Sunday, October 29, 2017

Les Madeleines: toute une histoire!

les madeleines de Proust!

by Charlotte Megret
You might already have had the chance to try a Madeleine, but do you know the story behind these delicious small French cakes int he shape of coquillages?

One of the versions of the story behind Madeleines starts in the region of Lorraine where the roi Stanislas was hosting important guests at his palace in 1755. Unfortunately, his pâtissier was unhappy and left the house with the dessert made for the guests! A young chambermaid rose to the situation and made her mother's famous little cakes at the very last minute. They were so successful the king decided to name them after the chambermaid, Madeleine. They were soon introduced to the court where they became very popular. Madeleines were also sold in great numbers at the station de train of Commercy where they got their full name: "Madeleines de Commercy".

The origin of the seashell shape is a little more obscure but some say they used to be made inside actual Coquille St. Jacques shells for the pilgrims of the Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle. The famous French author Proust also made reference to them to describe how a smell and taste can remind you of fond souvenirs d'enfance. We often use the expression "Ma Madeleine de Proust" when referring to those memories!

Coquillages ~ seashells
Roi ~ king
Pâtissier ~ baker
Station de train ~ train station
Coquilles St. Jacques ~ scallops
Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle ~ Camino de Santiago
Souvenirs d’enfance ~ childhood memories

Friday, October 20, 2017

Nos vacances préférées : les colonies de vacances !

by Marisa Ikert

“How can a few short weeks alter the course of a lifetime?” writer Dominique Browning asks us to consider. Her response? “Two words: summer camp.”

In her article “My Favorite Vacation: Summer Camp,” Browning reflects on her childhood summers spent at a French camp in Vermont in the ‘60s and ‘70s. These summers represent for Browning one of the great focal points of her life, shaping her identity growing up and revealing many of her life’s passions. So profound was the impact of her camp experience, Browning finds that the life she seeks and creates for herself as an adult still revolves around behaviors and values learned at camp: “Thinking back on this time,” she writes, “I realize that subconsciously, I’ve spent years working my way back to living as if I were still in summer camp.”

The specific camp experience Browning describes differs in many ways from what Canoe Island campers experience today: for example, dressing in uniform (and we don’t mean the inevitable sea of navy blue sweatshirts), performing French operettas (though maybe that’s something we should start?), and participating in activities definitely not in line with current safety standards. And yet, so much of what she shares rings true with those of us who have lived on Canoe Island, whether for two weeks or five summers or twelve years: cheering on teammates with encouragements in French, singing around a crackling campfire, getting to know counselors from France and around the world. Even beyond the special case of French camp, Browning articulates something more universal about the camp experience in general and its lifelong effect on children: camp is above all a place where you can push your own limits and discover new interests, belong to a unique community, and learn how to live in harmony with nature.

“What I learned at camp was that I love the absorption into a communal culture, with its structures and values, but that I also enjoy that as a springboard for testing my limits, and that engaging with the magic and beauty of our natural world is deeply meaningful, and comforting, to me.” —Dominique Browning

Many longtime participants in, and lovers of, summer camp often have a hard time explaining the magic of camp to those who have not experienced it. One old episode of the radio show “This American Life” actually features an entire hour of stories from camp in an attempt to “bridge the gap of misunderstanding between camp people and non-camp people.” As Browning points out, so much of this particular “camp magic” comes from living in a unique community that feeds on both ritual and novelty. Canoe Islanders experience a strong sense of community by participating in traditions shared by generations of campers and counselors: dressing up as a peasant or a knight on theme day, yelling the call-and-response “Bon-a bon-a?” “–ppétit!” before every meal, preparing an act for the Spectacle de Jacques Martin, opening and closing each bedtime story with the words “Ah Mo.” Equally important to the sense of wonder and specialness at camp, though, are the new traditions we create and the one-of-a-kind moments that take us by surprise. I’ll definitely always remember the magnificent orca whale sighting from a few years ago, when whales swam alongside our shore and even encircled a small boat of staff members. Most of the memories that stand out to me from my years as a counselor, though, are smaller aspects of our quirky daily life: the time a tipi of boys created their own flag and led the camp in the anthem they had written, for example. Or the night Joseph made the whole camp root beer floats, which we enjoyed in the Maxim’s in our pajamas after regular bedtime, our hair still dripping wet from the fierce synchronized swimming competition that had just taken place. And I doubt I’ll soon forget feeding slimy strips of bull kelp through the pasta roller as our innovative forager chefs cranked out Canoe Island’s first kelp spaghetti dinner this past summer.

