Monday, February 28, 2011

I Don't Have a Dryer

I am an American. I have three children. And I don't have a dryer.
Fellow Americans who read this may be shocked. Or not. They may be used to strange ideas and think 'better her than me' or maybe they'll think it's very green of me and therefore tres chic. Country peasant chic, yurt and music festival chic, sandals and granola chic; but chic all the same.
Well, I tell you. I don't do it for these reasons.Yes, the green factor is good but it's just a by-product of living in Europe. They don't really do the dryer like we Americans do. I don't think any other country does the dryer the way we do to be honest.
I looked around some today and found that while certain gated communities in Dubai don't allow you to hang your clothes outside on a line this opinion isn't found in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, the UK and even my beloved, damp and cloudy Ireland.
It's no big deal not to have a dryer here in France. Sure, this winter there were a few days where I cursed the lack of fast-drying towels and sheets. But for the most part I don't mind it; and secretly love it in a efficient, tidy, fresh air kind of way. My towels look more crunchy (think exfoliating) than those churned and softened in a heated drum but they smell like all the springy fresh cotton greenness that the fabric softeners try to replicate thanks to the sunshine and wind. I can't pass up a breezy, sunny day without hanging out some white shirts, crib sheets and polka-dot pyjamas.

microdermabrasion yes, but also fresh
What would be the worst thing to happen if you hung out the washing? Would you consider doing it?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Seasonal Sunday--Honeyed, Spiced Pork Stew

The sun is shining in the South of France and all around there are signs of spring. I've picked daffodils from my jungle of a garden, eaten lunch on the easterly facing terrace and spent a Sunday afternoon on the beach. These things herald the coming of my favorite demi of the year and with that the end to shorter days and richer, warmer dishes.
French Spring
When we lived in Ireland I learned how to make a delicious pork stew from my neighbor. She made it for us one filtered spring afternoon and I've loved it ever since. I actually made it again later that week; following my tastebuds and adding here and there, tweaking it to make it my own. It is a perfect Sunday stew for this shoulder of the seasons.
Irish Spring
It's the classic combination of honey, grainy mustard and pork but in stew form and gently spiced with cumin and ground coriander. My Irish friend served hers over a mash of fresh Irish turnips and potatoes and it is perfect this way.

Honeyed Spiced Pork Stew

600g pork shoulder, no bones trimmed and cut into bite-sized chunks
6 oz smoked lardons or streaky bacon, cut into small strips
2 organic carrots, diced
2 leeks, slivered
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon runny honey (no flowery ones here)
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 tablespoons grainy mustard
olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 160C/320F.

To start, trim and cut your pork into bite-sized pieces and then dry in paper towels and set aside. Chop carrots and clean and slice leeks.
If you're using regular American bacon then slice it into small strips.
Warm a glug of olive oil in an oven-proof stew pot and add lardons or bacon, stirring to keep from sticking for 2 or so minutes until just browned. Add in trimmed, dry pork and brown all over. You may need to do the pork in batches.
Remove the meat from the pot.
Put in the carrots and leeks with the salt and stir well, scraping up all the good bacony, meaty bits that are stuck to the bottom. This will take about 7-9 minutes until the veg is soft.
Then, add the meat back into the pot with the veg and stir to blend.
Add in the spices, cumin and coriander, honey and mustard. Stir well.
Add in the flour and stir to combine then cook for 2 minutes to get rid of the 'floury' taste.

Add in enough water just to cover.
Put a lid on your pot and place the stew in a preheated oven for 3 hours.

Thanks for the recipe
This is absolutely perfect served with any mashed root vegetable either on the side or as a base for the stew like you'd do rice. I love it with the mashed turnips and potatoes as mentioned above but last time I used mashed sweet potatoes blended with creme fraiche.

