Friday, June 29, 2012

Guest Post on Expat Explorer, It's Me!

The very kind people over at Expat Explorer asked me to write a post about what I love most about my life in France. I'll bet you can never guess what I said.
Um, maybe you can. It's all about food and some stuff about the kids and maybe a tiny mention of P-Daddy. I can't remember...

I'll copy and paste it here but why don't you go over and have a look at their blog. Maybe tell them if you like my guest post in the comments section. They always have fresh, good content for people who are finding their way in another country as well as inspiration and sound advice for making the move yourself.

If you like it you can tweet it too.

Guest Blogger Series....Introducing Aidan Larson
We’re in for a mouth-watering treat this week with expat foodie blogger, Aidan Larson at Conjugating Irregular Verbs as this week’s guest blogger.

The way to an expat’s heart…

Source: Creative Commons/ Xiaozhuli

When you move to a new country, you expect changes. You figure you’ll learn a thing or two, develop some new habits, maybe get frustrated and shake your fist at times, shed a tear or two. But if you can, you move to another place excited about the differences, ready to embrace the change and make the most of it. 

At least that’s how my American family has looked at our seven years of living abroad. We’ve had our share of hiccups, complications and second guessing our decisions, no doubt. But more than that, we’ve changed, taken on new ideas, altered our thinking, tried new things and some of us (the children) have mastered a new language.

All that is well and good; an enrichment of life and a shift in thinking have made our expat life worthwhile beyond measure, sure.

But I have to admit the thing that I enjoy most about our lives in the South of France is the food.  Ah, yes, my favorite topic of thought, conversation, study and practice—the French table.

Food; shopping for it, reading about it, cooking and eating it. It’s a popular past time these days. I love a cooking show as much as other ‘foodies’ out there; colorful cookbook towers stacked on bedside tables along with a mix of  beautifully photographed cooking magazines, food memoirs and the odd novel. This is what we fall asleep reading.

So, lucky me to live in France where food is one of the most seriously guarded and precious aspects of national image. You don’t mess with the French and their food.

Each region has its signature dish, produce and style of cooking. I made the grave error one night at dinner with French friends, five French women asking me what I thought about French food, when I said that the thing I miss the most about American food is the variety. Alors! But variety exists here in France, they said. You can find every type of food across all the regions in France. Variety abounds!

Um, yeah. If you only want French food. That’s the thing they don’t get. Their food is such a big deal, such a symbol of national pride, that they don’t see that for foreigners or ‘etrangers’ the whole of it falls under the heading, ‘French food’.

Some of us want Thai, Indian, Cuban and of course, this Texan girl wants her beloved Tex-Mex. All of which you can easily find in America. That’s variety, my French friends. Of course I would never say that. I only agreed, back pedaled, acted like they were teaching me something new about variety and the world of different food.

This protective pride is what makes French food special. Bestowing government protection on varieties of cheese, only one cheese in the world can be called Roquefort, safeguarding wine blends by allowing only certain varieties of raisins to be grown in certain regions, regions sometimes distinguished and divided by a creek or simple dirt path, making it a law for restaurants to print where their meat comes from and if they use frozen ingredients on their menu. All these things are what make French food, French.

For the most part, the French eat seasonally. You’ll find some exotic things like mango and passion fruit at the big grocery stores no matter the season. Maybe some green beans from Kenya when the French ones have all been canned or eaten up in nicoise salads, but generally the produce department changes with the seasons. What you won’t find are strawberries or stone fruits in mid-winter, no cherries in March, and absolutely no cantaloupe or melon until early summer.

All that makes sense, for a variety of reasons like the cost of flying out of season fruit and vegetables from the bout du monde, but the most important part to me is simply this. It tastes better when it’s grown a few kilometers away. The cantaloupe melons grown in a nearby village are the most delicious I’ve ever eaten.

My family has changed in the way we regard eating and meal times, especially snacking and when and how to do it. It’s subtle, like most resounding changes, and it has made a difference to the way we live and look. Yes, I said look. The eating what you want and not getting fat thing that you’ve no doubt heard of and wondered about yourself? That’s down to one thing--snacking. Mindless eating, the middle of the day, whenever the mood strikes you, nibble. They just don’t do it.