I first came to Canoe Island as a camper in 2007 and now in 2017, I’m still finding my way back to the island to help out or just visit whenever I have a pocket of time. My story is by no means unique; not only have so many campers and staff members returned to Canoe year after year, but alumni from all decades of the camp’s nearly-50-year history remain involved by attending family and adult events, serving on the board, donating to camp or referring family and friends. Ask any of them why, so many years later, summer camp is still a part of their lives and I bet you’ll hear echoes of Browning’s message: camp changes you. Camp is not just a vacation; it’s a way of life and a state of mind, and lessons learned at camp, whether explicit or implicit, are lessons we take with us for life.

At CIFC, when we gather each week on Inspiration Point, campers and staff are asked to reflect on what we have learned here and how that can impact our lives going forward: How can we make the world a better place? How can we take the community we have built at Canoe Island and form similar communities wherever we go? For those of us who take our mission of educating young people seriously, we believe that camp is not so much an escape from real life as it is a way of living real life, beautifully and simply. We know we’ve done our job as soon as we see our students—and ourselves—transforming into “grown-up camper[s] in the world, forever young enough to wonder at the mystery and magic and pleasure of it all."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Coucou hibou!

"Dans la forêt lointaine on entend le hibou. Du haut de son grand chêne il répond au coucou!"

"In the faraway forest, we hear the owl. From the top of his oak, he responds to the cuckoo!" The lyrics of this favorite camp song aren't far from the experience we have with the resident screech owls here on Canoe Island at night. While our owls are pleasant to listen to, they are actually one of the island's fiercest predators. They are well adapted night time hunters.
Western screech owl

Everything about the owl helps them find prey and stealthily capture their meals. Unlike humans, owls cannot move their eyes in the socket, and so they've adapted to turn their heads up to 270 degrees. They have three eyelids, rather than two, the third crosses their eye diagonally to clean and protect these important hunting features.

You won't hear an owl approaching because they fly silently. This is thanks to downy feathers on their wings and legs that absorb sound and tiny structures called hooks and bows on the leading edge of their wings that help dissipate the noise of air rushing past their wings. If you were to look at the skull of an owl, you'd notice the ears are offset. This adaptation helps them triangulate the location of their prey. Given all these hunting advantages, it is no wonder our island frogs, a food source for the owls, go silent when they sense any predator near by!

It's too bad we don't have European cuckoos on Canoe Island, but we can appreciate the owls' hunting prowess.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Helping your child get ready for camp food

Having a child or teen who is a picky eater can be challenging at home, school and during social engagements. Many parents worry how their child will do at summer camp away from the safety net of regularly accepted foods and plunged into the unfamiliar world of camp fare. My advice is, to go for it. Not only will the camper gain a multitude of enriching life experiences at summer camp they will be introduced to a rich food experience, especially at Canoe Island French Camp.

April's son, Evan, enjoying fresh mussels

The heart of Canoe’s food program is in providing thoughtful food experiences which focus on local ingredients that are minimally processed. Campers have responsibilities in the family service dining area and the Chefs are vital members of the staff and frequently share the recipes and cooking process with the campers. Three well balanced meals and at least one snack are served each day. Campers have choices of typical and novel foods throughout each session and meals are a time to gather, share about the day and an integral component of each session’s theme. Campers, counselors and staff all eat together at Canoe in a family style, community dining room and the peer interaction is rich. Food variety and mindful eating are modeled. Because Canoe is a small island, nearly all food is shipped in from the larger San Juan Islands & mainland. Water use on the island is tracked so there is a nice emphasis on how the footprint of campers effects the local ecology. Eating seasonally, composting scraps and using untouched leftovers are important.

As a dietitian who specializes in pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders, Canoe Island French Camp provides an optimal environment for expanding food repertoire for all kids because they intergrade mindful local eating and weave food-based cultural experiences, celebration and cooking into the curriculum of camp. Cooking classes are one of the most loved activities and each 2- or 3-week session closes with a plated, 7-course Bon Voyage banquet complete with multiple cutlery, wine glasses, and a cheese course.

Problem eaters are typically defined as people who consume a limited number of foods, often less than 10 or 15 weekly. They may shun whole food groups or eat only specific textures of foods or brands of food. They frequently demonstrate rigidity in other areas of their life, have other sensory-based issues, growth challenges and sometimes anxiety, especially if pushed or forced to try a new food or flavor. If you have a potential camper who has these tendencies, a talk with staff is advised. In this situation checking out one of Canoe’s shorter family camps may be a good starting point. Do make sure to allow your child the opportunity to eat near peers and staff and avoid negative language around dining. A good starting place is to offer two familiar safe foods at each meal with the expectation that there is exposure- in seeing, touching and possibly a taste of a new food.

