Every now and again C and I get home from school early enough for an evening walk. We live off the beaten path, essentially countryside, as there are only a handful of homes surrounding us. Farmland even. I picked these peas from a neighbor’s yard, and chanced them on dinner. Such a far cry from the metropolis on Haver’s, which I miss for its socialability, but have happily traded for seclusion. I love the fact that Coralie can play quite freely outside, without the worry of car traffic. She has even started to request being dropped off a little ways before the house every now and again, so she can ‘walk home’ on her own. I’m up for as much of a free-range childhood a four-year old can handle. Of course, she likes to bring her baby for walks, but annoyingly our roads are not very stroller friendly. She has adopted to baby wearing, and quite thoughtfully makes sure baby had good visibility of the sites along the way.
There was a time when I dreaded the holiday season, the build up, unfulfilling climax that often left me feeling empty and disappointed. A friend of mine in college was shocked by my outlook. How could I be such a grinch, Christmas is the best time of the year. Somehow having a child has changed all of that. Not being a Christian, I approach the holidays as an opportunity to get domestic, cozy, and try to be a bit of a memory making mommy. There is still ample opportunity for let down, if I don’t keep in check some of the aspirational anticipation. Keeping it simple, staying present, that is the goal. Of course this rule only follows getting through the seasonal calendar in tact. Holiday market and pageant up at the school, Hanukkah party at home, Coralie’s first time seeing the Nutcracker in addition to her own final ballet performance in the fairy wings, there was a lot to do before doing nothing. Christmas itself did manage up to the hype. Yann carved out the day somehow, someway, the first since I’ve known him. A Christmas morning menu of champagne, croissants, and hot chocolate relaxed Yann enough to watch Love Actually all the way through without comment. A beach barbeque at Josiahs the only job of the day. Just enough waves to keep the surfers happy. Christmas in the sand may not suit everyone, but certainly works for me.
Obviously when asked what she would want to be for Halloween, Coco Chanel was not her first choice. Neither her second, or third. She was coaxed, persuaded, possibly cajoled. But in my defense, she was never bribed. I do have my limits. As she got to wear both lipstick and perfume, in no way were her girly instincts offended.
* dress pattern credit: the simple dress from “Simple Sewing for Baby”, by Lotta Jansdotter
Yann eased himself into the chaos of charter season by blocking a weekend for sailing to Anegada before the madness begins, and Coralie and I were lucky enough to be invited along. One overnight at Prickly Pear, followed by 24 hours at Pomato Point. While there were no boats in sight, we did manage to anchor 20 yards away from a nudist couple, vacationing ashore. There were a few shocking moments, that I had to sheild Coralie from. We only really made it ashore for an after dinner bonfire, staying clear of the exhibitionists. While the weekend was whole lot of nothing, interrupted by meal times, and possibly some imbibing, we did make it out to the conch shell island. The massive mound of empty shells sits in the middle of the reef, which makes for an interesting boat trip over. Having four captains on board came in handy. Fisherman in the area have deemed the eastern point of the island the graveyard for the harvested couch. If dropped elsewhere, it is possible for the living conch to try to move into the dead shells, making collection more complicated. In no way do my pics do the surreal spot justice, but midday sun is the best for moving safely through the reef. Just another reason Anegada is by far the most unique of the British Virgin Islands.
Looking back at these photographs, I think I am completely envious of my four-year olds childhood. I suppose being jealous of your child’s life is the mark of successful parenting, but the irony of utter opposite upbringing shines in these pics. While her memories will be of endless boat trips and turquoise waters, I grew up in a desert and concrete jungle. While I have to say there ain’t nothing like an Arizona sunset, having the white sands beach as your playground is remarkable way to grow up!
When I was a little girl, I often spent part of my summer away from my mom, visiting family across the country. To be quite honest, I’m not really sure why I was sent off, as my mom was a teacher, and had summer vacation. In a way, it was the poor man’s summer camp, I suppose. I got to enjoy the cooler climate of suburban Chicago, rather than being shut indoors in Arizona. Plus, as an only child I loved being around all my cousins. And I can certainly appreciate her needing the break, being a teaching, single mom. At the time, it felt like I was gone forever, but of course it was probably only for a couple of weeks, or less.
I will never forgot returning one year to find that my room had been completely redone. Nursery wall paper stripped, new bed in place, and a wall of built-in shelves with a child sized desk had been set up. The first thing that came to mind was the “Berenstain Bear’s Mess Room”, where Mama Bear organises the little bears room, complete with labeled tubs and custom-made toy boxes. The original ‘before and after’ of home design. As a child, coming into this new room of mine, and knowing that I had been so loved even in my absence, meant the world to me. I doubt I kept it pristine for long, but I do recall that feeling of satisfaction in my play of everything having a place and purpose.
This summer when on my own, while Coralie was enjoying the end of her holiday back in France, I too spent my evenings working away in her room. Luckily, for my mom, her refit was decades before Pinterest pressures, and our modern-day needs of perfection. Still, even though her room feel far from done to me, it was a major reveal for her. I repainted a second-hand bed, added some artwork to the walls, and put up an art corner, with a simple array of art supplies at the ready. It has been such a pleasure watching her enjoying the newly organised space.