One of my daughter’s little friends was over one day after lunch (they would never schedule a play date during the lunch hours of noon and 2pm) and they were running around outside, swimming and playing. I figured they might be a bit hungry for a snack so I offered one. The 8 year-old French girl’s immediate reaction to this offer may shock you.

She didn’t immediately say non, merci. She didn’t jump blindly at the chance to eat something, either. What she did do was look at the clock. And when she saw that it was 3:30 and not later, she said no thank you. Simple. It’s just this. You don’t eat at 3:30. That’s not gouter or snack time.

My children eat at school most days, in the cantine, where they’re served a seasonal five course meal, where they eat with real utensils, course by course, over half an hour or more and  where no one puts fork to mouth without everyone saying, ‘Bon appetit!’ and beginning together.

They can ask for seconds of the starter and main course that are usually served family style in the center of the table. Things like beets in mustard dressing, radishes with baguette and butter and shredded carrots are typical starters or entrees. Main dishes of roast chicken, cordon bleu, and lemon fish are some of my kids’ favorites. The French eat like this most days at midday. This is the main meal, the one to sustain you until snack time. And it does sustain you.

My children have better table manners. Even the 4 year-old is learning. ‘Bon appetit!’ he shouts before every evening meal (of course he shouts it, we’re still Americans after all). But the days of wheeling the kids around in the grocery store trolley, quieting them with snacks of banana, apple chips, crackers and string cheese, torn and half empty packets lolling open and sticky on the checkout belt, are gone. French people just don’t walk around eating things at all times of day. It would be weird.

There’s a sea change all over I think. People are going back to farmers markets, growing their own (I could never do this as my thumbs are black as soot) and learning and trying new things. It’s exciting and fun and then you get to eat it. I’ve learned how to make things at home out of necessity that I would have relied on a restaurant to make for me before. We’re back to Tex-Mex again, you realize.

I’ve tasted things in French restaurants that have moved me. I’m talking close your eyes and savor the moment delicious. So sublime was one egg that I couldn’t stop thinking about it and had to make it at home. Something I never would have done back in Texas, maybe because I could always just pop back out and have it again. Also because I have never seen a soft-boiled egg breaded and fried and served over an earthy mushroom cream before. That’s France for you.

France has taught me how to enjoy food; portions, patience, and quality are the secrets of a good meal. Be it curry night or homemade pizza chez nous, the portions are reasonable, there’s not a lot of fuss or dishes per course and we eat slowly, savoring and talking as we go. Before France, we always ate together as a family so this isn’t new. It’s the way we do it here that’s different, that has changed us. It will be a part of my childrens’ relationship to food and fellowship forever.

Bon appetit!

About the author

Aidan resides in France with her family and blogs at Conjugating Irregular Verbs. Follow her @aidan_larson

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hommage to French Fried TV & Grover

This is a hommage to a homage. I spelled that that way on purpose. The French hommage has two mms, while ours only has one. Funny thing, this new language. Some things are so much the same that I can't understand them when they're spoken with a French accent. I digress.

Robert Hoehn, the brains behind the funny French Fried TV videos, did the first homage to Grover.
You do you remember Sesame Street's Grover? The lovable, furry old monster at the end of the book, the Yoda voice whom I can never take seriously when watching Star Wars, everyone's favorite blue monster.

Well, do you remember when he showed us (I was four years old in 1975, so yes, he showed me) the difference between near and far.

You do? Oh, good. That's great. You'll get this then.
You don't? Oh, no. You'll have to watch this then.

In his hommage, Robert shows us all the difference between 'here' and 'zhere' in French, running up and down a Parisian street, silly and out of breath. And my kids thought it was hilarious.

Really it was the Middlest that got the biggest kick out of it. Maybe it's a boy thing, but watching Robert run back and forth, exhausted but patient, explaining the difference between here and there really cracked him up. We had to watch the 2:13 video more than a few times.

