Dedicated to My Mother

“When you are a spiller, you just don’t get worked up about things like this.”
-EMC Maierhofer tonight while making dinner


New Competition: Give someone the amount of money that you would normally spend on a two weeks of groceries. Have them buy what they think you might eat. Spend the next two weeks eating only that food, with only essential purchases in addition to the peer-bought items. The rules and prizes are as the previous competition.

Chris mentioned to me tonight that he has been surprised by the wonderful food we have made here. Working only with items that someone else has purchased for you has made us try new recipes, and a few times, new foods (parsnip and turnip… what do we do with that!?!). Tonight is cabbage night number two, and it is going smashingly.

It was a productive day, though it went much like any other day. We ate porridge for breakfast, walked Muttley to the bakery in Premian (about a mile up and downhill). I have been feeling bad about my French speaking abilities. My biggest problem is that I am too timid when interacting with a French speaker. If they talk quickly, it is worse, but really any interaction just leaves me panicked, and worrying too much about whether they will hate me for the words that come out of my mouth. I know it is silly, but it is one of my perpetual problems, and something I am working toward improving. Chris, on the other hand would giggle through any interaction happily except he doesn’t speak French!

With his support, I decided to get over it, and have an actual conversation with the woman at the bakery. The other day we met an older gentleman named Andree on the street. He was very nice, but I was too nervous, and he kindly switched to English for our brief encounter. The only regular interaction with another person, besides each other, is the woman at the bakery. This morning on our Muttley walk, I worked through a conversation at both the bakery, and the post office. It felt great, and we got a new kind of bread out of the experience.

After our allotted five hours of work, we came inside to warm up, and relax for the evening. I was extremely excited to see three comments awaiting review on this blog. Dear reader, please comment, I do so enjoy contact with you.

Two new comments were from my mother, who asked me about the galette du roi, a traditional French cake eaten on January 6. I have wonderful memories of my Meme, and my mother making this cake, eating the trimmings, and waiting with excitement to see which person would find the ceramic figurine baked into the sweet almond paste between the layers of pastry dough.


Dear reader, just as the quotation at the beginning of this post states that I am a spiller, I am also disorganized both in the physical spaces I inhabit, and in my sweet, blank mind. I am not good with dates, as my husband Chris will tell you. I, most embarrassingly, and as a habit of fear at this point, can never remember on which day in May his birthday falls each year. So it is also with Three Kings Day, which happened to be January 6.


I responded to my mother’s comment in a totally true, and totally evasive way, which is preserved for eternity, and you may see if you wish. Then, Chris and I put on our things, and took Muttley out for a second walk into town. I had been thinking all day about working my way through conversations with French people, and so when we saw the woman at the bakery, I haltingly told her the story of what had transpired since our last meeting (seven hours earlier). She was very nice, and it felt really good to have a sincere interaction, and to recall the victory and sweet memories of Three Kings Day with Chris as we walked home. It is for this reason that I feel I must dedicate this blog post to my mother, “mom.”


Some minutes feel like an eternity here– another day spent moving piles of logs, or scraping moss off of a tile roof, but it is times like just now that feel as though all of that is just a ripening process. I feel like I just started to ripen today. On our walk home, which we have only ever taken in the morning, I noticed a stunning sunset over the mountains, and olives hanging from a tree we pass daily, but only noticed in the new light.


The sunset of the evening (though not the aforementioned olive trees)


8 responses to “Dedicated to My Mother

  1. Feliz dia de los reyes magos! I remember seeing parades in the streets with small groups of Hondurans celebrating gift giving, and most likely food (sweets). Speaking of this, have you all been able to read about Aaron Ellringer’s and Alex Snyder’s trip with Farmer to Farmer to Honduras and now Guatemala?! quite exciting if you’re able to read ( It’s great to catch up for a moment, I came across a photo that may have captured chris helping out at chip magnet… The Willy Street reader (a magazine for co-op members here in Madison) highlighted them just a short while ago! Keep up the great work friends, thanks for sharing it with us!

  2. I have decided that my posting on facebook when you post is simply enabling you to avoid facebook, yet i cannot stop myself. Does that say more about you or about me?

    • I knew that was going to come up. And after you have posted on every single last person you could ever thank, then the recriminations will begin on why their thank you was not as great as someone elses.

      M, you left facebook but not the pressure!

  3. So how was the gallette? I have to say that I had a physical response to seeing the photo. I’m so glad to live through my children. With no one home I haven’t made one this year, but Hilarie did in Madison. Keep up the good work on pushing yourself to speak French. I’m so proud of you!

  4. Hello Emilie and Chris: We have enjoyed your comments very much. I know how Emilie feels. When we were in France, especially the second time, we stayed at several B&Bs where they “spoke English”. Not exactly. But I didn’t exactly speak French either. Lots of smiles, pantomimes, and outright lies on my part “d’acord” when I really didn’t. Of the four of us, I understood and spoke French the best. Truly, that is not saying much. When I took French in college –a double major with English in fact–we only read French (the classics of course),never really speaking the language.. In order to make sure we did not read these major works in English (readily available) there was always a long and difficult passage in French to translate on the final exam. On one of mine, I will never forget the comment: “Your translations are so amusing!” Followed by an “A”. So there we are.
    We did have a very good time in France and people were really friendly. The same in Italy, although I have no Italian. They are very expressive with their hands and so warm and friendly it went okay. In fact, for “my trip” Italy is where we plan to go, although I feel somewhat guilty about avoiding my heritage land, Norway.
    Before I forget, Happy Birthday to Emilie tomorrow! Keep those wonderful letters coming and I will try to respond. Love, Nana

    • Thank you Nana! It does get easier every time, and I have to say, the best I felt about conversing is when I was absolutely exhausted at the end of my Birthday. I just didn’t have enough energy to worry about pronunciation or being exactly proper- and afterwards I felt great about it! I love your anecdote about translations too! I always seemed to want to write more than I could handle during creative writing exercises in French class 🙂

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