Bon appétit, explorateurs de la nourriture

April Mitsch, Pediatric Dietitian
Assistant Professor- Pediatrics
Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon

and mother of two campers

Friday, May 19, 2017

Promoting French in the Pacific Northwest


French class at Canoe Island ready to partager le Français!
Canoe Island French Camp was just awarded Special Distinction for promoting French culture in the Pacific Northwest by the French American Chamber of Commerce at its 3rd annual French American Business Awards dinner in Seattle May 12. This is the second year Canoe Island French Camp has been nominated for the Culture Award. First place Gold Award went to the Alliance Française de Portland.

We are honored to accept this award and thank staff, board members, and campers and families who help us share our love of French language and culture through our programs. A special merci to Mathieu LeMerle, past CIFC counselor and current Engineering Manager of Operations Innovation at Starbucks in Seattle who represented Canoe Island at the dinner. He is married to past counselor Eugenie (Howell) LeMerle who he met at CIFC in 2008.

We hope to see many of you très bientôt on Canoe Island and encourage all of our community members to keep promoting values of language and cultural exploration here in the Pacific Northwest and worldwide!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Le Quebecois


Le Quebecois
by Lead Counselor, Charlotte Megret

You might already know that Canada has two official languages: l'anglais and le français. But did you know that the province of Quebec has declared that their only official language is French? Le Français plays a very important role in the way manle Québécois and French from France are actually quite different. I wanted to share with you some Québécois expressions très utiles that I heard everyday while living in Montreal.
y people from Quebec define their identity. Yet,

1. J'ai le goût de ________ : is used to say "I want to". In France you would say "j'ai envie de".

2. ça a pas d'allure!: a way of saying "That's ridiculous"

3. mon char: means "my car". this word is often said to be un anglicisme, but it can also be that many words in Québécois are old French words that France decided to drop a long time ago. In France, you would say "ma voiture".

4. tu m'niaise?! : "You're kidding?!". A very popular expression that you will hear all the time! In France you would say "Tu plaisantes?!" or "Serieux?!" (slang).

You are now ready for your next trip to Quebec, and don't forget to try their famous dish: La poutine!

Le français ~ French language

l'anglais ~ English language

Le Québécois ~ French from Quebec

Très utiles ~ very useful

Un anglicisme ~ an anglicism (a word borrowed from English into a foreign language)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Protecting a Gem


Protecting a Gem~ written by Max Thomas, Science and Outdoor Education Director at Canoe Island French Camp

Anyone who has been to the Salish Sea knows how special this place is. The Salish Sea is the body of water that encompasses Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan De Fuca, and the Strait of Georgia in British Columbia. It's hard to come here without falling in love with the abundance of wildlife, sheer beauty of the mountains and ocean, or the sense of pristine wilderness. This place also has strong cultural roots and incredible scientific importance. The rich diversity of species is unique to North America, and it's no surprise why people have settled here for over 10,000 years!

Within the past year there has been a grassroots effort to designate this amazing place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This designation would be a recognition of outstanding universal value to not only people who live here, but to the world as well. Sites that are considered for this honor must reach one of ten criteria, and many leading this effort believe the Salish Sea meets six. Some of the most spectacular areas in the world are World Heritage Sites including the Great Barrier Reef, Yellowstone National Park, and the Amazon to name a few. Protecting the Salish Sea is protecting our legacy. We are intertwined with these waters and land, and future generations will thank us for many years to come.

The partnered groups heading this effort are SeaLegacy and the Salish Sea Trust. To learn more about their mission and vision for protecting the Salish Sea, visit We Are the Salish Sea or Salish Sea Trust.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Le Carnaval


Happy Mardi Gras everyone!

Charlotte Megret, our lead counselor, recently shared some fun customs surrounding the celebration of Le Carnaval from around the world.

Elaborate costumes for le Carnaval!

You may have heard of le Carnaval in Rio, Brazil or Mardi Gras in New Orleans but did you know that this évenément takes place in many Pays Francophones as well? On the French island of Guadeloupe for instance, le carnaval is a really popular event where everyone has to wear un déguisement. A huge parade is organized, and people march and dance to the sound of tambours. Another important tradition is the défilé des chars where the best floats are showcased. Many people start decorating their char a year before the next Carnaval!