This two minutes of brilliant film making so inspired my Middlest that he asked if he could make his own version of here and there.

Of course I agreed, not wanting to dampen the lively Grover and Le Frog Burger spirit sparking in the Middlest, and filmed him as he ran up and down, back and forth on our terrace illustrating the difference between near and far, here and there.

A hommage to a homage. I hope you enjoy it.

Forgive the wobbling and the giggling and the appearance of Clementine. She always has to be in the shot. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cantaloupe & Cucumber Summer Brochettes

The melons have officially arrived. That's cantaloupe to you at home. It's time to do a happy dance.

It seems later than last year and I am told it's thanks to all the rain we had early this spring. I waited patiently (not really) checking the market and grocery store every week for them.
Mauguio Melons. Here in the Herault, they don't get any sweeter.

Grown only a few kilometers from my door, they loll in the fields, ripening in perfect rows, veined, bumpy skin and orange flesh, the summer gourd that tastes as sweet as candy. Or so says the Littlest.

Over in Provence, the sweetest and most fragrant melons are grown in Cavaillon. I made us detour through the town on one of our road trips just to see where the famous melons were grown. They and a 1st century Roman arch are the main attractions.

Be they Mauguio or Cavaillon, the cantaloupe melon means only one thing. Summer. And seeing as this is the day after the Summer Solstice, it's the perfect time for these summer brochettes of cantaloupe, cucumber, goat's cheese, cured ham and mint.

Serve these pretty little skewers as an appetizer at your weekend bbq and watch them disappear. The combination of salty ham and sweet melon is always a favorite. Adding the fresh crunch of cucumber and creamy goat's cheese puts it over the top. You could always use those adorable, round mozzarella balls or chunks of feta if you prefer. (they'll be saltier with feta)

I would even have these on top of salad greens for lunch. Maybe every day. Just throw in some nuts, say a toasted pecan or two, and you have your summer go-to salad. I live on dishes like this this time of year.

Ma Fille assembled these last night for our starter and I garnished with the mint, fruity olive oil, sea salt and fresh black pepper. Try them. You'll see. Summer has arrived in the South of France.

Cantaloupe Melon & Cucumber Summer Brochettes

1 perfectly ripe, fragrant cantaloupe melon
1 cucumber
6-8 (this will depend on the size of your disks) small medium firm disks of fresh goat's cheese
4 slices of cured ham, such as Parma
fresh mint
fruity olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
small, wooden skewers (you can find these at any grocery store, I'm sure)

Halve, seed, peel and cube the melon.
Peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Cut into cubes or chunky half moons.

Leaving your ham in one slab, cut through all four slices vertically, making small layered chunks. Be sure they're not too thick and don't have too much fat in one section though.

If you're using the goat's cheese rounds, simply cut them into quarters, cleaning your knife as you go so it doesn't stick and cause the cheese to crumble. I hope you can find these cheeses in your supermarket. If not, use the firmest goat's cheese you can and cut into chunky pieces.

Now it's just down to assembly. Thread each item, in a row onto the skewer, changing up the order as you like.

Keep them cool in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.
At the last minute, roll the fresh mint leaves into a cigar shape and finely slice.
Sprinkle over the brochettes and add a drizzle of the olive oil.
Salt and pepper.

Serve as a starter or as a salad topper.

Welcome, summer. I'm glad you're here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

French Food Blog Link-Up, Share Your Favorite

I love food blogs. I love when I see a beautiful new photograph of something delicious pop into my reader. I pin all of the things I'd like to try and also some I know I would never have the patience to attempt but think are pretty and wish someone else would make for me.

{Jamie's Gluten-Free Brownies}

One of my favorite blogs is Jamie's Life's a Feast. Not only does Jamie make delicious food with beautiful photography, she always responds kindly to comments, keeping up the reciprocal happy nature that makes the blogosphere so special.
Oh, and she also happens to write really, really well. I love reading the story around the recipe as much as collecting the recipe itself. She's here in France too and so is inspired by the same things the rest of us are when it comes to one of our favorite topics--food.

