Monday, September 27, 2010

Wonderful Summer

Add to Google Reader or HomepageAfter my last post, some people told me that it seemed that I did not like being here and they wondered how I could endure a summer in the states. I must apologize to all who got that impression. While I do prefer to be in France, it does not mean that life here is without charm. I was trying to highlight differences in lifestyles and aspects of living that I like and the aspects that I don’t like whether here or in Vaison la Romaine.

From the day we arrived here (and learned that our good neighbors had planned a welcome home party at our house) to today, it has been a fun-filled summer.  As I reread this, I guess that fun and friends go together in any location but which sentence describes it best:  Home is where the heart is.” or “Love the one you’re with.”?

·   We live on the most neighborly street in the best neighborhood in Lansing – possibly the best neighborhood in the US. People who live on our block enjoy making others feel welcome and appreciated.
·   We got to show Phil and Margaret (from Vaison la Romaine) some of the sites of Michigan.
·   We traveled through five states when Tish was with us and then returned to eastern PA for a reunion with my sisters. I had forgotten how beautiful Pennsylvania is.
·   We were invited to a “BFF” dinner at Brian’s and Ken’s house where alums of Patricia Wells’ cooking school met for a weekend in Lansing and prepared an absolutely wonderful meal.
·   We got to see Mark & Dan (more below) and Jeff & Lynn in Portland. We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Francophiles Susan and Alain in Ann Arbor.
·   Jim and Taffy stopped on their way to Beaver Island. Karen stopped on her return to Chicago.
·   We spent an afternoon with Nancy who was in Lansing to attend a business meeting and confirmed that “it is we.”
·   Linda invited me to speak at her training class for child care directors (more below).
·   John and Arleen visited from CO and during their visit we had a wonderful meal with Sue & Jerry and Marge & Charlie.
·   We saw Marge & Charlie numerous times here and in St. Joe as well as Olga & Blair at Gull Lake.
·   Denise (next door) gave me plants for my garden. As a result, we have enjoyed wonderful tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and herbs for the past two months.
·   We haven’t yet seen MB (Embay) but laughed through most of the summer about the way that she “scored the slices of eggplants” (Patricia Wells’ recipe for baked eggplants and tomatoes). She sent a picture of a pan of eggplant slices with little flags on each slice and each flag had a score on it – “7”, “9, …

 What is it about friends and food that make gatherings fun?

When we were in Portland, Mark & Dan invited their friends to a dinner made from locally-grown products (from backyard gardens). We got to attend a nine-course meal that included fresh-from-the-garden items complemented with good wines, local protein and desserts from local fruits and dairy products. Since Dan and Mark were extending the invitation, it was clear that everyone bringing a dish knew that s/he had to step up to the level of cuisine one expects at the “Schmapp” household and, to my enjoyment, everyone did!

Since I volunteer at child care centers in both Vaison and Lansing, Linda had invited me to speak to her class about the similarities and differences between the US and France. In most categories the French are leading the way, though the child care directors were surprised at the adult/child ratios for Ecole Maternelle in France--one teacher to up to 25 kids! On the other hand, most of the teachers have degrees similar to our Masters degrees.

All in all, it has been a wonderful summer here in Lansing and parts east, west and south (no north yet). We are still harvesting and eating the vegetables and herbs from our garden but, better than the food, we have enjoyed time with friends, neighbors and siblings. So perhaps it’s true that home is where the heart is, and the heart is where there are friends.


  1. Sounds like you had a great summer in the Mitten! And I need to know what meal was pictured here... Looks yummy!

  2. “Monsieur Henry’s Eggplant Gratin” (Patricia Wells at Home in Provence by Patricia Wells, pp. 115-116)

    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    a pinch of dried oregano
    eggplants (2 small 5 oz. ea. or 1 large 10 oz.)
    ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    fine sea salt
    2 pounds fresh tomatoes, cored and halved crosswise
    3 tablespoons finely minced mixed fresh herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme and basil (or Herbs de Provence)

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil over the bottom of a gratin dish. If the eggplants are small, slice them in half lengthwise. If they are large, cut them into four lengthwise slices. Place the eggplants, skin side down, in a single layer in the gratin dish. Lightly score them with a sharp knife. Sprinkle with the salt and minced fresh herbs and oregano. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Place the tomato halves, cut side down, on top of the eggplants in a single layer. Brush the tomato skins with the rest of the oil and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place the gratin dish in the center of the oven and bake until the vegetables are soft and almost falling apart, about an hour. The tops of the tomatoes should be almost black, and juices from the eggplant and tomato should turn thick and almost caramelized. Serve warm or at room temperature, as a side dish or main vegetable dish. Use a spatula to cut and serve measured portions. Four to six servings.

  3. Thank you! I can actually DO this recipe! Thanks!

  4. Please, never feed me eggplant except as ratatouille. Good heavens! As for "home is where the heart is." We know well where your heart is. Thank goodness for Ellen or we'd never see you again in the states.

  5. Bonjour les Sullivan,

    Sullivan with no "s" because it is the family name
    here is someone talking... Hi, it is Marie. I won't be coming over for many reasons, one of them being that I hope you can make it to Pontarlier and I could take you to Arbois.
    Why don't you come over with your British friends? ... and you could also visit one of my groups of kids (the headmaster likes these visits)
    Let me know what you think?
    given the fact that the country is under the guidance of La liberté guidant le peuple de Delacroix!
    Hugs and amitiés,