Sunlight and shadow

Pompei, Italy

Mosaic floor, Pompeii, Italy

One of the most important truths of my marriage that I hold in my heart and mind is the realisation that Steve and I are two separate people.  No duh!  But in an ongoing, day to day relationship, it can be easy to forget this.

When Steve and I were on our honeymoon in Italy, I nearly started our first fight.  We had spent the morning at Pompeii and were on our way to another ancient Roman ruin called Herculaneum.  I was driving and Steve was navigating.   It was a hot day, on unfamiliar roads, in a foreign country.  We missed the turn off from the motorway to Herculaneum and I found myself driving into Naples on a two lane road which, somehow, had three lanes of traffic.  I started to get really pissed off.  At Steve.  But I caught myself and remembered that I probably wouldn’t be doing any better if I were in the chart room.  I also realised that I was not feeling confident behind the wheel in a big Italian city and was scared about ending up in Rome, driving in crazy Italian traffic.

It would have been really easy to explode with anger and blame Steve, but I was able to step back and get some perspective.  Instead of blowing up, I asked Steve to find a place where I could turn around.  We decided to go back to Atrani and venture out to Herculaneum another day.

Yes, we are two people and have infinite space between us, but can use understanding and communication to build bridges to one another.  Whether times feel good or bad, it is so important to step back and be mindful of the space between.  Then we can truly come together in a balanced way, in sunlight and in shadow.

Bon Anniversaire

Today is the 2nd anniversary of our first wedding ceremony.  We had a civil ceremony at the Registry Office in Exeter the day before our Soul Wedding.  Here we are enjoying a few quiet moments beforehand.  Good memories.

This Marriage

I’m in our kitchen and realise, have realised for some time now, that neither Steve nor I have been writing on this blog.  But that’s OK.  Other things are happening.

I came across this song tonight.  It is a setting of ‘This Marriage’ a poem by written by Rumi (13th century) to music composed by Eric Whitacre (21st century).  This poem was in a book of poetry by Rumi given to us by a friend and well wisher on our Soul Wedding day.  It felt good to become re-acquainted with it in song tonight and to be looking forward to celebrating our second wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks.

This Marriage

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk, this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter, our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe how spirit mingles in this marriage.


A Post Pre-Valentine’s Day Post

I wasn’t going to write about our Valentine’s Day.  It was very unromantic.  At least, that’s what I thought at first.

To begin with, Steve and I didn’t even spend Valentine’s Day together.  He was away for his work.  So we decided to celebrate on Sunday the 12th.  We were into our first week of the Dukan Diet*,  so I made a Dukanised version of Poulet Suffisant en Cocotte for dinner.  The recipe is from a little cookbook called The Best of France.  It’s only a small gifty type book, but all of the recipes are exceptionnel.

Poulet Suffisant en Cocotte

  • 1 chicken, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon each of thyme & rosemary, minced or crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, 2 carrots, a celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup drained and chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 400°F/190°C.

Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with half the herbs and season it with salt and pepper.  I browned it in a skim of oil in a big skillet, then transferred it to our ceramic chicken casserole.  I love this casserole!  I saw it in the window of the charity shop on the way home last September and went back first thing in the morning and bought it.  It looks like it was made in the 1960’s, perhaps has a Scandinavian influence.  Steve thinks it looks smug (which it does) so hence Poulet Suffisant, or Smug Chicken.

Le poulet sussifant

Then I sweated the chopped vegetables in same skillet I browned the chicken in, with a little water and with the lid on for about 5 minutes, followed by the mushrooms for another 5 minutes, with the lid off, stirring occasionally.  If it starts looking too dry, add some of the wine or chicken stock or water  All this time, no oil is required and the veggies soften up and even brown quite nicely.  I never would’ve thunk it, because I cut my teeth on Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which is all about butter, oil and more cream, s’il vous plaît.

Stir in the wine, stock, tomatoes and remaing herbs and bring to the boil.  If you’re using a vessel that you can put straight into the oven, put the hen in at this boiling point.  Or pour the juices and vegetables over your chicken, in it’s unique ovenproof dish, once they’ve boiled.  Hope that makes sense to you!  I’m confused.