A note about the cumin and ground coriander. If you don't like fresh coriander/cilantro please don't be put off by the ground coriander in this recipe. It doesn't taste the same in this way and the cumin doesn't overpower or stand out but gently spices the stew in an earthy way. They play a supporting role here rather than the main hit you'll find in Mexican and Spanish dishes. Trust me. (And if you try it and hate it you can tell me and then I'll eat my words.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Year in France--Anniversary Post

Today's my one year France Blogiversary and I cannot believe a year has passed so quickly. This week marked our sad goodbye to Ireland, our bright, shiny anticipation of life in France, two ferries, one drive across England, one drive across France and the shell-shocked feeling of having struck out, no going back.

We'd been planning this move, moreover this life, for years; talking, dreaming, negotiating and hoping. The move to Ireland six years ago was a stepping stone to European life--a way to land softly in a country with a shared language, lifestyle and for me, genetic history. It was so much more than what we expected in many ways and changed us all irrevocably. I love Ireland, my Irish friends, and our time there more than I can say.

Irish send off
France was the goal and so we came. The day we left our Irish 'estate', neighbors and friends came out for a last cup of tea, photos and  goodbye hugs, waving us along the road in a loaded down Great White. We were in such a packing frenzy at the last that we ended up leaving piles of things by the rubbish bin and offering up last minute gifts of things that just wouldn't squeeze in--like a coffee press, big wooden fruit bowl (there was always fruit in it so I forgot to pack it!), a giant hiking backpack, frozen lobster and canned tomatoes. And still the car overflowed.

The night ferry between England and France eased us into the way of things to come. There was soft music, French, French everywhere, pain au chocolat and chocolat chaud for breakfast in the little ferry cabin and quiet, calm from our French fellow travellers.
Goodbye Ireland
Bonjour France
We landed in Caen at 7am to a light blanket of fresh snow and Mon Mari proudly announced that we were to live here as he showed his passport to the Immigration officers. A stopover at Versailles, why I don't know it just seemed like a good idea, for more hot chocolate and pastry and then back on the road through the snow to Lyon.
Snowy Caen

Versailles in February
We stayed there for the night, terrorized a neighboring hotel guest with our American noisiness effervescence,watched our first French television about a gestating lion and then crammed everyone back into the car for the last leg--for home.
I remember wanting to take it all in, to really see the place where  my new life was going to be. And as I looked at the area around Nimes and Sommieres I was reminded of the Texas Hill Country and the area around our hometown of Austin. There are the same scrub oak trees, white limestone hills, and big blue sky but there are also rows and rows of grapevines, olive trees and the occasional nuclear power plant emitting puffs of steam.

The differences in my family as a whole and as individuals through this year are immeasurable. For us, this has turned out to be better than the dream we nurtured for so long and even with the challenges, perhaps because of them, we feel like we've done the right thing.
The other night I went to a meeting of Anglophones living in France and it was wonderful to speak English freely with other adults--to have a complex point to explain and to be able to do so without stammering, gesturing and butchering French to get that point across. Everyone else seemed to feel the same way judging from the noise level in the bar.
In one of my conversations we were talking about how the life abroad becomes addictive. How it can be hard to know when or if to go back home and indeed where 'home' is. I've said many times that home for us is where we five are and this continues to be true. And the addictive kernel is found in the everyday challenges and small victories as well as in the longing for people and past conveniences, flavors and customs.

I am eternally naive and optimistic. And that's ok with me. I look forward to this second French year with a tingle of excitement. I am ready for the changes of spring like the budding vines, fresh asparagus, longer days and fresh air. And then the summer of visitors, sun, beach, berries and sausages and lazy wine afternoons on the terrace with friends.

I hope you've enjoyed the year with me and that you'll stay with me for what's next. I love writing this blog because it connects me to all of you. Life abroad before this connective technology would be an entirely different prospect. I'm happy I'm not alone.

the first of many terrace lunches
If you want a refresher you might like these:

When I Went Crazy for An Egg

 The New Neighbor Monsieur Coq


House Hunting Blues

Do NOT Speak French to Your Small Children

Falling In Love with Language

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesdays In France

I've been meaning to write this post for months. But because Wednesdays are so busy and fun I never have the time to put it down for you.
Today's the day. As I sit on the terrace, Baby sleeping, Middlest at football and Ma Fille in Barbie heaven from her bday spoils, now's my chance to tell you about the middle of the week.

