Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sunshine + Pinterest Favorites

A couple of weeks ago, the inspiring, green-thumbed Jacqui of French Village Diaries sent me some blog love in the form of the Sunshine Blog Award.

Jacqui is one of those all-round bloggers who make you wonder where they find the time to do all the wonderful, beautiful and interesting stuff they do. She is positivity itself and I am thankful to know her, if only virtually.

The big sunshine orange gerbera daisy says it all.  It made me happy to think that she thinks I'm sunshiney and a blogger who "positively and creatively inspires others in the blogosphere”. Wow! That's really nice. Thanks Jacqui!

{the sunshine award}
I am delighted to pass it on. I hope it's okay that I decided to twist it up and share some of my favorite positive and creative Pinterest boards. Some are uplifting and some are beautiful, while others just make me smile. Isn't that what sunshine is all about?

Rachel in Rio's Life Board.

Ashley of Tres Ashley's sweetness Board.

Fellow Texan, Chickster from UpUpandAwayz' giggles Board.

Traci aka MrsFrench's Handsome Board.

Jenna of one of my favorite cooking blogs, Eat, Live, Run's Peanut Butter Lovin! Board.

Russell VJ Ward, Brit in Sydney, inspiring thinker and author of In Search of a Life Less Ordinary Writing Tips Board.

Amanda Clarke's Me Board.

Jennifer of Chez Lou Lou's la France board.

Debbie's perfectly appropriate and gorgeous Orange board.

Amy's blog, This Heart of Mine, is filled with beautiful things and so is her Lovelies board.

If you're the owner of the noted board, then feel free to do this: 
Thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it.
Answer the questions on your favorites below.
Pass on the award to 10 fabulous bloggers, link their blogs, and let them know you awarded them.

My Favorite...

color has to be turquoise; the color of French shutters, peacock feathers, warm seas and sea glass.

animal is of course, my darling Clementine Mirabel Petals.  

number is 40, because it's been such a great year.

drink is a margarita on the rocks, no sugar. pow!

day is any day we're all together with no obligations.

flower is white wisteria. I can't get enough of it at the moment.

{Architect Design TM, credit}

And now the questions veer from favorites so I will veer right along with them.

Facebook or Twitter? FB for friends, Twitter for a quick fix of what's going on.
My Passion?  learning new things, sharing ideas, a delicious drawn-out meal, P-Daddy. (I'm too passionate for just one answer.)

Giving or getting presents? For sure, giving. I don't really like getting presents. It makes me feel weird.

Have a wonderful day everyone.
What are some of your favorite Pinterest boards? I'd love for you to share them with me. Show me your pins!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Last May Holiday

Today is the last of the four May holidays here in France.

It's also a holiday for all of you in the States, so happy Memorial Day. I've learned more about the two World Wars since living in France, surrounded by living memorials, the past always playing a role in the psyche of the present.
Today, and every day, I am grateful, respectful and in awe of the men and women who sacrifice their safety, comfort, dreams and lives so that I can have and enjoy all of the above.

On another note, much more frivolous, today marks exactly 19 years since I met P-Daddy.
Back then he was just a tanned blue-eyed guy holding a cold tallboy, sitting on the wooden steps of a pier on Lake Travis. I was dating someone else, he was returning to Austin to 'retire' and take some post-grad classes at UT; French, Art History, English Lit. Romantic and irresistible.

I don't want to overstate this, but it was definitely something real close to love at first sight, even though it took some time for it to work itself out.

So far, so good. Wednesday marks our 14th anniversary. This week will be full of love and peonies.
At least it better.

I hope you're enjoying this day off, whether it's the 4th or the 1st one you've had this month.

Here's to gratitude, love, sunshine, lakes, beaches, pools, and remembering.
Oh, and tallboys.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Happy Little Bird Family

We have a nest of baby birds tucked safely away in the tiles of our terrace eaves. You can hear their tiny squeaks.

Every day the proud parents keep watch from all around the garden. That's what I have decided is the Mommy up there in the pine tree.

And the proud Papa sitting on our terrace railing.

I snapped these photos of them taking turns feeding the hidden babies. I love how he's watching over the situation, making sure it all goes down well.

And here they both are flying in to keep guard from the top of the tiles.

 The Papa flies in with a juicy worm, wings spread.

 Anyone have an idea what kind of birds we have living on the terrace with us?

Monday, May 21, 2012

French Nounou aka Dogsitter

We went away a few weekends ago to Ireland. You might know that we lived there for five years before we moved to France. You might also know how much we love the little green island and its inhabitants. Ireland was a life changer for us, no question.

So, back we went to visit friends and to tell that part of our story.

The thing was, we had to find a place for the Gurley, aka Clementine, to stay while we were gone. I've never had a dog before. I've never felt what I now am in the throes of, right up to my dog licked face. The love of a good puppy.

