Saturday, August 20, 2011

Happy Birthday

Today is the Littlest's birthday. He's three! And I wonder if it's just my imagination or did he really wake up this morning a bit more mature, able to express himself a bit better?

This morning our dining room table was covered in his presents and he couldn't stand to wait one minute more to opne them so he ran to wake the sleeping big kids. Ma Fille immediately wrapped her arms around him and started singing 'happy birthday to you'. And when he climbed up onto the Middlest's top bunk to say, 'wake up' the Middlest replied, 'who's three today?'. Sometimes the kids fight and argue and screech at each other and it makes me feel tired. But when they do these pure, sweet things for each other it makes up for it all.

Now they're playing with the Baby's birthday loot; the favorite is a remote controlled train and track direct from the Beaux-Parents in Texas.

I've made our chocolate birthday cake already and it's cooling now, waiting to be iced with chocolate icing that contains an entire box of powdered sugar--Texas sheet cake all the way in France.

And as is my tradition, here are three things I love about the Littlest:

1) He brings energy into our family that fills it right up. 
2) He says 'kachow' and 'gotta get that' and pretends to eat things up with his dinosaurs.
3) We find the mouse together when we read Goodnight Moon and he acts surprised every time, 'there it is!'

and one to grow on:
4) His independence is both thrilling and terrifying.

We love you Littlest. Three will be your best year yet.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Marinated Artichoke Heart & Feta Bruschetta

Ma Fille and I have started watching Rocco's Dinner Party. We love cuddling up together on the sofa in the heat of the afternoon and watching people cook and eat. Plus, Rocco's easy on the eyes.
The other day we watched the episode about French Cuisine where the idea was to cook a meal using Julia's Mastering masterpiece as a guide and Julie Powell, who became blog and movie famous for cooking every one of Julia's recipes was the special dinner guest. I was excited to see her and get an idea of what she was like, not the Amy Adams version but the true Texas girl done good version. She was funny and self-deprecating while throwing back some wine and doing some quick-witted sexy truffle talk. Like a good Texas girl ought to.
And so I got to thinking about the movie and that first dinner of tomato and basil bruschetta. And then I had to have some. I bought a big ol' ugly ripe and delicious tomato, cut it up and mixed it with a dose of olive oil, fat sea salt and basil and then I cut thick chunks of baguette and fried them in more olive oil (shamefully outrageous amounts) until crispy and toasted. Then I rubbed a cut garlic clove on one side of all the breads while they were still hot from the skillet. Spoonfuls of the tomato/basil mixture on top of the garlicky, toasted olive oil chunks and we were all in heaven; munching enough for a main course before dinner out on the terrace, elbowing the each other out of the way for another slice.

And so I got the idea to do it all again except this time with some marinated artichoke hearts and crumbled salty feta cheese to ladle on top of the devilishly fattening bread. It was too good not to share. A perfect nibble to go with your aperitif on a summer evening.

Marinated Artichoke Heart & Feta Bruschetta

1 fresh baguette, thickly and generously sliced (2 if you're serving more than 4 adults and then alter the other ingredients accordingly)
olive oil--loads but don't feel guilty, just enjoy it.

1 small jar of marinated artichoke hearts, slightly drained you've got plenty of oil in the pan we don't want it to cross the line into gross
half a brick of feta cheese, crumbled

Slice your bread into nice big chunks.
Get a large skillet with a few tablespoons of olive oil, lashings if you will, hot and then put your bread chunks on one side to toast. Turn and toast other side and remove as they're toasted.
Peel and cut one garlic clove down the middle. While the bread is still hot, rub one side with the garlic clove.

Rough chop the artichoke hearts and add in the feta cheese. Smush it with the back of a fork until just combined. This should be chunky, not overly blended so go easy with the mixing.

Spoon the mixture onto the prepared garlicky toasts and serve warm with a very cold beer or a glass of rosé, preferably outside with friends.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Day by the Med

The trick to taking three children and a puppy to the beach is to get going early. We were packed and out the door by 8:45 this morning and got a prime parking spot just across from the one section of dog friendly beach at Grand Travers. It was still cool and fresh and we had our pick of places to park ourselves for the morning. We staked out real close to the water so the kids and Clementine could splash and dig in the sand with no one between us and the sea. There were only three other groups there when we arrived at 9 am but when we left at two o'clock it was, as the Irish say, 'jammers'.

I love the sea and the beach more than any man-made chlorinated swimming pool. I love the sand, the breeze, the saltiness and refreshing coolness of the water and the freedom it gives the kids to roll around and get all messy. Another thing I love is how the sea changes. We lived by the Irish Sea when we lived in Ireland and I was madly in love with it. I've written an entire post about a morning jog along it and can bore you to tears with my fascination of the changing colors, depths and wildness of it. This morning at our little spot on the Med there was a shallow pool, virtually waveless that gave way to a sand bar running horizontally to the shore before the tiny waves started spilling over, barely breaking. As we walked out we saw a huge jellyfish or medusa turned on her back, tentacles limply floating in the water, lifelessly nudging the shore.As we gawked and prodded her with a plastic shovel to make sure she was dead, a man in a very snug Speedo came over and scooped her up with a stick and deposited her in the dunes. Very efficient.

madame medusa

Clementine ran along the sand bar with the big kids and the Littlest rolled around and shrieked and dug holes. I read my InStyle magazine brought to me by Mon Mari from his last pass through Charles de Gaulle aiport. I found a gorgeous decanter from that I don't know if I can live without (hopefully I can find a less pricey version at a brocante) and a recipe for green juice that sounds super healthy. Plus a recipe for an avocado face mask that sounds yummy too. Maybe I'll just eat it and not bother spreading it on my face. Eva Longoria looked fabulous in the photo spread and you'll be glad to know that she's fine after the break-up with Tony. She said the thing the celebrities always say. Something like, 'When you're not happy in a relationship it's ok to move on.'