In most public schools in France there is no school on Wednesdays. That's right. Two days on, one day off, two days on. How's that for lifestyle? I wonder how kids who grow up on this system can imagine anything different...and how they probably respect their free time and know how to relax when they get to be adults.
There are two sides to this story I'm sure; but I like my version.

The school day is long; starting at 9 and ending at 5. There's a two-hour lunch in between, but still. Four hard going days like this deserve a break in the middle. Kids used to go on Saturday mornings too but they've stopped that, thank goodness. I would hate that.

Wednesdays are for extra-curricular activities and that's what we do. Rather than having to stuff it into the afternoons or on weekends we have all our sporty fun mid-week.
Here's the schedule around here:
9-10:30 tennis for both big kids
11-12:30 horses,lunch and a breather
2-4 football for the Middlest
It's go, go, go like most families with three children, but in our case all our fun is packed into one day. And when it's a pretty day like today in the South of France, it doesn't get any better.

What do you think of the school schedule? Could you get on board?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stylish Blogger, Me? Sure, Why Not...

Thanks to Linds over at American Girls Are for the Stylish Blogger mention. I can understand her being awarded for style and so will you when you see her beautiful wedding gown and her tres Frenchie bob/cute hat combo. That's styish.

Let's begin shall we:

1} I recently read an article in Red magazine about finding your style. For some of us it isn't that easy to nail down. I'd say I am a lazy stylist. I'm not one to stand out or make a fuss. Not much makeup, not much hairstyling, and to the disappointment of Ma Fille, mostly flats. She dreams of high-heels and ooohs and aaaahs on the rare occasion that I do wear them. The article suggested coming up with three words to describe your style and stick to them, consider them when shopping and don't buy anything that doesn't fall under their umbrella. My three words are: casual, classic, pretty.
Can you think of yours?

2}In Feng Shui my element is wood. This means that I like vertical lines like trees reaching up and away, earth tones with hints of green and blue, wooden and rugged textures, sun to make me feel alive and water to soothe me...or something like that. Have a look at my dining room and you'll see what I mean.

3} I really super rockn'roll can't stand the color red. There's a newsreader on France 24 who wears red, bright red, wake-up red, every morning with the reddest lipstick ever. And it hurts my eyes.

4} Peonies are my favorite flower.
image from

5} I've started wearing perfume every day since living in France. Et, oui, bein sur, c'est normal, non? I've always loved Y by Yves Saint Laurent because my super stylish Aunt wore it and it reminds me of her but now I've found my own signature scent. It's Balenciaga Paris and I lurve it. I've even learned the secret scarf spray that makes me tres Frenchie.

6} As Meg Ryan said, "I'm going to be 40!, sob"...."Someday!", more sobs. And now, for me, someday is but a whisper away.

And, enfin:

7} When I watch American tv I think everyone looks weird and puffy, waxy and too skinny. It is the only way I wake myself from injection daydreams. See #6.

Time to share the stylish love:

1} AmericaineFrenchie is engaged to be married and wedding plans are in full swing....can't wait to see how she stylishly celebrates her big day.
2} Blandina at lagriccia is the epitome of style; Italian, intellectual, creative and gorgeous. Just look at that photograph on her header.
3} Heidi at Dunhaven Place has impressed me with her stylish blog, romantic writing and beautiful photos of her home for ages now. Buy her book!
4} A fellow American with her own three beauties, Carie at Fil de la Vie manages to look gorgeous less than a month after giving birth to her Baby. And don't you love the name of her blog? It's exactly what this blogging thing is for so many of us.
5} The Scent of Water is one of the most subtle, beautifully written, melancholic and life affirming blogs you'll ever read. Her photographs are beautiful too.
6} Kristin's French Word-A-Day was one of the first blogs I found about life in the South of France. I read it with hope and conviction from my dining table in Ireland through all the planning, organizing, and waiting for my own vie francaise.
7} And fellow Texan Lisa Fain of HomesickTexan who inspires me to bring a little Texas to my Franco cooking as well as sharing the best ever recipes for some forever favorites. Her cookbook is coming out this fall and I can't wait to buy it. I've never made anything of hers that wasn't delicious.

