholly. Here is a link to a video capturing the 40 seconds of excitement as it passed:
Just to prove we were there.

So it is with a heavy sigh that we conclude "the shift", happy to be in our new home and overwhelmed by the task behind us.

July 13, 2007

Details Details Details

Details, details.... As some of the things get wrapped up I thought I would share the fruits of the labor. This is the kitchen, we are sad to be leaving behind our stove, so we are attempting to recreate it in the new house. The "4 front burner" approach. The brick arch is actually a functioning chimney that we uncovered. We plan to use the space for indoor barbecuing if the chimney draws adequately. The hardware inside the arch is the latest find at this seasons brocantes, it ought to have a rabbit hanging from one side and a sausage smoking on the other, but we will probably settle for a bag of shallots and well, probably a gnarly looking sausage. The oven will fill the empty space below the stove. What are those counters anyway? Who knows? For now we decided to go "temporary". In lieu of dropping thousands of Euros on granite, we are going to take our time and consider the options. Perhaps trying to fall upon a more creative solution....(Zinc? Copper? Silica and epoxy? cement tiles? shattered glass?) For the next year or so it will be this MDF board, 1.25" thick, with 5 coats of polyurethane. It has a nice warm feel to it but durable???? The brick arch in the back of the shelves will unfortunately be obscured by all the stuff that will reside there; it used to be the back of a large fireplace, long since lost to a remodel of the floor plan decades or centuries ago.
This is a view up the stairs from the front entry. The lower handrail was there and we had a cabinetmaker recreate the upper handrail to match it. The wall has been reworked into a pair of doors which house the washer and dryer on the landing, solving the question of whether the laundry room should be upstairs of downstairs? Notice the "mustache hinges" recuperated from doors at the other house, centuries old and they polished up beautifully. Adding windows to a stone house is difficult, and when the walls are two feet thick it's to be avoided. Both of our bathrooms use "borrowed light" from adjacent windows. This image is in the "house bath" and we reused some very old shutter hardware to create a means to secure the window in a partially open (or closed) position. If you are sitting on the toilet and look just the right way you get a narrow view of the setting sun over the center of Martel (but this requires good timing).
Old wood. We rescued two doors from the house and reused them in the master bedroom. When we stripped (and stripped, and stripped) the green paint (and brown, and grey) we found beautiful walnut doors underneath. Every pockmark adding to the antique charm...right?
More as it happens, I need to be careful not to lose you in the details... but if a house gets remodeled in the forest of France and no one is around to hear about it....has it even happened?? Your vicarious participation is paramount!!


July 8, 2007


Inch by Inch
Step by Step
Room by Room

That always takes me back to a three Stooges gig......but lately it's our life, not the stooges part, but our current pattern with the renovations.

Today was Sunday, still is in fact, and between the violent thunderclaps, boxes got packed and the new kitchen took a few more steps towards fulfillment. The gas grill got tuned, the counter edges cemented in to an aspect of finished, the last cabinet drawers slid into place (after some modifications to accommodate the imposing drain pipes). A Bathroom drain got mortared into place, a mail slot was excavated into the front stone wall so that our bills can find a home, some Cosmos were planted.

Every day is bringing some signs of completion. Every day it is even easier to imagine our lives in the spaces we've created. Every day we all get a bit more excited for the "next thing". Martel is full of tourists wondering what the noise is coming from our open windows, sometimes it's NPR podcasts, sometimes it's grinders and drills and sometimes it's the contented voices of POD trying out the spaces. There was a wedding today in the church outside our windows, we took up positions in the high windows and spied on the comings and goings. The bells celebrating the occasion so rancourously as to drown out even Willie Nelson on the stereo. No we turned him off for the event, but those bells are so loud, it was no competition to the dying art of a french wedding.

July 7, 2007


Here is Oscar and Tony dressed up for the Martel-Tequila festival. Martel and Tequila Mexico are "twinned" cities. So along with selling lame dixie cupped sized Margarita's (I'm going to take over the task next year) and smashing Pinatas in the town square, there was a staged attack on our tourist train!

Here is a picture of Martel with the kids end of school parade marching past our house. There is a tradition of lighting lanterns and crossing the town....

Someone asked me where the pictures of Pat were? It seems she is normally the one on the other side of the camera...

Schools Out!

This is what happens when your (newly) fifth grader takes himself to the barbershop! I suppose it is a la' mode. Now he kinda looks like all the other french kids boppin' around the school yard. Yes the year just finished, yesterday, and all is well. He finished with great grades especially considering that at Christmas he jumped from 3rd grade into 4th. His teacher was impressed with his "unexpected ability" and she gave everyone kisses as they left her classroom for the last time. We have been so very fortunate that Oscar has really liked all 4 of his french teachers.

So now onto summer. It is a short summer for kids in France. In our department (county) due to the 4 day school week the summer is only 7 weeks long. Most of Oscars friends, like most of the french in general, go away for the month of August, but not us! We'll be nesting in the new house and spending time with the Parisians who come to Martel for the summer. We are still waiting for the truly hot weather, so far it has been California mild, fortunately as the month of July continues to be one of hard work and little play.

Seth and Stephanie and Isabelle, Phoebe, William and Claudine were in Martel for a nice long vacation. They kind of took care of the spiritual part of our move. We carried the couch and the dining room table down the street and had our first dinner there. The room fills up nicely! All that's left is the clutter that makes up our actual lives.

Come carry a box!