When she smells, I don't mind. When she begs to go for a walk in the rain, I don't mind. And when I can get away with it, I sneak her bits of meat and cheese.

The thought of putting her in a kennel made me sad. Not to mention the difficulties I was afraid of having in finding a good place for her with the whole French thing. You remember that, right?

As with most things that I fret over, it worked out better than I'd hoped. I asked a neighbor. Her little shitzu Caramel had just been to the doggie parlor so I figured she'd know a thing or two about high quality dog hotels. I was right.

She emailed me a list of choices. One of which was a nounou. Or dog nanny.

Here in France, there's a program for families so mothers (usually it's us) can go back to work and have an inexpensive, safe and quality place to send their infants and toddlers. These retired ladies (again, it just usually is) are certified to keep children in their homes.

It's subsidized, of course.

Nounous are grannies for hire who feed the kids homemade lunches, take them on errands and to the park, put them down for naps and push their strollers around the village, pacifiers firmly in mouth. The babies', not the nounous'.

Pascale, the magnificent, bubbly, Golden lover does just this, but for dogs.
She's my dog nounou. And I love her.

I called, we talked, she speaks English. Check.
Clementine and I went over for a meet and greet to see if she would fit in with Pascale's Goldie, Champagne and Pascale's mother's Bichon, Biscot.

Clementine sniffed and played with the others while Pascale and I had a coffee. It was agreed that Clementine passed the test and would be more than welcome to spend the weekend, chez Champagne.

On the morning of the drop-off, Pascale was on her way to feed a cat. She's just so lovely!

She was already minding Eliot, another very handsome Golden who was seated proudly in the back of her little car.

Champagne was there too, in the front floorboard trying to get away from the rest of them. He's eleven.
Biscot was also there, as was Lulu, another Bichon who climbed up in the back and perched there, looking out the window.

Clementine got in, said her goodbyes to me and Ma Fille, booted Biscot to the middle, and took her seat.

{Clementine and her buddies}

This tiny car had three full-sized Golden Retrievers, two Bichons (shout out Mitzi!), and Pascale. It was hilarious. But also such a good way to say bon weekend to our Gurley.

She was never really a great fan of the car, sometimes getting sick, usually refusing to clamber on in.

Now? She loves it. Can't get enough. And begs to go with me to pick up the kids from school.

Merci Pascale! You're one fabulous nounou.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Speaking French, Making Banana Bread

Yesterday was the third of four holidays this month. That means the kids and P-Daddy are with me again for most of the week. I love a bit of togetherness, but really people. This is getting ridiculous!

Ma Fille loves to cook and so decided to make some banana bread with the last two over-ripe bananas in the fruit bowl. The Littlest thought that looked like a great way to spend the morning, so he drug in the step stool and got involved.


Divide and conquer, I always say. When the kids separate into groups of two there isn't as much screaming and tattling. Sometimes it's the Middlest and the Littlest who kill bad guys out in the overgrown garden, other times it's Ma Fille and the Middlest dancing on the terrace.

Any way it happens is great for me.
At least it happens.

I love seeing them get totally into something together, cooperating and negotiating without getting cross and running to me with complaints. These are the sunshine moments of parenting.

Yesterday's bread baking turned into one of these moments. I was busy spring cleaning when I heard the chatter. French chatter. I snuck a peek into the kitchen to revel in the kindness and P-Daddy had already been drawn in. He was recording it. Happiness and sharing? In French.

Banana bread never took so long to make, nor has making it ever been quite so messy. But I think it was worth it all. It tasted pretty good too.

Here's the recipe they used, but it's not really about that is it?

Banana Bread
from Martha Day 'complete baking' 


1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2-3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten

Grease and flour a loaf pan, preheat oven.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a bowl.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the mashed bananas and beaten eggs and mix well.
Add in dry ingredients and blend evenly.
Spoon into prepared loaf pan.
Cook for up to one hour, checking at 45 minutes.

Eat in big slices slathered in creamy butter with a cup of hot, milky tea.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our Fifteen Minutes Took 30+ Hours

I've been a bit incommunicado these past weeks and now I can tell you why. I'm exhausted! But totally excited to share this news with you.

We've just spent a weekend with some fantastic people and learned a thing or two about what a long time it takes to get enough footage to make a good half hour of television.

{Middlest & Ma Fille playing show business}

I'm happy to say that we loved every minute of it. And it was all down to Kim, Mike and Joe and the help of the child-wrangling PA, Lucie. Thank you, thank you!

Our kids cried big, wobbly tears when we said our goodbyes.

{When I Grow Up...}

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that none of us will ever forget. I even fancied myself quite the television star there for a while, confiding in P-Daddy that I might like to try my hand at commercials after all this. Alas, my starry notions tumbled back to Earth when I remembered that to succeed in television you have to rock the singles.