Monday, February 21, 2011

French Homework

The Middlest's homework this weekend was to memorize a poem. I remember having to do this in elementary school too. And then again in high school with the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Shakespeare's famous words for Caesar 'friends, Romans and countrymen' and Lincoln's 'four score and seven years ago'. It is good brain practice. And creates a sense of pride when you've got it. As witnessed this morning by my handsome boy.
Keep in mind this language leap has happened in less than a year. Amazing what our brains can do when we try something new. Proof that there's no need to worry over immersing children in a new language.
Here's les Deux Lapins a la Middlest:
And here's the poem if you're interested. 

Les Deux Lapins
En allant chercher mon pain, 
Je rencontre deux lapins. 
Je les mets dans mon panier, 
Ils se mettent a grignoter. 
Je les mets dans mon placard,
Ils me mangent tout mon lard. 
Je les mets au coin du feu, 
 Ils s'endorment tout les deux.

Two Rabbits (my translation, be kind)
When I was collecting my bread,
I came upon two rabbits.
I put them in my basket,
They eat all my snack.
I put them in my cupboard,
They eat all my bacon.
I put them in the corner by the fire,
They fall asleep together.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Seasonal Sunday--Feel Better Chipotle Chicken Tacos

We've been gripped by la grippe here Chez Nous. That yucky feeling always makes me want spicy food. Usually I  make a chicken soup with lime and peppers to knock out the bug. This time I didn't feel like doing the soup thing so I whipped this up. It was super spicy and perfect. Of course you don't have to be sick to enjoy it--just ready for something with a kick of heat.
If you're here in France you may be able to find chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in the foreign food section of a large grocery store. Thankfully, I have a world food market nearby where I buy mine. One of my favorites, Homesick Texan, cooks chicken wings in a mayo/chipotle marinade and so I thought it would work well here.

Feel Better Chipotle Chicken Tacos

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/4 c. mayonaisse
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons of the adobo sauce
squeeze of lime
sprig of coriander/cilantro

Combine above ingredients, smushing the pepper up with a fork. Marinate chicken breasts strips while you get on with the rest.

Meanwhile, sautee

1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin
dash of salt

Add chicken to the pan, cooking through. If you want it even spicier then add one more pepper and another teaspoon of the adobo sauce to the cooked chicken.

6 corn tortillas
In a small frying pan add a big glug of sunflower oil and let it get hot. Brown/fry each tortilla in turn careful not to burn yourself or the tortillas. Immediately fold the hot tortillas into a taco shape and leave to cool.

When you're ready to eat stir 2 tblsp of sour cream into the chicken and a final squeeze of lime.
Serve with your freshly browned tacos, avocado slices, shredded mozzarella cheese, lime slices for squeezing and more sour cream to cut the heat.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Breakfast with Birds

Our house is two-story but the downstairs is more of an addendum. We really live upstairs. And I love it.
I love it because it's like living in a treehouse. As you sit at the dining table you can see the tops of trees from the window. And all the little newborn birdies like to sit in the tree and sing their happy morning songs. The Baby sat in his highchair this morning and shared his breakfast with them, pointing out the window screeching 'little bird, little bird!'.
When he was finished he got his puppy and introduced him to his breakfast buddies.
I hope you can breakfast with the birdies this morning.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Tableau Noir

Back in May when the kids started school I found a treasure. Leaning up against a dumpster/skip was a huge blackboard. Knowing how much Ma Fille loves to play teacher it was the perfect find. I left it for the morning and after lunch I circled back around, jumped out of Great White, wrestled the tableau noir into the back and headed for home thrilled with my found loot.

Only one thing made me feel sad and that was that there was a little girl's name written on the side five times.
It made me think about how kids grow up and don't want old toys no matter how cool they are or how much they used to love them. It made me think that maybe this little girl was now a mobile phone carrying teenager with pink streaks in her hair and an attitude. It made me happy for the blackboard that now it would be loved again, written on, treasured.