This Sunday morning, she started the day out moaning that she wanted to watch a movie. My first suggestion was to go play outside with Barney, our island lab. This suggestion was not very well received. Secondly, I reminded her that I put paints out on her shelf in her room. That was it, and she was off. She spent the rest of morning in her room happily creating. I will slowly add to this spot, maybe even one day with some sewing supplies! But for now, just a few tubs of crayons, markers, and pencils, along with some paints, glue and glitter is enough to keep her going. And maybe one day, when it finally feels ‘done’ to me, I’ll properly share it here as well!
Italy! Oh my goodness, Italy!!! I have had a small taste, and now just want more. The food, the wine, the people, the scenery, – the FOOD!!! The sense of taste to someone having spent the last 12 months in the BVI, is like that of a person who recently quite smoking and their tongue has awoken again! And eat we did, my first saccotino (pain au chocolate, but even better!), my first zucchini fritter (lightly battered zucchini blossoms), prosciutto, caprice salad, parmesan, anchovies, veal, wild boar salami, and liters of olive oil consumed, harvested and produced from the surrounding trees. I know, I know, I sound as cheesy as a chapter from ‘Eat Pray Love’, but I just can’t help myself. It had been a pretty hectic last few weeks, finishing up school, two weeks of camp, birthday party planning, Italy was like a dream! Relaxing into the rejuvenating rhythm of our hosts daily routine was blissful.
Alida has been spending summers in Castagneto Carducci, Livorno her whole life, and now shares this magical place with her remarkable three children (the youngest hopefully a son in law some day). The schedule was simple – café and beach time in the morning, then market, lunch, and relaxing around the idyllic property in the afternoon. Some days we were ambitious, and headed out for gelato or sightseeing. But I was just as happy puttering around – reading, going for relaxing walks, maybe a game or two of Bird Bingo, eventually putting the children to bed (only, of course after they had gone to collect the daily allotment of chicken eggs) and enjoying our own lovely meal. Clearly, it was a tough life.
The incredible friendships that Tortola has brought me, is by far the most appreciated aspect of our expat lifestyle. And of course when those friends move on, the negative consequences of residing on a transient island is heartbreaking. However, we now have beautiful mates peppered throughout the globe. I can vividly recall planning this trip with Alida at the Moorings café in the spring of 2013, being told the exact route to their tiny little village near the Tuscan coast, just putting it out into the universe. It was such a loss when she and her beautiful three children moved on from the island. But that day does eventually come for most of us. Although Yann and I frequently joke about Coralie and the grandkids visiting us old and grey, still residing on Tortola, god help me!
Although Coralie’s birthday was well over a month away, a small group of us got off the rock for a lovely day sail to Copper Island Beach Club, celebrating her upcoming 4th. She has been lucky enough to spend all her birthdays with extended family in France, but as her Mama, I wanted her to have a chance for a more child orienated celebration with her BVI friends. The theme was a mix of homage to the ‘Olivia the Pig’ books, along with a nautical twist.
For the invite, I sent out a copy of this page from the French version of ‘Olivia Saves the Circus’, which shows Olivia sailing with her Papa.
Some pig ears to go along with a second hand tutu, and new bathing suit.
I had these boat shaped woodshop scraps forever, finally finished for parting gifts.
Copies of our favorite pages, hanging above the table in the galley
Along the with boats, the guests also got a copy of ‘Coralie’s Bath Time Favorites’, which she can sing in it’s entirety!
Pics of Coralie from birth to present, hung up along the window frame
The Nutella Layered cake just barely managed to uphold the tropical summer heat.
But the cake topper itself was burned when the chef enthusiastically lighted the candles with a creme brulee touch, resulting in a great suvenir of the day.
When I was a little girl, my mother always made it a point to do something special on the last day of school. This was well before ‘graduation’ from each grade level became the norm. She just wanted to do something small to mark the end of the school year. A new coloring book, along with a box of crayons, and a lunch date is what I remember. Being a teacher herself, she also wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the end of term, and a year of hard work. So to celebrate Coralie’s first year in Casa, I invited a classmate to join us for tea at the local English style bakery. Rather than the sweet scenario that I envisioned of them acting out the childhood girls fantasy of a tea party, we instead had two overly tired three year olds on the brink of utter breakdown mode. It quickly became apparent, that maybe in fact this was not such a good idea. Four pots of various steaming teas had to be under complete surveillance on the wonky tables, as the girls ran wild in wait for the food. When the platters did arrive, looks of disappointment arose when open-faced sandwiches of baba ganoush and humus were on offer. Of course, the sweets were received with plenty more appreciation, but it became difficult dividing up the treats in an equal manner, to keep the meltdowns at bay. I think Coralie may have won that challenge, as she quickly stuffed down the cakes, scones, and brownies like a competitive eater. Regardless, we certainly got a few smiles in here and there, which I hope what gets sent to the memory bank for future reference.
Yann, the boat trip hero, organised an amazing long weekend away for us and a few friends to the North Sound. The break was just what was needed, as I had all of three days between the last day of school and the first day of summer camp. We sailed over, technically as part of the Yacht club’s regatta, but really didn’t take the racing part too seriously. Regardless, as part of the fleet, we earned dockage space at the Bitter End Yacht Club, which perfectly suited the needs of everyone on board. The girls got a hike in (quite a long one, as we got lost!), the children had beach and pool time, and the men were in close proximity to the pub for football. The perfect end to the year, and the beginning of summer.