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Charleston is home and I love its meandering tidal streams, air you can touch, history in your face. But Asheville is an altitude I need to find every few months.

Like this 1920s bar where they serve you a key with your drink which opens a vintage mail box, of course, which displays your choice of appetizer. Bacon jam or pickled Brussels sprouts anyone?

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Or this friend I’ve known for decades who reminds me that change impacts us at a cellular level and that art is cathartic and essential.

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Or this past college roommate who has known me long enough and well enough to have met all my grandparents and also made two beautiful boys just Hugh’s age.

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Asheville, the town whose stages I performed on and coffee shops I wrote in, still knows how to wink at me.

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I quit blogging about a year a half ago. Not for any deeply thoughtful reason, just because I couldn’t figure out what the purpose was anymore. I already post plenty of photos and quotes by Hugh on Facebook. I also have Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter accounts. I was getting tired of myself. But I do miss the act of writing and the blog beckoned me today, so I’m going back here quietly and seeing what transpires.

Speaking of transpires, someone asked me today what Hugh was into right now. I wanted to answer, “Reading, definitely starting to figure out words, and it’s a magical thing.” Or math or puzzles or soccer. But the honest truth is handcuffs.

He loves his shiny silver handcuffs with the tiny key, the sense of power and dominion he feels over anybody who might enter his path that is a joker, stealer, or liar. Today, I found two large plastic dinosaurs handcuffed together. Who knows what transgression must have transpired?

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I’m thankful that my parents raised me with wonderful memories of the holidays so that when this time of year approaches, I’m filled with excitement. It’s especially fun to watch Hugh develop his own holiday giddyness. Yesterday, he found a generic stocking at my sister’s house and insisted on bringing it home. He climbed up on a stool and laid it flat across the mantle, draped over several candles and some magazines. “My stocking is hung!” he said.

But first, Thanksgiving. This was my Grandpa Dick’s favorite holiday. Hugh is named after him (his middle name is Hill, which was Grandpa’s last name), and I always miss my grandparents this time of year. Grandpa Dick with his crazy inventions; Grandma Joyce who always made calico beans from her yellowed, midwestern recipe card box; and Grandpa Gale who donned orange wigs and pushed everyone’s plates and silver ware into different positions while they attempted to eat.

This year, we’re having 14 at our table. A mix of old friends and new friends, family and neighbors. We’re serving: turkey, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, broccoli salad; traditional stuffing and oyster stuffing; green bean casserole; rolls; apple pie, pumpkin pie, and Texas sheet cake. Tasha is making a special cocktail with vodka, sparkling cranberry pomegranate juice, and limes.

I read this great quote in the New York Times today: “Thanksgiving has a way of shaking up the beer can of family turmoil and spraying it all over the room.” The movie that best captures that spirit of that loving disaster is Home for the Holidays starring Holly Hunter. We’ve rented it to watch after dinner.

Love to you and yours.

Preparations begin. After picture to come.

About every five minutes, Hugh starts a sentence with, “Hey, you wanna play a game of ____?” Fill in the blank: “I be baby squid, you be mama squid? I be red power ranger, you be black one? I be the cat, you be the cat’s mama?” You get the gist.

Now it’s my turn to say, “Hey, wanna play a blogger game?” It’s called Around Here, and you write about what’s happening right now in your life. [Side note: remember when Facebook posts started with “Amanda is _____.”? I liked the simplicity of those posts.] Anyway, chime in on your own blog and then link your post to the list, or just comment back to me what you are doing.

Reading House of Sand by Andre Dubus. I can tell that it is not going to work out for anyone, and I’m going to feel heartache for everyone. My kind of book.

Sitting here thinking about what went so wrong for Obama at the debates.

Wondering when Hugh will sleep in his own bed on a regular basis. That’s right. We are a failure in this department, although a snuggly one.

Hoping my Volvo will last past 200K miles so that we won’t need another car and can pay off some debt.

Frustrated that I’m not getting up in the morning to walk or run. I’m just so tired. How do you people on Facebook with multiple kids and jobs post those 13.1 mile Nike runs? I need to try harder.

Not listening to any music, which is sad.

WatchingSeason 1 of Homeland tonight with Tasha. Yes, that is our pitiful date night. Staying in alone and watching TV. I am beyond thrilled.

Making carpool plans for tomorrow night to hear live music at the Awendaw Green Friday night barn jam. Check it out, people. I’ll be the one in red cowboy boots.

I’ve meant to blog everyday, but I’ve caught the Italian malaise of doing everything slower than anticipated.

A typical day in the countryside is wake up whenever, eat apricots and yogurt and double espressos out of thimble-sized cups, visit a neighboring town, then siesta from 1-4pm when the entire country shuts down. Around 5pm, shop owners begin to pry open their heavy shutters, waiters throw white tablecloths on tables, and people emerge into the dusk bright eyed and ready for a long evening of eating, drinking, talking.

Two days ago, we hiked around a beautiful waterfall, then ate lunch by a lake. I ordered a whole lake trout and it came charred with just lemon and crusty basil. Delicious. Then the power went out. Just happens sometimes, no biggie. It was time for the four hour siesta anyway.

That night, our hosts told us about a neighboring village’s festival. There are about 700 festivals in the province, all celebrating some kind of food and raising money for the town. Colicello, they said, had one of the best. We found our way to a tiny hamlet with a church, a tennis court (our dance floor for the night), and vendors selling barbie balloons, pistachios, and jewelry. We put our name on a list at the entrance tent and about 45 minutes were eating some of the best food we’d ever had: spicy wild boar, polenta, fried risotto, charred sausage, Fava beans with sage, pappardelle with fresh tomatoes. And Umbian red wine. Then Elly and I danced the polka to accordian music.

Here are photos from the above. It’s too hard to do captions from my phone, but hopefully you can piece them together.

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One impression I had of the French was that the women always dressed tres elegante. I felt inferior packing Tevas and a bright blue gap tee, knowing I’d not stand a chance fashion-wise against those slim women in their black and heels.

On the contrary, the women here dress refreshingly down to earth. The typical look is unstyled hair, little makeup, skinny jeans, and flats. The men on the other hand, ooh la la! They are the peacocks of Paris. Here’s one peacock’s feet on the metro.

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Yesterday, we visited a museum, which was actually a grand mansion. The owners, a couple named Nelle and Andre, spent their lives creating the opulent home and collecting works of art which they bequeathed to the national trust. With the audio tour, I felt taken back in time, fully aware of the luxury of being able to sit and stare at art. Here’s Tasha at the museum cafe looking appropriately contemplative as we await our salad and pastries.

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We saw the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and walked the Champs de Elysee. At the end of the night, we ate dinner at a restaurant that my grandparents had eaten at 50 years before. Tasha tried pig’s head stew. Go girl.

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Also, we ate gelato and the spoons for some reason glowed in the dark.

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Here’s me trying to casually French.

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We arrived in Paris today. My observations thus far:

On our Air France flight, in significant turbulence, the pilot requested that everyone stay in their seats. Throughout this bumpy ride, however, flight attendants kept pouring champagne. There’s safety, and then there’s bubbly.

Don’t mess with the baguette. We witnessed at an extremely heated exchange at the French equivalent of Starbucks today in the airport over a baguette that was not fresh. The chef, the customer, and the manager pointed fingers, threw up hands, and ultimately the baguette won.

People love to smoke and hate air conditioning. Just the opposite of Charleston.

The view from our room.

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Tasha by the Seine.

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