When Ma Fille saw it that afternoon set up in the playroom, chalk included, she was beyond thrilled. She adored it and I felt all warm and fuzzy and not just a little bit clever for seeing it and then 'dumpster diving' for her.

On top of where the other name was, she wrote hers. Five times. Claiming ownership. She spent hours playing teacher, instructing imaginary students as well as reluctant brothers in her newfound French knowledge.

happy birthday to you
This past weekend we had her birthday party. She wanted a scavenger hunt so I set to work on it. It was so cool. I made up clues and riddles and then translated them into French. One of the clues was to crack the code to find the clue. I wrote the code on her blackboard for she and her friends to find and decipher.

And that's when it happened.

'Where did you find the blackboard?', asked one of the little party guests. 'Oh, I found it by the side of the road. It's fantastic, huh?', I replied. Very, very naive.
And the penny dropped. The name on the board was the same name as the little girl in front of me. She wasn't some adolescent, more interested in lip gloss and boys than playing teacher. And as she looked at the board, her board, with a mix of joy and confusion, my heart sank. I felt sick. We moved on and I tried to reconcile the idea that for some reason her board had been thrown out without her knowing and then I found it and now she's seen it again and oh, crap! what's going to happen.

Later that night as we sat together going over the success of the party, the phone rang.
It was the little girl's mother. She said that her daughter had seen her blackboard here that day and now they wanted it back. They'd never intended it to be rubbish. It was actually something quite precious to their family because the uncle made it for the little girl and something about a cleaner and a move and a mistake and many tears and now happiness and surprise at finding it again.
Huh? Talk about a scavenger hunt.

What could I do? What should I do? Well, I knew the answer to that but I also have a little girl who super rock n' roll loves that juju board.

The next morning they came to take it back bearing croissants and a whiteboard and markers in exchange. It was beyond awkward. I felt horrible and defensive in turn, none of this made any easier by the fact that the entire thing was conducted in French.

Now the board is back with its rightful owner. I don't know what really happened or why it was taken down to the sidewalk and leaned against the poubelles.
I never will.

The whiteboard has been a good substitute. Ma Fille is flexible. And she's learned to be giving and understanding and to do the right thing.

What do you think? Can you help me solve the mystery?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seasonal Sunday--Chocolate Truffles

If you love someone don't set them free. Make them truffles instead.

Valentine's Day is tomorrow so Ma Fille and I wanted to make truffles for you. Well, for us but maybe this will inspire you to make them for you and yours.

Chocolate Truffles

300 ml heavy cream
1 tblsp unsalted butter
300 g dark chocolate, 70% is best
1 tsp vanilla

powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chunky sea salt, chopped pecans or your favorite nut for coating

Warm cream and butter to just simmering not allowing it to get too hot.
Break chocolate up into a glass bowl.
Pour warmed cream and butter over chocolate, stirring rapidly until melted. Add vanilla, stir to combine.
Allow the chocolate cream mixture to cool and it will harden a bit as it does. 25 minutes or so is all you really need. Don't put it in the refrigerator.

Put toppings on a plate for powdered sugar, one for cocoa powder, one for nuts. I like to make a separate plate with powdered sugar and a couple pinches of really chunky sea salt. It is divine.
Get ready for a mess. A super fun, gooey, chocolaty mess. I actually don't even do this part myself but leave it to the big kids cause they love getting super chocolaty and messy.

With two teaspoons, scoop out a small amount of the chocolate and roll into a ball. Or scoop with one teaspoon and roll in the palm of your hand like mine do. Now they're truffles. Roll your truffles in the topping of your choice and set aside. Or pop them into your mouth as you go.