In France, some cities like Nice also host great carnavals, but most people prefer to eat plein de bonnes choses! Mardi Gras literally means Fat Tuesday and was traditionally a religious celebration that took place the day before the start of Le Carême. The goal was to rid the pantry of all the fatty food and the best way to do this was by making des crèpes and des beignets. Today is Mardi Gras so get your masque à plumes out or your deep fryer, if you prefer!

Le Carnaval - the Carnival

Un événement - an event

Pays Francophones - Francophone countries

Un déguisement - a costume

Les Tambours - drums

Le défilé des chars - the float parade

Plein de bonnes choses - literally "a lot of good things" (used when talking about food or to wish someone a happy new year)

Le Carême - Lent

Des crèpes - crepes

Des beignets - donuts

Masque à plumes - mask with feathers

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Nous HEART Camp aussi!


Bonjour and merci to everyone who submitted photos for I HEART Camp Day 2017!

Here is our valentine to all of you. Bisous!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Babysitting and chutney selling: one camper's entrepreneurial efforts to raise funds for camp!


Max making new friends while babysitting to raise money for camp
From chicken sitting, dog sitting, babysitting to selling coffee and chutney, Max F. has done them all to raise $2000 towards his Canoe Island French Camp tuition this summer. We award between $30,000- $40,000 in scholarships every summer to make camp affordable for anyone seeking the opportunity. Max, 12, camper and scholarship recipient for many years, decided he'd help his family afford the tuition this year by seeking support from his Shaw Island community. He's half way there! Max and his mom, Stephanie, shared with us why he's decided to raise money this year and what sorts of things he's done to rake in the dollars.

"Our family loves the experience that camp provides," says Stephanie.

"Work teaches Max the value of money, communication with his clients, scheduling, accounting, and allows him to take pride in his own abilities. From selling coffee and chutney, to stacking firewood, changing diapers, babysitting, chicken sitting, dog sitting, and helping me with extra projects around the house and my work, Max is learning to help himself achieve his goals."

Max raised $400 last year in addition to the scholarship he was awarded through camp. This year is tackling his goal of $2000 to attend a longer session. "On a typical day I raise $100 by donation only. I also work year round and save almost every penny," says Max.

Max has other motivations as well, "I have been going to Canoe Island French Camp for many years now, and I have found the true meaning of camp. I love French Camp because you learn French, cool facts about the islands' geology, wildlife and nature; how to use different weapons such as the bow and arrow, the trebuchet, and the tomahawk; and of course French cuisine. Making new friends and seeing old ones is a highlight of camp. If you attend camp I guarantee you will make new friends. My goal is $2000 and I'm halfway there. I have a bunch of new friends to meet this summer!"

We are so proud of Max and all his efforts and hope everyone has the chance to meet new friends this summer!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Noticeable impact of camp on kids


Camp influences us in many ways. In a recent article, Deirdre Pettinga, of the American Camp Association, reflects on what an impact sending her kids to camp had not only on them and herself, but on others in her community.

She shares an interaction she had with another mother after her son returned to school from camp,

"[She] asked me what was different about my son. What had I done? Or what had he done over the summer? When I asked her what she meant, she explained that even though she only knew him by watching him on the playground after school for a half-hour or so each day -- standing around with other moms doing the same thing before heading home -- she could see tremendous maturity, leadership, and sense of fairness in the way he was interacting with other kids."

How has camp influenced the life of your children? How has it influenced you?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year's Resolutions


Sailing around the world in 49 days and cycling over 22 kilometers in an hour at age 105? The French have set two new world records in the past couple weeks and it is great motivation to set a New Year's resolutions to get active in 2017.

Thomas Coville, of Rennes, set the world record for a solo sail around the world December 25, 2016. In just over 49 days he sailed 28,400 miles at an average speed of 24 knots. His vessel was a 31 meter long and 21 meter wide trimaran. His determination and resilience would make Jules Verne proud.

Thomas Coville setting a new world record for solo sailing

In another inspiring story from France, Robert Marchand, of Paris, set a world record for cycling at the age of 105. A life long athlete, Marchand said in an interview, "I've done sport all my life, eaten loads of fruit and vegetables, not too much coffee". Today he track cycled over 22km in an hour, a new record for the over-105 year age group.

Robert Marchard on pace to make history

Here at Canoe Island French Camp we have many unique activities for campers to engage in: archery, fencing, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, sports of all kinds. What drives you to stick with the sports you love? I hope these stories help reinvigorate you as you begin 2017.