If you don't already know of her blog, have a look.The gluten-free brownies above will make a few of you very happy, I know.

Now, what I'd like you to do is to share a link to one of your favorite French food blogs. Just down there in the link-up spot. Go ahead and comment too if you'd like. There can never be enough food talk as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, June 18, 2012

School Gate French

Sometimes I dread the school pick-up. I'm sure you might sometimes too.

My dread comes from having to put on my French speaking clothes, metaphorically of course. There's not a magic dress that I can put on and, voila!, my French improves. Oh, that there was...

No, it's less of a dress some days and more like armor. Or maybe the armor is my English speaking outfit, when I just can't make my brain work in French and so sit in the car until the very last minute, keep my head down while waiting for the gate to open and get by with just a few bisous and 'Bonjours! and ca vas?'.

All around me, all of the time, people speak French. My kids even do it.

{Clementine, just because}
I can do it too.
But it can be exhausting.

Bestie K told me that when she talks to some of the immigrant moms at her daughters' school in Texas, she always thinks of me.
She imagines me at the school gate in the role of the ESL mom, struggling and butchering the language just to say a few quick sentences, make some jokes, be human. And it's not far off. I do feel that way at times.

More and more I feel like the mom who would let her children speak for her, the mom I never wanted to be.

But maybe I'm being a bit hard on myself. I do talk all the time. I do try a bit every day. It's just that sometimes it's so dad-gum hard that I feel like giving up, giving in, relinquishing my struggle to be understood as me, rather than just a few sparse, frugally constructed sentences.

The isolation of this does creep in. The trick is not to let the isolation turn into a happy place. By this I mean, not to let the isolation make you pad yourself further until you give up needing to be a part of your new community and language. We have a happy, little English-speaking American embassy of sorts here Chez Larson. The important thing, and the challenge, is to break out of it every day. To leave it at home and to speak and listen and engage out there in the French world.

The longer you live somewhere the less brave you become. Why is that?

Do any of you struggle with life in a new language?
How do you keep from feeling pleasantly isolated from it?

{American Zone, Chez Larson}
For now, I'm off to put on all my French speaking clothes and just get on with it.
I'll especially need them today. I'm spending it at the lake with Ma Fille's class for sports day. She told me that when her teacher said I was one of the parents coming today, several of her friends shouted a little 'ouais!!' and said they wanted to be in my group.
Maybe it doesn't matter that I'm sitting firmly on a French plateau. Maybe they do 'get' me, after all.

I need a little, bon courage!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bellini Ice Cream Floats

Do you remember when you were a kid and it was summer and you'd played all day outside, exhausted, filthy, blissfully free and happy and starving hungry?
And sometimes after a dinner of burgers or hot dogs you'd get the ultimate dessert.
A Coke float.
Maybe you preferred Big Red or Dr Pepper.

Am I giving away my East Texas roots too much here?

{bellini ice cream goodness}

If you don't remember or think I may have lost the plot completely, then let me remind and explain.

A Coke float is a tall soda or milkshake glass filled with a couple of scoops of your favorite vanilla ice cream and topped with Coca-Cola. Or Dr Pepper. Or Big Red. Or Orange Crush. Endless possibilities really but it's always called simply a 'coke float'.
The way we Texans just say 'coke' for every fizzy soda drink.

When you pour the Coca-Cola over the vanilla ice cream it fizzes and bubbles, frothing into foam that kind of crusts up from the carbonation.You put your straw in and slurp and are instantly rewarded with sweet, creamy goodness--the ultimate summer treat.

I think it's one better than your garden variety milkshake because of the bubbly top that you can eat with a spoon. I save it until the end but some can't wait and scoop up the crusty foam before taking even one sip.

Now to the grown-up part. I started thinking about making some homemade peach ice cream. I love peach ice cream and the peaches are all so nice and juicy right now.

And then, the wheels kept turning and I thought, what if I made a kind of peach ice cream float with Prosecco poured over? Would it bubble and fizz the way my coke floats used to? Peaches and Prosecco, that's what makes a bellini!