Your Valentine will be forever yours. Love hearts from the South of France.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bestie Guest Post--Prepare Yourself for Americana

This morning I received an email. It was from one of the Besties.You may remember them from the Inondations de Paris. They both live in Austin, our former home before all the European madness ensued.
My lovely friend wrote a guest post for us. Mon Mari, who happens to be travelling again this week, is in our beloved Austin. And he arrived just in time for the Superbowl.This post is about how the Besties fed and entertained Mon Mari, American Style. And as I read this I realize how different it is here in France...there are no green chiles just knocking around, nor are there refried beans, chipotle salsa, Fritos, or chile powder. And she doesn't specify the cheese, just shredded because if you live in the US and are making a Tex-Mex 7-layer bean dip you know you should buy shredded Monterey Jack or maybe spice it up with a Pepper Jack. Il n'existe pas!
Man....I really want a chili dog!

Guest Bestie
 While Le Pere is on work travel, I am serving as a roving correspondent and poor fill-in for Mama's cuisine extraordinaire.

As he arrived on American soil the day before the great American football fete—the Superbowl—we decided we needed to go all out and really lay on what is best—and some might argue worst—of American classics. And although I am not qualified to claim it due to my birth in Yankee country, it even smacked very closely of Texas classics.
On tap for the evening:  7-layer dip, chili, chili dogs and brisket.  There was a rogue jezebel sauce appetizer thrown in because I had some left over from Christmas and it’s one of Aidan’s favorites so it was our homage to her in her absence.   So here, in all the gory details was our meal:
7 layer dip:  this was no open the jar, pour in one layer, open another jar and repeat. This involved actual cooking. 
1.       The first layer was refried beans heated and stirred with Cholula.  For those of you outside of Texas (and my husband who DESPITE his native Texan credentials doesn't know) it’s basically Mexican Tabasco that is found in just about every restaurant in Texas. (Apparently, Bennett is from the ketchup side of Texas)
2.       Then a layer of green chiles and cilantro.
3.       Sour cream with lime zest.
4.       Black beans cooked with cumin.
5.       A layer of chipotle salsa. 
6.       Guacamole with a bit of salt and diced tomatoes.
7.       Shredded cheese.
Following this we had chili….with no beans of course because that would be un-Texan. Indeed.  

1.      Grind in food processor pork tenderloin and flank steak until meat is in small chunks but not ground. Mix with ground bison or buffalo.
2.       Create a spice mixture of ground ginger, cumin, garlic powder, instant coffee, paprika and chili powder.  Roast in bottom of large stock pot until it smokes.  Remove from pot.
3.       Add 2 diced yellow onions and 4 garlic cloves.
4.       Add meat mixture to pot onions and garlic and brown for about 10 minutes.
5.       Add in spice mixture, a few drops of liquid smoke, beef stock and 1 beer.  (Note: I have decided that I don’t really like liquid smoke, so in the next go-round, I’ll probably add some chipotle with adobo sauce instead for the smoky flavor.)  I also added in a rind of parmesan cheese to cook through the whole thing.
6.       Cook for a few hours until really yummy

Our partner in crime (Kristin) decided to really take the delectability up a few notches with hot dogs. And while she learned that Whole Foods does not sell Fritos thus robbing us of the classic Superbowl treat—Frito Pie—we were quite contented by one amazing chili dog. Which we both sucked down with gusto despite the lack of a Tastee Freeze nearby (but that would be John Mellencamp who is not from Texas, so it was okay).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Joyeux Anniversaire Papillon

Nine years ago today I became a mother. I've been thinking about all the ways my life has changed in that nine years, how my little baby girl is turning into a big girl before my eyes with a sense of humor like her Daddy, a love of words like her Mommy and a flawless French accent all her own.
Here's nine things about her. One for each year.

1) She loves riding horses and has learned to gallop.
2) Her curly hair grows more out than down.
3) She has succumbed to the Jonas brothers.
4) Hermione is her hero.
5) She blushes when I speak French because my accent embarrasses her so much.
6) She still believes in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.
7) Her Daddy is travelling at the moment but they agreed to meet in their dreams. They rode horses together last night.
8) She makes delicious chocolate truffles.
and finally
9) She is happy, confident, joyful and sweet--with a bit of sass and plenty of eye rolling thrown in, just as it should be.

