Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Trois… deux… un… bonne année!!!!

In just a couple days the call of "Happy New Year" will echo around the world. Celebrations in cities and in small towns will light up the night skies. In my family we'd always head to a neighbor's house, where we would share a potluck dinner, board games for the kids, wine and discussion for the grown-ups, and everyone would gather round the tv screen to count down the fireworks from the Space Needle at midnight. We'd all have glasses of sparkling cider or champagne and some kind of noisemaker for the big moment. Kisses would be exchanged; the fireworks would be appreciated along with the sounds of a classical symphony. Then we'd slowly walk home as a family in the cold morning air. Finally we'd snuggle into our beds to sleep in on New Year's Day. From what I've read and heard, New Year's Eve in France, la Réveillon or la Saint-Sylvestre, is pretty similar.

Parties can consist of close friends and relatives or be with hundreds of people in a public venue. Some traditional foods you’ll find at these gatherings include des huitres, du saumon fumé, de la foie gras and du champagne. Starting off the new year by kissing friends and family under the mistletoe is common. And wishing folks a bonne année continues into February. One French comedian, Gad Elmaleh, has even included this practice in one of his stand ups.


From all of us here on Canoe, Bonne Année!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Artisans and Crafts

“What are you making?” I ask the pint sized soccer player to my right. 

"A cat!" he enthusiastically replies. His cat is fashioned from an old sock, limbs from other stuffed animals and a blue felt smile. It's zany and oh so creative. And he made it himself. So much confidence can come from creating things oneself, like campers do at Canoe Island French Camp. This is why I love crafts, and the artisanal culture of France, that values handmade products by local merchants. This French sentiment was very much present at this fall's San Juan County Textile Guild Craft Expo.

The guild hosts many mediums for design. Knitting, spinning, beading, basketry, quilting and weaving were all available for people to learn at the fair. I was drawn to a huddle of kids and adults sitting on a quilt on the floor. In the middle of the circle was a pile of stuffed animal carnage, fabrics, yarn and fluff. Francie and Cindy were helping folks fabricate their very own frank-n-animal. The results were adorable.

A bunny/ bear farmer in an orange tutu left with a little girl. She was proud to introduce it to everyone. The cat earlier described was to be a gift for the family puppy. In a society where things are designed to be thrown away, and kids are taught to always be asking for new things, it was nice to see kiddos finding value in the old, the ripped, the discarded. Whether you are sewing together a new stuffed animal, knitting a hat or quilting a blanket, creating something with your own hands is satisfying and rejuvenating. As we approach the holiday season, I encourage you to consider crafting some of your gifts. You might find a new skill!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Peace for Paris

Our sympathies are with our French friends in this time of horror and sadness.  We thank all of our staff and campers, past and present, who have let us know of your safety. Please include us in any news that we should know-- whether it is thankful or sad.   Our sympathies are also with the people of Beirut who are suffering through a similar event this past week.  We realize that so many unfortunate people suffer these horrors daily and we hope the good people everywhere overcome the evil in the world.

Monday, November 2, 2015

le chocolat

Le chocolat. Brought to Spain in the early 1500s by Cortez, sweetened with sugar and sipped in secret by aristocrats for almost 100 years. One theory is that with the marriage of Anne of Austria, daughter of Phillip III of Spain, to King Louis XIII of France in 1615, one of her wedding gifts for Louis included chocolate. And thus chocolate was brought to France.

In the 1700s, the first hydro powered chocolate mill was built in France. This made chocolate available to the masses. Chocolate houses became popular in Europe, places to sip chocolate and socialize. The tradition of building a community around chocolate and all the subtle bliss it provides continues on Orcas Island at Kathryn Taylor Chocolates.

This small chocolate shop combines local ingredients with French chocolate. Seasonally harvested fruits, berries and nuts make for a year round adventure in flavors. The storefront in Eastsound is a corner stop for locals and visitors. Next time you are in the San Juan Islands, be sure to stop in and savor the flavors, of chocolate!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Tout ce que la pluie se promet et en plus

Tout ce que la pluie se promet et en plus

Squish, squish, squish. My toes danced in the newly forming puddles of my shoes. My thick hiking boots had finally relinquished any semblance of staying dry.  The water leaden moss and rain soaked leaves sent droplets slowly and surely into my boots, socks and between my toes.  What drew us out into the cool, wet, fall forest? We were hunting for… Les champignons. Glorious, soil busting mushrooms that scent the air with fruity, earthy odors. This is chanterelle season.

Mushrooms are abundant in the Pacific Northwest. They are the fruiting bodies of a much larger underground network of mycelium. The chanterelle is one of the most popular mushrooms. Their international commercial value exceeds $1 billion dollars annually. Beyond their monetary worth, fungi are also very important to the forests in which they grow.

Fungal mycelium forms a symbiotic relationship with trees. The fungus assists trees in their intake of nutrients and water and helps with organic decay. In return the trees provides sugar for the fungus to sustain itself. Next time you take a walk in the woods to marvel at the giant coniferous trees, take a moment to find a mushroom and say, merci!

Enjoy these fun interpretations of les champignons normands!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

née du feu et de la glace

Canoe Island, née du feu et de la glace. The San Juan's location along a major fault line, subduction zone and site of ancient continental ice sheets, makes for some exciting and complex geological history. French speaking naturalists of the late 18th and early 19th century played a large role in the development of glacial theory that scientists use today.

Glacial and interglacial cycles are an example of just such a French influenced theory. This theory attributes the advancement and retreat of continental ice sheets to long lasting cycles of higher or lower average global temperatures. The groundwork for this theory came from Saussure and Charpentier, french speaking naturalists, who studied glaciers of the Alps.

Horace Bénédict de Saussure was a Swiss-French physicist and alpine traveler. He was the third to climb Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France, 1787, and proposed that glaciers moved erratic rocks throughout the countryside. He provided extensive observations on the topography of snowy portions of the Alps as well as alpine botany.

Jean de Charpentier was a Swiss-German geologist who studied Swiss glaciers. He documented erratics between 1818 and his death in 1855. Many of the erratics were found in places that current glaciers didn’t extend to. He believed that the glaciers used to be much bigger but wasn’t sure how. The eventual theory of glacial and interglacial cycles, first proposed by Karl Schimper and published by Louis Agassiz, accounts for this conundrum.

This theory is also how geologists studying the San Juans account for the many glacial landscape features found in the islands. How neat that the understanding of San Juan Island geology and glacial history has such an accent français!

Ice Sheets that covered much of North America, including the San Juan Islands, during glacial periods over the last 2.6 million years