I love a bellini, the sweet, peachy Italian cocktail served fizzing with Prosecco. I'm sure you do too. So I gave it a try. For you.

I made peach ice cream roughly following one of Nigella's basic egg custard ice cream recipes. When it was ready I scooped out two rounded spoons, put them in a glass, popped a bottle of cold Prosecco and poured it over.

And guess what? It's delicious. A refreshing, grown-up float. The bellini, only pumped up to a creamy, heavenly dessert. A very adult version of a childhood favorite.

Here's the recipe if you'd like to see for yourself.
You could always skip the ice cream making step but homemade ice cream is just so fun and relatively easy to do. There's something about the moment the custard begins to thicken up and coat the back of the spoon that makes me feel like a magician. That's always a fun feeling.

Bellini Ice Cream Floats

10 ripe peaches, peeled, stoned and cut into chunks
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup of whipping or double cream

1 bottle Prosecco Italian sparkling wine

To make the ice cream:
(recipe adapted from Nigella's Forever Summer cookbook)

Pour the whole milk into a saucepan and warm over medium heat. Just to warming, not bubbling or steaming in any way.
Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla.
When the milk is warm, very slowly pour it over the whisked egg yolk mixture, whisking as you go. If you do it too quickly the eggs will scramble and no one wants that.

Wash out your milk saucepan and pour the whisked mixture back into it.

Here's the part that can get tricky. It's also the part that will make you feel magical.
Fill a bowl full of cold water and keep it nearby, I usually keep mine in the sink because it's handy. This is just in case the eggs start to get too warm and begin to curdle before they thicken. It's ok if they start, just quickly plunge the hot saucepan into the cold water and stir, stir, stir.
Ok, don't worry. Really.

Now that your egg and milk mixture are back in the saucepan on a moderately high heat you just start stirring. Nice and easy with a wooden spoon. Stirring all the time. It should only take about 10 minutes for it to thicken into a custard. Or what we call a pudding consistency. It will coat the back of the spoon and smell heavenly and you will feel like you've accomplished something so cool. Trust me.

If little bits start to form in the mixture as you're heating and stirring that means you need to stick the saucepan in the bowl of cold water, stirring, stirring, stirring to keep it from curdling. You can easily stop it if you do this. It happened to me yesterday and everything turned out fine.

When your custard is finished, take a little bow, tell everyone around to come have a look and a sniff and then leave it to cool completely.

While you're waiting, peel and stone your peaches and blitz them into a chunky puree. I personally like to have a few bits of peach in my ice cream but smooth it as much as you like.

When the custard has cooled completely, add it to the peach puree and whip the 1/2 cup of cream until thickened. Fold it into the peachy custard and then freeze in an electric ice cream maker.  This will give you around 1 liter of ice cream.

When the ice cream is frozen and you're ready for your bellini float, simply scoop out two balls each into pretty glasses, pop some very cold Prosecco and pour it over until nearly full.
You want to use a relatively small glass here considering it's booze and not coke you're adding.
But I will leave this entirely up to you.

Serve with straws and a long spoon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tom Darnell--Texan, Artist

Last week I got an email from another Texan living nearby. She and her husband have been here for years, since 1993, to be exact, and they have made a life here, had children here. More Texans making Tex-Mex and sharing the love in the South of France. I was delighted to hear from her.

But more than that (and the reason I'm sharing this with you) he is an artist. And I wanted you to see his work and read his story. I hope they don't mind my doing so.

As soon as I read the email, I went straight to his website to have a look. I don't know what I was expecting, really. But it wasn't what I saw.

{, image}
 His landscapes of plane trees along the Canal du Midi and starlings flying across a cloudy European sky are so real they could be mistaken for photographs. Is that a compliment to an artist? I hope so.
And the peonies. Delicate, feathery, barely pink. Stunning.

It's inspiring to see a person whose art is their livelihood. Someone who fulfills their passion every day. And makes something beautiful for all of us to enjoy.