Happy birthday to Ma Fille, the beautiful papillon

Monday, February 7, 2011

Don't Get Your ZiZi Confused with Your Zezette

It happened, like some things do, in a coincidental way.

On the way home from tennis last week the Middlest's racket accidentally made contact with his 'you-know-what'. In Ireland they call it a 'willy' so that's usually what he would say. Something like, 'ah, my willy!'

However, on this occasion he said something different. He said, 'ah, mon zizi!' I'd been told that baby boy willies are called 'un petit oiseau' or 'little birdie' here which I find incredibly cute. So cute in fact that I probably say it far too often. The Baby refers to his this way now.
But this was the first time I'd heard 'zizi'.
And I'm glad I did because I would have missed out on the following......

Later that afternoon as we did homework I noticed Ma Fille's library book in her bag. The title caught my eye. 'Does that say what I think it says?', thought I.
I had a closer look. The title was Mademoiselle Zazie a-t-elle un zizi? Now normally I wouldn't have paid much attention but a 'zizi'?! I know what a 'zizi' is and I don't think Mademoiselle Zazie could possibly have one. Unless this is some kind of Frenchie way to teach a transgender/transexual/hermaphrodite lesson. I had to have a closer look.

The story starts with Max, a little boy who knows that from the beginning of time there are those avec zizi and the other poor suckers who are sans zizi. He's always believed the avec zizi are stronger and better and that's just the way life is. He actually feels a bit sorry for the sans zizi.

Then Mademoiselle Zazie moves to town and she can do all kinds of cool things that Max thought sans zizi couldn't do.
The story is adorable and the illustrations of bums very innocent and funny.

Turns out, after some investigative work on Max's part and a fortuitous day at the beach when Zazie and Max forget their swimsuits, that the sans zizi may be without a zizi but what they do have is a 'zezette'. And that seems to be just as good. If only a little different.

I had a look online for the story in English but couldn't find it. Maybe the French think we Anglophones couldn't handle all this private talk. Word on the street is we're prudes. Or maybe it's just that zizi et zezette are too cute to translate.

They are making a French cartoon from the book series which should be interesting to see.
You can find all the books here. Have a look and test your French. It seems to be perfectly on my level, both in terms of maturity and French comprehension.

How many times can I say 'zizi' in one post?
Vive le zizi! Or the zezette.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Seasonal Sunday--Salmon with Leeks & Lentils

Today's recipe is from one of my favorite, go-to people, Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa.
I have her cookbooks and she's a go-to for simple and delicious recipes.
Plus my kids will always eat them. We love to watch her show because she reminds us of Grandmother.
Do you see the resemblance?

aidan's photo

food network photo

The original recipe is from her book, Barefoot in Paris and you can find it here.

We can find pre-cooked and packaged lentils in the produce section in France so that makes this really easy. And it's nice because they keep forever and are great in so many things. Because of this I don't have to do the lentil cooking but I'm sure it's not such a big deal if you do.

As always, I've adjusted it to suit my circumstances so here's how I do it.

Salmon & Leeks with Lentils

5 salmon steaks (fresh or frozen)
250g cooked Puy lentils
2 leeks, white and light green parts
1 tsp thyme
1 medium organic carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
70g tomato paste
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
splash of red wine vinegar
olive oil

Prepare the leeks by slicing them in half lengthwise and rinsing to get all the dirt out. I usually wash them twice; once lengthwise and again in a colander after I've cut them into half moon slivers, just to be sure.

Cook leek slivers in olive oil with the thyme until soft, 5 minutes.
Add celery and carrots and cook for 7 or so minutes more.

Meanwhile, brown salmon steaks on both sides in a bit of olive oil.
Set aside when browned, not cooking through.
Add broth and tomato paste to the vegetables, stirring to combine.
Add in cooked lentils and mix together. Salt and pepper to your taste.
Place the browned salmon steaks on top of the vegetable mixture and cook on low heat until salmon is cooked through. I like to cover each steak with some of the soft vegetables while they cook.