Having Clementine has opened up a whole new bucket of beach fun because people in the dog section LOVE their dogs. It's like we have been given a membership into a new club where people are friendly, love petting the little baby girl and always say, 'Oh, elle est belle.' Thank goodness for the South of France, their dog lovin' ways, and the beautiful Med.

Off to look for a thai green curry recipe. Send me one if you have a good one.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer Days with Sara

We have had some serious bonding time with Sara from the little village. First, she came here to ours for the weekend and we had a ball. We went to one of the paillotes on the beach, one of my favorite things about summer here in Montpellier, for a dinner and dj/rave/I'm too old to understand music blaring, base thrumming in your chest, fish traumatizing, people standing bunched together with one arm raised, pumping a finger or fist to the beat dance.
not the best photo but it was really pretty, i swear
The dinner was delicious though and so were the mojitos. We shared a fish baked in a salt crust and it was so pretty I had to take a photo. The waiter who scraped off all the salt was delicious too.
Sara and I spoke English like it was our last night on earth while her Husband and his French friends stayed well away. Don't get between two Texas girls who've been deprived of parleying the English. I think they were afraid.
But then I started doing my I must talk to everyone thing and unleashed my French on one of the couples. They were so nice, telling me they understood me and that I was doing well. The lovely Coraline asked how old I was when I told her I had three kids and when I told her the shocking truth she was suitably shocked. What she said next got her a big kiss right on the cheek. She told me she'd thought I was 32. Aha! This felt super good until I realized she's only 22 and to her 32 may not be 39 but it's a hell of a lot older than she thinks about being. Good feeling diminished.
The next day was spent lazing around the house in our bikinis and more talk, talk, talking. Sara talks like she writes so you can imagine spending the day with her for yourself if you read her blog. Her Husband became the 'Manny' because as big and strong as he is he's just as soft and kind. My kids love him like you can't imagine.
Sara's Husband & the Middlest
We cooked some meat, drank some wine and talked some more. The terrace is the new Las Vegas. What happens there, stays there.
Sara & Ma Fille
Sunday morning was gorgeous so we headed back down to the beach, or as the Littlest says, 'the big pool'. This time we took the kids and Clementine. She was a bit afraid of the waves at first but once she got over the 'what in the world!?' she jumped and barked and went puppy mad. It was enough to send her under my beach chair for the remainder of the time, konked out. We even had to carry her back to the car.
We were having so much fun that Sara and I decided it would be a good idea for the kids and I to come to Le Petit Village for a night later in the week. Mon Mari was traveling for work so why not? Let's just keep the party going. How relaxing, how lovely. Come to the village and hang out. With three kids. And a puppy.
Do you know what I'm going to say next?
It was an ass-kickin' like no other. The Littlest didn't enjoy the car ride, didn't get enough to eat, didn't get enough sleep and didn't like it at all. Poor little guy. When we went to lunch he ate some and then scrambled down to pet Clementine who was happily sleeping under my chair. (there's a theme here) He was happy and quiet and as we finished up a man from behind me came over to let me know why. 'Um, the baby is eating the dog food.' Oh, that explains it. We all laughed and I made my Littlest jokes like, 'Oh, it's not the first time and it won't be the last.' And it wasn't. Turns out Eukanuba large breed puppy food rivals peanut butter crackers to this kid. He was just in the kitchen this morning sneaking a nibble of kibble.

Clementine and Fifty are now BFFs. She wasn't scared like I was expecting but rather quite delighted to have a doggie friend's ears to nibble since she isn't allowed to taste the Littlest's.
Fifty & Clementine
We came home with a stopover at Kirsty's to see her newest little Aussie. She looks fabulous and serene just weeks after giving birth to her fourth child. I could have spent the evening there with her letting the kids run amok and free, jumping on the trampoline and sliding down the kid slide but I had to drive my guys home to their own beds and my much deserved glass of wine and paperback alone on the terrace.
Summer as it should be. Busy, fun, crazed, fun-filled and exhausting.
I hope you're having a lovely one too.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Clementine Mirabel Petals

We have a fourth child. It happened rather quickly and I didn't have to put in much effort to get her. Nothing like the other three.
We couldn't decide on a name so she got three.
Clementine because that's what Ma Fille wanted and strangely the daughter of the breeder's name is the same and when they heard that's what Ma Fille wanted to name her they started calling her Clementine. Sweet, huh? And also very kismet.

Mirabel because we just spent a week with our Irish friends near a tiny French town called 'Mirabel-aux-Baronnies' and it seemed appropriate and fresh since we brought her home the day after we got back from our holiday.
And Petals because that's the name the Middlest chose and I happen to think it's perfectly lovely for a puppy to be called Petals; especially if a 7 year-old heartthrob thinks of it.

We call her a combination of the three but so far it's mostly been Clementine--with an American accent, long on the 'i'. I personally love blending Mirabel and Petals all together real close to make it sound a bit Texan like this, 'MirabelPetals, you pretty girl'.

Here are a few quick facts about the newest member of our little family.

1) She is bilingual, naturalement, and understands 'sit' in French and English equally poorly.
2) She is blonde like the other three.
3) We took her to the beach for the first time and she attacked the small waves, biting at them and barking once she got over the initial 'what the?!'.
4) She likes to take naps.
5) You can stand outside with her saying, 'outside, go tee-tee' for 20 minutes only to have her pee on the doormat on the way back in.
6) She is like the Baby's twin. In manner, habits, chubby tummy and blondeness.
7) She dips her feet into her water bowl and then slides across the kitchen floor.
and finally,
8) She eats snails. Just like a Frenchie.

Clemetine Mirabel Petals