Have a look. See for yourself. Tell him what you think.

What is your passion? Do you fulfill it a little bit every day?

Monday, June 11, 2012

N'Importe Quoi

One of Ma Fille's favorite words. N'importe quoi.

It means, 'whatever' 'so what', 'what you just said makes no sense at all'. She says it all the time to the Middlest. A lot to P-Daddy, and yes, even to me. The Littlest kind of lives in a permanent state of 'n'importe quoi' as far as she's concerned.

It's the end of another school year. She's finishing what we Americans call 4th grade, or French  CM1, she's fluent, happy and standing at the border of 'ado'. Her toes are just at the line, tipping. Sometimes she crosses over and the 'n'importe quoi' has a moody meanness to it, but mostly it's a happy, funny response to the way I've said how proud of her I am or the way P-Daddy gets completely lost when we speak French at the dinner table.

I don't care if I get the attitude, eye rolling, 'whatever'. Because I am proud of them. All three. Remarkably so. Because they started French school at the end of the year, two. years. ago., they've done this end of year thing three times. And all of this 'whatever' has reminded me of this post I wrote at the end of our first May, June and July of school.

The other day in the car on our way to school, she smiled and said, 'I just love my school.' Happily anticipated another great day.
That's what makes a parent feel proud and happy. All the rest is just 'n'importe quoi.'.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Nectarines Poached in Herbes de Provence

I love summer for so many reasons; the long, warm nights, linen shorts, swimming in the salty, cool Med, an afternoon on the terrace. Juicy, sweet cantaloupe melons.

And stone fruits. Nectarines especially. I've always preferred their firmer texture and smooth skin to their soft, fuzzy cousin.There are yellow and white fleshed ones at the market right now and I can't keep from buying big baskets full.

The Littlest loves them too. He and I take greedy bites, letting the juice run down our arms, tasting the sweet tartness of summer.

I've long thought about using herbes de provence  to make a simple syrup for use in a dessert or drink. The earthiness of the herbes brings their signature flavor to so many savory things,why not ground something unexpected in their flavor?

An herbes scented syrup is delicious with a splash of vodka and loads of ice served in a sugar rimmed glass. Try it next time you have an apero hour along with light, soft goat cheese, crispy toasts and hard, smoked sausages.

From there it's just a stone's throw to poaching. It's something you do to pears and apples during the cold winter months but the simplicity of it is perfectly suited to a summer dessert.

My favorite blushing summer beauty holds up well to poaching and its lightness is perfect for the season. No one wants a heavy finish to an afternoon meal in the heat of June.

The herbes de Provence add a hint of French countryside to the tart sweetness of the yellow flesh. You'll feel like you're driving through Provence with your windows down on the perfect summer's day, wind blowing your hair, the sun shining on fields of scented lavender and bejeweled cherry trees heavy with fruit.

Serve with a pillow of freshly whipped cream and their pale pink poaching liquid thickened into a light syrup.
They are a surprise ending to a summer lunch, transporting you to the Luberon valley, no matter where you are.

Poached Nectarines in Herbes de Provence with Simple Syrup

4-6 ripe nectarines
1 liter of fresh water
1 1/4 cups of sugar, plus more for syrup and cream
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
whipping cream

Wash your nectarines and cut a tiny cross in the bottom of each.
Fill a pot with the water and 1 and 1/4 cups sugar under a medium heat, stirring until the sugar is melted.
Add the herbes and vanilla along with the prepared nectarines and bring to a low boil.
Simmer the nectarines for 15-25 minutes until the flesh can be easily pierced with a knife but not so soft they fall apart.You don't want nectarine mush.

Whip your cream with a tablespoon or two of sugar and set aside.

When the nectarines are ready, remove them from the poaching liquid with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. If you want to serve them peeled you should do this as soon as they're cool enough to handle, starting from the cross you made in the bottom.

Now to the simple syrup.
Strain about a cup of the poaching liquid through a sieve and into a smaller pot with 1/4 cup of sugar over the highest heat. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, melt the sugar and bring to a rolling boil until thickened. This may take a couple of minutes. And it is very hot and sticky so be careful. No kiddie helpers for this part.