Just before serving add the splash of red wine vinegar and stir gently.
Your steaks should remain intact.
Serve with boiled, buttered potatoes and a salad. A nice glass of red goes well.

kid plate

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Haribo--The Sweet Life

Haribo, c’est beau la vie – pour les grands et les petits, french tagline
On Saturday we went to the Haribo Museum in Uzes, a small town north of Nimes. We went once before when one of the besties and her kids were here in the summer. That time was not easy. It was packed to the gills with a 40 minute line just to get into the candy shop portion of the museum. People were waiting in line and then coming out with packing boxes overflowing with gummy bears, marshmallows and assorted sweeties. Most of them stopped to take their photo in front of the big and kind of creepy statue of the Haribo mascot. He has helmet hair and a blacked out smile from all the sugary sweets.
There is also a big pink marshmallow that the children were climbing all over and where the Baby decided to have an impatient, 2-year old back and forth over shoes, screaming like an American kid in public moment. This was in the summer remember so there were a million people there to view my struggle and shame. And as I write this it occurs to me that maybe this was the moment the Baby decided he really hates marshmallows, because he does, very much. And as you know he doesn't dislike much.
i could eat me some of those!
It was because of this incident with the big pink marshmallow and the Baby that he and I stayed outside while the others enjoyed the museum tour and packets of my favorite Haribo sweet, the Floppy, dispensed from a big candy packaging machine. Cool.
I had to get back there and get some of my very own packets of Floppy from the machine. This was my main motivation for suggesting we return to the Musee du Bon-Bon. This and the fact that I know Mon Mari has a mouth full of sweet teeth and he'd think it was cool too.

Because it was raining there were no lines. Another good reason for going in the off-season. We waltzed right in, bought our tickets, accepted our complimentary packets of gummy bears and started down candy lane. It was interesting and kinda cool and they had those models set up of people doing stuff in the candy factory of old that remind me of when I was a kid in the 70s and we'd go on school trips. You know, the blank-eyed ladies sitting at a table, white plaster hands frozen in a task for all eternity.
eternal plaster hands and scary eyes
mr hans riegel forever at work

My favorite part was the fashion area where they had a display of clothing made using Haribo candies. The wedding dress of marshmallows was pretty and the swanky licorice dress was well, black and swanky.
marshmallow wedding dress? kinky!
swanky licorice dress

And we all had fun in the 'solve the mystery of candy by using your senses' area.* You had to plongez your hand into a hidey-hole to feel the mystery sweet, push a button to hear a corresponding sound like giggling because certain sweeties just make us so darn happy, push another button to have a blast of scent explode in your face (mmm, vanilla), alas, no tasting but that's just to build up to the gift shop, and finally when you think you've solved the riddle you get to see if you guessed correctly. Fun. We all agreed we didn't like the smell of licorice and that pineapple jellies smell the best.

Way down in the lower level of the museum is where they display the old machines used for packaging the candy as well as a reduced model of the factory floor. The best was getting four of my very own packets of Floppy. Mitts off kids.These are Mama's. I'm more of a chocolate girl when it comes to sweets but there is something about the sugary red flavor of the perfectly chewy and dissolving Floppy. Have you ever had one? Addictive.

imagine being locked in here
just look at it all
All of this naturally culminates at the entrance to the candy shop. TaaaaDaaaa! All the sweets you've just seen, imagined, smelled, gotten yourself all jazzed up to taste again (sour spaghetti anyone?) can be bought. Genius.

We spent 25 euro on a bizarrely heavy bag of sugar, took our photo with the creepy, helmet hair, black toothy guy and were on our way.

big bag of sugar
The feeding frenzy began in earnest when we were all buckled up and on the road. Bag at my feet, I dispensed jelly fried eggs, strawberry Tagada, gummy bears, jelly beans, sour coca-cola spaghetti, sour strawberry spaghetti, more Floppy, banana candy (ugh) and coca-cola bottle jellies until even the kids threw in the white flag. It was fun. Real fun. And I got that sugar high that feels like a drug and felt all wonky.
Then we went to Pont du Gard to run it all out of our systems. And we drank about a gallon of water each.
Pont du Gard post to follow.

*this is not the official name of the area