Ready for the oven

Cover the casserole and braise the chicken for about an hour, until the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked with a fork.  I usually take the temperature with my instant read thermometer and look for 180°F.

Take the chicken from the pot.  We discarded the skin a la Dukan.  Carve it.  Strain the vegetables from the stock to serve with the chicken.  Skim the fat from the stock and reduce over high heat, adjust seasoning.  Voila!

I was so interested in sitting right down to our romantic dîner pour deux, I didn’t take any ‘before’ photos.   It was excellent.  Very succulent and tasty.  Although we can’t drink alcohol in the Cruise phase of the Dukan diet, it’s OK to cook with as the alcohol burns off.  I actually used some dry Italian Vermouth and it imparted a lovely depth of flavour to the dish.  Normally, I would have stirred in some soft, unsalted butter at the end, but it was really good without it.  In fact, that’s one thing I noticed from the start with the Dukan diet.  Food doesn’t need to be cooked with butter to be good.  I feel light when I get up from a Dukanised meal, because it’s so low fat.  This time of year is a good time to be doing this, as Spring is coming and the days are slowly lightening up and lengthening.

My leftovers

Well, the meal together in our candlelit salon was wonderful and romantic.  Even though we’d spent the whole day together, we’d each been in our little worlds.  Then we went back into the kitchen and got back to work.  Steve at his laptop and I looked over the collages I’d made the day before in Sandra Meech’s Digital Imagery Onto Fabric workshop.


We did take a momemt to have our Valentine’s Day portrait taken.

Anyhow, I started out by saying that I wasn’t even going to write about this.  But we’re listening to Jazz FM and they just played ‘My Funny Valentine’ recorded by pianist Gene Harris.  Steve and I looked at each other and remembered that everyday is Valentine’s day.  And sometimes just being in the same space, even when we’re inhabiting our individual worlds, is romantic enough.

I couldn’t find Gene Harris’ version on YouTube, but I love Chet Baker’s from 1954 the best anyhow.

*For those of you who don’t know, Steve and I started the Dukan diet on 6th February, 2012.  It really works!! Pass it on.

Fly Me to the Moon

We went to the South of France in May to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and flew into Nice especially to visit the Musée National Marc Chagall.

The Bay of Angels, 1962

This was a once in a lifetime experience for me as Chagall is one of my favourite artists.  One room was filled with huge canvases illustrating the Song of Songs, paintings that he dedicated to his second wife Vava.

Le Cantique des Cantiques III, 1960

We stayed for about a week in Arles at the elegant Grand Hotel Nord-Pinus, decorated with terracotta tiles, carved furniture, vintage bullfighting posters, wrought iron, beautiful textiles and photos of the luminaries who’ve stayed there over the years:  Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso and scores of famous toreros.

Charlotte Rampling, 1973 by Helmut Newton

Grand Hotel Nord-Pinus, staircase

My best souvenir of the entire trip was found at a flea market in Aix-en-Provence.  Aix is a supposedly gracious city filled with fountains.  It was a bit touristy and traffic-filled so we walked around town, visited the flea market and went onto Marseilles.

One of the “thousand fountains” of Aix

My prize was a pair of Luna Moths in a frame.  The price was €20 and I was offered to take them for €15.  So I did.

Actias luna is found in North America. When the adult Luna Moth leaves its coccoon, it is not ready to fly.  It usually hatches in mid-morning and climbs a tree trunk to hang its wings, so they can fill with blood. Once the wings are inflated, the adult moth will wait until nightfall to fly off to find a mate. Adult Luna Moths don’t eat; in fact, they don’t even have a mouth. They only live for about a week, and their only purpose is to mate.  They are lime green when alive and dry to a beautiful cream colour when they have died.  I think that if any creature could fly to the moon, it has to be a Luna Moth.

Male luna moth and coccoon

Female luna moth and coccoon

I cleaned the glass, re-gilt the frame and wrote a letter in French to Steve about my experience of our trip, which I collaged onto the sides of the box.