Let the syrup cool. It will be the prettiest pale shade of pinky peach. Just so, so pretty.

When you're ready to serve, dribble some syrup into your dish, add a nectarine or two and a dab of the cream. And yum.
Enjoy its subtle loveliness and say 'merci, merci' to your delighted guests.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

French Blog Link Up--It's Your Turn

There are many great Francophile and expat bloggers out there; some I read religiously, learn from, am inspired by. And some, I'm happy to say, have become real-life friends.

I'd like to hear from all of you so I've created this link up where you can share your favorite French themed blog. 

It's all about sharing the love, touting someone who you think adds something creative, beautiful, inspiring or fun to your love of France. You can add your own blog if you'd like. I'm sure you're full of creative, beautiful and inspiring things yourself.

I'll start with one of the blogs that challenges and supports me in my daily struggle to speak the language I find myself surrounded by. I have that Coldplay song running through my head all the time, 'They're talking in a language I don't speak, and they're talking it to me.'

I can't wait to see what blogs ya'll add.

Monday, June 4, 2012

La Montpellier-Reine 4k for Mother's Day

Yesterday was Fête des Mères here in France, that's Mother's Day to all of you. To celebrate, Ma Fille and I ran the Montpellier Reine 4k benefiting breast cancer research.

4k is about 2 and a half miles, so not too long for my debut runner to finish.The route was around downtown Montpellier, starting at the top of the city at the Jardin du Peyrou, running under the triumphal Arch and winding down through the cobbled and slippery marble streets, passing shop windows, cafes and the Musee Fabre.

We wound through narrow lanes lined with apartments carved from 18th century buildings, their residents peering out over windows to get a look and cheer us on.

One group played the guitar, serenading us from their window, joggers singing and waving to them as they ran by. Some joggers were dressed up in wigs and big, over-sized sunglasses; a man in a huge inflated bum suit made us laugh.

Ma Fille loved the energy of it. I knew she would. She said she thought it was cool that everyone was clapping and cheering for us. And she just kept jogging.

Before the start we had decided to walk and run, taking our time and finishing comfortably. This being her first race, I wanted it to be fun. But she ended up jogging the whole thing, passing people who had stopped jogging to walk the final half mile back up the hill to the park, finishing in 26 minutes and collecting her pink rose and goodie bag.

{post-race, yay Ma Fille!}

I was so proud of her I (guess what) almost cried. She looked at me and said, 'Mom, you're so weird. You're not going to cry are you?' Of course not, don't be silly.

She stuck her number to her bedroom wall and wrote '4k' on her calendar last night before she went to bed. I think we have a new runner in the house.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Paillotes--One of My Favorite Things

Every summer they appear. To my great joy and excitement. Along the stretch of beach that runs between the towns of Carnon and La Grande Motte, the paillotes are rebuilt for the season.

Paillotes are seasonal restaurants right on the beach with sun loungers and parasols for the taking, all day if you like. You pay a set fee for the chair, its cushion, a parasol and lunch of a big salad and bottle of water. All you have to do is relax.

It's what I dream of when I dream of a holiday. And somehow, I actually live here and can drive the 20 minutes to my favorite place. We took the day yesterday while all three kids were in school to do just that. We arrived at 9:30 and left at 3:30 with swimming, napping, reading and eating, plus a small bottle of cold pink wine in between.

{blackberry photo, but you get the idea}
We're thinking this should be a weekly tradition until the end of the school year. A mid-week break in our own neighborhood, lying on the beach and watching the world go by; sailboats zipping across the Med, airplanes flying overhead bringing and taking people to and from our petit coin of paradise, Stephan the Daniel Craig looking waiter delivering big salads with wedges of orange melon and soft goat cheese toasts on big trays, joggers and walkers and dogs and kids parading past all day long.

My favorite time of the year has officially arrived.
Do you love summer?
Tell me your dream destination. Or borrow mine. There's a beach lounger waiting for you...