{Thanks Mike and Joe!}
Singles are when the camera focuses directly or 'singly' on you while you're talking. Thanks to timidity or self-consciousness, I like to hide behind this blog and take time with my words, as soon as I knew that big, heavy camera was clocking me I'd get all gu-gu, gu-gu bajiggety.

P-Daddy, on the other hand, became more eloquent and verbose as we went, throwing down all sorts of round about full sentences and insightful commentary. And getting more than his fair share of singles, I'm sure.

Oh, stardust, you're such a fickle mistress.

All that work and energy and now we wait. Our fate is in the hands of the editors (you're all so brilliant, now be kind to me) who will cut and splice, alter and perfect, whittle and tease all those tireless hours down to 22 minutes of show.

{Girls Behind the Lens}
Fellow Americans, I am counting on you. When you see our happy faces on the previews of your favorite Home and Garden network in a couple of months, please let me know.

{Full Crew}
Until then, I'll have to be patient and reminisce, dreaming of the stolen few days when the spotlight shone squarely on me.
Gu-gu, gu-gu, uhm....'is it rain-ing? I had-n't no-ticed.'

Monday, May 14, 2012

Layered Salad--Texas Picnic Style

When I was a little girl in East Texas we'd go to family reunions every year. They were always picnic potlucks. One of the things you could count on was a version of this layered salad in a clear bowl with twinned salad tongs.

{P-Daddy spooning out the goodness}

It's a smart choice, really.
Because the dressing sits on top of all the vegetables that would otherwise get all soggy and limp, it's great for making ahead and transporting.

You can put it all together, cover it in Saran or your favorite Tupperware lid and put it in the middle of the flowered tablecloth.

Its beauty is in its simplicity and variety. You can add anything you like; just pick your favorite vegetable and salad green combination and experiment.

Because I've always liked it, I put a sweet dressing on top the first time I made it. P-Daddy and Ma Fille aren't fans of the savory and sweet thing so they requested I change it up for their tastes the next time.

P-Daddy suggested using his tried and true Roquefort dressing, which would be delicious, but I didn't want to get rid of the cheddar cheese layer of the salad. I'm a sucker for cheddar and peas. Can't explain it, won't try to.

The second time around I made a ranchy kind of dressing--without the packet because France has never heard of ranch dressing. I wanted it to be thick enough to sit on top so I nixed the buttermilk I usually use.

And it worked.
If you think you'd like the one with more of a sweet kick like you'll find in the broccoli/pea salad I always loved from Central Market, then all you have to do is replace the lime juice and chives with two tablespoons of white sugar. It's not like it sounds.

Layered Salad

2 stalks celery
1 spring onion
dash plain white vinegar
5 radishes
1 avocado
1 cup peas
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 slices bacon
3 boiled eggs
iceberg or other crunchy lettuce
baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp lime juice
chopped chives

Chop the celery and spring onion, including the green part, into small pieces. Put in a small bowl and add a splash of plain white vinegar. Let this sit while you do the rest.

Boil the eggs and cook the bacon. Drain the bacon on paper towels and crumble into bite-sized pieces. Chop the eggs in dice or into rounds, whichever you prefer.

Slice the radish and avocado and set aside.
Cook the peas and allow to cool.

Mix the dressing by combining the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice and chives.

Remove celery and spring onion from the vinegar, squeezing away any excess.

When your ingredients are ready, all you have to do is assemble.

Layer the ingredients in a bowl.

I like to go in this order:
celery and onions
repeat until finished.

When you've used up all the goodies then you're ready to cover it all in dressing.
Simply spread the dressing over the top of the salad's top layer, coating to the edges like icing a cake. Cover and chill or serve immediately.
Tell me. Do you like cheddar and peas as much as I do?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May Days

I've missed sitting here writing and sharing with you. I've missed sitting if you want to know the truth.

May is the month of sunshine and flowers, birthdays (Clementine's) and our anniversary (14 years!) but if you're French or living in France, it's the month of making bridges. I told you all about this perk of French life last year.
This month there are four bank holidays, therefore four bridges, and therefore four weeks of three work days.

Tuesday, May 1st 2012: Fête du travail or Labor Day
Tuesday, May 8th 2012: Victory in Europe Day (thanks Grandad)
Thursday, May 17th 2012: Ascension
Monday, May 28th 2012: Pentecôte

This all means I have had a lot of kids and P-Daddy keeping me busy and away from this spot.

Plus, we're in the midst of working on something fantastic and exciting, especially for our family and friends and those of you who are back home in the States.We just got back from Ireland where we worked on part of it and this upcoming weekend will be spent filming here in France. I can't say anymore until later but it's so fun!

In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite May things.

{birthday girl}
{fresh asparagus}

{medieval festivals}

{years with this guy}